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ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
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Judge rules New York churches can reopen in line with businesses

Fri, 06/26/2020 - 16:00

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 26, 2020 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- A federal judge on Friday ruled that New York must allow indoor and outdoor religious services in the same way it would allow mass outdoor protests, or indoor shopping malls.

Judge Gary Sharpe of the Northern District of New York said that the state cannot limit outdoor religious services during the pandemic, provided that attendees follow social distancing requirements. For indoor services, he said, the state has to make the same allowances for churches as it does for other businesses.

The judgement follows a lawsuit filed on behalf of several different religious groups by the Thomas More Society. No Catholic diocese or parish was party to the suit.

The New York State Catholic Conference, which represents the bishops of the state, told CNA on Friday that churches would probably continue to follow state health guidelines for reopening, even though they are no longer bound by law to do so.

“Bishops must weigh many factors in reopening, the most important being the safety and well being of our congregations, clergy and parish staffs,” a spokesman for the conference told CNA. “We believe the guidance offered by the state is important to achieving that goal.”

The state had already allowed some churches in the state to hold services at 33% indoor capacity, where that particular jurisdiction had reached phase IV of reopening. Churches in other areas have been allowed to offer Mass at 25% capacity.

New York City, currently in the second reopening phase, had allowed some indoor offices, retail stores, and salons to operate at 50% capacity while churches were restricted to 25% capacity.

Judge Sharpe on Friday said that those businesses are “not justifiably different than houses of worship” in the risk they pose to the spread of the virus.

Furthermore, state officials showed preferential treatment by allowing or even encouraging mass outdoor protests and 150-person outdoor graduation ceremonies, while subjecting religious gatherings to ten or 25-person outdoor gathering limits, he said.

Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio have both appeared to condone or even encourage mass outdoor anti-racism protests attended by hundreds and thousands of people in recent weeks, despite strict state limits on the size of outdoor gatherings to 10 or 25 people.

On June 2, de Blasio defended his selective enforcement of gathering restrictions, saying that "[w]hen you see a nation, an entire nation simultaneously grappling with an extraordinary crisis seeded in 400 years of American racism, I'm sorry, that is not the same question as the understandably aggrieved store owner or the devout religious person who wants to go back to services.”

By their words, Cuomo and de Blasio endorsed “what they knew was a flagrant disregard of the outdoor limits and social distancing rules,” the judge said, thus sending “a clear message that mass protests are deserving of preferential treatment.”

They could have verbally discouraged or remained silent on the protests while suspending any enforcement of outdoor gathering restrictions, Judge Sharpe said, and thus could have remained within the law.

Christopher Ferrara, special counsel for the Thomas More Society, stated that Judge Sharpe “was able to see through the sham of Governor Cuomo’s ‘Social Distancing Protocol’ which went right out the window as soon as he and Mayor de Blasio saw a mass protest movement they favored taking to the streets by the thousands.”

Lawyers from the Thomas More Society originally brought the lawsuit on June 10, on behalf of three Orthodox Jewish congregants from Brooklyn and two priests of the Society of St. Pius X, a group in irregular communion with the Catholic Church, which operates independently of the dioceses of the state, and does not recognize the local bishops' authority.

The lawsuit charged that Cuomo, state attorney general Letitia James, and de Blasio all violated religious freedom, free speech, and due process in their public health restrictions during the pandemic.

The state and city put more burdensome restrictions on churches than they did on some businesses and mass protests, the lawsuit alleged, creating “a veritable dictatorship” where they “selectively enforced ‘social distancing’ under a ‘lockdown’” in the state, while carving out “numerous exceptions” in line with “their value judgments.” 

De Blasio has on multiple occasions during the pandemic threatened houses of worship with fines, permanent closure, and mass arrests if they would not comply with public health orders.

Missouri's last abortion clinic receives license

Fri, 06/26/2020 - 14:09

CNA Staff, Jun 26, 2020 / 12:09 pm (CNA).- The Missouri health department issued a license to the state's only abortion clinic Thursday. Its license had been revoked a year ago over regulators' concerns about health and safety problems at the clinic.

The state's Administrative Hearing Commission had ruled last month that the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services was wrong not to renew Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region's license to perform abortions.

The health department inspected the clinic in St. Louis before granting the license June 25. If it should want to appeal the ruling from the Administrative Hearing Commission, the health department must do so by June 29.

The license had been revoked in June 2019, but the administrative commission and a state judge both granted a temporary stay of the health department’s decision, allowing the clinic to remain open while the case was reviewed.

The health department has cited an “unprecedented lack of cooperation” on the part of the St. Louis clinic, as well as a “failure to meet basic standards of patient care,” identifying four instances of failed abortion procedures at the clinic; among these, one of the mothers developed sepsis, and another was hospitalized with life threatening complications.

According to the health department, Planned Parenthood went back on its agreement to perform pelvic examinations as a “preoperative health requirement.” Several doctors at the clinic refused requests to provide interviews with the health department, and the clinic would not have been prepared for a case of a woman who suffered “severe hemorrhaging” at a hospital before being referred to Planned Parenthood.

A 2016 report on an inspection of the clinic by the health department shows that the clinic at that time was in violation of multiple state standards involving the sterilization and storing of equipment, and the proper documentation of medication and procedures.

Planned Parenthood has accused the state of weaponizing the regulatory process and claimed the state has admitted the pelvic exams are “medically unnecessary.”

In October 2019 Planned Parenthood opened a new clinic in Fairview Heights, Ill., just 15 miles east of St. Louis.

Yamelsie Rodriguez, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, said that women are seeking abortions in Illinois due to more permissive abortion laws. Missouri also has a 72-hour waiting period for abortion.

Earlier this month a federal appellate court dismissed a lawsuit filed by a member of the Satanic Temple against Missouri’s informed consent abortion law, rejecting the argument that the law established Catholic religious belief by stating that life begins at conception.

“Any theory of when life begins necessarily aligns with some religious beliefs and not others,” said U.S. Circuit Judge David R. Stras in a June 9 decision from the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. Under the plaintiff’s theory, the decision said, “Missouri’s only option would be to avoid legislating in this area altogether.”

State law requires abortion providers to distribute a booklet from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services which includes the statement: “The life of each human being begins at conception. Abortion will terminate the life of a separate, unique, living human being.”

Missouri enacted a comprehensive abortion ban in 2019, which Republican Gov. Mike Parson signed into law. The legislation was supported by Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis.

Missouri’s law set up a multi-tier ban on abortions after eight weeks, 14 weeks, 18 weeks and 20 weeks, as well as bans on abortions conducted solely because of the baby’s race, sex, or Down syndrome diagnosis. In August 2019 a federal judge struck down all of the bans related to the stages of pregnancy, but left intact the disability, race, and sex-selective abortion bans.

With release of sex abuse report, National Review Board cautions against complacency 

Fri, 06/26/2020 - 05:00

CNA Staff, Jun 26, 2020 / 03:00 am (CNA).- The head of the National Review Board has called for increased action to fight sex abuse and avoid complacency, following the release this week of a report on sex abuse in the U.S. Catholic Church.

“We know that many current bishops have seriously confronted clerical sexual abuse, which is borne out in the Annual Report,” said Francesco C. Cesareo, chairman of the National Review Board. “Yet, the Report also evidences areas in need of improvement that will necessitate an on-going effort in addressing this issue in a way that will require courageous leadership, as well as an openness to the co-responsibility of the laity in responding to this ever-present crisis.”

He warned that even limited failures can present a significant problem for the Church in the U.S. The National Review Board is calling for a more in-depth audit and updates to the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, he said.

“We continue to see the failure to publish reporting procedures in the various languages in which the liturgy is celebrated; poor recordkeeping of background checks; dysfunctional Diocesan Review Boards; lack of a formal monitoring plan for priests who have been removed from ministry; failure to update policies and procedures in light of the 2011 Charter revisions,” he said.

While these problems are not widespread, they do recur and are evident in 25% to 30% of dioceses. Cesareo said this indicates “lack of diligence that puts children’s safety at risk.”

“The apparent resistance by some parishes and schools to provide safe environment training places children at greater risk,” he said. “Although dioceses continue to do good work in creating cultures of protection and healing, the fact remains the Church’s efforts will be measured based on the weakest links. If one diocese is at risk, the whole Church is also at risk.”

The annual report on Findings and Recommendations on the Implementation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People was released June 25 by the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Child and Youth Protection. It is the seventeenth report since the charter was implemented in 2002.

The Rochester, New York-based consulting firm StoneBridge Business Partners conducted the audit. The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate conducted a survey included in the report.

The audit found three instances of non-compliance with the charter: the Oakland diocese failed to evaluate a visiting priest's background and there were a non-functioning review boards in both the Ukrainian Archeparchy of Philadelphia and the St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Catholic Diocese.

Additionally, non-participants in the audit were the Eparchy of St. Mary Queen of Peace, the Eparchy of St. Peter the Apostle, and the Eparchy of St. Nicholas of Chicago.

Out of more than 37,000 diocesan and religious order priests, there were 37 allegations involving current year minors, of which 8 were substantiated and the priests were removed from ministry. Twelve allegations are still under investigation, 7 were ruled unsubstantiated, 6 were unable to be proven. Another three have been referred to religious orders, and one was referred to another diocese.

Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in the report’s preface that all of these allegations were reported to law enforcement. He said the numbers indicate that new cases of sex abuse by clerics are rare.

“Of course, every case is one too many, and we remain vigilant and determined to prevent this evil,” the archbishop said. He stressed the efforts to implement policies and programs to protect young people and create safe environments in parishes, schools and other Catholic ministries.

Hundreds of thousands of adults have been trained to prevent abuse and to report it, while leaders have been put through extensive background checks, Gomez said. Dioceses have implemented strict reporting requirements, and work closely with law enforcement to report alleged abuse and to remove accused abusers from ministry, he said.

“My brother bishops and I want to apologize to all those who have endured abuse at the hands of someone in the Church and we want to express our pastoral commitment to helping every victim-survivor find healing and hope,” the archbishop said.

“From out of the failures of our past, Catholic dioceses across the country have worked hard to put in place policies and programs to protect young people and to create safe environments in our parishes, schools and other ministries.”

The report concerns the audit period of July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019. In that time, 4,220 adults brought forward 4,434 allegations. This is a significant increase in allegations, which the report attributed in part to additional allegations received in the wake of lawsuits, compensation programs, the reviews of clergy files, and bankruptcies.

