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Updated: 36 sec ago

Nuns praying for looters after attack on Catholic bookstore

1 hour 33 min ago

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 2, 2020 / 06:00 am (CNA).- On Saturday, protests in Chicago over the death of George Floyd turned violent. As rioters targeted the city’s Magnificent Mile shopping district, shattering glass and raiding stores, they picked an unlikely target: A bookstore run by nuns. 

As the Daughters of St. Paul cleaned up the broken glass the next day, they said they saw more clearly their mission to evangelize a wounded culture.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Our Sisters in Chicago are all safe, but our bookcenter was broken into and looted last night during the riots. <br>Please pray for our Sisters. <br>And pray for peace. <a href="https://t.co/Wzmkfpry6j">pic.twitter.com/Wzmkfpry6j</a></p>&mdash; Sister Bethany, fsp (@SrBethanyFSP) <a href="https://twitter.com/SrBethanyFSP/status/1267192262481543169?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">May 31, 2020</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

Today “there is a lot of fear, there is a lot of confusion” and “many conflicting messages,” Sister Tracey Matthia Dugas of the Daughters of St. Paul told CNA in an interview.

“How do you find your peace in the midst of all of that?” she asked, “and now what we’re dealing with is this question of violence and how do you deal with that?”

“All we can do is bring them Jesus and the Gospel, and His Word, and allow Him to speak to them. So what we’re trying to do is foster every person, every child of God, to know God as a good father who will provide,” Dugas said.

The Daughters of St. Paul run the Pauline bookstore in downtown Chicago near Millennium Park. It lies just south of the Magnificent Mile of upscale retail stores and fashion outlets, which were the targets of looters on Saturday evening. Video of the Saturday protests circulated online show looting of Nike and Saks Fifth Avenue stores on Michigan Avenue. Some volunteers helped clean the area up on Sunday.

Protesters took to the streets in Chicago and nationwide last weekend to protest the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis on May 25. Floyd was pinned to the ground with an officer’s knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes, and several other officers apparently kneeling on the rest of his body.

Demonstrations against Floyd’s killing and of police brutality were held around the country late last week and throughout the weekend. Chicago was the site of one of the large protests. Earlier on Saturday featured participants peacefully sitting down on Lake Shore Drive. According to the Chicago Tribune, protesters blocked traffic on the street around 5:30 p.m.

Around 10 p.m. on Saturday, Dugas said the nuns at the Michigan Ave. bookstore were informed that looters were targeting businesses in the area, and that a nearby building was on fire. The sisters remained upstairs above the bookstore, safely out of range of the street-level riots.

Around 11 p.m. the glass alarm for the bookstore sounded, Dugas said. The nuns knew that looters were hitting the glass, but they did not go down to the bookstore to investigate. More alarms sounded through the night, around every two hours, Dugas said, before the last alarm sounded at around 4:30 a.m.

“It was very scary, because each of those times we didn’t know if they were inside, and how far they wanted to get into the store,” Dugas told CNA.

Later Sunday morning, the sisters surveyed the damage downstairs. The glass front doors to the bookstore were broken, as well as the glass front panel of the store. The cash drawers inside the bookstore were detached and the contents pilfered.

While one of the Daughters of St. Paul tweeted on Sunday morning that she “bet people were really disappointed when they got home and found that all they had to show for it was a handful of religious books,” Dugas said she is unsure what, if any, books were actually taken. Of more concern to her was the chapel with the Blessed Sacrament on the ground floor behind the bookstore, which survived the night unscathed. “We just are really grateful for that,” Dugas said.

As tweets circulated about what happened to the bookstore, support began pouring in for the nuns both online and in the form of volunteer help.

“People are telling us what our ministry has meant to them, and what our presence means to them, and that they feel that having had this happen was a violation and should never happen to anyone,” Dugas said.

A friend at Chicago’s cathedral reached out to check on the nuns, and Bishop Robert Barron of Los Angeles—the former rector of the Chicago archdiocese’s Mundelein Seminary —reached out to the sisters to say “that he really, really has always valued our mission, and feels that if he can do anything to help us, to just let know” Dugas said.

One family helped the nuns clean the broken glass outside the store, and another group helped clean up inside. The front entrance and front windows are now boarded up.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">On today&#39;s NunBlog: Pauline Bookstore Chicago Looting Update and How You Can Help <a href="https://t.co/wRZ0zJqiA7">https://t.co/wRZ0zJqiA7</a> <a href="https://t.co/AWFZd1G4SS">pic.twitter.com/AWFZd1G4SS</a></p>&mdash; Sister Anne (@nunblogger) <a href="https://twitter.com/nunblogger/status/1267470125281824768?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">June 1, 2020</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

“Our main concern is fire. That’s our main concern, if they managed to get some kind of flammable into the store,” Dugas said. “It seems that they came with quite a lot of equipment.”

Despite the unsettling nature of the incident, Dugas said it emphasized the critical nature of the sisters’ mission of evangelizing in the spirit of St. Paul.

“That’s what St. Paul was all about, meeting them where they really are,” Dugas said, noting that the pandemic had already pushed the nuns to “adapt” to new means of reaching minds and hearts.

“We really are meant to be a family that helps each other, that serves one another, and that forgives,” she said.

Citing COVID risk, Davenport bishop calls for release of detained migrants

6 hours 51 min ago

Denver Newsroom, Jun 2, 2020 / 12:42 am (CNA).- Bishop Thomas Zinkula of Davenport, Iowa has written a letter to the local homeland security chief asking for the release of three detained immigrants from Guatemala.

The bishop says that the three men are non-violent offenders who pose little risk to the community.

“The present COVID-19 pandemic places immigrants being detained in a very vulnerable situation,” he says in the letter, addressed to Michael Hindman, Homeland Security Chief of Cedar Rapids.

Zinkula told CNA that he read about the situation of the three men and their families in the local press and in emails from the Iowa City Catholic Worker House.

Jose Cerillo and his two brothers-in-law, Jacinto Cuyuch-Brito and Juan Daniel Cuyuch-Brito, were arrested March 4 in a Cedar Rapids immigration raid, according to local media. They were charged with possessing false work documents or entering the country illegally.

Jose’s wife, Juana, spoke at a May 6 press conference in Cedar Rapids. She said that law enforcement officers knocked on the door of their apartment shortly before 7 a.m. on March 4. The officers broke down the door, and searched their clothes and phone contacts, she said, according to The Catholic Messenger.

Juana said she was questioned for more than two hours. At the May 6 press conference, said she was worried about her husband, who is being held in Linn County Jail, which has seen at least two confirmed cases of the coronavirus.

Jose has a serious heart condition, his wife said, making him more likely to experience serious or fatal complications from COVID-19.

“We're just here to work. We come here because we have to, out of need,” Juana said, according to the Des Moines Register. “If one of us gets it and we ended up dying, we won't get to see each other again.”

Jacinto Cuyuch-Brito’s wife, Rosa, is also struggling with her husband’s absence. She and her baby boy – who was just two months old at the time of the arrest – have moved into the local Catholic Worker House, because they cannot afford to pay rent with her husband detained.

Bishop Zinkula said he was struck by Rosa’s story and wanted to see if there was a way that he could help. While writing a letter is a simple action, he said he thought “maybe given my role, I could give it a little more attention.”

The letter argues in favor of allowing the men to return home to their families while the await their court proceedings.

“Providing less restrictive sanctions will reduce the risk of exposure to the coronavirus for these three nonviolent individuals, those who are in jail for legitimate public safety reasons, and jail staff continuing their frontline essential public safety work,” the bishop writes.

Zinkula said his proposal would help protect the vulnerable and honor family unity without compromising public safety.

“These are basic principles of [Catholic] Social Teaching – the dignity of each and every human life,” Zinkula told CNA. “We’re all children of God, and everyone should be treated with respect. This is just an application of that principle. Here’s this real-life situation, where it doesn’t seem like that’s happening.”

He noted a CDC analysis in April which found that among correctional and detention facilities reporting statistics, 86% of jurisdictions had inmates testing positive for coronavirus. Because social distancing is difficult in prison environments, jails throughout the country have become hotspots for the virus.

Zinkula has not received a response to his letter, which was sent May 7, but is still hopeful that the three men will be released from detention.

The bishop encouraged the faithful to “look at the situation through a Catholic lens rather than a political lens. Remember, we’re Catholic before we’re members of a particular party.”

“Immigrants are fellow human beings, brothers and sisters in Christ and they need to be treated with dignity and respect,” he said. “They are here, and no matter how they got here, they are fellow human beings and so we need to treat them like they are.”
 

Religious freedom foes seek to leverage coronavirus controversies

Mon, 06/01/2020 - 20:00

Denver Newsroom, Jun 1, 2020 / 06:00 pm (CNA).-  

The Center for American Progress, a longtime critic of religious freedom protections, has claimed churches seeking equal treatment under coronavirus public health rules have been “distorting religious freedom into a license to spread the coronavirus.” But religious liberty experts disagree.

Churches “argue that religious freedom should essentially overrule all other rights,” Center for American Progress staff said in a May 6 commentary. “Using religious freedom as an excuse for continuing to hold in-person gatherings is one of the most alarming examples yet in their attempt to redefine the principle.”

But Teresa Stanton Collett, a law professor at the University of St. Thomas, disagreed with that claim.

Religious liberty “exemptions simply honor the promise of religious liberty contained in our state and federal constitutions,” Collet told CNA May 29.

“They also represent a more robust understanding of human needs – needs that extend beyond mere physical existence. They are similar to, but different from the exemptions for journalists and reporters. Both exemptions are grounded in constitutional protections recognizing our need for human connection and communication.”

The Center for American Progress has claimed that officials in at least 20 U.S. states “discriminated in their implementation of public health orders by including religious exemptions.”

“Giving religious communities a free pass to remain open, thereby spreading the virus, has never been based on evidence-based public health guidance,” said center staff. “Those exemptions were made to acquiesce to certain conservative religious leaders, politicians, and legal advocacy groups who advance a narrative that conservative Christians are being persecuted in this country.”

