CNA News

Subscribe to CNA News feed CNA News
ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa ( is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
Updated: 1 hour 36 min ago

House committee moves to protect religious adoption agencies

Thu, 07/12/2018 - 18:45

Washington D.C., Jul 12, 2018 / 04:45 pm (CNA).- The House Appropriations Committee moved to protect the conscience rights and religious freedom of faith-based adoption agencies on Wednesday.

The committee adopted an amendment to an upcoming funding bill that would preserve federal funding for agencies who do not want to place children with same-sex couples.

The amendment was introduced by Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL). In a statement published on his website, Aderholt said that the opioid epidemic has caused the number of foster care cases to “skyrocket,” and that religious charities are needed to assist with this crisis.

However, “several states and localities across the country are not allowing religious organizations, such as Catholic Charities and Bethany Christian services, to operate child welfare agencies,” due to their refusal to place children with same-sex couples, in accord with their religious beliefs.

Alderholt said this amendment will aim to prevent religious discrimination against those agencies. The amendment mandates that the Department of Health and Human Services withhold 15 percent of federal funds for child welfare services in states that do not allow religiously-based child welfare agencies to operate in accordance with their beliefs.

Faith-based agencies in several states have had to shut down their adoption divisions because they did not want to violate their religious beliefs.

Catholic Charities of the Boston archdiocese ceased handling adoptions in Massachusetts in 2006, a little less than two years after the state legalized same-sex marriage. Catholic Charities in California followed suit later that year. In 2011, Catholic Charities of Illinois also stopped handling adoption cases.

In Illinois, about 2,000 children were displaced when Catholic Charities shut down, forcing other agencies to take on their cases.

The city of Philadelphia is being sued by several foster mothers after it stopped working with Catholic Social Services to place foster children. While Catholic Social Services would not place children with a same-sex couple, no same-sex couple ever made a complaint about the agency before its relationship with the city was severed.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) accused Republicans of pushing a “bigoted, anti-LGBTQ agenda” that could result in children being without homes.

In a statement released July 11, she pledged to fight the “disgusting, deeply immoral and profoundly offensive effort,” and said there was “no place for bigotry.”

This, says Heritage Foundation Research Assistant Melanie Israel, is falsehood.

"The other side is falsely saying that this prevents LGBT couples from adopting. That's not true," said Israel. "They are still welcome to foster and adopt from a plethora of agencies, in particular the state-run agencies, and even some faith-based agencies. Not all faith-based agencies take issue with placing children outside of a home with a married mom and dad."

Faith-based agencies can play a supportive role for a child’s birth-mother as well, said Israel. These women, and families that are seeking to foster and adopt, “deserve the chance to be able to work with an agency that’s going to share their faith, and their values.”

“For many birth-moms, the decision to give a child up for adoption, it's a very loving decision, it's a very brave decision, but it's also very scary,” she told CNA.

A faith-based agency could provide assistance to her spiritual needs in addition to anything else that would arise during the adoption process, and could provide assurance that the child would go to a family with a similar set of values, Israel added.


Funeral Mass scheduled for Monterrey bishop

Thu, 07/12/2018 - 12:15

Monterey, Calif., Jul 12, 2018 / 10:15 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A funeral Mass will be celebrated July 19 for Bishop Richard John Garcia, the late Bishop of Monterey, California, who died July 11 from complications related to Alzheimer’s disease. Garcia was 71.

Garcia was ordained a priest in 1973 in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, was a seminary professor and directed Hispanic ministry, and, in 1998, became an auxiliary bishop in the Diocese of Sacramento. The bishop was appointed to lead the coastal California Diocese of Monterey in 2006.

He was a board member of Catholic Relief Services and the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, and involved in several committees of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in April.

His episcopal motto was “En El Vivimos”- “In Him We Live.”  

In a 2017 pastoral letter, Garcia encouraged Eucharistic adoration in the parishes of his diocese, writing that “The Eucharist is a multifaceted, precious jewel in the Sacramental Life of our Church. We cherish and reverence this celebration of our salvation — a perpetual memorial of Christ’s Death and Resurrection.”

In 2007, he wrote “In my life...I have encountered God's ‘grace upon grace’ even though I did not always fully comprehend or appreciate God's never being far from me.”

In Minnesota, Catholic Charities sues near-bankrupt diocese

Thu, 07/12/2018 - 08:00

St. Cloud, Minn., Jul 12, 2018 / 06:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The fate of a children’s home is the subject of a lawsuit against the Diocese of St. Cloud, Minn., by the diocese’s Catholic Charities affiliate, which fears the diocese’s planned bankruptcy could disrupt services at the facility.
“We continue to support the mission of Catholic Charities, and we know they continue to support the mission and ministries of the diocese,” Joseph Towalski, director of the Office of Communications at the Diocese of St. Cloud, told CNA July 11. “We believe the complaint will be properly resolved through the judicial process.”
Towalski said the complaint is under review by legal counsel and the diocese would not comment on it at this time.
After 74 claims related to clergy sex abuse were made, the diocese made a Feb. 28 announcement that it would seek bankruptcy protection, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports.
The complaint concerns ownership of St. Cloud Children’s Home and surrounding properties. The children’s home facilities include several cottages, classrooms, a chapel, an administrative building, a heating plant and grounds improvements including sidewalks, fences and paved parking.
Catholic Charities’ complaint asks the diocese to transfer ownership of the facility and surrounding area to the charity.
“This is an unusual position we find ourselves in,” Steve Pareja, the Catholic Charities affiliate’s executive director, said July 2.
“While we work closely with the diocese, we are in fact a separately governed and
separately run organization. Our separateness comes with obligations – legally and morally – to protect the financial health and sustainability of Catholic Charities and to be responsible stewards of the assets our donors have entrusted to us.”
The lawsuit filing reflected those responsibilities, according to Pareja.
Beginning in 2014, diocesan officers had committed to transfer to Catholic Charities the St. Cloud Children’s Home and surrounding property. Relying on that commitment, Catholic Charities said, it had incurred “significant debt” to build a new 16-unit residential treatment facility, debt secured by assets which could be used for other purposes.
Pareja said the issue had been under “active discussion” for almost four years and the diocese’s bankruptcy announcement gave new urgency to resolving the situation.
“If this issue is to be settled, it is on us to move a resolution forward and to do so
with the assistance of the court,” he said.
Catholic Charities stopped providing residential treatment services at the facility in May 2017. However, it provides youth behavior health services in day-treatment programs at the location. It aims to continue these services amid the diocese’s bankruptcy filing.
The Catholic Charities affiliate describes itself as “a nonprofit organization that advances the charitable and social mission of the Diocese of St. Cloud.” The diocesan chancellor, Jane Marrin, is listed on its website as a 2018 board member.
The charity’s executive director addressed relations with the diocese and the context of the lawsuit amid other legal claims on the diocese.
“This is not an attack on the diocese or a break in our support for its mission,” Pareja said. “We think the diocese is as interested in resolving this matter as we are, but its ability to act is constrained by the pending Chapter 11 filing.”
Pareja explicitly rejected any characterization of the lawsuit as a legal tactic to shelter diocesan or Church-related assets in anticipation of bankruptcy hearings.
“(W)e are moving independently and in good faith to carry out our fiduciary duties to Catholic Charities and our supporters,” he said. “I want to emphasize this last point in the strongest possible terms: We support the victims of sexual abuse and their efforts to seek justice. We also support the diocese in its efforts to find a way forward that cares for these victims and allows it to continue its ministry to our communities.”
Catholic Charities of St. Cloud serves 54,000 people across 16 counties with services including housing, mental health services and assistance for children and families. CNA contacted the charity but did not receive additional comment by deadline.
St. Cloud was the fourth diocese in Minnesota to declare bankruptcy after the passage of the Minnesota Child Victims Act in 2013, which lifted the civil statute of limitations for child abuse allegations until May 2016. The act gave alleged victims three years in which to file claims for abuse alleged to have occurred decades ago.
During the three-year window, more than six hundred claims were filed against Catholic dioceses in Minnesota.

