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Bishop Cantu to Encuentro Catholics: Don't become spiritual tumbleweeds

Dallas, Texas, Sep 22, 2018 / 11:39 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Hispanic community in the United States produces many fruits, but must be careful to water the roots, Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, warned the crowd at V Encuentro.

Cantú, along with Cardinal Blaise Cupich of Chicago, and three lay speakers on a panel, spent the morning praising the unique gifts of the Hispanic community in the United States, but cautioned against growing too complacent in their faith and ignoring the potential of young people.

Bishop Cantú, who is in the process of transferring to the San Jose diocese in California, related his experience living in Las Cruces with the current state of the Church in the United States and the Latino community in particular.

In Las Cruces, Cantú encountered a tumbleweed for the first time--a plant that had dried up and detached from its root system and literally tumbled away.

“I wonder sometimes, reflecting on a very changed world, a world that is changing before our very eyes--so rapidly and so drastically, said Cantú.

“I wonder and I worry, sometimes: Are we becoming spiritual tumbleweeds?” 

One risks becoming a “spiritual tumbleweed,” he said, if their roots are not sufficiently deep during a dry season, the bishop explained. He spoke during a panel for the National V Encuentro, a gathering of Hispanic Catholics throughout the United States.

“And the dry season is here, my friends, and it will be a long one,” said Cantú. Now is the time, he said, for people to “dig deep so that our roots may find water, that our roots may find living water.”

Cantú recounted a story from his time in seminary, when he accidentally genuflected when entering a row in a movie theater. He said that people today long for something sacred within their “spiritual DNA,” and when they do not encounter this, they end up treating the non-sacred objects things as if they are in fact sacred.

“People are not finding what is truly sacred,” he said, and “because they encounter you and me, that are supposed to show signs of the sacred, and maybe they don't see it.”

People should strive to tap their roots into the “living water” in order to produce sacred fruit, Cantú advised the crowd.

“The human heart still yearns for what is beautiful, for what is truly beautiful, for what is good, and for what is true. We have that. The church has what is truly good, what is truly beautiful and good. His name is Jesus Christ.”

After Cantú spoke, he appeared on a panel with three laypeople--Sean Callahan, president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services; Brenda Noriega, Young Adults Ministry Coordinator, Diocese of San Bernardino; and Wanda Vásquez, Hispanic Ministry Director, Archdiocese of New York--where they discussed the fruits that had emerged from the four-year V Encuentro process.

Vásquez said it was “amazing” how people came together, and how the eight dioceses in her Encuentro region were able to work alongside each other during the planning stages. She particularly highlighted how the more experienced people were able to share their expertise with younger members, and that while “we are a young church, but we also are an experienced Church.”

Cantú and Noriega both said that young Hispanics need to be included in leadership positions and reminded of their particular talents. Noriega first began working in Hispanic ministry for her diocese at the age of 25, and she reiterated that it was extremely important to “make sure young people are sat at the table” and given positions on things like parish councils.

Cantú said that he often encounters discouraged youth, and that he himself felt similar growing up in a time where “it was a liability to be Hispanic.” He said that when he was applying to seminary, he was praised by a religious sister for being bilingual and fully immersed in two cultures. This sister told him that he would be “a gift to the Church,” and that he hopes the larger Latino community will “never forget that you are a blessing to the Church.”

Callahan reminded the crowd to keep their doors open to the stranger, and to also be cautious about identifying only as “Hispanic Catholics.” He believes the Latino Catholic community has the ability to lift up the entire Church, and should take steps to build bridges with the rest of the Church in the United States.

He advised people that even though the attendees of the non-Spanish Masses at a parish may look different from them, they should go out of their way to interact with them and get to know them.

“Let’s build a united church, so we can start lifting up everyone in the Catholic Church in the United States,” said Callahan, to loud applause.

