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Before Easter comes the 'Triduum' - What's that? A CNA Explainer

Wed, 04/17/2019 - 16:09

Denver, Colo., Apr 17, 2019 / 02:09 pm (CNA).- At the end of the season of Lent, and right before Easter, the Catholic Church observes the “Sacred Triduum.” Many Catholics have questions about what happens during the Triduum, and how they should observe this time.

Got Triduum questions? CNA has you covered:


What is the Triduum?

The triduum is a period that begins on Holy Thursday, and ends at the conclusion of Easter Sunday.

It encompasses the evening Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday.

The term “triduum” means “three days,” and refers to any three-day observance. Technically, the triduum during Holy Week is known as the “Paschal Triduum.”

The word Paschal, which is used to refer to Easter, comes from the Greek word “pascha,” which comes from the Hebrew word “pesach” which means Passover. Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection, which is connected theologically to the Passover feast, is referred to as the Paschal mystery.

Ok, so what happens on Holy Thursday?

On the evening of Holy Thursday, the Church celebrates the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, which commemorates Christ’s Passover meal with his apostles the night before he died. The Mass of the Lord’s supper most especially remembers the institution of the Eucharist- the sacramental gift to the Church of Christ’s Body and Blood, given in the transformation of bread and wine.

Often, at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, the priest washes the feet of some members of the congregation, recalling Christ’s washing of feet at the Last Supper. “If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do,” Christ told his apostles.

Why is it called “Maundy Thursday?”

Holy Thursday is sometimes called “Maundy Thursday.” The word “maundy” comes from the Latin word “mandatum,” which means mandate.

On Maundy Thursday, Christ gave us a mandate: “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.”

Is Holy Thursday a holy day of obligation?

No. And people may not be able to attend the Mass of the Lord’s Supper for a variety of reasons: their family needs or work schedule, or health. But it’s a beautiful Mass. You should go if you can!

So is there Mass again on Good Friday?

Nope. There’s no Mass on Good Friday.

In fact, after Mass on Holy Thursday, the altar is stripped of its cloth. Crosses are removed from the Church or covered. No candles burn in the Church.

The Blessed Sacrament is not reposed in the Church’s tabernacle, but in another small chapel.

On Good Friday, the Church is empty of many of its symbols. It is adorned like a Church in mourning. And, at 3:00 pm, the Church offers the “Celebration of the Lord’s Passion.”

At this celebration, Scripture is read that recounts the prophetic anticipation of Christ’s passion, and recounts the passion narrative itself. Communion is distributed. Believers are invited to venerate the cross, to come forward and kiss or reverence a cross.

“Behold the wood of the Cross,” the priest proclaims.

I know that Good Friday is a solemn day, but what should we do all day?

Good Friday is a day of fasting and abstaining from meat. You can read more about that here.

On Good Friday, families should try to observe a quiet day of simplicity, in addition to attending the “Celebration of the Lord’s Passion.”

This might mean praying the rosary together, or reading Scripture together. It might mean keeping the tv off, or going for a family hike. The idea is that it should be a day of reflection, and should be noticeably different from other days of the year.

If you haven’t yet gone to confession during Lent, Good Friday is also an excellent day to go to confession, and take your family.

Ok, so what about Holy Saturday. What does one do on Holy Saturday?

The culmination of Holy Saturday is the Easter Vigil. But it’s a long day, and people often ask what they should do with the rest of it.

Many families use Holy Saturday as a day for spring cleaning or garden planting. Some spend the day outdoors, and some spend the day preparing for an Easter feast. All the better if Holy Saturday is a day of prayer- punctuated by the rosary, or Scripture.

And probably some people dye Easter Eggs. Gotta do it sometime!

And the Easter Vigil?

The Easter vigil is one of the most beautiful liturgies in the Church’s calendar.

It is spectacular, and full of beautiful Catholic symbolism.

The vigil begins at night. It starts with a fire, which is blessed, and from which is lit the Paschal Candle. The whole of salvation history is proclaimed during the reading.

A beautiful Easter proclamation, called the Exsultet, is sung, usually by a deacon. (Done well, this is, in my humble opinion, one of the most beautiful things the Church does in a liturgy. I love a good Exsultet!)

And men and women are welcomed into the Church: some will be baptized and confirmed, and others, already baptized, will receive confirmation.

The Easter Vigil is awesome. Fair warning: It’s also long. Really long. And a lot of readings take place with the lights off. Some parents decide it is too much for children, while others bring their kids in pajamas and let them sleep in the pews. At the Easter Vigil, that’s perfectly understandable. A scan of your local parish Church suggests that kids aren’t the only ones who sometimes fall asleep during the readings. It’s all part of the experience.

So, after that ends, is it Easter?

It sure is. If you go to the Easter Vigil, you should stay up all night and party. Celebrating the Lord’s Resurrection is what Easter is all about. Some people will, of course, go to Easter Sunday Mass, and then spend the day feasting with family and friends.

One piece of advice for celebrating Easter: Remember the poor. The lonely. The outcasts. If you really want to celebrate Easter, invite someone to your table who might have nowhere else to go. You’ll be glad you did.

And then Easter is over?

The Triduum ends on the evening of Easter Sunday. But the “octave” of Easter lasts for 8 days. And the liturgical season of Easter lasts for 50 days, all the way to Pentecost? What does this mean? It means it’ll soon be time to celebrate Christ’s resurrection. Get ready for it!


Trump calls Pope Francis after Notre-Dame fire

Wed, 04/17/2019 - 15:10

Washington D.C., Apr 17, 2019 / 01:10 pm (CNA).- President Donald Trump and Pope Francis spoke on the phone Wednesday afternoon, with the president pledging to assist with the rebuilding of Notre-Dame de Paris.

“Today, President Donald J. Trump spoke with His Holiness Pope Francis. The President offered his condolences for the destruction of Notre Dame Cathedral, one of Europe’s most important religious structures,” said a readout of the call from Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Trump also commented on the Cathedral’s “amazing beauty and great symbolism.”

The two leaders also spoke on matters related to the current crisis in Venezuela, and how to best assist the people of that country during the current political crisis.

Venezuela has suffered through political and social unrest for years, but the situation worsened in January with the disputed reelection of President Nicholas Maduro. A large and growing number of nations have refused to recognize the legitimacy of the result, and the Vatican has rebuffed invitation by the dictator to mediate in the dispute with his opponents.

Trump characterized the call with the pope as a “wonderful conversation” on Twitter, adding that he wished the pontiff a happy Easter.

Alessandro Gisotti, interim director of the Holy See Press Office, confirmed the call on Twitter. He said that Trump “expressed to the pope his closeness, in the name of the American people.”

Since the roof of Notre-Dame de Paris was destroyed on Tuesday, over 700 million euro has been pledged to the rebuilding effort. Officials have proposed an architectural contest to design the cathedral’s new spire.

Trump previously spoke to his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, on Tuesday, expressing condolences over the tragedy of the fire and offering American help.

US bishops urge prayer as powerful storms hammer the South

Wed, 04/17/2019 - 13:04

Franklin, Texas, Apr 17, 2019 / 11:04 am (CNA).- Bishops in the United States are offering their prayers and condolences after a powerful storm system moved through the southern United States last weekend, claiming several lives along the way.

“I am greatly saddened by the reports of devastation and loss of life due to this past weekend’s storm,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, in an April 15 statement.

He noted that heavy rain, strong winds, and many tornadoes had left a trail of destruction in the Southeast and threatened to reach all the way to New England.

In his own state of Texas, two children died when their car was crushed by a tree; elsewhere in the state, two dozen people were transported to hospital with injuries.

“As we enter this Holy Week, let us pray for those who have lost their lives and for the loved ones they leave behind and ask the Lord to comfort the grieving and inspire neighbors and people around the country to respond generously in the recovery efforts,” DiNardo said.

CNN reported Monday that the storms threatened about 90 million people in the South; over 150,000 were without power as of Sunday.

The Associated Press reported later that day that at least nine people including two children had died, mainly in floodwaters and tornadoes. The latest casualty was a 78-year-old woman who was pinned in her home after a tree fell on it.

Another strong storm system is expected to bring large hail, damaging winds and a few tornadoes late Wednesday from Texas all the way to Wisconsin, ABC News reports. The storm system is expected to move east and pummel the South once more, bringing severe weather and an increasing tornado chance to parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. It could then move on to the East coast, leaving 2-4 inches of rain in its wake the whole way.

DiNardo continued to urge prayer for those who died and their loved ones, and for generosity in responding to survivors’ needs.

“The gift of Easter reminds us to trust in the Lord, who by his sacrifice on the cross and resurrection promises life everlasting,” he concluded.

Omaha artist paints one-of-a-kind Paschal candles

Wed, 04/17/2019 - 05:01

Omaha, Neb., Apr 17, 2019 / 03:01 am (CNA).- Michelangelo, Rembrandt, and Caravaggio have blessed mankind with stunning works of art. They gave themselves ample space to create: For Michelangelo, it was the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. For Rembrandt and Caravaggio, often it was large canvases.

