CNA News

Subscribe to CNA News feed CNA News
ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa ( is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
Updated: 2 hours 40 min ago

This baker's Supreme Court case could set tone of religious liberty in US

Tue, 09/12/2017 - 05:04

Washington D.C., Sep 12, 2017 / 03:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A Colorado baker’s fight to maintain his freedom of expression could be the most influential religious freedom decisions of the US Supreme Court in years, as the court considers the case this term.

“There is far more at stake in this case than simply whether Jack Phillips must bake a cake,” the US bishops' conference and other Catholic groups stated in an amicus brief in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. “It is about the freedom to live according to one’s religious beliefs in daily life and, in so doing, advance the common good.”

The Masterpiece Cakeshop case, to be decided by the Supreme Court in the next term, dates back to 2012. In July of that year, Jack Phillips went to work one July day at Masterpiece Cakeshop, his Lakewood, Colo. bakery in the suburbs of Denver.

Phillips had started his business in 1993 as a way to integrate his two loves -- baking and art – into his daily work. Philipps named his shop “Masterpiece” because of the artistic focus of his work, but also because of his Christian beliefs. He drew from Christ's Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew, specifically the commands “no man can serve two masters” and “you cannot serve both God and mammon.”

“I didn’t open this so I could make a lot of money,” Phillips said of his business. “I opened it up so that it would be a way that I could create my art, do the baking that I love, and serve the God that I love.” Phillips spoke last Wednesday at the Heritage Foundation at a panel event on his upcoming Supreme Court case.

One day in July of 2012, two men walked in to Masterpiece Cakeshop and began looking at pictures of wedding cakes. Phillips approached them and quickly ascertained that they were planning their own wedding and had wanted him to bake them a cake for their same-sex wedding.

“Right away, I’m thinking ‘how can I tell them politely that I can’t take care of this wedding for them, because I don’t do same-sex weddings’,” he recalled.

Phillips explained to the couple that he could not serve same-sex weddings – to do so would have been a violation of his Christian beliefs. He said has declined to make a number of types of cakes, including cakes for Halloween, bachelor parties, and a divorce, cakes with alcohol in the ingredients, and cakes with atheist messages.  

Once they heard they would not be able to buy a cake from Masterpiece, the couple stormed out of the store angrily. During the ensuing hour, Phillips said his store received about a half-dozen threatening phone calls. Days later, he received a death threat where he had to call his sister, who was at the store with her four year-old daughter, and tell her to hide in the back of the store until police arrived on the scene.

The couple, meanwhile, filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission for discrimination.

The commission ordered Phillips to serve same-sex weddings and to undergo anti-discrimination training. In a hearing in 2014, the civil rights commissioner Diann Rice compared his declining to serve same-sex weddings to justifications for the Holocaust and slavery.

“Freedom of religion and religion has been used to justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history, whether it be slavery, whether it be the Holocaust,” Commissioner Rice said.

Alliance Defending Freedom took up Phillips’ case in court. He lost before an administrative judge in 2013, who ruled that the state could determine when his rights to free speech unlawfully infringed upon others’ rights.

Phillips then appealed his case to the state’s human rights commission, which ruled against him. He appealed again to the state’s court of appeals, which also ruled against him. The Colorado Supreme Court did not take up Phillips’ case.

The case was appealed to the Supreme Court. It was re-listed repeatedly throughout the winter and spring of 2017, before the Court finally decided to take the case in June, at the end of its term.

Once the case is decided at the Supreme Court, the ruling is expected to cap one of the most decisive religious freedom cases of this century.

“It has been said, and I think accurately so, that this could be one of the most important First Amendment cases in terms of free speech and the free exercise of religion in a century or more, and it could be a landmark, seismic kind of case of First Amendment jurisprudence,” Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) stated at a Thursday press conference at the U.S. Capitol.

As state amendments defining marriage as between one man and one woman were declared unconstitutional by the court in Obergefell v. Hodges in 2013, states have also begun enforcing laws against discrimination on basis of sexual identity. The conscientious refusal of certain business owners, like florists and bakers, to serve same-sex weddings has been ruled unlawful in several states, including Colorado.

In Phillips’ case, he has a right to freedom of expression as an artist, Alliance Defending Freedom has argued, and this right has been recognized as protected by the First Amendment. If the Supreme Court rules in Phillips’ favor in this case, it could have ramifications in other cases where business owners face discrimination lawsuits.

“The Supreme Court has said that things like that [art] are covered under the protection of the First Amendment,” Kristen Waggoner, senior vice president of the U.S. legal division for ADF, stated at the Heritage Foundation panel event.

Throughout the ordeal, Phillips has paid a heavy price for his stand. He has lost 40 percent of his family’s income and more than half his employees, he said.

The initial briefs have been filed with the Supreme Court. Amicus briefs are currently being filed, the opposing briefs will come in October, and the reply of ADF to those briefs the following month. The case will likely be decided late next spring.

ADF has argued in its brief before the Supreme Court that the rulings by the state’s court of appeals and human rights commission that the state can determine which free artistic expression is protected under the First Amendment stands in flagrant opposition to the original meaning of the Constitution.

“But just as the Commission cannot compel Phillips’s art, neither may the government suppress it,” ADF stated.

Instead, the conflict between Phillips’ freedom as an artist and the wishes of his customers should be solved by the citizens themselves, and not by the government, ADF said.

“There is a better way – one that allows the Commission to ensure that businesses do not refuse to serve people simply because of who they are, but protects individuals like Phillips from being forced to create expression about marriage that violates their core convictions,” ADF’s brief stated.

“The path to civility, progress, and freedom does not crush those who hold unpopular views, pushing them from the public square,” ADF said. “It allows free citizens to determine for themselves ‘the ideas and beliefs deserving of expression, consideration, and adherence’.”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, along with the Colorado Catholic Conference, the Catholic Medical Association, and other Catholic non-profits have also weighed in on the case, submitting an amici curiae brief on behalf of Masterpiece Cakeshop.

Religious freedom must never mean just the freedom to worship or the freedom to practice one’s religion in private, the brief said. The First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause “guarantees every individual the right to seek the truth in religious matters and then adhere to that truth through private and public action.”

In an apostolic exhortation on the proclamation of the Gospel, Pope Francis recently insisted that “no one can demand that religion should be relegated to the inner sanctum of personal life, without influence on societal and national life, without concerns for the soundness of civil institutions, without a right to offer an opinion on events affecting society.”

Knights of Columbus raise $1.3 million for storm victims

Tue, 09/12/2017 - 02:02

New Haven, Conn., Sep 12, 2017 / 12:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As Knights of Columbus members volunteer to aid the victims of recent storms, the organization has also raised over $1.3 million to help those affected by Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma.

“We have seen incredible generosity from our members, and we invite others to join us in providing aid that is urgently needed,” Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said in a Sept. 8 statement.

“The funds we raise will make a real difference in the lives of those already affected and those who are bracing for the worst.”

Hurricane Harvey has either damaged or destroyed over 93,000 Texas homes, and state authorities say the death toll has climbed to 70 people. While damage reports are still being conducted, Gov. Greg Abbott estimated that the cost to rebuild will be between $150-180 billion.

Hitting the Florida Keys on Sunday, Hurricane Irma was downgraded to a tropical storm on Monday after passing through Malibu towards southern Georgia. So far the hurricane has killed seven people in the U.S., adding to the 38 lives taken in the Caribbean.

Last week, members of the non-profit global fraternity volunteered to assist in Florida's disaster plan, and Texas Knights have continued to bring aid to victims affected by the Hurricane Harvey.

Already providing shelter for the displaced victims of Texas, the Knights have started to remove debris in order to help people back into their homes. The organization has also provided thousands of meals to Texas residents, including 5,000 in Beaumont and 8,000 in Ingleside.

With the money fundraised from the Knights throughout the U.S., the fraternity has now opened its doors to receive donations from the general public.

The brutal, powerful 9/11 stories of Catholic priests

Mon, 09/11/2017 - 14:20

New York City, N.Y., Sep 11, 2017 / 12:20 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On the clear, sunny morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Fr. Kevin Madigan heard an explosion overhead.

He grabbed oils for anointing, ran out the door of St. Peter's parish in New York City, and wandered towards the center of the commotion – the World Trade Center only a block away.

Fifty blocks uptown, Fr. Christopher Keenan, OFM watched with the world as the smoke rising from the twin towers darkened the television screen. Looking to help, he went to St. Vincent's Hospital downtown to tend to those wounded in the attack – but the victims never came.

All the while, he wondered what had happened to a brother friar assigned as chaplain to the firefighters of New York City: Fr. Mychal Judge, OFM, named by some the “Saint of 9/11.”

Sixteen years ago on this day, hijackers flew planes into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, and the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. In a field in southern Pennsylvania, passengers retook control of the cockpit and crashed the plane before it could reach its intended target, presumed to be in Washington, D.C.  

The consequences of the attacks have rippled throughout the United States as the attacks spurred a new global war on terror and irreversibly changed the country’s outlook on terror, security, and international engagement.

For Fr. Madigan, Fr. Keenan and Fr. Judge, the day changed their own lives and ministries, as a pastor lost nearly his entire congregation, and a friar put himself in harm's way to take on a new position – an assignment he only received because another friar gave the ultimate sacrifice as the Twin Towers came down.

“This experience has seared our soul and our spirit and our life, and it has so seared our spirit and our life that it has penetrated our DNA,” Fr. Keenan told CNA.  

“It has changed our lives and we will never be the same,” he said.

It was like losing a village

On Sept. 11, 2001, Fr. Kevin Madigan had been assigned to St. Peter’s Church in the financial district of Lower Manhattan. The parish is the oldest Catholic Church in New York State, “half a block literally from the corner of the World Trade Center,” Fr. Madigan explained to CNA.

“Prior to 9/11 it was a parish that basically serviced the people who came to the neighborhood who came to Mass or Confession, devotions and things like that.” The parish had a full and well-attended schedule of liturgies and prayers, with multiple Masses said during the morning and lunch hour. September 11th changed that.

