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ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
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U.S. bishops: Jesus' Sacred Heart is open for you, despite 'bitter affliction' of coronavirus

Sat, 04/04/2020 - 15:22

Washington D.C., Apr 4, 2020 / 01:22 pm (CNA).- The novel coronavirus pandemic's effects on victims and the closure of churches have deeply pained the Catholic faithful and clergy, but Holy Week is a time to join together to seek God's mercy and love in the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Archbishop Jose Gomez, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has said.

“In the heart of Jesus, pierced as he hung on the cross on Good Friday, we see the love of God for humanity, his love for each one of us,” Gomez said in an April 3 message for Holy Week.

“This Holy Week will be different. Our churches may be closed, but Christ is not quarantined and his Gospel is not in chains,” he said. “Our Lord’s heart remains open to every man and woman. Even though we cannot worship together, each of us can seek him in the tabernacles of our own hearts.”

“Because he loves us, and because his love can never change, we should not be afraid, even in this time of trial and testing,” said Gomez. “In these mysteries that we remember this week, let us renew our faith in his love.”

Gomez said he will pray the Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on Good Friday, April 10, for an end to the coronavirus pandemic. He asked Catholics to join him via internet livestream at 9 a.m. Pacific Time / noontime Eastern Time. The livestream will be hosted at the Archdiocese of Los Angeles website and the U.S. bishops' conference Facebook page.

“Let us join as one family of God here in the United States in asking our Lord for his mercy,” said Gomez, who added that Pope Francis has granted a special plenary indulgence to those who pray the litany for an end to the pandemic.

The novel coronavirus has created a situation “almost without precedent” in the Church, he said.

The virus, formally known as COVID-19, has infected over 1.1 million people and killed 63,800 worldwide as of Saturday afternoon, according to figures from the John Hopkins University COVID-19 Map. In the U.S., about 274,000 have tested positive, 36,000 have been hospitalized, and 7,000 have died since the epidemic began, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

More contagious and deadly than influenza, the virus has strained the resources of hospitals in the U.S. and worldwide. The virus has ravaged Italy and Italy's Catholics, whose dead include dozens of priests. It is especially deadly for the elderly and those with health conditions.

Many businesses and social activities deemed non-essential have been ordered closed by government authorities. Catholic churches closed, sometimes in advance of government orders, for fear of spreading the disease. The closures have caused major economic and social disruption, putting millions of people out of work.

The closure of churches and restrictions on the administration of the sacraments have been especially painful for some Catholics, a situation Gomez acknowledged.

“My brother bishops and I are painfully aware that many of our Catholic people are troubled and hurt by the loss of the Eucharist and the consolation of the sacraments,” he said. “This is a bitter affliction that we all feel deeply. We ache with our people and we long for the day when we can be reunited around the altar of the Lord to celebrate the sacred mysteries.”

“In this difficult moment, we ask God for his grace, that we might bear this burden together with patience and charity, united as one family of God in his universal Church,” he said.  

The Litany to the Sacred Heart of Jesus draws on centuries-old Christian devotions. It asks mercy from the Heart of Jesus, describing it as the “glowing furnace of charity,” “rich to all who invoke thee,” “desire of the everlasting hills,” “source of all consolation,” “our life and resurrection,” “victim for our sins,” “salvation of those who hope in thee,” and “hope of those who die in thee.”

The indulgence applies to those who pray the Litany of the Sacred Heart on Good Friday, pray for the intentions of the pope, are “truly sorry for their sins,” and desire to go to confession as soon as possible. In Catholic teaching, which recognizes that every sin must be purified on earth or in Purgatory, an indulgence remits “the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven.”

Gomez said we should ask the Virgin Mary to intercede for us, that God “might deliver us from every evil and grant us peace in our day.”

His April 3 message further reflected on the situation.

“Future generations will look back on this as the long Lent of 2020, a time when disease and death suddenly darkened the whole earth,” he said. “As we enter into Holy Week, these most sacred days of the year, Catholics across the United States and the world are living under quarantine, our societies shut down by the coronavirus pandemic.”

“But we know that our Redeemer lives. Even in this extraordinary and challenging moment, we give thanks for what Jesus Christ has done for us by his life, death, and resurrection,” said Gomez. “Even now, we marvel at the beautiful mystery of our salvation, how precious each one of us is in the eyes of God.”

The Los Angeles archdiocese website has dedicated a web page to the Good Friday Sacred Heart litany and livestream.

Monks offer free caskets amid coronavirus

Sat, 04/04/2020 - 14:30

Denver, Colo., Apr 4, 2020 / 12:30 pm (CNA).- An Iowa monastery of Trappist monks is offering an unusual but necessary act of charity amid the global pandemic - free caskets to financially struggling families who have lost a loved one.

New Melleray Abbey has been making caskets for the public and offering prayers for the deceased since 1999. The monastery announced last week its new initiative to support families affected by COVID-19.

“The COVID-19 virus will visit many families that are financially vulnerable and unprepared. In addition to their grief, they will wonder, ; ‘Where will we lay’ our loved one who has been unexpectedly taken from us,” Father Mark Scott, the order’s abbot, wrote in an announcement of the policy.

“To financially stressed families directly impacted by the COVID-19 virus, the monks of New Melleray offer free of charge pine caskets made from trees from the abbey forest,” he added.
 
New Melleray Abbey supports itself by building solid wood caskets made from fully matured trees harvested at the order’s acreage in Dubuque County, Iowa.

All of the donated caskets will be blessed and, as the order continues to pray for the deceased, the monks will send a card of remembrance to families on the first anniversary of the person’s death. The order also plants a tree for each casket made, as a living memorial.

Marjorie Lehmann, director of administration for New Melleray Abbey, told CNA that the order has already received a few requests for free caskets since the initiative was announced March 25.

“The free casket offer is a temporary measure designed to provide some financial relief to families who are undergoing financial distress because of COVID-19,” she said.

While the monks live a hidden life of prayer, she said, they are keenly aware of the current events. She said the order has provided this service to be close to the pandemic victims, and provide a service to those families facing financial difficulties as well.

“In the crisis of COVID-19, [they] make the offer of the casket as an expression of their solidarity with all those who are suffering because of the virus,” Lehmann said.

“They believe that it's a corporal work of mercy to bury the dead and … since they are a cloistered group of monks, this is how they can reach out to the world and help in a time of need.”

More than one million people have been infected with the novel coronavirus and more 50,000 have died. More than 10 million people in the U.S. have filed for unemployment in the last two weeks, as mandatory lockdowns have forced numerous businesses and organizations to close their doors.  

Lehmann said the virus is a potential danger for anyone, noting that the full ramifications of the pandemic have yet to be seen.

“[It] could really be anyone who might be out of a job because their workplaces needed to close down because of this pandemic. It really could be anyone finding themselves in financial stress or needing that comfort of burying their loved one and a small part of relief in their life from a donated casket,” she said.

“[It’s] honoring someone's life, respecting the person that passes away is honoring that person's life and validating that person's life,” Lehmann added.

“People need people to show compassion. This is a very small gesture of something that a lot of people would need in this pandemic. So to be compassionate and know that people are not alone, that we're thinking of them, we're praying for them, and we're here to help in this manner. There's no reason not to do it.”

 

How the Phoenix diocese is helping families celebrate Holy Week at home

Sat, 04/04/2020 - 14:01

Phoenix, Ariz., Apr 4, 2020 / 12:01 pm (CNA).- Holy Week this year is going to look different for almost every Catholic in the United States.

On Palm Sunday, people will wave last year’s palms, or this year’s pine branches, or, if they’re lucky, palms from their parish, from the confines of their home instead of the pews of their parish. On Holy Thursday, feet will be washed by a family member, or not at all. For the veneration of the Cross, Catholics will kiss their personal crucifixes instead of lining up to kiss the crucifix at their parish. Candle-lit Easter Vigils will be celebrated by solitary priests livestreaming Mass from empty chapels.

It’s going to be different, and it’s going to be hard. That’s why a group of priests and laypeople at the Diocese of Phoenix compiled “A Journey Through Holy Week for Families”, an online flipbook resource to guide Catholic families through celebrating Holy Week from their homes.

“We had a meeting last week...specifically about Holy Week and how to enter into Holy Week knowing that we couldn't have public Masses at this time,” Fr. John Parks, the Vicar for Evangelization for the Diocese of Phoenix, told CNA. “We just thought - what are ways that we could really strengthen the family and invite the family to pray as the domestic Church?” he said.

“You're not going to be able to see the washing of the feet at Mass. So can we include a little rite from home that a family could do the washing the feet of their family members?” Parks said.

“Or on good Friday, again, you can't see or experience the veneration of the Cross at Mass, could we equip a family to do a little veneration of the Cross from home?”

After the brainstorming session, Parks’ colleague compiled all the readings, prayers and resources into a 150 page online “flipbook” for families. The books covers the Mass readings as well as prayers and other liturgically-themed activities from Palm Sunday through the Triduum and Easter Sunday, as well as the readings and resources for Divine Mercy Sunday, which comes eight days after Easter.

The online book includes links to videos that include everything from livestream Masses from St. Mary’s Cathedral in Phoenix to talks by Bishop Robert Barron to recordings of songs to sing during prayer time at home.

It also includes links to recipes, virtual pilgrimages, coloring pages for kids, a guide to cut out palms from green construction paper, and a Holy Thursday puppet show script.

“There is so much...there's all these different activities and songs you can play. So my only fear that it'd be a little overwhelming. But we’re trying to tell parents, just pick two or three things and have a little game plan for the day,” he said.

“So it’s like reading a playbook for sports - they don't run every play, you just pick the play that you think will help your team, so that's what we're thinking of.”

Parks said while he understands that this Holy Week will be different than what families are used to experiencing, he thinks that this is a special time of grace for families, who are acting as the domestic Church.

“I really believe that God is pouring out a grace now to strengthen the domestic Church in the family. And that there's a great thing poured out specifically for parents, to live deeper in their natural authority that they have over their children, to make them saints and to help them,” he said.

“This little book, it's like ‘ut vadat tecum’, in Latin, ‘to go with’ you. It goes with you. It's a tool that we hope to put in the hands of parents and pastors to help them equip families to walk through this week,” he said.

“That would be my desire, is that even though people can't participate in public liturgies, there's still a way to participate, to a lesser degree of course, but from the home. And I think for some families that might be unique. They've never done a washing of the feet. They've venerated the Cross. They've never prayed the Stations of the Cross in their own home. It can be a really beautiful moment of experiencing holy things in the home.”

Palm supplier sees business halved by coronavirus cancelations

Sat, 04/04/2020 - 01:55

Denver, Colo., Apr 3, 2020 / 11:55 pm (CNA).- Thomas Sowell and his wife own Southeast Palm and Foliage in Astor, Florida, in the middle of the state, about 40 miles west of Daytona Beach.

“It's in the middle of nowhere, actually,” Sowell told CNA in January.

Sowell isn’t Catholic, but his business supplies palms to hundreds of Catholic parishes across the country— in every state, as well as in Canada— not to mention the many Episcopal, Eastern Orthodox, and Lutheran communities that also use palms.

Last year, the Sowells’ farm shipped over four million palm leaves.

“There's not many of us that do this. There's not many people, not many companies do what we do,” Sowell told CNA.

“I know that there have been, over the past, say, 50 years, quite a few other companies embark upon this, but for whatever reason they couldn't hang in there with it. It's really difficult.”

Sowell never imagined how difficult this year’s harvest would turn out to be.

Amid the coronavirus outbreak, and with Mass suspended through Holy Week in every Catholic diocese in the United States, the Sowell’s business is taking a hit.

“We had an incredible number of cancellations up until two weeks ago,” he told CNA April 2.

Most of his orders for Palm Sunday come in during January, he said. This gives the palm suppliers the chance to harvest the palms, package them, and refrigerate them so they stay fresh before they’re shipped.

Normally, some of the biggest challenges to Tom’s business are natural, such as hurricanes and flooding. In terms of the weather, this was a great harvest year, he said, and they were able to gather all the necessary palms to fulfil the Palm Sunday orders they originally had. The process of cutting, cleaning and preparing the strips of palm is incredibly labor intensive.

But then, as the coronavirus pandemic took a hold in the US, parishes started canceling those orders.

“So here we are with an incredible amount of palms left over that were scheduled to be prepared and shipped...we just lost that,” Sowell said.

Altogether, Sowell said his family will likely ship fewer than half the palms they did last year.

“It's unbelievable. It's hard to grasp what's going on globally,” he said.

Though Sowell also uses leftover palms to create ashes for Ash Wednesday, he has such a large enough stockpile of ash— eight to ten years worth, in fact— that he said it doesn’t make sense to burn any more palms, especially since ash doesn’t go bad.

All the extra palms are currently in a dumpster on his property. The only thing he can really do with them, he said, is use them as fertilizer for next year’s crop.

“So we'll just take them out, spend a few days to drive through the areas where they came from and just scatter them back out again,” he said.

Kate Olivera contributed to this report.

U.S. religious freedom ambassador calls for release of prisoners of conscience

Fri, 04/03/2020 - 21:00

Washington D.C., Apr 3, 2020 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- The U.S. religious freedom ambassador on Thursday called on governments to release prisoners of conscience during the new coronavirus pandemic.

“In this time of pandemic, religious prisoners should be released.  We call on all governments around the world to do so,” Sam Brownback, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, said on April 2 during a conference call with reporters.

He said that the “very crowded, unsanitary conditions” faced by some prisoners is a nightmare scenario during a pandemic.

“These are people that should not be in jail in the first place,” he said. “They are simply in jail for peacefully practicing their faith, and yet various regimes put these peaceful prisoners in jail.”

An official U.S. list of global prisoners of conscience was mandated under the 2016 Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act, authored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.).

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), a bipartisan federal commission that makes policy recommendations to the State Department, is charged with creating the list. USCIRF says the list is “in formation.”

Brownback did note specific areas of concern for prisoners of conscience, however, he praised Iran’s furloughing of 100,000 prisoners of conscience, but added that some “high-profile religious prisoners” are still detained there.

In China, as many as 1.8 million Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and other Muslim minorities are detained in camps in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Province (XUAR) in the country’s northwest.

Although the country has officially reported only 76 COVID-19 cases in the region, diaspora groups are concerned that the actual number of cases is much higher—and of the potential for the disease to spread in the mass internment camps where hunger and torture have been reported.  