Omaha artist Robert Faulhaber doesn’t have the luxury of space when he paints. The medium on which he works is the slender surface of a Paschal candle.

The ritual of the Paschal candle

This candle is an integral part of services during the Easter season, and beyond. It is lit each day during Mass throughout the Easter season until Ascension Thursday, and then again for baptisms and funerals.

Made of beeswax, it represents Christ, the sinless Light of the World. The wick signifies his humanity, and the flame his divinity.

Five grains of incense embedded in the candle in the form of a cross recall the perfumed spices that prepared Christ’s body for the tomb, and his five sacred wounds.

During the Easter Vigil, the priest or deacon carries the candle in procession into the dark church. A new fire symbolizing our eternal life in Christ  is kindled, which in turn lights the candle.

As he chants a prayer, the priest blesses the candle. He carves in it a cross, the first letters and last of the Greek alphabet (Alpha and Omega, “the beginning and the end”) and the current year; then he inserts the five grains of incense.

The size of a Paschal candle can range from 3 to 4 inches in diameter and 48 to 61 inches high. The actual space Faulhaber has to paint is a mere 7 by 24 inches.

Most parishes get their candles from a church supply store, and the decorative features on them look mostly the same.

However, each of Faulhaber’s candles is a one-of-a-kind creation.

“I begin each new project by praying to the Holy Spirit,” Faulhauber said. “I want every candle to glorify God.”

Although some of Faulhaber’s candles may have the same central design, no two share the same borders, colors, and details. “There are no other candles like mine in the entire world.”

Photo credit:


A faith-based childhood

Faulhaber, 52, was born in Davenport, Iowa, and moved to Rock Island, Illinois, when he was 10. His youth was shaped by a love of drawing, sketching, and painting.

“I started drawing when I was three years old,” he said.

Faulhaber grew up in a household where the Catholic faith was expressed and witnessed. He often attended daily Mass with his mother, and his parents frequently talked about religious vocations. Two of his uncles were priests, and an aunt was a nun.

He failed the first grade because of a learning disability, making him the target of his classmates’ jokes.

Every day his mother sent him with a homemade lunch and the instructions to “take Jesus to school with you.”

He says his mom’s advice changed his life. “It no longer mattered what my classmates might say to me. I knew Jesus loved me.”

Developing valuable relationships

In Rock Island, many of Faulhaber’s friends were Native Americans. It was through those friendships that he developed a passion for their culture and music.

Soon he was a regular at powwows, the Native American cultural event that features group singing and dancing. Before long, he was participating in the ceremonies.

When he was 16, he used his artistic talent to make his first rawhide drum. He still makes drums today, in addition to the outfits and beadwork he wears when performing in powwows throughout the U.S. and Canada.

After graduating from Rock Island High School, Faulhaber moved to Des Moines and continued to attend daily Mass with his mother. He also accompanied her to Thursday night prayer meetings at the Basilica of St. John in Des Moines.

It was there he met Monsignor Frank Chiodo, who introduced him to monastic life. Msgr. Chiodo was living at the basilica at the time.

At 33, Faulhaber had no life plan. After his move to Des Moines, he held various jobs with a Midwest grocery store chain. It was good work, but he wanted more out of life, and he knew more awaited him.

Falulhaber decided to give up his few possessions and walk away from the only life he knew to join the Society of St. John, a religious order founded by Msgr. Chiodo.

While part of that community, he painted his first Paschal candle – a depiction of Christ sitting on a throne holding a book titled “I AM.”

“I’ll always remember my first candle,” Faulhaber said. “I had to pray hard for God’s help.”

He found himself in uncharted waters, so he put to good use his familiarity and experience with icon writing when painting on beeswax the first time.

When he finished, Faulhaber remembers stepping back from that first candle and whispering to himself, “What did I do?”

People stood in line inside the basilica to admire the candle. “It was the first time they had ever seen candle art. It was my first time, too.”

Studying iconography

Faulhaber, or Brother Bob as he was known then, transferred in 2002 to Mount Michael Abbey in Elkhorn, Nebraska. He painted several Paschal candles for the abbey.

The abbey supported Faulhaber’s interest in other art forms and sent him to the prestigious Prosopon School of Iconology in Wisconsin.

There he learned the Russian method of icon writing, which uses a paste made of raw materials, egg yolk, vinegar, and wine.

Two of his icons are at St. James Parish in Omaha. Other pieces are at St. John’s Parish in Duluth, Minnesota, and Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad, Indiana.

Faulhaber eventually ended up departing religious life in 2010 and was dispensed from his vows.

“I owe a lot to religious life,” he said. “The priests and brothers know how to cultivate and hone a person’s skills. They are able to identify and develop your talents. In my case, it was art.”

‘A prayerful, leisurely experience’

It takes Faulhaber 40 to 50 hours to paint a Paschal candle. Before he begins, he photographs the inside of the church where the candle will be displayed, researches the church’s patron saint, and studies the history of the church.

When the research is finished, he carves a design on the beeswax, and fills it with acrylic paint. He describes the process as a “prayerful and leisurely experience … Sometimes I listen to music while I’m painting.”

The Easter Vigil liturgy itself is an emotional experience for Faulhaber. He watches from a pew as the candle is carried in procession into the dark church, then prominently displayed in the candle stand in the sanctuary.

It is when the priest or deacon intones one of the most evocative and poetic hymns of praise in all liturgy, the Exsultet – also known as the Easter Proclamation – that his eyes fill with tears and his heart overflows with joy.

“It’s powerful knowing my hand is involved in some small way in the Church’s most meaningful act of worship,” Faulhaber said. “At the same time, I want to hide and just do my art. It’s about Jesus.”

A multi-dimensional artist

Faulhaber and his wife, Jeanna, are members of St. Bernard parish in Omaha. He has painted St. Bernard’s Paschal candles since 2014. His candles are also used in Omaha churches St. Stephen the Martyr and St. Thomas More.

It was Faulhaber’s idea to paint a candle for St. Bernard. He recognized how the church’s regal interior colors, dark wood pews, and floor tile design worked together to direct a person’s mind and heart toward the sanctuary.

He told Father Walter Nolte, St. Bernard’s pastor at the time, that like an icon, a Paschal candle should point to something beyond itself.

“Robert spent hours in the church, praying and sketching,” Father Nolte said.

Faulhaber presented him with several design concepts.

“He wanted me to choose from his ideas,” the priest said.  “I refused. I told him I had complete trust in him, and I would graciously receive what he brought to us from his prayer.”

The finished design skillfully uses the small church’s Spanish mission style colors and spiral columns to depict Christ the King.

When he’s not working in the maintenance department at St. Stephen the Martyr Church, Faulhaber paints.

He considers himself a multi-dimensional artist; besides paint, his tools include chalk, pencil and airbrushes. He’s also a wood carver.

While Michelangelo, Rembrandt, and Caravaggio’s biggest art pieces have endured over time, Faulhaber is one of only a few artists who knowingly sets out to create something that will eventually melt from the heat of a flame.

Yet because of the role they have in the sacramental life of the Church, his creations will, in a sense, share in eternity.


Legislation to restore inmates’ eligibility for Pell grants draws praise

Tue, 04/16/2019 - 02:06

Washington D.C., Apr 16, 2019 / 12:06 am (CNA).- A bipartisan bill introduced in Congress last week would allow inmates in federal and state prisons to be eligible for Pell grants, to pay for college classes while they are in jail.

Known as the “REAL Act,” the bill would repeal a 1994 Clinton-era ban on prisoners’ eligibility for the grants.

The Senate bill was introduced April 9 by Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii). The corresponding House bill was introduced by Congress members Jim Banks (R-Ind.), Danny Davis (D-Ill.), and French Hill (R-Ark.), and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.).

A press release from Senator Schatz’s office pointed to a report finding that inmates who take part in correctional education while in jail are 43 percent less likely to commit future crimes than those who do not participate in such education, and 13 percent more likely to find a job after their release.

“When we give people in prison an opportunity to earn an education, our communities are safer, taxpayers save money, and we can end the cycle of recidivism,” Schatz said.

“The REAL Act is an important part of providing opportunity to federal offenders and reducing recidivism,” Senator Lee added.

The legislation was applauded by Prison Fellowship, a nationwide Christian nonprofit group that facilitates classes, mentorship, Bible studies, and support for inmates and their families, as well as advocates for justice reform.

Craig DeRoche, senior vice president of advocacy and public policy for Prison Fellowship, said the organization is “thrilled to see this bipartisan effort to ensure that people won't return to crime, but instead, can come home as good citizens trained to start a job and support their families.”

“The REAL Act won't change the day on which someone is released from prison, but it can dramatically change the person who is coming home,” said Heather Rice-Minus, the organization’s vice president of government affairs.

“By unlocking second chances through access to education, we recognize the human dignity and potential of our brothers and sisters behind bars and will realize safer communities as a result,” she continued.

