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ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
Updated: 2 hours 23 min ago

How are Catholics coping with school closures?

Tue, 03/17/2020 - 17:00

Washington D.C., Mar 17, 2020 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- The coronavirus pandemic has caused Catholic schools across the United States to close. With no clear timeline for when they might reopen, parents, students, teachers and schools are finding innovative ways to balance distance learning and home life.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization last week, after spreading to more than 100 countries worldwide. In the U.S., there were more than 5,200 confirmed cases of the virus as of Tuesday afternoon.

Dioceses have halted public Masses indefinitely, and states are beginning to shut down public events, impose curfews, and order the closure of restaurants and bars. Many Catholic universities and schools have already closed their campuses and have begun to transition to distance learning.

While many colleges and universities have offered online courses for years, many Catholic elementary and high schools are having to adapt quickly to accommodate distance learning en masse, with teachers, parents, and students facing unforeseen challenges.

Tim Hruszkewycz, a high school English teacher at Villa Madonna Academy in Northern Kentucky, told CNA that he received notice late last Thursday that the school would be transitioning to remote courses, because of the pandemic.

Despite preconceptions that working from home might be easier, “it’s not easy,” he said. “It’s way more work, it’s way more stressful.”

Hruszkewycz, however, said he had expected the eventual closure of the school campus for weeks and had already mentally prepared the students for distance learning.

He teaches five classes of students in grades 10 through 12, and planned virtual lessons and courses for each class. “On Thursday, I basically made a million packets” for the students, he said, before they went home.

While initially told that the campus would be closed for two weeks, Hruszkewycz has been preparing for a month-long exercise in remote teaching. He conducts classes through video conferencing on Google Hangout, which has video chat and text chat functions for students to interact with him.

He still wears a shirt and tie to mimic a normal classroom environment as closely as possible, and has assigned novels for the students to read so they have plenty of material to discuss when they return to in-person classes.

“I have really motivated kids,” he said, “but even the most successful kid” will have challenges to study hard at home. “It’s really tempting to find ways to blow off this time,” he said. “It’s just one giant impediment between student success and just the ease of moving on with life.”

In the Archdiocese of Washington, which has 18 high schools and 54 elementary schools, Wendy Anderson, associate superintendent of academics and leadership in the archdiocese, told CNA that a significant challenge to distance learning has been lack of internet access for some of the younger children.

“It’s a lot easier for high school kids to kind of get online and keep up, but for younger children we have to have some pretty creative solutions,” Anderson said.

Most importantly, she said, teachers are acting as “ministers” in praying with the students, even in this extraordinary time.

“I think it’s important that they’re incorporating Catholic identity through this, that teachers are doing prayer with kids, keeping the faith up, giving the families alternatives, prayer services as alternatives to Mass,” she said. “We’re not going to lose sight of our mission through this.”

High schools were “pretty quick” to transition to digital learning, Anderson said, but with the elementary schools “we don’t assume that all children will have access to the internet.”

A “majority” of the archdiocesan schools are utilizing digital learning, she said, with platforms such as Google Classroom.

“The schools are closed, and we’re not trying to say we’re open completely for academics, but all of our schools are offering things to keep kids busy and up-to-date on their studies as much as possible,” she said.

In the case of Don Bosco Cristo Rey high school in Takoma Park, Maryland, students are also enrolled in a work-study program, so they are having to work remotely as well.

In the diocese of Brooklyn, there was “anxiety” about having to make mass changes in the pandemic, said district superintendent Michael LaForgia.

However, he said the feedback so far has been “extremely positive” as “faculty and principals have gotten together” and “rolled up their sleeves.”

“We have a very diverse diocese,” LaForgia said, with both affluent and poor sections, and the diocese wanted to ensure schools would receive an equitable distribution of resources and attention.

One school in Queens has a large immigrant population with English as a second language, he said, so the school principal hosted families last week for a more interactive presentation about using the app Zoom so their children could learn electronically.

The diocesean communications and technology arm, DeSales Media, had already begun partnering with schools to provide them devices for remote learning before the coronavirus became an issue, LaForgia said.

Some parents do worry that an extended break from in-person classroom settings could mean that their child falls behind in grades or certifications. It is a concern, LaForgia said, but one shared by parents of students at both public and Catholic schools, and one which will be confronted as a community “as the days turn into weeks.”

“What we’re finding is, everybody is collaborating, and everybody is working for the same goal,” he said.

Meanwhile, many parents now working from home face the additional challenge of ensuring their children are still learning.

Two homeschooling mothers—Elizabeth Foss, a Catholic mother of nine children, and Stephanie Weinert, a mother of four children—who are both bloggers and active on Instagram, co-hosted a virtual discussion on Sunday night for mothers whose children will be transitioning from school to learning at home.

“This is qualitatively different from homeschooling,” Foss said of the current situation.

Many mothers are still working from home, but now have to attend to the educational needs of their children as well. The schoolwork many of the students have been given is not enough to fill eight hours a day, it is closer to three or four hours, she said, leaving a significant gap of time for parents to fill.

The virtual discussion on Sunday emphasized the need of parents to limit children’s unnecessary screen time, reserving it for more scholastic endeavors.

“In order to do that, we have to model that ourselves,” she said, urging parents to practice moderation in use of the internet as an example for their children. “We don’t need the continuous drip of anxiety,” she said of reading constant Coronavirus news updates.

Foss said that the forced drastic shift in home life brought on by the coronavirus could be an opportunity for a much-needed shift in societal priorities: Parents now might have more time to make family dinners and involve the children in household chores and affairs—a chance to “slow down and really acknowledge relationship-building,” she said.

“Maybe the bigger question is why are we so out of touch with the rhythm of family, and can we see this as an opportunity to reestablish that rhythm as a culture?” Foss asked.

“I can’t imagine any other scenario where an entire culture has stopped and said, okay, who are the people who I am going to be confined with, and how is that set of people my family? And what are we to one another, and how do we best help and bring out the best in each other? Whether that’s school or not.”

Coronavirus and the collection basket: Parishes feel quarantine cash crunch

Tue, 03/17/2020 - 14:20

Denver, Colo., Mar 17, 2020 / 12:20 pm (CNA).- While dioceses across the country have canceled public Masses in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus, many parishes are remaining open for prayer, Eucharistic adoration, and confession, and continuing charitable work in the community.

But some parishes, especially those serving poor communities, have already begun feeling a financial pinch as they lose access to in-person parish collections.

For Father Joseph Lajoie, pastor at Sacred Heart Parish in Denver, dwindling cash flow during the coronavirus crisis constitutes a “potentially crippling, if not mortal, blow” to the parish. 

"We are as antiquated as our registration system. It's a three-ring binder," Lajoie told CNA.

The Archdiocese of Denver suspended public Masses March 13.   

"So we're looking at this past Sunday, and the next three at least, with no Mass, no collection at all," Lajoie said.

Sacred Heart is one of the oldest parishes in the archdiocese, occupying a 140-year-old building. It is also one of the poorest, and its congregation is largely elderly and low-income.

The parish has no online giving portal, no electronic database of registered parishioners, and no way to communicate with the entire community electronically, except through social media.

Lajoie said that in recent days he’s been able to lead Benediction with the Blessed Sacrament from a balcony of the church for those in the community who are able to come outside.

Though many parishes keep reserves on hand— and Lajoie stressed that Sacred Heart does have some savings— the prospect of months without passing the basket has Lajoie worried about being able to pay his small staff, especially after the few weeks.

Nearly 100 dioceses in the United States have canceled public liturgies until further notice.

"I think a lot of the things in our country, and in our Church, are going to look very different when we're allowed to have public Mass again," Lajoie said.

Small and large parishes affected

The financial implications of canceling Mass are not just affecting small parishes, either.

Father Ronald Cattany, rector of the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Denver, said over the first weekend after Masses were suspended, in-person donations at the cathedral were down about 75% from a typical weekend. What did come came from those going to confession at the cathedral, or stopping to pray.

Online giving for that weekend totaled about $800, he said, but Cattany stressed that the cathedral basilica is not funded like most other parishes in Denver.

Despite its large size, Cattany said the parish has only about 600 registered parishioners, many of whom are elderly or low-income. A large portion of each Sunday’s congregation is made up of visitors, or what Cattany calls “Friends of the Cathedral” who attend on Sunday, but do not live in the area and are registered at other parishes.

For some other large parishes in the Denver area, the number of registered parishioners could range anywhere from 2,500 to over 6,000.

At the cathedral, "the populations here are very different," Cattany said.

The cathedral has remained open for Eucharistic adoration. The confession schedule will— for now— remain the same, Father Cattany said.

The priest said the cathedral canceled its entire order of palms for Palm Sunday, and he fears that the palm supplier may go out of business. Still, he has been seeking to reassure parishioners that Jesus will be waiting for them in Eucharist when the pandemic ends.

“Despite the lack of liturgy, He’s still there, and he wants to see them,” Cattany said.

“The Blessed Mother’s helped us before, and she’s going to get us through this.”

The cathedral’s breakfast sandwich line for the homeless and the food pantry will continue to operate for the time being, he said. But the local chapter of St. Vincent DePaul, which typically provides about $5,000 worth of support per month to families in need, is “out of money.”

Catholics will likely help parishes first

Mario Enzler, program director for the Online Masters of Science in Ecclesial Administration and Management at the Catholic University of America, told CNA he recommends to priests that a parish keep on hand enough money for at least one month of operations.

He said parish priests— many of whom are former students in his program— have been calling him asking for advice during the coronavirus crisis.

