Browsing News Entries
Posted on 05/23/2022 22:53 PM (CNA Daily News)
Lima, Peru, May 23, 2022 / 14:53 pm (CNA).
A three-year-old boy was killed by gang members who opened fire inside a church in Fresnillo in the Mexican state of Zacatecas.
Their intended target was a young man they were pursuing who fled into the church.
The boy was attending Mass with his mother and was killed in the hail of bullets unleashed by the gunmen.
“We are saddened and alarmed by the killing of a three-year-old boy inside the church of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Fresnillo, Zacatecas, where armed men entered following a man whom they wounded. Our condolences to the family of this little boy,” the Mexican Bishops’ Conference said in a May 20 statement.
The local press reported that two armed men entered the church and let loose a burst of fire at a young man they were chasing, who died later from his wounds in a hospital May 20.
The three-year-old boy named Caleb died instantly when struck by the bullets.
In their statement, the Mexican bishops said that "this shows that all limits of violence and human respect are being exceeded."
“We once again call on everyone to lay down their arms and put an end to all forms of violence, because all of us can be builders of peace. No one has the right to attack the life of his brother and there is nothing that justifies such violence," the bishops stressed.
In their message, the prelates also remembered Fr. José Guadalupe Rivas, who was beaten to death May 17.
“We send our most heartfelt condolences to the family of Father José Guadalupe and to the family of the other murdered brother, as well as to the Archbishop of Tijuana, Don Francisco Moreno Barrón, and to his entire Church,” they said.
The bishops called on the faithful to continue "praying for our authorities so that they find the best paths for pacification and security that we all need and desire."
“Let us pray for the criminals so they repent and change their lives. Let us pray for everyone so that we become peace builders.” the bishops concluded.
Posted on 05/23/2022 20:35 PM (CNA Daily News)
London, England, May 23, 2022 / 12:35 pm (CNA).
Prince Charles has marked the 100th anniversary of a society supporting the Catholic archbishops of Westminster.
The heir to the British throne attended the Society of St. Augustine of Canterbury centenary reception at Archbishop’s House, Westminster, on May 10.
The Prince of Wales was the principal guest at the reception hosted by Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the archbishop of Westminster since 2009.
The society’s president, Edward Fitzalan-Howard, 18th Duke of Norfolk, spoke about how the organization had helped to maintain and improve Archbishop’s House, the central London residence of the archbishops of Westminster, since it was founded by Cardinal Francis Bourne in 1922.
An auction at the event raised more than 6,000 pounds (around $7,500) towards the society’s Centenary Appeal.
The society is seeking to raise 100,000 pounds ($125,000) towards the cost of reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions at Archbishop’s House.
Prince Charles was confirmed as an Anglican in 1965, at the age of 16. When he succeeds to the throne, he is expected to serve as Supreme Governor of the Church of England, the country’s established state church.
He has a keen interest in Orthodox Christianity and has frequently visited Mount Athos. He has also expressed support for persecuted Middle Eastern Christians.
He attended the canonization of John Henry Newman in Rome on Oct. 13, 2019. He described the Victorian-era convert to Catholicism as a “thinker ahead of his time” and a “fearless defender of truth.”
Posted on 05/23/2022 19:30 PM (CNA Daily News)
Rome Newsroom, May 23, 2022 / 11:30 am (CNA).
Tens of thousands of people took part in Italy’s national March for Life in Rome on Saturday.
“We are here to reaffirm the right of children to come into the world, they do not get to ask for it,” Father Andres Bonello told Adnkronos, an Italian news agency.
“We do it in a peaceful way, singing and dancing together with many young people,” said the Argentine priest who is a member of the Institute of the Incarnate Word.
Participants in the pro-life rally marched from Rome’s Piazza della Repubblica to the public square by the St. John Lateran Archbasilica.
Massimo Gandolfini, a medical doctor and president of the Let’s Defend Our Children association, said that there was a “silent majority of Italians” concerned about euthanasia of the elderly, Europe’s demographic winter, and the abortion of 100,000 children in Italy each year.