Christians, Tibetan Buddhists, and Falun Gong members have also been imprisoned for their faith in China, and should be released, Brownback said.

He also called on the government of Vietnam to release 128 prisoners of conscience, for Russia to release “nearly around 240 prisoners of conscience,” Eritrea to release 40 prisoners, and for Indonesia to release more than 150 people detained for violating the country’s blasphemy laws.

When asked by reporters if he was concerned about any countries in particular, Brownback responded “Iran, simply because it’s got hit big early and you’ve got a number of notorious prisons that are there that are quite overcrowded and unsanitary conditions.”

“North Korea has a very high number [of prisoners],” Brownback said, who “would be under exceeding exposure to COVID.”

Vulnerable religious populations elsewhere could also be at risk of the pandemic, he said, including Rohingya Muslim refugees in Bangladesh. “When we talk about a crowded place,” he said, “if COVID got going there it would just spread like wildfire.”

A Nigerian cardinal, he said, also commented that the country would not have the resources necessary to deal with a serious outbreak.

USCIRF has also voiced concerns that governments could use the pandemic to crack down on religious minorities, or violate freedom of religion.

The commission issued a fact-sheet on March 16 outlining some of its concerns, including Muslim Uyghurs being forced to work on factories around China despite health concerns, churches in South Korea subject to harassment for their alleged role in spreading the virus, and Saudi Arabia issuing a travel ban on a predominantly Shi’a Muslim province.

But on Thursday, Brownback said that, according to “anecdotal information,” governments around the world were not citing the pandemic to crack down on religious minorities.

He said that “fortunately the reporting that we are seeing is that governments are, by and large, not doing that and in some cases being more lenient towards religious minorities.”

He also called on churches and religions around the world to practice “social distancing” to slow the spread of the virus.

“I haven’t been to mass myself in several weeks, and it’s the longest period I’ve gone without going to mass, and I think people should be doing this to stop the spread of the virus,” Brownback said.

NY Catholic nursing homes in 'desperate need' of supplies to fight coronavirus

Fri, 04/03/2020 - 19:30

New York City, N.Y., Apr 3, 2020 / 05:30 pm (CNA).- The threat of the coronavirus has hit nursing homes of the Archdiocese of New York especially hard, with families now being advised to bring their loved ones home if possible.

Fr. John Anderson, vice president for mission integration at ArchCare, a “post-acute delivery system” of the Archdiocese of New York, told CNA on Friday that the system’s CEO has advised families with loved ones in ArchCare nursing homes to bring them home if they can be cared for there.

NBC News reported on Thursday that ArchCare’s nursing homes have been especially hard-hit by the crisis, with more than 200 COVID-19 cases among residents.

“Our nursing homes are desperately in need of PPE [personal protective equipment],” Fr. John Anderson told CNA.

As to whether families are starting to bring their loved ones home, “I have not seen a lot of that going on,” Fr. Anderson told CNA on Friday.

ArchCare serves 9,000 people each day in nursing homes, a long-term care program, and a specialty hospital.

New York City has become the epicenter of the U.S. pandemic, with the number of confirmed cases skyrocketing from more than 5,700 cases on March 20 to more than 57,000 confirmed cases and 1,584 deaths as of April 3.

Yet a lack of PPE—particularly in nursing homes—poses a critical problem for chaplains. The shortage is so acute in the region that health care staff have been asked to use one mask all week long when they would previously have changed it between patients.

The health department “asked us to not only use it [the mask] all week, but to do whatever we can to use it the week after,” Fr. Anderson said.

Availability of PPE makes the difference between chaplains’ ability to have a face-to-face visit with a sick patient, or to stand in the doorway a safe distance away, he said. Without PPE, priests cannot administer the sacrament of anointing of the sick which requires the direct anointing of the patient with blessed oil.

“Chaplains are there to pray,” he said, but “can only spend so much time with a patient” during the crisis.

Two ArchCare chaplains have tested positive for COVID-19, he said, but other archdiocesan priests have volunteered their services, “very willing to help.” The archdiocese is also monitoring the situation for elderly nuns in convents, who are more susceptible to the virus.

Another difficulty is families of sick patients not being able to visit them in the hospital or nursing home—“hard to see,” Fr. Anderson said.

There are also no funerals, but simply burials with up to 10 people who can attend, spaced apart.

With Easter approaching, nursing home residents and hospital patients may not be able to attend Mass in person but are still ministering to patients as best they can.

“We have gotten palms” for nursing home residents, Fr. Anderson said ahead of Palm Sunday, with accompanying prayer cards in English and Spanish. Priests will also offer Holy Week Masses in a chapel to be filmed and projected onto living room TVs for the elderly patients.

The Order of Malta is making Easter cards for residents in one program, Fr. Andreson said, while the Knights of Columbus are also making Easter cards for patients.

“Folks have been very generous and have really come forward,” he said.

New York uses budget bill to legalize commercial surrogacy during coronavirus

Fri, 04/03/2020 - 19:00

CNA Staff, Apr 3, 2020 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- The state of New York legalized commercial surrogacy as part of a budget bill passed on April 3. The law was condemned by the state Catholic conference. There are now just three states where commercial surrogacy is not legal. 

“The action by the legislature and governor to legalize monetary contracts for surrogate motherhood stands in stark contrast to most other democratic nations across the globe,” Kathleen Gallagher, director of pro-life activities for the New York State Catholic Conference said in a statement Friday.

“[Other countries] have outlawed the practice because of the exploitation of women and commodification of children that inevitably results from the profit-driven surrogacy industry,” she said.

The New York State Catholic Conference represents the bishops of New York state in matters related to public policy. 

Gallagher criticized the inclusion of legal commercial surrogacy in a budget bill during the COVID-19 pandemic. New York has more cases of coronavirus than any other U.S. state, and has seen nearly 3,000 people die from the disease. 

“We simply do not believe that such a critical legal and moral decision for our state should have been made behind the closed doors of a Capitol shut off to the public,” she said. “The new law is bad for women and children, and the process is terrible for democracy.” 

In January, Gallagher was critical of the bill, calling it “a dangerous policy that will lead to the exploitation of poor, vulnerable women, and has few safeguards for children.” There are no safeguards such as residency requirements and background checks for surrogate parents, the conference points out.

“The surrogacy legislation is designed mainly to benefit wealthy men who can afford tens of thousands of dollars to pay baby brokers, at the expense of low-income women,” said Gallagher in a January 8 statement. 

Previously, New York was one of four states that prohibited contracts that would pay surrogate mothers to carry and deliver an unrelated child that would be then placed with a different family. 

Louisiana, Michigan, and Nebraska are the only states that now do not allow commercial surrogacy.

Gestational surrogacy typically uses a “donor” egg, rather than the surrogate’s ovum, to avoid legal complications if the surrogate were to decide she no longer wants to surrender the child to the “intended parents.” 

The donor egg is then fertilized and implanted in the surrogate using in-vitro fertilization (IVF). 

Regarding the practice of IVF, the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 2376 teaches that:

“Techniques that entail the dissociation of husband and wife, by the intrusion of a person other than the couple (donation of sperm or ovum, surrogate uterus), are gravely immoral. These techniques (heterologous artificial insemination and fertilization) infringe the child's right to be born of a father and mother known to him and bound to each other by marriage. They betray the spouses' ‘right to become a father and a mother only through each other.’”

Previously, all surrogacy in New York was known as “altruistic” surrogacy as the surrogate mother could not be paid for carrying the child. 

One of the bill’s co-sponsors, Assemblywoman Amy Paulin (D-Scarsdale), said that the passage of commercial surrogacy was a move to “bring New York in line with the needs of modern families, while simultaneously enacting the strongest protections in the nation for surrogates.” 

Under the new law, those wishing to use a surrogate must pay for her life insurance during the pregnancy and for one year after giving birth, and the “intended parents” must pay for legal counsel for the surrogate mother. Surrogates must be at least 21 years of age. 

Paulin has worked on legalizing commercial surrogacy for 14 years, and first introduced legislation to legalize the practice in 2012. 

She said her bill would provide “the opportunity to have a family in New York and not travel around the country, incurring exorbitant costs simply because they want to be parents.” 

Surrogacy costs range from $55,000 to nearly a quarter of a million dollars. 

In addition to the legalization of commercial surrogacy, the budget bill also banned plastic foam containers and flavored vaping products, instituted new paid sick leave requirements, expanded wage mandates, and introduced new policies that make it more difficult for third parties to qualify for ballots. 

The legalization of commercial surrogacy goes into effect on February 15, 2021.

'Catholics for Trump' launches with online broadcast

Fri, 04/03/2020 - 18:00

Washington D.C., Apr 3, 2020 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- The “Catholics for Trump” coalition was officially launched on Thursday evening in an online broadcast.

The coalition, led by American Conservative Union chairman Matt Schlapp, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and political consultant Mary Matalin, says it aims to “energize” the Catholic community in the U.S. to re-elect Donald Trump.

The 2020 Catholics for Trump group said it aims to focus on its view that the president’s policies model and reflect Catholic social teaching.

“The best president we’ve ever had for Catholics and Catholic values—and by that I mean those are American values—has been President Trump,” Matalin said.

The 2020 presidential election is predicted to be a tight race, and recent polling shows Catholics split over Trump’s reelection.

In February, polling conducted by RealClear Opinion Research for EWTN News asked Catholics about their plans for the 2020 election.

Among all Catholics surveyed, Trump had a 47% net approval rating and 46% said they would certainly or likely vote for him in November. 46% of Catholics also said they would not vote for Trump, or it was unlikely they would do so.

Those numbers broke down differently amongst various demographics. Among Catholics who said they accept all the Church’s teachings, 63% strongly or somewhat approved of Trump’s job as president and 59% said they would certainly vote for him in November.

Among Hispanic Catholics, Trump had a 29% net approval rating, and 34% said they would certainly or likely vote for him in November. 

In the lead-up to his reelection campaign, the president has been widely praised by some Catholics, especially those edified by his appearance at the 2020 March for Life - the first time a president has appeared at the event, and those who praise the administration’s initiatives on issues related to religious liberty and education. Other Catholics, however, have criticized Trump’s policy positions on immigration, and his personal comportment, which many characterize as divisive.

The U.S. bishops have issued both statements of criticism and praise for the Trump administration.

The president has had a rocky relationship with Catholics from the start of his candidacy in the 2016 election. When Pope Francis made a February, 2016 visit to the U.S.-Mexico border, Trump called the pope “political” and a “pawn” of the Mexican government, and talked of building a border wall.

During an inflight news conference on his trip back to Rome, Pope Francis said that “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the Gospel.”

While Trump drew support from some prominent Catholics during his 2016 campaign, especially those advocating for pro-life policies, others, including some prominent conservative Catholics, were critical of the Trump campaign. 

In March 2016, as Trump’s nomination as the Republican presidential candidate gained momentum, prominent Catholic intellectuals Robert George and George Weigel wrote “an appeal to our fellow Catholics,” arguing that Trump “is manifestly unfit to be President of the United States.” They cited the “vulgarity” of his campaign, “appeals to racial and ethnic fears and prejudice,” and a lack of confidence in his pro-life and pro-religious freedom credentials.

Although initial reports claimed that Trump won the Catholic vote in 2016, a 2020 RealClear Opinion Research poll sponsored by EWTN found that, of the Catholics surveyed nationwide, Hillary Clinton won the Catholic vote in 2016 with 48% to Trump’s 46%.

Just after Trump was elected president in November 2016, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles noted the fears of immigrants at a prayer service, saying that “men and women are worried and anxious, thinking about where they can run and hide. This is happening tonight, in America.” He pledged to “our brothers and sisters who are undocumented – we will never leave you alone.”

U.S. bishops, including Gomez, have continued to raise concern about the administration’s immigration policy, though in 2018, Gomez did praise an executive order from the White House calling for an end to family separation policies, and called for bipartisan congressional action on immigration reform.

In 2017 Pope Francis received Trump in a Vatican audience.

According to a May 24, 2017 Vatican communique, Pope Francis and Trump expressed satisfaction "for the good existing bilateral relations between the Holy See and the United States of America, as well as the joint commitment in favor of life, and freedom of worship and conscience."

Earlier this year, Vice President Mike Pence also met with Pope Francis at the Vatican.

On Thursday, Catholics for Trump leaders promised to make the group a “movement,” and to demonstrate that Trump is upholding Catholic social teaching by preventing “activist” judges in the courts, protecting religious institutions from coercive government mandates, upholding pro-life policies, and strengthening the economy.

“I think the most important thing we can do is to be a vehicle to deliver the truth,” Matt Schlapp said, to share “how Catholics should adjudicate the issues that our society faces.”

In an era when many are weary of “fake news,” Schlapp said, “let’s make sure that we’re a place where people can quickly find the facts and figure out what’s going on.”

One of the group’s priorities will be to emphasize Trump’s leadership during the global COVID-19 pandemic, leaders said.

“President Trump does talk about hope,” Mercedes Schlapp said on Thursday.

Fr. Frank Pavone, founder of Priests for Life and a co-chair of the Trump 2020 campaign’s pro-life coalition, is also a member of the Catholics for Trump advisory board.

Pavone said on Thursday’s broadcast that “this coalition is going to be truly a movement where Catholics rise up and say, ‘hey look, everything that the Church has been saying, we’re seeing it unfold before our eyes, not like magic, but with strong effort and united effort under this president.’”

“Thank God he’s the one leading us through this,” Fr. Pavone said, in reference to the pandemic. 

Trump is bringing together various federal agencies, the private sector, and state and localities, the priest said, and “is articulating what we’re all feeling” right now

In contrast, Pavone said, Democrats “keep attacking and keep complaining and keep criticizing and keep lying,” Pavone said.

“But the President is setting exactly the right tone. He’s not ignoring how serious the problem is. Very much the opposite. He’s leading in responding to it.”

Pavone is one of two clerics on the board of Catholics for Trump, the other being Deacon Keith Fournier, a married permanent deacon of the Diocese of Richmond, Va. 

The priest’s campaigning work has previously drawn scrutiny. During the 2016 election campaign, Pavone served as a member of a Catholic advisory group for Trump, and posted a video in which he asked for votes for Trump while standing behind an altar on which he had laid the body of an aborted baby. 

At the time, Bishop Patrick Zurek of Pavone’s home Diocese of Amarillo said the stunt was "against the dignity of human life," and that he would investigate Pavone’s actions. The results of that investigation have not been announced.

