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Push for racial justice could be an 'awakening' on abortion, prolife advocates say

Mon, 07/27/2020 - 15:01

St. Paul, Minn., Jul 27, 2020 / 01:01 pm (CNA).- Some pro-life advocates say that the recent push for racial equality in the US can be an awakening to the importance of their cause, and how the two problems can go hand-in-hand.

Kateri Remmes, a 22 year old intern for Illinois Right to Life and president of the University of Dallas pro-life club, told CNA that the climate of social justice surrounding racism has made her “want to fight it even more.”

“I’m seeing how much they go hand in hand, and how I can fight both” racism and abortion, Remmes said. “That was kind of my awakening, in a way, [to] the racial disparities going on today.”

Remmes has spent the summer writing about racial disparities in abortion. The climate of racial justice has been a key platform to speak about abortion, she told CNA.

“There is no better time to start highlighting and solving these racial issues than now. As racial disparities flood the news, it is important to expose the inequality that results in the unfair deaths of unborn black children and their mothers,” she wrote for Illinois Right to Life.

Some reports have shown that the climate of activism against racism following the death of George Floyd has heightened many young people’s sense of ambivalence toward abortion.

“Myself and other activists in my community are focused on issues that feel like immediate life or death, like the environment,” 19 year old Kaitlin Ahern told the New York Times. Her statement captures the sentiment of over a dozen young people that the Times interviewed for a June 30 article.

Young women rank mass shootings, climate change, education, racial inequality, and health care as problems as having greater importance than abortion, according to a 2019 survey of young people ages 18-23. Young men ranked nine problems more important, including unemployment, immigration, student debt, and terrorism.

A recent study from the University of Notre Dame suggested that while Americans do not see abortion as a “desirable good,” abortion is not a problem that many believe needs to be debated in the public sphere.

“Attitudes toward abortion are not typical dinner table conversation,” the Notre Dame study said. It is “for many, deeply personal.”

For pro-abortion activists interviewed by the Times, that means that they need to “reframe (abortion) so it feels like a young woman’s fight” again.

But pro-life advocates don’t see the problems of racism and abortion at odds with each other. Instead, they sense an “awakening” on abortion, which is underlying and reinforcing many racial disparities.

The largest Planned Parenthood facility in the US recently removed their founder’s name, Margaret Sanger, from their clinic, acknowledging her “racist legacy.”

“The removal of Margaret Sanger’s name from our building is both a necessary and overdue step to reckon with our legacy and acknowledge Planned Parenthood’s contributions to historical reproductive harm within communities of color,” said Karen Seltzer, Board Chair at Planned Parenthood of Greater New York.

Kristi Hamrick, the chief media and policy strategist for Students for Life of America, told CNA that the ambivalence of some young people to abortion reveals that calling for more abortion is not an effective “rallying cry” in America’s current political climate.

“The strategy of a pro-abortion push during a pandemic misreads the American room,” Hamrick told CNA. “Is that really the thing that people who are struggling with unemployment, Covid, school uncertainty, and economic uncertainty want?”

Hamrick said abortion does not feel relevant to many young woman because “it ignores what women really want.”

While pro-abortion advocates scramble to re-frame abortion in a way that feels relevant to young women, Hamrick said there is an opportunity to reach out to women in what she calls the “mushy middle.”

“The idea of this generation sitting around every day just wishing they were empowered with more abortion is tone deaf and out of touch with what they want,” Hamrick told CNA. “More abortion is not a motivating force.”

California parish restores vandalized Our Lady of Guadalupe statue

Mon, 07/27/2020 - 13:56

CNA Staff, Jul 27, 2020 / 11:56 am (CNA).-  

A California parish has restored an outdoor statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe, after it was kicked to the ground and broken in an act of vandalism.

On July 21, security cameras at St. Joseph Parish in Upland, California, captured a video of a young man approach a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe and kick the statue repeatedly until it fell from its base. Metal rays from behind the statue can be seen to crack off.



The same evening, security cameras captured another young man, who picked the statue from the ground, placed it on its base, and sat before the statue in prayer.



Fr. Timothy Do, the parish pastor, asked parishioners to “pray for peace in the world, the end of hatred and anger, and that we continue to have compassion and love for each other,” in a video released on Facebook July 22. 

In additional videos, parishioners prayed both the chaplet of divine mercy and the rosary in Spanish while standing before the damaged statue.

Upland is a suburb east of Los Angeles in California’s Inland Empire. The toppling of its statue came amid weeks of church vandalism and destruction in the U.S., in which statues of Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary have been defaced, graffitied, and beheaded. A Florida man admitted this month to setting a Florida church on fire, and in California, a fire at a mission church founded in the eighteenth century by St. Junipero Serra is being investigated for arson. Also in California, several statues of Serra have been torn down and defaced, and some have been moved from public locations.

The vandal in Upland has not yet been identified.

The parish announced in a July 27 Facebook post that it had repaired the damage done to the vandalized statue and restored it to its place outside the church.

“Our Lady of Guadalupe statue has been restored back with a stronger base. She still looks so beautiful. Yes, she is still standing strong on our parish ground to intercede our prayers to her beloved Son, Jesus.”


The Catholic roots of Regis Philbin

Sat, 07/25/2020 - 16:25

CNA Staff, Jul 25, 2020 / 02:25 pm (CNA).-  

Game show and talk show host Regis Francis Xavier Philbin died July 24 at 88. Philbin was a Catholic, and a longtime proponent and supporter of Catholic schools.

“I think it made a great difference. Solidified me….taught me an awful lot. Everything that I am right now I attribute to” Catholic education, Philbin said in a 2009 interview.

What made a difference at Catholic schools, he told reporters in numerous interviews, was formation in virtue, and in faith.

Before joining the Navy, and eventually making his way to Hollywood, Philbin attended the University of Notre Dame, and before that the Catholic schools in the Bronx, where he grew up.

Philbin was named in part for Jesuit missionary St. Francis Xavier. But his unusual first name came from Regis Catholic High School in New York.

“In the 1920s, my father was asked to leave Regis High School in Manhattan during his sophomore year. It was a Catholic school, and he had gotten into a fight with a priest or a brother. Years later, he was so sorry about what had happened that he and my mother named me Regis when I was born,” he told the Wall Street Journal in 2016.

Philbin was an altar boy while attending his parish elementary school, and as a child had dreams of becoming a singer. He went to Notre Dame at his father's urging, after graduating from New York’s Cardinal Hayes High School in 1949.

After achieving success on television, Philbin became a regular benefactor to the Catholic schools in which he was educated, especially his high school.

The host gave supported students with scholarships to Cardinal Hayes High Schhol on an annual basis, and in 2000 gave the school $500,000 for an auditorium renovation.

Philbin also donated to Hayes his winnings from game shows: In 2012 he gave the school $175,000 he won on “Are You Smarter than a Fifth-Grader?” and in 2011 $50,000 from an appearance on “Celebrity Jeopardy.”

The school named its auditorium for Philbin in 2010. During a Mass and celebration honoring Philbin, New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan called him “a man of faith, hope, and charity.”

Philbin enjoyed a decades-long friendship with former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz, who was well-known for his deep Catholic faith. Philbin said that Holtz inspired him to see beyond his failures, and encouraged him to be a good role model for younger people.

In an interview with the St. Anthony Messenger, Philbin said that he’d been known as a Catholic, and supported Catholic initiatives, during his long career, even though, he said “there is a wide chasm between the media and religion, especially the Catholic religion I think, but that’s just the way it is.”

Philbin added that he’d encountered obstacles, losses, and personal and professional failures.

At a moment of challenge, he said “you’ve just got to do a little prayer and hope for the best. I think your religion strengthens you in that regard.”

US Supreme Court upholds Nevada's coronavirus rules for houses of worship

Sat, 07/25/2020 - 13:34

CNA Staff, Jul 25, 2020 / 11:34 am (CNA).- By a 5-4 vote on Friday the Supreme Court upheld Nevada’s coronavirus regulation that limits attendance at indoor religious services to 50 persons.

Some businesses in the state, such as casinos, may admit 50% of their capacity.

Chief Justices John Roberts and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan decided July 24 to deny the application for injunctive relief presented by Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley, an ecclesial community in Dayton, Nev., about 40 miles southeast of Reno.

The majority offered their decision in Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley v. Sisolak without comment. The same justices had ruled similarly in May regarding California’s coronavirus limits on religious services.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote a dissent which was joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh, while Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote a separate dissent and Kavanaugh added his own thoughts.

The church argued that Governor Steve Sisolak’s coronavirus regulations unjustly targeted houses of worship compared to businesses such as casinos and restaurants. According to Alliance Defending Freedom, whose attorney’s represent Calvary Chapel, “Sisolak’s rule allows casinos, restaurants, bars, theme parks, and gyms to operate at 50% capacity but restricts churches to gatherings of 50 or fewer people regardless of building size.”

The ecclesial community sought permission for gatherings of about 90 persons, which is 50% of its capacity. It is currently holding three services each Sunday. Its website says face coverings are required and will be supplied in case of need, and ushers are ensuring social distancing.

Sisolak has said that casinos are more closely regulated by the state than are houses of worship, and so pose less of a threat to public health.

Both a district court and the Ninth Circuit had already denied Calvary Chapel’s application for relief from the governor’s regulation.

Gorsuch’s brief dissent observed that “this is a simple case. Under the Governor’s edict, a 10- screen ‘multiplex’ may host 500 moviegoers at any time. A casino, too, may cater to hundreds at once, with perhaps six people huddled at each craps table here and a similar number gathered around every roulette wheel there. Large numbers and close quarters are fine in such places. But churches, synagogues, and mosques are banned from admitting more than 50 worshippers—no matter how large the building, how distant the individuals, how many wear face masks, no matter the precautions at all.”

