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Updated: 36 min 52 sec ago

US bishops ask Catholics to pray for Brownsville diocese border wall fight

Fri, 06/19/2020 - 18:27

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 19, 2020 / 04:27 pm (CNA).- For Religious Freedom Week 2020, the U.S. Catholic bishops are highlighting an unusual case—a Texas chapel that could be demolished or cut off by construction of the U.S.-Mexico border wall.

The historic La Lomita Chapel in Mission, Texas, built in 1865 and owned by the Diocese of Brownsville, is administered by the nearby Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church. In 2018, the Trump administration informed the diocese that it planned to survey the property where the chapel is located to possibly construct the U.S.-Mexico border wall on the property.

The Diocese of Brownsville has fought the construction and the surveying of the land in court, and on June 26, during Religious Freedom Week, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) will ask Catholics to pray for their case.

Beginning on June 22, the feast of Saints Thomas More and John Fisher, and running through June 29, the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, the week will advocate the Church’s work “For the Good of All” in ministries such as education, social services, and health care.

“The freedom of the Church is a foundational aspect of religious freedom,” Chieko Noguchi, a spokeswoman for the conference, told CNA.

“Freedom of the Church means that the Church cannot be impeded by the civil authorities from engaging in her mission. That mission includes ministry to those fleeing violence and poverty,” she said.

Religious Freedom Week is an annual time of advocacy by the bishops’ conference to draw attention to religious freedom issues of the day. The effort began in 2012 with the Fortnight for Freedom, a period of prayer, fasting, and advocacy from June 21 until July 4, Independence Day.

The initial fortnight called attention to the HHS contraceptive mandate which threatened Catholic charities and orders such as the Little Sisters of the Poor, as well as state laws that forbade churches from “harboring” undocumented immigrants in ministering to them.

Now, the fortnight has become Religious Freedom Week, and this year’s week focuses on issues including religious freedom in health care, the persecution of Catholics and of ethnic Uighur, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, and Hui Muslims in China, and religious conflict in the Central African Republic.

And on June 26, the Brownsville diocese case will be highlighted by the USCCB.

According to the government’s plan for surveying the diocesan property, the chapel could end up on the southern side of the border wall, which would pose serious difficulties for those looking to access the chapel from the north.

“I don’t want to use church property to say that no matter how dire your life is, you cannot be received here,” Bishop Daniel Flores told the Wall Street Journal in December. “The government is going to have to take the land. The church is not going to give it them.”

The diocese opposed the plan in court under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). That 1993 law requires the government to, when it places a substantial burden on someone’s free exercise of religion, prove that its action has a “compelling governmental interest” and is the least-restrictive means of advancing that interest. Georgetown University’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection represented the diocese in court.

In February of 2019, a federal district court judge ruled that the government could survey the land for the possible construction, as it would not necessarily need access to the chapel to do so.

Shortly after the decision, a congressional funding compromise appropriated more than $1 billion for the border wall but included a clause prohibiting construction of a wall on the La Lomita property, as well as several other locations on the border.

President Trump, however, declared a national emergency after he signed the compromise into law, which allowed him to divert more funding toward the wall and which technically was not subject to the limitations of Congress against constructing the wall in certain areas.

Trump’s declaration, as a justification for funding the border wall, is still being considered by courts. In February of 2020, he extended the national emergency declaration for another year.

On June 26, the USCCB is asking Catholics to pray for the diocese’s case that the chapel not be affected by the border wall.

The bishops’ conference is also calling on Catholics to educate themselves about the law in question, RFRA, which it says is “under attack” by proposed legislation in Congress that would undermine it.

“The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) has provided persons of all faiths with protection against government intrusion,” the conference says, noting that the proposed Equality Act and Do No Harm Act would threaten RFRA.

 

Ahead of election, political advocacy group says it aims to encourage Catholic turnout

Fri, 06/19/2020 - 17:00

CNA Staff, Jun 19, 2020 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- After an Arizona bishop expressed concern about political organizations engaging with local parishes, the leader of one such group said some perceptions about his organization do not square with the facts.

Bishop Edward Weisenburger wrote to priests of the Tucson diocese earlier this month, reflecting on the upcoming election season.

The bishop’s email, obtained by CNA, said that two pastors in the diocese had been approached by local members of a Wisconsin-based group called CatholicVote. They reportedly “wanted to connect with the parish and/or local Councils of the Knights of the Columbus.”

No political organization, the bishop said, can “be allowed to meet or advertise on parish property. Likewise, they may not share their communications through any parish or Catholic-sponsored entities in the Diocese of Tucson.”

“In short,” political organizations “may not be on our property,” Weisenburger wrote.

A representative of Weisenburger’s office confirmed the email to CNA, but declined to answer further questions.

Brian Burch, CatholicVote president, told CNA he respects Weisenburger’s concerns and decision. But in Arizona, he said, there might have been some misunderstanding about his organization’s work.

“Our program does not include any activities on church property or the use of church resources,” he said.

Burch said his organization has “thousands of volunteers” and it is possible that some “may indeed have contacted their local pastor or parish priest in order to solicit their participation in encouraging Catholics in their parish to register to vote, or to vote.” 

“However, there has never been any directive or recommendation that volunteers request or seek parish data files or lists -- or that they engage in any partisan activity on parish property, or with parish staff,” he added.

“Our program is designed to operate entirely as a lay-organized effort, independent of church property and resources, and without the participation of pastors, priests, or diocesan staff.” 

“We understand many bishops and pastors have concerns over the prohibition of political activities by tax-exempt entities, and we respect their concerns.  They have nothing to fear from our work,” Burch said.

CatholicVote is organized as a lobbying organization and both a related political action committee and 501(c)(3) non-profit. Burch told CNA the group aims “to achieve historic turnout among Catholics in the upcoming November election.”

In particular, Burch said, the group is “focused on turning out every active (practicing) Catholic voter.”

CatholicVote says it is non-partisan and aims to encourage voter registration and voting among practicing Catholics.

“These voters, according to polling, are likely to vote for pro-life candidates, which no doubt frustrates some so-called progressives,” Burch told CNA.

Still, the group’s own platform is not completely aligned with either major party platform.

On its website, a section entitled “What We Believe” notes the importance of “a culture that celebrates life,” says that “marriage is between one man and one woman,” notes that “we are all called to help the poor,” calls for environmental stewardship, and adds that “the death penalty is an unnecessary legal penalty in the developed world.”

The group, however, in Facebook and web posts, regularly promotes decisions or policies of President Donald Trump and other Republican lawmakers, and regularly criticizes Democratic lawmakers.

CatholicVote has run social media posts and spoken in favor of Democratic Congressman Dan Lipinski, regarded as one of the last pro-life Democrats in Congress, who was defeated in a recent primary race and will lose his Congressional seat in January.

And while the group has sometimes been characterized as a Trump campaign operation, Burch said that’s not accurate.

In a 2016 column, Burch explained that “CatholicVote members have been clear: secure as many commitments from Trump as possible” on issues that matter to Catholics.

“If he has any hope of getting elected, he needs our votes, and we must work constructively in a very imperfect situation to advance our ideals as best as we can.”

As to 2020, Burch said CatholicVote will likely offer an endorsement, but it hasn’t yet.

“As of today Catholic Vote has not yet formally endorsed a candidate for 2020.  As you know we did not endorse Donald Trump (nor Hillary) in 2016. We have however been very outspoken supporters of Trump policies, and critics of Biden. It’s fair to presume that we likely will endorse the President soon, even if some of our programs, especially our field efforts, continue to focus exclusively on turnout.”

Some aspects of the group’s efforts, like mobile targeting initiatives that allowed CatholicVote to target ads to mobile users who had attended a church in the months prior, have been criticized in Catholic circles. Mobile targeting technology has become commonplace in modern political advocacy, but some Catholics characterized it as invasive.

Burch has said technology is a way of helping Catholics get organized, and helping pro-life advocates compete in political races.

“Our priority now is reaching out and encouraging as many Catholic voters as possible to vote,” he told CNA.

The CatholicVote leader told CNA that the organization’s mission is appropriate to the vocation of lay Catholics.

“Politics is the responsibility of the laity. We have always honored and will continue to respect the limits of what churches and priests are permitted to do under existing law.  While church officials cannot engage in certain political activities, there are no such restrictions for lay Catholics operating outside of Church property,” Burch said. 

“We do not operate as an organization claiming to authoritatively teach the Faith.  We have never claimed to speak on behalf of any bishop or the United States Conference of Bishops and explicitly disclaim any such role.  Our work is focused on public policy and law, and encouraging Catholics to live out their Faith in public life,” he said.

In his email to priests, Weisenburger criticized CatholicVote’s name, noting “it is against canon law to use the word ‘Catholic’ in an organization that is not sponsored by the Church.” 

The bishop’s remark apparently is a reference to canon 300, which deals with associations erected under the auspices of canon law. Of those groups, the canon says that “No association is to assume the name Catholic without the consent of competent ecclesiastical authority.”

Burch told CNA that “we have consulted canonists on the question of our name, and there is a diversity of opinion as to whether the particular canon even applies.”

“There are hundreds of organizations that use the name ‘Catholic’ in their work without formal approval, including some like the National Catholic Reporter who have been explicitly told to cease using the name but chose instead to ignore it,” Burch added. In 1968, the National Catholic Reporter was directed by Bishop Charles Helmsing of Kansas City to remove the word ‘Catholic’ from its name, and did not comply.

In any case, Burch said that CatholicVote has made efforts to work with bishops, and build relationships with them.

“When we incorporated in Madison, Wisconsin, we met personally with the Bishop and presented our mission and work. He was careful to distinguish between our unique role as laypersons and his leadership as bishop. He wanted to ensure that our work was faithful to church teaching and that we make clear that we were not speaking in his name or any other bishop. He approved of our work admitting that the need for formal canonical approval was uncertain. We have never published or advocated anything that we understand to be in violation of the teachings of the Church.  If anyone can show me otherwise, we'd be happy to correct the error,” Burch told CNA.

While Burch told CNA he understands there have been misperceptions about CatholicVote’s work, “there is no confusion among anyone that has actually spoken with us. Unfortunately, in some cases, false information has been spread to try and harm our efforts.  We would hope that those who have concerns about our work would seek understanding first.”

Burch also told CNA that ahead of a contentious election year, he hopes more clerics will also encourage lay political activity.

“I believe it is not only appropriate, but essential that pastors and priests encourage their parishioners to register and to vote. According to our research, as much as 30% or more of most parishes include voters that are not registered, or are infrequent voters. Given the stakes of this election, every pastor in America should be preaching on the importance of Catholic participation in our electoral process,” Burch said.

“You don't need to be partisan, or endorse any candidates, to remind Catholics of this moral duty,” he added. 

“With the likelihood of many parishes and schools closing, our charities under attack, our social service programs being shut down, and public policies that take direct aim at the Church itself, you would think our bishops and priests might muster the courage to at least ask people to vote?” 

Weisenburger himself has a record of encouraging Catholics to vote, and offering guidance for the voting booth.

In a video released ahead of the 2016 election, the bishop told Catholics it is “essential that we have judges who respect the right to life and marriage as a covenant between one man and one woman, and who will protect religious freedom and rights of conscience.”

In his 2020 email to priests, Weisenburger affirmed his committment to forming Catholics to vote.

