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Updated: 2 hours 32 min ago

Vice President Pence to persecuted Christians: 'We stand with you'

Thu, 05/11/2017 - 17:27

Washington D.C., May 11, 2017 / 03:27 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday pledged his prayers and support for persecuted Christians around the globe, as well as members of other religions who are persecuted for their beliefs.

“Your faith inspires me, it humbles me, and it inspires all who are looking on today.” Pence said, speaking to persecuted Christians including Fr. Douglas Bazi, a Chaldean Catholic priest from Iraq who survived a 2006 kidnapping and torture before ministering to Christian refugees fleeing ISIS in 2014.

“On behalf of the President of the United States, I say from my heart,” Pence continued, “we’re with you, we stand with you.”

The vice president on May 11 addressed the first annual World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians, hosted by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in Washington, D.C.

The summit brings together Christian leaders and groups from all over the world, including clerics of Protestant, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic churches, current and former members of Congress, and representatives of Open Doors USA, Samaritan’s Purse, and the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative.

It was meant to bring attention to the plight of persecuted Christians and advocate for their rights in countries where they are targeted or harassed for their beliefs. In attendance were persecuted Christians from 130 countries.

Pence honored Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. and Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, from the stage on Thursday. He also honored Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk of the Russian Orthodox Church and Metropolitan Tikhon, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America.

“Each one of you bears witness to the power of truth to transform lives,” Pence told them.

The summit was held at a time when millions of Christians face violence, harassment, and imprisonment in over 100 countries. Pence noted recent Palm Sunday bombings of Coptic churches in Egypt and the destruction of churches in Iraq as examples.

“I believe that ISIS is guilty of nothing short of genocide against people of the Christian faith, and it is time the world called it by name,” he said.

Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk of the Russian Orthodox Church, chair of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations, also addressed the summit on Thursday.

The 21st century has brought a “new vast wave of persecution of Christians,” he said, “particularly severe in those countries where the dominant religion is Islam.”

“Yet the persecutors are not those moderate Muslims,” he added, “but extremists and terrorists hiding behind Islamic slogans and Islamic rhetoric.”

He called on “Islamic leaders throughout the world to condemn terrorism as something that contradicts the teachings of the Koran,” asking “may this clear and precise condemnation resound from the lips” of leaders of countries like Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, and Turkey.

Metropolitan Hilarion also pointed to the Middle East and North Africa as areas where Christians are especially targeted, and lie “in the pathway of the political and/or economic interests of those forces who are not afraid to use terrorists in pursuit of their goals, pretending that they are fighting for freedom and democracy.”

Inter-Christian and inter-religious dialogue is key to the international community uniting to aid persecuted Christians, he insisted.

A need for action

Pence pledged his prayers and the support of the Trump administration for persecuted Christians. And this support extends to persons of all faiths who are targeted because of their beliefs, he continued.

“Rest assured, in the Middle East, North Africa, anywhere terror strikes, America stands with those who are targeted and tormented for their belief, whether they are Christian, Yazidi, Shi’a, Sunni, or any other creed, the president’s commitment to protecting people of faith,” he said.

“Adherents of other religions across the world have not been spared [persecution],” he added, “and we will speak and pray for them as well. For as history attests, persecution of one faith is ultimately persecution of all faiths.”

However, his pledge comes as religious freedom advocates have decried the absence of prominent administrative positions that promote religious freedom in U.S. foreign policy and advocate for persecuted religious minorities.

The Lantos Foundation recently sent a letter to President Trump asking him to “move swiftly” and nominate an Ambassador at-Large for International Religious Freedom, as well as a Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combatting anti-Semitism. These two positions have remained vacant since Trump took office.

“The perilous state of religious freedom around the globe confirms the wisdom of America’s leaders in creating a legal framework for addressing these abuses and ensuring that our foreign policy remains focused on protecting and advancing these fundamental rights,” the foundation insisted, saying the ambassador and Special Envoy positions “are absolutely critical components of the legal framework.”

President Obama did not nominate an Ambassador at-Large for International Religious Freedom until over a year after he took office. When his first ambassador, Suzan Johnson Cook, stepped down in 2013, no other ambassador was nominated until July of 2014, with Rabbi David Saperstein who served for the rest of Obama’s term.

Russia has also drawn serious concerns for its religious freedom abuses.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom just noted, in its 2017 annual report, that “in mainland Russia in 2016, new laws effectively criminalized all private religious speech not sanctioned by the state, the Jehovah’s Witnesses stand on the verge of a nationwide ban, and innocent Muslims were tried on fabricated charges of terrorism and extremism.”

Russia’s restrictive laws were reportedly an impetus for the World Summit moving from Moscow to Washington, D.C., Deseret News reported.

Rev. Franklin Graham noted on Thursday that the summit was originally set to be in Moscow, where Christians suffered greatly under Communism. However, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association reportedly moved the location from Moscow to Washington, D.C. last year.

 

 

 

Texas House passes conscience protections for foster care system

Thu, 05/11/2017 - 14:43

Austin, Texas, May 11, 2017 / 12:43 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholic groups have welcomed the Texas House of Representatives’ passage Wednesday of a bill that would provide conscience protections for groups and individuals involved in the foster care system.

“When this becomes law, Catholic Charities will be able to bring our expertise and resources to the aid of some of our most desperate and needy children,” said Sara Ramirez, CEO for Catholic Charities of Central Texas.

“We are willing to return to the field and work side-by-side with all people of good will so that no child is further traumatized by an inadequate foster care system,” she said in a statement from the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops.

The 93-49 vote on May 10, largely along party lines, sends the bill to the Senate, where a similar version has been stalled in committee, the Austin American-Statesman reports.

The bill would allow organizations and individuals in Texas’ foster care system who have sincerely held religious beliefs to remove themselves from actions that would directly violate their faith.

Its multiple applications would allow groups to avoid helping a minor obtain an abortion or providing foster services, including child placement, to same-sex couples.

Jennifer Carr Allmon, executive director of the Texas Catholic Conference, supported the bill.

“We look forward to a swift approval by the Senate and the Governor’s signature, as this is a critical element of the foster care system reform,” she said.

Cynthia Colbert, CEO of Catholic Charities Houston, said the conscience protections will “enable pastors to encourage loving families to be part of a caring network for these children” and will allow faith-based providers to be involved with Texas family protection service “without worrying that potential lawsuits will take limited resources away from the people we should be helping.”

Bill sponsor State Rep. James Frank, a Republican from Wichita Falls, said the bill aimed “to give quick, clear certainty to providers so they can take care of children instead of fighting lawsuits.”

“We need everyone to the table to help with the foster care situation,” he said.

Bill opponents have characterized it as a license to discriminate that would favor Christian beliefs over others. They objected that it would allow foster parents the right to deny contraceptives and abortion or medical care like vaccines to their children if these are against their religious beliefs.

Rep. Mary Gonzalez objected to the bill, saying tax dollars “should never be used to discriminate against any Texan.”

In other states and the District of Columbia, long-serving Catholic adoption agencies have been shut down by laws against sexual orientation discrimination or new requirements in state funding that would have required them to place children with same-sex couples.

Trump nominee wrote on Catholic judges and the death penalty

Thu, 05/11/2017 - 02:00

South Bend, Ind., May 11, 2017 / 12:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Among the newly announced federal judges selected by President Donald Trump is a Catholic law professor who once co-wrote a law review article on Catholic judges sitting over death penalty cases.

“Catholic judges must answer some complex moral and legal questions in deciding whether to sit in death penalty cases,” Professor Amy Coney Barrett of Notre Dame Law School wrote in an article published in the Marquette Law Review in 1998.

Barrett was nominated on Monday by President Trump to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, one of nine nominations to federal courts made by the president. Other picks included Justice David Stras of the Minnesota Supreme Court and Justice Joan Larsen of Michigan’s Supreme Court.

Barrett clerked for the late Justice Antonin Scalia and teaches law at the University of Notre Dame. She has twice been honored as “Distinguished Professor of the Year.”

In 2015, ahead of the Ordinary Synod on the Family, she signed a “letter to synod fathers from Catholic women” that upheld Church teaching on marriage, family, and the human person, and decried “ideological colonization.”

“We see the teachings of the Church as truth – a source of authentic freedom, equality, and happiness for women,” the letter stated. “We stand in solidarity with our sisters in the developing world against what Pope Francis has described as ‘forms of ideological colonization which are out to destroy the family’ and which exalt the pursuit of ‘success, riches, and power at all costs’.”

In a 2006 address to law school students, she exhorted them to make it their “life project to know, love, and serve the God who made you.”

In a 1998, Barrett, along with colleague John Garvey – who would later become dean of Boston College’s law school and president of The Catholic University of America – wrote about the moral conundrum Catholic judges face when presiding over capital cases.

These judges, they wrote, “are obliged by oath, professional commitment, and the demands of citizenship to enforce the death penalty. They are also obliged to adhere to their church’s teaching on moral matters.”

Both Barrett and Garvey cited Pope St. John Paul II’s 1995 encyclical “Evangelium Vitae” in the article, which explored the culpability of Catholic judges in capital cases, where they either chose a death sentence for a defendant or affirmed the jury’s decision in favor of a death sentence.

The article cited from “Evangelium Vitae,” from statements by the U.S. bishops’ conference, Saints Augustine and Aquinas, and from other Catholic thinkers and theologians.