“In Nevada, it seems, it is better to be in entertainment than religion. Maybe that is nothing new. But the First Amendment prohibits such obvious discrimination against the exercise of religion. The world we inhabit today, with a pandemic upon us, poses unusual challenges. But there is no world in which the Constitution permits Nevada to favor Caesars Palace over Calvary Chapel,” he wrote.

Kavanaugh wrote that “Nevada has offered no persuasive justification for that overt discrimination against places of worship. The risk of COVID–19 transmission is at least as high at restaurants, bars, casinos, and gyms as it is at religious services. Indeed, people congregating in restaurants, bars, casinos, and gyms often linger at least as long as they do at religious services. And given the safety measures that Calvary Chapel and other places of worship are following—including social distancing, mask wearing, and certain additional voluntary measures—it is evident that people interact with others at restaurants, bars, casinos, and gyms at least as closely as they do at religious services.”

He said the state’s “discrimination against religious services violates the Constitution. To be clear, a State’s closing or reopening plan may subject religious organizations to the same limits as secular organizations. And in light of the devastating COVID–19 pandemic, those limits may be very strict. But a State may not impose strict limits on places of worship and looser limits on restaurants, bars, casinos, and gyms, at least without sufficient justification for the differential treatment of religion. As I will explain, Nevada has thus far failed to provide a sufficient justification, and its current reopening plan therefore violates the First Amendment.”

And Alito wrote: “The Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion. It says nothing about the freedom to play craps or blackjack, to feed tokens into a slot machine, or to engage in any other game of chance. But the Governor of Nevada apparently has different priorities. Claiming virtually unbounded power to restrict constitutional rights during the COVID–19 pandemic, he has issued a directive that severely limits attendance at religious services. A church, synagogue, or mosque, regardless of its size, may not admit more than 50 persons, but casinos and certain other favored facilities may admit 50% of their maximum occupancy— and in the case of gigantic Las Vegas casinos, this means that thousands of patrons are allowed.”

While Nevada’s discrimination “in favor of the powerful gaming industry … may not come as a surprise,” he called “disappointing” the willingness of the court’s majority “to allow such discrimination.”

“We have a duty to defend the Constitution, and even a public health emergency does not absolve us of that responsibility,” Alito stated.

He said the chapel’s suit would likely succeed in its claim that the governor had violated its First Amendment rights, and that Nevada “has made no effort to show that conducting services in accordance with Calvary Chapel’s plan would pose any greater risk to public health than many other activities that the directive allows, such as going to the gym. The State certainly has not shown that church attendance under Calvary Chapel’s plan is riskier than what goes on in casinos.”

Catholic schools weigh in-person learning as fall semester approaches

Sat, 07/25/2020 - 08:01

Washington D.C., Jul 25, 2020 / 06:01 am (CNA).- As school districts around the country are considering in-person or virtual education in the fall, Catholic dioceses are weighing tough decisions about how to serve their students.

Some dioceses are faced with state orders that do not include exemptions for religious schools, such as in California. 
Initially, the nation’s largest Catholic archdiocese of Los Angeles, with 74,000 students attending its schools, announced on June 15 that schools would be reopening for in-person learning in the fall in Los Angeles, Ventura, and Santa Barbara.
However, California governor Gavin Newsom said on July 17 that schools in the state where coronavirus cases were high would remain closed for in-person learning.
Afterward, L.A. archdiocesan superintendent Paul Escala told families that in-person learning “will be delayed for now.” In all, schools in 33 counties in the state would have to institute remote learning because of high numbers of COVID-19 cases, per the governor’s standards.
The California Catholic bishops’ conference wrote Newsom on July 22, asking for flexibility on their reopening plans. They said that children could largely return to school with a low risk of infection or virus transmission, and asked Newsom to allow local authorities to grant reopening waivers for pre-K, elementary, and high schools.
The bishops noted their concern for both public health and “the broader health and development issues for our children if the state presumes to rely only on distance learning until a vaccine is developed.”
“In-person learning,” they said, “especially at the lower grades, provides emotional and social skills and supports that are crucial to early childhood development and the overall wellbeing of children which simply cannot be replaced.”
Meanwhile, in Texas where COVID-19 cases have soared in the summer, the state is granting religious private schools the freedom to decide for themselves how to reopen in the fall.
Texas attorney general Ken Paxton said on July 17 that religious private schools in the state were exempt from the governor’s orders for public schools, and that local governments could not close religious schools.
“Thus, as protected by the First Amendment and Texas law, religious private schools may continue to determine when it is safe for their communities to resume in-person instruction free from any government mandate or interference,” Paxton wrote.
Catholic schools in the diocese of Dallas are still planning to fully reopen this fall, the superintendent announced on July 21; schools outside of Dallas County will reopen on August 19, while those inside the county are scheduled to reopen September 2.
Around the U.S., dioceses and archdioceses are attempting to reopen schools safely but are having to take significant safety measures to do so.
The Archdiocese of Chicago plans to reopen its schools, but per its “Reopening with Trust” plan, is requiring all students and staff to wear masks indoors, daily temperature checks by parents, and for a “cohort” or fixed group of students to remain together throughout the day to prevent as much interspersing as possible. Parents have the option of choosing remote learning for their children.
Many schools are adopting a hybrid model for reopening, allowing parents who wish to keep their child at home to choose remote learning. In Louisiana, the New Orleans archdiocese is adopting such a model.
“We also recognize that parents are the first and primary educators of their children and must make decisions based on their unique circumstances,” superintendent Dr. RaeNell Houston said on July 21.
To the northwest, the Baton Rouge diocese said on July 22 that schools would reopen in early-to-mid-August, although schools would have to adjust their opening and closing times and classroom sizes to ensure the state’s safety protocols.
When the pandemic hit, unemployment around the country soared and donations to churches plummeted. The Boston archdiocese said in June that it would be closing around 10% of its schools.
Citing the “devastating” impact of the pandemic on tuition payments and donations, and the “significantly low rate of re-registration for the fall,” the Archdiocese of New York said earlier this month that 20 Catholic schools would be closing, and three schools would merge.
For the schools that are not closing, however, the superintendent Michael Deegan announced on July 13 that “Catholic Schools are opening in September!”
Deegan clarified that, since most schools could not accommodate all students and staff at once, principals would plan for “three-day/two-day” alternating week cycles for students, and remote learning for parents who wish.
Some dioceses have not yet made a decision on reopening in the fall.

In Miami, Archbishop Thomas Wenski called it “the $100,000 question," according to local News 10 on July 21.
Florida is one of the states that has seen a later spike in virus cases, along with other states such as Texas and Arizona. While some states such as New York were hit hard by the virus in the early months of March and April, the number of new COVID cases in Florida soared in the summer, reaching a high of more than 15,000 new cases in a single day on July 12.
Elsewhere, other dioceses are completely or almost fully reopening on schedule.
The diocese of Fall River, Massachusetts announced on July 10 that all elementary schools would re-open in the fall for in-person learning, while the four high schools would make re-opening decisions on a case-by-case basis.
In Denver, Archbishop Samuel Aquila said on May 29 that schools would be re-opening in the fall for in-person learning. The Denver Catholic reported on Friday that the archdiocese had partnered with regional health care provider Centura, which pledged to offer guidance and donating more than two million face masks for students and staff.

The 19 Catholic schools in the Charlotte diocese are also reopening with in-person instruction in the fall, and an option for virtual learning for parents who desire.

Priests for Life Fr. Frank Pavone resigns from Trump campaign roles

Sat, 07/25/2020 - 02:25

Denver Newsroom, Jul 25, 2020 / 12:25 am (CNA).-  

Priests for Life national director Fr. Frank Pavone has resigned from advisory positions in the reelection campaign of President Donald Trump. The priest withdrew at the direction of Church authorities, he told CNA Friday.

“I’ve been requested by the competent ecclesiastical authority not to have an official title/position on the advisory boards. So, as a priest in good standing, I’ve followed that request,” Pavone told CNA July 24, in response to questions about his role in the Trump campaign.

In January, Pavone was appointed co-chair of the Pro-Life Voices for Trump coalition, and in April was announced as a member of the Catholics for Trump advisory board; the priest headlined that month an online kickoff event for the Trump Catholic group. Both groups are organized as part of the Trump campaign. Pavone was also a co-chair of the Trump pro-life coalition in 2016.

Pavone's role in a political campaign was unusual for a priest. Members of the clergy require permission to “have an active part in political parties,” according to the Church's canon law.

In April, Pavone told CNA that he did not believe himself to need permission for campaign involvement because he considered Trump’s reelection to be a matter of urgency. “I’m not going to ask anybody’s permission to go scream that the house is on fire,” he said at the time.

But on Friday, Pavone said that he had “been asking for permission to serve on these advisory boards” when he was “requested” to resign from them.

Pavone did not indicate what authorities had directed him to resign from the Trump campaign. In 2005 Pavone was incardinated in the Diocese of Amarillo, Texas, when he transferred to that diocese from the Archdiocese of New York with plans to begin a pro-life religious order of priests. Those plans did not materialize, and Pavone found himself at odds with Bishop Patrick Zurek, soon after the bishop was installed in 2008.

In 2011, the dispute between Pavone and Zurek became public, after the priest was recalled to the diocese and suspended by the bishop. Pavone appealed to the Vatican, and the suspension was eventually lifted in 2012.

In April, the priest told CNA that his relationship with Zurek remained rocky, describing communication with his bishop as “dysfunctional,” and saying that he was in the process of transferring to a new diocese.

The Diocese of Amarillo has not responded to repeated requests from CNA for clarity about Pavone’s political activity or ecclesiastical status, including requests to clarify whether he has faculties to minister publicly as a priest.

