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US Justice Department supports Indianapolis archdiocese in religious liberty case

Thu, 09/10/2020 - 14:30

Washington D.C., Sep 10, 2020 / 12:30 pm (CNA).- The US Justice Department is supporting the Archdiocese of Indianapolis in its religious freedom case, filing a friend-of-the-court brief Tuesday at the Indiana Supreme Court.

After the archdiocese was sued by a former teacher at a Catholic school, who was fired after attempting to contract a same-sex marriage, a state trial court in May denied the archdiocese’s motion to dismiss the case, and in June ordered the archdiocese to turn over documentation related to the case. The archdiocese then appealed to the Indiana supreme court to dismiss the case.
“The United States has a substantial interest in religious liberty,” the DOJ said in its Sept. 8 brief in the case.
The DOJ said that “religious employers are entitled to employ in key roles only persons whose beliefs and conduct are consistent with the employers’ religious precepts,” and the government cannot interfere “with the autonomy of religious organizations.”
In 2019, a former teacher at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis, Joshua Payne-Elliott, sued the archdiocese after he was dismissed from his teaching position in June 2019 for having contracted a same-sex marriage in 2017. His partner Layton is a teacher at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in the archdiocese.
Cathedral High School’s handbook states that the “personal conduct” of all teachers should “convey and be supportive of the teachings of the Catholic Church.”
Archbishop Charles Thompson of Indianapolis had directed both schools to dismiss the teachers for their same-sex marriage, or be faced with the removal of their Catholic identity. Brebeuf refused to fire Layton, and the archdiocese subsequently revoked the school’s Catholic identity.
Cathedral High School, however, dismissed Payne-Elliott, who then filed a lawsuit saying that the archdiocese unlawfully interfered with his contract with the school.
In July, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that two Catholic grade school teachers qualified as religious ministers, under federal law. Thus, the Court ruled in a 7-2 decision, religious schools can be protected from employment discrimination lawsuits under the “ministers exception” for their decisions to hire and fire such teachers.
Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru involved a religion teacher at Our Lady of Guadalupe School and a fifth-grade teacher at St. James Catholic School in California.
Following the Supreme Court decision, the archdiocese had appealed to the trial court to reconsider its demand for documentation, in light of the high court’s decision; the trial court refused and the archdiocese then appealed to the state supreme court.
The DOJ argued Tuesday that the archdiocese has a right to determine the Catholic identity of schools under its jurisdiction, and that a court could not review that decision. Furthermore, the archdiocese is protected by the Our Lady of Guadalupe decision in its directive to Cathedral High School to dismiss Payne-Elliott.

Salt Lake City diocese in prayer after police shooting of boy with autism

Thu, 09/10/2020 - 13:26

CNA Staff, Sep 10, 2020 / 11:26 am (CNA).-  

The Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City said it is praying for Linden Cameron, a 13-year-old boy who was seriously injured and hospitalized after he was shot by a police officer Friday night.

“We offer our prayers for Linden Cameron and his family. Whatever the results of the ongoing investigations, we are heartbroken to see a child caught in our culture of gun violence,” the Salt Lake City diocese said in a statement Wednesday.

Cameron has Asperger syndrome, also called autism spectrum disorder, and had a mental health crisis on Friday, Sept. 4, according to his mother, Golda Barton. Barton called 911 on Friday, hoping that emergency personnel could help stabilize her son and take him to a hospital.

But according to Barton, a Salt Lake City Police Officer Cameron after he ran from police. Police said they had received reports that Cameron had been “making threats to some folks with a weapon.”

But Barton says her son was unarmed, that she had told police he would be unarmed, and police did not find a weapon at the scene of the shooting.

“He’s a small child. Why didn’t you just tackle him?” Barton asked police during an interview with KUTV News on Sunday. “He’s a baby. He has mental issues.”

In its statement, the Salt Lake City diocese said it “supports and encourages continued discussions with law enforcement about the use of force and legislative action to ensure that the dignity and sanctity of all life is protected throughout our criminal justice system.”

The shooting is now under investigation, and Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said this weekend that the investigation will be handled “swiftly and transparently.”

A person with autism spectrum disorders is likely to have difficulties during encounters with police, experts say, because some behaviors typical in persons with autism, such as avoiding eye contact or moving hands rapidly, can be interpreted as a threat if police lack specific training or experience related to autism.

The shooting comes in the wake of numerous high-profile police shootings in recent months, along with the March death of Daniel Prude, a man who died after Rochester, NY, police held him to the ground for several minutes during a psychotic episode. Body camera footage of that incident was published last week, after which Rochester's Bishop Salvatore Matano said that “the tragic death of Mr. Daniel Prude and the visible pain of his family cause a deep sorrow in the hearts of all.”

Some criminal justice reform activists have called for non-police crisis teams to respond to mental health emergencies, rather than police, or for additional police training for responding to people in mental health crises.


A Catholic healthcare worker objected to contraception. Her Catholic clinic fired her.

Thu, 09/10/2020 - 05:01

Denver Newsroom, Sep 10, 2020 / 03:01 am (CNA).- A young Portland, Oregon area medical professional this year was fired for objecting to certain medical procedures on the grounds of her Catholic faith.

She was fired not from a secular hospital, however, but from a Catholic healthcare system— one that purports to follow Catholic teaching on bioethical issues.

"I definitely didn't think that there was necessarily a need to hold Catholic institutions accountable for being pro-life and Catholic, but I'm hoping to spread awareness," Megan Kreft, a physician assistant, told CNA.

"Not only is the fact that the sanctity of human life being undermined in our Catholic healthcare systems unfortunate— the fact that it's being promoted and tolerated is unacceptable and frankly scandalous."

Kreft told CNA she thought medicine would align well with her Catholic faith— although as a student, she did anticipate some challenges as a pro-life person working in healthcare.

Kreft attended Oregon Health and Science University in Portland. As expected, in medical school she encountered procedures such as contraception, sterilization, transgender services, and had to excuse herself from all of them.

She was able to work with the Title IX office to get a religious accommodation while in school, but ultimately her medical school experience led her to rule out working in the fields of primary care or women's health.

"Those areas of medicine need providers who are committed to standing up for life more than any," she said.

It was a tough decision, but she says she got the sense that the medical professionals who work in those fields tend to be more accepting of objectionable procedures like abortion or assisted suicide.

"We're called in the field of medicine to really care for mind, body, and spirit," she pointed out, adding that she as a patient has struggled to find life-affirming medical care.

Still, Kreft wanted to be open to whatever God was calling her to, and she came across a physician assistant position with Providence Medical Group, her local Catholic hospital in Sherwood, Oregon. The clinic is part of the larger Providence-St. Joseph Health system, a Catholic system with clinics across the country.

"I was hopeful that at least my desire to practice medicine consistent with my faith and conscience would be at least tolerated, at a minimum," Kreft said.

The clinic offered her the job. As part of the employment process, she was asked to sign a document agreeing to conform to the institution's Catholic identity and mission, and to the US bishops’ Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, which provide authoritative Catholic guidance on bioethical problems.

To Kreft, it seemed like a win-win. Not only would a Catholic approach to healthcare be tolerated in her new workplace; it seemed it would, at least on paper, be mandated, not just for her but for all employees. She happily signed the directives and accepted the position.

Before Kreft started work, however, she says one of the administrators at the clinic reached out to her to ask what medical procedures she would be willing to offer as a PA.

On the provided list— in addition to many benign procedures such as stitches or toenail removal— were such procedures as vasectomies, intrauterine device insertions, and emergency contraception.

Kreft was quite surprised to see those procedures on the list, because all of them go against the ERDs. But the clinic offered them to patients quite openly, she said.

It was discouraging, she says, but she vowed to stick to her conscience.

Within the first few weeks of work, Kreft said she had a physician recommend that she refer a patient for an abortion. She also found out that the clinic encouraged providers to prescribe hormonal contraception.

Kreft reached out to the clinic's administration to tell them that she did not plan to participate in or refer for those services.

"I didn't think I had to be explicit with that, because again, the organization said these were not services that they provided," Kreft pointed out, "but I wanted to be up front and find a way forward."

She also reached out to the National Catholic Bioethics Center for advice. Kreft said she spent many hours on the phone with Dr. Joe Zalot, a staff ethicist at the NCBC, strategizing on how to approach the ethical dilemmas she was facing.

Most people are not aware of the nuances of Catholic bioethics, and the NCBC exists to help healthcare providers and patients with those questions, Zalot told CNA. 

