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‘Heart of hospitality’ best way for Catholic parishes to serve the disabled

Thu, 03/05/2020 - 19:12

Washington D.C., Mar 5, 2020 / 05:12 pm (CNA).- A New Jersey parish has made headlines in recent weeks, after an eight-year-old boy with autism was reportedly denied Holy Communion. The parish said there had been a misunderstanding, and was working to ensure the boy could receive the Eucharist.

Misunderstandings, whatever the cause, happen in parish life, and can lead to feelings of frustration and disappointment among parishioners and parish leaders.

When parish issues arise pertaining to disabilities, one organization tries to help: the National Catholic Partnership on Disability. While not commenting on the situation of the New Jersey parish, Charleen Katra, the organization’s executive director, talked with CNA about how parishes can be welcoming to people with disabilities, and form them in the Catholic faith. 

People with severe disabilities deserve Catholic catechesis and sacramental preparation, and parishes can serve them from a young age with open doors, open hearts, and dialogue with them, their loved ones, and even other parishioners, Katra told CNA.

“It’s a ministry of hospitality and evangelization,” Katra added.

The parishes most successful at this ministry don’t necessarily begin with training, she said. Rather, they begin with “a heart of hospitality.”

Katra’s organization helps to serve people who live with physical, intellectual, sensory, mental or emotional disabilities. The group provides resources for parish staff and leads training on meaningful participation in the sacraments, accessible parishes, and catechetical best practices.

“A lot of what I do is lowering everybody’s frustration levels,” Katra said.

Her advice?

“Don’t make it harder than it is,” she said.

“Jesus the Master Catechist has shown us what to do. And what to do is full inclusion. If God puts people in front of you, you serve them, to the best of your ability.”

“Open your doors. Open your hearts. Seek out training if you need it,” she said. “It’s about accompaniment, being with someone, being with them, being with their family, being what they need.”

The National Catholic Partnership on Disability was established in 1982 to help implement the U.S. bishops’ guidance on people with disabilities. Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville now serves as the partnership’s episcopal moderator.

The U.S. bishops continue to provide guidance to address some concerns of persons with disabilities, their families and advocates, and clergy and others in pastoral ministry.

“Parish ministers and all Catholics should respond to the severely disabled and their families with tremendous love and generosity, and with a readiness to support and assist them,” Father Andrew Menke, executive director of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Divine Worship, told CNA.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops publishes Guidelines for the Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities. The document, last updated in June 2017, runs to 16 pages.

People with disabilities, too, need growth in holiness. Their participation in the grace of the sacraments is “essential” to this, the guidelines explain. The liturgy must be “completely accessible” to persons with disabilities, because liturgical forms are “the essence of the spiritual tie that binds the Christian community together.”

“Accessibility involves far more than physical alterations to parish buildings,” the bishops said. “Realistic provision must be made for Catholics with disabilities to participate fully in the Eucharist and other liturgical celebrations.”

Catechesis for people with disabilities, for instance, “must be adapted in content and method to their particular situations,” the bishops continued.

The bishops' guidance encourages the inclusion of people with disabilities in typical catechesis classes, “unless their disabilities make it impossible for them to participate in the basic catechetical program.”

Even then, participation in parish life is “encouraged in all ways possible.”

Katra’s organization works with publishers to provide resources for catechists and leaders who are working directly in faith formation. It helps provide resources for those who have diverse learning styles.

Any work with parishioners with disabilities needs to be tailored to the individual, Katra said. Parishes “need to learn about the individual as well as his or her disability,” she said, adding that clergy should be consulted and advised about an individualized process and individual needs.

“Patience, compassion and empathy are necessary for success,” Katra said.

Parents are experts on this subject and always are a key resource, she added.

“They are with this person 24/7,” she said. “They know what causes them to get more anxious. They also know typically what will help them calm down and come back to a more balanced emotional state.”

Katra recommends that parishes provide to parents or guardians an information form that asks many specific questions about their loved one. Good questions seek out details about sensory needs, learning style and communication style, she explained.

She suggests parish leaders take a proactive approach to foresee needs before they arise.

Still, Katra acknowledged that there can be parish situations where a parish staffer responds “we don’t have anything” or “we aren’t trained to do this.” While there is likely no intent to hurt or offend in such situations, parishioners with disabilities and their families might find these situations to be hurtful and to fail to affirm their Catholic identity.

In such cases, Katra encouraged simply apologizing.

“We’re a Church. We’re about mercy, we’re about forgiveness,” Katra said as an example. “Start from a place of ‘I’m sorry, we’re sorry, if in any way we hurt or offended you’.”
 
“We want to serve you. We want you here. It pains us that we sent the wrong message. What can we do to make it right?” she added. “We’ll do some adaptations or we’ll get some training so that we can better serve not only you, but many other families that have the same or similar needs.”
 
“Move forward in a healthy way, in a relationship, because that’s what we are as a Church,” Katra advised.
 
In catechesis, sometimes instructors should provide more time or require less work. Some parishioners benefit from a “multi-sensory approach,” that is hands-on, visual and auditory. Parishioners could need “sensory-friendly” items like fidgets or squeeze balls, noise cancelling headphones, and weighted lap pads to aid their participation.

There are also communication styles and adaptations for people with difficulties communicating. For instance, someone who is non-verbal uses “prayer hands” to indicate the words “Amen.”

Parish catechetical leaders and volunteer catechists should be offered training and resources, like professional growth days, conferences and newsletters.

While some parishes might fear they lack the resources and volunteers to serve parishioners with disabilities and their families, Katra offered hope.

“We just have to use our resources wisely. Seek out those people who are already there in front of you. Don’t think you don’t have them, you do,” she said.

You can’t respond to a call you don’t hear,” she added, saying church and parish leaders “have an opportunity to call forth people from the parish.”

In Katra’s view, candidates for confirmation, most often in their early teens, are at an ideal age and level of formation to be asked to be involved in parish ministry and to help them find where their gifts fit.

Parishes should ask young men and women to be a “buddy” for a parishioner and to help include them in systematic catechesis, retreats, Masses and other activities. The goal is to have someone to offer help as needed, but “not to do for someone what they can do for themselves.”

Young people who respond to serve often show compassion, empathy and patience and can go on to careers in social work, special education, pediatrics, or physical and occupational therapy.

“At the same time, every parish has those kinds of professionals in their community,” Katra said.  She suggested inviting parishioners or others who are health care professionals to provide workshops.

If a parish announces that it is forming a ministry for people with severe disabilities or that it is looking for someone to help train catechists, Katra predicted, “many people would be happy to do it.”

“A special ed [teacher] could do that in their sleep, almost,” she said.

Accessibility to parish community events and meetings might include sign language interpreters and large print materials.

Some parishes are remiss in not providing ramps, assistive listening devices, or other assistance “because a need has not been presented.”

Parishes sometimes don’t provide training or resources to support catechists or educators teaching persons with disabilities or they don’t anticipate the need, Katra added.

Even when parishes make plans for persons with disabilities, they can neglect to make plans in consultation with them.

Katra warned not to use outdated or derogatory language, but also not to “exceptionalize” people with disabilities, like describing them as “angels” or “using them as a means of sanctification” rather than “realizing they are agents of evangelization in their own right.”

Every Catholic has the right to be educated in the faith, to be prepared for the sacraments and to receive the sacraments, and to “respond to God’s call,” she said. “All persons have gifts to share and all persons are capable of growth in holiness.”

From a Trinitarian perspective, God invites every person to be in communion, she added.

“We are all broken and our path to wholeness always includes community,” said Katra, who added that anyone could become a person with a disability, either through accident or age.

“We’re all one car accident away from rolling in a wheelchair,” said Katra. “We have no guarantee that our abilities will be with us in any given moment. Sometimes you’re born with something, sometimes you acquire it later in life. Some are temporary, some are permanent. Some are visible, some are invisible.”

“We all have strengths, we all have weaknesses. Hopefully we focus, as a Church, on our gifts and our abilities than other things,” she said.

 

'We must be humble', Cardinal Cupich says as 'Vos estis' task force begins work

Thu, 03/05/2020 - 19:01

Chicago, Ill., Mar 5, 2020 / 05:01 pm (CNA).- After being named to the Vatican’s task force for the protection of minors against sexual abuse, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago told the Chicago Tribune that Church leaders must remain humble in the process of helping victims and regaining trust.

“We must be humble by accepting what was done in the past and taking the shame that goes with it,” Cupich told the Chicago Tribune March 2.

“There’s never a moment in which we can say we have this all figured out,” he added.

Cupich was the only U.S. cleric to be named to the task force, the mission of which is to assist bishops’ conferences, religious institutes, and societies of apostolic life throughout the world in implementing child protection guidelines and putting in place the requirements of Pope Francis’ 2019 motu proprio Vos estis lux mundi.

The new norms established in the document included placing seminarians and religious who were coerced into sexual activity through the misuse of authority in the same criminal category as minors and vulnerable adults.

The norms also established obligatory reporting for clerics and religious, required that every diocese have a mechanism for reporting abuse, and put the metropolitan archbishop in charge of investigations of accusations against suffragan bishops.

In meetings with bishops at the Vatican last year, Cupich advocated for each episcopal conference, province, or diocese to establish a standard for the investigation of a bishop for potential misconduct or cover-up of abuse. He said that the process of creating these standards should involve both lay experts and the use of a metropolitan archbishop.

Cupich also advocated for compassion toward those reporting abuse, and additional support for them provided by the diocese, such as psychological counseling.

Even before Cupich’s leadership, the Archdiocese of Chicago has been considered one of the leaders on confronting sexual abuse in the Church in the U.S. In 1992, the archdiocese established a hotline for reporting clerical sexual abuse, and has been a leader in reporting abuse cases to civil authorities even before that was the established norm for dioceses.

According to the Tribune, one of the next steps for the Archdiocese of Chicago is improving their response to so-called “boundary violations” – instances of manipulation and crossed boundaries by clergy that may lead to future abuse.

Fr. Hans Zollner, SJ, the president of the Center for Child Protection at the Pontifical Gregorian University, is another leader of the Vatican task force. Zollner was in Chicago to give a talk to diocesan priests and then a lecture at DePaul University about the task force and the new guidelines to protect against sex abuse in the Church.

He told the Chicago Tribune that the creation of a Vatican task force on abuse is “unprecedented.”

“This is the first time the (pope) has taken into his own hands the speeding up of the process,” Zollner told the Tribune.

In his lecture, Zollner said the Church must not underestimate the destructive power of abuse, the Tribune reported.

“Sexual abuse is very powerful in its consequences and its outcomes,” Zollner said. “I believe as long as we don’t acknowledge that, we have to live with the burden; we’re not as free as we could be.”

Juan Carlos Cruz, an outspoken advocate for victims of clergy sex abuse who met with the pope in 2018 to discuss his own abuse at the hands of a Chilean priest, told the Tribune that he was glad for the steps that the Church was taking to prevent abuse, and hoped it would maintain transparency on the issue in the years to come.

“There is this big wound that you can’t sweep under the rug, that you have to deal with,” he said. “And if you do things right, confidence will come back — but you have to do things right.”

Cupich added that before the Church talks about rebuilding the trust of its people, it must first focus on the healing of the victims of abuse.

“That will come on their terms, not ours,” Cupich said. “Regaining trust has to begin with a profound sense of responsibility for making sure what happened in the past doesn’t happen again.”

'Ground Zero for pro-life Democrats': The fight for Dan Lipinski's seat

Thu, 03/05/2020 - 14:30

Chicago, Ill., Mar 5, 2020 / 12:30 pm (CNA).- As national pro-abortion groups pour money into a Chicago primary race to unseat one of the last pro-life Democrats in Congress, pro-life groups say they will be fighting back.

Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), an eight-term Catholic pro-life congressman, narrowly defeated pro-abortion primary challenger Marie Newman in a contentious 2018 race in the safely-Democratic district, but now he faces a rematch with a campaign backed by outside pro-abortion groups.

Newman, a Catholic Democrat who supports taxpayer-funded abortion and criticized Lipinski in 2019 for not supporting the Equality Act, raised more than $1.4 million in the 2018 race while focusing on Lipinski’s pro-life record. Having lost to Lipinski last time, she is now eyeing a victory in a 2020 rematch.

During the 2020 cycle, Newman’s campaign has received direct contributions from the pro-abortion groups such as the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), Planned Parenthood, and EMILY’s List, a group that works to get pro-abortion women elected to offices around the country.

According to filings with the Federal Election Commission (FEC), EMILY’s List made the maximum-allowable $5,000 contribution to Newman’s campaign, and in addition has earmarked more than $90,000 in contributions to Newman’s campaign from individuals all over the country.

On Feb. 24, a coalition of pro-abortion groups announced a $1.4 million investment in the race to unseat the “Anti-Choice, Anti-Obamacare” Lipinski. The “independent expenditure” campaign includes direct mail, and both television and digital ads, and is backed by pro-abortion groups including NARAL, EMILY’s List, and Planned Parenthood.

Lipinski told CNA in early January that he had hoped for more support from pro-life groups in a tough primay battle.

“I’ve gotten some support from pro-life groups, but honestly, not as much as I’d like to see,” Lipinski told CNA on Jan. 9.

Now in early March, less than two weeks before the March 17 Illinois Democratic primary, pro-life groups say they will be supporting the embattled Democrat.  

FEC filings show that Lipinski’s campaign has received the maximum $5,000 from the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, in December. There are no records of direct contributions from other pro-life groups Democrats for Life of America and National Right to Life.

SBA List also told CNA that they are “bundling” for Lipinski, a practice of collecting various individual donations and orchestrating for them to be sent to the campaign all at once as part of a bundle.

Meanwhile, Democrats for Life of America (DFLA) told CNA they will be working with around 10 to 15 volunteers from the group Students for Life, to canvass for Lipinski in his district in the days leading up to the vote.

Lipinski’s primary race is “Ground Zero for pro-life Democrats,” Kristen Day, executive director of DFLA, told CNA, “because he has just been so, just attacked by our own party, and really just disrespected.”

Some of the group’s members have donated to his campaign, Day said, but “there’s not as much pro-life Democrat money as there is pro-abortion money.”

National Right to Life political director Karen Cross told CNA that the group does not contribute directly to candidates, but rather makes “independent expenditures” such as direct mail campaigns.

NRLC does not usually get involved in primaries, she said, but has made an exception for Lipinski whom they have endorsed and previously supported in 2018.

The group has sent mail to “thousands of pro-life supporters in the district,” while “encouraging them to support him [Lipinski] in this primary,” Cross told CNA.

“Marie Newman is a hardcore, unlimited-abortion-through-birth” candidate, Cross said, noting the difficulty of finding other pro-life Democratic candidates down ballot.

“You’ve got extreme pro-abortion activists actively working in primaries to get a pro-abortion candidate,” she said. “They’re spending, together, almost a couple hundred million dollars in elections to get these candidates through.”

The group CatholicVote.org also said it will support Lipinski. According to records on OpenSecrets.org, the group’s candidate fund made $7,168 in independent expenditures for Lipinski in the 2018 election cycle.

“Dan Lipinski is a pro-environment and pro-labor Democrat. He's been an outstanding friend of the unborn,” stated Joshua Mercer, editor of The Loop at CatholicVote.org.

His pro-life stance “drives the abortion lobby crazy,” Mercer said, which is why they have rallied behind Newman, “their ‘mini AOC’,” referring to the freshman progressive Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) who has endorsed Newman.

However, in the face millions of dollars in negative ads, pro-life supporters of Lipinski will have their work cut out for them before March 17.

Unlike in 2018, Newman is reportedly shying away from emphasizing abortion in her challange this year—she apparently instructed reporters in a 2019 interview that they could only ask one abortion-related question, and clarified that “[t]his campaign is about the income divide, paid leave, Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, transportation, and infrastructure jobs, period.”

At the same time, while not talking openly about her faith in interviews, she has referenced her Catholic upbringing in recent online ads to emphasize her roots in the heavily-Catholic district.

In one ad, Newman says she was born at Little Company of Mary hospital in the Evergreen Park neighborhood of south side Chicago, and baptized at nearby St. Barnabas parish—“just a real south side girl,” she is called in the ad.

In another video ad, two Catholic religious sisters gave their endorsement of Newman. Sister JoAnn Persch and Sister Pat Murphy, two Sisters of Mercy based in Chicago, said they would support Newman because of her “incredible power to listen” and because of her presence in the district.

Newman is “touting her Catholic upbringing in an attempt to mask her radical anti-Catholic agenda,” Mercer stated, saying that despite her efforts to snag the endorsements of nuns she “will become a rubber stamp for the radical left-wing.”

“That's why these groups are pouring millions into this District,” Mercer said of outside pro-abortion groups.

“CatholicVote knows this District well. We helped Dan come up big in 2018, and we're working overtime to bring him to victory again,” he said.

The hostility to Lipinski from within his own party is yet more evidence of the party’s leftward lurch on abortion, pro-life advocates said.

“I think we’re finally really forcing this issue to the surface within the Democratic Party,” said Terrisa Bukovinac, founder and executive director of Pro-Life San Francisco and a co-leader of Secular Pro-Life.

Bukovinac identifies as an atheist and a Democrat who is “whole life.” Pro-lifers in the Democratic Party “had a place at the table” for a while, she said, “but it was almost just like lip-service, to keep us in line.”

Now, however, presidential candidates like Bernie Sanders and DNC chair Tom Perez are saying there is no more room in the party for pro-lifers.

“We see in the 2019 Marist poll that everyone keeps referencing that the majority of Democrats actually want abortion restrictions, but we’ve had the most extreme leadership we’ve ever had,” she said.

The staunch abortion support of progressive candidates such as Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders show the desperation of the abortion lobby, she said.

“We want to break that relationship between the abortion industry and the Democratic Party that is the pillar of power for the abortion industry,” she said. 

“Once pro-life Democrats really take that power and stop giving aid in the form of a direct vote, we will be able to transform our party.”

March for Martyrs aims to raise awareness of persecuted Christians

Thu, 03/05/2020 - 12:00

Los Angeles, Calif., Mar 5, 2020 / 10:00 am (CNA).- When *Maya was just 19 years old, ISIS soldiers invaded her home in Baghdad, Iraq, and ordered that she and the rest of her Christian family either convert to Islam or pay a heavy fee to stay in their home. If they refused, they would be killed.

The family did not convert, but they tried to pay the fee. It wasn’t enough.

When the soldiers came back, they shot Maya’s brother in front of the family and kidnapped her sister. They warned that they would come back and kill the second daughter if the family did not leave or convert to Islam.

The remaining members of Maya’s family fled to Jordan, and happily learned that their kidnapped daughter had escaped to Australia.

It was stories like Maya’s that inspired Gia Chacon last year to found For the Martyrs, a non-profit organization that raises awareness of the plight of persecuted Christians throughout the world and advocates for religious freedom.

“I was so deeply impacted by the face of this young girl who is only 19, so scared,” Chacon told CNA.

“She had everything ripped from her, and lost family members, and still she had faith and she had hope in God, and she knew that nothing - nothing - was worth renouncing her faith. That Christ would pull her through.”

Through humanitarian work with refugees from Iraq and Syria, Chacon heard many stories like Maya’s, of Christians persecuted for their faith to the point of threats to their life and safety.

But she found that Christians in the West are largely unaware that Christians in 50 countries around the world face high levels of persecution.

Some of the countries with the worst persecution include North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, and Pakistan - countries where extreme ideas like communism or radical Islamism fuel hate towards Christians, she added.

“The Lord placed a heavy burden on my heart for the persecuted church,” Chacon said.

“I wanted to do something in the United States for the people of the West, to not only wake them up to the reality of what's going on around the world, but also connect them to know that we're one body of Christ. When one member suffers, we all suffer.”

This May, For the Martyrs will host the first March for the Martyrs on May 9 in Long Beach, California.

Chacon said she hopes the event “starts a movement” of Christians in the West who want to stand in solidarity with persecuted Christians throughout the world, and who want to do all they can through prayer and action to help them.

“In talking to the refugees, the number one thing that they would say is, ‘Thank you for remembering me. Thank you for knowing about my suffering and thank you for your prayers for me,’” Chacon recalled.

“So I think it's really important for Christians of the West and the people of the West and the United States to know that one of the most important things we can do is just stand in solidarity, be the voice for the voiceless, and use our platform to raise awareness about Christian persecution.”

The march will be immediately followed by a ‘Night of Prayer for the Persecuted’ featuring speakers such as Sean Feucht from Bethel Music, Father Benedict Kiely, and others who will highlight the plight of persecuted Christians and what can be done for them.

“Our purpose for that night is to pray for the persecuted, worship the Lord for victory and for protection over the persecuted, but also to gain insight into the reality of Christian persecution and learn what we can do as a body of Christ in America for our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world,” Chacon said.

The march and night of prayer come at a critical time.

A recent poll conducted by McLaughlin & Associates on behalf of Aid to the Church in Need-USA found a 10% decline in the number of US Catholics who say they are “very concerned” about global anti-Christian persecution.

“The softening of the level of concern about Christian persecution among US Catholics is also evident in their ranking of the importance of global issues,” Aid to the Church in Need USA said in a March 4 statement.

“Global Christian persecution is ranked as less urgent an issue than human trafficking, poverty, climate change and the global refugee crisis. Catholics who identify themselves as being very devout are most concerned about the persecution of Christians, but even this group has ranked human trafficking the issue of greatest concern for three consecutive years,” the group added.

This decline in concern is coupled with an uptick in persecution - according to For the Martyrs,  the persecution of Christians has increased by 20% in just two years, with more than 260 million Christians worldwide now facing high levels of persecution.

The issue of Christian persecution has gotten scant attention in the mainstream media in the United States, Chacon added. Part of the reason for that, she said, is because of a “misconception that Christians have some sort of privilege.”

“This is something that we hear kind of often. Last year there was a hashtag that was trending that said #Christianprivilege. It was talking about how if you're Christian, you somehow have this religious privilege or you don't struggle for your faith,” Chacon said.

“There's an idea that Christians don't suffer, when in reality, one-third of the world faces religious persecution and religious oppression, and 80% of that one-third are Christians. So, an overwhelming majority of people around the world are suffering for their faith in Christ,” she said.

That’s why she and For the Martyrs are working so hard to bring this issue back to the forefronts of the minds of Christians in the U.S., she said.

“Never underestimate the power of your voice, and especially joining with the voices of other people who are advocating for the cause of Christians.”

 

*Name has been changed to protect privacy

 

Portland archdiocese: Coronavirus or no, Communion can be received on the tongue

Wed, 03/04/2020 - 20:01

Portland, Ore., Mar 4, 2020 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- The right to receive Holy Communion on the tongue has been affirmed by the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon, which noted Monday that the risk of transmitting infection when receiving on the tongue or hand is “more or less equal.”

“We consulted with two physicians regarding this issue, one of which is a specialist in immunology for the State of Oregon. They agreed that done properly the reception of Holy Communion on the tongue or in the hand pose a more or less equal risk,” the archdiocese's office of divine worship wrote March 2.

