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Franciscan University to cover fall 2020 tuition costs for incoming students

Thu, 04/23/2020 - 21:00

Denver Newsroom, Apr 23, 2020 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- Franciscan University of Steubenville will be covering tuition costs for all incoming freshmen and transfer students in fall 2020 in response to the coronavirus pandemic. 

President Father Dave Pivonka announced April 21 that the university would cover the remainder of incoming full-time undergraduates’ tuition costs, after scholarships and grants.

“We’ve heard from many students whose concerns over the pandemic are making the decision to leave home for college more difficult. Also, many families and students have seen their ability to pay for college evaporate due to the economic impact of the coronavirus,” Pivonka told CNA.

“We hope this unique response will help them to overcome these obstacles and uncertainties and step out in faith with us.”

Joel Recznik, Franciscan’s vice president for enrollment, told CNA that barring unforeseen circumstances, such as a second wave of the pandemic, the university is anticipating full enrollment and normal university operations in the fall.

The Ohio university uses a rolling admissions process throughout the year, and thus numbers may change as more students apply or enroll throughout the summer, he said.

"The idea was to really provide an opportunity for these new students— who are uncertain and their lives have been turned upside down— that they wouldn't miss out because of the negative impact of this virus," Recznik told CNA.

"We've talked to families who the parents have lost their jobs, and talked to people who have had the virus, and we don't want that to be a barrier...So for every new student, we're making sure that we cover 100% of tuition after scholarships and grants for the fall semester."

The funds to cover the tuition costs will come from the university’s reserves. The university will be providing an additional $1,000 for returning undergraduates and $500 for graduating seniors.

Father Pivonka noted that although the additional financial assistance will be provided to all students regardless of their ability to pay, he encouraged those who are able to donate to the Step in Faith Fund to help to finance the aid.

“Our patron, St. Francis of Assisi, had a deep concern for those in need, and as a Franciscan university, we seek to follow his example in caring for those entrusted to us. While we always strive to keep our tuition affordable, we decided we needed to do more in light of the severe difficulties so many are facing this year,” he said.

Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas and the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. are two Catholic universities that have extended their application deadlines to June 1. Representatives for both schools told CNA that they, like Franciscan, are not anticipating a major drop in enrollment at this time.

Steve Johnson, a spokesman for Benedictine College, told CNA that before the pandemic, the university was expecting a record freshman class and record enrollment.

“Benedictine College was having the best recruiting year in history heading into March and our numbers have remained strong to this point,” Johnson told CNA in an email.

“So far we’re not seeing anyone falling off and we are anticipating opening in August with face-to-face classes as close to normal as possible...We are not expecting any major drop in enrollment.”

Christopher Lydon, who oversees enrollment at the Catholic University of America, told CNA that student registration for the fall semester has progressed in line with what he would normally expect to see.

“That’s obviously a good sign, that we’re not seeing the beginning of an exodus,” Lydon said.

Lydon did see that graduating high school seniors do seem to be deferring college decisions amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are behind on deposits, but we've also given families an additional month to make an enrollment decision,” Lydon told CNA.

"I'm appropriately worried, but it is a little soon to know for certain."


Coronavirus aid for undocumented workers protects all Californians, Catholic bishops say

Thu, 04/23/2020 - 20:01

Denver Newsroom, Apr 23, 2020 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- California’s aid packages to undocumented and low-wage residents has not gone far enough, the state’s Catholic bishops have said, emphasizing the necessity of more aid for these Californians to ensure a successful recovery from the novel coronavirus epidemic.

“This is an emergency situation that demands an effective and Christ-like response,” Steve Pehanich, director of communications and advocacy at the California Catholic Conference, told CNA April 23. The Catholic bishops recognize “that it’s important from a public health perspective to treat and support everyone so that the entire community can stay healthy and we minimize the risk of infection for all.”

“No one in a lifeboat asks to see documentation before rescuing people,” he said.

While Gov. Gavin Newsom has extended aid to undocumented California residents, the California Catholic Conference said in an April 20 letter to Newsom that aid needs to be increased “because the virus doesn’t know the difference between someone who has the right legal documents and those who do not.”

On April 15 Newsom announced a $125 million disaster assistance fund for about 150,000 undocumented Californians. Adults will receive a one-time cash benefit of $500 per adult, capped at $1,000 per household. These residents do not benefit from expanded employment or the federal stimulus program.

The bishops said these payments are not enough to support those who are doing vital work.

“Many immigrants continue to work – and pay taxes – in the agricultural and service sectors, literally putting their lives at risks in the front line of dealing with the virus,” Pehanich continued. “Their labor keeps essential businesses open and provides food for us all.”

“Like anyone else, they shouldn’t be forced to choose between risking their lives for a paycheck or protecting their families and all Californians by sheltering in place,” he said. “The fact is, people who are undocumented are doing essential jobs and have to be counted among our most essential workers. We are obliged, as part of our Gospel calling, to care for the least among us.”

Successful efforts to prevent the spread of the virus require extending aid to all residents, the bishops said in their letter to the governor. Extending aid to those who lack permanent resident status “will help to protect all Californians,” they emphasized.

The bishops called for an expansion of state disability insurance eligibility to workers who are ineligible for unemployment insurance but who have become unemployed as a result of the pandemic. Coronavirus treatment, not only testing, should be covered under Emergency Medi-Cal, which provides medical care for people in need of sudden treatment but have limited income or resources.

The state should expand no-cost or low-cost hotel options to workers essential to maintaining the food supply, the Catholic bishops said. Food banks and schools need more funding to provide food and information about relief programs to families in need.

Further, aid payments of $1,200 should go to all Californians who qualified for the California Earned Income Tax Credit in their filings last year or this. This aid should also go to any filer who used an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number and meets the same income levels that qualify for the tax credit. This tax credit should go to all such filers permanently, the bishops said.

The Catholic bishops cited Pope Francis’ Easter Sunday message, in which he asked governments “to recognize that the equal and fundamental human dignity of every human person -- not economic class or status of documentation -- must be the central principle of forging assistance programs in this moment of crisis.

Newsom’s April 22 daily briefing announced that hospitals could once again schedule surgeries, which have been delayed to prepare for a surge of coronavirus patients. Newsom hopes to improve the numbers of coronavirus tests to 25,000 per day by the end of April, and believes the state needs to increase capacity to 60,000 to 80,000 tests per day. The state aims to add 86 testing sites, especially in under-served and minority communities that tend to suffer more from the virus.

As of April 22, there were over 33,200 confirmed positive cases and 1,268 deaths from coronavirus in California.

Some 3,357 people were hospitalized for coronavirus treatment, a slight decrease from the previous day. Newsom said coroners have been directed to revisit autopsies in light of reports that a Santa Clara woman is now believed to have been the first coronavirus death in the U.S., possibly changing experts’ understanding of the disease and its spread in the country.

Pehanich, the Catholic conference spokesman, discussed the response to COVID-19 in the state.

“The social distancing and shelter-in-place orders that our public health officials have instituted and the sacrifice that millions have made to stay at home during Lent up through now appear to have succeeded in lowering the death toll and infection rate here in California,” he told CNA. “It has been tough, but it has saved lives and our numbers are significantly less than they could have been considering what happened in Italy, Spain and New York City.”

“Our parishes and dioceses are doing superb work to stay in contact with the faithful. Many parishes are expanding their ability to communicate with parishioners like never before using email, social media and good, old-fashioned telephone calls,” Pehanich continued. “We are eager to re-open the Churches and are working with public health officials on the best way to proceed. Californians, in general, have apparently done a great job of social distancing and flattening the curve. Catholic social services everywhere are working to serve those in need now and when the crisis eases.”

US and Canada to be consecrated to 'Mary, Mother of the Church'

Thu, 04/23/2020 - 11:00

CNA Staff, Apr 23, 2020 / 09:00 am (CNA).- Archbishop Jose Gomez, president of the U.S. bishops' conference, is inviting all U.S. bishops to join him on May 1 in reconsecrating the U.S. to the Blessed Virgin Mary in response to the pandemic. The reconsecration is timed to coincide with the bishops of Canada consecrating their own country to Mary at the same time.

Archbishop Gomez, who is the Archbishop of Los Angeles, said in a letter sent to all American bishops April 22, that the Marian reconsecration would be done under the title of “Mary, Mother of the Church.” He invited all the bishops of the country to join him in prayer on May 1 at 12 p.m. PDT, or 3 p.m. EDT.

“Every year, the Church seeks the special intercession of the Mother of God during the month of May. This year, we seek the assistance of Our Lady all the more earnestly as we face together the effects of the global pandemic,” he said in his letter.

The announcement follows similar plans made by the bishops of Canada, who will consecrate the Crown Dominion to Mary under the same title on the same day. 

“Based on discussion with the leadership of the Canadian Catholic Conference of Bishops, the Executive Committee of the USCCB met and affirmed the fitness of May 1, 2020, as an opportunity for the bishops of the United States to reconsecrate our nation to Our Lady and to do so under the title, Mary, Mother of the Church,” Gomez said, adding that they would be doing so “on the same day that our brother bishops to the north consecrate Canada under the same title.”

Gomez said that the appropriate offices of the bishops' conference—the Secretariat for Divine Worship and the communications office—will provide liturgical direction and logistical information for the reconsecration.

The bishops of Italy said on April 20 that they would consecrate their own country to Mary after receiving more than 300 letters requesting the consecration.

The title “Mary, Mother of the Church” was given to the Blessed Mother by Pope St. Paul VI at the Second Vatican Council, and a memorial under the title was added to the Church’s liturgical calendar in 2018.

Pope Francis declared that the Monday after Pentecost should be celebrated as the memorial of “Mary, Mother of the Church.” Cardinal Robert Sarah, head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship, said that the addition of the memorial aimed to encourage growth in “genuine Marian piety.”

Celebrating the memorial in 2018, Archbishop Gomez said that “when Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, Mary became the maternal heart of his Church.”

Archbishop Gomez also said the May 1 reconsecration will be timely in asking for the intercession of Mary during the pandemic. There are more than 2.6 million confirmed COVID-19 cases in the world and almost 185,000 deaths due to the virus, according to Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center on Thursday morning.

“This will give the Church the occasion to pray for Our Lady’s continued protection of the vulnerable, healing of the unwell, and wisdom for those who work to cure this terrible virus,” Gomez said.

“In this Easter season we continue to journey with our Risen Lord that among the graces of this time may be healing and strength, especially for all who are burdened by the many effects of the COVID pandemic,” he said in his letter to bishops.

Is homeschooling ‘dangerous’? Parents, former students respond to Harvard professor 

Thu, 04/23/2020 - 05:00

Denver Newsroom, Apr 23, 2020 / 03:00 am (CNA).- Mary Ellen Barrett, a mom living on Long Island, has been homeschooling her children since before coronavirus made it cool (read:necessary) to go to school at home.

She started 18 years ago, when she decided that her oldest son Wyatt, who had autism, was not being served well in his public school. At the time, she had Wyatt, a first grader, a toddler, and another child on the way. She decided to try homeschooling.

“So we just did it and we loved it, and Wyatt caught up to grade level in many of his subjects and we kept going,” she said.

Six years later, Wyatt died of a grand mal seizure.

“I'm very grateful that I had that time with him,” Barrett said. “But he also had friends. He had kids who just didn't think he was weird, he wasn't picked on at all, which would happen (in public school). It just worked for our family.”

Barrett has thus far graduated two of her children from high school via homeschool, and is now teaching five more at home. One of her children has special education needs, and homeschooling has allowed her to tweak the curriculum for him. Barrett also works with Seton Home Study School, the Catholic homeschooling program she uses, as a consultant helping other parents using the program.

While coronavirus is forcing most families to make school at home work whether they want to or not, Elizabeth Bartholet, Wasserstein public interest professor of law at Harvard University and faculty director of the law school’s Child Advocacy Program, has argued that homeschooling is “dangerous.” Her views were featured in the May-June issue of Harvard Magazine

Among other things, Bartholet argues that homeschooling puts children at risk of abuse by their parents, while if children were in public schools, they would be among teachers who are mandatory reporters of any suspected abuse that may be taking place.

Barrett said she read the article and wondered if Bartholet had “ever met somebody who actually homeschooled.”

