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Religious freedom laws 'more necessary than ever,' Congress hears

Wed, 06/26/2019 - 09:00

Washington D.C., Jun 26, 2019 / 07:00 am (CNA).- The House Committee on Education and Labor heard testimony June 25 on the Do No Harm Act, a proposed measure to limit the application of landmark religious freedom legislation. 

The Do No Harm Act proposes to limit the application of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Critics of the measure warned Tuesday that tampering with the law could hurt religious minorities who need its protections the most.

Matt Sharp, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, said during his testimony that at a time when certain religious freedom protections are unpopular, “RFRA is more urgent and necessary to ensure that the political whims don’t dictate whether an individual or an organization’s faith is respected.”

Sharp said that the Do No Harm Act would withdraw the “opportunity for relief” available to religious groups, “shutting the doors of a courthouse to a lot of individuals and organizations if their claims fall out of disfavor.” 

Tuesday’s hearing on Capitol Hill also heard testimony from several witnesses in favor of Do No Harm, including Reps. Joe Kennedy (D-MA) and Mike Johnson (R-LA), and Rachel Laser, President and CEO of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act was passed by Congress and enacted into law in 1993, receiving unanimous bipartisan support in the House and passing the Senate by a vote of 97-3. President Bill Clinton signed the legislation.

RFRA was supported by leaders in both parties as a response to the 1990 Supreme Court decision Employment Division v. Smith, in which the Court upheld the government in a case involving two Native Americans fired after testing positive for the drug peyote, which they argued they had ingested as part of a religious ritual. 

The law prevents the federal government from imposing a substantial burden on the sincerely-held religious beliefs of a person, unless it can establish a compelling government interest in passing the law and the legislation is the least-restrictive means of furthering that interest.  

At the time of its passage, RFRA enjoyed broad support from both parties and from advocacy groups across the political spectrum. 

“The reason all those diverse groups came together was because the Smith decision caused great alarm around the country,” stated Rep. Johnson in his member testimony at the hearing. 

Prior to his time in Congress, Johnson served for nearly 20 years as a constitutional law attorney and a defense litigator in religious freedom cases.

The consensus behind RFRA’s passage was not, he said, a reflection of support for the men in the Smith case, but “the personal views of the lawmakers was not the point.”

“Everyone, both liberal and conservative, recognized that even the sincerely-held religious beliefs of small minority groups are important for us to protect,” Johnson said. “RFRA supporters understood that one day, it could be their own religious beliefs and practices that would be unpopular and face government scorn and restriction.”

“All RFRA provides is a fair hearing,” Rep. Johnson said. “[It] was created to provide a very reasonable balancing test” between sincerely-held religious beliefs and the government’s interest in federal law.

Supporters of the Do No Harm Act argued that, since its passage, application of RFRA has been broadened to allow religious groups to avoid complying with equality and employment laws.

In 2014, RFRA was at the center of the Supreme Court case Hobby Lobby v. Burwell, in the Christian owners of the closely-held for-profit company objected on religious grounds to the Obama administration’s mandate of provision of coverage for certain drugs that can cause abortions. 

The Court ruled that Hobby Lobby was exempt from the mandate, which was not the least-restrictive means for furthering the government’s compelling interest of providing contraceptive coverage.

After that decision, critics claimed it violated women’s right to obtain healthcare coverage - including contraceptives, setilizations, and abortifaceant drugs. Legislation was introduced in Congress to limit the use of RFRA in religious freedom cases.

In 2019, Reps. Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Joe Kennedy (D-MA) reintroduced the “Do No Harm Act” to forbid the use of RFRA against “equal opportunity and protection against discriminatory laws, protections in the workplace and against child abuse, and health care access, coverage and services.

“Over the years,” Rep. Kennedy explained in his member testimony on Tuesday, “RFRA has morphed from a shield of protection to a sword of infringement.”

“Religion has played a vital role in our nation’s history,” stated Rep. Scott in his opening remarks at Tuesday’s hearing, helping fuel social justice causes such as the civil rights movement and child labor movement. Yet, he said, it has been used as a “pawn” to justify segregation and discriminatory attacks.  

New conscience protections, introduced by the Trump administration for health care workers opposed to procedures such as abortions, were cited as a discriminatory practice that was protected by RFRA but against the original spirit of the law.

Opposition to the contraceptive mandate, notably by groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor, was also argued by supporters of the Do No Harm Act to be an unreasonable religious exemption under RFRA, along with religious adoption agencies only placing children with opposite-sex couples—or even with couples from a certain church or Christian denomination.

The Do No Harm Act would “restore RFRA to its original purpose,” Kennedy said. “If civil liberties and legal rights exist only in absence of a neighbor’s legal objection” then they’re not rights, he said.

Rachel Laser, CEO of Americans United for Separation of Church and State said that the proposed legislation would prevent RFRA from being “misused for something that it wasn’t originally intended to do.”

Against these arguments, Congressmen Sharp and Johnson both testified that RFRA does not disproportionately benefit Christians at the expense of other groups. 

In 25 years, Sharp argued in his written testimony, only 16.3% of appellate court religious freedom cases under RFRA were successful—“in other words, the government almost always wins,” Johnson said.

“Critics of the Hobby Lobby decision insisted that the decision would ‘open the floodgates’ to all sorts of new claims under RFRA and to ‘impose Christian values in America and use religious freedom as a license to discriminate.’ That simply has not happened,” Johnson said, citing a Becket Fund study showing that Christians were actually underrepresented among the religious groups making claims under RFRA.

The bill, if enacted, “would eviscerate one of the most important and widely-regarded laws that’s ever been passed by the Congress,” Rep. Johnson said.

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) dismissed the argument that RFRA was being used to protect unfair discrimination in health care, “that is not what RFRA is about,” she said. 

“RFRA is not about denying anything to anybody except the freedom of religion—the Do No Harm bill will deny that.”

Historic mission bell removed from California college

Tue, 06/25/2019 - 20:49

Santa Cruz, California, Jun 25, 2019 / 06:49 pm (CNA).- A university in California removed a bell last week after a Native American group claimed the historic piece was disrespectful to their heritage.

The El Camino Real Bell, named for the California route connecting the 21 Franciscan missions, was removed by the University of California, Santa Cruz on Friday. The bell has been on UCSC’s campus since the 1990s. It is one of a series of bells placed along the route.

The Amah Mutsun Tribal Band issued an objection to the bell during the last school year. The group said the bell symbolized the enslavement and humiliation of their ancestors.

“It is shameful that these places where our ancestors were enslaved, whipped, raped, tortured and exposed to fatal diseases have been whitewashed and converted into tourist attractions,” said Valentine Lopez, chair of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, according to Fox News.

Sarah Latham, the university’s vice chancellor of administrative services, said the move was “in support of efforts to be more inclusive,” the Associated Press reported.

A decision regarding the bell’s transfer or destruction has not been announced yet. Amah Mutsun suggested it should either be placed in a museum or melted down.

The bell is one of the hundreds of others placed around California in 1906. According to the Fox News, a press release from UCSC claimed that these bells has been meant to honor California’s “Hispanic past” and “expand tourism.”

“The bell marker, which memorializes the California Missions and an imagined route of travel that once connected them, is viewed by the Amah Mutsun and many other California indigenous people as a racist symbol that glorifies the domination and dehumanization of their ancestors,” the release continued.

The removal of the bell follows other outcries against historical monuments in recent years. California legislators attempted in 2015 to replace a statue of St. Junipero Serra with Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, at the National Statuary Hall in Washington D.C.

Last year, a bronze statue titled “Early Days” was removed from San Francisco City Hall. It involved three figures - a Native American, the seafarer Francis Drake, and St. Junipero Serra.

Critics argued that the statue was degrading to Native Americans and used visual stereotypes that were racist.

Serra played a key role in the evangelization of 18th-century California. The missions he founded took in thousands of Native American converts to Christianity and taught them technological development skills.

Serra and other missionaries have drawn criticism from those who see them as a symbol of European colonialism and characterize the missions as engaged in the forced labor of Native Americans.

However, their defenders vigorously dispute these claims, noting that participation in mission life, while strict, was voluntary, as well as the efforts by the missionaries to feed, clothe, and house those who came to them.

Pope Francis canonized Serra in 2015. He praised the saint for seeking “to defend the dignity of the native community, to protect it from those who had mistreated and abused it.”

Serra, the pope said, “was excited about blazing trails, going forth to meet many people, learning and valuing their particular customs and ways of life. He learned how to bring to birth and nurture God’s life in the faces of everyone he met; he made them his brothers and sisters.”

Trump administration officials promise action for global religious liberty

Tue, 06/25/2019 - 19:07

Washington D.C., Jun 25, 2019 / 05:07 pm (CNA).- With the latest U.S. report on global persecution of individuals and groups based on their religious beliefs, the Trump administration promised action to counter the human rights violations of the countries and groups listed in the U.S. State Department’s 2018 Report on International Religious Freedom.

“As in previous years, our report exposes a chilling array of abuses committed by oppressive regimes, violent extremist groups, and individual citizens. For all those that run roughshod over religious freedom, I’ll say this: The United States is watching and you will be held to account,” said U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

Pompeo released the report at a June 21 briefing with U.S. Ambassador-at-large for Religious Freedom Samuel Brownback.

The Secretary of State summarized the situation in the worst countries: “People are persecuted – handcuffed, thrown in jail, even killed – for their decision to believe, or not to believe. For worshipping according to their conscience. For teaching their children about their faith. For speaking about their beliefs in public. For gathering in private, as so many of us have done, to study the Bible, the Torah, or the Qu’ran,” he said.

