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Portland archdiocese will not cancel public Masses, after Oregon gov bans large gatherings

Thu, 03/12/2020 - 18:11

Portland, Ore., Mar 12, 2020 / 04:11 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Portland will not cancel public Sunday Masses, after Oregon’s governor responded to the coronavirus pandemic by announcing a statewide prohibition on gatherings of more than 250 people.

Portland’s archbishop encouraged parishes with high Sunday Mass attendance to consider adding more Masses.

“The celebration of the Most Holy Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life. It is in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that we encounter the mystery of our redemption, are nourished by God’s Word, and receive the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ,” Archbishop Alexander Sample announced in a March 12 statement.

“The governor of the state of Oregon, Kate Brown, has cancelled all public gatherings of more than 250 people. The fact is that most of the Masses celebrated on the weekends in the Archdiocese of Portland are far below that number,” Sample added, while announcing several dispensations from the obligation of Catholics to attend Sunday Mass in the archdiocese.

Sample encouraged Catholics over 60 not to attend Mass, along with “persons who are not feeling well, no matter how mild the symptoms,” and Catholics “who sincerely and seriously think they might be at risk.”

“Persons who have underlying medical issues that put them at risk, or persons with compromised immune systems, are asked not to attend Mass,” the archbishop said, dispensing from their Sunday obligation Catholics in each of those groups.

The archbishop’s letter said his dispensations would remain in effect until April 8, as the governor had directed. Easter is April 12.

Sample also noted that “The faithful who are in attendance at Mass are reminded to avoid all physical contact with others and should attempt to keep a safe distance from each other.”

In addition, the archbishop canceled all parish gatherings of more than 250 people, and urged that “parishes should break down school Masses so as to keep the numbers below 250.

“Even with the above directives in place, some parishes may still have difficulty keeping Mass attendance below 250,” the archbishop noted.

“Pastors are encouraged to be creative in managing this situation. Some possibilities would be to encourage the faithful to attend Masses in the parish that are known to be less attended,” he wrote.

“Another possibility would be to add Masses to help spread out the numbers at each Mass.”

Sample encouraged those who do not attend Sunday Mass to consider attending daily Mass in the parish, and to watch Mass on television or on line. The archbishop also encouraged those not at Mass, or those who do not feel comfortable receiving the Eucharist “due to a fear of contamination” to “make an act of Spiritual Communion.”

“This is a beautiful devotional practice in the Church and is a real source of grace in communion with our Lord” the archbishop wrote.

Sample’s decision came one day after the Archdiocese of Seattle, which borders the Portland archdiocese, cancelled all public Masses in compliance with a directive from the governor of Washington prohibiting gatherings of more than 250 people.

Oregon has 20 documented cases of coronavirus and no recorded deaths, while in Washington, 377 people have contracted the virus and 30 have died.

Across the country, at least 1,504 people have contracted coronavirus, and 39 have died.





State Department releases annual human rights report

Thu, 03/12/2020 - 18:00

Washington D.C., Mar 12, 2020 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- The State Department released its annual human rights report on Wednesday, offering the administration’s summary of the situation in nearly 200 countries worldwide for the last year.

“We’re blessed that the unalienable rights are secure here at home.  But we all know the rights of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness don’t just belong to Americans, they belong to everyone everywhere,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday at the release of the report.

“Today this report sheds light on dark places where rights like the ones I described are infringed upon,” Pompeo stated.

The State Department released its 2019 human rights report on Wednesday, its 44th annual report which summarizes the human rights situation in 199 countries and territories around the world.

Robert Destro, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Labor, and Human Rights, noted that the report focuses on “internationally recognized human rights” that enjoy a broad consensus, such as those enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“It’s easy for governments to say that they support human rights; it’s harder actually to do so year after year,” Destro said on Wednesday.

The report includes details of abuses in countries including China, Iran, Venezuela, and Cuba.

China employs a high-tech surveillance system to monitor the movements of Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang; as many as 1.8 million people have been or are detained in camps in the region, and there are reports of abuses in the camps and forced labor for current and former detainees.

“As I’ve said before, the [Chinese Communist Party’s] record in Xinjiang is the ‘stain of the century.’  It tries to hide what it’s doing by intimidating journalists,” Pompeo said on Wednesday.

The report also details “extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances, torture, and arbitrary detentions” of Nicholas Maduro’s regime in Venezuela, Pompeo said.

In Cuba, citizens are arbitrarily detained and their rights are violated by the Castro regime, he said.

Chinese state media claimed a drop in the number of forced abortions as a result of the country’s coercive two-child family planning policy. However, Uyghur women reported being forcibly sterilized while in detention.

In Hungary, there were reports of political intimidation and state corruption, and human trafficking remained a problem.

Civilians were killed at the hands of Russian-led forces in occupied parts of Ukraine; there were reports of politically-motivated arrests and torture of Ukrainian citizens in those areas.

In Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza, the report detailed targeted killings of Israeli civilians and soldiers, arbitrary detention, and restrictions on non-Israelis living in Jerusalem as well as the freedom of movement.

Iranian-backed militia groups continued detaining minorities in Nineveh, Iraq, including Christians who were also victims of kidnapping by ISIS.

“Together, we support human rights defenders in a wide variety of environments who risk their lives to instill in their own societies the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms that we as Americans hold dear and take for granted,” Destro stated.

In 2018, the agency removed the “reproductive rights” section from its 2017 human rights report, and replaced it with statistics on “coercion in population control.”

Secretary Pompeo also announced that the Commission on Unalienable Rights—an advisory commission headed by the former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, Mary Ann Glendon—will send its work to him around July 4. The commission was charged with reviewing human rights as part of U.S. foreign policy.

Chinese forced labor is in US supply chain, Congressional report finds

Thu, 03/12/2020 - 17:00

Washington D.C., Mar 12, 2020 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- Political, ethnic and religious prisoners are being used as forced labor in China, making goods that end up in U.S. supply chains, a new report from the U.S. China Commission has found.

As many as 1.8 million Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and other Muslim minorities are or have been detained in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), a situation which groups like the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum are now calling a “crime against humanity.”

Victims or families of victims of the camps have reported numerous abuses in the camps, including political indoctrination, starvation, torture, beatings, and forced sterilizations.

The new report from the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), released on March 11, alleges that current and former detainees in the region have been forced to work in factories and in the agriculture industry, and that goods made with this labor are in the supply chains of major U.S. companies.

“Satellite imagery, personal testimonies, and official documents indicate that the XUAR

authorities are systematically forcing predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities, including Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and others, to engage in forced labor in the XUAR,” the report states.

Members of Congress on Wednesday condemned the abuses and introduced legislation to hold U.S. companies accountable for their supply chains.

“It’s injected forced labor into American and global supply chains. It’s injected forced labor under the Christmas tree. It’s injected forced labor in the boxes we give over for birthdays. And it’s injected forced labor in many of the things that we buy on a daily basis,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), co-chair of the China Commission, said upon release of the report on Wednesday.

“And this is a disturbing reality, and it’s one that we need to confront and we need to face.”

The new bill, the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, sets up accountability mechanisms to ensure U.S. supply chains are free of forced labor.

It grants sanctions authority for those complicit in forced labor in Xinjiang, requires SEC disclosures for companies engaged with certain entities in Xinjiang, and mandates that the Secretary of State to determine whether “atrocities” are taking place there.

The bill also includes a provision creating a “rebuttable presumption”—meaning that any imported goods sourced from Xinjiang will be presumed to have been created with forced labor. Companies wishing to import these goods must present “clear and convincing” evidence otherwise to U.S. Customs.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), a commissioner and former chair of the China Commission, noted that as early as 1991, it was known that imprisoned democracy activists from Tiananmen Square were forced to make shoes in a Beijing prison. Despite evidence that prisoners in Chinese camps were forced to make goods exported elsewhere, Smith said that a subsequent “memorandum of understanding” of the U.S. against importation of such goods “wasn’t worth the paper it was written on.”

“This is a horrific tragedy,” he said of the ongoing treatment of Muslim Uyghurs.

The bill’s rebuttable presumption is key, he said, in that “the presumption of innocence shifts” to companies to prove that “their supply chain is clear and clean of this kind of horrific behavior.”

“It’s hard for anybody in America to believe that there’s forced labor camps. People being forced to work with no pay,” Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.), a commissioner, stated on Wednesday.

“The only thing that the Chinese government will recognize is if we prevent them from continuing to export these goods, using forced labor, into our marketplace,” he said.

Some of these forced labor cases in the report occur within the internment camps, while others involve detainees being sent to factories upon their release from the camps. In still other cases, minorities are forced into labor without even being sent to the camps.

All this labor is done under the guise of “job training” or “poverty alleviation,” as the Chinese government claims.

Good commonly made with forced labor include textiles such as clothing, bedding, and carpet, shoes, tea, electronics, and food products such as noodles and cakes.

Companies suspected of directly employing forced labor, or sourcing from suppliers suspected of using forced labor, include Adidas, Calvin Klein, Coca-Cola, Costco, H&M, Kraft Heinz, Nike, Patagonia, and Tommy Hilfiger.

The company Badger Sportswear announced in January of 2019 that it was ending its partnership with Hetian Taida Apparel because of its suspected ties to forced labor of detainees in Xinjiang.

Audits of which factories in the region are using forced labor will prove difficult, the report said, due to residents and detainees who may be afraid to speak out about poor conditions. Companies should instead assume that any goods sourced to the region are made with forced labor.

On March 5, an AP investigation reported that “mostly Muslim ethnic Uighurs” detained in camps were afterwards forced in work in a heavily-guarded factory within the supply chains of U.S. tech companies.

A document leaked in February from a local government authority in Xinjiang listed the names of around 3,000 Uyghurs under surveillance, with 484 being detained. Many of those were imprisoned for religious reasons or for family the religious or political behavior of family members. 

In Seattle, public Masses suspended, but prayer and ministry continue

Thu, 03/12/2020 - 15:20

Seattle, Wash., Mar 12, 2020 / 01:20 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Seattle has suspended public Masses and closed some Catholic schools, but priests in the archdiocese have been encouraged to keep churches open for prayer, to continue celebrating Mass privately, and to find ways to offer the sacrament of penance.

