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Missouri nuns have a history of being targeted for shootings, harassment

Washington D.C., Apr 6, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- A recent series of shootings at a Benedictine abbey in Missouri is only the latest manifestation of ongoing violence and harassment against the nuns there, the mother abbess says.

Last week, the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of the Apostles in Gower, Missouri, reported that they were seeking to upgrade the security of their abbey following three shootings on the property since February. The nuns are looking to raise $200,000 for an eight-foot wall around the property. 

On March 24 two bullets had been fired into the bedroom of the mother abbess.

“On March 24th, just after 11:00 pm, loud gunshots were heard by many Sisters in the Abbey. Some of the Sisters arose, but soon returned to sleep, as we have sadly become desensitized on account of the many incidents of inappropriate activity around our monastery,” stated a message from the community after the shooting. 

“In the morning, Mother Abbess discovered two bullet holes in her bedroom. A bullet had entered through the exterior wall, punched a hole beneath the Sacred Heart picture, and continued to penetrate through the wall directly opposite, being stopped by shower wall on its other side. Mother Abbess was sleeping several feet from the bullet's trajectory,” the nuns said.

Yet Mother Abbess Cecilia, OSB, told CNA that the shooting was only the latest “offensive behavior” toward the nuns in the decade they have resided at the abbey. The nearby town of Gower has a population of just over 1,500; the abbey itself is located outside the town near the intersection of two roads. 

“In August of 2019, someone drove right on to our property and fired shots for about 45 minutes, even shooting directly toward two sisters,” she told CNA in an email. “They couldn't see the shooter, but heard bullets whiz past them.” 

Mother Cecilia told CNA that even before the nuns arrived in Gower, they were subjected to harassment and violence from the community.

“Even before we moved here, we put in place a shrine with a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes on the property. We discovered she had been shot in the waist on one of the visits to our property,” she said. 

Since the sisters moved in, Mother Cecilia said that cars have stopped to watch the nuns while they work, and that people have been “shouting obscenities and honking their horns as they drive by, shining headlights into our windows at night.” 

That harassment escalated into a shooting on the property in 2019, with three more shootings this Lent. 

“On Ash Wednesday, at about 10:15pm, a few sisters heard other shots fired toward our building. And a couple of days after that, a single shot was directed toward the church,” she said.  “We did not discover the bullet in the door trim, nor the hole in the stone until many days later.” 

Despite having two bullet holes pierce her bedroom wall on March 24, Mother Cecilia told CNA she’s doing “very well” and that there is “no doubt in my mind that St. Michael and our guardian angels are watching over and protecting us at all times.” 

“I think we might find out on the other side of the veil, how many bullets have been deflected by them, considering the number of shots we could hear being fired,” she said. “I, and all the Sisters, are peaceful and full of confidence in the loving care of Our Heavenly Father.”

In response, the nuns are seeking to raise funds for an eight-foot wall near the road, as well as for the installation of security cameras. 

“It is unsettling to have cars driving slowly by, sometimes stopping to watch while the Sisters work,” Mother Cecilia said. “This wall will be both for our security and much needed privacy.”

Police are currently investigating the shootings. The nuns have said that people may contribute to their security on their website, specifying that the donation is for the wall fund. 

Controversial Swiss theologian Hans Küng dies at age 93

CNA Staff, Apr 6, 2021 / 11:00 am (CNA).- The influential and controversial Swiss theologian Hans Küng died Tuesday at the age of 93.

The German Catholic Church’s official website said that Küng died on the afternoon of April 6 at his home in Tübingen, southwest Germany.

Küng served as a theological adviser at the Second Vatican Council but repeatedly clashed with Rome in the years that followed.

The tensions culminated in a 1979 declaration by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) that Küng had “departed from the integral truth of Catholic faith, and therefore he can no longer be considered a Catholic theologian nor function as such in a teaching role.”

The CDF cited his opinions on the doctrine of infallibility, expressed in his 1971 book “Infallible? An Inquiry,” as one of the reasons for the move.

From the 1990s, Küng championed the idea of a “global ethic,” emphasizing common ethical values in the world’s major religions.

