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Archbishop Gregory denounces ‘murderous attack’ on Ahmaud Arbery

Wed, 05/13/2020 - 12:30pm

CNA Staff, May 13, 2020 / 10:30 am (CNA).- Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Washington, D.C., has spoken out against the “murderous attack” which caused the death of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia. The archbishop said the killing was a reminder that racism is a virus as deadly as COVID-19.

“Currently, our attention is fixated on the global deadly virus,” Archbishop Gregory said on Monday, writing in the archdiocesan newspaper Catholic Standard.  “The recent brutal killing of Ahmaud Arbery in the state of Georgia reminds us of another virus that is much older, but just as deadly.”

“The virus of racism inflicts hatred, violence, and death in our society and in the lives of far too many people,” the archbishop wrote.

Before his appointment to the capital see last year, Gregorys served as Archbishop of Atlanta from 2005 until 2019. Previously the president of the U.S. bishops’ conference from 2001 to 2004, Gregory is currently a member of the U.S. bishops’ anti-racism task force, and in 2016 was selected to lead the bishops’ Special Task Force to Promote Peace in our Communities during a spate of race-related shootings around the country.

Ahmaud Arbery, a 25 year-old black man, was shot dead in Brunswick, Georgia, on February 23 by two white men who cited the state’s citizen arrest law in their confrontation with him. Arbery was unarmed.

Archbishop Gregory called the killing another case where “an unarmed Black man has had his life violently cut short.”

Gregory McMichael, a 64 year-old former police officer and investigator and his 34 year-old son Travis were arrested by the Georgia Bureau of Investigations on May 7. The have since been charged with murder and aggravated assault—more than two months after Arbery’s death.

“This murderous attack, like all acts of racism, hurts all of us in the Body of Christ since we are all made in the image and likeness of God, and deserve the dignity that comes with that existence,” Archbishop Gregory said on Monday.

Racism comes in other forms in society, he said, including ethno-religious bigotry against Jewish, Muslim, and Christian people and immigrants.

“We already have the balm that cures racism - compassion, mercy, love and justice,” he said, noting that “through Jesus, we become more compassionate, merciful, and loving to seek justice for all our neighbors.”

According to the senior McMichael, there had been several break-ins in the neighborhood, and Arbery was supposedly recorded on surveillance video inside a nearby house that was under construction.

McMichael saw Arbery running through the neighborhood—Arbery’s family said he would jog in the area—and he and his son armed themselves with a .357 caliber handgun and a shotgun and pursued Arbery in their truck. They claimed they had seen Arbery “the other night” with his hand in his pants, and said he might be armed.

Video of the shooting that later went viral online shows Arbery running down the street with the McMichaels waiting for him in the truck—not pulling up beside him as they told police. According to the police report, they said they yelled at Arbery to “stop, we want to talk to you.”

Travis got out of the truck with the shotgun. Arbery was seen on video running around the truck, reemerging on the other side in a tussle with Travis. McMichael fired the shotgun three times, after which the unarmed Arbery fell dead in the street.

The McMichaels cited Georgia’s citizen arrest law in their confrontation of Arbery. The law allows for citizens to “arrest an offender if the offense is committed in his presence or within his immediate knowledge.”

“If the offense is a felony and the offender is escaping or attempting to escape, a private person may arrest him upon reasonable and probable grounds of suspicion,” the law states.

The McMichaels have been charged with murder and aggravated assault, and the state’s attorney general has requested an investigation into possible prosecutorial misconduct; two district attorneys had previously recused themselves from the case because of some relation to Gregory McMichael.

The Department of Justice is investigating whether the shooting of Arbery was a hate crime.

'Discovering what's essential': Strengthening marriages during lockdown

Wed, 05/13/2020 - 4:00am

Washington D.C., May 13, 2020 / 02:00 am (CNA).- Many Catholic parishes have closed during the pandemic, but one marriage renewal ministry is seeking to reopen the doors of the “domestic church,” the family, during lockdown.

“The doors of so many parishes are closed, or have been closed, and the doors to so many domestic churches have opened up again,” said Mary Rose Verret, co-founder of “Witness to Love” marriage prep ministry and the “Be Light” marriage renewal date night series.

Verret and her husband Ryan are hosting virtual “date nights” for married couples during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic to strengthen marriages and connect families to their parishes so they can create more missionaries for the church.

The growth of the pandemic forced the closure of countless businesses and public spaces worldwide, with many married couples living and working from home under quarantine. The Verrets, who founded the marriage prep ministry “Witness to Love,” saw an emerging need first-hand, as couples told them of their own struggles or their friends’ marriage problems as they are forced to remain indoors, at home. 

The current lockdowns have acted as a “relationship accelerator,” Ryan told CNA, as married couples facing conflicts or tension at home have nowhere to go.

“This COVID-19 experience has been almost like a rediscovery of what is essential about life, and that relationships are at the heart of it,” he said.

As they had already been working on a new “mystagogia” series for marriage renewal, one that covered five years’ worth of content as part of a five-step process, the Verrets saw the pandemic as a chance to help couples, launching their “Be Light” series online for families around country quarantined at home.

The Verrets initially planned a virtual date night for couples within the “Witness to Love” ministry. When they saw widespread demand outside their community, however, they decided to open the date night up to everyone, free of charge.

From April 26-30, the “Be Light” program launched as a “toe in the water” to measure the need; soon the Verrets will relaunch their program as part of a “much broader” effort, collaborating with more parishes and dioceses than before. 

Within a few hours of the program being offered online, almost 1,500 people from nine countries signed up. Dioceses and parishes have also asked to host their own date nights with the Verrets’ program, saying they wanted to tailor the virtual events to the local levels.

“I think one of the most exciting things, from my perspective, was that parishes and dioceses took such a personal ownership of this date night,” Mary Rose said.

What they will offer parishes and dioceses is a concrete way to connect with parishioners in a time of widespread isolation, and stay connected. Many parishes, especially those in low-income or rural areas, have been effectively cut off from their parishioners during the pandemic, and married couples are feeling isolated from their wider community.

Each date night will feature 12 to 14 minutes of video content, followed by three discussion questions, and then one to two questions for couples to discuss in small groups.

“It’s really an on-ramp” to stronger communities and marriages, Mary Rose said.

With many churches around the country closed, it is critical that Catholic families at home rediscover the importance of the “domestic church,” the Verrets told CNA.

“The altar in the church doesn’t really make sense to families if they’re not really having an experience at their own kitchen table,” Ryan said.

And the “Be Light” series aims to galvanize families to rediscover their baptismal vocation.

“We have to help marriages understand that they are the light. They are the light that’s going to draw people back,” Mary Rose said. “It’s not just Father or Deacon’s job to do evangelization.”

The current conditions offer a limited-time-opportunity for couples and parishes to connect and form deeper bonds, they said. Once quarantines lift and society reopens, the window now open for a kind of intensive focus and development could close.

“If they [parishes] don’t sort of seize an opportunity to kind of distinguish themselves,” Ryan said, “then it’s going to be a breaking point. People are going to disconnect permanently.”

The five-step “Be Light” process will be released again starting in June, with a new date night released each month for five months.

The five steps are “belong, believe, become, beatitude, and be light.” They cover five years’ worth of material, Ryan explained, as couples are statistically more likely to divorce within the first five years of marriage.

Each step will provide couples a building block, hopefully strengthening their bond to a point where they can serve as a light to other married couples.

The process begins with “belong,” as married couples who have left secular lifestyles first need to “belong” to a community, Ryan explained. Then the couples receive catechetical formation to help them “believe”, leading them towards an experience of conversion (“become”), as they learn how to live the Sermon on the Mount (“beatitude”), and see themselves as missionaries (“be light”).

The best way to advance through the process is “with other couples,” Mary Rose said. “It’s in community and in relationships that we grow.”

How USAID case at Supreme Court could impact pro-life policies

Tue, 05/12/2020 - 6:00pm

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 12, 2020 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- A largely-overlooked Supreme Court case under consideration could actually pose a threat to international pro-life policies, one pro-life group warns. 

Jeanne Mancini, the president of March for Life, wrote in an op-ed in the Washington Times on Monday that policies barring international funding of abortion promoters or providers could soon be at stake, depending on the Supreme Court’s decision in USAID v. Alliance for Open Society International, which featured during oral arguments last week. 

In the case, the Supreme Court is considering whether or not U.S. funding of foreign entities for AIDS relief can be conditioned on their opposition to prostitution and sex trafficking.

As part of PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the U.S. has committed nearly $90 billion since 2003 to fight AIDS and other diseases such as Tuberculosis and Malaria. Under the Leadership Act, U.S. assistance to foreign groups in this program requires that they oppose sex trafficking and prostitution.

The court previously ruled that applying such requirements to domestic organizations violated the First Amendment; it is now considering whether those same restrictions can be applied to the foreign affiliates of those domestic groups.

If the court rules that the government cannot impose such restrictions on the foreign entities, March for Life is concerned that other policies--such as barring global health assistance to foreign entities that provide or promote abortions--could suddenly be at risk.

While the distinction between foreign entities of domestic organizations and the organizations themselves might seem a small one, Mancini told CNA on Tuesday, it is significant.

A group such as CARE in the United States—an international humanitarian organization that fights poverty—might have the same branding as CARE Ghana, but does not share the same funding.

March for Life in the U.S. might share the same branding and mission as March for Life Canada and March for Life Ireland, she said, but the foreign entities in Canada and Ireland should not automatically enjoy the same free speech privileges as the U.S. group.

“What we’re talking about are foreign, separate organizations that are based in those countries that might share some branding,” Mancini said. “Why would they ever receive U.S. constitutional privileges? That doesn’t make any sense.”

The Mexico City Policy bars U.S. funding of abortion providers or promoters overseas, and the Trump administration expanded it to include nearly $9 billion in global health assistance, under Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance.

