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Gomez: 'White America' is a myth

Tue, 08/13/2019 - 19:00

Los Angeles, Calif., Aug 13, 2019 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- The Archbishop of Los Angeles wrote this week that the white nationalism which motivated a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, is a sign that the U.S. has lost touch with the Christian ideals of the nation’s founding. He called Christians to give witness to the common humanity of all people.

“In the 22 dead in El Paso, and the two dozen more wounded, in the children left with no parents, in the shattered security of a peaceful border town, we are left with some hard questions about what our nation is becoming,” Archbishop Jose Gomez wrote in his Aug. 13 column.

The perpetrator of the Aug. 3 mass shooting in El Paso, in which 22 people were killed at a Walmart, is reported to have posted online a white nationalist manifesto shortly before his attack.

His post lamented a “Hispanic invasion” in the U.S., decried intermarriage between Hispanics and white Americans, and criticized Democratic and Republican politicians, while noting that some Republican policies might reduce “mass immigration.”

“If ‘white nationalism’ is on the rise, it is a sign of how far we have fallen from the Christian universalism of our nation’s founding ideals,” Gomez wrote.

The archbishop, who is an immigrant to the United States from Mexico, added that  “El Paso hit me in a personal way. My family is Mexican and American, and we trace our roots back to the early 1800s in what is now Texas; I lived much of my adult life there, including my five years as Archbishop of San Antonio,” he added.
“But El Paso is more than personal. With El Paso a line has been crossed in our nation.” 
“In recent years, we have seen the evil of African Americans being targeted in racist terror attacks, notably with the church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015. With El Paso, for the first time, a massacre has been carried out in the name of stopping Mexican migration,” Gomez noted.

“In Jesus Christ, there is no Mexican or black, no Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean or Filipino, no Russian or Italian, African or Salvadoran, no migrant or native-born,” the archbishop wrote, adding that human dignity must always be respected.

“The humanity of others is never negotiable. Men and women do not become less than human, less a child of God, because they are ‘undocumented.’ Yet, in our nation, it has become common to hear migrants talked about and treated as if they are somehow beneath caring about.”

Gomez noted other instances of “white nationalism and domestic terrorism,” including the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, church bombings during the Jim Crow era, and the lynching of Mexicans in Texas in the 1920s.

“The myth that America was founded by and for white people is just that — a myth,” he wrote.

“This land was born as an encounter of cultures, first with Native Americans. Hispanics arrived in Texas in 1519. Asians started arriving in California about 50 years before the pilgrims made it to Plymouth Rock.”

Noting that Spanish was spoken in North America well before English was, Gomez added that “this country has always been renewed, again and again, by successive waves of immigrants from every nation on earth.”

In response to racism, the archbishop said, Catholics “need to help our society to see our common humanity — that we are all children of God, meant to live together as brothers and sisters, no matter the color of our skin, the language we speak, or the place we were born.”

“The way we honor the lives taken at El Paso is to live with true Christian love — and to live for the vision of America that their killer denied,” Gomez concluded.

“And let us implore our Blessed Mother to intercede for us, that we may build an America that is still a beacon of hope for peoples of every country, who look to this nation for refuge, for freedom and equality under God.”






New green card rule ‘undermines family unity’ bishops say

Tue, 08/13/2019 - 17:01

Washington D.C., Aug 13, 2019 / 03:01 pm (CNA).- The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has voiced opposition to a new “public charge” policy that could deny visas and green cards to immigrants who use, or are deemed likely to use, various public welfare programs such as food stamps, Medicaid, or housing assistance. 

The rule was announced on August 12 and is expected to be formalized on Wednesday when it is published in the Federal Register.

“Ultimately, we believe that this rule is in tension with the dignity of the person and the common good that all of us are called to support,”  said Bishops Joe S. Vasquez of Austin and Frank J. Dewane of Venice (FL) in a statement released by the USCCB website Tuesday. 

Vasquez is the chair of the USCCB Committee on Migration, and Dewane leads the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development. 

The rule is set to go into effect on October 15, and will not penalize immigrants applying for green cards or visas public benefit previously used. The penalties will only be applied to people who used public assistance after that date. 

Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of  U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, explained Monday that anyone who applying for either legal status or a green card must show that they will not be a “public charge.”

“Our rule generally prevents aliens who are likely to become a public charge from coming to the United States or remaining here in getting a green card,” said Cuccinelli on Monday during a briefing. 

“‘Public charge’ is now defined in a way that ensures the law is meaningfully enforced. Those who are subject to it are self-sufficient under the rule of public charge is now defined as an individual who receives one or more designated public benefits for more than 12 months,” he said.

In an appearance on NPR’s Morning Edition on Tuesday, Cuccinelli went further in his defence of the new rule, paraphrasing the famous inscription at the base of the Statue of Liberty. 

"Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge," he said, while insisting that “no one has a right to become an American who isn't born here.”

In their own statement, the bishops said that the new rule would mean families in difficulty could not get the help they need. 

“This rule will undermine family unity and lead many lawful immigrants to forgo vital assistance, including enrollment in nutrition, housing, and medical programs,” said the bishops. 

“Families already in the U.S. will be faced with deciding whether to access critical assistance programs for which they qualify, knowing that in doing so they could jeopardize their ability to stay here with their loved ones. And, it will reduce the ability of many to reunify with family in the U.S.,” they added.

The bishops warned that the anticipation of this rule change has already created a “culture of fear” in immigrant communities.

Cucinelli defended the policy as “the same sort of requirements that we’ve had in the past, for well over a century,” and said “What we're looking for here are people who are going to live with us either their whole lives or, ultimately, become citizens, who can stand on their own two feet.”

Programs such as disaster relief, food pantries, and homeless shelters, or programs that are for  the benefit of children, such as school lunch programs, WIC, CHIP, or Medicaid received by people under the age of 21 or by pregnant women, will not count against someone’s green card or visa application. 

Additionally, an applicant’s English skills and health will also be considered during an application for permanent residency or legal status. 

Cuccinelli denied that the regulation was aimed at one ethnic group in particular, saying “If we had been having this conversation a hundred years ago, it would have applied to more Italians.”

Tennessee legislators discuss abortion bill in hopes of overturning Roe v Wade

Tue, 08/13/2019 - 15:57

Nashville, Tenn., Aug 13, 2019 / 01:57 pm (CNA).- The Tennessee Senate judiciary committee held a second day of hearings Tuesday in a 'summer study' session of a bill regulating abortion.

In its current form, the bill would define an unborn child's viability as starting from conception. Legislators who support the proposal hope it would find sympathetic ears at the US Supreme Court.

House Bill 77 (Senate Bill 1236) was passed by the state House in March, but the Senate judiciary committee voted 5-3, with one abstention, on April 9 to defer it to “summer study.”

SB1236 would have banned abortion from the detection of a fetal heartbeat, usually around six weeks of pregnancy. It was opposed by the state's bishops, and Tennessee Right to Life, over concerns it would not stand up to judicial scrutiny.

In choosing to send the bill to summer study, the committee chairman, Sen. Mike Bell said it had “the best of intentions,” The Tennesseean reported.

“But to be successful in the fight to protect the unborn, strong conviction is not enough. We must also have the proper legal and constitutional strategy. I can assure you the left will use every legal means at their disposal to ensure abortion remains legal, unrestricted and readily available. We must do likewise to prevent it.”

Bell told the bill's sponsor, “I can assure you your bill is not dead.”

Sen. Mark Pody, its sponsor, has amended SB1236 effectively to declare viability as beginning from conception: “A pregnancy is presumed to exist and to be viable upon finding the presence of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) using a test that is consistent with standard medical practice.” Some court rulings, such as Planned Parenthood v. Casey, have linked governments' ability to regulate abortion with the viability of the child.

The summer study was held Aug. 12-13, and attracted hundreds of spectators on both sides of the problem. The committee is hearing testimony from both pro-life and pro-choice advocates.

Bell suggested during the study Aug. 12 that the committee believes the viability definition “acts as an argument that would resonate with the (Supreme) Court,” according to The Tennesseean, and some pro-life advocates suggested the Ninth Amendment's unenumerated rights as a route for overturning Roe v. Wade.

“We want a vehicle to lead the Supreme Court to consider, I hope, overturning or at least chipping away at Roe v. Wade,” Sen. Kerry Roberts told CBS News.

But Jim Bopp, an attorney with the National Right to Life Comittee, told the legislators that “To enact legislation we have to live in the real world. We have precedent we cannot avoid with a clever legal argument."

He called the proposed definition of viability “irrational,” adding: “It makes us look foolish. And I do not want to look foolish."

During the study Aug. 13, Bell made a point of telling a mother attending the hearing that she needn't take her crying child out, saying that children are welcome in Tennessee.

During the summer study, the committee did not vote on the bill; the measure will not be voted on until the state legislature reconvenes in January 2020.

Earlier in the year, when HB77 remained a 'heartbeat bill', Gov. Bill Lee indicated he would sign it should it reach his desk. His deputy, Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, had criticized the bill on the grounds that it would be overturned in the courts.

Though the Tennessee bishops and other pro-life groups opposed the bill, they voiced support for another bill, the Human Life Protection Act, that would automatically ban abortion in the state in the event that Roe were overturned.

Tennessee currently prohibits abortion after the 20th week of pregnancy, and requires a woman to wait 48 hours before receiving an abortion.

In 2014, voters in the state approved an amendment to the state constitution that said, "Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or the funding of an abortion.”

Bishops call for support for HHS rule change

Tue, 08/13/2019 - 11:30

Washington D.C., Aug 13, 2019 / 09:30 am (CNA).- Public consultation closes Tuesday on a new rule to protect doctors’ and healthcare workers’ right to object to abortion and so-called gender reassignment procedures.

August 13 is the last day on which the Department of Health and Human Services will receive feedback on the proposed change to the interpretation of section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Working with the USCCB’s pro-life committee, the bishops’ conference has created a special website to help Catholics contact the department and express support for the regulatory change.

The Catholic Benefits Association, which advocates for religious liberty protections in insurance regulations, urged its supporters last week to respond to the bishops' initiative.

The change recognizes that “the government's enforcement of the nondiscrimination requirements must be consistent with the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act," the organization's CEO, Douglas Wilson, said in an email Aug. 8.

Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act forbids federally funded healthcare programs from discrimination on the basis of sex. Under the current guidelines, issued under President Obama in May 2016, “sex” is defined as including “termination of pregnancy” and “gender identity,” meaning that doctors who refuse to recognize abortion or sex-change operations as appropriate medical care can face prosecution for sex discrimination.

In May, the Trump administration announced it was considering changing regulations related to section 1557, removing the expansive definition of “sex,” clarifying that section 1557 cannot be used to compel doctors to perform abortions or sex-change operations, and requiring that non-discrimination protections be interpreted in line with First Amendment freedoms.  

