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Friday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 Jas 2:14-24, 26

What good is it, my brothers and sisters,
if someone says he has faith but does not have works?   
Can that faith save him?
If a brother or sister has nothing to wear
and has no food for the day,
and one of you says to them,
“Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,”
but you do not give them the necessities of the body,
what good is it?
So also faith of itself,
if it does not have works, is dead.

Indeed someone might say,   
“You have faith and I have works.”
Demonstrate your faith to me without works,
and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works.
You believe that God is one.
You do well.
Even the demons believe that and tremble.
Do you want proof, you ignoramus,
that faith without works is useless?
Was not Abraham our father justified by works
when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar?
You see that faith was active along with his works,
and faith was completed by the works.
Thus the Scripture was fulfilled that says,
Abraham believed God,
and it was credited to him as righteousness,

and he was called the friend of God.
See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.
For just as a body without a spirit is dead,
so also faith without works is dead.

Responsorial Psalm 112:1-2, 3-4, 5-6

R.    (see 1b)  Blessed the man who greatly delights in the Lord’s commands.
Blessed the man who fears the LORD,
who greatly delights in his commands.
His posterity shall be mighty upon the earth;
the upright generation shall be blessed.
R.    Blessed the man who greatly delights in the Lord’s commands.
Wealth and riches shall be in his house;
his generosity shall endure forever.
Light shines through the darkness for the upright;
he is gracious and merciful and just.
R.    Blessed the man who greatly delights in the Lord’s commands.
Well for the man who is gracious and lends,
who conducts his affairs with justice;
He shall never be moved;
the just man shall be in everlasting remembrance.
R.    Blessed the man who greatly delights in the Lord’s commands.

Alleluia Jn 15:15b

R.    Alleluia, alleluia.
I call you my friends, says the Lord,
for I have made known to you all that the Father has told me.
R.    Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Mk 8:34–9:1

Jesus summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them,
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake
and that of the Gospel will save it.
What profit is there for one to gain the whole world
and forfeit his life?
What could one give in exchange for his life?
Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words
in this faithless and sinful generation,
the Son of Man will be ashamed of
when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

He also said to them,
“Amen, I say to you,
there are some standing here who will not taste death
until they see that the Kingdom of God has come in power.”

 

 

For the readings of the Optional Memorial of Saint Peter Damian, please go here.

- - -
Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

US bishops: Pope Francis talks Fr. James Martin, euthanasia, at private meeting

Vatican City, Feb 20, 2020 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- During a private meeting with bishops from the southwestern United States, Pope Francis talked about his 2019 meeting with Fr. James Martin, SJ, and about pastoral care and assisted suicide.

The pope met Feb. 10 for more than two hours with bishops from New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming.

Several bishops present at the meeting told CNA that in addition to discussions about his then-pending exhortation on the Amazon region, and on the challenges of transgenderism and gender ideology, Pope Francis discussed his Sept. 30 meeting with Martin, an American Jesuit who is well-known for speaking and writing about the Church’s ministry to people who identify themselves as LGBT.

"The Holy Father's disposition was very clear, he was most displeased about the whole subject of Fr. Martin and how their encounter had been used. He was very expressive, both his words and his face -  his anger was very clear, he felt he'd been used," one bishop told CNA.

Martin met with Pope Francis shortly after a Sept. 19 column by Archbishop Charles Chaput criticized “a pattern of ambiguity” in Martin’s work, which Chaput said “tends to undermine his stated aims, alienating people from the very support they need for authentic human flourishing.”

“I find it necessary to emphasize that Father Martin does not speak with authority on behalf of the Church, and to caution the faithful about some of his claims,” Chaput added.

The meeting between Martin and the pope was taken by some as a response to Chaput’s column.

The meeting took place in a papal library ordinarily reserved for high-level audiences with the pope, which some journalists saw as a significant decision.

“By choosing to meet him in this place, Pope Francis was making a public statement. In some ways, the meeting was the message,” America Magazine reported of the encounter.

But bishops who met with the pope this week said that while Pope Francis had accommodated a request for a meeting with Martin, he was clear with them that he did not intend for it to convey any significance.

In fact, one bishop at the meeting told CNA that Pope Francis has said he “made his displeasure clear” about the way the meeting was interpreted, and framed by some journalists.

"He told us that the matter had been dealt with; that Fr. Martin had been given a 'talking to' and that his superiors had also been spoken to and made the situation perfectly clear to him," another bishop said.

"I do not think you will be seeing that picture of him with the pope on his next book cover," the bishop told CNA.

