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Seattle bishops to 'review' blessing of assisted suicide advocate

Tue, 08/27/2019 - 18:45

Seattle, Wash., Aug 27, 2019 / 04:45 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Seattle is facing questions after a local man received a formal Catholic blessing at Mass shortly before committing medically assisted suicide.

Robert Fuller, an HIV and cancer patient, committed suicide on May 10. 

An Aug. 27 Associated Press profile of Fuller’s final days included a photograph and account of the blessing he received at St. Therese Parish in the Seattle archdiocese, five days before he ended his own life.

“The Associated Press story about Mr. Fuller is of great concern to the Archbishops because it may cause confusion among Catholics and others who share our reverence for human life,” the Archdiocese of Seattle said in an Aug. 27 statement.

After Fuller attended a final Mass at his parish, Fr. Quentin Dupont, SJ, led children who had just received their First Holy Communion to gather around the man. The priest, the children, and members of the parish extended their hands in blessing over him. This act was recorded and photographed by an AP journalist. 

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Robert Fuller was one of about 1,200 people who have used Washington’s Death with Dignity Act to end their lives in the decade since it became law. <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; The Detroit News (@detroitnews) <a href="">August 27, 2019</a></blockquote> <script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

“The feature story shows a photo of a blessing that Mr. Fuller received after Mass. At the time of this photo, parish leadership was not aware of Mr. Fuller’s intentions,” the archdiocese said. 

“That morning, the priest in the photograph was told Mr. Fuller was dying and wanted the blessing of the faith community. It wasn’t until later that parish leaders learned of his plans. When these plans were made known, the pastor met with Mr. Fuller to discuss the sacred gift of human life and how we are called to respect and revere that gift as disciples of Jesus.”

The archdiocesan statement said an investigation is being opened to determine what had happened on and before the Mass on May 5. 

While the archdiocesan statement said that parish leaders were unaware of Fuller’s intention to end his own life, the Associated Press reported that Fuller’s plans were “widely known and accepted” among the parishioners at St. Therese, which he began attending regularly towards the end of his life. 

One parish leader, Kent Stevenson told the AP that Fuller made the choice to die with “tenacity and clarity” and had been “forthcoming and sober about it.” 

Stevenson, the parish music minister, is listed among parish leaders on the front of the weekly parish bulletin alongside the priest, deacon, and bookkeeper.

The archdiocese said it is “reviewing the events reported in this story, even though they took place several months ago.” It added that Seattle’s bishops will “work to clarify any confusion or misunderstanding, which this article may have generated.”

The archdiocese is led by Archbishop James Peter Sartain and coadjutor Archbishop Paul Etienne, who arrived to assist Sartain in April, after he requested help from pope following health problems.

The archdiocese told CNA that Dupont, a member of the West Province of the Society of Jesus, was assigned to serve as the weekend assistant for two parishes, including St. Therese. 

A spokesperson explained that the archdiocese has a longstanding relationship with the local Jesuit community, who often assist by celebrating Masses in local parishes if the pastor is not available. 

In 2018-2019, Dupont was a graduate student at Seattle University, which is run by the order. The Jesuit province did not respond to CNA’s requests for comment.

Fuller, who contracted HIV in the 1980s, was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor at the base of his tongue during the summer of 2018. At the end of his life, he was dependent on a feeding tube, and did wish to pursue chemotherapy treatments. Instead, he expressed his intention to commit medically assisted suicide. 

Fuller had been a proponent of the practice for over three decades, and had been a member of the Hemlock Society. He told the AP that in the 1980s, he gave a friend with AIDS an overdose of medication, ending his life.

AP reported that Fuller had previously attempted suicide in in 1975, attemping to overdose on pills he stole from his job working as a psychiatric nurse at a hospital in Seattle. He sought help when it began raining, saying he did not wish to die cold and wet. 

On May 10, Fuller injected lethal drugs, mixed with his favorite drink, into his feeding tube. Washington’s assisted suicide laws mandate that the patient self-administer the medication. 

Prior to his death, Fuller hosted a party with friends and family, and was civilly married in a non-Catholic ceremony to his partner, a man named Reese Baxter. Baxter was also Fuller’s caretaker. Fuller died about nine and a half hours later. 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church condemns both euthanasia and suicide. 

“Those whose lives are diminished or weakened deserve special respect. Sick or handicapped persons should be helped to lead lives as normal as possible,” says the Catechism. Direct euthansia is “morally unacceptable.” 

“Even if death is thought imminent, the ordinary care owed to a sick person cannot be legitimately interrupted. The use of painkillers to alleviate the sufferings of the dying, even at the risk of shortening their days, can be morally in conformity with human dignity if death is not willed as either an end or a means, but only foreseen and tolerated as inevitable,” the Catechism states. “Palliative care is a special form of disinterested charity. As such it should be encouraged.” 

The Catechism also condemns suicide, saying “We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of.” 

Additionally, the Catechism states “If suicide is committed with the intention of setting an example, especially to the young, it also takes on the gravity of scandal. Voluntary co-operation in suicide is contrary to the moral law.”

A person with “grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture” may not be fully responsible for their suicide, says the Catechism. 

Washington State passed the Death With Dignity Act in 2008, and since then, about 1,200 people have opted to die by euthanasia. 

According to the AP, Fuller agreed to be profiled in order to “demonstrate for people around the country how [assisted suicide] laws work.” 

Franciscan Province paid poor abuse victims $15,000 in nondisclosure agreement

Tue, 08/27/2019 - 18:32

Jackson, Miss., Aug 27, 2019 / 04:32 pm (CNA).- The Associated Press has uncovered the cases of two men whom the Franciscans of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Province paid $15,000 each to keep quiet about abuse claims, despite a requirement that victims must not be bound by nondisclosure agreements in child sexual abuse settlements.

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

The men said Brother West abused them both in the school and on summer excursions to Wisconsin.

La Jarvis, 36, came forward with his abuse claim in 2017. He told the Associated Press that Father James Gannon, Provincial Minister for the Wisconsin-based province, met with him, his wife, and his three small children at an IHOP restaurant in northern Mississippi outside of Memphis.

The Franklin, Wisconsin-based Assumption Province has had a program of outreach to the poor of Greenwood since the early 1950s.

Love said Gannon 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.

The AP noted that in 2006, the Diocese of Jackson, in which Greenwood is situated, settled abuse lawsuits involving 19 victims for $5.1 million, or an average of $250,000 per victim.

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.

The 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, also known as the Dallas Charter, forbids the practice of confidential settlement agreements in the case of sexual abuse of minors by clergy unless the victim specifically requests it.

In addition, Vos estis lux mundi, Pope Francis’ new guidelines for reporting sexual abuse promulgated in May, states in article 4 that “an obligation to keep silent may not be imposed on any person with regard to the contents of his or her report [of abuse].”

Gannon told the AP that West was recalled from Greenwood in 1998 and that the Franciscans lost touch with him after he left the Franciscan order, but the AP found that West began teaching fifth grade at a Catholic school near his home in Appleton, Wisconsin, in 2000, and remained on the job until at least 2010.

“The information in the article is upsetting, disappointing, and may even bring back painful memories to victims and their families. For that, we sincerely apologize,” Gannon said in an Aug. 27 statement in response to the AP article.

“The Franciscans of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Province will continue to maintain safe environments. Protecting children and vulnerable adults is one of our utmost priorities. These strenuous efforts have been validated through our accreditation status by an independent firm that evaluates protection policies and procedures of major organizations.”

Joshua also took a $15,000 settlement, and says he was also abused by the late Brother Donald Lucas at the school. Lucas died in 1999.

Rafael reported his abuse to Church authorities in 1998, and Stephen J. Carmody, an attorney for the Diocese of Jackson, told the AP that the church officials notified police and a social services agency at that time.

Rafael is now serving two life sentences in a Tennessee prison for a double homicide he committed when he was 16, and rejected Gannon’s offer of $15,000 to settle the abuse claim, the AP says.

The Diocese of Jackson has investigated the allegations against West and Lucas and found them to be credible. The diocesan website includes both Lucas and West on its list of credibly accused clergy.

Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay $572m for driving opioid epidemic

Tue, 08/27/2019 - 18:00

Oklahoma City, Okla., Aug 27, 2019 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- An Oklahoma judge ruled Monday that the pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson pay $572 million for “public nuisance” in driving the state’s opioid epidemic by pushing prescription painkillers.

In an Aug. 26 decision, Judge Thad Balkman of the Oklahoma District Court for Cleveland County found that Johnson & Johnson “engaged in a false, misleading and deceptive marketing campaign” with Oklahoma doctors and citizens to sell painkillers, ultimately driving the state’s current opioid abuse epidemic.

The state’s case against the drug company was, in essence, a “public nuisance” case, Judge Balkman said in his decision, finding that the company was guilty of “unlawful acts which ‘annoys, injures, or endangers the comfort, repose, health, or safety of others’.”

Sales representatives from the company repeatedly claimed that the drugs were “safe and effective for the long-term treatment of chronic, non-malignant pain,” the decision noted, while relying upon research paid for by the company and paid speakers, and actively presenting data out of context or omitting key information.

The deceptive behavior helped drive an “opioid crisis epidemic” that is ravaging the state, the judge’s decision read, the “current stage” of which was “started by and still primarily involves prescription opioids.”