The legislation also drew a statement of support from FAMM, a nonprofit organization that advocates for sentencing reform.

“It’s critically important that people in prison have access to educational opportunities considering that 94 percent will come home someday,” said FAMM President Kevin Ring.

“Reinstating Pell Grants is a great next step in the federal push for criminal justice reform,” he said, pointing to education as an effective means of reducing recidivism.

“FAMM thanks the bipartisan, bicameral group of legislators who introduced this bill and urges Congress to support the full restoration of Pell Grants to those in state and federal prisons,” he said.

Michigan lawmaker cries foul against AG’s 'anti-Catholicism'

Mon, 04/15/2019 - 19:14

Lansing, Mich., Apr 15, 2019 / 05:14 pm (CNA).- A Michigan state representative is considering opening articles of impeachment against the state’s attorney general over comments that he says demonstrate an anti-Catholic bias.

State Rep. Beau LaFave told CNA in an interview that he had been worried about various public statements made by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel.

But the final straw was when Nessel publicly suggested that she thinks retired Judge Michael Talbot, a Catholic who has previously worked with the Diocese of Saginaw, is unfit to help Michigan State University overhaul its Title IX hearing procedures.

“There's a clear pattern of anti-Catholic religious bigotry coming out of our attorney general, and somebody needs to do something about it,” LaFave told CNA.

The lawmaker said Nessel's past statements characterizing faith-based adoption agencies as “hate mongers” concerned him when Nessel was running for office.

In addition, Nessel said during state investigations into allegations of abuse in the Diocese of Saginaw: “If an investigator comes to your door and asks to speak with you, please ask to see their badge and not their rosary.”

LaFave said he wanted to give Nessel the benefit of the doubt after those statements, because “perhaps she made a poor choice of words.” But Nessel’s stance regarding Talbot led him to issue a statement asking her to apologize.

Michigan State University and Judge Talbot

Michigan State University is overhauling its procedures for dealing with sexual assault the wake of a sexual abuse scandal involving former Olympic gymnastics coach Larry Nassar.

Talbot was working with the Diocese of Saginaw last year as special independent delegate as the diocese faced allegations of covering up clerical sexual abuse. Last March the home of Saginaw’s late bishop Joseph Cistone was raided by police, along with the diocesan chancery and cathedral rectory.

Saginaw County’s assistant prosecutor at the time criticized the diocese for failing to cooperate in police investigations; police said the raid was executing a search warrant believed to be related to allegations of sexual abuse made against two priests of the diocese.

Talbot reportedly disagreed with the Saginaw County prosecutor on whether it was necessary to raid the home of the late bishop, who was battling cancer at the time. The prosecutor filed a formal complaint against Talbot with the Attorney Grievance Commission (AGC), which handles allegations of lawyer misconduct in Michigan.

The complaint, which alleged that Talbot’s conduct was “inappropriate and bordered on obstruction of justice,” was quickly dismissed as lacking merit. Nevertheless, a spokeswoman for Nessel publicly released the record of the allegation.

LaFave said Nessel “broke court rules and committed an ethics violation” by publicly releasing a sealed record of the complaint against Talbot, especially since the complaint was dismissed.

Social media statements

The Lansing State Journal wrote an article in March with the headline “Retired judge with ties to [former Michigan Governor John] Engler, Catholic Church will help [Michigan State University] set new Title IX policy.”

A Twitter user had tweeted the link to the article, quipping that “MSU can't mess this up any worse than they already have” but going on to imply that by hiring a Catholic judge, they had made the situation worse. Nessel retweeted the user’s comments, adding: “What [she] said.”

LaFave said he sees Nessel’s endorsement of the user’s comments as evidence of anti-Catholic sentiment against Talbot.

“By extension, and to cut through all the middle stuff, she was saying that because he's a Catholic, he's not qualified or is disqualified to do his job of crafting Title IX rules at Michigan State University because of his ties to Catholicism," LaFave explained.

Nessel took to Twitter to respond, saying her statements against Talbot have to do with his qualifications and handling of previous cases, not his religion.

“Judge Talbot repeatedly demonstrated he is not fit to evaluate Title IX claims. His representation of the Saginaw Diocese was a playbook on how NOT to handle sexual assault cases,” she wrote.

LaFave isn't buying it.

“How in the world is the former chief judge of the court of appeals for 20 years not qualified to make Title IX due process rules in administrative proceedings at a university?” LaFave said.

“That is patently, on its face, false. And a bunch of nonsense.”

LaFave issued a statement earlier this month asking Nessel to apologize for her comments.

“Believing that a distinguished judge cannot do his job because of his religion is delusional. The judge’s faith has nothing to do with his role in crafting rules protecting students’ rights during university proceedings,” LaFave wrote April 1.

“First she tells the press that Catholics shouldn’t pray to their rosaries because they don’t do anything, and now she quips that a judge cannot do his job because he is Catholic. What now has become clear is that there is a disgusting pattern of anti-Catholic discrimination emerging from our attorney general,” he said.

An op-ed published this week in the Detroit News pointed out that in 2015, Nessel seemed to refer to Catholic adoption agencies and their supporters as “hate mongers.”

Nessel responded to the op-ed on her Twitter page, saying that her 2015 reference to “hate mongers” was “directed at those who believe discrimination against LGBTQ people in adoption using public tax dollars is ethical,” which she said does not apply to “the vast majority of Catholics.”

“Saying that one who believes Talbot has no business handling MSU's Title IX issues makes them anti-Catholic is akin to saying that one who believes Stephen Miller should not be dictating immigration policies is anti-Semitic. It's utter nonsense,” she wrote.

Nessel also criticized the author of the op-ed and the Detroit News, saying, “It is you who are the hate mongers.”

“So now she’s attacking the free press, because they’re accurately quoting her,” LaFave commented.

Nessel in March of this year barred state funds from adoption agencies that won't place children with same-sex couples, after reaching a settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union and same-sex couples who approached a Catholic agency and another Christian agency.

The settlement means the state must enforce non-discrimination provisions in contracts. Agencies may not turn away otherwise qualified LGBT individuals and must provide orientation or training, process applications, and perform a home study, the Associated Press reported March 25.

A previous 2015 law, passed with the backing of the Michigan Catholic Conference, had prevented state-funded adoption and foster agencies from being forced to place children in violation of their beliefs. At the time, a quarter of Michigan’s adoption and foster agencies were faith-based.

The law protected them from civil action and from threats to their public funding, while requiring agencies that decline to place children with same-sex couples to refer the couples to other providers.

The ACLU filed the lawsuit in 2017 on behalf of two same-sex couples and a woman who was in foster care in her teens. At the time the Michigan Catholic Conference described the ACLU’s lawsuit as “mean-spirited, divisive and intolerant,” and “yet another egregious attack on religious faith in public life.” The 2015 law was needed to “promote diversity in child placement” and to maintain a public-private partnership to stabilize adoption and foster care, the conference said.

LaFave is now considering introducing articles of impeachment against Nessel if she continues to target people of faith.

“As one of only 110 people that can draft articles of impeachment against Michigan's elected officials and civil servants, I think it's incumbent upon me and my other 109 lawmakers to consider at all times whether or not that's an appropriate response, so I will consider it,” he told CNA.

“We do have a pretty high bar in the Michigan constitution for impeachment proceedings, but that is something to be considered at all times,” he added.

“I really wish I didn't have to do this,” LaFave conceded.

“But if the attorney general were going after Muslims, or Judaism, I think that the world would have their eyes on her, and would be demanding that she resign or at least apologize. But because it's Catholic, hardly anyone but me has said a word about it. And I think that's wrong. I think religious bigotry in all forms needs to be called out.”


Catholic governor signs assisted suicide law ‘after careful prayer’

Mon, 04/15/2019 - 17:45

Trenton, N.J., Apr 15, 2019 / 03:45 pm (CNA).- New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill to authorize medically assissted suicide into state law on Friday.

Murphy signed the Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act into law on April 15, as one New Jersey bishop pledged to continue to oppose the "dangerous" new law.

The act was passed by the New Jersey legislature in late March, with bipartisan support. The new law will allow those deemed by a doctor to have less than six months to live to request lethal medication to end their lives. The patient then must administer the medication themselves.

In signing the bill, Murphy, a self-described “lifelong, practicing Catholic,” remarked that while he was aware that the Church opposed assisted suicide he was signing the bill into law regardless.

“After careful consideration, internal reflection, and prayer, I have concluded that, while my faith may lead me to a particular decision for myself, as a public official I cannot deny this alternative to those who may reach a different conclusion,” said Murphy.

“I believe this choice is a personal one and, therefore, signing this legislation is the decision that best respects the freedom and humanity of all New Jersey residents.”

Bishop James F. Checchio of Metuchen condemned the governor’s decision.

In a statement to CNA, Checchio called the legislation the latest in a “dangerous and frightening trend” and “a brazen attack against the sanctity of human life.”

