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Updated: 1 hour 19 min ago

Disgraced ex-cardinal ‘Mr. McCarrick’ remains at Kansas friary, one year later

5 hours 55 min ago

Denver, Colo., Jun 20, 2019 / 04:00 am (CNA).- One year after credible allegations of sex abuse of a minor led to his public disgrace, the 88-year-old Theodore McCarrick is no longer a cardinal of the Catholic Church, no longer an archbishop, and no longer a cleric. He continues to reside at a Franciscan friary in Kansas, perhaps indefinitely.

“Mr. McCarrick continues to reside at St. Fidelis Friary in Victoria, Kansas. He is in poor health and remains under a supervision plan,” Father Joseph Mary Elder, O.F.M. Cap., communications director for the Capuchin Franciscans’ Province of St. Conrad, told CNA June 18.

“At this point, the length of his stay is indeterminate, but he is looking for lodgings closer to his family. There is no timetable for when or if that might happen,” said Elder. 

“Mr. McCarrick follows the everyday life and routine of a friar with the exception of public ministry; he lives in the same type of room as the friars, joins in the community prayers and the celebration of the Mass, and participates in community meals and interactions,” he continued.

McCarrick will turn 89 years old on July 7. He has been at the friary since September 2018, when then-Archbishop of Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl asked Bishop Gerald L. Vincke of Salinas, Kansas and Father Christopher Popravak, the Denver-based Capuchin provincial, to make arrangements to house McCarrick.

“Regarding payment for his lodgings, the Archdiocese of Washington was paying room and board for him until the time of his laicization,” said Elder. “While Mr. McCarrick has offered to pay out of pocket, the Capuchins have declined the offer.”

In January 2019 he was removed from the clerical state, one of the most extreme sanctions for a clergyman, and which deprives him of the right to financial support normally guaranteed to clerics under church law. Without this punishment, McCarrick’s former archdiocese would still be required to support him financially.

The decision to host McCarrick in the Salinas diocese was not taken lightly, Vincke said in a Sept. 13, 2018 letter to the diocese’s faithful.

Vincke, who had only taken office in August 2018, said he believes in both justice and mercy. In saying “yes” to hosting McCarrick, he said, “I had to reconcile my own feelings of disappointment, anger and even resentment toward Archbishop McCarrick,” he explained, stressing reliance upon Jesus Christ for guidance, mercy and forgiveness.

Vincke said he was “deeply sorry” for all victims of abuse, adding “This purification of the Church by God is painful, but much needed. We need the eyes of faith as we suffer through this.”

The Salina diocese did not provide additional comment in response to inquiries. McCarrick’s civil attorney, Barry Coburn of the Washington, D.C.-based firm Coburn & Greenbaum, on June 18 confirmed that he is still the ex-cardinal’s attorney but declined further comment.

In February, sources close to the former cardinal told CNA that he has private means of support in place. While McCarrick reportedly did not draw a salary or a pension from any of the three dioceses he led, he does have a private income from savings and monthly annuities.

“While he is not without resources, they are modest, in keeping with what one might expect of a parish priest,” a source close to McCarrick said.

One source speculated that the annuities could have come from “friends or benefactors” of the archbishop before his fall from grace.

McCarrick was well-known for giving envelopes of money to different bishops and cardinals, ostensibly to thank them for their work. Such practices have come under scrutiny as a possible source of corruption and unwarranted influence.

McCarrick was a co-founder and the longtime head of the Papal Foundation, which since 1990 has given over $100 million to support projects and proposals recommended by the Holy See. After a 2018 controversy over a $25 million grant from the foundation to a legally and financially troubled Italian hospital, questions have been raised about whether McCarrick attempted to use foundation influence and assets to forestall investigations against him.

As CNA reported in August 2018, McCarrick sat on the boards of two family foundations which helped funnel $500,000 to his personal archbishop’s fund over about a decade’s time.

McCarrick was a paid consultant for Thomas Donohue, president and chief executive of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Wall Street Journal reported June 6. Over the period 2011 to early 2018, Donohue paid him over $200,000 for advice on global development and other matters.

The day McCarrick was first accused of sexual misconduct, he contacted Donohue for help returning to Washington from the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. Donohue dispatched a private jet and later compensated the Chamber more than $23,000 for the flight.

The Chamber of Commerce spends the most on lobbying of any interest group in Washington. Donohue is also president of the board of the Chamber’s affiliate the Center for International Private Enterprise, which is part of the globally influential U.S. nonprofit the National Endowment for Democracy.

One year ago, on June 20, 2018, the Archdiocese of New York announced that its investigation found “credible and substantiated” allegations that McCarrick had committed sexual abuse of a teenager. It also came to light that the Archdiocese of Newark and the Diocese of Metuchen had previously reached out-of-court settlements with several adult men who alleged they were sexually abused by McCarrick during their time as seminarians.

In July 2018 McCarrick was sentenced to a life of prayer and penance by Pope Francis pending the completion of a canonical process against him. That same day, the pope accepted McCarrick’s resignation from the College of Cardinals.

That July another victim, James Grein of Virginia came forward to say McCarrick had begun sexually abusing him in 1969, when Grein was 11 and McCarrick was a 39-year-old priest. Some of the abuse took place in the context of the sacrament of reconciliation, further compounding McCarrick’s offenses. McCarrick was reportedly a friend to Grein’s Swiss-American family and Grein was the first baby he baptized as a priest, the New York Times reported.

Grein has said his family provided early financial support for McCarrick and trips to Switzerland with family members, which could have provided a key boost to McCarrick’s ability to network internationally and to rise in the Church.

While McCarrick’s fall shocked many, some said they had long heard rumors of questionable behavior towards adult seminarians. McCarrick’s fall brought scrutiny for U.S. bishops who had served under him, with many denying they knew of any misbehavior.

Pope Francis himself has faced questions. Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the former apostolic nuncio to the U.S., has charged that Pope Francis knew of sanctions placed on McCarrick. He said that McCarrick’s alleged sexual misconduct had been known to some Vatican officials for years, eventually leading to a restriction on the archbishop’s ministry by Pope Benedict XVI in the late 2000s, and a subsequent restoration of McCarrick’s place as a papal advisor by Pope Francis.

Since the charges first emerged, Pope Francis has maintained that he will not respond to the content of the Vigano letters, and instead has encouraged journalists to investigate their allegations. Some aspects of the former nuncio’s testimonial seem to have been verified, while other aspects remain controversial or unproven, and some have proven to have been exaggerated, overstated, or unlikely.

Msgr. Anthony Figueiredo, a priest of the Archdiocese of Newark and a former secretary to McCarrick, last month released apparent excerpts from private correspondence between McCarrick, the priest, and various other Church officials. In his view, these show high-ranking Vatican churchmen “likely had knowledge of McCarrick’s actions and of restrictions imposed upon him during the pontificate of Benedict XVI.”

The excerpts seem to contain admissions of wrongdoing from McCarrick, and to confirm subsequent reports about the Vatican’s response to the former cardinal’s behavior. But some Vatican officials have said Figueiredo’s report did not fully explain the ways in which McCarrick operated in the Vatican. They painted a picture of a man expert at exploiting a curial culture and creating an appearance of conflicting instructions that allowed him to justify his travels.

The excerpts from Figueiredo’s correspondence also appear to confirm reports that McCarrick played an ongoing, though sometimes unofficial, role in Vatican diplomatic efforts, especially in China, during the pontificates of both Benedict XVI and Francis.

McCarrick’s long career began, perhaps, with his ordination as a priest by the deeply influential Cardinal Francis Spellman of New York. He later served as an auxiliary bishop of New York before becoming Bishop of Metuchen, Archbishop of Newark and then Archbishop of Washington.

McCarrick’s career included time as a university leader and service on diplomatic missions and advisory roles for both the U.S. State Department and the Holy See. He has served on pontifical councils for Promoting Christian Unity, Justice and Peace, Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples and for Latin America. Similarly, he served in the office of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See and as chair of multiple U.S. bishops’ conference committees.

 

Botched abortions at Missouri's last abortion clinic raise questions

Wed, 06/19/2019 - 19:49

St. Louis, Mo., Jun 19, 2019 / 05:49 pm (CNA).- In a legal battle over the closure of Missouri’s last functioning Planned Parenthood, state health department officials cited four botched abortions as part of the reason that they do not want to renew the clinic’s license, according to reports from the AP.

The closure of the clinic would mean the closure of the last abortion clinic in the state. Last month, Planned Parenthood sued the state of Missouri after the health department declined to renew the clinic’s license.

On Friday, June 14, the state’s health department sent the St. Louis clinic and the court “documents, a letter and statement of deficiencies,” the AP reported, which included details on the four botched abortions at the heart of the licensure dispute.

The records, which were published by pro-life group Operation Rescue in an expose, were ordered to be sealed by St. Louis Circuit Judge Michael Stelzer on Monday, June 17, after Planned Parenthood voiced concerns that the publication of the documents violated their patients’ right to privacy, the AP reported.

William Koebel, a state health department official, told the AP that the records now sealed by the court documented the failed abortions of three patients, whose babies survived after the botched abortions, and required additional surgical or medical abortions to end the pregnancies. Koebel noted that one of the patients with a failed abortion developed sepsis, a serious bacterial infection of the blood stream.

A fourth patient’s abortion at 21 weeks of pregnancy was completed at the clinic, but the patient was hospitalized afterward with “life threatening complications,” Koebel told the AP. He also noted his concerns that some of the botched abortions were done by resident doctors, who have failed to comply with the state health department’s investigation of the clinic.

In early June, Stelzer ruled that doctors, including doctors in residence, who were not currently employed by the St. Louis Planned Parenthood did not have to testify in the state’s investigation of the clinic. Stelzer dismissed the subpoena for their interviews as an “undue burden” on those doctors.

Koebel told the AP that their cooperation is “imperative” for a full investigation.

“Refusal of health care providers to cooperate in the Department's investigations thwarts the Department's ability to conduct meaningful review of troubling instances of patient care, and obstructs the Department's ability to ensure that problems will not be repeated,” Koebel said.

Lawyers representing the Planned Parenthood affiliate secured a restraining order in late May from Stelzer, which allows the clinic to continue operating while its licensure is disputed in court. The clinic’s ability to operate is up for review again on June 21.

In a separate case, on Friday, June 14, St. Louis Circuit Court Judge David Dowd ruled that Missouri’s legislature cannot cut funding from the Planned Parenthood clinic, after the clinic argued that it not only provided abortions, but other health care services, according to a local Fox News affiliate. Missouri Governor Mike Parson said the decision will be appealed.

Parson also recently signed a bill that punishes abortion doctors who perform abortions on a woman who is past eight weeks of pregnancy, with exceptions for medical emergencies which seriously threaten the life or quality of life of the mother. The law does not penalize women who obtain abortions.

Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis called the eight-week abortion ban “a giant step forward for the pro-life movement.”

Analysis: One year after McCarrick, what's next for the Church?

Wed, 06/19/2019 - 18:20

Washington D.C., Jun 19, 2019 / 04:20 pm (CNA).- Exactly one year after revelations about the sexual abuse of then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick were made public, the Church in the U.S. remains in a state of serious scandal, and Catholics remain angry and discouraged. But what’s next for the Church - what happens after McCarrick - depends as much on the decisions of ordinary Catholics as it does on the policy decisions of the U.S. bishops.

In 2002, McCarrick told the Washington Post in 2002 that to address the scourge of clerical sexual abuse that had been uncovered that year, “everybody has to have a plan, everybody has to have a procedure, everybody has to have a policy."

His fellow bishops needed to begin "really tackling this in a more comprehensive way,” McCarrick told reporters.