“With the ‘Choose Life’ rally we want to reaffirm that life is the first fundamental right of every human being, whose inviolable respect is the precondition for a free, just and peaceful society, as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states,” said Gandolfini, one of the rally’s organizers.
“In particular, the defense of ‘fragile’ life — from conception and in the unfolding process until natural death — is the cornerstone of a people’s civilization, which knows its lowest point when it induces the elderly, the sick and the depressed to choose suicide.”
Abortion in Italy
In Italy, abortion is legal for any reason within the first 90 days (almost 13 weeks) of pregnancy, and afterward for certain reasons with the referral of a physician.
The practice was legalized in 1978, despite opposition from Pope Paul VI, who encouraged doctors to exercise conscientious objection.
The RU486 abortion drug was legalized in Italy in 2009, and in 2010 standards were set which require women to be hospitalized for three days during its administration.
It cannot be prescribed beyond the seventh week of pregnancy.
Pope Francis praises the pro-life rally
Pope Francis greeted participants in Italy’s pro-life rally during his Regina Coeli address in St. Peter’s Square on May 22, the day after the march.
“I thank you for your dedication in promoting life and defending conscientious objection, which there are often attempts to limit,” the pope said.
“Sadly,” the pope continued, “in these last years, there has been a change in the common mentality, and today we are more and more led to think that life is a good at our complete disposal, that we can choose to manipulate, to give birth or take life as we please, as if it were the exclusive consequence of individual choice.”
“Let us remember that life is a gift from God,” Pope Francis said. “It is always sacred and inviolable, and we cannot silence the voice of conscience.”
Posted on 05/23/2022 18:00 PM (CNA Daily News)
Rome Newsroom, May 23, 2022 / 10:00 am (CNA).
Nearly 12,000 people attended the beatification of Pauline Jaricot in Lyon, France, on Sunday.
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle presided over the beatification Mass in Lyon’s exhibition hall on May 22, during which a relic of Jaricot’s heart was carried in procession.
Tagle, the prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, praised Jaricot for her missionary zeal to bring Jesus’ love to more people.
“We marvel at how docile Pauline Jaricot was to the Holy Spirit, who prompted her with new ideas and initiatives for spreading the Gospel and serving the poor,” Tagle said.
Jaricot, who was a friend of St. John Vianney, founded the Society for the Propagation of the Faith in 1822 when she was in her early twenties. The association helped Catholics to assist the foreign missions through prayer and small donations.
She later founded the Association of the Living Rosary, which was a great success in France and soon spread beyond it.
“To love Jesus is to let him, who is the Word of God, live, act and love in me and through me,” Tagle said in his homily, which he read in French.
“We see in Pauline Jaricot a living witness to the power of love for Jesus, a love that becomes an identification with Jesus.”
Among those present at the live-streamed beatification ceremony were 13-year-old Mayline Tran and her family.
Tran experienced a medically inexplicable healing in 2012 at the age of three that was deemed by a panel of experts to be a medical miracle attributed to Jaricot’s intercession.
Tran had fallen into a coma after suffering from cardiac arrest. The oxygen supply had been cut off to her brain after the three-year-old choked on a small French sausage.
The Tran family, who were not originally from Lyon, had never heard of Pauline Jaricot. But parents at the girl’s Catholic school, connected to Jaricot’s Living Rosary group, organized a prayer novena with the participation of the entire school asking for Jaricot’s intercession for her healing.
The girl made a complete medical recovery within months after doctors had informed the Tran family that their daughter had no chance of being able to walk or talk again.
“Miracles do exist and Mayline is living proof of it,” Emmanuel Tran, her father, told the crowd before the Mass, according to the French daily newspaper Ouest-France.
An example of evangelization
On the day of the beatification, Pope Francis praised Jaricot for her courage and vision regarding the Church’s mission.
“May her example enkindle in everyone the desire to participate through prayer and charity in the spread of the Gospel throughout the world,” the pope said from the window of the Vatican’s apostolic palace at the end of his Regina Coeli address.
