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Pope Francis accepts resignation of Panamanian cardinal who went missing

Cardinal José Luis Lacunza resigned as bishop of the Diocese of David in Panama Feb. 15, 2024, two weeks after his disappearance that has not yet been explained. / Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/ACI Prensa

ACI Prensa Staff, Feb 15, 2024 / 17:30 pm (CNA).

The Vatican Press Office reported Feb. 15 that Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Cardinal José Luis Lacunza Maestrojuán as bishop of the Diocese of David in Panama, two weeks after his yet-to-be-explained disappearance, and named Father Luis Enrique Saldaña Guerra as his successor.

The appointment occurs a few days before Lacunza turns 80 on Feb. 24, the day on which he will cease to be an elector in a possible conclave to elect Pope Francis’ successor should he die or resign.

The Panamanian Bishops’ Conference published a statement Feb. 15 expressing their “gratitude to Cardinal José Luis Lacunza and welcoming the designated bishop of the Diocese of David,” noting that the Holy Father accepted the resignation of the cardinal “after almost five years” since he complied with the provisions of Canon 401.1 of the Code of Canon Law,” which requests bishops to present their resignation to the pope at the age of 75.

The apostolic nunciature in Panama posted a statement on X Feb. 15, explaining that “the new bishop will communicate in due time, the day, place and time of his episcopal ordination, and consequently the canonical taking possession of the Diocese of David.”

The cardinal’s disappearance

On the morning of Feb. 1, the Catholic Church in Panama reported that Lacunza had been missing since Jan. 30. The cardinal was found by the police later that afternoon.

On Feb. 4, the cardinal apologized for what had happened, although he did not explain what transpired. A day later, the nation’s attorney general, Javier Caraballo, said that the bishop was being treated as a victim, so his right to “privacy” would be respected.

It is still not known precisely what happened to Lacunza or why the Catholic Church and civil authorities remain silent about it. Nor is it known what the cardinal’s “prank” may have been, as he himself described what took place.

It is not yet known whether the Vatican or Pope Francis have been formally informed about what happened to Panama’s first cardinal. ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, reached out to Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni about the matter but did not receive a response by press time.

In addition, the results of the medical exam Lacunza underwent have not been made public beyond some generalities, and it has not been reported whether the cardinal suffers from any ailment.

Who is the new bishop?

Father Luis Enrique Saldaña Guerra was also born on Feb. 24, but in 1966, so in just a little more than a week he will turn 58.

He studied philosophy at Rafael Landívar University in Guatemala and theology at José Simeón Cañas Central American University in El Salvador.

He made his solemn profession in the Franciscans on Feb. 23, 2002, and was ordained a priest on April 29, 2006.

He has held, among others, the following positions: formator of novices and Franciscan brothers; parochial vicar; guardian in the fraternity of the parishes of St. John the Baptist in Boquete, Panama, Our Lady of Mount Carmel in David, Panama, and St. Anthony of Padua in Miraflores, Panama; guardian at the Virgen del Socorro Fraternity in La Antigua, Guatemala; and Franciscan provincial definitor of Panama (2008–2017).

He has also been the administrative director of the Pius XII Franciscan Schools in Boquete, Panama, and St. Francis of Assisi in David as well as deputy director of the Social Works of St. Peter of Betancurt in La Antigua, Guatemala.

Since 2021 he has been provincial minister of the Franciscan Province of Our Lady of Guadalupe of Central America and the Caribbean located in Guatemala.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Rapid City bishop says he will move to hospice amid cancer fight

Bishop Peter Muhich of the Diocese of Rapid City, South Dakota. / Credit: Diocese of Rapid City

CNA Staff, Feb 15, 2024 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

Bishop Peter Muhich of the Diocese of Rapid City, South Dakota, announced Wednesday he will be moving soon into hospice care amid treatment for esophageal and lymphatic cancer. 

“Despite the best efforts of my health care team, all treatment options have been exhausted and there is no more that can be done without causing greater harm to my system,” Muhich said in a statement posted to the diocesan website. 

“Therefore I have accepted the recommendation of my doctors and will move to hospice as soon as a space is prepared for me. Thanks to all of you for your many prayers, which have sustained me and strengthened me through the many trials along the way. I am grateful.”