At the oral arguments in the case on May 5, the issues of abortion and the Mexico City Policy did surface.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh asked Christopher Michel, Assistant to the Solicitor General, if the Court could, in fact, affect other government policies by extending free speech protections to foreign affiliates.

“I do think it would call into question a number of different statutory and administrative regulations of foreign speech that like -- that likely couldn't be applied domestically,” Michel responded.

He added that it is “commonplace” for Congress and the administration to “condition foreign aid to entities abroad on certain policy objectives, such as opposing terrorism or supporting women's rights or opposing apartheid, or, in the case of the Mexico City policy, taking certain positions on abortion.”

However, Michel said, if domestic organizations could team up with their foreign entities to overturn those restrictions, it could “create considerable risk of disturbing long-settled -- long-settled laws.”

In South Dakota, cash grants aim for solidarity amid the pandemic

Tue, 05/12/2020 - 5:45pm

Denver Newsroom, May 12, 2020 / 03:45 pm (CNA).- On March 13, once the pandemic began shutting things down in South Dakota, Brianda Tapia lost her job. A few weeks later, her husband Alejandro lost his job at a pork processing plant. And then he tested positive for coronavirus.

“His symptoms were not too bad, but he had to stay in bed for some time. He recovered three weeks ago," Tapia said.

But with no work, the family was running out of food at home, and they weren’t sure what they’d do for their two boys.

And then, through a friend, Brianda and her husband found out that a Catholic organization was giving out cash to those who need it.

Since March 23, the Catholic Community Foundation for Eastern South Dakota, in partnership with the Diocese of Sioux Falls, has been providing grants to families affected by the pandemic. The foundation has given out more than $30,000 already, to at least 70 families, including 164 children. Grants average about $500 each.

Bishop Donald DeGrood of Sioux Falls issued a video at the end of April, promoting solidarity with those struggling amid the pandemic. He said that while the coronavirus has negatively impacted everyone, it has particularly troubled those without work.

“It’s important that we really focus on how we can tend to each other and care for each other,” DeGrood said in the video.

“Here is a chance for us to be brothers and sisters both in a time of need and in our time of generosity. I hope you consider helping us as we consider helping each other in this journey of life.”

“The COVID relief fund is for those who want to donate towards it, who can help others, and then the foundation will be a resource to parishes, and individuals, schools, any of our groupings on this eastside where there is need to apply for funding so we can try to match the gifts with the need,” the bishop added.

Kelly Bartmann, a gift planning specialist for Catholic Community Foundation, told CNA that the relief fund has been a blessing for members of the local community. She said the organization will give away money to those in need until funds run out, and she applauded the generosity of the patrons who have donated to the fund.

“We felt like we need to be there for people, to provide that feeling that someone cares. Even if we can only give them $500, we're hoping that that connects them a little bit with the idea that there are people out there that care and that are willing to step up and help them.”

“We're just very happy that people have really stepped up,” she said. “We have had gifts as small as $2 from some people and as large as $10,000, so it's impressive on both ends.”

Beneficiaries do not have to be Catholic to receive funds.

Father Kristopher Cowles, the pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Sioux Falls, helped develop an approach to distributing funds. Parish priests are the first step to connecting families to grants. Pastors talk with families impacted by the virus - whether  they face unemployment, the loss of childcare, or the virus itself - and then they try to help.

“We haven't been able to really have Masses and have a lot of connection with people. I think it gives [priests] that connection … to feel like they're serving their purpose and just providing relationships for people and being the hands and feet of Jesus. I mean that's what we're here for,” Bartmann said.

Bartmann said the money has contributed to basic necessities, like rent, bills, medications, and food.

Families in Sioux falls were hit hard when a Smithfield pork plant shut down on April 19. The plant is the ninth-largest pork producer in the United States, with around 3,700 employees; it faced a spike of coronavirus infections, involving at least 640 cases of COVID-19 and 1 related death.

The Tapia family was among those impacted by the shutdown.

A parishioner of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church alerted Fr. Cowles to the family’s needs. Brianda said the money they received was a huge relief while the family waited for work to resume.

Her husband began to work again on May 12.

Tapia expressed gratitude for the foundation and its contribution to her family but also the family’s Catholic faith, which has brought them closer to God.

“The money was a God-send, it was a surprise and a blessing, because we were running out of food for us and for our two boys (9 and 8),” she said.

"Our Catholic faith has been crucial for us. Faith is always important, but especially in these trial times, in which we feel closer and united to the Lord."

Saginaw diocesan employee alleges retaliation after reporting abuse

Tue, 05/12/2020 - 5:20pm

CNA Staff, May 12, 2020 / 03:20 pm (CNA).- An employee of the Diocese of Saginaw, Michigan is suing the diocese, alleging that his fellow employees retaliated against him after he reported that a Saginaw priest sexually abused his son.

Gabriel Villarreal, who had worked as a maintenance man for the diocese for over two decades, in March filed a lawsuit against the diocese alleging that Father Robert DeLand had molested his son during February 2018, which Villarreal reported.

The lawsuit alleges that after Villarreal reported the abuse, diocesan employees began to harass him, referring to him as “the mole [spy,]” cutting his hours and benefits, and taking away his master key.

That same month DeLand, former judicial vicar for the diocese and pastor of St. Agnes Parish in Freeland, was charged with one count of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, one count of gross indecency between male persons, and one count of attempted second-degree criminal sexual conduct/personal injury.

Two months later, DeLand was charged with two additional counts of felony sexual misconduct against a minor, as well as one count of possessing a controlled substance and one misdemeanor count of furnishing alcohol for a minor, according to local media. He was convicted in Sept. 2018.

Villarreal alleges that diocesan employees blamed him for former Bishop Joseph Cistone’s death— he died of cancer in October 2018— saying: “the bishop would still be alive if it wasn’t for your son.”

He also alleges that diocesan employees would mock him by pretending to pick up the phone and talk to Father DeLand, even though DeLand was in prison at the time.

The lawsuit is dated March 16, 2020. The Diocese of Saginaw did not respond by press time to CNA’s request for comment.

In March 2018, the diocese released a statement clarifying that further review of records determined that the diocese had been informed of rumors about DeLand in 1992, and that in 2005 a woman contacted the diocese about the possibility that DeLand might have sexually abused her brother, who had since died, in the 1970s.

The diocese said it had contracted an investigator to assess the matter, and that “the independent Diocesan Review Board, Bishop Robert Carlson, who was Bishop of Saginaw at the time, as well as the family agreed that the suspicion against Father DeLand was unfounded.”

Later in March 2018, Saginaw police raided the home of then-Bishop Cistone, as well as the diocesan chancery and its cathedral rectory, citing a lack of cooperation on the part of the diocese in the ongoing clerical sex abuse investigation.

Cuomo orders expanded window for NY sex abuse lawsuits, citing coronavirus

Tue, 05/12/2020 - 4:01pm

CNA Staff, May 12, 2020 / 02:01 pm (CNA).- New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has issued an executive order to extend for five months the legal window for victims of childhood sex abuse to file civil claims, due to court delays caused by the coronavirus epidemic.

Victims of sex abuse may now file by Jan. 14, 2021 instead of August 13 of this year. Cuomo said May 8 the extension is needed “because people need access to the courts to make their claim, because justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

On March 22 non-essential court filings were frozen as part of New York's efforts to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The court system is preparing to allow new filings under the state's Child Victims Act.

Before the epidemic, some legislators had advocated for an extension on the legal window.

“Coming forward as a survivor of child sexual abuse takes courage, focus and lots of time,” said State Sen. Brad Hoylman, a Manhattan Democrat who had sponsored the Child Victims Act. “As the unemployment rate spikes above 14%, it’s unreasonable to expect survivors of child sexual abuse to do the emotional and legal work necessary to file (Child Victims Act) lawsuits while simultaneously fighting to pay rent and put food on the table.”

The window, which began in August 2019, allows a year-long period for lawsuits to be filed in cases of alleged child sex abuse where the statute of limitations had already expired.

On May 4 the Diocese of Buffalo asked a federal court to halt all outstanding clergy sex abuse litigation against it as it navigates bankruptcy proceedings. The diocese, which filed for bankruptcy in February, has been named in more than 250 sex abuse lawsuits under the legal window.

In addition to providing a legal window, The Child Victims Act also adjusted the statute of limitations for pursuing criminal charges and civil suits against sexual abusers or institutions. Previously, a survivor of child sexual abuse had until the age of 23 to file charges or a civil claim. Now, with the passage of the law, survivors have up until the age of 28 to file criminal charges, and age 55 to file a lawsuit.

When the legislation was passed, the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts of America, and the state's public schools all said they were preparing for the possibility of a large number of alleged abuse victims to file lawsuits.

The Catholic Church had voiced some opposition to earlier proposed versions of the Child Victims Act, on the grounds they did not provide the same protections for child abuse victims in public institutions, including schools, as it did for private institutions. The final version of the law eliminated these differences.

The Diocese of Rochester filed for bankruptcy in September 2019, in response to the lawsuits filed during the legal window. The parishes and charitable affiliates of the diocese are separately incorporated and are not affected by the diocese's bankruptcy effort.

However, these individual entities face lawsuits for their own alleged role in failing to halt sexual abuse by clergy or others. St. Kateri Tekakwitha parish in Irondequoit and Holy Name parish in Elmira are named in over two dozen claims. Catholic Charities and the Catholic Youth Organization have been named in lawsuits 15 times. Legal defense costs alone could permanently bankrupt them, the Democrat and Chronicle newspaper reports.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Paul Warren, who is overseeing the diocesan bankruptcy case, has ordered a temporary freeze on these claims and on dozens of abuse lawsuits against the Rochester diocese.

