Catholic News Agency

Subscribe to Catholic News Agency feed Catholic News Agency
ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
Updated: 2 hours 9 min ago

Supreme Court gives second chance to Oregon cake bakers who declined same-sex wedding

5 hours 23 min ago

Portland, Ore., Jun 18, 2019 / 12:20 am (CNA).- An Oregon bakery whose owners declined to make a cake celebrating a same-sex commitment ceremony will get another chance in court, after the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 17 ruling ordered lower courts to reconsider a massive fine and other penalties in light of a similar Colorado case.

“The Constitution protects speech, popular or not, from condemnation by the government,” Kelly Shackelford, president, CEO and chief counsel of the legal group First Liberty, said June 17. “The message from the court is clear, government hostility toward religious Americans will not be tolerated.”

“This is a victory for Aaron and Melissa Klein and for religious liberty for all Americans,” added Shackleford.

The Kleins, who are practicing Christians, owned Sweet Cakes by Melissa, a bakery in the Portland suburb of Gresham, Ore. In January 2013, the couple declined to bake a cake for a same-sex commitment ceremony, citing their religious views. They then lost an effort to fight a lawsuit charging they had illegally discriminated.

First Liberty, a non-profit legal firm based in Plano, Texas, focuses on religious freedom cases with a nationwide scope. It is representing the Kleins as are two attorneys from its network: C. Boyden Gray, former U.S. Ambassador to the European Union; and Adam Gustafson, both of Boyden Gray & Associates.

Boyden Gray said the Supreme Court should decide whether its 2015 ruling that mandated legal recognition of same-sex marriage “can be wielded as a shield in defense of same-sex unions but also — as in this case — a sword to attack others for adhering to traditional religious beliefs about marriage,” NBC News reports.

The women who had attempted to commission the cake from the Klein’s bakery filed a complaint with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, claiming discrimination based on sexual orientation. The mother of Rachel Cryer, the woman who tried to order the cake, had asked Aaron Klein to reconsider, but he declined.

While the legal complaint was pending, Aaron Klein posted the first page of the couple’s complaint, which contained their names and contact information, on the Sweet Cakes by Melissa Facebook page. The women said they received death threats as a result of the posting, which was taken down after one day.

The State of Oregon in its filing with the Supreme Court had argued that the lower courts had ruled correctly. “Baking is conduct, not speech,” its filing said. “A bakery open to the public has no right to discriminate against customers on the basis of their sexual orientation.”

Requiring equal treatment for customers regardless of sexual orientation does not compel support for same-sex marriage “any more than the law compels support for religion by requiring equal treatment for all faiths,” said the state filings, according to NBC News.

Sweet Cakes by Melissa closed in September 2013, a decision that the owners described as a “devastating loss.”

In April 2015, the Oregon labor bureau ordered the Kleins to pay damages to the plaintiffs, ruling that by declining to design and make the cake, they had violated Oregon law barring discrimination in public accommodations. The labor bureau ordered them to pay a $135,000 penalty for emotional damages and issued a gag order that prevented them from “even talking about their beliefs,” First Liberty said June 17.

The Kleins initially attempted to raise the cost of the fine on the crowdfunding website GoFundMe, but their effort was taken down by the site, which cited a violation of their terms of service.

In their appeals, the Kleins claimed that their First Amendment right to free speech was violated by the state’s decision.

Their prior appeal to the Oregon Supreme Court was rejected in June 2018. This left in place the decision of the Oregon Court of Appeals, which rejected claims that a cake is a work of art. That court said “even when custom-designed for a ceremonial occasion, they are still cakes made to be eaten.” Those who attend a wedding might consider the cake to be an expression of the views of the couple who undergo the ceremony, not the views of the baker, the court said.

That same month, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a narrow ruling in favor of Colorado baker Jack Phillips, owner of the bakery Masterpiece Cakeshop, who refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding. The court found that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had not respected Phillips’ sincerely-held religious beliefs when it ordered him to make a custom cake for a same-sex couple.

There are 21 states that bar discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation, among other categories.

Similar laws and regulations have affected wedding industry professionals in other states, including bakers and photographers. Such laws and regulations have also closed or stripped funding from Catholic and other Christian adoption agencies that decline to place children with same-sex couples.

The proposed federal Equality Act, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time in May, would add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes under federal law and strip defendants’ ability to appeal to religious freedom as a defense against discrimination claims.

The Masterpiece Cakeshop itself has faced two more lawsuits. It refused to bake a cake to a transgender person seeking a “gender transition cake,” with the lawsuit thrown out of court. A second lawsuit later came from the same person seeking to make a similar cake, but then added it was a birthday cake with special status for the individual as a self-identified transgender woman.

Wealthy philanthropic foundations have spent close to $10 million in targeted grants seeking to limit religious freedom protections on issues such as abortion access and compliance with LGBT concerns. About $500,000 of that went to advocacy and public relations campaigns related to the Masterpiece Cakeshop Supreme Court Case, CNA has reported.

 

Analysis: How will the USCCB vote in first elections since McCarrick scandal?

Mon, 06/17/2019 - 8:00pm

Washington D.C., Jun 17, 2019 / 06:00 pm (CNA).- While the spring meeting of the U.S. bishops’ conference has only just concluded, some bishops are already looking to the election of new conference officers at their November meeting. While the elections are still five months away, bishops are already discussing their options - particularly in light of the scandal the Church in the U.S. has faced in the last year.

It is widely expected that Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, the bishops’ conference vice president, will be elected to succeed Cardinal Daniel DiNardo as conference president. Gomez has several factors working in his favor. Most notably is the sheer force of custom: With only one recent exception, the conference vice president has been elected president as a matter of course. That Gomez has served in the second slot for the last three years is likely sufficient by itself for him to secure the votes of most bishops.

Within the conference, Gomez is perceived to cut across traditional ideological and social lines. He was ordained a priest of Opus Dei, and he has a long history of leadership on pro-life and marriage issues. But, an immigrant himself, he is also among the most outspoken advocates for the conference’s call for just immigration reform and advocacy for the poor. He is, in short, difficult to pigeonhole into a partisan camp, and at a time when the Church is increasingly segmented by politics, many bishops see that as an important advantage.

Some bishops have also mentioned to CNA the symbolic significance of electing a Hispanic archbishop, a Mexican-American immigrant, in advance of the 2020 U.S. presidential election. While the bishops have a working relationship with the Trump administration on issues pertaining to abortion, marriage, and religious liberty, they remain strongly opposed to the president’s immigration policies, and if Trump wins a second term, they will likely be at odds with him over that issue throughout. Gomez is seen to be the right voice to lead advocacy on behalf of their immigration agenda.

If a Democrat wins the presidency in 2020, Gomez’ well-known advocacy on immigration could make it easier for him to gain a hearing from a Democratic administration, especially during the battles over religious liberty on gender and sexuality that would be sure to come.

Because Gomez, who leads the largest U.S. diocese, has not been made a cardinal, it is sometimes speculated that he might have a difficult working relationship with Pope Francis, or that the Holy Father might consider him to be too conservative.

This speculation seems to be grounded in particularly American misunderstandings of both men: caricatures of Gomez as a doctrinaire conservative and Francis as a freewheeling progressive work only if the frame of reference is the U.S. left-right divide. Those with experience in Latin and South America are far more likely to see the common threads running through the thought of both: especially a common concern for solidarity with the powerless and the marginalized, including both the unborn and the immigrant.

Ultimately, that Gomez is not yet a cardinal could reflect more about the hermeneutics of the Congregation for Bishops than about any actual division between Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Los Angeles.

Whatever the reason that Gomez is not a cardinal, the archbishop is not perceived to be ineffective in engagement with Rome. Gomez is seen to have successfully manned the point position in negotiating with the Holy See an approach to establishing sexual abuse policies that would be acceptable in both Rome and the U.S. The archbishop became an especially active figure in deliberations after the breakdown in communications that led to the cancelled votes at the bishops’ November meetings.

He does not seem most comfortable at a podium, presiding over the full assembly of bishops, though his aptitude in that role has grown over the course of recent meetings. While DiNardo leads the room with a poise that seems at once fraternal and efficient, Gomez is more reserved in a large public setting. But if this is seen as a liability by some bishops, it is unlikely to overcome both the archbishop’s personal reputation and the force of precedent.

Of course, in recent history, custom has been overcome in conference elections. In 2010, Cardinal Timothy Dolan was unexpectedly elected conference president ahead of Bishop Gerald Kicanas, who was then vice president. Dolan was elected through the work of a cadre of bishops who thought a Kicanas presidency would be out of step with the leadership and emphases of Pope Benedict XVI.

It is possible that Gomez could face a credible and organized opponent in November 2019. Most frequently discussed at the conference, and mentioned to CNA by a few bishops, is the idea that the newly-installed Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Washington, DC, could challenge Gomez for the presidency.

As it stands, though, electing Gregory seems a very remote possibility. In the first place is, again, the sheer force of custom. For Gregory’s supporters to overcome that force would require a great deal of organization, and a good amount of time spent convincing bishops to make a change.

Making their task especially difficult is that Gregory was conference president from 2001 to 2004, and presided over the bishops’ conference response to the sex abuse crisis of 2002. Gregory was the bishop who ushered into being the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” and the accompanying “Essential Norms.”

While the Charter is widely thought to have changed ecclesial culture for the better with regard to child and youth protection, it has been panned during the last year because it is understood to pertain to priests and deacons only, using language that explicitly delineates the exclusion of bishops from some norms.

The shortcomings of the “Dallas Charter,” are not Gregory’s fault, but bishops who want to convey that the Church is moving on from “business as usual” may be reticent to elect as president someone so directly connected to the Charter.

There is also Gregory’s task in Washington. The archbishop is 71, and is largely understood to have only a four-year mandate to begin the process of restoring trust among Catholics in the Archdiocese of Washington, which has been the epicenter of the McCarrick affair, through which Gregory’s predecessor, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, lost a great deal of trust among his priests, and among ordinary Washington Catholics. This task, Gregory is known to understand, will require a considerable investment of personal and pastoral time, and for that reason, the archbishop may not find the prospect of running the bishops’ conference a temptation.

But if he does want the job, there is at least one thing Gregory could do to improve his chances of being elected: He could release from the Archdiocese of Washington’s files on Theodore McCarrick as many records as possible, and encourage other diocesan bishops to do the same. Gregory has the opportunity in Washington to establish a new paradigm of transparency in Church governance – a paradigm much discussed but not yet much demonstrated – by releasing as much as possible on McCarrick, his finances, his friends and protectors, and then encouraging the other dioceses where McCarrick served to do the same.

While Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark told CNA this week that he is precluded from issuing a full report on McCarrick by an attorney general’s investigation in the state, Gregory has not indicated that he is under any similar restriction. A comprehensive release of information from his archdiocese would do a great deal to restore confidence in Church leadership among practicing Catholics, and it would likely raise esteem for him considerably among the younger bishops in the conference, who have been calling for just such a release from Rome.

If that does happen, Gomez could face more of a challenge for election as conference president than expected.

Who will be elected vice president?

Some bishops have mentioned to CNA that Tobin could be a natural candidate for the position.

The Archbishop of Newark is affable and friendly to other bishops, well-known, and articulate. He has the experience of leading his own religious community, the Redemptorists, of a senior leadership position at the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life at the Vatican, and has led archdiocesan sees in both the Midwest and on the East Coast. As chairman of the USCCB Committee on Consecrated Life, Clergy, and Vocations, Tobin has played a prominent role in the Church’s response to the McCarrick crisis, and he presented one of the major policy documents on sexual abuse approved by the bishops at their November meeting.

The cardinal, in short, has considerable experience and qualifications that seem relevant to a leadership position at the conference.

