CNA News

Subscribe to CNA News feed CNA News
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.
Updated: 1 hour 31 min ago

FBI: Three El Paso Catholic Churches were targeted by arson

Mon, 09/23/2019 - 15:52

El Paso, Texas, Sep 23, 2019 / 01:52 pm (CNA).- Three Catholic Churches in El Paso were this year the targets of arson, FBI officials announced on Sept. 19.

“The unknown perpetrator(s) of these crimes are believed to have used an incendiary device in an attempt to set fire to three Westside Catholic churches,” the FBI said in a statement.

“Each church sustained damage caused from these devices. Thankfully, to date no one has been injured.”

The first incident occurred on May 7 at St. Matthew Catholic Church, and the next incident occurred just one week later on May 13 at St. Patrick's Cathedral. Another arson was attempted on June 15 at St. Jude Catholic Church.

A spokesman for the Diocese of El Paso told the NY Times that each incident took place in the early morning hours.

In each case an attempt was made to throw a device like a Molotov cocktail through a church window. In two cases, the devices did not break the windows, but bounced onto the sidewalk instead. At St. Jude, the device broke the window and burned some pews inside the parish church.

The church arsons came in the months before Saturday Aug. 3, when an armed man killed 22 people and injured at least two dozen others when he opened fire on shoppers at an El Paso Walmart near the El Cielo Vista shopping center.

The shooting is suspected to have been racially motivated. Officials say that hours before the attack, the shooter published a document online detailing his hatred toward immigrants and Hispanics. Police said he appeared to have been targeting Latinos during the attack.

The arson incidents and the shooting do not appear to be related, and the FBI has not commented on a potential motive.

The FBI’s El Paso Field Office, the El Paso Fire Marshal’s Office, the El Paso Police Department, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) are investigating the arson incidents and “seeking the public’s assistance in identifying the person(s) responsible.”

“We are counting on assistance from members of the community to keep our city safe. We are asking everyone to please remain vigilant for suspicious or unusual activity to include events and persons around you,” the FBI stated.

The FBI in El Paso is offering $5,000 for information that leads to the identification, arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible for the arson crimes, for a total of $15,000 if the perpetrator(s) of all three crimes are found.

 

The important legacy of the US' sole Catholic historically black university

Sun, 09/22/2019 - 18:01

New Orleans, La., Sep 22, 2019 / 04:01 pm (CNA).- This week the country marked National HBCU Week to recognize the accomplishments of historically black colleges and universities throughout the United States.

Earlier this month, leaders from the country’s 101 HBCUs convened in Washington, D.C. for the annual National HBCU Conference, where they spoke to Congress of the ongoing importance of HBCUs, and where President Donald Trump announced that religiously affiliated HBCUs would now receive full federal funding.

“Previously, federal law restricted more than 40 faith-based HBCUs and seminaries from fully accessing federal support for capital improvement projects. This meant that your faith-based institutions, which have made such extraordinary contributions to America, were unfairly punished for their religious beliefs,” Trump said in his Sept. 10 address to the conference.

"This week, our Department of Justice has published an opinion declaring such discriminatory restrictions as unconstitutional. It was a big step. And from now on, faith-based HBCUs will enjoy equal access to federal support," Trump added.

Among the leaders present was President Reynold Verret of Xavier University of Louisiana, the only Catholic historically black college or university in the United States.

In his testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor, Verret emphasized the “critical role” of HBCUs in education.

Verret told CNA that in his testimony, he emphasized that as the U.S. grows in diversity, “the majority of our talents will be black and brown. And if we fail to cultivate that talent, we will actually do ourselves a great damage,” he said.

Students are not always fortunate enough to attend good schools, he added, and if black talents, such as those of Dr. Ben Carson, are not fostered, they will be lost. Carson was a prominent pediatric neurosurgeon before his run for president in 2016 and his current position as U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary,

Speaking about Xavier in particular, Verret said that the faculty encourages their students to consider the needs of their communities and their country when choosing their majors.

“The education of the student at Xavier or at a school like ourselves, it's not just a benefit to that individual student, but a benefit to the larger community that he is contributing to, and to the nation,” Verret said.

The notion of putting one’s talents at the service of another is a critical part of Xavier University’s Catholic foundation, Verret added.

“It's very much in our legacy at Xavier, that that expectation of contributing to more than just me...and we speak of that to our students,” he said. “That the majors that they engage in, whether it's preparing for medicine, preparing for law, or becoming a major artist, will only have meaning when they put it in service of people. It's not so much about my BMW, or my salary.”

The seeds of Xavier University were planted by then-Mother Katherine Drexel in 1915, when she and her Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament founded schools to serve Native American and African American populations throughout the United States, including a Catholic secondary school for African-Americans in Louisiana.

By 1917, she also established a preparatory school for teachers, one of the few career tracks available to Black Americans at the time. A few years later, that school was able to offer other degrees as well, and became a full-fledged university in 1925.

In a sense, Verret said, Mother Katherine “rescued the Church from herself” at the time, because she opened an institution where students of all colors were welcome. Xavier University was also the first Catholic university where men and women studied together, he added.

The spirit of Mother Katherine, now St. Katherine Drexel, and her mission to provide a quality education to those in need is still foundational to the mission of Xavier today, Verret said.

“Mother Katherine, when she came here with her sisters in 1915...she had in her mind those who needed an education,” Verret said. “...and every 15 years, maybe even 25 years, we look at ourselves and say - who else needs our service? If Mother Katherine was beginning today, she would have others on her list as well, because this is our mission.”

When it comes to academic performance, Xavier is a school that “is punching above our weight,” Verret said.

Though the school enrolls only 3,000-some students, Xavier ranks first in the country for the number of black graduates who will go on to complete medical school, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

It is also ranked among the nation's top four colleges of pharmacy in graduating African Americans with Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm D) degrees, and is number one in the nation in awarding bachelor's degrees to African American students in the biological and biomedical sciences, the physical sciences, and physics, and number three in the nation for the number of African American graduates who go on to earn a Ph.D. in science and engineering fields.

Verret said that Xavier’s achievements show the important role that smaller, specialized colleges, such as HBCUs, or women’s colleges, or other religiously-affiliated colleges, can play in American higher education.

“That diversity of education (options) to satisfy young people’s needs is important to us, and HBCUs are one part of that landscape.”

HBCUs were founded at a time where it was illegal for black students to attend other institutions of higher education, and so they catered to black students out of necessity. Xavier is still predominately black, Verret said, but it always has been and continues to be accepting of students of all ethnicities and creeds, which was something Mother Katherine anticipated.

“We have an important reservoir of experience and knowledge and intuition about what America should become, which came from the children and descendants of former slaves,” Verret said, but students of all races and creeds are able to receive a good education at Xavier.

Among the other ethnicities at Xavier are a large group of Vietnamese students, as well as students from Iraq who came to the United States during the Iraq war, Verret said. More than 71 percent of Xavier students are African American, while just 19 percent are Catholic, in large part because African Americans in the south are primarily from Protestant or Evangelical ecclesial communities, Verret said.
Still, Verret said, it is important to have HBCUs as predominately black institutions, where black students who are still a minority in this country can go and not feel like they stand out.

Speaking from his own experience as a young college student, Verret said that HBCUs offer students a place where their race is “not an issue.”

“I’m not the representative (of blacks or African Americans). I am the editor of the school newspaper. I am one of the members of the chemistry club, I’m not the black member of the chemistry club,” he said. “It’s a certain freedom that many whites in the United States cannot understand because they're not experiencing that.”

As for it’s Catholic identity, Verret said the school has a strong sense of Catholic service and social justice engrained into its mission.

As one example of service, Verret said that every year, student deans and other peer leaders volunteer their time to help move in new students on campus. When asked why they did so, Verret said one of the student leaders told him: “So that they'll know next year, it’s their turn.”

The school’s sense of service can be seen in its mission statement, which notes: “The ultimate purpose of the University is to contribute to the promotion of a more just and humane society by preparing its students to assume roles of leadership and service in a global society.”

Another example of the school’s Catholic mission, Verret said, is in its spirit of camaraderie and solidarity in its successful pre-med program. Often schools will try to scare off medical or pre-medical students by telling them: “Look to your right and look to your left. One of you won’t be here (by the end),” Verret said.

“That notion, that doesn’t exist at Xavier. We gather and pull each other so that we should all go cross that finish line together.”

Enrollment is back up at Xavier after a couple of years of decline following Hurricane Katrina, Verret noted, and the way that the school, as well as other HBCUs, will preserve their legacy is by “telling their stories” and telling of their current successes, Verret said.

“The other HBCUs are of very different sizes and very different complexions. But at the same time, what I can say is the uniting theme is that they continue to educate and graduate students who go on and are at the core of what America needs to be.”

Clandestine medical abortions reportedly on the rise in the US

Sat, 09/21/2019 - 18:01

Washington D.C., Sep 21, 2019 / 04:01 pm (CNA).- While the number of in-clinic abortions in the United States is reportedly down, the sale of illicitly acquired abortion pills may be up, according to recent data from the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute.

According to data from Guttmacher, a total of 339,640 medication abortions occurred in 2017, making up about 39% of all abortions. But because of the “black market” abortion pills acquired online or otherwise surreptitiously, it is difficult to track exactly how many abortions are occurring this way. Researchers told the New York Times that they estimate that secret medical abortions are making up a growing and “irreversible” portion of abortions in the United States.