“Go into any mosque, any church, any temple in America, and you’ll hear the same thing: Americans believe that kind of intolerance is deeply wrong,” said Pompeo, who said it is “a distinctly American responsibility to stand up for faith in every nation’s public square.”

The State Department has 90 days to designate “countries of particular concern” and to choose which countries to put on a special watch list. It can also designate non-state actors as “entities of particular concern.” The designations can have significant legal consequences

Pompeo cited the “good news” that Uzbekistan is no longer listed as a country of particular concern, for the first time in 13 years. Though the secretary said “much work remains,” the country has created a “religious freedom roadmap.” It has released about 1,500 religious prisoners and ended a blacklist that banned about 16,000 people from travel due to their religious affiliations.

Pompeo said the State Department looks forward to legal reforms on registration requirements so that more religious groups may worship freely and so that children may pray at mosques with their parents.

He credited President Donald Trump for leading a government-wide effort to secure the release of U.S. Pastor Andrew Brunson from Turkey, saying he had been wrongly imprisoned for his faith.

The briefing also turned critical.

While Pakistan’s Supreme Court acquitted the Catholic woman Asia Bibi of blasphemy and spared her from execution after almost a decade in prison, over 40 people are serving a life sentence or face execution for the same charge. Pompeo called for these captives’ release and for the government to appoint an envoy to address various religious freedom concerns.

Pompeo opposed what he said was Iran’s “crackdown” on Baha’is, Christians and others.

Brownback expanded on this, saying Iranian religious minorities, including Baha’is, Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, and Sunni and Sufi Muslims, “face discrimination, harassment, and unjust imprisonment because of their beliefs.”

“Their religious books are banned. They are denied access to education. Their cemeteries are desecrated. Blasphemy and proselytization of Muslims is punishable by death,” he said.

Pompeo criticized Russia’s categorization of Jehovah’s Witnesses as “terrorists,” the confiscation of their property, and the threats to their families. He spoke against the Burmese military’s violence against Rohingya Muslims, saying hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to flee or to live in overcrowded refugee camps.

China also drew criticism from Pompeo, who said, “The Chinese Communist Party has exhibited extreme hostility to all religious faiths since its founding. The party demands that it alone be called God.”

Brownback added: “China has declared war on faith. We’ve seen increasing Chinese Government abuse of believers of nearly all faiths and from all parts of the mainland.”

“They’ve increased their repression of Christians, shutting down churches and arresting adherents for their peaceful religious practices,” said Brownback, predicting this will affect China’s standing domestically and around the world.

China’s government has made “intense persecution” normal for many religious believers, including Falun Gong practitioners, Christians, and Tibetan Buddhists, Pompeo said.

The State Department added a special section to its report on China to discuss the country’s treatment of its Uyghur Muslim population in Xinjiang autonomous region.

Brownback went into more detail on problems in other countries. He objected to Eritrean authorities’ continued house arrest of Eritrean Orthodox Patriarch Antonios, detained since 2006, and the detention of hundreds of other “prisoners of conscience.” The Turkish government continues to keep closed the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople’s Theological School of Halki, he said.

According to Brownback, religious leaders in Nicaragua report “constant surveillance, intimidation and threats.”

“The national police assault priests in full daylight, revealing the government’s contempt for any religious leaders they view as a threat to their authority,” he said.

In Brownback’s view, the Trump administration has made religious freedom a top priority and fought “for people of all faiths.”

“We will not stop until we see the iron curtain of religious persecution come down; until governments no longer detain and torture people for simply being of a particular faith or associated with it; until people are no longer charged and prosecuted on specious charges of blasphemy; until the world no longer believes it can get away with persecuting anyone of any faith without consequences,” he said. “We will not stop.”

Pompeo noted the upcoming second annual Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, to be held in mid-July, expected to draw up to 1,000 people.

He said the first ministerial was “truly a stunning show of unity – people of all faiths standing up for the most basic of all human rights.” It inspired follow-up conferences in the United Arab Emirates and Taiwan.

The State Department’s International Religious Freedom Fund, launched to support victims of persecution and to “give groups the tools to respond,” has received millions of dollars, he reported.

Pompeo said the State Department is elevating its Office of International Religious Freedom and its Office of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, effective immediately. These offices will now report directly to the undersecretary for civilian security, democracy and human rights.

Tony Perkins, chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, welcomed the report. He said the State Department should not use pre-existing sanctions or indefinite wavers because these “provide little or no incentive for governments of CPC-designated countries to reduce or halt egregious religious freedom violations.”

The commission was established by Congress to monitor and report on threats to religious freedom abroad. It makes policy recommendations to the President, to the Secretary of State and to Congress. It released its own report in April.

The U.S. itself has been a focus of concerns for religious freedom. While freedom of religion is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and state constitutions, anti-discrimination laws and policies have forced Catholic adoption agencies to close, while Christians in the wedding industry face pressure to serve same-sex wedding ceremonies or face lawsuits.

The House of Representatives recently passed the Equality Act, which would strip religious freedom protections against many discrimination lawsuits.

The Little Sisters of the Poor continue a legal fight to secure their protections from mandatory health care coverage of drugs and procedures barred by Catholic ethics.

The Trump administration’s ban against travelers from several predominantly Muslim countries, characterized during his campaign as a “Muslim ban,” was among other actions that prompted strong concern. It was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision.

Missouri abortion clinic given until Friday to appeal license revocation

Tue, 06/25/2019 - 18:01

St. Louis, Mo., Jun 25, 2019 / 04:01 pm (CNA).- A Missouri judge has agreed to allow the state’s last abortion clinic to continue performing abortions until this Friday, while the clinic appeals the revocation of its license.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services rejected a license renewal request June 21 from Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region, citing an “unprecedented lack of cooperation, failure to meet basic standards of patient care, and refusal to comply with state law and regulations.”

Circuit Judge Michael Stelzer of the Missouri Circuit Court in St. Louis ruled June 24 that the Planned Parenthood clinic must take its appeal to the state’s Administrative Hearing Commission for review. Until then, it can continue to perform abortions.

“The Court has no authority to intercede in this matter until there has been a final decision by the AHC,” Stelzer wrote June 24.

The judge had previously granted the clinic a preliminary injunction allowing the facility to continue performing abortions until June 21, despite the state’s refusal to renew its license.

The clinic had sued the state in May to be able to continue to perform abortions. The organization contends there is no valid reason for state rules mandating two pelvic exams before the administration of drugs that induce abortions. It has also rejected state demands that officials interview its medical trainees on staff.

A 2016 state report on an inspection of the clinic, the most recent available through CheckMyClinic.org, shows that the clinic at that time was in violation of multiple state standards involving the sterilization and storing of equipment, and the proper documentation of medication and procedures.

In the DHSS' June 21 ruling, the department cited four botched abortions, one in which the mother developed sepsis and another in which the patient was hospitalized with life threatening complications.

The court’s preliminary injunction allowing the clinic to continue performing abortions is set to expire at 5 pm June 28. Until then the clinic will have to make its case before the independent state commission.

One of the four commission members, former Macon County Associate Circuit Judge Philip Prewitt, has been reprimanded in the past by the Missouri Supreme Court for encouraging people to donate to a local pro-life pregnancy center, the AP reported. Prewitt told the AP that he would consider recusing himself from Planned Parenthood’s appeal.

In a separate case, St. Louis Circuit Court Judge David Dowd ruled June 14 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 signed a bill into law in May 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; it is set to go into effect Aug. 28.

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

Although the Planned Parenthood clinic is the last licensed “abortion facility” in the state, the law regulating abortion clinics in Missouri does not apply to hospitals. Several of the largest hospitals in St. Louis are operated by SSM Health, a Catholic health system that does not allow direct abortion.

Barnes Jewish Hospital’s Women and Infants Center in St. Louis, however, lists “pregnancy termination” as one of the services offered at the hospital. St. Louis Public Radio reported in 2017 that Barnes Jewish performs about 150 abortions per year, generally in the case of danger to the life of the mother or fetal abnormalities.

The pro-abortion research group Guttmacher Institute reports that around four percent of abortions are performed in hospitals.

Should the Planned Parenthood clinic be barred from performing abortions, Missouri will be the only US state without a legal abortion clinic. Despite this, there is a private surgical abortion clinic close to St. Louis, across the Mississippi River in Granite City, Ill. In addition, a Planned Parenthood clinic 20 miles from St. Louis in Belleville, Ill. offers medication-induced abortion.

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed this month a law vastly expanding abortion in Illinois.

Besides ending a ban on dilation and extraction, the law removes regulations for abortion clinics and ends required waiting periods to obtain an abortion; lifts criminal penalties for performing abortions and would prevent any further state regulation of abortion; requires all private health insurance plans to cover elective abortions, and eliminates abortion reporting requirements as well as regulations requiring the investigation of maternal deaths due to abortion. Illinois’ Catholic bishops have denounced the new law.

On the other side of the state, nearly half of all abortions performed in Kansas in 2017 were on Missouri residents, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Kansas has two licenced abortion cinics, one in Overland Park near Kansas City and one in Wichita.

Maryland Christian school sues after being evicted from voucher program

Tue, 06/25/2019 - 14:08

Baltimore, Md., Jun 25, 2019 / 12:08 pm (CNA).- A Christian grade school in Maryland is filing a lawsuit after state officials denied its participation in a voucher program for low-income students and ordered it to reimburse the state for participating in the program in previous years.

“Bethel Christian Academy offers an academically rigorous and caring Christian education in a diverse environment,” said Alliance Defending Freedom legal counsel Christen Price in a statement.