First, the authors explored the morality of the death penalty itself. There is no “absolute” prohibition on the death penalty as there is against abortion and euthanasia in Church teaching, they said.

At the time, the new edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church had been released, citing the teaching on the death penalty from “Evangelium Vitae,” which said that the death penalty may only be used by society when no other means exists of enforcing justice and protecting the citizenry.

With regards to criminal justice, “the primary purpose of the punishment which society inflicts is ‘to redress the disorder caused by the offence’, Pope John Paul II wrote, adding that there must be “an adequate punishment for the crime.”

However, he continued, the punishment “ought not go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity: in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. Today however, as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically non-existent.”

“The appeal to general deterrence is a claim that we should do evil for the good that may come of it, and that is an impermissible suggestion,” Barrett (then Amy Coney) and Garvey wrote in 1998 of appeals to the death penalty for “deterrence” of future crime.

Regarding the use of capital punishment to ensure security, prisons in the U.S. have the ability to securely detain criminals from harming society again, they wrote, and arguments in favor of the death penalty here “will work only in parts of the world far less developed than the United States.”

Then the authors explored the question of the culpability of Catholic judges who preside over capital cases in the U.S., judges who might have to affirm or issue death sentences despite the statements of the pope and bishops against use of the death penalty except in rare cases which might not even apply in the U.S.

For instance, a judge who issues a death sentence based upon the recommendation of the jury “is a straightforward case of formal cooperation, one in which the judge sets the wheels of injustice in motion,” they wrote.

“Once the judge enters the order, the government is authorized – indeed unless there is a pardon, bound – to put the defendant to death,” they explained. “And the judge intends that this should happen.”

A judge would also engage in formal cooperation in cases without a jury, where he selects the sentence.

“The moral problem with suspending judgment in a capital sentencing hearing is like this. It would be wrong for a judge to place himself at the service of evil by getting in a position to go where events may take him,” they wrote.

For a judge to preside over a “guilty” hearing, however, before a sentence is considered, that would be “morally justified,” they said.

On an appeals court, a judge considering a conviction in order to determine “the fairness of a trial” is “on balance,” a “material cooperation that is morally acceptable.” However, his act of affirming or remanding the lower court’s decision that includes the sentence of death “has some room to affect the defendant’s fate,” they added. “To affirm the sentence is not to approve it, but to say that the trial court did its job.”

However, that might not be how it appears in public, as many would see an appeals court’s affirmation of a death sentence as its approval, possibly causing “scandal.”

“Considerations like this make it exceedingly difficult to pass moral judgment on the appellate review of sentencing,” the authors wrote.

However, they continued, if Catholic judges have moral qualms against issuing death sentences, are they obliged to recuse themselves from such cases?

In a capital case where a jury recommends death, “there is no way the judge can do his job and obey his conscience,” they wrote. “The judge’s conscience tells him to impose a life sentence; federal law directs him to impose death.” Thus, federal law “directs him to disqualify himself,” and this should happen “before the [sentencing] hearing, not after it.”

Catholic judges should also recuse themselves in cases without a jury where they can give death sentences, for “if a judge cannot honestly consider death as a possibility, he is ‘prejudiced,’” according to federal law, “and should recuse himself.”

However, when considering cases of guilt and not capital sentences, Catholic judges can sit on such cases if their “objective is to deal justly with the defendant.” They would be finding if someone is guilty of murder, not whether they should receive a death sentence. In appeals court cases, however, “if one cannot in conscience affirm a death sentence the proper response is to recuse oneself,” they wrote.

In conclusion, they wrote, “judges cannot – nor should they try to – align our legal system with the Church’s moral teaching whenever the two diverge. They should, however, conform their own behavior to the Church’s standard.”

 

Minn. bishop rejects claim he pressured alleged abuse victim

Wed, 05/10/2017 - 17:12

Crookston, Minn., May 10, 2017 / 03:12 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop Michael Hoeppner of Crookston, Minn. has rejected a lawsuit’s assertion that he coerced a deacon candidate into renouncing his claim that a priest sexually abused him as a teen.

Ronald Vasek has filed a lawsuit against the bishop and the Diocese of Crookston seeking both unspecified damages exceeding $50,000 and the release of records of sexual abuse by priests in the diocese, Reuters reports. Vasek has claimed that the bishop threatened the man’s efforts to become a deacon and his son’s career in the priesthood.

“Bishop Hoeppner categorically denies that he in any way forced, coerced or encouraged Mr. Vasek not to pursue his allegations,” the diocese said, adding that the bishop and other leaders are “deeply saddened and troubled” by the allegations.

Vasek charged that in 1971, at the age of 16, he was molested during a trip to Cincinnati by Msgr. Roger Grundhaus, a priest of the diocese who went on to become vicar general. The trip was for a meeting of canon lawyers, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports.

He reportedly informed a priest about the abuse in 2009 or 2010, while he was considering becoming a deacon. The lawsuit said the information was passed on to Bishop Hoeppner.

According to the diocese, the allegation of abuse was reported to law enforcement in 2011. Msgr. Grundhaus has been retired since July 2010 and is presently suspended from active ministry.

“The Diocese of Crookston plans to conduct a thorough investigation into this matter,” said the diocese, adding that further comment would be inappropriate until the investigation is completed.

In 2010, Vasek’s son was ordained a priest for the diocese. Vasek entered the diaconate program the next year.

The lawsuit charges that in 2015, Bishop Hoeppner pressured Vasek to sign a letter that recanted his previous statements alleging sexual abuse. The lawsuit claims this was motivated in part because the accused priest was unable to minister in other dioceses due to the abuse allegation in the diocese’s records.

The suit charges that the bishop told Vasek he would have trouble ordaining him a deacon unless he recanted. The bishop allegedly suggested Vasek’s son’s career in the priesthood would also face difficulty.

Vasek said he signed the letter and the bishop said he would keep it in his vault if it were ever needed. He claims that the bishop was blackmailing him.

The lawsuit further claims that a 2015 court order required the allegation against Msgr. Grundhaus to be made public, but it was not.

Vasek’s attorney is Jeff Anderson, who has been involved in many lawsuits against the Catholic Church involving sex abuse allegations.

Father Bob Schreiner, who oversees the diocese’s deacon program, stood by Vasek’s side at a May 9 news conference and said he believed him. The priest has known Vasek for over 28 years.

The diocese said it is committed to the protection of children and a safe environment in its schools, communities and parishes. Its statement encouraged anyone with information about abuse or exploitation of children or young people to report it immediately to law enforcement or to the diocese’s victims’ assistance coordinator.

Bishop Hoeppner has asked for prayers for those involved.

 

 

 

Looking to Fatima, Pennsylvania bishops to dedicate dioceses to Mary

Wed, 05/10/2017 - 17:08

Philadelphia, Pa., May 10, 2017 / 03:08 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Catholic bishops of Pennsylvania will dedicate each Catholic diocese and eparchy in the state to the Virgin Mary later this year.

“What prompted the proposal was the intent for the dioceses and eparchies in the Commonwealth to observe the 100th Anniversary of the apparition of the Blessed Mother at Fatima,” Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia said May 9.

The decision was made at the bishops’ provincial meeting May 1.

The official dedication will include a special noontime Mass with all the bishops at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in the Pennsylvania capital of Harrisburg. The Mass will take place Sept. 27, during the next provincial meeting of the bishops.

There will be observances in each diocese and eparchy the weekend of Oct. 14-15.

In bill veto, Oklahoma takes a stand against loan sharks

Tue, 05/09/2017 - 19:10

Oklahoma City, Okla., May 9, 2017 / 05:10 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The governor of Oklahoma vetoed a bill that would have drastically increased the interest rates of payday loans, joining the fight of the bishops around the country who have pushed back on similar legislation.

“House Bill 1913 adds yet another level of high interest borrowing without terminating or restricting access to existing payday loan products,” Governor Mary Fallin said in her veto statement last week.

The bill was vetoed May 5, with Fallin voicing her concern that the loans created by the bill would be “more expensive than the current loan options.”

Bishops throughout the U.S. have decried the use of payday loans, and have backed legislation which would restrict the effect these loans on have on the borrowers – communities who are often targeted for their lack of education and immediate need. Catholic Charities has even opened organizations which may assist those in need or struggling with high interest loans.

Payday loans are a small amount of money with a high interest level. Often times these loans are taken out for situations such emergency doctor appointments or car troubles. The name of payday loans derives from the understanding that the loan would be paid back within the next paycheck, but the high interest rates usually suffocate the costumer who is struggling to make ends meet.

Payday loans have led people into a circular trap in which they can only pay the high monthly interest or roll over fees continue to add up and become unmanageable.

HB 1913 would mean that loan companies could increase the monthly interest rate to 17 percent, which is three to four times greater than Oklahoma's current laws. The annual percentage rate would be about 204.

According to OKpolicy.org, in 2014 nearly 950,000 dollars was taken out in payday loans and 1.2 million in “B” loans, averaging 77 loans per 100 Oklahoman adults.

Bishops and Catholic leaders throughout the U.S. have fought similar legislation like HB 1913 and backed bills that restrict loan sharks.

Regulations have been passed in order to limit the amount of times lenders are allowed to charge borrower’s fees or how many times loan companies can access a person’s bank account before overdraft fees stack up. Legislation has also been passed that enforced lenders to evaluate whether the borrower has sufficient means to pay back the loans.

These loans will affect people in the middle-class, but they are well known to be marketed towards people who may not understand the full consequences.