In a letter to priests and school leaders, Seattle’s auxiliary bishop encouraged pastors to “set specific hours for the church to be open for private prayer, to “reserve the Blessed Sacrament in the Church for private prayer,” and to “be available for pastoral emergencies, private meetings, anointing of sick, and so on.”

“At the end of the day, we want to ensure we are slowing the spread of the coronavirus and protecting the vulnerable in our community, while also serving the needs of our parishioners,” Bishop Daniel Mueggenborg wrote March 11, the same day public Masses were suspended in the archdiocese.

The decision to suspend Masses, Mueggenborg wrote, “was made for the common good and for the people of God entrusted in our care — many of whom are considered high risk and vulnerable. We must do our part to slow down this epidemic.”

Even while Masses are suspended, “we do not want parish life to come to a screeching halt,” the bishop added.

A spokeswoman for the diocese told CNA March 12 that the archdiocese also wants to ensure Catholics are able to make use of the sacrament of confession.

Pastors have been advised to move confession from confessionals into larger rooms where confidentiality can still be maintained, to use a screen to block airflow between priest and penitent, and to ensure a space of six feet between priest and penitent whenever possible.

 The archdiocese has said that conditions do not exist which would allow for “general absolution,” in which penitents are sacramentally absolved of their sins without the practice of individual confession first. General absolution requires a situation of grave necessity before it can be permitted, according to the Church’s canon law.    

Mueggenborg’s letter also encouraged that Catholics “manifest Christ’s love more than ever during these challenging times.”

He suggested phone calls to homebound neighbors and nursing home residents, giving to food banks, and grocery shopping for the homebound, among other ideas.

The first known U.S. case of coronavirus was announced Jan. 21 in Washington. To date, 341 people have been diagnosed with the virus in Washington, and 29 have died. Across the nation, more than 1,400 people have contracted the virus, and at least 38 have died.


Places of worship caught in New Rochelle coronavirus 'containment area'

Thu, 03/12/2020 - 13:55

New York City, N.Y., Mar 12, 2020 / 11:55 am (CNA).- Places of worship in a New York City suburb are facing unprecedented measures to fend off the spread of coronavirus after the governor on Tuesday announced the creation of a 1-mile radius “containment zone” to limit the virus’ spread.

Under the rules of the containment zone in New Rochelle, which is fewer than 10 miles from the center of The Bronx, schools, houses of worship and large gathering places will be closed for two weeks beginning March 12. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said March 10 that the National Guard will be called in to help clean facilities and deliver food to people in need.

“The difficulty is the elderly [parishoners] aren’t all that computer savvy, so they’re very concerned, and we’re getting an awful lot of phone calls,” Monsignor Dennis Keane, pastor of Holy Family parish in New Rochelle, told CNA.

“I think safety is so important, especially when you’re dealing with elderly people,” he said.

Msgr. Keane said the parish’s regular scheduled Masses and Stations of the Cross will proceed as normal, but without a choir. The eldery or anyone concerned about getting sick ought to stay home, he said.

Holy Family is just outside the 1-mile containment area, but Msgr. Keane said the bulk of the parishioners live within the zone. The parish is already canceling numerous events, announcing on Facebook that all non-essential meetings, including religious education classes, have been canceled “until further notice.” As of March 13, the parish elementary school will be closed for the indefinite future.

A parish dinner dance scheduled for March 14 also has been canceled, and the parish last weekend emptied the holy water fonts and suspended the sign of peace during Mass. They also placed hand sanitizer at each entrance.

Msgr. Keane said he’s also had at least one bride call the parish office asking if her upcoming wedding can still take place at the church.

“I said, you know – we’re here, we’ll perform the wedding, it’s really your decision, as you get closer, to see how healthy it is to bring people together … things change very quickly in two weeks. But as far as the church is concerned, we’ll be open for the wedding, I’ll perform that wedding.”

He said one family, mostly of elderly members, this week decided not to have a funeral Mass at the church for a loved one who died, opting instead for a prayer service at the funeral home.

A local soup kitchen called HOPE Community Kitchen, also located outside the zone, benefits from food donations from the parish, Msgr. Keane said, and the parish will continue to cook food for the kitchen for now.

“What I’m concerned about is— parishes supply a lot of food to them. And if we have fewer people coming to church, we’ll be able to supply less food.”

HOPE Community Kitchen announced on its website that as a precautionary measure, its guests would receive take-out meals rather than gathering in its dining room until further notice.

Father Robert DeJulio, pastor of the city's Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish, told CNA that his parish church has also done away with the holy water and is encouraging people to receive Communion in the hand.

They are also canceling the upcoming parish mission and a parish dinner – anything having to do with food preparation, he said. Fr. DeJulio said he has been contacting parishioners by email to update them on the situation.

Since Our Lady of Perpetual Help is outside the strict containment zone, the parish is continuing to hold religious education classes, and the school is still open.

In contrast, Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church lies just within the containment zone. Father Nicholas Anctil, the pastor, said the governor's announcement came as a surprise, and that getting the word out to his parishioners was not the easiest of tasks.

Although he is able to contact parishioners via a "robocall," he said he has to be sure that he records one in English and one in Greek, for his non-English speaking parishioners.

"A lot of them don't speak English, believe it or not, still," Fr. Nicholas said. "Or they don't have internet."

Holy Trinity runs a small nursery school, a Greek afternoon school, and a catechism school, and a gym that hosts various sports activities – all of which have been canceled.

The church also hosts education classes for retirees in conjunction with Iona College multiple times a week.

"They're all senior citizens, and most of them live in the area," Fr. Nicholas said.

"So we've had a lot of people in the building that actually live in the containment area as well."

All liturgies at the parish have been canceled, said, including all the Sunday liturgies.

"Today I did my last liturgy here until March 25," Fr. Nicholas said.

Anctil said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the Greek Orthodox archdiocese, has asked the parishioners of Holy Trinity not to go to a different parish outside the containment zone for fear of further spreading the virus.

"I wanted to go to our sister church up the block – we have a sister church in Rye – and I am not supposed to, you know? Because we don't know what our symptoms are going to be and we don't know what the incubation period is, really," he said.

Fr. Nicholas said the containment causes a lot of hardship for his parish, especially in the middle of Lent, not to be able to hold services.

In addition, the church often provides food for a local homeless shelter, and since their kitchen is locked down, they will be unable to provide those meals.

"It chokes a lot of the parish life," he said.

The Greek Orthodox church in Rye provides a livestream of Divine Liturgy, he said, and he hopes his parishioners will take advantage of that.

Despite other congregations canceling their services – the local Lutheran church has also canceled services until March 25 – Fr. DeJulio is confident that Mass will continue in the area. He said he has not received any orders from the Archdiocese of New York to cancel Mass.

"I don't think anybody's going to cancel Mass," Fr. DeJulio said.

"I don't think we do that. I think we have Mass and tell people to talk precautions, and if they feel uncomfortable, not to come. People have to take responsibility – they're adults. This idea that Father has to tell me not to come to church is archaic."

He did say parishioners over 60, in particular, should consider staying home.

"That doesn't mean I have to cancel to make that happen," he said.

CNA contacted the Archdiocese of New York to ask whether Mass cancelations were being considered as an option to limit the spread of the virus in the area around the containment zone, and did not receive an answer by press time.

The zone centers around the Young Israel of New Rochelle synagogue, believed to be the epicenter of the outbreak near New York City.

A 50-year-old member of the synagogue last week was the second person in the state diagnosed with the disease, but is believed to have spread the virus to the synagogue community. Around 1,000 members of the synagogue community are under self-imposed quarantine.

The synagoge announced in its March 6-7 bulletin that the rabbi’s wife tested positive for the virus.

A call to the synagogue March 11 went unanswered.

A pro-life pregnancy center, The Elinor Martin Residence for Mother & Child, is located within the zone. The center is listed as an agency of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, though a CCNY spokesperson told CNA that the center is not owned by the archdiocese.

The Elinor Martin Residence did not respond by press time to CNA’s inquiry as to whether the center was still operating during the containment period.

Though grocery stores and other businesses are allowed to remain open within the zone, CNN reported Wednesday that many small businesses in New Rochelle are planning to shut their doors for two weeks in an attempt to mitigate financial losses.

The governor confirmed 20 additional cases March 11, most emerging in New Rochelle, bringing the state total to nearly 200.

In addition, nursing homes and assisted living facilities in the area will not be permitted to accept visitors until further notice. St. Joseph’s, a nursing home in New Rochelle run by the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers, confirmed to CNA that they were not currently taking visitors.

As of yet there are no travel restrictions for residents of the area and no one is mandated to self-quarantine.

Though New York has not had any deaths from coronavirus, nearby New Jersey announced a 69-year-old man with underlying health problems died of the virus March 11.

Around the world, Catholic dioceses have responded differently to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Archdiocese of Seattle, centered around the first and largest outbreak in the United States, announced March 11 that it will indefinitely suspend public Masses.

Masses across Italy are cancelled and churches are closed, in compliance with a mandate of the Italian government. Most dioceses in Japan have canceled Masses. The president of Polish Bishops’ conference has encouraged more Masses in his country. Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki of Poznań said there should be more Sunday Masses so that services will be less crowded and parishioners will be able sit farther apart from one another.

Kentucky’s Governor Andy Beshear on Wednesday encouraged churches to cancel their services in fear of the spreading coronavirus. The archdiocese in the state does not plan to cancel Masses this Sunday.

Why this group performs ultrasounds in Nebraska schools

Thu, 03/12/2020 - 06:00

Omaha, Neb., Mar 12, 2020 / 04:00 am (CNA).- Pregnancy ultrasounds are often intimate moments, performed in the privacy of a doctor’s office. But pregnant volunteers, and one Nebraska group, have begun performing ultrasounds in schools: aiming to give students a live, real-time look at the miracle of life.

The organizer of the group, Heart of a Child Ministries, told CNA that ultrasounds can impact students, and their families.

"It’s an experience of the Lord speaking to a child, and then that child feeling compelled to come home and talk to his parents about it," Nikki Schaefer, Director of Heart of a Child Ministries, told CNA.