“Our task as ministers of the Gospel is to preach the Gospel and the values that flow from it. Many of our Church’s teachings on ethics, morality, and justice pertain to the common good and therefore are rightly known as political issues.  It is our task to speak to the issues and thus to help form correctly the conscience of our people. Likewise, we are to urge them to appropriate political involvement and especially to exercise their right to vote. Experience has taught that we are quite capable of influencing the common good by influencing the conscience of our people. This does not require us to take a partisan stand,” the bishop wrote.

What is the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart? A CNA Explainer

Fri, 06/19/2020 - 15:20

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 19, 2020 / 01:20 pm (CNA).- Today, June 19, is the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. But what does that mean? 

Why are Catholics today spending time today venerating the heart of Jesus?

“Devoting ourselves to the Sacred Heart is one of the easiest, fastest, and most pleasant ways to grow in holiness,” Fr. Ambrose Dobrozsi, a priest of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, told CNA.

“Many saints have done many things to grow close to Jesus Christ, but no way is more sure and more pleasing to Him than to consecrate ourselves to his Sacred Heart through the Immaculate Heart of his Mother,” he added.

Where does devotion to the Sacred Heart come from?

The story behind the modern iteration of the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, however, begins on December 27, 1673 at a monastery belonging to the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary (Visitandines) in eastern France.

There, a nun named Sr. Margaret Mary Alacoque began experiencing visions of the Sacred Heart.

Those visions continued for 18 months.

During her visions, Sr. Margaret Mary learned ways to venerate the Sacred Heart of Christ.

These devotions including the concept of a holy hour on Thursdays, the creation of the Feast of the Sacred Heart after Corpus Christi, and the reception of the Eucharist on the first Friday of every month.

As with many mystics, many people were skeptical of Sr. Margaret Mary’s claims of visions. Her confessor, the then-Fr. Claude La Colombière, S.J., (now St. Claude La Colombière, S.J.) believed her, and eventually the mother superior of her community began to believe as well.

The first Feast of the Sacred Heart was celebrated privately at the monastery in 1686.

Sr. Margaret Mary died in 1690, and was canonized by Pope Benedict XV on May 13, 1920.

Initially, the Vatican was hesitant to declare a Feast of the Sacred Heart, but did allow the Visitandines to celebrate a Mass special to this day. As the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus spread throughout France, the Vatican granted the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to France in 1765.

In 1856, after much lobbying by French bishops on behalf of the Feast of the Sacred Heart, Pope Pius IX designated the Friday following the Feast of Corpus Christi as the Feast of the Sacred Heart for the entire Latin rite Church.

On May 25, 1899, Pope Leo XIII promulgated the encyclical Annum sacrum, which consecrated the entire world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This encyclical was written after a nun, Sr. Mary of the Sacred Heart, sent two letters to the pope requesting that he consecrate the world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Sr. Mary of the Sacred Heart wrote the letters, she said, after Jesus made the request to her. Pope Leo XIII called this encyclical and the subsequent consecration the “great act” of his papacy.

“Finally, there is one motive which We are unwilling to pass over in silence, personal to Ourselves it is true, but still good and weighty, which moves Us to undertake this celebration. God, the author of every good, not long ago preserved Our life by curing Us of a dangerous disease,” wrote Leo XIII.

“We now wish, by this increase of the honor paid to the Sacred Heart, that the memory of this great mercy should be brought prominently forward, and Our gratitude be publicly acknowledged.”

But why consecrate the world--or anyone--to the Sacred Heart of Jesus? What does that mean?

Pope Leo XIII described the act of consecration as one that will “establish or draw tighter the bonds which naturally connect public affairs with God,” which was especially needed for the world at the turn of the century.  
 
“While many see religion as unnecessary in a world with more and more technology and resources, swearing allegiance and consecrating ourselves to Christ the King in his Sacred Heart shows that humanity still needs and longs for a compassionate and all-powerful God,” Dobrozsi, the Cincinnati priest, told CNA.

“In a society where some live in decadence and prideful luxury while others are destitute, the burning love of Christ’s Sacred Heart reminds us that the fires of his mercy are also fires of justice. And when the culture, and so many of us, feel hopeless that we could ever change after falling to sins of the flesh, the Heart of our Lord beats with powerful love, eternally declaring that true charity has triumphed over sin and death,” he added. 

 

Catholic Diocese of Syracuse to file for bankruptcy amid Child Victims Act suits

Fri, 06/19/2020 - 14:16

CNA Staff, Jun 19, 2020 / 12:16 pm (CNA).- The Diocese of Syracuse announced Friday it would file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy amid the financial impact of numerous sexual abuse lawsuits.

New York’s Child Victims Act, which passed early last year, opened a one-year window for adults in the state who were sexually abused as children to file lawsuits against their abusers.

The CVA also allows child abuse victims to file criminal charges up to age 28, and lawsuits up to age 55. Previously, they had until the age of 23 to file charges or a civil claim.

Bishop Douglas Lucia— who has led the diocese for less than a year— said in a June 19 letter that without the reorganization, alleged victims who filed their abuse claims under the CVA first, or pursued their claim more aggressively, would deplete the dioceses’ resources and leave the diocese unable to pay other alleged victims.

“The challenge this situation presents our Diocese is simply that one jury award could so diminish our assets that we would have little or nothing with which to resolve the other claims or carry on the important ministries of our diocese,” he wrote.

The bankruptcy filing will create a process where claims are treated in a “just and equitable way,” so that “available funds will be allocated to all victims fairly,” Lucia said.

“Today’s action will require the Diocese to be under court supervision in its Chapter 11 case for many months. However, after an exhaustive study by myself and those in Diocesan Administration, I feel it is the only way we can address victims’ claims in the most fair and equitable manner, while maintaining the vital ministries and mission of the diocese,” he wrote.

Lucia said at a June 19 press conference that the decision to file bankruptcy was primarily in reaction to the number of sexual abuse lawsuits— over 100— that the diocese currently is facing.

“All claims of abuse are decades old, dating back from 1949 to the 1990s,” he said.

Future sexual abuse claims will have to be brought before the Northern Distrct of New York bankruptcy court. The bankruptcy court will set a final date when claimants can file sexual abuse claims against the diocese, diocesan lawyer Charles Sullivan said, and a court-appointed person will evaluate the claims.

Lucia said only the diocese itself has filed for Chapter 11; the parishes, foundation, Catholic Charities, and Catholic schools of Syracuse are separate corporations and are not affected by the bankruptcy filing.

Stephan Breen, the diocese’s CFO, said the filing would not affect the parishes and schools because parishes are primarily supported by collections, and schools by tuition, rather than from contributions from the diocese.

The diocese has 158 employees in total and Breen said no layoffs are expected at this time.

Lucia requested prayers for victims of abuse on the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

“I can’t apologize enough for the heinous acts that were perpetrated against the young of our diocese, and I ask you to join me in the diocesan commitment that this will never happen again,” Lucia said.

Syracuse joins several other New York dioceses in declaring bankruptcy, as well as dozens across the country, many in response to sexual abuse lawsuits.

The dioceses of Buffalo and Rochester both have declared bankruptcy in the past year— Rochester during September 2019 and Buffalo during Feb 2020.  

In April, the Buffalo and Rochester dioceses sued the Small Business Administration after they were blocked from emergency small business loans under the Paycheck Protection Program because of their bankruptcy status. Earlier this month, a federal judge rejected the lawsuit.

The Diocese of Rockville Centre has requested a pause in the proceedings of numerous sex abuse lawsuits it is facing, and said it may have to declare bankruptcy if it is not granted.

The CVA “window” is expected to be extended until August 2021; Governor Andrew Cuomo had previously extended it to January 2021. Statewide, alleged victims have filed over 1,700 lawsuits.

Christopher Columbus name won't be changed at Wisconsin Catholic high school

Fri, 06/19/2020 - 02:00

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 19, 2020 / 12:00 am (CNA).- A Catholic high school in Wisconsin will not change its name from “Columbus Catholic High School” after a petition from alumni and other members of the community requested the change. But with Columbus statues coming down in cities across the country, one expert says the explorer has been mischaracterized.

The Wisconsin petition, which was started by three recent graduates of the high school, demands that the name of the school be changed and that a statue of Christopher Columbus be removed from the front of the school.

The petition charged that Columbus “acted in deeply racist ways,” mistreated and enslaved indigenous people, and “represents racism and hatred.”

But David Eaton, the president of Columbus Catholic Schools, explained in a letter several reasons why the schools would not be changing their name. Eaton’s letter was initially published on a Facebook page for alumni of the school, and was subsequently re-published in local media.

Columbus Catholic Schools includes two schools--Columbus Catholic High School and Columbus Catholic Middle School--both named after Christopher Columbus.

The reason the schools were named, Eaton explained, was not out of blind admiration for the 15th-century Italian explorer. Rather, it was done to honor the people who funded the construction of the school — local Knights of Columbus.

“Like all histories, the history of Columbus Catholic Schools is long and somewhat complicated,” Eaton began his letter. He explained that in 1882, the first Catholic church in the town of Marshfield, Wisconsin was completed, with the city’s first Catholic school coming six years later.

In 1915, the Knights of Columbus chartered a council in the town, and the area’s Catholic population grew until it became clear there was a need for a new high school.

“Which brings us back to the Knights of Columbus,” Eaton wrote. “The KCs played a role in funding the construction of the new school. While each parish, and private donors, also made significant contributions to Columbus High School, the support of the Knights of Columbus was critical.”

As a sign of the school’s history and ties with the Knights of Columbus, the school’s mascot was at some point changed to the “Don”-- a term which refers to a Spanish or Italian noble.

“The mascot, therefore, is quite literally a “Knight of Columbus,” said Eaton.

“Those who chose the name likely did so more to honor the help and legacy of the Knights of Columbus than to honor Columbus the man. Like Father McGivney, they hoped to provide a place for Catholics to escape from the prejudices they faced in secular society even at that time,” he said.

While Eaton acknowledged that Columbus is not today universally regarded as a positive role model, one expert on the explorer has written that Columbus is frequently mischaracterized or misunderstood.

Columbus, cultural anthropologist Carol Delaney told CNA in 2017, has been “terribly maligned.”

“I think a lot of people don’t know anything much, really about Columbus,” said Delaney, an anthropology professor emerita at Stanford University and the author of the 2011 book “Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem.”

In 1492, the explorer, as American schoolchildren are taught, sailed the ocean blue.

But contrary to popular belief, Delaney said Columbus had a favorable impression of many of the Native Americans he met, and instructed the men under his command not to abuse them, but to trade with them. At one point Columbus hung some of his own men who had committed crimes against native people.

Columbus was not hell-bent on genocide, slavery, and rape of the native population he encountered in his travels, Delaney told the Knights of Columbus in 2017. In fact, the explorer was deeply religious, and hoped to evangelize the indigenous people in America, by teaching the Catholic faith.

“His relations with the natives tended to be benign. He liked the natives and found them to be very intelligent,” she said.

“He also described them as ‘natural Christians’ because they had no other ‘sect,’ or false faith, and believed that they could easily become Christians if they had instruction.”

“When I read his own writings and the documents of those who knew him, he seemed to be very much on the side of the Indians,” Delaney added in a 2017 interview with CNA.