In a 2015 interview with The Dallas Morning News, the pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Parish in Arlington said “it seems that every week another member of my parish tells me a horror story about one of these loans. They debilitate our families. People take out loans without fully understanding the terms.”

The Texas Catholic Conference analyzed the situation across the state, talking to both lenders and borrowers. Jennifer Allmon, associate director of the Texas Catholic Conference, said that the stores were located in areas where a loan may be more attractive or that the lenders misled borrowers with misinformation.

She said the contracts will often only be in English, but advertising and conversation in the shop would be conducted in Spanish “so oftentimes the borrower has no idea what they're signing,” and the interest rate would be significantly hirer than what the borrower had expected.

The Kansas Loan Pool Project, in a partnership with Sunflower Bank, has assisted over 120 people who have struggled under predatory debt, and $80,000 has been refinanced since its establishment in 2013. The program provides the borrower with a more traditional loan in order to cover the payday loan. Then they will help the person develop the financial skills to budget to pay back the lower interest loan.

Catholic Charities in Kansas has also begun a program in order to provide small, low interest loans, with a maximum of a $1000, so that people who do have an immediate need are able to receive the proper funding.

Why these college missionaries will dedicate themselves to Mary

Tue, 05/09/2017 - 02:08

Denver, Colo., May 9, 2017 / 12:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In the centenary year of Our Lady of Fatima, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students has decided to consecrate its mission to the Virgin Mary in perpetuity.

“It was the natural thing to do,” Curtis Martin, the organization’s founder and chief executive officer, told CNA. “We at FOCUS have always had a deep devotion to Our Lady.”

“Since its founding, FOCUS has attracted staff, missionaries and students who have a devotion to the Blessed Mother, which has been cultivated during their time with FOCUS. Marian devotion is simply part-and-parcel of being Catholic, so it is part-and-parcel of FOCUS.”

FOCUS, headquartered in Colorado, has grown to nearly 600 missionaries on 125 campuses since 1998.

“God has allowed our efforts to be fruitful, and we are seeking the grace for deeper sanctification of the individual missionary or staff member and the special blessing of their missionary work by petitioning Our Lady for assistance,” Martin said.

The perpetual consecration will take place at a June 13 Mass at the Oratory of Ave Maria University in Florida, where FOCUS will be holding its new staff training.

June 13 marks the centenary of the second Marian apparition at Fatima. In that vision, Fatima seer Sister Lucia said, the Virgin Mary told her, “Jesus wishes to make use of you to make me known and loved. He wants to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart.”

The consecration will be live-streamed on the organization’s Facebook page.  

FOCUS plans to renew the consecration each year on June 13 and on December 12, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Martin said he wanted to make sure the organization does not see the consecration as a once-a-year event. Rather, FOCUS is encouraging its staff and missionaries to live the consecration throughout the year.

In 2016 the organization consecrated its efforts to Our Lady of Guadalupe for a year while discerning more deeply what the Virgin Mary and Christ desired.

“Ultimately, we discerned that Our Lady’s call at Fatima was still for our time and for us,” Martin said.

The prayers will consecrate FOCUS “to Jesus through Mary, petitioning especially the graces offered at Fatima and Guadalupe.”

Martin said the wording recognizes that the consecration ultimately is to Christ though his Mother.

“It also emphasizes our need for the totality of her help, while recognizing that FOCUS as an apostolate is especially in need of particular graces,” he added.

Martin sees Our Lady of Fatima as representing a focus on a missionary’s interior life, while Our Lady of Guadalupe represents a focus on the exterior life.

“Both are directed toward the same end: the salvation of souls through the fulfillment of the Great Commission to know Jesus Christ and make disciples of all nations,” he said.

He cited Our Lady of Fatima’s request to pray, especially the rosary and devotions to the Sacred Heart, as well as her encouragement to make sacrifices for souls. He said devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe is an opportunity to pray for spiritual fruitfulness, given her precedent of inspiring the conversion of 10 million people.  

Martin said he has a particular devotion to Our Lady of Fatima, saying she “played an instrumental role in breathing new life into my dead faith.”

He said FOCUS reaches out to students “at a pivotal time in their lives” when they face the pressures of contemporary campus life.

“We share the gospel of Christ’s love, the truth of the Catholic faith and our very selves to help reach the world for Christ through our families, vocations and parishes,” he said.

Worldwide Masses offered on Archbishop Sheen's birthday

Mon, 05/08/2017 - 12:10

Peoria, Ill., May 8, 2017 / 10:10 am (National Catholic Register).- Today is a good day to join more than 1,000 priests and an even greater number of the faithful in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in remembrance of Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen and with the intention of moving forward his beatification cause.

May 8 marks the archbishop’s 122nd birthday.

The beloved TV evangelist, who was friends with St. John XXIII and Blessed Paul VI, helped bring hundreds — and maybe even thousands of souls — into the Church, with notable converts such as Henry Ford II, politician Clare Booth Luce, actress Virginia Mayo and several of his day’s best-known communists. The actor Ramon Estevez took the archbishop’s surname for his stage name: Martin Sheen.

Archbishop Sheen ordained EWTN’s own Father Andrew Apostoli and is often credited with the fact that many priests make a daily Holy Hour: He constantly exhorted his priestly brethren to adore the Blessed Sacrament.

The idea of birthday Masses in honor of Archbishop Sheen came from his good friend Lo Anne Mayer.

Mayer met Bishop Sheen in 1970 at her parish church. “We just had this instant connection,” she recalled to the Register, and they developed a deep friendship. He even baptized her youngest child.

Mayer previously served on the board for the Archbishop Sheen Foundation, which promotes his canonization cause and long ago sponsored a similar effort.

A hearing this September will seek to resolve a dispute over the Venerable’s mortal remains — which has stalled the canonization caused — between the Archdiocese of New York and Diocese of Peoria, Illinois.

“The only thing that can make a change,” believes Mayer, “is prayer and a lot of it.”

It was while reflecting about the situation on New Year’s Day this year that Mayer remembered the 1,000 Masses that had been offered for the cause previously. She hoped this could be a new way to “storm heaven” in order to help move things along. She made some phone calls, and thus the process began.

The effort employed no website. Instead, it relied on simple word of mouth and people promoting it through social media. Today, what started as an idea has garnered a worldwide response.

In addition to parishes throughout North America, Masses will take place today in roughly 40 countries, including New Zealand, Pakistan, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Ireland, Germany, Switzerland, France, Cameroon, Australia, Turkey, India, Japan, Indonesia, Croatia, Nepal, Denmark, Ethiopia and Italy, as well as at Marian shrines such as Lourdes and Fatima. Chicago Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Perry will celebrate Mass. And every parish in Peoria will celebrate its Mass today for the intention of Sheen’s cause. Masses will also take place at St. Patrick Cathedral in New York and at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., where Archbishop Sheen taught theology and philosophy. Indeed, many of the people who helped spread the word and who will celebrate the Masses are people whom Sheen taught. Others who have helped include those who were either converted by him or whose parents were converted by him.

Larry and Bernadette Schumann will attend Mass in Archbishop Sheen’s honor at St. Bede Church in Williamsburg, Virginia. Bernadette once served as Venerable Sheen’s secretary, and the archbishop presided over the couple’s wedding.

According to Catholic News Service, Larry Schumann, now 80, said, “It is our prayer that with these Masses on May 8, 2017, throughout the world, the Holy Spirit will move his cause forward and that his beatification and canonization will soon be realized.”

The Schumanns’ pastor, Msgr. Tim Keeney, told the Register he is happy to participate because “Archbishop Sheen is one of those whom I have read and listened to and who has sustained my priesthood. Priests also need to have the Word preached to them, and Archbishop Sheen, Bishop Robert Barron and the various Holy Fathers who have served during my 21 years of priesthood have been the principle sources that I have sought out for that ministry.”

For her part, Mayer marvels at how this effort has spread through people doing something as old-fashioned and simple as reaching out to one another, calling this priest and contacting that friend.

Reflecting on this phenomenon, she said, “We have heard that Bishop Sheen is being promoted as the [patron] saint of communication, which I think is most appropriate. Looking back, I feel I have the honor of knowing a saint.”

 

This article was originally published in the National Catholic Register.

Enduring devotion: the Irish immigrant who never forgot Our Lady of Knock

Sun, 05/07/2017 - 18:09

New York City, N.Y., May 7, 2017 / 04:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- “I remember it as well as I do last night.” Those were the words of an aged Irish immigrant named John Curry in 1940s New York, who had seen the apparitions at Knock, Ireland when just a boy.

Now, his remains will be re-interred at St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral in New York City.

“Like most of the witnesses, John Curry went on to live out his life in a quiet way, never highlighting what he experienced in Knock, unless asked to speak about it,” Father Richard Gibbons, rector of Ireland’s Our Lady of Knock Shrine, told CNA. “This shows a quiet, humble kind of faith which was characteristic of the Irish people.”
 
“He served Mass everyday right up until before his death and had an unwavering devotion to Our Lady and said that she never refused him anything that he asked for,” the priest said.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York will celebrate an 11 a.m. Mass of Thanksgiving May 13, followed by Curry’s reburial on the church’s grounds in Manhattan.

The apparition took place on the evening of Aug. 21, 1879 in the presence of fifteen men, women, and children, mainly from the village of Knock in County Mayo. They ranged in age from 5 to 74 years old.