Since 2016, volunteers with Heart of a Child have presented live ultrasound images, performed on a volunteer who is between 10 and 30 weeks pregnant, in both private and public schools in the Omaha area.

In addition to the live ultrasound, the presentation includes information about adoption, generally offered by a person with a personal experience of adoption.

Schaefer said the work started when a teacher asked her to come to her classroom to talk about pro-life ministries.

Soon after she began those presentations, Nebraskans United for Life approached her and offered the use a mobile ultrasound unit.

Now, two ultrasound technicians volunteer their time to operate the unit for the presentations. Schaefer said she also hears from many pregnant women willing to volunteer to show their babies on ultrasound.

Parents are sometimes reticent about allowing students to attend presentations, Schaefer said, with the two most common concerns being whether the presentation will feature graphic images of aborted fetuses, and whether human sexuality will be discussed with younger children.

Schaefer, who holds a Master's in Social Work and Art Therapy, said the group’s presentation does not include either, and instead focuses on the humanity of the unborn child, as well as the importance of adoption.

The key question after the ultrasound presentation, Schaefer said, is: "What did you see that tells you that that is a human being?"

Though individual parents often express concerns and may refuse to allow their children to attend, Schaefer said, a parish in Omaha recently rescheduled the entire presentation, reportedly after complaints from parents.  

Father Ralph O’Donnell, pastor at St, Margaret Mary, told CNA that parents brought forward questions because they did not know what the presentation was going to be about. He said Schaefer’s group will hold a presentation for parents later this month, to give them a sense of what her ministry brings to schools.

“Our rescheduling of the Heart of a Child Ministry [presentation] was not a rejection of the program at all, actually in doing so it provided us the opportunity to work with Nikki to allow for what we feel is an important addition; adding a step, giving us the opportunity for the parents to experience the presentation first,” he said.

The school will hold the presentation for the parents the evening of March 25, O’Donnell said.

Schaefer said the group tailors presentations to the age of students in attendance, whether they are in elementary, middle, and high school. Each presentation, regardless of the audience, begins with facts about fetal development.

Presentations have had unexpected results, Schaefer said.

On one occasion, a birth mother presented to a school group and told the story of choosing to place her child for adoption rather than choose abortion, even after she was encouraged to abort. A girl approached the speaker afterward, Schaefer said, saying “thank you so much for sharing, I was adopted and now I know how much my birth mom loved me.”

Schaefer said she is not aware of any other groups doing what Heart of a Child is doing, but she hopes to provide training to any group around the country seeking to start a similar project.

Seattle archdiocese suspends all public Masses amid coronavirus pandemic

Wed, 03/11/2020 - 19:45

Seattle, Wash., Mar 11, 2020 / 05:45 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Seattle will indefinitely suspend public Masses in response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has left at least 31 dead in Washington, along with 375 people in the state who have tested positive for the virus.

“I want to acknowledge the best science that is out there, that basically says despite our best efforts, this epidemic is going to continue to spread, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be doing everything we possibly can to restrict the spread of this virus and of this epidemic,” Archbishop Paul Etienne said in a video released Wednesday afternoon.

“So I am going to ask that all of our parishes in western Washington, in the Archdiocese of Seattle, effective today, suspend the celebration publicly of the Eucharist.”

“As we all know, this is out of an extreme measure of caution,” he added. “Out of an extreme caution, we want to do our part to prevent the spread of this virus.”

The archbishop encouraged Catholics to stay at home if they are ill, to practice good hygiene and social distancing. He also encouraged prayer for medical providers and caretakers.

On March 11, Gov. Jay Inslee banned gatherings of more than 250 people in King, Snohomish and Pierce Counties. King County contains the city of Seattle. 235 people have tested positive for the virus in King County, and 26 have died; many of the sick and deceased were residents of nursing facilities.

Seattle’s public schools have also been closed.

“I want to just encourage you, in a very deeply spiritual way, to pray with confidence, to pray with faith, to pray with hope, that the Lord accompany us during this, and that the Lord protect us as well,” Etienne added in his video message.

The archbishop also mentioned that “every priest has an obligation to celebrate the Eucharist, and I want our priests to continue to do that.”

The first known U.S. case of coronavirus was announced Jan. 21 in Washington. In total, at least 1,209 people in the U.S. have been diagnoses with coronavirus, and at least 37 have died.

The Archdiocese of Seattle is the first U.S. diocese to take such a step. More than half of all Japenese dioceses have suspended the public celebration of the Mass, however, and churches are shuttered in Italy, as the entire country is under strict quarantine regulations.

The Archbishop of Louisville said Wednesday he did not plan to cancel Sunday Masses in his diocese this weekend, despite a request from the governor to do so. Eight people in Kentucky have been diagnosed with coronavirus, and the state has experienced no deaths; while Washington state is the epicenter of the pandemic in the U.S.

Responding previously to the virus, on March 3  Etienne “said that holy water should be removed from fonts” and “that Communion hosts should be received only in the hand, not on the tongue.”

The Archdiocese of Seattle added that Communion should be under one species, that the sick should stay home from Mass, and that everyone should practice good hygiene and “avoid hand-to-hand contact during the Our Father and the sign of peace.”

In a March 10 document, issued the day before the suspension of all public Masses, the Seattle archdiocese said that it encourages “every parish community to closely follow the requests of local health authorities.”

It said that health officials in three counties were advising against “larger group gatherings”, i.e. those with more than 10 people.

“Out of protection for the people who are at high-risk and to ensure we are doing our part to slow the spread of the virus for the common good, we recommend postponing any large non-essential ministry gatherings and parish events,” the archdiocese said.

The archdiocese canceled some Catholic school sports games in two counties, but permitted practices to continue. “For this, we rely on the discretion of the principal and pastor to make the decision for their community – given the rapidly changing nature of local public health recommendations,” it added.

In its March 10 policy update, the archdiocese barred the reception of Communion on the tongue, saying that “this requirement is being enacted out of our love and care for the most vulnerable in our midst. It may be important to remind concerned parishioners that the greatest divine law is that we love God and our neighbor. All other laws and individual rights are subordinate to that supreme divine law.”

Regarding the remission of sins, the archdiocese said that “even though we are in a heightened health alert state, the conditions do not yet exist for general absolution. Therefore, we will continue to offer the Sacrament of Reconciliation on an individual basis only.”

The territory of the Archdiocese of Seattle includes 19 counties in western Washington state.

The archdiocese has not indicated whether schools will be closed. The archdiocese has not yet responded to repeated March 11 requests for comment from CNA.


Kentucky archbishop does not plan to cancel Masses after governor’s request

Wed, 03/11/2020 - 18:32

Louisville, Ky., Mar 11, 2020 / 04:32 pm (CNA).- Kentucky’s Governor Andy Beshear on Wednesday encouraged churches to cancel their services in fear of the spreading coronavirus. The Catholic archdiocese in the state does not plan to cancel Masses this Sunday.

On March 11, the governor announced that the eight patients with COVID-19 in the state were "stable and doing well” but stressed that the number of infected will likely increase.

"That number is expected to grow," Beshear said, WDRB reported. "We expect to see more cases. We are prepared to see more cases."

According to the Archdiocese of Louisville, the state’s bishops have been in contact with the Department of Health and Wellness and discussed prevention methods with each other and local pastors. However, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz said he will not cancel Masses.

“With the information I have now, I will not be calling for a diocesan-wide cancellation of daily or weekend Masses,” said Kurtz, in a letter to parish priests.

“We will ask pastors to encourage those who are ill or have symptoms to stay home as an act of Christian charity for their fellow parishioners. … Pastors will be asked to publicize times for Mass of the Air, which is available through a variety of platforms around the Archdiocese,” said an archdiocesan statement.

The statement emphasized the importance of the Eucharist to parishioners and the Church, especially during times of difficulty. It said, though, parishioners who feel vulnerable and afraid may exercise individual discretion.

“The Sunday celebration of the Eucharist is at the center of the life of the Church. Perhaps especially in difficult times, liturgical gatherings are a source of comfort and hope for the faithful, as well as an opportunity to offer our prayers to God for those who are suffering or who cannot be with us,” the statement read.

“We want individuals who feel vulnerable, especially senior citizens or those with underlying health conditions, to know that they are not obligated to attend Sunday Mass.”

While Masses have not been canceled, numerous Kentucky dioceses have issued prevention steps and other health measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus, which has infected over 120,000 people and claimed 4,585 lives as of March 11, World O Meters reported.

“The Catholic Church has people of all ages and backgrounds in our care. It’s especially critical in the event of a public health emergency that we strive to be good neighbors and institute responsible measures that protect our faith communities, schools, the personnel who serve in our institutions and the people served by them,” said Bishop Stowe of Lexington, according to a diocesan statement.

If anyone does manifest COVID-19 symptoms, which include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing, the three Kentucky dioceses have reminded parishioners that they are excluded from Sunday obligatory Mass and asked them to stay home.

According to the Archdiocese of Louisville, Mass will be broadcast on local faith and news channels.

Around the world, dioceses have responded differently to the coronavirus pandemic.
Masses across Italy are cancelled and churches are closed, in compliance with a mandate of the Italian government. Most dioceses in Japan have canceled Masses. The president of Polish Bishops’ conference has encouraged more Masses in his country. Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki of Poznań said there should be more Sunday Masses, so that services will be less crowded and parishioners will be able sit farther apart from one another.

“In connection with the recommendations of the Chief Sanitary Inspector that there should be no large gatherings of people, I ask to increase – as far as possible – the number of Sunday Masses in churches so that a number of believers can attend the liturgy … according to the guidelines of the sanitary services,” Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki of Poznań wrote in a statement sent March 10 to CNA.


Little Sisters of the Poor ramping up protections for elderly over coronavirus

Wed, 03/11/2020 - 17:00

Washington D.C., Mar 11, 2020 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- Nursing care facilities around the country are ramping up efforts to protect their residents as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to increase. This week, one religious order told CNA how they are working to protect the elderly in their care.

At least 1,088 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the United States and 31 people are reported to have died from the virus. More than half of the deaths, 19, were connected to a single nursing home in the city of Kirkland, WA. 