It was April 2002 when McCarrick made those remarks. In the months that followed, he would become an architect, and a tireless promoter, of the U.S. bishops’ plans and policies to address clerical sexual abuse.

“I think we have to somehow make sure that our people know what we're doing, that the people know that the bishops are taking this seriously.”

People did not, in fact, know what McCarrick had been doing. By April 2002, Theodore McCarrick had serially sexually abused at least two minors, and sexually coerced dozens of young priests and seminarians.

Knowing now what he knew then, it seems incredible that McCarrick was celebrated in the Post as a “national leader” on clerical sexual abuse.

But he was.

In 2002, a scholar from Notre Dame told the Washington Post that McCarrick “understands the depth of the problem and the need to address it transparently...If his style of leadership were emulated, I think the church would be in better shape."

One year ago, one June 20, 2018, the Church learned far more than about McCarrick’s “style of leadership” than was expected. And the revelations about his decades of sexual abuse and coercion gave the Church a new look at the “depth of the problem.”

Since June 20, 2018, the Church in the U.S. has reeled from the Pennsylvania grand jury report, allegations of startling misconduct, neglect, or outright cover-up from many trusted or influential bishops, from the August letter of Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, international reports concerning Bishops Gustavo Zanchetta, Jose Pineda, and Franco Mulakkal, from revelations concerning large cash gifts proffered by a bishop abuser, and from a USCCB and Vatican response to these disclosures that, in the judgment of many observers and commentators, has been tepid, at best.

It seems likely, even now, that more scandals, especially regarding finances, will be soon to emerge.

One year after McCarrick, what’s next? What will the Church face, and how will she face it?

It should be noted that the U.S. bishops’ conference has, despite multiple serious setbacks, passed some norms and policies intended to respond to this crisis. Those policies, are, in the view of many experts, a good start to policy reform in the Church, though only in the limited spheres they deign to address.

Those reforms have been panned by some critics as insufficient, merely reactionary, and totally inadequate to addressing an apparently complex constellation of problems, which includes immoral sexual activity, some of it coercive, by some priests and bishops, an apparent reluctance to stridently address those matters when they arise, a clerical culture that sometimes includes self-interest and self-protection, financial malfeasance, and a lack of accountability regarding those matters.

McCarrick called for policies in 2002, and in 2019, the bishops now have policies to address McCarrick.

But just as 2002's policies did not stop the McCarrick or Bransfield scandals, the USCCB’s measures are insufficient to resolutely address the scandal’s cluster of problems.

The bishops would be wise to recognize more publicly and directly the limited impact of policies and procedures, and the importance of personal integrity, virtue, accountability, and personal holiness.

But many Catholics say that while they have heard some bishops articulate that sentiment, they remain skeptical about even the just implementation of the bishops’ own reform policies. And their discouragement over those norms reflects a broader shift.

In fact, the most striking effect of the Church’s year of scandal is the degree to which faithful and practicing Catholics - among them priests, religious, and lay ecclesial staffers - have become discouraged, demoralized, and hesitant to trust.

And it has become clear that the U.S. bishops are unlikely to regain that trust in one fell swoop - through one grand or dramatic gesture of transparency, accountability, contrition, or condemnation. They had an opportunity for such a gesture at their November 2018 meeting, when they considered a resolution calling for the Vatican to release all available material on McCarrick. But that resolution failed.

It is clear that reform, and holding malfeasant bishops to account, will be a long-term project of limited success. Catholics will continue to call for greater accountability, transparency, and for basic answers to basic questions, but it remains to be seen whether their calls will be answered. If they are not, the scandal will be prolonged, and Catholics will likely grow even more demoralized.

In the meantime, the Church will suffer the loss of some Catholics, who have or will become less engaged in the practice of the faith in the wake of this scandal.

Of course, it is not only bishops who are responsible for preserving the bonds of ecclesial communion.

The Church has before faced crises occasioned by the sinfulness of its leaders. In each of those crises, believers have had to decide whether or not to remain in the communion of the Church, and to work themselves for reform and renewal. This case, is no different.

No policies or procedures can overcome the reality of fallen humanity. Each Catholic must ask himself, in the wake of the McCarrick scandal, what it is reasonable and just to expect of a Church predicated on the premise that each of its members is a sinner in need of redemption.

This exercise should not make excuses for malfeasance and ineptitude, but it should be an honest assessment of the limits of all human endeavors for reform.

One year after the initial disappointment, and then the compounding disappointments of cover-ups, denials, and missed opportunities, Catholics must begin to ask themselves whether they will still commit to communion with a Church of woeful sinners, and whether they will commit to its mission.

And, in this moment, each Catholic must ask himself whether his righteous indignation has become self-righteous hubris. After the initial shock of the last year has worn off, a protracted hermeneutic of suspicion or reactive anticlericalism is not likely to contribute to a renewal of the Church in the United States. But those things are a temptation.

Also a temptation is endless bureaucratic tinkering, empty promises, or covering-up for a culture of cover-up. Bishops must ask themselves how radically committed they are to their promises of reform.

In short, saints will move the Church forward, and each Catholic must ask himself whether he wishes actually to become a saint.

The project of the new evangelization is that of reproclaming in the Gospel in once Christian cultures. As the influence of the Church wanes - even on the moral and spiritual lives of Catholics - the secularity of American culture is, for many Catholics, laid clearly bare.

The McCarrick scandal could be the moment in which the Church steps back, to ask more fundamental questions about why so few people baptized as Catholics practice the faith into adulthood, and what can be done about it. Some bishops seem to have seriously taken up those questions in recent years, and others have not. Some bishops will see in this scandal the bigger picture, and others will not.

But nothing precludes laity, religious, and clerics aggrieved and angry about scandal to ask that question, and to look for answers that will bear more fruit than perduring fulmination against the failures of bishops.

Answers will be diverse. They should include ongoing and serious efforts for reform, but they should not be limited to those efforts.

Doubtless, some Catholics will say that a renewal of the Church will come from a resurgence of more traditional liturgical forms. Others will make mention of ecclesial movements like the NeoCatechumenal Way or Communion and Liberation. Still others will suggest evangelical initiatives like Focus or Word on Fire. That diversity - a motley flurry of evangelical activity - is likely the key to real renewal in the life of the Church in the U.S.

The history of the Church proves that there is not one methodology or program that has the corner on evangelization - that instead various spiritualities and movements can be fruitful, if they are rooted in the person of Jesus Christ.

That focus - which points toward a renewal far beyond hurried policy documents - is the key to a fruitful and living Church after the McCarrick scandal. Some bishops may lead on those fronts, while others disappoint, or seem to miss the mark. Some scandals will be addressed, while others may long go unresolved, and new ones will emerge. The life of the Church will be often messy, often disappointing, often frustrating, and always in need of renewal, reform, and conversion. Catholics, bishops included, will face the choice of working towards those ends, or not.

But a serious commitment to apostolic and evangelic activity- to the proclamation of the Gospel - is also the best prospect for reform. A holier Church, dedicated more zealously to mission, will also be a more just and less corrupt Church.

A great deal has changed in the aftermath of the McCarrick scandal. But sin, corruption, betrayal, and failure are not new to the Church. Nor is Jesus Christ, the source of grace, justice, and renewal, who is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  
 

 

One year since the McCarrick allegations: A CNA timeline

Wed, 06/19/2019 - 18:18

Washington D.C., Jun 19, 2019 / 04:18 pm (CNA).- June 20 marks one year since the announcement that credible allegations of sexual abuse had been raised against then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. In the months that followed, a major crisis of abuse and cover up within the Church in the U.S. was revealed, and Church officials have responded with new policies and pledges of transparency. Here is a timeline of major events in the last year:


June 20
The Archdiocese of New York announces that an allegation of sexual abuse by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick has been found to be “credible and substantiated.” In the following months, additional allegations will be raised against McCarrick, including claims that McCarrick had a widely-known reputation for sexual advances toward seminarians.

July 3
The Diocese of Cheyenne says Emeritus Bishop Joseph Hart has been credibly accused of sexually assaulting two boys after he became bishop of the diocese in 1976. A third credible allegation is confirmed a few weeks later.

July 28
Pope Francis accepts the resignation of McCarrick from the College of Cardinals and suspends him from the exercise of any public ministry. He directs McCarrick to observe a life of prayer and penance, pending the canonical process against him.

August 14
A grand jury report in Pennsylvania details allegations against some 300 priests, from more than 1,000 victims in six of the state’s Catholic dioceses over a 70-year period. The report was met with national outcry and prompted more than a dozen other states to follow suit.

August 16
The U.S. bishops’ conference calls for a Vatican-led investigation into the allegations of sexual abuse and cover-up surrounding McCarrick.

August 25
Former apostolic nuncio to the U.S. Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano releases a “testament” claiming that Pope Francis knew about sanctions imposed on McCarrick by Benedict XVI but chose to repeal them.

August 26
Asked during an in-flight interview about Vigano’s letter, Pope Francis says he “will not say a single word” on the subject and instructs journalists to use their “journalistic capacity to draw your own conclusions.”

September 12
Pope Francis calls for all the presidents of the Catholic bishops’ conferences of the world to meet at the Vatican Feb. 21-24 to address the protection of minors.

September 19
The administrative committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops announces new accountability measures, including a code of conduct for bishops and the creation of an independent reporting mechanism for complaints against bishops. The committee also calls for a full investigation into the allegations against McCarrick and the Church’s response to these allegations.

October 6
The Vatican announces that Pope Francis has ordered a review of all Holy See files pertaining to allegations of sexual misconduct on the part of McCarrick. The results of that review have not, to date, been released.

November 12
U.S. bishops gather for an annual fall meeting in Baltimore; the Vatican instructs them to delay until after the February meeting a vote on two proposals intended to be the foundation of the U.S. Church’s response to the abuse crisis.

November 14
The U.S. bishops fail to pass a resolution that would have “encouraged” the Holy See to release all documents on the allegations of misconduct against McCarrick.

January 2-8
At the suggestion of Pope Francis, the U.S. bishops hold a retreat to consider how to respond to the still ongoing sexual abuse crises facing the Church.

January 11
McCarrick is laicized. Also known as dismissal from the clerical state, he no longer has the right to exercise sacred ministry in the Church, except in the extreme situation of encountering someone who is in immediate danger of death. In addition, he no longer has the canonical right to be financially supported by the Church. A statement from the Vatican announcing the laicization is released Feb. 16.

February 21 - 24
The Vatican holds a sex abuse summit with the heads of bishops’ conference from countries around the world. The summit’s stated purpose is to educate the world’s bishops on their responsibility for protecting minors from abuse within the Church.

April 4
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith upholds a 2018 verdict finding Archbishop Anthony Apuron of Agana, Guam, guilty of several abuse related charges. Apuron is deprived of his office as archbishop and forbidden to use the insignia of a bishop or live within the jurisdiction of the archdiocese. He is not removed from ministry or the clerical state, and is not instructed to live in prayer and penance.

May 9
Pope Francis issues new experimental norms for the handling of some sex abuse allegations. The norms place seminarians and religious coerced into sexual activity through the abuse of authority in the same criminal category as abuse of minors and vulnerable adults. They also establish obligatory reporting for clerics and religious, require that every diocese has a mechanism for reporting abuse, and put the metropolitan archbishop in charge of investigations of accusations of abuse or negligence against suffragan bishops.

June 4
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, is accused of mishandling an allegation of sexual coercion made against his former vicar general by permitting the priest to transfer to another diocese and continue in ministry. The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston disputes the claim, saying the priest underwent a rehabilitation process, and was recommended to be returned to ministry by the professionals who assessed him.