Some of the witnesses reported figures that appeared to be the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph and St. John at the parish church’s gable wall. Amid luminous lights, they saw the figure of a lamb and a cross on an altar.

Curry’s older cousin, Patrick Hill, was at the vision too. He placed the young boy on his shoulders so he could see.

In the pouring rain, the witnesses stayed, praying the rosary.

When the Church launched an official inquiry in October 1879, young John Curry’s testimony was among the fifteen official witness testimonies. His first account is brief.

“The child says he saw images, beautiful images, the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph,” said the document, posted on the Knock shrine’s website. “He could state no more than that he saw the fine images and the light, and heard the people talk of them, and went upon the wall to see the nice things and the lights.”

Years later, in a 1936 letter to Fr. Dan Corcoran, who was then curate of Knock Parish, Curry said of the event: “I remember it as well as I do last night.”

Curry reaffirmed his testimony before a second Church inquiry held in New York in 1937. He described the figures:

“It appeared to me that they were alive, but they didn’t speak. One of the women there, Bridget Trench, kissed the Blessed Virgin’s feet and tried to put her arms around the feet but there was nothing there but the picture. I saw her do that. The figures were life-size and I will remember them till I go to my grave.”

Fr. Gibbons said the apparition took place at a troubled time for Ireland. Land reform efforts had provoked heated controversy and even violence, while scattered famines recalled the fearful times of Ireland’s Great Hunger.

This is the background of the traditional prayer: “Our Lady of Knock, Queen of Ireland, you gave hope to your people in a time of distress and comforted them in sorrow.”

“Our Lady of Knock was, and continues to be an icon of hope, forgiveness and compassion for all,” Fr. Gibbons said, calling the reburial “a wonderful opportunity” to recognize Curry.

“He, like many others at the time, was forced to emigrate in search of work and was unable to travel home again.”

Curry had emigrated to New York in 1897 at the age of 25, then was in London in 1900 before returning to the U.S. in 1911. He worked as railway laborer near Milwaukee, then moved to New York in the 1920s and worked an attendant at the City Hospital on what is now New York’s Roosevelt Island.

He never married.

When his health began to decline, he moved to live with the Little Sisters of the Poor on Long Island.

Not until shortly before the second inquiry began did he tell the sisters that he was one of the witnesses to the apparition at Knock.

Late in life, Curry would recount the stories of the apparition and of serving Mass for Archdeacon Bartholomew Cavanaugh, the parish priest of Knock. Just before the apparition began, the priest had completed a series one hundred Masses for the souls in Purgatory whom the Virgin Mary wished to be released.

Curry died in the care of the Little Sisters of the Poor in Manhattan in 1943, aged 69. He was buried in an unmarked grave at Pine Lawn Cemetery in Long Island. Curry’s cousin, Patrick Hill, passed away in Boston in 1927 at the age of 60.

The modern-day rector of the shrine, Fr. Gibbons, spoke about Curry’s unmarked grave to Cardinal Dolan when the cardinal led a 2015 pilgrimage to Knock.

Initially, he asked the cardinal to help bless the grave when a gravestone was provided.  The cardinal then offered to bring Curry’s remains to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. When this proved impossible, the grounds of the historic cathedral was chosen.

Fr. Gibbons said Knock is extremely grateful to the cardinal for his support and encouragement. In an unusual reversal, 130 pilgrims will be flying from Knock to New York City. Their numbers include some of Curry’s relatives.

Tom Beirne, a New York resident who is co-chairing the reburial committee, told CNA the reburial means that Curry “will finally get the recognition that he so greatly deserves at this point.”

He suggested that the reburial and focus on Our Lady of Knock would increase Marian devotion, combined with the centenary of the Marian apparition known as Our Lady of Fatima.

Beirne said Our Lady of Knock has continuing significance to Irish-Americans. He pointed to the St. Patrick’s Day Mass with Cardinal Dolan at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, when the singer Cathy Maguire sang “an amazing rendition” of  Dana Rosemary Scallon’s song “Our Lady of Knock”, which went viral on the internet.

Beirne said that St. Patrick's Old Cathedral is “hugely significant” to the Irish community and the Irish-American Catholic fraternity the Ancient Order of Hibernians, which is assisting in the reburial.

“Archbishop John Hughes, ‘Dagger Hughes.’ called on the Ancient Order of Hibernians to physically defend St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral on a couple of occasions against the planned destruction by Nativists and the ‘Know Nothings’,” he said.

The group and its counterpart, the Ladies’ Ancient Order of Hibernians, host an annual pilgrimage to the Our Lady of Knock Shrine in East Durham, New York.

Today, Knock is the National Marian Shrine of Ireland and hosts the largest pilgrimage in the country. The shrine is surrounded by gardens with five churches.

“Pilgrims often comment on the great sense of peace that they experience here,” Fr. Gibbons said.

The National Novena to Our Lady of Knock takes place Aug. 14-22 every year, bringing guest speakers, workshops for pilgrims, and a candlelight rosary procession around the shrine grounds each evening.

Nancy Pelosi suggests more Democratic openness to pro-lifers

Fri, 05/05/2017 - 15:53

Washington D.C., May 5, 2017 / 01:53 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Debate continues over the Democratic Party's acceptance of pro-life members, voters and politicians, as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi made comments signaling that she is open to them.

The San Francisco Democrat cited her own childhood in a “very Catholic family” in an Italian-American sector of Baltimore.

“Most of those people – my family, extended family – are not pro-choice. You think I'm kicking them out of the Democratic Party?” she told the Washington Post May 2.

She said that the Democrats were united by “our values about working families,” suggesting that Democrats' perceived rigidity on issues like gay marriage and abortion helped elect Republican Donald Trump as president. She cited the fact that the passage of the 2010 health care law was possible only after securing assurances it would not fund abortion.

About three in ten Democrats think abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, the Pew Research Center has said.

Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America criticized Rep. Pelosi, telling the Washington Post “encouraging and supporting anti-choice candidates leads to bad policy outcomes that violate women's rights and endanger our economic security.”

Hogue praised the 2016 Democratic Party platform, saying “it didn't just seek to protect abortion access – it sought to expand it.” She said the party “can't back down” if it wants to regain power.

Support for pro-life Democrats became a subject of debate within the party in mid-April, when former Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez publicly supported the Democratic candidate for mayor of Omaha, Neb., Heath Mello.

Pro-abortion rights activists criticized the endorsements, noting Mello's support for abortion restrictions in the Nebraska legislature and his opposition to some taxpayer funding of abortion.

The abortion rights advocacy group NARAL harshly criticized Perez and Sanders, calling their support for Mello “politically stupid.”

Amid the controversy, Mello said that as a Catholic his faith “guides my personal views” but “as mayor I would never do anything to restrict access to reproductive health care.”

In response to the political debate, Perez said there was no place for pro-life advocates in the party.

“Every Democrat, like every American, should support a woman's right to make her own choices about her body and her health,” he said, adding “this is not negotiable and should not change city by city or state by state.”

Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life of America, told CNA in late April that Perez’s move was “stunning to see.”

“Pro-life Democrats are deeply concerned about this extreme position that the Democratic Party has taken and this non-negotiable position,” she said.  

In her recent interview, Pelosi told the Washington Post she thought abortion is “kind of fading as an issue.”

At the same time, she pointed to U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, Jr. (D-Penn.), who ran as a pro-life Democrat.
“Bob Casey – you know Bob Casey – would you like him not to be in our party?” she said.

While Casey has described himself as pro-life, he has also opposed an end to funding abortion provider Planned Parenthood through federal contraception programs.

His father, Bob Casey, Sr., was a governor of Pennsylvania who was denied a speaking spot at the 1992 Democratic National Convention when he sought to present a report critical of the party’s platform on abortion that declared “reproductive choice” to be a fundamental right.

Ahead of the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, then-Speaker of the House Pelosi attempted to justify her position in favor of abortion on Catholic grounds. Her attempt was rebuked by then-Archbishop of Denver Charles J. Chaput.

Kansas City archdiocese breaks ties with Girl Scouts

Fri, 05/05/2017 - 08:01

Kansas City, Kan., May 5, 2017 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas announced this week a halt to their involvement with Girl Scouts USA, and an eventual transfer of their support to alternative scouting programs.

“With the promotion by Girl Scouts USA (GSUSA) of programs and materials reflective of many of the troubling trends in our secular culture, they are no longer a compatible partner in helping us form young women with the virtues and value of the Gospel,” stated a May 1 announcement from Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas.

“I want to express my appreciation for the many extraordinary Girl Scout leaders of the archdiocese who have served so many so well. We look forward to having as many of them as are willing to join us in leadership roles as we take this new step,” he continued.

In January, Archbishop Naumann asked his parishes to begin transitioning support from Girl Scouts USA to alternate programs. This shift is becoming effective in the 2017-2018 kindergarten class throughout Kansas City archdiocese parishes.

The American Heritage Girls is the preferred alternative, as well as the Little Flower Girls Club.

“Pastors were given the choice of making this transition quickly, or to, over the next several years, ‘graduate’ the Scouts currently in the program,” stated Archbishop Naumann.

“American Heritage Girls, a program based on Christian values, we believe is a much better fit for our parishes.”

Over the past few years, Girl Scouts USA have made some controversial shifts in their program, including contributing to organizations who support Planned Parenthood and integrating questionable material in their books.  