At the time of his order, the legal window was still set to close in August 2020, and the judge's order expired the same day as the window. This means Cuomo's extension will not apply to legal claims against Rochester diocese and Catholic entities there unless Warren decides to change his deadline.

The Diocese of Rockville Centre in November 2019 filed a suit challenging the New York lawsuit legislation itself, claiming the window for lawsuits violated the state constitution's due process clause. It argued that the legislature may only revive formerly time-barred claims “only where they could not have been raised earlier.” Sex abuse victims could have brought civil claims in the previous window, the diocese said.

In mid-2019, the Archdiocese of New York filed a lawsuit against 31 insurance companies, charging that many intend to limit or deny insurance claims for lawsuits filed in the legal window. The lawsuit argued that the archdiocese is entitled to all benefits of the policies, including coverage of legal fees during litigation.

Virginia parishes near DC face delays in reopening

Tue, 05/12/2020 - 3:00pm

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 12, 2020 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- As Virginia’s governor halted the reopening of several northern counties on Tuesday, the Diocese of Arlington said that Bishop Michael Burbidge is monitoring the situation and would be responding to changes in the diocese as they happen.

A spokesperson for the diocese told CNA that Bishop Burbidge met with a working group on Tuesday to plan for “scenarios we may enter in the coming week.”

"Final plans are being worked out as we speak, but we anticipate moving forward on a regional basis consistent with the Governor’s announcement," CNA was told.

“As the Governor continues to release information, we evaluate it and adapt as necessary,” the spokesperson said. 

On Tuesday morning, Gov. Ralph Northam (D) of Virginia delayed “Phase One” of his reopening plan for the state from going into effect in “Northern Virginia,” the several counties in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.

While previously, many gatherings of more than ten people in the state were banned—including at religious services—Virginia’s new reopening plan allows for retail and restaurant establishments to begin opening their doors to customers, and religious services can be held indoors at churches, at 50% or less capacity. It will go into effect on May 15.

After the reopening plan was announced last week, Burbidge  said parishes in the diocese could resume public Masses depending “on proper social distancing and the ability of parish clergy and staff to safely accommodate parishioners.” The bishop had suspended public Masses in the diocese on March 16 in response to the pandemic.

Burbidge also accounted for the governor’s caveat for reopening the state saying the plan was conditional, “unless a local jurisdiction determines otherwise.” Local officials in Northern Virginia counties and cities wrote the governor over the weekend saying that the region was not ready to reopen; Northam issued his updated order on Tuesday granting their request.

A spokesperson for the governor confirmed to CNA that “places of worship” in the region, as defined in the order, “may continue to have in-person services with 10 or less attendees.”

The Arlington diocese spans the northern part of the state and includes all the counties and cities affected by Northam’s new order: Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William counties; Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas, and Manassas Park cities; and the towns of Dumfries, Herndon, Leesburg, and Vienna.

However, it also includes parishes in counties further south and west that would not be affected by order’s exceptions.

Northam had previously issued a stay-at-home order during the new coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which curtailed many gatherings of more than 10 people in the state including at any religious services. Violations of the order were determined to be a class 1 misdemeanor, the strictest class of misdemeanor offence.

The Washington, D.C. region has seen a significant increase in COVID-19 cases and deaths, and is one of the metropolitan areas around the country which has not yet had a significant decline in new cases, one of the widely-accepted benchmarks for reopening public accommodations.

Northam noted on Tuesday that the region has a significantly higher positive test rate for COVID-19 than the rest of the state, and reported more than 700 cases in the previous 24 hours, compared to just around 270 cases in the rest of the state.

Federal judge blocks Kentucky governor's soon-to-expire ban on religious services

Mon, 05/11/2020 - 7:30pm

Denver Newsroom, May 11, 2020 / 05:30 pm (CNA).- With Kentucky already set for a limited resumption of religious services May 20, a federal judge has said Gov. Andy Beshear may not enforce an expiring ban on large gatherings to bar religious services that adhere to relevant social distancing and hygiene guidelines aimed to limit spread of the novel coronavirus.

U.S. District Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove of the Eastern District of Kentucky said in a May 8 temporary restraining order that Beshear had “an honest motive” but did not provide a “compelling reason” to limit the free exercise of religion, the Associated Press reports.

The injunction applies statewide. Two other judges had previously said the ban was constitutional.

Tabernacle Baptist Church in Nicholasville had objected to the governor’s limits and sought to provide in-person religious services. The church had broadcast services on Facebook and had held drive-in religious services. The judge said these efforts were “cold comfort,” and added the church’s legal case was likely to succeed on its merits. The church said the burdens on its religious practice constituted irreparable injury and the state did not dispute that its orders burdened religious exercise, Van Tatenhove said in his decision.

Beshear, a Democrat, had issued travel limits that exempted trips to the grocery store, bank, pharmacy, and hardware store. He had previously said churches would be allowed to hold in-person services starting May 20, as part of efforts to lift some economic and social restrictions imposed to limit spread of the coronavirus.

The limits for the first church re-openings, also announced Friday, would require churches that reopen to limit attendance to 33% of building capacity, and to maintain six feet of distance between the congregants of each household.

Beshear spoke about the court order at a May 9 press conference. He said that churches that hold services should follow the requirements. If they cannot follow safety requirements, they should postpone services.

“What I’d ask is that people take your time,” the governor said. “You don’t want your house of worship to be a place where the coronavirus is spread.”

Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron had supported a statewide injunction against the previous limits on churches. In a May 8 statement, he said the law bars the government from “treating houses of worship differently than secular activities during this pandemic.”

Another Kentucky church, Maryville Baptist Church, had held Easter services despite the ban. At least 50 people attended church there on Easter Sunday, and more services have been held since.

The governor said state police would respond to the Easter service by taking down license plates and leaving notices on vehicles to tell attendees that they would have to self-quarantine.

On May 2 the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals granted an injunction against a state order to Maryville Baptist Church. The court said the governor offered no reason to refuse “to trust the congregants who promise to use care in worship in just the same way it trusts accountants, lawyers, and laundromat workers to do the same.”

U.S. District Judge David Hale initially ruled against the church, saying that the ban on all mass gatherings meant there was no discrimination on the basis of religion.

In his May 8 order, however, he said that the governor had failed to prove there was no less restrictive alternative to help prevent the spread of Covid-19 and failed to address the appeals court suggestion to limit the number of people

Maryville Baptist would likely succeed on the merits of their claim, under Kentucky’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, said Hale.

The Catholic Church is planning for a limited resumption of Mass.

“To advance the common good, I have tried to work with public officials to protect the safety of all as we deal with this global health pandemic,” Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville said in a May 11 statement sent to CNA. “I am pleased to announce today a plan for reopening our churches for public liturgies beginning on May 20 for those churches that are able to open safely.”

In a May 11 letter to the archdiocese’s Catholics, he recognized that many will not yet be able to return to church because of age, infirmity, or other vulnerabilities.

“To those who are not able to attend, please know that we are united as a Body of Christ and that you are with us in spirit and prayer,” he said.

The archbishop has encouraged Masses to continue to be live-streamed and recorded online. He has issued a dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation “until further notice.”

Kurtz stressed that churches that cannot open safely according to the archdiocese’s directives should delay opening.

Parishes will also have reduced seating capacity, he said. Mass attendees are asked to wear a mask or face covering to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

“I know that many find this a burden, but our call as Catholics is to promote the common good.”

Jason D. Hall, executive director of the Kentucky Catholic Conference, told CNA that all four Roman Catholic dioceses are “looking forward to resuming public Masses.” Each diocese will have to move forward realistically based on local conditions, he said.

Six retired Jesuits died of coronavirus at order’s Philadelphia infirmary

Mon, 05/11/2020 - 6:57pm

Denver Newsroom, May 11, 2020 / 04:57 pm (CNA).- Six retired Jesuit priests who resided at an infirmary of the society in Philadelphia died last month of coronavirus.

The priests lived at Manresa Hall, the infirmary at Saint Joseph’s University’s Loyola Jesuit Residence. They died at local hospitals between April 14 and 28.

The facility had been temporarily evacuated. It reopened April 25, and “the residents at Manresa are now all in stable condition,” Mike Gabriele, spokesman for the Society of Jesus’ East Coast province, told CNA.

There were 17 Jesuits who lived at the facility’s infirmary, and all of them had tested positive for COVID-19 April 17 - three days after the death of the first priest, Father G. Richard Dimler, 88, who taught computer science and German at Fordham University.

The deaths also included Francis Moan, 93, a former headmaster for Maryland’s Loyola Blakefield prep school; John Lange, 93, a counselor for the University of Scranton; Edward Dougherty, 79, who taught at the Theological Institute in South Africa; John Kelly, 77, a campus minister for Georgetown University; and Michael Hricko, 77, who ministered to his Jesuit brothers at Manresa Hall nursing center.

Gabriele said the facility is following the proper safety regulations, including protective gear for employees and consistent monitoring of the residents. He said the Jesuit community is grieving over the loss of their brothers and will continue to pray for those affected by the virus.

“All suspect COVID-19 cases are being monitored and appropriately managed at all Jesuit communities, and personal protective gear has been supplied to protect staff and residents at our health centers,” Gabriele said.

“The Jesuits mourn the loss of their brothers who have died, and they continue to pray for all those struggling with the Coronavirus and their caregivers.”

Lawyers must call male runners 'trans females' in athletics lawsuit

Mon, 05/11/2020 - 5:00pm

CNA Staff, May 11, 2020 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- Attorneys are calling for a federal judge to recuse himself from a transgender sports case, after the judge instructed that they use terminology for gender identity and not biological sex.

The Title IX case in Connecticut was brought by three female high school track athletes against the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) over a policy of allowing athletes to compete in sports based on their self-described gender identity, not their biological sex.