Metuchen, like all of New Jersey’s dioceses, has worked against the passage of assisted suicide legislation since 2012, when it was first brought up. Even though the bill is now law, Checchio said that he will not stop the fight.

“While we are facing dark times, we will not stop from advocating for the sanctity of human life, in all stages, and we will continue to educate our legislators, our fellow Catholics and the general public about the dangers of legalized physician-assisted suicide,” he said.

“Easter Sunday comes after the darkness of Good Friday, we know, so we will continue to work for Easter light to pervade our society.”

These priests love to cause a racquet: Clerical tennis tournament comes to Nebraska

Sun, 04/14/2019 - 18:06

Lincoln, Neb., Apr 14, 2019 / 04:06 pm (CNA).- According to the Gospel of Matthew, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.” This June, priests will gather in Lincoln, Neb., to “serve” their fellow brothers with their tennis skills.

The International Tennis Championship for Priests will be held June 28-30, gathering clerics and seminarians for exercise, friendly competition, and fraternity.

The event this year is organized by Father Brian Connor, pastor of North American Martyrs parish in Lincoln, and will include about 40 priests from around the world.

“I’m happy to do this for the priests and for the sport, both of which I love very much,” Connor told CNA. “It’s a chance to compete, burn some calories, and enjoy friendship with other people,” he added.

The tournament began in Poland in 2012 and occurred again in 2013 and 2018. Connor said the competitions in Poland included options for food and live music, for example an orchestra that played the anthems of the priests’ different nationalities.

With a majority of priests coming from Poland and the Philippines, Connor expressed hope that the tournament’s placement in the United States would spark a greater interest in the participation from clerics in the Americas.

The event has several competitions: open, +45, +55, and +65. The contest will also include doubles and a consolation tournament for the eliminated players. Seminarians, priests, deacons, and bishops are all welcome to participate.

At the event, the contestants will attend daily Mass together at a variety of parishes. The priests will also explore some of eastern Nebraska's tourist attractions, including the Holy Family Shrine, the Strategic Air Command Museum, Eugene T. Mahoney State Park, and the Henry Doorly Zoo.

Connor has played tennis since he was young, and competed during high school. Since numerous priests have likewise played tennis throughout their childhood, he said the event is an opportunity for nostalgic fun, fitness, and fraternity. Plus, it allows priests to experience new cultures and countries, he said.

“The goal of the tournament is to build a fraternity of the priesthood and to give a goal of practicing and proving yourself, which of course means health, conditioning, [and] your skills in the game,” he said.

Fr. Matthew Eickhoff, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Benkelman and St. Joseph Parish in Stratton, and Father Thomas MacLean, a chaplain for four state prisons in Nebraska, are two other priests from the Diocese of Lincoln who will once again try their hand at the tournament.

Although neither competed in a tournament until they entered the international event in 2013, both priests grew up playing tennis. Now, they are looking forward to be “playing hard and praying hard.”

Before Eickhoff joined the first competition, he began driving an hour from Omaha to participate in a weekly lesson for six months. In preparation of this upcoming contest, he has continued with a couple review lessons and occasionally plays with the priests from Lincoln.

“The priesthood is the greatest fraternity on earth,” he said, noting that the event is an excellent opportunity to strengthen this community. He said the friendships develop quickly because of the solidarity of their vocation.

“Generally, we priests enjoy recreating together because we have an appreciation for the challenges each of us face in our priestly ministry on a daily basis, so we know how valuable a break from the work really is and we appreciate being able to refresh our minds, bodies and souls together,” Eickhoff said.

Although he does not get to play tennis as often as he would like, he said tennis and the tournament promotes a well-balanced life: recreational and spiritual.

“Bishop [Glennon] Flavin, who ordained me, encouraged us priests to ‘work hard, pray hard and play hard’ so as to keep a healthy balance of work, prayer and recreation in our lives,” he said. “Tennis continues to be one piece of the puzzle that helps provide balance in my life.”

Similarly, MacLean said the event is an opportunity for fun, but he said it is also a “pretty serious” competition. Having already lost nine pounds from training, he said he is ready to return to the court to redeem himself from last year, when he lost during the first round.

Besides the fierce competition, Maclean said he is looking forward to the spiritual companionship. He said the priests will enjoy more than just court rivalry, but times in Mass and prayer as well. He said the priests have a strong love for tennis but, primarily, the men share a deeper, sacred bond.

“I think spiritually celebrating the sacraments and the Eucharist with our brother priests is a great way to start our day before the competition begins. We are priests first so we are rooted in the sacrifice of our Lord and that’s the bed rock. I guess you could say that tennis is the icing on the cake.”

This Sunday, where will the millions of palms come from?

Sat, 04/13/2019 - 18:53

Washington D.C., Apr 13, 2019 / 04:53 pm (CNA).- With the arrival of Palm Sunday, Catholics across the globe will soon be handed spiky leaves as they walk into church. Some might fold them into elaborate little crosses. Kids will poke each other with them. But it's safe to say most won't know where they came from.

The feast commemorates Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem the week before his passion and crucifixion. The Gospels attest that as Jesus entered the city, crowds lay down palm branches and cloaks as he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey.

For centuries, Christians have commemorated the feast day that begins Holy Week by waving branches of either palm or another local tree, as well as with liturgical processions and other celebrations.

In the U.S. alone, nearly 18,000 Catholic parishes will celebrate Palm Sunday by blessing and distributing palm branches to the faithful. That makes millions of palm leaves each year – and that doesn’t include all of the Protestant churches that observe the tradition.

Where do all those palms come from? While many Catholics know the final destination of their palms – they are burned to become ashes for next year’s Ash Wednesday – the origin of the leafy branches is less well known.

Credit: Klara Sasova / Unsplash

The journey from tree to church begins with the harvesters around the world who cut and prepare the leaves for their role in worship. The work needed to provide palms for Palm Sunday is so immense that it actually constitutes a full-time year-round job for some harvesters.

Thomas Sowell is one such palm harvester from Florida who has been helping to supply parishes with fresh palm leaves for more than five decades. Sowell began harvesting wild palm leaves from trees as a child to earn extra money in the springtime. Over the past several decades, he has grown his business into a palm supplier that ships the leafy branches to all 50 states and Canada.

Despite the growth in his business, Sowell says he tries to maintain his focus on the purpose behind it all.

“We try to do the best job that we can,” he told CNA. “Every bag that we send out to churches, every individual bag has been examined, cleaned – we go to extreme measures to make sure that everything we do for these churches is done in the honor of Jesus Christ.”

While there are more than 2,600 different species of palm that grow across the world, palm plants cannot survive outside of tropical and subtropical climates. Historically, parishes that could not source palm locally would instead substitute branches of another local tree such as olive or willow, although modern churches also have the option of sourcing palm fronds from other regions of the world.

In the United States and Canada, most parishes seek out suppliers who deliver fresh palms shortly before Palm Sunday, said Fr. Michael J. Flynn, Secretariat of Divine Worship for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Many of these parishes contact church goods suppliers such as Peter Munley of Falls Church, Virginia, who helps provide parishes year-round with supplies like candles and sacramental wine, along with palms for Holy Week.

Munley told CNA that in preparation for Palm Sunday, he works to deliver palms from their source to different parishes that place orders around the country. In addition to Florida, palms are sourced from Texas, California and elsewhere in the Southern United States, he said.

While nearly all of the palms Munley sells are individually pre-cut, church goods suppliers also helps to source decorative palms for altar centerpieces and larger palm fronds as well. Dealers also work to ensure that palms get burnt and ground into ashes for Ash Wednesday, for parishes that cannot burn the palms for ashes themselves.

Munley also stressed that although many American-based palm sources are not labeled as “eco-friendly,” the practices of many major U.S. palm harvesters are indeed environmentally sustainable.

“Our guys don’t kill the palm,” he said, adding that by sourcing palms from American harvesters as opposed to internationally-certified “green” farmers, they help to reduce the ecological impact of shipping and transportation.

Credit: Bohumil Petrik/CNA.

Sowell said that the palm trees he works with “are 100 percent wild.” He works with local ranchers and landowners to remove palmetto leaves from trees that grow naturally on local farmland.

Some of the trees Sowell harvests from have been producing palm leaves since he first started gathering palm leaves to sell as a boy.

“I know that there are trees that are still being cut today that I cut when I was twelve,” he said.

Originally, Sowell cut everything himself. Over the years, however, his growing cooperation with the caretakers who supply palm led him to focus more on preparing palms for church supply dealers and for shipment.

Cooperation with ranchers and landowners is critical. Sowell says the process of cutting, cleaning and preparing the strips of palm is incredibly labor intensive, and he could not complete it without local partnerships. “There’s no way that you could grow this much palm and just do it (alone). It’s hard.”

The work is so intensive that the Palm Sunday celebrations require an entire year’s work. “We work twelve months out of the year, in one aspect or another, for one day,” Sowell said.

