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New York bishops push back on bill proposing study of pro-life pregnancy centers

Thu, 07/23/2020 - 02:11

CNA Staff, Jul 23, 2020 / 12:11 am (CNA).- The New York Catholic bishops have voiced opposition to a bill that would report on the state’s pro-life pregnancy centers, saying its wording shows an inherent bias against the pregnancy centers.

“The New York State Catholic Conference opposes this legislation and urges a negative vote,” said the conference, which represents the bishops of the state, in a July 21 memorandum of opposition.

It said the legislation “would authorize the New York State Commissioner of Health to conduct a study and issue a report on the impact of pro-life pregnancy centers in the state. The pre-determined outcome of the ‘study’ is that such services are too ‘limited’ in denying pregnant women access to abortion.”

Sponsored by Assembly Member Deborah Glick and Senator Brad Hoylman, the bill says it aims to examine “the unmet health and resource needs facing pregnant women in New York and the impact of limited service pregnancy centers.”

The legislation passed through the New York State Assembly on Tuesday and headed to the state’s Senate on the same day.

If signed into law, the New York State Commissioner of Health will be authorized to conduct a study to determine whether pro-life pregnancy centers are “offering accurate, non-coercive health care information and timely access to a comprehensive range of reproductive and sexual health care services.”

The Catholic Conference suggested that the language in the bill suggests a bias before the study is even conducted.

“By labeling pro-life pregnancy centers as ‘limited service pregnancy centers,’ it appears the intention of the bill is to intimidate, silence and shut down pro-life pregnancy centers,” the conference said.

“This legislation will force such centers, which rely primarily on volunteer workers, to turn over to the state voluminous data including funding sources, services, staffing, operational guidelines, client demographics and more, even if they receive no state subsidies,” it added, noting, “The majority of pro-life pregnancy centers do not receive government funding.”

The legislation would also develop a nine-member temporary task force to help the state’s Department of Health conduct the study. Three members would be appointed by the governor, three by the speaker of the assembly, and three by the senate’s temporary president. The task force would include an abortion provider and a professional in reproductive rights, health, or justice.

The Catholic Conference encouraged the New York Senate, in which Democrats hold about a two-thirds majority, to vote against the bill. They pointed to the state’s high abortion rate, arguing that pregnant women should have support and options if they want to have a baby.

“A state that prides itself on being ‘pro-choice’ should not be taking legislative action to obstruct the choice of childbirth,” the conference said.

Lawsuit claims McCarrick headed abusive ‘sex ring,’ names alleged ‘procurer’

Wed, 07/22/2020 - 20:08

Denver Newsroom, Jul 22, 2020 / 06:08 pm (CNA).- A lawsuit filed Tuesday charges that former cardinal Theodore McCarrick sexually abused a boy and aided his abuse by several other priests, and claims that a principal at a Christian Brothers high school helped procure the victim for McCarrick and the other clergy abusers in the early 1980s.

The plaintiff’s controversial lawyer, Jeff Anderson characterized McCarrick as leading a “sex ring.” He claimed papal power is to blame, including Pope Francis, and cites unproven claims by the controversial Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano about the Holy See’s response to McCarrick.

Anderson, a personal injury attorney, has filed abuse lawsuits against the Catholic Church for decades. While some say he has been an advocate for victims, critics say he has sensationalized and embellished claims in order to attract media attention to litigation, and that he is a self-promoter.

Speaking in a Wednesday press conference, Anderson said the plaintiff is “very brave” and “a survivor of sexual predation by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and other clerics.”

McCarrick’s civil attorney, Barry Coburn, declined to comment.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday also names as defendants the Newark archdiocese, the Metuchen diocese, several Catholic parishes, and the Catholic high school as defendants. Four other priests and a religious member of the Christian Brothers allegedly abused the victim, according to the lawsuit.

The Newark archdiocese told CNA it would be “inappropriate” to comment on matters in litigation.

“The Archdiocese of Newark remains fully committed to transparency and to our long-standing programs to protect the faithful and will continue to work with victims, their legal representatives and law enforcement authorities in an ongoing effort to resolve allegations and bring closure to victims,” the archdiocese said.

Anthony Kearns, spokesperson and chancellor of the Metuchen diocese, told CNA July 22 the diocese had not yet received the complaint, but said “our prayers are with all survivors of abuse, today and always, and we stand with them in their journey toward healing and hope.”

“With God’s grace, all survivors of abuse, particularly those wounded by members of the Church, will continue to heal and move forward,” Kearns said. “Our diocese renews our commitment to prevent these types of abuse from ever happening again.”

He encouraged “anyone who has been harmed in any way, by any clergy in the Church” to contact state authorities and the diocese.

The plaintiff uses the pseudonym John Doe 14.

The lawsuit alleges that McCarrick’s sexual abuse of the plaintiff began in about 1982 and continued until about 1983. Doe was 14 to 16 years old at the time of the abuses. Doe’s lawsuit claims he was first abused by a parish priest, then later groomed and sexually abused by the principal of a Christian Brothers school. The principal then allegedly arranged for him to be abused by McCarrick.

McCarrick was named the first Bishop of Metuchen, New Jersey in 1981, after he served as an auxiliary Bishop in New York City.

The lawsuit said Doe and other victims were taken on weekend overnight trips to a beach house in Sea Girt, N.J.

“McCarrick assigned sleeping arrangements, choosing his victims from the boys, seminarians and clerics present at the beach house,” the lawsuit said. “On these occasions, minor boys were assigned to different rooms and paired with adult clerics.”

The plaintiff was from a devout Catholic family. He attended Shrine of Divine Mercy St. Francis Xavier Parish in Newark and Essex Catholic Boys’ High School. He participated in youth and church activities and developed “great admiration, trust, reverence and respect” for the Catholic Church and the defendants, the lawsuit said.

Father Anthony Nardino of St. Francis Xavier Church allegedly engaged in sexual contact with the plaintiff in 1978, when he was 11, the lawsuit said. Anderson said this set Doe up for grooming and sexual abuse by high school principal, Brother Andrew Hewitt of the Christian Brothers, who died in 2002.

Anderson characterized Hewitt as a “procurer” for McCarrick and noted that the Christian Brothers have listed the former principal as credibly accused of abuse in another case. He believes Hewitt procured other boys for McCarrick.

According to the victim, Hewitt introduced him to McCarrick. Hewitt said McCarrick was someone who could help Doe pay school tuition. Doe then went on overnight and weekend trips to the beach house, where he was sexually abused by McCarrick and other priests named in the lawsuit.

Father Gerald Ruane, Father Michael Walters, and Fr. John Laferrera allegedly abused Doe in the same time period. All three priests were under the Archdiocese of Newark and have been listed by the archdiocese as credibly accused of abuse. Walters and Laferrera have both been removed from ministry.

Anderson characterized McCarrick as “the boss” and these priests as “the crew.” Ruwane, who is deceased, became “both an enabler and a participant in McCarrick’s predation of this kid,” according to Anderson. Walters allegedly engaged in criminal sexual conduct with the boy, as did Laferrera.

The lawsuit said McCarrick sexually assaulted at least seven minor boys. The diocese, archdiocese, and their entities knew, or should have known, that McCarrick and the other clergy named were dangers to children, it charged. They failed to report known or suspected abuse of children. They knew, or should have known, that children in their activities were at risk of sex abuse.

New Jersey Catholic parishes named in the lawsuit are St. Francis Xavier / Shrine of Divine Mercy Parish in Newark; Holy Trinity Parish in Hackensack; Our Lady of the Lake in Verona; St. Cassian’s Parish in Upper Montclair; and Immaculate Conception in Newark.

An ABC Entity, “the fictitious name” of “an entity believed to have employed McCarrick” as well as the accused priests and the religious brother, is also named in the suit.

It is unclear what this entity is. However, Anderson has previously attempted to file a lawsuit against the Holy See.

According to the timeline proposed by Anderson, in 1993 Fr. Boniface Ramsey, O.P., reported McCarrick’s conduct with seminarians to then-Archbishop of Louisville Thomas Kelly, OP. Ramsey in 2000 sent a letter to the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, voicing his concerns about McCarrick and his behavior towards seminarians.

In 1993, Bishop Thomas Hughes, then-Bishop of Metuchen learned that McCarrick had sexually exploited a young seminarian, the suit alleged, also claiming that in 1995 a priest reported to Hughes that McCarrick inappropriately touched him.

The lawsuit cites Vigano’s claim that Pope Benedict XVI had imposed sanctions upon McCarrick because of his misconduct with seminarians and priests. These sanctions were allegedly not enforced.

The lawsuit cited a recent independent review at the Archdiocese of Newark’s Immaculate Conception Seminary at Seton Hall University, which found that McCarrick “created a culture of fear and intimidation that supported his personal objectives.” He used his position as archbishop “to sexually harass seminarians.”

Anderson claimed that the issue goes beyond McCarrick’s “fear and intimidation.” With little explanation, he accused Pope John Paul II and his successors Benedict XVI and Francis of enabling McCarrick’s rise.

John Paul II had appointed McCarrick to the Metuchen diocese, and later to both the Newark and Washington archdioceses. He named him a cardinal in 2001. Benedict XVI appears to have imposed secret restrictions on McCarrick, which McCarrick did not follow.