At the time of the announcement, the USCCB pro-life committee, led by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, issued a statement “applauding” the proposed changes and saying the bishops were “grateful” the administration was taking the “important step.”

“These modifications follow the legislative intent of the Affordable Care Act to ensure nondiscrimination on the basis of sex in health care,” the statement said.

“The proposed regulations would help restore the rights of health care providers – as well as insurers and employers – who decline to perform or cover abortions or ‘gender transition’ procedures due to ethical or professional objections. Catholic health care providers serve everyone who comes to them, regardless of characteristics or background. However, there are ethical considerations when it comes to procedures.”

Eight states and multiple healthcare providers challenged the Obama-era regulations in federal district court in the case Franciscan Alliance v Burwell, filed in December 2016. That case resulted in Judge Reed O’Connor issuing a nationwide preliminary injunction against the enforcement of the regulations, finding that the expanded definition of sex discrimination likely encroached on religious freedom. The federal government did not appeal the injunction.

The USCCB’s Office of the General Counsel submitted its own comments August 1, calling the current interpretation of section 1557 “erroneous” and arguing that it violated key civil liberty protections, including the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

“Commendably—and appropriately, given the nationwide injunction and the government’s confession of error—the proposed regulations correct this earlier misinterpretation,” the general counsel wrote on behalf of the bishops.

The proposed new rule is open for public comment until midnight Tuesday.

Pittsburgh parish cancels festival after security warning

Tue, 08/13/2019 - 10:56

Pittsburgh, Pa., Aug 13, 2019 / 08:56 am (CNA).- A Pennsylvania parish has cancelled a scheduled festival in response to a security threat received by the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

In an Aug. 13 statement, the diocese said that in late July it received a “disturbing,” handwritten letter that said “Cancel August 14-17 Festival Security Problem is Huge.”

Our Lady of Grace Parish in Scott Township, a Pittsburgh suburb, was the only diocesan parish scheduled to hold a festival Aug. 14-17.

“Although there was no direct threat, the letter raised grave concern due to the appalling chain of mass violence that our nation has experienced. Father David Bonnar, the priest-administrator, was immediately notified, and he immediately notified law enforcement. The sender has not been identified, so Father Bonnar announced today, with deep regret, that the festival has been canceled,” the diocesan statement said

The annual festival is a significant source of revenue for the parish.

“The loss of income to Our Lady of Grace Parish and School, and to vendors who were scheduled to work at the festival, pales in comparison to the loss of lives in Dayton, El Paso, Squirrel Hill and too many other places. The diocese supports the decision not to risk becoming another name in that tragic litany. But we mourn the loss of carefree community that should be the hallmark of these joyous events,” the diocese said.

The parish is located less than 15 miles from Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue, at which a gunman killed 11 people while shouting anti-Semitic slurs Oct. 27.

“As we are all devastated by this morning’s massacre at Tree of Life Congregation, my heart and prayers are especially lifted up for our Jewish sisters and brothers and the law enforcement officers who rushed into harm’s way,” Pittsburgh’s Bishop David Zubik said after that shooting.

“May God free us from fear and hatred, and sow peace in our lives, our communities, and in the world,” the bishop added.

Future of Michigan pro-life program in jeopardy as funding threatened

Tue, 08/13/2019 - 05:28

Lansing, Mich., Aug 13, 2019 / 03:28 am (CNA).- Lawmakers in Michigan are considering ending public funding for a program that counsels pregnant women on alternatives to abortion, prompting concern from the Michigan Catholic Conference, which has been advocating for the program since its inception five years ago.

The program, administered by a nonprofit called Real Alternatives, began in Pennsylvania in 1996 and has since helped thousands of women, across several states, facing unplanned pregnancies by providing counseling and material resources such as baby formula and other necessities. The program expanded its operations to Michigan beginning in June 2014 with the backing of the Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC).

Two Democratic Michigan state senators introduced amendments to the state budget this year to block funding for Real Alternatives, which failed to pass. The funding for the program— $700,000 in total— is still included in the legislature’s budget for 2020.

Despite this, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, the state’s new governor who took office in Jan. 2019, has so far not included funding for Real Alternatives in her most recent budget, according to a July 22 editorial in The Detroit News.

David Maluchnik, communications vice president for the MCC, told CNA that the MCC is continuing to advocate for funding for the program to be included in the state budget.

“We’ve already succeeded in beating back efforts to line-item the funds from committee and on the Senate floor,” Maluchnik told CNA via email.

“As out-of-state, pro-abortion organizations have spent at least six figures to defund the program, MCC continues to speak with administration officials and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle as budget discussions continue.”

According to Real Alternatives’ estimates, the Michigan program has served 8,240 women at 31,958 support visits since 2014. The state has appropriated $3.3 million to the program since its inception.

“Citizens want to help these women. This is the fastest way to lower abortions,” Real Alternatives founding CEO Kevin Bagatta told CNA.

“Citizens are happy that their taxpayer monies are being used to help their fellow citizens in an unexpected pregnancy.”

If a woman is alone and poor, she may struggle with the pressures of an unexpected pregnancy, he said. What the Real Alternatives program does is provide a counselor, who helps the woman from conception until 12 months after the baby's birth, training her how to take care of the baby and herself.

The counselor acts as a mentor— like a big sister, he said, or maybe even the mother they never had— to help to relieve some of the stress and pressures of pregnancy. He noted that it is primarily a counseling program, not a medical program, although the program offers referrals for medical needs, and saves the state of Michigan money that it might have otherwise spent on additional medical care for pregnant women.

All together, he said, the program has served close to 400,000 women across all the states where it operates since its founding 24 years ago. Over the years, he said, numerous clients come back having finished a nursing degree to volunteer at the very center that helped them.

In Michigan, Real Alternatives uses a network of 15 pregnancy support centers, as well as several Catholic Charities affiliates, to provide its services to women.

According to the Michigan state health department, Real Alternatives is receiving $700,000 in funding for FY 2019, with $650,000 of that coming from federal grants and $50,000 from the state general fund.

Pennsylvania and beyond

Bagatta was one of the original founders of Real Alternatives, which was founded and is still headquartered in Pennsylvania. He said the Pennsylvania program alone has served over 308,000 women since its inception, and has inspired pro-life groups in other states to start similar programs. He said they've helped about 14 states so far to start similar programs whereby the state helps to fund the pregnancy support network.

“We're really no different from domestic violence and rape crisis programs,” he explained.

“In those programs you have a certain client, a woman who's vulnerable...and what this program is it's, again, another vulnerable client, the woman who's in an unexpected pregnancy.”

Bagatta noted that research done in the 1980s found that about 80% of women who had procured an abortion who were surveyed said that they would not have gone through with the procedure if just one person had taken the time to help them.

In 1996, then-Pennsylvania Governor Bob Casey put funding in the state budget for alternatives to abortion services. Bagatta said this was the first time that a state used government funding for pregnancy centers and Catholic Charities to promote childbirth as an alternative to abortion for women facing unintended pregnancies.

Today, Real Alternatives runs the Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Michigan programs from their base in Harrisburg. They helped to start a similar program in Texas.

In 2013, Real Alternatives was asked by the Michigan Catholic Conference to help to explain the program to then-Governor Rick Snyder, who put money in the budget to start the state’s program.

Catholic Charities affiliates in the various states are staffed with licensed social workers and trained counselors.

Under the George W. Bush administration, the program was accepted as meeting the requirements to use Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) money from the federal government, which states may use as they see fit. This means many of the state programs are funded with federal dollars; Pennsylvania’s program, like Michigan’s, also is funded by some state revenue. Usually the program is accepted in a state with a pro-life governor, Bagatta said.

“Every state gets TANF money. So if you're a pro-life governor, you can have this program and use your TANF money to do a program like we have in the multiple states that we administer.”

In Michigan, half the clients are served through Catholic Charities affiliates in Kalamazoo, Southeast Michigan, West Michigan, and Washtenaw, in addition to three pregnancy centers.

Catholic Charities affiliates are able to dedicate staff specifically for this program as a result of the funding received, Bagatta said, and the funding model provides an incentive for the centers to serve more clients and open specific pregnancy resource programs.

Attempts to defund Real Alternatives

The program is not without its critics, however. Early in 2019, a group called the Campaign for Accountability filed a complaint with the governor and attorney general stating that after pledging to administer 8,000 visits and serve 2,000 people in Michigan in Real Alternatives’ first year of operation, the program “only managed to oversee a mere 785 visits and serve only 403 women.”

The Campaign for Accountability also stated that the abortion rate in Michigan had remained “about the same” during the time that Real Alternatives had been active in the state.

The Campaign for Accountability is run by the Hopewell Fund, a nonprofit whose executive director and project director formerly worked for the pro-abortion Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood.

“You wouldn't think the work to help women, so that she doesn't have to choose an abortion, would be controversial. But it is,” Bagatta said.

“We're surprised that in 2019 there are groups that don't want us to be funded, there are groups that don't want the program to succeed.”

Previously, in September 2017, Pennsylvania’s auditor general recommended ending the state’s contract with Real Alternatives because, in his estimation, the organization had used Pennsylvania state money to expand its operations in other states, in violation of the group’s agreement with the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services.

Real Alternatives responded in a statement at the time, saying that the Program Development and Advancement Agreement is a second, voluntary contract whereby service providers “hire Real Alternatives to grow its model Pregnancy and Parenting Support Program.”

Real Alternatives said that while service providers are fully reimbursed for their services, many of them voluntarily agreed to provide 3% back to Real Alternatives— which then became private funds— in order to help to spread the program to other states. This allowed Real Alternatives to, in their words, “scrupulously” comply with the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services requirements that Pennsylvania state dollars not be used in other states.

Real Alternatives said this process had been audited four times in the past with no issues, and ultimately successfully sued the state of Pennsylvania, claiming the auditor general was overreaching his authority by seeking to audit Real Alternative’s use of those private funds.

Future uncertain

Maluchnik of the Michigan Catholic Conference reiterated that Real Alternatives provides needed care for women who would otherwise choose abortion.

“[The program] not only provides support and care, it provides formula and [referrals for] pre- and post-natal meds; it gets clothing and shelter to mom and baby where there may otherwise be none; it helps with parenting tips when there’s no one to talk to; it offsets threats to infant mortality and gives young children and mothers a healthy start and a brighter future.”

“In the end, pulling the rug from under low-income women and her unborn or infant child at a time when they’re most vulnerable would constitute a heartless, calculated political maneuver. We’re praying it does not happen.”