“Unfortunately, Maryland bureaucrats are telling low-income students that this high-quality education can’t be an option for them due solely to the school’s religious beliefs. Worse still, the state is now demanding Bethel pay back over $100,000 from the two years it participated in the program, which would be a serious financial hardship for the school.”

Bethel Christian Academy is a faith-based grade school in the Baltimore area with some 280 students from more than 40 different countries, including recent immigrants. The schools serves Christian students, as well as those with different religious affiliation, or none at all.

The Maryland Department of Education has disqualified the academy from participating in the state’s Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today (BOOST) voucher program, which benefits low-income students in the area.

The department had previously requested to see the student handbooks of schools in the program. Bethel’s handbook includes a statement of Christian beliefs about marriage and sexuality.

In making its decision, the Department of Education cited a state law forbidding BOOST schools from discriminating in the admissions process on sexual orientation.

However, lawyers with Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing the academy, stressed that the school does not turn away any students based on their sexual orientation. Rather, it asks all of its grade school students to refrain from any kind of sexual conduct.

“While Bethel fully complied with the program’s requirements, Maryland let its hostility toward Bethel’s religious views, not the law, decide the school’s eligibility,” said legal counsel Christiana Holcomb. “Maryland’s families deserve better; that’s why we’re asking the court to address the state’s hostility.”

Bethel families were notified that they could no longer use the voucher at the academy just a few weeks before the start of the 2018-2019 school year. Several families had to remove their children from the school, because they could not afford to send them there without the voucher. One in five students at Bethel relies on some kind of financial aid.

In June 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a church-owned playground could not be excluded from a playground resurfacing reimbursement program run by the state solely on the grounds of being religious.

In that case, Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer, the state of Missouri had argued that funding a church-run school violated state constitutional prohibitions on taxpayer funding of churches.

However, the Supreme Court held in a 7-2 ruling that excluding the religious-owned playground violated the Free Exercise Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Portland diocese to engage third-party system for reporting ethics violations

Tue, 06/25/2019 - 13:48

Portland, Maine, Jun 25, 2019 / 11:48 am (CNA).- The Diocese of Portland announced Tuesday it will be using a third-party reporting system for violations of its standards of ethical conduct, such as fraud or harassment.

“Several months ago, after hearing from people around the state, the diocese started the process of establishing this system for individuals to express their concerns in an easily accessible way,” Bishop Robert Deeley of Portland said June 25. “The system is organized to ensure that these reports will be handled in a timely and thorough manner.”

The system will be operated by Red Flag Reporting, an ethics, safety, fraud, and whistleblower hotline based in Akron. According to its website, it was founded “by one of the nation’s largest CPA firms.”

Reports of violations of the diocese's code of ethics will be made through Red Flag Reporting's website or telephone hotline. Red Flag will oversee the handling of each complaint by the diocese.

It is not meant to be used for reporting sexual abuse of minors; the Portland diocese indicated that in those cases, civil authorities and its head of professional responsibility should be contacted.

The reporting system could be used to report such ethical violations as fraud, misconduct, safety violations, harassment, or substance abuse at parishes, schools, or the chancery.

Bishop Deeley said that “To ensure transparency and the success of this initiative, the Church needs the committed involvement of the laity. In partnering with Red Flag Reporting, the diocese is offering stronger protections against problematic activity.”

“It is gratifying to report that the protocols already implemented in the Diocese of Portland regarding the safety of children, through the vigilance of both clergy and laity, have helped to make our Church a safer place for all. Since many of the procedures began in 2002, there have been no substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of a minor by a cleric in the Diocese of Portland. We have similar hope for this new system of accountability.”

Brooklyn diocese advances sainthood cause of local priest

Tue, 06/25/2019 - 05:01

New York City, N.Y., Jun 25, 2019 / 03:01 am (CNA).- The Bishop of Brooklyn accepted last week the findings of a nine-year diocesan investigation into the life of Monsignor Bernard John Quinn, known for fighting bigotry and serving the African American population, as part of his cause for canonization.

The information will be sent to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints.

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio received the findings at a Vespers service at the Immaculate Conception Center in Queens.

Msgr. Quinn “combatted racism and is an inspiration to the priests of this diocese,” Bishop DiMarzio said. “He is a hero who turned things around and gave his life for his people, died an early death, and was a great man.”

Quinn was born in Newark in 1888, and was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn in 1912.

In 1922, he established St. Peter Claver parish, Brooklyn's first church for African American Catholics

Six years later, he established Little Flower Orphanage for African American orphanage in Wading River on Long Island. The building was twice set on fire.

Quinn's great-niece, Mary Clare Quinn, said: “The family was all very proud of the work he was doing at Little Flower, and we all contributed during the winters and summers, going out there to help. They used to burn crosses at our house in Mineola, even after he was gone, but my family stared fear down.”

Msgr. Paul Jervis, postulator for Quinn's cause, said the priest “could not separate his sacramental ministry from the social and political realities that denied to people on account of their race, or immigrant status, the opportunities to enjoy the fullness of life as the Lord willed for all humanity.”

“St. Peter Claver Catholic Church became a meeting ground where white Catholics encountered blacks and discovered that they all had a common humanity with the same human problems, and were all in need of the intercession of St. Therese and the pastoral intercession of Monsignor Quinn,” he said.

Quinn died in 1940 at the age of 52.

The diocesan phase of his cause for canonization was opened in June 2010. At that time, Bishop DiMarzio said that Quinn's ministry “did not end upon his death but has continued to grow and take root in the hearts and souls of the faithful and clergy of this church in New York, which has continually ministered to the poor and oppressed.”

Austrian women's football team states regret over cancelled game with Vatican club

Tue, 06/25/2019 - 01:13

Vienna, Austria, Jun 24, 2019 / 11:13 pm (CNA).- Vienna's FC Mariahilf football team has issued a statement of regret after a friendly with the Vatican women's football team was cancelled Saturday after several FCM members lifted their jerseys whilst the Vatican anthem was playing, displaying painted ovaries and pro-abortion messages.

The Vatican soccer team, who had been invited to Vienna by FCM, decided not to go ahead with the June 22 match.

“The action of the three players was independently organized and carried out,” FCM stated. “We sincerely apologize to the Vatican team’s players and guests from near and far that the game was not played.”

The club noted that “tolerance, diversity, of life forms, and peaceful coexistence are important to us, as we have pointed out with rainbow symbols. We therefore understand the demands and message of our players, but we find the timing of their expression inappropriate and therefore understand the emotion it caused.”

The friendly was scheduled to kick off in the early afternoon in a sports arena in Wien-Simmering. Beforehand, both sides had participated in a prayer service and blessing of the pitch.

Austrian state broadcaster ORF quoted one of the FCM players involved in the protest as saying the activists were "not aware of the consequences of their action in any way and would have liked to play the football match".

The activists also handed out leaflets to journalists attending the match. These stated that the activists did not assent to the Church's teaching on abortion and same-sex marriage.

"They were not aware that the timing of the action during the playing of the Vatican anthem and in the presence of the Apostolic Nuncio could be detrimental to the idea of sport and ruin many weeks of preparation", reported the ORF.

When announcing the upcoming game, the German section of Vatican News reported FCM founder Ernst Lackner as saying he had initially not expected that the Vatican team would really accept the invitation, but that the Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, had assured the Vatican team that FC Mariahilf was a serious team that was also strongly committed to charity.

The papal women's football team had its first appearance in 2018 and immediately received an invitation from FCM, which is currently playing in the Wiener Landesliga, the third highest league in domestic women's football.

Corpus Christi comes to the Capitol

Mon, 06/24/2019 - 20:00

Washington D.C., Jun 24, 2019 / 06:00 pm (CNA).- A group of about 350 people, including priests, sisters, and laypersons, processed through Washington, DC on Sunday to celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi. The procession wound past national landmarks and stopped at the homes of the faithful along the way.

The procession was led by Monsignor Charles Pope, the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian Church in Washington, and was about one and a half miles in length. The procession ended at St. Joseph’s Church, on Capitol Hill, and included stops at two home altars along the way.

Over the course of the procession, the Eucharist was carried past the Capitol building and Supreme Court. Those processing sung hymns and prayed the Rosary.

This year was the first Eucharistic procession on Capitol Hill in recent memory. Catholic Men United, a group that “exists to fight for the honor and purification of Christ’s bride” also helped to organize the event. Pope is the group’s spiritual director.

Writing on the Archdiocese of Washington website, Pope said that Capitol Hill is, “a location that inspires both awe and anger. It is the epicenter of power in our country, power for both great good and great evil. Yet here we are as well, the Church.”

“We processed up a street where many protesters have walked before, past the homes of believers as well as non-believers, past rainbow flags as well as Madonnas in front yards, past the homes of members of Congress and ‘ordinary’ folks as well,” said Pope. 

The procession went smoothly, without any major disruptions or protests, albeit there were many a curious stare from those walking by. 

Pope said the procession was offered “in reparation for the sins and shortcomings of the members of the Church, both clergy and lay.” 

“We will commit ourselves anew to the Lord, acknowledging our past sins and seeking grace to overcome our shortcomings and resist temptations,” he said. “We will cry for God’s mercy on us and on our nation. Without grace and mercy, we do not stand a chance, but with the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.”

“I don’t know how to describe feeling so humbled and unworthy at the same time as honored and deeply loved,” said Robin Fennelly, whose home was a stop along the procession. 

“All I could do was kneel, weep, and throw rose petals at the feet of the holy priests carrying our Lord.”