He also supplies palm leaves for Eastern Orthodox Churches, which use a different calendar for Easter and Lent. After the celebration of Palm Sunday in the Catholic Church and other Western churches, “we’ll turn around in a couple of weeks and gather more palms so they’re fresh for the Orthodox,” he said.

The participation of Christians in Palm Sunday celebrations not only provides work and a living for Sowell and his employees, but financial support for the local ranchers who work with him.

“There are so many families that help us that can earn money in a way that otherwise they couldn’t.”

Ultimately, Sowell sees his job harvesting and preparing palm leaves – and the service he is able to offer to parishes across the country – as a blessing.

“There would have been no way we could have done this if it hadn’t been for God helping us,” he said.


This article was originally published on CNA March 16, 2016.

Georgetown students vote to compensate descendants of Jesuit-sold slaves

Fri, 04/12/2019 - 19:54

Washington D.C., Apr 12, 2019 / 05:54 pm (CNA).- Students at Georgetown University voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to pass a referendum that would create a new student fee each semester in order to create programming benefiting the descendants of the 272 slaves the Maryland Province of Jesuits sold in 1838.

“The results of the referendum are as follows: 66.08% for yes (2541 votes), 33.92% for no (1304 votes). This means that the referendum passes,” tweeted the Georgetown University Students Association Election Commission on Thursday evening.

According to the GUSA Election Commission, 57.9% of Georgetown students voted in the election.

The money raised by the fee would “be allocated for charitable purposes directly benefiting the descendants of the GU272 and other persons once enslaved by the Maryland Jesuits,” according to the text of the referendum.

The fee would be $27.70 per semester. If the fee were to be implemented, it would raise over $400,000 a year from undergraduate students. The fee cannot be officially created until it is approved by Georgetown University’s board of trustees.

The referendum question was sponsored by the GU272 Advocacy Team, which is named after the 272 slaves who were sold to Louisiana. The sale of the slaves earned the province about $500,000 in 2019 money, and was able to keep the province out of bankruptcy at the time.

A statement released by the Dr. Told Olson, Georgetown University’s vice president for student affairs, reiterated the steps previously taken by the school to atone for the sale of slaves, but did not fully endorse the new fee.

“We value the engagement of our students and appreciate that they are making their voices heard and contributing to an important national conversation. Any student referendum provides a sense of the student body’s views on an issue,” said Olson.

“Student referendums help to express important student perspectives but do not create university policy and are not binding on the university.”

Olson said that even if the fee were not enacted, the school would work to develop programming that would allow for Georgetown students to “meaningfully engage with Georgetown’s history of slavery and support opportunities for collaboration between students and Descendants.”

This referendum comes nearly four years after Georgetown convened the Working Group on Slavery, Memory and Reconciliation. The group released its final report on recommendations to the school in the summer of 2016, and suggested, among other things, an apology, the renaming of buildings, the creation of a memorial, and the creation of some sort form of financial reparations.

“While we acknowledge that the moral debt of slaveholding and the sale of the enslaved people can never be repaid, we are convinced that reparative justice requires a meaningful financial commitment from the University,” read the report.

In 2016, Georgetown University announced a new policy that would give descendants of the 272 slaves the same preferential treatment in admissions as legacy students. Currently, there are four Georgetown students who are descended from the sold slaves.

A year later, the school issued a formal apology to the descendants of the slaves in a reconciliation service, and renamed a building on campus after Isaac Hawkins, one of the people sold.

Chaput: ‘Rebuild a Christian society without divided loyalties’

Fri, 04/12/2019 - 19:00

Winona, Minn., Apr 12, 2019 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- The once Christian culture of the West has forgotten its roots, Archbishop Charles Chaput said Friday, warning that basic principles of human dignity and freedom are now at risk.

The leader of the Philadelphia archdiocese told an April 12 gathering of priests, seminarians, and lay people at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary in Winona, Minn., that it is the sacred responsibility of the Church to be actors in history, steering society back to the path toward God.

“We need to understand that, increasingly, the main moral principles of the Declaration of Independence – things about which the Founders could say, ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident’ -- are not at all self-evident or permanent to many of our intellectual and political leaders,” Chaput said, while he received the 2019 Immaculate Heart of Mary Award at the seminary's annual Bishops and Rector Dinner.

“The natural rights that most of us Americans take for granted mean nothing if there’s no such thing as a permanent human nature – a nature which many of those who seek to rule us, or already rule us, already reject. And that has consequences.”

The archbishop noted an increasing public hostility to the values of natural law and said that “secular inquisitors” seek to enforce a new orthodoxy which rejects basic human truths.

“Sex is their weapon of choice,” Chaput said, “a kind of Swiss Army knife of gender confusion, sexual license, and ferocious moralizing against anything that hints of classic Christian morality, purity, modesty, fertility, and lifelong fidelity based on the sexual complementarity of women and men.”

“To put it another way: The real enemies of human freedom, greatness, imagination, art, hope, culture, and conscience are those who attack religious belief, not believers.”

Chaput said that American society increasingly rejects the faith in God which was once its distinctive trait, calling faith the lost source of American “decency and vitality.”

“Unbelief– whether deliberate and ideological, or lazy and pragmatic – is the state religion of the modern world.  The fruit of that orthodoxy is the starvation and destruction of the human spirit, and a society without higher purpose.”

“Whatever our nation once was, today it risks becoming more and more obviously a new Rome with all of the inhuman flaws that implies,” he said.

The archbishop said that Christians are not called to be passive witnesses to the times. He reminded Catholics that each person is both the subject and author of their place in history.

Christians, he said, have the duty to remake society in the image of Christ by standing in firm contradiction to the prevailing culture, remembering that each person’s actions have consequences.

“To the degree we try to fit into a culture that’s more and more hostile to what Catholics have always believed – which is what we’ve been doing for decades now – we repudiate by our actions what we claim to hold sacred with our words,” Chaput said.

“No person, and no Church, can survive for long with divided loyalties.”

Chaput told the audience that Catholics had the duty to “serve the truth by telling the truth as joyfully and persuasively as we can.”

“Our faith changed the course of history and gave meaning to an entire civilization. And in the Risen Christ, God is now calling us, right now, starting with those of us here tonight, to do the same.”

The archbishop said that it was through faith in God that society appreciated the dignity of human nature and the freedom of the human soul. If American Catholics no longer know their faith, or their privilege of discipleship, or their call to mission, then “we have no one to blame but ourselves,” he said.

“The problem in American Catholic life is not a lack of money or resources or personnel or social influence,” Chaput said.

“The central problem in constructing a Christian culture is our lack of faith and the cowardice it produces. We need to admit this. And then we need to submit ourselves to a path of repentance and change, and unselfish witness to others.”

“Your diocese, your wonderful seminary, and each of your lives, needs to be an engine of that renewal.  That’s our purpose.  That’s our vocation.  That’s why God made us and put us here.”

Catholic apple farmer sues over market ban

Fri, 04/12/2019 - 17:30

Lansing, Mich., Apr 12, 2019 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- A farmer is suing the city of East Lansing, Michigan, after he was prohibited from selling organic apples at the city’s farmer’s market in what he claims is discrimination against his religious beliefs.

The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, Southern Division, will hear a summary judgment hearing for the case Country Mill Farms v. City of East Lansing on Friday, April 12.

Steve Tennes, the owner of Country Mill Farms in Charlotte, Michigan, had sold apples at the East Lansing’s farmer’s market without incident from 2010 until midway through the 2016 season. In August of that year, someone posted on the farm’s Facebook page, inquiring if they would host a same-sex wedding. Tennes, a Catholic, said that he would not, due to his religious beliefs.

In response to this Facebook posting, Tennes was initially blocked from attending future farmer’s markets due to concerns about protests. Afterwards, the East Lansing city manager introduced a new civil rights ordinance that would bar any vendor who engaged in any discriminatory practices from selling at the farmer’s market.

The Facebook description on the Country Mill Farm’s page says “Our family farm seeks to glorify God by facilitating ‘family fun on the farm’ and feeding families.” In addition to apples, the farm also grows peaches, blueberries, and pumpkins, and has a winery.

Country Mill Farms was rejected from the 2017 farmer’s market due to this ordinance, the East Lansing mayor explained at the time, saying that the city rules applied to Tennes, even though the farm is located 22 miles away from East Lansing.

Later in 2017, a judge granted a temporary order that allowed Tennes and Country Mill Farms to return to the farmer’s market for the rest of the 2017 season. In the order, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, Southern Division, wrote “On the evidence before this Court, the City amended its Vendor Guidelines and then used the changes to deny Country Mill’s vendor application.”

This court found that there was a “substantial likelihood” that Country Mill could claim to have been discriminated against due to their religious beliefs and past speech. Following the court order, East Lansing also granted Tennes a vendor license for 2018. The 2019 farmer’s market begins in June.

Country Mill Farms briefly stopped hosting weddings in response to the backlash, but has since resumed.

Tennes is being represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a law firm that describes itself as “an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.”

