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US bishops join Pope Francis in prayer and mourning after Nice attack

Thu, 10/29/2020 - 14:00

CNA Staff, Oct 29, 2020 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- U.S. Catholic bishops joined Pope Francis in mourning a deadly attack at a basilica in Nice on Thursday.

“We join our prayers with Pope Francis and pray for the Catholic community in Nice, especially the families of those who have lost loved ones,” the U.S. bishops’ conference (USCCB) stated on Thursday via Twitter. “Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.”

On Thursday morning, an attacker with a knife killed three people in the Basilica of Notre Dame in Nice, France.

 

We join our prayers with #PopeFrancis and pray for the Catholic community in #Nice, especially the families of those who have lost loved ones. "Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them." #NiceAttack https://t.co/gLnlJFi80C

— U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (@USCCB) October 29, 2020  

According to the French newspaper Le Figaro, an elderly woman, a sacristan, and another woman were killed in the attack; the elderly woman was found inside the church “nearly beheaded,” while the other woman died of stabbing wounds after fleeing the attack to a nearby café.  

The mayor of Nice said that the perpetrator had shouted “Allahu Akbar” during and after the attack, and was subsequently shot, injured, and arrested by police.

A Vatican spokesman on Thursday said that Pope Francis was mourning the victims and praying for them and their loved ones.

Archbishop Allen Vigneron, the USCCB vice president, tweeted that he was “deeply saddened” by the attack.

“We Catholics in southeast Michigan hold in prayer our brothers and sisters in faith and all the people of France touched by this tragedy, and first and foremost the victims and their families,” Vigneron said.

“We especially ask Our Lady of Sorrows to obtain for them the grace of uniting their sufferings to the Cross of Christ, so that even in this hour of darkness the light of his Easter victory will shine forth.”

Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia also offered his prayers for the victims and their families. 

“In union with people of goodwill throughout the Diocese of Arlington, the people of France and around the world, I express my deep sorrow and offer fervent prayers for those impacted by the terror attack at the Notre Dame Basilica in Nice, France, this morning,” Burbidge said Thursday. 

“While violence in any form, carried out in any location, is abhorrent, we are particularly struck when attacks happen in sacred places, as sacred spaces offer refuge for the weary and serve as symbols of peace in a torn and broken world. May people of all faiths continue their call for peace as we intensify our prayers for an end to all forms of violence.”

In response to the attack, Bishop André Marceau of Nice said that all churches in Nice would be closed out of precaution. He noted that the “heinous terrorist act" occurred just weeks after a Paris school teacher was beheaded on Oct. 16. The teacher was killed reportedly after he had showed his students a cartoon depicting the prophet Mohammed.

Cardinal Robert Sarah, Vatican prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, stated on Twitter in response to Thursday’s attack that “Islamism is a monstrous fanaticism which must be fought with force and determination.” 

At least two other incidents were reported in France on Thursday, in Lyon and near Avignon. A man waving a handgun, who also made threats and shouted “Allahu Akbar,” was reportedly shot dead by police in Montfavet near Avignon. Another man armed with a long knife was reportedly arrested while trying to board a train in Lyon, according to Al Jazeera; the man had already been flagged as a threat by French intelligence.

Other U.S. leaders condemned Thursday’s attack in Nice. President Trump tweeted that “Our hearts are with the people of France.” 

Rev. Johnnie Moore, a commissioner at the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, tweeted on Thursday that “No one should ever fear walking into a place of worship, ANYWHERE of ANY FAITH!”

He tweeted a video of Muslims around the world mourning the attack, noting that “The 1st people I heard from were Muslim friends who find it painful & heretical when terrorists defame God by killing in His name.”

Ashley McGuire, senior fellow for The Catholic Association, said that attacks “are a terrifying reminder that radicalism remains a grave threat to global religious liberty.”

Pompeo: China is world's 'gravest threat' to religious freedom

Thu, 10/29/2020 - 13:30

CNA Staff, Oct 29, 2020 / 11:30 am (CNA).- The U.S. Secretary of State on Thursday called out the Chinese Communist Party as the world’s most serious threat to religious freedom.

In a speech in Jakarta, Indonesia, Oct. 29, Mike Pompeo said that “the gravest threat to the future of religious freedom is the Chinese Communist Party’s war against the people of all faiths—Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, and Falun Gong practitioners alike.”

Pompeo said that he recently exhorted Vatican leaders to support religious freedom in China and elsewhere. On Thursday, he asked the leaders of the overwhelmingly-Muslim Indonesia to do the same.

“And today I want to urge you,” he said, “I want you to urge the same actions I asked the Catholic Church’s leaders to do in the Vatican—we need more religious leaders to speak out on behalf of people of all faiths wherever their rights are being violated.”

Pompeo met with Indonesian leaders on the fifth day of his official trip to South Asian countries from Oct. 25-30. The secretary first visited India for a ministerial dialogue, before traveling to Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and Indonesia. He will conclude his trip in Hanoi, Vietnam.

His remarks came one week after the Vatican and China renewed their provisional agreement on the ordination of bishops. The two-year agreement, first signed in September, 2018, was renewed for another two years on Oct. 22.

The deal was signed as a means of unifying the underground Church in China with the state-sanctioned Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association. However, there have been continued reports of underground Christians facing harassment and detention for refusing to register with the state-sanctioned Church, the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association.

Defenders of the agreement say that conditions for underground Catholics could be far worse if no deal had been struck.

Critics of the agreement, including the former Bishop of Hong Kong, Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, have said that it forced the Vatican into a damaging diplomatic silence on human rights abuses, including the detention of more than one million Uyghurs in concentration camps in the province of Xinjiang.

Pope Francis has notably not made public statements on Xinjiang, amid widespread reports of mass detention camps, forced sterilizations, forced labor, and other abuses committed against Uyghurs and other ethnic Turkic Muslims in China’s northwestern province.

“The resounding [Vatican] silence will damage the work of evangelization,” Cardinal Zen told CNA in September.

Secretary Pompeo told CNA ahead of his Vatican trip that he hoped the Church would use its “enormous amount of moral authority” to push for protection of “believers of all faiths inside of China.”

On Thursday, Pompeo pleaded with Indonesian leaders to speak out on behalf of fellow Muslims in Xinjiang.

“I know that the Chinese Communist Party has tried to convince Indonesians to look away, to look away from the torments your fellow Muslims are suffering,” Pompeo said. He said the CCP has defended its treatment of Uyghurs as part of counterterrorism or poverty alleviation efforts.

Pompeo cited credible reports of forced sterilizations, separation of families, and Muslims forced to eat pork during Ramadan. He emphasized that “there is no counterterrorism justification” for such actions.  

In Hong Kong, authorities have cracked down on pro-democracy protesters in recent months. Pompeo condemned on Thursday morning the arrest of three pro-democracy student activists by Hong Kong police.

End of Catholic Charities program reflects challenges in international adoption 

Thu, 10/29/2020 - 05:41

Denver Newsroom, Oct 29, 2020 / 03:41 am (CNA).- After decades of helping place children overseas with adoptive families in the United States, Catholic Charities of Baltimore has ended its international adoption program.

Ellen Warnock, adoption program coordinator at Catholic Charities of Baltimore, told CNA this month that multiple factors have contributed to the decision to end the program.

“It’s the capacity of the countries [to provide required documentation] on the one hand, and the willingness of our country on the other hand to believe the documentation from the sending country about the child’s orphan status,” she said.

Catholic Charities of Baltimore has facilitated adoptions for 75 years, including international adoptions for more than 40 years. During that time, it has helped nearly 3,500 children from other countries be united with families in the United States.

But international adoptions have plummeted in recent years. In the mid-2000s, about 24,000 foreign-born children were adopted each year into families in the United States. By last year, that number had dropped to below 3,000.

In some cases, this is because of internal decisions within foreign countries. Russian President Vladamir Putin signed a law in 2012 banning U.S. citizens from adopting children from Russia. Ethiopia, which once accounted for 20% of foreign adoptions by U.S. families, banned international adoptions in 2018.

But increased scrutiny from U.S. authorities has also played a role, Warnock said. She cited a shift in recent years in how the government views international adoption, although she said that the changes have not been partisan in nature.

Warnock said especially that a concern that adoption will be used for human trafficking has changed the process and requirements of international adoptions.

“The Department of State does not trust the documentation that is coming from certain countries. So they are making it very difficult to adopt from those countries,” she said.

Many children in overseas orphanages were abandoned in public places, such as train stations. Police officers take such children to orphanages, but usually without birth certificates or identifying documentation, Warnock said. The United States will not allow children to be adopted without evidence of birth that includes a birth mother’s name.

“There are countries that simply don’t have a sophisticated child welfare infrastructure,” she said. “There might be millions of children within that country who need homes, but the resources within that country to provide the appropriate documentation that our country needs before a child can immigrate, those resources are very limited.”

Many adoption advocates point to the 2014 appointment of Trish Maskew as the head of the Adoption Division in the State Department’s Office of Children’s Issues as a key turning point in the government’s stance on international adoption.

Maskew had testified before Congress that she believed insufficient regulations in the field of international adoptions had led to a climate where illegal and unethical activity was far too common.

She cited the situation in Cambodia in 2001, when officials said they had found evidence of child trafficking, with corrupt middlemen profiting from the adoption of children whose parents had not consented to them being adopted. In some cases, the birth parents had left the children at an orphanage temporarily with plans to recover them when their financial situation improved, while the adoptive families were unaware that the children were not actually orphans.

Advocates of reform say the Cambodia crisis shows a need for greater regulation of the international adoption process, while many adoption advocates say there is no evidence that trafficking is widespread, and existing international standards are sufficient to prevent potential abuse. They also warn that children living in orphanages face significant risks of trafficking and abuse in their own countries.

Under Maskew’s leadership, the State Department proposed new regulations, including a new “country-specific authorization,” increased training requirements for adoptive parents, and additional oversight of adoption agencies and the service providers they work with during the adoption process.

In late 2017, the Council on Accreditation announced that it was withdrawing from its role as the sole U.S. international adoption accrediting entity. The council cited new requirements at the State Department which it saw as being “inconsistent with [its] philosophy and mission.”

A new accrediting organization was created – the Intercountry Adoption Accreditation and Maintenance Entity (IAAME) – which began implementing new regulations and fees.

IAAME maintains that ensuring compliance with federal regulations is necessary to ensure that adoptions are conducted ethically.

“There have been instances of trafficking of children within intercountry adoptions,” IAAME Executive Director Kim Loughe told CNA.

“With the safety of children, adoptive families, and biological parents as our top priority, IAAME works with adoption service providers to ensure intercountry adoptions take place in the best interest of children,” she said.

“In doing so we work to prevent the abduction, exploitation, sale, or trafficking of children.”

However, critics argue that the regulations are so strict that they impose unrealistic burdens on other countries, and fail to accommodate for their lack of resources to meet these requirements.

In some countries, such as Nigeria, birth certificates are not created until they are needed for legal purposes. A Nigerian birth certificate, not registered at the time of birth, is disallowed by U.S. regulations, despite the explanation given for discrepancy, Warnock said.

“They’re imposing U.S. standards on countries that don’t have those kinds of practices in place. How can families meet that requirement? They can’t. And then they’re stuck,” she said.

Warnock acknowledged that there could be better educational outreach for some facilities that do not have a good record-keeping system.

“We would hope that record-keeping would be better [in some of the international orphanages], but there is still no evidence that, despite certain gaps in the record-keeping, that children are being trafficked,” she said.

