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Church officials evaluating priest who told Catholics to ‘disobey’ bishop on mask wearing

Wed, 09/02/2020 - 17:50

Denver, Colo., Sep 2, 2020 / 03:50 pm (CNA).-  

Both the Archdiocese of Denver and the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter are reviewing the situation of a priest who told Catholics to disobey the orders of Church and civic officials regarding masks at Mass and other religious services.

In a video posted on YouTube Tuesday, Fr. Daniel Nolan told Catholics “do not obey the bishop, do not obey the governor. They cannot tell you to wear a mask. This is a lie. They are lying to all of us.”

“If your bishop tells you, don’t do it. And I encourage everybody not to wear a mask. And I am telling you: disobey your bishop, disobey your governor. That’s what I’m telling you,” Nolan added.

His remarks came at the conclusion of a catechetical session offered at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Littleton, Colorado, which posted the video on YouTube Tuesday, and took it down on Wednesday. 

Asked about the importance of obedience, Nolan told parishioners that “we ought to obey God rather than man. And if the bishop tells you to do something that is contrary to your health, contrary to reason, and contrary to the common good, disobey it. And it’s contrary to the common good to continue to go along with an attempted communist takeover of the United States, which is what’s happening.”

Asked in the video about obedience to local Church authorities, Nolan added: “Disobey them all. At this point they have zero authority. These are cooperating in evil. Which is the suppression of the American people. Suppression of your rights, suppression of your liberties, suppression of common sense. The emperor has no clothes. If you are healthy you have a .006% chance of dying from COVID. The flu has a greater chance of killing you, if you’re healthy. So big time lies. This is not politics anymore, this is morality.” 

Archdiocesan spokesman Mark Haas told CNA Sept. 2 the archdiocese is looking into the matter.

Noting that the YouTube video “was taken down before it could be fully reviewed,” Haas said the archdiocese would “begin the process of determining any appropriate next steps.”

The spokesman added that the archdiocese would begin its review of the situation in conversation with the parish pastor.

Canon law establishes that a person who “provokes subjects to disobey” their ordinary “is to be punished by an interdict or other just penalties.”

Guidelines published by the Archdiocese of Denver June 2 say that Catholics who attend public Masses should wear a mask.

The guidelines do not specify whether they are normative mandates, and they instruct pastors to make “prudent decisions for their parishes after reading through the Archdiocesan guidance and understanding state and local regulations.”

But Haas told CNA that “the Archdiocese of Denver’s guidelines for public Masses instruct all parishioners to wear a mask. All parishes are also expected to follow the varying local and state public health orders.”

The state of Colorado requires until Sept. 14 that masks be worn in “public indoor spaces” by most persons over 10 years old. The state executive order includes exceptions for persons with medical conditions, and for religious officials, including priests, officiating at religious services.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel is a parish administered by the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP).

The FSSP is a society of apostolic life which celebrates the extraordinary form of the Roman rite. It was founded in 1988 by 12 priests of the Society of St. Pius X. The founders left the SSPX to establish the FSSP after the society's leader, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, consecrated four bishops without the permission of St. John Paul II.

Philip Condron, a spokesperson for the FSSP, told CNA that the fraternity “will review this matter according to the Code of Canon Law and its own internal policies.”

“The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter does not endorse comments or support actions to disobey their bishops or governmental authorities. The opinion of Fr. Daniel Nolan was his personal opinion and it does not reflect that of the Fraternity of St. Peter,” Condron clarified by email.

“The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter superiors have instructed their priests to adhere to public health guidelines as issued by local, state and federal authorities, including the requirements of their local ordinaries (bishops),” he added.

Nolan, 44, was ordained a priest of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter in 2014. Before entering the FSSP, he attended the United States Naval Academy and served in the Marine Corps, retiring as a captain in 2006.

There are nearly 300 priests and 150 seminarians in the fraternity. It has parishes and chapels in North America, Europe, Oceania, Nigeria, and Colombia, including the personal parish of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, at which Nolan has been a parochial vicar since 2018.

Parishioners have told CNA that Nolan has been well regarded at the parish, hosting men’s nights for the Knights of Columbus and being attentive to spiritual formation.

Nolan has not yet responded to questions from CNA.

During the video, in which the priest referred to the coronavirus outbreak as a “scamdemic,” Nolan told parishioners to “brace yourselves for a new third priest,” adding that “my next sermon is gonna get me, like, transferred so enjoy me while you can.”



Catholic Florida man sues university over religious freedom

Wed, 09/02/2020 - 14:30

CNA Staff, Sep 2, 2020 / 12:30 pm (CNA).- The Catholic former head of Florida State University’s student senate is suing the school, saying his religious freedom was violated when he was removed from his position.

Jack Denton, a member of Florida State University’s (FSU) Class of 2021, was ousted from his position as head of the FSU student senate in June when comments he made in a private chat forum for Catholic students were made public. He had claimed that policy positions of, the ACLU, and Reclaim the Block contradicted the teachings of the Catholic Church, in a conversation about racial justice.

A petition called his comments “transphobic and racist” and the student senate subsequently voted to remove him as chair. He unsuccessfully appealed to the student supreme court and to university administrators for his reinstatement.

Denton’s lawyer, Tyson Langhofer of Alliance Defending Freedom, said on Tuesday that “Florida State should be fostering real diversity of thought, not punishing individuals based on their religious convictions or political beliefs.”

“While FSU students claim they’re creating a ‘safe space,’ they’ve tried to cancel Jack’s freedoms and discriminate against him because they don’t like his beliefs, in direct violation of the school’s SGA Ethics Code, the Student Body Constitution, and—most importantly—the First Amendment,” Langhofer stated.

Denton’s comments were made in a GroupMe text messaging forum for members of the university’s Catholic Student Union, in a conversation about racial justice and which organizations that students should financially support. He noted that the groups “, Reclaim the Block, and the ACLU all advocate for things that are explicitly anti-Catholic.”

Denton said that “ fosters ‘a queer-affirming network’ and defends transgenderism,” while the ACLU “defends laws protecting abortion facilities and sued states that restrict access to abortion.” 

The group Reclaim the Block, he said, “claims less police will make our communities safer and advocates for cutting PD’s budgets.” The claim “is a little less explicit,” he said, “but I think it’s contrary to the Church’s teaching on the common good.”

He later explained his comments to CNA, saying that “as a devout Catholic and a college student, I felt that it was my responsibility to point out this discrepancy, to make sure that my fellow Catholics knew what they were partaking in.”

One of the students in the forum took a screenshot of Denton’s comments and sent them to a member of the student senate. A student senate motion of no-confidence in Denton failed on June 3, but on June 5 the senate held a vote and removed Denton from office.

Denton’s lawsuit alleges that his free speech was constitutionally-protected by the First Amendment, and that the state university unlawfully retaliated against his speech and committed viewpoint discrimination. He names university administrators and members of the student senate as defendants.

Denton had planned to appeal his case to the university’s Supreme Court, but the student senate “intentionally prevented the Court from hearing his complaint,” his lawsuit states, adding that the university’s leadership also failed to take action and reinstate him.

He is seeking reinstatement to his old position, compensation for the time he would have spent working as student senate chair over the summer, and “the expungement of all records” related to his removal.

Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, who chairs the U.S. bishops’ religious freedom committee, cited Denton’s case as an example of a “soft despotism” in the U.S. that is hostile to public Catholicism.

Denton’s “defenses of, basically, Catholic moral teachings,” Wenski said, were “a step too far for many of these new Jacobins we see around.”

After Hurricane Laura, priests' support group responds to a 'brother' in need

Wed, 09/02/2020 - 14:00

New Orleans, La., Sep 2, 2020 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- This report was first published by the Clarion Herald, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of New Orleans. It is reprinted with permission. The archdiocese offers a list of ways to help with recovery after Hurricane Laura.


Support groups for priests provide ongoing camaraderie and spiritual nourishment, and now that list of benefits can be expanded to include hurricane relief.

Just days after Hurricane Laura devastated the Diocese of Lake Charles in southwest Louisiana and damaged dozens of churches, eight members of a priests’ support group bolted into action to aid their ninth member – Father Jeffrey Starkovich of St. Pius X Church in Ragley, Louisiana.

On Aug. 31, priests from the Archdiocese of New Orleans and the Dioceses of Houma-Thibodaux, Lafayette and Baton Rouge arrived in Ragley, just north of Lake Charles, driving U-hauls packed with donated water, food, soft drinks, paper goods, diapers, canned goods, ice and gasoline.

The relief help also included hundreds of hot meals – mostly jambalaya and red beans and rice – cooked by the parishioners of Annunciation Parish in Bogalusa, where support group member Father Daniel Brouilette is pastor. Those staples of Cajun cuisine were passed out to more than a thousand cars with drive-thru service.

“It's simply the gift of the priesthood – people being generous to one another,” said Father Starkovich, the spokesman for the Lake Charles Diocese who was ordained in 2011.