In a letter read aloud at the beatification, Pope Francis said that he was entrusting the spiritual fruitfulness of the Archdiocese of Lyon to the intercession of Jaricot and St. Irenaeus of Lyon, whom the pope declared a Doctor of the Church earlier this year.
“Pauline dedicated her life to the mission, to the service of the poor and to prayer,” the pope wrote in the letter.
“May our charity be as inventive and effective as hers, let us learn to offer generously what we are, our talents to God, and to our brothers and sisters, especially the poorest, to give of our means to support the mission that is incumbent on all of us in the Church to bring the Gospel to the world,” he said.
Posted on 05/23/2022 17:05 PM (CNA Daily News)
Vatican City, May 23, 2022 / 09:05 am (CNA).
Pope Francis thanked Italy’s civil protection volunteers on Monday for helping refugees fleeing the “absurd war” in Ukraine.
In a speech on May 23, the pope commended the volunteers for helping the vulnerable during the coronavirus pandemic and supporting a nationwide vaccination campaign.
“Equally there has been no lack of your commitment to humanitarian assistance and the reception in Italy of refugees from Ukraine, especially women and children who have fled this absurd war,” said the pope, who has made public appearances in a wheelchair since May 5.
“Thank you for what you have done and continue to do in silence. Good does not make noise but builds the world.”
Italy’s civil protection volunteers work under the guidance of the country’s Civil Protection Department, which is responsible for the prevention and management of emergency events. The volunteers belong to more than 5,000 organizations across the country.
Later in his address, the 85-year-old pontiff recalled Pope Paul VI’s famous appeal — “never again war” — during his 1965 address to the United Nations.
“Let us repeat it today in the face of what is happening in Ukraine, and protect people’s dream of peace, peoples’ sacred right to peace,” Pope Francis said.
He was speaking on the day that the United Nations announced that, for the first time on record, more than 100 million people worldwide have been forced to flee their homes by conflict.
Over 6.5 million people have fled Ukraine since Russia’s full-scale invasion on Feb. 24. Almost 120,000 Ukrainian refugees have arrived in Italy as of May 21, according to the country’s interior ministry.
On May 22, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin said he hoped that negotiations to end the war between the predominantly Orthodox Christian countries of Russia and Ukraine would start as soon as possible.
Celebrating the feast of St. Rita in Cascia, central Italy, he said: “In this land of faith and peace, here in Umbria, I hope that negotiations will begin as soon as possible and that we can finally reach the much-needed peace.”
Describing St. Rita as the “saint of the impossible and the advocate of desperate cases,” he asked for her intercession for an end to the conflict, reported Vatican News, the Holy See’s online news portal.
The U.N. human rights office said that it had recorded 8,462 civilian casualties in Ukraine as of May 22, with 3,930 people killed and 4,532 injured. But it added that the actual toll was likely to be “considerably higher.”
Posted on 05/23/2022 15:00 PM (CNA Daily News)
Munich, Germany, May 23, 2022 / 07:00 am (CNA).
A report on the handling of abuse cases in Germany’s Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, published in January, cost around 1.45 million euros ($1.53 million).
The figure, reported by CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, is more than twice the amount that the Archdiocese of Cologne paid for a report by the same law firm.
A spokesperson for the Munich archdiocese said on May 19 that work on preparing the study by the law firm Westpfahl Spilker Wastl took nearly two years.
“In addition, there are further costs for the publication, especially the preparation and implementation of the press conference and the involvement of other experts by the law firm,” the spokesperson said.
The Munich study covered 1977 to 1982, the period that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future Benedict XVI, led the archdiocese, as well as the tenures of Cardinal Friedrich Wetter, who succeeded him, and Cardinal Reinhard Marx, who has served as archbishop of Munich and Freising since 2007.
The report also also faulted Marx’s handling two abuse cases. The 68-year-old cardinal told reporters in January 2022 that he intended to remain in office for now, but did not rule out seeking to resign for a second time.
The Cologne archdiocese paid 757,500 euros ($857,000) for an initial report by Westpfahl Spilker Wastl, which Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, who has led the archdiocese since 2014, controversially declined to publish.