While the center tried to depict these policies as conservative, it listed several Democrat-controlled states with religious exemptions.

Those states include New York, whose March 20 order did not order houses of worship to close but “strongly recommended no congregate services be held and social distance maintained.” Massachusetts’ March 22 order recognized workers at places of worship as essential and exempted these places from closure, but still limited gatherings to no more than 10 people. Colorado’s April 1 order allowed houses of worship to open, provided they “practice social distancing or use electronic platforms.”

A minority of those who contract the coronavirus will suffer severe symptoms and require hospitalization, and severe cases can be deadly. Over 102,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus, out of some 1.75 million confirmed cases, according to Friday figures from Johns Hopkins University’s Covid-19 Dashboard.

The Center for American Progress’ May 6 commentary, “The Plan for Reopening Houses of Worship After the Coronavirus Crisis,” built on previous critiques. Its March 27 commentary, written early in the epidemic, bore the threatening title “Religious Exemptions During the Coronavirus Pandemic Will Only Worsen the Crisis.

Richard W. Garnett, law professor at Notre Dame Law School, told CNA that these Center for American Progress commentaries “repeat their standard, but incorrect, claim that religious freedom advocates are ‘misusing’ religious freedom principles and laws in order to burden or harm others, are claiming an ‘absolute’ right to override general laws, and are trying to assert, in the name of religious freedom, a ‘license to discriminate’.”

“This is hyperbole,” Garnett continued. “In fact, religious freedom advocates and litigators contend that because religious freedom is foundational and fundamental -- as both international human rights law and the American tradition recognize -- it is appropriate for governments to take care not to burden religious practice unless it is necessary to advance a compelling public interest.

“Not all religious exemptions can be granted and religiously motivated conduct is not immune from reasonable regulation. But, in our tradition, if we can accommodate religious practices, then we should.”

The Center for American Progress also criticized the religious liberty legal groups Becket, Alliance Defending Freedom, and Liberty Counsel, saying they “have been twisting religious freedom into a license to attack vulnerable populations for years before the pandemic.”

The legal groups were among those supporting more than a dozen state and federal lawsuits seeking to reduce or lift limits on in-person religious worship.

According to Collett, however, equality is one principle at the center of lawsuits from churches and religious communities challenging epidemic restrictions. The government “cannot restrict religious communities and activities more than similar non-religious groups and actions,” she said.

In the case of Greenville, Mississippi, the city allowed drive-in restaurants to operate under coronavirus restrictions but tried to fine attendees at a drive-in church service $500 per person.

“After legal action was initiated, the mayor reversed his positions. As U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr said in his statement supporting the churches, ’religious institutions must not be singled out for special burdens’,” Collett said.

It is “irrational and unconstitutional,” she added, to allow retail stores to open with social distancing requirements while prohibiting religious gatherings of more than 10 people in spaces built to accommodate 200 or more.

A more contested principle in these debates, said Collett, is the claim that religious beliefs, communities and activities are “uniquely valuable” and any restriction must have “greater justification,” like other First Amendment rights of speech and assembly.

“This is the principle that some governors and mayors relied on when they declared religious activities to be among the state’s essential services,” she said. “Under this principle, the government can temporarily shut down movie theaters and concert venues, while permitting worship services and public masses to continue.”

Garnett echoed these comments. Despite some outlier cases, religious communities “have agreed that reasonable, temporary limits on in-person gatherings are justified by public-health concerns.”

“Mainstream religious-freedom advocates and religious leaders agree that generally applicable, non-discriminatory restrictions on in-person gatherings may be applied to religious services.,” he said.

“They also insist, appropriately, that if our knowledge and the evidence are such that officials determine that some gatherings or group activities are permissible, it is wrong to discriminate against religious gatherings that are similar to those that are permissible,” Garnett continued. “There are lines to be drawn, of course, and comparisons can be difficult, but it would seem that if a casino or a theater can open safely then so can a religious gathering.”

Some of the legal arguments cited by the Center for American Progress themselves seemed to justify this approach.

“As exemptions (for critical infrastructure) pile up, churches have a legitimate beef. When governments fail to apply burdens across the board, the argument that the government must restrict public gathering for worship in the name of the public’s health becomes less compelling,” the legal scholars Robin Fretwell Wilson, Brian A. Smith, and Tanner J. Bean said in a March essay quoted by the center’s staff. These scholars contended that this meant there needs to be “fewer exemptions, not more.”

CNA sought comment and clarification from the Center for American Progress.

Maggie Siddiqi, director of the think tank’s Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative and co-author of the two commentaries, responded:

“As our nation surpasses 100,000 deaths from Covid-19, we would urge states and localities to avoid allowing any large gatherings, including at houses of worship. Numerous outbreaks of the virus have been documented at houses of worship, even when congregants were attempting to practice social distancing. The right to religious freedom is not a license to spread the virus and put communities at risk. We applaud the leadership of the vast majority of houses of worship in our nation that are saving lives by continuing their services while keeping their building doors closed.”

Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons, another think tank co-author, was critical of the Trump administration’s religious freedom concerns about Centers for Disease Control guidelines.

In a May 14 commentary for CNN, Graves-Fitzsimmons said “the administration is once again trying to unfurl the banner of what it might describe as religious freedom, this time as cover for a premature push to reopen the economy.”

The Center for American Progress appears to envision continued limitations on religious worship.

“Even once stay-at-home orders are lifted, gatherings of more than 50 people will need to continue to be banned until herd immunity has been achieved through mass vaccination,” it said May 6. “These continued limitations will have a profound impact on religious communities and will require creative responses.”

However, a group of Catholic clergy and public health experts has put out guidelines on the sacraments and the restoration of public Masses through the Working Group on Infectious Disease Protocols for Sacramental and Pastoral Care, a project of the Thomistic Institute at the Pontifical Faculty of the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C.

One member of the group, infectious disease expert Timothy Flanigan, M.D., told CNA May 21 that the critical question is not necessarily whether it is safe to go to Mass, but whether a religious congregation or any other group gathering is following CDC protocols to decrease the risk of transmission. These protocols include safe distancing, good hand hygiene, staying home if sick, and wearing masks.

“Following that guidance is so important for all of us to do,” he said. “Whether it’s in a mall, whether it’s in a supermarket, whether it’s in an office building, whether it’s in a meeting.”

Flanigan is a professor of medicine at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and a permanent deacon in the Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island.

Clusters of Covid-19 infections have taken place around the world at elder care facilities, hospitals, meat processing plants, religious venues, worker dormitories, prisons, schools, sports events, bars, shopping venues, and conferences.

Churches have drawn special concern in part because the novel coronavirus is uniquely difficult and deadly for the elderly who develop symptoms, and some congregations tend to be disproportionately elderly.

Flanigan did not comment on any particular outbreak related to religious venues, but he noted that many incidents of contagion took place prior to the adoption of preventative guidelines.

Collett noted the apparent changing situation of the United States months after the arrival of the coronavirus.

“As our experience and knowledge of the disease, as well as our circumstances change, it is only right that our judgments are changing. And it is not surprising that we still reach different conclusions,” she said.

“Most Americans accepted that a brief shutdown of most of civil society was both necessary and desirable given the unknown nature of the disease, and the frightening images and numbers of deaths in Italy, and then New York City,” she said. “However, as we gain more knowledge about the disease, and see the harm accumulating from continuing isolation and inactivity, more and more ’exemptions’ arise.”

As CNA has previously reported, the Center for American Progress is a participant in a multi-million dollar campaign to limit religious freedom protections, especially where these conflict with the claims of LGBT or pro-abortion rights advocates.

It was founded by John Podesta, a former chief-of-staff for President Bill Clinton and campaign manager for Hillary Clinton’s unsuccessful 2016 presidential run. In 2016, Podesta drew attention after leaked emails implied he had backed several political Catholic groups for a so-called “Catholic Spring” revolt against the U.S. bishops.

 

Trump says he will dispatch troops if riots continue

Mon, 06/01/2020 - 19:45

Washington D.C., Jun 1, 2020 / 05:45 pm (CNA).- During a speech from the Rose Garden on June 1, President Donald Trump pledged to deploy the U.S. military if state governors do not move to activate their National Guards to stop violent protests.

The president then walked across a square that moments before had been filled with protestors forcibly removed by police units, and visited a historic Episcopalian church that had been on fire the night before.

“I am mobilizing all federal resources--civilian and military--to stop the rioting and looting. To end the destruction and arson, and to protect the rights of all law-abiding citizens,” said Trump during his speech.

The president said that it was his “first and highest duty as president” to protect the country and the American people, and added that all Americans were “rightly sickened and revolted by the brutal death of George Floyd.”

Floyd, 46, died after a Minneapolis police officer held him on the ground during an arrest, his knee on Floyd's neck, even after the man said he could not breathe. The officer has been charged with murder. Throughout the country, protests and riots have been ongoing for the past week in response to Floyd’s death. Some of the protests have turned violent.

U.S. bishops have largely expressed support for peaceful protestors, and have condemned racism, police brutality, and the violent riots tha have gripped cities across the country.

“The killing of George Floyd was senseless and brutal, a sin that cries out to heaven for justice. How is it possible that in America, a black man’s life can be taken from him while calls for help are not answered, and his killing is recorded as it happens?” U.S. bishops conference president Archbishop Jose Gomez said in May 31 statement.

“We should all understand that the protests we are seeing in our cities reflect the justified frustration and anger of millions of our brothers and sisters who even today experience humiliation, indignity, and unequal opportunity only because of their race or the color of their skin. It should not be this way in America. Racism has been tolerated for far too long in our way of life,” Gomez added.

“It is true what Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, that riots are the language of the unheard. We should be doing a lot of listening right now. This time, we should not fail to hear what people are saying through their pain. We need to finally root out the racial injustice that still infects too many areas of American society.”

“But the violence of recent nights is self-destructive and self-defeating. Nothing is gained by violence and so much is lost. Let us keep our eyes on the prize of true and lasting change,” the archbishop added.