Zalot said the NCBC frequently gets calls from healthcare professionals who are being pressured to act in a way that violates their conscience. Most of the time, it's Catholic clinicians in a secular system.

But every once in a while, he said, they receive calls from Catholics working in Catholic healthcare systems, like Megan, who are being similarly pressured.

"We see Catholic healthcare systems doing things they shouldn't do, and some are worse than others," he commented.

Kreft talked to her clinic manager and the chief mission integration officer about her concerns, and was told that the organization "does not police providers," and that the patient-provider relationship is private and sacred.

Kreft found the clinic's reply unsatisfactory.

"If you're a system that doesn't value the [ERDs], and you see them as red tape and aren't going to put in the effort to see that they're integrated or that staff and providers understand them— it's almost better not to [sign them]. Let's be consistent here; I was receiving very mixed messages," Kreft said.

Despite the clinic’s insistence that it "does not police providers," Kreft believed her healthcare decisions were being policed.

Kreft says her clinic manager at one point told her the clinic's patient satisfaction scores could go down if she didn't prescribe contraception. Eventually, the clinic prohibited Kreft from seeing any female patient of childbearing age— explicitly because of her beliefs about contraception.

One of the last patients Kreft saw was a young woman whom she had seen previously for an issue unrelated to family planning or women's health. But at the end of the visit, she asked Kreft for emergency contraception.

Kreft tried to listen compassionately, but told the patient that she could not prescribe or refer for emergency contraception, citing Providence's own policies on the matter.

However, when Kreft stepped out of the room, she realized that another healthcare provider had stepped in and was prescribing the patient emergency contraception.

A few weeks later, the regional medical director called Kreft in for a meeting and told Kreft that her actions had traumatized the patient, and that Kreft had "done the patient harm" and thus had broken the Hippocratic Oath.

"Those are big, significant claims to make about a healthcare provider. And here I was operating out of love and care for this woman, care for her from a medical and spiritual standpoint," Kreft said.

"The patient was experiencing trauma, but it was from the situation she was in."

Later on, Kreft approached the clinic and asked if they would allow her to take a course in Natural Family Planning for her continuing education requirement, and they refused because it was "not relevant" to her job.

The ERDs state that Catholic healthcare organizations have to provide NFP training as an alternative to hormonal contraception. Kreft said she was not aware of anyone at the clinic being trained in NFP. 

Eventually, the clinic's leadership and HR informed Kreft that she had to sign a performance expectation document, stating that if a patient requests a service that she herself does not provide, Kreft would be obliged to refer the patient to another Providence healthcare provider.

This would involve Kreft referring for services that she in her medical judgement saw as a detriment to the patient, such as tubal ligations and abortions.

Kreft says she wrote to the health system leadership, reminding them of their Catholic identity and asking why there was such a disconnect between the ERDs and the hospital's practices. She says she never received a response.

In October 2019, she was given a 90-day notice of termination because she would not sign the form.

Through mediation facilitated by the Thomas More Society, a Catholic law firm, Kreft agreed not to sue Providence, but was fired in early 2020.

Her goal in settling, she says, was to be able to  tell her story freely— something litigation may not have allowed her to do— and be a source of support for other medical professionals who have similar objections.

Kreft also filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services, which works with employers to come up with a corrective action plan to remedy civil rights violations, and could even pull federal funding if violations continue.

She says there are currently no major updates on that complaint; the ball is currently in the HHS' court.

Providence Medical Group did not respond to CNA’s request for comment.

Kreft says by practicing pro-life healthcare, she had wanted to be "one small light" in her clinic, but that was "not tolerated or permitted in the organization at all."

"I expected [opposition] in a secular hospital, where my training was, but the fact that it's occurring within Providence is scandalous. And it's confusing to patients and their loved ones."

She recommended that any healthcare professional facing an ethical dilemma contact the NCBC, as they can help to translate and apply the Church's teachings to real-life situations.

Zalot recommended that all Catholic healthcare workers familiarize themselves with the conscience protections in place at the hospital or clinic where they work, and if necessary seek legal representation.

Zalot said the NCBC is aware of at least one physician within the Providence Health System signing off on assisted suicides.

In another recent example, Zalot said he received a call from a healthcare worker at a different Catholic healthcare system who was observing gender-reassignment surgery taking place in their hospitals.

If workers or patients observe Catholic hospitals doing things contrary to the ERDs, they should contact their diocese, Zalot advised. The NCBC can, at the invitation of a local bishop, perform an "audit" of a hospital's Catholicity and present the bishop with recommendations, he said.

Kreft is, in some ways, still reeling after being fired six months into her first medical job.

Though she is not entirely sure what God is calling her to next, she is looking to get involved with My Catholic Doctor, a national telehealth platform, to teach NFP and provide primary care services, with the goal of someday transitioning back to a brick and mortar clinical practice.

In the meantime, she's trying to be an advocate for others who may be in a situation similar to hers, and hopes to encourage Catholic hospitals to choose to reform, and provide "the life-affirming healthcare that they were founded to provide."

"There are probably other healthcare providers, even within Providence, that have experienced similar situations. But I imagine Providence is not the only Catholic healthcare system in the country that struggles with this."

Idaho farmer-turned-missionary now serves the state’s poor

Thu, 09/10/2020 - 02:23

Denver Newsroom, Sep 10, 2020 / 12:23 am (CNA).- Boise, Idaho is one of the fastest growing boomtowns in the U.S. The state as a whole is increasing in population by 2% or more each year as more and more people come for the relatively cheap cost of living and natural beauty of the state.

But that population and prosperity boom is coming at a cost. Home prices and rents are soaring, and some residents teeter on the brink of homelessness as a result.

For Ralph May, executive director of St Vincent de Paul of Southwest Idaho, helping the poor is a task in which he finds great joy— and one which has brought him and his family to some of the most poverty-stricken areas of the entire world.

“I've always been driven by the Gospel message of 'Loving your neighbor as yourself.' It's just been a driver in my life, and I have felt inadequate at times, not even being able to come close to fulfilling that. But I've always been able to feel and touch God through other people, and particularly the poor,” he told CNA.

“That's a tenet of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul— that we need the poor to teach us, that we need to be taught and understand God through the poor. I guess I've felt that strongly from the very beginning, and I've been blessed to have had the opportunity to do something about that at times.”

‘We have to go’

Ralph is a cradle Catholic, born and raised in the small town of Wendell, Idaho. After getting a degree from the University of Idaho— where he met his wife— Ralph returned to Wendell to start a joint farming venture with his father. He and his father eventually built their partnership into a successful 1,100 acre farm.

At the same time, Ralph was very involved with their local Catholic parish, and also got involved in Cursillo, a Spanish lay community founded in 1944.

In 1997, Ralph heard about a Catholic orphanage in Tijuana, Mexico, that was in dire need of aid— a building falling apart, and many children suffering from disabilities and various illnesses, including a few that were HIV positive.

While many people of good will might be moved to pray or donate to try and help, Ralph had other ideas.

He remembers thinking at the time: “There's no other choice. We have to go.”

As soon as the school year ended, the whole May family, including the kids, drove down from Idaho to Tijuana, working for five days at the orphanage doing as much as they could to help.

When they left to head home, Ralph said they vowed to come back the following October, which they did, leading an extensive renovation of the entire orphanage upon that second visit. 

Ralph even worked out a deal to bring the sisters and kids from the orphanage to Idaho for Christmas one year. He estimates he made nearly 30 trips to Tijuana over the next six or seven years.

‘A beautiful experience’

It was around this time that Ralph realized he had the heart of a full-time missionary. So he left his farming partnership with his father, and he and his wife, Theresa, set about changing their career paths.

Ralph and Theresa wanted to learn Spanish, so they moved the family to Cochabamba, Bolivia in 2003 for a three-month intensive language course.

Eventually, the family landed in a very poor area of Peru, near the large city of Trujillo. The area was very dangerous at the time, with high crime, no paved roads, most houses having only a dirt floor, and water available only once a week.

In terms of the Catholic community, there were 180,000 people living within the local parish boundaries, which had one main church and 5 small chapels spread throughout the area. Ralph started building gardens at all of them, and Theresa did a lot of youth ministry and music ministry work for the parish. 

A large Catholic school, run by Spanish and Peruvian nuns, recruited Ralph to teach horticulture classes to the kids three times a week, which he did for the next two years.

Eventually Ralph paired up with another Catholic to form a nonprofit in Peru. He would go house to house to figure out the most critical needs for each poor family, and then recruited services to come in and help the poor neighborhoods. He also liased between university students who wanted to do service and the poor neighborhoods that needed their help.