Federal court: Women's-only shelter not required to admit men

Tue, 08/13/2019 - 02:09

Anchorage, Alaska, Aug 13, 2019 / 12:09 am (CNA).- A federal court has issued a preliminary injunction protecting a women’s overnight shelter in Anchorage from the city’s demands that it house biological males.

“All Americans should be free to live out their faith and serve their neighbors—especially homeless women who have suffered sexual abuse—without being targeted or harassed by the government,” said ADF Senior Counsel Kate Anderson in a statement.

Downtown Hope Center is a faith-based facility in Anchorage that offers overnight women’s-only homeless shelters. These women have sometimes suffered abuse, and the center ensures that they will have a safe place to sleep, without being near men.

The center requires overnight visitors to be female at birth, at least 18 years old, sober, and demonstrative of safe behavior.

In January 2018, a biological male who identifies as a transgender female came to the center. The individual, identified as “Jessie Doe” in court documents, was turned away for being visibly intoxicated. Officials at the Downtown Hope Center encouraged him to go to the hospital to receive treatment for an open wound above his eye, and he eventually agreed.

The next day, Doe returned, but was again turned away, this time due to a failure to arrive in time for weekend admission, according to the center’s policies. Officials at the homeless shelter later learned that he had been banned from a different homeless shelter for starting a fight.

A few days later, Doe filed a complaint with the Anchorage Equal Right Commission against the shelter, saying it was a public accommodation that had discriminated against him on the basis of sex and gender identity.

However, Downtown Hope Center maintains that homeless shelters are exempt from the city ordinance on public accommodations, and that Doe was turned away for violating other policies.

In her Aug. 9 ruling, U.S. District Judge Sharon L. Gleason denied the city’s request that the lawsuit be dismissed. She issued a preliminary injunction preventing the city from enforcing the ordinance against the shelter while the case is being decided in court.

Anderson applauded the ruling.

“Downtown Hope Center serves everyone, but women deserve a safe place to stay overnight. No woman—particularly not an abuse survivor—should be forced to sleep or disrobe next to a man,” she said. “The court’s order will allow the center to continue in its duty to protect the vulnerable women it serves while this lawsuit moves forward.”

Mississippi bishops encourage aid for families affected by ICE raids

Mon, 08/12/2019 - 20:01

Jackson, Miss., Aug 12, 2019 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- Mississippi’s Catholic bishops are speaking out against last week’s extensive Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids that targeted workers at food processing plants, rounding up and detaining nearly 700 undocumented immigrants.

Nearly 400 of those detained — some of whom left children behind on the first day of the new school year— have not yet been released.

“We can stand in solidarity to provide solace, material assistance and strength for the separated and traumatized children, parents and families. Of course, we are committed to a just and compassionate reform to our nation’s immigration system, but there is an urgent and critical need at this time to avoid a worsening crisis,” Bishops Joseph Kopacz of Jackson and Louis Kihneman of Biloxi said in an Aug. 9 joint statement together with representatives of the state's Episcopal, Methodist, and Evangelical Lutheran Church of America communities.

ICE agents carried out raids on seven sites in Mississippi Aug. 7, rounding up as many as 700 undocumented workers. Officials have announced that around 300 of those detained have been released on humanitarian grounds, many of them parents who are now reunited with their children, CNN reports.

Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Jackson is asking for donations— both monetary and also items such as diapers, baby formula, household and school supplies, and hygiene kits— to help families affected by the raids.

“To say that immigration reform is a contentious and complex topic would be an understatement. As Christians, within any disagreement we should all be held together by our baptismal promises. Our baptism, regardless of denomination calls us to unity in Jesus Christ. We are his body and, therefore, called to act in love as a unified community for our churches and for the common good of our local communities and nation,” the Christian leaders said in their joint statement.

They echoed USCCB president Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, who wrote a letter to President Trump last month saying that ICE raids “cause the unacceptable suffering of thousands of children and their parents, and create widespread panic in our communities.”

“We can stand in solidarity to provide solace, material assistance and strength for the separated and traumatized children, parents and families. Of course, we are committed to a just and compassionate reform to our nation’s immigration system, but there is an urgent and critical need at this time to avoid a worsening crisis,” the Christian leaders said.

CNN spoke to Father Odel Medina at St. Anne Catholic Church in Carthage, about 50 miles northeast of Jackson, who said around 50 members of his congregation were detained in the raids. He called the raids a “disaster” for his parish, CNN reports.

Analysis: The pastoral approach of Archbishop Charles Chaput

Mon, 08/12/2019 - 17:50

Philadelphia, Pa., Aug 12, 2019 / 03:50 pm (CNA).- Archbishop Charles Chaput is not a cardinal. He has never been an officer at the U.S. bishops’ conference. He has never lived in Rome, and, in an international Church, he is not a polyglot.

Chaput’s resume is not typical of most influential figures in the Church’s hierarchy.

But when Chaput turns 75 and submits his resignation to Pope Francis next month, his admirers and his fiercest critics are likely to agree that the archbishop’s 31 years as a diocesan bishop have shaped, in significant ways, the voice of the Church in the U.S.

In light of that, the archbishop’s approach to episcopal ministry offers lessons worth noting, both for bishops who agree with him, and those who don’t.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should make clear my own bias: I love Archbishop Chaput. I met my wife at a lecture he gave, and the archbishop has been very kind over the years to my family. He gave me my first job in canon law and diocesan administration, and he has invested in my professional, intellectual, personal, and spiritual development. Some of the happiest years of my professional life were spent working for Chaput in the Archdiocese of Denver, where, among many other talented colleagues, I worked alongside the National Catholic Register’s Jeanette DeMelo, Real Life Catholic’s Chris Stefanick, the estimable Fran Maier, and then-auxiliary Bishop James Conley.

It is also worth noting that Chaput was an early supporter of Catholic News Agency, and is a board member of EWTN, of which CNA is a service.

And while I am insistent that CNA, and this analysis, treat him fairly and objectively, I am also proud to acknowledge that Archbishop Chaput is my friend.

The first Native American to become a diocesan bishop, Chaput spent nine years in Rapid City, South Dakota, 14 years as Archbishop of Denver, and eight years in Philadelphia, where, in 2015, he hosted Pope Francis for the World Meeting of Families.

Chaput is the author of two bestselling books, a regular contributor to secular and religious publications, and his weekly column, his talks, and his homilies are “must-reads” for a broad swath of bishops and priests, for pastoral workers and intellectuals, and for a large following of practicing Catholics.

The archbishop has been a leader from the floor at the U.S. bishops’ conference; he has served on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom; and he has been a member of the Vatican’s permanent council of the synod of bishops.

More quietly, the archbishop has served as a mentor to priests, deacons, and religious across the country. Countless lay people, religious, and clerics cite his influence in the discernment of their vocations or apostolates. And his first auxiliary is Archbishop Jose Gomez, who now leads the largest U.S. diocese, and is poised to be elected president of the U.S. bishops’ conference in November.

Chaput’s reputation in the media is rather polarized. By critics, he has been portrayed as triumphalist, reflexively conservative, impatient with disagreement, and a kind of ideological foil to Pope Francis. One critic even characterized him recently as a “devout schismatic.” Supporters paint a different picture, saying that Chaput is doctrinally orthodox, intellectually engaging, humble, self-effacing, and pastorally available. 

But love him or loathe him, Church-watchers generally agree that among U.S. bishops, Chaput has been more effective than most at achieving his vision, and leaving a legacy.

As his career as a diocesan bishop comes near its end, it is worth noting three aspects of Chaput’s approach to leadership that have characterized his ministry as a bishop.

Lay collaboration

A sometimes overlooked aspect of Chaput’s ecclesial career is his formation as a Capuchin. But Chaput attended a Capuchin seminary high school, professed vows in the order at 23, and became a Capuchin provincial superior before he was 40; the archbishop is a Capuchin Franciscan. And the long emphasis within that religious order on collaboration between lay and ordained brothers seems to have shaped the archbishop’s vision of diocesan leadership.

Chaput has frequently emphasized the “co-responsibility” of laity and clergy for the Gospel, and encouraged Church leaders to call upon the expertise of laity. While he has most often mentioned the importance of lay voices in public life, his episcopal ministry has involved the cultivation of lay leaders in ecclesial contexts, the delegation of ecclesiastical functions to lay advisers and staff collaborators, and the encouragement of lay-led and administered apostolic projects.

During Chaput’s time in Denver, the archbishop supported the formation of lay-led apostolates like Endow, the Augustine Institute, and FOCUS, while also welcoming lay-led ecclesial movements like the NeoCatechumenal Way to his diocese, and appointing a lay chancellor and other senior lay officials within diocesan institutions. In Philadelphia, he is known to have expanded the role of the lay-led archdiocesan pastoral council, while hiring laity for open leadership positions.

The Second Vatican Council notes that laity can “be called in various ways to a more direct form of cooperation in the apostolate of the Hierarchy,” adding that laity “have the capacity to assume from the Hierarchy certain ecclesiastical functions, which are to be performed for a spiritual purpose.”

It is obvious to those who have worked in the Church that bishops have understood and assented to that teaching in different ways. Some bishops, most comfortable in the company of clerics, continue to fill senior leadership positions almost exclusively with priests. Others seem to talk about “lay collaboration” as a kind of virtue signal, leveraging the term to indicate progressive positions on ecclesial questions, or, on the other hand, to be uncomfortable with an emphasis on lay collaboration because of those same connotations.

Chaput’s approach to lay collaboration, according to several of his current and former staffers, is neither ideological nor forced. It is collaboration, they say, borne of a sense of equality in dignity among clerics and laity, and a sincere trust that the Holy Spirit can move as significantly through the laity as through those entrusted with mitres and croziers.  

Chaput told me once, shortly after I began working for him, that among a bishop’s most important tasks is to help people discern the movement of the Holy Spirit in their own lives, and to help remove obstacles as they follow God’s call. Other staffers say he has told them similar things, and offered similar advice.

The effect of that approach, according to observers, has been that on some issues, including clerical sexual abuse, Chaput’s dioceses have generally been recognized as being ahead of national trends on consultation, transparency, and accountability. Chaput’s collaboration with lay experts is frequently credited with untangling the Gordian knot presented by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s legal and financial difficulties. And the effect of encouraging lay apostolic projects outside the chancery is evidenced in the fruitful national reach of apostolates like FOCUS.
Public engagement

Chaput drew attention last week for a column he published after mass shootings in California, Texas, and Ohio.

The column, which evoked his own experiences in the aftermath of the 1999 Columbine shooting, said that “assault rifles are not a birthright, and the Second Amendment is not a Golden Calf.” It called for greater restrictions on the sale of firearms. But, in making a point about fighting the deep causes of a “culture of violence,” the archbishop wrote that “only a fool can believe that ‘gun control’ will solve the problem of mass violence.”