Cupich, who led the morning prayer, had a slightly more optimistic look on the future of the Church than Cantú. Cupich said that he feels the Church in the United States is experiencing a “new birth,” and the Latino community is a big part of this panel. The cardinal was critical of what he called an “overly rational, logical, cerebral” approach to God in American culture, and that “faith is not only about what we hold, but it is about who holds us.”

This, explained Cupich, is where Latino culture comes in.

“The Latino experience is reminding us that faith is not only about what we hold, but who holds us,” he said.

Cupich said that while like in any birth there are “pains” and “sacrifices,” but he is convinced that the Church, as well as non-Catholic Americans, “will one day look back at the contributi you (Latinos) are making to our faith, and yes, to our nation, and rejoice at the new birth that has taken place.”

 

Pope recognizes illicitly ordained Chinese bishops

Vatican City, Sep 22, 2018 / 06:22 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After the signing Saturday of a provisional Vatican-China deal on the nomination of bishops, the Vatican announced Pope Francis’ recognition of seven illicitly ordained Chinese bishops.

The decision was made “with a view to sustaining the proclamation of the Gospel in China,” according to a Sept. 22 Vatican press brief.

Those bishops who will now be admitted to full communion with the Church are Bishop Joseph Guo Jincai of Rehe; Bishop Joseph Huang Bingzhang of Shantou; Bishop Paul Lei Shiyin of Jiading; Bishop Joseph Liu Xinhong of Wuhu; Metropolitan Archishop Joseph Ma Yinglin of Kunming; Bishop Joseph Yue Fusheng, apostolic administrator of Harbin; and Bishop Vincent Zhan Silu of Funing.

The pope also recognized Bishop Anthony Tu Shihua, who died on Jan. 4, 2017, but, according to the press release, “had expressed the desire to be reconciled with the Apostolic See” before his death.

The statement expressed Francis’ hope that the decision to recognize the bishops, who were ordained by the Chinese government without permission from Rome, would begin a new process “that will allow the wounds of the past to be overcome, leading to the full communion of all Chinese Catholics.”

The Catholic Community in China “is called to live a more fraternal collaboration, in order to promote with renewed commitment, the proclamation of the Gospel,” he continued. “In fact, the Church exists to give witness to Jesus Christ and to the forgiving and salvific love of the Father.”

Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, sent a statement commenting on the provisional agreement between the Vatican and China, saying, “today, for the first time all the Bishops in China are in communion with the Bishop of Rome, with the Successor of Peter.”

“Pope Francis, like his immediate Predecessors, looks with particular care to the Chinese People,” he noted. “What is required now is unity, is trust and a new impetus; to have good Pastors, recognized by the Successor of Peter – by the Pope – and by the legitimate civil Authorities.”

Addressing the Catholic community in China, including priests, bishops, religious, and laity, he said the pope asks, “above all, the commitment to make concrete fraternal gestures of reconciliation among themselves, and so to overcome past misunderstandings, past tensions, even the recent ones.”

Parolin said the objective of the deal is pastoral and meant to create greater freedom and autonomy for the Church in China, to aid its mission of spreading the Gospel. Signing the agreement is “of great importance, especially for the life of the Church in China,” he said.

It was also announced Sept. 22 that Pope Francis has established a new diocese in China, “the Diocese of Chengde,” as a suffragan diocese of the See of Beijing, for “the pastoral care of the Lord’s flock and to attend with greater efficacy to is spiritual good.”

Its cathedral will be the church of Jesus the Good Shepherd, which is situated in the administrative division of Shuangluan, “Chengde City.”

According to the statement the diocese's territory will be defined by the civil boundaries of "Chengde City" and will require the modification of the dioceses of Jehol/Jinzhou and Chifeng, as a portion of each will become part of the new diocese.

The new diocese will be composed of roughly 15,000 square miles with a population of around 3.7 million. There are estimated to be around 25,000 Catholics in 12 parishes served by seven priests.

Encuentro Catholics ‘heartbroken’ by scandals, but unshaken in faith

Dallas, Texas, Sep 22, 2018 / 06:19 am (CNA/EWTN News).- While the so-called summer of scandals has hit the Church hard both in the United States and throughout the world, the faith of Catholics at the National V Encuentro in Grapevine, Texas, remains largely unshaken.