“Immediately after 9/11, that community was no longer there, because it was like losing a village of 40,000 people next door.”  

Fr. Madigan was leaving the sanctuary that morning, heading back to the rectory when overhead he heard the first plane hit the towers. Immediately he made his way towards the commotion, looking to minister to anyone who had been hurt by what had happened.  

“I took the oils for anointing anyone who was dying – I didn’t know what was going on there,” he said. However, most of those fleeing the building did not need anointing, Fr. Madigan recalled. “Most people either got out alive or were dead. There weren’t that many people who were in that in-between area.”

Then, there was another explosion from the other tower, and an object – the wheel of an airplane, in fact – went whizzing by Fr. Madigan’s head.

“After the second plane hit I went back to the office and made sure all the staff got out of there fast,” evacuating staff who were unaware of the chaos outside.

Fr. Madigan was back on the street when firefighters began to wonder if the towers might fall.

Thinking it ridiculous, Fr. Madigan kept an eye on a nearby subway entrance, which linked to an underground passage north of the towers. Then, a massive cloud of dust swept towards Fr. Madigan and another priest as the towers did collapse; they ducked into the subway station, emerging amidst the thick smoke and dust several blocks away.

After the towers came down, Fr. Madigan made his way first to the hospital for an emergency health screening, then back to check on St. Peter’s. While he was away from his parish, firefighters and other first responders made use of the sanctuary, temporarily laying to rest over 30 bodies recovered from the wreckage.

The death of Father Mychal

In September of 2001, Fr. Christopher Keenan had been assigned to work with a community ministry program near the parish of St. Francis in midtown Manhattan. At St. Francis, he lived in community along with several other Franciscan Friars, including an old friend he had known for years – Fr. Mychal Judge, chaplain for the Fire Department of New York City. Through Fr. Judge, the Friars became especially close with some of their neighbors at a firehouse across the street, who let the friars park their car at the firehouse.

Although the plane flew overhead, Fr. Keenan told CNA that “like everyone else, we found out while watching TV.” As the friars and brothers watched the events unfold on the television, they saw the second plane hit the South Tower; Fr. Keenan decided to go to St. Vincent’s Hospital – one of the closest medical facilities to the Word Trade Center. At the time, he thought there would be injured people who would need to be anointed or would like someone to hear their confession.

However, once he got to St. Vincent’s he found a long line of doctors, nurses and other responders who had come to help: together they “were all waiting for these people to get out who never came.” Victims were either largely able to walk away on their own, or they never made it to the hospital at all.

Instead, Fr. Keenan told CNA, “my responsibility was after people were treated to contact their family members to come and get them.”

As patients began to go home, Fr. Keenan continued to wonder about his brother friar, Fr. Judge, asking firefighters if they knew what had happened to the chaplain. Fr. Keenan left the hospital in the early evening to go hear confessions, but stopped at the firehouse across the street to ask the firemen if they knew where Fr. Judge was: “they told me his body was in the back of the firehouse.”

The mere fact that his body was intact and present at the firehouse that day was in itself a small miracle, Fr. Keenan said. “Mychal's body that was brought out was one of the only bodies that was intact, recognizable and viewable,” he said. Among those that died in the Twin Towers, he continued, “everyone was vaporized, pulverized and cremated” by the heat of the fire in the towers and the violence of the towers’ collapse. “He was one of the only ones able to be brought out and to be brought home.”

That morning, Fr. Judge had gone along with Battalion 1 to answer a call in a neighborhood close to the Trade Center. Also with the battalion were two French filmmakers filming a documentary on the fire unit. When the towers were hit, the Battalion was one of the first to arrive on the scene. In the film released by the brothers, Fr. Keenan said, “you can see his face and you can tell he knows what’s happening and his lips are moving and you can tell he’s praying his rosary.”

The group entered the lobby of the North Tower and stood in the Mezzanine as the South Tower collapsed – spraying glass, debris and dust throughout the building.

“All the debris roared through the glass mezzanine like a roaring train and his body happened to be blown into the escalators,” Fr. Keenan relayed the experience eyewitnesses told him. In the impact, Fr. Judge hit his head on a piece of debris, killing him almost instantly.  

“All of a sudden they feel something at their feet and it was Mychal, but he was gone.“

Members of the fire department, police department and other first responders carried Fr. Judge’s body out of the wreckage, putting his body down first to run as the second tower collapsed, then again to temporarily rest it at St. Peter’s Church. Members of the fire department brought it back to the firehouse where Fr. Keenan saw his friend and prayed over his body.

Fr. Mychal Judge was later listed as Victim 0001 – the first death certificate processed on 9/11.

Despite the sudden and unexpected nature of the attacks, Fr. Keenan told CNA that in the weeks before his friend’s death, Fr. Judge had a sense his death was near.

“He just had a sense that the Lord Jesus was coming.” On several occasions, Fr. Keenan said, Fr. Judge had told him, “You know, Chrissy, the Lord will be coming for me,” and made other references to his death.

“He had a sense that the Lord was coming for him.”

The grueling aftermath

“There was no playbook for how you deal with something in the wake of something like that,” Fr. Madigan said of the aftermath of 9/11. Personally, Fr. Madigan told CNA, he was well-prepared spiritually and mentally for the senseless nature of the attacks.   

“I understand that innocent people get killed tragically all the time,” he said, noting that while the scale was larger and hit so close to home, “life goes on.” For many others that he ministered to, however, “it did shake their foundations, their trust and belief in God.”  

While the attacks changed the focus of his ministry as a parish priest at the time, they also posed logistical challenges for ministry and aid: St. Peter’s usual congregation of people who worked in and around the World Trade Center vanished nearly overnight. Instead, the whole area was cordoned off for rescue workers and recovery activities as the city began the long task of sorting and removing the debris and rubble.

In addition, a small chapel named St. Joseph's Chapel, which was cared for and administered by St. Peter’s, was used by FEMA workers as a base for recovery activities during the weeks after the attack. During that time, the sanctuary was damaged and several structures of the chapel, including the pulpit, chairs and interior were rendered unusable. According to Fr. Madigan, FEMA denies that it ever used the space.

Still, the priests at St. Peter's saw it as their duty to minister to those that were there – whoever they were.

“The parish, the church building itself was open that whole time,” he said, saying that anyone who had clearance to be within the Ground Zero area was welcome at the church. In the weeks after the attacks, the parish acted as sanctuary, as recovery workers who were discovering body parts and other personal effects “would come in there just to sort of try to get away from that space.”

“Myself and one of the other priests would be out there each day just to be able to talk to anyone who wants to talk about what’s going on,” he added. “We'd celebrate Mass in a building nearby.”

Today, Fr. Madigan has been reassigned to another parish in uptown Manhattan, and St. Peter’s now has found a new congregation as new residents have moved into the neighborhoods surrounding the former World Trade Center site.

Only two months after the attack, Fr. Keenan took on the role of his old friend, Fr. Judge: he was installed as chaplain for the 14,000 first responders of the the FDNY.

Immediately, Fr. Keenan joined the firefighters in their task of looking for the remains – even the most minute fragments – of the more than 2,600 people killed at the World Trade Center. “The rest of the recovery process then was for nine months trying to find the remains.”  

For the firefighters in particular, there was a drive to find the remains of the 343 firefighters killed at the World Trade Center and help bring closure to the family members. “You always bring your brother home, you never leave them on the battlefield,” Fr. Keenan said.

The resulting amount of work, as well as the “intense” tradition among firefighters to attend all funerals for members killed in the line of duty meant that the job became all-consuming, with all one’s spare time spent at the World Trade Center site. Sometimes, Fr. Keenan said, he would attend as many as four, five, or six funerals or memorials a day – and many families held a second funeral if body parts were recovered from the site.

“Here are the guys, overtime, going to all the funerals, working spare time on the site looking for recovery, and taking care of the families,” he said. “I was 24/7, 365 for 26 months.”

In addition, Fr. Keenan and the rest of the FDNY worked inside “this incredible toxic brew” of smoke, chemicals and fires that burned among the ruins at Ground Zero for months.  

“I would be celebrating Mass at 10:00 on a Sunday morning down there,” he recalled, “and just 30 feet from where I’m celebrating Mass at the cross, the cranes are lifting up the steel.”

While both buildings had contained more than 200 floors of offices, there was “not a trace of a computer, telephones, files, nothing. Everything was totally decimated.” Instead, all that was left was steel, dirt and the chemicals feeding the fires that smouldered underground in the footprint of the towers.

“The cranes are lifting up the steel and the air is feeding the fires underneath, and out of that is coming these incredible colors of yellow, black and green smoke, and we all worked in the recovery process.” The experience working the recovery at the World Trade Center site is one that Fr. Keenan considers a “gift” and an “honor.”

“It was an incredible experience really,” he said.

Fr. Keenan recounted a conversation the firefighters had with him a few days after he was commissioned. After pledging to “offer my life to protect the people and property of New York City,” the other firefighters told their new chaplain “we know you’re ours, don’t you forget that every one of us is yours,” promising to stand by their new shepherd. “I’m the most loved and cared for person in the world and who has it better than me?”

While the formal recovery process has ended and a new tower, One World Trade Center, stands just yards from the original site of Ground Zero, the experience – and the chemicals rescue workers came in contact with for months – still affect the firefighters.

In 2016 alone, “we put 17 new names on the wall,” said Fr. Keenan, “who died this past year from of the effects of 9/11.” He explained that in the years following the attack, thousands of rescuers and first responders – including Fr. Keenan himself, have developed different cancers and illnesses linked to their exposure at the World Trade Center site. In fact, at the time of the interview in 2016, Fr. Keenan had just returned from a screening for the more than 20 toxic chemicals the responders were exposed to. He warned that the “different cancers and the lung problems that are emerging are just the tip of the iceberg,” and worried that as time progressed, other cancers and illnesses linked to the attack recovery would emerge.