“The risk of touching the tongue and passing the saliva on to others is obviously a danger however the chance of touching someone’s hand is equally probable and one’s hands have a greater exposure to germs.”

The office said its statement came after some parishioners had indicated that they had been denied Holy Communion on the tongue, or told that reception on the tongue “has been banned in certain parishes.”

“After consulting with the Archbishop this office would like to clearly communicate that a parish cannot ban the reception of Holy Communion on the tongue, nor may an Ordinary or Extraordinary minister refuse a person requesting Holy Communion on the tongue,” the office stated.

The worship office emphasized that ministers of Holy Communion should be “able to distribute Holy Communion without risk of touching the hands or the tongue,” and that “parishioners should also be instructed how to receive Holy Communion properly either on the tongue or in the hand.”

It added that “if Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion feel uncomfortable distributing Holy Communion either in the hand or on the tongue they should be excused from this ministry.”

Many Churches around the world have issued precautionary guidelines for Masses, or cancelled public Masses entirely, because of the coronavirus outbreak which originated in China late last year.

The new strain of coronavirus causes a respiratory disease, COVID-19, and has a fatality rate of roughly 3%. There have been more than 93,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in 81 countries, and nearly 3,200 deaths, as of March 4. The vast majority of cases and deaths have been in China.

In the U.S., there have been at least 147 confirmed cases in 16 states. These are concentrated in Washington, where there have been 32 cases, 10 of whom have died. Of those 10, seven were linked to a nursing home in a Seattle suburb.

In Oregon, there have been two confirmed cases and no deaths.

The Portland archdiocese's further considersations followed upon a Feb. 28 memo which offered a number of guidelines regarding possible transmission of disease.

The guidelines noted that Communion under both species “is not always necessry or advisable,” and that “it is left to the prudent judgment of the pastor whether communion under both kinds should be offered.”

Citing the fact that “our hands are often transmitters of the cold and flu,” it said that self-intinction should not be permitted, which is, in any case, “prohibited by law”; that rather than shaking hands during the sign of peace, “a nod of the head and a verbal greeting of peace … may be used”; and that “holding hands during the Our Father should be discouraged.”

Extaordinary Ministers of Holy Communion should, it said, “take special precautions” and frequently wash their hands.

It added that those who are ill are “excused from Sunday worship,” and that the ill “are encouraged to make a spiritual communion.”

Parishes that distribute Holy Communion only under the species of bread “should take the opportunity to catechize the faithful regarding the Church’s teaching about the Most Holy Eucharist, especially regarding the true, real and substantial presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ under either species,” the archdiocese noted.

The archdiocese added that after consulting with Oregon's public health office, it found that “scientific consensus seems to be that although bacteria & viruses can be found on the communion cup, despite wiping and able to survive the alcohol, the risk of transmission is thought to be low. However, the cessation of the distribution of Holy Communion from the Chalice would significantly lower the risk.”

In addition, the archdiocese quoted a statement from the Oregon Health Authority that “We have thousands of cases of influenza and many hundreds of hospitalizations from influenza right here in the Portland area this year. And we have zero cases of this Novel Corona virus. Right now, a bigger threat to all of us is influenza.”

It reiterated that “Holy Communion under both kinds is not mandatory at any Mass in the Archdiocese of Portland.”

The worship office also recommended “that all parishes cease the distribution of the Precious Blood for the time being and that the Sign of Peace be eliminated or done without the chance of physical contact.”

The Portland archdiocese referred to Redemptionis sacramentum, the Congregation for Divine Worship's 2004 instruction on certain matters to be observed or to be avoided regarding the Most Holy Eucharist, which notes that “each of the faithful always has the right to receive Holy Communion on the tongue, at his choice.”

Immediately to Portland's north, in the Archdiocese of Seattle, Archbishop Paul Etienne issued a differing set of directives in response to coronavirus.

The Northwest Catholic wrote March 3 that Archbishop Etienne “said that holy water should be removed from fonts” and “that Communion hosts should be received only in the hand, not on the tongue.”

The archdioceses of Portland and Seattle agree, however, that Communion should be under one species, that the sick should stay home from Mass, and that everyone should practice good hygiene and “avoid hand-to-hand contact during the Our Father and the sign of peace.”

Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe issued directives March 3 for his archdiocese that directly prohibited the reception of the Eucharist on the tongue.

“During the flu season and given the possibility of being exposed to the coronavirus, ALL communicants are to receive Communion in the hand,” the archbishop said.

“What is important is that is that we receive our Blessed Lord in Holy Communion. How we receive, while very personal to the individual communicant, is not crucial. What is important is that we receive our Lord in Holy Communion. Receiving Communion in the hand is every bit as respectful as receiving on the tongue. There is nothing ontologically preferable to receiving on the tongue,” Wester added.

Neither Wester's directives nor those of the Seattle archdiocese directly addressed the right to receive on the tongue mentioned in Redemptionis sacramentum.

However, a previous set of instructions regarding influenza in the Santa Fe archdiocese, issued Jan. 7, said that priests ought “encourage reception of the Consecrated Host in the hand,” and “request that persons who insist on receiving the Eucharist on the tongue wait to the end of Holy Communion in order to be the final communicants, limiting virus transmission.”

The Archdiocese of Chicago also released March 3 coronavirus prevention guidelines, which urged hygienic practices and recalled that the ill are not obliged to attend Mass. There have been four confirmed cases of coronavirus in Illinois.

The Chicago archdiocese also said that there should not be physical contact at the sign of peace, hand holding during the Our Father, or the use of holy water fonts, and that Holy Communion should be distributed only under the species of bread.

It added that “given the frequency of direct contact with saliva in the distribution of Holy Communion on the tongue, every consideration should be given by each individual to receive Holy Communion reverently in open hands for the time being.”

The Diocese of Spokane has shared a factsheet and guidelines on coronavirus preparedness it received from Catholic Mutual, which advises these adjustments “after a pandemic has been declared”: distribution of Holy Communion only under the species of bread; not passing collection baskets; and bowing rather than shaking hands at the sign of peace.

According to Catholic Mutual, “Communion on the tongue is strongly discouraged” after the declaration of pandemic. The World Health Organization has not declared a coronavirus pandemic.

Catholic Mutual added that “if the pandemic progresses to a more serious stage” more changes may need to be made, such as the emptying of Holy Water fonts, seating in alternate rows of pews, and limits on the number of attendees to baptisms, weddings, or funerals.

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales issued guidance on coronavirus dated Feb. 27 saying that in the current stage of coronavirus – characterized by very few cases in the UK and no cases in local parishes – the key thing for parishes to do is to urge that good hygiene be maintained.

The are 80 confirmed cases of coronavirus in England, and one in Wales. There has been one death in England due to the disease.

The English and Welsh bishops also directed that that this stage, parishes “ask anyone with cold or flu symptoms to refrain from the physical sign of peace, taking communion from the Chalice and advise they should receive the host on the hand only.”

It added that those attending Mass should be asked to sanitize their hands as they enter, and that “there is no need as things stand for the Chalice to be withdrawn or the of sign of peace suspended … This advice would only come if we had a very serious epidemic in the UK.”

The English and Welsh bishops advised that if the situation progresses such that there are a number of cases in local communities or a case specifically linked to a parish community, then Communion should be distributed only under the species of bread, the Host is “to be given on the hand only”, and that care should be taken in distribution that the minister not touch the recipient's hands.

In that stage, the bishops also advise the suspension of the physical sign of peace, removal of holy water stoups, cessation of use of shared hymn books and missals, and not passing a collection plate.

Should a third stage be reached, when there are many cases in local parishes, the English and Welsh bishops said that “Mass and Liturgy in public should be suspended and parish gatherings suspended.”

The Latin Mass Society issued a statement March 2 welcoming the English and Welsh bishops' guidelines, while noting they “do not take the form of a decree with the force of canon law.”

The group noted that at celebrations of the extraordinary form of the Roman rite, “the Sign of Peace is not given among members of the congregation; the Precious Blood is not distributed to the Faithful (from the Chalice); and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion are not employed. In these respects these celebrations already adhere to or render unnecessary recommendations given in the Guidelines for a heightened level of hygiene necessary in the case of a more serious outbreak of the virus.”

The Latin Mass Society added that in Masses said in the extraordinary form, Holy Communion “may not be distributed in the hand, according to the universal liturgical law applicable to them. Should the spread of COVID-19 necessitate the suspension of the distribution of Holy Communion on the tongue, this would mean the suspension of the distribution of Holy Communion to the Faithful in these celebrations.”

It noted that “the Communion of the Faithful is in no way necessary to the validity or liceity (in such circumstances) of the Mass. Should prudence dictate the necessity for such a step, the Faithful should be encouraged to make a ‘Spiritual Communion’.”

“We wish to observe, however, that the distribution of the Host in the hand does not appear to be less likely to spread infection than the distribution on the tongue,” the Latin Mass Society wrote.

“On the contrary, distribution on the hand has the result that the Host touches possibly infected surfaces, the palm of the left hand and the fingers of the right hand of the communicant, which is avoided in distribution by a priest directly onto the communicant’s tongue.”

Malone suspended priest secretary who leaked chancery tapes

Wed, 03/04/2020 - 17:00

Buffalo, N.Y., Mar 4, 2020 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- The day before he left his office, Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo forbade his former priest secretary from celebrating sacraments, after the priest leaked audio recordings that showed Malone knew about clerical sexual abuse allegations months before he acted on them. Buffalo’s temporary leader is now considering reinstating the priest. 

A Dec. 3 document, titled “Decree Imposing A Penal Remedy,” is addressed to Fr. Ryszard Biernat, who served as Malone’s secretary and vice chancellor of the diocese, until he was placed on leave by the bishop in August 2019.

In September 2019, Biernat took recordings of several conversations with Malone to a local media outlet. In those conversations, Malone acknowledged the legitimacy of accusations of harassment and a violation of the seal of confession made against a diocesan priest, Fr. Jeffrey Nowak, by a seminarian, months before the diocese removed Nowak from active ministry.

In an Aug. 2 conversation, Malone can be heard saying, if the media reported on the Nowak situation, “it could force me to resign.”

After Malone’s resignation was accepted by Pope Francis on Dec. 4, Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of Albany was appointed by the pope as Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Buffalo until a new bishop is named.

On Tuesday, local media in Buffalo reported that Scharfenberger is open to returning Biernat to ministry. 

Scharfenberger told the Buffalo News March 3 “I certainly want to do whatever I can to find a place for [Biernat] in priestly ministry.”

Biernat himself was involved in the abuse case he discussed with Malone. The priest said in September that Nowak became jealous of the close friendship between him and the seminarian. 

According to a conversation taped Aug. 2, Malone was concerned that media coverage would focus on the idea of “love triangle” between Nowak, the seminarian, and Biernat.

In the Dec. 3 decree, obtained by the Buffalo News, Malone wrote that Biernat “breach[ed] confidentiality” required by his role as vice chancellor and caused “further scandal” by bringing his concerns about Malone and the Nowak case to the media. 

Malone also noted that he had placed Biernat on leave in August 2019, for writing a “compromising letter” to the seminarian, which “had the potential for causing scandal among the faithful.” 

The bishop added that the priest’s “time of discernment” had not resulted in “the outcome for which I had hoped” and that he found it “necessary to take stronger measures.”

The December decree removed Biernat from his roles as vice chancellor and bishop’s secretary, forbade him from saying Mass publicly and revokes his faculties to preach, hear confessions, and minister the sacraments.

