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Supreme Court hears petition to overturn Louisiana abortion law

Thu, 04/18/2019 - 16:00

Washington D.C., Apr 18, 2019 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- Louisiana abortion providers presented arguments to the Supreme Court Wednesday, asking the court to strike down a state law requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.

The Center for Reproductive Rights formally presented its petition April 17, after the court granted a stay in February which blocked the law from coming into effect while lower courts heard the case.

The District Court found against the law in 2016, preventing it from coming into effect, but the decision was reversed by the U.S. Court of Appeals’ 5th Circuit.

The abortion providers argue that the Louisiana law would, if allowed to come into effect, leave the state with only one doctor qualified to perform abortions. They also contend that the law is near-identical to a Texas statute struck down by the Supreme Court in 2016, calling the similarities “crystal clear.”

The law requires that any abortion doctor have “active admitting privileges” at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion facility.

The appeal filed Wednesday argued that the result of the law would be to deny the vast majority of Louisiana women access to their constitutionally protected right to an abortion.

The 2016 decision was rendered 5-3 before the appointment of a replacement for Justice Antonin Scalia.

Chief Justice John Roberts voted to uphold the Texas law, but also agreed to grant the stay in February. The case is expected to be heard by the court during its next session after the summer.

Since the 2016 case was decided, Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch have joined the court. Both opposed the granting of the February stay, with Kavanaugh issuing a widely read dissenting opinion.

Speaking in February, Louisiana’s Attorney General Jeff Landry vowed to continue the legal fight, and pointed out that the law was passed by the state legislature with nearly unanimous consent.

“Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has put enforcement of this pro-woman law on hold for the time being,” said Landry.

“We remain hopeful that if the Supreme Court grants certiorari in this case, it will to be to re-affirm that court's rule in fact-specific cases; because the facts in our case show [the law] is constitutional and consistent with our overall regulatory scheme for surgical procedures.”

Jesuit Father James Schall has died at age 91

Thu, 04/18/2019 - 15:01

San Jose, Calif., Apr 18, 2019 / 01:01 pm (CNA).- Father James Schall, S.J., a longtime professor of philosophy at Georgetown University and the author of numerous books and essays, died Holy Wednesday aged 91.

Schall was born Jan. 28, 1928 in Pocahontas, Iowa, and after high school spent time at the University of Santa Clara and in the U.S. Army.

He entered the California Province of the Society of Jesus in 1948, receiving a masters in philosophy from Gonzaga University in 1955 and a doctorate in political philosophy from Georgetown in 1960.

Schall was ordained a priest in 1963, and earned a masters in theology from Santa Clara the following year.

Before his appointment as a professor at Georgetown in 1978, he taught at the University of San Francisco and at the Pontifical Gregorian University. He taught in Georgetown's Department of Government until his 2012 retirement.

Schall served on the National Endowment for the Humanities' National Council on the Humanities from 1984-90, and was part of the Pontifical Commission on Justice and Peace from 1977-82.

He spent his last years at the Jesuit retirement home in Los Gatos, Calif., where he had lived as a novice more than 60 years earlier. He continued to write during his retirement. He died April 17 after a short hospitalization.

Perhaps his best-known book is Another Sort of Learning, published in 1988.

Schall spoke to CNA in 2013 about some of his recent books, Political Philosophy and Revelation: A Catholic Reading, and Reasonable Pleasures: The Strange Coherences of Catholicism, which were guided by the thought of Plato and Aristotle, respectively.

The priest told CNA that in “all the dialogues that Plato wrote, he asked the question, 'was it necessary that Socrates be executed by the best city?',” which question he called “the foundation of political philosophy.”

Schall explained that a Christian reading Plato will be struck by the fact “that the death of Christ and the death of Socrates are paradigmatic to each other: … they are both in a trial, both are in the best cities of their time.”

“So the question” central to political philosophy is: “how is it possible that the two best men were killed by a trial?”

“That enigma of the similarity in their deaths has always been in my mind the link between reason and revelation, and why (the two deaths) must be considered both together, and uniquely in themselves.”

The deaths of these just men raise this problem, Fr. Schall explained: “the just man will be persecuted, and the unjust will have rewards in this life.”

“The question (of injustice in the world) is unanswerable without revelation, but revelation's idea of the resurrection of the body brings to completion several strands of thought.”

Christianity “says the resurrection of the body, once it is revealed to you by the source of intelligence, is understandable to you, if you are asking the right questions.”

Cardinal Tobin: Catechism language 'very unfortunate' on homosexuality

Thu, 04/18/2019 - 12:54

Newark, N.J., Apr 18, 2019 / 10:54 am (CNA).- The Archbishop of Newark said Wednesday that the language used by the Catechism of the Catholic Church to describe homosexual acts is “very unfortunate,” adding that he hopes the Catechism will use different language in its discussion of homosexuality.

“The Church, I think, is having its own conversation about what our faith has us do and say with people in relationships that are same-sex. What should be without debate is that we are called to welcome them,” Cardinal Joseph Tobin said April 17, during an interview with NBC’s Anne Thompson on the “Today Show.”

“But how can you welcome people that you call ‘intrinsically disordered?’” Thompson asked.

“Well I don’t call them ‘intrinsically disordered,’” Tobin answered.

“But isn’t that the Catechism of the Catholic Church?” Thompson asked.

“That is,” Tobin said, adding “it’s very unfortunate language. Let’s hope that eventually that language is a little less hurtful.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered,” a phrase it also uses to describe other sexual acts taught by the Church to be immoral.

The Catechism does not describe homosexual persons themselves as “intrinsically disordered,” though it does say that homosexual inclination, along with other inclination toward sexual sin, is “objectively disordered.”

In a prior paragraph, the Catechism says that “sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive purposes.”

The Catechism adds that “men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies…must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.”

Tobin endorsed a 2017 book, “Building a Bridge,” by Fr. James Martin, SJ, which has also called for the Church to amend the language with which it discusses homosexuality.

Tobin said of the book that “in too many parts of our church LGBT people have been made to feel unwelcome, excluded, and even shamed. Father Martin’s brave, prophetic, and inspiring new book marks an essential step in inviting church leaders to minister with more compassion, and in reminding LGBT Catholics that they are as much a part of our church as any other Catholic.”

Tobin was also asked during the April 17 interview about the approach of the U.S. bishops to immigration, a point on which he explained that “humanity has to be recognized. It doesn’t mean that we don’t control our borders. Sure. Every nation does. But we do it in a comprehensive manner that respects also the human dignity of people who are fleeing scenes of great violence.”

Speaking of his own archdiocesan investigation into the sexual abuse and coercion perpetrated by former Newark archbishop Theodore McCarrick, Tobin said that he would is still speaking with “the Attorney General and the authorities of the state of New Jersey. I would like to get it out as soon as possible.”

BREAKING: Man arrested entering St. Patrick’s cathedral with gasoline

Wed, 04/17/2019 - 22:55

New York City, N.Y., Apr 17, 2019 / 08:55 pm (CNA).- A man is in custody after he attempted to bring containers of gasoline into St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City Wednesday night.

The man was apprehended by cathedral security around 8 p.m. and taken into police custody by officers with the NYPD Critical Response Command. He attempted to start a fire using a lighter, and police said he had a car nearby to escape the scene.

According to the NYPD, the man had four gallons of gasoline, two cans of lighter fluid, and two lighters with him when he attempted to enter the cathedral. He was prevented from entering by cathedral security, but was able to spill some of the gasoline on the floor as he was leaving.

When questioned by police as to why he was attempting to bring containers of gasoline into New York City’s largest Catholic church, the man gave “inconsistent answers.” After police inspected his minivan, and discovered that it was not out of gas, he was taken into custody.

Police have said thet have not established a motive, and have not yet charged the man with a crime. The individual was described as being “known to police.”


Around 7:55pm, a man walked into St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan with gas cans and lighter fluid, and was subsequently apprehended by @NYPDCT without incident. We thank our partners for their help, and remember - if you see something, say something.

— NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) April 18, 2019


Police have not yet released the identity of the man, other than confirming he is 37-years-old and from New Jersey. He is thought to be “mentally disturbed.”

The last scheduled Mass for Wednesday was celebrated at 5:30 p.m., per the cathedral’s website.

A spokesperson from the Archdiocese of New York told CNA that “the individual was stopped as he tried to come into the cathedral” before he was turned over to the police.

The New York Daily News reported that the man was able to spill gasoline on the floor of the church, but this has not yet been confirmed.

On Tuesday, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York City expressed concern for the safety of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which, like Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris, also has a wooden roof.

“I thought of St. Patrick’s. I said, ‘Oh my Lord, are we safe?’” said Dolan of the Paris fire.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral recently underwent a $177 million restoration project, which included new fire safety features.

“Thank God the FDNY has been extraordinarily vigilant and helpful, because we’ve got a wooden roof too,” said Dolan.

This story is developing and is being updated

In Texas, bipartisan vote protects abortion survivors – but in NC, veto looms

Wed, 04/17/2019 - 20:01

Washington D.C., Apr 17, 2019 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- Republicans and Democrats in the Texas legislature voted to strengthen protections for babies born after surviving attempted abortions, but in North Carolina the governor could veto a similar bill.