His organization supported working mothers, teaching them skills such as cooking, and classes on how to build businesses. They also launched seven medical campaigns, bringing in doctors, dentists, and psychologists to poor villages and neighborhoods. 

Another project they undertook involved the hiring of local people to collect garbage and plant over 2,000 trees in the community.

After a brief vacation in Europe, the family returned to the Peruvian jungle in 2011, and bought a dairy farm there which eventually became very productive and successful.

“It was such a beautiful experience to be with these humble people in their time of need,” Ralph said of his time in South America.

A new start

Family matters— including Theresa’s mother being diagnosed with cancer— led the family to come back to the U.S., to Boise, in 2015.

Teresa began working as an accountant, and Ralph took a “vacation” of several months, laying low and working in their garden.

Eventually, he started volunteering with the Red Cross, helping with disaster assistance, rising to the position of logistics manager for the region.

Then, in 2016, Ralph met a woman who was volunteering with the Red Cross as a nurse, who was also the incoming president for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVDP) for the area.

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is an international lay Catholic organization whose members operate food pantries, provide housing assistance, and make house visits to the needy.

St. Vincent de Paul has around 4,400 locations across the U.S., falling into two main categories— conferences, which are associated with parishes; and councils, which are organized roughly at the diocese-wide level and tend to be bigger operations with more partnerships.

Ralph started doing some special projects for SVDP, starting a ministry for men and women coming out of prison— a ministry he had never done before, but which he very much enjoyed.

In 2017, SVDP applied for a major grant to get an executive director for the southwest Idaho council. Ralph was selected to serve as the region's first executive director.

‘We can do something about this’

In southwest Idaho, Ralph says, a lot of people are new to the area and don't have community ties or friends to support them, which provides a good opportunity for SVDP volunteers to act as good neighbors for those in need.

Ralph says even though he has been away from South America for five years, his experience working with the poorest of the poor there has given him valuable perspective.

When he approaches the poor in the United States, his knowledge and experience from working in Peru “allows me to continue to roll up my sleeves and say ok, we can do something about this.”

The poverty he encountered in South America is “so much graver” than the poverty he generally encounters in the US, he said. In Peru, there are fewer resources available in the communities, and it is much more difficult to make a real difference.

In contrast, there are many good people and nonprofits in Idaho that are willing to answer SVDP's pleas for resources. That simply didn't exist in Peru, he said.

“I have never felt despair here, working with the poor. There's a lot of poor, and in their circumstances it is grave. But I think that perspective has been a very strong thing and a very good thing in my life.”

At SVDP, Ralph says, the biggest things they do is rental and housing assistance, working to prevent homelessness. They also provide clothing and household goods, and do home visits to the elderly— though during the pandemic they have adapted to doing patio visits or regular phone calls.

SVDP also runs five food pantries throughout the state that serve some 1,500 families a month. When COVID-19 hit, Ralph says their pantry converted to drive-thru service.

Ralph says SVDP Southwest Idaho has provided at least half a million dollars in direct aid in the last year, handling some 40-60 calls per day.

Despite the continued challenges of the coronavirus and changing demographics, “we're on a great path these days,” he said.

Omaha priest files $2.1 million defamation suit against archdiocese

Wed, 09/09/2020 - 20:11

CNA Staff, Sep 9, 2020 / 06:11 pm (CNA).- A priest in Omaha who was removed from ministry in 2018 following claims of boundary violations is suing the Archdiocese of Omaha, saying he was treated unfairly and denied due process.

Last month, Fr. Andrew Syring filed a lawsuit against the archdiocese for $2.1 million. He says he had been cleared of misconduct and that the archdiocese damaged his reputation by including him on a list of accused priests.

Syring had served as a priest for the Archdiocese of Omaha since 2011. The lawsuit says an allegation was made against Syring in 2013, but that the local police, county sheriff, and a retired FBI agent hired by the archdiocese all investigated the matter thoroughly and found no wrongdoing. The lawsuit says the priest then received psychiatric evaluations from two institutions, both of which cleared him from predatory behavior and other disorders.

Based on these evaluations, Syring was approved by the archbishop and the archdiocesan review board to return to public ministry, the lawsuit says. He served in public ministry for the next four years, until he was abruptly removed again in 2018.

The suit says Omaha Archbishop George Lucas told Syring at that time that his service had been above reproach, but that standards for public ministry had changed and he was being removed from public ministry. The archdiocese then included Syring’s name on a “List of substantiated claims of clergy sexual abuse or misconduct with a minor.”

The priest is now saying that he was treated unjustly because the archdiocese knew that he had been cleared of wrongdoing and had never been prosecuted or convicted.

In a statement to local media outlet WOWT, the archdiocese said it could not comment because the matter was a personnel issue dealing with internal church discipline, and the subject of a lawsuit.

Bishops preach against racism on feast of St. Peter Claver

Wed, 09/09/2020 - 19:54

Washington D.C., Sep 9, 2020 / 05:54 pm (CNA).- On the feast of St. Peter Claver, bishops in the U.S. preached on overcoming the sin of racism through God’s grace.

On August 27, the chair of the U.S. bishops’ anti-racism committee, Bishop Shelton Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, called for Catholics to observe either August 28 or September 9 as a day of prayer and fasting “in reparation for sins of racism to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.”

August 28 marked the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the civil rights March on Washington, while the feast of St. Peter Claver is observed on September 9.

The announcement followed a summer of anti-racism protests and riots in U.S. cities, after the killings of African-Americans including Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Jacob Blake, and George Floyd.

St. Peter Claver was born in Catalonia, Spain, in 1581, and joined the Jesuit order; he became a missionary to present-day Columbia in 1610. For more than 40 years, he served and catechized African slaves brought to the area by European colonists, vowing to be “the slave of the blacks forever.”

Bishop Michael Olson of Fort Worth, Texas, preached on September 9 on the Gospel of Matthew 25:14-23—the parable of the talents.

The servant in the parable who buries his talent in the ground ultimately “rejects God’s hope for him,” Bishop Olson said, in denying that “that God can do anything beautiful with him or with others.” Today, he said, we “must take note” of persons “who are despairing and presumptuous” in denying God’s ability to effect change.

“We must not follow them or become enraged by their anger and shouts for anarchy by refusing to see the Good News in ourselves or others,” he said.

Bishop Olson also preached that racism is not simply a “systemic sin,” but runs through human hearts.

“We cannot settle for the position that racial discord is simply a matter of systemic sin, because if it were a matter of systemic sin, there would be no hope for justice or redemption,” he said. “Any system built or reformed by humans must always be flawed because we are fallen.”

“Our hope is not in ourselves but in God Almighty Who loves us enough to offer to save us from ourselves and loves us so much that He invites us to join Him in His saving work,” he said.

Furthermore, change cannot come from theories, but from a conversion of heart, he added.

“The change that is required is not a change in society brought about by theories or violent acts of anarchy; the change required is not a perfect enforcement of our laws; the change required is my own conversion of heart and your own conversion of heart to see in each and every human person a mysterious dignity measured only by the image and likeness of God,” he said.

Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Washington, D.C., the first African-American archbishop of the archdiocese, preached at a Mass on the feast that the readings included “warnings,” but warnings that are “life-saving.”

It is “a warning of the dangers of hatred, neglect, and hard-heartedness toward others,” he said. “St. Peter Claver, help us to see Christ in one another.”

Fr. Josh Johnson of the diocese of Baton Rouge invited Catholics to pray and fast for an end to racism on Wednesday. “There are certain demons that will only be cast out through prayer and fasting,” he tweeted.

Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, tweeted that “St Peter Claver beautifully reminds us that when we treat any group of God’s Children as less than human we do harm to every human being whatever their age or circumstance.”

Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington prayed for an end to racism on the feast day. “To experience the peace for which all of us truly desire, we must acknowledge the Source of Peace, our Lord Jesus,” he said.


Trump expands list of potential US Supreme Court nominees

Wed, 09/09/2020 - 19:03

Washington D.C., Sep 9, 2020 / 05:03 pm (CNA).-  

U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced more names of candidates he would nominate to the Supreme Court, despite no current vacancy at the court.

