Pope OKs miracle needed for Briton’s sainthood
Wednesday, February 13
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis has approved a miracle needed to make Cardinal John Henry Newman, a prominent Anglican convert, a saint, the Vatican announced on Wednesday.
Francis’ predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, beatified Newman during a visit to Britain in 2010. In the Catholic church’s saint-making process, one miracle is necessary for beatification, and a second miracle, occurring after the beatification ceremony, must be certified by Vatican experts for sainthood to be conferred.
The Vatican didn’t give details in announcing Francis’ approval on Tuesday of this second miracle. But Catholic media last year reported that a pregnant woman’s recovery, with no scientific explanation, from a life-threatening illness, had been confirmed by church officials and attributed to Newman’s intercession.
The London-born Newman, who died in England in 1890, had been hailed by Benedict as a model for ecumenism. Newman renounced an illustrious academic career at Oxford University to convert to Catholicism in 1845, convinced that the truth he sought could no longer be found in the Church of England.
Anglicans split from Rome in 1534 when the English monarch Henry VIII was denied a marriage annulment.
No date was immediately announced for a sainthood ceremony.
The Vatican on Wednesday also said that Francis had approved the “heroic virtues of God’s servant” Hungarian Cardinal Jozsef Mindszenty, a staunch foe of Communism who spent more than seven years in prison in his homeland and several years in asylum at the U.S. Embassy in Budapest. He later was granted permission by Hungarian authorities to live in exile in Vienna.
In 1974, amid pressures from the then-Communist Hungarian government, Pope Paul VI removed his titles as Roman Catholic primate of Hungary and as archbishop in Budapest. Mindszenty pointedly denied he had retired voluntarily from those posts, attributing that decision to the Vatican alone.
Papal recognition of “heroic” virtues is an early step toward possible sainthood.
Mindszenty died in 1975 in Vienna, Austria.
Why the pope’s upcoming summit needs to do a full accounting of the cover-up of sexual abuse
February 13, 2019
Author: Timothy D. Lytton, Distinguished University Professor & Professor of Law, Georgia State University
Disclosure statement: Timothy D. Lytton is a member of the American Bar Association, the American Law Institute, and the American Association for Justice.
Partners: Georgia State University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.
Pope Francis is gathering 200 bishops and heads of religious orders from around the world for a global summit in Rome to discuss the crisis facing the Catholic Church over sexual abuse scandals.
The meeting begins on Feb. 21 and will last four days. It is likely to produce a new round of public apologies, expressions of concern for victims and pledges of reform.
But recent statements by leading bishops and the pope suggest that church officials are not ready to take what I believe is an essential step in ending the scandal: providing a full and detailed accounting of their own role in concealing credible allegations of sexual abuse.
I’m a legal scholar who has written a book on clergy sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, and it appears to me that the church’s latest response, so far, is part of a familiar pattern that has persisted for nearly three decades.
In 2018, the scandal of clergy sexual abuse in the Catholic Church once again made headlines around the world.
In August, a Pennsylvania grand jury that investigated abuse in six dioceses over a period of 70 years found that bishops in the state failed to report credible sexual abuse allegations against 300 priests involving 1,000 children.
No indictments have been issued by that grand jury. Most of the abuse occurred decades ago, and the statute of limitations has expired on almost all of these allegations.
Later that month, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, a former top Vatican official and a long-time critic of Pope Francis, issued a press release alleging that senior Vatican officials and Pope Francis had covered up abuse allegations against Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington, D.C.
Vigano claimed that he personally told Pope Francis in 2013 of sanctions imposed on McCarrick by Pope Benedict XVI in the late 2000s – but that Pope Francis repealed them and made McCarrick a trusted counselor.
The Vatican finally removed McCarrick from ministry in June 2018.
Although Pope Francis vigorously denies Vigano’s allegations, which remain unsubstantiated, bishops and Vatican officials had received reports for decades of Cardinal McCarrick’s transgressions. The New Jersey dioceses where he served as bishop paid legal settlements, the details of which remain sealed, to two of his alleged victims in 2005 and 2007.