In responding to gender theory, ‘forming the formators’ is key, educators say

Mon, 06/24/2019 - 19:47

Washington D.C., Jun 24, 2019 / 05:47 pm (CNA).- Amid a flurry of headlines denouncing the Vatican for releasing a document condemning “gender theory,” theology professors and Catholic educators told CNA that the document will be helpful in setting priorities for Catholic educators going forward, as Catholic schools respond to questions about LGBT issues.

“I love the emphasis on ‘forming the formators’...It’s important for teachers to realize that they’ve got to be able to answer their students’ questions, whether in religious education or teaching in a Catholic school,” Dr. Theresa Farnan, a professor of philosophy at St. Paul Seminary, the minor seminary of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, told CNA.

“You’ve got to be able to answer your students’ questions. Because you might get one shot to answer that question, and that may be it.”

Published at the beginning of “Pride Month,” during which many cities and corporations mark the campaign of LGBT advocacy, the document says that the Church teaches an essential difference between men and woman, ordered in the natural law and essential to the family and human flourishing.

“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,” the Congregation for Catholic Education wrote June 10, in a document entitled “Male and Female He Created Them.”

“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’,” the document states.

For Christians working in schools, both religious and secular, the radical individualism of gender theory should be avoided in favor of teaching children “to overcome their individualism and discover, in the light of faith, their specific vocation to live responsibly in a community.”

Dr. Susan Selner-Wright, who holds the Archbishop Chaput Chair in Philosophy at St. John Vianney Seminary in Denver, told CNA that “dialogue” does not, as some may believe, mean the same thing as “compromise” when it comes to talking about these kinds of issues.

“‘Dialogue’ right now, in the culture, basically means everybody’s got a right to their opinion, all opinions are equal, and ‘dialogue’ is just basically cover for never having to disagree with each other. And I think the congregation was just brilliant in explaining what dialogue really is,” Selner-Wright said.

The document also states that many efforts to implement “gender theory” into society shut down any possibility of dialogue from the Christian perspective.

“[Pope] Francis says that the ideologues just want to ‘assert themselves as absolute and unquestionable, even dictating how children should be raised,’ and then that cuts off dialogue...That’s not real dialogue. That’s just people shouting at each other. It’s not a way to go forward and to help people to live well.”

True dialogue, she said, is not just “dropping knowledge” on people, but rather inviting them into a conversation in order to be able to propose reasons to support your point of view.

“I would caution people not to dismiss dialogue as something that always leads to compromise. It shouldn’t. It should lead us to journey together towards the one who is Truth,” she said.

Much of the document is a reiteration of existing Church teaching on gender, but Farnan said she appreciated the document’s points of emphasis on formation of teachers.

“I will say the gamechanger...is the absolute insistence that they have to form all of their teachers, so that every teacher who is in a classroom with a kid can articulate the Church’s teaching on gender,” Farnan said.

The document says that “school managers, teaching staff and personnel all share the responsibility of both guaranteeing delivery of a high-quality service coherent with the Christian principles.”

“The other brilliant thing about the document, I think, is that it shows the utter continuity from John Paul II through Benedict XVI to Francis on this specific issue,” Selner-Wright said.

“People want to say ‘Oh Francis is my guy,’ well, he’s really not if what you’re talking about is transgenderism. He’s been completely clear that [transgender ideology] is bankrupt,” she said.

“I really liked the model that [the document] used: listen, reason, and propose,” Farnan said.

Farnan said she just finished a three-day workshop with members of the “iGen” generation, who have never known a time before the internet. She said the way to connect with members of the iGen is to be able to back claims up with science and to “be able to carefully distinguish between ideology and genuine scientific contribution.”

“The final part of it, which I think is the most important, is to propose Christian anthropology as a way of life,” Farnan explained.

“And honestly, if there’s anything that over the last four decades, five decades, we’ve been failing at as a Church is that we’re not going out and presenting a confidant vision of how Christianity differs from culture. And this is an opportunity to present a pretty stark difference. I think it’s really important.”

“What this document reminds us is that, as educators, we have to make sure that they’re getting a complete understanding of what Christianity has to offer in a very positive way...the authentic way to live a life of fulfillment of the human being.”

Farnan said she will watch with interest as individual dioceses work to implement the contents of the document. She highlighted Fort Wayne-South Bend as an example of a diocese that has been proactive in holding workshops for their teachers, educators, and priests to form them in Christian anthropology so they can answer their students’ questions about gender theory.

Mary Pat Donoghue, executive director of the Secretariat of Catholic Education for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told CNA in an interview that she also thinks the document will be useful for ongoing formation of Catholic educators.

“It's a call for all of us to enter more deeply into an understanding of the Church's teaching. I think that the document serves that purpose very, very beautifully,” Donoghue said.

“It also, though, has an element encouraging compassionate pastoral response, and I think that is important as well. So on a local level, diocesan level, finding ways to respond and to help schools to respond should these types of situations arise.”

Donoghue echoed Farnan’s point about the importance of “forming the formators.” Individual situations will always vary, she said, but schools faced with challenging situations related to gender theory should always be able to look to the diocesan level for guidance.

“It's important for our schools to have clear and consistent teaching, certainly around something that's this important,” she explained.

“It's also important for our teachers to understand that the Church's teaching contains the fullness of truth, therefore it's always going to be the most charitable and the most loving answer. Pairing that with a compassionate person-to-person response I think is the best way forward.”

Bishop Michael Barber of Oakland is the chairman of the Committee on Catholic Education for the U.S. bishops’ conference, and Donoghue said she believes Barber would describe the document as a means to better understand Church teaching about the nature of the human person.

“All human people struggle and bear crosses in many, many different forms, and a person suffering from gender dysphoria bears a very painful cross, and so we certainly don't stand to condemn or to judge, but to offer care and to bring about the fullness of the teaching to help to liberate that person,” Donoghue said.

Bea Cuasay and Michelle McDaniel contributed to this report.

Cathedral High School in Indianapolis recognizes archbishop's oversight

Mon, 06/24/2019 - 19:12

Indianapolis, Ind., Jun 24, 2019 / 05:12 pm (CNA).- A Catholic high school in the Indianapolis archdiocese has said it will comply with the archbishop’s instructions to stop employing a teacher in a same-sex marriage.

The decision comes days after a Jesuit high school in the archdiocese refused to comply with a similar instruction and had its Catholic status stripped by Archbishop Charles Thompson.

“It is Archbishop Thompson’s responsibility to oversee faith and morals as related to Catholic identity within the Archdiocese of Indianapolis,” Cathedral High School leaders said in a June 23 letter. “Archbishop Thompson made it clear that Cathedral’s continued employment of a teacher in a public, same-sex marriage would result in our forfeiting our Catholic identity due to our employment of an individual living in contradiction to Catholic teaching on marriage.”

“Therefore, in order to remain a Catholic Holy Cross School, Cathedral must follow the direct guidance given to us by Archbishop Thompson and separate from the teacher,” said the letter, signed by Matt Cohoat, chairman of Cathedral High School’s board of directors, and Rob Bridges, the school’s president.

There are about 1,000 students grades 9 to 12 at the high school. There are 68 schools recognized as Catholic by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

On June 20 the archdiocese announced that Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School will no longer be recognized as a Catholic school due to a disagreement about the employment of a teacher who attempted to contract a same-sex marriage.

“All those who minister in Catholic educational institutions carry out an important ministry in communicating the fullness of Catholic teaching to students both by word and action inside and outside the classroom,” the archdiocese said.

Every archdiocesan and Catholic private school has been instructed to clearly state that all such ministers “must convey and be supportive of all teachings of the Catholic Church.”

Teachers, the archdiocese said, are classified as ‘ministers’ because “it is their duty and privilege to ensure that students receive instruction in Catholic doctrine and practice. To effectively bear witness to Christ, whether they teach religion or not, all ministers in their professional and private lives must convey and be supportive of Catholic Church teaching.”

The June 20 statement noted that the archdiocese “recognizes all teachers, guidance counselors and administrators as ministers.” The 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision Hosanna Tabor v. EEOC established that religious institutions are free to require those it recognizes as ministers to uphold religious teachings as a condition of employment.

The letter from Cathedral High School leaders said the “agonizing decision” followed “22 months of earnest discussion and extensive dialogue” with the archdiocese about the high school’s Catholic identity.

The teacher concerned was not named in the letter.

“Please know that we offer our prayers and love to this teacher, our students and faculty, our archbishop, and all associated with Cathedral as we continue to educate our students in the Catholic Holy Cross tradition,” the school’s letter continued. “We ask that dialogue about this difficult situation be respectful of the dignity of every person and that you continue to pray for our Cathedral family and the wider Indianapolis community.”

The letter said that being Catholic can be “challenging” and the high school leaders voiced hope that the action does not dishearten parents, staff, and students.

The high school is affiliated with the Brothers of Holy Cross and its bylaws state that its Catholic identity is to be “at all times maintained” and that education in the faith is “a mission priority.”

“We are committed to educating our students in the tenets of the Catholic faith with an emphasis on the Holy Cross tradition,” said the school’s letter.

The letter voiced respect for the position of those at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School and said there are differences in the schools’ respective situations.

“Brebeuf is sponsored by the Jesuits while Cathedral is merely affiliated with the Brothers of Holy Cross. Because Brebeuf is a specific ministry of the Jesuits, their canonical and nonprofit status is different than ours. Therefore, the two schools cannot function the same way if Cathedral were to receive a similar decree as Brebeuf,” the school said.

School leaders at Brebeuf had said that despite the archdiocese’s decision “our identity as a Catholic Jesuit institution remains unchanged.” They said that to follow the instruction from the archdiocese “would not only violate our informed conscience on this particular matter, but also set a concerning precedent for future interference in the school’s operations and other governance matters that Brebeuf Jesuit leadership has historically had the sole right and privilege to address and decide.”