“We’re heartbroken from what we found out, because it doesn’t move my faith,” Rocio Portillo, an Encuentro participant from Las Vegas, told CNA. “It doesn’t move my belief in my Church, and I’m really proud to be Catholic and to be brought up in that faith and to bring that to my children.”

The National V Encuentro, held Sept. 20-23, is the culmination of a years-long process at the parish, diocesan and regional levels of listening to and empowering Hispanic and Latino Catholics.

The public disclosure of allegations of sexual misconduct against former cardinal Theodore McCarrick in June 2018 triggered a succession of public accusations that McCarrick had sexually assaulted or abused seminarians and priests over a period of decades, as well as a further accusation that he had sexually abused a minor.

Since then, numerous bishops in the United States and Rome have faced questions about when accusations against McCarrick had first been made known to Church authorities, and how he had been allowed to continue in ministry despite widespread rumors of his misconduct.

In the midst of this, a grand jury report detailing hundreds of cases of clerical sexual abuse in six diocese in Pennsylvania was published. While the scandals have not been the focus of the V Encuentro meeting, they have been mentioned numerous times in talks and among participants.

“My friends, we know that this is also a time of pain in our mother Church...as bishops, we have fallen short of what God expects of His shepherds,” Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, President of the U.S. Bishop’s Conference and head of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, said in his opening remarks at Encuentro on Sept. 20.

“For this, we again ask forgiveness from both the Lord and those who have been harmed, and from you, the People of God. May God grant us the wisdom and resolve to reform and renew His Church. We will continue to support survivors of abuse in their healing. We also commit to stronger protections to ensure the evil of sexual assault and abuse of all kinds is rooted from the Church,” he said.

“Amidst this darkness, the Encuentro is a light that shines and illuminates the way forward. The enthusiasm, the passion, the love, and the joy of the Encuentro process is a means of grace, a gift to us as we rebuild the Church,” he added.

Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller of San Antonio also addressed the scandals in his opening remarks on Thursday, telling participants that they “are right to be heartbroken by the faults of your shepherds,” he said.

“In the reading of God’s word that we have just heard, Saint Peter tells us that we ‘share Christ’s sufferings,’” he added. “Let us pray to God for the victims of the crimes that led to this crisis. Do everything you can for the healing of all the victims of these abuses. And pray also for the perpetrators and for us, your shepherds.”

Fr. José Carlos, a priest from Hobbes, New Mexico, reiterated to CNA that Encuentro delegates have to be “a light in the darkness.”

Carlos Mendez, and Encuentro delegate from Los Angeles, told CNA that the scandals “would not reduce my faith at all, because I follow the Church, I don’t follow the deeds of other people."

Alfredo Portillo, Encuentro delegate from Las Vegas, told CNA that while he is saddened by the news of scandals that seems to come “every day,” he was encouraged by what he saw at the Encuentro meeting.

“I think this came at a perfect moment,” he told CNA. “And from this something new is going to grow, and it’s much needed. This is just a great moment for the Church in the whole world.”

Vatican signs deal with China on bishop appointments

Beijing, China, Sep 22, 2018 / 04:39 am (CNA/EWTN News).- An expected agreement between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China on the appointment of bishops was signed Saturday in Beijing, the Vatican announced.

A Sept. 22 communique said that a meeting was held in which a “Provisional Agreement” was signed concerning “the nomination of Bishops, a question of great importance for the life of the Church,” and creating “the conditions for greater collaboration at the bilateral level.”

Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said the deal is the beginning, not the end, of a process of dialogue between people from “very different standpoints.”

He said the objective of the accord is “not political but pastoral” and will allow “the faithful to have bishops who are communion with Rome but at the same time recognized by Chinese authorities.”

It was signed by the heads of the Vatican and Chinese delegations: the Vatican undersecretary for Relations with States, Mons. Antoine Camilleri; and Wang Chao, the deputy minister for foreign affairs of the People’s Republic of China.

