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Updated: 1 hour 53 min ago

Two-thirds of US bishops do not believe women should be ordained deacons

Thu, 01/24/2019 - 19:19

Washington D.C., Jan 24, 2019 / 05:19 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A survey of bishops in the US released this week found that among respondents, 41 percent believe it theoretically possible to ordain women as deacons, and only 33 percent believe this should be allowed.

The survey released by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University (CARA) was sent in September 2018 to 192 bishops, of whom 108 responded, resulting in a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 6.25 percentage points.

The responses regarding the possibility of female diaconal ordination and whether it ought to occur suggest that eight percent of bishops in the US might believe it possible, yet not believe it should be authorized.

Diocesan deacon directors were also surveyed by CARA. Of the 186 deacon directors invited to participate, 133 responded, leading of a margin of error of 4.55 percentage points.

Asked if they believe the USCCB would implement the sacramental ordination of women as deacons were it authorized by the Holy See, 79 percent of bishops and 72 percent of deacon directors responded in the affirmative. Of bishops, 54 percent said they would consider implementation in their own local Church, and 62 percent of deacon directors believed their ordinary would do so.

Twenty-seven percent of bishop and deacon director respondents believe the Church will authorize the sacramental ordination of women as deacons.

Among the bishops, 97 percent agreed strongly or somewhat that their diocese is committed to increasing women's involvement in ecclesial leadership; 86 percent of deacon directors affirmed this.

Asked if it would be helpful to have women deacons in liturgy, word, and charity ministries, most of the bishops responded in the affirmative for each category. Most deacon directors responded affirmatively as well, and all of the deacon directors said women deacons serving in charity ministries would be somewhat or very helpful.

It is to be held definitively that priestly ordination is reserved only to men.

The question of female deacons has recently resurfaced after Pope Francis appointed in August 2016 a commission to look into the historical role of deaconesses in the early Church.

Non-sacramentally ordained deaconesses were part of the early Church, although it is not entirely clear what their role was.

In June 2018, Cardinal Luis Ladaria, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and head of the commission, clarified that “the Holy Father did not ask us to study whether or not women can be deaconesses…but rather, [he asked us] to try to say in a clear way what the problems are and what the situation was in the ancient Church on this point of the women's diaconate.”

Francis has acknowledged that the subject of deaconesses has already been studied by the Church, including a 2002 document on the diaconate from the International Theological Commission, an advisory body to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The document, which gave a thorough historical context of the role of deaconesses in the ancient Church, overwhelmingly concluded that female deacons in the early Church had not been equivalent to male deacons, and had neither a liturgical nor a sacramental function.

The ITC wrote: “a ministry of deaconesses did indeed exist, and that this developed unevenly in the different parts of the Church. It seems clear that this ministry was not perceived as simply the feminine equivalent of the masculine diaconate. At the very least it was an ecclesial function, exercised by women, sometimes mentioned together with that of sub-deacon in the lists of Church ministries.”

In his seminal 1982 work Deaconesses: An Historical Study, referenced several times by the ITC, Aime Martimort wrote that “the Christians of antiquity did not have a single, fixed idea of what deaconesses were supposed to be,” and that “the Greek and Eastern canonists of the Middle Ages were even less able than those of antiquity to know who and what deaconesses were.”

He added that “the continuity of a true ecclesiastical tradition was lacking in the case of deaconesses,” and that their institution “lasted only as long as adult baptisms were the norm” and that “it rapidly became obsolete.”

According to Martimort “the resemblance between the ordination rituals of the deacon and deaconess … should not deceive us,” and that “the various euchologies had already given fair warning that there were significant differences as well as resemblances.”

“During all the time when the institution of deaconesses was a living institution, both the discipline and the liturgy of the churches insisted upon a very clear distinction between deacons and deaconesses.”

Martimort concluded that “the real importance and efficaciousness of the role of women in the Church has always been vividly perceived in the consciousness of the hierarchy and of the faithful as much more braod than the historical role that deaconesses in fact played. And perhaps a proposal based on an 'archeological' institution might even obscure the fact that the call to serve the Church is urgently addressed today to all women, especially in the area of the transmission of Faith and works of charity.”

DC attorney general proposes bill to make clergy madatory reporters

Thu, 01/24/2019 - 15:00

Washington D.C., Jan 24, 2019 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- A new law is to be proposed in the District of Columbia which will broaden the classification of those required to report instances of child abuse or neglect. The bill, the final text of which has yet to be confirmed, would apply to clergy but make exceptions for the sacrament of confession.

Attorney General Karl Racine (D) said that the final version of the bill will be presented to the D.C. Council later this year.

"Teachers, health professionals, and clergy have a special responsibility to protect children, but far too often abuse goes unreported or is covered up," said Racine in a statement to the media.

"To help stop child abuse in the District, this bill requires more adults to report it and trains them on how to spot it."

A spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Washington released a statement saying that the archdiocese was aware of the draft bill but had not yet seen a final version.  Director of Media and Public Relations Chieko Noguchi noted that the archdiocese had “long been supportive” of such policies.

Currently, everyone over the age of 18 in the District of Columbia is required to report suspected or known abuse of a child under the age of 16 to police. Mandatory reporters, however, are subject to enhanced requirements, and can receive thousands of dollars of fines and up to six months in prison for failing to report cases of abuse.

The new law would require training for mandatory reporters so they can better spot abuse and increase penalties for those who fail to report abuse.

The bill would extend to a range of positions and professions across church, state, and private insitutions, but provides explicit exemptions for the confessional, and priests would not be required to report abuse they learned about in that context.

“Ministers shall not be required to report if the basis for their knowledge or belief is the result of a confession or penitential communication made by a penitent directly to the minister, or of any personal observations made by the minister in the course of that communication,” the bill states.

As long as the confession was made “in confidence,” for “expressly for spiritual or religious purposes,” the law would not apply to someone acting in a professional capacity for the church or organization to which the minister belongs.

Violation of the seal of confession is one of the gravest crimes in canon law, priests who do so are subject to a range of penalties, including removal from the clerical state.

A statement from the Archdiocese of Washington said that they were “appreciative” of how the Attorney General’s Office had “shared its views and policies and procedures” for the protection of children as it developed the proposed bill.

The statement from the archdiocese said that it “has for many years trained and required all priests, religious, employees and all volunteers of the archdiocese to serve as mandated reporters, and has long been supportive of policies that required all public and private institutions to meet a similar standard for the protection of young people and the vulnerable in their care.”

Iowa heartbeat abortion law struck down by state judge

Wed, 01/23/2019 - 20:01

Des Moines, Iowa, Jan 23, 2019 / 06:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- An Iowa judge struck down Tuesday a law basing an abortion ban on a fetal heartbeat, blocking the implementation of one of the strictest abortion bans in the U.S.

“I am incredibly disappointed in today’s court ruling, because I believe that if death is determined when a heart stops beating, then a beating heart indicates life,” Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said in a statement.

Polk County District Judge Michael Huppert decided the case immediately because no facts were in dispute, the Des Moines Register said.

His nine-page ruling, issued Jan. 22, cited a 2018 Iowa Supreme Court decision striking down a 72-hour waiting period for abortion, on the grounds that “a woman’s right to decide whether to terminate a pregnancy is a fundamental right under the Iowa Constitution.” He said the law’s defenders didn’t identify a compelling state interest to bar abortions based on when a fetal heartbeat is detected.

The 2018 law would have required any women seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound to determine whether a fetal heartbeat can be detected, a milestone usually detected around the sixth week of pregnancy. The legislation made some exceptions for pregnancies conceived through rape or incest, as well as fetal abnormality, or if a doctor determines that a woman’s life is in danger.

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller declined to defend the law. Lawyers from the Chicago-based Thomas More Society argued on its behalf in court at no expense to taxpayers.

They previously argued against the claim that facts were not in dispute, saying that the law is not a blanket ban, but a tailored regulation.

Maggie DeWitte, executive director of Iowans for Life, voiced hope that the ruling would be overturned on appeal. She said it was a “travesty of justice” that the judge would not allow the case “to go before a fair trial.”

The bill passed the Iowa House of Representatives by a vote of 51-46 and passed the Senate by a vote of 27-19.

The law did not take effect pending the legal challenge from the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, the abortion provider Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and the Iowa City-based Emma Goldman Clinic, which also performs abortions.

Rita Bettis Austen, legal director for ACLU of Iowa, said the ruling was “essential for the rights and safety of women in Iowa.” She said the 2018 state supreme court decision cited by Huppert “recognized the fundamental right to a safe and legal abortion for Iowa women, which cannot be legislated away.”

Legal scholars said appealing a decision based on the Iowa constitution would face difficulty because the U.S. Supreme Court has little jurisdiction over issues affecting the state constitution.

The lawsuit argued that the law violated the due process rights of women, as well as their rights to liberty, safety and happiness and their rights to equal protection under the state constitution, the Des Moines Register reported.