June 5
An investigation finds credible allegations of sexual harassment and coercion of adults by former Bishop Michael Bransfield of Wheeling-Charleston, as well as the fostering of “a culture of fear of retaliation and retribution” that prevented his conduct from being discovered or reported. Pope Francis had accepted Bransfield’s resignation the previous September when he turned 75.

June 12-13
At their annual spring meeting, the U.S. bishops approve the creation of a national third-party reporting mechanism, directives to apply the pope’s new norms, protocol for a diocesan bishop to restrict the ministry his predecessor when needed, and a set of non-binding moral commitments pledging to hold themselves to the same standards applied to priests.

House Democrats pass appropriations bill with Hyde Amendment intact

Wed, 06/19/2019 - 17:00

Washington D.C., Jun 19, 2019 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- The House of Representatives passed a combination appropriations bill on Wednesday afternoon that renews the Hyde Amendment, preventing federal Medicaid funds from being used for abortions.

The bill passed by a vote of 226-203 on June 19 and contains funding for four separate spending areas, including the Department of Health and Human Services and the provisions of the Hyde Amendment.

The vote was cast almost entirely along party lines. All but seven Democrats voted for the spending bill, and no Republicans voted for it. A last-ditch bill amendment effort by Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) to remove the Hyde Amendment from the bill was rejected as a violation of the House procedural rules.

Democratic presidential candidates have expressed an increasing consensus in favor of overturning the Hyde Amendment, and scrapping the policy was part of the Democratic Party platform in 2016.

Former vice president Joe Biden, who currently leads the field of candidates for the Deomcratic nomination for president, recently announced a reversal of his position on the Hyde Amendment and now backs its repeal after over four decades of supporting the measure.

Despite widespread opposition to the policy within the Democratic Party, the Hyde Amendment was included in this year’s spending bill in recognition of the need for approval in the Republican-controlled Senate and be signed by President Donald Trump.

Senate Republicans have indicated that they would not vote for an appropriations bill without the Hyde Amendment, and it is considered unlikely that President Trump would sign such a bill.

The Hyde Amendment was first passed in 1977, and prohibited the use of federal money for abortions, except in cases where the woman’s life is at risk. The amendment was slightly modified in 1994, when exceptions were added for pregnancies resulting from rape and incest.

The Hyde Amendment applying only to federal funds, individual states are free to use their own Medicaid funds for abortions.

'Transgender' track rules violate Title IX, ADF says

Wed, 06/19/2019 - 15:00

Washington D.C., Jun 19, 2019 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- The governing body for high school sports in Connecticut is facing a federal complaint after allowing male students to compete in female events.

Three female students, supported by Alliance Defending Freedom, a nonprofit group advocating for the defence of religious liberty, filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights after male students were allowed to compete in the 2018 female outdoor track season.

The complaint alleges that the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC), which is a governing body for high school sports in Connecticut, is violating federal Title IX norms by allowing male athletes who identify themselves as females to compete in sports against female athletes.

CIAC member schools include many of the state’s Catholic high schools.

The two male students, who identify themselves as female, were allowed to compete during the track season and placed well ahead of their female competitors.

Since 2017, the CIAC allows athletes to compete in leagues consistent with “preferred gender identity.”

In the spring 2018 outdoor track season, a sophomore runner who had already competed in the 2018 indoor track season on the boys’ team changed his gender identification and was permitted to compete as a female.

In the 2018-2019 seasons, he, along with another female-identifying male runner, have consistently placed as the top-two finishers in their events against female runners. One of the males now holds 10 state records in female track events. Previously, these records were held by 10 different runners.

ADF is requesting that the Office for Civil Rights investigate alleged Title IX violations, and compel the CIAC to change its athlete policy.

Title IX of the 1972 Educational Ammendments Act states that "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance."

ADF asserts that allowing male athletes to compete in female events is discriminatory against female athletes.

Additionally, the ADF has requested that the CIAC retroactively recognize runners who would otherwise have won or qualified for events had they not been competing against males.

One of the three girls represented by the ADF complaint is Selina Soule, a 16-year-old from Glastonbury High School in Connecticut. Soule, who runs track, missed qualifying for the state finals in the 55-meter dash by one place. The top two finishers in the event were both males identifying themselves as female.

The other two complainants, who also run track, have chosen to remain anonymous.

“Girls deserve to compete on a level playing field. Forcing female athletes to compete against boys is grossly unfair and destroys their athletic opportunities,” said ADF Legal Counsel Christiana Holcomb in a statement posted on the organization’s website.

“Title IX was designed to eliminate discrimination against women in education and athletics, and women fought long and hard to earn the equal athletic opportunities that Title IX provides. Allowing boys to compete in girls’ sports reverses nearly 50 years of advances for women under this law.”

Speaking on Fox News, Soule said that she has received “nothing but support” from her teammates and from other athletes, but she has “experienced some retaliation from school officials and coaches.”

In a 2018 interview after the state championships, Soule said that she had “no problem with [the male athletes] wanting to be a girl,” but that she did not think it was right that she had to race males.

“I think it’s unfair to the girls who work really hard to do well and qualify for Opens and New Englands,” she said in 2018. The New England championships serve as a scouting venue for many college-level coaches.

Earlier this month, the Congregation for Catholic Education issued a document laying out principles for Catholic engagement with so-called gender theory, which posits that biological sex and gender are intrinsically mutable and seperable.

The document, titled “Male and Female He Created Them,” called gender theory an effort “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.”

“There is a need to reaffirm the metaphysical roots of sexual difference, as an anthropological refutation of attempts to negate the male-female duality of human nature, from which the family is generated,” said the document.

“The denial of this duality not only erases the vision of human beings as the fruit of an act of creation but creates the idea of the human person as a sort of abstraction who ‘chooses for himself what his nature is to be.’”

California bishops call Catholics to 'ecological spirituality'

Wed, 06/19/2019 - 12:26

Sacramento, Calif., Jun 19, 2019 / 10:26 am (CNA).- On the fourth anniversary of Laudato Si’, the bishops of California challenged the community to grow in an “ecological conversion” that respects God, man, and creation.

The California Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a June 18 pastoral statement reflecting on Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical, “Laudato Si’: On care for our common home.”

The bishops reflected on the call to stewardship of the environment and how concrete actions are necessary to exercise this stewardship in preserving the natural beauty of California.

“The astonishing diversity of landscapes across California - formed by the dynamic interplay of diverse natural forces - moves us to recognize God’s artistry in creation,” the bishops said.

“We propose a practical application of the Laudato Si’ message of ecological spirituality - that the ecological well-being of California is meant to be deeply embedded in a spirituality that unites all creatures and all creation in praising God.”

Man is responsible for caring for creation, the bishops said in their message. They encouraged people to find ways to prevent waste and ensure sustainability. They suggested Catholics invest in energy efficient appliances, residences, and vehicles. In two examples, the bishops said families may consider adding solar panels to their homes, and businesses may reflect on the environmental impact of thee products they produce.

In addition, the bishops highlighted the importance of dialogue about environmental issues and the development of educational materials to further awareness on the topic. They called for works of art that reflect the beauty of creation in order to “inspire a culture of ecological and human care in the light of the moral applications of the Pope’s encyclical.”

The California bishops said climate change harms both the environment and people, especially the most vulnerable. They noted that Pope Francis has included the issue in his admonitions of a “throwaway culture,” which also includes consumeristic excess, abortion, and euthanasia.

“The disruption of the earth’s climate is one of the principal challenges facing humanity today, with grave implications for the poor, many of whom live in areas particularly affected by environmental degradation and who also subsist largely on access to natural resources for housing, food, and income,” they said.

It is the responsibility of the local community to work together to overcome climate change, the bishops stressed, calling particularly on young people, businesses, and public officials to be involved.

“Subsidiarity presents an opportunity for all of us to act locally, but with an eye to broader social transformation to advance sustainability and climate protection,” they said.

In recent years, California has faced significant drought, as well as the largest fire in state history, which took place last year, when more than 400,000 acres were burned in and around Mendocino County. The state’s four hottest years on record occurred from 2014-2018.

To respond to these climate crises, the bishops said, it is important to ensure that people have access to clean, affordable water and to provide proper fire education and prevention measures.

They also called for efforts to strengthen aqueducts and water ways to withstand drought, as well as greater investment in attempts to better understand the effects of climate change on water systems.

“The Laudato Si’ call to live integral ecology means listening to creation and observing what is happening in it,” the bishops said. “To live out a spirituality of the common good, we must recommit ourselves to fostering greater harmony in our relationship with the earth.”

The state bishops promised to work with pastoral leaders to spread the message of Laudato Si’. They challenged parishioners and communities to undergo a spiritual conversion and grow in virtues which will positively affect the environment.

“At the heart of all spirituality is conversion. We all need to change for the better. Conversion is not just turning back to God, but always embraces new thinking and new decisions - a new way of life as we move into the future,” they said.

“Ecological conversion challenges us to advance in culture, to grow spiritually, and to be better educated about the world entrusted by God to our care. The heavens and the earth belong to God, but we have been called to be good stewards.”

 

Families are a radical witness to hope in modern society, Archbishop Gomez says

Wed, 06/19/2019 - 09:30

South Bend, Ind., Jun 19, 2019 / 07:30 am (CNA).- The Christian family must become a “radical” sign against a climate of despair and isolation Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles said Tuesday.

Gomez, who serves as the vice president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, delivered the speech June 18 as part of a four-day conference on Liturgy and the Domestic Church at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend.

“Our society has rejected what twenty centuries of Christian civilization considered a basic fact of nature — that most men and women will find their life’s purpose in forming loving marriages, working together, sharing their lives, and raising children,” Gomez said.

The archbishop explained that in previous decades preserving and promoting the family involved a cluster of issues, including divorce, cohabitation, contraception and abortion, same-sex relationships, and the sexual confusion of society. Now, he argued, the basic human imperative to marry and have children is being abandoned.

“Many young people are debating whether it is ‘ethical’ to have kids in an age of global warming. There is an even larger conversation going on among millennials about the ‘value’ of starting a family,” Gomez said.

Just Google that simple question: ‘Should I have kids?’ It is sad, the results that come back. Not only that. It is sad how many people are asking these kinds of questions.”

“The truth is this: for whatever reasons, people have already stopped having children.”

Gomez said that the decline of birth rates, and the rejection of the concept and worth of family, is a sign of more than just selfishness: it is an indication of despair. Without minimizing the importance of climate change, Gomez said, a cultural narrative of coming dystopia has emerged, in which children are considered to be better off having never been born.

“These same kinds of bleak scenarios are being spun out daily in newspapers and magazines, in books, in the media, in classrooms,” Gomez said, and it is the mission of the Church, expressed through the witness of the Christian family, to respond.

“The question for us is: how are we going to live as Christians in this culture, and how are we going to raise our children and evangelize this culture? In these times, what case can we make for marriage, for the family, for children?”

In the Los Angeles archdiocese, he said, a community of more than five million Catholics was baptizing 50,000 infants every year. “These are not just numbers,” Gomez said, “these are souls, entrusted by God to our care. As a pastor, I do not want a single one to be lost.”

It is vital, he said, to discover and promoted the “Domestic Church” of the family, rooted in a parish able to sustain and support them.

“In my opinion, forming small faith communities is crucial,” Gomez said, while insisting that continuous sacramental and faith formation was essential to the life and mission of the Church.

“When we marry a couple or baptize a child — we need to see that as the beginning of a relationship. We need to find ways to nurture that relationship, to support that child and that couple, to help them grow in their love of Jesus and their commitment to living the Gospel in their families.”

