Browsing News Entries

Prayer for Protection for Those in the Service (military): Prayer of the Day for Wednesday, May 27, 2020

O God, I beseech You, watch over those exposed to the horror of war, and the spiritual dangers of a soldier's or sailor's life. Give them such a strong faith that no human respect may ever lead them to deny it, nor fear ever to practice it. By Your grace, O God, fortify them against the contagion of bad example, that being preserved from vice, and serving You faithfully, they may be ready to meet you face to face when they are so called: through Christ our Lord. ...

St. Augustine of Canterbury: Saint of the Day for Wednesday, May 27, 2020

At the end of the sixth century anyone would have said that Augustine had found his niche in life. Looking at this respected prior of a monastery, almost anyone would have predicted he would spend his last days there, instructing, governing, and settling even further into this sedentary life. But Pope St. Gregory the Great had lived under Augustine's rule in that same monastery. When he decided it was time to send missionaries to Anglo-Saxon England, he didn't choose those with restless ...

Back to Space - Why today is a good day to look to the heavens

Today, weather permitting, SpaceX will launch two American astronauts to the International Space Station. It will be the first time in nearly a decade American astronauts will travel to space from an American launch pad. As Catholics we should use this moment to look to the heavens.

Briefing shows ACLU has abandoned religious freedom for 'culture wars,' critic says

Denver Newsroom, May 26, 2020 / 05:45 pm (CNA).- Longtime critics of religious freedom protections, among them the American Civil Liberties Union, have formed a partnership to oppose the Trump administration policies and actions that aim to protect several Catholic institutions.

But for Matthew Franck, a Princeton University politics lecturer and senior fellow at the Witherspoon Institute, this course will advance conflict and coercion, not freedom.

“The American Civil Liberties Union used to take an active interest in protecting everyone’s religious freedom, as well as the other protections of the Bill of Rights. But no longer,” Franck told CNA May 26. “In the culture wars generated by the sexual revolution, the ACLU now ranges itself against the constitutional right of religious freedom and on the side of coercion.”

Franck said the ACLU is supporting claims to civil rights not grounded in the U.S. Constitution. When those claims come into conflict with the religious freedom of individuals, religious associations, religious schools and religious charities, he suggested, the result is sometimes government coercion.

Those claims include “women seeking employer-provided contraceptives and abortifacients, or same-sex couples that want to compel church-sponsored adoption agencies to place children with them, or gay teachers who marry their partners and want to keep on working for Catholic schools that consider their teachers bound by the Church’s moral teachings, or same-sex couples who want a Christian baker to make them a custom wedding cake,” Franck said.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for American Progress have launched a joint project, with material titled “Connecting the Dots.” The ACLU produced a legal briefing while the Center for American Progress released a short video May 19 linking to the briefing.

The advocacy is the product of a partnership between the two groups and the Movement Advancement Project, a strategic communications and development organization in LGBT advocacy founded by the influential millionaire Tim Gill.

“Freedom of religion is a fundamental American value—but that freedom does not give institutions or individuals the right to harm others,” the Center for American Progress said May 19. “Since President Donald Trump’s inauguration, his administration has expanded religious exemptions in an attempt to gut civil rights protections and codify discrimination against people of minority faiths, women, and people who are LGBTQ.”

The ACLU’s May 2020 briefing paper “Connecting the Dots,” argued that the Trump administration was working to “create a license to discriminate across the country.”

“In the name of religious liberty, Trump and his allies have pursued a strategy to legalize discrimination based on religion and sex — including sexual orientation and gender identity — and other personal characteristics,” the briefing said.

“Freedom of religion is a fundamental American value, so fundamental that it is protected by the First Amendment to our nation’s Constitution. But that freedom does not give institutions or individuals the right to harm others, including by discriminating and especially with taxpayer dollars,” it continued.

