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Thea Bowman - religious sister, civil rights advocate, candidate for sainthood

Thu, 06/18/2020 - 05:00

CNA Staff, Jun 18, 2020 / 03:00 am (CNA).- Sister Thea Bowman was the granddaughter of a slave, an advocate for racial justice, and the first African American woman to address the U.S. bishops' conference. Two years ago, her sainthood cause was opened.

“She was an outstanding teacher and she was an outstanding speaker. And she had a voice like an opera star and she could sing really beautifully, and people loved to be with her,” said Sister Charlene Smith, a member of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration (FSPA).

“I often say she was a whole lot like Jesus. People love to be around her, and I was one of those people that was lucky enough to be around her.”

Smith, who was friends with Bowman for 35 years, recounted the impact that Bowman made on many of those around her. In 2012, Smith co-authored a biography of her friend, entitled, “Thea's Song: The Life of Thea Bowman.”

At age 51, Bowman became the first African American woman to address the U.S. bishops' conference. Wheelchair-bound and fighting cancer, she delivered a memorable address about race and Catholicism before inviting the bishops to join her in singing and swaying to a Negro Spiritual.

That spunk, Smith told CNA, was part of Bowman’s charismatic personality as she traveled and taught and spoke around the country.

Sister Thea was born Bertha Bowman in Yazoo City, Mississippi in 1937 to a lawyer and a teacher.

Although she was raised Protestant, she decided to become a Catholic at the age of nine. Visiting a variety of Christian denominations, she was moved by the kindness and generosity of the Franciscans Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, whose school she subsequently attended.

When she turned 15, she moved to Wisconsin and entered the order's novitiate. Although her parents tried to persuade their daughter to enter an African-American community, she was determined to enter the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, whose warmth and love had drawn her to the Catholic faith six years prior.

At the time, she was the first and only black sister of the community in La Crosse. Smith said Bowman encountered some instances of racism even within the convent.

“I never saw any example of racism extended to Sister Thea when she was in our community, but there are sisters from other communities, African American sisters, to whom Thea apparently mentioned that once in a while, some of our older sisters, who had never been around anybody who was African American, were not always positive about Sister Thea,” she said.

When she began teaching at a Catholic elementary school in La Crosse, Bowman would teach about racial diversity, and about the importance of love.

“She taught children to use their hand. And the five fingers were the five different colors of skin, black and brown and yellow and red and white,” Smith said.

“And she knew that we were all not a melting pot. She was never very interested in that particular metaphor. She was a whole lot more interested in saying that we are more like a salad,” Smith continued. “So when you are a salad, you don't lose your characteristics, you remain individuals. And the whole point is to love one another. And that's what she did.”

As the civil rights movement grew in the years that followed, Bowman worked to advance racial justice. She helped establish the National Black Sisters Conference and advocated for an increased representation of American-American people in Church leadership. She called for more encounters between white and non-white Catholics, and for a welcoming of music from different cultural backgrounds.

Bowman became a noted public speaker, and traveled around the country, talking about race and the Catholic faith. She continued to travel and teach even after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 1984, even landing an interview with 60 Minutes.

In 1989, Bowman delivered what would become a famous speech at the spring meeting of the U.S. bishops’ conference.

“What does it mean to be black and Catholic?,” asked Sr. Thea. “It means that I bring myself, my black self.”

“I bring my whole history, my traditions, my experience, my culture, my African-American song and dance and gesture and movement and teaching and preaching and healing and responsibility as gift to the Church.”

Bowman had a profound impact on the bishops, and on many other people who heard her words.

“When that speech was over, they wheeled her off the podium and out into a hall. And one by one, the bishops came to her and knelt before her, in her wheelchair, and asked for her blessing. That's how much they thought about her,” Smith said.

Bowman died March 30, 1990. Her canonization cause was opened by the Diocese of Jackson in 2018.

Smith said Bowman’s impact lives on after her death, with schools named after the sister, events held in her memory, memorials established in her honor, and at least 40 books mentioning her story and influence.

Smith said Bowman would likely find hope in the recent protests demanding racial equality and justice in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

“Right now this is a time when we're learning. I think the people in the United States are learning a whole lot more about our history, how we were terrible to the Native Americans and how we were terrible to the African Americans, and so we're learning history,” she said. “Thea knew all of that and she let it be known that she knew that.”

“I’m sure she's watching what's going on in the United States. And I think she's cheering for the African Americans and all of the people who have been subjected to pain and injustice,” Smith continued. “She was very much concerned that people be treated fairly, be treated as children of God. So she'd be happy with what's going on.”

 

Catholic magazine issues art challenge to highlight human equality

Wed, 06/17/2020 - 19:29

CNA Staff, Jun 17, 2020 / 05:29 pm (CNA).- In the face of recent protests, a Catholic art magazine has organized the Bakhita Prize for the Visual Arts to encourage artists to display the dignity of those affected by racial violence.

“Dappled Things is calling on visual artists to help us see more clearly: to help us honor and highlight the infinite worth inherent within each victim of racial violence,” reads a statement from the magazine.

“The shocking death of George Floyd has shaken not just the United States but the whole world, reminding us starkly of how far we still are from seeing each other's infinite dignity as children of God.”

The magazine “Dappled Things” has challenged artists to represent the human dignity and God-given worth of the victims of racial violence. The artists may use photography, painting, illustration, or sculpture.

The prize will pay $1000 to the winner and $250 to the runner-up. The two winning pieces of art, along with eight honorable mentions, will then be displayed in an illustration of “Dappled Things.” All winners will also receive a year’s subscription to the journal. The contest will end Aug. 31.

The prize is named after Saint Josephine Bakhita, the patron saint of Sudan and human trafficking. Born in 1869 in Sudan, she was captured around 1877 and sold into slavery by Arab slave traders.

“Saint Josephine Bakhita, after whom the prize is named, was a Sudanese slave brutalized by her captors, who later became a religious sister renowned for her joyfulness, gentleness, and charity,” the statement reads.

In 1883, Bahkita was sold to Callisto Legani, an Italian vice consul. After moving to Italy, she became the family’s nanny until the family left her with the Canossian Sisters in Venice when they traveled to Sudan for business. There, she became Catholic.

When the family returned, she refused to return to her life as a slave and instead joined the Canossian Sisters. Since slavery had been outlawed in Sudan prior to her birth, the Italian court ruled that she was not legally a slave.

During her time in the community, she assisted as a cook, seamstress, sacristan, and portress. She also helped prepare other young sisters for their missionary work in Africa.

The contest was issued after a May 25 video showed a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck for several minutes while in custody. Floyd could be heard saying “I can’t breathe” several times. He died soon after.

In the wake of Floyd’s death, cities across the U.S. have seen widespread protests against police brutality and racism. Some protests had turned into nights of rioting, and conflicts with police.

“If Floyd’s death has led to a great societal outcry, it is because he is only one among so many others who have lost their lives in similar circumstances. Like many others, we are asking ourselves questions of how to respond to violence and the violation of human dignity, including persistent racial violence that has been directed especially against the black community,” the statement reads.

Can Catholics support ‘Black Lives Matter’?

Wed, 06/17/2020 - 19:29

CNA Staff, Jun 17, 2020 / 05:29 pm (CNA).- Catholic leaders say the Church has an important role in working for racial justice, but that protesting for justice does not imply endorsement of the positions taken by Black Lives Matter organizations.

The phrase “#BlackLivesMatter” began to trend online following the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012, and a movement grew amid protests and riots in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014 after the shooting of a young black man, Michael Brown, by a police officer.
 
“Black Lives Matter” has become the rallying cry for a broad social movement. But there are also specific organizations which take the name “Black Lives Matter.” The largest and best-funded of those groups is the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, which has a network of local chapters around the U.S. and in other countries, and operates the website blacklivesmatter.com.

The Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation promotes LGBT ideology and opposes the nuclear family.

The group’s platform aims to “dismantle cisgender privilege,” and “disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure.”

“We foster a queer‐affirming network. When we gather, we do so with the intention of freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking,” the group’s website says.

At least one Black Lives Matter network affiliate has incorporated spiritual rituals into protests, drawing from animistic religions by calling forth deceased ancestors and pouring out libations for them. The leaders of Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles say their efforts are more than a movement for racial justice, but are a “spiritual movement.”

Other organizations also use the phrase “Black Lives Matter,” some with different agendas and goals than the global network. But the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation is often correlated directly with the movement itself, and its affiliates often organize local protests.

The organization should be distinguished from the broader social movement for racial justice, said Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers, a black Catholic deacon of the Diocese of Portland, Oregon, author, and co-host of EWTN’s Morning Glory radio show.

“Marching to protest the inequitable treatment of black people by those in authority—that’s good,” the deacon said.

However, the policies espoused by the Black Lives Matter organization on family and sexuality constitute “a radical feminist agenda disguised as a movement for ‘Black Lives Matter,’” he said.

“No Catholic can support the national organization, whatsoever,” he added.

Burke-Sivers encouraged Catholics to act for racial justice, but to pray first.

“Take the life that God has given us in these sacraments, and become the heads and the hands and the face and the heart of Jesus in the world,” he said. “Start with that and then put that into action.”

Saying “Black Lives Matter” is important, EWTN radio host Gloria Purvis, who is African-American, told CNA. She added that neither the phrase nor the movement should be viewed through the lens of only one organization.

“It’s a mistake to say that Black Lives Matter—the organization—is the head of this movement.”

“That’s like saying that one organization is the head of the pro-life movement,” she explained.

The phrase “Black Lives Matter” represents a whole “movement for racial justice,” she said, one which is now global and without one single leader. Using the phrase “doesn’t mean you are now de facto a member of this organization,” she said.

“For me, as a Catholic, a devout Catholic, as a loyal daughter of the Church, I have no problem saying ‘Black Lives Matter,’” she said.

“I know it doesn’t make me a member of the organization.”

Some Catholics hesitate to attend protests or other events because they say that not only “black lives matter,” but that “all lives matter,” she noted.

Purvis explained that the phrase “Black Lives Matter” is not meant to devalue the lives of others, and while all lives do matter, she has observed that “in practice” in the U.S., “what we’ve seen is that black lives don’t.”

As a pro-life Catholic, Purvis said she recognizes the eugenist roots of abortion, but said fighting racism in America shouldn’t be limited to opposing abortion. She said racism is manifested through police misconduct, housing policies, and other aspects of American public life.

Ryan Bomberger, a black pro-life activist and co-founder of the Radiance Foundation, says he does not support the Black Lives Matter movement, because of its hostility to Christianity.

“Every life unjustly killed deserves justice. The question is, how do we pursue that justice? And for me, as a Christian, I cannot embrace a secular movement that is unapologetically hostile to Christianity, in order to pursue justice,” Bomberger told CNA.

While “a lot of people involved” with the movement are acting “out of compassion and love,” he said, “the ones leading are very clear about the objectives of the movement,” Bomberger said.

“It’s the entirety of that manifesto that doesn’t make any attempt to be Biblical in any sense,” he said. “They’re not looking for forgiveness or reconciliation, they’re looking for political power.”

On the relationship of Christians to the Black Lives Matter movement, he said that “my issue is that the church should be leading, instead of sheepishly following a broken secular movement.”

For his part, Bishop Shelton Fabre, chair of the U.S. bishops’ committee on racism, told CNA that Catholics should join efforts to call for racial justice.

“Black Lives Matter has a broad agenda covering many social issues, some of which are not in harmony with Catholic teaching. However, on the issue of standing against the injustice of racism, it is my understanding that Catholic Social teaching and Black Lives Matter are in accord,” the bishop said.

“Because we have a responsibility to bring our faith to the public square, it is appropriate to protest racial injustice,” he added.