It was the last quote that made the headlines. Local television stations, and then national publications, led with the quote, and a column in the Philadelphia Inquirer said the archbishop had “foolishly missed the mark,” before accusing him of racial insensitivity.

Chaput is a lightning rod for controversy, and neither the archbishop nor Church observers are surprised when his weekly column garners national attention.

In short, it is not news when Chaput is in the news.

In 2010, the archbishop told reporter David Gibson that “I don’t have a whole lot of concern about what people think of me.”

“To me, NOT to say something is really very destructive, because silence implies consent,” he added.

“So I feel obliged to talk. A lot.”

The archbishop is a frequent commentator on American public life, on issues that reach well beyond internal ecclesiastical affairs. He is not shy to express opinions on political issues, on film and television, on family life and economic justice. And he is not hesitant to make unlikely allies.

In Colorado, Chaput made headlines for speaking engagements he arranged with then-Congressman Jared Polis, who is now the first openly gay American to be elected a state governor. The unlikely pair had common cause on immigration reform, and worked together to forge alliances on the issue. He has engaged with Pennsylvania politicians in a similar way.

The effect of Chaput’s engagement with culture is that his influence on the lives of ordinary people extends far beyond the boundaries of his diocese. Livestreamed Facebook homilies are credited with his popularity among younger Catholics. Writing in secular journals and magazines is often seen as a factor in the archbishop’s credibility with non-Catholics, and the catalyst for Chaput’s recognition as a focal point of engagement among Catholics and evangelicals, Mormons, and Jews.

The hallmarks of Chaput’s speeches and columns are citations from a broad and deep bibliography, the framework of a Catholic worldview, and a clear and digestible series of points.

While bishops are both free and encouraged to engage meaningfully on topics of importance to the Church, few actually do, and even fewer give evidence of having done the necessary homework. But the reach of Chaput’s engagement is evidence that bishops can successfully engage culture as both pastors and public intellectuals, and are likely find an eager audience when they do.

Pastoral availability

In 2015, Philadelphia Magazine reported that “Chaput has long been known to have an ‘open-door policy’ of sorts with emailers.” Church-watchers note the same thing.

Pastoral availability, it seems clear, is not the kind of thing that is subject to theological viewpoints or ideological positions. But it is, by many accounts, the mark of a good priest, and is often the defining characteristic of a priest’s legacy.

Those who have worked in parishes know that the parish priests who are most fondly remembered are those who made time to visit a sick relative, to listen after a loss, to patiently accompany a parishioner through a personal struggle or a period of difficulty.

By the metric of pastoral availability, Chaput’s legacy as a bishop will likely receive high marks.

Chaput is well-regarded among staffers, priests, and a broad circle of friends and acquaintances for his availability by email, a phone call, or a short visit.

It is not uncommon, staff members say, for the last email received of the night, and the first received the next morning, to be from Chaput.

Nor is it uncommon for the archbishop to forward to staff members emails from Catholics seeking advice, or looking for solutions to problems, and to follow up later on how the matters were resolved.

When he celebrated his last Mass in Denver before his move to Philadelphia, Chaput stood at the door of his cathedral shaking hands for hours. Some of those who waited on line were surprised when their archbishop remembered their names, and something about their stories. When he arrived in Philadelphia, he greeted his new subjects in the same way, and after his resignation is accepted, he is expected to do the same.

In Philadelphia, he is also praised for making “surprise visits” to parishes, announcing only to a parish pastor that he intends to be present for Sunday Mass, and visiting with Catholics after Mass often for hours.

The archbishop has also been recognized for making available pastoral care in styles or forms that are not his personal preference. Though he has admitted that the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite is not his personal liturgical preference, he established a quasi-parish in Philadelphia for the Extraordinary Form and a personal parish in Denver for the same. He has, at the same time, welcomed charismatic communities, ecclesial movements, religious orders, and other apostolates of evangelization, catechesis, and pastoral life, without presuming to impose one model of spirituality or ecclesial life on his dioceses.

Of course, anyone who engages in public life needs thick skin. And Chaput has sometimes been criticized in Philadelphia for terse responses to those who disagree with him. He has also, it is worth noting, reportedly received his share of vulgarities and hate mail.

Pope Francis has emphasized the importance of a bishop’s availability to his people, using the oft-quoted image of a bishop “smelling like his sheep.” As bishops face mounting pressure to spend time on their legal problems, or on complex financial challenges, the pope has also reminded them to make themselves available to their people, and to spend the time and energy required to attend to them. Chaput, according to those who know him best, seems to have made that priority the defining characteristic of his ministry as a bishop.

Chaput is said to delight in defying expectations, and he has not yet announced what he will do in his retirement. Nor is it certain when the pope will accept his resignation. But whenever Chaput’s resignation is accepted, a mantle of episcopal leadership will be passed. Whether bishops will have the courage to take up that mantle remains to be seen.


Window opens for abuse victim suits as New York law comes in to effect

Mon, 08/12/2019 - 15:30

Albany, N.Y., Aug 12, 2019 / 01:30 pm (CNA).- A one-year window that allows adults in New York state who were sexually abused as children to file lawsuits against their abusers opens on Wednesday, August 14. Those who were sexually abused now have a one-year break in the state’s statute of limitations to pursue claims against their abusers and the institutions where the abuse took place.

The window was created by the passage of the Child Victims Act on January 28, 2019. The law adjusted the statute of limitations for pursuing criminal charges and civil suits against sexual abusers or institutions. Previously, a survivor of child sexual abuse had until the age of 23 to file charges or a civil claim. Now, with the passage of the law, survivors have up until the age of 28 to file criminal charges, and age 55 to file a lawsuit.

The one-year window begins six months after the passage of the law. The Catholic Church, Boy Scouts of America, and the state’s public schools have all said they are preparing for a potentially large number of abuse survivors to file lawsuits. 

In 2002, the state of California passed a similar piece of legislation, leading to more than one billion dollars being paid by the Catholic Church to survivors of child sexual abuse. 

In 2016, the Archdiocese of New York created an Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program for survivors of child sexual abuse within the archdiocese. That program has paid $65 million to 323 survivors, who accepted the settlement with the condition they would not file an additional lawsuit. Dioceses in other states, like New Jersey, have combined to launch similar programs. 

Church officials have said that they cannot predict how the window will affect local dioceses. 

“We don’t know exactly what to expect when the window opens,” said Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York to the Associated Press. 

“We certainly anticipate that there will be lawsuits filed against the archdiocese, as there will be against many other institutions and public entities as well.”

The Catholic Church had raised qualified opposition to earlier versions of the Child Victims Act, as the legislation did not provide the same protections for child abuse victims in public insitutions, including schools, as it did for private institutions. 

The final version that was signed into law eliminated these differences, and allows for suits to be filed by survivors of abuse by public school teachers or employees. 

In January, Director of the New York Catholic Conference, Dennis Poust, told CNA that the conference supported the changes and had not opposed the final version of the act.

“For years, we have advocated against treating abuse survivors differently depending on where they were abused,” he said.

“Previous versions of the bill sought to shield public institutions, which would have treated abuse survivors differently depending on where they suffered their abuse. Thankfully, the bill’s sponsors amended this, and the conference dropped any opposition to its passage,” Poust said.

At the time the bill was passed, the bishops of New York issued a joint statement in response to the bill.

“We pray that the passage of the Child Victims Act brings some measure of healing to all survivors by offering them a path of recourse and reconciliation,” the bishops wrote.

“The legislation now recognizes that child sexual abuse is an evil not just limited to one institution, but a tragic societal ill that must be addressed in every place where it exists.”

Fort Worth bishop has not endorsed alleged messages from Mary

Mon, 08/12/2019 - 13:30

Fort Worth, Texas, Aug 12, 2019 / 11:30 am (CNA).- The Bishop of Fort Worth, Texas, has not authenticated alleged apparitions of the Virgin Mary that are said to have taken place in the diocese, according to a statement released last week.

“Recent claims made on websites and in social media have indicated that alleged apparitions and messages of the Blessed Virgin Mary, under a title of ‘Mystical Rose--Our Lady of Argyle,’ have been authenticated by Bishop Michael Olson and the Diocese of Fort Worth. This is not true,” the Aug. 8 statement said.

“These claims of apparitions and messages are not verified or endorsed by the Church, and in no way are claims true that the Mystical Rose is a ministry of the Diocese of Fort Worth or of St. Mark Parish.”

According to a website launched last month, the Blessed Virgin Mary began appearing in May 2017 to a “visionary.” The first such apparition was reportedly in Arkansas, and subsequent appearances allegedly took place at St. Mark Catholic Church in Argyle, Texas.

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

The most recent such message recorded on the website is dated Aug. 1, and is credited to “three angels.” The message warns of a spiritual battle in the Church, noting that “men look to Rome for answers, But the questions have become so corrupted that the answers are wrong before they are given.”

The website reports that the alleged visionary informed diocesan officials about the initial messages, but the diocese said they have not been formally approved through any ecclesiastical process.

“While from time to time apparitions do occur (Lourdes, Fatima, Tepayac), the age of revelaton ended with the death of the last apostle and all true apparitions are simply an appeal to obey the command of Christ: Repent and believe in the Gospel,” the diocesan statement said.

“There is nothing further to be revealed by God that has not already been fully revealed in Jesus Christ. It is in light of this truth of the Catholic faith that one should assess claims of apparitions or of messages and miracles with prudence, always presuming the good will anyone making such a claim, but with due regard for the integrity of the Catholic faith.”

With regard to the alleged apparitions in Argyle, “Bishop Olson does not encourage anyone to offer credence of support for these claimed apparitions,” the diocese said.


Survey on Catholic belief in the Eucharist prompts calls for better catechesis

Sat, 08/10/2019 - 17:32

Washington D.C., Aug 10, 2019 / 03:32 pm (CNA).- After a recent survey found that two-thirds of Catholics do not believe Church teaching about the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, Catholic commenters are stressing the importance of better faith formation.

“We should never assume that ‘everyone here knows the basics.’ We have to constantly reiterate the basics and take every advantage that we have to catechize,” said John Bergsma, a professor of Theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville.

A recent Pew Research study found that just 31% of U.S. Catholics they surveyed believe that the bread and wine used in the Eucharist, through a process called transubstantiation, become the body and blood of Jesus— a fundamental teaching central to the Catholic faith, known as the Real Presence.

Sixty-nine percent of Catholics that Pew surveyed reported their belief that the bread and wine used during the Eucharist “are symbols of the body and blood of Jesus Christ.” This mindset made up a majority in every age group surveyed.

“Most Catholics who believe that the bread and wine are symbolic do not know that the church holds that transubstantiation occurs,” Pew reported Aug. 5.