In addition to the existing White House list of two dozen potential Supreme Court nominees, Trump added 20 more names Sept. 9, including three sitting U.S. senators.
Among the names on the new list are Stewart Kyle Duncan of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals—the former general counsel for the religious freedom firm Becket—and Peter Phipps of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, whose membership in the Knights of Columbus was the subject of tough questions by Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) when he was a district court nominee in 2018.
Amy Coney Barrett of the Seventh Circuit court, a former professor at the University of Notre Dame and a Catholic mother of seven, was on the existing White House list of nominees.

Pro-life leaders hailed Wednesday’s announcement by Trump. Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, said the appointment of pro-life judges to federal courts was “one of President Trump’s greatest accomplishments” of his first term, and that “[w]e anticipate that process will continue in a second term.”

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List and co-chair of the Trump campaign’s pro-life outreach said that his list “is filled with all-stars.”  

Wednesday’s announcement comes eight weeks before the general election, and it is not the first time Trump has advertised potential Supreme Court nominees during an election year.

After he was declared the presumptive GOP presidential nominee in May 2016, Trump released an initial list of 11 potential Supreme Court nominees. Justice Antonin Scalia had died in January, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had refused to confirm President Obama’s nominee for the Court, Merrick Garland, saying that the Senate would wait until after the presidential election to fill Scalia’s seat.

Trump added to that list in September 2016, and again in 2017, expanding the list to two dozen names before his announcement on Wednesday.

At a presidential debate in October 2016, Trump pledged to appoint justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade. In 2017, he nominated Neil Gorsuch to be Scalia’s replacement, and in 2018 he nominated Brett Kavanaugh to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was retiring. Neither were on Trump’s May 2016 list, although Gorsuch was named as a potential nominee in September 2016.

However, in the first major abortion case before the court during Trump’s presidency, the court struck down Louisiana’s safety regulations of abortion clinics, a blow to pro-life efforts at the state level. While Gorsuch and Kavanaugh ruled in the minority on the decision, Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the Court’s four liberal justices against the law.

Trump’s Wednesday announcement placedd three Republican senators on his new list, Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.). They join Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) who was on the existing White House nominee list.

Hawley, however, tweeted on Wednesday that he had “no interest in the high court.” He recently said he would implement a “litmus test” for Supreme Court nominees on whether or not they believe the Roe decision was wrongly decided; he criticized the Roe decision as an “act of judicial imperialism” in an interview with EWTN Pro-Life Weekly in August.

Cotton tweeted on Wednesday afternoon, “It’s time for Roe v. Wade to go.” Cruz meanwhile, tweeted that he was “humbling and an immense honor” to be on the list.

Trump warned that judges nominated under a Biden administration would “erase” gun rights, allow for public funding of late-term abortions, “erase national borders,” “cripple police departments,” and declare the death penalty unconstitutional. He did not explain how potential judicial nominees might do so.

Barrett, who was twice honored as “Distinguished Professor of the Year” at Notre Dame and previously clerked for Scalia, has been rumored to be one of the top potential nominees if there is an opening at the Supreme Court.

At her confirmation hearing for the appeals court in 2017, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee questioned the role her faith would play in presiding over cases of abortion and same-sex marriage.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said that “so many of us on this side have this very uncomfortable feeling that dogma and law are two different things,” and told Barrett that her speeches revealed that “the dogma lives loudly within you. And that’s of concern.”

Barrett was also questioned about her membership in “People of Praise,” an ecumenical charismatic community.

La Crosse bishop to correct ‘Catholics can’t be Democrats’ priest

Wed, 09/09/2020 - 17:32

CNA Staff, Sep 9, 2020 / 03:32 pm (CNA).- After a Wisconsin priest said in a viral video that no Catholic can be a Democrat, the priest’s bishop said he will attempt fraternal correction before imposing canonical penalties or taking other formal steps in the matter, and acknowledged that the priest had inflicted a “wound” upon the Church.

“I am applying Gospel principles to the correction of Fr. Altman. ‘If your brother does something wrong to you, go to him. Talk alone to him and tell him what he has done. If he listens to you, you have kept your brother as a friend. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two others with you to talk to him.’ (Mt 18:15-16).”

“I have begun this process, not in the bright light of the public arena, but as the Gospel dictates, in private,” Bishop William Callahan of La Crosse said in a Sept. 9 statement.

“Canon law indicates that before penalties are imposed, we need to ensure that fraternal correction, rebuke or other means of pastoral solicitude will not be sufficient to repair the scandal,” the bishop added, in reference to canon 1341 of the Church’s Code of Canon Law.

Fr. James Altmann, a priest of La Crosse, gained attention after an Aug. 30 video was published on YouTube, in which the priest said that “You can not be Catholic and be a Democrat. Period.”

In the ten-minute video, which has been viewed on YouTube more than 400,000 times, the priest said that he had “crunched the numbers,” and “I came up with a pretty close approximation of how many Catholics voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012. Zero.”

“There will be 60 million aborted babies standing at the gates of heaven barring your Democrat entrance," Altman added, while criticizing the Democratic platform’s commitment to legal protection for abortion.

The priest also decried the “climate change hoax,” and lamented "DACA- which means criminal illegal aliens,” he said.

He also criticized Archbishop Wilton Gregory, and praised President Donald Trump as “one of the best pro-life presidents.”

While the Catholic Church condemns support for the legal protection of abortion, it does not prohibit membership in the Democratic Party, and in recent months, some bishops have recognized the voices of pro-life Democrats advocating for changes to their party’s platform on the issue of abortion.

The priest’s video gained even more attention after Tyler, Texas Bishop Joseph Strickland “endorsed” it over the weekend.

“As the Bishop of Tyler I endorse Fr Altman’s statement in this video. My shame is that it has taken me so long.  Thank you Fr Altman for your COURAGE. If you love Jesus & His Church & this nation...pleases HEED THIS MESSAGE,” Strickland tweeted Sept. 5.


As the Bishop of Tyler I endorse Fr Altman’s statement in this video. My shame is that it has taken me so long. Thank you Fr Altman for your COURAGE. If you love Jesus & His Church & this nation...pleases HEED THIS MESSAGE

— Bishop J. Strickland (@Bishopoftyler) September 5, 2020  

Strickland has not yet responded to a request for comment from CNA.

For his part, Callahan noted that Altman has become a symbolic figure in a fractured conversation about Catholicism and partisanship in America.

Callahan emphasized that he understands “the undeniable truth that motivates his message. When we approach issues that are contradictory to the Faith and teachings of Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church, particularly on abortion and other life issues, we should invite dialogue and heart-felt conversion to the truth. Our approach must never seek to divide, isolate and condemn.”

“That being said it is not only the underlying truth that needs to be evaluated but also the manner of delivery and the tone of his message. Unfortunately, the tone Fr. Altman offers comes off as angry and judgmental, lacking any charity and in a way that causes scandal both in the Church and in society. His generalization and condemnation of entire groups of people is completely inappropriate and not in keeping with our values or the life of virtue,” the bishop insisted.

Altman is the pastor of St. James the Less Parish in La Crosse. He was ordained a priest in 2008, and had worked as an attorney before entering seminary. At a previous parish, St. Peter and Paul, the priest was criticized after a cemetery care fund was reportedly drained, and upkeep at the cemetery declined. The La Crosse diocese did not respond to questions from CNA about the cemetery fund.

Callahan's statement recognized that many Catholics are looking to him for clarity.

“The amount of calls and emails we are receiving at the Diocesan offices show how divisive he is. I am being pressured by both sides for a comment; one side holds him up as a hero or a prophet, the other side condemns him and vilifies him and demands I silence him,” the bishop wrote.

“Most people expect a decisive move from me, one way or another. Many suggest immediate penalties that will utterly silence him; others call for complete and unwavering support of his views. Canonical penalties are not far away if my attempts at fraternal correction do not work.”

“I pray that Fr. Altman’s heart and eyes might be open to the error of his ways and that he might take steps to correct his behavior and heal the wound he has inflicted on the Body of Christ.”


Newark archdiocese bought second beach house for use by McCarrick

Wed, 09/09/2020 - 13:30

CNA Staff, Sep 9, 2020 / 11:30 am (CNA).- Months before officials in the Archdiocese of Newark sold a beach house used by former cardinal Theodore McCarrick for sexual abuse and coercion, the archdiocese bought a second beach house on the Jersey Shore, at which McCarrick reportedly hosted friends and courted donors.

The second beach house, according to an investigative report from, was purchased in 1997 by the Newark archdiocese from the neighboring Diocese of Metuchen. The house was located in Brick, New Jersey, on Barnegat Bay.

The archdiocese bought thar home four months before it sold the Sea Girt, New Jersey beach house which McCarrick was alleged to have used for sexual abuse and coercion since the 1980s.