In this one nursing home, 55 people contracted the virus, the second-largest number of cases in the United States connected to a single location. Across the state, 10 different elderly care facilities have residents who have tested positive for COVID-19. 

The elderly are particularly vulnerable to coronavirus, with a fatality rate of nearly 15% of cases. Conversely, those under the age of 30 have almost all recovered from the disease. 

The Little Sisters of the Poor, a religious order dedicated to serving the elderly poor, told CNA on Tuesday that they are taking extra measures to keep the residents of their homes safe from illness, including coronavirus. 

No cases have been discovered at any of the order’s more than two dozen nursing homes in the United States. 

“We are following all of the guidance being given in order to keep our elderly residents as safe as possible,” Sr. Constance Veit, LSP, told CNA. Sr. Constance is the communications contact for the order’s Jeanne Jugan Residence in Washington, DC. 

The American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living has issued many guidelines and guidances to skilled nursing facilities on what they should do to prevent the further spread of coronavirus. 

The AHCA/NCAL published a list of five “reasonable efforts” that should be taken to protect the elderly, which mainly involve isolating vulnerable members of the population from exposure to the disease. 

“Due to the very serious impact COVID-19 will continue to have on our elderly population and those with underlying conditions, we are recommending that you evaluate your current visitation policies to determine whether some of these best practices could be implemented at your communities,” said the guidance. 

The recommendations include restricting visits to the facility to “only those who need entry,” such as employees, government officials, and immediate family members, “who need to visit for critical or time sensitive reasons such as hospice-related visits, complete medical authorizations, etc.”

“Routine social visits are strongly discouraged,” says the guidance, but all visits in general are not to be banned. 

Care facilities should also move to “restrict activities and visitors with potential for exposure,” “actively screen individuals entering the building” and banning entry to those with visible respiratory symptoms or exposure to COVID-19, require that all who enter the facility wash their hands, and “set up processes to allow remote communication for residents and others.” 

These remote communications, which include telephone or video chat, are so residents will be able to talk to their loved ones despite the new restrictions on guests and visitors. 

Sr. Constance told CNA that the District of Columbia was also “giving constant guidance to nursing homes.” 

There have been four “presumptive positive” tests for COVID-19 in Washington, DC, with 15 more tests pending. None are in nursing homes.

Hygienic practices aside, the Little Sisters of the Poor are embracing another protective tactic: prayer.  

“Our homes around the world are offering Masses and prayers for this protection, so that our elderly and collaborators at every level will be protected,” said Sr. Constance.

The Fourteen Holy Helpers: Plague saints for a time of coronavirus

Wed, 03/11/2020 - 05:01

Denver, Colo., Mar 11, 2020 / 03:01 am (CNA).- By this time in the coronavirus outbreak, you may have cruised the empty toilet paper aisles and pasta shelves at your local grocery store, and could have had moments of panic, or at least heightened anxiety.

With 13 U.S. states having declaring a state of emergency over COVID-19, what was once an overseas worry is now stateside. And for the general population, being a part of something like this is a new, and disconcerting, experience.

But it’s not a new experience in the life of the Church.

In the middle of the 14th century, the plague - also called “The Black Death” - also also called “The Greatest Catastrophe Ever” - ravaged Europe, killing 50 million people, or about 60% of the population (a vastly higher death rate than coronavirus), within a few years.

Lacking the advances of modern medicine today, and layering dead bodies in pits like “lasagne with layers of pasta and cheese,” the people had no choice but to cling to their faith.

It was at this time that the Fourteen Holy Helpers - Catholics saints, all but one of whom were early martyrs - came to be invoked by Catholics against the plague and other misfortunes.

According to New Liturgical Movement, devotion to these 14 saints started in Germany at the time of the plague, and they were called “Nothelfer,” which in German means “helpers in need.”

As bouts of the plague resurfaced over the decades, devotion to the Holy Helpers spread to other countries, and eventually Nicholas V declared that devotion to the saints came with special indulgences.

According to New Liturgical Movement, this introduction to the feast of the Holy Helpers (celebrated Aug. 8 in some places) can be found in the Cracow Missal of 1483:

“The Mass of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, approved by Pope Nicholas…it is powerful on their behalf, however so much one is in great illness or anguish or sadness, or in whatsoever tribulation a man shall be. It is powerful also on behalf of the imprisoned and detained, on behalf of merchants and pilgrims, for those that have been sentenced to die, for those who are at war, for women who are struggling in childbirth, or with a miscarriage, and for (the forgiveness of) sins, and for the dead.”

The collect for their feast in the Missal of Bamberg reads: “Almighty and merciful God, who didst adorn Thy Saints George, Blase, Erasmus, Pantaleon, Vitus, Christopher, Denis, Cyriacus, Acacius, Eustace, Giles, Margaret, Barbara and Catherine with special privileges above all others, so that all who in their necessities implore their help, according to the grace of Thy promise, may attain the salutary effect of their pleading, grant to us, we beseech Thee, forgiveness of our sins, and with their merits interceding, deliver us from all adversities, and kindly hear our prayers.”

Here's a bit about each of the Fourteen Holy Helpers:

Saint George: While little is known definitively about his life, St. George was a fourth-century martyr under the persecution of the emperor Diocletian. A soldier in Diocletian’s army, St. George refused to arrest Christians and offer sacrifices to Roman gods. Despite bribes from Diocletian to change his mind, St. George refused the order and was tortured and eventually executed for his offenses. He is invoked against skin diseases and palsy.

St. Blase: Another 4th-century martyr, St. Blase’s death is very similar to that of St. George. A bishop in Armenia during a time of Christian persecution, St. Blase was eventually forced to flee to the forest to avoid death. One day a group of hunters found St. Blase, arrested him and brought him back to the authorities. At some point after his arrest, a mother with a son who had gotten a fishbone perilously stuck in his throat visited St. Blase, and at his blessing, the bone dislodged and the boy was saved. St. Blase was ordered by the governor of Cappadocia to denounce his faith and sacrifice to pagan gods. He refused, and was brutally tortured and eventually beheaded for this offense. He is invoked against diseases of the throat.

St. Erasmus: A 4th-century bishop of Formia, St. Erasmus (also known as St. Elmo) faced persecution under the emperor Diocletian. According to legend, he fled to Mount Lebanon for a time to escape persecution, where he was fed by a raven. After he was discovered, he was arrested and imprisoned, but made multiple miraculous escapes with the help of an angel. At one point he was tortured by having part of his intestines pulled out by hot rods. Some accounts say he was miraculously healed of these wounds and died of natural causes, while others say that this was the cause of his martyrdom. St. Erasmus is invoked by those suffering from stomach pains and disorders, and by women in labor.

St. Pantaleon: Another 4th-century martyr persecuted under Diocletian, St. Pantaleon was the son of a rich pagan, but was instructed in Christianity by his mother and a priest. He worked as a physician to the emperor Maximinianus. According to legend, St. Pantaleon was denounced as a Christian to the emperor by his peers who were jealous of his rich inheritance. When he refused to worship false gods, St. Pantaleon was tortured and his murder was attempted by various methods - burning torches on his flesh, a bath of liquid lead, being thrown into the sea tied to a stone, and so on. Each time, he was rescued from death by Christ, who appeared in the form of a priest. St. Pantaleon was only successfully beheaded after he desired his own martyrdom. He is invoked as a patron saint of physicians and midwives.

St. Vitus: Also a 4th-century martyr persecuted by Diocletian, St. Vitus was the son of a senator in Sicily and became Christian under the influence of his nurse. According to legend, St. Vitus inspired many conversions and performed many miracles, which angered those who hated Christianity. St. Vitus, and his Christian nurse and her husband, were denounced to the emperor, who ordered them to be put to death when they refused to renounce their faith. Like St. Pantaleon, many attempts were made at killing them, including releasing them to lions in the Colosseum, but they were miraculously delivered each time. They were eventually put to death on the rack. St. Vitus is invoked against epilepsy, paralysis, and diseases of the nervous system.

St. Christopher: A 3rd-century martyr originally called Reprobus, he was the son of pagans and had originally pledged his service to a pagan king and to Satan. Eventually, the conversion of a king and the instruction of a monk led Reprobus to convert to Christianity, and he was called on to use his strength and muscles to help carry people across a raging stream where there was no bridge. Once he was carrying a child who announced himself as Christ, and declared the Reprobus would be called “Christopher” - or Christ-bearer. The encounter filled Christopher with missionary zeal, and he returned home to Turkey to convert nearly 50,000. Angered, the Emperor Decius had Christopher arrested, imprisoned and tortured. While he was delivered from many tortures, including being shot with arrows, Christopher was beheaded around the year 250. He is invoked against epilepsy and toothache, and is the patron of a holy death.

St. Denis: There are conflicting accounts of St. Denis, with some accounts claiming he was converted to Christianity in Athens by St. Paul, and then became the first Bishop of Paris sometime in the first century. Other accounts claim he was a Bishop of Paris but a martyr of the third century. What is known is that he was a zealous missionary who eventually came to France, where he was beheaded on Montmartre - the Mount of Martyrs - a place where many early Christians were killed for the faith. He is invoked against demonic attacks.

St. Cyriacus: Another 4th century martyr, St. Cyriacus, a deacon, was actually favored by the emperor Diocletian after he cured the emperor’s daughter in the name of Jesus, and then the friend of the emperor. According to the and The Fourteen Holy Helpers, by Fr. Bonaventure Hammer, O.F.M., after Diocletian died, his successor, emperor Maximin, increased the persecution of Christians and imprisoned Cyriacus, who was tortured at the rack and beheaded for refusing to renounce Christianity. He is the patron of those who suffer from eye diseases.

St. Acacius: A fourth-century martyr under the emperor Galerius, St. Acacius was a captain in the Roman army when he heard a voice telling him to “Call on the help of the God of Christians,” according to tradition. He obeyed the voice and immediately sought baptism in the Christian faith. He zealously set about converting the soldiers of the army, but was soon denounced to the emperor, tortured, and sent before a tribunal for questioning, before which he again refused to denounce his faith. After many more tortures, from some of which he was miraculously healed, St. Acacius was beheaded in the year 311. He is the patron saint of those who suffer from headaches.