Canon law provides that clerics “are not to have an active part in political parties” unless their bishop judges that “the protection of the rights of the Church or the promotion of the common good requires it.”

CNA asked the Diocese of Amarillo if his active role in the president’s reelection campaign had been authorized by the bishop. No response was received by the time of press.

Trump has protected the right to life, Pavone said, but “is protecting the strength of our military,” the “right to work, and the “economy and the free market from the threat of socialism” and from “unfair trade practices,” and is also protecting “borders from criminal aliens.”

All of these, Pavone said, are Catholic values.

The coalition leaders have especially emphasized the president’s pro-life credientials.  

In 2016, Trump’s campaign announced the launch of a pro-life advisory board, headed by Marjorie Dannenfelser who is also president of the Susan B. Anthony List. Dannenfelser is co-chairing the Trump 2020 campaign’s pro-life coalition with Fr. Pavone, and is also a member of the Catholics for Trump advisory board.

Trump made four specific pro-life promises in his 2016 campaign letter to pro-lifers: that he would nominate “pro-life justices” to the Supreme Court, sign the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act into law, strip Planned Parenthood of federal funding “as long as they continue to perform abortions,” and codify the Hyde Amendment in law. The Hyde Amendment bars taxpayer funding of elective abortions, and is passed each year as a budget rider. Trump promised to make it permanent law.

Of the four promises, Trump has not has not codified the Hyde Amendment as law, nor signed a pain-capable bill, which failed to pass both chambers of Congress before Republicans lost the House in the 2018 elections. 

The administration has strengthened protections against taxpayer funding of abortion providers in Title X family planning funds, and in overseas global health assistance. Because a measure to defund Planned Parenthood failed to pass the Republican-led Senate in 2018, Trump has not completely divested Planned Parenthood and abortion providers of federal funding. 

The 2019 Protect Life Rule clarified that Title X recipients could not refer for abortions as a method of family planning, nor could they co-locate with abortion clinics. Planned Parenthood announced in August it would leave the program rather than comply with the new regulations.

The administration has reinstated the Mexico City Policy’s ban on funding of abortion promoters and providers overseas, and expanded it to include $8.8 billion in global health assistance.

Trump nominated two justices to the Supreme Court who were praised by Dannenfelser and other pro-life leaders, although no major abortion case has yet been decided by the two new justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

The current Supreme Court term was slated to feature the first significant abortion case at the Court since 2016, Louisiana’s safety regulations of abortion clinics. However, the court’s schedule is expected to be significantly altered in the coming weeks due to the new coronavirus.

Supreme Court delays Little Sisters of the Poor hearing because of coronavirus

Fri, 04/03/2020 - 17:30

Washington D.C., Apr 3, 2020 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- The Supreme Court announced Friday that oral arguments in the case of the Little Sisters of the Poor have been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Oral arguments in Little Sisters of the Poor v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania were originally scheduled for April 29, but the court announced on Friday that they would be postponed “in keeping with public health guidance in response to COVID-19,” together with other cases due to have been heard that week and the previous week.

The case of the Little Sisters involves their religious exemption from the HHS contraceptive mandate.

The states of Pennsylvania and California have sued the Trump administration to strip the religious community of their exemption to the mandate. In 2018, the Supreme Court allowed the sisters to intervene in the states’ lawsuits.

“In this trying time for our nation, the Little Sisters of the Poor are dedicated to protecting their elderly residents from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Diana Verm, senior counsel at Becket which represents the sisters in court, in a statement released Friday. 

“Now more than ever the Sisters need the freedom to focus solely on that mission.”

On Friday, the court announced that it “will consider a range of scheduling options and other alternatives if arguments cannot be held in the Courtroom before the end of the Term.”

The Little Sisters of the Poor have spent years in litigation related to the mandate. The 2010 Affordable Care Act mandated certain preventive coverage in health care, and the Obama administration interpreted the mandate to include coverage for contraceptives and sterilizations.

Afterward, the administration announced a process by which non-profits with religious or conscientious objections could notify the government, which in turn would direct their insurer or third-party plan administrator to provide the coverage in employee health plans.

Religious institutions, including the Little Sisters and Catholic dioceses, said that the “accommodation” still forced them to violate their religious beliefs in the provision of morally-objectionable procedures in employee health plans.

The case of the Little Sisters, bundled together with other cases, was heard by the Supreme Court which, in 2016, sent the case back down to lower courts, instructing the religious entities and the government to come to an agreement whereby the wishes of both parties could be attained.

In 2017, the Trump administration issued a rule exempting the Little Sisters and other religious entities from the mandate. State attorneys general for Pennsylvania and California then challenged the exemption in court.

The Little Sisters lost their case against Pennsylvania at the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in July of 2019, and lost their case against California at the Ninth Circuit Court in October. They appealed to the Supreme Court, which agreed in January to hear their case.

Coronavirus crisis cannot justify discrimination, bishops say

Fri, 04/03/2020 - 15:00

Washington D.C., Apr 3, 2020 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- The coronavirus pandemic does not justify abandoning medical ethics, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops told medical professionals in an urgent warning issued on Friday.

“Every crisis produces fear, and the COVID-19 pandemic is no exception,” said a joint statement issued April 3 in response to reports of healthcare rationing plans being drawn up in different parts of the country. 

“However, this is not a time to sideline our ethical and moral principles. It is a time to uphold them ever more strongly, for they will critically assist us in steering through these trying times.”

The statement was signed by Bishop Kevin Rhoads of Fort Wayne-South Bend, who leads the USCCB’s doctrine committee, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, head of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the USCCB’s domestic justice and human development.

The bishops praised the “courage, compassion, and truly remarkable professional care” shown by medical workers “in a time of growing crisis.” At the same time, they encouraged them to steadfast in their principles, in the face of the challenges presented by the pandemic, including the shortage of essential medical supplies.

At least two states, Alabama and Washington, have been accused of drafting discriminatory guidance that would prioritize patients without disabilities over those with them, should there be a shortage of medical equipment, such as ventilators.

The several Catholic groups, as well as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), have condemned these proposals, pointing out they would violate human rights and anti-discrimination laws. 

“Our belief in evidence-based clinical care and public health measures should be translated through the lens of Catholic medical ethics and social teaching with respect to justice and the just distribution of scarce resources,” said the Catholic Medical Association in a statement.  

“Catholic social teaching is therefore predicated on these key principles: (1) the inherent and fundamental principle of the dignity of human life; (2) the principle of subsidiarity; and (3) the principle of solidarity.” 

The Catholic Medical Association stressed in their statement that “God does not make man the arbiter of the value of life” and that “in humility the Catholic health care worker recognizes that no choice should be made that sacrifices the innate dignity of the individual human person, even when questions about scarce resources arise.” 

The bishops said they were “grateful” for these statements, particularly the one from the Office of Civil Rights at HHS. 

On Saturday, the civil rights office at HHS issued a bulletin stating that “In this time of emergency, the laudable goal of providing care quickly and efficiently must be guided by the fundamental principles of fairness, equality, and compassion that animate our civil rights laws.” 

“As such, persons with disabilities should not be denied medical care on the basis of stereotypes, assessments of quality of life, or judgments about a person’s relative ‘worth’ based on the presence or absence of disabilities,” the bulletin said.

“We also commend the Office of Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for issuing a reminder that in a time of crisis we must not discriminate against persons solely on the basis of disability or age by denying them medical care,” said the bishops. 

“Good and just stewardship of resources cannot include ignoring those on the periphery of society, but must serve the common good of all, without categorically excluding people based on ability, financial resources, age, immigration status, or race.”

The bishops also wrote that even in a time of limited resources, medical professionals must keep the dignity of their patients in mind when making healthcare decisions. This care, they said, will often require that medical professionals consult with the patient and their loved ones in order to provide the best and most appropriate care. 

“Foremost in our approach to limited resources is to always keep in mind the dignity of each person and our obligation to care for the sick and dying,” they said. 

“Such care, however, will require patients, their families, and medical professionals to work together in weighing the benefits and burdens of care, the needs and safety of everyone, and how to distribute resources in a prudent, just, and unbiased way.”

Analysis: Policy and pastoral leadership in a time of crisis

Fri, 04/03/2020 - 12:49

Washington D.C., Apr 3, 2020 / 10:49 am (CNA).- Across the U.S., and around the world, bishops are struggling to adjust to the pastoral emergency which has accompanied the coronavirus pandemic.

In entire countries, the public celebration of Mass has been suspended, as local governments ban gatherings of even a handful of people. 

And at the same time, the pandemic and ensuing economic collapse have led many to consider seriously their mortality and the state of their soul, with even the supposedly irreligious turning to prayer in increasing numbers.

Among many Catholics, there is a hunger for the sacraments, and for the faith. Catholics are looking to their bishops for leadership. Bishops, in response, are forging attempts to address a complicated situation that few, if any, ever thought they might face. 

The results have been mixed.

Some American dioceses are, for now, allowing pastors to try to meet the needs of their flocks while conforming with government rules. Drive-through confessionals have sprung up in many parishes, as have drive-in Eucharistic adoration and benedictions. And some bishops have taken to preaching online with regularity, adoring the Eucharist on cathedral steps, or making plans for the next stage of the pandemic

But other bishops have opted to err on the side of extreme caution, locking every church building and attempting to bar the administration of all sacraments except in danger of death, even if not required by law or public health recommendation to do so.

In some dioceses, priests have been told they cannot hear confessions, at least not unless death is imminent, that they can not baptize, except in an emergency, or that, in at least one diocese, they can not anoint anyone who is dying. 

As bishops look for the right ways to lead, at least some of their priests have been struggling to adjust to the ever-tightening web of restrictions on their sacramental ministry. 

Some priests have begun to wonder, in quiet consultations and conversations, whether they’re really prohibited from offering the sacraments of mercy and healing now, when they seem most needed.

And some priests have begun considering a question they never expected to find themselves asking: ‘Should I obey my bishop?’

The patchwork of policies and guidelines circulated by chancery officials seems to have varying degrees of clarity and authority for priests, and can risk appearing pastorally distant to Catholic laity.

The orders raise a number of as-yet-unanswered canonical and pastoral questions. For example, it is not immediately apparent that a memorandum circulated by the vicar general of the diocese meets the canonical criteria to effectively suspend the faculty of every priest in the diocese to hear confessions. Nor is it clear that a bishop has the authority to prohibit the anointing of the sick. 

And lay people, at least some lay people, have begun to ask why they shouldn’t baptize their own newborn babies, or even invoke a little-used canon that would permit them to marry outside of canonical form when circumstances warrant it.

This week, a group of lay people called for bishops to find whatever ways are possible to continue the administration of the sacraments. How bishops will respond remains to be seen.

But the situation could become contentious.

Priests with whom CNA has spoken in recent days have said they want to make every effort possible to be obedient to their bishops. But some have said they’re not sure what they’ll do if a person comes to them in mortal sin seeking forgiveness, or a parishioner calls about a loved one dying at home, especially from causes that are not coronavirus, and seeking anointing. 

Even a sense that disobedience might become morally necessary could become demoralizing to priests, and lead to ecclesial dissension at a time when faithful unity seems critical. 

And the situation would become even worse if priests looking for attention or validation decide to make a spectacle of disobedience to norms they finds problematic. Such a thing would be unfortunate, but in the contemporary social media and ecclesial climate, completely unsurprising.

Priests in many places are left feeling conflicted: trying to balance a commitment to their flock with the desire to conform to the will of their bishop. 

At the same time, the impression that some bishops are out of touch with the reality facing the faithful is not helped by pastoral letters that seem more concerned with fundraising than spiritual leadership. 

Catholics are, more than ever, looking for true shepherds in a time of crisis. Responding with an approach that is too policy-heavy may leave bishops at risk of appearing to legislate from a bunker, as priests and laity struggle with spiritual and physical isolation.

Pope Francis has urged against “drastic measures,” and said he is praying that bishops will “provide measures which do not leave the holy, faithful people of God alone, and so that the people of God will feel accompanied by their pastors, comforted by the Word of God, by the sacraments, and by prayer.”

The pope also intervened in the Diocese of Rome, reopening the churches for private prayer after they were initially closed completely, and commanded international attention when he offered a special Urbi et Orbi benediction to an empty St. Peter’s square.

St. Charles Borromeo is an historical example being cited by many as a model for bishops in times of pandemic. The Archbishop of Milan closed the churches of his diocese against the plague in the sixteenth century, though he delivered the sacraments to quarantined houses himself, preached holy hours, and processed through the city with the Eucharist.

Around the world, some bishops have sought to lead by personal example, even as they scrupulously observe public health rules.

In Cologne this week, Cardinal Rainer Woelki reopened the archdiocesan seminary as a temporary center for the city’s homeless, offering shower facilities and hot food. Overseen by health workers from Malteser International, the cardinal personally welcomed guests into the center.

Meanwhile, in China, where public health restrictions have been at least as dramatic as parts of the U.S., Bishop Stephen Lee Bun-sang of Macau sat outside his house last week, wearing a surgical mask and hearing confessions from behind a screen.

Examples like the pope, Cardinal Woelki, and Bishop Lee, seem to have helped local Catholics, priests and laypeople, to feel both loved by their bishop and led in faith and service to each other, while at the same time setting examples about conforming to local regulations on social distancing.

To ensure that a public health emergency does not become a pastoral crisis, American bishops face two pressing challenges. The first is to find some coherent path forward for sacramental ministry that is neither negligent of legitimate health concerns nor heedless of real pastoral needs, and the genuine priestly desire for the administration of the sacramental life. 

The second is to reflect on how to become more visible in their ministry as shepherds, in solidarity with their people, and eager for their spiritual care. 

While doing everything necessary to prevent contagion, it may become increasingly urgent that bishops be seen to stand with Catholics and their pastors, not between them.

Jesus, livestreamed: Priests, bishops to offer 40 Hours Devotion via Facebook Live 

Fri, 04/03/2020 - 06:33

Denver, Colo., Apr 3, 2020 / 04:33 am (CNA).- When the plague struck the Italian city of Milan and the surrounding area in the 1570s, St. Charles Borromeo, then a cardinal, became well-known for his efforts to remind people of their faith in a time of sickness and death.

