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Catholic bishops not obligated to report clerical sex abuse, Vatican says

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A Vatican training manual tells newly appointed bishops they have no obligation to report allegations of clerical sexual abuse to authorities, according to multiple reports.

The instructions were part of a Vatican training manual outlining how senior clergy should respond to allegations of abuse.

“It's a legalistic take on a critical issue, one which has brought only trouble for the church and its leaders,” wrote Associate Editor John Allen. The Catholic news site was the first to report on the documents and criticized the church for failing to focus further on abuse prevention.

Instead, the church said the duty to report lies with the families of abuse victims. Clergy members are only obligated to investigate the allegations internally but encouraged the bishops to know the local legal requirements, The Independent reported.

"According to the state of civil laws of each country where reporting is obligatory, it is not necessarily the duty of the bishop to report suspects to authorities, the police or state prosecutors in the moment when they are made aware of crimes or sinful deeds," the training document says, according to The Independent.

The guidelines were written by Tony Anatrella, a controversial monsignor and psychotherapist who serves as a consultant to the Pontifical Council for the Family, The Guardian reported.

“While acknowledging that 'the church has been particularly affected by sexual crimes committed against children,' the training guide emphasizes statistics that show the vast majority of sexual assault against children are committed within the family and by friends and neighbors, not other authority figures,” the newspaper reported.

Since 2001, the Vatican has been training newly appointed bishops on how to deal with reports of clerical sexual abuse. So far the training has reached 30 percent of the world's Catholic bishops, according to

Pope baptizes 26 babies in celebration of Jesus' baptism

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Pope Francis baptized 26 baby boys and girls Sunday, marking the day Catholic doctrine says Jesus was baptized. 

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The Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord is a tradition for Catholics worldwide, occurring the Sunday after Epiphany. The pope's celebration took place at the Sistine Chapel. (Video via CNN)

While the Catholic Church doesn't have an age limit for baptizing, typically infants raised in Catholic homes are baptized and dedicated shortly after birth. 

The pope encouraged parents to raise the newly baptized infants Catholic and told mothers to nurse when needed during Mass. 

This video includes an image from Getty Images and Davezelenka / CC BY SA 3.0

Texas governor gets 'spiteful' Capitol display ousted, says it mocks Christianity

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Incensed by what he saw as a “juvenile parody” that used “tasteless sarcasm” to mock Christianity, Gov. Greg Abbott Tuesday successfully urged the State Preservation Board, whose staff had approved the display, to remove a Capitol holiday display produced by the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation.

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The display, on view in the Capitol basement since Friday, was intended to celebrate the Bill of Rights and the winter solstice. It showed a Bill of Rights in a manger and had a sign that said, “At this season of the Winter Solstice, we honor reason and the Bill of Rights. (Adopted Dec. 15, 1791). Keep State and Church Separate.”

In his letter to the Preservation Board, Abbott complained that the “exhibit places the Bill of Rights in a manger and shows three founding fathers and the Statue of Liberty worshipping one of America’s founding documents as a replacement for Jesus Christ. This juvenile parody violates the Preservation Board’s regulations and should be removed immediately.”

Abbott is chairman of the Preservation Board.

Mother Teresa and sainthood: Here are the 5 steps to getting there

On Thursday, Pope Francis approved a decree from the Congregation of Causes of Saints that attributed a miracle to Mother Teresa, the woman who spent her life ministering to the poor in India. With that approval, Mother Teresa , born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in Skopje, Macedonia, will be declared a saint.  

According to The Associated Press, no date has been set for the canonization, but Italian media have speculated that the ceremony may take place in the first week of September. Mother Teresa died on Sept. 5, 1997.   

The process of becoming a saint in the eyes of the Catholic Church  isn't an easy one. It generally takes years of investigation and interviews to get to a point where miracles are then required. 

If  you are wondering how the process generally goes, here are the steps involved in being named a saint:

Step 1: Die

Unfortunately, the first thing you have to do to become a saint is to die. That leaves a lot of us out of the running. The purpose of being dead before becoming a saint is an important one -- you have the benefit  of being in heaven along with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

Step 2: Servant of God

This is where the process of naming a saint gets put into motion. While it’s generally five years after a person dies before the process can begin, there have been some exceptions.

There are three things to look at if a person is to be considered for sainthood (canonization is the Church’s term). First, the person must be thought of as having “heroic virtue;” second, they must be thought of as being in heaven, and third,  they must be recognized by the Catholic Church for the sake of the faithful still here on Earth.

This step generally begins when people petition the bishop of the diocese where the potential saint lived to begin an investigation into that person’s life. The bishop will interview people who knew the person, collect the person’s writings, etc., then will write a report to determine  if the next step should be taken. If the report is favorable, the person gains the status of “Servant of God.”

