El Paso, Texas, Dec 6, 2019 / 04:59 pm (CNA).- The FBI is investigating the fourth case of church vandalism in El Paso this year, with authorities saying they are uncertain whether the incidents are related.
An unknown perpetrator vandalized St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church on Thursday, destroying nearly half a dozen windows and doors and starting a small fire in one of the parish offices.
ABC-7 reported that FBI officials are unsure if the vandalism is related to three other attacks that took place this year in the west Texas city, which borders both Mexico and New Mexico.
No one was in the church at the time of the vandalism, but a parish fire alarm alerted authorities to the intrusion. The damaged windows and doors were replaced on the same day.
Fernando Ceniseros, a spokesman for the Diocese of El Paso, encouraged anyone with information on the crime to reach out to the police, FBI, or the local crime stoppers initiative.
“If you see something, if you know something or if you hear something we are asking our people to say something,” he said, according to the ABC-7.
Three other Catholic churches in the area have been subject to vandalism and arson in the last eight months.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and St. Matthew Catholic Church were both vandalized in May. Small fires had been set outside of each church, where the FBI found incendiary devices, according to local media.
St Jude Catholic Church was then attacked in June. Another incendiary device was used, starting a fire inside the church, which led to minor smoke damage.
The FBI has issued a $15,000 reward to help track down the offender in the church attacks.
In May, Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso questioned the motives behind the destruction, suggesting that the back-to-back attacks were beyond random acts of violence.
“When we see that two events happen like this in such short order it certainly concerns us that it wasn’t simply an act of random vandalism but two events targeting churches,” said Seitz, according to KTSM.
After the most recent attack, a parishioner of St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church told ABC-7 that they were shocked by the offense but that the community is not intimidated.
“To whoever did it, we are not afraid of you, we will continue to come here to worship God and we will continue praying for those who did it,” the parishioner said.
Washington D.C., Dec 6, 2019 / 04:30 pm (CNA).- Four members of Congress have requested that the Department of Justice (DOJ) use obscenity laws already on the statute book to prosecute major pornography producers and distributors.
In a letter to the DOJ provided to National Review, Reps. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.), Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), and Brian Babin (R-Tex.) all warned of an “explosion in pornography” that is fueling violence against women, human trafficking, and child pornography.
The members asked Attorney General William Barr to bring back the Obscenity Prosecution Task Force in the DOJ’s Criminal Justice Division. The task force, founded in 2005 under the George W. Bush administration, was responsible for invesitgating and prosecuting producers of hard core pornography under obscentiy laws. The task force was dissolved by Eric Holder, Attorney General under President Barack Obama, in 2011.
Rep. Banks, who led the letters signatories, said in a statement provided to CNA that the internet and other technologies have brought about convenience, but that has a “dark side” to it.
“Anyone connected to the Internet – including children – has on-demand access to billions of photos and videos of people having sex or committing other lewd acts,” Banks stated.
“The prevalence of pornography in our society has consequences, especially for our children. It’s time we start talking about it,” Banks said.
Obscenity laws are already on the books forbidding obscene pornography online, on TV, at motels, and through retail, but the laws need to be enforced, the letter says.
“Given the pervasiveness of obscenity, it’s our recommendation that you declare the prosecution of obscene pornography a criminal justice priority and urge your U.S. Attorneys to bring prosecutions against the major producers and distributors of such material,” the letter stated.
Pornography has been declared a “public health crisis” by 15 state legislatures. President Trump, as a 2016 presidential candidate, signed the Children’s Internet Safety Presidential Pledge to prioritize enforcement of obscenity and anti-child pornography laws.
Pope Francis, in a recent meeting at the Vatican with technology executives from Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Paramount Pictures, emphasized the responsibility of technology companies to protect against the abuse and exploitation of children.
Newark, N.J., Dec 6, 2019 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- Two new lawsuits were filed against Theodore McCarrick and New Jersey dioceses this week, after the state temporarily lifted its statute of limitations on sexual abuse allegations.
The two lawsuits allege that McCarrick sexually assaulted two males while he was bishop of Metuchen and archbishop of Newark, in some cases at the cathedral rectories. One of the males was a minor at the time of the assault.
The other male was James Grein, who originally went public with his allegations against McCarrick in July of 2018 in the New York Times. Grein said he was abused by McCarrick, a family friend, beginning at age 11 when McCarrick was a priest in the Archdiocese of New York.
