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A look at 25 years of RFRA

Washington D.C., Nov 20, 2018 / 03:14 am (CNA).- Last week marked the 25th anniversary of the enactment of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, known as RFRA.

While the law is well-known within legal circles, many Americans may not realize that RFRA is one of the primary legislative pillars upon which religious freedom arguments have rested in the last quarter century.

What exactly is RFRA? What does it say, how did it come to be passed, and what are the primary challenges that it faces today?

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act clarifies the standards that should be used in judging religious freedom disputes involving the First Amendment’s free exercise clause. That clause says that Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion.

But what are the limits to what may be carried out in the name of free exercise of religion? What is to stop an individual or group from carrying out acts of rape, theft, or human sacrifice, and claiming that they are exercising their protected religious beliefs in doing so?

RFRA helps answer that question. It says that the federal government may not “substantially burden” the free exercise of religion, unless there is a “compelling government interest” in doing so, and it is carried out in the “least-restrictive” manner possible.

Over the last 25 years, courts have used these standards to evaluate various religious freedom claims that conflict with established laws. In one case, courts upheld the right of an Arkansas inmate to grow a beard as required by his Muslim faith. In another, a Native American feather dancer was allowed to use eagle feathers in a religious ceremony.

In a high-profile 2014 case, the Supreme Court ruled that Hobby Lobby and similar employers could not be forced to comply with the federal contraception mandate against their religious beliefs. In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled that the federal government had failed to prove that the mandate was the “least restrictive means” of advancing its goal of providing free birth control to women.

RFRA was initially passed in response to two high profile cases involving American Indians. In one case, the Supreme Court ruled against the use of an illegal hallucinogen – peyote – in a Native American religious service. In the other, the court upheld the U.S. Forest Service’s efforts to build a road through land considered sacred by several tribes.

At the time of its passage, RFRA enjoyed wide bipartisan support and was not considered controversial. Introduced by Democrats Chuck Schumer and Ted Kennedy, it passed unanimously in the House and by a 97-3 vote in the Senate. President Bill Clinton signed it into law Nov. 16, 1993.

In recent years, however, RFRA has drawn criticism, particularly as it relates to same-sex marriage and the provision of free contraception. These clashes with claims of women’s rights and LGBT rights have led some people to question RFRA, or call for it to be limited or repealed.  

The National LGBT Bar Association has warned of the “dangerous results” of RFRA. In recent years, Democrats in the House and Senate have made several failed attempts to introduce legislation that would limit RFRA in cases where religious freedom comes into conflict with other civil rights. Chai Feldblum, appointed to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under both Obama and Trump, has said that when religious liberty conflicts with sexual rights, “I’m having a hard time coming up with any case in which religious liberty should win.”

RFRA applies only to the federal government, although in recent years, similar laws have increasingly been proposed or passed in many state legislatures as well. State RFRAs have also faced heated objections. Most notably, then-governor of Indiana Mike Pence faced threat of boycotts from CEOs, celebrities, major sports events and leaders of some city and state governments in 2015 over a state RFRA law that mirrored the federal legislation.

Despite these criticisms, however, RFRA remains today as an established law with a solid precedent in the court system.

Last year, the Trump administration affirmed the significance of RFRA in its government-wide religious freedom legal guidance, issued to govern all administrative agencies and executive departments in their work.

The guidance said that RFRA “applies to all sincerely-held religious beliefs,” and the government does not have the authority to second-guess the reasonableness of a religious conviction.

What’s in store for RFRA over the next 25 years? The answer is uncertain. If its opponents have their way, RFRA could see significant restrictions at both the state and federal levels. For now, however, the law remains as a key standard for judging free exercise claims, with the current administration insisting that RFRA continue to be taken seriously and interpreted robustly.

 

After years of controversy, HHS reconsiders fetal tissue funding

Washington D.C., Nov 20, 2018 / 12:06 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Health researchers need alternatives to using fetal tissue, Department of Health and Human Services leaders have said after several years of controversy and investigations into whether fetal tissue procured from aborted babies was sold illegally.

HHS Assistant Secretary of Health Brett Giroir sent a letter to U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), chair of the Freedom Caucus, saying HHS did too little to find alternatives under previous administrations and there need to be “adequate alternatives” to scientific research involving human fetal tissue.