“In a very real way, I was moved by the gift of the priesthood, because the priests brought the message to the people, and the people responded. It’s just the beauty of the priesthood.”

Father Jonathan Hemelt, pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary Parish in New Orleans, and Father Bryan Howard, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Violet, drove their U-Haul trucks 200 miles to Lake Charles, and Father Colin Braud, pastor of Visitation of Our Lady Parish in Marrero, drove his car in the caravan so they could make their way back to New Orleans.

“I’ve never driven any truck like that before,” Father Howard said, laughing. “It got a little hairy at times."

Father Hemelt said what touched him were his memories of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when he was one of thousands of New Orleanians who needed help.

“I thought about it when I saw that line of people waiting to see all the volunteers,” Father Hemelt said. “Fifteen years ago, I was in one of those lines waiting for supplies. The amazing thing is the people volunteering are the same people who also lost their own stuff. They are unloading trucks, and they are probably in the same position as those coming for help.”

After Laura hit on Aug. 26, the support group members reached out to Father Starkovich and contacted their own parishioners about trying to mount a quick collection campaign. In addition to dropping off supplies, Our Lady of the Rosary parishioners donated about $10,000 in direct financial assistance.
The other support group members are Father Daniel Green, pastor of St. Maria Goretti Church in New Orleans; Father Garrett McIntyre of the Lafayette Diocese; Father Todd Lloyd of the Baton Rouge Diocese and Father Andre Melancon of the Houma-Thibodaux Diocese.

Father Hemelt said he hoped Our Lady of the Rosary and St. Maria Goretti parishes could work together on a plan for long-term support of St. Pius X in Ragley.

Despite being stationed hundreds of miles apart over five dioceses, the support group members meet monthly for a meal and fellowship – the venue rotates – and they also try to vacation together annually, Father Hemelt said.

Hurricane Laura destroyed the St. Pius X office building and religion education classrooms, badly damaged the church roof and damaged the roof of the parish hall. But Father Starkovich celebrated the 8:30 a.m. Mass in the church on Sunday, and 65 people showed up.

“What really touched me is the people are so filled with hope and happiness,” Father Starkovich said. “Today everyone was joyful. We were short on volunteers, and we sent out a text message, and 50 volunteers came to the church in 10 minutes. They all left their own homes, which they were working on, to give food and water and supplies to everyone else. We had planned for 12 to 2. Well, it’s 9:30 to 5.”

Because there is no water or power at the parish plant, Father Starkovich is living temporarily with nearly two dozen family members at his parents’ home.

In addition to donations from the respective parishes of each support group members, Our Lady of Prompt Succor Parish in Chalmette and St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Slidell also donated supplies.

“Most of our parishes are talking up collections to help with financial assistance,” Father Hemelt said.

“As one my parishioners told me,” said Father Howard, “after Katrina, we were hit so hard, and help was coming from all over the country. Now it’s our turn to return some of that help and support them.”

Father Starkovich said that message is not lost on Lake Charles Catholics.

“Our diocese helped New Orleans during Katrina, and now receiving that gift in return is a beautiful reality,” he said.

Senators urge FDA to label abortion pill 'imminent threat to public health'

Wed, 09/02/2020 - 13:05

CNA Staff, Sep 2, 2020 / 11:05 am (CNA).- Nearly two dozen senators are urging the Trump administration to remove the abortion pill from the market as advocates for the drug push for its wider availability.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) led a group of 20 Republican senators in signing a letter to the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, Stephen Hahn, on Tuesday, asking him to classify mifepristone as an “immanent hazard to the public health.” The classification would bar the pill from being sold in U.S. markets.

Citing “the devastating impact this drug has had on American women and children,” the letter noted that more than 3.7 million unborn children have been killed as a result of the abortion pill, along with 24 maternal deaths and 4,195 cases of “adverse maternal reactions.”

Since it allowed the chemical abortion regimen —a two-drug protocol of mifepristone and misoprostol—in the U.S. in 2000, the FDA has placed it on its “Risk Evaluation Mitigation Strategy (REMS)” list reserved for high-risk drugs and procedures.

The REMS protocol includes certain requirements, among them that the drugs be prescribed in-person and that the prescriber be capable of diagnosing an ectopic pregnancy, as well as arrange for an emergency surgery in case of a complication.

However, during the coronavirus pandemic, abortion advocates have cited a reduction in in-person doctor appointments for elective procedures as a reason for the FDA to allow the pill to be prescribed remotely via telemedicine. A federal judge on July 13 ruled that the REMS requirements should be suspended during the pandemic.

In response, nearly two-dozen pro-life leaders wrote Commissioner Hahn asking him to exercise statutory authority and classify mifepristone as an “imminent threat to public health”; such a decision, under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, would remove the pill from the U.S. market.

Sen. Cruz followed up that effort with his letter on Tuesday, asking the FDA to continue to subject the abortion pill to the REMS requirements.

It is an “open question as to whether women receiving the abortion pill via telemedicine” would receive the necessary preventive or responsive care, the letter said, and could result in “a form of ‘DIY’ chemical abortion” shielded from oversight.

The letter stated that “it is by now nakedly obvious that the abortion industry and its allies in the media, billionaire philanthropic circles, and special interest groups, have wanted an unregulated and demedicalized abortion pill since the moment the FDA first approved it in 2000.”

Cruz was joined by 19 senators including Senate Pro-Life Caucus chair Steve Daines (R-Mont.) as well as Sens. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.).

According to Cruz, Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) led more than 70 members of the House in another letter to Commissioner Hahn, asking him to remove the abortion pill from the market.

Pro-life Democrat, 'delisted' by party, runs for TN House as independent

Wed, 09/02/2020 - 06:00

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 2, 2020 / 04:00 am (CNA).- A pro-life Tennessee state representative is running as an independent after was ousted from the Democratic Party for his views on life and marriage. He told CNA that he is not giving up what he sees as a ministry.

In April, Rep. John DeBerry—a Tennessee state legislator since 1994 who represents the Memphis-based 90th district—was removed from the Democratic ballot for the 2020 election by the state party’s executive committee. But, he told CNA on Monday, he does not regret his defense of life.

“My work in Nashville as a legislator is nothing more than an extension of my work as a child of God, as a Christian,” DeBerry told CNA.

“And I take to heart Ephesians chapter 6, ‘We wrestle not against flesh and blood’—people are not the enemy,” he said, but “there are those who make laws that are blasphemous of God’s law.”

“I have always made my focus staying in accordance to the laws of God, even when my votes are made,” said DeBerry, who is also a minister in the Church of Christ.

DeBerry said that after his removal from the ticket by the Democratic Party, he gathered the necessary signatures to be placed on the ballot by the deadline, but that party officials waited until after the deadline to remove him, “until I had no recourse.”

“They said I do not represent the values of the Democratic Party,” he told CNA.

DeBerry supported the state’s fetal heartbeat bill, which would ban abortions after detection of a fetal heartbeat, usually when an unborn baby is around six to eight weeks old. He says he opposes the redefinition of marriage, and supports the “right” and responsibility of parents to educate their children and make choices for them.

He told CNA his views on abortion and marriage are no secret, as he campaigned on them decades ago.

“So for them to say that folks don’t know where I stand, they actually said that the people in my district don’t have sense enough to elect their representative,” he said of his removal.

In addition to his pro-life stance, DeBerry also broke with his party in support of school vouchers and voted for a Republican for House Speaker, according to the Tennessean, and has been accused of taking money from political action committees that are seen to align with Republicans. 

In addition to DeBerry's pro-life position, he is also a life-long civil rights activist.

As a child, he attended civil rights marches with his father. In a passionate speech on the Tennessee House Floor in August, during the second extraordinary session of the state’s general assembly, DeBerry contrasted the peaceful nature of the protests he witnessed and participated in as a youth with riots in U.S. cities in the last few months.

“I am one of those individuals who walked in back doors because the law said I had to,” he said in his speech Aug. 12, while recalling the bravery and dignity of the civil rights movement.

“I saw men and women stand with courage and integrity and class, and they changed the world,” he said. “They marched peacefully, and Dr. King stood for that which was peaceful.”

“They didn’t beg for anything. They didn’t beg for citizenship--they demanded it,” he said. “They did it by standing like men and women of integrity.”

In the wake of civil unrest in many U.S. cities, DeBerry condemned what he called defenses of rioting, looting, and violence in the name of anti-racism during his August speech. 

“You’re telling me that somebody has the right to throw feces and urine in the faces of those that we as taxpayers pay to protect us? And that’s okay?” he asked. “What has happened to us?!”

DeBerry says he is running as an independent in the November election. Although the deadline to do so had already passed by when he was removed from the Democratic ticket, fellow legislators passed a measure to allow him to be listed on ballots as a political independent and not have to resort to a write-in campaign.

