18 February AD 2020

Kobe Bryant Dead at 41: How Scandal Turned Him to Catholic Faith & Divine Mercy

Kobe Bryant (Source: Screen Shot from Twitter Account of Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles)

.- Basketball superstar Kobe Bryant died Sunday in a helicopter crash in Southern California. Bryant, the father of four, was 41.

Bryant’s daughter Gianna, 13, was also killed in the helicopter crash. Nine people were killed in the crash.

Bryant is widely considered one of the greatest basketball players of all time. He retired in 2016 after a 20 year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, in which the shooting guard won five NBA championships, a league MVP award, two scoring championships, and myriad other distinctions.

Beyond basketball, Bryant was a husband and a father who in 2015 attributed his Catholic faith with helping him move past a challenging period in his own life and the life of his family.

Bryant was raised in a Catholic family, and spent much of his childhood living in Italy. He married in 2001 in a Southern California parish.

In 2003, Bryant was arrested after he was accused of raping a woman in a Colorado hotel room.

Bryant admitted a sexual encounter with the woman, but denied that he had committed sexual assault. When the allegation became public, Bryant lost sponsors and faced criminal charges, which were eventually dropped.

Bryant issued an apology to his accuser, with whom he also reached a settlement in a civil lawsuit.

“Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did. After months of reviewing discovery, listening to her attorney, and even her testimony in person, I now understand how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter,” Bryant said in his 2004 apology.

In 2015, the basketball player told GQ that after the matter was resolved, he decided to shed some superficiality he felt he had built up in his public persona.

“What I came to understand, coming out of Colorado, is that I had to be me, in the place where I was at that moment.”

Bryant said it was a priest who helped him to make some important personal realizations during the ordeal.

Describing his fear of being sent to prison for a crime he believed he had not committed, Bryant told GQ that “The one thing that really helped me during that process—I’m Catholic, I grew up Catholic, my kids are Catholic—was talking to a priest.”

“It was actually kind of funny: He looks at me and says, ’Did you do it?’ And I say, ’Of course not.’ Then he asks, ’Do you have a good lawyer?’ And I’m like, ’Uh, yeah, he’s phenomenal.’ So then he just said, ’Let it go. Move on. God’s not going to give you anything you can’t handle, and it’s in his hands now. This is something you can’t control. So let it go.’ And that was the turning point,” Bryant said.

A 2004 decision to place deeper trust in God did not mean the basketball star’s life was thereafter without difficulties, or defined by virtue.

In 2011, Vanessa Bryant filed for divorce from Kobe, citing irreconcilable differences. But Bryant said he decided not to give up on his marriage, and two years later, his wife withdrew her divorce petition.

“I’m not going to say our marriage is perfect, by any stretch of the imagination,” Bryant told GQ in 2015.

“We still fight, just like every married couple. But you know, my reputation as an athlete is that I’m extremely determined, and that I will work my ass off. How could I do that in my professional life if I wasn’t like that in my personal life, when it affects my kids? It wouldn’t make any sense.”

Bryant and his wife have been reported to be regular parishioners at an Orange County, California parish.

Singer Cristina Ballestero posted on Instagram Jan. 26 a story of her encounter with Bryant at Holy Family Cathedral in Orange, California at a weekday Mass.

“As we went up to communion, [Bryant] waited for me to go. If you grew up in the Catholic Church, you understand this is a respectful thing men do in church as a sign of respect to women. He said I have a beautiful voice.”

“His most inspiring trait was his decision to turn to his faith in God and receive God’s mercy and to be a better man after a regretful decision,” Ballestero added.

Kobe Bryant’s death was reported in the media before the death of his daughter, Gianna. Before the death of Gianna Bryant’was reported, Los Angeles’ Archbishop Jose Gomez tweeted a tribute to the elder Bryant.

Bryant also had connected his Catholic faith to a family commitment to help the poor, through the Kobe & Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation. The foundation helped fund youth homeless shelters and other projects aimed at serving the poor.

“You have to do something that carries a little bit more weight to it, a little more significance, a little more purpose to it,” he said in 2012, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Homelessness “is one that kind of gets pushed on the back burner because it’s easy to point the blame at those who are homeless and say, ‘Well, you made that bad decision. This is where you are. It’s your fault.”