Both homes were owned by the Diocese of Metuchen, which McCarrick led as a bishop from 1981 to 1986, before they were purchased by the Archdiocese of Newark, which McCarrick led from 1986 to 2000.

The Sea Girt house was purchased by the Metuchen diocese in 1985, and sold to the Newark archdiocese in 1988.

The Brick house was purchased in 1987 by a Metuchen priest, Msgr. Francis Crine, and Walter Uzenski, principal of the school at Crine’s parish. Crine died in 1989, and Uzenski gave the house to St. James Parish in Woodbridge, NJ, to settle an unspecified debt of McCarrick’s. In 1994, the parish transferred the property to the diocese, reported.

It is not clear what debt Crine owed to the parish.

Crine was a Metuchen chancery official during McCarrick’s tenure in Newark. He was also pastor of St. James Parish during a period in which at least three priests were assigned to the parish who eventually faced allegations of sexual abuse, misconduct, and theft.

McCarrick was first accused of misconduct toward seminarians, and of compelling them to visit the Sea Girt house, in the late 1980s. He was accused in 1994 of abusing a seminarian there. According to, the apostolic nuncio to the U.S. ordered the Sea Girt home be sold in the late 1990s.

In April 1997, four months before the Sea Girt home was sold, the Archdiocese of Newark purchased the Brick house. In 2002, after McCarrick had become Archbishop of Washington, the archdiocese sold the home.

According to, there are no allegations of sexual abuse or coercion at the beach house in Brick.

News that the Archdiocese of Newark purchased a second beach house at which McCarrick entertained guests comes as Catholics await the results of internal investigations on McCarrick conducted by the Vatican, and by the archdioceses of Newark and Washington.

Little information regarding McCarrick’s misconduct has been released by those dioceses or the Holy See since news emerged in June 2018 that McCarrick was credibly accused of sexually abusing minors.

The former cardinal has since been laicized, and is accused of serially sexually abusing and coercing minors, seminarians, and young priests.

The Archdiocese of Washington has declined repeatedly to release files on slush funds controlled by McCarrick in Newark and Washington, in which several hundred thousand dollars reportedly was under the archbishop's direct control, with no auditing or oversight. McCarrick is believed to have used the funds to lavish cash gifts on other Church leaders.

The Vatican investigation is expected to report whether other senior Church leaders enabled, abetted, or ignored allegations against McCarrick. A report was initially expected to be released in late 2019, but there is not yet any indication of when it will be released. Several sources in the Vatican tell CNA the report has been completed, and can be released at any date selected by Pope Francis.


Catholic Mass will continue at San Diego Navy bases

Wed, 09/09/2020 - 12:20

Washington D.C., Sep 9, 2020 / 10:20 am (CNA).- Mass has returned to three Naval bases in the San Diego area after the U.S. Navy reversed a decision to end contracts with civilian priests as a cost-saving measure.

“Contrary to previous discussions, this year we will continue contracted religious ministry programs and services similar to what we’ve had in place previously,” said Rear Adm. Bette Bolivar, the commander of Navy Region Southwest, in a statement published the evening of Sept. 8 in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

“We will also continue to assess how best to meet the needs of our Sailors and their families throughout the region,” said Bolivar.

Previously, three Navy bases were left without a priest after the Navy announced that contracts with civilian priests would not be renewed.

The three bases are served by civilian Catholic priests as there are not enough Catholic chaplains in the Navy to handle the spiritual needs of Catholics assigned to them.

Catholics make up nearly 20% of the U.S. military, but a much smaller percentage of the military’s chaplain corps. U.S. military recruiters and the Archdiocese for the Military Services have made efforts to recruit priests to serve as active duty or reserve chaplains in U.S. military branches. Chaplains are commissioned military officers classified as non-combatants.

Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, was pleased with the decision to continue Masses at San Diego Navy bases.

“Catholics in the Navy and everywhere in this Country rejoice in the decision by the US Navy to reconsider closing the thriving Catholic programs at naval stations in California,” he told CNA Wednesday morning.

Broglio had been working with the Navy to keep the contracts in place, and previously told CNA that the savings amounted from the canceled contracts would only amount to $250,000.

“I am deeply grateful to everyone who lent their support and encouragement to maintaining these programs. In a particular way, I am grateful to the Navy Chief of Chaplains and his staff, as well as, Navy Southwest for their consideration and effort,” Broglio said.


A drowning man prayed for help. God sent a floating tiki bar filled with priests.

Tue, 09/08/2020 - 20:07

CNA Staff, Sep 8, 2020 / 06:07 pm (CNA).- When Jimmy Macdonald found himself floundering in the waters of Lake George in New York next to his tipped kayak, he thought he might die.

He had been enjoying a relaxing August day on the lake with his family, meditating and snapping pictures. He kept his lifejacket in the boat - he didn’t think he would need it, he told Glens Falls Living.

But his kayak ended up drifting, and suddenly he found himself far from shore and from his wife and stepchildren. Despite the rough waters, he still thought he could make it back to shore, and so he waved on several boats that had stopped to offer help.

But when his kayak tipped and his hastily-donned lifejacket came up to his ears, Macdonald knew he was in real trouble.

“I thought I was going to die. I was absolutely powerless and wished I had asked for help earlier. I was waving my hand and asked God to please help me,” he said.

God answered his prayers - but not in the form of Jesus walking on water.

“And then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the tiki boat.”

Aboard the floating bar boat were seminarians and priests of the Paulist Fathers from St. Joseph's Seminary in Washington, D.C. The Catholic religious community had been on retreat nearby and were taking a break on a boat rented from Tiki Tours.

A handful of the seminarians and priests helped the Tiki Tours staff hoist Macdonald to safety.

Noah Ismael, one of the seminarians aboard the boat, told NBC Washington that it was “a movement of the Holy Spirit” that they happened upon Macdonald at the right time.

Chris Malano, another seminarian, told WNYT that as Paulist seminarians, they are missionaries, and “that day, that was our mission, to be present and to help someone in need.”

Macdonald told WNYT that he took the rescue as a “sign from God” that his life still has a purpose on earth.

He also added that he found the rescue funny, in an ironic sense. Macdonald is an addict in recovery who counsels others through addiction recovery.

“How funny is it that I've been sober for seven years and I get saved by a tiki bar?” he said.


Supreme Court could rule soon on abortion pill regulations

Tue, 09/08/2020 - 19:00

CNA Staff, Sep 8, 2020 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- The Supreme Court could soon rule on a major abortion case, after the Trump administration appealed to maintain safety regulations of the abortion pill.

The Justice Department (DOJ) filed an Aug. 26 emergency motion at the Supreme Court to halt a federal district court’s decision from going into effect that would nullify federal regulations of the abortion pill during the new coronavirus pandemic.
In July, federal judge Theodore Chuang of Maryland ruled that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) listing of the abortion pill regimen alongside higr-risk procedures and drugs posed an undue burden on women seeking abortions during the pandemic, because it required them to travel to a medical facility to obtain the abortion pills. Chuang, and a federal circuit court which upheld his ruling in August, said that women should be able to take abortion pills without a visit to a doctor’s office.

Since 2000, the FDA has placed the chemical abortion protocol of mifepristone and misoprostol—allowed in the U.S. for abortions up to 10 weeks in a pregnancy—under its Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) list, requiring it to be prescribed in-person in a hospital, clinic, or medical office. The patient must sign a form acknowledging that she has been adequately informed of the risks.

Pro-abortion groups, however, have pushed for the pill to be dispensed remotely via telemedicine during the coronavirus pandemic, due to apparent difficulties women could face traveling to a clinic in-person.

On July 13, Judge Chuang ruled that the REMS requirement of an in-person clinic visit doesn’t have to be applied during the pandemic, allowing for the abortion pill regimen to be prescribed remotely.

In its August emergency appeal to the Supreme Court, the DOJ said that “as a result of the injunction, the FDA cannot enforce longstanding safety requirements that have been judged necessary to mitigate serious risks to patients who use Mifeprex to effectuate an abortion.”

After Judge Chuang’s decision, pro-life leaders and senators asked the FDA to remove the abortion pill from the market altogether by classifying it as a public health hazard. Nearly two dozen pro-life leaders said that pro-abortion groups were “using the coronavirus pandemic as a ruse” in their efforts to deregulate the pill.

In its brief, the DOJ argued that in-person requirements do not pose an “undue burden” on women seeking abortions.