In recent weeks, mass protests have occurred in dozens of cities across the country following the death of George Floyd, a 46 year-old black man in Minneapolis.

In some cities there have also been riots, and a section of Seattle has been declared an “occupied protest.”

A Minneapolis police officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes while arresting him, Derek Chauvin, was fired by the department and has since been charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s death. Two other officers who knelt on Floyd, and one bystanding officer, have been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.

Amid the weeks of protest, both the Black Lives Matter movement and organization have gained increased national attention.

Now-retired Bishop Edward Braxton of Belleville, who is African-American, wrote a 2016 pastoral letter on the Catholic Church and the Black Lives Matter movement.

In that letter, Braxton said the Black Lives Matter movement doesn’t have one leader or organizer.

“The phrase is more a call to action against racial profiling, police brutality, and racial injustice than a specific organization. The media and the public often associate a variety of unconnected groups with Black Lives Matter, when they are actually not structurally connected,” the bishop noted.

However, Braxton noted that most leaders in the Black Lives Matter movement he had encountered reject the Church’s teaching on sexuality, marriage and abortion.

Others in the movement, he said, are reluctant to work with the Church because they think Catholics have not done enough to fight racism, he wrote.

Braxton wrote that there are “profound differences” between the teachings of the Church and the Black Lives Matter movement, and that many leaders in that movement do “not embrace traditional Christian theological ideas about praying to keep the peace and change hearts.”

“They embrace a radical theology of inclusion inspired by a revolutionary Jesus,” he wrote.

The bishop nevertheless encouraged Catholic engagement with leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Do differences “necessarily mean that a representative of the Church cannot have a meaningful conversation with representatives of the movement about these and other issues where there may be greater accord?” the bishop asked.

Braxton wrote that his dialogue with members of the movement had allowed him to present Church teaching on poverty and race, as well as on marriage, sexuality, and human dignity.

The bishop said that in dialogue, he “explained that the Church’s social doctrine may be more forceful than they think. I also pointed out that Catholic beliefs about the nature of marriage, the meaning of human sexuality, and the dignity of human life from conception to natural death are not mere cultural norms or social issues. The Church cannot and will not change these moral doctrines. These beliefs represent what the Church firmly holds to be fundamental moral principles rooted in human nature, natural law, biblical revelation and the teachings of Jesus Christ.”

Braxton wrote that all Catholics have an obligation to work for racial justice in the framework of Catholic teaching about the dignity of the human person, and the sanctity of human life, and to work, above all, for conversion.

“The Church has a grave responsibility to contribute to the ongoing conversion and spiritual transformation of us all. Working tirelessly day by day, we are co-workers with Christ.”
 
Amid the ongoing protests, Bishop Fabre encouraged Catholics to take seriously the unique role they can play in promoting an end to racism.

The present moment, Fabre said, presents an “extraordinary opportunity” with many Americans taking an active part in protests against racism and police brutality. However, he said, the work still remains to be done “to dismantle racism.”

“We should be seeking what unique role God might be asking the Catholic Church to play in transforming opportunity into a watershed moment in eradicating racism,” he said.

African-American Catholics have suffered from racism within the Church for “decades and centuries,” he said; sometimes it has taken the form of “parishes not welcoming the ministry of a black priest or deacon,” he said, “or parishioners not wanting to receive the Eucharist from an African-American extraordinary minister of holy communion.”

Black Catholics “long for the eradication of racism in the Church through encounter, accompaniment, repentance, justice, action, charity, and prayer,” he said.

Advocates appeal for Catholic schools as hundreds close nationwide

Wed, 06/17/2020 - 17:33

Denver Newsroom, Jun 17, 2020 / 03:33 pm (CNA).- At least 100 Catholic elementary and high schools across the United States will not reopen for the fall semester, with many suffering from low enrollment and decreased donations amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sister Dale McDonald, public policy director of the National Catholic Educational Association, told CNA that the biggest driver of school closures at present is uncertainty.

The U.S. is home to about 6,000 Catholic schools, down from some 11,000 in the 1970s— about 1,000 of those closures occurring since 2007.

Most pandemic-related closures are of elementary schools. Some high schools, several of which have been open for decades, also are closing this summer.

Part of that uncertainty is on the part of the schools, many of which do not have the resources to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state guidelines on sanitizing and social distancing in classrooms.

“It's very difficult for the principals to figure out what their school opening will look like; when it'll open, and what you have to do to meet all the guidelines,” MacDonald said.

“And the public schools are looking at the same thing, but they certainly have a lot more resources to be able to manage their reopening. But for us, financially, it's a big deal.”

Parents, understandably, want to know what their child's education is going to look like in the fall, MacDonald said, and many wonder whether they will be able to go back to work.

Many working-class families that send their children to Catholic schools have been impacted by illness and unemployment, and may simply not be able to pay tuition.

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

To make matters worse, many parochial elementary schools depend on contributions from parishioners. After months of no in-person Masses for most dioceses, many parishes, especially those without a robust system for online giving, are feeling the financial pinch.

Despite the large number of schools closing, in some cases donors have rallied to keep their school from going under.

Earlier this month, the Academy of Our Lady of Peace in New Jersey was saved from closure through the action of anonymous donors.

But Sister MacDonald warned that this model of saving a few schools at the last minute will likely not remain sustainable year-after-year.

“We are optimistic that things will pick up,” she said, noting that about 2,000 Catholic schools across the country have not experienced massive enrollment declines, but instead have waiting lists.

“People do want Catholic education, and our challenge at NCEA and in working with various dioceses is how to make these schools affordable and accessible for families, especially families of modest means.”

Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles oversees the largest Catholic school system in the U.S., and wrote in a June 16 column that the nation’s Catholic schools play a vital role in helping minority and low-income families.

Nationwide, about 20% of students who attend Catholic schools in the U.S. are members of racial minorities, according to 2016 NCEA data.

In Los Angeles, that figure is significantly higher. Gomez says about 80% of Catholic school students in LA come from minority families.

For elementary school students, the average yearly cost of attendance is about $5,936, while for high school students it is $15,249, NCEA says.

Los Angeles’ Catholic Education Foundation has granted more than $200 million in scholarships to 181,000 low-income students over the past 25 years, Gomez said.

In addition, he said, the LA Catholic school system has provided nearly half a million free meals to low-income students since the start of the pandemic.

The archbishop decried the fact that 37 states still have laws on the books, known as “Blaine Amendments,” which prohibit government funding to “sectarian” schools— a 19th-century euphemism for Catholic schools, according to opponents of the laws.

A constitutional amendment to ban government funding for Catholic schools, proposed in the late 19th century by Maine lawmaker James Blaine, failed at the federal level, but many states inserted similar language in their constitutions.

Parents paying to send their children to Catholic schools end up also paying for public schools with their tax dollars, Gomez said, without any of that government aid going to their children’s education.

The Supreme Court is expected to soon issue a ruling on a consequential Blaine Amendment case, and though some parishes have received emergency payroll loans through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, Gomez says Congress and the White House “cannot afford to wait” to provide aid to Catholic schools.

“If Catholic schools are allowed to fail in large numbers, it would cost public schools about $20 billion to absorb their students, a cost already-burdened public schools should not be made to bear,” Gomez asserted.

Catholic school students are, almost across the board, more academically successful than their public school peers. According to 2016 figures, 99% of Catholic school students graduate from high school on time, and 86% of Catholic school graduates attend college.

About 17% of students at Catholic schools are not Catholic, making their attendance an opportunity for evangelization both for them and for their parents.

MacDonald says she hears from parents who are not Catholic who nevertheless want for their children the kind of environment that a Catholic school provides.

“While we are teaching the academics, we are creating an environment that we hope lives out Gospel values, where kids are expected to act and live with Gospel values in terms of service to others, care and concern, basic Christian charity, and cultivating a prayer life,” she said.

“We hope and pray that they have learned how to be good Christians while in our schools. And that's good for everybody.”

 

Supreme Court stays Texas execution over chaplain dispute 

Wed, 06/17/2020 - 12:04

CNA Staff, Jun 17, 2020 / 10:04 am (CNA).- The Supreme Court stayed the execution of a man in Texas after the state’s Department of Corrections refused to allow a Catholic priest to be with him in the final moments of his life.

“The District Court should promptly determine, based on whatever evidence the parties provide, whether serious security problems would result if a prisoner facing execution is permitted to choose the spiritual adviser the prisoner wishes to have in his immediate presence during the execution,” said the Supreme Court in its statement issuing the stay of execution on June 16.

Ruben Gutierrez, a Catholic, had requested that the Catholic chaplain at the prison join him in the execution chamber at his death. This request was denied, due to a Texas policy instituted last year that prohibits chaplains in the execution chamber.

Gutierrez was scheduled to die on Tuesday evening, and his execution was stayed approximately one hour before it was set to begin. On June 9, the Federal District Court in Brownsville, Texas, had initially stayed the execution due to the chaplain issue.

The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops was one of the many organizations who filed amicus briefs in support of staying or outright canceling Gutierrez’s execution. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is opposed to the use of capital punishment, and states that those who are dying should be given spiritual care.

“Denying a prisoner’s request for a chaplain at the hour of his death represents an egregious rejection of the possibility of forgiveness and redemption while the state commits the violence of an execution,” said Jennifer Carr Allmon, executive director of the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops, in a statement published on the organization’s website.

“This assaults the dignity of the human person through the blatant removal of a corporal work of mercy that may give compassionate aid and comfort to an offender who, as a final act, is seeking God's forgiveness,” said Allmon.

“To deny a prisoner facing imminent execution access to spiritual and religious guidance and accompaniment is cruel and inhuman. It is an affront to the moral and religious dimensions of human dignity, which are clearly protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution,” said Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville. Flores serves as the advisor to Catholic Mobilizing Network, an anti-death penalty organization.

Gutierrez was sentenced to death for the 1988 murder of Escolastica Harrison, an 85-year-old woman, during an attempted robbery. One of his accomplices was sentenced to life in prison; the other jumped bail and remains a fugitive at large.

He has never confessed to the crime and has maintained his innocence.

Last year, Texas banned all prison chaplains, of any creed or denomination, from being present in the execution chamber. This came after the Supreme Court stopped the execution of a Buddhist man named Patrick Murphy, who had requested a Buddhist chaplain to be with him during his execution. Previously, the Texas prison system only permitted state employees to be in the execution chamber, and the system did not employ any Buddhist chaplains. The state only employs Christian and Muslim chaplains.

In March 2019, Justice Brett Kavanaugh authored a concurring opinion on why the Texas Department of Criminal Justice had violated Murphy’s rights.

Kavanaugh said that that allowing only Christian and Muslim ministers to be present with death row inmates in the execution chamber was discriminatory, suggesting that a more just resolution would be that no chaplains be permitted in the execution chamber and instead they be allowed to sit in the viewing area.

To avoid discrimination, Kavanaugh said at the time, the Texas prison system should either allow chaplains of all faiths into the execution chamber or else not allow any chaplains at all.

Texas opted for the latter approach, and in April 2019 announced that all chaplains would have to observe the execution from a viewing area, rather than in the chamber.

Chris Pagliarella, an attorney at religious liberty law firm Becket, told CNA June 17 that Texas policy does not respect the First Amendment.

“As Mr. Gutierrez’s lawyers and the Texas Catholic Bishops told the Court, the First Amendment and civil rights law guarantee more than ‘equality’ that deprives all religions equally. They guarantee the rights of religious communities to minister to their members, especially when it comes to ancient practices like the comfort of clergy at death.”