By comparison, last year's report for the 2017-2018 audit period said 1,385 adults reported 1,455 new allegations, the vast majority of which concerned historical instances of abuse. Those numbers represent a marked rise over the 2016-2017 reporting period. Last year's report attributed the escalation to the state-wide adoption of Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Programs by Catholic dioceses of New York State.

The latest reporting period followed the June 2018 revelations that the deeply influential ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former Archbishop of Washington, had for decades sexually abused teen boys and young men, including seminarians. A Pennsylvania grand jury report released later in 2018 also examined sexual abuse by Catholic clergy.

About 80% of newly reported victims of diocesan clergy were male, while 20% were female. The report said 59% of alleged abuse began when the victim was aged 10-14, while 22% involved victims aged 9 or under.

Among the newly reported allegations, abuse by diocesan clergy peaked in 1970-1974. According to the report, 50% of alleged abuse occurred or began before 1975, 45% between 1975 and 1999, and 5% after 2000.

About 43% of alleged perpetrators in diocesan clergy did not have prior allegations against them, while 57% did. Ninety percent of alleged diocesan offenders are deceased, already removed from ministry, already laicized, or missing. Forty priests or deacons identified as alleged abusers in 2019 were permanently removed from ministry.

Diocese and eparchies that responded to the survey reported over $281 million in costs related to sex abuse allegations in the 2018-2019 period. About 71% of this went to settlements for victims, while 15% went to attorney fees. Religious institutes, which are handled in a separate category, paid over $41 million. Besides settlements and legal expenses, these costs include support for offenders and other payments to victims for purposes including therapy, living expenses, or legal expenses.

In last year's audit period, dioceses and eparchies provided outreach and support to 1,138 families who had newly reported abuse, while they provided continued support to 1,851 survivors and their families who had previously reported abuse.

Catholic churches and organizations conducted over 2.6 million background checks on clergy, employees and volunteers. More than 2.6 million adults and 3.6 million children and young people were trained in abuse awareness and reporting.

In February 2019, Pope Francis held the first-ever global summit on protecting minors in the Church. In May 2019, the pope issued new norms in the document “Vos Estis,” aiming to hold bishops and religious superiors accountable when they are accused of abuse or when they are accused of mishandling abuse allegations.

Cessario said the promulgation of Vos Estis and U.S. bishops' efforts to enact it “signaled an important and positive response” in the wake of revelations about McCarrick.

“Nonetheless, subsequent revelations of episcopal wrongdoing, the establishment of compensation plans for victims, the announcement of new grand jury investigations in several states, the filing of new lawsuits regarding abuse, and a growing desire among the laity for greater involvement in addressing this issue has led many to question whether the audit is sufficiently adequate to determine if a culture of safety within dioceses has taken root,” he said.

Cessario said the National Review Board has called for a “more in-depth audit,” as well as “a further revision of the Charter that will incorporate new practices, such as parish audits, offering greater assurance of compliance.”

Deacon Bernie Nojadera, executive director of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection, wrote a Feb. 28 letter included in the report. He reflected on how the abuse crisis has affected Catholics' faith.

“For some, this crisis has strengthened their faith and resolve – has confirmed the importance of keeping the faith and ultimately relying on the mercy, goodness, and plan of God,” he said. “For others, this crisis has destroyed lives and faith and trust in God. The theological implications point to the need to reconnect appropriately with God and with each other. Understanding what is happening in the Church and Her response is part of the solution.”

Nojadera noted the need to develop and maintain “right relationships” with young people and the vulnerable to help the Church learn and grow amid the sex abuse crisis.

“Only by promoting a culture of protection and healing can we prevent the evil of sexual abuse and bring true healing to those affected by this crime,” he said, emphasizing the need for continued vigilance.

The U.S. bishops' statement on the report's release said that the audit and the continued application of zero-tolerance policies are “two important tools in the Church's broader program of creating a culture of protection and healing that exceeds the requirements of the Charter.”

 

 

San Juan Capistrano Mission relocates St. Junipero Serra statues for protection 

Thu, 06/25/2020 - 18:34

CNA Staff, Jun 25, 2020 / 04:34 pm (CNA).- Two statues of St. Junipero Serra have been moved from a Catholic mission and church in southern California amid fears of vandalism as protests around the state continue to topple statues.

The Mission San Juan Capistrano and its neighboring church have removed statues of Serra from their outside displays this week.

Diocese of Orange spokeswoman Tracey Kincaid told the OC Register that the Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano moved the statue “out of precaution.” The statue, which was anchored to a pedestal at the entrance, was removed on June 23.

The mission next door relocated the statute from its front courtyard to its Sala building. The 104-year-old statue has been displayed for almost 80 years. It will soon be part of a mission exhibit on the life of Serra.

“The statue was moved to ensure its protection and was relocated to also ensure its continued access to the public,” mission staff said in a June 24 Facebook post.

The basilica was built in 1986 to accommodate the growing Catholic community, which outgrew the mission’s smaller Serra Chapel. The Mission San Juan Capistrano was established by Serra in 1776.

Serra statues are among numerous depictions of historic figures pulled down in the past week amid ongoing protests and riots throughout the country. While some protests have torn down the statues of Confederate figures, as part of a call to end systemic racism, other statues have also been torn down from prominent locations, including one of George Washington.

During the eighteenth century, Serra founded nine Catholic missions in the area that would later become California, many of those missions would go on to become the centers of major California cities.

Serra helped to convert thousands of native Californians to Christianity and taught them new agricultural technologies. Critics have lambasted Serra as a symbol of European colonialism and said the missions engaged in the forced labor of Native Americans, sometimes claiming Bl. Serra himself was abusive.

But Serra’s defenders say that Serra was actually an advocate for native people and a champion of human rights. They note the many native people he helped during his life, and their outpouring of grief at his death.

Biographers note that Serra frequently intervened for native people when they faced persecution from Spanish authorities. In one case, the priest intervened to spare the lives of several California natives who had attacked a Spanish outpost.

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco issued a June 20 statement highlighting the saint’s good works, saying, “St. Serra made heroic sacrifices to protect the indigenous people of California from their Spanish conquerors, especially the soldiers…”

“For the past 800 years, the various Franciscan orders of brothers, sisters and priests that trace their inspiration back to him have been exemplary of not only serving, but identifying with, the poor and downtrodden and giving them their rightful dignity as children of God,” the archbishop said.

The California Catholic Conference of Bishops similarly defended Serra, saying, “The historical truth is that Serra repeatedly pressed the Spanish authorities for better treatment of the Native American communities. Serra was not simply a man of his times.”

“In working with Native Americans, he was a man ahead of his times who made great sacrifices to defend and serve the indigenous population and work against an oppression that extends far beyond the mission era,” they said.

“And if that is not enough to legitimate a public statue in the state that he did so much to create, then virtually every historical figure from our nation's past will have to be removed for their failings measured in the light of today's standards.”

 

Don’t deport Haitians during pandemic, Miami archbishop appeals

Thu, 06/25/2020 - 13:48

CNA Staff, Jun 25, 2020 / 11:48 am (CNA).- Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski has called for a moratorium on the United States’ deportation of Haitians during the coronavirus pandemic, warning that Haiti’s healthcare system is not prepared to manage a widespread coronavirus outbreak.

“An ongoing surge of infection could destroy an already weakened economy and exacerbate political instability,” Wenski wrote in a June 19 letter to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“Haiti’s health system’s capacity to respond to COVID-19 cases is already at its limit, making the possible influx of new cases especially dangerous. I urge you to stop the deportations of individuals to Haiti at this time during COVID-19 in the interest of public health and stability in Haiti.”

Haitian health experts estimate that the country, with a population of 11 million, has only 39 physicians to manage COVID-19, 124 ICU beds and the capacity to ventilate 62 people, Wenski said.

Wenski himself has ministered to the Haitian population in Miami and in Haiti— Miami is home to hundreds of thousands of Haitian immigrants and people of Haitian descent. He said a larger COVID-19 outbreak in Haiti could push more Haitians to leave their country to seek work or opportunities elsewhere.

“Because of their ongoing ties to Haiti, including supporting relatives through remittances, they do not want to see Haiti further destabilized by a deportation policy that threatens to undermine the public health and safety of the people of Haiti,” Wenski continued.

In addition, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities have in many areas become sites for COVID-19 outbreaks, as testing for the disease still is not widespread in many facilities.

“I again respectfully request that you halt deportations during the COVID-19 pandemic to prevent further destabilization in Haiti, and to prevent massive loss of lives,” Wenski said.

A group of some 300 activists and celebrities sent a similar letter to Pompeo on June 19.

As of June 24, Haiti has 5,429 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 92 people have died of the disease, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

The United States had designated Temporary Protected Status (TPS) on Haiti during 2010, in response to the massive earthquake that led many Haitians to flee their country.

The earthquake killed 200,000 people and left one million homeless. At that time, the Department of Homeland Security temporarily halted deportations to Haiti due to the danger of sending Haitians back to the decimated country.

A decade after the quake, tens of thousands are still living in tent camps, many without running water or means of sanitation.

Hurricane Matthew’s landfall in Haiti caused tremendous damage in October 2016, with the Category 4 storm putting more than 1.4 million people in need of emergency aid.

The Trump administration decided not to renew the Temporary Protected Status designation for Haiti in November 2017. In April 2019, however, a federal court ruled that Haiti’s TPS status would remain in effect pending further court order. As of 2018, there were at least 46,000 Haitians in the U.S. who qualified for the TPS program.

Violent protests have erupted intermittently in the country since July 2018, with protesters calling for the resignation of President Jovenel Moïse, who has been accused of mismanaging billions in aid given to the country after Hurricane Matthew.

 

‘No justice, no peace’ reflects Catholic principles for police reform, bishops say

Thu, 06/25/2020 - 12:00

CNA Staff, Jun 25, 2020 / 10:00 am (CNA).- As police reform legislation is currently stuck in the Senate, leading U.S. bishops wrote members of Congress on Wednesday outlining Catholic principles of policing.

Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City, Bishop Mario Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of Washington, and Bishop Shelton Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux sent a joint letter to members of Congress on Wednesday “in the wake of the terrible and unjust killing of George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, and so many more.”

While many might wish for peace during the present unrest, there can be no true peace without justice, the bishops said.

“When protesters shout, ‘No justice, no peace,’ perhaps without realizing it, they are paraphrasing an axiom of the Church,” the letter said. “A police force that is accountable to its highest standards – discipline, self-control, mercy, and the recognition that every person is made in the image of God – can promote justice and thus bring about peace.”

