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Camden diocese dedicates youth center to Blessed Carlo Acutis

CNA Staff, Oct 24, 2020 / 06:01 am (CNA).- The Bishop of Camden blessed a retreat center earlier this month, naming it for newly Blessed Carlo Acutis, an Italian teenager who dedicated his talents to sharing his love for the Eucharist.

Bishop Dennis Sullivan led the inauguration of the Blessed Carlo Acutis Youth Center in Absecon, 50 miles southeast of Camden, Oct. 8. He was joined by numerous students from Holy Spirit High School.

The event also involved Father Perry Cherubini, the president of Holy Spirit; Father Joshua Nevitt, the school’s director of Catholic identity; and Father Cosme de la Pena, pastor of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton parish.

Located across the street from the high school, the Blessed Carlo Acutis Youth Center was previously used as a convent.

Bishop Sullivan said Acutis’ example is a demonstration that senior citizens, “goody-two-shoes,” or priests are not the only people who can lead a life of holiness. He focused on the young saint’s youthful and humble piety as well as his dedication to the Eucharist and the poor.

“Holiness is possible for you,” the bishop told the high school students, noting that the young Italian was buried wearing sneakers and jeans. He stressed the value of using modern communication means to spread the faith.

Blessed Acutis died from leukemia at the age of 15 in 2006, and was beatified at the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi Oct. 10. Born in 1991, Acutis is the first millennial to be beatified.

The beatification drew an estimated 3,000 people to Assisi, including Acutis’ friends, family, and pilgrims inspired by his witness. The feast day of Carlo Acutis will be observed Oct. 12.

The young Italian had enjoyed computer science and video games. However, he also used his computer programming skills to spread devotion to the Eucharist and offered his suffering from cancer for the Church.

“Since he was a child … he had his gaze turned to Jesus. Love for the Eucharist was the foundation that kept alive his relationship with God. He often said ‘The Eucharist is my highway to heaven’,” Cardinal Agostino Vallini said in his homily for the beatification.

“Carlo felt a strong need to help people discover that God is close to us and that it is beautiful to be with him to enjoy his friendship and his grace.”

Santa Fe archdiocese again suspending public Mass

Denver Newsroom, Oct 23, 2020 / 04:37 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Santa Fe is indefinitely suspending all public Masses after the weekend, citing rising COVID-19 cases in New Mexico and the approaching flu season.

The archdiocese’s schools may remain open.

In an Oct. 22 letter, Archbishop John Wester directed that all scheduled Masses be livestreamed or recorded starting Oct. 25. He said churches may remain open for private prayer, as long as people remain masked and socially distanced.

Funerals should be “delayed if possible,” with funeral rites without a Mass having ten or fewer people present, and anointing of the sick may continue “with due care,” he added.

Archbishop Wester said that “hospitals are also reaching maximum capacity for treating patients.”

The archbishop said there has been “no significant increase in the number of cases in our Catholic schools,” and thus Catholic schools may remain open “in accordance with the judgment of the pastor, superintendent and principals.” He said schools should prepare to provide online instruction if the need arises.

The archdiocese did not respond to CNA’s inquiry about whether there have been any outbreaks of the virus associated with the celebration of Mass in the archdiocese.

Since May 16-17, churches in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe have been allowed to reopen for the public celebration of Mass in line with phase one of the governor’s reopening guidelines, initially allowing for attendance set at 10% of building capacity, which was later expanded to 25%.

Under guidelines posted on the archdiocesan website, various restrictions on the celebration of the liturgy remain in place, including a prohibition on congregants singing.

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has not issued any new orders telling houses of worship in the state to close again, but urged all residents Oct. 23 to “stay home,” to wear a mask, and to avoid crowds.

Medical experts have told CNA that the celebration of Mass during the pandemic in the United States has been shown to be safe as long as safety guidelines are followed.

In August, doctors Thomas McGovern, Deacon Timothy Flanigan, and Paul Cieslak authored an article for Real Clear Science on Mass attendance and COVID-19. At that point, the doctors said, Catholic parishes had celebrated over a million public Masses in the United States since shelter-in-place orders were lifted.

At the time of their writing, “for Catholic churches following guidelines, no outbreaks of COVID-19 have been linked to church attendance.” Even in a few cases where asymptomatic infected individuals attended Mass, following the guidelines prevented outbreaks: maintaining distance, mask wearing, and washing hands.

“The few churches that have been reported as sources of COVID-19 outbreaks did not follow social distancing or require masks; they also promoted congregational singing,” the doctors stated.