The DOJ said that “a regulatory requirement imposed on one abortion method is not unconstitutional when another safe abortion method remains readily available.”

The pro-abortion groups which brought the case to federal court responded to the DOJ’s motion on Tuesday.

They said that the FDA’s in-person dispensing requirement presented an “unnecessary COVID-19 risk” to women and that the FDA had already allowed for other drugs to be prescribed via telemedicine during the pandemic.

“Defendants have not, and cannot, offer any legitimate explanation why only clinicians prescribing a medication used for abortion care—not clinicians prescribing any other, far less safe drug—should be subject to this singular restriction that prevents them from exercising their medical judgment to provide care to their patients in the safest possible manner during the pandemic,” their brief stated.


Who is Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre?

Tue, 09/08/2020 - 18:30

CNA Staff, Sep 8, 2020 / 04:30 pm (CNA).- September 8 marks the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. For the faithful in Cuba  - and other Hispanic countries - Mary is also venerated on this day under the title Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre.

Images of Our Lady of Charity depict Mary standing on the moon and surrounded by angels, while holding the Child Jesus, who holds a globe in one hand and raises the other hand in a gesture of blessing.

Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary under this title stretches back more than four centuries, to when the original statue of Our Lady of Charity was discovered off the coast of Cuba, near the village of El Cobre.

Found by two indigenous laborers and a slave boy around the year 1600, the small wooden statue of the Virgin Mary appeared after a storm that hit while the three were out at sea in an old boat looking for salt. The men prayed for the protection of Mary from the storm.

They then spotted what first appeared to be a bird floating on the water but turned out to be an image of the Virgin Mary carrying the Child Jesus on her right arm, while holding a gold cross in her left hand.

The statue had been fastened to a board with the inscription: “I am the Virgin of Charity,” and, despite being found in the water after a storm, the white material the statue was clothed in was completely dry.

Devotion to Our Lady of Charity spread throughout the country. In 1916, she was officially named Patroness of Cuba by Benedict XV, at the request of war veterans.

In 2008, a statue of Our Lady of Charity was brought to the Holy See and blessed by Pope Benedict XVI. The statue was enthroned at the Vatican Gardens in 2014.

Pope Benedict XVI visited Cuba in 2012, as the Church in the country celebrated the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the statue of Our Lady of Charity. The pope entrusted the future of Cuba to the Blessed Virgin.

During Mass in Cuba in 2015, Pope Francis praised the rich devotion to Our Lady of Charity seeded in the hearts of Cubans, and urged them to imitate her in sowing “seeds of charity.”

“Generation after generation, day after day, we are asked to renew our faith. We are asked to live the revolution of tenderness as Mary, our Mother of Charity, did,” the pope said.

“Our revolution comes about through tenderness, through the joy which always becomes closeness and compassion, and leads us to get involved in, and to serve, the life of others.”

Devotion to the Virgin of Charity has expanded to other countries, including Spain, the Philippines, and parts of the United States.

In the Archdiocese of Miami, which has a large Cuban population, thousands gather each year to celebrate Our Lady of Charity on September 8. Archbishop Thomas Wenski will celebrate a Mass on Tuesday evening, which will be livestreamed due to restrictions in place because of the coronavirus pandemic.

An image of the Virgin of Charity will be available for the faithful in Miami to venerate from their cars in front of St. Michael the Archangel church on Tuesday evening.

US military archbishop laments Navy decision to end Masses at San Diego bases

Tue, 09/08/2020 - 17:10

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 8, 2020 / 03:10 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of the Military Services, USA is hoping the U.S. Navy will reconsider its decision to terminate its contracts with Catholic priests in the San Diego area as a cost-saving measure.

“For some time now, Archbishop Timothy Broglio has been engaged with the Navy Chief of Chaplains and has been trying to meet with those responsible for the decision,” a spokesperson for the archdiocese told CNA Sept. 8.

“The savings from cancelling these contracts amounts to $250,000,” said the spokesperson, which is “approximately 0.000156% of the Navy budget.”

With the move not to renew contracts with non-military Catholic priests, Catholics living at Naval Base Coronado, NSA Monterey, and Naval Base Ventura County will be left with no priest to celebrate Mass on-base. The priests were notified in mid-August that they would not have their contracts renewed.

Priests assigned to overseas bases and ships will keep their roles, and priests under contract at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake and Marine Corps Recruit Depot will continue to celebrate Mass on-base as there is no off-base option for Mass.

The Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, questioned the move to end the contracts given the number of Catholic serving in the Navy.

“It is difficult to fathom how the First Amendment rights of the largest faith group in the Navy can be compromised for such an insignificant sum. The Archbishop hopes that the Navy will reconsider the decision,” said the statement.

The three bases are served by civilian Catholic priests as there are not enough Catholic chaplains in the Navy to handle the spiritual needs of Catholics on those bases. Protestant services, which are done by military chaplains on active duty, will not be affected by this change.

Brian O'Rourke, a Navy Region Southwest spokesman, told the San Diego Union-Tribune that military chaplains would help people find new congregations off-base.

"We know change can be difficult for our existing on-base congregations, but ask for understanding, patience and support from those faithful civilians and retirees who, in their heart of hearts, want what is best for our uniformed service members and their families," O'Rourke said to the Union-Tribune.

"The Navy's religious ministries priority is reaching and ministering to our largest demographic — active duty Sailors and Marines in the 18-25 year-old range," said O'Rourke. "To meet that mission, the Navy has had to make the difficult decision to discontinue most contracted ministry services."

Rochester bishop calls for solidarity after Daniel Prude's death

Tue, 09/08/2020 - 17:01

CNA Staff, Sep 8, 2020 / 03:01 pm (CNA).-  

The Bishop of Rochester said Thursday that news of the death of Daniel Prude, who died after being arrested in the upstate New York city in March, is a source of sorrow, and a reminder of the Christian call to solidarity and justice.

“The recent news of the tragic death of Mr. Daniel Prude and the visible pain of his family cause a deep sorrow in the hearts of all. We pray for the repose of his soul and the consolation of his family and friends,” Bishop Salvatore Matano said in a Sept. 3 statement.

“At the same time, we cannot cease yearning for peace, justice and truth in our land, where with the help of those dedicated to preserving our freedom and protecting us from all harm, we will achieve true and lasting peace,” he added.

Daniel Prude died March 30, a week after he was arrested by Rochester police. Body camera footage of the arrest was released to the public last week.

In March, Daniel Prude, 41, visited his brother in Rochester from his home in Chicago. The father of five children, Prude suffered from mental health problems. On the night of March 23, as snow fell on the streets in Rochester, police responded to a 911 call. Prude was reportedly under the influence of PCP, and in the midst of a psychotic episode; he had spent hours in a local hospital struggling with suicidal thoughts, hallucinations, and, reportedly, drug induced delirium.

When police found Prude near downtown Rochester, he was naked, and had apparently broken a store window with a brick. A police officer ordered him to the ground, and he complied. Prude sat handcuffed on the ground for three minutes. At one point he said he had coronavirus. At another point, agitated, he asked an officer for his gun. After he spat on the ground several times police put a white hood on his head. Prude grew agitated, and tried to stand, while telling police officers to give him a gun.

Eventually a police officer held Prude facedown on the ground until he vomited and became unresponsive. Shortly thereafter, medics began CPR.

Prude, who was Black, died in the hospital a week later. While an internal investigation initially cleared officers of wrongdoing, seven officers have now been suspended amid a new investigation.

Protesters have taken to the streets in Rochester since body camera footage was released last week, demanding justice. Protests have called for police accountability, mentioning the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery.

In his statement, Bishop Matano cited a call from Pope Francis for solidarity.

“Authentic, Christian solidarity is not an emotion or fleeting compassion at the terrible misfortunes of another, rather it is a ‘firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good, that is to say, to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all,’” the bishop wrote, quoting Pope St. John Paul II.

“Committed to this reality, we continue to pray and work together for a more just society, where tensions are able to be reduced, where conflicts can be settled, where peace prevails, where life is sacred and reverenced, and where the virtues of the Gospel reconcile us to one another and to the Father.”

“May God bless our efforts so all may know the peace and unity of Jesus Christ,” Matano added.


Some Illinois dioceses permit reception of Communion on tongue

Tue, 09/08/2020 - 16:01

CNA Staff, Sep 8, 2020 / 02:01 pm (CNA).- The Bishop of Peoria last week permitted priests in his diocese to distribute Communion on the tongue, as the Archdiocese of Chicago and the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois have been doing.

