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Why organized labor is (still) a Catholic cause

Mon, 09/07/2020 - 06:49

Washington D.C., Sep 7, 2020 / 04:49 am (CNA).- At a time when labor unions are weak, Catholics still have a place in the labor movement, said a priest who emphasized the Church’s historic efforts to teach the rights of labor and train workers to organize.

“On the local and state level, Catholics are a major part of the labor movement. They took to heart our Catholic social teaching, and tried to implement it in their workplace,” Father Sinclair Oubre, the spiritual moderator of the Catholic Labor Network, told CNA.

However, he said, there is sometimes a disconnect between Catholics and support for organized labor.

“Like in so many areas of our faith, the heresy of radical individualism, a lack of knowledge about why unions were formed, and a general ignorance of what options workers have, have led to many Catholics to either not realize that the Church has favored workers’ associations, or that the Church even has a teaching that has to do with the workplace.”

Union membership peaked at 28% of the American workforce in 1954. According to 2017 figures, about 34% of public sector employees are unionized, but under 7% of private-sector employees are, CBS Moneywatch reports.

Unions continue to enjoy strong approval in the U.S., with 62% of respondents telling a recent Gallup survey they support organized labor.

But union support among some Catholics has waned, in part due to labor unions’ political support for legal abortion and pro-abortion rights political candidates, among other issues.

For Fr. Oubre, this shows the need for more faithful Catholics to join a union, not withdraw.

“The fact that many of the cultural war issues have been embraced by labor unions is a concern to me,” he said. “However, the Church and Labor have been here before.”

“From the 1930s to the 1950s, there was a real effort by communists to take over the U.S. unions, and in some cases, they were successful. Instead of saying, ‘Catholics can’t join unions because they are communists,’ which was not accurate because many were not, the Church instead set up labor schools by the hundreds in parish basements.”

“The Church taught workers their rights under the law and Robert’s Rules of Order. It encouraged Catholic workers to run for union office, and bring their Catholic social teachings to bear,” the priest said. “This was very successful, and led to the purging of many communists from the union ranks.”

Catholics have historically played a major role in the U.S. labor movement, as evidenced by several prominent Catholics who have headed the AFL-CIO, the largest union federation in the U.S.

Oubre said unions are a place for Christian evangelization and contribution.

“We cannot write off whole groups of people because part of their agenda is not in line with Catholic teaching,” he said. “Rather, we are called to engage these groups, be active in the organizations, and like in the past, direct these organizations in ways that respect God’s truth.”

The record of Catholic social teaching also backs labor and the right of workers to organize, Oubre said.

In the 19th century, Pope Leo XIII recognized that economic changes introduced new relationships between those who had wealth and those who did not.

“As cities grew, and manufacturing and industry developed, the relationship of responsibility that has existed in the past between the landowner and the peasant no longer existed,” Oubre explained.

“Pope Leo XIII recognized the natural right of people to associate with each other, whether these were religious associations or work guilds, he endorsed the importance of collective bargaining to promote the common good, and recognized the unequal contractual relationship between the worker and the employer.”

The labor market meant that workers were negotiating not only with an employer, but competing against all the other workers seeking the same job. Leo XIII said these pressures to accept employment at ever-lowering wages could lead workers “to agree to employment terms that did not supply the basic needs for a dignified family life.”

The labor-focused traditions of Catholic social teaching have continued especially through the work of Popes Pius XI, John XXIII, John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis.

The Second Vatican Council’s apostolic constitution Gaudium et Spes names the right to found unions for working people as “among the basic rights of the human person.” These unions “should be able truly to represent them and to contribute to the organizing of economic life in the right way.” These rights include the freedom to take part in union activity “without risk of reprisal.”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ 1986 pastoral letter “Economic Justice for All” also addresses the place of labor in Catholic thought and action.

In 2018 the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in Janus v. AFSCME struck down a 1997 Illinois law that required non-union public employees to pay fees to public sector unions for collective bargaining.

A U.S. bishops’ conference spokesperson said the decision threatened to mandate a “Right-to-Work” environment in government employment in a way that undermines the ability of workers to organize.

Oubre said Catholic union backers object to such a legal principle “because it works against the principle of solidarity and the right of association.”

“‘Right to Work’ laws have their primary intention of weakening the organizing power of unions, and allow people to receive the benefit the union, without taking on the responsibility of being part of the union,” he said.

In Oubre’s view, a union-friendly legal environment is critical.

“One can pass laws that promote workers ability to organize together, or to discourage it,” he said.

He noted the proposals for a “card check” unionization effort, in which an employer must recognize a union if a majority of workers express a desire for a union using signed cards.

Obure said this effort now faces legal obstacles and simply “begins a long process where union avoidance experts are brought in, one-on-one meetings take place with workers, sometimes the leaders are fired, and every effort is made to dishearten the workers.”

“When the election comes around, the will of the workers has been crushed,” he said.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issues annual Labor Day statements which continue “the long tradition of support for workers’ right to organize and join unions,” Oubre said.

In 2018, the statement stressed the importance of just wages for workers, especially for those who have difficulty securing basic needs. It also discussed problems of income inequality between the wealthy and the poor, as well as between ethnic groups and between the sexes.

“This Labor Day, let us all commit ourselves to personal conversion of heart and mind and stand in solidarity with workers by advocating for just wages, and in so doing, ‘bring glad tidings to the poor’,” the bishops’ message concluded.

 

This article was originally run on CNA Sept. 3, 2018.

His own father murdered, Catholic archbishop speaks against death penalty

Sun, 09/06/2020 - 06:00

CNA Staff, Sep 6, 2020 / 04:00 am (CNA).-  

In 1948, Fred Naumann was the assistant manager of a St. Louis liquor store. One night, a week before Christmas, Naumann told an employee to help unload a delivery truck. When the employee refused, Naumann fired him. They argued, and then the man turned around with a pocketknife, and slashed Naumann’s throat. He died before he reached the hospital.

Fred Naumann was 31 when he was murdered. He had been a minor league baseball player, a catcher in the St. Louis Cardinals system. He served in the Pacific during World War II. When he died, he had a young son, and his wife was expecting a baby. Born six months later, that baby was named Joseph Fred Naumann.

Fred Naumann’s son, Joseph, is now the Archbishop of Kansas City. And he is calling for an end to the death penalty.

“The suffering and the circumstances of each family who has lost a loved one by a violent crime are unique. I do not presume to be able to speak for all victims of murder,” Archbishop Naumann said in a video published online this week by the Catholic Mobilizing Network.



“Yet, I did witness how my mother struggled to provide for our family without the benefit of my father, and the pain that she suffered as a result of losing the love of her life. I also know what it is like for children to grow up without a father.”

“In advocating for the abolition of the death penalty and pleading for the federal government not to continue with the resumption of capital punishment, it is not my intention to minimize the pain and loss of individuals and families who have suffered the death of a loved one as a result of a violent crime,” the archbishop said.

“My own father was murdered. At the time, my brother was not yet two, and my mother was pregnant with me.”

The archbishop’s video came as U.S. bishops criticize the federal government’s resumption of executions, after a 17 year moratorium. Until this summer, there had been no federal executions since 2003.

In July 2019, Attorney General William Barr announced that the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Prisons would resume federal executions for the first time in nearly 20 years.

The federal government executed five people in July and August, and is scheduled to two people in September.

Naumann, chair of the U.S. bishops’ conference pro-life committee, said in an Aug. 27 statement that “the Church’s opposition to the death penalty is clear, and we have made many requests that the federal government should not resume these executions. Yet, not only has the government done so, they have scheduled even more executions.”

In his video, Naumann said that “Murder is an unspeakable evil. Those who perpetrate such a crime have inflicted a grave injustice, not only upon the person who was murdered but also upon all their loved ones.”

“The criminal justice system has a responsibility to protect the innocent from victimization and to deter the commission of violent crimes. However. in the United States in 2020, we have the ability to protect society from violent criminals without resorting to the death penalty.”

Naumann lamented the possibility of executing an innocent person, the revictimization of families amid lengthy appeals processes, the cost of maintaining those appeals processes, and the “economic injustice in the application of the death penalty.”

“Those with the financial means to employ the most skilled attorneys in their defense are much less likely to be executed than the poor,” he said.

The archbishop offered prayers for those who are on death row, for the victims of murder and their families, and “for our nation that we may protect the innocent, assist better the families of victims, work for justice, and not respond to the murder of the innocent by continuing a cycle of violence with state sanctioned killing.”

In New York, Catholic school teachers file labor complaint over COVID reopening plans

Sat, 09/05/2020 - 18:12

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 5, 2020 / 04:12 pm (CNA).- Teachers from schools in the Archdiocese of New York have filed a labor complaint, saying they were not properly involved in negotiations regarding reopening, and were not kept informed about procedures.

The complaints were filed with the New York Public Employment Relations Board.

“These teachers need to feel safe,” said Joanne Parotta, the head of the Federation of Catholic Teachers Local 153, the union for the archdiocese’s teachers. “And right now, they really don’t. We don’t feel safe. It’s too quick.”

Parotta was quoted in the New York Daily News on September 3 saying that 23 of 109 schools in the archdiocese have not been given reopening information, despite the fact that they are set to open within the next week. Teachers, she said, were only told about the plans on Wednesday.

“I don’t think one week is enough time to put the teachers back in the classroom,” said Parotta. There are 2,500 teachers in the Archdiocese of New York’s school system.

Principals of schools were given a reopening plan in June, but teachers were not involved in these negotiations and decisions, she said.

“The plans need to be reviewed. A determination needs to be made as to whether or not the classrooms and buildings meet the requirements for social distancing, ventilation, signage, closing protocols, testing,” Parotta said.

T.J. McCormack, the director of communications and public relations for Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of New York, told CNA that the school district had been working with the teachers’ union and schools are planning on opening on schedule.

“We have been and will continue to work with our union in the appropriate manner in the proper forum,” said McCormack in a statement provided to CNA.

“Our Catholic schools students and their families are looking forward to seeing their beloved teachers next week on the first day of school.”

The effects of the coronavirus pandemic hit the Archdiocese of New York particularly hard, both in terms of physical and economical effects. New York has had the highest number of coronavirus deaths in the country, but health experts say the state is poised to reopen safely. Positivity rates have remained below 1% for the last month, and daily deaths statewide have been below 10 for several weeks.