Under current law, abortion is legal in Iowa until the 20th week of pregnancy. The new law struck down on Tuesday was among the strongest abortion regulations in the country.

State Sen. Janet Petersen of Des Moines, the Democratic minority leader, said the law was “extreme” and should have been overturned “because it restricted the freedom of Iowa women and girls to care for their bodies, and it forced motherhood on them.”

Last year the Ohio legislature passed a similar bill banning abortion based on fetal heartbeat, but failed to override Gov. John Kasich veto. Kasich’s successor, also a Republican, has voiced support for the bill.

The first heartbeat-based abortion ban was passed in 2013 by the Arkansas legislature, which also voted to override a governor’s veto of the bill.. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled it was unconstitutional and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal.

South Carolina, Kentucky, and Missouri could consider heartbeat abortion bans this year.

The law also banned all persons from knowingly acquiring, providing, transferring, or using fetal remains in Iowa. This did not apply to medical diagnostic samples, or forensic investigations, or to fetal body parts donated for medical research after a miscarriage or stillbirth. It is unclear whether those provisions still apply.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed the bill into law May 4, 2018.

“I believe that all innocent life is precious and sacred, and as governor, I pledged to do everything in my power to protect it. That is what I am doing today,” she said at the time. Reynolds said she felt it was “immoral to stop an innocent beating heart,” as well as “sickening to sell fetal body parts.”

The Republican governor acknowledged the near certainty that the law would face court challenges, claiming her actions were “bigger than just a law,” and that she will not back down.

Catholic bishops of the state had voiced qualified support for the bill’s intentions.

“We support the life-giving intent of the provisions in the bill and we want to do everything we can to support that,” Bishop Walker Nickless of Sioux City, Iowa, told CNA in a May 2018 interview before the bill was signed into law.

He voiced hope that the bill could halt some trafficking of fetal body parts following an abortion.

Iowa’s bishops recognized that some provisions of the bill might not withstand judicial scrutiny.

Bishop Nickless added that Catholics might disagree about the strategy of supporting legislation that could be overturned by courts. He encouraged creative pro-life advocacy, saying Catholics should discern such questions carefully. He said the message of the state’s bishops had been: “If you’re a Catholic and your conscience tells you to support this, please do.”

Nickless reaffirmed that the Catholic Church supports the health and rights of all women, including those in the womb. “If we are talking about women we need to make sure we are talking about unborn females as well, and protecting them,” he said.

Arizona bill seeks to tax access to online pornography

Wed, 01/23/2019 - 19:29

Phoenix, Ariz., Jan 23, 2019 / 05:29 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- An Arizona lawmaker has introduced a bill that would charge a fee to people buying electronic devices in the state who want pornography blocking software removed from the devices. The fees would help pay for the U.S-Mexico border wall.

Rep. Rail Griffin (R-Hereford) introduced House Bill 2444 earlier this month. The bill would require porn-users to pay a $20 one-time fee to access the explicit material online. The money would then be used to support a wall along the Mexico-Arizona border.

If passed, the bill would mandate that “distributors” to sell computers, smart phones, and tablets with porn restricting software already installed.

People 18 and over may choose for the software to be removed by paying the one-time fee. Manufacturers and retailers may include an additional fee on top of the $20 tax going to the state.

The money would be deposited into the John McCain Human Trafficking and Child Exploitation Fund. The fund would be headed by the Arizona Commerce Authority and Department of Public Safety.

According to the bill, the fund will give grants to “uphold community standards of decency” and develop, expand, or strengthen “programs for victims of sex abuse.” One of emphasized options would be to fund a border wall or border security.

The program may also give grants to fund temporary housing, mental health care, and assisting schools or law enforcement.

If companies do not comply then they would be subject to a class 1 misdemeanor. Residents or the attorney general may also sue the company if they have been notified of the material and refused to comply.

In recent years, similar bills have been proposed in Utah, Alabama, Rhode Island, Virginia, South Carolina, and Kentucky.

According to the Arizona Mirror, Mike Stabile, a spokesperson for the Free Speech Coalition, called the bill “unconstitutional.” The organization has campaigned for pornography companies in the past.

 

Basilica confirms Nathan Phillips protest attempted Mass disruption

Wed, 01/23/2019 - 18:15

Washington D.C., Jan 23, 2019 / 04:15 pm (CNA).- The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception has confirmed that protesters led by the Native American activist Nathan Phillips attempted to disrupt the celebration of Mass on the evening of Jan. 20.

 

On Jan. 23, a spokesperson for the Washington, DC basilica released a statement to CNA confirming the previously reported events of Saturday night.

 

The statement said that while Mass was being celebrated, “a group of approximately 50 individuals attempted to gain entrance to the basilica while chanting and hitting drums.”

 

The statement clarified that the protesters attempted to gain entrance to the basilica during the celebration of a specially arranged Mass being celebrated at 7 p.m, and not, as had previously been reported, during the basilica’s regularly scheduled 5:15 p.m. Mass.

 

“At this time, Mass was being celebrated in the upper church where the individuals attempted to enter,” the statement said.

 

“In respect and reverence for the Mass, the individuals were not permitted to enter the Basilica due to the disruption it would have caused during the solemn Mass. The individuals were asked to leave the property after it was determined they did not intend to share in the celebration of Mass.”

 

According to video footage of the event and eye-witness accounts, the group assembled across the road from the shrine before setting off toward its main entrance, chanting and playing drums.

 

As the group walked towards the basilica steps, one demonstrator can be heard saying “I’ll watch the cops.” CNA previously reported that DC Metro police responded to a 6:27 p.m. call to the basilica address Saturday night, making it likely that the police were already in attendance by the time protesters attempted to enter the building, and intervened after members of the group attempted to enter the building.

 

Video of the event posted on Facebook shows one demonstrator telling the protesters they had been ordered off the shrine property by police, after some of their group were rebuffed as they attempted to enter the church.

 

A California seminarian present at the shrine during the demonstration told CNA that protesters could be heard “banging on the doors” of the basilica after they were locked out.

The evolving response of the Church in Kentucky to Covington Catholic incident

Wed, 01/23/2019 - 16:39

Covington, Ky., Jan 23, 2019 / 02:39 pm (CNA).- When video emerged on Twitter last weekend, showing a confrontation between a Native American elderly man with a drum and a group of students from Covington Catholic High School, many media commenters accused the students of racism and disrespect.

The original video clip showed a Native American elderly man, later identified as activist Nathan Phillips, drumming and chanting in close proximity to one student, a junior at Covington, who stands with an uncomfortable expression on his face while the students around him chant and do the “tomahawk chop.” Several students can also be seen wearing hats supportive of President Donald Trump, with the slogan “Make America Great Again.”

The incident took place as the students were waiting at the Lincoln Memorial to meet their bus on their way home from the March for Life in Washington, D.C.

As the video went viral, it was roundly condemned by media commenters and some Catholic leaders as racist and antagonistic on the part of the students.

In their initial response on Saturday, Jan. 19, issued just a few hours after the first video emerged, the Diocese of Covington and Covington Catholic High School released a joint statement condemning the actions of the high school students.

“This behavior is opposed to the Church’s teachings on the dignity and respect of the human person. The matter is being investigated and we will take appropriate action, up to and including expulsion,” they said.

“We know this incident also has tainted the entire witness of the March for Life and express our most sincere apologies to all those who attended the March and all those who support the pro-life movement.”

The statement was supported by Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, Archbishop of Louisville and Kentucky’s metropolitan archbishop, who added his own statement condemning the “shameful actions” of the students.

However, both statements, along with the entire websites of the Diocese of Covington and the high school, have since been taken down, after subsequent, longer footage and additional information complicated the original interpretation of the video.

In longer videos, the students appear to have first been provoked by a group called the Black Israelites, who were shouting disparaging remarks at them largely about the Catholic Church and Trump. The videos also showed that the students were approached by the demonstrators from the Indigenous People’s March, including Phillips, which contradicted prior reports that the students had surrounded them.

As additional information emerged, the Diocese of Covington released a new statement on Monday, Jan. 22, in which they announced both the temporary closing of Covington Catholic High School and a third-party investigation into the events at the Lincoln Memorial.

“On Monday afternoon, the Covington Police alerted us that they had intelligence concerning a planned protest, Jan. 22, at Covington Catholic High School and a vigil at the Diocesan Curia. Due to threats of violence and the possibility of large crowds, the Diocese was advised to close Covington Catholic High School, the Diocesan Curia and neighboring Covington Latin School. We thank law enforcement officers for their protection and will reopen when they say it is safe to do so,” it said.

Regarding the incident in Washington, D.C., the new statement took a more measured tone than the first, saying that more facts must be gathered before deciding “what corrective actions, if any, are appropriate.”

“Concerning the incident in Washington, D.C., between Covington Catholic students, Elder Nathan Phillips and Black Hebrew Israelites the independent, third-party investigation is planned to begin this week. This is a very serious matter that has already permanently altered the lives of many people.”

