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Friday, October 4, 2019

Indiana Catholic bishops call for renewed moratorium on federal executions

The federal government’s decision in July to end a 16-year moratorium on executing federal inmates is regrettable, unnecessary and morally unjustified. As we observe Respect Life Month in the Catholic Church, we, the Bishops of Indiana, in as much as federal executions are conducted in our State, ask President Trump to rescind the U.S. Justice Department’s decision to resume capital punishment later this year. We respectfully implore that the sentences of all federal death row inmates be commuted to life imprisonment.

In seeking to end the use of the death penalty, we do not dismiss the evil and harm caused by people who commit horrible crimes, especially murder. We share in the sorrow and loss of families and victims of such crimes. And we call upon our faith community and all persons of good will to stand with the victims and to provide spiritual, pastoral and personal support.

All life is a gift from God and each life has dignity. As recently confirmed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “The death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person.” (CCC #2267) Capital punishment undermines the dignity of human life. Taking human life is justifiable only in self-defense, when there is no other way to protect oneself, another innocent person or society from extreme violence or death. In the case of incarcerated prisoners, the aggressor has been stopped and society is protected. Hence, it is no longer permissible to take the life.

In addition to the moral problems with capital punishment, it continues the cycle of violence; it neither helps the victims who survive, nor does it mitigate the loss of a loved one. And it precludes the possibility of reconciliation and rehabilitation. As Pope Francis has stated, “A just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation.”

The application of capital punishment also calls for its discontinuance. The problems are well documented. These include: Its unequal application to minorities, the poor and mentally ill; its cost, which is more expensive than a lifetime of incarceration; the more than 160 persons since 1977 serving time on death row who have been exonerated of their guilt; and the instances of innocent people being wrongly executed. Moreover, its application also impacts those who are associated with it, particularly correctional officers and those who are obligated to participate in taking a human life. The psychological and spiritual harm that these persons experience is real.

We join our brother bishops of the United States in calling for an end to the death penalty. Twenty-five states no longer use it as a form of punishment. We ask the federal government to continue its moratorium until it can be rescinded formally as a matter of law.

Most Reverend Charles C Thompson D.D., J.C.L., Archdiocese of Indianapolis

Most Reverend Kevin C. Rhoades, D.D., Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend

Most Reverend Timothy L Doherty, S.T.L., PhD., Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana

Most Reverend Joseph M Siegel D.D., S.T.L., Diocese of Evansville

Reverend Michael J. Yadron, diocesan administrator, Diocese of Gary

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Statement on discovery of remains of over 2,000 unborn children

I join my voice to the many people who have expressed their horror and disgust at the discovery of 2,246 medically preserved remains of unborn babies in the Illinois home of Ulrich Klopfer, who performed thousands of abortions in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. I strongly support the investigation being carried out by the attorneys general of Illinois and Indiana. I also offer any assistance, including the use of our Catholic Cemetery in Fort Wayne, for the proper and dignified burial of the remains of these unborn children.

I am glad that some abortion advocates have joined in expressing their shock and disturbance at the discovery of the remains of the aborted babies, yet I am amazed at their simultaneous deceptive and false affirmation that abortion is health care and serves and empowers women. Some promote an abortion agenda so radical that they support legal abortion even in the third trimester, without restrictions. 

Abortion is not health care. It is the intentional killing of innocent and defenseless human beings. Abortion does not serve or empower women; rather, it harms and victimizes them. The wounds of abortion are deep, often resulting in emotional, psychological and spiritual suffering. The Church offers hope and healing to all who suffer from the pain of abortion and its aftermath through our post-abortion ministry, Project Rachel. I invite any woman or man suffering the wounds of abortion to contact our Project Rachel ministry at 1-855-RACHEL HOPE. We feel especially at this time for those women who had abortions performed by Ulrich Klopfer who have been traumatized by the discovery of the remains of the unborn babies who were possibly their own. 

The discovery of the fetal remains shows the barbarity of abortion. As disturbed as we are by the discovery, we need to be even more disturbed that innocent human life continues to be taken here in our diocese with the opening a few months ago of the Whole Women’s Health clinic in South Bend. This facility, though rightly not granted a license by the Indiana Department of Health, was allowed to open and operate by a federal court injunction. After the closing of Klopfer’s clinic in Fort Wayne in 2013 and the closing of his clinic in South Bend in 2016, when his medical license was suspended, our diocese had been a place without abortion facilities, where innocent human life was protected. 

Women in crisis pregnancies were served with care and compassion, especially through the Women’s Care Centers. This care and compassion continue, though now we again have a place where the most vulnerable and voiceless among us can be killed in their mother’s womb. Let us pray fervently that our diocese will one day soon be again without an abortion clinic. And let us pray for a greater respect for all human life and for a greater respect for the true dignity of women.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades statement on gun violence

The terrible plague of deadly mass shootings in our country calls us, in the words of the U.S. bishops, “to fight this social disease that has infected our nation.” I join my voice to my brother bishops in inviting all to pray and work to end this culture of violence and to advocate for needed changes to prevent this scourge from continuing.

The proliferation of mass shootings can be called an epidemic against life. When mass shootings occur, there is extensive coverage by the media. However, we need to bring attention to the fact that murderous gun violence also takes place on a daily basis throughout our nation in individual shootings which total on average over 100 people each day in homes and on the streets. Gun violence is truly a national epidemic.