In July, the Archdiocese of New York announced that 20 schools would not be re-opening in the fall due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that an additional three schools would be merging.

 

Trump campaign calls letter a 'recommitment' to the pro-life movement

Sat, 09/05/2020 - 08:01

Washington D.C., Sep 5, 2020 / 06:01 am (CNA).- President Donald Trump released a letter Thursday touting pro-life accomplishments in his first term and commitments for a second term—but some of these commitments linger from 2016.

In the letter, released through the Pro-Life Voices for Trump coalition, Trump said he has “proudly governed as the most pro-life president in our nation’s history,” pointing to the confirmations of Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh as well as over 200 lower court judges, and actions including policies to prevent the use of taxpayer dollars for abortions overseas and stripping Planned Parenthood of Title X funds, and becoming the first sitting president to address the March for Life in person.  

The president pledged to continue to work towards “our transformation of the federal judiciary,” signing pro-life bills—the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, and the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act—into law, and “fully defund the big abortion industry such as Planned Parenthood of our tax dollars.”

However, during his 2016 campaign, in a similar letter to the pro-life movement, Trump made four key pro-life commitments: nominating “pro-life justices” to the Supreme Court, signing into law the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, defunding Planned Parenthood, and making the Hyde amendment permanent law.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, co-chair of the Pro-Life Voices for Trump coalition, said in an interview the campaign “re-upped” the letter “because when they did it initially it was in the context of grave doubts over whether he would be the pro-life president that he said that he would.”

“And so this recommitment is within a totally different context, he’s followed through—to the greatest extent possible—in every one of these areas,” Dannenfelser said. “And it’s just to show he’s unwavering, he’s unchanging.”

Asked about the lingering commitments from 2016, Dannenfelser said, “There are some things that are in the legislative branch that have to be overcome without question.”

“But he just wants to communicate his unwavering commitment to those principles and that not only has nothing changed, but things are so much better and we’re so much closer than we were four years ago,” she said. “So three things have to happen: We have to return the Senate, it has to be at least as pro-life as it is, and there has to be some crumbling in that grip that the most liberal wing has, so that we can get a few more votes for passage.”
Dannenfelser highlighted the president adding the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act to the list of commitments.

“One of the reasons so many people are coming off the sidelines and getting engaged as they have not before is that issue that was raised so publicly first by Governor [Ralph] Northam and then second by the president,” she said. “So it has become a priority of his.” 
Ahead of the Republican National Convention, the Trump campaign released a list of bullet points outlining the president’s second-term priorities. The issue of abortion was absent from that initial document, but a pledge to protect unborn life was later added.

“I’ll just tell you I’m glad they got it right,” Dannenfelser said when asked about the initial omission. “I have no idea how that slipped, but they did the right thing and fixed it.”

Asked if the president would consider defunding Planned Parenthood through executive action if Congress is unwilling, Dannenfelser said, “there’s a great openness to anything that is constitutional.”

“I’m a hundred percent sure that anything that has a good shot, he’s open to doing,” she said. “It’s just a tough one you know and I think there may need to be some more creative ways to make it happen.”

Dannenfelser argued “the judges piece” is the priority of the pro-life movement because “everything after that in the list assumes that we’ve got a Court that isn’t going to stop every single thing that we do in our pro-life activism.”

Tom McClusky, president of March for Life Action, said in an interview that the new letter “a verification of a lot of conversations that were had with the administration.”

“The first letter that he did, it was kind of a contract between two unknown quantities,” McClusky said. “I don’t know if he fully understood the pro-life movement, and the pro-life movement was wary of him as a candidate. But this letter, it’s more of a contract between friends. He’s done so much for the pro-life movement and we’re happy to see he wants to continue that.”

It is “unfortunate,” McClusky said, that some of the initial commitments remain, because “even when Republicans controlled all three cogs of the legislative machine, there still just weren’t enough votes in the Senate for Pain-Capable.”

McClusky said he hopes the administration will pursue avenues like exclusion or debarment to defund Planned Parenthood through executive action.

“If HHS were to do that, that would mean that Planned Parenthood would no longer be a partner to get Medicaid reimbursements,” he said.

He added he would also like to see the president commit to banning human embryonic stem cell experimentation and change the IRS code, “which currently allows that abortion is health care, and what we’d like to see is the IRS change that designation.”

 

‘Somebody has to make a big move’: Catholic priest who walked Belfast gauntlet on reconciliation

Sat, 09/05/2020 - 06:00

CNA Staff, Sep 5, 2020 / 04:00 am (CNA).-  

On Sept. 3, 2001, Fr. Aidan Troy set off with a group of children in the Ardoyne district of north Belfast walking to their Catholic school. To reach it, they had to pass through a Protestant area.

Troy, a Passionist priest from Dublin, had recently arrived in Northern Ireland from Rome. He was about to undergo a baptism of fire.

“We set off on Sept. 3 and they asked me to walk with them. And it was horrendous,” he recalled.

Protesters attempted to block the road leading to the school, forcing girls as young as four to run a terrifying gauntlet, with the help of the police, backed by the British Army. The children and their parents were showered with jeers and sectarian abuse, as well as stones and bottles.

The incident caught the attention of the global media and shocked observers because it occurred after the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which many thought had ended the Troubles that had raged since the late 1960s.

“Looking back now, I think that the community living near the school -- we’ll call them the unionist community -- had reached a desperation point, where they felt that nobody really cared, and that there was nobody to defend their rights against their fears,” Troy told CNA.

“Their fears were very, very real: they were afraid that their houses would be attacked and taken over. There was a big shortage of housing. They had very little leadership.”

“Therefore when they ran out of options, they said, ‘The only way we can do this is that the perceived enemy is the nationalist community in Ardoyne, and they are bringing their children up and down to school. If we can disrupt that then we’re going to at least get some attention, and we may be able to do something about it.’ So they blocked the road.”

As the new local pastor, Troy had been appointed chair of the board of governors of Holy Cross Girls’ School. Tensions had flared around the school in June, before his arrival. As pupils prepared to return after the summer vacation, the priest had asked parents what they wanted to do. They told him they wished to bring their children to school via the front gate, and he agreed to lead them.  

On the second day, there were more ugly scenes. On the third, protesters threw a blast bomb -- an improvised explosive device -- towards the children and their parents. The children scattered in all directions while Troy held up his arms, urging parents not to panic.

Troy recalled that he was prepared to die rather than abandon the children.

“When I went back to Dublin, people used to say to me: ‘You’re mad. What in the name of God are you doing going up and down that road with those children?’ And they were throwing urine, this and that, and all sorts of terrible things. But you believed that those children were going to grow up and they were either going to know that they were as good as the next or they weren’t,” he said.

He added: “The bishop gave me a terrible tough time. He wanted me to tell the parents to bring them in through the back gate. And I said, ‘Well, if you’re telling me to do that, I’m taking the train back to Dublin tomorrow.’”

Troy feared most that if he backed down, then paramilitary groups would step in.

He said: “No one will ever know, thank God, but some of the paramilitaries might have taken it over and then it would have ended in bloodshed. And that’s what kept me walking, because I said: ‘This can be solved.’”

With the situation deteriorating, Troy realized that the two communities needed to find a communication channel. But reaching out might be regarded as an act of betrayal and, besides, it wasn’t clear who to talk to among the protesters.

Nevertheless, the priest began speaking to unionist leaders.

“And then some of the protesters were invited in, and they were terrible meetings. They were so bad, because the animosity, particularly against me as a Catholic priest, was horrendous,” he said.

“We stuck at it, and eventually, I remember handing over my mobile number to them and saying: ‘This is ridiculous. We keep meeting every two weeks. The children are suffering. You’re suffering.’”

The two sides met separately with politicians at Stormont, the Parliament Buildings in Northern Ireland. Slowly, a plan was formulated that would end the protests.

“On Nov. 23, 2001, the local community in Glenbryn had a meeting and by a very narrow majority, I believe, they agreed to suspend the action of blockade,” he said.

It would take two years to iron out the protocols enabling the girls to walk the route to school.

“Bit by bit by bit, it died down,” Troy recalled. “There was the occasional flare-up. Maybe at the beginning of the school year in September there would be a pipe bomb at the school gate. I know it sounds blasé, but that was minor in comparison to what we’d come through.”

Troy aimed throughout to ensure that no one felt that they were either a victor or a loser.

Speaking of the protesters, he said: “I had actually got to know one or two of them sort of by sight, and occasionally, just to nod to them and say hello. And one of them, his sister died very suddenly. Through the clergy I found his phone number and I called him and expressed my sympathy. Well, he didn’t know what to say and he didn’t know what to do.”

“That’s what I mean by saying, never rub salt in the wound and say: ‘This is a battle to the death till one side or the other wins.’”

“Now, I'm a football supporter. In sport, a draw’s no use. You have to win. But in reconciliation, you have to find a higher level, and that is where both sides can go on living, even though one side is right and one side is wrong.”

Only a minority of those involved in the conflict -- both Catholics and Protestants -- were weekly church-goers, Troy said, but nevertheless they were all shaped by Christianity.

“There was a sort of allegiance -- even if it was only like a folk memory -- to a higher value, which was the kingdom of God in some sense, of a church, a spiritual thing, and I could use that quite significantly,” he noted.

“When I was talking to them in the school hall, I could actually appeal to them morally. And that, I think, is a very powerful thing. It won’t always be a Christian thing. It won’t always be a very religious thing. But I do think you need to be able to lift the argument beyond where the argument started, or else it can never end.”

He added: “I found that Christianity was the platform that I used. I wore my habit every day. I never denied who I was. If they were going to kill me, they knew who they were killing.”

Today, almost 20 years on, Troy is pastor of St. Joseph’s, an English-speaking Catholic parish in Paris. He told CNA that he had been following the unrest in the United States after the killing of George Floyd in May. He was struck by both the similarities and differences to what he experienced in Belfast.

The 74-year-old priest said that between law enforcement and the government, on one side, and protesters, on the other, there needed to be a third group.

“You need within that somewhere -- I don’t know who they would be, they might be religious people -- somebody doing a little bit of what we were doing: talking across the divide,” he explained.