“This is happening,” said Jill E. Adams, executive director of If/When/How: Lawyering for Reproductive Justice, told the New York Times. “This is an irreversible part of abortion care here in the United States.”

According to Guttmacher’s data and analysis, in-clinic abortions were down by about 19% in 2017 when compared to data from 2011. Guttmacher estimated that the abortion decline could be related to a decrease in overall birthrates, as well as increased contraceptive use and “increases in the number of individuals relying on self-managed (i.e. medical) abortions outside of a clinical setting.”

Chuck Donovan, president of the Charlotte Lozier Institute, said he welcomed the decline in overall abortions, but that he was concerned about the rise in clandestine medical abortions.

“There are several reasons for this positive news, including factors that Guttmacher does their best to ignore,” he said. “American mothers are increasingly choosing life for their children, as well as choosing to identify themselves with the pro-life cause and pro-life policies. This includes the broad protections for women and children being enacted at the state level such as strengthened health and safety standards for abortion facilities, limits on public funding of abortion, parental involvement laws, and increased informed consent.”

“The industry’s migration to chemical self-abortion is deeply disturbing as it carries with it the possibility of increasing the overall abortion rate over time and also carries with it a higher rate of injury, about which women are often under-informed or deceived,” he added.

A medical abortion, sometimes called a chemical abortion, is a two-step process that involves the ingestion of two drugs: mifepristone and misoprostol. Mifepristone, effectively starves the unborn baby by blocking the effects of progesterone. The second drug, misoprostol, is taken up to two days later and induces labor.

Several pro-life clinics throughout the country provide abortion pill reversals, a protocol that involves giving pregnant women additional doses of progesterone to counteract the progesterone-blocking effects of mifepristone, if the woman regrets taking the pill and hopes to reverse the abortion.

Earlier this month, a European doctor filed a lawsuit against the United States Food and Drug Administration in order to continue selling medical abortion pills online. The FDA argued that Dr. Rebecca Gomperts and her group, Aid Access, were in violation of FDA regulations which state that abortion pills cannot be sold online, as part of an FDA risk mitigation program called REMS, which is used for all higher-risk medications.

The news of an increase in medical abortions also comes shortly after a North Dakota judge nixed part of a new law that would have required doctors to inform their patients about abortion pill reversal protocol, as well as after Planned Parenthood announced its plans to expand access to medical abortions through telemedicine.

In response to this increase in medical abortions, a new federal bill has been drafted which aims to preserve restrictions on abortion pills. The Support and Value Expectant Moms and Babies Act (SAVE) was introduced Thursday by pro-life congressional leaders, and was sponsored by Rep. Robert Latta (R-Ohio).

In a Sept. 18 article in the New York Times, Elizabeth Nash, senior state policy manager at the Guttmacher Institute, said that while abortions have decreased throughout the U.S., “there’s no clear pattern linking these declines to new restrictions.”

Clarke Forsythe, senior counsel for Americans United for Life, told the New York Times that the data and analysis from Guttmacher were “a patchwork put together to serve an agenda, and I don’t give any of it any credence whatsoever.”

He said that the Guttmacher Institute simply wants to present the message that “abortion is good, abortion should be legal and state laws that try to limit or regulate abortion are ineffective.”

“I’m sure that there are many factors that have contributed to the decline,” Forsythe told the New York Times. “Some state laws do contribute to a reduction in abortion.”

Several states have passed abortion restrictions in the past year, including Alabama, Arkansas, and Utah, which have passed laws that would ban abortions after 18 weeks of pregnancy. Other states, including Georgia, Kentucky, and Ohio, passed heartbeat bills that would restrict abortions after an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detected, which typically occurs between six and eight weeks of pregnancy. A lengthy clinic licensure debate in Missouri could mean the closure of the last Planned Parenthood in the state. Most of these laws have yet to go into effect.

Medical migrant ordered to leave gets hope of reprieve, highlights similar cases

Sat, 09/21/2019 - 10:00

Washington D.C., Sep 21, 2019 / 08:00 am (CNA).- An immigrant who has lived in the U.S. for more than 16 years while receiving life-saving medical treatments is hoping for a reprieve after being given weeks to leave the country. 

Maria Isabel Bueso, a 24 year-old immigrant from Guatemala, has lived in the U.S. without citizenship since 2003 through temporary extensions of “deferred action,” or delays of deportation, so that she can stay and receive treatment for her rare medical condition.

Bueso traveled from Guatemala to the U.S. with her family in 2003 to participate in clinical trials for her rare genetic disorder. After more than 16 years, she was notified in August that she would not be able to renew her status in the U.S. because the administration would stop considering non-military requests for deferred action. She was given 33 days to leave the country.

On Sept. 19, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it would resume granting non-military deferred action on a case-by-case basis, 

Bueso was “thrilled” by the news, her nurse, Wendy Bloom, told CNA, but remained only “cautiously optimistic” until she has full certainty of her status and hopes her case will draw attention to the plight of others like her.

“She’s really nervous until she actually gets an official letter that says ‘you are allowed to stay here,’ then she’ll be ready to have a party,” Bloom, a member of the California Nurses Association, told CNA.

Bueso has become an advocate for other patients with rare diseases—some of who needed to travel from outside the U.S. for treatment.

She has Maroteaux-Lamy Syndrome (MPS-VI) which is a rare genetic disorder, and was invited to the U.S. at age seven to participate in clinical trials conducted by Dr. Paul Harmatz at Children's Hospital and Research Center in Oakland, California.

Bueso traveled to the U.S. on a B-2 visa with her family, and has since remained in the country for weekly treatments. Bloom says she has known Bueso for 13 years, and that Bueso has been coming to the hospital for almost 17 years.

After she initially participated in clinical trials for her condition, that program helped develop a commercial drug—Naglazyme—that is now used to treat patients with MPS-VI.

In 2009, Bueso applied for and was granted deferred action of deportation, with a renewal every two years.

Several weeks after her notice to leave the U.S., Bueso testified before the House Oversight Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties at a hearing held on September 11 on “The Administration’s Apparent Revocation of Medical Deferred Action for Critically Ill Children.”

“The medical treatment I need is not available in Guatemala. If I’m sent back, I will die,” she told members of the subcommittee. Bloom explained that the treatment is expensive and requires special skills to administer; Bueso would not be able to receive the necessary treatment in Guatemala.

On Sept. 2, DHS had announced that it would review the change in policy for “deferred action,” but Bueso’s status was still in limbo.

“It was incredibly stressful for the family, incredibly stressful, and for all of us that care for her and love her too, it was really heartbreaking,” Bloom said.

Then on Sept. 19, DHS informed the House Oversight Committee that it would once again consider deferred action on a case-by-case basis for non-military immigrants in the U.S.

In the statement, DHS said that USCIS would resume consideration of “non-military deferred action requests on a discretionary, case-by-case basis, except as otherwise required by an applicable statute, regulation, or court order.”

Oversight Chairman Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) stated in response that “it appears that the Trump Administration is reversing its inhumane and disastrous decision to deport critically ill children and their families who are receiving life-saving medical treatment in the United States.”

The decision draws attention to the importance of allowing immigrants like Bueso to come to the U.S. for treatment.

“Medical research needs to be ongoing, and if we can’t have the type of patients enrolling in these studies then we have a problem,” Bloom said.

Msgr. Rossi takes leave of absence from CUA board of trustees

Fri, 09/20/2019 - 17:12

Washington D.C., Sep 20, 2019 / 03:12 pm (CNA).- Msgr. Walter Rossi has taken a leave of absence from the board of trustees at The Catholic University of America, while the priest is the subject of a canonical investigation for unspecified allegations of misconduct.

“Last month the chairman of the Board of Trustees approved Msgr. Rossi’s request to take a voluntary leave of absence pending the resolution of the investigation launched jointly by the Archdiocese of Washington and the Diocese of Scranton. During the leave of absence Msgr Rossi will not participate in any board activities,” Karna Lozoya, spokesperson for the university told CUA Sept. 20.

Lozoya told CNA that the university is “in contact with the Diocese of Scranton and the Archdiocese of Washington, who have jointly launched an investigation. We will cooperate with them as needed. We don’t have any information at this point to warrant our own investigation.”

In August, the Diocese of Scranton told CNA that it had commenced “the process of launching a full forensic investigation into the concerns that have been raised,” about Rossi, who is rector of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, which is adjacent to the campus of The Catholic University of America.

Rossi is a priest of the Diocese of Scranton.

“The Diocese of Scranton and Archdiocese of Washington will work jointly and cooperatively on undertaking a comprehensive investigation,” the diocese told CNA Aug. 14.

Concerns were raised about Rossi to Archbishop Gregory Aug. 13, during a question-and-answer session at a Theology on Tap, held at the Public Bar Live in the Dupont area of Washington. The event was broadcast live on Facebook.

During that session, Gregory called for an independent, forensic investigation of some allegations against Rossi.

Rossi has been accused of directing young men to Fr. Matthew Reidlinger, a priest friend of Rossi’s who is alleged to have sexually harassed them in phone calls and text messages. That accusation was made in 2013.

In August, Gregory said he was unfamiliar with the allegation.
 
“That’s news to me. And I am not doubting it, but I have not heard about [this situation].”
 
“I suspect – I hope – that there is a forensic investigation. But in today’s environment, even a forensic investigation that either proves or disproves, will not satisfy the people. But I would like to see that, I would like to see a forensic investigation of those allegations.”