Pavone told CNA Friday that he remains incardinated in the Amarillo diocese, “but my transfer has been canonically completed to a different bishop who has good will toward me and my work.” He declined to name that diocese, saying that “the announcement of what diocese I’m in now is up to the same ecclesiastical authority to make.”

While Pavone is no longer part of the Catholics for Trump coalition, the group drew attention on Friday when it announced that author and YouTube commenter Taylor Marshall would join the Catholics for Trump advisory board.

Pavone’s role in the 2016 Trump campaign sparked considerable controversy in the Church. Ahead of the election the priest filmed a video at the Priests for Life headquarters, urging support for Trump. The video was filmed with the body of an aborted baby laid before Pavone on what appeared to be an altar.

Soon after video’s release, Zurek said he would open an investigation into the incident, calling it “against the dignity of human life” and “a desecration of the altar,” and adding that “the action and presentation of Father Pavone in this video is not consistent with the beliefs of the Catholic Church.”

While the diocese has not announced the results of that investigation, Pavone claims that he has been “cleared of the past complaints/investigations/disciplinary actions by the bishop of Amarillo. That chapter is closed.”

Pavone said that while he will no longer occupy a position in the Trump campaign “nothing has changed in my advocacy for the president, given that the Democrats do indeed pose a grave threat to ‘the rights of the Church’ and ‘the common good,’ a point I’ll be making constantly between now and November 3.”

“Any cleric who doesn’t see that point has his head in the sand or in a Democrat echo chamber,” the priest added.

Pavone is not the only priest in recent U.S. history to make headlines for involvement in an election.

In 2008, Chicago priest Fr. Michael Pfleger drew attention for appearing as part of a “People of Faith for Obama” coalition during then-Senator Barack Obama’s primary battle against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.

Pfleger’s bishop, Cardinal Francis George, said at the time that “while a priest must speak to political issues that are also moral, he may not endorse candidates nor engage in partisan campaigning.”


Catholic schools ready for 'vital' in-person education, California's bishops say

Fri, 07/24/2020 - 20:01

CNA Staff, Jul 24, 2020 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- Catholic schools in California are taking appropriate measures against the threat of the new coronavirus and authorities should issue waivers to rules that bar the schools from reopening for “vital” in-person education, the California Catholic bishops have said, citing the low risk of coronavirus infection among children.

Their statement came as California broke its record for numbers of positive Covid-19 tests, 12,800.

“We understand that the threat of the coronavirus is real and ongoing in our state. And we understand the legitimate concerns that teachers, parents, and elected officials have about the safety of returning to the classrooms this fall,” the California Catholic Conference said July 22. “At the same time, we are deeply concerned about the broader health and development issues for our children if the state presumes to rely only on distance learning until a vaccine is developed.”

“In-person learning, especially at the lower grades, provides emotional and social skills and supports that are crucial to early childhood development and the overall well-being of children which simply cannot be replaced,” said the bishops.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on July 17 announced requirements for resuming in-person instruction at all primary and secondary schools from transitional kindergarten to grade 12. In California, 33 of its 58 counties will begin with distance learning only. These are on a state “watch list” as judged by health officials monitoring elevated infection rates, increased hospitalizations, limited hospital capacity, or other troubling patterns, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Schools that do open must require masks for older children. Faculty and staff must wear masks and have access to consistent testing.

If students or educators test positive for coronavirus, their classroom would have to close and quarantine for 14 days. If a school's student body and staff reach an infection rate of 5%, the school would have to close. A widespread outbreak in a school district would require a school shutdown, the Sacramento Bee reports.

Regarding limits on in-person education, the bishops asked the governor to speed the creation of regulations that would allow local authorities to grant waivers on a case-by-case basis at the local level.

“Our Catholic schools across the state have been diligently implementing the Centers for Disease Control guidance for schools and the recommendations of local health authorities in preparing to return to the classrooms,” the bishops said. “As many businesses, organizations, and government offices around the country are doing, we are making accommodations to adapt to the new realities caused by this pandemic.”

“The public-health science suggests that elementary-age students can return with low risk of infection or transmission of the virus among students or between students and teachers,” they continued. “So, we are urging Governor Newsom to continue the dialogue on this crucial question of how to reopen our schools safely.”
The bishops did not cite particular public health science experts.

Their language differs from CDC guidance, which says that the virus poses “relatively low risks” to children, compared to other ages. As of July 17, children and adolescents under 18 accounted for under 7% of COVID-19 cases and less than 0.1 percent of related deaths. In the U.S. there have been some 4 million confirmed coronavirus cases, with over 140,000 deaths.

About 80% of people infected with coronavirus recover without special treatment, but 20% require hospitalization, with the elderly or those with underlying health conditions facing higher risks. Some figures indicate about children make up about 1 percent of the total coronavirus hospitalizations. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, about 2% to 4% of children who contract coronavirus will be hospitalized. However, they make up extremely low figures of intensive care unit hospitalizations.

There are 64 known coronavirus deaths of children, less than the number of children who have died of influenza in each of the last five flu seasons. A rare condition called Multisystem inflammatory Syndrome in Children is believed to be linked to the virus, but only about 342 cases have been identified, including six deaths.

California added a record 12,800 confirmed coronavirus cases on July 21. It now has the most cumulative coronavirus cases of any U.S. state, having surpassed New York with over 430,000 cases. The state's seven-day rolling average test rate is at about 7% positive, higher than the rate of 5% over 14 days that most epidemiologists consider necessary to re-open safely. Consistent testing failures could also under count the actual virus numbers, CBS Los Angeles reports.

California ranks as the most populous U.S. state, the third largest in area, and the eleventh in population density. Newsom said new California coronavirus numbers are not the highest per capita among states, but are “nonetheless, a sober reminder of why we are taking things as seriously as we are.”

The CDC has discussed reopening schools in several documents, including “The Importance of Reopening America's Schools This Fall,” updated on its website July 23.

Infections among younger school children and from student to teachers has been low, “especially if proper precautions are followed.” There are also few reports of children being the primary source of transmission among family members. Virus and antibody testing suggest children are “not the primary drivers” of the spread of the virus.

“No studies are conclusive, but the available evidence provides reason to believe that in-person schooling is in the best interest of students, particularly in the context of appropriate mitigation measures similar to those implemented at essential workplaces,” the CDC said.

In another July 23 document, “Preparing K-12 Administrators for Safe Return to School in Fall 2020,” the CDC said, “There is mixed evidence about whether returning to school results in increased transmission or outbreaks.”

California bishops stressed Catholic support and cooperation in efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19, including closing schools and suspending worship.

“We took these steps, not because the government issued orders, but because our God is love and he calls us to love for our neighbors,” they said. “That means working for the common good and protecting the sanctity and dignity of human life, taking special care for the poor and elderly, the sick and vulnerable.”

Like the CDC, the U.S. bishops stressed the importance of in-person education.

“What our children will lose by 'virtual' education — in terms of emotional development, skills and learning and achievement — will have a significant impact,” the bishops said. “In the name of protecting their health in the short-term, we may very likely be risking their long-term growth and potential.”

Why NFP is not just ‘Catholic contraception’

Fri, 07/24/2020 - 18:51

Denver Newsroom, Jul 24, 2020 / 04:51 pm (CNA).- As someone who teaches couples about Natural Family Planning (NFP), Jeanice Vinduska most often fields questions of doubt from couples who are used to artificial means of contraception, such as birth control pills and IUDs.

It can be difficult to convince some people that a natural means of planning and spacing children is effective and worthwhile, especially in a culture where artificial contraception is widely accepted and used, Vinduska told CNA.

But Vinduska also fields questions from Catholics and Christians who are dubious of NFP because they are concerned it could be contraceptive too.

“I had a woman in my parish who said…’Well, this is just natural contraception,’” Vinduska recalled. Vinduska works as the co-director of the FertilityCare Center of Omaha, with the St. Paul VI Institute, which specializes in teaching women and couples the Creighton method of NFP.

The Creighton method is a method of NFP that tracks cervical mucus as a symptom of fertility in women. It can be used by couples to achieve or avoid pregnancy, and it can also help diagnose conditions like endometriosis.

But methods of NFP differ from artificial means of contraception in that they do not do anything to disrupt the sexual act, Vinduska said. “Contraception basically prevents fertilization. It prevents human life,” she said. “Oral contraception can even act as an abortifacient.”

NFP, on the other hand, allows married couples to track their fertile and infertile days and to decide when to be sexually intimate and when to abstain from sex, based on what is best for their family at that time, Vinduska said.

And unlike contraception, NFP is approved by the Catholic Church as a means of planning and spacing children in accordance with God’s plan.

The ‘quiverfull’ movement

Some Christians are part of the “quiverfull” movement, which gets its name from Psalm 127: 3-5: “Certainly sons are a gift from the LORD, the fruit of the womb, a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man who has filled his quiver with them.”

Christians with a “quiverfull” mentality towards family planning believe that they should have as many children as God will give them, and refuse the use of contraception or Natural Family Planning. They also do not attempt to resolve any physical defects that cause infertility, which they also see as God’s will.

But the “quiverfull” mentality has never been a part of the teaching of the Catholic Church, Vinduska said.

“That’s never been a teaching. It’s more about being open to life and finding a responsible way of family planning, of fertility regulation.”

Dr. Janet Smith is a Catholic theologian and author of “Humanae Vitae: A Generation Later” and “Self-Gift: Essays on Humanae Vitae and the Thought of John Paul II.” She has frequently written and spoken about Humanae Vitae, including in her signature talk, entitled “Contraception: Why Not”.

Smith said the Catholic Church instead teaches that God has given humans reason and freedom to choose to have children freely, or to abstain when they are fertile.

“God gives us the possibility of pursuing many goods; he forbids us from doing evil, but permits us to choose freely between goods,” Smith told CNA.