St. Eustace: Little is known about this second-century martyr, persecuted under the Emperor Trajan. According to tradition, Eustace was a general in the army who converted to Christianity after a vision of a Crucifix that appeared between the antlers of a deer while he was hunting. He converted his family to Christianity, and he and his wife were burned to death after refusing to participate in a pagan ceremony. He is invoked against fires.

St. Giles: One of the later Holy Helpers and the only one definitively known to not be a martyr, St. Giles became a seventh-century monk in the area of Athens, despite his birth to nobility. He eventually retreated to the wilderness to found a monastery under the rule of St. Benedict, and was renowned for his holiness and the miracles he performed. According to, he also once counseled Charles Martel, grandfather of Charlemagne, to confess a sin that had been weighing on him. Giles died peacefully around the year of 712, and is invoked against crippling diseases.

St. Margaret of Antioch: Another fourth-century martyr persecuted by Diocletian, St. Margaret, like St. Vitus, converted to Christianity under the influence of her nurse, angering her father and causing him to disown her. A consecrated virigin, Margaret was tending flocks of sheep one day when a Roman spotted her and sought to make her his wife or concubine. When she refused, the Roman had Margaret brought before a court, where she was ordered to denounce her faith or die. She refused, and she was ordered to be burned and boiled alive, and miraculously she was spared from both. Eventually, she was beheaded. She is invoked as a patron of pregnant women and those suffering from kidney diseases.

St. Barbara: While little is known of this third-century martyr, St. Barbara is thought to have been the daughter of a rich and jealous man who sought to keep Barbara from the world. When she confessed to him that she had converted to Christianity, he denounced her and brought her before local authorities, who ordered that she be tortured and beheaded. According to legend, her own father did the beheading, for which he was struck by lightning shortly thereafter. St. Barbara is invoked against fires and lightning storms.

St. Catherine of Alexandria: A fourth-century martyr, St. Catherine was the daughter of the Queen of Egypt, and converted to Christianity after a vision of Christ and Mary. The Queen also converted to Christianity before her death. When Maximinus started persecuting Christians in Egypt, St. Catherine rebuked him and attempted to prove to him that his gods were false. After debating with the emperor’s best scholars, many of whom converted due to her arguments, Catherine was scourged, imprisoned, and eventually beheaded. She is the patron saint of philosophers and young students.

Washington DC homeless shelter serves the poor despite coronavirus fears

Tue, 03/10/2020 - 19:00

Washington D.C., Mar 10, 2020 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- As the Coronavirus (COVID-19) spreads in the U.S., one Catholic organization is trying to protect a population that is particularly vulnerable to the spread of contagious illnesses—the city’s homeless.

“One of the repercussions of being homeless is that those sorts of hygiene habits kind of go by the wayside,” said Kim Cox, president of the Father McKenna Center in Washington, D.C. which ministers to homeless men in the area.

She noted that the center, which emphasizes community among the men who visit, also stresses personal hygiene - including good hand-washing practices - as part of a lifestyle as conducive as possible to good health.

“They need to stay healthy,” Cox said, emphasizing the need for the homeless to avoid habits like drinking and drug use that could compromise their immune systems. “We can only just remind them of appropriate behavior and encourage them to take it on,” she said.

The Father McKenna Center is a day shelter for homeless men just north of the U.S. Capitol grounds in Washington, D.C.

The center is named for Father Horace B. McKenna, SJ, who served for years in Washington, D.C., and was recognized as the “priest to the poor” in the city. It offers meals, case management, and programs to help those who are homeless begin to take control of their life.

“Our real devotion is to help these guys get convinced that they deserve a better life, and that there’s a way to get to it,” Cox told CNA.

Making matters more complex for the center is the threat of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). The global outbreak has resulted in more than 113,000 confirmed cases and more than 4,000 deaths, according to the World Health Organization.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the contagious virus has reached the U.S., with 647 confirmed or presumptive positive cases and 25 deaths in 36 jurisdictions—including Washington, D.C. Most of the confirmed cases are in the states of Washington, California, and New York.

The Washington homeless population, already vulnerable to illnesses like the flu, are at risk from the spread of the virus. Lacking shelter and exposed to the elements, many have poor hygiene because of lack of access to soap and facilities like showers.

The Father McKenna center has already taken precautions to prevent the spread of the virus, Cox told CNA, mandating the use of hand sanitizer for staff and homeless clients. Staff have been trained to look for signs of Coronavirus in the homeless patrons, and to send them to a nearby health clinic for testing if they appear to have been infected.

Despite the extra precautions, the men still eventually leave for the streets, running added risks of exposure to the virus. The center tries to equip them as well as possible with knowledge of hygiene and a healthy lifestyle, and to serve the homeless through a God-centered mission.

“One of the things that, I think, sets a faith-based organization apart from a secular organization that serves the same population is that we genuinely believe these guys are redeemable,” Cox said.

“That is, we believe that they can change. We believe that they can make decisions to change their lives to be better.”

The organization’s mission, Cox said, flows from the belief that man is made “in the image and likeness of God.”

“I think that’s very, very Catholic, that whole sense of redemption and possibility of growing closer to who God made us to be,” Cox said. “We recognize that these guys are broken in mind, body, and spirit. And while we do not proselytize, God is very present in our presentation.”

Hebda 'confounded' by 'Abortion Providers Appreciation Day' celebrations

Tue, 03/10/2020 - 18:30

St. Paul, Minn., Mar 10, 2020 / 04:30 pm (CNA).- The twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul both celebrated March 10 as “Abortion Providers Appreciation Day.” Minnesota’s archbishop said he is “profoundly saddened” by those celebrations.

“I cannot help but be profoundly saddened and confounded that elected officials in both St. Paul and Minneapolis declared today ‘Abortion Provider Appreciation Day,’” Archbishop Bernard Hebda said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.

“Given that each human life is created in the image and likeness of God and has value, to honor those who purposefully end such life is an affront not only to our Creator but to the foundational values of civil society. There is no way around it – abortion kills children.”

The city council of St. Paul, Minnesota voted 7-0 last week to declare March 10 “Abortion Providers Appreciation Day.” The day was intended to recognize the March 10, 1993 killing of David Gunn, a Florida abortionist who was shot to death by 31-year-old Michael F. Griffin.

Griffin reportedly shouted “Don’t kill any more babies” just before he shot Gunn three times in the back.

Following St. Paul’s lead, Minneapolis’ Mayor Jacob Frey announced March 10 that his city too would celebrate “Abortion Provider Appreciation Day.”

After the St. Paul decision, the pro-life office of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis urged Catholics to send letters to city council members, to “show your disdain for this new day in Minnesota.”

“Be civil, but be direct and firm,” the office said in an email to Catholics March 9. “What they have done is unconscionable.”

The director of the state’s Catholic conference told CNA that Catholics need to get involved in politics at the local level.

“The day is an opportunity to ask ourselves, ‘How did we get to this point where we have elected officials who would do something so outrageous and divisive?’ Catholics have largely failed to engage politically at the local level, ceding the ground to others who often don’t share our viewpoint,” Jason Adkins, executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference, told CNA.

Adkins encouraged Catholics to make sure local leaders understand the work the Church does.

“Do our local elected officials hear from us? Are we telling our story, including telling them about the work of pregnancy resource centers in helping women in need? Those centers are doing great work, but if we are not in relationship with our elected officials and helping them work for human dignity and the common good, it’s easier for them to write people off for ideological reasons or engage in group think,” Adkins said.

“It’s why embracing a politics of encounter, as Pope Francis calls it, or the idea of civic friendship, is so necessary.  We can’t possibly expect good laws to be made if we don’t even know who represents us,” he added.

In 2017, there were 10,740 abortions in Minnesota, according to the Guttmacher Institute. 11 facilities in Minnesota performed abortions in 2017, 7 of which the Guttmacher Institute classified as clinics.

Adkins told CNA that Catholics should engage with civic officials respectfully in the face of issues like “Abortion Providers Appreciation Day.”

“We may not always agree with our elected officials, but we have no choice but to operate on the premise that for civic life to function, we must engage in respectful dialogue and conversation about what is good, rather than just sitting content with being reactive and outraged. We can light a candle or curse the darkness,” he said.

For his part, Hebda said that the state’s Catholics are a source of encouragement to him.

“What gives me hope...are the countless women and men of goodwill who tirelessly give of themselves to accompany women in crisis pregnancies, love and assist moms and babies and work to create a culture of life in our communities and in our world. It is those people we should be honoring.”


Sen. Sasse calls for Justice Department to investigate PornHub

Tue, 03/10/2020 - 14:00

Washington D.C., Mar 10, 2020 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- Senator Ben Sasse called Monday for the Attorney General to investigate the website Pornhub. The senator said the site had promoted videos showing the sexual assault and rape of a victim of human trafficking.

“The foremost duty of the Department of Justice is to ensure the safety of the American people, especially the most vulnerable among us,” Sen. Sasse (R-Neb.) wrote in his letter to Attorney General Barr on March 9.

In the letter the senator asked for a federal investigation into the online pornography platform, and its owner MindGeek, citing the promotion of videos that exploited a trafficking victim.

In a statement on the letter released Tuesday, Sasse cited “several notable incidents over the past year” where Pornhub promoted content online “showing women and girls that were victims of trafficking being raped and exploited.”

Sasse also highlighted cases in which women were coerced into performing sex acts for a video that was uploaded to the site without their consent

“Pornhub must not escape scrutiny. I therefore request that the Department open an investigation into Pornhub and its parent entity MindGeek Holding SARL for their involvement in this disturbing pipeline of exploiting children and other victims and survivors of sex trafficking,” Sasse wrote in his letter to the Justice Department.

Pornhub has come under widespread scrutiny in recent months, after videos showing the sexual abuse and rape of a 15 year-old girl appeared on the platform in 2019.

The girl in the videos had been missing for a year and reportedly was raped and forced to have an abortion. Her mother saw her on the website—a discovery that led to the arrest of the girl’s captor Christopher Johnson.