“(The article) seems to be based on the premise of...if you keep your child home, you could abuse them,” Barrett said.

To support her claims about abuse, Bartholet pointed to the story of an abusive family in Idaho portrayed in “Educated,” a memoir by Tara Westover. The children in the family of the memoir were given no formal education and were subjected to dangerous work conditions - something Bartholet said could happen any place where homeschooling is allowed.

For her part, Barrett said Bartholet seems to gloss over the abuse children could face in a more traditional school setting.

“I live in New York - barely a day goes by that there's not some story of some public school child being abused either in school or at home,” she said. On the other hand, Barrett said she knows of many homeschooling families on Long Island, both religious and secular, who are committed and loving parents who simply want what is best for their children’s education.

Statistics on rates of abuse among homeschooled children versus public and private school children are difficult to come by.

A 2004 study by the U.S. Department of Education estimated that roughly 10% of students will experience sexual misconduct by a school employee by the time they graduate. A 2017 study published by Homeschooling Backgrounder found that when adjusted to account for legally homeschooled students, rather than truant families not complying with regulations, legally homeschooled students were 40% less likely to die of child abuse or neglect than the national average student. The CDC notes multiple risk factors for child abuse, including non-biological caregivers or a history of subtance abuse, but education method is not listed either as a protective factor or risk factor when it comes to child abuse.

Barrett said the most concerning thing about Bartholet’s stance is the professor’s characterization of “power” in the context of a family.

“The issue is, do we think that parents should have 24/7, essentially authoritarian control over their children from ages zero to 18? I think that’s dangerous,” Bartholet told Harvard Magazine. “I think it’s always dangerous to put powerful people in charge of the powerless, and to give the powerful ones total authority.”

Barrett said that Bartholet seems to be arguing against the very thing for which she is advocating. “(She) wants to have the government in charge of how families decide what's best for their children. I mean, what’s a more powerful entity than the United States government? Talk about power over the powerless. That is a frightening thought.”

Melissa Moschella is an assistant professor of philosophy at Catholic University of America, and a visiting scholar at The Heritage Foundation's Feulner Institute. She is also the author of the book “To Whom Do Children Belong?”, which she described as a “philosophical defense of the rights of parents as primary educators.”

In her book, Moschella said she makes “a natural law case for why the special nature of the parent-child relationship implies the special obligation on the part of parents to provide for the wellbeing of their children, which of course, includes and requires making decisions on behalf of their children because children are too young to be able to make those decisions themselves.”

Similarly, the Catechism of the Catholic Church holds that parents are the primary educators of their children, and that “‘The role of parents in education is of such importance that it is almost impossible to provide an adequate substitute.’ The right and the duty of parents to educate their children are primordial and inalienable.”

Moschella said that the arguments presented by Bartholet - that homeschooling is dangerous, isolating, and a threat to democracy - are “really nothing new.”

“These are all things that I've argued against in my book on this topic and in various other articles.” Moschella said.

“I think the perspective (of the article) is typical of a lot of these kinds of perspectives on this issue, which is that the author forgets that somebody has to be in charge of children and that there are always going to be many controversial decisions that need to be made about what is in a child's best interest. There's not one right answer to that question. There's no obvious answer to that question,” Moschella said, because children come from varying backgrounds and have a wide variety of needs.

Moschella said Bartholet’s concerns about children’s rights to an education and to a safe environment are good, and that she supports a certain amount of regulation of homeschooled children, to ensure that real learning takes place and to ensure that children - especially those in households with a history of abuse - are not being subjected to further abuse.

“I think the worst of those risks can be mitigated in terms of homeschooling by having very reasonable regulations in place,” she said. “But to take that right away from everybody because a few bad parents are abusing that right - that doesn't make any sense.”

Homeschooling regulations vary widely by state.

Barrett said that her home state, New York requires submitting annually an individual home instruction plan to the state, which has 10 days to give Barrett feedback and allow her to make adjustments. She said starting in third grade, her children also take standardized tests every other year, and submit other assessment material in the off years. Every quarter, she reports her children’s learning progress to the state.

“So there's quite a bit of regulation, and they can call me out at any time,” Barrett said, though they haven’t, because she said she makes careful note of the state requirements.

Moschella also questioned Bartholet’s assumption that the state will always know what is in the best interest of children.

“Any time you take authority away from parents to make those controversial decisions about the best way to educate their children, you're just giving more power to the state. And then it's highly questionable that the state knows better than those parents what's in the best interest of a particular child,” she said.

Parents know their children best, Moschella said, and because of their strong emotional bonds to their children, they often are much more motivated and invested in their child’s wellbeing “in a way that no great bureaucrat is going to be.”

Several past studies have shown that homeschool students typically outperform their public and private school counterparts on things like standardized tests and college performance. A 2016 study from the National Council on Measurement in Education showed that, when adjusted for demographic factors, homeschool students were on par academically with their demographically-similar peers.

In a recent paper published in the Arizona Law Review, Bartholet offered a more developed take on the ideas mentioned in the Harvard Magazine article. In the Arizona Law Review, Bartholet argues that while homeschool children may perform as well as their peers on standardized tests or in college, they are also often isolated from their peers and denied experiences and exposures that would make them more productive citizens.

“Also, academic success says nothing about success in terms of preparing students for civic engagement. Many homeschooled children miss out on exposure to others with different experiences and values. Most all miss out on extracurricular activities like student government. A very large proportion of homeschooling parents are ideologically committed to isolating their children from the majority culture and indoctrinating them in views and values that are in serious conflict with that culture,” she said.

Felix Miller is a 27 year-old doctoral student in philosophy living in Washington, D.C. He was homeschooled with his family in New York from kindergarten through high school, an experience he said he “really liked.”

Miller said homeschooling gave his family the time and flexibility to engage in some travel and cultural activities that he may have missed out on were he in a public or private school.

“(M)y parents did a lot to instill a sense of wonder and willingness to try new things. We lived about an hour and a half from Montreal, so every few weeks we would go up, and we might go to the jazz festival that happens there every year, or we'd go to the opera, we'd go to the Biodome or the Museum of Fine Arts,” he said.

The family also frequently attended local Shakespeare performances and did a lot of hiking in the Adirondacks, along with formal schooling in subjects like literature and science.

“I think that being homeschooled allowed me to have a lot of opportunities .. .intellectual and cultural opportunities that many of my public and private school peers didn't have the chance for,” he said.

As for being isolated from peers, Miller said he and his siblings participated in several extracurricular activities, like a speech and debate team, Boy Scouts, and science competitions at the local high school that frequently put him in contact with students from public schools and a variety of backgrounds. Miller said in his junior year, he dated a girl from a local public school that he had met through speech and debate.

“I always had a pretty easy time meeting and making friends with both homeschoolers and public schoolers. I think (the Harvard Magazine article paints) a pretty isolationist picture of the way that most homeschooling occurs. I don't see that to be the case,” Miller said.

“While it is true that my parents have certain disagreements with the dominant view on certain cultural public schooling, especially through things like sex education...I think in general in terms of socialization, they were always perfectly happy for me to have friends regardless of background,” he said.

Laura Aumen is a 27 year-old medical radiation expert who was homeschooled in Omaha, Nebraska and now lives and works in the Dallas area in Texas.

Aumen said that most families are probably painfully experiencing isolation during this time of coronavirus, and that most homeschool families she knew growing up participated in a lot of group and extracurricular activities in order to avoid isolation.

“We were part of a very large homeschool group, there were all sorts of parent-run activities,” she said. “A lot of these parents had a lot of expertise to offer, as far as homeschool co-ops, sports programs, drama programs.”

There were “people who did these things professionally, and just wanted to teach it to their kids and their kids' friends. You have a lot of really great activities, extracurriculars, in the homeschool community, just because people don't like to feel isolated,” she added.

Bartholet also claimed in Harvard Magazine that homeschooling is a threat to democracy.

“From the beginning of compulsory education in this country, we have thought of the government as having some right to educate children so that they become active, productive participants in the larger society,” Bartholet said, which in part entails educating children so that they may support themselves in adulthood.

“But it’s also important that children grow up exposed to community values, social values, democratic values, ideas about nondiscrimination and tolerance of other people’s viewpoints,” Bartholet added.

Miller said that besides being exposed to students from a variety of backgrounds, he also “couldn't count the number of times I had to read the Declaration (of Independence), or the Constitution,” and that homeschooling families typically spend much more time learning about civics than most students do in public school.

Anecdotally, Miller said his friends who were homeschooled are more likely to vote even in non-Presidential elections or to volunteer for activities that promote the common good than their public schooled peers.

“We went to the National Archives and read primary documents. We went to Lexington and we went to Boston and we did all of those things. We didn't learn history from the history books. We learned it from Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Hamilton,” she said.

Aumen said she also didn’t think her homeschooling experience taught her to be undemocratic.

“We were raised with respect for our government leaders and love for our country. We said the Pledge of Allegiance every day,” she said. “It seems like (Bartholet) wants the government to be able to control what the citizens think from a very early age. And to me, that seems like the opposite of democracy.”

Aumen said she thought that on the whole, parents who choose to homeschool their children often discover how difficult it actually is, and the ones who stick with it are those who are highly motivated and invested in their children’s education.

“I think homeschooling parents have to be courageous, and very patient, and it takes extra patience and virtue to maintain good family relationships. And so I think that for the most part, the people who can't handle it, they self select out, or they never attempted in the first place.”


Despite protests, Newark archdiocese supports COVID limits on churches

Thu, 04/23/2020 - 02:24

Denver Newsroom, Apr 23, 2020 / 12:24 am (CNA).- While a New Jersey state senator has launched a petition seeking the “thoughtful” resumption of religious services with “reasonable precautions,” the Archdiocese of Newark has stressed the wisdom of statewide restrictions on gatherings given the prevalence of the novel coronavirus in the region.

“As the New Jersey region unfortunately has the highest number of reported Covid-19 cases in the nation, with increasing reported deaths, it is prudent to continue compliance with statewide mandates for social distancing protocols at this time,” Maria Margiotta, director of communications and public relations for the archdiocese, told CNA April 22.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy’s executive orders ban gatherings of any size as the state battles the novel coronavirus. Businesses deemed non-essential have shut down in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. While symptoms of infection are nonexistent, mild or moderate for most people, a significant minority require hospitalization. Infection can be fatal in a small percentage of cases, especially where the person is elderly or otherwise has health vulnerabilities.

In New Jersey, the executive order’s limits drew objection from State Sen. Mike Doherty, a Republican from the state’s rural northwest.

“We’re asking Governor Murphy to allow religious services to resume in New Jersey in a thoughtful fashion. It’s the right thing to do, both constitutionally and morally,” Doherty said April 19. In his view, “it’s possible for religious services to resume if reasonable precautions are put in place.”

New Jersey has suffered over 5,000 coronavirus-related deaths as of Wednesday, with over 95,000 known cases statewide. It neighbors New York state, where 250,000 confirmed coronavirus cases include over 15,000 deaths, with New York City the worst-hit urban area in the United States.

Doherty emphasized the benefits of religious gatherings in a time of crisis.

“When many of us could be at Sunday services today replenishing a much needed sense of hope in these uncertain times, we instead remain separated in our homes from the communities of faith that sustain us in good times and bad,” he said.

Doherty has launched an online petition for New Jersey residents who wish to share with the governor “their belief that religion is an essential service and constitutionally protected right that should be allowed to resume immediately.” By 7 p.m. local time Wednesday, the petition had more than 1,700 signatures.

Margiotta, the Newark archdiocese spokeswoman, did not address the petition directly. However, she said Catholic churches would reopen only with the decision of the local bishop.

“The process of how and when to reopen churches will be determined by the ordinary and his diocesan staff,” she said. “The well-being and safety of our clergy, staff, and parishioners remain a priority, and the archdiocese will continue to review guidance from federal and state officials as plans to reopen are considered. Although church buildings remain closed, our prayers and celebration of Mass continue via livestream so that we may remain united as one Church and one people amid this ongoing pandemic.”

Last week, Gov. Murphy cited a Harvard University study published in the journal Science as saying social distancing measures might need to last through 2022. Any sports or entertainment gatherings, and possibly high school and college graduations, might need to be held virtually without anyone in the audience.