“Some couples are blessed with many resources both material and spiritual that enables them to have many children, but others need to limit their family size because of various difficulties in their lives. Certainly couples should be generous in their child-bearing, but the Church teaches that for serious or just reasons spouses may limit their family size,” she said.

NFP differs from contraception by allowing the couples to fully participate in the marital embrace without removing the possibility of conceiving, Smith noted. The Church supports NFP because it does nothing to change the meaning of the marital act.

“Contraception undercuts that meaning since it removes the commitment-making power of procreation.”

Church teaching also differs from the quiverfull mentality in that couples experiencing fertility are also free to attempt to remedy physical defects so that they may have children, Smith said.

“[I]f couples have correctable physical defects that prevent them from conceiving, it is fully in accord with God's will that they attempt to have those defects repaired,” she said.

Humanae Vitae

Pope Paul VI, for which the institute in Omaha is named, wrote one of the most oft-referenced encyclicals on the subject of marriage, sexuality and family planning in his encyclical letter, Humanae Vitae.

In it, Pope Paul VI first states that “the transmission of human life is a most serious role in which married people collaborate freely and responsibly with God the Creator. It has always been a source of great joy to them, even though it sometimes entails many difficulties and hardships.”

In section 10 of the letter, the pope states: “Married love, therefore, requires of husband and wife the full awareness of their obligations in the matter of responsible parenthood, which today, rightly enough, is much insisted upon, but which at the same time should be rightly understood.”

Rightly understood, responsible parenthood is exercised “[w]ith regard to physical, economic, psychological and social those who prudently and generously decide to have more children, and by those who, for serious reasons and with due respect to moral precepts, decide not to have additional children for either a certain or an indefinite period of time.”

What serious reasons are serious enough?

Pope Paul VI wrote that while Catholic couples are free to exercise their reason and freedom in planning their families, they also must involve God in their decisions.

“[T]hey are not free to act as they choose in the service of transmitting life, as if it were wholly up to them to decide what is the right course to follow,” he wrote. “On the contrary, they are bound to ensure that what they do corresponds to the will of God the Creator. The very nature of marriage and its use makes His will clear, while the constant teaching of the Church spells it out.”

Smith said that there are a variety of serious reasons for which couples may decide to avoid having children for a time or an indefinite period, depending on the circumstances.

“For example, if a family is financially strapped and can't pay the bills, it would make sense to postpone having a child; if the wife has serious health conditions that a pregnancy would exacerbate or if she has duties that are so consuming (such as caring for an elderly parent or challenging child) another child may be an excessive burden,” Smith said.

Vinduska said she has worked with couples to avoid pregnancies for certain periods of time for such reasons. For example, she said, one woman was on a strong medication for a disease that made her bones brittle that would have caused serious defects if she were to become pregnant; other women with cancer have needed to avoid pregnancy while going through treatment.

The woman was successfully able to avoid a pregnancy while on the medication using the Creighton method, Vinduska said.

“We want to make sure that they are using a natural system and following their moral beliefs,” she said. “And they don't have to be Catholic to do this. We teach NFP for everybody.”

Smith said that NFP could even be used for lesser reasons. During a 2018 talk at for a symposium at Benedictine College, Smith noted that couples can morally abstain from having sex for all kinds of non-fertility related reasons: someone has a headache, the couple wants to catch a sports game, or finish a movie, or they are staying somewhere with thin walls, and so on.

In those instances, Smith said, it is perfectly moral to abstain from sex.

“So I have a simple question for you. Why would it be wrong not to have sex because it’s not a good idea to have a child at that time?” she said.

The Church does not mandate any particular amount that couples must be sexually intimate, she said.

However, she told CNA, couples should “keep praying that God will let them know if they are being selfish,” although she added, “that selfishness is usually incompatible with long term use of NFP since only the virtuous and unselfish can use NFP over a long period of time.”

The benefits of NFP for marriage

Both Vinduska and Smith said that using a method of Natural Family Planning can be very beneficial for couples.

Vinduska said one of the biggest benefits of using NFP in a marriage is that it improves “communication, especially communicating where they're at with their fertility and infertility. If the couple is charting together, it's not such a surprise for either one of them where they're at in their cycle.”

Something else that benefits couples using NFP is using the periods of abstinence to reconnect in ways other than sexuality, Vinduska said. She said she encourages couples she works with to use these times to develop common hobbies and interests, which serve to strengthen their relationship in other ways.

“Once you're married, you kind of slip a little bit in doing the things like you did when you were dating,” she said. “But you shouldn’t have to always spend a lot of money. If you both like the outdoors, find a time to set aside to go hiking, go to a park. Maybe they can garden together, take up a new activity that gives them that sense of doing something together.”

The low divorce rates among NFP using couples speak for themselves, Smith added.

“The fact that couples using NFP almost never a very revealing fact. NFP is a lot more than abstaining during the time a woman is fertile; it is a method that requires a lot of communication and shared values,” she said.

“It fosters the virtues of patience and ability to sacrifice. Women in couples who use NFP believe their husbands are exceptional (and husbands love that) and know their husbands love them for more than their sexual availability - a feeling that delightfully leads to them wanting to be more available (and their husbands love that).”


Catholic bishops join Orthodox in 'Day of Mourning' for Hagia Sophia

Fri, 07/24/2020 - 18:00

CNA Staff, Jul 24, 2020 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Catholic bishops across the United States have issued joint statements with their Greek Orthodox counterparts expressing sorrow at the reopening of Hagia Sophia as a mosque on Friday. 

July 24, was declared a “Day of Mourning” as the former Byzantine cathedral opened for formal Islamic Friday prayers for the first time in more than 80 years on July 24. 

Hagia Sophia had been a museum since Turkey’s establishment as a secular state. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan signed a decree July 10 converting it into a mosque following a ruling by the Council of State, Turkey's highest administrative court, earlier that day which declared unlawful an 80-year old government decree converting the building from a mosque into a museum.

Religious leaders around the world, including Pope Francis, decried the move, with the pope saying it caused him “great sadness.”

On Tuesday, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said that Friday would be observed as a “Day of Mourning” and that Catholics would join the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America “in offering our prayers for the restoration of Hagia Sophia as a place of prayer and reflection for all peoples.”

On Friday, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago and Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Nathanel of Chicago released a joint statement saying they were “troubled by the government’s disregard for religious pluralism in Turkey.” 

“We are particularly concerned because this action represents a visible marginalization and continued attack on the religious freedom of Turkey’s Christian communities and other religious minorities,” the cardinal and metropolitan said. 

“Together, we join all those who mourn this divisive act and urge the world to stay vigilant in protecting religious minorities and religious freedom in Turkey.” 

In Boston, Metropolitan Methodios and Cardinal Seán O'Malley issued similarly critical of the change. 

The conversion of the building into a mosque “alters the status quo that has existed for the last 85 years and causes great pain to many throughout the world,” said O’Malley and Metropolitan Methodios. 

The two pointed out that the Hagia Sophia, which was completed in the year 537 before its forced conversion into a mosque, following the capture of Constantinople in 1453, had “served as a preeminent place of Christian worship for almost twice as long as it did a mosque.” 

“Since its conversion into a museum, countless visitors have passed through its great bronze doors and appreciated its distinctive architecture and historic mosaics,” they said. “It is as much an engineering marvel today as it was when the Eastern Roman Empire built it. This is truly a unique building that the entire world admires and respects.” 

O’Malley and Metropolitan Methodios urged Erdogan to restore the building once again to a museum, and said that doing so would strengthen all religious communities in Turkey. 

Archbishop Gregory Hartmayer, OFM Conv. of Atlanta and Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta released their own joint statement on July 20. 

“This current situation grieves us as both Christian Hierarchs, and as citizens of this great land whose commitment to religious tolerance still shines forth as a beacon to other nations,”they said. 

“The fact that the Turkish government would choose to reverse this decision of nearly a century, violates not only that same spirit of tolerance, but also insults the faith and wounds the hearts of Christians worldwide, Orthodox and Catholic alike. 

Hartmayer and Metropolitan Alexios requested that Christians throughout the country “not only pray for, but speak up for Hagia Sophia.”

“We must all do our part, through whatever means at our disposal, to ask that our elected officials pressure the Turkish government to reaffirm its commitment to the principles of religious tolerance and mutual respect,” they said. 

While religious leaders condemned the decision, the organization In Defense of Christians, along with the Hellenic American Leadership Council and the Armenian National Committee of America, called for a boycott of Turkish products and services in response to the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque. 

“Christians in the Middle East have faced genocide, destruction of their homelands, and persecution from Turkey. Enough is enough,” said a statement from In Defense of Christians President Toufic Baaklini.

Washington Post settles defamation lawsuit with Nick Sandmann over March for Life controversy

Fri, 07/24/2020 - 17:05

Washington D.C., Jul 24, 2020 / 03:05 pm (CNA).- The Washington Post has settled a defamation lawsuit filed by Nick Sandmann, who as a student at Covington Catholic High School was at the center of a national controversy after the 2019 March for Life.

The terms of the settlement were not disclosed. In February 2019, Sandmann and his lawyers filed a defamation lawsuit requesting $250 million, the price Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos paid to purchase the newspaper in 2013.

In a statement posted to Twitter on July 24, Sandmann thanked his lawyers, his family, as well as “millions of you who have stood your ground by supporting me.” He added that he “still has more to do.” 

In January 2020, Sandmann settled a defamation lawsuit against CNN. The terms of that settlement were not disclosed. There are six outstanding defamation lawsuits against other media companies, including the New York Times, ABC, NBC, and CBS.

The suit alleged that the Washington Post “engaged in a modern-day form of McCarthyism by competing with CNN and NBC, among others, to claim leadership of a mainstream and social media mob of bullies which attacked, vilified, and threatened Nicholas Sandmann.” Sandmann was seeking “compensatory and punitive damages.”
The lawsuits stemmed from a short video that was published to Twitter in January 2019. That video appeared to show Sandmann, who was wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat, standing in close proximity to Native American activist Nathan Phillips and smirking while Phillips chanted and played a ceremonial drum.