“I also know that these orphanages are just struggling to make ends meet,” she said. “And for them to hire the administrative or social work staff to meet the enormous amount of bureaucratic requirements, it would be impossible.”

A State Department official told CNA that intercountry adoption is a high priority for the department, but preventing harm and corruption is an essential part of working to support adoption.

The official noted that the department’s Office of Children’s Issues created a bilateral engagement division earlier this year to focus on relationships with foreign partner nations and expanding intercountry adoption opportunities. In July, the department announced that it had begun discussions with Vietnam on a plan to expand adoptions by U.S. families, which are currently only permitted for children with special needs, children over age 5, and sibling groups.

For Warnock, the bottom line is that children’s needs are going unmet.

“The real struggle for Catholic Charities and for the agencies that are left is that the children we are placing are really children who desperately need homes...kids with significant issues, children who are coming from really challenging backgrounds, and more and more agencies are being closed.”

Catholic Charities of Baltimore nearly ended its program several years ago, after years of watching international adoptions drop, Warnock said.

But then Nigerian-American families began to contact them and ask for help adopting. The families – U.S. citizens who had immigrated from Nigeria – were hoping to adopt from their home country.

“We stepped up to that challenge,” Warnock said. Catholic Charities hosted conferences in Nigeria, and met with government ministries, American embassy personnel, judges and orphanage directors. It became one of the few agencies that worked with Nigerian-American families in the United States. Over the course of four years, it helped place hundreds of children with adoptive families.

As the agency’s Nigerian adoption program got underway, an uptick in visa approvals attracted the attention of IAAME and the State Department, which determined they could not rely on the accuracy of documents from Nigeria, Warnock said. Families started getting denied at the embassy level, after having completed the adoption process and receiving U.S. immigration approval. Then in April the State Department and IAAME contacted Catholic Charities of Baltimore and instructed the agency to cease its work in Nigeria.

“That has had a domino effect on our other programs,” Warnock said. “Because even though we didn’t get any complaints about any of our other programs, those other programs were so small – the Philippines and Colombia – that they could not sustain our work. There’s a certain level of work that you have to do to be financially sustainable and the work that we’re doing in Colombia and the Philippines now is a victim of the action the IAAME took against us about Nigeria.”

For families whose adoptions were already well underway, the news that their adopted children cannot enter the United States is crushing, Warnock said.

About 30 families working with Catholic Charities of Baltimore have already finalized the adoption process and were waiting on the immigration paperwork to be approved by the embassy so their children could enter the United States.

In many cases, the children had already left the orphanages where they were staying and were expected to join their families in the United states. To be denied by the embassy in the very final stages of the long and exhausting process is devastating, Warnock said. Some families are now hiring lawyers or contacting their lawmakers as they desperately attempt to be united with their children.

“Those families are a wreck,” she said. “The parents are hysterical - this is their daughter, this is their son.”

As Catholic Charities of Baltimore ends its international adoption program – the domestic adoption program was shut down several years ago due to decreasing numbers of adoptions –  Warnock will now oversee a small amount of post-adoptive work for the agency.

This includes help connecting adoptees – both foreign-born and domestic – with their birth parents, and referrals for counseling or other services, sometimes decades after an adoption takes place.

Warnock said she is grateful that Catholic Charities will be continuing to offer these limited services, despite the fact that they do not bring money into the agency. She said the post-adoptive work is a way for the agency to show that it is still committed to the work that it began 75 years ago.

“We can’t walk away from that legacy,” she said.
 

 

Citing pope's warnings about drugs, Catholic bishops speak on ballot proposals

Thu, 10/29/2020 - 02:07

CNA Staff, Oct 29, 2020 / 12:07 am (CNA).- This Election Day, voters in multiple U.S. states will consider several proposals to legalize drugs, ranging from medical and recreational marijuana to harder drugs. Catholic bishops in several states have said voters should look to Pope Francis' warnings that legalization is 'highly questionable,' as it becomes a compromise with drug addiction.

The Oregon Catholic Conference “strongly opposes” Ballot Measure 110, which would decriminalize the possession and use of small amounts of controlled substances including heroin, cocaine and methamphetamines. It would reduce penalties for possession of large amounts of such controlled substances.

“The Oregon Catholic Conference firmly supports treatment and rehabilitation for all those suffering from addictions. We encourage you to get behind solid programs and not accept an initiative that promotes the use of illegal drugs,” the bishops said.

“Pope Francis has unequivocally stated that drug use is incompatible with human life,” the conference said in a flier. It cited the pope's 2014 address to the International Drug Enforcement Conference in Rome.

“Let me state this in the clearest terms possible: the problem of drug use is not solved with drugs! Drug addiction is an evil, and with evil there can be no yielding or compromise,” the pope said. “To think that harm can be reduced by permitting drug addicts to use narcotics in no way resolves the problem. Attempts, however limited, to legalize so-called ‘recreational drugs’, are not only highly questionable from a legislative standpoint, but they fail to produce the desired effects.”

According to the Oregon Catholic Conference, local communities and treatment groups have expressed reservations about how the program will be applied under Ballot Measure 110. Other critics have said decriminalization of the drugs would cause more addiction by making drugs easier to acquire and by removing law enforcement and the courts from drug regulation, the New York Times reports.

“The treatment options the measure provides will be primarily funded by diverting marijuana tax revenues away from education, alcohol/drug abuse prevention and law enforcement,” said the Catholic conference, citing the Oregon Secretary of State's financial impact evaluation of the measure.

Major backers of the measure include the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance, which previously backed the successful 2014 Oregon ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana. Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of social media giant Facebook, and his wife Priscilla Chan have backed the measure through the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Oregon Public Broadcasting reports.

The text of the proposed act cites poor access to drug addiction treatment compared to other states. Backers of the measure argue that reduced arrests and incarceration will provide savings that can be used to make addiction treatment more widely available and free of charge. They also say drug crimes are disproportionately enforced against racial minorities.

Oregon has already legalized marijuana, which is a talking point in the proposed act.

“Oregon now receives more than $100 million in marijuana tax revenue a year,” it says. “The amount of marijuana revenue is expected to grow by more than $20 million per year.”

Oregon voters will also consider ballot Measure 109, which would legalize psilocybin, a psychoactive compound found in some mushrooms, for mental health treatment. Though the FDA has deemed psilocybin a potential breakthrough therapy for major depression, studies are inconclusive. The American Psychiatric Association and the Oregon Psychiatric Physicians Association both oppose the measure, saying proponents overstate the drug's usefulness in treating many phenomena including anxiety and addiction, according to the New York Times.

In South Dakota, voters will consider Amendment A, which would legalize recreational use of marijuana for those 21 years and older. It would legalize possession or distribution of up to one ounce of the drug. It would require the state legislature to pass laws providing for a medical marijuana program and the sale of hemp.

Like the bishops of Oregon, the South Dakota Catholic Conference cited Pope Francis' June 2014 remarks to drug enforcement agencies. The conference also noted the Catechism of the Catholic Church's paragraph 2291, which teaches that drug use “inflicts very grave damage on human health and life.”

The conference said on its website that marijuana use overstimulates the nervous system while also decreasing high-functioning rational thought.

“Often these effects are accompanied by others, including distorted sensory perception or hallucinations, irrational anxiety or panic, diminished motor control and slowed reactions, and reduced learning and memory,” South Dakota's bishops said. “Studies have shown that impaired cognitive function continues into the workweek even after a person no longer feels intoxicated, and that regular users are at approximately twice the risk of developing psychosis as non-users.”

“Human beings are endowed by God with the gift of reason. Reason aids us in differentiating between right and wrong and is foundational for human freedom and personal responsibility,” the bishops continued. “Thus, we can understand that to directly intend to suppress our God-given rational faculties is gravely wrong.”

They warned that in Seattle and Denver, where marijuana businesses are legal, they are disproportionately located in poorer neighborhoods. According to another analysis, every dollar raised in marijuana sales costs $4.50 in unwanted effects, primarily in healthcare and reduced workforce readiness.

In Arizona, the bishops of the Arizona Catholic Conference criticized Proposition 207, called the Smart and Safe Arizona Act, which would both allow persons 21 and older to possess one ounce of marijuana and provide for the legal sale of the drug.

“It is anticipated that legalizing the recreational use of marijuana in Arizona will lead to more abuse by teens, increase child fatalities, and result in more societal costs,” the Arizona bishops said in a Sept. 23 statement.

Legalization would send the message to children that “drug use is socially and morally acceptable,” they warned. Marijuana use is 25% higher among teens in states with legalized recreational marijuana, they said.

Self-reported use of Arizona middle- and high-schoolers has already increased because fewer youth believe it is risky, said the bishops. Marijuana is a direct or contributing factor in almost as many child deaths as alcohol, according to the state's most recent child fatality report.

“As people of faith, we must speak out against this effort and the damaging effects its passage would have on children and families,” the Arizona bishops said.

They cited the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area's September 2019 report on the effects of marijuana legalization in Colorado under a November 2012 ballot measure. That report found that Colorado traffic deaths, crime, emergency room visits, and youth usage of marijuana increased significantly in the period of 2013 to 2015, the first two years following the legalization of recreational pot.

In Mississippi, Initiative 65 would license and regulate marijuana dispensaries and allow a patient to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana to treat any of 22 conditions.

The American Medical Association said there is a “lack of rigorous medical evidence to support cannabis as a medical treatment” that is a good alternative to FDA-approved drugs. The Mississippi proposal would require state health officials to create “new complex agriculture and revenue programs” that divert resources from its public health focus, the association said.

“Amending a state constitution to legalize an unproven drug is the wrong approach,” Susan R. Bailey, MD, president of the American Medical Association, said Oct. 8. “Early data from jurisdictions that have legalized cannabis are concerning, particularly around unintentional pediatric exposures that have resulted in increased calls to poison control centers and emergency department visits, as well as an increase in traffic deaths due to cannabis-related impaired driving.”

The Mississippi State Medical Association also opposes the measure.

If approved by voters, fees on dispensaries would fund only the medical marijuana oversight program. The language prohibits revenue from going into the state's general fund.

Critics say the fees are extremely low and the amendment fails to restrict the number of marijuana businesses. They also argue the amendment could trump local zoning laws. Pot dispensaries are barred within 500 feet of a school, church or child care center, but the language says zoning ordinances on dispensaries must be no more restrictive than they are on pharmacies and “shall not impair the availability of and reasonable access to medical marijuana.”

Some law enforcement leaders say the amount of legal purchase allowed is enough that patients would be able to re-sell marijuana on the streets.

Since marijuana is still an illegal drug under federal law, banks tend to avoid handling money linked to marijuana businesses and insurance companies also avoid involvement, Mississippi Today reports.

Over 228,000 Mississippi voters signed a petition to place Ballot Measure 65 the ballot. The legislature responded by approving its own ballot measure 65A, which would allow lawmakers to regulate medical marijuana. Some thirty-four states have already legalized medical marijuana, with a great diversity of regulations and programs, Mississippi Today said.

In New Jersey, where medical marijuana use is already allowed, the state legislature has introduced Public Question 1, a ballot proposal to legalize recreational marijuana.

Legalized drug sales are being touted as a way to boost revenue and employment, save money and redirect police resources.

New Jersey borders Pennsylvania and New York, which have not legalized the drug. Medical marijuana presently sells for about $400 to $500 per ounce in the state, the New York Times reports. The state legislature's research arm has estimated that a developed recreational marijuana industry would generate about $126 million in tax revenue a year. Municipalities may charge their own 2% tax under the proposal.

Backers of the New Jersey measure also point to the disproportionate criminal charges against Black Americans for marijuana possession, even though they use the drug at similar rates to white Americans.