“They’re blaming Columbus for the things he didn’t do. It was mostly the people who came after, the settlers,” she added.

The call to rename Columbus Catholic High School comes at a time when statues of many historical figures--including Columbus--have been taken down by protestors and rioters.

One statue of Columbus was removed from the grounds of the Minnesota Capitol in St. Paul. The statue, which was created by an Italian-American and was intended as a show of support for the Italian immigrant population of Minnesota, was toppled on June 10.

No charges have been filed against the people who brought down the statue.

Jason Adkins, executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference, told CNA that the statue’s fall is a sign of “negligent failure by public officials.”

“We cannot allow persons or activists of politically favored groups to destroy property, public or private, simply because an object or building causes offense,” Adkins said in a statement to CNA.
 
“The celebration by many in the community of the statue’s lawless removal also shows the prevalence of fake history. Columbus is not a canonized saint, but he is not a villain, either. As described by Pope Leo XIII, his motives were exemplary, and it was an extraordinary achievement to connect the peoples of two hemispheres. To say Columbus was a perpetrator of genocide makes a mockery of the term,” he added.
 
Adkins said that he had “made inquiries” for a transparent process on restoring the statue to its previous location.

“The statue should be restored to public view,” he said.

 

What the Supreme Court LGBT decision could mean for Catholic employers

Thu, 06/18/2020 - 21:00

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 18, 2020 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- After the Supreme Court recognized protections for sexual orientation and gender identity in federal law this week, Catholic employers shouldn’t assume they will be protected from future lawsuits, says the Catholic Benefits Association.
 
The Catholic Benefits Association, which helps ensure that Catholic organizations’ employee benefits are consistent with the faith, says that organizations need to have a consistent religious mission to be given the best chance for a legal religious exemption.
 
If they don’t have a clearly-defined religious mission, which is implemented in policies throughout the organization, then courts can decide they do not merit religious freedom protections, says Shannon Syzek, director of HR Consultative Services for the association.
.
“Saying that you’re Catholic doesn’t mean that you qualify for all the things,” Syzek told CNA. “It does have to do with how your organization is structured, and what is your mission,” she said, which is manifested through “a mission statement, how does the organization operate and does it adhere to its own stated purpose.”
 
Syzek’s remarks follow a Monday ruling by the Supreme Court that employers cannot fire employees because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act forbids employment discrimination on the basis of sex, and the Court on Monday interpreted that to include discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
 
Legal experts warn that the decision will have a broad and deep impact on religion, religious employers, and employees, and expect other discrimination lawsuits to make their way to the courts regarding other fields such as public accommodations and athletics.
 
In his majority opinion, Justice Neil Gorsuch acknowledged that religious employers will have concerns about the effects of the decision, but cited statutory religious protections such as those within Title VII, the First Amendment’s Free Exercise clause, and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) as avenues of recourse for religious employers faced with a discrimination lawsuit.
 
“Because RFRA operates as a kind of super statute, displacing the normal operation of other federal laws, it might supersede Title VII’s commands in appropriate cases,” Gorsuch wrote.
 
While Catholic employers might think they are protected against such lawsuits by federal religious freedom statutes—such as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)—Syzek says that they first need to make sure they would be regarded by the courts as a Catholic institution.
 
Employers could start by making their religious mission clear in company handbooks and in job descriptions, with workplace codes-of-conduct.
 
It’s about “what do you have in place that makes sure that you get the rights that are yours to have as a religious employer,” she said. “And it’s as basic as things like a handbook and a job description.”
 
Yet employers need to make sure their mission is consistent throughout the organization. If a Catholic group wants to be exempt from a government mandate that they provide contraceptive coverage to employees, but a court finds that they offer such coverage in employee health plans, then they might lose their court battle.
 
A Catholic organization’s health plan could cover “morally non-compliant care” or recognize a same-sex domestic partnership without the knowledge of the employer, she said.
 
And employers need to be aware of such details as insurance coding systems. Someone at a Catholic diocese might claim its employee health plan does not cover contraceptives or abortions, “but then in a different code” within the plan, “it’s covered,” Syzek said.
 
And Congress is being advised to examine details such as these when considering which religious institutions might be exempt from government mandates, she said, pointing to a report by the Congressional Research Service on the religious exemption to the federal contraceptive mandate.
 
While the Trump administration issued a religious exemption to the mandate in 2017 that included the Little Sisters of the Poor, the CRS report says that Congress could help determine the scope of religious exemptions in the case at hand, and in future religious freedom cases. 
 
“Additionally, federal agencies—not Congress—have thus far determined the scope of the related exceptions (i.e., the exemption and accommodation) through implementing regulations associated with the statutory requirement,” the report states.
 
“Importantly, however, these decisions could be defined by statute, meaning that Congress could set the scope of coverage of preventive health services or the scope of related exceptions, rather than delegating to the agencies.”
 
The expected slew of religious freedom court cases will probably “start highlighting why the HR rule is so vitally important to Catholic employers,” she said, “and that you have someone that is looking at the comprehensive culture and infrastructure of an organization with respect to being Catholic.”

 

 

Eucharist and tabernacle stolen from North Carolina Catholic Church

Thu, 06/18/2020 - 16:18

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 18, 2020 / 02:18 pm (CNA).- Police are appealing to the public for help and a parish is requesting prayers after a tabernacle containing the Eucharist was stolen from a church in Boone, North Carolina on June 16.

“We are calling for prayers and the safe return of the Blessed Sacrament after the tabernacle was stolen from the church Tuesday night,” said a message posted on the website of Saint Elizabeth of the Hill Country Catholic Church.

The parish said the theft occurred “sometime after 9 p.m. Tuesday night,” and that the thief entered the church through a window.

Nothing apart from the tabernacle was stolen or damaged, said the parish.

“Please pray and offer reparation for the desecration of the church and the theft of the Blessed Sacrament,” the statement said.

Fr. Brendan Buckler, pastor of St. Elizabeth’s, appealed to the thief in a statement.

"We pray that your hearts may be moved to please return the tabernacle to us, but most especially the contents,” said Buckler in a statement provided to CNA by the Diocese of Charlotte.

The parish will hold a Holy Hour of Reparation on Thursday night.

Masses at the church on Wednesday and Thursday were canceled. The parish website states that prayers of reparation must be done before Mass can resume at the church.

The tabernacle is described as being approximately two feet tall and one foot wide, and is made of brass. The tabernacle contained a ciborium, which contains the Eucharist.

Police are requesting anyone who lives near the church to examine any surveillance footage that may have captured the thief.

No other churches in the area have experienced thefts or vandalism.

The Diocese of Charlotte declined to comment to CNA about a possible motive for the theft, and directed CNA to contact the Boone Police Department. The Boone Police Department has not yet responded to questions from CNA.

This is the second time in two months that St. Elizabeth’s has made headlines.

At Easter, a parishioner reportedly made claims to the local health department that the pastor at St. Elizabeth’s had celebrated Mass on Easter Sunday with more than 10 people, in apparent violation of public health norms.

The parishioner, Karen James, told the National Catholic Reporter that she had counted a total of 22 people who entered the church building, which, she said, prompted her to call the local health department. James also voiced her objections to the priest’s celebration of the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, which is celebrated in the parish in addition to the ordinary form of the Roman Rite, offered in both English and Spanish.

The parish said the Easter Mass was celebrated privately, and in conformity with both diocesan norms and health regulations.
 

 

US Catholic bishops praise Supreme Court DACA decision

Thu, 06/18/2020 - 12:55

Washington D.C., Jun 18, 2020 / 10:55 am (CNA).- The U.S. Catholic bishops’ conference (USCCB) praised the Supreme Court on Thursday for a decision that keeps the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program intact — for now.

“First, to DACA youth, through today’s decision and beyond, we will continue to accompany you and your families. You are a vital part of our Church and our community of faith. We are with you,” said USCCB president Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles and Bishop Mario Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of Washington and the USCCB’s migration committee chair in a June 18 statement.

In a majority opinion written mostly by Chief Justice John Roberts and joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, and Elena Kagan, the Court said that that the Department of Homeland Security failed to meet the Administrative Procedure Act’s (APA) standard of providing “a reasoned explanation” for its ending DACA in September of 2017. Roberts wrote the opinion except for Part IV; Justice Sonia Sotomayor also joined the opinion except for that section.

Justice Clarence Thomas, meanwhile, concurred with the judgement in part and dissented in part, and his opinion was joined by Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch. Justices Alito and Brett Kavanaugh wrote separate opinions concurring in part and dissenting in part from the majority opinion.

Leading U.S. bishops praised the Court’s decision on Thursday.

The DHS “failed to consider” the impact its rule would have on DACA recipients, the Court said, as well as “whether to retain forbearance.”
 
“That dual failure raises doubts about whether the agency appreciated the scope of its discretion or exercised that discretion in a reasonable manner,” the ruling stated.
 
The Court sent the matter back to DHS, saying it could end the program but had to do so in a lawful fashion.

Archbishop Gomez and Bishop Dorsonville urged President Trump “to strongly reconsider terminating DACA,” citing the plight of immigrant families during the new coronavirus pandemic. To end the program “needlessly places many families into further anxiety and chaos,” they said.

DACA was created by the Obama administration in 2012 through an executive memorandum, to allow for the delayed deportation of certain immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children; with a two-year deferral of deportation, they could apply for work authorizations and certain federal benefits. Around 800,000 immigrants were DACA recipients.
 
In September of 2017, the Trump administration announced that the program would be phased out and would not accept new applicants; President Trump gave Congress a six-month timeframe to enact parts of the program into law, but Congress failed to do so by March 2018.
 
In their statement, Archbishop Gomez and Bishop Dorsonville asked the Senate to pass legislation granting a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers.

On Thursday, Justice Sonia Sotomayor concurred with the majority opinion in part, adding that as the Court “forecloses any challenge to the rescission under the Equal Protection Clause,” that action was “unwarranted.”
 
Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch, concurred with the majority opinion in part and dissented in part.
 
The Obama administration, he said, created the DACA program in 2012 “without any statutory authorization and without going through the requisite rulemaking process,” after Congress repeated tried and failed to pass legislation granting legal status to immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children.
 
The Trump administration also acted “unilaterally, and through a mere memorandum” in ending the program, he wrote. Rather than rule that the program was unlawful to begin with, the Court simply sent the matter back to DHS to be reworked rather than leave the policymaking to Congress, he said.
 
“The Court could have made clear that the solution respondents seek must come from the Legislative Branch. Instead, the majority has decided to prolong DHS’ initial overreach by providing a stopgap measure of its own,” he wrote.

When the current case was accepted by the Supreme Court in November, then-USCCB migration chair, Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, Texas, told CNA that while the conference had pushed for Congress to enact a legislative solution, the bishops did not want to see the program end and immigrants separated from their families. Around 256,000 children have at least one parent with DACA status.
 
“The Church is always going to advocate on the side of the family, because the family is very important," Vasquez said.

 

Thea Bowman - religious sister, civil rights advocate, candidate for sainthood

Thu, 06/18/2020 - 05:00

CNA Staff, Jun 18, 2020 / 03:00 am (CNA).- Sister Thea Bowman was the granddaughter of a slave, an advocate for racial justice, and the first African American woman to address the U.S. bishops' conference. Two years ago, her sainthood cause was opened.