Phillips was in Washington, D.C. for the Indigenous Peoples’ March, and the incident occurred near the Lincoln Memorial after the March for Life, which Sandmann had attended. Phillips told the media that the students had swarmed him, and had repeatedly chanted “build the wall” or “build that wall.”

The video quickly went viral, and many people called for the suspension or expulsion of Sandmann and his classmates as a punishment for their seemingly disrespectful behavior. Sandmann later explained that he had smiled in an attempt to come off as non-threatening.

As the weekend progressed, however, additional video was discovered that showed a far more nuanced context to the encounter between Phillips and Sandmann.

The new footage showed that Sandmann and his classmates had been harassed by members of the Black Hebrew Israelites, and began a counter-chant of their student section chants in an effort to drown out the Black Hebrew Israelites. The students denied chanting “build the wall,” and that chant could not be heard on various videos of the incident.

Additionally, the extended video showed that Phillips had wandered into the crowd of Covington Catholic High School students - not the other way around - and had begun beating a drum in Sandmann’s face.

A third-party investigation into the Covington Catholic students came to the conclusion that they had not instigated the encounter and that there was no evidence of them making any offensive or racist statements.

.Both Covington Catholic High School and Bishop Roger Foys of Covington apologized for their premature statements condemning Sandmann’s behavior.


Knights of Columbus founder to be beatified in October

Fri, 07/24/2020 - 15:08

CNA Staff, Jul 24, 2020 / 01:08 pm (CNA).- Fr. Michael McGivney, the founder of the Knights of Columbus Catholic fraternal organization, will be beatified on October 31, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints announced this week. 

The congregation made the announcement on its website and Twitter page July 20. 


A causa del protrarsi della situazione di #emergenza sono state rinviate le #Beatificazioni di Benigna #Cardoso da Silva, prevista per il 21 ottobre e di Giuseppe #Ambrosoli, prevista per il 22 novembre. Scelta la data del 31 ottobre per la Beatificazione di p. Michael #McGivney

— Congregazione delle Cause dei Santi (@CauseSanti) July 20, 2020  

A miracle credited to the intercession of McGivney was approved by the Vatican and announced by Pope Francis on May 27. A child who was diagnosed as terminally ill in the womb was miraculously healed following prayers for the intercession of Fr. McGivney. 

The priest’s beatification Mass is expected to be celebrated in his native Connecticut. 

McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus in New Haven, Connecticut, 1882. Initially, the organization was intended to assist widows and their families upon the deaths of their husbands. It has grown into a worldwide Catholic fraternal order, with more than 2 million members carrying out works of charity and evangelization across the globe. The Knights also offer life insurance policies to their members. 

In 2018, the Knights’ 16,000 councils worldwide donated more than $185 million to charity and gave over 76 million hours of hands-on service in 2018, worth over $1.9 billion according to a valuation of volunteer work by the Independent Sector. Their volunteer work included support for the Special Olympics, coat drives, and food drives for needy families. 

Between 2017 and 2018, the Knights raised and delivered $2 million for the Iraqi town of Karamles; the Knights have helped Christian survivors of the ISIS genocide in the town resettle in their homes and rebuild for the future.

In an audience granted to Supreme Knight Carl Anderson earlier this year, Pope Francis praised the organization’s “particular faithful witness to the sacredness and dignity of human life, evident at both the local and national levels.”

He also noted the Knights’ dedication to aiding, “both materially and spiritually, those Christian communities in the Middle East that are suffering the effects of violence, war and poverty.”

“In our world, marked by divisions and inequalities, the generous commitment of your Order to serve all in need offers, especially to young people, an important inspiration to overcome a globalization of indifference and build together a more just and inclusive society,” Francis said in February.

Beatification, being declared “blessed” by the Church, is the final step of recognition before a person can be declared a saint. 

McGivney will become the fourth U.S.-born man to be beatified, joining Bl. Stanley Rother, Bl. James Miller, and Bl. Solanus Casey. 

While the Church has recognized three women born in the United States as saints--St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Katharine Drexel, and St. Kateri Tekawitha--there have been no  U.S.-born canonized men.

The Vatican also announced this week that the beatifications of two others, Benigna Cardoso and Fr. Giuseppe Ambrosoli, will be postponed due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Their beatifications had previously been scheduled for October 21 and November 22, respectively. Cardoso was set to be beatified in Brazil, one of the hotspots of the virus, and Ambrosoli in Uganda, where he served as a missionary priest.

House spending bill undermining pro-life protections

Fri, 07/24/2020 - 15:00

CNA Staff, Jul 24, 2020 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- Pro-life leaders are sounding the alarm against efforts in the House to undermine pro-life protections in federal spending bills.

On Friday, the House passed a “minibus” bill outlining funding of various federal agencies, including the State Department and foreign operations. Pro-life groups, however, have warned that the legislation would undermine the Mexico City Policy, which bars foreign groups that promote or provide abortions from receiving U.S. assistance.

In the legislation, H.R. 7608, the section on global health activities—Sec. 7068—ensures that “none of the funds made available by this Act” for the State Department and foreign operations “shall be made available to implement the Presidential Memorandum on Mexico City Policy dated January 23, 2017.”

The Mexico City Policy was first established by the Regan administration and has been rescinded by the Clinton and Obama administrations, while being reinstated by the administrations of George W. Bush and Donald Trump.

The Trump administration expanded the policy into its Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance policy, extending the pro-life protections to more than $8 billion of U.S. global health assistance.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), chair of the House Pro-Life Caucus, spoke out in defense of the policy in his Floor remarks on Thursday.

“Many countries throughout the world have been besieged by aggressive and well-funded campaigns to overturn their pro-life laws and policies,” Smith said, noting that the Mexico City Policy “mitigates U.S. taxpayer complicity in global abortion.”

“I believe we must increase access to maternal and prenatal care and ensure access to safe blood and better nutrition for all women—especially those living in poverty,” he said.

Friday’s bill, passed by a vote of 224-189, also funds the UN’s population fund (UNFPA), which the Trump administration has refused to fund since 2017 because of its partnership with China’s family planning program. The administration says China’s two-child-per-family policy is enforced through forced abortions and sterilizations.

Democrats have also inserted amendments into other funding bills to overturn the Hyde Amendment, which was first introduced by former congressman Henry Hyde in 1976. It is passed each year as a “rider” attached to spending bills, and prohibits public funding of abortions through Medicaid reimbursements.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), chair of the House Pro-Choice Caucus’s Abortion Rights and Access Task Force, introduced an amendment on Thursday to repeal Hyde in the funding bill covering the federal agencies of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, along with other agencies.

“The Hyde Amendment is a racist, discriminatory policy that has perpetuated inequity and injustice in our nation for far too long,” she said. Pressley introduced her amendment along with Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, criticized the efforts to undermine the pro-life protections on Friday.

“More than 2.4 million Americans are alive today because of the Hyde Amendment – but Joe Biden, Ayanna Pressley, and fellow extremist Democrats have pledged to eliminate Hyde and other crucial pro-life policies, forcing taxpayers to fund abortion on demand through birth, Dannenfelser said.

Hyde has come under increased attack from Democrats in recent years, following the 2016 DNC platform which called for the repeal of the policy. Last summer, Pressley made a last-minute attempt to insert an amendment undoing the policy into a funding bill for Health and Human Services, but the amendment was rejected as a violation of House procedure.

Former senator and vice president Joe Biden, a long-time supporter of the policy, reversed his support last year in the face of opposition from some in the party. All the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates supported taxpayer-funded abortion during the primary season.

Last September, Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) attempted to repeal the Mexico City Policy and the Title X Protect Life Rule in funding bills.

Columbus statues 'temporarily removed' from Chicago parks

Fri, 07/24/2020 - 14:25

CNA Staff, Jul 24, 2020 / 12:25 pm (CNA).- Two statues of Christopher Columbus in Chicago parks were removed Friday following demonstrations and attempts to pull down one of the monuments.

The office of Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot announced July 24 that the city had “temporarily removed the Christopher Columbus statues in Grant Park and Arrigo Park until further notice. This action was taken after consultation with various stakeholders. It comes in response to demonstrations that became unsafe for both protesters and police, as well as efforts by individuals to independently pull the Grant Park statue down in an extremely dangerous manner.”

It said the move “is about an effort to protect public safety and to preserve a safe space for an inclusive and democratic public dialogue about our city's symbols. In addition, our public safety resources must be concentrated where they are most needed throughout the city, and particularly in our South and West Side communities.”

The city will be assessing each of its “monuments, memorials, and murals” and will “develop a framework for creating a public dialogue to determine how we elevate our city’s history and diversity.”

The mayor's office emphasized that “this is not about a single statue or mural, but how we create a platform to channel our city’s dynamic civic energy to collaboratively, purposefully and peacefully reflect our values as Chicagoans and uplift the stories of all of our diverse city’s residents, particularly when it comes to the permanent memorialization of our shared heritage.”

The statues were removed in the early morning, between 3:00 and 5:30 am, the AP reported.

Both the statues had been vandalized recently, protesters had violently clashed with police in Grant Park.

There has been a spate of vandal attacks on statues of historic figures and a wave of critical commentary on American monuments. Vandals particularly targeted statues of Confederate leaders, but also moved against statues of Ulysses S. Grant and St. Junipero Serra. Catholic churches and statues have also come under attack.

The protests were originally launched in response to the death of Minnesotan George Floyd, a black man, while he was being detained by Minneapolis police

Columbus has long been an American Catholic and Italian-American folk hero. They have seen his pioneering voyage from Europe as a way of validating their presence in a sometimes hostile majority-Protestant country and as the means by which Christianity reached the New World.