“We pray that we may come to the truth and that this unfortunate situation may be resolved peacefully and amicably and ask others to join us in this prayer. We will have no further statements until the investigation is complete.”

This statement is currently the only part of the website of the Diocese of Covington that is still functioning. By Monday, all other links on the site had been deactivated.

Archbishop Kurtz on Monday released a new statement of support for Bishop Joseph Foy and the Diocese, and noted that the responses to the incident “revealed the regrettable polarization in our Church and in our society.”

He said his original statement, joining with Foys, was “a condemnation of alleged actions, not people. This post replaces that original blog entry with the additional information below from the Diocese of Covington.”

“I do not have jurisdiction in the Diocese of Covington. However, I have sought to act in solidarity with the Bishop of Covington, who is in a position to have the best information about what transpired and who has pledged an independent investigation of the situation. At this time, I am not going to get ahead of the Diocese of Covington’s independent investigation with additional comments,” he said.
He reiterated his confidence in Foys and the school to make the right decisions going forward.

“Whatever the investigation reveals, I hope that we can use this as a teachable moment, learn from any mistakes on the part of anyone involved, and begin the process of healing.”

 

‘This is progressive?’ New York bishops react to new abortion law

Wed, 01/23/2019 - 15:30

Albany, N.Y., Jan 23, 2019 / 01:30 pm (CNA).- Catholic leaders in New York have spoken out against the passage of an expansive new abortion law in the state. The Reproductive Health Act was passed on Tuesday, the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision Roe v Wade.

 

In a statement from the New York State Catholic Conference, the state’s bishops called the passage of the law a new “sad chapter” on a date that already carried tragic associations for supporters of life.

 

The New York State Senate voted 38 to 24 to bring the act into law after a 12-year legislative battle.

 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), a Catholic, said earlier this month that he would sign the legislation if it were to be passed, and that he hopes to add abortion rights to the state’s constitution. This process could begin next year.

 

The bill was passed on the anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that found a woman had a legal right to receive abortion in the United States.

 

“Our beloved state has become a more dangerous one for women and their unborn babies,” read a statement from the NYSCC.

 

The act codified into law the finding of Roe v. Wade, meaning that abortion would remain legal in New York even if the case were to be overturned by the Supreme Court.

 

While the law officially limits abortion to the first 24 weeks gestation, abortion is permitted at a later gestational age for reasons related to the wellbeing of the mother. Additionally, the bill removes act of abortion from the criminal code, and instead places it in the public-health code, and strips most safeguards and regulations on the procedure. Non-doctors will now be permitted to perform abortions.

 

Writing on his official blog on the eve of the bill’s passage, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York said bishops are not supposed to be “politicians or culture warriors,” but said that the new law was an affront to the rights of the most vulnerable.

 

“If our governor, senate, and assembly has their way, abortion will be legal up to the moment of birth; those large numbers of healthcare professionals who find the termination of pre-born babies repugnant will have no conscience rights to object; trained physicians will be not be required to perform the dismemberment; and a baby who survives the scalpel, saline, or suction, and is still alive, can be left to die without any care.”

 

“This is ‘progressive’?” Dolan asked.

 

“All people have rights:  the immigrant, the poor, the pregnant woman… and her baby.  All God’s children, Reverend [Martin Luther] King would insist, are equal and have rights,” the cardinal concluded, recalling the recent observance of Dr. Martin Luther King Day.

 

In a statement published on the state website, Gov. Cuomo called the signing a “historic victory for New Yorkers,” and that “in the face of a federal government intent on rolling back Roe v. Wade and women's reproductive rights, I promised that we would enact this critical legislation within the first 30 days of the new session - and we got it done.”

 

Cuomo said that he hopes other states will follow in New York’s lead and pass similar legislation.

 

Bishop of Albany Edward B. Scharfenberger, questioned if supporting and signing this law could impact Cuomo’s standing in the Catholic Church and ability to receive communion.  “This legislation threatens to rupture the communion between the Catholic faith and those who support the RHA even while professing to follow the Church, something that troubles me greatly as a pastor,” wrote Scharfenberger.

 

In an open letter to the governor, Scharfenberger highlighted Cuomo’s apparent inconsistencies when referencing his Catholic faith.

 

“Although in your recent State of the State address you cited your Catholic faith and said we should ‘stand with Pope Francis,’ your advocacy of extreme abortion legislation is completely contrary to the teachings of our pope and our Church,” Scharfenberger wrote.

 

New York was the first state to legalize abortion, and did so in 1970. It currently has the highest abortion rate in the country. In 2019, the organization Americans United for Life ranked New York 43rd on its annual ranking of pro-life states.

 

The bishops also requested prayers not only “for the conversion of heart for those who celebrate this tragic moment in the history of our state,” but also for “the lives that will be lost, and for the women of our state who are made less safe under this law.”

 

There were many “celebrations” throughout the state after the law was passed. In addition to the loud cheering in the Senate chamber after the vote, One World Trade Center and other landmarks around the state were lit up in bright pink to “celebrate” the law.

 

In Albany, meanwhile, next to the Executive Mansion where the bill was signed, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception tolled its bells in preemptive mourning for the unborn lives that will be lost.

 

“As a society, we can and must do better,” Scharfenberger said.

 

“The teaching and intuition of our common faith readies us to help. It is an essential part of our mission to support the lives of all, especially the voiceless, the most vulnerable and marginalized, as Pope Francis always reminds us to do.”

Not so neutral: Colorado's sex ed bill could marginalize Catholics

Wed, 01/23/2019 - 15:11

Denver, Colo., Jan 23, 2019 / 01:11 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A “comprehensive sex education” bill in the Colorado legislature would require public schools to adopt a curriculum that could stigmatize Catholic beliefs about sexuality and gender, one critic warned.

“These matters are best left to local school districts in direct consultation with parents and teachers,” Jennifer Kraska, executive director of the Colorado Catholic Conference, told CNA Jan. 22. “Each community and school are different, and on matters as important as sex education parents should take the dominant role in deciding what type of instruction is best.”

House Bill 19-1032 proposes “significant changes” to Colorado’s sex ed curriculum and its requirements for comprehensive sex education, Kraska said.

The bill says that nothing in it shall be construed to prohibit discussion of individuals’ “moral, ethical and religious values” related to relationships, sexuality, or family formation.

However, the bill summary says that comprehensive sex education “prohibits instruction from explicitly or implicitly teaching or endorsing religious ideology or sectarian tenets or doctrines, using shame-based or stigmatizing language or instructional tools, employing gender norms or gender stereotypes, or excluding the relational or sexual experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender individuals.”

Kraska encouraged a skeptical approach to such language.

“What this language is really saying is that people or families with certain beliefs and teachings about sex, relationships and gender (like those of the Catholic Church) are basically wrong in their beliefs and teachings,” she said. “The likely result of this type of language will be to stigmatize kids and their families that do hold beliefs that are different from what will be taught in this type of ‘comprehensive sexuality education’.”

Currently, public schools have a limited ability to use state funding for abstinence education, also known as sexual risk avoidance education, although they can use funding from Title V federal funds or can pay outside contractors.

The bill would remove this ability. It would prohibit the state board of education from granting content requirement waivers for “any public school that provides comprehensive human sexuality education.” Such waivers had previously allowed charter public schools, such as the three Colorado schools associated with the Michigan-based Hillsdale College’s Barney Charter School Initiative, to teach their own standards, including abstinence, marital commitment and fidelity.

“The bill does not say that abstinence cannot be taught, but it must be taught in the context of a comprehensive curriculum that includes sharing information about condoms, contraception and STDs,” Kraska explained.

If a school district would not want to teach the state-designed comprehensive sex ed curriculum, it could not teach any sex ed, the Colorado Springs Gazette reported.

Joneen Mackenzie, a registered nurse and president and founder of the Denver-based Center for Relationship Education, praised risk avoidance education over risk reduction.

“Relationship education that focuses on sexual risk avoidance rather than sexual risk reduction is actually helpful, resulting in this positive trend of adolescents delaying sexual debut and wanting more from their relationships,” Mackenzie told the Gazette.

Almost 65 percent of teens in Colorado were not sexually active in the year 2015, according to the Center for Relationship Education.

Parents who believe the school curiculum dealing with sexulaity and gender does not comport with their values or beliefs may not be able to opt out, Kraska warned.

The bill explicitly says a school is not required to give written notification to parents “for programming on gender, gender expression, sexual orientation, or healthy relationships that occurs outside the context of human sexuality instruction.”

“This means that parents likely wouldn’t be notified regarding this type of instruction and would not have the ability to opt their child or children out of this instruction,” Kraska said.

Backers of the bill include Planned Parenthood, the largest U.S. abortion provider and a major distributor of contraceptives, as well as the American Civil Liberties Union. Proponents cited studies saying abstinence-only curricula are “ineffective at best and overtly harmful at worst,” the Colorado Springs Gazette said.

“Given the current make-up of the legislature this bill is likely to pass,” Kraska said.