 

American Solidarity Party candidate presses on to 2020 presidential election

Wed, 06/17/2020 - 05:19

Washington D.C., Jun 17, 2020 / 03:19 am (CNA).- Republicans and Democrats aren’t the only political parties finding their 2020 campaigning efforts hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brian Carroll, an evangelical Christian, is the 2020 presidential nominee for the American Solidarity Party, a small-but-growing political party whose platform is based largely on Catholic social teaching.

Carroll told CNA June 15 that he hopes to be recognized as a write-in candidate for president in several states come November.

In most states, smaller parties depend on volunteers to circulate petitions in order to get on the general election ballot.

With many states still imposing restrictions related to the pandemic, volunteers have been hard to come by, Carroll said.

“Some states have recognized the problem and reduced or eliminated their requirements. For example, Vermont. We expect to be on the ballot in Vermont simply because Vermont changed the rules,” he said.

Carroll’s in-person campaigning has been on hold for several months. He said before the pandemic hit, he had planned a lot of travel, making campaign stops throughout the country. California, New York, Ohio and Texas already have fairly active ASP chapters.

Despite being stuck at home in California, he’s been active on his campaign Facebook page, offering his thoughts on recent world events and dialoguing with people in the comment sections.

‘Subsidiarity is well designed for a problem like this’

For Carroll, a retired history teacher, the pandemic and the recent protests for racial justice following the death of George Floyd are best viewed through the lens of ASP’s pro-life ethic.

The party began in 2011 as the Christian Democracy Party USA, and Mike Maturen, a Catholic, ran for president on the party ticket in the 2016 election.

Though the American Solidarity Party of today is not explicitly religious, its platform rests on several principles which the Church has developed as part of Catholic social teaching.

Subsidiarity— the Catholic idea that local authorities are best suited to tackle local issues— is a tenet of the ASP’s platform.

Carroll said he supports more local solutions rather than one-size-fits-all pandemic restrictions, because what is needed in places like Florida, where many seniors live, will be different than in a college town. Similarly, a greater emphasis on subsidiarity would allow urban and rural areas to impose whatever restrictions are appropriate for them.

“Giving the local people the ability to make some of the decisions, that's better than having one central decision. They could make the wrong decision, and then you've lost the chance to see what might work. So I think subsidiarity is a strength there,” Carroll said.

“By giving local authorities more power to make the decisions, you're more likely to craft a policy that meets that particular local area. So, in that sense, subsidiarity is well designed for a problem like this.”

As the virus spread earlier this year, politicians, including President Trump, were in uncharted territory in many ways, Carroll said.

“Once it got started, you can't fault [Trump] in a situation where even the doctors didn't know how this was going to behave. It was new, and it was the first time they'd seen it. And so there's going to be some errors expected. You have to give them a little bit of grace and mercy on that part of it.”

That being said, Carroll criticized what he sees as “inconsistencies” in how COVID-19 restrictions have been applied in some places, and emphasized that government leaders “need to try and minimize the inconsistencies and then, by all means, live by their own rules.”

Carroll also commented on the economic impact of the pandemic. Distributism, the favored economic theory for the party platform, is a model championed by notable Catholics such as G.K. Chesterton and Hillair Belloc. The model calls for a broader system of ownership to create a more “local, responsible, and sustainable” economy.

The ASP favors a rewrite of regulations and tax incentives to favor small businesses and family farms, rather than major corporations.

Carroll said the pandemic has exacerbated the divide between large corporations, such as Amazon, which have profited greatly since the start of the crisis, and small businesses which have struggled to stay afloat or have already had to close.

“If we had a Congress that was more sympathetic to distributism, the [relief] bills that they put together would have favored the little guy,” he said.

The ASP’s party platform is strongly anti-abortion and supports care for pregnant mothers, as well as a system of universal healthcare. It opposes capital punishment, euthanasia, assisted suicide, and embryonic stem cell research.

“We're pro-life, but pro-life, obviously, is more than just abortion. It's, ‘Are we taking care of our elderly who are threatened by a virus?’ That's a pro-life question,” he said.

Advocating for greater racial equality also is a pro-life issue for the party, Carroll said. Victims of COVID-19 have been overwhelmingly poor, and disproportionately of minority races, such as African Americans and Native Americans.

Many minorities in the United States live in close quarters, do not have the freedom to work from home, rely on public transportation, and are more likely to have preexisting conditions, he said.

“All of those things make them more vulnerable, and that's a life issue,” he said.

“The American Solidarity Party looks at so many different things as being intertwined, and they all feed back into the question of life and making our communities more friendly to quality of life, encouraging families. All of those kinds of things are where our party is.”

Carroll said he suspects that the pandemic will lead people to the understanding that tying healthcare to employment is a “basic flaw.”

“A lot of people had put faith in their healthcare through their employer, and suddenly realized that they had misplaced their faith, because it was very easy to lose their jobs,” he said.

“And so from that point of view, I think this is going to make the country much more open to the kind of healthcare that we're looking for, where everybody gets covered.”

In addition, the principle of subsidiarity also applies to policing, he said. Police ought to come from the communities they serve, and not be seen as outside threats.

“We need to demilitarize the police and do everything we can to lower the tensions between police and the communities that they serve in,” Carroll said.

‘A specifically pro-life vote’

Even before the pandemic, turnout at ASP meetings across the country was low, but growing.

Though Carroll and his running mate, Amar Patel, are not sanguine about their chances of actually winning the presidency, their goals remain the same as when they first set out: to build up their party, and raise awareness that there is an alternative for people of faith who do not want to vote Republican or Democrat.

Carroll said he hopes the party will be able to field candidates for local offices across the country, and possibly even congressional candidates, in 2022.

Even if they don't win offices, Carroll said, their party can affect policy by influencing the national conversation or drawing attention to specific issues.

Carroll pointed to Ross Perot, who ran for president as an independent in the 1990s, while pushing for a balanced federal budget. Though Perot did not come close to winning, the major parties discussed a balanced budget for years after that, Carroll contended.

In Carroll’s mind, if enough pro-life Democrats switch to the ASP, then the Democratic Party may consider softening its position on abortion.

Also, he said, if enough Republicans who “don't like to see kids in cages at the border,” or who support a more universalized healthcare system, switch to ASP, the Republican Party might also begin to rethink their positions.

“My personal goal is for everyone, whether they love us, they hate us, or are completely indifferent and think we're a joke, at least will have heard of us by November 3, and that the people who want to vote their conscience have at least that opportunity,” Patel, a Catholic who serves as ASP’s Chairman, told CNA in March.

He said he suspects that many Christians and Catholics end up voting for a candidate who they believe will defend one specific aspect of Christian morality, rather than looking for “ideal candidates who will actually defend the Christian message in total.”

“They can actually put in ‘Brian Carroll’ if they want a write-in vote that is significant, is meaningful, and counts specifically FOR something, as opposed to against something, which I think a lot of people are ending up doing.”

Patel said he hears a lot about “wasted votes” when it comes to third parties. But he has a different view.

In states where a Republican or Democratic victory is all but assured, such as California, even if millions of voters switched to a third party, it would be unlikely to change the outcome of the race, he said. However, the “entire face of American politics would have changed,” because people would be talking about the third-party candidate who garnered millions of votes.

“If you're strongly pro-life and you vote for Trump in a state he's going to lose, THAT'S a throwaway vote, because not everyone who votes for Trump is pro-life,” Patel argued.

“But if you change your pro-life vote to Brian Carroll, that will be a specifically pro-life vote that will be counted as such,” he added.

 

Mom of Carlo Acutis says son led her back to the Catholic faith 

Wed, 06/17/2020 - 02:54

CNA Staff, Jun 17, 2020 / 12:54 am (CNA).- While most Catholic mothers pray for their teenage sons, Antonia Acutis has the unique ability to pray to hers, the soon-to-be-beatified Italian teenager Carlo Acutis.

Carlo will be beatified October 10 in Assisi, Italy. His canonization cause has been popularized not only due to his young testament to holiness before he died of leukemia at age 15, but also because of his adeptness with technology. At age 14, he designed a website to share his great love for the Eucharist.

At first, his mother did not know what to do with such an intelligent and fervent young boy.

“I was not the ideal model of a Catholic mother,” Antonia told CNA.

Like many, Antonia’s faith was formed by a culture of Catholicism. But Carlo’s example challenged her, and she reached out to a faithful friend for advice. Antonia’s friend connected her with a priest, who encouraged her to take classes to further her Catholic faith.

Before that, she “was quite ignorant in the faith things,” she told CNA.

Through the working of a priest she met through her classes, Carlo was able to receive his first Holy Communion at just seven years old– after which he never missed daily Mass, even while their family traveled.

Carlo’s love for the Eucharist formed his mother’s own devotion to the Sacrament.

“The source of the sanctity of Carlo was the Eucharist. He used to say the Eucharist is my highway to heaven,” said Antonia.

Nicola Gori, the postulator of Acutis’ cause for sainthood, said that Carlos loved God in such a way that invited others, especially those closest to him, to share in the Eucharistic feast.

“Think, he managed to drag his relatives, his parents to Mass every day. It was not the other way around; it was not his parents bringing the little boy to Mass, but it was he who managed to get himself to Mass and to convince others to receive Communion daily,” Gori told EWTN News.

Before Carlo, Antonia said that she went to Mass only for her first Holy Communion, confirmation, and marriage.

But by Carlo’s exemplary love for the Eucharist, “I started to go to Mass again,” Antonia said. “And this was actually because of Carlo. Carlo for me was a sort of little savior.”

Since Carlo’s death of leukemia in 2006, Antonia has more deeply realized how special of a child he was.

Although Carlo played on a Playstation, Antonia never had to reprimand him for spending too much time playing video games.

“He was also a normal child!” Antonia said. “He used to play with the Playstation. But he forced himself to play once a week only for one hour because he didn’t want to become a slave to this technological games. He wanted to be free.”

Exactly four years after Carlo’s death, Antonia gave birth to twins– a miracle she attributes to Carlo’s intercession. The twins were born into the world on the anniversary of the day Carlo left it.

The twins have revealed to Antonia just how extraordinary Carlo was as a child.

“Sometimes I have to say ‘don’t do this’, ‘don’t do that’... I mean, they are good children because they pray the rosary each day, they go to Mass because of the example of Carlo. But they are not like Carlo. There is really a very, very big difference,” she said.

Ironically, the faith that Carlo kindled in his mother was the very thing that helped her make sense of his death.

“Jesus was preparing me and my husband because we got closer to the faith and the sacramental life and he prepared us for this moment for the death of Carlo. Without the faith, I don’t know how we could accept the death of a child - an only child,” said Antonia.

After his death, Carlo’s example in holiness quickly bore much fruit. His mother said that people who knew Carlo began praying to him right after he died, and crowds who had been touched by Carlo’s life flooded the funeral.

Pope Francis named Carlo venerable in July 2019, and his beatification ceremony, originally planned for the spring of 2020, was postponed until October due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Gori said that the ceremony was postponed especially because so many young people hoped to attend. Carlo, along with Saint Pier Giorgio Frassati or Blessed Chiara Luce Badano, have become beacons of holiness for modern youth.

“Because Carlo’s beatification will surely be a celebration for all young people, and since Carlo is known in many countries, not to say universally known, it would be a shame to be able to do it only with a few people,” Gori said.

Antonia hopes that the ceremony that declares her son on the path to canonization will occur within her lifetime.

“I am confident that it won’t be so far away,” she said.

Supreme Court LGBT decision puts pressure on religious employers, employees

Tue, 06/16/2020 - 19:56

Denver Newsroom, Jun 16, 2020 / 05:56 pm (CNA).- The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that a federal ban on sex discrimination also protects sexual orientation and gender-identity will have far-reaching consequences for religions, employers and employees because it enshrines a certain view of sexuality and gender into law, according to legal and religious liberty experts.
 
