Browsing News Entries

South Carolina school expels two students involved in racist videos

A Catholic high school in the Diocese of Charleston is boosting security and stepping up diversity training after expelling two students tied to racist videos and threats against the institution.

After investigation, Memphis bishop defends priest accused of racism

Memphis, Tenn., Aug 19, 2019 / 11:10 am (CNA).- The Diocese of Memphis is supporting a pastor whose staff denied a job to a black housekeeper on the grounds that his dog was racist. The diocese says the dog had a history of aggression and tended to become agitated around strangers with dark skin.

“Although the parish staff member’s choice of words was highly unfortunate and imprecise—they were not motivated by racial animus,” said Bishop David Talley of Memphis in an Aug. 16 letter.

“Rather, the concern by all involved was the safety of these women, one of whom was a stranger to the dog, and they knew that attempting to crate the dog would be dangerous when its owner was not present. Their concern was to prevent the cleaning company employees from being injured.”

Fr. Jacek Kowal, pastor of the Catholic Church of the Incarnation in Collierville, has been accused of turning away LaShundra Allen as a housekeeper because she was black.

On May 3, Kowal’s housekeeper, who is white, arrived at the rectory, announcing that she was quitting her job. She had brought Allen, who is black, with her, and asked if she could train Allen as her replacement.

Staff members at the rectory consulted with Kowal, who was at the church preparing for a May Crowning ceremony and then returned to the rectory.

According to a letter from the women’s attorney, they told the two women, “I’m sorry, we are not trying to be rude, but the dog doesn’t like black people,” the Commercial Appeal reported.

“The cleaning company employees interpreted this incident as a pretext by Fr. Kowal, motivated by a desire not to have an African American housekeeper. This is simply not true,” said Bishop Talley in his letter, noting that Kowal employed an African American housekeeper for the entire five-year duration of his previous assignment as pastor.

Following the conclusion of diocesan investigation, Talley said he believes Kowal and the parish staff were trying to be cautious, since Kowal’s dog – a German shepherd named Ceaser – was out of his crate and was “very protective of his home.”

The priest would have been concerned about the dog being out of his crate around any stranger, Talley said.

“The staff were aware that years ago the dog had been threatened by a person who happened to be African American, causing the dog to be somewhat more agitated initially around strangers with darker skin, until the dog gets to know them,” the bishop said. “The replacement employee who was planning to enter the rectory was an African-American person the dog had never met.”

In addition, “the parish staff were aware that in 2017 Fr. Kowal had been bitten on the hand by the dog while trying to crate him in an agitated state.”

For these reasons, the bishop said he believed “that the claims of racial bias and discrimination are unfounded, and that Fr. Kowal did nothing wrong.”

The two housekeepers, however, say the priest made no effort to contact Allen afterward and that no offer was made for Allen to come back on another day when Kowal would be available to introduce her to the dog. They say they will continue pursuing legal action.

The cleaning company that employs the two women has terminated its contract with the church, the Washington Post reports.

In his letter, Bishop Talley emphasized “that all human persons are created in the image of the one God and enjoy an equal dignity. Therefore, all forms of racial discrimination are sinful and wrong.”

However, he reiterated, “after our thorough investigation, I find these particular allegations of racial discrimination to be unfounded.”
 

Cincinnati priest arrested and indicted for sexually abusing minor

Cincinnati, Ohio, Aug 19, 2019 / 11:08 am (CNA).- A Cincinnati priest removed from ministry last month for grooming behavior has been indicted on nine counts of raping an altar server.

Fr. Geoff Drew was arrested Aug. 19 on allegations dating back 20 years, which concern Drew’s time as music minister at a local parish, prior to his ordination as a priest. The accusations concern abuse said to have taken place over two years, when the reported victim was 10 and 11 years old. If convicted, the priest could face life in prison.

Drew was removed from ministry last month, after allegations surfaced that he had sent a series of inappropriate text messages to a 17-year-old boy. A history of similar allegations against Drew was then confirmed by the archdiocese.

In a statement released Aug. 19, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati acknowledged the charges and urged anyone with information concerning the allegations to contact local law enforcement.