In his June 1 speech, Trump stated that “justice will be served” and that Floyd “will not have died in vain.”

The president referred to himself as “your president of law and order,” and “an ally of all peaceful protestors.”

“But in recent days, our nation has been gripped by professional anarchists, violent mobs, arsonists, criminals, rioters, Antifa, and others,” he said.

Earlier on Monday, Trump spoke to the governors of states, and he stated that he believed many of them had failed on a statewide level to protect their citizens. He said he ordered them to “dominate the streets” with the National Guard, and to have an “overwhelming” law enforcement presence to prevent further violence.

”We are ending the riots and lawlessness that has spread throughout our country. We will end it now,” said Trump.

Appearing to invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807, the president said that if governors refused to activate their National Guard units, he would “deploy the US military and quickly solve the problem for them.”

The last time the Insurrection Act was invoked was during the Los Angeles riots in 1992.

The president faced criticism, and a conflict with Twitter, last week for a May 29 tweet that again suggested the possibility of military action, and said "when the looting starts, the shooting starts."

Trump later said his tweet was not intended as a threat against protestors or rioters.

On Monday, Trump cited various acts of violence and vandalism that have occurred during the protests and riots, including the desecration of war memorials, beatings of people, the shooting death of a law enforcement officer in California, and the attempted arson of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington, DC. A fire was set in the basement of the church, which has been attended by every U.S. president.

Some protestors across the country have said that while violence and looting is unacceptable, some peaceful protests have turned violent only when police have fired tear gas or non-lethal projectiles at demonstrators. Trump's speech did not addess that charge.

“These are not acts of peaceful protests. These are acts of domestic terror,” Trump said.

“America needs creation not destruction; cooperation not contempt; security, not anarchy. Healing, not hatred. Justice, not chaos. This is our mission, and we will succeed 100%,” said Trump. “We will succeed. Our country always wins.”

Following the speech, the president walked from the Rose Garden to St. John’s Episcopal Church for a photo with members of his cabinet. The president did not enter the church, but returned to the White House after the photograph.

Churches in 6 states damaged by violent protests

Mon, 06/01/2020 - 19:00

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 1, 2020 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- Catholic churches and cathedrals in several cities were among the buildings damaged in the protests and riots that occurred nationwide over the past week.

Church buildings in California, Minnesota, New York, Kentucky, Texas, and Colorado were attacked. Many of the defaced or damaged churches were cathedrals. The Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Denver sustained permanent damage. 

Vandals repeatedly struck the Denver cathedral on multiple nights of the protests and riots over the weekend. The church building and rectory were spray painted with the slogans “Pedofiles” [sic], “God is dead,” “There is no God,” along with other anti-police, anarchist, and anti-religion phrases and symbols. 

Gates surrounding the cathedral were damaged, and tear gas that was fired to disperse the protests leaked into the rectory. The doors to the cathedral are believed to have been permanently damaged by the vandalism and will reportedly need to be replaced. 

Three bags of rocks were collected from the parking lot, but the cathedral’s most valuable windows were unharmed. Other windows on the cathedral’s campus were shattered.  

St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City was tagged with various graffiti, including profanities, “No justice, no peace,” “BLM” (Black Lives Matter) “NYPDK.” The name of George Floyd was also written on the stairs outside the cathedral.

Floyd’s killing by a Minneapolis police officer on May 25 sparked a week of ongoing protests in cities across the country, some of which descended into violence.

In New York City, surveillance video captured two women spray painting the cathedral on Saturday afternoon, during the protests in the city. Police are looking to identify both women and are offering a reward. 

On Sunday, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York and chairman of the Commission of Religious Leaders (CORL), issued a joint statement condemning the death of Floyd as well as violence and looting. 

“We respect those who want to honor George Floyd’s memory with peaceful protest against the horror, evil, and sin that is racism,” the statement said. 

“We also support the members of Floyd’s family who said, in part, ‘We cannot endanger each other as we respond to the necessary urge to raise our voices in unison and in outrage. Looting and violence distract from the strength of our collective voice.’” 

In Dallas, the Saint Jude Chapel located in the city’s downtown area was severely damaged by rocks late Friday evening. 

“We did have some vandalism at St. Jude on late Friday night. They threw a couple of these rocks through the window,” said Fr. Jonathan Austin, chaplain of the chapel, during his homily at Sunday’s Mass. Austin held up one of the rocks that was thrown through the window. 

Austin said that when he watched a surveillance video of the vandalism, he doubted that the vandals knew that they were even attacking a church, and that he suspected they were “breaking things to break things.” 

“I looked in their eyes and I thought, ‘wow, they don’t even know.’ Just the smile that was there, that this was a good thing,” he said. 

Three windows at the front of the chapel were shattered, and the chapel was boarded up as a result.

“These panes of glass are nothing,” said Austin. “Glass breaks all the time, sadly. But last week, Mr. George Floyd’s life was taken. It was taken by a man who did not respect it.” 

Austin added that he believed the “vast, vast majority” of people throughout the country were “not rising up for something bad, but for something good.” He urged everyone to “stand for true peace,” and offered prayers for Floyd, his family, and others who lost their lives to “horrific acts, especially at the hands of authorities.” 

The Daughters of St. Paul bookstore in Chicago was similarly damaged by rocks, and would-be looters entered the store early on Sunday morning. Earlier in the day, the Blessed Sacrament was removed from the tabernacle in the bookstore’s chapel and the sisters sequestered themselves upstairs. 

None of the sisters were injured, and upon doing a review of inventory, found that nothing had been stolen. 

The rectory of the Cathedral of the Assumption in Louisville suffered damage due to rocks thrown by protestors. Three windows were shattered late Friday evening, and the cathedral proceeded to preemptively board up all other windows to prevent further damage. 

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, who resides at the damaged rectory along with another priest, has spoken out in favor of peaceful protests and condemned “senseless violence” in the city. 

In Minneapolis, where the protests began, St. Mary’s Basilica--the first basilica in the United States--sustained minor damage during protests on May 29. A fire was lit underneath a pew, but it did not spread beyond that pew. 

“The Basilica of Saint Mary did withstand minor damage yesterday. No one was injured in the incident. At the time we pray for peace and healing in our city,” a spokesperson for the basilica said in a statement issued May 30. The basilica is the co-cathedral of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

In Los Angeles, the Our Lady of Mt. Lebanon-St. Peter Cathedral, the Maronite cathedral for the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon, was vandalized with anti-police messages during the protests and riots. 

 

Tur Levnon / Heritage and Liturgy Department
Sad day for our cathedral in USA.
Vandalism against Our Lady of Mt. Lebanon-St. Peter Cathedral, the Official Seat of the Maronite Eparchy Our Lady of Lebanon in Los Angeles, California. pic.twitter.com/QirKfrk26r

— Tur Levnon (@turlevnon) June 1, 2020  

On Monday, the cathedral shared a video of people painting over the graffiti. 

“Peace to all !! Our Cathedral is shining again,” wrote the church on Facebook. 



Courage director responds to Austrian book on same-sex Church blessings

Mon, 06/01/2020 - 18:11

CNA Staff, Jun 1, 2020 / 04:11 pm (CNA).- Blessings of homosexual couples in the Catholic Church would only obscure knowledge of what is important and good about persons with same-sex attraction, according to the director of Courage International.

“We need to have hope that some, perhaps many, of the people who propose things like these liturgical blessings for same-sex couples are motivated by good intentions. They do not want anyone to feel excluded by the Church, and so they look for ways to honor and recognize members of the parish in public ceremonies,” Fr. Philip Bochanski told CNA May 26.

Courage International provides pastoral support, prayer support, and fellowship for people with same-sex attraction who want to live chaste lives according to Catholic teaching.

"The Benediction of Same-Sex Partnerships" is a recently published, German language book which considers how homosexual couples might receive a formal, liturgical blessing of their union in the Church.

According to the book’s author, it was written in response to a request from the liturgical committee of the Austrian bishops’ conference.

Fr. Bochanski explained that pressing for blessings of same-sex couples “restricts rather than expands our understanding of what is good and important about our brothers and sisters.”

“To suggest that without a recognized sexual relationship (marriage or something like it), we are expecting people to live lonely, loveless lives, overlooks the fact that there are many kinds of love -- charity, affection, friendship, to name a few -- that are real, vital loves in their own right and not consolation prizes for people who aren't married. We appreciate love less, not more, by insisting on same-sex unions.”

The Church, he said, should “speak the truth in love to them as we call them to pursue chaste friendship in its fullness rather than a sexual relationship that is missing essential elements of its meaning and purpose. It is not always an easy discussion to have, but it is an invitation to deep, authentic love, rather than an imposition that restricts someone's freedom or fulfillment.”

Fr. Ewald Volgger, the principal author of the German language book, has said that through the blessing the Church would express “the obligation of fidelity and the exclusiveness of the relationship.”

Fr. Bochanski noted that “life-long fidelity and total exclusivity are two of the essential characteristics of conjugal union -- that is, the qualities that make marriage what it is,” along with complementarity and openness to procreativity.
If each of these four characteristics are present, “you have an intimate relationship according to God's plan,” he said. “If one or more of them is missing, then the relationship is outside of God's plan -- it is immoral.”

“The life-long fidelity and total exclusivity that are essential elements of marriage” are directed to erotic love, he said, and they thus tend “toward sexual union.”

“To say that people of the same sex ought to...pursue a permanent, exclusive relationship based on eros and not have a sexual union is unrealistic. But to tell them that in their pursuit of a permanent, exclusive relationship they can and should have a sexual union that by its nature excludes complementarity and procreativity is immoral.”

He added that “we find our fulfillment by following God's plan for our lives. The clear teaching of the Church is that sexual intimacy between people of the same sex is always immoral. To tell our brothers and sisters who are attracted to the same sex that the way to find happiness and fulfillment, in this world and in eternal life, is to pursue a relationship that is contrary to God's plan is a dangerous lie.”

Rather than pushing for blessings of homosexual couples, Catholics should begin outreach with accompaniment and listening, Fr. Bochanski stated.