He was depicted as a symbol of exploration and discovery, critical for launching the encounter between Europe and the Americas. He was also a symbol of immigrants, and honors for Columbus drew opposition from nativist and anti-Catholic groups such as the Ku Klux Klan.

While Columbus never set foot in North America, the District of Columbia bears his name and he is the namesake of the Knights of Columbus, now the largest Catholic men's fraternal organization in the world.

In recent decades, Columbus has drawn critical coverage. Some blame him for the launch of the transatlantic slave trade, and fault him for the enslavement and other mistreatment of some Native Americans under his command. Some critics blame him for the subsequent sufferings of Native Americans under Spanish rule, or under the rule of European colonists generally.

A statue of Columbus in Philadelphia's Marconi Plaza has also been targeted for removal by activists. That monument has been surrounded by a makeshift wooden box since June to protect it from being defaced.

In June a Columbus statue in Boston's historically Italian North End was beheaded, and one in St. Paul was toppled.

The Worcester city council voted July 21 to shelve a proposal that would have ordered the removal of a Columbus statue located outside the city's Union Station, citing the need to respect the local Italian community.

And in June, a Catholic high school in Wisconsin said it not change its name from “Columbus Catholic High School” after a petition from alumni and other members of the community requested the change. The school was named for the Knights of Columbus, who funded its construction.

Carol Delaney, an emerita professor of anthropology at Stanford University and author of "Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem," told CNA in 2017 that a popular current narrative around Columbus is tarred by bad history.

“They’re blaming Columbus for the things he didn’t do. It was mostly the people who came after, the settlers,” Delaney said. “He’s been terribly maligned.”

She said Columbus initially had a favorable impression of many of the Native Americans he met and instructed the men under his command not to abuse them but to trade with them; he also punished some of his own men who committed crimes against the natives.

Delaney acknowledged that some Native Americans were sent to Spain as slaves or conscripted into hard labor at the time Columbus had responsibility for the region, but she attributed this mistreatment to his substitutes acting in his absence.

The explorer had good relations with a Native American leader on Hispaniola. There, a Taino chief named Guacanagari aided Columbus after the wreck of his main ship the Santa Maria. Columbus adopted one of his sons, who took the name of Columbus’ natural son, Diego, and accompanied Columbus on his final three voyages.

The Knights of Columbus have said that their namesake “has frequently been falsely blamed for the actions of those who came after him and is the victim of horrific slanders concerning his conduct.”

Leo XIII wrote an encylical marking the Columban quadricentennial in 1892, reflecting on Columbus’ desire to spread the faith. In Quarto abeunte saeculo, the pope wrote that Columbus “resolved to go before and prepare the ways for the Gospel” by his exploration.

“When [Columbus] learned from the lessons of astronomy and the record of the ancients, that there were great tracts of land lying towards the West … he saw in spirit a mighty multitude, cloaked in miserable darkness, given over to evil rites, and the superstitious worship of vain gods. Miserable it is to live in a barbarous state and with savage manners: but more miserable to lack the knowledge of that which is highest, and to dwell in ignorance of the one true God. Considering these things, therefore, in his mind, he sought first of all to extend the Christian name and the benefits of Christian charity to the West,” Leo declared.

Regarding the recent controversy over Columbus, Delaney told CNA that Columbus is being blamed “for things he did not do,” including the history of slavery in the U.S.

Christian leaders call on Democrats to embrace pro-life policies

Fri, 07/24/2020 - 11:30

CNA Staff, Jul 24, 2020 / 09:30 am (CNA).- A group of more than 100 faith leaders and clergy are asking the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to modify the abortion policies in its upcoming 2020 platform.

Bishop John Stowe of Lexington, Kentucky, was one of several Catholic clergy, religious, and laity who joined 115 Christian leaders, theologians, and ministers to sign a letter to the DNC and the Democratic Platform Committee on Friday, asking the party to support pro-life policies including “legal protection for pre-born children.”

The letter was sent ahead of the upcoming DNC convention scheduled to be held in Milwaukee from August 17-20. The party will adopt a platform at the convention outlining its policy priorities for the next four years.

The 2016 DNC platform was criticized by pro-lifers for its extremism; it called for taxpayer-funded abortion in the U.S. and overseas, and promoted abortion-on-demand.

Following the 2016 platform, some Democrats in the House and Senate have sought to overturn the Hyde Amendment, a decades-old policy that has protected against taxpayer funding of abortion. On Thursday, Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) filed an amendment to remove such protections from spending legislation.

The letter sent to the DNC on Friday called for “policies that protect both women and children,” including better prenatal care.

“We call upon you to recognize the inviolable human dignity of the child, before and after birth,” the letter stated, asking for a rejection of “a litmus test on pro-life people of faith seeking office in the Democratic Party.”

Among the signers were theology professors from the University of Notre Dame, Loyola University, Seton Hall University, Fordham University, and Providence College. Several Catholic priests from the dioceses of Birmingham, Providence, and Rochester, as well as the archdioceses of San Francisco and Los Angeles, signed on.

Rev. Dr. Gabriel Salguero, who was on President Obama’s advisory council on faith-based and neighborhood partnerships, also signed the letter.

The letter cites the Bible to state that “life begins at fertilization” and that “abortion takes the life of the innocent.”

The signers also say that the policy of “denying personhood to the pre-born child” shows “disturbing parallels to Dred Scott vs. Sandford,” the infamous 1857 Supreme Court decision which decided that a fugitive slave was not a citizen and did not have the rights other citizens enjoyed.

Kristen Day, the head of Democrats for Life of America, said that the letter “demonstrates the strength of opposition to Joe Biden’s beliefs about abortion.” While Biden long supported the Hyde Amendment, he reversed his support last summer in the face of criticism from other presidential hopefuls.

Other Democratic presidential candidates had pushed for aggressively pro-abortion policies, including abortion-on-demand until the point of birth. Every candidate wanted to allow for taxpayer funding of abortion in the U.S. through Medicaid reimbursements.

Candidates were also divided over whether to even recognize pro-life Democrats as part of the party. Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) said at a February debate in New Hampshire that support for abortion “is an absolutely essential part of being a Democrat.”

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), meanwhile, welcomed the support of pro-life voters while herself supporting taxpayer-funded abortion and Roe v. Wade.

She said that “there’s a place in our party for a pro-life Democrat, there’s also a place in my support for pro-choice Republicans.”

How three dioceses are bringing NFP to Hispanic Catholics 

Thu, 07/23/2020 - 18:43

Denver Newsroom, Jul 23, 2020 / 04:43 pm (CNA).- Susana Diaz gets a kick out of watching couples’ faces during their first marriage preparation class.

Diaz, who is the manager of marriage ministries for the Archdiocese of Miami, said she likes watching people realize they will be talking about sex, in intimate detail, in a church setting.

“Most of the time that is the first moment that they realize what NFP is, or that the Catholic Church is talking about sex. Some of them, they're in shock. So yeah, being in that class, it's hilarious. Seeing their faces is fun,” Diaz told CNA.

Natural Family Planning, or NFP, is the term for a variety of methods by which married couples can chart their fertility to plan and space children according to Church teaching.

Learning a method of NFP is a standard requirement of marriage preparation in most Catholic dioceses throughout the country, and many couples are exposed to the concept of NFP for the first time during marriage preparation. Still, most dioceses find themselves playing catch-up when it comes to having Spanish NFP resources proportional to their Hispanic populations.

And because the topic of NFP can be so intimate and awkward, it is all the more important that it is being presented in a person’s native language, Diaz said.

“They feel more comfortable in Spanish because it's a new topic. Even if they speak English and they're receiving the (marriage preparation) class in English, when they need to talk specifically about sexuality, about NFP, they feel more comfortable in their first language, Spanish. And that's why we've always given them that option,” Diaz said.

In recent years the Archdiocese of Miami has worked to ramp up their NFP resources available in Spanish, due to their large Hispanic population.

“We have Cubans, Venezuelans. We have a lot of Nicaraguans too,” Diaz said. In some parishes in the archdiocese, the number of Spanish Masses offered outnumbers the English Masses. All major events and Masses of the Archdiocese are celebrated in English, Spanish and Haitian Creole, and Archbishop Thomas Wenski is fluent in these three languages, Diaz added.

In the Archdiocese of Denver, Hispanics make up more than 50% of Catholics. But Spanish NFP resources, particularly Spanish-speaking instructors, can be difficult to find.

“Part of the battle is finding individuals who are interested in teaching,” Carrie Keating, NFP and Marriage Specialist for the Archdiocese of Denver, told CNA.

“And especially if it's a method that we don't have a lot of experience with in our diocese, it makes it even harder because you're trying to recruit someone who's bilingual or Spanish speaking that actually knows the method that we haven't even had taught here.”

The Archdiocese of Denver does not have any Spanish speakers available for the Billings Method or the Marquette Method of NFP, Keating said, but they have at least one Spanish-speaking instructor for the Creighton Method and 10 couples teaching the sympto-thermal method through the Couple-to-Couple League.

Keating said she was also recently approached by a Spanish-speaking woman who wants to teach the Family of the Americas method in Spanish in the archdiocese, and they are working with her to make that method available.

Besides language barriers, learning NFP can be either cost- or time- prohibitive for some working Hispanic couples, Keating said, and the Family of the Americas method will be more cost-effective and less time-prohibitive than some of the other methods.

Alejandra Bravo, the associate director for Hispanic evangelization at the Archdiocese of Denver, told CNA that she is working to provide more NFP resources in Spanish because she believes it “makes more sense” for people to learn the methods in their native language.

“I remember I was taking the classes five years ago with my husband, and we both speak English, but we feel comfortable in Spanish because that's the way we communicate at home. And that's the way we talk about topics that are important to us,” Bravo said.