The letter, which a source shared with the news site Politico, said HHS is “fully committed to prioritizing, expanding, and accelerating efforts to develop and implement the use of these alternatives.” He described HHS as “pro-life and pro-science” under President Donald Trump.

The letter appears to back “scientifically validated and reproducible” models as among possible alternatives.

Scientists who back fetal tissue research say there are few alternatives. They argue the tissue would otherwise be discarded, and there are already ethical safeguards in place. They say fetal tissue research has been instrumental in developing vaccines and understanding phenomena like how the Zika virus affects the brains of unborn children. They say fetal tissue aids Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease research, as well as research in childhood developmental disorders.

A 1993 federal law allows the use of fetal tissue from elective abortions that would otherwise be discarded. However, the sale of such tissue is also barred by law.

Mallory Quigley of the Susan B. Anthony List told Politico her group would continue to advocate defunding fetal tissue research “as soon as possible.” She said her group is hopeful “that HHS will reach a new policy consensus that better reflects the administration’s pro-life position.”

Caitlin Oakley, an HHS spokesperson, said the agency has not made an official decision on whether to fund more fetal tissue research.

“We continue to go through a thoughtful, deliberative process given the scientific ethical and moral considerations involved,” she told Politico. “When we receive inquiries from members of Congress, we respond.”

A series of undercover investigations from journalists with the Center for Medical Progress, first released in 2015, appear to show several leaders in the abortion industry involved in the illegal sale of fetal tissue from aborted babies.

The investigation has had legal consequences for some procurers of fetal tissue.

DV Biologics and DaVinci Biosciences, two bioscience companies, admitted fault, ceased California operations and agreed to meet the terms of a legal settlement close to $7.8 million in value for violating state and federal laws against the purchase or sale of fetal tissue.

Following two investigations, Congressional committees have made criminal referrals for both Planned Parenthood and Advanced Bioscience Resources, a non-profit company, for alleged involvement in illegal fetal tissue sales. There is an active Department of Justice investigation based on the criminal referrals.

There are also criminal charges against the Center for Medical Progress investigators, as well as civil lawsuits. These allegations include claims that the videos were filmed illegally in violation of privacy laws.

Federal funding for fetal tissue is now under review. As part of the review process, senior officials at HHS held an off-the record, invitation-only listening session on Nov. 16 with leaders in medical research fields.

Participants included leaders with the American Society for Cell Biology, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, the Society for Neuroscience and the International Society for Stem Cell Research.

The inquiry has prompted opposition from pro-abortion rights groups.

Mary Alice Carter, director of Equity Forward, which backs fetal tissue research and monitors pro-life groups, charged that HHS secretary Alex Azar “continually kowtows to anti-abortion groups while ignoring the scientific and medical communities,” Science magazine reports.

The National Institutes of Health gave out about $103 million in 2018 for research involving fetal tissue.

In July 2018 the Food and Drug Administration gave a $15,900 contract to Advanced Bioscience Resources for “fresh human fetal tissue,” which would be transplanted into mice in order to create human-like immune systems for research purposes. It is the eighth contract between the FDA and the company since 2012, and seven of the contracts appear to relate to the same or similar programs.

HHS cancelled the contract after receiving protests and criticism from several Members of Congress, who said they were alarmed that the tissue procurement contracts continued despite the “serious unresolved questions” uncovered by House and Senate investigations.

In 2010 a federal judge ruled that federally funded human embryonic stem cell research was against the law. That ruling resulted in a 19-day halt on related in-house National Institutes of Health projects, but NIH funds that had already been given to external researchers were not affected, the magazine Science reports.
 

Young man healed by Padre Pio recounts story of miraculous cure

Madrid, Spain, Nov 19, 2018 / 07:46 pm (ACI Prensa).- Matteo Pio Colella was just 7 years old when he contracted a deadly disease. Doctors believed there was no hope for the boy, but he made a full recovery. His cure was the miracle that paved the way for the canonization of St. Padre Pio by Pope John Paul II in June 2002.

Colella, now 27, gave an exclusive interview to ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish language sister agency, on the occasion of the pre-release of the film “El Misterio del Padre Pío” (The Mystery of Padre Pio) in Madrid.

The documentary is directed by writer and filmmaker José María Zavala and includes Colella's testimony.

“I wasn't feeling well,” he recalled. “I told my mother that I didn't want to go to school, but she made me go because at that time I didn't like school. That same night, when my mother came to say goodnight, I didn't recognize her, and so they immediately took me to the hospital.”