He was one of more than 100 Democrats at the federal, state, and local levels who recently asked the platform committee of the Democratic National Convention to moderate the abortion language in the party’s platform.

The 2020 draft platform of the party calls for taxpayer-funded abortion and restoring federal funding of Planned Parenthood.

Although Trump promised to defund Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, Congress failed to pass legislation doing so. Planned Parenthood did voluntarily withdraw from the federal Title X family planning program after the Trump administration tightened regulations that barred recipients from referring for abortions or being co-located with abortion clinics.

In their August 14 letter, DeBerry and other Democratic officials said the party’s support for late-term abortion will “push many voters into the arms of the Republican Party.” 

All 2020 Democratic presidential candidates supported taxpayer-funded abortion. Several candidates said that women should be able to choose abortion up until the point of birth, and that there was not room in the party for pro-lifers.

DeBerry said that the leadership in the Democratic Party is excluding pro-lifers to the party’s detriment.

“It’s a shame that they have handed all the moral, spiritual, social, and conservative issues on a silver platter over to the Republicans and said we don’t want to have nothing to do with them,” he told CNA.

“How are you enlarging the tent when you’re throwing people out when they don’t walk the chalk line? When they don’t do exactly as they’re told?” DeBerry told CNA. “And that’s where the Democrats are right now.”

“I think that the candidate at the top of the ticket who said if you don’t vote Democrat, then you’re not Black—I think that goes to the heart of the issue,” he said.

In May, Joe Biden told the radio show The Breakfast Club that “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump then you ain’t black.” Biden later said of his remarks that he “shouldn’t have been such a wise guy.”

Mass return: Wisconsin dioceses lift Sunday dispensation

Tue, 09/01/2020 - 15:30

CNA Staff, Sep 1, 2020 / 01:30 pm (CNA).- From this weekend, Catholics living in Wisconsin will once again be required to go to Mass on Sunday, provided they are healthy and not at risk for coronavirus. 

“With new measures now firmly in place to promote and preserve the safety of those attending public Mass, it is with elation that the bishops of Wisconsin have announced plans to end the dispensation from the Sunday Mass obligation in September 2020,” said a statement from the Wisconsin Catholic Conference, released August 31. 

The Wisconsin Catholic Conference speaks on behalf of the 10 current and retired bishops, auxiliary bishops, and archbishops of the state’s five Catholic dioceses. 

The bishops noted that “in recent months, dioceses and parishes throughout the state have been able to resume public worship by adhering to strict safety standards and by restricting access to services for those who are symptomatic, sick, or at risk of serious illness,” yet there was still no obligation in place to actually go to Mass. 

Despite the restored obligation, not everyone will be required to go to Mass, and who is still exempt from the obligation will be up to the individual dioceses. The dioceses will separately announce when they have lifted the dispensation, said the release, and the dioceses will clarify in these proclamations who is not required to attend Mass. 

“As pastors, the bishops of Wisconsin encourage all who are healthy to seek the healing presence of Christ the Bread of Life through a return to Mass,” said the statement.

The Sunday obligation has been dispensed throughout Wisconsin, as has been in most states, since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in mid-March. 

While most areas have resumed some form of public worship in recent months, only the Diocese of Sioux Falls in South Dakota had, so far, lifted the dispensation and is requiring healthy Catholics to attend Mass. 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. For this reason, the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor.” 

Failure to do so, without a “serious reason,” is considered to be a mortal sin.

Trump campaign adds 'unborn life' to second term priorities list

Tue, 09/01/2020 - 13:00

CNA Staff, Sep 1, 2020 / 11:00 am (CNA).-  

The Trump campaign has added bullet points concerning abortion and religious freedom to its list of second-term priorities, along with points regarding the nomination of federal judges and the Second Amendment.

The points, listed under the heading “Defend American Values,” were not originally part of Trump’s 50-point “core priorities” list, which was published by the campaign Aug. 23. They are believed to have been added over the weekend.


TRUMP AGENDA: Trump Campaign releases set of core priorities and goals for president’s potential second term.

Campaign says Trump will further discuss these plans during his acceptance speech at RNC Convention on Thursday and over coming weeks while on the campaign trail.

— Mark Cavitt (@MarkCavitt) August 24, 2020  

The priorities added to the list are: “Continue nominating constitutionalist Supreme Court and lower court judges,” “Protect unborn life through every means available,” “Defend the freedoms of religious believers and organizations,” “Support the exercise of Second Amendment rights.”

The president initially faced pushback from some Catholics for omitting mention of abortion and religious liberty from the original list.

Of the original list, pro-life advocate Lila Rose asked on Twitter, “why isn’t a single one the protection of preborn children or stopping the abortion industry from killing 2300 innocent children every day?”


Out of @TeamTrump’s 50 “core priorities and goals” why isn’t a single one the protection of preborn children or stopping the abortion industry from killing 2300 innocent children every day?

— Lila Rose (@LilaGraceRose) August 24, 2020  

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


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

— Lila Rose (@LilaGraceRose) August 26, 2020  

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

In other contexts, Trump has himself said that he would work to end legal protection for abortion. The president has put a moratorium on federal funding for international aid groups that provide abortions, and pushed back on UN abortion advocacy amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump has also called for an end to federal funding for Planned Parenthood, but while the administration has made some moves in that regard, the abortion provider remains the recipient of roughly $500 million annually in Medicaid reimbursement.

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

In response to questions from CNA regarding the additional points added to its second term agenda and their original omission, a campaign spokesperson told CNA that Trump “will continue to lay out his second term agenda over the coming weeks, and will be sharing additional details about his plans through policy-focused speeches on the campaign trail.”


Ed note: This report has been updated with a response from the Trump campaign.


Black leaders blast 'systemic racism' of abortion in letter to Planned Parenthood

Tue, 09/01/2020 - 12:15

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 1, 2020 / 10:15 am (CNA).- A coalition of Black leaders is calling out Planned Parenthood for “targeting” Black communities for abortions while professing to support the Black Lives Matter movement.

In a letter to Planned Parenthood’s acting president Alexis McGill-Johnson on Tuesday, more than 100 Black elected officials, pastors, and attorneys demanded that she “confront the systemic racism of America’s abortion practices” and renounce the organization’s founder Margaret Sanger for racist writings.

“This effort demonstrates the outrage among the Black community that we have been strategically and consistently targeted by the abortion industry ever since the practice was legalized almost 50 years ago,” said Human Coalition Action executive director Rev. Dean Nelson, whose organization coordinated the letter.

The letter noted that 36% of abortions in the U.S. are performed on Black women, who represent only 13% of the country’s female population.

“Black women are five times more likely than white women to receive an abortion,” the letter stated. “In some cities, like New York, more Black children are aborted every year than are born alive.”

“This is no accident,” the letter stated, noting that “79 percent of Planned Parenthood’s surgical abortion facilities are located in or near communities of color.”

Several Black state legislators signed the letter, including Louisiana State Sen. Katrina Jackson (D), Texas State Rep. James White (R), and Georgia State Rep. Mack Jackson (D); Indiana’s attorney general Curtis Hill (R) also signed.

Pro-life activists Benjamin Watson and Alveda King signed the letter, along with political strategist Justin Giboney.

Sanger’s legacy has resurfaced amid national protests against racism, and debates over the racial beliefs of American historical figures.

Employees at Planned Parenthood’s New York affiliate in June demanded the removal of CEO Laura McQuade for allegedly ignoring complaints of “systemic racism” within the state organization. McDade eventually left her position.

“Planned Parenthood was founded by a racist, white woman,” the “Save PPGNY” petition for McQuade’s removal stated.

In July, Planned Parenthood of Greater New York announced that its Manhattan facility would no longer bear Sanger’s name, due to her documented support for eugenics. The affiliate’s chair of the board said the act was meant to “acknowledge Planned Parenthood’s contributions to historical reproductive harm within communities of color.”

Sanger did address certain racist organizations, including the Ku Klux Klan, while she promoted birth control.

She also once said that “before eugenicists and others who are laboring for racial betterment can succeed, they must first clear the way for birth control.” She added that eugenicists and birth control advocates are “seeking to assist the race toward the elimination of the unfit.”

Buzzfeed also recently interviewed more than two dozen employees of Planned Parenthood affiliates and the National Abortion Rights Action League. According to the report, employees of color often felt stuck in lower-level positions and claimed they were boxed out of leadership positions at the organizations.

On Tuesday, the Black leaders wrote to Johnson that “[w]hile Planned Parenthood of Greater New York has disavowed Sanger’s eugenic views, Planned Parenthood National has remained silent.”

“Margaret Sanger wanted to use abortion and contraception to cull minority populations,” the letter stated. “Ms. Johnson, your words about Black Lives Matter ring hollow while your organization perpetuates this racist legacy.”