“We’re going to have future litigation, in many other cases, on whether the anti-discrimination principle or the religious liberty principle trumps the other at the end of the day,” John Bursch, director of legal advocacy and senior counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom legal group, told CNA.

The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that employers cannot fire workers because of their sexual orientation or self-determined gender identity, while dissenting justices argued the Court was legislating from the bench.

Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the majority opinion for the Court in a 6-3 decision, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor. They ruled that protections against sex discrimination in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act also applied to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The decision considered a trio of discrimination cases before the Court, two of which involved employees who said they were fired because of their sexual orientation in Bostock v. Clayton County and Altitude Express, Inc. v. Zarda.

A third case, Harris Funeral Homes, Inc. v. EEOC, involved a man who lost his job at a Michigan funeral home after he had gender-transition surgery and returned to work dressed as a woman. The funeral home had sex-specific dress code policies for employees.

According to Bursch, who argued Harris Funeral Homes’ case before the Supreme Court, the majority opinion “really embraces the modern cultural view of human sexuality and what it means to be male and female,” he said.

“It accepts the precept that human sexuality is really irrelevant. It’s really about how you feel, and what’s in your head, and what you subjectively proclaim yourself to be, your gender.”
 
“That kind of thinking is dangerous, not only because it maligns those who hold the opposite view, like the Catholic Church, but also because it does great harm to those who hold that view of themselves. Anytime we reject god’s will for ourselves, including the bodies that he gave us, bad things happen,” he added.
 
Bursch said the opinion holds that disapproving of choices made related to sexual orientation or gender identity is “wrong” or “discriminatory” or “hateful.”
 
“If people start to imbibe that and start to agree with that, and the law says ‘but there’s an exception for religious beliefs,’ they’re going to start to think that those religious beliefs themselves are hateful, that they are discriminatory, that they are bigoted,” he said.
 
“The arc of history shows that when you’ve got something that society deems to be bigotry and hateful, it doesn’t last very long. And most of the time that’s a good thing,” he said.

However, he predicted this view will continue to lead some to castigate the Catholic Church and Catholic views on sexuality as being “hateful and bigoted.”

Churches themselves are exempt from Title VII legislation, but religiously motivated employers do not have the same protection. Bursch expects that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act will “certainly help” such employers, but it is unclear how safe they will be.

The U.S. bishops were also critical. Archbishop Jose Gomez, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in a June 15 statement that the is “deeply concerned” that the court “effectively redefined the legal meaning of ‘sex’ in our nation’s civil rights law.”

“This is an injustice that will have implications in many areas of life,” he said, voicing concern that the court’s opinion erased “the beautiful differences and complementary relationship between man and woman.”

“Every human person is made in the image and likeness of God and, without exception, must be treated with dignity, compassion, and respect,” he added. “Protecting our neighbors from unjust discrimination does not require redefining human nature.”

Tom Venzor, executive director of the Nebraska Catholic Conference, echoed Archbishop Gomez.

“The Church’s teaching on sexuality and the human person is and always has been motivated by love,” he said. “Those who feel they have the wrong body, or are attracted to persons of the same sex, are not cast out by the Church. The Church embraces them, seeks to understand their pain and suffering, and offers them a way to self-understanding, healing, and peace.  This is not offered by the bodily autonomy movement that has gained so much purchase in the last several decades. Regardless of any Supreme Court decision, that will continue to be a mission of the Church—institutionally and individually, at Mass and in our conversations, in public and in private.”
 
The Supreme Court case could have consequences for Christian employees.

Employees with traditional Christian views on marriage and gender identity could “absolutely” be perceived by their employers as a liability risk for creating a hostile work environment that is sexually discriminatory, Bursch said.

“If you had a Catholic employee who in a lunchroom conversation was asked what their views on gender identity were, and they explained John Paul II’s beautiful theology of the body, and the Church’s understanding about what it means to be created male and female and embracing your identity in Christ, not any identity you want to express in yourself, they could be deemed to have created a hostile environment to an employee who feels threatened by that language and disagrees with it. Now all of a sudden that Catholic employee is now on the chopping block”.

“There too we are going to have conflict and religious liberty differences that will have to be litigated in the courts,” Bursch said. “Far from solving any problems, this opens up Pandora’s Box, the next 20 years of court cases.”
 
Burch cited the case of former Atlanta fire chief Kelvin Cochran, who, in a long firefighting career, was appointed US Fire Administrator by President Barack Obama before working as Atlanta’s fire chief. He was fired after writing a book in his personal capacity that defended Christian views on sex.
 
Bursch said the Cochran case was “particularly scary to me because it involves non-work conduct.”

According to Bursch, the city of Atlanta considered Cochran’s views bigoted and unwelcome in the workplace and fired him. Though Cochran’s lawsuit ended in a settlement, the city’s approach will likely be used by others, Bursch said.

Some companies circulate surveys asking employees whether they are LGBT “allies.” This can prompt an employee to wonder if this means endorsing same-sex marriage and gender ideology in ways that conflict with his or her religious belief, and to respond “no.”

“You’re being set up then because you could be punished in the future for not getting on board with the program and creating a hostile argument,” Bursch warned.

“This isn’t hypothetical, this isn’t the boogeyman, we’re going to see more of those cases moving forward,” Bursch said. “The goal of those who are pushing this agenda is nothing less than to destroy the church and stop everyone from talking publicly about those issues.

Venzor suggested that business owners will suffer from high uncertainty in the wake of the decision, given that jurisprudence is rapidly changing.

“Business owners must be able to expect predictability from the law and the courts, and not radical, overnight shifts in what the law expects of them as participants in the free market,” he said. 

“Bostock already has and will violate the religious freedom of business owners, despite Justice Gorsuch’s claims that the case was not addressing those particular issues. Justice Anthony Kennedy, in Obergefell v. Hodges, underscored the fact that ‘reasonable and sincere people’ have held for millennia and continue to hold onto traditional views of marriage and human sexuality.”
 
“Yesterday, in Bostock, Justice Gorsuch told those same religious business owners that their religious values have no place in a 21st century 'woke' marketplace,” Veznor told CNA.
 
Justice Neil Gorsuch, writing for the Court’s majority, acknowledged religious freedom concerns for employers in the Court’s decision. Religious organizations and employers do have certain protections from discrimination lawsuits under the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which the decision noted.

However, the religious freedom question would be a matter of future consideration since “none of the employers before us today represent in this Court that compliance with Title VII will infringe their own religious liberties in any way,” Gorsuch wrote.

 

After Supreme Court decision, Sen. Josh Hawley says religious conservatives have a 'bad' deal

Tue, 06/16/2020 - 18:28

CNA Staff, Jun 16, 2020 / 04:28 pm (CNA).- Sen. Josh Hawley called Tuesday for religious conservatives to “stand up and speak out” for religious liberty in light of the recent Supreme Court decision in Bostock v. Clayton County.

The decision redefined discrimination in federal civil rights employment law to include gender identity and sexuality. 

In a June 16 floor speech, Hawley referred to the decision as “historic,” and “seismic,” adding that the decision marked the end of the “legal conservative project.”

The senator said religious conservatives have long voted for certain candidates under the presumption that they would appoint judges who would protect religious liberty. The Missouri senator classified himself as one of these “religious conservatives.”

“If this case makes anything clear, it is that the bargain that has been offered to religious conservatives for years now is a bad one,” said Hawley.

This unspoken bargain, he claimed, is that religious conservatives “go along with the (Republican) party establishment,” including supporting policies that, in his view, do not benefit lower- and middle-class workers, in exchange for “some judges on the bench who supposedly will protect your Constitutional rights to freedom of worship to freedom of exercise.”

Hawley was particularly critical of policies he said cut taxes on the rich and help out “multinational corporations,” while doing nothing to prevent jobs from going overseas.

“We are supposed to stay quiet about all of that and more because there would be pro-Constitution religious liberty judges. Except for they aren't,” he said. “These judges don’t follow the Constitution.

“What (religious conservatives) sought together was protection for their right to worship, for their right to freely exercise their faith as the First Amendment guarantees, for the right to gather in their communities, for their right to pursue the way of life that their scriptures variously command and that the Constitution absolutely protects. That’s what they have asked for, that’s what they have sought all these years,” said Hawley.

The Supreme Court did not rule on the fate of churches and other religious institutions in its decision on Monday, writing that these topics were “questions for future cases.”

“No doubt they are,” said Hawley, saying these are “huge questions.” He added that he will “eagerly await” what the “super legislators across the street in the Supreme Court building” will have to say on this topic.

Hawley criticized his fellow legislators for failing to pass legislation on issues of critical importance.

“There’s only one problem with this piece of legislation,” Hawley said, referring to the Supreme Court’s decision.

“It was issued by a court, not by a legislature. It was written by judges, not by the elected representatives of the people. And it did what this Congress has pointededly declined to do for years now, which is to change the text and the meaning and the application and the scope of a historic piece of legislation.”

Hawley said that the other members of the legislature are “terrified” to put a vote on a potentially contentious issue on the record. He said that the legislature is now no longer accountable to the people who elected them, that in their refusal to pass legislation, “courts rush in.”

Now, said Hawley, is the time for religious conservatives “to bring forward the best of our ideas on every policy affecting this nation” and stop remaining silent on issues such as economics, trade, race, class, and “every subject that matters for what our founders called the general welfare.”

“The bargain which religious conservatives have been offered is not tenable,” said the Senator. “So I would just say it's not time for religious conservatives to shut up. We've done that for too long. No, it's time for religious conservatives to stand up and to speak out.”

 

‘Let Michael be the miracle’ - The baby healed through Fr. McGivney’s prayers

Tue, 06/16/2020 - 15:10

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 16, 2020 / 01:10 pm (CNA).- Catholics have a whole host of saints to choose from in times of trouble or anguish. There’s St. Rita, patroness of the impossible, St. Dymphna, the patroness of anxiety, and when all else fails, there’s always the patron of lost causes himself, St. Jude.

But when the Schachle family of Dickson, Tennessee, needed a saint - and a miracle - they went a different route.



When Michelle Schachle found out that her 13th child not only had Down syndrome, but fetal hydrops--an uncommon, typically fatal condition where fluid builds up around the vital organs of an unborn child--she and her husband appealed to Fr. Michael McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus, for help.

The unborn Schachle was given “no hope” - the combination of fetal hydrops and Down syndrome meant that he had no chance of survival.

“The doctor that ran the neonatal high risk clinic at Vanderbilt University told us that she had been doing this for 30 years and she had never seen a child survive the diagnosis,” Daniel, the baby’s father, told CNA. Michelle had already had one stillborn child, and she was overcome with fear at the thought that would happen again.

Asking Fr. McGivney for his intercession was a no-brainer for the Schachle family. Daniel works for the Knights of Columbus and had previously been Grand Knight of his local council. The Schachles even dubbed their homeschool the “Fr. McGivney Academy.”



“We’ve worn out his prayer card over the years,” said Daniel. When it came time to invoke some spiritual help during a crisis, there was no question about what they would do next.

“We knew that (Fr. McGivney) looked out over our family, and we looked to him a lot and asked him to pray for us, anyways. So it was more of a natural, I would say, flow,” said Daniel. Michelle concurred, telling CNA that McGivney had answered prayers “many times” for their family.

When they prayed for their unborn baby, Fr. McGivney came through again - in a big way. With hundreds of people praying for McGivney’s intervention for her child, and following a quick pilgrimage to Fatima with the Knights of Columbus, Michelle’s next ultrasound showed no sign of fetal hydrops.

Her doctor that day, initially unaware that her patient was the woman she had heard about - the woman with the terminally ill baby - began to discuss what they would do when the baby was born. Michelle was confused by that development.