Malone also removed Biernat from his position as chaplain to a Carmelite monastery and prohibited him from residing in the bishop’s residence in Buffalo.

The decree was signed on December 3, 2019, the day before Pope Francis accepted Malone’s resignation, making it one of Malone’s last acts as bishop of the diocese. 

It is not clear if Malone imposed the penalties after a required canonical process, in which Biernat would have been able to defend himself, or if the bishop sought instead to issue the decree summarily before he was himself removed from office. 

The decree refers to the apparent punishments variously as “penal remedies,” “penal precepts,” and “penances,” although those terms have distinct meanings in canon law. The permanent deprivation of office, as imposed in the decree, is an “expiatory penalty” in the Code of Canon Law and not a precept or penance.

In the 18 months prior to his departure from office, Bishop Malone was the subject of successive scandals.

In November 2018, a former Buffalo chancery employee leaked confidential diocesan documents related to the handling of claims of clerical sexual abuse. The documents were widely reported to suggest Malone had covered-up some claims of sexual abuse, an allegation the bishop denied.

Six months later, in April 2019, Malone apologized for his handling of some cases in the diocese, and said he would work to restore trust. The bishop particularly apologized for his 2015 support of Fr. Art Smith, a priest who had faced repeated allegations of abuse and misconduct with minors.

“Lessons have been learned,” Malone said in April.

In August 2019, a RICO lawsuit was filed against the diocese and the bishop, alleging that the response of the diocese was comparable to an organized crime syndicate.

The following month, Biernat took recordings he had made of meetings with Malone to WKBW in Buffalo.

Just days after the taped conversations were made public in early September, Biernat revealed that he himself had been abused by a diocesan priest while a seminarian.

In an interview with local news station WKBW, Biernat said that in 2003, he was sexually assaulted by Fr. Art Smith at a rectory St. Thomas Aquinas parish in Buffalo. When Biernat went to then-auxiliary bishop Edward Grosz with the allegations, Grosz allegedly blamed him for not locking the door, and threatened his vocation if he did not keep silent about it.

Fr. Smith was eventually the subject of a letter from Bishop Malone to Vatican officials in 2015, where Malone asked that he be kept in ministry. In the same letter, Malone admitted that Smith had groomed a young boy, was accused of inappropriate touching of at least four young men, and had refused to stay in a treatment center. Smith was suspended from ministry in 2018 after a new abuse allegation against him was substantiated.

Malone was removed from office when Pope Francis accepted his resignation two years ahead of the canonical retirement age of 75. 

He presented his resignation after the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, D.C., announced in October that Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn had been asked to lead an apostolic visitation and canonical inspection of the Buffalo diocese on behalf of the Vatican Congregation for Bishops.

That review concluded at the end of October, with DiMarzio having made three trips to Buffalo, and interviewing more than 80 people before submitting his report to Rome. 

Malone said he had been made aware of the “general conclusions” of the report and the conclusions had factored into his discernment to resign, but that he had done so “freely and voluntarily.”

He won’t win. So why is Brian Carroll running for president? 

Wed, 03/04/2020 - 16:45

Chicago, Ill., Mar 4, 2020 / 02:45 pm (CNA).- Gazing at the Chicago skyline from his upper-floor hotel room, Brian Carroll is excited to be visiting the Windy City.

"I figured while the sun is shining, I might as well get out and see something," the 70-year-old Californian told CNA, with the enthusiasm of a seasoned traveler eager to explore.

This is Brian Carroll’s first trip to Chicago, he said, other than changing planes at O'Hare. But he’s not here for tourism.

Carroll has the clear diction and the good nature of a teacher, which should come as no surprise— Carroll spent his 43-year career teaching in one capacity or another, before retiring last year.

Now, he’s running to become President of the United States.

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

Carroll has come to Chicago to meet, for the very first time, his running mate, Amar Patel— a high school teacher from the city’s suburbs.

He’ll also take part in a March 4 debate for third-party presidential candidates. 

"There's no way I can look ahead and see what God is doing. I feel very strongly that God told me to run, but he didn't tell me what was going to happen," Carroll told CNA.

Birth of a party

Though the American Solidarity Party is not explicitly religious, its platform rests on the principles of Catholic social teaching: solidarity, subsidiarity, and distributism.

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

Abortion is a key issue for members of the ASP. The party platform calls for an end to legal protection for abortion, and it supports social services for mothers in need. But the party says that pro-life convictions must also include opposition to euthanasia, assisted suicide, embryonic stem cell research and the death penalty.

The party’s beliefs on the definition of marriage and religious liberty could be considered conservative, while its views on the environment, health care and immigration could be considered liberal.

Distributism, the favored economic theory for the party platform, is a model championed by notable Catholics such as G.K. Chesterton and Hillair Belloc.

The party describes distributism as “an economic system which focuses on creating a society of wide-spread ownership…rather than having the effect of degrading the human person as a cog in the machine.”

“The core of distributism is to bring the economic engine closer to home,” then-presidential candidate Mike Maturen explained to CNA in 2016.

“Rather than having a huge portion of our economy wrapped up in the hands and control of a few major corporations, we believe that it is the small business – the mom and pop shops – that drive the economy best. We would propose to rewrite regulations to favor the small businesses and family farms, rather than the major corporations that also just so happen to be the major donors to our government officials. Regulations, taxes, etc all need to be re-thought and revamped.”

Carroll had never heard the word "distributism" until he joined the ASP, but as soon as he read the description, it clicked for him.

"It shares with scripture the importance of watching out for our brothers, and not letting any class of people become exploitative of others," Carroll explained.

Amar Patel, the ASP’s 2020 vice presidential candidate, is also chair of the party. Patel said the ASP is working to break the narrative that if you're pro-life, you have to be a Republican, and if you want to love for the poor, you have to be a Democrat.

Patel became involved in the pro-life movement after converting to Catholicism in 1993. His opposition to abortion was— and still is— a guiding principle for his politics, and for years, he said he would vote for whichever candidate he considered pro-life, which would almost invariably be the Republican candidate.

Over time, as Patel grew in faith, and became involved with the Knights of Columbus, he says he started to become disillusioned with Republican policies and attitudes.

For example, he says, the United States was constantly at war during the George W. Bush years, and looking at the Catholic Church's just war theory, the wars in the Middle East, waged primarily in retaliation for the September 11th attacks, did not seem to Patel to be just.

Through a Facebook page called Catholic Geeks, and through conversations with fellow Catholics, Patel started to realize that he loved plumbing the depths of Catholic social teaching.

"One of the rules of the group was that everything you posted had to be from the Catechism, or encyclicals, or the Church Fathers, and just reading some of the things that people found about the richness of our faith, it made me [think]: neither party is addressing this,” Patel told CNA.

“Neither one comes close. They both just touch tips of icebergs...but the totality of the faith I felt was missing. And I felt like that should be an integral part of my life in the public square."

"The long game for Christians in the public square is a big loss if more people don't get out there and proclaim the Gospel message," he said.

Faith journey

For presidential hopeful Carroll, getting out of his native California and exploring new places is nothing new. He’s lived abroad for more than a decade, altogether, most of that time spent in Colombia.

Carroll grew up in Los Angeles, and moved to California's Central Valley in the late 1970s. His family was very active in the Methodist Church during his formative years.

His family’s commitment to education made an impression on Carroll. His aunt was the international president of Laubach Literacy, a program that began in the 1930s to address adult illiteracy. Carroll’s brother got involved in teaching English to immigrants.

Carroll’s family also left him with a sense of the struggles migrants and refugees face. For a time during his childhood, his parents used their spare bedroom to sponsor two Vietnamese refugees from Saigon.

"From a very young age we were involved in refugee resettlement, meeting the needs of immigrants, both to learn English and other training, so that was my upbringing," he told CNA.

He remembers that the Gospel has long had a hold on his mind, and his imagation. When he was 10 or 12, a preacher mentioned a quote from the biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Protestant pastor.

"If you were put on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?" Carroll recalls hearing.

"And I thought: ‘Boy, if that's the question, that would be a horrible thing to live your life as a Christian without leaving enough evidence to be convicted for it,’"

At a certain point, Carroll says, he became disillusioned with the "social gospel," that some members of his church seemed to hold.

"We were doing lots of good things, but it just seemed to me like they were treating the Bible as a convenient mythology to hold the social organizations together," Carroll mused.

He said he failed to gain a sense that, in his church, there was a "sufficient belief that the Bible was true."

"And I thought: I don't really want to base my life on a mythology. I want something that's firm and secure."

He said he spent some time looking for truth in other faiths. He says he read the Koran, as well as Buddhist and Taoist literature. None spoke to him.

One thing he did learn with time, though— don't judge a religion by the way people are living it.

"Judge a religion by what the original founder said," he concluded.

Carroll resolved to try living by the words of Christ, and to lead his family that way.

As early as 1980, Carroll and his wife became concerned that, despite some legislative efforts to the contrary, federal money was funding abortions. They wanted no part of that. So, they decided to reduce their income— by drastically increasing their tithing— to the point where they weren't paying any income tax. At one point, they were donating as much as 30% of their income to Christian causes.

"Then God said: I don't want your money, I want you," Carroll recalled.

Carroll and his family got involved with Wycliffe Bible Translators, a nondenominational mission that translates the bible into indigenous languages. He and his wife went to Colombia to teach, staying for 5 years, returned to the US for two years, then went back for another four.

Wycliffe had to leave Colombia in 1995 because of the country’s civil war. At that point, the Carrolls returned to California.

Trying to decide what was next, Carroll earned a Master’s degree in fine arts and creative writing, worked at a Pentecostal school for a while, and eventually settled into another teaching job, where he taught for 11 years before retiring.

At that same time, Carroll was involved in building a new congregation in the Evangelical Free Church. That community split four years ago, over doctrinal and leadership issues, Carroll says.

A group of 30 people, including Carroll, organized a house church. With little overhead, they mainly fund and support missionaries.

A new political home

Though Carroll had voted Republican ever since 1980, primarily because of his pro-life convictions, he told CNA he eventually began to feel that the Republican party was just "leading us on"— that the candidates needed votes to pass their economic agendas, but "could not afford to give us what we really wanted."

He says the first crack from him came in the George W. Bush era, when Republicans had control of the House and Senate. Bush was asked in 1999 if he would push for a federal personhood amendment to outlaw abortion, and the president said no. Carroll says that shook him.

Then, in 2010, California Republicans ran a pro-choice candidate, Meg Whitman, for governor.

When Donald Trump burst on the scene as a presidential candidate, Carroll says it seemed that Trump "had a habit of sucking in everyone around him and corrupting them."

"And I don't want to see the pro-life movement sucked into that," Carroll said.

"I don't want it to be Trump's pro-life movement; I want it to be Christ's pro-life movement."

Like Carroll, Patel cited the rise of Donald Trump as a tipping point, which caused him to question his party allegiances.

In 2016, Carroll resigned from his church and changed his voted registration at the same time, briefly joining the Democratic party. He liked Bernie Sanders' idea of "getting money out of politics," so he supported him while searching for a third party.

It only took a few weeks to find the American Solidarity Party.

Caroll helped to organize the solidarity party in California, and in 2018 decided to run for Congress against Devin Nunes, a Republican who has held his seat since 2003.

He did not have much time or money to devote to the campaign, as he was still teaching full-time. Still, he garnered 1.3% of the vote— more than the Libertarian candidate in the race.

After his run for office, Carroll realized that he had gained more campaign experience than nearly anyone else in the American Solidarity Party, and that the party would likely ask him to run for president.

"I saw that coming, and had a year to pray about it," Carroll said.
 