Biden cites JPII in speech, despite continued abortion support

Tue, 09/01/2020 - 12:00

CNA Staff, Sep 1, 2020 / 10:00 am (CNA).- Former vice president Joe Biden invoked Pope St. John Paul II during a campaign speech on Monday. The Democratic nominee cited the former pope in an address in Pittsburgh, in which he urged voters to embrace hope in the face of civil unrest, but drew criticism from some Catholics for his continued support for expanded abortion access.

“The campaign for the presidency has come down to fear,” said Biden during an appearance in Pittsburgh on Monday, August 31. “But I believe Americans are stronger than that. I believe we’ll be guided by the words of Pope John Paul II, words drawn from the scriptures: ‘Be not afraid. Be not afraid.'” 

“Fear never builds the future,” said Biden. “Hope does. And building the future is what America does.” 

Biden, who has met with successive popes during his political career, has made his Catholic faith a frequent feature during his campaign for the presidency. During the Democratic National Convention, speakers repeatedly praised Biden for his deep devotion to his religious beliefs, and the former vice president offered anecdotes about being educated by nuns as a child. 

Despite this, Biden is running on a platform that would legalize the taxpayer funding of abortions up until birth, has pedged to codify a right to abortion in federal law, and also committed to revoking conscience and religious liberty protections for religous orders concerning the HHS contraceptive mandate.

His choice Monday to reference St. John Paul II came despite the pope’s vocal opposition to pro-choice politicians during his reign. 

In the encyclical Evangelium Vitae, the late pope wrote “Laws which legitimize the direct killing of innocent human beings through abortion or euthanasia are in complete opposition to the inviolable right to life proper to every individual; they thus deny the equality of everyone before the law,” and “In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to 'take part in a propaganda campaign in favour of such a law or vote for it.’” 

Under St. John Paul II,  then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger issued a letter in 2004 to then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of the Archdiocese of Washington, specifically outlining the policy positions that would render a Catholic politician ineligible for Communion. 

“Regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia, when a person’s formal cooperation becomes manifest (understood, in the case of a Catholic politician, as his consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws), his Pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church’s teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist,” wrote the future Pope Benedict XVI.

 If the politician remains in “obstinate persistence” in attempting to receive communion despite abortion advocacy, they are to be denied communion, said Ratzinger. 

Biden’s website currently states that “ Biden will work to codify Roe v. Wade, and his  Justice Department will do everything in its power to stop the rash of state laws that so blatantly violate Roe v. Wade.” 

Biden’s Pittsburgh speech drew criticism from some Catholics, who noted his stated policy positions which contradict both Church teaching and the writing of St. John Paul II.

National Review’s Kathryn Jean Lopez urged Biden to “spare us” the references to the pope until he was willing to accept the “Gospel of life” in a column published on Monday. 

“I grieve when I hear Joe Biden talk this way because he should know better,” said Lopez. “Don’t use the Catholic faith to push the abortion agenda that is rotten to the core and part of the reason we are where we are today, so miserable and violent and often making no natural sense,” she said. 

“Abortion is the opposite of health care, the opposite of love, the opposite of life.” 

Marjorie Dannfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, chair of Pro-Life Voices for Trump and a member of Catholics for Trump, said in a statement on Monday 

“Joe Biden may try to appeal to religious Americans, especially Catholics, by quoting scripture and St. John Paul II,” she said.  “But this does nothing to change the fact that his extreme pro-abortion policy positions are deeply offensive to Americans of faith and conscience.” 

“Claiming to be a devout Catholic while supporting radical, deeply unpopular policies is disingenuous. Pro-life Americans of all faiths will not be fooled.”

Podcasts, new LGBT ministry win big at Catholic entrepreneurship competition 

Tue, 09/01/2020 - 05:00

Denver Newsroom, Sep 1, 2020 / 03:00 am (CNA).-  

Several Catholic entrepreneurs this week were awarded $100,000 each as investment in project ideas “that will make a profound impact on the Church and the world.”

The OSV Institute’s annual Demo Day, whereby Catholic entrepreneurs pitch ideas for a chance to earn a significant investment, was held virtually last weekend with some 400 attendees.

Over the past year, some 350 Catholic entrepreneurs submitted their ideas for consideration. By May, the judges had narrowed it down to 12 finalists, who presented their pitches to judges Aug. 29 via Zoom.

The three winning ideas— each of which earned a $100,000 investment— include a Spanish-language podcast network; an initiative to help parents teach the Catholic faith at home; and an organization designed to reach and minister to young adults experiencing same-sex attraction. 

CNA spoke with the winners to ask about the genesis of their ideas, and how they expect the prize money will impact their initiatives.

Eden Invitation

Eden Invitation is a relatively new ministry in the Catholic Church that seeks to provide community, accompaniment and resources for people who experience same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria and who want to unashamedly follow Christ and Catholic Church teaching.

Shannon Ochoa, co-founder of Eden Invitation, told CNA that the ecumenical movement currently has chapters, called “hubs,” in three cities in the Midwest. The hubs lead retreats and online small groups to help build community, she said.

With the help of the OSV grant, they hope to expand to at least seven additional cities soon.

The idea that they pitched to OSV is called "Hearth and Porch," Ochoa said.

The "Hearth" portion involves forming the city-based hubs for young adults to join, where they can pray together and support each other.

The "Porch" portion consists of a testimonial campaign from Catholics who experience same-sex attraction— ideally to be released during June, aka "Pride Month," 2021.

Both Ochoa and Anna Carter, Eden Invitation’s other co-founder, experience same-sex attraction and credit their strong faith backgrounds with providing them the framework and the love for God necessary to stay and thrive in the Catholic Church.

Ochoa said one thing that makes Eden Invitation new and different is the attention they pay to the secular LGBT community, seeking to imitate that movement's sense of radical community and joyful witness— but in service of the Church's teaching, rather than LGBT ideology.

"It's a fresh take in the Church," she said.

Often times when the conversation comes up in the Church, people with same-sex attraction may feel "on the receiving end of ministry" rather than a part of a community, she said.

Ochoa said their ministry wants to encourage Catholics and Christians to be unashamed to talk about their experience of same-sex attraction, and also to be unafraid to proclaim Christ and the Church's teaching related to same-sex attraction.

Ochoa said the outpouring of excitement and support after their project won the OSV prize was very encouraging for them.

"The whole community was really moved. It's really more than $100,'s people's lives changed, it's hearts knowing that they have a space in the Church, and recognition that we're loved in God's eyes," she said.

Juan Diego Network

José Manuel De Urquidi, founder and CEO of JDN, told CNA the project's goal is to "evangelize, inform, and entertain Latinos"— both in Latin America and in the USA— with high-quality, engaging podcast content.

In the Latino world, De Urquidi said, people tend to be culturally Catholic, but not well-formed in the faith.

In addition, he said, Latinos are consuming more and more podcasts, and the quality of Latino Catholic podcasts is generally not very high.

"It seems that the New Evangelization has not been reaching Latinos. So that's the idea," De Urquidi told CNA.

De Urquidi said he strayed briefly from the faith intellectually as a teen, and later went to law school, worked in the financial world for a time, and even started a craft brewery. He later earned a Master's degree in Mass Communications, and started a podcast, which grew into the Juan Diego Network.

De Urquidi has been growing JDN for the last year. He said one of the goals is to help Latino Catholic speakers, authors, and influencers start and maintain their own podcasts, at no cost to them.

With the grant he won at the competition, De Urquidi hopes to expand JDN's podcast offerings with new, highly produced podcasts and through more partnerships with Latino leaders. They also plan to host virtual summits to foster community among Latino Catholics, he said.

"The New Evangelization will get to Latino millennials and Gen Z, we are sure of it, and we are just a small part of it," he said.

Catholic Sprouts

Bill and Nancy Bandzuch's two-year old company began with a daily podcast for kids, Catholic Sprouts, which features story-based lessons designed to teach the Catholic faith.

The niche that their project fills, Nancy said, is a need for a systematic program for parents on how to be the primary faith formators for children.

Nancy launched Catholic Sprouts as a side project a few years ago, while working as a stay-at-home mom to their five children.

Today, they have a "small army" of contractors helping with the project, and Nancy says the prize money will certainly help with being able to hire more help for the project.

Bill and Nancy entered the OSV challenge with the hopes of getting support for the podcast and the written materials they are already producing. Now that they've won the OSV grant, Nancy said their goals are to create an app where their podcast will be available, as well as discussion questions for families after they listen together.

They are also hoping that the grant will help to accelerate Bill's transition from his current job to working on Catholic Sprouts full-time.

Nancy said parents have contacted them saying that listening to the Catholic Sprouts podcast with their kids was actually filling in gaps in their own Catholic formation, and was fostering deep and engaging discussions about the faith around their dinner tables.

The content is meant to spark conversation, which Bill says is an important factor in ensuring children remain within the Catholic faith as they grow up.

"If you're going to have a ministry for kids, in reality you're going to have a ministry for parents," Nancy Bandzuch told CNA.