The ACLU said that the Trump administration authorized or expanded religious exemptions “that enable institutions, businesses, and individuals to refuse to comply with laws they assert interfere with their religious beliefs.” Such laws, in the legal group’s view, include non-discrimination laws, health care laws, and adoption and foster care laws.

For his part, Franck rejected the legal group’s claims.

“What the ACLU calls ’discrimination’ is not, under federal statutes as currently interpreted, unlawful,” Franck told CNA. “That may change if the Supreme Court willfully misreads Title VII in two pending cases. But whatever happens in these cases, the fact that the ACLU and the Center for American Progress call the defense of personal and institutional conscience an ’abuse’ of the religious freedom protected by the First Amendment says more about those organizations’ abandonment of the traditions of American freedom than it does about the Trump administration.”

“The Obama administration, sadly, ’normalized’ all these attacks on religious freedom as administration policies. The Trump administration deserves credit for working to reverse such policies,” Franck said.

Several topics in the ACLU briefing concern cases where Catholic institutions are involved.

The legal group opposed accommodations for employers with religious or moral objections to providing health care plans that cover contraception, including drugs that can cause abortion. The Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic religious congregation that provides care for the indigent elderly, are still tied up in court over the coverage mandate, which dates back to the middle of the Obama administration.

The briefing objected to the Trump administration’s September 2019 statement of interest in a fired high school teacher’s lawsuit filed against the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. The archdiocese had ruled that the teacher violated archdiocesan policy and Catholic teaching by contracting a same-sex civil marriage and said that the Catholic high school must terminate his job to maintain its Catholic affiliation.

The ACLU characterized the Trump administration’s action as “arguing against employees who are fired for being gay.”

Regarding a California legal case against a Sacramento-area Catholic hospital, the ACLU briefing claims its client, Evan Minton, was “turned away from a religious hospital for being transgender.”

Minton, who presents as a transgender man, filed a lawsuit against the Dignity Health Catholic health system after a Catholic hospital refused to perform a planned elective hysterectomy. Health system officials arranged for Minton to be transferred to a hospital not affiliated with Catholicism. In September 2019, a California court allowed Minton’s lawsuit to proceed, overturning a lower court’s decision that the transfer of Milton was sufficient to avoid charges under state anti-discrimination law.

“Catholic hospitals do not perform sterilizing procedures such as hysterectomies for any patient regardless of their gender identity, unless there is a serious threat to the life or health of the patient,” Dignity Health said in September 2019.

A 2016 letter to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services signed by the general counsel for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, together with other groups, affirmed that the denial of surgery to someone seeking to change their gender would not be discriminatory. The letter rejected claims that it is discriminatory to decline to perform a mastectomy or a hysterectomy on a healthy woman who is “seeking to have the appearance of a man.”

The ACLU’s briefing criticized the creation of the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division at the Department of Health and Human Services, and objected that this new division is better funded than divisions related to information privacy and civil rights.

The legal group objected to religious freedom protections for prospective foster and adoptive parents and for adoption agencies that receive federal funds. Several Catholic and other Christian adoption agencies have been forced to close by law or by denial of funds because they could not in good conscience place children with same-sex couples.

The ACLU also objected to the Trump administration’s amicus brief in the Masterpiece Cakeshop Supreme Court case. The case concerned a Colorado bakery that declined to make a wedding cake for a same-sex ceremony on the grounds of religious objections. The briefing charged that the Trump administration argued “on behalf of a business’ right to discriminate.”

The briefing claimed the Trump administration required departments and agencies to implement “a distorted interpretation of religious liberty” that in the ACLU’s view excessively favors religious claims. It criticized then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ creation of a Religious Liberty Task Force to implement federal guidance, claiming this could “open the door to widespread discrimination in employment and government-funded services.” The ACLU said the government has denied requests seeking to determine who is on the task force.

