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Supreme Court to hear oral arguments on 2020 citizenship census question

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear oral arguments in April about the Trump administration's push to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census and its decision will come just in the nick of time, since the Census Bureau needs to begin printing forms for the every-10 years-questionnaire this summer.

Brooklyn's list covers diocese's 166 years, has 108 credible abuse claims

The Diocese of Brooklyn Feb. 15 released a list of clergy credibly accused of sexually abusing a minor, saying that the 108 names on the list represent less than 5 percent of clergy who have served in the diocese in its 166-year history.

British inquiry into church sexual abuse blasts UK's papal nuncio

A British government inquiry into the sexual abuse crisis that continues to shake the Catholic Church has focused on the actions of the Vatican’s diplomatic service — its network of papal nuncios around the world.

A powerful analysis of the church in crisis

NCR Today: Jason Berry sets the old news of the Catholic clergy sex abuse crisis in today's world.

West Virginia Catholic high school removes bishop's name from gym

Former Wheeling-Charleston Bishop Michael Bransfield's name has been removed from the gymnasium at Central Catholic High School in Wheeling.

'Nuns and Nones': An energizing and hopeful story

NCR Connections: It is difficult to not see grand possibilities in this meeting of unlikely communities, ill-defined as the one might be. It is early in their meeting, but the nuns and "nones" seem to be embarking on an organic exploration of community, contemplation, spirituality.

Southern Baptists should investigate churches that cover up abuse, says SBC president

J.D. Greear, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, said the denomination’s executive committee should immediately investigate 10 churches named in a report by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Times-Express, including 2nd Baptist in Houston – one of the largest churches in the SBC.

Philippine bishop: Duterte's drug war is 'illegal, immoral and anti-poor'

A Catholic bishop in the Philippines said his government's controversial war on drugs is really a war against the country's poor.

Dolan: Church loves, welcomes pregnant women, is 'honored' to serve them

IMAGE: CNS photo/Chris Sheridan, Catholic New York

By Beth Griffin

NEW YORK (CNS) -- In a robust demonstration that actions speak louder than words, New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan Feb. 18 introduced representatives of six church-related organizations that help pregnant women in need.

Standing in the modest living room of a convent that Sisters of Life share with expectant and new mothers and their children, the cardinal reaffirmed the commitment first made in 1984 by his predecessor, Cardinal John J. O'Connor.

"Any pregnant woman can come to the Archdiocese of New York, to its parishes and facilities, and we will do all in our power to assist you, so that you never feel that you have no alternative except an abortion," Cardinal Dolan said. "It does not matter what your marital status, your religion, or your immigration status might be. None of that matters, folks."

Cardinal Dolan acknowledged that the timing of his reaffirmation of the church's outreach coincided with the attention given to the Reproductive Health Act of 2019, which effectively removed restrictions on abortion in New York, and the current "almost pro-abortion atmosphere out there."

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the measure into law Jan. 22, the anniversary of U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v Wade ruling legalizing abortion nationwide.

"Every once in a while we need to trumpet and put a spotlight on the good work that we do," the cardinal said. "Most of us bristle when the church is criticized for speaking all the time but not offering action. Nothing could be further from the truth."

Cardinal Dolan said he was worried that poor women especially were getting the impression that abortion is their only choice. "This is a very teachable time for us to stand up and say, 'We're here. We love you. We welcome you. There is an alternative here and we'd be honored to serve you.'"

Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, superior general of the Sisters of Life, said her group has provided assistance to more than 9,000 women since the religious community was established in 1991, and they have shared their convents with pregnant women since 1996.

"We are standing in radical solidarity with women during an unexpected or difficult pregnancy. The sisters and the woman together find a pathway through fear, a pathway defined by realistic and ongoing emotional and practical support that she may respond with courage and dignity to one of life's most difficult moments," she said.