“Overall, 43% of Catholics believe that the bread and wine are symbolic and also that this reflects the position of the church. Still, one-in-five Catholics (22%) reject the idea of transubstantiation, even though they know about the church’s teaching.”

Interestingly, a small percentage of those surveyed— 3%— claimed to believe in the Real Presence despite not knowing that this is what the Church teaches.

Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron said the study made him angry because it showed poor formation for generations in the Church.

“This should be a wake-up call to all of us in the Church—priests, bishops, religious, laypeople, catechists, parents, everyone—that we need to pick up our game when it comes to communicating even the most basic doctrines of the Church,” Barron wrote on his blog Aug. 6.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church in paragraph 1374 states: “In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist ‘the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained’ is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present."

Bergsma told CNA that he found the results of the Pew survey unsurprising, as similar polls in the past two decades have turned up similar results.

He said many of the “self-identified” Catholics surveyed probably don’t show up at Mass very often, if at all.

“Really what this poll shows, once again, is that there are large numbers of persons in the United States who consider themselves ‘Catholic’ almost as an ethnic or cultural category, because they received one or more sacraments when they were children, or their family is traditionally Catholic,” Bergsma said.

“However, although these persons consider themselves ‘Catholic’ as a demographic category, they haven’t and don’t practice the Catholic faith, and they haven't made much effort to learn what the Catholic Church teaches.”

He called for better catechesis, especially in parish and school settings, to counter the lack of belief shown in the survey.

For Bergsma, a former Protestant pastor who once preached vehemently against the Catholic Church, a big factor in his conversion was encountering the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist.

“Jesus said, ‘This is my body … this is my blood.’ Every Christian who claims to follow Christ should take him at his word and believe in the Real Presence,” he said.

“The early Christians surely did, and reading the earliest Christian writings on the Eucharist is what converted me on this issue...For those who don’t know or reject the Church’s teaching, I would encourage them to give it a chance. Read, for example, what the Catechism says about the Eucharist, and ponder it with an open mind.”

Father Bradley Zamora, director of liturgy at Mundelein Seminary in Illinois, told CNA that the Eucharist— and what the Church teaches about it— is the “very core” of the Catholic faith, and the fact that it seems to be so misunderstood is disheartening.

“As a person of faith, as someone who has chosen to follow Christ as a disciple, you have to be willing to enter into the narrative of what we believe,” he said.

“You have to be willing to give your heart completely to Christ, you have to put on eyes of faith, you have to open your ears to the very voice of Christ. This is the disposition, as difficult as it may be, that our faith begs of us. When we gather for the Eucharist we see and hear things happening in front of us, but beneath what we see and what we hear is the very Paschal Mystery coming to life before our eyes.”

Zamora, like Bergsma, emphasized the need for better catechesis and teaching about the basic tenets of the Catholic faith. He also said that Catholics do themselves a “disservice” as a Church when they don’t speak about the mysteries of the faith as often as they can. As a seminary professor, he said he tries to bring his seminarians back to the reality of the Real Presence constantly as he teaches them how to celebrate Mass.

“When we pronounce the words of the institution narrative, ‘This is my body,’ and ‘This is my blood,’ it is Christ Himself who prays those words again in our time and space just as He did at the Last Supper,” Zamora explained.

“What we do when we gather for prayer is not some stage play, but rather we re-present the very mystery Christ instituted.”


Citing El Paso shooting, US bishops condemn divisive, hateful rhetoric

Fri, 08/09/2019 - 18:16

Washington D.C., Aug 9, 2019 / 04:16 pm (CNA).- Leaders of the U.S. bishops’ conference on issues of immigration and racism denounced xenophobic and dehumanizing language in the United States, warning that it fosters discrimination and hatred.

“The tragic loss of life of 22 people this weekend in El Paso demonstrates that hate-filled rhetoric and ideas can become the motivation for some to commit acts of violence,” the bishops said.

“The anti-immigrant, anti-refugee, anti-Muslim, and anti-Semitic sentiments that have been publicly proclaimed in our society in recent years have incited hatred in our communities.”

The statement was issued Aug. 8 by Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin, head of the U.S. bishops’ migration committee; Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Florida, chair of the domestic social development committee; and Bishop Shelton Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, head of the ad hoc committee against racism.

On Saturday Aug. 3, an armed man opened fire at a shopping complex in El Paso, Texas, killing 22 and injuring more than two dozen, according to police reports. The suspect is in custody.

The shooter reportedly published a four-page document online in the hours before the attack, detailing his hatred toward immigrants and Hispanics. He also reportedly described the weapons he would use in the shooting. Police said he appeared to have been targeting Latinos during the attack.

Following the shooting, critics quickly turned their attention to President Donald Trump, noting that the suspect’s manifesto had echoed some of his language, such as characterizing immigrants as an “invasion.” They also denounced the president’s derogatory comments aimed at cities and countries with large black populations, and his suggestion that four Democratic congresswomen of color “go back” to their home countries, despite their being U.S. citizens.

“Donald Trump has created plenty of space for hate,” said presidential hopeful Senator Elizabeth Warren. “He is a racist. He has made one racist remark after another. He has put in place racist policies. And we've seen the consequences of it.”

Senator Bernie Sanders, who is also running for president, tweeted at Trump after the shooting, “Your language creates a climate which emboldens violent extremists.”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) went a step further, calling Trump’s rhetoric on immigration “directly responsible” for the El Paso shooting.

In his initial response to the shooting, Trump condemned the violence but did not mention white nationalism. In a later televised appearance, he said, “In one voice our nation must condemn racism, bigotry, and white supremacy.”

On the day of the shooting, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, and Bishop Dewane issued a statement, denouncing the violence as “senseless and inhumane” and calling for legislation to address “the plague that gun violence has become” in the United States.

The second statement from the U.S. bishops comes as criticism mounts against the president for his rhetoric regarding minorities.

In their Aug. 8 statement, the bishops did not reference Trump, or any other political leader, by name. Instead they asked all Americans “to stop using hate-filled language that demeans and divides us and motivates some to such horrific violence.”

The noted that racial hatred was also apparent as a motivation in last year’s Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh and the Mother Emanuel AME Church shooting in Charleston in 2015.

“[W]e ask our leaders and all Americans to work to unite us as a great, diverse, and welcoming people,” the bishops said.

While the bishops’ statement avoided calling out Trump by name, San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller addressed the president in his initial response to the shooting several days earlier.

On his personal Twitter account, the archbishop posted Aug. 5, “President you are a poor man, a very week [sic] man. Stop damaging people. Please!” A second tweet read, “President stop your hatred. People in the US deserve better.”

The tweets were later deleted.

In a video posted to the archdiocesan Facebook page the next day, García-Siller said, “I regret that my recent Tweet remarks were not focused on the issues, but on an individual.”

“All individuals have God-given dignity and should be accorded respect and love as children of God,” the archbishop said, adding, “We should be aware of this in our discourse about the office of the president of the United States, which is due our respect.”

García-Siller encouraged prayers for the victims of violence and said his desire is to bring hope and healing, and act in a way that reflects civility and builds unity.

“If I have added to anyone’s pain at this emotional time, I deeply regret it.”

The archbishop reiterated his condemnation of racism, which he said is still a problem in America today.

“No one has the moral right to make racist statements,” he said, denouncing harassment of immigrants and rhetoric that instigates fear.

“We must pray fervently for peace amidst all the violence which seems to be overwhelming in our society. We must be lights in the darkness,” the archbishop concluded. “We do not need more division, but rather we need to move forward in freedom to discuss these topics more deeply in light of the Gospel.”


Chaldean Catholic dies in Iraq after U.S. deportation

Fri, 08/09/2019 - 18:00

Detroit, Mich., Aug 9, 2019 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Christian leaders and local legislators have mourned the death of a Chaldean Christian who had been deported to Iraq by the United States.

Jimmy Al-Daoud, a 41 year-old Chaldean Catholic who lived in the Detroit suburbs, was apprehended by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in 2017 and eventually deported to Iraq in June of this year. Born in Greece, Al-Daoud was an Iraqi national but had never previously been to the country.

According to an announcement by his lawyer, Al-Daoud died on August 6.

“Christians of Iraqi descent who have been living in the U.S. for decades have nowhere to return to in Iraq,” Toufic Baaklini, president of the advocacy group In Defense of Christians, stated on Friday.

“While the United States acted within its rights in deporting an unlawful resident, in doing so, they sent an Iraqi Christian back to a country whose own indigenous Christians cannot find a place to live in safety.”

As reported by POLITICO Thursday, Al-Daoud’s lawyer posted on Facebook that Jimmy, a diabetic, likely died from lack of access to insulin. He was born in Greece and had never been to Iraq.

Although he “entered the United States lawfully in 1979,” ICE officials in Detroit said in a statement that Al-Daoud violated the terms of his lawful status with several criminal convictions and received a final order of removal in 2005 after an “exhaustive judicial review.”

Between 1998 and 2017, Al-Daoud had 20 convictions including assault with a dangerous weapon, domestic violence, breaking and entering, malicious destruction of a building, home invasion, breaking and entering a vehicle, and receiving and concealing stolen property.

After the 2005 order of removal, Al-Daoud’s case was later reopened, only for him to be again given an order of removal on May 14, 2018.

Several months after that order of removal, a district court ruled that Al-Daoud and other Iraqi nationals awaiting deportation had to be released. As part of his release, Al-Daoud had to wear a GPS tether as part of ICE’s “non-custodial supervision program” but he cut the tether on the day of his release in violation of the program. He was arrested again in April of 2019 for larceny from a motor vehicle.

Al-Daoud was deported on June 2, ICE said, and “was supplied with a full complement of medicine to ensure continuity of care.”

In a video of him in Iraq that posted by his lawyer to Facebook, Al-Daoud said he was “sleeping in the streets.” His lawyer said Al-Daoud did not know the language, had never been to the country, had no familial relations there and was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.

On Tuesday, Al-Daoud was reported dead in Iraq by his lawyer.

“Jimmy’s death has devastated his family and us. We knew he would not survive if deported,” said Miriam Aukerman, a senior staff attorney with ACLU of Michigan who is litigating the Hamma v. Adducci case involving the Iraqi nationals who have been deported or are awaiting deportation.

The advocacy group In Defense of Christians (IDC), released a statement on Thursday acknowledging that the U.S. “acted within its rights in deporting an unlawful resident” but that the situation in Iraq is still very dangerous for Christians.

The U.S. in 2016 recognized that Christians and other ethnic and religious minorities in Iraq and Syria were victims of genocide by ISIS. Although the ISIS territorial caliphate has been removed from Iraq, there are still an estimated 15,000 ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria, along with Iran-backed militias who have reportedly been targeting and harassing Christians in Northern Iraq.