For his part, Martin told CNA Feb. 20 that “I can't comment on what the Holy Father told me, since he asked me not to share the details with the media, other than to say that I felt profoundly inspired, consoled and encouraged by our half-hour audience in the Apostolic Palace, which came at his invitation.”

Two bishops told CNA that Martin’s work in regards to the LGBT community was also discussed with the heads of numerous Vatican congregations, and that some officials expressed concern about aspects of the priest’s work.

According to bishops present at the papal meeting, Pope Francis also spoke about euthanasia, and was asked about comments from Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, who said at a December symposium that priests should “let go of the rules” in order to be present with people who have initiated assisted suicide.

At the symposium Paglia mentioned that he would be hold the hand of someone dying from assisted suicide, and that he does not see such an action as lending implicit support for the practice.

Pope Francis apparently told bishops that while priests must love mercifully those who have terminal illnesses, they can not “accompany” someone who is in the act of suicide, which the Catholic Church teaches to be gravely immoral.

One bishop told CNA that the same matter was brought up with the heads of Vatican offices, and “they were really clear that what [Paglia] said was a big problem, and that other bishops have brought it up.”

Vatican officials said “you just can’t do that,” a bishop said, in reference to any pastoral action that might seem to imply approval of, or cooperation with, assisted suicide.

 

Ed Condon contributed to this report.

 

Retired judge hears arguments about NFL emails in clergy abuse case

New Orleans, La., Feb 20, 2020 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- A retired New Orleans judge heard arguments on Thursday on whether private correspondence between an NFL franchise and the Archdiocese of New Orleans should be made public.

Judge Carolyn Jefferson, a retired judge of the Civil District Court for Orleans, presided over Thursday’s hearing over whether email correspondence between the NFL’s New Orleans Saints franchise and the Archdiocese of New Orleans should be available to the public, the AP reported.

The correspondence relates to a lawsuit against the archdiocese which claims it failed to protect a minor from an alleged sexual abuser in the 1970s and 80s.

In that case, lawyers for the plaintiffs have also alleged that the Saints improperly aided the archdiocese in public relations efforts to conceal information on clergy sex abuse when the archdiocese released its 2018 report on credibly accused clergy.

The Associated Press has filed a motion to have public access to email correspondence between the franchise and the archdiocese. Lawyers for the AP argued on Thursday that concerns over privacy “are minimal” when compared to the magnitude of the case.

Thursday’s hearing would not result in an immediate decision by Judge Jefferson, but rather in a recommendation made to the judge overseeing the sexual abuse lawsuit against the archdiocese, Judge Ellen Hazeur of Orleans Civil District Court.

The archdiocese is being sued by a man who alleged he was sexually abused by George Brignac, a deacon in the archdiocese who was removed from ministry in 1988 after allegations that he sexually abused minors in the 1970s and 1980s. Brignac was listed in the archdiocese’s 2018 report of clergy who had been credibly accused of abuse.

The abuse case of John Doe versus the Catholic Church of New Orleans and Deacon George Brignac was first reported by local news station WVUE. The lawsuit alleges that the archdiocese failed to protect the plaintiff from Brignac.

Brignac was originally accused of raping an altar boy at Holy Rosary School in the archdiocese, which resulted in a settlement with the archdiocese of more than $500,000, the New Orleans Advocate reported. The lawsuit filed in 2018 alleges that he molested another boy at the same school between 1977 and 1982, the Advocate reported.  

Lawyers also requested to view email correspondence between the Saints and the archdiocese, alleging that the franchise improperly helped the archdiocese with damage control in the release of its 2018 report.

The franchise responded that it did assist the archdiocese, but did so in the interest of “disclosure” and not “concealment.

On Thursday, a lawyer for the archdiocese said the allegations of colluding with the archdiocese to conceal information are "nothing more than a clear attack on the Catholic faith and the Catholic Church for wrongs of the past that the church has acknowledged,” the AP reported.

Tennessee governor denies clemency to death row 'model inmate'

Knoxville, Tenn., Feb 20, 2020 / 11:00 am (CNA).- The governor of Tennessee has denied a clemency request for a condemned prisoner described as a “model inmate,” clearing the way for his execution on Thursday, February 20. The decision was made despite appeals to spare his life from the family of one of his victims, and from prison officers.

Nicholas Sutton, 58, was sentenced to death in 1988 after he and another inmate murdered a fellow prisoner, Carl Estep, by stabbing him nearly 40 times on January 15, 1985. At the time of Estep’s murder, Sutton was serving a life sentence for the murder of his grandmother, Dorothy Sutton, whom he killed when he was 18. 

Gov. Bill Lee (R) denied the request for clemency on Wednesday morning. 