It “caused exponentially increasing rates of addiction, overdose deaths, and Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome,” Judge Balkman said.

Prescription opioid sales increased fourfold from 1994 through 2006 in Oklahoma, before rates of unintentional overdoses and Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) - drug withdrawal in newborn babies - soared. More than 2,100 Oklahomans died of unintentional prescription opioid overdose between 2011 and 2015, and in 2017, 4.2% of Oklahoma babies were born with NAS.

By 2015, more than 326 million opioid pills were dispensed in Oklahoma, and the state now prescribes more fentanyl per capita of any state in the country.  

Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies announced on Monday that they would appeal the decision.

“Janssen did not cause the opioid crisis in Oklahoma, and neither the facts nor the law support this outcome,” said Michael Ullmann, executive vice president and general counsel of Johnson & Johnson. “We recognize the opioid crisis is a tremendously complex public health issue and we have deep sympathy for everyone affected. We are working with partners to find ways to help those in need.”

Johnson & Johnson said that their activities in the state were conducted within the law, its drugs and ingredient manufacturers complied with federal regulations, and its drugs Duragesic, NUCYNTA and NUCYNTA ER only accounted for one percent of prescription opioids in Oklahoma. 

The company confirmed it has been named in more than 2,000 lawsuits by state and local governments regarding the marketing of opioids.

Catholic bishops, including Pope Francis, have spoken about the opioid epidemic.

In his November, 2016 address to a meeting of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on narcotics, Pope Francis warned that drugs “are essentially destroyers” that bring about “a psychic, social death,” of a person, what “amounts to ‘throwing away’ a person.”

The pope warned of “vast networks” that are well-connected to positions of power and influence, and “distribution systems,” that must be countered by “retracing the chain that connects small-scale drug trade and the most sophisticated money laundering schemes embedded in financial capital and banks dedicated to money-laundering.”

A 2016 statement by Massachusetts bishops said that patients should still be prescribed painkillers “for long and short term pain management” while warning that “overuse by the patient, along with access to vast quantities of opioids by unintended users, often leads to abuse, addiction and death.”

“We exhort health care providers to demand improved education within their own professional groups about the appropriate indications, prescriptions and use of opioid medications,” the bishops said.

The opioid epidemic has helped drive down life expectancy in the U.S., as in 2017 the life expectancy fell from 78.7 to 78.6—its third straight year of decline after more than two decades of growth.

That news came after more than 70,000 drug overdose deaths in 2017 were reported by the Centers for Disease Control, more than two-thirds of those deaths involving opioids; the number of opioid-related overdose deaths in 2017 skyrocketed to six times that of 1999.

The opioid epidemic occurred in three waves, the first caused by widespread prescription of painkillers in the 1990s that drove up overdose deaths beginning in 1999, according to the CDC.

While Fort Worth bishop says apparition is not real, alleged visionary blames demonic attack

Tue, 08/27/2019 - 16:40

Fort Worth, Texas, Aug 27, 2019 / 02:40 pm (CNA).- The Bishop of Fort Worth, Texas, said Monday that alleged local appearances of the Blessed Virgin Mary are not real apparitions, and that alleged evidence of the visions is fake. But supporters of the alleged apparitions say that Satan is trying to discredit their visions.
“It is my sad responsibility to inform you that last week the Diocese of Fort Worth received irrefutable evidence that these purported apparitions, messages, and miracles are, in fact, a fabrication,” Bishop Michael Olson wrote in an Aug. 26 letter.

Earlier this month, Olson warned in a letter that the apparent apparitions, which were said to be taking placing in Argyle, Texas, should not be considered authenticated by the Church. But his letter this week was more direct.

The bishop said that he had reviewed a security tape from Loreto House, a pro-life apostolate where both apparitions of Mary and the miraculous appearance of roses were said to occur.

“The videotape clearly reveals the alleged visionary surreptitiously dropping a rose on the floor of a room; she would later make the claim that the rose was a miraculous gift of the Virgin Mary.”

“After viewing the video and consulting with diocesan advisors and others, I have concluded that the Mystical Rose—Our Lady of Argyle is a fabrication and not true.”

The woman who claims to see visions of the Blessed Mother says on her website that she was under a demonic attack when she dropped the rose on the floor, and then acted surprised by its discovery.

An Aug. 23 post on the site reports “a recent severe demonic attack in which demons influenced the visionary to act in such a way as to potentially discredit the messages.”

After that alleged demonic attack, “the visionary immediately sought the counsel of a holy priest and bishop who confirmed the deception as being of demonic origin and also gave assurance that the messages were authentic and of God.”

The site claims that the visionary has had several “frightening and unnerving demonic attacks where the fallen have sought to have her act against her will in an attempt to discredit the messages.”

Supporters of the alleged visionary claim that the Blessed Virgin Mary began appearing in May 2017 to her. They claim the first such apparition was in Arkansas, and subsequent appearances allegedly took place at St. Mark Catholic Church in Argyle, Texas.

The alleged visionary claims to have received seven messages from the Blessed Virgin Mary in 2017, and in 2018 and 2019 to have received more than 30 “warning messages for the Church...from saints, angels, the Blessed Mother, and even from Christ Himself.”

The website, still active Aug. 27, says that “The creators of this website, the visionary, and all involved with this apparition believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God.  All are members in good standing of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.”

Olson’s letter added that while he had tried to arrange a meeting with the alleged visionary and another Catholic involved in the apparitions, they agreed to do so only in the presence of their canon lawyer, Mr. Philip Gray. It does not appear that a meeting has been scheduled.

Gray, president of the St. Joseph’s Foundation, is also the canon lawyer behind a petition sponsored by some Fort Worth Catholics to have Olson removed from his post as diocesan bishop. In June, Gray told web site Churchmilitant that the effort to have Olson removed was his idea.

In a July 29 letter to supporters, Gray wrote that Olson “touts his ordination to the priesthood, his consecration as a bishop, his position as a rector in a seminary, and he claims a preparation for the unique situation of the Church in North Texas. He recognizes himself for the collar and the miter he wears, but not for the justice and charity he is to practice.”

Gray claims that Olson’s “ineffective and even harmful acts,” have had “grave effects on the priests and faithful of the Diocese of Fort Worth.”

Gray did not respond to requests for comment before deadline.

According to Olson, the effort to have him removed is the work of a small group of Catholics dissatisfied with his handling of administrative and personnel matters in the diocese. The online petition has some 1,500 signatures.  There are approximately 1,200,000 Catholics in the Diocese of Forth Worth.

Olson told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in December that the petitioners are “a handful of people with their own agenda.”

I think people have a right to be critical. I don’t think people have a right to slander or be destructive or say untrue things. I think people have a right to be happy and a right to be unhappy, and if you are, pray for me, pray for themselves. This is about the salvation of souls ... it’s not a hobby. It’s centered on Christ,” the bishop added.

As to the alleged apparitions, Olson's Aug. 26 letter asked Catholics to “pray for the healing and conversion of all involved in these matters that have brought about discord and disunity where there should be peace and communion. I am asking the clergy of our Diocese to be especially aware of anyone who seeks healing because of this scandal and to provide compassionate spiritual counseling.”


Put human dignity not profit first, Rubio says

Tue, 08/27/2019 - 16:30

Washington D.C., Aug 27, 2019 / 02:30 pm (CNA).- Economic policy and debate should prioritize people and the dignity of work, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) argued in an article published Monday. 

Writing for the magazine First Things, Rubio cited Catholic social teaching and Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum novarum while reflecting that profit and human concern have drifted apart.

“Economic stability for working-class families is not a feature of today’s economy,” the senator wrote. “Business profits have become increasingly estranged from production and employment.”

Rubio cited international business interests and a globalized economy as twin pressures on domestic production and employment, as companies act to leverage domestic resources and assets for more speculative growth.

“When dignified work is lost or unattainable, it corrodes the human spirit. Recent years have seen the destruction of jobs that provided a way of life for families and communities for generations,” Rubio said.

“The dignity of work, the Church instructs us through documents like Rerum novarum, is not just the concerns of individuals. It is the concern of communities and nations to provide productive labor to their people.”

Rubio said the promise of a new economy, often based around casual or flexible so-called gig employment, has largely failed to materialize, and that “the new fabric of American work” is too thin to sustain people. 

The economic and political failure to prioritize the creation and sustaining of “dignified work” through investment now presents “serious problems,” he said, directly impacting the family life of many in the United States, and driving population losses in rural and mid-urban parts of the country. “Entire regions have been hollowed out,” the senator said.

Rubio went on to criticize the level of political discourse in response to serious problems at the ground level, saying that many politicians limit public debate to abstract economic models and principles.

“Compare a politics dedicated to restoring the dignity of work to the contemporary interest in abstract concepts like ‘democratic socialism.’ Separated from the daily lives of most Americans, where the most important decisions are how to raise children and make ends meet, elite-level politics asks people which abstract economic system they affirm.”

Terms like capitalism and socialism have long histories and are important schools of thought, Rubio said, but they have been reduced to superficial indicators of party allegiance. In contrast he proposed drawing inspiration from the Church’s teaching.

“The Church’s tradition cuts across identitarian labels, insisting upon the inviolable right to private property and the dangers of Marxism, but also the essential role of labor unions,” Rubio said. "The Church emphasizes the moral duty of employers to respect workers not just as a means to profit, but as human persons and productive members of their community and nation.” 