"Yes, cash flow will suffer...but as I told several priests, you'll be blown away by how your parishioners will become a force for unity," Enzler said.

He said he also recently spoke to a diocesan vicar general, who is concerned about the diocesan annual appeal. That's different, he said.

"Parishioners will, first and foremost, identify themselves as a member of a specific parish, rather than of a diocese," Enzler said.

"So people will help the pastor before they think, I have to also help the bishop and the chancery and so on and so forth."

Enzler said he has been telling priests who have been reaching out to him asking for advice on how to communicate with parishioners simply not to go into "panic mode."

Talking to the priests who have contacted him, he said, "I did not sense a panic. There is a concern, they are aware of the financial repercussions, but at the same time with good crisis management skills, with good communication skills, with good use of digital platforms, they're not going to be penalized."

Reserves can help

Parishes in many dioceses have the option of depositing funds with the diocese as a kind of savings account. 

Father Ryan Hilderbrand, pastor of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Huntingburg, Indiana, told CNA that in the Diocese of Evansville, parishes sends excess money to a reserve fund managed by diocese which functions like a bank for parishes; he told CNA deposits can be withdrawn at any time for any reason.

Hilderbrand said this method of saving keeps the parish’s cash safe from market fluctuations.

“Generally speaking, if I ask the diocese for cash out of our savings, I will have a check in-hand within 48 hours,” he said.

Hilderbrand said his savings at diocese, along with endowments from parishioners has allowed the parish to build up a reserve fund. The priest estimates he could pay for parish staff and upkeep of the parish for six months, even if all income dried up. 

‘My parish has been blessed with great financial stability in the past. We have not had to use those proceeds [from the endowments] for many years,” he said.

“Thus, those proceeds have been building up over the years. If we need to tap into them, we can.”

Enzler said many priests throughout the country will have to make a similar calculation, and many people will likely have to share resources to keep parishes afloat during the coronavirus crisis.

He recommended that parishes especially well-prepared for a crisis ought to call up struggling parishes and offer to share resources. Dioceses, too, ought to do the same for fellow dioceses, he said.

“If a pastor knows that a neighboring parish is suffering, and he has an abundance of assets or goods, yes, he should share them with common sense. Because the goods of the parish belong to the people of God,” he said. 

Ultimately, Enzler said, if parishes don't have access to an emergency fund, it's simply time to turn the heat in the church down to 50— something Father Lajoie said he plans to do as soon as he can.

"If we have to all sacrifice, this is what we as Catholics are called to," Enzler said.

"This is an amazing opportunity for all of us to come together and help one another and love one another, and to not leave our priests alone."

Prosecutors appeal dismissal of Pittsburgh priest's conviction for sex abuse

Tue, 03/17/2020 - 14:01

Pittsburgh, Pa., Mar 17, 2020 / 12:01 pm (CNA).- Allegheny County prosecutors are appealing a judge's decision to vacate the conviction of Fr. Hugh Lang, who is accused of having assaulted a boy in 2001.

On March 9 Allegheny County Commons Pleas Judge Anthony Mariani said he was granting Fr. Lang a new trial.

He said the priest had been denied a fair trial because the previous judge had allowed prosecutors to submit evidence that Fr. Lang had searched the internet for defense attorney shortly before the 2018 release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report on allegations of clerical sex abuse of minors.

Prosecutors have said the internet search demonstrated “consciousness of guilt,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports, while Mariani responded that the search could have been for other reasons, such as looking on behalf an accused colleague, or out of fear of being falsely accused.

He also said there is a right to search for and receive attorneys, which can't be used to demonstrate guilt.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Assistant District Attorney Gregory Stein “said the evidence wasn’t the same as evidence that a suspect actually hired or consulted with an attorney, which appellate court rulings have said can’t be used against a defendant.”

Mariani had sentenced Fr. Lang to 9-24 months in jail, but delayed implementation.

The priest's accuser said that he was assaulted during an altar boy training at St. Therese of Lisieux parish in Munhall when he was 11. He said Fr. Lang molested and photographed him.

Fr. Lang, 89, has denied the abuse.

He was ordained in 1956, and retired in 2006.

The Diocese of Pittsburgh received the allegation against Fr. Lang in August 2018. His faculties are restricted.

Following Mariani's decision to grant Fr. Lang a new trial, Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh said that “the Church … will wait until all court proceedings are completed before moving forward in its canonical process.”

How, and why, to watch Mass online during coronavirus

Mon, 03/16/2020 - 17:00

Chicago, Ill., Mar 16, 2020 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- With public Masses suspended in many U.S. dioceses due to the outbreak of COVID-19, many bishops and pastors have suggested that Catholics can benefit from increased personal prayer, and watching a live broadcast of Mass while making a spiritual communion from home. 

Fr. Dan Folwaczny, associate pastor at St. Norbert and Our Lady of the Brook Parish in Northbrook, IL, told CNA that watching Mass online or on tv is one way for Catholics to stay connected with the parish and the Church, even if they cannot gather together.

Folwaczny’s parish decided to begin livestreaming Mass after the Archdiocese of Chicago suspended public liturgies.

Celebrating Mass in a near empty room is “definitely kind of strange,” Folwaczny told CNA on Monday, March 16. 

“Normally, when you are saying the prayers, it's very easy to look out over the congregation and see who's there and you know, what comes to mind,” he said, explaining that being able to see the assembly helps to remind him of the circumstances of individual parishioners and remember them in his prayers. 

While churches are closed for the time being, Fr. Folwaczny echoed the encouragement of many priests and bishops for the faithful to tune into Mass if possible, and to make a spiritual communion. 

A spiritual communion, he explained, “is a way for us to say, okay, whatever the reason is, I can’t receive communion at this moment.” 

“But what happens at communion? We enter into this deep relationship, this presence of the grace of Jesus Christ and in the Eucharist in particular, His body and soul and divinity. And so as Catholics, we want that. We want that deep communion with our God. But again, it's not always possible,” he said.  

When making a spiritual communion, the person “asks God in prayer in those moments when He knows that this thing is not possible for us at this time, to still come into our hearts at least spiritually, to come into our lives, to continue to fill us with the grace that we need to be sustained, even though we can’t receive the Eucharist at this time,” Folwaczny explained. 

For most of the Church’s history--until the early 20th century--Catholics did not habitually receive the Eucharist every Sunday. Folwaczny told CNA that he hopes this uncertain time of suspended Masses and decreased physical access to the sacraments will help Catholics “enter into a deeper solidarity with those around the world” who still lack access to regular Masses, either because of the remoteness of where they live, a shortage of priests, or the threat of violence. 

Fr. Folwaczny said that Catholics should still remember to keep the Sabbath holy even though there may be no chance to physically attend a Mass. 

“Set aside time on Sunday or Saturday evening to go through the readings for the day, to try and pray together as a family, or if they don’t have others living with them, to pray on their own,” he said. 

“The hope is that with this access now to live streaming, that it's a way too that people can hear from their own pastors and their own priests. And I think that's something that still matters to your average parishioner, that they can still feel a sense of connection.”

If your parish is not live-streaming Mass, here are five places Mass can be streamed or watched, in a variety of time zones, languages, and rites:

EWTN 

EWTN’s YouTube Channel contains videos of nearly all of the television channel’s programming, including daily and Sunday Masses. It can be found here.

LiveMass.net

LiveMass.net is an apostolate of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP), and the website streams the Tridentine Mass (also known as the extraordinary form) five times each weekday and eight times each Sunday. In addition to Masses, the website also occasionally streams compline, vespers, and a Holy Hour. An exact schedule can be found on the website.

Catholic Information Center
The Catholic Information Center, an apostolate of the Opus Dei located in Washington, D.C., will be streaming daily Mass, as well as a rosary and Eucharistic adoration, each weekday on their website, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, starting at 9:30 a.m. EDT. Click here for their YouTube channel. 

Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels

The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, the seat of the Archbishop of Los Angeles, streams Mass live in both English and Spanish on Sundays, and in English throughout the week. Past Masses are then uploaded to the cathedral’s YouTube channel.  

Archdiocese of Chicago

Due to the threat of COVID-19, the Archdiocese of Chicago announced that daily Mass from St. Joseph’s Chapel will be streamed each day starting March 17. Sunday Mass is streamed in English, Spanish, and Polish on the archdiocese’s website.

How coronavirus is affecting pro-life Democrat's primary campaign

Mon, 03/16/2020 - 16:30

Chicago, Ill., Mar 16, 2020 / 02:30 pm (CNA).- In a presidential election year, an ‘October Surprise’ can alter the course of an entire election. This March, a global pandemic presents a unique challenge to candidates during the primary season. 

On Tuesday, March 17, Illinois Democratic voters will choose their presidential candidate in the state’s Democratic Primary. Residents of the third congressional district in Chicago’s south side will also vote to re-elect eight-term Catholic Congressman Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), or to support his pro-abortion opponent Marie Newman.

Lipinski is recognized as one of the last remaining pro-life Democrats in federal office. He has supported the Hyde Amendment—a prohibition on taxpayer funding of elective abortions—as well as a “pain-capable” 20-week abortion ban. He is locked in his second consecutive primary battle with Newman, a pro-abortion candidate who has received support from national pro-abortion groups such as Planned Parenthood, the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), and EMILY’s List.

In 2018, Lipinski scored a narrow 2,000-vote victory over Newman after a bruising primary fight, before recording a comfortable general election victory in the safely-Democratic district. Last year, Newman once again announced her intent to run against Lipinski.

Now, in the days leading up to the long-anticipated primary night, preventive measures at the state and national level are being taken to stop the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and they are expected to significantly alter a race that is receiving national attention.

