CNA News

Subscribe to CNA News feed CNA News
ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa ( is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
Updated: 2 hours 20 min ago

On ‘March on Washington’ anniversary, DC archbishop calls for beatitudes

Fri, 08/28/2020 - 17:48

Washington D.C., Aug 28, 2020 / 03:48 pm (CNA).-  

The Beatitudes provide a way forward in a time of suffering, the Archbishop of Washington, D.C. said at a Mass on Friday on the anniversary of the 1963 civil rights March on Washington.

“Matthew’s Beatitudes are a spiritual compendium for transforming society, and most importantly, for converting the human heart,” said Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Washington, D.C., in his homily at Friday’s Mass for Peace and Justice at St. Matthew’s Cathedral.

The Beatitudes, the archbishop said, “highlight the virtues and the spiritual vision that are necessary for society’s renewal.”

Gregory offered the Mass on the 57th anniversary of the 1963 civil rights March on Washington. At the march, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream” address.

Hearkening back to the 1963 march, the archbishop said on Friday that the Beatitudes point to a “society of harmony and justice, which were the desired end of that march, 57 years ago.” Dr. King, he said, “no doubt had reflected often on these Beatitudes.”

Archbishop Gregory offered the Mass after a week of unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and a turbulent summer of protests and riots against racism in cities across the U.S.

“We are at a pivotal juncture in our country’s struggle for racial justice and national harmony,” he said.

This past week, protests and riots erupted in Kenosha, Wisconsin, after police officers shot a 29 year-old Black man in the back on Sunday; the man, Jacob Blake, is paralyzed from the waist down, his family told reporters this week.

Kenosha is the latest hotspot for protests and riots in the U.S. as a response to the killings of African-Americans by police and citizens, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery.

In response, on Thursday Bishop Shelton Fabre, head of the U.S. bishops’ anti-racism task force, called for Catholics to fast and pray in reparation for sins of racism; he asked Catholics to attend Mass or pray either on Friday to commemorate the 1963 march, or on September 9, the feast of St. Peter Claver.

A rally for racial justice took place in Washington, D.C. on Friday, the 2020 Get Your Knee off Our Necks march. It was attended by tens of thousands.

Archbishop Gregory is the first African-American archbishop of Washington, and the former head of a special task force set up by the U.S. bishops in 2016 to promote peace and address racial tensions and policing.

At the beginning of Mass, the archbishop called attention to the 1963 March on Washington. “May our faith, hope, and love of Christ compel us to work for a more just future,” he prayed.

He noted the current “suffering” in the U.S., citing “needless violence in our cities,” “numerous deaths of African-Americans at the hands of police,” “hate crimes and discrimination against immigrants and people of various religious traditions,” and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“We place these concerns into Our Father’s hands,” he said in his opening prayer for peace and justice.

He also emphasized the religious nature of the 1963 march, recounting how, on the day of the march, then-Archbishop O’Boyle of Washington, D.C. invited participants to pray at the cathedral beforehand.

“Washington is a city accustomed to parades, marches, and demonstrations,” he said. “What took place in Washington, D.C. 57 years ago does not fit conveniently in any of those prior categories. It was a moral and religious event that confronted our nation in ways that defied simple categorizations.”

“The vast majority of the oratory of the day highlighted social and civic concerns, but always with an undeniable touch of religious faith, he said.

At the end of Mass, Gregory accepted a decree from diocesan representatives, where he announced a new initiative of the archdiocese “Made in God’s Image: Pray and Work to End the Sin of Racism.”

He said it would include prayer, listening sessions, faith formation, and social justice work.

Gregory has been outspoken about racial tensions in recent months. On June 5, he took part in an online panel discussion on racism hosted by Georgetown University, amid widespread protests and riots following the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

He also issued a sharply-worded statement just before President Trump’s June 2 visit to the Saint John Paul II National Shrine. On the previous evening, Trump had held up a bible in front of St. John’s Episcopal church in D.C. in an apparent photo-op, during protests against racism; participants in the protests were cleared away from the church by the National Guard shortly before Trump’s arrival.

Gregory said the next morning of Trump’s visit to the shrine that it was “baffling and reprehensible that any Catholic facility would allow itself to be so egregiously misused and manipulated in a fashion that violates our religious principles.”

Questions surround possibility of mandatory coronavirus vaccinations

Fri, 08/28/2020 - 16:01

Washington D.C., Aug 28, 2020 / 02:01 pm (CNA).- With more than 1,000 deaths a day still being registered in the United States, coronavirus vaccines are being developed, and tested at speed. Ahead of an effective vaccine being found, some government officials have broached the possibility of mandatory vaccinations—prompting ethical and legal questions.

Governments, as a general principle, have the authority to mandate vaccinations when the public health requires it, one ethicist said.

“In principle, when there’s a public health emergency, and there’s reason to believe that a vaccine is crucial to overcoming that emergency, the government does have the authority to mandate vaccination,” said Dr. Melissa Moschella, a philosophy and ethics professor at The Catholic University of America.
“That’s been done in the past, and at times that can be a reasonable and legitimate thing to do,” she told CNA.
Last Friday, Virginia’s health commissioner Dr. Norman Oliver told News 8 that he would require all citizens in the state to receive a COVID vaccine if one is reliably produced.
“We would not launch a campaign around mass vaccination with anything that hasn’t proven to be safe,” Oliver told News 8 last week.
However, a spokesperson for the state’s governor Ralph Northam told News 8 on Monday that the administration has not yet decided to mandate a vaccine, instead relying on citizens of the state to receive one voluntarily.
A state vaccine mandate during a public health emergency would actually be constitutional, provided that it is applied evenly and that the situation is grave enough to require it, said Richard Garnett, a constitutional law professor at the University of Notre Dame.
“State governments have much broader powers over their states than the federal government does under the federal constitution,” Garnett said of state “police” power.
“It’s difficult to say much that’s true across-the-board, except to say that, as a general matter, state governments have the power to regulate in the interest of the public health, and that does include requiring vaccines,” he said.
However, a government mandate should be avoided if a less-coercive means of ensuring public health are available, Moschella said.
“If coercion would be the only way to enable society to kind of move forward, rather than being severely limited by concerns about the spread of COVID-19 as we have been,” she said, “then there could be a justification for that.”
However, she said, “the non-coercive route is clearly the preferable one.”
Furthermore, exemptions should be granted that “respect other fundamental rights of individuals,” she said, such as exemptions for people with high medical risks, and religious or conscientious objections to receiving a vaccine.
However, religious exemptions to a vaccine mandate would not be automatic under the U.S. constitution. 
“There is not a federal constitutional right to opt out of a vaccine requirement,” Garnett said.
Rather, the possibility of receiving a religious exemption to a vaccine mandate might depend on where one lives. States vary as to the extent of their religious freedom protections, and many states have more narrow religious free exercise protections in their constitutions than those granted in the first amendment of the federal constitution, Garnett said.
In Virginia, for instance, only a medical exemption is granted by law to a vaccine mandate during a public health emergency. Two bills to allow for religious exemptions were defeated in the state legislature this week.
Catholics may have “reasonable concerns” against receiving a COVID vaccine once one is produced and distributed, Moschella said, such as concerns about rushed production or lack of testing.
President Trump said in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention this week that a coronavirus vaccine would be ready by the end of the year or sooner, while public health officials have cautioned that one may not be ready until several months into 2021.
In July, the president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center, Joseph Meaney, warned against rushing the development of a coronavirus vaccine. Potential recipients must be well-informed about the risks of the vaccine, and these risks or potential side effects might not be fully known if a vaccine is rushed to market.
“One can also think hypothetically about how coercive measures requiring persons to take a vaccine that has not had the time to be tested thoroughly would be ethically unacceptable,” Meaney said.
Legitimate concerns about receiving a rushed vaccine should be weighed against the possibility that the vaccine could help stop the transmission of the virus, Moschella said.
Another question raised about vaccine production is who would get one first, once a coronavirus vaccine is developed.
Pope Francis said Aug. 19 that developed countries should not hoard a coronavirus vaccine at the expense of the developing world, emphasizing that poor people must have access to one if it is distributed.
Moschella stated that “The vaccine is an extremely-important public good. In a way, it’s kind of analogous to things like water, clean air, or basic goods to meet peoples’ basic needs.”
“Without the vaccine, countries can be completely crippled economically, can face devastating death rates, particularly in places where they don’t have advanced medical systems or the kinds of resources that we have here, or in Europe,” she said, noting that it would be a “terrible injustice” if poorer countries did not have access to a vaccine.

In May, Bishop James Wainaina of Muranga warned against the exploitation of the poor in coronavirus vaccine trials.

He said that testing potential coronavirus vaccines on Kenyans could disrespect human dignity, and amount to a breach of the country’s constitution, especially if Kenyans are not fully informed of the risks involved in testing new drugs. His statement came after Kenyan media reports that drugs and vaccines in development to treat COVID-19 could be tested in the country.

