Archbishop Lori restricts ministry of former head of West Virginia diocese
BALTIMORE — Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore announced March 11 that a preliminary investigation into allegations of sexual harassment of adults and financial improprieties by Bishop Michael J. Bransfield, formerly of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, W. Va., has been completed and will be forwarded to the Vatican for final judgment. At the same time, the archbishop announced restrictions on the bishop’s ministry. The Vatican announced Bishop Bransfield’s retirement from the diocese Sept. 13, and Pope Francis appointed Archbishop Lori as apostolic administrator, with a mandate to investigate the allegations against the bishop. A news release from the Archdiocese of Baltimore March 11 noted that the preliminary investigation took place over five months. Archbishop Lori conducted the investigation with the assistance of a team of five lay experts. The team examined multiple allegations of sexual harassment of adults and financial improprieties. It involved interviews with more than 40 individuals, including Bishop Bransfield. “I have directed that Bishop Bransfield is not authorized to exercise any priestly or episcopal ministry either within the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston or within the Archdiocese of Baltimore,” Archbishop Lori said.
New York court rules prelate’s remains should be transferred to Peoria
PEORIA, Ill. — Bishop Daniel R. Jenky of Peoria announced “with great joy” March 5 that the New York Appellate Court ruled 5-0 that the remains of Archbishop Fulton Sheen should be transferred from New York to the Peoria Diocese. Bishop Jenky is promoter of the canonization cause of Archbishop Sheen, a Peoria diocesan priest, who gained fame in the 1950s with a prime-time television series called “Life Is Worth Living.” He died in New York Dec. 9, 1979, at age 84, and was entombed in the crypt at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. In 2016, Joan Sheen Cunningham, Archbishop Sheen’s oldest living relative, filed a petition with the courts in New York asking that his body be moved to the Peoria cathedral. She said her uncle would not have objected to his remains being transferred to his home diocese from St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The unanimous decision from the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, was the third time the New York court system has ruled in Cunningham’s favor, the diocese noted in a statement, urging an end to the appeals.
Arkansas Senate passes
bill to ban abortion after 18th week of pregnancy
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Arkansas Senate March 11 passed a bill to ban abortion after the 18th week of pregnancy. The measure, approved in a 28-6 vote, does include exceptions in medical emergencies to save the life of the mother and in cases of rape or incest. The original Senate bill had only the exception for medical emergencies, but Republican Sen. Jason Rapert, a co-sponsor of the measure, offered an amendment on rape and incest March 7, and the Senate voted for it. News reports said the measure did not receive much discussion on the floor before the vote, but Rapert told his fellow senators it “actually has been well discussed” in the days leading up to the full vote. “It’s pretty simple in that we already have existing law that prohibits abortion at 20 weeks. This moves that to 18 weeks,” he said.
Four CRS staffers,
humanitarian workers killed in plane crash
WASHINGTON — Four Catholic Relief Service staff members on their way to a training session in Nairobi, Kenya, were among the passengers aboard an Ethiopian Airlines flight that crashed moments after takeoff in the east African nation. The accident March 10 claimed the lives of 157 people on board, many of them from humanitarian agencies. Others on the jetliner included a Georgetown University law school student who was serving as a campus minister and 19 staff members of U.N. agencies. Two Kenyan religious, Mariannhill Father George Kageche Mukua and an unidentified nun, were also among those killed in the crash. Pope Francis offered prayers for the passengers from 35 countries in a telegram March 11. In a statement March 11, Catholic Relief Services shared the news of the tragedy involving its staffers, all Ethiopian nationals. The dead include Getnet Alemayehu, Mulusew Alemu, Sintayehu Aymeku and Sara Chalachew. They worked in various administrative positions for CRS.
Diocese concludes inquiry of French priest’s martyrdom
VATICAN CITY — The Archdiocese of Rouen concluded its sainthood inquiry into the life and death of a French priest who was killed while celebrating Mass. Archbishop Dominique Lebrun of Rouen presided over the final session of the diocesan inquiry into the life and martyrdom of Father Jacques Hamel, Vatican News reported March 9. Father Hamel was killed July 26, 2016, when two men stormed a church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray near Rouen while he celebrated Mass. After taking several hostages, the attackers slit Father Hamel’s throat and seriously injured another parishioner. Following a standoff, police killed the attackers, ending the hostage situation. Traditionally, the formal sainthood process, which includes compiling the candidate’s writings and gathering sworn testimonies about his or her life and holiness, can begin no sooner than five years after the person’s death. However, Pope Francis set aside the restriction and allowed for the French priest’s sainthood cause to begin in 2017.
French cardinal convicted for failing to report abuse
VATICAN CITY — A French cardinal was given a six-month suspended sentence at a civil trial after he was found guilty of covering up abuses committed decades ago by a priest. Lyon Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, 68, was convicted March 7 of covering up abuse by Father Bernard Preynat, who confessed to abusing minors at Lyon’s Saint-Luc Parish, where he ran a large Catholic Scout group in the 1970s and 1980s. In a brief statement to journalists following the verdict March 7, Cardinal Barbarin expressed his “compassion for the victims” and said he would meet with Pope Francis to hand in his resignation. However, Cardinal Barbarin’s lawyer, Jean-Felix Luciani, told journalists that the cardinal would “challenge this decision through all appropriate legal channels.” Questioning “the court’s motivations,” Luciani said that increasing media pressure after the release of several documentaries and a movie about Father Preynat’s abuses raised “real questions about respect for justice.”
— Catholic News Service