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ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
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US bishops speak up on school choice as Supreme Court hears case

Wed, 01/22/2020 - 18:05

Washington D.C., Jan 22, 2020 / 04:05 pm (CNA).- States should not deny tax credit programs to families who choose religious private schools, said members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops as the Supreme Court hears oral arguments in a case addressing the issue of school choice.

“The case before the Supreme Court today concerns whether the Constitution offers states a license to discriminate against religion,” said Bishop George Murry of Youngstown, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee for Religious Liberty, and Bishop Michael Barber of Oakland, head of the Committee on Catholic Education.

“Our country’s tradition of non-establishment of religion does not mean that governments can deny otherwise available benefits on the basis of religious status,” they said in a Jan. 22 statement.

“Indeed, religious persons and organizations should, like everyone else, be allowed to participate in government programs that are open to all. This is an issue of justice for people of all faith communities.”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) filed an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue. Kendra Espinoza, a mother of two daughters attending a Christian school in Kalispell, Montana, is the lead plaintiff in the case.

An 1889 amendment to the Montana state constitution, known as a Blaine Amendment, prohibits both direct and indirect state aid to religious institutions. The amendment was passed a second time when the state constitution was revised and rewritten in 1972.

The Montana Supreme Court originally decided the case 5-2 during late 2018.

That ruling found that the state’s tax credit program, which began in 2015 and provided for a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for a person’s donation to nonprofit student scholarship organizations, was allowing the Montana legislature to “indirectly pay tuition at private, religiously-affiliated schools” in violation of state law.

The Supreme Court granted cert to the case June 28, 2019.

Montana is just one of 38 states with similar “no-aid” provisions in its constitution, NPR reports.

So-called Blaine Amendments have their roots in anti-Catholic sentiment of the late 19th century, according to historians and religious liberty advocates.

In the years following the Civil War, there was widespread suspicion and even open hostility toward Catholics in the U.S., especially toward immigrant Catholic populations from Europe.

Public schools at the time were largely Protestant, with no single Christian denomination in charge, and many Catholics attended parochial schools which were seen as “sectarian” by prominent public figures, historian John T. McGreevy explained in his book “Catholicism and American Freedom.”

Public figures, he notes, including one current and one future U.S. president at the time, pushed against taxpayer funding of Catholic schools and even advocated for an increase in the taxation of Catholic Church property in the U.S.

President Ulysses S. Grant pushed for a 1875 federal amendment by Sen. James Blaine of Maine that prohibited taxpayer funding of “sectarian” schools – the original “Blaine Amendment.” It failed in the Senate, but the federal amendment took form at the state level and many states eventually passed versions of the bill barring state funding of Catholic schools.

In the Supreme Court’s 2000 decision Mitchell v. Helms, a four-justice plurality insisted that the Blaine Amendment’s motive to deny public funding of “sectarian” institutions was bigoted, particularly against Catholics. The court ruled that a religious school could receive a federal grant under certain conditions.

In 2017, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer that a church property couldn’t be barred from a state renovation program simply on account of its religious affiliation.

“This case [Espinoza] is not only about constitutional law. It is about whether our nation will continue to tolerate this strain of anti-Catholic bigotry,” the bishops continued.

“Blaine Amendments...were never meant to ensure government neutrality towards religion, but were expressions of hostility toward the Catholic Church. We hope that the Supreme Court will take this opportunity to bring an end to this shameful legacy.”

The Second Vatican Council's 1965 declaration on Christian education, Gravissimum educationis, said that parents “must enjoy true liberty in their choice of schools.”

“Consequently, the public power, which has the obligation to protect and defend the rights of citizens, must see to it, in its concern for distributive justice, that public subsidies are paid out in such a way that parents are truly free to choose according to their conscience the schools they want for their children,” the document states.

President Donald Trump on Jan. 16 issued new rules for nine federal agencies. The rules seek to ensure that federal government social service programs are administered in line with the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, so that religious groups are not barred simply on account of their religious status.

The National Catholic Educational Association, which includes more than 150,000 educators serving 1.9 million Catholic school students across the U.S., is supportive of a proposed plan to create a federal tax credit-based scholarship program that could provide a boost for parents who want to send their children to Catholic school. The proposed scheme, which the U.S. Department of Education calls Education Freedom Scholarships, would be funded through taxpayers’ voluntary contributions to state-identified Scholarship Granting Organizations.

Should the proposal become law, donors will receive a federal tax credit equal to their contribution.

 

Archbishop Chaput asks Pakistani PM to follow through on religious liberty

Wed, 01/22/2020 - 18:01

Philadelphia, Pa., Jan 22, 2020 / 04:01 pm (CNA).- On behalf of Philadelphia’s Pakistani Catholic community, Archbishop Charles Chaput encouraged the Pakistani prime minister Tuesday to shape a culture of religious freedom in the country.

“I urge you to make every effort to secure the full rights of Pakistan’s citizens of every religion. And please understand that I will be pressing this issue vigorously in the American public square on behalf of Philadelphia and other Pakistani Catholics,” the Archbishop of Philadelphia wrote Jan. 21 to Imran Khan, prime minister of Pakistan.

The letter, published in First Things, highlighted the Pakistani Catholic community in the Philadelphia area, whom Archbishop Chaput said “are grateful for their Pakistani heritage” and “whose Catholic faith was nourished in Pakistan.” He added, however, that “the hardships now faced by Christians in Pakistan profoundly concern them.”

The archbishop encouraged Khan to “work urgently to assure true religious liberty for all citizens of Pakistan, especially for members of minority faiths.”

Pakistan's state religion is Islam, and around 97 percent of the population is Muslim.

The country was designated, for the first time, a “Country of Particular Concern” in December 2018 for its religious freedom record by the US Department of State. The designation had been recommended by the US Commission for International Religious Freedom in 2017 and 2018.

Archbishop Chaput noted that despite this designation, Sam Brownback, US ambassador at large for religious freedom, had in February 2019 “indicated that your nation shows a sincere 'desire to change' for the better on this issue. I thank you for your willingness to pursue that positive change.”

“I believe in the honest intentions of many in the Pakistani government to assure full religious freedom for their nation. But Pakistan still does not fully protect the religious liberty of all of its citizens,” the archbishop pointed out.

He cited reports that religious minorities in Pakistan face “chronic hostility, harassment, and persecution,” and that the government “seems to do little to ensure their personal safety and their
full participation in public life.”

This situation, he said, is both unjust and it “aggravates misunderstandings and resentments of Islam among American Christians and other concerned U.S. citizens.”

Archbishop Chaput noted in particular the abuse of Pakistan's blasphemy laws; economic inopportunity for religious minorities; and attacks on minority houses of worship.

Pakistan's blasphemy laws impose strict punishment on those who desecrate the Quran or who defame or insult Muhammad. Although the government has never executed a person under the blasphemy laws, accusations alone have inspired mob and vigilante violence.

The laws, introduced in the 1980s, are reportedly used to settle scores or to persecute religious minorities; while non-Muslims constitute only 3 percent of the Pakistani population, 14 percent of blasphemy cases have been levied against them.

Many of those accused of blasphemy are murdered, and advocates of changing the law are also targeted by violence.

Citing such problems, the archbishop said that “a reform of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, and its investigation and prosecution procedures, is thus urgently needed.”

Turning to economic problems, he said that the government has long “promised to provide quotas for public and education sector jobs for Christians and other religious minorities … but such promises have not been fulfilled, and members of religious minorities in Pakistan still face job and opportunity discrimination.”

In 2013 the then-governing party, the Pakistan Muslim League (N), promised a quota for jobs in the educational institutes and the public sector for members of religious minorities. The Pakistan Peoples Party discussed an Equality Commission to monitor job quotas in Sindh.

Both parties are now in the opposition in the national parliament, and the proposed safeguards have not been put into action.

Finally, Archbishop Chaput said, “police too often fail to protect non-Muslim sacred spaces,” which have been frequently attacked.

“Little effort is made to prosecute and bring to justice the perpetrators of this religious hatred,” the archbishop stated.

“I do believe in the good will of many citizens of Pakistan and many members of your government,” Archbishop Chaput told Khan.