Another concern Catholics have raised about a potential coronavirus vaccine is whether or not it is produced by using cell lines derived from aborted babies.
Commonly-used vaccines—such as those used to fight measles, mumps, and rubella—have used HEK-293 cell lines, derived from babies aborted in the 1960s.
The Vatican has previously said that researchers have a duty to avoid using these cell lines in vaccine production, but that parents can, for serious reasons, use these vaccines for their children if already produced, in the interest of public health, while publicly advocating for an ethical alternative.
In 2017, the Pontifical Academy for Life issued a statement on commonly-used vaccines in Italy, saying that “the cell lines currently used are very distant from the original abortions and no longer imply that bond of moral cooperation indispensable for an ethically negative evaluation of their use.”
Furthermore, the academy said, “the moral obligation to guarantee the vaccination coverage necessary for the safety of others is no less urgent, especially the safety of more vulnerable subjects such as pregnant women and those affected by immunodeficiency who cannot be vaccinated against these diseases.”
Some Catholic leaders, including leading U.S. bishops and the Archbishop of Sydney have advocated for governments to fund an ethical coronavirus vaccine that does not use cell lines derived from aborted babies.
Archbishop Anthony Fisher, OP, of Sydney, said that a COVID vaccine “will be ‘as near to mandatory as possible’” in Australia once it is ready, and outlined the ethical concerns of Catholics about the AstraZeneca/University of Oxford vaccine candidate that uses the HEK-293 cell lines.
He asked the government to fund another vaccine that is not derived from cell lines from aborted babies.
Issues of cooperation with evil are complex, especially the further one gets from the act of evil itself, Moschella said.
“We benefit from knowledge that was gained through unjust experimentation during the Nazi regime,” she said. “We’ve benefitted from unjust human experimentation in our own country, in many places, prior to the development of better informed-consent guidelines.”
In many cases today, she said, it is almost impossible to avoid benefitting from knowledge, products, or goods derived from unjust acts.
While Catholics should advocate for justice and for pro-life causes—including the development of more ethical vaccines and innovations—“when the connection to the injustice is so tenuous and so far in the past, I believe there’s no reason to avoid using, in this case, the vaccine.”

Gun brandishing incident at Delaware abortion clinic won’t deter pro-life outreach

Fri, 08/28/2020 - 15:00

Denver Newsroom, Aug 28, 2020 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- After the arrest of a man who allegedly threatened pro-life demonstrators with a gun, pro-life advocates say the incident is not typical and will not change their determination to engage in positive outreach.

“Other than the occasional slurs and negativity offered by some people who drive past, we have a positive support from the community and we’ve never really had any bad incidents,” Donna Latteri, a local volunteer pro-life coordinator, told CNA. “We work very well with our police department and try not to give them a reason to come to the clinic.”

On Aug. 21 police arrested Jerome Aniska, a 31-year-old Wilmington man who allegedly pulled a gun and threatened pro-life demonstrators outside a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Dover, Delaware.

Protesters were on a public sidewalk when an argument took place between Aniska and the demonstrators, and a demonstrator called police when Aniska allegedly made a threat. Aniska was arrested on $26,000 bond, charged with aggressive menacing, terroristic threatening, and possession of a firearm during a felony.

According to Latteri, a group from a nearby church tried to speak with the man and the young woman “he brought for an abortion.”

“They always offer the Word of God and let them know they want to help,” she said. “Apparently Mr. Aniska did not appreciate it and showed them a gun he was carrying and made a threatening gesture and comment to the small group.”

The group’s organizer, the pastor of a non-Catholic church, “felt it necessary to seek protection from the police especially because they were minor children with them,” Latteri added.

“Given the atmosphere in America lately where life is not respected and tempers are short, we must carefully discern what is a real threat and take appropriate action to protect ourselves,” she said,voicing prayers for healing and peace for Aniska and the woman with him.

Moira Sheridan, president of Delaware Right to Life, also reacted to the incident.

“This is in no way a deterrent to the faithful pro-lifers who have sacrificed so much to be on the sidewalk to help mothers choose life for their babies and are offering help. They are here to pray with them and to offer life,” she told CNA.

Despite the man allegedly brandishing the gun and making threats, she said, pro-life advocates “responded with grace.” Sheridan, who spoke with a pro-life advocate involved in the incident, recounted his words: “We are not deterred, I am coming back.”

“That’s the nature of the people you’re dealing with out there on the sidewalk,” said Sheridan. “I call it ’holy boldness.’ Their main concern is the women and their babies.”

Delaware Right to Life’s first concern is the safety of those who do sidewalk counseling, she said. Her organization has been taking part in sidewalk advocacy “almost as long as we’ve been in existence, which is 47 years.”

Latteri hoped the incident would not keep pro-life advocates away, adding “we feel that is the goal of the evil one.” She said pro-life advocates “have been able to save babies and reach out to the broken hearts who just want someone to listen.”

“At times it has been an emotional ride but always an  opportunity to be the face of Jesus to a lost soul,” she said.

Latteri said pro-life advocates have a year-round presence at the Planned Parenthood clinic in peaceful demonstrations and advocacy for abortion alternatives.

“This is a group of individual sidewalk advocates who come on their own accord because they feel every child is a unique child of God and is wanted by somebody. We are from various churches and many have unique stories of how we have personally been impacted by abortion,” she said.

“We are out there because we are passionate about the pain abortion causes, not only to the child but also to the parents and the family members who will later find out,” Latteri told CNA.

The gun brandishing incident is not the first major crime this year at a Delaware Planned Parenthood.

In January, an 18-year-old was arrested on federal charges after throwing an incendiary device at a Planned Parenthood facility near the University of Delaware campus in Newark, Delaware, about 45 miles south of Dover. The device exploded but the fire died after about a minute. The man allegedly spray painted a Latin phrase meaning “God wills it.” He spray-painted the words “Deus Vult,” a Chi Rho, and a Marian symbol on the outside of the Planned Parenthood. The facility does not perform abortions, but refers for them.

Republican National Convention concludes with focus on faith, law and order

Fri, 08/28/2020 - 14:31

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 28, 2020 / 12:31 pm (CNA).- The final night of the Republican National Convention focused heavily on the importance of law and order, and ended with an operatic rendition of Ave Maria and patriotic hymns on the South Lawn of the White House.

President Donald Trump accepted the Republican Party’s nomination for the presidency in a 70-minute speech that touched on the majority of his achievements during his first term, and criticized former Vice President Joe Biden for being on the “wrong side of history” throughout his political career.

“In the left’s backward view, they do not see America as the most free, just, and exceptional nation on earth,” said Trump, speaking to a crowd on the White House lawn.

“Instead they see a wicked nation that must be punished for its sins. Our opponents say that redemption for you can only come from giving power to them. This is a tired anthem spoken by every repressive movement throughout history,” he added.

In the United States, said the president, “we don’t look to career politicians for salvation. In America, we don’t turn to government to restore our souls. We put our faith in almighty God.”

“Joe Biden is not a savior of America’s soul, he is the destroyer of America’s jobs, and if given the chance, he will be the destroyer of American greatness,” said Trump.

Repeatedly highlighted throughout both Trump’s speech and the night overall was the growing violence and civil unrest throughout America, particularly in “Democrat-run cities like Kenosha, Minneapolis, Portland, Chicago, and New York, and many others.”

The parents of Kayla Mueller, an American humanitarian aid worker who was murdered by ISIS in February 2015, addressed the convention. They spoke of their daughter’s deep religious faith, and the compassion and empathy they received from the Trump administration.

Kayla was held captive for 18 months, and was repeatedly raped and tortured by ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Her parents, Carl and Marcia, said that they did not think enough was done to rescue their daughter.

“The military prepared a rescue mission, but the White House delayed it. By the time it went forward Kayla had been moved to another location. After 18 months of brutal torture, we learned from ISIS that Kayla had been killed,” said Carl.

“We put all our faith in the government, but the government let us down. President Obama refused to meet with us until ISIS had already beheaded other Americans,” said Carl. “To this day we never heard from Joe Biden.”

The team that killed al-Baghdadi in 2019 was named after Kayla’s birthday, and the mission itself was called “Operation Kayla Mueller.”

Also speaking at the event was Alice Marie Johnson, a former felon convicted in 1996 for involvement in cocaine trafficking, who was granted clemency by Trump. She praised Trump for his work in criminal justice reform, and for “granting me a second chance” after being sentenced to life in prison.

“The nearly 22 years I spent in prison were not wasted,” said Johnson, who became an ordained minister and certified hospice worker while behind bars.

“God had a purpose and a plan for my life. I was not delayed or denied. I was destined for such a time as this. I pray that you will not just hear this message, but that you will be inspired by my story, and your compassion will lead you to take action for those who are forgotten,” she said.

“This is what our President Donald Trump did for me, and for that, I will be forever grateful.”

After Trump finished his speech accepting the nomination, the mood once again shifted towards religion. Following a fireworks show, an opera singer performed several songs, including God Bless America, Hallelujah, and Ave Maria.


In Sr. Deirdre Byrne RNC speech, CNN translates ‘pro-life’ as ‘anti-abortion’

Fri, 08/28/2020 - 13:30

CNA Staff, Aug 28, 2020 / 11:30 am (CNA).-  

The Spanish-language broadcast of a Catholic sister’s speech at the Republican National Convention this week replaced the words “pro-life,” with “anti-abortion,” a move that raises questions about the integrity of the broadcast.

In an Aug. 26 speech at the Republican National Convention, Sister Deirde Byrne used the phrase “pro-life” three times: once in reference to herself, once in reference to President Donald Trump, and once in reference to “America’s pro-life community.”

In all three cases, news network CNN en Español translated the phrase as “anti-aborto,” or “anti-abortion,” during its broadcast of the speech.

Byrne also used the phrase “pro-eternal life” in reference to herself. CNN en Español translated that phrase as “en favor de la vida eterna.”

“Pro-vida” is a commonly used Spanish-language idiom, used analogously to the English-language idiom “pro-life.” Proponents of the phrase say it is evocative of a broad commitment to the dignity of human life, and that “anti-abortion” is a comparatively reductive rendering which does not convey the same meaning.

The style guide of the Associated Press, widely used by journalists in the U.S., instructs journalists to “use ‘anti-abortion’ instead of ‘pro-life’ and ‘abortion rights’ instead of ‘pro-abortion’ or ‘pro-choice.’” The style guides of the Washington Post and New York Times have similar instructions. CNA’s style guide permits the use of the terms “pro-life” and “pro-choice.”

The AP style guide’s exception, however, is for quotations, which journalistic ethics require to be reported with complete accuracy.

The Reuters Handbook of Journalism explains that “quotes are sacrosanct. They must never be altered other than to delete a redundant word or clause, and then only if the deletion does not alter the sense of the quote in any way.”