“And so I just looked at her and I said, ‘Doctor, I was told there was no hope’,” she told CNA. She said learning her son would likely survive his birth sent her into “a lot of shock” and that the rest of that day was a blur.

One thing Michelle clearly remembers, however, is being asked by her doctor what she would name her baby. Until that day, she and her husband had planned to name the baby Benedict, and had been referring to him as “Baby Ben.” But when she heard that her child had been healed, Michelle knew he had to be named Michael, in honor of McGivney.

“I just remember weeping and saying, ‘His name is Michael,’” said Michelle. “And we never called him Ben after that.”

On May 27, 2020, Pope Francis confirmed what the Schachles already knew: they had witnessed a miracle. After extensive medical examination, the unexplained healing of Michael was decreed a miracle that arose through the intercession of Fr. McGivney.

As a result of that miracle, McGivney will be beatified, and referred to as Bl. Michael McGivney.

The Schachles told CNA it had crossed their minds that their prayer could lead to the miracle needed to advance Fr. McGivney’s cause for canonization, but that was not their specific goal in asking for his intercession.

“I remember praying the whole, the entire trip (to Fatima), ‘let Michael be the miracle,’ but like in my heart of hearts, that meant he would live,” Michelle explained to CNA. “And I never thought beyond him living...I only wanted him to live.”



Daniel told CNA that he remembered thinking, “There's gotta be a baby (who) survives this at some point. Why can't it be ours?” along with “You know, Fr. McGivney needs a miracle. Why can't it be Michael?”

During the investigation into Michael’s healing from fetal hydrops, the Schachles were repeatedly asked why they did not pray for Michael’s healing from Down syndrome as well. They explained that they viewed a child with Down syndrome as a “blessing” to their family, and that they were only concerned about him being born alive.

Despite the miraculous healing from fetal hydrops, the rest of Michelle’s pregnancy did not go entirely according to plan. She delivered her son in an emergency cesarean section after just 31 weeks gestation. Michael weighed only 3 pounds 4 ounces, and spent the first 10 weeks and one day of his life in the hospital.

Michael was born on May 15, 2015. They call him Mikey.

Even with Michael’s early arrival into the world, the hand of providence - and Fr. McGivney - was at work with the Schachle family.

Michael’s birthday, May 15, is the anniversary of the chartering of the first Knights of Columbus council. Michelle and McGivney have the same birthday. Both Michael and McGivney were born into families of 13 children - McGivney was the eldest, and Michael the youngest.

Michael was born with a heart defect commonly found in children with Down syndrome, and had heart surgery at just seven weeks old. He had another brush with death at six months old, when he came down with a respiratory illness that landed him in the hospital for six weeks.

But today, Michael is a happy and active five-year-old. He has no conditions related to his prematurity or fetal hydrops, and, by his family's account, he's thriving.



His parents told CNA that while their youngest “definitely knows he is special” and “knows that he is the king of the world,” he is not yet aware about the miraculous circumstances surrounding his birth. They say that Michael has strengthened their prayer lives, and has made a “big impression” on his doctors.

“There were times where (the doctors) were like, ‘We don't know what's going to happen and he's going to make it or not,’” Michelle said to CNA. “And I'm like, ‘I don't think you understand, God has big plans for this child.’” 

“When God shows up like that, it changes everything,” she said.

 

Catholic composer David Haas denies 'sexual battery' and coercion allegations

Tue, 06/16/2020 - 11:10

Denver Newsroom, Jun 16, 2020 / 09:10 am (CNA).- Catholic composer David Haas has denied allegations of serial sexual misconduct and spiritual manipulation, and says the advocacy group bringing allegations forward aims to destroy his livelihood.

“David Haas denounces Into Account Inc.’s allegations as false, reckless and offensive,” the composer said in a press release issued June 16.

Haas “is also sad and disappointed that Into Account Inc. chose to use social media- a public forum- to deprive him of a fair and legitimate venue to face his accusers, but instead launched a marketing effort with the mission to destroy his reputation and livelihood,” the composer added.

Accusations against Haas came to light last week, when a group called Into Account, which says it “provides advocacy and the most up-to-date resources to survivors seeking accountability,” sent a letter to some Catholic organizations and media outlets, addressing allegations.

The letter, obtained by CNA June 14, said the group had “received reports from multiple individuals reporting sexually predatory actions from the composer David Haas.”

Into Account alleged that Haas had engaged in “a repeated, unethical abuse of the professional and spiritual power he has had in church music circles,” reportedly targeting “multiple women using techniques that abuse prevention experts identify as grooming,” coercing women into sexual favors, and exploiting women who had previously experienced abuse.

The group said it has heard from nearly a dozen women, some of whom have accused Haas of “sudden, overwhelming sexual aggression,” and “incidents that we would interpret as outright sexual battery, involving groping, forcible kissing, and aggressive, lewd propositions. The youngest victim reported to us was 19 years old at the time of the alleged sexual battery, while Haas was over 50.”

While Haas denied those claims, they are not the first time he has been accused of sexual misconduct.

Music publisher GIA said in a June 13 Facebook post that it learned about allegations of sexual misconduct “early this year.”

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis told CNA that it received allegations of misconduct against Haas in both 2018 and 1987. In 2018, two women told the archdiocese that the composer had “acted inappropriately” with them, and in 1987, the archdiocese “had received a complaint alleging that David Haas had made an unwelcomed sexual advance toward a young adult woman.”

The archdiocese said Haas has denied those allegations, but, “following the 2018 complaints, the Archdiocese informed Mr. Haas that the Archdiocese would not provide him with a letter of recommendation that he had requested.”

“Furthermore, the Archdiocese advised Mr. Haas that he was not allowed to provide services at Catholic institutions in the Archdiocese without disclosure of the complaints made against him,” archdiocesan spokesman Tom Halden added.

Haas did not immediately respond to questions from CNA about those additional allegations.

Haas, 63, is the composer of several songs included in the “Gather” hymnal published by GIA, which is among the best-selling and most used hymnals in American Catholic parishes.

Among Haas’ songs are some contemporary standards: “Glory to God,” “You are Mine,” “We are Called,” and “Blest are They,” among others.

GIA has “suspended” its sponsorship and publication of Haas’ work.

On June 15, hymnal publisher OCP said it too would cut ties with Haas.

“We are profoundly disturbed by this news, and pray for all those involved,” a June 15 tweet said.

“OCP has not published new music by Mr. Haas or sponsored him at events for decades, but in light of these allegations, we are immediately suspending all ties with him.”

“While OCP’s 2021 missals have already gone to print, we will determine the content of future publications in light of this situation. We take these allegations very seriously, and we stand with survivors and victims of abuse. We remain committed to prayer, reconciliation, human dignity, peace, and justice.”

 In his June 16 press release, Haas said that he considers himself “an advocate for survivors of clergy sexual abuse and discrimination of all kinds,” and added that he “stands in solidarity and prayerful support of sexual abuse victims and encourages survivors to seek legitimate and appropriate professional services and/or to report any allegations to law enforcement.”

USCCB: Supreme Court has 'redefined' the meaning of 'sex'

Mon, 06/15/2020 - 19:43

CNA Staff, Jun 15, 2020 / 05:43 pm (CNA).- The president of the U.S. bishops’ conference on Monday lamented the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in a case that considered whether federal civil rights law considers sexual identity and gender identity to be covered by laws prohibiting employment discrimination based upon sex.

“I am deeply concerned that the U.S. Supreme Court has effectively redefined the legal meaning of ‘sex’ in our nation’s civil rights law. This is an injustice that will have implications in many areas of life,” Archbishop Jose Gomez said in a June 15 statement.

The Supreme Court ruled June 15 that employers cannot fire workers because of their sexual orientation or self-determined gender identity, even while dissenting justices opined the Court was legislating from the bench.

The decision considered a trio of discrimination cases before the Court, two of which involved employees who said they were fired because of their sexual orientation in Bostock v. Clayton County and Altitude Express, Inc. v. Zarda.

A third case, Harris Funeral Homes, Inc. v. EEOC, involved a man who lost his job at a Michigan funeral home after he had gender-transition surgery and returned to work dressed as a woman; the funeral home had sex-specific dress code policies for employees.

The question at issue was whether or not protections against sex discrimination in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act also applied to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

On Monday, the Court’s majority ruled that “An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender violates Title VII.

In November, the U.S. bishops’ conference had asked the Court not to extend Title VII protections to sexual orientation and gender identity, because to do so would “redefine a fundamental element of humanity.”

“Words matter,” the statement from leading U.S. bishops said. “‘Sex’ should not be redefined to include sexual inclinations or conduct, nor to promulgate the view that sexual identity is solely a social construct rather than a natural or biological fact.”

Gomez echoed that sentiment on Monday.

“By erasing the beautiful differences and complementary relationship between man and woman, we ignore the glory of God’s creation and harm the human family, the first building block of society. Our sex, whether we are male or female, is part of God’s plan for creation and for our lives. As Pope Francis has taught with such sensitivity, to live in the truth with God’s intended gifts in our lives requires that we receive our bodily and sexual identity with gratitude from our Creator. No one can find true happiness by pursuing a path that is contrary to God’s plan,” the archbishop said.

“Every human person is made in the image and likeness of God and, without exception, must be treated with dignity, compassion, and respect. Protecting our neighbors from unjust discrimination does not require redefining human nature.”

Critics of the Court’s decision have argued that, in addition to reinforcing the transgender ideology, they could undermine the religious liberty of religious employers and business owners.

Justice Neil Gorsuch, writing for the Court’s majority, acknowledged religious freedom concerns for employers in the Court’s decision. Religious organizations and employers do have certain protections from discrimination lawsuits under the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), his decision said.

However, the religious freedom question would be a matter of future consideration since “none of the employers before us today represent in this Court that compliance with Title VII will infringe their own religious liberties in any way,” Gorsuch wrote.

 

 

Rockville Centre diocese faces bankruptcy amid abuse lawsuits

Mon, 06/15/2020 - 19:41

CNA Staff, Jun 15, 2020 / 05:41 pm (CNA).- The Diocese of Rockville Centre has requested a pause in the proceedings of numerous sex abuse lawsuits it is facing, and said it may have to declare bankruptcy if it is not granted.

Two fellow New York dioceses, Buffalo and Rochester, have filed for bankruptcy within the last year. Each diocese had been named in hundreds of clergy sex abuse lawsuits following the opening of a window in the statute of limitations in the state in cases of sexual abuse under the Child Victims Act.

Sean Dolan, director of communications for the Rockville Centre diocese, said it had requested “a stay pending an appeal of the court’s denial of its motion to dismiss approximately 35 cases.” He said the request reflects the diocese’s “dedication to the fair and just treatment of all abuse victims, rather than continuing on a course that is marked by exhausting litigation expenses for the benefit of those racing to the courthouse ahead of others.”

Since the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program was established in 2017, he said, the diocese has given over $57 million to 320 victims of sexual abuse. It also has pending offers or is actively investigating another 50 claims, he added.

He said the diocese is expecting proceeds from its insurance policies to contribute to compensating victims. But the diocese has yet to be reimbursed for the large legal costs of lawsuits filed under the Child Victims Act.

“Because of that, and the additional strain on its finances resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Diocese does not have the resources to continue litigating the nearly 100 pending cases through to judgment. What is more, insurance will not, as a matter of law, cover punitive damages sought by 74 of these plaintiffs that, if awarded, would likely total in the hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said.

“If these actions are not stayed pending appeal, the substantial sums that the Diocese will have to expend in continuing to litigate these actions will be unavailable to survivors.”

The Diocese of Rockville Centre said that while bankruptcy is a last resort, the diocese could pursue such action, noting that the request for a pause will help victims rather than shield predators. 