“I also know that Pakistan faces many economic and social challenges, and you have the difficult task of managing them. I respect the demands of your office, and I gladly pray for both justice and success in your public service.”

On 'Roe' anniversary, bishops announce parish initiative to help pregnant women  

Wed, 01/22/2020 - 17:06

Washington D.C., Jan 22, 2020 / 03:06 pm (CNA).- While lamenting the anniversaries of the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decisions that mandate legal abortion nationwide, the U.S. bishops announced the launch of a project that aims to mobilize Catholic parishes to help pregnant women in need.

“January 22 marks the sorrowful anniversary of the tragic Supreme Court decisions of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, which legalized abortion through all nine months of pregnancy,” Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, said Jan. 21.

“The Church will never abandon her efforts to reverse these terrible decisions that have led to the deaths of millions of innocent children and the traumatization of countless women and families.”

The Catholic Church in the U.S. commemorates January 22 as the National Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children.

Naumann said the Catholic bishops’ pro-life committee is asking all bishops to invite their parishes to take part in the initiative “Walking with Moms in Need: A Year of Service.”

“Everyone in the parish community should know where to refer a pregnant woman in need,” the Walking With Moms in Need website says. The initiative was presented to U.S. bishops during their November 2019 plenary meeting.

Observers of the Supreme Court expect significant changes to the 1973 abortion precedents, given recent appointments to the court under President Donald Trump.

Many states have passed restrictions on abortion that face court challenge. The Trump administration and some local states have implemented regulations that hinder or prevent government funding for abortion providers like Planned Parenthood.

A January 2020 Marist Poll sponsored by the Knights of Columbus suggests that most Americans favor returning abortion restrictions to the states or ending legal abortion altogether.

About 65% of registered voters said they are more likely to vote for candidates who would limit abortion to the first three months of pregnancy, at most. At the same time, the survey indicated that 55% of Americans self-identify as pro-choice, while 40% identify as pro-life.
 
“Most Americans want the court to reinterpret Roe either by stopping legalized abortion or by returning the issue to the states,” Supreme Knight Carl Anderson of the Knights of Columbus said Jan. 22.

Naumann reflected on the possibility of changes to the status quo on abortion.
 
“As the Church and growing numbers of pro-life Americans continue to advocate for women and children in courthouses and legislatures, the Church’s pastoral response is focused on the needs of women facing pregnancies in challenging circumstances,” he said. “While this has long been the case, the pastoral response will soon intensify.”
 
The Walking With Moms In Need initiative is set to begin March 25 and end March 25, 2021. The initiative is planned around the idea that women can be most effectively reached at the local level.

The year of service, Naumann said, “invites parishes to assess, communicate, and expand resources to expectant mothers within their own communities.”

Project leaders are developing tools for parishes to document local resources for pregnant mothers in need, and will provide ideas to improve parish responses to pregnant mothers and specially written prayers to build “a culture of life and a civilization of love,” the website says.

The project is designed to reflect the teachings of Pope John Paul II’s 1995 encyclical Evangelium vitae as well as Pope Francis’ 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium and his 2015 encyclical Laudato si.

Naumann said he prays that the project “will help us reach every pregnant mother in need, that she may know she can turn to her local Catholic community for help and authentic friendship.”

Virginia parish to hold holy hour against planned black mass

Wed, 01/22/2020 - 17:00

Richmond, Va., Jan 22, 2020 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- A parish in Chesapeake, Virginia will host a Holy Hour of Reparation on Saturday to spiritually combat a scheduled black mass to be held at a bar in nearby Norfolk. A separately organized  rosary rally is planned for outside the bar at the time of the event. 

“We’re holding the Holy Hour at our parish to combat the attacks on the Holy Mother Church and the Holy Mass,” an employee of the parish of St. Benedict told CNA on Jan. 22. 

“This is our way of fighting back,” she said. 

The counter-events were announced on the Facebook page for Eucharistia, a eucharistic procession through the Hampton Roads area of southern Virginia. 

The black mass is scheduled to occur at Pourhouse of Norfolk, located about eight miles from St. Benedict’s church. 

The Diocese of Richmond told CNA they are encouraging everyone to pray for those who are involved in the black mass, and to stay vigilant at protecting the Eucharist. 

“We support the efforts of Father Eric Ayers, who is the dean of the Norfolk Deanery, and our other local pastors who are offering prayers, a Holy Hour(s) of Adoration and rosaries at our parishes as a result of this private, Norfolk business holding such an event,” Deborah Cox, director of communications for the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, said to CNA in a statement. 

“We ask for all the faithful in the area to pray for the conversion of hearts of the individuals holding such an event and to continue to be attentive at safeguarding the Holy Eucharist.”

On the Facebook page promoting the black mass, attendees are invited to join Satanic Norfolk to “boldly cast off lingering indoctrination of past religious beliefs.”

“Consecrated communion wafers were kindly donated for this blasphemous event,” the event adds. It is unclear if consecrated hosts will actually be used, and, if so, how they were obtained. On Twitter, event organizer Kate Cobas said that she fed “consecrated communion wafers” to her dog, who proceeded to spit them out.

Past black masses, which initially claimed to use consecrated hosts, later admitted the bread was purchased from a religious supplier and was not consecrated. 

On another event page, participants are told there will be an “un-baptism” after the black mass, which will then be followed by live performances from black metal bands. Catholic Church teaches that baptism is permanent and can not be reversed.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “Baptism not only purifies from all sins, but also makes the neophyte ‘a new creature,’ an adopted son of God, who has become a ‘partaker of the divine nature,’ member of Christ and co-heir with him, and a temple of the Holy Spirit.” The 

The Pourhouse of Norfolk did not respond to CNA’s request for a comment.

DOJ files brief in support of Ohio Down syndrome abortion ban

Wed, 01/22/2020 - 12:00

Washington D.C., Jan 22, 2020 / 10:00 am (CNA).- The Department of Justice is officially supporting Ohio’s Down syndrome abortion ban before a federal circuit court.

In a friend-of-the-court brief filed on Tuesday with the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said that Ohio’s law is constitutional, protects vulnerable individuals and mothers from coercive abortions, and upholds the integrity of the medical profession.

“The federal government has an interest in the equal dignity of those who live with disabilities,” Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division stated. “Nothing in the Constitution requires Ohio to authorize abortion providers to participate in abortions the providers know are based on Down syndrome.”

The law bans doctors from performing abortions in cases where a positive test or prenatal diagnosis indicates Down syndrome, or where there is “[a]ny other reason to believe that an unborn child has Down syndrome.” The bill was signed into law by former Gov. John Kasich in December of 2017.

Under the law’s provisions, mothers are explicitly excluded from prosecution for abortions in such cases, while doctors who knowingly performed the abortions could be charged with fourth-degree felony or could face the loss of their medical license or liability for damages.

After organizations including Planned Parenthood and the ACLU sued over the law, a district court judge blocked it from going into effect in March of 2018. Judge Timothy Black ruled that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed in their argument that the law unconstitutionally blocked abortion access in cases of pre-viability of the baby.

A partial panel of the Sixth Circuit upheld that decision in October of 2019, in a 2-1 decision. The Sixth Circuit decided to rehear the case before the full court.

“This Ohio law prevents discrimination against individuals with Down syndrome,” said Justin E. Herdman, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio. 

Federal law already prohibits disability discrimination in a variety of cases, the DOJ argued in its amicus brief, including through the Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act expressly bars discrimination in health insurance and employment regarding an individual’s genetic information, the DOJ said, including that “of any fetus carried by [a] pregnant woman.” 

Ohio’s law does not pose an unlawful “undue burden” on women’s access to abortion, the brief argued.

“The law does not create a substantial obstacle to obtaining a pre-viability abortion. It certainly does not create a substantial obstacle for a large fraction of affected women—let alone all such women. And regardless, any burdens would be outweighed by the law’s substantial benefits,” the DOJ argued.

Supreme Court will not fast track new ACA appeal

Wed, 01/22/2020 - 11:00

Washington D.C., Jan 22, 2020 / 09:00 am (CNA).- The Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to fast-track hearing a new appeal of the Affordable Care Act. The decision comes after the act’s individual mandate was struck down by a federal circuit court.