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

In July priests in the archdiocese were warned they could lose the faculty to preach if they give homilies longer than five minutes.

Fr. Glennon Jones, archdiocesan vicar general, wrote in a July 31 memo to priests that the chancery had “received reports of some homilies going on for well over the 5-minute limit set by the Archbishop.”

“If such homilies continue, [Archbishop John Wester] will consider severer [sic] actions for subject clergy,” Fr. Jones wrote, “up to and including possible suspension of the faculty to preach.”

Lujan Grisham announced new coronavirus restrictions on restaurants, museums, and stores Oct. 20.

Retail businesses in the state will have to close by 10 pm daily, and state-operated museums and historical sites will be required to shut down completely, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.

New Mexico recorded 827 new cases Oct. 21, a single-day record.

Public schools in the state have reported 264 COVID-19 cases in 157 schools, with 157 infected staff members and 97 infected students, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.

Lujan Grisham had closed non-essential businesses March 24, and banned “mass gatherings” of five or more people in the state.

Churches were initially exempt from the ban, although all of New Mexico’s Catholic dioceses stopped public Masses by the end of March to help curb the spread of the virus.

On April 11, Lujan Grisham extended the ban on “mass gatherings” to include houses of worship.

On April 15, Bishop Peter Baldacchino of Las Cruces announced that he would resume public Masses, being the first US diocese to reopen public Masses. He allowed for Masses to be offered outdoors with attendees spaced more than six feet apart, or inside churches with fewer than five people present.

Mississippi asks US Supreme Court to solve circuit court split with 15 week abortion case

CNA Staff, Oct 23, 2020 / 02:01 pm (CNA).- The Mississippi Attorney General on Thursday urged the US Supreme Court to hear a case regarding the state’s ban on most abortions from 15 weeks into pregnancy, citing a circuit split over a question raised in the suit.

Lynn Fitch submitted a brief petitioning for writ of certiorari in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization Oct. 22.

“The circuit split...continues to grow,” she wrote, over the question “whether the validity of a pre-viability law that protects women’s health, the dignity of unborn children, and the integrity of the medical profession and society should be analyzed under Casey’s ‘undue burden’ standard or Hellerstedt’s balancing of benefits and burdens.”

“This case remains an ideal vehicle to promptly resolve both that question and the first question presented—the contradictions in this Court’s decisions over use of ‘viability’ as a bright line for measuring pro-life legislation,” Fitch stated.

Fitch noted that in a recent case, a panel of the Fifth Circuit acknowledged that its decision conflicted with one reached by the Eighth Circuit, and that the Sixth Circuit has “reached the exact opposite conclusion as the Fifth Circuit panel majority.”

The circuit split arises from differences in interpretation of the Supreme Court’s June decision in June Medical Services, LLC v. Russo, which struck down Louisiana’s requirement that abortion doctors have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

In December 2019 Judge Patrick Higginbotham of the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld a district court ruling that blocked Mississippi’s 15 week abortion ban.

The law allows abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy when the mother’s life or a major bodily function is in danger, or when the unborn child has a severe abnormality and is not expected to be able to live outside the womb at full term. Exceptions are not granted for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. Physicians who knowingly violate the law can lose their state medical license.

Defending the law, Mississippi’s attorneys have argued that it has an interest in protecting the life of the unborn, as well as maternal health. They pointed to an increased risk of complications for the mother when abortion is performed further into the pregnancy. They have also made a case that unborn babies are capable of feeling pain prior to viability.

Higginbotham wrote that “In an unbroken line dating to Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court’s abortion cases have established (and affirmed, and re-affirmed) a woman’s right to choose an abortion before viability. States may regulate abortion procedures prior to viability so long as they do not impose an undue burden on the woman’s right but they may not ban abortions.”

In July, Governor Tate Reeves signed into law the Life Equality Act, banning abortion based on sex, race, or genetic abnormality.

Trump and Biden clash on immigration and coronavirus during final debate

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 23, 2020 / 01:30 pm (CNA).- Immigration and the coronavirus pandemic took center stage on Thursday’s final debate between President Donald Trump and former vice president Joe Biden, while issues like abortion and religious liberty were not up for discussion, as the candidates enter the final two weeks of the presidential campaign. 

The debate, hosted by Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, featured new rules designed to improve the flow of discussion. Because of COVID-19 concerns, the candidates were spread apart and had a plexiglass barrier in between them. 

The night started off with moderator Kristen Welker of NBC questioning the two candidates about how they would lead the country through the “next stage” of the pandemic. 