But even if he were nominated as a candidate, Tobin might not accept the nomination. The cardinal withdrew from participating in the October 2018 synod on youth, which came just a few months after the McCarrick scandal began. At the time, Tobin recognized the havoc wrought by the McCarrick revelations on his archdiocese, which McCarrick led for more than a decade, and he explained the priority he placed on being present to the people of his own archdiocese, and especially to his priests.

Tobin is a cardinal, which means that he already has responsibilities taking him to Rome with regularity. Given his clear aversion to becoming an “airport bishop,” the cardinal might decline the possibility of adding even more frequent trips to Washington, DC to his schedule, especially as his archdiocese will soon grapple with fallout from the New Jersey attorney general’s investigation, and from the eventual release of Rome’s report on McCarrick.

If he were to stand for election, Tobin would face both episcopal support and criticism for his endorsement of “Building a Bridge”, a 2017 book by Fr. James Martin, SJ, who is a frequent writer and speaker on the topic of Church engagement with those who identify themselves as LGBT or LGBT activists. Bishops are divided on how best to approach that kind of engagement, and Martin’s work is at the center of that divide, because some bishops say that Martin’s work is not faithful to the teachings of the Church, while others actively promote it. While some bishops might be reticent to support a Tobin candidacy because of this, others would take Tobin’s position as a positive sign in the conference.

Tobin’s work on the U.S. implementation of Vos estis lux mundi is appreciated by bishops, as is his work on revisions to the national directory for deacons. But during the last year, Tobin has been the subject of rumors and questions about his personal life from some blogs and websites. The cardinal has denied rumors of misconduct, and scant evidence has turned up to support conjectures made about him. It is unlikely that Tobin would allow such rumors to keep him from serving the Church in whatever way he thinks himself to be called, but there are likely some members of the bishops’ conference who, given the sensitivities surrounding McCarrick and the Archdiocese of Newark, might judge this an inopportune time for the cardinal to stand for election.

Another frequently named possibility for conference vice president is Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City. Coakley has been a bishop for 15 years, and served a term as chairman of Catholic Relief Services, the bishops’ international humanitarian aid apostolate.

In his role at CRS, he is generally regarded as having addressed lingering issues pertaining to the Catholic identity of the institution and its partners, in part by bringing together a coalition of moral theologians and international development experts to work through thorny issues. Coakley is also thought to have capably overseen leadership transitions amid a complex period of expansion during his term as CRS board chairman.

Bishops also noted to CNA that Coakley’s archdiocese, Oklahoma City, is perceived to have handled safe-environment related matters well, and that Coakley is perceived to have prioritized recruiting lay collaborators for the administration of his archdiocese.

Though he has a relatively low public profile, some bishops told CNA that Coakley has a moderating voice, is calm under pressure, a clear teacher and an organized administrator. And Coakley is already set to begin in November 2019 a term as chair of the bishops' influential Domestic Justice and Human Development committee.

While some bishops might prefer a bishop with more name recognition beyond the conference, others told CNA that because he is not seen to carry any “baggage” into the election, the choice of Coakley for vice president could be exactly the right move after the bishops’ year of scandal.

Other names that have been mentioned as candidates for conference vice president are Archbishop Gregory Aymond, Archbishop Allen Vigneron, and Archbishop Bernard Hebda of St. Paul-Minneapolis, who is well regarded for his work to heal an archdiocese deeply wounded by grave clerical abuse scandals.

Of course, none of these figures have yet been nominated to the slate. Nomination requires that diocesan bishops propose the names of the candidates they would like to see considered for the post; a process that will take place over the next few months. But bishops have already begun talking about the needs of the Church, and the needs of their conference. The results of their discussion will be clear in November.   

 

Forum forms women in leadership, dignity, faith

Mon, 06/17/2019 - 1:30pm

Washington D.C., Jun 17, 2019 / 11:30 am (CNA).- The 2019 GIVEN Catholic Young Women’s Leadership Forum, which met last week, convened more than 100 professional Catholic women in Washington, DC, to discuss faith, vocation, dignity, and leadership.

The June 12-16 forum was conducted by the newly-launched GIVEN Institute, and aimed to equip young Catholic women with the tools, mentorship, and advice needed to become leaders in the modern world while remaining true to their faith.

“We live in fast-moving and distracted world, so it’s easy to lose one’s grounding in the truth or even to never learn that there is a Truth, and one that sets us free,” Anne Marie Warner, director of operations for the GIVEN Institute, told CNA.

The GIVEN Forum seeks to remind attendees that not only is there a truth, but that women have unique, God-given gifts that they can use to better serve their communities.

Participants were invited after a rigorous application process that examined both their engagement with the Church and their aptitude for leadership. Additionally, applicants had to submit an “Action Plan Proposal.”

“The Action Plan is each woman’s unique initiative to activate her God-given gifts in a way that will benefit others in her community, or in the Church or the world,”said Warner. The plan is “It is a specific concrete project that (the attendee) will accomplish during the year following the GIVEN Forum,” she added.  

Warner was an attendee of the first GIVEN Forum, in 2016. She said she was “very inspired” by the diversity of the speakers at the event, and that it was “so encouraging to see the many ways that women are called to live out their femininity in the Church and in the world.”

Warner told CNA that she hopes each of the 120 attendees of this year’s forum will return home from the forum knowing that “her dreams matter, and that she has a place to be received and accompanied as she seeks to implement these for the good of others.”

Another goal of the conference, Warner said, is to recognize the place in the Church for the whole person.

“The Church is a place where (forum attendees) can be received in their strengths and in their weaknesses, a home where they are loved not for what they do, but for who they are; a family in which their unique heart is essential and cherished.”

In addition to the Action Plan, forum attendees are also mentored by older Catholic women. Warner believes this relationship is beneficial for both the mentor and the mentee, and “allows a collaboration between those whose lives are being formed in adulthood and those who have wisdom and love to share.”

“Our hope is that, through this relationship, the gift of both will be magnified and the gift of women in the Church will be magnified and, in turn, the gift of the Church to the world will be magnified,” she said.  

Attendees of the GIVEN Form shared their experiences with CNA.

Lily Alvarez traveled from Los Angeles to attend the forum. Alvarez, a native of Mexico, works for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. She said she was encouraged to apply for this year’s forum by friends who attended the first incarnation of the event in 2016.

“GIVEN has opened my eyes to see that God wants me to be intentional in the way I live my femininity, through conversations, people and testimonies I’ve heard here,” she said.

For Alvarez, one of the highlights of the forum was the opportunity to meet religious sisters. The first GIVEN Forum was intended to be a one-time event sponsored by the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR), who later expanded the event into the GIVEN Institute non-profit organization. Due to this relationship, there were many religious sisters at the forum, representing many religious orders.

“I’ve never had the chance to have deep conversations, play or even spend a day with (religious sisters),” Alvarez told CNA. “It’s been quite inspirational to see how professional, joyful and motherly they are.”

Alvarez described GIVEN as a “transformational conference,” that changed the way she viewed the dignity of women and offered “a fresh angle full of opportunities” as well as “a space of true friendship and deep understanding of God’s encounter with us.” She told CNA that she is eager to see what she and her fellow attendees are able to accomplish in the next year.

“I think now the world is lucky to have 120 new leaders of true femininity ready to make a change in the culture about the place of women in society,” she said.

Another attendee, Molly Sheahan, expressed a similar sentiment. Sheahan, a California native who is now a graduate student in Washington, DC, told CNA that she applied for the GIVEN Forum seeking to “gain practical skills for leadership and advice for future action and advocacy in the Church and in the world.”

Sheahan said she particularly enjoyed the opportunity to meet other forum attendees, women “who shared their passion and dreams for their Church, (and) their hope and fire to evangelize.” She told CNA that she received “a newfound courage and fire” from hearing the speakers, and she has been inspired to further share the things she has learned.

“Although my faith is strong, having a new community of women this week has given me a spiritual boost,” said Sheahan. “I feel called on to prayer in a new way now.”

Guam's Catholics oppose governor's plan to expand abortion

Mon, 06/17/2019 - 1:01pm

Hagatna, Guam, Jun 17, 2019 / 11:01 am (CNA).- Catholics in Guam have organized a prayer rally to protest the territorial governor's plan to recruit a doctor willing to perform abortions, after the retirement of the island's last abortion doctor.

“Say no to recruiting doctors who will kill our unborn children! Say yes to recruiting doctors who help us save lives,” read an invitation to the prayer rally sent by Patricia Perry, co-chair of the Catholic Pro-Life Committee, according to the Pacific Daily News, a Hagatna daily.

“We will not stop until all abortion is outlawed and all anti-life laws will be abolished,” Perry stated.

Guam Governor Lou Leon Guerrero, a former nurse who took office in January, recently expressed her wish to expand abortion access in the territory, but no doctors on the island are willing to perform abortions. The territory's last abortion doctor retired in June 2018.

The island's government is also offering waivers and discounts for contraception through a public health clinic.

According to the Pacific Daily News, the Archdiocese of Agaña said that “human life begins at conception and the Roman Catholic Church affirms and promotes this truth. There is no other moral or logical place to draw the line.”

Guam is predominantly Catholic, and Leon Guerrero has said that finding a doctor willing to perform abortions there “will take some work.” She said officials are trying to recruit doctors to come to the island and establish clinics.

Elective abortion is legal in Guam up to 13 weeks, and the procedure is legal up to 26 weeks in case of rape or incest; anyone who procures an abortion without help from a doctor can be charged with a felony. Doctors have the legal right to refuse to perform an abortion except in the case of a medical emergency.

Women in Guam seeking abortions fly thousands of miles from the island to seek abortions elsewhere, many in Hawaii.

There have only two or three Guam women given abortions in Hawaii since last year, and none was an elective procedure, an OB-GYN and University of Hawaii professor told the AP.

Guam's public health department received reports of an average of 246 abortions annually between 2007 and 2017. Since the 2018 retirement of Dr. William Freeman, none have been reported.

The Pacific Daily News reported that the territory is in need of more foster families. It said a recent bill introduced to improve foster care noted that in May, there were 270 children in foster placement, and 37 licensed foster families.

“If you don’t do anything to help these kids, you’re not pro-life. You’re just pro-birth. I’m not saying that you should abort these children to avoid the system but if we’re not going to have an abortion clinic here on Guam, something needs to be fixed,” Kimmi Yee, a 20-year-old Guam resident and abortion rights supporter, told the Pacific Daily News.

U.S. federal law applies in Guam and its people are U.S. citizens; the island is home to about 170,000 residents.

Meet the bishop who weaves Gospel verses, art, and Tolkien into his ministry

Mon, 06/17/2019 - 5:01am

Baltimore, Md., Jun 17, 2019 / 03:01 am (CNA).- There are bishops who may or may not tweet with any regularity, and then there’s “Amigo de Frodo”, who provides daily Gospel verses, bits of art and literature, and maybe a Lord of the Rings quote or two at a Confirmation: Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville.

“As a bishop, I think Twitter—you shouldn’t take yourself too seriously,” Bishop Flores, who tweets under the handle @bpdflores, told CNA at the annual spring meeting of the U.S. bishops last week.

“It can be – it often isn’t – but it can be a humanizing platform. And I think the challenge, just for Catholic Twitter in general, is to kind of be a humanizing voice in it that’s respectful and that encourages and has imagination, and in a certain sense humor, in terms of how things can be.”