In December, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate and sent the case back to the district courts to decide if the rest of the law could still be enforced without the mandate.

In 2012, the Supreme Court upheld most of the law, ruling the individual mandate a “tax” that was within Congress’ authority to require. Once the Trump administration removed the penalty for not complying with the mandate, the state of Texas sued the Trump administration, arguing that the penalty was no longer a tax.

The Fifth Circuit’s decision was appealed to the Supreme Court. After the decision, members of the House of Representatives joined 19 states along with the District of Columbia and Democratic Governor Andy Beshear of Kentucky, in asking the Supreme Court for expedited consideration of the appeal.

The 19 states were California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota (by and through its Department of Commerce), Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.

“Because of the practical importance of the questions presented for review and the pressing need for their swift resolution by this Court, petitioners respectfully request that the Court consider the petition on an expedited schedule described below and, if the Court grants the petition, that it set an expedited merits briefing and oral argument schedule so that it may decide the case this Term,” the states argued.

The law was enacted in 2010, at which time the U.S. bishops’ conference supported its goals of expanding affordable health coverage, but ultimately opposed the law in part because it lacked safeguards against the coverage of abortions by taxpayer-funded health plans.

The current case of the ACA is related to, but distinct from, the case of the Little Sisters of the Poor who are back at the Supreme Court again.

Under the ACA’s preventative services mandate, the Obama administration interpreted the law to require coverage of contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortion-causing drugs in employee health plans.

The contraceptive mandate was at first written with narrow religious exemptions. A subsequent “accommodation” proposed by the Obama administration also failed to protect religious non-profits, including the Little Sisters of the Poor, who said they would still be culpable in the coverage of morally-objectionable procedures.

The sisters, along with hundreds of other non-profits and for-profit businesses and corporations, sued the administration. Although the Trump administration eventually offered expanded religious and moral exemptions to the sisters and other objecting groups, Pennsylvania and California then sued the administration over the broadened religious exemption.

In 2018, the Supreme Court allowed the Little Sisters to intervene in their own case, and last week the Court agreed to hear oral arguments in their case.

Pro-life group announces $52 million war chest for 2020 election

Wed, 01/22/2020 - 09:05

Washington D.C., Jan 22, 2020 / 07:05 am (CNA).- A pro-life political group has announced its plans to support President Donald Trump and pro-life senatorial candidates in their 2020 election campaigns. The announcement comes after Planned Parenthood announced its own plans to spend an unprecedented amount during the 2020 elections.

The Susan B. Anthony List and Women Speak Out PAC, its partner super PAC, said Friday it has plans to spend $52 million in the 2020 election cycle. 

Mallory Quigley, national spokeswoman for the group, told CNA the amount is “the largest budget for any election cycle that we’ve ever had.”

News of the pro-life group’s campaign war chest followed an announcement last week that Planned Parenthood Votes will spend $45 million in a “We Decide 2020” campaign to support pro-abortion candidates at the presidential, congressional, and state levels—the largest election spending in Planned Parenthood’s history.

Spending by SBA List will focus on a strong “ground game” in battleground states. While the group will invest in digital media, mail and phone calls, it will prioritize door-knocking and face-to-face interaction, Quigley told CNA.

“The stakes are very high. We are up against a very well-funded opponent,” Quigley added. 

The $52 million budget of SBA List and Women Speak Out “still pales in comparison to the resources of the pro-abortion lobby and their allies,” she said.

“And so that’s why we prioritize face-to-face communication with voters, one-on-one conversations, and hopefully we will be successful.” 

The group plans a two-pronged strategy focused on turning out “unreliable pro-life voters” and reaching “persuadable voters” in swing states, by emphasizing the “radical” agenda of the pro-abortion lobby, according to a Jan. 16 memo released by SBA List’s national campaign director Tim Edson.

The group will hire state directors, regional field staff, and 100 to 200 pro-life canvassers “to expose the extremism of pro-abortion candidates, and identify the clear pro-life choice in the election, one door and one conversation at a time,” the memo says.

All candidates vying for the Democratic presidential nomination support taxpayer funding of abortions through a repeal of the Hyde Amendment. A majority of those candidates have said they would codify Roe v. Wade in federal law, appoint only pro-abortion judges, and push for over-the-counter availability of abortion pills. Some candidates have said they would support abortion access until birth.

Donor support of the efforts will come from pro-life activists around the country, Quigley said, and the campaign will target battleground states in the presidential election along with certain Senate races.

“The goal is very simple: re-elect the most pro-life president in our nation’s history, and safeguard the pro-life majority that we have in the U.S. Senate,” Quigley told CNA.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, SBA List’s president, chaired Trump’s pro-life coalition in 2016 after, months before, signing a letter with other women leaders urging Iowa Republicans in advance of the state’s caucus to “support anyone but Donald Trump.”

In September 2016, however, Trump the GOP nominee made specific promises to the pro-life movement including that he would nominate pro-life justices to the Supreme Court, sign a 20-week “pain-capable” abortion ban, defund Planned Parenthood, and codify the Hyde Amendment.

Although Trump has not signed a “pain-capable” bill—one has not cleared both chambers of Congress to reach his desk—he has appointed two justices to the Supreme Court and more than a quarter of federal appeals court judges. In addition, his administration has started stripping abortion providers or promoters, both in the U.S. and overseas, of federal funding.

“President Trump’s been the first president to have an impact on Planned Parenthood’s taxpayer funding,” Quigley said. “They gave up $60 million when he issued the Protect Life Rule concerning Title X.”

Key Senate races—among them, the re-election of Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and the race of John James in Michigan—will form most of the rest of the 2020 campaign by SBA List and Women Speak Out.

While pro-abortion Democrats currently hold a clear majority in the House—the group Democrats for Life in 2018 only endorsed two sitting members of the House—pro-lifers hold a slim majority in the Senate.

SBA List has already begun knocking on doors in Arizona, Florida, and North Carolina, where the organization has been active for multiple years, reaching 460,000 voters.

The group plans to expand its efforts to Iowa, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin, battleground states where the organization says it “could reach four million voters before election day” with its war chest.

For House and state-level races, the group will try to assist in states where it is already active on other campaigns, Quigley said, but Senate races and the presidential election will be the main focus of attention and spending.

As far as whether resources will be devoted to any pro-life Democratic candidates, Quigley said “What we’ve announced today is what we’ve announced today. It’s our plan to re-elect the President and safeguard our pro-life majority in the U.S. Senate.”

In a Jan. 10 interview with CNA, Quigley highlighted the group’s 2018 support for Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), a pro-life eight-term Catholic congressman who faced a primary challenge centered on his pro-life commitment. SBA List said it had mobilized 70 canvassers to visit 17,000 “pro-life Democrat households” in Lipinski’s Illinois third district, and the group spent more than $100,000 supporting his 2018 candidacy. 

Earlier this month, SBA List told CNA that it would again support Lipinski’s campaign. 

Although Lipinski again faces a primary challenge from pro-abortion candidate Marie Newman, Quigley said Friday that SBA plans to help bundle funds for Lipinski, but not to spend money from its war chest on his campaign. 

Bundling is the practice of organizing candidate support from a network or donor pool.

Support for particular campaigns has not yet been announced because, with ten months until election day, “this is still very early,” Quigley said. “A lot of these Senate races, we’re still in the primary.”

Trump administration considers travel bans on up to seven more countries

Tue, 01/21/2020 - 21:01

Washington D.C., Jan 21, 2020 / 07:01 pm (CNA).- More travel bans and restrictions could be coming from the Trump administration, with up to seven countries targeted.

Citizens of Belarus, Burma, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania could face more travel restrictions, as initially reported by the news site Politico. The restrictions could be announced Jan. 27, the third anniversary of the administration’s first travel bans.

The restrictions under consideration are not finalized and might not necessarily be a complete ban, but rather could apply only to certain government officials or certain types of visas, like business or visitor visas.

Some countries the Trump administration is considering for new travel restrictions have had good relations with the U.S. or have been the subjects of U.S. efforts to improve relations, Politico reports.

The administration has justified travel restrictions as an anti-terrorism measure, saying the travelers are not adequately vetted.