The proposal’s main sponsors are Sen. Don Coram (R), Sen. Nancy Todd (D), and Rep. Susan Lontine (D). In the 2018 elections, Democrats won all major statewide offices and took control of the State Senate.
 
The Colorado bill is similar to one passed in California. One parent, Carolina Riofrio of Palo Alto, Calif., told the National Catholic Register in 2017 that a curriculum designed to comply with the California law required students to orally analyze scenarios in order to clarify and reassess their views. Pressure was exerted on students to conform to a morally neutral position in public, and religious values judged to reflect an unacceptable “bias,” were effectively excluded, she said.

Other schools have drawn parental objections for reading children’s books that advocate transgenderism and children undergoing purported gender transitions. A kindergarten teacher at a public charter school in California read such books to her class as a way to introduce a male classmate whose parents said he was undergoing a gender transition to a girl.

The incident reportedly upset several children in the class, several of whom later voiced fears they would turn into the opposite sex. Parents were not informed of the incident until their children told them about it, the Washington Times reported in September 2017.

The Colorado bill proposes to set aside at least $1 million in annual funds for the state’s comprehensive human sexuality education program. It would add eight representatives to the program’s oversight board and require at least seven members to be “members of groups of people who have been or might be discriminated against.”

There is no guarantee this will make the board representative of all citizens, however.

“I believe that Christians and especially Catholics can make a reasonable and strong argument that they have been discriminated against, but this will likely be an argument that falls on deaf ears,” said Kraska.

 

Appeals court upholds La. law regulating abortion clinics

Wed, 01/23/2019 - 13:41

New Orleans, La., Jan 23, 2019 / 11:41 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday rejected a request from abortion rights' advocates to rehear a case challenging a Louisiana law that requires abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

The Jan. 18 decision effectively upholds its earlier ruling in favor of the bipartisan law, known as the Unsafe Abortion Protection Act, or Act 620. Unless an appeal to the US Supreme Court is filed, it will take effect Jan. 28.

A three judge panel of the Fifth Circuit had upheld Act 620 in September by a 2-1 vote. Abortion rights' advocates were asking the court to rehear the case en banc – by a greater share of the court's judges.

“I applaud the Fifth Circuit’s decision to reject the abortion providers’ latest legal challenge to Louisiana’s pro-life and pro-woman admitting privileges law,” said Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry. “Act 620 is common-sense measure that ensures women will receive proper care if they have complications.”

The Fifth Circuit voted 9-6 to reject the petition for rehearing en banc.

Act 620 was authored by Democratic State Rep. Katrina Jackson, who authored the legislation and is chair of the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus. She has said the law is about “the safety of women.”

It was passed in 2014 by an 88-5 vote in the Louisiana House, and a 34-3 vote in the Senate.

The Unsafe Abortion Protection Act requires that abortion doctors have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic.

The law also clarifies that informed consent protections also apply to chemical abortions, procured by ingesting mifepristone, and that chemical abortions must be reported anonymously to the Department of Health and Hospitals, which already tracks surgical abortions. Doctors who perform more than five abortions per year must also maintain proper licensing.

When the Fifth Circuit upheld Act 620 in September, it found that the law does not impose a substantial burden on women seeking to procure abortion.

Act 620 was challenged in the wake of the Supreme Court's 2016 Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt decision.

In that case, the high court struck down a Texas law that required doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, and abortion clinics to meet the standards for ambulatory surgical centers. In the 5-3 vote, the majority found that the law put an “undue burden” on a women’s right to an abortion, posing a “substantial obstacle” to that right without showing the necessary benefits of its regulations to women’s health.

Considering Louisiana's law in light of Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the Fifth Circuit wrote that “the facts in the instant case are remarkably different from those that occasioned the invalidation of the Texas statute in WWH.”

“Here, unlike in Texas, the Act does not impose a substantial burden on a large fraction of women under WWH and other controlling Supreme Court authority. Careful review of the record reveals stark differences between the record before us and that which the Court considered in WWH.”

“The Louisiana Act passes muster even under the stringent requirements of WWH,” wrote Circuit Judge Jerry E. Smith.

Similarly, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in September ruled that Missouri may enforce its own law mandating that doctors who perform abortions have hospital privileges and that abortion clinics to have the same standards as similar outpatient surgical centers.

The Eighth Circuit also cited the Hellerstedt case, saying that decision analyzed purported benefits of the law at issue related to abortion in Texas, not Missouri, and that it found courts should consider the asserted benefits of a law.

Fifth Circuit Judge James L. Dennis dissented from the court's decision not to rehear the challenge to Act 620, asserting it is “in clear conflict” with the Hellerstedt decision and that “the panel majority’s attempt to distinguish WWH is meritless because it is based on an erroneous and distorted version of the undue burden test required by WWH and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey.”

Landry welcomed the majority's decision not to rehear the challenge to Act 620, saying: “The Fifth Circuit once again affirmed what we have repeatedly said: our law is both factually and legally different from the Texas law that the Supreme Court ruled against.”

“I once again thank Representative Katrina Jackson for authoring this public safety legislation and Solicitor General Liz Murrill for preserving the Legislature’s intent,” he added.

When the Unsafe Abortion Protection Act was passed in 2014, there were five abortion clinics in Louisiana. By the time the Fifth Circuit upheld the law in September 2018, there were three, in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Shreveport.

The day before it declined to rehear the challenge to Act 620, the Fifth Circuit vacated a previous injunction barring Texas from stripping Planned Parenthood affiliates of Medicaid funding.

Circuit Judge Edith Jones affirmed that Texas has the right to exclude a healthcare provider from Medicaid funds, and criticized the Planned Parenthood affiliates’ argument that the Office of Inspector General has insufficient expertise to determine the qualifications of abortion providers.

Meet the kids who traveled 24 hours on a bus to stand up for the unborn

Wed, 01/23/2019 - 05:01

Washington D.C., Jan 23, 2019 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Diocese of Lincoln sent more than 200 young people to Washington, D.C., to stand up for the unborn, and they believe they are part of a growing trend of pro-life sentiment.

CNA spoke to some of these students outside of the capitol to see what motivated them to embark on a daylong journey to the nation’s capital. The group was meeting with pro-life Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), who represents their district.

Earlier that day, Fortenberry had given a floor speech where he said that “women deserve better” than abortion, and that “no matter how hard the circumstances,” human life is a gift.

The students largely expressed excitement about being in a crowd of young people from across the country. The March for Life drew an estimated crowd of 100,000, many of whom were college-age or younger.

Abby Pella, a 17-year-old from Lincoln, admitted that she found the bus ride to be “pretty awful,” but that she found the trip to be a “great opportunity.” She told CNA that she was most looking forward to standing alongside her peers, and fighting for an end to abortion.

“Being able to stand up for something I believe in is really empowering and is really worth the 24-hour drive,” Pella added.

Ziyal McArthur, 16, also from Lincoln, agreed with Pella. McArthur said that while she has always been pro-life, she did not get involved in activism until a few years ago, and is now a member of the pro-life club at her school. She told CNA that she was most excited about “seeing people my age marching against abortion.”

Hunter Stutzman, 14, is from David City, about 50 miles northwest of Lincoln. He said he was motivated to come to Washington because teens like himself may find themselves dealing with unexpected pregnancies. He told CNA that he is pro-life because “babies don’t have a choice.”

His sentiment was echoed by Logan Walker, an 18-year-old from Lincoln.

"That is a baby in there, but it's also one of us, one of our own kind,” said Walker.

“It's a person.”

Annie Timmerman, 18, was on her second trek to D.C. from Nebraska. She described the trip as “a cause worth sacrificing for,” and said that her travel companions were a “joyful group.”

Timmerman said that she had run into “more and more people who are pro-life” and that she thinks she is part of a generation who is changing on abortion.

“We just really want to be the pro-life generation,” Timmerman told CNA. “The generation that really makes the horrors of abortion end.”

Nathan Phillips rally attempted to disrupt Mass at DC’s National Shrine

Tue, 01/22/2019 - 17:58

Washington D.C., Jan 22, 2019 / 03:58 pm (CNA).- While chanting and playing ceremonial drums, a group of Native American rights activists reportedly led by Nathan Phillips attempted Jan. 19 to enter Washington, D.C.’s Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception during a Saturday evening Mass.

The group of 20 demonstrators was stopped by shrine security as it tried to enter the church during its 5:15 pm Vigil Mass, according to a shrine security guard on duty during the Mass.

“It was really upsetting,” the guard told CNA.

“There were about twenty people trying to get in, we had to lock the doors and everything.”

The guard said the incident was a disappointment during a busy and joyful weekend for the shrine.

“We had hundreds and hundreds of people from all over the country come here to celebrate life, to celebrate each other together. That a protest tried to come inside during Mass was really the worst.”

The guard told CNA the situation was “tense.”

“I’m just really grateful that nothing too bad happened, they were really angry.”

A source close to the shrine’s leadership corroborated the security guard’s account, telling CNA that during the Mass, Phillips and the group tried to enter the church while playing drums and chanting, and were prohibited from entering the building by security personnel, who locked the main basilica doors with the congregation still inside.