In December of 2018, another investigation by the Illinois attorney general concluded that bishops in that state withheld the names of more than 500 priests accused of molesting minors. More than a dozen similar probes are currently underway by attorneys general in other states.
Revelations like these have not been limited to the U.S. Similar investigations, spanning the globe from Chile to Germany to Australia, have exposed sustained efforts by church officials to conceal sex crimes.
A familiar pattern
Although the scandal of sex abuse by clergy did not come to light in media reports until the 1980s, personnel files in dioceses around the U.S. contain allegations of sexual misconduct against priests dating back to the 1930s.
The issue was openly discussed in biannual meetings of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in the 1970s. During this time, the organization funded a treatment program specifically for Catholic priests who sexually abused minors, and issued directives regarding the retention and destruction of treatment reports provided to bishops.
Every U.S. bishop involved in these meetings and who referred priests for treatment during this time knew of the problem.
However, public acknowledgment by church officials of clergy sexual abuse did not begin until 1984, when the case of Father Gilbert Gauthe made national headlines.
Gauthe, a popular parish priest in rural Louisiana, sexually abused dozens of prepubescent boys. His crimes were finally exposed when victims and their families sued the diocesan officials who knew of the abuse but had failed to remove Gauthe from ministry.
The local bishop issued a public apology and expressed sympathy for the victims. The National Conference of Catholic Bishops issued recommendations to dioceses in 1987 for preventing and reporting abuse.
Eight years later, in 1992, sexual abuse victims publicly exposed Father James Porter, who molested more than 100 known victims between the ages of 6 and 14 while serving as a priest in parishes in Massachusetts, Minnesota and New Mexico. His predatory behavior was well-known among his colleagues and superiors within the church.
Local bishops once again apologized and held “healing” masses for victims, and the National Conference of Catholic Bishops endorsed a set of five principles to guide dioceses in responding to allegations.
These included conducting prompt investigations, removing accused priests in face of credible evidence, reporting allegations to civil authorities where required by law, extending pastoral care to victims and their families, and seeking treatment for offenders.
Nonetheless, the scandal resurfaced in 2002. The most egregious offender in this round of revelations was Father John Geoghan, who reportedly abused more than 800 victims over a 33-year period in Boston parishes.
Geoghan’s crimes were concealed by no fewer than six bishops, including Cardinal Bernard Law, the archbishop of Boston and arguably the most powerful figure in the U.S. Catholic Church.
For a third time, in 2002, the bishops issued apologies, acknowledged the suffering of victims and published new reforms in the Charter for the Protection of Children & Young People, including “zero tolerance” for clergy sexual abuse within the church.
Lack of accountability
For more than three decades, in the face of intense media coverage and public outrage, the bishops have attempted to deflect blame for the crisis.
One strategy has been to blame the crisis on contemporary attitudes toward sexuality.
Take the example of Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of Albany, New York. He issued a recent statement in response to the Pennsylvania grand jury investigation explaining that,
“I do not see how we can avoid what is really at the root of this crisis: sin and a retreat from holiness, specifically the holiness of an integral, truly human sexuality. In negative terms, and as clearly and directly as I can repeat our Church teaching, it is a grave sin to be sexually active outside of a real marriage covenant.”
He went on to lament that “contemporary culture in our part of the world now holds it normative that sex and sexual gratification between any consenting persons for any reason that their free wills allow is perfectly acceptable,” and he called for “a culture of chastity” to “drive the evil behaviors among us from the womb of the church.”
Pope Francis echoed this sentiment when he told reporters recently that “we have to deflate expectations” about just how much the church can do “because the problem of abuse will continue, it is a human problem.”
A focus on prevention
It is true that church officials have made efforts to reduce the incidence of clergy sexual abuse.
For example, bishops have implemented training programs within most dioceses throughout the U.S. for those who work with children. Initial efforts began in the mid-1980s and expanded rapidly after 2002.
A comprehensive study by researchers at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice suggests that the incidence of clergy abuse has been steadily declining since the 1980s. These researchers speculated that the bishops’ efforts may have contributed to this decline.
Yet, despite diocesan reforms and the declining rate of abuse, the scandal persists.