“After careful consideration of Nicholas Sutton’s request for clemency and a thorough review of the case, I am upholding the sentence of the State of Tennessee and will not be intervening,” said Lee. 

Sutton was also convicted of murdering two men--Charles Almon, 46 and John Large, 19--in North Carolina, also at the age of 18. In those cases, Sutton took a plea deal and received two additional life sentences. 

His attorneys argued that he underwent a change of heart since the four murders, and had “gone from a life-taker to a life-saver,” protecting the lives of prison officials during riots. 

“I owe my life to Nick Sutton,” said former prison officer Tony Eden in an affidavit for his clemency. Eden recounted a story where, during a riot at the Tennessee State Prison in 1985, five armed inmates attempted to take him hostage.

“Nick and another inmate confronted them, physically removed me from the situation and escorted me to the safety of the trap gate in another building,” said Eden. “I firmly believe that the inmates who tried to take me hostage intended to seriously harm, if not kill me.” 

Six other current and former Tennessee Department of Correction staff members have advocated that Sutton be granted clemency. Sutton’s clemency affidavit contends that, while he was in prison, he saved the lives of five people, including three prison staff members. 

The family members of some of his victims have also argued that he should not be executed. 

Former federal district court judge Kevin Sharp, who is serving as Sutton’s clemency attorney, said in a statement after the request was denied that his client “is a once-in-a-lifetime case for clemency.”

Sutton “has saved the lives of three correction officials during his incarceration; his request for clemency was supported by seven former and current Tennessee correction professionals, family members of victims, five of the original jurors and others,” said Sharp. 

Per the statement, correction officials were seeking to spare Sutton “so he could keep making the prison safer for guards and encouraging good behavior from inmates.” 

“Mr. Sutton has been a model inmate who seeks every opportunity to be of service to others,” said Sharp, explaining that Sutton cared for a disabled inmate every day who lost the ability to walk due to multiple sclerosis. 

Sutton’s execution is scheduled for 8 p.m. on Thursday. He has opted for the electric chair to be the method of his execution, having previously argued that the lethal injection protocol is inhumane and accounts to torture. The preferred method for execution in the state is lethal injection, but inmates who were sentenced to death prior to 1999 were given the choice between lethal injection and electrocution. 

On Wednesday, it was reported that Sutton had ordered his last meal, which he will eat prior to his execution Thursday night. Sutton ordered fried pork chops, mashed potatoes with gravy, and peach pie with vanilla ice cream. 

The catholic bishops of Tennessee have repeatedly spoken out against the death penalty in the state and called on the governor’s office to half executions.

In May, 2019, the state’s three bishops wrote to Gov. Lee asking him to respect the dignity of all human life.

“It is within your power to establish your legacy as a governor of Tennessee who does not preside over an execution on your watch,” the bishops wrote to Governor Bill Lee last year.

The letter was published May 3, and was signed by Bishop Richard Stika of Knoxville, Bishop Mark Spalding of Nashville, and Bishop David Talley of Memphis.

The bishops said that “Even when guilt is certain, the execution is not necessary to protect society.”

“We clearly state our strong opposition to the state carrying out the death penalty,” the bishops said. “We urge you to use your authority as governor to put an end to the fast-track executions.”

Bishop Wall: Pope Francis 'passionate about life' from conception to natural death

Gallup, N.M., Feb 20, 2020 / 03:01 am (CNA).- After visiting with Pope Francis for two and a half hours during his region’s ad limina visit, Bishop James Wall of Gallup told CNA that he was encouraged by the Holy Father’s passion for the pro-life movement, his love for the vulnerable in society, and his willingness to discuss anything.

“The Holy Father just (said), ‘What would you want to talk about?’” Wall told CNA.

“So I saw an opportunity, and it was kind of funny. I said, ‘Holy Father, we're pro-life.’ And he joked and he goes, ‘Well, so is the Holy Father.’”

Wall said he then told Pope Francis that he wanted to talk about how much of the Church, and society at large, has still rejected the message of Humanae vitae, St. Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical reaffirming the Church’s teaching on sexuality and against contraception, more than 50 years after it was written.

The rejection of Humanae vitae’s teachings has created a “vocational crisis,” Wall added, because parents are not learning to be generous with God, and therefore their children are not learning to be generous with God and to trust him with his plan for their lives.

Wall said Pope Francis responded that he especially sees this crisis in the disappearance of people with disabilities from society.

“(Pope Francis) said, ‘Yes, the question about why is it in our society that we see fewer and fewer people with disabilities?...Because we do tests of children in the womb, and if we see that they have a disability, then we abort them. This is a great evil.’”

