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After Covington Catholic students caught in social media maelstrom, fuller picture emerges

Washington D.C., Jan 21, 2019 / 01:28 pm (CNA).- A wave of media attention engulfed this weekend a group of students who attended last week’s annual March for Life in Washington, DC. The students, most of whom attend Catholic high schools in Kentucky, were accused on Saturday of harassing and taunting a Native American drummer, but subsequent revelations revealed a decidedly more complicated picture.

Videos began to circulate on Saturday that depicted portions of a Jan. 18 incident close to the Lincoln Memorial, in which students who had attended the March for Life were part of a confluence of demonstrators near the Memorial, some from a Washington-based religious group called the Black Israelites, and some from the Indigenous Peoples’ March, which took place in Washington on the same day as the larger March for Life.

Initially, the portions of the video that emerged, and quickly went viral, depicted a crowd of teenage boys chanting, dancing, and doing the “tomahawk chop” cheer, while a Native American man played a drum in chanted in close proximity to one teenage boy, who stood squarely before the drummer, without saying anything as the drumming and chanting continued directly in front of him.

The drummer was soon identified as Nathan Phillips, an elder of the Omaha Tribe and Native American rights activist.

The students were described in some media reports as “surrounding” Phillips, or “taunting” him, and became the subject of widespread condemnation from media figures and some Catholic leaders, who accused them of disrespect, racism, and antagonism. Some students were wearing hats depicting the 2016 campaign slogan of President Donald Trump, “Make America Great Again,” some commentators and social media figures suggested the hats could be evidence of racist motives on the part of the students.  

Within hours, the school some of the students attended, Covington Catholic High School, along with the Diocese of Covington, issued a statement condemning “the actions of the Covington Catholic High School students towards Nathan Phillips specifically, and Native Americans in general…We extend our deepest apologies to Mr. Phillips. This behavior is opposed to the Church’s teachings on the dignity and respect of the human person”

“This matter is being investigated and we will take appropriate action, up to and including expulsion,” the statement said.

“We know this incident also has tainted the entire witness of the March for Life and express our most sincere apologies to all those who attended the March and all those who support the pro-life movement.”

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, Archbishop of Louisville, and Kentucky’s metropolitan archbishop, issued a statement shortly thereafter.

“I join with Bishop Foys in condemning the actions of the Covington Catholic students towards Mr. Nathan Phillips and the Native American Community yesterday in Washington.  I have every confidence that the leadership of the Diocese of Covington will thoroughly investigate what occurred and address those all involved in this shameful act of disrespect,” Kurtz wrote Jan. 19.

Similarly, the March for Life itself also tweeted a statement criticizing the reported actions of the students.

Congresswoman Deb Haaland, (D-NM), tweeted Saturday: “This Veteran put his life on the line for our country. The students’ display of blatant hate, disrespect, and intolerance is a signal of how common decency has decayed under this administration. Heartbreaking.”

However, even as initial footage went viral, facts began to emerge that pointed to a more complicated narrative. The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that Phillips approached the students, who, he claimed, were chanting “Build that Wall,” a chant associated with Trump’s call for a security wall, or fence, at the U.S. border with Mexico.

Phillips initially told The Washington Post that he was surrounded by the students after he approached them with his drum, and that “It was getting ugly, and I was thinking: ‘I’ve got to find myself an exit out of this situation and finish my song at the Lincoln Memorial.’ I started going that way, and that guy in the hat stood in my way and we were at an impasse. He just blocked my way and wouldn’t allow me to retreat.”

Later, emerging video footage demonstrated that several of those demonstrating alongside Phillips approached the students, with some telling them to “go back to Europe,” and swearing at them. And a 2015 report emerged in which Phillips claimed to have been the victim of a racist attack by students at Eastern Michigan University, whom, he told Fox 2 at the time, he approached, and who, he said, eventually taunted him with racial slurs and threw an unopened beer can at him. No charges were filed in connection to that incident.

Subsequent media reports and videos recounted that the high school students had been the subject of taunts by the Black Israelite group, demonstrating nearby, and that Phillips claimed he was trying to intervene between the two groups. However, Phillips did not identify himself or his intentions to the students when he approached them, rather, he continued drumming and chanting.

