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Vatican's communications head urges Catholic journalists to build unity

Tue, 06/30/2020 - 16:08

CNA Staff, Jun 30, 2020 / 02:08 pm (CNA).-  

The head of the Vatican’s communications office told Catholic journalists on Tuesday that Catholic media should focus on promoting unity within the Church, especially amid the global coronavirus pandemic.

“Catholic communication is not only providing information about the is the capacity of building communion,” Paolo Ruffini, the prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communications, said during the June 30 opening session of a virtual conference conducted by the Catholic Press Association.

The virtual conference aims to bring together Catholic journalists and communications professionals, and will feature seminars and workshops conducted June 30 through July 2.

Because Catholics are “united in one body,” Ruffini said during his remarks, Catholic communication should be different from the approach of secular media outlets, because Catholic media should focus on “the possibility of redemption,” and aim to “keep alive our togetherness.”

“Linking is our job. Linking memories. Linking facts. Linking people,” Ruffini said.

The prefect urged journalists to “show witnesses” of the Gospel, and to “build bridges to overcome conflicts.” He noted that the pandemic has become for many an isolating experience, noting that “even in the Church we experience the risk of an individualistic approach” that undermines Christian communion.

To overcome that tendency, Ruffini said that as the Church is build upon “the humility of St. Peter,” the work of Catholic journalists should also aim for humility, mutual aid, and Christian discipleship.

Speaking on a panel with Ruffini were Natasa Goveka, an official of the Vatican’s communications secretariat, and Bishop Paul Tighe, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture. Goveka noted initiatives of the Vatican’s communications apparatus, while Tighe discussed the efforts at cultural dialogue undertaken by his office.

Panelists were asked about how dioceses can engage in communications efforts amid severe financial cuts in many dioceses. Tighe urged collaboration among dioceses, and investment in social media initiatives.

“If we have faith, we will find resources,” Ruffini added.

More than 250 people tuned into the session, which was offered for free.

Pope Francis sent a message Tuesday to members of the Catholic Press Association, appealing to Catholic journalists to help break down barriers of misunderstanding between people.

“We need media capable of building bridges, defending life and breaking down the walls, visible and invisible, that prevent sincere dialogue and truthful communication between individuals and communities,” he wrote.

“We need media that can help people, especially the young, to distinguish good from evil, to develop sound judgments based on a clear and unbiased presentation of the facts, and to understand the importance of working for justice, social concord and respect for our common home.”

He continued: “We need men and women of conviction who protect communication from all that would distort it or bend it to other purposes.”



Catholic bishops hail SCOTUS schools decision as blow against ‘anti-Catholicism’

Tue, 06/30/2020 - 13:00

CNA Staff, Jun 30, 2020 / 11:00 am (CNA).- Leading U.S. bishops praised the Supreme Court’s ruling on Tuesday that religious schools should not be shut out from state benefits solely because of their faith-based status, calling it a “blow” against an “odious legacy of anti-Catholicism.”

In a 5-4 decision on June 30, the court said that the “no-aid” clause in the Montana state constitution, which barred public funding of religious institutions, discriminated against religious schools in violation of the U.S. constitution’s free exercise clause.

“This decision means that religious persons and organizations can, like everyone else, participate in government programs that are open to all,” Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami of Miami, chair of the U.S. bishops’ religious liberty committee, and the USCCB Catholic education chair Bishop Michael Barber of Oakland said in a joint statement on Tuesday.

“A strong civil society needs the full participation of religious institutions,” they said, adding that the court’s conclusion was “promoting the common good.”

Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the court in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, said that religious schools must be able to access public benefits if they are made available to secular private schools.

“A State need not subsidize private education. But once a State decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious,” Roberts wrote. The constitution “condemns discrimination against religious schools and the families whose children attend them,” he said.

Administration officials applauded the court’s decision as a victory for school choice and opponents of anti-religious discrimination. 

Education secretary Betsy DeVos called it “a turning point in the sad and static history of American education,” saying that “it will spark a new beginning of education that focuses first on students and their needs.” She called on states to “seize the extraordinary opportunity to expand all education options at all schools to every single student in America."

The White House press secretary’s office celebrated the ruling, stating that “[l]aws that condition public benefits, like need-based academic scholarships, on religious status demonstrate state-sanctioned hostility to religion, pressure people and institutions to censor their religious views, and stigmatize disfavored religions.”

Attorney General William Barr said that Espinoza “represents an important victory for religious liberty and religious equality in the United States.”

In 2015, Montana’s legislature approved a state scholarship program for private schools funded by donors who could claim tax credits. The state’s revenue department, however, said that scholarships in the program could only be used for non-religious schools because of the state constitution’s prohibition of public funding of “sectarian” causes or religious institutions. 

The clause was initially enacted as a Blaine Amendment in Montana’s original 1889 constitution and was included in the 1972 constitution.

Some alleged that the clause was steeped in the anti-Catholic bigotry of the late 19th century, when Catholic schools were shut out of public funding that benefitted the largely-Protestant public school system of the time. However, its supporters have said that the 1972 constitution was upholding the “Establishment Clause” of the First Amendment, prohibiting the establishment of a state religion.

Archbishop Wenski and Bishop Barber on Tuesday said that the court’s decision “dealt a blow to the odious legacy of anti-Catholicism in America.”

“Blaine Amendments, which are in 37 states’ constitutions, were the product of nativism and bigotry,” they said of the no-aid clauses. “They were never meant to ensure government neutrality towards religion, but were expressions of hostility toward the Catholic Church.”

DeVos issued a warning to Montana and other states with similar no-aid clauses, that “your bigoted Blaine Amendments and other restrictions like them are unconstitutional, dead, and buried.”

“Too many students have been discriminated against based on their faith and have been forced to stay in schools that don’t match their values,” she said. 

Becket, a religious freedom legal group which filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, also said that “[i]t was high time for the Blaine Amendments to bite the dust.”

“Relying on century-old state laws designed to target Catholics to exclude all people of faith was legally, constitutionally, and morally wrong,” said Diana Verm, senior counsel at Becket.

In 2017, the court dealt with a similar clause in Missouri’s constitution in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer. There the court issued a narrow ruling in favor of a church-owned playground and its access to a public benefit program for resurfacing.

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the legal group that represented the church in that decision, applauded Tuesday’s ruling.

“The Supreme Court was right to rule that states can’t oust parents and children from neutral benefit programs simply because they choose a religious private school,” said John Bursch, senior counsel and vice president of appellate advocacy at ADF.

While supporters of the no-aid clause might claim that there should be a “wall of separation” between church and state, that is a faulty understanding of the First Amendment’s establishment clause, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in his concurrence.

“Thus, the modern view, which presumes that States must remain both completely separate from and virtually silent on matters of religion to comply with the Establishment Clause, is fundamentally incorrect,” Thomas wrote.

Supreme Court rejects Montana 'Blaine Amendment' in religious schools case

Tue, 06/30/2020 - 11:10

Washington D.C., Jun 30, 2020 / 09:10 am (CNA).- The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the Montana state constitution’s bar on public funding of religious institutions violates the First Amendment. 

The U.S. constitution “condemns discrimination against religious schools and the families whose children attend them,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the opinion of the court in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue. Religious schools must have coequal access to public aid programs with secular private schools, Roberts wrote.

In the Court’s 5-4 decision, Roberts was joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh. Dissenting were Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan.

At issue was a state scholarship program, created by the legislature in 2015, and funded by donors who could claim tax credits. The Montana revenue department said that scholarships in the program could only be applied to non-religious schools because of a no-aid clause in the state’s constitution.

Montana ratified a Blaine Amendment in its 1889 constitution and again in 1972, prohibiting public funding of “sectarian” causes or religious institutions. 

While some claimed that the amendment was first enacted in a time of anti-Catholic bigotry, to bar the access of Catholic institutions to public funding, others said that the updated amendment in the 1972 constitution was meant to bring the state in line with the “Establishment Clause” prohibiting a state religion.

Roberts wrote on Tuesday that the no-aid clause “plainly excludes schools from government aid solely because of religious status.”

Several parents of students attending Stillwater Christian School in Kalispell, Montana, sued the state and the case eventually made its way to the state supreme court. That court struck down the program altogether rather than require it to allow for scholarships to religious schools.

Roberts on Tuesday ruled that throwing out the program was not a “neutral” decision by the state supreme court, as it stemmed from a conviction that barring public funding of scholarships to religious schools was already constitutional.

The court should have thrown out the prohibition on scholarships to religious schools, Roberts said. 

Roberts also noted that Montana’s prohibition of funding for religious schools was ahistorical. He found “no comparable ‘historic and substantial’ tradition” that supported the application of the no-aid clause in the case. “In the founding era and the early 19th century, governments provided financial support to private schools, including denominational ones,” he wrote.

“When the Court was called upon to apply a state law no-aid provision to exclude religious schools from the program, it was obligated by the Federal Constitution to reject the invitation,” he wrote.

In 2017, the Supreme Court issued a narrow decision in another Blaine Amendment case, Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer. 

A divided court ruled that a clause in Missouri’s constitution similar to Montana’s no-aid clause could not be used to block a church-owned playground from applying for state renovation grants, simply on account of its religious status.

For this Catholic baseball player, a season off is ‘a relief’

Tue, 06/30/2020 - 05:00

Denver Newsroom, Jun 30, 2020 / 03:00 am (CNA).- Seth McGarry, a pitcher in the Philadelphia Phillies minor league system, has never really not played baseball. But with baseball stadiums closed around the nation due to the COVID-19, he might spend his summer without the game.

“My entire past and childhood was always spent at a baseball field. I love competing,” McGarry told CNA. He started playing when he was five years old, attended Florida Atlantic University on scholarship, and was drafted into the minor leagues at age 21, before he graduated.