Formation of families in the faith is, Gomez said, central to the Church’s mission at a time when the Gospel message is once more seen as antithetical to the culture.

“We need to rediscover the radical ‘newness’ of the Christian message about the family,” he said.

“Before Christianity, no one had ever spoken about marriage in terms of a love that lasts a lifetime, or as a calling from God, or as a path that can lead to holiness and salvation. It was a new and thrilling idea to speak of man and woman becoming ‘one flesh’ and participating in God’s own act of creating new life.”

The simplicity of the family, mirroring the hidden life of Christ in the Holy Family of Nazareth, offers the opportunity to evangelize by a witness to hope and to authentic human happiness – something which society is losing along with the will to have children.

“The first Christians evangelized by the way they lived. And the way they lived was to be in this world but not of this world. They lived the same lives as their neighbors, but in a different way,” Gomez said.

“They rejected birth control and abortion and welcomed children in joy as a gift from God and treated them as precious persons to be loved and nurtured and brought up in the ways of the Lord.”

“The first Christian families changed the world — simply by living the teachings of Jesus and his Church. And my friends, we can change the world again, by following the same path.”

US Supreme Court will soon decide 'Peace Cross' First Amendment case

Tue, 06/18/2019 - 18:10

Washington D.C., Jun 18, 2019 / 04:10 pm (CNA).- Before the month is out, the US Supreme Court is expected to issue its decision in an establishment clause case with the potential to create a new standard for dealing with problems related to religious liberty, religious symbols, and the relationship between religion and public life.

The case, The American Legion v. American Humanist Association, hinges on the legality of the Bladensburg Peace Cross--a 40-foot stone cross that was erected in 1925 in Prince George’s County, Maryland.

The cross honors those from the area who were killed in World War I. The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission has performed regular maintenance around the monument since 1961, as it is located on a median in the middle of a public road. This, the American Humanist Association has argued, is entangling government unnecessarily with religion.

Joe Davis, legal counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, told CNA that things appeared to be positive during oral arguments, and that “at least five” of the justices indicated that they felt as though the cross monument was legal. Oral arguments do not, however, always reflect what the justices decide months later.

If the Supreme Court does indeed rule in favor of keeping the peace cross, it is increasingly likely that they would have to use a new sort of legal test to justify how the cross is constitutional. Since 1971, the Supreme Court has used the “Lemon test” to decide these cases, something Davis described as “wildly inconsistent.” The application of the Lemon test has led to some religious symbols being found constitutional, and others not.

“(The Lemon test) has been heavily criticized over the decades," explained Davis.

It is a threefold standard, which examines if the action in question has a secular purpose, a primarily religious or secular effect, and if the action “entangles the government with religion” excessively.

The “test” was established in the Court's 1971 decision in Lemon v. Kurtzman, which struck down a Pennsylvania law allowing the reimbursement of private school teacher's salaries from public funds.

In The American Legion v. American Humanist Association, those arguing in favor of the Peace Cross proposed alternative tests for the court to consider instead of Lemon.

"The parties defending the cross argued that (the Lemon test) should be replaced by a coercion test, when you ask if the government action is coercing some religious exercise,” said Davis. “And if it's not, it's not an establishment clause violation."

The governmental party defending the Peace Cross put forward an “independent, secular meaning test,” said Davis, which would be similar to parts of the Lemon test.

The Becket lawyers argued what Davis termed a “historical approach,” which would put the action in the context of what the founders of the United States intended when they created the establishment clause of the First Amendment.

“The idea would be, you take the government action and you say ‘Does this look like what establishment of religion looks like at the founding? Is this the kind of thing that the founders were concerned about when they ratified the establishment clause?’” said Davis.

This historical approach would work, said Davis, “because you can just compare whatever the current case is about to the historical data, and see whether it matches up.”

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case in February. The court’s term ends at the end of the month, meaning that the decision will be released shortly.

Mom, target of doxing state rep, calls for Sims’ censure

Tue, 06/18/2019 - 14:30

Harrisburg, Pa., Jun 18, 2019 / 12:30 pm (CNA).- State Rep. Brian Sims is facing possible censure in the Pennsylvania legislature following his harassment and attempts to dox women and minors outside a Philadelphia abortion clinic last month.

In videos posted on social media May 2, Sims offered money to his followers if they would publish the names and addresses of pro-life demonstrators, including two women and several high school-age students. One of the demonstrators, Ashley Garecht of Lower Merion Township, travelled to Harrisburg June 17 to encourage state legislators to back the censure.

“It’s unclear to me why any member of this body would be hesitant to sign on to the resolution,” said Garecht, who can be seen with her daughters being harassed by Sims in one of his videos.

Garecht told local media that she thinks the incident highlights Sims’ abuse of power as much as his intolerance for pro-life speech.

“What happened to us was about an elected state representative who declared in his own video to be an elected state representative harassing and intimidating citizens out of their First Amendment rights--and three of those were minors. Then he took it a step further by offering money to expose their identities on the internet.”

So far, 36 lawmakers have supported the resolution, out of the 201 members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

Rep. Jerry Knowles (R-Berks/Carbon/Schuylkill) filed the resolution in early June. Knowles is seeking to remove Sims from the four committees he belongs to, as well as prevent him from being appointed to any additional committees or positions until the end of his term. Sims’ term expires Nov. 30, 2020.

“It should be noted that Representative Sims also used his elected position to intimidate the individuals with whom he was interacting, clearly stating on the videos that he was a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives,” said the memorandum issued by Knowles that was sent to other members of the Pennsylvania House.

In the videos, Sims referred to one woman as an “old white lady,” and in another, he targeted three teenage girls accompanied by Garecht.

Sims has not yet publicly apologized for attempting to dox the pro-lifers, but he did publish a video where he pledged to “do better for the women of Pennsylvania.”

Following outcry against Sims’ actions, a pro-life rally was held outside of the Planned Parenthood clinic in Philadelphia on May 10, where Sims is a volunteer patient escort.

In the 2014 case McCullen v. Coakley the Supreme Court unanimously found “buffer zones” around abortion clinics, limiting the space where a person can either pray or protest, to be unconstitutional.

Garecht said she has forgiven Sims for his doxing threat and harassing comments, and that she and her family continue to pray for them. She may pursue some sort of civil action suit against Sims.

“This isn’t about a vendetta for me as a mother,” said Garecht. “This is about standing up specifically for my daughters to hold the person who attacked them to account.”

Supreme Court gives second chance to Oregon cake bakers who declined same-sex wedding

Tue, 06/18/2019 - 02:20

Portland, Ore., Jun 18, 2019 / 12:20 am (CNA).- An Oregon bakery whose owners declined to make a cake celebrating a same-sex commitment ceremony will get another chance in court, after the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 17 ruling ordered lower courts to reconsider a massive fine and other penalties in light of a similar Colorado case.

“The Constitution protects speech, popular or not, from condemnation by the government,” Kelly Shackelford, president, CEO and chief counsel of the legal group First Liberty, said June 17. “The message from the court is clear, government hostility toward religious Americans will not be tolerated.”

“This is a victory for Aaron and Melissa Klein and for religious liberty for all Americans,” added Shackleford.

The Kleins, who are practicing Christians, owned Sweet Cakes by Melissa, a bakery in the Portland suburb of Gresham, Ore. In January 2013, the couple declined to bake a cake for a same-sex commitment ceremony, citing their religious views. They then lost an effort to fight a lawsuit charging they had illegally discriminated.

First Liberty, a non-profit legal firm based in Plano, Texas, focuses on religious freedom cases with a nationwide scope. It is representing the Kleins as are two attorneys from its network: C. Boyden Gray, former U.S. Ambassador to the European Union; and Adam Gustafson, both of Boyden Gray & Associates.

Boyden Gray said the Supreme Court should decide whether its 2015 ruling that mandated legal recognition of same-sex marriage “can be wielded as a shield in defense of same-sex unions but also — as in this case — a sword to attack others for adhering to traditional religious beliefs about marriage,” NBC News reports.

The women who had attempted to commission the cake from the Klein’s bakery filed a complaint with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, claiming discrimination based on sexual orientation. The mother of Rachel Cryer, the woman who tried to order the cake, had asked Aaron Klein to reconsider, but he declined.

While the legal complaint was pending, Aaron Klein posted the first page of the couple’s complaint, which contained their names and contact information, on the Sweet Cakes by Melissa Facebook page. The women said they received death threats as a result of the posting, which was taken down after one day.

The State of Oregon in its filing with the Supreme Court had argued that the lower courts had ruled correctly. “Baking is conduct, not speech,” its filing said. “A bakery open to the public has no right to discriminate against customers on the basis of their sexual orientation.”

Requiring equal treatment for customers regardless of sexual orientation does not compel support for same-sex marriage “any more than the law compels support for religion by requiring equal treatment for all faiths,” said the state filings, according to NBC News.

Sweet Cakes by Melissa closed in September 2013, a decision that the owners described as a “devastating loss.”

In April 2015, the Oregon labor bureau ordered the Kleins to pay damages to the plaintiffs, ruling that by declining to design and make the cake, they had violated Oregon law barring discrimination in public accommodations. The labor bureau ordered them to pay a $135,000 penalty for emotional damages and issued a gag order that prevented them from “even talking about their beliefs,” First Liberty said June 17.

The Kleins initially attempted to raise the cost of the fine on the crowdfunding website GoFundMe, but their effort was taken down by the site, which cited a violation of their terms of service.

In their appeals, the Kleins claimed that their First Amendment right to free speech was violated by the state’s decision.

Their prior appeal to the Oregon Supreme Court was rejected in June 2018. This left in place the decision of the Oregon Court of Appeals, which rejected claims that a cake is a work of art. That court said “even when custom-designed for a ceremonial occasion, they are still cakes made to be eaten.” Those who attend a wedding might consider the cake to be an expression of the views of the couple who undergo the ceremony, not the views of the baker, the court said.

That same month, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a narrow ruling in favor of Colorado baker Jack Phillips, owner of the bakery Masterpiece Cakeshop, who refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding. The court found that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had not respected Phillips’ sincerely-held religious beliefs when it ordered him to make a custom cake for a same-sex couple.

There are 21 states that bar discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation, among other categories.

Similar laws and regulations have affected wedding industry professionals in other states, including bakers and photographers. Such laws and regulations have also closed or stripped funding from Catholic and other Christian adoption agencies that decline to place children with same-sex couples.

The proposed federal Equality Act, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time in May, would add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes under federal law and strip defendants’ ability to appeal to religious freedom as a defense against discrimination claims.

The Masterpiece Cakeshop itself has faced two more lawsuits. It refused to bake a cake to a transgender person seeking a “gender transition cake,” with the lawsuit thrown out of court. A second lawsuit later came from the same person seeking to make a similar cake, but then added it was a birthday cake with special status for the individual as a self-identified transgender woman.

Wealthy philanthropic foundations have spent close to $10 million in targeted grants seeking to limit religious freedom protections on issues such as abortion access and compliance with LGBT concerns. About $500,000 of that went to advocacy and public relations campaigns related to the Masterpiece Cakeshop Supreme Court Case, CNA has reported.

 

Analysis: How will the USCCB vote in first elections since McCarrick scandal?

Mon, 06/17/2019 - 20:00

Washington D.C., Jun 17, 2019 / 06:00 pm (CNA).- While the spring meeting of the U.S. bishops’ conference has only just concluded, some bishops are already looking to the election of new conference officers at their November meeting. While the elections are still five months away, bishops are already discussing their options - particularly in light of the scandal the Church in the U.S. has faced in the last year.