He continued: “The biggest thing of all in those situations is to keep listening and watching. And if you see a glimmer of light -- it might be the most insignificant-looking thing -- maybe that’s the breakthrough.”

“I don’t know enough to speak with any sort of certainty. But it breaks my heart to see what’s happening because it’s the exact same as Holy Cross in that sense: there are no winners in this.”

“Most of all, you need somebody with a prophetic voice. And oftentimes within any community there are prophets. And if we could find that, it’s extraordinary,” he observed.

Troy, who lived in the U.S. for two years in the 1980s while studying at the University of San Francisco, said that the deep historical roots of the unrest made reconciliation difficult. But he was hopeful because there was an “underlying spiritual awareness” in America.

“This is such a long-standing and such a deep issue that it is going to take a huge amount. But something has to be done to defuse the level it’s at the moment. It’s just terrible, night after night,” he said.

He recalled that peace only came to Northern Ireland after politicians dared to do “the unthinkable.” He gave the example of John Hume, the former SDLP leader who died Aug. 3, deciding to hold talks with Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams.

“That would be like asking the leaders of the protesters to talk to Donald Trump personally,” he said. “Somebody has to make a big move.”

He added: “If there’s any lesson out of Northern Ireland, it was that if everybody had stayed where they were then we would still be pouring blood down our streets, bombs would still be going off, and people would still be living in absolute misery at what was going on.”

 

 

‘Catholics for Biden’ claims Democratic candidate shares pope’s priorities

Fri, 09/04/2020 - 20:35

Washington D.C., Sep 4, 2020 / 06:35 pm (CNA).- The Catholic voter outreach of Joe Biden’s presidential campaign has launched its 2020 efforts, telling Catholics that Biden’s priorities align with those of Pope Francis, despite the nominee’s support for federal funding of abortions.

On Thursday night, “Catholics for Biden” held its official online launch. Speakers at the event included Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Sister Simone Campbell, and the former head of the politics department at The Catholic University of America, Dr. Stephen Schneck, who said in 2012 that concerns of the U.S. bishops about the HHS birth control mandate were “overblown.”

Durbin, a U.S. Senator since 1997, was in 2004 prohibited from receiving Holy Communion in his home Diocese of Springfield in Illinois; in 2018, Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield said that prohibition remains in effect.

Speakers urged Catholics not to be single-issue voters on abortion, and challenged President Trump’s pro-life record while in office.

Biden has pledged to support taxpayer-funded abortion and codify legal abortion in law. His “public option” health care plan would also cover elective abortions. The National Abortion Rights Action League has endorsed his candidacy, and Planned Parenthood Action Fund said they were “thrilled” at his selection of Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) as his running mate.

After the call, organizers promoted an online quiz, “Are you a Pope Francis Voter?” that tells voters “Donald Trump rejects the vast majority of Catholic Social Teaching,” while claiming that Biden shares the “Catholic priorities” of “Pope Francis.”

The quiz tells voters that  Biden’s policies will protect people in poverty, the elderly, and migrants and reject racism, and that “you must prioritize these sacred issues in the voting booth this November.”

The U.S. bishops’ document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” describes abortion as a “preeminent” threat to human life. The document acknowledges many attacks against human dignity, while also warning against a false “moral equivalence that makes no ethical distinctions between different kinds of issues involving human life and dignity.”

However, voting material promoted by Catholics for Biden urges voters to regard other issues as equal in priority to abortion. It discusses the idea of a “Pope Francis Voter” as someone who considers racism, poverty, migration and healthcare as “sacred issues” to be prioritized in the voting booth.

In his 2018 apostolic exhortation Gaudete et exsultate, Pope Francis said that all human life, born and unborn, is sacred.

The pope said that “defence of the innocent unborn” must be “clear, firm and passionate,” adding that “[e]qually sacred, however, are the lives of the poor, those already born, the destitute, the abandoned and the underprivileged, the vulnerable infirm and elderly exposed to covert euthanasia, the victims of human trafficking, new forms of slavery, and every form of rejection.”

Citing the words “equally sacred”—where Pope Francis refers to human life itself— a 2020 election scorecard promoted by Catholics for Biden outlines “Equally Sacred Priorities” that equate abortion with a number of other issues in importance.

“In his writing and speaking, Pope Francis makes it clear: abortion is not the only issue that matters,” the scorecard states, adding that it would compare the stances of Trump and Biden on “areas Pope Francis names as ‘equally sacred’ to the defense of the unborn.”

The scorecard was produced by Network, the social justice lobby led by Sister Simone Campbell, who led a prayer at the 2020 Democratic National Convention and endorsed Biden at Thursday night’s event.

In a recent interview with CNA, Campbell was asked if her organization opposes legal abortion. “That is not our issue. That is not it. It is above my pay grade,” she responded.

The scorecard notes that Trump, and not Biden, is seeking to overturn Roe v. Wade, but adds that Biden, and not Trump, would increase support for pregnant women and fight maternal mortality.

It then covers other issues, claiming that Biden “[s]upports families in the tax code;” opposes racism and xenophobia, the death penalty, and “discrimination against LGBTQ+ people and disabled people;” and would protect housing assistance, health care benefits, the right to organize, and humane treatment of immigrants.

Religious freedom is not mentioned in the voter materials. Biden has said that he would repeal new religious exemptions to the contraceptive mandate, which had granted relief to Catholic organizations including the Little Sisters of the Poor. If the exemptions are repealed, the sisters could once again have to appear in court.

Biden has also supported the Equality Act, which would create broad anti-discrimination protections for sexual orientation and gender identity that the U.S. bishops’ conference has warned would threaten religious freedom.

Pope Francis has made forceful denunciations of abortion. He has likened it to “hiring a hitman,” and has condemned selective abortion of the disabled as “the same as the Nazis to maintain the purity of the race, but with white gloves.”

In his 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium, Pope Francis wrote that “this defence of unborn life is closely linked to the defence of each and every other human right.”

Patrick Carolan, Catholic outreach director of Vote Common Good, a group campaigning for Biden, told CNA that Thursday's event was meant to galvanize Biden’s Catholic support and to reach undecided voters.

Carolan told CNA that “there’s probably about 20% of the Catholic vote that’s still in play,” especially in several key states that Trump narrowly won in 2016.

“I think there’s a lot of, really, dissatisfaction, a lot of buyers’ remorse among Catholics,” he said of Trump voters, especially white Catholics, he added.

“A lot of it is with white Catholic women, and a lot of that is over the feeling of disgust over the separation of children and seeing pictures of children in cages,” he said. “And if you’re a mother, you can’t see that and think that that’s okay. And I know a lot of white Catholic women who saw those pictures and saw what was happening there and it just disgusted them, and they couldn’t vote for somebody who supported that.”

On Thursday, before the “Catholics for Biden” launch, the group “Catholics for Trump” attacked Biden’s record on abortion and religious freedom.

The Trump campaign’s Catholic voter outreach began with its online launch in April, which emphasized Trump’s efforts to appoint federal judges who were not “activist,” his administration’s pro-life policies and measures to protect religious freedom, and his record on the economy and on the coronavirus pandemic—which has killed more than 180,000 Americans.

Trump targeted pro-life voters this week, sending a letter to pro-life leaders outlining his policy priorities for his second term. The letter contained some of the same promises he made to pro-life voters in 2016.

Trump’s 2020 letter promises to build upon “our transformation of the federal judiciary” with judges who will “not legislate an abortion agenda from the bench.”

He also promised to “overcome Democratic filibusters in Congress to pass and finally sign into law” a 20-week abortion ban. He pledged to sign legislation protecting infant abortion survivors and blocking all taxpayer funding of abortion providers, and promised to “fully defund the abortion industry” of taxpayer dollars.

 

 

SF archbishop: City’s worship restrictions show ‘callous unconcern’ for spiritual needs

Fri, 09/04/2020 - 20:00

Denver Newsroom, Sep 4, 2020 / 06:00 pm (CNA).-  

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco said Friday that the city’s current restrictions on public worship— which prohibit indoor services of any kind, as opposed to other entities such as retail which have been allowed to reopen indoor operations— show “callous unconcern” for people’s spiritual needs.

“Let alone the fact that the city is judging religious services as less important, and treating them more harshly than other activities— the city has no authority at all over the Church’s right to worship,” Archbishop Cordileone told CNA Sept. 4.

“It is not the job of the state to decide what religious services are essential or inessential: that is the Church’s job.”

The San Francisco County Department of Health is currently limiting outdoor worship services to 12 people, with indoor worship services prohibited. The archdiocese covers the city and county of San Francisco— where the cathedral is located— as well as San Mateo and Marin counties.

The state’s legitimate concern for health and safety does have some bearing on how the Church operates, he said— for example, there are good reasons why church buildings must be built with respect to code.

“But the state does not tell the Church how to arrange the liturgical space—that pertains to the internal life of the Church, over which the state has no authority. The same principle applies to worship services: the state has no right whatsoever to tell the Church it cannot worship, but it has every right and responsibility to tell the Church which practices it must observe to keep people safe during worship,” Cordileone continued.

“Those practices, though, cannot be so restrictive as to effectively ban public worship, such as only outdoors with no more than 12 people.”

Cordileone said priests at many parishes around the archdiocese, including the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption, are celebrating multiple Masses every Sunday— outside, and spaced out— in order to adapt to the restrictions.

“The Body and Blood of Christ is the source and summit of our Faith. People are hungry for the Eucharist, and many priests are responding to the call as best they can,” he said.

The City of San Francisco has been closely monitoring Catholic churches in the city and has repeatedly issued warnings to the archdiocese for apparent health order violations.

Cordileone said he himself has noted “very few” violations of the city’s health orders by parishes in the archdiocese, although the few that have occurred have garnered heavy criticism in the secular press.

Even while protesting the city’s apparent unequal application of health restrictions, the archbishop has encouraged his priests to lead their parishes in following the city’s guidelines.

“Wearing a face covering is one of the simplest and most effective things you can do.  And if that is not enough, then wear one simply for the sake of good manners,” he appealed. 

“Do not show a lack of compassion for people who are afraid of catching a disease that is quite deadly to many people with comorbidities and the elderly, which we Catholics should particularly respect and protect.”