The announcement did not provide details on the content of the agreement but said it “is the fruit of a gradual and reciprocal rapprochement, has been agreed following a long process of careful negotiation, and foresees the possibility of periodic reviews of its application.”

“The shared hope,” it continued, “is that this agreement may favor a fruitful and forward-looking process of institutional dialogue and may contribute positively to the life of the Catholic Church in China, to the common good of the Chinese people and to peace in the world.”

Earlier this week, the Global Times (a newspaper tied to the Chinese Communist Party) reported that Chinese government sources have “stressed that the ongoing negotiations [between the Vatican and China] will stay on the religious level, and will not touch on any diplomatic issue such as the establishment of diplomatic ties between Beijing and the Vatican.”

Past reports on the deal have indicated the substance could be to give the Chinese government some power over episcopal appointments in exchange for bringing the underground Church above ground, ending the split with the state-sanctioned Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association.

The Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association is under the day-to-day direct supervision of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) due to a major change in March 2018 in which the Chinese government shifted direct control of religious affairs to the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front Work Department (UFWD).

Some of the bishops appointed by the Chinese government in the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association also serve as members of the Chinese Communist Party’s National People’s Congress.

New regulations on religious practice in China went into effect in February 2018 that codify the increased scrutiny and pressure on religious activities in China. On September 10, the Chinese government placed further restrictions on evangelization, making it illegal for any religious prayers, catechesis or preaching to be published online. This is being enforced via the country’s extensive internet censorship.

Pro-life women say they were overlooked by Netflix documentary 'Reversing Roe'

Washington D.C., Sep 22, 2018 / 04:26 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A new Netflix documentary claims to show both sides of the abortion debate in the U.S., but pro-life advocates say the film depicts old stereotypes and ignores the many women leading the modern pro-life movement.

“In so many cases, it is women who are at the forefront of the movement to value and protect every human life. Sadly, that fact was left out of the documentary,” said Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life.

“Had it been included, viewers would have been given the chance to see that the pro-life movement is fundamentally pro-women, because every abortion harms both mother and unborn child,” she said in a statement to CNA.

According to Netflix, the new documentary “Reversing Roe” seeks to offer “candid and riveting interviews with key figures from both sides of the divide” over abortion. Created by filmmakers Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg, a major focus of the film is the historical development of today’s polarized political views on abortion in the U.S. The movie premiered on September 13.

The documentary includes interviews from abortion advocates including doctor Colleen McNicholas and feminist leader Gloria Steinem, as well as pro-life advocates such as Operation Rescue President Troy Newman and National Right to Life President Carol Tobias.

Critics of the film note that appearances by abortion advocates far outnumber appearances by pro-life advocates, and three of the four pro-life individuals featured in the documentary are white males.

Several prominent women in the pro-life movement say they were contacted by the filmmakers, and in some cases spent multiple hours or days talking to the camera crew, but were not included at all in the final documentary. In addition to Mancini, these women include Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, founder of New Wave Feminists; Catherine Foster, president of Americans United for Life; and Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood employee who runs And Then There Were None.

“What a waste of their time, actually, to spend two and a half days with me and these other amazing pro-life women and not to use any of that footage,” said Johnson, who founded And Then There Were None as a nonprofit that helps abortion workers leave the industry.

Johnson noted that diverse women were included among the abortion advocates filmed, but the pro-life perspective was largely limited to white men. She suggested that filmmakers were intentional in how they chose to portray the pro-life movement.

“Being a feminist and being pro-life – that those two things go hand-in-hand – that’s something that they outright reject because it does not fit the narrative that they have been trying to put forward for the past almost 46 years.”

She said advocates of abortion often present “this idea that the pro-life movement is out of touch with women and that it is only men who are speaking about abortion in the pro-life movement… That is not true, a majority of national pro-life organizations are led by women.”

