Concepcion, Chile, Mar 27, 2015 / 05:32 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Both the Archbishop of Concepcion and the apostolic nuncio to Chile have maintained that Pope Francis understood all the facts in the case when he made a bishop appointment in the country earlier this year which has met with protests.
The Chilean Archbishop Fernando Chomali Garib of Concepcion said Thursday that Pope Francis “told me he had analyzed all the past records and that there was no objective reason at all” that Bishop Juan de la Cruz Barros Madrid “should not be installed as the diocesan bishop.”
In an interview with the Chilean newspaper El Sur published March 26, the Archbishop of Concepcion disclosed the details of a meeting he had with Pope Francis March 6, shortly before Bishop Barros was to be installed as head of the Diocese of Osorno.
Bishop Barros' installation was marred by a group of protesters who are accusing him of having covered up sexual abuses committed by Father Fernando Karadima, a charge the prelate denied numerous times. Bishop Barros' vocation was fostered by Fr. Karadima, and he was among his closest circle of friends decades ago.
Archbishop Chomali explained that he gave Pope Francis a “document with detailed information on the consequences of the appointment he had made. All the documentation that I cited came to him, whether through the nunciature or the Chilean embassy to the Holy See. He was very much up to date on Bishop Barros’ situation, and in fact a few days prior he had spoken with him.”
“With firmness and much conviction he told me that he had analyzed all the past records and that there was no objective reason that Bishop Barros should not be installed as diocesan bishop,” Archbishop Chomali explained.
Concerning the violent incidents inside the cathedral the day of the installation Mass, Archbishop Chomali said, “we never even imagined that. It was absolutely surprising. It had a deep impact on us.”
“It is certainly a sad episode … clearly those who profaned the church and the Mass and attacked are not Catholics.” In fact, only 52 percent of the population of the Diocese of Osorno is Catholic, making it one of Chile's least-Catholic regions.
The violence at the Mass, the archbishop said, “is a symptom more of the level of violence that there is in the country, and it demonstrates that we are far from an authentic democracy and mutual respect.”
Reflecting on the larger context of the case of Fr. Karadima, Archbishop Chomali said it “profoundly affected individuals and society. What happened is a wake up call for the whole Church concerning the consequences of abuse, which lasts for years and inflict wounds that need to be healed.”
The judge in Fr. Karadima's civil case dismissed the abuse charges, as they were from too far in the past. Nevertheless, in February 2011, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith completed its own investigation and declared 84-year-old Fr. Karadima guilty. He was sent to a life of solitude and prayer.
When reports of sexual abuse and other scandal surrounding Fr. Karadima surfaced, Bishop Barros, like a number of other prelates, at first did not believe the accusations. Once the reports were confirmed in 2011, Bishop Barros said he “learned about this situation and its diverse and multiple effects with deep astonishment and pain.”
Archbishop Chomali explained that he had a telephone conversation with Juan Carlos Cruz, one of the victims, and moreover he will meet with him soon. “What’s most important is that once and for all Karadima ask the victims for forgiveness and wishes to repair the evil he caused before he dies,” the archbishop said.
The prelate then asked those that rejected Bishop Barros’ arrival as Osorno’s new bishop to “give him an opportunity, that they can get to know one another and that they help him in his pastoral ministry. Bishop Barros has hope in the future.”
In an interview with La Tercera newspaper the same day Archbishop Chomali made his comments, the Apostolic Nuncio to Chile, Archbishop Ivo Scapolo, stated, “everything that was said in the letter that the congressional representatives delivered to the nunciature was given to the Holy Father. Everything was passed on to him. Nothing was hidden from the Holy See.”
Regarding the violence at the installation ceremony, Archbishop Scapolo said, “the great majority of those who were in the church had white balloons (while the protesters had black balloons). They were people who love their bishop.”
Indianapolis, Ind., Mar 27, 2015 / 05:32 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Despite media hype, a new Indiana law is not based on anti-gay discrimination, but on a 20-year legal precedent of protecting the rights of religious individuals and charitable organizations, say religious liberty advocates.
“It’s both unfortunate and incredibly dishonest to say the things that they are saying about these bills,” said Kellie Fiedorek, litigation counsel with the legal group Alliance Defending Freedom.