The original executive order was issued Jan. 27, 2017, prompting hundreds of demonstrators to gather at airports. The first order denied visas to citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries.

The order was modified and went through several court challenges. In its current form it restricts entry of some citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Venezuela, and North Korea. Chad was on the original list, but was removed.

Lawyers, advocates for Muslim immigrants, and other critics said the administration’s travel ban still constituted a “Muslim ban” since most of the countries under the ban are Muslim-majority.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the travel ban in June 2018, ruling that President Donald Trump was acting within the limits of his authority when he enacted the travel ban on nationals from seven countries.

At the time of the ruling, leaders of the U.S. bishops’ migration committee and religious freedom committee said the travel ban “targets Muslims for exclusion, which goes against our country's core principle of neutrality when it comes to people of faith.” The Supreme Court “failed to take into account the clear and unlawful targeting of a specific religious group by the government,” the bishops said.
 
Most possible additions to the list do not have travel restrictions. The Wall Street Journal said people from Eritrea, Nigeria, and Sudan on business or visitor visas appeared much more likely to overstay their permits.

This week White House spokesman Hogan Gidley did not confirm to Politico any details about expanded ban or travel restrictions, but said the original order “has been profoundly successful in protecting our country and raising the security baseline around the world.”

“While there are no new announcements at this time, common sense and national security both dictate that if a country wants to fully participate in U.S. immigration programs, they should also comply with all security and counter-terrorism measures — because we do not want to import terrorism or any other national security threat into the United States,” Gidley said.

Trump first proposed a ban on Muslims entering the U.S. after a string of terrorist attacks, including a December 2015 shooting in San Bernardino, California that left 14 dead and 22 injured. The shooters were a married couple who had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group shortly before the attack. One was a U.S. citizen and the other was a Pakistani national who moved to the U.S. on a fiancée visa.

His comments drew condemnation and concern from many who worried explicitly targeting migrants based on religion was wrong in itself and would enable U.S. laws and policies targeting other religious groups.

Opposition to death penalty growing among Republicans, activists say

Tue, 01/21/2020 - 20:00

Washington D.C., Jan 21, 2020 / 06:00 pm (CNA).- The number of Republican state lawmakers opposed to capital punishment is growing, a conservative group claims, as anti-death penalty activists look forward to continued momentum from the right on this issue in 2020. 

“The nation is down to only 25 states that still have an active death penalty system, of those, over a third have not used it in a decade or more,” Hannah Cox, National Manager of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, told CNA in a statement. 

“We anticipate the downward trends to continue around capital punishment and expect to see more states join those that have repealed their systems over the next year.”

At the national level, the parties are divided on the issue.

The 2016 Republican Party platform stated that “The constitutionality of the death penalty is firmly settled by its explicit mention in the Fifth Amendment,” and that “With the murder rate soaring in our great cities, we condemn the Supreme Court’s erosion of the right of the people to enact capital punishment in their states.” 

Conversely, the 2016 Democratic Party platform called for the abolition of capital punishment, which was refered to as “arbitrary and unjust.” 

Despite the platform plank, Republican lawmakers seem relatively unafraid to introduce bills to repeal the practice. 

In the 2020 legislative season, five state legislatures are considering Republican-sponsored bills to overturn the death penalty: Colorado, Pennsylvania, Missouri, and Washington. Last year, repeal bills were introduced with Republican sponsors in 10 states. That is a two-state increase from 2018. 

Out of the 10 states that considered bills to abolish the death penalty, one, in New Hampshire, passed, and went into effect in 2019. Another, in Wyoming, failed in the Senate.

New Hampshire repealed the death penalty for anyone who was convicted of capital murder after May 30, 2019. Although the bill was initially vetoed by Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, it was overruled by a two-thirds majority in both of the state’s legislative chambers. 

In the veto vote, about 40% of the state’s Republican senators voted to overturn the death penalty. 

With New Hampshire overturning the death penalty, there are now no states in New England where capital punishment is legal. There is, however, one man on the Granite State’s death row: Michael “Stix” Addison was convicted in 2008 after murdering a police officer, Michael Biggs. Addison is still eligible for the death penalty, unless his sentence is commuted to life in prison. 

The last person executed in New Hampshire was executed in 1939. Several previous efforts in the 21st century to repeal the death penalty had failed. 

In Wyoming, the bill to repeal the death penalty died in the state Senate, which is composed of 27 Republicans and three Democrats. The bill’s main sponsor was Republican Sen. Brian Boner. 

The bill failed on a vote of 18-12. Wyoming has only executed one person since the Supreme Court ruled in 1977 that the death penalty is a legal punishment. There is nobody presently on the state’s death row.

Trump declares Jan. 22 'National Sanctity of Human Life Day'

Tue, 01/21/2020 - 18:18

Washington D.C., Jan 21, 2020 / 04:18 pm (CNA).- President Donald Trump declared Jan. 22 to be National Sanctity of Human Life Day, in a proclamation signed Monday.

“On National Sanctity of Human Life Day, our Nation proudly and strongly reaffirms our commitment to protect the precious gift of life at every stage, from conception to natural death,” Trump wrote in the proclamation.

“Every person -- the born and unborn, the poor, the downcast, the disabled, the infirm, and the elderly -- has inherent value. Although each journey is different, no life is without worth or is inconsequential; the rights of all people must be defended,” the president added.

The landmark decision Roe v. Wade, which declared a constitutional right to abortion, was decided Jan. 22, 1973.

President Ronald Reagan declared Jan. 22, 1984 to be National Sanctity of Human Life Day, and annually declared a similar day each year of his presidency. President George Bush did the same, as did President George W. Bush.

President Donald Trump declared a National Sanctity of Human Life Day in 2018 and 2019.

The president’s 2020 proclamation said that the U.S. “must remain steadfastly dedicated to the profound truth that all life is a gift from God, who endows every person with immeasurable worth and potential.”

“Countless Americans are tireless defenders of life and champions for the vulnerable among us. We are grateful for those who support women experiencing unexpected pregnancies, those who provide healing to women who have had abortions, and those who welcome children into their homes through foster care and adoption.”

“On National Sanctity of Human Life Day, we celebrate the wonderful gift of life and renew our resolve to build a culture where life is always revered,” the proclamation added.

The proclamation noted a decline in U.S. abortions and the abortion rate since 2007, and a decrease in teen pregnancies, which, Trump wrote, have contributed “to the lowest rate of abortions among adolescents since the legalization of abortion in 1973.”

“All Americans should celebrate this decline in the number and rate of abortions, which represents lives saved.  Still, there is more to be done, and, as President, I will continue to fight to protect the lives of the unborn,” Trump wrote.

The president also noted that his administration has introduced restrictions that impede recipients of federal Title X funds from providing abortions, along with conscience protections for healthcare workers and employers who object to contraceptive coverage in insurance plans.

“Additionally, I have called on the Congress to act to prohibit abortions of later-term babies who can feel pain,” the proclamation added.

Since 1973, nearly 45 million abortions in the U.S. have been reported to the CDC. Several state legislative efforts to restrict or prohibit abortion have been challenged in court in recent years, and some pro-life activists predict those judicial challenges could lead to a reversal of the Roe v. Wade decision.

Trump has said he believes laws regarding abortion should be decided at the state level, and that while he believes there should be exceptions to prohibitions on abortion, he considers himself to be pro-life.

 

 

Ruling against Trump executive order helps people flee danger, bishops say

Tue, 01/21/2020 - 16:01

Washington D.C., Jan 21, 2020 / 02:01 pm (CNA).- A federal judge’s ruling has halted President Donald Trump’s executive order that allows states and localities to refuse permission for refugee resettlement. The ruling drew praise from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which stressed the need to help refugees to safety and to maintain a uniform refugee policy.

“Today’s ruling is a welcome step in our ongoing ministry to provide refugees, who are fleeing religious persecution, war, and other dangers, with safe haven here in the United States,” said Bishop Mario Dorsonville, an auxiliary bishop of Washington who chairs the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Migration.

“Jesus Christ, who was part of a refugee family, calls us to welcome the stranger, and our pro-life commitment requires us to protect refugees,” he said Jan. 17, adding, “the Church looks forward to continue working with communities across America to welcome refugees as we uphold the dignity of all human life.”