In the Texas House of Representatives, a 93-1 vote included 12 Democrats voting in favor and 50 declaring themselves “present, not voting.” A similar Senate bill passed with a vote of 21-10, with two Democrats backing the legislation.

Rep. Jeff Leach of Plano, the House bill’s sponsor, said the legislation is about “protecting innocent life, a baby who is born alive.” He said the bill was an opportunity to unite across party lines, adding, “as much as the issue of abortion has historically divided this country, this state and even this body at times, to me there should be no debate on this issue.” He said the bill adds enforcement to existing law, which in his view does not go far enough, the Dallas Morning News reports.

Democrats favoring the bill included Dallas Rep. John Turner and others who largely represented the heavily Catholic southern Texas.

Turner said he did not see the bill as being about reproductive rights, but rather as addressing “an extremely rare circumstance.” In his 2018 campaign he had said he would not vote for legislation that would restrict abortion access.

Houston Democrat Harold Dutton, the sole vote against the bill, urged others to declare themselves “present, not voting.” Dutton charged the legislation was “blatantly false, inflammatory and dangerous.”

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission said no infants were reported to be born alive after abortion procedures in Texas from 2013 to 2016. Over 219,000 abortions were performed in the state during that period.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention figures said that more than 140 infants died in U.S. cases related to induced abortion from 2003 to 2014, the Associated Press reports.

The Charlotte Lozier Institute, the research arm of the pro-life advocacy group the Susan B. Anthony List, said government figures suggest 25 babies were born alive during abortion procedures in the year 2017 in Arizona, Florida, and Minnesota.

Rep. Donna Howard, an Austin Democrat, said there was no record of post-abortion births in the state and said infanticide was already illegal. She argued that the proposal did not merit debate and would stigmatize women’s health decisions, while traumatizing families whose unborn child has severe anomalies.

“The misinformation perpetuated by this bill is dangerous and is the exact type of rhetoric that leads to threats against providers,” she said. Howard, who has a background as a medical nurse, said she was “insulted by the implication that I or any other nurse or doctor ... would not do any and everything in our power to provide care to any medically stressed human being.”

Differences between the bills still require legislative action before they head to the governor. House Bill 16 would allow the state attorney general to sue a physician who fails to treat a live infant, for a fine of at least $100,000. In cases of “gross negligence,” offenders could face a third-degree felony charge penalized by imprisonment of two to ten years. The Senate bill would give the same penalties regardless of whether there was a finding of gross negligence.

Democratic State Sens. Eddie Lucio of Brownsville and Judith Zaffirini of Laredo voted for the bill, the Texas Tribune reports. Two House Republicans did not vote: Speaker Dennis Bonnen and Rep. Sarah Davis of Houston, who filled in for Bonnen. While it is common practice for the speaker or presiding chair not to vote, Davis has advocated for abortion rights, the Dallas Morning News reports.

Texas and 25 other states require physicians to provide medical care and treatment to infants who are born alive at any stage of development.

In North Carolina, the House of Representatives voted 65-46 to pass the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, Senate Bill 359. The Senate passed the bill by a 28-19 vote, the Raleigh News and Observer reports.

However, some observers said the response to the bill from the Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s office suggested that he would veto the bill, the Associated Press reports.

“This unnecessary legislation would criminalize doctors for a practice that simply does not exist,” said Ford Porter, a spokesman for Cooper.

The legislation would require medical practitioners to provide sufficient care for babies who survive abortion. Failure to do so could mean prison time and up to $250,000 in fines.

The bill also mandates that medical professionals report a baby who has survived an abortion and received insufficient care. If signed into law, it would allow relatives of a baby who died to file a civil lawsuit.

The Republican-controlled legislature lost its veto-proof supermajority in the 2018 elections and will need Democratic support if the governor vetoes the bill.

“Do any of you really think that infanticide is legal in North Carolina?” said bill critic State Rep. Susan Fisher, a Buncombe County Democrat. She objected that the Republican-controlled legislature would have acted sooner, when it had a veto-proof supermajority, if legislators believed babies were being left to die or killed after a failed abortion. She argued that the measure aimed to intimidate health care providers who conducted legal abortions.

Other critics opposed charging medical providers with murder, said the legislation interfered with a woman’s right to abortion, or interfered with medical actions between a physician and a pregnant woman.

Others said the bill addressed a real injustice.

“I can attest to the fact that infanticide has happened here in North Carolina,” said Rep. Pat McElraft, a Republican from Carteret County. “I’ve been witness to the result of those late-term abortions.”

She said that earlier in her career in Jacksonville, N.C., she encountered a local doctor who performed abortions. According to the Raleigh News and Observer, she alleged this unnamed doctor preserved bodies of unborn babies at his office, which she believed to have survived abortion but were drowned in saline.

“Nurses told stories of babies who were born alive and were taken by the doctor and turned face down in the saline,” she said.

Federal born-alive legislation failed to pass Congress earlier this year.

In May 2013 Philadelphia-based abortionist Kermit Gosnell was convicted of three counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of babies at his clinic. A government raid on his clinic found filthy conditions and human remains. State authorities had not inspected his clinic in years.

The illegal sale of fetal tissue and baby body parts for profit has also become prominent due to undercover videos published by the Center for Medical Progress that appear to show such activity by major abortion providers, including Planned Parenthood. The videos have prompted concern that some babies targeted for abortion are delivered alive to provide intact bodies for tissue harvesters.

L.A. archdiocese pays abuse victim of layman $8 million

Wed, 04/17/2019 - 19:47

Los Angeles, Calif., Apr 17, 2019 / 05:47 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has agreed to pay $8 million to a female teenager who was sexually abused and abducted by a teacher at her high school in 2016.

The victim attended San Gabriel Mission High School, an all-girls school in San Gabriel, Calif., about 10 miles northeast of Los Angeles. The then-15-year-old student was abused over numerous months by Juan Ivan Barajas, her volleyball coach and health teacher.

“The Archdiocese recognizes that there was serious harm done to the life of the victim-survivor,” the archdiocese stated. “We hope that the settlement will allow her to heal and move forward with her education and lifetime goals. The Archdiocese apologizes for the impact that this caused in her life.”

The plaintiff’s main attorney, David Ring, said April 16 that the amount is the largest the archdiocese has paid a single victim.

According to the New York Times, Barajas, 39, had sent her sexually explicit messages and images through his phone. He had abused her in several locations on school grounds beginning in April 2016.

After Barajas' wife found out about the abuse, he kidnapped the teenager in July, and took her to Las Vegas. The police found the pair living in his car in Henderson, Nev., and Barajas was sentenced to six years in prison after pleading guilty.

About a year before the sexual misconduct took place, several reports were issued in 2015 about Barajas’ suspicious behavior around students. Parents and staff both expressed their objections to officials at the school and archdiocese.

According to the New York Times, Monsignor Sal Pilato, the archdiocese’s superintendent of high schools, had received concerns from two volleyball coaches and a parent. These individuals were worried about his interactions with the students, including time spent alone in his office.

An anonymous letter was also issued to the superintendent, stating that “he takes the ones he like to the office,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

“The warning signs here were crystal clear,” Ring told the Los Angeles Times. “The complaints about Barajas were unambiguous, and yet nothing was done.”

Adrian Marquez Alarcon, spokeswomen for the archdiocese, said the accusations had been investigated but that no evidence of sexual abuse was found. She said the former teacher had received a warning for time spent alone with a minor.

“He was counseled according to archdiocesan policies,” she said, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Alarcon said the teen and her family plan to meet with Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, and apologized on behalf of the archdiocese.

In 2007, the archdiocese reached a $660 million abuse settlement with more than 500 alleged victims of clerical abuse. And in 2013 it paid nearly $10 million to settle a case brought by four alleged sex abuse victims of Michael Baker, who was formerly a priest of the archdiocese.

In a Jan. 22, 2013 statement regarding abuse documents, the archdiocese said that “few institutions have done as much as the Los Angeles Archdiocese to promptly report abuse allegations to civil authorities, to screen all those who supervise children, and to train adults and children in the latest abuse prevention procedures … We are justifiably proud of our record of child protection in the 21st century, and we remain vigilant against all that would harm our children and young people.”

Pro-life Democrat Lipinski faces another primary challenge

Wed, 04/17/2019 - 18:30

Washington D.C., Apr 17, 2019 / 04:30 pm (CNA).- One of the few pro-life Democrats in Congress will once again face a primary challenger in his next election.

Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL), narrowly defeated challenger Marie Newman in 2018 by 2,145 votes.  Following an announcement by Newman on Tuesday, he will now face her again in the March 2020 primary.

Illinois’ 3rd District is considered to be a safe Democrat district, with the more substantial electoral battle taking place during the primary. At the general election, Lipinski was reelected with over 70 percent of the vote in 2018.

Despite the previous primary campaign focusing heavily on Lipinski’s strong pro-life record vs Newman’s unqualified support for abortion, Newman said on Twitter that the district now deserves “a representative who will vote like a real Democrat in Congress—not someone who routinely sides with Trump and conservative interest groups over his own constituents.”

Democrats for Life executive director Kristen Day told CNA she disagrees with Newman’s characterization of Lipinski as a conservative or a right-wing Democrat.

Instead, she said, Lipinski’s views on abortion are more in line with what Americans believe, espcially on abortion.