After lawyers advising the archdiocese raised concerns about “methodological deficiencies” in the study, Woelki commissioned the Cologne-based criminal law expert Professor Björn Gercke to write a new report, costing 516,200 euros ($584,000).
Pope Francis decided in September 2021 that Woelki should remain in charge of the Cologne archdiocese after a Vatican investigation into his handling of abuse cases.
More recently, the Vatican also ruled that Woelki did not breach canon law when awarding contracts connected to the Gercke Report.
Another German research project on clerical sexual abuse, the MHG Study, was presented by the German bishops in 2018. The study cost around one million euros ($1.06 million), according to figures provided by the German bishops’ conference.
One significant outcome of the MHG study was the “Synodal Way.” The costs of the controversial multi-year initiative are expected to run to several million dollars, though the exact amount remains a mystery.
Posted on 05/23/2022 13:22 PM (CNA Daily News)
Vatican City, May 23, 2022 / 05:22 am (CNA).
Pope Francis on Monday named an archbishop who served as an apostolic nuncio in Central Asia as an auxiliary bishop of the Detroit archdiocese.
The Holy See press office said on May 23 that Archbishop Paul Fitzpatrick Russell, the former apostolic nuncio to Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Azerbaijan, would retain the personal title of archbishop of Novi in his new post.
Archbishop Allen Vigneron, who has led the Archdiocese of Detroit since 2009, said: “We are deeply grateful to Pope Francis for appointing Archbishop Russell as auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Detroit, and we are similarly grateful to Archbishop Russell for accepting this new ministry.”
“We are particularly glad to welcome Archbishop Russell home to Michigan, where he grew up and first heard the Lord call him to the priestly vocation. Having served the Church all over the world, Archbishop Russell brings to the Archdiocese of Detroit a valuable perspective of the universal Church and our mission to make joyful missionary disciples of all nations.”
Paul Fitzpatrick Russell was born on May 2, 1959, in Greenfield, Massachusetts, but spent much of his childhood in northern Michigan.
He studied at Saint John’s Seminary in Boston and gained a doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Gregorian University.
He was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Boston on June 20, 1987.
He entered the Vatican diplomatic service in 1997, serving in the Section for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State, as well as in Ethiopia, Turkey, Switzerland, and Nigeria, and as head of the diplomatic mission to Taiwan.
On March 19, 2016, Pope Francis appointed him titular archbishop of Novi and apostolic nuncio to Turkey and Turkmenistan.
Cardinal Seán O’Malley ordained Russell to the episcopate at the Cathedral of the Holy Name in Boston on June 3, 2016. Archbishop Vigneron was a co-consecrator.
Russell, who speaks English, French, Italian, Spanish, and German, was also appointed apostolic nuncio to Azerbaijan on April 7, 2018.
According to the website catholic-hierarchy.org, he resigned as nuncio to Turkey on Oct. 22, 2021, and as nuncio to Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan on Feb. 2 this year.
Russell is related to Blessed Michał Piaszczyński, a Polish priest who died in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp in 1940 and was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1999.
The Detroit Catholic reported that Russell will become the 31st auxiliary bishop in the archdiocese’s history. He will serve alongside four other auxiliaries: Bishop Donald Hanchon, Bishop Arturo Cepeda, Bishop Gerard Battersby, and Bishop Robert Fisher.
On Oct. 9, Hanchon will turn 75, the age at which bishops must present their resignations to the pope.
The Detroit archdiocese serves 1.1 million self-identifying Catholics via 215 parishes in Michigan’s Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Monroe, St. Clair and Lapeer counties.
Russell will be formally welcomed to the archdiocese on July 7 during a liturgy at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Detroit.
The 63-year-old archbishop said: “I am so happy with Pope Francis’ decision to send me home and look forward to serving as an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Detroit and immersing myself in the mission and ministry of the local Church in southeast Michigan.”
Posted on 05/23/2022 12:40 PM (CNA Daily News)
Rome, Italy, May 23, 2022 / 04:40 am (CNA).