On Jan. 20, 2000, Colella was diagnosed with acute fulminant meningitis, caused by bacteria. The disease had affected his kidneys, his respiratory system and blood clotting. He was immediately admitted to the hospital founded by Padre Pio, the “Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza” (Home for the Relief of Suffering), located in San Giovanni Rotondo where the saint's monastery is.

The following day, Colella went into a coma. His health deteriorated drastically, and doctors considered him a lost cause, thinking he would die within a few hours.

While Colella was in this critical condition, his mother Maria Lucia went to pray over the tomb of Padre Pio to ask for her son's healing.

“During the coma,” Colella recounted, “I saw Padre Pio in a dream on my right and three angels on the left. One with golden wings and a white tunic and the two others with white wings and a red tunic. Padre Pio, on my right, told me not to worry because I would soon be cured. In fact, my cure was like the resurrection of Lazarus.”

And that's exactly what happened. The doctors considered Colella to be clinically dead, but he came back to life.

The young man is grateful to Padre Pio for his intercession. He said he considers the saint to be like a grandfather in whom he can confide.

“I have always thought that I have received an enormous grace for which I must be thankful. When I talk to someone who doesn't believe, I tell him 'I'm here. For science it's inexplicable, but there is another explanation that we can't understand'.”

 

 

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

 

Australian senator announces gender swap so he can speak on abortion issues

Canberra, Australia, Nov 19, 2018 / 05:01 pm (CNA).- After being slammed for his religion and told he would never understand abortion because it is a women’s issue, Australian senator Barry O’Sullivan declared himself a woman before parliament last week so that he could speak about abortion issues.

“I’m going to declare my gender today, as I can, to be a woman, and then you’ll no longer be able to attack me,” O’Sullivan told fellow representatives at parliament Nov. 14.

The declaration was part of longer and heated remarks given by the senator, who said he was tired of the “vomit” and “vitriol” he received from far-right colleagues whenever he tried to raise “issues around strong values.”

Earlier that week, O’Sullivan, a Catholic, had motioned for pro-choice protesters to be banned from the annual pro-life Day of the Unborn Child events. This prompted Larissa Waters of the Australian Greens party to say that O’Sullivan would never understand abortion as a women’s issue.

"Senator O'Sullivan needs to get his hands and his rosaries off my ovaries and those of the 10,000 Queensland women who have an abortion each year," Waters said, according to the Australian Associated Press.

She later complied with a request to withdraw her comment on the grounds that it attacked O’Sullivan’s religion.

“You cannot say the word abortion without being attacked..” O’Sullivan said in his remarks Nov. 14.

“These people come and attack me for my religion...using words like ‘rosary beads’, because I had the audacity to raise issues around late-term abortions, where babies who are only minutes away from getting a smack on the ass and a name, are being aborted under the policies of the Australian Greens,” he said.

“So I will not stand silent, I will not stand mute while these people try to continue to marginalize policies and ideas that we want to continue to discuss for this nation,” he continued.

O’Sullivan said that he believes many of the “values” issues he raises, including pro-life positions, reflect the values of an “ever-increasingly silent majority” of Australians, who are afraid to speak up for fear of being attacked for their beliefs.

“I’ve moved sensible motions here, reflecting the views of many people in our society, only to have formality denied,” he said, just before declaring his gender to be a woman.

“It is dispicable the behaviour of these people, for them to come in here with the freedom that they do, and that vomit, that vitriol that comes out of their mouths, it needs to be called out,” he added.

The senator’s gender-swap declaration sparked comments mostly of ridicule and disdain on social media. It also launched an extensive debate on Wikipedia about whether to change the pronouns on O’Sullivan's page from “he/him” to “she/her.”

Kenya bans Marie Stopes from performing, advertising abortions

Nairobi, Kenya, Nov 19, 2018 / 04:07 pm (CNA).- Kenyan authorities have banned the international abortion group Marie Stopes from offering any form of abortions in the country. This comes after a government agency investigated complaints that the group was promoting abortion through its advertisements.

Marie Stopes is a UK-based organization that claims to be the “world's largest provider of contraception and safe abortion services” and operates in 37 countries, according to its website.

Abortion is not permitted under the Constitution of Kenya, unless “there is need for emergency treatment, or the life or health of the mother is in danger,” or if otherwise permitted by law. The exceptions were added to the Constitution in 2010.  