“When you look at polls, the majority of Americans have more moderate positions on abortion,” she said. Day told CNA she is worried that Newman’s repeated primary challenges are an effort to alienate pro-life Democrats, which she called “a wrong direction for the party.”

“The (Democratic) party has just gone so far to promote abortion,” said Day. “It just seems as though they want to purge all the pro-life voters. The party has just been really taken over.”

Day noted that despite Newman’s description of Lipinski as a bad Democrat, he has been consistently well-rated by left-leaning interest groups. The Sierra Fund, for instance, has given Lipinski a 100 percent rating on several occasions, and the AFL-CIO gave Lipinski a lifetime score of 91 percent. The National Education Association, the largest labor union of teachers, gave Lipinski a 100 percent rating in 2017-2018.

“They're not being honest when they're trying to tag Dan Lipinski as a conservative,” said Day. “He's not."

Lipinski has a score of 13 from the American Conservative Union’s legislative scorecard’s 2018 ratings. His Democratic colleagues Reps. Bill Foster (D-IL) and Brad Foster (D-IL) both received higher scores from the American Conservative Union.

So far in 2019, the conservative advocacy group FreedomWorks has given Lipinski a zero rating, and his lifetime rating is just 12 percent.

Neither Lipinski nor Newman replied to requests for comment in time for publication.

After Columbine: How one survivor found faith, and a vocation

Wed, 04/17/2019 - 18:17

Denver, Colo., Apr 17, 2019 / 04:17 pm (CNA).- Many years before she entered religious life, Sister Mary Gianna Thornby was an ordinary high school sophomore at Columbine High School in the suburbs of Denver.

Like many high schoolers, she occasionally struggled with her identity, had experienced some bullying in middle school, and ultimately just wanted to fit in. She wasn’t raised in a Christian home; at that time, God, faith – and certainly the Catholic Church – didn’t register on her radar.

“Growing up, I didn't really know if God existed or not, or that He had a plan,” Mary Gianna told CNA.

All that changed 20 years ago on April 20, 1999.

Mary Gianna had a habit, she said, of going to the library to study every single day during lunch period her freshman and sophomore years. During her sophomore year, she and a friend even changed their schedules so they would have two hours off during lunch to study together in the library.

That April morning, sitting in art class right before the lunch hour, Mary Gianna said she felt an overwhelming urge to leave school. She says she remembers thinking: “I'm going to go home, and no one's going to talk me out of not leaving.”

Her friend was confused, and asked Mary Gianna why they weren't going to the library like they always did. She suggested they go and study for an upcoming test at a restaurant instead, so they walked out of the school and hopped into Mary Gianna's car, which her dad had only just bought her the week before.

As they were driving away, she looked in her rearview mirror and saw hundreds of her schoolmates running out of the school building.

With no idea what was going on, Mary and her friend simply continued on and arrived at a bagel shop. It was there that they heard what had happened.

On that morning, two students – 17 and 18 years old – began shooting people outside the high school, ultimately killing 13 and wounding more than 20 others before taking their own lives as well.

The violence perpetrated at Columbine would remain the most deadly shooting at a U.S. high school until February 2018, when 17 students died at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Florida.

Mary Gianna soon learned that most of the killings took place in the library – the place where, on any other day, she would have surely been during that exact time.

“And so I wondered: why wasn't I there?” she mused. “Every other day I was there, but that one day – what gave me that urge to leave?”

She remembers being told by someone: “God must have a plan for your life.”

“I realized God existed, and He had a plan, but at the time I didn't know who God was. And at the time, people were questioning how could God allow something like this to happen,” Mary Gianna said.

Every day, the next school year, she would walk by the spot where the library used to be – since so many of the killings took place there, it was demolished and eventually rebuilt in a different spot – wondering why she had been spared. At that time, she had the stirrings of faith, but still no clear answers.

She said she started drinking, going to parties, looking for other things to offer fulfillment – but she knew in her heart it wasn't where she was supposed to be. Her senior year, she said, she felt like she had finally reached “rock-bottom” and lost all hope.

“It was in those moments that I felt like I just couldn't go on in life that one of my friends invited me to the Catholic Church at St. Francis Cabrini in Littleton, Colorado,” she said.

Immediately upon walking in, she met a representative of Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio, who encouraged her to consider going there for college. She also met a youth minister named Kate.

“She started telling me about a God that passionately loved me,” Mary Gianna recalled.

Kate started taking her out for coffee and telling her about God's love – that He does have a plan, that Mary Gianna was made in his image and likeness. Growing up, she had no direction in life, Mary Gianna said, and God's love was that thing that she had been missing.

“Not only did God lead me out of Columbine that day – he was leading me home on that day. He was leading me to Himself,” Mary Gianna said.

“And I wanted to say ‘yes’ with all my heart to God's plan. I realized that He had a plan, and I wanted to say ‘yes’ to that plan."

She ended up enrolling at Franciscan University, even though at first her father had misgivings about the cost. Later on, however, it seemed his heart had been changed. Mary Gianna said her parents were very supportive of her faith and the direction her life took after her conversion.

She went through RCIA her freshman year at Franciscan, and at the Easter vigil Mass on March 30, 2002 at the age of 19, she was received into the Catholic Church.

Mary Gianna experienced the call to religious life in 2008, when she went to the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul, Minnesota and prayed that she would be able to enter into the Mass in a way she had never experienced before.

It was through Mass that she felt God's presence before her. She walked out of the chapel changed; all she wanted was religious life.

She chose a charismatic, Franciscan, contemplative, and missionary order called the Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, which brought her to Prayer Town, Texas, northwest of Amarillo. She pronounced her final vows on August 4, 2018.

Twenty years on from the Columbine tragedy, Mary Gianna said she thinks more of her former classmates are finding the strength to talk about what happened that day. She said she keeps in touch with some of her classmates, teachers, and the former principal of the school, especially her friend who left the school with her that day. They've talked about the experience since.

“I often think of the greatest tragedy of Jesus being put to death on the cross, and how it led to our salvation, and that even in the midst of the tragedy at Columbine, God can bring good,” she reflected.

“That He would bring life out of death. And I think we've seen that in a lot of ways.”

She mentioned the widely-known story of Rachel Joy Scott, a passionately Christian teenager who was one of the first Columbine students killed during the massacre. Rachel reportedly told her teacher shortly before her death that she thought she was going to have a “major impact in the world,” and she always took care to reach out to the “new kid” in school and those who had been bullied or had no one to sit with at lunch.

Witnesses said the gunmen asked Rachel if she believed in God, and she answered yes. Then they shot her in the head and chest.

“I was amazed that: here was a girl from my high school who was so passionate about her faith that she was willing to say ‘yes’ and die for Christ,” Mary Gianna reflected.

“And I thought: what would I have said? I could have easily been there that day. I didn't have faith. But then I realized: God knew this is where I would be. That if she was able to say ‘yes’ and die for Christ, I can say ‘yes’ and live for him. And that's what truly inspired me to really say ‘yes,’ to live for Him.”

The religious sister says the Lord took her from a life of despair and hopelessness to a place of great joy for life, and a desire to share the “fullness of life” with others.

“I really feel like the sufferings I've had in this life; I think it's kept me close to the Lord. And I think it's the call to trust God, that He never allows a tragedy or a heartbreak to happen unless He can bring a greater good out of it,” she said.

Analysis: How politics is shaping morality, and how religious voters might respond

Wed, 04/17/2019 - 18:00

Washington D.C., Apr 17, 2019 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- As the 2020 Presidential race begins in earnest, between the two parties sits a growing number of voters motivated by faith and morality expressing little enthusiasm for what they perceive as the Hobson’s choice that philosophical liberalism has offered them in recent decades.

For these voters, the disconnect between their moral compass and that of political candidates is marked and widening. European nations have already begun to learn what the U.S. may soon: those voices could, over time, dramatically reshape the electoral landscape.

While conventional wisdom has long held that culture sits upstream of politics, the lessons of recent decades suggest that politics can, indeed, shape culture. Major cultural changes on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage were catalyzed, or at least hastened, by changes to the law that were – at best – hotly contested.

Widespread social acceptance has often followed, not led, to changes in the law: In the months before Roe v. Wade, fewer than half of voters believed abortion should be legal in any circumstances; same-sex marriage became legal nation-wide in the aftermath of a vote in perhaps the most liberally-governed state, California, to define marriage as between a man and a woman.

In a democracy the law is meant to reflect the will of the people. But, intentionally or otherwise, legality is increasingly held to be a mark of moral acceptability, even endorsement, by some sections of society.

While politicians know this, many are wary of being seen to want to change the country’s morals, even as they change the law with this end in mind. Their behavior often reflects this tension.

It is not uncommon for politicians to confidently assert their faith or morality when on what they perceive to be solid cultural and electoral ground. On contentious issues, candidates often insist on separating their “private views” from public policy, even as – perhaps because - those policies will surely play a part in settling the issue.  

Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Democratic presidential hopeful and Catholic-turned-Episcopalian, recently offered a neat case study of this kind of behavior.

Speaking on Meet the Press just over a week ago, Mayor Pete noted what he called the “unbelievable hypocrisy” of President Trump and his religious supporters over policies for immigrants and the poor which are “not consistent with anything that I hear in scripture or in church.”

In the same interview, when asked about abortion, he said that moral questions were a matter of individual conscience and no for “a male government official imposing his interpretation of his religion.”