“It’s really flipped the script,” Lipinski campaign spokesman Phil Davidson told CNA of the coronavirus. “Turnout is going to be lower—how low remains to be seen.”

Early voting through mail-in ballots and specific sites “has been pretty good,” Davidson said, which is “encouraging, based on the results we’ve seen so far.”

Last Monday, the state’s governor J.B. Pritzker issued an official disaster declaration as the virus spread.

There were more than 4,100 confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S. as of Monday afternoon, according to the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Of the total U.S. cases, there were 91 active cases in Illinois.

Some states and localities were either encouraging people to stay home or had actively shut down non-essential businesses.

One key marquee event scrapped over public health concerns was Chicago’s South Side Irish Parade, a 41 year-old tradition held in the 19th ward in the third district, where lots of Lipinski’s base of Irish Catholic Democrats gather annually.

“To lose that, it stinks, obviously,” Davidson said, “when there was going to be one big final push.”

“You’ve just got to adjust and figure out a Plan B,” he said, noting that some volunteers are still canvassing for the campaign but are standing 10 feet away from the door per instructions. Large events, including an election night party, have been cancelled, and the campaign is putting more emphasis on remote activities like phone banking as concerns over public health continue.

Some pro-life groups, including Democrats for Life of America, had originally planned to support the campaign with volunteers coming in from out of town to knock on doors.

While there has been some support from pro-lifers and others, it has not amounted to as much as originally hoped for, Davidson said.

Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life of America, told CNA on Monday that the group was still working in tandem with Students for Life to canvas for Lipinski in the district.

“We’ve been here all weekend,” Day said, noting that around 20 volunteers were working on Sunday, going from door to door and asking questions or leaving campaign literature on the doorstep.

While attitudes towards taxpayer-funded abortion were largely “mixed,” Day said, many people strongly supported policies of late-term abortion restrictions and mandatory care for babies who survive abortions. The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which Lipinski has signed a petition to bring a House vote on, requires health care workers to provide necessary care for babies who survive botched abortion attempts.

The volunteers were able to flip some households for Lipinski, Day said, and some voters were surprised to learn about the extreme abortion support at the upper levels of the party’s leadership and presidential field.

“A lot of people don’t realize where the Democratic Party has shifted on this issue,” Day said.

At a Democratic presidential debate on Sunday night in Washington, D.C., front-runner Joe Biden reaffirmed his recent opposition to the Hyde Amendment, at the prodding of rival Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.). The Hyde Amendment has for decades received support from both parties in Congress, and bars taxpayer funding of elective abortions largely through Medicaid reimbursements.

Sanders, citing an “unprecedented assault” on “a woman’s right to control her own body,” brought up Biden’s past support for the policy and asked if he still supported it.

Biden, a Catholic who was vice president from 2009-2017 and a senator who was first elected in 1972, replied that it was “not my view.” Last summer, Biden had reversed his position and opposed Hyde while facing backlash from other Democrats.

He added that “by the way, everybody who’s been in the Congress voted for the Hyde Amendment at one point or another, because it was locked in other bills.” 

In response, Day said that “it just saddens me” that Biden would just turn his back on women in this case.”

However, she said that the pro-life vote could help vault Lipinski over the top in Tuesday’s primary.

“I think if the pro-life vote gets out and votes, the results should hopefully be pretty good tomorrow,” Day said.

How should healthcare be distributed when hospitals are overwhelmed?

Mon, 03/16/2020 - 14:01

New York City, N.Y., Mar 16, 2020 / 12:01 pm (CNA).-   As there are concerns over the ability of the healthcare system to manage the coronavirus pandemic, discussions are being had over what criteria should be used if healthcare must be rationed.



Globally, there are 153,517 confirmed cases of Covid-19, and 5,735 deaths.

In Italy, where the virus has hit particularly hard, some doctors have said they have had to overlook older patients to focus on younger ones who are more likely to survive.

And in the UK some doctors have said they may have to prioritize care for those patients with better chances of surviving.

As these conversations are being had, CNA spoke via email with Charlie Camosy, an associate professor of theology at Fordham University, about what principles should be used as doctors might face such choices.

Among Camosy's research interests are bioethics and distributive justice. Among his works are Too Expensive to Treat? Finitude, Tragedy and the Neonatal ICU and Resisting Throwaway Culture: How a Consisten Life Ethic Can Unite a Fractured People.

 

 

What principles should be used in deciding how to distribute limited treatment for coronavirus?

The first thing to say is that there are virtually no universally agreed-upon principles to do this--excepting, perhaps, the idea that health care providers, first-responders, law enforcement, and others primarily responsible for the day-to-day functioning of the polity should get priority.

Beyond that, there is tremendous disagreement – at least in the culture at large. What one believes about this largely come from their first principles related to what they believe in their hearts and souls about the good, true, and beautiful.

Catholics, of course, have these principles...and they differ especially from the utilitarian mindset that dominates so much of secular ethics and medicine today. We serve the most vulnerable first. Those people are Christ to us in a special way and we will be judged according to how we treat them. We don't think about, say, how long they might stay on a ventilator vs. how long someone we might encounter next week might stay on a ventilator. We also don't think about how long they might have to live if the treatment is successful vs. how long other someone we might encounter next week might live if their treatment is successful.

It makes sense, especially in a triage situation, to treat those first who are most likely to benefit from the treatment. And there many be a disproportionate number of younger people in the former category. But that is not the same as deciding that we ought to prefer to the young to the old because they have longer to live. Some of the ways very public figures have downplayed the threat by talking about it it mostly affecting the old have been disturbing. As soon as a Catholic hears that we should be outraged and leap to the defense of this already marginalized population which bears the faith of Christ in a special way.

You said in a recent Twitter thread that many providers are 'uncritically utilitarian' in rationing. How exactly? By using the Quality-Adjusted Life Year model?

Well, I think the QALY model reinforces something that was already there. Scientists and medics, in addition to being disproportionately secular, have absorbed a utilitarian mindset in which probably ultimately come down to solving an equation. While that might feel better than living in the uncertainty and messiness of Christian ethics, the decision about how to handle what is coming our way are too complex to think about this way.

Do you believe that "help those who can likely benefit from treatment first" is a good principle?

I do.

Could you address what Catholics should do in their daily lives amid coronavirus to practice the Church's social teaching?

The Church has been at its finest in plagues and pandemics. We need to live our our principles now more than ever.

US reporting mechanism for episcopal abuse cases launched

Mon, 03/16/2020 - 12:33

Washington D.C., Mar 16, 2020 / 10:33 am (CNA).- A national third-party reporting system for allegations of abuse, neglect, or misconduct against bishops in the US has launched.

The Catholic Bishop Abuse Reporting Service is operated by Convercent Inc., “an independent, third-party entity that provides intake services to private institutions for reports of sensitive topics such as sexual harassment through a secure, confidential and professional platform” according to a March 16 statement from the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City.

The system gathers and routes reports of abuse to the appropriate ecclesial authorities, so that the reports can then be investigated.

The reporting system does not replace reporting abuse to civil authorities, but some reports, such as those of sexual abuse of a minor, will be conveyed also to civil authorities.

The system is meant only for allegations involving bishops.

It allows for reports of a US bishop who has forced someone to perform or to submit to sexual acts through violence, threat, or abuse of authority; performed sexual acts with a minor or a vulnerable person; produced, exhibited, possessed or distributed child pornography, or recruited or induced a minor or a vulnerable person to participate in pornographic exhibitions; or a bishop or administrator of a local Church who has “intentionally interfered with a civil or Church investigation into allegations of sexual abuse committed by another cleric or religious.”

In Nocember 2019, the general counsel for the US bishops' conference said that a process would be in place promptly to filter out irrelevant claims and ensure that allegations pertain to bishops and to those acts of misconduct for which the system is meant.

When a report is received through the system, it will be forwarded to the metropolitan archbishop “and a designated lay staff member who will assess the report.” If the report regards the metropolitan or the metropolitan see is vacant, it will go instead to the senior suffragan bishop, and to a member of the bishop's staff.

After review by the metropolitan and a layman, the report will be sent to the apostolic nuncio with an initial assessment; he will in turn send the report and assessment to the Holy See, which will determine if a formal investigation is warranted. If so, it will authorize a bishop to oversee it. The investigators will include lay persons, and should normally be completed within 90 days of the Holy See's determination.

The system is paid for the by dioceses and eparchies of the US.

In September 2018, the US bishops’ executive committee had initially proposed a third-party reporting mechanism to handle accusations made against bishops. The decision followed new claims of sex abuse that had been made against Theodore McCarrick in the summer of 2018; in August, McCarrick was removed from the College of Cardinals and assigned a life of prayer and penance.

At their November 2018 meeting, however, the U.S. bishops did not take substantive action on the abuse crisis following instructions from the Vatican that they not act until a clergy sex abuse summit in Rome would be convened in February 2019.

After that February summit, Pope Francis issued his apostolic letter Vos estis lux mundi, which outlined a canonical process of handling accusations of abuse, neglect, or misconduct made against bishops.

To handle such accusations, the U.S. bishops voted overwhelmingly at their June 2019 to authorize a third-party reporting mechanism to receive accusations made online or by phone.

Biden pledges support for abortion legislation and funding

Mon, 03/16/2020 - 11:35

Washington D.C., Mar 16, 2020 / 09:35 am (CNA).- Former vice president Joe Biden reaffirmed his support for taxpayer funded abortion during Sunday night’s Democratic presidential debate with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

Midway through the debate, after Biden announced that he would select a woman as his vice presidential candidate, Sanders proceeded to attack Biden for his past support of the Hyde Amendment. The Hyde Amendment prohibits the use of Medicaid funds to pay for abortion, and was, until June 2019, supported by Biden. 