After males identifying themselves as female began competing in women’s track events in the state, the three athletes— Selina Soule of Glastonbury High School, senior Chelsea Mitchell of Canton High School, and sophomore Alanna Smith of Danbury High School—said they were unlawfully discriminated against.

In an April 16 conference call for the case, district court judge Robert Chatigny instructed attorneys for Alliance Defending Freedom—the group representing the female athletes—to refer to the males identifying as female as “transgender females,” rather than as “males,” National Review reported on Monday.

“Referring to these individuals as ‘transgender females’ is consistent with science, common practice and perhaps human decency,” the judge said. 

Chatigny said that referring to the biologically male athletes as “males” is “not accurate” and  “needlessly provocative.”  

When an ADF attorney responded on the call that by referring to them as “males,” they were simply complying with human “physiology,” the judge said that terminology was “unfortunate.” If the attorneys persisted in doing so, he said, “maybe we’ll need to do something.”

National Review reported Monday that ADF attorneys filed a motion for Chatigyny to recuse himself on May 9, calling his order “legally unprecedented” and saying it showed his inability to hear the case with impartiality.

“A disinterested observer would reasonably believe that the Court’s order and comments have destroyed the appearance of impartiality in this proceeding. That requires recusal,” National Review reported the motion as arguing.

The three girls had initially filed a Title IX complaint with the Department of Education last summer, before filing another complaint in the federal district court in February.

Since the state’s new athletic policy was instituted in 2017, two males identifying as female have won 15 women’s state championship titles, and one of the two has set 10 state records previously held by 10 different girls.

Their Title IX complaint stated that “biological differences” between boys and girls “matter for fair competition,” and that federally-funded education activities cannot discriminate on basis of sex.

In March, Attorney General Bill Barr and several other Department of Justice officials co-signed a statement of interest in the case, saying that biological males who identify as women should not be classified as girls when it comes to athletics.

“The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC), however, has adopted a policy that requires biological males to compete against biological females—despite the real physiological differences between the sexes—if the male is a transgender individual who publicly identifies with the female gender. CIAC claims that ‘federal law’ requires this state of affairs,” said the statement of interest in March.  

“They are incorrect,” the Justice Department said. “One of Title IX’s core purposes is to ensure that women have an ‘equal athletic opportunity’ to participate in school athletic programs.”

“Schools realize that purpose primarily by establishing separate athletic teams for men and women and by ensuring that those teams are on equal footing,” wrote the DOJ.

“Because of the physiological differences between men and women, the existence of women’s sports teams permits women to participate more fully in athletics than they otherwise could.”

Catholic church in NJ buries two abandoned infants

Mon, 05/11/2020 - 4:10pm

CNA Staff, May 11, 2020 / 02:10 pm (CNA).- A New Jersey Catholic church buried Friday two infants who were found dead at a recycling center a few months ago.

A small group of Church leaders and city officials gathered for a funeral May 8 at St. Peter’s Catholic Cemetery in New Brunswick, fewer than 10 miles southwest of Metuchen.

The service was put together by the Diocese of Metuchen and St. Peter the Apostle University and Community Parish. The attendees included Bishop James Checchio of Metuchen and New Brunswick Mayor James Cahill.

“As we process this heartbreaking tragedy, I ask the faithful and all people of good will to pray for the souls of these infants and to pray for their parents too, that they may experience healing from this misguided, tragic decision,” Checchio said.

“This is another reminder to us that every human being is made in the image and likeness of God and every life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment life begins at conception until natural death. As a Church, we will continue to advocate for the sanctity of all human life so that each person, no matter their stage in life, will be treated with the dignity and care which these infants were denied in life.”

The two babies were found Feb. 19 at the Colgate Paper Stock Recyclable Processing Facility.

An autopsy report has not been released, and it is unknown whether the babies are related. The bodies have also not been claimed by any parents nor have authorities announced any criminal charges.

“Since the investigation is still underway, we don’t know the full circumstances that led to the loss of life for these precious babies, but the loss of an infant is always deeply heartbreaking,” said Jennifer Ruggiero, the director of the Metuchen diocese’s Office of Human Life and Dignity.

“If, indeed, the parents felt they had no other options and nowhere to turn for help, hopefully raising awareness about the help that is out there will help to prevent future tragedies,” she added.

Ruggiero pointed to New Jersey’s Safe Haven Infant Protection Act, which allows parents legally and anonymously to leave infants less than 30 days old at any hospital, police or fire station, rescue squad building, or ambulance. The infant can be abandoned without fear of arrest or prosecution as long as there are no signs of intentional abuse.

On March 25, the USCCB started a campaign titled “Walking with Moms in Need – A Year of Service.” Ruggerio expressed hope that the campaign would spread the word about initiatives such as Safe Havens. As part of the campaign, she said, the diocese has stationed informational posters at schools, pregnancy centers, parishes, and other agencies around the diocese.

“The purpose of this initiative is to have parishes across the country access, expand and communicate the many services that are available to pregnant and parenting moms in need,” Ruggerio said.

Msgr. Joseph Celano, pastor of St. Peter the Apostle University and Community Parish, presided over the rite of committal. He expressed sadness over the loss of life but also hope that these children are now in the company of Christ.

“We know that the Lord Jesus accompanies us and accompanies these children with tender mercy and love,” he said, according to the diocese. “Even in our own grief for the loss of these two children, we believe that one short sleep passed, and they will wake eternally.”

Supreme Court hears case on right of Catholic schools to fire religion teachers

Mon, 05/11/2020 - 3:00pm

Washington D.C., May 11, 2020 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- Supreme Court justices on Monday heard arguments for and against extending the Civil Rights Act’s “ministerial exception” to Catholic schools when they fire teachers of religion.

“There is no reason for government to get in the business of teaching religion,” stated Eric Rassbach, vice president and senior counsel at Becket who argued the case on behalf of the Catholic schools

On Monday, Supreme Court justices heard oral arguments over the phone in two cases consolidated as one, Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru and St. James Catholic School v. Biel. The court announced in April that it would begin hearing arguments by live teleconference after it was forced to dely much of its planned business in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Both cases focused on the “ministerial exception,” which protects the right of churches and religious ministries to select and terminate ministers without government interference.

The case at hand would decide whether religion teachers at two Catholic schools could be considered religious ministers. The schools di not renew their contracts, saying the decision was performance-based; the teachers themselves claimed age-and-disability-based discrimination.

Becket, the group representing the schools, has said that religious schools have the right to classify religion teachers as ministers, and that courts cannot second-guess their determination.

In 2012, the Supreme Court had decided unanimously in the case Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC that a Lutheran church school firing a teacher, who taught the full curriculum including religion, was exempt from the Civil Rights Act because the teacher was considered a religious minister.

At Monday’s oral arguments, Supreme Court justices questioned just how broad the ministerial exception was, and whether it could be argued to extend past religion teachers at religious schools to include  science teachers or coaches at religious schools who lead the students in prayer.

Rassbach said that the determination about whether a person qualified as “minister” had to consider job  function as well as simple job title. The two Catholic schools were clearly looking for religion teaching candidates to be Catholic, and the teachers “are the stewards of their faith” and “leaders of their classroom.”

“These are the people who will teach the faith to the next generation,” he said.

Jeffrey Fisher, representing one of the plaintiffs, said that to classify the teachers as ministers—and thus ensure the schools’ immunity in the decision not to renew their contracts—would be a “sea change” in jurisprudence. It would create “employment law-free zones” and “strip” hundreds of thousands of others, including nurses at religious hospitals “of basic employment protections,” he warned.

Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that a broader understanding of the ministerial exemption could affect several federal employment and civil rights protections. “The breadth of exemption is staggering,” Justice Ginsburg said.

Justices also looked to clarify which teachers at religious schools could be considered “ministers.”

Justice Clarence Thomas asked if a religious sister who is a chemistry teacher beginning the class with a prayer could be considered to have a ministerial role, or if a religion teacher who speaks about religion in an objective, “straightforward” manner is a minister.

Justice Neil Gorsuch asked if schools would use a broader exception to apply it to all staff members, including janitors or sports coaches who take a pledge to uphold the teachings of a faith on the job.

Chief Justice John Roberts questioned if a court and not a church was meant to determine the religious function of a staffing role.

The Hosanna Tabor decision helped clarify this, said Morgan Ratner, arguing for the U.S. government in support of the schools. Courts should look at the staff memebr’s roles and try to find “important religious functions” such as preaching, teaching, worship, leadership, or rituals.

This particular case dealt with teachers of religious doctrine at a religious school, she said, teaching the students “how and why to be catholic.”

Fisher, meanwhile, argued that if the religious function of a staffer’s role was the sole test for determining a minister at a church or school, courts would have “impossible entanglement problems” in drawing a line.

Before the Hosanna Tabor decision, he said, for several decades the lower courts “consistently held that lay teachers in religious schools, even if they taught some religion, were outside of the ministerial exception.”

This ministry is hosting a virtual retreat for infertile people on Mother’s Day

Fri, 05/08/2020 - 7:29pm

Denver Newsroom, May 8, 2020 / 05:29 pm (CNA).- Mother’s Day is going to look different for most families this year, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

For Catholics, some churches are in the process of slowly re-opening public Masses, but the dispensation from the Sunday obligation continues to stand, as the virus has not gone away and a cure or vaccine has yet to be found.

While most Catholics are eager to return to Mass, a small group of Catholics are relieved that they will not be sitting in a public pew this Mother’s Day.

“We actually heard from one woman who said, ‘I kind of feel badly about saying this, but I'm sort of glad that we won't be in the pews this year for Mother's Day,’” Ann Koshute, founder of Springs in the Desert Catholic ministry, told CNA.

“That's something that we hear and that everybody I think on the team has experienced at one point in this journey,” she said - the desire to avoid Mass on Mother’s Day. That’s because Koshute, along with other members of her ministry, have had painful experiences with infertility, and the customary Mother’s Day blessing given to mothers at many parishes that day can bring their grief and sense of loss poignantly to the fore.