Last week, Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey, a Catholic, put a similar philosophy into action, signing a controversial assisted suicide bill into law.

“While my faith may lead me to a particular decision for myself,” Murphy said, “as a public official I cannot deny this alternative to those who may reach a different conclusion.”

Murphy and Buttigieg stand in a long tradition of politicians for whom refusing to “impose” their morality to “deny” someone a moral choice is an article of liberal faith.

Mario Cuomo, father and predecessor of the current New York governor, was the first to offer the line of being “privately opposed” to abortion while very clearly acting to promote a particular moral worldview.

Republicans are also criticized by some people of faith for seeming to lack moral coherence: While failing even to end taxpayer support for abortion providers while in control of both houses of Congress and the presidency, the party instead has offered up endless versions of an economic platform which, many note, fails to find broad favor with voters of faith.

In his 2018 book “Why Liberalism Failed,” Patrick Deneen observed the political orthodoxy of liberalism in both parties, albeit differently expressed.

Republicans hold out a distinctly liberal view of markets and economics, while exposing socially conservative principles on some life issues. Democrats, in turn, espouse deeply liberal principles on sexual morality, family, and life issues, while at the same time offering a more communitarian economic worldview.

Those are the results seen as a false choice by some young religious voters, Catholics in particular among them.

Pro-life voters say they are frustrated when they are expected to choose between abortion and the death penalty, or when less government interference in the home and in schools is bound up with accepting similar minimalist intervention in the financial sector and on behalf of the poor.

These voters also say they are discouraged that taking a moral stance on healthcare reform comes at the cost of nuns under pressure to provide contraceptives and abortifacients. The unquestionable social evils of racism and misogyny are likewise presented as inseparable from the pseudoscience of gender theory, they say.

As ever-more radical abortion legislation is passed at the state level, entrenching the right to abort even while a woman is in active labor, polls show a clear majority of voters - even self-identified pro-choice Democrats – turning away from the principle of unrestricted abortion.

Proposed economic reforms and tax cuts from either party are often couched in the language of benefiting average families, but it is not at all clear politicians and voters share a common image of family.

There is widespread consensus among political leaders that the traditional family model of two married parents raising children, with only one working full-time, is at best an anachronism, at worst a form of social oppression or economic exclusion. Meanwhile, most Americans say they would prefer a full-time parent at home, and an increasing number of younger mothers are choosing to stay home despite economic penalties, reversing the trend of the previous generation.

The growing divide between the values of a liberal political establishment and voters is neither a new nor distinctly American phenomenon. And by some accounts, the divergence between the two has fueled a rise in populist electoral movements and results in Europe.

In the U.K., Brexit was, in the eyes of most who voted for it rather than against it, a rejection of a political class characterized by some as “clericalist and apostate” in its manner and values.

On the continent of Europe, even as the European Union advances liberal moral norms on abortion and sexuality, voters, even younger voters, are at odds with the new orthodoxies.

The rise of reactionary parties like the AfD in Germany, Victor Orban’s government in Hungary, the Forum for Democracy in the Netherlands, or the Swedish Democrats is most often cited as proof that, when offered no real alternative, voters will – if pushed – back even the most unpleasant disrupters.

The 2016 election delivered what was, for many in the political class, a still inexplicable result in the election of Donald Trump.

Many commentators have noted the inconsistency and often incoherence with which he appears to speak to a religious and moral section of voters who find no easy home in either party. Others have suggested that Trump functioned only as a temporary vehicle for such voters, because support for his candidacy was effectively one of protest, not endorsement.

If this diagnosis is correct, the extent to which there remains no obvious impetus to accommodate this bloc of voters within the establishment of either party could yet fuel more disruptive actors in the democratic process.

What remains to be seen is whether a coherent alternative, one that proclaims itself not bound to the articles of faith of liberalism in either markets or morals, can emerge to tempt voters.

CRS welcomes senators' call for humanitarian funding to West Bank, Gaza

Wed, 04/17/2019 - 17:01

Washington D.C., Apr 17, 2019 / 03:01 pm (CNA).- Catholic Relief Services was among 18 organizations that have welcomed the introduction of a Senate Resolution calling on the Trump administration to disburse humanitarian aid already provided by Congress for residents of the West Bank and Gaza.

“U.S. assistance to the region has been withheld for over 15 months. The administration froze all bilateral foreign assistance benefiting Palestinians, pending an administrative review of these programs,” CRS said April 17.

It noted that the review is ongoing, with “no clear criteria or timeline.”

“Meanwhile, more than half the people in Gaza now live in poverty, and hopelessness and instability increase every day.”

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced Senate Resolution 171 April 16. The Senate would resolve that the executive branch should expend, within fiscal year 2019, the $257.5m that Congress appropriated in 2018 for bilateral assistance to the West Bank and Gaza.

The funds would go to economic support – focused on food, essential health services, and other humanitarian goods and services; narcotics control and law enforcement; and non-proliferation, anti-terrorism, and demining programs.

The resolution notes that the State Department also failed to expend the $302.8m appropriated by Congress in 2017 for assistance to Palestine.

CRS said the resolution addresses the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act, passed in 2018, which it said “has made it more difficult to provide U.S. funding to alleviate suffering in the region.

“While Congress never intended the law to affect humanitarian assistance delivered by non-government organizations, interpretations of the ATCA has led to the end of all U.S. government-funded humanitarian work in the West Bank and Gaza, including programs that help people find work, feed their families and access health care,” the organization stated.

The text of the resolution said that the Palestinian Authority's interpretation of ATCA led it “to reject all forms of United States assistance, meaning that funding for organizations implementing humanitarian aid programs that provide critical services … cannot be carried out.”

The resolution calls for legislation clarifying that programs and activities funded though the Economic Support Fund and consistent with the Taylor Force Act “may not be used as a basis to assert jurisdiction over the Palestinian Authority” under ATCA.

ATCA allows American victims of terrorist attacks to sue entities that receive foreign aid from the the US; American courts would have jurisdiction to seize the assets of these entities. The Palestinian Authority chose to forgo US assistance rather than open itself to such suits.

According to the Washington Post, ATCA's passage was promoted by Shurat HaDin, an Israeli oganization that files legal actions on behalf of terror victims and trains attorneys “to fight for the rights of the worldwide jewish community and Israel,” according to its website.

CRS said that ATCA “has forced the closing of an emergency food assistance program” it ran in Palestine, “which had already been scaled back due to the ongoing administrative review.”

“We hope a solution is reached swiftly and funding is restored—the vulnerable people we serve can’t wait any longer.”

CRS was one of 18 non-governmental organizations that signed a statement of support for S. Res. 171. It said that “the humanitarian situation facing Palestinians is dire, especially in Gaza,” citing a poverty rate of more than 50% and that most Gazans receive food assistance. It aded that 22% of the population of the West Bank lack clean water, and 14% is food insecure.

The groups said the expenditure of the funds appropriated for assistance to the West Bank and Gaza “will strengthen the humanitarian response in the region and at the same time promote security and stability for both Israelis and Palestinians and foster an atmosphere more conducive to a long-term resolution of the conflict.”

Some 2 million Palestinians live in Gaza, a densely populated Palestinian strip of land surrounded by Israel and currently under Israeli blockade. The impoverished area often experiences power cuts, and it is difficult for goods to get into or out of Gaza due to its restricted access.

S. Res. 171 is co-conspored by Senators Chris Coons, Catherine Cortez Masto, Dianne Feinstein, Patrick Leahy, and Chris Van Hollen.

Before Easter comes the 'Triduum' - What's that? A CNA Explainer

Wed, 04/17/2019 - 16:09

Denver, Colo., Apr 17, 2019 / 02:09 pm (CNA).- At the end of the season of Lent, and right before Easter, the Catholic Church observes the “Sacred Triduum.” Many Catholics have questions about what happens during the Triduum, and how they should observe this time.

Got Triduum questions? CNA has you covered:


What is the Triduum?

The triduum is a period that begins on Holy Thursday, and ends at the conclusion of Easter Sunday.

It encompasses the evening Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday.

The term “triduum” means “three days,” and refers to any three-day observance. Technically, the triduum during Holy Week is known as the “Paschal Triduum.”

The word Paschal, which is used to refer to Easter, comes from the Greek word “pascha,” which comes from the Hebrew word “pesach” which means Passover. Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection, which is connected theologically to the Passover feast, is referred to as the Paschal mystery.

Ok, so what happens on Holy Thursday?

On the evening of Holy Thursday, the Church celebrates the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, which commemorates Christ’s Passover meal with his apostles the night before he died. The Mass of the Lord’s supper most especially remembers the institution of the Eucharist- the sacramental gift to the Church of Christ’s Body and Blood, given in the transformation of bread and wine.

Often, at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, the priest washes the feet of some members of the congregation, recalling Christ’s washing of feet at the Last Supper. “If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do,” Christ told his apostles.

Why is it called “Maundy Thursday?”

Holy Thursday is sometimes called “Maundy Thursday.” The word “maundy” comes from the Latin word “mandatum,” which means mandate.

On Maundy Thursday, Christ gave us a mandate: “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.”

Is Holy Thursday a holy day of obligation?

No. And people may not be able to attend the Mass of the Lord’s Supper for a variety of reasons: their family needs or work schedule, or health. But it’s a beautiful Mass. You should go if you can!

