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What does a just economy look like? One bishop reflects

Mon, 09/02/2019 - 05:43

Washington D.C., Sep 2, 2019 / 03:43 am (CNA).- The head of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development called on Catholics to reflect this Labor Day on Catholic Social Teaching and its implications for building a more just economy.

In the Christian view, “workers and owners both have rights and duties towards each other; a business enterprise must view itself as a ‘society of persons’ rather than a mere commercial instrument,” said Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice in a statement dated Sept. 2.

The bishop called for an economy that values the human person and the dignity of work over the profit and capital. He emphasized that Catholic social teaching does not hold a “just wage” to be merely synonymous with a free market wage.

“Today’s economy, if measured by the stock market, has the most money and wealth it has ever had, and unemployment is around the lowest it has been in fifty years,” he said.

“And yet, roughly four in ten Americans cannot afford an unexpected $400 bill, and would fall below the poverty line after three months without income. More than one in five jobs in the United States is in a low-wage occupation where the median wage pays below the poverty threshold for a family of four. Real wages have been largely stagnant for decades, and workers’ share of the fruits of the economy has been declining for decades.”

Dewane reflected in his Labor Day message on the “Bishops’ Program for Social Reconstruction,” released 100 years ago by the body of U.S. bishops that preceded the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Many of the considerations in the Bishops’ Program, raised shortly after World War I, are still valid today, the bishop said.

The Bishops’ Program of 1919 voiced serious concern about monopolies, highlighting the principle of solidarity and stressing the state’s authority to step in when monopolies interfere with healthy development.

“New research suggests that anticompetitive behavior from employers has resulted in lower wages in many labor markets, particularly for lower wage workers,” Dewane said.

“In theory, low unemployment should raise wages, but recent research suggests that this may be offset by the increasing concentration of employers—in other words, fewer numbers of employers are employing larger shares of the labor force, giving employers greater power to keep wages down.”

Countering these trends will require a cooperative effort, the bishop said. State and federal government should act to prevent anticompetitive behavior that leads to lower wages, and unions should track and report such behavior. Business leaders consider workers when making merger decisions.

As an alternative to monopolies, Dewane pointed to employee ownership as a positive model, in which workers can access the fruits of the companies they work for and participate in management.

“Recent research has shown the great benefits of employee ownership to workers, including higher wages than otherwise comparable firms, more stable employment, more job training opportunities, opportunities to participate more in firm decision-making, better benefits, and much more wealth over the course of one’s career (this holds true for low- and moderate-income workers as well),” he said.

“The advantages of worker ownership are especially pronounced for young people, women, and people of color.”

Models of employee ownership include Employee Stock Ownership Plans and cooperative enterprises, the bishop said, pointed to the latter as being “expressly favored in the Church’s teaching.”

Lawmakers should consider tax incentives to encourage greater levels of worker ownership, Dewane said, and business owners should consider this model for the good of their employees. Consumers can also support companies that use employee ownership models, and they can support the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, which helps workers achieve employee ownership.

The bishop also praised unions as a means for workers “to negotiate for just wages, benefits, and working conditions, and to look after the rights of vulnerable workers, including those with injuries and disabilities.” He noted the vocal support of unions by Pope Leo XIII and his successors.

Ultimately, Dewane said, “no merely technocratic policy changes will bear the fruit that is so desperately needed today.”

He called on Catholics to turn to “the treasury of the Church’s social teaching” to consider new ways to promote justice for workers.

How a Kansas humanities program shaped a generation of Catholic leaders 

Sun, 09/01/2019 - 14:23

Denver, Colo., Sep 1, 2019 / 12:23 pm (CNA).- Almost 50 years ago, the University of Kansas established a new humanities curriculum. It lasted only about ten years. But those ten years inspired conversions, priestly vocations, and so many Catholic initiatives that the program is still leaving its mark on the life of the Catholic Church.

On Saturday, a memorial dedicated to the Pearson Integrated Humanities Program (IHP) was unveiled at KU’s Catholic student center, gathering alumni like Bishop James Conley of Lincoln and Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City.

“The professors saw that the modern students who came to the university might be very bright academically, but their memories and imaginations were so affected by the modern world. They were sort of bankrupt when it came to the imagination,” said Conley, who attributes his conversion to Catholicism to the experiences and friendships that came out of the program.

“They began by appealing to the heart and to the imagination, and the students just responded,” he added.

“They were able to introduce these great ideas that colored and flavored the imagination, and students fell in love with learning and fell in love with wanting to know more of truth, goodness, and beauty,” Conley told CNA.

The project was led by three Catholic professors: John Senior, Dennis Quinn, and Frank Nelick. While each brought something to the table, the most famous is Senior, a professor of classics who wrote a number of well-known books, including “The Death of Christian Culture.”

Senior was born in New York in 1923. As a child, he wanted to be a cowboy. When he was13, he ran away from home to become a ranch hand. He worked in the Dakotas and in Wyoming, and he was shaped by his life on the plains - sitting around campfires, singing songs, and gazing at the stars.

When he attended Columbia University, he came under the influence of Mark Van Doren, a poet and an English teacher. Searching for meaning, Senior explored religions and philosophies, among them communism and eastern spirituality. He eventually discovered the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas and Blessed John Henry Newman.

Senior became Catholic in 1960.

Later that decade, he left a job at a college in Wyoming and began teaching at the University of Kansas.

Patrick Callahan, a classicist and the coordinator of a leadership and ethics program at Emporia State University, told CNA that Senior was known for his deep affection for poetry, sometimes even reciting bits of poems at random, and for his profound introspection.

Callahan also said the teacher had meaningful personal relationships with his students.

“He would work personally with students to help them get internships and apprenticeships in the manual arts as well. That is one way he would look for the dignity of the worker in all tasks, not just the intellectual life,” said Callahan, who ran a similar program on KU’s campus ministry during the 2010s.

The Integrated Humanities Program officially began in 1970, though a trial program began the year before. There were 20 students in the first year, and, by the second year, the program had 140 students.

The students of the IHP were given an education through classical literature, poetry, stargazing, and even waltzing lessons. Callahan said class lectures were complemented by experience, poetry memorization, and an effort to inspire within students an attitude of wonder.

He said Senior advocated for “poetic learning.”

“The idea of a way in which we can come to know the world in a poetic way through the imagination,” Callahan explained.

Kyle Washut, academic dean at Wyoming Catholic College, lamented a trend toward increasingly abstract specialization in academic research and teaching. He likened the situation to a professional astronomer who is unable to identify a single constellation in the sky.

Washut said Senior pushed for tangible experiences, adding context and texture to learning.

“The love of ‘the real’ is also really important for John Senior. There is a sort of moral formation from being rooted in the land, rooted in this real direct experience, either through that raw encounter with nature or through a vicarious, poetic experience,” he said.

“[A person] has to go out and experience that world, look at that world, know that world as [their] own and then … engage with more careful reflection on that world,” Washut added.

The IHP was a two-year program for students. Its inclusion of classic literature and poetry fulfilled several core curriculum requirements at the University of Kansas, making it attractive even to students who might not otherwise seek out such a program.

Students read epics of Homer and Virgil, the philosophy of Plato, Greek and Roman historians, and the Bible. They also read St. Augustine of Hippo, St. Thomas Aquinas, Chaucer, Don Quixote, and Shakespeare.

Twice weekly, students would listen to the three professors discuss the texts together. As part of their weekly class, students would also engage in discussions, and conduct poetry recitations. Students took an immersive Latin class, which was based on rhetoric, rather than a more systematic approach to the language.

IHP was also renowned for its extracurricular activities, and seemingly unconventional methods of education. Students were encouraged to attend stargazing sessions, ballroom dances, and medieval banquets. Before every lecture, an upperclassman would teach the students a song, usually an English ballad or American folk melody.

The program has inspired similar initiatives, including Wyoming Catholic College. In 2005, the college was founded by Bob Carlson, who was a graduate assistant for IHP and an undergraduate student for Senior when he taught in Wyoming. Washut said Carlson was inspired by Senior and sought to create a similar experience.

“That humanities course, like it was at Pearson, it was not any one discipline, but it was a combination of literature, history, and even some philosophy text, and occasionally some theology texts, but all read with the goal of encountering them and engaging them in much the way that students would have engaged them at the IHP,” he said.

“[It is] a raw encounter with the natural realities as a necessary foundation for further studies. So we have a field science, we have a backpacking trip, we have a horse riding class,” he said.

IHP inspired conversions and religious vocations. The founding monks of the Benedictine Our Lady of Clear Creek Abbey in Oklahoma were students of the humanities program. After they graduated from KU, many students traveled abroad and discovered the Abbey of Our Lady of Fontgombault in France. Some of the travelers became monks in the order, and, in 1999, they returned home to establish a monastery in Oklahoma.

Coakley and Conley, who were roommates at KU, were spiritually inspired by the program.

Both bishops told CNA that they grew up with little interest in Christianity. Coakley was raised Catholic, but he said it was not until he entered the program that he appreciated his faith. Conley grew up going to Presbyterian church, but he said the program, especially the readings of Augustine and Newman, inspired him to convert to Catholicism during his junior year.

They described themselves as “70s kids,” who wore long hair and listened to rock music.  But they said that because of the IHP, they were captivated their freshman year by a world of beauty - full of literature, poems, music, and nature. It was the world of the IHP.

“It was an incredibly effective program, in terms of awakening a sense of wonder in students and a love for learning. In fact, the motto of the program was ‘Nascantur in admiratione’: ‘Let them be born in wonder,’” Coakley told CNA.

“The overarching theme was to immerse the students into the good, the true, and the beautiful, so that we might ask the big questions: ‘What is life all about?’ ‘What is death?’ ‘What is eternity?’ ‘What is evil?’ ‘What is good?” Conley reflected.

“We students began to look deeper into those perennial questions. And for many, like myself, it led us to our faith and to the Catholic Church,” he further added.

When asked about their favorite aspects of the program, both bishops said they enjoyed the literature, the poetry, and the adventures, but they especially appreciated the joy of a community unified by its pursuit of truth.

“This community was formed based on really deep study of those perennial truths as they were taught through literature, art, music, [and] architecture,” said Conley. 

“I was with others who were on the same journey searching for the truth. That combined experience really changed my life.”

On Sept. 1, the memorial ceremony was held at the St. Lawrence Catholic Center, adjacent to the University of Kansas. A barbecue was held the day before.

Mass was offered by Archbishop Coakley, and concelebrated by Bishop Conley and some of the Clear Creek monks. After Mass, participants processed to the memorial, which was completed last November..

Sculpted from Indiana limestone, the memorial commemorates the founders, and depicts a scene from “Don Quixote,” - the famous battle with a windmill.



Maine teens hike 70 miles in pilgrimage of prayer to end addiction and depression

Sun, 09/01/2019 - 09:00

Portland, Maine, Sep 1, 2019 / 07:00 am (CNA).- For the second year in a row, 11 Maine teens embarked on a 70-mile pilgrimage to pray for their communities and to raise awareness of issues that have impacted their lives: teen addiction, depression, and suicide.

The pilgrimage began Aug. 21 at St. Mary of the Assumption Church in Augusta, Maine, and ended four days later at St. John’s Catholic Church in the city of Bangor. At night, the pilgrims camped out on the lawns at the homes of people they knew along the way. 

Patrick Carter, 18, who has walked the pilgrimage both years and was one of the people who helped create the event, told CNA that the two churches were chosen because they were centrally located, and because they are “just absolutely beautiful.” He said it was important that their pilgrimage begin and end at a church, and that it just so happened that these churches were 70 miles apart.

Each day on the road, the pilgrims would pray “about three rosaries a day,” as well as the Divine Office and the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Every time they encountered a cemetery, the group would stop and pray an Our Father, Hail Mary, and a Glory Be for all of the souls who were buried there, especially for those in purgatory. 