Former NFL player turned pastor lines up for pro-life cause

Fri, 04/12/2019 - 15:00

Washington D.C., Apr 12, 2019 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- Former NFL player turned megachurch pastor Derwin Gray has spoken about how his church’s support of a pregnancy resource center was inspired by his own mother’s decision to choose life. Derwin spoke about his personal experience of abortion in an interview this week on EWTN Pro-Life Weekly.

A former linebacker for the Indianapolis Colts, the married father of two studied to become a pastor after leaving the league in 1998. Gray made headlines earlier this year when he announced that his Transformation Church donated had $50,000 to the Women’s Enrichment Center, a pro-life pregnancy resource center in South Carolina.

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But Gray said that he was surprised the donation went viral because the Christian church has been working with and serving the pregnancy resource center for several years.

The decision to partner with the Women’s Enrichment Center, Gray said, is a personal one, describing how his mother was encouraged to have an abortion when she became pregnant with him at just 16 years old.

“She went to the school nurse and she said that she was pregnant, and the school nurse said to her, ‘Well, you should go to California where they perform abortions, because this could ruin your life,’” he said. “And so I’m thankful that my mom, in essence, said a cuss word to the school nurse, and said no.”

Gray said his mother only recently shared this story about her pregnancy with him, and her “courageous” decision “influenced my perspective,” showing him how important it is to mentally, emotionally, and spiritually support women and families facing unplanned pregnancies.  

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">.<a href="">@DerwinLGray</a>, a former NFL player-turned-Christian pastor, joins <a href="">@EWTNProLife</a> tonight.<br>His mother rejected abortion at the age of 16 to give him life and he&#39;s giving back to the pro-life movement today! <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Catherine Hadro (@CatSzeltner) <a href="">April 11, 2019</a></blockquote>

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“Who are the kids that could have been born who are like me, that grew up in an at-risk environment, a troubled environment, and yet God in His grace has used that now to utterly transform my life, and so we just want to be a part of seeing Christ bring Life into the world,” he said.

Christians, Gray said, “should be on the front lines of serving these men and women at pregnancy centers who are right in the midst of it.”

“We should be there providing volunteers, we should be there providing spiritual support, we should be there providing financial support, like, we live in a world where adoption costs thousands of dollars, and an abortion is relatively cheap,” he said. “And so the church has an important role.”

Gray said he’s grateful for the platform the NFL gave him in sharing Christianity, and he wants to “steward that platform well.”

“You know what, the NFL may stand for National Football League, but God’s NFL stands for New Found Life,” Gray said. “And he wants people to live because we are his image-bearers.”

Kate Scanlon is a producer of EWTN Pro-Life Weekly

North Dakota bans common abortion procedure

Fri, 04/12/2019 - 13:00

Fargo, N.D., Apr 12, 2019 / 11:00 am (CNA).- North Dakota’s governor signed into law Wednesday a bill that outlaws the common abortion procedure known as “dilation and evacuation.” Mississippi and West Virginia also outlaw the procedure.

Tammi Kromenaker, director of the Red River Women’s Clinic, the sole abortion facility in North Dakota, told reporters that before deciding whether to file suit against the law’s constitutionality, she will wait until the verdict of an appeal of a similar 2017 law passed in Arkansas is reached.

The practice of dilation and evacuation is the most common type of abortion performed in the second trimester.

The new law would not prosecute women who undergo or attempt to undergo the procedure. Instead, doctors performing a dilation and evacuation abortion outside of emergency cases could be charged with a felony and punished by a $10,000 fine and up to five years' imprisonment.

In addition to Arkansas, similar laws face injunctions in Alabama, Kansas, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Ohio, Louisiana, and Texas.

The new law was signed just one day before the signing of an Ohio law that bans abortion if a fetal heartbeat can be detected. Laws similar to that one are being considered in the legislatures of five other states, in a year when abortion has become a hotly debated topic in state legislatures across the country.


Bishop Malone apologizes in Buffalo diocese, says he was part of no cover-ups

Fri, 04/12/2019 - 12:52

Buffalo, N.Y., Apr 12, 2019 / 10:52 am (CNA).- The Bishop of Buffalo said in a statement Thursday that despite media reports to the contrary, he has not been part of any cover-up of clerical sexual abuse, though he does intend to be more transparent about clerical sexual abuse and its financial impact on his diocese.

“For all the progress the Church and this diocese have made in preventing child sexual abuse today and in addressing abuse in the past, I recognize that more needs to be done. Of course, I am acutely aware of the times when I personally have fallen short,” Bishop Richard Malone said in his April 11 statement.

“On behalf of the diocese, I apologize to all those who have suffered and continue to suffer as a result of abuse in the past,” the bishop added.

The bishop's statement did not respond directly to calls for his resignation, though it made clear that he intends to remain in his position.

The statement, Malone said, was a response to a local group called the Movement to Restore Trust, which has called the diocese to implement a slate of reforms, including greater collaboration with laity and financial transparency, while also calling the bishop to “revive the Spirit of Vatican II” in the diocese.

The group says it is comprised of “concerned, committed Catholics who are brokenhearted, disillusioned and, yes, angry about the sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church in the United States, and particularly in our Diocese.”

The group’s organizing committee is comprised mostly of business and non-profit leaders, along with John Hurley, the lay president of Canisius College, a Jesuit school in Buffalo.

The Diocese of Buffalo has said it will work with Movement to Restore Trust to discuss lay collaboration in the diocese, and Malone emphasized that in his statement.

Malone came under fire in Buffalo after a whistleblower — his own former secretary— leaked diocesan documents and alleged in August 2018 that the bishop had omitted the names of some priests accused of abuse or misconduct from a list the diocese released last March.

The bishop has since faced calls for his resignation; the president of nearby St. Bonaventure University issued such a call April 12.

Malone maintains that he acted in good faith, and did not cover up any allegations.

In his statement, he said that allegations of cover-ups were “demonstrably false,” and said that the criteria used in compiling the Diocese of Buffalo’s list “resulted in many more priests being disclosed than if we had applied the criteria used” in nearby dioceses, including, Malone said, the Archdiocese of Boston.

Malon said that some have even criticized his list for naming some deceased priests accused of abuse, “but I decided on the rule to err in favor of transparency.”

“I am also mindful of the requests by some for even more transparency. The Movement to Restore Trust has asked me to be more transparent about several issues, including the abuse crisis's financial impact on the diocese. I have taken those requests to heart, and I intend to be more transparent on a number of those issues as well.”  

The bishop’s statement, nearly 3,000 words in length, noted the good record of the Diocese of Buffalo in handling allegations of abuse, and said that most reports made about priests in recent years have concerned situations that allegedly happened decades ago.

The bishop also lamented the scope of child sexual abuse in upstate New York.

“One report of abuse by a member of our clergy is one too many, and every Catholic in this diocese, including me, is horrified by each report. But even if the diocese is aware of only half of the total number of people who were abused by priests as children, that total number constitutes only a small fraction of one percent of the child sexual abuse that has occurred in this area,” he said, estimating that as many as 121,000 adults in his region may have been the victims of childhood sexual abuse.

“Most abuse will never be reported because it was perpetrated by family members, family friends, or neighbors. Also, because there is no institution associated with those abusers, most of that abuse will never be the subject of a lawsuit or a front-page story. But to forget or to ignore the vast majority of victims of child sexual abuse would be a tragedy.”

Malone said that local media has “provided minimal reporting” on nationwide efforts to end childhood sexual abuse, “all while providing constant coverage of decades-old clergy sexual abuse cases in Buffalo. The 9,000 children being abused here every year deserve better, and our community deserves reporting on the full panorama.”

“I provide this perspective not to minimize the horrific scale of the abuse perpetrated by priests in the past but rather to place it in the context of a wider societal problem of child sexual abuse that deserves more attention from the media and from us all. Child sexual abuse definitely has received attention from the Church. While the Church in the United States can be faulted for not having done enough in the past to address child sexual abuse, no other institution has done more in recent years to prevent such abuse from occurring,” he added.

The bishop ended his letter apologizing for a particular incident: his 2015 support of Fr. Art Smith, a priest who had faced repeated allegations of abuse and misconduct with minors.

“Lessons have been learned,” Malone said. 

“I personally need to repent and reform, and it is my hope that this diocese can rebuild itself and learn and even grow from the sins of the past. I ask you to pray for me, pray for the Church, and pray for all those who suffered and suffer as a result of abuse as we go forward together to address the worldwide problem of child sexual abuse.”


Mass. bans therapists from efforts to change minors' orientation or gender identity

Thu, 04/11/2019 - 20:01

Boston, Mass., Apr 11, 2019 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker signed into law Monday a broadly worded bill banning therapy for minors with same-sex attraction that seeks to change their behavior.

The Massachusetts Catholic Conference opposed the bill, saying it “attempts to create a solution to a problem which does not exist.”

It added that it will “deny the right of parents to engage therapists who could help their child who is experiencing gender dysphoria and is confused and uncomfortable with this experience.”