Do views on abortion align with party platforms? Not always, polls say

Thu, 07/12/2018 - 02:00

Washington D.C., Jul 12, 2018 / 12:00 am (CNA).- Abortion in the United States is usually thought of as a deeply partisan issue. The majority of Republicans in Congress support restrictions on abortion, and the Democratic Party has included support and public funding for abortion in its most recent official party platform.

Outside the beltway, however, viewpoints about abortion don’t divide neatly among party lines.

Some recent polls show broad support for some abortion rights among Republicans, and another suggests that a noteworthy number of Democrats are in favor of overturning Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that cemented abortion’s legality in the United States.

A Marist poll released in January reported that 76 percent of Americans favor some restrictions on abortion, including 60 percent of those who call themselves pro-choice. The same poll found that more than 60 percent of Democrats, and more than 75 percent of independents, support placing strict limits on abortion, and less than 25 percent of Democrats said they support the right to abortion throughout the entire course of a pregnancy.

Despite those numbers, a recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation suggests that most Americans do not want Roe to be overturned.

The Kaiser poll found that 67 percent of people, slightly more than two-thirds of respondents, said that they were in favor of leaving the decision as-is. These numbers were consistent among men and women--with 65 and 68 percent, respectively, supporting the decision. Notably, 74 percent of women between the ages of 18 and 44 said they were opposed to overturning Roe.  

Within political parties, though, a divide began to emerge. 53 percent of Republicans favored overturning Roe, compared to only 23 percent of independents. Noteworthy, though, is that 16 percent of Democrats seemed to reject their party’s support for abortion by expressing that Roe v. Wade should be overturned.

While 16 percent is certainly not a majority, it is significant. Despite this, only three Democratic members of the House of Representatives--Reps. Dan Lipinski (D-IL), Henry Cuellar (D-TX) and Collin Peterson (D-MN) voted to ban abortion after 20 weeks gestation this past October.

Lipinski barely survived an intense primary challenge that centered almost entirely on his pro-life views, and initially was not endorsed by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee--again, over his opposition to abortion.

Some pro-life activists lamented that Lipiniski did not have his party’s support because of his stance on abortion, and that pro-life Democrats are generally unwelcomed by party leadership.

“The Democratic Party has never been very welcoming to pro-life Democrats,” former Michigan Rep. Bart Stupak, a pro-life Democrat, told Vice News in January “They’re even less warm now, and the relationship has gone south.”

Interestingly Research shows that many Americans are uninformed about what overturning Roe actually means.

In a 2013 Pew Research poll, only 62 percent of respondents were aware that Roe concerned abortion rights--a full 20 percent admitted that they did not know at all what the case was about. Only 44 percent of respondents under the age of 30 said they knew that Roe was about abortion.

Some pro-life activists say that confusion over Roe v. Wade, and unpredictable partisan alignment on the issue, demonstrates that opposition to abortion could transcend traditional partisan divides

“As those of us in the anti-abortion movement work to make abortion both illegal and unthinkable, we know that human rights should never just be another partisan issue,” Rosemary Geraghty, of Rehumanize International told CNA.

Rehumanize International is a non-sectarian, non-partisan organization “dedicated to
creating a culture of peace and life” by opposing violence in all forms, including abortion.

“When thousands of human beings are being legally killed every single day, we need to be willing put politics aside and work with everyone in order to build a culture that truly supports all people faced with unplanned pregnancy and their children,” said Geraghty.


The cycle of porn and loneliness

Wed, 07/11/2018 - 19:46

Richmond, Va., Jul 11, 2018 / 05:46 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Andy*, a devout Catholic and recently married man in his twenties, encountered a vicious cycle of pornography in high school and some college – a cycle of porn and loneliness.  

“[Porn] would create this whole loneliness, but then, [because of] that loneliness itself, I was seeking for some sort of connection and I was seeking that through the use of pornography, like this reciprocating cycle,” he told CNA.

Starting sophomore year of high school and ending sometime in college, Andy’s porn use would also make him feel shame about interacting with people. It would lead him to be more anti-social, then to loneliness, and ultimately to more porn use. He said it was real, human connection which broke that cycle.

“I found that one of the things that actually helped me break that cycle was actually more interaction with people that were really good friends and people that were there for me.”

Andy’s experience is not uncommon, according to a recent study from the Institute of Family Studies.

IFS linked greater porn use to increased loneliness and higher levels of loneliness to more porn use, pointing to a vicious and unhealthy cycle. One of the men behind the study, Mark Butler, wrote an article describing the research.

“If loneliness can lead to pornography use, and pornography use may bring about or intensify loneliness, these circular linkages may create a vicious cycle, pulling the user even further from health-promoting relationship connections,” he wrote July 3.

The study surveyed more than 1,000 people from around the world, and a statistical model was developed to analyze the potential reasons behind this cycle of loneliness and porn use.

Butler wrote that “each incremental increase in loneliness was associated with an increase in pornography use (by a factor of 0.16), and each incremental increase in pornography use predicted a significant increase in loneliness (by a factor of 0.20).”

“While the magnitude of effects was small, they were statistically significant,” Butler wrote. “Interlocking partnerships like this are worrisome since they represent an entrapment template associated with addiction.”

The model highlights the biological experience and results of the sexual system that ought to produce greater relational connection through pleasure and comfort.

“First, there’s the physical pleasure of arousal, intercourse, and climax – the engine designed to ensure offspring. Then, after climax, partners experience the brain’s 'love' plan for pair bonding, when oxytocin … is released, producing feelings of comfort, connection, and closeness.”