According to multiple accounts, St. Borromeo would process the streets of his diocese barefooted, carrying a cross, as an act of penance. He also visited the sick with a relic of one of the nails of the Cross, and promoted the practice of 40 Hours Devotion, in which people take turns praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament for 40 straight hours.

“St. Charles Borromeo actually is one of the (clerics) who is often associated with the 40 hour devotion during the plague,” Fr. Jonathan Meyer, a priest of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis in Indiana, told CNA.

The history of this devotion is part of the reason Meyer and a group of priests and laypeople in the U.S. are hosting a Virtual 40 Hours Devotion streamed on Facebook starting this Friday, just before the start of Holy Week.

The devotion comes at a time when much of the world is experiencing another pandemic, and when most public Masses and other services are closed to slow its spread.

The number of hours of devotion comes “from the 40 hours from our Lord being in the tomb from Good Friday to Easter Sunday morning,” Meyer explained.

“So there's 40 hours of darkness, of very few people believing. And we're at a period of darkness in the Church,” he said. The number 40 frequently signifies a time of darkness in the bible - the 40 days of Jesus in the desert being tempted, the 40 years of the Jewish people wandering in the wilderness, the 40 days of rain Noah experienced on the ark.

“But at the end of all of those, the story of hope.” Meyer said. “And so (we) gather around our Lord for 40 hours..to pray and petition and to be a people of hope. Our Lord is in the Blessed Sacrament, he is our hope. And so, God willing, our ability to gather with him and spend time with him as a Church will bring people hope.”

The idea, Meyer said, originated on a Facebook group of priests who were sharing best practices of how to bring Christ to people during the time of the coronavirus pandemic.

Once Meyer and a former classmate of his, Fr. Thomas Szydlik, came up with the idea, they sent out emails to other priests and bishops, asking them to sign up and take an hour, during which they would livestream a holy hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament in their respective churches, during which they can preach or pray the rosary or offer other prayers.

Meyer said he’s been struck by the eager response of so many priests.

“I think it just shows a lot about the generosity of our priests,” Meyer said, “and how they want terribly for our people to gather around our Lord, and to pray in prayers of petition, prayers of reparation for what's happening right now in our world.”

Each hour will be posted to the Facebook page, Virtual 40 Hours. Meyer will kick off the Virtual 40 Hours with a live-streamed Mass starting at 6 p.m. Central on Friday, April 3.

Joan Watson, who works as the Director of Faith Formation for the Diocese of Nashville, was recruited by Szydlik and Meyer, friends of hers, to help with the project. Watson helped establish the Facebook page and to recruit more priests and bishops to take hours.

Each priest will be streaming their hour on the 40 Hours Facebook page, Watson said, so “people don't need to leave that page, which is going to be really nice. There's no need to jump around. It'll all happen on that page.”

The devotion has even gone international.

“We have a group from the Notre Dame Newman Center in Dublin that's going to be doing some Taizé worship music. So I'm really excited for that,” Watson said. “Each hour might look a little different depending on the spirituality of the priest.”

Watson said she hopes the 40 Hours is a time for Catholics to unite as a Church in prayer and focus on the prayers they can offer and the graces they can receive during this time.

“I think rather than kind of dwelling on what we don't have, this gives us an opportunity to unite our hearts...and really unite that yearning for the Blessed Sacrament, and turn that itself into a prayer,” she said.

“I think there's so much grace there. And learning how to pray as a Church - I think that's one thing that maybe this time has given us an extra grace not to be divisive and not to find ourselves picking fights where there shouldn't be fights, but rather really uniting with our Church and uniting across the country as a Catholic Church. I think it's really beautiful to see what's coming out of all this.”

Kate Johnson, the sister of Fr. Szydlik, was recruited to help with Virtual 40 Hours as one of the page “watch dogs”, who will be taking turns moderating the Facebook page to make sure the Blessed Sacrament is being respected and the livestreams are running smoothly. 

Johnson said she is grateful for the idea to do the Virtual 40 Hours because it focuses on what Catholics can do at this time even while public Masses and services are closed.

“There's so much you can do. And this is something that you can do...to help people that are hurting in one way or another, but also to beg the Lord's mercy and grace upon our nation and upon the world” she said.

Johnson, who lives in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, said she has been grateful to be able to attend adoration in her church with her mother, but that she misses receiving the Eucharist at Mass.

She encouraged Catholics who feel that same hunger for the Eucharist to participate in the Virtual 40 Hours.

“This is something you can do. It's easy. You can get dressed up. You can come in your pajamas. If you're an insomniac, you can do this in the middle of the night,” she said.

“It's an opportunity to hear some fantastic preaching...it's an opportunity to experience the bigness of the Church, because this is a very old devotion, so we're going back in time but we're also spreading it out around the world. So, it's an opportunity to pray with others who are as hungry and sad as we are, as I am.”

There are at least four bishops who will be offering an hour of adoration in the Virtual 40 Hours, including Bishop Edward Rice of the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau in Missouri, Bishop Andrew Cozzens, an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, Bishop Joseph Strickland of the Diocese of Tyler, and Bishop James Wall of Gallup, New Mexico.

Wall told CNA that he will take the 8:00 a.m. Central hour on Sunday, and that he plans to preach for about half the time and have silent adoration for the rest of the time.

“I'm going to preach on the Eucharist, and I'm going to preach on sacrifice, and the sacrifices that many people are invited to make right now, and how sacrifice is related to our baptismal call,” he said. “Because when we're baptized, we're made priest, prophet, and king. What does a priest do? A priest offers sacrifice. Obviously this is different from ordained priesthood, but we're all called to offer sacrifice.”

As a bishop during this time of pandemic, Wall said it has been a sacrifice for him to offer Mass without an assembly, and that not only as a bishop but also as an extrovert, he’s really missed interacting with his people.

“It's a little difficult, but again, it's a sacrifice, and if we receive the sacrifice well, if we unite it to the sacrifice of Christ and the cross, we know that Christ will bring glory out of it. So I think the word that's been just coming up to me over and over and over is ‘sacrifice’ and how we can imitate the sacrifice of Christ on the cross,” he said.

Wall said when he was invited to join the Virtual 40 Hours by a friend, he was “really excited and grateful that they called me and asked me to participate in this endeavor. I've been thinking of ways that we could bring our Lord to people and I think this is a great way. We have to be creative, and I think this is one of the ways we’re being creative.”

He encouraged Catholics to not let the opportunity for spending some time with the Lord, even virtually and during a pandemic, to pass them by.

“Think about in the scriptures where Jesus is passing by and the cripple cries out, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.’ And what a courageous thing he did by calling out to the Lord, not letting him pass by,” Wall said.

“I think we, as we're at home too…(let’s) not let this pass by. (Let’s) see Jesus and cry out to him, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.’ And we can do that from our homes as we watch our Lord and adore our Lord, virtually adore our Lord, in the Eucharist.”

 

Catholic University makes vaccine work free for coronavirus research

Fri, 04/03/2020 - 01:55

Washington D.C., Apr 2, 2020 / 11:55 pm (CNA).- An expert research professor on vaccines at the Catholic University of America is working with the university to make his patents available royalty-free to help fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Venigalla Rao is a biology professor at the Catholic University of America, in Washington, D.C., and the director of the university’s Center for Advanced Training in Cell and Molecular Biology. 

Roa explained in an interview with CNA Thursday that he and the university wanted to aid the global effort to develop a vaccine against the coronavirus.

“We felt that we can contribute, coming from a different angle, to design vaccine candidates against the novel coronavirus,” he said.

For more than 40 years Roa has studied viruses and how they can be used to develop vaccines. He is currently researching the new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) and working to conduct possible vaccine tests on animal models.

Watching the new coronavirus initially spread in China, Rao saw how hard it was to contain and predicted it would become a global problem. He went to administrators at Catholic University to devise a plan to help the international research effort to create a vaccine.

Rao’s research on bacteriophage T4, a benign virus that infects bacteria, helped produce a platform with which to develop vaccines for diseases such as cancer and HIV. In 2018, he published a paper on a dual vaccine he developed “to protect against simultaneous anthrax and plague infections,” and his work was published and profiled in a number of outlets including Newsweek.

What makes his platform unique, he said, is that “we can engineer the ability to incorporate multiple components” for “more effective immune responses.” Most coronavirus vaccines focus on only one component, he said, which may not be sufficient for full immune protection.

After Rao approached the university’s administration, the provost and other administrators came up with the initiative to release Rao’s technology patents to deliver vaccines.

On March 23, Catholic University announced it would be offering royalty-free licenses on patents for Rao’s work on the bacteriophage T4 virus platform and vaccine delivery systems. Eligible recipients can either make use of Rao’s vaccine candidates or use their own technology in combination with his platform.

The decision “was made in keeping with the tradition and expectations of the Catholic Church to provide the compassion of Christ to those in need,” the university’s vice provost for research Ralph Albano said in a statement.

Rao’s work has included the mechanisms of DNA packaging, anthrax and plague vaccine, and CRISPR genome editing. However, he has focused in particular on researching bacteriophage T4, working in collaboration with other universities including Purdue University, the University of California-San Diego, and the University of Illinois Urbanna-Champagne.

Through studying the mechanisms of the bacteriophage T4 virus, and incorporating proteins and DNAs from pathogenic organisms, Rao said he can assemble a virus—a “platform technology that could be adapted for a variety of biomedical applications,” he said, including vaccines and gene therapies.

This platform, he says, can be used as a boost for other researchers more familiar with coronaviruses to speed vaccine development.

Rao said that although he had already sent a funding request to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for work in developing a coronavirus vaccine, “but we can’t wait for that, we just jumped into the efforts to do whatever-- the best we could.”

The process of discovering, designing, and developing a vaccine is an “arduous process” and the best-case scenario for a COVID-19 vaccine will be around 18 months, he said.

Nevertheless, “we need to do the groundwork” now, he said, as discoveries made now can also impact health care in the future when other pandemics might emerge.

“I think what we are doing also is not only for this COVID-19 virus, but also what we learn from this, from which we can optimize, fine-tune these technologies and be better prepared for future emerging pathogens,” he said.

What does a traveling evangelist do during the coronavirus lockdown?

Thu, 04/02/2020 - 19:00

Denver, Colo., Apr 2, 2020 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- What does a traveling evangelist do when a global pandemic keeps him at home? He goes online!

One Catholic evangelist said that lessons he’s learning about online evangelization during the coronavirus pandemic could make some Catholic ministries far more effective than they once were.

Chris Stefanick, who hosts EWTN’s “Real Life Catholic,” also travels the country, speaking to more than 80,000 people each year. His travels are the way he spreads the Word of God, and the way he makes a living.

Stefanick told CNA that preaching during the pandemic has meant a slew of personal and practical challenges. But he said those challenges could compel the Church to develop and refine effective use of technology for evangelization.

“This is not a time for the Church to slow down its ministry. It's time to aggressively pivot and quickly pivot. This hasn’t changed what we do at that core,” Stefanick said.

In the past, even the recent past, Stefanick said, his evangelization work has focused mostly on events at which he speaks about how the Gospel, and the Church, have transformed his life and the lives of others.

His ministry has “able to leverage my gift for speaking with 40 parishes a year and that makes an impact,” he said.

But those events, however effective they are, have impact limited by attendance.

“Taking that same thing and doing it digitally,” Stefanick explained, broadens the reach of his ministry.

“If this succeeds, we can work with hundreds and hundreds of parishes. Whereas the events were limited by how many places I can get to.”

The pandemic will “make us more effective because this will strengthen the whole digital component of our ministry. So instead of being 75% about events, 25% digital, now it's 100% digital. By the time we are out of this, we [will] strengthen that component,” he said.

Stefanick pointed to “I AM,” a virtual coaching program that was released by his ministry, Real Life Catholic, on Ash Wednesday. He said the initiative aims to help users replace negative self-thoughts with positive reflections on the Word of God. Drawing from struggles in his own life, he said, “I AM” is a program that is relevant to everyone, even non-Catholics.

“We have a 30-day coaching program and it’s [one] of the most effective ministr[ies] we've ever done, based on the responses of people [and] how it's hitting their hearts. It's a program about helping people rewire how they talk to themselves and replace self-talk with the uplifting Word of God,” he said.

“I've been with the Lord for a long time and I wrote some of this out of personal experience of the things that I struggle with negative self-talk.”

The coronavirus lockdown has changed Stefanick’s daily work schedule and brought about some own personal concerns, including worries about finances and the fragility of society. He said, though, it is also a blessing to spend so much time with family. 

“I can perceive the good for me in that I haven't been home this much in 10 years and it's the Sabbath that's made me relook at life. We'll never get this chance again. God willing. We will never get the chance again to pause on so many of our activities,” he said.

“So it led to a lot of reflection, self-correction, repentance, prayer, silence and family time. Doing things like taking walks with kids, things I never did before that I regret not having done. Very simple things that you lose track of when life is going 300 miles an hour.”

Stefanick said the pandemic is also an opportunity to trust in the Lord.

“It also forces a real look, not theoretical, but a very real [look] at life and death,” he said. “We're delusional in the Western world. We forget … how fragile the whole system is that insulates us from our need, from death, from everything,” Stefanick said.

“I found myself in moments of fear when going to the grocery store and seeing everything [going] totally nuts, “ he said. “[It’s ] forced me to come back to, ‘Lord, you are really my provider and whatever happens to me, your only motive is love.’ And that's where my peace comes from. Not [from] having enough to pay bills and enough stuff out there to get what I need.”

Stefanick said the pandemic requires a different kind of courage than many people might have expected, adding that members of the Church are all called to a sort of monastic lifestyle at the moment. He said it would be potentially hazardous for people to break the quarantine, and should focus on an important work of mercy - prayer.

He pointed to a challenge from Pope Francis, who has offered a plenary indulgence to people suffering from COVID-19 and their caretakers, including healthcare workers, along with their benefactors in prayer.

The pandemic will lead to more death in the upcoming weeks and those in the hospitals need to know that prayers are being offered for them, Stefanick said..

“What's being asked of us during this time is withdrawal, silence, and the life of a Carthusian monk …  not the life of an evangelist missionary. So that's a different kind of heroism and it's no less difficult. Frankly. I think it would be easier for me if I knew I could go out and help people and risk my life going to Mass,” he said.

“We really have to pray for the world right now … We should be praying a lot for people who are facing death. It's going to be a lot of bad news in the month ahead. A lot of people are gonna lose their lives and they need prayers.”