It is widely expected that Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, the bishops’ conference vice president, will be elected to succeed Cardinal Daniel DiNardo as conference president. Gomez has several factors working in his favor. Most notably is the sheer force of custom: With only one recent exception, the conference vice president has been elected president as a matter of course. That Gomez has served in the second slot for the last three years is likely sufficient by itself for him to secure the votes of most bishops.

Within the conference, Gomez is perceived to cut across traditional ideological and social lines. He was ordained a priest of Opus Dei, and he has a long history of leadership on pro-life and marriage issues. But, an immigrant himself, he is also among the most outspoken advocates for the conference’s call for just immigration reform and advocacy for the poor. He is, in short, difficult to pigeonhole into a partisan camp, and at a time when the Church is increasingly segmented by politics, many bishops see that as an important advantage.

Some bishops have also mentioned to CNA the symbolic significance of electing a Hispanic archbishop, a Mexican-American immigrant, in advance of the 2020 U.S. presidential election. While the bishops have a working relationship with the Trump administration on issues pertaining to abortion, marriage, and religious liberty, they remain strongly opposed to the president’s immigration policies, and if Trump wins a second term, they will likely be at odds with him over that issue throughout. Gomez is seen to be the right voice to lead advocacy on behalf of their immigration agenda.

If a Democrat wins the presidency in 2020, Gomez’ well-known advocacy on immigration could make it easier for him to gain a hearing from a Democratic administration, especially during the battles over religious liberty on gender and sexuality that would be sure to come.

Because Gomez, who leads the largest U.S. diocese, has not been made a cardinal, it is sometimes speculated that he might have a difficult working relationship with Pope Francis, or that the Holy Father might consider him to be too conservative.

This speculation seems to be grounded in particularly American misunderstandings of both men: caricatures of Gomez as a doctrinaire conservative and Francis as a freewheeling progressive work only if the frame of reference is the U.S. left-right divide. Those with experience in Latin and South America are far more likely to see the common threads running through the thought of both: especially a common concern for solidarity with the powerless and the marginalized, including both the unborn and the immigrant.

Ultimately, that Gomez is not yet a cardinal could reflect more about the hermeneutics of the Congregation for Bishops than about any actual division between Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Los Angeles.

Whatever the reason that Gomez is not a cardinal, the archbishop is not perceived to be ineffective in engagement with Rome. Gomez is seen to have successfully manned the point position in negotiating with the Holy See an approach to establishing sexual abuse policies that would be acceptable in both Rome and the U.S. The archbishop became an especially active figure in deliberations after the breakdown in communications that led to the cancelled votes at the bishops’ November meetings.

He does not seem most comfortable at a podium, presiding over the full assembly of bishops, though his aptitude in that role has grown over the course of recent meetings. While DiNardo leads the room with a poise that seems at once fraternal and efficient, Gomez is more reserved in a large public setting. But if this is seen as a liability by some bishops, it is unlikely to overcome both the archbishop’s personal reputation and the force of precedent.

Of course, in recent history, custom has been overcome in conference elections. In 2010, Cardinal Timothy Dolan was unexpectedly elected conference president ahead of Bishop Gerald Kicanas, who was then vice president. Dolan was elected through the work of a cadre of bishops who thought a Kicanas presidency would be out of step with the leadership and emphases of Pope Benedict XVI.

It is possible that Gomez could face a credible and organized opponent in November 2019. Most frequently discussed at the conference, and mentioned to CNA by a few bishops, is the idea that the newly-installed Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Washington, DC, could challenge Gomez for the presidency.

As it stands, though, electing Gregory seems a very remote possibility. In the first place is, again, the sheer force of custom. For Gregory’s supporters to overcome that force would require a great deal of organization, and a good amount of time spent convincing bishops to make a change.

Making their task especially difficult is that Gregory was conference president from 2001 to 2004, and presided over the bishops’ conference response to the sex abuse crisis of 2002. Gregory was the bishop who ushered into being the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” and the accompanying “Essential Norms.”

While the Charter is widely thought to have changed ecclesial culture for the better with regard to child and youth protection, it has been panned during the last year because it is understood to pertain to priests and deacons only, using language that explicitly delineates the exclusion of bishops from some norms.

The shortcomings of the “Dallas Charter,” are not Gregory’s fault, but bishops who want to convey that the Church is moving on from “business as usual” may be reticent to elect as president someone so directly connected to the Charter.

There is also Gregory’s task in Washington. The archbishop is 71, and is largely understood to have only a four-year mandate to begin the process of restoring trust among Catholics in the Archdiocese of Washington, which has been the epicenter of the McCarrick affair, through which Gregory’s predecessor, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, lost a great deal of trust among his priests, and among ordinary Washington Catholics. This task, Gregory is known to understand, will require a considerable investment of personal and pastoral time, and for that reason, the archbishop may not find the prospect of running the bishops’ conference a temptation.

But if he does want the job, there is at least one thing Gregory could do to improve his chances of being elected: He could release from the Archdiocese of Washington’s files on Theodore McCarrick as many records as possible, and encourage other diocesan bishops to do the same. Gregory has the opportunity in Washington to establish a new paradigm of transparency in Church governance – a paradigm much discussed but not yet much demonstrated – by releasing as much as possible on McCarrick, his finances, his friends and protectors, and then encouraging the other dioceses where McCarrick served to do the same.

While Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark told CNA this week that he is precluded from issuing a full report on McCarrick by an attorney general’s investigation in the state, Gregory has not indicated that he is under any similar restriction. A comprehensive release of information from his archdiocese would do a great deal to restore confidence in Church leadership among practicing Catholics, and it would likely raise esteem for him considerably among the younger bishops in the conference, who have been calling for just such a release from Rome.

If that does happen, Gomez could face more of a challenge for election as conference president than expected.

Who will be elected vice president?

Some bishops have mentioned to CNA that Tobin could be a natural candidate for the position.

The Archbishop of Newark is affable and friendly to other bishops, well-known, and articulate. He has the experience of leading his own religious community, the Redemptorists, of a senior leadership position at the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life at the Vatican, and has led archdiocesan sees in both the Midwest and on the East Coast. As chairman of the USCCB Committee on Consecrated Life, Clergy, and Vocations, Tobin has played a prominent role in the Church’s response to the McCarrick crisis, and he presented one of the major policy documents on sexual abuse approved by the bishops at their November meeting.

The cardinal, in short, has considerable experience and qualifications that seem relevant to a leadership position at the conference.

But even if he were nominated as a candidate, Tobin might not accept the nomination. The cardinal withdrew from participating in the October 2018 synod on youth, which came just a few months after the McCarrick scandal began. At the time, Tobin recognized the havoc wrought by the McCarrick revelations on his archdiocese, which McCarrick led for more than a decade, and he explained the priority he placed on being present to the people of his own archdiocese, and especially to his priests.

Tobin is a cardinal, which means that he already has responsibilities taking him to Rome with regularity. Given his clear aversion to becoming an “airport bishop,” the cardinal might decline the possibility of adding even more frequent trips to Washington, DC to his schedule, especially as his archdiocese will soon grapple with fallout from the New Jersey attorney general’s investigation, and from the eventual release of Rome’s report on McCarrick.

If he were to stand for election, Tobin would face both episcopal support and criticism for his endorsement of “Building a Bridge”, a 2017 book by Fr. James Martin, SJ, who is a frequent writer and speaker on the topic of Church engagement with those who identify themselves as LGBT or LGBT activists. Bishops are divided on how best to approach that kind of engagement, and Martin’s work is at the center of that divide, because some bishops say that Martin’s work is not faithful to the teachings of the Church, while others actively promote it. While some bishops might be reticent to support a Tobin candidacy because of this, others would take Tobin’s position as a positive sign in the conference.

Tobin’s work on the U.S. implementation of Vos estis lux mundi is appreciated by bishops, as is his work on revisions to the national directory for deacons. But during the last year, Tobin has been the subject of rumors and questions about his personal life from some blogs and websites. The cardinal has denied rumors of misconduct, and scant evidence has turned up to support conjectures made about him. It is unlikely that Tobin would allow such rumors to keep him from serving the Church in whatever way he thinks himself to be called, but there are likely some members of the bishops’ conference who, given the sensitivities surrounding McCarrick and the Archdiocese of Newark, might judge this an inopportune time for the cardinal to stand for election.

Another frequently named possibility for conference vice president is Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City. Coakley has been a bishop for 15 years, and served a term as chairman of Catholic Relief Services, the bishops’ international humanitarian aid apostolate.

In his role at CRS, he is generally regarded as having addressed lingering issues pertaining to the Catholic identity of the institution and its partners, in part by bringing together a coalition of moral theologians and international development experts to work through thorny issues. Coakley is also thought to have capably overseen leadership transitions amid a complex period of expansion during his term as CRS board chairman.

Bishops also noted to CNA that Coakley’s archdiocese, Oklahoma City, is perceived to have handled safe-environment related matters well, and that Coakley is perceived to have prioritized recruiting lay collaborators for the administration of his archdiocese.

Though he has a relatively low public profile, some bishops told CNA that Coakley has a moderating voice, is calm under pressure, a clear teacher and an organized administrator. And Coakley is already set to begin in November 2019 a term as chair of the bishops' influential Domestic Justice and Human Development committee.

While some bishops might prefer a bishop with more name recognition beyond the conference, others told CNA that because he is not seen to carry any “baggage” into the election, the choice of Coakley for vice president could be exactly the right move after the bishops’ year of scandal.

Other names that have been mentioned as candidates for conference vice president are Archbishop Gregory Aymond, Archbishop Allen Vigneron, and Archbishop Bernard Hebda of St. Paul-Minneapolis, who is well regarded for his work to heal an archdiocese deeply wounded by grave clerical abuse scandals.

Of course, none of these figures have yet been nominated to the slate. Nomination requires that diocesan bishops propose the names of the candidates they would like to see considered for the post; a process that will take place over the next few months. But bishops have already begun talking about the needs of the Church, and the needs of their conference. The results of their discussion will be clear in November.   

 

Forum forms women in leadership, dignity, faith

Mon, 06/17/2019 - 13:30

Washington D.C., Jun 17, 2019 / 11:30 am (CNA).- The 2019 GIVEN Catholic Young Women’s Leadership Forum, which met last week, convened more than 100 professional Catholic women in Washington, DC, to discuss faith, vocation, dignity, and leadership.

The June 12-16 forum was conducted by the newly-launched GIVEN Institute, and aimed to equip young Catholic women with the tools, mentorship, and advice needed to become leaders in the modern world while remaining true to their faith.

“We live in fast-moving and distracted world, so it’s easy to lose one’s grounding in the truth or even to never learn that there is a Truth, and one that sets us free,” Anne Marie Warner, director of operations for the GIVEN Institute, told CNA.

The GIVEN Forum seeks to remind attendees that not only is there a truth, but that women have unique, God-given gifts that they can use to better serve their communities.

Participants were invited after a rigorous application process that examined both their engagement with the Church and their aptitude for leadership. Additionally, applicants had to submit an “Action Plan Proposal.”

“The Action Plan is each woman’s unique initiative to activate her God-given gifts in a way that will benefit others in her community, or in the Church or the world,”said Warner. The plan is “It is a specific concrete project that (the attendee) will accomplish during the year following the GIVEN Forum,” she added.  

Warner was an attendee of the first GIVEN Forum, in 2016. She said she was “very inspired” by the diversity of the speakers at the event, and that it was “so encouraging to see the many ways that women are called to live out their femininity in the Church and in the world.”

Warner told CNA that she hopes each of the 120 attendees of this year’s forum will return home from the forum knowing that “her dreams matter, and that she has a place to be received and accompanied as she seeks to implement these for the good of others.”

Another goal of the conference, Warner said, is to recognize the place in the Church for the whole person.