“The evidence of the past 20 years provides the strongest truth that what they’re saying is fundamentally false. Until yesterday, 19 states and the federal government have these exact same laws on the books, and none of these terrible things that are being said might happen have happened,” Fiedorek told CNA March 27.
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law March 26, saying it ensures that religious liberty is “fully protected under Indiana law.”
“The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion, but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action,” Pence said.
The legislation declares that state and local governments may not “substantially burden” a person’s right to the exercise of religion, unless it is demonstrated that doing so is “essential to further a compelling governmental interest” and uses “the least restrictive” means to further that interest.
The Indiana bill reflects the 1993 federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, passed by a nearly unanimous Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton.
While that law was originally intended to apply to both federal and state government actions, the Supreme Court ruled in 1997 that is applied only federally. Subsequently, 19 states passed their own versions of the law, explicitly applying it at the state level as well. President Barack Obama, who was at that time a state senator, voted in favor of the Illinois Religious Freedom Act in 1998.
The Indiana bill, however, triggered an intense reaction as it was signed into law, with news reports depicting it as “anti-gay” and critics claiming it would enable discrimination.
Wealthy business interests threatened consequences for the state. The CEO of Yelp said the company would not expand in Indiana. Marc Benioff, CEO of the software company Salesforce, canceled company events in Indiana. Apple CEO Tim Cook criticized the legislation, while the president of the NCAA, which will host the Final Four college basketball tournament in Indianapolis, warned that the legislation might affect future events.
Several celebrities also criticized the bill and a hacker briefly took down the State of Indiana’s website in apparent retaliation for the signing of the bill into law, the Indiana NBC affiliate WTHR reported.
But backers of the bill say critics are just plain wrong about its application. Nearly identical laws are already in place at the federal level and in more than one-third of states nationwide, they say, and the last two decades have shown that these laws have been used not to discriminate against gay individuals, but to protect religious rights.
Fiedorek pointed to numerous examples of Religious Freedom Restoration Acts in place. In one case, a Texas Native American boy appealed to a similar law when his school dress code barred him from wearing his hair longer than the other students.
In Pennsylvania, the City of Philadelphia allowed commercial food trucks to sell food in a park, but prevented charitable organizations from feeding the homeless for free. The charitable groups used the state Religious Freedom Restoration Act “to defend their ability to feed the homeless and prevent the government from making distinctions on who may exercise their constitutional freedoms and who cannot.”
Fiedorek said such legislation might have saved the life of one Jehovah’s Witness woman with religious objections to blood transfusions.
In 2012, suffering from liver failure, the woman sought a bloodless liver transplant operation. Her doctors found someone to perform the procedure in the neighboring state of Nebraska that was cheaper than a normal liver transplant.
However, Medicaid and the state of Kansas refused to pay for it because it ruled that the procedure required by her religious beliefs “did not constitute medical necessity.”
Fiedorek said the woman “would likely be alive today” had Kansas passed a religious freedom restoration act like Indiana’s.
She added that the Indiana law has no bearing on disputes between private parties unless government actions are involved.
Glenn Tebbe, executive director of the Indiana Catholic Conference, said he was “a little surprised” by the controversy. “It seems to have no relationship to what the law actually said.”
“The law does not authorize or promote or in any way encourage discrimination towards anyone. The law is there to determine when rights conflict with one another and the best way to resolve that conflict.”
If the bill had encouraged unjust discrimination, Tebbe told CNA March 27, “the Catholic Conference and the Church would not be supportive of it.”
He called on the law’s critics to “take more time to look at what the law actually says, to listen to what constitutional and legal scholars have said about it and also take a look at where this law is already in place and in practice.”
Fiedorek noted that the religious freedom restoration acts date back 25 years.
“For most of our country’s history, religious freedom had always been protected by a very heightened standard of review by courts,” she said.
It was in the 1990s that a Supreme Court decision removed the heightened review for religious freedom that courts otherwise grant to freedom of speech and freedom of association. It was in response to this decision that Congress acted in 1993 with the first Religious Freedom Restoration Act to restore a legal test applying a decades-old standard of heightened scrutiny to government burdens on religious freedom.
“At the end of the day, every citizen should be free to live and work according to their convictions, without fear that the government will come in and force them to do something contrary to their sincerely held beliefs,” Fiedorek said.