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Boston priest claims Catholics can support ‘right to choose’ abortion, archdiocese declines comment

Wed, 08/26/2020 - 17:00

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 26, 2020 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- A Boston priest has said he believes in “a woman’s right to choose” abortion, and will continue his advocacy for Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, despite Catholic teaching on abortion and a Church prohibition on clerical advocacy for political candidates. 

Msgr. Paul Garrity of the Archdiocese of Boston spoke to CNA Tuesday, after attracting criticism for a Facebook post endorsing former vice president Joe Biden for president. 

In a Facebook post titled “I AM PRO-LIFE AND SUPPORT JOE BIDEN,” published on Sunday, August 23, Msgr. Garrity, pastor of a parish in Lexington, MA, stated “I am pro-life and I believe in a woman’s right to choose. I will vote for Joe Biden for President because I believe that Joe Biden is pro-life like me.” 

Biden is running for president on a platform that would codify the full extent of Roe v Wade into federal law, effectively preventing any state limitations on the practice. Biden also supports the expanded use of taxpayer funds for abortion. 

Garrity added that he “believes any woman who becomes pregnant should have the right to choose to give birth to her baby.” 

“I believe that she needs adequate prenatal care,” said Garrity, “I believe that she needs a healthy diet and a safe place to live as she prepares to become a mother,” as well as “confidence” in the ability to care for a child. 

“I am pro-life and I believe that every woman who becomes pregnant deserves to have the freedom to choose life. This is what I believe Joe Biden believes and is one of the many reasons that I will vote for him in November,” said Garrity. The priest urged “Catholics and others” of similar viewpoints to vote for Biden as well. 

“The beauty of newborn babies are a reflection of the beauty and goodness of God and should propel us to do all that we can to help expectant mothers to choose life,” he said. 

In a statement to CNA Tuesday, Garrity stated that he has considered himself “Pro-Life” since he was ordained a priest in 1973, despite his support for legal protection for abortion. 

“I believe that it is a tragedy when a woman of any age decides to end her pregnancy prematurely,” said Garrity in an email to CNA. The priest added that in his view, Catholics “are also told that we should not be ‘single issue’ voters” and that the Church is “neutral” on the issue of voting. 

In fact, the Church teaches that a person can never vote for a candidate who supports an intrinsic evil, like abortion, in order to advance that evil. A person could only vote for such a candidate if they judged there were proportionate reasons which might outweigh the harm done by the candidate's election, the Church teaches. 

The U.S. bishops conference has said that ending legal protection for abortion is a “preeminent priority” in public life, and numerous bishops have taught there are few or no issues that could outweigh the gravity of abortion.

In 2008, Bishop (now Cardinal) Kevin Farrell released a joint statement with BIshop Kevin Vann saying that in his view “There are no ‘truly grave moral’ or ‘proportionate’ reasons, singularly or combined that could outweigh the millions of innocent human lives that are directly killed by abortion each year.”

Also in 2008, Archbishop Charles Chaput said of the issue that Catholics who support pro-choice candidates “need a compelling proportionate reason to justify it.”  

“What is a ‘proportionate’ reason when it comes to the abortion issue? It’s the kind of reason we will be able to explain, with a clean heart, to the victims of abortion when we meet them face to face in the next life — which we most certainly will. If we’re confident that these victims will accept our motives as something more than an alibi, then we can proceed,” Chaput said.

CNA made several requests for comment on Garrity’s remarks from the Archdiocese of Boston. The archdiocese did not respond to those requests.

While the archdiocese did not offer any official comment on the matter, one archdiocesan leader did say the priest’s view was contrary to Catholic teaching.

In a since-deleted tweet, Thomas Carroll, Secretary of Education & Superintendent of Schools for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, expressed criticism of Garrity’s post. He followed it up with an explanation saying that he believed Garrity’s view is “100% not” in line with Church teaching, and that he did not “want the 30,000 students in our schools to be led astray by false teachings spread by someone wearing a collar.” 

Carroll deleted the tweet on Tuesday afternoon. He referred questions from CNA to the Archdiocese of Boston.

Garrity told CNA that he posted on Facebook “to tell Catholics that it is okay to vote for Joe Biden, that they have a moral choice to make in the upcoming election. Cardinal Dolan has publicly endorsed the Republican candidate. He has expressed his personal opinion,” he said. 

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York has not publicly endorsed a candidate, Republican or otherwise. Dolan did offer an invocation Monday at the Republican National Convention, but said explicitly that his presence was not an endorsement and that he has prayed at the Democratic National Convention before, and would again if he were asked. 

Dolan has, in the past, written of his displeasure with the Democratic Party’s current swing towards abortion advocacy and against school choice, but neither endorsed a specific candidate nor instructed Catholics how to vote.  

Calling Biden the “pro-life candidate” despite his support for abortion, Garrity told CNA Tuesday that “in the 2016 election, church-going Catholics were told they had no choice by bishops and priests. I am hopeful this will not happen again.” 

It was unclear what Garrity was referring to in saying Catholics were told by bishops that they had “no choice” but to vote for Trump in 2016. The bishops do not endorse candidates; canon law prohibits clerics from taking “an active role in political parties” and civil law forbids nonprofits from endorsing political candidates. 

In fact, another diocesan priest, Fr. Frank Pavone, recently stepped down from an advisory position in Donald Trump’s reelection campaign, telling CNA he had done so at the direction of Church authorities.

In 2008, Chicago priest Fr. Michael Pfleger drew attention for appearing as part of a “People of Faith for Obama” coalition during then-Senator Barack Obama’s primary battle against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.

Pfleger’s bishop, Cardinal Francis George, said at the time that “while a priest must speak to political issues that are also moral, he may not endorse candidates nor engage in partisan campaigning.”

Garrity told CNA that no matter who is elected in November, abortion “is not going away even if Roe v. Wade is overturned,” and that it “has become a wedge issue that is being used to divide people for narrow political gains.” 

“I believe, with Pope Francis, that ‘Our defense of the unborn needs to be clear, firm and passionate for at stake is the dignity of a human life, which is always sacred and demands love for each person, regardless of his or her stage of development,’” said Garrity.

In January, Pope Francis told Archbishop Joseph Naumann, chair of the USCCB pro-life committee, that the right to life was “the most fundamental right.” During the same ad limina visit to Rome by several U.S. bishops, Francis reportedly agreed with Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis that abortion is the “preeminent” issue facing the United States, along with the transgender movement. 

In the past, Pope Francis has called abortion akin to “hiring a hitman.” In 2019, ahead of the Italian “National Day for Life,” Francis requested that politicians, “regardless of their faith convictions, treat the defense of the lives of those who are about to be born and enter into society as the cornerstone of the common good.”

Maryland bishops praise suffragettes ‘fighting for the dignity of women’ 100 years ago

Wed, 08/26/2020 - 16:50

CNA Staff, Aug 26, 2020 / 02:50 pm (CNA).- Giving women the right to vote was a “landmark achievement” worthy of celebration, the bishops of Maryland said in a statement on the 100th anniversary of the signing of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which granted women the right to vote.

“This amendment was the culmination of decades of steadfast advocacy, often in the face of violence and discrimination, by heroic women from all walks of life throughout our nation,” the bishops said in their Aug. 26 statement.

While the 19th Amendment was ratified on August 18, 1920, Women’s Equality Day - the anniversary of the amendment - is celebrated annually on August 26, which is the date when the amendment was signed by then-U.S. Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby, making it officially legal for women to vote.

The movement for women to vote started as early as the mid-1800s, and picked up steam after the end of the Civil War, though it took nearly 100 years for the amendment to pass. In their statement, the bishops honored the suffragettes who fought for the vote for women even at a time when many disagreed with them.

“Given the contributions of women to the electorate over the last century, it seems almost inconceivable that so many did not support women’s suffrage 100 years ago, including some of our predecessors,” they stated.

“We express our deep gratitude for the women who devoted their lives to fighting for the dignity of women at a time when this was considered unacceptable,” the bishops added.

Signatories of the statement included Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Washington D.C., Bishop Francis Malooly of Wilmington, as well as the auxiliary bishops of Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

The Church in Maryland and in the United States as well as throughout the world, “has been enriched by women of the greatest caliber, women who have left their mark not only on the Church, but on all aspects of civilization,” they stated.

“These women, and countless others, continue to inspire new generations of girls and women to share their unique gifts in service to the Church and for the common good.”

The bishops also recognized that “many obstacles still must be overcome to achieve full recognition of the dignity of all women in our society.”

The 19th Amendment has faced some recent criticism among some Catholics.

Michael Warren Davis, editor of  Crisis Magazine, argued last week, that women’s right to vote should be revoked.

Warren lamented that “fallout” from the 19th Amendment for encouraging women to be more independent, by delaying marriage or pursuing a career before marriage. He said that the vote for women drove a wedge between husbands and wives and drove the rise of divorce, and that a sure way to return to “Christian order” would be to repeal the 19th Amendment.

“As in the family, so too in government. Laws do not only exist to secure public order; they exist to guard the social order as well. Our laws should reflect our customs and norms—not some noxious ideology, but our values. Over the last century, we’ve strayed far from the values that made this country strong. But there is one simple way to put us back on the right track: repeal the Nineteenth Amendment,” he wrote.

Invoking Pope St. John Paul II’s Letter to Women, the bishops of Maryland said “we must remain vigilant” in ensuring that women continue to be treated with acceptance and respect in the Church, home and workplace.

“…there is an urgent need to achieve real equality in every area: equal pay for equal work, protection for working mothers, fairness in career advancements, equality of spouses with regard to family rights and the recognition of everything that is part of the rights and duties of citizens in a democratic State,” the bishops said, quoting Letter to Women

Much also remains to be done “to prevent discrimination against those who have chosen to be wives and mothers,” they said, quoting John Paul II again.