Also overlooked was Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, president of New Wave Feminists, a secular, feminist organization that was removed from the official list of sponsors for the Women’s March on Washington 2017 because of its pro-life stance.

“When we look at these feminist issues through a pro-life lens, I think you get a very refreshing and different take, but they weren’t interested in a refreshing and different take - they were interested in the stale, old narrative that this is completely religious, that …it’s men trying to control women’s bodies,” Herndon-De La Rosa told CNA.

She said the film offers an outdated and inaccurate illustration of the pro-life movement, featuring pro-life leaders from the ‘80s and ‘90s and highlighting extremists who have been involved with abortion clinic violence.

“They didn’t have anyone who broke the mold, so it was very clear that a pierced, tattooed, purple-haired feminist didn’t fit the narrative that they were looking for,” she said, describing herself.

“To act as though this is only a religious issue or to act as this is only a male-dominated issue, it’s disingenuous to the American people and a big chunk of American women who do hold these pro-life views.”

How the Diocese of Brownsville ensures detained children receive sacraments

Dallas, Texas, Sep 21, 2018 / 09:22 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Most, if not every, diocese in the United States has some sort of prison ministry. Most do not have a detention center ministry to tend to the spiritual needs of minors detained by the the U.S. Border Patrol.  

The Diocese of Brownsville, located in southern Texas along the U.S./Mexico border, isn’t like most dioceses.

While the diocese had been providing services to the detention centers for a long time, Bishop Daniel Flores told CNA that things started to change about four years ago when the number of unaccompanied minors detained at the border started to swell.

“We’ve always had numbers,” Flores said, but 2014 saw a major influx in the number of unaccompanied minors from Central America attempting to cross the U.S. border. This increase in the number of people sparked a realization that something had to be done to care for the unusually high number of people in detention.

"So our prison ministry, you know, kind of morphed into more of a detention center ministry,” Flores told CNA during a closed session with the media at the National V Encuentro conference in Grapevine, Texas on Sept. 21.

This “detention center ministry” would consist of teams who would go into the centers, determine who was there, and then create some sort of spiritual offering.

These teams would “develop opportunities to go in and either offer catechesis or say Mass or hear confessions” as part of an ongoing process to minister to those in the center. This process is “ongoing,” Flores told CNA.

While the diocese tries to have some sort of presence at the centers, this can be challenging due to changes in policy over time.

“The circumstances changes, because, I’ll be honest, the government sometimes changes the rules,” said Flores, “and we try to respect that but we also kind of ask questions” as to why the changes are being made.

Despite this, Flores said the diocese has “very good cooperation” with the centers and is able to address the needs of those who are detained.

“I think the people who work at the detention centers, for the most part, that I know, recognize that it’s important that these young people have access to somebody who can help them have hope and can follow up on their cases,” explained Flores.

This ministry, while important, is “really serious commitment of time,” and is carried out by priests, religious, and laypeople. Flores credited the laypeople who volunteer their time as those “who really make the effort.”

Flores also praised the Latin American apostolic movements that have taken root in the United States for assisting with this effort.

Each minor’s experience in the detention center is different. Some may be there for weeks, and others for months, depending on the circumstances of their case.

The diocese attempts to extend this ministry even after the minors are released from custody. Flores said that after a minor leaves the center, they will attempt to contact a group or charity (such as Catholic Charities) in their destination that will keep tabs on the minor once they arrive.

“It's good to get a phone call that's not asking 'where are your documents?',” said Flores.  “It's a phone call (asking) 'how are you doing, and can we help you with something?”

“That makes a big difference."

 

Mexican bishops call for solidarity with flood victims in Sinaloa

Culiacan, Mexico, Sep 21, 2018 / 06:01 pm (ACI Prensa).- The Mexican bishops' conference called for solidarity Friday with the thousands of people affected by heavy rains and flooding in Sinaloa state, which has been declared in a state of emergency by the authorities.

“In concern for the state of Sinaloa which is suffering from the damage left by the heavy rains over the last hours by the tropical depression19-E and its downpour September 19 and 20, we express our communion, joining in prayer,” states the Sept. 21 communiqué.