“She was an outstanding teacher and she was an outstanding speaker. And she had a voice like an opera star and she could sing really beautifully, and people loved to be with her,” said Sister Charlene Smith, a member of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration (FSPA).

“I often say she was a whole lot like Jesus. People love to be around her, and I was one of those people that was lucky enough to be around her.”

Smith, who was friends with Bowman for 35 years, recounted the impact that Bowman made on many of those around her. In 2012, Smith co-authored a biography of her friend, entitled, “Thea's Song: The Life of Thea Bowman.”

At age 51, Bowman became the first African American woman to address the U.S. bishops' conference. Wheelchair-bound and fighting cancer, she delivered a memorable address about race and Catholicism before inviting the bishops to join her in singing and swaying to a Negro Spiritual.

That spunk, Smith told CNA, was part of Bowman’s charismatic personality as she traveled and taught and spoke around the country.

Sister Thea was born Bertha Bowman in Yazoo City, Mississippi in 1937 to a lawyer and a teacher.

Although she was raised Protestant, she decided to become a Catholic at the age of nine. Visiting a variety of Christian denominations, she was moved by the kindness and generosity of the Franciscans Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, whose school she subsequently attended.

When she turned 15, she moved to Wisconsin and entered the order's novitiate. Although her parents tried to persuade their daughter to enter an African-American community, she was determined to enter the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, whose warmth and love had drawn her to the Catholic faith six years prior.

At the time, she was the first and only black sister of the community in La Crosse. Smith said Bowman encountered some instances of racism even within the convent.

“I never saw any example of racism extended to Sister Thea when she was in our community, but there are sisters from other communities, African American sisters, to whom Thea apparently mentioned that once in a while, some of our older sisters, who had never been around anybody who was African American, were not always positive about Sister Thea,” she said.

When she began teaching at a Catholic elementary school in La Crosse, Bowman would teach about racial diversity, and about the importance of love.

“She taught children to use their hand. And the five fingers were the five different colors of skin, black and brown and yellow and red and white,” Smith said.

“And she knew that we were all not a melting pot. She was never very interested in that particular metaphor. She was a whole lot more interested in saying that we are more like a salad,” Smith continued. “So when you are a salad, you don't lose your characteristics, you remain individuals. And the whole point is to love one another. And that's what she did.”

As the civil rights movement grew in the years that followed, Bowman worked to advance racial justice. She helped establish the National Black Sisters Conference and advocated for an increased representation of American-American people in Church leadership. She called for more encounters between white and non-white Catholics, and for a welcoming of music from different cultural backgrounds.

Bowman became a noted public speaker, and traveled around the country, talking about race and the Catholic faith. She continued to travel and teach even after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 1984, even landing an interview with 60 Minutes.

In 1989, Bowman delivered what would become a famous speech at the spring meeting of the U.S. bishops’ conference.

“What does it mean to be black and Catholic?,” asked Sr. Thea. “It means that I bring myself, my black self.”

“I bring my whole history, my traditions, my experience, my culture, my African-American song and dance and gesture and movement and teaching and preaching and healing and responsibility as gift to the Church.”

Bowman had a profound impact on the bishops, and on many other people who heard her words.

“When that speech was over, they wheeled her off the podium and out into a hall. And one by one, the bishops came to her and knelt before her, in her wheelchair, and asked for her blessing. That's how much they thought about her,” Smith said.

Bowman died March 30, 1990. Her canonization cause was opened by the Diocese of Jackson in 2018.

Smith said Bowman’s impact lives on after her death, with schools named after the sister, events held in her memory, memorials established in her honor, and at least 40 books mentioning her story and influence.

Smith said Bowman would likely find hope in the recent protests demanding racial equality and justice in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

“Right now this is a time when we're learning. I think the people in the United States are learning a whole lot more about our history, how we were terrible to the Native Americans and how we were terrible to the African Americans, and so we're learning history,” she said. “Thea knew all of that and she let it be known that she knew that.”

“I’m sure she's watching what's going on in the United States. And I think she's cheering for the African Americans and all of the people who have been subjected to pain and injustice,” Smith continued. “She was very much concerned that people be treated fairly, be treated as children of God. So she'd be happy with what's going on.”

 

Catholic magazine issues art challenge to highlight human equality

Wed, 06/17/2020 - 19:29

CNA Staff, Jun 17, 2020 / 05:29 pm (CNA).- In the face of recent protests, a Catholic art magazine has organized the Bakhita Prize for the Visual Arts to encourage artists to display the dignity of those affected by racial violence.

“Dappled Things is calling on visual artists to help us see more clearly: to help us honor and highlight the infinite worth inherent within each victim of racial violence,” reads a statement from the magazine.

“The shocking death of George Floyd has shaken not just the United States but the whole world, reminding us starkly of how far we still are from seeing each other's infinite dignity as children of God.”

The magazine “Dappled Things” has challenged artists to represent the human dignity and God-given worth of the victims of racial violence. The artists may use photography, painting, illustration, or sculpture.

The prize will pay $1000 to the winner and $250 to the runner-up. The two winning pieces of art, along with eight honorable mentions, will then be displayed in an illustration of “Dappled Things.” All winners will also receive a year’s subscription to the journal. The contest will end Aug. 31.

The prize is named after Saint Josephine Bakhita, the patron saint of Sudan and human trafficking. Born in 1869 in Sudan, she was captured around 1877 and sold into slavery by Arab slave traders.

“Saint Josephine Bakhita, after whom the prize is named, was a Sudanese slave brutalized by her captors, who later became a religious sister renowned for her joyfulness, gentleness, and charity,” the statement reads.

In 1883, Bahkita was sold to Callisto Legani, an Italian vice consul. After moving to Italy, she became the family’s nanny until the family left her with the Canossian Sisters in Venice when they traveled to Sudan for business. There, she became Catholic.

When the family returned, she refused to return to her life as a slave and instead joined the Canossian Sisters. Since slavery had been outlawed in Sudan prior to her birth, the Italian court ruled that she was not legally a slave.

During her time in the community, she assisted as a cook, seamstress, sacristan, and portress. She also helped prepare other young sisters for their missionary work in Africa.

The contest was issued after a May 25 video showed a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck for several minutes while in custody. Floyd could be heard saying “I can’t breathe” several times. He died soon after.

In the wake of Floyd’s death, cities across the U.S. have seen widespread protests against police brutality and racism. Some protests had turned into nights of rioting, and conflicts with police.

“If Floyd’s death has led to a great societal outcry, it is because he is only one among so many others who have lost their lives in similar circumstances. Like many others, we are asking ourselves questions of how to respond to violence and the violation of human dignity, including persistent racial violence that has been directed especially against the black community,” the statement reads.

Can Catholics support ‘Black Lives Matter’?

Wed, 06/17/2020 - 19:29

CNA Staff, Jun 17, 2020 / 05:29 pm (CNA).- Catholic leaders say the Church has an important role in working for racial justice, but that protesting for justice does not imply endorsement of the positions taken by Black Lives Matter organizations.

The phrase “#BlackLivesMatter” began to trend online following the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012, and a movement grew amid protests and riots in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014 after the shooting of a young black man, Michael Brown, by a police officer.
 
“Black Lives Matter” has become the rallying cry for a broad social movement. But there are also specific organizations which take the name “Black Lives Matter.” The largest and best-funded of those groups is the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, which has a network of local chapters around the U.S. and in other countries, and operates the website blacklivesmatter.com.

The Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation promotes LGBT ideology and opposes the nuclear family.

The group’s platform aims to “dismantle cisgender privilege,” and “disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure.”

“We foster a queer‐affirming network. When we gather, we do so with the intention of freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking,” the group’s website says.

At least one Black Lives Matter network affiliate has incorporated spiritual rituals into protests, drawing from animistic religions by calling forth deceased ancestors and pouring out libations for them. The leaders of Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles say their efforts are more than a movement for racial justice, but are a “spiritual movement.”

Other organizations also use the phrase “Black Lives Matter,” some with different agendas and goals than the global network. But the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation is often correlated directly with the movement itself, and its affiliates often organize local protests.

The organization should be distinguished from the broader social movement for racial justice, said Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers, a black Catholic deacon of the Diocese of Portland, Oregon, author, and co-host of EWTN’s Morning Glory radio show.

“Marching to protest the inequitable treatment of black people by those in authority—that’s good,” the deacon said.

However, the policies espoused by the Black Lives Matter organization on family and sexuality constitute “a radical feminist agenda disguised as a movement for ‘Black Lives Matter,’” he said.

“No Catholic can support the national organization, whatsoever,” he added.

Burke-Sivers encouraged Catholics to act for racial justice, but to pray first.

“Take the life that God has given us in these sacraments, and become the heads and the hands and the face and the heart of Jesus in the world,” he said. “Start with that and then put that into action.”

Saying “Black Lives Matter” is important, EWTN radio host Gloria Purvis, who is African-American, told CNA. She added that neither the phrase nor the movement should be viewed through the lens of only one organization.

“It’s a mistake to say that Black Lives Matter—the organization—is the head of this movement.”

“That’s like saying that one organization is the head of the pro-life movement,” she explained.

The phrase “Black Lives Matter” represents a whole “movement for racial justice,” she said, one which is now global and without one single leader. Using the phrase “doesn’t mean you are now de facto a member of this organization,” she said.

“For me, as a Catholic, a devout Catholic, as a loyal daughter of the Church, I have no problem saying ‘Black Lives Matter,’” she said.

“I know it doesn’t make me a member of the organization.”

Some Catholics hesitate to attend protests or other events because they say that not only “black lives matter,” but that “all lives matter,” she noted.

Purvis explained that the phrase “Black Lives Matter” is not meant to devalue the lives of others, and while all lives do matter, she has observed that “in practice” in the U.S., “what we’ve seen is that black lives don’t.”

As a pro-life Catholic, Purvis said she recognizes the eugenist roots of abortion, but said fighting racism in America shouldn’t be limited to opposing abortion. She said racism is manifested through police misconduct, housing policies, and other aspects of American public life.

Ryan Bomberger, a black pro-life activist and co-founder of the Radiance Foundation, says he does not support the Black Lives Matter movement, because of its hostility to Christianity.

“Every life unjustly killed deserves justice. The question is, how do we pursue that justice? And for me, as a Christian, I cannot embrace a secular movement that is unapologetically hostile to Christianity, in order to pursue justice,” Bomberger told CNA.

While “a lot of people involved” with the movement are acting “out of compassion and love,” he said, “the ones leading are very clear about the objectives of the movement,” Bomberger said.

“It’s the entirety of that manifesto that doesn’t make any attempt to be Biblical in any sense,” he said. “They’re not looking for forgiveness or reconciliation, they’re looking for political power.”

On the relationship of Christians to the Black Lives Matter movement, he said that “my issue is that the church should be leading, instead of sheepishly following a broken secular movement.”

For his part, Bishop Shelton Fabre, chair of the U.S. bishops’ committee on racism, told CNA that Catholics should join efforts to call for racial justice.

“Black Lives Matter has a broad agenda covering many social issues, some of which are not in harmony with Catholic teaching. However, on the issue of standing against the injustice of racism, it is my understanding that Catholic Social teaching and Black Lives Matter are in accord,” the bishop said.

“Because we have a responsibility to bring our faith to the public square, it is appropriate to protest racial injustice,” he added.