“Right now, a woman’s right to control her own body is under massive assault, unprecedented assault,” said Sanders, a statement with which Biden signaled his agreement. 

“Joe, you have in the past on more than one occasion, voted for the Hyde Amendment, which says that a woman, low-income woman, could not use Medicaid funding for an abortion. Is that still your view or have you modified it?” 

Biden, a Catholic who made his faith the center of a recent campaign video, replied that this was “not my view,” and that “by the way, everybody who’s been in the Congress voted for the Hyde Amendment at one point or another, because it was locked in other bills.” 

He said the reason his view on the Hyde Amendment had reversed in recent years is because  “if we’re going to have public funding for all healthcare along the line, there is no way you could allow for there to be a requirement that you have Hyde Amendment.”

Sanders replied that he was “glad” Biden had changed his view on the Hyde Amendment.

The 2016 Democratic Party platform, which was adopted at the Democratic National Convention that year, was the first in the party’s history to call for the repeal of the Hyde Amendment. 

On Sunday, Biden also promised, if elected president, to cement abortion rights in fedral law to ptoect them against future decisions by the Supreme Court. The 77-year-old candidate said he would “send immediately to the desk of the United States Congress (...), a codification of Roe v Wade amended by Casey. Because I think it is a woman’s right to choose. I think it’s a woman’s opportunity to be able to make that decision.” 

Biden then boasted about his 100% voter-rating from NARAL, an abortion-rights organization. 

Sanders described his views on abortion as “consistent,” and that “I’ve always believed in that and you have not.” 

Despite Biden’s suggestion that his past votes for the Hyde Amendment were only to ensure the passage of omnibus spending bills, during his 36 years in the Senate and eight years as vice president, he has reversed himself a number of times on the issue of abortion. 

While he largely supported the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision that found a legal right to abortion, Roe v. Wade, Biden said in 1974 he believed the decision “went too far.”

In 1984, then-Senator Biden supported the Mexico City Policy, which bars taxpayer funding of foreign NGOs that promote or perform abortion as a method of family planning. He was also for years a supporter of the Hyde Amendment, which bars taxpayer funding of elective abortions in the U.S.  

In 1981, he voted for a constitutional amendment allowing states to overturn Roe v. Wade; but the next year he voted against such an amendment.

In the 2008 vice presidential debate, he bragged about spearheading “the fight against Judge Bork,” a Supreme Court judicial nominee in 1987, warning that Bork would have changed Roe v. Wade if he were confirmed to the Court.

In a 2008 interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Biden said Roe is “as close to a consensus that can exist in a society as heterogeneous as ours” in that it left decisions on life to the mother in the first trimester of pregnancy, allowed the states some intervention in the second trimester, and that “the weight of the government’s input” in the third trimester is that the pregnancy is carried to term.

In a 2012 vice presidential debate, Biden warned that the opposing ticket would appoint judges who would outlaw abortion, and promised that a Democratic administration would not do that.

Biden’s 2020 campaign platform calls for the codification of Roe v. Wade as federal law. It also would ensure, as part of a health care “public option,” coverage of “a woman’s constitutional right to choose.”

The topic of gay marriage was also discussed during the debate. Sanders criticized Biden for his vote in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act, which was struck down by the Supreme Court in June 2013. Sanders voted against the bill. 

Biden, who has officiated at least one same-sex wedding, proceeded to credit himself for helping to change society’s view on gay marriage.

“And by the way, I might add, I’m the first person to go on national television in any administration and say, I supported gay marriage,” said Biden. “I supported gay marriage when asked. It started a ripple effect for gay marriage on national television.”

The debate, which was moved from Arizona to Washington, DC, due to fears of COVID-19, was held without a studio audience. There are three candidates remaining in the Democratic primary. In addition to Biden and Sanders, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) remains in the race.

Washington Catholic priest is first in US known to be diagnosed with coronavirus

Sun, 03/15/2020 - 15:45

Yakima, Wash., Mar 15, 2020 / 01:45 pm (CNA).- A priest in the Diocese of Yakima, Washington, is the first U.S. priest known to be diagnosed with COVID-19, the coronavirus that has become a global pandemic.

Fr. Alejandro Trejo, pastor of Our Lady of the Desert parish in Mattawa, was struck with a high fever March 1, and began on that date to self-quarantine. On March 7 he was admitted to a hospital with the symptoms of pneumonia. He was diagnosed with COVID-19 this weekend.

“Father Alex continues to recover well and we are appreciative of the prayers of many, many parishioners, and the excellent care of the hospital staff,” Bishop Joseph Tyson said in a diocesan statement March 15.

“We also are very thankful for the work of the Grant County Health District,” he said. The diocese has worked closely with the district to identify those with whom the priest has been in close contact for the past month. Two tests earlier this week were inconclusive. A third test requested by the district was positive, the Diocese learned late last night,” he added.

In February, the priest made an eight-day pilgrimage to the Holy Land, returning Feb. 18 to the U.S. Those who were on the pilgrimage have been contacted by public health officials.

Before Trejo was diagnosed, the Diocese of Yakima took precautionary measures, initiating a deep cleaning of the parish church, classrooms, and rectory, and working with Grant County Health District officials to identify those who might have come into close contact with the priest.

Trejo, 48, has been kept in an isolation unit. Bishop Tyson has visited the priest twice, wearing protective medical gear to avoid infection. The bishop plans to visit him again Sunday. Trejo is expected to be released within the week to continue his recovery in a private residence.

In the Diocese of Yakima, Trejo has served as pastor to several parishes, and assisted with the formation of permanent deacons and with RCIA in the diocese.

Trejo has been pastor of Our Lady of the Desert since 2016; Mattawa is a small central Washington community along the east side of the Columbia River. The area has sizable populations of migrant farm laborers.

“Mattawa is a close-knit community, and the parish is the center of many people’s lives,” Tyson said.

“The parish church is small and usually filled to overflowing, especially at the Spanish Masses,” the bishop noted.

Tyson met with parish leaders Saturday to discuss the possibility of a positive coronavirus diagnosis.

Trejo, ordained in 2003, is a native of Mexico City, and became a U.S. citizen eight years ago.

After Washington’s governor prohibited gatherings of more than 250 people in the state, public Masses were suspended across the Diocese of Yakima this weekend; that suspension is expected to continue indefinitely.

The state of Washington has been the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S.; the first known U.S. case of the virus was announced Jan. 21 in the state. Since that time, more than 600 people in the state have been diagnosed with the virus, and at least 40 have died. Most of those infections have been documented in the Seattle metropolitan area; roughly 150 miles from Mattawa.

At least one priest in Italy has died of coronavirus, and local media reports that six others may also have died. Earlier this month, a French priest was hospitalized with coronavirus, and last week a priest in Peru was among the first patients to be hospitalized for coronavirus in that country.

Museum of the Bible's Dead Sea Scroll collection fake, scientists say

Sat, 03/14/2020 - 14:00

Washington D.C., Mar 14, 2020 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- The Museum of the Bible announced Friday that its entire collection of “Dead Sea Scroll” fragments have been proven to be forgeries, according to tests conducted at its request.  

The museum housed a collection of 16 fragments it claimed to be part of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which are considered to be some of the oldest extant Biblical manuscripts.

However, in 2018 the museum announced that, according to an external analysis, five of the 16 scroll fragments were probably forgeries.

On Friday, National Geographic reported that tests concluded all 16 fragments were forgeries.

A series of scientific tests of the fragments were conducted by Colette Loll, founder and director of Art Fraud Insights, and a team of researchers. The test results were announced at an invitation-only academic symposium on Friday.

“After an exhaustive review of all the imaging and scientific analysis results, it is evident that none of the textual fragments in Museum of the Bible’s Dead Sea Scroll collection are authentic,” Loll stated.

Some of the fragments’ characteristics “suggest they are deliberate forgeries created in the twentieth century,” she said.

The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered by Bedouin shepherds in the 1940s, in caves in Qumran.

The Museum of the Bible was opened in 2017 and claims to be the “world’s largest museum dedicated to the Bible.” Its chairman of the board is Steve Green, who is also the president of the craft chain Hobby Lobby.

When the museum was under construction in 2015, Green touted that the museum’s collection of Biblical items was one of the largest private collections in the world.

On Friday, Loll praised what she saw as “transparent” efforts by the museum to publicly announce the forgeries instead of simply removing them from display. The process can be copied elsewhere to identify other fake artifacts, she said.

“The sophisticated and costly methods employed to discover the truth about our collection could be used to shed light on other suspicious fragments and perhaps even be effective in uncovering who is responsible for these forgeries,” stated Dr. Jeffrey Kloha, chief curatorial officer at the Museum of the Bible.

Other items in the museum’s collection have raised questions in recent years.

In 2017, the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a civil forfeiture complaint and a stipulation of settlement, in which Hobby Lobby agreed to send back around 3,500 artifacts to Iraq that it had purchased in 2010.

Green had made the purchase of more than 5,500 cuneiform tablets and other artifacts in 2010 after a trip to the United Arab Emirates, despite warnings from experts that some of the items were probably stolen from archeological sites in Iraq.

Most of the artifacts were shipped into the U.S. by foreign antiquities dealers who made false statements on shipping labels and gave fake provenances and invoices, according to the DOJ.

Anxious about the global pandemic? Advice from a Catholic psychologist

Sat, 03/14/2020 - 08:00

Denver, Colo., Mar 14, 2020 / 06:00 am (CNA).- While the coronavirus has Americans scrambling for canned goods, respirator masks, and especially toilet paper, one Catholic psychologist has encouraged people to take deep breaths and remain calm.