The missing ingredient
Pope Francis recently told reporters that the upcoming Vatican summit will include a “penitential liturgy to ask forgiveness for the whole Church,” testimony from victims to make bishops “become aware” and the establishment of new “protocols” for handling abuse cases.
This agenda for the upcoming summit fits the now-familiar pattern of apologizing, expressing concern for victims and pledging reform.
The pope also indicated in his remarks that the summit would focus on the need for sex education that adheres to church doctrine. In other recent remarks to the media, the pope demanded that priests who have raped and molested children turn themselves in, and he vowed that the Catholic Church will “never again” hide their crimes. He pledged that “the church will spare no effort to do all that is necessary to bring to justice whosoever has committed such crimes.”
This plan for reform – promoting church doctrine on sexuality, calling out priests who have perpetrated abuse and pledging to clean house in the future – is missing a key ingredient necessary to quell the crisis: Until church officials provide a full accounting of their concerted efforts over decades to hide crimes from civil authorities, parishioners and the public, the clergy sexual abuse scandal, I believe, will not go away.
Lawyer: Rapper 21 Savage granted immigration bond
By KATE BRUMBACK
Wednesday, February 13
ATLANTA (AP) — Grammy-nominated rapper 21 Savage was granted bond for release Tuesday after spending more than a week in federal immigration custody, but he wasn’t freed right away, his lawyer said.
The rapper, whose given name is She’yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, was arrested during a targeted immigration operation early on Feb. 3. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said at the time that the British citizen had overstayed his visa and had a felony conviction.
Abraham-Joseph, 26, was granted bond too late Tuesday to be released right away, immigration lawyer Charles Kuck said by phone, adding that he anticipates his client will be released Wednesday.
In an emailed statement, lawyers Kuck, Dina LaPolt and Alex Spiro said they’ve been speaking with ICE since his arrest to “clarify his actual legal standing, his eligibility for bond, and provide evidence of his extraordinary contributions to his community and society.”
They said they received notification in the previous 24 hours, “in the wake of the Grammy Awards at which he was scheduled to attend and perform,” that he was granted an expedited hearing. The Grammy Awards ceremony was held Sunday.
Abraham-Joseph was nominated for two awards at the Grammys, including record of the year for “Rockstar” alongside Post Malone. His second solo album “I Am I Was,” released in December, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart.
After his arrest, ICE said Abraham-Joseph entered the U.S. legally in July 2005, when he was 12, but has remained in the country illegally since his visa expired in July 2006. He was convicted on felony drug charges in October 2014 in Fulton County, Georgia, ICE said. He was placed in deportation proceedings in federal immigration court.
Abraham-Joseph’s lawyers disputed that. They said last week that Abraham-Joseph came to the U.S. when he was 7 and remained in the country until June 2005, when he went to visit the United Kingdom for a month. He returned on a valid visa on July 22, 2005, they said.
“Mr. Abraham-Joseph has been continuously physically present in the United States for almost 20 years, except for a brief visit abroad,” his lawyers said. “Unfortunately, in 2006 Mr. Abraham-Joseph lost his legal status through no fault of his own.”
Federal immigration officials have known Abraham-Joseph’s status since at least 2017, when he applied for a new visa. That application is pending, his attorneys said.
The attorneys also said ICE was incorrect that Abraham-Joseph has a felony conviction on his record. Fulton County prosecutors said they could not provide information on that case because it is sealed.
Abraham-Joseph’s lawyers said Tuesday that he asked them to send a message to his supporters.
“(H)e says that while he wasn’t present at the Grammy Awards, he was there in spirit and is grateful for the support from around the world and is more than ever, ready to be with his loved ones and continue making music that brings people together,” they said.
He added that he “will not forget this ordeal or any of the other fathers, sons, family members, and faceless people, he was locked up with or that remain unjustly incarcerated across the country. And he asks for your hearts and minds to be with them.”
Nigeria in battle against fake news ahead of elections
By RODNEY MUHUMUZA and SAM OLUKOYA
Wednesday, February 13
ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — In Nigeria fake news can be so outlandish, yet widely believed, that the president recently felt compelled to declare that he had not died and been replaced by a Sudanese body double.