In recent weeks, mass protests have occurred in dozens of cities across the country following the death of George Floyd, a 46 year-old black man in Minneapolis.

In some cities there have also been riots, and a section of Seattle has been declared an “occupied protest.”

A Minneapolis police officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes while arresting him, Derek Chauvin, was fired by the department and has since been charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s death. Two other officers who knelt on Floyd, and one bystanding officer, have been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.

Amid the weeks of protest, both the Black Lives Matter movement and organization have gained increased national attention.

Now-retired Bishop Edward Braxton of Belleville, who is African-American, wrote a 2016 pastoral letter on the Catholic Church and the Black Lives Matter movement.

In that letter, Braxton said the Black Lives Matter movement doesn’t have one leader or organizer.

“The phrase is more a call to action against racial profiling, police brutality, and racial injustice than a specific organization. The media and the public often associate a variety of unconnected groups with Black Lives Matter, when they are actually not structurally connected,” the bishop noted.

However, Braxton noted that most leaders in the Black Lives Matter movement he had encountered reject the Church’s teaching on sexuality, marriage and abortion.

Others in the movement, he said, are reluctant to work with the Church because they think Catholics have not done enough to fight racism, he wrote.

Braxton wrote that there are “profound differences” between the teachings of the Church and the Black Lives Matter movement, and that many leaders in that movement do “not embrace traditional Christian theological ideas about praying to keep the peace and change hearts.”

“They embrace a radical theology of inclusion inspired by a revolutionary Jesus,” he wrote.

The bishop nevertheless encouraged Catholic engagement with leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Do differences “necessarily mean that a representative of the Church cannot have a meaningful conversation with representatives of the movement about these and other issues where there may be greater accord?” the bishop asked.

Braxton wrote that his dialogue with members of the movement had allowed him to present Church teaching on poverty and race, as well as on marriage, sexuality, and human dignity.

The bishop said that in dialogue, he “explained that the Church’s social doctrine may be more forceful than they think. I also pointed out that Catholic beliefs about the nature of marriage, the meaning of human sexuality, and the dignity of human life from conception to natural death are not mere cultural norms or social issues. The Church cannot and will not change these moral doctrines. These beliefs represent what the Church firmly holds to be fundamental moral principles rooted in human nature, natural law, biblical revelation and the teachings of Jesus Christ.”

Braxton wrote that all Catholics have an obligation to work for racial justice in the framework of Catholic teaching about the dignity of the human person, and the sanctity of human life, and to work, above all, for conversion.

“The Church has a grave responsibility to contribute to the ongoing conversion and spiritual transformation of us all. Working tirelessly day by day, we are co-workers with Christ.”
 
Amid the ongoing protests, Bishop Fabre encouraged Catholics to take seriously the unique role they can play in promoting an end to racism.

The present moment, Fabre said, presents an “extraordinary opportunity” with many Americans taking an active part in protests against racism and police brutality. However, he said, the work still remains to be done “to dismantle racism.”

“We should be seeking what unique role God might be asking the Catholic Church to play in transforming opportunity into a watershed moment in eradicating racism,” he said.

African-American Catholics have suffered from racism within the Church for “decades and centuries,” he said; sometimes it has taken the form of “parishes not welcoming the ministry of a black priest or deacon,” he said, “or parishioners not wanting to receive the Eucharist from an African-American extraordinary minister of holy communion.”

Black Catholics “long for the eradication of racism in the Church through encounter, accompaniment, repentance, justice, action, charity, and prayer,” he said.

Advocates appeal for Catholic schools as hundreds close nationwide

Wed, 06/17/2020 - 17:33

Denver Newsroom, Jun 17, 2020 / 03:33 pm (CNA).- At least 100 Catholic elementary and high schools across the United States will not reopen for the fall semester, with many suffering from low enrollment and decreased donations amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sister Dale McDonald, public policy director of the National Catholic Educational Association, told CNA that the biggest driver of school closures at present is uncertainty.

The U.S. is home to about 6,000 Catholic schools, down from some 11,000 in the 1970s— about 1,000 of those closures occurring since 2007.

Most pandemic-related closures are of elementary schools. Some high schools, several of which have been open for decades, also are closing this summer.

Part of that uncertainty is on the part of the schools, many of which do not have the resources to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state guidelines on sanitizing and social distancing in classrooms.

“It's very difficult for the principals to figure out what their school opening will look like; when it'll open, and what you have to do to meet all the guidelines,” MacDonald said.

“And the public schools are looking at the same thing, but they certainly have a lot more resources to be able to manage their reopening. But for us, financially, it's a big deal.”

Parents, understandably, want to know what their child's education is going to look like in the fall, MacDonald said, and many wonder whether they will be able to go back to work.

Many working-class families that send their children to Catholic schools have been impacted by illness and unemployment, and may simply not be able to pay tuition.

For most Catholic schools, MacDonald said, about 80% of their operating budget comes from tuition. In addition, many Catholic schools hold major fundraisers in the spring, which had to be canceled or postponed after the pandemic hit.

To make matters worse, many parochial elementary schools depend on contributions from parishioners. After months of no in-person Masses for most dioceses, many parishes, especially those without a robust system for online giving, are feeling the financial pinch.

Despite the large number of schools closing, in some cases donors have rallied to keep their school from going under.

Earlier this month, the Academy of Our Lady of Peace in New Jersey was saved from closure through the action of anonymous donors.

But Sister MacDonald warned that this model of saving a few schools at the last minute will likely not remain sustainable year-after-year.

“We are optimistic that things will pick up,” she said, noting that about 2,000 Catholic schools across the country have not experienced massive enrollment declines, but instead have waiting lists.

“People do want Catholic education, and our challenge at NCEA and in working with various dioceses is how to make these schools affordable and accessible for families, especially families of modest means.”

Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles oversees the largest Catholic school system in the U.S., and wrote in a June 16 column that the nation’s Catholic schools play a vital role in helping minority and low-income families.

Nationwide, about 20% of students who attend Catholic schools in the U.S. are members of racial minorities, according to 2016 NCEA data.

In Los Angeles, that figure is significantly higher. Gomez says about 80% of Catholic school students in LA come from minority families.

For elementary school students, the average yearly cost of attendance is about $5,936, while for high school students it is $15,249, NCEA says.

Los Angeles’ Catholic Education Foundation has granted more than $200 million in scholarships to 181,000 low-income students over the past 25 years, Gomez said.

In addition, he said, the LA Catholic school system has provided nearly half a million free meals to low-income students since the start of the pandemic.

The archbishop decried the fact that 37 states still have laws on the books, known as “Blaine Amendments,” which prohibit government funding to “sectarian” schools— a 19th-century euphemism for Catholic schools, according to opponents of the laws.

A constitutional amendment to ban government funding for Catholic schools, proposed in the late 19th century by Maine lawmaker James Blaine, failed at the federal level, but many states inserted similar language in their constitutions.

Parents paying to send their children to Catholic schools end up also paying for public schools with their tax dollars, Gomez said, without any of that government aid going to their children’s education.

The Supreme Court is expected to soon issue a ruling on a consequential Blaine Amendment case, and though some parishes have received emergency payroll loans through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, Gomez says Congress and the White House “cannot afford to wait” to provide aid to Catholic schools.

“If Catholic schools are allowed to fail in large numbers, it would cost public schools about $20 billion to absorb their students, a cost already-burdened public schools should not be made to bear,” Gomez asserted.

Catholic school students are, almost across the board, more academically successful than their public school peers. According to 2016 figures, 99% of Catholic school students graduate from high school on time, and 86% of Catholic school graduates attend college.

About 17% of students at Catholic schools are not Catholic, making their attendance an opportunity for evangelization both for them and for their parents.

MacDonald says she hears from parents who are not Catholic who nevertheless want for their children the kind of environment that a Catholic school provides.

“While we are teaching the academics, we are creating an environment that we hope lives out Gospel values, where kids are expected to act and live with Gospel values in terms of service to others, care and concern, basic Christian charity, and cultivating a prayer life,” she said.

“We hope and pray that they have learned how to be good Christians while in our schools. And that's good for everybody.”

 

Supreme Court stays Texas execution over chaplain dispute 

Wed, 06/17/2020 - 12:04

CNA Staff, Jun 17, 2020 / 10:04 am (CNA).- The Supreme Court stayed the execution of a man in Texas after the state’s Department of Corrections refused to allow a Catholic priest to be with him in the final moments of his life.

“The District Court should promptly determine, based on whatever evidence the parties provide, whether serious security problems would result if a prisoner facing execution is permitted to choose the spiritual adviser the prisoner wishes to have in his immediate presence during the execution,” said the Supreme Court in its statement issuing the stay of execution on June 16.

Ruben Gutierrez, a Catholic, had requested that the Catholic chaplain at the prison join him in the execution chamber at his death. This request was denied, due to a Texas policy instituted last year that prohibits chaplains in the execution chamber.

Gutierrez was scheduled to die on Tuesday evening, and his execution was stayed approximately one hour before it was set to begin. On June 9, the Federal District Court in Brownsville, Texas, had initially stayed the execution due to the chaplain issue.

The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops was one of the many organizations who filed amicus briefs in support of staying or outright canceling Gutierrez’s execution. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is opposed to the use of capital punishment, and states that those who are dying should be given spiritual care.

“Denying a prisoner’s request for a chaplain at the hour of his death represents an egregious rejection of the possibility of forgiveness and redemption while the state commits the violence of an execution,” said Jennifer Carr Allmon, executive director of the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops, in a statement published on the organization’s website.

“This assaults the dignity of the human person through the blatant removal of a corporal work of mercy that may give compassionate aid and comfort to an offender who, as a final act, is seeking God's forgiveness,” said Allmon.

“To deny a prisoner facing imminent execution access to spiritual and religious guidance and accompaniment is cruel and inhuman. It is an affront to the moral and religious dimensions of human dignity, which are clearly protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution,” said Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville. Flores serves as the advisor to Catholic Mobilizing Network, an anti-death penalty organization.

Gutierrez was sentenced to death for the 1988 murder of Escolastica Harrison, an 85-year-old woman, during an attempted robbery. One of his accomplices was sentenced to life in prison; the other jumped bail and remains a fugitive at large.

He has never confessed to the crime and has maintained his innocence.

Last year, Texas banned all prison chaplains, of any creed or denomination, from being present in the execution chamber. This came after the Supreme Court stopped the execution of a Buddhist man named Patrick Murphy, who had requested a Buddhist chaplain to be with him during his execution. Previously, the Texas prison system only permitted state employees to be in the execution chamber, and the system did not employ any Buddhist chaplains. The state only employs Christian and Muslim chaplains.

In March 2019, Justice Brett Kavanaugh authored a concurring opinion on why the Texas Department of Criminal Justice had violated Murphy’s rights.

Kavanaugh said that that allowing only Christian and Muslim ministers to be present with death row inmates in the execution chamber was discriminatory, suggesting that a more just resolution would be that no chaplains be permitted in the execution chamber and instead they be allowed to sit in the viewing area.

To avoid discrimination, Kavanaugh said at the time, the Texas prison system should either allow chaplains of all faiths into the execution chamber or else not allow any chaplains at all.

Texas opted for the latter approach, and in April 2019 announced that all chaplains would have to observe the execution from a viewing area, rather than in the chamber.