Phillips told the Detroit Free Press Sunday that the students “were in the process of attacking these four black individuals," and he intervened to stop the attack. He said the students then turned their anger toward him.

"There was that moment when I realized I've put myself between beast and prey," Phillips said. "These young men were beastly and these old black individuals was their prey, and I stood in between them and so they needed their pounds of flesh and they were looking at me for that," he said.

"The Black Israelites, they were saying some harsh things, but some of it was true, too. These young, white American kids who were being taught in their Catholic school, their doctrine, their truth, and when they found out there's more truth out there than what they're being taught, they were offended, they were insulted, they were scared, and that's how they responded. One thing that I was taught in my Marine Corp training is that a scared man will kill you. And that's what these boys were. They were scared," Phillips said.

Video footage did not show the students attacking the members of the Black Israelite movement, who are heard to shout disparaging remarks at the students, most of them concerning the Catholic Church and Trump.

The student at the center of the firestorm, identified as Covington Catholic High School junior Nick Sandmann, issued a statement Sunday night.

Sandmann said he and his fellow students were waiting for their bus after the March for Life, when “ we noticed four African American protestors who were also on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. I am not sure what they were protesting, and I did not interact with them. I did hear them direct derogatory insults at our school group.”

“The protestors said hateful things. They called us ‘racists,’ ‘bigots,’ ‘white crackers,’ ‘faggots,’ and ‘incest kids.’ They also taunted an African American student from my school by telling him that we would ‘harvest his organs.’ I have no idea what that insult means, but it was startling to hear.

In response to those taunts, students began chanting “school spirit chants,” with permission of a chaperone, Sandmann said. He said he did not hear students chant other things.

“After a few minutes of chanting, the Native American protestors, who I hadn’t previously noticed, approached our group. The Native American protestors had drums and were accompanied by at least one person with a camera.”

“The protestor everyone has seen in the video began playing his drum as he waded into the crowd, which parted for him. I did not see anyone try to block his path. He locked eyes with me and approached me, coming within inches of my face. He played his drum the entire time he was in my face,” Sandmann recounted.

“I never interacted with this protestor. I did not speak to him. I did not make any hand gestures or other aggressive moves. To be honest, I was startled and confused as to why he had approached me. We had already been yelled at by another group of protestors, and when the second group approached I was worried that a situation was getting out of control where adults were attempting to provoke teenagers.”

“I believed that by remaining motionless and calm, I was helping to diffuse the situation. I realized everyone had cameras and that perhaps a group of adults was trying to provoke a group of teenagers into a larger conflict. I said a silent prayer that the situation would not get out of hand.”

While Sandmann said that he heard protestors tell the students that he had “stolen” Native American land and should “go back to Europe,” he urged calm from his fellow students.

“I never felt like I was blocking the Native American protester. He did not make any attempt to go around me. It was clear to me that he had singled me out for a confrontation, although I am not sure why.”

“I was not intentionally making faces at the protestor. I did smile at one point because I wanted him to know that I was not going to become angry, intimidated or be provoked into a larger confrontation. I am a faithful Christian and practicing Catholic, and I always try to live up to the ideals my faith teaches me – to remain respectful of others, and to take no action that would lead to conflict or violence,” Sandmann said.

The student said that he had provided his account to the Diocese of Covington.

After a fuller picture of events emerged, many media and Catholic figures apologized for their initial characterization of the event, with some admitting they had made judgments without sufficient information.

The March for Life tweeted Sunday night that “Given recent developments regarding the incident on Friday evening, March for Life has deleted its original tweet and removed our statement on this matter from our website. It is clear from new footage and additional accounts that there is more to this story than the original video captured.  We will refrain from commenting further until the truth is understood.”

The Diocese of Covington has not indicated what the next steps will be in its investigation of the matter.

CNA attempted to contact the Diocese of Covington and the Archdiocese of Louisville. Neither was available for comment as of press time.

 

 

 

Bishops ‘encouraged’ by Trump proposal for Dreamers, urge permanent solution

Washington D.C., Jan 21, 2019 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has responded cautiously to President Donald Trump’s proposal to extend protections for those eligible for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program, commonly referred to as Dreamers.

 

The president proposed an extension, along with other measures, in exchange for funding for a border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The president made the proposals January 19 as part of the ongoing efforts to end the partial government shutdown which has now lasted nearly a month.