So is there Mass again on Good Friday?

Nope. There’s no Mass on Good Friday.

In fact, after Mass on Holy Thursday, the altar is stripped of its cloth. Crosses are removed from the Church or covered. No candles burn in the Church.

The Blessed Sacrament is not reposed in the Church’s tabernacle, but in another small chapel.

On Good Friday, the Church is empty of many of its symbols. It is adorned like a Church in mourning. And, at 3:00 pm, the Church offers the “Celebration of the Lord’s Passion.”

At this celebration, Scripture is read that recounts the prophetic anticipation of Christ’s passion, and recounts the passion narrative itself. Communion is distributed. Believers are invited to venerate the cross, to come forward and kiss or reverence a cross.

“Behold the wood of the Cross,” the priest proclaims.

I know that Good Friday is a solemn day, but what should we do all day?

Good Friday is a day of fasting and abstaining from meat. You can read more about that here.

On Good Friday, families should try to observe a quiet day of simplicity, in addition to attending the “Celebration of the Lord’s Passion.”

This might mean praying the rosary together, or reading Scripture together. It might mean keeping the tv off, or going for a family hike. The idea is that it should be a day of reflection, and should be noticeably different from other days of the year.

If you haven’t yet gone to confession during Lent, Good Friday is also an excellent day to go to confession, and take your family.

Ok, so what about Holy Saturday. What does one do on Holy Saturday?

The culmination of Holy Saturday is the Easter Vigil. But it’s a long day, and people often ask what they should do with the rest of it.

Many families use Holy Saturday as a day for spring cleaning or garden planting. Some spend the day outdoors, and some spend the day preparing for an Easter feast. All the better if Holy Saturday is a day of prayer- punctuated by the rosary, or Scripture.

And probably some people dye Easter Eggs. Gotta do it sometime!

And the Easter Vigil?

The Easter vigil is one of the most beautiful liturgies in the Church’s calendar.

It is spectacular, and full of beautiful Catholic symbolism.

The vigil begins at night. It starts with a fire, which is blessed, and from which is lit the Paschal Candle. The whole of salvation history is proclaimed during the reading.

A beautiful Easter proclamation, called the Exsultet, is sung, usually by a deacon. (Done well, this is, in my humble opinion, one of the most beautiful things the Church does in a liturgy. I love a good Exsultet!)

And men and women are welcomed into the Church: some will be baptized and confirmed, and others, already baptized, will receive confirmation.

The Easter Vigil is awesome. Fair warning: It’s also long. Really long. And a lot of readings take place with the lights off. Some parents decide it is too much for children, while others bring their kids in pajamas and let them sleep in the pews. At the Easter Vigil, that’s perfectly understandable. A scan of your local parish Church suggests that kids aren’t the only ones who sometimes fall asleep during the readings. It’s all part of the experience.

So, after that ends, is it Easter?

It sure is. If you go to the Easter Vigil, you should stay up all night and party. Celebrating the Lord’s Resurrection is what Easter is all about. Some people will, of course, go to Easter Sunday Mass, and then spend the day feasting with family and friends.

One piece of advice for celebrating Easter: Remember the poor. The lonely. The outcasts. If you really want to celebrate Easter, invite someone to your table who might have nowhere else to go. You’ll be glad you did.

And then Easter is over?

The Triduum ends on the evening of Easter Sunday. But the “octave” of Easter lasts for 8 days. And the liturgical season of Easter lasts for 50 days, all the way to Pentecost? What does this mean? It means it’ll soon be time to celebrate Christ’s resurrection. Get ready for it!


Trump calls Pope Francis after Notre-Dame fire

Wed, 04/17/2019 - 15:10

Washington D.C., Apr 17, 2019 / 01:10 pm (CNA).- President Donald Trump and Pope Francis spoke on the phone Wednesday afternoon, with the president pledging to assist with the rebuilding of Notre-Dame de Paris.

“Today, President Donald J. Trump spoke with His Holiness Pope Francis. The President offered his condolences for the destruction of Notre Dame Cathedral, one of Europe’s most important religious structures,” said a readout of the call from Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Trump also commented on the Cathedral’s “amazing beauty and great symbolism.”

The two leaders also spoke on matters related to the current crisis in Venezuela, and how to best assist the people of that country during the current political crisis.

Venezuela has suffered through political and social unrest for years, but the situation worsened in January with the disputed reelection of President Nicholas Maduro. A large and growing number of nations have refused to recognize the legitimacy of the result, and the Vatican has rebuffed invitation by the dictator to mediate in the dispute with his opponents.

Trump characterized the call with the pope as a “wonderful conversation” on Twitter, adding that he wished the pontiff a happy Easter.

Alessandro Gisotti, interim director of the Holy See Press Office, confirmed the call on Twitter. He said that Trump “expressed to the pope his closeness, in the name of the American people.”

Since the roof of Notre-Dame de Paris was destroyed on Tuesday, over 700 million euro has been pledged to the rebuilding effort. Officials have proposed an architectural contest to design the cathedral’s new spire.

Trump previously spoke to his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, on Tuesday, expressing condolences over the tragedy of the fire and offering American help.

US bishops urge prayer as powerful storms hammer the South

Wed, 04/17/2019 - 13:04

Franklin, Texas, Apr 17, 2019 / 11:04 am (CNA).- Bishops in the United States are offering their prayers and condolences after a powerful storm system moved through the southern United States last weekend, claiming several lives along the way.

“I am greatly saddened by the reports of devastation and loss of life due to this past weekend’s storm,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, in an April 15 statement.

He noted that heavy rain, strong winds, and many tornadoes had left a trail of destruction in the Southeast and threatened to reach all the way to New England.

In his own state of Texas, two children died when their car was crushed by a tree; elsewhere in the state, two dozen people were transported to hospital with injuries.

“As we enter this Holy Week, let us pray for those who have lost their lives and for the loved ones they leave behind and ask the Lord to comfort the grieving and inspire neighbors and people around the country to respond generously in the recovery efforts,” DiNardo said.

CNN reported Monday that the storms threatened about 90 million people in the South; over 150,000 were without power as of Sunday.

The Associated Press reported later that day that at least nine people including two children had died, mainly in floodwaters and tornadoes. The latest casualty was a 78-year-old woman who was pinned in her home after a tree fell on it.

Another strong storm system is expected to bring large hail, damaging winds and a few tornadoes late Wednesday from Texas all the way to Wisconsin, ABC News reports. The storm system is expected to move east and pummel the South once more, bringing severe weather and an increasing tornado chance to parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. It could then move on to the East coast, leaving 2-4 inches of rain in its wake the whole way.

DiNardo continued to urge prayer for those who died and their loved ones, and for generosity in responding to survivors’ needs.

“The gift of Easter reminds us to trust in the Lord, who by his sacrifice on the cross and resurrection promises life everlasting,” he concluded.

Omaha artist paints one-of-a-kind Paschal candles

Wed, 04/17/2019 - 05:01

Omaha, Neb., Apr 17, 2019 / 03:01 am (CNA).- Michelangelo, Rembrandt, and Caravaggio have blessed mankind with stunning works of art. They gave themselves ample space to create: For Michelangelo, it was the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. For Rembrandt and Caravaggio, often it was large canvases.

Omaha artist Robert Faulhaber doesn’t have the luxury of space when he paints. The medium on which he works is the slender surface of a Paschal candle.

The ritual of the Paschal candle

This candle is an integral part of services during the Easter season, and beyond. It is lit each day during Mass throughout the Easter season until Ascension Thursday, and then again for baptisms and funerals.

Made of beeswax, it represents Christ, the sinless Light of the World. The wick signifies his humanity, and the flame his divinity.

Five grains of incense embedded in the candle in the form of a cross recall the perfumed spices that prepared Christ’s body for the tomb, and his five sacred wounds.

During the Easter Vigil, the priest or deacon carries the candle in procession into the dark church. A new fire symbolizing our eternal life in Christ  is kindled, which in turn lights the candle.

As he chants a prayer, the priest blesses the candle. He carves in it a cross, the first letters and last of the Greek alphabet (Alpha and Omega, “the beginning and the end”) and the current year; then he inserts the five grains of incense.

The size of a Paschal candle can range from 3 to 4 inches in diameter and 48 to 61 inches high. The actual space Faulhaber has to paint is a mere 7 by 24 inches.

Most parishes get their candles from a church supply store, and the decorative features on them look mostly the same.

However, each of Faulhaber’s candles is a one-of-a-kind creation.

“I begin each new project by praying to the Holy Spirit,” Faulhauber said. “I want every candle to glorify God.”

Although some of Faulhaber’s candles may have the same central design, no two share the same borders, colors, and details. “There are no other candles like mine in the entire world.”

Photo credit:


A faith-based childhood

Faulhaber, 52, was born in Davenport, Iowa, and moved to Rock Island, Illinois, when he was 10. His youth was shaped by a love of drawing, sketching, and painting.

“I started drawing when I was three years old,” he said.

Faulhaber grew up in a household where the Catholic faith was expressed and witnessed. He often attended daily Mass with his mother, and his parents frequently talked about religious vocations. Two of his uncles were priests, and an aunt was a nun.

He failed the first grade because of a learning disability, making him the target of his classmates’ jokes.

Every day his mother sent him with a homemade lunch and the instructions to “take Jesus to school with you.”