The shrine’s spokeswoman would not confirm or deny that the group attempted to enter the Mass. She told CNA that “a group did assemble on Saturday evening outside the the shrine” and that they “left without incident.”

Philips was the subject of national media attention on Saturday, after video went viral on social media depicting parts of a Jan. 18 incident involving him and several teenagers, some of whom were students from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky. The incident has become the subject of intense national debate, and Phillips has been accused by some of instigating an encounter with the students, and subsequently altering his initial account of events. 

Covington Catholic High School was closed Jan. 22, following threats against students and staff in the wake of media coverage of Friday’s incident.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported that about 60 people gathered outside the shrine in support of Phillips on Saturday night, though it did not mention reports that Phillips and some supporters attempted to disrupt the evening Mass.

Video footage showed one supporter saying that the group had gathered at the shrine to listen to Phillips, and to hold the Catholic Church “accountable” for the alleged actions of the Covington Catholic students and for the “colonial violence that the Catholic Church reproduces every day.”

A photograph attached to the post shows Phillips addressing the group outside the shrine.

The security guard told CNA that the incident was especially distressing given that Mass was underway.

“It’s a house of worship, a place of prayer where people come to celebrate. All this anger is so against what we are all about here.”

He told CNA that he’d never witnessed anything like it during his whole time of employment at the basilica.

“I don’t know the details of what happened on Friday [after the March for Life], I wish I did. All I know is it’s a shame, and it’s got nothing to do with why people were here.”

“And this all happened on our biggest event of the year. I hope we never see it again.”

US Supreme Court allows transgender military ban

Tue, 01/22/2019 - 16:26

Washington D.C., Jan 22, 2019 / 02:26 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The US Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender persons serving in the military to go into effect, while the issue continues to be adjudicated in lower courts.

The Supreme Court’s five conservative members voted Jan. 22 to lift nationwide injunctions that had blocked the ban from going into effect. However, the policy is being appealed in lower courts, and those appeals will still be going forward despite the ruling.

In July 2017 Trump announced on Twitter that anyone identifying or presenting as a sex different from their biological sex would be prohibited from military service, with extremely limited exceptions. The policy was formally issued in 2018 by then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis.

Previously, under President Barack Obama’s administration, military policies were changed to allow people who do not identify themselves according to their biological sex, or who were seeking surgical “gender transition”, to join the military.

Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Col. Carla Anderson insisted that the policy is in fact not a ban on transgender troops, but rather is a “personnel policy” that is “necessary to ensure the most lethal and combat effective fighting force in the world.”

Slightly under 1,000 people in the military have undergone a gender transition. In 2016, the government estimated that there were about 9,000 transgender troops in the U.S. military. Including reservists, there are about 2.1 million people in the military.

When Trump announced the policy in July 2017, a theology professor at the Catholic University of America said it was the “right decision.”

Those who identify as transgender are “people made in God's image, and they deserve our compassion, and they deserve to be treated with dignity, but that doesn't mean that they are fit for combat in the defense of a nation,” Dr. Chad Pecknold told CNA.

“Pope Francis is famous for his stress upon dialogue, and his non-judgmental approach with respect to the dignity of every person,” he said. “But the Holy Father has also been crystal clear that ‘gender theory’ represents a burning threat to humanity, starkly describing it as a ‘global ideological war on marriage’.”

Also on Tuesday, the Supreme Court declined to act regarding Trump’s plan to end the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. This means that DACA will stay in place for the time being.

The USCCB has said in previous statements that they are in favor of a “permanent legislative solution” for DACA recipients as well as those under temporary protective status. This solution is “vital,” said the bishops.

Lori laments racism in American society and Church

Tue, 01/22/2019 - 15:00

Baltimore, Md., Jan 22, 2019 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- Archbishop William Lori has issued a major pastoral reflection on the subject of racism in American society and the Church in the U.S.

 

Entitled “The Journey to Racial Justice - Repentance, Healing and Action,” Lori’s reflection was released to coincide with the commemoration of Martin Luther King Day. In the Jan. 21 document, the Archbishop of Baltimore wrote of his concern at renewed racial tensions in the country.

 

“Even as we Americans celebrate Dr. King’s inspiring example, we feel the shame of witnessing public demonstrations of racial and ethnic violence and hatred such as we have not seen in decades,” Lori wrote.

 

Recent reports have indicated a rise in hate crimes across the country, while major incidents like the 2017 racial demonstrations and conflicts in Charlottesville, VA, have highlighted growing concerns about a resurgence in overtly racist attitudes in sections of American society.

 

In a searching reflection on the evil of racism in American, Lori wrote that institutional and personal complicity by the Church needs to be frankly understood, acknowledged, and atoned for.

 

“No doubt, in looking back at the history not only of our Church, but also of our nation, one may justly say that racism is the original sin of our country, our state, and our local dioceses, and its deep roots continue to plague us,” said Lori.

 

“As we are so painfully aware in the midst of the current crisis in the Church, without acknowledging the sins of the past, we cannot hope to understand and heal the wounds of the present.”

 

The archbishop’s reflection laid out an unsparing resume of his earliest predecessors, saying that “no credible treatment of the history of the establishment of the Catholic Church in the United States can be told without also acknowledging the reality of the early Church’s direct involvement in slavery.”

 

Noting his own previous pastoral statement on Dr. King’s teaching on non-violence, Lori acknowledged that the Church had fallen short of the demands of the Gospel in the era of so-called Jim Crow laws and beyond, allowing de facto segregation between and even within parishes and other institutions.

 

While efforts by Church leaders to support and champion the civil rights movement offered examples of “efforts, sacrifices, and achievements” by Catholic leaders, priests, religious, and lay people, Lori warned there is still more to be done.

 

“Without a doubt, many members of the Catholic Church today have continued to devote themselves to addressing racial injustice in our Church and society,” the archbishop said.

 

“These efforts, encouraging as they may be, cannot by themselves end racial injustice, nor can they be causes of complacency,” he said, while asking “if we can still easily identify the ‘black’ and ‘white’ parishes of our archdiocese, have we truly accomplished the goal of racial equity we claim to embrace?”

 

In November, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops released the pastoral letter “Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love,” also on the subject of racism in America.

 

Lori made frequent reference to this document, which warned against a “neglect of history” among many in the Church with regard to racism and a lack of awareness of “the connection between institutional racism and the continued erosion of the sanctity of life.”

 

 

The U.S. bishops wrote that neither the Church or society could “look upon the progress against racism in recent decades and conclude that our current situation meets the standard of justice.”

 

“God demands more of us,” the bishops said.

 

In response to this demand, and to other recent scandals, Lori wrote that he felt a renewed call to be present to the witness of human suffering.

 

“I have come to realize in a new and clearer way an important truth: wherever the people of God are suffering is where I belong, at their side, listening, sharing compassion, and discerning how the Holy Spirit is calling me to take action.”

 

To this end, Lori used his pastoral reflection to commit to renewed action in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, pledging more training within the archdiocese to address the problem of racism, and to conduct a review of the diversity of Church institutions, including archdiocesan leadership, seminaries, clergy, parishes, schools and social service programs.

 

“In a spirit of repentance and prayer, we seek healing as we turn to the redeeming and reconciling love of Jesus with the hope of building a Church that is journeying toward a better future as we work side by side with those who are victims of racism today.”

Navy chaplains appointed military archdiocese auxiliary bishops

Tue, 01/22/2019 - 11:44

Vatican City, Jan 22, 2019 / 09:44 am (CNA).- Pope Francis appointed Tuesday two Navy chaplains, Fr. Joseph Coffey and Fr. William Muhm, as auxiliary bishops for the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services.

As bishops for the Archdiocese for the Military Services, Coffey and Muhm will serve the spiritual needs of personnel in the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard, as well as the Department for Veterans Affairs and those in government service outside of the U.S.

Coffey and Muhm’s past deployments include Afghanistan and Iraq respectively.

Coffey, a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, is a Navy captain and past recipient of the Distinguished Service Award from the Military Chaplains Association.

During his 18 years of service as a Navy chaplain, Coffey’s assignments has served the Marines in Okinawa, Japan, the Coast Guard training facility in Cape May, NJ, and as a Naval chaplain recruiter.

Born in 1960, Coffey is the fifth of nine children of a Catholic family in Philadelphia. He has an M.A. in Moral Theology and a Master of Divinity from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Philadelphia. Between university and seminary, he worked for one year as an auto dealer in Europe, selling cars to American serviceman in Germany and Belgium.

Muhm is a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, a U.S. Navy Chaplain and captain since 1998. He was ordained by Cardinal John O’Connor in 1995 after serving in the Navy prior to entering the seminary.

He was deployed with the 1st Marine Regiment in Iraq from 2008 to 2009, and then was assigned as the chaplain for the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD. He holds an STB and Master of Divinity from St. Joseph Seminary, Yonkers, NY. Most recently Muhm was a parish administrator for the Most Precious Blood parish in Walden, New York.