While Cordileone said city officials have been “cordial and respectful” in their dialogue with the archdiocese, Cordileone said the city still has not responded to the archdiocese’ safety plan— outlining how churches could be safely opened for indoor services— which they submitted in May.

“Whereas retail stores sent in safety plans, had them approved by the City, and then resumed indoor retail at 50% capacity.  And yet, churches can be safer environments than stores,’ Cordileone noted.

In a letter to San Francisco's Mayor London Breed and other city officials, Cordileone last week called on the city’s secular authorities to, “at a minimum, remove the excessive limits on outdoor public worship.”

“Particularly for us as Catholics, attending the Mass and receiving the Body and Blood of Christ in person is the source and the summit of our faith, and we have shown we can celebrate the Mass safely,” Cordileone wrote Aug. 31.

He cited a recent article on Mass attendance and COVID-19, authored Aug. 19 by doctors Thomas McGovern, Deacon Timothy Flanigan, and Paul Cieslak for Real Clear Science.

Over the last 14 weeks, the doctors said, approximately 17,000 parishes have held three or more Masses each weekend, as well as daily services, combining to equal more than 1 million public Masses celebrated across the United States since shelter-in-place orders were lifted.

By following public health guidelines, these Masses have largely avoided viral spread. The doctors said in their article that there is no evidence that church services are higher risk than similar activities when guidelines are followed, and no coronavirus outbreaks have yet been linked to the celebration of the Mass.

“Catholics have developed responsible safety protocols to conduct the Mass safely. The evidence shows these protocols are working,” Cordileone told CNA.

“San Francisco’s excessive limits on the Mass are not only a violation of Americans’ First Amendment rights, they show a kind of callous unconcern for our parishioners’ emotional and spiritual needs.”

In a July 30 memo, Cordileone exhorted his priests to be as diligent as possible in bringing the sacraments to their people, including celebrating outdoor Masses each Sunday, and providing Confession in a safe manner as often as possible.

“Please regularly remind people to follow the safety practices necessary to curb the spread of the virus. This is real, it is dangerous, and it has to be taken seriously,” he added.

“The resurgence is due in no small part to people becoming lax once the shelter-in-place rules began to be lifted. Please urge these practices upon them; absolutely do not give them the impression that the coronavirus is not a serious threat to the physical health of our community.”

The Benedict XVI Institute for Sacred Music and Divine Worship, which provides liturgical resources in the archdiocese, shared a petition Aug. 31 in support of Cordileone’s statement calling for the lifting of restrictions on the Mass. To date more than 1,400 people have signed.
 

 

Federal court upholds injunction against Trump admin’s Title X rules in Maryland  

Fri, 09/04/2020 - 19:20

CNA Staff, Sep 4, 2020 / 05:20 pm (CNA).- A federal court of appeals this week ruled against the Trump administration’s requirement that Title X recipients may not perform or refer for abortions.

In an 8-6 ruling Thursday, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an earlier injunction against the enforcement of the federal Protect Life Rule in Maryland.

The Protect Life Rule, created by the Trump administration, prohibits recipients of Title X family planning funds from referring for or performing abortions. It requires Title X fund recipients to be both physically and financially separate from facilities that provide abortions.

“Nondirective counseling” about abortion is still permissible under the new rules, which pro-life advocates have praised as a commonsense way to ensure enforcement of already-existing rules against taxpayer money being used for abortions.

Title X is a federal program created in 1965 that subsidizes family-planning and preventative health services, including contraception, for low-income families. It has been frequently updated and subject to new regulations. Title X does not pay for abortions, but recipients have in the past been able to refer patients for abortion.

The Protect Life Rule does not reduce the amount of available Title X funding, but clarifies eligibility to receiving the funding.

After the new rules were announced, Planned Parenthood said it was exiting the Title X program in order to continue performing abortions.

Planned Parenthood had been receiving about one-fifth of the total amount of Title X funds distributed, and withdrawing from the program means a $60 million cut in federal funding for the organization each year.

Planned Parenthood still receives roughly $500 million annually in Medicaid reimbursement.

In its ruling Thursday, the appeals court said the Protect Life Rule was “arbitrary and capricious, being inadequately justified and objectionably unreasonable.” It said every medical association in the country opposed the rule.

The dissenting opinion argued that the rule is “well within HHS’s established statutory authority.”

“The Supreme Court has already ruled that the regulations fall inside the scope of Title X’s broad mandate,” the dissenting opinion said. “The ‘new’ Rule substantially returns the Title X regulations to the version that HHS adopted in 1988, and which the Supreme Court upheld as a permissible interpretation of Title X in Rust v. Sullivan.”
 
 

 

Princeton legal scholar says Biden pledge to codify Roe is ‘disgraceful’

Fri, 09/04/2020 - 11:30

CNA Staff, Sep 4, 2020 / 09:30 am (CNA).- A pledge by Joe Biden to codify Roe v Wade into federal law is “disgraceful,” a Catholic law professor has said, and argued that the 1973 Supreme Court decision that imposed an abortion “regime” on the country must be reversed.  

Robert P. George, professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University, made the comments during an interview Thursday on EWTN Pro-Life Weekly. 

Asked about Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden—a baptized Catholic— pledging support for efforts to codify the maximum application of Roe v. Wade into federal law if he is elected president, George said it would “expose an entire class of human beings to death.”

“It’s disgraceful,” George said. 

“How can anybody who, as a Catholic, is committed to the proposition that every single member of the human family—irrespective certainly of race and sex and ethnicity, but also and equally irrespective of age, size, stage of development or condition of dependency—is the bearer of a profound and inherent and equal dignity, a creature made in the very image and likeness of God, how can someone who professes, as a Catholic to believe that, expose an entire class of human beings to death?”

George also discussed the Trump administration’s recent petition to the Supreme Court to reinstate a rule from the United States Food and Drug Administration requiring patients who take abortion pills to do so in the presence of a physician. A federal judge in Maryland lifted the rule in July, ruling it burdensome amid the coronavirus pandemic.

George said it is hard to predict how the Court will respond because “the record of the current Court is mixed on these sorts of issues.”



George said that the case should be considered in the larger context of the future of Roe v. Wade and the legality of abortion nationwide. 

“Of course, this doesn’t really get us to the $64,000 question, the real question that eventually needs to get before the Court, and that is whether to reverse the decision in Roe v Wade that constitutionalized the question of abortion in the first place and imposed on the entire nation of course the regime of legal abortion, so this is a skirmish in that larger struggle,” George said.

George said that legal protection for unborn children ultimately depended on the Court reversing its decision in Roe.

New Hampshire sued over Catholic schools tuition policy

Fri, 09/04/2020 - 10:40

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 4, 2020 / 08:40 am (CNA).- A New Hampshire family has filed suit against the state after a town tuition program refused to pay for their grandson’s Catholic school education. The suit claims that the terms of the program violate religious discrimination laws and go against a recent Supreme Court ruling.

The lawsuit, Dennis Griffin and Catherine Griffin v. New Hampshire Department of Education, was filed in the Merrimack County, New Hampshire, Superior Court on September 3. 

Dennis and Cathy Griffin are raising their grandson, Clayton in the town of Croydon, New Hampshire. Clayton, an ingoing seventh-grade student, attends a Catholic school in the nearby town of Sunapee. He would be eligible to have his private school tuition paid for by the town of Croydon, except for a New Hampshire law which prohibits town tuitioning programs from paying for “sectarian” schools, which the family argue is illegal under the Supreme Court's recent decision Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, which struck down a similar exclusion on religious schools.

Croydon, a small town of fewer than 1,000 people, does not have its own public middle school or high school. Instead, the town pays the tuition for resident students to attend public or private schools in nearby towns.

There are approximately 50 towns in New Hampshire that do not have public schools for all grades, and many of these towns have a contract with a specific nearby public or private school. Croydon does not have this kind of contract and allows its school-age students to pick where to go to school. In Croydon, students in fifth grade and above are given a set dollar amount for tuition at either a public or private non-sectarian school. 

In order to be eligible for a tuitioning program in New Hampshire, a private school must be “non-sectarian,” comply with various regulations regarding health and fire safety, be incorporated in New Hampshire, and administer an annual academic assessment. 

Mount Royal Academy, where Clayton is a student, is a lay-run and lay-founded Catholic school, where students are educated in the classical model. The school was incorporated in New Hampshire, complies with all health and safety regulations, and administers standardized assessments. However, as Mount Royal Academy is a Catholic school, the Griffins have to pay tuition. 

The school was formally recognized as a Catholic school by the Diocese of Manchester in 2006, which the school’s website describes as “giving our school community the greatest gift we could ever receive, the Eucharistic presence of Jesus Christ on campus.” It was the first lay-founded school in the diocese to receive this recognition. 

The Griffins say that the state prohibition is a violation of their First Amendment rights, and are asking for the New Hampshire courts to allow religious schools to be eligible for town tuitioning programs. 

In June, the Supreme Court ruled in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue that Montana’s income tax credit program unconstitutionally discriminated against religious schools and those who attend or wish to attend them. The Griffins are arguing that the New Hampshire Superior Court should consider the precedent created in Espinoza and change state law. 

Kirby West, an attorney for the Institute for Justice, the law firm representing the Griffins, told CNA that while the case is similar to Espinoza, the situation is different as the prohibition on sectarian school tuition payments is state law. 

“In Espinoza, the Montana Supreme Court struck the scholarship program down under their state Blaine Amendment because the program included religious schools,” West told CNA.  

“Here, although New Hampshire also has a Blaine Amendment, the anti-religious language is also written directly into the tuitioning statute. So the tuitioning program excludes religious schools on its face,” she said. 

In Espinoza, the Supreme Court ruled that as school choice programs are not mandated, religious schools cannot be left out of the program on the basis of religion--something that is happening in New Hampshire. 

“The principle at issue, however, is exactly the same,” West said. “Once it decides to create an educational choice program, a state cannot exclude religious schools solely because they are religious.” 

“The Griffins qualify for New Hampshire’s tuitioning program in all respects except for the fact that they chose a religious school for their grandson. As the Supreme Court made clear in Espinoza, this discrimination violates the First Amendment,” she said.