The first responders are also dealing with the psychological fallout of the attacks among themselves, Fr. Keenan said, though many are dealing with it in their own way, and with one another.

Looking back, Fr. Keenan told CNA he still finds it difficult to express the experience to others or to make sense of what it was like when he would go down into “the pit” to work alongside the firefighters and other first responders. “The only image I had as time went on and I asked ‘how do I make sense of this as a man of faith?’ is that it was like I was descending into hell and I was seeing the face of God on the people that were there.”

The same image had come to his mind to make sense of taking care of patients with AIDS in the 1990s he said, even though nothing can fully make sense of events like these.

“I was like a midwife to people in their birthing process from life to death to new life,” he recalled. “All I can do is be present there, they have to do the work, I can be present there I can pray with them.”

“That’s how in faith I kind of sort of comprehended it.”


This article was originally published on CNA Sept. 11, 2016.

Want peace? Teach kids how to dialogue, archbishop says

Sat, 09/09/2017 - 02:01

New York City, N.Y., Sep 9, 2017 / 12:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Peace is something that must begin in childhood, the Holy See's representative told the United Nations, stressing the need for children to be educated in a “culture of encounter.”  

“The promotion of a culture of peace among children is crucial for a future of peace. Key to installing this value in children is to educate them in a 'culture of encounter,'” said Archbishop Bernadito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN.

This “involves an authentic atmosphere of respect, esteem, sincere listening and solidarity, without the need to blur or lessen one’s identity,” he said.

The archbishop spoke at the High-Level Forum on a Culture of Peace in New York City on Sept. 7, noting that the forum's focus on childhood development coincides with the 100th anniversary of the first apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima.

He said Our Lady's message of peace is especially relevant today “where violent conflicts, acts of terrorism, utter violations of fundamental human rights and extreme poverty suffocate effort for peace.”

Schools should educate children on civil discourse, or what Pope Francis calls a “grammar of dialogue,” said the archbishop, which allows for a harmony of religious and cultural diversity.

He said this formation will enable children to engage in intellectual conversation and enhance the ability to search for the truth together, thus enabling the culture of peace.

“Such a culture would enable children to respond actively and constructively to the many forms of violence, poverty, exploitation, discrimination, marginalization, and other indignities.”

This culture of encounter begins with an understanding of human dignity, he said, noting that any reduction of this vision of the human person leads to injustice and inequality.

Archbishop Auza said the world’s nations should aim to deter practices that are destructive to the person, including violence and the proliferation of weapons, and should instead promote forgiveness and non-violent resistance.

“In this respect, fostering a culture of peace entails persevering efforts toward disarmament and the reduction of reliance on armed force in the conduct of international affairs.”

The opposite, he said, reinforces conflict and diverts resources away from development and towards military ends.  

“Moreover, a culture of peace can only thrive in a culture of forgiveness. Forgiveness is central to reconciliation and peace-building, because it makes healing and the rebuilding of human relations possible.”

The archbishop said this forgiveness is not a lack of justice, but instead identifies evil as what it is, and involves “the courageous choice of not allowing the wounds of the past to bleed into the present and future.”

And as violence breeds more violence, the injustices against the human person must be fought and rooted out by means of nonviolence, he said.

Quoting Pope Francis's 2017 message for the World Day of Peace, he called peace a gift from God, but said it is also a challenge and commitment because it is a good that needs constant effort “to seek and build.”

In a challenge to the assembly, Archbishop Auza reiterated the call of Saint John Paul II to rise “above the cold status of an administrative institution … to become a moral center” where countries have a home to become a “family of nations.”

NY court unanimously rejects assisted suicide in major pro-life victory

Fri, 09/08/2017 - 18:43

Albany, N.Y., Sep 8, 2017 / 04:43 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- New York’s highest court upheld the state’s ban on assisted suicide Thursday, in what Catholic leaders have called an important pro-life victory for the state.

The New York State Court of Appeals ruled unanimously Sept. 7 to uphold the state’s law which bans physicians from providing life-ending drugs to terminally ill patients.

Catholic leaders welcomed the decision, noting it was in part the result of the combined work of the Church together with numerous other advocacy groups which oppose assisted suicide.

The written decision was “very strong, they shot this down from all angles,” Kathleen Gallagher with the New York State Catholic Conference told CNA.

“Unanimously the court judges have said very clearly there are rational, legitimate reasons for New York’s ban on assisted suicide, and then they list them,” she said. “Prevention of suicide in general, the ethical integrity of the medical profession, the preservation of life - (they name) all these rational reasons why we have this law in place.”

Edward Mechmann, Director of Public Policy for the Archdiocese of New York, said he was “a little flabbergasted that the court ruled so strongly, and that their opinions were so well will take away some of the momentum from the assisted suicide advocates.”

“It was unanimous - all the lower courts were unanimous too - they haven’t gotten a single judge in New York to agree with them,” he told CNA.

“We don’t win too many pro-life victories in New York, so this is really very good for us.”

While the idea of legalized assisted suicide has gained momentum in several states in the past few years, this decision is significant because it “shows that it’s not inevitable that this is going to happen,” Mechmann added.

Assisted suicide is currently legal in Colorado, Vermont, Washington, California, Oregon, and the District of Columbia. The State Supreme Court of Montana decriminalized assisted suicide for physicians in 2009.

The plaintiffs in the case included three terminally ill people, two of whom have since died, some physicians who said that they have been approached by patients requesting life-ending drugs, and advocacy group End of Life Choices. They argued that mentally competent, terminally ill patients have a right to “medical aid-in-dying” and that it should legally be recognized as a medical treatment rather than as suicide.

In their decision, the court said that while they upheld a patient’s right to deny extraordinary medical treatment to prolong their lives, they rejected the claim that “aid-in-dying” is different than suicide.

“Aid-in-dying falls squarely within the ordinary meaning of the statutory prohibition on assisting a suicide,’’ the decision stated. “The assisted suicide statutes apply to anyone who assists an attempted or completed suicide. There are no exceptions.’’

Together with the Archdiocese of New York, the New York State Catholic Conference had filed an amicus brief with the court, explaining the Church’s reasons for opposing assisted suicide. They also contacted 40 physicians who filed their own briefs with the court, arguing as physicians that legalized assisted suicide would corrupt the practice of medicine.

“We felt that was really important to get the medical community on record” opposing assisted suicide, Gallagher said.

Since the highly-publicized assisted suicide case of Brittany Maynard in 2014, which ignited a global push for legalized assisted suicide, Gallagher said the Catholic Conference has been preparing to oppose such measures in New York. The conference has partnered with numerous other groups, including physicians, disability groups, hospice groups and patients rights advocacy groups, who all oppose assisted suicide for various reasons.

“We’ve worked hard with other organizations to fight this so that it wouldn’t just be the Catholic Church, and it has worked really well,” she said.

Together, these organizations formed the advocacy group New York Alliance Against Assisted Suicide, whose collaboration on legal and educational projects continues to strengthen and grow, Gallagher said.

“The Church speaks from its moral teachings, but that’s not always persuasive in the legislative arena, (so it’s) extremely helpful to have these other voices.”

But the fight is far from over. Both Gallagher and Mechmann said they anticipate that advocacy groups will continue to push legalized assisted suicide in the upcoming legislative sessions.

To that end, Gallagher and Mechmann said much more needs to be done when it comes to raising awareness of and providing education on the issue and among Catholics.

One of the biggest misconceptions about assisted suicide, Mechmann said, is that most people think it is about alleviating the physical suffering of the dying, when in reality, most pain can be managed with palliative care. Most people who choose assisted suicide cite a feeling of a loss of meaning, and the desire to not be a burden on loved ones.

The solution to this suffering is not death, Mechmann noted, but the support of friends and family.

“It’s really what the Holy Father talks about when he talks about accompaniment – we need to assure people that their family and their community and their parish will stand with them and walk with them when the end of life approaches,” he said.

“It’s a real challenge to us lay people as Catholics, we really have to step up and make sure that our family and friends know that we’ll be with them, that’s ultimately the solution.”

He added that the archdiocese has put together educational forums on the issue, including legal analysis and explanations of assisted suicide as well as real-life stories from the terminally ill who have rejected assisted suicide, or people who have experienced a good death of a loved one.

“We try to tell people the other side of the story, which is the people who have had good and holy deaths, and how beautiful and what a moment of grace that is for family members,” he said.

“That’s a message that resonates with people.”

Barred from disaster relief, damaged Texas churches sue government

Fri, 09/08/2017 - 02:02

Washington D.C., Sep 8, 2017 / 12:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Texas churches damaged by Hurricane Harvey filed a lawsuit against the Federal Emergency Management Agency, claiming they have been denied disaster relief grants due to their religious status.

“After the costliest and most devastating natural disaster in U.S. history, the government should come to the aid of all, not leave important parts of the community underwater,” said Diana Verm, counsel at Becket, a non-profit religious liberty law firm representing the churches.

“Hurricane Harvey didn't cherry-pick its victims; FEMA shouldn't cherry-pick who it helps.”

Hurricane Harvey, which ravaged the Texas coast in recent weeks, brought severe flooding to Southeast Texas, resulted in the deaths of over 60 persons, displaced 30,000, and damaged or destroyed homes throughout the region. It has reportedly caused billions of dollars of damage.

Becket filed a lawsuit against FEMA in a Houston federal court. In a complaint filed on Monday, three Texas churches – Harvest Family Church of Cypress, Tex., Hi-Way Tabernacle in Cleveland, Tex., and Rockport First Assembly of God in Rockport, Tex. – said that FEMA unlawfully denied them grants for disaster relief simply because of their religious status.

FEMA's disaster relief policy states that “[f]acilities established or primarily used for political, athletic, religious, recreational, vocational, or academic training, conferences, or similar activities are not eligible” for grants.

Yet other non-profit community centers are eligible for grants, Becket says. And churches, some of which have helped distribute FEMA aid, need relief grants to make serious repairs.

“We're just picking up the pieces like everyone else. And we just want to be treated like everyone else,” said Paul Capehart of Harvest Family Church.