“The Church is a place where (forum attendees) can be received in their strengths and in their weaknesses, a home where they are loved not for what they do, but for who they are; a family in which their unique heart is essential and cherished.”

In addition to the Action Plan, forum attendees are also mentored by older Catholic women. Warner believes this relationship is beneficial for both the mentor and the mentee, and “allows a collaboration between those whose lives are being formed in adulthood and those who have wisdom and love to share.”

“Our hope is that, through this relationship, the gift of both will be magnified and the gift of women in the Church will be magnified and, in turn, the gift of the Church to the world will be magnified,” she said.  

Attendees of the GIVEN Form shared their experiences with CNA.

Lily Alvarez traveled from Los Angeles to attend the forum. Alvarez, a native of Mexico, works for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. She said she was encouraged to apply for this year’s forum by friends who attended the first incarnation of the event in 2016.

“GIVEN has opened my eyes to see that God wants me to be intentional in the way I live my femininity, through conversations, people and testimonies I’ve heard here,” she said.

For Alvarez, one of the highlights of the forum was the opportunity to meet religious sisters. The first GIVEN Forum was intended to be a one-time event sponsored by the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR), who later expanded the event into the GIVEN Institute non-profit organization. Due to this relationship, there were many religious sisters at the forum, representing many religious orders.

“I’ve never had the chance to have deep conversations, play or even spend a day with (religious sisters),” Alvarez told CNA. “It’s been quite inspirational to see how professional, joyful and motherly they are.”

Alvarez described GIVEN as a “transformational conference,” that changed the way she viewed the dignity of women and offered “a fresh angle full of opportunities” as well as “a space of true friendship and deep understanding of God’s encounter with us.” She told CNA that she is eager to see what she and her fellow attendees are able to accomplish in the next year.

“I think now the world is lucky to have 120 new leaders of true femininity ready to make a change in the culture about the place of women in society,” she said.

Another attendee, Molly Sheahan, expressed a similar sentiment. Sheahan, a California native who is now a graduate student in Washington, DC, told CNA that she applied for the GIVEN Forum seeking to “gain practical skills for leadership and advice for future action and advocacy in the Church and in the world.”

Sheahan said she particularly enjoyed the opportunity to meet other forum attendees, women “who shared their passion and dreams for their Church, (and) their hope and fire to evangelize.” She told CNA that she received “a newfound courage and fire” from hearing the speakers, and she has been inspired to further share the things she has learned.

“Although my faith is strong, having a new community of women this week has given me a spiritual boost,” said Sheahan. “I feel called on to prayer in a new way now.”

Guam's Catholics oppose governor's plan to expand abortion

Mon, 06/17/2019 - 13:01

Hagatna, Guam, Jun 17, 2019 / 11:01 am (CNA).- Catholics in Guam have organized a prayer rally to protest the territorial governor's plan to recruit a doctor willing to perform abortions, after the retirement of the island's last abortion doctor.

“Say no to recruiting doctors who will kill our unborn children! Say yes to recruiting doctors who help us save lives,” read an invitation to the prayer rally sent by Patricia Perry, co-chair of the Catholic Pro-Life Committee, according to the Pacific Daily News, a Hagatna daily.

“We will not stop until all abortion is outlawed and all anti-life laws will be abolished,” Perry stated.

Guam Governor Lou Leon Guerrero, a former nurse who took office in January, recently expressed her wish to expand abortion access in the territory, but no doctors on the island are willing to perform abortions. The territory's last abortion doctor retired in June 2018.

The island's government is also offering waivers and discounts for contraception through a public health clinic.

According to the Pacific Daily News, the Archdiocese of Agaña said that “human life begins at conception and the Roman Catholic Church affirms and promotes this truth. There is no other moral or logical place to draw the line.”

Guam is predominantly Catholic, and Leon Guerrero has said that finding a doctor willing to perform abortions there “will take some work.” She said officials are trying to recruit doctors to come to the island and establish clinics.

Elective abortion is legal in Guam up to 13 weeks, and the procedure is legal up to 26 weeks in case of rape or incest; anyone who procures an abortion without help from a doctor can be charged with a felony. Doctors have the legal right to refuse to perform an abortion except in the case of a medical emergency.

Women in Guam seeking abortions fly thousands of miles from the island to seek abortions elsewhere, many in Hawaii.

There have only two or three Guam women given abortions in Hawaii since last year, and none was an elective procedure, an OB-GYN and University of Hawaii professor told the AP.

Guam's public health department received reports of an average of 246 abortions annually between 2007 and 2017. Since the 2018 retirement of Dr. William Freeman, none have been reported.

The Pacific Daily News reported that the territory is in need of more foster families. It said a recent bill introduced to improve foster care noted that in May, there were 270 children in foster placement, and 37 licensed foster families.

“If you don’t do anything to help these kids, you’re not pro-life. You’re just pro-birth. I’m not saying that you should abort these children to avoid the system but if we’re not going to have an abortion clinic here on Guam, something needs to be fixed,” Kimmi Yee, a 20-year-old Guam resident and abortion rights supporter, told the Pacific Daily News.

U.S. federal law applies in Guam and its people are U.S. citizens; the island is home to about 170,000 residents.

Meet the bishop who weaves Gospel verses, art, and Tolkien into his ministry

Mon, 06/17/2019 - 05:01

Baltimore, Md., Jun 17, 2019 / 03:01 am (CNA).- There are bishops who may or may not tweet with any regularity, and then there’s “Amigo de Frodo”, who provides daily Gospel verses, bits of art and literature, and maybe a Lord of the Rings quote or two at a Confirmation: Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville.

“As a bishop, I think Twitter—you shouldn’t take yourself too seriously,” Bishop Flores, who tweets under the handle @bpdflores, told CNA at the annual spring meeting of the U.S. bishops last week.

“It can be – it often isn’t – but it can be a humanizing platform. And I think the challenge, just for Catholic Twitter in general, is to kind of be a humanizing voice in it that’s respectful and that encourages and has imagination, and in a certain sense humor, in terms of how things can be.”

One thing that can be seen on the bishop’s account every single day is a Gospel verse from that day’s reading and a brief reflection, in Spanish and in English.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">*Everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.<br><br>As charity— gift of the Risen Christ— takes possession of the heart, enabling us to love God and serve the good of others, there is less room in the heart to consent to sin. <a href="https://t.co/jBzGw2oKwo">pic.twitter.com/jBzGw2oKwo</a></p>&mdash; Amigo de Frodo (@bpdflores) <a href="https://twitter.com/bpdflores/status/1139487295411802113?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">June 14, 2019</a></blockquote>
<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

“I do think, fundamentally, for the Catholic Church, before we can tackle the problems and the issues, if we aren’t fundamentally reading the Gospel every day and letting that inform how it is that we think and how it is that we see the world, then we’re not doing what we’re supposed to be doing in terms of being a people who are able to look at the world through the eyes of the Gospel, instead of judging the Gospel through the eyes of the world,” he said.

“So it’s just my way of saying ‘folks, we all need to be reading the Gospel, and then we can deal with reality’.”

Among the items discussed and voted upon by the bishops were measures to respond to the clergy abuse crisis, among them authorizing a hotline for victims of abuse by bishops to confidentially report the case.

On Tuesday, during a presentation of heads of the working group on immigration, bishops discussed the need for the Church to be concretely present to migrants and refugees, and especially undocumented immigrants whose future legal status is in question and who face deportation.

One item discussed was the threat of tariffs by President Trump against Mexico, to push for a stronger effort to curtail migration from Central America to the U.S.

“We can’t use the immigrant as a bargaining chip,” Bishop Flores told CNA of the tariff threats.

Bishop Flores is one of the “border bishops”, whose diocese has for years been at the center of the rise in migrant children and women coming to the U.S. seeking asylum.

These migrants cannot be ignored, he said. “It’s about the reality of the children and mothers and families are suffering. And we have to address that. There is no reading of the Gospel that the Church is familiar with that says we can exempt ourselves from any interest of what is going on here.”

Ahead of the 2020 elections, immigration is once again expected to be a core issue among voters. When asked how voters can consider the Church’s teaching on the right to migrate and on the state’s just authority to regulate immigration, Bishop Flores pointed to global solidarity, the common good, and the limits of national sovereignty.

“The good of survival is a very high good in terms of Catholic social teaching,” he said. “And while a country has a responsibility to defend its borders, it also has a responsibility to be just and reasonable in attending to the human crisis which is beyond our borders. Because Catholic social teaching has never considered national sovereignty as an absolute right that is sort of ‘free to be capricious, it’s not our problem’.”

Pope Francis has taught of the “responsibility in global solidarity” to pay attention to crises beyond the borders of one’s own country, he said, and the pope has pointed out problems that transcend national boundaries and demand the attention of everyone, such as human trafficking.

To ignore these problems, and the plight of migrants, as a country, “we will simply just kind of shrivel in terms of our own human awareness of the basic commonality we have as human beings.”

“And the Gospel certainly calls us to look with open eyes as to the Lazaruses at the door. And to try to find some sort of reasonable accommodation to address those situations,” he said. Migrants are often victims of gang violence and human traffickers, he said, “basically what the pope calls the modern slave trade. It happens not just in the Americas, it happens across the world.”

“And this is, as the Holy Father keeps saying to the world, especially to the economically successful in the world, you can’t keep pretending this is not happening.”

Pro-life groups laud Pampers move to place changing tables in men's restrooms

Sun, 06/16/2019 - 16:01

Cincinnati, Ohio, Jun 16, 2019 / 02:01 pm (CNA).- Pro-life groups are cheering an initiative from Pampers which is seeking to place 5,000 diaper changing tables in men’s restrooms throughout the United States and Canada.

“Picture this...dad is out and about, enjoying quality time with his baby and the inevitable hits – diaper duty. Cue the search for a changing table, only for dad to find there’s nowhere for him to change that stinky booty in the men’s restroom,” the Pampers company, a popular brand of baby and toddler products, said in an announcement of the initiative.

“It’s an all too familiar story that’s happening across the country, with new Pampers research revealing that 9 out of 10 dads have gone into a public restroom that has not had a baby changing table,” Pampers added. “As part of its ‘Love the Change’ campaign, Pampers is proud to announce they’re providing 5,000 changing tables for public restrooms across North America by 2021, so more dads and babies can #LoveTheChange together when they’re out-and-about.”

The initiative was inspired largely by the #SquatforChange campaign, which started after frustrated Florida father Donte Palmer posted a photo of himself, squatting on the floor of a public restroom and balancing his child on his knees while trying to change the child’s diaper.

The photo, which Palmer posted to Facebook and Instagram, went viral, and Palmer told the Washington Post he was encouraged by the response, which indicated that it was a widespread issue for dads across the country.

Kristi Hamrick, a spokesperson for the pro-life group Students for Life of America, applauded the Pampers initiative, and told CNA that it points out an age-old “discrepancy” that assumes mothers are always the ones changing their children’s diapers.

“Students for Life has always been an advocate for helping both mothers and fathers take care of their children,” she said. “In fact, we've been pointing out the discrepancy for years, because moms can use a break, and I know from experience that my husband was just as good as I was at helping our children on diaper duty.”

“A pro-life/pro-family society puts policies and infrastructure in place to help young families succeed in raising happy, healthy children. We may pursue different programming ideas, but helping families should be a goal for all of us as we all need the next generation to do well,” she added.

Hamrick noted that the initiative is similar to other efforts of Students for Life groups throughout the country, including the 2018 installment of diaper decks at the University of Wyoming, after the encouragement of the local Students for Life group, as well as efforts to support paid family leave acts in Congress.