Will robots one day be better at medicine and law than human beings? That was one of the topics discussed by scientists and theologians at a recent gathering in Rome.
The “Topology of Intelligence” conference, hosted by the Templeton World Charity Foundation on May 19, brought together experts in engineering, mathematics, biology, philosophy, and theology.
Scholars from both secular and pontifical universities sought to describe the “connection between science and philosophy” by focusing on “complexity, reality and the research on intelligence.”
Marta Bertolaso, a professor at the Campus Bio-Medico University of Rome who helped to organize the conference, said: “I think that we are at a good moment to discuss intelligence and specifically artificial intelligence, because there are many questions around these topics.”
She explained that artificial intelligence (AI) is a term dating back to the last century, “coined precisely in order to represent how human beings try to mobilize some aspects, some functions, of our intellectual capabilities.”
Bertolaso said that the challenge posed by AI was not so much its technological possibilities, but how humans can use it to build new environments that are still worthy of living in. Overall, she was fairly optimistic that new developments would have a positive impact on humanity’s future.
That optimism was shared by Andrew Serazin, the president of the Templeton World Charity Foundation.
“I think that we were reminded today that within the Christian tradition, within the Catholic tradition, there’s this sense of openness of history, that we are co-creators of the future with the Divine and the Church is a way to achieve this co-creation,” he said.
He added that he was “tremendously optimistic about the application of science and technology,” as well as the development of AI, but only “if we retain our fundamental values of the pursuit of truth and the dignity of the person.”
Max Bonilla, international director of the Expanded Reason Institute at the University of Francisco de Vitoria in Spain, initiated the gathering in order to “bridge Church and science.” He also wanted to promote a deeper understanding of intelligence, as well as to deepen the dialogue between the empirical sciences and philosophy and theology.
The conference was organized in three parts around the concepts of expressing, defining, and understanding intelligence.
In the first part, the audience listened to the insights of Andrew Barron, a neuroethologist at Australia’s Macquarie University, who explained how bees display a certain kind of intelligent behavior in their flight patterns and navigation decisions.
In the second, the theologian and physicist Giulio Maspero discussed with theoretical physicist Mario Rasetti why it might prove difficult to ever measure general artificial intelligence, even though scientists are already studying examples of non-human intelligence such as the dance of honey bees.
A third panel highlighted that AI so far lacks the quality of self-awareness. The moment that computers become smart enough to be self-aware is still some way off — if it will ever arrive. But computers will master certain skills or arts such as medicine, law, and mathematics on an equal level and, eventually, better than humans, the conference heard. These developments will have an impact on our view of the human person, our self-understanding, and human rights.
Emphasizing that the conference was interdisciplinary, Serazin said: “The reason why this unique mix of people that we’ve brought together is so important is that something so fundamental to our self-understanding, and our understanding of how human beings flourish, requires all of the disciplines in order to arrive at truth, that truth has a wholeness that is not merely described by mathematics, or by art, or by history, but by taking these different perspectives.”
He added that the conference brought together both scientists and faith leaders because “communities of faith and communities of learning are pillars of our civilization.”
“These are hallmarks of the best of humanity,” he said. “And so when we think about trying to solve any problem, whether that’s climate change, or poverty, or applications of artificial intelligence, we must bring all of the resources that humanity can bring.”
Serazin concluded that his foundation’s goal was to “keep humans in the loop.” There are more and more algorithms making decisions for people. For Serazin, this is another reason why philosophers and theologians should engage with computer scientists and developers of new technology.
He said: “I think what’s so important about retaining the human perspective, and also an understanding of the human person that comes from theology and philosophy, is fundamental dignity that is located within humanity — not to outsource those decisions to algorithms or machines and to retain the decision-making authority with people. Because it is people that have, fundamentally, the moral authority to act in the world.”
Posted on 05/22/2022 22:00 PM (CNA Daily News)
Denver Newsroom, May 22, 2022 / 14:00 pm (CNA).
The newly consecrated Bishop of Charleston showed a great commitment and love for the Hispanic community in the Archdiocese of Atlanta where he previously served, according to a Hispanic leader in Atlanta.