Regarding the translation of quotes, Reuters says that “when translating quotes from one language into another, we should do so in an idiomatic way rather than with pedantic literalness. Care must be taken to ensure that the tone of the translation is equivalent to the tone of the original.”

The use of “anti-aborto” rather than “pro-vida” to translate Byrne’s phrase, “pro-life,” has been met with frustration from some Hispanic pro-life advocates.

“Sister Deirdre Byrne's speech during the Republican National Convention pointed out the importance of taking a clear pro life stance from the perspective of science, faith and simple common humanity,” Marcial Padilla, director of the Mexican pro-life organization Concience and Participación, told CNA.

“CNN en Español decided to embarrass itself, and did not have the minimum decency of translating Sister Deirdre's words correctly. I hope CNN's contempt is noted by the voters, who should know that they are not an objective source of information. Unfortunately  major media outlets in the world are becoming less objective transmitters of the facts and more political operators against the right to life," Padilla added.

Mexican physician María Denisse Santos of the Coalición de Líderes Provida told CNA that ”to say that we are ‘pro life’ is to tell the truth, because we are indeed defending the right to live of the little ones. To try to hide that truth by calling us ‘anti-abortion,’ as CNN en Español did with Sister Byrne's speech, is in fact to recognize that they are afraid to acknowledge that being ‘pro-choice’ is to be in favor of someone's death.”

“But the truth will shine at the end, that we are pro-life and pro-eternal life,” Santos said.

One professional translator, who requested anonymity because of her position, told CNA that “it is very hard to believe that the interpreter chose to change ‘pro-life’ to ‘anti-aborto’ on her own. In our trade, we have some room to choose specific words in order to better clarify a concept, but we can't make any kind of subjective interpretation. So much so that our interpretations are trademarked. The only reason why an interpreter would do something like that is if she or he is under a very specific protocol from the customer (client), like someone who works, say, for the UN, and needs to avoid some words for political or diplomatic reasons."

The code of ethics for the American Translators Association explains that “linguistic integrity is at the core of what translators and interpreters do.”

Translators faced with an idiomatic expression should use “an idiom that conveys the same meaning, register, and impact” as the one being translated, the association explains. It emphasizes that “Impartial translation and interpreting requires the translator or interpreter to adopt a mantle of neutrality,” and calls it “inappropriate to “clean up” objectionable language in the target language.”

The “Translator’s Charter” of the International Federation of Translators requires that “every faithful and render exactly the idea and form of the original.” CNN en Español has not responded to requests for comment from CNA.

Polling shows that while Latino voters favor Biden over Trump, the president has the support of a larger share of Latino Catholic voters than he did in 2016. The Trump reelection campaign has emphasized its view that Trump is the “most pro-life president in history” in outreach to religious voters.


Aci Prensa, CNA's Spanish-language sister agency, contributed to this report.

Boston Catholic priest apologizes for ‘pro-choice’ statements

Fri, 08/28/2020 - 12:30

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 28, 2020 / 10:30 am (CNA).- A Boston priest has apologized for a social media post in which he described himself as “pro-choice” and endorsed former vice president Joe Biden. The post, made Sunday, received widespread media attention and prompted a statement from Cardinal Sean O’Malley. 

“Please accept my apology for the confusion and upset caused by the Facebook post concerning the presidential election and expectant women carrying their children to birth,” wrote Monsignor Paul Garrity, pastor of the Lexington Catholic Community parish, on Facebook the evening of August 27. 

In his original Aug. 23 Facebook post titled “I AM PRO-LIFE AND SUPPORT JOE BIDEN,” Msgr. Garrity wrote: “I am pro-life and I believe in a woman’s right to choose. I will vote for Joe Biden for President because I believe that Joe Biden is pro-life like me.”

Garrity added that he believes “any woman who becomes pregnant should have the right to choose to give birth to her baby.” 

“I am pro-life and I believe that every woman who becomes pregnant deserves to have the freedom to choose life. This is what I believe Joe Biden believes and is one of the many reasons that I will vote for him in November,” said Garrity Sunday. The priest urged “Catholics and others” of similar viewpoints to vote for Biden as well. 

In a subsequent statement to CNA on Tuesday, Garrity said that that he has considered himself “Pro-Life” since he was ordained a priest in 1973, despite his support for legal protection for abortion. 

“I believe that it is a tragedy when a woman of any age decides to end her pregnancy prematurely,” said Garrity in an email to CNA Aug. 25. The priest added that in his view, Catholics “are also told that we should not be ‘single issue’ voters” and that the Church is “neutral” on the issue of voting. 

On Thursday, Garrity clarified that he is “totally against legalized abortion.”

“I am committed to upholding Church teaching regarding the sanctity of life from the moment of conception until natural death,” he said in his most recent Facebook post. Garrity added that he was “not prepared for the uncharitable responses” to his earlier post, and that “the last thing that I would ever want to do is hurt anyone with my words.” 

Garrity’s original statements sparked a series of responses from archdiocesan officials, both publicly and privately. 

On Thursday, Cardinal O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston, issued a statement saying that Catholics have “the right to expect the priests of the Archdiocese and those entrusted with handing on the faith to be clear and unequivocal on the Church’s teaching concerning respect and protection for life from the first moment of conception to natural death.”

“This teaching is of the highest priority for the Church,” he added.

That public statement followed an Aug. 25 letter from Francis J. O’Connor, general counsel of the Archdiocese of Boston, to priests and archdiocesan employees warning them against politically-charged social media posts. 

The memo focused on the tax implications of political endorsements. O’Connor encouraged clergy to “refrain from expressing those opinions which will draw negative attention regardless of ideology as well as possible unwelcome attention from the IRS,” adding that  “the tax exemption issue is an increasing priority with the IRS.”

Federal law provides that 501(c)(3) organizations cannot “participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.”

“One’s presence on Social Media, even beyond an organization’s page or website, can be associated with the organization,” wrote O’Connor. 

“Blurring the lines between an individual’s personal thoughts and opinions and the appearance of a connection to the Church or a Church related entity to which those personal thoughts or opinions can be attributed to presents unacceptable risk and jeopardy to the Church’s tax-exempt status.” 

'The rug was pulled from under us': Catholics fight Wisconsin county ban on in-person school

Thu, 08/27/2020 - 20:01

Denver Newsroom, Aug 27, 2020 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- Twice a week for three months, the administration of St. Ambrose Academy in Wisconsin met with Dane County public health officials to ensure that they would be ready to reopen at the start of the school year - which was supposed to happen this week.

They drafted a 35-page plan to mitigate the risks of the coronavirus, including regulations on the flow of students, social distancing, personal protective equipment, and regular cleaning and sanitization. They leased a second building, so that their 115 students could social distance even more. The plan was released to parents, who could choose to send their students to school in person or online.

But on the evening of Aug. 21, days before the school year was set to start for St. Ambrose Academy and other private schools in the county, Public Health Madison-Dane County released Emergency Order #9, mandating that grades 3-12 begin the year online. Only grades kindergarten through second are permitted to meet in person.

“Within hours after the order was announced, I had emails in my inbox from our parents,” Angela Hineline told CNA. Hineline is a long-time St. Ambrose parent, as well as the learning services specialist and enrollment manager for the school. 

“We are following all guidelines and had the rug pulled out from underneath us after hours, great expense, even renting another site,” she said. “We are a shoestring budget school; we have a very, very tight budget, and 55% of our students are on assistance.”

St. Ambrose Academy announced Aug. 26 that they had filed a demand letter on behalf of their school and multiple other Catholic schools, seeking the immediate revocation of the emergency order “by no later than Friday, August 28, 2020, at 12:00 p.m, ‘Given the unconstitutionality and unlawfulness of the School Closure Order,’ citing harm to ‘parents, children, and schools across the County.’”

Hineline said the demand letter cites the “freedom of conscience” clauses in the Wisconsin Constitution as the basis for the school’s argument, as well as other clauses that provide for school choice and religious freedom. 

"The Wisconsin Constitution freedom of conscience clauses provide that the right of every person to worship almighty God according to the dictates of conscience shall never be infringed nor shall any control of or interference with the rights of conscience be permitted," Hineline said, quoting the letter of demand.

There are also clauses in the state’s constitution that “subject any law burdening religious exercise to strict scrutiny, prohibiting the government from enforcing the law unless it demonstrates that such enforcement furthers a compelling government interest in a narrowly tailored way. Further, all parents have a fundamental liberty interest in the care and upbringing of their children, which includes the rights to direct the upbringing and education of children under their control,” Hineline said.

The letter also cites the sacraments, which must take place in person, as crucial to the religious education of children.

“All of my client-parents are devout, practicing Catholics, whose faith compels them to seek religious education for their children,” the letter states. “Only in-person education satisfies that solemn obligation, as only in person may these students receive Holy Communion at Mass, confess their sins to a priest through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, or pray together in the community of fellow students and teachers.” 

Hineline said that St. Ambrose Academy is preparing to fight the order in the state’s Supreme Court, should it not be rescinded by noon on Aug. 28. The school has already raised nearly $100,000 to cover legal fees, she said.

Dane County is one of the 11 counties that comprise the Diocese of Madison. It is the second-largest county in Wisconsin.

Bishop Donald Hying of Madison tweeted his frustration with the emergency order Aug. 22. In a subsequent letter to families affected by the order, Hying said he was “extraordinarily disappointed at this order and its timing,” and that he was permitting schools in Dane County to delay their first day of school until after Labor Day if they wish to do so.

“We're asking for relief that we can open on September 8th,” Hineline said.

Among the parents most concerned about the ban on in-person learning are “single parents that have to work and then would have no one to supervise their children,” Hineline noted, as well as “parents with children with special needs that know that the only way for their child's learning needs to be met (is) in person due to their child's unique challenges.”

Hineline said one parent who reached out in concern about the order is a single, low-income mother who did not finish high school because of dyslexia. Now one of her children, a student at St. Ambrose, also has dyslexia, and she is worried that he will not get the help he needs if he is not allowed to attend school in person while she works.