The bishops also noted that Pope Francis has spoken in support for women’s rights on numerous occasions, including his 2019 apostolic exhortation Christus vivit.

Pope Francis said in that text that the Church must acknowledge times in its own history when women were treated unfairly.

“[A] living Church can react by being attentive to the legitimate claims of those women who seek greater justice and equality. A living Church can look back on history and acknowledge a fair share of male authoritarianism, domination, various forms of enslavement, abuse and sexist violence,” Francis said.

In their statement, the bishops also noted their appreciation “for women in our own (arch)dioceses, parishes, schools, and Catholic ministries for the witness and encouragement they provide to young people as women of faith, intelligence and leadership. We hold up, as well, all women who provide their children and our society a loving witness to the beauty of family life.”

The bishops also expressed their gratitude for all women who had impacted their lives, especially the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose “enduring example of womanhood that Mary provides is a guiding light for all women; it is the ultimate example of unconditional love, sacrifice, strength, grace, and perseverance.”

“It is our desire that the next 100 years of our nation’s history will serve as a time of continued progress that never fails to recognize the God-given dignity of all women,” the bishops said.

“The voices and contributions of women are needed now more than ever as we seek to build a culture that recognizes that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights and those rights must be protected and preserved.”

”We pray that all people of good will will join us in celebrating this momentous anniversary for women in the United States and may God’s grace continue to bless all women as they seek to live out their vocations.”

 

Kenosha Catholics praying for peace after third night of violence

Wed, 08/26/2020 - 13:35

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 26, 2020 / 11:35 am (CNA).- Catholics in Kenosha, Wisconsin, are praying for peace after a third night of violence following the police shooting of Jacob Blake.

“The evil that they see is not everything,” a staffer at St. James Parish in downtown Kenosha told CNA on Wednesday, in reference to widely circulating video of riots and shootings in the area.

 “Just remember that when you pray and when you act in peace and in love,” the parish employee said, “there’s a lot of good in the world too.”

The employee requested anonymity in light of incidents of doxxing and other harassment taking place amid the unrest.

On Sunday, video footing was published online showing a police officer shooting a Black man, later identified as Jacob Blake, in Kenosha late Sunday afternoon. A statement from the police department later that evening said that officers had been responding to a domestic dispute at the scene of the shooting. Three officers involved were placed on administrative leave.

Blake was shown in the video walking away from several police officers who had guns drawn, around the front of a car toward the driver-side door. As Blake opened the door and attempted to get into the car, one officer grabbed him from behind and then shot him multiple times. Another officer stood behind with a gun drawn and pointed at Blake. Seven shots were heard in the video.

Blake was taken to a Milwaukee area hospital. He is paralyzed from the waist down and it would be a “miracle” if he walked again, his family’s lawyer said on Tuesday.

Protests and riots ensued in the town of Kenosha on Sunday night and have continued into Wednesday. The Kenosha Police Department reported on Wednesday morning that two people died from a shooting on late Tuesday night, with a third victim injured. Video published online, and alleged to be footage of the fatal shootings, showed a man running down a street carrying a rifle, pursued by several participants in the protests. The man falls to the ground before opening fire on pursuers. CNA has not independently verified the authenticity or sourcing of that video footage, which police are said now to be reviewing.

The shooting suspect has not yet been arrested.

Videos also showed peaceful protests, along with rioters looting and burning businesses and public buildings, assaulting a business owner and a police officer. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported that armed groups of people were also seen on Tuesday evening guarding businesses, among them a gas station and a dry cleaners. 

The mother of Blake urged protesters to remain peaceful on Wednesday. “As I pray for my son’s healing--physically, emotionally, and spiritually--I also have been praying even before this, for the healing of our country,” she said at a press conference. “God has placed each and every one of us in this country, because He wanted us to be here.”

The parish of St. James is across the street from a used car lot that was burned by rioters on Monday.

The staffer at St. James said the church property sustained some vandalism on Monday night, but suffered far less damage than other neighboring properties including the used car dealership shown being torched in a viral video. While a crowd reportedly gathered outside the church on Monday, one demonstrator directed the rest away from the church toward another property, the staffer said.

As to the extent of the damage, several windows were smashed on church property and the word “burn” was painted on the front door of the church, while an upside-down cross was painted on the exterior of the church building.

The words “god is dead” were painted on construction equipment on the parish school property, with other profanities painted on construction equipment.

The staffer, a life-long Kenosha resident, told CNA that the unrest was “heartbreaking to see.” Of the shooting and the subsequent protests and riots, “things like this don’t happen,” the staffer said, “and so when they do” then “nobody knew how to handle it.”

The staffer said that in his view, many participating in the protests and riots “are not from Kenosha.” Local volunteers have been helping the church and the town clean up from damage.

Local Catholics are also asking priests to join in praying the rosary and exorcism prayers, the staffer said. “There are a lot of people who are just trying to get as many people as possible to pray for everything that’s going on, and for peace and for our community to be safe again.”

In a video from St. Joseph’s Academy in Kenosha, Fr. Todd Belardi asked students to pray for justice and peace and leading them in the rosary.

On Monday, Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki also prayed for Blake’s healing and for peace in the community.

“Violence can never be the means to attain peace and justice.,” he said in a statement, emphasizing that “the sins of violence, injustice, racism and hatred must be purged from our communities with acts of mercy, with the protection and care for the dignity of every human person, with respect for the common good, and with an unwavering pursuit of equality and peace.”

“The Church stands as a beacon of hope,” said Listecki.

Faith, life and justice issues take center stage at Republican National Convention

Wed, 08/26/2020 - 11:45

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 26, 2020 / 09:45 am (CNA).- Faith and social issues took center stage on night two of the Republican National Convention, as speakers said the Trump administration had worked to advance the cause of religious freedom, promoting pro-life causes, and criminal justice reform.

Among the speakers was pro-life activist and former Planned Parenthood employee Abby Johnson who condemned her former employer’s racist heritage. She noted that 80% of Planned Parenthood’s abortion facilities are located near minority neighborhoods, and that the founder of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger, was a eugenicist. 

Trump, she said "has done more for the unborn than any other president" and is “the most pro-life president we’ve ever had. 

Johnson graphically described a second-trimester abortion she says she witnessed while working for Planned Parenthood, saying that she saw “an unborn baby fighting back, desperate to move away from the suction ... The last thing I saw was a spine twirling around in the mother’s womb before succumbing to the force of the suction."

Seeing that abortion, she said, caused her to quit her job and leave the abortion industry. 

Most Americans, said Johnson, do not understand the “barbarity” of abortion.

“They don’t know about the ‘products of conception’ room in abortion clinics, where infant corpses are pieced back together to ensure nothing remains in the mother's wombs; or that we joked and called it the 'pieces of children' room,” she said. 

“See, for me, abortion is real. I know what it sounds like. I know what abortion smells like. Did you know abortion even had a smell?" Johnson herself had two abortions prior to her pro-life conversion. 

In her speech, Johnson referred to Biden and Harris as “two radical, anti-life activists.” The Democratic Party platform called, for the first time, for abortion to be codified in federal law, and repeated the 2016 platform’s call for a repeal of the Hyde Amendment forbidding taxpayer dollars for abortions. 

The Republican Party has not changed its the 2016 platform, which calls for abortion to be illegal, but did release a list of 50 bullet points outlining the priorities of a second term of the Trump presidency. Those points do not mention abortion policy, though Johnson emphasized that in her view, Trump’s second term will feature continued efforts on restricting legal protection for abortion. 

Cissie Graham Lynch, the granddaughter of evangelist Billy Graham, spoke Tuesday night on the importance of the free exercise of religion “in our schools, and in our jobs, and yes, even in the public square.” 

“Our founders did not envision a quiet, hidden faith: they fought to ensure that the voices of faith were always welcomed; not silenced, not bullied,” she said. Lynch said that during the Obama/Biden administration, “these freedoms were under attack.” 

Lynch cited the examples of the HHS contraceptive mandate, which she said was an attempt to “force religious organizations to pay for abortion-inducing drugs,” and efforts to force adoption agencies to violate their religious beliefs in who they worked with. 

“Democrats pressured schools to allow boys to compete in girls sports and use girls locker rooms,” she said, referring to transgender activists. “Those are the facts.” 

With the election of Donald Trump, she said, “people of faith suddenly had a fierce advocate in the White House,” noting that he appointed judges who “respect the First Amendment” and withdrew policies that violated conscience rights. 

“The Biden-Harris vision leaves no room for people of faith,” Lynch said. “Whether you’re a baker or florist or a football coach, they will force the choice between being obedient to God or to caesar--because the radical left’s God is government power.” 

One of the more emotional moments of the night was the story of Jon Ponder, a convicted bank robber. While in prison, Ponder turned his life around through a chaplaincy program. Upon release, Ponder founded a nonprofit organization Hope for Prisoners, and befriended the FBI agent who arrested him.

Hope for Prisoners works to assist prisoners with reentry into society, and provides leadership training, financial advice, professional development, and technology training. 

“My hope for America is that all people regardless of race, color, class or background will take advantage of the fact that we live in a nation of second chances,” said Ponder on Tuesday. Trump called his story "a beautiful testament to the power of redemption."

At the end of the segment, Trump pardoned Ponder for his bank robbery conviction, which is a federal crime. Ponder had previously been granted clemency in Nevada on battery charges. 

Also featured on Tuesday night was Nick Sandmann, who, as a student at Covington Catholic High School, was the subject of a media firestorm after an out-of-context clip went viral showing him smiling at a Native American demonstrator in front of the Lincoln Memorial after the March for Life earlier this year. Sandmann spoke on the topics of cancel culture and the need for media accountability and honesty. 

Knights of Columbus donating $250,000 after Beirut explosion

Wed, 08/26/2020 - 02:26

CNA Staff, Aug 26, 2020 / 12:26 am (CNA).- The Knights of Columbus is donating $250,000 to aid relief efforts following a massive explosion in Beirut earlier this month.