One thing that can be seen on the bishop’s account every single day is a Gospel verse from that day’s reading and a brief reflection, in Spanish and in English.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">*Everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.<br><br>As charity— gift of the Risen Christ— takes possession of the heart, enabling us to love God and serve the good of others, there is less room in the heart to consent to sin. <a href="https://t.co/jBzGw2oKwo">pic.twitter.com/jBzGw2oKwo</a></p>&mdash; Amigo de Frodo (@bpdflores) <a href="https://twitter.com/bpdflores/status/1139487295411802113?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">June 14, 2019</a></blockquote>
<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

“I do think, fundamentally, for the Catholic Church, before we can tackle the problems and the issues, if we aren’t fundamentally reading the Gospel every day and letting that inform how it is that we think and how it is that we see the world, then we’re not doing what we’re supposed to be doing in terms of being a people who are able to look at the world through the eyes of the Gospel, instead of judging the Gospel through the eyes of the world,” he said.

“So it’s just my way of saying ‘folks, we all need to be reading the Gospel, and then we can deal with reality’.”

Among the items discussed and voted upon by the bishops were measures to respond to the clergy abuse crisis, among them authorizing a hotline for victims of abuse by bishops to confidentially report the case.

On Tuesday, during a presentation of heads of the working group on immigration, bishops discussed the need for the Church to be concretely present to migrants and refugees, and especially undocumented immigrants whose future legal status is in question and who face deportation.

One item discussed was the threat of tariffs by President Trump against Mexico, to push for a stronger effort to curtail migration from Central America to the U.S.

“We can’t use the immigrant as a bargaining chip,” Bishop Flores told CNA of the tariff threats.

Bishop Flores is one of the “border bishops”, whose diocese has for years been at the center of the rise in migrant children and women coming to the U.S. seeking asylum.

These migrants cannot be ignored, he said. “It’s about the reality of the children and mothers and families are suffering. And we have to address that. There is no reading of the Gospel that the Church is familiar with that says we can exempt ourselves from any interest of what is going on here.”

Ahead of the 2020 elections, immigration is once again expected to be a core issue among voters. When asked how voters can consider the Church’s teaching on the right to migrate and on the state’s just authority to regulate immigration, Bishop Flores pointed to global solidarity, the common good, and the limits of national sovereignty.

“The good of survival is a very high good in terms of Catholic social teaching,” he said. “And while a country has a responsibility to defend its borders, it also has a responsibility to be just and reasonable in attending to the human crisis which is beyond our borders. Because Catholic social teaching has never considered national sovereignty as an absolute right that is sort of ‘free to be capricious, it’s not our problem’.”

Pope Francis has taught of the “responsibility in global solidarity” to pay attention to crises beyond the borders of one’s own country, he said, and the pope has pointed out problems that transcend national boundaries and demand the attention of everyone, such as human trafficking.

To ignore these problems, and the plight of migrants, as a country, “we will simply just kind of shrivel in terms of our own human awareness of the basic commonality we have as human beings.”

“And the Gospel certainly calls us to look with open eyes as to the Lazaruses at the door. And to try to find some sort of reasonable accommodation to address those situations,” he said. Migrants are often victims of gang violence and human traffickers, he said, “basically what the pope calls the modern slave trade. It happens not just in the Americas, it happens across the world.”

“And this is, as the Holy Father keeps saying to the world, especially to the economically successful in the world, you can’t keep pretending this is not happening.”

Pro-life groups laud Pampers move to place changing tables in men's restrooms

Sun, 06/16/2019 - 4:01pm

Cincinnati, Ohio, Jun 16, 2019 / 02:01 pm (CNA).- Pro-life groups are cheering an initiative from Pampers which is seeking to place 5,000 diaper changing tables in men’s restrooms throughout the United States and Canada.

“Picture this...dad is out and about, enjoying quality time with his baby and the inevitable hits – diaper duty. Cue the search for a changing table, only for dad to find there’s nowhere for him to change that stinky booty in the men’s restroom,” the Pampers company, a popular brand of baby and toddler products, said in an announcement of the initiative.

“It’s an all too familiar story that’s happening across the country, with new Pampers research revealing that 9 out of 10 dads have gone into a public restroom that has not had a baby changing table,” Pampers added. “As part of its ‘Love the Change’ campaign, Pampers is proud to announce they’re providing 5,000 changing tables for public restrooms across North America by 2021, so more dads and babies can #LoveTheChange together when they’re out-and-about.”

The initiative was inspired largely by the #SquatforChange campaign, which started after frustrated Florida father Donte Palmer posted a photo of himself, squatting on the floor of a public restroom and balancing his child on his knees while trying to change the child’s diaper.

The photo, which Palmer posted to Facebook and Instagram, went viral, and Palmer told the Washington Post he was encouraged by the response, which indicated that it was a widespread issue for dads across the country.

Kristi Hamrick, a spokesperson for the pro-life group Students for Life of America, applauded the Pampers initiative, and told CNA that it points out an age-old “discrepancy” that assumes mothers are always the ones changing their children’s diapers.

“Students for Life has always been an advocate for helping both mothers and fathers take care of their children,” she said. “In fact, we've been pointing out the discrepancy for years, because moms can use a break, and I know from experience that my husband was just as good as I was at helping our children on diaper duty.”

“A pro-life/pro-family society puts policies and infrastructure in place to help young families succeed in raising happy, healthy children. We may pursue different programming ideas, but helping families should be a goal for all of us as we all need the next generation to do well,” she added.

Hamrick noted that the initiative is similar to other efforts of Students for Life groups throughout the country, including the 2018 installment of diaper decks at the University of Wyoming, after the encouragement of the local Students for Life group, as well as efforts to support paid family leave acts in Congress.

Carol Tobias, a spokesperson for the pro-life group National Right to Life, told CNA that she welcomed the Pampers initiative, and that she imagined most mothers did too.

“Fathers seem to be more involved in the care of their children than previous generations so it makes sense that diaper-changing stations are available to help them provide that care,” she said.

According to Pampers, the installation of the diaper decks will take place over the next two years, in partnership with Koala Kare.

The companies “will identify high-need public locations and provide baby changing tables for installation in the men’s restrooms. Dads and babies visiting places such as parks and recreation centers, community centers and libraries in cities such as Cincinnati, Dallas, Philadelphia, Detroit, and many others across the U.S. and Canada, are in line to benefit from Pampers’ commitment,” Pampers announced.

Pampers noted that the first 500 locations for the installation of diaper decks have already been selected, and will be installed in the coming weeks.

St Louis University: employee who signed abortion rights letter apologized, retracted support

Fri, 06/14/2019 - 7:12pm

St. Louis, Mo., Jun 14, 2019 / 05:12 pm (CNA).- A group of 180 business leaders this week signed an open letter, published June 10 as a full-page advertisement in the New York Times and online, in support of abortion rights and declaring abortion restrictions “bad for business.”

“Restricting access to comprehensive reproductive care, including abortion, threatens the health, independence and economic stability of our employees and customers. Simply put, it goes against our values and is bad for business,” the letter read.

Among the original list of signatories was Cindy Mebruer, director of the Center for Supply Chain Excellence at Saint Louis University’s Richard A. Chaifetz School of Business. SLU is a Jesuit institution with a total enrollment of 13,000.

Mebruer signed the letter on behalf of the center, and the name of the university was included in the online version of the letter.   

“Saint Louis University had no knowledge of the New York Times advertisement until it was brought to the University’s attention Thursday,” the university said in a statement to CNA.

“The employee who signed the letter has apologized for including the University within the petition profile in a way that may have been misconstrued as a statement that reflects the University’s viewpoint, rather than her own personal views.”

The Center for Supply Chain Excellence is classified as a “Center of Distinction” within the Richard A. Chaifetz School of Business at the university, and offers certificate programs related to supply chain management.

“[The employee] has stated that it was not her intent to speak for the entirety of the University and upon hearing of the misunderstanding, immediately reached out to the advocacy group to request that her employer's name be removed from the statement,” the university continued.

As of Friday afternoon, neither the university, the center, nor Mebruer's name appear on the online version of the letter.

“Saint Louis University is committed to acting consistently with the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. While the University respects the freedom of conscience for each person, any official University action is in accord with SLU’s Catholic identity,” the statement concluded.

A coalition of pro-abortion organizations, including Planned Parenthood Federation of America, NARAL Pro-Choice America, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the American Civil Liberties Union coordinated the letter.  

“We, the undersigned, represent more than 108,000 workers and stand against policies that hinder people’s health, independence and ability to fully succeed in the workplace,” the letter continued.

Signatories include CEOs on behalf of multi-billion dollar corporations such as Bloomberg, H&M, Atlantic Records, and Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. The list includes a number of influential technology companies such as Slack, Zoom Video Communications, and Yelp.

Raoul Scherwitzl, the CEO of Natural Cycles, an app to track fertility, also signed the letter.

Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Square, a payment processing company, is another signatory; Dorsey is also the CEO of Twitter.

The letter was prompted, in part, by the recent passage of laws restricting abortion in states such as Georgia, Alabama, and Missouri, where Saint Louis University is located.

Missouri Governor Mike Parson signed the “Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act” in May, which criminalizes performing abortions after eight weeks in the state, except when the life of a mother is determined to be in danger.

The law criminalizes the performance of abortions or the prescribing of medical abortions, punishable as a Class B felony, for doctors and medical professionals. It does not penalize women who obtain abortions. Class B felonies are punishable by 5-15 years in prison in the state of Missouri.

St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson applauded the new law, calling it a “giant step forward for the pro-life movement.”

Should Catholics attend 'pride' events?

Fri, 06/14/2019 - 5:50pm

Denver, Colo., Jun 14, 2019 / 03:50 pm (CNA).- On June 1, Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence tweeted that Catholics should not attend Pride events during the month of June, which is commemorated as “Pride Month” throughout the United States.

“A reminder that Catholics should not support or attend LGBTQ ‘Pride Month’ events held in June,” Tobin tweeted. “They promote a culture and encourage activities that are contrary to Catholic faith and morals. They are especially harmful for children.”

By the following day, the bishop issued another statement after widespread backlash against his original tweet.

“The Catholic Church has respect and love for members of the gay community, as do I,” Tobin said, adding that “individuals with same-sex attraction are beloved children of God and our brothers and sisters.” While the bishop expressed regret that some people took offense at his tweet, he did not apologize for or retract any of the content of his original statement.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly teaches what Tobin tweeted: that people with same-sex attraction must be treated with love and respect, and that the promotion of same-sex sexual relationships is contrary to faith and morals, and God’s plan for human sexuality.

Given these two teachings, what should a Catholic do if invited to participate in “Pride” events?

How Pride month started

The commemoration of June as “Pride Month” was officially established by President Bill Clinton in 1999, but it was already being unofficially celebrated for decades prior to that.

Pride Day, which eventually grew to be Pride Month, has been commemorated since June 1969, during the Stonewall Uprising, when activists and other New Yorkers took to the streets to protest against police raids at the Stonewall Inn, a popular bar and lounge at the time for people identifying as gay and lesbian.

Today, Pride Month is celebrated throughout the U.S. with parades, parties and concerts celebrating the gay rights movement and celebrating the LGBT lifestyle.

CCC 2358

Chris Stefanick, a Catholic author, speaker and lay minister at Real Life Catholic, said in a video posted to his Facebook page that he would not be attending “Pride” events, and that he also discouraged other Catholics from doing so, especially with children.

“The Catechism of the Catholic Church is really clear about this,” Stefanick said. He cited the Catechism’s paragraph 2358, which states that people with same-sex attraction “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”

Stefanick noted in his video that “Pride” events, in their origin, were largely about speaking up against just that - unjust discrimination and harsh treatment towards LGBT people.

“I agree with the Catechism on that because I’m a devout, card-carrying Catholic. If that’s all that ‘Pride’ parades were about, I would show up, I would march in one, and I would have a t-shirt that said ‘Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2358.’ Right? Because it would be a Catechism of the Catholic Church 2358 parade!” he said.

But “Pride Parades” today encompass a much larger agenda than anti-discrimination, Stefanick said.