Local leaders in the Detroit metropolitan area—including Congressman Andy Levin (D-Mich.), State Rep. Mari Manoogian (D), and Martin Manna, the president of the Chaldean Community Foundation—have said they are working with Iraqi officials to have Al-Daoud’s body repatriated to the U.S. for a Catholic burial.

Rep. Levin released a statement on Thursday saying that “for many reasons, it was clear that deporting Jimmy to a country where he had never been, had no identification, had no family, had no knowledge of geography or customs, did not speak the language and ultimately, had no access to medical care, would put his life in extreme danger.”

Levin said that “at the moment, Iraqi authorities will not release Jimmy’s body to a Catholic priest without extensive documentation from his family members in the U.S. This seems to be a cruel irony, indeed. I am working with the Iraqi government to make sure this process happens as quickly and smoothly as possible.”

Many Chaldean families in the Detroit metro area “fled [Iraq] mainly due to persecution,” Manna told CNA, “and have not been in that country for 30 or 40 years in most cases.”

Many who have been deported or are awaiting deportation do not have family in Iraq or do not know the language, he said. The foundation said it had reached out the Chaldean Catholic Patriarchate in Iraq to see if deportees can be helped or supported there.

Manoogian, who represents many Chaldean-Americans in a district adjacent to the one Al-Daoud had resided in, told CNA that the community has been “grieving the loss” and that her Chaldean friends are “devastated and distraught.”

Al-Daoud was one of more than 1,000 Iraqi nationals apprehended by ICE in 2017 and given a final order of removal by an immigration judge. The Iraqis had come to the U.S. legally but either failed to apply for a green card or had committed a misdemeanor or felony that disqualified them from citizenship.

Many of the Chaldeans in the Detroit metropolitan area who were apprehended by the agency in June of 2017 had lived in the U.S. for decades; ICE said that their criminal history included homicide, rape, sexual assault, kidnapping, and “weapons violations,” although local leaders said many of the crimes had been committed decades prior.

The ACLU sued ICE arguing that the detainees faced threats of persecution, torture or death in Iraq and needed an opportunity to prove a credible fear of such before an immigration judge.

In December of 2018, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court decision and ruled that the court could not stop the deportations.

Iraq had initially refused to accept the Chaldeans, but eventually agreed to do so in order to be removed from a list of countries on the Trump administration’s “travel ban.”

Levin, along with Rep. John Mollenaar (R-Mich.), has introduced the Deferred Removal for Iraqi Nationals Including Minorities Act to allow the detainees to make their case against deportation in an immigration court.

Department of Education will hear transgender track complaint

Fri, 08/09/2019 - 15:00

Washington D.C., Aug 9, 2019 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- The U.S. Department of Education will hear a Title IX complaint brought by three female high school track athletes over a state policy allowing biologically male athletes to compete in female sports if they self-identify as females.

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a legal group specializing in religious freedom cases, announced the news August 8. ADF represents the three female track athletes—Selina Soule, and two others whose names were withheld on the official complaint because they are minors—who filed the complaint with the Department’s Office for Civil Rights in June.

“Selina and her fellow female athletes train countless hours in hope of the personal satisfaction of victory, an opportunity to participate in state and regional meets, or a chance at a college scholarship,” ADF legal counsel Christina Holcomb said. “But girls competing against boys know the outcome before the race even starts.”

“Boys will always have physical advantages over girls; that’s the reason we have women’s sports and the reason we look forward to OCR’s investigation,” Holcomb stated.

The three girls claimed that the state of Connecticut’s new policy for high school sports, allowing biological males who identify as female to compete in female sports, violates Title IX.

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits discrimination on basis of sex in federally-funded education programs or activities.

“Because of the basic physiological differences and resulting strongly statistically significant differences in athletic capability and performance between boys and girls after puberty, no one could credibly claim that a school satisfies its obligation to provide equal opportunities for girls for participation in athletics by providing, e.g., only co-ed track or wrestling teams and competitions, with sex-blind try-outs and qualification based strictly upon performance,” the complaint stated.

The policy of the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) was in effect during the 2018 girls’ outdoor track season when males identifying as females were allowed to participate in girls outdoor track competitions. Many Catholic schools in the state are members of the CIAC.

One of the males, a sophomore, had just participated in boys indoor track before changing his gender identity and participating in girls outdoor track. He set 10 state records in girls outdoor track, previously held by 10 different athletes.

This “deprived girls of opportunities to advance and participate in state-level competition,” the complaint said, as athletes had not only track awards at stake, but may have also been seeking recognition for future recruiting and scholarship opportunities at the collegiate level.

On June 10, the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education released a document which included a sweeping denunciation of so-called gender theory and the “radical separation between gender and sex, with the former having priority over the later.”

“In all such [gender] theories, from the most moderate to the most radical, there is agreement that one’s gender ends up being viewed as more important than being of male or female sex,” the Congregation for Catholic Education wrote in the document entitled “Male and Female He Created Them.”

“The effect of this move is chiefly to create a cultural and ideological revolution driven by relativism, and secondarily a juridical revolution, since such beliefs claim specific rights for the individual and across society.”

New Michigan vocational school combines Catholic education, skilled trades 

Fri, 08/09/2019 - 05:18

Grand Rapids, Mich., Aug 9, 2019 / 03:18 am (CNA).- A new vocational school in Grand Rapids, Michigan will open its doors next year to young men interested in learning both a skilled trade and formation through a Catholic curriculum.

Harmel Academy is founded by Brain Black, head of Grand Rapids Construction, and Ryan Pohl, a journeyman CNC machinist. The program is supported by Kuyper College and Micron Manufacturing, both located in Grands Rapids, Michigan.

Black told CNA that the first year will begin with 12-15 students, and the program will grow each year. The goal is to offer students an authentically Catholic experience, like they might find at Thomas Aquinas College or Ave Maria University, he said, but with trades instead of a bachelor’s degree.

He said the students will have the opportunity to gain hands-on-experience in actual trades and grow in an understanding of “Christ in their lives as it relates specifically to work, their family life,  and their own mission in the Church.”

“We are going to tell you about the integrity of your life. We are going to inform you about Christ who chose to become man as a carpenter, as a tradesman,” he added.

The two year program’s initial education will be centered on Machine and System Technology, which includes experience in electrical, machine operation, and 3D printing. The school will eventually add other skilled trades, including HVAC and plumbing. The curriculum is split into three parts: lessons, apprenticeship, and humanities.

Classes will take place both online and on the Kuyper campus, which can house 300 people. Students will work part-time in a particular trade as part of a paid apprenticeship. After two years, graduates will receive a certificate in their trade and be half-way through the completion of their journeymen card.

In addition to their education in a trade, students at Harmel Academy will receive spiritual formation through a two-year long humanities course. They will study history, philosophy, theology, and politics, with texts including papal documents and the works of Aristotle.

Black said the humanities course will not include lengthy written assignments, but is still designed to be challenging to the students, though classroom discussions and light reading.

“It's going to be very practical. It’s going to be rigorous and vigorous at the same time. We are planning on challenging and [investing] into some of this stuff because there are a lot of issues that young men have to face now.”

The humanities course will be split into four sections: the self, the other, the family, and the community, which includes courses on the nature of work, economics, politics, taxes, the structure of the state, and military service.

Students will also gather daily for the Divine Office’s morning prayer. Bishop David Walkowiak of Grand Rapids has approved the project and is helping the school find a priest so the campus can eventually hold Mass and retreats.

Black said the school wants to remain small to help to ensure strong relationships among the students and with the staff. The campus environment will be conducive to building genuine friendships, he said, noting that college relationships are a considerable aspect of formation.

“We want faculty and students to know each other well and larger than that size becomes difficult,” he said. “The key thing here is to foster a physical environment that fosters community. The college experience is a unique opportunity to form lifelong friendships.”

Tuition at Harmel Academy is $18,500 year, which covers room and board. To apply, candidates must have their GED or High School Diploma, a car, and letters of recommendation. The students must also take a personality test, pass a criminal background check and drug test, and undergo an interview process. The school’s accreditation process is in progress.

Black said he and Pohl came up with the idea for the school several years ago, upon noticing that some men were uninterested in a four-year college but still wanted to prepare for a career while in a Catholic environment.

“[Some] young men struggle with what to do when they had a strong mechanical interest. They don’t want the enormous debt of college and they didn’t feel called to spend that much time at something that didn’t really have a direct relationship to their lives,” he said.

“[These] men are more mechanically minded and it seemed like there really wasn’t anything in the Church [for them].”

Across the U.S. the skilled trades industries are seeing a labor shortage, as the number of workers retiring far outstrips the numbers entering the field.

Black said many young adults are a good fit for the typical four-year university experience, but others are more naturally suited for skilled trades, working with their hands, and seeing the results of their labor. He noted that Christ himself was a carpenter.

“I think the trades give young men a unique ability to truly imitate Christ and that’s pretty powerful stuff.”

Black is enthusiastic about the opportunities Harmel Academy will provide for its students. He said the goal of the academy is not only to lead young men to a career, but to form their understanding of work and faith.

“The key thing we are looking at here is forming a fully integrated man who knows what he is about [and] knows how God built him.”

Catholic Church in Wisconsin opposes bill attacking seal of confession

Thu, 08/08/2019 - 20:01

Madison, Wis., Aug 8, 2019 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- Two bills were announced in Wisconsin this week intended to protect victims of child sexual abuse. The Catholic Church in the state has registered its strong objection to one bill's intention to force violation of the seal of confession.

The Child Victims Act would remove the statute of limitations for victims of child sexual abuse, while the Clergy Mandatory Reporter Act would force priests to report child abuse learned of during the sacrament of confession.

Kim Vercauteren, executive director of the Wisconsin Catholic Conference, told CNA that there is room to improve victims' pursuit of justice, but decried the attack on the confessional.

“I think more needs to be done to highlight what can be done for victim survivors and what are some of the other resources out there,” she told CNA. “Part of this is to provide more education and information to survivors to what they can and can’t do, like what is the expectation to further the case along.”

The bills were circulated via email Aug. 7 inviting legislators to add themselves as a sponsor. The sponsor deadline is Aug. 21; the measures will not be introduced to the legislature until after this date.

The bills have been sponsored by Senator Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) and Representatives Chris Taylor (D-Madison) and Melissa Sargent (D-Madison).

“Child victims in our own state suffered greatly as pedophile priests were not reported to authorities and simply moved to other parishes where they continued to abuse children,” reads an Aug. 7 statement from Chris Taylor’s office.

“The Milwaukee Archdiocese’s own files reveal how the systemic sexual abuse of children was covered up, ignored, and seldom reported to authorities until the early 2000s,” the statement reads.