“It was something that we decided very early on to do because of this relating to what we’re doing,” said Carter. He also solicited prayer intentions on Facebook so he could “take the needs of the community and put them into our prayers.”

Over the four days, the pilgrims walked with a purple flag, emblazoned with a turquoise ring surrounding a scallop shell. Carter said that flag was designed to reflect their prayer intentions, purple and turquoise are colors symbolizing addiction, and the scallop shell is a traditional symbol of Christian pilgrimage linked to the tradition of St. James. 

The teens said that the chose to focus their prayer on the issues of addiction and suicide as they have been directly impacted by these topics. While other walking pilgrimages often focus on ending abortion, Carter said he and his friends felt, as teens, that they should chose issues which reflected the particular struggles of young men their own age in their communities. 

Maine has a higher suicide rate than the national average, and has an opioid overdose death rate that is more than double the national average. 

“We were definitely looking for something that has personally affected us, but is also a major issue in the community that everybody agrees is a major issue,” said Carter. “We thought about it for a while, and then (the topics of) teen addiction, depression, and those considering suicide and the souls of those who have committed suicide really came to mind.” 

After a positive community response the first year, the group decided to keep the focus on addiction, suicide, and depression. 

Although not formally affiliated with the Diocese of Portland, the state’s only Catholic diocese, the group came to know each other and conceive the idea for the pilgrimage through a discernment group administered by the diocese’s vocations director. 

“Fr. Seamus [Griesbach], the vocations director, was kind of pushing us to do something to really help the community,” Carter told CNA. “We thought a pilgrimage was a really good idea, so then we got a core team together and just started planning.” 

They were also given a blessing before embarking on the journey, and a priest celebrated Mass for the group along the way. 

In the future, Carter said he would like to expand the pilgrimage, and that they will definitely be doing it again. But for now, he plans on keeping the group small--for logistical reasons. 

Part of the issue with affiliating with the diocese, Carter explained, is that the participants are all in their teens, and thus would require adult chaperones in accordance with the Diocese’s child safety policies. 

“We’re waiting until some of us get a little bit older, so that we could chaperone ourselves, and then we’ll grow the pilgrimage to be statewide,” he said.

“We definitely are going to be doing it again next year.”

After latest in 'epidemic' of mass shootings, bishops again call for prayer and action

Sat, 08/31/2019 - 23:35

Odessa, Texas, Aug 31, 2019 / 09:35 pm (CNA).- Several U.S. bishops offered prayers Saturday evening after a gunman killed at least 5 people and injured more than 20 in a Texas shooting spree that included the hijacking of a mail truck and the shooting of several police officers.

“May the Spirit of Peace envelop those families mourning the loss of their loved ones and those directly injured by such cruel acts of violence,” Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso, Texas, wrote in a statement Saturday.

“Our prayers are with everyone directly impacted by this senseless and horrific act in the Midland/Odessa area. Let us pray for everyone’s safety, especially first responders and those whose heroic actions have saved lives already,” Seitz added.

The Aug. 31 shooting, which took place in Midland and Odessa, Texas, was at least the 18th deadly mass shooting to take place in the U.S. in 2019.

This shooting began when an unidentified man was stopped by police for a traffic violation, and shot at officers as they approached him. After the shooter fled from that scene, he shot at pedestrians and people in cars. Among those shot was reportedly a 17-month-old girl. The shooter, who hijacked a mail truck during his shooting spree, was eventually shot and killed by police outside a movie theater.

Details are still emerging.

51 people have been killed in the U.S. by mass shootings this month, according to the NY Times, including the five killed Aug. 31. Twenty-seven of them were killed in Texas.

While the Saturday shooting spree was still ongoing, Bishop Robert Coerver of Lubbock, Texas, tweeted to request prayer “for our neighbors in the San Angelo Diocese in the midst of an ongoing active shooter situation in the Midland/Odessa region.

Seitz, whose own diocese of El Paso suffered a mass shooting Aug. 3 in which 22 people were killed, offered in his Aug. 31 statement a petition that the Holy Spirit would “illumine our hearts and minds to reverence and respect God’s extraordinary gift of life.”

Other U.S. bishops took to Twitter Saturday to express dismay or call for prayer after the Texas shooting spree. Among them were Beaumont’s Bishop Curtis Guillory and Washington’s Archbishop Wilton Gregory

After a spate of at least 3 deadly mass shootings within one week of each other in late July and early August, the U.S bishops’ conference called for the passage of “responsible gun laws and increased resources for addressing the root causes of violence.” The bishops’ conference has repeatedly made such calls in the aftermath of mass shootings.

In their Aug. 4 statement the U.S. bishops urged President Donald Trump and members of Congress to “set aside political interests and find ways to better protect innocent life.”

That statement also called Catholics to “increased prayer and sacrifice for healing and the end of these shootings,”

“We encourage Catholics to pray and raise their voices for needed changes to our national policy and national culture as well,” the bishops said.

The bishops called mass shootings “an epidemic against life that we must, in justice, face.”

This story is developing and will be updated.

'Lives have been turned upside down': Priest sets up crisis center for families after ICE raids

Sat, 08/31/2019 - 17:57

Canton, Mississippi, Aug 31, 2019 / 03:57 pm (CNA).- Fr. Mike O’Brien doesn’t speak Spanish, though he still speaks English with the Irish brogue of his homeland.

However, that didn’t stop the priest from stepping up to the plate to help his parish after hundreds of people in the surrounding area, including many of his Latino parishioners, were arrested during U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) raids at seven local food processing plants in early August.

“It was a big shock for us. We weren't prepared, so it's hard,” O’Brien told CNA. “We're just winging it.”

Federal authorities told Fox News that investigations would be made into the food processing plants where the raids took place as well, to determine whether the owners knowingly hired undocumented workers.

O’Brien said he estimates that about 80% of the Latino families at his parish alone were affected by the raids, with one or more family members detained.

With help from outside agencies and lawyers in the days following the raids, O’Brien and his small, part-time volunteer staff at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Canton, Mississippi set up a crisis management center, where they are now helping 85 affected families.

“We're not just trying to serve Catholic families, but everybody who was affected by the raid,” he said. “Of course they lost jobs, they lost income...they're trying to pay their rent for their for homes and utility bills and all that kind of thing.”

Besides financial assistance, affected families need help with meals, legal assistance, psychological counseling, childcare and other services. They need to keep their phone bills paid, so that they can be contacted by the lawyers working on their cases.

O’Brien said he has been amazed by the “tremendous work” done by lawyers and counselors who came from throughout the country to offer their help. One group of lawyers from Colorado shut down their main office for a week and set up shop at the parish in Mississippi, O’Brien said, offering pro bono legal counsel to anyone who needed it.

He is also proud of the generosity of the rest of his parishioners, he said, noting that his parish is made up of a diverse group of Latino and non-Latino people.

“They’ve been very supportive, I must say. I'm very pleased with that. I'm very happy with that,” Father said.

Immediately after the raids, parishioners set up a fun event for the affected children after the Spanish Mass the following Sunday to try to lift their spirits, O’Brien said. They have also provided families with meals and childcare while the adults meet with lawyers in the evenings.

O’Brien said the parish center has also been helped by Catholic Charities and by other Christian churches in the area. Other Catholic parishes in the region of the raids have set up similar crisis management centers, he added.

Father said from the outset, he wanted his parish to put politics aside and help out the families affected by the raids.

“I didn't give them (the parishioners) too much of a choice, you know, either,” O’Brien said with a bit of a laugh. “I let the people know in no uncertain terms...these are my parishioners, and my parishioners are in trouble. Many of them are in jail, and this is a major crisis.”

O’Brien said he’s been calling it the parish’s own Hurricane Katrina. In August 2005, Katrina devastated parts of Louisiana and Florida, sending people whose homes had been damaged or destroyed flooding into Mississippi.

“The whole state was traumatized by that,” O’Brien said, “and this, that's how I'm feeling. We're right in the middle of Katrina, you know, people’s lives have been turned upside down and they're in great distress and greatly struggling to respond.”

Right now, O’Brien said, he and the crisis management team and lawyers are working to get the detained workers out on bail before their immigration hearings, so that they can be with their families in the meantime.

The priest said it was “shocking” to talk with another crisis management group in Iowa that helped about 35 families after a similar ICE raid. The group told O’Brien that it took more than $350,000 and more than a year to finish the work of helping families recover.

“So that's kind of shocking,” O’Brien said. “I thought if we got $20,000 or $50,000 we'd be in great shape.”

He added that he’s “purposely” stayed away from any political talk about the raids, and has focused on helping the families and parishioners in his care.

“What I need right now is not to talk about any political party,” he said. “I'm trying to keep my parish united.”

“And you know, there are two sides to the argument, and neither the Republicans nor the Democrats have solved it. Nobody's been able to solve it. Everybody is talking around it and sometimes it’s made into political football, and they play to their base and nothing gets done, except talk.”

But despite the difficulties, O’Brien said he believes he will look back on this time in five or ten years as one of the “highlights of my life as a priest.”

“I must say, in fairness, it's been an awesome experience, spiritually for me,” he said.

“I've seen the Holy Spirit like I've never seen the Holy Spirit, you know? Just things falling into place, events happening. I found myself making very fast decisions with very little thought...but that’s because I had to do it. That's just it. You have to jump in,” he said.

“I've seen the hand of God all over the place,” he said, including in the Gospel reading the Sunday after the raids.

“In the Scriptures the Sunday after it happened, oh my gosh. It was very powerful - Abraham leaving his home place, called by God to go out into the desert and to go to a new land and living in tents and depending on God and trusting in God.”

“And God could take care of them,” he said. “So the word of God came to life big time.”


Look to Newman for an education in friendship, Catholic students told

Sat, 08/31/2019 - 10:00

Washington D.C., Aug 31, 2019 / 08:00 am (CNA).- Friendship is a central part of how character and thought are formed, students at the Catholic University of America were told at the opening of the academic year.

Addressing students and faculty at the annual Mass of the Holy Spirit, held Thursday at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Catholic University president John Garvey invoked Cardinal John Henry Newman, saying that relationships are an essential part of the educational process.

“A good education is more than books, lectures, papers, and tests. This Newman knew well. A good education gets us outside ourselves. It counteracts the tendency to stick with settled ways of thinking,” Garvey said.

“Our relations with other people do something like this. Like education, friendship broadens our perspective. Friends help us see things through other eyes. In this way they enhance our self-awareness and expand our understanding of the world.”

Cardinal Newman, who will be canonized by Pope Francis on October 13, was a 19th century theologian, poet, Catholic priest and cardinal. Originally an Anglican priest, he converted to Catholicism in 1845 and his works are considered among the most important contributions to the thought of the Church in recent centuries.

He also founded the Catholic University of Ireland, later reformed as Trinity College Dublin. His series of lectures at that school’s founding were later published under the title The Idea of a University.

Citing Newman’s sermon On Love of Relations and Friends, Garvey said the cardinal saw that “friendship is a kind of training for the practice of universal charity. Friendship challenges us to put others before ourselves in the real circumstances of the everyday.”

"The best preparation for loving the world at large, and loving it duly and wisely, is to cultivate an intimate friendship and affection towards those who are immediately about us," he quoted Newman as saying.

The Catholic University of America, in Washington, DC, is the national Catholic university, founded by the bishops of the United States after the second and third Baltimore Councils. The Mass of the Holy Spirit marks the beginning of the academic year and was presided over by Archbishop Wilton Gregory, who, as Archbishop of Washington, serves as the university’s chancellor.

Garvey told the assembly that “what education does for our intellectual powers, friendship does for our affective capacities. It expands the scope of our feelings and concern for others.”