The May 2019 action of the Housing and Urban Development on gender identity also drew criticism from the ACLU. The group said this action this allows shelters “to exclude transgender and gender nonconforming people from appropriate shelters, including on the basis of the shelter’s religious beliefs.” The group said that self-identified transgender women should be able to have shelter that “conforms with their gender identity.”

The Department of Labor’s rules allowing religious associations to obtain federal contracts also drew criticism, as did a May 2018 executive order allowing faith-based and community organizations to receive federal funds in grants, contracts and program funding “to the fullest opportunity permitted by law.”

The ACLU, the Center for American Progress, and the Movement Advancement Project are part of a multi-million dollar social and political change advocacy network aiming to limit religious freedom protections. Major funders of this network include the Ford Foundation, the Proteus Fund, and the Arcus Foundation. The Arcus Foundation, founded by billionaire Jon Stryker, also funds Christian groups which reject traditional Christian teaching on LGBT issues and abortion.

The Center for American Progress was founded by John Podesta, a former chief-of-staff for President Bill Clinton and campaign manager for Hillary Clinton’s unsuccessful 2016 presidential run. In 2016, Podesta drew attention after leaked emails implied he had backed several political Catholic groups for a “Catholic Spring” revolt against the bishops.

 

Mexican state passes pro-life education law

CNA Staff, May 26, 2020 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- The Mexican state legislature of Nuevo Leon passed an education reform bill May 21 to foster a “respect for life from conception to natural death” in students.

The law reflects the state constitution, which affirms that “the state recognizes, protects and defends the right to life that every human being has. From the moment of conception that life comes under the protection of the Law and is considered as having been born with regards to all corresponding legal effects until its natural death.”

The new bill also calls for the “inclusion, through the development of special training, programs for the employment of people with some kind of disability.”

Speaking with ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish languages news partner, state legislator Juan Carlos Leal, who introduced the education reform bill, said the law will “definitely have a big impact especially on the values of Mexican citizens.”

“We want to create a new generation of students that have values and respect, which unfortunately in Mexico, we have seen is being lost,” he explained.

The director of the ConParticipación platform, Marcial Padilla, stressed the importance of incorporating pro-life principles into constitutions and laws, inlcuding the United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights or the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights.

“The initiative to recognize the right to life in education will help young people, adolescents and children learn to appreciate human life,” Padilla said.

The pro-life leader said he is hopeful the reform bill will “help reduce suicide rates, reduce addictions and will also help young people understand that abortion is not an option. ”

Above all, students “will be able to know that abortion is always an attack on human life,” he said.

Fr. José Manuel Suazo Reyes, director of the communications office of the Archdiocese of Xalapa, welcomed the passage of the law in a May 24 letter on behalf of the archdiocese. 

In the letter, titled The Culture of Life Advances, Suazo said that “Mexico continues to cry out that it loves and wants life” and that “abortion is not the solution” for distressed mothers, and that it is essential that the government support the a broader culture of life in the country. 

“It’s important for the state to protect life, but it is also essential that it form citizens in respect and care for life,” the letter said. “This reform creates awareness in students of the dignity that every human life has, thus contributing to the reduction of discriminatory, aggressive and even criminal behavior, as is the case with abortion.”

The priest called the law “a very important step in the culture of life,” while noting that “thousands of children are aborted year after year in Mexico City, where killing babies up to 12 weeks gestation is permitted.”

While government officials “want to promote abortion on demand,” he said, wider efforts to promote the dignity of all human life were gaining support, including the recent ninth annual March for Life in the country on May 23 - held online this year due to the coronavirus - which, he said, attracted more that 500,000 participants on Facebook alone.

“These manifestations of the culture of life seek to put a stop to all these criminal initiatives throughout the country to promote abortion,” said Suazo. “Today more than ever life is threatened. We must protect ourselves from those anti-life mentalities that despise the lives of others.”

