Vatican lawyer on plaintiffs’ decision to abandon 2010 Murphy sex abuse lawsuit

UPDATESex abuse lawsuit against Vatican withdrawn

ROME — Jeffrey S. Lena, an American attorney for the Holy See, announced today that the plaintiffs in a 2010 federal lawsuit against the Vatican regarding Father Lawrence Murphy, who sexually abused students at a Milwaukee Catholic school for the deaf, have notified the court that they have decided to abandon the suit. Below is Lena’s statement:

Statement of Jeffrey S. Lena Regarding John Doe 16 v. Holy See, et al.

(Case No. 2:10-cv-00346 RTR, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Wisconsin)

On February 10, 2012, Jeffrey R. Anderson, Esq. of the law office of Jeff Anderson and Associates, working together with columnist Marci Hamilton, Esq., filed a voluntary notice of dismissal in the case of John Doe 16 v. Holy See.

The Notice of Voluntary Dismissal — which was filed by the Plaintiff’s lawyers to avoid their duty to submit to the Court a court-ordered response to the Holy See’s Motion to Dismiss — requested that the “Court take notice of this dismissal and remove this matter from its docket.”

With these ignominious words, the John Doe 16 case died silently on a Friday afternoon in what attorney Jeff Anderson has himself called “the crucible of the courtroom.”

Things were different at the beginning of this case. On April 22, 2010, counsel for Plaintiff orchestrated a press event replete with props and other trappings designed to induce a media feeding frenzy. During the frenzy, Plaintiff’s counsel dramatically announced that they held information demonstrating a “world-wide conspiracy” related to sexual abuse that was directed by the Holy See. That outworn and discredited claim was in fact the centerpiece of a planned sequence of media events that took a very serious matter — the sexual abuse of a child — and turned it into a tool to assert fallacious allegations of Holy See responsibility and liability for John Doe 16’s abuse. Continue reading

Second statement by bishops on HHS mandate calls for its total rescission

In a new statement tonight on President Obama’s noontime announcement of a new plan for mandatory contraceptive coverage in health insurance plans, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said the “only complete solution” to the religious liberty implications of the insurance mandate “is for HHS to rescind the mandate of these objectionable services.”

Titled “Bishops Renew Call To Legislative Action On Religious Liberty,” the 700-word statement expanded on an earlier statement the same day saying the Obama announcement might be “a first step in the right direction” but that the conference still had concerns and reserved “judgment on the details until we have them.”

Tonight’s statement is a much more detailed analysis of the new plan. It notes that what it calls “the lack of clear protection” for religious employers and insurers “is unacceptable and must be corrected.” It also pledged to continue “efforts to correct this problem through the other two branches of government.”

Here is the full text of tonight’s statement:

The Catholic bishops have long supported access to life-affirming healthcare for all, and the conscience rights of everyone involved in the complex process of providing that healthcare. That is why we raised two serious objections to the “preventive services” regulation issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in August 2011.

First, we objected to the rule forcing private health plans — nationwide, by the stroke of a bureaucrat’s pen—to cover sterilization and contraception, including drugs that may cause abortion. All the other mandated “preventive services” prevent disease, and pregnancy is not a disease. Moreover, forcing plans to cover abortifacients violates existing federal conscience laws. Therefore, we called for the rescission of the mandate altogether.

Second, we explained that the mandate would impose a burden of unprecedented reach and severity on the consciences of those who consider such “services” immoral: insurers forced to write policies including this coverage; employers and schools forced to sponsor and subsidize the coverage; and individual employees and students forced to pay premiums for the coverage. We therefore urged HHS, if it insisted on keeping the mandate, to provide a conscience exemption for all of these stakeholders—not just the extremely small subset of “religious employers” that HHS proposed to exempt initially.

Today, the President has done two things.

First, he has decided to retain HHS’s nationwide mandate of insurance coverage of sterilization and contraception, including some abortifacients. This is both unsupported in the law and remains a grave moral concern. We cannot fail to reiterate this, even as so many would focus exclusively on the question of religious liberty. Continue reading

Bishops respond to Obama announcement on contraceptive mandate

UPDATE: Full news release.