“It’s (the) real me, I assure you,” President Muhammadu Buhari said late last year, to dispel the story that was viewed more than 500,000 times on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
Nigeria’s fake news can also be lethal.
The stakes are high in Nigeria ahead of Saturday’s presidential vote marked by widespread discontent over unemployment, poverty and insecurity in some parts of the country. Officials warn that fake or outdated pictures depicting communal violence trigger retaliatory killings.
Many were killed in reprisal killings sparked by horrific, but false, photos purporting to depict deaths in the conflict between herdsmen and farmers in central Nigeria last year, said Tolu Ogunlesi, a media assistant to Nigeria’s president.
“Fake news kills people. We have seen a lot of things like that,” he said. “Some of the deadly clashes in Nigeria were sparked off by fake news.” He suggested that “the naming and shaming of members that peddle fake news” could stem the problem.
Africa’s most populous country is so awash in falsehoods posted on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube that 16 media outlets have been collaborating on a fact-checking initiative, CrossCheck Nigeria, to research suspect election claims circulating online.
Some of the stories CrossCheck Nigeria recently discredited include allegations the first lady wants Nigerians to vote against her husband, as well as a suggestion that U.S. President Donald Trump endorsed opposition candidate Atiku Abubakar. Such allegations almost always appear on social media and sometimes are published by news websites.
The project is similar to Africa Check, which calls itself the continent’s first fact-checking organization and has operated since 2012.
In the United States the term ‘fake news’ became frequently used after the 2016 election, which was allegedly marked by a Russian misinformation campaign. But in Africa fake news has long been a contentious matter, fueled in part by illiteracy and government secrecy even as the continent’s 1.2 billion people rapidly acquire mobile handsets and gain internet access. The issue is now urgent: more than 24 percent of people on the continent were online last year, the strongest growth in the world, according to the U.N. agency International Telecommunication Union.
Some African governments want to make publishing fake news a crime, a step too far for journalists in countries where the press already is censored and reporters can be jailed for critical stories.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta last year signed a cybercrimes bill that calls for fines and prison sentences for people convicted of spreading fake news. The law followed a disputed 2017 presidential election marred by online misinformation campaigns that raised political tensions in a country known for deadly post-vote violence along ethnic lines.
In Uganda, where there has been a surge in false news seen as portraying the government negatively, authorities warn that perpetrators face charges under a 2011 law prescribing criminal penalties for the misuse of a computer.
But activists warn that countering misinformation with legislation could be used to censor the press. The Committee to Protect Journalists opposed Kenya’s law over concerns it would stifle press freedom. In Uganda there also has been resistance from the courts.
A Ugandan opposition activist was jailed last year on charges that he falsely accused the government of trying to kill pop star and politician Bobi Wine. A magistrate ordered the activist, Moses Bigirwa, freed in January, ruling that publishing fake news was not a crime.
Some governments in Africa have been accused of spreading misinformation themselves or maligning reports that were true. Authorities in Nigeria frequently challenge the veracity of reports of alleged abuses by military officers during campaigns against militants. They also have fiercely disagreed when human rights watchdogs, citing witnesses on the ground, report higher death tolls than the government’s official ones.
Reports by Amnesty International’s Nigeria office on the conduct of Nigerian troops fighting Islamic extremist group Boko Haram have created conflicts with the military, which has accused the local branch of the human rights group of publishing false accounts.
“Fake news has become like a cliche and ticket for demonizing the journalist, the media and the NGOs,” Amnesty International Nigeria spokesman Isa Sanusi said, noting that false news spreads quickly in Nigeria because public officials often are not open with government information.
“The only thing that is fueling it is the fact that information is not available,” he said. “The solution to stopping fake news in Nigeria is transparency, particularly from the side of the authorities.”
False reports spread on social media so fast and frequently that some people who are the subjects of it simply have to laugh.
Nigerian writer and Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka said during a BBC-hosted conference on the spread of false news in Nigeria that he enjoyed reading the regular obituaries of his death.
Underscoring the severity of the problem, however, Soyinka warned that “if we are not careful, World War III will be started by fake news, and that fake news will probably be generated by a Nigerian.”
Olukoya reported from Lagos, Nigeria. Follow Africa news at https://twitter.com/AP_Africa