Rossi “is not an employee of Catholic University, nor does he have regular duties or responsibilities to fulfill on our campus. We do have students who are active either as part-time employees or volunteers at the Shrine. We have not received any complaints from our students regarding Msgr. Rossi,” Lozoya told CNA Friday.

“The safety of our students is our first priority. If we ever have good reason to believe the safety of our students is in danger, we will take the necessary action,” she added.

While Rossi is the subject of a canonical investigation, he has not been removed from his post at the National Shrine, and neither the scope nor the timeline of the investigation have been delineated by the Archdiocese of Washington or the Diocese of Scranton.

“If anyone harms a student at The Catholic University of America, we want to know about it. If any member of our community has experienced sexual abuse or assault, or has first hand knowledge of an incident, please contact our Department of Public Safety, the Metropolitan Police Department, our Dean of Students, or our Title IX coordinator,” Lozoya told CNA.

After Chaput warning, bishops weigh in on Fr. James Martin

Fri, 09/20/2019 - 12:40

Philadelphia, Pa., Sep 20, 2019 / 10:40 am (CNA).- After the Archbishop of Philadelphia urged caution regarding the message Fr. James Martin, SJ, other bishops have weighed in on Martin’s message regarding homosexuality and Catholicism, as Martin and the archbishop have continued to exchange views on the matter.

“Father Martin’s public messages create confusion among the faithful and disrupt the unity of the Church by promoting a false sense that immoral sexual behavior is acceptable under God’s law,” Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, wrote Sept. 19.

“People with same-sex attraction are indeed created and loved by God and are welcome in the Catholic Church. But the Church’s mission to these brothers and sisters is the same as to all her faithful: to guide, encourage, and support each of us in the Christian struggle for virtue, sanctification, and purity,” the bishop added.

Paprocki’s statement came in response to a Sept. 19 column from Archbishop Charles Chaput, that urged caution about “a pattern of ambiguity” in the writing and teaching of Martin.

Chaput’s column raised his concern that “Father Martin – no doubt unintentionally -- inspires hope that the Church’s teachings on human sexuality can be changed.”

Martin is the author of “Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity,” and speaks frequently on issues pertaining to homosexuality and Catholicism. He spoke Sept. 17 at Philadelphia's St. Joseph's University.

“Due to the confusion caused by his statements and activities regarding same-sex related (LGBT) issues, I find it necessary to emphasize that Father Martin does not speak with authority on behalf of the Church, and to caution the faithful about some of his claims,” Chaput wrote.

“Archbishop Chaput has provided a helpful caution to Catholics about Father James Martin. On the one hand, Father Martin correctly expresses God’s love for all people, while on the other, he either encourages or fails to correct behavior that separates a person from that very love. This is deeply scandalous in the sense of leading people to believe that wrongful behavior is not sinful,” Paprocki’s statement said.

“This matter is not one of opinion, it is our Lord’s own teaching, as we hear in Luke’s Gospel: ‘Take heed to yourselves; if your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him,’” the bishop added.

Bishop Rick Stika of Knoxville also weighed in Chaput’s column.

On Twiter, Stika praised Chaput’s “column on the theological and moral errors of Fr Martin. He praises his outreach but challenges his moral and theological thoughts. He also states clearly that this is a great error. I would add the pain it causes by setting people for pain as morally it can never be accepted by the Church. The Archbishop also adds that the vicious attacks on Father is wrong and sinful. It is one thing to disagree but another to be vicious and hide behind a handle.”
 

Martin himself responded to Chaput’s column in an op-ed at CatholicPhilly, the news portal of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

“I think my main response to his column is that it’s difficult to respond to critiques that I am ‘implying’ things about church teaching, when I am assiduous in my writings and talks about not challenging church teaching on matters of sexual morality (or anything, for that matter).”

“One of the reasons that I don’t focus on same-sex relations and same-sex marriage, which I know are both impermissible (and immoral) under church teaching, is that LGBT Catholics have heard this repeatedly. Indeed, often that is the only thing that they hear from their church,” Martin wrote.

“What I am trying to do instead is encourage Catholics to see LGBT people as more than just sexual beings, to see them in their totality, much as Jesus saw people on the margins, people who were also seen as ‘other’ in his time,” the priest added.

“I remain grateful for the Archbishop’s asking people not to engage in ‘ad hominem’ attacks, and I appreciate the careful tone of his letter and have always appreciated his kind communications with me,” Martin concluded.

Chaput responded Martin’s column.

“I appreciate Father Martin’s typically gracious comments, which are consistent with the man,” Chaput wrote.

“They do not, however, change the need for my column. I’m sure Father Martin would agree that ‘official’ Church teaching (as opposed to some alternative, imagined, unofficial system of belief and practice) is simply what the Church believes based on the Word of God and centuries of experience with the human condition.”

“Moreover, the point is not to ‘not challenge’ what the Church believes about human sexuality, but to preach and teach it with confidence, joy, and zeal. Biblical truth liberates; it is never a cause for embarrassment,” Chaput added.

The archbishop noted that he and Martin agree that “persons with same-sex attraction are children of God and well loved by him. Thus they deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. The Church must earnestly seek to do that while remaining true to her convictions.”

“But it is clearly not true that the ‘only thing’ Catholics with same-sex attraction hear from their Church is a message of rejection. Or if it is, perhaps the responsibility can lie as much with the listener as it does with the Church. We each have the freedom to choose. Listening, like teaching, is an act of the will.”

 

Scottish Church says Catholics schools don't cause violence

Thu, 09/19/2019 - 22:00

Edinburgh, Scotland, Sep 19, 2019 / 08:00 pm (CNA).- A spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland said Wednesday the suggestion that Catholic schools in the country are a cause for bigotry is “staggeringly intolerant.”

“Scotland’s peculiar obsession with religious intolerance has been in the spotlight again recently following the offensive and ill-informed comments of a former police chief, who claimed that the existence of denominational schools are at the root of the problem and suggested that sectarianism and bigotry can best be tackled by closing Catholic schools,” Peter Kearney, director of the Scottish Catholic Media Office, wrote in an op-ed Sept. 18.

“This staggeringly intolerant attitude is symptomatic of a simplistic belief that educating children in a faith-based environment is wrong and will inevitably lead to conflict and strife in society,” he added.

Kearney’s comments came in response to a Sept. 16 column in The Scotsman, a leading newspaper in Scotland. The column, penned by Tom Woods, a former deputy chief constable in Edinburgh’s regional police force, argued that “religiously segregated education” is the source of sectarian demonstrations and violence in the country.

“I have no doubt that the provision for separate Roman Catholic education as enshrined by The Education (Scotland) Act 1918, was a good idea 100 years ago, but is it acceptable that in the 21st century, we emphasise differences by separating five-year-old children based on their parents’ religion?” Woods asked.

“As Scotland moves forward with equality as our watchword, our century-old practice of segregated education is contradictory to say the least,” he wrote, adding that “if we really want to dig out the roots of sectarianism, we must do what’s difficult, and have the courage to tackle the historical anomaly of religious segregation in our schools.”

Kearney wrote that “there is not a shred of empirical evidence to back up” Woods’ claims.

“To suggest that children who aren’t schooled together can never interact or relate harmoniously to one another in adult life is clearly absurd. Taken to its extreme this would suggest that children from different parts of the country or from different countries or with different languages are doomed to perpetual strife as adults, since they didn't share a playground.”

The disagreement emerged after several political marches and demonstrations have turned violent in Scotland in recent weeks, with clashes between Republican and Loyalist groups leading to a ban on some political marches in the city of Glasgow.

Scotland has experienced significant sectarian division since the Scottish Reformation of the 16th century, which led to the formation of the Church of Scotland, an ecclesial community in the Calvinist and Presbyterian tradition which is the country's largest religious community.

Sectarianism and crimes motivated by anti-Catholicism have been on the rise in Scotland in recent years.

An April 2018 poll of Catholics in Scotland found that 20 percent reported personally experiencing abuse of prejudice toward their faith; and a government report on religiously-motivated crime in 2016 and 2017 found a concentration of incidents in Glasgow.

Kearney said that schools are not to blame for the strife, which he attributed partially to anti-Catholicism.

“Sectarian, like racial, discrimination is not taught in schools but bred, through ignorance, in homes and spread through society at large.”

 

Indiana bishop offers cemetery for burial of aborted remains

Thu, 09/19/2019 - 17:45

Fort Wayne, Ind., Sep 19, 2019 / 03:45 pm (CNA).- The Bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend offered Thursday the use of a Catholic cemetery to bury the more than 2,000 remains of aborted children that were discovered in the garage of a recently-deceased former abortionist, as authorities in one state close their investigation into the discovery.

“I join my voice to the many people who have expressed their horror and disgust at the discovery of 2,246 medically preserved remains of unborn babies in the Illinois home of Ulrich Klopfer, who performed thousands of abortions in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend,” Rhoades said Sept. 19.

“I strongly support the investigation being carried out by the attorneys general of Illinois and Indiana. I also offer any assistance, including the use of our Catholic Cemetery in Fort Wayne, for the proper and dignified burial of the remains of these unborn children.”

At a press conference Thursday, the Will County Sheriff’s Office announced that they will not pursue criminal charges related to the discovery of 2,246 “medically preserved fetal remains” in the Klopfer's garage. The remains were discovered by Klopfer’s family members Sept. 12, nine days after his death at age 75.