“It’s papal permission to engage in unbridled abuse of power, time and time again… that is a painful truth that is now time for those who permitted it to reckon,” Anderson said.

The lawsuit also cites Vigano’s claim that he told Pope Francis about McCarrick’s behavior. Vigano’s 2018 letter claimed the Holy See had been informed in 2000 of McCarrick’s “gravely immoral behavior with seminarians and priests.”

The lawsuit claims that Pope Francis “remained complicit in the coverup of McCarrick” and “did not take action” until July 2018.

Mike Finnegan, an attorney working with Anderson, also cited Vigano’s claims at the July 22 press conference.

“It’s time to day for the top officials, the bishops and the pope to come clean about what all of them knew about Cardinal McCarrick,” Finnegan said. He contended that Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark and Bishop James Checchio of Metuchen also need to “come clean.”


US bishops oppose Trump move to exclude undocumented in forming House districts

Wed, 07/22/2020 - 18:44

CNA Staff, Jul 22, 2020 / 04:44 pm (CNA).- The U.S. bishops on Wednesday decried President Donald Trump’s recent memo seeking to exclude undocumented persons counted in the census from being considered when determining the number of legislators each state will have in the House of Representatives.

“We urge all people to be counted and fully included in the Census. Counting the undocumented in the Census and then denying them and the states in which they reside their rightful representation in Congress is counter to the Constitution and a grave injustice. Furthermore, such a policy makes people feel invisible and not valued as human beings,” Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City and Bishop Mario Dorsonville, Auxiliary Bishop of Washington, said July 22.

The bishops are the chairmen, respectively, of the US bishops’ committees on domestic justice and on migration.

Trump announced July 21 that he was “directing the Secretary of Commerce to exclude illegal aliens from the apportionment base following the 2020 census.”

He said the decision “reflects a better understanding of the Constitution and is consistent with the principles of our representative democracy. My Administration will not support giving congressional representation to aliens who enter or remain in the country unlawfully, because doing so would create perverse incentives and undermine our system of government. Just as we do not give political power to people who are here temporarily, we should not give political power to people who should not be here at all.”

The Fourteenth Amendment states that “representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State.”

The U.S. bishops said that Trump’s action “is simply wrong and divisive.”

“We follow the lead of Pope Francis, who has noted that in the face of ‘profound and epochal changes’ that the present moment offers ‘a precious opportunity to guide and govern the processes now under way, and to build inclusive societies based on respect for human dignity, tolerance, compassion and mercy.’ We urge the President to rescind this Memorandum and instead, to undertake efforts to protect and heal our nation and all who are living in our country.”

In 2019 the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the inclusion of a citizenship question on the 2020 census under the reasons proffered by the Trump administration.

The decennial census is used in districting for elections, and helps determine the allocation of federal funding to the states.

A question about whether the respondent is a citizen has not appeared on the census questionnaire since 1950.

The AP reported that after the Supreme Court blocked the inclusion of a citizenship question, the president ordered that citizenship data be gathered from federal and state agencies’ administrative records. Few states have complied with the request.

Michigan prolife group ends petition effort to ban D&E abortions

Wed, 07/22/2020 - 16:19

CNA Staff, Jul 22, 2020 / 02:19 pm (CNA).- A Michigan pro-life group has said it will not contest the state’s conclusion that the group did not submit enough valid signatures on a petition to ban dilation and evacuation abortions, and will instead focus its advocacy efforts on the 2020 election.

“We know we submitted signatures from more than 340,047 registered voters. It is tragic that children will continue to be dismembered because we lost just enough signatures due to errors and petition damage like small tears and stains,” Barbara Listing, Right to Life of Michigan President, said in a July 21 statement.

“The effort behind this petition drive was worth it and will carry forward...This was our first attempt to end the dismemberment of babies in Michigan, and we will continue working until we end this form of violence and protect the lives of every unborn child.”

Genevieve Marnon, Right to Life of Michigan's legislative director, told The Detroit News that this marks the first time that one of RTLM’s initiatives has failed.

Although Right to Life of Michigan submitted 380,000 signatures, the state elections bureau estimated that only about 333,000 were valid. The petition needed 340,047 signatures in order to proceed.

The proposed ban would have made it a felony for a physician to perform a dilation and evacuation abortion. D&E abortions are typically done in the second trimester of pregnancy and result in the dismemberment of an unborn child.

The method is used in Michigan for more than half of all second-trimester abortions, including 84% of those performed after the 16th week of pregnancy, the AP reported.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) has said she would veto any pro-life legislation. Governor Whitmer last October line-item vetoed from the state’s budget $700,000 in funding for the Michigan Pregnancy and Parenting Support Services Program, to the consternation of the Michigan Catholic Conference and a pro-life group active in the state.

The ballot initiative push was a way for the D&E ban to become law without the need for Whitmer’s signature, as Right to Life of Michigan had hoped to submit the ban to the state’s Republican-led legislature for enactment rather than put it on the November ballot, The Detroit News reported.

Listing attributed the petition’s failure to several overlapping factors, including some signers not knowing their voter registration status or forgetting they already signed the petition.

In addition, based on the high turnout from the 2018 election in Michigan, the threshold the state set for a petition to succeed was higher than normal, Listing said. She said the group this time submitted about 65,000 more signatures than they had in 2013 in their successful petition drive to stop taxes from paying for abortion insurance coverage.

“It wasn’t enough this time,” she lamented.

Listing also said a “competing” pro-life petition, circulating at the same time as theirs, confused people. That petition sought to ban abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat and was sponsored by a group called Michigan Heartbeat Coalition.

The Michigan Catholic Conference had last year thrown its support behind the D&E petition, opposing the heartbeat bill due to the existence of an even stronger piece of anti-abortion legislation.

“It goes without saying that after countless hours and with myriad people volunteering at hundreds of Catholic parishes across the state to collect signatures that this outcome is disappointing,” said Rebecca Mastee, MCC’s policy advocate.

“Each and every person who assisted in this petition drive is cherished and thanked. We have incredible gratitude for their pro-life dedication and the tremendous effort to raise awareness while gathering signatures. Saint Teresa of Calcutta taught us that God does not require us always to be successful, but rather to be faithful; indeed, the effort to protect human life through this petition drive was immense.”

Pro-lifers in several states, such as Tennessee, have opposed heartbeat legislation due to the potential of expensive legal and constitutional challenges.

In addition, the MCC pointed out out that Michigan law presently prohibits all abortion, but this law is not enforced due to the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision.

Should Roe be overturned, that law banning abortion would go back into effect. But if the proposed heartbeat bill were to become law and Roe were to be overturned, MCC argued, it would actually liberalize existing Michigan abortion law and permit the abortion of infants prior to the detection of a fetal heartbeat.

The coalition of Michigan volunteers was not the only group gathering signatures for pro-life petitions during the pandemic. In May, pro-life advocates in Colorado successfully gathered enough signatures to put a late-term abortion ban on the November ballot.

If the late-term abortion ban passes in November, it would mark the first time since 1967 that Colorado would impose voter-approved restrictions on abortion.

St. Junipero Serra could soon be removed from California county seal

Tue, 07/21/2020 - 19:40

Denver Newsroom, Jul 21, 2020 / 05:40 pm (CNA).- A proposal to remove St. Junipero Serra from Ventura County’s official seal is unwarranted, and elected officials need to know Serra’s true story, according to the priest who heads the final mission the sainted Spanish missionary founded in California.

“Should the County of Ventura redesign its emblem, some representation of Junipero Serra is critical to the history of the county and its economic prosperity that we all enjoy today,” Fr. Tom Elewaut, pastor of the Old Mission Basilica of San Buenaventura, told CNA July 21.

“Historic fact supports the good Serra brought to the indigenous people of Alta California, his spiritual children,” he said, stating that indigenous Californians suffered the most after the mission period had ended. “Do your homework, read the historical facts, and learn who really abused the indigenous peoples. Not Serra himself and not the intent of the Mission Era.”

Elewaut is the 30th successor of St. Junipero Serra at the San Buenaventura mission. When Pope Francis canonized Serra during his 2015 U.S. visit, making Serra the first Hispanic saint to minister in the continental U.S., the mission held a major celebration.

“The letters and actions of Serra evidence his love and care of the indigenous persons. Academics of indigenous descent uphold this,” said Elewaut, who referred to the work of Dr. Ruben Mendoza, an archaeologist and professor at California State University Monterrey Bay.

Serra was often at odds with Spanish colonial authorities over their mistreatment of native Californians, and these indigenous people showed an outpouring of grief at his death in 1784.

Despite Serra’s record of defending the rights of indigenous peoples, statues of the 18th century Spanish-born saint have become focal points for protests and demonstrations across California in recent weeks, with images of the saint being torn down or vandalized.

The Ventura County seal’s left side is dominated by an image of Serra, with a mission church in the background. The right side of the seal shows various industries of Ventura County.

But Ventura County CEO Mike Powers, who oversees county operations, announced a planned redesign of the seal at a June 23 meeting of the Ventura County Board of Supervisors.