 

Texas AG: Planned Parenthood not singled out by coronavirus order

Thu, 04/02/2020 - 18:00

Washington D.C., Apr 2, 2020 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has disputed Planned Parenthood’s claim that the state targeted abortion clinics in an order prohibiting non-essential medical procedures during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Interview an interview that will air Thursday on EWTN Pro-Life Weekly, Paxton said that the abortion provider was itself demanding special treatment in a legal challenge to the executive issued last month by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

Abbott issued the executive order (GA 09) on March 22, halting non-essential surgeries and medical procedures during the coronavirus pandemic, in order to free up resources and medical personnel to treat COVID patients.

Abbott clarified that the order would apply to “any type of abortion that is not medically necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.”

“What they are actually asking to be singled out,” Paxton said Thursday. “[They want] to be treated better than everybody else during this crisis, so they could be doing elective abortions, when those resources could otherwise be used to save somebody’s life.” 

Planned Parenthood and other pro-abortion groups filed litigation over the executive order, claiming Abbott singled out the procedure. A federal district court initially blocked the order, but the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay on that ruling March 31, permitting Abbott’s order to go into effect.

In a statement Tuesday, Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, called Abbott’s order “heartless,” adding, “No other form of health care is being targeted this way — only abortion.”

During the interview on EWTN Pro-Life Weekly, Paxton argued that the Texas order does not single out abortion clinics, but is “a ban on elective procedures which also includes abortion.”

“It includes orthopedic surgeries, it includes dental procedures, it includes dermatological procedures, it includes all kinds of elective procedures, they are not being singled out, they are just being treated like everybody else,” Paxton said.

Paxton argued that any type of nonessential medical procedure “had to be stopped” in an effort to conserve personal protective equipment for health care professionals battling the coronavirus pandemic. 

“We’re trying to conserve those because there’s a shortage of them, and conserve resources like hospital beds, and even the focus of doctors’ time,” Paxton said.

Paxton argued that through its lawsuit, Planned Parenthood is asking for special treatment.

“We didn’t want anybody treated any differently but apparently Planned Parenthood and the abortion providers felt like they should be given an exception to how other people and how other providers are being treated,” he said.

The order, Paxton said, “applies to everyone.”

The full interview with Paxton will air Thursday at 10:00 PM EST on EWTN.

 

Texas Attorney General @KenPaxtonTX explains how Governor Greg Abbot's order was designed to conserve medical supplies during the #coronavirus pandemic. He also discusses the ongoing legal battle with @PPact.
Watch the full interview tonight. #prolife pic.twitter.com/lzTeao1gH3

— EWTN Pro-Life Weekly (@EWTNProLife) April 2, 2020  

 

Kate Scanlon is a producer for EWTN Pro-Life Weekly.

Spatula baseball: L’Arche ‘leans into creativity’ during lockdown

Thu, 04/02/2020 - 17:00

Washington D.C., Apr 2, 2020 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- While sports around the country have seen their seasons suspended due to COVID-19, spatula baseball season is in full swing at one of the L’Arche community houses in Washington, D.C.

Faced with quarantines and stay-at-home orders, the four houses of L’Arche Greater Washington, D.C. (GWDC) were forced to adjust to a whole host of changes to keep the members of the community safe. 

But, according to Luke Smith, executive director and community leader of L’Arche Greater Washington, the changes have meant that the L’Arche homes are doing what they do best: embracing creativity. 

“We're very creative as a community,” Smith said, noting that there are many artists within the organization. “We're intentional communities, so we're intentional about how we share our gifts--and we're full of gifts--and so, and we've taken time to kind of lean into our creative energies.” 

L’Arche GWDC is part of L’Arche International, “a worldwide federation of people, with and without intellectual disabilities, working together for a world where all belong.” L’Arche communities consist of “core members,” who have intellectual disabilities, and “assistants,” who generally do not have intellectual disabilities, and who live in community with core members. There are 14 “core members” in the Washington area.
Part of L’Arche’s “leaning in” to creativity involves devising new ways to pass the time. One home is having community members give “TED Talks” each night about topics they are interested in, and residents at another home invented “spatula baseball”--a game that has proven to be quite popular. 

Unlike traditional baseball, which uses a bat and a ball, “spatula baseball” is designed to be played indoors--Smith said it is typically played in the kitchen and living room--and uses a spatula in place of the bat and a paper ball instead of a baseball. Once batters hit the ball, they proceed to walk around the bases. 

Smith said that while community members are flexing their creative muscles at this time, others have tried to stick to a routine, even though they can no longer attend day programs or go to work due to the coronavirus. 

“People are still getting up to have breakfast as they would do normally, still getting dressed to go to work,” he said. “Charles, who's a member of the community, is still wearing a tie every day, as he would do normally.” 

The core members understand why they cannot go to their jobs or programs and, Smith said, they have learned on the news about the coronavirus and why it is important to practice social distancing and handwashing. Being part of an international federation means that L’Arche GWDC can see how the homes abroad were dealing with the virus.

“We know that other members in other communities are experiencing this too,” he said. “So that reality of ‘we are doing this together, not just as a national population of people here in the U.S., but also as people of L'Arche across the world,’ has helped to set the tone.”

Even though Washington and Virginia are both under some variation of stay-at-home directives, the world of L’Arche’s community continues, albeit with modifications, said Smith. This Tuesday’s prayer service, which is normally held in-person, will instead be done via Zoom. 

He added that there has been an “unintended benefit” of a new reliance on technology--being able to reconnect with past community members. 

“Technology is a wonderful way of ensuring that we remain an intentional community, where we continue those mutual relationships or we are able to flourish--even in the midst of this,” said Smith.

Smith said that other measures, such as new screening procedures and temperature checks for any guests to the homes, as well as changes to who is permitted to go grocery shopping and when, are to ensure the health of the core members and assistants, many of whom are considered to be medically vulnerable. 

“People with intellectual disabilities are often the most impacted by this,” said Smith. “And we have people in our community who are no longer at work. They are people with intellectual disabilities who are no longer receiving a paycheck and they are no longer engaged in, what is being meaningful and is meaningful for them.” 

Smith also raised concerns about the potential quality of medical care that the core members would receive if they were to fall ill as extra motivation to introduce additional safety steps. He noted several states have been accused of issuing disaster preparedness plans that, should the situation arise, could prioritize giving care to people without intellectual disabilities if there were a shortage of ventilators. 

“I am particularly mindful of that, in light of some personal experiences in  my own community here in DC, where we've had issues in the past in terms of communicating the dignity of someone with their medical provider or the medical system,” said Smith. 

Smith praised the “great work” of the assistants of L’Arche GWDC, as they have made “sacrifices in limiting what they are doing, to make sure that our homes are safe and healthy and protected.”

An obstacle facing L’Arche GWDC is the cancelation of their fundraising breakfast, as well as the challenges they face in obtaining common household supplies, which typically sell out very quickly. Smith said the communities have a wish list where people could support them financially if they wish. 

As the DC-area concludes its third week of coronavirus-related restrictions, Smith told CNA that he has been careful to work to maintain a strong sense of community and cooperation within the homes. 

“One of the things that we practice every day at the L'Arche community is the reality of forgiveness and celebration are daily parts of our reality,” he said. 

“I've been sharing with the community that we need to be gentle with ourselves and gentle with others and that it's okay to be frustrated with the coronavirus, but we don't need to be frustrated with each other.” He said his community has “really leaned in” to this mentality.

“We’ve been able to lean into each other, and ask each other for support, and ask each other for space and time,” he added. 

Smith told CNA that he hopes the L’Arche community is able to be a sign of hope and community for not only each other, but also for other members of the greater DC area--particularly those who have been impacted in one way or another by the coronavirus. 

“We are praying with you,” said Smith. “We are thinking of ways we can support you. L’Arche wants to give, too; we as a community want to be supportive.”

Recalling St John Paul II’s seven visits to the United States

Thu, 04/02/2020 - 12:02

CNA Staff, Apr 2, 2020 / 10:02 am (CNA).- St. John Paul II was the most traveled pope in history, logging some 700,000 miles and visiting nearly 130 countries.

One of the first countries the pope visited after his election was the United States. As Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, he had visited the US in 1976, two years before his election, stopping at places such as Michigan, Ohio, and Montana, and was eager to return.

Over the course of his nearly 27-year pontificate, St. John Paul II would make seven visits to the US— five of significant length, and two brief stopovers during which he nevertheless left a lasting impression on the memories of the locals.

St. John Paul II died April 2, 2005. On the anniversary of the saint’s death, we take a look back at his seven visits to the United States.

Visit 1, October 1-9, 1979

Where: Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Des Moines, Chicago, Washington, D.C.

St. John Paul II's first visit to the United States as pope was a whirlwind six-city tour that began with a gathering of 100,000 at Boston Common. He then went to New York where he held a youth rally at Madison Square Garden, gave a speech at the United Nations and celebrated Mass before a congregation of 80,000 at Yankee Stadium. He also received a ticker-tape parade in Philadelphia.

After a warm welcome in Chicago, St. John Paul II made his way to Des Moines, ostensibly after a Catholic Iowa farmer wrote to the pope to invite him to see life in “rural America, the heartland and breadbasket of our nation.” A crowd of 350,000 greeted him at a farm just outside the city.

The visit also marked the first time a pope had entered the White House, as he met with President Jimmy Carter in Washington. The two leaders discussed situations in the Philippines, China, Europe, South Korea, and the Middle East, and the pope emphasized to Carter the need for the United States to keep ties open to the largely Catholic people of Eastern Europe, then under the throes of Communism.

Finally, St. John Paul II celebrated Mass on the National Mall.

What the pope said:

“Dear young people: do not be afraid of honest effort and honest work; do not be afraid of the truth. With Christ's help, and through prayer, you can answer his call, resisting temptations and fads, and every form of mass manipulation. Open your hearts to the Christ of the Gospels—to his love and his truth and his joy. Do not go away sad!” -Mass at Boston Common

“Fourteen years ago my great predecessor Pope Paul VI spoke from this podium. He spoke memorable words, which I desire to repeat today: ‘No more war, war never again! Never one against the other,’ or even ‘one above the other,’ but always, on every occasion, ‘with each other.’” -Address to the United Nations

“We cannot stand idly by, enjoying our own riches and freedom, if, in any place, the Lazarus of the twentieth century stands at our doors. In the light of the parable of Christ, riches and freedom mean a special responsibility. Riches and freedom create a special obligation. And so, in the name of the solidarity that binds us all together in a common humanity, I again proclaim the dignity of every human person: the rich man and Lazarus are both human beings, both of them equally created in the image and likeness of God, both of them equally redeemed by Christ, at a great price, the price of ‘the precious blood of Christ" (1 Pt 1 :19).’” -Mass at Yankee Stadium

“To all of you who are farmers and all who are associated with agricultural production I want to say this: the Church highly esteems your work. Christ himself showed his esteem for agricultural life when he described God his Father as the "vinedresser" (Jn 15 :1). You cooperate with the Creator, the "vinedresser", in sustaining and nurturing life. You fulfill the command of God given at the very beginning: "Fill the earth and subdue it" (Gen 1 :28). Here in the heartland of America, the valleys and hills have been blanketed with grain, the herds and the flocks have multiplied many times over. By hard work you have become masters of the earth and you have subdued it.” -Mass in Des Moines

“All human beings ought to value every person for his or her uniqueness as a creature of God, called to be a brother or sister of Christ by reason of the Incarnation and the universal Redemption. For us, the sacredness of human life is based on these premises. And it is on these same premises that there is based our celebration of life—all human life. This explains our efforts to defend human life against every influence or action that threatens or weakens it, as well as our endeavors to make every life more human in all its aspects. And so, we will stand up every time that human life is threatened.” -Mass on the National Mall

Visit 2, February 26, 1981

Where: Stopover in Anchorage

The pope’s first visit to Alaska was brief— a stopover lasting just over four hours on his way back to Rome after a pastoral visit to the Philippines, Guam, and Japan— but left a lasting impression.

An estimated 100,000 people came to downtown Anchorage to see the pope, which remains the largest gathering of people in the history of the state.

Then-Archbishop Francis Hurley of Anchorage recalled that as he was escorting the pope downtown, he made a special point of greeting the elderly who waved at him out of the windows of a senior living facility.

When he arrived at Holy Name Cathedral, he took the time to greet the diabled and elderly who had come to see him. One disabled child— who died shortly after the encounter— handed him a bouquet of forget-me-nots; St. John Paul II made a point of mentioning the child and the flowers the next time he visited Alaska, saying that “her loving gesture is not forgotten.”

The visit "pulled a lot of Catholics out of the woodwork we didn't know were Catholic" and inspired them back to the practice of their faith, Archbishop Hurley told the archdiocesan newspaper.

What the pope said:

“My brothers and sisters in Christ: Never doubt the vital importance of your presence in the Church, the vital importance of religious life and of the ministerial priesthood in the mission of proclaiming the mercy of God. Through your daily life, which is often accompanied by the sign of the cross, and through faithful service and persevering hope, you show your deep faith in the merciful love of God, and bear witness to that love, which is more powerful than evil and stronger than death.” -Address to priests and religious in the Anchorage cathedral

Visit 3, May 2, 1984

Where: Stopover in Fairbanks

Once again, Alaska served as a midpoint for the pope between Rome and the Pacific, as he embarked on his pastoral journey to Korea, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and Thailand.

This time, St. John Paul II appeared with President Ronald Reagan, who was himself returning from a trip to China, at the Fairbanks airport. During the pope’s brief, three-hour refuelling stop, Reagan praised him as a defender of human freedom, and as a source of "solace, inspiration, and hope."

What the pope said:

“In some ways, Alaska can be considered today as a crossroads of the world...Here in this vast State sixty-five languages are spoken and peoples of many diverse backgrounds find a common home with the Aleuts, Eskimos and Indians. This wonderful diversity provides the context in which each person, each family, each ethnic group is challenged to live in harmony and concord, one with the other. To achieve this aim requires a constant openness to each other on the part of each individual and group. An openness of heart, a readiness to accept differences, and an ability to listen to each other’s viewpoint without prejudice. Openness to others, by its very nature, excludes selfishness in any form. It is expressed in a dialogue that is honest and frank-one that is based on mutual respect. Openness to others begins in the heart.” -Address to authorities and people of Alaska

Visit 4, September 10-19, 1987

Where: Miami, Columbia, SC, New Orleans, San Antonio, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Monterey, San Francisco, Detroit

This trip was the longest of St. John Paul II's visits to the US, and his first to the contiguous West Coast. Reagan greeted him once again, this time in Miami.