He says his mom’s advice changed his life. “It no longer mattered what my classmates might say to me. I knew Jesus loved me.”

Developing valuable relationships

In Rock Island, many of Faulhaber’s friends were Native Americans. It was through those friendships that he developed a passion for their culture and music.

Soon he was a regular at powwows, the Native American cultural event that features group singing and dancing. Before long, he was participating in the ceremonies.

When he was 16, he used his artistic talent to make his first rawhide drum. He still makes drums today, in addition to the outfits and beadwork he wears when performing in powwows throughout the U.S. and Canada.

After graduating from Rock Island High School, Faulhaber moved to Des Moines and continued to attend daily Mass with his mother. He also accompanied her to Thursday night prayer meetings at the Basilica of St. John in Des Moines.

It was there he met Monsignor Frank Chiodo, who introduced him to monastic life. Msgr. Chiodo was living at the basilica at the time.

At 33, Faulhaber had no life plan. After his move to Des Moines, he held various jobs with a Midwest grocery store chain. It was good work, but he wanted more out of life, and he knew more awaited him.

Falulhaber decided to give up his few possessions and walk away from the only life he knew to join the Society of St. John, a religious order founded by Msgr. Chiodo.

While part of that community, he painted his first Paschal candle – a depiction of Christ sitting on a throne holding a book titled “I AM.”

“I’ll always remember my first candle,” Faulhaber said. “I had to pray hard for God’s help.”

He found himself in uncharted waters, so he put to good use his familiarity and experience with icon writing when painting on beeswax the first time.

When he finished, Faulhaber remembers stepping back from that first candle and whispering to himself, “What did I do?”

People stood in line inside the basilica to admire the candle. “It was the first time they had ever seen candle art. It was my first time, too.”

Studying iconography

Faulhaber, or Brother Bob as he was known then, transferred in 2002 to Mount Michael Abbey in Elkhorn, Nebraska. He painted several Paschal candles for the abbey.

The abbey supported Faulhaber’s interest in other art forms and sent him to the prestigious Prosopon School of Iconology in Wisconsin.

There he learned the Russian method of icon writing, which uses a paste made of raw materials, egg yolk, vinegar, and wine.

Two of his icons are at St. James Parish in Omaha. Other pieces are at St. John’s Parish in Duluth, Minnesota, and Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad, Indiana.

Faulhaber eventually ended up departing religious life in 2010 and was dispensed from his vows.

“I owe a lot to religious life,” he said. “The priests and brothers know how to cultivate and hone a person’s skills. They are able to identify and develop your talents. In my case, it was art.”

‘A prayerful, leisurely experience’

It takes Faulhaber 40 to 50 hours to paint a Paschal candle. Before he begins, he photographs the inside of the church where the candle will be displayed, researches the church’s patron saint, and studies the history of the church.

When the research is finished, he carves a design on the beeswax, and fills it with acrylic paint. He describes the process as a “prayerful and leisurely experience … Sometimes I listen to music while I’m painting.”

The Easter Vigil liturgy itself is an emotional experience for Faulhaber. He watches from a pew as the candle is carried in procession into the dark church, then prominently displayed in the candle stand in the sanctuary.

It is when the priest or deacon intones one of the most evocative and poetic hymns of praise in all liturgy, the Exsultet – also known as the Easter Proclamation – that his eyes fill with tears and his heart overflows with joy.

“It’s powerful knowing my hand is involved in some small way in the Church’s most meaningful act of worship,” Faulhaber said. “At the same time, I want to hide and just do my art. It’s about Jesus.”

A multi-dimensional artist

Faulhaber and his wife, Jeanna, are members of St. Bernard parish in Omaha. He has painted St. Bernard’s Paschal candles since 2014. His candles are also used in Omaha churches St. Stephen the Martyr and St. Thomas More.

It was Faulhaber’s idea to paint a candle for St. Bernard. He recognized how the church’s regal interior colors, dark wood pews, and floor tile design worked together to direct a person’s mind and heart toward the sanctuary.

He told Father Walter Nolte, St. Bernard’s pastor at the time, that like an icon, a Paschal candle should point to something beyond itself.

“Robert spent hours in the church, praying and sketching,” Father Nolte said.

Faulhaber presented him with several design concepts.

“He wanted me to choose from his ideas,” the priest said.  “I refused. I told him I had complete trust in him, and I would graciously receive what he brought to us from his prayer.”

The finished design skillfully uses the small church’s Spanish mission style colors and spiral columns to depict Christ the King.

When he’s not working in the maintenance department at St. Stephen the Martyr Church, Faulhaber paints.

He considers himself a multi-dimensional artist; besides paint, his tools include chalk, pencil and airbrushes. He’s also a wood carver.

While Michelangelo, Rembrandt, and Caravaggio’s biggest art pieces have endured over time, Faulhaber is one of only a few artists who knowingly sets out to create something that will eventually melt from the heat of a flame.

Yet because of the role they have in the sacramental life of the Church, his creations will, in a sense, share in eternity.


Legislation to restore inmates’ eligibility for Pell grants draws praise

Tue, 04/16/2019 - 02:06

Washington D.C., Apr 16, 2019 / 12:06 am (CNA).- A bipartisan bill introduced in Congress last week would allow inmates in federal and state prisons to be eligible for Pell grants, to pay for college classes while they are in jail.

Known as the “REAL Act,” the bill would repeal a 1994 Clinton-era ban on prisoners’ eligibility for the grants.

The Senate bill was introduced April 9 by Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii). The corresponding House bill was introduced by Congress members Jim Banks (R-Ind.), Danny Davis (D-Ill.), and French Hill (R-Ark.), and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.).

A press release from Senator Schatz’s office pointed to a report finding that inmates who take part in correctional education while in jail are 43 percent less likely to commit future crimes than those who do not participate in such education, and 13 percent more likely to find a job after their release.

“When we give people in prison an opportunity to earn an education, our communities are safer, taxpayers save money, and we can end the cycle of recidivism,” Schatz said.

“The REAL Act is an important part of providing opportunity to federal offenders and reducing recidivism,” Senator Lee added.

The legislation was applauded by Prison Fellowship, a nationwide Christian nonprofit group that facilitates classes, mentorship, Bible studies, and support for inmates and their families, as well as advocates for justice reform.

Craig DeRoche, senior vice president of advocacy and public policy for Prison Fellowship, said the organization is “thrilled to see this bipartisan effort to ensure that people won't return to crime, but instead, can come home as good citizens trained to start a job and support their families.”

“The REAL Act won't change the day on which someone is released from prison, but it can dramatically change the person who is coming home,” said Heather Rice-Minus, the organization’s vice president of government affairs.

“By unlocking second chances through access to education, we recognize the human dignity and potential of our brothers and sisters behind bars and will realize safer communities as a result,” she continued.

The legislation also drew a statement of support from FAMM, a nonprofit organization that advocates for sentencing reform.

“It’s critically important that people in prison have access to educational opportunities considering that 94 percent will come home someday,” said FAMM President Kevin Ring.

“Reinstating Pell Grants is a great next step in the federal push for criminal justice reform,” he said, pointing to education as an effective means of reducing recidivism.

“FAMM thanks the bipartisan, bicameral group of legislators who introduced this bill and urges Congress to support the full restoration of Pell Grants to those in state and federal prisons,” he said.

Michigan lawmaker cries foul against AG’s 'anti-Catholicism'

Mon, 04/15/2019 - 19:14

Lansing, Mich., Apr 15, 2019 / 05:14 pm (CNA).- A Michigan state representative is considering opening articles of impeachment against the state’s attorney general over comments that he says demonstrate an anti-Catholic bias.

State Rep. Beau LaFave told CNA in an interview that he had been worried about various public statements made by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel.

But the final straw was when Nessel publicly suggested that she thinks retired Judge Michael Talbot, a Catholic who has previously worked with the Diocese of Saginaw, is unfit to help Michigan State University overhaul its Title IX hearing procedures.

“There's a clear pattern of anti-Catholic religious bigotry coming out of our attorney general, and somebody needs to do something about it,” LaFave told CNA.

The lawmaker said Nessel's past statements characterizing faith-based adoption agencies as “hate mongers” concerned him when Nessel was running for office.

In addition, Nessel said during state investigations into allegations of abuse in the Diocese of Saginaw: “If an investigator comes to your door and asks to speak with you, please ask to see their badge and not their rosary.”

LaFave said he wanted to give Nessel the benefit of the doubt after those statements, because “perhaps she made a poor choice of words.” But Nessel’s stance regarding Talbot led him to issue a statement asking her to apologize.

Michigan State University and Judge Talbot

Michigan State University is overhauling its procedures for dealing with sexual assault the wake of a sexual abuse scandal involving former Olympic gymnastics coach Larry Nassar.

Talbot was working with the Diocese of Saginaw last year as special independent delegate as the diocese faced allegations of covering up clerical sexual abuse. Last March the home of Saginaw’s late bishop Joseph Cistone was raided by police, along with the diocesan chancery and cathedral rectory.

Saginaw County’s assistant prosecutor at the time criticized the diocese for failing to cooperate in police investigations; police said the raid was executing a search warrant believed to be related to allegations of sexual abuse made against two priests of the diocese.