“Throughout the state and locally there has been a lot of discussion about removal of images and monuments of Father Serra due to the treatment of Native Americans,” he said. “Similarly, our county seal here does include an image of Father Serra.”

The county seal, adopted in 1964, is present on city buildings, vehicles and other locations.

Referring to actions of the City Council of Ventura, which unanimously voted to remove two statues of the saint from city hall grounds, Powers said “it is a good time to begin that dialogue with your board.”

The Ventura County Star on July 20 quoted four of the five elected officials on the county’s Board of Supervisors, none of whom defended the presence of Serra on the seal.

“Where would the County of Ventura be today without Junipero Serra? The establishment of the missions and presidios—and the subsequent expansion of colonial settlements—created new and dynamic relations and communities within and between colonists and native people across California,” Elewaut told CNA.

“Fruits, vegetables, wineries, flora, and fauna that we cherish today are due to the Mission era initially established by St. Junipero Serra in Alta California.”

The priest welcomed support from county residents and those outside the county “to pray and to speak in defense of St. Serra,” he said.

“It is important that all who do so with respect and courtesy and keep focused on this topic and not inject other agenda, no matter how worthwhile they may be. Lack of respect for County and City officials in communication nets no good,” he told CNA.

“As Catholics and Christians and all people of faith, we need to honor the dignity of everyone while speaking our thoughts.”

Elewaut said the local Catholic community, including many young adults, is “unified in the effort to save the good name and evangelical ministry of St. Junipero Serra. The priest has received comments from people “ appalled that Serra is being wrongfully portrayed.” Local Catholics have responded to the spate of anti-Serra behavior with prayerful support and recitations of the Rosary.

Supervisor Linda Parks, however, backed removing the Catholic saint’s image “because it is well understood that it was an oppressive time when the Spaniards came and abused Native Americans,” she said.

"I know that Father Serra is certainly objectionable to many people,” said Parks, who was also critical of “obsolete” images on the seal referring to atomic energy and oil drilling.

"I don’t think of them when I think of Ventura County," she said. "The whole thing is from a bygone era and needs to be updated to better represent Ventura County.”

Parks preferred “the beauty of our countryside and the farm hills and the ocean and the pier,” or images of the California condor, The Ventura County Star reports.

Another board member, Supervisor John Zaragoza, said he has not yet taken a position on Serra’s image on the seal. For him, the redesign is a possible “re-marketing.”

“I know that Father Serra is on the seal, but I have not really paid too much attention to it yet to tell you the truth,” said Zaragoza.

Supervisor Kelly Long said she would “entertain” the decision to remove Serra if the county’s Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, “feels that it’s an important step.”

"It’s appropriate to have a community process to redesign the logo to recognize the new sensitivity that the majority of our society is feeling towards respecting our diversity,” said Long.

County spokeswoman Ashley Bautista said the redesign could incorporate community opinion. She said the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, which has some 22 members, would provide an update on the planned redesign of the seal at the July 21 Board of Supervisors meeting. However, the seal was not listed on the board agenda for that day.

Ventura County, northwest of Los Angeles, is almost evenly split between non-white Hispanics, who make up about 44.7% of its population, and Hispanics, who make up 43.2%. Native Americans make up about 1.9% of the county’s 846,000 people, according to estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Some members of the Chumash people are among the objectors to Serra. In conversation with these critics, Elewaut reached an agreement to move the statue of Serra from the grounds of Ventura City Hall. He did this, he said, “in part to seek reconciliation among the descendants of the Chumash First Peoples and to a greater degree to keep the statue from being destroyed.

At the same time, the priest said indigenous people are not uniformly critical of Serra.

“Not all the opinions among the Chumash people in the greater Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties have been voiced,” Elewaut said. “There is substantial evidence that among the Chumash St. Junipero Serra is revered and respected for his contributions to our county. Their voices have not been heard or respected. Their voices should have equal weight and import.”

Some indigenous Americans, both in Ventura and Santa Barbara, are “appalled by the character assignation of St. Junipero Serra,” he said,

“Their family ancestry has equal weight to the family calling for the removal of the Serra statue in Ventura,” he said.

Pope Francis recently granted basilica status to Mission San Buenaventura, at the heart of Ventura, Calif. The designation is granted to churches around the world in recognition of their special pastoral and liturgical significance in Catholic life, and their closeness to the pope.

It is the 88th U.S. church to receive the title, and the first in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

The San Buenaventura Mission was founded by St. Serra on Easter Sunday 1782, the final mission founded by the saint. The mission remains an active parish of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, serving approximately 1,400 families.

Junipero Serra’s missions played a critical role in the spread of Christianity. Many of Serra’s missions form the cores of what are today the state’s largest cities— including San Diego, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.


As Richmond diocese marks 200 years, bishop calls for ‘new springtime’

Tue, 07/21/2020 - 18:52

CNA Staff, Jul 21, 2020 / 04:52 pm (CNA).- Bishop Barry Knestout of Richmond, Virginia celebrated the 200th anniversary of the diocese with a call to reflect on grace in moments of hardship.

“For our bicentennial, we ask God to grace us with a new birth, a new springtime for all the faithful here in the Diocese of Richmond,” the bishop said in a recent homily.

“As we celebrate 200 years as a diocese amid a crisis and pandemic, we are reminded as bishops, priests, deacons, consecrated, the entire people of God that we are called to be a people always centered on Christ.”

Knestout celebrated Mass at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart July 11. The Mass included the ordination of two priests: Anthony Ferguson for the Diocese of Richmond, and Julio Reyes for the Diocese of Zacatecoluca, El Salvador.

The ordinations had been postponed from an earlier date due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Due to ongoing state restrictions limiting church gatherings to 50% of building capacity, the Mass was attended by 230 people, including 44 priests, according to The Catholic Virginian.

During the Mass, the cathedral displayed the relics of St. Vincent de Paul, St. John Neumann, and St. Katharine Drexel. It also displayed a replica of the apostolic brief, a formal papal letter founding the Diocese of Richmond.

In his homily, Knestout reflected on the various hardships the Catholic community in Virginia has faced over the past 200 years, including shortages of priests, insufficient resources, racism and bigotry, and epidemics such as Yellow Fever in 1820 and the Spanish Flu in 1919.

These challenges are similar to those facing people today, he continued, and Catholics in the diocese now can take heart in the faithfulness of God.

“In good times or bad, God has never abandoned us,” the bishop said. “Moved by this conviction, Catholics respond to the needs around us by making sacrifices for the sake of the Church, for the poor and for the common good by seeking ways to alleviate the pain of others.”

The bishop encouraged those present, especially the newly ordained ministers, to focus not on themselves but on evangelization and service to those who are vulnerable.

“As we grapple with the [coronavirus] pandemic and political and cultural turmoil, we are strengthened to serve others and give witness to our faith,” he said.

As Christians, Knestout said, we are called “to seek our center not in any idea, any ideology, any movement, any activity, any club, any association, any tribe, any nation - not to find our center there but to find and hold our center in Christ.”


Catholic, Eastern Othodox Churches to observe day of mourning for Hagia Sophia

Tue, 07/21/2020 - 16:01

CNA Staff, Jul 21, 2020 / 02:01 pm (CNA).- The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said Tuesday that July 24 “is a Day of Mourning” for Hagia Sophia. The former church and museum in Istanbul will that day be inaugurated as a mosque.

In a July 21 tweet, the USCCB said that it joins 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.”

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan signed a decree July 10 converting Hagia Sophia into a mosque. The decree followed closely on a ruling by the Council of State, Turkey's highest administrative court, which declared unlawful an 80-year old government decree which converted the building from a mosque into a museum.

Hagia Sophia was built in 537 under the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I as the cathedral of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. After the Ottoman capture of Constantinople in 1453, the basilica was converted into a mosque. Under the Ottomans, architects added minarets and buttresses to preserve the building, but the mosaics showing Christian imagery were whitewashed and covered.

In 1934, under a secularist Turkish government, the mosque was turned into a museum. Some mosaics were uncovered, including depictions of Christ, the Virgin Mary, John the Baptist, Justinian I, and Zoe Porhyrogenita. It was declared a World Heritage Site under UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, in 1985.

As a mosque, the mosaics in Hagia Sophia will have to be covered during prayers, as will as the seraph figures located in the dome.

The members of the eparchial synod of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America wrote July 19 that considering the inagauration of Hagia Sophia as a mosque, which they called a “program of cultural and spiritual misappropriation and a violation of all standards of religious harmony and mutual respect, we call upon all the beloved faithful of our Holy Archdiocese to observe this day as a day of mourning and of manifest grief. We urge you to invite your fellow Orthodox Christians and indeed all Christians and people of goodwill to share in the following observances.”

The observences are “that every Church toll its bells in lamentation on this day. We call for every flag of every kind that is raised on the Church property be lowered to half-mast on this day. And we enjoin every Church in our Holy Archdiocese to chant the Akathist Hymn in the evening of this day, just as we chant it on the Fifth Friday of the Great and Holy Fast.”

“Let us, in this time of grief and mourning, appeal to the Most Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary,” the Greek Orthodox bishops wrote. “She is the 'only Hope of the hopeless', and as we chant to Her in the Akathist, 'the Repository of the Wisdom of God, the Treasury of His Foreknowledge'.”