Muhich said through the coming weeks or months, “as God wills,” he will continue to handle as much of the administrative work of the diocese as he can manage “with the assistance of my capable vicars and chancellor.”

“Let us pray that many graces flow from God to our diocese as I await God’s will. I offer all my sufferings for a true Eucharistic revival in our diocese,” the bishop concluded. 

Muhich, 62, had previously announced his cancer diagnosis in a July 2023 Facebook post. He said after several months of difficulty swallowing food, an endoscopy procedure found cancer in his lower esophagus. A PET scan showed the cancer present in one of his lymph nodes as well. At the time, Muhich said he was “glad to learn that the cancer is potentially curable and definitely treatable.”

While asking for prayers from the Catholic community, Muhich also asked the intercession of Servant of God Nicholas Black Elk, a famous Native American Catholic whose sainthood cause was opened by the Rapid City Diocese in 2017.  

In a September 2023 update, Muhich said the radiation and chemotherapy treatments he had been undergoing “took a toll on the body and I am still weak.”

“I am offering the trials of this sickness for a deep and fruitful revival of Eucharistic faith in our diocese. I have constantly felt the Lord’s presence with me in these days of illness and uncertainty. God is good and will bring many graces out of this time of illness if we are open to receiving them.

Pope Francis appointed Muhich to lead the diocese, which serves roughly the western half of South Dakota, in May 2020. He was born in northern Minnesota and was ordained a priest in 1989 for the Diocese of Duluth.

Israeli embassy criticizes Cardinal Parolin’s remarks on civilian death toll in Gaza

Israeli Ambassador to the Holy See Raphael Schutz meets with Pope Francis on Feb. 2, 2024. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Feb 15, 2024 / 16:05 pm (CNA).

The Embassy of Israel to the Holy See issued a sharp rebuke of Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin’s recent remarks on the civilian death toll in the Israel-Hamas war.

In Feb. 13 comments made to the press — which were posted in full on La Repubblica’s website — Parolin said that Israel’s response to Hamas’ Oct. 7, 2023, attack has not been “proportionate,” with the prelate arguing that “we cannot continue like this” and “we must find other ways to solve the problem of Gaza, the problem of Palestine.”

The Vatican’s secretary of state also observed that since the outbreak of the war, the Holy See has issued “a clear and unreserved condemnation of what happened on Oct. 7” as well as “a clear and unreserved condemnation of every type of antisemitism.” 

Parolin went on to say that “at the same time” the Holy See has requested “that Israel’s right to defense, that was invoked to justify this operation, be proportionate … and certainly with 30,000 deaths it is not.” 

In response to the cardinal’s remarks, the Embassy of Israel to the Holy See issued a press release posted on X in which it stated that “judging the legitimacy of a war without taking into account ALL relevant circumstances and data inevitably leads to erroneous conclusions.” 

“Gaza has been transformed by Hamas into the largest terrorist base ever seen,” the embassy argued. “There is almost no civilian infrastructure that has not been used by Hamas for its criminal plans, including hospitals, schools, places of worship, and many others.”

“Gaza civilians also actively participated in the Oct. 7 unprovoked invasion of Israeli territory, killing, raping, and taking civilians hostage,” the statement continued. “All these acts are defined as war crimes.” 

The embassy argued that “in stark contrast” to the Hamas assault, “IDF operations are conducted in full compliance with international law.”

The embassy’s press release also addressed the issue of civilian deaths, indicating that in the case of the IDF, “for every Hamas militant killed, three civilians lost their lives,” which contrasts favorably with “past wars and operations of NATO forces or Western forces in Syria, Iraq, or Afghanistan … the proportion was nine or 10 civilians for every terrorist.” 

“Any objective observer,” the embassy said, “cannot help but come to the conclusion that the responsibility for the death and destruction in Gaza lies with Hamas and Hamas alone.” 

However, a Feb. 15 Vatican Media editorial affirmed Parolin’s “realistic view” of the ongoing tragedy in the Gaza Strip. “The Holy See is always on the side of the victims,” the editorial stated, pointing to the high number of “innocent civilians, one-third of whom are children,” killed by bombings in Gaza.

“Israel’s right to bring the perpetrators of the October massacre to justice cannot justify this carnage,” the editorial emphasized.