Mother Agnes Mary said the Sisters of Life serve 600 to 1,000 women each year. She said their message to vulnerable pregnant women is: "Know you are not alone. We believe in you. This pregnancy does not mean your life and your dreams are over. We stand ready to help you realize the deepest desires of your heart."

She said approximately 85 percent of the women who contact the Sisters of Life for counsel "will choose to bring life to their child. We provide critical and strategic support that is timely and important to her life," she said.

While her impossibly cute toddler captured all the attention in the room, an Ethiopian professional runner named Brhane described meeting the Sisters of Life in New York. It was when she was pregnant, alone, far from home and feeling pressure to abort her baby, she said.

"They helped me to find a home for me and my baby. They were with me the whole way and are still with me. They helped me with my immigration, to find a job, to find baby-sitting. They helped me with everything."

Brhane named the little girl Sena Love, which translates, "I love my history."

The Sisters of Life helped Brhane to run the New York Marathon and she is training to run professionally again, she said. "I love my daughter. She changed my life. I am so happy. Thank you God."

Dr. Anne Nolte, director of the Gianna Center for Women's Health and Fertility, said her medical practice provides primary care and reproductive health care to women and teenagers that aligns with church teachings. The center offers service to patients of all backgrounds and has "a particular commitment to helping women whose babies have an adverse diagnosis in the womb," Nolte said.

Chris Bell is a co-founder with the late Father Benedict Groeschel, a Franciscan Friar of the Renewal, of five Good Counsel residences in New York and New Jersey for homeless single pregnant women and their children. He said his group provides "concrete help and real hope" to women in crisis.

Since 1985, Good Counsel has served more than 7,800 mothers and children with more than 755,000 nights of shelter as well as material aid, counseling, parenting and education programs.

The Good Counsel homes have a 100 percent occupancy rate, and women are invited to stay for up to a year to reap the maximum benefits of the program, Bell said.

Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, described a network of 90 affiliated agencies that provide dignified, compassionate care to people in all stages of life. "Our door is open," he said.

Among the agencies is the Catholic Guardian Society. Dolores Ortiz, assistant executive director, said each year more than 300 "at-risk pregnant and parenting women" receive support, case management services, parenting resources and referrals from Catholic Guardian Society.

Teresa Georgeo, a director of Archcare, the continuing care program of the Archdiocese of New York, said her group's maternal child health program provides prenatal care for women with high-risk pregnancies, and helps new mothers and infants.

The speakers said their services are free or low-cost and available to all women regardless of race, religion, background or ability to pay.

Cardinal Dolan acknowledged the hurt, frustration and anger people in the archdiocese might feel at the new abortion law. "We should not respond with bitterness and divisiveness, but put our faith and trust in the Lord and reach out with love to troubled moms and their babies," he said.

He said it would be a good time for people on both sides of the abortion debate to come together to discuss providing "life-giving alternatives to the horror of abortion."

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Philippine bishop: Duterte's drug war is 'illegal, immoral and anti-poor'

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Jeffrey

By Paul Jeffrey

KALOOKAN, Philippines (CNS) -- A Catholic bishop in the Philippines said his government's controversial war on drugs is really a war against the country's poor.

"There is no war against illegal drugs, because the supply is not being stopped. If they are really after illegal drugs, they would go after the big people, the manufacturers, the smugglers, the suppliers. But instead, they go after the victims of these people. So, I have come to the conclusion that this war on illegal drugs is illegal, immoral and anti-poor," said Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan.

The Philippines has suffered for years from widespread drug abuse, principally shabu, a cheaply produced form of methamphetamine. President Rodrigo Duterte ran for office promising a crackdown on drug use, and since he took office in 2016, rights groups say more than 20,000 people have been killed in extrajudicial killings, mostly carried out by the country's police.

Church leaders have grown increasingly critical of the violence. The country's Catholic bishops conference acknowledged in a Jan. 28 pastoral message that they had been slow in responding as a "culture of violence has gradually prevailed in our land."