Trump defended his record, saying he “closed the greatest economy in the world” to fight the disease, and noted that the excess mortality rate was “way down” compared to other countries. He also said that a vaccine is “coming” and “ready,” and will be “announced within weeks.” 

When pressed, Trump said that there was “not a guarantee” on the timeline but that he thinks there is a “good chance” a vaccine will be announced “within a matter of weeks.” 

Biden attacked the president for not encouraging mask wearing earlier in the pandemic, and said that he had “no comprehensive plan” for tackling the virus, which has caused the deaths of more than 250,000 people in the country.

“What I would do is make sure we have everyone encouraged to wear a mask, all the time. I would make sure we move in the direction of rapid testing, investing in rapid testing. I would make sure that we set up national standards as to how to open up schools and open up businesses to be safe, and give them the wherewithal and financial resources to be able to do that,” said Biden. 

Biden said that a vaccine process must be “totally transparent” in order for Americans to be willing to actually take the vaccine. He also defended calling Trump “xenophobic” when the president restricted travel from China at the beginning of the pandemic, and then added that the president “did it late.” 

The former vice president said that while he would not immediately endorse another shutdown, he had not ruled out the possibility, should a community experience a high rate of cases. 

Trump, conversely, pressed for the increased opening of schools, and stated that “we’re not going to shut down.” 

Following the discussion of coronavirus, the debate shifted to national security and foreign policy, and then onto health care reform. 

Trump was questioned about the recent claim that more than 500 children separated at the border from their families could not be reunited as their parents could not be located. 

During the approximately two months that the administration enforced its “zero tolerance” policy, which included family separation, was in effect, about 3,000 children were separated from their parents, plus an additional 1,000 children who were separated from their parents during a pilot program of the policy in 2017.

Catholic leaders, both domestic and international, have repeatedly criticized the family separation policy. 

At the end of June 2018, the court ordered that the children be reunited with their families.

The president appeared to deflect the question, saying first that “Children are brought here by coyotes and lots of bad people, cartels, and they’re brought here and it’s easy to use them to get into our country.” 

Trump said that he was “working” on a plan to reunite these children with their families, but said that this was difficult as “a lot of these kids come up without the parents” via a cartel or coyote. 

 A “coyote” is a slang term for a person paid to smuggle people into the United States. 

Biden objected to these claims, saying that “these 500 plus kids came with parents” and were separated from them at the border. He also rejected the idea that coyotes were responsible for bringing children across the border, saying that “their parents were with them.” 

Biden and Trump sparred on the topic of the now-infamous “cages” that temporarily housed children who were separated from their parents at the border. 

Trump noted that the “cages” were built during the Obama administration,during which time President Obama was referred to as the “deporter-in-chief” for the record-high number of deportations during his time in office. 

Biden countered that the policy of separating families made a “laughingstock” of the country, and said the failure to achieve immigration reform during his vice presidency was “a mistake” and that he would create a pathway to citizenship for “over 11 million undocumented people” within the first 100 days of his presidency. 

During exchanges on healthcare, Trump credited himself with “terminating” the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act, which he called “the worst part of Obamacare.” 

“Now [the ACA] is in court, because Obamacare is no good,” said Trump. “No matter how well you run it, it’s no good. What we’d like to do is terminate it.” 

The president said that if Obamacare were “terminated,” he would “come up with a brand new beautiful healthcare” policy that would continue to protect people with pre-existing conditions. 

Biden said that, if elected, he would “pass Obamacare with a public option.” He referred to this as “Bidencare.” This public option would cover people who qualify for Medicaid but “do not have the wherewithal...to get Medicaid.” 

Biden said that he would not eliminate private insurance.

Catholic leaders call for clarity on Pope Francis civil union remarks

CNA Staff, Oct 23, 2020 / 12:00 am (CNA).- Bishops and prominent Catholics have responded to a new documentary in which Pope Francis is featured calling for civil recognition of same-sex unions, calling for caution and telling Catholics to await clarity from the Vatican after the remarks caused confusion.

The pope’s comments were made in “Francesco,” a documentary on the life and ministry of Pope Francis, released Wednesday. The film made global headlines, because the it contains a scene in which Pope Francis is portrayed calling for the passage of civil union laws for same-sex couples.

In the film, the pope is shown saying that “What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered.” The apparent endorsement of civil recognition of same-sex couples by the pope garnered the widespread reaction.

“Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family,” the pope also was shown to say in the video, in a section subsequently shown to be heavily edited. “They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it,” the pope said, in reference to his approach to pastoral care.