“The Diocese’s stay motion is not an attempt to turn its back on victims or shield predators from any punishment they deserve,” Dolan said in a May 29 statement.

“The Diocese may have to seek such protection to preserve value so as to enable it to carry out its mission of supporting the Catholic faith on Long Island, while ensuring that all survivors receive fair settlements,” he said.

Michael Dowd, a lawyer for alleged victims, called the prospect of bankruptcy “callous,” the New York Post reported.

The diocese serves over 1.4 million people in New York’s Nassau and Suffolk counties. Since the coronavirus quarantine closed Mass and other Church gatherings, the diocese said it has received far fewer tithes, including two weeks which had no donations at all.

According to the New York Post, the diocese said donations during Holy Week and Easter this year were down 60% from normal.

Because of the lack of the pandemic, the diocese is in an “ever-more serious financial situation,” which has continued to worsen under strenuous legal costs, the New York Post reported.

The state’s Child Victims Act, which provides a one-year window to file lawsuits against decade old cases of sexual abuse, was extended for five months by Gov. Andrew Cuomo because of court delays caused by the coronavirus.

In May, a New York judge rejected a suit filed by the Diocese of Rockville Centre that claimed the lawsuits are barred by the due process clause in the state constitution. It said the due process clause in the state constitution “allows the legislature to revive formerly time-barred claims only where they could not have been raised earlier,” which it adds “is not so here.”

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

Trump admin to allow homeless shelters to serve on basis of biological sex

Mon, 06/15/2020 - 17:32

CNA Staff, Jun 15, 2020 / 03:32 pm (CNA).- The Department of Housing and Urban Development is set to roll back an Obama-era rule that requires single-sex homeless shelters to accommodate clients based on their gender identity.

The new rule will allow single-sex shelters to serve only those whose biological sex aligns with their residents, according to a report from the Washington Post.

According to the new rule, a shelter that denies access to a transgender client must recommend the client to another shelter. A shelter may still choose to serve transgender people, but if it does, the shelter must do so consistently.

Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Kate Anderson said that the proposed HUD rule allows shelters to live out their religious principles, which may conflict with admitting transgender people into a same-sex shelter.

“There is no need to force shelters to violate their faith or impose a blanket federal policy that forces vulnerable women to share space with men who claim a female identity,” said Anderson. “Some of the faith-based organizations we’ve represented in court have faced hostility—and even the threat of closure—by government officials who disagree with their religious beliefs. That’s why we are glad HUD is proposing a rule that at least returns this issue to local control and otherwise lets shelters set their own admissions policies to carry out their mission.”

The rule retains the HUD 2012 “equal access” rule, which mandated that homeless shelters be “open to all eligible individuals and families regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status.”

The 2012 rule left room for single-sex shelters to deny housing to transgender clients. A 2016 study conducted by the Center for American Progress found that only 30% of female homeless shelters were willing to house biological males.

The ambiguity regarding the treatment of transgender and non-gender conforming clients prompted a 2016 rule, which required shelters to serve transgender people – even if their biological sex does not align with the rest of the shelter’s residents.

As evidence of unfair discrimination against transgender homeless people, the 2016 rule cited a report by the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness which stated that many transgender people face “dangerous conditions” in shelters that align with their biological sex. The report said that given the choice between a single-sex shelter that serves their biological sex or the streets, “many transgender shelter-seekers would choose the streets.”

In light of the safety and discrimination concerns for transgender people in shelters that align with their biological sex, the 2016 rule mandated that “In no case may a provider's policies isolate or segregate transgender or gender nonconforming occupants.”

But the 2016 rule gave rise to concerns over communal bathrooms, showers, and sleeping areas, especially for women who have been abused.

Counsels for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops said that the 2016 regulations “purport to protect health and safety,” yet “they fail to advance, and in fact positively undermine, these and other legitimate interests, including expectations of privacy.”

The newly proposed HUD rule states that there is “anecdotal evidence that some women may fear that non-transgender, biological men may exploit the process of self-identification under the current rule in order to gain access to women’s shelters.”

The rule cites a pending civil complaint from nine California women that an all-women's homeless shelter facilitated abuse by admitting a male who identified as a woman, according to the Washington Post report. 

“HUD does not believe it is beneficial to institute a national policy that may force homeless women to sleep alongside and interact with men in intimate settings,” the new rule says, “even though those women may have just been beaten, raped, and sexually assaulted by a man the day before.”

Maryland Catholic bishops: Fighting racism requires more than words

Mon, 06/15/2020 - 16:50

CNA Staff, Jun 15, 2020 / 02:50 pm (CNA).- The Catholic Church should be at the forefront of efforts to address racial inequality – not only through words, but through actions, said the bishops of Maryland on Monday.

In a June 15 letter, the Maryland bishops said “we must seek to know and understand one another and to work to break down barriers through listening, prayer and a commitment to change hearts and minds.”

“However, prayer and dialogue, alone, are not enough,” they added. “We must act to bring about true change.”

The Maryland Catholic Conference released the letter amid continuing protests around the country following the May 25 death of George Floyd in police custody. Floyd, a black man, died after an officer with the Minneapolis Police Department knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes.

Protestors in the wake of Floyd’s death have called for justice for people of color who have been killed by the police, as well as efforts to recognize and address broader issues of racial inequality in society.

The Maryland bishops recognized that the racial injustice which has been part of society for centuries has also existed within the Church.

“With regret and humility, we must recognize that as Catholic leaders and as an institution we have, at times, not followed the Gospel to which we profess and have been too slow in correcting our shortcomings,” they said.

“For this reason, it is incumbent upon us to place ourselves at the forefront of efforts to remove the inequalities and discrimination that are still present in Maryland and our nation today.”

The bishops recognized efforts within the Church to fight racial inequality, such as desegregating Catholic schools and parishes in the archdiocese at a time when segregation was common and largely accepted. Still, they said, more work is needed to end the sin of racism.

“Although many people have acted in good faith in service and prayer to bring about just change, to acknowledge the dignity of each life, and to love one another, our current crisis causes us to reflect on how much we still must do together to make impactful progress,” the bishops said.

The ongoing protests and rallies, they said, “make it clear that the conscience of our nation is on trial as questions of race and equality confront each and every one of us.”

Each person, they said, should work prayerfully to identity and eliminated any hatred in their own heart.

They highlighted the enriching presence of black Catholics in Maryland, pointing to the National Black Catholic Congress and the Josephite priests, who serve the local black community. They also praised the witness of Mother Mary Lange, who in the 1800s founded the first Catholic school for black children in the U.S., as well as the first religious order for black women. Lange’s sainthood cause is currently open, and she is recognized as a Servant of God.

“Over the years, the Catholic Bishops of Maryland have stood firmly in our support of laws that sought to bring about justice and an end to unequal treatment based on race,” the bishops said in their letter, renewing their commitment to such efforts, including prison reform, educational opportunities, health and maternal care, fighting discrimination in housing and the use of the death penalty, and restorative justice plans.

“United, we seek healing, harmony and solutions that recognize that every person has been created in the image of God and that every person possesses human dignity,” they said.

The bishops prayed for the Holy Spirit’s guidance for religious and political leaders as they work to oppose discrimination, promote racial equality, and heal wounds from past injustices.

“We commend the efforts of our state lawmakers to convene working groups to discuss legislative initiatives that are needed for reform, transparency, and racial equality,” they said.

“We look forward to playing an active part in these conversations on both a state and national level, and to lending our voices to those whose own have been stifled or altogether silenced by those who seek to quiet them.”

 

Supreme Court: Sexual orientation and gender identity covered under federal discrimination law

Mon, 06/15/2020 - 11:00

Washington D.C., Jun 15, 2020 / 09:00 am (CNA).- The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that employers cannot fire workers because of their sexual orientation or self-determined gender identity, while dissenting justices opined the Court was legislating from the bench.

Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the majority opinion for the Court in a 6-3 decision, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor.

Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Brett Kavanaugh all dissented from the majority opinion.

The decision considered a trio of discrimination cases before the Court, two of which involved employees who said they were fired because of their sexual orientation in Bostock v. Clayton County and Altitude Express, Inc. v. Zarda.

A third case, Harris Funeral Homes, Inc. v. EEOC, involved a man who lost his job at a Michigan funeral home after he had gender-transition surgery and returned to work dressed as a woman; the funeral home had sex-specific dress code policies for employees.

The question at issue was whether or not protections against sex discrimination in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act also applied to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

On Monday, the Court’s majority ruled that “An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender violates Title VII.”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in November had asked the Court not to extend Title VII protections to sexual orientation and gender identity, because to do so would “redefine a fundamental element of humanity.”

“Words matter,” the statement from leading U.S. bishops said. “‘Sex’ should not be redefined to include sexual inclinations or conduct, nor to promulgate the view that sexual identity is solely a social construct rather than a natural or biological fact.”

On Monday morning, the religious freedom legal group Alliance Defending Freedom stated on Twitter that “[r]edefining ‘sex’ to mean ‘gender identity’ will create chaos and enormous unfairness for women and girls in athletics, women’s shelters, and many other contexts.”

“Civil rights laws that use the word ‘sex’ were put in place to protect equal opportunities for women,” ADF stated, adding that for a court “to redefine a term with such a clear and important meaning undermines those very opportunities—the ones the law was designed to protect.”

ADF is currently representing three female high school track athletes who sued the state of Connecticut’s high school athletic conference for allowing biological males identifying as female to compete in female track.

The Court’s majority noted Monday that Congress may not have anticipated Title VII protections being considered for sexual orientation and gender identity cases at the time of the law’s enactment, “[b]ut the limits of the drafters’ imagination supply no reason to ignore the law’s demands.”

“Only the written word is the law, and all persons are entitled to its benefit,” Gorsuch wrote.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote one dissenting opinion, joined by Justice Thomas.

“There is only one word for what the Court has done today: legislation,” Alito wrote. The law does not mention “sexual orientation” or “gender identity,” he said, and Congress for decades has considered legislation to add that language to Title VII but has not yet done so.

“But the Court is not deterred by these constitutional niceties,” he wrote. “Usurping the constitutional authority of the other branches, the Court has essentially taken H.R.5’s provision on employment discrimination and issued it under the guise of statutory interpretation. A more brazen abuse of our authority to interpret statutes is hard to recall.”

Justice Kavanaugh, writing his own dissent, stated that “[u]nder the Constitution’s separation of powers, the responsibility to amend Title VII belongs to Congress and the President in the legislative process, not to this Court.”

Gorsuch, writing for the Court’s majority, acknowledged religious freedom concerns for employers in the Court’s decision. Religious organizations and employers do have certain protections from discrimination lawsuits under the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), he wrote.

However, the religious freedom question would be a matter of future consideration since “none of the employers before us today represent in this Court that compliance with Title VII will infringe their own religious liberties in any way,” he wrote.

 

Catholic composer David Haas accused of 'sexual battery' and 'spiritual manipulation'

Sun, 06/14/2020 - 20:43

Denver Newsroom, Jun 14, 2020 / 06:43 pm (CNA).- The composer of several well-known songs used in Catholic liturgies has been dropped by a prominent hymnal publisher, amid accusations of serial spiritual manipulation and sexual misconduct.

“Early this year we became aware of allegations of sexual misconduct by David Haas, and we learned the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis was considering a decision not to provide him a letter of suitability,” GIA Publications said in a June 13 Facebook post.

“In response, we suspended our sponsorship and publishing relationship with Mr. Haas, and have not sponsored his work since late January,” the publisher added.

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has also received multiple allegations of sexual misconduct against the composer, a spokesman told CNA, adding that in 2018 the archdiocese declined to provide Haas with a requested letter of reccomendation.