“So it is definitely something that we are working on, it is one of our priorities,” she said.

The Diocese of Phoenix is another diocese with a significant Hispanic population - roughly 70% of the 1.2 million Catholics in the diocese speak Spanish.

Ana Luisa Martinez de Carillo is the facilitator of programs in Spanish in the Office of Natural Family Planning for the diocese.

Martinez de Carillo told CNA that the Diocese of Phoenix has 16 Spanish-speaking NFP instructors who teach the Family of the Americas method.

While Spanish instruction in various NFP methods can be found online, Martinez de Carillo said it is helpful to have instructors in the diocese who can provide “personalized follow-ups with each couple, and sometimes more follow ups are needed for the couples to feel confident in using the method. Our instructors walk with them, supporting them, answering questions, and also referring them to seek further medical attention if they detect a problem or the clients inquire about it.”

The Diocese of Phoenix is also working with the St. Augustine Foundation to develop a free video series in Spanish about fertility and Natural Family Planning for married couples.

Martinez de Carillo said that while she would like to bring even more methods of NFP in Spanish to the Diocese of Phoenix, she is proud of what they already have to offer couples.

“It is a reality that we can do more for our Spanish speaking community and offer them more resources, like offer more NFP methods in Spanish, but right now we feel confident that [with] the number of classes we offer with the [Family of the Americas] method, we are serving our Spanish-speaking community greatly,” she said.

There are some specific advantages and unique challenges to teaching NFP to Hispanic populations, some instructors told CNA.

Guadalupe Carral, who teaches the Creighton method of NFP in the Archdiocese of Miami, said that because NFP impacts so many aspects of a couple’s life, it is best if couples learn the methods in their native language.

“This is so personal. I mean, human sexuality involves so many things. It's something spiritual, physical, intellectual, communicative, emotional. So being able to express yourself in your mother language, I think it's definitely a difference,” Carral said. “There's a lot of different feelings and thoughts that are related to couples that decide to do NFP that I definitely feel like it's important for them to feel comfortable to express all that they want to communicate with a person that's going to completely understand that.”

Carral first learned about the Creighton method of NFP through a friend, and she became an instructor in the method because of her passion for helping couples who are experiencing infertility. She said once Hispanic couples decide that they are going to really practice their Catholic faith - a faith they typically inherit from their families - they are open to learning and practicing NFP in their lives.

“When they want to go down to their roots and live their faith well and do what God asks us to do, I think that they're very open to NFP, especially when they listen to the success rates [of NFP],” she said.

Carmen Santamaria, another bilingual NFP instructor in the Archdiocese of Miami, first learned about Natural Family Planning during marriage preparation classes. At the time, the Archdiocese was recruiting instructors, and Santamaria believed so strongly in what NFP could do for married couples, that she and her husband became certified teachers in both English and Spanish.

Santamaria said she has been involved in efforts to improve the Spanish NFP resources for the Couple-to-Couple League in the past few years so that they speak more directly to Hispanic populations. The league’s sympto-thermal method has always been taught in Spanish, she noted, but updated materials were necessary.

“Unfortunately, sometimes Spanish language programs in the Church tend to be just translations of American or English programs,” she said. “And that's fine, they can meet a need. However, it doesn't necessarily speak to the reality of the Hispanic population or, it's not necessarily where they're at.”

Santamaria, who is Cuban American, said the Hispanic population in the Miami area “runs the gamut” of cultures and socioeconomic statuses, from “migrant workers to professionals.”

With the help of technology and Hispanic instructors, Santamaria said they were able to create NFP resources that represented a variety of Hispanic cultures.

Another challenge to teaching NFP to Hispanic populations can be the cultural taboos surrounding topics of sexuality and the nitty-gritty of fertility, instructors told CNA.

“There is the taboo that exists in Hispanic cultures around sex. It is something that it is hard to talk about because there is no sex education or too little in Hispanic cultures. You can see how the couples open up once you start talking about sex with them, the call for marriage that God has, and when you also even joke around it, this relaxes them and you can see how they open up,” Martinez de Carillo said.

Santamaria said she has also noticed an initial discomfort in talking about fertility in the couples she instructs, but she said the courses can be especially eye-opening for men, and that the communication involved in the methods ultimately strengthens marriages.

“Obviously NFP is really focusing on the woman's fertility, and the man has to learn these things,” Santamaria said. “And I think that it can really strengthen a relationship, especially a marriage, makes the men change their focus.”

There is also another challenge facing anyone teaching NFP to any population, Diaz said, which is convincing couples that they do not have to use contraception to plan and space their children and families.

“We always have the same challenge no matter if the message is for the Anglo or Latino community; this is to provide the message of a unique natural method, approved by God and the Catholic Church, and healthy for a woman’s body, to achieve or avoid pregnancy.”



NAACP sues education department over coronavirus relief funds for private schools

Thu, 07/23/2020 - 17:02

CNA Staff, Jul 23, 2020 / 03:02 pm (CNA).- The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is the latest entity to file a lawsuit against the US Department of Education over its guidance that local education agencies must use federal coronavirus aid to provide “equitable services to students and teachers in non-public schools.”

The lawsuit contends that Congress intended the CARES Act, which the president signed into law March 27, to apportion coronavirus relief funds based on the number of low-income students at both public and private schools in each district, “in the same manner” as Title I funds.

In contrast, an Education Department rule stated that the funds ought to be distributed based on the total number of students in both public and private schools, resulting in fewer dollars for public schools, the lawsuit contends.

The Education Department amended the rule in late June, following concerns that Catholic and other non-public schools were being excluded from sufficient epidemic relief funds to support protective equipment for students and teachers, cleaning, training in remote education, and distance education tools.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has defended the rule by stating it recognizes that CARES Act programs are not Title I programs.

“There is no reasonable explanation for debating the use of federal funding to serve both public and private K-12 students when federal funding, including CARES Act funding, flows to both public and private higher education institutions,” she said.

While local education agencies have “broad latitude” about the use of funds, it is expected that most of the funding will go to services responding to the problems of the coronavirus epidemic, including “equipment to protect student and teacher health” and building remote education capacity, the Department of Education said.

The rule discourages “the limited number of financially secure private schools” from seeking these services.

Michigan, California, Maine, New Mexico, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia also are suing the Trump administration for directing emergency relief aid to students at private schools.

Congress, under the CARES Act in March, sent relief funding for education to the states, to distribute to local educational agencies.

Although some of the Title I-A funds could go to help private school students, under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act they are specifically meant for “at-risk private-school students” and not students in general, the states’ lawsuit says.

The Pasadena Unified School District in California, Stamford Public Schools in Connecticut, and Denver Public Schools in Colorado have all joined the lawsuit.

Some 5.7 million children, about 10% of school-age students, attend private schools, the Council for American Private Education, has said. About 8% of private school students are living in poor households, compared to about 19% of public school students.

In early June the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference asked the U.S. Department of Education to reverse state authorities’ decisions that the conference said gave insufficient coronavirus relief funds to Catholic and other private schools. Some $523.8 million in K-12 federal aid went to Pennsylvania through the CARES Act.

Only $19 million went to Pennsylvania’s private schools, while the state Catholic conference said $66 million was the more equitable figure.

The National Catholic Educational Association estimated last month that at least 100 Catholic elementary and high schools across the United States will not reopen for the fall semester, with many suffering from low enrollment and decreased donations amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Worcester city council rejects move to take down Christopher Columbus statue

Thu, 07/23/2020 - 16:16

CNA Staff, Jul 23, 2020 / 02:16 pm (CNA).- The statue of Christopher Columbus outside of Worcester's Union Station will remain, the city council decided Tuesday, citing the need to respect the local Italian community despite a spate of vandal attacks on statutes of historic figures and a wave of critical commentary on American monuments.

The Worcester City Council voted 8-2 on July 21 to shelve a proposal that would have ordered the removal of the Christopher Columbus statue and its replacement with a different statue or memorial to honor the Italian community.

Councilor Candy Mero-Carlson, who claims Italian ancestry, moved to shelve the proposal. She cited the recent razing of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church and the closing of the cultural center there, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette reports.

“As someone who is Italian, that statue does represent our heritage,” said Mero-Carlson. “The Italian community has been through hell and back the last couple of years having lost their church and cultural center.”

“We don’t get the right to tell the Italian community what they should think about a statue,” she said. “Italians are proud people. We don’t get the right to tell them what to do with their statue; it should be up to the Italian community to decide. We get to make those decisions on who we are.”

The statue was donated to the city by Italian-American attorney Nunziato Fursaro in memory of his wife and erected in 1978.

Columbus has long been an American Catholic and Italian-American folk hero. They have seen his pioneering voyage from Europe as a way of validating their presence in a sometimes hostile majority-Protestant country and as the means by which Christianity reached the New World.

Columbus was long depicted as a symbol of exploration and discovery, critical for launching the encounter between Europe and the Americas. He was also a symbol of immigrants, and honors for Columbus drew opposition from nativist and anti-Catholic groups such as the Ku Klux Klan.

While Columbus never set foot in North America, the District of Columbia bears his name and he is the namesake of the Knights of Columbus, now the largest Catholic men's fraternal organization in the world.

In recent decades, Columbus has drawn critical coverage. Some blame him for the launch of the transatlantic slave trade, and fault him for the enslavement and other mistreatment of some Native Americans under his command. Some critics blame him for the subsequent sufferings of Native Americans under Spanish rule, or under the rule of European colonists generally.

Councilor Sarai Rivera had introduced the failed proposal. She said the statue should be removed because of atrocities and devastation caused for indigenous people in the Caribbean, Central America, and North America.

Rivera identifies as Afro Taina and claims descent from the Taino indigenous people of Puerto Rico. She said she never participated in Worcester's annual Columbus Day Parade.