“Our faith is what drives us to help others. Faith certainly doesn’t keep us from helping others, and we’re not sure why it keeps FEMA from helping us.”

The churches' complaint claims that their eligibility for disaster relief is protected under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, that they cannot be denied relief simply because of their religious status.

And churches have been actively helping distribute disaster relief. One of the churches in the lawsuit, HiWay Tabernacle, “is currently in use as a shelter for dozens of evacuees, a warehouse for disaster relief supplies, a distribution center for thousands of emergency meals, and a base to provide medical services,” the complaint stated. Over 8,000 FEMA emergency meals have been handed out at the church’s facilities.

And other non-profit facilities are eligible for disaster relief, like “community centers,” the complaint said, so religious non-profits shouldn’t be excluded from grants.

The churches are in need of serious repairs, the complaint said. For instance, Rockport First Assembly of God saw its roof and its internal lighting and insulation destroyed. Serious flood damage also occurred at Hi-Way Tabernacle and harvest Family Churches.

FEMA's policy prohibiting churches from receiving disaster relief is also in opposition to the Supreme Court's ruling months ago in the Trinity Lutheran case, Becket argued.

Then the court had ruled in favor of a Lutheran church, which had applied for a state program that would reimburse it for resurfacing the playground of its school with material made from recycled tires.

Becket said that court's decision was “protecting the right of religious organizations to participate in generally available programs on equal footing with secular organizations.”

The court's majority opinion did contain a footnote stating that the decision was about “discrimination based on religious identity with respect to playground resurfacing,” and did not “address religious uses of funding or other forms of discrimination.”

Justices Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas wrote a concurring opinion, pointing out that the footnote in question could be misinterpreted.

“I worry that some might mistakenly read” the footnote to apply only to “'playground resurfacing' cases, or only those with some association with children’s safety or health, or perhaps some other social good we find sufficiently worthy,” Gorsuch wrote.

He said that “the general principles here do not permit discrimination against religious exercise – whether on the playground or anywhere else.”

'Outrageous and insulting' – US bishops reject Bannon's immigration remarks

Thu, 09/07/2017 - 18:22

Washington D.C., Sep 7, 2017 / 04:22 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. bishops’ conference on Thursday sharply rejected claims by former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon that the bishops support undocumented immigrants in order to fill churches and make money.

“It is preposterous to claim that justice for immigrants isn’t central to Catholic teaching. It comes directly from Jesus Himself in Matthew 25, ‘For I was hungry and you gave me food…a stranger and you welcomed me,’” said James Rogers, chief communications officer for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. 

“Immigrants and refugees are precisely the strangers we must welcome,” he said in a statement Thursday.

Bannon, who was the White House chief strategist before leaving the Trump administration on Aug. 18, told CBS News’ “60 Minutes” host Charlie Rose, in an interview set to air on Sunday evening, that he thought the U.S. bishops support illegal immigration because of a cynical “economic interest.”

When asked by Rose about the Trump administration’s announcement that they would be phasing out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA), Bannon defended the decision. Rose pressed Bannon on it, noting that he is a Catholic and that Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York – among other Church leaders – opposed the administration’s ending of the program. 

“The Catholic Church has been terrible about this,” Bannon said, in comments reported on on Thursday morning. 

The bishops, he said, “need illegal aliens to fill the churches” and “have an economic interest in unlimited immigration, unlimited illegal immigration.”

He added that, on immigration, “this is not about doctrine. This is about the sovereignty of a nation.”

Rogers, speaking for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said on Thursday afternoon that Bannon’s claim of the bishops having an “economic interest” in “unlimited illegal immigration” was “outrageous and insulting.”

“The Bible is clear: welcoming immigrants is indispensable to our faith,” Rogers said.

And the bishops advocating on behalf of those who will be affected by the end of DACA, he said, “is nothing more than trying to carry out that seemingly simple, but ultimately incredibly demanding, commandment.”

DACA was a program begun by the Obama administration in 2012. Eligible immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children, by their parents, and who did not have a criminal record, could participate in the program. 

Beneficiaries of DACA could receive a stay of deportation for two years. In that time, they could apply for benefits like a work authorization or eligibility for Social Security, and could work to extend their stay in the U.S. Among other requirements, beneficiaries, or “Dreamers,” had to have lived in the U.S. for five years and been brought by their parents to the U.S. before the age of 16.

The Trump administration announced on Tuesday that it would be ending the program in six months, and phasing it out in the meantime. An estimated 800,000 persons were benefitting from DACA.

In a statement on Tuesday, leading U.S. bishops called the planned termination of DACA “reprehensible.”

“These youth entered the U.S. as minors and often know America as their only home,” the bishops’ statement read. “Now, after months of anxiety and fear about their futures, these brave young people face deportation. This decision is unacceptable and does not reflect who we are as Americans.”

In comments reported on Thursday, Bannon said that rhetoric manifested a desire by the bishops to promote illegal immigration to deal “with the problems in the church.”

However, the bishops’ advocacy for immigrants is at the heart of the faith, and is connected to other vital issues, Rogers said. 

“The witness of the Catholic bishops on issues from pro-life to pro-marriage to pro-health care to pro-immigration reforms is rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ rather than the convenient political trends of the day,” he said. 

“We are called not to politics or partisanship, but to love our neighbor.”

Concerns of 'anti-Catholic bigotry' as judicial nominee questioned about faith

Thu, 09/07/2017 - 11:25

Washington D.C., Sep 7, 2017 / 09:25 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A Catholic nominee to a federal circuit court faced hostile questions about her faith from U.S. senators on Wednesday, prompting outrage from Catholic leaders.

“This smacks of the worst sort of anti-Catholic bigotry,” Dr. Chad Pecknold, a theology professor at The Catholic University of America, told CNA of questions asked by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) of Amy Comey Barrett, a Catholic lawyer nominated to be a federal circuit court judge.

“Senator Feinstein's shockingly illegitimate line of questioning sends the message that Catholics need not apply as federal judges,” added Ashley McGuire, senior fellow with The Catholic Association.

Barrett, a professor at Notre Dame Law School, appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday at her confirmation hearing to be a United States Circuit Judge for the Seventh U.S. Court of Appeals.

In the past, Barrett had clerked for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, and has twice been honored as “Distinguished Professor of the Year” at Notre Dame.

However, as she appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, some of the pointed questions directed at her by Democratic senators focused on how her Catholic faith would influence her decisions as a judge on cases of abortion and same-sex marriage.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), ranking member of the committee, told Barrett outright that her Catholic beliefs were concerning, as they may influence her decisions as a judge on abortion rights.

“Why is it that so many of us on this side have this very uncomfortable feeling that dogma and law are two different things, and I think whatever a religion is, it has its own dogma. The law is totally different,” Feinstein said.

“And I think in your case, professor, when you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you. And that’s of concern.”

Feinstein began her round of questions by personally complimenting Barrett that she was “amazing to have seven children and do what you do,” but then called her “controversial” when she began to address Barrett’s record in law, “because you have a long history of believing that your religious beliefs should prevail” over the law.

“You’re controversial because many of us that have lived our lives as women really recognize the value of finally being able to control our reproductive systems,” she said. “And Roe entered into that, obviously.”

Barrett repeatedly said that as a judge, she would uphold the law of the land and would not let her religious beliefs inappropriately alter her judicial decisions.

At the beginning of the hearing, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), chair of the committee, asked Barrett: “When is it proper for a judge to put their religious views above applying the law?”

“Never,” Barrett answered. “It’s never appropriate for a judge to impose that judge’s personal convictions, whether they derive from faith or anywhere else, on the law.”

Feinstein’s “anti-Catholic bigotry” in her questions to Barrett “is especially chilling because it defames and slanders such an accomplished woman in the legal guild,” Pecknold said.

Feinstein “reveals herself to be the sort of ideologue who never considers the substance of her interlocutor’s actual legal decisions, but rather projects false ideologies onto everyone who disagrees with her party on any point,” Pecknold charged.

In 1998, Barrett co-authored an article in the Marquette Law Review with then-Notre Dame law professor John Garvey, now the president of The Catholic University of America. The article focused on Catholic judges in death penalty cases.

Catholic judges, if their consciences oppose the administering of the death penalty, should, in accordance with federal law, recuse themselves from capital cases where a jury recommends a death sentence, Garvey and Barrett wrote. They should also recuse themselves from cases without a jury where they have the option of granting a death sentence, they wrote.

On Wednesday, Barrett was asked repeatedly about this article, published 19 years ago, and whether she still agreed with it today. Barrett answered that she was still a third-year law student during the article’s publication, and “was very much the junior partner” in writing it with her professor.

“Would I, or could I, say that sitting here today, that article in its every particular, reflects how I think about these questions today with, as you say, the benefit of 20 years of experience and also the ability to speak solely in my own voice? No, it would not,” she answered Senator Grassley’s opening question on the article.

She added that she still upholds “the core proposition of that article which is that if there is ever a conflict between a judge’s personal conviction and that judge’s duty under the rule of law, that it is never, ever permissible for that judge to follow their personal convictions in the decision of a case rather than what the law requires.”

Senator Grassley asked her later how she would recuse herself as a judge in a case, if necessary.

“Senator, I would fully and faithfully apply the law of recusal, including the federal recusal statute, 28 U.S.C. § 455, the canons of judicial conduct,” she replied, but added that “I can’t think of any cases or category of cases in which I would feel obliged to recuse on grounds of conscience.”

Garvey, in a Thursday op-ed in the Washington Examiner, explained the article’s conclusion in cases where judges face a conflict of interest between their own conscience and the law.

“Law professors less scrupulous than Prof. Barrett have suggested that sometimes judges should fudge or bend (just a little bit) laws that every right-thinking person would find immoral. In our article we rejected that course of action,” he said, pointing instead to the federal recusal statute.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) then grilled Barrett over her use of the term “orthodox Catholic” in the article, implying that she did not think persons who dissent from Church teaching on marriage to be real Catholics.