“The tradition sees past our stale partisan categories and roots our politics in something larger: the inviolable dignity of every human person, the work he or she does, and the family life that work supports.”

Citing the teaching of St. John Paul II, Rubio noted that “the obligation to earn one’s bread by the sweat of one’s brow also presumes the right to do so. A society in which this right is systematically denied, in which economic policies do not allow workers to reach satisfactory levels of employment, cannot be justified.” 

Proposing his own set of economic policy measures to rebalance the direction of the national economy towards human priorities, Rubio called for a rejection of “unserious and abstract debate” in favor of an economic discussion rooted in human dignity and reflective of the Church’s teachings.

“We must recover this wisdom and remember what economics is truly for.”

Musicians sign Planned Parenthood protest of pro-life laws

Tue, 08/27/2019 - 15:05

Washington D.C., Aug 27, 2019 / 01:05 pm (CNA).- Over 130 musicians have signed a Planned Parenthood-sponsored petition against recent abortion restrictions passed by several states, a move condemned by pro-life activists as “out of touch.”

“Musicians across the country are standing in solidarity with Planned Parenthood,” announced the website of the country’s larget abortion provider Aug. 26. “They’re saying access to sexual and reproductive health care is about the same type of freedom that allows them to create music and speak their truth — because no one is free unless they control their own body.”

Signatories of the petition include Ariana Grande, Carole King, Demi Lovato, the Foo Fighters, Idina Menzel, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Mackelmore, Miley Cyrus, Nine Inch Nails, Norah Jones and T-Pain. 

Pro-life advocates lined up to dispute Planned Parenthood’s claim that free access to abortion throughout pregnancy is a form of “freedom.” 

“Abortion victimizes and disempowers women - our bodies should be free from violence including the violence of abortion,” said Molly Sheahan of the organization We Are Pro-Life Women.

“These artists are out of touch with the majority of women in the United States,” Sheahan told CNA. 

“Three quarters of Americans, including 79% of black and Hispanic women, are in favor of ending or restricting abortion. Even a significant majority of Democrats and people who identify as pro-choice are in favor of abortion restrictions.” 

A February Marist poll found that the vast majority of Americans supported at least some restrictions on abortion. 

Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life, said it was “heartbreaking” that people in the entertainment industry are publicly in support of “something as sad and dark as abortion.” She told CNA that the celebrities are “wildly out of touch” with most Americans, both in recognizing the reality of abortion and on the issue of taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood.

“As powerful as Hollywood elites are, they can’t change the underlying truth that abortion takes the life of one and wounds another, and that Planned Parenthood is our nation’s largest abortion provider,” said Mancini. 

“Yet even with money and influence stacked against us, the pro-life movement continues to grow.”

In the first months of 2019, several states passed laws that greatly limited access to abortion. These laws range from near total-ban on the procedure in the state of Alabama, to Arkansas and Utah laws banning abortion after the 18th week of pregnancy. Other states, including Georgia, chose to ban abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, usually between six and eight weeks of pregnancy. 

None of these laws have yet gone into effect, and all are being challenged in court by pro-abortion organizations.

Six states moved to expand abortion access. Four--Illinois, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont--codified abortion into law, meaning it would still be legal in the event that the Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade were overturned. 

Maine’s Gov. Janet Mills (D) passed a law that allows the state Medicaid program to cover abortion, and required insurance companies offering plans within the state to cover abortion services. Mills also signed a law permitting abortions to be performed by someone other than a physician. 

In May, Nevada decriminalized abortion and repealed various restrictions on the procedure, including an age verification requirement. 

Planned Parenthood recently voluntarily withdrew from the Title X family planning program after new rules were announced by the Department of Health and Human Services. The rules prohibit Title X fund recipients from referring patients for abortions or col-locating with abortion clinics. Organizations like Planned Parenthood would also have had to keep separate finances for Title X funded programs and abortion business. The organization chose to withdraw rather than comply, despite receiving approximately $60 million in Title X funding annually. 

The organization still receives about half a billion dollars in federal funding from other programs.

Judge temporarily blocks Missouri's eight-week abortion ban

Tue, 08/27/2019 - 14:56

St. Louis, Mo., Aug 27, 2019 / 12:56 pm (CNA).- A federal judge has blocked a Missouri law banning abortions after eight weeks of pregnancy from taking effect while a challenge to the law is being heard in court.

U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs issued a temporary injunction against the “Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act” on Tuesday.

The act, which was signed into law by Governor Mike Parson in May, bars abortions after eight weeks, except when the life of a mother is determined to be in danger.

Under the law, doctors who perform abortions face 5-15 years in prison, although women are not penalized for seeking abortions.

Planned Parenthood and the ACLU have filed a lawsuit challenging the legislation, saying that it violates Roe v. Wade.

Supporters of the Missouri law had said they were trying to restrict abortion as much as possible without posing a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade. They say that the state has an interest in protecting the lives of both women and unborn babies.

Rep. Nick Schroer (R), one of the bill’s sponsors, had told NPR that the goal was “to save as many lives as we can while withstanding judicial challenges.”

Should the eight-week ban not hold up in court, the law also includes bans at 14 weeks, 18 weeks and 20 weeks, as well as a prohibition on “selective" abortions following a medical diagnosis or disability such as Down syndrome, or on the basis of the race or sex of a baby.

The ban on “selective abortions” was not included in the injunction issued Tuesday, so that portion of the law may continue to be enforced in the state.

Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis voiced his support for the law when it was passed, calling it a “giant step forward for the pro-life movement.”

Catholics “need to continue to show persistence and determination in proclaiming a culture of life,” the archbishop said in a statement released in May.

He highlighted the importance of assisting women in difficult pregnancies and pointed to pro-life clinics in the St. Louis area.

Missouri also has a “trigger law” that would ban all abortions except in cases of medical emergency if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned.

Only one clinic in the state currently performs abortions, and the renewal of its license is currently being disputed in court.

A model of despair: Planned Parenthood and Title X

Tue, 08/27/2019 - 09:00

Washington D.C., Aug 27, 2019 / 07:00 am (CNA).- Planned Parenthood’s decision to forgo tens of millions of dollars per year in Title X grants simply reinforces its commitment to abortion, say those familiar with the organization’s operations.

“I was very familiar with them, spent a lot of time with them over the years,” said Monica Cline, a former Title X training manager in Texas and New Mexico, and a volunteer educator for Planned Parenthood.

“That’s the whole point of their organization - for people to be sexually active and to use the contraception that they provide, and then, of course, to refer for abortions when that contraception fails,” she said.

The withdrawal from the Title X program is “really about, bottom-line, funding their abortion business,” said Jeanneane Maxon, associate scholar at the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute. “Because that’s where the big bucks are.”

On August 14, Planned Parenthood announced its decision to leave the Title X family planning grant program unless the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals intervened on its behalf. The organization said it was “forced out” of the program by the Trump administration after voluntarily refusing to comply with the administration’s new regulations.

Earlier in 2019, a new rule of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) required all Title X grant recipients to not refer for abortions and to not be co-located with abortion clinics. According to HHS, the rule was meant to bring the program more in line with its original principle that the grants not be used for abortions.

Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood “Employee of the Year” and Title X administrator who later founded a ministry to help abortion workers leave the industry, said in an August 21 Facebook post that she was “happy” to see Planned Parenthood leave the program, but emphasized that pro-life groups should not be a part of the Title X program. 

“However, this program is honestly junk. It’s a contraceptive management program that is primarily used for undocumented immigrants and for teens and preteens to obtain birth control without their parent’s consent,” Johnson, the founder of the ministry And Then There Were None, said of Title X.

The program began in 1970 as Title X of the Public Health Service Act. It was meant to provide family planning grants to clinics to provide contraceptives and related information to patients, mostly with low incomes.

However, the law stated that grants cannot go to “programs where abortion is a method of family planning.”

Regulations issued in 1988 by the Reagan administration forbade grant recipients from referring for abortions and mandated that Title X service sites not “co-locate” with abortion clinics, maintaining physical separation. However, the Clinton administration changed the rules and required Title X recipients to refer for abortions.

In February of 2019, the Trump administration issued a final rule saying that recipients cannot refer for abortions nor can they be co-located with abortion clinics.

Planned Parenthood called the requirement against abortion referrals a “gag rule.”

That’s a mischaracterization, Maxon said. “They can still talk about abortion, they just can’t refer for family planning, and counseling has to be non-directive.”

After it backed out of the federal Title X program, Planned Parenthood affiliates in multiple states warned that rates of sexually-transmitted diseases and unintended pregnancies could increase due to fewer women obtaining services at their clinics; the affiliates were either considering or were implementing higher fees for family planning services, including in cases where they once offered the services for free.

However, Maxon clarified, Planned Parenthood already provided these family planning services on an income-based sliding scale, and only in certain cases for free, such as cases where customers reported no income.

With the organization’s annual revenue and assets, “they should easily be able to come up with the amount of money that they’re losing from Title X funding,” Maxon said. Planned Parenthood still bills Medicaid for certain services and, according to its latest annual report for 2017-18, received more than $560 million in government funding.

Their report reveals almost $2 billion in net assets, more $1.6 billion in revenue, and $244.8 million in excess revenue. Title X funding came to, at most, $60 million a year, according to a 2016 GAO report.