The baseball world has been reluctant to make a decisive call for the season. McGarry says that his team has spent months in a state of uncertainty.

“We've had to be in limbo and on standby, where we still had to train and throw and lift everyday to stay ready in case something happened,” McGarry said.

With gyms closed and practices prohibited, McGarry said that it has been difficult to train for the possibility of some semblance of a season. Players who live in rural areas did not have anyone to throw with or any equipment to lift.

And it’s still uncertain what the summer will hold. They may be asked to report for some kind of instructional league, while some may be invited to spring training with the major leagues. McGarry has no idea what those possibilities would look like.

But uncertainty, McGarry said, is just part of the game of baseball.

“With the baseball life, there is so much uncertainty and not knowing,” said McGarry. During a normal season, he plays every day and travels all over the northeast in a team bus.

Staying home, he finds, offers the respite of consistency.

“It’s been really nice to kinda have this time to just be in the same place for more than five or six months,” said McGarry. He was married in February 2017 and has an 8-month-old baby girl, Hannah.

During a regular season, McGarry goes months without seeing his family. But the pandemic has allowed him to spend more time with his wife and to see his baby daughter grow.

“Just being able to see her everyday, and sleep in my own bed, and have home-cooked family dinners all the time together, it’s been really great,” said McGarry.

For McGarry, getting to spend time with his family far outweighs the disappointment of not being able to showcase the progress he made over the offseason.

“The whole entire season I’d spent training and trying to get better at certain things, so not being able to play and complete and showcase that was a little frustrating. But at the same time, it was kind of a relief,” said McGarry. “I've gotten to see a lot of stuff that I wouldn't have gotten to see, like [Hannah] crawling and standing. A lot of that stuff I wouldn't have gotten to see in person.”

McGarry said that not everyone has been so lucky. His team has a lot of international players who were not able to return home before borders closed and who are now stuck in hotels.

One international player McGarry knows has been stuck in Sarasota, Florida, for months. McGarry said that his friend is just trying to “make the most out of his situation,” but it hasn’t been easy.

In the tumults of baseball life, McGarry’s Catholic faith is a constant. During the season, the team is provided with a priest for Mass, and also a translator for the international players.

But McGarry said that instead of asking God to change anything about his current situation, he has tried to approach the Lord with gratitude for what he does have.

“I think during all this time, instead of asking for guidance or for help, I spent more time just giving thanks and appreciating what I had with the time I get now with my daughter and wife, instead of searching for or asking for more.”


Two retired Catholic bishops test positive for coronavirus amid Texas surge

Tue, 06/30/2020 - 01:01

CNA Staff, Jun 29, 2020 / 11:01 pm (CNA).- Amid a surge of coronavirus cases in Texas, four retired clerics, including two bishops, have tested positive at a priests’ retirement home in Houston.

“We ask that you please pray for all those impacted by COVID-19, and in particular for all of our priests,” the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston said June 29.

Archbishop Joseph A. Fiorenza Priest Retirement Residence was exposed to COVID-19 after a food service worker and an independent caregiver tested positive for the virus.

Among the infected priests are Archbishop Emeritus Joseph Fiorenza, 89, and Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Vincent Rizzotto, 88. None of the four who have tested positive for the virus have developed serious symptoms. Out of the 18 priests in the residence, 12 have tested negative for the coronavirus, and two have not yet received their results.

Texas is seeing as many as 5,000 diagnoses of infection with the coronavirus a day.

“Over just the past few weeks, the daily number of cases have gone from an average of about 2,000, to more than 5,000,” Governor Greg Abbott said June 28.

The surge follows loosening of restrictions in the state, but the governor recently closed bars again, and reduced the capacity at which restaurants are allowed to operate.

Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine and professor of Pediatrics and Molecular Virology & Microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine, told KHOU 11 that "We opened up the state too early, and we didn't put in enough belts and suspenders to do it properly."

The state had begun reopening in early May.

Analysis: Justice Roberts has some pro-lifers rethinking strategy

Mon, 06/29/2020 - 18:59

Washington D.C., Jun 29, 2020 / 04:59 pm (CNA).- In 2005, John Roberts’ confirmation as Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court was hailed by many pro-life groups as an encouraging sign in the fight against legalized abortion. With the right combination of Supreme Court justices, they hoped, the court would overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that established a nationwide “right to abortion.”

Today, 15 years later, Roberts cast the deciding vote in striking down a Louisiana law requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital (June Medical Services, LLC v. Russo).

In his opinion, Roberts invoked the principle of stare decisis - the idea that if the court has already ruled on a certain issue, that precedent should generally be respected. He pointed to the court’s decision in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, which struck down a similar Texas law in 2016. Roberts dissented in the 2016 case. In today’s opinion, he said he still thinks the Texas case was decided wrongly, but believes the principle of stare decicis means the question is settled, at least for now.

Stare decisis is not absolute. The court has overturned its previous decisions, in landmark decisions like Brown v. Board of Education and in many smaller and less noted cases. Roberts himself authored one such opinion last year (Knick v. Township of Scott). In this case, however, he says there is not sufficient reason to overturn the previous ruling, even if he believes it to be flawed. Because the Louisiana law in question in this case is similar to the Texas law, he believes the previous ruling should apply in this case as well.

Roberts’ dissenting colleagues were quick to argue that his reasoning was flawed. Justice Samuel Alito noted that the Texas decision was based not on the text of the statute itself but on the concrete consequences of the legislation in the state, which were tied to specific factors in Texas that might not be present in other states. Since the circumstances in Louisiana were different, Alito said, the case should be considered independently rather than defaulting to the previous ruling.

Today’s outcome is a disappointment for pro-life advocates who had been hoping for a favorable court decision. But it has also raised serious questions about a political strategy being employed by some in the pro-life movement.

For the last several years, pro-life laws have been enacted in states throughout the country. Some prohibit abortions for specific reasons, such as a Down syndrome diagnosis or the sex of the child. Others establish requirements for those seeking abortions, such as mandatory waiting periods, ultrasound requirements, and parental notification or consent rules. Still others - such as the Louisiana and Texas laws - establish safety standards for abortion clinics.

According to the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, more than 400 of these laws have been passed at the state level in the last decade. Often, lawmakers carefully craft these bills to limit and restrict abortion in a way that will stand up to judicial scrutiny. Roe v. Wade and subsequent court cases established a framework for abortion regulations – the closer an unborn baby is to viability, the more restrictions on abortion are generally deemed to be constitutional. In the earliest weeks of pregnancy, court precedent says, government cannot limit abortion in a way that places an “undue burden” on women.

In recent years, however, there has been a shift of focus in some states, with legislators enacting laws that openly and intentionally violate this framework.

Several states have passed heartbeat bills, banning abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, around six weeks into pregnancy. While these laws have historically fared poorly in court, supporters have advocated their continued passage, hoping that they would end up before a favorable Supreme Court, which could then take the opportunity to deliver a fatal blow to Roe v. Wade.

Last year, Alabama passed a law making abortion a felony. Sponsors were explicit that the legislation was designed to defy Roe v. Wade and intended to draw a court challenge.

Roberts’ opinion today has given pause to advocates of this strategy, some of whom are reconsidering the premise that underlies it.

Four years ago, Donald Trump courted conservative religious voters by promising to appoint only “pro-life justices.” But dividing justices into “pro-life” and “pro-abortion” camps is a dangerous oversimplification of how judges understand themselves. Justices are not politicians, who exhibit loyalty to the platform of a certain party, knowing that they must face voters every few years in a new round of elections.

Court decisions are far more complicated, and rulings incorporate a variety of legal principles and technicalities. While certain judicial philosophies lend themselves more closely than others to a view that recognizes the right to life of the unborn, some pro-life advocates are beginning to realize judges expected to rule in favor of pro-life laws may well continue to rule against them.

With several more state abortion laws working their way through the court system, including some that fly directly in the face of Roe, conservatives may now find themselves increasingly nervous. Rather than either overturning Roe in one fell swoop or chipping away at it slowly, as has been the expectation, these state challenges could backfire, and result in abortion precedents being reaffirmed and further enshrined, pushing the pro-life movement further away from its political goals.

It is not clear how Roberts would vote on some of these cases. Doubts have also been raised about Neil Gorsuch, a Trump appointee who surprised many observers earlier this month by authoring an opinion ruling that sex-based discrimination protections apply to sexual orientation and gender identity.

Already, some political-minded pro-life groups are using today’s ruling to double down on their argument that Americans must vote for Republican candidates, that the next judge appointment will be the one to secure the nail in the coffin of Roe v. Wade. But for some pro-life advocates, today’s ruling has made clear that ending legal protection for abortion is not as simple as appointing certain judges, and that those who see ending abortion as a problem with a solely - or even primarily - judicial remedy may find themselves sorely disappointed.


‘A life modeled after Christ’: St. Louis archdiocese defends namesake’s statue

Mon, 06/29/2020 - 17:31

CNA Staff, Jun 29, 2020 / 03:31 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of St. Louis on Sunday released a statement defending the city’s namesake, amid calls from activists to tear down a prominent statue of King Louis IX. 

“For Catholics, St. Louis is an example of an imperfect man who strived to live a life modeled after the life of Jesus Christ. For St. Louisans, he is a model for how we should care for our fellow citizen, and a namesake with whom we should be proud to identify,” the archdiocese said June 29.

A group of activists on June 27 rallied at the statue, called Apotheosis of St. Louis, which has been a fixture in front of the St. Louis Art Museum for over a century. Leaders of the protests have called for the statues’ removal because of St. Louis’ “antisemitism [and] Islamophobia.”

Numerous statues of historic figures have been pulled down in recent weeks amid ongoing protests and riots throughout the country.

While some protests have torn down the statues of Confederate figures as part of a call to end systemic racism, other statues have also been torn down from prominent locations, including one of George Washington. Several statues of St. Junipero Serra have been pulled down or protested in California.