People with disabilities are created in the image and likeness of God, as are all people, and they have “a unique role to play in society, because they help us to love and they teach us about love,” the Pope told the bishops.

“It's a beautiful line from the Holy Father,” Wall told CNA.

The bishops of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops' Region XIII met with Pope Francis Feb. 10. The region includes the bishops of Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, and Arizona.

Wall said he discussed with Pope Francis that the Native American people in his diocese still value life - they care for children with Down syndrome, and they have great respect for their grandparents and elders.

Pope Francis then spoke about the importance of respecting life "from conception until natural death, the littlest to the oldest” and the need to protect the most vulnerable in society.

“It was awesome to see the Holy Father just really be so passionate about life, and passionate about life of people with disability. I thought that was beautiful,” Wall said.

One of the problems with the way society talks about life is that they use the term “quality of life,” Wall noted.

“That's such a loaded term,” he said. “My quality of life could be different from your quality of life, but that doesn't mean that my life is better or worth more than your life. Every life is worth it and worth living.”

“And whether somebody has a disability, whether somebody's old and young, whatever the case is, or if somebody makes a lot of money or doesn't, the quality of life is the same for everyone, (because) our quality of life is we're all created in the image and likeness of God.”

Priests should be preaching the truth about Church teaching regarding contraception and human life in order to foster a deeper culture of life among Catholics, Wall added.

“That's something that we shouldn't shy away from preaching - preaching the truth of Humanae vitae, preaching the truth of the theology of the body, preaching the truth of what all the Church teaches when we talk about the sacredness of life,” he said.

“And we need to be able to name it for what it is,” he added. “So when we talk about abortion, or we talk about contraception, and we talk about embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia, physician-assisted suicide - we call it for what it is. We pray for an end to these intrinsic evils in our society.”

Parishes should also give couples who are living according to Church teaching a chance to share their testimonies, Wall said, in order to counter the perception that everyone is using contraception and that it must be okay because it is so widely used.

Wall said he would also encourage Catholics to read Humanae vitae.

“It was a prophetic document from Pope St. Paul VI...because, in terms of the negative things, he said, ‘If the Church were to go down this rabbit hole (of approving contraception), these are all the things that we're going to see happen. We're going to see an increase in abortion. We're going to see an increase of violence, sexual acts of violence, sexual acts against women, men objectifying women. We're going to see an increase in divorce.’ All these things happened (when) society gave into it.”

“But, in the positive sense, Pope St. Paul VI said, ‘If we're faithful to God's plan for marriage and God's plans for life, what we're going to see is we're going to see a blossoming of marital life.’ So when we see couples that are open to God's plan, what we see is anywhere from a 2 to 4% divorce rate. In other words, we see in 94 to 96% success rate, meaning couples are together. They're being faithful to their marriage vows and staying together ‘til death do they part.”

Wall added that after his region’s ad limina visit, he felt very close to the Holy Father and appreciated his openness to discuss anything.

“We didn't send him a list of questions and have him get prepared for it. He wanted to talk about things. So if you asked him a question, he would sit there and he would really think about it. You could tell he was very thoughtful and very prayerful...and I found that very inspiring. I took away a great love for the Church and a real closeness to him.”

Thursday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 Jas 2:1-9

My brothers and sisters, show no partiality
as you adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.
For if a man with gold rings and fine clothes  
comes into your assembly,
and a poor person with shabby clothes also comes in,  
and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes
and say, “Sit here, please,”
while you say to the poor one, “Stand there,” or “Sit at my feet,”
have you not made distinctions among yourselves
and become judges with evil designs?

Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters.
Did not God choose those who are poor in the world
to be rich in faith and heirs of the Kingdom
that he promised to those who love him?
But you dishonored the poor.
Are not the rich oppressing you?
And do they themselves not haul you off to court?
Is it not they who blaspheme the noble name that was invoked over you?
However, if you fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture,
You shall love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing well.
But if you show partiality, you commit sin,
and are convicted by the law as transgressors.

Responsorial Psalm 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7

R.    (7a) The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Let my soul glory in the LORD;
the lowly will hear me and be glad.
R.    The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
Glorify the LORD with me,
let us together extol his name.
I sought the LORD, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
R.    The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
Look to him that you may be radiant with joy,
and your faces may not blush with shame.
When the poor one called out, the LORD heard,
and from all his distress he saved him.
R.    The Lord hears the cry of the poor.