“Our pastoral approach to people in same-sex unions who are seeking deeper participation in the life of the Church ought to start with a real willingness to ask for and listen to their stories.  Pope Francis says that ‘we ought to accompany them starting from their situation,’ and that when we welcome people with mercy and a willingness to take them where they are, ‘the Holy Spirit inspires [us] to say the right thing.’”

He said that “as we get to know the people who are coming to us, we begin to understand what they've been through, what they're looking for, and whether they're finding it.” Then a conversation about “what Christ and his Church desire for each member of the Body of Christ” can be had.

“We should invite people to talk frankly about what they understand of the Church's moral teaching, whether they are living it, and what makes it easy or difficult for them to do so,” he said. “In this way we can enter a long-term dialogue in which we can lead them, step by step, to understand the teaching more clearly, and embrace it more fully.”

Celibates have a particular role in this, the Courage director said: “We ought to testify by our words and our lives the joy that we find in sacrificing one type of relationship -- the sexually intimate relationship of marriage -- and diving deep into loving relationships with friends, family and parishioners....joyful, faithful celibates can give a powerful witness and encouragement to those who are being called to embrace chastity in the form of an intentional single life.”

Fr. Bochanski also noted that the Church’s teaching on sexual morality is based on both scripture and the nature of the human person. It is found in the opening chapters of Genesis, and is reiterated by both Christ and St. Paul, and is written “not only in the human heart, but on the human body: we can look at how men and women's bodies are different and related, and understand a great deal about God's plan for intimate sexual union.”

“Our understanding and evaluation of same-sex intimate relationships is simply an application of these broad principles to a particular question, and it is in harmony with the teachings on sexuality and chastity that apply to every person and to every relationship,” he reflected.

“We can and should always be looking for ways to make these teachings understandable, to speak them clearly in ways that modern people can...grasp the beautiful realities that the doctrine expresses,” Fr. Bochanski advised. “We find new ways to present the age-old teachings because of where they come from. The Word of God and the nature of the human person are unchanging and unchangeable, and so the truths they teach us simply cannot change.”

He called it “extremely distressing” that some German prelates “speak as if the Church's teaching can and ought to change. On the contrary, teaching that is part of the revealed Word of God and is consistently taught by the magisterium of the Church is held to be infallible and must be accepted with the assent of faith. This is particularly the obligation of priests, bishops and cardinals, who take an Oath of Fidelity at their ordinations in which they swear to hold these teachings firmly, teach them clearly, and shun anything contrary to them.”

The Courage director concluded, quoting from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s 1986 Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons: "Departure from the Church's teaching, or silence about it, in an effort to provide pastoral care is neither caring nor pastoral. Only what is true can ultimately be pastoral. The neglect of the Church's position prevents homosexual men and women from receiving the care they need and deserve."

‘Covert White Supremacy’ tweet does not reflect Church’s values, Chicago archdiocese says

Mon, 06/01/2020 - 17:10

Denver Newsroom, Jun 1, 2020 / 03:10 pm (CNA).-
A chart detailing “Covert White Supremacy”— which a Chicago archdiocese office shared online amid widespread protests against racism in the city and across the country— was shared without permission and does not reflect the Church’s values, the archdiocese told CNA Monday.

The Chicago archdiocese’ Office of Human Dignity and Solidarity, which coordinates prison ministry, domestic violence outreach, and pro-life efforts in the archdiocese, on Friday tweeted a picture purporting to detail “Covert White Supremacy.”


A screenshot of the tweet from the Archdiocese of Chicago, now deleted.

The top of the pyramid-shaped chart lists “overt” or “socially unacceptable” forms of white supremacy, including lynching, hate crimes, and racial slurs.

The bottom three-quarters of the chart lists “covert” or “socially acceptable” forms of white supremacy— including celebration of Columbus Day, racial profiling, tokenism, “white savior complex,” denial of white privilege, and “Make America Great Again.”

The chart was shared from the OHDS Twitter account May 29 without an accompanying caption. It was deleted June 1.

“An intern shared this tweet without permission,” archdiocesan spokesperson Susan Thomas told CNA in an email.

“We cannot speculate on that person’s intentions. We can say that it does not reflect the values of the Church or our Archdiocese and that person no longer works here.”

Though the chart has been shared broadly online since 2017, the original source is not immediately clear. It appears to have been shared on social media beginning around 2016, including on several faith-based websites such as the Christian blog Radical Discipleship. 

Several websites that shared the image cited a 2005 document from the Boulder, Colorado based Safehouse Alliance for Progressive Nonviolence as the source, which does include a black-and-white version of the chart.

The widely-shared color version of the chart includes most of the same information as the 2005 version. The phrase “Make America Great Again” on the chart is a later addition, since the 2005 version came out several years before the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump, who popularized the phrase.

Dozens of cities across the country have seen widespread protests in the wake of the death of George Floyd.  In the video of the May 25 arrest, an officer with the Minneapolis Police Department can be seen kneeling on Floyd’s neck as he is taken into custody— he died soon after. 

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was arrested May 29, and has been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. He and the three other officers present at Floyd’s arrest were fired from the Minneapolis police force.

St. Paul and Minneapolis Archbishop Bernard Hebda offered a Mass for the soul of George Floyd and for his family May 27.

Chicago imposed a citywide curfew on Sunday night amid largely peaceful protests punctuated by reports of looting, fires, and vandalism.

Cardinal Blase Cupich said in a May 31 statement that though he was horrified by the violence, he was not surprised.

“I stand ready to join religious, civic, labor and business leaders in coming together to launch a new effort to bring about recovery and reconciliation in our city,”” he wrote.

“We do not need a study of the causes and effects. Those answers can be found on the shelves of government offices and academic institutions across our burning nation. No, we need to take up the hard work of healing the deep wound that has afflicted our people since the first slave ships docked on this continent. And we need to start today.”

Cupich called for a proportionate response to the many issues facing the nation.

“Surely a nation that could put a man in space, his safety assured by the brilliance of black women, can create a fair legal system, equitable education and employment opportunities and ready access to health care,” Cupich said in his statement.

“Laws do not solve problems, but they create a system where racism in all its forms is punished and playing fields are leveled.”

 

Archbishop Gomez on racism: 'It should not be this way in America'

Mon, 06/01/2020 - 13:35

CNA Staff, Jun 1, 2020 / 11:35 am (CNA).-  

Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles condemned violence and racism on Sunday and called for peaceful protests. The leader of the country’s largest Catholic diocese and the president of the U.S. bishops’ conference addressed the weekend’s violence and civil unrest, both in his Pentecost homily and in a statement released by the USCCB. 

“When God looks at us, he sees beyond the color of our skin, or the countries where we come from, or the language that we speak. God sees only his children — beloved sons, beloved daughters,” said Gomez in his homily, delivered on Sunday at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. 

Addressing a week of protests and violence following the death of George Floyd, a black man killed by a police officer in Minneapolis on May 25, the archbishop said that there are “millions of our brothers and sisters who are still forced to suffer humiliation, indignity, and unequal opportunity just because of their race or the color of their skin," and that “it should not be this way in America.” 

Gomez added that “racism is a sin,” and one that “denies what God wants for the human person.” 

“But the way forward for us is love, not hate and not violence. Nothing is gained by violence and so much is lost,” said Gomez, referring to the numerous protests throughout the country, some of which descended into rioting and looting. Gomez said that the Gospel proclaimed a message of peace. 

“Today more than ever, we need a spirit of peacemaking and searching for nonviolent solutions to our problems,” said Gomez. 

Later on Sunday, Gomez released a statement from his office as president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, echoing many of the points he made in his homily. 

“On behalf of my brother bishops, I share the outrage of the black community and those who stand with them in Minneapolis, Los Angeles, and across the country,” said Gomez in the statement. 

The archbishop said that the killing of George Floyd was “senseless and brutal, a sin that cries out to heaven for justice.” 

“How is it possible that in America, a black man’s life can be taken from him while calls for help are not answered, and his killing is recorded as it happens?” asked Gomez. While saying he is praying for Floyd’s family and loved ones, Gomez said civil authorities must bring justice to those responsible for his death. 

As for the protests, Gomez said that these “reflect the justified frustration and anger of millions of our brothers and sisters who even today experience humiliation, indignity, and unequal opportunity only because of their race or the color of their skin.” 

“It should not be this way in America. Racism has been tolerated for far too long in our way of life,” he added. 

The archbishop condemned how some “legitimate protests” have been “exploited by persons who have different values and agendas.” 

“Burning and looting communities, ruining the livelihoods of our neighbors, does not advance the cause of racial equality and human dignity,” he said, adding that “we should not let it be said that George Floyd died for no reason.”

“We should honor the sacrifice of his life by removing racism and hate from our hearts and renewing our commitment to fulfill our nation’s sacred promise--to be a beloved community of life, liberty, and equality for all.”

Amazon delivery driver who prayed God would protect sick child says 'God is good'

Sun, 05/31/2020 - 09:00

CNA Staff, May 31, 2020 / 07:00 am (CNA).- When Monica Salinas went to work on May 2, she didn’t expect to become a viral social media hit, or the subject of news features across the country. But she did. Because she took a moment to pray, and that moment was caught on camera.

Salinas, 41, delivers packages for Amazon in Idaho. A native of Texas, Salinas lives in Idaho, and along with her mother sings in the parish choir at St. Paul Catholic Church in Nampa, Idaho, outside of Boise.

 

?VIDEO | Know the story behind this viral video: Monica Salinas was delivering an order from @amazon when a message touched her heart and she was moved to pray for a little boy named, Lucas. pic.twitter.com/qyUQFi3w3N

— EWTN News (@EWTNews) May 29, 2020  

On her May 2 route, Salinas saw a sign at the door of one customer that gave her a moment’s pause. The sign explained that a child with medical needs lived at the home, and thanked delivery drivers for delivering the supplies he needed.

The child, nine-month-old Lucas Pearson, has a cardiac condition that has led to feeding issues. He requires thickeners that were being delivered by Amazon.

