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Updated: 1 hour 43 min ago

Senate Judiciary Committee advances Amy Coney Barrett to full Senate vote

5 hours 40 min ago

Washington D.C., Oct 22, 2020 / 08:35 am (CNA).-  

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted on Thursday to advance the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, setting up a final confirmation vote by the whole Senate. Democratic members of the committee boycotted the vote and did not attend.

Barrett is a Catholic judge on the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. A mother of seven, she was formerly a law professor at the University of Notre Dame. If confirmed to the Supreme Court, she would be the sixth Catholic on the Court’s bench.

Twelve Republicans on the committee voted on Thursday to report Barrett’s nomination favorably to the entire Senate; the ten Democrats on the committee were “not present,” having informed chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) the night before that they would boycott the hearing, according to Graham.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said that a vote to confirm Barrett would take place on Oct. 26.

Committee hearings were held last week to consider Barrett’s nomination.

On Thursday, Graham noted Barrett’s faith and some “disgusting” attacks on her religious beliefs and family. Senate Democrats on the committee, however, “did not go too far” in their questions of her at last week’s hearings, Graham said.

“She embraces her faith like millions of other Americans, and there’s some things being said about her and her family that are disgusting, and I just want to complement her family for giving her the backing she needed to take on this job,” Graham said.

“And I want to thank the members on this committee for standing up against some pretty vile things,” he said.

When Barrett was considered for the Seventh Circuit court in 2017, some Democrats asked pointed questions to her about her Catholic faith and its influence on how she might rule on abortion cases. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) even told Barrett that “when you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you. And that’s of concern.”

Last week, Democrats stayed away from direct questions about Barrett’s faith, instead asking her opinions on previous Supreme Court cases including those which legalized abortion and contraception.

Barrett largely declined to give her opinions of Court rulings, offering “no hints, no previews, no forecasts” of her future decisions.

When Graham asked her if she could “set aside” Church teaching when ruling on the bench, in order to make judgments based upon her reading of the law, Barrett answered “I can.”

Jeannie Mancini, president of March for Life, praised the markup vote of Barrett’s nomination.

“Her immense respect for the law and Constitution will allow her to fairly apply the law and consider the rights of everyone who comes before her, including the unborn,” Mancini said of Barrett.


Los Angeles' Archbishop Gomez denies claim that he plans to vote for Biden

Wed, 10/21/2020 - 20:01

Denver Newsroom, Oct 21, 2020 / 06:01 pm (CNA).-  

Archbishop Jose Gomez has rebuked an online claim that he plans to vote for Joe Biden in the November presidential election, stating that an alleged conversation in which he disclosed his voting plans never actually took place.

“In all my years as a priest and a bishop, I have never publicly or privately endorsed a political candidate or told anyone who I might be voting for. It is disgraceful that some would use the media to spread misinformation and try to confuse and divide people,” Gomez, the president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, said in an Oct. 20 statement., a website based in California, published a blog post Tuesday evening which alleged that in February 2020, Gomez and a “wealthy ex-donor to the church” met over breakfast at the Jonathan Club in downtown Los Angeles.

The blog post claimed that Gomez told the individual that he is “voting [for] and supporting Jose [sic] Biden because he did not ‘like the way Trump talks.’”

“[T]he president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is voting for a pro-abortion, pro-gay-marriage, socialist because he “does not like the way Trump talks”…. I am sure that he is also forcing priests in the archdiocese to support Biden… So infuriating!” the blog reads.

Gomez denied the alleged conversation, and even the breakfast, ever took place.

A spokeswoman for the archdiocese told CNA on Wednesday that the archbishop had no breakfast meetings on his calendar during the month of February.

In his statement, Gomez urged Catholics to pray and reflect on the U.S. bishops’ voting guide, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility.”

Since 2007, the bishops of the United States have issued the “Faithful Citizenship” document to help Catholics decide how to cast their vote; it was most recently updated in 2019.

“And let us pray for the grace to treat one another as brothers and sisters, with dignity and respect,” Gomez concluded.

The “ex-donor” who made the claim against Gomez plans to release an affidavit doubling down on his claims, based on an alleged audio recording of the conversation, according to John Paul Norris, one of the founders of

According to Norris, the accuser, who has declined to be named publicly, had— before the alleged February conversation— been meeting with Gomez at least once a year, and was a significant donor to the archdiocese.

"Everyone in the diocese knows him very well," Norris told CNA.

Norris told CNA the accuser has an audio recording of the alleged conversation with Gomez stored on his cell phone, but has no plans to release it to the public. He said the recording includes Gomez stating that if Biden earns the Democratic nomination for president, Gomez would vote for him “because he’s Catholic.” 

In 2019, Norris was removed from the Los Angeles cathedral after confronting Gomez about Cardinal Roger Mahony and the McCarrick scandal.

Norris’ blog post this week was appended to a petition on, which Clean the Church created in 2018, calling for criminal prosecution of Mahony, who led the Los Angeles archdiocese from 1985 to 2011. Mahony has faced scrutiny for his handling of the sexual abuse crisis during his tenure as archbishop of Los Angeles, and been accused of covering up serial acts of abuse.

The petition calls on all of Los Angeles’ bishops to “act now or resign from their posts.”

Norris also told CNA his group suspects the archdiocese has cut a “deal” with vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris.

Despite a history of public anti-Catholic bias on Harris' part, Norris said he believes Gomez favors the Biden/Harris ticket because Harris appeared unwilling to prosecute Cardinal Mahony when she was district attorney in LA.

“She may be anti-Catholic faith, but she's certainly a defender of the prelates, of the clergy,” he contended.

Norris offered no evidence of a “deal” regarding Mahony, and admitted that allegations of one are likely to remain unproven.

Joe Biden, a Catholic, has in recent months doubled down on his support for legal abortion.

In July, the pro-abortion group NARAL endorsed Biden for president, just over a year after the group issued a scathing statement demanding he reverse his support for the Hyde Amendment, which bars taxpayer funding for abortions. Biden withdrew his decades-long support for the Hyde Amendment and announced in 2019 he was opposed to the policy.

This month, Biden repeated his pledge to codify a right to abortion into federal law should the Supreme Court overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

Norris said his group believes that Gomez is not strong enough in his public pro-life statements.

The archbishop has, however, written frequently in recent years about the “preeminent” importance of ending legal protection for abortion.

“Among the evils and injustices in American life in 2016, abortion and euthanasia are different and stand apart. Each is a direct, personal attack on innocent and vulnerable human life,” Gomez wrote in the foreword for a book on Catholics’ responsibilities in the public square.

“Abortion and euthanasia are ‘fundamental’ social issues because if the child in the womb has no right to be born, if the sick and the old have no right to be taken care of, then there is no solid foundation to defend anyone’s human rights, and no foundation for peace and justice in society.”

Earlier in 2020, the USCCB issued a letter, approved by the bishops, re-presenting the “Faithful Citizenship” document along with a series of short videos. In that letter, the bishops, led by Gomez, identified abortion as the “preeminent priority” for Catholic voters “because it directly attacks life itself.”



US bishops launch novena for Election Day

Wed, 10/21/2020 - 17:00

CNA Staff, Oct 21, 2020 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- The bishops of the United States are encouraging Catholics to pray a novena to help form their consciences ahead of Election Day on Nov. 3. 

“For nine consecutive days, Monday, October 26 through Tuesday, Nov. 3, participants will be encouraged to pray one Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be for the day’s intention,” says the USCCB’s webpage for the 2020 Election Novena. 

A closing prayer for elected leaders will be offered on day 10, Wednesday, November 4. 

The closing prayer asks that “the leaders elected this week be guided by the Holy Spirit as they fulfill their positions.” 

Due to the prevalence of mail-in voting this election, it is possible that the results of some elections may not be known for several days. 

The USCCB will write a new intention each day of the novena, and a signup link for email reminders is provided on the noevena’s webpage, along with graphics for social media. 

None of the daily intentions are partisan in nature, and most are reminders of various facets of Catholic teaching, including a plea for dialogue, a reminder of the importance of the dignity of human life, and a stress on the importance of religious freedom. 

The intention for Election Day reads “Today, as we approach the polls, may we understand & embrace the principles of our Faith that should guide our political engagement.” 

The USCCB, as well as individual bishops, do not endorse specific candidates for election. 

Earlier this year, the U.S. bishops’ conference re-issued its document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” which aims to assist Catholics in deciding for whom to vote. 

In a new introductory letter to the document, approved by the bishops in November 2019, reminds Catholics that they are called to “bring the richness of our faith to the public square.” 

“We draw from both faith and reason as we seek to affirm the dignity of the human person and the common good of all,” the bishops wrote, saying that “everyone living in this country is called to participate in public life and contribute to the common good.”

“Our approach to contemporary issues is first and foremost rooted in our identity as followers of Christ and as brothers and sisters to all who are made in God’s image,” said the letter. 

“For all Catholics, including those seeking public office, our participation in political parties or other groups to which we may belong should be influenced by our faith, not the other way around.”

“Pope Francis has continued to draw attention to important issues such as migration, xenophobia, racism, abortion, global conflict, and care for creation,” wrote the bishops. 

“In the United States and around the world, many challenges demand our attention. The threat of abortion remains our preeminent priority because it directly attacks life itself, because it takes place within the sanctuary of the family, and because of the number of lives destroyed,” they said.

“At the same time, we cannot dismiss or ignore other serious threats to human life and dignity such as racism, the environmental crisis, poverty and the death penalty.”

Serving life: How pro-life pregnancy centers are making a difference

Wed, 10/21/2020 - 12:00

CNA Staff, Oct 21, 2020 / 10:00 am (CNA).- A new report aims to measure the impact of pro-life pregnancy centers on women’s health care in the U.S., offering detail on the nearly 2 million women served last year.

The Charlotte Lozier Institute, the research arm of pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List, reported on Wednesday that more than 2,700 pro-life pregnancy centers around the U.S. served nearly two million people in 2019, providing nearly $270 million in services.