USCCB November meeting will be virtual, bishops announce

Mon, 08/31/2020 - 22:00

CNA Staff, Aug 31, 2020 / 08:00 pm (CNA).- The U.S. bishops’ conference will conduct its November general assembly virtually, the bishops announced Friday, in light of the coronavirus pandemic. The bishops’ conference had cancelled entirely its June meeting in light of the pandemic.

“In a vote of 219 to 5 (1 abstaining), the bishops decided to meet in a virtual format rather than the usual in person meeting. The agenda will be finalized by the Administrative Committee of the USCCB, set to meet in mid-September,” the conference said in an Aug. 28 press release.

The bishops’ conference consulted with the Holy See before putting the idea of a virtual meeting to a vote. The ballot told bishops that the administrative committee of the conference had decided to cancel the upcoming in-person meeting, and asked bishops whether they approved holding a virtual meeting in its place. The bishops were also asked how long they would like the meeting to last, bishops overwhelmingly chose an abbreviated session taking place over two days.

At the virtual session, bishops are expected to vote on a successor to outgoing general secretary of the conference, Msgr. Brian Bransfield, and to elect several committee chairmen. The bishops will also vote on a final version of their 2021-2024 strategic plan, and vote on a 2021-2022 budget proposal.

Philosophy professor details Fr Rosica's plagiarism while ghostwriting for cardinal

Mon, 08/31/2020 - 20:01

CNA Staff, Aug 31, 2020 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- One chapter of a recently published book on academic plagiarism discusses at length the plagiarism committed by Fr. Thomas Rosica, including in pieces he ghostwrote for Cardinal Marc Ouellet.

Fr. Rosica resigned as CEO of the Salt and Light Media Foundation in June 2019, four months after reports emerged that he had plagiarized sections of texts in lectures, op-eds, scholarly articles, and other writings.

In a chapter of Disguised Academic Plagiarism, published in July, Dr. M. V. Dougherty argued that Fr. Rosica (identified as R. in the text) was the ghostwriter for several plagiaristic texts of Cardinal Ouellet, the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, while he was Archbishop of Quebec.

“The apparent devotion to same very narrow subset of source texts in the plagiarizing works of R. and Ouellet’s ghostwriter is only because R. publishes some of his compilations under his own name and offers some of his other compilations to prelates,” Dougherty, who holds the Sr. Ruth Caspar Chair in Philosophy at Ohio Dominican University, wrote in the “Magisterial Plagiarism” chapter of his recent book.

“Considering the evidence known thus far, it is [simple] to assume that the ghostwriter for Cardinal Ouellet is none other than R.,” he concluded.

In an Aug. 27 article, the National Post reported that Fr. Rosica acknowledged via email “that he prepared the texts for three examples of Cardinal Ouellet’s published writing that a new academic investigation shows to be largely plagiarized from many sources.”

Dougherty treated plagiarism in magisterial texts because, he wrote, “these plagiarizing magisterial texts negatively influence the practice of Catholic theology.” He also discussed the plagiaristic use of magisterial texts in theological works, for when “readers of those plagiarizing theological texts encounter magisterial documents stripped of their magisterial endorsement, and this privation impedes a proper assessment of their quality.”

He began by demonstrating the plagiarism in a homily delivered by Cardinal William Levada, then-prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in 2007.

Dougherty found that in preparing that homily, the unidentified ghostwriter for Cardinal Levada “incorporate[d] lengthy sections” of a theological article by Fr. Jeremy Driscoll first published in 2000.

The homily delivered by Cardinal Levada uses text from Fr. Driscoll, but predicating of ‘sound theology’ what was predicated of ‘good preaching’ in the source text.

“Since the key terms preaching and theology do not have coextensive meanings in the discipline of theology, one must ask whether the ghostwriter’s plagiarizing construction is still intelligible,” Dougherty reflected. “If one answers in the affirmative, one renders oneself vulnerable to the ex hypothesi objection that theology must lack the rigor found in other disciplines if a coherent contribution can be made by taking an article and simply substituting one discrete technical term from the discipline for another. Both the source article and the plagiarizing article contain systematic, biblical, and historical claims, and it is difficult to conceive how these claims could remain reliable when migrating to different contexts.”

Dougherty then turned to Cardinal Ouellet’s ghostwriter, who turns out to have been Fr. Rosica.

The philosophy professor demonstrated that in preparing a speech delivered by Cardinal Ouellet in April 2007, Fr. Rosica “misappropriated passages without attribution from a wide range of works to produce a fraudulent amalgam for the cardinal’s address.”

Chief among these was the plagiazired text delivered by Cardinal Levada, Dougherty noted, so that “one finds herein the remarkably complex phenomenon of a plagiarist plagiarizing a plagiarizing text produced by a different plagiarist.”

Again, the same texts are predicated of differing subjects, which Dougherty said calls “into question the intelligibility of the texts manufactured by the two plagiarizing ghostwriters. Have they each produced coherent works of Catholic teaching, or are the plagiarizing documents simply theological word-salads?”

The professor also noted that sources plagiarized by Fr. Rosica in preparing Ouellet’s April 2007 speech include a 2005 conference paper by Igor Kowalewski and an English translation of a book by Fr. Edward Schillebeeckx, some of whose writings were investigated, though not condemned, by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Dougherty noted that “it is notable that some of [Schillebeeckx’] words here are acquiring a magisterial quality via their promulgation by Cardinal Ouellet. Readers of Ouellet 2007 are certainly unlikely to suspect that they are encountering the work of Schillebeeckx.”

The professor also discussed a 2007 speech, and a 2008 homily, both delivered by Cardinal Ouellet and plagiaristically ghostwritten by Fr. Rosica.

He then turned to the theological writings of Fr. Rosica, many of which “were revealed to be plagiarizing compilations of the works of others.”

The priest’s plagiarism was first reported by LifeSiteNews in February 2019.

Dougherty noted that Origins, a documentary periodical published by Catholic News Service, “published eight of the plagiarizing articles by R. in the period of 2009–2017” and also “issued the three plagiarizing articles by Cardinals Levada and Ouellet”.

“In light of these 11 defective articles published under the names of ‘R.,’ ‘Levada,’ and ‘Ouellet,’ one is tempted to conclude that Origins has been established as significant gateway for the proliferation of plagiarizing content in the discipline of Catholic theology in recent years,” Dougherty wrote.

Fr. Rosica has apologized for his plagiaristic acts.

He is reported to have misrepresented his academic credentials, claiming falsely in his official biography to have earned an advanced degree from École Biblique et Archéologique Française de Jérusalem.

Fr. Rosica now serves as a chaplain to a home for retired religious.

Previously he had served as a Vatican press aide and a university president, and he was a central figure in the planning of World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto.

Catholic Charities supports victims of Hurricane Laura

Mon, 08/31/2020 - 19:34

Denver Newsroom, Aug 31, 2020 / 05:34 pm (CNA).- After Hurricane Laura struck states along the Gulf of Mexico last week, Catholic Charities and other groups have provided aid to victims, some of whom have been displaced or are still without utilities.

With winds of 150 mph, the category 4 hurricane made landfall near Cameron, Louisiana, on the early morning of Aug. 27. As measured by maximum sustained winds, it is one of the strongest hurricanes to hit Louisiana in recorded history.

In the United States alone, the storm has killed 22 people: 14 in Louisiana, one in Florida, and seven in Texas. A large portion of deaths was attributed to carbon monoxide poisoning due to unsafe generators, CBS News reported.

As of Aug. 30, 900,000 people were still without power and 220,000 were without running water. Karen Clark & Company’s industry estimated that the hurricane’s damages have caused $8.7 billion of insured losses in the U.S.

Hurricane Laura has also caused severe damages to parishes and church buildings in the Diocese of Lake Charles. According to the diocese, nearly one-third of priests in active ministry have been displaced and all the homes for the Daughters Mary Mother of Mercy are uninhabitable. Additionally, only one of the six Catholic schools can open next week, and the chancery is closed because of extensive roof damage.

“The city is a disaster,” said Bishop Glen Provost of Lake Charles. “No house, no business is left untouched. The Chancery will be unusable in the foreseeable future. We have 39 (church) parishes and seven missions. All suffered some damage.”

“St. Louis Catholic High School is severely damaged,” the bishop added. “Father (Nathan) Long, rector of the school, reported that the roof on the administration building is, for the most part, blown off. Windows in various classrooms are blown in, and there is roof damage at the gym.”

Catholic Charities of Southwest Louisiana opened shortly after the hurricane struck and has been receiving donations and supplies to provide to the victims. Sister Miriam Maclean, director of Catholic Charities of Southwest Louisiana, has encouraged donations to be sent to the dioceses of New Orleans and Lafayette because of the Catholic Charities’ small storage space.

“We are here, we are open and we are trying to meet the needs of the community,” said Sister Miriam.