Every time he came up with a reason not to run, God seemed to provide an answer, usually through preaching that Carroll heard on the radio.

"Lord, you didn't bring me out into the desert for me to die here," Carroll remembers telling himself.

Faith and politics

The reasons Carroll joined the American Solidarity Party are not immediately obvious to his fellow evangelical Christians, he told CNA.

He says many of his fellow elders in the church he left behind "probably thought I was a heretic."

For example, everybody else on the elder board felt that capital punishment was what the Bible demanded, but Carroll started to doubt that. After reading up on the subject, when capital punishment came up on the ballot in California, he decided to vote against it.

He says he has Christian friends on both the left and the right who tell him, often, why his positions are wrong.

But, he says joining the party has given him a chance to get to know many more Catholics than he had ever encountered in his life.

Recent polling conducted by EWTN News and RealClear Opinion suggests that some 52% of US Catholics are open to voting for a third party.

Some of those Catholics have made their way to the American Solidarity Party.

"99% of my Catholic friends are members of the party," he said.

Carroll estimates that at least 80% of members of the party are Catholic, with some Orthodox Christians as well.

"It has very much changed the flavor of my Facebook friends list," he chuckled.

Paths to victory

Neither Carroll nor Patel is sanguine about their chances of actually winning the presidency.

Though the ASP hopes to get on the ballot in Colorado, in many states ASP members are working hard just to earn the chance to be counted as write-in candidates.

In some states, such as Oregon, even achieving write-in status has been an uphill battle.

The ASP is "in the process of building a party," Carroll explained.

He said California, New York, Ohio and Texas are increasing in activity in the party— though turnout remains small compared to major parties.

"If we get 5 people to a meeting, that's a major rally," he admitted, and the ASP is "not yet to the point where we're going to be satirized in The Onion or The Babylon Bee."

Still, the party has gained at least one high-profile member in the past few months: Charles Camosy, a leading pro-life Democrat, announced in early February his departure from the Democratic Party, in favor of the ASP. 

"Who knows what's coming this year," Carroll said.

Both men said their presidential run is about raising the party’s national profile and getting people talking about the issues that are important to the ASP.

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

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

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

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

"My personal goal is for everyone, whether they love us, they hate us, or are completely indifferent and think we're a joke, at least will have heard of us by November 3, and that the people who want to vote their conscience have at least that opportunity," Patel said.

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

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

Patel said he hears a lot about “wasted votes” when it comes to third parties. But in states where a Republican or Democratic victory is all but assured, such as California, even if millions of voters switched to a third party, it would be unlikely to change the outcome, he said.

If that happened, however, the "entire face of American politics would have changed,” because people would be talking about the third-party candidate who garnered millions of votes.

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

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

 

Supreme Court hears arguments on Louisiana abortion law

Wed, 03/04/2020 - 15:05

Washington D.C., Mar 4, 2020 / 01:05 pm (CNA).- The Supreme Court heard arguments on Louisiana’s Unsafe Abortion Protection Act on Wednesday, as justices questioned lawyers from both sides on the state’s safety regulations for abortion clinics, including a requirement that abortion doctors have admitting privileges at a local hospital.

The court met March 4 to hear oral arguments in the case of June Medical Services v. Russo. As justices probed the necessity of the state’s requirements, outside the court an advocate for post-abortive women took issue with the justices’ skepticism toward the law.

Cynthia Collins, founder of the Louisiana Abortion Recovery Alliance, and herself a post-abortive woman, told CNA after arguments that the justices “were trying to silence our voices, of the women that have been hurt by abortion.”

“And their voices are the same as the abortionists, to get up, get out, and stay silent, when we’ve been injured by abortion,” she said.

The Louisiana law (Act 620) was enacted in 2014 and requires that abortionists in the state have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles in case of complications that may arise during or after the procedure. The law would hold abortion clinics to the same safety standards that apply to other medical clinics in the state.

The Shreveport abortion clinic Hope Medical Group for Women sued, saying the regulations posed an undue burden on the ability of women to have an abortion.

A district court first issued a restraining order on the enforcement of the law’s penalties. Then, in 2016, the court issued a preliminary injunction on the law. Later that year, after the Supreme Court later struck down a similar Texas law in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the district court permanently enjoined Louisiana’s law from going into effect.

That decision was reversed by the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals which said that the law posed a benefit to women’s health and did not put substantial burdens on abortion in the state.

Unlike in Texas where most clinics closed because of its law, “only one doctor at one clinic is currently unable to obtain [admitting] privileges” in Louisiana, the Fifth Circuit said. 

Reviewing the evidence of the case before the district circuit, the Fifth Circuit also found that some abortionists did not try hard enough to obtain admitting privileges at hospitals.

The case went to the Supreme Court, and more than 200 members of Congress signed an amicus brief in favor of the law. Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), who is facing a tough primary battle against a pro-abortion opponent, signed the brief, an act his opponent Marie Newman highlighted in an attack against him.

Wednesday’s arguments focused on two main questions—on whether an abortion clinic, rather than women in the state, has “third-party standing” to bring such a case before the Court, and whether the admitting privileges requirements violate the Constitution by imposing a substantial burden on legal abortion rights.

Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh—the newest justices on the bench who could be deciding votes in a 5-4 case—said little on Wednesday, with Justice Samuel Alito being the most vocal member in questioning the abortion clinic’s case against the law.

The “third-party standing” question referred to the legitimacy of abortion clinics, instead of women of the state, arguing before the Court that the law would substantially burden abortion.

Elizabeth Murrill, Louisiana’s Solicitor General arguing in favor of the law, said that “these doctors should not be able to challenge regulations intended to protect a certain class of people.”

The attorney representing June Medical Services, L.L.C., defended the rights of abortion clinics to bring “third-party” lawsuits against state laws, even if a conflict of interest might exist between the clinics’ desire to do business and the safety of women they claim to represent.

Justice Alito called the argument “amazing.” 

“You think that if the plaintiff actually has interests that are directly contrary to those individuals on whose behalf the plaintiff is claiming to sue, nevertheless that plaintiff can have standing?”  

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg repeatedly asked why the admitting privileges requirement was relevant to women’s health, given that many women might experience abortion-related complications at home, after having visited a clinic, and thus would go to the hospital by themselves.

Questions also arose as to whether Louisiana’s law is substantially different from Texas regulations struck down by the Supreme Court in 2016 in the Hellerstedt case, with lawyers for the state arguing that the law was “justified by abundant evidence of life-threatening health and safety violations, malpractice, noncompliance with professional licensing rules, legislative testimony from post-abortive women, [and] testimony from doctors who took care of abortion providers' abandoned patients.”

In one case, Murrill said, an abortionist testified that he transferred four women to a hospital for abortion-related hemorrhaging. The same doctor also admitted in testimony that he hired a radiologist and an ophthalmologist to do abortions, she said, posing clear safety risks to women.

Jeffrey Wall, U.S. Principal Deputy Solicitor General who argued in support of Louisiana’s law on Wednesday, noted that the doctor’s testimony of transferring the four women to hospitals was proof that, while “often” complications might be experienced by women at their home and not at the clinic, they “sometimes” do occur while women are still at the clinic.

In such cases, Wall said, the best practice would be admission to a hospital—something backed up even by the abortionist’s testimony.

Abortionists “could and did” obtain admitting privileges at hospitals, she said, but did not maintain close relationships with their patients who had to litigate their own cases involving harmful effects of abortion.

The chair of the pro-life committee of the U.S. bishops’ conference, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, said on Wednesday that states “have a strong interest in regulating a procedure which is lethal to children and immensely damaging to women.”

“Women, their bodies, and their babies are immeasurably valuable,” the archbishop said in a statement. “It adds insult to injury, and speaks to the callousness of the abortion industry, that providers are seeking to overturn basic, standard protections for women seeking this life-altering procedure.”

In his statement issued after Wednesday’s oral arguments, Archbishop Naumann called on Catholics to pray for the outcome.

“The Catholic Church encourages all people of faith to pray about the outcome to this very important case,” Archbishop Naumann stated on Wednesday.

“We also ask all to pray for the women who are compelled to seek abortion: that they may find alternatives that value their health and well-being, and the lives of their precious children.”

Maine law removes religious exemptions for vaccinations

Wed, 03/04/2020 - 14:00

Portland, Maine, Mar 4, 2020 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- Maine voters Tuesday upheld a ban on exemptions to the requirement that students in Maine schools be vaccinated.

Voters in the state rejected an effort to overturn a state law that will go into effect next September. The law eliminates parents’ ability to opt-out of the state’s school enrollment vaccination requirement because of their philosophical or religious beliefs. 

LD 798 passed in May 2019. Under the law, a child must be vaccinated to attend any school, public or private, unless there is a medical reason preventing vaccination, such as an allergy to an ingredient in the vaccine. 

The law does not mandate vaccinations; but does require them for school enrollment.

At the time of the law’s passage, about nine out of 10 unvaccinated children in Maine were not vaccinated because of a parent’s religious or philosophical objection to vaccinations. About one percent of unvaccinated children were unvaccinated due to a medical condition. 

Maine’s overall unvaccinated rate of 6.2% is among the highest in the country, and its percentage of unvaccinated kindergarteners was three times the national average at the time of the bill’s passage. 

LD 798 will now go into effect in September of 2021. The bill was signed by Gov. Janet Mills (D) last May after it was narrowly passed in the state senate. The bill was supported by most of the legislature’s Democrats and opposed by most Republicans, although members of both parties voted both for and against the bill. 

After the bill passed, a statewide petition to overturn it led to the May 3 referendum vote.

In a statement after the result of that vote was announced, Gov. Mills praised the result.

“Tonight, the health and wellbeing of Maine children prevailed,” Mills said. 

“This law leaves medical exemptions up to medical professionals and ensures that Maine children are better protected from the spread of dangerous communicable diseases. It is the right thing to do for the health and safety of our kids.” 

As of Wednesday morning, with approximately 85% of Maine precincts reporting, 73% of Maine voters chose to uphold the ban, and 26% voted to overturn it.

The Diocese of Portland, Maine’s sole Catholic diocese, did not respond to request for comment.

Some Catholics object to the use of vaccines that were initially researched and developed using cell lines derived from the bodies of children who were aborted.

In 2005, the Pontifical Academy for Life considered the moral issues regarding the origins of several vaccines in the document “Moral Reflections on Vaccines Prepared From Cells Derived From Aborted Human Foetuses.” 

The academy concluded that it can be both morally permissible and morally responsible for Catholics to make use of some controversial vaccines.

“The duty to avoid passive material cooperation is not obligatory if there is grave inconvenience. Moreover, we find, in such a case, a. proportional reason, in order to accept the use of these vaccines in the presence of the danger of favoring the spread of the pathological agent, due to the lack of vaccination of children,” the academy explained.

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

West Virginia passes bipartisan 'Born Alive' law

Wed, 03/04/2020 - 10:30

Charleston, W.Va., Mar 4, 2020 / 08:30 am (CNA).- West Virginia became the latest state to pass legislation which requires that babies born alive after an attempted abortion be given medical care. 

The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act was signed into law by Gov. Jim Justice (R) on Monday, March 2. The law will go into effect on May 19. 

“It’s unbelievable that we even have to go through this process for something that seems like it’s just common sense,” said Justice at the bill’s ceremonial signing. 

“But, at the same time, we should be really proud that we’re defending the lives of our most vulnerable. To God above, that baby is worth it.”

Unlike similar bills aimed at protecting children born after abortions, including at the federal level, the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act received widespread bipartisan support in West Virginia. 