These centers included both brick-and-mortar establishments, but also mobile medical centers, serving both expectant mothers and post-abortive women, with the vast majority of facilities offering parental education, material assistance for mothers, and ultrasound tests.  

“Pregnancy centers exist to serve and support mothers in the courageous decision to give their children life, even under the most difficult circumstances,” Chuck Donovan, president of the Charlotte Lozier Institute, stated on Wednesday. “This report calculates the impact of their mission of love in concrete terms.”

The report calculated that pregnancy centers offered around 732,000 pregnancy tests in 2019, and more than 486,000 free ultrasounds. They also provided women nearly 1.3 million packs of diapers and more than two million baby outfits.

In addition, they offered more than 291,000 clients parenting and prenatal education, and more than 21,000 clients post-abortive support.

Pro-life pregnancy centers have come under fire from pro-abortion groups in recent years, with groups like Planned Parenthood claiming that they use deceitful tactics to get women in the door who are considering abortion and then do not offer them information on abortion as an option.

In California, the state passed a law in 2015 that required pro-life pregnancy centers to offer women information about abortion and where they could obtain one. The centers, represented by the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA), brought a lawsuit against the state and its then-attorney general Kamala Harris, who is now the Democratic vice-presidential nominee.

The Supreme Court in 2017 ruled that the state’s requirement likely violated the free speech rights of pregnancy centers, and blocked the law from going into effect while lower courts reconsidered the case.

Pro-life groups warn that women would experience a steep decline in available health care centers if they had to close clinics; they also say that federally-funded health clinics around the U.S. would not be able to replace them amid a surge in women clients.

“They provide invaluable education as well as physical, medical, emotional and financial support,” said Anne O’Connor, NIFLA’s vice president for legal affairs. “Pregnancy centers provide these services at no cost, saving communities across the nation millions in tax dollars annually.”

Alison, a woman from Portland, Maine, whose testimony is in the report, said she was a post-abortive mother who was pregnant with her second child. She reached out to a pregnancy center ABBA, and said that she “started to grow a strength inside of me that wasn’t there before. I decided I didn’t need anyone else’s approval,” and that she was “truly amazed and overwhelmed by the amount of support I was given.”

“These women worked so hard and spent so much time researching options for me that I didn’t even know existed. They were there to support and guide me when no one else was, and I’m not sure I could ever express how much that means to me,” she said.

CLI says it compiled the report by surveying pregnancy centers from around the country, but included only those affiliated with a major network—Care Net, Heartbeat International, or the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA)—or those abiding by national standards of care and competence.

To quantify the services offered, the report used cost estimates for services and wages calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for social workers, sonographers, and registered nurses.

Pro-life leaders have hailed the increase of ultrasound machines in recent years as a concrete way for mothers to see their child. Groups such as the Knights of Columbus have worked to supply pregnancy centers around the U.S. with more than 1,000 ultrasound machines—and nearly eight-in-centers surveyed by CLI offer ultrasounds.

“Thirty-five years have now passed since the introduction of life-revealing and life-changing ultrasounds into pregnancy centers, and their medicalization continues to grow and thrive,” Donovan said.

According to the report, 15% of the centers received government funding. For Planned Parenthood in its 2018-19 annual report, it reported that the nearly $617 million its affiliates received in government funding made up 37% of the overall revenue of both its national organization and affiliates.

Some centers also provide testing for sexually-transmitted diseases and infections (STD/STI).

“National health surveillance data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that the American STD epidemic continues to be a significant public health challenge,” the report stated, adding that “undiagnosed STDs cause infertility in more than 20,000 women each year.”

“Medical pregnancy centers or clinics provide STI/STD testing and treatment to women, and at some locations to men, in direct response to this public health crisis,” it stated. “At pregnancy centers where STI/STD testing and treatment are not available, referrals for screening/testing and treatment are routinely made.”

Vatican to UN: It is immoral to threaten use of nuclear weapons as deterrence

Wed, 10/21/2020 - 08:10

Rome Newsroom, Oct 21, 2020 / 06:10 am (CNA).- A Vatican official challenged the security theory of nuclear deterrence as immoral at the United Nations this week and called for “genuine progress” toward complete nuclear disarmament.

“Seeking security through arms … only makes us progressively more insecure,” Archbishop Gabriele Caccia said at the UN’s first committee general debate in New York on Oct. 19.

“The strategic doctrines of the Nuclear-Weapons-Possessing States have contributed to fomenting this climate of fear, mistrust and hostility afflicting the world today,” he said.

Caccia, the permanent observer of the Holy See to the UN, underlined that complete disarmament needed to begin “with a renunciation of defense strategies that blur the distinction between nuclear and conventional weapons.”

“If it is immoral to threaten to use nuclear weapons for purposes of deterrence, it is even worse to intend to use them as just another instrument of war, as some nuclear doctrines propose,” the archbishop said, citing Pope Francis’ 2017 speech to an international disarmament symposium.

There are currently nine countries in possession of nuclear warheads: the United States, Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom, India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea. 

Among these, the U.S., Russia, and the U.K. have been reducing their nuclear inventories, while China, Pakistan, India, and North Korea are expanding their nuclear arsenals, according to the Federation of American Scientists (FAS).

While the number of nuclear weapons in the world has decreased significantly from its peak of an estimated 70,300 in 1986, the FAS reports that there were approximately 13,410 warheads in the world as of early 2020.

The Vatican official called on all states possessing nuclear weapons to make “a No-First-Use pledge.”

He lauded the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) for providing “full recognition to the enormous humanitarian consequences that would follow from a conflict in which nuclear weapons were used.”

“As we await the day for the TPNW to enter into force, it is imperative to continue encouraging, through concerted diplomatic activity, the participation of all Nuclear-Weapon-Possessing States in negotiations to establish ceilings, if not reductions, regarding their nuclear weapons,” Caccia said.

“Genuine progress toward general and complete disarmament should free up much-needed resources ‘that could be better used to benefit the integral development of peoples and protect the natural environment,’” he said, quoting Pope Francis’ recent address to the UN General Assembly.

He continued: “As we embark on the Decade of Action for sustainable development, the Holy See urges renewed consideration the establishment of ‘a Global Fund,’ as first urged by Pope Paul VI, to assist those most impoverished peoples, drawn partially from military expenditures: a contemporary and much-need expression of ‘turning swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks,’ to which the words of Isaiah, inscribed across the street from the entrance to the United Nations, never cease to summon us.”

Her abuse story was posted to her parish Facebook - and then taken down. Why it’s back, and why that matters

Wed, 10/21/2020 - 06:00

Denver Newsroom, Oct 21, 2020 / 04:00 am (CNA).- Gina Barthel, a survivor of clergy sexual abuse, has found that telling her story is an important part of her healing journey.

When she first shared her story with CNA last year, Barthel said it made her feel “light and free and so full of hope.” 

“When the original story...went live, I was filled with joy. I mean, such joy that morning. I woke up, I high-fived Jesus in my bedroom, and I was like, ‘Jesus, we did it. We did it. We took this brave, courageous step.’”

In that story, Barthel shared that her home archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis had supported her after she was abused, and that the auxiliary, Bishop Andrew Cozzens, had been meeting with her personally on a monthly basis to make sure she was receiving the help she needed.

What Barthel did not anticipate was “the very unsettling response” of some fellow parishioners, and even relatives, who did not respond positively when she shared her story. She said some responses have been “distressing.”

In January, Barthel shared her story of abuse survival again, that time with her diocesan newspaper, The Catholic Spirit. Her pastor at the time, Fr. Peter Richards, posted the newspaper’s story to the parish Facebook page, St. Michael’s Catholic Church in St. Michael, Minnesota, in February.

But to Barthel’s dismay, the parish took the story down just hours after it had been posted, reportedly after the parish received a complaint about it.

When Barthel saw the story go up on her parish Facebook page, and then come down again, she was hurt.

“What I find very heartbreaking is the original story...and the story that appeared in The Catholic Spirit, the entire goal and focus was my overwhelming, overarching theme that I wanted people to know was that of hope. That you can be wounded in the heart of the Church and find healing in the heart of the Church,” she said.

“And here I come forward, that message somehow got totally messed up into, ‘We don't want this known in our community. We don't want this known.’”

Barthel said she was not concerned so much with whether her story was shared specifically to her parish’s website or Facebook page. But once it had been shared and quickly removed, she was hurt, and she worried about the message that decision sent to abuse survivors.

“When that Facebook post was taken down, and then all the controversy that erupted about putting it back up, it made me very sad because that's not the Church that I know and love,” Barthel said.

“The Church that I know and love teaches that one, we don't shame the victims, and two, we don't keep their stories secret and we certainly don't try to silence victims, and that's what was happening, which was very distressing for me.”

Furthermore, she added, “there are people who are watching in the shadows who haven't come forward,” whether they’re clergy abuse victims or abuse victims in general.

“They're watching. How does our faith community treat somebody who was a survivor of a heinous crime? How does our faith community treat that person? How does our faith community reverence that person? How does our faith community treat that person who was wounded and may not always act perfectly? How do we treat that person and hold that person and love that person and walk with them in the midst of pain as they're continuing their healing journey?” she said. “People are watching that from the sidelines.”

Barthel said she heard from Fr. Richards that he regretted taking the post down, and that he had plans to repost her story. But he did not get the chance to do that before he was transferred to a new parish and moved in June.

In July, Fr. Brian Park took over as pastor of the parish, and still Barthel waited months before her story was reposted.

Eventually, on October 13, her story was reposted to the parish Facebook and website, accompanied by a statement dated October 9 from Archbishop Bernard Hebda.

“Your new pastor, Father Brian Park, inherited this situation. I have asked Father Park to help fulfill Father Richard’s promise to this survivor by reposting The Catholic Spirit article on the Saint Michael Catholic Church Facebook page and website. I would like to explain to you why I believe this is important,” Hebda said.

“When a priest makes a promise to a survivor of clergy abuse, I am of the opinion that we—as clergy—should do all in our power to make sure that the promise is kept, absent a particularly compelling reason to the contrary,” he said.