However, without a partner with whom to bond, the sexual activity produces a false relationship experience, “offering temporary ‘relief’ from lonely feeling, but soon enough, the user again faces a real-world relationship void,” he said.  

The mental fantasy of a relationship experience invited by pornography “only tricks the brain for a while,” Butler said.

“The user can’t escape the fact that when the experience is over, they’re still alone in an empty room. So, when sexual intoxication wears off, the experience may only end up excavating a deeper emptiness – a setup for a vicious cycle.”

The temporary escape from the long term loneliness creates a false-belief that porn is a “fix” for loneliness, he said, noting that it is similar to drug addictions.  

“The sexual system’s combination of two very different rewards – intense sensual gratification during arousal and climax, followed by oxytocin’s relief and comfort during the resolution period – could be thought of like a combined cocaine-valium experience and ‘hook.’”

“We hypothesize that this experience could create the potential for getting trapped in the short-term, feel-good escape of pornography joined with long-term loneliness.”

Butler also pointed to other studies that show a decrease in porn use after marriage, suggesting that human connection contrasts with this vicious cycle.

“Married persons use pornography less than single persons. The fact that pornography use decreases after marriage may hint at a link between pornography, relational success, and loneliness.”


*Name changed to respect privacy

Catholic Charities in Brownsville receives assistance for migrant relief center

Wed, 07/11/2018 - 16:35

Brownsville, Texas, Jul 11, 2018 / 02:35 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholic Charities in San Antonio is collecting and donating supplies to a relief center for immigrants run by its sister agency, Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley.

The respite center, housed in Sacred Heart parish, is run by Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, the charitable branch of the Diocese of Brownsville.

With the help of volunteers, the Humanitarian Respite Center has assisted more than 100,000 immigrants seeking refuge in the US since its opening, according to Catholic Charities.

The respite center has acted as a “first stop” for immigrants for years, said a July 10 article in the San Antonio Express-News.

Especially with the recent controversy surrounding immigration policy and separation of families, the public has been observing border activity with particular interest. A few weeks ago, five bishops visited the border and spent time at Rio Grande’s Humanitarian Respite Center to learn more about the situation, hearing many immigrants’ personal stories.

“These are all human beings here,” Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston said in a July 2 press conference. The bishops also emphasized prayer and urgent action against immigration policies that allow for disunion of families.

San Antonio’s Catholic Charities is asking for the following donations: “bottled water; non-perishable food such as canned corn, beans, potatoes and carrots; new women’s clothing sizes 2 to 6; new men’s pants, waist sizes up to 28 inches; new children’s clothing; and reusable shopping bags,” according to the Express-News. They are also accepting monetary donations for the cause, and they have requested more volunteers.

J. Antonio Fernández, chief of San Antonio Catholic Charities, will also accompany a truck full of supplies and food to Rio Grande. Called “Hope,” the Express-News article reported, “it was purchased in the aftermath of the archdiocese’s aid efforts during Hurricane Harvey.”

USCCB supports judge’s ruling for detained asylum seekers

Wed, 07/11/2018 - 13:11

Washington D.C., Jul 11, 2018 / 11:11 am (CNA).- The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops applauded a recent federal ruling that barred the Trump administration from detaining asylum seekers without case review.

“The ruling is extremely important for the roughly 1000 asylum seekers who are currently detained,” said Ashley Feasley, director of policy for the USCCB’s Migration and Refugee Services office.

“It provides them with an opportunity for release while their asylum case is pending, or to a hearing to prove that they merit release during the pendency of their case,” she told CNA.

On July 2, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg ordered Immigration and Customs Enforcement grant asylum seekers a personal case review and to release them while the hearing process is underway.

According to the Washington Post, immigration advocacy groups claim that asylum seekers have been detained indefinitely despite ICE policy requiring that their cases be reviewed within seven days, or that they be released pending a hearing. Reportedly, immigrants have been jailed for months or years at ICE facilities in five major cities: Detroit, El Paso, Los Angeles, Newark, and Philadelphia.

Boasberg’s ruling gave asylum seekers provisional status for class action litigation. He also restricted ICE from holding applicants beyond seven days if their claims had not been personally reviewed and if a written explanation has not been given for the extended detention.

Citing a 2009 directive from the Department of Homeland Security, he said the degree of risk an undocumented asylum seeker poses must be determined on a case-by-case basis. He said immigrants should be released if they can prove credible danger in their home country.

“This Opinion does no more than hold the Government accountable to its own policy, which recently has been honored more in the breach than the observance. Having extended the safeguards of the Parole Directive to asylum seekers, ICE must now ensure that such protections are realized,” he said in a 38-page opinion piece.

Feasley said an accessible asylum program, which personally reviews the claims of endangered migrants, is critical. She said these asylum seekers are traumatized and further detention could worsen the degree of trauma.

“It is important that those fleeing persecution and seeking protection are able to access justice and have their claims evaluated in a thorough and individual way,” she said.

“In many instances, asylum seekers have experienced trauma and being in detention is harmful and can be re-traumatizing.”

The most recent ruling is in response to a class-action lawsuit instigated by the American Civil Liberties Union. The plaintiffs began with nine undocumented immigrants from countries like Haiti and Venezuela. The case now represents over 800 detainees and has gained support from the advocacy group Human Rights First.

The ACLU filed the lawsuit in March after discovering higher levels of detention rates during the Trump administration. The advocacy group said detention rates increased to 96 percent during the first eight months of Donald Trump’s presidency – a significant difference from the detention levels which were recorded to be under 10 percent in 2013.

Ansly Damus, a 41-year-old Haiti teacher, is among the plaintiffs. He won an asylum petition twice, after he sought protection from a violent gang, but has been detained for over 16 months while his case is appealed by the government.

For immigrants who have proven that they are not a risk to the country, Feasley said the practice of detainment is very costly compared to other alternative actions.

“Detaining asylum seekers who have demonstrated community ties and are not safety risks is also a very costly practice to the U.S. taxpayer as detention beds run approximately $134/day whereas family placement is free and alternatives to detention are significantly cheaper.”

She also expressed hope that Boasberg’s would aid future asylum seekers and the immigration process.

“It also likely could affect future asylum seekers and their ability to access release from detention while their case is pending.”


More Americans are living together and having babies before they get married

Tue, 07/10/2018 - 21:00

Denver, Colo., Jul 10, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- While the average age of first marriages is higher than ever before, more Americans are cohabiting and having children outside of marriage, according to recent data from the Pew Research Center and the Center for Disease Control.

In February 2018, the Pew Research Center reported that the median age of marriage in the United States was 29.5 years for men and 27.4 years for women in 2017. These are the oldest median marriage ages on record.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the percentage of cohabiting Americans is also climbing.