“The real love of man must depend on practice, and therefore, must begin by exercising itself on our friends around us,” Newman wrote.

“By trying to love our relations and friends, by submitting to their wishes, though contrary to our own, by bearing with their infirmities, by overcoming their occasional waywardness by kindness, by dwelling on their excellences, and trying to copy them, thus it is that we form in our hearts that root of charity, which, though small at first, may, like the mustard seed, at last even overshadow the earth."

Ordained a Catholic priest in 1847, Newman was made a cardinal by Pope Leo XIII in 1879. His conversion was a result of years of friendship and study in with other Christian thinkers as part of the Oxford Movement. When he announced he was becoming Catholic, the news was controversial in England, and resulted in him losing many friends, including his own sister -who never spoke to him again.

Garvey said this experience formed Newman in friendship and offered a Christian example to follow. “Newman didn’t retaliate. Late in life he was able to restore some of those lapsed friendships,” he said.

“What was true for him is true for all of us. The friends we make in life influence -- to a great extent they determine -- the paths we take in life and the people we become.”

“Newman’s motto on his coat of arms was Cor ad cor loquitur [heart speaks to heart]. It’s a phrase he took from St. Francis de Sales, and it refers to prayer. The heart of man speaks to the heart of God. But I think it also refers to the bond between friends when they open their hearts to one another.”

A good education, Garvey said, opens us up to new ideas and teaches us how to think and choose well as we navigate the world. 

“Friendship helps us get beyond our natural circle of self-interest, so we can live and do well for one another. Friends also help form us, and it’s important to surround ourselves with good ones.” 

This, Garvey said, is the hope for students at the beginning of the academic year, that they find both a good education and good friends.

Jackson diocese: we did not influence victim’s decision to accept smaller settlement

Fri, 08/30/2019 - 21:00

Jackson, Miss., Aug 30, 2019 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- The Diocese of Jackson in Mississippi said it did not pressure a victim of clerical sexual abuse to accept settlement offers after he was abused by a Franciscan brother in the late 1990s. Earlier this year, that victim and his cousin were paid $15,000 each by a Wisconsin-based Franciscan province — a lower amount than typical settlements— to settle their abuse claims.  

The Associated Press reported Aug. 27 that La Jarvis Love and his cousins, brothers Joshua and Raphael Love, alleged that they had been repeatedly abused during the 1990s by Brother Paul West, OFM, when they were elementary school students at St. Francis of Assisi School, in Greenwood, Mississippi.

Earlier this year, Father James Gannon, Provincial Minister for the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Province of the Franciscan Friars, met with La Jarvis, his wife, and his three small children at an IHOP restaurant in northern Mississippi outside of Memphis. He brought along a four-page agreement that the Franciscans would pay him $15,000, which included a nondisclosure requirement, which Love signed and dated Jan. 11, 2019.

A statement from the diocese said that the Victim Assistance Coordinator, Valerie McClellan, was present at a different meeting during which Gannon met with Joshua Love, La Jarvis’ cousin, who also was abused. Joshua ultimately signed a $15,000 agreement as well.

Joshua says he was also abused by the late Brother Donald Lucas at the school. Lucas died in 1999 in an apparent suicide.

The diocese said in a statement that McClellan was there as “an emotional support person for Mr. Love.”

“At this meeting, Ms. McClellan reiterated Fr. Gannon’s urging for Mr. Love to have a lawyer review the agreement for him,” the diocese said.

“At no point during the meeting did she review or read the proposed settlement agreement or encourage Mr. Love to sign the agreement. Her sole purpose at the meeting was to act as emotional support for Mr. Love as his therapist.”

Raphael Love did not sign a settlement agreement.

Notably, the document that the two victims signed included a nondisclosure agreement. The 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, also known as the Dallas Charter, forbids confidential settlement agreements in the case of sexual abuse of minors by clergy unless the victim specifically requests it. The Dallas Charter applies to dioceses, but does not apply to religious orders, like the Franciscans.

The diocesan statement said that when the first victim— Raphael— reported allegations of abuse against West in 1998, the diocese relayed the allegation to the Greenwood Police Department and the Department of Human Services. In addition to reporting it to legal authorities, the Diocesan Fitness Review Committee investigated.

“It is diocesan policy to fully cooperate in all criminal investigation after a police report is filed. However, the Diocese does not continue its investigation into the specific incident charged because it does not want to interfere in an ongoing criminal investigation by civil authorities,” the statement continued. 

The AP noted that in 2006, the Diocese of Jackson settled abuse lawsuits involving 19 victims for $5.1 million, or an average of $250,000 per victim; $235,000 more than La Jarvis and Joshua settled for.

The attorney who represented the 2006 victims said he is preparing to file a lawsuit on behalf of La Jarvis and Joshua, and plans to argue that the settlements they signed are not legally binding.

Gannon told the AP that he believes that the three men were abused and said that their race— all three are black— and the fact that all three are poor did not factor into the size of the settlement. He also said the Franciscans have no intention of enforcing the nondisclosure agreement.

West was removed from ministry by the Franciscan Order and the Diocese after the 1998 complaint, the statement said, and never returned to Greenwood or Mississippi.

The Franciscan Province also released a statement on the matter, which they updated Aug. 29.

“We have provided assistance to two of the men that is not discussed in the article,” the statement says, but does not elaborate on what form the assistance has taken.

“While the actions of the two former friars took place over two decades ago, they are still very painful in the lives of these men who suffered so much.”

The diocese said that during the course of the 1998 investigation, the Diocesan Superintendent of Catholic Schools authorized the St. Francis School administration to have a trained psychologist conduct “six age-appropriate boundary and relationship educational sessions with the children,” and counselors met with the children in order to determine if others had been abused.

“The school administration sent out questionnaires to former students’ parents to determine why they had left the school,” the diocese continued.

“The administration also interviewed other potential victims and sought to provide counseling for not only Love but any that may have been abused.”

The Franciscans’ statement noted that all of their friars, sisters, faculty and volunteers participate in the VIRTUS training program to help them recognize the “grooming process that perpetrators use to victimize children, some of which are mentioned in the article. We are also trained on how to respond appropriately to what we observe.”

“We pray for healing for the survivors of this abuse and for all victims of abuse and for their families and friends,” the Friars concluded.

CNA was unable to reach Father Gannon for additional comment.


Analysis: What is next for pro-life legislation?

Fri, 08/30/2019 - 19:00

Washington D.C., Aug 30, 2019 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- This week, a Missouri judge ruling against a state pro-life law which was drafted to withstand judicial review. The decision calls into question whether any legislation is possible on abortion in the first two trimesters of pregnancy, and whether a new Supreme Court decision on the issue is now inevitable.

A growing number of state legislatures have passed legislation banning abortions past certain stages of pregnancy. 

The laws include “pain-capable” bills—banning abortions after 20 weeks of gestation, a point at which some studies say unborn children can feel pain—and “heartbeat” bills—banning abortions after around eight weeks post-gestation when a baby’s heartbeat can be detected.

In line with Supreme Court precedent, lower courts have consistently ruled that states have no compelling interest allowing them to restrict the constitutional right to abortion found in the case Roe v. Wade , specifically Roe’s finding that “pre-viable” unborn children, or those unlikely to survive outside the womb, are afforded no legal protection, while the abortion of children which could be delivered can be the subject of some state restrictions.

While other state laws ban abortions after a particular stage of pregnancy, Missouri’s 2019 law, sponsored by state Rep. Nick Schroer (R), was unique because it set up multiple bans at various stages of an unborn child’s development, from eight to 20 weeks post-gestation, with the aim of withstanding successive rounds of judicial challenges.

The law was drafted to “withstand different tests” in the courts, Schroer told CNA. A judge would have to consider each separate ban on its merits. Scroer figured this would make at least some bans more likely to survive judicial scrutiny, and thus, he told CNA, the bill would save lives. 

Instead, on Aug. 27, Judge Howard Sachs of the Western District of Missouri Court granted an injunction on each of the law’s abortion bans after eight, 14, 18, and 20 weeks, citing Supreme Court precedent to explain that he could not rule any differently.

According to the Supreme Court rulings in Roe v. Wade, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, “viability” has been defined at around 24 to 28 weeks post-gestation, but is ultimately determined by the doctor and the mother.

Steve Aden, chief legal officer and general counsel for Americans United for Life, told CNA that the  Missouri judge “just rolled right over” the different bans in the law and, instead of considering each on their specific merits, “tossed them all out in a heap, so to speak, based on Casey.”

According to the judge’s reasoning, the bans violated existing Supreme Court precedent of the “viability” standard; the law “seems designed, as here, as a protest against Supreme Court decisions,” he wrote.

Not all the law’s provisions were struck down; one provision which Judge Sachs called “novel” and which survived, was a ban on abortions for the sole reason of the baby’s race, sex, or a Down Syndrome diagnosis. 

Sachs admitted to the moral abhorrence of these cases, but he added that the provision was subject to the same standards as the other bans. At the same time, he found that there was no ground to grant an injunction, since there was no evidence that it would place an undue burden while the law was reviewed.

While an eight-week ban would cover around half the abortions in the state, Sachs said it is unknown how many abortions are currently conducted on the basis of - for example - a Down Syndrome diagnosis, and so it could not be deminstration that such a ban would substantially burden a woman’s right to an abortion in the state.

While the Missouri case will be appealed to a higher court, the question still remains—do states have the authority to enact 20-week or eight-week abortion bans at all? According to Judge Sachs’s finding they do not. His view is that the Supreme Court’s consistent refusal to hear appeals in cases where such laws have been struck down by lower courts amounts to a prohibition by precedent. 

Twenty-week bans in states like Arkansas, Arizona and Idaho have all been subject to legal injunction, and the Supreme Court has declined to hear appeals in those cases.

As a result, have called for the Court to reconsider its standards for examining state laws. 

Schroer told CNA that while the Court has talked about the “viability” of the baby - namely, its ability to survive outside the womb, it should instead consider the viability of the pregnancy — including cases where a baby might not survive outside the womb, but has a heartbeat, or can feel pain.

Similarly, advancing medical understanding of life inside the womb has led some judges to press for Roe itself to be reconsidered entirely. 

A 2018 ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court in Jessie Livell Phillips v. State of Alabama recognized the personhood of unborn children “with value and dignity equal to that of all persons,” and specifically called for the repeal of Roe.

“Return the power to the states to fully protect the most vulnerable among us,” the court’s ruling said.

Others have argued that the Casey decision, and the standards by which state regulations of abortions are judged, were handed down almost 30 years ago. Since then, advances in medical technology have dramatically changed the odds for premature babies outside the womb and advanced society’s understanding of human life in utero through ultrasound machines and other means.

Pro-life advocates and legislators argue that a thirty-year old standard of “viability” is simply no longer relevant.

“Medical advancements have made it possible for infants to live at far earlier stages of development than before,” Lucia Silecchia, a law professor at the Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law, told CNA. 

If these advancements continue, the “viability” test will become “obsolete,” she said, and “will force us to confront the subjectivity in denying protection to the very young based on their development or location.”

Within the court, Justice Clarence Thomas appeared to call for a new judicial standard in a recent concurring opinion issued in June, when the court refused to hear an appeal after Alabama’s ban on “dismemberment” abortions was overturned by the lower courts.

Thomas wrote that the Constitution allows for states to outlaw such “gruesome” abortions as Alabama did but, because of Casey’s “undue burden” standard, the law had to be struck down as an unlawful obstacle to women accessing abortion.

Calling the standard “demonstrably erroneous,” Thomas called the case “a stark reminder that our abortion jurisprudence has spiraled out of control.”

Thomas said what other federal judges critical of the Court’s abortion jurisprudence have argued—that the Courts have far transgressed their lawful bounds and areas of expertise in abortion jurisprudence and have taken away the authority of states to regulate abortions, instead themselves deciding when unborn children are “viable” and when they are not protected by the law.