St. Louis is the only king of France to have become a canonized saint— Pope Boniface VIII canonized him in 1297. Eighteenth-century French explorers named the new fur trading outpost they founded on the Mississippi river after the saint.

St. Louis took part in the seventh and eighth crusades, during the second of which he died of dysentery. Louis ardently believed in the crusade’s cause to protect the Holy Land and fought a largely unsuccessful campaign in what is now Egypt from 1249-54.

Upon returning from the crusade, he resolved, according to one biography, “to lead a life as a Christian king worthy of rescuing Jerusalem one day.”

The archdiocese highlighted St. Louis’ care and concern for his subjects, especially the poor— pointing to reforms that he implemented in French government, which focused on impartial justice, protecting the rights of his subjects, steep penalties for royal officials abusing power, and a series of initiatives to help the poor.

St. Louis would feed beggars at his royal table, even washing their feet, and he also founded many hospitals.

Archbishop Robert Carlson, in a recent message against racism, had expressed his hope that calls for racial justice across the country would lead people to put aside violent solutions and instead focus on peaceful ones.

He said the statue of St. Louis, with its sword held down rather than poised for attack, is the peaceful symbol that the city needs.

“The Archdiocese of St. Louis is encouraged by the winds of change that are at hand, but believes that this energy of change should be focused on programs and policies that will dismantle racism and create a more equal society for all races and religions,” the statement continued.

“As Catholics, we believe that each person—no matter their race, religion, background or belief—is created in the image and likeness of God. As such, all should be treated with love, respect and dignity. We should not seek to erase history, but recognize and learn from it, while working to create new opportunities for our brothers and sisters.”

A June 26 video showed Father Stephen Schumacher, a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, attempting to dialogue with protestors about St. Louis and his role in the crusades, saying “St. Louis was a man who willed to use his kingship to do good for his people.”

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, some 200 people were at the protest on Saturday. Catholics defending the statue at the protest prayed the rosary and sang, and several police officers separated them from the protesters.




After St. Junípero Serra statue torn down, Archbishop Cordileone offers exorcism prayers

Mon, 06/29/2020 - 15:45

CNA Staff, Jun 29, 2020 / 01:45 pm (CNA).- After a mob tore down statues, including a figure of St. Junípero Serra statue, in a San Francisco park, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone was joined by several dozen Catholics Saturday in prayer and acts of spiritual reparation.

“Evil has made itself present here. So we have gathered together to pray for God, to ask the saints...for their intercession, above all our Blessed Mother, in an act of reparation, asking God's mercy on us and on the whole city, that we might turn our hearts back towards him,” Cordileone said in a June 27 video.

The St. Junípero Serra statue was torn down in Golden Gate Park the evening of June 19 by a crowd of about 100 people. The crowd also tore down statues of Francis Scott Key, author of the National Anthem, and Ulysses S. Grant, U.S. president and Union Army general who defeated the Confederate States of America.

On Saturday, several dozen people joined the Archbishop of San Francisco to pray.

“The presence of so many wonderful people here was of great comfort for me,” the archbishop said. “I feel such a great wound in my soul when I see these horrendous acts of blasphemy disparaging the memory of Serra who was such a great hero, such a great defender of the indigenous people of this land.”
Cordileone said the statue was “blasphemously torn down”

“An act of sacrilege occurred here. That is an act of the Evil One,” he said in the video.

“We came together to say the prayer of the rosary, and also the prayer of exorcism, the St. Michael Prayer, because evil is here, this is an activity of the evil one, who wants to bring down the Church, who wants to bring down all Christian believers,” he said.

“So we offer that prayer, and bless this ground with holy water so that God might purify it, sanctify it, that we in turn might be sanctified,” he said, encouraging Catholics to pray, to fast and to inform themselves.

“There's a lot that people don't know. There's a lot of ignorance of the real history. I'd ask our people to learn about the history of Father Serra, of the missions, of the whole history of the Church, so that they can appreciate the great legacy the Church has given us.”

The exorcism prayer Cordileone offered, the St. Michael Prayer, invokes the intercession of the Archangel Michael against the power of Satan. It is not the same as those exorcism prayers offered by the Church if a person is believed to be the subject of demonic possession.

During the eighteenth century, the saint founded nine Catholic missions in the area that would later become California, many of those missions would go on to become the centers of major California cities.

Serra helped to convert thousands of native Californians to Christianity and taught them new agricultural technologies. His statue in Golden Gate Park was first placed there in 1907. It was crafted by well-known American sculptor Douglas Tilden.

Critics have lambasted Serra as a symbol of European colonialism and said the missions engaged in the forced labor of Native Americans, sometimes claiming Serra himself was abusive.

But Serra’s defenders say that Serra was actually an advocate for native people and a champion of human rights. They note the many native people he helped during his life, and their outpouring of grief at his death.

Biographers note that Serra frequently intervened for native people when they faced persecution from Spanish authorities. In one case, the priest intervened to spare the lives of several California natives who had attacked a Spanish outpost.
In one letter urging fair treatment of native people, Serra wrote that “if the Indians were to kill me...they should be forgiven.”

Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez said in 2015 that Serra had “deep love for the native peoples he had come to evangelize.”

“In his appeals, he said some truly remarkable things about human dignity, human rights and the mercy of God,” the archbishop added.

In 2017, Gomez praised Serra as an overlooked American founder.

“Remembering St. Junípero and the first missionaries changes how we remember our national story. It reminds us that America’s first beginnings were not political. America’s first beginnings were spiritual,” Gomez said in a 2017 homily.
Pope Francis canonized the Franciscan missionary in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 23, 2015.

“Junípero sought to defend the dignity of the native community, to protect it from those who had mistreated and abused it,” the pope said in his homily at the Mass of canonization. “Mistreatment and wrongs which today still trouble us, especially because of the hurt which they cause in the lives of many people.”

The legacy of the Church, Cordileone said, is “a wonderful legacy that we should be proud of. There are those who want us to be ashamed of it. We have every reason to be proud of it.”

“But also we have to approach living our Christian life with humility and to continue to give goodness to the world, and to give the world beauty and truth, with the help of the grace of God,” he said.

“Our Lady is always asking us to pray the rosary,'” he added. “The rosary has the power even to change history”

Cordileone said Serra had a personal importance for him.

“He was someone who was very much a part of my life growing up,” said the archbishop.

“I grew up very close to the first mission he founded, in San Diego.”

The toppling of the statue made him “very distressed” and “inflicted a great wound in my soul.”

“So the presence of so many people here was of great support to me,” he said.

In a June 20 statement, Cordileone said that important protests over racial injustice have been “hijacked” by a mob bent on violence.

“St. Serra made heroic sacrifices to protect the indigenous people of California from their Spanish conquerors, especially the soldiers,” he said. “Even with his infirm leg which caused him such pain, he walked all the way to Mexico City to obtain special faculties of governance from the Viceroy of Spain in order to discipline the military who were abusing the Indians. And then he walked back to California.”

Cordileone said he did not want to “deny that historical wrongs have occurred, even by people of good will, and healing of memories and reparation is much needed. But just as historical wrongs cannot be righted by keeping them hidden, neither can they be righted by re-writing the history.”

In 2018, San Francisco’s city government removed a statue of the saint from a prominent location outside City Hall. Stanford University's Board of Trustees recommended to rename some, but not all, features on campus named for the priest. The student government had said the Catholic missions had a harmful impact on Native Americans.

A statue of the saint remains displayed in the U.S. Capitol.

US Catholic bishops: Louisiana abortion ruling 'a cruel precedent'

Mon, 06/29/2020 - 15:01

CNA Staff, Jun 29, 2020 / 01:01 pm (CNA).- Monday’s Supreme Court decision overturning a Louisiana law holding abortion clinics to the same standards as other surgical centers ‘continues a cruel precedent’, the chair of the US bishops’ pro-life committee reflected.

In its June 29 5-4 decision in June Medical Services, LLC v. Russo, the court found that the state’s law requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital posed substantial obstacles to a woman’s access to abortion, without significant benefits to the safety of women.

Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas commented shortly after the ruling that abortion “violently ends the life of a child, and often severely harms women. Abortion becomes even more destructive when basic health and safety standards are ignored, and profit margins are prioritized over women’s lives.”

“Even as we seek to end the brutality of legalized abortion, we still believe that the women who seek it should not be further harmed and abused by a callous, profit-driven industry,” he continued.

“The Court’s failure to recognize the legitimacy of laws prioritizing women’s health and safety over abortion business interests continues a cruel precedent. As we grieve this decision and the pregnant women who will be harmed by it, we continue to pray and fight for justice for mothers and children,” Archbishop Naumann stated.

“We will not rest until the day when the Supreme Court corrects the grave injustice of Roe and Casey and recognizes the Constitutional right to life for unborn human beings. And we continue to ask all people of faith to pray for women seeking abortion, often under enormous pressure, that they will find alternatives that truly value them and the lives of their children.”

The court’s decision was authored by Justice Stephen Breyer. Chief Justice John Roberts filed a concurring opinion.

Having been initially blocked on appeal by a district court, the law in question was upheld by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2019.

Breyer wrote that the Louisiana law was “almost word-for-word identical to Texas’ admitting-privileges law” that the Court ruled against in 2016.

The district court’s original ruling was correct to affirm that Louisiana’s “admitting privileges regulation offers no significant health benefit,” Breyer wrote, as well as its finding that the regulations “have made and will continue to make it impossible for abortion providers” to do so, thus putting “a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking an abortion.”

Roberts said that abortion clinics did have standing to appeal the law on behalf of women in the state, despite having separate interests in seeing the law overturned. At issue in the case was whether the law, enacted in June 2014, imposed an undue burden on women seeking an abortion in the state.