The Medical Practitioners Board of Kenya sent a letter to Marie Stopes last week, saying the board was acting on complaints from, among others, the campaign manager at a campaign group called CitizenGo Africa. The pro-life organization had been campaigning for an investigation of Marie Stopes’ advertising practices since last year.  

“Marie Stopes Kenya is hereby directed to immediately cease and desist offering any form of abortion services in all its facilities within the republic,” a Nov. 14 letter from the Kenyan Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board read.

The letter also ordered Maries Stopes Kenya to submit weekly reports for the next 60 days of “all services rendered within all its facilities.”

Ezekiel Mutua, head of the Kenyan government agency in charge of approving advertisements, welcomed the ban, saying in a statement that the Kenya Film Classification Board had banned abortion advertisements by Marie Stopes Kenya in September, but “the organization defied our ban and continued to run unrated and illegal adverts.”

He said the board had also ordered Marie Stopes to “pull down all misleading information on their abortion services from all media platforms.”  

Marie Stopes had been operating in Kenya since 1985, BBC reports. The Kenyan Ministry of Health reported in May that the country had spent 533 million Kenyan shillings ($5.29 million) treating complications from back-alley abortions.

 

New Mexico legislators want to repeal state's abortion ban

Santa Fe, N.M., Nov 19, 2018 / 03:29 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A group of New Mexican legislators seeks to overturn a state law that would make abortion illegal if Roe v. Wade were overturned, part of a developing trend among the handful of states with laws that criminalize abortion.

Currently, New Mexico law states it is a felony for an abortionist to perform an abortion, with exceptions for rape, birth defects, and to preserve the health of the mother. This law, which dates to the 1960s, has not been enforced since 1973, when the Supreme Court found a right to an abortion throughout a woman’s pregnancy.

Rep. Joanne Ferrary (D-Las Cruces) intends to introduce a bill in the next legislative session that would remove this law from the books. This proposed bill is supported by the state’s governor-elect, Michelle Lujan Grisham (D), as well as the state’s House Speaker and Senate majority leader. The legislative leaders have tabbed the bill as a “high priority” for the upcoming session of the legislature.

Lujan Grisham said that she believes the law criminalizing abortion to be “antiquated” and one that would “punish women.” She has pledged to sign the bill if it were passed through the legislature.

Similar efforts to repeal this law, under outgoing Gov. Susana Martinez (R), failed.

As of now, nine states, including New Mexico, have laws that would ban abortion. Four additional states – Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, and South Dakota – have what are known as “trigger laws” that would ban abortion if the Roe decision were overturned.

With the recent confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court, expectations that the decision might be overturned have been heightened. Those who are in favor of abortion rights are moving to change various laws that would be enforced if abortion were once again left to the states to decide.

Until July, Massachusetts had a 19th-century law on the books that made the act of “procuring a miscarriage” illegal. Similar to New Mexico’s law, this has not been enforced since 1973. That law was repealed with the passage of the “Negating Archaic Statutes Targeting Young Women Act,” which was commonly known as the “NASTY Women Act.”

On the other end of the abortion law spectrum, the Ohio House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would make abortion illegal after the detection of a fetal heartbeat. The fetal heartbeat can be detected at around six weeks gestation, before some women even are aware they are pregnant.

Previously, this bill has been vetoed by Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R), although Kasich has signed many more abortion restrictions into law.

A request to the Archdiocese of Santa Fe for comment on the bill was not responded to in time for publication.

NJ dioceses to form compensation program for child victims of clerical abuse

Newark, N.J., Nov 19, 2018 / 03:16 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Archdiocese of Newark announced Monday that New Jersey’s five dioceses will together form a Victim Compensation and Counseling Program in the coming year, and will release the names of all priests in the state who have been accused of sexual misconduct against minors.

Although the precise details of this program have not yet been finalized, Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark said in a statement published on the archdiocese’s webpage Nov. 19, they will be soon and information will be released at that time.

This program will assist dioceses with resources in order to provide compensation for those who were victimized as children by clergy or employees of Catholic dioceses in New Jersey, who are unable to file civil suits due to the state’s statute of limitations.

“This will give victims a formal voice and allow them to be heard by an independent panel,” said the statement. Cardinal Tobin added, “the Program also will assure that victims who have not received any financial compensation will be paid, regardless of whether their claims meet the time requirements of the statute of limitations.”