According to the sheriff’s office, the remains were discovered in more than 70 cardboard boxes that were stacked nearly up to the ceiling of the garage. He said Klopfer’s family has been cooperating with the investigation.

“The remains discovered were inside small sealed plastic bags, which contained formalin, a chemical used to preserve biological material,” said a joint statement from the Will County Sheriff’s Office, Will County State’s Attorney’s Office, and the Will County Coroner's Office. The statement said that these boxes were mixed with boxes that contained “various personal property” of Klopfer.

The statement said that the boxes were dated 2000-2002. During those years, Klopfer owned and operated three abortion clinics in Indiana. These clinics, which were located in South Bend, Fort Wayne, and Gary, were all shuttered by the end of 2015 after numerous complaints against Klopfer’s practices.

In 2016, Klopfer’s medical license was suspended after he admitted that he performed abortions on two 13-year-old girls, and did not report them to the state in a timely manner. He also admitted that he did not give pain medication to adult patients unless they paid extra, and his clinic in Fort Wayne was described as dirty and unkempt, with broken equipment.

Will County Sheriff Mike Kelley said at the press conference that Klopfer left no documentation as to why he chose to store the remains in his garage.

Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow said that he was working with the Indiana Attorney General’s office to transfer the fetal remains to Indiana authorities, where the investigation will continue. He said that there will be an investigation into Klopfer’s admission that he performed an abortion on a 10-year-old rape survivor, who was then returned to her family without reporting the act.

Glasgow declined to state the estimated gestational age of the fetal remains, and did not elaborate as to how the bags were labeled. He said that once the remains are transferred to Indiana, the attorney general will ask women who were Klopfer’s patients at that time to contact the agency with any additional information that they may have.

While Klopfer cannot be charged with anything as he is deceased, the presence of fetal remains in his home suggests he violated Indiana law regarding the disposal of medical waste, as well as a law regarding records keeping. Authorities in Indiana will investigate whether Klopfer had an accomplice who helped him transport the remains to his home in Illinois. That person may be charged, although the age of the remains could be past the statute of limitations.

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is running for the Democratic nomination for president, said that he found the discovery to be “extremely disturbing,” and he supported an investigation. He also said that he hopes it is not used to further restrict abortion rights.

“I hope that it doesn’t get caught up in politics at a time when women need access to healthcare,” he added.

As mayor, Buttigieg attempted to block the construction of a pregnancy center in South Bend, and supported the operation of Whole Women’s Health, an abortion clinic. Whole Women’s Health currently is operating without a license, and is administered by a former employee of Klopfer.

Transgender man will be allowed to sue Catholic hospital over hysterectomy

Thu, 09/19/2019 - 16:00

Sacramento, Calif., Sep 19, 2019 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- A Sacramento-area woman who identifies as a transgender man will be allowed to sue a Catholic hospital for cancelling and rescheduling a procedure to remove her uterus, following a ruling from the 1st District Court of Appeal that overturned a lower court ruling on Wednesday.

Evan Minton, who identifies as a male, says in the lawsuit that Dignity Health, a Catholic health system that operates Mercy San Juan Medical Center outside Sacramento, in 2017 cancelled a planned hysterectomy when she mentioned to a nurse that she identifies as trangendered.

Dignity Health arranged for Minton to have the procedure done at a different hospital within 72 hours of the cancellation, the Sacramento Bee reports. The surgeon, Dr Lindsey Dawson, told the Bee that Dignity Health officials assisted her in getting emergency privileges at Methodist, a non-Catholic affiliated hospital, so she could perform the hysterectomy there.

Minton sued, arguing that the hospital’s actions violated California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, which says businesses must offer full and equal access to state residents, the Bee reports.

Dignity Health provided a response to the Sacramento Bee.

“Catholic hospitals do not perform sterilizing procedures such as hysterectomies for any patient regardless of their gender identity, unless there is a serious threat to the life or health of the patient,” the Dignity statement said.

“Courts have repeatedly recognized the right of faith-based hospitals not to provide services based on their religious principles....In this case, Mr. Minton was able to quickly receive the sought-after procedure at another nearby Dignity Health hospital that is not Catholic-affiliated.”

A San Francisco Superior Court judge initially dismissed Minton’s lawsuit, on the grounds that the hospital followed court precedent in rescheduling the patient quickly at a different hospital.

Court records show that Minton underwent hormone replacement therapy in 2012 and a mastectomy in 2014, and planned to undergo the hysterectomy before having a penis surgically created.

Another Catholic health system in California, St. Joseph Health, is facing a similar lawsuit filed in March from another woman who identifies as a transgender man after one of its locations, St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka, refused to perform a hysterectomy.

After the surgery at St. Joseph was denied, Knight underwent a hysterectomy at a hospital unaffiliated with the St. Joseph Health of Northern California system, 30 minutes away.

Like Dignity Health, St. Joseph Health said in a statement that hysterectomies are only performed at their facilities when they have been deemed “medically necessary,” and not for purposes of sterilization.

The teaching of the Catholic Church recognizes a hysterectomy as licit when there is a grave and present danger to the life or health of the mother, and when the intention of the procedure is not to prevent the possibility of conception.
 
In January 2019, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued an authoritative response which explained the circumstances under which a hysterectomy could be morally licit.

A 2016 letter to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services signed by the general counsel for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, together with other groups, affirmed that the denial of surgery to someone seeking to change their gender would not be discriminatory, noting that in such cases there would be nothing medically wrong with otherwise healthy organs to be removed.

“It is not ‘discrimination’ when a hospital provides care it considers appropriate, declines to perform procedures destructive to patients’ welfare and well-being, or declines to take actions that undermine the health, safety, and privacy of other patients,” the letter said.
 
“A hospital does not engage in 'discrimination' when, for example, it performs a mastectomy or hysterectomy on a woman with breast or uterine cancer, respectively, but declines to perform such a procedure on a woman with perfectly healthy breasts or uterus who is seeking to have the appearance of a man.”

 

Polls show majority support in US for medical conscience protections

Thu, 09/19/2019 - 15:00

Washington D.C., Sep 19, 2019 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- New poll results show that a large majority of Americans believe that healthcare professionals should not be forced to provide procedures that violate their moral beliefs. 

The results of two polls, released by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on Sept. 18, show widespread support for conscience protections in the healthcare industry, and for regulatory changes that take into account new pressures surrounding so-called gender reassignment procedures.

“An overwhelming majority of Americans agree: no healthcare professional should be forced to violate deeply-held beliefs in order to keep a job. The practice of medicine depends on those courageous and generous enough to serve all people — especially the poor and marginalized — with the highest ethical standards,” said a joint statement on the results released by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, who chairs the USCCB committee on pro-life activities. 

The release was also signed by Bishop Robert J. McManus of Worcester, chair of the committee for religious liberty, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, chair of the committee on domestic justice, and Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln, chairman of the subcommittee for the defense of marriage.

“If we exclude people of faith from the medical profession, Americans will suffer, especially those most in need,” the bishops added. In many areas of the country, Catholic or other religiously-affiliated hospitals are the only institutions present to serve a community. 

A total of 83% of all respondents in the Heart+Mind Strategies poll, conducted on behalf of the USCCB, said that it was important to not force healthcare professionals to participate in procedures to which they have moral objections. This total included 86% of women polled and 79% of men. 

The survey polled 1,004 adults over the age of 18 from July 18-21, 2019. The sample size was equally divided between men and women. 

Nearly six out of 10 respondents said that healthcare providers, such as doctors or nurses, should not be required to perform abortions if they are morally opposed to the practice. Only 20% thought it should be legally required for doctors or nurses to perform abortions, and another 22% said they were not sure.

Fifty-nine percent of respondents said that they supported regulations to protect conscience rights, and 21% said they were opposed. An additional 21% said they were not sure if they supported these regulations. 

These numbers were slightly different when the question was modified to specifically ask about doctors opposed to performing “gender reassignment procedures.” This question saw 60% of respondents say they were in favor of regulations to protect the rights of doctors to refuse to perform such procedures with 22% who said they were opposed. Only 18% said they were unsure if they thought doctors should be forced to violate their consciences in these cases. 

The poll also found that over eight out of 10 Americans believe that “having a moral alignment with one’s healthcare professional is important.” This figure rose four points to 85% among women, and fell to 77% among men. 

In May, the Department of Health and Human Services introduced the Protecting Statutory Conscience Rights in Health Care; Delegations of Authority rule, which protects doctors and other medical practitioners who object to procedures like abortion, sterilization, or facilitating euthanasia. The rule mandates that institutions receiving federal money be certified that they comply with more than two dozen laws protecting conscience and religious freedom rights. 

After initially being scheduled to go into effect in July, it has been delayed until the end of November due to legal challenges.

Draft law would preserve abortion pill restrictions

Thu, 09/19/2019 - 12:00

Washington D.C., Sep 19, 2019 / 10:00 am (CNA).- New federal legislation has been drafted to preserve restrictions on the availability of abortion pills. The Support and Value Expectant Moms and Babies Act (SAVE) was introduced Thursday by pro-life congressional leaders in response to efforts to broaden access to chemical abortions in the United States.

“While the national abortion rate decline is a welcome sign, the dramatic rise in use of the abortion pill should worry pro-life activists and pro-abortion activists alike,” stated Rep. Robert Latta (R-Ohio), sponsor of the SAVE Moms and Babies Act which he introduced in the House Sept. 19.