The World Health Organization labeled the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, a world-class pandemic this week. Since then, panic and anxiety have become common experiences.

Dr. Christina Lynch, a supervising psychologist for Denver’s St. John Vianney Theological Seminary, told CNA that fear of the pandemic is normal. But even in the global health crisis, she said, peace is not beyond our reach.

“Being frightened about something that we don't understand is normal. I think the first thing we have to do is normalize our emotions and realize it's okay. We all are uncertain. We don't know what the future holds,” she said. “We fear the unknown. We want to be in control.”

As of March 13, the virus has infected over 140,000 people and claimed nearly 5,400 lives, the NY Times reported. U.S. President Donald Trump declared the crisis a national emergency Friday afternoon.

Coronavirus expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said the situation will worsen, noting that the pandemic will last for several months. The option of a complete social shutdown is not off the table for Americans, he said.

Amid the anxiety, people have rushed to local supermarkets to stock up on medicine, hand sanitizer, and, curiously, toilet paper.

Videos have appeared online under the hashtags #toiletpaperpanic or #toiletpaperapocalypse, which show stores with empty shelves, and even fights breaking out over rolls of two-ply.

Lynch said that the hoarding of toilet paper conveys a panicked mob mentality taking root. But there are means to remain calm in the face of the upcoming storm.

She offered a few techniques to help quell rising anxiety levels.

Lynch encouraged people prone to anxiety to pay close attention to expert advice on avoiding the virus, like washing hands, wiping down surfaces, and limiting interactions with large crowds. She said that for most people, following substantiated advice will help diminish any sense of panic and worry.

She also suggested Catholics can make the practice of handwashing an opportunity for prayer. For example, she said washing hands while saying a Hail Mary takes about 20 seconds, the expert-recommended amount of time at the sink.

Lynch also said anyone can benefit from reflecting on how they’ve already conquered anxiety, and then practicing calming routines that have worked in the past.

“It's a very normal reaction to be fearful or concerned…[but] you don't want to fan the flame of that fear. So what are the steps that you can take, knowing yourself?” she asked.

In general, Lynch said, people can benefit from breathing techniques, which help equalize the body and reduce anxiety.

“Breathing is one of the best self-calming tools we can have. You know, just relaxing and creating a habit twice a day to just take some deep breaths, close our eyes, hold our breath and exhale... You [may] pray a Hail Mary while you're holding your breath and then you calmly exhale.”

Lynch said there are also plenty of spiritual practices to help Catholics handle anxiety.

Lynch suggested Catholics look up the devotional practices recommended by their local diocese. Even if churches have canceled their Masses, she said, Catholics can also watch the Mass on channels like EWTN, or online, she said.

“We're so blessed to have our faith, the Catholic faith because we have so many tools from a spiritual perspective. I think this is a great opportunity because we're so busy in our daily life that we can use this to actually develop some spiritual habits, and incorporate them in this attempt to reduce her anxiety.”

“Maybe develop a habit of just spending five to 15 minutes every morning when you first get up. Maybe get up a little bit earlier and just pray, whether it's silent … read[ing]scripture ... or pray[ing] a decade of the rosary,” she said.

Lynch urged people monitor their intake of media, especially news sources that have politicized the virus or promoted fear.

“Some of the things that we know we can do to counteract fear is limit your media coverage from sources that want to instill fear. Like, those that politicized the virus or those that only focus on the bad stuff that's happening with the virus or what could happen rather than the facts,” Lynch advised.

She acknowledged that the virus is likely to spread and there is a chance that many people will be impacted. She emphasized the value of taking practical steps in being prepared for self-quarantine.

And Lynch encouraged Catholics to see the spiritual opportunity in the weeks ahead.

“We're so used to being in control. This is a great opportunity to know that God's in control and to just give him more control and pray a prayer of trust to God every day.”

 

Arkansas diocese cancels public Triduum services, but keeps ministry alive

Fri, 03/13/2020 - 19:55

Little Rock, Ark., Mar 13, 2020 / 05:55 pm (CNA).- As efforts to thwart the coronavirus pandemic continue, one diocese has announced that public Masses will be suspended until after the celebration of Easter, and that only new Catholics entering the Church will be permitted at parish and diocesan Triduum Masses and services.

The Easter Triduum is regarded as the high point in the Church’s liturgical year. But the Diocese of Little Rock, Arkansas, told CNA that while it is difficult to keep Catholics away from Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday, it also seems necessary.

“We made this decision out of an abundance of caution,” Deacon Matt Glover, Little Rock’s diocesan chancellor, told CNA.

“This is a preventative measure for our more vulnerable populations,” Glover added.

The measure was announced in a March 12 letter from Little Rock’s Bishop Anthony Taylor. While numerous dioceses have announced this week the suspension of public Masses, Taylor’s was the first letter to make specific mention of the Easter Triduum. Many other dioceses have suspended public Masses until the weekend of Palm Sunday, apparently hoping to resume services for Holy Week.

“While COVID-19 is unlikely to be serious for most people, we have an obligation to care for the very young, the aged, and those with compromised immune systems. And the best way we can care for them is minimizing large group gatherings for the time being,” Taylor wrote.

Those entering the Church at Easter will be permitted to attend Triduum services, while others will watch online or on television.

Glover acknowledged that there have been only few cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas; as of Friday there are six documented cases in the state. But he said that the diocese wants to be sure not to contribute to the viral spread. He added that if COVID-19 does not become widespread in Arkansas, the diocese will reconsider its decision.

“In two or three weeks time, if things go well, COVID-19 is contained, with no community spread, then there is nothing to say that we wouldn’t lift the prohibition, but we made this decision to be cautious,” he added.

The deacon said that some people in the diocese have expressed gratitude for a proactive decision. But he acknowledged that others have expressed frustration.

“I would be upset if there weren’t people upset,” Glover told CNA. “It’s a sign of people’s strong faith when they’re upset that they can’t go to Mass, receive the Eucharist, or attend Triduum services,” he added.

Glover said that the Diocese of Little Rock is trying to make the best decisions possible, with the information available. He said he thinks that’s true across the Church. But he said he also recognizes the approach of his diocese might not prove correct.

“We recognize that it could be that we’re way too early on this, and it could be that other places are way too late on this. I don’t think anybody would claim to have the definite right way to handle this.”

“I think diocesan leaders across the country are all just doing the best we can to balance the pros and cons, to make best decisions for the faith of Catholics, and for public health,” he said.

The deacon told CNA that Bishop Taylor and chancery staff will continue to watch what’s happening in the state, and they’ll look forward to hearing from pastors.

“We might make pastoral adjustments going forward,” Glover said. “We want to hear from priests in the field, and from other leaders, about what’s working and what’s not.”

The deacon said that while Masses are suspended, Arkansas priests are not sitting idly.

“We’ve seen priests take the initiative on offering confession and on other things. We hope to build on that [across the diocese].  We want to see what works.”

He said that priests have increased their confession times, begun making more home visits, offered more frequent anointing of the sick, live streamed daily Masses, and found other ways to stay connected to their parishioners.

The deacon said pastoral work amid the trial of a pandemic is impressive.

He also said that while Masses are suspended, the Diocese of Little Rock is concerned that parish and diocesan employees not suffer financial consequences.

“The parishes who rely on passing the collection basket, as opposed to electronic giving, will see numbers go down the longer things last,” Glover said, noting that many rural parishes operate on very thin budget margins.

“We just have to keep an eye on things. We don’t want parishes to suffer financially for it, or the lay staff, who are already underpaid in most instances, to be hurt even more.”

Glover said the diocese is “beginning to think about those bigger picture things,” as it responds to the pandemic, and will consider the best ways to help parishes survive the pandemic. The diocese is also concerned for employees, he said.

“We’re advising pastors to allow staff to telecommute, work from home. We don’t want any of our staff people missing wages. That’s the message that we’re sending out,” the deacon said.

While diocesan and parish leaders make decisions about how best to handle an unforeseen circumstance, Glover said he, and Arkansas' bishop, will continue to listen to parishioners, and look for creative ways to serve the Church’s mission.

As the pandemic becomes a national emergency, other dioceses may find themselves looking to Little Rock for lessons.

 

Trump declares national emergency over coronavirus

Fri, 03/13/2020 - 18:00

Washington D.C., Mar 13, 2020 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- President Donald Trump declared a state of national emergency on Friday, March 13, and outlined the steps that have been taken to fight the spread of COVID-19. According to the president, widespread testing for the virus will be available in the United States in the near future. 

"To unleash the full power of the federal government in this effort today, I am officially declaring a national emergency," said Trump. He stated that “no resource will be spared, nothing whatsoever” in fighting the disease. 

The president said that “through a very collective action and shared sacrifice, national determination, we will overcome the threat of the virus,” although he declined to provide an estimated timeline. 

Trump said that there has been “tremendous progress” made in the efforts against coronavirus. 

By declaring the coronavirus pandemic a national emergency, up to $50 billion in funds will become available to fight the illness. 

In a press conference Friday in the White House Rose Garden, Trump announced that some regulations could be waived in order to allow medical professionals to practice in areas with the highest need, and permit hospitals to more effectively treat patients. This could include relaxing laws on telemedicine as well as adjusting licensing requirements. 

The president ordered every state to create emergency operation centers, and requested that every hospital in the country “activate its emergency preparedness plan so that they can meet the needs of Americans everywhere.” 