“While...I still encourage the faithful to receive Holy Communion in the hand, out of respect for those who prefer to receive on the tongue, and in accord with what is now being allowed in other dioceses in Illinois, I am now permitting the practice of receiving Holy Communion on the tongue to resume,” Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria wrote in a Sept. 3 memo to priests of the diocese.

He added that “inasmuch as a number of you have legitimate health concerns, the practice of distributing Holy Communion on the tongue is at your discretion.”

Bishop Jenky noted that in July he had “insisted that Holy Communion only be received in the hand.”

His decision to permit reception on the tongue is linked to fact that the coronavirus situation “continues to evolve.”

The bishop did give guidelines for distribution on the tongue: either the station is to be separate from those where Communion is distributed on the hand, or those who receive on the tongue should do so after others, and the person distributing Communion is to hands after each communicant.

“It is important that you wait for your hands to dry (at least twenty seconds),” Bishop Jenky wrote, calling it “an important safety precaution.”

He asked the priests to recall “that the very fact that we are resuming the practice of receiving Holy Communion on the tongue will be unsettling to some parishioners because of their fears regarding safety,” and to “be sensitive to this.”

“It is important that both the appearance and reality of the way we do things show that we are responding to the demands of the present situation with all due seriousness,” he concluded.

Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield in Illinois has been acknowledging the right of the faithful to receive Communion on the tongue.

The Springfield diocese’s guidelines for the restoration of public Masses state that “Given the Church’s existing guidance on this point (see Redemptionis Sacramentum, no. 92), and recognizing the differing judgments and sensibilities of the experts involved, we believe that, with the additional precautions listed here, it is possible to distribute on the tongue without unreasonable risk.”’

The precautions recommended at this time by the Springfield diocese are those that Bishop Jenky adopted: a separate station for distribution on the tongue or distribution on the tongue following in the hand, and that the minister sanitize his hands after each communicant.

The Springfield diocese said its guidelines reflect the recommendations of the Thomistic Institute, the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, and state and local policies.

In a May 13 letter, Bishop Paprocki said the diocese would be following the standards of the Thomistic Institute; portions of the Springfield guidelines, including those on the distribution of Communion on the tongue, are copied from the institute’s guidelines.

Among its reopening documents, the Archdiocese of Chicago notes that pastors are “urged to encourage the faithful to receive in the hand,” but that “out of respect for those who insist on receiving on the tongue and with the hope of avoiding conflicts at this most sacred time of the Holy Mass, an exception may be made in a given parish at the full discretion of the pastor.”

In such cases, there is to be a “dedicated station” for those receiving on the tongue; ministers are to wear a mask or face shield; communicants are to sanitize their hands; and the minister is to sanitize his hands after each communicant.

Guidelines for the Diocese of Joliet dated May 18 state that Communion is to be distributed “only in the hand.”

Redemptionis sacramentum, the Congregation for Divine Worship’s 2004 instruction on certain matters to be observed or to be avoided regarding the Most Holy Eucharist, notes that “each of the faithful always has the right to receive Holy Communion on the tongue, at his choice.”

In July 2009, during the swine flu pandemic, the Congregation for Divine Worship responded to an inquiry regarding the right to receive Communion on the tongue, recalling that Redemptionis sacramentum “clearly stipulates” that each of the faithful always has the right to receive on the tongue, and that it is illicit to deny Communion to any of the faithful who are not impeded by law.

US bishops: 'Imperative' for Congress to act on COVID relief

Tue, 09/08/2020 - 14:30

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 8, 2020 / 12:30 pm (CNA).- As the Senate is expected to consider a pared-down coronavirus relief package this week, the U.S. bishops’ conference is calling for immediate and substantial aid.

The head of the U.S. bishops’ domestic justice committee, Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City, called on Congress to pass a bill “that meets the urgent needs of the nation.”

“It is imperative to act soon,” Archbishop Coakley said in a statement Tuesday. “May God grant all those participating in negotiations a heart that eagerly responds to the cry of the poor.”

Congress has passed several relief packages during the coronavirus epidemic, providing loans to small businesses and nonprofits to keep employees on payroll and expanding unemployment benefits, among other actions.

Coakley, however, warned that those measures “are running out” as families are threatened by hunger, private schools are facing closure, virus cases are rising in prisons, and local governments are seeing funding shortfalls.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced on Tuesday that Republicans would bring up a “targeted” COVID relief bill, “focused on some of the very most urgent healthcare, education, and economic issues.”

In response, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the proposal “doesn’t come close to addressing the problems and is headed nowhere,” and “is laden with poison pills Republicans know Democrats would never support.”

In the spring, Congress had approved $3 trillion in relief for schools, churches, and businesses, and the House approved another $3 trillion in relief under the HEROES Act in May; that bill stalled in the Senate.

In a series of letters from April through August, the U.S. bishops’ conference has outlined policy priorities for COVID relief.

The bishops have asked that private schools receive 10% of the relief funding that public schools get in order to stay open, and that parents have tax incentives for education savings. For charities struggling to stay afloat during the pandemic, they asked that the new $300 charitable tax deduction be increased.

The bishops have warned of “racial inequalities” in health care access that have been exacerbated during the pandemic. They have also asked for an expansion of Medicaid and funding for community health centers, and that insurance coverage for abortions not be included in any relief policy.

In July, some conservative intellectuals advocated for the expansion of the Child Tax Credit and the Earned-Income Tax Credit as a means of helping families during the COVID-induced economic downturn.


Video series echoes Bishop Olmsted's call 'into the breach'

Tue, 09/08/2020 - 12:00

CNA Staff, Sep 8, 2020 / 10:00 am (CNA).- A video series encouraging men to spiritual and moral leadership of their families will be broadcast this week, based upon a call to men from Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix.

The series, “Into the Breach,” is based on a 2015 pastoral letter from Olmsted. The videos feature commentary from Olmsted, theologian Scott Hahn, evangelist Curtis Martin, and other Catholic figures.

The series is produced by the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization of men.

Regarding the series, Knights of Columbus Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said last week that, “Catholic men and fathers shoulder a great responsibility. Our role in evangelization is indispensable, especially within our homes as we build our domestic churches.”

“Our families and our parishes need our faithful witness more than ever. As Catholic men and as Knights of Columbus, it is our duty to ‘step into the breach’ and play our part in the renewal of our families and the Church,” Anderson added.

Olmsted’s exhortation aims to be “an encouragement, a challenge, and a calling forth to mission” for men, pointing to the saints and the life of Christ to suggest a model of Christian identity.

“Our identity is caught up in the identity of the eternal Son of God,” Olmsted wrote.

“Looking to what the secular world holds up as ‘manly’ is in fact to look at shadows – or even at outright counterfeits – of masculinity. No athlete, no matter how many awards; no political leader, no matter the power he wields; no performer, business man, or celebrity, no matter how much adored; no physical attribute or muscle mass; no intelligence or talent; no prizes or achievements can bestow masculinity on a man. The idolatry of celebrities at this time is a particular temptation, but to build one’s masculine identity on such fleeting models is to build an identity on sand.”

The videos will be broadcast Sept. 8-11 at 5:30 p.m. ET on the EWTN television network. Catholic News Agency is a service of EWTN News.


Mundelein seminary accepts nominations for 'hero priests' of the pandemic

Mon, 09/07/2020 - 08:01

Denver Newsroom, Sep 7, 2020 / 06:01 am (CNA).- In a photo from this spring, Fr. Bobby Krueger dons a black beanie, thick grey gloves, and a jacket with a hood over his clerics.

In his gloved hands, he carries a small gold and glass monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament - which he carried on foot to every block in St. Leonard’s parish on two occasions during the coronavirus lockdowns in Berwyn, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago.

Anyone who has experienced spring in Chicago, or merely sees the photo of Fr. Krueger, knows that those could not have been balmy walks.

“When we couldn’t get to Mass, He brought Jesus to us - even in the snow and rain,” Kathy Rokosz, a St. Leonard’s parishioner, wrote in her nomination of Krueger as a “hero priest” of the pandemic.