“I think that so often people in our own families, our friends, and even our pastors don't really understand the full extent of the pain and the grief or even the full extent of the issue of infertility, of how many couples are really dealing with it,” she said.

The pain of infertility, and the lack of resources available to Catholics on the subject, was why Koshute and her friend, Kimberly Henkel, founded Springs in the Desert, a Catholic ministry to spiritually and emotionally support women and couples experiencing infertility and infant loss. Originally, Henkel and Koshute, who have both experienced infertility, thought they might write a book. But they decided to start with a ministry website and a blog that could bring people together and allow for other women and couples to share their experiences. The group is relatively new, and held its first retreat in Philadelphia in December. They were set to hold a second one this weekend - Mother’s Day weekend - in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, when, well, the pandemic hit.

Now, they’ve moved the retreat online and opened it up to Catholics across the country - and they’ve been overwhelmed by the response.

“We thought that we would be really excited if maybe a couple dozen people found out about it and came. We are over 100 participants now. And it's free and it's going to be available all weekend,” Koshute said. The retreat is trying to address the emotional and spiritual experience of infertility and loss for a broad range of people, Henkel said - from mothers who have miscarried, to women who are past child-bearing years and still grieving the loss of infertility, to women “who feel like their biological clocks are ticking and just haven’t met the right guy.” But now that it's a virtual, pre-recorded, watch-at-your-leisure retreat, it also has the potential to reach a population that is often more reluctant to gather in groups and talk about their experiences of infertility: men. “It's mostly women who are emailing us (about the retreat), although we know that many of their husbands will watch with them. But we've also had a few men email us,” Koshute said.

“One in particular, it just really touched my heart. And he said that he was searching the web for help for his wife on Mother's Day. And I was just so filled with praise and thanksgiving to God for that, for a husband to see that hurt in his wife and to want to find a way to help her,” she added. Men and women typically experience the grief of infertility quite differently, Koshute noted. “For us women, it's so visceral because life is conceived within us and we carry that life. But for a man, it's so different,” she said.

“(Men are) kind of distant from that experience until the child is actually born. And so I think many times men, the grief and the burden that they carry is their wife's. They really carry her sadness and I think feel at a loss because they want to make everything right. They want to fix this, and they want to make her whole. And the mystery of infertility is that it's not that simple. And that's one of the things that makes it so difficult,” she said. Henkel said she experienced her own difficulties in trying to discuss infertility with her husband. Now that they’ve experienced the joy of growing their family through adoption, she said, he is much more open to inviting other men to share their experiences. Henkel said she is hoping that an additional benefit of this retreat being online is that it will facilitate discussions between couples watching the videos together. Both Henkel and Koshute said that while the experience of infertility and loss is painful, and they want to help couples acknowledge and accept that pain, they also want Springs in the Desert to be a positive and supportive experience for couples and women, where they can find hope and redemption even in their suffering. One of the topics they focus on is how all women are called to motherhood in their lives, whether it is spiritual or biological.

“My experience has shown me that my motherhood is really engaged in so many ways that I never considered before,” Koshute said.

“Not just with my godson or with other children in my family, but with women who are older than I who are friends and who might come to me with a difficulty or problem and I can help them,” or by helping family members in need or through charitable works, she added. “That's one of the messages that we try to get across to women and to couples as well, that those kinds of things, what we would maybe refer to as spiritual motherhood, is not illegitimate,” she said.

“It's not second-place. It's a real way of engaging and living out our motherhood. It's also not a replacement for a baby. So it's not as if you go out and volunteer in your community and now you won't have this longing for a child anymore. But we've really found through our own experience and through talking with other women that the more we kind of put ourselves out there and give ourselves to others, the more that we can begin to see that motherhood enacted in us.”

Henkel said she also likes to encourage couples to look at the ways God is calling them to be fruitful in their marriages outside of biological children.

“We really encourage these couples that they are not forgotten, they're not being punished. That God loves them so much and that he has something amazing for them. He's using this to draw them near to him and to allow them to cry out to him and ask for him to guide them, to lead them, to give them his love and show them what fruitfulness he has for them, what place in ministry and mission he has for them.” Henkel and her husband in particular like to share with couples their experience of foster care as one example of where God might be calling them to be fruitful. After a frustrating and expensive experience with some adoption agencies, Henkel and her husband decided to look into giving a home to children through foster care.

“Here is a situation where these children really need families,” she said. “It's hard because there's no guarantee you're going to get to keep this child, so there's a sense of this new greater level of having to learn how to trust God.” “I think that with a couple discerning that fruitfulness, it's also discerning - where is God really calling you? There's so much need in this world. And he wants to use us.”

Couples interested in the Springs in the Desert Mother’s Day weekend retreat can sign up for free online at the Springs in the Desert website. Content will be uploaded and available for anyone who registers, Henkel said, even if they register late. The retreat team will also be hosting a live talk on Sunday, May 10 at 2 p.m. Eastern on the ministry’s Facebook page.

“There's a place for you in Springs of the Desert,” Henkel added. “There's so many women who have reached out to us in Philly. We added several more women to our group, to our team, our official team, women who came to the retreat. One woman had come there and she said she had had a miscarriage, and neither one of us has experienced that. So we said, please join us. We want your voice.”

“We're trying to really bring the voices of many different women to our team so that people will feel there is somebody that is talking they can really relate to. Because there are all of these different situations, but they've got obviously a very similar undercurrent.”

Thousands of Catholic parishes find relief in government payroll loans 

Fri, 05/08/2020 - 6:15pm

CNA Staff, May 8, 2020 / 04:15 pm (CNA).- As parishes and dioceses across the country deal with a drop in collections and the prospects of layoffs amid the pandemic, many parishes have managed to avail themselves of government loans designed to cover eight weeks of payroll expenses.

CBS News reported Friday that an estimated 12,000-13,000 of the 17,000 Catholic parishes in the U.S. had applied for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) payroll loans from the Small Business Administration (SBA), and 9,000 so far had received them.

Guidance from the SBA on eligibility for the loans states that “no otherwise eligible organization will be disqualified from receiving a loan because of the religious nature, religious identity, or religious speech of the organization.”

Religious organizations are eligible for the loans as long as they meet the requirements of Section 501(c)(3) nonprofit and employ 500 or fewer people, the SBA said.

“The PPP isn't about the federal government assisting houses of worship or churches,” Pat Markey, the executive director of the Diocesan Fiscal Management Conference, told CBS News.

“PPP is about keeping people on payrolls, and a large segment of our society [in] the not for profit world...are churches and houses of worship. And they have people on payrolls too. So, if what this is about is keeping people on payrolls, then we all should have availability to do that.”

The Diocesan Fiscal Management Conference did not reply by press time to CNA’s request for additional comment.

Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act March 27 to help relieve the economy during the coronavirus pandemic.

The CARES Act initially authorized some $350 billion in loans to small businesses, intended to allow them to continue to pay their employees. The loans were given on a first come, first serve basis.

The second round of funding, with some $310 billion in additional funds available, began April 27.

The loans were capped at $10 million, were open to businesses with fewer than 500 employees per location, and were intended to cover two months of payroll costs.

The federal government promised to forgive the loans if a business used at least 75% of the funds to maintain its payroll at “pre-pandemic levels” for eight weeks after the loan is disbursed, the New York Times reports.

The remaining money could be used only to pay for certain expenses, such as a mortgage, rent, and utilities, according to the Times.

A survey of Protestant pastors by LifeWay Research found that about 40% had applied for PPP loans with more than half of them reporting being approved.

NPR reports that synagogues have also applied for government funding, though in a smaller proportion— of nearly 4,000 synagogues in the United States, about 250 were approved for PPP loans in the first round of lending, according to surveys by the Jewish Federations of North America and the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America.

The PPP has been subject to some criticism since its launch, including from those who say business owners with criminal records have been excluded from the program thus far.

In addition, several large companies, such as Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, have received multi-million dollar loans through the program. Some of these large companies, such as Shake Shack, have since returned their loans.

Two New York dioceses— Rochester and Buffalo— are suing the Small Business Administration for access to PPP funds, after they were denied loans because of their bankruptcy status.

An SBA rule stipulated that the funds would not go to bankruptcy debtors. Both the dioceses of Rochester and Buffalo have filed for bankruptcy in the past several months, after being named in hundreds of clergy sex abuse lawsuits filed under New York Child Victims Protection Act.


Illinois Catholics long for 'normal life' after governor announces lockdown plan

Fri, 05/08/2020 - 5:10pm

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 8, 2020 / 03:10 pm (CNA).- The Diocese of Springfield, Illinois, said that the Church must return to “normal life” after the governor announced plans to ban large gatherings until a COVID-19 vaccine or treatment is available.

Earlier in the week, the state’s Governor JB Pritzker unveiled a five-phase “Restore Illinois” plan that bans gatherings of more than 50 people until a vaccine or treatment is available, or the virus has stopped spreading for a sustained period of time. Health officials have said that a vaccine for the new coronavirus (COVID-19) might not be available for 12 to 18 months. 

Currently, people in the state are allowed to attend religious services of 10 or fewer people, but no gatherings of more than 10 people are permitted until phase 4 of Pritzker’s plan, and the state wouldn’t even be able to “advance” to phase 3 until May 29.

“The Church has certainly done her part in making great sacrifices to slow the spread of this virus,” Andrew Hansen, director of communications for the diocese of Springfield, Illinois, told CNA on Friday.

“That said, the Church must return to her normal life of liturgy and communal worship,” Hansen said, while emphasizing precautions such as social distancing “will likely be the appropriate path longer term for the return to some version of normalcy for the Church.”