Step 3: Venerable

If the person is deemed “Servant of God,”  then the findings of the local bishop are sent to Rome to the Congregation of the Causes of Saints. The investigation into the life of the person will continue, with a positive outcome being the person is deemed a person of “heroic virtue.” As part of this process a person called a “devil’s advocate” raises questions and objections to the candidate’s sainthood to make sure all aspects of the person's life is examined. (That's where the term originated) The congregation will also investigate the circumstances of the person’s death if they were killed – determining if the person was killed for his or her faith. The person is known as "Venerable" if they pass this stage. According to the church, people may seek their intercession in prayer at this point.

Intercession is an important point in the process, and is what will move everything else along. To become canonized, miracles are required, and the miracles come for a petitioner praying to the person for help. The miracles must be documented and investigated. There must not be means  other than divine intervention that could have caused the miracle.

Step 4: Blessed

If a person claims a miracle happened due to intercession by the person in heaven, and it is investigated, confirmed and approved by the pope, then the would-be saint’s  status is moved to “Blessed.” This process is called beatificationA ceremony is held  when a person is seen as “Blessed,” usually in that person’s home town or home country.

Step 5: Saint

After the four previous  steps are completed, there’s just one more, but it’s a big one. A second miracle must be investigated and confirmed. Once that happens, the person may be named a Saint. If they are, they are assigned a feast day on which they will be celebrated.  A Mass at the Vatican usually follows that. 

The sitting pope has the option to shorten any part of the process – including waiving the requirement for one or both miracles and not waiting to start the process until the person has been dead for five years.

Click here to read about the two miracles attributed to Mother Teresa.

Sources:  according to the Catholic Education Resource Center, How to Become a Saint For Dummies;

Pope Francis clears way for Mother Teresa's sainthood

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Mother Teresa will officially become Catholic's newest saint.

Pope Francis has recognized a second miracle attributed to Mother Teresa, CNN reported. 

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The miracle involved a Brazilian man who was suffering from multiple brain tumors. He was healed after his family prayed to Mother Teresa to heal him, Avvenire, the official newspaper of Italian Catholic bishops, reported.

Mother Teresa is expected to be canonized in September.

>>Could you make 'saint'? Here are the 5 steps to getting there

The nun was known for caring for people in the slums of Calcutta, India. She died in 1997 and was beatified in October 2003 by Pope John Paul II, CNN reported.

The first miracle attributed to Mother Teresa after her death involved a woman in Kolkata who suffered from a stomach tumor. She was healed after she prayed to Mother Teresa.

Police: Woman drove car into Scientology doors because church is ‘evil’

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A woman who police say plowed through the glass doors of the Church of Scientology building near the University of Texas campus Monday night told officers she thought the church was “evil” and that she drove her car into the lobby because she couldn’t find a rock to throw at it, her arrest affidavit said.

Erin McMurtry, 31, was charged with criminal mischief at a place of worship, a felony, a few hours after the incident. She had been booked into Travis County Jail with bail set at $6,000, but as of Wednesday was no longer in custody.

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Shortly before 9 p.m., witnesses in the Church of Scientology of Texas building on the corner of 22nd and Guadalupe streets told police they had seen the silver sedan parked on the Drag in the bike lane for about 10 minutes before watching it “methodically drive onto the curb in between poles” on the sidewalk in front of the entrance, the affidavit said.

The vehicle traveled north on the sidewalk before turning into the glass doors of the building and accelerating, witnesses told police. The car smashed the doors, plowed into reception area couches and then into the doors of a nursery. One of the witnesses said he noticed the driver “shooting him a bird,” according to the affidavit.

Before witnesses watched the car pull out of the building, one of them wrote down the license plate number, the affidavit said. They told police the car headed west on 22nd Street.

Although witnesses were unable to provide a description of the driver, officers responding to a separate call spotted a vehicle matching a description of the car involved in the crash, police said.

About an hour after the crash, detectives spoke with the driver, identified by police as McMurtry. When first asked about the Church of Scientology incident, McMurtry told police, “No comment,” the affidavit says. But after officers surveyed the damage to her car and found the license plate to be nearly an exact match to what witnesses had written down, McMurtry was handcuffed and given a Miranda warning about her rights.

During more questioning about the crash, McMurtry asked if anyone was hurt before telling police, “I confess, I did it” but that she didn’t want to hurt anyone, the affidavit says.

When pressed for her motive, she told police “Scientology was evil because they blackmail people” and that “they are a terrible organization disguised as a church,” according to the affidavit.

McMurtry also told police that “she wanted to throw a rock through the window of the church but could not find one so she drove into the church instead,” the affidavit said.