The donation includes funds for Caritas Lebanon, the St. Vincent de Paul Society, Telelumiere/Noursat Christian Television in the Middle East, and Sesobel, a group that support children with special needs.

“The calamity in Lebanon is a threat to the vital Christian community there and threatens the existence of Christianity throughout the Middle East,” said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson in a statement. “This desperate situation must be addressed.”

He called the explosion “a great tragedy that merits the prayers and full attention of the world.”

A massive explosion in the port area of Lebanon’s capital on Aug. 4 overturned cars, shattered windows, set fires, and damaged buildings across Beirut, a city of more than 350,000, with a metro area of more than 2 million people.

The explosion killed at least 181 people, injured more than 6,000 and left some 300,000 homeless. Beirut Governor Marwan Abboud has estimated that it has caused as much as $10-15 billion in damages. The blast caused damage within a six-mile radius.

The UN Refugee Agency has also reported that at least 34 refugees were among those killed in the blast.

Officials have not yet determined the cause of the explosions, but investigators believe they may have started with a fire in a warehouse that stored 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer that can be made into an explosive. Many people in the city believe that Hezbollah, a hardline Islamic party in Lebanon.

Other Catholic groups, such as Catholic Relief Services, have also been aiding those affected by the blast, offering food, water, and medical care to victims. Pope Francis also donated 250,000 to relief efforts.

The Knights of Columbus, a fraternal service organization with some 2 million members worldwide, have made persecuted Christians one of their major focuses in recent years, donating more than $25 million to causes supporting Christians and other oppressed minorities in the Middle East. Among the projects funded are housing, education, medical care, and rebuilding efforts after ISIS’ occupation in the region.

Catholics plead for Navajo man on eve of scheduled execution

Tue, 08/25/2020 - 20:01

Denver Newsroom, Aug 25, 2020 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- Catholics are joining Native American leaders in calling for mercy for a Navajo man who is sentenced to die in a federal execution this week. The Navajo Nation objects to the execution. 

Lezmond Mitchell, 38, who committed a double murder in 2001 on tribal land, is scheduled to be executed in Terre Haute, Ind., Aug. 26. The federal government resumed executions in July 2020, the first since 2003.

A Navajo lawmaker told CNA that traditional Navajo beliefs forbid the use of capital punishment.

"We believe that life is sacred, and that killing is kind of an unholy and inhuman act, full stop," Carl Slater, a representative in the Navajo Nation Council, told CNA in an Aug. 25 interview.

"So it's not something we should use as a form of punitive justice," he said, adding that the Navajo justice system is based more on a model of rehabilitative and restorative justice practices.

The Navajo Nation is a sovereign entity, with a distinct government, that extends into three states— New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah.

In addition to serving in the nation’s legislative body, Slater also serves as Vice-Chair of the Health, Education, and Human Services committees of the Navajo Nation. He said under the 1994 Federal Death Penalty Act, the federal government must have the Native American tribe’s consent to seek a death penalty prosecution of a Native American citizen.

The Navajo Nation, citing the need to protect life, or “iina,” has consistently objected to Mitchell’s death sentence, requesting he instead receive life imprisonment.

“Punitive justice, as expressed by western and United States’ influences, does not create harmony and serves to primarily reinforce discord within society,” a proposed Navajo Nation Council resolution reads.

To date, only one out the nearly 600 Native American tribes across the country have chosen to opt-in to federal death penalty prosecutions.

The federal government’s planned execution of Mitchell— who is the only Native American on federal death row— is “a profound insult to Navajo sovereignty,” Slater wrote in an Aug. 19 op-ed in the New York Times.

"It's very important to the Navajo Nation because [we] never opted into this, and it will be precedent-setting in that the federal government will seek to get its objective no matter the wishes and commitments made to the Nation under law," Slater told CNA.

Mitchell, who is Navajo and was 20 years old at the time of the 2001 crime, stabbed a 63-year-old Navajo woman several dozen times, stole their car and drove it into the mountains before slitting the throat of her nine-year-old granddaughter.

Mitchell’s co-defendent— whom the prosecutor reportedly acknowledged was the primary assailant— was a juvenile at the time of the murder, and is currently serving a life sentence.

It was initially widely reported that a family member of the victims had publicly objected to the death penalty conviction. But in recent days, lawyers representing the 9-year-old’s parents have said that Mitchell’s attorneys do not speak for the victim’s family. The lawyers have not publicly clarified the family’s position on the matter.

Mitchell was convicted over 17 years ago on several counts, including murder, kidnapping, and carjacking resulting in death— the latter of which is a federal offense. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit determined that the carjacking charge constituted a "crime of nationwide applicability," and thus constituted an exception whereby the federal prosecutors could seek the death penalty without the tribe’s consent.

Though the federal government says Mitchell confessed to the murders, court documents suggest that Mitchell’s confession— obtained after multiple weeks of interrogation— was not taped, and was not written in his handwriting.

In addition, Mitchell had signed a waiver of his Miranda rights— which includes the right to an attorney, and the right to remain silent— which a prominent Navajo lawyer recently said may have been due to a key cultural component at play.

"In Native cultures, it is considered honorable to tell the truth, so Natives accused of crimes might confess or plead guilty right away and without a lawyer," Raymond Austin, a former justice of the Navajo Nation Supreme Court, told AZCentral.

Mitchell’s lawyers have accused federal prosecutors of exploiting “loopholes” in order to put Mitchell to death, despite the tribe’s wishes. They also criticized the fact that only one member of Mitchell’s jury was a member of his tribe; the rest were white.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez, in a July letter to U.S. President Donald Trump, strongly criticized the federal government’s decision to go ahead with the execution, saying that in addition to violating Navajo beliefs, Mitchell’s execution would undermine tribal sovereignty.

The Navajo Nation Council, of which Slater is a part, has also written to Trump to ask him to commute Mitchell’s sentence.

Slater said it is still unclear whether the Trump administration will accept Mitchell's plea for clemency. Byron Shorty, communications director for the Navajo Nation Office of the Speaker, told The Republic on Tuesday that it has not received any direct response from the White House.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church calls the death penalty “inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person.”

Bishop James Wall of Gallup is leading a virtual prayer vigil on the afternoon of Aug. 26 ahead of the scheduled execution.

The idea of the prayer vigil, Wall told CNA, is to pray for Mitchell's conversion, for healing for the victims' family, and for conversion of the hearts of the executioners.

The vigil was organized by the Catholic Mobilizing Network, a Catholic group which works to end the death penalty. Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy, CMN’s executive director, told CNA that so far about 500 people have signed up for the virtual vigil.

“Catholics need to be aware of the fact that the execution of Lezmond Mitchell, above all, is an unnecessary and avoidable attack on human dignity,” Murphy told CNA.

“This concern about human dignity is not only held by faithful Catholics, however. The Navajo Nation also professes a belief in the sanctity of human life, which grounds its objection to the execution of Lezmond Mitchell as well as its overarching opposition to the use of capital punishment.”

Murphy noted that in their 2018 pastoral letter against racism, the bishops of the United States addressed past harms committed against Native Americans, writing of “colonial and later U.S. policies toward Native American communities were often violent, paternalistic, and were directed toward the theft of their land...These policies decimated entire communities and brought about tragic death.”

“Catholics should care about the federal government’s violation of tribal sovereignty because it is, at its core, a manifestation of the of violence, oppression, and racism inflicted upon Native Americans for centuries in the United States,” Murphy said.

Murphy encouraged Catholics to pray and advocate for an end to the death penalty.

“These acts of state-sanctioned violence hold us back as a nation from honoring the God-given dignity of our brothers and sisters, even those who have committed grave harm,” she said, noting that during the government’s 17-year hiatus from executions, 10 states outlawed capital punishment and “public support for the practice has fallen to a historic low.”

Wall said the leaders of the Navajo largely agree with the Catholic Church on the sacredness of human life, from conception to natural death.

"God is the author and giver of all human life, and we're called to be good stewards of that life," the bishop told CNA.

Advances in the prison system allow the state to keep people safe from criminals without the use of the death penalty, which also gives those offenders and opportunity to genuinely repent, Wall said.

"It provides an opportunity for true contrition, true conversion of heart, and that opportunity to embrace Christ and the Gospel. And whenever we do something like this, when we take a life, what we also do is we don't provide that person the opportunity to repent. And everyone has to be given that opportunity."

The last scheduled federal execution this year is set for Aug. 28.

Catholic publisher makes second apology over Mormon cover art

Tue, 08/25/2020 - 18:01

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 25, 2020 / 04:01 pm (CNA).- A Catholic publishing company has apologized for its use of a Mormon angel on the cover of two Catholic publications, and is determining how best to move forward.

“Dear Partners in Ministry, we have heard your concerns, we admit our error and we apologize for the cover art on the 2021 Respond & Acclaim and Music Issue,” said a statement from Oregon Catholic Press published Aug. 25.

Oregon Catholic Press said they were “unaware of the association with the Mormon angel Moroni,” and that “we should have done more research”.

“We apologize for this embarrassing mistake,” they said, adding that they would “never knowingly use an image that is not authentically Catholic on our publications.” 

The image in question, which was published under the titles “Angel VIII” and “Angel Moroni,” was painted in 2017 by Argentinian artist Jorge Cocco Santangelo. Santangelo was raised Catholic but abandoned the faith in 1962 after meeting Mormon missionaries.

The image depicts the Angel Moroni standing on a golden sphere, blowing a horn and carrying golden tablets.

“We are working to finalize a plan to make things right for our customers and to ensure this never happens again,” said the publishing company, adding that once a plan is determined, they will reach out to those who had ordered the books.