The Associated Press has reported that the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry is the only official source for Gaza casualties and does not differentiate between civilian and combatant deaths.

Parolin made his remarks before a bilateral meeting with officials from the Italian state, including Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella, to mark the 95th anniversary of the signing of the Lateran Pact. 

The Lateran Pact, signed in 1929 — and renegotiated in 1985 — was a formal accord between the Holy See and the then-Kingdom of Italy that recognized the territorial sovereignty of the present-day Vatican City State, the extraterritorial sovereignty of the papal basilicas, the full independence of the pope, and a slew of other privileges for the Church in Italy.

Catholic mother killed in shooting at Kansas City Chiefs victory parade

Law enforcement responds to a shooting at Union Station during the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl LVIII victory parade on Feb. 14, 2024, in Kansas City, Missouri. / Credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images

CNA Staff, Feb 15, 2024 / 14:50 pm (CNA).

Following a shooting in downtown Kansas City yesterday afternoon during a packed Super Bowl victory rally, nearly two dozen people were injured and one person, so far, is confirmed dead. 

The lone fatality so far, according to local news reports, was Lisa Lopez-Galvan, a local radio DJ and a parishioner at Sacred Heart-Guadalupe Parish in Kansas City. 

Police in a news conference Thursday said initial investigations pointed to a dispute between people that ended in gunfire, with no apparent links to terrorism. They identified the single deceased victim as “Elizabeth Galvan,” 43. 

Lopez-Galvan’s employer, KKFI 90.1 FM, had the day before announced her death in a Facebook post. The victim hosted a music program on the station called “Taste of Tejano.”

“Our hearts and prayers are with her family … This senseless act has taken a beautiful person from her family and this KC Community,” the radio station said. 

The shooting took place at the parade’s end near Union Station. A total of 23 people were taken to the hospital, officials said. Several of the injured victims were children. 

According to the Kansas City Star, Lopez-Galvan had two children and other members of her family who were with her at the parade may have been injured. 

Reports noted that Father Luis Suárez, parochial administrator of Sacred Heart-Guadalupe Parish, encouraged the community to unite in prayer for Lopez-Galvan and her family amid the tragedy in his homily at the Ash Wednesday evening Mass. 

Reached by CNA, Suarez declined to comment further, saying Lopez-Galvan’s family has requested he not make any statements until they have had a chance to put together a press release.

“It has been a big tragedy and loss for our community … a moment of tears and sorrow. May the Lord comfort those who are affected by this situation,” the priest said. 

Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, which encompasses the suburb where Lopez-Galvan lived, said in a statement to CNA that his “prayers and deepest condolences go out to the family of Lisa Lopez-Galvan.”

“We are surrounding her family with our love and support. She was a beloved member of our faith community,” the archbishop continued. 

“Our prayers and deepest sympathies are with her family during this sorrowful time. We take comfort in knowing that the resurrection of Our Lord is our consolation and are grateful for his promise of eternal life. We pray for the repose of her soul and healing, peace, and strength for her loved ones and our community.”

German Catholics ask bishops to reconsider Synodal Way plans

The cross of the German “Synodal Way.” / Credit: Maximilian von Lachner/Synodaler Weg

CNA Newsroom, Feb 15, 2024 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

Ahead of a high-stakes gathering of the German bishops next Monday, a lay group warned the prelates of moving “further and further away from the people of God” on their Synodal Way and its plan to establish a Synodal Council.

The German bishops are expected to discuss — and possibly vote on — the statutes for a Synodal Committee during their spring plenary assembly, which takes place Feb. 19–22 in Augsburg. 

The initiative “Neuer Anfang” (“New Beginning”), a group critical of the Synodal Way, on Thursday asked bishops to reconsider — and reminded them that Pope Francis and the Vatican have repeatedly intervened against the process and plans for a permanent body to oversee the Church in Germany. 

In their open letter published Feb. 15, the German Catholics also called on bishops to accept that the very foundations on which the Synodal Way’s controversial demands are based were “made of sand”: The claim that there was an allegedly “Catholic-specific dimension of sexual abuse” had been disproven by the Protestant abuse study. 

Given this lack of legitimacy and questionable premise, the Neuer Anfang argued, bishops should rather tackle the real challenges facing the Church in Germany. 