“I’m a product of 19 years of Catholic education. And every once in a while, Holy Mother the Church has not agreed with a vote of mine. And has let me know,” he told Barrett. “You use a term in that article – or you both use a term in that article -- I’d never seen before. You refer to ‘orthodox Catholics.’ What’s an orthodox Catholic?”

Barrett pointed to a footnote in the article that admitted it was “an imperfect term,” and that the article was talking about the hypothetical case of “a judge who accepted the Church’s teaching” on the death penalty and had a “conscientious objection” to it.

“Do you consider yourself an orthodox Catholic?” Durbin asked Barrett, who replied that “I am a faithful Catholic,” adding that “my personal Church affiliation or my religious belief would not bear in the discharge of my duties as a judge.”

Durbin then said that “there are many people who might characterize themselves ‘orthodox Catholics,’ who now question whether Pope Francis is an ‘orthodox Catholic.’ I happen to think he’s a pretty good Catholic.”

“I agree with you,” Barrett replied, to which Durbin responded, “Good. Then that’s good common ground for us to start with.”

He also asked Barrett how she would rule on a case involving a “same-sex marriage,” given the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissent from the 2013 Obergefell decision that legalized same-sex marriage.

“From beginning to end, in every case, my obligation as a judge would be to apply the rule of law, and the case that you mentioned would be applying Obergefell, and I would have no problem adhering to it,” she said.

Durbin’s questions of Barrett’s faith were also disturbing, Pecknold said.

“So faithful Catholic is interchangeable with Orthodox Catholic. The fact that one definition is acceptable to Sen Durbin but one is not tells you that he thinks one can dissent from the Church's teaching and be orthodox and faithful.”

“But why is a politician interested in that question when the only concern should be whether the nominee is a superb interpreter of the law? How has this become a religious inquisition rather than an adjudication of legal competence for the bench?” he asked.

“I submit that the real dogmatists in the room are the ones mounting an inquisition against one of the nation's great legal scholars.”

Other Catholic leaders decried the questioning of Barrett’s faith.

“Such bigotry has no place in our politics and reeks of an unconstitutional religious test for qualification to participate in the judiciary. What these Senators did today was truly reprehensible,” said Brian Burch, president of

“Imagine the universal outrage had a nominee of a different faith been asked the same questions; there is clearly a double standard at work,” commented Maureen Ferguson, senior policy advisor with The Catholic Association.

Garvey, in his op-ed for the Examiner, wrote that “I suspect what really troubled” Durbin and Feinstein “was that, as a Catholic, her [Barrett’s] pro-life views might extend beyond criminal defendants to the unborn.”

“If true, the focus on our law review article is all the more puzzling,” he wrote. “After all, our point was that judges should respect the law, even laws they disagree with. And if they can't enforce them, they should recuse themselves.”


A bioethicist's take on child cancer treatment that uses gene therapy

Thu, 09/07/2017 - 05:02

Washington D.C., Sep 7, 2017 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A genetic modification therapy designed for treating pediatric leukemia has drawn both praise and caution from a Catholic bioethicist, after recently being approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

While a “promising” use of gene modification technology, the treatment still has potentially deadly side effects - which could make the risks outweigh the benefits, says Fr. Tadeusz Pacholczyk, Ph.D., of the National Catholic Bioethics Center.

Gene therapies have garnered public attention for their potential medical significance, and because of problematic research procedures surrounding their development and the moral questions they raise.

However, the new treatment, called Kymriah, is a hopeful development and a morally licit use of genetic modifications in medicine, Fr. Pacholczyk told CNA.  

Because the therapy only uses matured cells from the patient, Fr. Pacholczyk explained, it does not entail the same ethical problems as other forms of gene therapy under investigation – including therapies which destroy human embryos or make modifications of cells which can be passed onto future generations. Instead, developing therapies which make “genetic changes to help our immune system do better what it is supposed to do, namely identifying and eliminating various dangers from the body, is a praiseworthy goal,” he said.

“To the extent that side effects can be limited or controlled, the therapy appears to be very promising, with reports of high success rates in slowing or even eliminating certain childhood cancers like pediatric acute lymphoblastic lymphoblastic leukemia,” Fr. Pacholczyk said.

Kymriah, developed by drug company Novartis, is a highly personalized form of immunotherapy called CAR T-cell therapy. The procedure, short for “Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-cell Therapy,” takes a person’s T-cell – a kind of white blood cell – and genetically modifies it to contain a new kind of protein.

This protein, called a chimeric antigen receptor, or CAR, helps detect certain kinds of cancer cells. When the body’s T-cells are reintroduced to the body, they are now able to find and kill the cancer cells.

The treatment is specialized to attack a kind of pediatric cancer called acute lymphoblastic lymphoblastic leukemia, or ALL. ALL is a bone marrow and blood cancer, and is one of the most common childhood cancers in the United States.

According to the FDA, over 3,000 patients under the age of 20 are diagnosed with ALL each year. The treatment will be offered to patients who have not responded to other existing treatments, or those whose cancer has returned after initial treatment.

Fr. Pacholczyk emphasized that there are some ethical concerns doctors and patients considering this treatment should investigate, particularly the potential for side effects the treatment can cause in some individuals.

“One ethical concern raised by this therapy centers on the question of whether the risks may be greater than the benefits for particular patients,” he said.

In some patients, treatment with Kymriah can cause a severe immune response. Sometimes, when the white blood cells are rewritten, they can lead to a severe immune response called cytokine release syndrome, or CRS, when they are reintroduced. Symptoms of this syndrome can include high fever, flu symptoms, dangerously low blood pressure, and organ damage. It can also cause neurological symptoms, including swelling of the brain, which can be fatal.

In light of these dangerous side effects, the FDA also approved the expansion of use of an immune suppressing drug for treatment for CRS. The drug has shown to be an effective treatment for CRS after treatment with CAR-T cells. The FDA will also require Novartis to continue monitoring Kymriah after its release for long-term side effects and other harmful side effects.

With the control of the dangerous side effects, and weighing the risks of the treatment against its benefits, however, the new gene therapy looks “promising,” Fr. Pacholczyk said.

Did this group lose its fundraising page because of its view on marriage?

Wed, 09/06/2017 - 17:57

Lake Charles, La., Sep 6, 2017 / 03:57 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A non-profit group dedicated to studying and explaining the effects of the sexual revolution claims that its ability to process donations online was cancelled because of its views on sexuality.

“The Ruth Institute's primary focus is family breakdown and its impact on children: understanding it, healing it, ending it. If this makes us a ‘hate group,’ so be it,” Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, founder of the Ruth Institute, said on Friday.

Morse said that on Aug. 31 she received a letter from Vanco Payments, which processed the Ruth Institute’s donations online, telling her that the service would be discontinued that day.

The reason Vanco gave for cutting their service was that the Ruth Institute “has been flagged by Card Brands as being affiliated with a product/service that promotes hate, violence, harassment and/or abuse. Merchants that display such attributes are against Vanco and Wells Fargo processing policies.”

“We surmise that Vanco dropped us because we hold views about marriage, family and human sexuality that are considered ‘Anti-LGBT’,” Morse said.

Vanco did not reach out to discuss or inquire about allegations that the institute “promoted hate, violence, harassment, and/or abuse,” prior to sending the Ruth Institute a notice that service was being terminated, she said.

“We’ve never had any incidents or problems” with Vanco, Morse told CNA of their years-long relationship with the payment service. She said that the sudden termination of service without any prior notice was “rude” and “uncivil.”

Asked about the decision to cut ties with the Ruth Institute, a Vanco representative on Sept. 1 told CNA, “Vanco depends on the assessment of its banking partners to guide its decisions on continuing customer relationships that those partners believe violate processing policies. Accordingly, based on that assessment, we terminated our processing relationship with the Ruth Institute on Thursday, August 31.”

On Sept. 5, the representative retracted that statement, and issued a new statement saying, “Vanco terminated its processing relationship with the Ruth Institute on Thursday, August 31. Otherwise, we have no additional comment on the issue.”

Vanco did not specify how it had determined that the Ruth Institute “promoted hate, violence, harassment, and/or abuse,” Morse said. However, groups including the Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD, and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) have criticized the Ruth Institute’s stance against same-sex marriage.

The SPLC was founded in 1971 and originally monitored persons and groups fighting the civil rights movement. It began to track racist and white supremacist groups like neo-Nazis and affiliates of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1980s. It also claims to monitor other “extremist” groups like “anti-immigrant” and “anti-Muslim” groups.

More recently, the SPLC has listed mainstream Christian groups like the Family Research Council and Alliance Defending Freedom as “hate groups” for their “anti-LGBT” stance. The Ruth Institute has also been included in this list by SPLC.

The Ruth Institute has faced consequences for this designation. Morse told the National Catholic Register that the institute was denied its application for the “Amazon Smile” program, which sends portions of purchases to charities in the program, because of the SPLC’s “hate” designation.

SPLC has recently faced questions regarding its financial administration, after reports that the non-profit has transferred millions of dollars to offshore accounts and investment firms.

Morse voiced concern that one group like SPLC holds so much power in the public sphere for its designations.

Still, she said, the Ruth Institute will not be deterred in its mission of speaking out against “the sexual revolution in all its forms” – from divorce to the hookup culture to same-sex marriage – because these things are harmful to the human person.

“What the sexual revolution promotes is irrational,” she said.


Judge temporarily blocks Texas' 'dismemberment abortion' ban

Wed, 09/06/2017 - 02:04

Austin, Texas, Sep 6, 2017 / 12:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A federal judge on Thursday temporarily blocked part of a Texas law that bans dilation-and-evacuation abortions in the second trimester.

“While some pro-lifers may be tempted to despair at today’s ruling, this is the first step in a longer and consequential legal battle over this dynamic and historic legislation,” Texas Right to Life said in an Aug. 31 statement.

The group said the important question is “whether this type of procedure is something Texas has the right to prohibit,” not how it will affect women and the abortion industry, as the plaintiffs’ lawyers have said.