Tuesday’s apology is a reversal of a message shared by Oregon Catholic Press on Monday evening, when they claimed that the angel on the cover of the books was simply an unspecified angel. The painting, they said, had been “erroneously labeled” by other websites as being of Angel Moroni. Cocco Santangelo, Oregon Catholic Press said in the original statement, had denied that the angel in the painting was anyone in particular.

This claim was called into question when it was revealed that Santangelo had shared an image of the painting on his Instagram page this past April, both titling it as “Angel Moroni” and stating that the entire “Angel” series was mostly centered on Angel Moroni.

The LDS Church teaches that Moroni is the angel referenced in Revelation 14:6, and that Moroni appeared to Joseph Smith to reveal the location of the Book of Mormon.

In Delaware, man arrested for threatening pro-life demonstrators with gun

Tue, 08/25/2020 - 17:59

CNA Staff, Aug 25, 2020 / 03:59 pm (CNA).- A man who allegedly pulled a gun and threatened pro-life demonstrators outside a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Dover, Delaware was arrested by police Aug. 21.

Jerome Aniska, a 31-year-old Wilmington man, engaged with the protesters on a public sidewalk Friday morning outside the Dover clinic. An argument took place.

“During this argument, Aniska pulled out a black handgun and made a threatening statement to the group,” the Dover Police Department said.

Police received calls about the incident before 10 a.m. Witnesses said the man went to his vehicle's trunk before the police officers arrived. Investigating police found an empty holster in Aniska's car and a black 9 mm handgun in his car's trunk, the Delaware News Journal reports.

Aniska has been arrested on $26,000 bond, charged with aggressive menacing, terroristic threatening, and possession of a firearm during a felony.

It is not the first incident this year at a Delaware Planned Parenthood.

In January, an 18-year-old was arrested on federal charges after throwing an incendiary device at a Planned Parenthood facility in Newark, Delaware near the University of Delaware campus. The device exploded but the fire died after about a minute. He allegedly spray painted a Latin phrase meaning “God wills it.” He spray-painted the words “Deus Vult,” a Chi Rho, and a Marian symbol on the outside of the Planned Parenthood. The facility does not perform abortions, but refers for them.

Video surveillance captured the attack in the city, about 45 miles south of Dover. A man was arrested in the incident.

 

'God is not a liar' - Invalidly baptized priest thankful for God's Providence

Tue, 08/25/2020 - 17:55

Denver Newsroom, Aug 25, 2020 / 03:55 pm (CNA).-  

When a priest is ordained, his hands are anointed with oil. They are then wiped clean with a white linen cloth -- it’s called a maniturgium.

There is a custom, hundreds of years old, in which each new priest presents that cloth to his mother. She’s usually buried with it. People say she can present that cloth when she arrives at the gates of heaven, to show the Lord that she had given her son to Christ and His Church as a priest.

After his ordination ceremony in 2017, Fr. Matthew Hood presented his maniturgium to his mother. It was a special moment.

But last Sunday, he took it back. He put it in the washing machine. It needed to be used again, at his second priestly ordination ceremony, which would take place the next day.

“Something I never thought I’d do, ever, was wash that cloth. That was so surreal, washing it, so that we could use it again,” Hood told CNA.

He said he had to tell his mom “gimme that back!”

Fr. Hood, 30, thought he’d been ordained a priest back in 2017. But this summer, he learned that his ordination wasn’t valid. That, in fact, his baptism wasn’t valid. It was a difficult discovery. But he told CNA that he sees God’s Providence in the strange events that have unfolded over his life.

In 1990, Matthew Hood and his twin brother were baptized at their family’s suburban Michigan parish by Deacon Mark Springer. Hood says a lot of babies were being baptized in the parish at that time; there were ten babies baptized alongside him, even. He grew up a Catholic, and eventually entered seminary.

But in the seminary, he started wondering about his baptism. “I always had a sense that for whatever reason, I don’t know why, that I needed to see the video to my baptism, because I remember my dad filmed it, but I never saw it.”

Every so often, Hood said, even after he was a priest, he’d wonder about his baptism. He just felt something — the Holy Spirit, he says now -- prompting his curiosity. But he didn’t see the video until early this year.

“During quarantine, when everything was slower, my dad had time to go through old family videos and to digitize them. And he sent me my baptism video. And he sent it to be something that was encouraging and affirming.”

Hood was glad he saw the video. But he noticed that the deacon hadn’t followed the Church’s baptismal rite. The deacon had said “We baptize you,” signifying the community, instead “I baptize you,” signifying Christ, working through the minister of baptism.

“I sent it to one of my professors, and to a few canon lawyers, and the Church didn’t speak definitively on it, so they thought maybe the Church would accommodate in some way those words. So we kind of left it there. It seems like that was a good resolution,” Hood said.

But in August, the Vatican issued a document explaining that the deacon’s formula, “We baptize you,” changes the meaning of baptism itself. Such a change makes baptism invalid, and anyone baptized with the formula would need to be baptized again.

Hood realized “I wasn’t a baptized Christian!”

Because he hadn’t been baptized, he said that also meant he wasn’t a validly ordained priest.

He had, he said, “the full range of emotions. I was really sad when I first found out. Devastated. Assuming that I was baptized my entire life and then realizing I wasn’t receiving at least the grace of the sacraments that entire time….it was disorienting.”

Hood thought immediately about others in the same situation, especially his twin brother, who had been invalidly baptized alongside him.

He thought also of those to whom he had been ministering — he thought as a priest — over the years since his ordination ceremony. Just a few months earlier, he had confirmed people coming into the Catholic Church — or he thought he had.

He took some time to pray for those people.

“Some people have asked, ‘Why didn’t you just delete the video?’” he said.

“That would be like if someone told you were willed a billion dollars, and there was only video evidence for it. You would never just delete the video. And the grace of the sacraments is infinitely more important than that.”

He wanted sacramental grace. For himself, and for others. So he called the archdiocese. 

A plan was made. He would be baptized, confirmed, receive the Eucharist, go on retreat, and then he could be ordained a priest.

Hood had been living priestly life for three years. He’d seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. But he said he never considered not being ordained again, or, rather, for the first time.

“I felt the Lord renew within me joy about being able to say yes again. Because the ‘yes’ that I said previously wasn’t valid, right? But I think the Lord enabled me to be able to say ‘yes’ with joy and with great freedom,” he told CNA.

“And that was pretty instinctual. It was something that just came very naturally. Never did I say at any point ‘Wait, let’s pump the brakes,’ or ‘Should I be concerned about this?’ But I think that the Lord gave the grace of being able to say yes, again — well, and for the first time.”

In fact, Hood said that the Lord gave him a lot of clarity and comfort on that retreat.

“I went with a lot of questions and concerns,” he said.

“But here is a grace that I received: There is a lot that I can’t reconcile about what happened, but God is not a liar.”

“And what God has done has done in my life, leading up to this point, even though the response of the Church has limped in many ways, that God was true in all of that.”

“I could be confident that the grace that I had experienced in all of my life was the Lord acting.”

In fact, Hood said that he began to believe that God had made known to him his invalid baptism so that he and other people in the same situation might receive the power of sacramental grace.

“It has to be God’s Providence. In a very powerful way, God manifested His Providence. There’s so many factors that would have been impossible to put in place by our own actions. Like, that the baptism was filmed. Now everyone has a cell phone, back then it wasn’t as common.”

“The fact that I received a call to the priesthood in the midst of all this, and I was able to know what the correct words of baptism were. Because we assume that when we go to Church, that the priest or deacon does what’s correct.”

“The fact that I was able to know that, the fact that the Vatican came out with this document when it did, five months after [I saw the video]. And then just God’s Providence in the work of the Church in working to fix this situation.

Hood said because of what he learned, the Church could be sure that he and others received the sacramental grace they never began with.

“There’s like a full court press that the archdiocese is doing in reaching out to people,” the priest said, and he called that an “evangelization opportunity.”

Some of them, he said “have had no interaction with the Church, maybe, for a very long time and this is an opportunity to reach out and establish a relationship.”

The priest added that he knew God had worked in his life mysteriously, even without the actual grace of the sacraments.

“So much of what the Lord did my life was very fruitful, even when it wasn’t valid.”

 Hood said he isn’t angry with Deacon Springer, but he thinks his situation offers an important lesson for his brother priests and deacons.

“I would just attribute it to poor formation,” he said. “For me it seems so obvious that you just do what the Church does, you know? ‘Say the black do the red.’ But I don’t know if that’s always been taught in seminaries.“

Still, he said, priests should remember their solemn responsibilities to the sacraments.

“Hopefully my case is evidence that the sacraments are not something we can mess around with, They’re something we receive from Christ.”

“It’s Christ who speaks. As ministers of the sacraments, we don’t speak our own voice, but it’s Christ who speaks through us. Our job is to get out of the way. And we do that by faithfully celebrating the rites that the Church has given us,” he added.

He was ordained a priest Aug. 17, in a quiet rite faithfully celebrated.

It felt very familiar, he said.

“There was a sense of a greater reception of the office in my ordination on Monday and I think that was a grace. A lot of it seems like deja vu, like I’ve been here before, but the fact that now we have certitude is a tremendous grace.”

“Thank God for the certitude that’s given to us by the Magisterium. And if there is any particular grace of now being a validly ordained priest, I think that’s the grace.”

The priest said he extended that grace to his parishioners, the day after his ordination.

His situation hadn’t been announced to the parish, no one knew all that had happened. They just knew he’d been out of the parish for a week or so.

He arrived to celebrate morning Mass — it would be his very first validly offered Mass. But he didn’t tell the parish that.

“I just showed up in the parish after being gone for a couple days, and I told the parishioner, without explaining why, that Holy Mother Church offers us the gift of a plenary indulgence for all those who have attended this Mass, as long as they meet the correct steps.”