“Do you still realize that you, as courageous shepherds and bold leaders, are urgently needed somewhere else?” asked the signatories: publisher and author Bernhard Meuser, former participant in the Synodal Way Dorothea Schmidt, and theologian Martin Brüske.

“The country is facing a demographic, economic, and social catastrophe.” 

What is more, they added, the Catholic Church in Germany had “lost its spiritual substance, its intellectual relevance, and its prophetic luminosity.”

The letter warned bishops of wasting energy “in an unworthy tussle” with the co-organizers of the Synodal Way, the Central Committee of German Catholics, ZdK, since the inception of the process in 2019. 

The ZdK already approved the committee’s statutes on Nov. 25, 2023.

Pope Francis directly criticized the work of the preparatory committee. In a private letter, he described the committee as one of “numerous steps being taken by significant segments” of the Church in Germany “that threaten to steer it increasingly away from the universal Church’s common path.”

In January 2023, the Vatican asserted “that neither the Synodal Way, nor any body established by it, nor any bishops’ conference has the competence to establish the ‘synodal council’ at the national, diocesan, or parish level.”

World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly highlights ‘loneliness,’ ‘throwaway culture’

Pope Francis greets an elderly couple at his general audience on Jan. 11, 2023. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Feb 15, 2024 / 12:22 pm (CNA).

The theme for the fourth World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, which will be celebrated on July 28, has been chosen by Pope Francis. 

According to the Holy See Press Office, this year’s theme is “Do Not Cast Me Off in My Old Age,” which comes from Psalm 71. The Feb. 15 press release noted that in choosing this verse it was the Holy Father’s desire “to call attention to the fact that, sadly, loneliness is the bitter lot in life of many elderly persons, so often the victims of the throwaway culture.”

The press release said that “by cherishing the charisms of grandparents and the elderly, and the contribution they make to the life of the Church, the World Day seeks to support the efforts of every ecclesial community to forge bonds between the generations and to combat loneliness.”

It also noted that the day will also be an opportunity for the whole Church to prepare for the upcoming jubilee year of 2025. 

Reflecting on the theme chosen by the pope, Cardinal Kevin Farrell — the prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life — stressed the Holy Father’s call to bring awareness to the isolation that many elderly people face, saying that it is “a widespread reality” and that “many elderly people [are] often victims of the throwaway culture and considered a burden to society.” 

In the Feb. 15 press release issued by the dicastery, the cardinal also noted that while “loneliness, certainly, is also an unavoidable condition of human existence,” it is incumbent upon “families and the ecclesial community … to be at the forefront in promoting a culture of encounter, to create spaces for sharing, listening, to offer support and affection: thus the love of Gospel becomes concrete.” 

The cardinal also noted that the celebration of the fourth World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly in July will be an opportunity for intergenerational dialogue, which will help build “the broader ‘we’ of ecclesial communion.”  

“It is precisely this familiarity, rooted in the love of God, that overcomes every form of throwaway culture and loneliness.”

The press release also noted that in the coming months a pastoral kit will be made available on the family dicastery’s website to help individuals and communities prepare for the event.

Pope Francis established the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly in 2021. It is held on the fourth Sunday of July, which falls near the feast of Sts. Joachim and Anne, the grandparents of Jesus.

Vatican hosts veneration of relics of 21 Coptic martyrs of Libya on first feast day

Icon of the 21 Martyrs of Libya. / Credit: Image courtesy of Tony Rezk, via tonyrezk.blogspot.com

Rome Newsroom, Feb 15, 2024 / 09:03 am (CNA).

The relics of 21 Coptic martyrs killed by ISIS in Libya will be venerated in St. Peter’s Basilica on Thursday evening at an ecumenical prayer service marking their first official feast day in the Catholic Church.

The evening vespers at the Vatican will commemorate the ninth anniversary of the martyrdom of the 21 Coptic Orthodox men who were beheaded by the Islamic State on a beach in Sirte, Libya, on Feb. 15, 2015.

Pope Francis added the 21 Coptic martyrs to the Roman Martyrology, the Church’s official list of saints, last May as he met with the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, Tawadros II.

Cardinal Kurt Koch, the prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, will preside over the ecumenical prayer at 5 p.m. in the Choir Chapel of St. Peter’s Basilica. A Coptic choir will provide the music for the liturgy.