Catholic News Agency sought comment from the New Jersey Catholic Conference and the Mississippi dioceses of Jackson and Biloxi but did not receive a response by deadline.

Some 2016 Trump critics say record on abortion, religious liberty changed their minds

Wed, 10/28/2020 - 22:00

Washington D.C., Oct 28, 2020 / 08:00 pm (CNA).-  

During the 2016 Republic primaries, some prominent conservative Catholics warned about Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy. Four years later, some say they now support his reelection, while one Catholic scholar told CNA his focus is on the future of American political discourse.

“I have never been more happy about being wrong,” Brian Burch, president of CatholicVote.org, told CNA about Trump.

In January 2016, Burch issued a warning that Trump, who was by then the Republican front-runner, would not uphold Catholic principles as president. Burch exhorted Catholics to support another candidate, saying that Trump would “sell out everyone and anyone when it benefits him.” In the general election, CatholicVote.org did not endorse Trump.

But four years later, Burch told CNA that Trump has delivered “far more than we ever thought possible” on pro-life issues and religious freedom.

In September, CatholicVote launched a nearly $10 million campaign to target Catholic voters, highlighting Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s record “on issues of fundamental importance to Catholics including the sanctity of life, religious liberty, judges, education, the dignity of work, and other core issues.”

Trump has been widely praised by pro-life advocates for his appointment of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, a Catholic, to the Supreme Court. The president said in 2016 that he would fully defund abortion providers, and sign laws to ban abortions after 20 weeks and make the Hyde Amendment permanent, actions which have not been completed during his term in office.

Burch noted those moves depend upon Congressional action.  “The president’s done what he can via executive order, but he had an unwilling Congress,” he told CNA.

Other Catholics also told CNA last week that Trump’s White House support for life and religious freedom causes has surprised them. They recalled that, early in the 2016 election, his record did not evince a deep grasp of social conservatism.

Trump was on the record in 1999 saying that he was “very pro-choice.” He had been criticized for making crude, sexually-explicit comments about women on host Howard Stern’s radio show and in other contexts.

Looking at those factors in 2016, some critics thought the president’s pledges on abortion would not have much follow through.

“I did not believe his promises on behalf of the unborn, or on judges, or on foreign policy. I thought he would start wars,” Chad Pecknold, a theology professor at the Catholic University of America, told CNA this month. “I was wrong.”

Pecknold added that he has not endorsed Trump, but he thinks a case can be made for supporting him in the 2020 election.

Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie did not believe that Trump would defend life and religious freedom causes, but voted for him reluctantly in 2016 because she thought his opponent Hillary Clinton would “expand” attacks on those causes.

When President Trump dramatically expanded a policy that prevents federal funding of foreign groups that provide or promote abortions—known as the “Mexico City Policy”— Christie said her doubts about him subsided.

As someone who grew up in Latin America, Christie saw Trump’s policy as a victory against “ideological colonization” of groups that promote abortions in developing countries.

“I know that he [Trump] has surrounded himself with really good people,” she said, “who really understand in a deeply philosophical way the issues of human dignity, marriage, and family.”

Nina Shea, an expert in religious freedom at the Hudson Institute, also warned about Trump’s candidacy in 2016. She recalled thinking that he did not have the foreign policy background required to promote religious freedom and defend persecuted religious minorities overseas.

A year later, Shea watched Vice President Mike Pence promise a summit on international Christian persecution that promoting religious freedom would be a priority for the administration.

The direct assurance was a departure from earlier administrations’ seeming reluctance to promote religious freedom in U.S. foreign policy, Shea said. Since then, she noted that Trump’s “speeches, initiatives, and directives” on religious freedom “have set the high water mark” for the issue.

Not all conservative Catholics who opposed Trump in 2016 support his re-election four years later.

Ramesh Ponnuru, a senior editor at National Review and a Catholic, wrote an Oct. 15 column he said was “a case for principled abstention.”

Ponnuru wrote that in his view, Trump’s “character flaws” are bad enough to “keep him from meeting the threshold conditions to be entrusted with the presidency.”

The president is “deficient” in “judgment, honesty, and self-control,” Ponnuru wrote, lamenting “a more degraded and less honest political culture, the cheapening of the president’s word, and a decline in trust.”

But in the same column, Ponnuru said he would also not be voting for Biden.

Biden “says he now favors taxpayer funding of abortion. He may seek to enlarge the Supreme Court to make room for more justices who won’t make room in American law for unborn children,” Ponnuru wrote.

“If there’s a persuasive case for recognizing abortion as a grave injustice and voting for Biden anyway, I haven’t seen it,” the columnist said, while explaining why he will abstain from voting for a presidential candidate.

George Weigel, a distinguished senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, helped in March 2016 to initiate a petition urging Catholics to support alternative candidates to Trump during the Republican primary.

Weigel told CNA that he is grateful the Trump administration has defended religious freedom “at home and internationally” and has been “firmly pro-life.”

But the author lamented “continued coarsening of public debate, the deliberate polarization of opinion and sentiment, and the lack of any magnanimity toward opponents.”

Weigel said his focus is on the future. The author said that in his view both Trump and Biden are “seriously flawed in numerous ways.”

“My primary focus now is on building a political culture that doesn't, in the future, produce two such distasteful options. America can and must do better than this,” Weigel told CNA.

In an Oct. 28 column, Weigel pointed to the U.S. Senate as a critical aspect of the 2020 election.

American cultural renewal “will be more difficult if the Democratic party wins the presidency, the U.S. Senate, and the U.S. House of Representatives—and is thus able to enforce the agenda of lifestyle libertinism and intolerant 'tolerance' to which its platform commits it, especially in matters of the sanctity of life and the conscience rights of believers,” Weigel wrote.

“As the House will certainly have a Democratic majority in 2021-2022, prudence dictates maintaining a Republican Senate, irrespective of who is elected president,” he added.

Supporters told CNA that after reviewing his record, they think Trump’s policies are a more important consideration than his personal behavior.

“I’m happy with his policies. I don’t plan to have him over for dinner,” Christie said.

Pecknold acknowledged the importance of character in a president, but cautioned that character should not be “reduced to table manners.”

Political leaders, he said, “should be judged by whether their laws help a society to live in greater accord with virtue.”

 

San Francisco archbishop asks DA to prosecute Serra statue vandalism

Wed, 10/28/2020 - 17:56

Denver Newsroom, Oct 28, 2020 / 03:56 pm (CNA).- Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco has asked the Marin County district attorney to prosecute those arrested after an Oct. 12 riot at a mission church to the “full extent of the law,” after several of the rioters defaced and pulled to the ground a statue of St. Junipero Serra.

“This attack on a cherished religious symbol on our own church property is not a minor property crime, but an attack on Catholics as a people,” Cordileone wrote in an Oct. 26 letter to Lori Frugoli, the Marin County district attorney.

“If the perpetrators of this crime are not brought to justice, small mobs will be able to decide what religious symbols all people of faith may display on their own property to further their faith, and they will continue to inflict considerable spiritual suffering on ordinary Catholic people who would see our sacred spaces as unprotected by law.”

The riot that led to the statue’s destruction took place Oct. 12— which California and several other states mark as Indigenous Peoples Day— at Mission San Rafael Arcángel in San Rafael, about 20 miles north of San Francisco.

Critics have lambasted Serra as a symbol of European colonialism and the erasure of Native culture, and have in recent years sought to remove monuments to him and change the names of streets or landmarks named for him.

During the hourlong protest, organized by members of the Coast Miwok tribe, several masked people peeled off the duct tape and threw red paint in the statue’s face. At least five people can be seen pulling on the statue’s head with nylon cords and ropes.

Catholics rallied in a peaceful prayer demonstration the day after the riot, with Father Kyle Faller, parochial vicar at the mission, leading a rosary and urging the crowd of 75-100 people  to persevere in prayer, and offering a reflection on Jesus’ forgiveness in the face of persecution.

Cordileone performed an exorcism at the site of the statue Oct. 17, calling the statue’s destruction an “act of blasphemy.”

The San Rafael Police Department said in an Oct. 13 statement that five women had been arrested, issued citations and released, and that the cases had been forwarded to the district attorney’s office for prosecution. Police have also recommended charges for a sixth person they identified later, but whose name they have not released publicly.

Two of the women charged hailed from Oakland, one was a local, and two were from nearby communities.

Cordileone seconded the San Rafael Police Department’s request that the six individuals be charged with— in addition to trespassing and conspiracy— felony vandalism and vandalism in a house of worship, a hate crime.

Cordileone also thanked the police for their efforts. The department said they had worked with representatives from the Archdiocese of San Francisco to develop a plan in response to the Oct. 12 protest, as the protest’s organizers had announced the gathering on social media before it took place.

“I would like, on behalf of thousands of Catholics in the Bay Area and around this country, to thank the San Rafael Police both for arresting the miscreants and for being the first lawful civil authority to recognize that this crime they witnessed is a serious assault against a whole people’s right to display the religious symbols they wish on their own property,” Cordileone said.

Frugoli said last week that her office was reviewing the case and had not yet made a decision about whether to pursue criminal charges, the Marin Independent Journal reported.

Lucina Vidauri, one of the event’s organizers, told the Marin Independent Journal that the organizers of the demonstration never intended to vandalize the statue.

The demonstrators were calling for the mission to remove the Serra statue, and “it just got carried away,” she told the paper.

Vidauri declined CNA’s request for an interview.

CNA also attempted to contact Dean Hoaglin, chair of the Coast Miwok Tribal Council of Marin and another organizer of the Oct. 12 protest, for further information on the tribe and their reasons for opposing Serra, but did not receive a reply by press time.

The Coast Miwok people were the original inhabitants of what is today Marin and southern Sonoma Counties of California. The tribe gained federal recognition as the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria in December 2000.

In 2008, the former bishop of Sacramento, Francis Quinn, apologized to the Coast Miwok tribe that the Spanish “tried to impose a European Catholicism on the natives.”

The vandalism in San Rafael is the latest in a series of attacks on churches and Catholic statues across the country this year. On July 11, a fire under investigation for arson gutted the 249-year-old Mission San Gabriel in Los Angeles, a mission church founded by St. Serra.

During the eighteenth century, Serra founded nine Catholic missions in the area that would later become California, and many of those missions would go on to become the centers of major California cities. Though Serra himself did not found Mission San Rafael, it owes its existence to Serra’s legacy.

Serra’s defenders say that he was actually an advocate for native people, noting an episode of his life when he drafted a 33-point “bill of rights” for the Native Americans living in the mission settlements, and walked from California to Mexico City to present it to the viceroy.

While many Native peoples did suffer horrific abuse, an archaeologist told CNA earlier this year that activists tend to conflate the abuses the Natives suffered long after Serra’s death with the period when Serra was alive and building the missions.

The Benedict XVI Institute for Sacred Music and Divine Worship, a ministry of the archdiocese, on Oct. 28 announced a new fund, under the archbishop’s personal discretion and control, to support “ongoing efforts to advocate for fair treatment for faith communities in exercising their First Amendment right to worship and for protection of our holy ground from vandalism and mob attacks.”

Supreme Court adoption case could have national impact on religious liberty

Wed, 10/28/2020 - 17:30

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 28, 2020 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- As the Supreme Court prepares to hear a case touching religious liberty and adoption next week, one Washington couple will be watching closely.  

In 2019, Gail Blais and her husband James wanted to adopt her biological great-granddaughter, who is now just over one year old and currently in foster care. They were prevented from doing so by the state of Washington, because of their religious views against hormone therapy for gender dysphoria. The Blaises are Seventh-day Adventists.