“Her greatest fear is that her own son...could end up being somebody who doesn't graduate,” Hineline said. “The worry is real. This is not a parent who has access to resources without us.” Hineline said she wrote down the mother’s testimony, because the mother did not want to write it down herself, due to her dyslexia.

“She's never even voted because...she's afraid she won't be able to understand the ballot system. This is just one mother's way to have her voice, to say, ‘The best thing I can do, the most safe, mature, stable way for me to raise my child and to take care of my child's needs is for my child to be in his Catholic school with in person education,’” she said.

When asked about the government’s interest in stopping the spread of the coronavirus, Hineline said that the school’s in-person plans had met stringent county requirements, and that other businesses and even childcare facilities were being allowed to open following those same requirements.

“The order continues to allow childcare and youth settings to open,” Hineline said. “Remarkably, the order even allows...we could use our same building as childcare and youth setting, just not as school. That’s an interesting aspect to the order; children can be in school for childcare with teachers, but they can't be in school for education with teachers.”

The emergency order itself states that school children have low rates of infection with the coronavirus.

“While research on school-aged children continues to emerge and evolve, a number of systematic reviews have found that school-aged children contract COVID at lower rates than older populations,” the order states. “Locally, as of August 20, 2020, nine percent of all COVID cases were among children aged 0-17 in Dane County. This population comprises 22% of the county population overall.”

Hineline said St. Ambrose Academy had always planned to have a virtual learning option for parents if they so choose, but that they believe it is important to provide in-person learning to the students and families who need it most.

“This isn't one size fits all,” she said. “We do believe that we are essential. We are essential virtually, for those families that need us virtually for their family's safety, security, stability. We are essential for our families that need us in person. We are essential in the development of a child.”

“As Catholic parents, we believe faith and academics are inseparable. We believe that parents should be able to choose how to best nurture their child's spiritual life in the Church and in the classroom,” Hineline said, quoting a statement from the school’s parents responding to the demand letter. “Online instruction can deliver content, but not the depth of Catholic faith and values. Fundamental religious liberty has been protected by courts throughout American history. We shouldn't have to spend the money defending this basic right, but we will see it through. We are talking about the health, the safety, and the security of children.”

USCCB to Trump administration: 'Stop these executions!'

Thu, 08/27/2020 - 19:30

CNA Staff, Aug 27, 2020 / 05:30 pm (CNA).-  

The U.S. bishops’ conference on Thursday criticized the federal government for its continued use of the death penalty, which the Justice Department resumed this summer after a 17-year moratorium on federal executions.

“The Church’s opposition to the death penalty is clear, and we have made many requests that the federal government should not resume these executions. Yet, not only has the government done so, they have scheduled even more executions. After the first three in July, there are two this week, and two more at the end of September,” the U.S. bishops said in an Aug. 27 statement.

“Remembering the Lord’s call for mercy, we renew our plea: stop these executions!”

The statement was signed by Archbishop Paul Coakley, chair of the bishops’ domestic policy committee, and Archbishop Joseph Naumann, chair of the pro-life committee.

On Wednesday, the federal government executed a Navajo man convicted of a double murder, Lezmond Mitchell, despite the objections of the Navajo Nation, on whose territory the crime took place. A federal judge on Thursday halted a federal execution scheduled for Friday, saying that the government’s protocol for lethal injections is a violation of federal law.

Three people were executed by the federal government in July, despite requests to President Donald Trump for clemency, issued by faith and political leaders, including requests from the Archbishop of Newark and the Archbishop of Indianapolis.

On July 7, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Bishop William Medley of Owensboro, Kentucky, Bishop Oscar Solis of Salt Lake City, Bishop Thomas Zinkula of Davenport, Iowa, and Bishop Richard Pates who is the apostolic administrator of Joliet, Illinois, all joined more than 1,000 faith leaders in calling for a stop to scheduled executions of four federal death row inmates.

“As our country grapples with the COVID 19 pandemic, an economic crisis, and systemic racism in the criminal legal system, we should be focused on protecting and preserving life, not carrying out executions,” the faith leaders stated.

In a June interview, the president confirmed his support for federal executions. “I am totally in favor of the death penalty for heinous crimes, ok? That’s the way it is,” Trump said.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church calls the death penalty “inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person.”

Until this summer, there had been no federal executions since 2003.

In July 2019, Attorney General William Barr announced that the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Prisons would resume federal executions for the first time in nearly 20 years, and named five people who would be the first group of federal death row inmates to be executed.

The U.S. bishops have repeatedly asked the government to discontinue federal executions.

In June, Coakley issued a statement saying “I reiterate the call made last July for the Administration to reverse course.”

“As articulated to the Supreme Court in another case earlier this year, the bishops have been calling for an end to the death penalty for decades,” he said.

“Pope St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis have all called for an end to the death penalty around the world.”

US bishops call for day of fasting to end racism

Thu, 08/27/2020 - 17:00

CNA Staff, Aug 27, 2020 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- The bishops of the United States are urging Catholics to pray and fast for an end to racism on Friday, following the unrest in Wisconsin this week.

“On this Friday’s anniversary, in the midst of our country’s ongoing racial unrest, we restate our commitment to peacefully seeking racial justice,” said Bishop Shelton Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, chair of the anti-racism committee of the U.S. bishops’ conference, on Thursday.

Friday, August 28, marks the 57th anniversary of the civil rights March on Washington, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

Bishop Fabre asked Catholics to pray and fast for an end to racism, either on Friday or on September 9, the feast of St. Peter Claver—a Spanish priest and abolitionist who ministered to African slaves in 17th-century South America.

“We reiterate the value of those whose human life and dignity in this country are marginalized through racism and our need to fight for them including the unborn,” he said.

A police shooting of an African-American man in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Sunday set off peaceful protests and violent riots this week in the town.Armed groups also reportedly gathered in the town to guard businesses from being looted or vandalized.

Protests and riots have broken out in several other cities in the past several months, after the killings of African-Americans including Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd.  

Jacob Blake, 29 years old, was shot by a Kenosha police officer on Sunday afternoon after he was reportedly tased by police and was walking away from officers toward a car door. As he opened the door and leaned inside, Officer Rusten Sheskey fired his gun seven times at Blake from behind. Another officer stood behind him and aimed his gun at Blake.

Blake was taken to a Milwaukee-area hospital; he is paralyzed from the waist down, his family’s lawyer told reporters this week.

Unrest ensued in Kenosha, with peaceful protests occurring and rioters vandalizing and burning store fronts. One resident and staffer at St. James parish in downtown Kenosha told CNA that the church was vandalized but sustained no serious damage. The staffer reported that many participants in the protests and riots were coming in from out-of-town.

Armed groups of citizens also assembled in the town to stand guard outside businesses. On Tuesday night, a gunman killed two people and injured a third.

The suspect, 17 year-old white male Kyle Rittenhouse who traveled to Kenosha from Illinois to purportedly guard businesses and people in the unrest, was arrested on Wednesday and charged with first-degree intentional homicide. Video showed a man alleged to be Rittenhouse running down the street with a rifle with several people in pursuit; he fell, turned around, and fired the rifle at his pursuers.

Bishop Fabre asked Catholics to pray and fast, either by assisting at Mass in reparation for sins of racism, by praying the rosary, or by asking for the intercession of saints who fought racism in their lifetimes, such as St. Katharine Drexel or St. Peter Claver.

“We must continue to engage the battle against the current evils of our society and in the words of Dr. King, refuse to believe ‘that the bank of justice is bankrupt,’” Bishop Fabre said.

He cited King’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech, where the civil rights icon said that the Declaration of Independence was a “promissory note” that “all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Fabre said on Thursday, “That promissory note must be satisfied.”

Tens of thousands are expected to march in Washington, D.C. on Friday, to protest racism.

Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Washington, D.C. will also be offering a Mass of Peace and Justice on Friday to commemorate the March on Washington.

Boston cardinal: Catholics have 'right' to clarity, after priest supports 'right to choose'

Thu, 08/27/2020 - 16:26

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 27, 2020 / 02:26 pm (CNA).- The Church’s teachings on the sanctity of life are of preeminent priority, the Archbishop of Boston said on Thursday, August 26. 

Cardinal Sean O’Malley, OFM, Cap., said that Catholics have “the right to expect the priests of the Archdiocese and those entrusted with handing on the faith to be clear and unequivocal on the Church’s teaching concerning respect and protection for life from the first moment of conception to natural death.”

“This teaching is of the highest priority for the Church,” he added in a statement provided to CNA. 

O’Malley said that archdiocesan clergy, as well as “religious and laity who minister or serve in the Archdiocese of Boston,” as representatives of the archdiocese, are not to endorse or condemn political candidates or political parties. 

“The teaching role of the Catholic Church brings religious and moral principles to the life of our society, our Commonwealth, and our nation,” said O’Malley.

“Our advocacy addresses protection of human life at all stages and in all circumstances, including issues of social and economic equality, the pervasive influence of systemic racism and welcoming immigrants and refugees.” 

Catholics, said O’Malley, should play an “active role” in public life, and “fulfill the basic obligation of a democracy, to vote.” He said that Catholics are “called to bring the light of faith and reason to our civic responsibilities,” as they “strive to build a civilization of love.” 

O’Malley’s statement comes two days after an Aug. 26, report by CNA including a statement by a priest of the archdiocese praising presidential candidate Joe Biden and supporting the “right to choose” abortion being enshrined in U.S. law.

Msgr. Paul Garrity told CNA that he did not think abortion would be illegal in the United States, and that the abortion was being used as a “a wedge issue that is being used to divide people for narrow political gains.”

Milwaukee archbishop visits Kenosha, prays for peace

Thu, 08/27/2020 - 15:35

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 27, 2020 / 01:35 pm (CNA).- Milwaukee’s archbishop prayed for peace in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Thursday morning, after four nights of protests and riots following the shooting of a Black man by police on Sunday. Two people have been killed and another was wounded seriously by a gunman participating in the unrest.