“They’re largely funded by, supported by, attended by, the secular LGBT agenda. And while one sliver of what they’re standing for and pushing against in society is upholding the dignity of the person, which I would agree with, there’s a whole lot more that they’re pushing for that’s directly against my faith,” he said.

In follow-up comments to CNA via email, Stefanick said that that video cost him a donor, who accused Stefanick of being unloving for his opposition to attending Pride events. In a subsequent email to that donor, Stefanick reiterated that he was attempting to approach the issue out of love for all people, and in line with his faith.

“So much confusion exists around this issue,”  Stefanick said.

“And that confusion is often perpetuated by people in Church leadership who add to the world's perception that anything said with clarity is hateful and hurtful and bigoted. It's perpetuated by people who refuse to clarify which aspects of the LGBT movement we agree with, and which ones we have to absolutely reject...not because we're moralists, but because Jesus Christ is the fulfillment and happiness we're looking for, and nothing else will do!”

How to love without compromise

Courage is a Catholic organization for people with same-sex attraction and for those who love them. It supports them in leading a chaste life and building community and deep friendships with others in the Church who support them.

Courage is active in about two-thirds of the Catholic dioceses of the U.S., as well as in multiple other countries, with more than 150 Courage Chapters and just under 100 Encourage Chapters. Encourage is the apostolate for relatives and loved ones of people who identify as LGBT.

Fr. Philip Bochanski, the executive director of Courage, told CNA that Catholics should keep in mind that Pride events “were originally meant to draw attention to unjust discrimination and harsh and sometimes even violent treatment against people because of their sexual attractions and their understanding of their sexual identity.”

“And so the idea that we ought to call that out and condemn it is simple. That's something that The Church is fully in agreement with,” he said, also referencing CCC 2358.

“And a letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith from 1986 goes even further and says: 'It's deplorable that homosexual people have been and are the object of violence malice in speech and in action, and that such behavior deserves condemnation from the Church's pastors whenever it occurs,’” Bochanski added.

“The Church has always been in agreement that people who are living with these experiences should not be discriminated against unjustly and should not be treated with malice or violence,” he said.

But the Church also teaches that the answer to the unjust treatment of people identifying as LGBT “is not to change the Church's teaching or to say that homosexual relationships are good or moral, but the answer really should be to teach the truth more clearly about the dignity of the human person, and call all of our brothers and sisters to a life in holiness which always includes the virtue of chastity, among the other virtues,” he said.

Bochanski added that he has some Catholic friends, many of whom are involved in the Courage apostolate, who attend Pride events -- though not as participants or marchers.

“They're there along the route offering words of encouragement about God's love and the inherent dignity of every person, talking about the virtue of chastity, offering people friendship and support and if they'd like to know more about what the Catholic Church teaches about same-sex attraction, offering them support if they want to understand what chastity means and how to embrace it.”

Still, he said, while it may be good for some people to attend Pride events in order to witness to God’s love and the teachings of the Church, it would be “foolish to ignore the reality” that sometimes, at some of these events, some people display “images that can be lewd and in some cases offensive and scandalous and especially for younger people.”

“(Catholics) have to be very prudent and careful about that reality and not expose ourselves to situations we can't control that are offensive or obscene, or raise issues that a person is too young to understand,” he noted.

Bochanski said that Catholics can love those who identify as LGBT by being willing to listen seriously to them, and by accompanying them on a path of holiness.

“I think that trying to welcome and accompany people as Jesus would do really starts with a willingness to listen to where people are coming from and what they're going through,” he said.  

“So, I often say, a person who wants to spread the Good News and lead people to understand God's plan for sexuality and relationships and virtues like chastity...(should) say, first of all, 'I love you very much,'” to such a person, he said.

“Second, 'I believe that God has a plan for your life and for your relationships and for sexuality, and if you follow that plan, it's going to lead you to be happy.' And third, 'I want to hear your story so that we can see your story in light of the Gospel story and we can walk together as we see that path that God has marked out for us,'” Bochanski added.

He also said that it’s important to present the fullness of the truth of God’s plan for sexuality, which is a Church teaching that cannot change: “that's always going to be true, because it comes from the Word of God.”

Bochanski emphasized loving people with same-sex attractions as full persons, and helping them to see that their identity does not lie solely within their sexuality. This is the reason the apostolate typically uses the terms “people with same-sex attractions” rather than “gay” or “lesbian,” for example.

“(A)s we're striving to love someone, we shouldn't label them or encourage them to label themselves according to their sexual attractions, saying 'this is who I am and how God made me,'” he said, “because it's not telling the whole truth about the nature of the human person and the nature of God's plan for our bodies, our sexuality, our relationships.”


 

Bea Cuasay and Michelle McDaniel contributed to this report.

What’s going to bring the ‘nones’ back to the Church?

Fri, 06/14/2019 - 4:49pm

Baltimore, Md., Jun 14, 2019 / 02:49 pm (CNA).- As the U.S. bishops gathered in Baltimore this week, primarily to vote on proposals to respond to the clergy abuse crisis, another crisis loomed large with no easy solutions—how to evangelize the “nones,” or people with no religious affiliation.
 
Bishop Robert Barron, auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles and chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, delivered a presentation on Tuesday morning at the annual spring meeting of the U.S. bishops on “this massive attrition of our own people, particularly the young” from the Church. He exhorted fellow bishops “to look at this issue of who are the unaffiliated, why are they leaving, and how do we get them back.”
 
He presented some sobering statistics: for every one person joining the Church today, 6.45 are leaving. Almost eight in ten leave by the age of 23, and the median age for leaving the Church is just 13 years old.
 
Where are they going? While roughly one quarter are becoming Evangelical, and another 25 percent are joining another religion or denomination of Christianity, half are simply atheist, agnostic, or without any religious affiliation, Barron said.

“Most are ambivalent about religion rather than hostile to it,” he noted.
 
They are leaving Catholicism primarily because “they don’t believe it,” he told CNA in an interview on Thursday. Regarding “the questions about God and about Jesus and about eternal life and about the soul,” he said, “they don’t believe it. They think religion’s at odds with science. That comes through all the time.”
 
Bishop Christopher Coyne of Burlington, Vt., agreed with the assessment that a primary reason for young people leaving the Church is a lack of belief. However, he challenged the assumption that there are clear-cut intellectual reasons why teenagers as young as 13 are leaving the Church. “The question that popped into my head was were they really believing (in the first place)?” he said of the statistic.  
 
According to Barron, some of the other common reasons given for lack of religious affiliation are a perceived intolerance of revealed religion, opposition to being told what to do, a belief in a personal relationship with God outside of revealed religion, and a perception that religion is anti-science or anti-rational.
 
Some of the reasons Barron gave for the migration of young people away from the Church are secularism, and with it, a culture of relativism “which gives rise to the self-invention culture (of)...I decide who I am. I decide what I believe.”
 
Thus, when the Church makes objective claims and preaches dogmas and doctrines, “that meets with a lot of resistance,” particularly teachings on sexuality and morality which are a “stumbling block for a lot of people,” Barron added.
 
However, despite recent revelations of clerical sex abuse and misconduct and cover-up by bishops and prelates, the abuse crisis has not played a primary role in young people departing the Church, both bishops said.
 
“It’s not been certainly one of the top reasons. It’s there, but certainly not a top reason,” Barron said.
 
“All of the surveys that I’ve seen around people who have turned 18 since 2000,” Coyne said, “the abuse crisis is way, way down on the list of why they left the Church, and why they’re not affiliated with the Church.”
 
According to a survey of the religiously unaffiliated by the Pew Research Center conducted in December of 2017, 25 percent of respondents said that “I question a lot of religious teachings” is the most important reason they do not identify with a religion, the leading reason among the “Nones” for their lack of affiliation.
 
“I think we’ve underplayed the intellectual side. We’ve undervalued what kids are capable of, intellectually,” Barron said, noting that young people are leaving the Church “more and more consciously. They are making a conscious decision—not just drifting away, but they are deciding to go. And that’s often on intellectual grounds.”
 
During his presentation to the bishops, Barron brought up University of Toronto psychology professor Jordan Peterson and his popular online discussion of the Bible as an example of young people still showing interest in religion despite having no official affiliation.
 
However, the mere mention of the controversial best-selling author of “12 Rules for Life” at the meeting of the bishops provoked backlash and claims that the conference had endorsed Peterson’s treatment of the Bible as a “model” for evangelization.
 
On Thursday. Barron clarified that he brought up Peterson not to cast him as a model for evangelization, but rather to draw attention to his online appeal and evoke questions as to why he is so popular.
 
“It really wasn’t about the content at all, except that he is talking about the Bible, which I think is really interesting, and getting millions of views with learned talks about the Bible, which aren’t bad,” Barron told CNA. “From a psychological perspective, they’re pretty good I think.”
 
He brought up Peterson “to look at the phenomenon and say maybe we’ve been underplaying what our young people are capable of. Maybe we can address these issues at a high level too.”
 
However, in addition to paying attention to intellectual currents among the religiously unaffiliated, cultural and sociological currents need to be considered as well, Coyne insisted. For example, there are trends showing that Millennials do not join parishes or social clubs at nearly the same rates as previous generations once did—and thus may be harder to reach within the traditional boundaries of parish life.
 
Furthermore, approaches to evangelization cannot be “too high-altitude,” he cautioned, because in addition to young people who are invested in intellectual debates about religion such as online forums about atheism or Jordan Peterson’s discussion of the Bible, there are many other Millennials without a college education who don’t partake in any of these discussions.
 
Vermont has one of the highest graduation rates for high school students, Coyne said, but one of the lowest rates of graduates who enter college; instead of tertiary education, they pursue careers in small business, the military or other occupations that don’t require a college degree.
 
“A 22 year-old in a double-wide in rural Vermont is not going to put the YouTube of the psychologist from Toronto on who talks about faith,” he said.
 
So what is working for evangelization in his diocese? Ideally, the faith is learned at home, practiced by the parents, and passed on to the children, he said.
 
“I would say if we’re going to try and help people raise children in the faith so as to make a good choice to stay in the faith, then they have to be disciples,” Coyne said. “I’m seeing that in a lot of our families that stay in the Church, the parents are disciples because they choose to stay in the Catholic Church.”
 
“It’s not a matter of cultural Catholicism, it’s Catholicism by choice,” he added.
 
For adults who are religiously unaffiliated and living apart from their families, there’s also networking, he said. Lay Catholics in Burlington have begun to form Catholic business associations and medical associations not unlike the guilds from centuries ago, and in the process have been able to form relationships and support each other in the faith.
 
“It’s the Holy Spirit, it’s incredible,” Coyne said. “The evangelization part is really being picked up by lay men and lay women, and they understand that evangelization is relational.”
 
“They come together, they pray, they support each other, and they also talk about the struggles of being a Catholic in the medical profession or being Catholic in the business community.”
 
For example, a local doctor started a Catholic medical association group and “they had their first meeting at my house, they had about 40 people come who are all in the medical profession, who are all Catholics who are looking to network,” Coyne said.
 
Meanwhile, regarding evangelization on the intellectual level, Barron pointed to the Catholics who are prolific in their evangelization through social media and in person such as his Word on Fire Ministries, FOCUS, St. Paul Street Evangelization, and figures such as Scott Hahn and Peter Kreeft.
 
He also admitted to other paths to the faith than through purely intellectual arguments, such as the “way of beauty” and the “way of justice.”
 
“Young people respond very much to the call to social justice,” he said. “There’s a huge part of our tradition around that, from John Chrysostom to Dorothy Day and Pope Francis. That’s a wonderful tradition.”
 
If there was one thing he could tell a lay Catholic at a parish about evangelization to others, Barron said, “don’t be afraid to tell them about your relationship with the Lord.”
 