Haas, 63, is the composer of several songs included in the “Gather” hymnal published by GIA, which is among the best-selling and most used hymnals in American Catholic parishes.

The composer, a layman, is a central figure in the “contemporary liturgical music” movement that began in the 1970s, along with composers Marty Haugen, Fr. Michael Joncas, Dan Schutte, and the “St. Louis Jesuits” group.

Among Haas’ songs are some contemporary standards: “Glory to God,” “You are Mine,” “We are Called,” and “Blest are They,” among others.

A group called Into Account, which says it “provides advocacy and the most up-to-date resources to survivors seeking accountability,” sent last week a letter to some Catholic organizations and media outlets, addressing allegations against Haas.

The letter, obtained by CNA June 14, said the group had “received reports from multiple individuals reporting sexually predatory actions from the composer David Haas.”

“These individuals are in positions of professional and/or personal vulnerability that make it difficult for them to identify themselves publicly. They are almost all fearful of Haas’s retaliation, and based on what they have reported, we believe those fears to be well-founded.”

“The pattern that emerges from the reports we’ve received on Haas’s behavior constitutes a repeated, unethical abuse of the professional and spiritual power he has had in church music circles. Haas has allegedly targeted multiple women using techniques that abuse prevention experts identify as grooming, to create conditions in which women felt obligated to perform sexual favors in exchange for professional opportunities. His generosity, we are told, often came with a sexual price tag,” Into Account said.

“The allegations we’ve received also contain a disturbing component of spiritual manipulation. Haas reportedly focuses attention on women with past histories of abuse, then uses the vulnerabilities created by trauma to create intimacy. Multiple women have reported to us that Haas is skilled at making his targets feel spiritually affirmed, seen, and loved, with a keen understanding of how that spiritual intimacy can then be exploited sexually,” the letter added.

“Some women have described romantic relationships with Haas that felt consensual in the beginning, but were then marked by sudden, overwhelming sexual aggression from Haas, in which any resistance was met with extreme anger. Other women have described incidents that we would interpret as outright sexual battery, involving groping, forcible kissing, and aggressive, lewd propositions. The youngest victim reported to us was 19 years old at the time of the alleged sexual battery, while Haas was over 50.”

“We have no knowledge of Haas perpetrating any sexual offenses against minors, and we have no knowledge of any behavior from Haas that has led to criminal charges,” the group said.

Stephanie Krehbiel, Into Account’s executive director, told CNA June 14 that the group has heard from nearly a dozen alleged victims of Haas.

Krehbiel said the group first heard from an alleged victim of Haas through a confidential form on its website in early 2020. That contact let to reports from other alleged victims, and from people active in liturgical music circles, who had observations or concerns about Haas.

One alleged victim reportedly told Into Account that Haas had made unwanted sexual advances and forcibly kissed her during a religious education congress in Los Angeles.

According to Krehbiel, another said she met Haas as a student participant in Music Ministry Alive, a musical formation program for teenagers founded by the composer, who allegedly made inappropriate advances a few years later, when the former student was 19.

Krehbiel told CNA that her group aims to assist victims of sexual misconduct, assault, or battery. She added that because the allegations against Haas involve only adults, contacting law enforcement is “up to the discretion of the survivor.”

Into Account shared the information it had received, Krehbiel told CNA, because alleged victims hope their stories will prevent future misconduct. They hope “to take away his access to vulnerable people,” and ensure that “he is not able to continue to do this.”

Haas told CNA Sunday that he is preparing to release a statement this week, but declined to answer specific questions. As of Saturday, Haas’ page was no longer available on Facebook. 

A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, in which Haas lives, told CNA June 14 that it too received reports about the composer.

“In November of 2018, the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis received two reports that Mr. Haas acted inappropriately with two adult women at a recent event in another state. Both women complained that Mr. Haas’ conduct that evening made them feel uncomfortable. Mr. Haas denied misconduct. In 1987, the Archdiocese had received a complaint alleging that David Haas had made an unwelcomed sexual advance toward a young adult woman, which he also denied,” archdiocesan spokesman Tom Halden told CNA.

“Following the 2018 complaints, the Archdiocese informed Mr. Haas that the Archdiocese would not provide him with a letter of recommendation that he had requested.”

“Furthermore, the Archdiocese advised Mr. Haas that he was not allowed to provide services at Catholic institutions in the Archdiocese without disclosure of the complaints made against him,” Halden added.  

GIA’s June 13 statement added that “new allegations of sexually abusive conduct by Mr. Haas continue to be reported. We take these reports seriously. GIA Publications supports and stands with victims. We must join together to address and prevent sexual abuse.”

 

Catholic summer camps take campfires virtual

Sun, 06/14/2020 - 14:00

Minneapolis, Minn., Jun 14, 2020 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- When it’s time for camp this summer, Catholic youth around the country will listen to inspirational talks, make friends in small groups, and sing praise and worship music around a bonfire– all in their very own living room and backyard.

In light of COVID-19 restrictions, many Catholic summer camps have had to close their doors this summer. But some of those camps aim to provide a camp experience to kids this summer, albeit virtually, and to keep themselves afloat while they do it.

“The Lord saw our hunger to reach the young people and he said, listen, I’m going to overcome this barrier,” said Dan DeMatte, founder and executive director of Catholic Youth Summer Camp (CYSC). The camp, based in Centerburg, OH, plans to offer both an in-person and a virtual camp experience this year.

Camp Wojtyla, based in Colorado, will offer a virtual program for kids and their families to engage in daily activities such as challenges, videos, and prayer. But as a wilderness camp, the idea of adapting Camp Wojtyla to an online format initially seemed odd.

“It is a little outside of our wheelhouse,” Eby told CNA. “We really do try to minimize screens. There's not too much technology, or I guess modern technology, at our wilderness camp.”

Totus Tuus is a week-long catechetical day camp program run in dioceses around the country.

Cassie Zimmer, a 20 year old Totus Tuus missionary in the diocese of Marquette, will lead a team of six missionaries to deliver a completely virtual summer program. This summer marks her 3rd year teaching the program.

“We have to just kind of learn how to be good at doing videos,” said Zimmer. “I don't even know if this is a Totus Tuus program, per say, it’s more of a Totus Tuus TV program.”

Adapting a Catholic summer camp to a screen requires immense creative genius.

The virtual program from CYSC will employ a box of materials delivered to each virtual camper’s door, which will contain materials for activities and games.

“Imagine your son or daughter pitching a tent in their bedroom or their backyard or their basement, and having all the aspects of catholic youth summer camp brought to them on a daily basis through the whole course of the week,” DeMatte said in a video promoting the camp to parents.

The kids at CYSC will even have a virtual cabin leader, who will remotely guide his or her small group through the same kind of activities a kid would expect at summer camp.

At Camp Wojtyla, campers will be encouraged to build a chapel out of materials they find outside, like flowers, rocks, and sticks. Every morning, they will be encouraged to pray there before plugging into the camp’s introductory video, called “gritty masters,” over breakfast. The video will explain the day’s activities, and will subtly encourage campers to do their dishes.

Campers will have the opportunity to join in a summer camp bonfire at the end of the week, though with some social-distancing modifications.

Virtual campers will be invited to build their own fire and join in livestreamed songs and chants– all the things that ought to culminate a summer camp experience.

“We try to take as much of our typical day to day program that is at camp and help people to live that out in their own home, with a virtual platform, that will allow for real experiences,” Eby told CNA.

Although the Totus Tuus program differs vastly in each diocese, Totus Tuus staff in the Diocese of Marquette, Michigan, will offer a weekly “data drop” to those who sign up for the program. The staff will be busy all summer recording and editing videos, employing everything from saint costumes to gorilla suits to keep campers engaged.

At first, 19 year old Ethan Wilcox, a seminarian who will teach the virtual program this year, doubted the viability of a virtual Totus Tuus program.

“I thought, there’s no way, how is this going to work?” said Wilcox.

But In spite of the limitations, many camp organizers are confident that virtual platforms, such as Zoom, will have a meaningful impact on kid’s lives.

“Kids are having encounters with Jesus. We’re had kids filled with the Holy Spirit and transformed over the Zoom platform,” DeMatte told CNA.

“If we buy into a lie that God can't work powerfully over an online version of camp, then He’s not going to be able to work powerfully over an online version of camp.”

DeMatte compared those who lack faith that God will work over a virtual platform to the people of towns in the Gospels that lacked faith in Christ. Jesus never worked a miracle in those towns, DeMatte noted.

“The level of our faith we have determines the degree to which God’s power can be activated in people’s lives,” said DeMatte.

“With the new evangelization, technology is really something that the Church needs to look into,” said Wilcox. While he was quarantined at home due to the coronavirus, Wilcox broadcast videos of himself singing praise and worship music over Facebook Live and was overwhelmed by the response.

He sees technology as “a tool for the Church.”

“The Catholic Church has stepped up to meet people in the digital age,” said Grace Theoret, an 18 year old Totus Tuus missionary in the Diocese of Marquette. She described a plethora of digital Catholic conferences that were made available this spring.

The digital platform will allow many summer camps to reach a much wider audience than ever before.

In just eight weeks of virtual ministry this spring, DeMatte said that Damascus Catholic Mission Campus, the organization overarching CYSC, reached over 150,000 people. At Camp Wojtyla, Eby said she has seen a lot of families sign up for the virtual camp who had initially been waitlisted.

Emma Kate Callahan, a 21-year-old Totus Tuus missionary in the Diocese of Pueblo, CO, said that Totus Tuus is now able to virtually minister to four more parishes than it had originally planned for this summer.

Despite the potential for a wider reach of their ministry, some worry that the camps’ reliance on technology will compromise their potential for meaningful relationships.

“You don't really have the same interactions online,” said Callahan. “You just can't beat being face to face with a child and looking into their eyes and seeing the face of Jesus.”

This concern is shared by many parents, who wonder if online Catholic summer camp is a worthy investment.

“It's hard to replace being in person with people, no matter how creative we are with content,” said Anna Witham, an early-childhood educator in Minnesota. “As an educator and a parent and a Catholic, it's important for me to give my kids real experiences.”

“I’m a hard no on virtual summer camp,” Mary Walker, a youth minister in the Diocese of Arlington, VA, told CNA.

“Me and a few of my friends have decided that because we’re probably going back to virtual learning in the fall, that we need to have as few screens as possible during summer as possible to kind of reset and reboot,” she said.

“I’ve always been a parent who tries to limit screen time,” said Witham. “I hadn't even thought to sign my kids up for anything like that because I feel like they needed a break from structured activities delivered via screen.”

Walker described how gross-motor skills, such as climbing a jungle gym or playing outside, facilitate learning fine motor skills, such as holding a pencil. Both she and Witham said that their kids’ summers will be full of bike-riding, hiking, playing outside, and imaginative play.

But Walker said that there’s a reason beyond spurning technology to opt out of Catholic summer camps.

“Parents are the primary educators of their children in matters of faith,” she told CNA. “And I think it’s prime time for parents to stand up and take ownership of that.”

In fact, many Catholic summer camps are embracing the fact that parents will be able to engage in the material alongside their children.

DeMatte said that Catholic Youth Summer Camp’s goal is “not to do the ministry for parents, but to facilitate the ministry for parents.”

“We were getting messages from families saying, this is the first time we’ve ever played together, or, this is the first time that dad has ever goofed off with the kids,” DeMatte told CNA. “And that’s revolutionary in a family.”

“What do we have? Families,” said Zimmer, who leads her six-person Totus Tuus team. “We can build up the family unit. We are gearing this towards hopefully being able to help the parents teach the kids.”

“There's opportunity there to have the parents involved in the mission just as much as the kids are,” said 22 year old Ben Gregory, who is part of Zimmer’s team. “(It’s) likely there will be conversations happening amongst the families.”