Whether the court is willing to reconsider this, however, remains to be seen. But as more states pass legislation aimed at limiting abortion in the light of new medical understanding, pressure and expectation continue to mount.

Democrats say ‘nones’ are largest religious group, warn against religious liberty claims

Fri, 08/30/2019 - 18:00

San Francisco, Calif., Aug 30, 2019 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- The Democratic National Committee last week passed a resolution recognizing so-called “nones” as “the largest religious group” in the party and warning of threats caused by “misplaced claims of ‘religious liberty.’”

At its annual summer meeting in San Francisco, California, the DNC passed a resolution on August 24 that recognizes the rise in the religiously-unaffiliated in the U.S., reported

The resolution says that the religiously unaffiliated have been marginalized from society and from politics, and notes the harm caused by the use of “religious liberty” against “the LGBT community, women, and ethnic and religious/nonreligious minorities” and others.

In a press release praising the decision, the Secular Coalition for America stated that, in passing the resolution, the DNC “embraced American nonbelievers for the first time” and that “they recognize the value of courting the largest, fastest growing religious demographic in the nation.”

The DNC’s resolution also claims that “the religiously unaffiliated demographic represents the largest religious group within the Democratic Party, growing from 19% in 2007 to one in three today.”

It calls the religiously-unaffiliated “a group that, as much as any other, advocates for rational public policy based on sound science and universal humanistic values.”

New research from Gallup has shown that the “nones,” or those with no religious affiliation, have increased along with declining church attendance; nearly one out of three Millennials now identifies with no religion.

Bishop Robert Barron, auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles and chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, addressed the decision of an increasing number of young people to leave the Church at the bishops’ spring meeting in June.

For every one person joining the Church today, 6.45 are leaving, Bishop Barron said. Almost eight in ten of those who leave the Church do so by the age of 23; around half of those leaving simply become atheist, agnostic, or have no religious affiliation.

“Most are ambivalent about religion rather than hostile to it,” Bishop Barron noted of the young people who are leaving the Catholic Church; they leave primarily because “they don’t believe” in Church teaching and “think religion’s at odds with science.”

In 2016, the Pew Research Center reported on the political leanings of Americans of various religious affiliations.

Just under half of those identifying as “nothing in particular” for religion — 49% — reported they were Democrats or leaned towards the Democratic Party; only 26% were Republican or “lean Republican,” and 26% were Independent or “other.”

Meanwhile, 64% of Agnostics and 69% of atheists reported as Democrats or said they leaned toward the party. 21% of Agnostics and 15% of atheists said they were Republican or leaned toward the Republican Party.

More recently, Pew reported in March that the religiously unaffiliated expressed “among the lowest levels of approval of Trump’s performance” out of religious groups, with approval ranging from 17% to 27% in polls conducted by Pew since Trump’s inauguration in 2017.

In Congress, only one member of the House or Senate is religiously unaffiliated—just 0.2%  of the 535 members in Congress, Pew reported, in contrast with 23% of the public who do not identify with a religion.

Study finds no 'gay gene' - What that means for Catholic morality

Fri, 08/30/2019 - 15:00

Washington D.C., Aug 30, 2019 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- After a major scientific study found there is not a singular genetic marker for homosexualty, a Catholic theologian explained that the findings are fully in accord with Catholic teaching.

The study was published Aug. 30 in Science. It examined data from several large genetic databanks in multiple countries, and surveyed nearly half a million people about their sexual partners and preferences. Previous studies on the matter have only examined sample groups of hundreds of people.

“From a genetic standpoint, there is no single [genetic distinction] from opposite-sex to same-sex sexual behaviors,” said Andrea Ganna, a geneticist at Finland’s Institute of Molecular Medicine, and the study’s lead author.

Speaking to Scientific American, Eric Vilain, a geneticist at Children’s National Health System in Washington, D.C., called the study’s result “the end of the ‘gay gene’” theory.

In recent decades, many of those involved in the LGBT movement have advanced the argument that sexual orientation is genetically determined, and that people who experienced same-sex attraction are born with a fixed orientation.

In a June interview, Fr. James Martin SJ, author of “Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity,” said that "most reputable psychologists, psychiatrists, biologists, social scientists say that people are simply born this way." 

In a commentary published along with the study, Oxford University geneticist Melinda Mills noted an “inclination to reduce sexuality to genetic determinism” in support of sociological or ideological positions.

“Attributing same-sex orientation to genetics could enhance civil rights or reduce stigma,” she wrote. “Conversely, there are fears it provides a tool for intervention or ‘cure.’”

Still, Mills said the results of the study show that the use of genetics to predict same-sex attraction, or to change it through some kind of gene editing, is “wholly and unreservedly impossible.”

Commenting on the report Friday, Martin told CNA that "the study shows that a variety of factors, including genetic factors, influence human sexuality.” 

“For me, the most helpful quote came from a geneticist who was one of the lead researchers, who talked about how 'natural' homosexuality is,” Martin said, quoting Dr. Benjamin Neale of MIT.

Neale told the New York Times that same-sex behavior is “written into our genes and it’s part of our environment... this is part of our species and it’s part of who we are.”  

“That seems to sum up the results of the study accurately," said Martin.

The research showed five distinct genetic data points which appear common among individuals who reported at least one same-sex encounter. Two of these markers appear linked to hormones and smell, factors in sexual attraction. 

But the five markers together explained less than 1% of differences in sexual activity among the population, the results found.

“Although they did find particular genetic loci associated with same-sex behavior,” Mills said, “when they combine the effects of these loci together into one comprehensive score, the effects are so small, under 1%, that this genetic score cannot in any way be used to predict same-sex sexual behavior of an individual.”

Noting that the study results highlight considerable differences by generation and the influence of cultural norms on sexual behavior, Mills concluded that future research was best focused on “how genetic predispositions are altered by environmental factors.”

“Once again it's also important that we listen to the lived experience of LGBT people, as we minister to them in the church,” Martin said.

Dr. Kevin Miller, assistant professor of theology at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, told CNA that the results are in accord with the Church’s existing teaching about homosexualtiy.

“The Catechism treats homosexuality in nos. 2357-2359. Early in this treatment we read that its ‘psychological genesis remains largely unexplained.’ The new study does not change this.”

The study draws a distinction between people who engage in homosexual acts and those who identified as “gay” or “homosexual,” a distinction Miller noted was already central to the Church’s teachings.

The Catechism teaches that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered” and “under no circumstances can they be approved.” This is because, Miller said, only sexual acts oriented by their nature to the possibility of procreation and set within marriage are “compatible with the essential moral virtue of chastity and – as St. John Paul II emphasized in both his pre-papal and papal writings – love.”. 

“Any others are – independent of the subjective dispositions of those who take part in them – objectively hedonistic and selfish, rather than authentically loving. Obviously there are many types of sexual acts that could fall into this category - homosexual acts are by no means the only type.”

Homosexual tendency or inclination, often called same-sex attraction, is defined by the Catechism as “objectively disordered,” Miller said. This is because a desire which, if acted on, would lead to immoral acts is by its nature disordered, he said. 

But, Miller noted, the desire or inclination itself is not “morally wrong,” since a person does not choose to have an inclination or exercise their free will over having it.

Central to understanding the distinction between sexual inclinations and acts, Miller said, is that all sexual acts are freely chosen; even if a person has an interior disposition toward engaging in homosexual acts, they have the same freedom to pursue them or not as a person inclined towards immoral acts with someone of the opposite sex.

“One can see that in this explanation of the Church’s teaching, there is no reference of any sort to the cause of the homosexual tendency or disposition. This is simply irrelevant to the analysis of the moral goodness or evil of homosexual acts, and of the ordered or disordered character of the homosexual tendency or disposition.”

Miller explained that the origin of a person’s sexual orientation, whether biological, environmental, or experiential, had no bearing on what the Church teaches about the morality of acting on a particular sexual urge. 

“These teachings do not depend on any assumption regarding the cause of the tendency or inclination,” he said.

“Even if it could be shown that a homosexual tendency or orientation is wholly biologically determined, this would not affect at all the logic underlying the Church’s teaching.”

Dupont: I was 'absolutely' unaware Seattle man was planning suicide

Fri, 08/30/2019 - 13:44

Seattle, Wash., Aug 30, 2019 / 11:44 am (CNA).- A priest who was photographed blessing a man who planned to commit suicide said Friday that he was unaware of the man’s intentions, and that if he had known what the man was planning, he would have acted differently.

“I believe that life is a gift. I believe that it is a gift from God and an opportunity every day to learn from God and love as God is trying to teach us to love though scriptures and the examples of Christ and the saints. I feel terrible that there is an insinuation that I, or a member of the clergy or religious order or this archdiocese, would think otherwise or would make a public statement otherwise,” Fr. Quentin Dupont, SJ, told America magazine Aug. 30.

Dupont is a graduate student at the University of Washington in Seattle, and periodically celebrates weekend Masses at St. Therese Parish in Seattle.

A photograph of the priest was part of an Aug. 26 Associated Press story profiling Robert Fuller, a St. Therese parishioner who committed medically assisted suicide May 10.

On May 5, Dupont, along with the parish community, blessed Fuller at a Mass he had announced as his last.

Dupont told America that when he conferred the blessing,  “I was absolutely, unequivocally unaware of Mr. Fuller’s intention [to kill himself]. I’m not part of the conversations that happen in [the St. Therese] community all the time. I was given very limited information, and I had very limited knowledge about Mr. Fuller’s situation.”

“I did what I thought was pastorally expedient with the knowledge that I had. And it turns out I did not have key pieces of the story, otherwise I would have reacted completely differently.”

Members of the St Therese parish community were aware of Fuller’s plans at the May 5. He had by then announced that his funeral would be held at the parish May 17 and arranged for a parish choir to perform at the “end-of-life” party he threw in the hours before his suicide.

Dupont, however, told America that he was not told of those plans when he arrived at the parish May 5.

“I arrived at church and I saw a parishioner there and I asked how he was doing. He said, ‘Well, this is Bob Fuller’s last Mass,’ and I was puzzled and so I asked him what he meant. He said, ‘Well, Bob is going to die.’ I didn’t know much about Mr. Fuller. I knew he was very ill and I thought that meant that his treatment had run out, that he was getting off treatment and that Mr. Fuller knew he had days to live. And I continued my way to the sacristy and I met another couple of parishioners who said likewise, that this was Bob’s last Mass. Through those conversations, I became aware that this man that I knew was very ill would like a blessing.”

“So we talked about doing a blessing at the end of Mass. We had Mass and at the end of Mass we blessed him.”

“I thought the pastoral situation I was walking into was with this very ill man who knows he’s about to die. I wanted to make sure he felt cared for by the church.”

Dupont said that he knew a television camera was at the May 5 Mass “because Bob was there. I didn’t probe what story they were writing. I thought they were making a story about this man who was facing great health difficulties and who had a life of faith, which I assumed was an interesting story to tell in a day and age which is heavily secularized.”

“There was a photographer there. I do not at all remember being introduced to this photographer as a member of the press. I was never asked for an official release about images that would be taken of me or photos that would be taken of me. I thought that this photographer was there because this was [Mr. Fuller’s] last Mass and he wanted a memento, a memory, of this Mass, this community, this time, when later he would be gravely ill in bed and he wanted to feel the strength and the love of the community with him. And I thought this was a professional photographer that he had hired to take some pictures to have them as memories and souvenirs for himself,” he said.

The priest said that a parishioner told him about Fuller’s suicide plans shortly after the Mass, at the parish social hour.

“I had absolutely no idea what his intentions were before that. The moment I learned about his intentions, I was completely stunned. I was shocked; and I was just really really puzzled. I remain very puzzled,” the priest told America.