“Don’t be afraid to share your faith, and talk about your faith and what it means to you. And people will respond to that, even if they don’t seem to at first."

 

Analysis: 'Job begun' not 'job done' in Baltimore

Fri, 06/14/2019 - 12:21pm

Baltimore, Md., Jun 14, 2019 / 10:21 am (CNA).- Today the bishops of the United States return home after the USCCB General Assembly.

After a week’s worth of meetings and votes, they can point to real steps taken towards healing the breach of trust between the hierarchy and the faithful. But the passage of several worthy policy documents to one side, there is much work left for the bishops to do.

After a year marked by one episcopal scandal after another, the message the bishops take back to their diocese is more “job begun” than “job done.”

Four key measures were approved by overwhelming majorities during the sessions in Baltimore.

An independently administered, national reporting mechanism is to be set up, to ensure that complaints against bishops can be processed in a clear and credible way.

Directives for applying the pope’s new universal law Vos estis lux mundi were approved, laying out a clear role for lay involvement in the implementation of the “metropolitan model” for investigating allegations.

The weight of the last year’s scandals was addressed with an “Affirmation of Our Episcopal Commitments” by all the bishops: “Because of these failures, the faithful are outraged, horrified, and discouraged,” they wrote, while rededicating themselves to their core mission as shepherds and the high standards the people pews had every right to expect of them.

The bishops also passed, virtually without comment, a set of protocols explaining how a diocesan bishop can restrict the ministry of his retired predecessor when necessary, and made clear that the USCCB president could formally disinvite retired or resigned bishops from attending conference meetings.

By passing these four reforms, the bishops have given themselves a considerable amount of homework.

Contracting a vendor for the independent national reporting line has been left to the conference leadership, and will take some time to put in place – though it will be up and running no later than May next year. But once a complaint is made, the hotline will have to alert the appropriate metropolitan archbishop or senior suffragan -as well as the competent lay person each has designated to help in such cases.

Accounting for every metropolitan and senior suffragan, this means that for the national reporting mechanism to come online, 64 lay people have to be identified, trained, and put in place across the country – no small task. The USCCB have promised a set of guidelines to help with this process by Labor Day.

The question of lay involvement also carries over to the directives implementing Vos estis. During a closed meeting this week of the country’s 32 metropolitans, there was, according to more than one archbishop, unanimous agreement about the “indispensable” role of independent lay experts. But ensuring that each archbishop– and each senior suffragan bishop – can put in place an expert suitably qualified to add value to the process of evaluating allegations will not be done overnight.

Much work is still needed on the standards against which allegations are to be assessed.

The affirmation of episcopal responsibility commits every bishop to publish “clear explanations as to what constitutes sexual misconduct with adults, as well as what constitutes sexual harassment of adults.” Set within the wider question of what constitutes the sexual abuse of a “vulnerable” adult raised by Vos estis, every bishop in the country is now committed to drawing “clear” lines against which the often very messy facts of individual cases, a legal and pastoral challenge the size of which many might not yet fully appreciate.

On Thursday, Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark told CNA that there would necessarily be different definitions of misconduct and harassment in different dioceses, because each had to reflect civil laws in each state. Thirteen states plus the District of Columbia have laws criminalizing sexual contact between a religious minister and a congregant. But how such distinctions will play out canonically could prove problematic – few will likely be impressed if a bishop in one diocese can escape unpunished for behavior that would be termed serious misconduct in another.

Technical questions like these went largely undiscussed on the assembly floor in Baltimore, with debate finishing nearly two hours ahead of schedule – something which many of the bishops may yet come to see as a missed opportunity.

It is possible that having had to wait since their last meeting in November to pass measures aimed at showing substantive progress in response to scandals like that of former cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the U.S. bishops were in a hurry to cast their votes. But in their haste, the bishops may also have passed up a pastoral opportunity to speak directly to the faithful.

While acknowledging the “outrage and horror” of the faithful at the behavior of some bishops, few in the assembly hall expressed those emotions at the microphone.

While passing the protocols to limit the ministry of retired or resigned bishops under clouds of serious scandal, there was no debate or conversation about the clear cases to which they could be usefully and immediately applied.

While the president of the conference can now formally disinvite retired bishops from future meetings, no bishop rose to suggest this be extended immediately to cover, for example, Cardinal Roger Mahony, who attended the last session in November; Bishop Robert Finn, who was in Baltimore this week; Archbishop John Neinstedt; or Bishop Michael Bransfield, who was at the center of a damning report released just prior to the June meeting.

Seeing the bishops overcome their squeamishness at calling out their scandalous brethren is, to many faithful, more than just an exercise in catharsis.

Anonymous votes may signal unity, but they are unlikely to displace McCarrick as the image that comes to mind for many when they think of the American bishops; individual bad cases may be the small minority, but the majority remain essentially faceless for many ordinary Catholics. For all the solidarity behind the reforming measures in Baltimore, the assembly lacked a clear, urgent, moral voice denouncing the sins of the few and sharing the anger, not just the sadness of the faithful.

As they return to their dioceses, the bishops have considerable work still to do before they meet again. Much of that essential work will take place in chancery offices, but the more urgent – and likely more fruitful – work will be in the pulpit.

Illinois bishops oppose abortion law, disagree on Communion for pro-choice lawmakers

Fri, 06/14/2019 - 6:00am

Baltimore, Md., Jun 14, 2019 / 04:00 am (CNA).- While two Illinois bishops are unified in their strong opposition to the state’s new abortion law, they differ on the question of prohibiting to receive Holy Communion the Catholic state legislators who led the effort for the bill’s passage.

“I think that our Catholic people are rightfully scandalized when they see Catholic politicians not only voting for, but actively promoting abortion rights, and they wonder, ‘Well how can you promote abortion rights and call yourself a Catholic in good standing?’”

“And the answer to that is ‘You can’t,’” Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Ill. told CNA of his decision to prohibt from receiving Holy Communion in his diocese the two legislators who led in the effort to pass a law recognizing abortion as a “fundamental right” and explicitly denying independent rights to unborn children apart from the mother.

He added that “to be clear and say ‘no, you can’t be promoting abortion legislation and be a Catholic in good standing,’ it also protects the integrity of the sacraments, saying that receiving Holy Communion is a very sacred thing to do.”

The Illinois Reproductive Health Act (Senate Bill 25), signed by the state’s Governor J.B. Pritzker on Wednesday, recognizes abortion as a “fundamental right” and mandates that insurance companies cover abortions.

And it goes even further than that, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago told CNA.  

“What’s pernicious about this law, and what’s so very difficult, is that it says that the unborn child has absolutely no claim on rights,” Cupich said.

“It says that human life is cheap. That’s the message that we send—that human life is cheap in the State of Illinois.”

Cupich, however, told CNA that he thought it would be “counterproductive” to deny Holy Communion in his archdiocese to the legislators who championed the law.

“I think it would be counterproductive to impose sanctions, simply because they don’t change anybody’s minds, but it also takes away from the fact that an elected official has to deal with the judgment seat of God, not just the judgment seat of a bishop. I think that’s much more powerful,” Cupich told CNA.

“I have always approached the issue saying that the bishop’s primary responsibility is to teach, and I will continue to do that.”

Leaders in the state legislature, the Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, both supported the legislation.

Paprocki issued a decree on June 5 that, because of “their leadership roles in promoting the evil of abortion by facilitating the passage of Senate Bill 25 this legislative session and House Bill 40 in 2017, House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton have been barred from receiving Holy Communion in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois.”

Furthermore, Paprocki instructed that other Catholic state legislators who supported the abortion bill should not present themselves for Holy Communion.

The earlier 2017 legislation he referenced, House Bill 40, facilitated taxpayer funding of abortion and mandated that, if Roe v. Wade were to be reversed at the Supreme Court, abortion would remain legal in Illinois.

Bishop Paprocki cited the Code of Canon Law, specifically canons 915 and 916, in his decree. Canon 916 forbids Catholics who are conscious of mortal sin from receiving Communion without first going to Confession and repenting of sin. Canon 915 instructs that public figures who obstinately persevere in manifest grave sin not be admitted to the sacraments.

“‘Obstinate’ means they’re stubborn,” Paprocki explained. “The Church has been clear on this teaching, they’ve been repeatedly calling them back to what the Church teaches, and they’re just digging in, they’re not going to change their views. And ‘persistent’ means that happens over a period of time.”

Both bishops said they had communicated, or attempted to communicate, directly with Madigan and Cullerton.

“I have conversations with them, and those continue to take place. They have to,” Cupich said.

Paprocki said he conversed with Madigan and made a phone call to Cullerton that was not returned, and subsequently wrote both of them “because I wanted them to hear directly from me” before he made the decree.

Both Paprocki and Cupich told pro-lifers to continue fighting for life.

“We’ve been at this since Roe v. Wade, and we’re going to continue. This is not going to daunt us at all. We are going to continue to say our message, and we are gaining ground among young people, especially,” Cupich said.

“This is not only an issue of the Church, it’s an issue for the soul of the country and for American people.”

“I know it can be very discouraging when you see legislation like this passing,” Paprocki said.

“I had one person say to me ‘maybe I’m in the wrong state, maybe I need to move to another state.’”

Referencing the early Christians who lived in the Roman Empire, Paprocki said that “the Christians didn’t try to move somewhere where they could all be together and not be surrounded by the pagan culture. What they did was they stayed in that culture but they tried to transform the culture. Or they just said ‘We’re going to live differently. We’re going to live by our Christian values.’”

Don’t subsidize the taking of innocent life, archbishop says of attempts to repeal Hyde Amendment

Thu, 06/13/2019 - 9:02pm

Baltimore, Md., Jun 13, 2019 / 07:02 pm (CNA).- Abolishing the Hyde Amendment, a proposal made recently by both Congressmen and presidential candidates, would unravel over 40 years of broad, bipartisan consensus, the head of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee told CNA.
 
“I think it’s a very important principle that’s at stake here. And it’s something that there historically was broad consensus (on) and both parties had supported,” Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Pro-Life Committee, told CNA on Thursday. “So it’s very disappointing to see the extremism now that’s attacking what most Americans would consider a very important principle.”
 
“Why should taxpayers pay for something that they find morally objectionable?” he asked, noting recent attempts by lawmakers to equate abortion with health care. “When you’re destroying a human life, this isn’t health care.”
 
Naumann spoke with CNA at the annual spring meeting of the U.S. bishops held in Baltimore, Md. from June 11-13.
 
The Hyde Amendment is named for the late Rep. Henry Hyde (D-IL), who sponsored the amendment that was first enacted in 1976, and which prevents taxpayer funding of abortions except in cases of rape or incest. The amendment has passed every year since 1976 as an attachment to spending bills, with bipartisan support.
 
A 2016 study by the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute, the research arm of the Susan B. Anthony List, estimated that the amendment has saved over two million lives - or more than 60,000 people per year.
 
Current Democratic presidential front-runner Joe Biden was a long-time supporter of the Hyde Amendment, but last week he announced that he would oppose the policy. Biden insisted that politics did not play a role in his decision, in an interview with WHO Channel 13 in Iowa.
 
Other presidential candidates, including Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) have opposed the Hyde Amendment on the grounds that it would allegedly restrict abortion access for low-income women on Medicaid. The 2016 Democratic National Committee platform called for the repeal of the policy as well as of the Helms Amendment, which restricts U.S. foreign assistance for abortions.
 
On Monday, Roll Call reported that an amendment was inserted into the Labor-HHS appropriations bill by Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), that would remove the Hyde Amendment from the package and require federal funding of abortion in Medicaid and other federal health programs, as well as prevent any state or local restrictions on abortion coverage in the private insurance sector.
 