So far 11 out of Sinaloa's municipios have been affected, as well as several municipalities in neighboring Sonora.

The rains from the tropical depression have caused damage to homes, cars, and farmland, and the evacuation of about 16,000 people.

The bishops' statement indicated that over 32,000 acres of crops have also been seriously damaged in the Carrizo Valley and El Fuerte.

The bishops noted in their statement that “Sinaloa has always been in solidarity with our country in different contingencies and so we ask you to join, with a merciful gesture, a generous spirit and fraternal charity, the special collection in support of our brothers to aid and accompany them now and in the subsequent phases of rehabilitation and reconstruction.”

“We are entrusting to our Caritas Mexico the mission of receiving and transferring funds in order to respond to this emergency,” the statement says.

“We place our brothers in Sinaloa and Sonora under the protection of Our Lady of Guadalupe,” the communiqué concludes.

 

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Pope Francis welcomes V Encuentro as 'instrument of grace'

Dallas, Texas, Sep 21, 2018 / 05:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis welcomed thousands of representatives gathered in Texas this week for the Fifth Encuentro, a national meeting of Hispanic-background Catholics aimed at encounter and leadership.

National V Encuentro is “an instrument of grace that has led to the conversion of many people's hearts and above all to the pastoral conversion of situations and to the pastoral conversion of local Churches, parishes, schools, and of all kinds of ecclesial encounters,” he said in a video message to the gathering.

National V Encuentro is the culmination of four years of consultation and workshops from local to regional levels across the U.S. Delegates from 165 dioceses were selected for the event, and nearly 250,000 people participated in the local process over the past year.

Taking place in Grapevine, Texas, Sept. 20-23, the event is expecting as many as 3,000 Catholics of Hispanic background. This year’s theme is “Discípulos Misioneros: Testigos del amor de Dios” or “Missionary Disciples: Witnesses of the love of God.”

The meeting has five primary goals: to encounter the needs and aspirations of Catholics of Hispanic background; to promote leadership opportunities for them; to develop new ways to form and encourage them in their vocations; to invite all Catholics to accompany Catholics of Hispanic background; and to develop “initiatives that prepare Hispanic Catholics to share and celebrate the Good News of Jesus Christ and to become leaven for the Reign of God in society.”

The first National Encuentro in the United States was held in 1972, and it is a process that has continued at local, regional, and national levels ever since. The most recent Encuentro prior to the Grapevine meeting was held in 2000, with a related youth meeting held in 2006.

The preparatory discussions for National V Encuentro have explored topics such as the accompaniment of immigrants, access to higher education, community outreach, and the formation of lay leaders.

“I know that the experience of this Fifth Encuentro is a comfort to many immigrants living in situations of fear and uncertainty,” Pope Francis said in his welcome video message.

“The Fifth Encuentro has given them a greater sense of community, friendship, and support.”

Hispanics currently make up one of the largest contingents of the Catholic Church in the U.S., about 40 percent, and an even greater percentage of young adults in the Church.

Michigan announces investigation into seven Catholic dioceses

Lansing, Mich., Sep 21, 2018 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has opened an investigation into child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in the state.

The inquiry was confirmed 21 Sept. in a statement posted on the attorney general’s official website, and will include all seven of the dioceses in Michigan: Gaylord, Lansing, Marquette, Grand Rapids, Saginaw, Kalamazoo, and the Archdiocese of Detroit.

While the investigation was confirmed publicly on Friday, a spokesman for Schuette told local media that the process had been launched in August 2018.

"The Michigan Department of Attorney General has determined that a full and complete investigation of what happened within the Catholic Church is required," the statement from Schuette said.

"This investigation is and will continue to be independent, thorough, transparent, and prompt. My department and this investigation will find out who knew what, and when."

The department’s official website also gave details of how to contact investigators, saying they wanted to hear from anyone with “information about the Catholic Church that you think would help [the investigation].”