“These publicized cases clearly represent just the tip of the iceberg of women and children being exploited in videos on Pornhub,” Sasse wrote Monday.

As of Tuesday morning, more than 425,000 people have signed an online petition at calling for PornHub to be shut down. The petition also calls for its executives to be held accountable for alleged complicity in human trafficking.

In November, the payment vendor PayPal abruptly cut payment services for Pornhub.

Pornhub has touted 39 billion internet searches in 2019, nearly seven million video uploads, and more than 80,000 visits per minute, according to Sasse’s letter.

Sasse’s letter comes after four members of Congress in December petitioned the Department of Justice (DOJ) to enforce existing obscenity laws and prosecute pornographers.

Reps. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.), Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), and Brian Babin (R-Tex.) wrote Attorney General William Barr, asking him to resurrect the Obscenity Prosecution Task Force in the DOJ’s Criminal Justice Division. The task force was charged with investigating and prosecuting makers of hard-core pornography.

Fifteen state legislatures have already declared pornography to be a “public health crisis,” and President Donald Trump signed the Children’s Internet Safety Presidential Pledge while a candidate for the presidency in 2016, commiting himself to enforce obscenity and anti-child pornography laws as president.

Pope Francis, in a November meeting with technology executives, brought up the problem of children being exposed to pornography at an early age. “This is in no way acceptable,” he said, urging the executives to “assume their responsibility” and protect children from pornography.

Justice Department highlights state-level religious freedom violations

Mon, 03/09/2020 - 19:00

Washington D.C., Mar 9, 2020 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- The Department of Justice (DOJ) is targeting state and local government violations of religious freedom, a senior DOJ official told reporters on Monday.

“Attorney General Barr is particularly interested in religious freedom, and religious liberty issues,” said Eric Dreiband, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, on Monday.

There are still “violations of free exercise of religion protections” by state and local governments, he said, expressing his hope that with “very aggressive enforcement by the Justice Department of religious freedom protections that the public will understand that the Department of Justice takes religious freedom very seriously, zealously, and vigorously.”

Dreiband spoke with reporters on Monday in a DOJ briefing on religious freedom.

Several religious freedom cases are before the U.S. Supreme Court this term, including Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, and Harris Funeral Homes, Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The first case concerns the use of a public scholarship fund for religious schools. The second case addresses the question of whether Title VII prohibitions on sex discrimination apply to sexual orientation and gender identity. The business being sued by the EEOC, Harris Funeral Homes, Inc., is run by owners who say they operate their business in accord with their religious beliefs. 

The DOJ has filed a statement of interest in a case similar to Espinoza, supporting the argument of students in Carson v. Makin who say that a Maine tuition fund barred them from attending a religious school.

The Justice Department has also weighed in on other cases at the state and local levels, submitting statements of interest and amicus briefs in favor of the free speech and free exercise of religion of individuals and groups.

One local case is that of photographer Chelsea Nelson, who sued the city of Louisville, Kentucky, over an anti-discrimination ordinance she says would violate her First Amendment rights.

The law forbids discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in public accommodation, and Nelson says she would be forced to violate her religious beliefs on marriage and photograph same-sex weddings if her services were requested.  

The DOJ recently came out in support of Nelson’s case, saying that her free speech and freedom of association protections would be violated under the ordinance.

When asked by CNA if he has noticed an uptick in similar cases around the country, Dreiband answered “I don’t know,” and “I hope not.”

“I hope that there would be an awareness that sincerely-held religious faith is something that everyone should respect,” he said.

“However, we have seen, and I think unfortunately will continue to see, examples of where the government is attempting to coerce people to violate their religious faith.”

The department has also been active in its enforcement of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), a 2000 law that protects the rights of churches and religious institutions against unduly burdensome zoning regulations.

In 2018, the DOJ announced its “Place to Worship” initiative to increase awareness of the rights of religious institutions under the law. The agency has fought local regulations that prevented the construction or creation of churches in states including Nebraska, Michigan, and New York, and a village in Texas that denied an application for an Islamic cemetery.

“We have increased significantly the number of investigations and lawsuits” filed under the law, Dreiband said.

Regarding the Fulton v. City of Philadelphia case, where Catholic Social Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia saw its contract with the city for adoption services terminated because of its religious views on marriage, Dreiband said the government had not yet taken a position in that case. The Supreme Court had only recently granted the petition to hear it, he said, with oral arguments expected in October.

Sanders announces plans to expand abortion access and funding

Mon, 03/09/2020 - 18:00

Washington D.C., Mar 9, 2020 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- If elected president, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) would use his Medicare for all policy to increase access to abortion nationwide, and roll back limits on state funding for the procedure, his campaign announced on Saturday.

“Bernie believes abortion is a constitutional right, period,” says the opening of his campaign’s “Reproductive Health Care and Justice for All” plan, published on his website March 7. 

The Vermont senator is one of three candidates remaining in the race for the Democratic nomination for president. If elected, Sanders’ campaing said he would move to overturn the Hyde Amendment, which prevents federal funding from going to abortion services. Abortion and other reproductive health services “will be provided free at the point of serrvice,” along with contraception.

“When we are in the White House, Bernie will fight back against the Republican assault on abortion rights across the country and defend a woman’s right to control her own body here at home and around the world,” the plan states. 

Since 2016, repealing the Hyde Amendment has been a part of the Democratic Party’s platform. 

“In order to ensure everyone can receive the reproductive health care they need under Medicare for All, Bernie will significantly expand funding for Planned Parenthood, Title X, and other initiatives that protect women’s health, access to contraception, and the availability of a safe and legal abortion,” said the plan. 

Sanders also pledged to fill any judicial vacancies with judges who will support the right to abortion and will “protect reproductive rights at every level.”

“As President, Bernie will work tirelessly to undo the damage Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell have done,” says the plan. 

The plan notes that Sanders would use executive orders to overturn the Trump administration’s pro-life policies, including the Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance policy and the changes to Title X. Sanders would increase funding to Planned Parenthood, and resume funding the United Nations Population Fund. The self-described democratic socialist would also work to increase the number of abortion facilities in low-income and minority areas, his campaign said. 

The policy document said a Sanders andminstration would also “ban ineffective abstinence-only sex education,” ensure “anti-choice crisis pregnancy centers” do not receive any Title X or government funding, and would make birth control pills available over the counter for free. 

As president, Sanders would require that any state-level abortion law receive federal preclearance, though by what legal mechanism this would be achieved was not made clear. 

Lila Rose, founder of the pro-life group Live Action, called Sanders’ plan “insane,” and said that it would “extend the slaughter of innoncent human beings and the harm of women and girls.” 

“He can’t be allowed our nation’s levers of power,” said Rose in a tweet published March 9. 

The plan also highlights Sanders’ longtime support for legal abortion, referencing a comments the senator made in 1972, before the Supreme Court's Roe vs. Wade decision legalized abortion nationwide.

Sanders spoke out in 1972 against male politicians who “think that they have the right to tell a woman what she can or cannot do with her body.” 


Hearing delayed in lawsuit over teacher's firing for same-sex marriage

Mon, 03/09/2020 - 16:24

Indianapolis, Ind., Mar 9, 2020 / 02:24 pm (CNA).- Indiana's Marion Superior Court has postponed a hearing scheduled for Tuesday in a religious liberty case over whether a Catholic school may dismiss a teacher for publicly violating Church teaching.

Becket, which is representing the the Archdiocese of Indianapolis in the case, has announced that a March 10 hearing in Payne-Elliott v. Archdiocese of Indianapolis “has been postponed for medical reasons.”

It added that the hearing will be reset at a later date.

Joshua Payne-Elliott, a former teacher at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis, filed a lawsuit claiming that the archdiocese illegally interfered in his professional relationship with Cathedral High School, leading the school to terminate his contract in June 2019.

Joshua and Layton Payne-Elliott had contracted a same-sex civil marriage in 2017.

Joshua was dismissed from Cathedral High because contracting a same-sex marriage violates archdiocesan policies and Catholic teaching.

“Archbishop Thompson made it clear that Cathedral’s continued employment of a teacher in a public, same-sex marriage would result in our forfeiting our Catholic identity due to our employment of an individual living in contradiction to Catholic teaching on marriage,” Cathedral High School leaders said in a June 2019 letter.

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

Layton is employed as a teacher at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School. The school's Catholic identity was revoked by the Archbishop of Indianapolis in 2019 after a disagreement about Layton's employment. The revocation is temporarily suspended while the Congregation for Catholic Education considers an appeal.

In 2017, Archbishop Charles Thompson of Indianapolis had requested that Cathedral High School and Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School not renew the Payne-Elliotts' contracts.

Joshua Payne-Elliott filed a lawsuit against the archdiocese in protest of his dismissal in August 2019, one day after having reached a settlement with Cathedral High School.

Jay Mercer, an attorney for the archdiocese, has said that “The Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized that churches have a constitutional right to determine rules for religious schools, and that religious schools have a constitutional right to hire leaders who support the schools’ religious mission.”

“Families rely on the Archdiocese to uphold the fullness of Catholic social teaching throughout its schools, and the Constitution fully protects the Church’s efforts to do so,” he added.

The Department of Justice has said that the school's decision was protected by the First Amendment.

“This case presents an important question: whether a religious entity’s interpretation and implementation of its own religious teachings can expose it to third-party intentional-tort liability. The First Amendment answers that question in the negative,” a Justice Department statement of interest said.

It added that “religious employers are entitled to employ only persons whose beliefs and conduct are consistent with the employers’ religious precepts, and, more broadly, that the United States Constitution bars the government from interfering with the autonomy of a religious organization.”

In June 2019, the archdiocese said of teachers that “it is their duty and privilege to ensure that students receive instruction in Catholic doctrine and practice. To effectively bear witness to Christ, whether they teach religion or not, all ministers in their professional and private lives must convey and be supportive of Catholic Church teaching.”

Archdiocesan policy states that every Catholic school, archdiocesan and private, must clearly state in its contracts and job descriptions that all teachers are ministers of the Gospel and must convey and be supportive of all teachings of the Catholic Church.

In a June 2019 statement, the archdiocese explained that teachers at Catholic schools are considered ministers, as part of the schools’ mission to forming students in the Catholic faith.