As the Supreme Court hears oral arguments in another religious foster care case on Nov. 4, Fulton v. Philadelphia, its ruling could impact a number of other cases including the Blais’s.

“It shows what is coming next,” said Becket senior counsel Lori Windham on a conference call with reporters on Wednesday.

In the Fulton case, Philadelphia stopped contracting with local Catholic Social Services (CSS) on foster care referrals because CSS refused to work with same-sex couples. The city told CSS that it had to change its religious practice and work with same-sex couples, after which Philadelphia-area foster mothers joined CSS in suing the city, alleging a violation of religious freedom.

The case could decide the fate of other religious adoption agencies facing nondiscrimination ordinances, but according to Becket—which represents CSS—it could also impact prospective foster parents like the Blaises.

“If you are able to kick out these religious foster care agencies,” Windham said of Philadelphia’s ordinance, the next logical target for state and local nondiscrimination rules are “parents who have traditional views about marriage and sexuality.”

In Sept., 2019, Gail Blais’s biological great-granddaughter was born in Idaho but placed in foster care by the state. Gail and her husband James, who live in neighboring Washington, wanted to adopt the child but would have to receive a foster care license to do so. The licenses are dispensed by the Washington Department of Children, Youth, and Families.

A licensor from the state, Patrick Sager, then conducted a home visitation and interviewed the Blaises. He posed a series of hypothetical scenarios to the couple, asking them how they would react if their child eventually identified as a lesbian, or if she developed gender dysphoria and wanted to receive hormorne therapy.

The state department had enacted a policy in 2018 that forbids “discrimination or harassment” for children who identify as LGBTQ+ or are questioning their orientation.

According to district court Judge Salvador Mendoza, Jr., who eventually ruled in the Blais’s favor, the department apparently “applies Policy 6900 to prospective foster parents,” and the department sought to ensure an environment in foster homes that would affirm gender transitioning and LGBTQ+ ideology.

When the Blaises responded that they would love and support the child but could not assent to hormone therapy—according to their religious beliefs as Seventh-day Adventists—Sager was “alarmed,” according to court documents.

After that meeting, the Department sent the Blaises material on LGBTQ+ children and asked them to review it to “make a more informed decision about supporting LGBTQ+ youth in foster care.”

When Sager followed up with the Blaises on their application for a foster care license, the couple reiterated their faith-based stance against hormone therapy.

He asked them another series of questions, seeking their reactions to various scenarios involving their foster child: dressing as a boy, identifying as a lesbian and wanting to bring her girlfriend on a family trip or having a doctor’s order for hormone therapy.

When the Blaises repeated their faith-based stance to support their child but refuse to recognize fluid sexual orientation or gender identity, Sager encouraged them to drop their application - which that made in order to care for their own great-grandchild.

At a third meeting between the Blaises, Sager, and the Department’s LGBTQ+ head, the Blases answered in the same way as before.

The Department concluded they had reached an “impasse” in the process, after which the Blaises sued. The Department then denied their application for a foster care license.

The Blases then asked the court for a preliminary injunction granting them a foster care license. On Oct. 8, they won their case—in part. Judge Mendoza ruled that they couldn’t be denied a license based on their religious beliefs, but as they had not completed all the steps of the application process, he wouldn’t grant them a license. Instead, the Department would give them time to complete the necessary steps.

Mendoza called the Department’s policy a “religious gerrymander” against members of certain creeds.

“The Department denied the Blaises the privilege and benefit of providing foster care because of their sincerely held religious beliefs,” he wrote.

While the Department can take LGBTQ+ matters into account when considering prospective foster care licensees, it cannot make rulings based on hypotheticals—as it did with the Blases, Judge Mendoza wrote.

“If the only factor weighing against an otherwise qualified applicant has to do with their sincerely held religious beliefs, the Department must not discriminate against a foster care applicant based on their creed,” he said.

Senators condemn Chinese 'genocide' against Uyghurs

Wed, 10/28/2020 - 16:30

CNA Staff, Oct 28, 2020 / 02:30 pm (CNA).- A bipartisan group of senators introduced a resolution on Monday to declare China’s actions against the Uyghur population as a genocide. 

The Oct. 26 resolution was co-sponsored by Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ). Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD), Jeff Merekly (D-OR), James Risch (R-ID) and Maco Rubio (R-FL) also joined in the resolution. 

The resolution would express “the sense of the Senate that the atrocities perpetrated by the Government of the People's Republic of China against Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and members of other Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region constitutes genocide.” 

It would declare that China is violating the norms outlined in the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, and would trigger an international response to China’s actions.

"For far too long, the Chinese government has carried out a despicable campaign of genocide against millions of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims," said Cornyn. "This resolution recognizes these crimes for what they are and is the first step toward holding China accountable for their monstrous actions.”

Menedez said that there was “no question” that the Chinese government’s actions in Xinjiang constitute genocide. 

“Stopping a genocide is consistent with our national security and our values, and it starts by standing up and speaking the truth,” he said. Menendez added that he hopes President Donald Trump and Sec. Mike Pompeo will endorse the resolution and work to respond to China.  

Risch pointed to the Chinese government’s “systematic use of forced sterilization, abortion, and other practices” in the province of Xinjiang as proof they were committing genocide against an ethnic group. 

“I am proud to join colleagues on both sides of the aisle in introducing a resolution that defines them as such,” he said. “The United States and countries around the world must continue to draw attention to what is happening in Xinjiang.” 

Whistleblowers have come forward to report their participation in systematic campaigns of forced abortions and sterilizations on the Uyghur population.

Free nations “must urgently come together and press for an end” to the Chinese government’s actions in Xinjiang, said Rubio. He said there was a need to be “clear about the nature of these atrocities.” 

“Congress cannot – and must not – turn a blind eye to China’s shocking, systematic abuse of its Uyghur population, as well as of ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgz, and members of other Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region,” said Cardin. He added that human rights violations of this level “demand a forceful U.S. response.”  

“That is why I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing this resolution, which makes clear that the Senate will not shy away from calling these atrocities what they are: a genocide,” he said.

Catholic bishops back Title IX law on 'trans athletes'

Wed, 10/28/2020 - 13:00

CNA Staff, Oct 28, 2020 / 11:00 am (CNA).- The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has given its support to a new piece of legislation that aims to keep male athletes from competing in athletic teams and competitions for women and girls. 

Bishop Michael C. Barber, S.J. of Oakland and Bishop David A. Konderla of Tulsa sent a letter on October 27 to Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) and Rep. Greg Steube (R-FL), the lead sponsors of the Senate and House versions of the Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act, applauding their bill. 

The legislation would prevent entities receiving federal Title IX funds from allowing male students to participate in athletic programs and teams for female students. 

Barber is the leader of the USCCB’s committee on Catholic education; Konderla is the chairman of the subcommittee for the promotion and the protection of marriage. 

“Youth who experience gender identity discordance should be assured the right to participate in, or try-out for, student athletics on the same terms as any of their peers, in co-educational activities or, where sexes are separated, in accord with their given sex,” said the bishops, adding that “Harassment or unjust discrimination against them in this regard is unequivocally immoral.”

The bishops advocated for a “loving response” to these students, saying that it would assist in developing “a genuine peace with their mind and body, rather than facilitating drastic ‘transitions’ in pursuit of an identity fully independent of their physical body.” 

Allowing male students to participate in athletics with girls “can be both unfair, and especially in high-contact sports, unsafe,” said the bishops. 

While they acknowledged that some women have been able to play successfully in mostly-male sports, “any time a policy facilitating such male competition takes an athletic opportunity away from a female, it is a loss for basic fairness and the spirit of Title IX.”

Several female track athletes from Connecticut are presently suing the state’s interscholastic athletic conference after two students, born male but who identify as female, dominated the girl’s track competitions at the state level. The female athletes argued that the two male runners took away chances for them to compete on the national and state levels.

“In general, males possess distinct physical advantages in a number of sports, and this is already playing out in athletic events worldwide,” said the bishops.

“Their stature can also pose physical safety concerns in high-contact sports. Neither of these concerns is remediated by cross-sex hormone procedures which are required by some athletic associations for participation in sports of the opposite sex, as they do not fully address disparities in average muscle mass, bone characteristics, and lung capacity once puberty is underway (which is typically the case for student athletes).” 

The bishops also raised concerns that undergoing various hormonal therapies to better resemble their chosen gender could be harmful for an athlete. Lupron, a chemotherapy drug that is frequently prescribed off-label as a “puberty blocker” to children seeking to change their gender, has a side effect of reducing bone density. 

“The Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act would address these increasing questions in the important context of education, from primary school through college, and reestablish a fair and safe playing field for all children and young adults,” said the bishops.

“We can do better by all students, and should continue to uphold the progress made with Title IX in promoting the opportunities for women and girls.”

A history of anti-Catholicism: Telling the story of the Church in America

Wed, 10/28/2020 - 12:00

Washington D.C., Oct 28, 2020 / 10:00 am (CNA).- If you’ve ever seen an old cartoon of the pope taking over the White House but wanted to hold the original piece of paper, you’re in luck.

At the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., the special collections department has a trove of historical material, spanning centuries. From political smears of 1928 Al Smith, the first Catholic to be nominated by one of the parties to run for president, to the papers of a Massachusetts convent torched by mobs in 1834, U.S. Catholic history is a long and difficult story worth preserving and understanding.

The collection is “trying to tell the story of American Catholics writ large,” university archivist William Shepherd told CNA in an interview last week.

The Catholic University of America holds a particular place in U.S. Catholic history, founded by the country’s bishops under an 1887 papal charter of Pope Leo XIII.

While other Catholic universities have special historical collections too, the university is strategically located. Many Catholic organizations, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, are headquartered in the nation’s capital, several only blocks away.

Shepherd told CNA that the role of the archive is to help Catholics better understand their story in the United States, including a history of persecution. The university has saved and maintained a collection of old anti-Catholic literature, pamphlets, and cartoons.

Protestants who came to America from England brought with them their English anti-Catholic sentiments. On Nov. 5, many would burn an effigy of the pope on “Pope Night,” a commemoration of the English Guy Fawkes’ Day.

In 1834, mobs burned a Catholic Ursuline convent to the ground in Charlestown, Massachusetts. The university’s collection offers evidence of the level of anti-Catholic bigotry at the time. It includes documents on the convent’s founding, the work of the Ursulines in the Boston area, the burning of the convent, and the prosecution and acquittal of the rioters.

Another collection features attacks on 1928 Democratic presidential nominee Al Smith, which tried to smear him as a puppet of the pope. A cartoon ‘Cabinet Meeting - If Al Were President’ shows the pope and bishops sitting around a table drinking wine and liquor, during Prohibition. The Democratic National Committee donated the collection on Smith to Catholic University in 1929.

Other materials include anti-Catholic polemics. There is the 1729 “Letter from a Romish Priest in Canada to one who was taken captive in her infancy, and was instructed in the Romish faith,” by Francois Seguenot.

One 1928 flyer advertises a “lecture by ex-priest’s wife” Mrs. James K. Boyland, a common attempt at this time to portray the Church as a sort of cult. Another book review promotes the 1915 broadside on the Church by William Lloyd Clark, “Three Keys to Hell; or, Rum, Romanism, and Ruin.”

Catholics also fought back against such propaganda, and the archives tell of how they promoted themselves as good, patriotic Americans.

During the First World War, the National Catholic War Council was established to support U.S. intervention in the war—at the same time Pope Benedict XV was urging peace. Some American Catholics wanted to prove their patriotism amid anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant suspicion.