In a statement given to local media, Schuette’s office said that the investigation will cover accusations of "sexual abuse and assault of children and others by Catholic priests,” including priests from religious orders, in Michigan. The the investigation will cover a period of nearly 70 years, from 1950 until the present. 

It is unclear if the investigation will be limited only to allegations of abuse committed by priests, or if it will extend to all clergy and lay employees of the Church in Michigan. The attorney general’s office did not respond to requests for clarification on this point.

In addition to direct accusations of abuse, the attorney general will also examine “any allegations related to the cover-up of sexual abuse or assault” by Church authorities.

In response to the announcement, Catholic dioceses in the state both welcomed the investigation and pledged their full cooperation.

A statement released by the Archdiocese of Detroit, which serves nearly 1.5 million Catholics, said that they “looked forward” to working with state officials and said that the archdiocese would actively participate in the inquiry.

The Archdiocese of Detroit also stressed its “full confidence” in archdiocesan safe environment policies, which it said have been in place for 15 years. The statement called the investigation “the next phase of our commitment to transparency and healing."

The Diocese of Saginaw issued a similar statement which noted their own commitment to safeguarding procedures and welcomed “the opportunity to work with law enforcement authorities to determine if there is more it can do to protect children.”

The announcement of the investigation follows the conclusion of a similar inquiry led by the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office. A grand jury report into the sexual abuse of minors in six dioceses in that state was released in July. That report identified more than 300 alleged abusers and 1,000 victims.

The Michigan attorney general’s office is already conducting similar investigations into Michigan State University and the Flint water crisis.

In addition to serving as attorney general, Schuette is also the Republican candidate in the upcoming election for governor in Michigan. He is running against Democrat Gretchen Whitmer, a former prosecutor and state legislator.

A recent poll by Mitchell Research showed Schuette trailing his opponent by 10 points. Real Clear Politics puts Whitmer ahead by an average of 10.6 points and currently predicts a “likely Democrat” victory.

Schuette’s seven-year record as attorney general has attracted criticism during the campaign, with his opponents saying that the attorney's social conservatism is out of step with Michigan voters.

In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a statewide ban on gay marriage, a policy Schuette publicly supported. In 2016, he joined a lawsuit challenging federal school guidance on transgender students.

More recently, the attorney general issued an opinion in July challenging the Michigan Civil Rights Commission’s determination that existing state bans on sex based discrimination were also applicable to sexual orientation and “gender identity.”

Schuette said the Commission’s reasoning was “invalid” and in clear conflict with the “original intent” and “plain language” of the legislation.

On Sept. 19, the U.S. bishops’ conference announced a series of new policies in response to recent sexual abuse scandals. These included a new third-party reporting mechanism for making complaints of sexual misconduct against a bishop, with such complaints being forwarded to civil law enforcement when appropriate.

No sign of Italian priest kidnapped in Niger

Niamey, Niger, Sep 21, 2018 / 02:57 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- There has been no sign of an Italian missionary priest kidnapped in Niger Monday night, a member of his community said.

“We have no news of Fr. Pierluigi. There has been no claim by the kidnappers at present,” Fr. Mauro Armanino of the Society of African Missions (SMA) told Vatican news agency Fides.

“However, the kidnappers have obtained a first result: everyone is talking about them all over the world,” he continued. “With the abduction of a Western missionary, a group which is probably not even a big group, has managed to gain global visibility.”

Fr. Pierluigi Maccalli, a member of the Society of African Missions, was serving in an isolated parish in South Niger, with few means of communication and transportation and little access to health care and water for residents, according to Vatican News.

The region has seen recent violence by jihadist groups. The Italian Foreign Ministry is investigating the case and has been in contact with the priest’s family.

Armanino suggested that the captors may be Fulani herdsman, mostly Muslim, who have increasingly clashed with local Christian farmers over scarce resources.  

Local sources told Vatican News the kidnapping could also be related to the priest’s strong stance against the local practice of female genital mutilation.