Last month, the Institute for Family Studies discussed a study on cohabitation released by the Center for Disease Control’s National Center for Health Statistics. The IFS concluded that 64.5 percent of participants in a study of Americans age 18-44 had “cohabited with a romantic partner at some point outside of marriage.”

“Other estimates not based on this specific report are that the percentage of people living together before tying the knot is now at an all-time high of over 70 percent,” the IFS reported.

Calling cohabitation a socially “normative behavior,” the article noted an 82 percent increase  between 1987 and 2010 of women who have cohabited at some point, as reported in a study by demographer Wendy Manning.

Cohabiting couples are also increasingly more likely to have children. There has been a 15 percent increase in cohabiting parents from 1997 to 2017, a Pew Research study found.

“Due primarily to the rising number of cohabiting parents, the share of unmarried parents who are fathers has more than doubled over the past 50 years,” Pew reported.

“Cohabitation has greatly increased in large measure because, while people are delaying marriage to ever greater ages, they are not delaying sex, living together, or childbearing,” the IFS said, noting that “almost all of the increase in non-marital births in the US since 1980 has taken place in the context of cohabiting unions.”

When children are born to cohabiting parents, their parents’ relationships gets complicated, the Institute asserted, and makes for tricky situations down the road than if the parents were to separate.

The IFS also noted the complicated relationship between cohabitation, marriage, and divorce.

While studies have shown that the percentage of cohabiting couples who break up is on the rise, cohabitation is also found to increase the likelihood of marriage caused by relationship “inertia.”

In a study titled, “Sliding Versus Deciding: Inertia and the Premarital Cohabitation Effect,” the authors explore the concept of “inertia” in the ever-increasing phenomenon of cohabitation.

“We suggest that some couples who otherwise would not have married end up married,” due to the binding situation that cohabitation creates for a couple, said the abstract.

“We discuss practice implications for relationship transitions that are characterized more by sliding than deciding, especially where a transition such as cohabitation increases inertia to remain in a relationship regardless of quality or fit,” it said.

Even when it leads to marriage, a multitude of studies have shown that many relationships that begin in cohabitation are short-lived, unstable and unhappy.

The IFS said that “this added risk is compounded by the fact that most couples slide into cohabiting rather than make a clear decision about what it means and what their futures may hold.”


Pro-life groups react to Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination

Tue, 07/10/2018 - 18:36

Washington D.C., Jul 10, 2018 / 04:36 pm (CNA).- Many pro-life and Catholic groups reacted with optimism about President Donald Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

“President Trump has made another outstanding choice in nominating Judge Brett Kavanaugh to replace Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, keeping his promise to nominate only originalist judges to the Court,” said Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser. She described Kavanaugh as “an experienced, principled jurist,” who has a “strong record of protecting life and constitutional rights.”

Catholic Medical Association President Peter T. Morrow called the justice “solid” on issues related to the protection of life. Morrow said that that President Trump “continue(d) to uphold his promise to nominate only pro-life judges to the Supreme Court.”

Americans United for Life President Catherine Glenn Foster said that “Judge Kavanaugh will be an originalist Justice, committed to the text of the Constitution and to the rule of law, including legal protections for human life.”
Foster said that this nomination is a “seminal moment” for the country, and is a “crucial chance to shift the Court” to one that does not regard the judicial activism of the Roe and Casey decisions as their “legacy.”

March for Life’s Jeanne Mancini praised Kavanaugh as a “man of faith” and a “family man” who is “exceptionally qualified” for the Supreme Court.

Kavanaugh “will no doubt serve as a fair, independent judge who will remain faithful to the Constitution,” said Mancini.

She noted that of the 20 percent of voters who cited the Supreme Court vacancy as their deciding factor for their vote, 57 percent of those went for Trump. Mancini believes that Trump satisfied those voters with Kavanaugh, “another Gorsuch-like nominee.”

At least some pro-life and religious liberty advocates, though, have raised concerns about Kavanaugh.

National Review Institute senior fellow David French wrote in the Washington Post that while the nominee is a very good choice, Kavanaugh’s record on some religious liberty issues raises questions.

“In Priests for Life v. Department of Health and Human Services, Kavanaugh wrongly held that the government had a ‘compelling interest’ in ‘facilitating access to contraceptives’ for employees of the specific religious plaintiffs in the case,” he wrote.

Kavanaugh’s decision was incorrect, French said, because “religious employers have broad latitude to limit their employees’ conduct, and the government has little legal authority to meddle in the organization’s religious mission.”

French also lamented that Judge Amy Barrett, who had been a potential nominee, was not chosen to fill Kennedy’s Supreme Court seat.

Nominating Barrett, French said, “represented a chance for an important cultural moment — an opportunity for the best of young professional Christians to face the worst of progressive antireligion bias and prevail on the largest possible stage.”

“It’s not just that Barrett is qualified; she is,” he wrote. “It’s that conservative Christians see her as qualified  and a person they felt like they know.”

Those in favor of expanded abortion rights expressed more serious concern with Kavanaugh’s nomination.

EMILY’s List, which seeks to elect pro-choice women, criticized Kavanaugh for his past decision blocking an undocumented minor in federal custody from receiving an abortion.

“Trump promised to only nominate anti-choice Supreme Court justices,” said EMILY’s List President Stephanie Schriock in an email, “and now he’s kept that promise.”

New York’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo, himself Catholic, tweeted that he was concerned that Kavanaugh is “an extreme conservative who would overturn Roe v. Wade the first chance he got.” For these reasons, Cuomo said that Kavanaugh “cannot be allowed to join the Supreme Court.”


FSSP elects new superior general

Tue, 07/10/2018 - 12:42

Lincoln, Neb., Jul 10, 2018 / 10:42 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The general chapter of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, a society of apostolic life which celebrates the extraordinary form of the Roman rite, on Monday elected Fr. Andrzej Komorowski as its next superior general.

The July 9 election was made at the FSSP's Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary in Denton, Neb., about 10 miles southwest of Lincoln. The general chapter is being held July 3-18.

Fr. Komorowski was born in Poland in 1975, and studied economics at the University of Poznań. He then joined the FSSP's European seminary, St. Peter's Seminary in Wigratzbad, Germany, and was ordained a priest in 2006.

He has ministered at FSSP apostolates in Poland, Belgium, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. He has served as assistant of the superior general since 2012, and as general bursar.

Fr. Komorowski succeeds Fr. John Berg as superior general of the FSSP, and is the fourth man to the hold that position.

The FSSP forms priests for the use of the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, and having formed them, deploys priests in parishes for the service of the Church.

The priestly fraternity was founded in 1988 by 12 priests of the Society of St. Pius X. The founders left the SSPX to establish the FSSP after the society's leader, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, consecrated four bishops without the permission of St. John Paul II.