 

“We are encouraged by the president’s openness to providing legislative relief for TPS holders and existing DACA recipients,” the bishops wrote in a Jan. 20 statement signed by USCCB president Cardinal Daniel DiNardo and Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Migration.

 

“However, we understand that the President’s proposal would only provide temporary relief, leaving many in a continued vulnerable state. We believe that a permanent legislative solution for TPS holders and for all Dreamers is vital.”

 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate minority leader Chuck Shumer (D-NY) dismissed the president’s proposals, with Shumer calling them “not a compromise but more hostage taking.”

 

The statement from DiNardo and Vásquez said that temporary measures would do little to reassure the families of children currently without a permanent resolution to their status.

 

“Throughout our parishes, there are many DACA youth and TPS holders, who have lived substantial parts of their lives in the U.S. contributing to this country. We listen [to] and understand the fear and uncertainty they and their families face and the anguish that they are currently experiencing as their existing immigration protections hang in the balance and come to an end,” the statement said.

 

“Temporary relief will not ease those fears or quell that anxiety. It is for this reason that we have long advocated for comprehensive immigration reform; reform that will provide permanent solutions: including border security, protection for vulnerable unaccompanied children and asylum seekers, and a defined path to citizenship to enable our immigrant brothers and sisters to fully contribute to our society.”

 

In a 13 minute address from the White House on Saturday, President Trump laid out what has been widely interpreted as a compromise offer on immigration and border security aimed at breaking the impasse between the administration and congressional Democrats.

 

The president has been at loggerheads with Pelosi and Shumer over support for his so-called border wall. The impasse over federal funding has led to a partial shutdown which has left hundreds of thousands of federal workers on furlough and without pay.

 

Trump said his offer to extend the existing status of TPS and DACA claimants was accompanied by other measures aimed at “protecting migrant children from exploitation and abuse,” including a proposal to allow minors to apply for asylum in the U.S. from their country of origin.

 

The plan also includes $5.7 billion for what Trump called “a strategic deployment of physical barriers, or a wall” along the southern border.

 

On these proposals, the USCCB statement expressed serious reservations, saying the president’s plan could make the current situation for unaccompanied minors worse, not better.

 

“The proposal calls for the construction of a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, a proposal that our brother bishops on both sides of the U.S. border with Mexico oppose, and it suggests changes in current law that would make it more difficult for unaccompanied children and asylum seekers to access protection.”

 

DiNardo and Vásquez urged leaders from both parties to reach a solution to the shutdown quickly and to recognize “the economic struggle that many families are facing, including those dependent on federal workers and those assisted by critical nutrition and housing programs.”

 

“We look forward to reviewing the president’s proposal in detail and hope to work with the White House and Congress to advance legislation that shows compassion, keeps us safe, and protects the vulnerable.”

What the pope said when Martin Luther King was killed

Memphis, Tenn., Jan 21, 2019 / 09:35 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr., was fatally shot outside his room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee.

King is remembered as the most visible leader of the civil rights movement, for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, and as the founding president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. But he was first a pastor at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, and remained active in pastoral leadership throughout his life.

On the day after King was killed, Pope Paul VI expressed remorse during his Angelus address, saying that the civil rights leader was “a Christian prophet for racial integration.”

Shortly after King’s death, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Council of Churches, the Synagogue Council of America, and the Standing Conference of Orthodox Bishops in the Americas released an interfaith statement, mourning their colleague in ministry.

We “bow together in grief before the shameful murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a unique apostle of the non-violent drive for justice, [and] affirm that no service of remembrance or local memorial is equal to the greatness of his labor or the vastness of our national need.”

The faith leaders also applauded the efforts of Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1968, encouraged Americans to support measures favoring integration, and pled with government officials to fund legislation aimed at fighting poverty.

We “affirm that only through massive contributions by the American people can this nation duly honor the life-offering of Martin Luther King, Jr. and responsibly lift up the burden of the poor and oppressed in our land.”

The statement also promised to implement coordinated efforts among religious communities to fight poverty.

We “declare our intention to take immediate steps to develop a coordinated sacrificial effort on the part of the American religious community to help the disadvantaged,” the statement read.

Faith leaders were not the only ones to pay tribute to King after his assassination.