When Salinas saw the note, she stopped to pray for Lucas.

“I was delivering a package and I saw a message on the door explaining that the baby at home needed many things and was grateful for us delivering things. It touched my heart,” Salinas told CNA.

“I said ‘‘Dearest God, please protect this family through your Precious Blood, and this baby, so that he may grow to become a man.’”

After she finished praying, Salinas made the sign of the cross, and left the porch.

Raquel Pearson, Lucas’ mother, saw Salinas praying through the video feature of her Ring doorbell. She was touched.

“My husband and I saw the video and started crying. We were very grateful that a stranger would take time out of her very busy day to pray for our baby,” she told CNA.

“We posted the video on Facebook and people started recognizing her.”

Indeed, people did start recognizing Salinas. The video went viral, and was shared more than 100,000 times. It was featured in national news broadcasts for several days.

Salinas’ mother, Dora Salinas, says the video represents her daughter’s life of faith.

“We both belong to a choir in our parish. She sings, she plays the guitar, she praises God with all her soul always,” Dora Salinas told CNA of her daughter Monica.

“That day she felt compassion for the sick baby and for his parents’ suffering” … That’s why she stopped there for a little while, just a little while to pray, because they (delivery people for Amazon) are always rushing, they have a very little time to deliver their packages,” Dora added.

Monica Salinas told CNA she hopes the viral video will invite more people to prayer.

“God has always been very important in my whole life…and I would like to let everyone know that God is good. I always tell people, every day, that God is good, one day at a time.”

 

Amid riots, Minneapolis basilica damaged by fire

Sat, 05/30/2020 - 18:46

Denver Newsroom, May 30, 2020 / 04:46 pm (CNA).-  

The nation’s first basilica sustained fire damage amid the Minneapolis riots that have crippled the city after the death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed by a police officer May 25.

“The Basilica of Saint Mary did withstand minor damage yesterday. No one was injured in the incident. At the time we pray for peace and healing in our city,” a spokesperson for the basilica said in a statement issued May 30.

The basilica church was dedicated in 1914, as a pro-cathedral for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. It was designated a minor basilica by Pope Pius XI in 1926, the first church in the country to be so designated.

Photos posted on social media purport to show several fire damaged pews inside the basilica. While the photos do seem to match the appearance of the church’s interior, a basilica spokeswoman told CNA she could not comment on the photos or verify their authenticity.

 

People it’s happened. My daughters godparents just sent me these pictures from the Basillica of St. Mary’s in Minneapolis. pic.twitter.com/hFXIrzhNwa

— MrsBrometheus (@MrsBrometheus) May 30, 2020  

 Mae Desaire, communications director at the basilica, told CNA that the church is focused on praying for the city.

“Our damage in comparison to what is going in the city is really just minimal, and we’d really like to focus on that,” Desaire told CNA.

The basilica will livestream a “Pentecost Evening Prayer for Justice and Peace” Sunday evening, at 5:30pm Central.

Desaire said the basilica’s security personnel will be working with a police investigation into the matter, and with the church’s insurance provider to plan for repairing the damage.

Buildings across the Twin Cities have burned or been destroyed, after protests responding to Floyd’s death have turned into several nights of rioting and looting. Both peaceful demonstrations and riots have taken place in dozens of other cities across the country.

St. Mary’s Basilica is located near the Minneapolis downtown, and more than a mile from the center of the riots in that city.

 

UN and US trade criticism over abortion during coronavirus

Sat, 05/30/2020 - 15:00

CNA Staff, May 30, 2020 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- United Nations Human Rights Council has criticized some U.S. states for using the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to restrict abortion. 

“UN experts are concerned some U.S. states – such as Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Iowa, Ohio, Arkansas, Louisiana and Tennessee – appear to be manipulating #COVID19 crisis measures to restrict access to essential #abortion care,” tweeted the United Nations Special Procedures account on Wednesday, May 27. 

The tweet linked to an article published Wednesday on the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Office of the High Commissioner’s website that further cited the states for classifying elective abortions as a non-essential medical procedure. 

“We regret that the above-mentioned states, with a long history of restrictive practices against abortion, appear to be manipulating the crisis to severely restrict women’s reproductive rights,” said Elizabeth Broderick, vice-chair of the  UN Working Group on Discrimination against Women and Girls, quoted in the article. 

“This situation is also the latest expmple illustrating a pattern of restrictions and retrogressions in access to legal abortion care across the country. We fear that, without clear political will to reverse such restrictive and regressive trends, states will continue pursuing this pattern,” Broderick added. 

She further expressed fears that the measures introduced to conserve medical resources to fight the coronavirus would result in women staying pregnant past their state’s legal limit for abortion and “render abortion services completely inaccessible,” and reiterated her belief that “abortion care constitutes essential health care and must remain available during the COVID-19 crisis.” 

Abortion access in the United States has remained a contentious issue throughout the pandemic. Several states sought to halt elective abortions as well as other medical procedures deemed non-essential, such as knee replacements. 

Courts throughout the country reached differing conclusions on the legality of these rules. Some of these bans, such as the one in Texas, have already expired

The UN’s criticism of the abortion policies in the U.S. comes less than 10 days after acting USAID Administrator John Barsa sent a letter United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on May 18, criticizing the United Nations for putting abortion access and other sexual health issues on the same priority as other basic human needs, such as access to food and shelter.

“The U.N. should not use this crisis as an opportunity to advance access to abortion as an ‘essential service,’” wrote Barsa. 

“Unfortunately, the Global Humanitarian Response Plan does just this, by cynically placing the provision of ‘sexual and reproductive health services’ on the same level of importance as food-insecurity, essential health care, malnutrition, shelter, and sanitation. Most egregious is that the Global HRP calls for the widespread distribution of abortion-inducing drugs and abortion supplies, and for the promotion of abortion in local country settings.” 

Barsa cited President Donald Trump’s priority of “defending innocent life” in his letter, and reminded Guterres that Trump told the U.N. General Assembly that the organization has “no business attacking the sovereignty of nations that wish to protect innocent life.”

“To use the COVID-19 pandemic as a justification to pressure governments to change their laws is an affront to the autonomy of each society to determine its own national policies on health care,” said Barsa. “The United States stands with nations that have pledged to protect the unborn.” 

Three days later, on May 21, the U.N. refuted this claim and said that they would not use the pandemic to promote abortion. 

"Any suggestion that we are using the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to promote abortion is not correct," U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said at the time, noting that “we do not seek to override any national laws.”

Ahead of Pentecost, Supreme Court backs California coronavirus limits on churches

Sat, 05/30/2020 - 13:53

Denver Newsroom, May 30, 2020 / 11:53 am (CNA).-  

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of California’s limits on the number of people who may attend a church service, in a decision that saw justices debating whether religious services were being treated more strictly than similar gatherings under restrictions aimed to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Chief Justice John Roberts, a President George W. Bush appointee, joined four Democrat-appointed justices in the 5-4 majority Friday. His opinion emphasized the need to defer to elected officials amid efforts to respond to the Covid-19 epidemic.

“The precise question of when restrictions on particular social activities should be lifted during the pandemic is a dynamic and fact-intensive matter subject to reasonable disagreement,” he said, adding that local officials are “actively shaping their response to changing facts on the ground.”

Precedent entrusts to elected officials judgments about the safety and health of the people, he said, and they have especially broad latitude in areas of “medical and scientific uncertainties.”

“Where those broad limits are not exceeded, they should not be subject to second-guessing by an ‘unelected federal judiciary,’ which lacks the background, competence, and expertise to assess public health and is not accountable to the people,” he continued.

The decision responded to an emergency appeal from the South Bay United Pentecostal Church and its senior pastor Bishop Arthur Hodges III, who had challenged California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order limiting churches to 25% of their normal maximum capacity, with 100 people maximum at any service. The church said it would follow other guidance on social distancing and hygiene.

Roberts said “comparable secular gatherings” have similar or more strict restrictions, including “lectures, concerts, movie showings, spectator sports, and theatrical performances, where large groups of people gather in close proximity for extended periods of time.”

“And the order exempts or treats more leniently only dissimilar activities, such as operating grocery stores, banks, and laundromats, in which people neither congregate in large groups nor remain in close proximity for extended periods,” he said.

In a mid-May interview, Hodges stressed the need for in-person events at his church.

“For example, it’s essential for people to be baptized,” he told NBC San Diego. “But you can’t baptize yourself. You have to have the church, the clergy, to do that.”

In a May 29 post on Twitter, Hodges said “a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court is necessary to avoid civil disobedience by thousands of churches in California and other states on this Pentecost Sunday, May 31.”

The church had filed an injunction request alleging that state and local officials “intentionally denigrated California churches and pastors and people of faith by relegating them to third-class citizenship,” City News Service reports. It objected to the placement of places of worship in Stage 3 of California’s reopening plan. This stage includes movie theaters, salons and gyms. The church also argued that manufacturing and warehouses had been arbitrarily classed in Stage 2, a faster track for reopening.

Roberts said the restrictions “appear consistent with the free exercise clause of the First Amendment.” He rejected the claim that it is “indisputably clear” the government limitations are unconstitutional.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh, however, said the occupancy cap “indisputably discriminates against religion, and such discrimination violates the First Amendment.”

“The church would suffer irreparable harm from not being able to hold services on Pentecost Sunday in a way that comparable secular businesses and persons can conduct their activities,” he said in his dissent.

“The basic constitutional problem is that comparable secular businesses are not subject to a 25% occupancy cap, including factories, offices, supermarkets, restaurants, retail stores, pharmacies, shopping malls, pet grooming shops, bookstores, florists, hair salons, and cannabis dispensaries,” he continued.

Kavanaugh said the state must offer a “compelling justification” to distinguish between religious worship services and “the litany of other secular businesses that are not subject to an occupancy cap.”

“California has not shown such a justification,” he said, noting the importance of the church’s willingness to abide by state rules that apply to comparable secular business, including social distancing and hygiene rules.