Abortion providers argued that the Louisiana law imposed substantially the same restrictions and burdens on women as did the Texas law, which was also rejected by the court. The Louisiana law required that abortion clinics adhere to the same standards as other surgical clinics in the state and required that doctors practicing at abortion clinics have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

The law would have prevented five of the six doctors in the state who perform abortions from practicing, and would have forced the closure of two of the state’s three abortion clinics. Hope Medical Clinic, an abortion provider, and two abortion doctors sued against the law.

In its decision upholding the law, the Fifth Circuit appeals court judges said only one doctor in the state was currently unable to obtain admitting privileges, and that some abortion doctors had not tried hard enough to get admitting privileges.

Louisiana’s Unsafe Abortion Protection Act was passed in a bipartisan effort, authored by pro-life Democratic Rep. Katrina Jackson, now a state senator, and signed into law by then-governor Bobby Jindal, a Republican. It required abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of a clinic.

The state’s current governor, John Bel Edwards (D), campaigned on a pro-life platform leading up to his election in 2015 and signed a bill to ban abortion in the state upon the detection of a fetal heartbeat, in advance of his 2019 re-election.

Although the Supreme Court heard a similar case of Texas’ safety regulations of clinics in 2016 in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the Fifth Circuit appeals court that upheld Louisiana’s law pointed out significant differences in the two cases. Fifth Circuit judges said that the law “does not impose a substantial burden on a large fraction of women” as Texas’ law did, and “passes muster” of the court’s 2016 decision.

Roberts said that Louisiana’s law imposed restrictions “just as severe” as those of Texas’ law struck down by the court in 2016. Thus, according to the “legal doctrine of stare decisis,” he said, Louisiana’s law “cannot stand” because of the court’s previous ruling in 2016.

Roberts, however, dissented from that 2016 ruling against the Texas law. He joined the dissent of Justice Clarence Thomas which criticized “the Court’s troubling tendency ‘to bend the rules when any effort to limit abortion, or even to speak in opposition to abortion, is at issue.’”


Louisiana abortion law's author denounces Supreme Court decision

Mon, 06/29/2020 - 14:30

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 29, 2020 / 12:30 pm (CNA).- Lawmakers, legal scholars, and pro-life leaders all criticized a Supreme Court ruling on Monday that overturned state safety regulations for abortion clinics in Louisiana.

State Sen. Katrina Jackson (D), who authored the bipartisan Louisiana law requiring that abortion clinics be held to the same standards as surgical centers, said she was “disappointed” that the court threw out a law that she said would “protect women injured in abortion facilities.”

“I am proud to be a pro-life Democrat,” Jackson said in a video message published after the court’s decision. “I am proud that this law received overwhelming support by both women and men, Democrats and Republicans, black legislators and white legislators.”

Jackson’s Unsafe Abortion Protection Act received widespread support from both parties in the state legislature and was signed into law by then-governor Bobby Jindal (R) in 2014.

The Supreme Court justices, she said, “substituted their policy preferences over the clear will of the people of my great state.”

Four justices ruled on Monday in June Medical Services, LLC v. Russo that Louisiana’s requirement that abortion doctors have admitting privileges at a local hospital would have made it “impossible” for abortion clinics to comply, without offering a significant health benefit for women. Justice Stephen Breyer authored the opinion, and Chief Justice John Roberts concurred to tip the court’s balance 5-4 against Louisiana’s law.

Breyer wrote that the federal court for Louisiana’s middle district was correct in overturning the state’s law, and that the Fifth Circuit appeals court was wrong to reverse that decision.

He noted the district court’s finding of “the substantial obstacle the Act imposes” to abortion facilities, “and the absence of any health-related benefit.” The court was right to conclude that “the law imposes an undue burden and is therefore unconstitutional,” Breyer said.

Of particular note to many commentators was Chief Justice John Roberts’ concurrence.

In a similar case from 2016, the court ruled against Texas’ regulations of abortion clinics in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. Although the Fifth Circuit upheld Louisiana’s law in part because it did not pose the same burdens that Texas’ law did on abortion clinics, Justice Breyer said the law is “almost word-for-word identical” to Texas’ law.

Roberts dissented from the court’s 2016 ruling. Despite that dissent, Roberts said on Monday that because of the legal doctrine of “stare decisis,” the court’s previous ruling had to be applied in the current case. And, because the two laws are “nearly identical” and the court has to “treat like cases alike,” Roberts decided that “Louisiana’s law cannot stand under our precedents.”

Rick Garnett, a professor at the University of Notre Dame’s law school, told CNA that while there is “widespread agreement that, generally speaking, like cases should be treated alike,” Roberts himself has not applied that standard in several cases where he deemed that previous court rulings were incorrect.

Thus, Garnett said, “it is difficult to see why he did not do so here, too,” given that “four years hardly seems like enough time to convert a judicial mistake” that was the Whole Woman’s Health decision “into an unmovable monument.”

Garnett pointed to Justice Clarence Thomas’ dissent that he believes “provided a clear blueprint” for a future court to overrule the Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion.

Thomas wrote that the court’s previous abortion decisions, beginning with Roe v. Wade, “created the right to abortion out of whole cloth, without a shred of support from the Constitution’s text.” The Roe decision founded a legal right to abortion upon “a free-floating constitutional right to privacy in Griswold v. Connecticut,” he wrote.

Furthermore, Louisiana’s law is “perfectly legitimate” and “represents a constitutionally valid exercise of the State’s traditional police powers,” Thomas said on Monday.

Ryan Anderson, the William E. Simon senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, told CNA that Thomas “got it right” in arguing that justices cannot uphold legal precedent that is clearly erroneous.

“Nothing in the U.S. Constitution creates a right to abortion, regardless of what the Court has said in the past,” Anderson said.

Other legal experts and pro-life advocates said that Louisiana’s law aimed to protect the safety of women, and should not have been overturned.

“Louisiana abortion providers went to extraordinary lengths to erase a law that state legislators enacted overwhelmingly, in bi-partisan fashion, to promote the wellbeing of women,” stated Kristen Waggoner, general counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom which published an amicus brief in support of Louisiana’s law.

“Women seeking abortions have the same right to competent and quality care as patients involved in other surgical procedures. Louisiana’s admitting privileges law protected that right,” she said.

The March for Life stated that it was “appalled” by the ruling “which failed to hold Louisiana abortion facilities accountable for their numerous health and safety violations.”

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, called Monday’s decision “a bitter disappointment” that “reinforces just how important Supreme Court judges are to advancing the pro-life cause.”

Federal executions to resume after Supreme Court denies appeal

Mon, 06/29/2020 - 14:00

Washington D.C., Jun 29, 2020 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- Federal executions are set to resume in the next two weeks after the Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to the new execution protocol on Monday. 

“The application for a stay of the mandate pending the disposition of the petition for a writ of certiorari presented to the Chief Justice and referred to the Court is denied. The petition for a writ of certiorari is denied,” said the order for the case Bourgeois v. Barr on June 29. 

Four condemned inmates were arguing that their death sentences should be overturned due to the new execution protocol, which uses one drug instead of three in the process of lethal injection. 

The order was unsigned, but noted the dissent of “Justice Ginsburg and Justice Sotomayor [who] would grant the application and the petition for a writ of certiorari.” 

Four justices are required to agree to grant a case certiorari. 

In July 2019, Attorney General William Barr announced that the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Prisons would resume federal executions, and named five people who would be the first group of federal death row inmates to be executed.

“Under Administrations of both parties, the Department of Justice has sought the death penalty against the worst criminals, including these five murderers, each of whom was convicted by a jury of his peers after a full and fair proceeding,” Attorney General William Barr said in a written statement at the time. 

Three of the executions are scheduled to take place on July 13. The last federal execution occurred in 2003. 

In November 2019, U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan issued an injunction delaying the executions until the Supreme Court ruled whether or not to take up the case. 

In the injunction, Judge Chutkan pointed to a stipulation in the Federal Death Penalty Act requiring federal executions to be conducted “in the manner prescribed by the state of conviction.” Two of the men sentenced to die had been convicted in states using the three-drug protocol.

Pope Francis has called the death penalty a rejection of the Gospel and of human dignity, calling on civil authorities to end its use. In 2018, the Catechism of the Catholic Church was revised to describe the death penalty as “inadmissible,” citing the increasing effectiveness of detention systems, the unchanging dignity of the person, and the importance of leaving open the possibility of conversion.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, there are currently 62 federal inmates on death row.

The four plaintiffs seeking to overturn their executions were all sentenced to death for multiple murders, all including the murder of children. 

In an interview with EWTN host Raymond Arroyo in June, President Donald Trump defended the use of the death penalty and claimed that his support of the death penalty did not impact his pro-life credentials. 

Arroyo asked Trump about whether presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is pro-life, noting that some Catholics claim Biden is a pro-life candidate because of his opposition to the death penalty and his efforts to end climate change, while claiming Trump is not.

“I am totally in favor of the death penalty for heinous crimes, ok? That’s the way it is,” the president said.

“I’m pro-life, he’s not. And the Democrats -- look who he’s putting on the court.”

“They want to put people on the court- you have no chance. So I’m pro-life, the Democrats aren’t. Nobody can say that Biden is, look at his stance over the years,” the president added, saying that in his view Democratic party operatives will advance a pro-abortion agenda if Biden is elected to the White House.

The decision from the Supreme Court came on the same day that it struck down a Louisiana law which would have applied new regulations to abortion clinics in the state. The law would have required abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.

The court found the rule posed substantial obstacles to a woman’s access to abortion, without significant benefits to the safety of women. The suit against the law was brought by an abortion provider and two abortion doctors.

Supreme Court strikes down Louisiana abortion clinic law

Mon, 06/29/2020 - 11:07

Aboard the papal plane, Jun 29, 2020 / 09:07 am (CNA).- The Supreme Court delivered two decisions Monday on cases concerning life issues. Among a total of three decisions issued by the court June 29, justices overturned a Louisiana state law seeking to hold abortion clinics to the same standards as other surgical centers. 