Previously, in-person or drive-in religious services were banned in the state. The Thomas More Society filed a lawsuit on behalf of a church in Lena, Ill., on April 30. Later that evening a paragraph was added to the governor’s executive order allowing for people to leave their homes to attend religious services of ten or fewer people, the society’s president Peter Breen told CNA.

The next day, May 1, the archdiocese of Chicago announced it would be resuming public Masses with 10 or fewer people.

According to the “Restore Illinois” plan, there could not be any gathering of between 11 and 50 people in size until phase 4 of the plan—“Revitalization.”

That phase can start only when certain conditions have been met: the positivity rate of COVID tests is at or under 20% and doesn’t rise by more than 10 points over 14 days; hospital admissions don’t increase for 28 days; and hospitals have at least 14% “surge capacity” in ICU beds, medical and surgical beds, and ventilators.

Pitzker clarified in a Wednesday press conference that religious services would be part of this 50-person limit in phase 4, and schools would not be allowed to reopen until then, raising questions of how tuition-dependent Catholic schools might fare in the fall if remote learning is still widely utilized.

The state’s superintendent of education has said that at least some schools might have to begin the new school year with remote learning, or with students attending classes in-person only on certain days.

“So we continue to hope and pray schools will reopen next school year. Certainly, when our schools reopen, new measures and precautions will be in place,” Hansen told CNA.

The president of DePaul University, located in Chicago, announced earlier this week that the university already plans to “minimize our footprint on campus this fall,” and that an announcement of the fall plans could happen by June 15.

Federal judge says state can require COVID-19 tests before abortions

Fri, 05/08/2020 - 2:30pm

CNA Staff, May 8, 2020 / 12:30 pm (CNA).- A federal judge in Arkansas on Thursday upheld the state’s requirement that women obtain a negative coronavirus test before having an abortion.

Calling the decision “agonizingly difficult,” Judge Brian Miller for the Eastern District Court of Arkansas said the state’s testing mandate—which applies to all elective surgeries and not just abortions—is “reasonable” during the public health emergency and was not done “with an eye toward limiting abortions.

The judge noted that “it is undisputed that surgical abortions have still taken place.”

The abortion clinic Little Rock Family Planning Services had requested a temporary injunction on the state health department’s requirement that elective surgery patients obtain a negative new coronavirus (COVID-19) test result within 48 hours before the procedure.

Previously, the health department ordered a halt to non-essential surgeries on April 3 to preserve resources for treating COVID-19.

The Little Rock abortion clinic performed abortions while claiming they were offering “essential” procedures, and after the health department ordered them to stop on April 10, the clinic challenged the state in court. The diocese’s Respect Life Office noted that women were traveling to the clinic for abortions from nearby states such as Texas and Louisiana.

The clinic won its case for a temporary restraining order at the district court level, but the Eighth Circuit appeals court subsequently overruled that decision and sided with the state.

The April 3 directive was updated April 24 to allow for some elective surgeries provided certain conditions were met. Elective abortions were included in the “non-essential” surgeries that were allowed to continue on April 24.

These conditions included no overnight stays, no contact with COVID-19 patients in the previous 14 days, and a negative COVID-19 test for patients within 48 hours of the surgery.

According to the clinic, which asked for a temporary injunction, three women were seeking to obtain “dilation and evacuation” abortions but were prevented from meeting the state’s testing requirmenet. One woman said she was unable to get a COVID-19 test; another said the lab could not guarantee she would receive results in 48 hours. The third woman was unable to get an abortion in Texas, and drove to the Little Rock clinic; she was told the results of her test would not be available for several days.

In response, the state’s health department said that four surgical abortions had still been performed at the clinic between April 27 and May 1, with COVID-19 test results having been obtained within 48 hours of the abortions, and thus the directive was not an “undue burden” on women seeking abortion.

In his decision on Thursday, Judge Miller said that the pandemic is a serious threat, noting that at the time of the opinion more than 70,000 people had died in the U.S. from the virus including more than 3,500 people in Arkansas.

He said the case “presents the tug-of-war between individual liberty and the state’s police power to protect the public during the existing, grave health crisis,” and noted that the three women as well as others “are very troubled. There is a strong urge to rule for them because they are extremely sympathetic figures, but that would be unjust.”

Andrew Walther appointed president of EWTN News

Fri, 05/08/2020 - 8:00am

CNA Staff, May 8, 2020 / 06:00 am (CNA).- EWTN Global Catholic Network, the world’s largest Catholic media organization, announced Friday that Andrew Walther – an experienced Catholic journalist, media executive, and advocate for persecuted Christians – has been named president and chief operating officer of EWTN News, Inc. The appointment is effective June 1.

Walther began his Catholic media career as a journalist writing for the National Catholic Register two decades ago. Most recently he has served as vice president for communications and strategic planning at the Knights of Columbus.

In his role as president of the news division, Walther will oversee EWTN’s vast news media platforms, which create content in English, Spanish, German, French, Portuguese and Italian. Its holdings include Catholic News Agency, the National Catholic Register, the ACI Group, ChurchPop and EWTN’s lineup of television and radio news programming.

“As well as being an accomplished Catholic journalist and media executive, Andrew Walther brings to this role unique expertise in the global Church,” said EWTN Chairman and CEO Michael P. Warsaw.

“His leadership experience with a global Catholic communications and media operation – and his previous work with the National Catholic Register and EWTN News Nightly – gives him the added advantage of already knowing the Catholic media world and many of the people within the EWTN family. We look forward to having him lead and strengthen our news division,” Warsaw said.

Since 2005, Walther has worked in senior roles at the Knights of Columbus. During his tenure at the Knights, Walther helped launch the organization’s modern communications department, overseeing work with Catholic and secular media outlets, the launch of social media channels and video production, and the organization’s global media work, especially in Europe and the Middle East. He was also heavily involved in the organization’s charitable work and disaster relief initiatives.

Walther also organized and led the Knights’ work on behalf of persecuted Christians in the Middle East, traveling to Iraq several times and successfully leading a public effort to have ISIS’ campaign of persecution declared  a genocide by Secretary of State John Kerry.

His advocacy for persecuted Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East helped shape policy in both the Obama and Trump administrations, and he also helped play a role in forging a bipartisan legislative consensus on behalf of persecuted Christians and other victims of ISIS in the Middle East. Walther’s efforts included working with other governments and the UN as well as with Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim leaders to end violence and persecution and bring relief to persecuted Christian communities.

“Andrew Walther has been a good friend and a trusted colleague for many years,” said Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, who is president of the U.S bishop’s conference and a longtime member of EWTN’s board of governors.

“Andrew is one of the Church’s finest strategic thinkers and a highly respected advocate for international religious liberty. All of this will serve him well as head of the world’s largest Catholic news organization. I wish him great success.”

While working closely over the years with many bishops, dioceses and Catholic organizations in North America, Walther also worked closely with the Vatican on several projects under both Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis.

“Mother Angelica created a network dedicated to ‘the advancement of truth’ and Catholic news is a vital part of this mission,” Walther said Friday.

“I look forward to working with the talented and dedicated team of journalists at EWTN News to provide news from a Catholic perspective and to highlight important stories that might otherwise be overlooked.”

In addition to his roles in media and religious freedom advocacy, Walther also oversaw the Knights’ polling and book publishing operations, which included several New York Times bestsellers. Together with his wife, Maureen, he co-authored “The Knights of Columbus: An Illustrated History,” a book released this year.

How some parishes are slowly bringing back public Masses

Fri, 05/08/2020 - 4:59am

Denver Newsroom, May 8, 2020 / 02:59 am (CNA).- On Sunday, March 15, Nebraskans in the Diocese of Lincoln still had a choice of whether or not they wanted to attend Mass and risk possible exposure to coronavirus.

By the next day, they didn’t. Public Masses in the diocese were canceled, as they soon were throughout the country due to the pandemic.

Now that curves of infection are “flattening” and hospitals have had a chance to ramp up their capacity and supplies, many dioceses, including Lincoln, are slowly reopening Masses to the public. What exactly that will look like varies a lot depending on each parish's unique spaces and limitations. 

Archbishop George Lucas, currently serving as acting bishop of Lincoln, has followed guidelines from Governor Pete Ricketts in issuing some general guidance for re-starting public Masses. Ultimately, however, he left the decision to reopen up to each individual parish.

One place that has been offering public Masses as of Monday, May 4, is St. Wenceslaus parish in Wahoo, Nebraska, a town of 4,500 people located in the Diocese of Lincoln.

Fr. Joseph Faulkner, the pastor of St. Wenceslaus in Wahoo, said he decided to reopen public Masses at his parish after meeting virtually with the other priests in his area. The Masses, of course, will look quite different than normal - with limited capacity, social distancing, and precautions like no holy water, no hymnals, and no sign of peace.

And in many ways, Faulkner said he is encouraging his parishioners to act like it’s the weekend of March 14-15 again.

“From the get-go, we're telling people - you need to make a decision. I even put in my message (to parishioners), think back to - it's March 14th and you're trying to make a decision. Whatever decision you made then is probably still the right decision. If you need to be extra careful for yourself, for your family, for your parents, for your coworkers, for your patients you see in the nursing home, stay away,” he said.

Parishes in the cities of Lincoln and Omaha decided to wait to reopen, Faulkner said. Lincoln has a re-opening date of May 11 for non-essential businesses, and the size of Omaha parishes made re-opening at this point very difficult. Although Wahoo sees a lot of traffic from Lincoln and Omaha and other surrounding towns, Faulkner said he thought he could use appropriate precautions to make reopening safe at his parish.

“St. Wenceslaus specifically is lucky. We've got a nice big basement, so that gets you another 30%-40% seating room. We've got three priests, which is really lucky. So from five weekend Masses, we're going up to eight, so we can do more to spread our people out.”