Planned Parenthood also claims it was serving 40% of Title X clients, but of the 90 grantees so far in the 2019 fiscal year, only eight were Planned Parenthood affiliates.

Their decision to withdraw from the program reveals where their priorities lie—performing abortions, Maxon said. As the nation’s largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood performs around 330,000 abortions each year.

They still fully bill women for abortions and emergency contraceptives, and not on an income-based scale as they do for family planning services that fall under Title X, Maxon said. And abortion charges can run from hundreds to thousands of dollars, far more than the cost for birth control.

Over the years, Planned Parenthood’s share in the abortion market has drastically increased.

A 2016 Charlotte Lozier Institute study showed that, according to numbers provided by Planned Parenthood’s annual reports and the Guttmacher Institute, between 1995 and 2014 the overall number of abortions in the U.S. declined by 31%, but abortions performed by Planned Parenthood spiked from 133,900 to 324,000—a 142% increase.

The study also showed Planned Parenthood’s share in the abortion rise from 10% in 1995 to 35% in 2014.

The organization appeared to further underline its commitment to promoting abortion access during the recent decision to terminate its president Dr. Leana Wen, who was forced out by the board of directors.

Dr. Wen said she wanted to shift organization focus to a message of promoting reproductive health—of which abortion was an “important part” —but she clashed with the board for not focusing enough on political advocacy, particularly for abortion access.

Monica Cline, who dealt with Planned Parenthood affiliates first-hand as she was hired as an instructor on Title X, came to know the lengths staffers would go to promote and protect abortion access.

In Cline’s work in Texas, Planned Parenthood’s Title X clinics—which officially did not offer abortions—were referring patients for abortions. It was all part of Planned Parenthood’s model, she said, encouraging sexual promiscuity and providing contraceptives so they could then “refer for abortions when that contraception fails.”

It was an open secret that “everyone knew” about the abortion referrals, Cline said, including even officials at the Texas Department of Health who were “great supporters of Planned Parenthood.”

However, Title X clinics—that were officially not supposed to perform abortions—would sometimes host abortionists for visits.

“The one on Sixth Street has always been known as the Planned Parenthood that did not provide abortions, and that’s where they just provided the family planning Title X services,” Cline said, but as she drove around town with a Planned Parenthood colleague they would remark “‘oh so-and-so is parked there, they’re doing abortions today.’ So they say it, but it was happening.”

Cline said that other Title X clinics do not push for abortions the way Planned Parenthood did.

“They were very different,” Cline said. “They actually still talked about encouraging these girls, talking about their futures, delaying sex, not getting pregnant, not having all these distractions that these sexual relationships create in them so that they could go to college and do things and think about their future.”

If a new Planned Parenthood employee might think the same way, veteran staff “would quickly put her in her place and let her know that people in this community can’t have hopes for any of that, and it’s just a waste of time for her to speak those kind of things into that community,” Cline said.

“It really is about just making sure that they continue to be lifelong customers and dependents on Planned Parenthood, and getting abortions.”

“Planned Parenthood definitely works on hopelessness, and they allow communities to stay in that hopelessness,” Cline said.

Death row inmates appeal to North Carolina Supreme Court, citing racial bias

Mon, 08/26/2019 - 21:25

Raleigh, N.C., Aug 26, 2019 / 07:25 pm (CNA).- The Supreme Court of North Carolina is set to hear the case of six death row inmates who say a repealed state law should still allow them to be resentenced to life without parole, since they were able to successfully demonstrate that racial bias was a factor in their death sentences.

The court is scheduled to hear arguments Monday and Tuesday in the cases of four death row inmates who briefly were resentenced to life without parole when state legislators approved the Racial Justice Act in 2009, the AP reports.

Under the Racial Justice Act, four inmates had used statistics to prove that their race was a “significant factor” in their trials, thus leading to a judge converting their sentences to life without parole.

Legislators repealed the Act in 2013, and the four inmates were sent back to death row without a new hearing.

North Carolina's Supreme Court justices also will hear from attorneys for two other death row prisoners whose Racial Justice Act claims were not decided before the law was repealed, the AP says.

More than 130 inmates brought claims under the Act when it was law, but these four were the only cases adjudicated successfully and then mooted, Slate reported.

A statistical study conducted by Michigan State University’s College of Law found that prosecutors struck qualified black jurors in North Carolina at far higher rates than white jurors, AP reported.

North Carolina currently has 142 people on death row, 63% of whom are non-white in a state that is 29% non-white, the AP reports.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that the death penalty is today “inadmissable,” because “there is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes,” and “more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizens but, at the same time, do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption.”

Lawsuit claims Knights of Columbus broke $100m ‘verbal contract’

Mon, 08/26/2019 - 19:25

Denver, Colo., Aug 26, 2019 / 05:25 pm (CNA).- Jury selection began Monday in a lawsuit that accuses the Knights of Columbus of violating a verbal contract with a vendor who claims that the Catholic fraternal organization inflates its membership numbers, and has destroyed his business.

The lawsuit claims that the Knights of Columbus gave a software company, UKnight Interactive, a $100 million verbal contract to make it a designated web services vendor to KofC local and regional organizations.

UKnight alleges that its services would have provided local councils with a “complex interactive system” of linked websites designed to attract and engage members, increase fundraising, and increase sales of Knights of Columbus insurance policies.   

However, the company alleges that in 2016, the Knights of Columbus “fraudulently” denied the verbal contract, and later used the company’s proprietary design elements to seek contracts with other technology companies.

UKnight claims that Knights of Columbus executives “acted...maliciously” with the “specific intent” of destroying the company.

In a 2018 court filing, the Knights of Columbus disputed that account.

“The true nature of this action is that Plaintiff is a disappointed prospective vendor that offered the Order inferior and outdated website services that the Order refused to endorse. UKnight is now trying to accomplish through this lawsuit what it could not get through product development and sales negotiations,” the Knights argued.

The Knights said that Labriola has “raised preposterous legal claims in an attempt to force the other side to pay money that is neither owed nor deserved. One of these claims is that the Order supposedly gave UKnight an oral contract in which it would, on a single day, endorse UKnight’s services and thereby confer on UKnight a $100 million value.”

UKnight filed its lawsuit in January 2017. The suit was dismissed in July of that year, and UKnight refiled the lawsuit in January 2018.

The plaintiff, List Interactive, also known as UKnight Interactive, claims that “broken promises” by the Knights of Columbus have destroyed its business, which is owned by Colorado resident Leonard Labriola.

The Knights of Columbus say the lawsuit is over a simple business dispute that has been exaggerated for publicity.

In a February 2017 motion requesting that the suit be dismissed, the Knights argued that a “garden variety business dispute” had been “ extort a settlement through damaging publicity having nothing to do with the Plaintiffs’ core allegations.”

UKnight and Labriola had “festooned their complaint with baseless, scandalous allegations that are designed only to inflame and attract publicity,” the Knights said.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, seeks $100 million in damages, and a court order invalidating the Knight’s tax-exempt status.

Among the suit's claims is the allegation that the Knights of Columbus deceptively inflates its membership numbers in order to increase its life insurance ratings.

While Judge Brooke Jackson allowed UKnight to review membership data last year, the Knights have disputed claims that they inflate numbers.

“The Knights of Columbus has a long-standing, thoughtful, and well-conceived membership retention process in place that reflects sound practices and the values of the Order,” a spokesperson told Buzzfeed last week.

“One of those values is to ensure that members of the Knights provide mutual aid and assistance to fellow members of our organization.”

Labriola could not be reached for comment. But the plaintiff is no stranger to litigation.

In 1993, Eller Industries, a company owned by Labriola, attempted to revitalize the bankrupt Indian Motorcycle brand by purchasing the defunct company’s trademarks. Labriola signed a contract to purchase the trademarks in 1997, but a court battle began in 1998, after the brand’s legal custodian said that Eller had failed to obtain financing or meet the terms of its contract.

Eller’s contract with Indian Motorcycles was terminated by a federal judge on Dec. 7, 1998.

Labriola subsequently sued the brand’s custodian for $2.7 million, and in the midst of the lawsuit requested that two judges recuse themselves, accusing them of “corruption, duplicity, ineptitude, hubris, and abject indifference.”

In the same motion, Labriola accused Indian Motorcycle’s legal custodian of “brazen temerity” and “outright lies and distortions.” 

Before founding UKnight, Labriola founded at least three additional companies.

In 2002, he founded the Backyard Drills Foundation, which produced DVDs teaching sports skills.  According to a 2007 article in BizWest, the DVD sets were marketed through revenue-sharing fundraising arrangements with youth football leagues. Backyard Drills was dissolved in 2007.   

Two months after dissolving Backyard Drills, Labriola founded Quvico, a clean energy enterprise, which was dissolved less than a year after it was founded.

In September of 2007, Labriola founded Dinner Party Dot Com, LLC. The company was cited by the Secretary of State for failing to file required annual reports, and was dissolved in November of 2016.

According to the Colorado Secretary of State, UKnight Interactive was registered in 2011 as a trade name of LiST Interactive, a company founded by Labriola on the same day. In 2012 and 2015, LiST Interactive was cited by the Secretary of State for failing to file required periodic reports.

The UKnight lawuit has made several allegations dismissed by the court.