That amendment would likely be removed from the package by the Rules Committee, Rep. Jayapal admitted to Roll Call on Tuesday, and the amendment was removed from the legislation amidst concerns that it could endanger passage of the bill.
 
“Since its implementation in 1976 when it was strongly supported by Democrats, the Hyde Amendment has saved the lives of more than 2 million Americans who otherwise would have been victims of taxpayer-funded abortions. There’s nothing ‘rare’ about millions more abortions if the Hyde Amendment is repealed,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, stated last Friday after Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden announced his opposition to the pro-life policy.
 
The Susan B. Anthony List noted that, according to a February Marist poll, a majority of Americans (54 percent) oppose taxpayer funding of abortion.
 

Pinterest suspends pro-life group's account, citing 'health misinformation'

Thu, 06/13/2019 - 8:01pm

San Francisco, Calif., Jun 13, 2019 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- Pinterest, a social media site with 300 million active users, has banned pro-life activist group Live Action from its platform, just days after a whistleblower revealed documents that purport to show active suppression of pro-life and Christian content by Pinterest.

Alison Centofante, Live Action's director of external affairs, posted a screenshot June 11 of an email from Pinterest informing Live Action that their account was “permanently suspended because its content went against our policies on misinformation.”

“We don’t allow advice on Pinterest that may have immediate and detrimental effects on a Pinner’s health or on public safety,” the communication read.

Live Action founder Lila Rose shared a second email from Pinterest support that said the account was suspended because of “medically inaccurate information and conspiracies that turn individuals and facilities into targets for harassment and violence.”

“What exactly is Pinterest attempting to block? Inspirational messages to pregnant mothers, ultrasound images showing the science of prenatal development, medically accurate information on the abortion procedure, and images saying women deserve better than abortion industry leader Planned Parenthood,” Rose said in a June 11 statement.

“Pinterest has targeted Live Action, I believe, because our message is so effective at educating millions about the humanity of the preborn child and the injustice of abortion...Pinterest users deserve to know the truth and our messages deserve to be treated fairly. If Planned Parenthood can promote their message on Pinterest, then Live Action should be able to as well.”

Despite Live Action’s suspension for purported “immediate and detrimental” health effects of their pro-life materials, pins linking to websites that offered “20 Best Ways to Induce a Miscarriage Naturally at Home” were still active and available on Pinterest June 13.

Before Live Action’s total ban, documents released Tuesday by former software engineer-turned whistleblower Eric Cochran show that Live Action was intentionally marked as a “pornographic” site, thus suppressing users’ ability to link to LiveAction.org’s content.

The documents also allege that Pinterest employees labeled Christianity-related terms like “christian easter” and “bible verses” as “sensitive” search terms, meaning those terms would not show up in autocomplete search results on the site.

Cochran released the documents via the activist group Project Veritas, and says he was subsequently fired from his job at Pinterest.

“Because ‘LiveAction.org’ was added to the list of pornographic sites, the [whistleblower] showed that users cannot create pins that link to ‘LiveAction.org.’ Live Action has received complaints from supporters over the last few months that they have had difficulty pinning content from ‘LiveAction.org,’” Live Action said in a June 11 statement.

“After testing the website, Live Action was unable to create pins from our own website but was able to create pins to other pro-life websites and create pins to pro-abortion websites like Planned Parenthood.”

The whistleblower at Pinterest also revealed, Live Action says, that Pinterest added “David Daleiden/Planned Parenthood” to a list of “conspiracy theories” it monitors.

David Daleidan is a journalist and activist who used hidden camera footage to reveal Planned Parenthood executives and staff negotiating the sale of fetal body parts in 2015.

In another June 11 email, also shared by Rose, a Pinterest spokesperson said Live Action’s account was suspended because of “misinformation related to conspiracies and anti-vaccination advice, not porn,” and that the platform’s “internal tools” were “named years ago to combat porn” and had not been updated.

A media inquiry from CNA to Pinterest, enquiring what specific pins posted by Live Action the platform flagged as containing “misinformation” and how they vetted the information in question, went unanswered as of press time.

Twitter has barred Live Action from purchasing paid advertisements on their site, and the pro-life group has also alleged detrimental treatment from Google and YouTube.

Who's responsible for the USCCB's Twitter?

Thu, 06/13/2019 - 6:40pm

Baltimore, Md., Jun 13, 2019 / 04:40 pm (CNA).- Over the course of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ spring general assembly, questions arose online: what was going on with the suddenly-chatty USCCB Twitter account? Did they give an intern, or perhaps a particularly hip young priest or enthusiastic new convert the password? Had the account been hacked?

As it turns out, none of those were true. The account is run by Connie Poulos, a 31-year-old content and marketing coordinator at the USCCB. She’s not an intern – and has worked for the conference since 2017, originally as a digital media specialist – and she’s not a convert, and she’s definitely not a priest. She’s married, and she and her husband are in the process of adopting a son from China.

Poulos sat down with CNA in an emptying ballroom at the hotel hosting the general assembly to discuss what prompted the USCCB’s new online persona. Apparently, this strategy was part of a larger plan to attempt to present a more humanizing look at the bishops of the conference, and better to engage with the account’s 156,000 Twitter followers.

“When I first started in 2017, we didn’t engage on this level, but we did engage,” she explained. “Then, McCarrick happened.”

After the actions of the now-laicized former Archbishop of Washington came to light, Poulos said the conference decided to take a step back when it came to their online presence. About a year later, that mentality has shifted, even as a new crop of scandals begin to emerge.

"We just kind of decided, 'look, all bets are off. We're just gonna be us, we're going to use this account to engage,’” said Poulos. She said that she received instructions to “be bold” on the internet.  

"Then I took that and ran with it,” she added, beginning with her tweets at the spring general assembly.

As a way to expand upon what was being discussed at the general assembly, the USCCB tweeted a picture of Bishop Robert Barron of Los Angeles with the caption “If you are a young Catholic who is still Catholic, what has made you stay?” At the time of the tweet, Barron was speaking about how half of all young people who leave the Catholic Church become religiously unaffiliated.

The tweet received thousands of replies, including one from Dr. Taylor Patrick O’Neill, a professor of theology at Mount Mercy University. O’Neill tweeted, “Not sure if I am young anymore, but when I was young, the thing that made me stay (or rather return), was finding out that there was a rich intellectual and spiritual REASON (or Logos) behind the felt banners and superficial platitudes which initially pushed me away.”

Then, Poulos, on the USCCB account, responded to this tweet with “Beautifully said. I'm … not sure anyone likes the felt banners.”

Beautifully said.

I'm... not sure anyone likes the felt banners.

— US Catholic Bishops (@USCCB) June 11, 2019


 

This tweet “blew up,” so to speak, and was liked over 700 times. After that tweet, people began to take notice of Poulos’ new approach to the account and started to interact more with the USCCB’s Twitter presence.

For what it’s worth, Poulos insists she’s “ambivalent” on the topic of felt banners.

"If you look at the actual wording of the tweet, I was carefully non-committal,” she said. “I was like 'I'm not sure anybody likes them.' It wasn't a statement,” she said, laughing. She did, however, appreciate the jokes people made, such as one saying “anathema felt!” and others who said the USCCB has spoken out against felt banners.

As a self-described “true millennial” working for the USCCB, Poulos said she is aware of how the organization is viewed by others her age. By engaging on social media with other Twitter users, Poulos said she is trying to be “accessible” and “take away some of the mystery” of the conference of bishops. She said the reaction to her tweets have been “overwhelmingly positive,” even if some of her older coworkers were initially concerned someone unauthorized had accessed the account.

Poulos said her supervisors at the USCCB were entirely supportive of this new approach to engagement on social media, although some other USCCB workers were not so sure about it in the beginning.

"I think they were encouraged when they saw the positive reaction," said. She hopes that she will be able to keep up the engagement on the USCCB social media accounts after the general assembly concludes.  

For Poulos, this approach to online engagement is a fulfilment of the vision she first had when she started working at the USCCB in 2017.

“To put a human face on the bishops is important, I think, and to be a presence (online),” she said. “Just as they say ‘Christ has no hands, but yours,’ Christ has no Twitter account, but yours.”

"This is where people are, we need to meet them there."

Congressional Democrats back taxpayer-funded abortion – but dodge a fight

Thu, 06/13/2019 - 6:18pm

Washington D.C., Jun 13, 2019 / 04:18 pm (CNA).- Though a majority of Americans oppose taxpayer-funded abortion, leading Democrats in Congress have repeated their opposition to the Hyde Amendment while simultaneously keeping its strong limits on abortion funding in federal spending appropriation bills.

“I do not think it is good public policy, and I wish we never had a Hyde Amendment, but it is the law of the land right now,” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told a fiscal summit hosted in New York by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation.

“I don't see that there is an opportunity to get rid of it with the current occupant of the White House and some in the United States Senate,” she said, according to National Public Radio.

Congressional Democratic leaders suppressed an effort by first-term U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., to strip the Hyde Amendment from the funding bill.

The Hyde Amendment prohibits the use of Medicaid funds for most abortions. It was introduced in 1976 by Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill. It is not a law, but rather has been passed as a rider to budget legislation every year.

At the time the Hyde Amendment was first signed into law in 1977, it had the support of nearly half of Congressional Democrats. It still enjoys some bipartisan support.

In its current form the amendment prohibits federal tax dollars from paying for abortions, except in cases of rape, incest, or when it is deemed necessary to save the life of the mother.

The Charlotte Lozier Institute, the research arm of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, has estimated that more than 2 million unborn lives have been saved as a result of the policy.

Leading candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination have all voiced opposition to the Hyde Amendment, including former vice president Joe Biden. As recently as early June his campaign said he backed the amendment. He then reversed his view after heavy pressure from his party and from pro-abortion rights advocates, though this policy could hurt Biden in key Midwestern states in a general election.

In his June 10 column, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia strongly criticized Biden, a Catholic, for adhering to party politics rather than defending his beliefs.

“The unborn child means exactly zero in the calculus of power for Democratic Party leaders, and the right to an abortion, once described as a tragic necessity, is now a perverse kind of ‘sacrament most holy’,” Chaput said, citing a Catholic hymn. “It will have a candidate’s allegiance and full-throated reverence... or else.”

Biden’s reversal was lamented by Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life of America.

“With all the major candidates fighting to be the most extreme on abortion, there is a wide-open lane for a candidate to bring an alternative position to the discussion and to unify Democrats around common ground principles,” she told CNA in a recent interview.

Day said that Democrats should instead work for equal opportunity and equality, instead of paying for abortions for poorer women.

“Poor women don’t want money for abortions; they want the same opportunities to parent as their rich counterparts,” she said.

House Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., told reporters she opposes the amendment and the Democratic Party is overwhelmingly pro-abortion rights. While most Congressional Democrats would favor eliminating the Hyde Amendment, she said, spending bills need support from both parties to avoid a government shutdown.

“People don’t want to throw that into an appropriations bill that has to go to a Republican Senate and be signed by a Republican president,” Jayapal said.

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., said he thinks every presidential candidate who has served in Congress has voted for an appropriations bill with the Hyde Amendment.

U.S. Sen Kamala Harris, D-Calif., contended that a vote for such spending bills is not a vote for the amendment itself.

“The Hyde Amendment is the law. And so it has been attached to other funding bills, and until we repeal it, which is what I am in favor of, it will be attached to federal government funding bills. That’s the problem with the Hyde Amendment,” Harris told The NPR Politics Podcast.

A bill that included a provision to make the amendment permanent, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, failed to gain the 60 votes needed to win a procedural vote in the Senate in January 2019. In that vote 48 senators, including two Democrats, voted for cloture while 47 senators, including two Republicans, voted against it.

Nationally, more than half of Americans say they do not support federal funding of abortions.