Through Sept. 14, Mundelien Seminary is accepting nominations of “hero priests” throughout the United States who went above and beyond during the weeks when public Masses and other normal parish activities were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

These priests will be honored collectively as part of Mundelein’s 2020 In Service of One Another Catholic Humanitarian Award. “As COVID-19 has changed so much about the way we live in 2020, the Church has remained an essential source of hope, inspiration and support. Heroic priests across the country have answered the chaos of the pandemic with extraordinary creativity and resolve to continue serving as a bridge between Christ and his people,” the seminary states on their website, where nominations may be submitted. Fr. John Kartje, the rector of Mundelein, told CNA that the idea for the recognition of these priests came from a desire to focus on the good that has come from these unprecedented times.
“It just came from the realization that in the midst of the pandemic and frankly also with everything that's been going on over the last several months, all the social unrest, we've certainly seen that here in Chicago... that there have been a lot of people stepping up in amazing ways,” including many priests, Kartje said. Indeed, as public Masses and gatherings closed throughout the country for weeks on end starting in mid-March, priests started getting creative. Drive-through and walk-up confessionals, parking lot Masses, livestream retreats, and teams of priests specially trained to enter ICU wards and administer the sacraments to coronavirus patients became the norm in many dioceses throughout the U.S.
Fr. Kartje said they want to recognize the extraordinary efforts of priests during these times - no matter how flashy or not their efforts seem. “Even aside from those kinds of things that often get headlines, it's just the ways that they've been trying to minister to their people, however that's possible,” he said, “whether that's an increased number of home visits, or obviously the ways social media has made the sacraments available and accessible to people.” Kartje said one of his favorite submissions so far has been of an elderly priest who spent time visiting people outside of their windows at nursing homes, which experienced some of the strictest measures of lockdown and isolation.
“He could not only pray for them and offer their blessing from the outside, but then he could be with their families who are right outside the window beside him,” Kartje said. “You know, these are just heartbreaking cases of grown children and grandchildren, their hearts aching to go inside and be with their loved ones. And here's an elderly priest who can provide real ministry and solace to the family, as well as providing prayer and blessing for a person who's inside the nursing home and not able to receive visitors.” Another submission of a hero priest is Father Christopher DiTomo, who served in Elburn, Illinois during the pandemic. Besides hearing confessions outside in the elements and live-streaming Masses and prayer services, DiTomo also drove the Blessed Sacrament around his parish and held a Palm Sunday procession. “He brought Jesus to the streets of Elburn for over four hours on foot to people who were unable to attend Mass due to restrictions, and to a people who were starving for the Lord, both physically and spiritually,” Theresa Carter wrote of DiTomo in her nomination. “He brought people a glimpse of hope and peace at a very scary, uncertain time. He was all in at all times to help ensure his flock were spiritually nourished during this proverbial wandering in the desert,” she added. Kartje said that while there have been several submissions of priests in the area of Chicago, the campaign is open to submissions of priests throughout the country. Parishioners who would like to honor their priests may fill out a questionnaire located on the seminary website through Sept. 14. On Sept. 17, a small ceremony will be held at the Rector’s Classic Golf Outing in Mundelein, with a few local priests who will accept the honor on behalf of all of the nominated priests.

“The extraordinary times we're living in obviously put a spotlight on the work these priests are doing, but as I'm sure many of your readers know, even outside of such extraordinary times, there are just thousands and thousands of good priests doing the work of the Lord,” Kartje said.  “We certainly appreciate them, and it's humbling and an honor for us to be able to hold up some of these men's stories in gratitude.”

Why organized labor is (still) a Catholic cause

Mon, 09/07/2020 - 06:49

Washington D.C., Sep 7, 2020 / 04:49 am (CNA).- At a time when labor unions are weak, Catholics still have a place in the labor movement, said a priest who emphasized the Church’s historic efforts to teach the rights of labor and train workers to organize.

“On the local and state level, Catholics are a major part of the labor movement. They took to heart our Catholic social teaching, and tried to implement it in their workplace,” Father Sinclair Oubre, the spiritual moderator of the Catholic Labor Network, told CNA.

However, he said, there is sometimes a disconnect between Catholics and support for organized labor.

“Like in so many areas of our faith, the heresy of radical individualism, a lack of knowledge about why unions were formed, and a general ignorance of what options workers have, have led to many Catholics to either not realize that the Church has favored workers’ associations, or that the Church even has a teaching that has to do with the workplace.”

Union membership peaked at 28% of the American workforce in 1954. According to 2017 figures, about 34% of public sector employees are unionized, but under 7% of private-sector employees are, CBS Moneywatch reports.

Unions continue to enjoy strong approval in the U.S., with 62% of respondents telling a recent Gallup survey they support organized labor.

But union support among some Catholics has waned, in part due to labor unions’ political support for legal abortion and pro-abortion rights political candidates, among other issues.

For Fr. Oubre, this shows the need for more faithful Catholics to join a union, not withdraw.

“The fact that many of the cultural war issues have been embraced by labor unions is a concern to me,” he said. “However, the Church and Labor have been here before.”

“From the 1930s to the 1950s, there was a real effort by communists to take over the U.S. unions, and in some cases, they were successful. Instead of saying, ‘Catholics can’t join unions because they are communists,’ which was not accurate because many were not, the Church instead set up labor schools by the hundreds in parish basements.”

“The Church taught workers their rights under the law and Robert’s Rules of Order. It encouraged Catholic workers to run for union office, and bring their Catholic social teachings to bear,” the priest said. “This was very successful, and led to the purging of many communists from the union ranks.”

Catholics have historically played a major role in the U.S. labor movement, as evidenced by several prominent Catholics who have headed the AFL-CIO, the largest union federation in the U.S.

Oubre said unions are a place for Christian evangelization and contribution.

“We cannot write off whole groups of people because part of their agenda is not in line with Catholic teaching,” he said. “Rather, we are called to engage these groups, be active in the organizations, and like in the past, direct these organizations in ways that respect God’s truth.”

The record of Catholic social teaching also backs labor and the right of workers to organize, Oubre said.

In the 19th century, Pope Leo XIII recognized that economic changes introduced new relationships between those who had wealth and those who did not.

“As cities grew, and manufacturing and industry developed, the relationship of responsibility that has existed in the past between the landowner and the peasant no longer existed,” Oubre explained.

“Pope Leo XIII recognized the natural right of people to associate with each other, whether these were religious associations or work guilds, he endorsed the importance of collective bargaining to promote the common good, and recognized the unequal contractual relationship between the worker and the employer.”

The labor market meant that workers were negotiating not only with an employer, but competing against all the other workers seeking the same job. Leo XIII said these pressures to accept employment at ever-lowering wages could lead workers “to agree to employment terms that did not supply the basic needs for a dignified family life.”

The labor-focused traditions of Catholic social teaching have continued especially through the work of Popes Pius XI, John XXIII, John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis.

The Second Vatican Council’s apostolic constitution Gaudium et Spes names the right to found unions for working people as “among the basic rights of the human person.” These unions “should be able truly to represent them and to contribute to the organizing of economic life in the right way.” These rights include the freedom to take part in union activity “without risk of reprisal.”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ 1986 pastoral letter “Economic Justice for All” also addresses the place of labor in Catholic thought and action.

In 2018 the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in Janus v. AFSCME struck down a 1997 Illinois law that required non-union public employees to pay fees to public sector unions for collective bargaining.

A U.S. bishops’ conference spokesperson said the decision threatened to mandate a “Right-to-Work” environment in government employment in a way that undermines the ability of workers to organize.

Oubre said Catholic union backers object to such a legal principle “because it works against the principle of solidarity and the right of association.”

“‘Right to Work’ laws have their primary intention of weakening the organizing power of unions, and allow people to receive the benefit the union, without taking on the responsibility of being part of the union,” he said.

In Oubre’s view, a union-friendly legal environment is critical.

“One can pass laws that promote workers ability to organize together, or to discourage it,” he said.

He noted the proposals for a “card check” unionization effort, in which an employer must recognize a union if a majority of workers express a desire for a union using signed cards.

Obure said this effort now faces legal obstacles and simply “begins a long process where union avoidance experts are brought in, one-on-one meetings take place with workers, sometimes the leaders are fired, and every effort is made to dishearten the workers.”

“When the election comes around, the will of the workers has been crushed,” he said.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issues annual Labor Day statements which continue “the long tradition of support for workers’ right to organize and join unions,” Oubre said.

In 2018, the statement stressed the importance of just wages for workers, especially for those who have difficulty securing basic needs. It also discussed problems of income inequality between the wealthy and the poor, as well as between ethnic groups and between the sexes.

“This Labor Day, let us all commit ourselves to personal conversion of heart and mind and stand in solidarity with workers by advocating for just wages, and in so doing, ‘bring glad tidings to the poor’,” the bishops’ message concluded.


This article was originally run on CNA Sept. 3, 2018.