Catholics thank drug company for switching to ethical polio vaccine

Fri, 09/04/2020 - 02:37

CNA Staff, Sep 4, 2020 / 12:37 am (CNA).- Catholic leaders in the U.S. have welcomed the news that one of the world’s biggest vaccine producers has decided to discontinue a polio vaccine derived from an abortion fetal cell line.

Sanofi-Pasteur will instead use an ethical animal cell line in the production of its polio vaccine. The company, among the three largest vaccine manufacturers globally, has also committed to developing a COVID-19 vaccine that does not use a cell line from an elective abortion.

“We welcome these opportunities where we can illustrate the Church’s eager embrace of scientific advancement when it upholds the dignity of the human person and the precious gift of human life,” said Greg Schleppenbach, associate director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities for the U.S. bishops’ conference.

In a Sept. 2 memo to diocesan pro-life directors and state Catholic conference directors, Schleppenbach noted “that the FDA recently approved Sanofi-Pasteur’s request to switch from using an aborted fetal cell line (MRC-5) to using an ethical animal cell line to produce its polio combination vaccines Pentacel and Quadracel.”

Sanofi-Pasteur has also announced that it will no longer produce a stand-alone polio vaccine, Poliovax, which was created from the same aborted fetal cell line. Instead, it will retain a different stand-alone vaccine, IPOL, which was ethically developed.

“Furthermore, Sanofi-Pasteur’s ongoing effort to develop a vaccine for COVID-19 also does not rely on cell lines linked to elective abortion,” Schleppenbach said.

For years, ethical concerns have been raised about the development of some vaccines with cells lines created from the cells of aborted babies.

A 2005 document from the Pontifical Academy for Life concluded that it is both morally permissible and morally responsible for Catholics to use vaccines prepared in cell lines descended from aborted fetuses, if no alternative is available.

However, the document said Catholics have an obligation to use ethically-sourced vaccines when possible, and when alternatives do not exist, they have an obligation to speak up and request the development of new cell lines that are not derived from aborted fetuses.

 “One important step we can take to ensure the production of ethical vaccines is to recognize and thank drug companies, like Sanofi-Pasteur, when they move away from unethical vaccine production,” said Schleppenbach in his memo.

He asked local pro-life leaders to encourage Catholics to send a note of thanks to Sanofi-Pasteur.

“We can hope that, with some encouragement, other vaccine manufacturers may consider creating other morally acceptable vaccines,” he said.

Schleppenbach also noted that the U.S. bishops’ conference has “an active campaign urging the FDA to ensure that a COVID-19 vaccine is produced free from complicity with abortion.”

“This move from Sanofi-Pasteur is an encouraging indicator that for-profit companies creating vaccines are beginning to recognize there is no need to use cell lines derived from aborted children,” he said.

Dr. Michael Parker, president of the Catholic Medical Association and Dr. Joseph Meaney, president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center, also applauded the development from Sanofi-Pasteur.

In a joint July 21 letter to Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, who heads the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee, Parker and Meaney said the move means fewer ethical dilemmas for Catholic and pro-life parents.

“Sanofi-Pasteur’s actions demonstrate that it is possible to make safe and effective vaccines without resort to AFCLs [aborted fetal cell lines], and even to remove AFCLs from vaccines currently in use,” they said.

“Sanofi-Pasteur’s approach to a vaccine for COVID-19 shows its commitment to developing future vaccines without resorting to use of AFCLs.”

“[T]oo often people have been told that there is not much that can be done about the use of AFCLs in vaccines, particularly in pediatric vaccines,” Parker and Meaney said.

They noted that the widespread use of these vaccines has also been used to justify further unethical research.

“Sanofi-Pasteur’s actions show that moral and medical progress is possible,” they said. “We should celebrate this and request—even demand—more from the pharmaceutical industry.”

 

Trump says second term will 'fight' for unborn children in letter to pro-lifers

Thu, 09/03/2020 - 18:40

CNA Staff, Sep 3, 2020 / 04:40 pm (CNA).-  

President Donald Trump on Thursday released a letter addressed to “pro-life leaders and activists” indicating his intention to advance legislative and administrative priorities against abortion if he is elected to a second term.

“As I seek re-election this November, I need your help in contrasting my bold pro-life leadership with Joe Biden’s abortion extremism,” Trump’s letter said.

“The Democratic Party unequivocally supports abortion on-demand, up untl the moment of birth, and even infanticide — leaving babies to die after failed abortions. Joe Biden’s embrace of this extreme position is most evidenced by his support for taxpayer funding of abortion on-demand. Forcing taxpayers to pay for abortions is an abhorrent position that must be defeated at the ballot box,” the president added.

The president’s letter came as his campaign continues to court pro-life voters, seen as a voting bloc crucial to Trump’s reelection.

At the Republican National Convention, several speakers emphasized Trump’s opposition to abortion, including Sr. Dede Byrne, a surgeon and retired Army colonel, who called Trump the “most pro-life president” in U.S. history.

Earlier this week, the Trump campaign added bullet points concerning abortion and religious freedom to its list of second-term priorities. A 50-point list of “core priorities” for a second Trump term was originally released by the campaign Aug. 23, and criticized by pro-lifers for omitting mention of abortion and religious liberty from the original list.

In his Sept. 3 letter, Trump wrote that if he wins, “we have another four year to fight in the trenches for unborn children.”

The president said he would “work to” appoint “judges who will respect the Constitution and not legislate an abortion agenda from the bench,” pass into law three pieces of legislation that would restrict or defund abortion, and “fully defund the big abortion industry such as Planned Parenthood of our tax dollars.”

Both the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act and the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act failed in the Senate in February. Similar bills had failed to get through Congress in 2015, 2017, and 2018. Republicans controlled both houses of Congress in 2017, but did not have the 60 votes required to get the bill through the Senate without a filibuster. The Senate is expected to be close to an even split after the 2020 election.

Trump’s letter noted that he had appointed several judges believed to oppose abortion protections during his first term, prevented federal funding of foreign abortions, and addressed the March for Life in person, the first time a president had done so.

The president also mentioned that he had begun fulfilling campaign promises to defund Planned Parenthood, through changes to Title X funding that prevent abortion providers from access to some federal funds. With the rule change, the abortion provider remains the recipient of roughly $500 million annually in Medicaid reimbursement.

Last month, pro-life activist Lila Rose called on the president to defund Planned Parenthood immediately.

“President Trump can defund Planned Parenthood by executive order. It’s past time to stop pouring millions of taxpayer dollars into a corporation that slaughters 900 children each day. Defund these atrocities,” Rose tweeted Aug 26.

President Trump can defund Planned Parenthood by executive order. It’s past time to stop pouring millions of taxpayer dollars into a corporation that slaughters 900 children each day. Defund these atrocities!#DefundPlannedParenthood @realDonaldTrump

— Lila Rose (@LilaGraceRose) August 26, 2020 Trump’s Democratic opponent in the presidential race, Joe Biden, has pledged to enshrine abortion protections in federal law, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi indicated this week that Congress will end a decades long moratorium on federal funding for abortion if her party retains control of the House of Representatives.

The Trump campaign said Thursday that Trump’s letter came after Vice President Mike Pence met with pro-life lobbying group Susan B. Anthony List in North Carolina.

San Francisco ministry to share Catholic teaching on end-of-life

Thu, 09/03/2020 - 18:01

Denver Newsroom, Sep 3, 2020 / 04:01 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of San Francisco is set to begin training volunteers who will help parishes support Catholics in making end-of-life decisions for themselves and loved ones, informed by Catholic teaching about death.

Deacon Fred Totah, director of pastoral ministry for the archdiocese, told CNA that he fields a lot of questions about end-of-life problems in his parish— more so now than ever, amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Catholic end-of-life ministry is a response to California’s 2015 legalization of assisted suicide under the End of Life Option Act, which took effect during June 2016. Under the law, patients may request and physicians may prescribe life-ending medications.

The Catholic Church teaches that assisted suicide and euthanasia— which both involve the intentional taking of life— are never permissible. Withholding “extraordinary means” of medical treatment and allowing death to occur naturally can be morally permissible under Catholic teaching.

The bishops of California, along with healthcare leaders, launched an initiative called Caring for the Whole Person in 2016 to help to educate people about Catholic teaching on dying.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles launched its Whole Person Care ministry during February 2020, and the Diocese of Stockton began doing training for its ministry in March.

Other California dioceses are in the process of building core teams for their ministries, Totah said, and he has reached out to them to offer help building their end-of-life ministries.

'The door is always open for anybody to partner with us," he said.

Totah told Catholic San Francisco that it is his hope that every parish eventually will have an end-of-life ministry. The ministry might also be combined with an existing parish ministry, he said, such as grief and consolation, Legion of Mary, or ministry to the sick and homebound.

A five-week Zoom training for the 25 volunteers will begin Sept. 16, and will run until Oct. 14.

The training will encompass five modules, he said, including an introduction to palliative and hospice care; Catholic teaching on end-of-life problems; planning for end-of-life; and grief and bereavement in the parish setting.

The Catholic Medical Association, along with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Catholic Health Association, have long supported an expansion of palliative care— medical care and pain management for the symptoms of those suffering from a serious illness, rather than the premature ending of their life.

The CMA emphasized their position that “the goal of palliative care is to promote effective relief of pain and suffering, not to eliminate the sufferer.”

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services prohibit Catholic health care facilities from condoning or participating in euthanasia or assisted suicide.

A report from the California Department of Public Health said 374 persons ended their lives by assisted suicide in 2017 – the first full year that the law had been in effect.

The California Catholic Conference reiterated its opposition to assisted suicide in the beginning of 2018, criticizing the lack of data collected and a lack of transparency in the law’s implementation.

In January 2020, a county Superior Court dismissed a legal challenge against the End of Life Option Act, which a group of doctors had filed upon its passage. The US Supreme Court had the year before declined to review the case.

Oregon, Washington, Maine, New Jersey, Hawaii, Colorado, Vermont and the District of Columbia have all legalized assisted suicide and euthanasia along with California. In Montana the practice is legal by a court ruling.

Countries with legal euthanasia are the Netherlands, Belgium, Colombia, Luxembourg, and Canada. Assisted suicide is legal in the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Germany.

The US House of Representatives in October 2019 sent a bill to the Senate that would expand funding and training for palliative care. The bill is currently in a Senate committee.