“I don’t see a normal, even if it were to take place, a normal gathering in the foreseeable future. I just don’t see it," he said April 15, according to New Jersey 101.5. “I’ll be the happiest guy on the planet if I’m wrong.”

“This is a war. It is the fight of our lives. Wars are not won by one person or one small group. They’re won when millions of people come together in a common cause,” he said. “Our cause right now is totally flattening the curve and then seeing it drop down the other side. Then we can begin the process responsibly along with our neighbors of reopening our state and beginning to live life in our new normal.”

“This is no time to let up. We have got to keep at it,” he said, stressing the need for cases of coronavirus to fall to “a manageable reality” where experts can reconsider social distancing measures. Murphy emphasized “a responsible re-opening” with health care infrastructure and protocols that “frankly, we don’t have at the moment.”

Such protocols include fast and accurate coronavirus testing and the ability to trace the contacts of infected people to prevent contagion from spreading. Citing discussions with experts, Murphy said he thought a vaccine for the COVID-19 virus was unlikely earlier than a year or a year and a half from now.

Doherty's petition, hosted at the website of the New Jersey Senate Republicans, said people have been denied the opportunity to attend religious services that “could provide hope, solace, and a sense of community during this time of social distancing and isolation due to the coronavirus.”

According to the petition, “it is possible for churches, temples, mosques, and synagogues to operate safely through reasonable precautions, including outdoor services, social distancing, and limitations on the size of gatherings.”

The petition cited the constitutional right to practice religion that “should not be impeded through overly restrictive executive orders.”

“Governor Murphy should recognize that religious services are no less essential to people's needs than retail services, such as lottery and liquor sales, that have been allowed to continue,” it said.

CNA sought comment from Senator Doherty but did not receive a response by deadline.

The senator is a strong advocate of lifting New Jersey limitations on small businesses, saying “the state needs to reopen sooner rather than later.”

“The cure is becoming much worse than the disease. The idea that churches will be shut down until July is unacceptable,” he said April 15, according to Insider NJ.

He objected to the governor's refusal to allow churches to conduct “outdoor, open air services with proper spacing” while “allowing the essential service of selling more booze to desperate citizens, and allowing customers to pull up to fast food take out windows where the spacing between the customer and the server is zero inches.”


Bankrupt dioceses sue SBA for payroll loan access

Wed, 04/22/2020 - 18:30

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Apr 22, 2020 / 04:30 pm (CNA).- Two Catholic dioceses have filed suit against the Small Business Administration (SBA), claiming they were wrongfully denied access to emergency loans during the pandemic because of their bankruptcy status.

The New York dioceses of Rochester and Buffalo said they “will suffer immediate and irreparable harm” from being disqualified from emergency loans under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), in a lawsuit filed in federal court on April 15.

The $349 billion in emergency loans were part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, signed into law by President Trump on March 27.

The bill provided, among other things, short-term relief for small businesses and certain non-profits affected by the disruptions from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The $349 billion in relief under the CARES Act included loans that become grants if recipient employers retain their current workforce and 75% or more of the loan is used for payroll.

An SBA rule, however, stipulated that the funds would not go to bankruptcy debtors. Both the dioceses of Rochester and Buffalo have filed for bankruptcy in the past several months, after being named in hundreds of clergy sex abuse lawsuits filed under New York’ Child Victims Protection Act.

The two dioceses sued in federal court, saying that the PPP loan funding was running out while they were being ruled ineligible for the critical emergency loans. On April 16, the SBA said it would not be accepting any more PPP loan applications.

Reached by email on Wednesday, the diocese of Rochester told CNA that it declined to comment on the lawsuit “Out of respect for the court process.” A spokeswoman for the Small Business Administration said that “We do not comment on pending litigation.”

Other dioceses and archdioceses, including St. Cloud and Winona-Rochester in Minnesota, Harrisburg in Pennsylvania, and Santa Fe in New Mexico, have either announced they would declare bankruptcy or have started the bankruptcy process.

The diocese of St. Cloud “has applied for a PPP loan” and is “currently not in bankruptcy,” communications director Joe Towalski told CNA on Wednesday, as its discussions with insurance companies and claimants’ attorneys are ongoing “to reach a consensual agreement on a plan before filing.”

In Winona-Rochester, the diocese “remains in Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings, and has therefore not applied for PPP loans,” communications director Matthew Willkom told CNA.

As the diocese of Harrisburg already filed for bankruptcy in February, it did not apply for a PPP loan, the diocese’s executive director of public relations Rachel Bryson told CNA on Wednesday. However, parishes, Catholic schools, Catholic Charities, and Harrisburg Catholic Administrative Services did apply for loans as they are separate lega entities from the diocese, she said, and several had already received funding.

The dioceses of Buffalo and Rochester allege in their lawsuit that the SBA implemented the PPP relief program “in a manner that unlawfully excludes debtors in bankruptcy,” violating the bankruptcy code by doing so. Furthermore, they said they “have been financially affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in ways that could not have been foreseen,” due to a precipitous drop in revenue from parishes whose donations dried up because public Masses were cancelled.

Without a PPP loan, they argue, they “will be forced to lay off or furlough essential employees,” which in turn could permanently affect their bankruptcy estates and the Chapter 11 process.

By late March, many parishes and dioceses were reporting a sudden drop in donations as public Masses were curtailed by bishops, and some diocesan and parish employees had already begun to be laid off or furloughed.

On March 19, the Buffalo diocese said it would be “accelerating” its previously-planned reorganization process for its Catholic Center, eliminating 21 positions and moving three more positions from full-time to part-time.

The dioceses announced they would be filing for bankruptcy after facing hundreds of sex abuse lawsuits in New York courts, starting in August.

New York’s Child Victims Act created a one-year “lookback” window, beginning in August, to allow abuse victims to file lawsuits after their statute of limitations had expired.

One lawsuit filed on August 14 against the Buffalo diocese and other Catholic entities cited federal anti-racketeering laws, or “RICO” statutes, and alleged “a pattern of racketeering activity” that enabled and covered up clerical sexual abuse.

In September of 2019, the Rochester diocese filed for bankruptcy, and on February 28, the diocese of Buffalo announced that it was filing for Chapter 11 reorganization after being the subject of more than 200 abuse lawsuits filed.

Arkansas order limiting abortions can go into effect, court rules

Wed, 04/22/2020 - 17:30

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Apr 22, 2020 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- A federal appeals court on Wednesday allowed a state order halting elective surgical abortions in Arkansas to go into effect. The measure was put in place to conserve medical resources during the coronavirus pandemic.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit decided 2-1 in favor of Arkansas on Wednesday, which had appealed a lower court’s decision to halt the order. On April 14, a federal district court put a temporary restraining order on the state’s act to stop non-medically necessary surgical abortions during the public health emergency caused by COVID-19.

The state’s health department on April 3 had declared a halt to non-essential surgeries during the pandemic, and surgical abortions not deemed medically necessary by a doctor were included under the order. The Arkansas health department has reported 2,276 cases of COVID-19, as of Wednesday afternoon.

On April 9, health department inspectors arrived at Little Rock Family Planning Services (LRFP) unannounced, and found that the clinic was still providing surgical abortions. The next day, the health department sent the clinic a cease-and-desist letter ordering a stop to surgical abortions “except where immediately necessary to protect the life or health of the patient.”

The Diocese of Little Rock’s Respect Life Office told CNA on April 16 of a “particularly troubling” increase in abortions at the clinic, especially by women traveling from neighboring Texas and Louisiana, states which have halted elective abortions.

However, U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker on April 14 ruled that evidence sided with the abortion providers in their claim that the state’s order would “inflict serious physical, emotional, and psychological injuries on (the abortion provider’s) patients by forcing them to delay, or altogether forgo, access to abortion care.” Baker put a temporary restraining order on the state’s directive.

On Wednesday, the Eighth Circuit appeals court sided with Arkansas, granting it mandamus relief from the lower court’s entry temporary restraining order. The state’s directive “is facially neutral,” the judges said, as its ban on non-essential medical procedures “applies to all types of surgical procedures” and not just abortions.

Judges Bobby Shepherd and Ralph Erickson said that the state “has satisfied its burden in demonstrating that it has no other means to obtain the relief that it seeks, that it is clearly and indisputably entitled to the writ, and that entry of the writ is appropriate under the circumstances.” Judge James Loken dissented from the ruling.

After the appeals court decision, the American Civil Liberties Union tweeted “This isn't the end.”

Eight states that have issued temporary bans on elective surgical abortions as non-essential medical procedures during the pandemic are fighting in court to keep the bans, many of which have been partially or completely stopped by federal courts.

Some elective abortions in Alabama, Oklahoma, Ohio, Iowa, Louisiana, and Tennessee have been allowed to continue.

Abortion supporters in Iowa reached an agreement with a state order outside of court. In Alaska, state officials delayed abortions until June and the action has not been legally challenged, as well as a state order banning non-essential abortions in Mississippi. Louisiana’s order halting elective abortions has not yet been blocked in court.

The Fifth Circuit sided with Texas on April 7, but did temporarily allow for chemical abortions in the state to continue. Then on Wednesday it said the state’s ban on chemical abortions could continue. The Sixth Circuit, meanwhile, allowed chemical abortions and some surgical abortions to continue in Ohio, on a case-by-case basis.

New York bishops welcome rollback of state's DNR order

Wed, 04/22/2020 - 16:30

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Apr 22, 2020 / 02:30 pm (CNA).- The New York State Catholic Conference expressed relief Wednesday, April 22, after the state health department rescinded a statewide do-not-resuscitate order for all patients found without a pulse. 

“We were deeply concerned about these new guidelines for first responders,” Dennis Poust, the director of communications for the NYS Catholic Conference, told CNA.

The conference speaks on policy matters on behalf of the bishops of the state. 

“A human life is a human life," Poust said. "Whether a person is sick with COVID-19 in a hospital or in cardiac arrest in his or her apartment, human dignity demands reasonable effort be made to save that person’s life, absent a do-not-resuscitate order.” 

The order was rescinded on Wednesday. It had previously been issued on April 17, but received widespread media coverage on April 21. 

Before the do-not-resuscitate order was issued, first responders were instructed to spend 20 minutes attempting to revive a patient in cardiac arrest. This was changed, with responders told not to attempt resuscitation at all, after state authorities deemed it “necessary during the COVID-19 response to protect the health and safety of EMS providers by limiting their exposure, conserve resources, and ensure optimal use of equipment to save the greatest number of lives,” said the New York State Department of Health.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Department of Health explained that the initial guidance was “in accordance with American Heart Association guidance and based on standards recommended by the American College of Emergency Physicians” and had been adopted in other, unnamed states. 

The new policies, however, “don’t reflect New York’s standards and for that reason DOH Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker has ordered them to be rescinded.”

Despite the order to not resuscitate patients in cardiac arrest, the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) never changed their policy and its paramedics continued to provide 20 minutes of attempted resuscitation. 

The statewide do-not-resuscitate policy was criticized by the head of the FDNY union. 

“Our job is to bring patients back to life. This guideline takes that away from us,” said Owen Barzilay, union president, in comments published by the New York Post. 

The order was rescinded shortly after it began receiving negative attention in New York media. 

The New York Catholic Conference told CNA they were happy the state moved quickly to change the policy once it became clear that it was deeply unpopular.  

“Clearly the state’s first responders were deeply uncomfortable with this new guidance, and rightly so,” said Poust. 

“We’re grateful the Health Department quickly rescinded this ill-advised order.”

New York, particularly New York City, has been hit harder by COVID-19 than any other part of the country. There have been over 250,000 identified cases of coronavirus, with nearly 15,000 deaths. New York City accounts for about 142,000 of these cases and almost 11,000 deaths.

Archbishop Gomez: In providence, coronavirus is a call to depend on God

Wed, 04/22/2020 - 12:37

CNA Staff, Apr 22, 2020 / 10:37 am (CNA).- In his column on Tuesday, Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles said that in God's providence, the pandemic is calling us to remember our need for God and to deepen our solidarity.

“The deepest questions raised by this pandemic are about God and his designs,” the president of the US bishops' conference wrote April 21 at Angelus News. “Where is he and what is he saying to us in this moment — what is he saying to his Church, to the nations of the world, to each of us in our own personal circumstances?”