Among the dismissed claim's is UKnight’s charge that the IRS fraudulently maintains the tax-exempt status of the Knights of Columbus, allowing the organization to commit acts of racketeering forbidden by federal law.

Also dismissed is UKnight’s initial accusation that the Knights engaged in “racketeering,” in violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, known as RICO.

Jackson dismissed the suit’s first filing on July 28, 2017. His order determined that the plaintiffs’ RICO allegations were unfounded, and noted that the suit seemed actually to misunderstand racketeering laws. 

“If plaintiffs’ description of how jurisdiction under RICO works were correct it would mean that Congress could effectively override the Constitution,” Jackson wrote.  

Jackson also criticized UKnight and Labriola for the lawsuit’s “excessively aggressive phrasing and histrionics.”

Sources have told CNA that UKnight’s lawsuit is partially funded through LexShares, an online platform that connects plaintiffs with investors, who buy a stake in any settlement or judgment rendered in the suit.

Virginia governor appoints activist with history of anti-Catholic tweets

Mon, 08/26/2019 - 18:00

Richmond, Va., Aug 26, 2019 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- The Governor of Virginia has appointed a Democratic activist with a history of profane, anti-Catholic statements to an influential public body. 

On Aug. 16, Gov. Ralph Northam (D) appointed Gail Gordon Donegan to the Virginia Council on Women, an advisory group for the governor and the state’s General Assembly, which also awards educational scholarships. Gordon Donegan is a Democratic activist from the city of Alexandria, Virginia.

On Friday, Donnegan’s past Twitter usage was reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, which discovered numerous, repeated, jokes about Catholics, including several jokes about pedophilia. 

Donnegan offered apparent justification for her tweets, saying that her father was “severely beaten” in Catholic foster homes as a child, and that she was an atheist. She also claimed that her husband, who she said is an “ex-Catholic” is not offended by her tweets. 

Questionable content on Donnegan’s social media accounts dates back to 2010, when she tweeted “Abortion is morally indefensible to Catholic priests bcuz it results in fewer children to rape” [sic]. 

Later that year she tweeted “Saw a bumper sticker: ‘You can’t be both Catholic & Pro-Choice.’ Add: You can be a pedophile though!” 

On Ash Wednesday 2011, she tweeted “Go tell a Catholic they have dirt on their forehead,” along with the hashtag #waystooffend. 

Donegan also repeatedly tweeted a joke regarding a priest seeking to sexually abuse a child. In 2018, she said this was her “fave joke” [sic]. 

In addition to the Catholic Church, Donegan issued profane tweets at the Boy Scouts, Republican politicians, and supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign for president. 

Virginia’s two Catholic dioceses of Arlington and Richmond released statements condemning the tweets and questioning the governor’s decision to appoint Donegan.

The Diocese of Richmond’s spokeswoman Deborah Cox told local media that the tweets “are extremely offensive to Catholics and the Catholic faith.”

“We would expect anyone appointed to a council or commission for the Commonwealth to be respectful of all faith groups and civil in his or her public comments--including social media--given their status as a representative of the Commonwealth, appointed by the governor.”

Billy Atwell, the chief communications officer of the Diocese of Arlington, called the appointment “disappointing.”

“Ms. Gordon Donegan has a record of ridiculing Catholic beliefs and practices and trafficking in stereotypes that would disqualify her from this role had they targeted any other category of persons,” said Atwell. “Her statements are offensive to human dignity and fail to reflect the depth of character one would expect of a leader in our Commonwealth.” 

Donegan has since locked her Twitter account.

Northam’s office did not respond to CNA’s request for comment. 

Earlier this year, Gov. Northam’s judgment and fitness for office were questioned over a series of scandals. In January, he expressed support for a bill to legalize abortion until the moment of birth, even if the mother of the child were in active labor at the time. During a radio appearance in defense of the proposed measure, Northam appeared to support infanticide, says that if a baby were to survive an abortion, the child should be “made comfortable” while a decision were made about whether or not to provide care.

Shortly after these events, pictures emerged from Northam’s 1984 medical school yearbook page. The page included a picture of a person in blackface standing next to a man in a Ku Klux Klan robe. Northam initially conceded he was in the picture while declining to identify which person was him. He later said he did not believe he was in the picture at all. He has resisted numerous calls to resign from state party officials.

No injuries a ‘blessing’ after fire destroys Catholic Charities shelter in N.J. 

Mon, 08/26/2019 - 15:55

Paterson, N.J., Aug 26, 2019 / 01:55 pm (CNA).- After a fire destroyed a Catholic Charities shelter in Paterson, New Jersey on Saturday, Catholic leaders are counting their blessings that no one was injured or killed in the blaze.

“Thank you to our working Straight and Narrow employees, who, when the alarm sounded, acted diligently and professionally. Our service recipients evacuated quickly and calmly, and none of our employees or clients were hurt,” Scott Milliken, CEO of Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Paterson, said in a statement.

In the late morning on Saturday, August 24, “a small isolated blaze quickly turned into a five-alarm fire, sending plumes of black smoke into the air,” at the Straight and Narrow Catholic Charities three-story residence, Milliken said.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, The New York Times reported.

Paterson, New Jersey is a city of approximately 149,000 people, located 15 miles north of Newark.

The shelter’s 200 residents were evacuated and placed in other diocesan shelters. Those who were receiving treatment for addiction recovery at the Straight and Narrow house were placed in locations where they could continue receiving treatment.

The building that was destroyed in the fire contained a women’s counseling office and a residence for 50 men, as well as some storage space. A building next door containing residential treatment for men and women and a detox hospital unit was not damaged by the fire, Catholic Charities reported.

Msgr. Herbert K. Tillyer, president of the board of Catholic Charities, told The New York Times that 59 women and 10 infants from a shelter next door were evacuated as a precaution, and that everyone had a safe place to sleep that night.

“The most important thing is no lives were lost,” Tillyer told The New York Times. “Thank God it happened during the day when everybody was doing things. That is the gift, the blessing in this terrible situation.”

He added that many who were evacuated now have nothing but the clothes on their back, but that they were receiving assistance from the Red Cross and Catholic Charities, as well as others in the “tight-knit” community.

In his statement, Milliken said that while it will take time to rebuild, the Straight and Narrow is dedicated to continuing to help those in addiction recovery.

Milliken also thanked the Paterson firefighters and other responding departments for their “quick action” and bravery that kept the fire from spreading, he said.

He also thanked the Straight and Narrow staff, as well as Bishop Arthur Joseph Serratelli of Paterson and Monsignor James Mahoney and other diocesan staff for their presence at the scene and their continued assistance, as well as local official officials and residents who offered to help.

“This city is strong, perseverant and has an amazing spirit.  We are proud to be the Diocese of Paterson,” Milliken said.

Anyone who is concerned about a loved one who may have been evacuated from the shelter may contact for more information.

Catholic Charities of Paterson is accepting online monetary donations to help with the long-term and immediate costs of regrouping and rebuilding after the fire.

“Thank you all for your kindness and willingness to help,” Milliken concluded. “We are proud of our city, Diocese and community and thank God no one was hurt.” 


Catholic Congressman standing down to put family first

Mon, 08/26/2019 - 13:00

Washington D.C., Aug 26, 2019 / 11:00 am (CNA).- Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI), a practicing Catholic who has served in Congress since 2011, will be stepping down from his seat on September 23. He made the announcement in a post on his personal Facebook page. 

Duffy made the announcement Aug. 26, citing a desire to be with his family ahead of the imminent arrival of his ninth child as the reason he will leave Congress before the end of his term. 

“With much prayer, I have decided that this is the right time for me to take a break from public service in order to be the support my wife, baby and family need right now,” he said. 

“It is not an easy decision - because I truly love being your Congressman - but it is the right decision for my family, which is my first love and responsibility.” 

Duffy and his wife, television personality Rachel Campos-Duffy, announced in May that they were expecting their ninth child, saying “God isn’t done with our family yet!” In his Facebook post on Monday, he explained that new family developments, coupled with the difficulty of being in Washington for most of the week, contributed to his decision to quit. 

“As you all know, raising a family is hard work. It's especially true for one as large and busy as mine. Being away from home in Washington four days a week is challenging and for that reason, I have always been open to signs from God when it comes to balancing my desire to serve both my family and my country,” said Duffy. 

His ninth child, a girl, is due in late October. In the Facebook post, Duffy explained that they recently learned that she will “need even more love, time, and attention due to complications, including a heart condition.” 

Duffy thanked his constituents for “the faith and sacred trust you have put in me all these years,” and said he was especially thankful for the people who have prayed for his family. He encouraged people to continue praying. 

“I will miss being your Congressman, but I am also looking forward to having more time with my family, being home for more birthdays and hockey games, and having time to enjoy and care for our new baby girl, who is already so loved by our family,” he said.

The congressman’s district, Wisconsin’s 7th, is a reliably safe Republican district. Duffy was re-elected in 2018 with 60 percent of the vote. In the past, he has expressed his consistent support for President Donald Trump.

Duffy and his wife both participated in the reality television series, “The Real World,” broadcast on MTV. Campos-Duffy was on the show’s third season, which was filmed in San Francisco, and Duffy participated in the sixth season, which was filmed in Boston. The two met in 1998 while participating in a related TV project titled “Road Rules: All Stars.”