“In life, we all make mistakes and to stand back and allow someone to live that way and kind of wash your hands of it … that’s not right,” he said.

Funeral announcements for Bryant and his daughter have not yet been announced.

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This story is developing and has been updated.

New Orleans Saints Defend Assistance of Archdiocese as Disclosure

Logo of the New Orleans Saints (Source: Dean Bertoncelj at Shutterstock via CNA)

.- The New Orleans Saints have said assistance that team personnel offered to the Archdiocese of New Orleans on communications strategy was not a coverup, but disclosure.

The team’s claim comes amid a sexual abuse lawsuit filed against the archdiocese. Saints officials said that team personnel offered assistance to archdiocesan officials on how to manage a 2018 report on clerics removed from ministry for alleged sexual abuse, but that the Saints personnel did not act improperly, according to the AP.

At the center of the suit is George Brignac, a deacon of the Archdiocese of New Orleans who was removed from ministry in 1988 after being accused of sexually abusing minors in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Brignac was listed among a November 2018 report of New Orleans archdiocesan clergy who were removed from ministry for an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor.

In July 2019, The New Orleans Advocate reported that attorneys of an alleged victim of Brignac were working to obtain copies of any communications between employees of the New Orleans archdiocese and those of the New Orleans Saints. The alleged victim’s lawsuit, which WVUE identified as John Doe versus the Catholic Church of New Orleans and Deacon George Brignac, says the archdiocese failed to protect him from Brignac.

The attorneys said they had evidence that the Saints’ Senior VP of Communications, Greg Bensel, advised the archdiocese on its 2018 clergy abuse report, and that they wanted to understand how the Saints may have been “supporting the archdiocese on addressing sexual abuse claims and the media coverage surrounding these claims.”

The AP reported Jan. 24 that lawyers “for about two dozen men suing the church” said documents obtained through discovery demonstrated that the Saints assisted the archdiocese in its “pattern and practice of concealing its crimes so that the public does not discover its criminal behavior.” They said Bensel and other Saints employees had advised Church officials on “messaging” related to the clerical abuse of minors.

The plaintiffs are seeking to have the communications made public, which both the Saints and the archdiocese are opposing.

A special master appointed by the court “is expected to hear arguments in the coming weeks on whether the communications should remain confidential,” Jim Mustian of the AP wrote. The AP has filed a motion supporting their publication.

Lawyers for the Saints “acknowledged in a court filing that the team assisted the archdiocese in its publishing of the credibly accused clergy list, but said that was an act of disclosure,” the AP reported.

The football team’s lawyers called the assistance “the opposite of concealment” and called claims it had abetted the coverup of crimes “outrageous.”

According to the AP, an archdiocesan attorney had said the request to have the communications released was part of a “proverbial witch hunt with respect to decades-old abuse” and that it was merely an effort to let the media “unfairly try to tar and feather the archdiocese.”

Brignac, 85, was ordained in 1976, and an allegation against him was received the following year. He held pastoral assignments at Cabrini High School, Our Lady of the Rosary, and St. Frances Cabrini School in New Orleans; St. Louise de Marillac School in Arabi; and St. Matthew the Apostle School in River Ridge.

He was charged with indecent behavior with a juvenile in 1977, and was acquitted the next year.

In 1980, Brignac was booked with indecent behavior with a juvenile and contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile, but the allegations were not prosecuted, the New Orleans Advocate reported.

In 1988, charges of abuse of a juvenile were filed, but dismissed by the state.

The New Orleans archdiocese has settled several lawsuits involving Brignac.

One of those settlements, made in May 2018, was for more than $500,000. The victim said he was abused as an altar boy at Holy Rosary School in New Orleans beginning in 1979. Roger Stetter, the plaintiff’s attorney, told the New Orleans Advocate shortly after that “it was a fair settlement, and it was very, very prompt.” He added, “I think the archdiocese is doing a lot to try to curtail this type of abuse. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to weed out possible pedophiles.”

Stetter also said Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans is “a good man and wants to do right by the victims, even though it may cost the church a lot of money.”

For several years, until shortly after the May 2018 settlement, Brignac served as a lector at St. Mary Magdalene parish in Metairie, adjacent to New Orleans. The New Orleans archdiocese said its leaders were unaware he was lectoring until after the settlement was publicized, and that the priest who allowed it “was wrong to do so.”