The Church offers a plenary indulgence to Catholics who attend a priest’s first Mass, as long as they make an act of detachment from sin, go to confession, receive Holy Communion, and pray for the intentions of the pope.

Hood said after Mass, he “heard confessions for like an hour and a half,” presumably from parishioners seeking the grace of that indulgence.

As to the reason for the indulgence that day, Hood said, “nobody asked. But it was a gift that they were able to receive that grace.”

 

Woman who punched reader at Mass in Philadelphia reportedly unfit to be charged

Tue, 08/25/2020 - 12:37

CNA Staff, Aug 25, 2020 / 10:37 am (CNA).- The woman who yelled at a lector and punched her twice during Mass at the Philadelphia cathedral is not mentally fit to be prosecuted, a local journalist reported Monday.

Joe Holden, an anchor and reporter for CBS3 Philadelphia, tweeted Aug. 24 that police had apprehended the woman believed to have punched Sarah Contrucci, “But it was announced tonight charges wouldn’t be pressed, sources say, because the woman is not mentally fit to face prosecution.”

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">POLICE APPREHENDED THE WOMAN SUSPECTED OF PUNCHING A LECTOR AT THE CATHEDRAL ON SUNDAY. But it was announced tonight charges wouldn’t be pressed, sources say, because the woman is not mentally fit to face prosecution.<a href="https://t.co/4vfHbpGsUN">https://t.co/4vfHbpGsUN</a></p>&mdash; Joe Holden (@JoeHoldenCBS3) <a href="https://twitter.com/JoeHoldenCBS3/status/1298105770777731073?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">August 25, 2020</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

Holden also wrote that “the woman was questioned but police declined to file charges.”

During the 11 a.m. Mass on Aug. 23 at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, two female readers concluded their readings and were walking back to their pews, when a woman from the congregation assaulted one of them, yelling and punching her twice in the face. The attack was seemingly unprovoked.

Contrucci told CBS3 she had not before seen her attacker, and that the woman mumbled “something about respecting God” while hitting her.

According to Kenneth Gavin, chief communications officer for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Contrucci did not know the woman who attacked her, and “it is unclear what precipitated the assault.”

Gavin added that “there are safety and security plans in place for the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and it is a safe place to visit and to worship.”

Archbishop Nelson Perez of Philadephia said Aug. 23, “Such behavior is unacceptable at all times, especially within the confines of a church building and during the celebration of the Holy Mass. I was saddened to learn of this incident and regret that it took place.”

He noted that Contrucci “received immediate attention and assistance from Cathedral staff members … she did not require medical attention and is doing well based on the reports I have received.”

“Violence has no place in our world and every life is a precious gift from God,” the archbishop added. “Please join me in praying for everyone involved in today’s incident and for respect for our fellow brothers and sisters.”

Mormon cover art sparks row for Catholic publisher

Tue, 08/25/2020 - 11:30

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 25, 2020 / 09:30 am (CNA).- A Catholic publisher has apologized for using a Mormon image on the cover of two of its 2021 publications. Oregon Catholic Press said the use of the image of the Mormon figure of Moroni was a mistake, and the company believed it to be a general image of an angel. The artist - a Catholic who abandoned the faith for Mormonism - had listed the image as of Moroni on his own social media account.

Oregon Catholic Press issued a statement after the painting “Angel VIII” by Latter-Day Saint artist Jorge Cocco Santangelo, placed on the cover of the publications “Today’s Missal Music Issue 2021” and “Respond & Acclaim,” drew criticism this week. 

 

OCP, please, please recall these books! This is an image of the "angel" Moroni, which comes from Mormonism. This is not compatible with Catholicism in any way, and is highly inappropriate for a Catholic publisher to place in Catholic parishes. Recall these books immediately! pic.twitter.com/qgLm3XCX6O

— Father Cory Sticha (@FrCorySticha) August 24, 2020  

The painting uses Santangelo's distinct style of “sacrocubism” and depicts an angel standing on a golden sphere, blowing a horn and holding a box or book of gold. These are staples of images of the figure Moroni, a character in the Mormon religion, statues of whom feature on the spires of Mormon temples. 

In a statement published to their Facebook page Aug. 24, Oregon Catholic Press explained that “Great care goes into choosing the art for our missals.” 

“The sounding of the trumpet at the last is a strong traditional Christian image. We chose this angel because he’s holding a trumpet and what looks like the book that will be opened at the last,” said Oregon Catholic Press. 

The publishing company stated that the artist, Santangeo, “did not offer us images that were assigned to a specific angel” and that he was aware Oregon Catholic Press was a Catholic company. 

“At the same time, it is reasonable that those who hold the Mormon faith might see this same image as the casket containing the golden tablets of their faith,” they said. 

On his own website and social media accounts, Santangelo has identified the image as of Moroni.

“We, of course, apologize for any misunderstanding that this may have caused,” said the statement. 

“We saw a beautiful image of an angel, and nothing more. We commit to redoubling our efforts in vetting missal art in the future, and hope that this explanation helps our partners in ministry better understand why we chose this particular art piece for the 2021 Music Issue cover.” 

Cocco Santangelo, the painter of the cover art, was raised Catholic in Argentina. He, along with his wife, underwent Mormon initiation rites in 1962. The pair were among the first Mormons in Argentina. 

Although Oregon Catholic Press said Santangelo’s image was not of any specific angelic figure, “Angel VIII,” which was painted in 2017, is virtually identical to a 2018 painting titled “Angel Moroni.” Additionally, the 12th entry in Santangelo’s 2017 “Angel” collection, which is a series of paintings of an angel with a horn and box, is labeled on his website as “Angel M XII.” 

The image of “Angel VIII” was posted on Santangelo's Instagram account on April 3, 2020 under the title “Angel Moroni.” 

“Most of the angels in this collection are in fact different versions of the angel known as Moroni, who lived in the American continent hundreds of years ago as the last prophet that wrote and kept the sacred records of the Nephite nation,” said the Instagram caption.

“He is the angel that appeared to Joseph Smith and directed him to the golden plates that were translated and we know now as The Book of Mormon.”

OCP’s use of the image on the cover of “Respond & Acclaim” was first posted online on Aug. 10, but the unusual choice of cover art for a Catholic worship aid did not draw widespread attention until Monday, Aug. 24. 

OCP did not respond to requests for comment by CNA.

Fr. Robert Badger, a priest of the Diocese of Gallup, who was raised as a Mormon before converting to Catholicism in 1993 at the age of 19, was one of the first to note that the image on the missals strongly resembles depictions of Angel Moroni. 

The cover art, said Badger, “offers me an excellent reason to sever our relationships with Oregon Catholic Press.”  

After OCP posted their statement to Facebook, Badger, whose family includes the original members of the LDS Church, tweeted that he “did not buy” the explanation. 

Badger said on Monday evening “I am descended from Mormon pioneers and grew up in the Mormon church. It's definitely the angel Moroni, the same one that adorns most of the Mormon temples around the world.”

The LDS Church teaches that the Angel Moroni first appeared to Joseph Smith on September 21, 1823, and informed him that there was an “ancient record engraved on plates” that was buried near his house. Over the next six years, per LDS doctine, Moroni repeatedly appeared to Smith and assisted with the location and translation of these plates. The contents of the plates would become the Book of Mormon, the LDS Church teaches. 

A statue of the Angel Moroni is featured on the spire of many LDS temples as a tribute to his status as the “messenger of the restoration.” The LDS Church teaches that the Angel Moroni was the key figure in “restoring” the true gospel. 

The controversy over the use of a Mormon image for two of its publications comes a week after a federal court ruled an antitrust lawsuit against OCP could continue.

On Aug. 18, a federal judge in Indiana refused to dismiss a suit against OCP, brought by several smaller Catholic publishers, accusing OCP of monopolistic practices aimed at driving them out of business. 

U.S. District Judge Robert L. Miller Jr. issued an order denying a motion to dismiss by OCP, ruling that the suit can continue. 

According to the legal news website Law360, several Catholic publishers, including Lamb Publications LLC and International Liturgy Publications, allege OCP imposes anti-competitive licencing terms on smaller competitors, and has illegal market allocation agreements in place with rivals.

Lawyer for the claimants Donald J. Schmid, told Law360 last week that OCP has used its position to try to drive other Catholic music publishers out of business and reduce competition, calling the publisher “a monopolist.”

The suit includes allegations that OCP deliberately instructed its composers to use the same song titles as its rivals’ best-selling works in an effort to confuse customers.

OCP has argued that the suit, filed in August 2019, is part of a decade-long attempt by rivals "to gain unfettered access" to its back catalogue.

Per Oregon Catholic Press’ website, “Respond & Acclaim” is an “annual collection of psalms and Gospel Acclamations from Owen Alstott,” “Today’s Missal,” which is published three times per year, texts of Sunday and weekday liturgies together with music published by OCP.

Republican convention highlights religious freedom on night one

Tue, 08/25/2020 - 11:15

CNA Staff, Aug 25, 2020 / 09:15 am (CNA).- The first night of the 2020 Republican National Convention in Charlotte featured prayers from a cardinal, appeals to religious freedom and school choice, and condemnations of abortion and assisted suicide.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York delivered the opening invocation for the evening portion of the first day of the 2020 Republican National Convention. He had previously led prayers in 2012 at both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, and at President Trump’s inauguration in 2017.

He praised God “for a country where freedom of religion is so cherished” and offered “thanksgiving for democracy.”

“Pray we must that all lives may be protected and respected,” he said, “in our troubled cities and the police who guard them.” Cardinal Dolan also prayed for the unborn, the elderly, health care workers, immigrants, refugees, and victims of religious persecution, trafficking, and war.

Immediately afterward, Charlie Kirk—head of the pro-Trump student organization Turning Point USA and a controversial surrogate for the president—gave a combative address in which he called Trump “the bodyguard of western civilization” who is fighting “the rotten cartel of insiders that have been destroying our country” and “a group of bitter, deceitful, vengeful, arrogant activists who wish to tear down this gift we have been given.”