In a 5-4 decision authored by Justice Stephen Breyer, with Chief Justice Roberts filing a concurring opinion, the court found that the state’s law requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital posed substantial obstacles to a woman’s access to abortion, without significant benefits to the safety of women. Having been initially blocked on appeal by a district court, the law was upheld by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2019. 

Breyer wrote that the state’s law was “almost word-for-word identical to Texas’ admitting-privileges law” that the Court ruled against in 2016.

The district court’s original ruling was correct to affirm that Louisiana’s “admitting privileges regulation offers no significant health benefit,” Breyer wrote, as well as its finding that the regulations “have made and will continue to make it impossible for abortion providers” to do so, thus putting “a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking an abortion.”

Chief Justice John Roberts, who sided with the majority, said that abortion clinics did have standing to appeal the law on behalf of women in the state, despite having separate interests in seeing the law overturned. At issue in the case was whether the law, enacted in June of 2014, imposed an undue burden on women seeking an abortion in the state. 

Abortion providers argued that the Louisiana law imposed substantially the same restrictions and burdens on women as did the Texas law, which was also rejected by the court. The Louisiana law required that abortion clinics adhere to the same standards as other surgical clinics in the state and required that doctors practicing at abortion clinics have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. The law would have prevented five of the six doctors in the state who perform abortions from practicing, and would have forced the closure of two of the state’s three abortion clinics. Hope Medical Clinic, an abortion provider, and two abortion doctors sued against the law.

In its decision upholding the law, the Fifth Circuit appeals court judges said only one doctor in the state was currently unable to obtain admitting privileges, and that some abortion doctors had not tried hard enough to get admitting privileges. 

Louisiana’s Unsafe Abortion Protection Act was enacted in a bipartisan effort, authored by pro-life Democratic Rep. Katrina Jackson, now a state senator, and signed into law by then-governor Bobby Jindal, a Republican. It required abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of a clinic.

The state’s current governor, John Bel Edwards (D), campaigned on a pro-life platform leading up to his election in 2015 and signed a bill to ban abortion in the state upon the detection of a fetal heartbeat, in advance of his 2019 re-election.

Although the Supreme Court heard a similar case of Texas’ safety regulations of clinics in 2016 in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the Fifth Circuit appeals court that upheld Louisiana’s law pointed out significant differences in the two cases. Fifth Circuit judges said that the law “does not impose a substantial burden on a large fraction of women” as Texas’ law did, and “passes muster” of the court’s 2016 decision.

Chief Justice Roberts, in his concurrence, said that Louisiana’s law imposed restrictions “just as severe” as those of Texas’ law struck down by the court in 2016. Thus, according to the “legal doctrine of stare decisis,” he said, Louisiana’s law “cannot stand” because of the court’s previous ruling in 2016. 

Roberts, however, dissented from that 2016 ruling against the Texas law. He joined the dissent of Justice Clarence Thomas which criticized “the Court’s troubling tendency ‘to bend the rules when any effort to limit abortion, or even to speak in opposition to abortion, is at issue.’”

The court also ruled Monday on a case involving USAID, the federal government’s overseas aid agency. In that case, the agency had required foreign affiliates of humanitarian organizations to have policies opposing prostitution and sex trafficking as a condition of receiving U.S. funding to fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.

The foreign organizations challenged the USAID regulation, saying it violated their free speech. Pro-life groups had expressed concern that, if the court sided with the objecting groups and issued a broad ruling, pro-life regulations could be threatened such as the Mexico City Policy, which prohibits U.S. funding of overseas groups that perform or promote abortions. 

However, the court on Monday ruled in a 5-3 decision that USAID’s requirement was not a free speech violation as the foreign affiliates have no First Amendment rights.

Also on Monday, the court rejected an appeal from four federal inmates seeking to block their executions. Attorney General Bill Barr announced the planned resumption of executions last year, and they are now free to proceed, with three scheduled for July 13. They will be the first federal executions since 2003, ending an informal 17-year moratorium on the practice at the federal level.

The four inmates have all been convicted of multiple murders, including of children.

Teacher completes walking pilgrimage to California's 21 missions

Sun, 06/28/2020 - 16:01

Denver Newsroom, Jun 28, 2020 / 02:01 pm (CNA).- A Catholic teacher who finished a pilgrimage to the Spanish Missions in California this week has emphasized his devotion to the first missions’ founder, St. Junipero Serra, and their influence on him as an educator.

Over the last two years, with a total of 45 days of walking, theology teacher Christian Clifford has trekked the California El Camino Real trail connecting all 21 missions. He finished the 781-mile pilgrimage June 22.

He told CNA that it has been an opportunity to walk in the shoes of the 18th-century friars, such as Serra, and to grow in virtues relevant to his experience as a teacher.

“I started visiting the missions and I really fell in love with them. I immerse[d] myself in learning more about it in the process. I [began] a real deep relationship with Junipero Serra,” he said.

“Those friars must have been very patient because they sacrificed a lot,” he added.

After he began teaching theology at Serra High School in San Mateo, he decided to learn more about the school’s patron and drove to the state’s 21 missions.

During this time, he authored three books about Spanish-Mexican history in California to help high school students understand the beautiful life of the missionary friars. One of the books, “Saint Junipero Serra: Making Sense of the History and Legacy,” tackles the controversial opinions of Serra, who is sometimes scrutinized by secular groups for his participation in Spanish colonialism.

“Saint Junipero Serra is such an amazing thing here. For those that don't know him, his life has been under a magnifying glass for a long time. We know so much about him … He can teach us so many things about being courageous evangelizers,” he said.

In May 2018, he began his pilgrimage on foot, starting at the northernmost mission in Sonoma, Mission San Francisco Solano, and made his way south to Petaluma in the North Bay. He said it was difficult, especially the first day, and even dangerous at times, as he had to walk along highways.

“I thought I prepared myself, got all my bag together,” he said. “By the time I reached my hotel, I thought I was going to die. My blisters were horrible, I had the wrong shoes. But, what happens is over time, you speak with other people and you learn new tricks. By the end of it, I was very comfortable, even in difficult situations,” he said.

A majority of the miles were covered last year, which marked the 75th anniversary of Serra High School and the 250th anniversary of the establishment of the first California mission in San Diego.

Clifford’s last portion was 138 miles from Mission San Fernando to Mission Santa Ines, in which he also visited Mission San Buenaventura and Mission Santa Barbara. He ended his journey marking the fifth anniversary of Serra’s canonization.

He said it has been a positive influence on his role as a teacher and a person, helping him grow in virtue and undergo similar experiences the friars went through. He said that during this year’s difficulties the pilgrimage helped him be patient with and understand students who were struggling.

“I think the thing that I learned the most is patience. So I try to be a more patient person with my students and my family life,” he said.

“I think in my life as a professional in particular, I need to be a little more patient with the young men that I teach, a little more understanding.”

He said the major goals of the pilgrimage were to draw attention to the holiness of Serra, and to raise awareness of the Mission San Antonio de Padua, which is struggling financially to meet earthquake codes required by the government.

“The Mission Saint Anthony of Padua is first of all, really cool, because it's the most isolated mission out of the 21, and it's located on a military base, but you don't need base access … You're literally walking back in time when you go there,” he said.

“I created a Go Fund Me … So overall [I raised] $1500, $1,600. But, I'm hoping that just by doing [the pilgrimage] more people go out there and visit it because it's so remote.”

He expressed the importance for Californians to understand the Catholic roots of the state, pointing to the significance of the names of cities, like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego. He said this rich history has meaning to not only the faith but practical arts like farming and ranching.

“The Catholic roots, all you have to do is look around right,” he said. “You can argue the El Camino Real path [is] probably based on Indian trails [and] it links to these major cities - San Francisco, the city of Saint Francis; San Jose, the city of Saint Joseph; Los Angeles, the city of angels … so these major population centers are all basically where the missions once were,” he said.

Catholic priest among defenders of St Louis statue

Sat, 06/27/2020 - 23:36

CNA Staff, Jun 27, 2020 / 09:36 pm (CNA).- Fr. Stephen Schumacher, a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, was among the defenders of a prominent statue of the city’s namesake as protesters called for its removal Saturday.

Umar Lee, an organizer of the protests, said June 27 that the statue “is gonna come down,” reported Joel Currier of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “This guy right here represents hate and we're trying to create a city of love. We're trying to create a city where Black lives matter. We're trying to create a city where there is no antisemitism or Islamophobia … this is not a symbol of our city in 2020."

Fr. Schumacher, whose priestly ordination was in May 2019, addressed a shouting mob, attempting to inform them about St. Louis’ life, saying, “St. Louis was a man who willed to use his kingship to do good for his people.”

Moji Sidiqi of the Regional Muslim Action Network, another organizer of the protest,  said: "It's a revolution. It's time for change … right now, our number one mission is to take this thing down and sit down with people who want to see positive change take place and continue to heal our country."

Sidiqi added that she thought the city should be renamed.

The statue, Apotheosis of St. Louis, sits in the city’s Forest Park in front of the Saint Louis Art Museum. It was erected in 1906 and depicts Louis IX of France, for whom the city is named.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, some 200 people were at the protest.

Catholics defending the statue at the protest prayed the rosary and sang, and several police officers separated them from the protesters.

Maria Miloscia told the Post-Dispatch that St. Louis “symbolizes deep faith and convictions. I stand for him. And I stand for those Catholic virtues and those Catholic values that I think are important, like courage, faith and love. But ultimately, I'm here for Christ the King.”

St. Louis was King of France from 1226-70, and he partook in the Seventh and Eighth Crusades. He restricted usury and established hospitals, and personally cared for the poor and for lepers. He was canonized in 1297.