Talbot reportedly disagreed with the Saginaw County prosecutor on whether it was necessary to raid the home of the late bishop, who was battling cancer at the time. The prosecutor filed a formal complaint against Talbot with the Attorney Grievance Commission (AGC), which handles allegations of lawyer misconduct in Michigan.

The complaint, which alleged that Talbot’s conduct was “inappropriate and bordered on obstruction of justice,” was quickly dismissed as lacking merit. Nevertheless, a spokeswoman for Nessel publicly released the record of the allegation.

LaFave said Nessel “broke court rules and committed an ethics violation” by publicly releasing a sealed record of the complaint against Talbot, especially since the complaint was dismissed.

Social media statements

The Lansing State Journal wrote an article in March with the headline “Retired judge with ties to [former Michigan Governor John] Engler, Catholic Church will help [Michigan State University] set new Title IX policy.”

A Twitter user had tweeted the link to the article, quipping that “MSU can't mess this up any worse than they already have” but going on to imply that by hiring a Catholic judge, they had made the situation worse. Nessel retweeted the user’s comments, adding: “What [she] said.”

LaFave said he sees Nessel’s endorsement of the user’s comments as evidence of anti-Catholic sentiment against Talbot.

“By extension, and to cut through all the middle stuff, she was saying that because he's a Catholic, he's not qualified or is disqualified to do his job of crafting Title IX rules at Michigan State University because of his ties to Catholicism," LaFave explained.

Nessel took to Twitter to respond, saying her statements against Talbot have to do with his qualifications and handling of previous cases, not his religion.

“Judge Talbot repeatedly demonstrated he is not fit to evaluate Title IX claims. His representation of the Saginaw Diocese was a playbook on how NOT to handle sexual assault cases,” she wrote.

LaFave isn't buying it.

“How in the world is the former chief judge of the court of appeals for 20 years not qualified to make Title IX due process rules in administrative proceedings at a university?” LaFave said.

“That is patently, on its face, false. And a bunch of nonsense.”

LaFave issued a statement earlier this month asking Nessel to apologize for her comments.

“Believing that a distinguished judge cannot do his job because of his religion is delusional. The judge’s faith has nothing to do with his role in crafting rules protecting students’ rights during university proceedings,” LaFave wrote April 1.

“First she tells the press that Catholics shouldn’t pray to their rosaries because they don’t do anything, and now she quips that a judge cannot do his job because he is Catholic. What now has become clear is that there is a disgusting pattern of anti-Catholic discrimination emerging from our attorney general,” he said.

An op-ed published this week in the Detroit News pointed out that in 2015, Nessel seemed to refer to Catholic adoption agencies and their supporters as “hate mongers.”

Nessel responded to the op-ed on her Twitter page, saying that her 2015 reference to “hate mongers” was “directed at those who believe discrimination against LGBTQ people in adoption using public tax dollars is ethical,” which she said does not apply to “the vast majority of Catholics.”

“Saying that one who believes Talbot has no business handling MSU's Title IX issues makes them anti-Catholic is akin to saying that one who believes Stephen Miller should not be dictating immigration policies is anti-Semitic. It's utter nonsense,” she wrote.

Nessel also criticized the author of the op-ed and the Detroit News, saying, “It is you who are the hate mongers.”

“So now she’s attacking the free press, because they’re accurately quoting her,” LaFave commented.

Nessel in March of this year barred state funds from adoption agencies that won't place children with same-sex couples, after reaching a settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union and same-sex couples who approached a Catholic agency and another Christian agency.

The settlement means the state must enforce non-discrimination provisions in contracts. Agencies may not turn away otherwise qualified LGBT individuals and must provide orientation or training, process applications, and perform a home study, the Associated Press reported March 25.

A previous 2015 law, passed with the backing of the Michigan Catholic Conference, had prevented state-funded adoption and foster agencies from being forced to place children in violation of their beliefs. At the time, a quarter of Michigan’s adoption and foster agencies were faith-based.

The law protected them from civil action and from threats to their public funding, while requiring agencies that decline to place children with same-sex couples to refer the couples to other providers.

The ACLU filed the lawsuit in 2017 on behalf of two same-sex couples and a woman who was in foster care in her teens. At the time the Michigan Catholic Conference described the ACLU’s lawsuit as “mean-spirited, divisive and intolerant,” and “yet another egregious attack on religious faith in public life.” The 2015 law was needed to “promote diversity in child placement” and to maintain a public-private partnership to stabilize adoption and foster care, the conference said.

LaFave is now considering introducing articles of impeachment against Nessel if she continues to target people of faith.

“As one of only 110 people that can draft articles of impeachment against Michigan's elected officials and civil servants, I think it's incumbent upon me and my other 109 lawmakers to consider at all times whether or not that's an appropriate response, so I will consider it,” he told CNA.

“We do have a pretty high bar in the Michigan constitution for impeachment proceedings, but that is something to be considered at all times,” he added.

“I really wish I didn't have to do this,” LaFave conceded.

“But if the attorney general were going after Muslims, or Judaism, I think that the world would have their eyes on her, and would be demanding that she resign or at least apologize. But because it's Catholic, hardly anyone but me has said a word about it. And I think that's wrong. I think religious bigotry in all forms needs to be called out.”


Catholic governor signs assisted suicide law ‘after careful prayer’

Mon, 04/15/2019 - 17:45

Trenton, N.J., Apr 15, 2019 / 03:45 pm (CNA).- New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill to authorize medically assissted suicide into state law on Friday.

Murphy signed the Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act into law on April 15, as one New Jersey bishop pledged to continue to oppose the "dangerous" new law.

The act was passed by the New Jersey legislature in late March, with bipartisan support. The new law will allow those deemed by a doctor to have less than six months to live to request lethal medication to end their lives. The patient then must administer the medication themselves.

In signing the bill, Murphy, a self-described “lifelong, practicing Catholic,” remarked that while he was aware that the Church opposed assisted suicide he was signing the bill into law regardless.

“After careful consideration, internal reflection, and prayer, I have concluded that, while my faith may lead me to a particular decision for myself, as a public official I cannot deny this alternative to those who may reach a different conclusion,” said Murphy.

“I believe this choice is a personal one and, therefore, signing this legislation is the decision that best respects the freedom and humanity of all New Jersey residents.”

Bishop James F. Checchio of Metuchen condemned the governor’s decision.

In a statement to CNA, Checchio called the legislation the latest in a “dangerous and frightening trend” and “a brazen attack against the sanctity of human life.”

Metuchen, like all of New Jersey’s dioceses, has worked against the passage of assisted suicide legislation since 2012, when it was first brought up. Even though the bill is now law, Checchio said that he will not stop the fight.

“While we are facing dark times, we will not stop from advocating for the sanctity of human life, in all stages, and we will continue to educate our legislators, our fellow Catholics and the general public about the dangers of legalized physician-assisted suicide,” he said.

“Easter Sunday comes after the darkness of Good Friday, we know, so we will continue to work for Easter light to pervade our society.”

These priests love to cause a racquet: Clerical tennis tournament comes to Nebraska

Sun, 04/14/2019 - 18:06

Lincoln, Neb., Apr 14, 2019 / 04:06 pm (CNA).- According to the Gospel of Matthew, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.” This June, priests will gather in Lincoln, Neb., to “serve” their fellow brothers with their tennis skills.

The International Tennis Championship for Priests will be held June 28-30, gathering clerics and seminarians for exercise, friendly competition, and fraternity.

The event this year is organized by Father Brian Connor, pastor of North American Martyrs parish in Lincoln, and will include about 40 priests from around the world.

“I’m happy to do this for the priests and for the sport, both of which I love very much,” Connor told CNA. “It’s a chance to compete, burn some calories, and enjoy friendship with other people,” he added.

The tournament began in Poland in 2012 and occurred again in 2013 and 2018. Connor said the competitions in Poland included options for food and live music, for example an orchestra that played the anthems of the priests’ different nationalities.

With a majority of priests coming from Poland and the Philippines, Connor expressed hope that the tournament’s placement in the United States would spark a greater interest in the participation from clerics in the Americas.

The event has several competitions: open, +45, +55, and +65. The contest will also include doubles and a consolation tournament for the eliminated players. Seminarians, priests, deacons, and bishops are all welcome to participate.

At the event, the contestants will attend daily Mass together at a variety of parishes. The priests will also explore some of eastern Nebraska's tourist attractions, including the Holy Family Shrine, the Strategic Air Command Museum, Eugene T. Mahoney State Park, and the Henry Doorly Zoo.

Connor has played tennis since he was young, and competed during high school. Since numerous priests have likewise played tennis throughout their childhood, he said the event is an opportunity for nostalgic fun, fitness, and fraternity. Plus, it allows priests to experience new cultures and countries, he said.

“The goal of the tournament is to build a fraternity of the priesthood and to give a goal of practicing and proving yourself, which of course means health, conditioning, [and] your skills in the game,” he said.

Fr. Matthew Eickhoff, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Benkelman and St. Joseph Parish in Stratton, and Father Thomas MacLean, a chaplain for four state prisons in Nebraska, are two other priests from the Diocese of Lincoln who will once again try their hand at the tournament.

Although neither competed in a tournament until they entered the international event in 2013, both priests grew up playing tennis. Now, they are looking forward to be “playing hard and praying hard.”

Before Eickhoff joined the first competition, he began driving an hour from Omaha to participate in a weekly lesson for six months. In preparation of this upcoming contest, he has continued with a couple review lessons and occasionally plays with the priests from Lincoln.