“I see God calling us, in a most dramatic way, to realize how much we need him, how we cannot live without him,” he answered. “But I also see God calling us to a deeper sense of solidarity, to realize that we are responsible for one another, that we depend on one another and we have to take care of one another.”

The archbishop recalled that in the early years of Christianity, amid epidemics, non-Christians “marveled at the charity and compassion of Christians” as they cared for the sick.

That service continues today, he said, noting online Catholic education, meals provided for poor children, food pantries, and financial assistance given to those in need of food, clothing, and shelter.

“It is inspiring and beautiful. Through the witness of your love, our neighbors can see the presence of the risen Lord, even in this time of affliction and adversity,” Archbishop Gomez wrote.

“God is asking us to share in the insecurities and deprivations that define ordinary life for millions of people in nations around the world. We are being forced to do without what most of our brothers and sisters never had to begin with.”

He said the struggle caused by the inaccessibility of the sacraments “is a hard cross to bear,” but added that “maybe God is asking us to share in the sufferings of the millions of Catholics who live under regimes that repress or persecute the faith. These brothers and sisters of ours hunger and thirst for the sacraments and cannot receive them. This is their daily reality.”

The archbishop acknowledged that while he is grateful to be connected to the people of his local Church through, for example, livestreamed Masses, “a 'virtual Mass' is still virtual … it is not the same as seeing one another face-to-face, drawn together in the fellowship of Christ.”

Archbishop Gomez urged the people of Los Angeles to “intensify our prayers and sacrifices” for those who live in areas where the Church is repressed or persecuted.

“Let us join our sufferings to Our Lord’s passion in his living Body, his Church. Let us offer our sufferings for every person who is bearing greater burdens than we are.”

Courage International moves 2020 Truth and Love Conference online

Wed, 04/22/2020 - 02:40

Denver Newsroom, Apr 22, 2020 / 12:40 am (CNA).- In the face of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Courage International has announced that it will host online its annual conference to support Catholics who minister to people with same-sex attraction.

Courage International is a Catholic group for those who experience same-sex attraction and are seeking to live chaste and faithful lives. Its Truth and Love Conference seeks to provide practical and spiritual guidance on the topics of homosexuality and sexual identity to pastoral ministers and lay professionals.

While it was originally scheduled to take place in the Diocese of Arlington, the conference will instead take place for its several hundred participants on the online platform Zoom on April 27-29.

Ann Schneible, communications director for Courage, told CNA that when people register for the conference, they will be given a secure code and detailed instructions on how to participate.

During each talk, she said, participants will be able to type questions directly into Zoom. These questions will then be answered by the speakers during the Q&A period at the end of each presentation.

All of the participants will be invited to Monday's keynote address and the following plenary sessions on Monday and Wednesday. On Tuesday, registrants will be able to choose talks from one of three tracks - pastoral care, mental health, and sexual identity.

The theme of this year’s conference is called “Be not afraid: Affirming the truth about sex and identity.” It will mark the 100th birthday of Pope John Paul II and declare him the official patron of the Truth & Love initiative, the section of the Courage ministry focusing on providing resources to those who minister to people with same-sex attraction.

Schneible said the title is inspired by the beginning words of his 1978 inaugural homily: “Do not be afraid. Christ knows ‘what is in man.’ He alone knows it.”

Schneible explained, “This theme is relevant to our work because whenever we are ministering to someone who experiences same-sex attractions or questions about their gender identity, the compassion we show cannot be separated from the truth about human dignity and authentic happiness. With Pope Saint John Paul II as our patron, we pray for his intercession as we continue to speak the truth fearlessly and with love.”

Father Philip Bochanski, executive director of Courage International, told CNA that the writings and messages of John Paul II are important to the Church’s understanding of human dignity, sexuality, and the human body. He said the pope also had a way of sharing the truth with an essence of love.

“He was able to perceive the trends in the way that the culture looks, and how to answer those kinds of cultural misunderstandings with the perennial truth that comes from the gospel through the Church,” he said.

“He did it with such compassion. That’s [why] he's going to be our model. Not just what to say, but how to say it. How to speak the truth in love.”

The list of speakers at the virtual conference will include experts in pastoral care, theology, and mental health. Speakers include Bishop John Keenan of Paisley, a Courage chaplain in Scotland; Helen Alvaré, a professor of law at Antonin Scalia Law School of George Mason University; and Suzanne Baars, a licensed professional counselor and marriage and family therapist.

[Bishop Keenan will] talk about his experience over the last few years as a chaplain and how that has affected his understanding of pastoral ministry. We're going to have Helen Alvare... talk about some of the legal implications of the legislation that's being passed … about sexual orientation and gender identity and how that might affect parishes and schools and other institutions,” he said.

Bochanski also highlighted some of Tuesday’s talks, which will be divided into three separate categories: pastoral care, health care, and gender identity discordance.

He said the first track, pastoral care, will look at conveying Church teaching and creating a welcoming environment in parishes and schools. It will also examine how those in pastoral ministry can come to understand the experience of those with same-sex attraction.

The second track, on mental health care, will be directed toward health professionals. He said it will review a psychological experience, involving family dynamics, relationships, and self-identity, of those with same-sex attraction.

The third track will analyze gender discordance - when people view themselves as a different gender than their biological sex. The talks will include insight from healthcare professionals on genetics and body chemistry, as well as a philosophical perspective, Bochanski added.

“I think it reflects the reality that people, in general, are multifaceted and need to be supported and nourished on different levels simultaneously. We tried to keep in mind all those different aspects of pastoral care and family life and just the different ways that we're going to encounter people so that the folks who participate are going to be equipped for all of those,” he said.


Sen. Rubio: Post-coronavirus world needs economy for the common good

Tue, 04/21/2020 - 22:00

Washington D.C., Apr 21, 2020 / 08:00 pm (CNA).- When the coronavirus epidemic passes, Americans can’t simply return to their old habits, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio has said.

“We won’t properly absorb the lessons from the coronavirus crisis if we fall back into the traditional Republican and Democratic model of politics. We need a new vision to create a more resilient economy,” the Florida Republican said in an April 20 column in the New York Times.

“The economy should be at the service of the common good,” Rubio said. “It should work for us, not people for the economy.”

The senator called for a renewed focus on the common good, a shift in priorities from short-term economic efficiency to long-term resiliency, and a better model of manufacturing to evaluate and address shortcomings in the response to the COVID-19 virus.

As of Tuesday, the spread of the coronavirus has killed more than 45,4000 people in the U.S., with more than 810,000 known to be infected since early March. The virus usually causes mild or moderate flu-like symptoms, but severe cases can require hospitalization and become fatal.

Civil authorities, fearing that rapid increase in severe cases could overwhelm hospitals, ordered public health measures including orders for most people to stay at home.

Both the arrival of the virus and its response have had major effects on the U.S. economy, with 22 million Americans known to have filed for unemployment claims in recent weeks, CNN reports. Only last week did the Trump administration release a three-stage plan to remove restrictions on social and economic life while also limiting contagion and responding to new cases.

The coronavirus medical response has been severely hindered by a shortage of appropriate protective gear and other medical equipment.

Rubio argued that some of the problems revealed in the epidemic are the consequences of decades-long trends.

“Over the past several decades, our nation’s political and economic leaders, Democratic and Republican, made choices about how to structure our society — choosing to prize economic efficiency over resiliency, financial gains over Main Street investment, individual enrichment over the common good,” Rubio said.

“Any prudent policymaker should recognize that both efficiency and resiliency are values we should prioritize and seek to balance. But that’s not what we have done in recent decades,” he said.

The senator warned that in a crisis, a lack of resilience in the economy can be “devastating.”

“Though I believe resilience is one of the defining traits of an American, I also believe it’s been absent from our public policy for too long. And this has become devastatingly clear in the current crisis,” he said.

Rubio connected the outsourcing of U.S. manufacturing to the rise of a national economy dominated by service industries. These services rely on person-to-person activity, which is now restricted.

“And unlike industrial economies, service-based economies lack the flexibility that comes with producing physical goods that can either be sold later or repurposed to meet a sudden shortage. This makes us especially vulnerable to this kind of shock,” he said.

Another factor hampering resiliency was U.S. corporations’ shift away from investing in workers, equipment and facilities and towards “short-term financial gains to shareholders.”

Rubio faulted financial and economic policy for worsening the coronavirus response.

“Why didn’t we have enough N95 masks or ventilators on hand for a pandemic? Because buffer stocks don’t maximize financial return, and there was no shareholder reward for protecting against risk,” he said. The senator characterized both business and government as focused more on “just-in-time” supply models rather than “just in case” models prepared for disruptions.

“Today, we see the consequences of this short-term, hyperindividualistic ethos,” Rubio argued. “Americans cannot leave their homes. Neighbors are unable to shake hands. Places of worship are closed. The labor market, especially for working-class Americans in those service industries, is in free-fall.”

In his recent writings on the subject, Rubio has become perhaps the first U.S. senator to cite Pope Leo XIII as an inspiration for his economic vision, highlighting especially the 1891 encyclical Rerum novarum.

“It was an interesting encyclical because he wrote it in reaction to the disruptions the world was facing after industrialization – there were some of the same fears then, machines replacing people, mass economic displacement. He wrote about that balance of obligations between the worker and the employer and I think this is a good time to revisit that balance in the light of the post-industrial disruptions we now face,” the senator told CNA last year.

Rubio, himself a Catholic, told CNA that Catholic social teaching influences his own concept of dignity and work “more than it used to.”

“The more you dig into it, you realize that there is an extraordinary wisdom. For example, St. John Paul II wrote about the obligation of a worker to work - which is something that people on the political right, myself included, have talked about – but it is built upon the assumption that such work has dignity. It’s something you can only insist upon if the economy we’ve put in place fosters the creation of those jobs.”

Rubio’s April 20 essay strongly criticized China’s politics and U.S. policy towards China. His experience on the Senate Intelligence Committee, he said, made clear to him that many serious problems originate in the United States’ relationship with China.

“As did many, I believed capitalism would change China for the better; instead, China changed capitalism for the worse,” he said.

Rubio was critical of policies and choices to outsource manufacturing to China, often in search of cheap labor. He said China’s government, unlike the United States, provided more business assistance in “long-term capital development,” which seemed irrational at the time. Rubio was also critical of the decision to allow China into the World Trade Organization.

The consequences of these changes were revealed in the COVID-19 pandemic, Rubio said. He charged that the Chinese government had monopolized “critical supply chains” and directed supplies to its own country.

“It ensured that face masks being manufactured in China, for example, went to domestic consumption and their own fight against the virus,” he said.

“Largely unable to import supplies from China, America has been left scrambling because we by and large lack the ability to make things, as well as the state capacity needed for reorienting production to do so,” he continued.

These failures in imports and in production, Rubio said, forced medical staff to ration key medical equipment, to the point where they worked without critical protective equipment.

The senator’s New York Times essay on a more resilient economy echoed his previous remarks. In November 2019, he told CNA that there are problems in the asymmetrical nature of prosperity in the U.S. Rubio said a new economic vision is needed to respond to contemporary realities.


Bans on religious gatherings cannot last indefinitely, warn law professors

Tue, 04/21/2020 - 20:00

CNA Staff, Apr 21, 2020 / 06:00 pm (CNA).- Public religious services cannot be stopped “indefinitely” during the pandemic, especially when liquor stores are considered “essential” businesses, two law professors argued in the New York Times on Tuesday.

“In the early weeks of the crisis, it made sense to enforce sweeping closure rules against all public gatherings — no exceptions,” wrote Michael McConnell, director of the Constitutional Law Center at the Stanford Law School, and Max Raskin, an adjunct professor of law at New York University, in a New York Times op-ed published on Thursday.

“But in the days ahead,” the professors said, religious and political leaders will need to come to agreements that uphold public safety while allowing for the free exercise of religion to the maximum extent possible.

They went on to point out that other “important activities — from shopping in hardware stores to voting — manage to take place with appropriate safeguards against the spread of the disease,” they said.

“Religious leaders and congregations will have to remember that the First Amendment is not an exemption from law applicable to all. And government officials must not forget that religious exercise is at the apex of our national values.”

“Mass is not a football game,” the professors wrote. “Worship cannot shelter in place indefinitely.”