There are currently almost 287 priests and 150 seminarians in the fraternity. It has parishes and chapels in North America, Europe, Oceania, Nigeria, and Colombia.

Brett Kavanaugh nominated to US Supreme Court

Mon, 07/09/2018 - 21:25

Washington D.C., Jul 9, 2018 / 07:25 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- President Donald Trump announced Monday night he is nominating Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court to fill the vacancy created when Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement June 27.

In a brief speech after the announcement, Kavanaugh spoke about the importance of his Catholic upbringing and how it has affected his career.

The July 9 announcement came after much speculation over how Trump will choose to shape the Supreme Court during his first term. This is the second vacancy he has filled; previously, he appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.

Confirmation hearings are expected to begin shortly in the Senate.

Trump said that Kavanaugh "has devoted his life to public service."

After being introduced, Kavanaugh said he is "deeply honored" to be nominated.

“The motto of my Jesuit high school was 'men for others',” said Kavanaugh, who graduated from Georgetown Preparatory School near Washington, D.C. “I have tried to live that creed.”

“I am part of the vibrant Catholic community in the D.C. area,” he said at his nomination. “The members of that community disagree about many things, but we are united in our commitment to serve.”

Kavanaugh highlighted his commitment to service, both in and out of the courtroom. He volunteers serving meals to the homeless, coaching his daughter’s basketball team, and tutoring at an elementary school.

He made special mention of Msgr. John Enzler, President and CEO of Catholic Charities, who was present at the announcement.

“40 years ago, I was an altar boy for Fr. John,” said Kavanaugh, adding that they now serve the homeless together through his work with Catholic Charities.

Kavanaugh currently serves on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, and has done so since 2006. Previously, he worked in the George W. Bush White House.

Bush said that Kavanaugh "is a brilliant jurist who has faithfully applied the Constitution and laws throughout his 12 years on the D.C. Circuit. He is a fine husband, father, and friend — a man of the highest integrity."

Kavanaugh clerked for Justice Kennedy.

He received his undergraduate and law degrees from Yale University. He and his wife, Ashley, have two daughters.

On abortion, not much is known regarding his personal views. Kavanaugh recently wrote a decision that prevented a pregnant undocumented minor in federal custody from receiving an abortion. The decision was overturned by another court.

Kavanaugh has written dissents in the past opposing undocumented persons voting in union elections and was opposed to expanding visas to foreign workers when there were Americans who could do the job.

His 2015 ruling on the HHS contraception mandate was met with a mixed response. While he sided with Priests for Life in their case against the Obama administration, he appeared to acknowledge a “compelling” interest in the availability of government-provided contraception, which had previously been recognized by members of the Supreme Court.

In a case involving the Washington Metro’s prohibition on religious-themed advertisements, including an ad by the Archdiocese of Washington, Kavanaugh was “unrelenting” in his questioning of the Metro’s lawyer, saying that he believed the prohibition was “discriminatory.”

Controversy flares over US challenge to WHO breastfeeding resolution

Mon, 07/09/2018 - 18:00

Washington D.C., Jul 9, 2018 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- After critics charged that US delegates threatened Ecuador to prevent a World Health Organization resolution supporting breastfeeding, President Trump and administration officials say the U.S. supports breastfeeding.

The New York Times reported July 8 that during a WHO meeting in May, American officials threatened Ecuador with sanctions if it would not withdraw its sponsorship for a resolution in support of breastfeeding. US officials say the matter is more complicated.

The resolution was primarily meant to prevent dishonest or inaccurate marketing of baby formula, subsequently promoting breastfeeding as the healthiest choice for babies, Britain’s Baby Milk Action Policy Director Patti Rundall said in an interview with NPR.

Rundell said the resolution was “all about trading, and trading goods that really are misleadingly marketed.”

The resolution, sponsored by the Ecuador, encouraged governments to oppose marketing that claims baby formula is better for babies than breastfeeding.

But an HHS spokeswoman said that “the resolution as originally drafted placed unnecessary hurdles for mothers seeking to provide nutrition to their children,”

Caitlin Oakley, a spokesperson for the US Department of Health and Human Services, said in a statement that “"The issues being debated were not about whether one supports breastfeeding.”

"The United States was fighting to protect women's abilities to make the best choices for the nutrition of their babies.

"Many women are not able to breastfeed for a variety of reasons, these women should not be stigmatised; they should be equally supported with information and access to alternatives for the health of themselves and their babies."

The New York Times reported that the US attempted to “water down” the wording of the resolution, focusing on two passages, the article said: one requiring that countries “‘protect, promote and support breast-feeding,’” and another that would place restrictions on companies selling baby formula that is, according to health officials, harmful.

Their efforts were unsuccessful, so, according to media reports, the US reportedly “threatened” any country that supported the resolution, including Ecuador and several South American and African countries. The US has denied allegations it threatened any country during negotiations.

Though Ecuador withdrew its support for the resolution, Russian delegates took up its sponsorship, and the measure passed, amended partially by the US in two ways: language was removed offering WHO support for nations trying to stop ‘inappropriate promotion of foods for infants and young children,”  and the phrase “‘evidence-based” was added to some provisions about advertisements supporting breastfeeding.

Critics charge that the US delegation is unduly influenced by lobbyists for formula manufacturers.

Erroneously advertised baby formulas, while claiming to be authentic, can be detrimental to babies’ health. They can sometimes even cause death, Rundall said.

“I don’t think people thought about it very much,” she said, “that… marketing could lead people to the extent… that you would actually have babies dying.”

In a tweet Monday, President Trump said that the “U.S. strongly supports breast feeding but we don’t believe women should be denied access to formula. Many woman need this option because of malnutrition and poverty.”

Newspapers, victims sue for release of Pa. grand jury's clergy sex abuse report

Mon, 07/09/2018 - 16:40

Harrisburg, Pa., Jul 9, 2018 / 02:40 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Several Pennsylvania news outlets and victims of clergy sex abuse sued Friday for the release of a grand jury report which details cases of abuse in six of the state's eight Catholic dioceses. The state supreme court had blocked the release.

Todd Frey, who testified to the grand jury about having been abused by a priest, filed a petition with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court July 6, saying the delayed release of the report is re-traumatizing victims. Philadelphia attorney Tom Kline has filed suit on behalf of another, unnamed victim.

Frey's court filing said the stay on the report's release “replicates and continues” the silencing he experienced as a youth.

Nine news outlets argued that Pennsylvania law requires that the more-than-800-page report, a “matter of extraordinary public importance”, be released publicly.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced June 29 he would be taking legal action to force the report's release.