Archbishop Jerome Listecki of Milwaukee offered Mass at St. Mark the Evangelist Parish on Thursday morning, joined by the archdiocesan vicars general and priests of Kenosha’s Catholic parishes, the archdiocese announced in a Facebook post on Thursday.

The archbishop held a press conference outside St. Mark’s Church, announcing a plan to visit sites in Kenosha damaged by riots and deadly violence this week.

“I speak for the pastors when I say immediately how hurtful it is that something like this, a wound, should appear in the community,” Listecki said of the unrest this past week. “Also it’s a time when the church should be there to help the healing.”

“In prayer, we place the whole people of Kenosha, the community of Kenosha, before God.”

Video of Sunday’s shooting showed Blake walking away from several police officers, around the front of a car toward the driver’s side door, while officers followed him and shouted at him with guns drawn. According to the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ), the officers had used a taser on Blake before he walked away from them.

As Blake opened the driver’s side car door and leaned inside, Officer Sheskey grabbed him from behind and fired his gun seven times at Blake.

After the shooting, Blake was taken to a Milwaukee-area hospital, and his family’s lawyer said on Tuesday that he is paralyzed from the waist down.

Protests and riots ensued in Kenosha, with businesses being vandalized, looted, and burned, and police deploying tear gas against rioters. St. James Parish in downtown Kenosha was vandalized on Monday evening, but suffered no serious damage.

On Thursday, Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul admonished “the heavily armed vigilantes, arsonists, and other opportunists who have come to Kenosha to attempt to spur chaos.”

“Kenosha residents deserve the opportunity to grieve, come together, peacefully protest, call for change, and heal,” he said.

On Tuesday night, during the unrest in downtown Kenosha, two people were killed and a third injured by a white gunman later identified as 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, who traveled to Kenosha from Illinois to allegedly assist police officers amid the unrest. Armed groups were reported to be standing outside businesses on guard against rioters. Local police did not request that assistance, and officers reportedly ordered a group of gunmen to get off the top of an area gas station, although their order was not obeyed.

Rittenhouse had told the Daily Caller earlier that evening, while standing outside a boarded-up building, that “people are getting injured and our job is to protect this business,” and that he was in Kenosha to “help people” but was also armed to “protect myself.”

Videos showed a man alleged to be Rittenhouse shooting a looter in the head, and then running down a street with a rifle while being pursued by several people shouting that he had already shot someone; he fell, turned around, and fired the rifle several times at his pursuers. Rittenhouse was arrested on Wednesday in Illinois and charged with first-degree intentional homicide.

Archbishop Listecki prayed for peace on Thursday morning, emphasizing that prayer must be the first response to the unrest.

“We’re praying, obviously for people to open up their hearts,” he said, to find a “peaceful way, and not a violent way” to resolve conflict.

“God is the one who changes the hearts and the minds of people,” he said.

When asked by reporters if he had a response to the cause of the protests, Sunday’s police shooting, Listecki said that “we have to take a step back” and wait for “all the facts” of the incident to surface.

“You don’t want any type of issue to be co-opted,” he said, noting that “outsiders” have tried to co-opt such incidents. “You hold up the video, nobody’s seeing the outside. Nobody’s seeing what’s going on,” he said of the video of the shooting of Blake, noting that it’s “just one eye that’s taking in everything.”

According to press releases from the Kenosha Police Department and the Wisconsin Department of Justice, officers on Sunday had responded to a domestic incident at the site of Blake’s shooting; a woman had called police, reporting that her boyfriend, reportedly Blake, was present without her consent. 

The Wisconsin DOJ is leading the investigation into the shooting with the assistance of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), which has launched a civil rights probe into the incident. The Wisconsin DOJ said that Blake told officers on the scene that he had a knife in his possession, and that agents removed a knife from the driver’s side floorboard of the car.

Boston archdiocese warns clergy, officials over political statements

Thu, 08/27/2020 - 14:00

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 27, 2020 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Boston has issued a letter to priests, principals of parish schools, and the leaders of Catholic institutions affiliated with the archdiocese, warning against sharing overtly political posts on social media.

“In the current atmosphere and political climate it is easy to get caught up promoting or advocating a particular viewpoint or stance as that viewpoint or stance relates to political campaigns or political activities in general,” said a letter from Francis J. O’Connor, the general counsel for the Archdiocese of Boston. 

The letter, obtained by CNA Wednesday, is dated August 25, 2020, one day after the archdiocese declined to respond to questions from CNA regarding political statements by a priest of the archdiocese.

O’Connor wrote that the archdiocese has “fielded a number of complaints from both sides of the political party affiliations relating to statements, publications, and social media posts which the complainants have found objectionable.” 

“In turn, many of these statements, publications, and posts have invited, intentionally or otherwise, reactive statements, comments, and posts which also have stirred controversy. Therefore, it is important to once again remind you of the limitations on political activities that may be conducted by non-profit entities,” O’Connor added.  

No particular member of the clergy or employee of an entity affiliated with the archdiocese was singled out in the letter for unapproved political activity. 

On Aug. 26, CNA reported a statement from a priest of the archdiocese praising presidential candidate Joe Biden and supporting the “right to choose.” 

The memo focused on the tax implications of political endorsements. O’Connor encouraged clergy to “refrain from expressing those opinions which will draw negative attention regardless of ideology as well as possible unwelcome attention from the IRS,” adding that  “the tax exemption issue is an increasing priority with the IRS.”

Federal law provides that 501(c)(3) organizations cannot “participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.”

“One’s presence on Social Media, even beyond an organization’s page or website, can be associated with the organization,” wrote O’Connor. 

“Blurring the lines between an individual’s personal thoughts and opinions and the appearance of a connection to the Church or a Church related entity to which those personal thoughts or opinions can be attributed to presents unacceptable risk and jeopardy to the Church’s tax-exempt status.” 

Being a member of the clergy or an employee for the archdiocese “does not in any way diminish your individual rights as a citizen to participate in the political process,” wrote O’Connor, but individuals “must be aware of the guidelines published by the USCCB Office of General Counsel to dioceses, parishes, and other Catholic organizations” concerning what is and is not allowed during election campaigns. 

These guidelines, O’Connor advised “answer many of the questions that you might face.” 

“It is the preferred recommendation to refrain from any form of political activity if there is a chance it might be construed as contrary to the Guidelines.” he added. 

The USCCB’s guidelines, issued July 21, clarifies that employees in Catholic organizations are not prohibited by federal law from political activity, “provided they ‘do not in any way utilize the organization’s financial resources, facilities or personnel, and clearly and unambiguously indicate that the actions taken or statements made are those of the individuals and not of the organization.”

“Employees should be required to take leave to participate in political activities.”

Citing federal law, the USCCB explained that “Officials of a Catholic organization, acting in their individual capacities, may identify themselves as officials of their organization ‘so long as they make it clear that they are acting in their individual capacity, that they are not acting on behalf of the organization, and that their association with the organization is given for identification purposes only.’”

Those guidelines were issued a few weeks before a USCCB official told the bishops’ conference news service that she was “elated” that Kamala Harris had been named Biden’s running mate, and said she expected Biden “would put good people in his Cabinet, who would not damage the agencies, or ignore the mission.”

While that official was identified by her position in a media report, and did not clarify that she was speaking in an individual capacity, a spokesman for the bishops’ conference later said that she had been speaking as an individual. The conference did not clarify whether the official had taken leave to offer commentary on Harris, or whether the USCCB’s own employee handbook requires that.

Philadelphia archdiocese asks two priests to undo hasty church renovations

Thu, 08/27/2020 - 12:00

Denver Newsroom, Aug 27, 2020 / 10:00 am (CNA).-  

Two parish administrators at two different Philadelphia churches must work to undo church renovations that drew both objections from parishioners and corrections from church officials, who said the priests did not follow archdiocese guidelines.

The archdiocese took “immediate action” after learning about the two different unauthorized renovations at Saint Michael Parish and Saint Borromeo Church in south Philadelphia, Kenneth A. Gavin, chief communications officer at the Philadelphia archdiocese, told CNA last week.

“After learning of concerns reported to the archdiocese by parishioners at both parishes, Archbishop Nelson J. Pérez delegated a liturgical expert to visit each church and report back to him on what the renovations entailed,” Gavin said.

“After receiving a report from that delegate in late July, Reverend Arturo Chagala, parochial administrator of Saint Michael Parish, and Reverend Esteban N. Granyak, parochial administrator of Saint Charles Borromeo Church, were instructed to restore the sanctuaries of the respective church to their former states to greatest extent possible and to address this matter with parishioners publicly.”

Both Archbishop Nelson Perez of Philadelphia and senior leaders in the archdiocese met personally with Saint Charles Borromeo parishioners “to hear and address their concerns.”

“The archbishop and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia will always seriously listen to concerns voiced by parishioners and work to find resolutions that are fair and equitable to all,” Gavin said.

Father Arturo Chagala, the pastoral administrator of Saint Michael's Parish, has been at the north Philadelphia church since 2014.

Between March and early June, while the church was closed due to the new coronavirus epidemic, he directed that significant renovations take place. Many historic pews were removed, the marble altar rails were taken out, and the church's hardwood floor and marble center-aisle floor were covered with bright red carpet, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

Several parishioners objected to the changes at the church, a designated historic landmark in Philadelphia whose exterior cannot be changed.

Other critics include architectural historian Oscar Beisert.

“He took a classically beautiful building and vandalized it,” Beisert told the Inquirer. “I call it architectural vandalism.”

Chagala has promised to finish restoration work by Sept. 11.

“As you might imagine, it is rather humbling for me to bring all this to your attention. I apologize for all the upset,” the priest said in a June 20 letter to parishioners.

He said Archbishop Nelson Perez met with him on June 18 to discuss parishioners' upset reaction to the renovations.