The Greek Orthodox bishops concluded: “Therefore, with complete faith in the Foreknowledge of our Trinitarian God, and in the Divine Plan for our salvation, we entrust the future of our beloved [Hagia Sophia] to His Wisdom, and we supplicate She who is the very Treasury of that Knowledge and the Repository of that Wisdom to intercede for us, to comfort us, to give us Her strength, and to manifest to us Her counsel, that we may ever do and say that which is pleasing in the sight and in the hearing of Her Son, our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father, Who together with the Holy Spirit is worshipped One God, unto the ages of ages. Amen!”

Dr. Elizabeth Prodromou, director of the Initiative on Religion, Law, and Diplomacy at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, told CNA last week that the July 24 date for the inauguration of Hagia Sophia as a mosque is “rife with symbolism.”

The day is the anniversary of the Treaty of Lausanne, signed in 1923 after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War I, which established the borders of the modern Turkish state and included explicit protections for Christian minorities there.

Erdoğan “has stated indirectly – and increasingly, directly – that he sees Lausanne as something that should be abrogated,” Prodromou said. It’s also a signal to Turkey’s NATO allies and fellow countries that it “is not interested in continuing within the context of treaties that are meant to provide stability and order in the region.”

Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles and Bishop Joseph Bambera of Scranton, the US bishops' president and ecumenical chair, respectively, said July 14 that “we join Pope Francis and our Orthodox Christian brothers and sisters in expressing deep sadness over the decree by Turkey’s president to open Hagia Sophia as a mosque.”

“For many years now, this beautiful and cherished site has served as a museum where people of all faiths can come to experience the sublime presence of God. It has also stood as a sign of good will and peaceful coexistence between Christians and Muslims and an expression of humanity’s longings for unity and love.”

Edward Clancy, director of outreach for Aid to the Church in Need-USA, said July 17 that the 1934 decision to secularize Hagia Sophia, “which also allowed for the restoration of Christian iconography plastered over by Ottoman authorities – made it a symbol of inter-religious harmony, a place where Islamic and Christian heritages could meet in peace. The loss of that privileged place of inter-religious encounter is incalculable.”

“Hagia Sophia has held the promise of peaceful coexistence between Christians and Muslims, an acknowledgement of humanity’s yearning for unity and love. Turning Hagia Sophia into a mosque also sends a painful message to Christians throughout the Middle East who have suffered persecution and cultural cleansing at the hands of ISIS and other Islamist groups,” Clancy continued.

He said the decision to convert the building into a mosque “reflects Turkey’s ambition to recapture Ottoman glory and power in the region, an aggressive posture evident in the country’s military incursions into Syria and Iraq and bound to further destabilize an already volatile region that remains a battlefield of political interests and religious values.”

In November 2019, the Council of State ruled that Chora Church, another Istanbul museum that was built as a church and was later made a mosque, should be converted back into a mosque. Despite this, the city's official museum tourism website continues to feature Chora Church as one of its destinations.

Catholic wins right to 'last rites' in hospital ICU

Tue, 07/21/2020 - 15:30

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 21, 2020 / 01:30 pm (CNA).- A Catholic woman has won her case to have a priest visit her critically-injured husband at a Maryland hospital, it was announced on Tuesday.

Susanna Marcus had filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in early June, after her husband, Sidney, was critically-injured in the ICU but could not see a priest because his condition was deemed not serious enough to warrant a visit.

Prince George’s Hospital Center in Cheverly, Maryland, had limited clergy visits to cases where the patient was at the “point-of-death,” out of concern for the COVID-19 pandemic. The HHS OCR successfully intervened on Marcus’ behalf.

It is “critically important,” said Roger Severino, head of the HHS civil rights office, that “as we work to save as many lives as possible, that we don’t forget what people live for. And an important part of that is living for their faith.”

Sidney and Susanna Marcus were riding their motorcycle in late May when they were struck by a drunk driver, resulting in Sidney being admitted to the ICU. Because of the gravity of Sidney’s condition, Susanna decided to have a priest visit him and administer the anointing of the sick.

“We believe that, in the sacraments, our souls are united to God. And I needed to know that he [Sidney] had access to that,” Susanna Marcus told reporters on Tuesday in an HHS OCR conference call.

However, the hospital limited clerical visits to only cases of imminent death, out of concern for the contagiousness of the virus; because Marcus was not judged to be at the point of death, he was denied access to a priest.

“Spiritual needs don’t only exist at the point of death,” Severino told reporters on Monday.

Marcus’ family filed a complaint with the HHS OCR; about four weeks later, the hospital granted Sidney Marcus access to a priest, an HHS staffer said on Tuesday.

Shortly afterward, the University of Maryland Medical System changed its policies for clergy visits at all 13 hospitals in its system, HHS said. Patients in COVID-19 positive sections can see a member of the clergy in “compassionate care” or end-of-life situations; patients in non-COVID sections can receive clergy at any time. Clergy must wear personal protective equipment.

The HHS civil rights office also resolved a second religious freedom case, stemming from a complaint filed by representatives for a medical student on rotation at Staten Island University Hospital.

The student was told to shave his beard, which he kept for religious reasons, because it would affect the seal of his N95 respirator mask which was worn to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The student had previously passed a fit-test for the mask by wearing a beard gown underneath it, but he was still instructed by the hospital to shave his beard.

After the intervention of the HHS civil rights office, the student and the hospital were able to reach an agreement by being provided a Powered Air Purifying Respirator (PAPR) by the hospital, which enabled him to keep his beard while maintaining an acceptable seal around his nose and mouth.

“This was a win-win situation,” Severino said on Tuesday. “We hope to see this as a model for future situations.”

The resolutions show that public health and religious practice are not at odds during the pandemic, Severino said.

“We can protect people’s physical safety, and their spiritual and emotional well-being at the same time,” he said.

“Those two things are not in tension, and when we protect both, we actually protect the mental health as well as the physical health. We want to treat people as an integrated human being.”

24 states sue to block rule allowing doctors to object to transgender surgery

Tue, 07/21/2020 - 13:58

CNA Staff, Jul 21, 2020 / 11:58 am (CNA).- Two dozen state attorneys general are joining a lawsuit against the Trump administration, seeking to block a new rule that protects healthcare workers’ right to object to performing abortions or gender reassignment surgeries.

States such as New York, California, Massachusetts, Washington, Michigan, and Pennsylvania have joined the lawsuit, filed July 20 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

“It is never acceptable to deny health care to Americans who need it, but it is especially egregious to do so in the middle of a pandemic,” New York Attorney General Letitia James, who is leading the suit, told the Wall Street Journal.

The Department of Health and Human Services on June 12 promulgated a rule to protect doctors’ right to object to abortion and gender reassignment operations, clarifying that bans on sex-based discrimination do not include gender identity or abortion.

The HHS said that its final rule eliminates portions of a 2016 regulation that had inappropriately expanded the definition of sex discrimination.

At the time of the announcement, the USCCB pro-life committee, led by Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, issued a statement “applauding” the proposed changes and saying the bishops were “grateful” the administration was taking the “important step.”

“These modifications follow the legislative intent of the Affordable Care Act to ensure nondiscrimination on the basis of sex in health care,” the statement said.

Catholic leaders in the US have continually maintained that surgical or hormonal interventions for people suffering from gender dysphoria are not merciful. Nevertheless, the issue ought to be approached with compassion and sensitivity, while also adhering to Church teaching and the truth.

According to a Catholic understanding of the human person, people are a union of body and soul, and that body is “created male or female,” Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield in Illinois wrote in recent guidance for Catholic schools in his diocese.

The Church considers any medical interventions that remove or destroy healthy reproductive organs as “a type of mutilation and intrinsically evil. Procedures, surgeries, and therapies designed to assist a person in ‘transitioning’ his or her gender are morally prohibited,” he noted.

Just as anorexia is a condition in which one’s perception is separated from reality, Paprocki noted, gender dysphoria is a similar separation of perception and reality, and those with the condition should be helped to accept reality rather than their false perception of it.

“None the less, the presentation of this truth must be made with love, compassion, and patience. As the policy itself states, our schools, parishes and other institutions embrace with compassion those families and individuals with gender dysphoria and patiently supports them in their journey,” he said.

A 2016 letter to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services signed by the general counsel for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, together with other groups, affirmed that refusing surgery to someone seeking surgery that would allegedly change their gender would not be discriminatory.

“It is not ‘discrimination’ when a hospital provides care it considers appropriate, declines to perform procedures destructive to patients’ welfare and well-being, or declines to take actions that undermine the health, safety, and privacy of other patients,” the letter said.

“A hospital does not engage in ‘discrimination’ when, for example, it performs a mastectomy or hysterectomy on a woman with breast or uterine cancer, respectively, but declines to perform such a procedure on a woman with perfectly healthy breasts or uterus who is seeking to have the appearance of a man.”

Several US Catholic hospitals have faced lawsuits for declining to conduct transgender surgeries.