The bill passed unanimously in the West Virginia Senate, which is composed of  20 Republicans and 14 Democrats. In the West Virginia House of Delegates, the bill passed by a vote of 93-5, with all five “nay” votes coming from Democrats. More than 30 Democratic delegates voted in favor of the bill, with one abstention. 

Justice added that the signing of the bill was a sign that “we stand for life and we stand for the right stuff.” He referred to the bill as a “no-brainer” and said that he had been a longtime supporter of this kind of legislation. 

Justice was elected governor in 2016 running as a Democrat. In 2017, he switched to the Republican Party. 

Under the new law, a child born alive after an attempted abortion must be given age-appropriate treatment that a child of the same gestational age would receive. The law states that the physician must use “reasonable medical judgment” when administering care, and ensure that the baby is transported and admitted to a hospital. 

The bill defines “alive” as a child born with a beating heart, pulsating umbilical cord, or “definite movement of voluntary muscles.” 

Abortion is already not legal in West Virginia after the 20th week of a pregnancy, and the state’s only abortion clinic does not perform abortions after the 16 weeks gestation. 

A recent attempt to pass a born-alive bill at the federal level failed. Only three Democratic senators--including Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV)--voted in favor of the bill.

Editor’s note: Journalist Luke Coppen to join Catholic News Agency

Wed, 03/04/2020 - 02:54

Denver, Colo., Mar 4, 2020 / 12:54 am (CNA).- Earlier this week, veteran British journalist Luke Coppen accepted a position as CNA’s Europe Editor.

As Europe Editor, Coppen will oversee CNA’s Rome team, which reports up-to-the minute news from the Vatican. He will also collaborate with other EWTN and EWTN News outlets to ensure faithful, high-quality journalism from the Church across Europe.

Coppen has edited the U.K.'s Catholic Herald since 2004. In 2014, he oversaw the transformation of the Herald into a magazine after 126 years as a newspaper. He has written for the Spectator, the Daily Telegraph, The Times and the Sunday Times, among other publications.

He will begin work with CNA in early April.

Luke is distinguished by his professionalism, integrity, keen intellect, and commitment to Catholic discipleship. He will be a welcome addition to the team at Catholic News Agency and EWTN News.

 

Louisiana abortion clinic rule heads to US Supreme Court

Tue, 03/03/2020 - 19:30

Washington D.C., Mar 3, 2020 / 05:30 pm (CNA).- A Louisiana abortion clinic regulation sponsored by a pro-life Democrat could have a major impact on precedent regarding legal abortion, with the U.S. Supreme Court set to hear the case Wednesday.

Louisiana’s law, the Unsafe Abortion Protection Act, was sponsored by Democratic State Rep. Katrina Jackson, now a State Senator, and signed by then-Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican, in 2014.

The act requires abortion clinics where surgical abortions are performed to have the same safety standards as those of other ambulatory surgical centers. Abortion doctors must have admitting privileges at a hospital licensed by the state health department and with the ability to provide necessary “surgical and diagnostic” care. The hospital must be within 30 miles of the clinic.

It was immediately challenged in court by the Shreveport abortion clinic June Medical Services. If the court upholds the law, two of the three abortion providers in the state could close.

The Louisiana law now scrutinized in the case named Gee v. June Medical Services is said to be similar, if not identical, to a Texas law struck down 5-3 in 2016 Supreme Court decision Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. That ruling said Texas had placed an “undue burden” on a woman’s access to abortion

However, the Supreme Court’s makeup has changed. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Scalia, who died months before the decision, has been replaced by Justice Neil Gorsuch. Justice Anthony Kennedy, often a swing vote favoring pro-abortion rights decisions, voted against the Texas law but has since been replaced by Brett Kavanaugh.

Among the Louisiana law’s defenders is Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie, M.D., a Miami-based radiologist and policy advisor for the Catholic Association.

“Outpatient surgical centers in Louisiana are held to reasonable standards by the state in order to ensure patient safety,” she said March 3. “One of these standards is requiring physicians to have admitting privileges in nearby hospitals--ensuring continuity of care and weeding out incompetent and unethical practitioners.”

“The state’s abortion clinics are so bent on being held to a lower standard that they have taken their case all the way to the Supreme Court,” Christie charged. “The health and wellbeing of patients should always be more important than allowing abortion businesses to cut corners and save money.”

Jackson, a sponsor of the bill, is an African American Democrat who describes herself as a “pro-life feminist.”

She said she has been “very aggressive” in pursuing more abortion restrictions but rejected claims the law was a disguised attack on abortion, the Washington Post said. She is “very intentional” about the bills she sponsors.

“I thought it was common sense,” she told the Washington Post.

Louisiana solicitor general Elizabeth B. Murrill told the New York Times the hospital privileging process helps evaluate competency.

“Women and girls would be afforded better health care. That’s the big picture,” she said.

Two of the five abortion doctors in the state have secured admitting privileges, in New Orleans and Shreveport, respectively. However, the Shreveport doctor said he could not handle this work on his own. A lower court judge agreed that the regulation would leave the New Orleans doctor as the only abortion doctor and at the only clinic in the state.

Murrill characterized the measure as a common-sense way to protect women’s health. Abortion doctors who failed to secure admitting privileges should have tried harder.

“Any failure to have privileges is attributable to their sitting on their hands,” she said.

Kathleen Pittman, director of Hope Medical Group for Women, an abortion clinic subsidiary of June Medical Services, told the New York Times that hospitals do not have incentives to provide admitting privileges and sometimes decline for economic and political reasons, including the possibility of public opposition. The State Board of Medical Examiners sufficiently credentials and licenses physicians, she said, defending abortion as safe. She said hospitalizations after abortion are rare.

A 2017 federal district court decision striking down the law said only four patients of Hope Clinic in the previous 23 years of operation required transfer to a hospital for treatment. The clinic serves about 3,000 patients a year.

“In each instance, regardless of whether the physician had admitting privileges, the patient received appropriate care,” Judge John W. deGravelles of the Federal District Court of Baton Rouge said.

A panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, however, upheld the law on the grounds that it brought abortion provider standards in line with standards for ambulatory surgical centers.

Also in defense of the law is a brief submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of the Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health Dr. Rebekah Gee.

Louisiana began licensing abortion clinics after reports of “shockingly unsanitary and dangerous conditions” at abortion clinics prompted a 1999 executive order by then-Gov. Mike Foster. When the state legislature considered the bill in 2014, witnesses who testified in the bill’s favor included two doctors who later served as witnesses for the state during the trial.

“Louisiana abortion clinics have a long, disturbing history of serious health and safety problems, among other failures of legal compliance,” Gee’s brief argued. It said abortion “carries known risks of serious complications that may require intervention in a hospital.”

National medical organizations, including the American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, filed an amicus brief against Louisiana’s law. They asked the court to uphold its 2016 decision.

Some supporters of Louisiana’s law say it significantly differs from Texas’ law that did not survive the Supreme Court. They cite the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that the Louisiana law aims to align the clinics’ surgical abortion standards with those of ambulatory surgical centers.

Jackson said she had long hoped for a breakthrough on eliminating abortion.

“I prayed one day that it would come, but I never thought it would be with this bill,” she told the Washington Post.

“In a post-Roe v. Wade society, I always figured Louisiana would be there. With a number of other states maybe, but Louisiana would always be one of them.”

In February 2019, the Supreme Court temporarily blocked Louisiana’s law from taking effect.

In response, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, the chair of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee, said that the law simply required “basic health standards” of abortion clinics. He said that the court’s stay, together with the abortion industry fighting the law, are “further evidence of how abortion extremism actively works against the welfare of women.”

Though the legislation sponsor is a Democrat, national Democratic leaders have weighed in against the bill. Nearly 200 Members of Congress, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) have submitted a brief opposing the Louisiana law, National Public Radio reports.

In January, 39 U.S. Senators and 168 Members of the House of Representatives, hailing from 38 states, signed an amicus brief from the group Americans United for Life. They asked the court to uphold the Louisiana law and to address pro-abortion rights precedents like Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey’s “unworkable” finding of a “right to abortion.”

Jackson, who characterizes herself as a “pro-whole life” Democrat, suggested that Louisiana pro-life Democrats are uniquely open about their views.

“There are pro-life Democrats all over this nation, but they have a tendency to stay quiet because it’s not popular in the party, nationally,” she told the Washington Post. Jackson argued that Republicans do not do enough to help children who are born have “a chance at the American Dream.”

For Democrats, in her comparison, “We believe in life from womb to the tomb, from conception until death, and we fight for it.” She pointed to Louisiana’s Medicare expansion and efforts to improve schools and provide health insurance and job opportunities.

Tornado hits historic Nashville church

Tue, 03/03/2020 - 13:00

Nashville, Tenn., Mar 3, 2020 / 11:00 am (CNA).- An historic Catholic church in the Nashville neighborhood of Germantown was among several buildings seriously damaged by a tornado Tuesday night.

The tornado’s main path struck about 100 yards away from the Church of the Assumption in the Diocese of Nashville. The storm destroyed the parish’s north transept, sacristy, and rectory chimney. The winds also badly damaged the building’s steeple and roof. 

Fr. Bede Price, pastor of the parish, was able to safely retrieve the Blessed Sacrament from the tabernacle, and he was uninjured in the storm. 

Assessments are underway to determine if the parish building can be saved, or if the damage is too severe. 

Approximately 21 people were killed by the tornadoes, which struck throughout East Nashville and surrounding suburbs. The death toll has steadily risen throughout Tuesday morning as recovery efforts continue, and many people remain unaccounted for. 

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) called the tornadoes “heartbreaking,” and stated at a press conference that “we have had loss of life all across the state.”

“Four different counties, as of this morning, had confirmed fatalities,” said Lee. 

Most of the people who were killed lived in Putnam County, which is located east of Nashville. 

Lee said that he and his wife Maria would be praying for the families of those killed, as well as their communities.

“Sudden loss like that can do powerful damage in a community, but it can also bring a lot of hope,” he said. 

Rachel Tiede, a reporter for Fox17 Nashville, shared pictures of the damaged church building early Tuesday morning. 

“There are concerns about the steeple toppling over,” she tweeted. Pictures taken during the daylight hours show that the steeple is leaning decidedly to one side.

Mark Cassman, a parishioner at Church of the Assumption, shared images of the damage on his Facebook page. His pictures show that several of the church’s stained glass windows were partially destroyed in the storm, and as well as damage caused to the building by rocks thrown by the tornado. 

“Mass cannot be held here for a while,” said Cassman. “It’s bad.” 

The parish’s high altar sustained minimal damage in the storm, although the area of the church located near the side altar was littered with debris. 

Church of the Assumption was built in 1858, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. It is the home to the only regularly celebrated Traditional Latin Mass in the city of Nashville. 

The Diocese of Nashville was unavailable to comment about the damage to Church of the Assumption, and there has not yet been an update to the diocesan website about any relief effort for those impacted by the storm.

Catholics at conservative conference say they will back Trump, with reservations

Mon, 03/02/2020 - 18:00

Washington D.C., Mar 2, 2020 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Catholics attending Mass at the Conservative Political Action Conference convention, held outside Washington, DC, this weekend, told CNA their decision to support President Donald Trump’s bid for reelection is mostly because of his administration’s record on abortion. 

CNA spoke to several people who attended one of the daily Masses offered during the event Feb. 26-29. 

Several said they could not consider voting for Democratic candidates because of the party's absolute support for abortion, even while some acknowledged that Trump himself once supported legal protection for abortion.

Javier Martin, an immigrant from Spain who now lives in New York, told CNA after Mass that while he does not agree with Trump on everything, the president’s policies align most closely with his own views, as compared to the other candidates running. 