The Catholic Church in New Jersey has already paid out more than $50 million in financial settlements to those who were sexually abused as children by members of the clergy or diocesan employees in the state.

In addition to financial compensation, this new program will establish “permanent funding” for counseling for abuse survivors. This counseling “so often is needed to help in the healing of those who have been harmed.”

This past September, New Jersey’s Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced the creation of a task force in the state to investigate the allegations of sexual abuse and cover up.

“No person is above the law and no institution is immune from accountability,” said Grewal in September.

“We will devote whatever resources are necessary to uncover the truth and bring justice to victims.”

Ahead of the release of this report, and in coordination with the task force, Cardinal Tobin said that New Jersey’s dioceses will “undertake a complete review of their files” and release the names of all priests and deacons who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor. This list is expected to be released in early 2019.

“It is hoped that these steps will aid in the process of healing for victims, who are deserving of our support and prayers,” said the statement.

Notably, the statement did not include any information about compensation or counseling for adults who were victimized by members of the clergy in New Jersey, instead focusing on those who were abused as minors.

In the early 2000s, the Archdiocese of Newark and the Dioceses of Trenton and Metuchen paid settlements to men who allege they were abused by Archbishop Theodore McCarrick when they were adults studying in seminary. These settlements were not public knowledge until the summer of 2018, after two men came forward to say that they had been molested by McCarrick as minors.

Shortly after McCarrick’s second survivor came forward, McCarrick stepped down from the College of Cardinals. McCarrick has since been sentenced to a life of prayer and penance until a canonical trial can be conducted. He is currently residing at a friary in Kansas.

Jesuit priest killed in South Sudan

Rumbek, South Sudan, Nov 19, 2018 / 02:18 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Fr. Victor-Luke Odhiambo, a Jesuit from Kenya, was shot and killed in South Sudan by unknown gunmen while at home Thursday morning.

Fr. Odhiambo, who was the principal of Mazzolari Teachers College and the local Jesuit community’s acting superior, was attacked in the early hours of Nov. 15 in Cueibet, about 30 miles northwest of Rumbek.

The attackers had broken into the Jesuit home in Cueibet while Odhiambo was watching T.V. Three other priests were at the home during the attack, but had been asleep. The gunshots woke them up, and they set off the alarms, causing the criminals to flee.

The local government set aside three days of mourning in recognition of the priest.

Fr. Odhiambo was born Jan. 20, 1956, and entered the Society of Jesus in 1978. He was ordained a priest in 1987, and took final vow May 30, 1993. He had worked in South Sudan for about 10 years, having served in Kenya and Tanzania previously.

His body was buried in Rumbek over the weekend.

Fr. Arturo Sosa, superior general of the Society of Jesus, wrote a letter of condolence to the Eastern Africa provincial, Fr. Joseph Oduor Afulo, saying Fr. Odhiambo “leaves a name, not only in South Sudan as the first Jesuit to die at the service of its people, but in the whole of Eastern Africa as a teacher of thousands of students in the Starehe Boys Centre in Nairobi-Kenya and in Loyola High School in Dar Es Salaam-Tanzania.”

The suprioer general described him as “a very courageous man, intelligent, caring, creative administrator and above all a believer in the value of education. He was not afraid of venturing into the unknown even into the most dangerous of places once he was convinced it was the Lord’s mission. His example of selfless dedication as Headmaster and Principal remains a challenge to many of our younger brothers in the Society of Jesus. He is a light, which has been extinguished, after enlightening other lights. Like a grain of wheat that dies in order to bear much fruit. And this is our consolation.”

“Kindly assure all our companions especially those in South Sudan my closeness and prayers. Fr. Odhiambo gave his life for the people, the sons and daughters of God, following Jesus’ example. Our merciful Father will receive him with an open heart. Let us also pray for those who attacked the college premises and killed Father Victor and for those who promote violence, may the Lord change their hearts.”

“Please do pass on my sincere condolences to all the members of your province and to his biological family, with the assurance of my prayers that the Lord grant them consolation,” Fr. Sosa concluded. “May the soul of our brother Victor rest in God’s peace and eternal happiness.”