The three bishops hold key positions within the U.S. bishops’ conference. Archbishop Coakley chairs the domestic justice committee, Bishop Dorsonville chairs the migration committee, and Bishop Fabre chairs the anti-racism committee. In their letter, they wrote that the deaths of Floyd, Brooks, and others have exposed the need for serious reform and accountability in policing.

While acknowledging the purpose of law enforcement “to promote justice and the common good in society,” the bishops wrote on Wednesday that “it is clear that there have been too many failures in serving everyone, with tragic consequences.”

Reform is necessary, they urged, “so that real accountability can happen before more lives are lost.”

The letter comes as the Senate failed to pass the JUSTICE Act, sponsored by Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) on Wednesday in the wake of mass protests against racism and police brutality in recent weeks.

Scott’s bill would fund jurisdictions that implement de-escalation tactics, would end the use of chokeholds, would put more body cameras on officers, and pushed departments to investigate prior disciplinary history of officer candidates, among other policies.

However, Senate Democrats and the Congressional Black Caucus said the legislation was “insufficient” and the bill failed to receive the necessary 60 votes for floor consideration. House Democrats have introduced their own legislation, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which among other things would ban racial profiling by police, ban chokeholds, prohibit no-knock warrants in drug cases, eliminate qualified immunity for officers, ban limit access of local departments to military equipment, and amend the standards for federal civil rights lawsuits to “reckless” from “willful” police misconduct.

President Trump signed an executive order on police reform on June 16, but Democrats also argued that it did not go far enough.

Racism, the bishops wrote on Wednesday, “remains a problem in the criminal justice system.”

They cited previous letters by the conference on the matter, drawing attention to disproportionately harsh treatment of people of color by police or the fear of many in the African-American community of interactions with police officers given the number of police killings of African-Americans.

In their letter, the bishops quoted Pope Francis’ 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, “[w]hen a society – whether local, national or global – is willing to leave a part of itself on the fringes, no political programmes or resources spent on law enforcement or surveillance systems can indefinitely guarantee tranquility.”

The bishops encouraged several policies currently under consideration including “collection of data on use-of-force, training towards de-escalation, work to end racial profiling, doing away with chokeholds,” as well as “using body cameras.”

Pope Francis has spoken out about the current unrest in the U.S. praying for the repose of the soul of George Floyd on June 3.

“We cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life. At the same time, we have to recognize that the violence of recent nights is self-destructive and self-defeating,” the pope said.

Pro-life laws advance in Iowa, Mississippi, Tennessee

Thu, 06/25/2020 - 06:00

CNA Staff, Jun 25, 2020 / 04:00 am (CNA).- Three state legislatures have passed new restrictions on abortion: a heartbeat-based abortion ban in Tennessee; a 24-hour waiting period on abortion in Iowa; and a ban on abortion due to race, sex or genetic anomaly of the unborn child in Mississippi.
 
The Tennessee Senate passed a ban on abortion 30 minutes after midnight on June 19 by a 23-5 party line vote, after it was previously passed in the House of Representatives, the The Tennessean reports.
 
Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony List praised the bill, saying “Tennessee’s landmark new law includes some of the strongest protections in the nation for unborn children and their mothers.”
 
The legislation bars abortion after the point at which a fetal heartbeat can be detected, as early as six weeks into pregnancy. It bars abortion if a woman is known to be seeking an abortion because of the unborn child’s sex or race, or because of a diagnosis of Down syndrome. The law bars abortions for juveniles in the custody of the state’s Department of Children’s Services, and removes the ability to petition a judge for permission for an abortion.
 
The law would allow abortion if a woman’s life is in danger but not if the unborn child is conceived in rape or incest.
 
Under the law, a doctor must determine the gestational age of the unborn child and inform the mother, allow the woman to hear the fetal heartbeat and explain the location of the unborn child in her uterus, conduct an ultrasound and display the images to the mother. The abortionist must provide an explanation of the unborn child’s size and explain which external body parts and internal organs are present and visible.
 
A heartbeat-based abortion ban passed the Tennessee House last year but Republican Lt. Gov. Randy McNally did not support it in the Senate.
 
Similar laws in Mississippi, Ohio and other states have been struck down in court.
 
If the courts strike down Tennessee’s heartbeat-based abortion ban, the legislation would automatically enact a ban on abortion at ten different gradations: eight, 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 21, 22, 23 and 24 weeks into pregnancy.
 
A doctor who performs an illegal abortion would face a Class C felony, should the bill become law.
 
Due to the novel coronavirus epidemic, the bill was thought to be shelved. It appeared to have revived in last-minute negotiations between the House and Senate, The Tennessean reports. The Senate rules were suspended when the bill was passed and no members of the public were present.
 
Ashley Coffield, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Tennessee and North Mississippi, charged that the bill’s passage violated the spirit of democracy as Planned Parenthood brought litigation against the bill.
 
“In the dead of night, Tennessee politicians hellbent on chipping away at abortion access blocked citizens from entering the state Capitol while they used this draconian abortion ban to pass the state budget,” she said. “While Tennesseans are concerned about their health and safety during a pandemic, politicians used women’s lives as a bargaining chip to push their political agenda.”
 
Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit against the bill, charging that it was unconstitutional.
 
Under the legislation, abortion clinics must post a sign saying that it is possible to reverse a chemical abortion, or face a $10,000 fine.
 
Similar Arizona legislation, passed in 2015, was repealed in 2016 after legal challenges. The State of Arizona had to pay Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers more than $600,000 in attorney fees and other costs spent fighting the law, the Associated Press reported.
 
In Iowa, the House and Senate passed a 24-hour waiting period requirement for abortion early June 15, KCCI News reports. The legislation also requires a woman to view ultrasounds of the unborn child and to receive information on adoption.
 
The legislation was passed amid a partisan battle.

Rep. Shannon Lundgren, R-Dubuque, said the passage of the bill showed her party is “always thinking ahead and thinking about how we can advance the life movement in the state of Iowa.” Sen. Jim Carlin, R-Woodbury, another supporter, said the legislation showed consistency in “our commitment to humanity.”
 
Democratic lawmakers objected to the bill, charging that Republican lawmakers exploited the coronavirus epidemic to advance the legislation.
 
Rep. Jo Oldson, House Democratic Whip, said the bill was released on a Saturday night so that legislators wouldn’t have to hear from voters.
 
“It's time for Iowa Republican lawmakers to be more transparent and stop the relentless attacks on the rights of Iowa women,” she said.
 
Planned Parenthood charged that legislators “prioritized their personal ideologies at the expense of our sexual and reproductive health freedom.”
 
On June 23 abortion backers Planned Parenthood and the ACLU filed a court challenge against the bill, seeking a temporary injunction to block the law from taking effect July 1.
 
Erin Davison-Rippey, Iowa executive director of Planned Parenthood North Central States, said the legislation could in practice delay abortion “by weeks,” and called the bill “a political ploy to create barriers to sexual and reproductive health care in Iowa.”
 
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds has not yet signed the bill but she is strongly pro-life and is expected to sign the bill into law.
 
In 2018, the Iowa Supreme Court voted 5-2 to reject a 72-hour waiting period for abortion. For the first time, the court ruled that the Iowa state constitution guarantees a right to abortion. The decision strongly entrenched the place of abortion in state law.
 
Reynolds has since appointed four Supreme Court justices, causing some to think a different decision could result from the litigation, the Des Moines Register reports.
 
In Mississippi, the legislature backed a bill to ban abortion based on race, sex or genetic anomalies. Supporters said it would bar abortion for conditions including Down syndrome.
 
On June 23 the Mississippi House of Representatives passed the bill by 91 to 25, after the Senate gave strong approval to the bill, the Associated Press reports.
 
Sue Liebel, state policy director for Susan B. Anthony List, praised the bill.
 
“Abortions carried out because of a baby’s sex, race, or potential disability, such as Down syndrome, constitutes modern-day eugenics,” she said.
 
Beth Orlansky, advocacy director for the Mississippi Center for Justice, was a critic.
 
“This unconstitutional restriction adversely affects poor women who do not have the means to seek assistance elsewhere,” she said.
 
Violation of the law could mean up to 10 years in prison for a doctor or other health care worker. The law specifically states that the woman seeking the abortion would not be punished. The ban allows abortion in cases of medical emergencies.
 
Mississippi Republican Gov. Tate Reeves is expected to sign the bill, but pro-abortion rights groups are expected to file a legal challenge.

 

Worldwide, children living in institutional care do better with families, Lancet commission says

Wed, 06/24/2020 - 19:13

Denver Newsroom, Jun 24, 2020 / 05:13 pm (CNA).- The millions of children separated from their families around the world would do best in a family environment, not institutional care, and leaders should prioritize a collaborative, well-managed shift toward family-centered care, according a report from a commission based in the Lancet Group of medical journals.

 
“The global intent to provide optimal care for separated children has never been greater. Momentum to move children from institutions and into families is building, led by welcomed evidence and practical leadership from many sectors within child health, child protection, and social welfare,” said the report’s executive summary, authored by The Lancet Psychiatry editor-in-chief Niall Boyce; Jane Godsland, editor-in-chief of The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health; and King's College London professor Edmund Sonuga-Barke.
 
“It is essential that governments, voluntary organizations, and health and social care professionals work together so that action is not taken precipitately, with potentially unintended adverse consequences, but is instead timely, sustainable, and child-centered,” they said.
 
The last century in North America and most of Europe has seen a major shift toward family-based care.
 
“The same shift elsewhere in the world is urgently needed,” said the commission report’s executive summary.
 
As of 2015, 5-6 million children were estimated to live in institutions such as orphanages and residential homes in some 137 countries, most of which are low or middle income. In some countries this number has decreased, but in others the numbers have increased due to HIV. The commission said factors driving institutionalization include poverty, social deprivation, poor parenting skills, illness and disability of the child or the carer, natural and manmade disasters, and child abuse and neglect.
 
Institutional care is usually inconsistent, with poorly paid and poorly trained staff. High staff turnover hurts the possibility of building relationships and providing basic standards of care. Children might suffer mistreatment from both staff and their peers.
 
“Institutional care denies children and adolescents access to kinship networks that have a major role in many societies,” the commission report said.
 
“Institutionalization often has a profound effect on a child’s physical and psychological development and can be associated with long-term mental health problems,” the report continued. At least 80% of institutionalized children were below average in physical growth and cognitive development, and they face greater risk of attachment problems. There are “strong negative associations between institutional care and children’s development, especially in relation to physical growth, cognition and attention.”
 
