Allegations against top priest under review after AP report
VATICAN CITY — The Catholic Church in Texas says it is reviewing allegations that a top monsignor continued to hear a married woman’s confessions after luring her into a sexual relationship, a potentially serious crime under church law.
The announcement was issued by the Galveston-Houston Archdiocese led by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, after the woman broke years of silence to denounce his handling of her case in an Associated Press investigation this week. The archdiocese has defended DiNardo’s handling of the case as swift and just. But it said Friday that the issue of confession was a “new development” presented by Laura Pontikes in the AP report and would be “thoroughly reviewed in accordance with canon law.”
Pontikes has accused Monsignor Frank Rossi, DiNardo’s former deputy, of exploiting her emotional dependency on him to manipulate her into a sexual relationship, even as he heard her confessions, counseled her husband on their strained marriage and solicited hundreds of thousands of dollars from them in donations for the church. The archdiocese removed Rossi from the Houston parish, but allowed him to return to ministry in another diocese after he completed a treatment program.
Pontikes protested to the archdiocese and went to police in August. After AP inquiries last week, Rossi’s new bishop placed him on leave pending the outcome of the investigation.
Rossi’s lawyer has said he is cooperating with the police investigation but declined to comment further. The archdiocese has defended him, saying the relationship was consensual and did not involve intercourse. Pontikes claims it did.
Analysis: Trump an impolitic guest on trips abroad
SHANNON, Ireland — Halfway through a summer set of four international trips, President Donald Trump has proven himself to be an impolitic guest, soaking up pomp and pageantry while leaving behind hosts he scorched despite their best efforts to favor the president with flattery.
Trump on Friday wrapped up five days in Europe that, much like his stay in Japan two weeks earlier, showed how his “America First” foreign policy mixed with his “Me First” Twitter habit have made him an unpredictable partner for America’s allies, who continue to grapple with how to manage the president and fortify economic and strategic ties with the United States.
Time after time, diplomatic niceties fell by the wayside as the president contradicted and undermined his hosts.
“Not only has Trump been ungracious on these trips, he is losing credibility with his behavior,” said presidential historian Douglas Brinkley. “No world leader can trust President Trump because at any moment he may shatter the glass right in front of him; a single whim, or tweet, could upend a deal that had been months in the making. He leaves world leaders wiping their brows and wishing for him to leave.”
The United Kingdom this week welcomed Trump for a grand state visit, an honor bestowed on only two previous presidents, hoping to strengthen ties and lay the groundwork for a new U.S.-U.K. trade deal as Britain moves toward exiting the European Union. But even as Trump praised the royal family (claiming “automatic chemistry” with Queen Elizabeth II), he meddled in the U.K.’s internal politics, played tough on trade and took a sharp jab at the American-born Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle.
Prosecutor: More than 60 deaths now linked to serial killer
DALLAS — A Texas prosecutor said Friday that investigators have linked more than 60 killings in at least 14 states to a 79-year-old California inmate who may be the most prolific serial killer in U.S. history.
Ector County District Attorney Bobby Bland said Samuel Little continues to cooperate with investigators from around the country who interrogate him in prison about cold case killings dating back to the 1970s. Among those who spoke to him were investigators from Ohio, where Little grew up and where he’s suspected of killing at least five women.
Little was convicted of killing three Los Angeles-area women and pleaded guilty to killing a Texas woman, and he’s serving life sentences in California. Little, who lived a nomadic lifestyle, claims to have killed 93 women as he crisscrossed the country over the years.
Bland said Little is in failing health and has exhausted his appeals, leading him to be forthcoming with investigators.
“At this point in his life I think he’s determined to make sure that his victims are found,” he said.
Syria uses familiar tactic in rebel Idlib: Bombing civilians
BEIRUT — The father could hardly bear seeing his 18-month-old daughter’s panic every time the Syrian government warplanes flew over their home. Every day for a month, she ran to him to hide in his arms, tearful and breathless.