“The issues presented in this situation go well beyond the immediate question of reposting and well beyond your community. The real issues are about justice, accountability, compassion and healing. This is especially true for survivors of clergy sexual abuse, but can also affect those who have experienced abuse in other contexts,” he added.



Hebda added that in recent years the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has made “significant, meaningful and potentially long-lasting progress” in its response of compassion and support to survivors of clerical abuse.

“We must not regress. It is important for all of us in any survivor’s life, especially within the Church, to hold steadfast to the principled approaches now in place,” he said.

In his statement, Hebda noted that he had spoken to Fr. Richards, who had communicated that he had been planning on reposting the article and hosting some subsequent educational events about abuse before he was transferred from the parish.

“He has indicated to me that he regrets that he did not complete the educational plan and repost the article prior to his assignment to another parish this past summer,” Hebda said.

The archbishop added that the Church has an “affirmative duty….(to) support victim/survivors on their journeys to justice and healing. The opportunity for abuse survivors to tell their stories is universally acknowledged as an essential moment in the healing process. Going public often means for them that they are no longer subject to the manipulation of the abuser. This can also be an important moment of justice.”

Stories of abuse are shared “not out of vengeance, but truthfulness,” the archbishop noted, which can be a positive healing step for a whole community and can hold past abusers accountable for their actions.

Addressing the resistance met by some within the parish to posting Barthel’s story, Hebda asked parishioners to join him in “praying for a healing of any such division. Join me also in praying for all survivors of abuse, as well as for their family members and for those who support them in their healing and pursuit of justice. May Mary, Undoer of Knots, bring her Son’s love into the difficulties of our lives.”

Jim Thorp, communications manager for St. Michael’s Catholic Church, told CNA in an email that “we pray that Gina’s story brings hope and healing to many. We continue to pray for healing for Gina and all victims and survivors of abuse, as well as their families, communities and the Church as a whole.”

Fr. Park, through Thorp, declined to comment on why he waited for Archbishop Hebda’s letter before reposting Barthel’s story.

Of the nine comments on the parish Facebook post sharing Hebda’s letter and Barthel’s story, all were positive or supportive, as of October 20.

“Bishop Hebda and the pastor have done a right and courageous act. God bless them, Gina Barthel and all the victims of clergy abuse. They must be very beloved to Jesus,” Patricia Tinajero commented.

“So grateful for the Archbishop's words and for Gina's brave witness, both bringing light to this darkness. I am hopeful that our beautiful church family and leaders continue to recognize the importance of supporting and praying for all victims of abuse,” commented Katrina A. Witschen.

Bishop Andrew Cozzens told CNA that he was glad Barthel’s story was shared with her parish community, because in every parish community are survivors of abuse, whether that is abuse from clergy or other people.

“There are victims of abuse in every parish and so we always need to be attentive to that. And it's difficult at times to raise up that reality because nobody likes to talk about it,” Cozzens said.

“But it can be really helpful to the victims of abuse if we're willing to, when it's appropriate, raise up the reality of abuse so that people who have experienced it can come to healing. So when you have a story like Gina's, where there has been some healing, that can be helpful.”

Cozzens added that he hoped any abuse victims who have been following Barthel’s story see that “the Church is committed to standing by them, even if it takes a long time to do so, even if we still have a culture change that we have to go through. We are committed to standing by survivors and we hope they understand that.”

Dr. Jim Richter is an abuse survivor and survivor advocate who became friends with Barthel last year, after reading her story.

Richter told CNA that for abuse survivors, it is often, though not always, important for them to share their stories, and their local communities often seem like the safest and most comfortable place to do that.

“If you have a community, a family community, a civic community, or a parish community, I think that's a great place to explore doing that sharing because it's oftentimes been identified or it's associated with something that is comfortable, familiar, safe and often supportive.”

He added that while he understands stories of abuse can be difficult to hear, they can also help communities remember that they have survivors in their midst and that they need to remain vigilant against potential future abuse.

“Although this is 2020, and although it is difficult for folks to sometimes recognize that a crisis isn't over as quickly as they would like it to be, the better equipped we are to hear, and in some cases to be unpleasantly reminded of what has happened. That can really inform the work that as an individual and as a parish we're going to do moving forward,” he said.

“So I don't understand...the need to bury or ignore or kind of sidestep somebody's abuse experience.”

Barthel said that while she is grateful for all the support she has received thus far on the archdiocesan level, it was also meaningful to share her story with her local community.

“My everyday life happens in the local church. And I need to have the support of the local church. All victim/survivors need the support of their local community. To feel that I was being stripped of that by some (parish) members….who have not been supportive, made that very painful.”

Ultimately, Barthel said she is grateful for the support of her archdiocese, and now her parish, in sharing her story.

“To have Archbishop Hebda's voice is so important because I think it sends the right message, the healthy and hopeful message to the Church,” she said. She said she hopes other victim/survivors continue to find hope and encouragement in her story.

“I can only speak for my archdiocese, but at least in our archdiocese, if they do come forward, they can find the support that they need in the leadership of the church. And I think that's really important.”

‘Festival of Friendship’ seeks authentic encounter in a digital venue 

Wed, 10/21/2020 - 02:16

Denver Newsroom, Oct 21, 2020 / 12:16 am (CNA).- An annual cultural festival hosted by a Catholic group of artists and intellectuals is being held virtually this month, offering opportunities for encounter and discussion through art and creativity.

The Revolution of Tenderness - which draws its name from an exhortation of Pope Francis - is in the middle of hosting its eighth Festival of Friendship. The project brings together a myriad of people from different cultures and belief systems.

“The Festival of Friendship is an annual free cultural event that is open to the public; it features speakers and topics to do with every aspect of human ingenuity and creativity: from the arts and humanities, to sports, to science, to politics and economics, to education, to research, to any and all expressions of human culture,” said Suzanne Lewis, coordinator for Revolution of Tenderness.

“We place a special emphasis on dialogue; thus we invite speakers who belong to many different religions (or none), and we explore subjects of interest to Catholics and non-Catholics alike,” she told CNA.

The festival is modeled after the Meeting for Friendship Among Peoples, an annual cultural festival held in Italy’s coastal town of Rimini. This event, which is also free, attracts over 800,000 visitors each year. Lewis was so moved by attending the Rimini meeting that she decided to replicate the experience in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Steubenville, Ohio.

“My collaborators and I have not made any attempts to innovate on the model I first witnessed in Rimini. In fact, all our efforts to do with the festival have been motivated by a desire to imitate the meeting as faithfully as possible while providing the fewest possible ‘translations’ for an American audience,” she said.

The first festival was established in 2012 and called The Pittsburgh Encounter. The nonprofit, Revolution of Tenderness, was then established in 2017. As the nonprofit developed, the organization has been able to further other initiatives, including literary workshops, conferences, and classes.

Normally, the Festival of Friendship is carried out one autumn week in Pittsburgh. In addition to Catholics from a variety of professions, it has also hosted jazz musicians, Buddhist monks, Islamic scholars, and medical professionals. About 500 people attended last year’s event.

This year, the event is being held in online sessions every Thursday through Sunday in October. It showcases music, poetry, cinematography, lectures, panel discussions, and keynote talks.

While the online format has drawn a smaller-than-typical audience, Lewis said it has been a very positive experience.

“We decided to spread our offerings over the course of a month, and to give our audience days off to rejuvenate before tuning in for the next event of the festival,” she said, adding that they have seen “several unexpected positive side effects from moving online.”

One benefit has been the “extraordinary opportunity to engage with artists, speakers, musicians, academics, and audience members from across the country and around the world.”

“While we long for the warm, human embrace and conviviality that our past, in-person festivals have become famous for, we’ve seen signs, already, that the online, multi-week format has been able to open the door for an even larger community of friends to discover together what it means to be ‘found’ and truly embraced, despite the limits of physical separation,” she said.

This Friday, the festival will host “To Live In A Sea Of Happiness” - a samba concert that seeks to convey discovery and hope. The music, born in the poverty of Brazil, is an expression of joy and hope performed through music and dance, according to organizers. It will be performed by Ney Vasconcelos, Antonio Gomes, and Marcelo Rocha.

That same day, the festival will also host “Every Separation is a Link: Being Found Behind Bars,” a discussion on how inmates are “found” in prison. It will include discussions with professionals such as Dr. Louis Mendoza, director of the Pen Project, a program that connects maximum-security inmates to Arizona State University students; and Ron Zeilinger, the founder of Dismas Ministry, a Catholic prison ministry based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Elisabeth Kramp is the editor-in-chief of Revolution of Tenderness’ biannual journal Convivium and was one of the performers at last week’s event, “From Whence Springs a Boundless Fruitfulness.” Kramp recited poems, along with several other authors including Ewa Chrusciel and Suzanne M. Wolfe.

“This year I made a recording of myself reading in my study,” she told CNA. “In giving a reading, I hope the language I use incites listeners' imaginations. Poetry is a way of knowing, and I'm all the richer when, through poetry, I see or sense the world in new ways. That's why I write it, and that's what I hope is transferred in a reading.”

She said the author and poets were able to place their own spin on interpreting the theme, “boundless fruitfulness.” For herself, she said fruitfulness inspired questions about the fruits of labor, fruits of the Holy Spirit, and the impact of language, especially as a literary artist.

“Language conveys so much of that fruit, the way that we strive to make beauty, the way that we patiently toil for words, not necessarily for books and publication, but for the sharing of ideas,” she said.

Kramp described her experience as an artist during the pandemic. Putting together an issue of Convivium, she was able to read a variety of submissions from artists across the world, including poems submitted from Nigeria, Wales, France, and Siberia.

“How strange that a small journal could connect me to so many in a time when I very occasionally left my home,” she reflected. “And the work on the journal knits my collaborators and I together in friendship - in spite of our being far flung across the U.S. This work has been a reminder that artistic collaboration fosters friendship, even though the overt goal is to produce the work of art.”

Lewis said efforts such as the Festival of Friendship are particularly important today, given the tension and division in society.

