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Nation and world briefs


Catholic parish sues over its right to hire staff who uphold Church tenets

LANSING, Mich. — A Catholic parish in the Diocese of Lansing has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court to protect its right to hire parish employees and staff for its grade school who uphold the tenets of the Catholic faith. The filing follows a July 28 ruling by the Michigan Supreme Court that reinterpreted a state civil rights statute’s definition of sex to include gender identity and sexual orientation without any exemption for religious organizations. Filed Dec. 5 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan-Southern Division, the suit names state Attorney General Dana Nessel, the Department of Civil Rights and the Civil Rights Commission. Becket, a Washington-based religious liberty law firm, is representing the plaintiff, St. Joseph Catholic Church in St. Johns, Michigan. Founded in 1857, it is the only Catholic parish in town. Its elementary school opened in 1924. The state Supreme Court’s “new understanding” of the civil rights statute “would make it illegal for St. Joseph to operate in accordance with the 2,000-year-old teachings of the Catholic Church on marriage and sexuality,” Becket said in a statement.

Father Pfleger reinstated; archdiocesan board finds no proof of abuse

CHICAGO— Father Michael Pfleger, 73, has been reinstated as senior pastor of the Faith Community of St. Sabina after the Chicago Archdiocese’s Independent Review Board determined the accusations of sex abuse lodged against him in October are not credible. The board “has concluded that there is no reason to suspect Father Pfleger is guilty of these allegations,” Chicago Cardinal Blase J. Cupich said in a Dec. 10 letter to the parish. “Having given careful consideration to their decision, which I fully accept,” he said, “I now inform you that I am reinstating Father Pfleger to his position of senior pastor,” effective immediately. In an Oct. 15 letter to parishioners, Cardinal Cupich announced that following archdiocesan protocol, he had asked Father Pfleger to step aside as senior pastor as the archdiocese thoroughly reviewed an abuse allegation it had received against the priest.


Pope asks governments to grant clemency to prisoners at Christmas

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis is writing to all the heads of state around the world, asking them to consider granting some prisoners clemency at Christmas. The Vatican press office said Dec. 12 that the pope is asking government leaders to consider freeing or reducing the sentences of men and women they believe would benefit from such a gesture of mercy “so that this time marked by tensions, injustices and conflicts may be opened to the grace that comes from the Lord.” The Vatican did not release a copy of the letter or explain what prompted it besides the approach of Christmas. From his days as archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, and continuing after his election to the papacy, Pope Francis has made a special effort to maintain regular contact with prisoners, to meet them in Rome and on his trips around the world and to phone and write them.

Two more bishops named in class action against Quebec Archdiocese

MONTREAL — Two more bishops, including one still serving, have been named in a new list of offenders filed in the class action against the Quebec Archdiocese. Bishop Jean-Pierre Blais of Baie-Comeau, Quebec, and the late Bishop Clément Fecteau, who served as bishop of Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière, were named in an 11-page victims’ list recently made public by the Arsenault Dufresne Wee law firm. Both were ordained bishops in the Quebec Archdiocese before being transferred. Bishop Blais’ alleged offenses were said to have occurred between 1973 and 1975 at the Charny rectory, when the victim was 12 years old, reported the Montreal-based Presence info. On Dec. 2, Bishop Blais formally denied any inappropriate conduct toward the victim. He said he would collaborate with the legal proceedings but would not give any interviews or provide comments. The alleged offenses against Bishop Fecteau were said to have taken place in 1987. He was ordained in 1957, and died in 2017. Also accused in the class action, Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet announced he is filing a defamation lawsuit in Quebec against a woman who accused him of sexual assault. “Having preliminarily made sure to protect the plaintiff’s anonymity by obtaining an order to that effect, today I am taking legal action for defamation before the courts of Quebec in order to prove the falsity of the allegations made against me and to restore my reputation and honor,” the cardinal said in a statement Dec. 13. The woman accused the cardinal of inappropriately touching her at a meeting of the Quebec archdiocesan staff in 2008, when he was archbishop, and kissing her, pressing against her and making inappropriate comments at other gatherings.

—Catholic News Service

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