Dupont addressed a March 16 post in which Fuller claimed that he had the approval of a priest to end his own life.

“I have absolutely no reservations about what I am doing,” Fuller wrote in that post. “And my pastor/sponsor has given me his blessings. And he’s a Jesuit!!!”

Dupont said that he was “absolutely not” the Jesuit priest Fuller referenced, and that he did not know who the priest might be. Neither the Archdiocese of Seattle nor the West Province of the Society of Jesus have indicated what priest Fuller might have been referencing, or if the matter is under investigation.

Nor has the archdiocese addressed questions related to the parish choir’s performance at the party Fuller hosted leading up to his suicide.

The archdiocese has addressed Fuller’s funeral, which he scheduled with the parish prior to his suicide.

In its Aug. 28 statement, the archdiocese said that when Fuller discussed his desire for a funeral with his pastor, Fr. Maurice Mamba, the priest discussed the gift of life and tried to convince him to change his mind. He made it clear that neither he nor the parish could support his plan to take his own life.”

After it was clear Fuller would continue with his plans, Mamba contacted Archbishop Sartain, who agreed that “it is the church’s responsibility to pastorally care for those who mourn. With this in mind, the archbishop gave permission for the funeral with certain conditions to ensure there was no endorsement or other perceived support for the way in which Mr. Fuller ended his life,” the archdiocese said.

Fuller announced the arrangements for his own funeral one week before he died, and days before the parish blessing. He scheduled the funeral for May 17. The archdiocese did not indicate when Sartain granted permission for the funeral, or when Mamba requested it.

For his part, Dupont said that he feels “shocked” by the attention the story has received.

“I feel absolutely terrible about the confusion that has arisen out of this story,” the priest told America.

“The last thing I want to do is be part of a confusion, and I certainly have no desire to question the church’s teaching on the sanctity of life.”


Healed aneurysm investigated as possible miracle for Creole nun's beatification

Fri, 08/30/2019 - 05:30

Little Rock, Ark., Aug 30, 2019 / 03:30 am (CNA).- In December 2017, 19 year-old Arkansas college student Christine McGee was rushed to the hospital by her mother.

Christine had fallen ill with what turned out to be an aneurysm, and it looked like she was going to die. Once at the hospital, Christine fell into a coma and became unresponsive.

Today, Christine is healed. She recently received her Master’s degree from Loyola University in New Orleans, and she can drive and live independently.

Her recovery could be a miracle that progresses the sainthood cause of a Louisiana Creole religious sister, say authorities from the Diocese of Little Rock Arkansas.

While Christine was ill, her mother prayed for the intercession of Venerable Henriette DeLille, asking for healing for her daughter.

“From the time she learned about her sickness, she started to pray, and prayed to Henriette the whole time. Even though it seemed like things weren’t going to work, she held onto that belief,” Sister Doris Goudeaux, co-director of the Henriette Delille Commission Office, told the Arkansas Catholic.

Born in 1812 to a wealthy French father and a free Creole woman of Spanish, French and African descent, Henriette was groomed throughout her childhood to become a part of what was then known as the placage system.

Under the placage system, free women of color (term used at the time for people of full or partial African descent, who were no longer or never were slaves) entered into common law marriages with wealthy white plantation owners, who often kept their legitimate families at the plantations in the country. It was a rigid system, but afforded free women of color comfortable and even luxurious lives.

Trained in French literature, music, dancing, and nursing, Henriette was prepared to become the “kept woman” of a wealthy white man throughout her childhood.

However, in her early 20s, Henriette declared that her religious convictions could not be reconciled with the placage lifestyle for which she was being prepared. Raised Catholic, which was typical for free people of color at the time, she had recently had a deep encounter with God, and believed that the placage system violated Church teaching on the sanctity of marriage.

In 1836, wanting to dedicate her life to God, Henriette used the proceeds of an inheritance to found a small unrecognized order of nuns, the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, known today as the Sisters of the Holy Family.

During Henriette’s lifetime, the Sisters taught religion and other subjects to the slaves, even though it was illegal to do so at the time, punishable by death or life imprisonment. The sisters also encouraged free women of color to marry men of their own class and to have their marriages blessed in the Church, and they established a nursing home for the poor and sick elderly, among other works.

In 1988, the Mother Superior of the order at the time requested the opening of Henriette Delille’s cause for canonization. She was declared a Servant of God, and then was declared Venerable by Pope Benedict XVI on March 27, 2010.

A miracle through Henriette’s intercession is needed for her beatification, the next step in the process before canonization to sainthood.

The Diocese of Little Rock, Arkansas has been studying and gathering information on the healing of Christine McGee, which they believe could be that miracle. They first informed the Holy Family sisters of the miracle, and the sisters then granted their approval for the diocese to proceed in its investigation.

Because the possible miracle occurred in the Diocese of Little Rock, they were the ones to undertake the investigation, starting in 2015.

According to the Arkansas Catholic, a diocesan tribunal has submitted formal documentation to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints at the Vatican, which is considering the evidence of the possible miracle and whether it will be approved for the cause of Venerable Henriette.  

“We served as a fact-finding gathering source for the Holy See,” Father Greg Luyet, JCL, told the Arkansas Catholic. Luyet serves as judicial vicar for the Diocese of Little Rock and oversaw the canonical processes involved in this stage of Henriette’s cause.

Sr. Doris told the Arkansas Catholic that the Congregation for the Causes of Saints has already issued “a decree of juridical validity,” dated December 2018, which confirmed that the diocese met the documentation requirements necessary for a possible miracle to be considered. 

There are currently at least four other Catholics of African American descent whose causes are being considered for sainthood, including Julia Greeley, Pierre Toussaint, Mother Mary Lange, and Father Augustus Tolton. If the possible miracle for Henriette’s cause is approved, she would move on step closer to possibly being the first officially canonized saint of African American descent in the United States.

Pro-life group: Use gene editing to fix disease, not make designer babies

Thu, 08/29/2019 - 19:20

New York City, N.Y., Aug 29, 2019 / 05:20 pm (CNA).- As scientists explore new avenues for gene editing, a pro-life group is urging caution against the temptation to use the technology to create “designer babies.”

The Charlotte Lozier Institute (CLI), the research branch of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, commented on the use of CRISPR, a gene editing tool, to alter the DNA of sperm cells at a lab in New York.

“Use of CRISPR to manipulate genes or remove them entirely from the human germline presents a host of scientific and ethical questions that we can’t possibly answer at this time,” said David Prentice, CLI’s vice president and research director.

“Our focus should be on helping patients, not on designer babies,” he stressed in an Aug. 28 press release.

Researchers from Weill Cornell Medicine, the biomedical research arm of Cornell University, recently began the project. The experiment hopes to fix genetic mutations that cause diseases to be inherited from a father to his children, and to examine and fix causes of male infertility.

Gianpiero Palermo, a professor of embryology at Weill Cornell Medicine, is head of the research lab where the project is underway. He told NPR that the goal is to remove abnormalities from the gene pool. He said, theoretically, this would be a “major, major benefit to society.”

However, Prentice noted that there are still many unknown variables. He said there is no way to predict with certainty that gene editing will have positive results in the long run.

“Researchers describe the ‘theoretical’ benefits of germline editing, but theoretical is all this is. We simply don’t have any ability to ascertain the long-term effects germline mutation will have on future generations who inherit a mutated gene or the lack of a gene,” he said.

At the lab in New York, the first series of trials will attempt to edit the BRCA 2 gene, which is strongly connected to cancers such as breast, ovarian, or prostate.

Rob Stein, an NPR health correspondent who recently visited the lab, said the DNA of sperm is difficult to access because it is packed tightly at the head of the sperm. He said scientists are trying to zap the sperm with electricity to loosen the DNA and shuffle the CRISPR tool inside.

Stein said modifying the DNA of sperm is safer than using CRISPR to edit the genes of human embryos, which can pose complications if scientists end up “editing some and not all of the cells in any babies [they] try to make from an edited embryo.”

He also acknowledged the concerns surrounding gene editing technology.

“Somebody someday could try to use the same technology to make, you know, so-called designer babies, where parents pick and choose the traits of their children. And that raises all kinds of sort of scary sci-fi scenarios about genetic haves and genetic have-nots,” he said.

Virginia governor accepts appointee's resignation over anti-Catholic tweets

Thu, 08/29/2019 - 13:00

Richmond, Va., Aug 29, 2019 / 11:00 am (CNA).- A Democratic Party activist with a history of anti-Catholic and other bigoted social media posts has resigned from Virginia Council of Women after her appointment prompted outcry from Catholics. 

Gail Gordon Donegan, a Democratic activist and self-described “gadfly” from Alexandria, was appointed by Gov. Ralph Northam (D) to the Virginia Council on Women on August 16. The council serves as an advisory to the governor, awards scholarships, and develops programming. 

On Monday, Bishops Michael Burbidge of Arlington and Barry Knestout of Richmond co-signed a letter to Northam calling Gordon Donegan’s statements “offensive to human dignity” and requesting that he rescind Gordon Donegan’s appointment. 

On Tuesday, Virginia Catholics were encouraged to contact the governor to express their concerns. 

In a statement released to the media Aug. 28, Gordon Donegan said she was unwilling to let her history of profane public mockery become a distraction from the work of the committee.

“Today I submitted my letter of resignation to the Governor and will no longer serve as a member of the Virginia Council of Women,” Donegan said. “I do not wish to distract from the work of the Council. I will have no further comment besides this statement.”

On Aug. 23, the Richmond Times-Dispatch published a review of her Twitter account, noting Gordon Donegan’s many anti-Catholic statements, as well as the frequent use of profanity, and jokes about sexual assault and pedophilia. Gordon Donegan’s Twitter account has since been locked and made private. 

Northam initially defended the appointment, though his office insisted the governor did not “condone” the language in the tweets. Following outcry from numerous faith groups, including both Catholic dioceses in the state, his office later confirmed the resignation had been accepted.

A statement from the Diocese of Arlington, released Wednesday, called the resignation “a welcome development,” and said that Bishop Burbidge “thanks and commends” Virginia Catholics who registered their objections to the appointment.

The controversial content on Gordon Donegan’s social media accounts dates back to 2010, since that time she repeatedly tweeted anti-Catholic jokes, many of which made fun of the sexual abuse of children. In addition to the Catholic Church, she also issued profane tweets aimed at the Boy Scouts, Republican politicians, and supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign for president. 

While saying she accepted that some of her tweets “crossed the line,” in her resignation statement Donegan called the backlash to her remarks “just another chapter in the bullying that women activists face every day on social media.”

Gordon Donegan said she had been the “target” of a “small group” who had forced her resignation by “painting a false picture” of her.

“I will resign today — but I will be taking legal action in the near future to ensure this small group is never able to smear someone like this again.”

Can tattoos be sacramentals? 

Thu, 08/29/2019 - 05:30

Denver, Colo., Aug 29, 2019 / 03:30 am (CNA).- When the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to the English Carmelite, St. Simon Stock, she carried the Carmelite scapular in her hand and told him: “This shall be the privilege for you and for all the Carmelites, that anyone dying in this garment shall be saved.”

Some 300 years later, by the 16th century, a smaller version of the Carmelite scapular, known today as the Brown Scapular, was made available to lay Catholics who underwent a small ceremony and blessing that enrolled them as a member of the Brown Scapular Confraternity.

The scapular, carrying the powerful promise of escaping hell, remains a popular devotion today.

But scapulars can be awkward under certain types of clothes or simply easy to forget in the morning. So, could a well-intentioned Catholic already enrolled in the Brown Scapular Confraternity get a tattoo of the image of the scapular on their skin and receive those same graces and promises?