Notable episodes from the visit included the pope’s Mass in Miami being cut short because of a storm; addressing representatives of black Catholics at the Superdome in New Orleans; attending an ecumenical conference on the University of South Carolina campus; Mass in San Antonio with about 275,000 in attendance; touring a Catholic hospital and attending the Tekakwitha Conference— a national gathering of Native American Catholics— at the Arizona State Fair Grounds Coliseum in Phoenix; and addressing representatives from the communications industry in Los Angeles.

Though the pope encountered some protests in San Francisco, and crowds were not as large as some had expected, his visit still drew at least 300,000 in California.

What the pope said:

“God loves you! God loves you all, without distinction, without limit. He loves those of you who are elderly, who feel the burden of the years. He loves those of you who are sick, those who are suffering from AIDS and from AIDS-Related Complex. He loves the relatives and friends of the sick and those who care for them. He loves us all with an unconditional and everlasting love.” -Address at Mission Dolores Basilica, San Francisco

“The obligation to truth and its completeness applies not only to the coverage of news, but to all your work. Truth and completeness should characterize the content of artistic expression and entertainment. You find a real meaning in your work when you exercise your role as collaborators of truth – collaborators of truth in the service of justice, fairness and love.” -Address to people of the communications industry, Los Angeles

“From the very beginning, the Creator bestowed his gifts on each people. It is clear that stereotyping. prejudice, bigotry and racism demean the human dignity which comes from the hand of the Creator and which is seen in variety and diversity. I encourage you, as native people belonging to the different tribes and nations in the East, South, West and North, to preserve and keep alive your cultures, your languages, the values and customs which have served you well in the past and which provide a solid foundation for the future. Your customs that mark the various stages of life, your love for the extended family, your respect for the dignity and worth of every human being, from the unborn to the aged, and your stewardship and care of the earth: these things benefit not only yourselves but the entire human family. Your gifts can also be expressed even more fully in the Christian way of life. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is at home in every people. It enriches, uplifts and purifies every culture. All of us together make up the People of God, the Body of Christ, the Church. We should all be grateful for the growing unity, presence, voice and leadership of Catholic Native Americans in the Church today.” -Address to Native American Catholics

“I express my deep love and esteem for the black Catholic community in the United States. Its vitality is a sign of hope for society. Composed as you are of many lifelong Catholics, and many who have more recently embraced the faith, together with a growing immigrant community, you reflect the Church’s ability to bring together a diversity of people united in faith, hope and love, sharing a communion with Christ in the Holy Spirit. I urge you to keep alive and active your rich cultural gifts. Always profess proudly before the whole Church and the whole world your love for God’s word; it is a special blessing which you must forever treasure as a part of your heritage. Help us all to remember that authentic freedom comes from accepting the truth and from living one’s life in accordance with it – and the full truth is found only in Christ Jesus. Continue to inspire us by your desire to forgive – as Jesus forgave – and by your desire to be reconciled with all the people of this nation, even those who would unjustly deny you the full exercise of your human rights.” -Address to black Catholics

“America, your deepest identity and truest character as a nation is revealed in the position you take towards the human person. The ultimate test of your greatness in the way you treat every human being, but especially the weakest and most defenceless ones.” -Farewell Address

Visit 5: World Youth Day, August 12-15, 1993

Where: Denver

At the time it was chosen, Denver seemed to many to be an odd choice for a host for World Youth Day— the international gathering of young people that he himself had instituted in 1985. The city was experiencing a surge in crime, and many feared that the septuagenarian pope would not be successful in attracting young people to the event.

Nevertheless, World Youth Day in Denver was a huge success, with an estimated 750,000 people attending the final Mass at Cherry Creek State Park. Young people from all over the world showed their willingness to sacrifice and experience pilgrimage by lodging in parish halls en route to Denver, trudging through the heat to Cherry Creek State Park, sleeping on the ground there, and enduring other discomforts.

Upon St. John Paul II death in 20115, then-Archbishop Charles Chaput said that the Pope’s visit to Denver was “a Transfiguration for the Church in Northern Colorado - a moment when Jesus smiled on us in a special, joyful, vivid way and invited us into his mission to the world.”

What the pope said:

“Pilgrims set out for a destination. In our case it is not so much a place or a shrine that we seek to honor. Ours is a pilgrimage to a modern city, a symbolic destination: the "metropolis" is the place which determines the life–style and the history of a large part of the human family at the end of the twentieth century. This modern city of Denver is set in the beautiful natural surroundings of the Rocky Mountains, as if to put the work of human hands in relationship with the work of the Creator. We are therefore searching for the reflection of God not only in the beauty of nature but also in humanity’s achievements and in each individual person. On this pilgrimage our steps are guided by the words of Jesus Christ: ‘I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.’” -Welcome ceremony at Mile High Stadium

“Do not be afraid to go out on the streets and into public places, like the first Apostles who preached Christ and the Good News of salvation in the squares of cities, towns and villages. This is no time to be ashamed of the Gospel (Cfr. Rom 1,16). It is the time to preach it from the rooftops (Cfr. Matt 10,27). Do not be afraid to break out of comfortable and routine modes of living, in order to take up the challenge of making Christ known in the modern ‘metropolis.’ It is you who must ‘go out into the byroads’ (Matt 22,9) and invite everyone you meet to the banquet which God has prepared for his people. The Gospel must not be kept hidden because of fear or indifference. It was never meant to be hidden away in private. It has to be put on a stand so that people may see its light and give praise to our heavenly Father.” -Mass at Cherry Creek State Park

Visit 6, October 4-9, 1995

Where: Newark, East Rutherford, NJ, New York City, Yonkers,  NY, Baltimore

This marked the pope’s second visit to New York City, and he visited several other cities on the Eastern seaboard. It was his first visit to New Jersey, where he made stops in Newark— celebrating Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral— and East Rutherford.

Upon returning to New York, the pope celebrated Mass at Giants Stadium, and also addressed the United Nations for a second time.

What the pope said:

“Freedom is not simply the absence of tyranny or oppression. Nor is freedom a licence to do whatever we like. Freedom has an inner ‘logic’ which distinguishes it and ennobles it: freedom is ordered to the truth, and is fulfilled in man's quest for truth and in man's living in the truth. Detached from the truth about the human person, freedom deteriorates into license in the lives of individuals, and, in political life, it becomes the caprice of the most powerful and the arrogance of power. Far from being a limitation upon freedom or a threat to it, reference to the truth about the human person — a truth universally knowable through the moral law written on the hearts of all — is, in fact, the guarantor of freedom's future.” -Address to the United Nations

“As a Christian, my hope and trust are centered on Jesus Christ, the two thousandth anniversary of whose birth will be celebrated at the coming of the new millennium. We Christians believe that in his Death and Resurrection were fully revealed God's love and his care for all creation. Jesus Christ is for us God made man, and made a part of the history of humanity. Precisely for this reason, Christian hope for the world and its future extends to every human person. Because of the radiant humanity of Christ, nothing genuinely human fails to touch the hearts of Christians. Faith in Christ does not impel us to intolerance. On the contrary, it obliges us to engage others in a respectful dialogue. Love of Christ does not distract us from interest in others, but rather invites us to responsibility for them, to the exclusion of no one and indeed, if anything, with a special concern for the weakest and the suffering. Thus, as we approach the two thousandth anniversary of the birth of Christ, the Church asks only to be able to propose respectfully this message of salvation, and to be able to promote, in charity and service, the solidarity of the entire human family.” -Address to the United Nations

“At the end of your National Anthem, one finds these words: "Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, And this be our motto: ‘In God is our trust!’” America: may your trust always be in God and in none other. And then, "The star–spangled banner in triumph shall wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.” Thank you, and God bless you all!” -Farewell address at the Baltimore airport

Visit 7, January 26-27, 1999

Where: St. Louis

The pope’s final visit to the United States took him to St. Louis, sometimes called “The Rome of the West” for its many Catholic churches. His visit included a youth rally at an arena, Mass at the city’s stadium, and vespers at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis.

Along the way, he met with President Bill Clinton, civil rights leader Rosa Parks, and baseball players Mark McGuire and Stan Musial.

He asked then-governor Mel Carnahan to spare the life of triple-murderer Darrell Mease, whose original execution date had been set for that day— which the governor did, commuting his sentence to life without parole.

Though the pope’s age— 78— showed during his 31-hour visit, his enthusiasm and joy attracted thousands of people and left a lasting impression on the city. The Mass he celebrated at the then-Trans World Dome is said to be the largest indoor gathering ever held in the U.S.

What the pope said:

“I am told that there was much excitement in St. Louis during the recent baseball season, when two great players (Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa) were competing to break the home-run record. You can feel the same great enthusiasm as you train for a different goal: the goal of following Christ, the goal of bringing his message to the world. Each one of you belongs to Christ, and Christ belongs to you.

At Baptism you were claimed for Christ with the Sign of the Cross; you received the Catholic faith as a treasure to be shared with others. In Confirmation, you were sealed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit and strengthened for your Christian mission and vocation. In the Eucharist, you receive the food that nourishes you for the spiritual challenges of each day.

I am especially pleased that so many of you had the opportunity today to receive the Sacrament of Penance, the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In this Sacrament you experience the Savior’s tender mercy and love in a most personal way, when you are freed from sin and from its ugly companion which is shame. Your burdens are lifted and you experience the joy of new life in Christ.

Your belonging to the Church can find no greater expression or support than by sharing in the Eucharist every Sunday in your parishes. Christ gives us the gift of his body and blood to make us one body, one spirit in him, to bring us more deeply into communion with him and with all the members of his Body, the Church. Make the Sunday celebration in your parishes a real encounter with Jesus in the community of his followers: this is an essential part of your ‘training in devotion” to the Lord!’ -Address to young people

“I will always remember St. Louis. I will remember all of you.” -Final words at the cathedral of St. Louis

‘We’re in unknown territory’: Uncertainty follows parish and diocesan employee layoffs 

Thu, 04/02/2020 - 06:00

Denver, Colo., Apr 2, 2020 / 04:00 am (CNA).- Dawne Mechlinski was a parish music minister for 41 years.

When she was 12 years old, when she was asked to be the organist at her parish in Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey. She agreed, and added organ lessons onto her piano lessons. After attending Westminster Choir College, she’s been a full-time director of music since 1988 in the Diocese of Trenton, New Jersey.

Mechlinski, now 53, is the kind of parish music minister who sticks around - she’s only ever served at three different parishes, including her childhood parish. She’s been at her current parish, St. Mark's in Sea Girt, since 2006.

That is, until the coronavirus pandemic struck.

At first, Mechlinski said employees of the parish took their own social distancing and health precautions, but for the most part, “everything was normal. Then on the weekend of the 14th and 15th (of March), I had questions from parents of choir members.”

The parents were wondering if choir practice was continuing, and if so, what it would look like. Mechlinski, who directs four choirs, decided to cancel choir for the weekend. Instead she played the organ while one person sang for all four Masses.

Attendance was low, Mechlinski noted, as social distancing was already catching on throughout the United States, but the collection basket wasn’t hit too hard, as many parishioners have moved to online donations.

Later that week, on Thursday, March 19, Mechlinski played the organ again for a funeral Mass. That evening, she got the call.

"We've decided you're furloughed,” the parish business administrator told Mechlinski.

“I even had to question really what that meant,” she said. “I thought that was a military term, to be honest. I wasn't prepared. I actually thought she was calling to give me protocol, how we would be handling things, what would be going on down the road.”

“And the business administrator just said, ‘This is what everyone (in the diocese) is doing, this is how we'll handle it.’ She was reading me this letter. And that was it. She said, ‘You will be paid until tomorrow,’ which was Friday. I'm off on Wednesdays and Fridays, and that was it.”

Bishops across the United States have suspended public liturgies and closed church buildings in the past few weeks in response to state-issued public safety policies, and Catholic leaders have warned of an immediate revenue shortfall. Consequences of that shortfall include staff reductions, furloughs, and decreased hours.

The furlough came as a shock to Mechlinski, who noted that her parish is located in a “very affluent” area. Music ministry has been her life-long passion, it’s also her career: the primary source of income for a widowed mother to four children, two of whom still live at home and have significant medical needs.

Mechlinski said she tried to ask some clarifying questions, but as of now, things are “not real clear.” She’s unsure what will happen to her health insurance or her life insurance. She was told that her parish had not been paying into unemployment insurance, so she’s not sure what she qualifies for as far as any kind of aid right now.

“I am...a little alarmed that they don't have something in place for their employees as a protection,” she said. “I've asked for a letter of furlough explaining (the details) and I have yet to receive it. I've asked for it a couple of times just to have something permanent rather than a phone conversation.”

Linda Rosa, the business manager at St. Mark’s, told CNA that the parish had been in a deficit even before the coronavirus pandemic hit.

“We weren't in the best shape to begin with. We were just trying to get out of it and all of a sudden, there's something that happens,” Rosa said. She said she has been in touch with employees and with the diocese as the parish has had to make difficult financial decisions to furlough or lay off employees.

Rosa added that as of April 1, no full-time employee of the parish had yet gone without pay. Rosa said Mechlinski was still receiving pay for any personal or sick time off that she had not yet used in the year, as were the other employees. She said Mechlinski and all other employees’ benefits will be covered by the parish for the duration of the pandemic.

“We're just continuing to pray for all those that have been affected,” Rosa said.

Rayanne Bennett, director of communications in the Diocese of Trenton, told CNA that furloughs were an “unfortunate necessity” due to the coronavirus pandemic, as the drop in donations at the parish level also affects the financial stability of the diocese.

Bennett said that the diocese will pay for the health insurance of all furloughed employees for three months “at minimum,” and has advised all furloughed staff to apply for unemployment benefits through new federal coronavirus benefits.  

“We are doing all that we can and will continue to give this our best effort. While there is great uncertainty at this time, it is our hope that we can restore our parishes, schools and diocesan operations to full staffing once the current emergency has passed,” Bennett said.

Mechlinski said she’s unsure of what comes next. She’s hoping that the terms of her furlough become more clear, and she plans to look into what federal aid she may qualify for. A friend of hers, who was recovering from coronavirus with his wife, set up a GoFundMe page to support her.