How these college freshmen found the faith through friendship

Sun, 08/25/2019 - 06:00

Denver, Colo., Aug 25, 2019 / 04:00 am (CNA).- The phenomenon is well-documented. When young Catholics go away to college, a troublingly high percentage of them stop practicing their faith. And many who stop going to Mass in college, never return.

Initiatives like FOCUS, and Newman Centers across the country, are all geared toward helping young Catholics stem the tide - to grow as Catholics in college, rather than wither.

Last Easter, three young men in Colorado were part of a different trend. They didn’t leave Catholicism in college. Instead, they became Catholics.

Jake Keller, a civil engineering major; Ian Horton, a finance major; and Anthony Ascolese, a natural resource management major, will be upcoming sophomores at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado.
Keller and Ascolese began their freshman year in 2018 with little religious formation at all. Horton, who had been a committed atheist until 17, entered the University of Colorado at Boulder as a newly converted Protestant. He transferred to CSU during his second semester.
Ascolese told CNA that he grow up occasionally going to Baptist services with his grandmother, or to Mass with Catholic families, but that he had never givne much attention to faith. But when he began attending CSU, he connected with some  Catholic friends and was invited to some events at the Catholic student cener.

“[Growing up,] they have always invited me to [Catholic] stuff, and [they] invited me to the intramural fields that are on campus,” Ascolese said.

“I saw this big flag that said ‘Ram Catholic,’ and I was like, ‘Oh no, here they go again,’” he told CNA.

Initially, Ascolese said, he felt uncomfortable at Catholic events.

“I would just feel really out of place because I didn’t have much of a knowledge of God or anything like those traditional stories... So anytime I was there, like a Bible study or Mass, I felt really out of place.”

But he was joined at some of those events by other non-Catholics, among them Horton and Keller. That helped overcome the awkwardness.

Ascolese said the community was friendly and he soon realized that “religious people” could be “ordinary people.”

As he spent time in a Catholic circle, he grew more comfortable with the faith.

“I just kept growing and learning and hanging out with everyone and really falling in love with Mass. Everything about the Church was really coming together, and God was doing so much work through that,” he said.

Eventually, Ascolese attended a campus ministry retreat: “Ram Awakening.” There students participated in the sacraments, praise and worship sessions, and had religious discussions.

One of the major turning points, he said, was receiving letters of encouragement from his family and strangers during the retreat.

“The amount of love I felt from them, even just reading a piece of paper. You can really see how genuine and loving every letter was, even though I didn’t know any of the people staffing it. It shows how happy, joyful, and loving they were for me being there. It was really amazing,” he said.

“I think three days after that, I went over to the Church and met with Jessica Harris who leads RCIA at St John [XXIII Catholic Church].”

Keller has a similar story. He told CNA that he and his family and attended nondenominational services a few times each year.

At Colorado State University, Keller was invited to attend some religious events by some Catholic friends from high school. He said the events began as an opportunity to reconnect with old friends, but the faith soon became his point of interest.

“I started to become more in touch with God, praying a lot more, and believing a lot more. After joining their Bible study [and] doing a bunch of stuff with the Church, I eventually went on this retreat called Ram Awakening, we have at CSU,” he said.

“That retreat really changed me. I learned a lot about suffering and how that can make your life better,” he further added.

Keller said he especially struggled with the clergy sex abuse scandals and the Church’s stance on marriage and abortion. He said, through discussions with friends, he was better able to understand these issues.

“[The scandals] was the main thing holding me back. I guess just trying to think about priests not as someone who is representing God but someone who God is acting through. It’s hard to look up to someone but also understand that they are still human and they’re imperfect,” he said.

“Going through with them, I wasn’t doing it alone. It helped me look past the scandals in the Church because I am not doing it alone and there are other people doing it with me. Working through community helped a lot.”

Holton was a staunch atheist for about ten years; as a teen he devoured the work of intellectual atheists like Christopher Hitchens. But when he was 17, he became focused on researching and understanding Christianity. After reading books by authors like Thomas Aquinas and GK Chesterton, he realized, to his surprise, that he accepted Christianity.

A new believer, Holton said he didn’t know where to fit in among Christians when he began attending college. He said that one day he visited the Thomas Aquinas Catholic Center, just off campus in Boulder. There, he said, a priest answered a lot of his questions about faith, and set him in the direction of Catholicism.

“From then on, I recognized that I appreciated Catholicism more than Protestantism because it was far more beautiful, interesting, and, most importantly, that is when I realized it was true.”

He started RCIA in Boulder, but he transferred to CSU in Fort Collins, where he is from.

There, he said he discovered a rich and active Catholic community among the youth. He said he was further inspired to the faith by Fr.Rocco Porter, the pastor of St. John XXIII Catholic Church near the university.

Holton said he is inspired by discovering the traditions of the Church and participating in Mass, noting he has had a strong connection to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, the Latin Mass. He said he’s realized, through the impact of the saints and Catholic intellectuals, that the Church has been the most influential institution in the world’s history.

“I love to know that I’m part of the faith and the Church that Jesus himself founded.  And to know that I’m participating in the original sacrifice of the Mass that’s been going on for 2000 years.”

“I love to couple the Bible with the Sacred Tradition that we have of how we do love Mary [and] how we do venerate the saints,” he said. “Not only do we have [these saints], we have 2000 years of some of the best philosophers and theologians the world has ever seen.”

The three men said that through RCIA, they were able to grow closer to Christ together, pray for each other, and discuss the intricacies of the faith.

Ascolese said it is exciting to have a group of men who shared in each other’s enthusiasm and kept each other accountable.

“We talked about God, but we were also there to be there for each other and love each other. You could really see the good from that, like God was just with us during that time,” he said. 

“When I knew I wanted to become Catholic, saying prayers and working with Jake...and God was working through my prayers and that really helped me too, seeing something was working.”

Ascolese recalled the power of prayer: One night all of the men went to Qdoba in place of Bible study. Keller had not yet decided to become Catholic. But after their conversation at Qdoba, he received a text from Keller about his conversion.

“When I got to my dorm room I got a text from him saying ‘hey, can you send me [the RCIA] number.’ which was wild to me, because I was just praying about that stuff,” Ascolese said.

All the men said they felt supported by their parish and the RCIA program but added that it has been a challenge to face ethical questions, including abortion and gay marriage, with other students on campus.

When asked about additional tools parishes should offer to support new Catholics, Horton said there should be mentorship opportunities or an apologetic course.

“I think what parishes can do to support new converts would be to have a bit of spiritual mentorship by either a priest, an RCIA leader, or a theologian,” he said.

“I am in favor of apologetics,” he said. “I think it is very important in this day and age when most young people leave the Church because of questions about science and genesis.”

All three men are excited and joyful for their encounter with new faith. They said the experience has not only challenged each other to entertain intellectual properties of the faith but it also has encouraged them to embrace a life of virtue. 

The change in his lifestyle has been a thrill, said Anthony, “seeing the difference of having God in your life can do for you, especially in the truest form through Catholicism. You can see so much good from it and the suffering you do get ultimately leads to good.”


Kentucky Supreme Court hears religious freedom case over LGBT shirts

Sat, 08/24/2019 - 09:00

Frankfort, Ky., Aug 24, 2019 / 07:00 am (CNA).- The Kentucky Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Friday in the case of a Christian business owner who is facing punishment for declining to print shirts for a LGBT Pride festival because of his faith.

“The right to decide which ideas to express is core to human freedom. The Commission violated that freedom by ordering Blaine Adamson to print messages that violate his religious beliefs,” Jim Campbell, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom who argued the case before the Kentucky Supreme Court, stated after oral arguments in the case on Friday.

Blaine Adamson, owner of the Lexington, Kentucky-based print shop Hands On Originals, was sued for declining to print T-shirts promoting a Lexington Pride festival in 2012. His business had been requested by the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization, but Adamson declined to print the shirts because he believed that to do so would violate his Christian faith. He did refer the group to other companies.

In 2014, the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission ruled that Adamson violated an anti-discrimination ordinance, and ordered him to print the shirts and undergo diversity training.

Adamson challenged the decision and won in a Kentucky court in 2017; the case has since been appealed to the state supreme court, and oral arguments before the court were heard Aug. 23.

Speaking to reporters and supporters after oral arguments, Adamson said that “I will work with any person, no matter who they are, and no matter what their belief systems are. But when I’m presented with a message that conflicts with my faith, that’s just something I cannot print.”

“I don’t walk into my business every morning and leave my faith at the door,” he said. “For the last seven years, the government has tried to punish me for declining to print a message that went against my conscience.”

In oral arguments, Campbell emphasized to the court that Adamson’s company Hands On Originals “serves everyone,” but reserves the right not to print certain messages it deems inappropriate or that would otherwise conflict with Adamson’s Christian faith.

Campbell said that Adamson, in his initial conversation with representatives of the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization who were looking for a shirt promoting the Lexington Pride Festival, only declined to print the shirts after he asked and learned what would be printed on the shirt.  

Campbell argued that this constituted a “substantial burden” on Adamson’s religious beliefs, as defined by the Supreme Court in Holt v. Hobbs.

The Commission required Mr. Adamson to violate his religious beliefs, and its mandate that he attend diversity training says that it’s “wrong” for him to operate his business according to his religious beliefs, Campbell argued.