CNA asked; theologians and priests answered.

The short answer is: no. But, you might not want to write off tattoos completely. There is a bit more to it than that.

“It seems the answer is quite simply, no,” Dr. Mikail Whitfield, a professor of theology at Benedictine College in Atchinson, Kansas, told CNA.

The reasons for this have to do with the way the Catholic Church defines sacramentals, and the nature of tattoos, he added.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, sacramentals are “sacred signs which bear a resemblance to the sacraments. They signify effects, particularly of a spiritual nature, which are obtained through the intercession of the Church. By them men are disposed to receive the chief effect of the sacraments, and various occasions in life are rendered holy.”

The Catechism adds that sacramentals “do not confer the grace of the Holy Spirit in the way that the sacraments do, but by the Church's prayer, they prepare us to receive grace and dispose us to cooperate with it.”

Sacramentals are not just objects, such as brown scapulars or Miraculous Medals, but the Catechism notes that blessings, of people, objects, meals and places, are primary among the sacramentals.

The Miraculous Medal is a sacramental inspired by the Marian apparition to St. Catherine Laboure in Paris in 1830. On one side it features an image of Mary, and on the other, a cross with an “M” underneath it, surrounded by 12 stars and the images of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Canon law defines sacramentals as “sacred signs by which effects, especially spiritual effects, are signified in some imitation of the sacraments and are obtained through the intercession of the Church” (Can 1166).

“Thus, for something to be a sacramental it needs to be a common object (or act) which can act as a sacred sign, which carries some imitation of the sacraments and is set aside by the Church as a means to seek grace,” Whitfield said.

The scapular, in its smaller form used by laypeople, imitates the full-length scapulars worn by members of religious orders, is a piece of wool clothing with is a common object, and imitates the vestments worn at baptism and by priests, Whitfield said.

Tattoos, on the other hand, lack many of these elements.

“While a tattoo is a thing, it is hard to consider it an object. It is more properly an image, though admittedly images can be sacred Furthermore, it is certainly not a ‘common object’ of daily life by which we can be reminded that all the things we do in this life, even the simplest things like wearing clothing, are supposed to be ordered towards our heavenly end,” Whitfield said.

Furthermore, he added, tattoos do not seem to imitate any other sacramental aspects of the Church, and they have not been set aside by the Church as sacramentals themselves.

In fact, the Catholic Church has not made any definitive statements on the morality, or lack thereof, of getting tattoos, and so answers to questions about tattoos vary widely among theologians and priests.

“I don’t think we can talk about tattoos as something good,” said Fr. Luis Granados, D.C.J.M, who serves as the J. Francis Cardinal Stafford Chair of Moral Theology at St. John Vianney theological seminary in Denver.

“They are not ‘intrinsically evil’ but they are wrong ways of treating our body,” he said, even if a tattoo is religious in its image or messaging. 

“The problem of a tattoo is...we are misunderstanding the meaning of the body,” he said. “Our body is called to be accepted as a gift from God. We can heal what is sick, but we are called to accept our body, with its characteristics.”

Adornments of the body, such as makeup or nail polish, are different because they are not permanent changes to one’s body, Granados said.

“I think the question to understand why a tattoo is wrong, is: Why do I want to get a tattoo? Why do I want to spend this money and to some extent risk my health? My body has been wonderfully created by God (Psalm 139) and it does not need my additional words. It already speaks,” he said.

However, in some parts of the world, there are deeply rooted traditions of Christian tattoos. Some Coptic Christian churches require that Christians must have a tattoo of a cross on their arm in order to be admitted into their churches.

One Coptic Christian family has been tattooing pilgrims to the Holy Land with crosses and other religious symbols as a token of their visit for more than 700 years.

Seeing a priest or a religious sister or brother with tattoos may become a more common occurrence as well, because according to a 2015 Harris Poll, a whopping 47% of millennials reported that they have at least one tattoo.

Br. MJ Groark O.F.M. Cap., is one of those millennials, and is “heavily tattooed.”

“As a millennial (and soon to be priest), I can tell you that my tattoos have been generally met with overwhelming generosity. I have a heck of a conversion story, and these are part of it,” he told CNA.

“I can tell you that God is calling many men and women from this generation into ministry, and a whole bunch of us have tattoos. It's part of our generation's way of expressing our lives, and increasingly, our spiritual beliefs,” he said.

Groark said that considering what he learned in his moral theology training, he thinks the morality of a tattoo lies in its meaning.

“...the human person is created imago Dei (in the image of God). We are indeed temples of the Holy Spirit. And like the temples of old, and the temples we continue to worship at, we are somehow lured by the Catholic imagination to decorate and to magnify the beauty of our spaces,” he said.

“As long as a tattoo points towards the true, the good, and the beautiful, I'm okay with it. If it does not, then there would be a question of the morality.” 

Father Ambrose Dobrozsi is another tattooed millennial priest in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Ohio. Dobrozsi told CNA that he did not think tattoos could not be considered sacramentals in the strict, proper sense of the word.

“Sacramentals, used well, keep us close to the grace of Christ given to us in the seven sacraments, and receive their graces by the authority that Christ gives his bride, the Church, when she asks for his help. When the Church asks Christ for graces, He never refuses his bride,” he said.

“This means that sacramentals only work when they are done according to the rules of the Church. If we want to ask Christ for these graces, we need to make sure we do so authentically as the Church, obediently accepting the rules she sets down. It's clear in Canon Law that the Apostolic See alone has the authority to establish sacramentals and define the criteria for their use [c. 1167],” Dobrozsi said. 

However, he added, it is possible that tattoos could be “sacramentals” in a broader sense of the word.

“A permanent image, engraved on the skin, could certainly serve as a constant, physical reminder of our new life in Christ. The image of a rosary, a cross, or other sacramental on our skin could lead us frequently to pray, to desire the seven sacraments more, and to think and act in communion with the Church,” he said.

“So, while a tattoo could not fulfill the requirements to be a proper sacramental in itself, if used in discernment and good faith it could certainly provide similar benefits and be helpful in the pursuit of holiness.”

Whitfield said that another reason that a tattoo would not be a proper scapular is because “an image is not the thing it images.”

“A picture of Michelangelo’s Pietà is not the same as seeing it in person. And standing in front of his sculpture pales in comparison to those who stood at the cross and saw Mary in person holding Christ’s lifeless body in her arms. The thing is always greater than the image. So, not only is a tattoo of the scapular not the scapular, but there’s some question of why it would be preferable; its an image of the thing, not the thing itself,” he said.

The Church already provides Catholics with an alternative to the traditional, woolen brown scapular through the wearing of a Miraculous Medal, which was approved by the Church as a substitute for the scapular in 1910.

“Why? In certain tropical and subtropical areas of the world the use of a scapular had been identified as impractical. High levels of sweat would cause scapulars to break down and deteriorate at such a rate that they were hard to maintain. Because of this, the Miraculous Medal was permitted by the Church to be worn in lieu of the scapular,” Whitfield said.

Is it possible, then that the Catholic Church could extend through its authority the same graces and promises of the scapular to a tattoo of the scapular?

“Aside from the fact that as we’ve seen, tattoos do not seem to be of the nature to appropriately be a sacramental, I have a hard time seeing a practical purpose why such an extension should or would be made,” he said.

Part of the appeal of a scapular tattoo, as previously mentioned, is its permanence - someone with a scapular tattoo would not have to remember to put their scapular back on every morning when they got dressed.

But that remembrance is important, Whitfield said, and a one-time commitment “is not how the Christian life is lived.”

“Each and every day we recommit to the God whom we love. Even those who take permanent vows must choose to live them out each day. It is a daily struggle, and choosing to affirm that wearing the scapular is as important to me today as it was yesterday is part of the very commitment that one makes in putting it on,” he said.

Ultimately, Whitfield said, because God is all-powerful, he could decide to extend the graces of the scapular to someone with a scapular tattoo, but he is not bound to do so, as they are not the same as the sacraments of the Church.

“Sacramentals are reminders and holy practices which dispose us to grace, and through them we believe that God gives further graces by the will of his divine mercy,” Whitfield said.

“(God) has not bound himself to giving graces through sacramentals in the same way he has in the sacraments. So, might he be able to will to give the same graces to someone with a tattoo as someone who wears the scapular? He certainly could, but having the tattoo doesn’t mean he will.”




Federal court upholds block on Indiana 'parental notification' abortion law

Wed, 08/28/2019 - 19:30

Chicago, Ill., Aug 28, 2019 / 05:30 pm (CNA).- A federal appeals court today upheld an injunction that blocks an Indiana law designed to require parental notification for minors seeking abortion.

Indiana law requires any Indiana minor seeking an abortion to provide the courts with written consent from a parent. The state allows a minor to petition a court for approval to have an abortion without parental consent, but a 2017 law also allows judges to notify parents that their daughters are seeking to have an abortion without consent.

In 2017, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction that prevents judges from notifying parents when minors seek abortions. The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that injunction Aug. 28 by a vote of 2-1.

According to the Associated Press, the court said the notification provision would place an “undue burden” on teens seeking an abortion.

Opponents to the court’s decision have said it restricts the rights of parents to be involved in their children’s medical decisions.

Circuit Judge David Hamilton disagreed.

“The State has not yet come forward with evidence showing that there is a problem for the new parental notice requirement to solve, let alone that the law would reasonably be expected to solve it,” he wrote.

The preliminary injunction issued two years ago was in the context of a lawsuit filed against the state by the ACLU and Planned Parenthood.

After the initial court decision, state attorney general Curtis Hill said the ruling was “an attempt to give courts rather than parents the legal guardianship of children.”

In May, the U.S. Supreme Court had upheld part of another Indiana law, which required aborted babies to be either buried or cremated. The court said states have a “legitimate interest in proper disposal of fetal remains.”

“The Seventh Circuit clearly erred in failing to recognize that interest as a permissible basis for Indiana’s disposition law,” the court said.

Pro-life leaders welcomed the decision. Denise Burke, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, said in response to that decision that “unborn infants shouldn’t be disposed of as ‘medical waste’ when they die before birth, regardless of whether their deaths are spontaneous, accidental, or induced,” she said.

The Supreme Court has not considered the merits of another Indiana law under judicial injunction. That law woul prohibit abortions chosen solely on the baby’s sex, race, or disability.

“Indiana law also sends a clear message that all victims of discrimination – born and unborn – are worthy of protection,” Burke said in May.

“We had hoped the Supreme Court would take this opportunity to revisit the 7th Circuit’s deeply flawed ruling, which endorses a lethal form of discrimination, as long as it occurs in utero.”

Facebook posts contradict Seattle archdiocese claims on parishioner’s planned suicide

Wed, 08/28/2019 - 13:36

Seattle, Wash., Aug 28, 2019 / 11:36 am (CNA).- Social media posts made by Robert Fuller, the man whose assisted suicide was profiled Aug. 26 by the Associated Press, suggest that he scheduled his funeral with his parish days before his suicide, and that a priest had “given his blessings” to the suicide plan. 

In a March 16 Facebook post, Fuller claimed that he had completed the legal steps required to receive a prescription of life-ending drugs, and that he had the approval of a priest to end his own life. 

“I have absolutely no reservations about what I am doing,” he wrote. “And my pastor/sponsor has given me his blessings. And he’s a Jesuit!!!”

Fuller did not name the priest referenced in the post, and the pastor of St. Therese parish, Fr. Maurice Mamba, is not a Jesuit. Several Jesuits assist with Sunday Masses at the parish. Examination of past parish bulletins show that only one, Fr. Quentin Dupont, SJ, regularly celebrated the Sunday Mass that Fuller normally attended.

Dupont was the celebrant at the Mass on May 5, at which the priest, along with first communicants and other parishioners, extended their hands in blessing over Fuller. 