“To effectively bear witness to Christ, whether they teach religion or not, all ministers in their professional and private lives must convey and be supportive of Catholic Church teaching,” the archdiocese said.

Archbishop Thompson has stressed that Joshua Payne-Elliott was removed not because he is homosexual, but because he had contracted a same-sex marriage, in opposition to Church teaching on marriage.

All people should be treated with love and respect, and sexual orientation in itself is not sinful, the archbishop said.

However, he added, the Church is clear in teaching that the proper role of sexual activity is within a marriage between one man and one woman.

The problem in cases such as Brebeuf and Cathedral, he said, “is about public witness of Church teaching on the dignity of marriage as one man and one woman. That is our Church teaching.”

“In this particular case we’re dealing with, those are ministers in our Church. Teachers, guidance counselors, other leaders, leaders of the schools and other leaders in the archdiocese are bound to live out these principles.”

Fordham University suspends campus classes over coronavirus

Mon, 03/09/2020 - 13:36

New York City, N.Y., Mar 9, 2020 / 11:36 am (CNA).- Fordham University suspended in-person classes Monday afternoon, after an undergraduate student was tested for COVID-19. The Jesuit university in The Bronx announced that the suspension will continue through Tuesday, March 10, after which all classes will move to on-line instruction.

“Effective 1 p.m. today (Monday, March 9), we are taking the significant step of suspending face-to-face instruction on all Fordham’s New York-area campuses. Face-to-face classes are suspended for the remainder of Monday, March 9, and Tuesday, March 10,” says a letter published on Monday from Fordham President Fr. Joseph McShane, S.J.

Starting March 11, all classes will be taught online until further notice. Fordham’s spring recess, which was scheduled for March 14 through the 22nd, will continue as planned.

McShane wrote that the measures are “the best way to minimize the risk of spreading the virus throughout the campus community,” and that no Fordham students or anyone associated with the Fordham community has tested positive for the virus. 

Fordham has three campuses in New York: the original campus, located in the Rose Hill neighborhood of The Bronx, its Lincoln Center campus in Manhattan, and a smaller, single-building campus in Westchester. 

Undergraduate students who reside in campus housing are encouraged to return home as quickly as possible. 

McShane said that, over the weekend, a commuter student who does not reside on campus began exhibiting symptoms of coronavirus, and was tested for the illness. That student is currently “self-isolating at home,” and the results of the COVID-19 test have not yet been released.

“We will inform the campus community immediately if we learn that the lab result is positive for the COVID-19 virus,” said McShane. “If the student is in fact positive for the virus, following established protocols, the New York City Department of Health will work in concert with University Health Services to reach everyone with whom the student has been in contact, and University staff will also follow-up on this initial contact with each person.”

In addition to the suspension of classes, Fordham has canceled or postponed all university-sponsored travel, with some exceptions for athletic teams.

“We realize that these measures are disruptive, and possibly alarming. Let me assure you that we take them because we believe they are the best way to protect the health and wellbeing of the campus community,” said McShane. He added that he was “proud of the work ethic, dedication, and resiliency of the Fordham community.” 

“I would especially like to thank the faculty for the generosity of heart and deep care for our students that they have shown in adjusting their teaching to accommodate our students’ needs. You and your loved ones are in my prayers today and every day,” said McShane.

The decision by Fordham was announced on the same day as other universities in the state implemented similar policies in response to the coronavirus outbreak. On Monday, both Princeton and Columbia universities said they are cancelling in-person classes and restricting on-campus meetings and university-sponsored travel.

On Saturday, New York governor Andrew Cuomo declared a state-wide emergency, with 12 confirmed cases in New York City as of March 7.

Per the Centers for Disease Control, there have been 423 cases of COVID-19 in the United States, with 19 deaths. The virus has been found in 34 states as well as the District of Columbia.

Why a new consecration to St. Joseph is spreading like wildfire 

Sun, 03/08/2020 - 06:00

Denver, Colo., Mar 8, 2020 / 04:00 am (CNA).- One of the most prominent people in the life of Jesus Christ, St. Joseph, his foster father, is also one of the quietest. And as such, he can be one of the most overlooked people in the Bible and in the Holy Family.

But Fr. Donald Calloway is hoping to change that, because he thinks the world needs St. Joseph now more than ever. Calloway told CNA that he thinks people today are confused about meaning.

People often approach the priest “so confused about the times we're living in when it comes to marriage and family, and you've got all this gender ideology stuff today. People are just really confused about what it means to be a man, what it means to be a woman.”

Because he has personally had a devotion to St. Joseph for a long time, Calloway said he started wondering several years ago whether there was a consecration to the foster-father of Jesus, similar to the popular consecration to Mary by St. Louis de Montfort.

If such a consecration already existed, Calloway wanted to promote it - he thought St. Joseph’s intercession and example were the antidotes to the confusion people were experiencing. But when he asked at the Vatican and various religious orders, he found that a consecration to St. Joseph did not yet exist in the Church.

“They said, no Father, that's a great idea. But they said, no, we've never heard of anything like that. And so I said, well, I'm going to do it then,” Calloway said. 

For the next three years, Calloway started researching, praying, and compiling a consecration to St. Joseph, the earthly husband of Mary and the foster-father of Jesus.

Because of the popularity of the Marian consecration, Calloway said he’s had Catholics ask him whether the consecration to St. Joseph would somehow take away from their consecration to Mary.

“The word (consecration) technically means setting something aside for a holy purpose. We consecrate altars, for example, because we're going to use it for Mass. Or we consecrate people we have in religious communities and such,” he said.

“So when we consecrate ourselves to Mary or Joseph, we're basically entrusting ourselves to their spiritual care because they're our spiritual parents. ...and the answer is no, because we're not members of a one-parent spiritual family,” he said.

In his book, Calloway writes that consecration to St. Joseph means “that you acknowledge that he is your spiritual father, and you want to be like him. To show it, you entrust yourself entirely to his paternal care so that he can lovingly help you acquire his virtues and become holy...St. Joseph, in turn, will give those consecrated to him his loving attention, protection and guidance.”

The first person to entrust themself to the spiritual care of Joseph and Mary was actually Jesus, he added.

“And so we give ourselves to their care, just like Jesus did when he was growing up. He lived under their roof, he was under their care, and he didn't just go to his mom, you know, he went to his dad as well to St Joseph. So that’s what it is, entrusting ourselves to St. Joseph’s spiritual fatherhood to help us grow in virtue and closer to Christ.”

The consecration to St. Joseph also shares some similarities to the consecration to Mary by Louis DeMonfort, Calloway added like the length (33 days) and the general format, which consists of daily reflections on the life and virtues of St. Joseph, as well as special prayers.

“In the 18th century, when (DeMonfort) came up with his method, he made it 33 days, which is really good (because) if it was only like five or nine days, it's not enough, you're not going to really be able to cover a lot of material,” Calloway said.

On the other hand, “if it's like three months long, people are going to be like, yeah, this is too much. So one month is a good amount of time. On a daily basis you go through some readings, you unpack some of the titles, the honors, the privileges associated with St. Joseph... and then you end every day with some prayers. And by the end of that, you're like, wow, I really know this guy now. I really feel that I want him as part of my spiritual life.”

Like the Marian consecration, the St. Joseph consecration can be done individually or within a small group.

John De Guzman, a seminarian for the diocese of Raleigh, North Carolina, told CNA that he found out about the consecration to St. Joseph through Fr. Calloway’s social media pages. He started doing the consecration by himself, and then was joined by one of his fellow seminarians.

When he spoke with CNA, he was on the 10th day of the consecration, and is set to finish on March 19, the feast of St. Joseph.

De Guzman said he was inspired to do the consecration because he felt that St. Joseph was the member of the Holy Family with whom he was the least familiar.

“They are the perfect model of a family, and why would I not want to get closer to the father? I'm getting closer to the mother. I'm getting closer to the son. Well, then why not get closer to the father, make this a perfect trinity?” he said.

De Guzman said he thinks the consecration has been so popular because the world is desperately looking for examples of manhood, fatherhood, and loving families.

Many of the issues that adults deal with today stem from some kind of instability in their own family of origin, he added.

“It can stem from tensions with the father, or a lack of a father, or the lack of some spiritual and emotional intimacy...the lack of human interaction and relationship with a father,” he said.

The consecration, on the other hand, is bringing to light “that Saint Joseph is your human father that you can really develop a relationship with,” he said.

“Saint Joseph was not immaculately conceived. Saint Joseph was not a perfect human being,” he said.

“If anything, Saint Joseph probably was in one of the more difficult situations of his time, being married to the most beautiful woman out there, (his foster) son is the Lord. For me, that would probably be a playground for temptations where the devil can attack. But Saint Joseph triumphs. And the beautiful thing is he's not God, so there's that human relationship, the human aspect that you can connect to.”

Robert Morgan and Sarah Kalonick, who are engaged to be married in June, told CNA that the consecration has helped them prepare for marriage and family life.

In their regular marriage prep, they are given a mentor couple with whom they can meet and ask questions about married life. Kalonick said they’ve started to look to Joseph and Mary as their “other mentor couple.”

“(The consecration) really, in a very accessible and simple way, lets you focus on this hidden Saint,” she said. “What are his qualities? What are his virtues? Who is he?” Like De Guzman, Morgan said he found it easier to relate to St. Joseph than to Mary when it came to the Holy Family.

“I think some of it is trying to reclaim a masculinity that's been lost over the years in our faith,” he said. “And also as a man, it's a little easier for me to get the perspective of St. Joseph in Jesus's story, than it is for me to look from Mary's side of things.”

On the other hand, Kalonick said that as a woman, growing closer to St. Joseph has been a “healing experience” for her in light of some of the hurt she experienced in past relationships with men.

“It helps heal and form my own perspective of (good relationships),” she said. “Here is a man who is pure-hearted, and virtuous, and loving the Lord, and loving this lady."

Kalonick said the point is not to “idealize” St. Joseph or to set “false expectations” of real men, but to “get to know the realness of Joseph and who a man can be, who he is, what man is, and to start looking for that in the relationships that you seek out.”