Carol Tobias, a spokesperson for the pro-life group National Right to Life, told CNA that she welcomed the Pampers initiative, and that she imagined most mothers did too.

“Fathers seem to be more involved in the care of their children than previous generations so it makes sense that diaper-changing stations are available to help them provide that care,” she said.

According to Pampers, the installation of the diaper decks will take place over the next two years, in partnership with Koala Kare.

The companies “will identify high-need public locations and provide baby changing tables for installation in the men’s restrooms. Dads and babies visiting places such as parks and recreation centers, community centers and libraries in cities such as Cincinnati, Dallas, Philadelphia, Detroit, and many others across the U.S. and Canada, are in line to benefit from Pampers’ commitment,” Pampers announced.

Pampers noted that the first 500 locations for the installation of diaper decks have already been selected, and will be installed in the coming weeks.

St Louis University: employee who signed abortion rights letter apologized, retracted support

Fri, 06/14/2019 - 19:12

St. Louis, Mo., Jun 14, 2019 / 05:12 pm (CNA).- A group of 180 business leaders this week signed an open letter, published June 10 as a full-page advertisement in the New York Times and online, in support of abortion rights and declaring abortion restrictions “bad for business.”

“Restricting access to comprehensive reproductive care, including abortion, threatens the health, independence and economic stability of our employees and customers. Simply put, it goes against our values and is bad for business,” the letter read.

Among the original list of signatories was Cindy Mebruer, director of the Center for Supply Chain Excellence at Saint Louis University’s Richard A. Chaifetz School of Business. SLU is a Jesuit institution with a total enrollment of 13,000.

Mebruer signed the letter on behalf of the center, and the name of the university was included in the online version of the letter.   

“Saint Louis University had no knowledge of the New York Times advertisement until it was brought to the University’s attention Thursday,” the university said in a statement to CNA.

“The employee who signed the letter has apologized for including the University within the petition profile in a way that may have been misconstrued as a statement that reflects the University’s viewpoint, rather than her own personal views.”

The Center for Supply Chain Excellence is classified as a “Center of Distinction” within the Richard A. Chaifetz School of Business at the university, and offers certificate programs related to supply chain management.

“[The employee] has stated that it was not her intent to speak for the entirety of the University and upon hearing of the misunderstanding, immediately reached out to the advocacy group to request that her employer's name be removed from the statement,” the university continued.

As of Friday afternoon, neither the university, the center, nor Mebruer's name appear on the online version of the letter.

“Saint Louis University is committed to acting consistently with the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. While the University respects the freedom of conscience for each person, any official University action is in accord with SLU’s Catholic identity,” the statement concluded.

A coalition of pro-abortion organizations, including Planned Parenthood Federation of America, NARAL Pro-Choice America, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the American Civil Liberties Union coordinated the letter.  

“We, the undersigned, represent more than 108,000 workers and stand against policies that hinder people’s health, independence and ability to fully succeed in the workplace,” the letter continued.

Signatories include CEOs on behalf of multi-billion dollar corporations such as Bloomberg, H&M, Atlantic Records, and Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. The list includes a number of influential technology companies such as Slack, Zoom Video Communications, and Yelp.

Raoul Scherwitzl, the CEO of Natural Cycles, an app to track fertility, also signed the letter.

Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Square, a payment processing company, is another signatory; Dorsey is also the CEO of Twitter.

The letter was prompted, in part, by the recent passage of laws restricting abortion in states such as Georgia, Alabama, and Missouri, where Saint Louis University is located.

Missouri Governor Mike Parson signed the “Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act” in May, which criminalizes performing abortions after eight weeks in the state, except when the life of a mother is determined to be in danger.

The law criminalizes the performance of abortions or the prescribing of medical abortions, punishable as a Class B felony, for doctors and medical professionals. It does not penalize women who obtain abortions. Class B felonies are punishable by 5-15 years in prison in the state of Missouri.

St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson applauded the new law, calling it a “giant step forward for the pro-life movement.”

Should Catholics attend 'pride' events?

Fri, 06/14/2019 - 17:50

Denver, Colo., Jun 14, 2019 / 03:50 pm (CNA).- On June 1, Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence tweeted that Catholics should not attend Pride events during the month of June, which is commemorated as “Pride Month” throughout the United States.

“A reminder that Catholics should not support or attend LGBTQ ‘Pride Month’ events held in June,” Tobin tweeted. “They promote a culture and encourage activities that are contrary to Catholic faith and morals. They are especially harmful for children.”

By the following day, the bishop issued another statement after widespread backlash against his original tweet.

“The Catholic Church has respect and love for members of the gay community, as do I,” Tobin said, adding that “individuals with same-sex attraction are beloved children of God and our brothers and sisters.” While the bishop expressed regret that some people took offense at his tweet, he did not apologize for or retract any of the content of his original statement.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly teaches what Tobin tweeted: that people with same-sex attraction must be treated with love and respect, and that the promotion of same-sex sexual relationships is contrary to faith and morals, and God’s plan for human sexuality.

Given these two teachings, what should a Catholic do if invited to participate in “Pride” events?

How Pride month started

The commemoration of June as “Pride Month” was officially established by President Bill Clinton in 1999, but it was already being unofficially celebrated for decades prior to that.

Pride Day, which eventually grew to be Pride Month, has been commemorated since June 1969, during the Stonewall Uprising, when activists and other New Yorkers took to the streets to protest against police raids at the Stonewall Inn, a popular bar and lounge at the time for people identifying as gay and lesbian.

Today, Pride Month is celebrated throughout the U.S. with parades, parties and concerts celebrating the gay rights movement and celebrating the LGBT lifestyle.

CCC 2358

Chris Stefanick, a Catholic author, speaker and lay minister at Real Life Catholic, said in a video posted to his Facebook page that he would not be attending “Pride” events, and that he also discouraged other Catholics from doing so, especially with children.

“The Catechism of the Catholic Church is really clear about this,” Stefanick said. He cited the Catechism’s paragraph 2358, which states that people with same-sex attraction “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”

Stefanick noted in his video that “Pride” events, in their origin, were largely about speaking up against just that - unjust discrimination and harsh treatment towards LGBT people.

“I agree with the Catechism on that because I’m a devout, card-carrying Catholic. If that’s all that ‘Pride’ parades were about, I would show up, I would march in one, and I would have a t-shirt that said ‘Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2358.’ Right? Because it would be a Catechism of the Catholic Church 2358 parade!” he said.

But “Pride Parades” today encompass a much larger agenda than anti-discrimination, Stefanick said.

“They’re largely funded by, supported by, attended by, the secular LGBT agenda. And while one sliver of what they’re standing for and pushing against in society is upholding the dignity of the person, which I would agree with, there’s a whole lot more that they’re pushing for that’s directly against my faith,” he said.

In follow-up comments to CNA via email, Stefanick said that that video cost him a donor, who accused Stefanick of being unloving for his opposition to attending Pride events. In a subsequent email to that donor, Stefanick reiterated that he was attempting to approach the issue out of love for all people, and in line with his faith.

“So much confusion exists around this issue,”  Stefanick said.

“And that confusion is often perpetuated by people in Church leadership who add to the world's perception that anything said with clarity is hateful and hurtful and bigoted. It's perpetuated by people who refuse to clarify which aspects of the LGBT movement we agree with, and which ones we have to absolutely reject...not because we're moralists, but because Jesus Christ is the fulfillment and happiness we're looking for, and nothing else will do!”

How to love without compromise

Courage is a Catholic organization for people with same-sex attraction and for those who love them. It supports them in leading a chaste life and building community and deep friendships with others in the Church who support them.

Courage is active in about two-thirds of the Catholic dioceses of the U.S., as well as in multiple other countries, with more than 150 Courage Chapters and just under 100 Encourage Chapters. Encourage is the apostolate for relatives and loved ones of people who identify as LGBT.

Fr. Philip Bochanski, the executive director of Courage, told CNA that Catholics should keep in mind that Pride events “were originally meant to draw attention to unjust discrimination and harsh and sometimes even violent treatment against people because of their sexual attractions and their understanding of their sexual identity.”

“And so the idea that we ought to call that out and condemn it is simple. That's something that The Church is fully in agreement with,” he said, also referencing CCC 2358.

“And a letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith from 1986 goes even further and says: 'It's deplorable that homosexual people have been and are the object of violence malice in speech and in action, and that such behavior deserves condemnation from the Church's pastors whenever it occurs,’” Bochanski added.

“The Church has always been in agreement that people who are living with these experiences should not be discriminated against unjustly and should not be treated with malice or violence,” he said.

But the Church also teaches that the answer to the unjust treatment of people identifying as LGBT “is not to change the Church's teaching or to say that homosexual relationships are good or moral, but the answer really should be to teach the truth more clearly about the dignity of the human person, and call all of our brothers and sisters to a life in holiness which always includes the virtue of chastity, among the other virtues,” he said.

Bochanski added that he has some Catholic friends, many of whom are involved in the Courage apostolate, who attend Pride events -- though not as participants or marchers.

“They're there along the route offering words of encouragement about God's love and the inherent dignity of every person, talking about the virtue of chastity, offering people friendship and support and if they'd like to know more about what the Catholic Church teaches about same-sex attraction, offering them support if they want to understand what chastity means and how to embrace it.”

Still, he said, while it may be good for some people to attend Pride events in order to witness to God’s love and the teachings of the Church, it would be “foolish to ignore the reality” that sometimes, at some of these events, some people display “images that can be lewd and in some cases offensive and scandalous and especially for younger people.”

“(Catholics) have to be very prudent and careful about that reality and not expose ourselves to situations we can't control that are offensive or obscene, or raise issues that a person is too young to understand,” he noted.

Bochanski said that Catholics can love those who identify as LGBT by being willing to listen seriously to them, and by accompanying them on a path of holiness.

“I think that trying to welcome and accompany people as Jesus would do really starts with a willingness to listen to where people are coming from and what they're going through,” he said.  

“So, I often say, a person who wants to spread the Good News and lead people to understand God's plan for sexuality and relationships and virtues like chastity...(should) say, first of all, 'I love you very much,'” to such a person, he said.

“Second, 'I believe that God has a plan for your life and for your relationships and for sexuality, and if you follow that plan, it's going to lead you to be happy.' And third, 'I want to hear your story so that we can see your story in light of the Gospel story and we can walk together as we see that path that God has marked out for us,'” Bochanski added.

He also said that it’s important to present the fullness of the truth of God’s plan for sexuality, which is a Church teaching that cannot change: “that's always going to be true, because it comes from the Word of God.”

Bochanski emphasized loving people with same-sex attractions as full persons, and helping them to see that their identity does not lie solely within their sexuality. This is the reason the apostolate typically uses the terms “people with same-sex attractions” rather than “gay” or “lesbian,” for example.

“(A)s we're striving to love someone, we shouldn't label them or encourage them to label themselves according to their sexual attractions, saying 'this is who I am and how God made me,'” he said, “because it's not telling the whole truth about the nature of the human person and the nature of God's plan for our bodies, our sexuality, our relationships.”


 

Bea Cuasay and Michelle McDaniel contributed to this report.

What’s going to bring the ‘nones’ back to the Church?

Fri, 06/14/2019 - 16:49

Baltimore, Md., Jun 14, 2019 / 02:49 pm (CNA).- As the U.S. bishops gathered in Baltimore this week, primarily to vote on proposals to respond to the clergy abuse crisis, another crisis loomed large with no easy solutions—how to evangelize the “nones,” or people with no religious affiliation.
 
Bishop Robert Barron, auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles and chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, delivered a presentation on Tuesday morning at the annual spring meeting of the U.S. bishops on “this massive attrition of our own people, particularly the young” from the Church. He exhorted fellow bishops “to look at this issue of who are the unaffiliated, why are they leaving, and how do we get them back.”
 