U.S. District Judge Peter Messitte temporarily blocked Executive Order 13888, issued Sept. 26, 2019, which requires written consent from states and local entities before groups may begin to resettle refugees within their boundaries.

The order “does not appear to serve the overall public interest,” said the judge. Messitte, citing a law review article, said there is a public interest in preventing the president from “slipping the boundaries of a statutory policy and acting based on irrelevant policy preferences,” CNN reports.

The judge said the order wrongfully gave to state and local government the power to veto refugee resettlement “in the face of clear statutory text and structure, purpose Congressional intent, executive practice, judicial holdings and Congressional doctrine to the contrary.”

In response, the Trump administration said, “This is a preposterous ruling, one more example of nationwide district court injunctions run amok, and we are expeditiously reviewing all options to protect our communities and preserve the integrity of the refugee resettlement process.”

Pending the outcome of the legal case, HIAS Inc., et al v. Trump, the order will not take effect. Resettlement programs will operate under the rules prior to the order.

Dorsonville noted the Catholic bishops’ previous “deep concerns” about the executive order.

“We feared the negative consequences for refugees and their families as this Executive Order would have created a confusing patchwork across America of some jurisdictions where refugees are welcomed, and others where they are not,” he said.

He said the injunction “helps to maintain a uniform national policy of welcome to refugees and serves to maintain reunification of refugee families as a primary factor for initial resettlement.”

Dorsonville cited “robust bipartisan support” for refugees in the wake of the order, noting 42 governors and many local officials said they would approve initial resettlement.

“Once more, we see the intention to act united as a nation in the effort to provide solidarity to those who need it most and are encouraged by the compassion that this nation has towards refugees,” Dorsonville said.

The U.S. bishops said that federal officials will “diligently engage” with state and local officials to ensure local concerns are taken into account, but federal officials will have the final decision over refugee resettlement.

Gov. Gregg Abbott of Texas said Jan. 10 that Texas will not participate in the refugee resettlement program this fiscal year.

“At this time, the state and nonprofit organizations have a responsibility to dedicate available resources to those who are already here, including refugees, migrants, and the homeless—indeed, all Texans,” he said in a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. He said Texas has already been forced to “deal with disproportionate migration issues,” which he blamed on federal inaction and a broken immigration system.

He cited May 2019 figures indicating about 100,000 migrants were detained crossing Texas’ southern border.

Refugee resettlement in Texas peaked in 2009, when about 8,212 people were resettled. About 7,500 people were resettled in Texas per year from 2012-2016, the Texas Tribune reports.

The Texas Catholic bishops said the governor’s decision was “deeply discouraging and disheartening.” They asked the governor to reconsider his decision, noting that refugees contribute a great deal to society.

“While the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops respects the governor, this decision is simply misguided,” they said. “It denies people who are fleeing persecution, including religious persecution, from being able to bring their gifts and talents to our state and contribute to the general common good of all Texans.”

“As Catholics, an essential aspect of our faith is to welcome the stranger and care for the alien,” said the Texas bishops.

In a Jan. 16 letter to the editor of the Miami Herald, Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami criticized Abbott’s decision and noted the longtime work of Catholic Charities in Florida. The agency helped unaccompanied minors from Cuba in the 1960s, resettled refugees from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia in the 1970s, and participated in the federal refugee resettlement program since it began in 1980.

He stressed the security of the vetting policies already conducted by the United States' government. He said refugees have to meet established criteria such as fleeing religious persecution or political violence.

“Often mentored by church volunteers and given resettlement support, refugees and their family quickly integrate into American society, finding work and making a positive contribution to their adopted country,” Wenski said.

The nuns who witnessed the life and death of Martin Luther King

Mon, 01/20/2020 - 18:17

Washington D.C., Jan 20, 2020 / 04:17 pm (CNA).- Last year's Martin Luther King Jr. Day marked the first without Sister Mary Antona Ebo, the only black Catholic nun who marched with civil rights leader Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma, Ala in 1965.

“I'm here because I’m a Negro, a nun, a Catholic, and because I want to bear witness,” Sister Mary Antona Ebo said to fellow demonstrators at a March 10, 1965 protest attended by King. Ebo was, in fact, the only African-American nun at the protest.

The protest took place three days after the “Bloody Sunday” clash, where police attacked several hundred voting rights demonstrators with clubs and tear gas, causing some severe injuries among the non-violent marchers. 

She passed away Nov. 11, 2017 in Bridgeton, Missouri at the age of 93, the St. Louis Review reported at the time.

After the “Bloody Sunday” attacks, King had called on church leaders from around the country to go to Selma. Archbishop Joseph E. Ritter of St. Louis had asked his archdiocese’s human rights commission to send representatives, Ebo recounted to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 2015.

Ebo’s supervisor, also a religious sister, asked her whether she would join a 50-member delegation of laymen, Protestant ministers, rabbis, priests and five white nuns.

Just before she left for Alabama, she heard that a white minister who had traveled to Selma, James Reeb, had been severely attacked after he left a restaurant.

At the time, Ebo said, she wondered: “If they would beat a white minister to death on the streets of Selma, what are they going to do when I show up?”

In Selma on March 10, she went to Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, joining local leaders and the demonstrators who had been injured in the clash.

“They had bandages on their heads, teeth were knocked out, crutches, casts on their arms. You could tell that they were freshly injured,” she told the Post-Dispatch. “They had already been through the battle ground, and they were still wanting to go back and go back and finish the job.”

Many of the injured had been treated at Good Samaritan Hospital, run by Edmundite priests and the Sisters of St. Joseph, the only Selma hospital that served blacks. Since their arrival in 1937, the Edmundites had faced intimidation and threats from local officials, other whites, and even the Ku Klux Klan, CNN reported.

The injured demonstrators and their supporters left the Selma church, with Ebo in front. They marched towards the courthouse, then blocked by state troopers in riot gear. She and other demonstrators then knelt to pray the Our Father before they agreed to turn around.

Despite the violent interruption, the 57-mile march would draw 25,000 participants. It concluded on the steps of the state capitol in Montgomery, with King’s famous March 25 speech against racial prejudice.

“How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” King said.

King would be dead within three years. On a fateful April 4, 1968, he was shot by an assassin at his Memphis hotel.

He had asked to be taken to a Catholic hospital should anything happen to him, and he was taken to St. Joseph Hospital in Memphis. At the time, it was a nursing school combined with a 400-bed hospital.

There, too, Catholic religious sisters played a role.

Sister Jane Marie Klein and Sister Anna Marie Hofmeyer recounted their story to The Paper of Montgomery County Online in January 2017.

The Franciscan nuns had been walking around the hospital grounds when they heard the sirens of an ambulance. One of the sisters was paged three times, and they discovered that King had been shot and taken to their hospital.

The National Guard and local police locked down the hospital for security reasons as doctors tried to save King.

“We were obviously not allowed to go in when they were working with him because they were feverishly working with him,” Sister Jane Marie said. “But after they pronounced him dead we did go back into the E.R. There was a gentleman as big as the door guarding the door and he looked at us and said ‘you want in?’ We said yes, we’d like to go pray with him. So he let the three of us in, closed the door behind us and gave us our time.”

Hofmeyer recounted the scene in the hospital room. “He had no chance,” she said.

Klein said authorities delayed the announcement of King’s death to prepare for riots they knew would result.

Three decades later, Klein met with King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, at a meeting of the Catholic Health Association Board in Atlanta where King was a keynote speaker. The Franciscan sister and the widow of the civil rights leader told each other how they had spent that night.

Klein said being present that night in 1968 was “indescribable.”

“You do what you got to do,” she said. What’s the right thing to do? Hindsight? It was a privilege to be able to take care of him that night and to pray with him. Who would have ever thought that we would be that privileged?”

She said King’s life shows “to some extent one person can make a difference.” She wondered “how anybody could listen to Dr. King and not be moved to work toward breaking down these barriers.”

Klein would serve as chairperson of the Franciscan Alliance Board of Trustees, overseeing support for health care. Hofmeyer would work in the alliance’s archives. Last year both were living at the Provinciate at St. Francis Convent in Mishawaka, Indiana.