At the press conference, CEOs from large retail chains such as Target, Walmart, and Walgreens, along with medical companies Quest Diagnostics and Roche, spoke briefly at the podium to outline what their companies are doing in the fight against coronavirus. According to the CEOs, drive-through testing sites similar to those found in South Korea may soon become available. 

Google, said Trump, will help create a website that will pre-screen people and determine if they should seek a test for coronavirus, and how they can acquire said test. The president stated that about half a million tests will become available by Monday, and that within a month, there will be 5 million tests available. 

Trump, when questioned, said that he did not accept responsibility for the present shortage of coronavirus tests. The United States has lagged behind other countries in the number of tests that have been administered, which he is seeking to address in the near future. 

Additionally, the president announced that student loan interest on federally-held loans would be paused, and that the Department of Energy would purchase crude oil for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. 

“We’re going to fill it right up to the top, saving the American taxpayer billions and billions of dollars, helping our oil industry,” said Trump, referring to the strategic reserve.

The stock market, which on Thursday registered one of the sharpest drops in 30 years, rose nearly 2,000 points after Trump’s speech.

House readies coronavirus response bill

Fri, 03/13/2020 - 17:30

Washington D.C., Mar 13, 2020 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- The House on Friday readied a bill for passage to fund a response to the Coronavirus pandemic, including free virus testing and paid sick leave.

In a press conference on Friday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) noted the “grave and accelerating challenge” of responding to the virus, and pushed for the passage of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201). 

Republican leadership was working with House Democrats on Friday afternoon to resolve issues with the text of the legislation, but was holding on to concerns that the legislation would not accomplish enough regarding family medical leave.

Earlier concerns over abortion funding in the bill were reportedly resolved Thursday.

On March 12, the Daily Caller had reported that White House officials accused Pelosi of setting up a funding stream in the bill that would be exempt from the Hyde Amendment, which bars federal funding of abortions. POLITICO then reported later on Thursday that the abortion issue would be resolved in a separate bill to be voted on by the House at the same time as the Coronavirus stimulus.

By Friday, the issue had been resolved: “Abortion funding is not an issue anymore,” an aide to Republican leadership told CNA on Friday afternoon.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on Friday, there are more than 1,600 cases of Coronavirus in the U.S. in 46 states and the District of Columbia, with 41 deaths as a result of the pandemic.

The three most important parts of the bill, Pelosi said, are “testing, testing, testing,” with free virus testing for those in need, including the uninsured. The initial U.S. response to the virus has been criticized for a lack of availability of effective testing.

Pelosi also noted that the bill includes two weeks paid sick and family medical leave for those affected by the virus, as well as support for unemployment insurance and strengthening food assistance for children who rely on school lunches, and food banks.

President Trump declared a National Emergency on Friday, saying it would open as much as $50 billion in aid to U.S. states and territories.

In a statement on Thursday, Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City highlighted various policies in the legislation that had been previously supported by the U.S. Catholic bishops’ conference, including provisions for food security, paid sick leave, and assistance for the unemployed, low-income workers, and the homeless.

Archbishop Coakley also encouraged Congress to suspend work requirements for food stamp benefits in light of the instability of certain industries due to the pandemic.

European Court of Human Rights declines to hear cases of pro-life midwives

Fri, 03/13/2020 - 16:12

Strasbourg, France, Mar 13, 2020 / 02:12 pm (CNA).- The European Court of Human Rights has declined to hear the case of two Swedish nurses denied midwife jobs because of their refusal to perform abortions.

“We are very disappointed by the Court’s decision not to take up the cases of Ms. Grimmark and Ms. Steen. A positive judgment from the Court would have been an important step in the protection of the right to freedom of conscience,” said Robert Clarke, Deputy Director of Alliance Defending Freedom International.

The court, based in Strasbourg, France, declined to hear their cases March 12.

“Medical professionals should be able to work without being forced to choose between their deeply held convictions and their careers.  Although freedom of conscience is protected as a fundamental right in almost every other European country, the decision today marks a missed opportunity to uphold this important protection in Sweden,” Clarke continued.

Though the court declined to hear the nurses’ cases, a committee ruled that the government’s refusal to employ the women as midwives was “not disproportionate or unjustified,” saying that since Sweden’s national health system performs abortions, the government has a right “to request that employees perform all duties inherent to the post.”

Linda Steen started her studies to become a midwife in 2014. According to her application, in March 2015 she informed the childbirth and delivery section at the women’s clinic in Nyköping, Sweden, where she was studying, that she would be unable to assist in carrying out abortions. She was told that she could not start at the clinic unless she agreed to perform abortions.

Steen sought a job interview at Mälar Hospital in Eskilstuna, but according to the application, the Human Resources Department of the County canceled the interview as the County had “a common policy not to employ midwives who would not perform abortions.”

Ellinor Grimmark’s situation was similar. After studying to become a midwife, she applied for a job at Värnamo Hospital, but when recruiters at the hospital found out she was unwilling to perform abortions, they withdrew a previous offer of employment.

Religious freedom advocates have argued that midwives – who specialize in pregnancy and childbirth – often choose their profession because they want to bring new life into the world, and they should not be forced to end life against their beliefs.

For her part, Grimmark said that is exactly why she chose to study to be a midwife.

“I chose to become a midwife because I wanted to help bring life into this world. I cannot understand why the Swedish government refuses to accommodate my conscientious convictions. I am now working in Norway, where my conscience is respected, but no-one can explain why Sweden cannot do the same,” Grimmark said.

Ultimately, Grimmark charged that three different medical clinics in Sweden’s southern Joenkoeping County unjustly denied her employment because of her objections to assisting in abortions.

In November 2015, a district court said her right to freedom of opinion and expression was not violated. She was required to pay the local government’s legal costs, nearly $106,000.

After losing their cases in Swedish courts, both women lodged their complaints with the ECHR during 2017, alleging violations of the European Convention on Human Rights.

There is no appeals process for the ECHR’s decision to decline to hear the case. The Court hears only 6 percent of cases brought before it, ADF International says.

Sweden has one of the highest abortion rates in Western Europe, with approximately 19 abortions for every 1,000 women in 2018 according to government figures.

Archdiocese of Washington ‘directs’ National Shrine to suspend public Mass

Fri, 03/13/2020 - 14:32

Washington D.C., Mar 13, 2020 / 12:32 pm (CNA).- The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception announced Friday afternoon it will suspend the public celebration of Mass and the hearing of confessions until further notice, just hours after the shrine said it would keep to its public Mass and confession schedule unless ordered to close by civic authorities.

A statement from the shrine, released Friday afternoon, said that the change came at the instruction of the Archdiocese of Washington, which announced Thursday the suspension of public Masses in DC parishes.

“The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception will suspend the public celebration of Mass and there will be no scheduled Confessions effective Saturday, March 14, until further notice, as directed by the Archdiocese of Washington,” the statement said.

“Beginning this Sunday, March 15, and continuing every Sunday, the Basilica will livestream its 12 noon Solemn Mass with the Choir of the Basilica from the Great Upper Church on its website so the faithful may participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.”

The Friday afternoon statement from the shrine said that the basilica will remain open for private prayer from 9 am to 5 pm daily, but that tours were suspended until further notice.

“We, at America’s Catholic Church, pray for all affected by the coronavirus pandemic, and ask the Blessed Virgin Mary, patroness of the United States under her title of the Immaculate Conception, to intercede for us during these unprecedented times,” the statement said.

The decision marked a reversal in plans for the basilica, which is the largest Catholic church in the U.S.

Earlier on Friday, shrine staff told CNA that the basilica would maintain its public ministry schedule, even after the Archdiocese of Washington announced Thursday that public Mass would be suspended in the archdiocese in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Jackie Hayes, director of communications for the National Shrine, confirmed to CNA on Friday morning that, notwithstanding Washington Archbishop Wilton Gregory’s decision to close the archdiocese’s Catholic schools and cancel all public Masses, the shrine would continue operations as normal. 

Hayes also told CNA that the shrine’s decision to keep offering public Mass had been made after consultation with the archdiocese.

While the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is located within the territorial bounds of the Archdiocese of Washington, it is not a diocesan church. Archbishop Wilton Gregory, as Washington archbishop, is ex officio chairman of the shrine’s board of directors.

On Thursday, shrine rector Msgr. Walter Rossi released a statement saying that unless the church is ordered by the government to cease operations, Mass and other sacraments will continue on their normal schedule.

“We are committed to keeping the doors of America’s Catholic Church open. However, should circumstances change and government authorities require us to close to the public, we intend to continue with the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass,” said Rossi. 

Rossi’s statement was released about five hours before Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Washington announced that all public Masses in the archdiocese would be canceled until further notice. 

'God does not abandon us': US bishops urge prayer, state action over coronavirus

Fri, 03/13/2020 - 13:30

Washington D.C., Mar 13, 2020 / 11:30 am (CNA).- Catholic bishops in the United States offered prayers and encouragement as Congress considers a relief package for the Coronavirus.

Conference president Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles released a statement Friday invoking Our Lady of Guadalupe and encouraging Catholics to pray.

“God does not abandon us,” Gomez said. “He goes with us even now in this time of trial and testing. In this moment, it is important for us to anchor our hearts in the hope that we have in Jesus Christ. Now is the time to intensify our prayers and sacrifices for the love of God and the love of our neighbor. Let us draw closer to one another in our love for him, and rediscover the things that truly matter in our lives.”

“United with our Holy Father Pope Francis, let us pray in solidarity for our brothers and sisters here and around the world who are sick. Let us pray for those who have lost loved ones to this virus. May God console them and grant them peace,” Gomez said.