The effects could be especially harmful to babies and young children aged six to 24 months. Longer stays in institutions are associated with larger delays in development. These effects can be “rapidly reversed, especially in physical growth and brain growth, but the children most affected can face longer-term effects.” However, the situation of these children “rapidly improves” when they leave institutions for family-based care in adoption, kinship, or foster care.
 
“Moving children from institutions to families requires the coordination of an integrated set of global, national, and local initiatives,” the commission said. “Only a combined effort that links national and international policies and resources with local knowledge and practices can create meaningful, sustainable change. Global development, governmental, donor, faith-based, and volunteer agencies need to work together to transform care systems, address the drivers of institutionalization, support child protection, and end child trafficking.”
 
The commission encouraged policy makers to reconsider incentives that support children's institutions, including tax breaks for donations, financial transfers and volunteer tourism “voluntourism” to visit children's institutions. Rather, policymakers should incentivize the promotion of family-based care.
 
National frameworks must be established to eliminate institutions and to reform care for children in need, with good data collection and monitoring of care. Workforce development is needed for new professions that support family-based care, and funding should be redirected from institutions to family-based care in “a deliberate, phased and safe manner.” The ultimate goal should be “safe, sustainable, and nurturing family-based care for every child.”
 
The means to this goal should include strengthening family-based alternatives, a broader child protection system, and the progressive elimination of institutions.
 
The report pointed to the Rwanda program Let’s Raise Children in Families as an example. That program has the support of the government, the Catholic Church, and many other non-profit groups.
 
Sonuga-Barke, the King's College London professor, chaired the Lancet group commission on the subject of institutionalization and deinstitutionalization of children. The commission’s leaders are 22 experts on reforming care for children. Its report includes a review and a meta-analysis of the effects of institutionalization and de-institutionalization, plus 14 policy recommendations.
 
The first part of the commission’s work was published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal, while the second part was published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health journal. Sonuga-Barke said this work is both “a call to action to end the scourge of institutionalization” and “a carefully considered and practical plan of action for agencies working at all levels across the international community.”
 
“Building on the very welcome growing momentum for a shift from institutional to family-based care, this commission calls for a step change in the rate of de-institutionalization and the promotion and delivery of high-quality family-based care alternatives,” he said.
 
Religious organizations have a role in this work.
 
“Faith-based organizations and leaders should work with other stakeholders and use their voices to change knowledge, attitudes, and practices in their communities to promote the protection of children in family-based care, and to strengthen families,” the Lancet group journals said June 23.
 
The commission was supported by the Lumos Foundation and led by Lumos, King’s College London, and the global child welfare advocacy group Maestral International.
 
Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops’ international aid agency, has been active in working to move children from institutions to family-based care. In October 2018, the agency launched its “Changing the Way We Care” program. As of February 2020, CRS-backed programs to change care systems have begun in Guatemala, Kenya, and Moldova. It hopes to expand these programs to Haiti, India, Indonesia, and Lebanon.
 
The initiative is joined by the Lumos Foundation and Maestral International, the same groups that supported the Lancet group’s commission. CRS partners include national governments, the Better Care Network, and the Faith to Action Initiative.  The program itself is backed by the U.S. Agency for International Development, the MacArthur Foundation, and the GHR Foundation.
 
“With COVID-19, we have been working on being agile so we can continue our work supporting governments and local actors in these countries to continue to support children and families,” Megan Gilbert, a CRS spokesperson, told CNA June 23. “In other words, we are continuing with the work despite the coronavirus, and we are considering the impact the virus has on families and children.”

‘I cannot remain silent’: Madison Catholic bishop condemns destruction of religious statues

Wed, 06/24/2020 - 18:08

Denver Newsroom, Jun 24, 2020 / 04:08 pm (CNA).- As rioters across the United States target statues depicting historical figures, the Bishop of Madison, Wisconsin on Tuesday denounced that destruction, along with calls to destroy some depictions of Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgina Mary.

“Should certain statues be placed in museums or storage? Perhaps. Should we let a group of vandals make those decisions for us? No,” Bishop Donald Hying of Madison said in a June 23 letter.

“If we allow the commemorative and visual history of our nation to be destroyed by random groups in the current moment of anger, how will we ever learn from that history? Does toppling and vandalizing a statue of George Washington because he owned slaves, really serve our country and our collective memory?” 

Hying also responded to a recent viral tweet from podcast host and activist Shaun King, who said June 22 that “statues of the white European they claim is Jesus” are a form of “white supremacy” and ought to be torn down, along with “all murals and stained glass windows of white Jesus, and his European mother, and their white friends.”

Hying noted that every culture, country, ethnicity, and race “has claimed Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary as their own,” depicting them with their culture’s skin color and dressed in their culture’s garb. 

The Catechism states in paragraph 1149, that “the liturgy of the Church presupposes, integrates and sanctifies elements from creation and human culture, conferring on them the dignity of signs of grace, of the new creation in Jesus Christ.”

For example, the bishop mentioned, Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared as “mestiza,” or “mixed” race; African art depicts Jesus as black, and Mary in African cultural garb; and there are numerous Asian representations of Mary as well.

While at some points in the Church’s history, some have mistakenly equated “the fullness of Catholicism with European culture,” Catholics should instead strive for “unity in that which is essential, and diversity in those things which are not,” Hying said.

“In this context, are white representations of Christ and His Mother inherently signs of white supremacy? I think not. Because the Son of God became incarnate in our human flesh, does not all of humanity – every race, tribe, and tongue – have the spiritual ability to depict Him through the particular lens of their own culture?” the bishop asked.

Depictions of Jesus are holy to Christians, he said— they are physical manifestations of God’s love, and remind us of the “nearness of the divine.”

“The secular iconoclasm of the current moment will not bring reconciliation, peace, and healing. Such violence will only perpetuate the prejudice and hatred it ostensibly seeks to end...Only the love of Christ can heal a wounded heart, not a vandalized piece of metal,” Hying concluded.

In Madison on Tuesday, rioters pulled down a statue of Hans Christian Heg— an abolitionist who famously fought against Confederates and slave-catchers— and threw it into Madison's Lake Monona. Though the Heg statue has since been recovered, it suffered serious damage and is missing its head and a leg.

A statue known as “Lady Forward”— a replica of a famous statue created by a woman, and depicting progress— also was torn down and was dragged at least a block through the center of Madison by rioters.

Across the country, protestors have in recent days toppled statutes of Confederate leaders and figures associated with slavery, but have also, in some places, pulled down statues of Catholic saints, abolitionists, and other figures.

The violence in Madison reached a fever pitch Tuesday night when protestors attacked and injured State Senator Tim Carpenter (D-Milwaukee) near the Wisconsin state capitol, ostensibly because Carpenter was filming the protests with his phone.

Speaking to CNA on Tuesday, Hying emphasized that many of the most successful protests of the Civil Rights era were predicated on Christian ideas of nonviolence, and a Scriptural understanding of the human person.

The principles of Catholic social teaching— the dignity of the human person; the value of solidarity, "we're all in this together;" a preferential option for the poor— need to be present in any Catholic's response to injustice, he said. 

"If it's not grounded in that, then it really ends up being about power— that I need to assert my power, in situations where I feel powerless," he explained.

"It becomes a struggle over power, rather than a transformational relationship into how God wants us to live as brothers and sisters."

Some Catholic figures on social media have called for bishops to attend the rallies in their cities and physically prevent rioters from tearing down statues. 

Hying said anything a bishop does in public must be rooted in a "prayerful, spiritual response," and not in any political motivation.

Any political movement that does not recognize the dignity of every person is prone to "power politics" and violence, Hying said.

"I think our presence always needs to be related to a prayerful presence. If we're going to be somewhere publicly, I don't think it's in a rally context, I don't think it's in a political context...it has to be a context of prayer. Otherwise I think it can get co-opted by the politics of the moment."

Many Catholics and even some bishops have attended and prayed at peaceful rallies across the country.

Hying said it is clear to him that the violence and ill-treatment of Native Americans and the oppression of African Americans through slavery are two of the country’s greatest moral failings.

The situation requires, he wrote in his letter, better knowledge of history and respectful discussions about statues, buildings, and memorials.

“We must study and know this history in order to transcend it, to learn from it and to commit ourselves to justice, equality, and solidarity because of it,” Hying said.

“At the same time, even the worst aspects of history should be remembered and kept before our eyes. Auschwitz remains open as both a memorial and a museum, so that humanity never forgets the horror of the Holocaust.”

Protestors in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park tore down a statue of St. Junipero Serra on June 20, along with statues of Francis Scott Key and Ulysses S. Grant. In Los Angeles the same day, rioters pulled down a statue of Serra in the city’s downtown.

While many activists today associate Serra with the abuses that the Native Americans suffered, biographies and historical records suggest that Serra actually advocated on behalf of the Natives against the Spanish military and against encroaching European settlement.

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco decried “mob rule” that led to the tearing down of Serra’s statue in his city. Bishop Thomas Daly of Spokane, Washington, a California native, also condemned the statues’ destruction.

“The Church, by no means, desires injustice to go unanswered, but two wrongs do not make a right. If we cannot acknowledge the good of a saint such as Junipero Serra, we risk preferring ideology to the truth,” Daly said June 22.

 

Trump signs order to support work with faith groups on adoption

Wed, 06/24/2020 - 18:00

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 24, 2020 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday to bolster the federal government’s work with community and faith-based groups in adoption and foster care.

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said that the order “lays out bold reforms for our work with states, communities, and faith-based partners.”

According to the HHS, the order will encourage better partnerships between states and faith-based and community organizations in adoption and foster care, help publicize best practices, and states and local authorities to recruit more foster and adoptive families.

Bethany Christian Services, which provides social services in more than 30 states and more than a dozen countries, praised the order for its insistence that the federal government work together with community and faith-based organizations in an “‘all hands on deck’ approach.”

The group said Wednesday that the new order “underscores the need for all facets of our nation to work better together for the sake of vulnerable children: governments, states, nonprofit partners, faith communities, and families.”

HHS says the order will also “increase the availability of trauma-informed training” to help caregivers, and investigate possible “barriers to federal assistance” for youth leaving foster care.

There are currently around 430,000 children in the foster care system, according to HHS. Nearly 20,000 children age out of the system each year without having been adopted. 

“We must improve equitable outcomes within our child welfare system through child and family-centric innovative solutions and a collaborative ‘all hands on deck’ approach,” Bethany said. “One sector of society can't meet this need on its own; it will take all of us working together.”