In mid-June, the Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 decision that employers cannot fire workers because of their sexual orientation or self-determined gender identity. That decision is being used in a lawsuit brought by a Maryland person who identifies as transgender, who is suing a Catholic hospital for refusing to perform a hysterectomy on the person’s healthy uterus.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court upheld the HHS’ 2017 religious and moral exemption to the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate, which the administration had crafted for the Little Sisters of the Poor and other objecting groups.

Planned Parenthood acknowledges Margaret Sanger's 'racist legacy', continues abortions

Tue, 07/21/2020 - 13:05

CNA Staff, Jul 21, 2020 / 11:05 am (CNA).- The New York affiliate of the nation’s largest abortion provider said Tuesday it will remove the name of its founder, Margaret Sanger, from its Manhattan building because of her support for eugenics.

“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 (PPGNY) in a press release on the organization’s website.

The building will now be known as the “Manhattan Health Center.”

PPGNY is the largest Planned Parenthood affiliate in the country.

“Margaret Sanger’s concerns and advocacy for reproductive health have been clearly documented, but so too has her racist legacy,” said Seltzer, adding that there was “overwhelming evidence” that Sanger was a believer in eugenics.

Eugenics is the theory that quality of life for the human species can be improved by discouraging people from having children if they have genetic defects or traits deemed socially undesirable, even through coercion. The Catholic Church has repeatedly condemned eugenic policies and philosophies.

Seltzer said Tuesday stated that eugenics “runs completely counter to our values at PPGNY,” and that “removing (Sanger’s) name is an important step toward representing who we are as an organization and who we serve.”

In addition to removing Sanger’s name from the building, PPGNY is seeking to change a street sign that designates the area by the clinic as “Margaret Sanger Square.”

Planned Parenthood performed 345,672 abortions in the United States in 2018, according to the organization's annual report. The organization said it received $616 million in government grants and reimbursements that year.

In 2016, the Guttmacher Institute found that Black women had 28% of the nation’s abortions, while African-Americans constitute approximately 13% of the U.S. population.

In New York, Planned Parenthood has recently faced accusations of systemic racism made by employees. The CEO of PPGNY recently left the company following a series of complaints that she mistreated Black employees and had a “Trumpian” style of leadership.

Sanger had a history of speaking to racist and extremist organizations in support of birth control, including the Ku Klux Klan, which Planned Parenthood acknowledged in a fact sheet in 2016. The sheet attempted to offer counter arguments to Sanger’s beliefs, arguing in part that she was a product of her time and that her views were widespread and accepted.

The Planned Parenthood founder once said that “before eugenists and others who are laboring for racial betterment can succeed, they must first clear the way for birth control. Like the advocates of birth control, the eugenists, for instance, are seeking to assist the race toward the elimination of the unfit.”






Americans agree: abortion is not a 'desirable good'

Tue, 07/21/2020 - 12:00

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 21, 2020 / 10:00 am (CNA).- A new abortion study has revealed the complexity of Americans’ views on abortion, and an openness to discussion. But among the report’s key findings was a unanimous agreement that abortion is not a “desirable good.”

The interview study “How Americans Understand Abortion” was published on Monday by the University of Notre Dame’s McGrath Institute for Church Life. Rather than ask respondents fixed-answer questions about their views on abortion, sociologists interviewed Americans at length to elicit thoughtful answers on the morality and legality of abortion.

Commenting on the report’s findings, Charles Camosy, a theology professor at Fordham University, told CNA that one of the study’s most important findings was a willingness among Americans to “engage” on the issue.

“People are willing to engage. They want more information,” Camosy said of the study. “So if we can do it the right way, I think there’s a lot of hope for that type of engagement.”

Acknowledging abortion as “among the loudest and most contentious subjects” in current-day politics and culture, the Notre Dame report nevertheless adds that it “is a subject that people acknowledge but generally avoid,” one that is “polarized, stigmatized, shamed, hidden,” and “deeply personal” for many people.

Nuance in abortion opinion has long been aknowledged, but little explored. In the 2018 General Social Survey (GSS), nearly half (44%) of respondents replied “it depends” to a question on whether or not they were morally opposed to abortion. The Notre Dame study aimed to lay out the complexity of Americans’ views on abortion such as the vague answer to the 2018 GSS question.

A group of sociologists asked open-ended questions in interviews lasting an average of 75 minutes, mostly in-person, to elicit personal responses on the issue from Americans. Respondents were not informed ahead of time that the conversation would focus on abortion.

Overall, the sociologists interviewed 217 people in six U.S. states— California, Colorado, Indiana, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee—from March to August, 2019.

Camosy said that the study is important because it captures information that normal polls do not, namely, the complexity—and at times discordance—of people’s views on abortion.

“As a pro-lifer, if we dive into that complexity, I think we’ll find way more people actually are very sympathetic to political and policy goals that we have, than we would find if we just asked them a poll question,” he told CNA.

One concrete finding of the study was that, although they may be conflicted about the issue, ultimately “Americans don’t ‘want’ abortion.”

“None of the Americans we interviewed talked about abortion as a desirable good,” the study said. “Americans do not uphold abortion as a happy event or something they want more of.”

This finding appears to illustrate a failure of the social media campaign #ShoutYourAbortion, begun in 2015, in which pro-abortion advocates encouraged women to relate their own experiences of abortion positively and without “sadness, shame, or regret.” The campaign received public support from Planned Parenthood executive vice president Dawn Laguens.

Another conclusion of the study was that many Americans have not “talked about abortion in depth,” whether out of a fear of conflict or because they think they do not possess the “scientific, legal, and moral lexicons to reason through difficult topics.”

Many respondents also gave an initial answer of their beliefs, only to clarify “that that’s not really how they feel.” Responses such as this one are not measured well by normal fixed-question surveys, the study said.

“People really don’t know what they think about the issue,” Camosy said of the responses in the report. “To the extent that they think about the issue at all,” he said, their beliefs may be “superficial,” or “connected to personal experiences” instead of the fruit of “systematic” or “careful” thinking.

“As a professor, I tend to think so differently than the average person who’s got a million other things on their mind,” he said. Most people “have no tools, no capacity” to think through the issue carefully, he said.

For Catholics who follow Church teaching on the sanctity of life, this may pose an obstacle to evangelization.

However, Camosy said, pro-lifers can start by pointing to “adjacent issues,” the circumstances in which a young mother might consider abortion such as domestic violence, poverty, and racial injustice. They can “help people feel their way through these issues,” before discussing why it is bad that these pregnancies end in abortion.

The study also revealed that many people talk about the concept of a “good life” just as much as they do life itself, with a “good life” possibly encompassing matters of “health, support, financial stability, affection, rights, and pursuit of chosen livelihoods.”

Furthermore, the more “permissive” respondents were to abortion, the more they prioritized a “good life.”

“Choosing a ‘good life’ becomes, for some, a good enough reason to have an abortion,” the report said.

Finally, given the complexity of answers on abortion, the study recommended moving away from the binary labeling of Americans as either “pro-choice” or “pro-life.”

For instance, one interviewee identified as “pro-choice” before clarifying that “I’m both! I’m both!” After that, the interviewee said she identified as “neither” and “pro-mother’s choice.

“This study reveals that just not to be the case at all,” Camosy said, of the narrative that two sides are bitterly at war on the abortion issue.

Of those surveyed, 35% said that abortion should be “legal under any circumstance.”

Many in this group are religiously-unaffiliated, and these respondents were more likely to be college-educated, majority-Democrat, trended younger, and were more likely to have had an abortion or known someone who has had an abortion, the report said. Around half of this group were not morally opposed to abortion, while the other half were either ambivalent or were morally opposed.

Meanwhile, 14% of respondents said abortion should be “illegal in all circumstances.” Nearly all of these were also morally opposed to abortion, all were church-attending Catholics or Protestants, majority-Republican, and “disproportionately male and non-Hispanic white.” Half of them had a college degree, and a majority were of the older Boomer or Silent generations.

The Calix Society: How Catholics can grow in faith while recovering from addiction

Tue, 07/21/2020 - 05:01

Denver Newsroom, Jul 21, 2020 / 03:01 am (CNA).- The Calix Society serves as a way for Catholics undergoing a 12 Step program to integrate their faith into their recovery, staying sober and sharing in a community where they can identify Christ as their higher power.

While it is not a replacement for other recovery programs, the Calix Society is a supplemental course for people struggling with addiction to embrace their Catholic faith.

The gatherings, which are held monthly, fortnightly, or weekly, are composed of two parts - spiritual practice and discussion. The meeting will begin with a spiritual exercise, such as Mass or the rosary. Then the group will either read from books like the Twelve Steps, have speakers share their faith, or watch faith-filled videos.

Ken Johnston, who is almost 29 years sober and is the program’s treasurer, told CNA that pursuing spirituality is helpful to the recovery process, and Calix allows recovering addicts to participate in a community that expresses a desire for the Catholic faith.

“Most people that eventually find us … say that this is exactly what they've been looking for. They're looking for people that are in recovery that understand their situation and want to be able to share their Catholic faith,” he said.

Beginning in 1947, Calix was developed in Wisconsin after Bill Montroy and several other AA members started to attend daily Mass with Father Pat - a priest in the Twin Cities who also struggled with alcoholism.