Numerous statues of historic figures have been pulled down in recent weeks amid ongoing protests and riots throughout the country. While some protests have torn down the statues of Confederate figures as part of a call to end systemic racism, other statues have also been torn down from prominent locations, including one of George Washington.

Several statues of St. Junipero Serra have been pulled down or protested against.

In a June 23 letter, Bishop Donald Hying of Madison wrote that “If we allow the commemorative and visual history of our nation to be destroyed by random groups in the current moment of anger, how will we ever learn from that history? Does toppling and vandalizing a statue of George Washington because he owned slaves, really serve our country and our collective memory?”

“The secular iconoclasm of the current moment will not bring reconciliation, peace, and healing. Such violence will only perpetuate the prejudice and hatred it ostensibly seeks to end...Only the love of Christ can heal a wounded heart, not a vandalized piece of metal,” the bishop added.

Tennessee's new pro-life legislation 'designed to stand up to court challenges'

Sat, 06/27/2020 - 08:01

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 27, 2020 / 06:01 am (CNA).- Tennessee’s new pro-life legislation is “designed to stand up to court challenges,” State Rep. Susan Lynn (R), a sponsor of the bill, said Thursday.

Speaking during an interview on EWTN Pro-Life Weekly Friday, Lynn said that Tennessee lawmakers anticipated a legal challenge to the bill, so they used a "ladder approach," of multiple limits, so if the court strikes down the heartbeat ban portion, the remaining bans will remain in place.
Tennessee lawmakers passed a bill last week that contains multiple restrictions on abortion, including banning the procedure after both six and twenty weeks, banning abortions based on the race or sex of an unborn child, and a ban based on a prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, a supporter of the legislation, has indicated he will sign it into law.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">We have passed the strongest pro-life law in our state’s history and I am grateful to <a href="">@ltgovmcnally</a>, <a href="">@CSexton25</a>, <a href="">@SenJohnson</a>, <a href="">@WilliamLamberth</a> and members of our General Assembly for making the heartbeat bill law.</p>&mdash; Gov. Bill Lee (@GovBillLee) <a href="">June 19, 2020</a></blockquote> <script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>
Although the bill has not yet been signed into law, pro-abortion groups including Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union have already filed a lawsuit against to block its implementation in federal court. Similar legislation has been challenged and blocked from implementation in other states.
“There’s a successive order of dates where the court can reach that level where they feel comfortable,” Lynn said.
Lynn said she hopes the bill’s heartbeat ban stands because "a heartbeat is an indicator of life.”
“So it only makes sense that when there is a heartbeat, there cannot be an abortion," she said.
Lynn praised the Tennessee General Assembly as “overwhelmingly pro-life.”
“Now is the time to pass strong pro-life legislation,” she said.
Lynn also called for prayers for the bill’s success.
“We have great legal minds working on this and great legal minds who are ready, willing, and able to defend this, but we still need everybody’s prayers,” she said.

Coronavirus relief must benefit private schools equitably, US Education Department says

Fri, 06/26/2020 - 20:01

CNA Staff, Jun 26, 2020 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- Federal coronavirus aid to private schools is now enforceable by law, the U.S. Department of Education has said, following concerns that Catholic and other non-public schools were being excluded from sufficient epidemic relief funds to support protective equipment for students and teachers, cleaning, training in remote education, and distance education tools.

“The CARES Act is a special, pandemic-related appropriation to benefit all American students, teachers, and families impacted by coronavirus,” U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said June 25. “There is nothing in the law Congress passed that would allow districts to discriminate against children and teachers based on private school attendance and employment.”

The programs under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act, provide over $13 billion in aid to schools.

“While a number of traditional public schools aren’t sure whether they will open their doors in the fall, too many other kinds of schools are sure they won’t open at all,” DeVos said on a June 25 phone call with reporters. “More than 100 private schools, including many Catholic schools, have already announced they will never reopen, and hundreds more face a similar fate.”

Local education agencies, which are tasked with distributing the federal monies, must provide “equitable services to students and teachers in non-public schools” under both relevant CARES Act programs: the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund and the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund.

The new rule, DeVos said, recognizes that CARES Act programs are not Title I programs.

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

While local education agencies have “broad latitude” about the use of funds, it is expected that most of the funding will go to services responding to the problems of the coronavirus epidemic, including “equipment to protect student and teacher health” and building remote education capacity, the Department of Education said.

The rule succeeds previous guidance, which had no regulatory effect. The rule discourages “the limited number of financially secure private schools” from seeking these services.

“Providing equitable services is long-standing law under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act,” the Department of Education said June 25. “Local education agencies provide no money to private schools under these equitable services provisions. Instead, they provide secular, neutral, and non-ideological services to non-public schools after consulting with private school leaders about the needs of students and teachers.”

Two options are provided for local authorities. The first option requires that if a local education agency uses CARES Act funds for students in all its public schools, it must calculate funds based on students enrolled in private schools in the district.

If applied by all localities, this would increase CARES Act aid to private schools from $127 million to $1.5 billion, the Learning Policy Institute has said.
Under the second option, if the local agency chooses to use funds only for students in Title I schools, it must calculate funds for equitable services based on either the total number of low-income students in Title I and participating private schools or based on the local agency’s Title I share from the 2019-2020 school year.

Backers of public schools and public school teachers’ unions have criticized this option, saying it would be burdensome and unworkable for many public school districts. Further, under this option funding can only go to helping low-income students. It may not be used to clean and disinfect a district’s schools because it would benefit students who are not low-income, Sheara Krvaric of the Federal Education Group consulting firm told National Public Radio.

Another critic of the move was Daniel A. Domenech, executive director of the School Superintendents Association. He said the previous standard based on Title I eligibility of private school students “aligns with both the clear intent of Congress in the CARES Act as well as the applicable underlying statute in the Every Student Succeeds Act.” Domenech said the rule would limit public schools to allocating CARES Act funding based on Title I eligibility while “allowing all private schools to generate their share of funding by counting all of their students.”

Domenech charged that the rule was “an opportunistic money grab, using the pandemic environment to advance the privatization agenda.” He said it would use funds intended for Title I-eligible public school students to “subsidize wealthier students in private schools.”

Education Undersecretary James Blew, speaking on the June 25 phone call, rejected depictions of private schools as primarily for the wealthy.

“If you think that private schools typically are like Sidwell Friends or Georgetown Day, I want to help you understand that about 90% of the private schools in America are small schools that are serving low- and middle-class working families,” he said, according to the Washington Times.

The Department of Education on June 25 said that if private schools close, local public schools could be forced to enroll thousands of transfer students “at a time when public schools are already under their own financial strain.”

“Most private schools serving low- and middle-income communities are under great financial strain due to COVID-19 because they are typically dependent on tuition from families and donations from their communities. Because the economic disruptions are shrinking these revenue sources, more than 100 private schools have already announced they will not be able to reopen following the pandemic, and hundreds more are facing a similar fate,” the Department of Education said.

The June 25 rule has taken effect, but it could be revised after public comment.

Some 5.7 million children, about 10% of school-age students, attend private schools, the Council for American Private Education, has said. About 8% of private school students are living in poor households, compared to about 19% of public school students.

Education officials in several states had ruled that private schools would receive fewer funds than many schools deemed sufficient.

In early June the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference asked the U.S. Department of Education to reverse state authorities’ decisions that the conference said gave insufficient coronavirus relief funds to Catholic and other private schools. Some $523.8 million in K-12 federal aid went to Pennsylvania through the CARES Act.

Only $19 million went to Pennsylvania’s private schools, while the state Catholic conference said $66 million was the more equitable figure.

After backlash, EWTN radio host Gloria Purvis says she will persevere

Fri, 06/26/2020 - 17:55

Denver Newsroom, Jun 26, 2020 / 03:55 pm (CNA).-  


Gloria Purvis, host of a Catholic morning radio show produced by EWTN, said she will keep speaking out for racial justice, amid news that her show will not be broadcast by a large radio network which carries EWTN’s syndicated radio content.

News that the Guadalupe Radio Network would no longer air Purvis’ “Morning Glory” radio show broke on social media Thursday night. Purvis confirmed to CNA that she has been informed the Guadalupe network would no longer carry the show and is “not happy with the direction of the show right now,” but that Guadalupe Radio has not reached out to her directly.

The EWTN radio network will continue to produce and broadcast “Morning Glory,” which is available on terrestrial and satellite radio, as well as online.

“EWTN is still carrying the show,” Purvis said, adding that EWTN executives told her “that nothing has changed, that they are going to continue to broadcast Morning Glory, and they have no plans to change the show.”

Michael Warsaw, EWTN’s CEO and board chairman, told CNA that “EWTN is the producer and distributor of the 'Morning Glory' radio program. There have been no changes to the show and none are planned. EWTN does not speak for its local radio affiliates, who make their own programming decisions and have the right to carry or not carry specific EWTN radio shows. 'Morning Glory' remains part of the EWTN lineup and is still going strong!”  

Purvis, who is black, has in recent weeks been a frequent speaker in Catholic media on topics related to racial justice and police brutality. She told CNA she has faced considerable backlash from listeners and readers for expressing her views on the subject, even though, she says, her views do not conflict with Catholic teaching.

“If you look at what the Holy Fathers have talked about in terms of use of force, they’re saying that we need to approach each person as made in the image and likeness of God. And who are we as Catholics not to have a position on police brutality, in light of that teaching?” Purvis asked.

“This is a huge moment in our country, where now we have people’s attention, and shame on us if we as Catholics shy away from preaching the Gospel, shy away from those difficult discussions. No one should expect to encounter the Gospel and remain unchanged.”

Purvis said her show might be misunderstood, because she aims to emphasize an approach that tries to give a fair hearing to all voices on the issues, and “then talk from there about what the faith says, or how the faith impacts the topic. Sometimes people miss that because their focus is on how to ‘win’ and not about how we have to serve.”