“The priesthood is the greatest fraternity on earth,” he said, noting that the event is an excellent opportunity to strengthen this community. He said the friendships develop quickly because of the solidarity of their vocation.

“Generally, we priests enjoy recreating together because we have an appreciation for the challenges each of us face in our priestly ministry on a daily basis, so we know how valuable a break from the work really is and we appreciate being able to refresh our minds, bodies and souls together,” Eickhoff said.

Although he does not get to play tennis as often as he would like, he said tennis and the tournament promotes a well-balanced life: recreational and spiritual.

“Bishop [Glennon] Flavin, who ordained me, encouraged us priests to ‘work hard, pray hard and play hard’ so as to keep a healthy balance of work, prayer and recreation in our lives,” he said. “Tennis continues to be one piece of the puzzle that helps provide balance in my life.”

Similarly, MacLean said the event is an opportunity for fun, but he said it is also a “pretty serious” competition. Having already lost nine pounds from training, he said he is ready to return to the court to redeem himself from last year, when he lost during the first round.

Besides the fierce competition, Maclean said he is looking forward to the spiritual companionship. He said the priests will enjoy more than just court rivalry, but times in Mass and prayer as well. He said the priests have a strong love for tennis but, primarily, the men share a deeper, sacred bond.

“I think spiritually celebrating the sacraments and the Eucharist with our brother priests is a great way to start our day before the competition begins. We are priests first so we are rooted in the sacrifice of our Lord and that’s the bed rock. I guess you could say that tennis is the icing on the cake.”

This Sunday, where will the millions of palms come from?

Sat, 04/13/2019 - 18:53

Washington D.C., Apr 13, 2019 / 04:53 pm (CNA).- With the arrival of Palm Sunday, Catholics across the globe will soon be handed spiky leaves as they walk into church. Some might fold them into elaborate little crosses. Kids will poke each other with them. But it's safe to say most won't know where they came from.

The feast commemorates Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem the week before his passion and crucifixion. The Gospels attest that as Jesus entered the city, crowds lay down palm branches and cloaks as he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey.

For centuries, Christians have commemorated the feast day that begins Holy Week by waving branches of either palm or another local tree, as well as with liturgical processions and other celebrations.

In the U.S. alone, nearly 18,000 Catholic parishes will celebrate Palm Sunday by blessing and distributing palm branches to the faithful. That makes millions of palm leaves each year – and that doesn’t include all of the Protestant churches that observe the tradition.

Where do all those palms come from? While many Catholics know the final destination of their palms – they are burned to become ashes for next year’s Ash Wednesday – the origin of the leafy branches is less well known.

Credit: Klara Sasova / Unsplash

The journey from tree to church begins with the harvesters around the world who cut and prepare the leaves for their role in worship. The work needed to provide palms for Palm Sunday is so immense that it actually constitutes a full-time year-round job for some harvesters.

Thomas Sowell is one such palm harvester from Florida who has been helping to supply parishes with fresh palm leaves for more than five decades. Sowell began harvesting wild palm leaves from trees as a child to earn extra money in the springtime. Over the past several decades, he has grown his business into a palm supplier that ships the leafy branches to all 50 states and Canada.

Despite the growth in his business, Sowell says he tries to maintain his focus on the purpose behind it all.

“We try to do the best job that we can,” he told CNA. “Every bag that we send out to churches, every individual bag has been examined, cleaned – we go to extreme measures to make sure that everything we do for these churches is done in the honor of Jesus Christ.”

While there are more than 2,600 different species of palm that grow across the world, palm plants cannot survive outside of tropical and subtropical climates. Historically, parishes that could not source palm locally would instead substitute branches of another local tree such as olive or willow, although modern churches also have the option of sourcing palm fronds from other regions of the world.

In the United States and Canada, most parishes seek out suppliers who deliver fresh palms shortly before Palm Sunday, said Fr. Michael J. Flynn, Secretariat of Divine Worship for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Many of these parishes contact church goods suppliers such as Peter Munley of Falls Church, Virginia, who helps provide parishes year-round with supplies like candles and sacramental wine, along with palms for Holy Week.

Munley told CNA that in preparation for Palm Sunday, he works to deliver palms from their source to different parishes that place orders around the country. In addition to Florida, palms are sourced from Texas, California and elsewhere in the Southern United States, he said.

While nearly all of the palms Munley sells are individually pre-cut, church goods suppliers also helps to source decorative palms for altar centerpieces and larger palm fronds as well. Dealers also work to ensure that palms get burnt and ground into ashes for Ash Wednesday, for parishes that cannot burn the palms for ashes themselves.

Munley also stressed that although many American-based palm sources are not labeled as “eco-friendly,” the practices of many major U.S. palm harvesters are indeed environmentally sustainable.

“Our guys don’t kill the palm,” he said, adding that by sourcing palms from American harvesters as opposed to internationally-certified “green” farmers, they help to reduce the ecological impact of shipping and transportation.

Credit: Bohumil Petrik/CNA.

Sowell said that the palm trees he works with “are 100 percent wild.” He works with local ranchers and landowners to remove palmetto leaves from trees that grow naturally on local farmland.

Some of the trees Sowell harvests from have been producing palm leaves since he first started gathering palm leaves to sell as a boy.

“I know that there are trees that are still being cut today that I cut when I was twelve,” he said.

Originally, Sowell cut everything himself. Over the years, however, his growing cooperation with the caretakers who supply palm led him to focus more on preparing palms for church supply dealers and for shipment.

Cooperation with ranchers and landowners is critical. Sowell says the process of cutting, cleaning and preparing the strips of palm is incredibly labor intensive, and he could not complete it without local partnerships. “There’s no way that you could grow this much palm and just do it (alone). It’s hard.”

The work is so intensive that the Palm Sunday celebrations require an entire year’s work. “We work twelve months out of the year, in one aspect or another, for one day,” Sowell said.

He also supplies palm leaves for Eastern Orthodox Churches, which use a different calendar for Easter and Lent. After the celebration of Palm Sunday in the Catholic Church and other Western churches, “we’ll turn around in a couple of weeks and gather more palms so they’re fresh for the Orthodox,” he said.

The participation of Christians in Palm Sunday celebrations not only provides work and a living for Sowell and his employees, but financial support for the local ranchers who work with him.

“There are so many families that help us that can earn money in a way that otherwise they couldn’t.”

Ultimately, Sowell sees his job harvesting and preparing palm leaves – and the service he is able to offer to parishes across the country – as a blessing.

“There would have been no way we could have done this if it hadn’t been for God helping us,” he said.


This article was originally published on CNA March 16, 2016.

Georgetown students vote to compensate descendants of Jesuit-sold slaves

Fri, 04/12/2019 - 19:54

Washington D.C., Apr 12, 2019 / 05:54 pm (CNA).- Students at Georgetown University voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to pass a referendum that would create a new student fee each semester in order to create programming benefiting the descendants of the 272 slaves the Maryland Province of Jesuits sold in 1838.

“The results of the referendum are as follows: 66.08% for yes (2541 votes), 33.92% for no (1304 votes). This means that the referendum passes,” tweeted the Georgetown University Students Association Election Commission on Thursday evening.

According to the GUSA Election Commission, 57.9% of Georgetown students voted in the election.

The money raised by the fee would “be allocated for charitable purposes directly benefiting the descendants of the GU272 and other persons once enslaved by the Maryland Jesuits,” according to the text of the referendum.

The fee would be $27.70 per semester. If the fee were to be implemented, it would raise over $400,000 a year from undergraduate students. The fee cannot be officially created until it is approved by Georgetown University’s board of trustees.

The referendum question was sponsored by the GU272 Advocacy Team, which is named after the 272 slaves who were sold to Louisiana. The sale of the slaves earned the province about $500,000 in 2019 money, and was able to keep the province out of bankruptcy at the time.

A statement released by the Dr. Told Olson, Georgetown University’s vice president for student affairs, reiterated the steps previously taken by the school to atone for the sale of slaves, but did not fully endorse the new fee.

“We value the engagement of our students and appreciate that they are making their voices heard and contributing to an important national conversation. Any student referendum provides a sense of the student body’s views on an issue,” said Olson.

“Student referendums help to express important student perspectives but do not create university policy and are not binding on the university.”

Olson said that even if the fee were not enacted, the school would work to develop programming that would allow for Georgetown students to “meaningfully engage with Georgetown’s history of slavery and support opportunities for collaboration between students and Descendants.”

This referendum comes nearly four years after Georgetown convened the Working Group on Slavery, Memory and Reconciliation. The group released its final report on recommendations to the school in the summer of 2016, and suggested, among other things, an apology, the renaming of buildings, the creation of a memorial, and the creation of some sort form of financial reparations.

“While we acknowledge that the moral debt of slaveholding and the sale of the enslaved people can never be repaid, we are convinced that reparative justice requires a meaningful financial commitment from the University,” read the report.

In 2016, Georgetown University announced a new policy that would give descendants of the 272 slaves the same preferential treatment in admissions as legacy students. Currently, there are four Georgetown students who are descended from the sold slaves.

A year later, the school issued a formal apology to the descendants of the slaves in a reconciliation service, and renamed a building on campus after Isaac Hawkins, one of the people sold.