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Buffalo, N.Y., Aug 19, 2019 / 04:30 pm (CNA).- Amid a media firestorm and a small protest Sunday, the Diocese of Buffalo disputed allegations made in a letter published by a recently resigned seminarian.

“Earlier today, while many Catholics were attending Sunday Mass, three individuals chose to gather in front of St. Stanislaus Church and Bishop Malone’s residence. These individuals were within their rights, and displayed various poster signs. The Diocese of Buffalo, has responded to these topics previously and it is unfortunate that some have not received or understood the responses,“ the diocese said in an Aug. 18 statement.

The protest staged Sunday, according to local media reports, was attended by three people, one of whom is recently resigned Buffalo seminarian Stephen Parisi, who made headlines last week, when he published a six-page open letter, addressed to Buffalo’s Bishop Richard Malone, calling for the bishop’s resignation and accusing him of multiple offenses, which included allowing a priest to violate the seal of confession without consequence.

Malone was accused Aug. 6 by Marie Bojanowski, the mother of a Buffalo seminarian, of allowing a priest, Rev. Jeffrey Nowak, to remain in ministry despite allegations that he had violated the sacramental seal, groomed and sexually harassed her son, and abused minors.

A letter from seminarian Matthew Bojanowski to Malone, dated Jan. 24, 2019, is posted on the website of Buffalo television station WKBW. The letter details Bojanowski’s allegations of harassment, and indicates that Nowak disclosed that he had been accused of “inappropropriate actions,” with minors.

The Diocese of Buffalo removed the priest from ministry Aug. 7, and denied reports that Malone had covered up allegations of misconduct against the priest.

The diocese emphasized its response in its Aug. 18 statement.

“Bishop Malone has never allowed any priest with a credible allegation of abusing a minor to remain in ministry. He has stated it is his responsibility to lead the Diocese of Buffalo and he will continue to do so by continuing to offer opportunities to bring healing to victim-survivors of abuse and renewed trust to the people of the Diocese,” the diocese said.

“There has never been an accusation that Bishop Malone violated the seal of the confessional. Mr. Parisi and others make the outrageous and unsupported claim that Bishop Malone has not honored the seal and ignored a complaint that Fr. Jeffrey Nowak violated the seal of the confessional. Bishop Malone has never ignored this complaint.”

“To the contrary, Bishop Malone has initiated an investigation of the complaint. When the individual who made the complaint was first questioned, his response was vague and needed follow up. Fr. Nowak has been removed from ministry while the investigation continues,” the diocese said.

“The Office of Professional Responsibility has tried to contact the individual making this complaint but he has yet to respond. The Diocese will continue to pursue this claim and take additional action if necessary,” the statement added.

The diocese did not respond to all the complaints made by Parisi, which painted the picture of a seminary in chaos. The former seminarian alleged that seminary formators used information gained in the confessional to "blackmail seminarians," made lewd remarks in class, and encouraged seminarians to "shoot or break the kneecaps of protestors and/or the press."

The diocesan statement responding to his letter said that “Mr. Parisi was under investigation for academic dishonesty at Christ the King Seminary and his departure hinders any further inquiry.”

In his Aug. 15 letter, Parisi wrote that he did not plagiarize, only that after reviewing a fellow student’s paper in a “non-credit pre-theology class,” he “used the same quotes, in the same order but used my own thoughts and words to explain the quotes.”

Explaining that his parents are ill and that he had been struggling in the seminary, Parisi added that “I rushed to complete this paper and unfortunately, I forgot to put the opening summary in my own words. This was my fault, and I accept full responsibility for this error.” Parisi wrote in his letter that he had been for 24 years a consecrated religious brother in the Diocese of Buffalo. The seminarian was a member of the Brothers of Mercy, in which he was known as Br. Gabriel-Joseph Parisi.

Regarding academics, the former seminarian also exhorted the diocese to “STOP assigning pointless and tedious papers that do not help students comprehend class material and then not return work with valuable feedback,” to “STOP sending seminarians on summer assignments only to perform menial tasks instead of learning pastoral skills,” and to “STOP assigning endless papers, so much so that spiritual and human needs are neglected.”

The former seminarian urged other seminarians to contact law enforcement and the media if they encountered “inhumane, harassing or illegal behavior” at the seminary.