“The SAVE Moms & Babies Act helps ensure this abortion method is recognized for what it is: dangerous,” Latta said.

Mifepristone—also known as Mifeprex—is the first of two drugs used in the RU-486 chemical abortion process, and its use together with Misopristol is highly-regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Mifeprex causes the mother’s body to stop nourishing the unborn child; Misoprostol, taken afterward, causes contractions and expels the child and placenta from the mother’s body.

The FDA has applied special guidelines, the Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies (REMS), to the two-drug process. Under REMS, the drugs can only be prescribed and dispensed by a certified health care provider in a health care setting, and can only be administered up to 70 days after the woman’s last menstrual cycle.

Abortion advocates are pushing for increased access to the drugs through mail order, online and through telemedicine.

In 2016, the FDA adopted revisions to its guidelines which included removing the requirement that the drugs be prescribed by a physician. The REMS process is still in place.

“Lawmakers and advocates pushing for this pill to be available on demand and over the counter are neglecting the safety and health of women across this country,” Rep. Latta said, noting that chemical abortions already pose danger for the mother even with medical oversight.

“Without proper medical oversight, it has resulted in hospitalizations, severe complications, and several deaths,” he said.

The SAVE Moms and Babies Act would prevent the removal of the FDA’s existing REMS standards for the abortion pill, and would also prohibit the remote dispensing of the pill through the mail or by telemedicine. It would also block new chemical abortion drugs from FDA approval.

Pro-life groups are warning that increased access to chemical abortions could result in more women experiencing dangerous complications if they self-administer the abortion pill without proper medical oversight.

According to a 2018 GAO report, the FDA recorded around 4,200 incidents of Mifeprex-related “adverse events” between its approval in September of 2000 and June 30, 2017. Out of approximately 3.2 million women who have used the drug, 20 deaths were reported during that period, the report found.

The report added that “FDA has conducted a variety of monitoring activities and these have not identified significant concerns with the safety and use of Mifeprex, in accordance with its approved REMS.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 2271 teaches that “Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion” and that direct abortion “is gravely contrary to the moral law.” In addition to being a mortal sin, the procurement of a completed abortion is a canonical crime carrying with it the penalty of excommunication.

In 2009, when Italy legalized the abortion pill, the president emeritus of the Pontifical Academy for Life Monsignor Elio Sgreccia said it was no different than a surgical abortion and stated that “there will be excommunication for the doctor, the woman, and anyone who encourages its use.”

“First abortion was legalized to stop it being clandestine, but now doctors are washing their hands of it and transferring the burden of conscience to women,” Monsignor Sgreccia said, as reported by Reuters.

Bishops in California are currently working to oppose state legislation, currently waiting for the governor’s signature, that would force the state’s universities to offer chemical abortions to students. 

Latta’s bill comes after Planned Parenthood’s research arm, the Guttmacher Institute, reported an overall decline in the abortion rate to an all-time low in the U.S., with an estimated 862,000 abortions in 2017.

However, the percentage of chemical abortions in “nonhospital facilities” has gone up 25% since 2014, to a total of 339,640 abortions—39% of the overall abortion number.

Guttmacher admitted that the overall abortion decline might not be as steep as reported, in part due to unreported “self-managed abortions.” Mifeprex and Misoprostol “are becoming increasingly available online, as are resources about how to safely and effectively self-manage an abortion outside of a clinical setting,” the report stated.

“The industry’s migration to chemical self-abortion is deeply disturbing,” said Chuck Donovan, president of the Charlotte Lozier Institute, a pro-life organization. He also noted that the trend could push the abortion rate back up in the future but with a “higher rate of injury” to women.

Mallory Quigley, vice president of communications for Susan B. Anthony List, said the increase in chemical abortions is part of the abortion industry’s determination to profit “off the destruction of unborn children and wounding of mothers” while cutting overhead costs.

Chaput: Fr. James Martin's message causes confusion about Church doctrine

Thu, 09/19/2019 - 09:46

Philadelphia, Pa., Sep 19, 2019 / 07:46 am (CNA).- After Fr. James Martin, SJ, spoke at a Philadelphia university, the Archbishop of Philadelphia urged caution about the priest’s message, especially regarding the possibility that Catholic teaching on sexuality might change.

“Father Martin has sought in a dedicated way to accompany and support people with same-sex attraction and gender dysphoria. Many of his efforts have been laudable, and we need to join him in stressing the dignity of persons in such situations,” Archbishop Charles Chaput wrote in a Sept. 19 column published on his archdiocesan website.

“At the same time, a pattern of ambiguity in his teachings tends to undermine his stated aims, alienating people from the very support they need for authentic human flourishing. Due to the confusion caused by his statements and activities regarding same-sex related (LGBT) issues, I find it necessary to emphasize that Father Martin does not speak with authority on behalf of the Church, and to caution the faithful about some of his claims,” Chaput added.

Martin is the author of “Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity,” and speaks frequently on issues pertaining to homosexuality and Catholicism. He spoke Sept. 17 at Philadelphia's St. Joseph's University.

Chaput’s column raised his concern that “Father Martin – no doubt unintentionally -- inspires hope that the Church’s teachings on human sexuality can be changed.”

“In his book, ‘Building A Bridge,’ he writes: ‘For a teaching to be really authoritative it is expected that it will be received by the people of God . . . From what I can tell, in the LGBT community, the teaching that LGBT people must be celibate their entire lives . . . has not been received.’ One might easily, and falsely, infer from such language that the Church’s teaching on sexual intimacy lacks binding authority for same-sex attracted Catholics,” Chaput wrote.

The archbishop credited Martin for the priest’s insistence that he has never directly challenged Catholic teaching.

“But what is implied or omitted often speaks as loudly as what is actually stated, and in the current climate, incomplete truths do, in fact, present a challenge to faithful Catholic belief. When people hear that ‘the Church welcomes gay people’ or needs to be more ‘inclusive and welcoming’ without also hearing the conditions of an authentically Christian life set for all persons by Jesus Christ and his Church -- namely, living a life of chastity -- they can easily misunderstand the nature of Christian conversion and discipleship,” Chaput noted.

“For this reason, Catholic teaching always requires more than polite affirmation or pro forma agreement, particularly from those who comment publicly on matters of doctrine. Faithful Catholics who are same-sex attracted need support and encouragement in the virtue of chastity. They deserve to hear – as all people do – the truth about human sexuality spoken clearly and confidently. Anything less lacks both mercy and justice.”

Chaput’s column addressed other concerns about Martin’s work. 

Among those concerns is Martin's collaboration with New Ways Ministry, an advocacy group that has been criticized by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for "ambiguities and errors" in its teaching. The organization gave Martin its 2016 Bridge Building Award.

The archbishop noted that “Father Martin suggests that same-sex attracted people and those with gender dysphoria should be labeled according to their attraction and dysphoria, calling for use of the phrase 'LGBT Catholic' in Church documents and language. But while the Church does teach that the body is integral to human identity, our sexual appetites do not define who we are.”

“If we are primarily defined by our sexual attractions, then, in order to be fulfilled, it would follow that we must identify with and act on our attractions. Anything calling for the denial or restraint of our sexual appetites would logically amount to repression and even cruelty. This is the opposite of the Gospel's clear teaching that our identity is found in Jesus Christ, created in the image and likeness of God and called to be sons and daughters of God,” the archbishop said.

The archbishop also lamented that Martin “suggests that Catholic teaching on same-sex attraction as ‘objectively disordered’ (for example, in CCC 2358) is cruel and should be modified.”

That suggestion “misrepresents Catholic belief,” Chaput said.

“It’s worth recalling here that the Catechism also describes lust, extra-marital relations, and contracepted sex (2351), masturbation (2352), and even non-sexual sins such as lying and calumny (1753), as intrinsically ‘disordered.’ The suggestion that the wisdom of the Church, rooted in the Word of God and centuries of human experience, is somehow cruel or misguided does grave harm to her mission. Families have been destroyed because of this misperception, and Father Martin regrettably contributes ambiguity to issues that demand a liberating biblical clarity,” the archbishop added.

For his part, Martin tweeted a response to Chaput's column Thursday morning. The tweets took the form of a letter to Chaput.

“I think my main response is that it's difficult to respond to critiques that I am ‘implying’ things, when I am assiduous in my writings and talks about not challenging church teaching,” Martin wrote.

Martin noted that the lecture he offered at St. Joseph's University “is the same lecture that I presented at the World Meeting of Families in Dublin last year, the text of which was vetted and approved beforehand by the Vatican.”

Acknowleding that same-sex relations and same-sex marriage are impermissable and immoral, Martin tweeted that “LGBT Catholics have heard this repeatedly. Indeed, often that is the only thing that they hear from their church.”

“What I am trying to do instead is encourage Catholics to see LGBT people as more than just sexual beings, to see them in their totality, much as Jesus saw people on the margins, people who were also seen as ‘other’ in his time,” the priest wrote.

During his World Meeting of Families lecture, which Martin said was the same lecture he gave in Philadelphia this week, the priest criticized “homophobic pastors” and said that “LGBT people bring special gifts to the Church, like any group.”

Chaput’s column, which explained that he was unable to prevent Martin from appearing at a Catholic college overseen by a religious order, also criticized “bitter personal attacks” against the priest from other Catholics.

“As I’ve said previously, such attacks are inexcusable and unChristian.”