COVID relief efforts should remember the poor, bishop says

CNA Staff, May 26, 2020 / 03:52 pm (CNA).- As Congress considers additional COVID relief efforts in the coming weeks, it should focus especially on the needs of the poor and vulnerable, said the head of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

“As Congress turns once more to considering additional relief related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the focus should be on those most in need - the poor, the vulnerable, and people on the margins - to offer them some hope and assistance in desperate circumstances,” said Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City in a May 22 statement.

As many states begin the process of reopening following widespread quarantine restrictions to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, members of Congress have discussed the possibility of an additional COVID-19 relief bill, although details of a potential bill are not yet clear.

Since March, the U.S. bishops have advocated for bills that would help the poor and unemployed with food security, affordable health care, housing, and education. They have also pushed for assistance to migrants, protections for the unborn, efforts to address ethnic disparities in health outcomes, the well-being of the incarcerated, debt relief, and support for charities during the pandemic.

“Additional needs have emerged such as sufficient protective equipment for all essential workers, protection of familial well-being and integrity, additional research on the link between air pollution and coronavirus health outcomes, and the need to address disruptions to the food supply chain and its impact on farmers and farmworkers, food waste and public health,” Coakley said.

The archbishop welcomed the Vatican’s new commission on COVID-19, which was created by the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. The commission is made up of the dicastery’s prefect, Cardinal Peter Turkson; secretary, Mons. Bruno-Marie Duffé; and adjunct secretary, Fr. Augusto Zampini.

The Vatican COVID-19 Commission will analyze the virus’ potential socio-economic-cultural impact and propose appropriate solutions for the future. According to the dicastery’s website, it will focus on five major points: “acting now for the future; looking to the future with creativity; communicating hope; seeking common dialogue and reflections; and supporting to care.”

Coakley echoed the words of Pope Francis, who on Easter Sunday prayed for the gift of hope and encouraged solidarity in the face of this crisis.

“Let us proceed in this hope, asking the Lord for wisdom on how best to respond, drawing close to our brothers and sisters in need, and finding our peace in the Lord’s promise to be with us ‘until the end of the age,’” Coakley said.

 

Minnesota bishops: Death of black man in police custody a ‘tragedy’

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 26, 2020 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- The Minnesota Catholic Conference on Tuesday called the death of a black man while he was in police custody a “tragedy,” and welcomed an investigation.

A video circulated online on Tuesday of a May 25 arrest in Minneapolis. In the video an officer with the Minneapolis Police Department can be seen kneeling on the neck of a man laying on the street as he is taken into custody. The man was later identified as George Floyd.

“I cannot breathe,” Floyd said multiple times, groaning as the knee of a police officer was on his neck. A second police officer stood by watching.

The video appears to skip several minutes to a later shot, where Floyd’s eyes appear closed and onlookers exclaim that he was not moving and shouted at the officers to “get off of his neck.”

According to the Minneapolis Police Department’s account of the arrest, officers had handcuffed Floyd and “noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress.” They called for an ambulance, and Floyd was taken to Hennepin County Medical Center “where he died a short time later.”

The state’s Catholic conference, which speaks on behalf of the bishops of Minnesota’s six dioceses, called Floyd’s death “a tragedy” and welcomed an investigation.

“This is a tragedy. It is good that state and federal investigators are already looking into the incident to determine what happened,” stated Jason Adkins of the Minnesota Catholic Conference.

“People need to feel safe in their communities and have trust in law enforcement, who should exercise their power in a spirit of service,” Adkins said. “If there was misconduct, hopefully justice will be done.”

According to the police department, officers had initially responded to a “forgery in progress” on the 3700 block of Chicago Avenue South.

“Officers were advised that the suspect was sitting on top of a blue car and appeared to be under the influence,” the department said.

When officers arrived on the scene, the department said that Floyd was ordered “to step from his car,” and physically resisted arrest once he got out of his car; the officers handcuffed him and then noted “he appeared to be suffering medical distress.”

Both the FBI and the state’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension will be investigating the incident.