“Today, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati learned that a Hamilton County Grand Jury returned a nine-count indictment against Fr. Geoff Drew stemming from alleged crimes during his time at St. Jude Parish,” the statement said.
 
“We have fully cooperated with this investigation and will continue to do so.The protection of young people is of paramount importance and can never be compromised. We urge anyone who has any information regarding the accusations against Fr. Geoff Drew to please report it to Cincinnati Police.”

Drew worked as music minister at the parish of St. Jude in Bridgetown, Ohio, from 1984-1999. During that time he was also a music teacher at Elder High School until 1991. He entered seminary in 1999, and was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati in 2004.

The archdiocesan statement emphasized that neither the archdiocese, nor Cincinnati Archbishop Dennis Schnurr were aware of the rape allegations at the time of Drew’s removal last month.

“The Archdiocese of Cincinnati was made aware of these allegations after Archbishop Schnurr removed Fr. Drew as pastor of St. Ignatius of Loyola Parish on July 23” the statement said.
 
Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters told local media that Drew’s alleged victim came forward last month to report the rapes, calling the case “incredibly disturbing.”

Prosecutors also say it is likely the priest has had other victims.
 
The archdiocese indicated earlier this month that they had referred to law enforcement some allegations of Drew’s misconduct stemming from his time as a high school music teacher to law enforcement. Those allegations reportedly arose during a 2018 investigation into other complaints against the priest.

CNA reported earlier this month that complaints were raised to at least one archdiocesan official about Drew’s inappropriate behavior with teenage and pre-teenage boys as early as 2013. Complaints were made to auxiliary bishop Joseph Binzer, who is the archdiocesan vicar general, in 2013 and 2015.

Binzer referred the complaints to law enforcement, who found no evidence of criminal activity. 

Binzer did not, however, notify the archdiocesan personnel board or Archbishop Dennis Schnurr about the multiple complaints he had received against Drew.

The allegations were also reportedly not recorded by Binzer in the priest’s personnel file.

Drew’s 2018 request for a transfer from one parish to another was approved without any member of the board - apart from Binzer - being aware of the previous complaints.

One month after Drew’s arrival at his new parish, a parishioner at his previous church resubmitted a 2015 complaint made about the priest. The complaint was again reported to Butler County officials, but this time it was also brought to the attention of Archbishop Schnurr.

Sources close to the chancery told CNA that because Binzer failed to notify the archbishop or the priest personnel board about the previous allegations he had received, the accusation was believed by them to be an isolated incident.

The priest was asked to restrict his involvement with the school and was assigned to meet regularly with a “monitor,” but school faculty and administration were not told about these restrictions, or the reasons for them.

Sources have told CNA that Drew was on the verge of being sent to an inpatient treatment center for priests at the time he was arrested and charged with rape. 

Binzer was removed from his position as head of priest personnel for the archdiocese earlier this month, but remains vicar general of the archdiocese. 

On Monday, a spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati confirmed to CNA that following the initial reports of Drew's removeal from ministry, Bishop Binzer resigned from the USCCB’s committee on child and youth protection, which advises the bishops’ conference on all matters related to safe environment policy and child protection.

Following questions submitted by CNA, the archdiocese confirmed that the committee were informed of the resignation on Aug. 6.

Binzer had previously served as the representative for Region VI of the U.S. bishops’ conference, including the dioceses of Ohio and Michigan.

This post has been updated to reflect that Bishop Binzer has resigned from the USCCB's child and youth protection committee.

Law and Justice Party leader praises Polish archbishop for LGBT opposition

Warsaw, Poland, Aug 19, 2019 / 10:00 am (CNA).- The leader of Poland’s ruling party praised the Archbishop of Krakow on Sunday for his opposition to the redefinition of marriage and gender ideology in the country.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) Party, said at a campaign event in Southeast Poland on Aug. 18 that he was “grateful” to Archbishop Marek Jędraszewski for his statement earlier this month that attempts to redefine marriage and impose gender ideology in Poland were part of a “rainbow plague.”

Calling the promotion of LGBT ideology a “hard offensive” and a “travelling theatre,” Kaczynski said that “we are the ones who are harmed by this, it must be unmasked and discarded,” Reuters reported on Sunday.