The bill passed almost unanimously in the Massachusetts legislature, with only eight members of the House of Representatives voting against the bill. In a Senate vote March 28, the bill passed with 34 in favor; five Republican Senators voted “present”, and there was one abstention.

It was signed into law April 8.

House Bill 140 forbids health care providers from engaging in “sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts” during sessions with minors.

“Sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts” are defined in the law as “any practice by a health care provider that attempts or purports to impose change of an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, including but not limited to efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex.”

Under the law, health care professionals will be permitted to “provide acceptance, support, and understanding” of a minor’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, to “facilitate an individual’s coping, social support and identity exploration and development”, or seek “to prevent or address unlawful conduct or unsafe sexual practices”, as long as they “do not attempt or purport to impose change of an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Those who are found to have engaged in “sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts” may have their licenses to practice revoked or suspended.

In a March 5 letter to state legislators, the Massachusetts Catholic Conference said H.140 is unnecessary because “licensed clinical professionals are highly trained in their field and guided by ethical principles. Those principals fundamentally form the foundation of their respective professions. Today it is unethical for a counselor to discriminate against anyone, or try to push a goal in therapy that is destructive to the client or contrary to the clients stated desires.”

It noted that minor who has “unwanted same sex attraction or gender identity, this law would prevent a licensed professional from counseling the minor towards a resolution to those unwanted urges … these professionals, with years of education and experience dealing with mental health issues, would be removed from the process of helping a young client struggling with these highly personal issues.”

The conference also noted the impact on parents, who “have the primary responsibility for the welfare and education of their children. Parental rights would be completely eroded by this Bill. This fact is particularly true if their child is struggling with feelings that are unwanted or causing the child confusion and the parents want and need the help and guidance of a professional.”

Massachusetts' bishops were also concerned over the bill's impact on religious liberty, saying the broad wording like goes beyond its intent.

The Massachussetts Catholic Conference stated: “As an example, a conscientious Catholic, working as a licensed professional, would counsel a minor, heterosexual or homosexual, to abstain from sexual activity. Would this violate the bill’s specific prohibition efforts to 'change behaviors'? The language in the definition of the Bill certainly seems to prohibit such counseling.”

“The Church’s teaching acknowledges that the phenomenon of a person’s discomfort with his or her biological sex can be a genuine and complex reality that needs to be addressed by psychological professionals with compassion and honesty,” the conference added.

Senator Vinny deMacedo, who did not vote in favor of the bill, said that he does “not support coercive therapies,” and that “if there were evidence of these practices taking place in Massachusetts, we would wholeheartedly support banning them.”

However, “the vague wording of the legislation provides too much room for interpretation,” he added, according to the Boston Globe.

The Massachusetts Family Institute, which has opposed the law from the beginning, issued a statement on their website that they would be pursuing legal action on behalf of families and counselors impacted by the law. The Massachusetts Family Institute said the law was an attack on free speech.

“In the meantime, rest assured that the fight is not over,” said the statement. “We are working with local families and counselors and national legal experts to challenge this extraordinarily invasive assault on the rights of parents and the free speech of mental health providers.”

The Heritage Foundation’s Ryan Anderson, who authored “When Harry Became Sally: Responding To The Transgender Moment,” told CNA that he thinks the law is not rooted out of concerns for patient safety, but is meant to prevent people with traditional viewpoints from expressing those views.

“Of course the state has authority to regulate medicine to ensure safety, but that’s not what this law is about,” said Anderson. “This law imposes an ideological ban because the state disagrees with the viewpoint of certain professionals. It’s not targeted at harmful practices, but at particular values.”

There is also a bill in the Massachusetts legislature, H.110, that would ban health care providers from attempting to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of adults.

Massachusetts is the 15th state to pass a law banning conversion therapy.

Massachusetts' law contains wording identical to that of a California law passed in 2012.

California's law prohibits any therapy “to change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex” among minors.

A 2009 American Psychiatric Association task force recommended that the appropriate response to those with same-sex attraction involves “therapist acceptance, support, and understanding of clients … without imposing a specific sexual orientation identity outcome,” and that efforts to change orientation “involve some risk of harm.”

The American Psychiatric Association considered homosexuality to be a mental disease until 1973. A former president of the APA said in a 2012 video interview that within the organization, political stances “override any scientific results.”

Once a fugitive, former New Mexico priest convicted of sex abuse

Thu, 04/11/2019 - 19:13

Albuquerque, N.M., Apr 11, 2019 / 05:13 pm (CNA).- A federal jury found a former priest of New Mexico guilty on multiple charges of sexual abuse involving minors, Reuters reported.

Arthur Perrault, who was a priest in Albuquerque for 26 years, was found guilty of six counts of aggravated sexual abuse and one count of abusive sexual contact with a minor after an 8-day federal trial.

Prosecutors said Perrault was found guilty of “repeatedly abusing” a minor between the years of 1991 and 1992 while he was serving as military chaplain at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, Reuters reported.

Perrault served in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe from 1973 to 1992. Prior to that, Perrault had spent time at a treatment center in New Mexico in 1965 for sexually abusive priests, after being accused of molesting minors as a priest in Connecticut. In 1966 he was released after a psychologist recommended him for a teaching position at St. Pius X High School.

He then became a “serial child molester who abused numerous victims,” according to a motion filed last September with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Mexico. The Albuquerque Journal reported at the time that nearly 40 people have come forward, claiming to be victims of Perrault, as well as the mother of one young man who claimed her son committed suicide following abuse from Perrault.

Perrault fled the United States in 1992 to Morocco, just days before an attorney filed a lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Albuquerque for the abuse.

His whereabouts were unknown until 2016, when he was found working at a Morocco English-language school for children, a position from which he was then fired.

Perrault was taken into the custody of Moroccan authorities after the U.S. Department of Justice filed an indictment against him on Sept. 21, 2017. He was extradited back to New Mexico to face the charges against him in September 2018, to which he pled not guilty.

Perrault’s sentencing date has not yet been set, but Reuters reported that he faces maximum life imprisonment for the aggravated sexual charges, and a maximum of 10 years imprisonment for the charge of abusive sexual contact.


Ohio passes twice-vetoed law to ban abortions after fetal heartbeat

Thu, 04/11/2019 - 17:07

Cincinnati, Ohio, Apr 11, 2019 / 03:07 pm (CNA).- Ohio Governor Mark DeWine on Thursday signed a law banning abortion if a fetal heartbeat can be detected. Former Governor John Kasich had twice vetoed similar legislation.

“Government’s role should be to protect life from the beginning to the end,” DeWine said before signing the law, which is set to go into effect in July, according to

The Ohio House had voted 56-40 and the Senate 18-13 on Wednesday to send Senate Bill 23 to Gov. DeWine’s desk. State Senator Kristina Roegner was the bill’s primary sponsor.

The new law makes it a fifth-degree felony offense in Ohio to induce or perform an abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, except in a case of medical emergency. In addition, a doctor who performs an abortion could face sanctions and fines by the State Medical Board of Ohio, including the suspension of their medical license.

Women can also sue abortion providers for wrongful death under the new law, and a doctor cannot use unconstitutionality of the law as a defense unless a court rules the law unconstitutional.

“The legislature and Governor DeWine have declared that no longer should the beating hearts of humans too young to be born be violently torn apart by abortion,” said Mark Harrington, president of the national anti-abortion group Created Equal.

“If pro-abortion lobbies present a legal challenge to this Act, we will defend these babies all the way up to the Supreme Court.”

Five other states have now passed similar “heartbeat bills,” with two so far being blocked by the courts, the Associated Press reports. Georgia’s legislature has passed a heartbeat bill but Governor Brian Kemp has not yet signed it.

Pro-abortion groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio hae vowed to challenge Ohio’s new law in court.

Former Ohio Gov. John Kasich vetoed a similar bill late last year, and the Republican-led Ohio House of Representatives voted 60-28 to override the governor’s veto. The Ohio Senate subsequently failed to override the governor’s veto, and the bill did not pass.

Democrats in the House reportedly argued that the bill was unconstitutional, an assertion with which Kasich ultimately agreed.

Kasich, who had supported other pro-life legislation as governor, reasoned at the time that passage of the bill would result in a costly legal fight for the state of Ohio, which would result in the state losing and being forced to pay “hundreds of thousands of dollars to cover the legal fees for the pro-choice activists’ lawyers.”


Catholic schools should affirm the person, not gender ideology, scholars advise

Thu, 04/11/2019 - 17:01

Denver, Colo., Apr 11, 2019 / 03:01 pm (CNA).- Amid questions at some Catholic schools about how to approach problems related to LGBT identity, philosophy professors told CNA that Catholic schools must remain true to their mission of helping parents to raise their children in the faith.

"At the end of the day, the philosophy underlying transgenderism is radically opposed to Christian anthropology,” Dr. Theresa Farnan, a professor of philosophy at St. Paul Seminary, the minor seminary of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, told CNA.

Part of the mission of Catholic schools, she said, is to help students develop self-mastery, to grow in virtue, to understand that the body has meaning and significance, and to understand that a person’s happiness lies with their relationship with God, their creator.

In contrast, Farnan said, transgenderism involves a rejection of a person’s God-given body.

"Transgenderism involves a child with a healthy body rejecting that body,” she said.

"There is no way that a school can facilitate or support a gender transition without violating its mission and identity...we need to be very clear about this," Farnan said.

In addition, Farnan advised that a Catholic school should not use “preferred pronouns,” as this will signal to other students that a gender transition has in fact taken place.

"It doesn't mean you don't support the student, but you need to say to the student: we love you, we want to have you here as a student, but understand we can't support this."

At public schools in particular, Farnan said, kids are absorbing the message that some people are born in the wrong body, and some people can change from being a boy to being a girl.

"For a school to buy into that, or to in any way endorse it, is something that is very harmful to everyone's faith," Farnan said.

In 2010 and 2011, Benedict XVI described transgender ideology as "an erroneous view of the person" that would have long-term implications.

Pope Francis addresses the problem in Amoris laetitia and Laudato si', Farnan pointed out, and has expressed dismay about the teaching of gender theory to children.

In the long run, Farnan said, a Catholic school facilitating or supporting a gender transition isn't compassionate for the child, partly because they are agreeing to a radically life-altering process that doesn't resolve underlying problems, such as mental illness.

"It's damaging to the other students in the school but also for that student, because you're affirming something that runs contrary to reality, and involves affirming the child in rejecting the givenness of their creation," she said.

The medical process by which a transgender person “transitions” is often referred to as “gender-affirming” therapy.

Both Farnan and Dr. Susan Selner-Wright, who holds the Archbishop Chaput Chair in Philosophy at St. John Vianney Seminary in Denver, offered an alternative, Catholic view of “affirmation.”

“For us, 'affirming' the person – and I hesitate to even use that word, since it's been so co-opted...but understanding that people want to show compassion and love to the person, the best way to show compassion and love toward the person is helping them to realize that their dignity lies in their relationship to God," Farnan said.

"The difference lies in a different understanding of the dignity of the person. So for us as Catholics, your dignity comes from the fact that you are a created child of God. And God loves you so much that he created you as an embodied person.”

Selner-Wright had a similar insight.

"For a Catholic, what it means to 'affirm' someone is to affirm them in their dignity as a person created in the image and likeness of God, and we are completely for that," Selner-Wright said.

"But what the other side wants to do is say: no, to affirm someone you not only have to affirm them in their person, you have to affirm everything that they think about themselves and everything that they good parent thinks that that is what affirmation is."

Selner-Wright commented on a recent case in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas that made national news, in which a Catholic school denied admission to a child of a same-sex couple.

The school had deferred to the archdiocese for guidance, which advised against the students’ enrollment.

“Our schools exist to pass on the Catholic faith. Incorporated into our academic instruction and spiritual formation, at every grade level, are the teachings of the Catholic Church,” a statement from the archdiocese read.

“It is important for children to experience consistency between what they are taught in school and what they see lived at home. Therefore, we ask that parents understand and be willing to support those teachings in their homes,” the statement continued.

It added that “the Church respects that some may disagree with essential elements of our moral teaching. We do not feel it is respectful of such individuals, nor is it fair, loving or compassionate to place their children in an educational environment where the values of the parents and the core principles of the school conflict. For these reasons, the Archdiocese has advised against the admission into our Catholic schools of children of same sex unions.”

Selner-Wright commented: “Because we have a tradition of welcome and openness, there are a lot of other people who are not Catholic using our Catholic schools, and that's great.”

“But people have to remember that the purpose of Catholic schools is to assist Catholic parents, who are the primary teachers of their children, in executing the parents' duties.”

Their recommendations are not “one size fits all,” and there are some situations in which a child could be admitted, Selner-Wright emphasized.

For example, there could be a situation in which a single parent – who experiences same-sex attraction but is trying to live a chaste life – wants to enroll their child in a Catholic shool. The attraction itself isn't the issue, Selner-Wright said, as long as the parent is not living in a way that generates a contradiction between what the child learns in school and what they learn at home.

Similarly, if a child enrolling in a Catholic school claims to be in the “wrong body,” Selner-Wright said, but the parents are faithful Catholics who are not on board with it, then the school could be a good place for the child and it may even be “a corporal work of mercy” to enroll them, she said.

A very different scenario, she said, would be one where the parents are fully on board with the child’s transition.

"I think it's important for the Catholic Church to be that voice of reason," Farnan commented.

"The Catholic Church has always been clear, unequivocally clear, about the sanctity of human life, and I think right now, given the statements of our Popes...I think our Church is providing that voice of clarity that is much needed in this debate."

Don’t deport people who don’t deserve it, Catholic bishops tell Senate

Thu, 04/11/2019 - 16:00

Washington D.C., Apr 11, 2019 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- American residents deserve permanent legal protection from deportation and a pathway to citizenship if they came to the U.S. as minors or are from countries facing emergencies, natural disasters and political oppression, the U.S. bishops have said, noting that many such people contribute to their communities and Catholic parishes.
These residents are “vital members of our community who are going to school, working to make our communities better and raising families,” Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, said in an April 10 statement.

“We need a permanent legislative solution for those who have spent their lives contributing and living in the United States, the country they know as home.”
Vasquez wrote two separate letters to the Senate in support of two bills: the Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, known as the DREAM Act and numbered S. 874; and the Safe Environment from Countries Under Repression and Emergency Act, known as the SECURE Act and numbered S. 879.
The DREAM Act, sponsored by Sens. Linsey Graham, R-N. Carolina, and Richard Durbin, D-Ill., would protect “numerous immigrant youth” from deportation, especially the 700,000 who received Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status under the Obama Administration. It focuses on youth who entered the U.S. as minors, whom advocates characterize as “dreamers.”
“It is both our moral duty and in our nation’s best interest to protect these youth and allow them to reach their God-given potential,” Vasquez said in one April 10 letter, adding that many of these youth know America “as their only home.”
“My brother bishops and I believe in protecting the dignity of every human being, particularly that of our children,” he added. “The Catholic bishops have long supported these immigrant youth and their families who are contributors to our economy, academic standouts in our universities, and leaders in our parishes. These youth have grown up in our country, some even choosing to put their lives on the line to serve in our armed forces. They truly exemplify the extraordinary contributions that immigrants can provide to our nation.”
Eligible residents, including recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival protections, must meet several qualifications, including continuous U.S. residence for four years. They must pass a background check; demonstrate English proficiency; and seek post-secondary education, honorable military service, three years of U.S. employment, or otherwise prove hardship.
The DREAM Act was first proposed in 2001 but has never passed Congress.
The SECURE Act, sponsored by Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., would apply to residents with Temporary Protected Status or Deferred Enforced Departure status. It would create a pathway to lawful permanent status.
Temporary protected status protects from deportation and allows lawful work for nationals whose home country is unsafe due to natural disaster, political turmoil or other reason designated by law. About 320,000 residents who had TPS status have seen it canceled in recent years and depend on ongoing litigation to continue their legal residence. They are parents to over 273,000 children who are U.S. citizens.
“We support legislative efforts to fully integrate hard-working Dreamers and temporary protected status holders into the United States,” Vasquez said
Deferred enforcement departures are granted by the U.S. president to individuals from designated countries on a temporary, discretionary basis.
Residents with either status are “business owners, professionals and community leaders,” said Vasquez. “We know these individuals to be hardworking contributors to American communities, Catholic parishes, and our nation.”
A legislative solution for these residents and their families is “critical for humanitarian and regional stability.” Their future is “a family unity and human dignity issue,” said Vasquez.
SECURE Act provisions would allow present or past TPS-eligible residents, or residents with deferred enforcement departure status extended beyond Sept. 28, 2016, to proceed with lawful permanent resident status if they meet qualifications like continuous presence in the U.S.; ability to pass a background check; and ability to meet all criminal and national security requirements for eligibility.
Vasquez added that Pope Francis exhorts Catholics to “act in solidarity with refugees, migrants, and all those seeking safety from the ravages of violence, environmental disasters, and despair.”
He pledged the U.S. bishops’ willingness to work with Congress “to reform our immigration system in a humane, just, and common-sense manner” and the Catholic Church’s readiness to welcome eligible U.S. residents and their families into parishes and communities.
There are about 200,000 Salvadorans, 50,000 Haitians, 2,500 Nicaraguans and 1,000 Sudanese who have temporary protected status, the Washington Post reported earlier this year, though the Trump administration has declared that such status will expire for many of these people in upcoming months and years.

Additionally, the bishops have spoken on behalf of Liberians and Hondurans and have sought protected status for Venezuelans, among others.

The U.S. bishops have launched an online campaign dedicated to public education on immigration issues and advocacy of immigration and refugee legal reform.