“I close by thanking Bishop Malone and the formation team for my time at Christ the King. The most valuable lessons I have learned at the seminary have not included how to properly write a paper, or even how to nurture a personal prayer life. By observing the behavior of most (not all) priests on the formation staff, I have learned how not to treat people,” Parisi wrote.

“Bishop Malone, for the love of God and for the sake of the faithful of the Diocese of Buffalo, please step down!”
 
Malone has come under fire in the last year, after his former secretary alleged in August 2018 that the bishop had omitted the names of some priests accused of abuse or misconduct from a list the diocese released last March.

The bishop has faced persistent calls for his resignation.

In April, Malone removed from ministry three priests who seminarians say engaged in salacious and inappropriate conversation during a party at a parish rectory. One of the priests temporarily removed from ministry was a formator at the seminary.

Also in April, Malone issued a statement defending himself against allegations of mismanagement and cover-ups.

The bishop said that he had not been part of any cover-up of clerical sexual abuse, and that he intended to be more transparent about clerical sexual abuse and its financial impact on his diocese.

Acknowledging that he had made mistakes, especially with his 2015 support of Fr. Art Smith, a priest who had faced repeated allegations of abuse and misconduct with minors, the bishop offered an apology.

“Lessons have been learned,” Malone said April 11.

“I personally need to repent and reform, and it is my hope that this diocese can rebuild itself and learn and even grow from the sins of the past. I ask you to pray for me, pray for the Church, and pray for all those who suffered and suffer as a result of abuse as we go forward together to address the worldwide problem of child sexual abuse.”

 

Phoenix, Ariz., Aug 19, 2019 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- An Arizona court awarded a former Planned Parenthood clinic director $3 million in damages in a wrongful termination case, on Friday. Mayra Rodriguez claimed she was unfairly dismissed after raising concerns about ethical and legal breaches at abortion facilities run by the group.

In a decision rendered Aug. 16 at Maricopa County Superior Court, Judge Pamela Gates found in favor of Rodriguez, who worked for Planned Parenthood of Arizona for 17 years.

During her time with the country’s largest abortion provider, Rodriguez claims that she witnessed physician malpractice, illegal conduct of a doctor, falsification of affidavits and patient records, and failure to report a minor who had an adult partner. Following her complaints, she was terminated from her position in October of 2017, at which time she filed suit.

“I feel very, very happy, very, very blessed. It has been a very hard two years since we started this process,” said Mayra Rodriguez, former director of three Planned Parenthood clinics in Arizona, in an interview with CNA on Monday.  

After managing a Title X location—where she said no abortions were performed—Rodriguez went on to managed three clinics, including one in Glendale which was one of the biggest abortion facilities in the area when she took it over in November of 2016.

There Rodriguez saw some “eye-opening” concerns, including higher complication rates from one abortionist who was also not properly charting the information of patients.

She also flagged to superiors that a minor with an adult sexual partner was not reported on their first day of contact with Planned Parenthood, as mandated by law and the organization’s own policy, and that affidavits and patient records had been falsified.

However, the organization did not act on her complaints. “And that didn’t happen because the person I was referring to was a powerful person,” Rodriguez said. “My motivation has always been to care for women, to help, that they are being taken care of, that they received the compassionate and high-quality care.”

“And so obviously, when I saw that was not happening, I was very concerned,” she said.

After she began voicing her concerns, she noticed that her superiors “were giving me a really hard time about common, normal daily stuff from other clinics.”

Then, she was told that narcotics had been found at her desk—on a week that she had not been working there, she said—and she was fired. “I tried to explain myself, but the decision had been made,” she told CNA.

Rodriguez decided to proceed with a wrongful termination lawsuit to clear her name, beginning an almost two-year legal battle.

“It has been a very rough two years. A lot of deception, and a lot of pain,” Rodriguez told CNA. “I lost a lot of friends throughout these two years, especially since I lost my job. People just stopped talking to me the moment they hear I submitted a lawsuit. Some of them still work there, so I understand. But there were others, formerly that used to work there, and ‘oh, I don’t want to be involved.’”

“It hurts, because there were some moments where you feel like you’re standing there alone,” she said.

Her undocumented immigrant status surfaced in court, with Planned Parenthood using it against her to discredit her as a “liar.”

“I never thought that would come through from an organization that stands for immigrant rights, but it did,” she said. “My kids were there, and it hurts. You don’t know that it’s like until you’re in the position we are.”