Faulkner said he has even offered to other parishes with just one priest that he can send someone to help them out if they are offering extra Masses for social distancing and are feeling burned out.

For attendance and seating, Faulkner said he is blocking off every other pew and is going to stagger families in order to maintain six feet of distance. Instead of having people call or sign up online, Faulkner said he is hoping that the extra Mass times, the use of the basement space, as well as the people who choose to stay home, will be enough to maintain an appropriately staggered congregation.

Faulkner said he has been grateful to have public weekday Masses before the weekend to work out some of the kinks of the new restrictions. For example, he’s still working on his communion line protocol, he said. He tried a method using the side aisles and then the center aisle at his first Mass on May 4th, and “it was horrible. So I'm going to fix that tomorrow.”

Masks during communion have also been tricky.

“It's really hard to say Mass with a mask on, and then I have to make my Communion, I have to receive,” Faulkner said. The priests were donated some N95 masks, which Faulkner tried to use on Monday, but the straps made it hard to quickly receive communion and readjust the mask without touching his face or his glasses, he said, so he’s hoping to find a different kind of mask by the weekend.

From his parishioners, Faulkner said he has seen a variety of attitudes toward the closing, and now re-opening, of public Masses.

“There's really three camps,” he said. “There's the, yes, amen, be safe, meditate-on-the-saints-who-didn't-have-the-Eucharist-for-years group.”

“Then there's definitely the middle group, which is like, I don't want to take any risks, but I want the first available ‘okay’ to go to Mass,” he said.

“And then there's the, ‘I'm 85. If I die because I went to Mass, thank God’ crowd. Literally the people who are most cavalier are the older ones,” Faulkner said.

A bishop’s perspective: Oklahoma

Archbishop Paul Coakley, the bishop of Oklahoma City, told CNA that Catholic parishes throughout the state will start celebrating public Masses again on May 18th, with their first public weekend Masses on May 23-24, the Feast of the Ascension.

In a May 7 letter to Oklahoma Catholics posted on the archdiocese’s website, Coakley recognized that while the past two months without Mass have been a painful time for many, God never abandoned his people.

“The gift of the Holy Spirit assures us of God's continued presence in our lives. No matter the circumstance, he is with us. Perhaps the greatest sacrifice for the lay faithful these past few months has been fasting from Christ’s body, blood, soul and divinity given to us in his real presence in the Eucharist. We pray that in this time of Eucharistic fasting, God has graced you with a profound hunger for this communion with Jesus and the members of his Body, the Church,” he stated.
The timing of reopening public Masses was chosen just before the feasts of the Ascension and Pentecost “to remind us of God’s faithfulness and to prepare to celebrate the birth of our beloved Church on Pentecost,” he added.

The decision was reached through consultations with Bishop David Konderla of Tulsa, priest councils in the state, and medical experts, “including a prominent infectious disease specialist,” Coakley said.

“It won't be business as usual,” he said.  “We will be celebrating public Mass and people will be able to come and they will be able to receive Holy communion, but the churches won't be full. In fact, we're limiting it to 33% of the occupancy capacity,” he noted.

“We've been very cautious watching the numbers and putting in place pretty strict guidelines to ensure that we were able to maintain social distances and practice the appropriate kind of hygiene,” he added.

A five page document released by the state’s Catholic dioceses details the exact guidelines, such as including 6-foot social distancing between pews, the recommendation that all attendees wear masks, and the recommendation that priests have plenty of hand sanitizer readily available throughout the church.

Coakley said the document offers guidelines for pastors while still giving them the flexibility to implement the recommendations and requirements in the way that works best for their unique parishes.

“If the church fills beyond capacity, we’re asking them to consider using other space in the parish, perhaps the parish hall, to be able to put overflow crowds and continuing to social distance properly, parking lots, things of that sort,” he said. “We're going to have to rely upon the creativity of our pastors and they have been demonstrating a great deal of creativity up to now, so I'm sure they'll continue to do so.”

Coakley said he is asking priests to also continue offering livestream Masses for people who will choose not to come to the public Masses at this time. He noted in his May 7 message that the dispensation from the Sunday obligation still stands for all Oklahoma Catholics at this time.

“We are dealing with an invisible threat to people’s lives, a virus that our brightest doctors and scientists are still figuring out. The ever-present temptation in our American culture is to want solutions immediately and to act quickly, because we want what we want, and we want it now. As a Church, we must proceed more deliberatively,” he said.

Coakley told CNA that while he understands Catholics’ fear, anger and frustration during these past two months of suspended Masses, he also encouraged them to think of their time away as a way of serving others.

“We’re really living through a health crisis, a time of severe challenges, and it's impacting us in so many ways economically, and in terms of social isolation, loneliness, the liturgy also. But I think we need to think beyond individual rights and consider also our responsibilities toward one another, especially the responsibility to love and serve one another, to be mindful of one another's needs.”

Wichita, Kansas

On May 3, Bishop Carl Kemme of the Diocese of Wichita announced plans to reopen public Masses starting on Wednesday, May 6, following recommendations of the county’s local public health authorities.

Phase one of the guidelines will last until May 20, and they stipulate that parishes may hold Masses at no more than 33% capacity. Churches will use only one entrance, so that the number of people coming may be properly counted and seated, and six foot spacing should be clearly marked so that people can maintain social distance.

Mass attendees are encouraged to wear masks, and priests are required to wear them while distributing communion. Parishes are also encouraged to keep hand sanitizer available at entrances, and parishioners are “strongly encouraged” to receive communion in the hand.

Fr. Clay Kimbro is the parochial vicar at St. Anne’s parish in Wichita. Kimbro said he and the other priests of the diocese have been having weekly virtual talks with the bishop about when to re-open Masses and what that might look like, and so priests were able to give feedback as to what guidelines they thought would work well.

At St. Anne’s, which has 1,200 families, Kimbro and his leadership team have been meeting and working on logistical things, like roping off every other pew so that Mass attendees can maintain proper distancing.

He said he has also had extra meetings with his ushers, who on the weekends will “seat everyone so that they can make sure that the distance is maintained. That's a lot more responsibility than our ushers are normally given.”

Kimbro said the parish is not having parishioners sign up for Masses online. Instead, if more people show up than the allowed 33%, the overflow congregation will be directed to the school’s auditorium, where a second priest - either Kimbro or his pastor - will celebrate a concurrent Mass, also with social distancing protocols in place.

“We were a little leery of (adding Mass times), because when you add Mass times, it's hard to take them back,” Kimbro said. “Also, it's hard to turn people away. They come to the door at 10 a.m. for Mass, and we say, ‘Come back at 1:00 p.m.’ Well, it's a lot easier to say, ‘Go over to the auditorium.’”

Kimbro said the parish is working on decorating the auditorium to make it an appropriate place to have Mass, and they are also putting down tape lines to direct traffic and to mark distances.

“There's a lot of work in planning, and it can be a little overwhelming, but we're overall just really excited to see people again,” he said.

St. Anne’s parishioners have been “all over the map” in terms of their eagerness to return to Mass at this time, Kimbro said. Some have been signing up to read at Mass, or to usher or distribute communion, because they miss Mass so much and they want to be involved.

Others are a bit more anxious, Kimbro said, and he has encouraged those people to attend weekday Masses, where there are likely to be fewer people.

He also added that the Sunday obligation continues to be dispensed for everyone, as Bishop Kemme made clear in his May 3 announcement.

“I do want to emphasize that the current pandemic is far from over. Medical experts tell us that this health crisis remains a very serious threat to the lives of many people,” Kemme stated.

“Because of this, I want to urge all those in the high risk population and others who so choose to continue to use the general dispensation I am giving from the obligation to attend the Sunday celebration of the Mass, which continues indefinitely during this crisis. Please do not put yourself or others at risk by attending the Masses once they resume. This is my urgent appeal to all in our Catholic Community: use extraordinary caution and good judgment in determining if you should attend Mass. No mortal sin is committed if you decide that you and your family should not attend.”

Kimbro said that he is looking forward to having parishioners come back to Mass, even though it might not be the triumphant return that some may have envisioned just yet, with everyone packing in the pews like normal.

“I think everybody was hoping it would kind of be like this post-9/11 experience, where churches are packed and everybody recognizes that need (for God), but we're tempering that, and it's kind of like everything in this virus, right? Our expectations versus our reality - having to live in the reality of the moment and what we're given and just go with that,” he said. 

“But then I looked at the Gospel for this Sunday that we're back, and the first line is: ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled.’ So that's perfect.”

What Catholic business ethics brings to the coronavirus crisis

Thu, 05/07/2020 - 10:19pm

Denver Newsroom, May 7, 2020 / 08:19 pm (CNA).- A Christian ethic of service and solidarity must be an important feature of the business response to the coronavirus epidemic and its economic impact, Catholic business educators have said.

For Karel Sovak, associate professor in the University of Mary’s Gary Tharaldson School of Business, two of the biggest skills that business can bring to recovery efforts are self-awareness and empathy.

“A business needs to help the community identify who they are, which may have been lost during this time of stay at home,” he told CNA. “Businesses need to help communities focus on what makes it viable in the first place, which are the people. Business can be used as a force for good only if they understand what that ‘good’ means. Being aware of those strengths can help transform a community as they seek to overcome any devastating tragedy, natural or otherwise.”

He cited the symbolic unity and mutual support shown by individuals and businesses, whether by showing hearts in windows, purchasing gift cards for businesses, or taking meals to essential personnel.

Over 75,000 deaths are attributed to Covid-19 in the U.S., with over 1.25 million confirmed cases, John Hopkins University said Thursday. Efforts to prevent the spread of infection led to public officials’ orders to close businesses, with the exception of some businesses deemed essential services.

Millions of people have been left unemployed due to the closures, while those with essential jobs worry that their places of employment are newly dangerous.