The Archdiocese for the Military Services is responsible for more than 1.8 million men, women, and children across 29 countries worldwide.

 

Latest Planned Parenthood numbers show more abortions—and higher profits

Tue, 01/22/2019 - 05:30

Washington D.C., Jan 22, 2019 / 03:30 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Planned Parenthood, the largest performer of abortions in the U.S., has released its annual report, and its critics object to the organization’s increase in abortions and financial profits even as its number of adoption referrals has fallen.

“The big business of abortion is evident in this report, as Planned Parenthood turned a profit of nearly $250 million, a 150 percent increase, according to its own accounts. What a waste of taxpayer dollars,” Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, said Jan. 21.

“While Planned Parenthood pushes talking points about healthcare, the fact remains that Planned Parenthood is the nation’s number one abortion vendor, profiting by violently ending life,” Hawkins charged. “But pregnancy is not a disease cured by abortion. Women deserve real, life-affirming care, and taxpayers deserve a return on their investment that helps women and their children, born and preborn.”

The Planned Parenthood annual report, covering the 2017-2018 fiscal year, was published over the weekend of Jan. 19-20.

The number of abortions performed by Planned Parenthood rose to 332,757, an increase of over three percent. Adoption referrals dropped by over 25 percent to 2,831. The abortion provider makes one adoption referral for every 117 abortions.

Hawkins backed the idea of defunding Planned Parenthood “to invest in life-saving care.”

Millennials and young adults prefer that tax money go to federally qualified health centers instead of Planned Parenthood, Hawkins said. She cited a Students for Life poll of 18- to 34-year-olds, conducted in January, whose respondents showed a 3-to-1 preference against tax dollars for Planned Parenthood.

Students for Life of America trains and organizes students for campus outreach to young mothers and to fellow students, with the goal of ending abortion. Since 2006 it has helped establish or build over 1,200 pro-life student chapters and has trained over 55,000 students.

While federal funds for abortion are limited, the abortion provider Planned Parenthood receives over $500 million in federal funding for programs involving contraception provision and other services.

It is also in the public eye for possible involvement in illegal sale of fetal tissue from aborted babies’ remains, after a series of videos produced by the Center for Medical Progress alleged that Planned Parenthood was involved in the sale of aborted fetal parts for profit.

The Department of Justice is currently investigating Planned Parenthood due to these videos. Congress has launched several investigations.

In 2018 Dr. Leana Wen became the new president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

“Planned Parenthood services — from birth control to cancer screenings to abortion — are standard medical care,” Wen said in the report. “Reproductive health care is health care. Women’s health care is health care. And health care is a fundamental human right.”

The report claims 12 million supporters and claims its contraceptive services averted about 400,000 pregnancies.

 

‘Zimbabwe is burning’: Bishops call for peace amid violent protests, crackdown

Tue, 01/22/2019 - 02:16

Harare, Zimbabwe, Jan 22, 2019 / 12:16 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As political protests in Zimbabwe have turned violent and even fatal, reportedly leaving at least 12 people dead, the bishops of the country have called for peaceful resolutions to the crisis.

“Zimbabwe is burning; its economy is hurting; its people are suffering. Many ordinary Zimbabweans express disappointment that hoped-for changes are yet to be felt, in access to employment, cash and broad stakeholder consultations. Our quasi currency, operating with multiple exchange rates, is fueling a national crisis,” the bishops said in a Jan. 17 letter.

“We call upon [the] Government and the Opposition to put their differences aside and work together to free Zimbabwe from economic shackles and international ostracisation.”

Last week, a sharp spike in fuel prices in Zimbabwe sparked violent protests from members of groups who oppose the current government.

According to the BBC, Presidential spokesman George Charamba told local journalists that the opposition group Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was responsible for the violence.

“The MDC leadership has been consistently pushing out the message that they will use violent street action to overturn the results of (last year's) ballot,” Caramba said.

However, the United Nations called on the Zimbabwe government to stop using “excessive” force to cull the protests, after reports surfaced that the government was conducting door-to-door searches and beating, torturing and using live ammunition on the protestors.

Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced that he would be returning early from a foreign tour in order to help address the situation.

The clashes took place largely in the capital city, Harare, and the southern city of Bulawayo, where looting and riots have been reported and all schools have been forced to close. Reuters reported that more than 60 people were treated for gunshot wounds, following the government’s alleged use of live ammunition on the protestors.

News of the protests came despite government blocks on Facebook, Whatsapp and Twitter messaging apps. The government said the blocks were part of an attempt to quell the violence, while human rights groups have said they were attempting to mask human rights violations.  

The protests come after a long period of political and economic instability, from “the military-assisted political change that took place in November 2017 to the total shutdown of Zimbabwe's major cities and rural trading centres that began on Monday, 14 January 2019,” the bishops said.

They said that while they had hoped for good change after November 2017, they have “witnessed with sadness and concern [the] Government's piecemeal and knee-jerk reaction to the worsening economic situation, exemplified by the unilateral imposition of 2 percent tax on the country's major money-transfer and payment system and by the hefty increase in fuel prices on 12 January 2019, the immediate cause of the violent demonstrations and riots that brought Zimbabwe's major cities and rural trading centres into complete lockdown.”

The bishops said that they are “saddened and concerned” by the government’s failure to stabilize the economy, which has put the livelihood of many Zimbabweans in jeopardy, as well as by the violent riots and demonstrations, the disruption of essential services, and by the government’s intolerance for people expressing opposing views, leading to their torture and even death.

“We are writing at a time when our country is going through one of the most trying periods in its history. Once more the resilience and resolve of Zimbabweans is being put to test. We thank the many Zimbabweans who continue to pray ceaselessly for our Country. We, your Shepherds, write to you at this time to help rebuild hope, trust, confidence and stability in Zimbabwe,” the bishops said.

They encouraged the government and all citizens of Zimbabwe to help build a free country, with free elections and strong, politically inclusive institutions.

“We do not need a strong man or woman but strong institutions. We need to develop a new and challenging kind of politics, a new cooperation and harmony based on reasoned argument, generous compromise and respectful toleration,” they said.

“Zimbabwe is faced with a crisis that is not just political and economic but moral and spiritual. A new Zimbabwean politics needs to be more collaborative, inclusive and based not on one or two leaders, however effective and charismatic, but rather on strong democratic institutions that embody and secure the values of our democracy, regulate our politics, build trust and administer peace, truth and justice to all.”

The bishops urged the government to work to ease the suffering of the people of Zimbabwe rather than contribute to it, and they urged all citizens towards tolerance and peaceful, nonviolent protests that are within their constitutional rights.

“We believe in a God of second chances, who is always offering us new opportunities. Even in the midst of current tensions and disturbances there are new opportunities to rebuild hope, trust, confidence and stability in our country,” they said.

“The task at hand requires our collective responsibility in upholding everything that is good and right, to promote unity, reconciliation, and national cohesion. We wish to state our firm belief that Zimbabwe would easily become one of the best countries to live in on earth if only all of us, its people, committed to living and working with each other in harmony, tolerance and peace, putting the interests of the country before selfish and political party interests.”

Notre Dame to cover prominent Columbus murals

Mon, 01/21/2019 - 20:01

South Bend, Ind., Jan 21, 2019 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- A series of murals depicting Christopher Columbus' life and exploration displayed at the University of Notre Dame will be covered up, the university's president announced Sunday.

“Painted in 1882-84 … they reflect the attitudes of the time and were intended as a didactic presentation, responding to cultural challenges for the school’s largely immigrant, Catholic population,” Fr. John Jenkins, C.S.C., wrote in his Jan. 20 letter announcing the decision.

“In recent years, however, many have come to see the murals as at best blind to the consequences of Columbus’s voyage for the indigenous peoples who inhabited this 'new' world and at worst demeaning toward them.”

The murals, painted by Luigi Gregori, are located in Notre Dame's Main Building. Gregori served for a time as artist in residence at the Vatican, before becoming a professor and artist in residence at the Indiana university.

Gregori was commissioned to produce a series of murals of Columbus by Fr. Edward Sorin, the founder and first president of the University of Notre Dame. One of the murals was the model for the first series of commemorative stamps issued by the U.S., in 1893.

Jenkins said that he has heard in recent years “from students, alumni, faculty, staff, representatives of the Native American community, and others on this complex topic,” and that his decision was made after consulting with the Board of Fellows.

Though a brochure to explain the murals' context has been provided since the 1990s, “because the second-floor hall of the Main Building is a busy throughway for visitors and members of the University community, it is not well suited for a thoughtful consideration of these paintings and the context of their composition,” Jenkins wrote.

The brochure was created after a group of Native American students called for the murals' removal in 1995.

The priest said that there will be “a permanent display for high-quality, high-resolution images of the murals in a campus setting to be determined that will be conducive to such an informed and careful consideration.”

The murals themselves will “be covered by woven material consistent with the décor of the space, though it will be possible to display the murals on occasion.”

