April 4, 2023 // National

News Briefs: April 9, 2023

Holy Land Patriarchs in Easter Message Place ‘Ultimate Hope Only in God’ Amid Increasing Attacks on Christian Sites

JERUSALEM (OSV News) — Just as early Christians were sustained by the words of St. Peter describing Jesus’ resurrection as offering a “new birth into a living hope,” so too should the Christians of the Holy Land today be encouraged and empowered by this knowledge as they face tumultuous times, when their own faith continues to be tested, said the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in their Mar. 31 Easter message. The Patriarchs and Heads of Churches noted in their statement that throughout the past year some churches, funeral processions, and other Christian places of public gathering have become targets of attacks, and some holy sites and cemeteries have been desecrated. “We place our ultimate hope only in God. For through Christ’s resurrection, we have the blessed assurance of the Almighty’s gracious providence through the Holy Spirit, a source of divine power that is able to sustain us today, just as it sustained Jerusalem’s first Christians those many centuries ago,” they said in the statement.

Pope Adjusts Canon Law Appeal Period for Members of Religious Orders

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Saying he wanted to protect the rights of members of religious orders facing expulsion, Pope Francis made small changes to canon law, giving them more time to appeal their dismissals. The changes, announced by the Vatican on Apr. 3, apply to both the Code of Canon Law for Latin-rite Catholics and to the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches. Even when a serious reason motivates the dismissal of a member of a religious order, canon law gives that person a right to know the reasons, to offer a defense, and to appeal a decision. The current Latin-rite code said that for a decree of dismissal to be valid, it “must indicate the right which the dismissed possesses to make recourse to the competent authority within 10 days from receiving notification.” A similar paragraph in the code for Eastern-rite Catholics gave a period of 15 days for the person to appeal. Pope Francis ordered the change of both codes to give a person 30 days to appeal. The change goes into effect May 7.

Hate Crimes Targeting Religions on Rise in Canada; Crimes Against Catholics Increase 260 Percent

MONTREAL (OSV News) — In 2021, Canadian police services received 3,360 statements related to hate crimes, a 27 percent increase compared to 2020 statistics, with a 260 percent growth in such crimes against Catholics, according to a new study by Statistics Canada. In 2020, 2,646 hate crimes had been reported to police. According to the federal agency, this spike in hate crimes is largely due to more incidents “targeting religion, sexual orientation, and race or ethnicity.” The number of hate crimes aimed at religion or the faithful of a given religious group reached an all-time high in 2021, after decreasing for a few years. Statistics Canada’s report doesn’t specify what 2021 events were considered to be motivated by hate aimed at religion. However, the report recalls that following the discovery of the remains of 215 children in Kamloops in May of 2021, on the site of a former Indian residential school once run by the Catholic Church, media reported churches being vandalized and even burned down. If complaints were filed with police services following these events, they would have been considered hate crimes.

Bishops, Indigenous Catholics Welcome Vatican Condemnation of ‘Doctrine of Discovery,’ but Say ‘More Work to Be Done’

WINNEBAGO, Neb. (OSV News) — Indigenous Catholics, along with U.S. and Canadian bishops, are welcoming the Vatican’s Mar. 30 repudiation of the “Doctrine of Discovery,” a legal and political doctrine by which European colonial powers and North American governments historically seized lands from Indigenous peoples. With some scholars pointing to several 15th-century papal bulls as a basis for the doctrine, the Vatican’s Dicasteries for Culture and Education and for Promoting Integral Human Development issued a joint statement saying the doctrine is “not part of the teaching of the Catholic Church.” In addition, the statement declared the papal bulls in question, which were “written in a historical period and linked to political questions, have never been considered expressions of the Catholic faith.” Both the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops and the Canadian Catholic Conference of Bishops issued Mar. 30 responses in support of the Vatican’s statement. “It’s a step in the right direction,” one that “shows the Church wants to continue to work with Native American people toward truth and healing,” Deacon Don Blackbird, a member of the Omaha Tribe and Principal of St. Augustine Indian Mission in Winnebago, Nebraska, told OSV News. At the same time, more work needs to be done, said Mitch Case, Regional Councilor for Region 4 of the Provisional Council of the Métis Nation of Ontario, who urged the Church to “sit down and listen to Indigenous people, to build concrete steps together” in tackling the enduring impact of colonialism, which has resulted in disproportionate poverty and reduced life expectancy among many Indigenous communities, Case said.

Cardinal Disappointed, Disagrees with Departing Abuse Expert’s Concerns

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley of Boston, President of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, expressed his surprise, disappointment, and disagreement with statements challenging the commission’s effectiveness made by a prominent safeguarding expert who resigned from the advisory body. However, “the commission has a plenary meeting scheduled in the next few weeks during which we can address these and other matters more fully as a group,” the cardinal said in an updated statement on Mar. 30. Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, a leading expert in the field and member of the commission since it was founded in 2014, stepped down in mid-March but gave the reasons for his departure in a public statement on Mar. 29, saying it was due to urgent “structural and practical issues that led me to disassociate myself” from the papal commission. Father Zollner’s criticisms came just a few hours after his resignation was made public in a written statement by Cardinal O’Malley. “The commission has been informed that Father Hans Zollner, S.J., has asked to be relieved of his duties as a member,” the cardinal wrote on Mar. 29, saying the priest “told me that he came to this decision after reflecting on his recent appointment as consultant for safeguarding to the Diocese of Rome.”

Kentucky Legislature Overrides Governor’s Veto of Bill Restricting Transgender Procedures for Minors

FRANKFORT, Ky. (OSV News) — On Mar. 29, Republican state lawmakers in Kentucky overrode the Democratic governor’s veto of a bill impacting minors who identify as transgender. Gov. Andy Beshear had vetoed the measure, but the GOP holds supermajorities in both chambers of the Kentucky Legislature, allowing lawmakers to override that veto. The state law bans gender reassignment surgery for anyone younger than 18, as well as the use of puberty blockers or hormones, among other interventions, for minors. It also requires students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their biological sex rather than their self-perceived gender identities. The Kentucky law is part of a broader effort to pass such bills across the country. Other states, including Iowa, Mississippi, Utah, South Dakota, and Tennessee, have also  moved to restrict surgical and hormonal interventions for minors this year. Legislators in Indiana and Nebraska recently advanced comparable efforts. According to recently released teaching from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ doctrine committee, surgical, chemical, or other interventions that aim “to exchange” a person’s “sex characteristics” for those of the opposite sex “are not morally justified.” The bishops urged “particular care” be taken “to protect children and adolescents, who are still maturing and who are not capable of providing informed consent” for surgical procedures or treatments such as chemical puberty blockers, which arrest the natural course of puberty and prevent the development of some sex characteristics in the first place.”

Christians carry palm fronds as they walk the traditional path that Jesus took on his last entry into Jerusalem during the Palm Sunday procession on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem April 2, 2023. (OSV News photo/Debbie Hill)

* * *

The best news. Delivered to your inbox.

Subscribe to our mailing list today.