Opposing Adamson, and representing the Commission, attorney Edward Dove said that Hands On Originals “practices censorship” according to Campbell’s admission.

“That’s why we have a public accommodation ordinance,” he said, to protect against people enduring discrimination as they seek to enjoy goods.

“They can do anything they want in the name of religion and censor any message they don’t like, which would affect the free speech argument in the country,” he said of Hands On.

Justice Michelle Keller asked Campbell how far the government could go to mandate that the shirts for the Pride festival be printed, asking if a disclaimer could be put on shirts saying the messages do not reflect the views of Hands On.

Adamson and other business owners have a constitutionally-protected “individual freedom of mind,” Campbell said, with an “individual dignity” to protect free expression.

HHS conscience rule essential for freedom say Catholic healthcare groups

Fri, 08/23/2019 - 21:00

Washington D.C., Aug 23, 2019 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- Medical professionals do not give up their right to conscience protections upon accepting a job, Catholic healthcare organizations have argued in support of new rules issued by the Department of Health and Human Services. 

In legal briefs filed Aug. 21 on behalf of four non-profit organizations, including the National Catholic Bioethics Center and the Catholic Medical Association, the groups argue that medical professionals should not be forced to perform procedures or refer patients for procedures to which they are morally opposed. 

The cases concern the Conscience Rights in Health Care Rule, first announced in May. The rule mandates that institutions receiving federal money be certified that they comply with more than two dozen laws protecting conscience and religious freedom rights, including a doctor’s right to refuse to participate in abortion or so-called gender reassignment surgery. 

Several suits were filed by state attorneys general against the rule, with California AG Xavier Becerra calling it dangerous to American lives and part of “a war being waged on access to health care across our country.”  

Herrera wrote that “hospitals are no place to put personal beliefs above patient care,” and that “refusing treatment to vulnerable patients should not leave anyone with a clear conscience.”    

After the “significant litigation,” HHS announced last month that the rule would not come into effect until November 22. 

Roger Severino, the director of the Office for Civil Rights at HHS, said in a statement last July that the rule is simply an enforcement mechanism for policies that have existed for years. 

“The rule gives life and enforcement tools to conscience protection laws that have been on the books for decades,” he said in a statement provided to CNA. 

“Protecting conscience and religious freedom fosters greater diversity in the healthcare space. We will defend the rule vigorously.”

The briefs were filed by Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing the four organizations in the cases City and County of San Francisco v. Azar, and State of New York v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“Conscience rights are not limited based on one’s professional status. The argument that too many health care workers’ consciences would be protected under the HHS Conscience Rule shows a misunderstanding of the fundamental rights we have historically protected—beginning with the guarantees of the First Amendment,” the submissions argue. 

These conscience rights are “paramount,” they said, no matter what a person’s job may be, and that “decades of Supreme Court caselaw teach that complicity in an act creates an unconstitutional conscience burden.” 

Removing conscience rights from medical professionals would force them to sacrifice their “core convictions,” said ADF Legal Counsel Denise Harle.

“That’s why protecting the freedom to live and work consistent with one’s conscience is critical: It is at the heart of what motivates many who enter the medical field, a profession full of individuals who dedicate their lives to healing and doing no harm,” she said. 

Harle said she believes the rule is “constitutionally sound” as well as “consistent with related federal laws.” 

ADF also observed that Congress has passed multiple laws, with the support of both major political parties, that protect health care professionals from being forced to violate their consciences. These protections, however, are not often supported on the state level--as evidenced by the lawsuits and how 13 state attorneys general previously denounced conscience protection regulations. 

Kevin Theriot, vice president of the ADF Center for Life, said in a statement that the rule was “commonsense” and simply worked to enforce existing conscience protections. 

“Despite clear constitutional principles assuring respect for conscience, nurses, doctors, pharmacists, and health care providers have faced discrimination and even have lost their jobs because of their commitment to saving life,” said Theriot. 

“The government may not pick and choose which views deserve protection.”

New West Virginia bishop addresses scandals head-on at installation Mass

Fri, 08/23/2019 - 18:43

Wheeling, W.V., Aug 23, 2019 / 04:43 pm (CNA).- After nearly a year without a bishop, due to the scandal-ridden former Bishop Michael Bransfield, the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston in West Virginia has a new shepherd, who was installed at a Mass yesterday on the feast of the Queenship of Mary.

Hundreds of Catholics, hopeful for a fresh start, came from throughout the diocese to fill the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling for the 2+ hour Mass and glimpse their new leader, Bishop Mark Brennan. Thousands more tuned in to the event via a Facebook live stream posted by the diocese.

“It's a new beginning. We hope it's a new beginning,” Joe Herrick, a Catholic who attended the Mass, told a local Fox News affiliate.

“We're very hopeful for the future. I'm really praying Bishop Brennan will be able to lead us and mend the flock together so we can be one.”

Brennan, who gave the homily, did not hesitate to address the tumultuous year that both the diocese and the universal Church have experienced.

“My friends, the ‘people walked in darkness’ and ‘dwelt in the land of gloom’. Those words of Isaiah, referring to enemy armies oppressing the kingdom of Israel, are an apt description for how many Catholics in this country have felt over the past year and how many West Virginia Catholics have felt for even longer,” Brennan said on Thursday, Aug. 22 at his installation Mass.

While he did not specifically name Bransfield, Brennan spoke of the diocese’s “painful past” and the “crisis” it now faces as a result of the scandals.

“The scandals we have learned about have caused painful disappointment, confusion, anger and distrust of Church leaders,” he said.

In September 2018, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Bishop Michael J. Bransfield from the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston while an investigation was launched regarding allegations of financial and sexual misconduct against him. Archbishop William E. Lori was appointed apostolic administrator of the diocese in the interim.

Bransfield, who had been bishop of the diocese since 2004, reportedly sexually harassed, assaulted and coerced seminarians, priests, and other adults during his time there. He is also reported to have used diocesan funds to make large financial gifts to other bishops and to pay for personal luxuries. According to a report from the Washington Post, concerns about Bransfield’s finances were raised as early as 2012 and were evidently ignored for years by some bishops who were the recipients of these gifts.

In July 2019, after assessing the investigation into Bransfield by Lori, the Vatican announced sanctions against Bransfield, including that he is no longer allowed to participate in public Masses or to live within his former diocese. He is also expected to “make personal amends” for his wrongs, Pope Francis said in a communique.

“Behavior has consequences, and there are consequences to bad behavior in the past that will have to be dealt with,” Brennan said in his homily. “That is one of my responsibilities and I assure you that I will meet it.”

But still, there is hope, the new bishop added. “...Isaiah’s message to an oppressed people does not end in the darkness. Hear it again: ‘The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone,’” he said.

“My friends, it takes no humility on my part to admit that I am not the light,” Brennan said, provoking laughter from the congregation. Instead, he said, it is the light of Christ that will lead the diocese out of these “dark times” and into a future of hope.

“The light of Christ beckons us to move now from the painful past toward him, not in denial but in confidence that the Lord will supply us with the wisdom and strength to do things better, to live our faith with greater integrity and to reflect more brightly, as far as our human weakness and limitations will permit, his own enduring light,” he said.

Brennan acknowledged numerous groups of people whom he said have already been lights in the darkness, including parents who continue to catechize their children, Catholic school and religious education teachers who do the same, parish priests who faithfully administer the sacraments, as well as diocesan chancery workers and faithful young people.

“Christ’s light has been shining in the darkness through all of them and, as St. John says in his Gospel, the darkness has not overcome it. I thank God for these faithful West Virginia Catholics,” he said.

The scandals may also have driven some people away from the Church, Brennan said, but he encouraged Catholics in the diocese to look to their roots circa the Civil War - when West Virginia seceded from Virginia in order to remain in the Union - for inspiration to remain united in faith.

“When the dark clouds of secession were rolling over the State of Virginia in the spring of 1861, the people of these western mountains chose to remain in the United States of America. They would not break their unity with Ohio and Pennsylvania, Michigan and Kentucky. They petitioned Congress to admit them as the State of West Virginia, which Congress did in 1863,” he said.

“Many of their sons—the ancestors of some here present — fought to maintain the integrity of the Union.”

He urged Catholics of today to fight for that same unity in the Church.

“Unity with one another and with God is what the Lord wants for us— and what, in our hearts, we truly desire,” he said.

“One man told me not long ago that he stopped going to Mass in his parish because of the recent scandals but then he asked himself: who was he helping by doing that? No one. Who was he hurting? Himself. He has since returned to Mass, still eager to see the Church address its failings and bring about lasting reform but conscious that walking away doesn’t help,” he added.

“As Simon Peter said to the Lord when some disciples were leaving Jesus because of hard teachings, ‘Lord to whom shall we go? You alone have the words of eternal life.’” The Blessed Virgin Mary is another example of someone who said “yes” to the Lord despite difficult circumstances, Brennan said.

“ Mary, we can let God fulfill his purpose in us and not let the darkness return to cover the earth. We can right the wrongs of the past and move on to make Christ known, helping our neighbor in need and remaining united in faith and love,” he said.

“West Virginia Catholics: cherish your faith and the holy Church that has nurtured it,” he added.

“Make Mary’s ‘yes’ to God your own and work with me and your brothers and sisters to let the light of Christ be a light brightly visible in the mountains and valleys, the city streets and country roads of this beautiful part of God’s creation: West Virginia.”