The state's two dioceses which are not subjects of the report, Philadelphia and Altoona-Johnstown, have already undergone similar investigations.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court stayed the release of the report June 20, after numerous individuals named in the report objected to its release, citing concerns of due process and reputational rights guaranteed by the state constitution.

Those who requested a block on the release of the report have said that though they could file written rebuttals with the grand jury, they could not present their own testimony or evidence, or cross-examine witnesses.

The objections were made by around 24 persons, including current and former clerics. The dioceses named in the report have all said they did not apply for the stay, and that they support the publication of the report.

The individuals who asked for the stay said the report “denies them due process based upon the lack of a pre-deprivation hearing and/or an opportunity to be heard by the grand jury,” according to the state supreme court.

Justin Danilewitz, an attorney representing the current and former clerics who sought to block the report's release, said the report is replete with inaccuracies. He wrote that “grand jury secrecy protects those, like the Clergy Petitioners, whose reputations may be unjustly harmed, including the innocent wrongly accused.”

Lawyers for the media outlets requesting the report's release have said a redacted version could be released to respond to those concerns, while the court considers challenges to the full report's release, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

Some priests have said they would not object to the release of a redacted version of the report, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News.

Efrem Grail, an attorney representing an individual named in the report, has written that “There is simply no reason why speed in this entire proceeding will lead to anything other than injustice and confusion.”

Witnesses who testified to the grand jury want the report “to bring sweeping change, forcing their abusers and the church to be accountable and take responsibility. They hope it encourages other victims who haven't come forward after years of dealing alone with their trauma to get the help they need. They also hope it propels lawmakers to change Pennsylvania law to give prosecutors more time to pursue charges against child predators and victims more time to sue for damages,” according to the Associated Press.

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops adopted in 2002 a Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which has been the foundation for the efforts to provide a safe environment in the Church in the US.

The charter obligates all compliant dioceses and eparchies to provide resources both for victims of abuse and resources for abuse prevention. Each year, the USCCB releases an extensive report on the dioceses and eparchies, including an audit of all abuse cases and allegations, and recommended policy guidelines for dioceses. The guidelines of the current charter have been implemented in every US diocese.

The charter has been continually updated, including earlier this year.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has said its stay order will be revisited “when the proceedings before it have advanced to a stage at which either the petitions for review can be resolved, or an informed and fair determination can be made as to whether a continued stay is warranted.”

Petitioners must submit briefs to the court by July 10, and the attorney general is to respond by July 13.

Chicago priest leads protest against gun-violence, shutting down expressway

Mon, 07/09/2018 - 16:12

Chicago, Ill., Jul 9, 2018 / 02:12 pm (CNA).- Thousands of marchers joined Chicago priest Father Michael Pfleger to protest gun violence on Saturday, shutting down more than a mile of the city’s busiest highway.

Only a portion of Dan Ryan Expressway’s northbound lanes were expected to be closed by the demonstrations, but safety concerns caused police to shut down all the lanes. The priest was pleased with the move, expressing hope that stopping traffic would draw more attention to protestors’ calls for the city to do more to address gun violence.

“We came out here to do one thing: to shut it down,” Father Pfleger, pastor of St. Sabine Catholic Church, told the Chicago Tribune.

“We came here to get their attention. Hopefully we got their attention. … Today was the attention-getter, but now comes the action.”

Pfleger began encouraging participation in the march via Twitter and Facebook several weeks ago, urging demonstrators to speak against poverty, unemployment, and crime, especially in Chicago’s South Side neighborhoods.

The demonstration took place shortly after the Fourth of July, during an annual spike in shootings across Chicago. In 2017, 15 people were killed and 87 people were injured by gunshots during the July 4 holiday.

Activists entered the expressway July 7 at 79th Street, at about 10:20 a.m. marching until 67th Street, and exiting the expressway at 12:30 p.m. Many supporters bore anti-violence signs, and Pfleger marched alongside a large cross inscribed with the words “stop shooting.”

For the first hour, the protestors chanted and marched along the right lanes and grassy shoulder of the highway. When large crowd began to overwhelm the police safety lines, city authorities decided to close the remaining inbound lanes.

U.S. Representative Danny Davis, whose grandson was killed in a South Side shooting in 2016, attended the march, as did the Rev. Jesse Jackson, a Baptist minister and civil rights activist, and Rev. Harolynn McIntosh, the pastor a South Side church.

The event was supported by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, whose mother was an activist during the civil rights movement.

According to the Chicago Sun Times, the mayor reached out to Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner and Cardinal Blase Cupich, the Archbishop of Chicago, to discuss logistics of the demonstration.

“I just figured there had to be a common-sense way to do this and figure it out,” he said. “So I called [Governor] Bruce.”

“Look, we were in need of a way to declare our independence from violence,” he said. “What better time to do it then a time when we celebrate our own nation’s independence.”

Before the march, Governor Rauner agreed to support a compromise plan which left two inbound lanes open. After the event, the governor tweeted that he was “disappointed in the Mayor,” because additional lanes were closed, though the move to open the remaining lanes to demonstrators was reportedly seen as an operational decision made by police on-site.

Cardinal Cupich also expressed support for the protest. He issued a series of tweets on Saturday, pointing to the power of nonviolent demonstrations, and applauding Catholic involvement.

“Non-violent action and peaceful protest have the power to create change. The change we need in this moment is to end a culture of violence and indifference,” he wrote in a July 7 tweet.

“I applaud the courage shown by young people in our city and across the country demanding their right to life and human dignity, given by God and guaranteed by our nation’s founders.”

St Sabina Church has previously promoted anti-gun demonstrations. The parish led protests at the Chicago Civic Center downtown on June 4 and in the Auburn Greshman neighborhood on June 15.

Fort Worth diocese removes 'no gun' signs from church property

Sat, 07/07/2018 - 05:22

Fort Worth, Texas, Jul 7, 2018 / 03:22 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Diocese of Fort Worth is removing signs notifying people that concealed and open carry of firearms are both banned on church property – but the policy against guns has not changed.

Removal of the signs was recommended by a security team whom the diocese hired as consultants after a mass shooting at a Baptist church in Sutherland Springs last November, NBC reported.

Tony Perez, a parishioner at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, has a license to carry firearms, but had been advocating for the removal of the signs.

He told Dallas-Fort Worth’s NBC affiliate that the signs were “effectively advertising a gun-free zone,” which notified individuals seeking to do harm that the location was vulnerable.

Instead of posting signs near the entrances of churches throughout the diocese, notification of the gun ban will be included in weekly Sunday bulletins, NBC said.

Additional security measures – such as congregation training, cameras, fences, and hiring off-duty police officers – are being left up to the discretion of individual parishes within Fort Worth.