For her part, after Selma, Ebo would go on to serve as a hospital administrator and a chaplain.

In 1968 she helped found the National Black Sisters’ Conference. The woman who had been rejected from several Catholic nursing schools because of her race would serve in her congregation’s leadership as it reunited with another Franciscan order, and she served as a director of social concerns for the Missouri Catholic Conference.

She frequently spoke on civil rights topics. When controversy over a Ferguson, Mo. police officer’s killing of Michael Brown, a black man, she led a prayer vigil. She thought the Ferguson protests were comparable to those of Selma.

“I mean, after all, if Mike Brown really did swipe the box of cigars, it’s not the policeman’s place to shoot him dead,” she said.

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of St. Louis presided at her requiem Mass in November, saying in a statement “We will miss her living example of working for justice in the context of our Catholic faith.”

 

A previous version of this article was originally published on CNA Jan. 14, 2018.

U.S. bishops say death row inmate likely innocent, call for new trial

Mon, 01/20/2020 - 14:30

Washington D.C., Jan 20, 2020 / 12:30 pm (CNA).- The U.S. bishops’ conference and the bishops of Florida are calling for a Florida death row inmate to be given a new trial, in light of evidence the bishops say suggests the inmate is actually innocent.

“The deeply troubling facts of Mr. Dailey’s conviction and death sentence raise profound moral questions,” the bishops said in a brief submitted Jan. 17 to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The evidence of Mr. Dailey’s actual innocence is not only credible; it is overwhelming,” the bishops added.

“The only just and legal solution is to require a remand for a new trial.”  The brief was filed in support of a petition for a new trial from James Dailey, who was convicted of the brutal 1985 murder of a 14-year-old girl, Shelly Boggio.

Dailey was connected to the murder after he being named by Jack Pearcy, who was also convicted of killing Boggio. Pearcy was Dailey’s roommate in 1985. When Pearcy was apprehended for the murder of Boggio, he told police it was Dailey who had done the killing.

Although there was no physical evidence linking Daily to the crime, Pearcy’s testimony, along with that of jailhouse informants who claimed Dailey had incriminated himself, led to his conviction.

Dailey got the death penalty. Pearcy was sentenced to life in prison.

In the state of Florida’s “prosecution of Mr. Dailey for complicity in the murder, it adduced no physical, forensic, or eyewitness evidence implicating him. Rather, Mr. Dailey was convicted on the basis of testimony of three jailhouse informants, who each had every incentive to lie,” the bishops said in their brief.

Pearcy’s accusation formed the basis of Dailey’s conviction, and was supported by the testimony of the jailhouse informants, each of whom received please bargains on criminal charges in exchange for their testimony.

But years after Dailey was convicted, in 1993, Pearcy recanted his allegation. He said he’d lied about Dailey’s involvement.

“It was just a self-serving statement to exonerate myself,” Pearcy said in a sworn statement.

“I was in custody and they were going to charge me and I was just trying to get around it, that’s all," he added. In 1998, Pearcy again claimed he’d seen Dailey kill Boggio. In 2017, Pearcy again said that Dailey wasn’t there, and that he’d killed Boggio alone.

But in 2019, Pearcy gave contradictory statements, telling a Florida reporter that Dailey killed Boggio, and then making a sworn statement that he “committed the crime alone.”

The U.S. bishops’ brief noted that Dailey has produced evidence indicating that he was not with Pearcy the night that Boggio was killed. The bishops also noted that the jailhouse informants received plea deals on criminal charges in exchange for their testimony, and that there was additional evidence their testimony could have been manufactured.

Dailey, 73 and a Vietnam veteran, has consistently maintained his innocence.

He was due to be executed Nov. 7, 2019, but was granted a stay of execution. That stay expired Dec. 30, and Dailey could be executed anytime. He has petitioned the Supreme Court for the right to a new trial.

 

What the pope said when Martin Luther King was killed

Mon, 01/20/2020 - 13:35

Memphis, Tenn., Jan 20, 2020 / 11:35 am (CNA).- On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr., was fatally shot outside his room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee.

King is remembered as the most visible leader of the civil rights movement, for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, and as the founding president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. But he was first a pastor at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, and remained active in pastoral leadership throughout his life.

On the day after King was killed, Pope Paul VI expressed remorse during his Angelus address, saying that the civil rights leader was “a Christian prophet for racial integration.”

Shortly after King’s death, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Council of Churches, the Synagogue Council of America, and the Standing Conference of Orthodox Bishops in the Americas released an interfaith statement, mourning their colleague in ministry.

We “bow together in grief before the shameful murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a unique apostle of the non-violent drive for justice, [and] affirm that no service of remembrance or local memorial is equal to the greatness of his labor or the vastness of our national need.”

The faith leaders also applauded the efforts of Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1968, encouraged Americans to support measures favoring integration, and pled with government officials to fund legislation aimed at fighting poverty.

We “affirm that only through massive contributions by the American people can this nation duly honor the life-offering of Martin Luther King, Jr. and responsibly lift up the burden of the poor and oppressed in our land.”

The statement also promised to implement coordinated efforts among religious communities to fight poverty.

We “declare our intention to take immediate steps to develop a coordinated sacrificial effort on the part of the American religious community to help the disadvantaged,” the statement read.

Faith leaders were not the only ones to pay tribute to King after his assassination.

On the night King was killed, Senator Robert Kennedy, a Catholic, spoke to the people of Indianapolis, urging them to greater compassion and a deterrence from violence. Kennedy spoke during a stop on his 1968 campaign for President, delivering the news to a multiracial crowd that King had been assassinated.

“What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or they be black,” he said on April 4, 1968.

Kennedy referenced the assassination of his own brother, President John F. Kennedy, which had taken place in 1963.

“For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and distrust at the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I can only say that I feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man. But we have to make an effort in the United States, we have to make an effort to understand, to go beyond these rather difficult times,” Kennedy said.

The senator urged Americans to take up King’s efforts, pray for King’s family and the nation, and join in solidarity those longing for peace.  

“The vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life, and want justice for all human beings who abide in our land,” he added.

“I shall ask you tonight to return home, to say a prayer for the family of Martin Luther King, that's true, but more importantly to say a prayer for our own country, which all of us love--a prayer for understanding and that compassion of which I spoke.”

This article was originally published on CNA April 3, 2018.

MLK's Dream 'was about the bettering of humanity'

Mon, 01/20/2020 - 12:01

New Orleans, La., Jan 20, 2020 / 10:01 am (CNA).- Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a time to reflect on King’s vision and his example for everyone as a Christian leader who engaged in effective social action, said a leader with a historically African-American Catholic fraternity.
 
“The dream that Dr. King so eloquently professed in his ‘I Have a Dream Speech’ was about the bettering of humanity,” Percy J. Marchand, an associate director of the Knights of Peter Claver, told CNA Jan. 17.

“As imperfect sons and daughters of the perfect Creator, we must each consistently do our best to live out the principles upon which Dr. King expounded.”
 
“As so many have unfortunately moved away from a sense and longing for unity, compassion, and a shared vision, income gaps have widened, drug abuse has increased, crime rates have risen, educational excellence has diminished, and contempt and hatred has replaced respect and love,” he said.
 
The Knights of Peter Claver was founded in Mobile, Ala., in 1909 and is now headquartered in New Orleans. The order is named for St. Peter Claver, the Jesuit missionary priest who ministered to African slaves in Colombia.
 
Its membership is historically African-American but is open to all practicing Catholics without regard to race or ethnicity. Many of its members played a role in the U.S. civil rights movement of the mid-20th century.
 
The organization has a presence in about 39 states and in South America. Its six divisions include a Ladies Auxiliary, two junior divisions for boys and girls, Fourth Degree Knights, and their companion group Ladies of Grace.
 
Marchand reflected on the impact of King, the African-American Baptist minister who was the most visible leader of the civil rights movement.
 
“An extremely intelligent and well-educated man, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. represents the pillars of Christian values, virtues, and life,” he told CNA. “He stands as an example for all, particularly for African-Americans. He addressed the specific needs of African-Americans by encouraging unity, faith, respect, and organization. The results of his methodology were needed changes to society and to the world.”
 