“We will be a country that makes it easier to have many children, to live quiet and peaceable lives and to worship your God without a tyrant getting in your way,” Kirk said.

The evening programming also featured a bone cancer survivor, who spoke out against doctor-prescribed suicide.

Natalie Harp, who said she was diagnosed with a rare, terminal bone cancer, said that proponents of doctor-prescribed suicide talk about “health care being a human right,” but a right to marijuana, opioids, and the “right to die with dignity, a politically-correct way of saying ‘assisted-suicide’.”

“I was told I was a burden to my family and to my country,” she said, and that she would save the lives of others by preserving resources and taking fatal doses of prescription medicines.

She credited President Trump for her having the “right to try” the experimental treatments that she says saved her life, after being denied participation in clinical trials.

GOP chairwoman Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel condemned abortion, saying that policies that “allow abortion up until the point of birth are not nice.”

A board member of the National Association of Catholic Nurses, Maria Arvonio, also appeared in a video with President Trump and several other health care workers, people who have contracted COVID, and others at the White House. Arvonio, who previously was a guest at the White House in May with other nurses who treated the new coronavirus, told Trump “I am so in awe of your leadership.”

Trump defied the usual protocol for political conventions by appearing before the final day. He addressed Republican delegates in Charlotte earlier in the day, and appeared in multiple videos in the evening that were aired on the convention’s coverage.

He met with Christian pastor Andrew Brunson, who spent nearly two years in a Turkish prison and under house arrest on charges of espionage and supporting a terrorist group. He was released when the U.S. reached an agreement with Turkey in October of 2018. Bruson has maintained he was in Turkey only to spread Christianity.

"To me, President Erdogan was very good," President Trump told Brunson of the Turkish president under whose authority Brunson was imprisoned.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has described Turkey’s religious freedom conditions as “worrisome” with religious minorities concerned that “governmental rhetoric and policies contributed to an increasingly hostile environment and implicitly encouraged acts of societal aggression and violence.”

Erdogan recently re-converted Hagia Sophia, the former cathedral of Holy Wisdom in Istanbul and a UNESCO World Heritage site, into a mosque; he also decided to re-convert the 700-year-old Chora Church into a mosque.

The issues of religious freedom and school choice were mentioned multiple times at Monday’s convention proceedings.

Rebecca Friedrichs, a California elementary school teacher who took on the state’s teachers’ union in a case that went to the Supreme Court, touted Trump’s support for “education freedom scholarships.”

Donald Trump, Jr. also pointed to his father’s support for school choice “It is unacceptable that too many African American and Hispanic American children are stuck in bad schools just because of their zip code. Donald Trump will not stand for it,” he said.

Both he and Charlie Kirk brought up churches being closed or seriously limited in their seating capacity by state public health mandates during the coronavirus pandemic, while outdoor protests are allowed to continue.

Noting restrictions in place across the country to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, Kirk said that in America, “you can freely practice your religion and that church is more essential than a casino.”

Evidence shows Mass is safe when guidelines are followed, doctors say

Tue, 08/25/2020 - 04:52

CNA Staff, Aug 25, 2020 / 02:52 am (CNA).- Evidence suggests that church services following public health guidelines do not present a greater risk of spreading the novel coronavirus than other similar activities, doctors said last week.

Washing hands, social distancing, and mask requirements have helped prevent the spread of COVID-19, even in cases when contagious, pre-symptomatic parishioners took part in church events, three members of the Thomistic Institute Working Group on Infectious Disease Protocols for Sacraments & Pastoral Care concluded.

Doctors Thomas McGovern, Deacon Timothy Flanigan, and Paul Cieslak authored an article for Real Clear Science on Mass attendance and COVID-19 Aug. 19.

“For Catholic churches following [the] guidelines, no outbreaks of COVID-19 have been linked to church attendance, even though we have examples ... of asymptomatic, unknowingly infected individuals attending mass and other parish functions,” they wrote. “Their attendance could have led to an outbreak if appropriate precautions were not followed, yet in each case, we found no evidence of viral transmission.”

“This encouraging news should inspire confidence that the guidelines in place - based on CDC recommendations - are working to decrease COVID-19 transmission,” the doctors continued. “While nothing during a pandemic is risk-free, these guidelines mean that Catholics (and public officials) may be confident that it’s reasonably safe to come to Church for Mass and the sacraments.”

Over the last 14 weeks, they said, approximately 17,000 parishes have held three or more Masses each weekend, as well as daily services, combining to equal more than 1 million public Masses celebrated across the United States since shelter-in-place orders were lifted.

By following public health guidelines, these Masses have largely avoided viral spread, the authors suggested.

Nick Schoen, an employee of the Archdiocese of Seattle, has initiated a contact-tracing protocol for Mass-goers in the area. Tracking individuals who have participated in church events shortly before testing positive for COVID-19, he found that none of these individuals launched outbreaks at churches.

The authors pointed to at least four examples of infected individuals attending Mass while pre-symptomatic, as well as three anointings of sick individuals by priests in poorly-ventilated rooms. In each case, they said, the sick individuals avoided infecting other people.

“During a July 3 funeral mass (45 attendees, capacity 885), two members of one household notified the parish that they had tested positive for COVID-19 and were infected and pre-symptomatic during the mass,” they said.

“During a July 11 wedding (200 attendees, capacity 908), fresh air circulated from multiple open windows with the aid of fans. The following day, an attendee developed symptoms of COVID and on July 13 tested positive. The attendee was almost certainly contagious with pre-symptomatic infection during the wedding.”

In April, the Thomistic Institute’s Working Group on Infectious Disease Protocols for Sacraments & Pastoral Care released guidelines for reopening churches for Mass and other sacraments. These guidelines were incorporated by numerous dioceses into their protocols for reopening.

The guidelines were built on a multi-phase proposal for resumption and expansion of public Masses while remaining in conformity with public health guidelines in force in different places.

In “Phase 1” of the proposal, the institute encouraged the “Sunday obligation” to be dispensed, the elderly and those at high risk of COVID-19 to stay home, and those with symptoms to stay home from Mass. The institute also promoted social distancing, masks requirements, and the regular use of hand sanitizer.

The few churches that have reported a COVID-19 outbreak did not follow these regulations and in some cases engaged in discouraged actions such as congregational singing.

In some cases, these isolated incidents have led local government officials to restrict church services more than activities in restaurants, movie theaters, and casinos. This has prompted lawsuits alleging religious discrimination, which have often been sucessful.

The doctors said in their article that there is no evidence that church services are higher risk than similar activities when guidelines are followed.

“To date, the evidence does not suggest that Church attendance - following the current guidelines - is any more risky than shopping for groceries. And the spiritual good for believers in coming to Church is immeasurably important for their well-being,” they said.

“Indeed, for Catholics, the Mass and above all the Eucharist are central to the Christian life. In a time like this, it is even more important that the faithful be able to come to Church and receive Holy Communion.”

 

Catholics in Iowa respond generously amid derecho storm recovery

Mon, 08/24/2020 - 21:19

Denver Newsroom, Aug 24, 2020 / 07:19 pm (CNA).- Two weeks after a major storm system caused massive damage in the Midwest, residents of Iowa and other affected states are working to rebuild.

For fourteen hours over an 800-mile stretch, the Aug. 10 storm caused major damage and killed several people, with Iowa and northern Illinois the worst hit. The storm began in eastern Nebraska, and also hit Wisconsin and Indiana.

Its winds gusted to the strength of a strong tornado or weak hurricane, reaching speeds of over 100 miles per hour. The phenomenon, known as a derecho, is a chain of intense thunderstorms.

Kent Ferris, Director of Social Action and Catholic Charities at the Diocese of Davenport, told CNA Aug. 24 that “Though people in our diocese have endured days without power, (and) dealt with wind damage to crops and trees, they also have responded generously to people in need in the diocese with food, water and monetary donations,” Ferris said.

“Our terrain may have been battered by Derecho’s winds, but the Holy Spirit blows stronger to prompt heartfelt concern for all our neighbors,” he told CNA.

The storm left hundreds of thousands without power or access to phone and internet. Homes and cars were damaged by high winds, falling trees, and flying debris,

At least 10 million acres of crops were destroyed in Iowa, and many harvested crops in storage were destroyed. Damage to grain storage bins could top $300 million. Sixteen Iowa counties have been declared federal disaster zones, while 25 counties have been declared disaster areas by the State of Iowa.

In Iowa, nearly 8,300 homes were heavily damaged or destroyed.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds' request for federal assistance said the storm damage totaled nearly $4 billion.

While damage is still being assessed, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Dubuque has set up a relief fund for those affected, giving priority to those not eligible for state and federal aid.

The Catholic Charities affiliate said on its website, “we do know that the individuals and families most severely affected are the poor, and those struggling with the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic. And we know that the recovery process will be lengthy and costly.”

Some church buildings also were damaged.

In the eastern Iowa city of Grand Mound, the storm tore a hole in the roof of Ss. Philip and James Parish, allowing water to enter and soak the roof insulation and the floor. The wood in the ceiling is saturated, Peter Whitman, building committee chair at the parish, told the Diocese of Davenport's newspaper The Catholic Messenger.

My baptism was valid...right?

Mon, 08/24/2020 - 19:24

Denver Newsroom, Aug 24, 2020 / 05:24 pm (CNA).- Last week, the news broke that Father Matthew Hood of the Archdiocese of Detroit had this summer learned that he was not validly baptized— despite believing that he had been ordained a priest in 2017.

Hood thought he had been baptized as a baby. But, prompted by a recently issued notice from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), Hood reviewed the video of his baptism ceremony and realized that the deacon had said “We baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” instead of “I baptize you...”