Nevertheless, the archbishop said, he had a responsibility to raise objections to some aspects of Martin’s message.

“Supporters of Father Martin’s efforts will note, correctly, that several Church leaders have endorsed his work,” Chaput concluded.  

“Those Churchmen are responsible for their words -- as I am for mine, as pastor of the Church in Philadelphia.  And specifically in that role as pastor, I want to extend the CDF’s caution to all the faithful of the Church in Philadelphia, regarding the ambiguity about same-sex related issues found throughout the statements and activities of Father James Martin.”

 

Chaput: Personal holiness, fidelity to the Church key in difficult times

Thu, 09/19/2019 - 05:17

Philadelphia, Pa., Sep 19, 2019 / 03:17 am (CNA).- During times of scandal and confusion, Catholics should strive for personal holiness and fidelity to the Church, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia said in a talk last week.

“Christ sent his disciples out in his name, with his authority, to continue his work in the world as the Church — and only through the Church can we even be talking about Jesus today,” he said.

“The fidelity of Catholics to the Church, generation after generation, even when her leaders have been foolish or weak or sinful — that fidelity is what carries the message of the Gospel through time.”

Faithfulness to the Church is not a mere act of servitude, but “a choice to participate in the act of giving life to the world,” Chaput said, adding that the Church is how Christ can be known, and how God’s will can be known in our lives.

Archbishop Chaput delivered the Sept. 12 keynote address at the seventh annual St. Joseph the Worker Medal Awards at Malvern Retreat House in Malvern, Pennsylvania.

In his address, he stressed the importance of personal holiness, saying, “If we want to be disciples and make disciples; if we want to repair the Lord’s Church in the shadow of today’s scandals and confusion; we need to understand that without saints, nothing we do will work.”

“We can’t give what we don’t have,” he continued. “If Jesus Christ and a real Catholic identity don’t burn in the interior cathedral of our hearts, we can never possibly rebuild the external life of the Church in the world.”

Reflecting on what constitutes personal holiness, the archbishop pointed to St. Francis of Assisi, saying that “what many people overlook is that Francis lived in an age very much like our own…The 13th century was a time of great political unrest, and deep confusion and corruption in the Church.”

When Francis discovered the Gospel, his life was transformed from one of shallow comfort to a radical commitment to holiness – being set aside and separate from the ways of the world.

“What distinguished Francis from many of the other reformers of his day was one simple thing,” Chaput said. “He understood that he could never live out his love for God alone, or even with a group of friends. He needed the larger family of faith Jesus founded. He needed the Church. So he never allowed himself or his brothers to separate the Gospel from the Church, or the Church from Jesus Christ.”

“Francis was always a son of the Church. And as a son, he always insisted on fidelity and obedience to the Holy Father and reverence for priests and bishops — even the ones whose sins meant they didn’t deserve it,” the archbishop said.

He noted that Jesus on the Cross asked St. Francis not to “replace” or “reinvent” the Church but to “repair my Church,” which the saint went on to do through the sanctity of his personal witness.

The Church is our mother, more than simply an institution, and greater than the sins of her people or leaders, he said, and it is important to keep this in mind in times of scandal.

In his talk, Chaput also emphasized the example of St. Joseph as a man of sanctity.

Praised in scripture for his justice and piety, St. Joseph is a model of holiness though simple devotion to God and family, marked with silence to hear God’s voice in everyday life, the archbishop said.

St. Joseph worked hard to provide for Mary and Jesus, whom he faithfully loved, Chaput said. His life was one of simplicity and generous service, and he is a model of masculine virtue for both husbands and priests.

While many Catholics today may feel that they are living in uncertainty or their beliefs are facing attacks, Chaput said, “I think this is actually a privileged moment; a moment when we get to prove who we really are and what we really believe.”

He pointed to the words of Lumen Gentium, which teach that Mary, “the mother of Jesus … is the image and beginning of the Church as [she] is to be perfected in the world to come. Likewise [the Church] shines forth on earth until the day of the Lord shall come, a sign of certain hope and comfort to the pilgrim people of God.”

“That’s the image we need to nourish in our hearts — especially in times of confusion and scandal — to keep us focused on the reality of the Church that gives life to her institutional forms,” the archbishop said.

Brooklyn diocese teaming with NYPD to search for church vandal 

Thu, 09/19/2019 - 00:00

New York City, N.Y., Sep 18, 2019 / 10:00 pm (CNA).- The Diocese of Brooklyn is partnering with the New York Police Department to find a woman suspected of causing thousands of dollars in damage to a Catholic parish in Queens over the last two weeks.

“This person needs to be brought to justice. We are working with the NYPD and we need to continue to foster an environment of respect,” said John Quaglione, a spokesman for the Diocese of Brooklyn.

The attack on Saint Gerard Majella Catholic Church in the Hollis section of Queens, New York, has caused an estimated $10,000 in damages. Some of the damaged objects had recently been purchased through a fundraised by the Generation of Faith Diocesan campaign.

A woman was first caught on the church’s security cameras on Sept. 8, damaging two parish sign signs and tearing down potted plants. On Sept. 15, the same woman can be seen on security footage vandalising the sprinkler system and rosary plaques, the diocese said. She appeared carrying heavy tools, including a hack saw, which was used to remove a handrail on an outside staircase.

The identity of the woman is unknown. The authorities have asked anyone with information on the vandal to call CRIME STOPPERS at (800) 577-TIPS.

“It’s a kick in the stomach. It hurts,” said the Rev. Joseph Jude Gannon, pastor of Saint Gerard Catholic Church.

“It’s also a matter of time to make sure we get her before she hurts herself or others or before it escalates to something else,” he told CBS2 of the suspect.

Ganon specifically lamented the damage to the rosary plaques, which are handcrafted and imported from Italy. Twenty rosary tablets were torn down from stations around the church. All of them were thrown in the trash and several were broken. The damaged plaques will be sent to Italy for repair.

“These are hurtful attacks against the image of Mary and the parish,” said Gannon in a recent statement. “Such acts of religious intolerance have no place within our society, and every house of worship, regardless of their beliefs, should be respected.”

Bishops in US make the Real Presence a focus of their catechesis

Wed, 09/18/2019 - 21:01

Washington D.C., Sep 18, 2019 / 07:01 pm (CNA).- Six weeks after a Pew Research study found that only one-third of Catholics in the US believe that the bread and wine become at Mass the body and blood of Christ, bishops across the country are writing to the faithful in the hopes of educating them about this central tenet of the Catholic faith.

The study, released in early August, found that 31% of U.S. Catholics they surveyed believe that the bread and wine used in the Eucharist, through a process called transubstantiation, become the body and blood of Christ — a fundamental teaching of the Catholic faith, known as the Real Presence.

Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria has released his 2020 annual teaching document, “The Real Presence”, a year early in the hopes of a renewed witness to the Real Presence.

“I...ask that this year and in coming years, at parish councils, religious houses, faculty meetings, chaplain meetings, RCIA and catechetical meetings, that our entire Local Church look for ways to reinforce our teaching and witness regarding the Blessed Sacrament,” Jenky wrote Sept. 16.

“It is a defined dogma of the Catholic Church, revealed by the Holy Spirit and preserved from any possibility of error, that the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ are truly and substantially present in the Most Holy Eucharist. This is not an opinion to be measured against any opinion poll but rather Divine Revelation as expressed by the absolute authority of Scripture and Tradition.”

In his letter, Jenky encouraged Eucharistic devotions such as Benediction, processions, visits, holy hours, and quiet times of personal prayer before the tabernacle.

“These Eucharistic devotions are obviously also intended to deepen our conscious recognition of the centrality of the Real Presence of Jesus within the liturgy of the Mass,” he wrote.

“Quiet Masses, sung Masses, solemn Masses, and especially the ordinary ritual Masses for weddings and funerals are certainly great opportunities to witness to our faith in the Eucharist as a pastoral gift to those who may have been poorly catechized or even have fallen away.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church in paragraph 1374 states: “In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist ‘the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained’...it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present."

In the Pew Research study, 69 percent of Catholics surveyed reported their belief that the bread and wine used during the Eucharist “are symbols of the body and blood of Jesus Christ.” This mindset made up a majority in every age group surveyed.

“Most Catholics who believe that the bread and wine are symbolic do not know that the church holds that transubstantiation occurs,” Pew reported.

“Overall, 43% of Catholics believe that the bread and wine are symbolic and also that this reflects the position of the church. Still, one-in-five Catholics (22%) reject the idea of transubstantiation, even though they know about the church’s teaching.”

Interestingly, a small percentage of those surveyed— 3%— claimed to believe in the Real Presence despite not knowing that this is what the Church teaches.

Bishop Jenky pointed to what he sees as a “noticeable decline in our ritual reverence and recognition” in recent decades.

“Sometimes our churches may seem more like hotel lobbies than an awesome House of God,” Jenky said.

Archbishop Alexander Sample of Portland in Oregon addressed his flock in August regarding the results of the survey.

“These results have to be a real wake up call for all of us,” he wrote Aug. 30.

“To simply shrug our shoulders at such disturbing news and move on with business as usual is simply not an option. We must do everything in our power to reverse this trend. People will more easily grow lax in the practice of their faith, or drop out altogether, if they don’t understand and believe the mystery we celebrate in the Holy Eucharist and how that drives everything else we do in the ministry of the Church.”