Due to the spread of the new coronavirus (COVID-19), religious services have been largely curtailed throughout the country along with other public gatherings. 

Catholic dioceses began cancelling public Masses in March, with the Archdiocese of Seattle the first to do so on March 11. On April 15, however, Las Cruces became the first diocese to announce it was resuming celebration of public Masses during the pandemic--just days after New Mexico’s governor restricted “non-essential” gatherings to no more than five people. Bishop Peter Baldacchino of Las Cruces said that priests of the diocese still needed to observe the restrictions. 

Various state orders have limited the sizes of public gatherings in accordance with guidelines of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), including at churches. The state of Virginia, for example, criminalized any gathering of 10 or more people—including at church.

However, some lawsuits and complaints have already been filed by churches against state and local governments for singling out churches, or applying public health restrictions to religious services but not similar public gatherings.

The Justice Department recently filed a statement-of-interest in support of Temple Baptist Church in Greenville, Mississippi in its case against the city. Greenville had barred “drive-in” religious services where attendees would listen to sermons in the church parking lot with car windows rolled up, but the church pointed out that a nearby SONIC drive-in fast-food restaurant was still allowed to operate during the pandemic.

The Justice Department argued that the city’s ordinance was singling out religious groups while exempting restaurants.

Over Easter weekend, Kentucky’s Governor Andy Beshear (D) threatened that state police would record the license plates of attendees of mass religious gatherings, for them to be contacted later by local health departments and ordered to self-quarantine for 14 days.

In Kansas, the group Alliance Defending Freedom filed for a temporary restraining order against the governor’s 10-person restrictions on religious gatherings, saying that the state was restricting religious services but not other public accommodations. A district court judge in Kansas granted the restraining order, noting that the state had published “a long list of activities and facilities that were exempt from the prohibitions in the order.”

It is not unprecedented for governments to place certain restrictions on religious activity during a public health emergency, McConnell and Raskin argued in their Times op-ed.

However, government cannot “single out” churches unfairly, particularly “when California and Colorado deem marijuana dispensaries essential businesses.” Citizens should also be free to practice religion to the maximum extent possible while safeguarding public safety, they said.

As an example of this, they noted that New York City allows for hospital chaplains in the Archdiocese of New York to enter the rooms of COVID-19 patients to give them Communion, so long as they wear personal protective equipment (PPE).

In a recent interview with CNA, one hospital chaplain for the Archdiocese of New York cited a lack of available PPE as an obstacle to chaplains being able to safely administer Anointing of the Sick to patients. 

Another First Amendment expert, Professor Rick Garnett of Notre Dame, said that state restrictions of religious gatherings through stay-at-home orders and limits on the number of attendees were legitimate if certain conditions were met. 

“The issue is, is the government allowed to pursue this very important compelling interest in public health as a temporary measure to try and combat the spread of the disease?” Garnett told The Indiana Lawyer. “And I think the answer is yes, so long as it does so in a neutral way.”

Catholic University provost named to National Science Board

Tue, 04/21/2020 - 18:00

Washington D.C., Apr 21, 2020 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- The provost of The Catholic University of America is one of four people named on Monday, April 20, to serve on the National Science Board. 

Dr. Aaron Dominguez, who is also a physics professor at the school, was appointed by President Donald Trump to the National Science Board for a six-year term. 

The National Science Board is a committee established in 1950 to advise the White House and Congress on matters related to science and engineering. It is responsible for the policies of the National Science Foundation. Past board members include members of academia as well as executives in the technology fields. 

Dominguez, a particle physicist, told CNA he was "really grateful" for the opportunity.

"I am really humbled by this opportunity to serve the president, Congress and our nation, especially at this time," he said.

"Coincidentally, today was also our university's Research Day, where we showcase the great research and creative work done by our students and faculty." 

"This event, and this nomination to the National Science Board, are beautiful examples of our mission to serve the nation and the Church as a Catholic research university," Dominguez said. "I am very thankful."

He explained in a profile published by the university how his Catholic faith impacts his teaching and research. 

“The universe has evolved in a way that is perfect for you and me to exist. Mathematically, physically, we have this perfect situation where atoms can exist, stable matter can exist, which means we can have stars, more complicated elements, you and me,” he said.

“And if you were to change a few things in the physics equations or in the physical constants, that wouldn’t be true. I see the hand of God everywhere, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn't still try to understand the physics and mathematics behind that. In fact, we should be searching because of this.”

University President John Garvey called the inclusion of Dominguez on the Board “a proud moment for The Catholic University of America,” and said he was “deserving of the nomination” and an internationally recognized expert in his field.

Dominguez “is an accomplished particle physicist and an experienced researcher who leads a team in the construction of the next generation of particle detectors at the CERN laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland,” said Garvey.

Garvey told CNA that Dominguez is “a man of great faith, who lives out the mission of Catholic University,” and that “we are proud to have him serving as our provost.” 

Dominguez was promoted to university provost in 2019, having previously been the dean of the University’s School of Arts and Sciences. 

In his address to the 2016 Freshman Convocation, Dominguez said that his position at the school was his “dream job,” and that he was thrilled he was able to work in a laboratory and explore the origins of the universe. 

Dominguez has highlighted the importance of faith in academic life, calling Catholic University “a place where I can be truly free. I can unite faith and reason, science and the church, academia and the search for truth in one place.” 

At the time of his arrival at Catholic, he called the university “a place where we can be free to do this together, you and me, without fear; to have these discussions in class, in our studies, in the cafeteria, in symposia, in cafes,” he said.

Coronavirus hits priests’ retirement home in Missouri

Tue, 04/21/2020 - 17:01

CNA Staff, Apr 21, 2020 / 03:01 pm (CNA).- Several priests located at a retirement home in Missouri have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, but those who have been hospitalized are likely to be released soon. 

The Archdiocese of St. Louis announced April 20 that nine of the 30 retired priests at the Regina Cleri Home in Shrewsbury, a St. Louis suburb, have contracted COVID-19.

The first case was discovered April 18, and two of the residents have since been hospitalized. These residents are likely to be released within 48 hours.

Father Bill Kempf, the pastor of the nearby St. Joseph Martyr Parish, expressed sorrow for the news. He stressed the danger of the coronavirus, noting that people may be carriers of coronavirus without knowing it.

“I just got news from the Archdiocese that I hoped I would not hear during this pandemic.  Namely, that the first resident of Regina Cleri, our retirement home for priest[s], has tested positive for the Corona[virus],” he said, according to an April 18 message.

“They, like all nursing homes and extended care facilities have been so careful, and yet… So prayers are appreciated for the residents there. As you know, by virtue of their age, they are ALL in the high risk group.”

COVID-19 is particularly dangerous for elderly people and those with pre-existing medical conditions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that 80% of coronavirus deaths in the U.S. have occurred among people ages 65 years and older.

According to the St. Louis Review, the archdiocese’s newspaper, the retirement home has continued to take multiple precautions so as not to spread the virus among the elderly.

This includes restrictions on visitors and non-essential personnel, which excludes health care workers and hospice care. The retirement home has also instituted daily screenings of all residents and employees and reinforced hand-hygiene practices.

Regina Clarities has offered greater access to hand sanitizers, face masks, and non-touch receptacles for disposal. It has also increased regular professional cleanings and required the staff to wear all the proper personal protective equipment.

“Residents will continue to be closely monitored for symptoms, and the community’s leadership and the archdiocese will continue to be in communication with health officials to ensure all guidelines and protocols are followed,” the St. Louis Review reported.

Analysis: Can bishops lead the faithful and follow the lawmakers?

Tue, 04/21/2020 - 15:00

Washington D.C., Apr 21, 2020 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- Last week, Bishop Peter Baldacchino of Las Cruces became the first bishop in the United States to roll back the ban on the public celebration of Masses.

His decision, and the reasons he gave for it, have highlighted a growing tension: while Church leaders try to comply with state regulation, some local authorities insist that any religious practice should be curtailed.

Amid that tension, bishops face the challenge of balancing competing goods, and as they tackle that challenge, new ecclesial leaders could emerge.

In line with New Mexico’s public health order, Baldacchino reinstated indoor Masses last Wednesday, but limited numbers to five people at a time. The bishop encouraged outdoor liturgies – either in parking lots or in other open-air parts of church property like cemeteries, with no cap on attendance.

Baldacchino’s plans, which include strict guidelines for the distribution of Communion and unambiguous instructions to adhere to state regulations on social distancing and public health, did not meet with the governor’s approval.

While conceding that the Las Cruces plans were within the law, a spokesperson for Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said “it is concerning that they would be 're-opening' at all.”

“Any kind of gatherings that are not absolutely essential to one's health or welfare are strongly discouraged,” the governor’s office said, illustrating the chief fault line between the bishop and the state.

In an interview with CNA on Thursday, Baldacchino said he disagreed with the governor’s characterization of the Church as “non-essential” to public welfare, noting that drive-in Masses under his guidelines were significantly more regimented than a McDonald’s drive-through, and that the state’s definition of “essential” was debatable, at best.

“We have our priorities totally upside down,” Baldacchino said. “Here in New Mexico, you can buy all the liquor you want, this is essential… you can buy marijuana, this is an essential service… but the Eucharist – the summit of our Christian life, the sacrament of our salvation – this is not worth any risk, it’s too dangerous.”

“We take risks to buy destructive things and call it essential while denying ourselves the true medicine,” Baldacchino said.

Many bishops across the United States have issued near-total sacramental bans in their dioceses, seeking to comply with state public health measures and help halt the spread of coronavirus.

The first instinct in many places has been to defer to state and local leaders, trusting that they have an eye on the common good. But, as weeks of lockdown wear on, Baldacchino’s point about inverted priorities has been taken up by a growing number of Catholics.

Liquor stores and marijuana dispensaries remain largely exempt from orders on businesses to close, with patrons lining up for entry in many places. In states across the country, Catholics have asked why would or should bishops support a different standard applied to churches.

Some local authorities, as in Louisville, Kentucky, and Greenville, Mississippi, have gone out of their way to close down drive-in religious services, fining and harassing people socially isolating in their cars, while permitting local restaurants to operate drive-through services.

Mendocino County, California, has ruled that there can be "no singing” during live streamed church liturgies.

The apparent targeting of religious observance in some places, and the deference shown to institutions like Planned Parenthood in others, presents a difficulty for the bishops.

On the one hand, the desire to lead by example on matters of public health and safety is real. No bishop wants a church to become a locus for spreading disease, and many believe they are setting a powerful local example by closing churches, putting pressure on other denominations, including some less concerned with observing social distancing, to follow suit.

On the other hand, it is increasingly difficult for bishops to lend their moral authority to the diktats of civic leaders that prioritize alcohol, marijuana, and abortion as essential for public welfare – especially over the sacraments and spiritual needs of the faithful.

Many bishops want to present a united front with their governors and mayors. But, when those same officials offer absurdist schedules of what is necessary for the public welfare, Catholics will more frequently question the impression of total support for those policies.

Some bishops have proactively barred exactly the kind of flexible ministry championed by Baldacchino. Archbishop Jerome Listecki of Milwaukee recently banned his priests from offering Mass in parish parking lots, claiming that “parking lot Masses are not possible if we want to maintain our priorities of keeping people safe (including ourselves and our staff), preserving the dignity of the Eucharist, and sustaining unity among ourselves, as ministers and leaders.”

But the principle of subsidiarity, and the dictates of common sense, suggest that there is no one size to fit all for the Church in the United States. The wide-open spaces of Las Cruces bear little resemblance to city blocks in Brooklyn, where the coronavirus has taken such a terrible toll.

Still, bishops will try to balance competing priorities during the pandemic. They want to comply with civil regulations, and play their part in guarding public health. They will have to weigh this with, perhaps at times even against, their obligation to lead their flocks with courage and faith – and when necessary speak out against public policies which go against the basic principles of life, even under the guise of “sustaining life.”

It is an unenviable task in unprecedented circumstances.

Some U.S. bishops will undoubtedly seek safety in consensus, as they have tried to in the past. But consensus is hard to form, and it will be harder to hold as different circumstances continue to develop across the country.

As the second stage of the pandemic unfolds, and public life is eventually restored, new leaders could begin to emerge in the Church in the United States. Time – and the faithful – are likely to favor those who did the most to stand closest to their flock.