For Marchand, King’s example and his “strategic and effective techniques” continue to be important “as we look for ways to address the issues still plaguing the African-American community.”
 
He reflected on the progress made by King and other African-Americans, but also continued difficulties.
 
“As economic, social, and educational gains are made, we must be certain to cling to the values that have kept our people strong and vibrant despite external and systemic forces doing their best to cause bedlam in our community,” said Marchand. “If we completely lose this perspective, we will only see the ills of society continue to repeat themselves.”
 
“When the government and society denied African-Americans the rights, freedoms, resources and even the classification of being a whole human, it was easier to identify common goals and objectives,” he said. “Being denied the rights to vote, work and be paid fairly, drink from any water fountain, sit at the front of the bus, and so many other basics of humanity rallied the African-American community to unify and stand for justice.”
 
“Today, the battle has changed,” Marchand continued. “Racism and bias are often clandestine. Political correctness blurs and distorts true hatred and despite. Small concessions have distracted from many African-Americans being able to optimally live and fulfill the lives God desires for them.”
 
The Knights of Peter Claver National Office has asked its subordinate jurisdictions to organize an MLK Day of Service to include activities such as hosting community forums, participating in a march, rally or parade, or volunteering at soup kitchens, tutoring youth, visiting the sick and shut-ins, or engaging in prison ministry.
 
“Our members continue to serve their communities as judges, teachers, lawyers, doctors, medical professionals, religious, laborers, and other professions,” said Marchand. “As members of the Knights of Peter Claver, their occupations and interactions within society are rooted in our mission of ‘Spreading Faith, Hope, and Love, through Friendship, Unity, and Christian Charity.’ This is our new civil rights movement: leading our communities closer to the Dream through our social justice Initiatives and spiritual leadership.”

Catholic bishops: US still 'painfully' far from Martin Luther King’s dream

Mon, 01/20/2020 - 05:37

Washington D.C., Jan 20, 2020 / 03:37 am (CNA).- The example of Martin Luther King, Jr., is still sorely needed in the United States, given continued injustices, racism and discrimination against minorities, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said in a message for MLK Day.

“As our nation prepares to commemorate the life and witness of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., we are grateful for his courageous stand in solidarity with all who suffer injustice and his witness of love and nonviolence in the struggle for social change,” Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said Jan. 16.

“But we are once again painfully aware that we are still far off from his dream for America, the ‘beloved community’ for which he gave his life.”

King is remembered as an African-American Baptist minister and the most visible leader of the civil rights movement, for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. He was the founding president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He was assassinated in 1968 at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, at age 39.

The United States has celebrated a federal holiday in his memory since 1983. This year the holiday falls on Jan. 20.

Archbishop Gomez, writing on behalf of the U.S. bishops, warned of continuing “disturbing outbreaks of racism and prejudice” against minority groups in the U.S. today.

“Racism is a sin that denies the truth about God and his creation, and it is a scandal that disfigures the beauty of America’s founding vision,” he said.

“Too many hearts and minds are clouded by racist presumptions of privilege and too many injustices in our society are still rooted in racism and discrimination,” the archbishop continued.

“Too many young African American men are still being killed in our streets or spending their best years behind bars. Many minority neighborhoods in this country are still what they were in Rev. King’s time, what he called ‘lonely islands of poverty.’ Let us recommit ourselves to ensuring opportunity reaches every community,” he said.

The archbishop spoke in the wake of deadly racially motivated violence.

A mass shooting at an El Paso WalMart, not far from the U.S. border with Mexico, killed 22 people and injured 24 others in August 2019. Authorities believe the gunman authored an anti-immigrant, anti-Hispanic manifesto that depicted immigrants as invaders. The gunman apparently took inspiration from a deadly attack on a New Zealand mosque.

In October 2018 a shooter killed 11 people at a synagogue in Philadelphia. In April 2019, a shooting at a synagogue in Poway, California left one dead and several wounded, including the congregation’s rabbi.

“There has been a rise of anti-Semitic attacks and also ugly displays of white nationalism, nativism, and violence targeting Hispanics and other immigrants. Such bigotry is not worthy of a great nation,” Gomez said. “As Catholics and as Americans, we must reject every form of racism and anti-Semitism.”

He cited the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ 2018 pastoral letter on racism, “Open Wide Your Hearts.”

“What is needed, and what we are calling for, is a genuine conversion of heart, a conversion that will compel change and the reform of our institutions and society,” the letter said.
 

 

Planned Parenthood announces highest election spending in its history

Sun, 01/19/2020 - 18:55

Washington D.C., Jan 19, 2020 / 04:55 pm (CNA).- Planned Parenthood announced this week that it plans to spend $45 million to support pro-abortion candidates at the presidential, congressional, and state levels in the 2020 election.

The campaign, entitled “We Decide 2020,” marks the largest election spending in Planned Parenthood’s history.

Jenny Lawson, executive director of Planned Parenthood Votes, told CBS News that “The stakes have never been higher.”

She pointed to the upcoming Supreme Court case involving a Louisiana law requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital as “an indicator of [the Trump Administration’s] intention and they've never been so bold.”

The case marks the first major abortion decision that the Supreme Court will hand down since U.S. President Donald Trump’s two court appointments. Abortion advocates fear it could reverse the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that mandated legal abortion nationwide.

However, Lawson added that the Democratic hopefuls vying for an opportunity to challenge Trump also “have the boldest reproductive rights policies we've ever seen.”

This commitment to abortion policies among the Democratic candidates includes widespread opposition to the Hyde Amendment, an annual budget amendment since 1976 that prohibits federal tax dollars from paying for abortions, except in cases of rape, incest, or when it is deemed necessary to save the life of the mother. The Hyde Amendment has enjoyed longstanding bipartisan support, and attempts to repeal it over the years have failed. Pro-life advocates estimate that more than 2 million unborn lives have been saved as a result of the policy.

Few of the Democratic candidates support restrictions on late-term abortions, and the majority have pledged to enshrine Roe v. Wade in federal law, appoint only pro-abortion judges, and advocate for abortion pills to be available without a prescription.

The Planned Parenthood Votes campaign will target Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, through digital, television, radio and mail ads, CBS News reports.

Planned Parenthood Votes is financially, structurally, and operationally independent from the group’s clinics, according to CBS News.

Still, the role that abortion plays in the non-profit’s overall work has been a subject of controversy. Last July, Planned Parenthood’s president, Dr. Leana Wen, was forced out after disagreements with board leaders over whether the organization should focus on health care or abortion advocacy.

Wen, who had been at the helm for eight months, said her goal had been to focus on health care for underserved women, while board leaders saw political advocacy in support of abortion as the organization’s priority.

Wen was replaced by Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president of Planned Parenthood, who told CBS News last year that the organization is “not political by nature” but has been politicized and forced into focusing on political advocacy.

Meanwhile, the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List and its partner Women Speak Out PAC have announced a $52 million budget for the 2020 election cycle.

In addition to phone calls and digital and mail-based ads, the campaign plans to make 4 million visits to voters before the election, focusing on Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin.

Mallory Quigley, a spokeswoman for the groups, said the campaign will focus on educating traditional Democratic voters about the “extreme pro-abortion policies” supported by Democratic presidential and Senate candidates.

“Polls confirm what our on-the-ground experience and message testing show to be true: Democrats’ abortion radicalism is a liability for them at the ballot box,” she said. “Our focused, battle-tested voter outreach method will ensure we reach the voters who can provide President Trump and pro-life Senate candidates the winning margin on Election Day.”
 

 

DiMarzio welcomes investigation, points to personal record fighting abuse

Sun, 01/19/2020 - 12:00

New York City, N.Y., Jan 19, 2020 / 10:00 am (CNA).- Brooklyn’s Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio has issued a statement welcoming an investigation into an accusation of sexual abuse made against him last year.

In a statement released to CNA on Sunday Jan. 19, the Diocese of Brooklyn said that Bishop DiMarzio had done nothing wrong and had no intention of stepping aside during the Vatican-ordered enquiry into the allegation, which dates back to the 1970s and DiMarzio’s time as a priest in the Archdiocese of Newark.

“Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio has categorically denied the allegation against him,” the statement said. “He will vigorously defend himself against this false claim and is confident the truth will prevail.”