AG to be honored at virtual Catholic prayer breakfast

Thu, 09/03/2020 - 17:00

CNA Staff, Sep 3, 2020 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- The 2020 National Catholic Prayer Breakfast (NCPB) will be streamed online on Sept. 23 the organization announced on Wednesday. The event will honor Attorney General William Barr.

Former presidents and vice presidents have made appearances at the gathering—Vice President Mike Pence addressed the annual event in 2017, and former President George W. Bush spoke at the breakfast each year from 2005 to 2008. 

Barr will be the latest high-ranking Trump administration official to appear at the event--Vice President Mike Pence spoke at the NCPB in 2017, and then-acting White House chief-of-staff Mick Mulvaney addressed the gathering in 2019.

The National Catholic Prayer Breakfast has taken place in Washington, D.C. every year since 2004. It was originally scheduled for March 30, before the city curbed public gatherings following the coronavirus pandemic. Now, the NCPB says that the current “uncertainty” as to COVID-related restrictions in D.C. “dictated that we could no longer hold an in-person event of this size.”

Attended by 1,400 people in 2019, the prayer breakfast will now be streamed online with a mix of live and taped segments filling a one-hour schedule. Bishop Robert Barron, auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, will deliver the keynote address. 

While Archbishop Charles Chaput, archbishop emeritus of Philadelphia, was originally scheduled to speak at the prayer breakfast in March, he no longer appears on the schedule.

“Although we will be unable to gather in Washington, DC for our usual in-person event, we believe it has never been more important to host this prayer event,” the group stated on its website.

Attorney General Barr is still scheduled to speak on Sept. 23 and receive the Christifideles Laici award, named for Pope St. John Paul II’s 1988 exhortation and reserved to honor the laity who promote the New Evangelization and the Church’s mission in their life and work.

Barr, a Catholic, served as attorney general during the George H.W. Bush administration from 1991 to 1993, and was confirmed as attorney general again in 2019.

Barr’s Justice Department (DOJ) has taken an active role during the pandemic in curbing state public health orders that it says treat churches more harshly than similar establishments such as restaurants and shopping malls.

Barr himself has spoken out about threats to religious freedom, in an October, 2019 speech at the University of Notre Dame law school, where he said that education is “ground zero” in the fight for religious freedom. He warned of a secularism that seeks the “organized destruction” of the Judeo-Christian ethic, which he said the U.S. was founded upon.

However, the attorney general has also overseen the resumption of executions of federal prisoners after a nearly-two decade halt; the U.S. bishops’ conference has spoken repeatedly to condemn the executions, as has Archbishop Charles Thompson of Indianapolis, whose diocese includes the federal prison in Terre Haute, where federal executions take place. 

The Vatican in 2018 revised language in the Catechism on the death penalty, calling it “inadmissible.”  

Catholic members of religious orders, pro-life activists, bishops and prelates, and politicians—including non-Catholic officeholders—have previously addressed the prayer breakfast. Past speakers have included the second President Bush, late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Vice President Pence, and Cardinal Robert Sarah.

New York bishops urge Cuomo to remember the poor

Thu, 09/03/2020 - 16:00

CNA Staff, Sep 3, 2020 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- The bishops of New York have spoken out against proposed cuts in the New York State budget, urging Gov. Andrew Cuomo not to add further burdens to the state’s poor and vulnerable in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. 

“As the governor considers the steps needed to restore our state to fiscal stability, the New York State bishops offer prayers for wisdom, as well as a reminder that the state must never balance its budget on the backs of the poor and vulnerable,” said a statement from the New York Catholic Conference released on Thursday, September 3. 

Reports suggest the state is considering cutting 20% of budgets across every department in the state to make up for its budget shortfall. 

While these cuts are “understandable,” and appears on their face to be giving equal treatment to all departments, the bishops stated, “we must keep in mind that for the hundreds of thousands of vulnerable New Yorkers who depend on state-funded not-for-profit human services providers, social equity already eludes them, and always has.”

“We must not turn our back on women fleeing domestic violence, immigrants seeking legal resources, people with physical or developmental disabilities, the frail elderly, struggling single mothers and their young children, families who are homeless, those who have lost their jobs and don’t have enough food to put on the table, people suffering from addiction or mental illness, survivors of sexual abuse, offenders reintegrating into society, or the many other New Yorkers who most need our support,” said the statement. 

While Catholic Charities has been able to care for some of the needy in the state, the bishops said that the challenges are “greater than ever” with increased demand and fewer donations due to an ailing economy and limited parish collections due to coronavirus restrictions. 

The state’s bishops also noted that the New York State Constitution specifies that “the aid, care and support of the needy are public concerns and shall be provided by the state,” and pointed out that, per Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s urging, the state added the phrase “E pluribus unum”--or “Out of many, one” to the state flag this past year. 

Cuomo, they said, faces an “unenviable reality” when it comes to keeping New York residents safe and dealing with the budget shortfall, but should “remember this sentiment of unity that includes our most vulnerable brothers and sisters” when deciding where to address budget shortfalls. 

New York was among the hardest hit areas in the world during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the pandemic’s peak, over a thousand people per day were succumbing to the disease in New York City alone. 

Cuomo at one point ordered nursing homes to accept coronavirus patients and state figures have been disputed, with some suggesting that the real death tally in nursing homes may have been obscured.

New York parish anti-racism pledge prompts controversy

Thu, 09/03/2020 - 13:26

Denver Newsroom, Sep 3, 2020 / 11:26 am (CNA).-  

A New York priest said his parish added a “pledge for racial justice” to Masses as part of its anti-racism initiatives, and that no one at the parish is required to participate in it. While video of the pledge has been the subject of criticism in the media and from some Catholics, the Archdiocese of New York has not commented on the matter.

“Under the sponsorship of the Pastoral Council, we held a prayer service for the victims of racism and commissioned our Sacred Space ministry to produce a display so that there would be heightened awareness. In that context, someone found a version of the pledge from a Unitarian Church in Texas,” Fr. Kenneth Boller, SJ, pastor of St. Francis Xavier Parish in New York City, told CNA Sept. 2.

“We invite people to take the pledge after the post communion prayer and before the final blessing-a time when many churches have announcements. People are invited to respond yes to each question. Some choose not to. That's fine,” Boller added.

Liturgical law prohibits the addition of any components to Mass that are not prescribed by Church rubrics.

The General Instruction for the Roman Missal directs that each priest “must remember that he is the servant of the sacred Liturgy and that he himself is not permitted, on his own initiative, to add, to remove, or to change anything in the celebration of Mass.”

Similarly, the Second Vatican Council’s apostolic constitution on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum concilium, says that no person, “even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.”

For his part, Boller told CNA that the pledge is part of a broader effort in the parish to be attentive to racial justice.

“After the death of George Floyd our parish wished to be more pro-actively anti-racist.  There had been a book discussion group on racism  for 18 months and there was a recent history of dialog with an African-American Catholic parish in Harlem,” the priest said.

The pledge asks whether Catholics “support justice, equity, and compassion,” and affirm that “white privilege and the culture of white supremacy must be dismantled wherever it is present.” It also asks whether Catholics commit “to help transform our church culture to one that is actively engaged in seeking racial justice and equity for everyone,” and affirm “the inherent worth and dignity of every person.”

The pledge gained attention earlier this week, when a redacted video of its recitation began circulating online. On Sept. 2, Fox News television host Tucker Carlson erroneously reported that the pledge, which he called “talking points from BLM” had “replaced the Nicene Creed” at the parish. In the same segment, commentator Eric Metaxas said that if the parish “had a swastika on the altar, it would be no different.”

“The people who are using these new terms — systemic racism or white privilege — these are Marxists,” Metaxas added. “If you do not reject this with everything you have, you are bringing about the death of Christian faith in America,” he said.

The U.S. bishops’ conference 2018 pastoral letter on racism, “Open Wide our Hearts” laments “years of systemic racism working in how resources are allocated to communities that remain de facto segregated.”

In June, Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers, who is Black, wrote that “Prejudiced and racist attitudes of individuals also infiltrate institutional structures and organizations, thus forming the foundation for systemic racism….The residual effects of these attitudes are still felt by many Catholics of color today.”

The Archdiocese of New York told CNA it had no comment on the pledge and the controversy that surrounded its recitation during Mass.

 

Spend Labor Day in solidarity with the poor, US bishops say

Thu, 09/03/2020 - 12:00

CNA Staff, Sep 3, 2020 / 10:00 am (CNA).- The U.S. bishops’ conference is encouraging solidarity, charity and compassion for low-income and essential workers during the upcoming Labor Day festivities in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

“This Labor Day is a somber one. The COVID-19 pandemic goes on,” said Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City in a statement released by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on Wednesday, Sept. 2.  

Archbishop Coakley is the chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

“The dignity of the human person, made in the image and likeness of God, is not at the center of our society in the way it should be,” said Coakley. “In some workplaces, this has meant an emphasis on profits over safety. That is unjust. Consumerism and individualism fuel pressures on employers and policy makers that lead to these outcomes.”

The archbishop said that the coronavirus’ impact on the economy has brought damage to the country’s financial, mental, and physical health.  

“Economic circumstances for so many families are stressful or even dire,” he said.  “Anxiety is high. Millions are out of work and wondering how they will pay the bills. And for workers deemed ‘essential’ who continue to work outside the home, there is the heightened danger of exposure to the virus.” 

While the situation is dire, said Coakley, Pope Francis’ reflections that the devastation wrought by the pandemic could result in a regeneration of beauty and hope. 

“God never abandons his people, he is always close to them, especially when pain becomes more present,” said Coakley. 

“God knows the challenges we face and the loss and grief we feel. The question to us is this: will we pray and willingly participate in God’s work healing the hurt, loss, and injustice that this pandemic has caused and exposed? Will we offer all we can to the Lord to ‘make all things new?’” 

Coakley lamented that essential workers, including “meat packers, agricultural workers, healthcare providers, janitors, transit workers, emergency responders, and others” have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic. 

“As a result, low wage workers, migrant workers, and workers of color, have borne a disproportionate share of the costs of the pandemic,” he said. Even prior to the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic, “a significant number of Americans were trapped in low wage jobs, with insecurity around food, housing, and health care, and with little opportunity for savings or advancing in their career,” a situation that has not been made any better.