The archdiocese first made the request to Brebeuf two years before.

The Code of Canon Law recognizes the diocesan bishop’s responsibility to ensure that religion teachers are “outstanding in true doctrine, in the witness of their Christian life, and in their teaching ability.” The diocesan bishop has the right to approve religion teachers and, “if religious or moral considerations require it, the right to remove them or to demand that they be removed.”

Fr. Brian Paulson, S.J., head of the Jesuits’ Midwest Province, said he recognized the archbishop’s instruction to be “his prudential judgement of the application of canon law” regarding his responsibility for Catholic education and oversight of faith and morals in his archdiocese.

The Archdiocese of Indianapolis has previously addressed a similar issues at another school.

In August 2018, Shelley Fitzgerald, a guidance counselor at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis, was placed on paid administrative leave. Fitzgerald, an employee of an archdiocesan school, had attempted to contract a same-sex marriage in 2014.

The Indianapolis high school cases drew significant comment from LGBT activists and the prominent Jesuit commentator Father James Martin, editor-at-large of America Magazine, who claimed that the action targets “LGBT people” and not “straight teachers.”

Morals clauses at Catholic schools have been a target of some activist groups, including the dissenting Catholic Equally Blessed Coalition. The coalition has received several low-six figure grants from the Arcus Foundation to back LGBT activists and to counter the Catholic Church.

One coalition member, New Ways Ministry, gave Martin its Bridge Building Award in 2016.

States move to close child marriage exceptions

Mon, 06/24/2019 - 16:00

Harrisburg, Pa., Jun 24, 2019 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- A growing number of states are considering bans or additional restrictions on child marriages, including in Pennsylvania, where a bill to outlaw child marriages passed the state’s House of Representatives earlier this month.  

“Children under the age of 18 cannot vote, serve in the military and buy alcohol or tobacco products, among other things,” Pennsylvania state Rep. Jesse Topper (R), one of the lead co-sponsors of the legislation, HB 360, stated upon its passage on June 5.

“Marriage is a life-altering decision and those who enter into it must be of a certain maturity that comes with age.” 

The legislation is expected to pass the Senate and to be signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf (D), NBC News reported.

Once the bill is enacted into law, Pennsylvania would become the third state, joining New Jersey and Delaware, to outlaw marriage licenses for any applicants under the age of 18; other states set age limits below 18 or allow for exceptions such as court approval.

There are currently 13 states without any age restrictions on marriage, though Maine’s state legislature recently passed a law restricting marriage licenses to applicants aged 16 or older and is due to come into force on Monday.

State Reps. Perry Warren (D) and Topper are the Pennsylvania bill’s lead co-sponsors.

Topper stated in a press release that child marriages—mostly between adult males and female minors—legalized relationships that would otherwise be considered cases of statutory rape. The bill would amend the state’s current law, which allows for marriage licenses for children younger than age 16 to be granted through court approval, and for children ages 16 to 18 with parental consent.

Warren said upon passage of the legislation that “this bill is about child protection,” and that “studies have shown that the child is often not in control of a decision to marry before 18, and a child under 18 does not have the legal rights of an adult.” 

The advocacy group Unchained at Last, which works to end forced marriages and child marriages in the U.S. and which supported the Pennsylvania legislation, says that around 248,000 children were married in the U.S. between the years 2000 and 2010.

That estimate was drawn from data gathered in 38 states which revealed more than 167,000 child marriages in the time frame, with estimated numbers from the remaining 12 states and Washington, D.C. “based on the strong correlation Unchained identified between population and child marriage.” 

Child spouses have a significantly high risk of abuse, due to their vulnerability, along with a higher risk of divorce, the group says.

According to a 2017 PBS FRONTLINE report, there were at least 207,459 reported child marriages in the U.S. with children as young as 12 being granted marriage licenses in several states.

The number of child marriages did fall significantly over the time period between 2000 and 2010, both PBS and Unchained at Last noted.

Catholic youth group involved in fatal Colorado bus crash

Mon, 06/24/2019 - 14:01

Pueblo, Colo., Jun 24, 2019 / 12:01 pm (CNA).- A charter bus carrying members of a Catholic group from New Mexico crashed Sunday in southern Colorado, killing at least two people including the driver and injuring more than a dozen others.

The group, high schoolers from Aquinas Newman Center at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, had been in Denver for the weekend attending Steubenville of the Rockies, an annual Catholic youth conference.

Among the dead is Jason Paul Marshall, a seminarian of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe. Marshall was studying theology at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio.

The crash occurred on Interstate 25 around 2:30 pm June 23 about ten miles north of Pueblo. The bus struck part of a bridge structure and went off the highway into a ditch.

Colorado State Patrol reported that the driver was ejected from the bus and died. Thirteen other passengers sustained injuries ranging from minor to critical, CSP reported. The Archdiocese of Santa Fe later named the driver as 22-year-old Anthony Padilla.

A total of 14 ambulances and three medical helicopters were called to the scene to assist. Authorities said the driver may have had an “unspecified medical issue” that contributed to the crash, but the cause of the accident is still under investigation.

Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe will be celebrating a Mass of Healing June 26 at the Newman Center for the victims of the crash. A call from CNA to the Archdiocese of Santa Fe on Monday morning went unanswered as of press time.

Around 30 remaining members of the Newman Center group were able to attend Mass Sunday evening at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Denver. Father Robert Fisher offered prayers for the victims of the crash during Mass.

“Please pray tonight for a Catholic group from New Mexico who were involved in a tragic bus accident this afternoon in Pueblo,” the Archdiocese of Denver said on Facebook.

“The group had attended the Steubenville of the Rockies Youth Conference in Denver and was on its way home. We send our prayers and deepest condolences to the families and friends of those who were killed, and our prayers for healing and comfort for those who were injured.”

US bishops oppose immigration raids, Trump defers

Mon, 06/24/2019 - 13:12

Washington D.C., Jun 24, 2019 / 11:12 am (CNA).- On Saturday US President Donald Trump announced he would delay immigration raids meant to begin that weekend, and the US bishops stated their opposition to the planned deportations.

“We recognize the right of nations to control their borders in a just and proportionate manner. However, broad enforcement actions instigate panic in our communities and will not serve as an effective deterrent to irregular migration,” Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin said June 22.

“Instead, we should focus on the root causes in Central America that have compelled so many to leave their homes in search of safety and reform our immigration system with a view toward justice and the common good,” said the bishop, who chairs the US bishops' migration committee.

He added: “We stand ready to work with the Administration and Congress to achieve those objectives.”

Trump had announced upcoming immigration raids June 17, but on Saturday said he would delay the action two weeks, to allow Congress to modify US asylum law.

The Trump administration is eager to reduce the number of illegal immigrants in the US.

Earlier this month, Mexico agreed to take measures to reduce the number of migrants to the US, in order to avoid the imposition of tariffs.

Some 6,000 National Guard troops will be assigned to Mexico's southern border with Guatemala, and some asylum seekers in the US will be sent to Mexico to wait while their claims are processed.

In the US, the House passed a bill June 4 that would provide a citizenship path for some brought to the US illegally as children, as well as for qualified holders of Temporary Protected Status or Deferred Enforced Departure.

Bishop Vásquez commented that “Dreamers, TPS and DED holders are working to make our communities and parishes strong and are vital contributors to our country. We welcome today’s vote and urge the Senate to take up this legislation which gives permanent protection to Dreamers, TPS and DED holders.”

The bill, the American Dream and Promise Act of 2019, would grant qualifying childhood arrivals 10 years of legal residence, after which they could receive permanent legal residence with two years of higher education or military service, or three years of employment. Those with TPS or DED could apply for lawful permanent residence if they have been in the country for at least three years and have passed background checks. After five years of lawful permanent residence, they would apply for citizenship.

In May, Bishop Vásquez and Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston, president of the US bishops' conference, voiced concern over a separate immigration plan from the Trump administration which prioritizes immigration status based on merit rather than family ties.

“We oppose proposals that seek to curtail family-based immigration and create a largely ‘merit-based’ immigration system,” they said. “Families are the foundation of our faith, our society, our history, and our immigration system.”

How the Church can better respond to the problem of domestic violence

Sun, 06/23/2019 - 18:12

Washington D.C., Jun 23, 2019 / 04:12 pm (CNA).- This Sunday, in Catholic parishes across the country, one in four women sitting in the pews will have experienced severe physical violence in their own homes from their spouses or partners - including burns, choking, beating, or the use of a weapon against them. One in nine men will have experienced the same.

According to one priest who is an expert in the subject, priests in the U.S. are still not doing enough to address the issue.

“The Church has been complicit in this because we haven’t talked about it enough,” said Fr. Charles Dahm, a priest of the Chicago Archdiocese who leads its domestic violence outreach program.

Dahm was a priest at a large parish with a majority-Hispanic population near downtown Chicago for 21 years. During his time there, after hiring a counselor on his staff, he learned that many of his parishioners were victims of domestic abuse, he told CNA. He asked his counselor to train him in recognizing and responding to abuse, and he started to talk about domestic violence in his homilies.

“And the more I spoke about it, the more victims came to me,” he said. Word of Dahm’s parish ministry spread, as parishioners referred their relatives, neighbors and friends. Around the year 2000, the parish office was receiving an average of one victim of domestic violence every day, he said.

Today, he coordinates the Church’s response to domestic abuse at the Archdiocese of Chicago, educating and training priests and other Church leaders on how to prevent and respond to instances of domestic abuse. He travels to give homilies and workshops on the topic, and while he’s been to many parishes throughout his own archdiocese, Dahm said it has been difficult to get other dioceses to respond to his offers of help.