These changes have proved to be challenging for many organizations involved with GSUSA, including the Catholic Church. Other dioceses in the country have also distanced themselves from the Girl Scouts, including the Archdiocese of St. Louis in 2016.  

“The decision to end our relationship with Girl Scouting was not an easy one,” Archbishop Naumann said.

Over the past ten years, the Archdiocese of Kansas City has tapped into their resources to spend “hundreds of hours” researching the Girl Scout organization and spending time with current Scouts and their families.

The archdiocese additionally delved into the many concerns raised by the “disturbing content in materials and resources developed and promulgated by the national organization.”

These concerns included having Margaret Sanger, Betty Friedan, and Gloria Steinem as role models for the Girl Scouts, all of whom are known for their advocacy of both contraception and abortion.

Girl Scouts USA also contributes over a million dollars annually to the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS), a lobby group which funds International Planned Parenthood.

There was another controversy with some material in the GSUSA Journey manual, in which the Archdiocese of Kansas City requested – and was granted – the removal of the questionable material their books. This included “several offensive and completely age-inappropriate role models.”

“It is disturbing that such an intervention on our part was necessary,” Archbishop Naumann noted.

“We prefer to partner with youth organizations that share our values and vision for youth ministry, not ones that we have to monitor constantly to protect our children from being misled and misinformed,” he continued.

Moving forward, Catholic parishes in the Archdiocese of Kansas City are encouraged to support American Heritage Girls, a group founded in 1995 with about 20,000 members nationwide. Another recommended group is the Little Flowers Girl Club, a Catholic-based group in the US and Canada.

“To follow Jesus and his Gospel will often require us to be counter-cultural,” the Kansas City archbishop said.

“Our greatest responsibility as a church is to the children and young people in our care…It is essential that all youth programs at our parishes affirm virtues and values consistent with the Catholic faith.”

Anthony Esolen accepts post at Thomas More College of Liberal Arts

Fri, 05/05/2017 - 02:05

Merrimack, N.H., May 5, 2017 / 12:05 am (National Catholic Register).- Anthony Esolen, the prolific Catholic scholar and author known for his distinctly Catholic worldview and translation of Dante’s The Divine Comedy, has accepted a teaching position at Thomas More College of Liberal Arts, severing his ties with Providence College, where he held a tenured professorship and waged a long battle for its Catholic identity.

The move marks the end of an increasingly tempestuous showdown between Esolen and Providence over the Dominican-run institution’s direction and the beginning of a new chapter for the Catholic scholar. Esolen will begin teaching courses at the New Hampshire Catholic liberal arts college starting with the fall semester. He will also begin work on Thomas More’s new Center for the Restoration of Catholic Culture.

William Fahey, president of Thomas More, told the National Catholic Register that Esolen and the college have a long-established relationship. Esolen spoke recently at Thomas More’s President’s Council Dinner, addressed students at commencement, and gave a keynote address at the annual Catholic Literature Conference in Concord, New Hampshire, co-hosted by Thomas More.

Fahey said he also has had a long personal relationship with Esolen and admires his “educational vision, his love of the Church, his engagement in the political and cultural arena.”

“And like Thomas More, he has made tremendous sacrifices and suffered for holding to his convictions,” the college president added.

Esolen’s hiring by Thomas More, Fahey said, demonstrates both the college’s commitment to “excellence in teaching” and that “a small Catholic ‘Great Books’ college can continue to attract world-class faculty.”

Esolen’s additional work on the Center for the Restoration of Catholic Culture, Fahey added, highlights the college’s mission “to wed virtue and scholarship, contemplation with cultural engagement.”

“We are following the lead of our spiritual patron, St. Thomas More,” he said. “We can engage the world, hold firmly to our faith, and retire for learned and merry conversations among friends.”

The Perils of Providence

For more than a year, Esolen had been engaged in an acrimonious and rather public debate about the true nature of diversity at Providence College, which became known as “the Esolen Affair.” Esolen had vocally criticized “diversity” being used by students and some faculty on campus to push a political agenda rooted in current events, as opposed to his support for a “cultural diversity” that also treasures the best of Western civilization.

But the public battle came to a head after Providence’s administration publicly distanced itself from Esolen, who had written an essay for Crisis Magazine entitled, “My College Succumbed to the Totalitarian Diversity Cult” (a title that Esolen said he did not write).

The administration’s public repudiation of Esolen followed upon a protest march by Providence students and a faculty petition that alleged Esolen’s articles contained “racist, xenophobic, misogynist, homophobic and religiously chauvinist statements.”

Esolen told the National Catholic Register that the turning point for him came after Providence’s president, Dominican Father Brian Shanley, allegedly refused to meet with a small group of Catholic professors intent on resolving the conflict and persuaded the Dominican provincial not to meet with them either.

Esolen explained that he could have lived with a “somewhat Catholic school that was really committed to the humanities” or “an unreservedly Catholic school where the humanities needed shoring up.” However, he concluded Providence offered neither of these options: The campus had become “highly politicized,” and the administrative decisions, to him, appeared “basically secular in their inspiration and their aim.”

“That is not to say that Providence College is lost,” he said. “There are still many excellent people there, Catholics and others who are friendly to the faith, even when they do not share it, and friendly to the humanities. But saving the school is no longer my battle.”

The public clash between Esolen’s “strong Catholic convictions” and the direction that Providence was going prompted Thomas More’s president and several trustees to meet with Esolen at a fundraising event and discuss the possibility of him leaving his tenured position to join Thomas More College.

“It was rather remarkable,” Fahey said. “After about an hour of conversation, we were all wondering why it had taken so long to come to the conclusion that Esolen’s scholarship, understanding of an integrated Catholic education, and love of traditional Catholic culture were a magnificent fit with the mission of Thomas More College.”

‘Good Cheer’ at Thomas More

In contrast to the exhaustion and isolation he experienced at Providence College, Esolen said a recent visit to Thomas More left him “full of good cheer and energy.”

“For somebody who isn’t getting younger, those can take you a long way,” he said. “They can add many years to your life as a teacher, whereas discouragement and disappointment lead to exhaustion.”

Having a community “filled with the faith,” Esolen said, strengthens his own faith. He finds it a “considerable advantage” that Thomas More has daily Mass offered outside of the class schedule, followed by lunch, “when you have a chance of sitting with anybody and everybody.”

He felt drawn to Thomas More College because the students are meant to be “surrounded by beauty and sanity,” where young men and women falling in love and getting married is celebrated – not the “rat poison of the sexual revolution, the ‘Lonely Revolution.’” He admires how the education focuses on the “whole human being, not disembodied chunks of him,” making it the kind of environment that can produce “leaders in thought, art, public affairs and the Church.”

Esolen said Thomas More College’s Center for the Restoration of Catholic Culture is a “great opportunity” for him and his family.

“It is as if they had read my mind or I had read their minds when I wrote my book Out of the Ashes: Restoring American Culture,” he said.

The Catholic scholar said he is looking forward to helping introduce freshmen to the ancient world and “how to write like human beings and not machines.”

He said he will also be focusing on producing other poetic works other than translation. One such project is tentatively called “Centuries of Grace.”

But Esolen said he intends to bring to Thomas More what he sought to bring to the students of Providence – “a love for art and poetry and the best of human wisdom, and the trust that such things can bring us into the precincts of the divine.”

He added, “Not into the sanctuary itself, but into the neighborhood. And that is no small thing that they can do.”

 

This article originally apperaed in the National Catholic Register.

 

Science, compassion, adoption – why Mike Pence says 'life is winning' in America

Thu, 05/04/2017 - 20:39

Washington D.C., May 4, 2017 / 06:39 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- “Life is winning in America,” U.S. Vice President Mike Pence told attendees at a pro-life gala on Wednesday evening in Washington, D.C.

“Life is winning through the steady advance of so many areas of science” that provide a glimpse at the unborn baby in the womb, the vice president said, “through the generosity of millions of adoptive families,” and “through the compassionate caregivers and volunteers at crisis pregnancy centers and faith-based organizations, who minister to women in cities and towns across America.”

“Compassion is overcoming convenience, hope is defeating despair,” he said.  

Pence delivered the keynote address at the 10th annual gala of the Susan B. Anthony List on May 3rd in Washington, D.C.

The pro-life group honored Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) with the Marilyn Musgrave Defender of Life Award, and Leonard Leo, the executive vice president of The Federalist Society, with the 2017 Distinguished Leader Award.

SBA List president Marjorie Dannenfelser, in a statement, praised Black’s “tireless efforts to investigate and defund Planned Parenthood, the nation’s #1 abortion business, and redirect their taxpayer dollars to real, comprehensive health care for women.”

Black sponsored a joint resolution, ultimately signed by President Trump, that nullified an Obama administration rule which pro-life leaders had called the President’s “parting gift to the abortion industry.” Black’s resolution allowed states to, once again, block clinics from receiving federal Title X grants if they performed abortions.

Vice President Pence had cast the tiebreaking vote in the U.S. Senate to ensure the passage of the resolution.

Leo, meanwhile, was credited for his work to help the Trump administration nominate Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, a pick that pro-life leaders applauded.

SBA List highlighted Pence’s past pro-life record as a U.S. congressman and as governor of Indiana, sponsoring “more than two dozen pro-life bills in the U.S. House of Representatives” as well as signing pro-life legislation into law in his state.

He also became the first sitting vice president to address the March for Life, this past January.

White House senior advisor Kellyanne Conway briefly addressed the gala attendees at the beginning of Wednesday’s event, thanking them for their help in defending human life and promising that more would be done by the administration to protect life.