While three out of four women who undergo abortions are living in poverty, the Hyde Amendment is actually far less popular among low-income voters. A September 2016 poll of likely voters conducted for Politico and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that only 24 percent of people making under $25,000 a year said they were in favor of the public funding of abortion services, compared to 45 percent of people making over $75,000.

Overall, 58 percent of likely voters opposed public funding for abortion, with only 36 percent voicing support, the 2016 poll said. A February 2019 Marist poll reported that 54 percent of all American adults opposed any taxpayer funding of abortion, while only 39 percent did not.

Presidential incumbent Donald Trump had voiced strong support for legal abortion in the years before he ran for president, but professed a change of view. He took on several prominent pro-life advisers and now has strong backing from many Republican and Republican-leaning pro-life advocates.

The Susan B. Anthony List, whose president Marjorie Dannenfelser headed his campaign’s pro-life advisory committee, claimed that Trump has delivered “pro-life wins,” such as his appointment of federal judges believed to be sceptical of pro-abortion rights jurisprudence and his approval of measures that help defund abortion providers like Planned Parenthood.

Seminary faculty: Spiritual fatherhood central to priestly identity

Thu, 06/13/2019 - 5:09pm

Washington D.C., Jun 13, 2019 / 03:09 pm (CNA).- Faculty at US seminaries have emphasized that spiritual fatherhood is an essential component of priestly identity, amid calls in some corners for priests not to be referred to as “Father”.

“Priests [are] like the father of a family – the spiritual family of the Church. It [is] a reminder to priests that they [are] to be like a father to a family,” said Fr. Pius Pietrzyk, O.P., chair of the pastoral studies department at St. Patrick's Seminary in Menlo Park, Calif.

The priest “exercises authority in a paternal that is a loving way and does so in a way in which God the Father himself exercises his authority over creation, that is, out of love,” he told CNA.

Cardinal John Dew of Wellington has said he no longer wants to be called “Father”, but “John”, suggesting that dropping the title Father could combat clericalism: “All I am trying to do is get guys to look at what clericalism might look like and what attitudes might need to change.”

Cardinal Dew, who in an Oct. 4, 2005 intervention at the Synod on the Eucharist suggested that the divorced-and-remarried could be admitted to sacramental Communion, cited an article by a French priest written in La Croix International suggesting that not using “Father” could “transform” the Church amid the clerical abuse crisis.

The New Zealander cardinal also noted the increasingly egalitarian aspect of society.

By contrast, the Second Vatican Council's decree on the ministry and life of priests, Presbyterorum ordinis, while acknowledging priests' role as disciples of the Lord in common with all the faithful, emphasized that “priests of the New Testament … exercise the most outstanding and necessary office of father and teacher among and for the People of God.”

The Vatican II document added that the faithful “should realize their obligations to their priests, and with filial love they should follow them as their pastors and fathers.”

And the newest edition of the Congregation for the Clergy's ratio fundamentalis on priesthood – which was issued in 2016 and guides priestly formation around the world – noted that priests are called "to exercise a true spiritual fatherhood in the communities entrusted to them,” and that the priest should exercise "his pastoral responsibility with humility as an authoritative leader, teacher of the Word and minister of the sacraments, practising his spiritual fatherhood fruitfully."

“Consequently, future priests should be educated so that they do not become prey to 'clericalism', nor yield to the temptation of modelling their lives on the search for popular consensus. This would inevitably lead them to fall short in exercising their ministry and leaders of the community, leading them to think about the Church as a merely human institution,” the ratio continued.

Neither Presbyterorum ordinis nor the ratio called for or suggested that priests no longer to be called “Father”.

Father John Kartje, rector of Mundelein Seminary outside of Chicago, told CNA that referring to a priest as “father” was first seen in the epistles of St. Paul, who identified himself as a father to the new believers of the Church in Corinth.

He said the use of the word 'father' is not meant to express tyrannical authority or abuse of power, but it is to be used as it was by St. Paul.

“The Church of Corinth was a Church that [Paul] founded. I think it was a Church of great endearment to his own heart and he refers to them as his beloved children. He writes in verse 15: ‘Even if you should have countless guides to Christ, you do not have any fathers, for I became your father.’”

“It’s a term of endearment and affection that [St. Paul] really cares for these people, but also that he does provide them with a servant leadership,” Fr. Kartje said.

He also said that in the early centuries of the Church bishops were referred to as “papa” and abbots of monasteries were referred to as “abba”, both of which are forms of “father”.

Fr. Pietrzyk said a priest is a spiritual leader of the community. He said authority is part of the Church and scripture, but it is not despotic ascendancy. As seen in Christ’s washing of the apostles' feet, he said it is exercised paternally and lovingly.

“Christ tells his disciples on more than one occasion that they are to exercise authority… but he reminds them that they are not to exercise that authority in a way that lords it over the people,” he said.

“The apostles exercise authority, but they do it in a way different from the world, different from civil authorities. They do it out of service to the people of God. I agree with the cardinal [that] that needs to be at the forefront of the bishop’s understanding, but you don’t do that by not calling yourself father. You do that by being a father.”

Fr. Pietrzyk noted that St. Patrick's Seminary renewed its curriculum recently. In doing so, the faculty compiled a list of characteristics to emphasize in priestly formation.

Spiritual fatherhood was at the top of the list.

“At St. Patrick’s Seminary, our primary goal in forming men to be priests is forming them to be spiritual fathers. It runs in everything that we do. That means they are fathers, that they exercise authority within a family, but they do so mindful always of the spiritual good.”

Illinois governor signs ‘radical’ abortion expansion, but pro-life leaders predict backlash

Thu, 06/13/2019 - 1:52pm

Chicago, Ill., Jun 13, 2019 / 11:52 am (CNA).- Illinois’ new abortion law is a “death penalty” for the unborn and will add to pro-life momentum across the U.S., critics said after Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the bill into law on Wednesday.
 
“The bill Illinois lawmakers passed is so radical, they even went out of their way to repeal the state’s ban on barbaric partial-birth abortions,” charged Jill Stanek, an Illinois native and former nurse who is now the Susan B. Anthony List’s national campaign chair.
 
“Americans of every political persuasion are appalled by these attempts to expand abortion on demand through the moment of birth and even infanticide, and that in turn is driving pro-life momentum around the country. There is no pride or glory in being the most extreme pro-abortion state in the nation,” she said June 12.
 
The legislation, called the Reproductive Rights Act, passed the state’s Senate by a vote of 34-20. It had passed the House in a 64-50 vote.
 
“In a time when too many states across the nation are taking a step backward, Illinois is taking a giant step forward for women’s health,” said Pritzker, a Democrat. “Today, we proudly proclaim that in this state, we trust women. And in Illinois, we guarantee as a fundamental right, a woman’s right to choose.”

Besides ending a ban on partial-birth abortion, the bill would remove regulations for abortion clinics and end required waiting periods to obtain an abortion. In addition, it would lift criminal penalties for performing abortions and would prevent any further state regulation of abortion.

The legislation would require all private health insurance plans to cover elective abortions. It would eliminate abortion reporting requirements as well as regulations requiring the investigation of maternal deaths due to abortion.

“The governor and the Democratic supermajorities who fast-tracked this legislation have created a new ‘death penalty’ in Illinois, with no possibility of appeal, for viable unborn preemies,” said former Illinois State Rep. Peter Breen, who is now vice president and senior counsel for the Chicago-based Thomas More Society.
 
“This act is barbarous,” he said. “Its definition of ‘viability’ expressly excludes many babies who today live and thrive when born premature,” he added, noting that the law means that such unborn babies “now have zero legal rights or protections.”
 
In a May 26 statement, the six bishops of Illinois had denounced the rush to push the legislation through at the end of the session, without releasing the bill’s final text or vetting it through public hearings.
 
“The fundamental premise of the bill is flawed, and no amendment or tweak to the language will change the fact that it is designed to rob the vulnerable life in the womb of any trace of human dignity and value,” they said.
 
According to Pritzker, the law codifies what was already case law due to court decisions. The state’s partial-birth abortion ban, which became law in 1997, has since 2001 been under a permanent injunction from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.
 
Pro-abortion rights advocates fear new Supreme Court decisions on abortion could overturn or greatly modify precedents in decisions like the 1973 decision Roe v. Wade. They have worked to ensure permissive abortion legislation in many states, including New York.
 
Some of the proposed laws, such as one in Virginia, led to controversy over whether such laws would permit abortion up to birth and would encourage authorities to turn a blind eye to the deaths of babies who survive abortion attempts.
 
Pro-life advocates, for their part, have sought to pass strong restrictions on abortion, hoping to expand legal protection for the unborn. Legislation barring abortion based on when an unborn child has a detectible heartbeat, about six to eight weeks after conception, has become national news with special focus on Alabama’s law.
 
“While a growing number of states are working to advance popular pro-life laws, Illinois is trying to outdo New York’s abortion extremism – and unborn children and their mothers will pay the price,” Stanek said June 12.
 
Breen characterized the Illinois law as “the most radical sweeping pro-abortion measure in America.” It would make Illinois an “abortion destination” for the country and is among “the most extremely permissive abortion laws of any state in the nation.”
 
The law’s creation of a “fundamental right” to have an abortion and to “make autonomous decisions about how to exercise that right,” in Breen’s view, mean the legislature and the governor have made abortion “the principal and primary right in Illinois, above all others.”
 
In the wake of its passage, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago said the vote “marks a sad moment in our history as a State.”
 
The six Catholic bishops of the Catholic Conference of Illinois issued a joint statement against the legislation in February. The Catholic conference issued statements after it passed the state House of Representatives and the Senate.
 
Previous versions of the bill which were not passed into law included provisions that allowed non-physicians to perform abortions, removed conscience protections for health care personnel who object to abortion, and repealed parental notification requirements for minors receiving abortions.
 
On June 2 Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki said that Illinois Senate President John Cullerton and Speaker of the House Michael J. Madigan may not be admitted to Holy Communion within his diocese, because of their work to pass the state Reproductive Health Act.
 
“These persons may be readmitted to Holy Communion only after they have truly repented these grave sins and furthermore have made suitable reparation for damages and scandal, or at least have seriously promised to do so, as determined in my judgment or in the judgment of their diocesan bishop in consultation with me or my successor,” he said.
 
The bishop also directed the Catholic legislators who have voted for legislation promoting abortion should not present themselves to receive Holy Communion until they have first gone to confession.

Paprocki said that he issued the decree to encourage conversion.
 

Feminists, Catholics both find reasons to oppose NY paid surrogacy bill

Thu, 06/13/2019 - 12:43pm

Albany, N.Y., Jun 13, 2019 / 10:43 am (CNA).- In a seemingly unlikely alliance, Catholics and secular feminists in New York are opposing a bill that would legalize commercial surrogacy in the state.

The bill passed the state Senate and has the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo, who proposed the measure. But it is stalled in Assembly due to strong opposition, notably from female legislators, the New York Times reported. The state’s legislative session will conclude in just one week.

If passed, the law would allow New Yorkers to pay a woman to carry to term a child conceived through in-vitro fertilization, also known as gestational surrogacy. It would not allow a surrogate mother to use her own eggs, and therefore be related biologically to the child, which is known as traditional surrogacy.

While the bill was presented as “an unequivocal progressive ideal, a remedy to a ban that burdens gay and infertile couples and stigmatizes women who cannot have children on their own,” it has run up against strong opposition from unexpected people, including feminists, female legislators, and other supporters of women’s rights, the New York Times stated.

Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, who is openly gay, is one of the legislators who expressed strong opposition to legalized commercial surrogacy, which she called “pregnancy for a fee.”

“I find that commodification of women troubling,” she told the New York Times.

Dennis Poust, the director of communications for the New York State Catholic Conference, told CNA in email comments that opposition to this bill is a situation in which secular feminists and Catholics agree.