In September 2019 Brignac was arrested on a count of first-degree rape, after a former altar boy said he had been repeatedly raped by the deacon 40 years ago.

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Cardinal Re Elected New Dean of the College of Cardinals

The College of Cardinals celebrates Mass 12 March AD 2013 before entering the Sistine Chapel for the papal conclave. (Source: Jeffrey Bruno at CNA)

 

.- Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re has been elected the new dean of the College of Cardinals with Cardinal Leonardo Sandri as vice-dean.

Re, 85, will serve a five-year term under the new term limits created by Pope Francis in a motu proprio issued Dec. 21. Previously, cardinal dean, considered “first among equals,” was a position held for the duration of one’s life.

The dean of the College of Cardinals presides at the conclave for the election of the pope and represents the Holy See during the sede vacante.

Because Cardinal Re is over the age of 80, he is ineligible to take part in a conclave. The responsibility of presiding over the conclave will therefore fall to 76-year-old vice-dean, Cardinal Sandri.

Both Re and Sandri’s elections were approved by Pope Francis on  Jan. 18 and Jan. 24 respectively.

The College of Cardinals is structured in three orders, or ranks: the order of “cardinal deacons,” the order of “cardinal priests,” and the order of “cardinal bishops.”

The dean is elected by and from among the highest of these ranks, the cardinal bishops. He has the responsibility to communicate the pope’s death to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See and to the heads of nations, and he is the one who asks the pope-elect if he accepts the election, and what name he will take.

Re’s election follows the resignation of Cardinal Angelo Sodano, 92, who was elected dean of the College of Cardinals in 2005. Since 2017, Re held the position of vice-dean under Sodano, who can now assume the title of dean emeritus.

In his motu proprio Dec. 21, Pope Francis said he made the decision to set a five-year, renewable mandate “with regard to the fact that with the increase in the number of cardinals, ever greater commitments come to weigh on the person of the cardinal dean.”

The dean and assistant dean, elected from among the cardinal bishops, are “called to exercise among the cardinal confreres a fraternal and fruitful presidency of primacy inter pares,” the pope said.

Re retired as prefect of the Congregation for Bishops in 2010 after leading the Vatican congregation for ten years. He worked closely with St. John Paul II as sostituto, or deputy, at the Secretariat of State from 1989 – 2000 before his appointment as prefect of the Congregation of Bishops.

A native of Lombardy, Italy, Re was ordained to the priesthood in 1957, and entered into the diplomatic service of the Holy See. John Paul II appointed him to be an archbishop and secretary of the Congregation for Bishops in 1987 and a cardinal in 2000. Re has served as vice-dean of the College of Cardinals since 2017.

Sandri is the current prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Eastern Churches, a position he has held since 2007 when Pope Benedict XVI made him a cardinal.

Born in Buenos Aires in 1943, Sandri was ordained to the priesthood in 1967. He shortly after studied to be a papal diplomat, and went on to serve in the nunciature in Madagascar and Mauritius. St. John Paul II appointed him regent of the Prefecture of the Papal Household in 1991, and the following year he was promoted to be an assessor for the Section for General Affairs in the Secretariat of State.

Sandri went on to be appointed as an archbishop and apostolic nuncio to Venezuela in 1997, and apostolic nuncio to Mexico in 2000. After only a few months, he was called back to the Vatican to assume the position of sostituto for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State following Re.

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President Trump at March for Life: ‘I Am Truly Proud to Stand with You’

President Trump 2020 March for Life (Source: Peter Zelasko at CNA)

By J.D. Flynn;

(Christine Rousselle contributed to this report.)

. — President Donald Trump addressed the annual March for Life Friday, telling pro-life demonstrators that he is an advocate for the right to life of unborn children, and calling for a federal prohibition on late-term abortion.

The president spoke about his administration’s record on abortion policy and criticized Democrats at the state and federal level for their positions on human life.

He is the first president to attend in person the March for Life, which began in 1974 and has become one of the largest annual political events in the country.

“All of us here understand an eternal truth: Every child is a precious and sacred gift from God,” President Trump told the crowd, which spanned across a large section of the National Mall and which the president described as a “tremendous turnout.”

“We’re here for a very simple reason, to defend the right of every child born and unborn to fulfill their God-given potential,” the president said.