Bishop Jacques Fabre-Jeune, a Haitian emigrant, became the Charleston diocese’ first Black bishop when he was installed on May 13.
Fabre-Jeune had previously served as the administrator of the San Felipe de Jesús Mission in Forest Park, Georgia, south of Atlanta, a congregation which he himself described at “99% Mexican.”
Jairo Martinez, who is retired today after 16 years serving as Director of the Atlanta Archdiocese’ Hispanic Ministry Office, told CNA that despite not being a member of the Hispanic community, Fabre-Jeune endeared himself to the community with his “sense of commitment” as well as his “love for the people.”
Fabre-Jeune’s commitment to getting a new church building built for the mission, which came to fruition in 2011, “shows really how Father Jacques got to the heart of those Hispanics, because let me tell you, he conquered their hearts," Martinez said.
Fabre-Jeune, a Haitian native and immigrant New Yorker who was ordained a priest in 1986, arrived at the San Felipe mission in 2008. After graduating college, Fabre-Jeune had joined the Missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo, also known as the Scalabrinians. The Scalabrinians were originally founded to support the spiritual needs of missionaries going to South and North America, and today its members do much to serve refugees and immigrants.
Fabre-Jeune’s novitiate took place in Guadalajara, Mexico, where he learned to speak Spanish fluently — one of the five languages he speaks today.
Martinez said finding clergy to minister to Georgia’s large Hispanic population is one of the biggest challenges the Hispanic Catholic community faces in the state. It is difficult, he said, to find men who are not merely bilingual, but also are willing to understand the culture.
Many Hispanic Catholics, though they may be bilingual and speak English in most of their interactions in society, will still prefer to attend Mass and practice their faith in Spanish, he said.
Their formation has often been done in Spanish in their native country, and they pray in Spanish. Even children of Hispanic immigrants who are native English speakers will often prefer to worship with their parents in Spanish, he said.
"So it is important to give them an opportunity to live their spiritual life in their own language," Martinez noted.
The San Felipe mission itself symbolizes the progress that the Hispanic community has made in Atlanta, Martinez said. When Martinez first saw the mission, it was located in a very poor area, in a run-down building, with tarps over the roof to keep out the rain. Later, in 2002, the archdiocese purchased a former Protestant church to house the Catholic congregation, and eventually under Fabre-Jeune’s leadership the community built and opened the new church building still in use today.
During his time at the mission, Fabre-Jeune also served as the director of the Hispanic Charismatic Renewal and a member of the Archdiocese of Atlanta’s finance council. Noting Fabre-Jeune’s skills as an administrator as well as his love for his flock, Martinez said if someone had asked him a few years ago for recommendations of priests who would make good bishops, he would have suggested Father Fabre-Jeune.
In terms of the broader Hispanic Catholic community in the United States, which is growing rapidly, Martinez said Catholics in the U.S. can learn from the “simplicity” of the faith of Hispanic Catholics. Martinez also said he greatly admires the strong sense of local community and family that is present in Hispanic culture. He says he has seen the Archdiocese of Atlanta make a "huge effort" to serve the Hispanic community, and he hopes other dioceses and archdioceses will do the same.
Posted on 05/22/2022 20:12 PM (CNA Daily News)
Denver Newsroom, May 22, 2022 / 12:12 pm (CNA).
A dress worn by Judy Garland in her classic role as Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz" is now the main character in a surprise drama. Supporting characters are the Catholic University of America and some relatives of a priest and former professor who, they say, would have wanted his relatives to own the rare collectible, not the university.
The university had planned to auction the dress to fund its drama school. These plans were delayed by a legal challenge from Wisconsin resident Barbara Ann Hartke, 81, a niece of Father Gilbert Hartke, O.P., the founder and head of the university’s drama school. She says that the dress should be hers because she is the priest’s closest living relative.
Barbra Ann Hartke’s attorney, Anthony Scordo, told WTOP that there has been “absolutely no legal documentation of such a gift to the university” in any of its court filings. Her lawsuit also objects that the university did not contact her when the dress was rediscovered.