As the program grew, Mass was moved to Saturday mornings. Afterward, they would get breakfast at a nearby restaurant, and then they would gather to discuss and read on spiritual topics.

“The five of them would get together each morning for Mass at five o'clock. Father Pat stayed sober and the five men grew in their Catholic faith. They knew that they were on to something here,” said Johnston.

“It was like a combination of the 12 step program plus their Catholic faith that was giving them a spiritual experience that neither one could give them by itself.”

During the 1970s, the program had a couple hundred Calix units throughout the United States. He said numbers have dwindled to about 30 units, with a couple of groups in the United Kingdom.

Last summer, said Johnston, the program opened up its meeting to all recovering groups, including Sexaholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and Al-Anon - a support group for family members of recovering addicts. He said the changes to Calix’ program coincides with the national opioid crisis.

“In light of the opioid addiction or the opioid crisis that's going on, [we] basically expanded our scope to include all 12 step programs,” he said.

“The thing that everybody has in common is the 12 step program. Then Calix fulfills the need of the higher power in order to achieve sobriety.”

Calix is not a substitute for rehab or an anonymous meeting, he said, noting that all members are required to have some recovery time under their belt before they are allowed to join. He said it is instead an additional tool for Catholics to discover more about their faith while being involved with outside recovery efforts.

Johnston quoted the founder, Montroy, saying: “A.A. restores your health and saves you from an early grave. Calix restores your soul and puts you on the road to heaven.”

He said Alcoholics Anonymous was developed as a Christian organization in 1935. However, as AA progressed, it pushed for a relationship with a “higher power” as it is understood by the attendee. He said Calix allows people to identify their higher power with Christ and express that among a Catholic community.

“They came up with a generic higher power and basically drove Jesus Christ out of the rooms. That's where Calix came in. So people want to be able to say it in a group setting, ‘my higher power is Jesus Christ, and I want to get to know him better.’”

He said these people are able to share their similar struggles and receive support from a like-minded community. On the road to recovery, he said, these people will still have to face difficult situations, like losing a spouse or a child, but they are able to embrace the faith rather than negative addictions.

“We still face a lot of the same issues. Some people experience even more horrific situations in sobriety than they encountered when they were active in or drinking or drug use … The beauty of having that spiritual connection is that now you can deal with it without having to drink or use a drug or something else.”

Dioceses share couples’ stories, virtual resources for NFP awareness week

Tue, 07/21/2020 - 02:38

CNA Staff, Jul 21, 2020 / 12:38 am (CNA).- Online resources and personal stories from Catholic couples feature prominently as key parts of this year’s NFP Awareness Week, an annual celebration of the Church’s teaching on marriage and sexuality promoted by the U.S. bishops’ conference.

Natural Family Planning (NFP) is the broad term for a variety of natural methods Catholic married couples may use in order to track their fertility and plan and space children while following Church teaching on human sexuality, as explained in St. Pope Paul VI’s encyclical, Humanae Vitae.

This year’s theme for the annual celebration, chosen by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), is “Live the truth and beauty of God’s plan for married love!” The week, which began July 19 and lasts through July 25, includes the anniversary of the promulgation of Humanae Vitae and ends the day before the feast day of Sts. Joachim and Anne, the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary who themselves struggled to conceive.

“God is love and He created men and women in His image,” the U.S. bishops’ conference tweeted on Monday of NFP Week. “Human sexuality is part of God’s plan and carries within it the two-fold powers of love and life. It’s woven into the fabric of each man and woman.”

Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, nearly all NFP week celebrations and resources throughout the country will be found only online this year.

According to their website, the Archdiocese of St. Louis in Missouri has a week of virtual events to mark the celebration, including a Facebook Live conversation with an “NFP-friendly” doctor, a discussion about NFP and infertility, and a panel with seminarians in which couples are invited to share their stories about NFP with the future priests.

In their resources for NFP week, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis shared a Novena for a Rebirth of Chastity and Purity, as well as its NFP class schedule through September and resources about NFP methods for couples and parishes.

The Diocese of Sioux Falls in South Dakota has shared a podcast episode of their show, “Catholic Views,” in which Emily Leedom, director of the Marriage, Family and Respect Life office for the diocese, shared “a brutally honest conversation about the joys and challenges” she has experienced regarding NFP in her own life or through her work in the diocese.

On the USCCB’s Marriage twitter profile, the bishops are encouraging Catholics to revisit NFP-themed episodes from their podcast “Made for Love,” in which several Catholic couples share their experiences with NFP methods. More stories from real couples using NFP, as well as additional resources such as an NFP instructor finder, can also be found on the USCCB’s Natural Family Planning website.

Transgender lawsuit against Catholic hospital cites new US Supreme Court precedent

Mon, 07/20/2020 - 19:47

CNA Staff, Jul 20, 2020 / 05:47 pm (CNA).- A Catholic hospital in Maryland faces a lawsuit from a person who presents as a transgender man because it would not perform a hysterectomy on the person’s healthy uterus. The lawsuit, whose backers have for decades opposed Catholic ethics in Catholic-run hospitals, cites a 2020 Supreme Court decision that holds employment discrimination on the basis of gender identity to be a violation of U.S. civil rights law.

University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center, a Catholic-founded hospital now in the University of Maryland Medical System, canceled the hysterectomy for 33-year-old Jesse Hammons of Baltimore, which had been scheduled for Jan. 6.

The plaintiff’s claims that the hysterectomy would not have been canceled if it were for a diagnosis other than gender dysphoria. Because the hospital performs hysterectomies for other diagnosed conditions, it treated Hammons unfairly. Hammons said the surgery would help eliminate the production of estrogen and drastically improve mental health.

Gender dysphoria is a condition in which a person believes themselves to have been “misassigned” their gender at birth. While medical support for “gender-affirmation” surgery has broadened, and is covered by many insurers, the surgery also has its critics.

Michael Schwartzberg, media relations director for the University of Maryland Medical System, said that federal privacy regulations bar it from commenting on any specific case. Any patient seeking care not available at the Catholic hospital can receive care at other hospitals in the system, he said.

“The health and safety of our patients is, and always will be, our highest priority,” said the spokesman, saying the hospital was built on “a mission of loving service and compassionate care.”

St. Joseph Medical Center was founded in 1864 by the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia. In 2012, when it became a member of the University of Maryland Medical System, the medical system agreed to continue to run the hospital as a Catholic institution.

The hospital’s self-description on its website frequently references its Catholic background and mission, stating that it is “guided by our Catholic health care tradition of loving service and compassionate care.” It describes itself as “a 218 licensed bed, Catholic acute care hospital that observes the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services.” The religious directives come from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Gail Cunningham, senior vice president for medical affairs and chief medical officer for the hospital, said that removing an otherwise healthy organ would violate Catholic ethics, the lawsuit said. She canceled the surgery and told the surgeon that gender dysphoria was not a sufficient medical reason for the procedure.

The name of Hammons’ surgeon was not listed in the lawsuit, but he or she has admitting privileges at St. Joseph’s Medical Center. The surgeon has worked with self-identified transgender men before. Doctors with admitting privileges at the hospital agree to abide by the Catholic ethical directives, the medical system’s statement said.

Hammons’ preparation involved months of blood tests, ultrasounds, and other health screenings. Hammons’ surgeon called the night before the operation to say it was canceled because of the medical center’s Catholic principles. The surgery was scheduled at another hospital in May, then moved again to June due to coronavirus restrictions.

Hammons, whose spouse Lura Groen is a pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, said it was a surprise that a hospital’s religious affiliation could be an obstacle to the surgery, the Washington Post report.

“I felt like this hospital didn’t see any worth in my life and the care that I needed,” said Hammons. “The University of Maryland St. Joseph’s should be caring for all of Maryland’s residents. We shouldn’t be denied based on who we are.”

“Discrimination is not a part of religious liberty,” Groen said in a statement from the American Civil Liberties Union. “As a faith leader and taxpayer, I am appalled that this act was done at a government institution and in the name of religion.”

A 2016 letter to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services signed by the general counsel for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, together with other groups, affirmed that refusing surgery to someone seeking surgery that would allegedly change their gender would not be discriminatory.

“It is not ‘discrimination’ when a hospital provides care it considers appropriate, declines to perform procedures destructive to patients’ welfare and well-being, or declines to take actions that undermine the health, safety, and privacy of other patients,” the letter said.

“A hospital does not engage in ‘discrimination’ when, for example, it performs a mastectomy or hysterectomy on a woman with breast or uterine cancer, respectively, but declines to perform such a procedure on a woman with perfectly healthy breasts or uterus who is seeking to have the appearance of a man.”

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland July 16, claims St. Joseph’s Medical Center violated the equal protection clause under the Fourteenth Amendment and anti-discrimination provisions in the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

The American Civil Liberties Union is involved in the case. It has been engaged in a decades-long crusade against Catholic hospitals, often objecting that they will not provide abortions, which Catholic teaching recognizes as killing the unborn child.

In recent years, it has backed efforts to force compliance with LGBT demands. As CNA has previously reported, the legal group is a beneficiary of a major patronage system seeking to classify religious freedom protections as illegally discriminatory where religion conflicts with LGBT or pro-abortion rights demands.