The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA)--which won a free speech case at the Supreme Court in 2018--also applauded the order. The group’s president Thomas Glessner stated on Wednesday that “we cannot talk about the end of abortion in America without mentioning adoption as a solution.”

White House senior advisor Kellyanne Conway told reporters on Wednesday that the order would aim to bolster foster care and adoption agencies which have been affected by the pandemic.

The pandemic posed serious challenges for social services agencies in matching foster children with families, and for the routines of the children themselves.

A staff member at St. Vincent Catholic Charities in Lansing, Michigan, told CNA in April that the disruption to the childrens’ routines of meeting with birth parents or school friends was “a trauma” for them.

The executive order comes ahead of a Supreme Court case involving Catholic Social Services in Philadelphia. In 2018, the city stopped referrals of foster children with the organization due to its faith-based stance on marriage. The case has been scheduled for the Supreme Court’s fall 2020 term.

Fathers’ Day: When a dad became a priest, like his son

Wed, 06/24/2020 - 05:00

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 24, 2020 / 03:00 am (CNA).- Edmond Ilg, 62, has been a father since the birth of his son in 1986. 

But on June 21, he became a “father” in a whole new sense: Edmond was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Newark. 

It was Father’s Day. And making the day more special, it was Edmond’s son -- Fr. Philip -- who vested his father at ordination. 

“To be with Philip is a tremendous gift,  and to have him pray over me and invest me is the greatest gift,” said Edmond. His son was ordained in 2016 for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., and travelled to Newark for the day. 

Fr. Edmond never thought he would become a priest. He had a wife, a chemical engineering degree, and a successful career. But after his wife died of cancer in 2011, he began to consider a new vocation. 

At his wife’s wake, a family friend wondered out loud that “maybe Ed will become a priest,” Fr. Edmond told CNA. That day, it seemed like a crazy suggestion, but Fr. Edmond now calls the encounter “extremely prophetic,” and said the remark planted an idea in his mind. 

Edmond did not grow up Catholic. He was baptized a Lutheran, and he told CNA that he went to religious services “about half a dozen times” until he was 20. He met his wife at a bar, and they began a long-distance relationship. 

While they dated, he became a Catholic and attended Mass with his future wife, Constance - everyone called her Connie. They married in 1982. 

After Connie died, Edmond, who along with his family participates in the Neocatechumenal Way, quit his job and embarked on what is called an “itinerancy,” a period of travelling missionary work organized by the Neocatechumenate. Edmond told CNA that, at least in the beginning, “priesthood was never anything in my mind.” 

During his time as a missionary, Edmond was assigned to help in a New Jersey parish, and also worked in prison ministry. While he lived as a missionary, he began to feel the pull of the priesthood. 

After helping lead a trip to the 2013 World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, where he prayed for and continued to discern his vocation, Edmond called his catechist, telling him, “I think I have the call [to priesthood].” 

He was sent to a seminary affiliated with the Neocatechumenal Way in the Archdiocese of Agaña, Guam, and was eventually transferred to the Redemptoris Mater Seminary in the Archdiocese of Newark to complete his studies. 

Fr. Philip told CNA that after his mom died, he had sometimes wondered if his newly-widowed father would become a priest.


Father Edmund and to his son, Fr. Philip.

“I don't know if I ever said this--because I wanted to wait until it actually happened--but the first thought that crossed through my mind in the room there, when Mom died was that ‘my dad would become a priest,’” Philip said. 

“I can’t explain where it came from.” 

Philip said that he knew his father “couldn’t kind of just sit around and make money,” and that “I knew he had a mission.” 

Philip never told anyone about his thoughts, he said, instead choosing to place his trust in God. 

“I never said a single word about that thought. Because if it came from the Lord, it would bear fruit,” said Philip. 

During his transitional diaconate year, Edmond was assigned to serve at the same parish where he had spent time as a missionary. His first temporary assignment, which begins on July 1, will also be at the parish. 

“I arrived [at the parish] with no plans for the priesthood, and the cardinal and the other people had no idea of where they were going to assign me, but that is where they wound up sending me -- to the place where my vocation started,” he told CNA. 

Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Fr. Edmond will not find out his permanent assignment until later in the summer. Normally, priestly assignments in the Archdiocese of Newark begin on July 1, but that will be delayed this year until September 1. 

The father and son priests told CNA that they are particularly grateful for the community of the Neocatechumenal Way, which Philip described as “the instrument that God used to save my family.”

The Ilgs were introduced to the Catholic program of spiritual renewal during a tumultuous time in their marriage, shortly after the loss of an infant son in childbirth. 

The father and son vocations “didn’t just happen sort of in an isolated setting,” Philip explained. “It happened because there was a community which nourished faith and allowed faith to grow.” 

“Throughout the years, I really have seen the faithfulness of God through the Neocatechumenal Way,” said Philip. Without the community’s support, Philip told CNA that he does not think neither he nor his father would be priests. 

“If it weren't for a community of faith, which nourished us in faith and formed the body in which it was able to handle us,” he said, they would not have had such a remarkable Father’s Day. 

Metuchen Catholic bishop: Racism an evil 'more dangerous' than coronavirus

Tue, 06/23/2020 - 21:01

CNA Staff, Jun 23, 2020 / 07:01 pm (CNA).- The Bishop of Metuchen led a prayer service for racial harmony and justice Friday, urging Catholics to focus on the eradication of racism.

Bishop James Checchio held the prayer service at the Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi June 19.

“Evil is real and even more dangerous than the coronavirus,” he said during his homily, challenging Catholics to pray and sacrifice for an end to racism, adding that “we need to address this national plague [of racism] with the same intensity we are using in our efforts to eradicate the COVID-19 virus.”

“As we continue to respond to the global pandemic of COVID-19 and its impact on our health and our economy, evil has shown itself anew to us as the sin and social disease of racism,” he said.

“During this already difficult time, confusion, mistrust, anger and anxiety have all helped to bring to light an extremely contagious and dangerous outbreak of hate.”

In addition to clerics, lay minister and members of the diocese’s African American, African, and Caribbean Apostolate participated in the service.

The Diocese of Metuchen is holding prayer services, called "Enduring Love: Prayer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus for racial harmony, peace, justice and healing in our nation”, across the diocese on Fridays this June

In addition to adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and the Litany of the Sacred Heart, Bishop Checchio also knelt and offered a prayer for George Floyd, who was killed May 25 in police custody. The bishop knelt for 8 minutes and 45 seconds - the amount of time that former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin used a controversial knee-to-neck restraining method that led to Floyd’s death.

“The root of racism is never ‘someplace else’ but rather it lies within the human heart,” said Bishop Checchio. “We each can contribute to a civilization of love or of hate. Racial healing begins by a greater acceptance of our own humanity as a gift from the Father, and then, a recognition that every person is a child of the One Father.”

Bishop Checchio emphasized the dignity of all human persons, noting that every person is made in the image and likeness of God. He said racism contradicts the teaching of Christ and is an attack on humanity.

“My brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all equally made in the image and likeness of God. Racism occurs when this fundamental truth is ignored,” he said. “Racism is a sin that divides the human family.”

The bishop said that through sacraments, prayers, and daily sacrifices, God makes himself more present in the world and in each person. He said every time people live as true brothers and sisters in Christ the image of God is restored in our world.

“God uses us to make Himself present in our world by our simple yet genuine acts of love, and hence the world better reflects the image of God Himself as we renew the face of the earth, making it over in God’s own image,” he said.

“Yes, God provides us with all we need to strive to be perfect, like Him, and the hallmark of one’s friendship with Jesus – for all of us – is to absorb the life of Jesus so completely, that we want only to do what He wants to do through us.”

As pandemic continues, some Catholic moms call the midwife

Tue, 06/23/2020 - 19:40

Denver Newsroom, Jun 23, 2020 / 05:40 pm (CNA).- As hospitals continue to treat patients with COVID-19, many expectant women worry about exposing themselves and their babies to the virus while giving birth. Their concern has led to a surge in demand for at-home births, according to some midwives.

In 2018, about one percent of births occurred at home, according to a CDC study. That figure has been on the rise since 2004, according to a study published in the journal Birth, which reported that the figure for at-home births increased by 77% between 2004 and 2017. The study found that the increase may be due to increased coverage of home births by insurance.

But the surge in demand for home births during recent months is unprecedented, Catholic midwives told CNA.

Catholic midwife Tiara Rodgers, whose practice, Modern Miracle Birth serves women in central Texas, says she has seen demand for her services double.

“Because of covid, a lot of women and families are finding themselves considering home birth when they would've never thought otherwise to consider home birth,” Rodgers told CNA. “Midwives are busier than ever right now.”

Midwives, who are the traditional form of obstetrics in many countries, are licensed from the American Midwifery Certification Board or the North American registry of midwives. The United States also recognizes midwives who obtain a graduate degree after completing a nursing program.

In 2018, the World Health Organization recognized the value of midwives in a report, which stated that properly trained midwives could prevent 80% of deaths associated with childbirth, especially in developing nations. The WHO hopes to develop midwifery programs in both third-world and first-world countries by 2030.

Midwives are trained to deliver babies in low-risk pregnancies, often with the help of a doula, who offers emotional support for women during the birth itself. If a risk-factor develops during the pregnancy, midwives bring women to a hospital for further care. That, said Rodgers, will not change even in a pandemic.

Because of the virus, Rodgers said that women are doing their own research into home birth as a viable alternative to hospital care. And they are finding that for low-risk pregnancies, the outcomes are very good.

“Some moms who are due in a couple of weeks are calling us up and saying ‘do you have room for me? I’m 37 weeks… and I really don’t want to birth in a hospital,’” said Rodgers.

One mother contacted Modern Miracle Birth 38 weeks into her pregnancy. She was afraid of going to the hospital, although she admitted that she knew nothing about having a baby at home.

But after meeting Rodgers, she trusted her team and decided to have her baby at home. She gave birth to a nine-pound baby boy in her bathtub.

“You could see the fear melt away. That was really, really beautiful, because it was not what she expected at all,” said Rodgers.

Tracy Santangelo, a midwife whose practice, BirthPointe, serves the Dallas-Fort Worth area, said that she had to turn away seven or eight women every week at the peak of the pandemic.

“People are willing to do a lot to make sure that their birth desires are really something that they can be attained and will be respected,” Santangelo said.

But she could not get the supplies she needed to accept extra clients, although she went to great lengths to obtain supplies. She even bought a face shield from a Chinese food restaurant supplier.

“People were very panicked,” Santangelo said. Most of the women who called her were already late in their pregnancies. “I don’t know if they found somebody or not.”