In his lawsuit filed on Thursday, Grein said the abuse continued while McCarrick was Bishop of Metuchen and Archbishop of Newark; the counts of sexual assault in Grein’s lawsuit were alleged to have taken place in the 1980s, by the time he was an adult.
Other counts include gross negligence by the Diocese of Metuchen and Archdiocese of Newark.
Theodore McCarrick was laicized for sexual abuse of minors and adults in February after a Vatican canonical penal process triggered by an initial complaint made in the Archdiocese of New York was found “credible” and subsequent investigation showed a history of alleged sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults.
In one of the two lawsuits in New Jersey courts this week, plaintiff John Bellocchio alleged that McCarrick “engaged in unpermitted sexual contact” with him when Bellocchio was a minor, “approximately 13 or 14 years old” in “approximately 1995 or 1996” while McCarrick was Archbishop of Newark.
The abuse allegedly occurred at a parish in the archdiocese as McCarrick was “presiding [at] ceremonial services as Archbishop.”
Bellocchio’s family attended St. Francis of Assisi parish in Hackensack, New Jersey, and he had “participated in youth activities and/or church activities at St. Francis”
In the other lawsuit, plaintiff James Grein alleged that McCarrick “engaged in unlawful sexual contact” with him “at times” when he was bishop of Metuchen, from around 1982 to 1986, and then while McCarrick was archbishop of Newark from around 1986 to 1989.
Grein also filed a lawsuit in August against the Archdiocese of New York for alleged abuse by McCarrick while he was a priest of the archdiocese.
Grein alleged that some of the abuse in the 1980s took place “at times” in the rectories of the cathedrals of Metuchen and Newark; McCarrick allegedly pressed his naked body against Grein’s and grabbed his genitals.
Grein also alleged gross negligence on the part of the Diocese of Metuchen and Archdiocese of Newark for not properly recognizing and addressing the threat McCarrick posed.
A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Newark stated to CNA that “The Archdiocese of Newark takes all allegations of sexual abuse seriously. We are carefully reviewing the allegations in new lawsuits. Today and every day, we stand with survivors of clergy abuse on their journey towards healing.”
“We reassure the faithful that we continue to do all we can to promote the healing of victims, to enact structures of accountability, and to provide greater transparency into the activities of the Archdiocese of Newark. Cardinal Joseph Tobin’s Statement of Accountability on our website represents an important step in our ongoing efforts to heal the Body of Christ and uphold our commitment to the faithful,” the statement continued.
Anthony P. Kearns III, Esq., spokesperson and chancellor of the Diocese of Metuchen, stated that “it is our moral obligation to face any allegations, even those from long ago, with transparency and truth to ensure that justice is served and to make certain these actions can never be repeated.”
“The Diocese of Metuchen is aware of the pending lawsuits and while we cannot discuss pending litigation in detail, we can say with confidence that every allegation of abuse, as a matter of strictly adhered to policy, has been and will continue to be reported to law enforcement.”
The diocese also pointed to the Independent Victim Compensation Program of the five New Jersey dioceses which serves as “an efficient alternative to litigation; one that is both speedy and transparent, and which can resolve their claims with a significantly lower level of proof and corroboration than required in a court of law.” Claims through the program are accepted through Dec. 31, the diocese said.
McCarrick was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of New York by Cardinal Francis Spellman in 1958, and rose through the ranks to become one of the most prominent, powerful, and well-known ecclesiastical figures in the Church before he was laicized in 2019.
He was appointed as the bishop of Metuchen, New Jersey, in 1981, and appointed as archbishop of Newark in 1986. He served there until 2001 when he was appointed as archbishop of Washington, D.C. He served until his retirement in 2006, but even in retirement he traveled frequently despite reported sanctions placed on him by Pope Benedict XVI in 2008.
After the Archdiocese of New York found allegations against him to be “credible” and other allegations were publicized to the press, he was subsequently assigned by Pope Francis to a life of prayer and penance in August of 2018.
McCarrick was laicized in February of 2019 after the Vatican’s expedited investigation found him guilty of “solicitation in the Sacrament of Confession, and sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and with adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power.”
In a canonical deposition by the Archdiocese of New York in December of 2018, Grein reportedly said that McCarrick abused him during confession.