Abdurrahim had refused to flee his hometown throughout years of violence, and he was determined to hold out through the new, intensified government offensive launched in April against Idlib province, the last significant territory held by Syria’s rebels.
But now he had his first child, Ruwaida, to think about.
“That look on my daughter’s face … is really what is going to kill me,” said the 25-year-old Abdurrahim, who asked that his last name not be published for security reasons.
His determination collapsed when an airstrike on May 30 pulverized the house next door, crushing to death three children, one of them a girl Ruwaida’s age. He whisked his daughter and wife to a nearby village, hoping it would be safe.
Too much Dolce Vita can get you banned from Rome
ROME — Too much Dolce Vita can get you banned from Rome, where the mayor on Friday ushered in a permanent get-tough approach on boorish behavior by tourists and those Romans who exploit them.
Exasperated by tourists who frolic in Rome’s public fountains, vandalize its monuments and treat its landmarks as their own personal living rooms, the city famous for its artistic heritage and easy-going lifestyle has had enough.
The Italian capital’s first populist mayor, Virginia Raggi, presented a law banning bad behavior including eating or drinking or climbing on monuments, walking around partially unclothed and wading through fountains — the latter temptation made famous by Anita Ekberg, who danced in the city’s magnificent Baroque Trevi Fountain in Federico Fellini’s classic film immortalizing Rome’s carefree spirit.
While many of the measures already existed in temporary form or were rarely enforced, a unanimous city council vote on Thursday night made them permanent. And there’s a new twist: disobeying these rules means local authorities can exile the badly behaved from the city’s historic center for 48 hours.
“The Rome city center is an area protected by UNESCO, so clearly our center is our business ticket,” Raggi told The AP in an interview in which she promised “zero tolerance for those marring our city.”
University of Alabama rejects $26M gift after abortion flap
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The University of Alabama gave back a philanthropist’s $26.5 million donation and took his name off the law school Friday, a week after he called on students to boycott the institution over the state’s new abortion ban.
Hugh F. Culverhouse Jr., a 70-year-old Florida real estate investor, said he has no doubt the board of trustees acted in response to his remarks, and he complained that the state of Alabama is only reinforcing its reputation as “the land of the backward,” full of “hicks.”
University officials emphatically denied the decision had anything to do with Culverhouse’s stand on the abortion law and said it was prompted instead by his attempts to dictate how the money should be spent. They did not elaborate.
Culverhouse’s pledge, announced in September, was the biggest contribution ever made to the university. In return, the law school was renamed the Hugh F. Culverhouse Jr. School of Law.
Within minutes of the trustees’ vote, a maintenance crew had removed his name and the university had wired him a $21.5 million refund of the money he had already given the university toward fulfilling his pledge.
‘I was wrong’: Officer who shot 911 caller gets 12 1/2 years
MINNEAPOLIS — A former Minneapolis police officer who shot and killed an unarmed woman who had called 911 said Friday he “knew in an instant that I was wrong” and apologized to her family, just moments before a judge brushed off a defense request for leniency and ordered him to prison for 12½ years.
The stiff sentence for Mohamed Noor capped a case that had been fraught by race from the start. Noor, a Somali American, shot Justine Ruszczyk Damond , a white, upper-middle-class dual citizen of the U.S. and Australia, when she approached his squad car in the alley behind her home in July 2017.
Noor, 33, testified at trial that a loud bang on the squad car startled him and his partner and that he fired to protect his partner’s life. But prosecutors criticized Noor for shooting without seeing a weapon or Damond’s hands, and in April, a jury convicted him of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Some people in Minneapolis’ large Somali community and the larger black community argued the case was handled differently from police shootings across the country in which the victims were black and the officers were white. And Noor’s conviction came after Jeronimo Yanez, a Latino officer, was cleared of manslaughter in the 2016 death of black motorist Philando Castile in a nearby suburb.
Ahmed Nur carried a sign at the courthouse that had the words “Black, Muslim, Immigrant and Guilty” with boxes checked next to each word. He said he doubted a white officer would have been treated the same in Noor’s situation.