“He really stepped out and said, ‘Listen, I need to do something for you.’ So he put together a GoFundMe, which I thought was really sweet,” she said. “It's going to be the angels among us that are all going to help us to get through. The community that continues to lift everyone up, and whatever means of support that people find in their hearts is a blessing.”

Ministry is also a passion for Emily Davenport, 23, who served as a full-time missionary with LifeTeen last year in Georgia before moving to Sandusky, Ohio in September for a job as a youth minister.

The position had been vacant for about a year and a half, Davenport said, and she’s spent most of this year building a youth program back up from scratch.

But now, she’s back home in St. Louis, living with her parents and her 19 year-old seminarian brother, after she was laid off due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“What we have been told is that we're laid off until Sunday Masses resume, so as far as we know, the plan and the hope is that we're all rehired,” Davenport said.

“But I also know that shortly before we got laid off, we were told nobody was going to get laid off. And so it's like everything feels very unpredictable,” she added.

Davenport said she doesn’t have hard feelings about being laid off, and that her pastor handled the situation well.

“Our pastor is fantastic, for the record,” she said. “He's a really wonderful man. He's really... trying very, very hard to be prudent for the future of the parish. And so almost as soon as public Masses were canceled, most of our parish staff was either laid off or (had) hours cut. He was an accountant before he was a priest, so he has a lot more managerial foresight than I think...a lot of pastors do.”

Davenport said when her pastor called to tell her the news, he explained to her how she could apply for unemployment benefits.

The parish is also covering Davenport’s health insurance for the pandemic at no cost to her, and because Davenport had been living in parish-provided housing, and has now moved back home with her parents, she doesn’t owe rent anywhere.

“I see them trying to do everything they can. It's just a sucky situation,” she said.

Fr. Monte Hoyles, the pastor of the Catholic Parishes of Sandusky, the tri-parish conglomerate where Davenport had worked, told CNA he hoped that he could bring his staff back as soon as possible.

“I mean, (laying off staff) is not something you want to do. Who would want to do that?” he said.

“But with very little money coming in and salaries to pay...until we can get back (to public Masses) this was the only way to ensure that we're able to continue what things we can do for right now,” Hoyles said, adding that the parishes are covering health insurance for all laid-off employees who qualified for it.

“I told my employees from the three parishes and also our cemeteries...I want to bring you back as absolutely soon as I possibly can,” Hoyles said.

Davenport said she feels blessed because she has her family as a safety net, and her dad’s job is pretty secure. But she still has bills to pay, and she doesn’t want to rely on her family for long.

“I was on ‘operation trying to be an independent adult’, but at least for now, I'm trying to take care of my cable bill, and the other things like...car insurance and my car payment,” she said.

“Maybe the bank will be able to let me wait a month or two before paying car payments, in the hope that my job would be back and I'd be able to just pick up where I left off,” she added.

She said she hopes to return to ministry, but that all depends on how things go in the near future with the Church and the pandemic.

“I know I'll be okay for a few months, but after those few months, I'd have to start finding other ways to take care of those bills.”

Cassandra Tkaczow is another Church employee facing a layoff due to the coronavirus pandemic. Tkaczow was in her second year as an assistant campus minister at Alfred State and Alfred University in New York until March 18, when she was laid off.

“The students were on spring break when everything really started to explode here in New York state,” Tkaczow said. One of her students called her to explain that she wouldn’t be coming back for the semester, but the school’s official policy had not yet been decided.

A few days later, Alfred State College and Alfred University announced that the students would be allowed to come back to campus to collect their belongings, but that all classes would be taking place online.

At first, Tkaczow said, it seemed like she would be getting paid through the end of the semester, and she would just be moving her ministry online. Just days after that plan was discussed, she was laid off.

“Both of us (Tkaczow and her boss) had a suspicion, with the bankruptcy of the diocese in Buffalo that we would not be coming back for the next semester, but we didn't expect it to be this soon,” she said. The Diocese of Buffalo filed for bankruptcy last year due to sexual abuse lawsuits.

According to a statement from the Diocese of Buffalo provided to CNA, the coronavirus pandemic accelerated diocesan plans of financial reorganization.

“While we deeply regret the very personal impact that this process of realignment will have on dedicated employees of the Catholic Center, we must assess how best to deploy the resources of the Diocese in ways that reflect responsible stewardship and which offer the greatest benefit for our parishes,” Fr. Peter Kalaus, vicar general and moderator of the curia for the diocese, said in a statement.

“We anticipate that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic will have a severe impact on parishes and exacerbate the financial challenges that the Diocese is already confronting. It is why we are accelerating our plans to better align the functions of the Catholic Center with the needs of our parishes,” he added.

According to the statement, 21 employees have been laid off or furloughed and 3 people moved from full-time to part-time. Health insurance will be covered by the diocese through April, after which time employees will either need to find different insurance or pay premiums directly to the diocese.

Tkaczow has since moved back home with her parents, who also live in New York. Like Davenport, her housing had been provided, and so rent is not a worry right now.

Tkaczow said while she understands from a financial standpoint why her position was eliminated, she feels bad for her students.
“I also couldn't help but think, how could they do this to the students? Because they just completely got rid of the campus ministry program, because of the bankruptcy. And with it being this early, how could they do that to them? How are they going to go forward in the coming semesters and years?”

For now, she’s been continuing to minister remotely to her students even without pay. She’s leading a rosary and social hour on Thursdays, and on Mondays she’s leading a Bible study.

While Tkaczow has a degree in computer science, she said her passion is for ministry, and while she may have to find another job to pay the bills for a time, “if God calls me to be in campus ministry or youth minister again, I would not hesitate in saying yes.”

The small parishes of St. Mary in Bloomfield, New Mexico and St Rose of Lima in Blanco New Mexico, in the Diocese of Gallup, have fared slightly better in the coronavirus fallout.

Fr. Josh Mayer, pastor of both parishes, told CNA that he expects to be able to pay his employees for the next six months or so, even if extreme social distancing measures for the pandemic continue.

“Our parishes are in a very blessed position to be able to take care of our staff for a while,” Mayer told CNA.

Mayer said due to canceled Masses, regular tithes to the parish are down to about a third of what they normally are. That could pick up slightly as more parishioners adjust to online donations, but for the most part, a lot of his parishioners haven’t taken to that in recent years, he said.

But the parish is still in a position to pay its staff for a while, and Mayer said he has plenty for them to do.

“I’ve got lots of projects I can give our people to do. Our maintenance guy has to come in and work on stuff here...even when buildings aren't being used, they need upkeep,” he said.

“And we're figuring out...how our parish kind of shifts some of our activities to different categories I guess. I mean a lot of stuff that we do with parishioners, we can still do. It just has to look really different,” he said.

Mayer said he was touched by the generosity of his financial manager, Sally Bales, who took a look at the books and the decreased donations and offered to donate her salary back to the parish for the time being so that other staff could remain on payroll.

“We’re just hoping that we can keep everybody employed in the meantime, so something like what Sally did is a huge boon for that,” he said.

“It definitely helps take care of the other parishioners or the other staff and helps ensure that we can keep them employed.”

Bales told CNA that because she and her husband are retired, she decided to donate her salary back for a while, to help younger staff members who are raising families and are relying on their jobs as their main source of income.

“The other staff members are younger, of course, than I am, and that's their sole income, so it's a lot harder picture for them than it is for me,” she said.

Bales, who manages the finances of both parishes, said that one of the parishes has a significantly higher percentage of online donations than the other.

“The parish that had more involvement online has not been as adversely affected as the one that people typically give cash at Sunday Mass,” she said.

“That's one thing I shared with Father, so that he can maybe encourage people to do more online giving. Our expenses don't change much whether we have Mass or not, and yet our donations are definitely volatile whether we have a physical gathering or not,” she added.

Some parishioners have been mailing in donations, Bales added, and staff have been calling people to encourage them to move to online giving, since “we don't really see an end when this is going to wrap up.”

Bales said she’s grateful that the parishes had some money set aside, so that they are not relying on the current week’s donations to pay staff salaries.

“As it happens, the parishes that I support have been very conservative and have some money set aside. It's not like we have to have the money this week to pay the next week salary, so that's wonderful,” she said.

Bales added that while she and her husband will miss her income from the parish for the time, they realize it isn’t something they need as much as other people on staff do.

“It's money. It would delay things we would want, but not things that we need. I think that's the difference,” she said.

“I think that actually, people that are retired or are in a better position to support the parish than the young employed people that are losing their jobs or having their time cut back,” she said. 

“And so I think it's a time for people that do have a regular income coming in to step up their donations. Usually, you think of someone on a fixed income is on the short end of the stick, but in this situation, we're really in a better position than someone who's currently earning their keep.”

Boise bishop bans 'ad orientem' Masses in new liturgical instruction

Wed, 04/01/2020 - 18:34

Denver, Colo., Apr 1, 2020 / 04:34 pm (CNA).- The Bishop of Boise told priests last month that Mass in the diocese should not be celebrated in the ad orientem posture, and that material from “independent websites” is not appropriate for religious instruction.

“I am instructing priests in this diocese to preside facing the people at every celebration of the Ordinary Form of the Mass,” Bishop Peter Christensen wrote in a Feb. 28 letter to priests, which was published in the March 27 issue of the Idaho Catholic Register.

“There are priests who prefer ad orientem. I am convinced that they mean well and find it a devout way to pray. But the overwhelming experience worldwide after Vatican II is that the priest faces the people for Mass and this has contributed to the sanctification of the people.”

The bishop wrote that the General Instruction of the Roman Missal is “unambivalent” about liturgical orientation, and “makes it plain that the universal Church envisions the priest presiding at Mass facing the people.”

While liturgists have debated the precise meaning of the liturgical document that references the direction a priest faces during the celebration of the Mass, the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship clarified in 2000 that the document does not forbid the ad orientem celebration of the liturgy.

In 2016, Bishop Arthur Seratelli, then-chairman of the U.S. bishops’ conference liturgy committee, wrote to U.S. bishops that while the General Instruction of the Roman Missal “does show a preference for the celebrant’s facing the people ‘whenever possible’ in the placement and orientation of the altar,” the Church “does not prohibit the celebration of the Eucharist in the Ordinary Form ad orientem.”

“Although permitted, the decision whether or not to preside ad orientem should take into consideration the physical configuration of the altar and sanctuary space, and, most especially, the pastoral welfare of the faith community being served.”

While neither universal canon nor liturgical law require the permission of a bishop before a priest celebrates the Mass ad orientem, Seratelli wrote that “such an important decision should always be made with the supervision and guidance of the local bishop,” Seratalli wrote.

Ad orientem, or facing the east, was, until recent decades, the long-standing historical posture for celebrating Mass in the Latin rite, and has been understood to reflect the community’s watchfulness for the return of Jesus Christ from the east. In the ad orientem posture, both the priest and the people face the apse of the Church, or the tabernacle, during the celebration of the Mass.

The ad orientem celebration of the Mass fell out of customary use in many parts of the world after 1969-1970 revisions to the Roman Missal, although those revisions did not explicitly call for a change in liturgical orientation. The possibility of the versus populum, or facing the people posture was mentioned in a 1964 Vatican instruction regarding the placement of altars. In recent years, some Vatican officials and U.S. bishops have promoted and encouraged a return to the ad orientem posture.

Christensen’s letter said that in his diocese, the ad orientem orientation would be prohibited. He explained that “it was clearly the mind of the Council that the priest should face the people.”

Deacon Gene Fadness, a spokesman for the Diocese of Boise did not explain what document of the Second Vatican Council conveys the “mind of the Council” on the matter, which is not mentioned in Sacrosanctum concilium, the Second Vatican Council’s apostolic constitution on the liturgy.

Fadness did tell CNA that “In all liturgical matters, Bishop Peter carefully considers the statements of the CDWDS, the instructions in the ritual books and Canon Law, and his responsibility as chief liturgist of the diocese.”

Christensen’s letter also told priests that “in instructing the faithful regarding questions of posture, gesture, reception of Communion, etc., clergy are to refer always to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, the Order of the Mass, and other officially promulgated ritual books for the form of liturgy they are celebrating; or to documents propagated by the Holy See or the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and approved by appropriate authorities.”

“Sources such as independent websites and social media platforms that are unaffiliated with the Holy See or the USCCB are not to be considered trustworthy or appropriate for catechesis,” the bishop wrote.

Fadness declined to name the independent websites the bishop had in mind, but when presented with examples of such websites, namely Word on Fire, Our Sunday Visitor, and Catholic Answers, the spokesman told CNA that “The Bishop has no problem with solid Catholic sources such as Word on Fire, Our Sunday Visitor and Catholic Answers. But, of course, he is not bound by what any contributing writers to these sites say, and he prefers that his priests give priority to the GIRM and approved USCCB documents as catechesis for the faithful on liturgical matters.”

The deacon told CNA that Christensen “is the Bishop for our diocese and has full authority to determine liturgical practices within it.”

He cited as an example of the bishop’s authority a March 2019 decision to require Catholics to kneel in the Mass after the Agnus Dei, as is the norm in the U.S., but was not the practice in Boise until Christensen’s intervention.

In his February letter, Christensen offered additional liturgical norms for the diocese, instructing that while Catholics are permitted to receive the Eucharist while kneeling, priests should not use kneelers or Communion rails that might encourage the practice. The bishop also requested that priests celebrating the Extraordinary Form of the Mass notify the bishop they are doing so, and instructed that “elements from Missal use at the Extraordinary Form liturgy are not to be imported into Masses celebrated under the Ordinary Form.”

Christensen, 67, has been Bishop of Boise since 2014. He was named Bishop of Superior, Wisconsin, in 2007. Fadness told CNA that Christensen’s aim was “reminding his priests that the integrity of the instruction within each Missal must be respected insofar as possible.”

The letter was sent to priests in February, but published at the end of March, after the public celebration of Mass had been suspended across the U.S. because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Asked about the timing of the letter’s publication, Fadness explained that the diocesan newspaper “publishes only twice monthly.”
“The Bishop is merely asking that the Ordinary Form be followed during a Novus Ordo Mass and the Extraordinary Form be followed during the Traditional Latin Mass,” Fadness explained.

“Some of our priests were mixing Extraordinary Form practices with the Ordinary Form, which was causing confusion among the faithful, some fearing that we were introducing pre-Vatican II practices.”