The university president announced that a committee will be formed “to decide on the place to display the images of the murals and the appropriate communication around the display.”

“The murals present us with several narratives not easily reconciled, and the tensions among them are especially perplexing for us because of Notre Dame’s distinctive history and Catholic mission,” the priest explained.

“The murals were not intended to slight indigenous peoples, but to encourage another marginalized group,” he said, noting that when they were made, the immigrant-dominated population of Notre Dame “encountered significant anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant attitudes in American public life.”

Moreover, Columbus was at the time “hailed by Americans generally as an intrepid explorer.”

“Gregori’s murals focused on the popular image of Columbus as an American hero, who was also an immigrant and a devout Catholic,” Jenkins wrote. “The message to the Notre Dame community was that they too, though largely immigrants and Catholics, could be fully and proudly American.”

The priest then declared that for natives of the Americas “Columbus’s arrival was nothing short of a catastrophe.”

“Whatever else Columbus’s arrival brought, for these peoples it led to exploitation, expropriation of land, repression of vibrant cultures, enslavement, and new diseases causing epidemics that killed millions.”

Jenkins quoted a 1987 meeting of St. John Paul II with the native peoples of the Americas, in which the pope said the encounter “was a harsh and painful reality for your peoples. The cultural oppression, the injustices, the disruption of your way of life and of your traditional societies must be acknowledged.”

The pope continued, in remarks not quoted by Jenkins’ letter: “At the same time, in order to be objective, history must record the deeply positive aspects of your people’s encounter with the culture that came from Europe.”

According to the Jenkins, “the murals’ depiction of Columbus as beneficent explorer and friend of the native peoples hides from view the darker side of this story, a side we must acknowledge.”

Carol Delaney, an emerita professor of anthropology at Stanford University and author of “Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem,” told CNA in 2017 that a popular current narrative around Columbus is tarred by bad history.

“They’re blaming Columbus for the things he didn’t do. It was mostly the people who came after, the settlers,” Delaney said. “He’s been terribly maligned.”

She said Columbus initially had a favorable impression of many of the Native Americans he met and instructed the men under his command not to abuse them but to trade with them; he also punished some of his own men who committed crimes against the natives.

Delaney acknowledged that some Native Americans were sent to Spain as slaves or conscripted into hard labor at the time Columbus had responsibility for the region, but she attributed this mistreatment to his substitutes acting in his absence.

And the Knights of Columbus have said that their namesake “has frequently been falsely blamed for the actions of those who came after him and is the victim of horrific slanders concerning his conduct.”

Leo XIII wrote an encyclical marking the Columbian quadricentennial in 1892, reflecting on Columbus’ desire to spread the faith. In Quarto abeunte saeculo, the pope wrote that Columbus “resolved to go before and prepare the ways for the Gospel” by his exploration.

“When [Columbus] learned from the lessons of astronomy and the record of the ancients, that there were great tracts of land lying towards the West … he saw in spirit a mighty multitude, cloaked in miserable darkness, given over to evil rites, and the superstitious worship of vain gods. Miserable it is to live in a barbarous state and with savage manners: but more miserable to lack the knowledge of that which is highest, and to dwell in ignorance of the one true God. Considering these things, therefore, in his mind, he sought first of all to extend the Christian name and the benefits of Christian charity to the West,” Leo declared.

Jenkins claimed that the goal of covering up the murals is to respect both them “and the reality and experience of Native Americans in the aftermath of Columbus’s arrival.”

“We wish to preserve artistic works originally intended to celebrate immigrant Catholics who were marginalized at the time in society, but do so in a way that avoids unintentionally marginalizing others. The course described above, we believe, honors the University’s heritage, of which we are justly proud, and better respects the heritage of native peoples, who have known great adversity since the arrival of Europeans.”

Jenkins opened his letter saying the announcement was timed to coincide with the feast of Bl. Basil Moreau, founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and “Walk the Walk Week,” a series of events, begun in 2016, at the University of Notre Dame “to help us consider how we – both individually and collectively – might take an active role in making Notre Dame even more welcoming and inclusive.”

The priest concluded his letter saying, “Remembering the legacy of Dr. King and asking in prayer for the intercession of Fr. Moreau, let us renew in our minds and hearts our commitment to respect the dignity of all individuals, their communities, and their cultures, with particular concern for the most vulnerable.”

Eugene F. Rivers, III, founder of the Seymour Institute for Black Church and Policy Studies, wrote in a 2016 column at CNA that proposals to end Columbus Day are divisive, and based on stereotypes. While there were deplorable consequences of colonization, attacks on Columbus “were created in the 1920s by the Ku Klux Klan as part of a targeted assault on Italians, Catholics, and the Catholic charitable group the Knights of Columbus,” he wrote.

A little more than a year ago, in December 2017, university spokesman Dennis Brown said that the murals “are of historic and artistic value, and the University has no plans to remove them.”

The head of the Native American Student Association of Notre Dame welcomed Jenkins' decision, and wrote to the South Bend Tribune expressing hope that the administration “will continue to prioritize Native issues on our campus in the coming weeks and months as there is still work to be done.”

Martin Luther King Jr hailed as an example of 'artisans of peace'

Mon, 01/21/2019 - 16:35

Washington D.C., Jan 21, 2019 / 02:35 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston has called civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. an exemplar of the “artisans of peace” called for by the pope.

King “was a messenger and true witness to the power of the gospel lived in action through public life,” read the statement from the president of the USCCB to mark Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

“We are thankful for the path forged by Dr. King and the countless others who worked tirelessly and suffered greatly in the fight for racial equality and justice. As a nation and as a society, we face great challenges as well as tremendous opportunities ahead.”

King is remembered as a Baptist minister and the most visible leader of the civil rights movement, for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, and as the founding president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He was assassinated in 1968 at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee.

Cardinal DiNardo noted the US bishops' recent pastoral letter on racism, which aims to “name and call attention to a great affliction and evil that persists in this nation, and to offer a hope-filled Christian response to this perennial sickness. Racism is a national wound from which we continually struggle to heal.”

“Today, remembering how Dr. King contended with policies and institutional barriers of his time, many which persist today, we renew our pledge to fight for the end of racism in the Church and in the United States. We pledge our commitment to build a culture of life, where all people are valued for their intrinsic dignity as daughters and sons of God,” the cardinal wrote.

“We encourage Catholics and all people of good will to study the pastoral letter, and to study and reflect upon Dr. King’s witness against the destructive effects of racism, poverty and continuous war.”

Cardinal DiNardo also called “on everyone to embrace our ongoing need for healing in all areas of our lives where we are wounded, but particularly where our hearts are not truly open to the idea and the truth that we are all made in the image and likeness of God.”

He concluded quoting King's words that “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

After Covington Catholic students caught in social media maelstrom, fuller picture emerges

Mon, 01/21/2019 - 15:28

Washington D.C., Jan 21, 2019 / 01:28 pm (CNA).- A wave of media attention engulfed this weekend a group of students who attended last week’s annual March for Life in Washington, DC. The students, most of whom attend Catholic high schools in Kentucky, were accused on Saturday of harassing and taunting a Native American drummer, but subsequent revelations revealed a decidedly more complicated picture.

Videos began to circulate on Saturday that depicted portions of a Jan. 18 incident close to the Lincoln Memorial, in which students who had attended the March for Life were part of a confluence of demonstrators near the Memorial, some from a Washington-based religious group called the Black Israelites, and some from the Indigenous Peoples’ March, which took place in Washington on the same day as the larger March for Life.

Initially, the portions of the video that emerged, and quickly went viral, depicted a crowd of teenage boys chanting, dancing, and doing the “tomahawk chop” cheer, while a Native American man played a drum in chanted in close proximity to one teenage boy, who stood squarely before the drummer, without saying anything as the drumming and chanting continued directly in front of him.

The drummer was soon identified as Nathan Phillips, an elder of the Omaha Tribe and Native American rights activist.

The students were described in some media reports as “surrounding” Phillips, or “taunting” him, and became the subject of widespread condemnation from media figures and some Catholic leaders, who accused them of disrespect, racism, and antagonism. Some students were wearing hats depicting the 2016 campaign slogan of President Donald Trump, “Make America Great Again,” some commentators and social media figures suggested the hats could be evidence of racist motives on the part of the students.  

Within hours, the school some of the students attended, Covington Catholic High School, along with the Diocese of Covington, issued a statement condemning “the actions of the Covington Catholic High School students towards Nathan Phillips specifically, and Native Americans in general…We extend our deepest apologies to Mr. Phillips. This behavior is opposed to the Church’s teachings on the dignity and respect of the human person”

“This matter is being investigated and we will take appropriate action, up to and including expulsion,” the statement said.

“We know this incident also has tainted the entire witness of the March for Life and express our most sincere apologies to all those who attended the March and all those who support the pro-life movement.”

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, Archbishop of Louisville, and Kentucky’s metropolitan archbishop, issued a statement shortly thereafter.