The clergy of the U.S., including the bishops, are largely ignorant about the existence of domestic violence, Dahm said.

“The studies show it’s rampant in the United States. Every pastor who stands up on Sunday looking out on his congregation - he is facing dozens if not scores of victims in his congregation in front of him, and he does not know how to speak to them.”

The ignorance surrounding domestic abuse has a variety of causes, Dahm noted. Priests have not been educated on domestic violence in the seminary, and so they do not expect to encounter it in the priesthood. If a priest does not talk about domestic violence, victims may not approach him about it, and he can therefore have a false sense that it does not exist in his parish. Priests are also overstretched and overworked, and can be weary about taking on new ministries, he added.

“It’s a real travesty that...the clergy is resistant to this topic,” he said.

Misunderstanding abuse as a Catholic

There can also be misunderstandings among Catholics - lay people and clergy alike - about the prevalence of domestic violence and how to respond to it within the context of a Christian marriage.

For example, Dahm said, it is a mistake to think that because couples are religious and going to church, they are less likely to experience or perpetrate abuse.

A 2019 study from the Institute for Family Studies and the Wheatley Institution of Brigham Young University found that while religion offers many benefits to couples, it unfortunately does not positively impact their rates of domestic violence.

“When it comes to domestic violence, religious couples in heterosexual relationships do not have an advantage over secular couples or less/mixed religious couples. Measures of intimate partner violence (IPV)—which includes physical abuse, as well as sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and controlling behaviors—do not differ in a statistically significant way by religiosity,” the study noted.

Other misunderstandings about how to respond to domestic violence come from an incomplete understanding of the Catholic teaching about the permanence of marriage, or the role of suffering in the life of a Christian.

Sharon O’Brien is the director of Catholics For Family Peace, an education and research initiative that is part of the National Catholic School of Social Service’s Consortium for Catholic Social Teaching at the Catholic University of America.

O’Brien told CNA that while marriage is meant to be a sacrament that lasts until the end of a person’s or their partner’s life, domestic violence can be a valid justification for a Catholic to seek at least physical separation from their spouse.

“Catholics I think are challenged to understand that abuse in a marriage is unacceptable,” O’Brien said. “But it’s sinful and it’s usually criminal.”

Greg Pope is the assistant general secretary for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, which recently held their annual Day for Life, a day set aside for raising awareness of various pro-life issues. This year, they chose domestic violence as the theme of the day.

Pope told CNA that domestic violence “fundamentally undermines the Church’s teaching on the inherent dignity of the human person and the complementarity of couples within a marriage.”

He said that Catholic couples experiencing domestic abuse should know that Canon Law, the governing law of the Church, addresses domestic violence, and states: “If either of the spouses causes grave mental or physical danger to the other spouse or to the offspring or otherwise renders common life too difficult, that spouse gives the other a legitimate cause for leaving, either by decree of the local ordinary or even on his or her own authority if there is danger in delay.” (Can. 1153 §1.)

“The Church does not force anyone to remain in an abusive relationship,” Pope reiterated.

Furthermore, O’Brien said, Catholics can have a misunderstanding of the role of suffering in their lives, and some may think that the suffering they experience through domestic violence may be God’s way of “punishing” them for some other sin.

“Yes, suffering exists and yes, we can offer it to the Lord, but we’re not to seek suffering,” O’Brien said, and Catholics should not tolerate abuse in the name of suffering.

“The other big deal with Catholics is understanding that this is not punishment,” she added.

“Yes, maybe you had an abortion, or yes, maybe you all were engaged in relations before marriage...but experiencing domestic abuse is not punishment for some other sin, and you are called to address it, to figure out what to do,” she said.

How the Church responds to domestic abuse

In 1992, the Catholic bishops of the U.S. wrote “When I Call for Help: A Pastoral Response to Domestic Violence Against Women.”

In the document, the bishops clearly state Catholic Church teaching regarding domestic abuse. They also examine why abuse happens, how one can respond to it, and information on where and how abused women and men can seek help.

The document “was cutting edge in 1992 and is still incredibly relevant and appropriate,” said Fr. Dahm. It has since been updated, but only in very minor ways.

“As pastors of the Catholic Church in the United States, we state as clearly and strongly as we can that violence against women, inside or outside the home, is never justified. Violence in any form —physical, sexual, psychological, or verbal —is sinful; often, it is a crime as well. We have called for a moral revolution to replace a culture of violence. We acknowledge that violence has many forms, many causes, and many victims—men as well as women,” the bishops stated in the document’s introduction.

But while the document is excellent, it is still a “really well-kept secret” of the Church, Dahm said, in that many priests and Church leaders do not know that it exists. He said part of his work over the years has been to bring this document to the attention of priests and seminarians during his workshops on domestic violence.

Catholics for Family Peace is another key part of the Church’s response in the United States.

“All the major religions have a national office where clergy and leaders can be trained on domestic abuse, and so we’re it for Catholics,” O’Brien noted.

“We work with dioceses to implement the 20 strategies in the (bishop’s) statement and to create a coordinated, compassionate response to domestic abuse,” she said. They also host several awareness-raising events during the month of October, which is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Lauri Przybysz, co-founder of Catholics For Family Peace, told CNA that their mission extends beyond education and training for clergy and leaders to “education for engaged couples as they prepare for marriage, for them to understand what a healthy relationship means for their marriage, and just facts about domestic violence that a lot of people aren't aware of.”

“We actually have an education module that we can share with marriage preparation leaders... [that] has a little questionnaire that a couple can take to say, to identify: ‘Is there something in my relationship that could be better?’” she said.

They also educate teens on healthy dating and relationships, and they compile good secular resources that clergy can use too, because many of them do not have anything in them contrary to the Catholic faith, Przybysz said.

O’Brien also said that the archdioceses of both Chicago and Washington, D.C., have modeled some of the best responses to domestic violence.

Laura Yeomans is the program manager for the Parish Partners Program at Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. The website for the program includes a homily on domestic violence, a downloadable packet for pastors responding to domestic violence, definitions and explanations of domestic violence and Church teaching, as well as links to emergency resources for victims, among other things.

Yeomans and her team connect with priests and families at the parish level when they are notified about cases of domestic abuse, she said.

“We go out to the parish setting and we meet individually with families who are suffering domestic abuse,” Yeomans said.

Basic do’s and don’ts of responding to domestic violence

While a natural response for pastors or Catholics who learn about a case of domestic abuse may be to call the police, Przybysz warned against it. If a perpetrator knows they have been found out, their violence could escalate to the point of killing their victim.

“It's about walking beside someone, giving them information about where they can find safety, when they decide to make the move,” she said.

Yeomans seconded this advice. “When you're talking with family suffering, domestic abuse, it's very important that we not go in with an agenda,” she said.

The first thing to do is listen, Yeomans said, and to say: “I believe you.” Next, she said, ask: “What can I do? How can I help you? What step would you like to take?”

“It's very important not to say, ‘You should forgive him,’” she said, because this gives the victim the false impression that they must continue enduring the abuse in the meantime. Forgiveness may come eventually, Yeomans said, but the first priority is the safety of the victim.

“Forgiveness is not permitting the abuse to continue,” she said. “It is not allowing yourself and your children to be in danger.”

Spreading awareness of domestic violence, and of the resources available, is one of the best things priests can do for their parishioners, Fr. Dahm said, because then they will know where to turn for help. He said he found it especially true among Hispanics and Latinos, especially those who had recently come to the United States and prefer going to the Church for help.

“It is absolutely true that Hispanics prefer to go to their parish,” he said. “They feel more welcome, they feel safer, that was why in our parish we were so successful - people came to us from all over. I think that had a lot to do with the fact that people wanted to go to a place they trusted.”

Yeomans said that besides speaking about domestic violence at Mass, priests should find out what resources are available to them locally. Once they know what domestic violence hotlines and resources are available, they can print flyers with information and hang them in parish bathrooms, and put informative inserts in their parish bulletins.

Another thing that Yeomans has seen priests do is to raise the question about domestic violence and healthy relationships during times like baptism class, when couples are already at Church to receive some education and information.

Pope said that in the UK, the bishops’ goals for having domestic violence as the theme for their Day for Life was to raise awareness of the issue, to raise additional funds for resources, and to make domestic violence culturally unacceptable.

Fr. Dahm added that he is willing to travel throughout the United States to preach and give workshops on domestic violence in parishes.

“If there are bishops in dioceses who are interested, just tell me, and I will go there,” he said.

By focusing on domestic violence, among other issues, as important pro-life issues, Pope said the bishops hope to help their people follow God’s call in the Gospel of John more closely: “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

If you or a loved one are experiencing domestic violence, call the national domestic violence hotline at: 800-799-SAFE (7233) or 800-787-3224 (TTY). For more information, go to www.thehotline.org.

Domestic violence resources through the Archdiocese of Chicago are available at: https://pvm.archchicago.org/human-dignity-solidarity/domestic-violence-outreach

Domestic violence resources, including the pastoral response packet, are available through Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. at: https://www.catholiccharitiesdc.org/familypeace/

Catholics can also visit Catholics for Family Peace or For Your Marriage for additional information.

Three priests sue Corpus Christi diocese for inclusion in credibly accused list

Sat, 06/22/2019 - 10:01

Corpus Christi, Texas, Jun 22, 2019 / 08:01 am (CNA).- Three priests have filed suits against the Diocese of Corpus Christi and its bishop, claiming that they were wrongfully included in a list of clerics credibly accused of sexually abusing a minor within the diocese.