“When you’re called a liar for finding work to provide for your family, it’s hard,” she told CNA. Rodriguez said “some of them knew” at Planned Parenthood about her immigration status, although “they denied knowing.”

During the court process, Rodriguez said a mutual friend encouraged her to reach out to Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood clinic director who left the abortion industry and eventually founded the ministry And Then There Were None to help hundreds of abortion clinic workers also leave the industry. The film “Unplanned” that was released in theatres this year tells Johnson’s story.

Rodriguez  noticed that she shared some similarities with Johnson’s story—"we were kind of the stars of the organization, and then all of a sudden we just dropped to being the bad kids.”

Then on Friday, Rodriguez’s court battle came to an end—she was awarded $3 million in damages by a jury in a Maricopa County Court.

“There’s no words to describe” the faces of the jurors, Rodriguez said, ”the sympathy they had on their face at that moment, knowing what I had gone through and what they had seen—the sympathy.”

Johnson stated her solidarity with Rodriguez following Friday’s decision.

“When Mayra came to And Then There Were None with her incredible story, I felt solidarity with her, having gone through a similar situation when I worked for Planned Parenthood,” Johnson said in a statement.

“Standing with her through the trial and rejoicing in the ultimate victory has been amazing.”

New York City, N.Y., Aug 19, 2019 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- A New York City public arts program has said it will not build a statue in honor of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, despite the saint receiving the most nominations in a public poll. 

She Built NYC was established in June of 2018 under the patronage of Chirlane McCray, wife of New York Mayor Bill De Blasio, to create more statues of women around the city of New York. The public were asked to nominate women for a potential statue and the campaign received over 2,000 votes for over 300 eligible women.

The results of the nominating period were published in December, with Mother Cabrini receiving 219 nominations - more than double the number received by second-place finisher, Jane Jacobs. 

Despite the public vote, the New York Post reported on Aug. 10 that the selection committee, led by McCray and former New York deputy mayor Alicia Glen, had excluded the first American saint from the planned statutes, instead choosing to honor Rep. Shirley Chisolm, Katherine Walker, Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Elizabeth Jennings Graham, Billie Holiday, and Dr. Helen Rodriguez-Trias. They received the third, fifth, seventh, 19th, 22nd, 24th and 42nd-most nominations, respectively. 

LGBT rights activists Johnson and Rivera were biological males and will be featured together in a single statue. Both were self-identified “drag queens” and co-founders of the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries. The pair received a combined 86 nominations.

Rodriguez-Trias, the first Latina to be elected as the American Public Health Association, was one of the founding members of the Committee for Abortion Rights and Against Sterilization Abuse, received just seven nominations to Cabrini’s 219. 

The She Built NYC program was created after Mayor Bill de Blasio commissioned a study into existing statues and monuments in the city, setting aside $10 million to craft new monuments better representative of the city’s ethnic and gender diversity. 

Of the 150 statues in New York City, only five figure women. She Built NYC will spend $5 million to build the new monuments.

A spokesperson for Ms. McCray told CNA that the public nominations process was not intended to determine which women would be honored, but only to inform the judgment of the selection committee.

“Nominations made by the public were the foundation of this entire process – only those submitted were considered by the advisory committee and the City,” Siobhan Dingwall, press secretary for the office of the first lady in New York City, told CNA in a statement. 

In addition to the public nominations, She Built NYC also considered other factors, such as proposed locations, existing monuments, and site availability when deciding who and where to erect new statues.

“Everyone agrees: there are countless New York City women deserving of recognition, and we look forward to continuing our work with New Yorkers to honor their contributions to our city,” said Dingwell.

New York City Councilman Justin Brannan told CNA that while he supports the core mission of She Built NYC, and is “delighted” that his “personal heroes” Chisolm, Holiday, Jennings Graham, and Rodriguez-Trias will be honored, he is “dismayed” that Cabrini was excluded.

“The will of the people was denied,” he said in a statement provided to CNA. 

“Mother Cabrini received more nominations from New Yorkers than any other woman during the process but these results have been completely ignored,” he said. 

“Why open this up for a public vote and then ignore the results? I would hate to see a meaningful campaign undermined by a process that tries to appear to value public opinion without ever actually doing so.”

Cabrini, an Italian immigrant, arrived in New York City in the late 19th century. She founded the Institute of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and opened many schools and orphanages in New York City. She was canonized by Pope Pius XII in 1946, who named her the patroness of immigrants in 1950.