SECOND UPDATESecond statement by bishops on HHS mandate calls for its total rescission

The following statement was just issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops:

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) sees initial opportunities in preserving the principle of religious freedom after President Obama’s announcement today. But the Conference continues to express concerns. “While there may be an openness to respond to some of our concerns, we reserve judgment on the details until we have them,” said Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

‘The past three weeks have witnessed a remarkable unity of Americans from all religions or none at all worried about the erosion of religious freedom and governmental intrusion into issues of faith and morals,” he said.

‘Today’s decision to revise how individuals obtain services that are morally objectionable to religious entities and people of faith is a first step in the right direction,” Cardinal-designate Dolan said. “We hope to work with the Administration to guarantee that Americans’ consciences and our religious freedom are not harmed by these regulations.”

Vatican confirms meeting of cardinals to approve new saints

You heard it here first! The Vatican today confirmed that, at the end of the Feb. 18 consistory, Benedict will hold a special session for all the cardinals to approve the canonization of new saints, including Blesseds Marianne Cope of Molokai and Kateri Tekakwitha. Such approval is needed before dates can be set for their canonizations.

Catholic News Service first reported this Feb. 2. Read about this announcement, as well as the upcoming consistory at which Pope Benedict will create new cardinals, here.

Blesseds Kateri Tekakwitha and Marianne Cope of Molokai. (CNS photo)

An informal poll on the new WYD logo

You may have heard that the new World Youth Day logo was released last night in Rio de Janiero, where the next big international youth festival will be held next year. Here’s a look at one version of the new logo:

And that prompted the social media desk at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to ask via Twitter what people think of it:

Some replies:

What about you? Add your thoughts in the comments below.

The pope’s talks on prayer

Pope Benedict XVI today continued a series of talks on prayer at his weekly general audience at the Vatican. Today he delved into our occasional feeling of being abandoned by God, highlighting Christ’s prayer from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

If you missed it, our Rome bureau’s Vatican Report last week was an explanation of what the pope has been saying. You can watch it here:

Bishops criticize court ruling on same-sex marriage

Both the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the California Catholic Conference issued statements this afternoon criticizing the federal appeals court ruling  striking down the California ban on same-sex marriage.

The USCCB news release:

WASHINGTON—Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, joins the bishops of California in denouncing the February 7 decision of a federal court rejecting the constitutionality of Proposition 8, a voter-approved  initiative in California that recognizes marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

“Today’s court ruling is a grave injustice, ignoring the reality that marriage is the union of one man and one woman,” Cardinal-designate Dolan said. “The Constitution of the United States most assuredly does not forbid the protection of the perennial meaning of marriage, one of the cornerstones of society. The people of California deserve better. Our nation deserves better. Marriage deserves better.”

The decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the August 4, 2010 decision of a federal district judge who had ruled Proposition 8 unconstitutional.

“Our society does not operate in an amoral or value-less vacuum,” said Bishop Salvatore Cordileone of Oakland, chairman of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage. “To flourish, it must be infused with moral direction that is grounded in the truth. Of course, the true meaning of marriage, like the gift of human life, is ultimately not subject to a vote or court ruling. But in California, as in every other state where marriage has been put to a vote, the people justly upheld the truth of marriage. How tragic for California, for the nation, and especially for children, that this correctly-informed judgment has now been set aside.”

The California Catholic Conference statement:

We are disappointed by the ruling today by a panel of the Ninth Circuit that would invalidate the action taken by the people of California affirming that marriage unites a woman and a man and any children from their union. However, given the issues involved and the nature of the legal process, it’s always been clear that this case would very likely be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. Marriage between one man and one woman has been—and always will be—the most basic building block of the family and of our society.

In the end, through sound legal reasoning, we believe the court will see this as well and uphold the will of the voters as expressed in Proposition 8. We continue to pray for that positive outcome.

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