The pope has often spoken of the need for pastoral closeness and love for people who identify as LGBT, and against family members, especially parents, ostracizing or rejecting them on account of their sexual orientation. The pope has also repeatedly said that marriage exists between one man and one woman.

Some activists and media reports have suggested that Pope Francis had changed Catholic teaching by his remarks.

The context and manner in which the film was shot, compiled and edited, have raised questions about what the pope said, the context in which he said it, what it means, and what the Church teaches about civil unions and marriage.

“Pope Francis’ remarks giving qualified support to civil unions of same–sex couples are not his first as pope,” said St. Paul-Minneapolis Archbishop Bernard Hebda on Wednesday.

“While affirming Church teaching that marriage can only be between one man and one woman, he along with others who defend traditional marriage, has shown openness to civil unions as a kind of middle way that would allow persons of the same sex in long-term relationships to have legal benefits without a civil redefinition of marriage itself.”

The archbishop said that “Church teaching on marriage is clear and irreformable,” but that “the conversation must continue about the best ways to reverence the dignity of those in same–sex relationships so that they are not subject to any unjust discrimination.”

Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh said that the comments in the documentary “reflect [the pope’s] pastoral approach to persons who may be on the peripheries of society,” and “in no way signal a departure from the teaching of the Catholic Church concerning marriage or homosexuality.”

“It speaks, rather, of a pastoral approach to these issues,” Zubik said.

“In essence, Pope Francis has not promoted change in the moral or sacramental teaching of the Church. He has simply called for all people to be treated with the dignity and love which is their due by being created in God’s image and likeness and being children of the Heavenly Father.”

A 2003 document issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith expressed opposition to civil unions for same-sex couples, saying that “respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions.”

The film’s portrayal of a papal endorsement of same-sex unions did not change Church teaching, or alter the Church’s understanding of the nature of homosexual acts. But Francis’s apparent call for legal “cover” for same-sex unions would represent a shift in the prudential judgement of public policy options made by his predecessors.

Bishop Michael Olson of Fort Worth also responded to the film’s release, saying that “the Church is obliged to hand on faithfully what she has received from Christ. It is the mind of Christ that marriage is an indissoluble bond between one man and one woman. The Church preaches and acts upon this truth, regardless of the passing opinions of nations, states, or cultures.”

Noting that Pope Francis has repeatedly affirmed the Church’s unchanging position that marriage exists, and can only exist, between one man and one woman, Olson said that “comments recently recorded in the making of a documentary about Pope Francis regarding civil recognition of ‘unions’ between homosexual couples appear to have led some to the erroneous conclusion that the Church’s teaching on marriage has changed or is about to change.”
 
“It is a misunderstanding of rights to suggest or infer that legal arrangements of civil societies canconfer a status equivalent to marriage to couples who do not conform to God’s intention and design for marriage.”

Following the release of “Francesco”, some prominent Catholics highlighted their own past support for civil unions as a way of providing legal protections for couples of various kinds, without building a bridge towards civil recognition of same-sex marriage.

Ryan Anderson, senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation, noted Wednesday that he and Princeton Professor Robert George had previously argued that civil unions would “neither introduce a rival ‘marriage-lite’ option, or treat same-sex unions as marriages.”

The Church previously opposed the recognition of civil unions, even those explicitly defined as distinct from marriage, because they could lead to eventual recognition of “same-sex marriage,” as they have done in countries like the U.K., and because they could have “the consequence of making it a model in present-day society,” and “also obscure basic values which belong to the common inheritance of humanity.”

Some have raised questions about the significance of the pope’s comments, given that many Western countries have already brought in laws recognizing same-sex civil unions and “same-sex marriage.” But Jesuit priest and LGBT campaigner Fr. James Martin said on Twitter that the pope’s comments are “a big deal.”

“For those who think the Pope's comments about same-sex civil unions are no big deal: Perhaps in the US or Western Europe. But in places like Poland, where some bishops are virulently anti-LGBT; or Uganda, where bishops side with laws criminalizing homosexuality, it's a big deal.”

Martin’s comments triggered a strong response from Eastern European and African Catholics, who suggested the Jesuit’s comments were a form of cultural colonialism.

“What a shame to see an American priest passing judgement on African bishops!” responded Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier of Durban. “Why is it a shame? Because [Martin] doesn’t know the context.”

“In recent years, especially in [President] Obama’s time, enormous pressure was put on African leaders to introduce all the Western ‘isms’ as a condition for receiving aid,” the cardinal said.

“Legalizing of abortion and homosexuality were the foremost,” Napier said.