The bishops spoke "of mostly poor people being brutally murdered on mere suspicion of being small-time drug users and peddlers, while the big-time smugglers and drug lords went scot-free." While they said they had "no intention of interfering in the conduct of state affairs," they said they had "a solemn duty to defend our flock, especially when they are attacked by wolves."

Duterte has repeatedly slammed the church in response to its criticism, and Bishop David, who also serves as vice president of the bishops' conference, has become the principal target of Duterte's angry outbursts at the church.

In November speech in Davao, Duterte said: "I'm telling you, David. I am puzzled as to why you always go out at night. I suspect, son of a bitch, you are into illegal drugs." At other times, he has accused the bishop of stealing church funds.

Bishop David has not turned the other cheek, instead responding quickly in social media posts: "I think it should be obvious to people by now that our country is being led by a very sick man. We pray for him. We pray for our country," he recently posted on Facebook.

"I think he picks on me because I'm quick in responding to his sound bites," Bishop David told Catholic News Service.

"I have discovered social media. I don't even have to talk to the media, they can follow the sound bites online. So, when he said that addicts are not human, I posted that I beg to disagree. I said no civilized society in this world would agree with him that addicts should be treated as nonhumans. And when he calls them nonhumans, does that mean we can do nothing about them except exterminate them? That's immoral. His statement had to be questioned. The problem is people don't question it, and when he repeats it over and over, it becomes gospel truth."

President Duterte has often referred to drug users as "the living dead" as he justifies his policies.

"I think he has been watching too many zombie movies," said Bishop David. "It is a kind of 'othering,' labeling them so that when they are found dead on the streets, people will be happy and respond, 'Good, that's one criminal less.'"

Bishop David said he is becoming increasingly desperate as he hears cries for help from the urban poor communities in his diocese. He has complained publicly about mass arrests of people without warrants and has criticized police detention without charges of young children who he said are kept in cages for weeks as their parents attempt to have them freed.

"Sometimes I have a feeling that we are back in the Nazi days, when people are somehow aware of what's going on, but they play deaf and dumb because they also like what's happening, because they are persuaded by the sound bites that this is the best way to get rid of criminality. You can get rid of criminality through criminal means? If that's true, then you have created a criminal government," he said.

While his diocese has responded to the crisis by working with some local governments to set up an effective community-based drug rehabilitation program, Bishop David said the war on drugs has pushed the church even further, forcing it closer to the side of poor communities that bear the brunt of arbitrary arrests and extrajudicial killings.

"The war on drugs got me closer to the poor. Maybe that's the blessing of it. It's so easy for bishops and priests to just go through the motions of doing our jobs, jobs that are institutionalized and defined for us. Our parishes are old and tired institutions that cater to church-going people, just the usual people. Our access to the poor is really the big challenge for us," said Bishop David.

Although Sunday Masses at the cathedral parish in Kalookan are standing room only, Bishop David said the church is reaching just a fraction of the people in his diocese. Instead of starting new parishes, which he said is cumbersome, expensive, and takes time, he has opened mission stations in the slums of his diocese, staffing them with religious from around the world.

"We are getting acquainted with the poor because of our mission stations. These are not parishes, but rather the church being present among the poorest of the poor. We have mission partners who I ask to live right there in the slums, among the poorest of the poor, so that the church will be accessible, so that the church will have quicker access to the poor and their needs," he said.

Bishop David said those mission workers keep him directly informed of arrests and killings and have even witnessed extrajudicial executions. They also frequently appeal to the bishop to intercede with officials on behalf of detained children.

"Our mission stations are like new wine bursting the old wineskins," he said. "Pope Francis keeps talking about going to the periphery, and this is the perfect opportunity. A mission station is a church without a church building, without a chapel. I send missionaries to live with them and they do community organizing and set up basic ecclesial communities. The sense of community is going down here in the city. There is no common ethnicity nor common language nor common origin. All of these people have migrated from the different provinces, and so they are strangers to each other. Who will build them into a community? They are very transient, they come and go, looking for where they can find jobs. Our role is to build community among them."

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at