“The archbishop was frank and clear about his deep concern with regard to these renovations and directed a pathway to move forward,” the priest said. The renovations took place “without the proper permission and oversight” from the archdiocese. There was no “broad consultation with parishioners,” Chagala acknowledged.

The protocols of the archdiocese's Office for Divine Worship require plans to be submitted for review and approval by the archbishop before any work begins, and the archdiocesan moderator of the curia reviews the project for financial feasibility.

Chagala said the renovations have divided the parish and there is a need “to focus on greater transparency and communication among us.”

He praised the legacy of the parish and its current parishioners.

“I have a pastoral duty to reach out to all of you and support you in your life of faith,” he said. “In order for me to do this more effectively, I pledge to take the needed steps to bridge the divide that now marks us, and with your support, to build up the parish of St. Michael's,” he said.

Another renovation controversy took place at St. Charles Borromeo Church in south Philadelphia, where parish administrator Father Esteban Granyak this summer removed the marble altar rail, moved the main altar, renovated a chapel and converted a basement gym into a worship space for members of the Neocatechumenal Way, a Catholic movement of spiritual formation and evangelization.

The changes were made without consulting parishioners at the 152-year-old historically African-American parish.

In addition to objecting to the lack of consultation, Some Black parishioners objected that the parish has stopped using a cross long used by the community during Mass.

Parishioners also said Black parishioners traditionally used the basement gym for social gatherings or for receptions after funerals, and that the parish does not pay enough attention to Black parishioners, or the social issues relevant to them, such as the death of George Floyd while being detained by police in Minneapolis, Minn.

Some parishioners accused Granyak, the parish administrator, of engaging in insensitive and racist practices and of giving preferential treatment to the Neocatechumenal Way.

“We are being tossed aside. We have no connection to what is going on at St. Charles Parish at all,” 76-year-old Carolyn Jenkins, a lifelong parishioner and member of the parish council, told the Inquirer in July.

Jenkins and others have protested outside the parish church. She said they wanted the priest removed.

“There’s no way he can stay here with all the bad history and signs of racism we have experienced,” she said.

Gavin responded to some of the claims against Granyak.

“Allegations of racism are not taken lightly by the archdiocese,” he told the Inquirer in July. “Racial hatred has no place in our Church or in the hearts of people. Racism is a mortal sin and an attack on the gift of life. No complaints of racially motivated behavior have been lodged against Father Granyak with the archdiocese.”

He noted that parish communities include people from various age groups and cultural and ethnic backgrounds.

“In addition to the African-American community within the parish, it is important to note that Father Granyak is Chilean and that many parishioners hail from Latin America with a mixture of families from Spain and Italy,” he said.

Gavin said that the priest had announced that space for gatherings is available to parishioners, although Jenkins said she has not heard such announcements. Parishioners also questioned Gavin's report that they did not return calls to the priest when he was trying to meet with parishioners before a July 5 protest.

Both Granyak and Chagala are part of the Neocatechumenal Way.

The Neocatechumenal Way, founded in 1964, forms small parish-based communities for formation in the Christian life, and focuses on door-to-door and other direct forms of evangelization, personal conversion, and the universal call to holiness.

While the Way is often lauded for its successes in Christian evangelization, and its large number of priestly vocations, critics point to its unusual liturgical style and have accused it of forming parallel communities in the parishes where it operates. More than one million people around the world are associated with the Neocatechumenal Way.

When the Neocatechumenal Way is present in a diocese, it is often responsible for bringing numerous priestly vocations from around the world, though some critics say those priests do not always integrate well into the local communities they serve.

While local news reports have cited critics of the local movement and described rifts between it and longtime parishioners, Gavin told the Inquirer in August that it is “baseless” to depict the movement as “taking over a parish.”

“The Catholic Church embraces and celebrates diversity while maintaining focus on what unites us as a family of hope and faith — the Resurrection of Jesus Christ,” he said, adding that parishioners who are not members are welcome at its Saturday evening liturgies.

“The Neocatechumenal Way is a distinct charism within the Roman Catholic Church that is sanctioned by the Vatican,” he continued. “Its liturgical celebrations have some elements that are different from what parishioners would traditionally experience.


Republican convention night three: God, country, and Notre Dame

Thu, 08/27/2020 - 11:51

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 27, 2020 / 09:51 am (CNA).- The third night of the 2020 Republican National Convention featured a Catholic religious sister and a Chinese human rights lawyer and activist endorsing President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign.

Sister Deirdre Byrne of the Little Workers of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, who is also a retired army officer, surgeon, and missionary, said she believes Trump to be “the most pro-life president that this nation has ever had” in remarks that aired on Wednesday night at the convention.

“I must confess that I recently prayed while in chapel, begging God to allow me to be a voice and instrument for human life, and now here I am, speaking at the Republican National Convention,” Byrne began her remarks. “I guess you better be careful what you pray for!”

The sister said that in her view, Trump has the support of the pro-life community and “has a nationwide [army of]  religious standing behind him” armed “with our weapon of choice, the rosary.”

She also called the Democratic presidential ticket of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris “the most anti-life presidential ticket ever, even supporting the horrors of late-term abortion and infanticide.”

While canon law prohibits clerics from taking “an active role in political parties” without the permission of their bishops, religious, like Sr. Byrne, require the permission of their legitimate superiors to make similar partisan interventions. Two priests, Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life, and Monsignor Paul Garrity of the Archdiocese of Boston, have drawn attention recently for their political endorsements.

Byrne also spoke of her work caring for “marginalized” refugees abroad, while saying that “the largest marginalized group in the world” is unborn babies in the U.S. 

“I’m not just pro-life,” she said, “I’m pro-eternal life.”

Although attracting widespread praise for its pro-life policies from many Catholics, the Trump administration has drawn criticism from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for resuming federal executions after decades without federal use of the death penalty, and for lowering the number of refugees resettled by the U.S. to its lowest recorded level in the 2020 fiscal year, deciding last fall to accept a maximum of 18,000 refugees in FY 2020. The U.S. bishops called that decision “unacceptable.”

Byrne said that pro-lifers must fight for the right to life even if it’s not “fashionable.”

“It’s no coincidence that Jesus stood up for what was just and was ultimately crucified because what he said wasn’t politically correct or fashionable,” she said.

A Chinese human rights lawyer who spoke out against the country’s coercive family planning policies also addressed the convention.

Chen Guangcheng, who is a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., escaped house arrest in China in 2012 and sought shelter at the U.S. embassy in Beijing; he was eventually granted asylum in the U.S. with the help of Congressman Chris Smith (R-N.J.).

Chen condemned the human rights record of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) on Wednesday.

“In China, expressing beliefs or ideas not approved by the CCP--religion, democracy, human rights--can lead to prison,” he said. “The nation lives under mass surveillance and censorship.”

Vice President Mike Pence delivered the keynote address of Wednesday evening, where he officially accepted the party’s nomination to run for vice president in 2020.

In a lengthy speech where he focused on foreign policy, the economy, and domestic law enforcement, Pence touted the administration’s record supporting the right to life and school choice.

“President Trump has stood without apology for the sanctity of human life, every day of this administration. Joe Biden, he supports taxpayer funding of abortion right up to the moment of birth,” Pence said. 

Other convention speakers on Wednesday evening included Richard Grenell, Trump’s former Acting Director of National Intelligence and member of the Log Cabin Republicans, a group which represents conservatives and Republicans identifying as LGBT.

Grenell recently endorsed Trump in a video where he called the president “the most pro-gay president in American history.” Trump tweeted in response “My great honor!!!”

Former University of Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz, a Catholic, also endorsed Trump on Wednesday evening for his pro-life stances and support for prison reform and school choice.

“The Biden-Harris ticket is the most radically pro-abortion campaign in history. They and other politicians are ‘Catholics in Name Only’ and abandon innocent lives,” Holtz charged. “President Trump protects those lives.”

One mother of a child with Down Syndrome spoke about school choice on Wednesday, after she shared her story of having her child Samuel.

“Before Samuel was even born I was told his life wouldn’t be worth living,” Tera Myers said, noting that her doctor encouraged her to have an abortion after prenatal tests revealed her son had Down Syndrome.

“I knew my baby was a human being created by God, and that made him worthy of life,” she said.

Catholic publisher to reprint music editions without Mormon image

Thu, 08/27/2020 - 10:10

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 27, 2020 / 08:10 am (CNA).- Oregon Catholic Press will reprint two of its publications in response to criticism of the artwork chosen for the cover of both editions. 

The publisher made the announcement Wednesday in a Facebook post, telling its customers that it had “promised to come back to you with a solution, and here it is.” All of its 2021 Music Issue and Respond & Acclaim worship resources, which featured the controversial image of an angel by a Mormon artist, will now be reprinted. 

The announcement follows sustained negative feedback since August 24, when online attention was first drawn to the image pictured on the cover of the 2021 Music Issue and Respond & Acclaim. The image strongly resembled the angel Moroni, a character in the Mormon faith. The cover art depicted an angel standing on a golden sphere, blowing a horn and holding a box--all of which are typical to depictions of the angel Moroni. 

Initially, Oregon Catholic Press issued a statement denying that the cover art was of Moroni, and said that they had chosen the art due to the symbolism associated with an angel blowing a trumpet. 

“The sounding of the trumpet at the last is a strong traditional Christian image. We chose this angel because he’s holding a trumpet and what looks like the book that will be opened at the last,” said OCP on Monday. 

The press initially said that they “apologize for any misunderstanding” regarding the cover art, and said that the artist who painted the image, Jorge Cocco Santangelo, told them that the figure in the image was not of any specific figure. 

It was subsequently reported that Santangelo’s own social media postings referred to the image licensed by OCP as “Angel Moroni.” The publisher issued an updated statement on Tuesday, Aug. 25, apologizing for the “embarrassing mistake.” 