“I would grant the Church’s requested temporary injunction because California’s latest safety guidelines discriminate against places of worship and in favor of comparable secular businesses. Such discrimination violates the First Amendment,” he said.

Kavanaugh’s dissent was joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch. Justice Samuel Alito dissented but did not join the opinion.

The court rejected a different appeal from two Chicago-area churches that challenged a 10-person limit on attendees at religious services. Before the court took action, Gov. Jay Pritzker increased the limit to 100 attendees per service.

The churches, Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church of Chicago and Logos Baptist Ministries of Niles, Ill., had both sought to open ahead of the Christian holy day of Pentecost.

 

 

 

 



 

Everything you need to know about Pentecost

Sat, 05/30/2020 - 13:52

Denver, Colo., May 30, 2020 / 11:52 am (CNA).- This weekend, the Church celebrates Pentecost, one of the most important feast days of the year that concludes the Easter season and celebrates the beginning of the Church.  

Here’s what you need to know about the feast day:

The timing and origins of Pentecost

Pentecost always occurs 50 days after the death and resurrection of Jesus, and ten days after his ascension into heaven. Because Easter is a moveable feast without a fixed date, and Pentecost depends on the timing of Easter, Pentecost can fall anywhere between May 10 and June 13.

The timing of these feasts is also where Catholics get the concept of the Novena - nine days of prayer - because in Acts 1, Mary and the Apostles prayed together “continuously” for nine days after the Ascension leading up to Pentecost. Traditionally, the Church prays the Novena to the Holy Spirit in the days before Pentecost.

The name of the day itself is derived from the Greek word "pentecoste," meaning 50th.

There is a parallel Jewish holiday, Shavu`ot, which falls 50 days after Passover. Shavu’ot is sometimes called the festival of weeks, referring to the seven weeks since Passover.

Originally a harvest feast, Shavu`ot now commemorates the sealing of the Old Covenant on Mount Sinai, when the Lord revealed the Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai. Every year, the Jewish people renew their acceptance of the gift of the Torah on this feast.  

What happens at Pentecost?

In the Christian tradition, Pentecost is the celebration of the person of the Holy Spirit coming upon the Apostles, Mary, and the first followers of Jesus, who were gathered together in the Upper Room.

A “strong, driving” wind filled the room where they were gathered, and tongues of fire came to rest on their heads, allowing them to speak in different languages so that they could understand each other. It was such a strange phenomenon that some people thought the Christians were just drunk - but Peter pointed out that it was only the morning, and said the phenomenon was caused by the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit also gave the apostles the other gifts and fruits necessary to fulfill the great commission - to go out and preach the Gospel to all nations. It fulfills the New Testament promise from Christ (Luke 24:46-49) that the Apostles would be “clothed with power” before they would be sent out to spread the Gospel.

Where’s that in the bible?

The main event of Pentecost (the strong driving wind and tongues of fire) takes place in Acts 2:13, though the events immediately following (Peter’s homily, the baptism of thousands) continue through verse 41.

Happy Birthday, Church

It was right after Pentecost that Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, preached his first homily to Jews and other non-believers, in which he opened the scriptures of the Old Testament, showing how the prophet Joel prophesied events and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

He also told the people that the Jesus they crucified is the Lord and was raised from the dead, which “cut them to the heart.” When they asked what they should do, Peter exhorted them to repent of their sins and to be baptised. According to the account in Acts, about 3,000 people were baptised following Peter’s sermon.

For this reason, Pentecost is considered the birthday of the Church - Peter, the first Pope, preaches for the first time and converts thousands of new believers. The apostles and believers, for the first time, were united by a common language, and a common zeal and purpose to go and preach the Gospel.

Pentecost vestments and customs around the world

Typically, priests will wear red vestments on Pentecost, symbolic of the burning fire of God’s love and the tongues of fire that descended on the apostles.

However, in some parts of the world, Pentecost is also referred to as “WhitSunday”, or White Sunday, referring to the white vestments that are typically worn in Britain and Ireland. The white is symbolic of the dove of the Holy Spirit, and typical of the vestments that catechumens desiring baptism wear on that day.

An Italian Pentecost tradition is to scatter rose leaves from the ceiling of the churches to recall the miracle of the fiery tongues, and so in some places in Italy, Pentecost is sometimes called Pascha Rosatum (Easter roses).

In France, it is tradition to blow trumpets during Mass to recall the sound of the driving wind of the Holy Spirit.

In Asia, it is typical to have an extra service, called genuflexion, during which long poems and prayers are recited. In Russia, Mass goers often carry flowers or green branches during Pentecost services.

This article was originally published on CNA June 2, 2017.

Christ can overcome racism, Minnesota priest says at George Floyd prayer service 

Fri, 05/29/2020 - 22:00

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 29, 2020 / 08:00 pm (CNA).- The love of Christ can overcome the sin of racism, the pastor of a historic Minnesota African-American parish said Friday, at a prayer service in the aftermath of the protests and riots in St. Paul and Minneapolis following the death of George Floyd in police custody.

“Racism,” said Fr. Erich Rutten said, “is a very deep sin in our souls. In not only our personal souls, but in the soul of our country.”

“To get past it, we need the love of Christ,” he said. “We need to get out of our comfort zones and encounter one another. Pope Francis says so often that we need to truly encounter one another.”



Rutten, pastor of St. Peter Claver Church, led the service on Friday evening, hours after buildings in the parish neighborhood were set ablaze. The prayer service was also attended by Archbishop Bernard Hebda and auxiliary Bishop Andrew Cozzens of St. Paul-Minneapolis.

Because of coronavirus social distancing measures, parishioners attended the prayer service via a Facebook livestream.

St. Peter Claver Church was founded in 1888 as the first African-American Roman Catholic parish in Minnesota.

Rutten read the Gospel passage in which Jesus repeatedly asks Peter if he loves Him and then instructs Peter to feed His sheep.

The priest then preached about the nature of love, the sin of racism, and a need for justice in the world.

In the Gospel, said Rutten, Jesus asks those to love him and to commit to him, and “that the love of God the Father might include all in everything.”

And while people may say that they do desire to love everyone, this is often easier said than done, Rutten added.

“When we think about it in the abstract, sure, we want to love everybody,” said Rutten. “But it’s a little bit harder with family, it’s a little bit harder with our fellow parishioners. It’s even harder with people that we don’t know very well, or people that maybe are different than us, or people that might even frighten us.”

Rutten offered prayers for justice and peace, “because there can be no peace without justice.” To achieve these goals, Rutten said that he thinks “we need to be very humble, we need to be very generous, and we need to seek true reconciliation: restorative justice.”

This Sunday, Pentecost, the world needs “a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit,” said Rutten.

“Amidst our noisy lives, our noisy world, and especially the energy of the last couple of days, we pray for racial justice and peace,” he added.

Cozzens prayed “Wake Me Up Lord,” a prayer against racism that was published in the 1989 USCCB message “For The Love of One Another.”

At the close of the evening’s service, Hebda spoke of his “great fondness” for the parish of St. Peter Claver, and noted that the church has a unique and important role for the Catholic Church in the Twin Cities in raising awareness of racism and how the Church could be more welcoming.

“I’ve heard more than once in these walls that it can be ‘exhausting’ to teach the rest of the Church about racism, and I’m grateful for your patience and perseverance,” he said.

“We continue to learn from you and your deep prayer. So please, know of my great gratitude, and that of Bishop Cozzens as well, for all that you do,” said Hebda. 

 

‘Racism is not a thing of the past’ – US bishops respond to George Floyd killing

Fri, 05/29/2020 - 19:36

Washington D.C., May 29, 2020 / 05:36 pm (CNA).- Leaders of the U.S. bishops’ conference responded to the killing of an African American man in Minneapolis this week by stressing that the fight to eradicate racism is a pro-life issue.

“As bishops, we unequivocally state that racism is a life issue,” they said in a May 29 statement.

“Racism is not a thing of the past or simply a throwaway political issue to be bandied about when convenient. It is a real and present danger that must be met head on,” the bishops said.

“As members of the Church, we must stand for the more difficult right and just actions instead of the easy wrongs of indifference,” they said. “We cannot turn a blind eye to these atrocities and yet still try to profess to respect every human life.”

The statement was released by Bishop Shelton Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, chair of the U.S. bishops’ committee against racism; Archbishop Nelson Pérez of Philadelphia, chair of the cultural diversity committee; Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City, head of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, chair of the pro-life committee; Bishop Joseph Bambera of Scranton, head of the Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs; Auxiliary Bishop David O’Connell of Los Angeles, chair of the Subcommittee on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development; and Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Perry of Chicago, chair of the Subcommittee on African American Affairs.

The bishops responded to the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody this week. Footage of the incident circulated widely on the internet. It showed Floyd, who is black, subdued and laying on his stomach, saying repeatedly, “I cannot breathe” and groaning as a police officer knelt on his neck for almost eight minutes, and other officers stood nearby and watched.

Floyd was taken to a local hospital, where he died shortly later. His death has prompted protests in numerous cities, including rioting and looting in some parts of Minneapolis.

After widespread protest, former police officer Derek Chauvin was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter on May 29. The officers present at Floyd’s arrest were fired from the Minneapolis police force.

In their statement, the bishops said they were “broken-hearted, sickened, and outraged to watch another video of an African American man being killed before our very eyes.”

“What’s more astounding is that this is happening within mere weeks of several other such occurrences,” they said. “This is the latest wake-up call that needs to be answered by each of us in a spirit of determined conversion.”

The bishops called for non-violent protests, while acknowledging that people are understandably outraged.

“Too many communities around this country feel their voices are not being heard, their complaints about racist treatment are unheeded, and we are not doing enough to point out that this deadly treatment is antithetical to the Gospel of Life,” they said.

Catholics must fight indifference surrounding the issue of racism and speak up to fight it, the bishops said. They pointed to their most recent pastoral letter on racism, “Open Wide Our Hearts,” which calls for greater engagement on the issue.

The bishops encouraged Americans to encounter people of different cultural backgrounds and seek greater understanding and unity.