Cincinnati Catholic raised 'red flags' about priest over a year before rape indictment

Fri, 08/23/2019 - 16:45

Cincinnati, Ohio, Aug 23, 2019 / 02:45 pm (CNA).- A Cincinnati news station is reporting on the contents of a letter, sent to Archbishop Dennis Schnurr and Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Binzer in August 2018, accusing them of ignoring “red flags” related to a priest now indicted on nine counts of rape.

"What are we to do with these 'red flags' about Father [Geoff] Drew?" the parishioner wrote, addressing auxiliary Bishop Binzer.

"They were brought to your attention on many occasions and your response was to place Fr. Drew in a parish with the largest Catholic grade school in the state! I can't be the only one to see the irony in this."

Fr. Geoff Drew was arrested Aug. 19 on allegations dating back 20 years, which concern Drew’s time as music minister at St. Jude parish, prior to his ordination as a priest. The accusations concern abuse said to have taken place over two years, when the reported victim was 10 and 11 years old. If convicted, the priest could face life in prison.

The priest entered a “not guilty” plea at his Aug. 21 arraignment.

Because she considers the priest a flight risk, Common Pleas Court Judge Leslie Ghiz set Drew’s bond at $5 million. He remains incarcerated.

Local news station WCPO reported that in the letter in question, a longtime lay leader at St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish told Schnurr he had failed to deliver on his promise of being "unequivocally committed" to children and that the church had ignored "red flags" about Father Drew.

WCPO reported that the author of the letter is a mother of three children who attended St. Maximilian Kolbe in Liberty Township, where Drew was pastor from 2009 to mid-2018.

CNA reported earlier this month that complaints were raised to at least one archdiocesan official about Drew’s inappropriate behavior with teenage and pre-teenage boys as early as 2013. Complaints were made to auxiliary bishop Joseph Binzer, who is the archdiocesan vicar general, in 2013 and 2015.

Binzer referred the complaints to law enforcement, who found no evidence of criminal activity. Binzer did not, however, notify the archdiocesan personnel board or Archbishop Dennis Schnurr about the multiple complaints he had received against Drew. The allegations were also reportedly not recorded by Binzer in the priest’s personnel file.

In early 2018, Drew applied for a transfer to St. Ignatius of Loyola Parish in Green Township, which is attached to the largest Catholic school in the archdiocese. As head of priest personnel, Bishop Binzer was in charge of the process that considers requests and proposals for reassignment, in conjunction with the priest personnel board. Neither the board nor the archbishop were made aware of the multiple complaints against Drew, and the transfer was approved.

Archbishop Schnurr released a public letter Aug. 17, 2018, following the announcement of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report, which detailed hundreds of cases of historical clerical sexual abuse. Schnurr wrote that there were no active cases of clerical abuse of minors anywhere in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and that the archdiocese is “committed to transparency."

Schnurr’s letter— as well as Drew’s successful transfer— prompted the St. Maximilian Kolbe parishioner to write hers, WCPO reported.

The archdiocese referred the letter to the Butler County Prosecutor's Office, which determined that Drew’s behavior was inappropriate but not criminal, WCPO reported.

One month after Drew’s arrival at his new parish, a parishioner at his previous church resubmitted a 2015 complaint made about the priest. The complaint was again reported to Butler County officials, but this time it was also brought to the attention of Archbishop Schnurr.

The priest was asked to restrict his involvement with the school and was assigned to meet regularly with a “monitor,” but school faculty and administration were not told about these restrictions, or the reasons for them.

The archdiocese removed Drew from ministry last month, after allegations surfaced that he had sent a series of inappropriate text messages to a 17-year-old boy. The archdiocese then confirmed a history of similar allegations against Drew.

Drew worked as music minister at the parish of St. Jude in Bridgetown, Ohio, from 1984-1999. During that time he was also a music teacher at Elder High School until 1991. He entered seminary in 1999, and was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati in 2004.

The archdiocesan statement, issued Aug. 19, emphasized that neither the archdiocese, nor Cincinnati Archbishop Dennis Schnurr were aware of the rape allegations at the time of Drew’s removal last month.

Despite the long history of allegations made against the priest, Archdiocese of Cincinnati spokesman Mike Schafer told local reporters that archdiocesan officials were “stunned” by the rape charges.

“We were stunned," Schafer said Aug. 21. “Just stunned.”

Following the initial reports of Drew's removal from ministry, Bishop Binzer resigned from the USCCB’s committee on child and youth protection, which advises the bishops’ conference on all matters related to safe environment policy and child protection. Binzer was removed from some of his responsibilities in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, and could face an internal Church investigation for his handling of the allegations.


Christian filmmakers win right to sue against Minnesota human rights law

Fri, 08/23/2019 - 16:00

Minneapolis, Minn., Aug 23, 2019 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- A federal court has reversed a decision dismissing a lawsuit brought against the Minnesota Human Rights Act. In a decision issued Friday, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated claims that the law violates free speech and freedom of religion in a case brought by two Christian filmmakers who refused to make same-sex wedding videos.

The case was brought by Carl and Angel Larsen, the owners Telescope Media Group, both of whom are devout Christians. The Larsen’s intended to expand their business by filming weddings, but were told by state officials that if they produced films celebrating marriages in accord with their own beliefs, they would also have to create films promoting same-sex marriage.

Jeremy Tedesco, senior counsel at the Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented the Larsens, called the decision a “significant win.”

“The government shouldn’t threaten filmmakers with fines and jail time to force them to create films that violate their beliefs. Carl and Angel work with all people; they just don’t create films promoting all messages,” Tedesco said in a statement.

“All creative professionals should be free to create art consistent with their convictions without the threat of government punishment.”

The initial suit was dismissed by the U.S. District Court in Minneapolis and appealed to the 8th Circuit in October, 2018. The Larson’s told the court that they “gladly work with all people—regardless of their race, sexual orientation, sex, religious beliefs, or any other classification.” 

Because they are Christians, the Larsons said they only decline requests for their services that conflict with their religious beliefs, including any that, in their view, “promote any conception of marriage other than as a lifelong institution between one man and one woman.”

The 2018 Minnesota Human Rights Act prohibits vendors from “to intentionally refusing to do business with, to refuse to contract with, or to discriminate in the basic terms, conditions, or performance of the contract because of a person’s . . . sexual orientation.”

According to the state’s argument, the law regulates the Larsen’s business conduct and not their speech, and they would need to make both traditional marriage and same-sex wedding films, or none at all in order to comply, otherwise they could face tens of thousands of dollars in penalties and up to 90 days in jail.

In the decision published Aug. 23, the 8th Circuit held that the First Amendment prevented the Larsons from being compelled to “mouth support for views they find objectionable,” and that their film productions are a form of free speech protected by the Bill of Rights, saying that “the videos they do wish to produce will convey a message designed to affect public attitudes and behavior.” 

The judges also cited the Supreme Court decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, in which a Christian baker refused to create custom wedding cakes for same-sex couples.

“If Minnesota were correct,” the judges wrote, “it could use the MHRA to require a Muslim tattoo artist to inscribe ‘My religion is the only true religion’ on the body of a Christian if he or she would do the same for a fellow Muslim, or it could demand that an atheist musician perform at an evangelical church service.” 

The decision orders the District Court to review the case again, and to consider if the Larson’s case merits a preliminary injunction against the state law.

Arizona bishops welcome tuition break for undocumented students

Fri, 08/23/2019 - 15:00

Albuquerque, N.M., Aug 23, 2019 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- Arizona’s Catholic bishops issued a statement Thursday in support of a change in policy that will offer a discounted college tuition rate to resident high school students who are undocumented immigrants. 

“We are glad that these undocumented students, who were brought here through no fault of their own, will now have more opportunities to better their lives after they graduate from our high schools and eventually become productive members of our society,” said the statement, which was co-signed by the state’s four bishops. 

The new policy, announced Aug. 22, sets the state college tuition rate for non-legal resident students at $16,000, which is $5,000 more than the in-state rate for legal Arizona residents. The tuition rate for out-of-state students is $30,000. Previously, undocumented students had to pay the out-of-state rate. 

“Today's action allows these students, as well as other Arizona high school graduates who have left the state, to join immigrant students who are in the DACA program and pay a much lower tuition rate that reflects the actual costs at our public universities,” the bishops said. 

Several states offer in-state tuition to undocumented students who graduated from a high school in the state. 

The announcement came on the same day that Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, who chairs the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, issued a statement condemning a newly-published Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Homeland Security rule that concerns the care and custody of immigrant children. 

That new rule allows for families, including minors, to be detained for longer than the previous 20-day limit allowed under the Flores settlement. 

Vasquez said the rule is “unlawful and inhumane” and will harm “countless children.” 

“This rule will have heartbreaking consequences for immigrant children – those whom Pope Francis has deemed ‘the most vulnerable group’ among migrants,” said Vásquez in the statement, which was published on the USCCB’s website. 

“It is an attempt by the [Trump] Administration to circumvent existing obligations and undermine critical protections for these children. This rule will jeopardize the well-being and humane treatment of immigrant children in federal custody and will result in children suffering long-lasting consequences of being held for prolonged periods in family detention.”

The new rule will take effect 60 days after its publication.