Pence, in his keynote speech, emphasized that “life is winning” in many ways, including “through the quiet counsel between mothers and daughters, grandmothers and granddaughters,” he continued, “friends across kitchen tables.”

He exhorted those in attendance to carry on the work of Susan B. Anthony, known for her activism for the abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage and women’s rights, and temperance. “Let us strive with all our might to finish the work that Susan B. Anthony started,” he said.

Susan B. Anthony fought against injustices, too many of which “still survive to this day,” Pence said, “and abortion is the worst of them.”

“I truly believe that we’ve come to a pivotal moment in the life of this movement, the life of our nation,” he said, asking those in attendance to “continue to stand up and speak out.”

“We need every ounce of your energy and enthusiasm,” he said. “We need your prayers.”

The recent passage of Rep. Black’s joint resolution was only “the beginning” of the fight, Pence said, and “we’re going to see that fight all the way through.”

 

Trump's executive order hailed as critical, but just a 'first step'

Thu, 05/04/2017 - 15:00

Washington D.C., May 4, 2017 / 01:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Religious freedom advocates credited President Donald Trump with taking a “first step” toward protecting religious freedom with an executive order he signed on Thursday, but stressed that there is still more work to be done.

“I thought the executive order was a great step forward,” Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. told CNA. “[Trump] himself says this is the first step. But it’s the beginning, and we’ve waited a long time for it.”

President Donald Trump signed a religious freedom executive order on Thursday in the White House Rose Garden, on the National Day of Prayer, with religious leaders – including Cardinal Wuerl – standing around him.

The executive order instructs government agencies to consider issuing new regulations to address conscience-based objections to federal HHS mandate, which requires employers to offer health insurance plans that fund contraception, sterilizations and some drugs that can cause early abortions.  

It also calls for a loosening of IRS enforcement of the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits religious ministers from making endorsements of political candidates from the pulpit to retain the tax-exempt status of churches.

Congressional action is required to formally repeal the law, but the executive order is an important move in ensuring that religious entities can weigh in on political issues without losing their tax-exempt status.

Attending the signing of the executive order were the Little Sisters of the Poor, plaintiffs in one of the HHS mandates case against the federal government. Trump honored two of the sisters who were present in the Rose Garden, calling them “incredible nuns who care for the sick, the elderly, and the forgotten.”

“I want you to know that your long ordeal will soon be over,” he told the sisters of their years-long HHS mandate case, and saying that his order would protect them and other religious organizations from the mandate.

“We are grateful for the president’s order and look forward to the agencies giving us an exemption so that we can continue caring for the elderly poor and dying as if they were Christ himself without the fear of government punishment,” said Mother Loraine, Mother Provincial of the Little Sisters of the Poor.

For years, the HHS mandate has been the subject of heated legal debates. It originated in the Affordable Care Act’s rule that health plans include “preventive services,” which was interpreted by President Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to include mandatory cost-free coverage for contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortion-causing drugs in health plans.

After a wave of criticism, the government offered an “accommodation” to religious non-profits who conscientiously objected to complying with the mandate – they would have to notify the government of their objection, and the government would directly order their insurer to provide the coverage in question.

However, dozens of religious charities, schools, and dioceses still sued, saying that even with the “accommodation,” they would still be required to cooperate with – and possibly even to pay for, indirectly – the objectionable coverage. EWTN is among the organizations that have filed lawsuits. CNA is part of the EWTN family.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which has defended a number of the groups suing the government over the HHS mandate, explained that the order will empower federal agencies to ensure protections for religious organizations in mandate cases.

“The agencies have everything they need to review these rules and make sure groups like the Little Sisters are protected,” Lori Windham, senior counsel with the Becket Fund, told reporters.

“We will engage with the Administration to ensure that adequate relief is provided to those with deeply held religious beliefs about some of the drugs, devices, and surgical procedures that HHS has sought to require people of faith to facilitate over the last several years,” Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston-Galveston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, stated on Thursday.

“We welcome a decision to provide a broad religious exemption to the HHS mandate, but will have to review the details of any regulatory proposals,” he added.

The new order also declared that “It shall be the policy of the executive branch to vigorously enforce Federal law's robust protections for religious freedom” and instructed the Attorney General to “issue guidance interpreting religious liberty protections in Federal law.”

Still, many religious freedom advocates felt that the order did not go far enough. For example, it does not offer protections for health care workers and facilities that decline to perform abortions, or adoption agencies that place children only in homes with both a mother and a father.

“Today’s executive order is woefully inadequate,” Ryan T. Anderson of the Heritage Foundation stated in The Daily Signal, saying it “does not address the major threats to religious liberty in the United States today.”

It is narrower than the previous draft of a religious freedom executive order that had earlier been leaked to The Nation, but was ultimately scrapped in February. That draft had outlined religious freedom exemptions for not only religious organizations, but also closely-held for-profit businesses in many different areas, like education, health care, and employment.

Religious freedom advocates – including over 50 members of Congress, in an April 5 letter to President Trump – had hoped for broader religious protections in a new executive order.

Cardinal DiNardo noted that “in areas as diverse as adoption, education, healthcare, and other social services, widely held moral and religious beliefs, especially regarding the protection of human life as well as preserving marriage and family, have been maligned in recent years as bigotry or hostility – and penalized accordingly.”

“We will continue to advocate for permanent relief from Congress on issues of critical importance to people of faith,” he added.

Brian Burch, president of CatholicVote.org, told CNA that the order was “an important first step” toward protecting religious freedom, but more must be done.

“The substance of the order is certainly a win for groups like EWTN, Notre Dame, the Little Sisters of the Poor, but it is not everything that we hoped for,” he told CNA. “And therefore I describe it as a work in progress, in terms of the fight for religious liberty. We didn’t get into this mess in one fell swoop, and we’re not going to get out of it in one clean solution.”

He stressed the need for “protections for faith-based groups on the issue of marriage, on gender, the right of the Catholic Church to carry out its social services when they receive federal grants.”

Burch also pushed for legislative action, like the First Amendment Defense Act and the Conscience Protection Act.

The administration also needs to be staffed with the right people in federal agencies who will be friendly to religious freedom, Professor Robert Destro of Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law told CNA.

“Personnel is policy,” he said, and Trump still needs to make hundreds of hires in these regulatory agencies that interpret existing law, including the agencies that will be dealing with HHS mandate protections for religious organizations.

Trump signed the executive order on the National Day of Prayer, and after he met with Cardinal Wuerl and Cardinal DiNardo.

“We had an opportunity to thank him first of all, for this executive order on religious liberty which is so important,” Cardinal Wuerl said of the meeting.

He also hoped the conversation was a starting point for further dialogue on many other topics. “One of the things that we need, I think, just to continue to talk about, the whole range of human value issues,” Cardinal Wuerl said. “He is certainly supportive of the life issues, supportive of religious liberty. And so we have to continue now to talk about other areas where we might find a place to work together.”

The White House also announced Thursday that Trump would be traveling to Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the Vatican. Cardinal Wuerl said that the president “was also very, very, I thought, focused on this trip he’s going to take that will include a visit to the Vatican. So it was a very good meeting.”

 

Grammy-winning producer guides Gregorian chant album

Thu, 05/04/2017 - 08:02

New York City, N.Y., May 4, 2017 / 06:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- When Christopher Alder, an 11-time Grammy winning music producer, first was asked to help create an album of Gregorian Chant, he was short on details.

“When I was asked to do this recording, I was only told, would you be free to do a recording in Nebraska?” he said in a promo video.

That’s because, tucked away in the low, rolling hills of eastern Nebraska is Our Lady of Guadalupe seminary, the international school for English-speaking seminarians of the Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP), a Roman Catholic group of priests dedicated to celebrating the traditional Latin Mass.

For their first album, the priests and seminarians chose to record the chants of the Requiem Mass, Latin for ‘rest’ - the funeral Mass in the Latin rite.

"It has been an honor to work with The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, as they are excellent ambassadors for this repertoire - they are intimately familiar with this music - thus its deeper meaning is inescapable throughout the album-and the care and excellence that they brought to recording this Requiem is an inspiration," noted producer Alder and engineer Brad Michel, also a Grammy winner.

"They know this material intimately, as it rolls out of them as if it were poetry that one has recited countless times. They know it by heart, in every sense of the term because the text is being simultaneously believed and sung at the highest level," Alder added.

The album is comprised of 20 tracks, mostly monophonic Gregorian chant, though it includes polyphonic motets by renowned 16th-century Italian composer Palestrina and a less well-remembered 18th-century composer, Giovanni Battista Martini, one of Mozart's teachers.

Although most people know the Requiem via the celebrated version by Mozart, the composer was himself inspired by Gregorian chant, explained Fr. Zachary Akers, music director of The Fraternity and a singer on Requiem, in a press release.

"In this album we are hearing this type of music that was around long before Mozart, approaching the beginning of sacred music," Fr. Akers said.

Fr. Garrick Huang, co-music director of The Fraternity and a singer on Requiem, noted that Gregorian chant is thought to have roots both in the ancient Western and Eastern cultures, creating a sounds that is a cross-section of many cultures.

The texts are sung, he added, “because it has always been part of human nature to express love and joy, despair and sadness – the gamut of emotions – in song. That said, the Requiem chant is not a performance for us. We say that we 'sing' the Requiem, but it's more that we're praying the Requiem."