Other posts on Fuller’s Facebook page recount that he met with parish staff as he planned the final days of his life, including a party held in the hours before his suicide on May 10, and his own funeral.

On May 4, Fuller posted details of his upcoming funeral, which he had arranged to be held in the parish on May 17. The May 19 parish bulletin from St. Therese included a notice of Fuller’s death, and confirmed that his funeral was held at the church on May 17.

In the same post, Fuller wrote that he had one week left to live. He thanked his “faith family” at St. Therese, and invited people to join him at Mass the next day and at his “end of life celebration party” on May 10 - the day he died.

The Archdiocese of Seattle did not respond by deadline to CNA’s request for clarity.

The Facebook posts appear to be at odds with a statement released by the Archdiocese of Seattle on Tuesday. That statement said parish leaders had been unaware of Fuller’s intentions at the time he received a blessing during Mass on May 5, and that the priest who led the liturgy had only been told Fuller was gravely sick.

In addition to the posts regarding his funeral and his pastor’s “blessing,” other social media posts by Fuller suggest that parish leaders knew about his plans to end his own life, and affirmed his decision. 

On March 3, Fuller posted that he had arranged for one of the musicians at the parish to perform during his end of life “party” to mark his suicide. Three weeks later, he posted that a parish choir would perform as well.

“Today I asked our choir director if he and other musicians and singers can come perform during the first 1 1/2 hours and he emphatically replied YES. OF COURSE!” wrote Fuller on March 24. 

An article on the Seattle Housing Authority’s website confirms that the Shades of Praise choir from St. Therese performed at the party. 

Parish choir director Kent Stevenson also told the AP that Fuller’s suicide “was comletely in keeping with who Bob was” and that Fuller made the choice to die with “tenacity and clarity.” 

Neither Dupont nor the West Province of the Society of Jesus responded to requests for comment.

HHS says university hospital forced nurses to assist in abortions

Wed, 08/28/2019 - 13:00

Washington D.C., Aug 28, 2019 / 11:00 am (CNA).- The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced on Wednesday it has put the University of Vermont Medical Center (UVMMC) on notice after several nurses there reported being forced to help with abortions against their moral objections.

“In a country with many contentious issues, we do not want a society where, on the issue of life and death, people are forced to violate their deepest-held beliefs about it,” Roger Severino, director of the HHS Office for Civil Rights, stated to reporters on Aug 28.

“Our investigation has uncovered serious discrimination by UVMMC against nurses and staff who cannot, in good conscience, assist in elective abortions,” Severino said in a written statement provided by HHS. “We stand ready to assist UVMMC in changing its policies and procedures to respect conscience rights and remedy the effects of its discrimination.”

The Department of Health and Human Services has issued a Notice of Violation to the University of Vermont Medical Center, after it found that a nurse was forced to participate in abortions as a matter of the hospital’s official policy; the federal agency says it has already investigated and attempted to “resolve the matter” but the hospital has not yet cooperated.

The medical center violated the Church Amendments, which were enacted in the 1970s to protect health care workers with conscience-based objections to helping with abortions, the HHS said.

The hospital began performing elective abortions in 2017, but did not inform all staffers, “many of which had already informed” the hospital of their objections to assisting in abortions, Severino said on a conference call with reporters.

The nurse at the center of the case was scheduled for a procedure that was apparently dealing with a miscarriage. She had reportedly made her objections to assisting in abortions known for years, but was not told that she was scheduled to help with an abortion until she entered the room and the abortionist informed her, saying “Don’t hate me.”

This “put the nurse in a tremendous moral quandary,” Severino told reporters. The nurse asked for a replacement but her request was refused. She helped with the abortion, and “has been traumatized ever since,” Severino said.

The hospital has policies mandating that employees assigned to assist with abortions do so regardless of their religious or moral objections. The current policies “do allow for some accommodation,” Severino noted, but are still conditioned upon staffing levels at the hospital, at its discretion.

Federal law, the Church Amendments, put the burden on federally-funded entities to set up procedures so that such cases do not happen, Severino said.

After the incident, the nurse filed an official complaint with HHS on May 9, 2018; despite the agency ordering the hospital, which receives HHS funding, to produce documents and witnesses concerning the incident, the hospital did not comply with the demands.

OCR found, in its ensuing investigation, that several other staff members at the hospital were assigned to participate in abortions despite their conscience-based objections, since at least the spring of 2017.

The hospital was “not fully cooperative” with the HHS investigation, and “contested” both the investigation and the allegations, but the agency gathered “more than sufficient evidence” in the case, Severino said.

“There was a coerced abortion, that we are convinced of,” he said.

The HHS is basing its Notice of Violation on the Church Amendments, which prohibit discrimination against health care employees who have conscientious objections to assisting in abortions.

Unless the hospital notifies OCR within 30 days that it intends to change its policies to not discriminate any further against health care personnel who object to assisting with abortions, and makes remedies for past incidents of such discrimination, HHS will forward its notice to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the branch of HHS that provides funding for the hospital. Severino said that the hospital’s HRSA funding had been $1.6 million over a three-year period.

In May, HHS issued a new rule mandating that health care providers receiving federal money first be certified that they comply with more than two dozen legislative protections for health care workers objecting to performing or participating in health care procedures against their conscience; these procedures would include abortions, sterilizations, or gender-transition surgeries.

Previously, HHS had announced a new division of Conscience and Religious Freedom within the Office of Human Rights (OHR), including a new mechanism for health care workers to contact the department directly with complaints of violations of their religious freedom or conscience.

Severino said that while the agency received an average of 1.25 conscience-related complaints per year in eight years, the agency is now receiving hundreds of such complaints per year. In the 2018 fiscal year, over 1,300 complaints in the HHS Conscience and Religious Freedom division were received, and 784 were retained, 

He credited the increase to a greater awareness of conscience-based discrimination in health care, and a new willingness of the government to enforce existing law.

Violations of conscience in health care have happened and “it will continue to happen unless there is sufficient, vigorous enforcement” of the law, he said.

New Jersey appeals court overturns injunction on assisted suicide law

Wed, 08/28/2019 - 11:59

Trenton, N.J., Aug 28, 2019 / 09:59 am (CNA).- A New Jersey appeals court ruled Tuesday that the state’s law permitting assisted suicide may take effect while a legal challenge against it is heard in court.

The ruling reversed a previous decision from a lower court that had halted the law.

The Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act is being challenged by a physician who says that it is a violation of religious freedom protections in the U.S. Constitution and laws against suicide.

Dr. Yosef Glassman is an Orthodox Jew who says that he is opposed to facilitating suicide both due to his religious beliefs and his profession as a doctor. He also objects to the law’s stipulation that a doctor who objects to assisted suicide must refer patients to another doctor who will help them end their life.

The law’s demands on doctors, Glassman said in his lawsuit, present “not only a violation of the rights to practice medicine without breaching the fiduciary duties owing to those patients ... but also violations of their First Amendment rights under the United States Constitution to freely practice their religions in which human life is sacred and must not be taken,” the AP reported.

However, the appeals court said Glassman had not shown that irreparable harm would result from allowing the law to move forward during the court challenge.

“We conclude the court failed to consider adequately the interests of qualified terminally-ill patients, who the Legislature determined have clearly prescribed rights to end their lives consistent with the Act,” the appeals court said, according to the AP.

The assisted suicide law passed the New Jersey legislature narrowly in late March. The law allows those deemed by a doctor to have less than six months to live to request lethal medication to end their lives. The patient then must administer the medication themselves.

Governor Phil Murphy signed the bill into law April 12.

A self-described “lifelong, practicing Catholic,” Murphy said that he was aware of the Church’s opposition to assisted suicide, but that after careful consideration and prayer, “I have concluded that, while my faith may lead me to a particular decision for myself, as a public official I cannot deny this alternative to those who may reach a different conclusion.”

“I believe this choice is a personal one and, therefore, signing this legislation is the decision that best respects the freedom and humanity of all New Jersey residents,” Murphy said.

Bishop James F. Checchio of Metuchen condemned assisted suicide as “a grievous affront to the dignity of human life” that “can never be morally justified” in a letter to his diocese on July 30.

“Passage of this law points to the utter failure of government, and indeed all society, to care truly, authentically and humanely for the suffering and vulnerable in our midst, especially those living with an incurable disease as well as the frail elderly, the infirm and those living with disabilities,” he said.

He stressed that despite the new legality of the practice, it remains gravely immoral, and said the Church would continue advocating for the sanctity of all human life and working to educate lawmakers and the general public about the dangers of assisted suicide.

“With this law there will be a further desensitization of the value of human life,” said the bishop, adding that the elderly, sick and disabled could feel pressure to choose suicide so as to avoid burdening others.

He also clarified that Saint Peter’s University Hospital, sponsored by the Diocese of Metuchen, will not condone or participate in euthanasia or assisted suicide.

Instead of assisted suicide, Checchio called for a renewed commitment caring for those living in pain and suffering while dying and who might otherwise consider suicide.

“Let us strive to help the sick and incapacitated find meaning in their lives, even and especially in the midst of their suffering,” he said. “Let us, as a society and as individuals choose to walk with them, in their suffering, not contribute to eliminating the gift of life.”

Assisted suicide is legal in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia, as well as in Montana under a 2009 state Supreme Court ruling.

After the abuse: A bishop's ministry of healing and trust

Wed, 08/28/2019 - 06:25

Minneapolis, Minn., Aug 28, 2019 / 04:25 am (CNA).- Bishop Andrew Cozzens became a bishop in the middle of a crisis.

“There was this kind of fire that was burning on the front page of the paper everyday,” Cozzens told CNA, “and then I got this call.”

The call was his appointment as an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Cozzens was appointed to that role just days after a whistleblower leveled charges of misconduct and cover-up against Archbishop John Nienstedt, who eventually resigned from his post amid scandal.

The archdiocese was in a state of chaos, and, Cozzens said, Catholics were in a great deal of pain.

“I was named a bishop at a very unique time, and it was so unique that it was clear to me God had planned it,” Cozzens told CNA.

He told CNA that he knew, from the time he was appointed, “that the Lord was calling me to be a part of healing. I didn’t have any idea what that meant when I heard that word in prayer.”

“Since the beginning,” he said, “I have felt like that’s why God made me a bishop and that’s what he wants me to do, and so I need to help do that.”

If God chose Bishop Cozzens to be a part of the Church’s healing ministry, meeting Gina Barthel was a big part of how that healing ministry would begin.

He remembers when she emailed him, in early 2014. It was just months after he’d become a bishop.

Barthel wrote to Cozzens that she had been a victim of clergy sexual abuse, and that she wanted to tell him her story. He accepted. They met in his office. Bishop Cozzens hadn’t met with many victims of abuse before. But when Gina told her story, he was disturbed. And he wanted to help her find the healing she sought.

“What was most disturbing about her story was the clear abuse of the office of spiritual direction. And since I’m a spiritual director, and have been a spiritual director, I understand how sacred that space is, and so the fact that it was clearly abused was for me the disturbing part,” Cozzens told CNA.

“Basically I knew that it would be very difficult for her to trust anyone, especially a priest or a bishop, so I was grateful that she was willing to share with me. And that was always the goal from the beginning, was to provide her an example of someone she could trust, and let her know that I was available to help her in any way that I could, to help her find healing, but obviously you can’t force those kinds of things.”

Gina Barthel told CNA that she’s found healing - and found Christ - through the Church, and with the help of Cozzens. But, she says, it wasn’t easy.

In 2005, nine years before she contacted Cozzens, Barthel was a novice in a religious community. She hoped to profess vows as a religious sister. In the course of spiritual direction, she told a priest, Fr. Jim Montanaro, OMV, that she had been sexually abused, and how that had impacted her spiritual and emotional life.