“We pray also for doctors, nurses, and caregivers, for public health officials and all civic leaders. May God grant them courage and prudence as they seek to respond to this emergency with compassion and in service to the common good.”

On Thursday, Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City, the chair of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ domestic justice and human development committee, encouraged lawmakers to provide aid to those hardest-hit by the coronavirus.

“We are grateful for the efforts by lawmakers during this difficult time and urge them to go forward in finding a path to bring greater relief to everyone suffering from coronavirus and its effects on society, especially those most in need,” said Coakley Thursday.

“May the Divine Physician be with all those affected by this illness and restore us quickly to health and peace,” he said.

The archbishop’s statement came as the spread of the coronavirus in the United States prompted widespread cancellations or postponements of public events and restrictions on public Masses in a growing number of dioceses.

The director-general of the World Health Organization on Wednesday called the virus a pandemic. In the U.S., there were more than 1,200 total cases and 36 deaths from the Coronavirus, according to Thursday numbers of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

“We pray especially for those who are ill and for those who have died,” Archbishop Coakley said. “We also offer prayers for those affected by disruptions, such as quarantines and closures of workplaces and schools. Finally, we pray for health care workers, and express our gratitude for their service in combating this disease.”  

Several Catholic colleges and universities have cancelled in-person classes, and are making preparations to conduct courses online.

The Trump, Biden, and Sanders campaigns began cancelling public events and professional and collegiate sports organizations canceled sporting events indefinitely.

Congress is considering a stimulus package to respond to the Coronavirus, and the legislation is scheduled for a vote later on Friday.

Coakley noted that the bishops’ conference has previously supported some of the policies under consideration in the legislation, “such as increased food security measures, paid sick leave, adequate care for immigrants regardless of status, and greater assistance for low-income workers, the unemployed, and those experiencing homelessness or housing instability.”

The archbishop asked Congress to consider suspending work requirements for food stamp benefits given the instability of some industries affected by the virus.

Coakley also called for no immigration enforcement at locations such as hospitals and health clinics, and for a federal disaster declaration to free up additional federal funding of the pandemic response.

Do we have Mass? Coronavirus closures and dispensations in US dioceses

Fri, 03/13/2020 - 12:50

Washington D.C., Mar 13, 2020 / 10:50 am (CNA).- This story is developing and will be regularly updated.

Last updated: 12:27 PM MT.

In response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, bishops across the country have taken steps to curtail the spread of the illness, and many dioceses have announced restrictions on public Mass and other liturgies. 

Below is CNA’s rolling coverage of restrictions and special measures taken by dioceses, organized by province, and the status of public Masses and school closings. This list will be updated regularly as news comes in, but check with your diocese for any to-the-minute changes where you live.

To let CNA know about closings or dispensations in your diocese, email us here. Try to include a link to official notification if you can.

Province of Anchorage (Archdiocese of Anchorage, Dioceses of Juneau, and Fairbanks):

There have been no ordered changes to Mass schedules due to the coronavirus within the Archdiocese of Anchorage or any of its suffragan dioceses in Alaska. 

Province of Atlanta (Archdiocese of Atlanta, Dioceses of Savannah, Charleston, Raleigh, Charlotte):  

The Archdiocese of Atlanta issued a statement saying that “People who are ill should not attend Mass, but may participate from home by watching a televised or broadcast Mass. Remind your parishioners, if they are sick or if they are the caretaker for someone who is sick, their obligation to attend Mass is dispensed.” Mass schedule remains unchanged. 

Public Masses will continue as scheduled in the Dioceses of Charleston, Charlotte, Raleigh, and Savannah, but those who are sick or fearful of getting sick have been dispensed of the obligation to attend Sunday Mass.

Province of Baltimore (Archdiocese of Baltimore, Dioceses of Wheeling-Charleston, Willmington, Richmond, Arlington): 

The Archdiocese of Baltimore closed Catholic schools from March 16-27, but Mass will continue on a normal schedule. Those who are sick or fearful of getting sick have been dispensed of the obligation to attend Sunday Mass.

The Dioceses of Arlington, Richmond, Wheeling-Charleston, and Wilmington have not canceled public Mass, although some diocesean events have been canceled or postponed. 

Province of Boston (Archdiocese of Boston, Dioceses of Burlington, Fall River, Manchester, Portland, Springfield Ma., Worcester): 

Mass will occur as scheduled throughout the Archdiocese of Boston. Cardinal Sean O’Malley has ordered other public gatherings within the archdiocese to be canceled or postponed, but made an exception for Mass as it is “a necessary source of support for the community.” 

The Dioceses of Burlington, Fall River, Manchester, Portland, Springfield in Massachusetts, and Worcester will have Mass as normally scheduled, but the sick and those caring for the sick are instructed to stay home. 

Province of Chicago (Archdiocese of Chicago, Dioceses of Belleville, Joliet, Peoria, Rockford, Springfield Ill.): 

The Archdiocese of Chicago has suspended all public liturgies and closed all archdiocesan schools “until further notice.” 

Province of Cincinnati (Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Dioceses of Cleveland, Columbus, Steubenville, Toledo, Youngstown): 

The Catholic Conference of Ohio has issued a joint statement signed by all the bishops in the state stating that all Catholics in the state of Ohio are dispensed from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass for the next three weekends. The Archdiocese of Cincinnati has published the decree in the archdiocese.

Province of Denver (Archdiocese of Denver, Dioceses of Cheyenne, Colorado Springs, Pueblo): 

Public celebration of the Mass has been suspended across the entire state of Colorado.

  Province of Detroit ( Archdiocese of Detroit, Dioceses of Gaylord, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Lansing, Marquette, Saginaw): 



The Archdiocese of Detroit has closed all Catholic schools from March 13 through April 6. Daily and weekend Masses will, per the archdiocesan website, continue as scheduled. 

Province of Dubuque (Archdiocese of Dubuque, Dioceses of Davenport, Des Moines, Sioux City): 

The Archdiocese of Dubuque has published no information or changes regarding COVID-19 on its website. The Dioceses of Des Moines, Davenport and Sioux City have also not published any new information. 

Province of Galveston-Houston (Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, Dioceses of Austin, Beaumont, Brownsville, Corpus Christi, Tyler, Victoria): 

The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston issued a statement saying, “At this time when the faithful need to maintain some degree of normalcy in the midst of the current health crisis, the Archdiocese is recommending that each parish continue to maintain their regular Mass schedules for all those who wish to participate.  Any parishioners who are uncomfortable about attending Sunday Mass due to the coronavirus are excused from the obligation to attend.” 

Province of Hartford (Archdiocese of Hartford, Dioceses of Bridgeport, Norwich, Providence): 

The Archdiocese of Hartford issued precautions similar to those in other archdioceses, but did not adjust Mass schedules.

The Diocese of Providence has not suspended public Masses, but said in a statement that “in light of the serious health crisis caused by the coronavirus, the Diocesan Bishop hereby dispenses Catholics in the Diocese of Providence from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass beginning immediately and continuing through Sunday, March 29, 2020.”

The Diocese of Bridgeport has dispensed Catholics of their Sunday obligation through the end of March.

Province of Indianapolis (Archdiocese of Indianapolis, Dioceses of Evansville, Fort Wayne-South Bend, Gary, Lafayette): 

The Archdiocese of Indianapolis will be celebrating Mass as scheduled, but Catholics residing within the archdiocese are dispensed from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass until further notice. 

The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend has dispensed Catholics of their Sunday obligation through the end of March.

Province of Kansas City (Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas, Dioceses of Dodge City, Salina, Wichita): 

The Archdiocese of Kansas City is instructing its parishioners to “don’t panic” and “be informed.” Schools are staying open and Mass will be celebrated as scheduled.  

Province of Los Angeles (Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Dioceses of Fresno, Monterey, Orange, San Bernardino, San Diego): 

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles will be keeping schools open and Mass will be celebrated as scheduled. The Archdiocese dispensed Catholics from attending Sunday Mass for the remainder of the month of March. 

Province of Louisville (Archdiocese of Louisville, Dioceses of Covington, Knoxville, Lexington, Memphis, Nashville, Owensboro): 

In the Archdiocese of Louisville, Masses will go on as scheduled, but those who are sick are encouraged to stay home. 

The Diocese of Lexington dispensed Catholics from their Sunday obligation for the weekend of March 14-15.

Province of Miami (Archdiocese of Miami, Dioceses of Orlando, Palm Beach, Pensacola-Tallahassee, St. Augustine, St. Petersburg, Venice): 

The Archdiocese of Miami has not canceled Mass or closed schools, but has encouraged those planning on traveling abroad for spring break to make other plans. 

Province of Milwaukee (Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Dioceses of Green Bay, La Crosse, Madison, Superior): 

Mass will continue to be celebrated in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, but all Catholics are dispensed from the obligation to attend Mass for the next three Sundays. 

Province of Mobile (Archdiocese of Mobile, Dioceses of Biloxi, Birmingham, Jackson):

The Archdiocese of Mobile and the Diocese of Jackson have dispensed anyone with a serious underlying medical condition from attending Mass “for the foreseeable future.”

The Diocese of Biloxi has not changed Mass schedules. 

Province of New Orleans (Archdiocese of New Orleans, Dioceses of Alexandria La., Baton Rouge, Houma-Thibodaux, Lafayette La., Lake Charles, Shreveport): 

Many archdiocesan events have been canceled or postponed in the Archdiocese of New Orleans, and some fish fries are going to “take-out only” Mass will be said and schools remain open. 

