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Ex-Vatican diplomat found guilty of distributing child porn

A Vatican court found Msgr. Carlo Alberto Capella, a former staff member at the Vatican nunciature in Washington, guilty of possessing and distributing child pornography.

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Trial begins for ex-Vatican diplomat accused of distributing child porn


By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A former staff member at the Vatican nunciature in Washington, accused of possessing and distributing child pornography, admitted his guilt to a Vatican court and said he had never engaged in such behavior before his assignment in the U.S. capital.

"This kind of morbidness was never a part of my priestly life," Msgr. Carlo Alberto Capella told a courtroom June 22.

Vatican City State's criminal court issued an indictment June 9 against the prelate, who has been held in a jail cell in the Vatican police barracks since April 9.

Msgr. Capella is accused of having and exchanging with others "a large quantity" of child pornography; the quantity is such that the charges are considered "aggravated" by the Vatican City court.

The U.S. State Department notified the Holy See Aug. 21 of Msgr. Capella's possible violation of laws relating to child pornography images. The 50-year-old Italian monsignor had been working in Washington just over a year when he was recalled to the Vatican.

On Sept. 28, police in Canada issued a nationwide arrest warrant for Msgr. Capella on charges of accessing, possessing and distributing child pornography.

Recounting his diplomatic career at the Vatican, the Italian prelate told the court that after several years in India, Hong Kong and the Vatican Secretariat of State, he was unhappy about his assignment to the nunciature in Washington.

He said that "out of respect to the hierarchy, out of sense of duty and to not create problems, instead of making my discomfort known to them, I thanked them for the transfer."

The monsignor told the court that he felt "empty" and "useless" in his first four months at the Washington nunciature and initially used the internet for news and funny images.

In April 2016, Msgr. Capella started using the social microblogging site Tumblr to search for images when he started to see pornographic images. He said this led to conversations on the site's chat feature to engage in lewd conversations and exchange more perverse child pornographic images.

Gianluca Gauzzi, deputy commissioner of the Vatican police and a computer engineer, later testified that 40-55 photos, videos and Japanese comics depicting adult-child relationships were found or recovered from cellphones, USB drives and hard drives belonging to Msgr. Capella.

One video uncovered from the prelate's cellphone, Gauzzi told the courtroom, depicted sexual acts between a child and an adult.

Tommaso Parisi, a psychiatrist, told the courtroom he began treating Msgr. Capella in October and that the prelate has been cooperative and responded well to treatment twice a week.

Msgr. Capella was born in Carpi, Italy, and ordained to the priesthood in 1993 for the Archdiocese of Milan. After studying at the Vatican diplomatic academy in Rome, he entered the Vatican diplomatic service in 2004. He was assigned to the Washington nunciature in the summer of 2016.

Giuseppe Dalla Torre, president of the tribunal of Vatican City State, announced that the trial will continue June 23.

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Update: As immigration woes rise, lawmakers can't agree on solutions

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Jason Miller, Franciscan Action Network

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Bipartisan disagreement on how to fix the country's immigration system led to failure once again as lawmakers on Capitol Hill turned down one immigration bill June 21 and postponed a vote on a second proposal, which also has a slim opportunity of passing.

Each side blamed the other for the failure to advance the first piece of legislation, which did not clear the initial hurdle of passing in the House of Representatives.

The remaining proposal, seen as a "compromise" bill, seeks to find a way to help youth brought to the country illegally as minors and a $25 million advance for a wall along the border with Mexico, a major campaign and yet-unfulfilled promise made by President Donald Trump. Though Trump said Mexico would pay for the wall, he is now asking Congress for U.S. taxpayer money for the structure.

"It's not a compromise. It may be a compromise with the devil, but it's not a compromise with the Democrats," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, of the remaining bill.

Though House Democrats voiced opposition to both bills, some Republicans, too, disagreed within their ranks.

Republican Congressman Will Hurd, of Texas, said in a statement released by his office June 21 that he opposed money for the border wall, saying it was "an expensive and ineffective fourth-century border security tool that takes private property away from hundreds of Texans." He also expressed concern about taking away something from one immigration program in exchange for helping another.

The remaining proposal seeks to do away with family-based migration, which allows U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to sponsor certain family members for a visa, but at the expense of providing a legal path for the youth brought into the country as minors, popularly known as "Dreamers."

As lawmakers retreated to salvage what they could and to haggle with others before the June 22 vote, a short distance away, Catholic groups joined other faith organizations in speaking out on Capitol Hill during a June 21 demonstration organized by Faith in Action against the detention of children at the border who have been separated from their parents.