On the night King was killed, Senator Robert Kennedy, a Catholic, spoke to the people of Indianapolis, urging them to greater compassion and a deterrence from violence. Kennedy spoke during a stop on his 1968 campaign for President, delivering the news to a multiracial crowd that King had been assassinated.

“What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or they be black,” he said on April 4, 1968.

Kennedy referenced the assassination of his own brother, President John F. Kennedy, which had taken place in 1963.

“For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and distrust at the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I can only say that I feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man. But we have to make an effort in the United States, we have to make an effort to understand, to go beyond these rather difficult times,” Kennedy said.

The senator urged Americans to take up King’s efforts, pray for King’s family and the nation, and join in solidarity those longing for peace.  

“The vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life, and want justice for all human beings who abide in our land,” he added.

“I shall ask you tonight to return home, to say a prayer for the family of Martin Luther King, that's true, but more importantly to say a prayer for our own country, which all of us love--a prayer for understanding and that compassion of which I spoke.”

 

This article was originally published on CNA April 3, 2018.

What Catholics can learn from ‘Tidying Up with Marie Kondo’

Denver, Colo., Jan 20, 2019 / 04:11 pm (CNA).- “Does it spark joy?”

That question has become a rallying cry for fans of Japanese cleaning guru Marie Kondo, whose 2012 book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” has become a New York Times bestseller and sold more than 3 million copies.

Adherents of the KonMari Method, as it is known, are instructed to gather every piece of clothing in their house and put them all together in a pile. One-by-one, they take each item in their hands, asking themselves, “Does this spark joy?” as a way of determining which items to keep and which to discard or donate. The process is repeated with all of their books, papers, miscellaneous items, and sentimental belongings, in that order.

The bestselling book was recently turned into a popular Netflix reality show, in which Kondo visits the houses of people living in various situations – a family with young children whose home feels chaotic and cluttered, a recently retired couple who have spent decades collecting clothes and baseball cards, a widow who cannot bring herself to get rid of any of her late husband’s possessions. Kondo works through the process with them, showing the dramatic results that can be achieved by decluttering.

The KonMari tidying ritual bears some striking similarities to the annual purging of possessions undertaken by the Companions of Christ in Denver.

An association of diocesan priests and deacons who live a common life of prayer and fraternity, the Denver Companions of Christ emphasize the observance of poverty, chastity and obedience in their ordained ministry.

As part of this commitment, they annually purge their possessions, on or around Ash Wednesday. If they are living in a community, they purge as a household.

They begin by physically laying out all of their belongings, a practice that Kondo also promotes, as it allows people to see how much they actually own, and to recognize where they have excess in their lives.

Following a series of guiding principles, the Companions then question each item as they make decisions about what to keep and what to discard.

“It kind of pushes you to admit whether or not you really need things,” says Fr. Mike Rapp, a member of the Denver community.

In an interview with CNA, Rapp said that taking a simple approach to material goods is something that can benefit all of the faithful – not just priests.

“For the Christian, this is a way of taking away those things that nickel-and-dime our lives, so that we can really have what we need and value that, and then have the space in our life, that sort of openness, that quietness, to really follow the Lord – to hear his voice, to pay attention to God…serving other people and loving them.”

He noted that one of the instructions given by John the Baptist to prepare people for the coming of Christ was, “Whoever has two tunics should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise.”

“You don’t need anything excessive,” Rapp said. “If you have excess in your life, it can be a distraction. Just get rid of it.”

The Catholic Church teaches that the evangelical counsel of poverty – along with chastity and obedience – is proposed by Christ to all disciples, as a way of growing in the Christian life and cooperating with grace.

Rapp pointed to Mark 10, in which a rich young man asks Christ what he must do to inherit eternal life. In addition to following the commandments, Christ instructs him to “Go sell what you have, give to the poor…then come, follow me.” But Scripture says the young man went away sad, “for he had many possessions.”

Material possessions are not inherently evil, Rapp clarified. But when we become attached to them, they go from being necessary items that help us in life to becoming “a real detriment, a distraction from the priorities” we should have.

Members of religious orders take a vow of poverty, which is generally lived in a very radical way, while canon law suggests that diocesan priests should live a simple life and give away any excess that they have to the poor, Rapp said.