“Policy wise, it’s much harder to vote for Democrats right now, if you felt the pro-life issue is imoprtant to you,” said Martin. “That’s just a non-starter on the Democrat’s side right now.” 

Martin said that he thinks that “Trump seems to be going in a better direction” than what other candidates are proposing. 

The annual CPAC conference is considered by many to be a reflection of the trends and topics of importance in populist conservative circles. While Trump was considered an outsider at the conference in the years before his presidential candidacy, the 2020 event had many of the trappings of a Trump campaign rally.  

Grace Dwyer and Lauren Pels are Catholic students who attended CPAC this year. They are both 17 and will be voting in their first presidential election this November. Both young women told CNA they plan to vote for Trump. 

Dwyer, who lives in the Washington area, told CNA that she was galvanized by seeing Trump speak at the 2020 March for Life, saying she found the event “really amazing.” 

“I’ve been [to the March for Life] every year since I was two, and just having the president there this year was amazing,” she said. 

Dwyer also appreciated hearing Vice President Mike Pence speak at the CPAC conference, especially, she said, because he stressed the Republican Party’s commitment to pro-life values, and invited disillusioned pro-life Democrats to join the Republican Party.

Being pro-life has “always been something big for me,” Dwyer explained. 

Pels agreed with Dwyer, and she said that she, too, plans to vote for Trump because of his pro-life record.

“A big thing for me is that President Trump is pro-life, especially with how far the left has moved on abortion,” said Pels, citing recent congressional debates over the Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, a bill that would require medical care be given to a child who survives an abortion. 

Pels also said she approves of how Trump had “stopped giving aid to fund abortions in other countries,” referring to the president’s Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance policy. 

Pels acknowledged that while “some of [Trump’s] past comments have been problematic and conflicted with Catholic beliefs,” she said his actions as president have outweighed his past statements and behavior, “especially when you look at what the actions of the left would have been, which are absolutely egregious,” Pels said. 

Another Mass attendee at CPAC cited the president’s pro-life views as the reason she will be voting for him in November.

Bernadette Repisky spoke to CNA after Mass at the conference on Thursday evening. Repinsky traveled to CPAC from the Philadelphia area, and she previously attended the conferences in 2012 and 2016. 

Repinksy told CNA that she “loves” Trump because of his pro-life views, and that she believes that “he’s doing more for my country than any president has ever done in my lifetime, and I’m in my fifties.”

Trump had previously supported the right to an abortion, something Repinksy said does not bother her. She also offered her view on criticisms of the president’s moral character, which include allegations of sexual assault and harassment. 

“So he might've been a Democrat in his former life, might've been a playboy in his former life, but I don't judge him by that,” she told CNA. “That's for God. I judge him by what he's doing right now and what he says he's going to do for us and for this country.” 

“I stand behind him one hundred percent.”

While every Catholic CNA spoke with at CPAC indicated plans to vote for Trump, even with reservations, nationwide polling shows that the Catholic vote in November is likely to be far more diverse. 

In the recent EWTN News/RealClear Opinion Research poll, 46% of Catholics said that there was a “sure” or “good” chance they would vote for Trump, and an additional 8% of respondents said it was “possible” they would vote for the president. Slightly more than a third--36%--said they would “never” vote for Trump. 

Fifty percent of Catholics surveyed by the poll said they would consider voting for a third party candidate.

This was the first year that daily Mass was celebrated at the conference, held at National Harbor outside of Washington, D.C., with priests volunteering from nearby parishes. 

Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union, which hosts CPAC, told CNA that the decision to include daily Mass at the event came in response to widespread support for a vigil Mass celebrated on the final day of the conference last year. 

“There's so many kids who are here from schools, and CPAC ends on a Saturday, and then most of them then get on airplane Sunday morning,” Schlapp told CNA. “And so we started with a vigil Mass last year and I got so much great feedback. I had people stop me in airports and train stations saying, thank you for doing Mass on Saturday night.”

Minnesota bishops issue guidelines on transgenderism in Catholic schools 

Mon, 03/02/2020 - 17:52

St. Paul, Minn., Mar 2, 2020 / 03:52 pm (CNA).- The Catholic bishops of Minnesota have published guidelines regarding gender identity and Catholic schools, emphasizing the Catholic mission of schools and the Church’s doctrinal teaching on sexuality and identity.

“The Catholic school is committed to providing a safe environment that allows students to flourish academically, physically, and spiritually. Catholic schools are obliged to provide an education and resources consistent with Catholic teaching,” the guidelines state.

Catholic education has as its foundation “the God-given irrevocable dignity of every human person.”

The guidelines use the term “sexual identity” in a way that is synonymous with “biological sex,” and they state that Catholic school students will be referred to by names and pronouns that reflect their sexual identity.

Students will also be allowed to use only those facilities (such as bathrooms or locker rooms) and participate in single-sex sports and activities that align with their sexual identity, rather than with their chosen gender identity. 

Referencing the book of Genesis, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and Pope Francis, that document then states that God created each person “in His own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” and that “God uses the body to reveal to each person his or her sexual identity as male or female.” 

“A person’s embrace of his or her God-given sexual identity is an essential part of living a fulfilled relationship with God, with oneself, and with each other,” the document states.

“The physical, moral, and spiritual differences between men and women are equal and complementary. The flourishing of family life and society depend in part on how this complementarity and equality are lived out,” it adds.

The guidelines were presented Feb. 20-21 during a seminar for priests and Catholic educators in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

The document explains that schools will be responsible for communicating their particular policies regarding sexual identity “to each student in a way that is respectful of and consistent with each student’s God-given sexual identity and biological sex.”

The Minnesota document comes one month after Bishop Thomas Paprocki issued pastoral guidelines on the issue of gender identity for the Diocese of Springfield, Illinois.

The guidelines are similar to the pastoral recommendations made by Paprocki, who noted that “the presentation of this truth must be made with love,” while the diocese must also communicate clear policies that reflect the faith of the Catholic Church.

While guidelines have now been issued for several dioceses, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has thus far remained quiet on the issue.

“Gender identity is an issue that the education committee has begun discussing, but at this time, there isn’t anything to release,” Chieko Noguchi, director of public affairs for the U.S. bishop’s conference, told CNA in response to questions about whether the national bishops’ conference plans to issue nationwide guidelines.

Noguchi added that because the bishops’ committee meetings are private, she could not comment on whether the bishop have already begun working on a document on transgenderism.

According to The Catholic Spirit, Minnesota bishops and the state Catholic conference began working on statewide guidelines in 2015, when Pope Francis began addressing the issue of gender identity in his encyclicals and exhortations.

The state’s bishops officially adopted the guidelines in June 2019, the same month that the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education released a document entitled “Male and Female He Created Them,” which denounced so-called gender theory and affirmed the principles of human dignity, difference, and complementarity. 

“The denial of this (male-female) duality not only erases the vision of human beings as the fruit of an act of creation but creates the idea of the human person as a sort of abstraction who ‘chooses for himself what his nature is to be,’” the Vatican document stated.

CNA asked the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis why the guidelines were publicly released 8 months after they were adopted, but has not received comment as of press time.

Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Cozzens of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis said at the introduction of Minnesota’s guidelines in February that he has had personal conversations with family members of those who identify as transgender, and that he knows the issue can be painful for those involved, The Catholic Spirit reported.

“A lot of times, when we’re in pain, we look for quick answers for that pain, and the culture wants to provide quick answers for that pain, but we know that the quick answer for that pain doesn’t ultimately bring healing,” Cozzens said.

“One of the things we have to do in our pastoral care is be willing to stand with people in their pain, and walk with them with an eye toward the greater good.”

According to The Catholic Spirit, Cozzens, who serves as the archdiocese’s vicar for Catholic education, said he and the state’s other bishops wanted to provide “practical clarity” on this issue to the parents who send their children to Catholic school and expect that they will be taught the truth according to the Catholic faith.

“(A)nd we knew that we had to do this in a way that’s calling people to a higher standard of these truths than our culture currently is, to help people get beyond the ideology and to the truth of who they are.”


 

 

Detroit parish designated Michigan's third minor basilica

Mon, 03/02/2020 - 16:06

Detroit, Mich., Mar 2, 2020 / 02:06 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Detroit announced Sunday that Pope Francis has granted the title of minor basilica to Ste. Anne Church in Detroit, one of the longest continuously operating parishes in the country.

“At its founding on the Feast of St. Anne in 1701, this parish was among the first fruits of a new missionary diocese,” Archbishop Allen Vigneron said March 1.

“I consider this designation as a basilica to be a providential reminder that today, we each are called to continue this same mission to unleash the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the men and women of our time.”

The title of minor basilica is an honor bestowed by the pope to signify a church of “particular importance for liturgical and pastoral life,” and signify a “particular link” with Rome and the pope, according to the norms laid out in the Congregation for Divine Worship's 1989 document Domus Ecclesiae.

The United States is now home to 86 minor basilicas. Around 1,700 churches are designated as such worldwide; there exist only four major basilicas, all of which are located in Rome.

The parish submitted its application to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments during July 2018. Conditions for obtaining the title include the church’s status as “a center of active and pastoral liturgy;” “a certain renown throughout the diocese;” and “historical value or importance of the church and the worthiness of its art.”

St. Anne is the patroness of Detroit. Archbishop Vigneron in 2017 designated a side altar of the church, which includes a first-class relic of St. Anne, as an archdiocesan shrine. A symbol of St. Ann appears on the archdiocesan coat of arms.

French missionaries founded the parish in 1701, just two days after a party of French explorers established the city of Detroit.

The current building, which is the eighth in the parish’s history, dates to 1887 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

According to Detroit Catholic, the parish is the one of the oldest in the United States.

The parish is known for an annual novena to St. Anne that has been going for more than 100 years. It is also a participant in Matthew Kelly's "Dynamic Parish" program.

Ste. Anne is the first basilica elevated in Michigan since 2015, when Pope Francis elevated the National Shrine of the Little Flower in Royal Oak, a suburb of Detroit. St. Adalbert in Grand Rapids received the title in 1980.

Ste. Anne is in need of an extensive renovation that includes a new roof, work on the exterior walls and foundation and a new HVAC system and furnace.

According to Detroit Catholic, Ste. Anne’s pastor has estimated the renovations could cost upwards of $20 million.

Vigneron will celebrate the designation with a Mass April 26. After its designation, the church will exhibit the papal symbol of “crossed keys” and its pastor will enjoy the title of rector.

The faithful who devoutly visit the basilica and within it participate in any sacred rite or at least recite the Lord's Prayer and the profession of faith may, under the usual conditions, obtain a plenary indulgence on certain days of the year.

Senators respond to defeat of pro-life bills

Sat, 02/29/2020 - 11:00

Washington D.C., Feb 29, 2020 / 09:00 am (CNA).- Two pieces of pro-life legislation failed to overcome a Democratic filibuster this week—but two pro-life senators said the bills forced debate on a vital subject.

The Pain-Capable Unborn-Child Protection Act, introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R- S.C.), would have banned elective abortions after five months, the point at which science suggests an unborn child can feel pain. The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, introduced by Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), would have required that a child who survives a botched abortion attempt receive the appropriate medical care for their gestational age.

Although both bills received majority support, they each failed to reach the 60-vote threshold required to proceed. Three Democratic senators—Sens. Doug Joes, Bob Casey, and Joe Manchin—broke with their party to support the Born-Alive bill. Casey and Manchin also voted in support of the Pain-Capable Bill, while Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski voted against it.