Archbishop Jędraszewski said in an August 1 homily, commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising, that “our land is no longer affected by the red plague, which does not mean that there is no new one that wants to control our souls, hearts and minds,” Reuters reported. 

That new “plague,” he said, is “not Marxist, Bolshevik, but born of the same spirit, neo-Marxist. Not red, but rainbow.”

Kaczynski’s remarks came at a campaign event for Poland’s national parliamentary elections in October, where the redefinition of marriage will be one of the issues of contention as pro-LGBT “pride” events are on the rise in Poland.

Amidst some secular backlash over his remarks, Archbishop Jędraszewski has received statements of support from fellow bishops. 

On Sunday, Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski asked 80,000 pilgrims at a Mass and Eucharistic procession at the Marian sanctuary of Kalwaria Zebrzydowska in the Archdiocese of Krakow, to “pray for our dear pastors of our archdiocese, who bravely defend the truth and God’s law against all kinds of destructive ideologies.” Archbishop Jędraszewski concelebrated the Mass.

On August 8, the president of Poland’s conference of bishops, Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki of Poznań, issued a statement in response to recent “polemics” in the country “over the ‘LGBT ideology’,” including the “wave of criticism” against Archbishop Jedraszewski over his remarks.

There must be respect for all people including those with same-sex attraction, the archbishop said, but this must never include the “acceptance” of pro-LGBT ideologies.

“People belonging to milieus of the so-called sexual minorities are our brothers and sisters for whom Christ gave his life and whom He wants also to be saved,” Archbishop Gądecki said. 

“Respect for specified individuals cannot, however, lead to the acceptance of an ideology that aims to revolutionize social customs and interpersonal relationships.”

He noted “a significant increase in the number of so-called pride marches organized in our country” as well as the planned introduction of a new sex education in schools by local authorities, efforts to redefine marriage and impose gender ideology, and employers discriminating against employees who believe in traditional marriage.

In June, an IKEA store in Krakow fired an employee who quoted verses of Scripture against homosexuality on the company’s intranet, as he stated his refusal to attending a pro-LGBT event at the company’s request.

The uproar in the country against the Church and others supporting traditional marriage is a manifestation of an “ideological totalitarianism,” Gądecki said, “consisting in removing people who think differently outside the sphere of freedom.”

He urged lawmakers not to accede to the calls to redefine marriage, and called for “non-discrimination in public discussion” on both sides of the debate on sex and gender ideology.

This pro-LGBT “ideology,” he said, would bring about the ruin of society, he said, quoting Pope Francis’ November, 2014 address to the International Colloquium on the Complementarity Between Man and Woman.

Archbishop Gądecki quoted Pope Francis in his statement, “This revolution of customs and morals has often waved ‘the flag of freedom’, but it has, in reality, brought spiritual and material devastation to countless human beings, especially the poorest and most vulnerable.”

Democratic hopefuls talk prayer and politics at black church forum

Three Democratic presidential hopefuls fielded questions from black church leaders on Aug. 16, bouncing between politics and prayer as they vied for support from an audience of about 5,000 black millennials.

Retired Albany Bishop Hubbard says he has 'never sexually abused anyone'

Retired Bishop Howard Hubbard of Albany said in a statement Aug. 16 he "never sexually abused anyone" and is taking a voluntary leave of absence from the Diocese of Albany to deal with the allegations.

Jury finds Washington priest guilty on four counts of child sexual abuse

A Capuchin Franciscan priest was found guilty Aug. 15 of four counts of child sexual abuse stemming from when he served as a parochial vicar at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart in Washington.

'A celebration for the whole church': Lutheran women reflect on 50 years of ordination

"This is not just a celebration for women, or women of color or for the LGBTQIA+ community." 

The Eucharist is about more than Christ becoming present

Signs of the Times: There has been a lot of clerical hand-wringing of late about Catholics who don’t believe what the church teaches about Christ's presence in the bread and wine of the Eucharist. 

Sustainable land use urged to ease growing threats to food, water

Leading five seminarians on an eight-week summer service program largely through Appalachia and South America, Conventual Franciscan Fr. Michael Lasky saw a new awareness rising in the young men's minds.