Pavone: With transfer pending, campaign work a matter of 'conscience'

Tue, 04/21/2020 - 13:25

Washington D.C., Apr 21, 2020 / 11:25 am (CNA).- Fr. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, says he will serve in leadership positions in the 2020 campaign to reelect President Donald Trump. The priest told CNA that concerns about his political and ecclesiastical activity have been resolved, but his home diocese has not clarified lingering questions about Pavone’s status in the Church.

An outspoken supporter of President Donald Trump, Pavone serves as co-chair of the Trump 2020 campaign’s pro-life coalition, and a member of the “Catholics for Trump” advisory board. At an April 2 online launch, Pavone said the group would aim to tell Catholic voters how the Trump administration is putting the Church’s social teaching into practice.

“This coalition is going to be truly a movement where Catholics rise up and say, ‘Hey look, everything that the Church has been saying, we’re seeing it unfold before our eyes, not like magic, but with strong effort and united effort under this president’,” Pavone said during the online event. 

Ordained a priest by Cardinal John O’Connor of New York in 1988, Pavone has served in pro-life leadership positions full-time since 1993. In addition to being national director of Priests for Life, he is national pastoral director of the ministries serving post-abortive mothers, Silent No More and Rachel’s Vineyard. He has also served on the Pontifical Academy for Life and the Pontifical Council for the Family.

In 2005, the priest transferred to the Diocese of Amarillo, with plans to begin a pro-life religious order of priests. Those plans did not materialize, and Pavone found himself at odds with Bishop Patrick Zurek after the bishop was installed in 2008. 

In 2011, the dispute between Pavone and Zurek of Amarillo became public, after the priest was recalled to the diocese and suspended by the bishop. Pavone appealed to the Vatican, and the suspension was eventually lifted in 2012.

Pavone’s role in partisan politics is unusual for a priest. Members of the clergy require permission to “have an active part in political parties.”

Speaking to CNA on April 17, Pavone was asked whether he had the permission of his bishop for campaign activity. The priest declined to answer directly, but suggested he did not need such permission because, he said, his focus on opposing abortion.

“Right now, all the advice I have been given is that, from the perspective of permissions and so forth, all the advice I have been given is not ‘Oh no, don’t do this,’” the priest told CNA.

Pavone added that he thinks engaging with his bishop is “a dysfunctional process,” and that “you can’t very well ask or receive anything, because there’s no relationship, there’s no communication.”

“It just hasn’t been workable to even ask a clear question or get a clear answer,” Pavone added.

Still, Pavone said that from his view, his campaign activity is a matter of conscience, regardless of canonical norms or the permission of his bishop. 

“It’s like, ‘Hey the house is on fire!’ I’m not going to ask anybody’s permission to go scream that the house is on fire…that’s the distinction that I would make,” the priest told CNA.

Speaking with CNA April 20, Pavone’s canon lawyer, Fr. David Deibel, disputed the notion that Fr. Pavone was engaging in partisan politics. 

“I would take issue with the word ‘political activity,’ the phrase,” Deibel said. “Affirming the Church’s teaching” on faith and morals “comes with the ordination to priesthood, and the ordination to diaconate, and of course is ultimately supervised in a particular church by a bishop,” he said. Pavone’s talking about abortion and politics “is not political activity,” he said. 

On Monday afternoon, before he spoke with CNA, Pavone tweeted that “In Jan, @realDonaldTrump was taking aggressive action re  #coronavirus” and asked “What were #Democrats doing? Sham #impeachment proceedings.”

#Pelosi and her crowd are unfit to govern. #Vote them out!” he tweeted. 


In Jan, @realDonaldTrump was taking aggressive action re #coronavirus

including issuing #China travel restrictions and declaring a public health emergency.

What were #Democrats doing?

Sham #impeachment proceedings.#Pelosi and her crowd are unfit to govern.#Vote them out!

— Fr. Frank Pavone ?? (Text LIFE to 88022) (@frfrankpavone) April 20, 2020  

The USCCB’s statement on political life, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” explains that in the discharge of their duties, “the Church’s leaders avoid endorsing or opposing candidates.” Asked about that statement, Pavone told CNA he believes his focus is on issues.

The Diocese of Amarillo did not respond to repeated requests from CNA for clarity about Pavone’s political activity or ecclesiastical status, including requests to clarify if he has faculties to publicly minister as a priest. 

Pavone told CNA that he is in the process of “transferring” from the Diocese of Amarillo, where he has been incardinated since 2005, to a new diocese, adding that he considers himself to be already under the authority of a different bishop. 

“The new bishop, to whom I’ve been transferred, is the one whose authority I am under right now,” he said, describing himself as a “priest in good standing,” which he told CNA meant that he is not subject to any canonical penalties or prohibitions.

The Priests for Life website says that “By a decree of the Vatican dated November 11, 2019 (Congregation for the Clergy, Prot. N. 2019 4532), [Pavone] was transferred out of the Diocese of Amarillo and granted the opportunity to continue to carry out his pro-life work under a new and supportive bishop.”

Pavone said he is not at liberty to name the diocese or bishop under whose authority he will operate in future, saying only that his political advocacy is well-known, and unopposed.

“They know—‘they’ being the old bishop, the new bishop, the Vatican—they all know,” he said.

Pavone said that his transfer follows a series of appeals to Rome’s Congregation for Clergy, and it will be for his new bishop to consider his situation. Pavone told CNA that his work does not fit neatly into the Church’s existing structures, which is part of the reason he has had difficulty with bishops. 

Nevertheless, the priest told CNA that his new bishop will review his affiliation with Catholics for Trump, his “help with the campaign’s outreach to pro-lifers and Catholics,” as he put it.

It “is something that, as we transition under another authority, that authority looks at and gives guidance,” Pavone told CNA. 

Pavone told CNA that in 2016, he sought a transfer to the Diocese of Colorado Springs. Asked whether his pending transfer is to Colorado Springs, Pavone declined to confirm or deny it.

The “new bishop is going to announce that himself. I don’t want to get ahead of that announcement, because he has to talk to his priests first, and then he’ll make an announcement about that,” Pavone said.

“I’m just waiting for him to say it first,” the priest added.

The Diocese of Colorado Springs told CNA that Bishop Michael Sheridan has not received information from the Congregation for Clergy to indicate that Pavone is being transferred to Colorado. 

Pavone is “not under the authority of Bishop Sheridan,” the Colorado Springs diocese told CNA, and the priest “does not have priestly faculties in the Diocese of Colorado Springs.”

CNA also asked Pavone to clarify a controversial moment from his past.

Ahead of the 2016 election, during which he also served as co-chair of Trump’s pro-life coalition, Pavone filmed a video at the Priests for Life headquarters, urging support for Trump.  The video was staged with the body of an aborted baby laid before Pavone on what appeared to be an altar. 

Bishop Patrick Zurek of Amarillo said soon after the video’s release that he would open an investigation into the incident, calling it “against the dignity of human life” and “a desecration of the altar,” and adding that “the action and presentation of Father Pavone in this video is not consistent with the beliefs of the Catholic Church.”

Pavone told CNA on Friday that “nothing happened” after the incident, and the Amarillo diocese has not responded to questions about its investigation or its outcome.

“He [Zurek] told me the narrative that he thought happened. I pointed out he was assuming things and jumping to conclusions and failing to ask me any questions,” Pavone said, “which is an interesting way to conduct an investigation. And that was it. There was nothing.”

Of the incident, Pavone told CNA that: “I had done similar things in the past with no complaint,” he said. In 2013 and in 2011, Pavone conducted open-casket funerals of babies killed by abortion.

Asked whether he regrets the use of an aborted baby in the 2016 video, Pavone told CNA that “the showing of the babies is absolutely essential” and added that he did not use a consecrated altar, only a table that was sometimes used to offer Mass. 

He said he could have worked to ensure that the table did not look like an altar. 

“The altar was not part of my message,” he said, adding that he is “liturgically sensitive” enough to know not to use a consecrated altar for that purpose. Pavone said the video was not technically filmed in a chapel--the group never received their requested permission to dedicate a space as a chapel--but in a multi-use room used for Mass, among other things. 

According to Pavone, Bishop Zurek requested a letter from him clarifying the details of the incident. He said he sent the letter to the bishop who, he said, did not acknowledge it. 

Pavone also disputed the assertion that the presence of the body of an unborn baby would “desecrate” an altar. 

“That just shows people’s—their crappy view of the unborn, when you come right down to it, when they think that a baby’s body desecrates,” he said. “A baby’s body is holy, and we honored that body, we honored that body that day and we honored the body with burial.”

“But I did say in the letter, would I do it again? Absolutely. But you don’t put it on an altar,” he said. “The point is, you show the public the baby.”

“We honored this baby. It was the abortion industry that dishonored the dignity of that child. We honored that baby with proper burial, and honored that baby by letting that baby be seen by the world.”

While Zurek has criticized Pavone, he has also spoken in opposition to abortion and in support of efforts to defend the unborn.

“A right to do something evil simply cannot be a right all. Never! That simply defies logic,” Zurek said in February 2019 in reference to abortion.

“The blood of our innocents is crying to us for help. Now is the time to rise up!  We need much prayer and actual witness and manifestation, and most concretely to constantly be a people who promote life,” the bishop added. 

For his part, Pavone said his situation is about more than himself. 

“It’s not about canon law. It’s not about bishops and decrees and suspensions that were later declared invalid, or the authority of bishops over priests,” he said. “This is about the Church. I am not the one on trial. It is the Church, and the response that we’re going to make or not make about abortion.”

“There are some in the Church who—they’re radically opposed to what a lot of us in the pro-life movement do. And ultimately, a lot of it is rooted in what we were just talking about…political alliances, political affiliations, and this leads to efforts to silence the people who are calling out these problems,” the priest said.

Shortly after he was asked by CNA on Friday about canonical permission for his political work, Pavone tweeted that “the modern day Pharisees are here. Canon 287: Clerics are not to have an active part in political parties. The #Catholic #Church can be fined and shut down by #Democrat mandates, & all you want is that priests keep their mouths shut? Over my dead body, you hypocrites.”


The modern day Pharisees are here.

Canon 287: Clerics are not to have an active part in political parties.

The #Catholic #Church can be fined and shut down by #Democrat mandates, & all you want is that priests keep their mouths shut?

Over my dead body, you hypocrites.#KAG

— Fr. Frank Pavone ?? (Text LIFE to 88022) (@frfrankpavone) April 17, 2020  

Pavone told CNA that his support for the Trump campaign is an advisory role, with the goal of furthering pro-life policies.

The priest added that his partisan advocacy is justified by the gravity of the situation facing the Church in the U.S.,  and that Catholic organizations face threats of heavy fines for resistance to objectionable government mandates— citing the example of the HHS contraceptive mandate.

Pavone’s take on the stakes of the 2020 election is stark.

“Anybody who doesn’t see that the survival of church activity and the survival of America—not to mention the tens of millions of lives of children—depends on re-electing the president, they’ve got a problem,” he said.

Priests for Life was the subject of a Vatican investigation after Bishop Zurek of Amarillo recalled Pavone to the diocese from New York in 2011, citing “deep concerns regarding his stewardship of the finances of the Priests for Life (PFL) organization.”

At the time, Priests for Life was running a $1.4 million deficit, and Zurek said that persistent questions had been raised about the way donations were handled. He charged that Pavone was disobedient and had refused to allow Priests for Life to be audited.

Zurek announced in a Sept. 9 letter to his fellow bishops that he had suspended Fr. Pavone from public ministry outside the diocese, beginning Sept. 13, 2011.

 Pavone appealed the suspension to the Vatican.

Pavone told CNA that the organization provided the diocese “full and complete annual audits” yearly, and that independent audits of the organization were conducted between 2005 and 2010 but the diocese never acknowledged receipt.

According to Pavone, in 2011 Bishop Zurek invited him to his office for a meeting, but that on the advice of his canon lawyer he refused to attend and asked instead for mediation.

In 2012, Fr. Pavone said his suspension had been lifted by the Vatican, and an apostolic visitation of Priests for Life was conducted in 2013.