The CDF clarified earlier this month that any baptisms administered with the formula “we baptize” are invalid, and anyone for whom the sacrament was celebrated with this formula should be considered as not yet having received the sacrament.

In one fell swoop, Hood went from being a Catholic priest to being...well, not technically a Catholic at all.

While the news was devastating to Hood, the situation was, at least for him, relatively easy to remedy. In short order, he was baptized, confirmed, and received the Eucharist. After making a retreat, he was ordained a deacon, and then ordained a priest Aug. 17.

But of course, the ripple effects spread far further. Hood’s initial lack of a valid baptism means that the Masses, confirmations, absolutions and anointings— and likely at least some of the marriages— that Hood had performed as a priest were not valid.

The Archdiocese of Detroit is encouraging those who have received sacraments from either Hood or Deacon Springer to contact the archdiocese.

Upon hearing the news about now-Father Hood’s invalid baptism, some Catholics— even if they have no connection to Hood or Springer— may be tempted, as Hood did, to review the tapes of their own baptisms to ensure that they, too, are not invalidly baptized.

But is that a worthwhile pursuit? CNA spoke with Fr. Hood himself, and with two theologians, to find out.

Fr. Thomas Petri, O.P., a moral theologian at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C., told CNA that it is not unreasonable for anyone who has a video of their baptism to review the tape, just in case.

“If I had a video, I would be reviewing my own baptism, just to be sure,” Petri said.

In the absence of a video, Petri said trying to rely on memory alone may not be as helpful. Those present at the baptism may not have been paying close attention, he said, and people in general are prone to misremembering.

“Having a home video is one thing, but trying to investigate through witnesses is a whole other thing that will just take over your life...in the vast majority of cases, the vast majority are going to be fine, and valid. I suspect we're talking about a very small percentage [that are invalid].”

“I think you just open yourself up to a rabbit hole that you ought not go down, unless you have real, hard evidence that you should pursue that,” he said.

All people, especially priests, should be attentive to what goes on at every baptism, and celebrate sacraments in the way that the Church has proscribed,” he continued.

“Altering the words of the liturgy creates real problems. And sometimes this is done with the best of intentions— wanting to seem personable, and wanting to connect with the family— but it's using the wrong means. It's an inappropriate way to do it.”

Still, Petri said it is important to always remember what the Church teaches: God himself guarantees the sacraments, but he himself is not bound to the sacraments.

“So I think we have to believe that God can still give graces, and we know that he does give graces apart from the sacraments. So I think only in cases where there's proof that it is invalid should we worry,” Petri said.

Finding out that your baptism was invalid would not mean that you are unable to receive graces throughout your life, he clarified. Instead, any graces that you received from God during your life would have been given in an “extraordinary” way.

While these graces come in an “ordinary” way through a valid baptism, there are other, “extraordinary” ways of obtaining the graces of baptism, such as a “baptism of desire” for those about to die.

The case of Father Hood is actually a good example of how God's grace can operate outside of the sacraments, Petri said.

“Somehow, by the grace of God he discerned a vocation to the priesthood, even though he wasn't baptized,” he pointed out.

Of course, anyone who is not validly baptized should seek to be validly baptized as soon as possible. If it appears from video evidence that your baptism was invalid, contact your diocese, he said.

Father Mark Morozowich, dean of the school of theology and religious studies at The Catholic University of America, said if there are other people who were baptized by the same deacon who invalidly attempted to baptize Hood, it would be reasonable for them to review the tapes, if possible, or at least question whether their own baptisms may also have been invalid.

“If he did it in one case, could he have done it in other cases?” he wondered.

The Church presumes the validity of baptisms unless there is proof to the contrary. Still, he recommended anyone who doubts the validity of their own baptism to contact their local priest, as well as their archdiocese.

The words of the sacrament do matter, he said. However, “we always have to remember that God does not desire the death of a person, but desires that they live. And if a person has lived their entire life believing in God, and believing that they were baptized, God will bring them unto Himself.”

“Even though this person may have been denied the specific graces of baptism, it did not mean that he did not lead a life that was blessed by God.”

For his part, Fr. Hood said that he hopes his story will not cause people anxiety. He said he's learning to trust in God's Providence.

“I think for my situation, we were able to act because something was made clear, and I think God desired for that to happen. I don’t think people need to all of the sudden doubt the validity of their own baptism. By and large, baptisms are celebrated correctly in the Church,” he said.

“If someone knows for certain that the wrong words were used, then they can act. But if you don’t know, or there’s no evidence, you don’t need to be worried about it.”

“Being worried about it is not from God. Jesus says ‘have no anxiety about anything.’ So that’s just from the Evil One, I think — that concern that now I just need to be greatly worried about whether my own baptism is valid,” Fr. Hood said.

“If you know there’s a video— go ahead and watch it. But other than that there’s not cause for greater anxiety because of this.”

Being invalidly baptized does not mean that God was absent from a person's life, Morozowich added, as was the case with now-Father Hood.

“God's activity will not be thwarted by the ineptitude of a human being.”

 

 

Sister, soldier, surgeon, speaker: Catholic sister to address Republican convention

Mon, 08/24/2020 - 18:00

CNA Staff, Aug 24, 2020 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- A surgeon, retired army officer, missionary, and Catholic religious sister is among the featured speakers at this week’s Republican National Convention. The convention, which takes place over four days this week, will officially nominate President Donald Trump for reelection.

Sr. Deirdre “Dede” Byrne, POSC, was announced as a speaker by the Trump campaign on Sunday, and she has one of the most unique resumes of any speaker to address the convention. A retired colonel in the U.S. Army and a member of the Little Workers of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, Byrne has served overseas as a soldier and a missionary.

Raised in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., as one of seven children, Byrne graduated from Virginia Tech before starting medical school at Georgetown. While there, she entered the Army as a way to cover her tuition and ended up serving for 29 years as both a doctor and a surgeon. 

Following medical school, she worked from 1982 until 1985 in the field of family medicine and was a full-time Army officer from 1982 until 1989. After that, she went on to serve as a missionary from 1989 until 1990, while remaining in the Army reserve, and she completed a second residency in general surgery in 1997 - the same year in which she met Mother Teresa. Byrne was tasked to be on standby for any medical needs that might occur during the future saint’s visit to Washington. 

During her time in the military, she discerned a religious vocation, a call she has said she felt she always had, and was encouraged by a priest to find a religious order that would not require her to give up her work in the medical field. 

Her discernment led Byrne to the Little Workers of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, an Italian pontifical institute founded in the late 19th century with the primary apostolates of teaching and medical care, and present in Washington since 1954.  

Byrne entered formation with the Little Workers in 2002, and professed her first vows in 2004. While in formation, she was still a member of the Army Reserve, and was deployed three times. After a deployment to Afghanistan in 2008, her order requested that she retire from the military, which she did in 2009, before professing her final vows in 2011. 

Bryne is scheduled to speak on day three of the Republican convention and Trump has praised her work in the military and medical fields in the past. In his July 4, 2019, address called the “Salute to America,” the president featured a reference to Byrne. 

“From our earliest days, Americans of faith have uplifted our nation. This evening we’re joined by Sister Deirdre Byrne. Sister Byrne is a retired Army surgeon who served for nearly 30 years,” said Trump. 

“On September 11, 2001, the sister raced to Ground Zero, through smoke and debris, she administered first aid and comfort to all. Today Sister Byrne runs a medical clinic serving the poor in our nation’s capital. Sister, thank you for your lifetime of service. Thank you.” 

According to a profile from the GIVEN Institute, she is presently the superior of the Washington house of the Little Workers, and works at a medical clinic.

Catholic Trump supporters respond to Log Cabin GOP endorsement

Mon, 08/24/2020 - 14:30

Washington D.C., Aug 24, 2020 / 12:30 pm (CNA).-  

After President Trump welcomed an endorsement as “the most pro-gay president in American history,” some of the president’s Catholic supporters have disputed the label.

The pro-LGBT group Log Cabin Republicans tweeted a video on Wednesday morning calling Trump “the most pro-gay president in American history,” to which Trump responded on Twitter that night, “My great honor!!!”

Trump’s son Eric called the video endorsement “beautiful,” and he was retweeted by White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere.

Reached by CNA for comment, the Trump campaign did not respond by press time. But Alfonso Aguilar, a member of the Catholics for Trump advisory board, told CNA that Trump was not endorsing every single position of the Log Cabin Republicans with his Wednesday tweet.

“As an orthodox Catholic, I just don’t see any problem with it,” Aguilar said. “Catholics are not anti-gay. We understand the dignity of every human person, and everyone, including LGBT people, are created in the image of Our Lord.”

Catholics “must understand that this president has been very strong on conscience protections and on religious freedom,” Aguilar said, including the religious freedom of business owners—such as photographers and bakers—to conscientiously decline to serve same-sex weddings.

The administration sided with Christian cake-maker Jack Phillips in his case at the Supreme Court against a mandate that he serve a same-sex wedding; the Justice Department argued in a friend-of-the-court brief that “[f]orcing Phillips to create expression for and participate in a ceremony that violates his sincerely held religious beliefs invades his First Amendment rights” in an unconstitutional way.

The Log Cabin Republicans ad noted that Trump is “the first president in American history to be pro-gay marriage from his first day in office.”

But Presidential nominee Joe Biden, Aguilar said, is “one of the biggest proponents of the radical LGBT agenda.”

While Trump opposed the criminalization of homosexuality in his 2019 speech at the UN General Assembly, President Obama said at the UN in 2011 that “no country should deny people their rights because of who they love, which is why we must stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians everywhere.” Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in 2011 that the administration “defends the rights of LGBT people as part of our comprehensive human rights policy and as a foreign policy priority.”
 
President Barack Obama’s administration created the position of special envoy for the human rights of LGBT persons, at the State Department--a position Biden has promised to fill again.