The abortion rule in question bars “dismemberment abortions,” which use forceps and other instruments to remove the fetus from the womb, the Associated Press reports. Critics of the law say “dismemberment abortion” is not a medical term.

Texas Right to Life, however, defended the law.

“The Dismemberment Abortion Ban outlaws a specific abortion procedure in which a living preborn child is killed by being torn limb from limb in utero,” the group said.

The Center for Reproductive Rights, which is a party to the lawsuit challenging the measure, says the procedure is the safest and most common way to perform an abortion in the second trimester of pregnancy.

U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel granted the temporary restraining order on the law Aug. 31, saying it was in the public interest to preserve the status quo and allow the parties to the case to put the constitutional questions on record “without subjecting plaintiffs or the public to any of the act’s potential harms.”

The judge has set a Sept. 14 hearing on the case.

Texas Right to Life said the law is defensible under the 2007 U.S. Supreme Court ruling Gonzales v. Carhart, which says states have a “compelling interest in protecting the integrity and ethics of the medical profession and in protecting the life of the preborn child.”

Courts have blocked similar laws in Alabama, Kansas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma.

The abortion ban is part of Senate Bill 8, which was passed this year response to a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down a 2013 state law that helped close more than half of Texas’ abortion clinics. There are now about 20 abortion clinics in the state, compared to 41 in 2012.

Bishop Tobin: Ending DACA shatters lives. So does abortion.

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 21:38

Providence, R.I., Sep 5, 2017 / 07:38 pm (CNA).- Many Americans are justifiably outraged at the lives that will be shattered by the cancellation of DACA – but that same sentiment should extend to the unborn lives cut short by abortion, said Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence, R.I.

In a Sept. 5 Facebook post entitled “Other Children Have Dreams Too,” Bishop Tobin noted that he and his fellow bishops have been clear in opposing President Donald Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA).

“The President’s decision is a terribly shortsighted approach to a very complex problem. It will cause enormous division in our country and will short-circuit the dreams of many children and young people who were brought to this great country by their parents seeking only security, peace and prosperity,” the bishop said.

“At the same time, I wonder about the stunning lack of concern and compassion for the many unborn children who also don’t have a chance to live in our country because their lives are terminated by the cruel and violent practice of abortion,” he continued.

“They don’t have legal protection either. Their dreams are short-circuited too,” Bishop Tobin said. “What happened to the consistent ethic of life? Where’s the outrage on their behalf? Where’s the Governor on this issue? Where’s our Congressional delegation?”

The bishop’s comments follow Tuesday’s announcement by Attorney General Jeff Sessions that the Trump administration, in an anticipated move, would be ending DACA, which had begun in 2012 under the Obama administration.

Under the program, eligible immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as minors by their parents could receive a two-year stay on their deportation. In that time period, they could be eligible for work permits and Social Security.

Congress had several times tried and failed to pass a bill that would help young immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally before the age of 16 to lawfully remain in the U.S. and even have a path to citizenship.

On Tuesday, the administration announced it would end DACA by phasing it out. Sessions said that it was an unconstitutional overreach of executive power, especially since Congress refused several times to grant such benefits to undocumented immigrants.

Sessions also blamed the program for contributing to the recent surge in unaccompanied minors coming to the U.S.-Mexico border from Central America, as well as allowing undocumented immigrants to take jobs that could have been open to U.S. citizens.

Leading U.S. bishops have spoken out against the cancellation of DACA, noting that those covered by the policy did not choose to enter the country illegally, see the U.S. as the only home they have ever known, and could face grave danger if they are deported.

Bishops decry Trump administration's decision to end DACA

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 17:23

Washington D.C., Sep 5, 2017 / 03:23 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishops condemned the Trump administration’s decision Tuesday to end a program that benefited hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. as minors.

“The cancellation of the DACA program is reprehensible,” leading U.S. bishops said in a joint statement released Sept. 5.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. bishops' conference, as well as vice president Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, migration committee chair Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, and Bishop Joseph Tyson of Yakima, chair of the subcommittee on pastoral care of migrants, refugees, and travelers, all contributed to the statement on the Trump administration’s ending of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Young immigrants eligible for DACA have worked in the U.S., served in the U.S. military, and attended U.S. educational institutions, the bishops said, yet now “after months of anxiety and fear about their futures, these brave young people face deportation.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions had announced Tuesday morning that the Trump administration, in an anticipated move, would be ending DACA, which had begun under the Obama administration.

Under the program, eligible immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as minors by their parents could receive a two-year stay on their deportation. In that time period, they could be eligible for work permits and Social Security.

The program was announced in 2012 by President Obama and implemented by the Department of Homeland Security, in the memorandum “Exercising Prosecutorial Discretion with Respect to Individuals Who Came to the United States as Children.”

Congress had several times tried and failed to pass the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, or a version of it, that would help young immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally before the age of 16 to lawfully remain in the U.S. and even have a path to citizenship.

The most recent version has been introduced this year by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and would grant permanent legal status to more than 1 million eligible persons.

DACA was expanded to include eligible parents who brought their children illegally to the U.S. in a program called “Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents.” In 2016, the Supreme Court upheld a halt on that program going into effect, and Sessions warned Tuesday that DACA could get struck down in court.

On Tuesday, the administration announced it would end DACA by phasing it out. Sessions said that it was an “unconstitutional” overreach of executive power, especially since Congress refused several times to grant such benefits to undocumented immigrants.

“In other words, the executive branch, through DACA, deliberately sought to achieve what the legislative branch specifically refused to authorize on multiple occasions,” Sessions stated.

Sessions also blamed the program for contributing to the recent surge in unaccompanied minors coming to the U.S.-Mexico border from Central America, as well as allowing undocumented immigrants to take jobs that could have been open to U.S. citizens.

Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke stated that the courts would have overturned DACA, and so the administration was trying to “wind the program down in an orderly fashion that protects beneficiaries in the near-term while working with Congress to pass legislation.”

The bishops, in their statement, called on Congress to pass a law to protect the immigrants who would have been eligible for DACA, and promised to continue advocating for DACA youth.

“We strongly urge Congress to act and immediately resume work toward a legislative solution,” the bishops stated. “As people of faith, we say to DACA youth – regardless of your immigration status, you are children of God and welcome in the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church supports you and will advocate for you.”

Other bishops also issued statements expressing disappointment in the Trump administration’s decision.

Archbishop Gomez, in a separate statement, said “as a pastor” that ending DACA would result in the possible deportation of 800,000 and would be “a national tragedy and a moral challenge to every conscience.”

“It is not right to hold these young people accountable for decisions they did not make and could not make. They came to this country through no fault of their own,” he said. “Most of them are working hard to contribute to the American dream — holding down jobs, putting themselves through college, some are even serving in our nation’s armed forces.”

Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington said that “while the issue of immigration is complicated …  “offering special protection to those who only know the United States as home is a reasonable measure of compassion.”

Hundreds of protesters gathered in front of the White House Tuesday morning to protest the administration’s announcement.

Carlos, 31, of northern Virginia, told CNA he currently works two jobs to pay for his college tuition and is nine months from finishing school. Without his degree, he would not be able to pursue a nursing career, he said.

“DACA protects young immigrants like myself to achieve their full potential,” he said. “The young people of this country are the future, we are the future of America. And everyone that has a dream, everyone that has a purpose that wants to help someone is also a dreamer, not just myself.”

“Dreamers” are not asking for handouts, Edvin, another immigrant protesting the end of DACA, told CNA.

“I came to this country with nothing,” Edvin said, “now I’m trying to give something back to this country. I am a business owner, I became a home owner, and I contribute to this country.”

“We are not asking for money. We are not asking for food or anything else,” he said. “We just want a chance to work here legally. Just give us documentation to do it in a safe way, no hide under the shadows. Just let us be us.”

Fr. Kevin Thompson, OFM Cap., parochial vicar at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart in Washington, D.C., said many DACA recipients are parishioners there.

“They’re just doing so well and advancing,” he said, and are “adding to this country.”

It is vital “to keep families together,” he said. He also pointed to the Old Covenant, at which time God told the Israelites  to “treat the foreigner well, as you were once foreigners in Egypt.”

The Catholic Legal Immigration Network called the announcement a “a heartbreaking disappointment.” Jeanne Atkinson, the group’s executive director, said many young people have benefited from DACA, with 60 percent of those approved for the program contributing to their family’s finances, 45 percent in school, and 16 percent having bought a home.

“Ending DACA will break apart families, throw potentially millions into impoverished living conditions and shatter the dreams of a better life for young people who did nothing wrong,” Atkinson said.

John Garvey, president of the Catholic University of America, said ending DACA without Congress providing a sufficient legislative solution would be problematic.

“Our country's moral quality is measured by the way we treat those who most need our assistance. DACA has given young people a shot at an education and a better life. Elimination without a more comprehensive solution means abandonment,” he said.

Knights of Columbus take action to aid Hurricane Harvey victims

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 15:46

Houston, Texas, Sep 5, 2017 / 01:46 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Local Knights of Columbus councils have taken action after the passage of Hurricane Harvey, rescuing survivors by boat and providing shelter, food and water to others.

Their efforts on the ground are being supported by more than half a million dollars raised so far through the organization’s long-standing disaster relief fund.

“Since Hurricane Harvey hit the Gulf Coast of Texas on August 25, local Knights have been at the forefront or bringing assistance to victims of the disaster, especially those displaced by destructive winds and flooding,” the Knights of Columbus said on their website.

In Dickinson, Texas, members of the Father Roach Council 3217 used boats to help evacuate people stranded in their homes. They helped evacuate a priest from the Shrine of the True Cross.

Richmond Council 7445 aided displaced people at the local parish, providing meals and drinking water until the parish facility was flooded out. In Sealy, the facilities of Father Crann Council 3313 are sheltering nearly 100 evacuees and serving food and clean water.