In 2014, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York wrote a letter to fellow bishops disavowing Priests for Life. claiming that he tried to work with Priests for Life to enact Vatican-mandated reforms of the group, but that Fr. Pavone refused to permit a forensic audit or allow the appointment of an independent board.

Pavone claims that “there were no reforms that were required of us,” adding that the Vatican made “suggestions” to the group after its visitation but that “none of these are obligatory.”

Although Pavone told CNA that he is “a priest in good standing,” the website of Priests for Life does not list a current letter of good standing, or an enumeration of his faculties.

One page, headed “Fr. Frank Pavone is a priest in good standing,” contains links to several documents, the most recent of which was issued in 1988 for the Archdiocese of New York, where Pavone is no longer incardinated.

When asked by CNA where he has priestly faculties, Pavone answered that he was “in transition” and said that he has the support of the Vatican for his priestly work. Deibel clarified that “the particulars of the transition are not public and are not suitable for publication at this point.” 

Fr. Pavone has the freedom to celebrate private Masses, for himself and “any congregation that happens to be with Priests for Life,” Deibel said. 

“Yes, Fr. Frank remains incardinated in the Diocese of Amarillo. Period. Yes, a transition is in process. Period. That transition was authorized through a process that was concluded in Rome. Period,” Fr. Deibel said. 

Providence bishop calls for evangelization, renewal after coronavirus

Tue, 04/21/2020 - 05:01

CNA Staff, Apr 21, 2020 / 03:01 am (CNA).- Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence reflected Sunday on the potential outcome of the coronavirus pandemic, encouraging Catholics to develop plans for evangelization.

“When our churches re-open for public worship, how will the faithful respond? … Will they have grown accustomed to watching the Mass on TV or online, and find that it’s not necessary to attend in person, or will they have missed the sense of community, their parish family, and realize that ‘virtual participation’ can never replace the grace of being personally present?” he asked in his April 19 pastoral message “The State of the Church in the Diocese of Providence in the Age of Coronavirus”.

“I’m convinced that as a Church community – in the diocese, in our parishes, schools and organizations – this post-crisis moment invites us to redouble our commitment to evangelization.”

Bishop Tobin decried the negative impacts of the virus, especially the absence of regularly available sacraments.

He said it is uncertain how the coronavirus will affect the future, but the Diocese of Providence will be changed as a result. While this is a confusing time, he said, it is still an opportunity to conduct evangelization efforts and pursue personal holiness. 

“We have a new opportunity to reach out to and welcome back our own faithful Catholics whom we’ve desperately missed, as well as Catholics who have drifted away, (especially so many younger adults), those who have been alienated from the Church for any reason, and those who have never been members of the Church,” he said.

“We should be emboldened to employ every legitimate strategy and tactic we can think of: door-to-door visits, parish receptions, continuing education, Sunday bulletins, public advertising, and social media.”

He said the task can be carried out by people of all ages, that some parishioners have continued to tithe during this crisis, and that the Catholic Charity Appeal, while financially debilitated by the quarantine, has continued to provide assistance to those with immediate needs. 

He said the final goal of evangelization is not to increase the number of people in Church, although this is an important aspect, but to share and embrace an authentic experience of Catholicism. He said people should begin preparations now by praying, practicing virtue, and trying to imitate Christ.

“This moment in history is a new opportunity to appreciate the goodness, truth and beauty of our Catholic Faith, and to share with others the blessings that have been ours.”

“In short, let’s resolve to turn the coronavirus crisis into a moment of purification, rebirth and renewal for the entire Church. It’s something we should start talking about and planning for right now.”

As the virus has placed a lockdown on religious services worldwide, Tobin decried the absence of the sacraments in recent weeks, especially during the Easter season. He expressed hope that church communities will be able to gather for Pentecost.

“It is my fond hope, my prayer, my ‘aspiration,’ that by May 31st, the Solemnity of Pentecost, we will be able to gather in our churches again, even with a limited number of worshippers if necessary, for the public celebration of Holy Mass and to invoke the healing grace of the Holy Spirit,” he said.

Kansas governor can't single out churches in COVID rules, judge says

Tue, 04/21/2020 - 02:31

Denver Newsroom, Apr 21, 2020 / 12:31 am (CNA).- The Kansas governor’s emergency restrictions on church services wrongly treated religious gatherings more strictly than similar activities, a federal judge said.

The judge granted a temporary injunction to two Baptist churches which challenged the order.

“Churches and religious activities appear to have been singled out among essential functions for stricter treatment,” U.S. District Judge John Broomes said in an April 18 ruling, saying the restrictions are “more severe than restrictions on some comparable non-religious activities.”

Gov. Laura Kelly’s rules “basically eliminated” association for the purpose of public worship, the judge said. The governor did not argue that church gatherings pose unique health risks, he said, and “the exemption for religious activities has been eliminated while it remains for a multitude of activities that appear comparable in terms of health risks.”

The judge said that the plaintiffs are likely to succeed in their case and will suffer religious freedom violations because the order was not “narrowly tailored” enough to further the “compelling” state interest in countering the spread of the coronavirus.

Chuck Weber, executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference, told CNA April 20 that the Catholic bishops have tried to be a partner in the coronavirus response and commended the governor’s previous efforts, but found the restrictions imposed on religious gatherings in the days before Easter to be “troublesome.”

“We are grateful for this challenge and will be following the legal developments,” Weber said.

The plaintiffs are two churches and their pastors from different parts of Kansas: First Baptist Church in Dodge City in western Kansas, joined by Calvary Baptist Church in Junction City in northeast Kansas. Both churches are practicing social distancing measures at services, but say they believe engaging in “corporate” prayer is a call from God, the Associated Press reports.

The lawsuit from the two churches said the governor could have used less restrictive measures and that the presence of numerous exceptions for “essential” businesses, but not churches, meant her policies unfairly targeted churches.

Gov. Kelly, however, defended the restrictions and characterized the judge’s decision as “preliminary.”

“This is not about religion. This is about a public health crisis,” she said, adding that six deaths and 80 cases of coronavirus originated at religious gatherings. As of Monday, there have been more than 100 coronavirus deaths and almost 2,000 confirmed cases in the state.

“We all want to resume our normal lives as soon as possible, but for now the data and science tell us there’s still a serious threat from COVID-19 – and when we gather in large groups, the virus spreads,” the governor continued. “My executive order is about saving Kansans’ lives and slowing the spread of the virus to keep our neighbors, our families and our loved ones safe. During public health emergencies, we must take proactive measures to save lives.”

Weber said Kansas’ Catholic bishops have “tried to reach out and be a partner in navigating these admittedly complex situations.”

“The Kansas Catholic Bishops certainly recognize that Governor Laura Kelly has a duty and responsibility to protect the public health of citizens and make use of executive orders to accomplish that goal,” he said, noting that the bishops' early comments on these orders commended her actions.

“In times like this it can become easy to forget that separation of church and state is a two-way street--a 'street' that should be shared by the government and faith communities,” he added.

The governor's initial executive orders banned gatherings of more than 10 people, with religious gatherings among the exemptions as long as appropriate social distancing was practiced.

Then, in an April 7 executive order, the governor stressed the need for enhanced measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus. For the first time the governor listed “churches or other religious facilities” as venues where mass gatherings were banned, alongside auditoriums, theaters, stadiums, and other venues. The order had specific restrictions on religious activities, barring more than 10 congregants in “the same building or confined or enclosed space.” It allowed those who conduct or perform a religious service to exceed the 10-person limit so long as appropriate safety protocols are followed.

In an April 8 statement, the bishops noted their own suspension of public Catholic worship and large public gatherings at Catholic Church facilities predated state and local orders in Kansas. However, they said the order was “troubling” because “it specifically singles out restrictions on churches and religious activities while granting numerous exemptions to other public gatherings that present the same risk to public health.”

“We question the constitutionality of this order,” they said.

Broomes, the federal judge, said the numerous exceptions for businesses were “arbitrary.” He said the order included a “long list” of exempt activities and facilities: most governmental operations; airports; childcare locations; hotels; food pantries; shopping malls; and other retail establishments with large numbers of people but “not within arm's length of one another for more than 10 minutes”; restaurants, bars and grocery stores, provided social distancing is maintained; office spaces; and manufacturing, distribution and production facilities.

The temporary injunction, which applies only to the two churches, will last until May 2. A Thursday hearing will weigh whether the injunction should be lengthened or broadened.

The Baptist churches’ lawsuit has the backing of the legal group Alliance Defending Freedom.

“Singling out churches for special punishment while allowing others to have greater freedom is both illogical and unconstitutional,” Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel Ryan Tucker said April 18.

He added that the judge’s decision said the churches are to follow their own social distancing practices, “which these churches are obviously happy to do, since they proposed those rules themselves for everyone’s health and safety.”

Tucker voiced hope that the governor will “act quickly to remedy the unconstitutional provision of her mass gathering ban and avoid the need for continued litigation.”

Republican legislators had sought to remove Kelly’s order on church gatherings, but the governor contested their efforts before the state Supreme Court, which declined to rule on the merits of the case.

Kansas House Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr., a Republican, told the Associated Press that people need to stay home but “the state cannot and should not set up a double standard.”

State Rep. John Carmichael, a Wichita Democrat, appeared sympathetic to the argument that churches faced more severe restrictions.

“I think a very persuasive case can be made that a number of clusters in Kansas are related to places of worship,” Carmichael said, according to KWCH News. “The problem, of course, is though, if you treat other types of gatherings differently or less stringently than a church, then you have a problem.”

Weber reflected on the situation in the state. The Diocese of Salina in northwest Kansas had not yet reported any COVID-19 case, but metro Kansas City and other populated areas have suffered hundreds of cases.

“No one—and I mean no one—wants a return to ‘normal’ any more than the four Catholic Bishops of Kansas,” he said. “This has been brutal on faithful Catholics, but also on our Catholic priests who have experienced a separation from the flocks they love and seek to serve.”

The bishops have reiterated that public Masses may not take place in Kansas. Funeral Masses, baptisms, wedding Masses are allowed only with no more than 10 people present, and only with appropriate precautions.

These measures will remain in place as long as the bishops deem them necessary, relying upon “the best advice of medical professionals,” Weber said.


Faith in the 'back row'- An interview with Chris Arnade

Mon, 04/20/2020 - 20:05

Denver Newsroom, Apr 20, 2020 / 06:05 pm (CNA).- Chris Arnade is the author and photographer of “Dignity: Seeking Respect in Back Row America.”

His book is a look at how many Americans - in rural and urban communities across the country- live. Chris got to know people who often lack a voice in American public life, and his work aims to give them a voice, and a face.  He talked with CNA about his book, his faith, and “Back Row America.”

Below is an excerpt, edited and condensed, from CNA’s interview with Arnade. The entire conversation can be heard here.

Chris, what is “Back Row America?”

“Back Row America” describes, in my simple framework, American communities that don't necessarily define themselves by their resumes or their education.

It's the part of America that has traditionally gone from high school to, to a job, a lifelong job that gave them the stability to build a family and then attend church regularly and stay in their community. That isn't a red state or blue state thing. That's true all across the country.

It's African-American communities in northern cities, it's working class rural communities in places like Iowa and Nebraska.

It's in contrast to what I think is the much more powerful group of people, which I would call, using the classroom analogy, “the front row.”

The elites, if you will, who have spent their career or chasing building a resume, going to all the right institutions and ultimately ending up probably in a few handful of neighborhoods across the United States.

They generally have very large influences in academics, the media and politics and the business world. And I think so much of how we think about America is defined by the front row, when in fact the bulk of Americans would probably find themselves to be more familiar with the back row.


How did you get to know "Back Row America?"

While working on Wall Street in finance, I spent time walking in neighborhoods across New York City. Those walks became a way to meet people I might otherwise never meet. Eventually, I quit my job and spent three and a half or four years in one neighborhood in particular, the poorest neighborhood in New York called Hunts Point in the Bronx.

It was a wonderful neighborhood, I was immediately drawn in by the strong sense of community. At an artistic level as a photographer and it was just simply a great place to photograph because it faces the south, it has good light.

And then it just drew me in.

I spent time with a group of, to use a derogatory term because there's no other terms, of homeless addicts, who lived in cars or lived in abandoned buildings, under bridges and spent their time making their money by either being a prostitute or stealing things or begging. And many used that money to buy heroin.