Alleluia John 6:63c, 68c

R.    Alleluia, alleluia.
Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life;
you have the words of everlasting life.
R.    Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Mk 8:27-33

Jesus and his disciples set out
for the villages of Caesarea Philippi.
Along the way he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that I am?”
They said in reply,
“John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others one of the prophets.”
And he asked them,
“But who do you say that I am?”
Peter said to him in reply,
“You are the Christ.”
Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him.

He began to teach them
that the Son of Man must suffer greatly
and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed, and rise after three days.
He spoke this openly.
Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples,
rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan.
You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

- - -
Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

How California's abortion mandate trampled on Catholic nuns

Los Angeles, Calif., Feb 19, 2020 / 05:35 pm (CNA).- California could lose federal funds for requiring employer health plans to cover elective abortion, federal officials have said.

But the Missionary Guadalupanas of the Holy Spirit, the Catholic consecrated women whose legal complaint helped trigger the threat, only want their voice heard and their conscience clear.

“They have a ministry that works closely with the farm worker community and with immigrants. They’re wonderful women,” Kevin Eckery, a spokesman for the California Catholic Conference, told CNA Feb. 18. “They just didn’t understand why their conscience rights were being ignored, so they took action for themselves and others.”

The Missionary Guadalupanas of the Holy Spirit are consecrated women who live among the poor and needy in inner city and rural areas and serve them through activities like teaching religion classes and working with destitute Spanish-speaking immigrants.

Their June 26, 2017 complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights alleged that California’s 2014 rules mandating abortion coverage in health plans burdened their conscience rights and compelled them to fund “the practice of abortion on demand for other plan participants,” despite their Catholic beliefs that direct abortion is “gravely contrary to the moral law.”

Eckery told CNA that the California Catholic Conference saw the new state rules as “overreach” that impinged on the rights of conscience of Californians, especially the Guadalupanas.

“They didn’t understand why as Catholic nuns they were being forced to pay for elective abortion coverage and so they sought relief,” he said.

The Weldon Amendment, first passed in 2005, bars federal funds to state or local governments if they discriminate against institutional or individual healthcare entities, including health insurance plans, that decline to pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for, abortions.

On Jan. 24, federal officials sided with the Guadalupanas and another complainant, the Skyline Wesleyan Church of La Mesa. The HHS Office of Civil Rights estimated that the state mandate wrongly affected at least 35 employer groups serving over 28,000 enrollees, including 13 groups that met California’s definition of “religious employer.”

In a document known as a notice of violation, the Office of Civil Rights said that California’s Department of Managed Health Care ignored its specific request to confirm or deny whether it would align its practices to the Weldon Amendment, and instead issued a response that “confirms its non-compliance.” The office gave California 30 days from Jan. 24 to agree to comply with the law or face limits on federal HHS funds.

The Guadalupanas province, headquartered in Los Angeles, declined to comment to CNA.

Eckert said that the California Catholic Conference is “pleased” that federal action has been taken, but he stressed the need to seek a resolution.

“We’re not out to start or continue a culture war. We’re just out to make sure that the beliefs of people like the Guadalupanas are respected.”

“We’re not seeking to cut off federal funds,” he said. “All we’re seeking is a respectful conversation, but one that is now clearly backed by the government which recognizes that this is a violation of conscience rights.”

“We’re interested in simply rolling back to the status quo that existed prior to 2014,” Eckert said.

In August 2014 California’s Department of Managed Health sent a letter to seven insurance companies stating that they are required to include elective abortions in their health plans. A 1975 state health care law, the California constitution, and court precedent, it said, prohibits health plans “from discriminating against women who choose to terminate a pregnancy.” The law requires all health plans to “treat maternity services and legal abortion neutrally,” the state regulator said.

California officials mandated the coverage after two Catholic universities in autumn 2013 announced that they planned to stop paying for employees’ elective abortions and had secured state approval for the new health plans.

Lobbyists from Planned Parenthood wrote to the California Department of Health and Human Services to insist that agency rules be changed to force religious groups to provide coverage for elective abortions, according to emails published in court filings from the Alliance Defending Freedom legal group.

In June 2016, the Obama Administration rejected the California Catholic Conference’s federal complaint against the mandate. The HHS Office for Civil Rights said it “found no violation of the Weldon Amendment and is closing this matter without further action.”

At that time, leaders with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said the ruling was “contrary to the plain meaning of the law.” They said it was “shocking” that the federal government allowed California to force all employers, including churches, to fund and facilitate elective abortions.

The federal action against California was announced Jan. 24.

Some California officials, like Gov. Gavin Newsom, were defiant in response.

“Despite a federal opinion four years ago confirming California’s compliance with the Weldon Amendment, the Trump Administration would rather rile up its base to score cheap political points and risk access to care for millions than do what’s right… California will continue to protect a woman’s right to choose, and we won’t back down from defending reproductive freedom for everybody — full stop.”