Despite backlash, she said, she is not going to think twice about offering her views on racial justice. “All of this has not made me second guess. I am going to persevere.”

“Every time a citizen’s life is taken, we need to question that vigorously, not because of who is taking the life, but because of who we are as Catholics.”

Adding that she has an opinion “informed by Church teaching,” Purvis told CNA that “anytime there could be an injustice against someone else— whether it’s in the womb or in the street — we have to speak out, to help try to build a culture of life.”

In a statement released June 26, Purvis said that she “will continue to speak the truth about the human person and that includes discussing racism and other evils.”

“I do not fear the hard work of bringing the light of the Gospel to bear on these issues. Not everyone will receive the message joyfully and there will be opposition but because I love Jesus and believe in the beauty and truth of His message, I will persevere.”

“I will use whatever means the Lord gives me to spread His truth about the dignity of the human person from the womb to the tomb, from the immigrant to the citizen, from the powerful to the vulnerable. There are no throw-away people.”

Purvis has said that she feels it is her Christian obligation to speak out against racism and injustice- on “Morning Glory,” and to other media and in other platforms.

Earlier this month, she told a panel at Georgetown University that she watched the video of George Floyd’s arrest and death in horror, wanting to yell at the police officer kneeling on his neck, “Stop in the name of God! Stop!”

“I just thought the image of God is being abused right here in front of me,” she said.

She has faced backlash for her use of the popular racial justice slogan “Black Lives Matter,” although she told CNA this month that her use of the phrase does not constitute support for national Black Lives Matter organizations, whose platforms are at odds with Catholic teaching.

“For me, as a Catholic, a devout Catholic, as a loyal daughter of the Church, I have no problem saying ‘Black Lives Matter,’” she said.

“I know it doesn’t make me a member of the organization.”

Some Catholics hesitate to attend protests or other events because they say that not only “black lives matter,” but that “all lives matter,” she noted.

Purvis explained that the phrase “Black Lives Matter” is not meant to devalue the lives of others, and while all lives do matter, she has observed that “in practice” in the U.S., “what we’ve seen is that black lives don’t.”

As a pro-life Catholic, Purvis said she recognizes the eugenist roots of abortion, but said fighting racism in America shouldn’t be limited to opposing abortion. She said racism is manifested through police misconduct, housing policies, and other aspects of American public life.

Purvis converted to Catholicism when she was 12 years old, after an experience at Eucharistic adoration in her Catholic school. She later called it a “mystical experience with the Eucharist...just coming to know it was real, that it was alive, and feeling like I was consumed with a fire all over my body, but it didn’t burn.”

The host is a frequent speaker on pro-life and catechetical issues; she and her husband have been active in pro-life ministry and other parish ministry in the Archdiocese of Washington.

Purvis has served on the archdiocesan pastoral council in the Archdiocese of Washington, is a board member for the Northwest Pregnancy Center and Maternity Home in Washington, D.C. and an advisory board member on the Maryland Catholic Conference’s Respect for Life Office. She is a member of the National Black Catholic Congress’ Leadership Commission on Social Justice, and is the chairperson for Black Catholics United for Life, which seeks to increase the size and strength of active Black Catholics participating in the pro-life movement.

Catholic News Agency is a service of EWTN News.

The Guadalupe Radio Network could not be reached for comment, despite numerous telephone calls from CNA.

On Friday afternoon, the radio network released a statement online, saying it had “temporarily suspended airing the show on the GRN.” (Ed. note: emphasis original.)

“We are not bothered in the least that 'Morning Glory' took on the difficult, but needed, topic of the evil of racism. In fact, we feel our audience is looking for a clear Catholic response to all they are seeing in our society right now. It is our hope and prayer that the issues we have raised with EWTN, in regards to "Morning Glory" will be addressed properly so that we can once again proudly air this program across the GRN.”

“During these last couple of weeks we have heard a 'spirit of contention' growing among the Hosts live on-air,” the statement continued. “We feel it is clear that there is a real disconnect among the team, becoming more and more obvious, and we feel that should be addressed. We do not feel that this type of exchange is edifying, nor is it clarifying for anyone, especially a Catholic radio listener who wants clarity.”

“Never before have we received as many complaints about any EWTN show as we have about Morning Glory as of late. Our efforts to try and correct the situation before were not successful. So, we felt we had no other option other than to temporarily suspend airing this program.”

“The unfounded and uncharitable accusations hurled at GRN, without the facts, have been terrible. As you well know, Satan is the father of lies. Unfortunately, that is what is happening here in this situation - lies are being told, and spread around, on the internet about us. We hope you will help in sharing the true story!” the statement said.

The Guadalupe network, which both distributes content syndicated by EWTN and other Catholic media apostolates and produces its own content, is based in Midland, Texas, but operates more than 30 radio stations in Texas, Florida, Alabama, New Mexico, and Washington, D.C.

Purvis told CNA that she is grateful for the support she has received from listeners, but admitted that her work can be draining.

“I am tired, because, honestly, this is a lot of spiritual battle. But I am still very determined— I can’t stop bringing the light of the Gospel to today’s most pressing issues.”

“I hope you all will join me in making our culture one that is truly a culture of life. We have much work to do — together. Thank you for your ongoing support and prayers and be assured of my prayers for our human family,” Purvis said in her June 26 statement.

“Our Lady of Prompt Succor, pray for us.”


Gloria Purvis is featured in this episode of CNA Newsroom, and this bonus episode of CNA Editor's Desk.

Judge rules New York churches can reopen in line with businesses

Fri, 06/26/2020 - 16:00

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 26, 2020 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- A federal judge on Friday ruled that New York must allow indoor and outdoor religious services in the same way it would allow mass outdoor protests, or indoor shopping malls.

Judge Gary Sharpe of the Northern District of New York said that the state cannot limit outdoor religious services during the pandemic, provided that attendees follow social distancing requirements. For indoor services, he said, the state has to make the same allowances for churches as it does for other businesses.

The judgement follows a lawsuit filed on behalf of several different religious groups by the Thomas More Society. No Catholic diocese or parish was party to the suit.

The New York State Catholic Conference, which represents the bishops of the state, told CNA on Friday that churches would probably continue to follow state health guidelines for reopening, even though they are no longer bound by law to do so.

“Bishops must weigh many factors in reopening, the most important being the safety and well being of our congregations, clergy and parish staffs,” a spokesman for the conference told CNA. “We believe the guidance offered by the state is important to achieving that goal.”

The state had already allowed some churches in the state to hold services at 33% indoor capacity, where that particular jurisdiction had reached phase IV of reopening. Churches in other areas have been allowed to offer Mass at 25% capacity.

New York City, currently in the second reopening phase, had allowed some indoor offices, retail stores, and salons to operate at 50% capacity while churches were restricted to 25% capacity.

Judge Sharpe on Friday said that those businesses are “not justifiably different than houses of worship” in the risk they pose to the spread of the virus.

Furthermore, state officials showed preferential treatment by allowing or even encouraging mass outdoor protests and 150-person outdoor graduation ceremonies, while subjecting religious gatherings to ten or 25-person outdoor gathering limits, he said.

Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio have both appeared to condone or even encourage mass outdoor anti-racism protests attended by hundreds and thousands of people in recent weeks, despite strict state limits on the size of outdoor gatherings to 10 or 25 people.

On June 2, de Blasio defended his selective enforcement of gathering restrictions, saying that "[w]hen you see a nation, an entire nation simultaneously grappling with an extraordinary crisis seeded in 400 years of American racism, I'm sorry, that is not the same question as the understandably aggrieved store owner or the devout religious person who wants to go back to services.”

By their words, Cuomo and de Blasio endorsed “what they knew was a flagrant disregard of the outdoor limits and social distancing rules,” the judge said, thus sending “a clear message that mass protests are deserving of preferential treatment.”

They could have verbally discouraged or remained silent on the protests while suspending any enforcement of outdoor gathering restrictions, Judge Sharpe said, and thus could have remained within the law.

Christopher Ferrara, special counsel for the Thomas More Society, stated that Judge Sharpe “was able to see through the sham of Governor Cuomo’s ‘Social Distancing Protocol’ which went right out the window as soon as he and Mayor de Blasio saw a mass protest movement they favored taking to the streets by the thousands.”

Lawyers from the Thomas More Society originally brought the lawsuit on June 10, on behalf of three Orthodox Jewish congregants from Brooklyn and two priests of the Society of St. Pius X, a group in irregular communion with the Catholic Church, which operates independently of the dioceses of the state, and does not recognize the local bishops' authority.

The lawsuit charged that Cuomo, state attorney general Letitia James, and de Blasio all violated religious freedom, free speech, and due process in their public health restrictions during the pandemic.

The state and city put more burdensome restrictions on churches than they did on some businesses and mass protests, the lawsuit alleged, creating “a veritable dictatorship” where they “selectively enforced ‘social distancing’ under a ‘lockdown’” in the state, while carving out “numerous exceptions” in line with “their value judgments.” 

De Blasio has on multiple occasions during the pandemic threatened houses of worship with fines, permanent closure, and mass arrests if they would not comply with public health orders.

Missouri's last abortion clinic receives license

Fri, 06/26/2020 - 14:09

CNA Staff, Jun 26, 2020 / 12:09 pm (CNA).- The Missouri health department issued a license to the state's only abortion clinic Thursday. Its license had been revoked a year ago over regulators' concerns about health and safety problems at the clinic.

The state's Administrative Hearing Commission had ruled last month that the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services was wrong not to renew Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region's license to perform abortions.

The health department inspected the clinic in St. Louis before granting the license June 25. If it should want to appeal the ruling from the Administrative Hearing Commission, the health department must do so by June 29.

The license had been revoked in June 2019, but the administrative commission and a state judge both granted a temporary stay of the health department’s decision, allowing the clinic to remain open while the case was reviewed.