“I could never go to celebrate someone who committed genocide on my ancestors,” she said, according to the Worcester Gazette & Telegram.

“Columbus is not about heritage. Columbus is about hate,” Rivera said to the council meeting, according to the Boston Globe. “And when you think about the amazing contributions the Italian community has done, even within our own community ... that’s who we should be honoring. That’s who we should be talking about.”

The explorer had good relations with a Native American leader on Hispaniola. There, a Taino chief named Guacanagari aided Columbus after the wreck of his main ship the Santa Maria. Columbus adopted one of his sons. That son took the name of Columbus’ natural son, Diego, and accompanied Columbus on his final three voyages

In June the Worcester Columbus statue was vandalized with red paint, with the word “genocide” written on it. A Columbus statue in Boston's historically Italian North End was beheaded.

This followed protests originally launched in response to the death of Minnesotan George Floyd, a black man, while he was being detained by Minneapolis police. Violence and vandalism, rejected by protest organizers, have caused massive damage to American cities.

Vandals particularly targeted statues of Confederate leaders, but also moved against statues of U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant, and Spanish missionary St. Junipero Serra, a major figure of early Californian history. Catholic churches and statues have also come under attack.

In Worcester the Columbus statue's location at Union Station is owned and operated by the Worcester Redevelopment Authority, but the statue itself belongs to the city.

Councilor Kathleen M. Toomey also spoke against removing the statue.

“I feel very strongly that we need to respect each other and not tear each other down,” she said. “And when you start taking away other peoples’ symbols without having conversation, without trying to understand what things mean, I think that’s a problem.”

The proposal cannot be brought again for 90 days unless the city council agrees to to reconsider it.

The Italian American Alliance welcomed the shelving of the proposal, and voiced hope the city would “take special care to protect the statue against vandals.”

Worcester Mayor Joseph M. Petty recused himself from voting.

Bishops urge Catholics to 'meet hatred with love' after churches vandalized

Thu, 07/23/2020 - 14:30

CNA Staff, Jul 23, 2020 / 12:30 pm (CNA).- Leading U.S. bishops have released a joint statement on Wednesday, July 22, responding to the recent spate of vandalism against Catholic churches across the United States.

“In the last few weeks, we have witnessed, among other things, one church rammed with a car and set on fire, as well as statues of Jesus Christ and of the Virgin Mary defaced or even beheaded. An historic mission church has also been badly damaged by fire, and the cause is still under investigation,” said the statement, co-signed by Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, who leads the USCCB’s religious liberty committee, and Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City, the chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development. 

The archbishops said that the attacks on churches, regardless of the motivation behind the perpetrators, “are signs of a society in need of healing.”  

“In those incidents where human actions are clear, the motives still are not. As we strain to understand the destruction of these holy symbols of selfless love and devotion, we pray for any who have caused it, and we remain vigilant against more of it,” said the archbishops. 

“Our nation finds itself in an extraordinary hour of cultural conflict. The path forward must be through the compassion and understanding practiced and taught by Jesus and his Holy Mother,” they added. 

The archbishops said that there was a need to imitate Jesus and “respond to confusion with understanding and to hatred with love.” 

Recent weeks have seen acts of vandalism and destruction at Catholic churches across the United States, including arsons, decapitations, and graffiti. In addition to the most recent attacks, in the last two weeks statues of Christ and the Virgin Mary have been attacked in Florida, Tennessee, New York, and Colorado.

Other Catholic religious statues in California, Missouri, and other places have been toppled or vandalized by protestors, including several of St. Junipero Serra.

While some attacks on statues, most notably in California, have been committed in public by large groups with clear political affiliations, the perpetrators of other acts, including those against the images of the Virgin Mary and Christ, have not been identified.

At least some of the vandalism appears to be explicitly motivated by anti-Catholicism. 

In Brooklyn, the word “IDOL” was painted on a statue of Mary outside of a seminary and high school. In upstate New York, a monument to babies who died by abortion was toppled. 

Authorities at the local and federal level are investigating the acts of vandalism, including as possible hate crimes.

Christian wedding planner challenges anti-discrimination law

Thu, 07/23/2020 - 14:00

CNA Staff, Jul 23, 2020 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- An Evangelical Christian minister who runs a wedding business in Cleveland has filed a lawsuit challenging a county ordinance she says would require her to officiate same-sex weddings.

Kristi Stokes, the owner of Covenant Weddings, filed the lawsuit on Wednesday against a Cuyahoga County anti-discrimination law; she is represented by the legal group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).

ADF senior counsel Kate Anderson said Stokes was challenging the law because she otherwise “faces an impossible choice: disobey the law, defy her own faith, or ditch her business,”

“My religious beliefs influence every aspect of my life, and I can’t simply put my religious identity into separate personal and professional boxes,” Stokes said. “If you’re looking for someone to officiate your wedding, and you’re hoping to incorporate a cannabis theme or write prayers to celebrate an open marriage, I’m not your girl.”

Stokes, an Evangelical Christian, previously served as a missionary in Zimbabwe and South Africa and is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in chaplaincy.

She was appointed a minister and officiated her first wedding in December of 2018. She founded Covenant Weddings in August of 2019 and officiates weddings and writes prayers, homilies, and vows for couples.

According to her complaint, filed through Alliance Defending Freedom, Stokes believes “that God ordained marriage to be a covenant between one man and one woman that reflects and points people to the special covenantal relationship Jesus shares with His Church.”

She says she normally meets with potential clients before agreeing to officiate their weddings, and discusses her beliefs on marriage with them.

However, in September of 2019, Stokes says a client contacted her about potentially officiating her wedding; Stokes later found out that the wedding would be between two biological females, one of whom identified as a male.

She declined the wedding in December because of a scheduling conflict, and referred the couple to another minister. After that incident, however, Stokes began researching local laws and ordinances because of that circumstance, and discovered Cuyahoga County’s anti-discrimination law.

The law forbids discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in areas of public accommodation, among other areas. Stokes said her business is subject to the law and she would have to “proclaim messages and to participate in religious ceremonies that violate her religious beliefs, which she cannot do.”

ADF argues that the Cuyahoga County anti-discrimination rule not only mandates Stokes perform same-sex weddings, but also that she would have to provide the same services as she would for other weddings, such as composing prayers, vows, and homilies. She also is barred from explaining her religious beliefs on marriage on her business website.

“Imams should not be forced to officiate Christian weddings they object to or write vows they disagree with,” her complaint states. “Nor should LGBT artists be forced to sing at church services or draft church pamphlets condemning same-sex marriage. Likewise, Kristi should be free to officiate and celebrate the ceremonies she believes in.”

New York court case could signal hope for faith based adoption agencies

Thu, 07/23/2020 - 10:30

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 23, 2020 / 08:30 am (CNA).- A federal court ruling in New York this week could point to eventual victory at the Supreme Court for Catholic foster care placement in Philadelphia.

On Tuesday, the Second Circuit federal appeals court granted New Hope Family Services, a Christian adoption provider in Syracuse, New York, protection from a state order that threatened it with closure.

New Hope had a faith-based “recusal-and-referral” policy of declining to recommend children for unmarried or same-sex couples, while referring such cases to other agencies. The state’s Office of Children and Family Services required New Hope to not decline such cases. New Hope has served 1,000 children over a span of 50 years in its adoption services.

The adoption provider lost its case before a district court, which ruled that it failed to make a case that its First Amendment rights were violated by the state order.

However, a three-judge panel for the Second Circuit on Tuesday put a temporary stay on the state’s order.

While the court did not yet decide the “ultimate question” in the case, it acknowledged that New Hope made a “plausible claim” that its First Amendment religious and free speech rights were violated. The panel of judges also said that the state’s action may have been “informed by hostility toward certain religious beliefs.”

Both Becket and Alliance Defending Freedom, legal groups that defend religious freedom, said the decision bodes well for another case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court—that of the adoption placement services of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

In Fulton v. Philadelphia, Catholic Social Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia (CSS) was told in 2018 that the city of Philadelphia would no longer be referring foster children through the agency.

The decision was due to the faith-based stance of CSS on marriage, even though there had been no claims of discrimination of same-sex couples that were brought against the agency. The city required CSS to agree to match children with same-sex couples.

As the city has a monopoly on the area foster care system, CSS has no new foster care contracts and has already begun laying off employees.

Two foster mothers who worked with CSS sued the city, and are represented by Becket. The case is scheduled to be heard by the Supreme Court in the fall 2020 term.

The court’s decision on Tuesday gives credence to the policies of religious adoption and foster care placement agencies, Becket and ADF argued.

“Courts can see that these religious adoption and foster agencies are doing outstanding work to serve the neediest kids, and have been doing it for a very long time, and that there’s absolutely no need for the government to go after them just because of their religious beliefs about marriage,” Luke Goodrich, vice president and senior counsel at Becket, told CNA.

“When the government singles out religious groups, just because of their religious beliefs about marriage, that’s unconstitutional and it’s actually deeply harmful to children,” Goodrich said.


ADF’s vice president of appellate advocacy John Bursch said in a public statement that "government officials are not being neutral when they single out religious organizations for hostile treatment based on their beliefs about marriage. That’s a flagrant violation of the U.S. Constitution.” 

New Hope’s case dates back to a 2013 state regulation that barred discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity against applicants for adoption services.

For five years after the regulation, New Hope practiced its “recusal-and-referral” policy of declining to match children with unmarried and same-sex couples while referring them to other agencies.

During this time, the state’s family services office “voiced no objection,” the court said, until in 2018 it ordered New Hope to match children with unmarried and same-sex couples or be forced to close. This was an “abrupt” and “as yet unexplained” act by the state, the court ruled on Tuesday, and combined with the order was enough to “raise a sufficient suspicion of hostility toward New Hope’s particular religious beliefs to warrant further inquiry.”