On Jan. 18, the Archdiocese of New York confirmed that Cardinal Timothy Dolan had been asked by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to conduct an investigation into the allegations of 56-year-old Mark Matzek.

Matzek alleges that DiMarzio and another priest, now deceased, repeatedly abused him when he was an altar server at St. Nicholas Catholic Church in the Diocese of Newark in the 1970s.

Although lawyer Mitchell Garabedian sent a letter to the Archdiocese of Newark in November saying he was preparing a lawsuit on behalf of Matzek seeking $20 million, a spokesperson for the Brooklyn diocese told CNA on Sunday that no suit had yet been filed.

The investigation is being conducted under the norms of Vos estis lux mundi, the motu proprio issued by Pope Francis in May, 2019, which provided new mechanisms for handling accusations against bishops.

“As the Church investigation is a Vos estis lux mundi probe, it does not require that Bishop DiMarzio step aside during the preliminary investigation,” the statement from the Brooklyn diocese noted. “As such, his status has not changed.

The Diocese of Brooklyn also noted that in the two months since the accusation was made public, DiMarzio had received constant messages of support from Catholics in and out of the diocese.

“There has been a tremendous outpouring of support for Bishop DiMarzio, from here in the Diocese of Brooklyn and from the people he has served throughout his 50-year ministry, including parishioners from his time as parochial vicar at St. Nicholas Church in Jersey City,” the statement said.

The Diocese of Brooklyn also underscored DiMarzio’s reputation as a “recognized as a leader” in combatting sexual abuse in the Church.

“Even before the mandates of the 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, Bishop DiMarzio created protocols when he was the bishop in the Diocese of Camden from 1999-2003 to ensure that children were protected and that victims received the care they need,” a spokesperson for the bishop said.

The statement also noted that DiMarzio’s policies for the Diocese of Brooklyn, issued in 2003, went beyond the requirements of the Dallas Charter agreed by the U.S. bishops, and included an independent hotline for reporting abuse through which complaints are automatically sent to the district attorney.

“His record in fighting sexual abuse is further evident in Pope Francis’ recent selection of him to conduct an investigation into the Diocese of Buffalo,” a spokesperson for the bishop said, referring to the Apostolic Visitation of that diocese conducted by DiMarzio in October and November last year.

DiMarzio is the second U.S. bishop to be investigated under the norms of Vos estis since its promulgation by Pope Francis in May last year.

In September 2019, the Vatican ordered St. Paul-Minneapolis Archbishop Bernard Hebda to conduct an investigation using the new laws into Crookston Bishop Michael Hoeppner, who is alleged to have knowing kept an abusive priest in ministry. Hebda sent his report to Rome in early November.

While the Archdiocese of New York has not released a timeline for the investigation into DiMarzio, the Diocese of Brooklyn said that the bishop “looks forward to the investigation of the allegation made against him and having his good name cleared and restored.”

Cardinal Dolan conducting 'Vos estis' investigation into Brooklyn's Bishop DiMarzio

Sat, 01/18/2020 - 23:05

New York City, N.Y., Jan 18, 2020 / 09:05 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Timothy Dolan is conducting an investigation into Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, following an allegation of sexual abuse.

The investigation is being conducted under the provisions of Vos estis lux mundi, the Church law issued by Pope Francis last year on dealing with accusations against bishops.

In a statement released Jan. 18, Joseph Zwilling, director of communications in the Archdiocese of New York, confirmed the investigation.

“As directed by Vos estis, Cardinal Dolan earlier notified the Holy See of the allegation that was raised concerning Bishop DiMarzio from his time as a priest in the Archdiocese of Newark. On January 7, 2020, the Cardinal received instruction from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that he is to begin an investigation.”

On Nov. 13, 2019, DiMarzio publicly announced that he was the subject of an allegation of sexually abusing a minor, dating back to his time as a priest in the 1970s in Jersey City.

According to the Associated Press, 56-year-old Mark Matzek says DiMarzio and another priest, who is now deceased, repeatedly abused him when he was an altar server at St. Nicholas Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Newark. DiMarzio was a priest there at the time.

Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian sent a letter to the Archdiocese of Newark in November, notifying them that he was preparing a lawsuit on behalf of Matzek. The suit is reportedly seeking $20 million.

DiMarzio has strongly denied the allegations, calling sexual abuse a “despicable crime” and highlighting his own work to eradicate it from his own Diocese of Brooklyn. In November, the bishop said that he would vigorously defend himself.

“In my nearly 50-year ministry as a priest, I have never engaged in unlawful or inappropriate behavior and I categorically deny this allegation,” DiMarzio said.

The allegation was made shortly after DiMarzio himself concluded his own investigation into another bishop on behalf of the Vatican.

On instructions of the Congregation for Bishops, in October and November last year, DiMarzio conducted an apostolic visitation of the Diocese of Buffalo, which faced months of scandal surrounding Bishop Richard Malone, who was accused of mishandling sex abuse claims against a priest in his diocese.

Although that visitation was not conducted under the rules of Vos estis, Malone’s resignation was accepted by Pope Francis in December last year.

DiMarzio is the second U.S. bishop to be investigated under the norms of Vos estis since its promulgation by Pope Francis in May 2019.

In September 2019, the Vatican ordered St. Paul-Minneapolis Archbishop Bernard Hebda to conduct an investigation using the new laws into Crookston Bishop Michael Hoeppner, who is alleged to have knowingly kept an abusive priest in ministry, and pressured an alleged abuse victim to withdraw an allegation against a priest. Hebda sent his report to Rome in early November.

A spokesman for Cardinal Dolan said that the cardinal will be using experts to assist him in his task, but did not give a timeline for the enquiry into DiMarzio.

“As is our practice, the cardinal will rely on outside professional forensic investigators to assist him in this matter,” he said.

“The archdiocese will have no further comment on the matter while the investigation is undertaken.”

Miami archbishop promotes refugee resettlement

Sat, 01/18/2020 - 08:01

Miami, Fla., Jan 18, 2020 / 06:01 am (CNA).- The Archbishop of Miami has emphasized the importance of welcoming refugees, and decried the decision of Texas Governor Greg Abbott not to participate in the federal refugee resettlement program.

“Often mentored by church volunteers and given resettlement support, refugees and their family quickly integrate into American society, finding work and making a positive contribution to their adopted country,” said Archbishop Thomas Wenski in a Jan. 16 letter to the editor of the Miami Herald.

“Resettlement agencies are preparing to submit proposals to the Office of Refugee Resettlement on Jan. 21 to continue this ministry of ‘welcoming the stranger.’ Catholic Charities look forward to local governments continuing welcoming refugees in those communities where we already serve.”

The archbishop noted that Catholic Charities in Florida sponsored unaccompanied Cuban minors in the 1960s, resettled refugees from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia in the 1970s, and has participated in the US Refugee Program since it began in 1980.

He stressed the security of the vetting policies already conducted by the United States' government. He said refugees have to meet established criteria such as fleeing religious persecution or political violence.

“Refugees are thoroughly vetted by agencies including the National Counterterrorism Center, FBI, and the Departments of Homeland Security, Defense, and State,” he said.

A September 2019 executive order by President Trump requires written consent from states and local entities before they resettle refugees within their boundaries.

Archbishop Wenski expressed disappointment in Abbott for discontinuing Texas' participation in the refugee resettlement program.

“Forty two governors have gone on record supporting refugee services - 19 are Republican. Only the governor of Texas decided to discontinue resettlement - apparently without much public support.”

“Florida, and refugees, would lose if we were to follow Texas’ example,” he added.

Last week, the 16 bishops in Texas described Abbott’s move as “deeply discouraging and disheartening.” They asked the governor to reconsider his decision, noting that refugees contribute a great deal to society.

“While the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops respects the governor, this decision is simply misguided. It denies people who are fleeing persecution, including religious persecution, from being able to bring their gifts and talents to our state and contribute to the general common good of all Texans,” the bishops said in a Jan. 10 statement.

“As Catholics, an essential aspect of our faith is to welcome the stranger and care for the alien. We use this occasion to commit ourselves even more ardently to work with all people of good will, including our federal, state and local governments, to help refugees integrate and become productive members of our communities.”

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