Leading tributes to the theologian on April 6, Bishop Georg Bätzing, president of the German bishops’ conference, said: “With the death of Prof. Dr. Hans Küng, theological scholarship loses a renowned and controversial researcher.”

“In his work as a priest and scholar, Hans Küng was concerned to make the message of the Gospel understandable and to give it a place in the lives of the faithful.”

“I am thinking in particular of his efforts with regard to a living ecumenism, his commitment to interreligious and intercultural dialogue, and the Global Ethic Foundation he founded, with its important research and projects on peace, justice, and the integrity of creation.”

He continued: “Hans Küng never failed to stand up for his convictions. Even if there were tensions and conflicts in this regard, I thank him expressly in this hour of farewell for his many years of commitment as a Catholic theologian in communicating the Gospel.”

“The dialogue of religions in the effort for a global ethic was of great concern to him. Hans Küng was deeply influenced by the Second Vatican Council, whose theological reception he endeavored to achieve.”

Küng was born on March 19, 1928, in Sursee, in the Canton of Lucerne, Switzerland. After studying philosophy and theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, he was ordained in 1954.

Reflecting on his life in a 2002 book, Küng said that after the 1979 Vatican ruling he remained “a Catholic priest in good standing.”

“I affirm the papacy for the Catholic Church, but at the same time indefatigably call for a radical reform of it in accordance with the criterion of the Gospel,” he wrote in “The Catholic Church: A Short History.”

In his tribute, Bätzing recalled a landmark meeting between Küng and Pope Benedict XVI in September 2005. The two men were colleagues at the University of Tübingen in the latter half of the 1960s, but reputedly fell out over their theological differences.

Küng described the audience, which lasted several hours, as a “very constructive and even a friendly conversation.” But he continued to criticize Benedict XVI’s theological vision, claiming in a 2012 interview that the German pope had “a medieval idea of the papacy.”

Concluding his statement, Bätzing said: “Hans Küng leaves behind a rich theological legacy. We mourn a figure who may now find his peace in the hand of God.”

Pope Francis urges Catholics to pray for people risking lives to fight for fundamental rights

CNA Staff, Apr 6, 2021 / 09:30 am (CNA).- Pope Francis is inviting Catholics around the world to pray this month for people risking their lives by standing up for fundamental rights.

The pope made the appeal in his prayer intention for April, released on Tuesday.

“Let us pray for those who risk their lives while fighting for fundamental rights under dictatorships, authoritarian regimes and even in democracies in crisis, that they may see their sacrifice and their work bear abundant fruit,” reads the monthly prayer intention, issued April 6 by the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network.

The network also released an accompanying video, in which Pope Francis explained the rationale for the prayer intention.

Speaking in Spanish, the pope said: “Defending fundamental human rights demands courage and determination. I’m referring to actively combatting poverty, inequality, the lack of work, land, and housing, and the denial of social and labor rights.”

“Often, in practice, fundamental human rights are not equal for all. There are first-, second-, and third-class people, and those who are disposable. No. They must be equal for all.”

He continued: “In some places, defending people’s dignity can mean going to prison, even without a trial. Or it might mean slander.”

“Every human being has the right to develop fully, and this fundamental right cannot be denied by any country.”

— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) April 6, 2021 Although the prayer intention and video did not mention any countries by name, the pope has called attention repeatedly in recent weeks to the crisis in Burma following a military coup.

“Once again and with great sadness, I feel the urgency to speak about the tragic situation in Myanmar, where many people, mostly young people, are losing their lives to give hope to their country,” he said at the end of a general audience on March 17.

The advocacy group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners estimates that security forces have killed 570 protesters in the Southeast Asian country as of April 5.

Freedom House, a U.S.-based NGO, issued a report in March 2020 arguing that democracy was decreasing not only in authoritarian states but also in countries with a long history of upholding basic rights.

Its “Freedom in the World 2020” report found that political rights and civil liberties had deteriorated worldwide for a 14th year in succession.

Among the territories highlighted in the study was Hong Kong. In recent months, Western governments have accused China of undermining the territory’s democratic system.

Under a “national security” law that came into force last summer, a number of local Catholics have been arrested and charged with terrorism, sedition, and foreign collusion.

Pope Francis has not addressed the situation publicly.

