News Briefs



Abp. Gomez elected president, McCarrick investigation and more discussed at USCCB meeting 

Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez was elected president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) during the bishops’ fall assembly. Archbishop Gomez, the first Latino to be elected president of the conference, had previously served as conference vice president under Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston since November 2016. Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit was elected as the conference’s vice president. The bishops covered a multitude of topics during their three-day meeting, including an update from Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley on the investigation into defrocked former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. Cardinal O’Malley said a report on the Vatican’s investigation could be released as early as Christmas. Controversy surrounded comments made by San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy, in which the bishop claimed the USCCB’s proclamation of ending abortion as its “preeminent priority” went against Pope Francis’ magisterial teaching. The reference to “preeminent priority” came from a proposed letter to supplement the USCCB’s voting guide. However, because Bishop McElroy’s disagreements were made during debate on an unrelated matter, they were not voted on. 

Impeachment hearings underway 

Impeachment inquiry hearings regarding President Donald Trump’s interactions with Ukraine began last week as members of the House Intelligence Committee heard testimonies from current and former United States foreign affairs officials, including the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. Marie Yovonavitch, who served as ambassador to Ukraine from August 2016 until May of this year, said in her opening statement that attacks on her and others involved in the impeachment hearings was a sign of the institutions being “degraded.” Bill Taylor, acting ambassador to Ukraine, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs George Kent also gave their testimonies during the politically charged hearings. Democratic Chairman Adam Schiff and Republican Devin Nunes both drew attention for their interactions with the witnesses and other members of the committee. The hearings continue this week with officials from the Trump administration. 

US-born woman who joined ISIS deemed not citizen, judge rules 

A federal judge ruled last week that an American-born woman who joined ISIS in 2014 but now wants to return to the United States is not an American citizen. Hoda Muthana withdrew from college in 2014 and used the money meant for her tuition to pay for travel to Syria, where she joined ISIS. Now, Muthana wishes to return home to Alabama with a 2-year-old son she had with a slain ISIS fighter. But in February, President Donald Trump directed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to not allow Muthana into the country. Muthana’s father, a former United Nations diplomat from Yemen, believed Muthana was considered a U.S. citizen because she was born in the country in 1994, after his diplomatic service had ended. However, despite being issued a U.S. passport, Muthana was never formally recognized with citizenship, which led to the dismissal of her case by Judge Reggie Walton last week. 


Pope Francis: Ecological sins may be added to Catechism 

Pope Francis said Friday that the church is considering introducing sins against ecology into the Catechism of the Catholic Church because “it’s a duty.” The Holy Father, who made the remarks in an address to the 20th world congress of the International Association of Penal Law, said the culture of waste, as well as “market idolatry,” leads to “serious tendency to degenerate into a culture of hatred.” Pope Francis particularly spoke out against corporations who do not seem to care for the poor and oppressed, citing “crimes against humanity” that lead to hunger, poverty, forced migration and more. He referenced the controversial Amazon Synod, which concluded last month, and spoke specifically of sins against the environment, adding that the international community should move to recognize these transgressions as crimes against peace. 

Prince Andrew denies sexual contact with Epstein accuser 

Prince Andrew, third child of Queen Elizabeth II, responded in a television interview to allegations that he had sexual encounters with an American teenager, Virgina Roberts Giuffre, denying them all categorically. Giuffre has alleged that she was coerced by convicted sexual offender Jeffrey Epstein to have sex on multiple occasions with the English royal, a longtime friend of Epstein. In the interview broadcast by BBC, Prince Andrew denied the accusations and ever meeting Giuffre, even saying the photo she has of the two together could be a fake. Regarding Epstein, who died of an apparent suicide in August while in prison, Prince Andrew regretted some of his interactions with the serial sex offender but said that, despite his “unbecoming” behavior, there were “some seriously beneficial outcomes” from their relationship. 

Turmoil in Bolivia as riots break out 

One month after Evo Morales resigned the Bolivian presidency amidst allegations of vote-rigging, the country remains embattled as an interim government struggles to take control. One recent clash left five people dead and protesters chanting calls for civil war. Many more were taken to the local hospital to be treated for injuries including bullet wounds, the hospital director said. Morales, who fled to Mexico seeking asylum, criticized the interim government as a dictatorship and said he could still be considered president because his resignation was never accepted by Congress. Interim President Jeanine Áñez has disputed this and said Morales could face legal charges for election fraud.