“Such encounters will start to bring about the needed transformation of our understanding of true life, charity, and justice in the United States,” they said.

Hearing ‘cry of the poor’ is key message of 'Laudato si', Cardinal Turkson says

Fri, 05/29/2020 - 18:00

Washington D.C., May 29, 2020 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Peter Turkson has said that the principle of “non-violence” extends beyond opposing physical violence, and must include the protection human rights from exploitation.

Acknowledging the week's protests and rioting in Minneapolis, the Vatican cardinal made the comments during an event to mark five years since the promulgation of the papal encyclical Laudato si’.

“There’s a lot of talk within the same church about Christian non-violence,” said Cardinal Turkson, head of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, making reference to the social unrest in Minneapolis following the death of George Floyd.

“Christian non-violence is not only when you [do not] hold a gun or a knife to the throat of somebody. Christian non-violence is also when you do not do violence to people’s dignity, people’s rights,” he said.

When the conditions necessary for human flourishing are not met in society, then the “cry of the poor” can be heard, he said, pointing to prayers for victims of racism and injustice in the wake of the Minneapolis riots.  

Cardinal Turkson made his remarks as he led an online panel discussion on Friday. The event “Laudato Si After Five Years: Hearing the Cry of the Earth and the Cry of the Poor” was co-sponsored by the Vatican and Georgetown University’s Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life.

Kim Daniels, associate director of the initiative, began Friday’s event with a prayer for George Floyd “and all those who suffer from acts of racism and injustice,” after a “tragic week” where large riots and protests had occurred in Minneapolis, New York, and other cities in the U.S. Daniels was appointed by Pope Francis to the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communication in 2016.

The protests followed the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on Monday after a police officer was seen kneeling on his neck for several minutes while arresting him. Floyd, moaning and crying out in apparent pain, said repeatedly that he could not breathe in a video of the incident taken by bystanders. 

Floyd appeared unconscious several minutes into the video, and according to the police department was later taken to a hospital where he died. Four police officers involved in Floyd’s arrest were fired from the department, and one was arrested on Friday and charged with murder and manslaughter.

Noting the prayer for Floyd and other victims of racism and injustice at the beginning of Friday’s event, Turkson said that “it’s just a cry for people to recognize that every human being requires a minimum of social conditions to enable him to live, and live successfully and happily.”

Both human beings and the environment need to be cared for, he said, and when they are not “the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor” is heard—a key message of Laudato si’.

The “cry of the poor” occurs because “what they need to constitute their thriving, prosperous environment, is denied them,” the cardinal said. “And that’s why we talk about justice.”

The human and economic toll of the new coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has also taught ecological lessons, he said. 

Turkson pointed out that lockdown conditions have resulted in emissions drops, causing cleaner air in India and China, but the sudden unemployment of millions of people as a result of the economic shutdown challenges the very sustainability of the current economic system.

Cardinal Turkson said that Pope Francis’ letter was the “result of a lot of teaching” from previous popes.

Pope St. Paul VI’s encyclical Populorum progressio stressed care for nature and established ecology as “a set of conditions which constitute an environment which enables something to thrive,” Turkson said, while Pope St. John Paul II talked about human ecology and the environment of moral conditions which one needs to live well, and Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical Caritas in Veritate taught that “society itself also has an environment that needs to be respected.”

Integral ecology, he said, is “ecology of nature, ecology of the human person, ecology of society, ecology of peace.”

After death of George Floyd, Minnesota Catholics pray for justice

Fri, 05/29/2020 - 17:55

Denver Newsroom, May 29, 2020 / 03:55 pm (CNA).- While rioters and looters took to the streets, and parts of Minneapolis burned, some Minnesota Catholics called for justice, healing, and unity after the killing of George Floyd, a black man who was killed by a police officer on Monday.

“I am saddened. I am sickened. I am angered. And I am tired. I am tired of such things happening again and again. ‘How long, O Lord,’ must we endure such things?” Fr. Erich Rutten, pastor of St. Peter Claver Parish in St. Paul, said in a YouTube message May 27, two days after Floyd was killed.

“The love of God, revealed in Jesus Christ, clearly shows us that we are all children of one God, and that we are all equally subjects of Christ our King, in the Kingdom of God our Father. We are all brothers and sisters.”

The parish is home to the largest African-American Catholic community in the Twin Cities, and, in 1888, was the first Catholic Church founded by and for African-Americans living in Minnesota.

“Here is a case where white supremacy has cost someone their life. The misguided idea that white people can somehow push other people around, or that we own this country, or that we own Minneapolis, leads to terrible disrespect. Leads to poverty. Leads to, in this case, violence, and in many cases, violence,” Rutten added in his video.

“This particular case is so egregious,” Rutten told CNA Wednesday, “that it’s just maddening.”

“Our faith calls us way beyond racism, into a radical unity, in the Kingdom of God. A Kingdom we're all brother and sisters. I mean truly: Really brothers and sisters,” Rutten added.

“There's a great African-American hymn: 'We've come this far by faith, leaning on his holy Word, he hasn't failed us yet.' It's just enduring faith that God will always be with us through it.”

St. Peter Claver is located in a neighborhood where buildings were damaged by looters on Thursday evening.

“It was a crazy night, with lots going on around here,” Rutten said in a video released Friday morning.

“Just feeling very badly for our community, for so much pain, and hoping we can find ways for healing, reconciliation and peace. I know that won’t be easy.”

The parish will livestream a prayer service Friday evening.

St. Peter Claver parishioners have also called for justice.

Estelle Jones, 75, leads the social justice committee at St. Peter Claver, and facilitates a parish support group for families of incarcerated men and women.

On Tuesday, she told CNA that “I am feeling...it’s very difficult to even want to talk about it.”

“Something has to stop, I hope. It’s sad, but I hope, and it’s too sad, that George Floyd’s death would wake up the community, and the United States of America, that we stop this violence and police brutality, and this racism.”

God made all of us. It’s hard to understand why black people and brown people are hated so much. I’m devastated.”

In 2015, Jones said she watched as police assaulted her own grandson, then in his mid-thirties, while at a traffic stop. She said her grandson “got out of his car, and, um, they— he didn’t resist them at all. In fact, he was standing with his hands in the air. The next thing we knew, they had thrown him on the ground and were tasing him.”

“We were there. My daughter, his mother, and me. This was one of the most horrible, horrific things to ever see happen to a loved one, and we were standing there.”

Jones said her grandson was hospitalized for his injuries.

“Watching what happened to George Floyd just brought back this whole situation to me. To just know what this family must be going through, what the community is going through….Something has to stop this.”

Jones said her social justice and social support work at her parish is part of her effort to help young people in the parish understand the struggle for civil rights, and an ongoing struggle for racial justice. But she says she can’t do that alone.

In his YouTube video, Rutten said the parishioners of St. Peter Claver are called to “agitate both in our Church and in our world for racial justice and peace and healing, and the reality that we truly are brothers and sisters.”

“Remembering George, we need to continue that mission,” Rutten said.

Jones said she hopes for justice after the death of George Floyd.

“To me justice— I feel like everyone else. Too many black men have been murdered, and nothing has been done by the police.”

Jones mentioned the deaths of Phliando Castile, Treyvon Martin, and Eric Garner.

“Enough is enough. And with George Floyd- that is blatant killing somebody in front of the whole world. How can you do that and think you can get away with it? Justice should be them being prosecuted, and serving some prison time.”

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was arrested May 29, and has been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. He and the three other officers present at Floyd’s arrest were fired from the Minneapolis police force.

St. Paul and Minneapolis Archbishop Bernard Hebda offered a Mass for the soul of George Floyd and for his family May 27.

“The video of George Floyd in police custody Monday evening is gut wrenching and deeply disturbing. The sadness and pain are intense. Let us pray for comfort for his grieving family and friends, peace for a hurting community and prudence while the process moves forward. We need a full investigation that results in rightful accountability and veritable justice,” Hebda said in a May 27 statement.

“Particularly at this time when human fragility has been brought into focus by the Covid-19 pandemic, we are called to respect the worth and dignity of each individual, whether they be civilians in need of protection or law enforcement officers charged with providing that protection. All human life is sacred.”

“Please join our Catholic community in praying for George Floyd and his family, and working for that day when ‘love and truth will meet [and] justice and peace will kiss,’” Hebda added, quoting Psalm 85.

For her part, Estelle Jones told CNA she hopes Catholics across the country will pray for George Floyd.

She also said she hopes Catholics will remember that “God created us all as equals, and to recognize that we all should love each other no matter what the color of our skin is, our economic status, or anything that would make us seem different from anybody else. To accept us all as human beings. As God would want us to do.”

 

Last Missouri abortion clinic will stay open, despite state’s safety concerns

Fri, 05/29/2020 - 17:15

CNA Staff, May 29, 2020 / 03:15 pm (CNA).- The last abortion clinic in Missouri will be allowed to continue operating, despite the state’s decision not to renew its license last year because of health and safety concerns. 

The Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis had been battling the state of Missouri in court for over a year after the state Health Department argued that the clinic— the last one allowed to perform surgical abortions in the state— is unsafe. 

Sreenivasa Rao Dandamudi, Missouri’s Administrative Hearing Commissioner, issued a ruling May 29 stating that Planned Parenthood has “substantially complied” with Missouri state law, and that “in over 4,000 abortions provided since 2018, the Department has only identified two causes to deny its license,” the Associated Press reports. 

The hearing, presided over by Dandamudi, began last October.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services initially refused to renew the clinic’s abortion license in June 2019, following a inspection that March that found evidence of at least four “failed abortions”— meaning they took multiple procedures to complete— at the clinic. 

The Health Department submitted a “Statement of Deficiencies” in court, citing an “unprecedented lack of cooperation” on the part of the St. Louis clinic, and a “failure to meet basic standards of patient care.”

In one instance, inspectors found that a woman had undergone an abortion that took five attempts to complete, the AP reports. In another instance, a Planned Parenthood physician reportedly failed to notice that a woman seeking an abortion was pregnant with twins.