The Corpus Christi Caller Times reported June 20 that Fr. Jesús García Hernando had filed a suit over his inclusion on the list. In March, both Msgr. Michael Heras and Fr. John Feminelli filed similar suits.

The suits state that “Defendants knew the statement was false and acted with reckless disregard for the truth. The publication of the statement was made with malice.”

All three are being represented by Andrew Greenwell of Harris & Greenwell, who told the Caller Times that a fourth suit may be filed as well.

The diocese had earlier filed motions to dismiss the suits from Heras and Feminelli, saying the list was “made in good faith.”

The Corpus Christi diocese released a list of credibly accused clerics Jan. 31, amid a wave of such admissions throughout the US following a Pennsylvania grand jury report on abuse by clerics in six of the state's dioceses.

Announcing the list, Bishop Michael Mulvey of Corpus Christi said that “an Independent Committee comprised of outside legal professionals reviewed all cleric files to determine whether an allegation was credible,” and that “in some cases, files were also reviewed by the Diocesan Review Board.”

The diocese “accepted all recommendations from the Independent Committee and the Diocesan Review Board regarding the names to be included on this list,” he stated.

The bishop added that the diocese “has worked diligently to be accurate with the information presented,” and said that “if any information is found to be incorrect” the diocese's victim assistance coordinator should be contacted.

His statement included a nota bene that “A determination that an allegation against a member of the clergy is credible is not equivalent to a finding by a judge or jury that the cleric is liable or guilty of the sexual abuse of a minor under canon, civil or criminal law.

On the list were 26 clerics, 12 of whom are deceased.

According to the list, Fr. Hernando was incardinated into the Corpus Christi diocese in 1983, and was ordained the following year in Burgos. He was excardinated from the diocese in 2000, and was removed from ministry in 2011.

Greenwell told the Caller Times that Hernando is still a priest in Spain.

The Caller Times said that Hernando was indicted in 1996 on charges of sexual assault and indecency with a child related to an alleged 1992 incident with a 15-year-old altar boy. Hernando returned to the US from Spain after the indictment. He was not convicted, and the criminal case was dismissed; the prosecutor indicated he needed more evidence than the accuser's testimony.

He has also been accused in a suit “of molesting at least two other men from 1991 to 1994.”

According to the diocese's list, Fr. Feminelli was ordained for the diocese in 1987, and retired in 2007. The Caller Times said in February that a couple filed a suit against the diocese in 1988, “claiming diocese employees circulated false information about their 15-year-old son.” Feminelli was accused of buying the boy gifts in exchange for “wrestling matches” in a hotel room.

The Caller Times wrote that “the suit alleged slander and libel,” saying the bishop and priests “humiliated the family, causing the boy to recant … No wrestling matches took place, the boy said in court.”

Msgr. Heras was ordained for the diocese in 1984, and was removed from ministry in 2014.

That year, district attorneys received complaints of inappropriate conduct which was alleged to have happened 25-30 years earlier. Criminal investigations were not pursued, but a civil suit was filed in October 2018.

A diocesan directory of priests which indicated it was last updated Oct. 30, 2018, listed Feminelli as retired. Heras' status was not indicated.

Drone strikes and proportionality: What is 'just war?'

Fri, 06/21/2019 - 20:00

Washington D.C., Jun 21, 2019 / 06:00 pm (CNA).- On Thursday night, President Donald Trump confirmed that he had ordered a military strike against Iran, and then called it off, after a U.S. military drone was shot down by Iran earlier in the week.

Trump said he cancelled the military strike because the expected 150 Iranian casualties were not “proportional” to the destruction of a U.S. drone.

“Ten minutes before the strike I stopped it, [it was] not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone," Trump said.

The concept of proportionality in military conflict is rooted in what is often called the “just war theory,” most famously expounded by St. Thomas Aquinas.

Modern conflicts, which often involve missile and air strikes rather than pitched battles between troops, present a more complicated concept of war than in previous centuries but, theologians told CNA, just war theory remains applicable to modern warfare.

“The Catechism of the Catholic Church does a nice job of summarizing the criteria for entering into the use of military force for self-defense,” Miller told CNA, “though I tend to think of just war as more of a ‘doctrine’ than a ‘theory’ in the Church.”

Miller said the Church’s moral criteria are divided into two categories – the ius ad bellum and the ius in bellum, covering the criteria for resorting to war and how it is to be conducted once begun.

“Regarding proportionality, the Catechism says that ‘the use of arms must not produce evils or disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated.’ That would be the criterion that [President] Trump seems to be alluding to in saying what he did.”

While the prospect of air strikes causing casualties in response to shooting down an unmanned drone presents a clear case for weighing the proportionality of any response, Miller said, there can be some broader confusion about what proportionality means.

“It does not necessarily mean you cannot take the lives of more enemy combatants than have been lost on your side, that would be almost to say there was an obligation to lose the war. Nor does it necessarily mean that you cannot prosecute a war of self-defense in response to an initial strike – take for example the attack on Pearl Harbor, which was not necessarily intended to precede an invasion of the United States but nevertheless triggered a just response of war with Japan.”

Considering the specific example offered by Trump’s comments, Miller said that, at least based on what has been reported, the reasoning was less straightforward.

“If you think about the act of shooting down a drone – is that intended to be the beginning of a military action leading to further deadly damage to either American or allied personnel or interests? It might be clear that such an act was intended as a provocation, but not necessarily to war.”

Dr. Taylor Patrick O’Neill, assistant professor of theology at Mount Mercy University, told CNA that the ongoing nature of a threat was an important part of invoking a just military response.

“The first criterion for the use of military force is, of course, a just cause,” O’Neill told CNA.

“I think that in response to an act which has not yet caused any casualties, which is not part of an ongoing pattern of military aggression with lives at stake, there is a real question here about the just cause and the proportionality of engaging in a response which would certainly take lives – maybe many lives and even civilian ones at that.”

Miller agreed that responding with deadly force to a non-deadly provocation requires serious scrutiny.

“If it really is the case that the response to, say, the shooting down of an unmanned drone, is only intended to take out the infrastructure which made that possible and to prevent it happening again, it is all the more clear that proportionality really does come to bear when you are looking at taking human life – especially if those lives might include civilians. It becomes very problematic,” Miller said.

Modern conflicts often involve remote means of warfare and targets which are of unclear military status, such as governmental intelligence posts, radar stations, or other logistical installations.  While the personnel in them might be primarily military, the presence of civilians has to weighed carefully in discerning military action.

“The classification of people involved can be very difficult to discern in modern conflicts,” O’Neill said.

“We don’t necessarily see artillery shelling enemy lines. With strikes from distance on military targets, there are people involved who might not be military personnel: they might be government intelligence workers or people in a grey area, but then there’s the possibility of just the civilian janitor in the building, how do you put them in the balance of proportionality? It makes things very difficult.”

O’Neill said that with modern means of warfare, there is a very high burden on governments to take all measures possible to limit the loss of potentially innocent human life.

“To have the moral justification and to make some calculus of proportionality, you have to have some good intelligence about who could be harmed – obviously there can be unintended consequences but you have to have a good amount of information about what the effects of a military action could be before you can judge if it is a just response.”

Miller emphasized the same point, telling CNA that even in response to the deaths of soldiers, any military response has to involve a difficult prudential judgment about the risk to civilian life.

“If lives are being lost and there is, say, an installation which is helping make that happen, a responsive attack there could be justified and proportionality satisfied, but only as long as everything that reasonably can be done to limit civilian casualties is done,” said Miller.

“Of course, so much of this is about thinking five or ten steps down the road, and it is about balancing the need to prevent an escalation while keeping an eye on all the possible unforeseen consequences,” O’Neill said.

“Whenever an action could have a double effect, proportionality becomes important,” Miller agreed.

“In war especially, but in moral thinking more broadly, where there is that risk, there is a prudential judgment to be made. Each situation needs to be assessed on its own merits and it is not always perfectly quantifiable, even almost a case of ‘you know it when you see it.’ There is no algorithm or mathematical formula for this.”

Wis. Catholic Conference dismayed by veto of abortion bills

Fri, 06/21/2019 - 19:01

Madison, Wis., Jun 21, 2019 / 05:01 pm (CNA).- As the Democratic Governor of Wisconsin vetoed Friday four bills regulating abortion, Catholics in the state expressed disappointment with the decision.

The Republican-controlled state legislature sent Gov. Tony Evers four bills June 20. They would have imposed criminal penalties on doctors who do not provide medical attention to babies born after a failed abortion; bar Medicaid funding from going to Planned Parenthood; prohibit abortions based on the baby’s sex, race, or defects; and require abortion providers to inform patients that a medical abortion may be reversed after the first dose of mifepristone.

"Everyone should have access to quality, affordable healthcare, and that includes reproductive healthcare,” Evers said June 21.

Regarding his veto of Assembly Bill 182, which would have prohibited sex, race, and disability-based abortions, Evers stated: "I object to the political interference between patients and their healthcare providers ... The provisions of this bill perpetuate harmful stereotypes and put women at risk by making reproductive healthcare less accessible."

Kim Vercauteren, executive director of the Wisconsin Catholic Conference, told CNA the conference was let down by the governor’s declaration. She said the bills signified the dignity of all women.

“In the terms of the ... governor's veto of these bills, obviously, we are disappointed and dismayed by that,” she said.

Vercauteren said the bills would protect all women, whether unborn or pregnant.

“These bills do an amazing job of trying to help women that truly respects them, whether they're inside the womb or elsewhere,” said Vercauteren. “It shows that the bills are devoted to prevention diagnosis and care and not the termination of life.”