Hammons is also being represented by the law firms Rosenberg Martin Greenberg and Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler, the Baltimore Sun reports.

The lawsuit cites the June Supreme Court decision Bostock v. Clayton County, Ga., which holds that the Title VII 1964 Civil Rights Act’s ban on sex-based employment discrimination means that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity is also banned.

The decision, authored by Justice Neil Gorsuch, adopted the transgender-favored language of gender “assigned at birth.” While Gorsuch cited the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as a possible limit to his redefinition of sex discrimination, it is unclear whether these protections will withstand legal challenge.

The University of Maryland Medical System is a private nonprofit that operates 13 hospitals in Maryland. It is one of the largest employers in the state, the Washington Post reports. Its board members are appointed by the Maryland governor and it has received close to $25 million in the past two years.

Joshua Block, a staff attorney with the ACLU, is representing Hammons. He said the presence of Catholic hospitals is a church-state separation problem, given their mergers with taxpayer-supported hospitals like the University of Maryland Medical System.

“As Catholic hospitals continue to expand … you’re going to run into these sorts of establishment clauses more and more,” Block told the Washington Post.

“It’s important to make crystal clear here that if you’re going to have a hospital that is organized around religious beliefs, that hospital can’t be intertwined with the government.”

In a July 17 statement, he characterized the hospital as “a governmental entity” that “cannot deny medical care based on religious beliefs.”

Hammons had the surgery June 24 and claims a drastic positive change in mental health, reporting better focus and energy.

“I can really just see how wrong it was to be denied in the first place,” Hammons said, according to the Washington Post.

Among the sceptics of “gender affirmation” surgery are Paul R. McHugh, M.D., the former chief of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital, and Lawrence S. Mayer, M.B., M.S., Ph.D., then a scholar in residence in the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine’s psychiatry department. In 2016, they reviewed hundreds of scientific articles on sexual orientation and gender identity issues.
“Compared to the general population, adults who have undergone sex-reassignment surgery continue to have a higher risk of experiencing poor mental health outcomes,” they concluded, in a report published by The New Atlantis journal.

Several Catholic hospitals have faced lawsuits for declining to conduct transgender surgeries.

The ACLU is currently representing a self-identified transgender plaintiff in a lawsuit filed in March 2019 against St. Joseph Health of Northern California, a group of five Catholic hospitals in California, St. Joseph Hospital, Eureka declined to perform a hysterectomy on the plaintiff’s healthy uterus.

In September 2019, a court allowed an ACLU-backed 2017 lawsuit to proceed against California’s largest chain of hospitals, Dignity Health, after doctors declined to perform a scheduled hysterectomy at Mercy San Juan Medical Center. The defendant in that case also claimed that she was denied the procedure due to gender identity.

In 2017, a transgender-identifying individual sued St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in Paterson, N.J. For canceling a hysterectomy in 2015.

There is also legal controversy over whether Catholic institutions’ employee health plans should cover transgender surgeries. In January 2019 the Catholic healthcare network PeaceHealth settled an ACLU lawsuit over transgender surgeries, saying that it has covered these procedures in its employee medical plan since January 2017.

While religious freedom protections and traditions of religious tolerance tended to protect Catholic institutions in the U.S., Catholic adoption agencies are now barred from operating or receiving taxpayer funds in many localities because they place children only with married men and women rather than same-sex couples.

Texas attorney general: Religious schools exempt from local COVID rules

Mon, 07/20/2020 - 18:12

CNA Staff, Jul 20, 2020 / 04:12 pm (CNA).- The attorney general of Texas on Friday told religious private schools in the state that local governments are not allowed to order them to close or to dictate COVID-19 precautionary measures to them.

“[A]s 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. Religious private schools therefore need not comply with local public health orders to the contrary,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton wrote in a July 17 letter.

Paxton said local public health ordinances must be consistent with the governor’s orders and the attorney general’s guidance, adding that local governments are “prohibited from closing religious institutions or dictating mitigation strategies to those institutions.”

Paxton cited the U.S. and Texas state constitutions, as well as the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act, in asserting that the state cannot “substantially burden” the free exercise of religion, which includes the ability of faith communities to educate their youth, “unless it can demonstrate a compelling interest for the restriction and prove it applies in the least restrictive way.”

Blanket closings on religious institutions are not the least restrictive means of containing the virus, he asserted.

Some Texas counties, including Dallas and El Paso, have issued mandates barring in-person classes for public and private schools in their jurisdictions, at least through August and in some cases to the end of September, the Texas Tribune reported.

Travis County, which encompasses Austin, issued an order July 16 barring face-to-face instruction, as well as extracurricular activities, in all schools until Sept. 8.

“If local public health orders are inconsistent with [state] authorities, the local orders must yield,” Paxton said.

Governor Greg Abbott had also exempted houses of worship from the statewide masking order, while at the same time encouraging the houses of worship themselves to require masks.

“Religious education is vital to many faiths practiced in the United States.” For example, “[i]n the Catholic tradition, religious education is ‘intimately bound up with the whole of the Church’s life,’” he wrote, quoting the Catechism.

Religious freedom scholars in the U.S. have generally suggested that state and local governments have significant authority to limit religious gatherings in an epidemic, but they must limit religious activities no more strictly than comparable activities.

Public schools in Texas are set to open later than usual and most likely will provide remote instruction initially. Texas officials have announced that public school districts will be allowed to delay on-campus instruction for at least four weeks, the Texas Tribune reported.

The public school district of Houston, the state’s largest, has announced that it will start the new school year remotely Sept. 8, remaining remote until at least Oct. 19, although that could change depending on coronavirus rates in the community and guidance from health officials, the Washington Post reported.

Texas had 325,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Monday.

Attacks on Catholic statues continue over weekend

Mon, 07/20/2020 - 17:43

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 20, 2020 / 03:43 pm (CNA).- Several Catholic churches in the United States reported vandalism and other damage to statues over the past weekend, the latest in a spate of church vandalism over recent weeks.

At Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Bloomingburg, New York, a monument to unborn children killed by abortion was knocked over the weekend of July 18. The monument consisted of an image of an infant resting in a pair of hands, along with an inscription of Isaiah 49:16. 

“Someone felt it was a good idea for them to knock over our pro life memorial monument on our parish property,” Fr. Nick Blackwell, a Carmelite friar, wrote on Twitter. “Don’t think these actions and sentiments are only relegated to big cities. Police have reviewed our surveillance footage.” 

Some one felt it was a good idea for them to knock over our pro life memorial monument on our parish property. Don’t think these actions and sentiments are only relegated to big cities. Police have reviewed our surveillance footage.

— The Frank Friar (@CarmeliteNick) July 18, 2020 Parishioners at St. Bernadette Parish in Rockford, Illinois, discovered that a crucifix at a shrine belonging to the parish had been vandalized between July 5 and July 6. The vandalism was reported by The Observer, a publication of the Diocese of Rockford, on July 17. 

According to Kevin Rilott, a staff member of the parish, someone had smashed the corpus of the crucifix with a hammer. 

“We are not angry about it,” Rilott told The Observer. “But just sad that the (perpetrator) has a misconception of who Jesus is.” 

The parish did not file a police report and the corpus has since been replaced. 

In Montana, a statue of Christ at a ski resort was painted with brown paint and festooned with flags reading “Rise Up” and “#BLM,” a presumed reference to the Black Lives Matter movement. The vandalism was reported July 14 by local media in Whitefish, Montana.  

The statue, which was placed at the resort in honor of World War II veterans as well as the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division, is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The local Knights of Columbus maintain the statue and were responsible for its installation in 1954.  

It is unclear when the vandalism occurred, as employees at Whitefish Mountain Resort did not notice any change until July 13. The flags were removed, but the paint has yet to be cleaned off the statue. 

A statue of the Virgin Mary was beheaded in Gary, Indiana on the evening of July 2 or morning of July 3, but was first reported on July 12. Fr. Joseph Uko, a priest at St. Ann Parish in Gary, discovered the damage shortly after 9 a.m. on July 3. The head and hands of the statue were removed. 

Fr. Uko has continued to display the damaged statue until it is sent away for repairs, and he called the vandalism “disturbing” in an interview with the Times of Northwest Indiana. 

“What does a person gain by coming to destroy a statue that has been there for years,” he asked. 

A spokesperson for the Diocese of Gary offered prayers for the community and for the person who vandalized the statue. 

"The people of the Diocese of Gary are saddened by the destruction of this beautiful depiction of the mother of Jesus that has been a signature landmark at the parish for decades," Colleen Rabine, director of communications for the diocese, told the NWI Times. "It is unclear what happened, but we pray for St. Ann parishioners and for the conversion of heart for those responsible for the damage."

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.

US religious freedom commission urges 'more aggressive' sanctions

Mon, 07/20/2020 - 16:30

CNA Staff, Jul 20, 2020 / 02:30 pm (CNA).- The Trump administration needs to step up its pressure on religious freedom violators, said leaders of a federal religious freedom commission on Monday.

While the administration is sanctioning human rights abusers, it is not applying the same level of pressure to persecutors of religious minorities around the world,  wrote Gayle Manchin, chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), in a joint op-ed with USCIRF vice-chair Tony Perkins in the Washington Examiner.