Also aiding storm victims is the Father Nemec Council 3793, which has provided meals and shelter in Wallis, Texas. In Carrizo Springs, the Rev. Arthur N. Kaler Council 8142 helped feed 300 families.

Members of the Rev. John T. Weyer Council 11343 in Sugar Land, Texas helped home owners repair roofs that suffered tornado damage.

Their actions will be supplemented by the international Catholic fraternity’s disaster relief fund. The organization said in a statement that 100 percent of the funds raised go directly to relief efforts.

The Knights led a multi-million dollar recovery effort after Hurricane Katrina struck Louisiana in 2005. The Supreme Council of the Knights of Columbus also gave $860,000 in humanitarian relief for victims of the 2013 Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, where the organization has tens of thousands of members. In late 2016, in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, Knights of Columbus Charities raised over $100,000.

The Knights of Columbus has about 1.9 million members in over 15,000 councils worldwide. Donations to the disaster relief fund can be made through its website at


God is present, Cardinal DiNardo tells Hurricane Harvey victims

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 14:30

Houston, Texas, Sep 5, 2017 / 12:30 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Amid the immense devastation left behind in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston assured the people that God is with them in their suffering.

“When we survey the loss and devastation, it is natural to wonder how such calamity fits into God’s plan. The problem of suffering is a mystery that is always with us,” Cardinal DiNardo said in a Sept. 2 opinion piece published in the Houston Chronicle.

“However, our Christian faith reminds us that the Lord is never distant from us but is intimately close,” he continued.

Hurricane Harvey tore through the Gulf Coast of Texas late last month, devastating thousands of homes with catastrophic flooding and winds. At least 60 people were killed and more than 30,000 displaced, with billions of dollars reported in property damage.

Cardinal DiNardo offered words of comfort to the devastated communities in Texas, saying that God “hears the prayers of His faithful.”

The Texas cardinal quoted Psalm 69:1-3, which says, “Save me, God, for the waters have reached my neck. I have sunk into the mire of the deep, where there is no foothold.”

“The cry of the psalmist speaks to the danger and distress of recent days along the Texas coast, which have tested the faith of all of God’s children,” Cardinal DiNardo said.

“When it seems that we are on the verge of perishing, we must wake up the Lord in our united prayers for personal need and for all of our brothers and sisters who are suffering.”

While many communities are overwhelmed with the storm’s aftermath, the state has also seen an outpouring of rescue efforts, charitable donations and humanitarian aid.

“In the midst of our darkest hour along the Gulf Coast, the people of Texas have shown humanity’s best face as we step up to the challenge before us,” Cardinal DiNardo said.

“This already can be verified by the overwhelming response of help and charity from the human family as people of every race, class, religion and way of life have united in assistance for one another.”

Although many families and individuals face a long road ahead, the cardinal voiced confidence that God’s providence will ultimately bring about good, despite the suffering and loss that was caused by the storm.

“With the grace of our God, we will run the race before us with energy and joy,” Cardinal DiNardo said, and “we will win.”


'Hello. My name is Mother Teresa. I just wanted to give you my card.'

Mon, 09/04/2017 - 16:54

Denver, Colo., Sep 4, 2017 / 02:54 pm (CNA).- It happened on the most ordinary day, in the most ordinary of places.

A woman stood by herself in the back of an airport lounge, flipping distractedly through a magazine while she waited for her flight. Suddenly, she was approached by a 5’0” woman in a blue and white sari.

“Hello. My name is Mother Teresa. I just wanted to give you my card.”

The religious sister passed her a business card and gave her hand a gentle squeeze before turning and boarding a flight. The woman stared at the card. And then, a smile.

This is one of hundreds of testimonies about the life and holiness of Mother Teresa of Calcutta included in the new book “A Call to Mercy” (Image, 2016). The 384-page book published just weeks ahead of the Calcutta sister’s Sept. 4 canonization.

The book gives an exclusive peek into the first and secondhand oral and written testimonies that built Mother Teresa’s cause for sainthood. In total, the sainthood cause for the Missionary of Charity foundress included 17 volumes – or nearly 7,000 pages – of testimonies.

Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, postulator of Mother Teresa’s cause and editor of “A Call to Mercy,” told CNA that such testimonies are typically unavailable to the public for decades following a canonization.

“This is the first time we’re using testimonies like that in such an organized manner and such a large number,” said Fr. Kolodiejchuk. “All that material will be available maybe in another 50 years. But in the meantime, if you read the examples you’ll see just what Mother did.”

“Some of them are extraordinary, but for the most part Mother is doing ordinary things. Like she herself used to emphasize; Ordinary things with extraordinary love.”

Since Mother Teresa’s canonization coincided with Pope Francis’ Jubilee of Mercy, “A Call to Mercy” also has a special focus on the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. The book is divided into 14 chapters covering the 14 works of mercy. Each chapter includes a selection of Mother Teresa’s writings and testimonies related to a specific work of mercy.

“People will see – or have a good idea – firsthand or at least secondhand about how Mother herself lived the works of mercy,” Fr. Kolodiejchuk said.

A chapter on bearing wrongs patiently includes the testimony of a Missionary of Charity sister who was tasked with bringing Mother Teresa to the airport. The sister had just managed to usher Mother Teresa to the car when another sister ran to Mother Teresa and informed her that one of the children in their care was dying. The Missionary of Charity recalled being flooded with impatience.

“I’m not saying anything, but my body language, my tutting and sighing, says it all,” the sister recalls. “Mother…didn’t tell me off at all or point out my dreadful behavior. She just lovingly put her hand on my arm and said, ‘I will come, but I need to see this child’.”

Mother Teresa went to the child, a young baby, and prayed before tucking a Miraculous Medal into the child’s shirt. She then proceeded to the car to go to the airport.

“She didn’t point out how rude I was being; she embraced me and held me in my rudeness,” the sister reflected. “With all my faults, in that moment, she took care of me too.”

For many, the simplicity of this testimony and many others may come as a surprise. But not to Fr. Kolodiejchuk.

“Most of the examples…are just very ordinary,” Fr. Kolodiejchuk told CNA.  “Almost all of them – we can do those kinds of things. The little thoughtfulness to your neighbor, paying attention to those in need, beginning in your own family.”

For Fr. Kolodiejchuk, the testimonies also paint a fuller picture of the simple affectivity of the saint, whom he knew personally and worked alongside for nearly two decades.

“Someone would meet Mother just once and it would change their life,” he told CNA. “Or they saw her walking by and it was a moment of conversion. She had this graced capacity to really affect people.”

“She radiated holiness and she had the witness of her life behind it.”


This article was originally published on CNA Aug. 25, 2016.


In Labor Day message, bishops call for ordered understanding of work

Mon, 09/04/2017 - 06:01

Washington D.C., Sep 4, 2017 / 04:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In their 2017 statement for Labor Day, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops stressed a properly ordered understanding of work, which prioritizes the worker and the family.

This vision of work must ensure safe working conditions, show solidarity with those in poverty, and seek to emphasize the dignity of the worker rather than solely economic gain, the statement emphasized.

“Economic stresses contribute to a decline in marriage rates, increases in births outside of two-parent households, and child poverty,” said Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development at the U.S. bishops’ conference.

He called for legal safeguards to protect workers’ rights and defend against exploitation.

However, “(l)egal protections cannot solve all problems when the culture itself must also change,” he said, and these changes must extend beyond politics, and aim to recover the understanding of work as “a cooperation with God's creative power.”

The bishop expressed concern that despite a growing economy, there is still a “stagnant or … decreasing [wage] for the vast majority of people” and that the newly generated wealth is only going to a small percentage of people.  

“The dignity of the individual and the demands of justice require, particularly today, that economic choices do not cause disparities in wealth to increase in an excessive and morally unacceptable manner, and that we continue to prioritize the goal of access to steady employment  for everyone,” said the bishop, repeating the words of Benedict XVI in Caritas in veritate.

That encyclical has also been echoed by Pope Francis, the bishop noted, pointing to Francis’ challenge “to confront a twisted understanding of the purposes of labor which does not recognize talents as gifts from God.”

“With such a mindset, it becomes possible to improperly justify economic and societal injustices,” he added, and warned that “merit” can be used to unjustly excuse inequality in the work place.

“The poor person is considered undeserving and therefore to blame. And if poverty is the fault of the poor, the rich are exonerated from doing anything,” said the bishop, repeating the words of Pope Francis.

Seeing wealth as the basis for right or wrong, Bishop Dewane said, opposes the message of the Gospel and aligns itself to the opinions of Job’s friends, who saw Job’s misfortune as the result of his sin.

Pope Francis has said that this view contradicts God’s “gaze of love” which is best reflected in the parable of the Prodigal Son, whose father “thinks no son deserves the acorns that are for the pigs,” even when the son has failed.

However, this potential crisis is also an opportunity to regain the true nature of work, Bishop Dewane said, highlighting the importance of legal protections, unions, and rest.

He said laws should be ordered to protect compensation in wage and injuries, worksite safety, easy access to information on workers’ legal rights, and the right to unionize.

“Migrants and refugees should receive careful consideration,  including the conditions that allow for dignified work and protections against trafficking,” he said, also giving special attention to closing the wage gap between sexes.

Unions must regain the voice of the unheard and be a line of defense for the vulnerable, especially the foreigners and the discarded, he said.

“Thus, the union should resist the temptation of ‘becoming too similar to the institutions and powers that it should instead criticize,’” said the bishop, quoting a statement to the Italian trade unions issued by the Holy Father last month.

Additionally, he said, the whole wellbeing of the worker, including their family life, should be promoted, respecting a proper amount of rest necessary for recovery and a parent’s bonding with their children.

A properly ordered understanding of work is crucial, the bishop said, “not only to understanding our work, but also to coming to know God himself.”

This journalist first told the world about Mother Teresa

Mon, 09/04/2017 - 05:54

Denver, Colo., Sep 4, 2017 / 03:54 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The American reporter who first brought news of Mother Teresa’s work to an international audience still remembers the day in 1966 when he met the nun serving the poor in the slums of Calcutta.