Following the prayer service, the Vatican Film Library will host a screening of a documentary about the martyrs, “The 21: The Power of Faith,” a film produced by the Coptic Orthodox Church.

The martyrdom of the 21 men, who were mostly from Egypt, was filmed by the Islamic State and released as an online video showing masked fighters beheading the men as they knelt on a Libyan beach wearing prison-style orange jumpsuits.

The Egyptian government and the Coptic Orthodox Church later confirmed the video’s authenticity. In October 2017, authorities found a mass grave containing the bodies of the 21 men, who had been kidnapped in Libya where they were likely seeking work opportunities.

A Coptic Orthodox church dedicated to the 21 Martyrs of Libya was opened in 2018 in the village of al-Our in Egypt, a village that was home to 13 of the martyred men.

The Coptic Orthodox Church declared the 21 Coptic Christians as martyr saints within only a week of their murder in 2015 along the Libyan coast. 

Pope Francis’ inclusion of the martyrs in the Roman Martyrology in 2023 marked a significant moment in ecumenical relations between the Catholic Church and the Coptic Orthodox Church, which is the largest Christian denomination in majority Muslim Egypt.

The Roman Martyrology is an official list of the saints and blesseds, including martyrs, recognized in the liturgy of the Catholic Church. The list is ordered according to the Church’s calendar of feast days.

“These martyrs were baptized not only in the water and Spirit, but also in blood, a blood that is the seed of unity for all of Christ’s followers,” Pope Francis said at the time.

The feast of the martyrs, referred to as the 21 Coptic Martyrs of Libya, is celebrated on Feb. 15 in both the Catholic Church and the Coptic Orthodox Church.

During the Coptic leader’s visit to the Vatican last year, Tawadros II gave the pope the relics of the martyrs’ blood that will be used in Thursday’s liturgy.

“Today we hand over part of their relics, dipped in their blood shed in the name of Christ for the Church, so that they may be remembered in the martyrology of all the churches of the world, and know ‘we too’ are ‘surrounded by such a multitude of witnesses,’” Tawadros said.

“Precisely because the saints are one of the main pillars of our churches, beginning with the apostles Peter, Paul, and Mark,” he said, “we now write in the martyrology of the churches the new martyrs who have guarded the faith and bore witness to Christ, who did not lose heart in the face of torture and passed on to us a living example in martyrdom.”

Aid group warns of violence against Christians, sees glimmer of hope in Myanmar

St. Matthew Catholic Church appears gutted by fire, allegedly set by government soldiers, in eastern Myanmar on June 15, 2022. / Credit: Screenshot from KNDF Facebook video

CNA Newsroom, Feb 15, 2024 / 08:00 am (CNA).

A humanitarian aid group has warned of a rise in violence against the persecuted Christian minority amid the bloody civil war in Myanmar. At the same time, there are signs of hope, a project leader for Christian Solidarity International (CSI) told CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner. 

“Violence against Christian communities has increased enormously since the military regime ended the short-lived hybrid government agreement,” Selina Biedermann said, highlighting the dire situation of what the U.N.’s chief investigator for Myanmar has called “systematic violence” following the 2021 coup.

Biedermann detailed the intensifying suppression faced by Christians, who mostly hail from ethnic minorities like the Karen, the Chin, and the Kayin.

“Like the Rohingya Muslim ethnic group, they are subjected to cruel ethnic-cleansing campaigns,” she told CNA Deutsch.

Amnesty International has called for the recent attack on a Christian church to be investigated as a war crime. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) condemned the military’s “indiscriminate” airstrikes on civilians on Feb. 7.

The military junta is ramping up efforts to suppress opposition, UCA News reported, including the conscription of men aged 18–35 and women aged 18–27 into the armed forces.

This move shows the military is on the back foot, the ABC in Australia reported.

Cautious optimism 

Biedermann noted a lack of attention in Western media, attributing it to the dominance of other interests and conflicts overshadowing Myanmar’s crisis, such as the war in Ukraine. 

CSI’s work in Myanmar, particularly in the Sagaing region, involves providing humanitarian relief and supporting long-term livelihood projects for internally displaced persons.