“The Lord preserved Catholic Charities from any major damage for sure so that we can be up and operational,” she continued. “We have a little bit of leakage in the roof, and a couple of roll-up doors got a little damage, but we are blessed. We have a generator, and the Religious Sisters of Mercy are running the office.”

Sister Marjorie Hebert, president of Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans, told CNA that other dioceses across the state would also be providing services including her own. She said that as the hurricane struck on the 15th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, she has been able to share her experience with other dioceses.

“Part of what my staff and I have been about is being in contact with the other Catholic Charities in the rest of the state and the other dioceses of Louisiana ... We have been in contact with some of those directors and are doing assessment [to] see how we might further assist them.”

“My counterpart in the Lake Charles diocese, I know exactly what she's dealing with the darkness of no electricity, no potable water, all of those. So at least I’ve been there, and I can say, ‘I know what you're going through,’” she added.

“Just [a] short 15 years ago, we New Orleanians we're on the receiving end, and now it's our time to give back and to further assist.”

As New Orleans has received thousands of evacuees, she said their community has also provided help by offering basic necessities and counseling services to help comfort those who have been displaced. She said some of the people were able to evacuate with some supplies while others were rescued and brought over with almost nothing.

“Our immediate efforts are to reach out. As a Catholic Charities agency in New Orleans, we are working very closely with the city to coordinate efforts of responding to the needs of the evacuees in the community.”

“We have been in contact with our churches and parishes and civil authorities just to see if there are some basic needs of some areas near the coastline that they may have gotten some floodwaters. We are working with the calls that are coming into our agency as well as referrals coming to us from the city and state officials locally.”

Among other Catholic initiatives in the Archdiocese of New Orleans, several parishes and charity groups have launched donation drives to bring in water, nonperishable food items, cleaning supplies, hygiene products, and baby supplies.

Bishop Provost expressed his gratitude for all the contributions and prayers.

“We appreciate everyone’s prayers,” he said. “Bishops in other dioceses have sent word of assistance to us, so we appreciate the fellowship of the other Catholic dioceses throughout the nation. I have heard from bishops on the East and West coasts, and especially in Texas and Louisiana.”

San Francisco archbishop calls on mayor to end 'excessive limits' on outdoor Mass

Mon, 08/31/2020 - 17:30

CNA Staff, Aug 31, 2020 / 03:30 pm (CNA).-  

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

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

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

Cordileone called the city’s restrictions on outdoor Masses “a serious deprivation of our rights as Americans under the First Amendment and our spiritual needs as people of faith.”

“San Francisco is the only government in the entire Bay Area that restricts public gatherings to 12 people out of doors. Ours and others’ faith is being treated as less important than a trip to the
hardware store, or a nice dinner out on the patio,” Cordileone stated.

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

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

By following public health guidelines, these Masses have largely avoided viral spread. The doctors said in their article that there is no evidence that church services are higher risk than similar activities when guidelines are followed.

“One million public Masses without any [COVID-19] outbreaks demonstrates that it is just as safe in San Francisco as in other parts of the state, such as San Mateo County, to permit large gatherings for outdoor public worship with reasonable safety precautions,” Cordileone commented.

Some parishes in San Francisco, including the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption, have been holding simultaneous outdoor Masses in order to adapt to the 12-person limit.

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

The archdiocese told CNA in July that it had made a good-faith effort to comply with the city’s public health guidelines, despite some occasional confusion and last-minute changes to the city’s public health orders.

“Our intention has always been to conform to what we understand to be the City orders and timelines,” the archdiocese said July 2, noting that the city’s orders have been changing throughout the pandemic, sometimes on short notice.

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

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

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

Cordileone has pointed out that the city has allowed retail stores to operate at 50% capacity during the same time period that Christians are prohibited from gathering in their churches, even with masks and social distancing in place.

San Francisco has seen numerous street protests in recent months, including one in late June that resulted in the destruction of a statue of St. Junípero Serra by a crowd of about 100 people.

“With regard to outdoor services, you are all well aware that pre-planned and scheduled street protests have been allowed to continue unhindered, while the limit of no more than 12 people still applies to everyone else, including us,” he continued.

“Yet here again, an outdoor worship service is a much safer event than a protest, since the people are stationary, social distance is respected, and the participants are wearing masks.”

The Benedict XVI Institute for Sacred Music and Divine Worship, which provides liturgical resources in the archdiocese, shared a petition Aug. 31 in support of Cordileone’s statement calling for the lifting of restrictions on the Mass.


In letter to UN, US 'categorically rejects' right to abortion

Mon, 08/31/2020 - 15:00

CNA Staff, Aug 31, 2020 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- The United States sent a strongly-worded letter to several UN committees in early August rejecting any implication that there is a right to abortion as “bizarre.” 

The letter was sent on August 11, 2020, to several United Nations offices including: the Working Group on Discrimination Against Women and Girls; the Special Rapporteur on the Right of Everyone to the Enjoyment of the Highest Attainable Standard of Physical and Mental Health; and the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, Its Causes and Consequences. It was published online on Aug. 25. 

The letter was issued by the United States Mission to the United Nations in Geneva. Andrew Bremberg is the U.S. Ambassador to the Office of the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva.

“We received your bizarre and inexplicable letter of May 22, 2020, regarding alleged undue ‘restrictions taken in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic impeding access to abortion services’ in the United States,” said Bremberg, referring to criticism the United States received after some states moved to restrict non-essential medical procedures to stop the spread of the coronavirus. 

“As United Nations human rights mandate holders, you are undoubtedly aware that international human rights law does not recognize any ‘right to abortion,’” he wrote. 

“The United States is disappointed by and categorically rejects this transparent attempt to take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to assert the existence of such a right. This is a perversion of the human rights system and the founding principles of the United Nations,” said the ambassador. 

The letter noted that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated in a June 1 letter to the United States Agency for International Development that “the United Nations does not intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any State. Thus, health care is provided with full respect to national laws. It does not promote, much less impose, abortion on anyone, nor is it intended to do so.”

The United States is “particularly disappointed that you have chosen to waste the limited time and resources of your mandates on such spurious allegations, rather than focusing your energies on areas where your attention is most appropriate and warranted,” said Bremberg in the August letter. 

The letter cited the “actual human rights abuses” occurring in the Chinese province of Xinjiang as something that would be more appropriate for the committee to concern themselves with compared to U.S. abortion policies.

The Chinese government is currently holding more than 1 million Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minorities in concentration camps, with human rights groups consistently reporting instances of torture, anti-religious indoctrination, forced labor, forced abortions and sterilizations.

“Yet the United Nations system — including the Secretary-General, the Human Rights Council, and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights — has been notably quiet on this topic, even as they find ample opportunity to opine on matters of American domestic political concern,” he wrote.

According to the letter, the United States and other states “increasingly see the UN’s human rights system as utterly broken,” due to its status as “self-appointed guardians to label certain policy preferences as ‘rights.’” 

“At the same time, we see violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms on a massive scale that generate little or no comment by these same guardians,” said Bremberg.

On Monday, during a virtual townhall with women’s civil society organizations, Guterres was asked about what can be done to ensure that “critical rights”--referring to reproductive health care--would be protected during the pandemic.

“It is clear that we are witnessing a very strong attack,” on the terms of the Beijing Declaration said Guterres, in apparent reference to objections from the U.S. and other countries. The Beijing Declaration and Platform to Action is a 1995 document that “flagged 12 key areas where urgent action was needed to ensure greater equality and opportunities for women and men, girls and boys,” including reproductive health. 

Guterres said the UN was working to ensure “Governments do not take profit of the COVID-19 to undermine the rights of sexual and reproductive health,” and that such services will still be available.

Pelosi says ban on federal abortion funding will be dropped next year

Mon, 08/31/2020 - 13:00

CNA Staff, Aug 31, 2020 / 11:00 am (CNA).- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has signaled that a prohibition on federal funding for abortion will be excluded from spending bills next year if Democrats retain a majority in the House of Representatives, setting the state for the end of a 44-year-old bipartisan agreement on abortion funding.

The Los Angeles Times reported on Friday that Speaker Pelosi (D-Calif.) recently told some House Democrats that funding bills next year would not include the Hyde Amendment.

The Hyde Amendment, a policy barring taxpayer funding of elective abortions, has been law since 1976. It is named former congressman Henry Hyde, a 16-term Republican congressman from Illinois who introduced the amendment.

The policy, passed with bipartisan support as an attachment to spending bills, bars Medicaid reimbursements for elective abortion services, but it contains exceptions for abortions in cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the mother is at stake.

According to a study published by the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute and recently updated, the policy is estimated to result in around 60,000 fewer abortions each year, or around one in nine pregnancies of women with Medicaid benefits. The institute claims that the policy has thus saved more than 2.4 million lives since it was instituted in 1976.

However, the 2016 Democratic Party platform called for the repeal of Hyde, and all of the party’s presidential candidates in 2020 supported the repeal of the policy. 