“Certainly she totally deserves to be a saint. In my eyes, she was a saint her entire life,” retired Associated Press reporter Joe McGowan, Jr. told CNA. “She was so humble and yet so pleasant.”

McGowan, 85, was an AP reporter for 42 years who covered wars, revolutions, and earthquakes.

In 1966, he was an AP bureau chief with a huge territory – India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Ceylon, and the Maldives Islands.

Trying to dig up more stories, he was speaking with a newspaper editor in Calcutta about anything unusual or ignored.

“He finally said, ‘Well, there’s that funny little nun who goes around collecting dying people.’ And I knew I had a story,” said McGowan.

The reporter took a bike taxi over to her home for the dying and spent two days with Mother Teresa.

She was dressed in the local sari, the homespun material common to average or poor Indian women.

“There was nothing pretentious about her at all,” McGowan said.

The nun would walk around Calcutta with a two-wheel cart with the help of two hired men.

“They went around picking up dying people,” the reporter recounted.

“In those days there were not enough [hospital] beds in places like Calcutta. So if you were declared terminally ill, your family had to come and take you home so that there was a bed for somebody else,” he said. “If nobody picked you up, they put you on the sidewalk to die.”

Since 1952, Mother Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity sisters had cared for the abandoned and the dying at their Home for the Dying Destitutes. The building, a former Hindu chapel, was divided into two parts, one for men and one for women.

Conditions were cramped.

“They slept on the floor on crude little mats. It was so crowded they couldn’t even get up and go to the bathroom,” McGowan recounted. “I tried to stay out of the way, these people were crammed in there so tight.”

“Under her outstanding care, some of those people recovered and got up and walked out,” he said.

McGowan said he was “extremely impressed” with her work.

“I think that showed in my writing about her.”

His Associated Press account from March 1966 was the first international news story about her.

McGowan said he didn’t know if he could even explain what motivated her.

“She always wanted to do the Lord’s work, I guess she would say.”

“I’m not Catholic, but obviously she is an amazing woman,” he continued. “I just have the highest of respect for her, the work that she did, to work there in the slums of Calcutta.”

The Indian city was a rough place in the 1960s.

“Calcutta is a place all unto itself,” McGowan recollected. “I saw a couple of completely naked women walking the streets, their hair all disheveled. They would see a cigarette butt and they would reach over and pick it up and chew it and eat it.  This was the kind of thing you saw in Calcutta in those days. How they are today, I don’t know.”

Another time he saw a group of students waiting and waiting for a streetcar, growing increasingly angry at the delay.

“They were so mad, when the street car arrived they set it on fire. That meant fewer streetcars for the next day.”

In a world like that, McGowan recalled, Mother Teresa was “very, very calm” and “very unpretentious.”

“She was doing all this work, but it was just her life. She wasn’t bragging about it.”

The people she helped reacted with great appreciation.

“Elsewhere they had not received any aid of any kind,” he said. “It was so unusual in an extremely overpopulated place like India for them to get this kind of attention.”

McGowan continued his reporting career and retired to Broomfield, Colo., a suburb of Denver. He told of his experiences and the people he met in his 2012 book From Fidel Castro to Mother Teresa.

“On the one hand, you had Fidel Castro. On the other hand, you had Mother Teresa: this small nun who was doing – I guess you would have to say – miraculous things for people at the bottom of the societal rung,” he said.

The journalist and the nun reunited when she visited Denver in May 1989. She passed him a written message.

“She gave me a card. In her handwriting, it says ‘Love others as Jesus loves you. God bless you. M. Teresa, M.C.’”

McGowan says it’s among his most treasured possessions.


This article was originally published on CNA Sept. 1, 2016.

Global research project looks at Christian response to persecution

Sun, 09/03/2017 - 05:01

Washington D.C., Sep 3, 2017 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Which Christians face the most persecution around the globe, and how do they respond to it?

The Religious Freedom Institute teamed up with the University of Notre Dame and Georgetown University's Religious Freedom Project to find out.

And what they ended up conducting was the world's first systematic global investigation of the Christian response to persecution, called Under Caesar’s Sword.

This report, funded by the Templeton Religion Trust, was researched over the course of three years by a team of 14 scholars who analyzed more than 30 of the most threatened countries around the world. They examined the patterns of religious persecution, the varieties of responses to persecution, and made recommendations for action against persecution.

“'Under Caesar's Sword' is an effort to discover and draw attention to the ways in which Christian communities around the world respond to the severe violation of their religious freedom,” the project's website said.

“One of the project's signature features is its extensive efforts to disseminate its findings. This is part and parcel of its efforts to raise awareness of and be in solidarity with persecuted Christians.”

The study's major findings were turned into a number of difference resources, including two different educational courses now offered online for free through the Satellite Theological Education Program (STEP) at the University of Notre Dame.

“We are now working to put the findings from the Under Caesar's Sword project (produced together with Dan Philpott at Notre Dame) into the hands of churches and leaders to help them equip their people to understand and respond to persecution of Christians around the world,” Kent Hill, the executive director of the Religious Freedom Institute, said in a press release.

The first program is called Christians Confronting Persecution, which is intended for educators, minister, pastors and adults who are interested in actively encountering “the reality of persecution through the lens of faith.”

The six-week course includes lectures from experts such as Tom Farr, Tim Shah, Daniel Philpott and Kristen Haas, and takes about 3-4 hours of study each week. Those who complete the course will receive certificates of completion which will also prepare them to facilitate the course with others.

The second program is called We Respond, a seven-session lecture series for adult groups, high school students, parishes, and churches who “wish to engage both intellectually and reflectively with the reality of religious persecution today.”

Both of these resources explore how Christian communities respond to persecution, and include videos, Scripture passages, stories and information on how to cultivate solidarity.

According to the project’s website, 76 percent of the world’s population lived in a religiously oppressed country in 2012. Christians were reported to have been harassed in 102 countries in 2013.

“We at the Religious Freedom Institute are seeking to be very concrete in providing very specific ways for our churches, our Christian schools, and the members of our churches to both learn about the plight of Christians in harm’s way and to become aware of what they can do to be of help,” Hill said.

The programs will start online on Sept. 4 and are now open for registration.

California bill seeks to punish 'misgendering' with jail time

Sat, 09/02/2017 - 07:29

Sacramento, Calif., Sep 2, 2017 / 05:29 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A new bill in California would punish the ‘misgendering’ of nursing home and long-term care patients with hefty fines and even jail time.

In February, state senator Scott Wiener introduced SB 219, the “Long-term care facilities: rights of residents” bill, which has already been passed by California’s state senate. After being recommended by the state assembly’s judiciary committee, the bill will now be considered by the California House of Representatives.

If passed into law, the policy would punish nursing home and long-term care workers who refuse to call patients by their preferred pronouns with fines of up to $1,000, or jail time for up to a year, or both.

Besides compelling workers to refer to residents by their preferred pronouns, the bill would also mandate that facilities allow residents room assignments and bathroom preferences based on gender identity rather than biological sex.

Ned Dolejsi, executive director of the California Catholic Conference, told CNA that the bill could unjustly target religious facilities and place excessive burden on an already-heavily regulated industry.

“It would potentially compromise some of the institutions that are religiously sponsored and would not want to be supportive” of gender identity room or bathroom assignments, he said.

He added that it seemed to be solving a problem that wasn’t there, since there haven’t been widespread reports of discrimination based on gender in the state’s nursing home and long-term care facilities.

“In many ways it seems to be a solution looking for a major problem,” he said.  

“That’s certainly one of our concerns – is this just part of a larger ideological drill? Do we have examples of people being mistreated around the state because of their gender experience? It seems that this is more like – let’s fix something that we don’t even know needs fixing.”

Greg Burt, with the California Family Council, testified against SB 219 in July, noting that it would infringe on the First Amendment rights of workers by compelling them to use speech with which they might not agree.

“How can you believe in free speech, but think the government can compel people to use certain pronouns when talking to others?” Burt asked members of the Assembly Judiciary Committee during his testimony.

“Compelled speech is not free speech. Can the government compel a newspaper to use certain pronouns that aren’t even in the dictionary? Of course not, or is that coming next?”

Burt also denounced the bill for lacking any religious exemptions for religiously-affiliated institutions.

“Those proposing this bill are saying, ‘If you disagree with me about my view of gender, you are discriminating against me',” Burt testified. “This is not tolerance. This is not love. This is not mutual respect… True tolerance, tolerates people with different views.  We need to treat each other with respect, but respect is a two-way street. It is not respectful to threaten people with punishment for having sincerely held beliefs that differ from your own.”

Dolejsi said he anticipated that the bill would pass in the legislature sometime in the next week, and would head to the desk of the governor. At that point, the California Catholic Conference would advocate for a veto, based on the burden the bill would place on religious institutions and the industry of nursing and long-term care facilities.

“Our advocacy with the governor will be inviting his veto based on…(the fact that) it doesn’t seem to be sensitive to the many religious organizations that sponsor these particular homes and facilities, and there’s no (religious exemption). And, absent a strong experience out in society for rights being violated in this regard, it seems like this is burdening the state in an industry that’s already challenged.”

Understaffing and under-qualified personnel is a growing problem in nursing home and long-term care facilities throughout the nation, as baby boomers age and the industry struggles to keep up.

While this bill could pave the way for legislation that would apply more broadly, such legislation is already in the works, Dolejsi noted, including a bill that would mandate gender identity training for all state employees.

“That’s the nature of how we’re experiencing this in California,” he said. “It’s like every aspect of public life needs to salute and address concerns of the LGBT folks.”

Dolejsi encouraged concerned Catholics to keep up with the legislation that was being approved, and to contact their elected officials by email or phone to express their concerns. He also encouraged participation in town hall meetings, and persistency in raising their concerns.

“We need practical laws,” he added. “And if there is truly a case of discrimination, then let’s sit down and figure out how to...bring people together and solve it in a way that’s respectful of people’s religious values and expressions and experiences.”