“I think that’s a pretty good general rule for everybody.”

Determining what is excess in one’s life is a matter of personal discernment, the priest said. In his community, members are guided by the principle, “Start with nothing, and keep only what you really need.”

Other guidelines include trying to limit belongings to what can be packed in a car – fitting for the life of mobility to which priests are called – and asking the question, “Have I used this within the last year?”

“If you haven’t, you might not need it. You might not use it in the next 20 years,” Rapp said.

While they are purging, the Denver Companions pray in gratitude to God. This is a key part of the process – acknowledging that everything they possess is a gift from God and asking him to help them see what they should be letting go of and detaching themselves from.

“We do the purge communally, so you show everybody what you have. There’s a certain accountability to it,” Rapp added. Their fellow priests can also challenge them on specific belongings, inviting them to reflect on whether they actually need a certain item.

“We don’t actually need what we think we need,” he said.

For lay people, especially families with children, the criteria for what to keep may look different.

“It is really difficult when you have children of various ages to keep possessions simple, because there are various needs in the home happening all at the same time!” said Alicia Hernon, a mother of 10 children and the co-director, alongside her husband, of The Messy Family project and podcast.

“It’s hard for moms to give away clothes when you know you will have a child who will wear those clothes or play with those toys in just a few years,” she told CNA. “Yes, I would love to get rid of all the extra toys and clothes, but not if I will have to replace them for the next child hitting that stage just a short time from now.”

“For us, living simply means that I had to have an effective storage system for clothes and a set time to take them out when needed. It also means that we had to do the same with certain toys.”  

But while simplicity may look different for families – especially large ones – Hernon said there are still benefits to a simple lifestyle, especially because it helps family members “focus on the people around us.”  

“The fewer possessions we have, the less there is to clean, maintain and manage,” she said. “The fewer possessions children have, the more they will be encouraged to play outside and play with each other.”  

Catholics seeking to implement Kondo’s methods may notice that some of her practices display a sense of animism, the idea that inanimate objects have spirits. Kondo, who served for several years at a Shinto shrine in Japan, greets the houses that she enters before tidying them. She encourages people to talk to their possessions, thanking them for the role they have played in their lives. She suggests that the used items that one has discarded “will come back to you as the thing that will be of most use to who you are now.”

While Catholics should not take part in practices that do not align with the Catholic faith, this does not mean they need to reject the KonMari Method of tidying altogether, Rapp said. Catholicism has long understood how to embrace what is good in other cultures, without accepting ideas that are problematic.

Some of Kondo’s ideas can be adapted to a more Catholic worldview, the priest said. For example, rather than thanking a book or piece of clothing for its usefulness, Catholics can offer prayers of thanks to God, who is the true source of all material blessings.

“Thank you, Lord, for giving me this. It’s been very valuable for my life in these ways. I’m going to let go of it now,” he suggested as a prayer to offer while purging.

Recognizing everything as a blessing from God makes it easier to be detached, he noted. “Because God has given me all of these things, I can let go of them. I can give them away.”

Ultimately, Rapp said, simplicity in possessions is about building gratitude, detachment, and trust.

“If you want to follow Jesus’ way of simplicity, you have to accept that it’s a bit radical, and you have to be willing to detach. I think that’s the big key, this attitude of detachment.”

“You have to sort of trust that ‘I can let go of things, and my needs will be taken care of’,” he said, pointing to the passage in the Sermon on the Mount in which Christ reminds his followers of how God clothes the lilies of the field and feeds the birds of the air, instructing them to trust that God will also take care of their material needs.

“We as human beings feel a need to provide for ourselves,” Rapp said. “Letting go of things is an invitation to really trust in the Lord, and to celebrate and feel the providence of God, that God really does provide for us, that God has provided for us in remarkable ways.”

For the Denver Companions, purging physical things is a reminder to reflect on spiritual poverty, which is more important than material poverty.

Rapp said the community undergoes a similar process of seeking to identify excesses or unhealthy attachments in the spiritual life, asking themselves, “What do I cling to? My time, my energy, my friendships, my talent, my opinions?”

This helps them recognize all of these things as gifts from God, and opportunities to give thanks and practice detachment, fostering spiritual poverty, since God promises his kingdom to the “poor in spirit.”