Church in Chile to sign accord with prosecutor's office for investigation of abuse

Santiago, Chile, Nov 19, 2018 / 01:34 pm (ACI Prensa).- The Chilean  bishops' conference has announced the signing of a collaboration agreement with the prosecutor's office for the investigation of sex crimes within the Catholic Church.

Bishop Luis Fernando Ramos Perez, auxiliary bishop of Santiago and secretary general of the bishops' conference,  made the announcement at the conclusion of the bishops' Nov. 12-16 plenary assembly in Lo Cañas, a Santiago suburb.

“We studied the draft agreement on mutual collaboration between the National Prosecutor's Office and the Church for the investigation of crimes of abuse of minors by clerics,” Bishop Ramos said, reading a declaration by the bishops.

He emphasized that “the issue has been fully discussed with the authorities from the Prosecutor's Office and their representatives” and that “in the coming weeks we hope to formalize an agreement by signing the respective document and its subsequent application.”

According to the data from the Prosecutor's Office furnished to the Efe new agency, up to Nov. 5 there were 139 ongoing investigations against 190 members of the Church in Chile, involving 245 victims, of whom 102 were minors.

Bishop Ramos explained that the plenary assembly served to address this problem and said that with the National Council for the Prevention of Abuse, they analyzed the progress and follow up of the resolutions adopted in the bishops' Aug. 3 Declaration, Decisions and Commitments statement.

The bishops also initiated the study of the essential elements of the standards of conduct necessary for all pastoral workers, especially clerics and religious, in order to have this instruction completed during 2019.

According to the press conference communiqué, the assembly approved a “roadmap  for the process of discernment to make progress on the way to becoming a Church ever more synodical, prophetic, and full of hope, which seeks to place Jesus Christ at the center.”

A milestone on this roadmap will be the Third National Ecclesial Assembly to be held in May 2020 which “will lay the foundations for new pastoral guidelines for the Church in Chile.”

The assembly elected as vice president of the bishops' conference Archbishop René Osvaldo Rebolledo Salinas of La Serena, following the resignation for health reasons presented by Bishop Cristián Contreras Villarroel of Melipilla.

 

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

Legatus will not collect 2019 tithe to Holy See

Washington D.C., Nov 19, 2018 / 11:28 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A U.S.-based organization of Catholic business executives has decided not to collect from its members the portion of their dues that would constitute its 2019 donation to the Holy See.

Legatus, an organization of Catholic business leaders, had announced in September that it was placing its annual donation to the Holy See in escrow until it can receive clarification on questions of financial accountability.

Thomas Monaghan, chairman of Legatus, wrote its member Nov. 16 asking them to continue to pray “for the Church and all of our leaders,” as “it is evident that it is going to take time for the current crisis in the Church to be addressed to the point where the Board believes the reinstatement of our annual tithe would be prudent.”

For that reason, he said, the board of governors has decided “to forego collecting the annual tithe represented in your 2019 dues.”

“ For those who have already submitted their dues, the National Office will refund the appropriate amount earmarked for the Holy See contribution in a timely fashion,” he said. “For those who have not yet remitted your dues, new invoices will be sent.”

Monaghan noted that the tithe to the Holy See “has been an importance part of Legatus membership” and the board therefore intends “to reinstate this practice once we have sufficient communication regarding the specific accountability related to the use of these funds.”

“The Board will revisit this topic by the fall of 2019 in order to chart a plan related to the 2020 dues,” he stated.

“Legatus continues to pledge its devotion to and solidarity with Holy Mother Church; this is a time when we need to live the mission of Legatus more than ever,” Monaghan wrote.

He concluded his letter urging members to “continue to pray for healing and courage for the Church.”

According to the Wall Street Journal, Legatus' 2018 tithe to the Holy See would have been about $820,000.

When announcing the decision in September to withhold the tithe, Monaghan said that members had raised questions “specifically pertaining to how it is being used, and what financial accountability exists within the Vatican for such charitable contributions.”

“The Board has begun a dialogue along these lines, and in the meantime has decided to place the Holy See annual tithe in escrow, pending further determination,” he said.

Questions of Vatican financial accountability had been raised earlier this year by the Papal Foundation, a U.S.–based organization that offers grants to support the global work of the Holy Father.

In February, some members of the organization sharply criticized a request from the Holy See for $25 million for a Church-owned hospital that has been plagued by fraud and embezzlement scandals. Grants from the Papal Foundation are normally no more than $200,000 and generally go toward initiatives to help the poor in developing nations.