Sovak emphasized the importance of trust as a business skill, but noted that low trust and polarization were problems even before the epidemic. Community is about bringing people into communion, and business has a role to play in that community building.

“Business can reassure families, non-profits and churches that they are there for them. Solidarity is the word that comes to mind when determining how to establish trust,” he said. The social and spiritual nature of the human being means people will need to come together once again “to use the gifts God gave to each person to meet the needs of others.”

Laura Munoz, associate professor of marketing at the University of Dallas’ Satish and Yasmin Gupta College of Business, said her business school emphasizes both a skill-based and a virtue-based education that can help respond to the crisis.

Business professors aim to help students become resilient and adaptable. They must become critical thinkers “aware of multiple stakeholder perceptions in an ethical way,” she told CNA. These skills can also help in the service of others, as in the case of a business student who used her business skills to fund raise for an Argentine orphanage on social media.

“Yes, skills are needed but they cannot come if the ‘business person’ is not aware of the needs of the environment and does not have love, charity, for others,” said Munoz. “Businesses that acknowledge that serving a community is give and take, not just take, will probably receive more community support as well.”

For Sovak, Catholic business education focuses on virtues, “servant-leadership,” and upholding the tenets of Catholic social teaching.

“There is no proof that any instruction can adequately prepare anyone, let alone young minds, for such a large-scale disruption as this pandemic has caused,” he said. However, teaching students the cardinal virtues of prudence, courage, justice and temperance is a good path in both strong economies and in economic downturns.

Such an education helps students “to understand that life is not about them; it is about serving others who are in need, which is what we are called to do.” Students should be prepared “to recognize their vocation is more than a job and they are called to greatness, ‘magnanimity,’ especially in dire times.” This helps them to “focus less on self and more on the situation at hand” and to bring about “true humility.” This path helps students be optimistic and trusting in innovative ways and help contribute to solutions

“Life is full of disruptions, simply because we can’t predict the future,” Jay Wesley Richards, assistant research professor at the Catholic University of America’s Busch School of Business, told CNA. “I think two of the most important business skills are simply virtues. One is courage—which means you’ll act even if you might fail. The other is resilience or anti-fragility—which means you learn from disruption and failure. The pandemic, and more precisely, the shutdown in response to it, is a historic and massive disruption. But disruption itself is part of life.”

Richards said one of his classes this semester had been discussing looming disruptions from technology and “the need to develop virtues and skills that humans will always do better than machines.”

“The discussion was mostly abstract until spring break, when the semester itself was disrupted by the pandemic shutdown, and we had to move online,” he said. “Suddenly, we were using disruptive (if imperfect) video-conferencing technology! At that point, students started asking more questions about disruption in the economy.”

Economic downturns in the business cycle are a standard topic in business education. Munoz said a pandemic is one of many possibilities taught through case studies, role playing, business planning, and discussions.

“We focus on going beyond a disruption and thinking ‘so what? How do we continue?’”

“Instead of the business coming to a stop, we think: ‘and what else can we do? How else can we do it?’” she said.

Michael Welker, an economics professor at Franciscan University of Steubenville, reflected on the need for creativity given the conditions of a pandemic event.

“Such an event, in our lifetimes, is one that is unprecedented, complex, and so widespread, that there is a need for courage, openness to failure, iteration of ideas and experiments, and a need for management decisions to frame their enterprise cultures to engender this powerful way that human beings image the Creator,” Welker said.

Efforts to re-open businesses and other social venues, including places of worship, have come to be the focus of debate, planning, and activity.

Welker said the focus on “restarting the economy” means a focus on “a critical aspect of human life--a prudent and wise engagement with the world in many dimensions.” These dimensions include work, leisure, community, worship, and recreation. He suggested any approach to “restarting” the economy should take place in a context that recognizes “the great dignity of work” with the added sense of “the essential things, which are beyond just ‘making a living’.”

“This disruption has brought much multi-dimensional damage to people,” he said. “I believe authorities are attempting to walk the fine line between a serious and known risk and the need to get people into ‘normal’ living and acting, with the heightened concerns for safety and health.”

Sovak said that while there was indeed economic disruption, in part the economy “never really stopped.” Consumers continued to purchase, many people found different ways to trade, and the government infused additional money seeking a positive impact.

“If we are discussing how to get people back into the mix of work, travel, or play, again, much of that never stopped with work at home, it just got more creative,” he said.

At the same time, Sovak said that a too cautious approach to re-opening business will mean many businesses close, unable to adapt to the coronavirus epidemic.

There is also another risk.

“The risk of being too reckless means this thing (the epidemic) will come back around in a couple of months and bring about an even more devastating grind to the economy,” he added. “Again, the virtue of prudence comes to mind on how to tell what the times call for.”

“This isn’t a one-size fits all solution – what is controllable and what is predictable will be two ways to view the danger,” Sovak continued. “How much certainty does one have in the situation? The more certainty there is, the less risk and easier the decision that can be made.”

Richards similarly said there is no one right answer for a business response.

“Every business will have specific, even unique challenges, depending on where it is and what it does,” he said. “But the same general rules apply for businesses as for everyone else: Treat every person with respect and dignity, and that includes employees and customers.”

“It’s a serious mistake to present the current debate as if it were between the ‘economy’ on one side, and ‘lives’ on the other,” Richards said. “We should care about the economy precisely because we care about human lives and well-being. Really families, real companies, employers, and employees. Real lives.”

Richards cited the massive unemployment in recent weeks. The unemployment rate was at an historic low of 3.5% in February. Since mid-March, 33.3 million people have filed unemployment claims, making the unemployment rate higher than 20%, BBC News reports.

“There’s no such thing as a zero-risk option this side of the kingdom of God,” Richards continued. “Any challenge, like the coronavirus, involves a multi-side risk: Lives were at stake no matter what path we took,” he said. “The path of wisdom lies in understanding what the real risks are, and how likely various outcomes are. Only then do we have much chance of responding so that the benefits are greater than the costs.”

In the coronavirus epidemic, policymakers face the challenge of making “far-reaching decisions without having very good information to work with.”

“A response that puts 30 million people out of work isn’t just an economic inconvenience. It leads, and will lead, to loss of life and well-being,” said Richards. “The president understood this from the beginning. This is why he worried on Twitter that the ‘cure’ not be worse than the ‘disease’.”

“The question we will be asking for the next several years is this: Did the government response, and in particular, the shutdown of businesses and shelter-in-place orders for healthy people, save more lives than, in the long run, it will have cost?”

Sovak told CNA there are signs that tell whether a business mentality is dominating a discussion or or being neglected. When there is “negativity, pessimism or placing blame,” a conversation is likely headed in a wrong direction, whether a business community is being criticized or is offering criticism.

“Business certainly can’t solve every issue or does it have all the answers; however, there can be many benefits in taking a business approach to address any situation,” he said.

At the same time, a business analysis may not appeal to many, given the human cost.

“People are acting on emotion more today than facts and reason. Thirty million people are unemployed – putting a business touch on that doesn’t help that situation,” Sovak said. “Supply and demand means prices will rise, and inflation will come about but that doesn’t mean we have to bring that approach into the conversation when many people’s lives have been disrupted both financially and health-wise. This is where empathy has to come into play.”

Catholic teen seeks to inspire neighborhood with Marian sidewalk art

Thu, 05/07/2020 - 8:01pm

Denver Newsroom, May 7, 2020 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- A young Catholic artist has drawn an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary on her parents' driveway bringing religious art to her local community during the quarantine.

The Diocese of Fargo posted on Facebook May 4 an image of Our Lady of Lourdes drawn by Maria Loh, a 17-year old who grew up in Fargo. She said it was an enjoyable experience to share her faith and art with her neighborhood.

“Being able to interact with people when they walked by was very moving in a way because a lot of people have never really seen sidewalk art done like that locally. So being able to share in that kind of experience, it was very, very good,” she told CNA.

Loh has recently been inspired by chalk art and pastels, which, she said, have vibrant and beautiful colors. She has drawn on the sidewalks a few times, including two images of Mary - Madonna of the Lillies and the Pieta by William Adolphe-Bouguereau.

Her most recent chalk drawing was Our Lady of Lourdes by Hector Garrido - an image she had seen as a magnet on her grandparents' refrigerator growing up. The picture has always been an inspiration, she said, noting that she decided to replicate it after Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine in France had temporarily closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I heard that the shrine had been temporarily closed off to the public, and I remember … thinking that's really sad because especially in this time, we’re really looking for healing in more ways than one, like physically and mentally and spiritually,” she said.

“It really felt like people wouldn't be able to go to experience that. So I felt like drawing this image of Our Lady of Lourdes would be a good way to remind people that Our Lady is still with us even if we can’t go to her shrine.”

Loh, the oldest of five, has been involved with art projects and drawing for her entire life. She said, growing up in a Catholic family, she has been inspired by her faith and the religious art in churches.

“I see our faith as so precious... Especially in the form of the Eucharist - the actual body and blood of Christ, I've seen that we are very blessed to have that in our faith. It's something that has impacted a lot of my life growing up,” she said.

While she was working on the piece, Loh said, a majority of passersby did not know who the lady in the image was. She expressed hope that the picture would help remind people of Mary and the beauty of the Church, which, she said, is a powerful attraction to the faith.

“One thing that I hope this kind of art and image will evoke is a desire to come to know who Mary is and how rich our faith is. … All the beautiful art that can be seen in Catholic churches, especially like in Rome, there's almost a transcendental beauty to them that draws people into the faith to come to know things that they've never dreamed of before,” she said.

As Loh finishes her junior year of high school, she expressed the possibility of art school after graduation, but, while she is still uncertain of the future, said art will not be dropped anytime soon.

“I can definitely see [art school] being a possibility. I’ll have to spend some time, especially with God trying to figure out what he wants me to do. But, I don't think art is going out of my life anytime soon,” she said.