Women are particularly concerned about a policy, implemented in many hospitals around the nation, that bars family members from being present at birth.

“They can’t even have their children come in to meet the new sibling,” said Santangelo. “And for me, this is really, by far, my favorite part of the birth.”

Santangelo said that one of her clients, a first-time mother, plans to give birth in a hotel room in order to allow her family to be present but also to be close to the hospital. It’s actually something Santangelo has done before.

Women’s concerns about not having family present at a birth go beyond sentimentality. Rodgers explained that in the case of a medical emergency, a husband makes decisions on behalf of his wife, if she is unable to do so.

“The woman doesn't have anyone to advocate for her,” if the husband is not present, said Rodgers. “If she has to have an emergency c-section, there’s nobody there to consent for her if she can’t consent for herself. So that is a big issue.”

Although many women did not plan to deliver their babies at home, Rodgers said that many say they end up preferring at-home births over hospital births.

“We’re seeing people have these wonderful birth outcomes, that are saying, I want to do this again. There’s no way I’d go back to the medical model of care,” said Rodgers.

As Catholic midwives, Rodgers and Santangelo serve women of all faiths with an understanding that birth is both physical and spiritual.

“It really is an opportunity to show people the grace that a woman of faith can give someone else,” said Santangelo. She has the opportunity to connect with the Catholic mothers she serves on matters of faith, but has also found that non-Catholic mothers are often looking for a sympathetic ear.

“To come from a non-judgmental place and to truly serve women because that’s the gift that God gave you, that’s my greatest joy,” she said.

“We are made body, mind and spirit by the Lord,” said Rodgers. “If you cut out one of those… then you will be missing part of the puzzle piece to caring and giving this mom and baby the best care possible.”

 

Catholic school superintendent aims to equip schools for special ed

Tue, 06/23/2020 - 18:40

Denver Newsroom, Jun 23, 2020 / 04:40 pm (CNA).-  

An educator with years of experience in special education was recently named superintendent of a Chicago-area Catholic diocese. He aims to ensure that all kids can go to Catholic school who want to. 

“[Special education] is about being an advocate— getting support and services for individual students so that they can be successful regardless, whatever the disability or whatever the challenge might be,” Dr. Michael Boyle told CNA.

The Diocese of Joliet, Illinois announced last week that Boyle will be its diocesan superintendent of schools, beginning July 6.

The school system serves nearly 17,000 students in 42 elementary schools, eight high schools and two preschools, according to the diocese.

“I'm really excited to join Joliet. It is my home diocese,” Boyle told CNA.

“I think what I'm looking forward to doing as a superintendent is being able to kind of sit back, support, provide the kinds of supports to make sure that these wonderful people can continue to do the wonderful jobs that they're doing.”

Boyle is a member of the governing boards of the Journal of Catholic Education and the National Catholic Partnership on Disability, and a member of the Professional Development Advisory Board for the National Catholic Education Association (NCEA).

While the idea of special education in Catholic schools is nothing new, Boyle said he often seeks to “reintroduce” teachers and school administrators to the idea that inclusive education— working to allow any child to attend the school, regardless of disability— is not just a nice thing to do, but is in fact a mandate from the Church.

The bishops of the United State released a pastoral letter on persons with disabilities  back in 1978, he said, challenging Catholic schools, both elementary and secondary, to be inclusive.

“They recognized it wasn't going to be an easy battle. That in fact, we needed to build our skills. We need to build sort of that approach, but it's something that with support, that's something that we should be able to do,” Boyle said.

Boyle attended Catholic schools, and his wife is a Catholic school teacher; their five children also attended Catholic schools. But Boyle never set out to work in Catholic schools originally— he started his career as a school psychologist, and eventually worked as a district director of special education for a public school district in Chicago.

At that job, he created the district’s first inclusive preschool.

He later became principal of their parish’s Catholic school. Through that experience, he saw firsthand how important it was that the school make the effort to educate children with special needs in the same classrooms as children who learn typically.

“Even for kids with some significant disabilities or challenges, with an inclusive setting, it really not only benefited the kid, but— I saw with my own eyes— it also benefited other kids,” Boyle said.

Boyle most recently served as Director of the Andrew M. Greeley Center for Catholic Education at Loyola University Chicago, and as the Assistant Director of the University’s Center for Catholic School Effectiveness.

In a 2016 document for the NCEA, Boyle enumerates the layers of support a Catholic school system can provide in order to foster effective inclusive education across all its schools.

Most of the legwork in educating students with special needs is done by the teachers, so at the classroom level teachers need to be equipped with the knowledge and skills key to working with students with disabilities, and be inspired with the right dispositions toward those students.

“At the classroom level, how are we supporting teachers in terms of building the skills, the competencies and the dispositions to be able to really kind of approach that?” he said.

At the level of the school, Boyle wrote that school leaders need to equip themselves with knowledge and skills related to special education, develop policies and protocols for teachers to follow, and also should be prepared to model for teachers the disposition that serving those with disabilities “brings to life our obligations under Catholic Social Teaching.”

Finally, at the diocesan level, the bishop should be prepared to offer support and sharing of resources so that every school can offer a high level of inclusive education, Boyle wrote.

“We can't just do an inclusionary approach on a class by class basis, we also have to look at the school's system,” he added.

As Joliet’s new superintendent, Boyle’s work will include a focus on big-picture, system-wide approaches to expanding special education in the Catholic school system— giving schools the leadership and training they need in order that “all kids who want to avail themselves of a Catholic education, can.”

Boyle said it would be ideal if every diocese hired someone to manage their special education programs.

“As we all know the challenges— especially as we're coming back now from COVID-19— the economic challenges facing schools are going to be critical. And most dioceses, quite frankly, are not going to be in a position to be able to do that. So I think what we have to do is we have to think about ways to maximize resources,” he said.

“I think where people have a hard time is that when everything gets dumped on one person...and so building all the members of the school community to be able to do this kind of work is really critical.”

For those dioceses not in a position to hire someone new to oversee special education, he suggested a certificate program he helped to create, which aims to help educators learn how to build an inclusive school.

At the diocesan level, Boyle said the bishops of several dioceses across the country have worked to prioritize special education in recent years.

He pointed to the dioceses of Arlington, Virginia and Phoenix, Arizona, whose bishops have made inclusive education a priority for their schools.

His goal, he said, is to ensure that the excellent, inclusive practices of many Catholic schools across the country are replicated throughout each diocese.

“My concern always is that we might get a school that does a really great job, but it becomes a lighthouse school— it's the only school that does inclusion. When in reality, we're all, as Catholics, called to do this is a part of who we are as Catholics,” he said.

“We just don't want to just include to include, we also want it to be an excellent education because that's what a Catholic education should be, right? It should be academically excellent and identifiably Catholic.”

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

Despite this, Sister Dale MacDonald, NCEA public policy director, told CNA last week that about 2,000 Catholic schools across the country have not experienced massive enrollment declines, but instead have waiting lists.

For most Catholic schools, MacDonald said, about 80% of their operating budget comes from tuition. In addition, many Catholic schools hold major fundraisers in the spring, which had to be canceled or postponed after the pandemic hit.

 

Justice Department: NYC pandemic rules can't favor protests over religious services

Tue, 06/23/2020 - 18:18

Washington D.C., Jun 23, 2020 / 04:18 pm (CNA).- New York City cannot enforce coronavirus restrictions strictly on religious gatherings and leave mass public protests untouched, leading U.S. Department of Justice officials said in a letter to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“Mayor de Blasio’s recent public statements and enforcement of COVID-19 orders have demonstrated a troubling preference for certain First Amendment rights over others,” said leading Justice Department officials June 22.

“The Justice Department is glad Mayor de Blasio will now permit greater religious exercise and will continue to monitor New York City’s reopening to ensure that New York City extends the same respect to the freedom of religion, both in terms of indoor and outdoor gatherings, as it does to the freedoms of speech and assembly.”

The statement came from Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Eric Dreiband and U.S. Attorney General Matthew Schneider of the Eastern District of Michigan. They are overseeing the U.S. Department of Justice’s monitoring of state and local policies related to the novel coronavirus epidemic.

“New York City had vigorously enforced restrictions on religious gatherings, including by sending police officers to disperse numerous gatherings of the Jewish community, including outdoor funerals,” said the Justice Department in its June 22 statement.

“At the same time, Mayor de Blasio marched in large in-person political gatherings concerning the recent tragic death of George Floyd and made statements suggesting — in a manner forbidden by the First Amendment — that religious exercise was less valued and protected by New York City than political exercise.”

The New York City mayor’s move to Phase 2 of the city’s reopening plan began June 21. This phase allows houses of worship to open to 25% of their indoor capacity, after allowing only 10 or fewer attendees under previous rules. This move provided “much-needed relief” for New Yorkers, the Justice Department said, noting that the department’s civil rights division had acted in response to the city’s treatment of religion.

The Justice Department said a letter to de Blasio from Dreiband last week objected that the city allowed large gatherings for political protest but did not permit in-person religious gatherings.

Dreiband’s June 19 letter said the demonstrations in New York raised “several civil rights concerns,” while de Blasio’s statements and actions “raised substantial concerns about New York City’s commitment to evenhanded application of robust First Amendment protections.”

The assistant attorney general commended the mayor’s support for peaceful public protest, saying “like the people of New York City, and all across our country, we are deeply troubled by the death of George Floyd.” At the same time, he said the Justice Department recognizes that the constitution requires “equal treatment under the laws, without regard to race, religion, or other protected traits.”

The mayor’s executive orders and emergency orders had barred all gatherings larger than 10 persons. At the same time, his June 1 press release voiced his commitment to “support and protect peaceful protest.” He allowed thousands of New Yorkers to demonstrate, and took part in a June 14 protest.

“The First Amendment protects religious observers against unequal treatment. Government may not discriminate against religious gatherings compared to other nonreligious gatherings that have the same effect on the government’s public health interest, absent compelling reasons,” said Dreiband’s letter.

Restrictions on places of worship may be consistent with the First Amendment when such restrictions apply to comparable secular gatherings, the letter said.

Initially, both New York State and city orders significantly restricted gatherings, including religious gatherings. By May 22, the mayor’s rules had allowed gatherings of 10 or fewer people, provided social distancing protocols and cleaning and disinfection protocols were followed.

As of June 19, the orders still prohibited gatherings of thousands of people for political protest, the assistant attorney general said.

“In light of your support for and participation in recent protests in New York City, the message to the public from New York City’s government appears to favor certain secular gatherings and disfavor religious gatherings,” said Dreiband.