On their website, the Fraternity explains that they chose the Requiem Mass as their first recording because death “is so vivid to human experience, and the Requiem reflects that reality.”

While the music, and the black vestments of the priests during a Requiem Mass, inspire natural feelings of sadness and mourning, there is also present an element of hope.

“It’s not a morbid sadness because we have hope that God is merciful and that he will bring this soul to heaven,” Fr. Akers said.  

“The calmness of the chant reveals a spirit of rest or repose, which is what the very word requiem means,” the priests note on their site.

The album Requiem, produced in collaboration with De Montfort Music and Sony Classical, will be available May 12 on Amazon. De Monfort Music specializes in chant, polyphony and all areas of sacred music with a concentration on singing orders and communities well trained in this repertoire.

Denver archbishop signs petition to end 4/20 rallies

Thu, 05/04/2017 - 05:09

Washington D.C., May 4, 2017 / 03:09 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After marijuana-themed rallies celebrating 4/20 left a downtown park trashed and threatened the safety of some civilians, Denver’s Archbishop Samuel Aquila has signed a petition to put an end to the rallies.

“Some of the attendees at the recent 4/20 rally downtown demonstrated that they respect neither Civic Center Park, which is the community's property, nor their fellow citizens of Denver,” said Archbishop Aquila after signing the petition.

“Coloradans should take pride in protecting our land, environment and people. Mayor Hancock has worked hard to promote these values, and I hope he will take them into consideration as he weighs the future of the 4/20 rally.”

April 20th (4/20) has become the unofficial holiday for cannabis enthusiasts, thought to be taken from an old police code that meant “marijuana smoking in progress.”

According to reports from The Denver Post, several thousand people attended a festival in Civic Center Park in downtown Denver for the annual 4/20 rally. The event included vendors, food trucks, the 4:20 p.m. marijuana exhale and a concert.

The event was scheduled to end at 8 p.m., but park cleanup was still underway at 10:30 p.m. when, according to a rally organizer, a man ran through the park slashing open trash bags with a knife and threatening the clean-up crew. In the morning, the park, a national historic landmark, was still littered with trash.

 

Nothing like waking up to seas of trash in the morning pic.twitter.com/Gqb0Fk52UA

— Danika Worthington (@Dani_Worth) April 21, 2017


 

Now, a petition, circulated by the Centennial Institute of Colorado Christian University, argues that Denver’s 4/20 rallies “have become unsafe, flaunting blatant illegal activity” and are “a threat to attendees and the people of Denver.” Besides the report of a knife-wielding man, gunshots were heard nearby at one point during the rally, according to the group.

They also complained that despite warnings, signs and the presence of police, marijuana was widely smoked in public. While possession and consumption of marijuana is legal in Colorado for anyone over the age of 21, it cannot be smoked in public, according to regulations in Amendment 64 to the Colorado constitution.  

“...marijuana was allowed to be consumed openly and publicly by many attendees, even in the presence of children and infants. Marijuana was also consumed on stage by performers with no action by law enforcement,” the petition states.

The petition, released last week, directly asks Mayor Michael Hancock to terminate future 4/20 rallies in the city of Denver, and “concludes that the organizers do not have the safety or well-being of Denver residents in mind.”

The petition can be found at: http://www.ccu.edu/centennial/media/420-rallies-petition/

 

US bishops support petition for religious freedom executive order

Wed, 05/03/2017 - 17:35

Washington D.C., May 3, 2017 / 03:35 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on Wednesday sent out a text message alert urging Catholics to sign a petition calling on President Donald Trump to issue an executive order protecting religious freedom.

The petition, hosted by Human Life Action, encourages the president to sign such an executive order, which is rumored to be in the works for Thursday.

Religious freedom advocates have warned that, due to various mandates and rules issued during the Obama administration, religious institutions that uphold traditional marriage or do not cooperate with abortions and contraceptive use could soon face federal action if no executive order is issued to protect them.

A draft of such an executive order was leaked earlier this year, but was reportedly scuttled due to the efforts of Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner.

An executive order could help mitigate the effects of the HHS birth control mandate, which caused hundreds of religious non-profits and other employers to sue the federal government claiming the mandate forced them to violate their consciences.

The Trump administration has not yet stopped defending the mandate in court, although White House advisor Leonard Leo told Axios recently that the administration was not planning to defend the mandate indefinitely, but was rather still considering the best “litigation proof” route for lifting the mandate’s burden on religious employers.

Another reason for an executive order would be the protection of health care providers and crisis pregnancy centers from mandates that they perform abortions or cover them in employee health plans, according to religious freedom advocates.

Currently, the Weldon Amendments bars federal funding of states that force employers to provide abortion coverage for employees. But after California ruled that health care plans – including those of churches and religious organizations – had to include coverage for elective abortions, the head of the Office of Civil Rights at the federal Department of Health and Human Services decided last summer that the state had not violated the Weldon Amendment.

Also at stake is the tax-exempt status of schools and other religious institutions which teach that marriage is one man and one woman.

In 2015 oral arguments in the same-sex marriage case Obergefell v. Hodges, President Obama’s solicitor general Donald Verrilli said that the ability of these colleges to retain their tax-exempt status if same-sex marriage is the law of the land is “certainly going to be an issue.”

Another way an executive order could protect religious freedom would be to protect federal contractors, and dioceses and churches that provide military chaplains, from having to comply with mandates that they support same-sex marriage.

The Russell Amendment had upheld this freedom and was included in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act that passed the House, but was removed by Senate Republicans so the bill could pass the Senate.

“Any Executive Order should make it clear that religious freedom entails more than the freedom to worship but also includes the ability to act on one's beliefs,” the U.S. Bishops’ Conference stated earlier this year on the need for an executive order.

“It should also protect individuals and families who run closely-held businesses in accordance with their faith to the greatest extent possible.”

 

Why a spike in religious hate crimes should worry all of us

Wed, 05/03/2017 - 17:20

Washington D.C., May 3, 2017 / 03:20 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Civic and religious leaders this week addressed a disturbing rise in religious hate crimes in recent years, especially harassment and violence perpetrated against Jews, Muslims, and Sikhs.

“While it is clear that Sikh Americans are not alone in experiencing a rise in hate crimes, the experience of our community is important to understand how dangerous this current era of inflammatory rhetoric promises to be if action is not taken,” Dr. Prabhjot Singh, a Sikh physician, said in his May 2 written testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony from representatives of the Anti-Defamation League, a Sikh doctor, and the civil rights division at the Justice Department on “responses to the increase in religious hate crimes” in the U.S.

“Crimes against Jews are the most common religious hate crimes and they have increased,” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), chair of the committee, noted, but Islamophobic incidents rose the sharpest amongst all religious groups with a 67 percent spike from 2014 to 2015 according to FBI statistics.

Although overall hate crimes, including crimes based on race, sexual orientation, religion and ethnicity, went down in number from 2000 to 2015, religion-based hate crimes went up 23 percent from 2014 to 2015, Eric Treene, special counsel for religious discrimination at the Justice Department’s civil rights division, pointed to FBI statistics.

Dr. Singh, in his written testimony, told of how Sikhs are only one of many religious groups in the U.S., yet violence against them is representative of a worsening in religious bigotry.

Singh was violently beaten by a mob on the streets of New York City in 2013. As he lay awaiting treatment for his injuries in the hospital, he learned that the Muslim woman lying next to him in the emergency room wearing a hijab, or a religious headscarf, was attacked by the same group of young men.

“They threw a bottle of urine at her face, cutting her nose,” he said. Yet reporters who documented Singh’s attack in a story did not mention the assault on the Muslim woman because, in Singh’s words, “they said it would complicate the story, which was about a professor and doctor who was ‘mistakenly’ attacked in his own neighborhood.”

“We cannot accept this premise,” he insisted in his Tuesday testimony. “There is no such thing as a ‘mistaken’ hate crime. No one should ever be targeted. The only mistake is thinking otherwise.”

The attack, he continued, was only the latest incident in a rash of harassment and violence against Sikhs in the U.S. since the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

“Some of our fellow Americans,” Singh said, “call us 'ragheads and towelheads,' or 'ISIS and Al Qaeda.'”

“Ominously, the Sikh Coalition has consistently found that a majority of Sikh students in our nation's public schools experience bias-based bullying and harassment,” he added. “Some of our children are accused of being 'terrorists.' Others have had their turbans ripped off.”

Sadly, these attacks are part of a larger landscape of “threats, arson, assault, and murder” against Muslims, Jews, Hindus, African-Americans, and LGBTQ persons, he said.

“We seem to be backsliding into a new nativist era. This endangers us all,” he said.

Anti-Semitic and Islamophobic acts rose in 2016 in the presidential election and have continued in 2017, Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO and national director of the Anti-Defamation League, explained in his testimony.

Anti-Semitic incidents rose by over one-third in 2016 with “1,266 acts targeting Jews and Jewish institutions,” according to the ADL 2016 audit of incidents.

The campaign only intensified tensions that had already been aggravated, he added.

“And anti-Semitic abuse has soared on social media,” he noted, as “hateful, anti-Semitic invective” flourished on the mediums during the election season as well as harassment of Jewish journalists by white supremacists including the use of “triple parentheses, to publicly 'tag' Jews online.”

The election “featured harshly anti-Muslim rhetoric and anti-Semitic dog whistles,” he said, “and fostered an atmosphere in which white supremacists and other anti-Semites and bigots feel emboldened and believe that their views are becoming more broadly acceptable.”