A papal mandate brought about the 1938 Commission on American Citizenship, a project which sought to teach democracy within the Catholic tradition, at parochial schools.

Other illustrations tell how Pope Pius XII was fighting Communism, opposition to which became an area of common ground for American Catholics and Protestants in the 1950s.

The collection also includes more recent USCCB material, documentation of Catholic labor history in the U.S., American Catholic artwork, and a rare books collection which goes back to the fifteenth century. There are more than 100 manuscripts from the fourteenth to the twentieth centuries, including papal bulls and choir books.

Papers of famous Catholics tell stories of diplomats and activists, like Monsignor John Ryan, who fought for a living wage and supported the New Deal, or the former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican, Mary Ann Glendon.

Academics and students visit to conduct research, but so do all kinds of Catholics, including journalists, and even high school students working on school projects will stop in and are welcome, said Shepherd.

Louisiana voters will decide whether to amend constitution to exclude 'right to abortion'

Tue, 10/27/2020 - 18:21

Denver Newsroom, Oct 27, 2020 / 04:21 pm (CNA).- Voters in Louisiana will decide Nov. 3 on a constitutional amendment, authored by a pro-life Democrat, which would prevent Louisiana’s courts finding a “right to abortion,” or to public abortion funding, in the state’s constitution.

Under Amendment 1, also known as the “Love Life Amendment,” the Louisiana constitution would be updated to state that “nothing in this constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.”

State Senator Katrina Jackson, a pro-life Democrat, authored the amendment when she was a state representative, along with dozens of co-sponsors from both parties.

The purpose of the amendment, Jackson wrote in an op-ed last week, is to ensure that the state’s courts cannot circumvent the state’s existing pro-life laws by finding a right to abortion in the state’s constitution.

This situation has already occured in 13 other states, most recently in Kansas, despite the fact, Jackson notes, that “the word abortion can’t be found in the Kansas Constitution.”

“It’s important to understand that Amendment 1 is not a ban on abortion. It simply keeps abortion policy in the hands of our legislators rather than state judges,” Jackson wrote.

Louisiana already has a “trigger law” that would ban abortion in the state— with some exceptions to save the life of the mother— should the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade.

“Our body of pro-life laws ensure that women are empowered with the truth about their pregnancy prior to an abortion, that minors seeking an abortion have parental consent, and that babies born alive following a botched abortion receive immediate medical care. Our law also makes sure that not a dollar of your state tax dollars fund abortion. Yet these laws and others are at risk unless we pass Amendment 1,” Jackson said.

Kristen Day, Executive Director of Democrats For Life of America, noted that over a dozen states have introduced proposals to write explicitly a “right to abortion” into their state constitutions.

In May 2019, Vermont’s legislature advanced Proposal 5, which would write a right to abortion into the state’s constitution. Before this can happen, it must be passed once again by the 2021-2022 legislature, and be approved by voters in the November 2022 election.

If the measure passes, Vermont would become the first state to list abortion as a constitutional right.

Louisiana's proposal would do the opposite, and would prevent the state's courts from finding a right to abortion or abortion funding in the future, Day said.

"Louisiana's a very pro-life state— nobody wants public funding of abortion, so if the legislature flipped and somebody wanted to try to fund abortion with state money, it would be clear that that is not constitutional,” she told CNA.

“Large majorities of people oppose public funding of abortion. And so to have those protections in there is important," she said.

"We're very hopeful that it will pass, and send a strong message to the rest of the country.”

Sophie Trist, a recent college graduate and activist with Democrats for Life, wrote in an Oct. 22 op-ed in The Advocate, a Baton Rouge daily, that Amendment 1 is consistent with Democratic principles, and that it will protect the will of Louisianans, at least 63% of whom identify as pro-life.

“A so-called right gained at the expense of another living human being is no right at all. I'm voting yes because killing another human being, no matter their circumstances, is never social justice,” she wrote.

Trist, who is blind, wrote that an abortion supporter once told her that she should favor abortion because it prevents disabled people, like her, from being born into suffering. “Sadly, I'm all too aware of how society often views those of us who are less developed, physically weaker, or less able-bodied, as less human,” she wrote.

“I had always respected a pro-life ethic before, but this encounter made me even more passionately pro-life because I know that every human life, including mine and those of unborn children in the womb, is worth living and worth protecting. The fact of the matter is that I love my life and am grateful to have been born,” she wrote.

Jackson also authored a bipartisan Louisiana law requiring that abortion clinics be held to the same standards as surgical centers, which the Supreme Court threw out in June.

Four justices ruled in June Medical Services, LLC v. Russo that Louisiana’s requirement that abortion doctors have admitting privileges at a local hospital would have made it “impossible” for abortion clinics to comply, without offering a significant health benefit for women. Justice Stephen Breyer authored the opinion, and Chief Justice John Roberts concurred to tip the court’s balance 5-4 against Louisiana’s law.

The Unsafe Abortion Protection Act, as Jackson’s law was known, received widespread support from both parties in the state legislature and was signed into law by then-governor Bobby Jindal (R) in 2014.

In Kansas, an effort during February to place a referendum on the Kansas ballot clarifying that abortion is not a constitutional right fell four votes short of the support needed in the House of Representatives.

The push for the referendum was instigated in 2019 after the Kansas Supreme Court blocked a 2015 law banning dilation-and-evacuation abortions, which are the most common procedure for second-trimester abortions and use suction devices and other equipment to dismember the fetus and remove it from the mother’s womb.

As part of the ruling, the Kansas Supreme Court determined for the first time that provisions of the state constitution dating back to 1859 extends to a “natural right of personal autonomy” regarding abortion.

The federal Hyde Amendment bars federal funds for abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment. Presidential candidate Joe Biden has said that he no longer supports the Hyde Amendment and would repeal it if he is elected.

At least 16 states currently use their own funds to pay for additional abortions outside of those conditions.

New Orleans archdiocese seeks laicization for all clergy credibly accused of sex abuse

Tue, 10/27/2020 - 16:45

Denver Newsroom, Oct 27, 2020 / 02:45 pm (CNA).-  

While allegations against two New Orleans-area priests have again raised questions about the Church’s response to clergy misconduct, the Archdiocese of New Orleans has confirmed that for the past two years it has been seeking to laicize clergy who have been removed from ministry for credible reports of sexual abuse.

“In the Archdiocese of New Orleans, very soon after the publication of the 2018 Clergy Abuse Report, conversations began in an effort to seek the laicization of those living clergy that had been removed from ministry for abuse of a minor and this is in process,” Sarah McDonald, communications director at the New Orleans archdiocese, told CNA Oct. 26.

“This is a highly technical canonical process and clergy have canonical rights that must be respected.”

On Oct. 1. the archdiocese announced the removal from ministry of Father Pat Wattingy, who on that day self-reported sexually abusing a minor in 2013. The archdiocese said the priest admitted the abuse after undergoing psychological treatment and going on a spiritual retreat this summer, the New Orleans CBS affiliate WWL-TV reports.

The St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Office investigated and then issued a warrant for the priest’s arrest on four counts of molestation of a juvenile, alleged to have taken place between December 2013 and December 2015. He was arrested as a fugitive at his home in West Point, Georgia on Oct. 22 and extradited to Louisiana.

“Mr. Wattigny stated that he knew he had warrants in Louisiana but that he did not know that we would catch him,” said the West Point Police Department's incident report on the arrest.

The priest faces additional controversy concerning allegations that he sent inappropriate text messages to a minor at a Catholic high school where he was recently chaplain.

In Pearl River on Sept. 30, 37-year-old priest Father Travis Clark, recently the pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul Parish, has been charged with obscenity after he was discovered filming himself in sex acts with two women on the altar of the parish church.

A local resident told police they noticed the lights were on in the church and looked through the windows, discovering the three people. One of the women is reported to be a self-avowed satanist. Archbishop Aymond has since performed a penitential rite required for continued use of the church for sacramental purposes.

Both Clark and Wattigny have been asked to “seek laicization immediately,” McDonald told CNA. If the priests do not request to be laicized by the Vatican, each could be laicized as the result of a formal canonical trial.

“The removal of Clark and Wattigny from priestly ministry marks the first time Archbishop Aymond as Archbishop of New Orleans has had to remove an active clergyman from ministry for abuse or scandal.” McDonald said. Aymond became New Orleans’ archbishop in August 2009.

While priests who are found by a canonical process to have committed an act of serious sexual abuse can be laicized, or removed from the clerical state, other priests who have been credibly accused of abuse but not found guilty in such a process remain clerics, even if they will not be returned to priestly ministry.

Under canon law, a priest or deacon has the right to housing and minimal financial support if he has not been formally laicized, even if he is not eligible for priestly ministry. Dioceses have sometimes been criticized for payments to priests accused of abuse but not laicized, even while the diocese is canonically obliged to make some provision for them.

In addition to those laicized after a canonical penal process, priests can also be laicized at the discretion of the Vatican if they request it, or if the diocesan bishop makes such a request under limited circumstances established by the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy in 2009.

The Archdiocese of New Orleans did not offer specifics about its efforts to laicize priests accused of abuse.

At least seven diocesan priests on the archdiocese’s list of 72 credibly accused clergy are still living, according to the New Orleans Advocate. This list does not include accused religious clergy who are under their religious orders’ jurisdictions.

In the New Orleans archdiocese, benefits to accused priests had included retirement benefits, until a federal judge overseeing its Chapter 11 bankruptcy said that the archdiocese could only pay for health insurance.

Archbishop Aymond held a day of prayer, fasting and atonement on Friday, Oct. 23 and encouraged the Catholic faithful to participate, especially those feeling wounded.

“We know that it’s been a very challenging time in our archdiocese, for a number of reasons, especially because of the news we have received recently about two of our priests who have not fulfilled their vocation,” he said in an Oct. 19 video at the archdiocese’s YouTube channel.

“It is important that we come together as a community of faith and pray for the wounds of our Church: personal wounds and the wounds that so many are feeling at this time, with a sense of disappointment and betrayal,” he said.

“I’m asking you specifically to enter into fasting if you wish to, to enter into prayer, and we are providing for you a Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which helps us to get into the heart of Jesus, to give him our suffering, and to ask him for the healing and peace that he alone can give,” said the archbishop.

“Let us also pray for all the victims of abuse. They need our prayers and support as we reach out to them,” he said.

On Oct. 16, Aymond met with all the archdiocese’s priests regarding the scandal caused by the two priests.

The Council of Deans and the Presbyteral Council, both composed of leading priests in the archdiocese, wrote an Oct. 16 letter on behalf of the 335 priests of the archdiocese. While acknowledging that some have questioned his leadership, the letter voiced the clergy’s support for the archbishop.

The letter gave an account of the meeting, reporting an “open and honest dialogue” with the archbishop followed by time together in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, then a collective renewal of their ordination promises by the archbishop and the clergy together.

“He exhorted all of us to pray regularly for victims of sexual abuse. At the end of his remarks, all of us present stood in unanimous support of Archbishop Aymond,” said the letter, which the archdiocese carried on its website.

“We emphatically support Archbishop Aymond and his leadership of our local church,” the priests’ letter continued. “Archbishop Aymond is a dedicated, faithful, and holy priest of Jesus Christ. He has always faithfully served the people of God throughout his priesthood.”

“While the archbishop did not create the problems of sexual abuse, he has always courageously addressed the issue,” said their letter. They characterized Aymond’s decision to publish a list of credibly accused clergy as a “bold step.” In their view, the archbishop has acted quickly to any new allegations

“While the last few years have been difficult, we believe that his leadership is helping to shed light on the darkness of the past, to heal past wounds, and to renew the Church in New Orleans,” said the letter.