The Clergy Mandatory Reporter Act would replace a 2004 law of the same name.

Clerics are already mandatory reporters of abuse under Wisconsin law, but are exempted from reporting instances learned of during sacramental confession.

The new mandatory reporter act would require that priests violate the seal of the confessional.

The statement from Chris Taylor's office characterizes the exemption for the seal of the confessional as “a loophole allowing child sexual abuse by clergy to remain secret and unreported.”

The Child Victims Act would abolish the civil statute of limitations for child sex abuse cases.

Wisconsin currently bars victims of child sex abuse from bringing legal action after age 35.  

The bill would also grant those previously unable to pursue legal action because of the statue of limitations a three year window after its passage to do so.

“Every 9 minutes, Child Protective Services agencies substantiate or find strong evidence indicating a child has been the victim of sexual abuse,” Chris Taylor, sometime public policy director for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin,  said Aug. 7.

She claimed that “in Wisconsin, clergy are not mandatory reporters of most child abuse, unlike large categories of physicians and health care providers, school teachers and staff, counselors and social workers, to name a few. And members of the clergy do not have to report the sexual abuse of children, even by other clergy members, if they received evidence of this abuse through private, confidential communications.”

Priests who violate the seal of confession by sharing anything learned within the sacramental context to anyone, at any time, for any reason is subject to automatic excommunication and and further punishments, including loss of the clerical state.

Vercauteren said priests already have an obligation to report child abuse committed by other clerics. The 2004 Clergy Mandatory Reporter Act already requires that they report any knowledge of sexual abuse gleaned in any circumstance but confession.

“With the clergymen reporting, there is actually an additional requirement instituted at the time [of the previous bill],” she said.

“If they have a reasonable case based on information received or observations made to presume that child abuse is occurring or will occur that they have to report that as well as relates to another member of the clergy,” she said.

Vercauteren emphasized the importance of the confidentiality of confession. She said the anonymous structure allows the penitent to be truly transparent, while a lack of secrecy might otherwise prevent this vulnerability.

“If you look at our teaching, [confession] is ultimately between the person and God, and the priest acts as an intermediary in that relationship,” she said. “The need for secrecy and to be able to candid in that circumstance is kind of the whole premise behind confession that this is the opportunity to completely unburden your soul.”

She said the confessional has not been used as a tool to conceal sexual abuse in the past, nor has the bill cited such a case. She said the bill ignores difficult practical obstacles, like the anonymous structure of the confessional, where many Catholics confess from behind screens.

When asked about how Catholics can best respond, she said parishioners should encounter victims with compassion and learn more about the safety measures already in place.

“Catholics should always respond with care and consideration for the victims. I can’t stress that enough because these individuals have suffered irreparable damage in their lives and we have to meet them where they are at in this process.”

“There are ways in which we can provide greater reporting of child abuse in Wisconsin and elsewhere, expanding that to other forms of abuse or setting up a third party reporting mechanisms.”

She stressed the importance of investigational reviews from third parties. She said numerous dioceses have begun to involve themselves with outside independent groups to review records and confirm the diocese is aligned with reporting policies.

“We are serious about doing something about child abuse and trying to help them surviving what has been a horrendous act in their lives,” she said.

A similar bill was introduced in California this year, but it was withdrawn before it was to be debated in committee.

California's Public Safety Committee had released a report on the bill raising a number of First Amendment concerns.

The dropping of the bill was “good for the Catholic people of California and for believers of all faiths, not only in this state but across the country,” Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles said.

“It was a threat to the sacrament of confession that would have denied the right to confidential confessions to priests and tens of thousands of Catholics who work with priests in parishes and other Church agencies and ministries,” he said.

What the Church does - and does not - teach about gun control 

Thu, 08/08/2019 - 19:12

Denver, Colo., Aug 8, 2019 / 05:12 pm (CNA).- Jordan Anchondo and her husband, Andre were shopping for school supplies for their five-year-old last Saturday morning at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. They were shot and killed by a gunman who opened fire on the hundreds of people in the store.

The parents used their bodies to shield their two-month-old son, Paul, from the bullets. He survived. At least 20 other people died, many similarly attempting to protect their loved ones.

Less than 14 hours later, some 1,500 miles away, another gunman opened fire in a crowded bar in Dayton, Ohio, killing at least nine others, including his own sister.

In the span of just a few hours, 31 people lost their lives in mass shootings in the U.S.

In the hours and days that followed, renewed calls for gun law reform came from politicians, citizens and clergy in a country exhausted and seemingly plagued by mass shootings. According to ABC News, at least 17 other deadly mass shootings have occurred in the U.S. so far this year.

“We encourage all Catholics to increased prayer and sacrifice for healing and the end of these shootings,” the U.S. bishops wrote in an Aug. 4 statement.

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

“God’s mercy and wisdom compel us to move toward preventative action,” they added. But what kinds of preventative action are permitted, or not permitted, under the teachings of the Church when it comes to gun control and regulations?

CNA spoke with two moral theologians about what principles of Church teaching Catholics should consider when voting or advocating for gun control laws.

The principle of self-defense

Fr. Thomas Petri, OP, a moral theologian and professor at Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception at the Dominican House of Studies, told CNA that the issue of gun control is one that is not definitively settled in Church teaching, in terms of exactly what practical policies to enact. 

“It's important to say that firearms...are something relatively modern in the life of the Church and the history of the Church. The Church tends to think in terms of centuries and not in years,” he said.

While Church teaching does not explicitly spell out exactly which gun regulations should and should not be enacted, Petri said, the Church does give Catholics some principles to take into account when they are considering or voting on gun control policies.

One of these principles is the principle of self-defense, he said.

“This is part of the Church's moral teaching, that you have a right to defend your life and to defend the lives of those under your care,” he said, such as one’s family or anyone else one has been entrusted to protect.

“If it ends up being that you, inevitably, must kill an assailant to protect your life or the life of those under your roof, then that is a moral choice you can make. That would be a legitimate choice,” he said.

Dr. Kevin Miller, a moral theologian and assistant professor at Franciscan University of Steubenville, told CNA that self-defense falls under the Church’s teachings about the respect for life.

“You are commanded to respect the life of others,” Miller said. “You are also commanded to respect your own life - love your neighbor as yourself. So out of love for your own life, you’re allowed to protect your own life.”

There is an important distinction to be made in intent, both Petri and Miller noted. The Church teaches that one must never intend to kill someone as an end, or as a means to an end.

It is only morally permissible to apply lethal force when someone intending to defend themselves or their family must apply lethal force because it is the only thing deemed reasonable to stop the assailant.

“Out of protection for your own life, if the minimum amount of force that you can reasonably judge in the heat of the moment is such that it is also likely to cause the death of the other person, then you're allowed to do that,” Miller said.

Paragraph 2264 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one's own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow: If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful.... Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one's own life than of another's.”

A claim that does not seem to be morally or reasonably supported by Church teaching is the supposed right of citizens to protect themselves against their government, Petri said.

“You'll hear people say, ‘Well, we have a right to bear arms so that the government can't oppress us.’ Well, that's a harder thing to swallow, because….as we've seen in the last 50 years or so, there is no amount of firearms that a private citizen could collect or gather that would overpower a government invasion of the ATF if they wanted to get into your house. There’s no way to do that in the modern world,” Petri said.

Hunting, on the other hand, would be a valid use of a gun or other lethal force, Petri said, as the Church recognizes man’s “governingship or stewardship over creation,” which includes hunting animals for food. Catholics who do so are also required to maintain a respect for animals in “not forcing animals to suffer in pain extensively,” he added.

The right of states and the common good

Another principle to take into account when considering gun regulations is the rights of states to protect the common good, Miller said.

“The production and the sale of arms affect the common good of nations and of the international community, hence public authorities have the right and duty to regulate them. The short term pursuit of private or collective interests cannot legitimate undertakings that promote violence and undermine the international juridical order,” states paragraph 2316 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

“If the state were to say, ‘you’re never allowed to defend yourself in any way,’ or ‘you’re never allowed even to do anything that might involve using lethal force as self defense,’ that would simply be to take away a basic right, and the state even in the name of the common good would not be allowed to do that, that would be unjust,” Miller told CNA.

However, Miller said it would be fair to conclude that the rights of states to ensure the common good could include gun regulations, including “what kind of guns people can own and under what circumstances people can own them.”

“For the state to say, for example, that widespread access to certain kinds of guns might end up endangering the safety of people more than promoting the safety of people, therefore we’re going to regulate to some degree what kinds of guns can be bought and sold, and under what kind of circumstances they can be bought and sold, I think that would be also absolutely in keeping with what the Church teaches,” Miller said.

Petri added that the state is regularly entrusted to regulate other things that affect the common good, such as who is and is not allowed to own and drive cars, or who is allowed to distribute and obtain certain kinds of medicine.

“The thing is, when you talk about firearms, you're talking about a larger impact on the common good precisely because guns can be all the more harmful to others and to oneself than, say, simply driving a car,” he said, the primary purpose of which is transportation.

“A car's normally used for getting around. Not a firearm,” he said.

“A semiautomatic weapon is used for firing a lot of bullets very quickly, and what's the reason for that? Well, it's to do maximum damage to multiple targets at one time. So yes, I think Catholic moral principles would dictate that the state does have not only a right but a responsibility to monitor who has such means, and that they're in good mental condition and are able to use them properly.”

A right to bear arms?

Another important thing to bear in mind when considering gun laws is that the founding fathers of the United States, who wrote the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guaranteeing the right to bear arms, were largely following the principles of English Enlightenment philosopher John Locke, Petri noted.

Lockean principles dictated “that we basically exist as human beings in a state of violence, in a state of nature,” Petri said.

But the Church views human nature differently, he said.

“The Catholic view is that human beings are not inherently violent towards each other. I mean, we are fallen creatures, but when we talk about rights, we're talking about it in the context of a community of friendship and common goals and a common life together.”

Nowhere in its teachings does the Church state that people have “an inherent natural right to bear arms,” Petri said, even though their legitimate use could fall under the principle of self-defense.

“I think it’s a more than fair interpretation of (the principle of self defense) to say that it might include using guns,” Miller noted.

Catholics who choose to not own or use guns or other weapons are morally permitted to do so, added Petri.

“There are Catholics who are absolute pacifists, (who believe) we shouldn't get into war, we shouldn't bear arms,” he said. “I think especially with religious monks or religious sisters - they're classic pacifists. And we have examples, even in the last few years, especially in the developing world, of them just being killed. I mean, they're not going to defend themselves. So that is a legitimate position.”

What the Church does not say, Petri added, is that the Church “is absolutely against the possession of firearms. I don't think you can go that far to the other side, because it's not a settled question. Possessing firearms is not an intrinsic evil. It's a prudential matter.”