Religious leaders -- including priests and women and men religious, the Franciscan Action Network, members of the Sisters of Mercy, the Columbans and others -- surrounded a group of children wrapped in aluminum insulation blankets in a building at the Capitol and called for prayer and fasting to bring an end to the misery of separated families on the border. The insulation blanket was like those handed out to children in detention centers at the border.

The Ignatian Solidarity Network also issued a press release voicing support for a statement from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops opposing both measures and asked Catholics to contact their representatives in Congress. In the June 18 letter to House members, Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the USCCB's Committee on Migration, expressed concern with the compromise measure's cuts to family-based immigration, as well as the "harmful" changes to the asylum system and its lack of protections for unaccompanied children .

"Without such changes to these measures, we would be compelled to oppose it," he said.

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Church now facing its own #MeToo moment, says Australian archbishop

IMAGE: CNS Photo/Robert Duncan

By Junno Arocho Esteves

ROME (CNS) -- In the wake of historic allegations of sexual abuse and cover-up in countries around the world, the Catholic Church is experiencing the same challenge that has brought a reckoning to those who used their authority to abuse or silence victims, said an Australian archbishop.

Allegations such as those raised against Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, represent a "major shift" within the culture of the church, Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane said June 21. Abuse survivors are "willing to speak and they are believed," and the church has new processes of investigation, he added.

"It's not unrelated to the #MeToo phenomenon; there's something going on in the culture. And one of the elements of that cultural shift is that people are prepared to speak up in a way that they would never have done before," he told journalists following a four-day conference in Rome on safeguarding and child protection.

The Anglophone Safeguarding Conference, held at Rome's Pontifical Gregorian University June 18-21, reflected on the theme, "Culture, an enabler or barrier to safeguarding."

Among the speakers at the conference was Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, head of the Pontifical Gregorian University's Center for Child Protection, and Bishop Gilles Cote of Daru-Kiunga, Papua New Guinea.

While local cultures can influence how the church in a particular area handles abuse cases, there are aspects of church culture that have hindered progress in addressing allegations of sexual abuse, Archbishop Coleridge told Catholic News Service June 21.

"One word that's used to describe a large and complex phenomenon within the culture is clericalism. In other words, authority geared to power and not to service," he said. "In many ways, what happened in the Catholic Church was that our strengths became our weaknesses."

An example of those strengths was that closeness that Catholic clergy and religious shared with families. However, he said, it was precisely that which, "in certain situations, gave them access to the children who were abused."

Nevertheless, Archbishop Coleridge said that just as strength can become a weakness, a weakness can also become a strength.

"I believe that the agony we are passing through this time in fact is a purification of the church that has already made us stronger. It's kind of a searing grace that we never saw coming, and we certainly wouldn't have chosen. But somehow, God is in the midst of it all, purifying the church and calling us to what we are intended be," Archbishop Coleridge told CNS.

Following the conference's conclusion, Father Zollner told journalists that allegations such as those raised against Cardinal McCarrick are signs that now "things are tightening up and that the thoroughness of the approach reaches now even the highest levels."

Cardinal McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, said June 20 that he would no longer exercise any public ministry "in obedience" to the Vatican after an allegation he abused a teenager 47 years ago was found credible.

"A few years ago, we probably wouldn't have so easily (seen) that headline," Father Zollner said in reference to news about Cardinal McCarrick. "The church -- step-by-step, too slow but more and more consistently -- comes up with or lives up to what the norms are."

Archbishop Coleridge agreed with Father Zollner, adding that "what's happening with Cardinal McCarrick focuses on episcopal accountability" and that while progress has been made, "we have more to do."

As president of the Australian bishops' conference, Archbishop Coleridge stressed that although collaboration with local authorities is critical in confronting abuse and cover-ups, measures that compromise religious freedom and the rights of conscience are not the answer.

Laws requiring Catholic priests to break the seal of confession in some cases passed the Australian Capital Territory's Legislative Assembly in Canberra June 7.

The proposal, he said, "is poor public policy" that will not make children safer and amounts to a "renegotiation of the relationship between church and state."

He also said that following many cases of abuse, "there is a thirst for the church's blood" as well as a "desire to punish the Catholic Church and a desire to show the Catholic Church who is in charge."

"In other words, it's almost being said implicitly. 'For a long time, you tried to tell us what to do. Now, because of what's happened, we will tell you what to do.' So, it's a kind of a public humiliation of the church but it is one that we have brought upon ourselves. So self-pity doesn't take us very far," Archbishop Coleridge said. 

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju


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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at