“In a time of increasing division and polarization, when dialogue often seems impossible among opposing camps (both inside and outside the Church), we bring diverse people together to look for what is true and useful and enduring in every discipline and topic imaginable,” she said. “We want to recover the art of authentic and convivial debate, and we want to share this gift with others.”

“Many in the Church spend enormous resources and time answering questions that no one is asking,” she continued.

“We need first to develop a capacity for listening, so that we might hear the questions, articulated and unspoken, that our fellow human beings, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, wrestle with, and then we need to do the work of discovering, within the daily realities and the fabric of ordinary life, how our own priceless inheritance answers those questions in very particular and unique ways.”


Pro-life Democrats make the case for a 22-week abortion ban in Colorado

Tue, 10/20/2020 - 21:01

Denver, Colo., Oct 20, 2020 / 07:01 pm (CNA).- As Colorado voters consider a ballot measure to ban abortion after 22 weeks of pregnancy, pro-life Democrats have been vocal in support, stressing its mainstream appeal and the need to give care to vulnerable human beings who can survive outside of the womb.

“When people realize abortion is allowed up to birth for any reason in Colorado most are shocked. People travel from all over the U.S. and even the world to Colorado to get late-term abortions,” Kristin Vail, vice president of Democrats for Life of Colorado, told CNA Oct. 19. “I don’t think people want our state to be known for that.”

“Every human has value and deserves to live free from violence. Late-term abortions are especially horrific because at 22 weeks fetuses can feel pain and can survive outside the womb with medical support,” Vail said. “Proposition 115 will save lives from abortion.”

Proposition 115 asks voters whether to ban abortion in the state after 22 weeks of pregnancy, except in cases where a mother’s life is threatened.

A 9 News / Colorado Politics survey of 1,021 registered likely voters found 42% of respondents said they are certain to vote yes on Proposition 115, 45% said no, while 13% are uncertain.

63% of Republicans said they would vote in favor of the ban, as did 28% of Democrats and 35% of unaffiliated voters. The survey was conducted by SurveyUSA in early October. It claims a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.9%.

For Vail, it’s an issue of justice. “Abortion is just oppression and violence redistributed to someone more vulnerable,” she told CNA.

“Pre-born children are the most vulnerable and voiceless in our society and they are being killed by the thousands every day. Quality healthcare should be provided for everyone, including both mother and child. When the main objective of a procedure is to end a human life, our healthcare system has failed,” Vail said.

Dr. Tom Perille, a retired physician and president of the Democrats for Life of Colorado, also backs the ballot measure.

“Prop. 115 should pass because it appeals to the moral sensibilities of Coloradans and reflects a popular consensus when abortion restrictions are appropriate,” he told CNA. “If a baby born prematurely at 22 weeks enjoys all the rights and privileges of other Colorado citizens and is protected by state/federal law, a fetus in utero at that exact same gestational age should not be able to be legally and cruelly killed. National and state polling suggests that a majority of people believe that abortion should be restricted after fetal viability.”

“Colorado has a long history of embracing abortion rights,” Perille continued. “However, Coloradans also understand science. Most Coloradans recognize that a 22-week fetus is a fully formed, if immature, human being. They are repulsed by those who refer to this vital human being as ‘pregnancy tissue.’ Coloradans are willing to accept reasonable restrictions on abortion after fetal viability.”

Perille stressed bipartisan support for the measure, saying nearly 19,000 Democrats signed the petition to place it on the state ballot. He suggested that efforts to raise public awareness about abortion after 22 weeks and Proposition 115 could push Democratic support for the measure above 33%.

During his time collecting signatures for the petition, Perille said a number of signers identified as pro-choice but thought abortions past 22 weeks were “simply too extreme.”

“I recall one woman, in particular, who said she was pro-choice, but quickly added that she was born prematurely at 28 weeks gestation. She knew what it was like to be born premature,” he said. “She was emphatic that at 22 weeks ‘It’s a baby’.”

“Democrats have historically championed the rights of the less privileged in society, those that are dehumanized, voiceless and marginalized. The viable fetus fits this description to a T. Democrats have lost their way on this issue, but at their core, they still believe in fighting for the little guy,” said Perille.

If the ballot measure passes, doctors would face a three-year license suspension for performing or attempting to perform an abortion of an unborn child beyond 22 weeks of gestation. Women would not be charged for seeking or obtaining an illegal abortion.

In 1984 Colorado voters passed a constitutional amendment banning public funding of abortions except to prevent the death of the mother. In 1998 they passed an initiative requiring parental consent and a waiting period for minors who seek abortions.

“We have had to endure a tidal wave of misinformation from our opposition on social media and TV fueled by millions of dollars from the abortion industry - who stand to lose the most if Prop 115 passes,” said Perille, who made a medical case against late-term abortion.

“If a woman encounters a pregnancy related health issue after 22 weeks, fetal viability, she may need to have her baby urgently or emergently delivered, but there is no reason or rationale to kill the baby,” said Perille. “In fact, a late abortion for an urgent or emergent pregnancy related health issue would be considered medical malpractice. It takes 30 minutes to deliver the baby and 2-4 days to perform a late abortion procedure.”

Prenatal screening for genetic and other fetal abnormalities takes place “well before 22 weeks,” he said. While it is a “very rare situation” where fetal diagnosis is not discovered until 22 weeks into pregnancy, Perille said pre-natal hospice offers “ a compassionate, life-affirming alternative to late abortion” with better outcomes for the woman’s mental health and bereavement.

Kristen Day, president of the Democrats for Life of America, told CNA the group’s Colorado chapter has distributed 15,000 brochures to Democratic voters to make the case for Proposition 115. The chapter organized a rally and phone calls.

Day said opposition to late-term abortion is very much a majority position.

“Even Democrats oppose late-term abortion. 82% of Democrats and 77% of independents and 94% of Republicans oppose third trimester abortions,” she said. “It's a very mainstream position.”

“It makes a lot of sense, especially from a Democrat perspective. We believe in healthcare for all, and making sure that everybody has the opportunity to receive live-giving care,” Day continued. “When we’re talking about a baby who is 22 weeks and could survive outside of the womb if given appropriate health care, it makes very little sense that we would end that life.”

“We care about the babies but we also care about the mothers as well. Let’s choose both. Protect both,” she said.

Given Colorado’s role as a strongly Democratic state and its role in passing the first law to legalize abortion in 1967, Day said passage of a late-term abortion ban would be “huge.”

“A lot of people will vote for Prop 115 and also vote for Joe Biden,” she said.

Other abortion-related measures have not succeeded. The 2008 and 2010 Colorado ballots included two slightly different personhood initiatives, which tried to define a person under state law to include every human being from the moment of fertilization or “from the beginning of biological development,” respectively. The 2008 proposal won under 27% approval from voters, while the 2010 proposal received under 30% of votes.

Colorado Right to Life opposes Proposition 115 on the grounds it only regulates abortion and implicitly permits most abortions. The group is a former affiliate of National Right to Life, but broke from the national organization in 2007 over philosophical differences and the Colorado group’s criticism of a partial-birth abortion Supreme Court decision.

Backers of Proposition 115 told CNA that the overwhelming majority of pro-life voters are with them.

Some 24 U.S. states limit abortion based on gestational age.

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, a Democrat elected to office with strong support from legal abortion advocates, has argued that the ballot measure would be overruled by Supreme Court precedents like Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

“It’s hard to see this ban being upheld,” he told Colorado Public Radio. He argued it would be an undue burden on a woman to carry a child conceived in rape or incest.

Dr. Kristina Tocce, vice president and medical director of abortion provider Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, was also critical of the measure.

“Decisions around pregnancy must be made by a patient, their family, and in consultation with physicians, without political influence, because an all or nothing model of health care is not acceptable and especially not with the complexities of pregnancy,” she said.

Tocce said it is misleading to argue that fetuses are viable at 22 weeks into pregnancy. “There’s not a viability switch, that automatically gets flipped at 22 weeks or any gestational age for that matter because each pregnancy is unique and medical circumstances differ from patient to patient,” she told Colorado Public Radio, which reported 38% of babies born at 22 weeks survive after given intensive care.

The Catholic bishops of Colorado, the Catholic Medical Association, and a group of more than 130 medical professionals and scientists in Colorado have backed Proposition 115.

“Rest assured that your ‘Yes’ to Proposition 115 will have innumerable consequences for the lives of many children who, within their mother’s womb, count on you for life,” Archbishop Samuel Aquila and Bishop Jorge Rodriguez said in a Sept. 27 letter to Hispanics in the Archdiocese of Denver.

Poll: Young adults more likely than older Catholics to accept all of Church teaching

Tue, 10/20/2020 - 19:24

CNA Staff, Oct 20, 2020 / 05:24 pm (CNA).- A new survey released this week has found that 1 in 5 Catholic likely voters say they accept everything the Church teaches, with young adults being more likely than older generations to say they agree with Catholic doctrine.

RealClear Opinion Research, in partnership with EWTN News, conducted an Oct. 5-11 poll, surveying 1,490 likely voters who self-identify as Catholic. It is the fourth in a series of surveys of Catholics over the past year.

The poll asked Catholic likely voters about their religious beliefs and practices. Answers from respondents on questions such as the importance of faith in their life and their frequency of prayer are consistent with answers in previous polls in the series.

One significant shift in the data is an increase in young adult Catholics who say they believe everything the Catholic Church teaches.

Twenty-five percent of 18-34 year olds in the latest survey said they accept everything the Church teaches, compared to 21% of those ages 35-54 and 16% of those 55 and older.

A previous survey in late January and early February asked Catholic registered voters the same question. It found that 17% of young adult Catholics said they accept everything the Church teaches, with 19% of older age groups saying the same.

Overall, 88% percent of respondents said religion is important in their life, including 50% who said it was “very important.” More than 8 in 10 respondents of all ages, races, and genders agreed that religion is important to them.

Catholics who say they accept everything the Church teaches were almost twice as likely to say their faith is “very important” as those who do not accept all of Church teaching.

Almost 4 in 10 Catholics surveyed said they attended Mass at least once per week before coronavirus restrictions were put in place earlier this year.