And they became the community that taught me for three and a half years.

And then from there I went in my car across the United States, I've put roughly about 400 000 miles over four years, just driving all the, around the United States, visiting places that people would tell me not to go to.

Visiting as much of the United States as I could, the parts that I call “back row America” that are not in the news in any other way other than negative. Towns that have lost their industry, inner cities that have never had industry, all sorts of places.

What I try to do in my book is both show what is common in this condition, but that there are variations, so to speak, on the theme and how people reflect their frustration and attempt to find dignity in different ways.

What were the things that you had found in Hunts Point and wanted to look for in other places?

One theme of my book is that the most salient and the biggest division in America right now is the educational divide. We all talk about class divide. We all talk about the racial divide. But I think the education divide is as important, if not stronger currently.

And that division is not just about how we vote, but it's about how we view the world, and how we think about what is valuable in this world, and how we think about what gives us meaning. So, at a very deep level, what's our philosophy? And what is our worldview?

And then that, if you are in the back, and that the front row controls things now. They generally are the “in” group. They define stuff. And it's the back row who is the one who is suffering from the decisions made by the front row, who have a very narrow worldview that they can't seem to think beyond.

If they do think beyond it, it usually means they either want to study the back row as sort of a scientific specimen or they want to pity them and save them without questioning their worldview.

And people know when they're being laughed at. The front row isn't directly laughing at people. But there is this sense of, again, when they view the back row, it's often viewed as people who are wounded, to be pitied and helped, as opposed to people to be listened to as equals.

Your book talks about some values that exist more clearly in the back row, a sense of place, a sense of obligation to the family, and people, and connectedness. Even a different sense of what matters in life; what it’s for.

Yeah. I mean, I always use the example of the young woman I met in a McDonald's in East L.A. And, if you read the book, you'll know that I spent a lot of time in McDonald's.

Because a lot of people who don't have a lot of money spend a lot of time in McDonald's because it has free wifi, and inexpensive food, and cheap.

So, I would see this young woman at McDonald'ss. I would be there each night to type up my notes and she was there because... I had seen her all over the country, variations of her, she was there to use the free wifi because she didn't have wifi at home. She or her family was too poor.

So, she would come in every night with her Game Boy and her computer, and charge both of them, and play on the internet, or do homework, or mostly just play her Game Boy, or her Switch, or whatever she had.

And so, eventually she got curious about me and asked and said, "You're from New York City." I told her I was from New York City.

She said she would love to go there. And I said, "Well, you're college age."

She said, "Well, I'm going to college here at East L.A. Community College. And I need to stay here because I'm my mother's translator."

Her mother was a Mexican-American immigrant. And, like a lot of immigrants, the oldest child is the one who speaks both languages and is necessary to fill out forms, navigate the country.

So, she was making a decision that I think we as a broader culture should applaud. She was staying there for her family.

But I think we look at people's decisions in what I would call a "resume arms race." Everybody has to be building a resume. And, in that process, which is a very narrow way of thinking about success, it's all about getting credentialed so you can make more money.

It's a very, very material definition of success.

For people who don't value that, who don't want the value of that very narrow framework, you have to give up the non-material forms of meaning like place, family, and faith, because those are considered to be in opposition to this arms race of building the best resume. And so, I think it's particularly an elitist view.

Being materialistic is very much an elitist view of the world because one of the things we're all gifted at birth is these values and these meanings that don't require a resume to have, like family, like place, and like faith. You don't need a resume into the church. You don't need a resume to find beauty in your local community or to be a member of your family.

Chris, could you talk about faith in the back row?

I came into this project an atheist. I certainly wasn't a nasty atheist. I was very always respectful of other people's faiths and views. But, in the back of my mind, I would have laughed at somebody who was religious, or at least thought maybe they should learn a little. And then, certainly by the end of the project, I wouldn't call myself religious, but I do go to church.

In the project I spent a lot of time in McDonald's because that's where the people I was learning from spent time. And likewise with churches, I spent a lot of time in churches because that's where the people I spent time with went.

I went to every denomination. I tried to try to go to the denominations that were most reflective of the community I was in. I tried to go to the churches that I guess, I think, theologically would probably be considered in the back row.

Places that had improvised spaces. So, there was one that was a former... I think it was a former Kentucky Fried Chicken, had been turned into a church. Another was an old gas station that had been turned into a church. Another was an old furniture store in a strip mall. Another was someone's house.

I came away personally moved by the experience... this was a very important part of people's lives. It was just wrong of me at many levels to dismiss it as nothing more than just a silly way of living, but also, at a personal level, I came away realizing that there was a lot there that I didn't appreciate.


What is important when churches minister to back row America?

I mean, I think from a purely pragmatic standpoint, I think the most important thing about the church is that they get people they're preaching to.

You go into a nonprofit in these communities or you go into these secular institutions, and they're not made up of people from the community. They're often outsiders who are well-intentioned. There's nothing wrong with that, being an outsider who's well-intentioned, but with a few exceptions, most of them haven't gone through a rough life, haven't experienced a lot.

You go in the churches, and it's their people. It's their community. They get them, at not just at an intellectual level but a lived reality level.

Also, that faith is a way to live that gives people guidance. Answers that give people a structure.

The first level of academica getting religion is pragmatic. They'll simply view it as something that's useful. I think the second level, which is much deeper and much more real, is to see it as something that isn't just useful but also so powerful and true. My own intellectual journey was getting beyond the first level of, "Oh, it's just a useful thing," a scientific solution, like, "Oh, these poor people have religion. That's good for them because it's useful," and moving on to the next, which is to see a religious worldview as equally valid to how I think about things.

I think to a large degree that the Catholic Church has done a pretty good job of understanding the people it serves.

I often went to Catholic churches as well, because I consider myself Catholic, and when traveling, I would like to go to different churches, and I think one of the things that did frustrate me is I can walk into a church and within half a minute tell you how wealthy the neighborhood around me is. You can just see by the amount of donations given. I mean, the donation differences are just staggering. You get some churches that collect $7,000 a week and others that collect $35 a week.

I think some outreach between [rich and poor Catholics] would be helpful. I think... and certainly, the people in the wealthier congregations and parishes having a little more understanding of their privilege and how the experience of being a Catholic might be different if you're in El Paso, for instance.


Do you have expectations for how things might change for the back row as a result of where we are right now, in terms of the pandemic and the resulting economic collapse? I’ve hoped it will lead to a greater sense of solidarity among people.

I'm probably about as cynical as I've ever been about it right now. I hate to try to throw water on your fire, but I mean, I'm looking at how the pandemic's playing out, and it's becoming a disease of the poor. All the solutions we proposed, as much as I agree with them, are pretty comfortable for the wealthy and pretty uncomfortable for the poor.

Sheltering in place, I think the word “place” covers a lot of ground there that we tend not to think about, but I certainly hope at a philosophical level that we come out of this, that people who can shelter in a nice place maybe understand that that's a privilege and that it's much easier for them to do that — come out of this with a greater awareness of how hard this is for a lot of people.

What can people do?

I mean, that's the problem is, with a pandemic, there's not much we can do right now other than recognize privilege and hopes going forward that we take that into account when we think about judging other people for not doing what we're doing, or scolding them for taking walks outside, or wanting to go to church in some capacity when the pandemic eases going to some sort of limited service.

I think we need to get back to being social again, probably before the credentialed experts tell us is a good time. I respect people enough to believe that they can make their own choices and see what's right.

I think, in the longer term though, one of my biggest frustrations with my book, and I think a lot of readers’ frustrations is I don't offer solutions, because I'm not sure I know them.

I don't know how you get people en masse to start saying, okay we need to value things differently. I think, one person at a time. If somebody in a comfortable suburb recognizes that their parish or their congregation is well off and others aren't, I mean that's the first step. Make a personal decision about how you think you can best address that.

I think it's important to treat people, everybody you meet, with respect, and again not pity them. I think many people look at those who are in the back row as people who need to be saved or changed, and maybe the best thing to do is just listen to them and give them the dignity of actually treating them like an equal.

That means sometimes not liking them. You don't have to like everybody. When people ask "What can I do with the homeless person?" And I say like, "Have a conversation with them. Treat them like a normal person. If you don't like them, you don't like them."


Chris, if you don't mind my asking, having gone through this experience, what do you pray for and what do you encourage other people to pray for?

What I pray for changes. I still hear from a lot of people who I wrote about in the book, who have my phone number and text me all the time. I pray for them, and for my family.

I guess, my greatest hope from this whole thing is that the reader comes away with an understanding that, in very rare instances, almost everybody who reads this book is going to have more privilege than the people in the book. And so, a little perspective. When it comes down to it, it's the old phrase, "Before you judge somebody, walk a mile in their shoes." I pray that message gets into people, that they can see that they themselves probably have a lot better than they realize.

And before you judge somebody, again, know what they've gone through.

This was an edited excerpt from a longer conversation between Chris Arnade and CNA. The entire conversation can be heard here.


Why you should remember the missions when you miss the sacraments

Mon, 04/20/2020 - 18:00

Washington D.C., Apr 20, 2020 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Many U.S. Catholics have limited or no access to the sacraments during the coronavirus pandemic, bringing to many parishes a reality faced in other parts of the country on a regular basis.

Kevin Day, director of the Catholic Home Missions national collection of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), told CNA on April 20 that Catholics in American many dioceses were experiencing circumstances “not unlike” the situation in mission territories around the world where Catholics might see a priest once or twice a year to hear confessions, bless marriages, and offer Mass in person.

“One of the things that I find interesting, is that everyone is facing this reality of being cut off from the sacraments, the physical sacraments, and the physical communion of the Church community,” Day said. 

He added that it’s an “educational opportunity” for U.S. Catholics to learn about life in “mission” territory—including “mission” dioceses in their home country.

“Home missions” are U.S. dioceses that require outside assistance to provide basic pastoral care to Catholics, often because they are located in rural parts of the country or in the predominantly-Protestant South where Catholics are a small minority.

These situations are more common than one would think, Day told CNA, making up around 40 percent of U.S. dioceses. They include dioceses in more sparsely-populated regions like Alaska, the Mountain West, and West Texas, but also in other areas such as Alabama, Mississippi, Northern Louisiana and Appalachia.

These dioceses do not have the “critical mass” for an independent financial foundation, Day said, and they rely on outside financial assistance for pastoral needs, for which the USCCB set up the Catholic Home Missions Appeal in 1998.

Normally held on the last weekend of April, the special collection provides millions of dollars—more than $9.4 million in 2019 grants—of aid for purposes such as Hispanic ministry, evangelization, aid to mission parishes, and seminary education.

The 2020 collection was scheduled for the weekend of April 25-26, but as the recent pandemic forced the cancellation of public Masses across the U.S., “we expect this year to have a significant decline in revenue,” Day said.

For many dioceses reliant on outside funding, with parishes which are perhaps not equipped for online giving, the pandemic could pose another significant funding problem. Parishes in dioceses not considered mission territory were already feeling the squeeze in March once public Masses were cancelled, with parish staff already reporting furloughs and cuts.

Some parishes are better equipped than others to survive the economic downturn, Day said, as some mission parishes have no reserves and a small congregation.

The bishops’ conference has already been working with home mission dioceses to help them weather the storm, expediting the delivery of FY 2020 grant payments and allowing them to pay for pastoral needs or general operating expenses rather than the original specific purposes, said Day, and dioceses have already expressed appreciation for this “flexibility.”

Some of the unique challenges facing mission dioceses during this time are technological—“the learning curve that the dioceses and the parishes are going through to go online,” he said.

In many parishes, pastors eligible for retirement are still serving out of necessity. These in particular may not have the technological expertise to conduct video conferencing or virtually communicate with parishioners and staff, and in some cases some younger high school and college-age parishioners have already stepped in to help them get up to speed, Day said.

Ultimately, the current pandemic and the resultant social distancing and spiritual communion of the faithful is a lesson that the church is “more than the structures of our buildings,” he said.

“If anything we’re coming to understand that yes, the sacraments and being cut off from the Eucharist is something that we haven’t experienced, and we’re going to value the Eucharist more. But at the same time, we know now that our church is more than the structures of our buildings and the walls that contain the tabernacle. Our church is greater than that.”