Armed with that knowledge, Barthel told CNA, Montanaro began to groom her, and eventually would sexually abuse her.

At first, the priest asked her to spend excessive time alone with him, and then discuss her body with him in sexual ways that made her uncomfortable. He told her, she remembers, that God could use that experience to heal her.

In the summer of 2005, Barthel decided to leave the religious community. She got an apartment in New York. Montanaro reached out to her, and said he wanted to remain her spiritual director.

“I was like, ‘Well that's awesome because it's impossible to find a spiritual director, so I don't even have to look.’”

“So if you can imagine, a girl from Minnesota, who has no interest at all living in New York City, suddenly finding myself living in an apartment. I don't know anyone except the sisters and what does that equal? I'm lonely. I'm isolated. It was a setup for disaster.”

Soon, she told CNA, she and Montanaro were talking every day.

“And then multiple times a day. And it turned into, at some point, a spiritual adoption. I don't remember the timetable exactly, but he adopted me as his 'Principessa', like Italian for 'princess' and I called him 'Papito.' Like, 'little father.'”

“And we would talk at night, and often the conversations at night would turn very sexual,” Barthel told CNA.

She said that over the phone, the priest would encourage her to imagine that the two of them were saints in heaven together. Then he would tell her that they should each strip naked, to be “naked without shame.”

“So it was just this weird, it feels awkward to tell you about it, because it's creepy, right? So that was happening.”

In 2006, Barthel moved to her home state of Minnesota. She struggled with depression. She was hospitalized with major depressive episodes. And then a friend offered to send her on a pilgrimage, a group trip for which Montanaro would be the chaplain. The priest invited her to visit his home in Boston before the trip began.

“He invited me to come early and I stayed at their house in Boston, and I remember him putting a sign on the door saying: ‘Do not interrupt. Spiritual direction in session.’

“And he turned on music and he's like, ‘I just want to hold my principessa.’ So there was a lot of holding and touching, but it was not sexual, yet.”

The priest was at least 20 years older than her.  But Barthel, struggling with loneliness and depression, said she liked that he was holding her. Still, she said she knew that what was happening wasn’t right.

“I feel like in that circumstance, I was a vulnerable adult, she told CNA. “Because it was like he abused the child inside of me. He wasn't abusing an equal, adult-adult relationship. Everything was very childlike.”

The next year, Montanaro took Barthel to stay with him at a retreat center in North Dakota and there, she alleges, began a sexual relationship with her.

Barthel told CNA how confused she was. She believed in the Church’s teaching about sexuality, but, she says, she also believed what the priest told her.

“The entire time, he was telling me what was happening was ‘miraculous graces,’” she told CNA. “Like, ‘Jesus is healing you.’ All of the things he was saying we should do were all part of God's healing plan for me.”

“And the biggest thing I wanted in my entire adult life was to be healed of the sexual abuse that I experienced as a child. And he used that to catapult his agenda to hurt me,” she said.

“Everything was under the guise of healing, Barthel told CNA.

“And even, he was saying, ‘God's using you to heal me,’” she said.

“So then I felt special like, ‘Well that's kind of cool, like, it's mutual. God's not just using him to heal me, but He's also using me to heal Papito.’ Like, that's really special,” she said.

Looking back, Barthel says she can see that Montanaro was using her insecurities to manipulate her. But at the time, she says, she felt confused, and she trusted the priest.

“And I remember asking, ‘Well, do I need to go to confession? Maybe I should go to confession.’ And he always said no. ‘No, we don't need to go to confession. This is part of God's will. This isn't just okay, and it’s not just good, and not just great, it’s holy.’”

The relationship continued until, after a few months, Barthel told Montanaro that it had to end.

She told CNA she realized things were wrong when the priest admitted he hadn’t told his own spiritual director about the sexual relationship. 

“He said, ‘Some things are meant to be kept a secret between you and God.’ The minute he said that, my whole world started falling apart,” Barthel said.

She told a priest she trusted about the relationship. That priest called Montanaro and confronted him. Barthel said that Montanaro admitted the whole thing, but seemed to see nothing wrong with the relationship. The priest next called Montanaro’s superiors, and Montanaro was removed from ministry.

A spokesman for the St. Ignatius Province of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary told CNA that the province “first became aware of her allegations relating to Fr. Montanaro in November of 2007, when a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis notified the rector of the retreat house where Fr. Montanaro resided at the time. 

“The then-Provincial of the St. Ignatius Province met with Fr. Montanaro on the day he heard of the allegations. Following that meeting, Fr. Montanaro was immediately removed from public ministry and was to cease all contact with that individual.”

“In January of 2008, the Provincial revoked Fr. Montanaro’s priestly faculties, and Montanaro subsequently sought, and obtained, dismissal from the Oblates, followed by laicization from sacred orders from Rome, which was granted in 2010.  Montanaro has had no role or ministry with the St. Ignatius Province since then,” the spokesman added.

The spokesman said that at the time Montanaro was removed, the Oblates “began to provide support” for Barthel.

The Oblates, Barthel told CNA, “sent me a couple of checks to help pay my rent because the trauma hit me so hard that I couldn't work initially.  They also sent me a letter offering $15,000 and a year of therapy if I signed one of those letters stating I wouldn't do anything further.” 

“I don't know what I was more upset about: the fact that they were trying to pay me off to keep me quiet or the fact that they thought I would only need a year of therapy to recover. It's 12 years later and I'm still in therapy!” 

Barthel said it took years of healing before she was prepared to report what had happened to police. When she did, it was too late.

“When I finally built up the courage to go to the police, I missed the statute of limitations by less than a month. That was devastating because it took so much from me to even go to the police. I finally went, I told my whole story, and then I get a call back and it's the statute of limitation by less than 30 days”

But she was even more devastated, she says, because Montanaro’s community, the Oblates of the Blessed Virgin Mary, have declined to name Montanaro as a sexual abuser.

“One of my big grievances has been why aren't perpetrators of adults also being listed publicly?”

Barthel told CNA that she has been concerned that Montanaro might groom other women.

The laicized priest now works as a photographer in Massachusetts. He has not responded to multiple attempts by CNA to contact him.

Among the photographs posted on Facebook by the studio where Montanaro works is a series in which several women have posed nude for the camera. The photo captions read “You are ravishing,”  and “Next time you think of something beautiful, don't forget to count yourself in.”

On the website of the studio, Montanaro writes “My biggest satisfaction is capturing the unique beauty of each person who entrusts that privilege to my partners and to me. We love to help people discover (or rediscover) their God-given beauty in a photo session, and fall in love with themselves all over again.”

In March, Barthel wrote to the Oblates.

“I have concern that he could use his credentials of previous pastoral work and education to get a job in any helper position where he would have access to vulnerable adults. While he is no longer able to hurt people using his position of power as a Catholic priest, that doesn’t mean he isn’t still a threat if he has access to vulnerable adults,” she wrote.

“This is a hurdle in my healing journey. I keep thinking, hoping, praying and wishing that someday when I Google his name, it’ll show up that he is a self-admitted abuser of adult women. Yet, to date, I find nothing. It floods me with grief and also adds to my anger that waxes and wanes as I continue to heal. I feel that as long as the Church stays silent on these matters, there is danger the abuse may continue. Who are we trying to protect and why?”

She requested that Montanaro’s self-admission of sexual misconduct be publicly acknowledged by the order.

She told CNA she has yet to hear back from the Oblates about her request.

The Oblates declined to respond to questions from CNA about Barthel’s request.

While Barthel is discouraged, she told CNA that she has not lost her faith.

“I love Jesus, I love the Church. And it's not easy and my relationship with Jesus and the Church are different now, but in some ways it's more beautiful than it was before because I'm more dependent upon Him. And I don't know how to explain it.”

“My deepest healing has all come through adoration,” she said.

Barthel emphasized the role that Cozzens has played in her life. They’ve met together regularly, and prayed together, for years.

“I needed a safe place to allow the rage and pain to unfold,” Barthel told CNA.

“Yes, I did a lot of that in therapy, but the injustice against my soul demanded someone in the Church hierarchy to listen to me, hear my voice, acknowledge my pain and empathize with me.  Bishop Cozzens has been that person for me.”

The bishop, she said, “has been the conduit God has chosen to use to bring me back into a free and even deeper relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church.”

“Eucharistic adoration is where I have received the majority of my healing,” she told CNA.

“Bishop Cozzens helped get me to a place to be able to go there and ask Jesus the hard questions and to sit and wait and listen for the answers. That’s the awesome thing about Jesus, if we ask, if we wait, He will speak to us.”

Barthel explained that Cozzens’ role in her life has been invaluable.

“When I first started meeting with him, I was terrified of praying; especially using my imagination which had always been my greatest source of delight in prayer and way of connecting to Jesus through the stories in Scripture. He never pushed, but would give me little tidbits of spiritual encouragement/advice that I could bring with me to Eucharistic adoration. This is what I needed. Someone who could walk with me and understood the danger and risk I was taking to pursue a life of prayer again.”

Cozzens told CNA that he’s learned, through his pastoral relationship with Barthel, what pastoral ministry to victims of abuse requires.

“One of the things that victims of abuse struggle with is going to Church. It’s really hard for them to go to Church. But if you’re a Catholic, you might think that you’re committing a mortal sin, but you just can’t do it because it’s so emotionally difficult for them. So to be gentle and to let them know that God understands the pain they’re going through, and the Church understands that too,” Cozzens said.

“Just to help people walk through that and let them know it’s ok that it takes time, and that God understands what they’re going through. To do that you have to be willing to go through ups and downs with people, because they go through their good moments and their bad moments. But gradually - and it takes time - but gradually the good moments outweigh the bad moments,” he added.

Barthel said she appreciated that understanding.

“Particularly in the beginning, coming back to the sacramental life of the church and prayer was excruciatingly painful, adding the regular breaking news reports of clergy abuse and cover up, there were so many times I wanted to throw the towel in and leave the Catholic Church altogether. While he never encouraged me to leave, he also never tried to convince me to stay. This gave me so much freedom and reminded me that the choice was mine. I needed that freedom and I believe it had a big part in helping me choose to remain Catholic,” she told CNA.

“I just wanted to be heard. I am hurting and I need someone to listen to me, and it needed to be somebody in the Church that I felt like cared.” “And I needed therapy,” she added. “Obviously, like I still go to therapy. “

For his part, Cozzens told CNA that many bishops, in the midst of the Church’s current sexual abuse crisis, have built pastoral relationships with the victims of abuse. But he also acknowledged that some bishops and priests, apprehensive about litigation or negative publicity, have been nervous about their engagement with victims of clerical sexual abuse.

“For me, you just have to put the person ahead of the situation...working with someone who has been hurt...they could turn on me, or be angry with me, or say bad things about me, but that’s the risk we all take if we’re going to be part of Christ’s healing. So I think we all need to be willing to take that risk.”

The bishop said Church officials should be confident about openness to relationships with the victims of abuse, despite the fact that bishops have faced, and continue to face lawsuits, for the Church’s handling of abuse allegations.

“We can’t see these things simply as liability issues. Because you have to see the people who God puts in front of us.”

“Anyone who has been wounded by a priest needs to learn to separate, in their minds, the distinction between what priest did and who God is, and what God does, and how God works. And that’s a very difficult things, that’s why I think priest abuse is the worst kind of abuse, because it can separate a person from the source of healing, who is God,” Cozzens said.

“So we have to try and help them make that distinction. And that usually requires patience and trust.”

Cozzens knows there are many Catholics in pain over the sexual abuse scandals, and that healing does not come easy. That it comes one person at a time. And that bishops have to be willing to walk alongside those hoping to be healed.

Gina Barthel knows her healing journey is not complete. But, she says, she is grateful that Bishop Cozzens is walking alongside her.