“I was just surprised after all this time, here it had been found, and here it is being rushed off to the auction house,” Barbara Ann Hartke told the New York Post earlier this month. Tony Lehman, a grand-nephew of Father Hartke, also supports the lawsuit.
The university contends the objecting relatives have no case. The university’s attorneys argue the dress was given to the priest in his capacity as a drama professor at the university. The university further notes that Father Hartke, as a vowed Dominican, was not allowed to keep personal possessions.
“We look forward to the opportunity to present the overwhelming evidence, including a statement from another family member, supporting Catholic University’s ownership of the dress to the court next week,” a Catholic University of America spokesperson told CNA May 17.
“The university’s position is that the allegations in the lawsuit have no basis in law or fact because Catholic University is the rightful owner of the dress and Father Hartke’s estate does not have a property interest in it,” the spokesperson said.
Mercedes McCambridge, an Oscar-winning actress and artist-in-residence at Catholic University in 1973, had given the dress to Father Hartke, who died in 1986. In the late 1980s, the dress went missing and the costume became the subject of rumor. Matt Ripa, a lecturer and operations coordinator for the university’s drama department, happened upon a bag atop faculty mailboxes in 2021. He opened the bag to find a shoebox, inside of which was the dress.
The university had scheduled an auction of the dress in hopes of raising more than $1 million for its drama department.
New York U.S. District Court Judge Paul Gardephe placed a temporary restraining order on the auction pending a hearing the day before the dress was scheduled to be auctioned through the auctioneer company Bonhams.
According to Bonhams, the actress Judy Garland wore the gingham dress while filming a scene in which her character Dorothy Gale faces the Wicked Witch of the West in the witch’s castle.
The dress from the 1939 classic movie is one of only two existing dresses that retains its white blouse. It is now valued at an estimated $800,000 to $1.2 million, Bonhams said. Another surviving dress was auctioned for $1.5 million in 2015.
Father Hartke was one of six siblings. Catholic University of America has gathered the testimony of other relatives to support its case that it is the owner of the dress.
Thomas Kuipers, a grand-nephew of Hartke, said the priest told him “that I could not have it as the dress belonged to Catholic University.” He said he and other descendants of Father Hartke’s sister Inez Mercedes Hartke support the auction of the dress donated to the university.
Margo Carper, granddaughter of Father Hartke’s brother Joseph, also backed the university.
William Largess, who was an undergraduate student in Catholic University’s drama department from 1972 to 1976, said he was with the priest “multiple times” when he took out a dress to show to students that Largess understood was a dress from "The Wizard of Oz."
“I specifically recall Father Gilbert V. Hartke saying that Ms. Mercedes McCambridge gave the dress to the Department of Drama at Catholic University,” said Largess, who is now an adjunct theater professor at George Washington University.
Father Kenneth R. Letoile, O.P., the Prior Provincial of the Province of St. Joseph, described the Dominican approach to the vow of poverty.
“Based on my knowledge of the Dominican Order, and my understanding that Father Hartke made a vow of poverty, as is required for membership in the Dominican Order, Father Hartke was not permitted to possess anything by right of personal ownership,” Letoile said.
If anything was given to him in his personal capacity, he would have been required to donate to his province “in accordance with his vows and solemn profession.”
Letoile said that the Dominican province does not assert any right to the dress.
“I hereby affirm on behalf of the province the Catholic University of America’s full ownership of the dress,” he said.
When the auction of the dress was announced in April, the Catholic University of America said it had documentation which indicates that the dress was gifted to Hartke with the intention it be used to support the drama department.
If the auction goes forward, proceeds from the sale will endow a faculty chair, a position that will support the current bachelor of fine arts degree in acting for theater, film, and television, as well as the development of a new formal film acting program at the university’s Benjamin T. Rome School of Music, Drama, and Art.
Jackie Leary-Warsaw, dean of the drama school, is the wife of Michael Warsaw, chairman and CEO of the EWTN Global Catholic Network, Catholic News Agency’s parent network.