“That’s what we’re really looking for,” Rapp said. “We don’t find our peace and happiness in things.”

Former vicar: Vatican already knew about sexual abuse allegations against Argentine bishop

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jan 20, 2019 / 12:38 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In an exclusive report from the Associated Press, the former vicar to Argentine Bishop Gustavo Oscar Zanchetta said that the Vatican had had information about sexual abuse allegations against Zanchetta for several years.

This contradicts a Vatican statement made just weeks ago which said that Vatican officials had only gained knowledge of sexual abuse allegations against Zanchetta a few months ago.

Bishop Zanchetta resigned as Bishop of Orán, Argentina on Aug. 1, 2017, slightly more than four years after his appointment there. At the time, he cited health problems and “difficulty in managing relations with the diocesan clergy and in very tense relations with the priests of the diocese,” and “an incapacity to govern the clergy.”

About four months after his resignation, Zanchetta was appointed by Francis to the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA) in December 2017. The APSA manages the Holy See's assets and real estate holdings.

On January 3, 2019, the Vatican announced that they had first received accusations of alleged sexual misconduct against Zanchetta only a few months ago, in the fall of 2018.

Alessandro Gisotti, interim Holy See press officer, said Jan. 3 that “at the time of his resignation there had been against (Bishop Zanchetta) accusations of authoritarianism, but there had been against him no accusation of sexual abuse…the accusations of sexual abuse date to this autumn.”

But Rev. Juan Jose Manzano, Zanchetta’s former vicar, told the AP that the Vatican received complaints against Zanchetta in both 2015 and 2017 for alleged “obscene behavior”, misconduct and sexual harassment of adult seminarians, and naked selfies found on his phone.

Manzano, who now is a parish priest in Argentina, told the AP that he and several other diocesan officials alerted the Vatican in 2015 of Zanchetta’s concerning behavior. He said he sent the Vatican the naked selfies and other compromising images that had been found on the bishop’s phones.

"In 2015, we just sent a 'digital support' with selfie photos of the previous bishop in obscene or out of place behavior that seemed inappropriate and dangerous," he told the AP. The 2015 complaint against Zanchetta was not issued as an official canonical complaint, Manzano noted.

"It was an alarm that we made to the Holy See via some friendly bishops. The nunciature didn't intervene directly, but the Holy Father summoned Zanchetta and he justified himself saying that his cellphone had been hacked, and that there were people who were out to damage the image of the pope."

Manzano said that for a time after being summoned to the Vatican, Zanchetta’s behavior seemed to improve. But then it worsened, and he would allegedly visit the seminary “at all hours,” get drunk with seminarians, and travel with them alone often without the permission of the rector of the seminary.

Again in May or June of 2017, Manzano told the AP that he and the rector of the seminary made a second complaint against Zanchetta to the Vatican's nuncio in Buenos Aires, who forwarded it along to the Vatican. At that time, the situation had become “much more serious, not just because there had been a question about sexual abuses, but because the diocese was increasingly heading into the abyss," Manzano said.

Shortly thereafter, in July 2017, Zanchetta announced his resignation from his position as Bishop of Oran. After spending some time in Spain, Zanchetta took up his position in the Vatican in December 2017.

Manzano said part of the reason the allegations against Zanchetta may have not been taken seriously by the Vatican was because of the bishop’s close relationship with Pope Francis.

Francis had appointed Zanchetta as Bishop of Oran in 2013. Zanchetta had also been the executive undersecretary of the Argentine bishops conference which was headed by then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio from 2005-2011.

Still, Manzano said he didn’t believe the Vatican meant to lie or hide anything about Zanchetta. He said he believed Francis and other Vatican officials had also been victims of the bishop’s "manipulation." He said the recent Vatican statement may have been making a distinction between informally filed allegations and a formal complaint against Zanchetta.

"There was never any intent to hide anything. There was never any intent of the Holy Father to defend him against anything," Manzano said.

According to Gisotti’s Jan. 3 statement, the current Bishop of Oran is in the process of collecting testimonies regarding allegations against Zanchetta, which will be sent to the Congregation for Bishops.

“If the elements needed to proceed are confirmed, the case will be referred to the special commission for bishops,” Gisotti said.

Zanchetta has been placed on a temporary leave from his APSA position while the investigation is ongoing.