Sample challenged those in the archdiocese’ Catholic schools, parish religious education programs, and adult faith formation programs to put a greater emphasis on the Church’s teaching about the Eucharist.

He also paralleled Jenky’s assessment of an overall decline in reverence for the Eucharist over the years.

“To put it bluntly, we have lost much of the reverence, awe and respect for the Holy Eucharist that we once had in the Church. How we celebrate the Holy Mass and treat the Blessed Sacrament are at the heart of this,” he said.

In robota Christi? Why robots can never be Catholic priests 

Wed, 09/18/2019 - 18:34

Denver, Colo., Sep 18, 2019 / 04:34 pm (CNA).- Once a man is ordained a priest for the Catholic Church, he acts, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “in persona Christi capitis”: in the person of Christ the Head.

During the ordination ceremony, the priest’s hands are anointed with oil, he lies prostrate on the ground to symbolize the laying down of his life, and the bishop’s hands are laid on his head. Like baptism and confirmation, ordination leaves an “indelible mark” on the priest’s soul.

During his priesthood, the priest uses his mouth to preach and to speak the words of blessing and consecration, his hands to elevate and distribute the Eucharist, and his heart, mind and soul to pray.

Now, what if the priest were a robot?

In an interview with Vox, Franciscan Sister Ilia Delio, who holds the Josephine C. Connelly Endowed Chair of Theology at Villanova University, said that Catholicism should “reimagine” the priesthood and consider robots instead of, or alongside, men.

“The Catholic notion would say the priest is ontologically changed upon ordination. Is that really true?” Delio told Vox. “We have these fixed philosophical ideas and AI challenges those ideas - it challenges Catholicism to move toward a post-human priesthood.”

Delio said robotic priests would have certain advantages - including being incapable of committing sexual abuse.

But numerous Catholic experts told CNA that a robot priest would be sacramentally impossible in the Catholic Church, explicitly because they are not humans.

Sister Mary Christa Nutt, RSM, told CNA that robots cannot be priests because they are incapable of having an intellect or a will with which to cooperate with God’s grace.

“It has to do with our Catholic understanding of the need for human mediation, cooperation with interior grace,” Nutt told CNA.

“We're not dualists,” she said. “So we don't separate the importance of the rites, and the bodily involvement of all the senses in the rites are very important. But they don't of themselves suffice. There has to be the interior cooperation of intellect and will.”

Robots are programmed, she said, and are incapable of having a will and an intellect or an interior prayer life of their own. A human soul, conformed to Christ, and belonging to someone willing to participate in the sacraments, is what makes the grace of those sacraments efficacious, she said.

“We believe that the priest is in the person of Christ, so only a human being can participate in the person of Christ with intellect and will,” Nutt said.

“How would a robot cooperate by intellect and will interiorly with grace to be conformed to Christ ontologically? It just makes absolutely no sense. It's so outside the realm of possibility when you have a sacramental logic and you have absolutely no dualism in the religion,” she said.

Fr. John Kartje is the rector of Mundelein Seminary in Illinois. Kartje told CNA that his background in physics meant that he found the story about the possibility of robot priests intriguing.

He said that according to the article, Buddhist priests might be possible, because they are people simply guiding people along a path. But for Catholics, he said, their faith necessitates an encounter with a person - God.

“For Christians, prayer or any sort of religious activity is not primarily a path, but it's an encounter with a person...with God. And so, that for me is the fundamental distinction. What the priest is doing, he's acting in persona Christi, in the person of Christ,” Kartje said.

“He's also helping to facilitate in a sacramental way making really present that encounter between the Catholic and the divine, but not just the divine as some sort of vague concept, but with the real person of God, that real person of Jesus Christ.”

Kartje added that that does not mean that Catholics should fear technological advancements or even artificial intelligence, because these can be helpful, even in the context of faith.

“I mean, in some degree, we all make use of simple artificial intelligence without thinking about it in the same way. Our phones are based on algorithms, which make decisions without our directly being involved with them,” he said. “Most priests have breviaries on their phones, which program ahead and let us pull up the (daily Mass) readings.”

Sister Nutt also said that technology can be a helpful tool in learning the faith. In the Vox article, author Sigal Samuel mentions the SanTO robots, developed by a Japanese roboticist, which resemble saint figurines and can recite certain prayers if prompted.

Such robots, Nutt said, could help children memorize prayers, but “the prayer has no significance outside of its material reality, unless it's said by a human being who offers it to God interiorly.”

When we are faced with advanced technologies, Fr. Kartje said, we should allow the questions that they bring about to help us hone our understanding and definitions of human beings and free will.

Still, he said, a robot could never replace a person, because it cannot encounter God or act on its own free will.

“A robot is the encounter of an algorithm with the natural world, and a human is the encounter of the divine with the natural world,” he said.

Dr. Kevin Miller, an associate professor of theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville, told CNA that in order to understand the priesthood, Catholics must look to Jesus Christ. And Jesus is, decidedly, not a robot.

“The sacraments are instituted by Christ and configure us to Christ in various ways. In Christ, God the Son took on a human nature ‘for us men (human beings) and for our salvation,’” he said, quoting the Nicene Creed.

“The sacraments are part of the same saving plan. The sacraments are for human beings, in the sense that they can be neither received nor administered by robots or AI devices or the like (or any other non-human created beings),” he said.

“All of this is, pace Sister Ilia Delio, ‘really true,’ and cannot be ‘reimagined.’”

Poll suggests a majority of Buffalo Catholics want Bishop Malone to resign

Wed, 09/18/2019 - 18:05

Buffalo, N.Y., Sep 18, 2019 / 04:05 pm (CNA).- Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo, New York is facing fresh calls for his resignation, after a local news organization commissioned a poll that suggests a majority of Catholics and lapsed Catholics in the diocese would like to see him step down because of his alleged mishandling of clerical sexual abuse cases.

A poll commissioned by The Buffalo News has found that among a sample of 473 Erie and Niagara County residents surveyed, nearly 86% said they believe Malone should step down. All of those surveyed self-identified as either “Catholic” or “lapsed Catholic.”

Of those surveyed, just 3% said they thought Malone should continue as bishop.

The diocese is home to over half a million Catholics out of a total population of 1.5 million.

In addition, local reporter Charlie Specht reported Sept. 17 that St. Joseph University Parish in northeast Buffalo took a poll at Masses last weekend, and found that of those surveyed, 504 parishioners wanted Malone to resign and 24 parishioners want him to stay.

Malone has so far remained firm in his conviction to remain as bishop, at least until he reaches the normal retirement age for bishops at 75. He is 73 now.

“I’m here because I feel an obligation as the one who was sent here to lead this diocese, to carry on, and once again, if I thought that the majority of Catholic people in particular were calling for my resignation, that would be a different story,” Malone said at a Sept. 4 news conference, as reported by The Buffalo News.

At least two whistleblowers with high-level access in the diocese— Malone’s former executive assistant and former priest secretary— have gone public with accusations that Malone mishandled several cases of sexual abuse by priests in the diocese, some of which involved minors.

One such case involves a priest accused of sending inappropriate Facebook messages to a minor. Malone reinstated the priest, Father Art Smith, to ministry in 2012 and allowed him not only to work at a diocesan Catholic youth conference, but also to minister at a nursing home, where reports of inappropriate conduct with adults later surfaced. Smith is currently listed on the diocesan page for clergy with substantiated claims of sexual abuse of a minor.

In Sept. 2019, local news station WKBW released recordings of private conversations between Bishop Malone and Fr. Ryszard Biernat, Malone’s former priest secretary, which appear to show that Malone believed sexual harassment accusations made against a diocesan priest months before the diocese removed the priest from ministry.

Biernat recorded the conversations as the bishop discussed how to deal with accusations against Fr. Jeffrey Nowak by then-seminarian Matthew Bojanowski, who in a January letter to Malone accused Nowak of grooming him, sexually harassing him, and violating the Seal of the Confessional.

In an Aug. 2 conversation, Malone can reportedly be heard saying, “We are in a true crisis situation. True crisis. And everyone in the office is convinced this could be the end for me as bishop.”

In another, earlier conversation from March, Bishop Malone seems to acknowledge the legitimacy of Bojanowski’s accusation against Nowak months before the diocese removed Nowak from active ministry.

WKBW published a report about allegations against Nowak in May. Nowak was not removed from ministry until Aug. 7, after the seminarian’s mother accused Malone of allowing Fr. Nowak to remain in ministry despite the allegations against him.

Biernat says he made the secret recording after Nowak became jealous of Biernat and Bojanowski’s close friendship.

According to a conversation taped Aug. 2, the bishop was concerned that media coverage would focus on a possible “love triangle” between Nowak, Bojanowski, and Biernat.

Biernat also says he was a victim of sexual abuse by Father Art Smith. He alleges that Auxiliary Bishop Grosz threatened to halt his ordination as a priest and have him deported to Poland after Biernat complained in 2004 to Buffalo Diocese administrators that Smith sexually assaulted him, according to The Buffalo News. Grosz denies this.

Biernat was also vice-chancellor of the diocese for a time, and was required to notarize documents from Bishop Malone keeping Father Smith in ministry.

Biernat is currently on a voluntary leave of absence.

Smith denies the allegations of abuse made against him. The diocese includes Smith’s name on its list of clergy with credible allegations of abuse of a minor.

The diocese has responded to various allegations of mishandling abuse cases by Malone, stating in August that “Bishop Malone has never allowed any priest with a credible allegation of abusing a minor to remain in ministry.”