Biedermann shared hopes for cautious optimism, citing behind-the-scenes efforts by global powers to pressure the military toward negotiation. 

“Over the past year, China and the United States have been working together to pressure Myanmar’s military dictatorship,” she revealed, suggesting the potential for peace if the military engages in honest political dialogue with ethnic minorities and pro-democracy groups.

As reported by Voice of America, the exclusion of Myanmar — formerly known as Burma — from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) bloc’s leadership in 2026 signals international disapproval. Still, Biedermann stressed that increased pressure is essential for a democratic future. 

“It is precisely this international pressure that urgently needs to be increased,” Biedermann concluded, calling for global action to support Myanmar’s path toward democracy and inclusivity.

House members call for investigation into DC’s five late-term aborted babies

Rep. Chris Roy, R-Texas, and several House members and pro-life leaders hold a press conference in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 14, 2024, in which they demand a federal investigation into the possible illegal killing of five unborn babies. / Credit: Peter Pinedo/CNA

Washington D.C., Feb 14, 2024 / 18:45 pm (CNA).

Pro-life House members are calling for autopsies and a full investigation into whether federal laws were broken in the late-term abortions of five babies whose remains were discovered by pro-life activists in Washington, D.C.

Several members of Congress and pro-life leaders held a press conference in front of the Capitol on Wednesday in which they said that the five babies’ remains suggest they may have been killed via an abortion method known as “partial-birth abortion,” which is banned nationally under federal law.

Partial-birth abortion is a procedure in which a doctor partially delivers a baby only to kill him or her by either crushing the skull or removing the brain by suction. The leaders at the press conference demanded action from the federal government to determine whether the babies, often referred to as the “D.C. Five,” were killed in this manner. 

“We’re talking about precious life that was just callously disregarded, discarded, just thrown away like refuse, that’s just unconscionable,” said Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas.

“We need to go seek the truth. We need to know what’s going to happen next. We need the Department of Justice … to look into this,” he said.

Who are the D.C. Five? 

The secular pro-life group Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising (PAAU) originally obtained the remains of the aborted babies in March 2022. The group said it acquired them from the Washington Surgi-Clinic run by Dr. Cesare Santangelo, an OB-GYN and well-known abortionist in the city.

The five babies, all of whom were in late stages of gestation, were discovered with major lacerations, torn limbs, and crushed skulls, all consistent with methods used in partial-birth abortions. Their discovery sparked outrage and calls for a federal investigation from pro-life groups and citizens.

Despite calls for an investigation, the Biden Department of Justice (DOJ) has not announced any plans to take action. On Feb. 5, PAAU announced that the office of the D.C. medical examiner had shared with the group its intent to cremate the babies’ remains at the behest of the DOJ. This prompted Roy and Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Arizona, to write a letter to the DOJ in which they said that “without an independent examination for the purposes of countering the argument of ‘lawful abortions’ it is not known how each child died.”

The D.C. medical examiner’s office has since reportedly postponed plans to cremate the babies’ remains; however, still no plans have been announced for an autopsy and their fate remains uncertain.

During the press conference, Rep. Bob Good, R-Virginia, accused the DOJ of being “complicit in covering up the cold-blooded murder” of “precious lives.”

“This is about murder and yet nothing’s been done,” Good said. “No autopsy. No investigation. You have to ask yourself: ‘Why?’ Are we a country that has a rule of law or not? Does the Justice Department actually dispense justice? Those are very fair questions.”

Good suggested that if the DOJ does not act, then Congress should investigate the killings.

“It’s high time Congress conduct its own investigation,” he said, “because the DOJ, if they won’t seek justice, then Congress, I think, is compelled to.”

On Feb. 8, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz issued a letter of his own in which he said: “Should the D.C. medical examiner’s office decide not to conduct timely autopsies, or preserve the bodies of these babies for outside examination, the Senate Judiciary Committee will have no choice but to expand this issue into a full hearing featuring the Department of Justice and the Office of the D.C. Medical Examiner as witnesses before the American public.” 

‘Their bodies tell a story’ 

Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, told CNA after the press conference that he believes the D.C. Five are not the only babies being killed through illegal partial-birth abortions and that they are just the “tip of a much larger human rights violating iceberg the likes of which Americans need to know about.”