Can I confess? Or be anointed? Here’s what’s suspended -or not- in your diocese

Wed, 04/01/2020 - 17:10

CNA Staff, Apr 1, 2020 / 03:10 pm (CNA).- All public celebration of Mass has been suspended in every Latin Rite diocese in the United States because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Many bishops have now also taken steps to limit or suspend access to other sacraments due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, and to comply with local regulations that prohibit people from leaving their homes.

Here’s a list of those dioceses.

If your diocese is not listed here, your bishop has not issued a blanket policy suspending sacramental access, beyond the suspension of Mass. However, sacramental access may vary in different places and parishes depending on pastoral discretion and local stay-at-home orders.

If you are aware of any changes or updates,  email us here. Try to include a link if you can.

Province of Anchorage (Archdiocese of Anchorage, Dioceses of Juneau, and Fairbanks):

No changes to report.

Province of Atlanta (Archdiocese of Atlanta, Dioceses of Savannah, Charleston, Raleigh, Charlotte):  

The Archdiocese of Atlanta has prohibited confessions in confessionals, but “individual confessions may be celebrated in a well-ventilated area” that allows for both social distancing and confidentiality. Priests are encouraged to be extra cautious when offering the sacrament of anointing of the sick.

The Diocese of Raleigh has suspended penance unless the penitent is in danger of death. “Drive-through” confessionals have been banned. 

Province of Baltimore (Archdiocese of Baltimore, Dioceses of Wheeling-Charleston, Wilmington, Richmond, Arlington): 

The Archdiocese of Baltimore has issued a policy suspending all sacramental ministry unless death is imminent.

Province of Boston (Archdiocese of Boston, Dioceses of Burlington, Fall River, Manchester, Portland, Springfield Ma., Worcester):

The Archdiocese of Boston is allowing priests to hear private confessions when they are requested, provided that “reasonable precautions” are taken.

The Diocese of Burlington is requesting penitents make an appointment for confession. 

The Diocese of Fall River has said that “Priests may offer the Sacrament of Reconciliation only in danger of death, or by appointment in extraordinary situations.”  

The Diocese of Manchester has instructed Catholics to contact their individual parishes for sacraments. 

The Diocese of Springfield, Massachusetts has closed all churches and has suspended the sacrament of anointing of the sick. 

Province of Chicago (Archdiocese of Chicago, Dioceses of Belleville, Joliet, Peoria, Rockford, Springfield Ill.): 

The Archdiocese of Chicago has said that “individual confessions are currently not possible” due to the stay-at-home order.  

The Diocese of Belleville has said that “individual confessions are currently not possible” due to the stay-at-home order.

The Diocese of Joliet has closed all churches and adoration chapels, and the sacrament of penance has been suspended unless the penitent is dying. 

The Diocese of Peoria has instructed priests to hear confessions outdoors if possible to comply with privacy and social distancing requirements.

Province of Cincinnati (Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Dioceses of Cleveland, Columbus, Steubenville, Toledo, Youngstown):

The Diocese of Cleveland has canceled scheduled confessions, but individual parishioners are to contact their priests for an appointment. 

The Diocese of Columbus has closed churches and has said that confession is to be made available only for the sick or in the case of emergencies.

The Diocese of Toledo has instructed priests that “Every consideration should be given to making the Sacrament available, perhaps during a time when the church is open for private prayer.”

The Diocese of Youngstown has instructed priests to offer confession by appointment only, with safety precautions taken by priests. 

Province of Denver (Archdiocese of Denver, Dioceses of Cheyenne, Colorado Springs, Pueblo):

The Archdiocese of Denver has left the provision of confession up to individual parishes.

The Diocese of Cheyenne has suspended all sacraments unless there is a danger of death.

Province of Detroit (Archdiocese of Detroit, Dioceses of Gaylord, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Lansing, Marquette, Saginaw): 

The Diocese of Marquette has closed all churches in accordance with Michigan’s “Stay-At-Home” order and has said confession is to be made available only to the sick or dying. 

The Diocese of Saginaw has instructed priests to “consider the best options of the celebration of private confession for those in dire need of the sacrament.” 

Province of Dubuque (Archdiocese of Dubuque, Dioceses of Davenport, Des Moines, Sioux City):

The Archdiocese of Dubuque is permitting one-on-one confessions, with safety precautions. Archbishop Jackels wrote that “the use of general absolution during this pandemic is allowed.” 

The Diocese of Des Moines has said confession is currently “mainly” by appointment. 

The Diocese of Sioux City has said confession is available by appointment only. 

Province of Galveston-Houston (Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, Dioceses of Austin, Beaumont, Brownsville, Corpus Christi, Tyler, Victoria): 

The Diocese of Beaumont has instructed priests to hear confession by appointment only. 

Province of Hartford (Archdiocese of Hartford, Dioceses of Bridgeport, Norwich, Providence): 

The Diocese of Norwich has instructed people to contact their pastors about sacramental availability. 

Province of Indianapolis (Archdiocese of Indianapolis, Dioceses of Evansville, Fort Wayne-South Bend, Gary, Lafayette):

The Archdiocese of Indianapolis has instructed priests to postpone individual appointments for confession unless the penitent is in danger of death. 

The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend has canceled scheduled confession times, but priests are allowed to hear confessions by appointment. 

The Diocese of Gary has said that confessions can be heard on a “case-by-case basis.”

The Diocese of Lafayette has ordered churches to remain closed and there will be no scheduled confessions until further notice, unless there is a danger of death. 

Province of Kansas City (Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas, Dioceses of Dodge City, Salina, Wichita): 

The Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas has ordered adoration chapels to close, but churches can remain open with fewer than 10 people inside. Confessions must comply with social distancing guidelines. 

Province of Los Angeles (Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Dioceses of Fresno, Monterey, Orange, San Bernardino, San Diego): 

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has suspended regularly scheduled confessions and confessions only can be heard if there is a danger of death or “extremely extraordinary situations.” 

The Diocese of Fresno has closed all “churches, missions and stations; including all grounds and facilities such as chapels, halls, meeting rooms and classrooms” until further notice.

The Diocese of San Bernardino has suspended confessions until further notice, saying “you should not have any confessions at all at your parishes.” Exceptions will be made for the dying.

Province of Louisville (Archdiocese of Louisville, Dioceses of Covington, Knoxville, Lexington, Memphis, Nashville, Owensboro): 

The Diocese of Covington has said that confessions are to be heard by appointment only.

The Diocese of Lexington has said confessions are to be heard by appointment and that general absolution could potentially be offered to those in a hospital if the situation merits it.

Province of Miami (Archdiocese of Miami, Dioceses of Orlando, Palm Beach, Pensacola-Tallahassee, St. Augustine, St. Petersburg, Venice):/

The Archdiocese of Miami has suspended all activities, including confessions, that would require people to leave their homes for the next two weeks. This was decided after Florida issued a statewide “stay-at-home” order. 

The Diocese of Orlando has said confessions are to be heard only in emergency cases.

The Diocese of St. Augustine has instructed clergy to use “pastoral discretion and wisdom when making decisions for the parish.” 

The Diocese of St. Petersburg has allowed individual parishes to make decisions regarding confession availability.

The Diocese of Venice has declared that baptisms should only be celebrated in the case of emergency and that “Anointing of the Sick ought to be requested only in genuine need for the dying.”

Province of Milwaukee (Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Dioceses of Green Bay, La Crosse, Madison, Superior): 

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee has stated that confessions are “private.” 

The Diocese of Green Bay has said that confession should be held outside of a confessional, and general absolution may be given in health care facilities with a large number of sick patients, or in religious institutes with many sick residents. 

Province of Mobile (Archdiocese of Mobile, Dioceses of Biloxi, Birmingham, Jackson):

The Diocese of Biloxi has instructed that anointing of the sick be offered only to those “most in need.”

The Diocese of Birmingham has encouraged priests to be “creative” when scheduling confessions outside of confessionals. 

The Diocese of Jackson is allowing confessions to continue as long as they do not violate “lockdown” orders. 

Province of New Orleans (Archdiocese of New Orleans, Dioceses of Alexandria La., Baton Rouge, Houma-Thibodaux, Lafayette La., Lake Charles, Shreveport): 

The Diocese of Baton Rouge is permitting confessions by appointment only and has suspended all regularly scheduled confession times. 

The Diocese of Lake Charles has said that anointing and confession are to be made available on an “individual basis.” 

The Diocese of Shreveport requires confessions take place with some sort of barrier between the priest and penitent. 

Province of New York (Archdiocese of New York, Dioceses of Albany, Brooklyn, Buffalo, Ogdensburg, Rochester, Rockville Centre, Syracuse): 

The Diocese of Albany has “prohibited” scheduled reconciliation, but parishioners may call a priest for an appointment. 

The Diocese of Brooklyn has limited confession to emergencies only. Anointing of the sick may occur as needed. 

The Diocese of Buffalo has limited both anointing of the sick and confession to the gravely ill. 

The Diocese of Rochester is offering confession outside of confessionals. 

The Diocese of Rockville has said that confession may not be “advertised or scheduled,” but that “confession can be conducted when urgently needed and when requested on a case-by-case basis.”

Province of Newark (Archdiocese of Newark, Dioceses of Camden, Metuchen, Paterson, Trenton): 

The Archdiocese of Newark has suspended confession except for “extreme emergencies” which it defined as “in danger of death.” 

The Diocese of Camden has limited confession to appointment only.

The Diocese of Metuchen has stated that penance is for only those in need. 

Province of Oklahoma City (Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, Dioceses of Little Rock, Tulsa) : 

The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City has said that confessions may be conducted only from behind a screen. 

The Diocese of Little Rock has suspended face-to-face confession, but the sacrament can be celebrated with a barrier between the priest and penitent.

Province of Omaha (Archdiocese of Omaha, Dioceses of Grand Island, Lincoln): 

No changes to report. 

Province of Philadelphia (Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Dioceses of Allentown, Altoona-Johnstown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Scranton): 

The Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown has instructed Catholics to contact their parishes about confessions. 

The Diocese of Greensburg’s website states there have been “restrictions” on anointing of the sick and penance, but does not offer further details. Diocesan offices are closed.

The Diocese of Harrisburg has closed all churches and chapels. Penance is restricted for those who are in danger of death. 

The Diocese of Pittsburgh has suspended all sacraments, including baptism, confession, and anointing of the sick, except for “the most grave of circumstances.” 

The Diocese of Scranton has suspended “public gatherings for the celebration of Confessions or the Anointing of the Sick, indoors or outdoors.” Priests will be available for the “gravest circumstances.” 

Province of Portland in Oregon (Archdiocese of Portland, Dioceses of Baker, Boise, Great Falls-Billings, Helena):

The Diocese of Boise has closed all churches to the public, and suspended all holy hours and “other services” until the governor lifts the “stay at home” order.

The Diocese of Great Falls-Billings has said that “Confessions should continue to be made available under conditions that are deemed appropriate by the pastor of the parish while providing for social/physical distancing.”

The Diocese of Helena has suspended all sacraments except for “extreme emergencies.” Priests are asked to be “courageous” when anointing. 

Province of St. Louis (Archdiocese of St. Louis, Dioceses of Jefferson City, Kansas City-St. Joseph, Springfield-Cape Girardeau):

The Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph has suspended indoor confession in confessionals and said they must be heard in well-ventilated areas.

The Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau has said that confession and anointing of the sick are available by appointment only. 

Province of St. Paul and Minneapolis (Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, Dioceses of Bismarck, Crookston, Duluth, Fargo, New Ulm, Rapid City, Saint Cloud, Sioux Falls, Winona-Rochester):

The Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis is complying with a local stay-at-home order, but has said that priests may “administer the sacraments in cases of serious need and on an individual basis.”

The Diocese of Fargo has canceled regular confessions. Catholics can make an appointment for confession, and “Every effort will be made to provide Anointing of the Sick and Viaticum to those who need it.”

The Diocese of Saint Cloud has left confession availability up to individual pastors. Confessions will only be available by appointment. Churches will be closed. 

The Diocese of Winona-Rochester has said that sacraments are available by appointment. 

Province of San Antonio (Archdiocese of San Antonio, Dioceses of Amarillo, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Laredo, Lubbock, San Angelo): 

The Diocese of Amarillo has suspended confessions until the “shelter-in-place” order issued by Potter and Randall Counties has ended.

The Diocese of Dallas has suspended scheduled confessions, but priests may respond to individual requests for private confessions. The shelter-in-place order issued for the city of Dallas does not allow people to travel to churches. 

The Diocese of El Paso has said confessions may be made available by appointment.

The Diocese of Fort Worth has stopped the outdoor distribution of communion after Masses. Confessions must occur behind a screen. 

The Diocese of Laredo has canceled communal penance services, but individual confessions are available. 

The Diocese of Lubbock has suspended confessions and has ordered churches closed to comply with the “stay-at-home” order issued by the City of Lubbock. 

The Diocese of San Angelo has suspended the use of confessionals, but confessions may be heard in well-ventilated rooms. 

Province of San Francisco (Archdiocese of San Francisco, Dioceses of Honolulu, Las Vegas, Oakland, Reno, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, San Jose, Santa Rosa, Stockton): 

The Archdiocese of San Francisco has requested priests move confessions to an appointment-only basis to avoid drawing a crowd. 

The Diocese of Honolulu has suspended confession and does not allow general absolution.

The Diocese of Santa Rosa has said it is “imprudent to set up or attempt to offer the availability of individual confession even with the utilization of various protective measures.” 

The Diocese of Stockton has canceled scheduled confession times and encouraged people to learn more about acts of perfect contrition. 

Province of Santa Fe (Archdiocese of Santa Fe, Dioceses of Gallup, Las Cruces, Phoenix, and Tucson): 

The Archdiocese of Santa Fe is permitting general absolution in cases that “would include, but [are] not limited to, circumstances where the priest cannot enter a ward with dying COVID-19 patients or even with those who will hopefully recover but would be comforted by the absolution of their sins.”

The Diocese of Gallup has limited anointing to those who are in “imminent danger of death,” and the sacrament of reconciliation must be done in a well-ventilated space.  

Province of Seattle (Archdiocese of Seattle, Dioceses of Spokane, Yakima): 

The Archdiocese of Seattle is not permitting parishes to publicize confession times, but is scheduling confessions by appointment.

The Diocese of Spokane has limited penance and anointing of the sick to those who are in danger of death.

Province of Washington (Archdiocese of Washington, Diocese of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands): 

No changes to report.

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