An earlier poll by RealClear Opinion Research and EWTN News, conducted in late August, found that just over half of Catholic likely voters said that once restrictions are lifted, they plan to attend Mass more frequently than they did before the pandemic.

Half of Catholics in the latest poll said they believe in the Real Presence of the Eucharist, with just over one-third saying they believe the Eucharist is just a symbol, and the remainder saying they are unsure.

Those who attend Mass more frequently were more likely to believe in the True Presence, with almost 7 in 10 respondents who attend Mass at least weekly saying they believe the Eucharist is really the Body and Blood of Christ.

These findings on belief in the Real Presence of the Eucharist are consistent with a previous poll of Catholic registered voters by RealClear Opinion Research and EWTN News last November.

Four in five Catholic likely voters say they pray at least once per week, with more than half of respondents saying they pray daily. Regular prayer is common regardless of age, gender, and race – more than 70% of each demographic in the poll said they pray at least weekly.

Among survey respondents, 11% say they pray the rosary every day, while an additional 16% say they pray the rosary at least once per week. Thirty-one percent said they pray the rosary monthly to yearly, and 43% do so less than once per year.

Sixty percent of Catholic likely voters say they go to confession less than once per year. Ten percent say they go to confession annually, 21% say they go a few times per year, and 9% say they go at least monthly.

Catholics ages 18-34 are most likely to go to confession at least once per year, with 56% saying they do so, compared to 46% of those ages 35-43 and 26% of those 55 and older. Fifteen percent of men said they go to confession at least monthly, while 5% of women said the same.

The practices of monthly confession and praying the rosary at least once per week were significantly more common among Catholics who said they accept all of the Church’s teachings and those who attend Mass at least weekly than among those who do not accept everything the Church teaches and those who attend Mass less frequently.

NY Catholic Conference: Follow the science. Open the churches.

Tue, 10/20/2020 - 18:00

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 20, 2020 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- New York’s Catholic dioceses continue to push back on new coronavirus restrictions that have shut down more than two dozen churches in the state, despite there being no connection between churches and an outbreak of the virus. 

Dennis Poust, director of communications for the New York State Catholic Conference, told CNA Tuesday that the state’s dioceses “are not aware of any outbreaks related to a Catholic Church anywhere in the state, including in the so-called ‘hot zones,’” identified by New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo. 

Cuomo announced at the start of October that there would be new “cluster” designations of “red,” “orange,” and “yellow” for zip codes that are experiencing new cases of the coronavirus. 

For houses of worship located in the “red” zip codes, capacity is limited to 10 people, a figure which grows to a maximum of 25 for houses of worship in “orange” zip codes. Public and private schools, as well as “non-essential” businesses located in these “red” and “orange” zip codes were also forced to close due to the new restrictions. 

These new regulations mean that about two dozen churches located in the Archdiocese of New York and the Diocese of Brooklyn have been effectively forced to close for the time being. A federal judge rejected a request from the Diocese of Brooklyn for an injunction that would have allowed churches in the diocese to continue operating at 25% capacity. 

“Gov. Cuomo talks about following the science,” Poust told CNA. “We say 'amen.' We are following all Department of Health and CDC guidelines and keeping our people safe, yet he effectively closed down more than two dozen Catholic churches anyway.” 

Poust told CNA that New York’s bishops have been working hard to ensure the safety of all who attend their churches, with much success. 

“We have been partners with the administration from Day 1 of the crisis, writing to the governor and pledging our cooperation, offering the use of Catholic facilities for spillover hospital space, whatever we could do,” Poust told CNA on Tuesday. 

He noted that the bishops had dispensed the Sunday obligation and canceled Masses prior to the start of Holy Week, and that Catholic schools in New York City had closed before public schools in order to help halt the spread of the virus. 

“Fighting this pandemic is a pro-life imperative and we’ve been treating it as one from the start,’ he said. “I’ve been so proud of our parishes.” 

Catholics at every level, from bishop to lay parishioners, were involved in discussions for safe reopening, Poust told CNA, calling the efforts taken to ensure liturgies are as safe as possible, including the suspension of the distribution of the chalice at Mass, enforcing masks, and social distancing, a “stunning success.” 

But, he said, Cuomo’s recent measures did not reflect the results of this cooperation.

On October 16, the Jewish publication Hamodia shared a recording of a phone call Cuomo had with Jewish leaders. In the call, Cuomo laid blame at the closing of private schools on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, and said that it was a “fear-driven response” as “the virus scares people.” 

“I’m 100% frank and candid,” said Cuomo. “This is not a highly-nuanced, sophisticated response. This is a fear-driven response.” He said that perhaps a “smarter, more-tailored approach” to the closing of schools, houses of worship, and businesses could be developed once “the anxiety comes down” in the red zip codes. 

Poust said that by severely limiting the capacity of houses of worship, Cuomo is “sending a message that churches are not safe anywhere,” something he says “just hasn’t been shown to be true.” 

“Can a church or synagogue be a super spreader? Of course, if they aren’t masking and social distancing,” he said. “But with appropriate precautions, the risks are very low and the statistics bear that out.”

With limited exceptions, said Poust, the vast majority of schools and religious congregations have been “exceedingly safe.” 

And while Poust said that there was “much to praise” in how Cuomo has handled the coronavirus outbreak--with ”the exception of the early policy regarding nursing homes”--he thinks it is “important to enforce restrictions appropriately, namely on those who are violating the rules and causing spread.”

“The governor knows exactly which congregations have been problematic. It is a small minority that has been unwilling to follow the rules,” he said. 

Poust said that isolated incidents of rule breaking do not justify broad action against entire religious communities. 

Highlighting criticism by New York state and city officials of some Jewish congregations, he said it is not appropriate to treat the wider Jewish community - or all religious communities - with a broad brush.

“I am confident if it was a Catholic parish violating the law, the state would not have shut down every church, synagogue and mosque in the community. It would have enforced the law against the bad-actor parish,” he said.

Portland archdiocese holds rosary, Eucharistic procession for peace

Tue, 10/20/2020 - 17:18

CNA Staff, Oct 20, 2020 / 03:18 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon held a Eucharistic procession through the city on Saturday for the intention of peace in the city.

Praying before the exposed Blessed Sacrament during the Oct. 17 event, Archbishop Alexander Sample said: “Mary, your son is the Prince of Peace. Through your intercession, may he bring peace to our cities and our communities, may his peace reign in our hearts.”

The prayers began with exposition of the Blessed Sacrament at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, followed by a procession to the North Park Blocks, where the archbishop led a rosary and performed an exorcism. Archbishop Sample prayed over the city the “Exorcism Against Satan and the Fallen Angels” from the Roman Ritual.

The procession returned to the cathedral, concluding with Benediction and the Angelus.

Ahead of the event, Archbishop Sample said that “There is no better time than in the wake of civil unrest and the eve of the elections to come together in prayer, especially here in Portland. The Catholic Church takes the promotion of unity, and accordingly peace, as belonging to the innermost nature of the Church. For this reason, the Church fosters solidarity among peoples, and calls peoples and nations to sacrifices of advantages of power and wealth for the sake of solidarity of the human family.”

Portland has seen months of street protests, often taking the form of crowds of hundreds of people protesting, ostensibly, against racism, police brutality, and fascism.

Some of the protests have been accompanied by riots and looting. In addition to extensive property damage in the city’s downtown, there have been occasional incidents of violence within or adjacent to the protests, including shootings and stabbings.

Protesters in Portland have at various times fired commercial-grade fireworks at the federal courthouse, and have thrown rocks, cans, water bottles, and potatoes at federal agents, the AP has reported. Police reported that in July, the protesters attempted to burn down the courthouse.

Police have occasionally used tear gas and pepper spray against protesters.

Protesters in the city have toppled statues of Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, and Harvey W. Scott, an editor of The Oregonian in the late 19th century.

More than 200 people participated in Saturday's Eucharistic procession.

One of the participants, Carolina Ruth Valdez, told The Catholic Sentinel that “what we did contrasts with what has been going on in our city and all this disarray. Jesus is the Prince of Peace. No Jesus, no peace.”

Valdez led the crowd in cheering “Viva Cristo Rey” at the conclusion of the procession.

In July, Archbishop Sample had encouraged Catholics to learn about and study how to respond to the sin of racism, while at the same time condemning the violence accompanying many of the protests in the city for the past two months.

“This all began over the terrible, tragic killing of a man, and initially the outcry against injustice, against racism, was well-placed, and I have been very supportive of the peaceful demonstrations on behalf of justice and against racism,” Archbishop Alexander Sample said in a July 24 video message, referencing the protests sparked by the May 25 killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.

“But sadly, that’s not what this is about any more,” he said.

Catholic diocese worked with HHS to get priests to COVID patients

Tue, 10/20/2020 - 15:00

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 20, 2020 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- The Diocese of Arlington helped intervene on behalf of a dying COVID patient when he needed a priest to offer him the sacraments, the Department of Health and Human Services said on Tuesday.

In a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, Roger Severino—director of the Office for Civil Rights at HHS—announced that the office had resolved two religious discrimination complaints concerning lack of access to Catholic priests at hospitals during the pandemic.

One of the two cases was at Mary Washington Healthcare hospital in Fredericksburg, Virginia, in the Arlington diocese. Family of a COVID-positive patient who was dying requested a Catholic priest to visit and administer the Last Rights, which usually include the sacraments of anointing and confession, and receiving the viaticum, but the hospital allegedly denied the request due to its coronavirus visitation policies.

In August, the Arlington diocese notified the OCR’s Conscience and Religious Freedom Division (CRFD), which in turn contacted the hospital.

A priest was allowed inside the hospital to visit the patient before their death, the diocese confirmed to CNA on Tuesday.

“Understanding the many competing interests a hospital must balance, particularly during a pandemic, the ability of a patient to exercise his/her religious freedom at such an important time must remain central, as long as reasonable precautions are taken by the cleric,” a spokesperson for the diocese told CNA in a statement.

“We are pleased the situation ultimately worked out well and now serves as a model to the country.”