Chris Pagliarella, an attorney at religious liberty law firm Becket, told CNA June 17 that Texas policy does not respect the First Amendment.

“As Mr. Gutierrez’s lawyers and the Texas Catholic Bishops told the Court, the First Amendment and civil rights law guarantee more than ‘equality’ that deprives all religions equally. They guarantee the rights of religious communities to minister to their members, especially when it comes to ancient practices like the comfort of clergy at death.”

 

American Solidarity Party candidate presses on to 2020 presidential election

Wed, 06/17/2020 - 05:19

Washington D.C., Jun 17, 2020 / 03:19 am (CNA).- Republicans and Democrats aren’t the only political parties finding their 2020 campaigning efforts hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brian Carroll, an evangelical Christian, is the 2020 presidential nominee for the American Solidarity Party, a small-but-growing political party whose platform is based largely on Catholic social teaching.

Carroll told CNA June 15 that he hopes to be recognized as a write-in candidate for president in several states come November.

In most states, smaller parties depend on volunteers to circulate petitions in order to get on the general election ballot.

With many states still imposing restrictions related to the pandemic, volunteers have been hard to come by, Carroll said.

“Some states have recognized the problem and reduced or eliminated their requirements. For example, Vermont. We expect to be on the ballot in Vermont simply because Vermont changed the rules,” he said.

Carroll’s in-person campaigning has been on hold for several months. He said before the pandemic hit, he had planned a lot of travel, making campaign stops throughout the country. California, New York, Ohio and Texas already have fairly active ASP chapters.

Despite being stuck at home in California, he’s been active on his campaign Facebook page, offering his thoughts on recent world events and dialoguing with people in the comment sections.

‘Subsidiarity is well designed for a problem like this’

For Carroll, a retired history teacher, the pandemic and the recent protests for racial justice following the death of George Floyd are best viewed through the lens of ASP’s pro-life ethic.

The party began in 2011 as the Christian Democracy Party USA, and Mike Maturen, a Catholic, ran for president on the party ticket in the 2016 election.

Though the American Solidarity Party of today is not explicitly religious, its platform rests on several principles which the Church has developed as part of Catholic social teaching.

Subsidiarity— the Catholic idea that local authorities are best suited to tackle local issues— is a tenet of the ASP’s platform.

Carroll said he supports more local solutions rather than one-size-fits-all pandemic restrictions, because what is needed in places like Florida, where many seniors live, will be different than in a college town. Similarly, a greater emphasis on subsidiarity would allow urban and rural areas to impose whatever restrictions are appropriate for them.

“Giving the local people the ability to make some of the decisions, that's better than having one central decision. They could make the wrong decision, and then you've lost the chance to see what might work. So I think subsidiarity is a strength there,” Carroll said.

“By giving local authorities more power to make the decisions, you're more likely to craft a policy that meets that particular local area. So, in that sense, subsidiarity is well designed for a problem like this.”

As the virus spread earlier this year, politicians, including President Trump, were in uncharted territory in many ways, Carroll said.

“Once it got started, you can't fault [Trump] in a situation where even the doctors didn't know how this was going to behave. It was new, and it was the first time they'd seen it. And so there's going to be some errors expected. You have to give them a little bit of grace and mercy on that part of it.”

That being said, Carroll criticized what he sees as “inconsistencies” in how COVID-19 restrictions have been applied in some places, and emphasized that government leaders “need to try and minimize the inconsistencies and then, by all means, live by their own rules.”

Carroll also commented on the economic impact of the pandemic. Distributism, the favored economic theory for the party platform, is a model championed by notable Catholics such as G.K. Chesterton and Hillair Belloc. The model calls for a broader system of ownership to create a more “local, responsible, and sustainable” economy.

The ASP favors a rewrite of regulations and tax incentives to favor small businesses and family farms, rather than major corporations.

Carroll said the pandemic has exacerbated the divide between large corporations, such as Amazon, which have profited greatly since the start of the crisis, and small businesses which have struggled to stay afloat or have already had to close.

“If we had a Congress that was more sympathetic to distributism, the [relief] bills that they put together would have favored the little guy,” he said.

The ASP’s party platform is strongly anti-abortion and supports care for pregnant mothers, as well as a system of universal healthcare. It opposes capital punishment, euthanasia, assisted suicide, and embryonic stem cell research.

“We're pro-life, but pro-life, obviously, is more than just abortion. It's, ‘Are we taking care of our elderly who are threatened by a virus?’ That's a pro-life question,” he said.

Advocating for greater racial equality also is a pro-life issue for the party, Carroll said. Victims of COVID-19 have been overwhelmingly poor, and disproportionately of minority races, such as African Americans and Native Americans.

Many minorities in the United States live in close quarters, do not have the freedom to work from home, rely on public transportation, and are more likely to have preexisting conditions, he said.

“All of those things make them more vulnerable, and that's a life issue,” he said.

“The American Solidarity Party looks at so many different things as being intertwined, and they all feed back into the question of life and making our communities more friendly to quality of life, encouraging families. All of those kinds of things are where our party is.”

Carroll said he suspects that the pandemic will lead people to the understanding that tying healthcare to employment is a “basic flaw.”

“A lot of people had put faith in their healthcare through their employer, and suddenly realized that they had misplaced their faith, because it was very easy to lose their jobs,” he said.

“And so from that point of view, I think this is going to make the country much more open to the kind of healthcare that we're looking for, where everybody gets covered.”

In addition, the principle of subsidiarity also applies to policing, he said. Police ought to come from the communities they serve, and not be seen as outside threats.

“We need to demilitarize the police and do everything we can to lower the tensions between police and the communities that they serve in,” Carroll said.

‘A specifically pro-life vote’

Even before the pandemic, turnout at ASP meetings across the country was low, but growing.

Though Carroll and his running mate, Amar Patel, are not sanguine about their chances of actually winning the presidency, their goals remain the same as when they first set out: to build up their party, and raise awareness that there is an alternative for people of faith who do not want to vote Republican or Democrat.

Carroll said he hopes the party will be able to field candidates for local offices across the country, and possibly even congressional candidates, in 2022.

Even if they don't win offices, Carroll said, their party can affect policy by influencing the national conversation or drawing attention to specific issues.

Carroll pointed to Ross Perot, who ran for president as an independent in the 1990s, while pushing for a balanced federal budget. Though Perot did not come close to winning, the major parties discussed a balanced budget for years after that, Carroll contended.

In Carroll’s mind, if enough pro-life Democrats switch to the ASP, then the Democratic Party may consider softening its position on abortion.

Also, he said, if enough Republicans who “don't like to see kids in cages at the border,” or who support a more universalized healthcare system, switch to ASP, the Republican Party might also begin to rethink their positions.

“My personal goal is for everyone, whether they love us, they hate us, or are completely indifferent and think we're a joke, at least will have heard of us by November 3, and that the people who want to vote their conscience have at least that opportunity,” Patel, a Catholic who serves as ASP’s Chairman, told CNA in March.

He said he suspects that many Christians and Catholics end up voting for a candidate who they believe will defend one specific aspect of Christian morality, rather than looking for “ideal candidates who will actually defend the Christian message in total.”

“They can actually put in ‘Brian Carroll’ if they want a write-in vote that is significant, is meaningful, and counts specifically FOR something, as opposed to against something, which I think a lot of people are ending up doing.”

Patel said he hears a lot about “wasted votes” when it comes to third parties. But he has a different view.

In states where a Republican or Democratic victory is all but assured, such as California, even if millions of voters switched to a third party, it would be unlikely to change the outcome of the race, he said. However, the “entire face of American politics would have changed,” because people would be talking about the third-party candidate who garnered millions of votes.

“If you're strongly pro-life and you vote for Trump in a state he's going to lose, THAT'S a throwaway vote, because not everyone who votes for Trump is pro-life,” Patel argued.

“But if you change your pro-life vote to Brian Carroll, that will be a specifically pro-life vote that will be counted as such,” he added.

 

Mom of Carlo Acutis says son led her back to the Catholic faith 

Wed, 06/17/2020 - 02:54

CNA Staff, Jun 17, 2020 / 12:54 am (CNA).- While most Catholic mothers pray for their teenage sons, Antonia Acutis has the unique ability to pray to hers, the soon-to-be-beatified Italian teenager Carlo Acutis.

Carlo will be beatified October 10 in Assisi, Italy. His canonization cause has been popularized not only due to his young testament to holiness before he died of leukemia at age 15, but also because of his adeptness with technology. At age 14, he designed a website to share his great love for the Eucharist.

At first, his mother did not know what to do with such an intelligent and fervent young boy.

“I was not the ideal model of a Catholic mother,” Antonia told CNA.

Like many, Antonia’s faith was formed by a culture of Catholicism. But Carlo’s example challenged her, and she reached out to a faithful friend for advice. Antonia’s friend connected her with a priest, who encouraged her to take classes to further her Catholic faith.

Before that, she “was quite ignorant in the faith things,” she told CNA.

Through the working of a priest she met through her classes, Carlo was able to receive his first Holy Communion at just seven years old– after which he never missed daily Mass, even while their family traveled.

Carlo’s love for the Eucharist formed his mother’s own devotion to the Sacrament.

“The source of the sanctity of Carlo was the Eucharist. He used to say the Eucharist is my highway to heaven,” said Antonia.

Nicola Gori, the postulator of Acutis’ cause for sainthood, said that Carlos loved God in such a way that invited others, especially those closest to him, to share in the Eucharistic feast.

“Think, he managed to drag his relatives, his parents to Mass every day. It was not the other way around; it was not his parents bringing the little boy to Mass, but it was he who managed to get himself to Mass and to convince others to receive Communion daily,” Gori told EWTN News.

Before Carlo, Antonia said that she went to Mass only for her first Holy Communion, confirmation, and marriage.

But by Carlo’s exemplary love for the Eucharist, “I started to go to Mass again,” Antonia said. “And this was actually because of Carlo. Carlo for me was a sort of little savior.”

Since Carlo’s death of leukemia in 2006, Antonia has more deeply realized how special of a child he was.

Although Carlo played on a Playstation, Antonia never had to reprimand him for spending too much time playing video games.

“He was also a normal child!” Antonia said. “He used to play with the Playstation. But he forced himself to play once a week only for one hour because he didn’t want to become a slave to this technological games. He wanted to be free.”

Exactly four years after Carlo’s death, Antonia gave birth to twins– a miracle she attributes to Carlo’s intercession. The twins were born into the world on the anniversary of the day Carlo left it.

The twins have revealed to Antonia just how extraordinary Carlo was as a child.

“Sometimes I have to say ‘don’t do this’, ‘don’t do that’... I mean, they are good children because they pray the rosary each day, they go to Mass because of the example of Carlo. But they are not like Carlo. There is really a very, very big difference,” she said.

Ironically, the faith that Carlo kindled in his mother was the very thing that helped her make sense of his death.

“Jesus was preparing me and my husband because we got closer to the faith and the sacramental life and he prepared us for this moment for the death of Carlo. Without the faith, I don’t know how we could accept the death of a child - an only child,” said Antonia.

After his death, Carlo’s example in holiness quickly bore much fruit. His mother said that people who knew Carlo began praying to him right after he died, and crowds who had been touched by Carlo’s life flooded the funeral.