"We have heard your concerns, we admit our error and we apologize for the cover art," OCP said, insisting that it would “never knowingly use an image that is not authentically Catholic on our publications.” 

Santangelo’s Instagram post labeling the image as “Angel Moroni” was taken down from his account on Wednesday. 

Anyone who had already received the now-recalled publications will automatically be sent replacement copies at no cost, and any unfulfilled orders will be shipped with the new cover art,  the Wednesday statement said. 

“Again, we apologize for any offense this has caused, we ask for your forgiveness, and thank you for your prayers and ongoing support,” said OCP. 

Cocco Santangelo was raised Catholic in Argentina. He left the faith in 1962 after meeting Mormon missionaries. He and his wife were among the first Mormon converts in Argentina. Cocco Santangelo credits his Mormon beliefs for inspiring most of his artwork. 

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which the Catholic Church does not recognize as Christian, teaches that the angel Moroni visited Joseph Smith, and revealed the location of the hidden Book of Mormon, written on gold plates buried in upstate New York. Mormons believe that Moroni is a central figure in the restoration of the Gospel, and statues of Moroni feature prominently on the spires of many LDS temples. 

Texas asks court to allow dismemberment abortion ban until further ruling

Thu, 08/27/2020 - 02:28

CNA Staff, Aug 27, 2020 / 12:28 am (CNA).- Texas officials have asked the Fifth U.S. Court of Appeals to allow the state to enforce its ban on a certain type of second-trimester abortions, pending further court decisions.

The rule in question bars “dismemberment abortions,” known medically as “dilation and evacuation” abortions. The procedure uses forceps and other instruments to kill and remove the unborn baby from the womb. The Texas legislature declared the procedure “brutal and inhumane.”

While a panel at the New Orleans-based appellate court has already declined a motion to allow Texas to enforce the law, state officials are now asking the full appellate court to stay the decision. Republican-appointed judges outnumber Democratic-appointed judges on the court 12-5.

In June 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear arguments on a similar ban in Alabama after a federal judge blocked that law. However, on Aug. 7, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals lifted a lower court's order against enforcement of four Arkansas abortion restrictions, including the state's dismemberment abortion ban.

That ruling said the U.S. District Court must consider the law in light of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts' June decision on a Louisiana law requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

Although the court struck down the Louisiana law, Chief Justice John Roberts in his concurring opinion also reaffirmed the right of states to create abortion regulations in order to further women’s health and safety, if they met certain standards in doing so. This has prompted speculation that other state abortion regulations may be able to withstand judicial scrutiny by citing the ruling.

A federal judge struck down the Texas law in 2017, but Texas officials appealed. Their appeal was first heard in November 2018, but the case was postponed until the Supreme Court could rule on the Louisiana law.

In 2017, Texas Right to Life said the dismemberment abortion ban is defensible under the 2007 U.S. Supreme Court ruling Gonzales v. Carhart, which says states have a “compelling interest in protecting the integrity and ethics of the medical profession and in protecting the life of the preborn child.”


Full text: Sister Dede Byrne’s speech at the 2020 Republican National Convention

Wed, 08/26/2020 - 22:22

CNA Staff, Aug 26, 2020 / 08:22 pm (CNA).- Sr. Deirdre “Dede” Byrne, POSC, was among the speakers at the 2020 Republican National Convention. Now a Catholic religious sister, Byrne previously served as a surgeon, retired army officer, and missionary. The full text of her speech, delivered August 26, is below:

Good evening. I am Sister Dede Byrne, and I belong to the Community of the Little Workers of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Last Fourth of July, I was honored to be one of the president's guests at his Salute to America celebration. I must confess that I recently prayed while in chapel, begging God to allow me to be a voice, an instrument for human life. And now here I am, speaking at the Republican National Convention. I guess you’d better be careful what you pray for. My journey to religious life was not a traditional route, if there is such a thing. In 1978, as a medical school student at Georgetown University, I joined the Army to help pay for my tuition, and ended up devoting 29 years to the military, serving as a doctor and a surgeon in places like Afghanistan and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. After much prayer and contemplation, I entered my religious order in 2002, working to serve the poor and the sick in Haiti, Sudan, Kenya, Iraq and in Washington, D.C. Humility is at the foundation of our order, which makes it very difficult to talk about myself. But I can speak about my experience working for those fleeing war-torn and impoverished countries all around the world. Those refugees all share a common experience. They have all been marginalized, viewed as insignificant, powerless and voiceless. And while we tend to think of the marginalized as living beyond our borders, the truth is the largest marginalized group in the world can be found here in the United States. They are the unborn. As Christians, we first met Jesus as a stirring embryo in the womb of an unwed mother and saw him born nine months later in the poverty of the cave. It is no coincidence that Jesus stood up for what was just and was ultimately crucified because what he said was not politically correct or fashionable. As followers of Christ, we are called to stand up for life against the politically correct or fashionable of today. We must fight against a legislative agenda that supports and even celebrates destroying life in the womb. Keep in mind, the laws we create define how we see our humanity. We must ask ourselves: What we are saying when we go into a womb and snuff out an innocent, powerless, voiceless life? As a physician, I can say without hesitation: Life begins at conception. While what I have to say may be difficult for some to hear, I am saying it because I am not just pro-life, I am pro-eternal life. I want all of us to end up in heaven together someday. Which brings me to why I am here today. Donald Trump is the most pro-life president this nation has ever had, defending life at all stages. His belief in the sanctity of life transcends politics. President Trump will stand up against Biden-Harris, who are the most anti-life presidential ticket ever, even supporting the horrors of late-term abortion and infanticide. Because of his courage and conviction, President Trump has earned the support of America’s pro-life community. Moreover, he has a nationwide of religious standing behind him. You’ll find us here with our weapon of choice, the rosary. Thank you, Mr. President, we are all praying for you.


Hurricane Laura brings hardship to Caribbean, Gulf Coast

Wed, 08/26/2020 - 20:01

Denver Newsroom, Aug 26, 2020 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- Hurricane Laura caused flooding in several Caribbean territories over the weekend, killing at least 24 people and causing thousands to be without utilities. The storm is now approaching Texas and Louisiana.

The storm first approached the Caribbean Aug. 23 and has killed at least 20 people in Haiti, and three in the Dominican Republic.

Nikki Gamer, media relations manager for Catholic Relief Services, told CNA that while the specifics of the storm's damages have not yet been evaluated, the victims in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico will be needing more help with basic necessities.

“We’re just beginning to understand the impacts of the latest storm, but what we do know is that whatever the damage, it will be yet more terrible news for the people of Haiti,” CRS’ Haiti country representative Chris Bessey stated.

“In recent years, they’ve dealt with a prolonged economic downturn, drought, worsening food insecurity, political upheaval, COVID-19, and now a devastating storm. Yes - the Haitian people are resilient. But that doesn’t diminish the fact that communities here are struggling under tremendous hardships.”

The storm knocked out power for more than 1 million people in the Dominican Republic and, while utilities had been restored to 400,000 people earlier this week, tens of thousands of people were still without power Aug. 24.

The flooding has collapsed several homes in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic. It also forced more than 1,000 people to be evacuated across the country and cut off road access to over 120 isolated communities.

In Puerto Rico, the storm brought 67 mph gusts of wind and dumped 3 to 6 inches of rain in the territory’s southern and eastern regions.

Cuba and Jamaica were also affected.

Bessey expressed concern that the storm would also heavily damage farms and further aggravate food problems in Haiti. He said that prior to the storm, CRS had already been providing basic necessities to families struggling from the pandemic and would further assess additional needs following the storm.

“We're especially alarmed by reports that the storm has caused widespread damage to agricultural lands in the hardest-hit areas, which likely means that hunger will continue to get worse,” said Bessey.
“When COVID-19 hit, CRS was already supporting the most vulnerable families to manage the growing food insecurity. In fact, we quickly adjusted our activities to be COVID-safe while providing cash to families as well as information on healthy foods that they can purchase locally, which helps build up the economy. This experience and understanding of community priorities and ongoing work has given us the flexibility to assess the additional needs following the storm."

The storm is expected to make landfall near the Texas-Louisiana border in the early hours of Aug. 27. More than a half million people in the coastal areas of the two states have been ordered to evacuate.

The National Hurricane Center has said that “large and destructive waves” will be life threatening and may cause flooding up to 30 miles inland.

Who is Chen Guangcheng? Chinese human rights activist to speak at RNC

Wed, 08/26/2020 - 19:07

Denver Newsroom, Aug 26, 2020 / 05:07 pm (CNA).- One of the featured speakers at the Republican National Convention on Aug. 26 will be Chen Guangcheng, a Chinese lawyer and human rights advocate who has been an outspoken critic of the Chinese government— particularly its policy of forced abortions and sterilizations.

Chen grew up in extreme poverty in the Chinese countryside in the 1970s. At the time, China was in the middle of a sociopolitical restructuring— Communist Party leader Mao Zedong’s so-called Cultural Revolution.

As he wrote in his memoir, “The Barefoot Lawyer,” he largely had a happy childhood, with his brothers teaching him how to recognize the feel and sounds of things in the world.

Chen lost his sight following an illness when he was five months old. Over the years, he had several operations done to try to help him regain his sight, but none were successful.

His mother and father worked extremely hard. He says his mother would work all day in the fields, and yet often would only earn enough to put food on the table for her children, while she herself went hungry.

As a young man, Chen entered a government school for the blind. His fighting spirit on behalf of social justice began while in school— on one occasion, he advocated for a classmate whom a teacher had assaulted and beaten while drunk. Thanks to Chen’s advocacy, the teacher was forced to apologize.

Chen later launched a campaign to give free bus fare to the blind. At the time, there were laws on the books in China to provide services and accommodations for the blind and disabled, but in practice, these were rarely enforced. Chen spoke out in protest, urging the government to enforce the laws and treat disabled people fairly.

Chen says he faced staggering prejudice from almost everyone he encountered, because of his disability. This included when he got married— his fiancee’s parents objected to the marriage because Chen was blind.