“Although a small number of priests have betrayed us and you, we commit ourselves and our lives wholeheartedly to the mission of Jesus Christ made present in the Church,” said the priests. “Be assured that the Church cannot and will not tolerate any sexual abuse or misconduct on the part of any cleric.”

Before his arrest on an obscenity charge and removal from ministry, Father Clark had been named to fill Wattigny’s role as chaplain at John Paul II High School in Slidell, Louisiana. Wattigny had resigned from the faculty in July.

The details of Father Wattigny’s recent misconduct involving texting are still in dispute.

On Oct. 2, Aymond told the principal of John Paul II High School that Wattigny allegedly sent inappropriate texts to a male student.

Although the student’s parents and attorney first alerted the archdiocese in February, school administrators were allegedly not told, and Wattigny was allowed to remain in ministry at the school until the end of the academic year.

According to a letter written by Aymond to parents of the school, reported by the Advocate, the texts did not contain “sexual references or innuendo” but still violated the archdiocesan policies about communication with youth.

The priest was reportedly admonished by archdiocesan officials to stop sending texts but permitted to remain in ministry at the school. He remained chaplain until he sent additional texts to at least one student and was reportedly sent by the archdiocese for a psychological evaluation.

Bill Arata, an attorney for the student, has said the priest’s texts had the aim of grooming the teen. Among other things, the priest asked the student repeatedly when he would turn 18. The priest texted the boy late at night, the attorney said, and his texts contained suggestive remarks. The attorney said he was told in June that the priest was being sent for a psychological evaluation. He said sending the priest for an evaluation confirms that the archdiocese knew the texts were not appropriate.

In an Oct. 9 statement, Aymond said Wattigny would never again serve in public ministry, and defended an archdiocesan decision not to remove Wattigny from the school when reports that he was sending inappropriate text messages first arose in February.

 

 

 

'One of our own': Catholic leaders welcome Amy Coney Barrett to Supreme Court

Tue, 10/27/2020 - 14:00

CNA Staff, Oct 27, 2020 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- Catholic bishops, academics, and policy experts hailed the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court on October 26. Barrett was confirmed Monday evening in a senate vote that mostly divided along party lines. 

Barrett is now the sixth practicing Catholic justice at the Supreme court, joining Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Thomas, Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor, and Brett Kavanaugh. In addition, Barrett will join Sotomayor as the only two Catholic female Supreme Court Justices in U.S. history.

Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans hailed Barrett, a Louisiana native, as “One of our own” on Monday evening. “We pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to lead her and guide her in her service to our country.”

Bishop Richard Stika of Knoxville, Tennessee, also added his congratulations to Barrett via Twitter, as did Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas.

Barrett’s arrival at the Supreme Court was also welcomed by her former colleagues at the University of Notre Dame, where she was both a law student and professor for several years.

“On behalf of the University of Notre Dame, I congratulate Amy Coney Barrett on her confirmation today by the United States Senate as a justice of the United States Supreme Court,” Fr. John Jenkins, C.S.C., president of the university said in a statement. 

“Recognized by experts from across the spectrum of judicial philosophies as a superb legal scholar and judge, she is an esteemed colleague and a teacher revered by her students. Justice Barrett becomes the first alumna of Notre Dame Law School and the first Notre Dame faculty member to be so honored,” Jenkins said. 

“We join her family and friends in celebrating this momentous achievement, and we assure Justice Barrett and all her colleagues on the nation’s highest court of our continued prayers in their work of administering justice and upholding the Constitution.”

Jenkins’ sentiment was echoed by G. Marcus Cole, the Joseph A. Matson Dean and a professor of law at Notre Dame Law school. Cole said he was “immensely proud of our alumna, colleague, and friend on this momentous occasion.” 

“For more than two decades, we have been blessed by her brilliant scholarship, her devoted teaching, and her thoughtful, open-minded approach to legal questions,” said Cole. He referred to Barrett as not only a “brilliant” scholar, but also as someone who is “exemplary” kind and generous. 

“While we will miss her presence on our campus and in our community, we look forward to witnessing these qualities as she serves on our nation’s highest court,” said Cole. 

Born in New Orleans, Barrett attended the University of Notre Dame Law School before clerking for D.C. Circuit Court Judge Laurence Silberman and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. She then entered private practice, returned to Notre Dame Law School to teach classes in 2002, and became a professor in 2010.

During her confirmation process, Barrett became a target for criticism by both media commentators and Democratic lawmakers, with multiple stories focusing on her religious beliefs and family.

Princeton professor Dr. Robert George, referencing the controversy over Barrett’s reported affiliation with the charismatic group People of Praise, posted a picture of himself and the now-justice on his Twitter account following her confirmation. 

“With my favorite Handmaiden of the Law,” he said. 

Brian Burch, the president of CatholicVote, said that Barrett’s confirmation “especially energized” Catholics in the United States. 

Justice Barrett clearly demonstrated she has the qualities, knowledge, and skill needed to be a fair and independent Justice for every American. Senators that voted to confirm Justice Barrett are to be commended for focusing on her eminent qualifications and commitment to fairness and the rule of law, rather than the ugly anti-Catholic attacks that threatened to tarnish this process,” he said.  

Dr. Grazie Christie, a policy advisor for The Catholic Association, called Barrett’s confirmation “great news for all Americans who prefer a fair and independent judiciary to an activist one.”

“Judge Barrett has demonstrated that she will equally apply the law to everyone who comes before her and faithfully interpret the Constitution as written. Her profound knowledge of the law is only matched by her exemplary character,” she said. 

Christie called Barrett a “role model for women and girls who aspire to reach the highest levels of accomplishment.” 

Mississippi abortion decision due as Amy Coney Barrett joins Supreme Court

Tue, 10/27/2020 - 12:05

CNA Staff, Oct 27, 2020 / 10:05 am (CNA).- As new Justice Amy Coney Barrett takes her seat at the Supreme Court, one of the first decisions on her desk will be the court’s consideration of whether to review Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban.

Last Thursday, Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch asked the Supreme Court to review the case of the state’s law banning most abortions after 15 weeks. The law had been blocked by a district court in 2018, and an appeals court judge upheld that ruling in December, 2019. Mississippi then appealed the case to the Supreme Court.

The case has been distributed at the Supreme Court for consideration; as soon as Friday, Oct. 30, justices could decide whether to accept the case for review.

The Senate confirmed Barrett to the Supreme Court on Monday, and she was then sworn in to the Court by Justice Clarence Thomas at the White House. A former law professor at the University of Notre Dame, Barrett is a Catholic mother of seven children, including two adopted children from Haiti. She served on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals after being confirmed by the Senate in 2017.

During her 2020 confirmation hearings, Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee asked her to opine on the Court’s abortion rulings, including on Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Barrett declined to do so, repeatedly affirming that it would be improper for her to speculate on cases that could appear before her as a future justice.

However, Barrett said at her nomination ceremony in September that her judicial philosophy is that “a judge must apply the law as written.” She has also said she believes in applying relevant Supreme Court precedent to cases, where it exists.

In her 2017 written responses to the Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire, as she was being considered for the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, Barrett wrote that “[w]here precedent applies, it controls.”

“If precedent does not settle an issue, I would interpret the Constitution with reference to its text, history, and structure,” she said.

On one abortion-related case at the Seventh Circuit, Barrett sided with the court majority against pro-lifers, citing Supreme Court precedent.

The court ruled in favor of the city of Chicago’s “buffer zone” rule that forbade pro-life sidewalk counselors from approaching within eight feet of abortion facilities. The majority opinion in the case cited Supreme Court precedent in Hill v. Colorado in siding with the city’s rule.

Mississippi’s law allows for abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy only when the mother’s life or major bodily function is endangered, or when the baby has a severe abnormality and would not be able to survive outside the womb at full term.

Fifth Circuit court Judge Patrick Higginbotham ruled in December of 2019 that states such as Mississippi could regulate abortions pre-viability, but could not pose an “undue burden” on abortion or ban abortions pre-viability.

In recent years, the Supreme Court has ruled against two state abortion laws in Texas and Louisiana that required abortion facilities to adopt the health standards of ambulatory surgical centers.

In June, Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the court majority to strike down Louisiana’s abortion law. He cited Supreme Court precedent, in the court’s 2016 ruling against Texas’ law—despite saying that the 2016 case was “wrongly decided.”

El Paso bishop asks for prayer, smaller Masses as coronavirus cases increase

Mon, 10/26/2020 - 21:01

CNA Staff, Oct 26, 2020 / 07:01 pm (CNA).- Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso has called for prayer and a small capacity of attendees at Mass, as a coronavirus case surge in the area has overwhelmed local hospitals.

“Our entire community ought to be very concerned about the unprecedented number of positive cases that were reported today. Clearly this virus, which is a mortal threat to many, is spreading unchecked at this time,” Seitz said in a video statement Oct. 22.

According to the AP, El Paso County health officials reported that as of Oct. 25 the county had 772 new coronavirus cases, one day after 1,216 new cases were reported. El Paso county now comprises 20% of the total new coronavirus cases in Texas.

El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego said Oct. 25 that area hospitals had been “stretched to capacity” and issued a stay at home order for El Paso residents, with a curfew between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Overwhelmed local hospitals have reported sending overflow patients to San Antonio area hospitals, and the governor has authorized the city’s civic center to be used for at least 50 additional hospital beds.
Seitz noted in his statement that, according to health officials, the main sources of the spread of the coronavirus have been stores and restaurants.

“If any good news came out of the mayor’s press conference today, it is that no cases are known to have originated in any of our Catholic churches,” Seitz said. “We believe our limits to the capacity that may gather in churches, plus the careful safety protocols that are in place will continue to ensure that people can be present for Mass without serious risk.” However, he noted, those who have chronic illnesses or are older and therefore in higher risk categories should “refrain at this time from attending.”  The bishop also recommended that pastors consider lowering the capacity of people they allow in their churches from 25% to 15% “if they choose, given the circumstances of their particular church.”
“I urge you to continue to pray for our entire community and especially for those who are ill at this time, and for our leaders. You are in my prayers as well. United in love for one another, we will come through these difficult times. God bless you,” Seitz concluded.
As the U.S. economy slowly reopened this summer, public Masses also resumed in most dioceses, following weeks to months of closure due to the coronavirus pandemic. Masses reopened with limited capacity and social distancing among other safety protocols, though nearly all dioceses have maintained the dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and holy days.
Bishops have grappled with the ever-changing status of coronavirus outbreaks, as the fall months have brought about spikes in cases in states such as Texas, Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Montana.
Bishop David Ricken of the Diocese of Green Bay had initially lifted the dispensation from Sunday Mass attendance the weekend of Sept. 19-20, only to reinstate it two weeks later after cases spiked in the area.

On Oct. 19, the five bishops of Indiana announced that they were extending the dispensation from Sunday Mass until further notice. “While commending our pastors and pastoral life coordinators who have gone to great lengths to assure safe worship spaces in our churches, given the continued increase of COVID-19 cases in our state, the Indiana bishops hereby extend the dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation beyond Nov.1, 2020, until further notice,” the bishops stated. “The Indiana bishops will continue to monitor the situation to determine when it might be advisable to modify or lift the dispensation,” they added.

Deacon Rob Lanciotti is a permanent deacon in Colorado who holds a doctoral degree in Microbiology. He was employed as a virologist for the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention for 29 years.