As someone studying for the priesthood, De Guzman said the consecration has inspired him to learn more about the earthly father to whom Jesus himself was entrusted.

“Christ was consecrated to these two, Joseph and Mary were his father and his mother here on earth. Jesus grew through the fatherhood of St. Joseph. For me, I'm studying to be a priest (and) as a Christian, I want to be more like Christ. What better way to be more like Christ than to develop the same kind of love and relationship with his father?”

Like the Marian consecration, the consecration to St. Joseph is becoming very popular among Catholics - even though it was just published on January 1.

“So far people are loving it, and parishes and places that are doing it, they're loving it,” Calloway said. “It's unbelievable...we almost can't keep up with the demand.”

Calloway said he thinks part of the reason the consecration has been “flying off the shelves” is because the world is starving for good fathers. According to 2017 U.S. Census Bureau data, more than one in four children are growing up in a fatherless home.

“We've got a lot of people with a lot of father wounds and absent fathers,” he said. “They don't know what a father is and they've never experienced their loving father or a father who's present in their lives.”

Besides a crisis of fatherhood in families, the Church itself is also experiencing a crisis of spiritual fathers today, Calloway said, referring to the priests and bishops and cardinals who have been found guilty of both “sinful and criminal things” in recent sex abuse scandals.

“(They’ve) hurt a lot of people caused a lot of scandal,” he said. “And so people right now are thirsting for a good father.”

“Part of what I would like the fruit of this to be is the affirmation that we do have a loving father in St. Joseph, and he's never going to hurt us. He's there for us and a good father who wants his children to make it to heaven. And he's ultimately, like Our Lady, not going to point to himself, but point us to Jesus and help us to grow.”

Another aspect of St. Joseph’s sainthood that may not be well known are the various patronages and titles he holds, Calloway added, and each day of the consecration is dedicated to one of these.

Perhaps one of the only well-known St. Joseph traditions, that leans more superstitious than spiritual, is the burying a St. Joseph statue upside down in the yard, with the belief that he will then help one’s house sell faster. “It’s kind of spiritual bribery,” Calloway said.

“They’ll say, ‘I’m not going to turn you right-side up until you sell my house. Well what kind of craziness is that?” Rather, there are much more profound things for which St. Joseph’s intercession can be invoked, such as for a good death.

“He's the patron of the dying, because the tradition says that when he died, he died in the arms of Jesus and Mary. You won't get a better death than that, so when you pray to him for a happy death...we pray that we would be embraced by our Lord and our Lady,” Calloway noted.

St. Joseph is also the patron of virgins, Calloway said, because he never had marital relations with Mary.

“We live in a world that's just filled with lust and perversions of every kind, and we've got this pornographic plague right now. And I think that's something that we can look to him for as well. Not just for virgins, but also for marriages, for couples to be chaste within their marriage...and to have that dignity for each other and that respect for each other.”

Some of Calloway’s other favorite titles for St. Joseph include Pillar of Families and Glory of Domestic life, he said, but the “money title” is: Terror of Demons.

“Because you know, a lot of times you look at (artwork of St. Joseph) and it doesn't look too intimidating. He looks old with the cane,” Calloway said. “But the reality is he wasn't some old man. And that's really not a cane - it's like a staff of a warrior.”

“Satan knows the power that (St. Joseph) has because he has such familiarity and intimacy with Christ. Just like when our Lady asks Jesus to do something, she's asking as his mother, well when Joseph asks, he's asking Jesus as his father, and so there's power in that petition and Satan is terrified that.”

Besides the 33 days of reflections, the Consecration to St. Joseph book contains reflections on the “wonders of St. Joseph,” which include descriptions of miraculous places and events attributed to St. Joseph’s intercession. The book also includes additional prayers, such as the Litany of St. Joseph, the Holy Cloak novena, and other prayers from saints and popes dedicated to St. Joseph, as well as guides for those leading small groups with the consecration.

The website for the consecration to St. Joseph also contains a chart which shows when one can begin the 33-day consecration in order for it to end on specific feast days or holy days related to St. Joseph.

Consecration books can be ordered through the website as well - but order quickly, they are going fast, Calloway noted. De Guzman said he would encourage anyone interested in growing closer to St. Joseph to do the consecration, or any other devotion that would bring them closer to the saint.

Even though the saint is known for his silence and humility “it seems like now is the time for his fatherhood to really shine in our lives, and so I would encourage people to really respond to that.”


Louisiana AG: Argument against Unsafe Abortion Act ‘absolutely a lie’

Sat, 03/07/2020 - 14:00

Washington D.C., Mar 7, 2020 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry has dismissed arguments made before the Supreme Court against a state abortion law as “absolutely a lie.” In a Thursday interview, Landry said efforts to conflate the case with a Texas law regulating abortion clinics, struck down by the court in 2016, were clearly false. 

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case June Medical Serves v. Russo on Wednesday, as lawyers for a Louisiana abortion clinic challenged the state’s Unsafe Abortion Protection Act, which requires that abortionists in the state have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the facility.

Critics of the law have likened it to a similar statute in Texas which the Supreme Court struck down in the case Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt in 2016. The court ruled that the admitting privileges requirement in Texas’ H.B. 2 placed “an undue burden on abortion access.” 

In an interview Thursday on EWTN Pro-Life Weekly, Landry said there was no reasonable parallel to be drawn between the two cases. 

The Texas law, he argued, singled out abortion facilities by only requiring abortionists to have admitting privileges, without making that a requirement for other ambulatory surgical centers. Under the Louisiana law, abortion centers are simply being brought into line with existing regulation - doctors at all other ambulatory surgical centers are already required to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, regardless of the type of procedure they perform. 

Unsafe Abortion Protection Act, Landry said, brings abortion clinics out of a “no-man’s land,” making them subject to the same regulations other ambulatory surgical centers already meet in Louisiana.  

Landry argued that by conflating the two separate laws and cases surrounding them, the mainstream media is echoing the plaintiff’s argument “which is absolutely a lie.” 

“Texas’ law and Louisiana’s law and the cases are as different as an apple and an orange,” he said. 

Louisiana Solicitor General Liz Murrill, who defended the law before the Supreme Court, agreed, saying in the same interview that abortionists “shouldn’t be given a special exemption to rules that we’re applying to other doctors in our state.”

Murrill said there is a “robust legislative record to support our law,” and argued that the law was being challenged by those with an interest in deregulation - an interest in clear conflict with what was best for women.

“I think it’s just fundamentally in conflict with the interests of the people who are protected with health and safety regulations,” Murrill said. “If you think about a seat belt law, we wouldn’t let Ford Motor Company challenge a seatbelt law or an airbag law in the name of the people who are protected by that airbag.”

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Liz Murrill, Louisiana’s Solicitor General, defended Louisiana’s <a href=";ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ProLife</a> law in the Supreme Court yesterday. It was a case brought on by an abortion facility over admitting privileges. Murrill explains why she considers this a conflict of interest. <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; EWTN Pro-Life Weekly (@EWTNProLife) <a href="">March 6, 2020</a></blockquote> <script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

Kate Scanlon is a producer for EWTN Pro-Life Weekly.

Catholics react to Alabama execution of Nathan Woods

Fri, 03/06/2020 - 19:00

Birmingham, Ala., Mar 6, 2020 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- Following a controversial execution in Alabama on Thursday night, Catholics in the state have reiterated their opposition to the death penalty.

Late Thursday evening, the state of Alabama executed 43-year-old Nathan Woods by lethal injection.

Woods, who was black, was convicted in 2005 on four counts of capital murder and one count of attempted murder in the shootings of three white police officers in 2004 in Birmingham. 

The three officers had arrived at a house where Woods and his co-defendant Kerry Spencer were believed to stash and sell drugs, and served Woods an arrest warrant for another misdemeanor offense.

As the officers tried to take Woods into custody, three of the officers were shot dead and a fourth survived.

The survivor, Officer Michael Collins, took cover behind the patrol car and testified that he saw Spencer shooting at him from inside the apartment. 

The state conceded that Spencer shot the three officers, but argued that Woods was “an accomplice to the shootings,” according to local news KIRO 7. Woods, according to court records, allegedly threatened the officers if they were to enter the residence. 

His co-defendant Kerry Spencer claimed that Woods was “100% innocent” in the killings of the officers, in a handwritten letter from prison.

Woods was sentenced to death by a jury, although not unanimously—Alabama is the only state where a death sentence does not require a unanimous vote by a jury.

A last-minute appeal to halt the execution was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday night.

Justice Clarence Thomas granted a temporary administrative stay to give the Court more time to fully consider the case. Later on Thursday evening, the application for a halt to the execution was denied by the full Court.

In response to Thursday night’s execution of Woods, the Diocese of Birmingham directed CNA to a joint statement of the bishops of Alabama and Mississippi on capital punishment.

“As Christians, we remember that wrongdoing, no matter how evil, deserves punishment but not vengeance,” the statement reads.

“God can touch and change even the most bitter and hardened heart. Mindful of this, we do not support the execution of criminals. When we execute someone, we take away any opportunity they have to repent and develop a relationship with God in this life,” the bishops stated.

The Archdiocese of Mobile referred to a column written by Archbishop Thomas Rodi in The Catholic Week in August of 2018.

“The death penalty is not a private matter,” the archbishop wrote in the column.

“It is not the grieving loved ones who execute those found guilty, it is not merely the governor who executes, it is not merely the warden of the prison who executes, it is all of us, the citizens of Alabama, since capital punishment is the law that we have enacted and enforce.”

“I remain convinced that we the citizens of Alabama need to end capital punishment in our civil courts,” he wrote. 

The group Catholic Mobilizing Network, which advocates for an end to use of the death penalty, was following Woods’ case and asked supporters for prayers.

“At times like these we may feel at a loss of what to do in the face of such egregious acts of violence. These are the moments when we pray for God's guidance and Grace. Please pray, on behalf of Nathaniel Woods that he may come to know God's peace and ever-present mercy,” the group stated on its website.

Pope Francis in 2018 approved new language for the Catechism on the death penalty, calling it “inadmissible.”

The new language states that “the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that ‘the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person,’ and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.”