President Trump's “initial reluctance to address rising anti-Semitism” has helped normalize this bigotry, Greenblatt said, and some of his supporters played a direct role in it.

“Much of the vandalism and harassment used slogans sourced from the Trump campaign such as 'Make America Great Again,'” he said. Incidents during and after the election – anti-Semitic graffiti and assault – were perpetrated with expressed support for Trump.

In addition, in the election there were “stereotyping of many groups, including women and immigrants, threats to ban Muslims from entering or living in the country, pronouncements that Islam ‘hates’ America, mocking of disabled people, and political candidates attacking one another based on their physical appearance,” he said.

Dr. Singh said he “was horrified to hear our President last weekend telling thousands of people at a rally that immigrants are snakes waiting to bite America,” he referred to Trump’s words at a recent rally in Harrisburg, Pa.

“Words matter, and when political leaders divide and dehumanize us, this lays the groundwork for hate to infect our society,” he stated.

All this has not only continued in 2017, but the number of incidents has spiked sharply, Greenblatt said.

He noted 161 bomb threats against Jewish synagogues or buildings so far and three reported desecrations of Jewish cemeteries.

“The bomb threats against JCCs, schools, ADL offices, and other community institutions in dozens of states across the country attracted very considerable attention,” he said, “causing evacuations, significant service disruptions, program cancellations, and deep community anxiety.”

Some of the threats were graphic in nature, warning of a “bloodbath” or the decapitations of Jews in explosions.

Action must be taken to stem these incidents, witnesses insisted. Preventative measures could include mandatory reporting laws for hate crimes, a federal inter-agency task force on hate crimes, and public officials speaking out against bigotry.

Dr. Singh shared how his son will soon enter Kindergarten, yet according to statistics, will probably be the victim of bigotry.

“These young years are formative, and how children are treated tells us so much about who we are as a nation, and who we aspire to be,” he said.

Archbishop Niederauer remembered for his service to the Church

Wed, 05/03/2017 - 14:32

San Francisco, Calif., May 3, 2017 / 12:32 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After battling lung disease, Archbishop Emeritus George H. Niederauer of San Francisco died May 2 at the age of 80 from pulmonary fibrosis.

He had been in residence at the Nazareth House in San Rafael, 18 miles north of San Francisco.

Archbishop Niederauer “was known for his spiritual leadership, intelligence and wisdom, compassion and humor, and was always focused on his responsibility to live and teach the faith,” Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco stated.

Bishop Oscar Solis of Salt Lake City echoed these sentiments, saying Archbishop Niederauer “was a great churchman, accepting each position he was given with humility and generosity.”

A California native, Archbishop Niederauer was born in Los Angeles on June 14, 1936 to George and Elaine Niederauer as their only child.

He attended Catholic schools throughout his childhood education, and was accepted to Stanford University, where he attended college for one year before entering seminary at St. John’s in Camarillo.

Archbishop Niederauer remained a scholar throughout his priestly formation and received a B.A. in philosophy and sacred theology, and a Master’s in English Literature from Loyola-Marymount University in L.A. After his priestly ordination, he went on to receive a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Southern California.

He was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles April 30, 1962 and served in various positions throughout his priesthood, including in parishes and at the seminary. He was named a Prelate of Honor by St. John Paul II in 1984, receiving the title Monsignor.

He was appointed Bishop of Salt Lake City in 1994, where he served for 11 years.

“During his eleven years he was bishop of Salt Lake City, he was known for his kindness, ecumenical spirit and embrace for the least important of the community,” stated Bishop Solis.

In 2005, Benedict XVI appointed him the eighth Archbishop of San Francisco, where he would actively serve for the following six years. He retired in 2012 and moved to St. Patrick’s Seminary and University in Menlo Park, where he put on retreats for priests and religious.

In January 2017, he was moved to the Nazareth House after being diagnosed with interstitial lung disease.

Archbishop Cordileone included a quote from the late Archbishop Niederauer about his appointment as Archbishop of San Francisco. When he was choosing his coat of arms, Archbishop Niederauer chose the words ‘to serve and to give,’ as his motto.

“I am convinced servant leadership in the Church defines the role of the bishop,” Archbishop Niederauer said during his installation Mass on Feb. 15, 2006.

“Leading by serving: it’s easily misunderstood, but it seems central to me,” he continued.

A viewing service will be held for Archbishop Niederauer at St. Anne of the Sunset Church in San Francisco on May 11 at 3:30 PM, followed by a vigil at 6:30. The Mass of Christian Burial will take place on May 12 at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption in San Francisco at 11 AM.

“It was with deep sadness that I learned of the death of a long-time friend and Ordination classmate, Archbishop George H. Niederauer. May God’s warm embrace encircle him unto eternal life,” stated Cardinal Roger Mahony, Archbishop Emeritus of Los Angeles.

Cardinal William Levada, Archbishop John Quinn, Bishop Bill Justice, Bishop Ignatius Wang, and Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone together requested prayers for the repose of the soul of Archbishop Niederauer.

Catholics desperate to save 9/11 chapel in New York

Wed, 05/03/2017 - 14:02

New York City, N.Y., May 3, 2017 / 12:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On September 11, 2001, Justine Cuccia was nine months pregnant when she watched in horror as two hijacked planes crash into the World Trade Center buildings in New York City.

Her neighborhood, Battery Park City, was just across the street, including her parish, St. Joseph’s chapel, located in the bottom of an apartment building along with coffee shops and other storefronts.

In the weeks following the disaster, the small chapel became a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) command station. First responders tore out the pews to provide a space for food, shelter and counseling for the next several weeks of clean-up. Even the altar cloths were torn up and used as bandages. Priests of St. Joseph’s celebrated Mass in a nearby gym.
 
Afterwards, the chapel’s interior, severely damaged by the smoke, debris, and the nature of the work in the command center, needed a complete remodeling, which a group of dedicated parishioners saw to completion by the next year.

Today, the chapel itself is in danger. High rent could force the closure of the chapel and the corresponding Catholic memorial to 9/11 unless an agreement is reached or a “miracle” happens.

But Cuccia and a small group of parishioners, most of whom lived through the 9/11 attacks, will not let the chapel and memorial go without a fight.

“We promised never to forget, and we’re forgetting,” Cuccia told CNA.

The group’s first hope is that a sustainable rent can be agreed upon by the Pastor and Archdiocese and LeFrak and its partners (the landlord).

“We have asked for the assistance of the Battery Park City Authority. Through their intervention, the landlord offered to reduce the rent from $80 per square foot to $70 per square foot, retrospective to January 1, 2017 until the lease ends in March, 2019. The Pastor and financial committee maintain that this is still not sustainable and have told us they countered at $17 per square foot,” Cuccia said.

Further frustrating the group of parishioners is that pastor Fr. Jarlath Quinn seems to not want the chapel to stay open, Cuccia said. He has told them that the chapel will close by June, barring miraculous intervention.

New buildings and luxury apartments in the area changed that area of Battery Park City from a middle class neighborhood to an upper-class neighborhood, raising rent beyond what the small parish could afford.

According to a financial statement published on the parish website, the Archdiocese of New York loaned the parish $540,431 during the 2016 fiscal year to pay the bills, bringing the parish net deficit for the year to $91,868 and the parish’s total indebtedness to the Archdiocese to $1,348,000.

“The trustees and the members of the Finance Council believe that this significant operating loss is not sustainable and that parish expenses must be brought in line with operating revenues,” the statement said.

St. Joseph’s chapel is a part of the parish of St. Peter and Our Lady of the Rosary. The parish referred all questions to Joseph Zwilling, director of communications for the Archdiocese of New York.

The decision about what to do with St. Joseph’s chapel “would be a parish decision, as Saint Joseph’s Chapel is a part of Saint Peter’s Parish,” Zwilling said. “The parish is still determining next steps, but at this point it appears as if only some kind of ‘miracle’ would keep the Chapel going.”  
 
“Father Quinn is making plans to properly preserve the 9/11 memorial, should Saint Joseph’s Chapel close,” he added.

But the chapel is the memorial, the parishioners argue, and an effort to preserve it by relocating the art, but vacating the space, would be beside the point.  

During the post-9/11 reconstruction, everything that went into the chapel’s interior spoke of hope and resurrection, Cuccia said.

“From the floor, to the wood on the walls and the altar, the windows - it was specifically designed to be a symbol of rebirth, renewal and growth, to say we’re back, we got knocked down after 9/11 and we’re back,” Cuccia said.

“The church itself is the memorial. They say a church is made up of the people, and we will be a parish and a church wherever we go, but the 9/11 memorial will cease to exist if it’s not (at St. Joseph’s).”

The preservation of the Catholic 9/11 memorial is especially important to people like Cuccia who are unable to pay their respects at the World Trade Center memorial across the street, because they find it too upsetting.

“It’s too painful to me, and I’m not the only one who has that feeling,” Cuccia said.  

“What happened to the people who lost their lives, the sacrifice and the heroism of the first responders, the way that I can respect them and honor them is to go to my chapel and memorial, because that I can manage, and that I can get some solace and comfort from,” she said.

“All I can tell you is that after that horror, I saw the best of humanity that day,” from the first responders to the random acts of kindness of strangers helping each other out on the street, she said. 

“I saw the worst of people and the best of people that day, and when I go into that chapel, I see the best of people, and that’s why it needs to be preserved.”





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