Pope Francis named Carlo venerable in July 2019, and his beatification ceremony, originally planned for the spring of 2020, was postponed until October due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Gori said that the ceremony was postponed especially because so many young people hoped to attend. Carlo, along with Saint Pier Giorgio Frassati or Blessed Chiara Luce Badano, have become beacons of holiness for modern youth.

“Because Carlo’s beatification will surely be a celebration for all young people, and since Carlo is known in many countries, not to say universally known, it would be a shame to be able to do it only with a few people,” Gori said.

Antonia hopes that the ceremony that declares her son on the path to canonization will occur within her lifetime.

“I am confident that it won’t be so far away,” she said.

Supreme Court LGBT decision puts pressure on religious employers, employees

Tue, 06/16/2020 - 19:56

Denver Newsroom, Jun 16, 2020 / 05:56 pm (CNA).- The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that a federal ban on sex discrimination also protects sexual orientation and gender-identity will have far-reaching consequences for religions, employers and employees because it enshrines a certain view of sexuality and gender into law, according to legal and religious liberty experts.
 
“We’re going to have future litigation, in many other cases, on whether the anti-discrimination principle or the religious liberty principle trumps the other at the end of the day,” John Bursch, director of legal advocacy and senior counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom legal group, told CNA.

The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that employers cannot fire workers because of their sexual orientation or self-determined gender identity, while dissenting justices argued the Court was legislating from the bench.

Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the majority opinion for the Court in a 6-3 decision, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor. They ruled that protections against sex discrimination in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act also applied to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The decision considered a trio of discrimination cases before the Court, two of which involved employees who said they were fired because of their sexual orientation in Bostock v. Clayton County and Altitude Express, Inc. v. Zarda.

A third case, Harris Funeral Homes, Inc. v. EEOC, involved a man who lost his job at a Michigan funeral home after he had gender-transition surgery and returned to work dressed as a woman. The funeral home had sex-specific dress code policies for employees.

According to Bursch, who argued Harris Funeral Homes’ case before the Supreme Court, the majority opinion “really embraces the modern cultural view of human sexuality and what it means to be male and female,” he said.

“It accepts the precept that human sexuality is really irrelevant. It’s really about how you feel, and what’s in your head, and what you subjectively proclaim yourself to be, your gender.”
 
“That kind of thinking is dangerous, not only because it maligns those who hold the opposite view, like the Catholic Church, but also because it does great harm to those who hold that view of themselves. Anytime we reject god’s will for ourselves, including the bodies that he gave us, bad things happen,” he added.
 
Bursch said the opinion holds that disapproving of choices made related to sexual orientation or gender identity is “wrong” or “discriminatory” or “hateful.”
 
“If people start to imbibe that and start to agree with that, and the law says ‘but there’s an exception for religious beliefs,’ they’re going to start to think that those religious beliefs themselves are hateful, that they are discriminatory, that they are bigoted,” he said.
 
“The arc of history shows that when you’ve got something that society deems to be bigotry and hateful, it doesn’t last very long. And most of the time that’s a good thing,” he said.

However, he predicted this view will continue to lead some to castigate the Catholic Church and Catholic views on sexuality as being “hateful and bigoted.”

Churches themselves are exempt from Title VII legislation, but religiously motivated employers do not have the same protection. Bursch expects that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act will “certainly help” such employers, but it is unclear how safe they will be.

The U.S. bishops were also critical. Archbishop Jose Gomez, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in a June 15 statement that the is “deeply concerned” that the court “effectively redefined the legal meaning of ‘sex’ in our nation’s civil rights law.”

“This is an injustice that will have implications in many areas of life,” he said, voicing concern that the court’s opinion erased “the beautiful differences and complementary relationship between man and woman.”

“Every human person is made in the image and likeness of God and, without exception, must be treated with dignity, compassion, and respect,” he added. “Protecting our neighbors from unjust discrimination does not require redefining human nature.”

Tom Venzor, executive director of the Nebraska Catholic Conference, echoed Archbishop Gomez.

“The Church’s teaching on sexuality and the human person is and always has been motivated by love,” he said. “Those who feel they have the wrong body, or are attracted to persons of the same sex, are not cast out by the Church. The Church embraces them, seeks to understand their pain and suffering, and offers them a way to self-understanding, healing, and peace.  This is not offered by the bodily autonomy movement that has gained so much purchase in the last several decades. Regardless of any Supreme Court decision, that will continue to be a mission of the Church—institutionally and individually, at Mass and in our conversations, in public and in private.”
 
The Supreme Court case could have consequences for Christian employees.

Employees with traditional Christian views on marriage and gender identity could “absolutely” be perceived by their employers as a liability risk for creating a hostile work environment that is sexually discriminatory, Bursch said.

“If you had a Catholic employee who in a lunchroom conversation was asked what their views on gender identity were, and they explained John Paul II’s beautiful theology of the body, and the Church’s understanding about what it means to be created male and female and embracing your identity in Christ, not any identity you want to express in yourself, they could be deemed to have created a hostile environment to an employee who feels threatened by that language and disagrees with it. Now all of a sudden that Catholic employee is now on the chopping block”.

“There too we are going to have conflict and religious liberty differences that will have to be litigated in the courts,” Bursch said. “Far from solving any problems, this opens up Pandora’s Box, the next 20 years of court cases.”
 
Burch cited the case of former Atlanta fire chief Kelvin Cochran, who, in a long firefighting career, was appointed US Fire Administrator by President Barack Obama before working as Atlanta’s fire chief. He was fired after writing a book in his personal capacity that defended Christian views on sex.
 
Bursch said the Cochran case was “particularly scary to me because it involves non-work conduct.”

According to Bursch, the city of Atlanta considered Cochran’s views bigoted and unwelcome in the workplace and fired him. Though Cochran’s lawsuit ended in a settlement, the city’s approach will likely be used by others, Bursch said.

Some companies circulate surveys asking employees whether they are LGBT “allies.” This can prompt an employee to wonder if this means endorsing same-sex marriage and gender ideology in ways that conflict with his or her religious belief, and to respond “no.”

“You’re being set up then because you could be punished in the future for not getting on board with the program and creating a hostile argument,” Bursch warned.

“This isn’t hypothetical, this isn’t the boogeyman, we’re going to see more of those cases moving forward,” Bursch said. “The goal of those who are pushing this agenda is nothing less than to destroy the church and stop everyone from talking publicly about those issues.

Venzor suggested that business owners will suffer from high uncertainty in the wake of the decision, given that jurisprudence is rapidly changing.

“Business owners must be able to expect predictability from the law and the courts, and not radical, overnight shifts in what the law expects of them as participants in the free market,” he said. 

“Bostock already has and will violate the religious freedom of business owners, despite Justice Gorsuch’s claims that the case was not addressing those particular issues. Justice Anthony Kennedy, in Obergefell v. Hodges, underscored the fact that ‘reasonable and sincere people’ have held for millennia and continue to hold onto traditional views of marriage and human sexuality.”
 
“Yesterday, in Bostock, Justice Gorsuch told those same religious business owners that their religious values have no place in a 21st century 'woke' marketplace,” Veznor told CNA.
 
Justice Neil Gorsuch, writing for the Court’s majority, acknowledged religious freedom concerns for employers in the Court’s decision. Religious organizations and employers do have certain protections from discrimination lawsuits under the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which the decision noted.

However, the religious freedom question would be a matter of future consideration since “none of the employers before us today represent in this Court that compliance with Title VII will infringe their own religious liberties in any way,” Gorsuch wrote.

 

After Supreme Court decision, Sen. Josh Hawley says religious conservatives have a 'bad' deal

Tue, 06/16/2020 - 18:28

CNA Staff, Jun 16, 2020 / 04:28 pm (CNA).- Sen. Josh Hawley called Tuesday for religious conservatives to “stand up and speak out” for religious liberty in light of the recent Supreme Court decision in Bostock v. Clayton County.

The decision redefined discrimination in federal civil rights employment law to include gender identity and sexuality. 

In a June 16 floor speech, Hawley referred to the decision as “historic,” and “seismic,” adding that the decision marked the end of the “legal conservative project.”

The senator said religious conservatives have long voted for certain candidates under the presumption that they would appoint judges who would protect religious liberty. The Missouri senator classified himself as one of these “religious conservatives.”

“If this case makes anything clear, it is that the bargain that has been offered to religious conservatives for years now is a bad one,” said Hawley.

This unspoken bargain, he claimed, is that religious conservatives “go along with the (Republican) party establishment,” including supporting policies that, in his view, do not benefit lower- and middle-class workers, in exchange for “some judges on the bench who supposedly will protect your Constitutional rights to freedom of worship to freedom of exercise.”

Hawley was particularly critical of policies he said cut taxes on the rich and help out “multinational corporations,” while doing nothing to prevent jobs from going overseas.

“We are supposed to stay quiet about all of that and more because there would be pro-Constitution religious liberty judges. Except for they aren't,” he said. “These judges don’t follow the Constitution.

“What (religious conservatives) sought together was protection for their right to worship, for their right to freely exercise their faith as the First Amendment guarantees, for the right to gather in their communities, for their right to pursue the way of life that their scriptures variously command and that the Constitution absolutely protects. That’s what they have asked for, that’s what they have sought all these years,” said Hawley.

The Supreme Court did not rule on the fate of churches and other religious institutions in its decision on Monday, writing that these topics were “questions for future cases.”

“No doubt they are,” said Hawley, saying these are “huge questions.” He added that he will “eagerly await” what the “super legislators across the street in the Supreme Court building” will have to say on this topic.

Hawley criticized his fellow legislators for failing to pass legislation on issues of critical importance.

“There’s only one problem with this piece of legislation,” Hawley said, referring to the Supreme Court’s decision.

“It was issued by a court, not by a legislature. It was written by judges, not by the elected representatives of the people. And it did what this Congress has pointededly declined to do for years now, which is to change the text and the meaning and the application and the scope of a historic piece of legislation.”

Hawley said that the other members of the legislature are “terrified” to put a vote on a potentially contentious issue on the record. He said that the legislature is now no longer accountable to the people who elected them, that in their refusal to pass legislation, “courts rush in.”

Now, said Hawley, is the time for religious conservatives “to bring forward the best of our ideas on every policy affecting this nation” and stop remaining silent on issues such as economics, trade, race, class, and “every subject that matters for what our founders called the general welfare.”

“The bargain which religious conservatives have been offered is not tenable,” said the Senator. “So I would just say it's not time for religious conservatives to shut up. We've done that for too long. No, it's time for religious conservatives to stand up and to speak out.”

 

‘Let Michael be the miracle’ - The baby healed through Fr. McGivney’s prayers

Tue, 06/16/2020 - 15:10

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 16, 2020 / 01:10 pm (CNA).- Catholics have a whole host of saints to choose from in times of trouble or anguish. There’s St. Rita, patroness of the impossible, St. Dymphna, the patroness of anxiety, and when all else fails, there’s always the patron of lost causes himself, St. Jude.

But when the Schachle family of Dickson, Tennessee, needed a saint - and a miracle - they went a different route.



When Michelle Schachle found out that her 13th child not only had Down syndrome, but fetal hydrops--an uncommon, typically fatal condition where fluid builds up around the vital organs of an unborn child--she and her husband appealed to Fr. Michael McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus, for help.