He encouraged the mayor to “reconsider your posture towards religious gatherings.” His letter voiced concern about de Blasio’s June 2 comment that the interests of those protesting “is not the same question as the understandably aggrieved store owner or the devout religious person who wants to go back to services.”

“Concerns, as you likely know, have been raised in the faith community that New York City is acting to protect certain First Amendment expression over others, which the Constitution forbids,” said Dreiband. Enforcement of executive orders or emergency orders should respect “both the right of your residents to assemble to express their views on a diverse spectrum of topics and the right to practice their faith.”

“Compliance with the First Amendment is not optional, and that amendment protects both free exercise of religion and assembly rights,” said the letter.

While the risk of coronavirus transmission is believed to be lower outdoors, and religious services are typically held indoors, the letter noted that New York City has not limited enforcement to restricting indoor religious gatherings.

Dreiband’s letter voiced gratitude for New York City officials’ respect for freedom of speech and assembly, and urged de Blasio “to do the same with the freedom of religion.”

 

Cross and graves vandalized at Catholic university cemetery

Tue, 06/23/2020 - 14:30

CNA Staff, Jun 23, 2020 / 12:30 pm (CNA).- A man has been arrested and charged with vandalism and assault after  swastikas were painted on the graves of several Dominican friars and a security guard was assualted at Catholic college on Monday evening. 

A statement from Fr. Brian J. Shanley, O.P., and Fr. Kenneth Sicard, O.P., the president and president-elect of Providence College, Rhode Island, said that around 9:30 p.m. on Monday, public safety officers were alerted to the presence of a “suspicious man” at the on-campus cemetery. The cemetery contains the gravesites of deceased Dominican friars who taught at the school. 

“Officers approached the individual to question what he was doing and to confirm the vandalism when they noticed the suspect had painted swastikas and anti-Catholic language on the cemetery’s central cross and on several of the headstones, and was actively burning American flags that stood at some of the gravesites,” said the statement from Shanley and Sicard. 

In total, seven headstones were defaced, along with the central cross in the cemetery. 

The man proceeded to hit the security officer in the head and run away. He was later discovered hiding in bushes on campus, where he was subsequently arrested. 

The paint was removed by Tuesday afternoon.

“We loudly and unequivocally condemn this racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-Catholic action, and the desecration of the gravestones of our beloved, deceased Dominicans who served Providence College so well and so faithfully for many years,” said the statement.

“In addition, we condemn this action in support and solidarity with the Jewish members of our community, many of whom enjoyed the friendship of those late Dominican friars. PC has a long and proud history of collaboration with the Jewish community in Rhode Island,” they added.

Providence College is home to the Jewish-Catholic Theological Exchange, and regularly hosts events aimed at interreligious dialogue and friendship. 

“Our community embraces love and mutual respect for all people; there is no place for hatred on our campus,” said Shanley and Sicard.

Providence Police Department identified the man on Tuesday as 26-year-old Keveon Gomera. Gomera was charged with vandalism and assault with intent to commit a felony. 

A man who believes he encountered Gomera before the assault told local NBC affiliate WJAR that Gomera was carrying a bucket of paint and accused Providence College of “being part of the slave plantations” and said he was going to light an American flag on fire. 

Providence College was founded in 1917, several decades after the Emancipation Proclamation, and nearly a century after the abolition of slavery in Rhode Island.

George Weigel: ‘Catholic lite’ and Vatican finances will top next pope’s agenda

Tue, 06/23/2020 - 13:00

Washington D.C., Jun 23, 2020 / 11:00 am (CNA).- Evangelizing countries where the faith has been watered down and resolving the ongoing financial crisis in the Vatican are challenges which will extend past the reign of Pope Francis, author George Weigel said on Monday.

Weigel was discussing his new book “The Next Pope” with members of Catholic press in a webinar on June 22.

“The Church is living, vibrant, and effective in society where Catholics have embraced Catholicism in full and are joyfully living missionary discipleships,” said Weigel. In contrast, he said, places that have embraced a version of Catholicism which departs from aspects of the Church’s moral teaching, which he termed “Catholic lite,” have seen the faith have a waning influence on culture. 

Weigel referenced several European countries where Church leaders have proposed sweeping accommodations with secular culture. In German, the bishops have inaugurated a “binding synodal process” to examine various aspects of Church teaching and discipline, including consideration of the blessing of same-sex unions, the ordination of women, and the repeal of clerical celibacy. Local lay leaders in the process have also come under scrutiny for their open support for abortion providers.

In Belgium, which has brought in sweeping permissions for euthanasia, some Catholic bodies have been at the center of ethical healthcare provision, with some seeking to accommodate the practice and others insisting on adhering to the Church’s teching on the sanctity of life. 

“Catholic lite does not work,” he said. “It does not work in Germany; it doesn’t work in Switzerland, it doesn’t work in Belgium, it doesn’t work in the Netherlands, it doesn’t work anywhere.”

The next pope, he said, will have to negotiate both bringing these people back into the fold, as well as “encouraging those who have full confidence in the Gospel.” 

Weigel also said the next pope will be forced to confront the ongoing issue of financial reform in the Vatican. 

“The Holy See is in very serious financial trouble,” said Weigel, adding that there is a possibility that the Vatican could declare bankruptcy by the end of the year. The Holy See’s financial issues, he said, stem from a combination of “corruption,” “incompetence,” and “a culture of nepotism, in the broadest sense of the term.” 

In 2014, Pope Francis established the Secretariat for the Economy under Cardinal George Pell. In the years following its creation, the secretariat advanced a comprehensive vision for financial reform, insisting on a wholesale audit of Vatican assets and a review of procurement procedures, but many of those reforms were later stalled or reversed.

In May, Fr. Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves, SJ, who succeeded Pell as prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, said that the Holy See expects a 30-80% income reduction in the coming year. And the Holy See has run large deficits for years; including a 70 million euro deficit on a 300 million euro budget for 2018.

Earlier this month, Pope Francis published new laws governing Vatican financial dealings, setting new standards for contracts awarded by the city state and curial departments, and aiming to inject transparency and accountability into the budgeting process of the Holy See and its institutions.

The next pope, Weigel said, must bring in “competent people,” including laymen and women, in order to complete the work of addressing the Church’s financial problems. Doing this will mean breaking with established hiring and promotion policies from within the curia, he added, pointing out that at present many career curial officials are appointed to jobs for which they have had little prior experience or expertise. 

“It means stopping this rather curious idea that just because someone has been a good nuncio somewhere, that they know anything about money and investing money and managing money,” said Weigel.  

“The Next Pope” is being published by Ignatius Press and will be released on July 7, 2020. 

After Black Lives Matter controversy, Catholic removed from Florida State student government

Tue, 06/23/2020 - 10:00

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 23, 2020 / 08:00 am (CNA).- The Catholic former president of a Florida university’s student senate says he was removed from office for questioning controversial policy positions of the Black Lives Matter group in a text message thread with fellow Catholic students.

Denton, a member of Florida State University’s (FSU) Class of 2021, served in the FSU Student Government Association for three years, including service as the president of the student senate.

He says the student senate voted to remove him on June 5 “for simply stating Catholic doctrines in a private group chat” about policy positions of BlackLivesMatter.com, Reclaim the Block, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on sexuality and the family, abortion, and policing.

In a GroupMe text messaging forum for members of the university’s Catholic Student Union, a conversation reportedly discussed the May 27 shooting of Tony McDade, a 38 year-old black biological female who identified as a transgender man, by Tallahassee Police.

In the discussion, which focused on the broader issues of racism, one member brought up causes that students could financially support to advance racial justice.

Denton intervened to point out what he felt were problematic positions taken by some of the groups mentioned. 

“As a devout Catholic and a college student, I felt that it was my responsibility to point out this discrepancy, to make sure that my fellow Catholics knew what they were partaking in,” he told CNA.

Screenshots of Denton’s texts show that he said “everyone should be aware that BlackLivesMatter.com, Reclaim the Block, and the ACLU all advocate for things that are explicitly anti-Catholic.”

When asked by a member what specifically he was referring to, Denton replied in the thread that “BlackLivesMatter.com fosters ‘a queer-affirming network’ and defends transgenderism.”

The ACLU, he continued, “defends laws protecting abortion facilities and sued states that restrict access to abortion.” 

Reclaim the Block, he said, “claims less police will make our communities safer and advocates for cutting PD’s budgets. This is a little less explicit, but I think it’s contrary to the Church’s teaching on the common good.”

Denton says he was not operating in his official capacity as student senator in the forum, but a student in the thread sent screenshots of his texts to members of the student senate without his permission.

An initial student senate motion to bring up a vote of no-confidence in Denton failed on June 3. A change.org petition had also circulated, calling for Denton’s removal from the student senate. Late on Friday, June 5, the senate did hold a vote and removed him from office.

Highlighting Denton’s concern about defending “transgenderism,” the change.org petition said the student had made “transphobic and racist remarks.”

“Transphobic and racist behavior and comments will not be tolerated in any form at any level at FSU,” the petition said.

A June 4 column in Spire, a student-run magazine at the university, said that Denton “holds values which are antithetical to FSU’s anti-discrimination policy and could make our school’s most marginalized students feel unwelcome and unsafe.”

“Denton’s words are alarming for many reasons. Firstly, he interrupted a conversation about systemic racism and the murder of black Americans by police officers with his own fears of ‘anti-Catholic’ discrimination. Denton, a white man, centered himself in a discussion about racism, treating advocacy for ‘things that are explicitly anti-Catholic’ as equivalent to anti-black racism.”

“Like many, Denton is attempting to use his religious identification as a cover for bigotry and cannot be let off the hook,” the op-ed said.

A June 3 statement from the FSU College Democrats said that Denton’s messages “demonstrate a clear lack of respect for our Black and LGBTQ+ students at FSU.”

Denton told CNA his removal “is ludicrous, and is blatantly unconstitutional to discriminate against me for that.”

“I’m concerned for the future of students who hold religious views on college campuses, specifically students who are Catholic, devout Catholics,” he said. “This is clearly setting a bad precedent.”

Most concerning to Denton, he said, was that the student senate caved to the demands of the “mob,” he said.

“Quite frankly, the student senators, they didn’t uphold the oath that they took when they were sworn in to the student senate by disrespecting the Constitution of the United States of America and removing me from my position for being a Catholic and a student leader, simultaneously,” he said.