By engaging the whole family, moreover, Catholic summer camps hope to simply stay afloat themselves. One summer without camp could threaten the existence of many programs.

“The summer camp industry, as a whole, is really in danger right now,” said DeMatte. “I think you’ll see a lot of camps close.” He described that 60%-75% or more of a summer camp’s revenue is generated over the summer. One summer’s campers, moreover, fuel the next year’s admissions.

“I hope that being in this environment with other Catholics, that for our campers and our families and all who are part of our mission, we can come together and say, ‘this isn't going to be forever,’” said Eby. “We’ve got to keep the hunger, the desire, the flame.”

Regardless of how their camp is delivered, many Catholic summer camps share the determination to remain steadfast to their mission of sharing Christ.

“We don't exist to run summer camps, we exist to proclaim the name of Jesus,” said DeMatte. “If we think of this from heaven’s perspective, God is like, ‘are you kidding me, you don’t think I can’t change kids’ lives through an online platform?’”

 

A new baby needs 12 diapers a day. Students for Life aims to help

Sat, 06/13/2020 - 14:00

Denver Newsroom, Jun 13, 2020 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- The organizers of diaper drives aim to help the parents of young children meet a need that can get costly: diapers.

With the arrival of the new coronavirus and mass unemployment, that need is even greater.

“Since the outbreak, local diaper banks are reporting that diaper distribution to families in need of support has as much as quadrupled,” Troy Moore, chief of external affairs for the National Diaper Bank Network, told CNA. “The federal programs that low-income families rely on to help them pay for groceries – SNAP and WIC – do not cover diapers. In most of the country, diaper banks are the only option for families struggling with diaper need.”
 
“Many diaper bank programs throughout the country are adjusting their distribution models and now hosting drive-thru diaper distributions, and handing out 15,000 - 25,000 diapers within hours,” Moore said. “The demand for diapers is unprecedented, and more support is needed.”
 
Even before the arrival of the new coronavirus, 1 in 3 American families faced shortfalls in the number of diapers needed, and some 5 million children age 3 or younger lived in poor or low-income families, according to the diaper bank network.
 
The National Diaper Bank Network, whose founding sponsor is the diaper company Huggies, supports the development and expansion of diaper banks. Its members number over 200 diaper banks, diaper pantries and food banks in 49 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. At least ten of these members are Catholic institutions, including the Bottom Line Diaper Bank of Catholic Charities, Denver; Archdiocese of New York diaper distribution program; and Kentucky Catholic Charities.

In 2019, the network’s members distributed almost 85 million diapers, helping over 187,000 children each month.
 
Disposable diapers can cost up to $70 to $80 for each baby. An infant requires up to 12 diapers a day, while toddlers require about 8. Families with poor transportation often pay a premium for diapers at convenience stores. For many working families, there is another reason diapers are a must-have: daycares often require parents to provide a daily supply of diapers.

Under such pressures, parents might risk reusing disposable diapers, causing health risks to the child and stress to both children and parents alike.

The coronavirus has already limited diaper donations. Many diaper banks can no longer accept open packages of diapers due to perceived risks of spreading Covid-19.

“Diaper drives are always welcome, but because of Covid-19, many programs have suspended diaper drives until such time it is safe to resume them,” Moore said.

One such drive took place in fall 2019 at Regis Jesuit High School in suburban Denver. The approximately 20-member Regis Jesuit Students for Life Club gathered 46,700 diapers—a figure that Students for Life of America says is a national high school record.

“The response was pretty incredible. We really bonded over the common ground that we would help parents to choose life and help support these babies,” Jack Brustkern, a recent Regis Jesuit graduate and member of the club, told CNA.

“Our Students for Life club noticed that one of the reasons for mothers to decide to get an abortion was because they were not able to support their baby financially, and so we decided to enlist our school community to bring in as many diapers as possible to support these moms who were struggling,” he added. “We wanted to make it easier for them to decide to choose life for their child.”

Brustkern credited success to “the power of numbers.” The drive was a group effort from club members, other students and teachers at the school. The club created posters, set up decorated tables, publicized the diaper drive in school-wide announcements, and arranged competitions between grades judged by which grade brought in the most diapers. The winning class received cupcakes as a prize.

“I think it is important to collect diapers instead of just giving money because it helps us all to really see the impact that this contribution will have on a family,” he said. “It’s a tangible expression of our support of these women financially and in our prayers as well.”

Camille Cisneros, the coordinator of Students for Life of America’s Pregnant on Campus initiative, said efforts to help pregnant women and new mothers continue despite the novel coronavirus epidemic.
                                                       
“With all of the changes that are happening around us, including losses in employment, it is essential that we continue to support women through these item drives,” she said. “Since we couldn’t host these drives in person after March, Students for Life of America also held a national online item drive, collecting over $15,000 in donations for pregnancy help centers.”
 
Student service extends beyond these actions, Cisneros said.
 
“During this school year, our groups held 20 fundraisers to collect money for scholarships that the groups award to pregnant and parenting students on their campuses. We also have numerous groups, like the Texas A&M Aggies for Life, who have babysitting services available to student parents,” she said.
 
Her advice on how to help?
 
“Reach out to your local pregnancy help centers to find out what they need whether that is volunteers, donations, or financial support,” she said, recommending the directory at OptionLine.org. “When you meet a young family, single mother or father, or student parent offer your time to babysit or offer to cook a home cooked meal. It’s these small gestures that show women they have the support of their community to choose life and continue to pursue their goals.”
 
Joanne Goldblum, founder and chief executive officer of the National Diaper Bank Network, said many of the recently unemployed are low-wage workers who live paycheck-to-paycheck.
 
“That puts them at greater need,” she said.
 
“The demand for diapers is unprecedented. More support is absolutely needed, both from the philanthropic sector but also from the government,” she told CNA. “We believe strongly, and know, that this is not a problem that can be solved with charitable dollars alone.”
 
At the same time, she had advice specific to helping low-wage workers, like paying housecleaners or babysitters even if they can’t work or giving generous tips to delivery people.
 
“Always take a moment and think that the person helping you in a pandemic is taking a risk,” she said.
 
She referred people to the National Diaper Bank Network’s website for a directory of diaper bank members.
 
“All of them need donations, either diapers or money,” she said.
 
Diaper banks can buy more than the average person due to bulk discounts and other arrangements.
 
“All things being equal, more diapers get to babies by giving diaper banks cash,” Goldblum said.
 
Advice for running a diaper drive is available at the respective websites of Students for Life of America and the National Diaper Bank Network.

 

In trying times, how can Catholics stay hopeful?

Sat, 06/13/2020 - 05:37

Denver Newsroom, Jun 13, 2020 / 03:37 am (CNA).- Amid the worldwide panic surrounding coronavirus and lockdowns, as well as protests and unrest in many parts of the country in recent weeks, it can be easy for people of any faith to ask: Where is God?

Father Phillip Bochanski, director of the Courage International apostolate which ministers to people with same-sex attraction, wrote a book last year on The Virtue of Hope: How confidence in God can lead you to Heaven.

Catholics hope that they will someday be welcomed into eternal life in heaven. Additionally, Bochanski said, we can have hope in this life that the world is unfolding according to God’s divine plan.

“If we forget that we're passing through this world, and that our goal is actually the next world...it changes our whole moral outlook on things. So hope keeps us mindful of that reality that we're on the way, we haven't reached our destination,” Bochanski told CNA.

“That makes all the difference in how we go about our daily responsibilities, but also big-picture questions, like what we're going through right now.”

He told CNA that there is a difference between being hopeful, in a Catholic sense, and being simply optimistic, sanguine, or naive.

In his book, Bochanski notes that the classic Catholic definition of virtue, which comes from St. Thomas Aquinas, is of a “good habit”— something we repeat over and over, until it becomes second nature.

Some people may be more disposed to be hopeful because of their personality, Bochanski said, but the idea of hope as a virtue means it must be practiced, exercised, and sought.

Hope is one of three “theological virtues,” along with faith and love. Bochanski explained that even though these theological virtues come from God, we still have to work at them by putting them into practice, and exercising them.

“We grow in hope by striving to be hopeful, by letting it shape our actions, and the more we can live with hope, the easier it becomes to be hopeful,” he said.

For Catholics, hope starts with recognizing that God is in charge.

“Hope, for us, means trusting that God has a plan, and that he's working out his plan even if we can't see how it's going to work or if we would prefer a different timing,” Bochanski said.

Jesus models the virtues for Christians, he said, and the fact that Jesus never doubted God's saving mission is a model of hope for us.

“He didn't need to be hopeful in the sense of having any doubts, or not knowing what was going to happen, but he models hope for us in the way that he calmly, perseveringly, carries out his mission,” he said.

In the biblical episode of Jesus’ temptation in the desert, for example, the devil offers Jesus various “shortcuts” around the Father's plan. Jesus, because He knows the Father's plan, rebuffs the devil’s temptations and resolutely carries out what the Father has set before Him.

“That gives us hope when we're faced with our own part of God's plan, but without the omnipotence and omniscience of the Lord,” he said.

“When we're going through personal difficulties, or community difficulties, or things that are scary and violent, the question that naturally comes to mind is where is God?”

What seems like God's absence or silence is actually God working in ways that we can't yet see or perceive, he said.

“Hope brings us back to that reality that He's never absent. And although I can't see Him at the moment, I trust him enough to wait for Him to show me and to do what I can moment by moment...If we do our part, God will also do his part and carry out his plan for our lives.”

In the midst of crises, it can be easy to take on the same emotional level as the voices we hear on the news, he said.

Being hopeful in the world today has a lot to do with remaining calm— not indifferent or lax, but keeping one's situation in perspective.

“I'm not called to save the whole world. I may not be able to do a lot in the grand scheme of things, but in my vocation, in my family, in my work, in my circle of friends, my job is to keep doing the task that God has given me to do and not to panic,” Bochanski said.

The devil likes to emphasize our apparent powerlessness, he said, or distract us from the smaller, daily tasks and acts of love we've been given to do.

This can sometimes lead to the spiritual state of acedia— a kind of sadness about things that are spiritual goods, or a “disgust with activity.”

There's a certain amount of justice we can achieve in a fallen world, Bochanski said, but ultimate justice will not be realized until the Last Day.

“Hope keeps us focused on this step of the journey. One step at a time, one task at a time, one  responsibility at a time, instead of letting us get panicked or overly anxious about having to do something huge. It helps us to keep our eyes on the small things in front of us and keep the world in perspective,” he said.

Bochanski said he heard from many people feeling anxious, restless, and afraid in the first days of the coronavirus lockdown— all reasonable reactions, but hope helps Christians avoid being swayed off course by the emotions of the moment, he said.

If someone is weighed down or anxious about something, modeling hope for them not only will help remind them that the present situation is not the final word, but it also can help to keep that person's reaction in perspective, he said.

This does not mean simply telling people who are worried not to worry, but instead modeling a hopeful attitude for them.

“Our hope is always in someone or something...when our hope is in God, it's the most real thing there is. It can't be a false hope, because it's based on our understanding of who God is.”

“If you have a friend who is omnipotent, and he offers to help you, you should let him. God, who is omnipotent and omniscient, has offered to help me, and I know that that is true” because God asks of Christians things that are beyond anyone's natural ability, he said.

Bochanski recommended reading, as well as his book, the 2007 encyclical on hope by Pope Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi.

The paradox of discipleship is freedom through surrender to God, but pride makes us think that we can handle everything ourselves. To reduce the sense of powerlessness, take time to pray and assess what God is asking you to do, Bochanski advised. 

“God, because of who He is, is going to do all the heavy lifting,” Bochanski said.

 

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