Nominee Joe Biden reversed his support for the Hyde Amendment last year, after he faced criticism from abortion supporters—including his future vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris—for supporting the policy.

President Trump has supported the Hyde Amendment, but a bill to codify it--the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act--failed to receive the necessary 60 votes in the Senate, in 2019.

Some House Democrats including Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), have tried to repeal the policy in 2019 and again in 2020, either through introducing legislation to do so or by attempting to remove the amendment from a spending bill at the last minute.

The amendment was ultimately included in spending packages so they would receive the support of the Republican-led Senate and White House.

Now, however, Speaker Pelosi has reportedly promised to undo the policy.

The head of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, told CNA last year that “there historically was broad consensus” in support of the policy from members of both major political parties.

“So it’s very disappointing to see the extremism now that’s attacking what most Americans would consider a very important principle,” he said. “When you’re destroying a human life, this isn’t health care.”

After Hurricane Laura, Knights of Columbus pledge aid to Louisiana diocese

Mon, 08/31/2020 - 12:30

CNA Staff, Aug 31, 2020 / 10:30 am (CNA).- The Knights of Columbus have pledged to donate $150,000 to a Louisiana diocese badly hit by Hurricane Laura.

On Friday, the Catholic fraternal organization announced they would send assistance to the Diocese of Lake Charles, Louisiana, which suffered extensive damage from Hurricane Laura last week. The Category 4 hurricane made landfall in western Louisiana on early Wednesday morning, resulting in ten deaths and up to $12 billion in damage in Louisiana and Texas.

“This donation is only the first step in our efforts to help with recovery,” Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, stated on Friday.

Bishop Glen John Provost of Lake Charles stated his gratitude for the Knights’ assistance, noting that the devastation wrought by the storm was “enormous.”

“The task ahead for us is most challenging, but we know, as in the past, the Knights have always been there for us. God bless them!” he said.

The Diocese of Lake Charles reported last week that nearly one-third of priests in active ministry were displaced by the storm, with at least six churches destroyed and at least a dozen suffering serious damage. All of the diocese’s 39 parishes and 7 mission churches suffered damage to some extent.

Bishop Provost said on Saturday that the city of Lake Charles is a “disaster,” while the diocesan Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception sustained roof damage and the chancery is currently uninhabitable.

“No house, no business is left untouched,” he said in a statement posted on the diocesan Facebook page. Downed electric lines are everywhere. We have no internet or website access.”

In addition, several religious community residences were ruled uninhabitable and only one in six schools will open on time for the fall semester. The local Catholic Charities of Southwest Louisiana has reported a current need for food, water, tarps, and hotel vouchers.

"Our prayers are with the people of the Diocese of Lake Charles and with everyone impacted by this destructive storm,” Anderson said on Friday.

Members of the Knights in the state have already begun their recovery efforts, while the Supreme Council is sending food, water, and cleaning and repair supplies to the affected areas. 

Bishop Barron defends Junipero Serra: Evangelization is not ‘cultural aggression’

Sun, 08/30/2020 - 06:00

CNA Staff, Aug 30, 2020 / 04:00 am (CNA).-  

Bishop Robert Barron this week delivered a homily in support of St. Junipero Serra, an 18th century Franciscan missionary whose legacy has drawn renewed scrutiny in recent months from some who consider him a symbol of an oppressive colonial system.

“We are gathered here today in defense of the statue,” Barron said in an  Aug. 22 homily at Mission Santa Inés.

“The Church understands the very legitimate concerns of some of the protestors. Yes we are concerned about racism, oppression, righting social wrongs,” the bishop said, as well as amplifying voices that might otherwise go unheard.

“What I don’t understand is besmirching the reputation and memory of this great saint, represented by this statue,” he added, to applause from the congregation, which included Franciscan friars, members of the religious order to which Serra belonged.

"People are laying at the feet of Junipero Serra everything that bugs them about 18th-century Spanish colonialism. And let's be honest— there was plenty wrong with 18th-century Spanish colonialism," Barron said.

"But I refuse to accept the characterization of evangelization as a kind of cultural aggression."

Barron’s homily, which he delivered while celebrating Mass outdoors at the mission, came against a backdrop of opposing groups of protestors.

A group of 20 or so people turned out to express opposition to Serra, and to call for the removal of the saint’s statue from the mission grounds. Catholic counter-protestors, including Knights of Columbus members, also were present that day to defend Serra, block protestors from disrupting the Mass, and to pray the rosary. 

During the eighteenth century, Father Serra, a Spaniard, founded nine Catholic missions, from San Diego to San Francisco, in the area that would later become California. Serra helped to convert thousands of native Californians to Christianity, and taught them new agricultural technologies.

Santa Inés mission is located in Solvang, CA, about an hour northwest of Santa Barbara. Though that mission was not founded by Serra himself, it owes its existence to Serra's legacy.

While some activists today associate Serra with the many abuses that the Native Americans suffered after contact with Europeans, biographies and historical records suggest that Serra actually advocated on behalf of the Natives against the Spanish military and against encroaching European settlement.

Widespread comparisons by some activists of Serra to Adolph Hitler, or assertions that Serra himself was "genocidal," are simply false, he said. 

Barron pointed out that Serra himself viewed the sharing of his Catholic faith as the sharing of "a precious gift"— a gift that he dedicated his life, selflessly, to giving to others.

A California archeologist, who has studied the missions for over 25 years, told CNA earlier this year that it is clear from Serra’s own writings that he was motivated by a missionary zeal to bring salvation to the Native people through the Catholic faith, rather than by genocidal, racist, or opportunistic motivations. 

“Serra writes excitedly about how he had finally found his life’s calling, and that he would give his life to these people and their salvation,” Dr. Ruben Mendoza, an archeologist and professor at California State University-Monterey Bay, told CNA.

Serra often found himself at odds with Spanish authorities over treatment of native people. In a famous episode in 1773, Serra— despite suffering from a painful infected leg— walked from Carmel in what is now California to Mexico City, in order to propose to the Spanish viceroy a 33-point "bill of rights" for the Natives.

Ever since the Spaniards’ arrival in North America, it was the Catholic missionaries who resisted the worst elements of the Spanish occupation, Barron said.

"Junipero Serra stood in that tradition. Before we formulated a Bill of Rights on the East Coast of our continent, Serra was fighting for a bill of rights for native people in this part of the world," Barron said.

Barron encouraged Californians to “look more to the present and the future” than the past, calling on the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, as Serra often did.

"May we too unleash the power of the Gospel, which is precisely the power of compassionate love," he concluded.

Pope Francis canonized Serra in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 23, 2015, saying that “Junípero sought to defend the dignity of the native community, to protect it from those who had mistreated and abused it.”

Amid the renewed controversy over Serra, at least three prominent statues of the saint have been forcibly torn down by protestors in California in recent months, including one in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, on June 19 by a crowd of about 100 people, the same day a statue of the saint was torn down in Los Angeles.

Rioters pulled down and defaced a statue of Serra in Sacramento on July 4, inspiring a local Catholic to set up a makeshift shrine to Serra on the statue's empty plinth July 5, and lead other Catholics in cleaning graffiti from the site.

A massive fire on July 11 devastated the mission church of San Gabriel, which Serra founded, in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The cause of the fire has not yet been announced, but it is being investigated as arson.

Other California missions such as San Luis Obispo and San Gabriel had in June moved their statues “out of public view” amid fears rioters may tear them down.

Several online petitions, calling for Serra’s image and name to be removed from various California communities and institutions, have garnered multiple thousands of signatures.

Professor Mendoza said the worst abuses against the Native Americans in California took place after the age of the missions ended, when the Spanish government ceased sending funding to the 21 mission sites, and to the Spanish military.

The Spanish soldiers, without the support of their faraway benefactors, began to prey on the missionaries and the Natives. Many more Natives died during this time than had in the 60 years that the missions were operational.

While the Native peoples of California did suffer instances of horrific abuse, Mendoza said many people conflate the abuses the Natives suffered long after Serra’s 1784 death with the period when Serra was alive and building the missions.

For example, the California gold rush in the 1840s— long after the end of the Spanish colonial era— saw hundreds of thousands of European settlers come to the area, with little to no protections afforded to the Natives.


Court halts Education Department’s rule for pandemic relief money to private schools

Sat, 08/29/2020 - 17:56

CNA Staff, Aug 29, 2020 / 03:56 pm (CNA).- A federal judge has blocked a rule by the Department of Education for allocating pandemic relief money to private schools.

U.S. District Judge James Donato in San Francisco issued a preliminary injunction against the rule Thursday. He said the Education Department had exceeded its authority in issuing guidelines for funding distribution beyond what Congress had authorized.

The money, part of the CARES Act approved by Congress to help ease the economic impact of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, was set aside to be distributed to local educational agencies.

The Education Department issued an interim final rule directing local educational agencies to allot money equitably for students in private schools.

In July, several states filed a lawsuit against Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, saying funding for private schools should be based only on the number of low-income students, not total students, in accordance with Title I restrictions.