Province of New York Archdiocese of New York, Dioceses of Albany, Brooklyn, Buffalo, Ogdensburg, Rochester, Rockville Centre, Syracuse): 

Elementary schools in the Archdiocese of New York are closed. Masses will continue to be celebrated. 

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn on March 13 "dispensed the faithful from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass until further notice." Sunday Masses will still be said publicly, but "the faithful are urged to exercise caution if they are to attend."

The Diocese of Albany suspended the Sunday obligation for all Catholics.

Province of Newark (Archdiocese of Newark, Dioceses of Camden, Metuchen, Paterson, Trenton): 

Sunday Masses in the Archdiocese of Newark have been suspended. The faithful of Newark are dispensed from the obligation to attend. 

Province of Oklahoma City (Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, Dioceses of Little Rock, Tulsa) : 

The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City will not be changing Mass schedules or closing schools. 

The Diocese of Little Rock will suspend all public Masses from the weekend of March 21-22, “except for small groups at the discretion of the priest.” Churches will remain open during daylight hours with Eucharistic Adoration. 

Province of Omaha (Archdiocese of Omaha, Dioceses of Grand Island, Lincoln): 

The Archdiocese of Omaha is encouraging parishes to cancel fish fries, and those who are sick are instructed to stay home. 

Province of Philadelphia (Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Dioceses of Allentown, Altoona-Johnstown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Scranton): 

The bishops of Pennsylvania have dispensed all Catholics in the state from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass. Fish fries in the Diocese of Pittsburgh will shift to “take-out” only. 

Province of Portland in Oregon (Archdiocese of Portland, Dioceses of Baker, Boise, GreatFalls-Billings, Helena): 

The Archdiocese of Oregon issued a statement saying that “a general dispensation is offered to anyone else in the Archdiocese of Portland who sincerely and seriously think they might be at risk. This dispensation may be used by anyone of any age.” This dispensation will remain in effect until April 8. 

Province of St. Louis (Archdiocese of St. Louis, Dioceses of Jefferson City, Kansas City-St. Joseph, Springfield-Cape Girardeau): 

The Archdiocese of St. Louis has not suspended public Masses, but said that "parishioners who are sick or have a compromised immune system to refrain from attending Mass, school or church activities."

Province of St. Paul and Minneapolis (Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, Dioceses of Bismarck, Crookston, Duluth, Fargo, New Ulm, Rapid City, Saint Cloud, Sioux Falls, Winona): 

The Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis issued a statement saying “Archbishop Hebda has dispensed the faithful of this Archdiocese from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass. Mass will, however, continue to be celebrated in our parishes as regularly scheduled.” 

Province of San Antonio (Archdiocese of San Antonio, Dioceses of Amarillo, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Laredo, Lubbock, San Angelo): 

Classes at Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of San Antonio will resume on March 16. Mass will continue to be celebrated. 

Province of San Francisco (Archdiocese of San Francisco, Dioceses of Honolulu, Las Vegas, Oakland, Reno, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, San Jose, Santa Rosa, Stockton): 

The Archdiocese of San Francisco will close all schools for a period of two weeks. Mass will be celebrated per usual. 

The Diocese of Honolulu announced that Mass will not be canceled, and the elderly, if they desire to attend Mass, should be permitted to do so. The Diocese of Honolulu did, however, suspend the traditional practice of kissing the cross on Good Friday.

The Diocese of Salt Lake City has suspended all public Masses.

Province of Santa Fe (Archdiocese of Santa Fe, Dioceses of Gallup, Las Cruces, Phoenix, and Tucson): 

All churches and schools are closed in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe until further notice. 

The Diocese of Phoenix will have regularly scheduled Mass, but the sick are encouraged to stay home. 


Province of Seattle (Archdiocese of Seattle, Dioceses of Spokane, Yakima): 

The Archdiocese of Seattle has canceled all public Masses and closed Catholic schools. 

Province of Washington (Archdiocese of Washington, Diocese of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands: 

All Catholic schools are closed and the celebration of public Masses has been suspended in the Archdiocese of Washington. The National Shrine of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception remains open.

'The doors of America's Church are open': National Shrine keeps public Masses after DC shutdown

Fri, 03/13/2020 - 10:30

Washington D.C., Mar 13, 2020 / 08:30 am (CNA).- The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., will remain open with a normal Mass and confession schedule.

The shrine said it is maintaining its public ministry schedule even after the Archdiocese of Washington announced Thursday that public Mass will be suspended in the archdiocese in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Jackie Hayes, director of communications for the National Shrine, confirmed to CNA on Friday, March 13, that despite Washington Archbishop Wilton Gregory’s announcement Thursday evening, which closed the archdiocese’s Catholic schools and canceling all public Masses, the shrine will continue operations as normal. 

While the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is located within the territorial bounds of the Archdiocese of Washington, it is not a diocesan church. 

On Thursday, shrine rector Msgr. Walter Rossi released a statement saying that unless the church is ordered by the government to cease operations, Mass and other sacraments will continue on their normal schedule.

“We are committed to keeping the doors of America’s Catholic Church open. However, should circumstances change and government authorities require us to close to the public, we intend to continue with the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass,” said Rossi. 

The shrine is known as “America’s Catholic Church” as it is the largest Catholic church in North America and it is designed to represent the various cultural traditions that make up the Catholic population in the United States. It has a seating capacity of 10,000 people, making it the third-largest Catholic church in the entire world. 

While Mass will go on as scheduled, Rossi announced on Thursday that “reasonable precautions” would be taken to stymie the spread of COVID-19. These include the removal of holy water from the many fonts at the shrine, as well as the ceasing of the sign of peace and distribution of the Eucharist under the species of wine. 

“These precautionary measures are constantly under review and as circumstances change, we will take extra precautions,” said Rossi. 

Additionally, Mass will be live-streamed on the shrine’s website, for those who are unable to attend Mass due to illness or fear of contracting illness. 

In the statement, Rossi said that it was important to “balance our responsibility to care for the faithful with the need to provide a place of prayer and pilgrimage for those who seek it.” 

“As we have seen this week from increased attendance at our daily Masses, there are many who are seeking the solace that can only be found in the celebration of the Holy Mass. We will take prudent and rational steps to protect ourselves and our visitors, while also seeking God’s guidance and protection through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary,” he said. 

There was some confusion among the faithful in the DC area regarding if the basilica was to remain open. Rossi’s statement was released about five hours before Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Washington announced that all public Masses in the archdiocese would be canceled until further notice. 

“We are aware of the rapidly developing district and state guidelines regarding the coronavirus.  My number one priority as your Archbishop is to ensure the safety and health of all who attend our Masses, the children in our schools, and those we welcome through our outreach and services. Please know that this decision does not come lightly to close our schools or cancel Masses,” Archbishop Gregory said in the March 12 statement. 

“We are profoundly saddened that we are not able to celebrate our sacraments as a community for the time being but we know Christ remains with us at all times – specifically in times of worry like this.”

“I have made available pastoral and spiritual resources as well as TV Mass on our website that I encourage you to use. I also invite you to join us for Mass and prayer via livestream in our social media,” said Gregory. 

“May the peace of Christ settle any anxieties and fear we may have. Let us continue to pray for the people whose lives have been impacted by the coronavirus as well as those who continue to care for them.”

Full US appeals court considers Ohio Down syndrome abortion ban

Thu, 03/12/2020 - 20:01

Cincinnati, Ohio, Mar 12, 2020 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- The full Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on March 11 heard arguments over an Ohio law that prohibits abortions on the grounds of a diagnosis of Down syndrome, and which has been blocked for over two years.

Former Governor John Kasich signed the law during December 2017, but it has not yet been able to come into effect, as a U.S. Court of Appeals panel upheld the law’s blockage during October 2019.

The office of Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said at the time that the state would seek a review by the full 6th Circuit, as the decision was handed down 2-1 by a U.S. Court of Appeals panel.

The law would ban abortions in cases where there was a positive test result or prenatal diagnosis indicating Down syndrome. Physicians convicted of performing an abortion while aware that the diagnosis is affecting the decision could be charged with a fourth-degree felony, stripped of their medical license, and held liable for legal damages. The mothers would not be held liable.

Federal Judge Timothy Black first blocked the law from taking effect in March 2018. It was set to go into effect on the 23rd of that month.

Supporters of the law have questioned Black’s impartiality. He had served as president of Cincinnati’s Planned Parenthood in 1988 and as its director from 1986-1989. He recused himself from a case involving Planned Parenthood in 2014.

Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri and Utah all in 2019 enacted measures restricting abortions based on Down syndrome diagnoses. Kentucky, Missouri, and Arkansas have also passed measures restricting abortions based on the sex or race of the child.

While Missouri’s bans remain in effect, the bans in Arkansas and Kentucky are blocked in the courts, according to the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute.

According to the Wall Street Journal, attorneys advocating for the Ohio law say that the law is advancing a compelling interest, namely protecting the Down syndrome population from discrimination and elimination.

The state’s attorneys in the case, Preterm-Cleveland, et al. v. Amy Acton, et al., also argue that because of how the law is structured, it only impedes doctors, not pregnant women, and thus is constitutional.

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

“The federal government has an interest in the equal dignity of those who live with disabilities,” Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division stated.

“Nothing in the Constitution requires Ohio to authorize abortion providers to participate in abortions the providers know are based on Down syndrome.”

In contrast, a number of parents of children with Down syndrome have filed an amicus brief in opposition to the abortion ban, writing that the law “politicizes a specific diagnosis―Down syndrome―and seeks to commandeer the resources, support, and interests of a community in order to advance an anti-abortion agenda,” and claiming that “the freedom to choose whether to create a family that might include a child with Down syndrome is critically important.”

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