Nun posts pic with dead 10-point deer, Facebook erupts

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A Pennsylvania nun’s photo of a 10-point buck she shot last week is drawing criticism on social media.

Sister John Paul Bauer went hunting on the first day of deer season, and waited in her tree stand for about three hours for a deer to come near her.

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She told WSEE that while she waited, she prayed the Rosary.

A short time later, several deer arrived, including two bucks. She bagged the larger one.

"I've always prayed the Rosary on the tree stand. That's a tradition.  You get up in the morning, you pray the Rosary in the tree stand.  So, I just think the Blessed Mother did smile upon me."

The nun learned to shoot while serving in the Navy. She said there’s something spiritual about hunting.

"When you're up on a tree stand, you're still, you're quiet.  You listen. You watch as the frosty ground just becomes alive.  It's like creation all over."

She has read comments on the Diocese of Erie Facebook page criticizing her for killing a beautiful animal, but she says it’s more about conservation than the thrill of the hunt because without the deer harvest, the animals would starve.

The Diocese of Erie appears to have removed the post.

Boy who emptied piggy bank to donate to Texas mosque gets rewarded in big way

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A 7-year-old Texas boy who gave his life savings to a mosque that had been vandalized after the Paris attacks has a new reason to smile.

Jack Swanson had been saving money to get his own iPad. He had $20 in the bank when the Islamic Center of Pflugerville, a local mosque, was vandalized. Swanson handed over his savings to help the mosque get repaired. His kind deed made international news.

>> RELATED: Texas boy empties piggy bank to donate to vandalized mosque

>> RELATED: Vandalism reported at Texas mosque

Author and human rights lawyer Arsalan Iftikhar contacted Jack’s mother and, not long afterward, Jack opened the mail to find his very own iPad, compliments of Iftikhar. The package came with the following note:

“Dear Jack…You had saved $20 in your piggybank for an Apple iPad…But then a local Islamic mosque was vandalized…So you donated your $20 to this local Texas mosque instead…Because of your amazing generosity & kind heart…Please enjoy this Apple iPad with our sincere thanks…Love…The American Muslim Community"

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Iftikhar shared pictures of Jack showing off his new gift on Facebook.

>> Click here to see the photos

<script>(function(d, s, id) {  var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];  if (d.getElementById(id)) return;  js = d.createElement(s); = id;  js.src = "//;version=v2.3";  fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));</script>GOOD SAMARITAN UPDATE: "Dear Jack...You had saved $20 in your piggybank for an Apple iPad...But then a local Islamic...Posted by Arsalan Iftikhar ( on Thursday, November 19, 2015

Kiss from Pope Francis is shrinking baby’s inoperable brain tumor, family says

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Pope Francis touched countless lives during his recent trip to the United States, but one family from Pennsylvania says what happened following his visit to Philadelphia is nothing short of a miracle.

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Pope Francis kissed Gianna Masciantonio, a 1-year-old with a rare and inoperable brain tumor.

Now, Gianna’s parents say the tumor is shrinking and she’s getting stronger.

Kristen Masciantonio and Joey Masciantonio insist the Pope’s kiss saved their daughter’s life.

"I think this is all, this is from God. This, you know? The Pope was just a messenger from God,” Joey Masciantonio said.

A comparison of Gianna’s scans from late August to just a few weeks ago confirms that her tumor has indeed shrunk. 

"You can hardly see the tumor, in so many of the cuts. It's just, it's just a blur,” Kristen Masciantonio said.

Her parents believe there’s more evidence of divine intervention. 

Gianna was taken to the Pope by his body guard, who is named Domenico Gianni, a name very similar to Gianna’s older brother, Dominic. 

"She's getting better and stronger. She's blowing kisses. She's started to point, started pointing at things,” Kristen Masciantonio said.

For the first time in a long time, Gianna’s parents believe their daughter’s future is looking bright. 

"Last year was about living in honor of her. Now we're going to get to live with her,” Joey Masciantonio said.

Gianna spent the first eight months of her life in hospice care. Her parents said they can’t wait to teach her about the power of the Pope’s kiss.

Why the Pope says Christmas will be a 'charade' this year

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The pope has pointed to ongoing global conflict as a reason Christmas celebrations this year might ring a little hollow.

Pope Francis says the ongoing violence in the world means upcoming Christmas celebrations will ring hollow.

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Vatican Radio reports Francis said, "There will be lights, there will be parties, bright trees ... all decked out — while the world continues to wage war."

Francis went so far as to say it was a "charade" and said the world had yet to grasp peace. 

While it's a jarring message at the start of the holiday season, it wasn't out of the ordinary for Francis.

In typical fashion, the pope again called attention to the marginalized, in this case the children of war. 


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