Scheduled execution in Nebraska 'would undermine respect for human life'

Fri, 07/06/2018 - 19:11

Lincoln, Neb., Jul 6, 2018 / 05:11 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Nebraska's bishops on Friday issued a statement opposing the execution of Carey Dean Moore, whose execution date has been set for Aug. 14.

“Our society has a pervasive culture of violence and death which can only be transformed by a counter-culture of justice and mercy,” read a July 6 statement issued by Archbishop George Lucas of Omaha, Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, and Bishop Joseph Hanefeldt of Grand Island.

“Each time we consider applying capital punishment, Nebraska has an opportunity to respond to an act of violence with an act of mercy that does not endanger public safety or compromise the demands of justice.”

“There is no doubt the state has the responsibility to administer just punishment,” the bishops wrote. “However, given our modern prison system, the execution of Carey Dean Moore is not necessary to fulfill justice and, for that reason, would undermine respect for human life.”

The bishops said that “We continue to offer our sincerest prayers for all victims and those affected by the heinous crimes of Mr. Moore, and we pray for his conversion of heart.”

Nebraska has not executed a prisoner in 21 years, and capital punishment has been a contentious issue in the state's legislature in recent years.

Moore's execution date was set July 5 by the Nebraska Supreme Court. Moore, 60, has been on death row 38 years, the longest of the state's 12 death row inmates. He was sentenced for the 1979 murders of two cab drivers, Reuel Van Ness, Jr. and Maynard Helgeland.

The Lincoln Journal Star reports that Moore will be executed by injection of diazepam, fentanyl citrate, cisatracurium besylate, and potassium chloride. Moore's execution would be the first lethal injection in Nebraska; most recently, the state utilized the electric chair.

Nebraska's store of potassium chloride is due to expire at the end of August.

A district judge ruled in June that the state had to release records of its communications with the supplier of its lethal injection drugs, but the decision was appealed and there records remain private.

Moore has chosen not to appeal his execution.

Capital punishment was abolished by Nebraska's unicameral legislature in 2015, overriding a veto by Gov. Pete Ricketts. But state voters reinstated the practice 2016 in a ballot measure by a vote of about 61 percent.

“We express our disappointment that the death penalty will be reinstated in Nebraska,” Nebraska’s three bishops said in a joint statement Nov. 9, 2016. “We will continue to call for the repeal of the death penalty when it is not absolutely necessary to protect the public safety.”

Meet the likely nominees for the next Supreme Court justice

Fri, 07/06/2018 - 18:53

Washington D.C., Jul 6, 2018 / 04:53 pm (CNA).- On July 9, President Donald Trump will announce his nominee to replace Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. Trump reportedly spent the last weekend interviewing candidates for the position, and insiders say that he has narrowed it to three people: Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh, and Raymond Kethledge.

Here’s what you need to know about each of these justices.

Amy Coney Barrett:

Barrett has served on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals since November of 2017. Prior to this, she was a professor at Notre Dame Law School. She clerked for the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

She received a Bachelor of Arts from Rhodes College (BA) and received a JD from Notre Dame Law School.

Barrett and her husband Jesse have seven children, including two adopted from Haiti, and one with special needs. She is a Catholic, and is reportedly a member of People of Praise, a charismatic ecumenical group. Her father is a Catholic deacon.

Concerns of anti-Catholic bigotry were raised during her appeals court nomination hearing, when Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) told her that “the dogma lives loudly within you. And that’s of concern.” If she is nominated, she will likely face opposition from Senate Democrats over her pro-life stance and the common presumption that she would be willing to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that found a right to an abortion throughout a pregnancy.

Barrett said in 2016 that she could envision abortion rights changing in the United States, according to the New York Times. She said in her 2017 confirmation hearings that she would “have no interest” in challenging the Roe v. Wade decision.

Her limited judicial experience on the bench may work against her, although other justices with less experience have been appointed in the past. Given the advanced age of two of the other Supreme Court justices (Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 85 and Justice Stephen Breyer will turn 80 in August), as well as her relative young age of 46, it’s entirely possible Trump may save her for another potential appointment once she has more experience.

Brett Kavanaugh:

Kavanaugh has served on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals since 2006. Prior to that, he was a secretary in the George W. Bush administration. He clerked for the recently-retired Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.

He received his undergraduate and law degrees from Yale University, and is married to his wife, Ashley. He is Catholic and graduated from the Jesuit high school Georgetown Preparatory School.

On abortion, not much is known regarding his personal views. Kavanaugh recently wrote a decision that prevented a pregnant undocumented minor in federal custody from receiving an abortion. The decision was overturned by another court.

Kavanaugh has written dissents in the past opposing undocumented persons voting in union elections and was opposed to expanding visas to foreign workers when there were Americans who could do the job.

His 2015 ruling on the HHS contraception mandate was met with a mixed response. While he sided with Priests for Life in their case against the Obama administration, he appeared to acknowledge a “compelling” interest in the availability of government-provided contraception, which had previously been recognized by members of the Supreme Court.

In a case involving the Washington Metro’s prohibition on religious-themed advertisements, including an ad by the Archdiocese of Washington, Kavanaugh was “unrelenting” in his questioning of the Metro’s lawyer, saying that he believed the prohibition was “discriminatory.”

Raymond Kethledge:

Kethledge has been on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals since 2008. He, like Kavanaugh, is a former Kennedy clerk.

He received his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Michigan. Kethledge and his wife, Jessica, have two children. He is an Evangelical Christian.

Kethledge has not said much publicly on abortion, but he served as Judiciary Committee counsel for a pro-life senator who was seeking to ban certain types of abortion.

Out of the three reported finalists, Kethledge has a mixed record on immigration that may upset some conservatives. In the past, he has sided with undocumented immigrants and has blocked deportations, but he has also ruled in favor of the government in other cases. He’s described as a judicial “textualist.”

His rulings on religious liberty are limited. In one 2018 case, he sided with a church-owned restaurant and its volunteers against the Labor Department’s wage requirements. He has, however, ruled in many free speech cases, and generally supported free speech. One notable exception was when he ruled against a legal challenge to a law that banned strip clubs in a city’s downtown.

President Trump is expected to announce his pick Monday evening from the White House. Senate hearings are expected to begin shortly thereafter.

DiNardo: Roe v. Wade is no litmus test for Supreme Court justices

Fri, 07/06/2018 - 14:45

Washington D.C., Jul 6, 2018 / 12:45 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. Senate should not use a nominee’s stance on Roe v. Wade as a litmus test on suitability for appointment to the Supreme Court, the president of the nation’s bishops’ conference has said.

“By any measure, support for Roe is an impoverished standard for assessing judicial ability,” wrote Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the USCCB, in a July 6 letter to senators.

“If a Supreme Court ruling was wrongly decided, is widely rejected as morally flawed and socially harmful, and is seen even by many supporters as having little basis in the Constitution, these are very good reasons not to use it as a litmus test for future judges,” the cardinal wrote.