“It is devastating to say, many have paid with their life,” said Coakley.

Coakley also touched on the growing civil unrest throughout the country, saying that things that “may have been hidden to some” are now being revealed.

“Against this backdrop, the murder of George Floyd was like lighting a match in a gas-filled room,” he said. 

There is, however, cause for optimism even amidst these times, said Coakley. 

“Injustice does not need to have the last word,” he said. “The Lord came to free us from sin, including the sins by which we diminish workers and ourselves.” 

Coakley advised Catholics to be conscious consumers of the goods they purchase, and to consider the origins of the items and how companies treat their employees. 

He also encouraged Congress and the White House to “reach a deal that prioritizes protecting the poor and vulnerable” as the government has played an “indispensable role” in addressing the various crises. 

The archbishop further noted that the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, which turns 50 this year, has done much to alleviate the effects of the pandemic. 

“The CCHD-supported Rural Community Workers Alliance has helped organize workers in rural Missouri, pressuring employers to take these concerns seriously and advancing the dignity of workers,” he said. “These groups, as well as labor unions and other worker associations, make an invaluable contribution to the safety and wellbeing of workers.”

Catholics, said Coakley, “are each called to practice solidarity with those in harm’s way” in order to preserve worker’s rights and their dignity. He encouraged people to donate to local food banks and Catholic Charities agencies. 

“Pope Francis is fond of citing the 1964 dogmatic constitution, Lumen Gentium, which reminded us that ‘no one can save themselves alone,’” said Coakley.  

“This is true in this life and the next. The fruits of individualism are clear in the disparities brought to light by this crisis. Through our work of solidarity, let us be a counter-witness to individualism.”

Kamala Harris quizzed judicial nominees over Christian adoption and faith values

Thu, 09/03/2020 - 11:10

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 3, 2020 / 09:10 am (CNA).- Vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris questioned a judicial nominee over his affiliation with a Christian adoption agency, and another about briefs he wrote for religious liberty lawsuits against the federal contraception mandate. She also questioned another nominee because he had been endorsed by a Texas pro-life organization.

In December 2018, CNA first reported that, as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Harris had criticized a Catholic judicial nominee for his membership of the Knights of Columbus. Those questions now appear to be for Harris part of a pattern of scrutinizing the association of judicial nominees with various faith-based groups and civic organizations, including Christian adoption agencies and women’s pregnancy support centers. 

In one year alone, Harris questioned prospective judges about abortion, contraception, faith based adoption and fostering, transgender rights, and same sex marriage. 

In August 2018,  Harris questioned Jonathan Allen Kobes, nominee to the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, about his membership of the board of Bethany Christian Services, a global non-profit that provides adoption services and crisis pregnancy support.

In 2012, Kobes was on the board of Bethany’s location in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, according to his nominee questionnaire for the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Harris, in her questions for the record, asked Kobes about Bethany’s Philadelphia location. The city of Philadelphia in 2018 had stopped referring foster children to both Bethany and Catholic Social Services of the archdiocese, due to their faith-based policies of not working with same-sex couples on foster children placement.

Bethany eventually changed its policy and began working with same-sex couples by June 2018, while Catholic Social Services maintained its former position, and has had no new foster care placements with Philadelphia. Its legal battle with the city has reached the Supreme Court, which will hear arguments this fall in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia.

After Bethany Christian resumed its foster care placements with the city of Philadelphia, Harris asked Kobes if he was “aware that Bethany Christian Services discriminated against LGBTQ couples who sought to adopt children?”

Kobes replied that he sat on the board of the Sioux Falls chapter of the organization, and was “aware” of Bethany’s policy.

Harris followed up her initial question by asking the nominee if he contributed to the group’s policy through advice, advocacy, or by drafting it, to which he replied in the negative.

In a Dec. 11, 2018 release after Kobes’ confirmation by the Senate, the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) noted his position on the board and called Bethany Christian “a fake women’s health center in South Dakota.”

In 2018, Harris also questioned three different judicial nominees over their membership in the global Catholic organization Knights of Columbus. She said that the pro-life and pro-marriage views of the Knights conflicted with constitutional rights to abortion and same-sex marriage, and questioned the nominees’ suitability for office.

CNA was first to report her questioning of Brian C. Buescher in Dec., 2018. He was nominated for the U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska and eventually confirmed. She asked him if he was “aware” that the Knights of Columbus opposed “a woman’s right to choose” and “marriage equality” when he became a member, and if he agreed with Anderson’s statements on abortion.

In her written questions on May 2, 2018, for the nomination of Peter Phipps as a district court judge, Harris noted his membership in the Knights since 2011 and said the group was “limited only to men.”

“The Knights of Columbus state that they ‘[defend] the right to life of every human being, from the moment of conception to natural death,’” Harris noted, before asking Phipps if, as a member, he “carried out” this mission and would do so on the bench.

“Must you swear an oath in order to join this organization? If so, what is that oath?” Harris asked. “When your group’s organizational values conflict with litigants’ constitutional rights, how can litigants in your court expect a fair hearing?”

Later in November 2018, Harris brought up the Knights’ membership of nominee Paul Matey, who was being considered for the federal Third Circuit appeals court.

She noted that the Knights were a “top contributor” to Proposition 8, the 2008 California ballot initiative to define marriage as between one man and one woman. She asked Matey if he was “aware” of the Knights’ stance on marriage and, in reference to same-sex marriage, asked if he believed “the right to marry carries an implicit guarantee that everyone should be able to exercise that right equally?”

Harris also cited Supreme Knight Carl Anderson’s 2016 statements against abortion as “a legal regime that has resulted in more than 40 million deaths” and which is “the killing of the innocent on a massive scale.” She asked Matey if he was “aware” of that stance and if he agreed with Anderson’s statements.

“Do you believe that a fetus is entitled to any protection under the U.S. Constitution?” Harris asked Matey.

After CNA reported Harris’ questions to Buescher, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said that “such attacks on the basis of our Catholic faith are hardly new. The Knights of Columbus was formed amid a period of anti-Catholic bigotry.”

Harris also grilled nominees over their past statements on sexuality and gender identity. In her questions to Kobes, she brought up a 2017 statement in which he said that the redefinition of marriage was still “brand new” in the U.S. and a “huge shock” to conservatives, and that access to bathrooms by persons of a different biological sex was still a “very difficult” issue for many people.

“What was ‘very difficult’ about allowing transgender students to express their gender identities?” Harris asked Kobes.

In another case, Harris brought up previous legal briefs written by current Ninth Circuit Appeals Court Judge Daniel Collins; he had previously authored briefs in support of the Little Sisters of the Poor and Hobby Lobby in their cases against the HHS birth control mandate. Collins wrote on behalf of the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

Harris asked Collins if he believed “that improving women’s access to contraception advances equality.”

She focused on not only the writings of nominees, but also endorsements of them by other organizations.

In her written questions submitted on May 29, 2019 regarding district court nominee Jason Pilliam, Harris focused on a 2018 endorsement of Pulliam for the Texas Fourth Court of Appeals by the Texas Leadership Institute for Public Advocacy (TLIPA). The group says it rates candidates for office based upon “‘non-negotiable’ intrinsic moral evils” that include abortion and abortion-inducing drugs, euthanasia, non-traditional marriage, human cloning, and destruction of embryos for research.

“Do you believe that reproductive rights, marriage equality, and the other matters mentioned on TLIPA’s website are ‘moral evils that have plunged our nation into deep moral crisis’?” she asked.

Regarding the nomination of Eric Murphy to the Sixth Circuit federal appeals court, Harris said in her Oct. 17, 2018 written questions that he signed friend-of-the-court briefs in support of states’ decisions to defund Planned Parenthood.

“Did you consider the abortion access of poor women before signing these briefs?” Harris asked.

Catholic students offer support after arson at University of Delaware Jewish center

Thu, 09/03/2020 - 06:00

Denver Newsroom, Sep 3, 2020 / 04:00 am (CNA).- The Chabad Center for Jewish Life in Newark, Delaware was damaged by arson in the late evening hours of Aug. 25. The building, which serves Jewish students of the University of Delaware, was unoccupied at the time, and no one was hurt.

The State Fire Marshal’s Office has ruled the blaze to be arson, adding that the motive of the fire remains under investigation. The assistant state fire marshal initially estimated the damage at some $200,000.

Father Tim McIntire, OSFS, pastor of St. Thomas More Oratory and chaplain at the University of Delaware's Catholic Campus Ministry, told CNA that his church, which is located just across campus from the Chabad Center, took up a second collection at Sunday Mass to raise money for their neighbors.

He said the fire greatly upset many of the Catholic university students who attend the Oratory, who are now eager to help the Chabad Center get back on its feet. The center serves between 100-200 Jewish students regularly.

"It just continues this streak of attacks on our Judeo-Christian heritage; Churches being burned, statues being destroyed and vandalized. I find it really sickening," McIntire commented, referring to the spate of attacks against churches and art across the US in recent months. 

The Oratory reached out to the Chabad Center via email and telephone soon after the fire, McIntire said. Although they haven't yet received a response from the rabbi, he said they plan to send over the check for the Center to use as they see fit in their rebuilding efforts.

McIntire also said he had told the rabbi that they are welcome to use space in the Oratory building, if necessary, until their building is usable.

Chabad is a Hasidic movement of Judaism. The Chabad Center in Newark is not university-owned, but the university’s president offered support to the campus’ Jewish community in an Aug. 26 message.

“Respect for others is a key value at the University of Delaware, and we condemn anyone who would seek to harm any part of our Blue Hen family,” President Dennis Assanis and Vice President for Student Life José-Luis Riera said Aug. 26.

“We stand firmly with our friends in the Jewish community at this difficult time.”

According to another Jewish student organization at the university, there are about 2,250 undergraduate Jewish students at UD, making up about 13% of the undergraduate population. UD has three registered student organizations serving Jewish students.

Several online fundraisers, including a GoFundMe set up by the Students of Chabad UD, have to date raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from more than 8,700 donors across the country to rebuild the Center.

Newark officials confirmed this week that they are investigating several intentional fires set in the city over the past few weeks. These include the fire at the Chabad Center, as well as a townhouse under construction that was set alight, and several trash fires.