Eckery, however, rejected partisan political interpretation of objections to the state rule.

“People who want to impose partisan political logic on issues of morality are off-base,” Eckery told CNA. “For us, this is not an issue of partisanship. We refuse to engage in partisanship on these matters. Why would one trade the moral teachings of the Church for just becoming another political party?”

“It’s unfortunate we live in a time of polarization. If we had a lot more respect and spent a lot more time listening than shouting, we’d all be better off.”

In a Jan. 31 statement, the California Catholic Conference said that the Weldon Amendment provision to withhold all federal funding from a state seems “impractical” to most observers and is a reason why the amendment has not been enforced previously.

“Catholic organizations and have been advocating for years for more effective consequences and for a private right of action in such cases,” the conference said.

Diocese of Harrisburg files for bankruptcy amid new sex abuse lawsuits 

Harrisburg, Pa., Feb 19, 2020 / 05:30 pm (CNA).- The Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania announced Wednesday that it is filing for bankruptcy.

A landslide of clergy abuse lawsuits have been filed against the diocese after a watershed Pennsylvania grand jury report on clerical sexual abuse was released in August 2018 and a change to state law allowed new litigation on old cases.

“This decision was made after countless hours of prayer and careful deliberation with our financial experts, attorneys, and our Diocesan Consultative Bodies,” Bishop Ronald W. Gainer said in an announcement on the diocese’s website.

“Despite the success of the Survivor Compensation Program, which helped 111 survivors of clergy child sexual abuse, or 96% of those who participated in the program, we already are in receipt of half a dozen new lawsuits, any one of which could severely cripple the diocese,” he said. 

The bankruptcy filing will allow the diocese to reorganize its finances in order to keep its main ministries afloat and to pay off its existing debts. Pending lawsuits against the diocese will be frozen until after a bankruptcy judgment is made, the Washington Post reported.

In 2018, a Pennsylvania grand jury report claimed to have identified more than 1,000 victims of 301 credibly accused priests in six Pennsylvania dioceses. It also presented a devastating portrait of alleged efforts by Church authorities to ignore, obscure, or cover up allegations - either to protect accused priests or to spare the Church scandal. The text of the report was drafted by the office of the state attorney general Josh Shapiro.

The two dioceses not included in the report, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, had undergone previous investigations.

While the statute of limitations in the state of Pennsylvania prevented most victims from filing lawsuits against priests who are still alive, a recent decision from Pennsylvania’s Superior Court ruled that victims may file lawsuits against dioceses in some cases, even if the statute of limitations for a lawsuit against the alleged perpetrator of the abuse had passed. The decision allowed a wave of lawsuits against the Diocese of Harrisburg.

“Our current financial situation, coupled with changes in the law both here and in New Jersey, where we are already named in one lawsuit and where we anticipate more to follow, left us with no other path forward to ensure the future of our Diocese,” Gainer said.

Harrisburg joins more than 20 U.S. dioceses and religious orders that have filed for bankruptcy due to sex abuse lawsuits since 2004, according to the website bishop-accountability.org. They are the fifth diocese to file since the summer of 2018, during which accusations of sexual abuse against former cardinal Theodore McCarrick came to light, and the Grand Jury report was published.

“The diocese was in need of right-sizing,” Matthew Haverstick, an attorney for the Diocese of Harrisburg, told the Washington Post. “Bankruptcy is really the responsible way to do it, so it can continue to do all the things it does, spiritually and charitably.”

Shaun Dougherty, who has campaigned for changes to the statute of limitations in Pennsylvania, told the Washington Post that the diocese’s decision is “horrendous” because he fears victims will not get justice or fair compensation.

“That’s how [Catholic dioceses] operate. They’re protecting the secrets, the assets,” Dougherty told the Washington Post.

Gainer said in his statement that he hopes to bring the bankruptcy process to a conclusion “as soon as is reasonably possible and in a way that allows us to be present to the community, as we have been for the past 152 years.”

He added that anyone with further questions can find more information on the website for the Diocese of Harrisburg.

“I humbly ask for your prayers for our diocese as we move forward in this process. May God grant us every grace needed during this difficult time,” he said.

“May Mary, Mother of the Church and our Mother, intercede with Her Son to be our strength and support as well.”

 

LGBTQ+ law clinic at Gonzaga Law raises 'serious concerns' for Spokane bishop

Spokane, Wash., Feb 19, 2020 / 05:08 pm (CNA).-  

Gonzaga University’s plan to become the first Jesuit university to open a law clinic focused primarily on LGBT advocacy has raised “serious concerns” for Spokane's Bishop Thomas Daly.