“The imposition of a more aggressive targeted sanctions regime would go a long way in deterring religious freedom violators, bringing accountability to the perpetrators, and ultimately creating a world where all are free to practice their faith,” Manchin and Perkins wrote.

Sanctions can take the form of visa restrictions or a freeze on an individual’s assets in the U.S. markets. The administration already has statutory authority to sanction human rights abusers to punish them, under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights and Accountability Act.

Notably, Magnitsky sanctions were recently issued against Chinese officials complicit in the mass detention of Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang. Chen Quanguo, Communist Party secretary for Xinjiang, and others were subject to visa bans and were barred from doing businesses with U.S. citizens.

When the sanctions were issued, USCIRF hailed them as “a major victory for religious freedom” as the CCP was being held accountable for “crimes against humanity” against the largely-Muslim population of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in the region.

However, Manchin and Perkins pointed out in their op-ed, the Magnitsky sanctions being invoked by the U.S. against persecutors of religious minorities are “few in comparison” to the number of religious freedom abuses occurring worldwide.

In USCIRF’s 2020 annual report, the commission noted the administration’s use of Magnitsky sanctions to hold human rights abusers accountable; however, it pointed out that “only a few” of them “were related to religious freedom violations.” Of the 198 individuals sanctioned under the Global Magnitsky Act, only 16 of the sanctions were related to religious freedom.

An addition to the Immigration and Nationality Act allows the State Department to issue visa denials for those guilty of severe violations of religious freedom, but that authority was not used in 2019, USCIRF noted.

There were exceptions. For instance, the leader of a notorious Iran-backed Shi’a militia in Northern Iraq, Rayan al Kildani, was sanctioned by the U.S. last year for his acts of extortion, kidnappings, and harassment of Christians, Yazidis, and others in the region.

The architect of the crackdown in Burma which produced the mass displacement of more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims was also sanctioned. Two “hanging judges” in Iran who are infamous for imposing severe sentences and violating religious freedom were also sanctioned by the U.S. in 2019.

However, USCIRF says there should be more sanctions directly related to religious freedom abuses, if the Trump administration is truly serious about prioritizing international religious freedom.

The 2020 USCIRF report recommends sanctions of government officials in a number of countries, including Eritrea, India, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, Cuba, and Nicaragua, as well as of leaders of non-state groups like Iraq’s PMF militias who are targeting and harassing religious minorities in the Nineveh region. The administration should also determine whether Saudi officials merit sanctions for their persecution of religious minorities, USCIRF says.

Catholic University mourns student slain in NJ shooting

Mon, 07/20/2020 - 16:28

CNA Staff, Jul 20, 2020 / 02:28 pm (CNA).-  

A gunman shot and killed the son of a federal judge— a rising junior at the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C.— in New Jersey on Sunday night.

Daniel Anderl, 20, was a CUA student preparing to continue his studies at CUA in the fall, according to a July 20 letter from CUA president John Garvey.

According to family members, Daniel— the couple’s only child— was interested in following his parents into a legal career.

“Please join me and our entire campus community as we extend our deepest condolences to Daniel’s family and friends. May he rest in peace,” Garvey said, adding that the campus chaplain, Father Jude DeAngelo, will offer Mass the evening of July 20 for Anderl and his family.

Daniel’s father, Mark Anderl, also suffered multiple gunshot wounds and is recovering in hospital.

Anderl’s mother, Esther Salas, is a judge on the Federal District Court of New Jersey. The shooting incident occurred around 5pm on July 19 at the family’s home in Brunswick, New Jersey.

Members of the university community remembered Anderl on social media.

“Could this intelligent young man who I was privileged to teach really be dead at 20? His last words to me were ‘Thank you for a wonderful semester,’” theology professor CC Pecknold tweeted.

Seminarian John De Guzman noted that seminarians “played basketball with him every single week throughout this past school year. At one point, he even mentioned how it cool it was to see seminarians playing basketball & was interested in coming over and seeing what life as a seminarian was like.”


Us TC guys played basketball with him every single week throughout this past school year. At one point, he even mentioned how it cool it was to see seminarians playing basketball & was interested in coming over and seeing what life as a seminarian was like.

He was a great man.

— John De Guzman (@JohnDeGuzzy) July 20, 2020  

According to media reports, the gunman appeared to be dressed as a FedEx delivery driver, and rang the doorbell. The man shot Daniel when he opened the front door.

Salas, who has been the target of threats in the past, escaped unharmed. The family is unsure whether Salas or Mark Anderl, a criminal defense lawyer, was the intended target.

Authorities have yet to fully establish the gunman’s identity, though a lawyer whose body was found the next morning— two-hours drive away from the crime scene, and with a self-inflicted gunshot wound— is being treated as the suspect by the FBI.

Salas had last week been assigned to preside over a class-action lawsuit against Deutsche Bank, which contends that the bank failed to monitor questionable transactions from the account of Jeffrey Epstein, the disgraced financier and sex offender who died under questionable circumstances in prison last year.

Among other cases, Salas also had in the past sentenced drug suppliers for criminal gangs to prison sentences, including a big-time heroin supplier in 2016, the New York Times reported. 

Salas is the first Hispanic woman to serve as a federal judge in New Jersey. President Barack Obama nominated her to the position in 2010.


Consensus builds for family-centered coronavirus relief

Mon, 07/20/2020 - 14:30

CNA Staff, Jul 20, 2020 / 12:30 pm (CNA).- As Congress considers another coronavirus relief package, members from both parties are highlighting the need to include assistance for working families.

Both Senate Democrats and Republicans have either introduced or plan to introduce proposals to fund child care and provide a boost to new parents during the coronavirus pandemic. Congress has not passed a major relief bill in several months after the CARES Act and subsequent stimulus bills were signed into law in the spring.

Last week, in an open letter, a group of conservative intellectuals called on Congress to remember the “severe financial distress” of many American families.

“The coming months will be very difficult for many Americans and their families as they try to regain their financial footing after an unforeseeable blow,” the letter stated. Signers of the letter included researcher W. Bradford Wilcox of the Institute for Family Studies, Princeton professor Robert George, and journalist Kathryn Jean Lopez.

The group of signers asked Congress to expand the Child Tax Credit and the Earned-Income Tax Credit to provide relief for families.

“These two tax policies are proven to be the most effective programs at lifting Americans out of poverty and expanding them now would provide much needed aid to America’s working families,” the July 16 letter stated.

The U.S. Catholic bishops have also weighed in on the matter of pandemic relief and public policy; in a May 22 statement, Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City—the U.S. bishops’ domestic justice chair—called on Congress to remember the poor and vulnerable in coronavirus relief legislation.

He wrote that “the focus should be on those most in need—the poor, the vulnerable, and people on the margins—to offer them some hope and assistance in desperate circumstances.”

Recently, members of Congress of both parties have signaled that they will try to pass a bill that targets relief to working families.

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) said last week that he will try to attach his paid family leave proposal to an upcoming COVID relief bill as an amendment. Cassidy told McClatchy that he would try to include it as a five-year pilot program.

His proposal, which he introduced last July with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), would allow parents to access a $5,000 benefit upfront upon the birth of a child, and would pay for it by subtracting $500 each subsequent year from their child tax credit, for ten years.

Senate Democrats, led by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) released a proposal on July 16 as part of the Economic Justice Act, that would, among other things, invest $50 billion in child care.

Congress approved $3 trillion in relief in the spring for the mass school, church, and business closures during the coronavirus pandemic. In mid-May, the House approved another $3 trillion in relief under the HEROES Act, but the bill stalled in the Senate.

The HEROES Act included a second round of direct payments to households and an extension of unemployment benefits; it would have allowed for abortion funding as well, and Bishop David O’Connell of Trenton said it would bar Catholic schools from getting relief that public schools would receive.

Archbishop Perez to receive pallium at Philadelphia Mass

Sat, 07/18/2020 - 17:38

CNA Staff, Jul 18, 2020 / 03:38 pm (CNA).- Archbishop Nelson Perez of Philadelphia will receive a liturgical vestment known as the pallium in a local Mass this weekend, breaking from the tradition of receiving it in a papal ceremony at the Vatican due to Covid-related travel restrictions.

The pallium is a vestment the pope and metropolitan archbishops wear in their churches. It is a white woolen stole adorned with six black crosses.

The pope traditionally bestows the stole to the new archbishops on June 29, the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul. The rite is a sign of communion with the See of Peter.

However, with travel still restricted as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Perez will instead receive the pallium from Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the pope’s apostolic nuncio to the U.S., at a Mass in Philadelphia’s Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul.

The Mass will be held at 11 a. m. on July 19 and will be livestreamed.

Perez was installed as the Archbishop of Philadelphia on February 18.

Born in Miami to Cuban parents, he is the first Hispanic bishop to lead the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. He previously served as a priest in Philadelphia, an auxiliary bishop of Rockville Centre and bishop of Cleveland.

The archbishop has worked extensively in Hispanic ministry and was part of the delegation that presented the conclusion of the National V Encuentro of Hispanic and Latino Ministry to Pope Francis in September 2019.

Perez chairs the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church.