The Standard, an English-language newspaper in Hong Kong, said last month that Vatican Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher had defended the Holy See’s approach.

It quoted the Vatican Secretary for Relations with States as saying that, concerning Hong Kong, “I don’t think that ‘grandstanding’ statements can be terribly effective.”

“I think you have to ask what effect [a statement] is going to have? Is it going to produce a positive change, or does it make the situation more complicated for the local Church and for relations with the Holy See? At the moment, we feel that’s the right approach,” Gallagher reportedly said.

Commenting on the pope's prayer intention for April, Fr. Fréderic Fornos, S.J., international director of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, said: “It’s not the first time that Pope Francis has insisted on the importance of people’s fundamental rights.”

“In his latest encyclical, Fratelli tutti, he denounced the fact that ‘While one part of humanity lives in opulence, another part sees its own dignity denied, scorned or trampled upon, and its fundamental rights discarded or violated.’”

“Pope Francis asks us this month to pray for ‘those who risk their lives while fighting for fundamental rights under dictatorships, authoritarian regimes and even in democracies in crisis.’”

“It’s an invitation to remember those men and women, in so many countries of the world, who continue to be in prison or in dangerous situations, or who have lost their life, and many of them in the name of their faith in Jesus Christ. Let us not forget them; let us pray for them.”

Pro-life group: End of mother’s UK legal battle over life support for 5-year-old girl ‘a tragedy’

CNA Staff, Apr 6, 2021 / 08:05 am (CNA).- A pro-life group described the U.K. Supreme Court’s decision not to hear a mother’s appeal over the removal of life support for her 5-year-old daughter as “a tragedy.”

The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) said that Paula Parfitt was “a heroic example of a loving mother” after her legal battle in London on behalf of her daughter, Pippa, ended April 1.

John Deighan, the organization’s deputy CEO, said: “We have backed this case because we believe that every human life is valuable and worthy of care.”

“Paula has been a heroic example of a loving mother and we want to support her. She is right to expect that our society should treasure every person no matter what their condition of health.”

Referring to recent videos of Pippa with her mother, he added: “I believe the videos show that Pippa’s treatment is not over-burdensome and that she derives great benefit from her mum’s care. It is a tragedy that we are powerless before our courts to keep her alive.”

SPUC said that the family was considering seeking asylum in Canada, “where there is a possibility of treatment.”

According to U.K. media, a Supreme Court spokeswoman said April 2 that a panel of three justices had declined to give Parfitt permission to mount a challenge after considering a written application.

Parfitt, from Strood, Kent, had taken her legal challenge to the High Court and Court of Appeal earlier this year.

Pippa was born in 2015. In December 2016, she fell ill and began suffering seizures. Doctors diagnosed her as suffering from acute necrotizing encephalopathy, a rare form of brain damage marked by multiple bilateral lesions.

After specialists at Evelina London Children’s Hospital said that life-support treatment should be removed, the case went to the High Court, which issued its ruling on Jan. 8.

In February, the Anscombe Bioethics Centre in Oxford argued that the ethical reasoning behind the High Court decision was “deeply flawed.”

In an analysis of the judgment, the center’s director David Albert Jones said that the case had similarities with those of Charlie Gard and Alfie Evans, in which ventilation was withdrawn against their parents’ wishes.

He said that withdrawing life-sustaining treatment could be justified if it no longer serves its purpose or is “excessively burdensome.”

“On the other hand, withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment when treatment would have been beneficial and not unduly burdensome is nothing less than abandonment,” he wrote.

“Furthermore, even if withdrawal of treatment is justifiable, it is important that the decision is made for the right reasons. In the case of Pippa Knight, as in the two former cases, the ethical reasoning is deeply flawed.”

In February, Pippa’s mother asked appeal judges to overturn the ruling, arguing that her daughter should be allowed to leave the hospital and be treated at home on a portable ventilator.

The Court of Appeal upheld the High Court’s ruling on March 19.

Appeal Court judge Lord Justice Baker said in a written ruling: “I am entirely satisfied that the judge was entitled to conclude and declare that it was lawful and in Pippa’s best interests that life-sustaining treatment be withdrawn for the reasons he gave in his judgment.”