“While the Catholic tradition does uphold the dignity of every human being, the LGBT Rights law clinic’s scope of practice could bring the GU Law School into conflict with the religious freedom of Christian individuals and organizations,” the Spokane diocese said Feb. 19 in a statement to CNA.

“There is also a concern that Gonzaga Law School will be actively promoting, in the legal arena and on campus, values that are contrary to the Catholic faith and natural law.”

“Bishop Daly and the diocese are studying the issue further and will be discussing these serious concerns with the university administration,” the diocese added.

The diocese told CNA it was not consulted before the university announced the creation of the clinic.

The Lincoln LGBTQ+ Rights Clinic at Gonzaga was developed in partnership with the school’s Center for Civil and Human Rights, the university said in an announcement Feb. 14.

The clinic “aims to advance the equal rights and dignity of individuals who identify as LGBTQ+ through education, programming, advocacy, research, and legal representation.”

It will also provide “a special opportunity for Gonzaga law students to help protect and advance the rights of the LGBTQ+ community,” the university added.

Gonzaga's law school dean, Jacob Rooksby, told CNA that the LGBTQ+ Rights Clinic fits within the Catholic identity of the university because “it allows our students the chance to learn firsthand how law and the work of lawyers can further respect for individual dignity.”

The university noted that Harvard, Cornell, Emory, and UCLA— all secular institutions— have developed LGBTQ+ law clinics.

Father Bryan Pham, S.J., a civil and canon lawyer and chaplain for the Gonzaga School of Law, told CNA that the goal of the clinic is to create a space that helps students understand the viewpoints of a broad range of clients.

"I don't think there's anything that the law school or the clinic will be doing that would be in opposition to the Church's teaching, other than the fact that we want students to engage in this in a civil context of a law setting," Pham told CNA in an interview.

He said the clinic is not “about converting people or trying to get them to believe one way or another.”

“The law in this country is pretty clear about discrimination, so how do we expand that conversation in a much broader context?” he said.

The Lincoln LGBTQ+ Rights Clinic will “offer legal services to members of the public” with the help of second- and third-year law students, under the direction of a full-time faculty member, the university’s announcement explained.

Pham said it will be up to individual professors to decide whether or not to present the Church’s teaching in the classroom. He said “when it's my turn to be part of the conversation, I will definitely bring it up, absolutely.”
 
Concerns mentioned by Daly about religious liberty seem rooted in litigation some Catholic institutions have faced in recent years.

In the United States, various Catholic schools and dioceses have faced lawsuits from employees who have been fired after contracting civil same-sex marriages in violation of the diocesan or school policy.

In some states, such as Illinois, California, and Massachusetts, Catholic adoption agencies which do not place children with same-sex couples have been forced to close their doors after losing legal challenges.

In addition, Catholic hospitals have faced lawsuits from people who identify as transgender and wish to recieve surgery or hormone therapy to change their sex.

CNA asked Gonzaga whether students participating in the clinic might find themselves representing clients who are suing Catholic institutions.

“We are in the early stages of this initiative, working to hire a director and launch the clinic in the fall. Given that we are early in our development in the clinic, it is premature on our part to respond to hypothetical circumstances,” university spokesperson Chantell Cosner said in an email response to CNA.

“We anticipate being in a position to speak more specifically about the work of the clinic later this fall.”

But Pham said even if the clinic advocates for same-sex marriage, “the Church won't recognize that, so this really isn't an issue.”

In 2003, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said that “in those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty.”

“One must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws and, as far as possible, from material cooperation on the level of their application. In this area, everyone can exercise the right to conscientious objection,” the CDF added.

According to Pham, more basic issues are likely to be the clinic’s focus.

“For us, it's more about how people are discriminated against. So in places of employment, housing, bank loans— you know, they won't give a loan to a couple because they're a same-sex union— so those are really basic human issues,” the priest said.

Pham said his main concern is people’s assumptions that the clinic will advocate for positions contrary to Church teaching.

"My concern is people jumping to conclusions, and just looking at the name of the clinic, and then making an assumption about it,” Pham commented.

“This is something that we're aware of, when we were thinking about doing this clinic. We are a Catholic Jesuit school, our foundation is within Catholic social teaching, so I think my main concern is people hearing about this and often jumping to conclusions without finding out.”

Pham said the university uses a 1997 document from the United State Conference of Catholic Bishops, “Always Our Children,” as a guide for how “we work with our students and with community members who are of that community."