Owning a firearm is different than if one were to own a nuclear weapon, Petri noted. Weapons of mass destruction, such as nuclear weapons, are considered intrinsically evil by the Church, and there would likely not be a circumstance under which a person could legitimately and morally own them.

What should Catholics do?

Given that Church teaching allows for a lot of middle ground between two extreme positions on gun control, Catholics are to use their best prudential judgement when voting on gun policy or electing government officials, Miller said.

“Any Catholic who wants to take this into account when voting has to do what he or she reasonably can to inform him or herself regarding the evidence...on what kinds of gun control measures are or are not helpful in making communities and states safer rather than unsafe places,” he said.

Because there is a “plethora” of sometimes conflicting studies and claims out there, this can prove difficult, Miller admitted, but Catholics must do their best to be “intellectually honest” and to take a serious look at the evidence surrounding gun policy when making these decisions.

“That doesn’t mean people should simply throw up their have to give it your best shot in figuring out what experts in the field think make sense, and what they don’t think makes sense,” he said.

People should also take into account the different social and cultural circumstances of their region that relate to the use of guns, Miller added.

“I think what you have to do is be honest with yourself,” he said. “Make a kind of mini examination of conscience. Ask yourself, ‘Am I really doing my best not to be an idealogue or partisan about this? Am I really doing my best to try, based on the evidence that I have access to, to figure out what policies do and don’t make sense?’”

Within those prudential decisions, there is room for disagreement, but there should not be room for Catholics to accuse other Catholics of violating Church teaching, Miller added.

“I think if a Catholic in good faith is making every effort to be intellectually honest in his reasoning, and stakes out a position almost anywhere between those extremes (of a total gun ban, or total unregulated access to guns), I don’t think it would be right to say they are somehow taking a position that is explicitly contrary to the teaching of the Church,” he said.

“You have to say, ‘Ok, fair enough. Your prudential judgement might somehow be mistaken, but you’re not somehow violating the teachings of the Church,’” he said.

Petri added that he agrees with other Church leaders, such as Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, who have said that the solution to the crisis of mass shootings has to go beyond gun regulations or mental health interventions.

In his Aug. 5 column, Chaput wrote that while he supports background checks and restrictions firearms, “only a fool can believe that ‘gun control’ will solve the problem of mass violence.”

“The people using the guns in these loathsome incidents are moral agents with twisted hearts. And the twisting is done by the culture of sexual anarchy, personal excess, political hatreds, intellectual dishonesty, and perverted freedoms that we've systematically created over the past half-century,” he said.

“You've got to go deeper than that,” Petri said, “and our culture is one that seems to glory in excessive violence, seems to promote excessive violence.”

“It also seems to promote a throwaway culture in which those who are not wanted are not allowed to be born, and those who are a burden are increasingly pressured or encouraged by our culture to go away, which is to say, to get assisted suicide. So when you have a culture that doesn't seem to value life intrinsically anymore, it should be no surprise that we have these events happening.”

He encouraged Catholics to consider what kinds of entertainment they support with their money, and to consider whether it glorifies violence or a “throwaway” culture.

“It's just a general cultural attitude. And nothing will change until enough people stop buying tickets or stop paying for these sorts of entertainments.”

Knights of Columbus convention aims to promote unity through solidarity

Thu, 08/08/2019 - 18:18

Minneapolis, Minn., Aug 8, 2019 / 04:18 pm (CNA).- Echoing the theme of unity, the Knights of Columbus are launching new efforts to forge ties with the neglected and to repair frayed social bonds.

“We talk about being brothers and sisters, we talk about being Knights of unity, well let’s look at our neighbors right here that have been too long neglected and forgotten,” Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said Aug. 7 of a new project of the Knights to work more with Native American and First Nation leaders in the U.S. and Canada.

The Knights of Columbus held its 137th Supreme Convention Aug. 6-8 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Clerics joined leaders of councils in attendance from the U.S., Mexico, Canada, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, South Korea, France, Ukraine, Lithuania, Poland, Panama, the island of St. Lucia and the Bahamas.

Under a convention theme of “Knights of unity,” the order announced two new projects to promote solidarity with neglected and vulnerable populations and called for Catholics to lead the way on civility.

The order also granted full membership posthumously to a Colorado high school student who died protecting his classmates in a school shooting.

Knights in attendance moved to grant Kendrick Castillo full membership in the order, honoring the 18 year-old Catholic student, and son of Knight John Castillo, who died while rushing a gunman at STEM High School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, May 7; Kendrick suffered a fatal gunshot wound, but according to eyewitnesses his act enabled two fellow students successfully to disarm the gunman.

Anderson presented Castillo’s parents with the Caritas Award, the organization’s second-highest award, on Kendrick’s behalf at Tuesday night’s States Dinner.

In his remarks in the convention’s opening business session, Anderson announced two new initiatives: one to provide humanitarian aid to refugees at the U.S.-Mexico border, and another to begin working more closely with Native American and First Nation leaders in the U.S. and Canada to help meet their needs.

“As many as one in four Native Americans are Catholic,” Anderson said, “yet in many ways, these brothers and sisters in the faith have been forgotten.”

As the Knights in the past several decades were expanding their charitable efforts in new countries, “it just occurred to us that we were overlooking an important tradition in our own country,” Anderson told CNA of the decision to launch the initiative.

The history of Native Americans who were “cleansed” from the U.S. is a tragic one, but it must be told, he said. From the Puritan colonists in New England who attacked and essentially “erased” the indigenous Pequots in the 1630s, to the forced displacement of Cherokee nation on the Trail of Tears two hundred years later, to the present-day, “we need to know the history, we need to know the pain,” Anderson told CNA.

“Despite many hardships, neglect, and a history of brutality toward them, still they hold fast to our Catholic faith,” Anderson said on Tuesday.

Catholic leaders on reservations told the Knights that the “number one problem” is a “lack of hope,” he said.

Problems of alcoholism and drug addiction are rampant in the community, along with homelessness, disappearances of women and children, and suicide.

On Aug. 11, the Knights will join the Diocese of Gallup and the Southwest Indian Foundation to break ground on the construction of a new shrine in Gallup, N.M. to St. Kateri Tekakwitha—the first Native American saint.

“It is our hope that in the years to come this St. Kateri Shrine will become a national spiritual home for Native Americans and for all Catholics in North America,” Anderson said on Tuesday.

And in the coming months, the Knights will work with the Black and Indian Mission Office and will encourage councils to reach out to reservations and begin working with them to see what their greatest needs are.

“I don’t think we often appreciate what that kind of loneliness means for people, and what an idea that this is a Church that’s a community of brothers and sisters that care,” Anderson told CNA. “That means a lot.”

As the migrant crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border shows no signs of abating, Anderson announced on Tuesday that the order is “prepared to commit at least $250,000 immediately in humanitarian aid for refugees.”

“We’re going to do a lot in terms of volunteering, and material support,” Anderson explained to CNA, while the Knights will “try to stay out of the politics of the issue.”

“Maybe our activism will encourage the politicians to get serious and try to solve it,” he said of the crisis. “It’s a solvable problem, but we can do a lot just to make their situation better.”

Anderson capped off Tuesday with another call for unity, this time a plea for Catholics to lead the way in promoting civility.

After presenting the Caritas Medal to the family of Kendrick Castillo, Anderson ended the States Dinner by noting the decline in civility in the current discourse, with Catholics making personal attacks with words like “bigot,” “heretic,” and “schismatic,” and “with alarming regularity.”

Citing the work of the Knights to fight anti-Catholic vitriol a century ago, he asked “every Catholic commentator and every candidate for political office, and especially Catholic candidates” to sign a pledge of civility that the Knights will be circulating online.

The Knights launched a similar effort during the 2012 elections, Anderson noted, but none of the presidential candidates signed the pledge.

“I think it’s fair to say that things have only gotten worse since that time,” he told CNA.

Yet “Pope Francis has spoken out on this,” he said, and “we hope we’re going to be with each other in heaven. So we ought to try and treat each other a little better on earth.”

Regarding theological debates and accusations of heresy made online against Catholic figures, “this is what theologians and schools of theology are supposed to be about,” Anderson said.

“I think it’s certainly the role of scholars of the Church to try to understand things better, and when there’s ambiguity to try to point that out,” he said. “And when maybe somebody has misspoke, or has developed a line of argument that may lead in a new direction that’s unintended, I think that’s fair to point that out.”

However, he said, “stop the name-calling,” he said, and “let’s have an honest debate on issues.”

Guam archdiocese faces more than 200 lawsuits amid bankruptcy

Thu, 08/08/2019 - 17:03

Hagatna, Guam, Aug 8, 2019 / 03:03 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Agaña is facing dozens of lawsuits related to clerical sexual abuse, and is encouraging any other alleged victims to contact the archdiocese before the deadline to file lawsuits expires this month.

More than 220 former altar boys, students, and Boy Scouts are suing the archdiocese over sexual assaults by 35 clergy, teachers and scoutmasters, the Associated Press reports.

The last day to file a claim against the archdiocese is Aug. 15.

In 2016, Guam's territorial legislature eliminated the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits involving child sexual abuse. Former Archbishop Anthony Apuron was found guilty of some of several abuse-related charges by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith last year.

In January 2019, the archdiocese filed for bankruptcy in federal court in the wake of numerous sex abuse allegations. The move, decided upon in November 2018, allows the archdiocese to avoid trial and to begin to reach settlements in the abuse lawsuits, which amount to over $115 million.

Archbishop Michael Byrnes of Agaña has said that Apuron left behind no records of sexual abuse allegations in the archdiocese. And unlike many dioceses on the U.S. mainland, Guam has yet to issue a list of priests whom the Church deems credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor, the AP reports.

Archbishop Byrnes has offered “deepest apologies” to the victims of Apuron, whom he listed by name. The victims were altar boys. They included the former archbishop’s nephew and a former seminarian. They said the crimes happened while Apuron was a parish priest.

The Vatican first opened its investigation in 2015 after a victim reported his alleged abuse to the apostolic nuncio for the Pacific. The Apostolic Tribunal of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in March 2018 found Apuron, 73, guilty of some of several abuse-related charges. He immediately appealed the decision.

The Vatican court upheld the original decision Feb. 7, and the CDF announced the final sentencing April 4. Apuron has maintained his innocence and said he is “deeply saddened” by Pope Francis’ decision to sentence him.

Apuron was sentenced to privation of office; forbidden from using the insignia attached to the rank of bishop, such as the mitre and ring; and forbidden from living within the jurisdiction of the archdiocese.

He was not removed from ministry or from the clerical state, nor has he been assigned to live in prayer and penance.