The unborn Schachle was given “no hope” - the combination of fetal hydrops and Down syndrome meant that he had no chance of survival.

“The doctor that ran the neonatal high risk clinic at Vanderbilt University told us that she had been doing this for 30 years and she had never seen a child survive the diagnosis,” Daniel, the baby’s father, told CNA. Michelle had already had one stillborn child, and she was overcome with fear at the thought that would happen again.

Asking Fr. McGivney for his intercession was a no-brainer for the Schachle family. Daniel works for the Knights of Columbus and had previously been Grand Knight of his local council. The Schachles even dubbed their homeschool the “Fr. McGivney Academy.”



“We’ve worn out his prayer card over the years,” said Daniel. When it came time to invoke some spiritual help during a crisis, there was no question about what they would do next.

“We knew that (Fr. McGivney) looked out over our family, and we looked to him a lot and asked him to pray for us, anyways. So it was more of a natural, I would say, flow,” said Daniel. Michelle concurred, telling CNA that McGivney had answered prayers “many times” for their family.

When they prayed for their unborn baby, Fr. McGivney came through again - in a big way. With hundreds of people praying for McGivney’s intervention for her child, and following a quick pilgrimage to Fatima with the Knights of Columbus, Michelle’s next ultrasound showed no sign of fetal hydrops.

Her doctor that day, initially unaware that her patient was the woman she had heard about - the woman with the terminally ill baby - began to discuss what they would do when the baby was born. Michelle was confused by that development.

“And so I just looked at her and I said, ‘Doctor, I was told there was no hope’,” she told CNA. She said learning her son would likely survive his birth sent her into “a lot of shock” and that the rest of that day was a blur.

One thing Michelle clearly remembers, however, is being asked by her doctor what she would name her baby. Until that day, she and her husband had planned to name the baby Benedict, and had been referring to him as “Baby Ben.” But when she heard that her child had been healed, Michelle knew he had to be named Michael, in honor of McGivney.

“I just remember weeping and saying, ‘His name is Michael,’” said Michelle. “And we never called him Ben after that.”

On May 27, 2020, Pope Francis confirmed what the Schachles already knew: they had witnessed a miracle. After extensive medical examination, the unexplained healing of Michael was decreed a miracle that arose through the intercession of Fr. McGivney.

As a result of that miracle, McGivney will be beatified, and referred to as Bl. Michael McGivney.

The Schachles told CNA it had crossed their minds that their prayer could lead to the miracle needed to advance Fr. McGivney’s cause for canonization, but that was not their specific goal in asking for his intercession.

“I remember praying the whole, the entire trip (to Fatima), ‘let Michael be the miracle,’ but like in my heart of hearts, that meant he would live,” Michelle explained to CNA. “And I never thought beyond him living...I only wanted him to live.”



Daniel told CNA that he remembered thinking, “There's gotta be a baby (who) survives this at some point. Why can't it be ours?” along with “You know, Fr. McGivney needs a miracle. Why can't it be Michael?”

During the investigation into Michael’s healing from fetal hydrops, the Schachles were repeatedly asked why they did not pray for Michael’s healing from Down syndrome as well. They explained that they viewed a child with Down syndrome as a “blessing” to their family, and that they were only concerned about him being born alive.

Despite the miraculous healing from fetal hydrops, the rest of Michelle’s pregnancy did not go entirely according to plan. She delivered her son in an emergency cesarean section after just 31 weeks gestation. Michael weighed only 3 pounds 4 ounces, and spent the first 10 weeks and one day of his life in the hospital.

Michael was born on May 15, 2015. They call him Mikey.

Even with Michael’s early arrival into the world, the hand of providence - and Fr. McGivney - was at work with the Schachle family.

Michael’s birthday, May 15, is the anniversary of the chartering of the first Knights of Columbus council. Michelle and McGivney have the same birthday. Both Michael and McGivney were born into families of 13 children - McGivney was the eldest, and Michael the youngest.

Michael was born with a heart defect commonly found in children with Down syndrome, and had heart surgery at just seven weeks old. He had another brush with death at six months old, when he came down with a respiratory illness that landed him in the hospital for six weeks.

But today, Michael is a happy and active five-year-old. He has no conditions related to his prematurity or fetal hydrops, and, by his family's account, he's thriving.



His parents told CNA that while their youngest “definitely knows he is special” and “knows that he is the king of the world,” he is not yet aware about the miraculous circumstances surrounding his birth. They say that Michael has strengthened their prayer lives, and has made a “big impression” on his doctors.

“There were times where (the doctors) were like, ‘We don't know what's going to happen and he's going to make it or not,’” Michelle said to CNA. “And I'm like, ‘I don't think you understand, God has big plans for this child.’” 

“When God shows up like that, it changes everything,” she said.

 

Catholic composer David Haas denies 'sexual battery' and coercion allegations

Tue, 06/16/2020 - 11:10

Denver Newsroom, Jun 16, 2020 / 09:10 am (CNA).- Catholic composer David Haas has denied allegations of serial sexual misconduct and spiritual manipulation, and says the advocacy group bringing allegations forward aims to destroy his livelihood.

“David Haas denounces Into Account Inc.’s allegations as false, reckless and offensive,” the composer said in a press release issued June 16.

Haas “is also sad and disappointed that Into Account Inc. chose to use social media- a public forum- to deprive him of a fair and legitimate venue to face his accusers, but instead launched a marketing effort with the mission to destroy his reputation and livelihood,” the composer added.

Accusations against Haas came to light last week, when a group called Into Account, which says it “provides advocacy and the most up-to-date resources to survivors seeking accountability,” sent a letter to some Catholic organizations and media outlets, addressing allegations.

The letter, obtained by CNA June 14, said the group had “received reports from multiple individuals reporting sexually predatory actions from the composer David Haas.”

Into Account alleged that Haas had engaged in “a repeated, unethical abuse of the professional and spiritual power he has had in church music circles,” reportedly targeting “multiple women using techniques that abuse prevention experts identify as grooming,” coercing women into sexual favors, and exploiting women who had previously experienced abuse.

The group said it has heard from nearly a dozen women, some of whom have accused Haas of “sudden, overwhelming sexual aggression,” and “incidents that we would interpret as outright sexual battery, involving groping, forcible kissing, and aggressive, lewd propositions. The youngest victim reported to us was 19 years old at the time of the alleged sexual battery, while Haas was over 50.”

While Haas denied those claims, they are not the first time he has been accused of sexual misconduct.

Music publisher GIA said in a June 13 Facebook post that it learned about allegations of sexual misconduct “early this year.”

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis told CNA that it received allegations of misconduct against Haas in both 2018 and 1987. In 2018, two women told the archdiocese that the composer had “acted inappropriately” with them, and in 1987, the archdiocese “had received a complaint alleging that David Haas had made an unwelcomed sexual advance toward a young adult woman.”

The archdiocese said Haas has denied those allegations, but, “following the 2018 complaints, the Archdiocese informed Mr. Haas that the Archdiocese would not provide him with a letter of recommendation that he had requested.”

“Furthermore, the Archdiocese advised Mr. Haas that he was not allowed to provide services at Catholic institutions in the Archdiocese without disclosure of the complaints made against him,” archdiocesan spokesman Tom Halden added.

Haas did not immediately respond to questions from CNA about those additional allegations.

Haas, 63, is the composer of several songs included in the “Gather” hymnal published by GIA, which is among the best-selling and most used hymnals in American Catholic parishes.

Among Haas’ songs are some contemporary standards: “Glory to God,” “You are Mine,” “We are Called,” and “Blest are They,” among others.

GIA has “suspended” its sponsorship and publication of Haas’ work.

On June 15, hymnal publisher OCP said it too would cut ties with Haas.

“We are profoundly disturbed by this news, and pray for all those involved,” a June 15 tweet said.

“OCP has not published new music by Mr. Haas or sponsored him at events for decades, but in light of these allegations, we are immediately suspending all ties with him.”

“While OCP’s 2021 missals have already gone to print, we will determine the content of future publications in light of this situation. We take these allegations very seriously, and we stand with survivors and victims of abuse. We remain committed to prayer, reconciliation, human dignity, peace, and justice.”

 In his June 16 press release, Haas said that he considers himself “an advocate for survivors of clergy sexual abuse and discrimination of all kinds,” and added that he “stands in solidarity and prayerful support of sexual abuse victims and encourages survivors to seek legitimate and appropriate professional services and/or to report any allegations to law enforcement.”

USCCB: Supreme Court has 'redefined' the meaning of 'sex'

Mon, 06/15/2020 - 19:43

CNA Staff, Jun 15, 2020 / 05:43 pm (CNA).- The president of the U.S. bishops’ conference on Monday lamented the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in a case that considered whether federal civil rights law considers sexual identity and gender identity to be covered by laws prohibiting employment discrimination based upon sex.

“I am deeply concerned that the U.S. Supreme Court has effectively redefined the legal meaning of ‘sex’ in our nation’s civil rights law. This is an injustice that will have implications in many areas of life,” Archbishop Jose Gomez said in a June 15 statement.

The Supreme Court ruled June 15 that employers cannot fire workers because of their sexual orientation or self-determined gender identity, even while dissenting justices opined the Court was legislating from the bench.

The decision considered a trio of discrimination cases before the Court, two of which involved employees who said they were fired because of their sexual orientation in Bostock v. Clayton County and Altitude Express, Inc. v. Zarda.

A third case, Harris Funeral Homes, Inc. v. EEOC, involved a man who lost his job at a Michigan funeral home after he had gender-transition surgery and returned to work dressed as a woman; the funeral home had sex-specific dress code policies for employees.

The question at issue was whether or not protections against sex discrimination in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act also applied to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

On Monday, the Court’s majority ruled that “An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender violates Title VII.

In November, the U.S. bishops’ conference had asked the Court not to extend Title VII protections to sexual orientation and gender identity, because to do so would “redefine a fundamental element of humanity.”

“Words matter,” the statement from leading U.S. bishops said. “‘Sex’ should not be redefined to include sexual inclinations or conduct, nor to promulgate the view that sexual identity is solely a social construct rather than a natural or biological fact.”

Gomez echoed that sentiment on Monday.

“By erasing the beautiful differences and complementary relationship between man and woman, we ignore the glory of God’s creation and harm the human family, the first building block of society. Our sex, whether we are male or female, is part of God’s plan for creation and for our lives. As Pope Francis has taught with such sensitivity, to live in the truth with God’s intended gifts in our lives requires that we receive our bodily and sexual identity with gratitude from our Creator. No one can find true happiness by pursuing a path that is contrary to God’s plan,” the archbishop said.

“Every human person is made in the image and likeness of God and, without exception, must be treated with dignity, compassion, and respect. Protecting our neighbors from unjust discrimination does not require redefining human nature.”

Critics of the Court’s decision have argued that, in addition to reinforcing the transgender ideology, they could undermine the religious liberty of religious employers and business owners.

Justice Neil Gorsuch, writing for the Court’s majority, acknowledged religious freedom concerns for employers in the Court’s decision. Religious organizations and employers do have certain protections from discrimination lawsuits under the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), his decision said.

However, the religious freedom question would be a matter of future consideration since “none of the employers before us today represent in this Court that compliance with Title VII will infringe their own religious liberties in any way,” Gorsuch wrote.

 

 

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