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Nation and world briefs

U.S.

Priests for Life director laicized

WASHINGTON —Frank Pavone, the director of Priests for Life, has been removed from the clerical state of the priesthood. Catholic News Agency reported Dec. 17 that “Father Pavone has been dismissed from the clerical state for ‘blasphemous communications on social media’ and ‘persistent dis-obedience of the lawful instructions of his diocesan bishop.’” On Dec. 18, the Associated Press published the full text of a letter sent to U.S. bishops from Archbishop Christophe Pierre, U.S. apostolic nuncio. It said the head of Priests for Life “was dismissed from the clerical state by the Holy See” Nov. 9. “This action was taken after Father Pavone was found guilty in canonical proceedings of blasphemous communications on social media, and of persistent disobedience of the lawful instructions of his diocesan bishop.” The letter also said the priest “was given ample opportunity to defend himself in the canonical proceedings, and he was also given multiple opportunities to submit himself to the authority of his diocesan bishop. It was determined that Father Pavone had no reasonable justification for his actions.” There is “no possibility of appeal” for “Mr. Pavone,” it said. Pavone had drawn scrutiny over his actions in a few instances, including in 2016 when he placed the body of an aborted fetus on an altar and broadcast it on Facebook Live to encourage people to vote for Donald Trump. In a live morning broadcast on Twitter Dec. 18, Pavone said he was not told directly by the Vatican that he has been laicized. “I haven’t received any communication from the Vatican, I haven’t seen anything,” he said. “I’m not even being told about this myself.”

Advocates praise decision to commute inmates’ sentences in Oregon

WASHINGTON — Catholic and other opponents of the death penalty applauded Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s decision to commute the sentences of the state’s 17 inmates on death row, changing their sentences to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The decision, effective Dec. 14, was announced the previous day by the Democratic governor, who said she was using her executive clemency powers in this decision, stressing that she has “long believed that justice is not advanced by taking a life, and the state should not be in the business of executing people — even if a terrible crime placed them in prison.” Archbishop Alexander K. Sample of Portland was pleased with the announcement and said his “prayer is that a recognition of the true value of human life will take deep root in the minds and hearts of all Oregonians.”

Two Washington priests appointed auxiliaries for archdiocese

WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has appointed two Washington archdiocesan priests, Msgr. Juan R. Esposito-Garcia and Father Evelio Menjivar-Ayala, as auxiliary bishops of their archdiocese. Bishop-designate Esposito-Garcia, who turns 49 Jan. 10, is currently serving as an official in the Dicastery for Bishops at the Vatican. Bishop-designate Menjivar-Ayala, 52, is currently pastor of St. Mary Church in the Washington suburb of Landover Hills, Maryland. Their appointments were announced Dec. 19 in Washington by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Vatican apostolic nuncio to the United States. They both will be ordained bishops Feb. 21. Born in Argentina, Bishop-designate Esposito-Garcia was ordained a priest for the Washington Archdiocese June 14, 2008. Bishop-designate Menjivar-Ayala was born in Chalatenango, El Salvador, and was ordained for the Washington Archdiocese May 29, 2004.

Bishop of St. Cloud, Minn., retires; Oregon pastor named successor

WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Donald J. Kettler of St. Cloud, Minnesota, and named as his successor Holy Cross Father Patrick M. Neary, pastor of Holy Redeemer Parish in Portland, Oregon. Bishop Kettler, who has headed the Diocese of St. Cloud since 2013, turned 78 Nov. 26. Canon law requires bishops to submit their resignation to the pope at age 75. Bishop-designate Neary, 59, has been Holy Redeemer’s pastor since 2018. The changes were announced Dec. 15 in Washington by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Vatican apostolic nuncio to the United States.

WORLD

Pope advances sainthood causes, including first ‘martyr’ of charity

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis recognized the martyrdom of members of a Polish family who were sheltering a Jewish family during World War II, and, for the first time, advanced the sainthood cause of a candidate under the category of heroically offering his life out of loving service to others. During a meeting Dec. 17 with Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, prefect of the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints, the pope also signed decrees advancing the sainthood causes of a Uruguayan bishop, 12 priests and religious men and women, and one laywoman. Józef and Wiktoria Ulma and their seven children, including their unborn child, were killed by the Nazis along with the Jews they had taken in. The recognition of martyrdom clears the way for all nine members of the Ulma family to be beatified.

Superior: Jesuit artist was excommunicated before latest abuse report

ROME — The superior general of the Jesuits confirmed that Father Marko Rupnik, a Slovenian Jesuit and artist in restricted ministry because of abuse allegations, earlier had been excommunicated for what canon law describes as “the absolution of an accomplice in a sin against the Sixth Commandment,” a reference to sex. Father Rupnik incurred excommunication automatically when he heard the confession and granted absolution, but the excommunication was confirmed by the then-Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said Father Arturo Sosa, superior general of the order. At his annual pre-Christmas meeting with reporters Dec. 14, Father Sosa said the excommunication was lifted when Father Rupnik admitted his wrongdoing, repented and wrote a formal request for forgiveness. Several Italian blogs reported that the case involved a consecrated Italian woman and that the doctrinal office’s investigation of that allegation was conducted from 2019 to 2020. The Jesuits had confirmed in early December that the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith received another complaint about Father Rupnik in 2021 involving members of a women’s religious community in Slovenia; Father Rupnik was a spiritual adviser to the community in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

— Catholic News Service

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