Some citizens consider the right to bear arms, enshrined in our Second Amendment, an absolute right. Nowhere in Church teaching do we find an inherent natural right to bear arms. The legitimate use of arms, however, could be seen to fall under the Church’s teaching on self-defense. People can choose to own and use guns or not to own and use guns, presuming, of course, that their use would be legitimate (e.g. hunting or self-protection).

Besides the principle of self-defense, it is important to recognize the right to life of the human person and the principle of the common good. As a people of and for life, we cannot remain idle as the right to life is violated on a daily basis. We must not be indifferent when the common good is threatened. In the light of the right to life and the common good, both rooted in the Gospel of Jesus, we must confront the plague of gun violence in our nation.

Common sense reforms and prudent policies are needed to curb gun violence. I join my brother bishops in rejecting an absolutist interpretation of the Second Amendment. For the sake of the common good, we need reasonable gun control, beginning with comprehensive background checks and a ban on high-powered, high-capacity weapons meant for the military.

At the same time, we cannot and should not ignore the root causes of gun violence. We need prevention and intervention strategies that treat people who pose a threat of violence. Increased access to mental health care is necessary. We need to fight hatred, racism and xenophobia which so often can lead to violence. We also cannot ignore the moral and spiritual vacuum in which many children and youth are raised -- homes where there is abuse and neglect, alcoholism and drug addiction. And we must address the crisis of fatherlessness.

Tragically, we live in a culture that doesn’t value life intrinsically, as seen in the recognition of so-called rights to abortion, euthanasia, and physician-assisted suicide. Should we really be surprised that when life is not valued in these situations, life is not valued in instances of gun violence? Should we really be surprised at the prevalence of gun violence when violence is celebrated in much of our media, music and even video games? The glorification of violence reveals a disturbing cultural attitude.

We are called to build a culture of life and a civilization of love. Easy access to deadly assault weapons does not build a culture of life. Regulating and controlling guns is part of building a culture of life -- so is our teaching on human life and dignity, on marriage and family, on right and wrong, on justice and peace, and on rights and responsibilities.

Finally, there is a spiritual dimension to the crisis of violence that we must attend to. Seeds of violence within the human heart can grow into violent thoughts, words, and deeds. We need to ask God to purify our hearts and to convert the hearts of those who are tempted to commit acts of violence.

I invite all to pray for an end to gun violence and to pray for peace in our hearts, communities, nation, and world. Let us hear anew the words of Jesus: “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God.”

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Vicars Forane appointments

The Most Reverend Kevin C. Rhoades, Bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend, has made the following appointment of Vicars Forane (Deans) for the six vicarates of the diocese, effective on Dec. 1, 2018, for a three-year term.

Vicarate A - Rev. Msgr. William C. Schooler

Vicarate B - Rev. Christopher Lapp

Vicarate C - Rev. Robert Van Kempen

Vicarate D - Rev. Thomas Shoemaker

Vicarate E - Rev. William J. Kummer

Vicarate F - Rev. David Ruppert

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Statement regarding conclusion of DA investigation

The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend appreciates the swift and thorough investigation into the unsubstantiated allegation against Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades. As anticipated, the investigation exonerated Bishop Rhoades. The district attorney found the allegation was without merit and stated, “After a full investigation, the Dauphin County District Attorney has determined that there is no basis to conclude that Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades ever engaged in a criminal or otherwise improper relationship.” The relationship in question was, “in the context of pastoral care and arose out of the recognized tradition of prison ministry.”

While it’s important that allegations be brought forward, it’s equally important for due process to take place. The result of this investigation underscores the importance of allowing appropriate authorities to determine credibility of accusations before the reputation of any individual is impugned in the court of public opinion.

The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend stands firm in sympathy and support for all victims of child sexual abuse and encourages victims to report allegations. Bishop Rhoades expresses his gratitude for the support he has received from parishioners during the past week. He states, “I have offered up the pain of this difficult time for the victim survivors of child sexual abuse.”

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Statement regarding media reports

In response to media reports regarding an alleged incident involving Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend has issued the following statement:

Bishop Rhoades adamantly denies any validity to this accusation and the insinuation of inappropriate behavior. He did nothing wrong, and is confident any investigation will bear this out.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Statement on Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report

“The Grand Jury Report on six Pennsylvania dioceses details dreadful reports of sexual abuse of children and equally appalling indifference to victims. I would like to offer my heartfelt sympathy and support to all of those victimized by abusive priests.

During my time in Harrisburg and now here in Fort Wayne-South Bend, I have upheld an unwavering commitment to child safety, closely following all policies and procedures put in place. The Grand Jury Report mentions two incidents during my time as Bishop of the Diocese of Harrisburg. In both of those situations, I followed all child protection policies and procedures, notified law enforcement, and took other action as appropriate, since each of the accused priests had already been removed from public ministry due to previous allegations. For more details on those cases and how they were handled, I would direct you to the letter I wrote to the Grand Jury which is attached to its report.

If we are to regain the trust of our faithful and the communities we serve, we must be vigilant in our efforts to protect our youth. My commitment to this effort remains as strong today as it was during my time in Harrisburg.”

To view Bishop Rhoades’ Response to Excerpts of the Fortieth Statewide Investigating Grand Jury Report Number 1, please click here: