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What is acedia, how do you pronounce it, and why does this priest tweet about it?

Tue, 05/19/2020 - 04:00

Denver Newsroom, May 19, 2020 / 02:00 am (CNA).- What should you be doing right now?

If the answer is “not reading this article,” you might want to keep going.

If you're reading this article because you're distracting yourself from something that needs to be done, you might be struggling with something called acedia.

On March 2, just before the coronavirus pandemic caused  shutdowns around the world, Fr. Harrison Ayre, a priest in the Diocese of Victoria, British Columbia, started tweeting about his experience with the vice of acedia.

Acedia (pronounced ‘uh-see-dee-uh’ in English) comes from the Greek word akēdeia, meaning “lack of care.” It is closely akin to the sin of “sloth”, but it is more complex than mere laziness or boredom.

According to St. Thomas Aquinas, acedia is a kind of sadness about things that are spiritual goods, or a “disgust with activity.”

“My one-phrase definition is: the inability to choose the good,” Ayre said. “It's an affliction of the soul that attacks desire - our desire for the good.”

It manifests itself specifically in listlessness, distraction, and wanting to avoid the task at hand, Ayre noted. Paradoxically, it could look either like sitting around and doing nothing, or busying oneself with anything and everything but the task at hand.

Ayre, who is one-half of the podcast “Clerically Speaking” and has an active Twitter following, became well-known for his tweets about combatting acedia in the past few weeks. So much so, that some of his friends have dubbed his timeline “Acedia Twitter.”

“It always was something that's been on my heart because I would say it's one of those things that I struggle with a lot, so it definitely comes from experience,” Ayre said.

“I tweeted something about a month ago and then...I had a couple people ask me in the DMs, ‘Can you give me some practical tips on overcoming this?’” Ayre said.

Ayre thought he would just do a thread on the topic, but because so many people were asking questions and looking for more information, he decided to keep going.

He now tweets daily tips for identifying and overcoming acedia, as well as regular check-ins with his followers, asking them how they are doing and what specific struggles with acedia they have noticed lately.

“It kind of has just taken off,” he said. “Not like ‘blown up,’ but I'd say it gets pretty reasonable engagement every day whenever I would tweet about it, so it's obviously touching people's hearts, which has been a good thing.”

The “noonday devil”

In a 2015 book on the subject, Fr. Jean-Charles Nault, O.S.B., called acedia the “noonday devil”, because the temptation has a tendency to strike in the middle of the day.

The phrase has been used to describe acedia for centuries.

“It's when even your bodily tendency is to be a little bit tired and a little restless at the day,” Ayre said.

Nault likened the experience to restless monks staring out of their cells (rooms), longing for escape.

 “You're in the desert, it's hot, you're in your cell, and the sun's beating into your cell, and it can be a great temptation to want to leave the duty of the moment. That's why it's called the noonday devil,” Ayre said.

But for people who aren’t monks, what does acedia look like?

“Let's say you're at work and you know that the task you need to do right now is answer those 10 emails in your inbox. That is the most important thing for you to do in this moment,” Ayre said.

“But instead, you're like, ‘I'm going to go make those photocopies,’ or, ‘I'm going to go to the water cooler to get some water and see if anyone's there,’ or, ‘I'm going to browse the internet for a bit,’ or, ‘I'm just going to sit here and not do anything for 10 minutes.’”

“You're doing stuff or not doing stuff, but you're doing all those things to avoid the task of the moment. Acedia attacks what I'd say is the giftedness of the moment.”

For parents, Ayre said acedia might manifest itself in a temptation to stay in bed when the children are up at 3 a.m.

“Acedia would say: I'm going to stay in bed. I don't care if they're throwing up. I'm staying in bed,” he said. Combatting that temptation would look like: “you (get up) because you love them and it's a good thing to do for them and it's a sacrifice for their good.”

“It's about accepting whatever has been thrown to us at the moment and not wanting to avoid it,” Ayre said. 

According to Nault, the battle against acedia is about accepting the full gift of one’s vocation in life.

“The ‘noonday devil’ can be vanquished only by accepting the love of God and the sublimity of our vocation, which, in turn, gives rise to the joy of true Christian freedom,” he wrote.

Why acedia matters in the spiritual life

Why does something that might seem like mere distraction in mundane tasks matter so much in the spiritual life?

“I would call (acedia) the temptation of our age, because our age is very dependent on this idea of distraction - of moving my attention to something that is not what we need to do right now,” Ayre said.

And that matters for the spiritual life because “at the heart of every sin, and then every temptation, is to deny the good of a thing - its proper end,” Ayre noted.

“Gluttony comes with taking in a good, which is food, and overusing it, right? Or envy is seeing a good that has happened to someone else and then twisting it and wanting it to be your own,” he said.

“Every sin wants to twist the good, and acedia, it’s saying: ‘I don't want to recognize the good of what I have right here, right now.’ It creates a sense of dissatisfaction of what's been given me.”

And the present moment matters, Ayre said, because it’s where God can be found.

“Our work of the moment is the precise place that we find God...because God shows himself through things, that's how God works. So, if we're trying to say, ‘I'm going to distract myself, I'm going to check Instagram instead of working on my emails or my Word document or whatever’, what I'm saying is: ‘I don't want to encounter God through my task, through the work of the moment.’”

Overcoming acedia

Combatting acedia isn’t about white-knuckling through distracted thoughts and forcing yourself back to the present moment. Ayre said that properly ordering one’s day, and giving things their proper place, can go a long way in combating acedia in one’s life.

“It's not wrong to go on Instagram and Twitter. Obviously I don't think that, that'd be really weird,” Ayre (@FrHarrison) said.

“But do I do that in a rightly ordered way? So, for example, I'll do my office work for half an hour, and then I'm going to take a five minute break and check up on my texts and my WhatsApp and get those things done, and then I'm going to go back to my task.”

“Acedia really gets fought when you start to organize your day properly. It doesn't mean we're going to live strict monastic schedules,” he said. “But I always say: if you can find those three or four most important tasks of your day and order them properly, then everything else will fall into place around that. And you'll stop going to your phone as much, because the reason we go to our phone is because we don't actually see the gift of the moment.”

It’s also about making time for prayer and proper rest and leisure in the day too, Ayre said.

“Find stuff you really enjoy to do and actually give yourself permission to do it, because acedia makes us think that we can't enjoy anything,” he said, such as reading a good book or watching a good movie or spending an hour playing an enjoyable video game.

“Acedia plagues us because sometimes we forget how to enjoy the good things of life. Choosing a good that we enjoy helps remind us of God’s goodness,” Ayre added in a May 9 tweet.

In another recent tweet, Ayre also compared overcoming acedia to a Seinfeld episode, in which George Costanza decides to be “opposite George” - he does the opposite of his normal tendencies, and is surprised to find his life improved. 

“(George) meets some girls in a bar and he goes, ‘Hi, I'm unemployed and I live with my parents.’ And they loved him because he was so honest,” Ayre said.

“While beforehand, he wouldn't have done that. He would probably come up with these weird stories about why he was staying at his parents place. And so he found that 'opposite George' was leading to a lot of success for him.”

Fighting acedia can be similar, he said. “Sometimes the best thing to do is to do the opposite. So if you find that you're just slothful in general, and doing anything with remote physical activity is something difficult to do, the opposite thing to do would be to go for a walk,” he said.

When is it acedia, and when is it depression?

Acedia and depression seem to have some things in common, including a lack of desire to do one’s normal activities.

Ayre said he has been asked before about the difference between acedia and depression.

“I'm not a counselor or a clinical psychologist or something like that,” Ayre said, but “personally, I do think there sometimes can be a connection between the two... I think people ask this question because they see a real similarity between the two, and there may be even a connection at times.”

Ayre added that he has never experienced clinical depression himself, and encouraged anyone who was concerned that they might be going through something more than just acedia to talk to their priest and to a mental health professional.

“I'd say if there is almost a lack of desire to do anything in life, that's probably a good sign that it's deeper than acedia and that it perhaps needs medical attention,” Ayre said.

“With acedia, you're often able to function, but maybe not function to the extent that you ought to,” Ayre said.

But depression’s symptoms will likely be more severe, he added.

If one is thinking "’I just, I can't even get out of bed to go to work anymore.’ That's not acedia anymore. That is a sense of, ‘I don't have the tools necessary to get through day to day life.’”

Corona and acedia: How the “new normal” impacts distraction

When the coronavirus pandemic shut down most of the United States and the world, nearly everyone’s daily routine was dramatically upended.

Non-essential workers either worked from home or were laid off. Essential workers kept at it, albeit with either adjusted commutes or schedules or safety protocols in place. Almost all businesses including bars and restaurants and hair salons, were closed.

Busy people who normally had lots of places to go and things to do suddenly found themselves with something they hadn’t had in a while: time.

“I think for most of us, we probably fell into it in a pretty extreme way for about that first month,” Ayre said. “I think it was the fog of the moment. We didn't know what to do with our lives. We didn't know what to do with this time. The future is uncertain...and you just wander throughout the day and you do your things but you don't have a real target of life. So I think in that sense it was bad.”

But people adjusting to working from home or going out far less have “time and space to get our lives in order,” he said.

“I'm hearing people say they've been attacking acedia now by picking up a chore every day. Whereas before, they didn't have time to pick a chore every day. Or they're cooking more because they're not running to five different appointments at night, so they're not just grabbing McDonald's quickly as they're running to the next thing.”

“They're having time to do the things that are necessary in life; the busyness stopped. When we were so busy, we were not able to see what is essential,” he said. Ayre said he is hearing from families that they are realizing the slowness of life right now has actually been very good for their kids as well.

“I've heard from families saying, ‘I never realized I didn't have to take the kids to three things every night.’ And they love it. They love the slowness. Their kids are playing on the front yards again, and the kids are happy.”

Ayre said he hopes that one lesson people are able to take away from the extra time they have been given during this pandemic is the need to contemplate God and what is most essential in their lives, which is in itself a big step in fighting acedia.

“I really hope and pray that we can learn our lesson from this, that we don't need to be this busy. And then when you start to choose these essential things, acedia will rip itself from your life, because you'll see - I'm doing what is essential. And a full life makes it easier to choose the good and see the good. It's like that meme, right? ‘Nature is healing itself.’ In a way, it is.”

For those looking to dive deeper into acedia, Fr. Ayre recommended Nault’s book, as well as “Acedia and Its Discontents: Metaphysical Boredom in an Empire of Desire” by R.J. Snell, and “Acedia & Me” by Kathleen Norris.

 

 

 

 

Federal judge blocks NC coronavirus church limits

Tue, 05/19/2020 - 02:10

CNA Staff, May 19, 2020 / 12:10 am (CNA).- A federal judge has blocked the North Carolina governor’s order limiting most church services to 10 people or fewer, saying it was a double standard to limit religious services but not similar activities under anti-coronavirus restrictions.

For his part, Gov. Roy Cooper said different rules were justified because religious services posed greater dangers of spreading the novel coronavirus.

U.S. District Judge James C. Dever III issued a temporary restraining order that allows indoor religious services to take place for two weeks, the Raleigh News-Observer reports.

The judge said the governor’s 10-person standard does not apply to businesses, which are limited to 50% capacity, or to funeral services, which up to 50 people may attend.

“The court trusts worshipers and their leaders to look after one another and society while exercising their free exercise rights just as they and their fellow citizens (whether religious or not) do when engaged in non-religious activities,” Dever said.

He said Gov. Cooper “appears to trust citizens to perform non-religious activities indoors (such as shopping or working or selling merchandise) but does not trust them to do the same when they worship together indoors.”

A May 29 hearing will determine whether the order will become permanent. The restraining order blocks enforcement but said religious congregants should follow social distancing recommendations to reduce the transmission of the Covid-19 virus.

Cooper’s office said he would not appeal the ruling, which followed a lawsuit from two Baptist churches, a minister and a Christian revival group. The lawsuit charged that the governor’s order was a virtual ban on religious assembly and infringed on the free exercise of religion.

Cooper had defended the order against objections that groups of people were allowed at retail stores and not churches.

“We know that inside, it is much more likely that you’re going to transmit this virus, particularly when you’re sitting or standing in one place for a long time,” he said, according to the Raleigh News-Observer. He added “I miss in-person church services very much myself.”

Cooper’s executive order aimed to launch the first phase of lifting some limits on social and economic life that had sought to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. His order allowed church services under social distance conditions, with 10 or fewer people in attendance. It suggested churches offer multiple services. The order said these services shall take place outside “unless impossible.”

Republican state senators objected to the Democratic governor’s phrasing and some county sheriffs said they would not enforce the order. Cooper’s order tried to accommodate religious differences, saying that religious services may occupy at full capacity if the religion’s rules require indoor meetings of more than 10 people in the same room.

Some churches in the U.S. and South Korea are believed to be at the center of so-called “super-spreader” events, when numerous infections from the novel coronavirus result. It is possible that activities like singing can spread the virus. On May 12, the Centers for Disease Control said 53 of 61 choir members who took part in a March 10 choir practice at a church in Skagit County, Washington contracted a confirmed or probable case of the coronavirus. Three singers were hospitalized and two died, E.W. Scripps News reports.

Steve Grice, pastor of New Life Baptist Church in Raleigh, had decided to hold services even before the order blocking enforcement, the Raleigh News-Observer reported. He said there are too many distractions when services are held outside in the church parking lot, such as cars turning around in the gravel driveway and a loud ATV driving by repeatedly.

“I felt strongly that we could do this safely,” he said. The church’s precautions included providing hand sanitizer and masks on a back table. Most of the 25 attendees at a May 17 Sunday service sat six feet apart, excepting family and friends. Grice hired two deputies for the service, fearing disruption after the event attracted attention on Facebook.

Raleigh’s Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Cathedral and other churches followed the previous guidelines of the governor’s order. The cathedral held Mass outside. Many attendees wore masks, WTVD News reports.

“Today’s Catholic parish mass was planned before Saturday’s information about the availability of indoor masses. The monsignor said leaders will study possible next steps, but nothing’s been announced,” a cathedral spokesperson said.

The Diocese of Raleigh referred CNA to a May 7 letter and guidelines from Bishop Luis Rafael Zarama. It allows Mass in “an unenclosed space” if the faithful follow social distancing guidelines. Each pastor should instruct the faithful on these guidelines. It limits daily Mass to 10 persons.

Jim Whitfield, pastor of Triangle Christian Center in Raleigh, supported churches re-opening.

“I think it’s about time,” he told WTVD News.

About 100 people attended services at his church, with no social distancing. Most people did not wear masks.

Whitfield said he thinks the congregants are safe.

“And in our daycare we’ve not had one infection in the whole period of time, and right up front we were declared essential,” he added.

How St. John Paul II 'bent the course of history'

Mon, 05/18/2020 - 19:45

Washington D.C., May 18, 2020 / 05:45 pm (CNA).- The life of Pope Saint John Paul II is proof that religious belief and moral conviction can change the course of history, the pope’s biographer said on Monday, May 18. 

Author and papal biographer George Weigel held an online seminar for the Centennial Celebration of Saint John Paul II’s Birth, presented by the Saint John Paul II National Shrine. 

Pope St. John Paul II was born on May 18, 1920, and was elected pope on October 16, 1978, he died on April 2, 2005, and was canonized on April 27, 2014. His feast day is October 22, the day he was inaugurated as pope. 

During his 26-and-a-half-year papacy, the third longest in history and the longest in the modern era, John Paul II was “the great Christian witness of our time, the man who made Jesus Christ come alive for so many,” said Weigel. “His own discipleship invited others to be Christian disciples.” 

Weigel’s presentation during the webinar was one of many events hosted by the shrine to mark the centenary of John Paul II’s birth. Originally, these events were going to be held in-person, and include an “academic-style symposium” but plans were changed due to the outbreak of COVID-19. 

John Paul II was a “pope of the Catechism and the pope of the Divine Mercy devotion,” said Weigel. He explained how “those two realities--truth and mercy--had met in his own life,” and inspired him to bring them out to the life of the Church. 

In October, 1992, Pope John Paul II promulgated the new edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church; and in 2000, he designated the Sunday after Easter as “Divine Mercy Sunday.” 

As pope, said Weigel, John Paul II demonstrated “the power of religious and moral conviction to bend history in a more humane direction” better than secular disciplines like economics or law. He pointed to the pope’s first visit back to his native Poland, then a communist state, which sparked a revolution that resulted in the fall of the Iron Curtain. 

Weigel further touched on John Paul II’s promotion of the Divine Mercy devotion, and noted that this legacy is felt even years after his death, with Pope Francis adding an optional memorial to St. Faustina to the Roman Calendar. 

Weigel stated that the effects of WWI and WWII had “shredded the moral fabric of the western world,” resulting in “all sorts of personal sorrow, and indeed personal damage, in its wake,” but that the Divine Mercy apparition was intended to heal these wounds. 

“Here comes this message of divine mercy radiating from the heart of the risen Lord, to an obscure Polish sister,” said Weigel. “And [John Paul II] interpreted that as being the answer to that shredding of the moral fabric of humanity.”

“Humanity needed to hear the message of God’s mercy, which is strong enough to heal the wounds we inflicted upon ourselves,” he said.  

The Saint John Paul II National Shrine is located in Washington, D.C., near the Catholic University of America campus. Originally called the John Paul II Cultural Center, the national shrine was established in its present form in 2011, after it was purchased by the Knights of Columbus. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops designated the building as a “national shrine” to the then-Blessed John Paul II on March 14, 2014. 

The shrine hosts an exhibit about the life and papacy of the saint, and one of its chapels contains a first-class relic that is available for veneration.

US coronavirus relief bill would discriminate against private schools

Mon, 05/18/2020 - 13:21

CNA Staff, May 18, 2020 / 11:21 am (CNA).- Bishop David O'Connell of Trenton lamented Thursday that the U.S. Congress' latest coronavirus relief bill would bar private schools' access to financial relief.

The New Jersey Catholic Conference is encouraging Catholics to ask their senators and representatives to include aid for private school families in the stimulus.

The Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (Heroes) Act, H.R. 6800, passed the House May 15, but it is not expected to pass the Senate.

The bill would provide funding for state and local governments, assistance to hospitals,  direct payments to American families along with funding unemployment insurance. Moreover, it would extend unemployment benefits, expand the payroll protection program, and increase funding for food stamps. It would also set up a strategic plan for testing for the virus. The bill fails to put Hyde protections in critical spots, thereby allowing for taxpayer funding of abortions.

Bishop O'Connell wrote May 14 that the Heroes Act “would prohibit nonpublic schools including our Catholic schools in the Diocese of Trenton from accessing any portion of the proposed $200 billion including in the legislation for education.”

“Our Catholic schools struggle to stay open as it is, and the pandemic will impact them negatively,” he added.

The bishop directed the people of his local Church to a message prepared by the state Catholic conference to be sent to senators and representatives which notes that “the devastating economic effects of the COVID-19 virus have reached nearly every sector of American society. The Catholic schools in the United States have been severely impacted as well, and their centuries-long tradition of serving families from all walks of life is now imperiled.”

The message asks the legislators to consider including equitable service provision for the private school community, “consistent with previous emergency disaster legislation”; direct aid to private school families in the form of scholarships, and tax credits for scholarship granting organizations; and tax credits or deductions for private school tuition and expenses.

The Heroes Act passed by House by a 208-199 vote. It was supported by one Republican, and 14 Democrats voted against the bill.

The White House has already said it will veto the Heroes Act, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has declared it dead on arrival in the chamber, saying that “I don’t think we have felt yet the urgency of acting immediately.”

Senators have already said that a bill would not pass the chamber before Memorial Day, according to The Hill.

In the Cares Act, the first stimulus bill that passed Congress in March, Planned Parenthood was left out of emergency small business loans because of a 500-employee limit for non-profits to be eligible for Paycheck Protection Program loans. The current bill amends the regulations to allow for Planned Parenthood to access PPP loans.

Hyde protections are not included in the legislation’s funding of state and local governments, and are not attached to subsidies for COBRA premiums or other coverage for furloughed workers that could include abortion coverage.

New Mexico governor says churches can reopen at 25% capacity

Mon, 05/18/2020 - 12:30

CNA Staff, May 18, 2020 / 10:30 am (CNA).- New Mexico has agreed to apply the same reopening criteria to churches as it does to retail businesses, after the governor issued updated safety regulations for the coronavirus pandemic.

“Great news out of New Mexico in a religious freedom case: The state told a federal judge that it will now allow houses of worship to have same percentage of people attend worship services that can attend all [state] retailers,” Montse Alvarado, vice president and executive director at Becket, tweeted on Saturday.

Becket filed an amicus brief in the case of Albuquerque’s Legacy Church against the state’s public health order.

New Mexico Governor Lujan Grisham closed non-essential businesses on March 24 and banned “mass gatherings” of five or more people in the state. Churches were initially exempt from the ban, although the state’s Catholic dioceses stopped public Masses by the end of March to help curb the spread of the virus.

On Holy Saturday, April 11, Grisham extended the ban on “mass gatherings” to include houses of worship.

On April 15, Bishop Peter Baldacchino announced that the diocese of Las Cruces would resume public Masses—the first U.S. Catholic diocese to reopen Masses during the pandemic. He allowed for Masses to be offered outdoors with attendees spaced more than six feet apart, or inside churches with fewer than five people present.

Baldacchino was also one of four bishops to discuss the reopening of churches during the pandemic with officials at the White House and U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on April 28 and 29.

Legacy Church in Albuquerque sued over the state’s April 11 policy, saying that more than five people would be required at the church to live-stream services and hold in-person services.

On May 13, Gov. Grisham allowed some retail businesses in the state to reopen at 25% capacity but churches were held to a 10% capacity for religious services and meetings.

Legacy Church pressed the state on the matter, saying that small groups such as Bible studies and addiction support groups could not meet at the church under the order’s restrictions.

On Saturday, the state further modified its public health emergency restrictions, allowing churches to open their doors to liturgies and gatherings at 25% capacity—on the same level as many retail businesses.

“As recently as yesterday, the state said that churches could only have 10% occupancy—less than half what the non-essential businesses get,” Alvarado said via Twitter. The state “ultimately relented, instead of having to explain another First Amendment problem in Court.”

The case was one of many filed by churches around the country against state or local public health restrictions on religious gatherings.

Attorney General William Barr has said that states have the authority to restrict liberties temporarily, during a public health emergency.

However, restrictions must be applied even-handedly and cannot “single out” churches for burdens that businesses such as “movie theaters, restaurants, concert halls, and other comparable places of assembly” are not subject to, he said in an April 14 statement.

Why a porn magnate funds an international abortion agency

Sun, 05/17/2020 - 08:21

Denver, Colo., May 17, 2020 / 06:21 am (CNA).- After a pornography tycoon donated millions to an international abortion group, one non-profit youth initiative warned of a dangerous link between the two industries.

Lindsay Fay, a mission team manager for The Culture Project, highlighted the connection between pornography and abortion. She told CNA that while both industries claim to emphasize sexual empowerment and women’s rights, they instead do a great deal of harm to human dignity.

“[In] the pornography industry and the abortion industry, [they promote] ... empowerment for women, but it is actually a false form of empowerment. There really is an enslavement to feeling the pressure to end the pregnancy or end a human life,” she said.

Since 1995, Marie Stopes International (MSI) has received over $9 million in donations from Phil Harvey, the CEO of Adam & Eve - a large erotica distributor. The donations to MSI are received in cash and supplies.

Established as a mail-order firm in 1971, Adam & Eve brought in around $72 million dollars last year. The company donates about 25% of its annual profit through Harvey’s charitable foundation, DKT International - a non-profit focusing on abortion and contraceptives.

Harvey is a board member of MSI, which promotes contraception and abortion worldwide. In 2019, MSI was responsible for about 5 million abortions globally.

MSI defended Harvey’s contributions.

“Phil Harvey has spent his life defending sexual and reproductive health and rights, and has played a significant role in expanding access for women across the world. We are proud that he continues to contribute to the organisation,” the group said, according to the Daily Mail.

Fay said it is a cultural misunderstanding that either pornography or abortion is empowering for women. She said both industries rest on a false understanding of sexual liberty and human dignity.

“Both of those industries rest on the [idea] that we can do what we want with our sexuality regardless of the cost. Unfortunately, some of those decisions have led to the ending of human life.”

She pointed to studies showing that pornography increases demand for human sex trafficking. About 30% of all internet traffic is pornography, and about 1 in 3 Americans seek out pornography at least once a month, she added.

“Pornography fuels the demand for sexual exploitation,” she said. “What most people don't know is that pornography often uses women and children who are forced or coerced to be filmed.”

“The biggest connection between pornography and abortion is human trafficking, which is pretty ironic because almost anyone in our world will be able to look at human trafficking and say this is dehumanizing.”

A 2017 survey by the Family Research Council interviewed 66 women who survived sex trafficking. More than half of the women said they had abortions while being trafficked. One in three reported having more than one abortion.

“When it comes to pornography or when it comes to abortion, those things are seen as no big deal or unrelated or unconnected. But, in this case, pornography demands and fuels human trafficking,” she said.

The Culture Project is a non-profit that promotes sexual integrity and human dignity by sending mission teams to different communities across the country. Trained young adult missionaries speak to young people in classroom settings or witness to individuals outside of abortion facilities. They currently have teams in cities including Cleveland, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia.

Fay said the missionaries discuss topics including the damage caused by pornography and how sexual exploitation can lead to abortion.

“Whenever a human person is devalued and not respected, it kind of breeds a culture that accepts things like abortion or other forms of dehumanization,” she said.

“The Culture Project is a movement of young people set out on mission to restore culture. We proclaim the inherent dignity of the human person and the richness of living a life of sexual integrity, inviting our culture to become fully alive.”

 

How a Solanus Casey documentary, and its creator, aim to inspire

Sat, 05/16/2020 - 05:00

Denver Newsroom, May 16, 2020 / 03:00 am (CNA).- An American documentarian says her work is the fruit of a divine calling that began with an encounter with Pope St. John Paul II. She said she hopes her films will help others grow close to Christ.

Her most recent film, a documentary on the life Blessed Solanus Casey, will premiere on the EWTN television network May 26, and is now available online.

Erin Berghouse, president of Ahava Productions, said, shortly after a revival of faith in the late 90s, she felt that God was calling her to pursue a career in music and, later in life, short films.

“Ahava Productions is a film production company that began really out of following a mission that God placed on our hearts,” she told CNA.

“My hope was to create movies that move us closer to Christ and to reflect the beauty of the Catholic Church. [Evangelization] with art, all the different art forms: music [and] the highest quality of visual art.”

Berghouse, who is also a mother of six, rediscovered her faith in 1999 when she saw John Paul II speak in St. Louis. It was through his “Letter to Artists,’ issued in April 1999, that she decided to use music to serve the Church. In 2014, she founded Ahava Productions, which released its first film in 2015.

Ahava’s upcoming documentary on Casey is a perfect example of the inspirational story which brings people close to God, Berghouse said.

A 28-minute documentary on Blessed Solanus Casey, the film will air on EWTN on May 26 and 27. It is narrated by Cardinal James Harvey, an American cardinal and the archpriest of the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls.

The documentary will highlight the stories that led to his beatification, the history of his life, and his impact on the lives of others.

The son of Irish immigrant parents, the Capuchin Franciscan was born in 1870 on a Wisconsin farm, which also became the home of 15 other brothers and sisters. Having witnessed a brutal murder on the railroad in 1891, the 21-year-old evaluated his life and decided to become a priest. He entered Saint Francis De Sales Seminary in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Many miraculous healings have been attributed to Casey - both during his life and after - including restoration of sight, healing from alcoholism, and the healing of ichthyosis. He also spent a great deal of time witnessing and providing aid to the sick.

“Father Solanus, what a beautiful priest, what a beautiful role model, what an inspiration. [There are] so many words to describe his amazing impact,” Berghous said.

“[He is] one of the most humble, loving priests,” she added.

Berghouse was first introduced to Casey in 2015 when she was asked to pray to the Capuchin on behalf of a friend. She then attended the beatification ceremony in Detroit's Ford Field in 2017, an event she said was proof of Casey’s influence on the world. Nearly 70,000 people attended.

She said she felt like the Blessed Mother was calling her to do the film, and that it felt like Casey had spiritually accompanied her during post-production. The more she learned about Casey, the more she loved him, Berghouse said, noting that, through his intercession, the priest taught her how to pray.

“I can say with complete confidence that to learn about him is to love him. Once you learn and love him, you will start to learn his teachings. He had a specific way that he would teach people to pray and to come to God and how we must thank him and do acts of mercy,” she said.

Berghouse said Casey, who lived through the Depression, both World Wars, and contracted serious illnesses himself - is the perfect saint for the coronavirus pandemic.

During the Great Depression, she said, the heads of major automotive companies would request Casey to remember their employees in the intentions of Mass and ask the Capuchin for advice on how to help their workers. She said, during today’s difficult pandemic, people should rely on him again.

“Here we stand today in the midst of the chaos of COVID. He still intercedes for us. He still can lead us to the place where we can find the most confidence and love in God and strength in knowing that what he has planned for us is already something that we should be thankful for,” she said.

Berghouse hopes the documentary will influence its audience to rely on Casey’s intercession, but also be a source of inspiration. She said Casey’s life is a reflection of God's providence and the hope this brings.

“[We] participate in the call to create a documentary of his life because it was a life that was filled with immense beauty [and] hope. It continues to lead us closer to Christ by what he experienced, what he taught, and what he continues to share, even after he is no longer here,” she said.

“I think what we see in his life is an immense promise of hope and God's plan for who we are, wherever that is, whatever it is, God has a plan.”

 

CDC documents on reopening do not include suggestions for churches

Fri, 05/15/2020 - 16:01

CNA Staff, May 15, 2020 / 02:01 pm (CNA).- Specific guidelines for reopening churches during the coronavirus pandemic were excluded from a set of documents released by the CDC this week, possibly due to religious freedom concerns, according to a report by the Associated Press.

Six one-page documents released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday cover guidelines for helping employers, schools, bars and restaurants, daycares, camps, and mass transportation systems make decisions about reopening.

Churches were not included in the May 14 guidance. However, the AP reported that a similar document for churches was created, but not released. It reportedly included recommendations of limiting the number of people present at gatherings and spacing them out during services. Citing anonymous sources from the Trump administration and the CDC, the AP said the guidance regarding worship services was removed following White House concerns over government giving instructions to faith groups.

Some states have seen lawsuits from churches arguing that religious congregations have been singled out for stricter regulations than other entities, amounting to an unfair targeting of religion.

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/federal-judge-blocks-kentucky-governors-soon-to-expire-ban-on-religious-services-84587
https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/california-church-sues-over-governors-reopening-plan-27670
https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/virginia-church-sues-governor-over-stay-at-home-order-78264

Religious freedom advocates have stressed that while the government can limit religious gatherings for public health reasons during a pandemic, it must treat religion the same as similar non-religious activities.

“The state has significant regulatory authority even as it touches religious activity, and this is especially true in a time of emergency like a pandemic,” said former federal judge and current Stanford Law School professor Michael McConnell at a recent online event.
https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/former-judge-coronavirus-restrictions-have-a-place-but-religion-is-essential-36424

However, he said, these rules must be neutral and generally applicable. They cannot single out religious activities while exempting other types of comparable social activities that are not religious.

Follows reports last week that the White House shelved a lengthier CDC report on gradually reopening sections of the American economy and society.

So far, the United States has seen more than 1.4 million confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, with more than 86,000 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. Most people who contract the highly contagious virus show mild or no symptoms, but in some cases, it can result in severe complications or death, particularly for those who are elderly or have underlying health conditions.
 

New coronavirus relief bill could fund abortions

Fri, 05/15/2020 - 15:30

CNA Staff, May 15, 2020 / 01:30 pm (CNA).- As the House on Friday prepares to vote on another coronavirus relief package, pro-lifers warn that it could be used to fund abortions.

The $3 trillion Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act (H.R. 6800) is scheduled for a vote in the House on Friday.

It provides funding for state and local governments, assistance to hospitals, and direct payments to American families along with funding unemployment insurance. It also sets up a strategic plan for testing for the virus.

However, the White House has already said it will veto the legislation, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has declared it dead on arrival in the chamber, saying that “I don’t think we have felt yet the urgency of acting immediately.’”

Senators have already said that a bill would not pass the chamber before Memorial Day, according to The Hill.

“He [McConnell] wants us to just ‘pause.’  He wants us to just pause.  But families know that hunger doesn't take a pause, not having a job doesn't take a pause, not being able to pay the rent doesn't take a pause,” Pelosi said on Thursday.  

Pro-life leaders have already pointed out that the stimulus bill fails to put Hyde protections in critical spots—thus allowing for taxpayer funding of abortions. The Hyde Amendment bars federal funding of elective abortions.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, said on Thursday that the legislation “is full of giveaways to the abortion lobby.”

“Shame on the Pelosi Democrats for exploiting a national emergency to foist a radical abortion agenda on the American people,” Dannenfelser said.

“Not only does the bill fund abortion and health plans that cover abortion, it includes subsidies to the abortion industry,” she stated.

In the CARES Act, the first stimulus bill that passed Congress in March, Planned Parenthood was left out of emergency small business loans because of a 500-employee limit for non-profits to be eligible for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. The current bill amends the regulations to allow for Planned Parenthood to access PPP loans.

Hyde protections are not included in the legislation’s funding of state and local governments, and are not attached to subsidies for COBRA premiums or other coverage for furloughed workers that could include abortion coverage.

Republicans have also criticized the bill for possibly sending direct stimulus checks to undocumented immigrants, mandating blanket release of prison inmates while putting the burden of justifying their continued detention on governments, and freezing any further work requirements for food stamps.

“We urge Congress to continue to put partisan agendas aside and remember that the real heroes across America are working and making sacrifices to save lives, including the lives of the unborn,” Dannenfelser said.

New coronavirus relief bill could fund abortions

Fri, 05/15/2020 - 15:30

CNA Staff, May 15, 2020 / 01:30 pm (CNA).- As the House on Friday prepares to vote on another coronavirus relief package, pro-lifers warn that it could be used to fund abortions.

The $3 trillion Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act (H.R. 6800) is scheduled for a vote in the House on Friday.

It provides funding for state and local governments, assistance to hospitals, and direct payments to American families along with funding unemployment insurance. It also sets up a strategic plan for testing for the virus.

However, the White House has already said it will veto the legislation, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has declared it dead on arrival in the chamber, saying that “I don’t think we have felt yet the urgency of acting immediately.’”

Senators have already said that a bill would not pass the chamber before Memorial Day, according to The Hill.

“He [McConnell] wants us to just ‘pause.’  He wants us to just pause.  But families know that hunger doesn't take a pause, not having a job doesn't take a pause, not being able to pay the rent doesn't take a pause,” Pelosi said on Thursday.  

Pro-life leaders have already pointed out that the stimulus bill fails to put Hyde protections in critical spots—thus allowing for taxpayer funding of abortions. The Hyde Amendment bars federal funding of elective abortions.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, said on Thursday that the legislation “is full of giveaways to the abortion lobby.”

“Shame on the Pelosi Democrats for exploiting a national emergency to foist a radical abortion agenda on the American people,” Dannenfelser said.

“Not only does the bill fund abortion and health plans that cover abortion, it includes subsidies to the abortion industry,” she stated.

In the CARES Act, the first stimulus bill that passed Congress in March, Planned Parenthood was left out of emergency small business loans because of a 500-employee limit for non-profits to be eligible for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. The current bill amends the regulations to allow for Planned Parenthood to access PPP loans.

Hyde protections are not included in the legislation’s funding of state and local governments, and are not attached to subsidies for COBRA premiums or other coverage for furloughed workers that could include abortion coverage.

Republicans have also criticized the bill for possibly sending direct stimulus checks to undocumented immigrants, mandating blanket release of prison inmates while putting the burden of justifying their continued detention on governments, and freezing any further work requirements for food stamps.

“We urge Congress to continue to put partisan agendas aside and remember that the real heroes across America are working and making sacrifices to save lives, including the lives of the unborn,” Dannenfelser said.

Senate approves Uyghur human rights bill

Fri, 05/15/2020 - 14:30

CNA Staff, May 15, 2020 / 12:30 pm (CNA).- The Senate approved a bill on Thursday to sanction Chinese leaders complicit in the persecution of Uyghur Muslims.

The Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act, authored by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and co-sponsored by Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), passed the Senate by unanimous consent on Thursday; would authorize the identification and sanctioning of Chinese officials identified as complicit in human rights abuses against the Uyghurs in China.

“The Chinese Government and Communist Party’s systematic, ongoing efforts to wipe out the ethnic and cultural identities of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang is horrific and will be a stain on humanity should we refuse to act,” Rubio stated.

More than a million Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and members of other Muslim minority groups have been detained by Chinese authorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The years-long crackdown in the region by the Chinese authorities has been implemented supposedly as an anti-terrorism, anti-extremism measure.

There have been reports of torture, beatings, forced sterilizations, and other abuses committed in “re-education” camps, with detainees sometimes sent to work in factories after their time in the camps. The Congressional-Executive Commission on China concluded in 2019 that the abuses may constitute “crimes against humanity.”

The legislation mandates sanctions of Chinese officials and others who are complicit in acts of torture, prolonged detention, disappearances, and other abuses in the region.

It requires the Secretary of State to report to Congress on the scope of internment camps in the region, methods of detention and mass surveillance, conditions in the camps, the situation of forced labor.

The bill also calls for the President to condemn the abuses in the region and urge China to close the camps.

If signed into law, it would be Congress’ “first legislative response to the Uyghur human rights crisis,” said the Uyghur Human Rights Project. Versions of the legislation have previously passed the Senate, in September of 2019, and the House, in December. The House version of the legislation was authored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.).

Advocacy groups applauded the bill, including the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom which said it “marks an important milestone in protecting #religiousfreedom for #Uighur Muslims in #China.”

Former judge: coronavirus restrictions have a place, but religion is 'essential'

Fri, 05/15/2020 - 13:02

Denver Newsroom, May 15, 2020 / 11:02 am (CNA).- Public health orders to limit the spread of the new coronavirus raise important questions about the U.S. Constitution and religious freedom, and Stanford Law School professor Michael McConnell has provided some guidance on these topics.

“It is none of the state’s business to decide that religious worship is not important,” McConnell said to an online gathering May 13. “It is the state’s business to decide whether particular forms that religious worship might take may be dangerous to public health.”

“It’s the government’s business to decide what is healthy. It is the church’s business to decide what is important,” he said in summary.

McConnell, a former federal judge on the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, joined Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco as the main speakers for a briefing titled “The Church, the State and the Pandemic.” The event was moderated by Maggie Gallagher, executive director of the San Francisco-based Benedict XVI Institute for Sacred Music and Divine Worship.

The former judge said 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.

“We’ve had pandemics before but never lock downs to this extent,” McConnell reflected. “We’ve never what amounts to a shuttering of synagogues, churches and mosques across the spectrum.” While there are some relevant principles of constitutional law, “there’s no rule book out there,” he said. These principles are not “cut and dry” but rather “a framework for debate and argumentation and decision-making.”

“Despite our constitutional promise of free exercise of religion and non-establishment, which we sometimes describe as the separation of church and state, there is no absolute separation,” McConnell continued. “The state has significant regulatory authority even as it touches religious activity, and this is especially true in a time of emergency like a pandemic.”

The leading precedent is over a century old: the 1905 U.S. Supreme Court decision Jacobson vs. Massachusetts, when the state of Massachusetts required citizens to be vaccinated during a smallpox epidemic.

Despite objections, including religious objections, “the Supreme court ruled that the state did have the constitutional authority to order everyone to get their smallpox vaccination,” McConnell said. At the same time, he noted, this decision was reached “well before the explosion of civil liberties litigation in the Supreme Court.”

He doubted the court would repeat its previous decision in the same way given current standards. At the same time, every lower court decision about objections to the coronavirus limits in recent weeks has cited this precedent.

For McConnell, the bottom line is that “when faced with a society-threatening epidemic, the state may implement measures that curtail constitutional rights, so long as the measures have some real or substantial relation to the public health crisis,” and are “not beyond all question a violation of rights secured by fundamental law.”

“The church is subject to the regulatory health authority of the state,” he said. “It is not absolute, but it is a very substantial authority.”

At the same time, the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides significant guidance amid epidemic closures. In McConnell’s view, and the view of several federal courts, the First Amendment means “religious worship is essential” and it is “one of the most highly protected of all constitutional rights.”

“Insofar as these orders denigrate the ability to practice religion, because of the assumption that religion is ‘less essential’ than, say, hardware stores, I think that is impermissible, unconstitutional and will be struck down by most courts,” he said. “On the other hand, if the state is making an assessment on the basis of public health risk, then I think it is another story.”

The state has the right to impose what the Supreme Court calls “neutral laws of general applicability,” McConnell said. Prohibitions on large gatherings of people, or requirements that they meet only with certain safety protocols, often tend to affect religious and non-church activity equally.

However, questions of double standards arise when governors and other public officials exempt broad categories of other activity on the grounds they are “essential” or “life-sustaining,” concepts that McConnell said introduce an element of “subjectivity.” Kentucky’s statewide orders, recently struck down in federal court, did not exempt churches from closure but did allow “life-sustaining” establishments to open, provided they followed social distancing and other hygiene regulations. These establishments included hardware stores, laundromats, dry cleaners, law offices, and liquor stores.

Churches can make the case to the courts that they are more like these institutions than unlike, and therefore should open if they follow similar precautions.

Archbishop Cordileone similarly saw a problem with the government “telling the Church what is essential,” when only the Church has that authority. He also saw a problem in the government deciding that anyone’s services are “essential,” given the subjectivity of the concept.

“The role of the government is to say what is safe, and to say you have to abide by these safety standards,” the archbishop told the briefing. “If you can abide by these safety standards, you can continue to function. If you can’t, then you wouldn’t be able to.”

McConnell worried that some government officials have a deep misunderstanding of religion.

“The real problem here, which is quite disturbing from a constitutional point of view, is that many governors have taken the view that religious activity may be completely banned because it is essentially voluntary,” McConnell said. “It is treated like you might be going to a movie.”

While limits on churches did not appear unusually burdensome in initial weeks of the epidemic, precisely because so many similar activities were barred, McConnell said this will become an issue as states gradually exempt more and more activities in an effort to restore social and economic life. The difficulty of maintaining limits on peoples’ activities over the long term will also show the need for better accommodation of constitutional rights such as religious exercise.

Given that the state can decide the question of whether parishioners gathered for worship are more dangerous from a public health perspective than a store’s customers gathered to purchase goods, McConnell said he would still be sceptical. He would seek to confirm that public health officials made that judgement and would try to confirm that they judged rightly.

“I’d also like to know why we are generalizing to all religious assemblies,” he said.

“There’s a big difference between 1,000 people gathered in the pews packed together sitting next to each other, versus a church that has carefully demarcated 6-by-6-feet areas in which a family can gather only there and not be close to any others, or, for example, holding outdoor services under appropriate circumstances.”

Any generalization that all religious services are conducted in dangerous ways suggests a significant lack of interest in religious freedom, McConnell said.

Cordileone, citing interactions with government leaders, suggested public officials “don’t understand what we can do to keep people safe.” Church leaders need to reach out to officials and inform them what is possible.

“When they think of a worship service they think of something like a megachurch, 1,000 to 2,000 people jammed in a crowded area,” he said. “They don’t think that we can have distance in our churches, or that we can have outdoor services.”

Cordileone cited suggestions from the Thomistic Institute of the Dominican House of Studies, which published guidance on coronavirus and churches composed by a working group of theologians, liturgists, and health care experts.

“It’s a very thorough and detailed document about what we can do to open up for Mass,” Cordileone said.

The California bishops sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom with the Thomistic Institute document attached. A few days later the governor “spoke positively about worship and the necessity of faith … more favorable to churches opening up for worship,” said Cordileone.

“It’s a matter of helping government officials realize that these sort of safety steps can keep our people safe when they are gathering for a worship service,” the archbishop said.

Cordileone and McConnell took some questions from the briefing audience.

CNA asked whether churches that fail to follow recommended or required precautions could face civil liability.

“It’s a great unanswered question. A very important question, with enormous practical implications,” McConnell said. “If there is no protection against liability or even lawsuits, which are extremely costly to defend even if you ultimately prevail, opening up is going to be a lot slower in this country.”

The question applies to employers, institutions, stores, universities and others. McConnell said he could “easily” imagine governments easing up on orders to close, but institutions being slow to open “for fear that if somebody catches the virus and it can trace it to them, they could be bankrupted.”

In response to a question about chaplains’ access to someone dying with the coronavirus, Cordileone said he hasn’t heard of a case yet where a priest was unable to get in to anoint someone who was at the point of death. However, there have been times when a lack of protective equipment prevented priests from visiting someone in a less serious condition.

McConnell, citing informal discussions, said, “a number of jurisdictions that have otherwise been pretty unrelenting in their prohibitions of religious worship have been more accommodating with respect to the visitation of the sick in the hospital from their priests.”

“I don’t know if that’s legally required but it just seems to be so obviously humane that I hope it’s true,” he said.

McConnell said that the courts’ current approach to religious freedom dates back only to the 1990s. Previously, free exercise of religion was treated as a specially protected constitutional right that the government could infringe only with a compelling interest and in the least restrictive way possible.

Such protections “would require a fairly sensitive examination of what exactly is being prohibited and what are the alternative ways in which public health can be protected,” McConnell said. “That, I think, would be a more religion-friendly regime.”

About 20 states and Congress have enacted Religious Freedom Restoration Acts which restore the previous standard to state and federal law.

Coloradans gather final round of signatures for late-term abortion ban

Fri, 05/15/2020 - 13:01

Denver, Colo., May 15, 2020 / 11:01 am (CNA).- A coalition of volunteers in Colorado hopes to gather enough signatures in the next two weeks on a petition to put a late-term abortion ban on the November ballot – an effort complicated by restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Coalition for Women and Children, a Christian group led by Giuliana Day, filed the petition during July 2019 with the Colorado Secretary of State. The initiative would ban abortions in the state after 22 weeks, with an exception to save the life of the mother.

Colorado remains one of the only states where late-term abortion is not, under law, explicitly protected or restricted. As a result, abortions can take place up until birth. Notably, the Boulder Abortion Clinic is one of just a handful of clinics in the U.S. that publicly accept patients seeking late-term abortions from anywhere in the world.

The organization of volunteers supporting the petition – known as Due Date Too Late – was originally tasked with collecting nearly 125,000 signatures within a six-month time limit in order to have the question appear on the ballot in November 2020.

The original deadline to submit the signatures was March 4. When the Colorado Secretary of State’s office counted the 137,624 signatures that the group submitted, it ruled only 114,647 of them valid— about 10,000 too few for the initiative to make it onto the ballot.

Now, the volunteers have two weeks, what is known as a “cure period," to make up the signature deficit by gathering new signatures and encouraging those whose signatures were ruled invalid to re-sign.

The Archdiocese of Denver is encouraging Catholics to sign the petition.

"Our efforts are really focused on getting new signatures, and then whatever can be ruled valid that was previously invalid is going to be helpful, but we don't want to count on that. So we want to make sure we get the new ones," Deacon Geoff Bennett, vice president of parish and community relations for Catholic Charities of Denver, told CNA.

The cure period was originally set to begin April 27, but a district court judge granted Due Date Too Late a delay until May 15 because of the continued restrictions related to the coronavirus.

Governor Jared Polis’ statewide stay-at-home order ended April 26, but the state remains under a “safer-at-home” policy, whereby all are encouraged to stay at home and avoid unnecessary interactions whenever possible, and to comply with social distancing requirements.

Beginning May 15, there will be approximately 100 signing locations throughout the state staffed by over 400 volunteers from Due Date Too Late. Many of the original signers of the petition were Catholic or Evangelical Christian, and as a result most of the signing locations are places of worship.

Because Colorado is a large state and coronavirus restrictions and recommendations vary, the organizers are asking all signature collectors to check on the most current social distancing guidelines with their county, rather than issuing their own guidelines.

The organizers have, however, offered suggestions to volunteers such as offering a new, clean pen to every signer, as well as offering hand sanitizer to each signer.

All public and private gatherings remain limited, by the governor’s order, to no more than ten people.

The organizers used geomapping based on the data they collected about the original signers of the petition to determine the best locations to send volunteers to collect signatures.

The group will be collecting signatures through May 28, since the signatures need to be submitted by May 29. The plan is to collect about 15,000 signatures in the next two weeks.

In an April 24 statement, Due Date Too Late stated that a sample of 40,000 signees showed “broad-based, bipartisan support,” with 40% of those sampled members of the Democratic Party or unaffiliated.

Bennett encouraged anyone who has already signed the petition to check whether their signature was accepted; the Secretary of State rejected many of the signatures, he said, because the signers' information did not exactly match their voter registration.

There are other potential issues other than voter registration mismatches. For example, the petition circulator may have filled out their affidavit incorrectly, which in some cases invalidated entire packets of signatures.

While signers whose signatures were previously ruled invalid will have the opportunity to re-sign, new signatures are preferable, organizers have told CNA.

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.

Lauren Castillo, director of church relations for Students for Life of America and spokesperson for Due Date Too Late, told the press in February that in Colorado in 2019, at least 323 abortions were performed on babies after 21 weeks gestation.

“The vast majority of these late term abortions are done on babies without adverse late-term fetal diagnoses, or serious health risks in the pregnancy, and without life threatening circumstances for the mother,” Castillo said.

“They're done electively, and are not necessary. And in an emergency situation that would be life threatening to the mother, a c-section is a far safe procedure than a late-term abortion.”

Bennett noted that abortion-rights groups in Colorado touted the fact that for a time during the pandemic, many women from other states were traveling to Colorado to take advantage of the state's permissive abortion laws.

Abortion clinics in states like Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico, which did not introduce any pandemic-related restrictions on abortion, saw increases in patients traveling from other states, such as Texas, to undergo the procedure.

"We want to encourage people to make a stand for life, especially in the environment that we're in [the pandemic] where we're so concerned about life," Bennett said.

Colorado was the first state in the nation to decriminalize abortion. The initial legislation, signed into law April 25, 1967, allowed abortion in certain limited cases: rape, incest, or a prediction of permanent mental or physical disability of either the child or mother. Six years later, the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade declared abortion a constitutional right nationwide.

US bishops highlight plight of native communities as COVID infections surge

Thu, 05/14/2020 - 20:31

CNA Staff, May 14, 2020 / 06:31 pm (CNA).- The coronavirus pandemic is exacerbating health disparities and long-standing social inequalities facing Native and Indigenous communities, the bishops of the United States said this week.

They called on government officials to work with tribal leaders to ensure strong support and ample resources to protect these communities.

“We hold in prayer our brothers and sisters who are suffering and grieving in these communities, and we stand with them in calling for a robust response to the pandemic in their lands,” the bishops wrote in a May 13 statement.

Recent reports have shown that COVID-19 infection rates in the Navajo Nation, which spans across the northeast corner of Arizona and parts of Utah and New Mexico, are among the highest in the world.

Shortages of COVID-19 tests and hospital beds— concerns in various parts of the country in recent weeks— are especially acute here. So far the more than a 100 people have died in the Navajo Nation after being infected with COVID-19.

“We are heartbroken over reports that Native and Indigenous communities across this country are suffering at disproportionately high rates from the COVID-19 pandemic and concerned about the lack of sufficient resources to respond to the crisis,” the bishops wrote.

“We are especially mindful of the Navajo Nation where people are being infected with the coronavirus at some of the highest rates in the country.”

One of the signees is Bishop James Wall of Gallup, New Mexico, whose diocese encompasses mission parishes within the Navajo Nation.

“We cherish our close connections to Native Communities through our Catholic parishes, missions and schools. We recall once more our profound desire to develop pathways to hope,” the bishops continued.

The U.S. Senate in April unanimously confirmed Rear Admiral Michael Weahkee, a longtime advocate for healthcare for Native Americans, as the new Director of the Indian Health Service, a move the bishops marked as a hopeful sign.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez told the Washington Post on May 11 that the tribe had not yet received the $8 billion allocated to Native American communities as part of the stimulus bill Congress passed in March. Though the nation received $600 million in aid the next day, the territory’s health system remains underfunded.

“It is essential that this funding reach its intended recipients as soon as possible,” the bishops added.

 

For Catholics, wearing masks can be an act of charity for neighbor

Thu, 05/14/2020 - 17:09

Denver Newsroom, May 14, 2020 / 03:09 pm (CNA).- Although some people have raised objections to wearing masks as the U.S. continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic, doing so can be an act of charity for one’s neighbor, a Catholic doctor said.

“The simple reason [to wear a mask] is primarily to protect others, the secondary reason is to protect oneself. Masks are a barrier to the airborne droplets that can carry the virus and infect anyone who breathes them in,” said Dr. Barbara Golder, a physician, lawyer and bioethicist with a background in pathology.

Golder told CNA that wearing a mask while in public is “a small thing to do, and it may well save lives.”

The United States has seen more than 1.3 million confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, with more than 82,000 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. Most people who contract the highly contagious virus show mild or no symptoms, but in some cases, it can result in severe complications or death, particularly for those who are elderly or have underlying health conditions.

With much of the country under quarantine restrictions in recent weeks to slow the spread of the virus, the question of when and how to reopen continues to be a source of controversy.

Public health officials have advised wearing masks in public, in order to reduce the risk of unknowingly transmitting the virus through droplets emitted from one’s mouth when speaking, coughing or sneezing. Many individuals who are infected with the virus do not develop symptoms, meaning that even people who do not feel sick could spread the virus to others.

Based on this federal guidance, many local authorities have issued regulations recommending or requiring that people wear masks in public settings.

These regulations have received a mixed response. Some critics argue that the mandatory regulations – and the fines and other punishments that accompany them – in some states are too harsh, infringing upon essential freedoms. Others worry that the use of masks may be ineffective or even harmful, claims which public health experts dispute.

Others have criticized the wearing of masks as a sign of weakness.

R. R. Reno, editor of the Catholic journal First Things, has been outspoken in his criticism of quarantine measures enacted in New York and other parts of the country. In a series of tweets this week – which were later deleted – Reno encouraged people to eschew masks, which he described as caving to a culture of fear.

“Masks=enforced cowardice,” Reno said in one tweet.

“The mask culture if (sic) fear driven,” he said in another, adding, “It's a regime dominate (sic) by fear of infection and fear of causing of infection. Both are species of cowardice.”

However, Dr. Golder objected to the claim that following the guidance of public health officials is succumbing to fear or weakness.

“It isn’t fear to exercise prudent care for ourselves and others,” she told CNA. “This is a serious situation…When 60% of the population falls into a risk group because of age or an underlying medical condition such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, or lung disease, it’s prudent to try to avoid infection.”

Golder acknowledged that conflicting advice early in the pandemic may be confusing, but explained that federal guidance has changed as scientists have learned more about the new virus and how it is spread.

“We now know that it is communicable by aerosol droplets that are expelled by coughing, sneezing, and even, to a certain extent, by breathing,” she said. “We also know that this happens even in patients who are infected and shedding virus but who do not have symptoms.”

For this reason, masks – along with social distancing – are an important tool in fighting the spread of the disease, she said.

“Wearing a mask limits the possibility of dispersing infective particles in the air, as well as reducing the risk of inhaling them,” she said.

Golder noted that small children, those who have breathing difficulties, and those who are physically unable to put on a mask need not wear one, but added that they may want to significantly limit contact with others.

But for most Americans, she said, “wearing a mask is a way of exercising our care for the other, who could be harmed if we do not.”

Leah Libresco Sargeant, author of “Building the Benedict Option,” echoed the idea that wearing a mask is a way of showing love for one’s neighbors.

“It's much more a question of care than of fear,” she told CNA.

While masks may be somewhat uncomfortable, they are a small inconvenience that can be embraced out of charity for others, Sargeant suggested.

“Mask wearing is a small, humdrum discipline. It's harder to romanticize than a big gesture,” she said.

“Think about the difference between going on a big pilgrimage and keeping up a habit of daily prayer, including in times of spiritual dryness. We have to do it out of love—there's no other way to sustain the dull parts of caring for others.”

Dr. Golder acknowledged there are legitimate concerns about government overreach with some of the mandates surrounding masks and other pandemic limitations.

“[I]t’s absolutely true that there has been some overreach of government officials in imposing restrictions in various places,” she said.

“There is a real possibility of infringement of our constitutional rights and those charged with protecting our rights are hard at work to prevent that,” she added, pointing to court rulings blocking some of these regulations as signs that the American system is working.

But ultimately, Golder said, Catholics may want to consider the question of public health not solely from a perspective of rights, but from the viewpoint of service and friendship to which Christ calls us.

“God as man never once asserted his many ‘rights’ against us, maintaining to the last his role as servant and friend,” she said. “I think that might be the model here—How do I as friend and servant act in the presence of others? Wearing a mask might be a good start these days.”

 

California church sues over governor's reopening plan

Thu, 05/14/2020 - 17:00

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 14, 2020 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- A protestant church in California is suing the state for ordering churches to remain closed while some businesses can reopen during the coronavirus pandemic.

South Bay United Pentecostal Church in Chula Vista, California filed the lawsuit on May 11 through the Thomas More Society, alleging that the state’s plan of allowing certain businesses—including shopping malls and restaurants—to reopen before churches is unconstitutional.

“We feel it is totally unacceptable. It’s relegating the churches to a second-class status,” attorney Charles LiMandri told CNA on Wednesday.

Churches, he said, “enjoy special status” under the Free Exercise clause of the First Amendment, and “if anything” should be allowed to open before other organizations, provided that they follow public health guidelines for social distancing and hygiene.

California has been under a strict stay-at-home order during the COVID-19 pandemic, as one of the first U.S. states to see a spike in virus cases.

In late April, Governor Gavin Newsom released a four-stage “Resilience Roadmap” plan to reopen the state; the plan is now in “Stage 2,” where “lower-risk businesses” are allowed to begin reopening. Retail stores can offer curbside pickup and manufacturing businesses can reopen, and by the end of the month shopping malls and restaurants are expected to be having customers. Liquor stores and marijuana dispensaries have been allowed to keep doing business in the state during the shutdown.

However, churches remain closed and are not allowed to reopen until Stage 3 of Newsom’s plan, “potentially months away,” LiMandri said.

In that stage, churches are grouped together with “higher-risk” businesses such as movie theaters, nail salons and tattoo parlors where customers will either crowd a closed space or will be in close proximity to staff.

“I don’t know how they can justify it, because eating in a restaurant is not a constitutional right. Going to church is a constitutional right,” LiMandri said.

The church says it has a “large sanctuary” for spacing congregants apart from each other, and is equipped with masks, gloves, and protective gear. It already runs an outdoor food distribution operation with staff wearing masks and gloves, LiMandri noted.

“Religious expression is not a hobby,” he said, distinguishing religious services from “non-essential” recreational activities. “For the faith communities, it is very much an essential activity.”

On May 5, a federal judge in Sacramento ruled that the state had the authority to restrict religious services as part of its emergency police power.

There is an effort underway by some Christian churches to reopen by the end of the month in spite of the governor’s order, LiMandri said. 

“If 1,000 or more Evangelical pastors start services, what’s the governor going to do—arrest them all?” LiMandri asked.

So far, the Catholic dioceses in the state have closed voluntarily to help reduce the spread of the disease, and to “cooperate and avoid confrontation.”

A spokesman for the California state Catholic Conference told CNA on May 14 that “no dioceses in the state is part of the lawsuit.”  

“Public officials have broad powers when it comes to public health emergencies so we are consulting closely with local authorities as we devise the safest way of re-opening Masses to the faithful in each diocese,” Steve Pehanich told CNA.

“The dioceses are working with all possible speed. They long to return to the sacraments and to fellowship but want to do so in the safest way possible under the circumstances.”

The governor’s plan gives counties the flexibility, during Stage 2, “to relax stricter local orders at their own pace.” After Stage 2, “once a statewide COVID-19 surveillance system is made possible through testing, further regional variations could be supported,” the plan says.

Pehanich told CNA that “some counties are progressing through the phases faster than others,” but that “firm timelines are difficult because of the variations in deaths, infection rates, ICU capacity and many other factors.” 

“Some rural counties have had very few cases while urban counties have many more. Dioceses are working to match local conditions,” he said.

NY judge upholds Child Victims Act after challenge by Rockville Centre diocese

Thu, 05/14/2020 - 14:01

CNA Staff, May 14, 2020 / 12:01 pm (CNA).- A judge ruled Wednesday that New York's Child Victims Act is constitutional, rejecting a suit filed by the Diocese of Rockville Centre that claimed the law is barred by the due process clause in the state constitution.

The act opened a one-year window for adults in the state who were sexually abused as children to file lawsuits against their abusers. It also adjusted the statute of limitations for both pursuing criminal charges and civil suits against sexual abusers or institutions where the abuse took place.

"The court finds the Child Victims Act is a reasonable response to remedy the injustice of past child sexual abuse," Justice Steven Jaeger of the New York Supreme Court in Nassau County wrote in his May 13 decision. “Accordingly, it does not violate defendant diocese’s right to due process under the New York State Constitution.”

Newsday, a Long Island daily, reported that Jaeger “said New York courts have upheld suspensions of time limitations as a remedy in extraordinary cases,” and on this basis he held the law to be a reasonable response.

Sean Dolan, spokesman for the Rockville Centre diocese, said that “We disagree with the court’s ruling on the due process challenge to the Child Victims Act and we are analyzing our options with respect to appeal of this and other issues.”

The law's one-year window opened in August 2019. It was to have expired Aug. 13, 2020, but was extended by governor Andrew Cuomo this week by five months, to Jan. 14, 2021, due to court delays caused by the coronavirus.

According to Newsday, 44 suits have been filed against the Rockville Centre diocese under the the Child Victims Act. Across the state, more than 1,700 have been filed.

The diocese had filed its motion in November 2019. It said the Due Process clause “allows the legislature to revive formerly time-barred claims only where they could not have been raised earlier,” which it adds “is not so here.”

“The formerly time-barred claims revived by the legislature pursuant to the Child Victims Act all could have been brought within the then-applicable three- or five-year period, after plaintiffs attained the age of majority,” according to the diocese.

The diocese added that the state Court of Appeals “has held that the Due Process Clause allows for the exercise of what it has characterized as an exceptional legislative power 'to remedy an injustice' created by circumstances that prevented the assertion of a timely claim.”

It said claims under the Child Victims Act “do not fit within the scope of this narrowly circumscribed legislative authority.”

The Child Victims Act was signed into law in February 2019. In addition to opening a one-year window for suits, it allows child abuse victims to file criminal charges up to age 28, and lawsuits up to age 55. Previously, they had until the age of 23 to file charges or a civil claim.

Dolan said the diocese is committed to providing “pastoral care and equitable compensation” to child sex abuse victims through its independent reconciliation and compensation program.

As of August 2019 that program had paid a little more than $50 million to 277 claimants since its 2017 institution. Between 75 and 80 claims were still being processed, and 370 people had filed claims with the program.

The day the one-year lookback was opened, Bishop Robert Guglielmone of Charleston was named in a lawsuit accusing him of sexually abusing a young man while he was a priest of the Rockville Centre diocese, starting in 1978. The bishop has said he is innocent of the accusation.

In January 2019 Dennis Poust, director of the New York Catholic Conference, told CNA the conference had not opposed the final version of the act, which provided the same protections for child abuse victims in public insitutions, including schools, as it did for private institutions.

Earlier versions discriminated between public and private institutions, but once that was amended “the conference dropped any opposition to its passage,” he said.

When the bill was passed, the New York bishops issued a joint statement saying, “We pray that the passage of the Child Victims Act brings some measure of healing to all survivors by offering them a path of recourse and reconciliation.”

Earlier this month the Diocese of Buffalo asked a federal court to halt all outstanding clergy sex abuse litigation against it as it navigates bankruptcy proceedings.

Senators want PPP loans for larger non-profits, except abortion providers

Thu, 05/14/2020 - 13:00

CNA Staff, May 14, 2020 / 11:00 am (CNA).- A group of senators want to allow larger non-profits access to emergency loans during the coronavirus pandemic—with an exception to exclude abortion providers.

New legislation introduced on Wednesday by Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), joined by Sens. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), would modify regulations so that non-profits with more than 500 employees could also be eligible for emergency Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans during the pandemic.

When the PPP was set up under the CARES Act in March, one of the sticking points in debate was the eligibility of Planned Parenthood and abortion providers for emergency assistance.

The 500-employee limit barred Planned Parenthood from accessing PPP loans; a group of more than 90 members of Congress wrote the Small Business Administration on April 30, asking them to maintain restrictions on Planned Parenthood’s eligibility for the loans.

Loeffler’s bill forbids any taxpayer funding of abortion providers under the program.

“Paycheck Protection Program funds are for saving jobs and helping people, not ending lives,” Sen. Cramer stated. 

In the first round of PPP loans, $349 billion went to businesses and non-profits, although reports surfaced of large businesses being approved for the small business loans.

Affiliation rules meant that smaller entities that were a part of larger non-profit would count as part of one large entity, thus seemingly disqualifying many Catholic dioceses, parishes, and schools from the program.

Guidance later issued by the SBA, however, clarified a faith-based exemption, and many parishes and schools applied for and received assistance. According to CBS News, 9,000 out of the 17,000 Catholic parishes in the U.S. received PPP loans either in the first or second round of funding.

Applications for the loans were halted on April 16 when the program ran out of money. A second round of $310 billion was then approved by Congress.

Some Catholic dioceses undergoing bankruptcy proceedings either did not apply for PPP loans, or sued the SBA for being disqualified due to their bankruptcy status. In the Diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, parishes and schools applied for loans as legal entities separate from the diocese, and were accepted, despite the diocese itself going through bankruptcy proceedings.

Loeffler’s bill would allow for larger non-profits such as the YMCA and religious organizations not exempt from the PPP regulations to access the small business loans.

“Churches, YMCAs and other organizations are doing amazing work during this difficult time to provide childcare, meals and other support for families and children,” Sen. Loeffler said. “This legislation will allow them to access loans to help them keep their doors open and continue serving their communities while ensuring no taxpayer dollars go to abortion providers.”

'People make their political party their religion,' says Catholic congressman

Thu, 05/14/2020 - 12:00

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 14, 2020 / 10:00 am (CNA).- Catholics have a critical role in bridging the divides of today’s polarized society, one outgoing Catholic congressman says.

“We live in a very polarized society, and I think that’s bad for our society, bad for our country,” Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), an outgoing eight-term Catholic congressman from Chicago’s South Side, told CNA in an interview on Wednesday.

“It seems very clear to me,” he said, that “more and more people are making their political party their religion.”

“I believe that Catholics can show the way and, hopefully, bridge that divide in our world between the two polarized sides,” he said.

Lipinski, one of the last pro-life Democrats, has served in the House since 2005. He said that he has worked to be a “bridge” in Congress between the two parties because he took issue-positions championed by both sides.

“I worked to serve as that bridge, because we don’t have dialogue anymore in this country. We have very little dialogue,” Lipinski said.

The two-sided battles are extending beyond party politics into every facet of society, he warned, pointing out that even during the new coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Americans are not uniting together but rather are rallying into two camps on how to respond to the virus.   

Catholics, he emphasized, need to put their faith ahead of their politics and show their fellow citizens a “third way” of approaching issues—and they are not doing that.

“Catholics are very split—almost evenly split—between the Democratic and the Republican Party, but the most important thing is to be Catholic first,” Lipinski said.

“If we’re truly going to be Catholic, we should make sure that we put our Catholic beliefs, and how that moves us when we enter the public sphere—we should put that before partisanship. And I’m just concerned that people are not doing that.”

After surviving a narrow victory in the 2018 Democratic primary for Illinois’ heavily-Democratic third district, Lipinski lost his rematch on March 17 with challenger Marie Newman.

Known as a pro-life, pro-union, pro-environment member of the House, Lipinski was willing to vote against his party to defund Planned Parenthood, bring in a 20-week abortion ban, and protect babies who survive botched abortion attempts.

Lipinski was attacked by the progressive Marie Newman, who mounted a successful primary challenge against him earlier this year, on the life issue, and also for not supporting liberal policies such as the Green New Deal and Medicare-for-All.

Newman had the backing of pro-abortion groups such as NARAL and Planned Parenthood, and was supported by progressive Democrats including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). 

Lipinski, meanwhile, received no vocal support from House Democratic leadership, despite being the incumbent in the race.

The abortion lobby poured money into primary challenges against Lipinski in 2018 and again in 2020; He told CNA that around $3 million total was spent against him in each cycle. NARAL teamed up with other liberal groups to invest $1.4 million in the final weeks of the 2020 race, running ads targeting Lipinski’s pro-life record among other issues.

The Congressman said that the headwinds he faced from the abortion lobby revealed the level of their concern to silence a pro-life Democratic voice.

“They found it very important to get rid of me from the party, so I think that should be a message to the pro-life movement,” he said.

“The pro-life movement needs to support pro-life Democrats.”

As one of the last remaining pro-life Democrats in Congress, Lipinski said that the future of the pro-life movement must be bipartisan—and this means accepting people who might share different views on other issues such as the economy or the environment.

Any successful coalition, he said, makes room for different views on the spectrum of issues as long as members support the key issue, which in this case is the life issue.  

“That’s when you’re successful, is when you say ‘as long as you’re with us on this issue, we accept you, we want you as part of our movement.’ I think that’s important for the pro-life movement to continue to expand.”

While needing to promote a “third way” of dealing with politics, Catholics need also to be concerned about those young people who are leaving religion altogether, he said—a phenomenon described as the rise of the “Nones.”

Last year, the Pew Research Center reported that fewer than half of Millennials (49%) now identify as Christian, and four-in-ten are unaffiliated with any religion.

The current crisis is also a golden opportunity, he said, as the pandemic is forcing people to grapple with their beliefs on life and death.

“I want to be someone who reaches out—especially to young people, whether they are raised Catholic or not—to try to draw them in to the Catholic Church, introduce them to what Catholics believe and understand, and our faith,” Lipinski said.

“And that’s something that I want to continue to do, especially as I leave Congress and move on.”

Saint Paul-Minneapolis priests adapt to bring sacraments to COVID-19 patients

Wed, 05/13/2020 - 19:42

Denver Newsroom, May 13, 2020 / 05:42 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis has assembled a team of 30 priests ready to administer last rites— confession, communion, and anointing of the sick— to COVID-19 patients.

All the priest-volunteers on the “Anointing Corps,” which launched early this month, are under 50, and most are parochial vicars. The team has anointed at least a dozen patients so far, the archdiocese said May 12.

Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Cozzens, who is spearheading the initiative, told CNA that priests from the Anointing Corps have been called to several nursing homes already.

"The nursing homes, I think, have just been happy that we're handling it professionally," Cozzens said.

On some occasions, he said, the anointing priest has been able to "live-stream" the anointing of the sick person to their family outside the nursing home, since they are not able to be there in person.

The Archdiocese of Chicago in early April assembled a team of 24 priest volunteers— all under age 60, and without pre-existing medical conditions— to administer anointing of the sick to Catholics with COVID-19 during the coronavirus pandemic.

Cozzens said he looked to Chicago for guidance on how to assemble their own team.

The key for the St. Paul and Minneapolis “Anointing Corps”, he said, has been their training and professionalism. In addition to the priests, their archdiocesan team has triage nurses working on it, he said— people who know how to communicate effectively with hospital staff.

"We haven't been able to get into every nursing home— nor every hospital— because of the protocols, but we've been making a lot of progress," Cozzens said.

The priests on the team have received the same personal protective equipment training as the doctors and nurses, he said.

"The key for us has been convincing the hospitals and nursing homes that we have a really good protocol, and that our priests are trained and know what they're doing."

Several of the hospitals and nursing homes where priests have performed anointing, Cozzens said, have been especially welcoming of and grateful for the priests' ministry.

Most care centers have been helpful in providing the PPE that the priests need in order safely to  enter the room and physically touch the patient when anointing them.

"The ones that are really helpful understand the importance of care at the time of death, and have been understanding that for us as Catholics, actual sacramental contact at the time of death is really important. And they've been understanding of that reality, and have provided us what we need to be able to do that."

Cozzens encouraged other local Churches wanting to create their own anointing teams to consult with medical experts and make sure the priests are well trained in what they are being asked to do.

"Having a professional and consistent approach has been the key to hospitals letting us in," he said.

Father Joseph Gifford, associate pastor of Church of All Saints in Lakeville typically serves as a nursing home chaplain.

His ministry as a chaplain normally would consist of celebrating Mass for the Catholic residents at four or five area nursing homes once or twice a month. In addition, Father Gifford would normally often be called to hear confessions and administer the anointing of the sick to residents.

Father Gifford said he is glad that it is he— as All Saints' parochial vicar— who is tasked with anointing COVID-positive patients, and not his pastor.

"That way, my pastor can see the non-COVID-19 patients who are still in danger of death for all the other reasons," he said.

"In my short experience as a priest, I can always look forward to going and saying Mass at the nursing home, and it's going to be the same people," adding that he looks forward to "getting to know them better, and share life and share God with them."

Father Gifford was a trained singer before he entered the seminary, and told CNA he has used his gift of singing to entertain residents at the nursing homes he serves at by singing to them outside their windows.

In addition, since no one currently can visit the area nursing homes in person, All Saints parish has set up a "calling tree" of staff members and volunteers in order to regularly check on parishioners over 65.

He says he most misses the in-person interaction with the residents, and looks forward to the opportunity once more to talk with the residents in person.

The archdiocese has also set up a site where Catholics can commit to daily prayer for health care workers.

The Archdiocese of Boston also has assembled anointing teams of priests. In that local Church, the priests are housed together in strategic locations close to hospitals.

Throughout the country, chaplains at hospitals and nursing homes have had to adapt their ministry to protect the elderly and those at greatest risk of contracting COVID-19.

Father Hugh Vincent Dyer, a Dominican priest in New York, took up residence in the nursing home where he has served as chaplain since December 2019. There are about 360 elderly residents at the nursing home, not all of them Catholic, the Federalist reports.

To continue to minister while keeping his distance, Father Dyer has been broadcasting Mass, the rosary, and meditations from the facility’s chapel via closed-circuit television.

He also has been using the CCTV system to screen films, some of which he has found “can trigger forgotten memories and fascinating stories.”

In addition, he has been broadcasting a weekly “Cultural Miscellany,” during which he reads poetry— some of which are favorites that the residents have specifically requested— and offers reflections on them.

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