“Like those groups, we stand up against the exploitation and dehumanization of women,” Poust said. “This bill treats women almost like livestock at the service of men.”

Poust said the bill was comparable to one that seeks to legalize prostitution, in that both measures, if passed, would lead to the exploitation of poor women, largely for the benefit of wealthy men.

“The one commodifies babies, the other sex, and always the victims are poor women,” he said.

“In commercial surrogacy, women’s human dignity is surrendered and they are reduced to objects desirable only for their body parts, whether that be the rental of their wombs or the mining of their eggs in risky, invasive medical procedures. The beneficiaries are nearly always wealthy and often male, while the exploited are always poor women,” he added.

Commercial surrogacy in New York has been banned since 1986, and surrogacy laws vary widely in other states. Besides New York, only three other states explicitly ban all surrogacy contracts - Nebraska, Michigan, and Arizona. Many other states have restrictions on surrogacy agreements, and treat the surrogacy process similarly to adoption, requiring court appearances, home studies, and a window for the birth mother to change her mind after the baby is born.

Abroad, the push to end legalized surrogacy has been strong in recent years, with many countries in western Europe banning the practice. India, once the capital of “fertility tourism,” passed a bill banning surrogacy last year, amid increasing concern and outcry over the exploitation of poor women who were being used for paid surrogacy, sometimes multiple times over, and usually by foreigners.

The New York bill also faces opposition from prominent feminist speaker, author, and activist Gloria Steinem, who expressed concern in an open letter about the state legislating a “profit-driven reproductive surrogacy industry.”

"Under this bill, women in economic need become commercialized vessels for rent, and the fetuses they carry become the property of others," Steinem wrote in a letter shared on Twitter by New York 1 reporter Zack Fink.

“The bill ignores the socio-economic and racial inequalities of the reproductive commercial surrogacy industry, and puts disenfranchised women at the financial and emotional mercy of wealthier and more privileged individuals,” she continued.

Steinem noted that surrogate mothers are often college-age women who are victims “of an educational system that does not provide free or affordable college education.”

She added that these women are often given fertility drugs without being warned of the possible side effects, and that they face other medical and psychological injuries from the procedure, “including an inability to bear other children and even death.”

She also slammed the bill for failing to provide measures properly to vet intended parents, unlike adoptive parents, who are thoroughly vetted.

Poust told CNA that while the Catholic Conference has strongly opposed the legalization of surrogacy, he worried that the bill still may pass, as Cuomo has made it an “end of session priority.”

Poust said he hopes the added opposition of otherwise progressive feminists will hold even more sway with state lawmakers considering the bill.

USCCB passes three measures in response to abuse crisis

Thu, 06/13/2019 - 12:15pm

Baltimore, Md., Jun 13, 2019 / 10:15 am (CNA).- The U.S. bishops’ conference voted Thursday to approve proposals intended to respond to recent scandals involving sexual abuse, coercion, and cover-up on the part of bishops, most notably former cardinal Theodore McCarrick and the disgraced Bishop Michael Bransfield.

The bishops, gathered in Baltimore for their spring General Assembly, voted overwhelmingly in favor of three measures aimed at building processes to address episcopal misconduct or neglect, and the ongoing crisis of credibility widely perceived to overshadow ongoing work to eliminate sexual abuse from the Church.

The assembly approved protocol explaining the powers of a diocesan bishop to curtail the public ministry of a retired bishop in his former diocese by a margin of 212-4.

They also approved a set of directives applying in the U.S. the new universal norms for investigating allegations against bishops promulgated by Pope Francis in Vos estis lux mundi.  After initial discussion earlier this week, they were presented to bishops June 13 with an explicit exhortation for metropolitan bishops to appoint “on a stable basis, even by means of an ecclesiastical office, a qualified lay person” to receive allegations against bishops and work with the metropolitan in any subsequent investigation.

The directives were approved by 218-1.

The bishops also approved a joint statement, “Affirming Our Episcopal Commitments,” establishing a non-binding moral commitment by bishops to hold themselves to the same standards and measures as are currently applied to their priests and deacons. That document passed by a similarly wide margin of 217-1.

The consensus in favor of the measures was unsurprising. After the bishops were prevented by Rome from adopting similar proposals in November, the majority of bishops returned to Baltimore ready to vote.

The widespread agreement in favor of the three documents was reflected in the much-abbreviated discussion which preceded each vote. With relatively little debate, the bishops finished their morning session more than an hour ahead of schedule, even after adding business they’d intended to address in the afternoon.

As in the previous discussions on Tuesday, several bishops raised the need for clearly established lay involvement in the process of handling complaints against bishops. Changes to the text of the implementation directives for Vos estis were highlighted as a response to those concerns, something Cardinal Joseph Tobin noted was a “clear expectation” of Vos estis itself.

Bishops Shawn McKnight of Jefferson City said that mandatory lay involvement is essential “to make darn sure we bishops do not harm the Church” in the ways seen in recent cases.

Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler was the only bishop to raise directly the issue of Theodore McCarrick during the session, insisting that “a full reckoning” still needed to be made for the former cardinal’s career but that he had “been assured that the Holy See is working on that.”

On the specific point of whether lay people should be assigned formal, canonically governed “ecclesiastical offices” in order to assist metropolitans, Archbishop Bernard Hebda noted that the drafting committee thought it better to leave that as an option. In some places, he noted, metropolitans might find it best to include a non-Catholic (ineligible for formal ecclesiastical office) in the process if their expertise “offered the greatest possibilities for accountability.”

Several bishops, most insistently Bishop Jaime Soto, raised the prospect of an independent auditing process to track and assess the U.S. implementation of Vos estis over the three-year trial period.

Bishop Robert Deeley explained to the conference that the independent third-party reporting mechanism, approved by the bishops on Wednesday, was itself a form of a self-auditing system with every complaint being tracked, though there were limits to how much the bishops could assess the effectiveness of what was a papal law.

“I think the committee agrees with you that an [assessment] process will have to be done,” Deeley said, but it was not for the U.S. bishops to decide how to evaluate the essential role of the Holy See in the process and implementation of its own norms.

Related to Rome’s role in the process of handling an allegation, several bishops noted that Vos estis provided for a response from Rome “within 30 days,” something Bishop Mark O’Connell, an auxiliary bishop of Boston, called an “intolerable" amount of time for a reporting Metropolitan to be unable to advance the case.

Deeley responded by noting that Rome had committed itself to responding “within not after” 30 days, and that the experience of many bishops was that when circumstances required it, the different Roman dicasteries were respond considerably faster. The longer time period was a reflection of the universal application of Vos estis, which would have to accommodate regions where communication could be more fractured and difficult.

Deeley noted that there had been four investigations into U.S. bishops conducted by metropolitans in recent months, including McCarrick and Bransfield, and that the successful way in which they had been concluded was a sign of the effectiveness of the new model. “That gives me confidence,” Deeley told the bishops.

Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles told the bishops that “the Holy See is aware of the urgency of this matter,” and commended the passage of the directives to the conference.

After the passage of the abuse-related measures and the conclusion of some other conference matters, the bishops concluded the public portion of their meeting and convened an executive session.

Analysis: As USCCB meeting continues, what are lay Catholics looking for?

Thu, 06/13/2019 - 9:12am

Baltimore, Md., Jun 13, 2019 / 07:12 am (CNA).- Nearly all U.S. bishops know by now that U.S. Catholics are experiencing crises of faith and confidence at a scale that far exceeds even the Church’s sexual abuse scandal in 2002. They were presented with data this week noting that the rate of Catholics defecting from the practice of the faith has risen dramatically in recent years, and they are reminded in their own dioceses that practicing Catholics, priests among them, are deeply discouraged of the last year, and struggling to trust.

But there is a disconnect between the work that bishops are doing this week in Baltimore to respond to those problems and the way that work is perceived by even faithful and engaged Catholics.

The mission of bishops is the salvation of souls. Their call is to proclaim the Gospel, to teach the faith, to celebrate the sacramental mysteries of grace, and to lead and coordinate the apostolic and evangelical work of priests, deacons, religious, and laity. Their ability to do those things convincingly and compellingly is hampered by the scandals of the last year.

But so is the ability of millions of other Catholics to do the work to which God has called them. Within the Church, the scandals have tainted the credibility of the bishops. Beyond the walls of the Church, the scandals have tainted the credibility of every Catholic who tries to explain, proclaim, or live the Gospel.

It is not the case that Catholic laity are the de facto moral superiors of their bishops. It is not the case that Catholic laity give consistent witness to the Gospel. It is not the case that laity are less likely to be motivated by the concerns of this world, less likely to engage in sexual immorality, less likely to live as they ought not.

But it is the case that bishops are uniquely public Catholic figures, and that the integrity of their actions is - fairly or unfairly- uniquely taken as a measure of the Gospel’s integrity.

None of that is new. What is new is the scope of their visibility in the social media era, and the degree to which the misconduct of some, and the broken ecclesial culture that fosters it, is manifestly clear to those who look toward it.

The problems occasioned by those realities are complex. Bishops this week, at the U.S. bishops’ conference meeting in Baltimore, are engaging in discussion about the nitty-gritty technical aspects of some of those problems. They are debating, or attempting to debate, the finer points of third-party reporting systems and investigative review processes.

Those debates, some observers have noted, are important, but they are also painful. They are wonky, bureaucratic, and themselves not untainted by the marks of ambition, petty politics, and some degree of impatience. But they are nonetheless important.

The bishops seem keen to reflect in these debates their contrition for the sins of their brothers, their apparent desire to be seen involving lay people in their processes, and to convey the urgency of their mandate. In the words of one observer, some of that rhetoric has a Clinton-esque quality, offered by bishops who want Catholics to know “We feel your pain.”

But despite episcopal efforts, many of which are sincere, conference staffers, along with lay and priest observers at the meeting, tell CNA consistently that, in their estimation, many bishops “still don’t get it.”

While the buzzwords among the bishops in the meeting are “transparency” and “lay involvement,” the buzzing among their closest lay and priestly collaborators is whether the bishops understand, as one staffer asked CNA, “just how bad things are.” What is it they are perceived not to understand?

In the first place, CNA is told, bishops seem not to understand how much Catholics would like questions about McCarrick to be answered, forthrightly, directly, and comprehensively, and by those in official positions of power, not by priests leaking their accounts of old emails and letters.

In the second place, priests and laity say they would like to hear bishops recognize directly the scandal of the Bransfield report, and of the subsequent revelation that despite promises of transparency, and perhaps even in good faith, the names of bishops who were given large gifts from Bransfield were omitted from the report filed with Congregation for Bishops.

While Lori himself has expressed contrition for the omission, Catholics are looking for a direct response to the ensuing scandal, and a commitment to be open about their own financial entanglements with bishops of dubious moral reputation. In fact, Catholic observers tell CNA on the whole that bishops will be forthcoming about other potential financial scandals before they are spread across the pages of America’s leading newspapers, rather than after.

But most especially, Catholics tell CNA, that what they hope bishops will “get” is just how difficult all this scandal has been. They are looking, they say, for genuine expressions of the bishops’ own pain, rather than the sense that the crisis is being managed. They are looking for bishops who are turning to the Lord for answers in humility.

Above all else, Catholics tell CNA, they are looking for leadership: for bishops who decry sexual immorality, privilege, careerism, and indifference among their brethren without ambiguity. They are looking for bishops who will be among them in their pain. They are looking for those who will insist upon the truth, no matter the cost. They are looking for leadership that begins and ends in the mysteries of the Eucharist.

They are not looking for politicians or crisis managers. They are looking, they say, for priests, prophets, and kings.

That is what they hope their bishops will understand. Whether they will find those things in Baltimore remains to be seen.  

 

Pages