In an Oct. 16 column for the Denver Catholic, Lanciotti said he encouraged Catholics in low-risk coronavirus categories to continue attending Mass, as it has shown to be a relatively safe activity, particularly given the safety protocols that most churches have put in place.

“Back in June as we began returning to Mass, I wrote from my perspective as a virologist with experience in public health that attending Mass for most people was a relatively low risk event.
The past several months have convinced me that this is still the case,” he wrote.

“Overall, the public health response and the media focus has been disproportionate to the threat,” he added. “Catholics should focus on the facts and not be manipulated by the press.”

Lanciotti noted that tests of the rate of infection, done in ten U.S. cities, have shown a low infection rate of 5%, with the exception of New York City at 20%.

Furthermore, he said, “there is a clear age and health relationship between COVID-19 infection and serious outcomes. Coronavirus infection is significantly less serious than annual flu for those in the 0-24 age category, about the same as annual flu for the 25-45 category, more serious than flu for those in the 45-64, and significantly more serious in those over 65; especially with pre-existing health conditions.”

People in lower risk categories, such as young people in good health, should therefore still feel safe attending Mass, he said.

Individuals and families, rather than the government, should be the ones trusted to make decisions about whether to attend church or other activities, he added, following the principle of subsidiarity, which “teaches us that those closest to the situation under consideration are best suited to make correct decisions.”

“For example, a healthy couple with young children should approach returning to Mass differently than an elderly couple with pre-existing health conditions, because the risk is objectively different for the two categories,” Lanciotti wrote.

However, he added, their risk assessment should also take into consideration their potential to infect higher risk populations.

“I can attest from my 30 years of experience in public health that government and public health officials detest subsidiarity, because they believe that it is their role to inform and guide your decisions. Unfortunately, they are unable to assess every situation and therefore generally overreact.”

“Without hesitation, I can say that for the majority of individuals, attending Mass at this time is a low-risk endeavor. Finally, as should be obvious to us, Mass attendance is of paramount importance for our salvation and therefore we should do all we reasonably can to participate in this great liturgy!”

Los Angeles archdiocese offers Dia de los Muertos resources amid pandemic

Mon, 10/26/2020 - 20:26

CNA Staff, Oct 26, 2020 / 06:26 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Los Angeles is helping Catholic students and their families celebrate Día de los Muertos amid the pandemic this year, with online videos and craft kids for Catholic students.

Instead of the usual in-person cultural events, the archdiocese’s Office of Religious Education and Catholic Cemeteries & Mortuaries will offer pandemic-friendly initiatives to help school children and their families learn about Día de los Muertos.

Dia de los Muertos, or “Day of the Dead,” is a primarily Mexican way of celebrating the feasts of All Souls Day and All Saints Day.
The celebration is an expression of Latin American culture and Catholic beliefs, which makes use of some familiar symbols to teach and celebrate the Church’s teaching on the communion of the saints and the souls in purgatory.

Annual celebrations typically involve skeletal costumes and face makeup, parades and processions, as well as traditional foods such as “pan de muerte” (bread of the dead) and sugar skulls (calaveras).

Over the past 6 years, the archdiocese has hosted special catechetical programs for local Catholic school students on this day. Normally, about 15 local Catholic schools send over 350 third-grade students to Calvary Cemetery & Mortuary in East Los Angeles to learn more about the celebration.

Plans for this year are different, due to the coronavirus pandemic. On Oct. 26, Catholic Cemeteries and Mortuaries provided 12 local Catholic schools with special Día de los Muertos crafts kits, containing materials for students to create art projects teaching them about the day.

Day of the Dead celebrations traditionally include sugar skulls, picture frames, and paper flowers to decorate shrines for deceased relatives.

This year, the archdiocese will also offer a series of education videos online, so students can learn about the meaning and history of Día de los Muertos with their families. The video will cover topics including the final resurrection, treatment of the dead, and the faith and cultural traditions associated with the Day of the Dead.

“The videos will guide students on creating a sacred space, or altar, in their home to pray and remember family and friends who have passed,” the archdiocese said in an Oct. 26 statement.

Among the schools participating this year will be Our Lady of Guadalupe in East LA, Our Lady of Guadalupe in Rose Hill, Our Lady of Miraculous Medal in Montebello, and Sacred Heart in Lincoln Heights.

Last year, Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Alex Aclan told CNA that the day is a powerful reminder about the communion of saints and a way to help parishioners remember their dead loved ones.

“For Mexicans to celebrate Dia de los Muertos, my experience is the remembering of the dead is really the most important part of it. Making sure that the dead are remembered, that their deceased are remembered, and that we really are one with them even though they're on the other side and we're still here,” the bishop said.

“And that's basically our teaching on the communion of saints. The different parts of the Church: the ones in Heaven, the ones that are still on their way trying to find their way to the gates of Heaven, and us here on Earth, and we are still together as one. We are still one Church.”

Senate votes to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court

Mon, 10/26/2020 - 20:08

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 26, 2020 / 06:08 pm (CNA).- The Senate on Monday voted to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. Barrett is expected to take the oaths of office administered to every incoming Supreme Court Justice in a White House ceremony Monday evening.

The 52-48 vote, which fell largely along party lines, came shortly before 8pm Monday evening and after a rare Sunday session day for the chamber in which senators voted to clear the way for Barrett’s confirmation vote on Oct. 26.

Republican Sen. Susan Collins joined Democrats in opposing Barrett’s confirmation. Following the vote, a formal resolution of confirmation is sent to the White House for President Trump’s signature. 

Justice Clarence Thomas is expected to administer the official Constitutional Oath to Barrett at the White House on Monday night, a senior White House official confirmed to CNA.

Barrett will be the sixth practicing Catholic justice at the Supreme court, joining Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Thomas, Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor, and Brett Kavanaugh. In addition, Barrett will join Sotomayor as the only two Catholic female Supreme Court Justices in U.S. history.

Born in New Orleans, Barrett attended the University of Notre Dame Law School before clerking for D.C. Circuit Court Judge Laurence Silberman and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. She then entered private practice, returned to Notre Dame Law School to teach classes in 2002, and became a professor in 2010.

Barrett is a Catholic mother of seven children, including two adopted from Haiti. She is a member of the ecumenical charismatic group People of Praise, and her membership in the group was the subject of some scrutiny in the press during her confirmation process. Some have called the group a “cult” and criticized its former practice of referring to husbands and wives as “heads” and “handmaidens,” both Scriptural references.

However, Bishop Peter Smith, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Portland, is a member of a group of priests associated with People of Praise. He explained to CNA that the group was one of many lay charismatic movements that emerged in the Church after the Second Vatican Council, and presented an opportunity for Catholic families to live their faith more intentionally.

In 2017, Barrett was nominated to the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and faced hostile questions from senators concerning the influence her Catholic beliefs might exert on her judicial reasoning.

During Barrett’s confirmation hearing, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) questioned Barrett on her personal faith and values, saying that “when you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you. And that’s of concern.”

Barrett in 1998 co-authored an article with law professor John Garvey on the possibility of Catholic judges recusing themselves in capital cases, due to the Church’s teaching on the death penalty.

In 2017 and again in 2020, Democratic senators brought up the article. Barrett said in her 2017 written responses that “I cannot think of any cases or category of cases, including capital cases, in which I would feel obliged to recuse on grounds of conscience if confirmed as a judge on the Seventh Circuit.”

Barrett also told committee chair Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) that her faith would not influence her rulings on the Court. 

During Barrett’s confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court, Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee largely stayed away from references to her faith, instead asking her to opine on existing Supreme Court rulings including those that legalized contraception and abortion.

Barrett clerked for Justice Antonin Scalia and has previously spoken of his influence on her judicial philosophy. Notre Dame law professor Paolo Carozza told CNA that Barrett’s legal philosophy is one of “judicial restraint.”

However, Barrett repeatedly told senators during her confirmation hearing that while she clerked for Scalia and shared his judicial philosophy, she was not the same person as the late justice and would rule on cases based on how she saw fit.

Barrett did consider multiple abortion cases while on the Seventh Circuit.

She joined the court’s majority in upholding Chicago’s eight-foot “buffer zone” rule that prohibited pro-life sidewalk counselors from approaching within eight feet of an abortion facility. The majority opinion cited the “binding” Supreme Court ruling in Hill v. Colorado, another “buffer zone” case.

The group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has petitioned the Supreme Court to hear a challenge to Pittsburgh’s 15-foot “buffer zone” rule; the Court has yet to accept or refuse the case of Nikki Bruni and other pro-life sidewalk counselors.

Barrett will join the Court a week before oral arguments are scheduled in a key religious freedom case, Fulton v. Philadelphia; the case could decide other court battles where local governments have required faith-based adoption agencies to match children with same-sex couples

The Catholic Social Services (CSS) of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia saw its contract for foster care placements halted by the city of Philadelphia in 2018 because of its faith-based stance on marriage.

The city had told Catholic Social Services and Bethany Christian, another group providing foster care placements, that they had to work with same-sex couples on foster care placements in order to continue their contracts. While Bethany Christian maintained its organizational support of traditional marriage, it agreed to work with same-sex couples on foster care placement; Catholic Social Services would not, and has had no new placements through the city.

Sharonell Fulton and Toni Simms-Busch, who have fostered more than 40 children and who partnered with Catholic Social Services, brought the case against the city that is currently before the Supreme Court.

As Coloradans consider late-term abortion ban, statistics shed light on Colorado clinic

Mon, 10/26/2020 - 19:06

Denver, Colo., Oct 26, 2020 / 05:06 pm (CNA).-  

Coloradans are preparing for a ballot referendum that would ban abortion after 22 weeks of pregnancy in the state. While abortion advocates argue that such abortions are “extremely rare,” statistics recorded by a longtime Colorado abortionist shed light on the late term abortions performed at one Boulder clinic.

The data reveals hundreds of late-term abortions performed over a 20-year period on babies with fetal abnormalities such as Down syndrome.

Warren Hern, an abortionist who has been active in Boulder, Colorado since 1975, released a paper in 2014 which included many self-reported statistics about the abortions his clinic performed between 1992 and 2012.

The statistics show that Hern's clinic performed hundreds of abortions between 1992-2012 on women who were at or past 24 weeks pregnant, including several performed on women between 38 and 39 weeks gestation.

Nearly 240 of those late-term abortions were performed on babies with Down syndrome.

The self-reported statistics only cover abortions Hern performed for reasons of fetal abnormality, which in some years made up just 2.5% of the thousands of abortions he performed.

Colorado remains one of the only a handful of states that does not have some legislation on  late-term abortion. As a result, abortions can take place in the state up until birth.

The Boulder Abortion Clinic is one of just a handful of clinics in the U.S. that publicly accept patients seeking late-term abortions from anywhere in the world.

Colorado voters are set to decide on Proposition 115 in November, which asks voters whether to ban abortion in the state after 22 weeks of pregnancy, except in cases where a mother’s life is threatened.

More than 150,000 Coloradans signed a petition to put Prop. 115 on the ballot, which has garnered bipartisan support.

A poll conducted in early October by 9 News / Colorado Politics found that among 1,021 registered likely voters, 42% of respondents said they are certain to vote yes on Prop. 115; 45% said no, while 13% are uncertain.

If the late-term abortion ban passes in November, it would mark the first time since 1967 that Colorado would impose voter-approved restrictions on abortion.

While some abortion supporters claim the phrase “late-term abortion” is “imprecise and misleading,” Hern uses the term “late abortion” throughout his paper.

Hern reports that between Jan. 4, 1992 and Oct. 31, 2012, just more than 1,000 women requested a “late abortion” for reasons of fetal disorder.