“We’ve got to really shine the brightest light on what is going on,” he said. “Minimally, this particular doctor needs to be held to account. We do think he broke laws. But only evidence will prove that. Well, don’t destroy the evidence.”

Jamie Dangers, legislative director of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, who was also present at the conference, told CNA that it is especially important to find the truth about the D.C. Five because it proves the true barbarity of abortion.

“A lot of times with abortion, the whole idea can be very sanitized, and it can be construed as health care or anything like that,” Dangers said. “Yet, because we have the actual evidence, the actual bodies of these children, their bodies tell a story that cuts through all the euphemisms. And so, these five children, obviously their lives were cut short, we can’t help that, but what we can do is dignify their memories and use their stories to help protect other children from similar deaths.”

Priest resigns as head of Pontifical Missions USA, admits he broke vow of celibacy

Diocese of Brooklyn priest Monsignor Kieran Harrington resigned from his position as the national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States after an allegation against him of “inappropriate conduct with an adult” was substantiated, the Diocese of Brooklyn announced. / Credit: EWTN News Nightly YouTube

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Feb 14, 2024 / 18:20 pm (CNA).

Monsignor Kieran Harrington has resigned his position as the national director of The Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States (TPMS US) after the Diocese of Brooklyn found “sufficient proof” of “inappropriate behavior with an adult,” which he has since admitted to.

The Diocese of Brooklyn’s Adult Allegation Committee (AAC) investigated Harrington after it received an allegation of “inappropriate conduct” on March 6, 2023. The committee found “sufficient proof” to support the allegation but did not disclose any specifics about the conduct.

In a statement provided to CNA, Harrington admitted that he had an “inappropriate” encounter with a woman in which he had “broken [his] promise of celibacy.” However, he claimed that the incident was consensual and occurred long before he assumed his leadership role with TPMS US.

“Regrettably, more than a decade ago and prior to my appointment to this position, I had a single, inappropriate, consensual encounter with an adult woman for whom I cared deeply,” Harrington said in a statement provided to CNA. “I was wrong to have done so.”

Harrington added that he is “not the subject of any complaint or civil proceeding” and that “the fact came to light during an ecclesiastical proceeding unrelated to me.” He said he “cooperated and was forthcoming about the events” with the diocese during the investigation.

Harrington claimed that the report “concluded that the encounter was consensual,” but the Diocese of Brooklyn disputed that characterization, telling CNA that “the board did not make a finding on the issue of consent.”

“The board concluded that his behavior violated the Code of Conduct and he should have known better,” the diocesan statement read.

Harrington since April 2021 served as the national director of TPMS US, which is a pontifical organization that supports the missionary work of the pope. He had also served as the vicar for communications for the Brooklyn Diocese since 2006 but was placed on a leave of absence from his priestly ministry pending a diocesan evaluation to determine whether he is suitable to serve the Church in the future.

“I have cherished my 22 years in the priesthood, both in Brooklyn and in service to the Holy Father and the Church,” Harrington said. “It has been my greatest privilege to serve in my parish and in the missions, accompanying the Church in places where it is still young, often poor, and frequently persecuted.”

Harrington apologized to “my colleagues, friends, and parishioners” and requested their prayers. He added that he hopes this incident does not distract from the work of TPMS, which he said is “more vital than ever before.”

“I am proud of the team we’ve assembled at The Pontifical Mission Societies and our shared accomplishments,” Harrington said. “We’ve taken specific steps to increase levels of transparency, accountability, and oversight, including reforms in our governance, systems, and processes. I am so grateful for their dedication.”

A spokesperson for TPMS US accepted Harrington’s resignation but thanked him for his service with the organization.

“Monsignor Harrington’s resignation is related to a matter which occurred over a decade ago, prior to joining TPMS, when he was serving under the Diocese of Brooklyn,” the statement read. “We thank Monsignor Harrington for his service and dedication to the Church’s mission. Under his tenure, TPMS has taken specific steps to increase levels of transparency, accountability, and oversight.”

The board of directors for TPMS appointed Father Anthony Andreassi, CO, to serve as interim national director.

“TPMS is devoted to bringing the Gospel to all nations while strengthening the Church in the USA and mission territories,” the statement added. “We are committed to continuing our important work and serving God through our global network of Catholics united in prayer and alms.”