Another Chabad Center for Jewish Life, located in Portland, Oregon, was damaged in a fire Aug. 19, but authorities have not declared that fire an arson.

Dealing with grief in a time of coronavirus

Wed, 09/02/2020 - 19:03

Denver Newsroom, Sep 2, 2020 / 05:03 pm (CNA).- In normal times - when there is not a global pandemic - Linda Dyson assists Catholics at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Atlanta, Georgia with pastoral care ministries, which are for people who are experiencing some kind of spiritual, emotional, or physical need.

“Which means everything's sad,” Dyson said. “All of the sad ministries fall under me.”

This includes everything surrounding death - pre-funeral planning, day-of funeral coordination, and post-funeral services such as grief classes.

Now, when there is a global pandemic, Dyson is still in charge of pastoral care ministries - but many things have changed. In Atlanta, as in most places throughout the country, the coronavirus pandemic has impacted everything surrounding grief, from families not being able to say goodbye to their dying loved ones due to isolation and quarantine, to small funeral sizes due to limits on crowds, to few supports available after the funeral because of fears of spreading the virus.

“After the March announcement about the virus...the tragic thing is that we were in the middle of two relatively large funeral plans for two people who had just died,” Dyson said.

One person was a prominent artist from the area. Another one was a young man from a university.

“So obviously, two different types of funerals, but at the same time, a lot of people that loved both of those individuals,” she said.

Within a matter of days, due to coronavirus precautions, the families at those funerals went from anticipating “400, maybe even 800 people” to not being allowed to gather more than 10 people in a space.

“The family of the young man went ahead and had a funeral, and there were probably about 10 people there,” Dyson said.

The artist’s family decided to postpone, to see if they could wait to hold the funeral until more people were allowed to gather.

“So, that's really been the flavor of the whole (pandemic) period is either getting along without your closest friends and family, and having to limit the funeral to a much smaller size,” she said, or postponing in hopes that restrictions lift to a point where a larger funeral is allowed.

Neither situation - a limited funeral, or a delayed funeral - is ideal, Dyson said. For families who press on, the funeral experience is very stripped down - no sympathizing with anyone other than immediate family, no luncheon after the funeral to swap stories with friends, no lines of hugs and condolences.

“It's really the family, the remains of the person that they love, and the Eucharist, which in some ways is very lovely, and in some ways it's heart wrenching, all at the same time,” she said.

She added that “2020 probably has to be the worst year for grief.”

“When you think about grief, there is that aspect of wanting to be alone and just to process that grief,” she said, “but a big part of that processing is community. And so when we don't have that community, you don't have the people that you would normally expect to come by and even bring a fresh baked loaf of bread, and they're not coming over to hug you, and there's no touching, and there's no warmth - there's an extra layer of loss.”

Even as some coronavirus restrictions have eased, many still remain in place. Nursing homes and hospitals still maintain strict rules on visitors, meaning that some families may miss the opportunity to say goodbye to a sick and dying loved one. Gatherings in Georgia are now limited to 50 people - still a far cry from the hundreds that used to show up at bigger funerals.

Dr. Julie Masters, a professor of gerontology at the University of Nebraska Omaha, said that pandemic-induced limits on the normal death and grieving processes can make it even harder for people to cope with loss, “especially those who have either a close relationship with the deceased or those who may have had a strained relationship.”

Those with strained relationships with the deceased may have lost opportunities to make amends, Masters said, while those in a close relationship with the deceased “might [have] a feeling of letting the person down by not being present, especially at the end.”

“Grief is itself disorienting,” Masters added. Normally, if someone misses the moment of death of a loved one, they might look to ceremonies such as wakes, rosaries and funerals as a way to process those emotions, as those services “all give some amount of structure to saying goodbye.”

Canceled or restricted ceremonies take away those structures.

“As things are now, even the usual sources of support are lacking,” she said.

Kevin Prendergast is a Catholic clinical counselor who has been practicing for 32 years. He has counseled people who have experienced loss directly from coronavirus as well as other kinds of losses. He has also spoken to clergy who have ministered to those experiencing loss at this time.

Pandemic restrictions can disrupt grief in certain ways, Prendergast said. Being unable to attend the funeral of a loved one may mean that the loss takes even longer to process. There might be feelings of “I can’t believe they’re really gone,” he said.

Prendergast said that loss and grief are already very difficult, and that customs in the United States surrounding death typically do not allow people adequate time and space to process their emotions, when compared to other countries.

“We don't have the same way of approaching death or the same foundation or rituals that other people have,” he said.

For example, he said, he has numerous friends from Africa, including a priest from Ghana whose mother died in early spring.

Due to the pandemic, the priest has not yet been able to travel back to Ghana to mourn his mother, but once he does get back, “there's a whole set of rituals that people go through the month after the person dies, and then at different intervals, and then there's the big one at the first anniversary of the death,” Prendergast said.

People will walk for days and come for miles around to be with the bereaved and offer their support, and feelings of grief are expected to last a long time.

But in the United States, the approach to grief seems to be “all about getting closure. And I think people mean by that, ‘Well, why aren't you, or are you over your mother's death now? It's been a month, you're probably getting back to normal,’” Prendergast said.

“And I think what people just don't realize...is grief just takes time,” he said.

“Grief...comes in waves. At the beginning it's really intense, but then it does subside and get back to some normal. But then all of a sudden, out of the blue, because there's the special date on the calendar, or we see a location or we hear a song, we look at a picture, and it all comes back. And so I think we have to ride through those waves,” he said.

But even in the face of pandemic precautions and limitations, there is much that can still be done by friends, family and the community that can support the bereaved, Masters said.

“It becomes necessary for people to find a way to sort things out in their minds. This is where having good friends who are willing to listen to our stories over and over become key,” she said, or pastoral ministers, deacons and priests who can step in and fill the gaps when friends or family are scarce.

Offering condolences or support “in person may not be possible, but perhaps with a phone call,” she said, adding that older people may prefer simple calls to more complicated technology if they are not well-versed in it. Regular check-ins and sending notes or cards are also important, she said.

“This is key for them - and also for us. We are called to be there for each other,” she said.

“Showing up” for the bereaved continues to be important even months after the loss, Prendergast said. If there is a delayed funeral or memorial service that is safer to attend as restrictions are lifted, show up. When the deceased person’s birthday or anniversary comes, send a note or make a call.

Telling stories about the deceased are also a great comfort to the bereaved, he added.

“Any story: ‘I remember this about your dad’, or ‘Did your dad ever tell you this?’ or ‘Maybe I've never mentioned to you how much your loved one helped me, what they meant to me.’ People treasure those stories. A lot of times that'll happen at the funeral service or afterwards, people will say those kinds of things. And we can't replace that,” he said, but phone calls or letters with those stories go a long way.

Masters added that she has been heartened by the many good people and accommodations being made for those experiencing loss during the pandemic.

“There are so many people who are doing great things that we fail to see. Funeral directors who are conducting services with few people or no one present. Priests whose role in life is to provide us the sacraments but are limited in what they can do. Nursing assistants, nurses, doctors, housekeepers, dietary staff, who are serving in a surrogate role as the last people to be present while someone is dying is also impactful. They need our prayers to sustain them,” she said. “They exemplify Bishop Robert Barron’s quote: ‘Your life is not about you.’”

Dyson said at the cathedral, they’ve tried to make as many accommodations as possible. They live-stream funeral services for families and offer DVD copies, in case anyone missed the live version. They’ve arranged phone-calls and visitations - even if limited, outdoor, distanced ones - when possible. They’ve sent out prayer shawls and cards to grieving families, “just to let people know that we care and we haven't forgotten.”

The parish grief classes were transferred online to Zoom, and then partially in-person and partially online as restrictions lifted. Dyson said that the grief class, which started in April and just wrapped up, went “very, very well.”

“I think the pain and the struggle and the challenges that they went through had an unexpected benefit, in the sense that they all have a deep sense of what grief is, and also a sense of purpose,” she said.

Several people from the class that just wrapped up have offered to minister to other people experiencing grief, Dyson said. Usually it takes people much longer to get to a place where they want to minister to other grieving people, she noted, but this class “really feels committed to paying it forward.”

Masters said for those who have lost someone during the pandemic, establishing reminders of their “continuing bond” with that person is important.

“There is never really closure,” she said. “What it is  - is learning to live without the person in a physical way but realizing they are still part of our lives. Grief researchers talk about continuing bonds. Whether it is memories, stories, photographs or other things that serve as reminders of how the people we have lost are still part of us,” she said.

Prendergast said this is where Christians - and particularly Catholics - are at an advantage.

“We believe in the communion of saints. We believe in the resurrection, we believe in eternal life. And so we can talk to our loved one and we can ask their intercession, we can pray for them if they're in purgatory, or wherever they are. That really matters,” he said.

This can be especially powerful for people who weren’t able to be with their loved one at their death or at their funeral, and who need to ask for forgiveness or make amends in some way, he added.

“I think through the communion of saints and our spiritual belief, there's a way that we can make amends and ask for forgiveness, even after someone's gone,” he said.

Prendergast said he has had some clients write down letters of amends or reconciliation, and take them to the cemetery to read out loud at their loved one’s grave.

“As Catholics, we know that that's a powerful reality, that forgiveness, reconciliation can continue even after death,” he said.

The pandemic and the many ways it has impacted death and grief could be a good wake-up call for people to cherish the time that they have with their loved ones, and to seek reconciliation where it is needed, Prendergast added.

“I don't want to waste time, so let me redouble my efforts with the people that are still living, so as not to have those regrets when they're gone,” he said.

Masters also said that this time of pandemic could be the impetus people need to do some serious thinking and planning when it comes to the end of their life - from advanced care planning (making decisions about healthcare in advance), to getting their relational and spiritual lives in order.

“The focus on physical health is key but what about spiritual health – especially for the person whose life has not always gone as planned?” she said.

“We seem to be viewing things in the short-term rather than the implications of isolation (and similar restrictions), in the long-term. This is also important,” she said.

Ultimately, “God is showing us something important with COVID-19,” Masters noted.

“We are not in control, only he is. The more we can prepare ourselves for the end, the better.”

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