He presented some sobering statistics: for every one person joining the Church today, 6.45 are leaving. Almost eight in ten leave by the age of 23, and the median age for leaving the Church is just 13 years old.
 
Where are they going? While roughly one quarter are becoming Evangelical, and another 25 percent are joining another religion or denomination of Christianity, half are simply atheist, agnostic, or without any religious affiliation, Barron said.

“Most are ambivalent about religion rather than hostile to it,” he noted.
 
They are leaving Catholicism primarily because “they don’t believe it,” he told CNA in an interview on Thursday. Regarding “the questions about God and about Jesus and about eternal life and about the soul,” he said, “they don’t believe it. They think religion’s at odds with science. That comes through all the time.”
 
Bishop Christopher Coyne of Burlington, Vt., agreed with the assessment that a primary reason for young people leaving the Church is a lack of belief. However, he challenged the assumption that there are clear-cut intellectual reasons why teenagers as young as 13 are leaving the Church. “The question that popped into my head was were they really believing (in the first place)?” he said of the statistic.  
 
According to Barron, some of the other common reasons given for lack of religious affiliation are a perceived intolerance of revealed religion, opposition to being told what to do, a belief in a personal relationship with God outside of revealed religion, and a perception that religion is anti-science or anti-rational.
 
Some of the reasons Barron gave for the migration of young people away from the Church are secularism, and with it, a culture of relativism “which gives rise to the self-invention culture (of)...I decide who I am. I decide what I believe.”
 
Thus, when the Church makes objective claims and preaches dogmas and doctrines, “that meets with a lot of resistance,” particularly teachings on sexuality and morality which are a “stumbling block for a lot of people,” Barron added.
 
However, despite recent revelations of clerical sex abuse and misconduct and cover-up by bishops and prelates, the abuse crisis has not played a primary role in young people departing the Church, both bishops said.
 
“It’s not been certainly one of the top reasons. It’s there, but certainly not a top reason,” Barron said.
 
“All of the surveys that I’ve seen around people who have turned 18 since 2000,” Coyne said, “the abuse crisis is way, way down on the list of why they left the Church, and why they’re not affiliated with the Church.”
 
According to a survey of the religiously unaffiliated by the Pew Research Center conducted in December of 2017, 25 percent of respondents said that “I question a lot of religious teachings” is the most important reason they do not identify with a religion, the leading reason among the “Nones” for their lack of affiliation.
 
“I think we’ve underplayed the intellectual side. We’ve undervalued what kids are capable of, intellectually,” Barron said, noting that young people are leaving the Church “more and more consciously. They are making a conscious decision—not just drifting away, but they are deciding to go. And that’s often on intellectual grounds.”
 
During his presentation to the bishops, Barron brought up University of Toronto psychology professor Jordan Peterson and his popular online discussion of the Bible as an example of young people still showing interest in religion despite having no official affiliation.
 
However, the mere mention of the controversial best-selling author of “12 Rules for Life” at the meeting of the bishops provoked backlash and claims that the conference had endorsed Peterson’s treatment of the Bible as a “model” for evangelization.
 
On Thursday. Barron clarified that he brought up Peterson not to cast him as a model for evangelization, but rather to draw attention to his online appeal and evoke questions as to why he is so popular.
 
“It really wasn’t about the content at all, except that he is talking about the Bible, which I think is really interesting, and getting millions of views with learned talks about the Bible, which aren’t bad,” Barron told CNA. “From a psychological perspective, they’re pretty good I think.”
 
He brought up Peterson “to look at the phenomenon and say maybe we’ve been underplaying what our young people are capable of. Maybe we can address these issues at a high level too.”
 
However, in addition to paying attention to intellectual currents among the religiously unaffiliated, cultural and sociological currents need to be considered as well, Coyne insisted. For example, there are trends showing that Millennials do not join parishes or social clubs at nearly the same rates as previous generations once did—and thus may be harder to reach within the traditional boundaries of parish life.
 
Furthermore, approaches to evangelization cannot be “too high-altitude,” he cautioned, because in addition to young people who are invested in intellectual debates about religion such as online forums about atheism or Jordan Peterson’s discussion of the Bible, there are many other Millennials without a college education who don’t partake in any of these discussions.
 
Vermont has one of the highest graduation rates for high school students, Coyne said, but one of the lowest rates of graduates who enter college; instead of tertiary education, they pursue careers in small business, the military or other occupations that don’t require a college degree.
 
“A 22 year-old in a double-wide in rural Vermont is not going to put the YouTube of the psychologist from Toronto on who talks about faith,” he said.
 
So what is working for evangelization in his diocese? Ideally, the faith is learned at home, practiced by the parents, and passed on to the children, he said.
 
“I would say if we’re going to try and help people raise children in the faith so as to make a good choice to stay in the faith, then they have to be disciples,” Coyne said. “I’m seeing that in a lot of our families that stay in the Church, the parents are disciples because they choose to stay in the Catholic Church.”
 
“It’s not a matter of cultural Catholicism, it’s Catholicism by choice,” he added.
 
For adults who are religiously unaffiliated and living apart from their families, there’s also networking, he said. Lay Catholics in Burlington have begun to form Catholic business associations and medical associations not unlike the guilds from centuries ago, and in the process have been able to form relationships and support each other in the faith.
 
“It’s the Holy Spirit, it’s incredible,” Coyne said. “The evangelization part is really being picked up by lay men and lay women, and they understand that evangelization is relational.”
 
“They come together, they pray, they support each other, and they also talk about the struggles of being a Catholic in the medical profession or being Catholic in the business community.”
 
For example, a local doctor started a Catholic medical association group and “they had their first meeting at my house, they had about 40 people come who are all in the medical profession, who are all Catholics who are looking to network,” Coyne said.
 
Meanwhile, regarding evangelization on the intellectual level, Barron pointed to the Catholics who are prolific in their evangelization through social media and in person such as his Word on Fire Ministries, FOCUS, St. Paul Street Evangelization, and figures such as Scott Hahn and Peter Kreeft.
 
He also admitted to other paths to the faith than through purely intellectual arguments, such as the “way of beauty” and the “way of justice.”
 
“Young people respond very much to the call to social justice,” he said. “There’s a huge part of our tradition around that, from John Chrysostom to Dorothy Day and Pope Francis. That’s a wonderful tradition.”
 
If there was one thing he could tell a lay Catholic at a parish about evangelization to others, Barron said, “don’t be afraid to tell them about your relationship with the Lord.”
 
“Don’t be afraid to share your faith, and talk about your faith and what it means to you. And people will respond to that, even if they don’t seem to at first."

 

Analysis: 'Job begun' not 'job done' in Baltimore

Fri, 06/14/2019 - 12:21

Baltimore, Md., Jun 14, 2019 / 10:21 am (CNA).- Today the bishops of the United States return home after the USCCB General Assembly.

After a week’s worth of meetings and votes, they can point to real steps taken towards healing the breach of trust between the hierarchy and the faithful. But the passage of several worthy policy documents to one side, there is much work left for the bishops to do.

After a year marked by one episcopal scandal after another, the message the bishops take back to their diocese is more “job begun” than “job done.”

Four key measures were approved by overwhelming majorities during the sessions in Baltimore.

An independently administered, national reporting mechanism is to be set up, to ensure that complaints against bishops can be processed in a clear and credible way.

Directives for applying the pope’s new universal law Vos estis lux mundi were approved, laying out a clear role for lay involvement in the implementation of the “metropolitan model” for investigating allegations.

The weight of the last year’s scandals was addressed with an “Affirmation of Our Episcopal Commitments” by all the bishops: “Because of these failures, the faithful are outraged, horrified, and discouraged,” they wrote, while rededicating themselves to their core mission as shepherds and the high standards the people pews had every right to expect of them.

The bishops also passed, virtually without comment, a set of protocols explaining how a diocesan bishop can restrict the ministry of his retired predecessor when necessary, and made clear that the USCCB president could formally disinvite retired or resigned bishops from attending conference meetings.

By passing these four reforms, the bishops have given themselves a considerable amount of homework.

Contracting a vendor for the independent national reporting line has been left to the conference leadership, and will take some time to put in place – though it will be up and running no later than May next year. But once a complaint is made, the hotline will have to alert the appropriate metropolitan archbishop or senior suffragan -as well as the competent lay person each has designated to help in such cases.

Accounting for every metropolitan and senior suffragan, this means that for the national reporting mechanism to come online, 64 lay people have to be identified, trained, and put in place across the country – no small task. The USCCB have promised a set of guidelines to help with this process by Labor Day.

The question of lay involvement also carries over to the directives implementing Vos estis. During a closed meeting this week of the country’s 32 metropolitans, there was, according to more than one archbishop, unanimous agreement about the “indispensable” role of independent lay experts. But ensuring that each archbishop– and each senior suffragan bishop – can put in place an expert suitably qualified to add value to the process of evaluating allegations will not be done overnight.

Much work is still needed on the standards against which allegations are to be assessed.

The affirmation of episcopal responsibility commits every bishop to publish “clear explanations as to what constitutes sexual misconduct with adults, as well as what constitutes sexual harassment of adults.” Set within the wider question of what constitutes the sexual abuse of a “vulnerable” adult raised by Vos estis, every bishop in the country is now committed to drawing “clear” lines against which the often very messy facts of individual cases, a legal and pastoral challenge the size of which many might not yet fully appreciate.

On Thursday, Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark told CNA that there would necessarily be different definitions of misconduct and harassment in different dioceses, because each had to reflect civil laws in each state. Thirteen states plus the District of Columbia have laws criminalizing sexual contact between a religious minister and a congregant. But how such distinctions will play out canonically could prove problematic – few will likely be impressed if a bishop in one diocese can escape unpunished for behavior that would be termed serious misconduct in another.

Technical questions like these went largely undiscussed on the assembly floor in Baltimore, with debate finishing nearly two hours ahead of schedule – something which many of the bishops may yet come to see as a missed opportunity.

It is possible that having had to wait since their last meeting in November to pass measures aimed at showing substantive progress in response to scandals like that of former cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the U.S. bishops were in a hurry to cast their votes. But in their haste, the bishops may also have passed up a pastoral opportunity to speak directly to the faithful.

While acknowledging the “outrage and horror” of the faithful at the behavior of some bishops, few in the assembly hall expressed those emotions at the microphone.

While passing the protocols to limit the ministry of retired or resigned bishops under clouds of serious scandal, there was no debate or conversation about the clear cases to which they could be usefully and immediately applied.

While the president of the conference can now formally disinvite retired bishops from future meetings, no bishop rose to suggest this be extended immediately to cover, for example, Cardinal Roger Mahony, who attended the last session in November; Bishop Robert Finn, who was in Baltimore this week; Archbishop John Neinstedt; or Bishop Michael Bransfield, who was at the center of a damning report released just prior to the June meeting.

Seeing the bishops overcome their squeamishness at calling out their scandalous brethren is, to many faithful, more than just an exercise in catharsis.

Anonymous votes may signal unity, but they are unlikely to displace McCarrick as the image that comes to mind for many when they think of the American bishops; individual bad cases may be the small minority, but the majority remain essentially faceless for many ordinary Catholics. For all the solidarity behind the reforming measures in Baltimore, the assembly lacked a clear, urgent, moral voice denouncing the sins of the few and sharing the anger, not just the sadness of the faithful.

As they return to their dioceses, the bishops have considerable work still to do before they meet again. Much of that essential work will take place in chancery offices, but the more urgent – and likely more fruitful – work will be in the pulpit.

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