Shortly after that, HHS says that the diocese again reached out about another case at the hospital where a Catholic patient in the intensive care unit had just received surgery but was denied access to a priest due to the hospital’s policy of treating the ICU ward as a COVID-positive area, barring outside visitors except in end-of-life cases.  

Severino said on Tuesday that, after his office reached out to the hospital, the hospital updated their policy to allow for clergy visits to COVID-positive patients in end-of-life situations, so long as clergy wear proper equipment and undergo infection control training.

If the urgency of a situation precludes the training, then clergy can still visit the patient but must self-quarantine for 14 days afterward. Clergy can visit non-COVID units upon request “at any reasonable time,” HHS said.

“As we work as hard as we can to save as many lives as possible, we must not forget what many people live for,” Severino said of faith and religious practice. “You can safely treat the patient without neglecting the whole patient—that’s mind, body, and soul.”

The resolution was a “reasonable balancing” of the “urgency of the situation” with the advice of infectious disease specialists, Severino said.

In another case in Maryland, a mother who gave birth at Southern Maryland Hospital tested positive for coronavirus and was separated from her newborn baby, per the hospital’s policy. She asked for a Catholic priest to baptize the child, but the hospital denied her request due to its visitor policy during the pandemic.

Guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that the mother and doctor should decide the question of her separation from her child if she tests positive for the coronavirus or is suspected of having it.

HHS also intervened in that case, and the MedStar Health System produced a new policy for its ten hospitals. Under the new policy, patients in both COVID-positive and non-COVID units can request a clerical visit so long as it “does not disrupt care.”

In a second case in Maryland, the University of Maryland Medical System adjusted its clergy-visitation policies this summer after the OCR reached out; a Catholic woman had requested a priest to give the sacraments to her critically-injured husband at Prince George’s Hospital Center, but was denied because he was not at the point of death.

The resolution announced Tuesday “balances the safety of patients with the right of patients to have clergy visitation, even during a pandemic,” Severino said.

Due to the contagious and deadly nature of the virus, some hospitals have set up strict visitor policies during the pandemic that have included even family members not being able to visit their loved ones in intensive care units or wards where COVID-positive patients were being cared for.

The HHS OCR helped resolve another case in Connecticut of a woman with aphasia being able to have her advocate inside the hospital while she was being treated.  

“We’ve heard too many heart-wrenching stories of people literally dying alone during this crisis,” Severino said in June.

In an HHS March bulletin, OCR instructed hospitals and other health care providers to respect “requests for religious accommodations in treatment and access to clergy or faith practices as practicable.”

Supreme Court takes case against 'Remain in Mexico' asylum policy

Tue, 10/20/2020 - 13:00

CNA Staff, Oct 20, 2020 / 11:00 am (CNA).- The Supreme Court will hear a challenge to the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, under which some asylum applicants have to wait outside the United States while their applications are considered. The policy is opposed by the U.S. bishops’ conference.

On Monday, the court agreed to hear the case of Wolf v. Innovation Law Lab, a challenge to the administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols, implemented in January of 2019. The policy requires non-Mexican immigrants seeking asylum at the San Ysidro border crossing to remain in Mexico while their cases were processed by an immigration judge.

The “Remain in Mexico” policy has since been expanded to include entries across the entire U.S.-Mexico border.

Asylum seekers receive a notice to appear in immigration court and may re-enter the U.S. for that court date; to stay in the U.S., they must prove a fear of persecution or torture in Mexico.

The policy does not apply to all asylum-seekers: unaccompanied minors and those with known physical or mental health problems are exempt, among others.

The chair of the U.S. bishops’ immigration committee has opposed the policy, along with the president of Catholic Relief Services (CRS); in a joint statement in May of 2019, Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, Texas, and Sean Callahan of CRS said the policy “needlessly increases the suffering of the most vulnerable and violates international protocols.”

Both a federal district court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the federal government in the case, with the Ninth Circuit noting that the Department of Homeland Security drafted the rule “without notice-and-comment rulemaking.”

The court also ruled that the plaintiffs bringing the lawsuit had a “likelihood of success” in their claim that the policy is “inconsistent” with immigration law.

Bishop Vasquez and Callahan stated in 2019 that the “recent efforts to curtail and deter the right” to seek asylum were “deeply troubling.”

“We must look beyond our borders; families are escaping extreme violence and poverty at home and are fleeing for their lives,” they stated.

The court on Monday also agreed to take up a border wall case brought by the Sierra Club; the Ninth Circuit court ruled against the Trump administration’s diversion of Department of Defense funds to go for construction of the U.S.-Mexico border wall.

In February of 2019, Congress reached a compromise on a spending bill that appropriated more than $1 billion for the border wall but included a clause prohibiting any construction on certain sites near the border—a protection that included the historic La Lomita Chapel owned by the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas.

However, President Trump then declared a national emergency to divert more Defense funds toward the construction of a wall, funds that were technically not subject to the clause enacted by Congress protecting certain properties. In February of 2020, he extended the emergency declaration for another year.

Catholics in the diocese and at the USCCB have been concerned that the chapel could be demolished or cut off if its property was used for the border wall construction.

The USCCB also opposed that executive action by President Trump in February of 2019, saying that it “circumvents the clear intent of Congress to limit funding of a wall.”

“The wall first and foremost is a symbol of division and animosity between two friendly countries,” they stated. “We remain steadfast and resolute in the vision articulated by Pope Francis that at this time we need to be building bridges and not walls.”

San Francisco archbishop performs exorcism at site of destroyed St. Junipero Serra statue

Tue, 10/20/2020 - 04:42

CNA Staff, Oct 20, 2020 / 02:42 am (CNA).- Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco on Saturday performed an exorcism at the site of a destroyed statue of St. Junipero Serra, calling the statue’s destruction by rioters an “act of blasphemy.”

“We pray that God might purify this place of evil spirits, that he might purify the hearts of those who perpetrated this blasphemy, that he might envelop them in his love, that their hearts might be softened and turn toward Him,” Cordileone said Oct. 17 before a crowd of about 150 people.

Serra, an 18th-century Franciscan priest and missionary, has been criticized by some activists as a symbol of colonialism and of the abuses that many Native Americans suffered after contact with Europeans. However, historians say Serra protested abuses and sought to fight colonial oppression.

A Oct. 12 protest at Mission San Rafael Archangel began peacefully but then turned violent, as participants defaced the statue of the saint with red paint before dragging it to the ground with nylon straps and ropes.

Cordileone offered exorcism prayers in Latin before sprinkling the site with holy water. The prayers Cordileone offered at the statue site are not the same as exorcism prayers offered by the Church if a person is believed to be the subject of demonic possession.

This marks the second time that Cordileone has performed an exorcism in connection with a destroyed statue of Serra. A crowd of about 100 people tore down a Serra statue in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park the evening of June 19, and Cordileone offered exorcism prayers after that incident.

Archbishop Cordileone last week decried the “mob rule” that led to the statue of the saint being “mindlessly defaced and toppled by a small, violent mob.”

“There is no question that the indigenous peoples of our continent suffered under Europeans who came here and their descendants, especially after the mission era ended and California entered into the United States. But Fr. Serra is the wrong symbol of those who wish to address or redress this grievance,” Cordileone contended.

During the eighteenth century, Serra founded nine Catholic missions in the area that would later become California, and many of those missions would go on to become the centers of major California cities. Though Serra himself did not found Mission San Rafael, it owes its existence to Serra’s legacy.

Critics have lambasted Serra as a symbol of European colonialism and the erasure of Native culture, and have in recent years sought to remove monuments to him and change the names of streets or landmarks named for him.

San Francisco school district officials this month announced that 44 schools with “inappropriate” names will likely be renamed soon, with Junipero Serra Elementary School near the top of the list of names likely to be changed.

Serra’s defenders say that he was actually an advocate for native people, noting an episode of his life when he drafted a 33-point “bill of rights” for the Native Americans living in the mission settlements and walking all the way from California to Mexico City to present it to the viceroy.

While many Native peoples did suffer horrific abuse, an archaeologist told CNA earlier this year that activists tend to conflate the abuses the Natives suffered long after Serra’s death with the period when Serra was alive and building the missions.

Pope Francis canonized Serra in 2015 during a visit to the United States.

Catholics had rallied in a peaceful demonstration the evening of Oct. 13 at the former statue site, at which a priest encouraged forgiveness of those who destroyed the statue.

Father Kyle Faller, parochial vicar at the mission, led a rosary and a Litany of Reparation for the statue’s destruction, as well as the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel.

San Rafael police have arrested five women in connection with the statue’s destruction and charged them with felony vandalism; all five have been issued citations and released. The cases have been forwarded to the district attorney’s office for prosecution, police said last week.

The Oct. 12 protest was organized by members of the Coast Miwok tribe, though it is not clear whether those arrested for the vandalism are members of the tribe.

CNA attempted to contact Dean Hoaglin, chair of the Coast Miwok Tribal Council of Marin and one of the organizers of the Oct. 12 protest, for further information on the tribe and their reasons for opposing Serra, but did not receive a reply by press time.

The Coast Miwok people were the original inhabitants of what is today Marin and southern Sonoma Counties of California. The tribe gained federal recognition as the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria in December 2000.

In 2008, the former bishop of Sacramento, Francis Quinn, apologized to the Coast Miwok tribe that the Spanish “tried to impose a European Catholicism on the natives.”

The vandalism in San Rafael is the latest in a series of attacks on churches and Catholic statues across the country this year. On July 11, a fire under investigation for arson gutted the 249-year-old Mission San Gabriel in Los Angeles, a mission church founded by St. Serra.

Eighty-three percent of Catholic likely voters are concerned about attacks on churches in recent months, according to a poll conducted Aug. 27 - Sept. 1 by RealClear Opinion Research in partnership with EWTN News.


Abortion groups target Feinstein after Amy Coney Barrett hearings

Mon, 10/19/2020 - 22:00

CNA Staff, Oct 19, 2020 / 08:00 pm (CNA).- Abortion-advocacy groups have called for Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to step down as ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee after the confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett. 