“They did this because of the outcry,” he said. “It was quite scary to witness how this mob could influence all these senators in two days to just switch their vote and remove me as president, for being Catholic.”

The “Black Lives Matter” social movement has gained international recognition with mass protests against racism and police brutality in recent weeks.

While demonstrations have been organized on the local level by smaller groups, the largest and most well-funded group is the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, which operates the website blacklivesmatter.com. It advocates for several policies apparently unrelated to racism, such as working to “dismantle cisgender privilege,” to “disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure,” and to “foster a queer‐affirming network.”

Smaller network affiliates often organize local protests, and other groups use the phrase “Black Lives Matter” but are not officially a part of the global network.

Catholics CNA spoke with last week affirmed that while the movement’s fight for racial justice is necessary, some of the Black Lives Matter Global Network’s policy positions on sexuality and the family cannot be supported by Catholics.

Denton said on Monday that, in drawing attention to those controversial positions of the network, he felt that Catholics would be funding these goals if they gave money to the organizations.

“Let me make it unequivocally clear that ‘Black Lives Matter,’ the statement, the sentiment, there’s nothing wrong with that,” he said, noting that his concern was about financial support for a particular organization.

“They might advocate for good things, but you can’t separate the bad from the good when you’re financially supporting an organization,” he said.

Denton, represented by the legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, has now filed an appeal to the supreme court of the university’s Student Government Association, challenging his removal as a violation of the student senate rules and university rules, as well as an infringement on his First Amendment rights. He is asking for his reinstatement as student senate president.

Longtime Catholic schools leader to head Seattle archdiocese task force

Mon, 06/22/2020 - 22:19

Denver Newsroom, Jun 22, 2020 / 08:19 pm (CNA).- Leading education expert Father Ronald Nuzzi will head a task force for Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Seattle, with a special focus on the “ministerial covenant” that helps Catholic teachers witness to and pass on the Catholic faith.

“Catholic schools are rooted in the Catholic faith. It’s what makes them different from other private schools,” Nuzzi told CNA. “Therefore, our educators are asked to teach from this faith-based foundation.”

“At the core of the faith are the great mysteries, which root both parishes and schools in the Incarnation, the Trinity, the Paschal Mystery, and the Eucharist,” he said.

Nuzzi is a priest of the Diocese of Youngstown in Ohio and professor emeritus of the University of Notre Dame. He is senior director emeritus at the university’s Alliance for Catholic Education, which aims to support, improve and expand Catholic K-12 schools, especially schools lacking resources.

“Catholic schools had their origin in the immigrant Church, providing a safe and faith-filled place where newcomers to this country could learn, grow, and prosper,” Nuzzi said. “They served a vital social and religious purpose, providing waves of immigrants the opportunities to fully participate in American society. Today, Catholics are part of the mainstream, but schools are still providing a counter-cultural witness, addressing the secularization, consumerism, relativism, racism, and hyper-individualism that are so common today.”

“In some ways, a Catholic school education, rooted in Gospel values and the example of Jesus, are even more important today than they once were,” he continued.

Nuzzi’s task force is set up to secure three key goals. These include a review and study of Church documents about Catholic teaching and tradition, especially the formation of conscience, free will, and human social and sexual development. The task force will assess, analyze and summarize the convictions, beliefs and opinions of archdiocesan stakeholders about the ministerial covenant and its use in employment decisions.

They will make a recommendation based on “an informed and thoughtful approach” to renewal of the ministerial covenant in a way that respects both of the previous goals and “embraces the fullness of church teaching while honoring and appreciating the sense of the faithful,” the Seattle archdiocese said.

The archdiocese did not respond to CNA’s questions about the meaning of “the sense of the faithful,” or what would happen if public opinion conflicted with Church teaching.

“The Ministerial Covenant ensures that our 73 Catholic schools reflect our Catholic faith. How it is applied across our Catholic schools is of great interest not only to me, but to all our principals, teachers, parents and students,” Archbishop Paul Etienne of Seattle said in a June 16 statement from the Seattle archdiocese.

He voiced gratitude for Nuzzi’s leadership in “this important body of work.”

“He is a well-known leader in Catholic school administration and has a wealth of experience as well as a great passion for the faith and Catholic schools,” Etienne said.

Nuzzi will review nominees for task force membership. Nominees include principals, pastors, parents of children in Catholic schools, Catholic school teachers and members of the archdiocese’s Office for Catholic Schools. The nominees will be announced in July.

“The ministerial covenant is signed by all employees of the Archdiocese of Seattle. It hasn’t been updated in several years, so this taskforce will review its language and how it is applied at Catholic schools across the archdiocese,” Nuzzi told CNA. “What is important about the title ‘ministerial covenant’ is that every Catholic school in the country, including all in the Archdiocese of Seattle, considers teachers to be ministers of the Gospel and witnesses to the faith.”

Ministerial language is not intended to “clericalize” lay teachers or obscure the lay state, he said.

“Lay leaders not only help run our Catholic schools, they help run our entire archdiocese,” Nuzzi said. “This taskforce is focused on Catholic teaching and the Catholic faith – not on clericalization. In calling our teachers ministers, we are saying they are public, contractually committed, inspired examples, worthy of emulation, not clerics.”

The task force will meet 12 times from August 2020 to June 2021. Members are asked to maintain confidentiality about all deliberations.

In a statement from the archdiocese, Nuzzi described Catholic schools as a “vital part” of the Church’s mission. He said he was “enthusiastic” about the task force and “its potential to help shape a brighter future for youth, children, and families.”

The Seattle archdiocese covers the territory of western Washington State. Almost 580,000 Catholics are registered with a parish and make up over 15% of the area’s population.

The people of Washington state tend to be more secular than other Americans. Those without religious affiliation make up the largest group, about 32%, if small sections of atheists and agnostics are grouped with 22% who self-identify as “nothing-in-particular.” However, 61% self-identify as Christian. Evangelical Christians make up about 25% of Washingtonians, 17% identify as Catholic, and 13% as mainline Protestant, the Pew Research Center reported in 2019.

The task force was announced in February after the Seattle archdiocese saw a controversy in which the facts are disputed. Two teachers at Kennedy Catholic High School in Burien, Washington either resigned voluntarily in order to contract same-sex civil marriages with different partners, or were forced out of their positions.

Michael Prato, president of Kennedy Catholic, said in a February statement that the two teachers approached him in November 2019 to share their desire to civilly marry their same-sex partners.

The teachers had voluntarily signed a covenant agreement to “live and model the Catholic faith in accord with Church teaching,” Prato said. In light of the agreement they signed, both chose to resign, he said. The school worked out a transition plan and financial package for the teachers.

“I hired these teachers and I care about them very much. I still do,” Prato said. “I wanted to make sure they felt supported, and so we discussed several options including the possibility of finishing out the school year.”

Groups of students staged protests in support of the teachers. Students, as well as parents and alumni of the school, also staged a protest outside the diocesan chancery in Seattle.

The two teachers’ attorney, Shannon McMinimee, said the teachers were forced out. She said they “were hoping to have a dialogue with the school about their desire to be their authentic selves and not hide that they were engaged and not hide who they were engaged to.”

"And that -- what they thought would be a conversation with their principal turned into being called into the presidents' office and being told that the superintendent of the archdiocese school system wanted their keys the minute they found out they were gay and engaged,” McMinimee said, according to KING 5 News Feb. 21.

Archbishop Etienne addressed the situation in a Feb. 19 statement.

“Pastors and church leaders need to be clear about the church’s teaching, while at the same time refraining from making judgments, taking into consideration the complexity of people’s lived situations,” he said, stressing that the end goal of accompanying people in faith is “to help people embrace the fullness of the Gospel message and integrate the faith more deeply into their lives.”

“Those who teach in our schools are required to uphold our teaching in the classroom and to model it in their personal lives,” he said. “We recognize and support the right of each individual to make choices. We also understand that some choices have particular consequences for those who represent the church in an official capacity.”

The Catholic Church teaches that while homosexual inclinations are not sinful, homosexual acts “are contrary to the natural law... under no circumstances can they be approved.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church goes on to say that people with these inclinations should be “accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”

In 2003, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said that “in those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty.” It said Catholics must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation with such laws and, insofar as possible, any material cooperation.

“In this area, everyone can exercise the right to conscientious objection,” the CDF said.

In the United States, various Catholic schools and dioceses have faced lawsuits from employees who have been fired after contracting civil same-sex marriages in violation of the diocesan or school policy.

Despite strong social pressure, the legal freedom of primary and secondary Catholic schools appears secure at present. In the 2012 U.S. Supreme Court case Hosanna Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the court unanimously ruled that religious organizations do not need to follow federal anti-discrimination laws in what was characterized as a “ministerial exception.”

At the same time, religious freedom has become a target by some LGBT advocacy groups and politicians who say it wrongfully protects actions they consider discriminatory.

 

Catholic Charities steps in as NYC loosens eviction restrictions

Mon, 06/22/2020 - 21:30

CNA Staff, Jun 22, 2020 / 07:30 pm (CNA).- As New York City’s eviction moratorium expires for some people affected by the coronavirus pandemic, Catholic Charities has warned that many low-income residents may face risk of eviction.

New York City’s original moratorium on landlords evicting tenants for non-payment of rent concluded on June 20. It will be extended until August 20, but only for some people.

Antonio Garcia, director of the Preserving Housing program at Catholic Charities of New York, warned that many people in the city could be at risk of eviction. He said the evicted moratorium will be extended for those who have received unemployment benefits from the government, but not others who have been affected by the pandemic, without collecting unemployment benefits.

“Nobody knows the magnitude of the problem yet, what we could see is a spike in people facing eviction in New York City,” said Garcia, according to Net TV.

Every year, more 200,000 cases of non-payment are taken up in the New York Housing Court, and 9% of these cases result in evictions, according to Catholic Charities. Garcia thinks the number of evictions could double with the moratorium lifting.

Tatiana, a professional working with adults who have developmental disabilities, told Net TV that many of her clients will not qualify for the moratorium because they did not make enough money to apply for unemployment, even though the pandemic has left them jobless.

She called the system unfair, saying her clients “have to feed their families and they have bills that they can’t catch up on.”

Catholic Charities of New York said it will continue to be a resource for at-risk tenants and help seek long-term solutions to rent-payment concerns.

“We help clients find the resources to pay the rental arrears, we also mediate with landlords to find a solution, sometimes landlords are willing to abate some of those rental arrears,” said Garcia, according to Net TV.

“We have employment specialists who can help them, we also have a tenant education program that helps people with budget management.”

 

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