DeVos has said that CARES Act programs are not Title I programs and thus not subject to the limitation on use only for low-income students.

“The CARES Act is a special, pandemic-related appropriation to benefit all American students, teachers, and families impacted by coronavirus,” she said.

“There is no reasonable explanation for debating the use of federal funding to serve both public and private K-12 students when federal funding, including CARES Act funding, flows to both public and private higher education institutions,” DeVos said.

Furthermore, the department’s rule “discourages the limited number of financially secure private schools from seeking equitable services,” the agency said in its press release.

The interim final rule provides two options for local authorities. The first option requires that if a local education agency uses CARES Act funds for students in all its public schools, it must also allocate funds for all students enrolled in private schools in the district.

Under the second option, if the local agency chooses to use funds only for students in Title I schools, it must calculate funds for equitable services based on either the total number of low-income students in Title I and participating private schools or based on the local agency’s Title I share from the 2019-2020 school year.

However, Judge Donato ruled Thursday that by issuing these guidelines, the agency had created its own allocation rules beyond what Congress directed.

The ruling will halt DeVos’ guidelines from being implemented in California, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Washington, D.C., as well as school districts in Chicago, Cleveland, New York City, and San Francisco. The injunction is applicable while the full case is being heard in court.

A federal judge reached a similar conclusion in a lawsuit filed by the state of Washington earlier this month.

Paul Long, president and CEO of the Michigan Catholic Conference, said Thursday’s ruling “while disappointing, is not unexpected.”

“Clearly the Attorney General went out to California to find a favorable ruling that discriminates against nonpublic schools,” he said in August 27 statement.

“Congress included nonpublic schools in the CARES Act to ensure all students are treated equally, without prejudice due to the school they attend,” Long said, stressing that low and middle-income families in private schools are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic just as those in public schools are.

Technology sheds new light on life of St. John Henry Newman

Sat, 08/29/2020 - 06:00

CNA Staff, Aug 29, 2020 / 04:00 am (CNA).- A team spread across three continents is using cutting-edge technology to shed new light on the figure of St. John Henry Newman.

The project, overseen by the National Institute for Newman Studies (NINS) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is aiming to offer crystal-clear digital reproductions of more than a million pages of documents relating to the 19th-century English theologian.

Newman was declared a saint Oct. 13, 2019, at the last canonization ceremony to take place at the Vatican before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, prompting renewed interest in his life and work.

Unlike other online Newman resources, the NINS Digital Collections is not limited to the saint’s writings. It also includes letters from thousands of people who corresponded with him.

Daniel T. Michaels, chief technology officer at the NINS, told CNA: “We’ve cataloged 1,840 different people so far who were writing to Newman or to whom Newman was writing. And we’re only up to 17,980 documents.”

“We’re up to box 75 of over 200. So we’re not even halfway through.”

For the past two years, Michaels has worked with colleagues in the United States, England, and India to create a free online archive of more than 250,000 manuscript images, over 4,000 published books and articles by Newman and his contemporaries, and library records, as well as photographs, maps, and musical scores.

He said: “We spent a solid year building the initial platform. We had scanned the images years ago, going back as far as the mid-2000s. A lot of Newman’s published works, such as ‘A Grammar of Assent’ or ‘The Idea of a University,’ were scanned and uploaded initially to And so in some ways we’re reclaiming those documents, but they will remain available in both places.” 

“Newman’s handwritten manuscripts, on the other hand, are available on NINS Digital Collections for the first time ever. Many of them have never been seen before.”

He continued: “We’ve had the images for quite some time -- both the published works and scanned manuscripts -- and we’re finally at the point where we can publish them on our own platform, which we’re quite pleased with.”

Michaels said that his team was standing “on the shoulders of giants” because the website of the NINS Digital Collections (pictured below) renders images “using lots of custom code alongside several open source technologies, including the International Image Interoperability Framework, or ‘triple-I-F,’ which is a programming interface that provides an unprecedented level of uniform and rich access to image-based resources.”

Michaels, who speaks passionately about the new technology, said that the best way to understand it is to think of a multi-tiered wedding cake. The bottom layer of the cake is the full high-resolution image. The next layer is half the resolution, and the next half of that, and so on, with the top layer as small as a fingertip.

He said: “We cut each layer into digital slices. A printed version of the actual image might be the size of an entire wall and it might contain hundreds of megabytes. But only a fraction of it fits on your computer, so we deliver slices -- bytes instead of megabytes -- as they are needed to improve speed.” 

IIIF servers render “slices” of the document selected by the user from the most appropriate resolution layer of the “cake”, taking a piece from the high-resolution bottom layer when the user zooms in, or grabbing a slice from a lower resolution layer near the top of the “cake” when the user zooms out.

“So when you zoom in and out you’re actually only loading the data that pertains to whatever it is you’re looking at, sort of like Google Maps or Google Earth,” Michaels explained.

He emphasized that the process is “non-destructive” -- that is, the original images are preserved intact. 

To illustrate the technology’s power, he summoned up a scan of the original handwritten score of Edward Elgar’s 1900 composition “The Dream of Gerontius,” inspired by Newman’s 1865 poem.

Next to it, he called up the published score. Finally, on the right of his screen, he placed a scan of the manuscript created by a technique known as backlighting, which reveals corrections that Elgar made to the score.

“You can see there’s paper glued over top,” he said, pointing with his cursor to where the composer had covered up a section of the music. “Scholars can see beneath things in a way that is not possible with the physical manuscript and naked eye alone: what did he change? What is he covering up, or how did the score change? It’s really incredible for musicology. We can do the same thing with the handwritten manuscripts as well.”

Asked if Newman’s spidery handwriting presented a challenge to his team, Michaels said: “We’re in the process of building another OCR [optical character recognition] engine using Transkribus, a German platform. It’s specifically made for 19th-century handwriting. We can train it to understand Newman’s handwriting. Then the accuracy is astounding.”

Michaels is especially proud of a feature on the website allowing scholars to search Newman’s borrowing record at Oriel College’s Senior Library in Oxford.

“We can compare what Newman was writing at a specific time with what he was reading. How often do you get a chance to do that?” he asked.

He recalled that a researcher was recently able to discover what works of St. Thomas Aquinas Newman was reading at a particular time. This helped the academic to see whether Aquinas influenced Newman’s views on a specific topic.

“It’s really valuable to Newman scholars, so that they can understand what was behind what he was writing. There’s not always a smoking gun, but it sure helps,” Michaels commented.

The Digital Collections do, of course, contain Newman’s own published works, including such monuments as his autobiographical “Apologia Pro Vita Sua” and his “Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine.”

Michaels contrasts the crisply rendered books on NINS Digital Collections with those on the popular Newman Reader website (also owned by NINS).

He said: “The Newman Reader is old school. It looks like it was done in 1995, even if it served a great need. It’s an HMTL version of Newman’s works and there are a lot of mistakes in it. NINS Digital Collections, on the other hand, shows the original published works. So instead of reading static HTML documents, you can read, search, and zoom inside the real thing.”

A search window on the NINS Digital Collections website lets scholars examine books for particular words or phrases.

“This was a significant thing for us to add -- and you don’t see this often with IIIF collections. That is, we can do full text searches across our entire inventory. It searches millions of words,” said Michaels.

“It’s way easier than the old Newman Reader. In fact, I cringe whenever anyone says: ‘Can you give me a link to the Newman Reader?’”

The coronavirus crisis has not paralyzed the team’s work. Indeed, Michaels said it had helped him to increase productivity because staff who normally worked in a physical library were able to join the virtual project.

“Our team is in California, Birmingham [England], and India. So we don’t ever not work remotely. If anything, this has given us more flexibility,” he noted.

“If you can imagine, between California, England and India, we’re basically running all the time. And so my schedule’s crazy. In the early morning hours, I might be meeting with the team in India before they go to bed, and Birmingham all the way up to noon. In the afternoon, I’ve got California. And in the evening, I’ve got California, and India as they arrive at work a day ahead of me.”

Michaels, who has a doctorate in medieval Franciscan theology and is the architect of a website containing the foundational works of the Franciscan tradition, said he had discovered a different dimension to Newman while working on the project.

“What was unique to me was seeing his pastoral side. The Newman that most people get is very heavy. He’s obviously very academic,” he said, pointing out that the saint served as a parish priest and that his letters were often concerned with practical matters such as building schools and caring for orphans.

While the team is still busy perfecting the platform, Michaels hopes that NINS might one day be able to share its pioneering model inexpensively with other institutions.

“It cost us a lot of money to do and fortunately we had very generous benefactors. But for a very low cost, we could make this possible for other people to share,” he said.

Asked why the Newman project was valuable, Michaels replied: “We’re basically preserving the past to serve the future. If we don’t understand where we’ve been, it’s going to be hard to understand who we are and where we should go without recreating more mistakes.”