In an Oct. 16, statement, Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL, called for “new leadership” for Democrats on the committee following Feinstein’s polite tone in remarks at the conclusion of the four days of Senate hearings last week. 

During the hearing on Thursday, Feinstein thanked Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, for presiding over “one of the best set of hearings that I’ve participated in.” 

“I want to thank you for your fairness and the opportunity of going back and forth,” she said.

“It leaves one with a lot of hopes, a lot of questions, and even some ideas--perhaps some good bipartisan legislation we can put together to make this great country even better,” said Feinstein, who is pro-choice, has not supported the nomination of Barrett to the Supreme Court, and has in the past criticized the judge's Catholicism.

The two senators then shook hands and embraced. 

Feinstein's remarks to Graham, Hogue alleged, lent an “appearance of credibility to the proceedings,” one that is “widely out of step with the American people.” 

“As such, we believe the committee needs new leadership,” she said, calling Barrett’s confirmation process “illegitimate” and “a sham.” 

Hogue said that Barrett, a Catholic, an appeals court judge, law professor, and mother of seven, poses “a grave threat to every freedom and right we hold dear and tears the very fabric of our democracy.” 

“Americans--whose lives hang in the balance--deserve leadership that underscores how unprecedented, shameful and wrong this process is.”

Barrett was nominated to the position of Associate Justice of the Supreme Court on September 26, eight days after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. 

Feinstein has served as ranking member of the committee since January 2017. During hearings that year for Barrett’s confirmation to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, Feinstein challenged Barrett over her Catholic faith, observing to Barrett that “the dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern.”

NARAL has consistently endorsed Feinstein during her time in the Senate, saying in 2018 that she is “at the forefront of the movement to safeguard our rights.” 

“We need leaders in the Senate like Senator Feinstein who will stand up for the rights of women and families across California,” said NARAL in their 2018 endorsement. 

NARAL was not the only organization calling for Feinstein to step down from her position. The group Demand Justice started a petition drive calling for Feinstein to resign from the committee, stating that the senator’s “behavior during Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation hearings demonstrates that she is only standing in our way of fighting to protect our courts.”

“Sen. Feinstein has undercut Democrats' position at every step of this process, from undermining calls for filibuster and Court reform straight through to thanking Republicans for the most egregious partisan power grab in the modern history of the Supreme Court,” said the petition.

Justice Democrats, which aims to elect progressive candidates to Congress, echoed the calls for Feinstein to depart from the Judiciary Committee, tweeting “Dianne Feinstein must step down.”

Feinstein, who has consistently supported pro-abortion policy in the Senate, opposed Barrett's nomination since the president announced it, calling it “unprecedented” and criticizing the speed at which it was happening. 

“The rush to confirm Judge Barrett to the Supreme Court is unprecedented in my time on the committee,” said Feinstein on October 15. 

“The process exists for a reason, so we can adequately question and evaluate a nominee. There’s absolutely no need to jam this nominee through before a consequential election.”

While NARAL says Feinstein has not done enough, the senator has indicated repeatedly that she will not be voting to confirm Barrett to the Supreme Court. 

Where Catholic likely voters stand on issues, candidates, ahead of presidential election

Mon, 10/19/2020 - 18:20

CNA Staff, Oct 19, 2020 / 04:20 pm (CNA).-  

A poll released this week has found that Catholics from both major political parties said they want candidates to support religious freedom and oppose taxpayer funding of abortion, while they identified the economy and the coronavirus pandemic as major concerns leading up to the election.

The poll found that Catholic likely voters, divided mostly along party lines, favor the election of Joe Biden over President Donald Trump. Biden's lead among Catholic voters narrowed in several swing states, and among Catholics who attend Mass weekly.

Overall, 78% said they were more likely to support candidates who protect religious freedom for people of faith. This included majorities of both men and women, as well as majorities of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents, and majorities of every age range, geographic region, and race surveyed.

At least 3 in 4 Catholics – regardless of how frequently they attend Mass – said that they are more likely to favor candidates who support religious freedom.

Conducted Oct. 5-11 by RealClear Opinion Research in partnership with EWTN News, the poll surveyed 1,490 likely voters who self-identify as Catholic.

Asked about the upcoming presidential election, respondents overall favored Biden over Trump 52% to 40%. These numbers are virtually unchanged from a previous poll conducted by RealClear Opinion Research in partnership with EWTN News in late August and early September.

In the October poll, 90% of Republican respondents favored Trump, and 92% of Democratic respondents favored Biden. Independents preferred Biden over Trump 44%-34%, with 23% saying they are undecided.

The gap between the candidates narrows significantly in the swing states of Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. In those states Biden leads by four points (48% to 44%), which is within the poll’s margin of error.

Among weekly Mass attendees, Biden’s lead in the poll narrows to six points, 48%-42%.

Catholic likely voters who say they accept everything the Church teaches told pollsters they are more likely to vote for Trump over Biden 56%-38%, the poll found.

Catholics who say they believe all of the Church’s teachings also prefer Trump’s policies, 55%-39%. Among all Catholic voters, however, Biden outpaces Trump when it comes to the preference of a candidate’s policies; 53% of Catholic likely voters prefer Biden’s policies, while 41% prefer Trump’s and 5% “don’t know.”

Biden also outperforms Trump on the question of temperament; one-third of Catholics polled said they preferred Trump’s temperament, with almost 6 in 10 saying that they preferred Biden’s temperament. Female Catholic voters and Hispanic Catholics said they preferred Biden’s temperament by a 33-point margin and a 52-point margin, respectively.

On the question of temperament, those who say they accept everything the Church teaches prefer Trump by one point.

When considering issues in light of the upcoming presidential election, 95% of respondents said they are concerned about the economy, and 92% said they are concerned about health care.

In addition, 89% said the coronavirus pandemic concerns them, 83% said the same about civil unrest, 81% about Supreme Court appointments and 77% about race relations. Abortion and religious freedom were each listed as an issue of concern by 66% of respondents.

A majority of respondents said the following were major concerns: economy and jobs (73%), coronavirus (68%), health care (67%) and civil unrest (53%).

Sixty percent said they are less likely to support a candidate who supports abortion at any time in a pregnancy, while 28% said they are more likely to support such a candidate.

Fifty-two percent said they are less likely to support a candidate who favors taxpayer funding of abortion in the U.S., compared to 34% who said they would be more likely to support such a candidate.

Women showed more opposition than men did to candidates supporting abortion throughout an entire pregnancy, as well as to taxpayer funding of abortion. Weekly Mass attendees showed more opposition to candidates holding these positions than less frequent Mass attendees did.

Respondents were more closely split on immigration, with 47% saying they would prefer a candidate who supports expanding immigration to the U.S., and 41% saying they are less likely to support a candidate who holds this position.
Younger Catholics are more likely to favor candidates who want to expand immigration than older Catholics are, and Hispanic respondents are more likely to favor these candidates than white or Black respondents are.

Asked their view on candidates who want to require Catholic organizations to provide insurance coverage including contraception and abortion, 38% said they are more likely to support such a candidate, while 42% said they are less likely. Twenty percent said they were unsure.

Forty-five percent of poll participants said they believe Roe v. Wade should be upheld, while 25% said it should be reversed and abortion should be ruled unconstitutional. Eighteen percent said the issue should be returned to the states, and 13% said they were unsure.

Men and women answered almost identically in their opinions on Roe v. Wade. Black respondents were about twice as likely to say abortion should be ruled unconstitutional as white and Hispanic respondents were.


Colorado's Catholic dioceses pay $6.6 million in abuse settlements

Mon, 10/19/2020 - 14:01

Denver, Colo., Oct 19, 2020 / 12:01 pm (CNA).- An independent reparation and reconciliation program for the three dioceses in Colorado announced Friday that $6.68 million had been paid to 73 victims of clerical abuse who were minors at the time the abuse occurred.

The program is administered by Camille Biros and Kenneth Feinberg, independent from control by the Church, and is monitored by an independent board, the Independent Oversight Committee.

The IOC said Oct. 16 that “The administrators and the IOC have received positive feedback from program participants. Many survivors (and their attorneys) have commended the option to seek compensation in a non-adversarial forum independent from the Dioceses and without regard for the statute of limitations.”

The program was accounced in October 2019, and the claims process has now closed.

During the process, 98 claims were made, of which 81 were determined to be eligible for compensation.

The $6.68 million has been paid to 73 victims. Of the remaining eight, one is being paid; four have not yet responded to the compensation offer, and three are awaiting law enforcement notification by the claimants.

Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver said Oct. 16 told the victims who participated in the program, “I have met with all of you who requested a meeting in which I could offer an apology to you in person, and will meet with anyone else should you desire to do so. I know others have chosen a different path for healing and I, of course, respect your wishes. Please know, on behalf of myself and the Church, I am deeply sorry for the pain and hurt that was caused by the abuse you suffered.”

“I remain steadfastly committed to meeting with any survivor who desires to meet with me and doing everything I can so that the problems of the past never repeat themselves. I know that money cannot fully heal the wounds you suffered, but hope that those of you who came forward felt heard, acknowledged, and that the reparations offer a measure of justice and access to resources,” he added.

The archbishop told any victims who have not come forward that the archdiocese “can help you find other resources that will provide the assistance you need.”

The program followed the release of a report issued after a seven-month investigation conducted by a former U.S. Attorney, Bob Troyer. Colorado’s bishops and the state’s attorney general decided mutually to support the investigation, which was funded by an anonymous donor.

That October 2019 report found that 43 diocesan priests since 1950 had been credibly accused of sexually abusing at least 166 children in the state.

Archbishop Aquila noted that “some substantiated allegations in the Program were made against priests not previously identified” in the October 2019 report, and said that “the identity of priests who were accused of wrongdoing in the Program process where those allegations were deemed substantiated … will be included in an addendum.”

Troyer will prepare that report as well, which is expected to be released nexth month.

“None of the survivors who participated in the Program reported abuse in the last 20 years – meaning
that the abuse alleged in the Program, like that set out in the Special Master’s original report, involves
incidents that occurred decades ago,” the archbishop added.