“As President of the United States, I am truly proud to stand with you,” President Trump said.

“Together we must protect, cherish, and defend the dignity and the sanctity of every human life.”

“You embrace mothers with care and compassion, you are powered by prayer and motivated by pure, unselfish love,” the president told the crowd.

President Trump especially praised the college and high school students in attendance at the March for Life.

“Young people are the heart of the March for Life, and it’s your generation that is making America the pro-family, pro-life nation. The life movement is led by strong women, amazing faith leaders, and brave students, who carry on the legacy of pioneers before us, who fought to raise the conscience of our nation and uphold the rights of our citizens,” President Trump said.

The president’s attendance at the March for Life was announced earlier this week. In 2019 Vice President Mike Pence attended the march, and in 2018 President Trump welcomed pro-life leaders to the White House Rose Garden on the same day as the event.

The president’s unexpected attendance at the event led to heightened security. Initial security announcements said that no strollers would be permitted at the event, leading to criticism from attendees who had brought children to the event. Security organizers eventually relented on the stroller policy, saying the initial prohibition was the result of a miscommunication

President Trump took the stage shortly after noon to chants of “four more years” from some, but not all, in the crowd. Some attendees held signs distributed by the president’s campaign team, some of which read “Most Pro-Life President Ever.”

Before he spoke, President Trump greeted leaders on the stage while Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A” played. Before he had taken the stage, songs from the Rolling Stones and Tina Turner played, as well as The Animals’ 1964 “House of the Rising Sun,” had played for the crowd. The songs are frequently played at Trump events.

The president’s attendance was welcomed enthusiastically by March organizers. As she introduced President Trump, March for Life president Jeanne Mancini thanked the president for coming.

Describing the March for Life as a “pro-life and pro-woman” event, and the “largest human rights demonstration in the entire world,” Mancini told President Trump that “your presence here today makes a very powerful statement.”

“You are leader of the free world and you stand for life. Thank you for being here. Thank you for everything you’ve done for life. And thank you for everything you will be doing for life in the years ahead,” Mancini said, seeming to make reference to the president’s upcoming election.

The welcome marked a stark contrast to a March 2016 statement from Mancini, who responded to remarks from President Trump calling for the imprisonment of women who undergo abortions as “completely out of touch with the pro-life movement and even more with women who have chosen such a sad thing as abortion.”

“Being pro-life means wanting what is best for the mother and the baby. Women who choose abortion often do so in desperation and then deeply regret such a decision. No pro-lifer would ever want to punish a woman who has chosen abortion,” Mancini added in 2016.

But President Trump has made efforts since his 2016 election to respond to the policy proposals of pro-lfe leaders, administration officials say.

On Friday, he touted some of those efforts, mentioning his expansion of the Mexico City policy that bars federal funding from supporting abortions in foreign countries, along with his 187 appointments to the federal bench, among them two justices of the Supreme Court. The president also mentioned new regulations on Title X policies that block abortion providers from some federal funds.

President Trump said that his administration is concerned about protecting religious liberty, and is “taking care of doctors, teachers, nurses, and groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor.”

“Unborn children have never had a stronger defender in the White House,” the president said, to applause from the crowd.

President Trump has faced fierce criticism from the U.S. bishops’ conference and other faith leaders for his immigration and social welfare policies, and did not make mention of those issues during his speech. Nor did he mention his recent drone strike against Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, which has also drawn criticism from faith leaders who have raised concerns about the possibility that the U.S. could enter another war in the Middle East.

The president also did not mention directly his reelection, but he did tell the crowd that “Democrats have embraced the most radical and extreme positions taken and seen in this country for years and decades, and you can even say, for centuries. Nearly every top Democrat in Congress now supports taxpayer-funded abortions all the way up until the moment of birth.”

President Trump mentioned the 2019 passage of New York state’s Reproductive Health Act, which ushered in a wave of legislation in several states aimed at expanding legal protection for abortion. He also mentioned Virginia’s Governor Ralph Northam, who in 2019 made public comments that seemed to support allowing a child who survived a botched abortion to die without medical treatment.