The two other judges who heard the appeal expressed their agreement.

Following the ruling, Parfitt said: “I am once again devastated as a result of the judgment of the Court of Appeal today, to uphold the decision that it is not in Pippa’s best interests to have a two-week trial of portable ventilation to find out whether she could come home.” 

“I find it inexplicable that the court and [hospital] trust will not allow Pippa to trial portable ventilation for two weeks to see if she can return home when the hospital allows Pippa to go outside for long periods on portable ventilation with no issue.”

She said she would be seeking permission to appeal to the Supreme Court because she wanted Pippa “to have every possible chance to come home and be with her family.”

Commenting on the Appeal Court ruling, Catholic Bishop John Sherrington said: “Pippa is living in a seriously disabled way due to her complex and rare medical condition. The Catholic Church teaches that every person has worth and dignity which is independent of their condition. Lack of awareness does not diminish worth.”

“The ruling to allow medics to cease Pippa’s treatment based on her quality of life or worth does not acknowledge or afford her the inherent human dignity with which she was born.”

Sherrington, a Westminster diocese auxiliary bishop and the English and Welsh bishops’ spokesman for life issues, said he was praying for Pippa, her mother, and the healthcare professionals caring for the girl.

“We must uncompromisingly ensure that proper care is given where there is still life, despite serious illness or disability,” he commented.

“We are reminded that such care must include the provision of nutrition and hydration, by whatever means, which is neither treatment nor medicine, unless this itself becomes overly burdensome.”

Cardinal and Archbishop of Canterbury urge UK government not to cut foreign aid budget

CNA Staff, Apr 6, 2021 / 06:25 am (CNA).- An English cardinal and the Archbishop of Canterbury urged the U.K. government Tuesday to reconsider plans to cut its foreign aid budget.

In a joint article in the London Evening Standard April 6, Cardinal Vincent Nichols and Archbishop Justin Welby expressed alarm at the proposed reduction in aid from 0.7% of gross national income to 0.5%.

“Balancing the books during a pandemic on the backs of the world’s poorest is not acceptable, when Britain should be setting an example and proving our standing as a world leader,” they wrote.

“Ultimately however, this is not only about ‘global Britain,’ it is about morality and fulfilling our promise to people who live in poverty. Too often we use the phrase ‘the world is watching,’ but on this occasion it is true. We must rise to the occasion.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced Nov. 25 that the government intended to abandon its commitment to the 0.7% target contained in the Conservative Party’s 2019 general election manifesto.

Senior Conservatives have threatened to block the cut and Liz Sugg, a junior minister at the Foreign Office, resigned in protest.

Sunak insisted that cutting the overseas aid budget by a third was a temporary measure that was necessary as the country faces its worst recession in more than 300 years. He suggested that the change would be reversed if the financial outlook improved.

Nichols sent a letter to MPs in November criticizing the move.

“A clear measure of a nation’s greatness is the manner in which it responds to the needs of its poorest. The same is true for the response to poverty between nations. If we truly wish to be a great nation, then cutting the overseas aid budget is a retrograde step,” the archbishop of Westminster said.

“The great tragedies of forced mass migration and human trafficking must be tackled at their source. Carefully targeted and well-managed overseas aid programs are an essential part of this effort. In the face of these catastrophes, this is no time to reduce the U.K.’s contribution or effort.”

Christine Allen, director of Cafod, the official aid agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, said in November that the government had “chosen to turn its back on the world.”

“Aid spending on tackling global poverty must not be treated as a charitable favor to the world, but as Britain’s moral duty,” she said.

The 0.7% figure was enshrined in law by the International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Act of 2015.

“Saying the government will only do this ‘when the fiscal situation allows’ is deeply worrying, suggesting that it will act in contravention of its legally binding target,” Nichols and Welby wrote.

“This promise, repeatedly made even during the pandemic, has been broken and must be put right.”

The leaders said that the cut would cause “real damage” to crisis-hit countries such as Yemen, where a civil war has raged since 2014, with more than 80,000 children dying as a result of famine.

“Promises -- and truth -- matter in politics, as in all walks of life. It is never too late to do the right thing,” they wrote.