Nearly 70% of victims identified in the October 2019 were abused in the 1960s and 1970s, and the most recent acts of clerical sexual abuse documented in the report took place in 1998, when a now incarcerated and laicized Denver priest sexually abused a teenage boy.

The IOC said the most recent time frame of abuse in the report or the IRRP process is 1999.

Archbishop Aquila stated that “this independent program and the independent review conducted by the dioceses in Colorado in cooperation with the Attorney General have put a spotlight on a horrifying chapter in our history, but it has also shown that the steps we have taken over the past 30 years – including our training and empowerment of thousands of faithful parishioners and volunteers across the Archdiocese – have been effective. Most of all, it has taught us to be open and care for victims of abuse as they deem best, and to always be vigilant to make sure the Church is a safe place.”

Appeals court uphold Kentucky abortion regulations

Mon, 10/19/2020 - 13:00

CNA Staff, Oct 19, 2020 / 11:00 am (CNA).- A federal appeals court upheld abortion regulations in the state of Kentucky on Friday. The three-judge panel on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that abortion providers failed to prove that a 1998 Kentucky abortion law, and its 2017 update, would result in the closure of all abortion facilities in the state.

Abortion providers, including Planned Parenthood, had challenged the 1998 state law requiring abortion facilities to have a transfer agreement with local hospitals in case of medical complications that could arise from abortions. The facilities also had to have an agreement in place for ambulance transport.

In 2017, the state imposed stricter regulations, including that a transfer agreement be with a state-licensed acute care hospital within a certain distance of the abortion facility. It also included a 90-day window for facilities to apply for a waiver to show that they could not get a transfer agreement despite having exhausted all options to do so.

Planned Parenthood and EMW Women’s Surgical Center and Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky challenged the regulations, saying they would result in the  closure of all abortion facilities in state. A federal district court sided with them, before the Sixth Circuit reversed that decision in part on Friday.

The plaintiffs, EMW, “have failed to make a clear showing that both of their abortion facilities would close” because of the laws, Judge Joan Larsen stated in her opinion, joined by Judge Chad Readler.

The law was rooted in the state’s interest in protecting public health, the judges said, noting that “we cannot say that laws requiring abortion facilities to have transfer and transport agreements with a local hospital are not reasonably related to a legitimate government end.”

Earlier this year, in the case of June Medical Services, the Supreme Court struck down a Louisiana law requiring doctors at abortion facilities to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.

However, the judges wrote on Friday, Chief Justice John Roberts’ concurrence in the ruling allowed state regulations of abortion to stand if they satisfied two requirements: that they are “‘reasonably related’ to a legitimate state interest,” and that they not put a “substantial obstacle” in the way of a woman obtaining an abortion.

The state law was in the interest of public health, and it allowed facilities to apply for a waiver if they could not satisfy the requirements of the law but had made a good-faith effort to do so, the judges said. 

In the June decision, Chief Justice Roberts said that the Court’s 2016 ruling against a Texas law on admitting privileges, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt—upon which the majority of justices relied in the June Medical case as precedent—was wrongly decided.

However, Roberts applied the legal principle of stare decisis to argue that the 2016 case was settled and the court’s ruling needed to be applied to Louisiana’s abortion law.

Judge denies Brooklyn diocese injunction against NY coronavirus restrictions

Mon, 10/19/2020 - 11:00

CNA Staff, Oct 19, 2020 / 09:00 am (CNA).- A federal court ruled against the Diocese of Brooklyn on Friday in its case against new coronavirus restrictions which impose local limits on Mass attendance.

The diocese had sued the state of New York on Oct. 8 over new public health restrictions that limited the size of gatherings in certain “hot spots” around the state, or localities where the new coronavirus has been spreading. Certain churches in Brooklyn and Queens were effectively limited to holding 10 or 25 people for indoor Masses, under the new rules.

On Friday, a federal judge for the Eastern District of New York denied the diocese’s motion to halt the implementation of the restrictions. Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn said he was “extremely disappointed” by the ruling and is considering an appeal.

The diocese had argued that religious institutions had been wrongly singled out as “non essential,” and held churches to a higher standard of restrictions compared to other venues, including retail outlets. 


"Despite this loss," DiMarzio said, "we will continue to press our leaders for policies that consider the individual circumstances of houses of worship."

"We will also continue to advocate for places of worship to be classified as essential, for there is nothing more necessary today than a community of believers, united in prayer, asking the Lord to end this pandemic."

In his opinion on Friday, Judge Nicholas Garaufis ruled that the state did not unlawfully single out religion for its restrictions, noting that its rules applied to other non-religious gatherings as well. New York also presented sufficient evidence to show that its decision was based on scientific and epidemiological considerations, he said.

If the court ruled in favor of the diocese and religious gatherings subsequently resulted in spreading the virus, Garaufis said, such a scenario would result in “avoidable death” and “overwhelming” damage; conversely, if the court sided wrongly with the state, it would bring a less grave consequence: “severely curtailed in-person ceremonies.”

Bishop DiMarzio, however, said that it was “a shame our parishioners in the red zones cannot return to Mass when the judge acknowledged we have done everything right.”

In a previous interview with CNA, Bishop DiMarzio said that the diocese had worked with public health officials to reopen churches safely in July; safety measures such as mask mandates and social distancing had been enforced, and churches were open only at 25% capacity.

“The proof of our compliance is the fact that we have not had any COVID outbreaks or significant cases in either our churches or schools,” he said on Friday in a written statement.

Despite refusing an injunction, Judge Garaufis praised the diocese on Friday for having “been an exemplar of community leadership” that “at each step…has been ahead of the curve, enforcing stricter safety protocols than the State required at the given moment.”

The new state rules established a color-code system for the severity of virus outbreaks within various localities; “red” zones represented the worst outbreaks and thus merited the strictest limits, while “orange” zones represented the next level of outbreak.

Churches in “red” zones are limited to 25% capacity or ten people, whichever number is smaller; churches in “orange” zones are limited to 33% capacity or 25 people, whichever number is smaller. Bishop DiMarzio told CNA that churches in the diocese are large and have been safely accommodating people at 25% capacity for months without a known outbreak.

Following the ruling, churches in the “red” zones will be closed, Bishop DiMarzio said, as the 10-person limit is “extremely difficult to implement because we never want to turn away worshippers.”

The state’s new rules affected religious and social gatherings and “non-essential” businesses such as gyms, barber shops, and hair salons, but some businesses including grocery stores were labeled “essential” and were not subject to the restrictions.

The rules presented a double-standard, DiMarzio told CNA on Friday before the court issued its ruling, arguing that religious gatherings are “essential” and should only be subject to reasonable health restrictions--such as the safety measures already enforced by churches for months.

“We are relegated to the sidelines, religion,” he said. “Religion is the problem of society, [according to] the way people think today.”

“In the past, you would think the non-profit sector, religion, was a pillar of the society along with the business community and with the government," said DiMarzio. 

"This was what held society together. Now, that kind of a thesis of how society works is long since gone, unfortunately,” he said.

Vatican asks UN to eliminate the risks of satellite collisions in outer space

Mon, 10/19/2020 - 08:00

Rome Newsroom, Oct 19, 2020 / 06:00 am (CNA).- With more and more satellites orbiting the Earth, measures need to be taken to prevent collisions in outer space that give rise to dangerous “space debris,” a Holy See representative has warned the United Nations.

Archbishop Gabriele Caccia said Friday that preventative measures within a “globally-agreed framework” are needed to protect outer space due to the “massive increase in use and dependence” on satellites.

“Despite the unending outward dimension of the space environment, the region just above us is actually becoming relatively crowded and subject to increasing commercial activities,” Caccia, the apostolic nuncio and permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, said Oct. 16.

“So many satellites are being launched to provide internet access today, for example, that astronomers are finding that these risk obscuring the study of stars,” the archbishop noted.

The Holy See representative said that it is in the clear interest of all countries to establish “the so-called ‘rules of the road’ to eliminate the risks of satellite collisions.”

There have been roughly 2,200 satellites launched into the Earth’s orbit since 1957. Collisions among those satellites have created debris. There are tens of thousands of pieces of  “space junk” larger than four inches currently in orbit and millions more of smaller size.

The BBC recently reported that two pieces of space junk -- a defunct Russian satellite and a discarded part of a Chinese rocket segment -- narrowly avoided collision. 

“Satellites have become integrally linked to life here on Earth, assisting navigation, supporting global communications, helping forecast the weather, including the tracking of hurricanes and typhoons, and monitoring the global environment,” Caccia said.

“The loss of satellites that provide global positioning services, for example, would have a dramatically negative impact on human life..”

The International Astronautical Federation said in a statement last week that “substantive debris remediation efforts (i.e., operations) have been nearly non-existent to date,” adding that this was in part because “the urgency for debris remediation has not been expressed in a multi-national forum.”

Archbishop Caccia told the UN member states: “Preventing the generation of space debris does not concern only the peaceful uses of outer space. It also must encompass the equally problematic space debris left by military activities.”

He said that the UN must work to preserve the “universal character of outer space, increasing their common interests in it for the benefit of every person regardless of earthly nationality.”

Recently a number of satellites orbiting earth have been launched by SpaceX, a private company owned by Elon Musk, rather than by individual states. The company has 400 to 500 satellites in orbit with the goal of creating a network of 12,000 satellites.

The U.S. government launched an initiative earlier this year with the “Encouraging International Support for the Recovery and Use of Space Resources” executive order aims to work toward mining the moon for its resources. 

The apostolic nuncio proposed that international organizations or consortia could launch satellites, rather than single countries or companies, and that activities that exploit resources in space could be limited to these multilateral organizations.

Caccia concluded by quoting Pope Francis’ recent address to the UN General Assembly: “It is our duty to rethink the future of our common home and our common project. A complex task lies before us, one that requires a frank and coherent dialogue aimed at strengthening multilateralism and cooperation between states. Let us make good use of this institution in order to transform the challenge that lies before us into an opportunity to build together.”