The president did not mention Louisiana state Rep. Katrina Jackson, a pro-life Democrat scheduled to speak at the March for Life shortly after President Trump. Rep. Jackson sponsored a Louisiana law requiring doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within a 30-mile radius. That law, now under judicial review at the Supreme Court, is expected to pose a challenge to the binding precedent of Roe v. Wade.

President Trump is currently subject to impeachment proceedings in the U.S. Senate, which he did not mention directly in his speech. He did, however, aim to connect his political challenges to his pro-life advocacy.

“Sadly the far left is actively working to erase our God-given rights, shut down faith-based charities, ban religious believers from the public square, and silence Americans who believe in the sanctity of life,” President Trump told the crowd.

“They are coming after me, because I am fighting for you, and we are fighting for those who have no voice, and we will win, because we know how to win.”

“We all know how to win. You’ve been winning for a long time. You’ve been winning for a long time,” President Trump told the crowd.

As he closed his remarks, the president told the crowd his attendance was a “very special moment.”

“It is so great to represent you. I love you all…God bless America.”

As President Trump left the stage, the Rolling Stones 1969 classic “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” played over the speakers.

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Church of England Affirms Sex Is Only for Heterosexual Marriage

Lambeth Palace (Source: TK Kurikawa at Shutterstock via CNA)

.- Sex is reserved for married heterosexual couples, new pastoral guidance from the Church of England has affirmed. The new guidance also draws a clear distinction between marriage and civil partnerships, noting that sexual relations are not proper to the latter.

The guidance, titled “Civil Partnerships – for same sex and opposite sex couples. A pastoral statement from the House of Bishops of the Church of England,” was issued last month in response to a 2019 change to UK law, broadening access to civil partnerships by making them available for heterosexual couples for the first time.

Civil partnerships were created in 2004 for same-sex couples but are legally distinct from marriage. Same-sex couples were given the legal right to marry in the England and Wales in 2013, but civil partnerships remained available to same-sex couples only.

“Sexual relationships outside heterosexual marriage are regarded as falling short of God’s purposes for human beings,” says the guidance on the issue. “The introduction of same sex marriage, through the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, has not changed the church’s teaching on marriage or same sex relationships.”

Although the Church of England acknowledges that “many of the provisions in the legislation on civil partnerships are, however, similar to, or identical with, those in marriage law,” the nature of the commitment in a civil partnership is different than that of a marriage.

“In particular, [civil partnerships are] not predicated on the intention to engage in a sexual relationship,” says the guidance.

“There is likely to be a range of circumstances in which people of the same sex or opposite sex choose to register a partnership, including some where there is no intention for the relationship to be expressed through sexual activity.”

The guidance applies only to the Church of England, and not to other branches of the worldwide protestant Anglican Communion.

Since the law’s original passage, some pairs of people who are not romantically involved have entered civil partnerships for tax or benefit purposes.

In the guidance, the Church of England states that because of the “ambiguity” regarding sexual activity in civil partnerships, combined with its teaching on the nature of marriage, it does “not believe that it is possible for the church unconditionally to accept civil partnerships as unequivocally reflecting the teaching of the church.”

The Church of England has previously published policies that seem intended to accommodate modern sexual ethos and gender theory without directly contradicting Scripture and Christian history. The results have sometimes seemed gymnastic.

Although the Church of England accepts both married men and women for ordination to the priesthood and as bishops, it does not conduct or recognize same-sex marriages as marriage. In December 2012, the Church of England permitted gay clergy in civil partnerships to become bishops, provided they were living in continence with their partners, that is abstaining from sexual relations.

“The House [of Bishops] believed it would be unjust to exclude from consideration for the episcopate anyone seeking to live fully in conformity with the Church’s teaching on sexual ethics or other areas of personal life and discipline,” Graham James, Anglican bishop of Norwich, stated in January 2013.

“All candidates for the episcopate undergo a searching examination of personal and family circumstances, given the level of public scrutiny associated with being a bishop in the Church of England.”

In 2018, the denomination published pastoral guidelines for liturgies concerning the so-called “gender transition” of church members. These new liturgies are intended to affirm and celebrate a person’s shift to a chosen gender identity, and to “to recognize liturgically a person’s gender transition.”

The guidelines, titled Pastoral Guidance for use in conjunction with the Affirmation of Baptismal Faith in the context of gender transition, were approved by the Church of England’s House of Bishops in December 2018, and published shortly afterwards.

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