The health department has cited an “unprecedented lack of cooperation” on the part of the St. Louis clinic, as well as a “failure to meet basic standards of patient care,” identifying four instances of failed abortion procedures at the clinic; among these, one of the mothers developed sepsis, and another was hospitalized with life threatening complications.

According to the health department, Planned Parenthood went back on its agreement to perform pelvic examinations as a “preoperative health requirement.” Several doctors at the clinic refused requests to provide interviews with the health department, and the clinic would not have been prepared for a case of a woman who suffered “severe hemorrhaging” at a hospital before being referred to Planned Parenthood.

A 2016 report on an inspection of the clinic by the health department 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.

Planned Parenthood has accused the state of weaponizing the regulatory process and claimed the state has admitted the pelvic exams are “medically unnecessary.”

In October 2019 Planned Parenthood opened a new clinic in Fairview Heights, Ill., just 15 miles east of St. Louis.

Yamelsie Rodriguez, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, said that women are seeking abortions in Illinois due to more permissive abortion laws. Missouri also has a 72-hour waiting period for abortion.

Earlier this month a federal appellate court dismissed a lawsuit filed by a member of the Satanic Temple against Missouri’s informed consent abortion law, rejecting the argument that the law established Catholic religious belief by stating that life begins at conception.

“Any theory of when life begins necessarily aligns with some religious beliefs and not others,” said U.S. Circuit Judge David R. Stras in a June 9 decision from the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. Under the plaintiff’s theory, the decision said, “Missouri’s only option would be to avoid legislating in this area altogether.”

State law requires abortion providers to distribute a booklet from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services which includes the statement: “The life of each human being begins at conception. Abortion will terminate the life of a separate, unique, living human being.”

Missouri enacted a comprehensive abortion ban in 2019, which Republican Gov. Mike Parson signed into law. The legislation was supported by Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis.

Missouri’s law set up a multi-tier ban on abortions after eight weeks, 14 weeks, 18 weeks and 20 weeks, as well as bans on abortions conducted solely because of the baby’s race, sex, or Down syndrome diagnosis. In August 2019 a federal judge struck down all of the bans related to the stages of pregnancy, but left intact the disability, race, and sex-selective abortion bans.

With release of sex abuse report, National Review Board cautions against complacency 

Fri, 06/26/2020 - 05:00

CNA Staff, Jun 26, 2020 / 03:00 am (CNA).- The head of the National Review Board has called for increased action to fight sex abuse and avoid complacency, following the release this week of a report on sex abuse in the U.S. Catholic Church.

“We know that many current bishops have seriously confronted clerical sexual abuse, which is borne out in the Annual Report,” said Francesco C. Cesareo, chairman of the National Review Board. “Yet, the Report also evidences areas in need of improvement that will necessitate an on-going effort in addressing this issue in a way that will require courageous leadership, as well as an openness to the co-responsibility of the laity in responding to this ever-present crisis.”

He warned that even limited failures can present a significant problem for the Church in the U.S. The National Review Board is calling for a more in-depth audit and updates to the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, he said.

“We continue to see the failure to publish reporting procedures in the various languages in which the liturgy is celebrated; poor recordkeeping of background checks; dysfunctional Diocesan Review Boards; lack of a formal monitoring plan for priests who have been removed from ministry; failure to update policies and procedures in light of the 2011 Charter revisions,” he said.

While these problems are not widespread, they do recur and are evident in 25% to 30% of dioceses. Cesareo said this indicates “lack of diligence that puts children’s safety at risk.”

“The apparent resistance by some parishes and schools to provide safe environment training places children at greater risk,” he said. “Although dioceses continue to do good work in creating cultures of protection and healing, the fact remains the Church’s efforts will be measured based on the weakest links. If one diocese is at risk, the whole Church is also at risk.”

The annual report on Findings and Recommendations on the Implementation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People was released June 25 by the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Child and Youth Protection. It is the seventeenth report since the charter was implemented in 2002.

The Rochester, New York-based consulting firm StoneBridge Business Partners conducted the audit. The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate conducted a survey included in the report.

The audit found three instances of non-compliance with the charter: the Oakland diocese failed to evaluate a visiting priest's background and there were a non-functioning review boards in both the Ukrainian Archeparchy of Philadelphia and the St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Catholic Diocese.

Additionally, non-participants in the audit were the Eparchy of St. Mary Queen of Peace, the Eparchy of St. Peter the Apostle, and the Eparchy of St. Nicholas of Chicago.

Out of more than 37,000 diocesan and religious order priests, there were 37 allegations involving current year minors, of which 8 were substantiated and the priests were removed from ministry. Twelve allegations are still under investigation, 7 were ruled unsubstantiated, 6 were unable to be proven. Another three have been referred to religious orders, and one was referred to another diocese.

Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in the report’s preface that all of these allegations were reported to law enforcement. He said the numbers indicate that new cases of sex abuse by clerics are rare.

“Of course, every case is one too many, and we remain vigilant and determined to prevent this evil,” the archbishop said. He stressed the efforts to implement policies and programs to protect young people and create safe environments in parishes, schools and other Catholic ministries.

Hundreds of thousands of adults have been trained to prevent abuse and to report it, while leaders have been put through extensive background checks, Gomez said. Dioceses have implemented strict reporting requirements, and work closely with law enforcement to report alleged abuse and to remove accused abusers from ministry, he said.

“My brother bishops and I want to apologize to all those who have endured abuse at the hands of someone in the Church and we want to express our pastoral commitment to helping every victim-survivor find healing and hope,” the archbishop said.

“From out of the failures of our past, Catholic dioceses across the country have worked hard to put in place policies and programs to protect young people and to create safe environments in our parishes, schools and other ministries.”

The report concerns the audit period of July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019. In that time, 4,220 adults brought forward 4,434 allegations. This is a significant increase in allegations, which the report attributed in part to additional allegations received in the wake of lawsuits, compensation programs, the reviews of clergy files, and bankruptcies.

By comparison, last year's report for the 2017-2018 audit period said 1,385 adults reported 1,455 new allegations, the vast majority of which concerned historical instances of abuse. Those numbers represent a marked rise over the 2016-2017 reporting period. Last year's report attributed the escalation to the state-wide adoption of Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Programs by Catholic dioceses of New York State.

The latest reporting period followed the June 2018 revelations that the deeply influential ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former Archbishop of Washington, had for decades sexually abused teen boys and young men, including seminarians. A Pennsylvania grand jury report released later in 2018 also examined sexual abuse by Catholic clergy.

About 80% of newly reported victims of diocesan clergy were male, while 20% were female. The report said 59% of alleged abuse began when the victim was aged 10-14, while 22% involved victims aged 9 or under.

Among the newly reported allegations, abuse by diocesan clergy peaked in 1970-1974. According to the report, 50% of alleged abuse occurred or began before 1975, 45% between 1975 and 1999, and 5% after 2000.

About 43% of alleged perpetrators in diocesan clergy did not have prior allegations against them, while 57% did. Ninety percent of alleged diocesan offenders are deceased, already removed from ministry, already laicized, or missing. Forty priests or deacons identified as alleged abusers in 2019 were permanently removed from ministry.

Diocese and eparchies that responded to the survey reported over $281 million in costs related to sex abuse allegations in the 2018-2019 period. About 71% of this went to settlements for victims, while 15% went to attorney fees. Religious institutes, which are handled in a separate category, paid over $41 million. Besides settlements and legal expenses, these costs include support for offenders and other payments to victims for purposes including therapy, living expenses, or legal expenses.

In last year's audit period, dioceses and eparchies provided outreach and support to 1,138 families who had newly reported abuse, while they provided continued support to 1,851 survivors and their families who had previously reported abuse.

Catholic churches and organizations conducted over 2.6 million background checks on clergy, employees and volunteers. More than 2.6 million adults and 3.6 million children and young people were trained in abuse awareness and reporting.

In February 2019, Pope Francis held the first-ever global summit on protecting minors in the Church. In May 2019, the pope issued new norms in the document “Vos Estis,” aiming to hold bishops and religious superiors accountable when they are accused of abuse or when they are accused of mishandling abuse allegations.

Cessario said the promulgation of Vos Estis and U.S. bishops' efforts to enact it “signaled an important and positive response” in the wake of revelations about McCarrick.

“Nonetheless, subsequent revelations of episcopal wrongdoing, the establishment of compensation plans for victims, the announcement of new grand jury investigations in several states, the filing of new lawsuits regarding abuse, and a growing desire among the laity for greater involvement in addressing this issue has led many to question whether the audit is sufficiently adequate to determine if a culture of safety within dioceses has taken root,” he said.

Cessario said the National Review Board has called for a “more in-depth audit,” as well as “a further revision of the Charter that will incorporate new practices, such as parish audits, offering greater assurance of compliance.”

Deacon Bernie Nojadera, executive director of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection, wrote a Feb. 28 letter included in the report. He reflected on how the abuse crisis has affected Catholics' faith.

“For some, this crisis has strengthened their faith and resolve – has confirmed the importance of keeping the faith and ultimately relying on the mercy, goodness, and plan of God,” he said. “For others, this crisis has destroyed lives and faith and trust in God. The theological implications point to the need to reconnect appropriately with God and with each other. Understanding what is happening in the Church and Her response is part of the solution.”

Nojadera noted the need to develop and maintain “right relationships” with young people and the vulnerable to help the Church learn and grow amid the sex abuse crisis.

“Only by promoting a culture of protection and healing can we prevent the evil of sexual abuse and bring true healing to those affected by this crime,” he said, emphasizing the need for continued vigilance.

The U.S. bishops' statement on the report's release said that the audit and the continued application of zero-tolerance policies are “two important tools in the Church's broader program of creating a culture of protection and healing that exceeds the requirements of the Charter.”