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), an original co-sponsor of both the Pain-Capable and Born-Alive bills, told EWTN Pro-Life Weekly on Thursday that passing these pieces of legislation would have been a “great step forward.”

Ernst noted that contrary to some arguments from pro-choice senators, the Born-Alive bill would not restrict abortion procedures.

“These are living, breathing, babies that are born,” Ernst said. “They are born alive. And so they are outside of the mother’s womb. They are babies, and they should be cared for.”

Ernst argued that both bills are in the interest of women as well as the unborn.

“I would say that every woman, every girl, regardless of age, in the womb, to an old, old age, every woman should be respected. Every life is valuable,” Ernst said, adding, “So I see these bills as being very pro-woman. We’re trying to protect that young girl, that baby in the womb, and make sure that she has every opportunity given to every other child that’s wanted.”

"We are trying to protect that young girl, that baby in the womb, and make sure that she has every opportunity given to any other child that's wanted." @SenJoniErnst explains why #ProLife is #ProWoman. pic.twitter.com/VkVnc9ur1m

— EWTN Pro-Life Weekly (@EWTNProLife) February 27, 2020

 

Ernst said despite the defeat, she hopes to win the support of her pro-choice colleagues on these bills.

“I am always hopeful,” she said. “I am an eternal optimist and I think that these bills and the stories behind some of these bills will resonate with our friends and colleagues on the left, and I am hoping that they do draw something from deep down inside of them and understand that we can be pro-life and pro-life is pro-woman, and hopefully that they would come to understand that and support us on these very, very important pro-life measures.”

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), who authored the Born-Alive bill, argued the legislation should have passed “one hundred to zero.” 

"We had 44 Democrats not with us, 41 actively filibustered, and three were off on the presidential campaign trail where they’re pretending to kiss babies, but they wouldn’t actually show up to vote to protect real-life babies,” Sasse said during a Thursday interview on EWTN Pro-Life Weekly.

 

"We had 44 Democrats not with us, 41 actively filibustered, and 3 were off on the Presidential campaign trail where they’re pretending to kiss babies, but they wouldn’t actually show up to vote to protect real life babies." @SenSasse on the Born-Alive bill Senate failed to pass. pic.twitter.com/wP2YWJv6u4

— EWTN Pro-Life Weekly (@EWTNProLife) February 27, 2020  

Sasse said although he is disappointed by the outcome of the vote, “we want to keep drawing more attention to this and force people to have these conversations about these moral responsibilities we have to love the weakest and most vulnerable among us.”

Kate Scanlon is a producer for EWTN Pro-Life Weekly.

Congressman tries to add 'Born Alive' protections to vaping bill

Fri, 02/28/2020 - 20:00

Washington D.C., Feb 28, 2020 / 06:00 pm (CNA).- The House of Representatives on Friday blocked an attempt to add legislation to protect infants who survive botched abortion attempts into a bill on e-cigarettes.

On Friday morning, House Republicans led by Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) used a procedural move to force a vote on language protecting abortion survivors taken from a bill that has been blocked from consideration for a year.

Walden’s “motion to recommit” was defeated by a vote of 213 – 195. Only three Democrats voted in support of including Wagner’s language, Reps. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), Colin Peterson (D-Minn.), and Ben McAdams (D-Utah).

The chair of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, condemned the result.

“Just three days ago, the U.S. Senate tragically failed to advance the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act,” he said. “Americans should be outraged that our U.S. Congress cannot pass a law to ensure that newborn babies are not vulnerable to infanticide.”

Friday’s legislative session began with debate on a bill to regulate youth tobacco and e-cigarette consumption. Walden attempted to include language from Rep. Ann Wagner’s (R-Mo.) Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act into the bill.

“We all care deeply about the health of our children,” Walden said of tobacco regulations, adding that “the younger the child, the more vulnerable and defenseless they are.”

“That’s why we are offering a final amendment to the bill that literally would save the lives of the youngest children, the babies,” he said. “I hope that we can end the ghastly practice of letting die, children when they are born alive after an abortion.”

Wagner’s bill would mandate that babies who survive a botched abortion attempt be given the same standard of care as other infants born alive at the same gestational age, and be admitted to a hospital.

Under the legislation, doctors or health care workers who fail to provide this care could be liable to criminal penalties, but mothers would not only be not liable but could sue for damages if the care is not provided.

Although it was introduced a year ago, the bill has not yet received a vote because House Democrats have successfully blocked it from coming to the floor. A “discharge” petition—which requires the signatures of 218 members to force a vote—has received only 204 signatures so far.

“Congress has an opportunity to ensure that no baby is denied life-saving care, simply because he or she is allegedly unwanted,” Wagner said, noting that her bill has been blocked from consideration 80 times by Democratic leadership.

“Our constituents must know where we stand,” she said.

The Senate has voted on similar legislation, to consider Sen. Ben Sasse’s (R-Neb.) “Born-Alive” bill, this week, but it failed to receive the 60 votes necessary to advance.

Canadian hospice forced to close after refusing to offer assisted dying

Fri, 02/28/2020 - 19:00

Vancouver, Canada, Feb 28, 2020 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- A hospice in Canada has lost its funding and is being forced to close after refusing to offer and perform medically assisted suicides.

The Irene Thomas Hospice in Delta, British Columbia, will lose $1.5 million in funding and will no longer be permitted to operate as a hospice as of February 25, 2021. Fraser Health Authority, one of the six public health care authorities in the province, announced on Tuesday that it would be ending its relationship with the hospice over its refusal to provide medically assisted deaths to its patients. 

Per Fraser Health’s contract with the Delta Hospice Society, which administers the Irene Thomas Hospice, a one-year notice had to be provided before funding could be withdrawn without cause.

"We have made every effort to support the board to come into compliance and they have been clear that they have no intention to," said British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix in a statement.

Dix said that the decision to pull funding was taken “reluctantly,” and that “when the role of the Delta Hospice Society concludes, patients in publicly funded hospice care will again be able to fully access their medical rights."

A press release from Delta Hospice said that while it is not affiliated with a religion, the board of the Delta Hospice Society is opposed to medically assisted death on moral and philosophical grounds. 

“Delta Hospice officials were shocked and outraged this week by the Fraser Health Authority’s blatant move to cut off all discussions and close the facility because it wants the hospice to provide MAiD (Medical Assistance in Dying) at every facility,” said the statement. 

“The Irene Thomas Hospice is dedicated to allowing patients access to expert symptom management for physical, emotional and spiritual distress. It provides comfort, meaning dignity and hope as one dies a natural death.” 

In September 2016, about three months after medically assissted suicide became legal in Canada, Fraser Health introduced a new policy which required all hospices receiving more than 50% of provincial funding for their beds to offer the procedure to their residents. The hospice receives $1.4 million of its $3 million operating budget from the Fraser Health Authority, and Fraser Health funds virtually all of the beds at Irene Thomas Hospice. 

Angelina Ireland, president of the Delta Hospice Society, said in the press release that Fraser Health ignored her request to lower the amount of funding to below the 50% threshold, and also forbade the hospice from finding another partner to work with. 

After the contract with Fraser Health ends, the public health authority intends to take over the buildings that currently compose the Irene Thomas Hospital and bring in medically assisted dying. 

“By refusing to allow us to find another partner, [Fraser Health is] basically forcing us to be in default of our lease--because in order to have our lease, we have to be a hospice,” Ireland said. 

“They feel that they can just come in and seize our assets.” 

Ireland told CNA that although the facilities are on land that is leased from the government, the buildings were constructed using donations from the community of Delta.

“We built this facility,” she said. “We built that 10 years ago, and we put $9 million into that of privately-raised money from donations.” 

“This didn’t come from the taxpayer. This came from private people.” 

The Delta Hospice Society wishes to provide patients with a peaceful natural death, not actively end patients’ lives, Ireland explained to CNA. 

“[The hospice] worked really hard to have the people to trust us that when they come to hospice they will not be killed,” she said. “We will take care of them, they will take care of their families. And now basically the government has said that any hospice that does not provide euthanasia, it's not allowed to exist.”

Ireland called this a “direct attack” on the medical specialty of palliative care. 

Faith-based healthcare organizations, as well as medical professionals opposed to MAiD, are not required to offer medically assisted suicide to patients in Canada. Doctors, however, must refer patients seeking an “assisted death” to a healthcare provider who is willing to euthanize them. 

Assisted dying is readily available at Delta Hospital, which is a one-minute drive from the Irene Thomas Hospice.

Justice Department weighs in on Kentucky religious freedom case

Fri, 02/28/2020 - 17:00

Washington D.C., Feb 28, 2020 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- The Department of Justice on Thursday registered its support for the religious freedom case of a Kentucky photographer in a lawsuit over a city anti-discrimination ordinance.

“The central question presented in this case is whether the government can compel a wedding photographer to photograph, provide photography editing services for, and blog about weddings of which she does not approve, and does not wish to photograph or to promote,” the Justice Department (DOJ) said in a statement of interest in the case filed on Thursday. 

“The answer is no,” the Justice Department concluded.

The case of photographer Chelsey Nelson is currently before a federal district court in Kentucky. Nelson, a photographer with her own business, sued the city government of Louisville over an ordinance she says would compel her to violate her religious beliefs and serve certain types of weddings, including same-sex weddings.

“Ms. Nelson has a practice of ‘declin[ing] requests for wedding celebration and boutique editing services if the request required [her] to use [her] artistic talents to promote or positively portray anything immoral, dishonorable to God, or contrary to [her] religious beliefs’,” the DOJ stated.

Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents Nelson, applauded the DOJ’s statement on Friday.

“Chelsey serves all people. But the Louisville government is trying to compel Chelsey’s speech, force her participation in ceremonies she objects to, and eliminate her editorial control over her photographs and blogs,” ADF senior counsel Jonathan Scruggs stated Feb. 28.

The “Metro Ordinance” in question, of Louisville city and Jefferson County, Kentucky, is an anti-discrimination ordinance for businesses and other places of “public accommodation, resort, or amusement.” Two of the protected categories under the law are “sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Under the law, businesses cannot deny goods and services on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as other classes, nor can they post notices saying they could do so.

Nelson filed a complaint over the ordinance, saying that the city “is using the threat of limitless damages, compliance reports, posting of notices, and court orders” to compel business owners like her to “participate in solemn ceremonies she disagrees with—same-sex wedding ceremonies.”

The Metro Ordinance is an unconstitutional violation of free expression, DOJ argued.

“Photography,” the DOJ said, “is an expressive art form,” including at a wedding where the “photographer makes numerous artistic and viewpoint-based judgments” through which “to convey meaning and ideas through photography and editing.”

To compel a photographer “to create expression for and to participate in a ceremony that violates her sincerely held religious beliefs invades her First Amendment rights in a manner akin to the governmental intrusion in Hurley,” the DOJ said, referencing the 1995 case of Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian & Bisexual Group of Boston, Inc.

Scruggs said that he hopes the Supreme Court will take up the similar case of Washington florist Barronelle Stutzman in Arlene’s Flowers v. State of Washington as a companion to the case of Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, which concerns the city’s decision to sever ties with Catholic Social Services over access to foster placement for same-sex couples.

Stutzman has appealed to the Supreme Court for a second time after the Washington state supreme court again ruled against her early in 2019. She had been sued by the ACLU and the state for declining to serve a same-sex wedding.

“Without the Supreme Court’s intervention in Barronelle’s case,” Scruggs said, “state and local government officials will continue to threaten sincere people of faith like Barronelle and Chelsey with severe penalties for living out their beliefs in the public square.”

Last year, the Kentucky state Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Christian business owner who declined to serve an LGBT pride festival, and who was punished by a local government for discrimination.

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