In a statement to CNA on Friday, Fr. Frank Pavone—a former advisory member of Catholics for Trump and co-chair of Pro-Life Voices for Trump—pointed out that as president, Trump has advanced many policies that are not in support of the “LGBT agenda.”

“Of course, those who promote an LGBT agenda find a far warmer welcome in the Democrat party at every level of government,” Pavone told CNA on Friday.

He pointed to actions that the Trump administration has taken to protect the religious freedom of churches and faith-based organizations from anti-discrimination ordinances.
 
In June, for instance, the Department of Health and Human Services removed broad Obama-era language that defined “sex discrimination” in health care to include discrimination against sexual orientation and gender identity--thus requiring certain procedures such as abortion and gender-transition surgeries to be performed upon request.

The new HHS rule removed the broad definition just days before the Supreme Court expanded the definition of sex discrimination in the Bostock decision, extending federal civil rights protections to sexual orientation and gender identity. A federal judge on Monday put a temporary halt on implementation of the new HHS rule.

Pavone also pointed out that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, while vice president, officiated a same-sex wedding in 2016--an act that has “far more significance” than Trump having hold a rainbow flag onstage at a campaign rally in 2016.

Trump’s administration also opposes the Equality Act, which the U.S. bishops’ conference has also opposed but which Biden supports. The administration said in 2019 that the bill, passed by the House, was “filled with poison pills that threaten to undermine parental and conscience rights.” The act would codify broad anti-discrimination protections for sexual orientation and gender identity.

Pavone previously held official positions in the Trump campaign’s outreach to Catholic and pro-life voters, but told CNA recently that he resigned the positions on the instruction of “the competent ecclesiastical authority”; priests need to obtain the permission of their bishop to “have an active part in political parties,” according to canon law.

Milwaukee archbishop prays for peace after Kenosha shooting

Mon, 08/24/2020 - 13:30

CNA Staff, Aug 24, 2020 / 11:30 am (CNA).- Milwaukee’s archbishop is praying for peace following a shooting by police of Jacob Blake, a Black man in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Sunday.  

“It is with a heavy heart that I received the news about the shooting last night in Kenosha,” Archbishop Jerome Listecki of Milwaukee said late Monday morning. “While many of the details of this shooting are unknown to us, the general public, it is not difficult to imagine the pain, fear and anger felt by all who were present.”

The archbishop said he was praying for the healing of Jacob Blake who was shot by police, as well as “for comfort for his family and loved ones” and “for peace in Kenosha.”

Video circulated online on Sunday of a police shooting of an African-American man later identified as Jacob Blake. The officers were initially responding to a domestic incident at the location, according to a press release later issued by the Kenosha Police Department.

Blake is seen in the video walking away from several police officers, circling the front of his car and walking towards the driver-side door while officers are seen yelling at him and following him, guns drawn.

Blake then opened his car door as one officer grabbed him from behind and proceeded to shoot him; another officer stood behind with a gun pointed at Blake, who was shot seven times.

Blake is in serious condition at a Milwaukee hospital, according to the police department’s release issued Monday. According to neighbors, Blake was trying to break up a verbal altercation between two women before he was shot by police, and witnesses said he was unarmed, the Kenosha News reported.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice is leading a criminal investigation into the shooting, joined by the Kenosha County Sheriff’s Office and state patrol.

Protests ensued in Kenosha on Sunday evening, following the news of Blake’s shooting. Video showed cars being set on fire, armed protesters confronting police, one officer being injured in an encounter with protesters, and the county courthouse being vandalized.

Archbishop Listecki prayed for peace amid the “volatile” situation in Kenosha. “Violence can never be the means to attain peace and justice.,” he said.

“The Church stands as a beacon of hope,” he said. “The sins of violence, injustice, racism and hatred must be purged from our communities with acts of mercy, with the protection and care for the dignity of every human person, with respect for the common good, and with an unwavering pursuit of equality and peace.”

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers issued a statement on Twitter on Sunday night.

“While we do not have all of the details yet, what we know for certain is that he is not the first Black man or person to have been shot or injured or mercilessly killed at the hands of individuals in law enforcement in our state or our country,” Evers stated.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden also issued a statement on Monday, saying that “[t]hese shots pierce the soul of our nation. Jill and I pray for Jacob’s recovery and for his children.”

Madison Catholic bishop blasts county for last minute schools order

Mon, 08/24/2020 - 12:15

CNA Staff, Aug 24, 2020 / 10:15 am (CNA).- The Bishop of Madison expressed his frustration this weekend after Dane County, Wisconsin, ordered all schools in the county to start the academic year online. The county issued the order Friday, giving local Catholic schools less than three day’s notice before the beginning of the academic year. 

“Last night, Dane County ordered the closure of all schools, giving us 60 hours notice. Our schools were poised to open safely and responsibly. COVID data does not support this decision,” tweeted Bishop Donald Hying on August 22. 

In a subsequent letter, mailed to families at affected schools and published on the diocesan Facebook page, Hying explained that on the evening of Friday, August 21, Public Health Madison-Dane County released Emergency Order #9, mandating that grades 3-12 begin the year online. Only grades kindergarten through second are permitted to meet in person. 

Hying said he was “extraordinarily disappointed at this order and its timing,” and that he was permitting schools in Dane County to delay their first day of school until after Labor Day if they wish to do so. 

Other Catholic schools in the diocese are set to open the week of August 24. 

Dane County is one of the 11 counties that comprise the Diocese of Madison. It is the second-largest county in the state of Wisconsin. 

“As you know, Catholic schools were preparing to open in-person, with many starting this coming week. We know that you believe that being in school, in-person, is the most effective and nurturing environment for your children,” said Hying, adding that the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Centers for Disease Control, and the American Academy of Pediatrics all agree with this conclusion. 

The order to go online-only, said Hying, came despite the principals and superintendent of the Madison diocese’s schools working with state officials over three months to ensure a safe reopening of schools for the coming school year. 

“Our principals and teachers worked tirelessly to draft, revise, and perfect re-opening plans, ensuring that all CDC, DHS, and county guidelines were followed, and that no detail was overlooked in order to make our schools safe for students and teachers,” said the bishop. These efforts cost “tens of thousands of dollars,” he said. 

Hying claimed that county officials refused throughout the month of July to provide metrics that would determine whether or not schools would be permitted to open for in-person classes. Dane County only provided these metrics on August 21, after many parents had begun to return to work. 

The order to close schools for in-person learning came the day after it was announced that “the daily number of coronavirus cases had dropped by nearly 50% since July 13,” noted Hying. The seven-day average of new cases had been declining as well, he said. 

“Yet now, despite declining numbers and all the work and diligence given to following all the guidelines for re-opening, Dane County has said that only grades K-2 may return,” he said. 

Hying urged Catholics to contact the county executive to express their displeasure with the decision, and said that the diocese will “explore all of our options” in regard to the executive order. 

This is the second time the Diocese of Madison has confronted Dane County over coronavirus reopening measures. 

On June 3, attorneys from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, acting for the diocese, sent a 17-page letter to Dane County officials and the mayor of Madison on Wednesday, threatening to file suit against the city and county over restrictions placed on houses of worship. 

Emergency Order 3, issued by Dane County on May 22, classified religious services as “mass gatherings,” legally akin to rock concerts. 

The order capped all religious services at a 50-person limit but “essential businesses,” including trampoline parks and shopping malls, were permitted to operate at 25% of the listed fire capacity during the same phase. 

Following the diocese’s threatened suit, Dane County issued Emergency Order #4 on June 5, which “makes a clarification with respect to religious services.” 

“Religious worship services will no longer be categorized as a ‘mass gathering.’ All restrictions applicable to businesses will continue to apply to religious services,” the county said on June 5. 

Bayer to pay $1.6 billion in contraception injury settlement

Sun, 08/23/2020 - 18:00

CNA Staff, Aug 23, 2020 / 04:00 pm (CNA).-  

Pharmaceutical company Bayer has agreed on a $1.6 billion settlement payout for women who were injured by its now-discontinued sterilization device, Essure. The settlement was announced on Thursday, August 20.

Bayer stopped selling Essure in the United States in 2018, one year after it stopped selling the device in other countries. Initially, Essure was not recalled, and Bayer blamed a lack of sales, rather than safety, for why it stopped making the device. Essure was finally recalled in September 2019.

Approximately 39,000 women filed claims saying they were injured by the device, which is a metal coil that is inserted in a fallopian tube. The coil damages the fallopian tubes, and the scarring caused by the coil blocks the tubes entirely.

In thousands of cases, the coils migrated from the fallopian tubes, damaging other parts of the body. Symptoms of Essure migration include weight gain, irregular periods, fatigue, uterine perforation, dizziness, fainting, and memory lapses.

As part of the settlement, Bayer will not admit that the company was in the wrong and will not apologize to the women injured by Essure.

“There is no admission of wrongdoing or liability by Bayer in the settlement agreements,” the company said in a statement.

Bayer expects to settle 90% of the claims with the $1.6 billion payout, and the company said it is continuing to work with the remaining 10%.

The FDA added a “black box” warning to Essure in November 2016, after numerous patient complaints about complications from migrated coils.

Bayer claims to have sold about 750,000 of these devices around the world. The device was preferred by some women as it purportedly had a much faster healing time than other sterilization techniques.

The public outcry against Essure was in part driven by social media, which was able to bring women suffering similar symptoms together in one place.

In 2011, a Facebook group called “Essure Problems” was created for women to discuss various adverse reactions they had to the device.

In some instances, women were required to have emergency hysterectomies after the devices broke and migrated throughout their bodies. Others suffered extreme allergic reactions to the metals in the device, developed headaches and mood disorders, and some even experienced ectopic pregnancies.

At least one woman was killed as a result of Essure, after her reproductive organs developed necrosis, and the device was blamed for at least 300 fetal deaths and stillbirths.

 

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