DiNardo noted that most Americans oppose the policies permitted by the Roe v. Wade decision and “believe that abortion should not be legal for the reasons it is most often performed.”

He added that “mainstream medicine rejects abortion,” that state legislatures are “passing laws to provide as much protection from abortion as possible,” and that “even legal scholars who support abortion have criticized Roe for not being grounded in the U.S. Constitution.”

DiNardo added that “nominees’ faith should not be used as a proxy for their views on Roe. Any religious test for public office  is both unjust and unconstitutional.”

The cardinal’s letter comes days before July 9, when President Donald Trump is expected to announce his pick to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, who announced his retirement in June.

Pro-life advocates have expected hope that a Trump-appointed justice could give the court a majority of justices willing to overturn Roe v. Wade. Among the rumored candidates is Judge Amy Barrett, a Catholic, who made headlines last year when Sen. Dianne Feinstein criticized Barrett’s faith, saying that Catholic “dogma lives loudy” within her.

At least one Republican senator, Susan Collins of Maine, has said that a nominee who intends to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision would "not be acceptable.” The Senate is required to confirm a nominee before a Supreme Court appointment can take effect.

DiNardo’s letter said that the Church’s ethical commitment to the right to life “has profound consequences not only for abortion,” but for the death penalty, the right to health care, and other issues.

“Our civil society will be all the poorer if Senators, as a matter of practice, reject well-qualified judicial nominees whose consciences have been formed in this ethic,” DiNardo concluded.

In eastern India, radicals expel ten Christian families

Thu, 07/05/2018 - 19:00

Kolkata, India, Jul 5, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- Several Christian families have been assaulted and expelled from their village by local extremists for refusing to renounce their faith, drawing protest from an American group who says the attack violates the families’ rights under Indian law.

“We here at International Christian Concern are deeply concerned to see that 10 Christian families have been beaten and displaced for merely exercising their religious freedom rights,” William Stark, regional manager at International Christian Concern, said July 3.

International Christian Concern, a non-denominational Christian NGO based in the U.S., reports that 10 Christian families in the eastern India state of Jharkhand have been driven from their homes for refusing to renounce their faith.

On June 5 the ten Christian families from Pahli village in Latehar district were summoned to a meeting with local radicals. The radicals told them to renounce their faith or leave. After the families refused, they were beaten and driven from their village.
The radicals then locked down their homes. The Christians have been unable to return to their homes and local authorities are either unable or unwilling to assist them. Local police in Balumat have unlocked some of their houses, but have taken no action against the radicals, 25-year-old Shyamlal Kujju, one of the Christians affected, told ICC.
“We are living in fear, away from our homes,” Kujju said. “It is almost a month since my house is locked by Hindu radicals and there is no attempt by the police or the government to resolve the issue. Our lives are devastated as we hide ourselves from the Hindu radicals. We do not know how long this will continue.”

Father Theodore Mascarenhas, the secretary general of the Indian Catholic bishops’ conference speculated following violence in another village of Jharkand last month that “maybe government agencies have been targeting Christian missionaries” in the region, which is predominantly poor, predominantly rural, predominantly poor, and the epicenter of a long-running guerilla conflict between Maoist radicals and government forces.

The families in Pahli regularly worshipped in a fellow Christian’s home before the June 5 threat.
Christian Pastor Rajdev Toppo, who is familiar with the area, said it has become “increasingly difficult” to serve in the Latehar district.
“On a daily basis, I am threatened and ridiculed for teaching Christians the Word of God,” he told ICC. “The local government has not been helpful including when cases of the Christians were taken to the police and administration.”
Jharkhand State adopted legislation billed as a Freedom of Religion law in September 2017, but its critics see it as an anti-conversion law. The law regulates religious conversions and criminalizes forced conversions.
ICC said that “forced conversion” is a legally ambiguous term and radicals often abuse these laws to make false accusations against Christians or to justify assaults against them.

Stark said India’s constitution backs the individual’s right to profess, practice and propagate his or her religion.
“This right has obviously been denied to these 10 Christian families in Pahli village,” he said. “Local authorities must take decisive action to correct this denial of rights and arrest those involved in the June 5 attack. Without enforcement, India’s religious freedom rights will remain only words on paper and attacks on Christians and other religious minorities will continue to rise in both number and severity.”
Earlier this year, Hindu nationalists posted online a video calling for a Christian-free India and showing them trampling a photo of Pope Francis near Sacred Heart Cathedral in New Delhi, the national capital.


UK appoints first religious freedom envoy

Thu, 07/05/2018 - 16:10

London, England, Jul 5, 2018 / 02:10 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- For the first time, a Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief has been appointed in the UK to promote international religious liberty and fight persecution.

Lord Tariq Mahmood Ahmad, Minister of State for the Commonwealth and the United Nations, was selected for the role. Ahmad also serves as the Prime Minister's Special Representative on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict.

In the role, Ahmad “will promote the UK’s firm stance on religious tolerance abroad, helping to tackle religious discrimination in countries where minority faith groups face persecution,” the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said in a statement Wednesday.

Ahmad said he was delighted by the appointment and plans to “use the UK Government’s global network to reach across religious divides, seek the elimination of discrimination on the basis of religion or belief and bring different communities together.”

“In too many parts of the world, religious minorities are persecuted, discriminated against and treated as second class citizens. As a man of faith, I feel this very keenly,” he said in a statement.

“Freedom of Religion or Belief is a human right enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It must be respected. People from all faiths or none should be free to practise as they wish. This respect is key to global stability, and is in all our interests.”

The role of religious freedom envoy, similar to the U.S. position of Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, will “demonstrate the country’s commitment to religious freedom by promoting inter-faith respect and dialogue internationally,” the government said in a press release.

“The appointment underscores the Prime Minister’s commitment to tackling religious prejudice in all its forms and follows the government’s recent announcement of a further £1 million funding for places of worship that have been subjected to hate crime attacks.”

Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a coalition of religious freedom advocates, said it was “greatly encouraged by Lord Ahmad’s concern and dedication for those around the world, of all creeds or none, who experience injustice because of their religion or belief.”

The group’s chief executive, Mervyn Thomas, said they “look forward to continuing to work with [Ahmad] to uphold and promote the right to freedom of religion or belief for all.”

In making the announcement, Prime Minister Theresa May stressed that “Religious discrimination blights the lives of millions of people across the globe and leads to conflict and instability.”

“Both here and abroad, individuals are being denied the basic right of being able to practise their faith free of fear,” she said in a statement.

She said that Ahmad has worked “to promote religious liberty in his role as Minister for Human Rights at the Foreign Office” and will now work “with faith groups and governments across the world to raise understanding of religious persecution and what we can do to eliminate it.”