The Health Department also said Planned Parenthood went back on an agreement to perform pelvic examinations as a “preoperative health requirement,” and that several doctors at the clinic refused requests to provide interviews with the department. 

For its part, Planned Parenthood has accused the state of weaponizing the regulatory process and claimed the state has admitted the pelvic exams are “medically unnecessary.”

When the clinic’s license expired in June, 2019, lawyers representing the Planned Parenthood affiliate secured a restraining order from Judge Michael F. Stelzer of Missouri Circuit Court in St. Louis to allow the clinic to continue performing abortions without a license.

Missouri enacted a comprehensive abortion ban in 2019, which Gov. Mike Parson (R) signed into law. Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis supported the measure.

Missouri’s law set up a multi-tier ban on abortions after eight weeks, 14 weeks, 18 weeks and 20 weeks, as well as bans on abortions conducted solely because of the baby’s race, sex, or Down syndrome diagnosis.

The law was crafted to be able to survive successive challenges in the courts, but a federal judge in August, 2019, struck down all of the bans related to every stage of pregnancy. The following months, the same judge also struck down the part of the Missouri law banning Down Syndrome abortions while the legal challenges continue to be heard. 

In the adjacent state of Illinois, Gov. JB Pritzker (D) signed legislation to expand access to abortion in that state.

In response to the possible closure of the St. Louis clinic, Planned Parenthood announced in October, 2019, the opening of an 18,000 square foot, $7 million “mega” abortion clinic in southern Illinois, just a dozen miles from the Missouri site.

Planned Parenthood reportedly arranged construction through a shell company, shielding the nature of the building from public view - and even from workers helping in the construction.

CDC removes faith guidance discouraging choirs, shared cups 

Fri, 05/29/2020 - 14:56

Washington D.C., May 29, 2020 / 12:56 pm (CNA).- The Trump administration has removed guidance on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website which discouraged, among other things, singing, choirs and “shared cups” at religious services.

Despite the CDC’s backtrack, Catholic medical professionals and other experts with whom CNA has spoken continue to recommend that singing and the Communion cup ought to be discouraged at Mass for the time being.

Religious communities should “consider suspending or at least decreasing use of a choir/musical ensembles and congregant singing, chanting, or reciting during services or other programming, if appropriate within the faith tradition,” the guidelines, posted May 22, originally read.

“The act of singing may contribute to transmission of COVID-19, possibly through emission of aerosols.”

CNA learned from a person familiar with the deliberations that the White House did not approve the original CDC guidance before it was published.

That guidance was reportedly met with concern by many people of faith for certain provisions that seemed to intrude on the autonomy of religious groups, such as one recommendation that Jews should be allowed to use electronic devices on the Sabbath to stream services online.

A new CDC guidance page went live May 23. The new guidance, CNA was told, was to have the input of lawyers with experience in religious freedom cases. It was to be more sensitive to the autonomy of churches and religions and apply a “lighter touch” to them, functioning as a set of recommendations rather than instructions, and implying that actions taken by state and local governments that go beyond the federal recommendations are inappropriate.

The new guidance page contains no specific guidance related to singing or choirs. A recommendation to suspend the use of “shared cups” and passed or shared objects such as collection plates also was removed in favor of a recommendation to “clean and disinfect” such objects between uses.

The Washington Post, citing anonymous administration officials, has reported that the White House pushed against the CDC issuing guidance for churches, with the concern that it did not want to unnecessarily limit their freedom under the First Amendment.

The new guidance states at the top that it is not “intended to infringe on rights protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution or any other federal law.”

It goes on to say that the federal government may not prescribe standards for interactions of faith communities in houses of worship, and that in accordance with the First Amendment, no faith community “should be asked to adopt any mitigation strategies that are more stringent than the mitigation strategies asked of similarly situated entities or activities.”

As the novel coronavirus spread in March, all U.S. Catholic dioceses curtailed public Masses to prevent the spread of the disease. However, beginning in mid-April, dioceses have begun resuming the offering of public Masses.

An April 28 document from the Thomistic Institute in Washington D.C., written by medical professionals, researchers, and theologians and distributed to dioceses by the U.S. bishops’ conference, recommends that singing at Mass ought to be discouraged.

The Thomistic Institute’s document also recommends that the Precious Blood ought not be distributed at Mass.

To date, dioceses that have developed Church reopening plans have called for suspension of distribution of the Precious Blood. The Catholic Church teaches that reception of either the host or the chalice is a complete act of Eucharistic reception.

The Thomistic Instutute’s website does state, however, that the  guidelines “will be updated as the situation changes and as the WHO/CDC guidance changes.”

Deacon Tim Flanigan is a member of the Thomistic Institute’s working group, an infectious disease specialist who has battled Ebola outbreaks, and a professor of medicine at Brown University. Flanigan also told CNA that Catholics can return to Mass and the sacraments safely if they observe CDC protocols.

“The question is: can I follow the CDC guidance just as carefully, in each setting, in order to decrease transmission of coronavirus? Can I maintain safe distancing? Can I maintain good hand hygiene? Can I ensure that I am not ill?” Flanigan told CNA last week.

If CDC guidelines are followed, “There is no reason to prohibit church services when you don’t prohibit other gatherings,” Flanigan said.

“The CDC gives us that guidance to decrease the rate of transmission. It’s just as important that guidance be followed at a house of worship, as at a conference, as at any other gathering.”

An ad-hoc committee of seven Catholic doctors and medical school professors released on May 12 a plan entitled “Road Map to Re-Opening our Catholic Churches Safely.”

That group of doctors concluded that “choirs and singing should be avoided” due to the aerosol risk.

They also concluded that the safest recommendation is to receive Communion in the hand rather than on the tongue. The plan does not contain specific guidance on the use of the cup at Mass.

The doctors’ plan calls for Mass to be held with social distancing, and for the use of masks and hand sanitizer. Those who are ill or believe they may have been exposed to the virus should stay home, it says.

Churches have been the focus of concern during the epidemic because of the close proximity of church attendees, socialization before, during and after services, and singing. Some churches have older congregations and so are believed to be more vulnerable to extreme consequences from coronavirus infection.

A May 22 article from the CDC reported that among the 92 attendees at a rural Arkansas church, 38% developed a laboratory-confirmed case of infection after a pastor and his wife, who had the virus, attended several events there in early March.

Twenty-six additional cases— including one death— in the community also were linked to the church.

The CDC had also, earlier this month, released a report chronicling a COVID-19 “superspreader” event, whereby a single symptomatic person infected more than 50 people— two of whom died— at a choir practice in Washington state in March.

Deacon Robert Lanciotti, a microbiologist and the former chief of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s diagnostic and reference laboratory in Fort Collins, Colorado, told CNA that in his opinion, the Washington state “superspreader” example does not entirely exclude the possibility of singing in church.

“The key issue here is that a symptomatic individual practiced for 2.5 hours in close contact with others with no facial coverings,” Lanciotti pointed out.

That individual also engaged in close-contact activities such as eating and talking, he said in an email to CNA.

“I think that it is likely that this individual infected others primarily by singing in close contact with others. However, it may still be safe to sing in a church in which symptomatic people stay home and those present are wearing masks.”

 

DC parishes expected to reopen with 10 person limit

Fri, 05/29/2020 - 11:30

CNA Staff, May 29, 2020 / 09:30 am (CNA).- After the mayor of Washington, D.C., lifted a stay-at-home order on Wednesday, public Masses in the Archdiocese of Washington are expected to resume with a limit of 10 people.

Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington, D.C. on Wednesday lifted the city’s stay-at-home order and allowed some businesses and public spaces to begin reopening by Friday.

Bowser still limited public gatherings, indoor and outdoor, to no more than 10 people. The mayor’s office confirmed to CNA on Wednesday that the 10-person limit applied to religious gatherings.

The Archdiocese of Washington said on its website that, starting May 25, all parishes could resume public Masses in areas where local governments had lifted stay-home restrictions; other parishes still subject to a local stay-home order would not offer public Masses until the order would be lifted.

As the archdiocese spans not only D.C. but also several adjacent Maryland counties, some Maryland parishes have already begun offering public Masses. The state began lifting stay-at-home restrictions in mid-May, but two counties bordering the city kept the original restrictions in place.

According to the archdiocesan newspaper Catholic Standard knowledged that parish reopenings remained limited as “the District of Columbia and Montgomery and Prince George's counties are maintaining limits on the sizes of public gatherings to 10 people.”

On May 15, the archdiocese had released guidance for parishes on reopening, saying it “will continue to reflect the various limitations that those jurisdictions impose on public assemblies.”

The archdiocese has said that a team “has been planning for liturgical celebrations in the future,” but did not respond to requests for comment on a likely timetable for any further action.

The Washington transition out of a stay-at-home order allows for outdoor seating at restaurants, non-essential retail businesses to offer curbside service, barber shops and nail salons to serve customers by appointment only, and certain parks and public spaces to open.

The archdiocese is home to 139 parishes and mission parishes, and 655,000 Catholics. It is also home to major Catholic pilgrimage sites, including the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America. 

Early in the pandemic, a friar at the Franciscan Monastery in the city’s northeast succumbed to the new coronavirus and was the city’s first reported COVID-19 death.

The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is not a diocesan church, despite being located within the boundaries of the archdiocese. On March 12, the basilica announced it was continuing public Masses just hours before D.C. Archbishop Wilton Gregory curtailed public Masses in the archdiocese. 

On the next day, March 13, a spokeswoman for the basilica confirmed to CNA that public Masses would still continue at the shrine notwithstanding Archbishop Gregory’s announcement; later on March 13, the basilica said it would suspend public Masses at the instruction of the archdiocese.

On Friday, a spokesperson for the Basilica said the shrine "remains closed to the public."

"Though the stay at home order was lifted, the state of emergency remains in effect limiting gatherings to 10 people or fewer," Jacquelyn Hayes, director of communications for the shrine told CNA.

"On this account, we unfortunately are still unable to open to the public."

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