Nation/World news briefs: Feb. 20, 2023


“Following Christ is not an inward-looking fact: Without proclamation, without service, without mission, the relationship with him does not grow. … That is how you proclaim (the Gospel), by showing Jesus more than talking about Jesus.”
— Pope Francis, at his general audience Feb. 15, continuing his series of catechesis on evangelization and apostolic zeal

Governor calls on state lawmakers to abolish capital punishment as ‘statement of morality’

Gov. Josh Shapiro called on Pennsylvania’s legislature Feb. 16 to end the death penalty, marking the first time a governor of the Keystone State has formally called on lawmakers to abolish the practice. Shapiro also said he will not authorize its use during his term. Shapiro, a Democrat who was sworn in Jan. 17 as governor, announced his decision during remarks while visiting the Mosaic Community Church in West Philadelphia. Pennsylvania has carried out three executions since 1976, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, and currently has the country’s fifth largest death row.

Harrisburg diocese reaches bankruptcy settlement, pledges further actions for abuse survivors

A federal bankruptcy court approved a reorganization plan for the Diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Feb. 15. The settlement follows litigation from abuse survivors in the wake of the 2018 Pennsylvania grand jury report into child sex abuse in the Catholic Church in Pennsylvania. Bishop Ronald W. Gainer of Harrisburg said in a Feb. 15 statement that he made “the difficult decision” to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protections three years ago “as a means of stabilizing the diocese’s financial situation, while at the same time allowing us to make restitution to survivors of clergy sexual abuse and continue our ministries.” As a result of the settlement, the diocese will establish an $18.25 million Survivor Compensation Trust for abuse survivors. It will provide $7.5 million to that fund, with settling insurers contributing $10.75 million. The diocese’s statement said 60 abuse claims were made during the bankruptcy process.

Governor signs bill banning some surgeries or hormonal interventions for transgender minors

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem signed legislation Feb. 13 banning certain types of medical or surgical gender reassignment procedures for minors who identify as transgender. The bill, HB 1080, scheduled to go into effect July 1, prohibits health care providers in the state from performing certain types of hormonal or surgical gender reassignments on minors. Violators face having their medical license revoked and the potential for civil action. Noem’s signature on the bill follows comparable legislative actions. Earlier in February, she signed a bill blocking transgender student athletes from competing on sports teams opposite their biological sex.

Commission reveals ‘full extent’ of church abuse

A final report of the Independent Commission for the Study of Sexual Abuse of Children in the Catholic Church in Portugal revealed more than 4,800 children had been victims of clergy sexual abuse in the country from 1950 to 2022. Responding to the report, the president of the Portuguese bishops’ conference, Bishop José Ornelas Carvalho of Leiria-Fatima, apologized to the victims and thanked the church-sponsored commission for highlighting the abuse by Catholic clergy. He also pledged that surviving perpetrators would be removed from office. “Zero tolerance toward abuse has to be a reality throughout the church — we will not tolerate abuses or abusers,” Bishop Ornelas said. “This is an open wound that hurts and shames us, and we ask forgiveness from all the victims — those who courageously gave testimony, silent for so many years, and those still living with pain in the depths of their hearts.”


Pope Francis holds hands and prays with a dozen Jesuits working in South Sudan during a meeting Feb. 4, 2023, in Juba. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Pope Francis told Jesuits working in Congo that he had taken seriously the promise he and all Jesuits make to not seek offices of authority and power in the church and, in fact, he twice declined becoming a bishop. But, he said, in May 1992 he accepted his appointment as auxiliary bishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, because the nuncio presented him with a letter from the Jesuit superior general saying he could accept. Pope Francis met with Jesuits in Congo and in South Sudan and responded to their questions during his visit to the two countries Jan. 31-Feb. 5. The Jesuit journal La Civiltà Cattolica, which publishes transcripts of Pope Francis’ meetings with Jesuits abroad, released the texts of the Africa meetings Feb. 16.

With the papal trip to Africa coming soon after the revelation that Pope Francis had long ago prepared a letter of resignation in case he became too ill or infirm to carry out the duties of the papacy, one of the Congolese Jesuits asked him if he really was planning on stepping down. “Look,” he said, “it’s true that I wrote my resignation two months after I was elected and delivered this letter to Cardinal (Tarcisio) Bertone. I don’t know where this letter is. I did it in case I had some health problem that would prevent me from exercising my ministry and was not fully conscious and able to resign.” “However,” he added, “this does not at all mean that resigning popes should become, let’s say, a ‘fashion,’ a normal thing.” The late Pope Benedict XVI “had the courage to do it because he did not feel up to continuing due to his health,” the 86-year-old pope said, but at least for now, it is not “on my agenda. I believe that the pope’s ministry is ‘ad vitam’ (for life). I see no reason why it should not be so.”

Author: OSV News

OSV News is a national and international wire service reporting on Catholic issues and issues that affect Catholics.

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