"The bishop very much respects area Catholics' right to express their opinion," diocesan spokeswoman Kathy Spangler told The Buffalo News in response to the poll.

The diocese did not respond to CNA’s request for further comment on the poll by press time.

 

Maine bishop laments failed challenge to assisted suicide and abortion laws

Wed, 09/18/2019 - 17:30

Portland, Maine, Sep 18, 2019 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- Bishop Robert Deeley of Portland, Maine, has expressed his disappointment at the failure of efforts to force a public vote on the legalization of physician-assisted suicide and taxpayer-funded abortion in the state. 

“I am saddened to learn that despite great opposition in the public to physician-assisted suicide and taxpayer-funded abortion, these issues will not be sent to a statewide vote,” said Deeley in a statement released on Sept. 18. 

Deeley, who leads the state’s only diocese, said that the two laws, which will now go into effect as written, will have “tragic consequences” and “contribute to a further deterioration of the common good.”

The separate campaigns each failed to attract enough signatures from registered voters to force the issues onto the ballot at a future state-wide election, petition drive organizers announced Wednesday, the day the laws go into effect and the legal deadline to mount a successful challenge. 

Deeley also noted that when Mainers were last allowed to vote on the question of euthanasia, in 2000, they rejected it, and expressed his frustration that voters would not be given a say this time.

“That the voice of Maine voters, whether they live in the very heart of the state or near any of its borders, will not be heard in a statewide referendum on both issues makes this a sad day for people of good will,” he said. 

Deeley warned that so-called assisted dying “desensitizes our young people and society at large to the inherent value of human life at a time when suicide rates are the highest that they have been since World War II. Suicide should never be presented as an option, but only recnogied for what it truly is, a tragedy.” 

Maine’s suicide rate is higher than the national average. 

Maine Gov. Janet Mills (D) signed a bill legalizing assisted suicide in the state in July, after much deliberation. She said it was the toughest decision that she had made in her legislative career, and that she hoped assisted suicide did not become commonplace. 

The failed people’s veto effort also means that Maine taxpayer dollars will go to fund abortions, and that every insurance plan offered in the state offering pregnancy coverage must also cover abortion.

The bishop said this law was “coercing people to act against their moral beliefs and ethical principles.”

“Understandably, outrage has grown since citizens have learned the true nature of this law. Abortion is not health care, and this law deprives families and individuals of the simple right to respect the dignity of human life,” said Deeley. 

A third petition, promoted by those opposed to “government-mandated vaccinations,” did gather enough signatures to make the ballot. Organizers of that petitioner are seeking, partly on religious freedom grounds, to overturn a law that ended all non-medical exemptions from required childhood vaccinations. Under the proposed law, children who are not vaccinated will not be permitted to attend public schools. 

In 2005, the Pontifical Academy for Life in Rome considered the moral issues surrounding vaccines prepared using cell lines obtained from abortions. The Vatican group concluded, in part because of the passage of time and the generations of research since the original use of the aborted remains, it is both morally permissible and morally responsible for Catholics to use these vaccines.

The document also noted that Catholics have an obligation to use ethically-sourced vaccines when available, and when alternatives do not exist, they have an obligation to speak up and request the development of new cell lines that are not derived from aborted fetuses.

Maine has one of the highest rates of kindergarteners who were not vaccinated due to “religious or philosophical” reasons. Some towns report that more than 15 percent of kindergarteners were not vaccinated, a lower rate than that of Sudan, Libya, and several sub-Saharan African countries. 

Maine also has the highest rate of whooping cough in the nation, a disease that is prevented by vaccine. 

Study finds U.S. abortion rates at all time low

Wed, 09/18/2019 - 16:00

Washington D.C., Sep 18, 2019 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- A new study from a Planned Parenthood thinktank released on Wednesday has found that abortion in the United States have dropped to its lowest rate since the procedure was made legal in 1973. 

The report from the Guttmacher Institute, the research arm of Planned Parenthood, estimated that there were approximately 862,000 abortions in 2017. The rate of 13.5 abortions per 1,000 “women of reproductive age,” marks a drop of 3.4 from 2011, and half of the rate in 1980. 

Overall, the total number of abortions fell by 196,000 over the past six years, with just over 500,000 of 2017 abortions carried out via abortion pills, as opposed to a surgical method. 

The report suggested that increased availability of contraception, including long-term contraceptives such as intrauterine devices, not state laws restricting abortion, were responsible for the drop. This conclusion was disputed by the pro-life organization the Charlotte Lozier Institute, which suggested that cultural change over time has played a significant role. 

“We welcome the new report showing the decline in both the abortion rate and the overall number of abortions from 2011 to 2017. There are several reasons for this positive news, including factors that Guttmacher does their best to ignore,” said Chuck Donovan, president of the Charlotte Lozier Institute. 

“American mothers are increasingly choosing life for their children, as well as choosing to identify themselves with the pro-life cause and pro-life policies. This includes the broad protections for women and children being enacted at the state level such as strengthened health and safety standards for abortion facilities, limits on public funding of abortion, parental involvement laws, and increased informed consent,” he added.

Donovan also expressed concern at the increasing percentage of women who opt to end their pregnancies using chemical abortifacients. This, he said, “reveals the abortion industry’s increasingly successful effort to cut the overhead costs of surgical abortion while still profiting off the destruction of unborn children and wounding of his or her mother.” 

“The industry’s migration to chemical self-abortion is deeply disturbing as it carries with it the possibility of increasing the overall abortion rate over time and also carries with it a higher rate of injury, about which women are often under informed or deceived,” he added.

Guttmacher’s report found that nearly one out of five abortion clinics, or “nonhospital facilities,” had reported treating a woman who had attempted and failed to induce an abortion on her own. They termed this a “self-managed abortion.” 

There are many organizations that will facilitate delivery of abortion drugs to women through the mail, and they are easily accessed online. 

The new data on the lowest abortion rates recorded comes just weeks after a report on declining  pregnancies and fertility rates in the United States. 

In July, the CDC confirmed that fertility rates in the United States had dropped to their lowest rate ever.

“The 2018 general fertility rate fell to another all-time low for the United States,” researchers with the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics wrote in a July 24 report.

The fertility rate among women aged 15 to 44 dropped 2% between 2017 and 2018, from 60.3 births per 1,000 women aged 15-44, to 59.1.

According to the early statistical release from the NCHS in May, the total fertility rate, or average number of children born per woman, stands at 1.7, well below the demographic replacement bar of 2.1.

In 2018, fewer than 3.8 million children were born in the country. Since a peak in 2007, birth rates have fallen in all but one of the last 11 years. The results also show a continued trend of lower fertility among younger women over the last decade.

Senate confirms Catholic law professor as Asst. Secretary of State

Wed, 09/18/2019 - 13:40

Washington D.C., Sep 18, 2019 / 11:40 am (CNA).- The Senate voted Wednesday to confirm a prominent Catholic law professor to a high-ranking State Department position.

By a margin of 49 to 44, Robert Destro, a law professor at Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law, was confirmed by the Senate as the next Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) joined Democrats in opposition to Destro’s confirmation.

“Robert Destro is one of the nation's experts on human rights, both in terms of international law and the moral basis for human rights,” Thomas Farr, president of the Religious Freedom Institute, told CNA in a statement, noting Destro’s experience both as a human rights scholar and activist “in the best sense of that term.”

Destro’s new role at the State Department is tasked with promoting democracy, civic and religious freedom around the world.

It “is the senior human rights position in American diplomacy,” Farr said, charged with promoting human rights “not simply as the right thing to do (which it is), but also as a strategic interest of the United States.”

“Destro will excel in both tasks,” Farr said.

Destro is the founding director of the Interdisciplinary Program in Law & Religion at Catholic University; he previously served as a Commissioner on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights from 1983 to 1989, addressing issues of discrimination on the basis of disability, national origin, and religion.

He has also served on the State Department’s Working Group on Religion in Foreign Affairs, as well as the special counsel for voting rights for the Ohio Secretary of State from 2004 to 2006.

Stephen C. Payne, dean of Catholic’s law school, said he was “thrilled” by the appointment, and that in Destro the “country -- and the rest of the world -- is getting a strong advocate and leader for Democracy and Human Rights, and we wish him well.”

The appointment was also welcomed by Toufic Baaklini, president of the group In Defense of Christians (IDC), who cited Destro’ years of work with the group and called him “a critical leader in the fight for genocide recognition for victims of ISIS in Iraq and Syria” and “a powerful voice for religious freedom in the Middle East, and throughout the world.”

Senate Democrats questioned Destro at his confirmation hearing in March over the role of religion in foreign affairs as well as the redefinition of marriage.

Destro said that he would work to improve both training on religious freedom and understanding of the role of religion in foreign affairs within the State Department, and cited his own past work bringing various religious groups together on the international stage.

Destro said that he had learned from “the many years that I have been dealing with the State Department” that many at the agency “have had a hard time dealing with the issue of religion, and that’s one of the issues I’d like to bring to their attention.”

Later in the hearing, he explained that the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act of 2016—authored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and signed into law by President Obama—required religious freedom training for all foreign service officers.

Destro said he would work to expand on that, saying that “not only do the foreign service officers need to be trained, but so do the lawyers at the State Department and at USAID.”

“I think that we need to bring people together, and I’ve devoted most of my career, for at least the last 16 years, to doing just that,” he said of bringing religious groups together.

Pages