Still, Chen was able to study law and as a lawyer, he uncovered the infamous and brutal forced abortion practices under China’s one-child policy.

China’s one-child policy was imposed in 1980 in an effort to curb population growth, as China’s population neared 1 billion. Families—with very few exceptions— were not allowed to have more than one child. Women who had more than one baby could be punished. And, especially in rural areas, the government forced women to be sterilized, and to have abortions. 

Under the policy, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) subjected at least 130,000 people to forced abortions or sterilizations. Experts have estimated that, all told, the policy prevented some 400 million births. It was replaced by a two-child policy in 2015.

“Under the name of the Communist Party, the CCP was dragging pregnant women out of their homes, stuffing them in vehicles— sometimes without even putting on clothes— and taking them to reproductive planning clinics for forced abortions, where they would give them an injection to kill the baby and then induce it out,” Chen told CNA in February 2019.

“If they couldn’t find these [pregnant women], they would grab their relatives and family members.”

Chen began educating poor Chinese farmers on their rights, and filed a class-action lawsuit against the Family Planning Commission office in Linyi, China on behalf of several families who had suffered under the one-child policy. He also called an American reporter from Time magazine and invited him to come and report on the abuses.

County officials sent a squad of 200 authorities to capture him in Sept. 2005, placing him briefly under house arrest before a formal arrest in June 2006. He says after his arrest, he was hustled off to a so-called “black jail” - an extralegal detention center run by security forces. He says he was subjected to maltreatment and torture there.

Chen would eventually be charged with “overbirthing,” because he and his wife had a second child in defiance of the one-child policy. He was also charged with providing information to foreigners, because he had given an interview to the Washington Post.

Following his arrest, he says the Chinese government sent a team of 50 people to his village to spread propaganda and lies about him, telling everyone he was a foreign spy.

After he served his four-year sentence in jail, Chen and his family were kept under house arrest starting in 2010, during which he claims he and his family were repeatedly beaten and denied medical treatment.

In April 2012, in a dramatic escape, he slipped past the guards and scaled a wall in the middle of the night, breaking his foot in the process. He crawled beside a river, making his way out of town. Within hours, Chen met his nephew in a location they’d arranged before the escape, who drove him more than 300 miles to the US embassy in Beijing.

With the help of New Jersey Congressman Chris Smith, Chen was granted asylum in the United States in 2012 and has lived in the Washington D.C. area with his family since then.

“Since Chen made it to the United States, it’s actually gotten worse in China under the current president. The religious freedom issue has gone from unconscionable to worse, which some thought could never happen,” Congressman Smith told CNA in February 2019.

Chen has spoken out continually about the Communist Party’s abuses, including its persecution of Christians and its authoritarian approach to Hong Kong. He says many of his fellow human right activists are still imprisoned or trapped in China.

Chen is a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Though Chen is not himself a Christian, he told CNA last year that he supports freedom of thought and religion for all people.

“At the moment I don’t believe in a specific god or religion. As for religion, I feel that it can make society kinder, and closer to a positive side of human nature and away from an evil side of human nature,” he said.

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Chen has sharply criticised the Communist government’s authoritarian response and the party’s claims that it has the coronavirus under control.

“There is nothing about the CCP’s numbers that are believable,” Guangcheng said in April.

“What people are calculating is that roughly 700,000 may have died in China—in terms of people who have been infected, no one knows the numbers.”

He has also claimed that the CCP has been using the crisis caused by the pandemic to crack down on dissent, detaining human rights activists at separate “so-called quarantine sites.”

Chen also has been critical of the Vatican’s September 2018 deal with Communist China on the appointment of bishops, calling it “a slap in the face to millions of Catholics and other faithful religious people in China who have suffered real persecution under the CCP.”

“I grew up under this Party-State system and personally experienced the Communist Party’s violence and brutality, and I have known and worked with countless individuals in China who have been persecuted for their beliefs,” Chen wrote during Nov. 2018.

“I am sure that the active members of underground churches in China who have persevered against crippling persecution for so long can only feel betrayed,” he continued.

Chen has said that he believes China can realize modern, civilized, democratic society, with the rule of law, respect for human rights, and freedom of information.

However, he told CNA, “As long as China has a government structure of authoritarian dictatorship, the disasters that have befallen the Chinese people will not cease. The evils of the Chinese Communist Party are not only directed domestically at China, but are also directed at the whole world, which it seeks to control...many Americans should stand with the Chinese people, to challenge the Communist Party.”

The story of Chen Guangcheng’s escape from house arrest— featuring Chen himself, as well as Congressman Smith— was told on Episode 14 of the CNA Newsroom podcast. Click here to listen.

New St Louis archbishop encourages face-to-face evangelization

Wed, 08/26/2020 - 18:15

CNA Staff, Aug 26, 2020 / 04:15 pm (CNA).- Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski was installed this week as the tenth Archbishop of St. Louis, on the feast day of the city's namesake, Louis IX of France. The new archbishop challenged Catholics to put their faith into action and seek to meet the world face-to-face.

"Parishes are not built from behind desks. Communities are not built from behind desks. As a Church, evangelization does not happen from behind a desk," Rozanski, 61, said in his installation Mass homily Aug. 25.

Rozanski acknowledged that during the pandemic, most interactions have had to be mediated through the internet and screens.

"I yearn for that day when we can meet safely face-to-face, and not through our TVs. computers, and phones. While we are compelled to be our brother's keeper, and so must live within these necessary public safety parameters for the time being, let us nonetheless be visible and encounter people as best we can, to spread the joy of the Gospel."

Pope Francis in June appointed Rozanski to lead the Archdiocese of St. Louis. He succeeds Archbishop Robert Carlson, who presented his resignation to Pope Francis at the customary age of 75.

St. Louis is the largest archdiocese in Missouri, and is home to over half a million Catholics.

Rozanski expressed gratitude for his priesthood and gratitude to Pope Francis for choosing him to lead the archdiocese. The installation Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis was closed to the public because of the pandemic.

Referring to St. Louis by its popular nickname, "The Rome of the West"— so called because of its many grand Catholic churches— Rozanski pointed to the city's most well-known symbol, the Gateway Arch, as a symbol of hope and unity.

"How much that hope is needed in our country, and in our world, today,” he remarked.

The city's namesake, St. Louis, was holy "not because of the crown he wore, but because of the service he allowed it to give," Rozanski said.

"We are called to be a people of hope," he said, adding that each individual, as well as the Church as a whole, is called to practice love, putting it into action by seeking to meet with people face-to-face.

"We ourselves must be gateways to healing, to evangelization, to mercy, to compassion, to listening with the ears of Jesus," he said.

COVID-19 is not the only urgent cross facing us today, he said, referring to the "scars of systemic racism."

St. Louis has seen racially-charged protests in recent months, and historically has been a segregated city. Racial tension in the city has been heightened ever since the Aug. 2014 killing of Michael Brown by a Ferguson, MO police officer.

Rozanski referred to racism as "a man-made plague that isolates us from one another" and diminishes our God-given dignity.

A bishop must always foster a missionary attitude in his diocese, Rozanski said, which involves listening to all his people, not merely those who "would tell him what he wants to hear."

He called for Catholics to work on "bold and creative methods" of evangelization.

"Let us walk together on this journey of faith. I need your help, and I need your prayers," he said.

Rozanski had previously led the Diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts since 2014.

A Baltimore native, Rozanski was born in 1958, and attended Catholic schools in the city. He attended seminary at the Catholic University of America, and was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Baltimore in 1984. He served in parish ministry, the archdiocesan curia, and with its seminary, and was named a monsignor in 2003.

St. John Paul II appointed Rozanski auxiliary bishop of Baltimore in 2004. He oversaw one of Baltimore archdiocese’s geographical vicariates while parishes were merged, and served as vicar for Hispanics. He was vocal in supporting Maryland’s DREAM act, allowing some undocumented immigrants to receive in-state college tuition.

At the time of his episcopal consecration, Rozanski was the youngest bishop in the United States. He went on to serve as chair of the U.S. bishops’ conference committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs and as a consultant to the National Association for the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities.

A Polish-American, Rozanski has co-chaired the Polish National Catholic – Roman Catholic Dialogue. The Polish National Catholic Church is a schismatic Church founded in the U.S. in the late 19th-century by Polish-American immigrants.

He is a member of the Knights of Columbus and a Knight Commander of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.

Though Rozanski himself backed major changes in the Springfield diocese's handling of abuse, CNA has reported that one anonymous abuse victim has asked for a Church investigation into whether Rozanski was involved in covering up abuse by a former bishop of the diocese.

On June 24 of this year, the Springfield diocese released a 373-page report finding that an alleged victim’s claim he was molested by the late Bishop Christopher Weldon were “unequivocally credible,” despite Weldon not yet being listed on the Springfield diocese's list of clergy credibly accused of abuse.

The investigator, Judge Peter A. Velis, said his findings raise questions about whether there was an attempt to conceal the report's contents about Bishop Weldon from the review board or Bishop Rozanski.

In June, Rozanski apologized for the “chronic mishandling of the case, time and time again, since 2014.”

“At almost every instance, we have failed this courageous man who nonetheless persevered thanks in part to a reliable support network as well to a deep desire for a just response for the terrible abuse which he endured,” Rozanski said at a June press conference, one year after he commissioned the independent investigation into the matter.

In March 2020, amid the coronavirus pandemic, Bishop Rozanski attempted to authorize a change to norms for the anointing of the sick, permitting a nurse, rather than a priest, to conduct the physical anointing. Only a priest can validly administer the sacrament.

Later that same week, the diocese told CNA it had rescinded that policy. Rozanski emailed Springfield priests that afternoon explaining that “After further discussion and review, I am rescinding my previous directive and temporarily suspending the Anointing of the Sick in all instances.”

The diocese reinstated the practice of the anointing of the sick in May.