“I join with Bishop Foys in condemning the actions of the Covington Catholic students towards Mr. Nathan Phillips and the Native American Community yesterday in Washington.  I have every confidence that the leadership of the Diocese of Covington will thoroughly investigate what occurred and address those all involved in this shameful act of disrespect,” Kurtz wrote Jan. 19.

Similarly, the March for Life itself also tweeted a statement criticizing the reported actions of the students.

Congresswoman Deb Haaland, (D-NM), tweeted Saturday: “This Veteran put his life on the line for our country. The students’ display of blatant hate, disrespect, and intolerance is a signal of how common decency has decayed under this administration. Heartbreaking.”

However, even as initial footage went viral, facts began to emerge that pointed to a more complicated narrative. The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that Phillips approached the students, who, he claimed, were chanting “Build that Wall,” a chant associated with Trump’s call for a security wall, or fence, at the U.S. border with Mexico.

Phillips initially told The Washington Post that he was surrounded by the students after he approached them with his drum, and that “It was getting ugly, and I was thinking: ‘I’ve got to find myself an exit out of this situation and finish my song at the Lincoln Memorial.’ I started going that way, and that guy in the hat stood in my way and we were at an impasse. He just blocked my way and wouldn’t allow me to retreat.”

Later, emerging video footage demonstrated that several of those demonstrating alongside Phillips approached the students, with some telling them to “go back to Europe,” and swearing at them. And a 2015 report emerged in which Phillips claimed to have been the victim of a racist attack by students at Eastern Michigan University, whom, he told Fox 2 at the time, he approached, and who, he said, eventually taunted him with racial slurs and threw an unopened beer can at him. No charges were filed in connection to that incident.

Subsequent media reports and videos recounted that the high school students had been the subject of taunts by the Black Israelite group, demonstrating nearby, and that Phillips claimed he was trying to intervene between the two groups. However, Phillips did not identify himself or his intentions to the students when he approached them, rather, he continued drumming and chanting.

Phillips told the Detroit Free Press Sunday that the students “were in the process of attacking these four black individuals," and he intervened to stop the attack. He said the students then turned their anger toward him.

"There was that moment when I realized I've put myself between beast and prey," Phillips said. "These young men were beastly and these old black individuals was their prey, and I stood in between them and so they needed their pounds of flesh and they were looking at me for that," he said.

"The Black Israelites, they were saying some harsh things, but some of it was true, too. These young, white American kids who were being taught in their Catholic school, their doctrine, their truth, and when they found out there's more truth out there than what they're being taught, they were offended, they were insulted, they were scared, and that's how they responded. One thing that I was taught in my Marine Corp training is that a scared man will kill you. And that's what these boys were. They were scared," Phillips said.

Video footage did not show the students attacking the members of the Black Israelite movement, who are heard to shout disparaging remarks at the students, most of them concerning the Catholic Church and Trump.

The student at the center of the firestorm, identified as Covington Catholic High School junior Nick Sandmann, issued a statement Sunday night.

Sandmann said he and his fellow students were waiting for their bus after the March for Life, when “ we noticed four African American protestors who were also on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. I am not sure what they were protesting, and I did not interact with them. I did hear them direct derogatory insults at our school group.”

“The protestors said hateful things. They called us ‘racists,’ ‘bigots,’ ‘white crackers,’ ‘faggots,’ and ‘incest kids.’ They also taunted an African American student from my school by telling him that we would ‘harvest his organs.’ I have no idea what that insult means, but it was startling to hear.

In response to those taunts, students began chanting “school spirit chants,” with permission of a chaperone, Sandmann said. He said he did not hear students chant other things.

“After a few minutes of chanting, the Native American protestors, who I hadn’t previously noticed, approached our group. The Native American protestors had drums and were accompanied by at least one person with a camera.”

“The protestor everyone has seen in the video began playing his drum as he waded into the crowd, which parted for him. I did not see anyone try to block his path. He locked eyes with me and approached me, coming within inches of my face. He played his drum the entire time he was in my face,” Sandmann recounted.

“I never interacted with this protestor. I did not speak to him. I did not make any hand gestures or other aggressive moves. To be honest, I was startled and confused as to why he had approached me. We had already been yelled at by another group of protestors, and when the second group approached I was worried that a situation was getting out of control where adults were attempting to provoke teenagers.”

“I believed that by remaining motionless and calm, I was helping to diffuse the situation. I realized everyone had cameras and that perhaps a group of adults was trying to provoke a group of teenagers into a larger conflict. I said a silent prayer that the situation would not get out of hand.”

While Sandmann said that he heard protestors tell the students that he had “stolen” Native American land and should “go back to Europe,” he urged calm from his fellow students.

“I never felt like I was blocking the Native American protester. He did not make any attempt to go around me. It was clear to me that he had singled me out for a confrontation, although I am not sure why.”

“I was not intentionally making faces at the protestor. I did smile at one point because I wanted him to know that I was not going to become angry, intimidated or be provoked into a larger confrontation. I am a faithful Christian and practicing Catholic, and I always try to live up to the ideals my faith teaches me – to remain respectful of others, and to take no action that would lead to conflict or violence,” Sandmann said.

The student said that he had provided his account to the Diocese of Covington.

After a fuller picture of events emerged, many media and Catholic figures apologized for their initial characterization of the event, with some admitting they had made judgments without sufficient information.

The March for Life tweeted Sunday night that “Given recent developments regarding the incident on Friday evening, March for Life has deleted its original tweet and removed our statement on this matter from our website. It is clear from new footage and additional accounts that there is more to this story than the original video captured.  We will refrain from commenting further until the truth is understood.”

The Diocese of Covington has not indicated what the next steps will be in its investigation of the matter.

CNA attempted to contact the Diocese of Covington and the Archdiocese of Louisville. Neither was available for comment as of press time.

 

 

 

Bishops ‘encouraged’ by Trump proposal for Dreamers, urge permanent solution

Mon, 01/21/2019 - 14:00

Washington D.C., Jan 21, 2019 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has responded cautiously to President Donald Trump’s proposal to extend protections for those eligible for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program, commonly referred to as Dreamers.

 

The president proposed an extension, along with other measures, in exchange for funding for a border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The president made the proposals January 19 as part of the ongoing efforts to end the partial government shutdown which has now lasted nearly a month.

 

“We are encouraged by the president’s openness to providing legislative relief for TPS holders and existing DACA recipients,” the bishops wrote in a Jan. 20 statement signed by USCCB president Cardinal Daniel DiNardo and Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Migration.

 

“However, we understand that the President’s proposal would only provide temporary relief, leaving many in a continued vulnerable state. We believe that a permanent legislative solution for TPS holders and for all Dreamers is vital.”

 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate minority leader Chuck Shumer (D-NY) dismissed the president’s proposals, with Shumer calling them “not a compromise but more hostage taking.”

 

The statement from DiNardo and Vásquez said that temporary measures would do little to reassure the families of children currently without a permanent resolution to their status.

 

“Throughout our parishes, there are many DACA youth and TPS holders, who have lived substantial parts of their lives in the U.S. contributing to this country. We listen [to] and understand the fear and uncertainty they and their families face and the anguish that they are currently experiencing as their existing immigration protections hang in the balance and come to an end,” the statement said.

 

“Temporary relief will not ease those fears or quell that anxiety. It is for this reason that we have long advocated for comprehensive immigration reform; reform that will provide permanent solutions: including border security, protection for vulnerable unaccompanied children and asylum seekers, and a defined path to citizenship to enable our immigrant brothers and sisters to fully contribute to our society.”

 

In a 13 minute address from the White House on Saturday, President Trump laid out what has been widely interpreted as a compromise offer on immigration and border security aimed at breaking the impasse between the administration and congressional Democrats.

 

The president has been at loggerheads with Pelosi and Shumer over support for his so-called border wall. The impasse over federal funding has led to a partial shutdown which has left hundreds of thousands of federal workers on furlough and without pay.

 

Trump said his offer to extend the existing status of TPS and DACA claimants was accompanied by other measures aimed at “protecting migrant children from exploitation and abuse,” including a proposal to allow minors to apply for asylum in the U.S. from their country of origin.

 

The plan also includes $5.7 billion for what Trump called “a strategic deployment of physical barriers, or a wall” along the southern border.

 

On these proposals, the USCCB statement expressed serious reservations, saying the president’s plan could make the current situation for unaccompanied minors worse, not better.

 

“The proposal calls for the construction of a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, a proposal that our brother bishops on both sides of the U.S. border with Mexico oppose, and it suggests changes in current law that would make it more difficult for unaccompanied children and asylum seekers to access protection.”

 

DiNardo and Vásquez urged leaders from both parties to reach a solution to the shutdown quickly and to recognize “the economic struggle that many families are facing, including those dependent on federal workers and those assisted by critical nutrition and housing programs.”

 

“We look forward to reviewing the president’s proposal in detail and hope to work with the White House and Congress to advance legislation that shows compassion, keeps us safe, and protects the vulnerable.”

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