Minneapolis police authorities announced Tuesday afternoon that four officers were fired in response to the incident. There is not yet indication of whether the officers could face charges.

The mayor of St. Paul called the video “one of the most vile and heartbreaking images I’ve ever seen,” and that both officers “must be held fully accountable. This must stop now.”

 

This story is developing and has been updated.

Priest says water gun 'baptism' photo meant to be 'funny'

CNA Staff, May 26, 2020 / 12:55 pm (CNA).- The Tennessee priest in a now-viral photograph that seemed to depict a baptism by water gun has told parishioners that the photo was staged, and was meant to be funny.

“This is what Fr. Steve said about this: 1) The family had requested for him to do this pose as copied from several posts of priests circulating around the internet. He agreed because he thought it was funny. 2) The water in the water gun is not holy water and was squirted towards the dad and not the baby for humor impact,” explained Saint Mark Catholic Church of Manchester, Tennessee in a Facebook post Tuesday.

“Bottom line, it was meant to be for fun,” the parish post added.

The priest in the photo is Fr. Stephen Klasek, who is pastor of two parishes: St. Mark, and Saint Paul the Apostle in nearby Tullahoma. Klasek, a priest of the Diocese of Nashville, has been ordained 37 years.

The parish indicated it was posting to "clarify the photo that has gone viral as we have been receiving inquiries about it. It has garnered almost a million views in Twitter, has been in the news in several websites and memes. It had good and controversial comments.”

While Klasek’s photo was apparently staged, photos of a priest purporting to bless parishioners with a water gun in Detroit went viral earlier this month. Fr. Tim Pelc told Buzzfeed News he had shot parishioners with holy water in a water gun as something “for the kids of the parish.”

Klasek's photo spread like wildfire over social media this weekend. While some praised it, others criticized the photo, suggesting it seemed to make light of the solemnity of baptism or trivialize priestly ministry.

The Diocese of Nashville has not yet responded to questions from CNA regarding Klasek’s staged photo.

 

Chinese bishop who suffered years of forced labor dies at 98

Rome Newsroom, May 26, 2020 / 12:30 pm (CNA).- A Chinese underground bishop who was sentenced to 10 years of forced labor in the 1980s for bringing Catholics on pilgrimage to the Marian Shrine of Our Lady of Sheshan died this month at the age of 98.

Joseph Zhu Baoyu, bishop emeritus of Nanyang, made headlines in February for reportedly being the oldest person to recover from the coronavirus. Three months after his release from the hospital, Zhu died in his sleep on May 7 under the care of the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception.

He was one of three elderly underground Chinese Catholic bishops remembered in a Holy See communiqué on May 23 following their deaths over the past six months. All three died over the age of 90 after lives that spanned some of the most tumultuous periods for the Catholic Church in China. 

Zhu was born in Pushan, Henan, in 1921, at a time of extraordinary growth of Christianity in China. This was also the year that the Chinese Communist Party was founded in Shanghai. 

After his father died, Zhu’s mother enrolled him in a Catholic orphanage in Jingang at the age of six. Two years later both he and his mother were baptized. Zhu enrolled in a minor seminary. During the Chinese Civil War, he moved to the regional seminary of the regional seminary  philosophy and theology in the Archdiocese of Kaifeng in 1946. 

However, he would not be ordained to the priesthood until after the Chinese Communist Revolution in 1949. In the years following the establishment of the People’s Republic of China many Catholics were arrested for refusing to comply with government campaigns to eliminate foreign influence and nationalize private schools.

Pope Pius XII highlighted this suffering in his encyclical Evangelii praecones in 1951.

“We have learned that many of the faithful and also nuns, missionaries, native priests and even bishops have been driven from their homes, despoiled of their possessions and languish in want as exiles or have been arrested, thrown into prison or into concentration camps, or sometimes cruelly done to death, because they were devoutly attached to their faith. Our heart is overwhelmed with grief when We think of the hardships, suffering and death of these our beloved children,” the pope wrote.