“It just aligns with our Catholic teaching. Our march for justice for the unborn and newly born children … is the just the recognition of everyone’s full humanity. We have an obligation to protect and promote that. We would hope the government would do the same,” said Vercauteren.

Supporters of the bills do not have enough votes to override Evers' vetos.

In a June 21 tweet, Wisconsin’s Planned Parenthood expressed support for the governor's decision, claiming the bills were based on inaccurate facts.

Evers “vetos a package of anti-women's health bills aimed at misinforming the public about abortion care. These bills and their supporters are making claims that are inflammatory, offensive and blatantly false,” read the tweet.

The ‘dire’ border crisis continues as federal funds run out fast

Fri, 06/21/2019 - 18:00

Washington D.C., Jun 21, 2019 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Amid of a surge of migrants, many of them minors, seeking to cross the U.S.-Mexico border, federal officials have called for emergency funding to address a growing humanitarian crisis. While reports differ, budget constraints have led to cuts to legal aid and educational programs for detained migrant youths.

“We continue to experience a humanitarian and security crisis at the southern border of the United States, and the situation becomes more dire each day,” Alex M. Azar II, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Human Services, and Kevin McAleenan, Acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said in a June 12 letter to Members of Congress.

Massive numbers of migrants, often fleeing gang violence and extreme poverty in Central America, are seeking to cross the U.S. border. In May an average of 4,650 people per day crossed into the U.S. or arrived at ports of entry without proper documentation, said Azar and McAleenan in their letter.

There were over 144,000 total enforcement actions on the border, a 32 percent increase over April and the highest monthly total in more than 15 years.

“We urge Congress to take swift action to provide the necessary funding to address the severe humanitarian and operational impacts of this crisis and enact reforms to the root causes of these problems so that they do not persist into the future,” the Trump administration leaders said in their letter.

They warned of “rapidly depleting funds caused by the border surge.” Third-quarter funding is already being withheld in almost all U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

Budgetary constraints mean the HHS has started to defund education services, legal services, and recreation for unaccompanied minors in federal migrant shelters on the ground such activities are “not directly necessary for the protection of life and safety.”

Safety of children in federal care is “the primary concern” of both HHS and DHS, Azar and McAleenan said in their letter. As of June 10, over 2,500 unaccompanied children were among the 17,000 people in Customs and Border Protection custody. On May 1 they numbered only about 870. The number of arriving children “greatly exceeds existing HHS capacity.”

Catholic leaders are also concerned about the funding shortfall.

Kathryn Kuennen, associate director of children’s services at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Children and Migration Office, told CNA that the U.S. bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services serves about 2,000 unaccompanied children per year, though programs could serve more children in coming months. These services work through a national network of licensed unaccompanied refugee minor foster care programs until children in its care are approved for release and reunification with a vetted sponsor in the U.S.

At present these Catholic-run services have not been mandated to cut their budgets.

“We are working within the funding and resources available to cover those expenses,” said Kuennen. “We certainly would be concerned if there is not supplemental funding available.”

Catholic migrant services leaders are confident that their educational programs can continue to cover costs “for a short time,” but they are concerned over long-term funding.

“We are at risk of placing programs in jeopardy with their own state licensing requirements for the children in their care,” Kuennen said June 20.

Melissa Velarde Hastings, a policy advisor to the U.S. bishops, said that the USCCB and its Migrant and Refugee Services have been advocating for Congress to appropriate $2.88 billion for HHS supplemental funding that would ensure funding through the rest of the fiscal year and to provide adequate care for children.

The appropriations process is an important way to ensure better treatment for minors in federal custody or care, especially given concerns about some large-scale facilities which detain undocumented border crossers.

“From our perspective we see these facilities as being an important tool to have available in times when the referral numbers are quite high and it needs the additional capacity,” Hastings told CNA. “However, we are advocating for increased oversight and heightened standards for those facilities.”

She encouraged those concerned to visit the USCCB’s Justice for Immigrants website at justiceforimmigrants.org.

Kuennen saw a need to ensure adequate bed capacity for children and more child-friendly options for migrants.

“There’s absolutely a need to continue to increase available foster home placements or smaller-scale placements for children so that there are alternatives to some of the large-scale facilities that we see and hear about often,” she told CNA. “We continue to support the work in building up a network that is more safe and appropriate for children.”

Earlier this month the Washington Post reported that HHS funding cuts could violate a federal court settlement and state licensing agreements that require education and recreation for minors in federal custody.

One shelter employee, speaking to the Washington Post on condition of anonymity, said the cuts have worried workers who think the care for children will suffer. The educational classes and sports are crucial for the children’s physical and mental health, the employee said.

Unless criteria are met, the Anti-Deficiency Act requires HHS to reallocate up to $167 million to the unaccompanied children program and away from Refugee Support Services, trafficking victims and survivors of torture.

Almost 85,000 people who were part of a “family unit” were apprehended on the Southwest border, with another 4,100 deemed inadmissible. at the border’s ports of entry. The “vast majority” of those apprehended were released into the U.S. “due to a lack of space and authority to detain them,” said Azar and McAleenan’s letter.

In all of fiscal year 2012, the border patrol apprehended just over 11,000 people who were part of a family unit.

Border patrol agents now spend most of their time caring for families and children, providing medical assistance, transportation, and food service “instead of performing law enforcement duties.”

Azar and McAleenan’s letter to Congress cited flu outbreaks at the Centralized Processing Center in McAllen, Texas and other facilities. These outbreaks require separate quarantine facilities to reduce the risk to children and other vulnerable people.

“While agents are providing the best care possible, these groups need more appropriate care, and they need it now,” they said.

Cuts to legal services have also drawn criticism. Such services are necessary for many unaccompanied minors to contest possible deportation.

“We are deeply troubled that these services are being cut for children, who are among the most vulnerable population of immigrants in detention,” Kica Matos, director of the Center on Immigration and Justice at the Vera Institute of Justice, told the Washington Post. Matos’ center manages legal aid programs for the U.S. government.

For decades the U.S. bishops have been active on immigration issues, and recent developments were a focus of their annual spring meeting in Baltimore.

Bishops like Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles said there were serious challenges facing the Church’s mission to migrants and refugees, criticizing the “inhumane” and “immoral” treatment of migrants, asylum-seekers, and others seeking to enter the U.S.

The bishops cited the Trump administration’s lowering of refugee intake caps for a third straight year to 30,000 for FY 2019, as well as the ending of the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals program in 2017, and the ongoing non-renewal of Temporary Protected Status designations.

Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, Texas said U.S. policy puts “vulnerable people in harm’s way” by forcing asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their request is processed. He also criticized increases in family detention, rules “to further restrict access to asylum and due process,” and an “enforcement-only approach to migration.”

Religious ministry to detained migrants is also a concern.

With thousands of undocumented immigrants in detention centers throughout the country, Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami said last week, “we as pastors should be concerned that we have our priests there celebrating Mass for them, that the Church is present to them in this area.”

“We have to respond to them and not let the Church be invisible to them,” said Wenski.
 

 

In final decision, Missouri health department denies license to Planned Parenthood

Fri, 06/21/2019 - 12:50

St. Louis, Mo., Jun 21, 2019 / 10:50 am (CNA).- Missouri’s health department on Friday rejected a license renewal request from a Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis, the last remaining abortion clinic in the state.

Pro-life groups had been calling for the clinic’s closure.

“This particular facility’s track record shows an appalling pattern of botched abortions and other violations that prove they are incapable of policing themselves,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, said May 31. “Planned Parenthood does not deserve special treatment and the health and safety of women should never come second to the abortion industry’s bottom line.”

Planned Parenthood had filed a lawsuit after state health officials initially said the clinic failed to meet safety standards and would not be receiving a license renewal.

The health department cited a failure to cooperate with state regulations, as well as four botched abortions, one in which the mother developed sepsis and another in which the patient was hospitalized with life threatening complications.

Gov. Mike Parson explained May 31 that “We are committed to and take seriously our duty to ensure that all health facilities in Missouri follow the law, abide by regulations, and protect the safety of patients.”

Planned Parenthood objected and accused the state of enforcing regulations arbitrarily for political reasons, National Public Radio reported. The organization contends there is no valid reason for state rules mandating two pelvic exams before the administration of drugs that induce abortions. It has also rejected state demands that officials interview its medical trainees on staff.

State circuit court judge Michael Stelzer had granted a preliminary injunction, allowing the clinic to continue operating past the end of the day on May 31, when its license was set to expire. He ruled that the clinic would face “immediate and irreparable injury” if its license lapsed and said the clinic could stay open while its case was being decided in court.

Missouri’s Department of Health was given until June 21 to make a final ruling on whether it would renew the license.

Stelzer said after the decision that the clinic may remain open until further order from the court, CNN reported.

If the St. Louis Planned Parenthood were to close, Missouri would become the only state without an abortion clinic. Five other states currently have only one facility that performs abortions, according to CBS News.

While the St. Louis Planned Parenthood is the last abortion clinic in Missouri, there is a private surgical abortion facility near St. Louis, across the Mississippi River in Granite City, Ill. A Planned Parenthood clinic 20 miles away in Belleville, Ill. offers medication-induced abortion, the New York Times reports.

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.”

The year 2019 has witnessed significant controversy at the state level over abortion regulations. Changes in the makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court have prompted speculation that the court could dramatically alter or overturn Roe v. Wade and other major precedents mandating legal abortion nationwide.

Missouri is one of at least a dozen states that have enacted abortion restrictions so far this year, with others still considering similar legislation. Other states have passed expansive laws preserving and expanding access to abortion regardless of future Supreme Court decisions.

 

 

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