Abortion supporters frequently cite CDC data from 2016— data which excludes abortion hotspots like California, Illinois, New York state, and Washington DC— to argue that abortions after 21 weeks gestation make up only 1.2% of all abortions performed in the US and are thus “extremely rare.”

In Colorado, the percentage of abortions performed after 21 weeks is higher than the national average, at 3.3%— a figure higher than any other state in the CDC’s data except New Mexico.

The statistics do not account for the fact that women have traveled from other states to Boulder for decades to avail themselves of Hern’s late-term abortion services. At least 11% of all abortions performed in Colorado are on out-of-state residents, according to the CDC data.  

Each year, about 200 to 300 babies are aborted after 21 weeks gestation in Colorado. Dilation and evacuation abortions are typically used in the second trimester of pregnancy, and result in the crushing of the head and eventual dismemberment of an unborn child.

The trend in Hern’s statistics suggest that the proportion of all patients seeking abortions because of fetal disorders increased over time from 2.5% to 30%.

Hern credited this increase to “gradual change in clinic policy to accept patients with more advanced gestations, more requests for late termination of pregnancy because of fewer options being available elsewhere, and advances in fetal diagnosis.”

“Genetic disorders”— as opposed to “structural anomalies”— were the most common disorders among the babies aborted, appearing in 40% of cases.

Of those cases, 63% of the genetic disorders were Trisomy 21, commonly known as Down syndrome. Hern reported 237 total abortions of babies with Down syndrome.

The most common “structural anomalies” reported were neural tube defects such as anencephaly and spina bifida; but some of the babies were aborted for reasons such as extra fingers or toes, cleft hands or lips, or because two twins were conjoined. 

The median age of all 1,005 patients in Hern’s study was 32, and the median gestational age was 24 weeks, or five and a half months. He said many patients who request abortions after 30 weeks have had their fetus evaluated as “normal” around 18 to 20 weeks.

Patients seeking particular kinds of abortions at Hern’s clinic tended to request abortions, on average, around eight months into their pregnancies.

For example, some patients carrying twins requested an abortion for one of the twins—“selective termination”— usually because of a fetal abnormality.

Hern writes that in these cases, the abortions were generally done after 32 weeks— more than seven months— gestation to “permit optimum development and survival probability for the healthy twin.”

Patients seeking “selective termination” or “induced fetal demise”— an injection to kill the fetus before the abortion operation— tended to be in their mid-30s in age. Hern said these patients typically request abortions between 33 and 36 weeks— over eight months— gestation.

Several of his patients suffered major complications, including major unintended surgery, hemorrhage requiring transfusion, and pelvic infection, he reported.

A Nebraska couple filed a lawsuit against Hern and the Boulder Abortion Clinic in 2015, alleging that Hern left a nearly two-inch piece of a fetus’ skull inside a patient’s uterus during a late-term abortion, apparently forcing a patient to undergo a hysterectomy.

In 2016, Hern was the subject of a congressional investigation into the practices of late-term abortionists. The panel requested information on any infants who were born alive at his clinic and the babies’ records thereafter. According to the Denver Post, Hern refused to provide any of the requested documentation, calling the panel a “witchhunt.”

During May 2019, Hern argued in a New York Times op-ed that because women are more likely to die in childbirth than from complications related to an abortion, “pregnancy is dangerous; abortion can be lifesaving.”

Dr. Mary Jo O’Sullivan, a high-risk obstetrician and Professor Emeritus of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Miami, responded at the time that although any pregnancy carries some risk, it is not a “serious” threat to a woman’s health, especially in the United States where maternal deaths are still very rare, even in rural areas.

Opponents of Colorado’s late-term abortion ban, including groups like Abortion Access for All, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America have raised millions of dollars to attempt to defeat the proposition.

If the ballot measure becomes law, doctors would face a three-year license suspension for performing or attempting to perform an abortion of an unborn child beyond 22-weeks of gestation. Women would not be charged with seeking or obtaining an abortion.

The Catholic bishops of Colorado asked voters to support the ban in a June 30 letter and placed the ballot measure under the patronage of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, also known as Mother Cabrini, who aided orphans and immigrants in her time in Colorado.

In addition, the Catholic Medical Association and a group of more than 130 medical professionals and scientists in Colorado have backed Proposition 115.

Colorado was the first state in the nation to decriminalize abortion. The initial legislation, signed into law April 25, 1967, allowed abortion in certain limited cases: rape, incest, or a prediction of permanent mental or physical disability of either the child or mother. Six years later, the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade declared abortion a constitutional right nationwide.

Abortion-rights groups in Colorado have touted the fact that for a time during the pandemic, many women from other states were traveling to Colorado to take advantage of the state's permissive abortion laws.

Abortion clinics in states like Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico, which did not introduce any pandemic-related restrictions on abortion, saw increases in patients traveling from other states, such as Texas, to undergo the procedure during spring 2020.

 

 

Catholic Florida man reinstated as university senate president by student court ruling

Mon, 10/26/2020 - 19:00

CNA Staff, Oct 26, 2020 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- Florida State University’s Student Supreme Court has reinstated Jack Denton as president of the Student Senate. Denton was removed from his post in June over comments in a private chat group for Catholic students which were subsequently circulated to a member of the senate.

In a decision issued Monday, the university court wrote that Denton “contends that his removal as Senate President was improper because the vote of no-confidence was based on unconstitutional retaliation for his private statements in the Catholic Student Union group chat, expressing his religious beliefs, and thus was in violation of his First Amendment rights to Freedom of Speech and Expression.”

“We agree,” the court found. 

In the group chat, Denton had expressed concerns that policy positions of certain groups, such as the ACLU and BlackLivesMatter.com, contradicted Church teaching on abortion, marriage, sexuality, and policing, and cautioned students to be aware of those positions before they donated to the groups.

He was subsequently accused of transphobia and racism by fellow students and, after a first vote of no-confidence in him failed, he was removed in another vote of the student senate June 5. Denton filed suit against the student senate’s decision in both the university court and in federal court.

The student court found Oct. 26 that “the discussion did not mention the Senate or Student Government Association once, but, in contrast, mentioned religion and God a number of times. As a private citizen, [Denton] was endowed the privileges guaranteed by the Constitution and thus is not barred from bringing this claim under the First Amendment,” the court said.

The court ruled that “the Student Government Association at Florida State University, with its robust network of student advocates and their vast knowledge of public policy and the ever-changing mores of society, [declared that it] possesses such authority as to decide in which cases the United States Constitution is to apply, and in which cases it is not. Unfortunately, for Jack Denton, his case was one in which the Senate felt these rights did not apply.”

Tyson Langhofer, Senior Counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, which has been representing Denton in his claims, responded to the announcement on Monday, calling it “commendable.”

“All students should be able to peacefully share their personal convictions without fear of retaliation. As the FSU Supreme Court concluded, the senators ‘during debate reveal that they were neither tolerant nor respectful’ of Jack’s religious beliefs, ” said Langhofer.

“We commend the FSU Supreme Court for acting swiftly and decisively to reinstate Jack to his position as FSU’s Student Senate president while his federal lawsuit continues and for acknowledging the violations of his constitutionally protected right to free speech.”

The FSU court’s decision to reinstate Denton followed an earlier federal court decision which said ordering his return to office “could produce tumult and chaos” and “would, in fact, cause more harm than good.” The student court disagreed, finding that if Denton was not reinstated it “would only deter participation’ in the university’s student government” by other students of faith. 

On Oct. 9,  a federal court ruled that Denton’s claim of a violation of his free speech rights had a likelihood of success, and ordered FSU to pay Denton for six hours of work a week, for the remainder of what would have been his term as student senate president.

The judge granted Denton’s motion for preliminary injunction in part on Friday, ordering that he resume receiving his salary; however, he did not order that Denton be reinstated as president of the student senate.

The federal case is ongoing. University officials have not disputed the facts of the case, but challenged their liability.

Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, the chair of the U.S. bishops’ religious freedom committee, called Denton’s removal part of a “soft despotism” of anti-religious intolerance in the U.S., in June.

Even though he had privately posted “defenses of, basically, Catholic moral teachings,” Wenski said, “that was a step too far for many of these new Jacobins we see around.”

Senate set to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to Supreme Court Monday evening

Mon, 10/26/2020 - 10:45

CNA Staff, Oct 26, 2020 / 08:45 am (CNA).- Amy Coney Barrett is expected to be confirmed to the Supreme Court  on Monday evening, after the Senate held a rare Sunday session during which a majority of senators moved to advance her nomination to a full vote.

In a 51-48 vote on Sunday, senators moved to invoke cloture on Barrett’s confirmation—setting a time limit on the debate over her confirmation, with a final vote at the end to confirm her to the Supreme Court. She was nominated by President Trump to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Court, on Sept. 26.

Barrett, a Catholic, currently serves as a judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, and is a former professor at the University of Notre Dame School of Law. If confirmed to the Supreme Court, she would be the sixth Catholic on the bench, with a seventh, Neil Gorsuch having been baptized Catholic but now practicing as an Episcopalian.

Sunday’s cloture vote fell largely along party lines, with two Republicans—Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)—voting with Democrats against bringing up the final vote on Barrett. Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Angus King (I-Maine) also voted “No.”

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, did not vote on Sunday as she was campaigning in Michigan ahead of election day on Nov. 3. She told reporters on Saturday that she would vote against Barrett in the final confirmation vote.

Senators spoke from the Senate floor on Barrett’s confirmation throughout Sunday afternoon and evening, and into Monday morning.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said that Barrett “represents a threat to women’s reproductive rights” and warned that if confirmed, “she would likely be the court’s most extreme member on reproductive rights.”

When the Senate Judiciary Committee was considering Barrett’s appointment to the Seventh Circuit in 2017, Feinstein opined that Barrett’s Catholic faith could improperly influence her judicial opinions on matters like abortion. Feinstein told Barrett “when you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s a concern.”

Last week, Barrett’s nomination advanced out of the Senate Judiciary Committee with a unanimous favorable recommendation, after 10 committee Democrats boycotted the vote.

From Oct. 12-15, the committee held four days of hearings featuring statements from senators and from Barrett herself, questioning of Barrett, and witness testimonies for or against Barrett’s confirmation.

Senators grilled Barrett on a number of issues including health care, voting rights, and abortion and contraception.

Barrett repeatedly refused to opine on previous Supreme Court rulings, saying that she did not want to influence any possible case she might have to consider as a justice; she explained that she wanted to offer “no hints, no previews, no forecasts.”

Senators asked Barrett multiple times about Griswold v. Connecticut, the Court’s 1965 ruling that legalized contraception; while Barrett refused to opine on the ruling, she emphasized that “Griswold is very, very, very, very, very, very unlikely to go anywhere.” 

Regarding the Court’s legalization of abortion in the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, Barrett would not say that it is “super precedent,” or a legal theory that certain Supreme Court rulings have been upheld so many times and are seen as institutional and cannot be challenged.

Some senators warned on Sunday that Barrett could undo legal contraception on the Court.

 “I can’t even imagine going back to Griswold v. Connecticut—a time when we had to fight just to have contraception,” said Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.).

Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) said that Barrett could rule on contraception cases such as those of the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate, which businesses and religious non-profits including the Little Sisters of the Poor challenged in court.

He also said she could rule with other “conservative” justices “as a bulwark against further expanding privacy protections in family life.” As an example, he noted the case Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, for which oral arguments are scheduled at the Court in November.

That case involves the Catholic Social Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, which had contracted with the city on foster care placements but saw its contract stopped in 2018 when the city demanded that it work with same-sex couples.

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