Zhu was ordained to the priesthood in 1957, the year before Mao Zedong launched the “Great Leap Forward,” a five-year collectivised farming plan that resulted in a famine that killed more than 20 million people between 1959 and 1962.

Seven years after his ordination, he was sentenced to three years of forced labor because of his faith. Upon his release in 1967, he conducted ministry in secret in his hometown.

Zhu was again sentenced to 10 years of forced labor as an “anti-revolutionary” in 1981 after he was arrested for taking Catholics on pilgrimage to the Marian Shrine of Our Lady of Sheshan in Shanghai, according to a Human Rights Watch report documenting hundreds of religious and political prisoners detained in China at the time. 

Upon his release in 1988, Zhu was allowed to resume parish ministry. Pope John Paul II appointed Zhu as coadjutor bishop of Nanyang in 1995, and he was ordained in secret on the feast of St. Joseph. In 2002 he became the ordinary underground bishop of Nanyang until he submitted his retirement to the pope in 2010.

Nanyang is Chinese city more than 10 million people. According to the Vatican statement, the Diocese of Nanyang has 20,000 Catholics and 20 priests. 

Zhu’s funeral was presided over by Bishop Peter Jin Lugang of Nanyang, the first underground bishop to be publicly accepted by the Chinese government following the September 2018 China-Holy See agreement on the appointment of bishops.

The Vatican communique also announced the deaths of underground bishops emeriti Joseph Ma Zhongmu and Andrew Jin Danyuan.

Andrew Jin Danyuan, underground bishop emeritus of Changzhi, died in November at the age of 90. After his ordination to the priesthood in Beijing in 1956, Jin was arrested and imprisoned for 13 years. 

Bishop Joseph Ma Zhongmu, who remained a part of China’s underground Church until his death at the age of 101 on March 23, was the first and only bishop of Mongolian ethnicity.

Born in a village in Inner Mongolia in 1919, Zhongmu studied in a Chinese minor seminary from 1935 to 1947, when he was ordained a priest during the Chinese Civil War.

Fr. Ma was sentenced to 10 years of forced labor in 1958 after refusing to join the then recently established Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association. Upon his release, Ma was forced to work as a village laborer in a water management plant during Mao’s Cultural Revolution. He was unable to resume his priestly ministry until 1979 as China began to open under Deng Xiaoping.

Pope John Paul II appointed Ma to be bishop of Yinchuan in 1983, entrusting to him the pastoral care of Mongolian Catholics. 

As bishop, Ma translated the catechism and other Church documents into Mongolian, and in his retirement dedicated himself to translating the New Testament and Roman Missal as well.

The Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples sent Bishop Ma a pectoral cross in 2004 as a sign of recognition and communion. 

Ma’s funeral was offered on March 27 by Bishop Paul Meng Qinglu of Hohhot and two other priests. No others allowed in attendance due to the coronavirus restrictions. 

Why Me?

The Book of Odds says that one in a million people are struck by lightning. One in 25,000 experience a medical condition called “broken heart syndrome” in the face of overwhelming shock or loss. In page after page the odds of experiencing specific problems pile up without answering: What if we’re the one?

Job defied all odds. God said of him, “There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil” (Job 1:8). Yet Job was chosen to suffer a series of losses that defied all odds. Of all people on earth, Job had reason to beg for an answer. It’s all there for us to read in chapter after chapter of his desperate struggle to understand, “Why me?”

Job’s story gives us a way of responding to the mystery of unexplained pain and evil. By describing the suffering and confusion of one of God’s best examples of goodness and mercy (29:1–25), we gain an alternative to the inflexible rule of sowing and reaping (4:7–8). By providing a backstory of satanic mayhem (Job 1) and an afterword (42:7–17) from the God who would one day allow His Son to bear our sins, the story of Job gives us reason to live by faith rather than sight.