“Always Our Children” was, at the time of its release, criticized by groups who say they are faithful to Church teaching, such as Courage. It was largely embraced by groups critical of Catholic doctrine, such as DignityUSA. The document was not voted on by the full body of bishops, nor even discussed by them before its issuance, according to the National Catholic Register.

“Always Our Children” was revised and reissued in 1998, again, without a full vote of the U.S. bishops. One of the changes was the addition of a footnote to a 1992 letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith regarding legislative proposals to address discrimination against people who identify as gay.

“There are areas in which it is not unjust discrimination to take sexual orientation into account,” the document says, “for example, in the placement of children for adoption or foster care, in employment of teachers or athletic coaches, and in military recruitment.”

“‘Sexual orientation’ does not constitute a quality comparable to race, ethnic background, etc., in respect to nondiscrimination,” the document continued.

“Including ‘homosexual orientation’ among the considerations on the basis of which it is illegal to discriminate can easily lead to regarding homosexuality as a positive source of human rights, for example, in respect to so-called affirmative action or preferential treatment in hiring practices.”

In 2006, the USCCB issued an new document, Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination. That document, which was approved by a vote of the bishops, cited the CDF’s 1992 letter more explicitly.

“As human persons, persons with a homosexual inclination have the same basic rights as all people, including the right to be treated with dignity. Nevertheless “‘sexual orientation’ does not constitute a quality comparable to race, ethnic background, etc., in respect to nondiscrimination,” the 2006 document said.

“Therefore, it is not unjust, for example, to limit the bond of marriage to the union of a woman and a man. It is not unjust to oppose granting to homosexual couples benefits that in justice should belong to marriage alone,” the document continued.

The Catholic Church teaches that while homosexual inclinations are not sinful, homosexual acts “are contrary to the natural law...under no circumstances can they be approved.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that people with “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” should be “accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”

For its part, the Diocese of Spokane said it will approach talks with Gonzaga with hope for a positive resolution to points of disagreement.

“Bishop Daly is a strong supporter of Catholic education and hopes that Gonzaga will continue to be a partner in the Catholic mission of faithful education in the Church,” the diocese said.

Biden touts Catholic faith as campaign falters

Washington D.C., Feb 19, 2020 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- Presidential candidate Joe Biden highlighted his Catholic faith in a new campaign ad, released on Tuesday, Feb. 18. The former frontrunner for the Democratic nomination has seen a sharp drop in his poll numbers following loses in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary.

Biden, a baptized Catholic, said in the ad that “faith is what has gotten me through difficult times in my life,” including the deaths of his first wife, eldest daughter in a car accident, and his son Beau’s death from brain cancer. 

As Biden is speaking, the ad displays black-and-white pictures of the former vice president with various religious figures, including Pope Francis.

“Personally for me, faith, it’s all about hope and purpose and strength, and for me, my religion is just an enormous sense of solace,” he added.

“I go to Mass and I say the rosary. I find it to be incredibly comforting,” Biden said. 

The former frontrunner for the Democratic nomination quoted the philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, who said that “faith sees best in the dark,” to explain how his traumatic experiences have helped him develop and rely on his faith. 

“I marvel at people who absorb hurt and just get back up,” he said, drawing comparisons to the present state of the United States under President Donald Trump. 

“And I’m absolutely thoroughly convinced and optimistic about the prospects of this country. No, I really mean it,” he said. “There is nothing-there is nothing we can’t do.” 

While Biden is profiles his Catholicism in the advertisement, it has been a source of controversy over his lengthy political career, and he has endorsed policies that are contrary to Church teaching.

Shortly after his election as vice president, the then-bishop of his hometown of Scranton, PA, rebuked Biden for his views on abortion. 

“I will not tolerate any politician who claims to be a faithful Catholic who is not genuinely pro-life,” said Bishop Joseph Martino of Scranton in 2008. “No Catholic politician who supports the culture of death should approach Holy Communion. I will be truly vigilant on this point.”

During the 2008 campaign, Biden also received a letter from the then-bishop of the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee, after he received Communion at a parish in the diocese. The letter reiterated the Catholic Church’s views on abortion, and the bishop offered prayers that Biden would “live by the virtue of fortitude as you proclaim your support to the Person of Christ in the most vulnerable of his members: the pre-born child.” 

In October 2019, Biden was refused Communion at a Catholic church in South Carolina. The priest denied Biden Communion in accord with a 2004 diocesan policy that prohibits politicians who have been supportive of legal protection for abortion from receiving the Eucharist. 

“Catholic public officials who consistently support abortion on demand are cooperating with evil in a public manner. By supporting pro-abortion legislation they participate in manifest grave sin, a condition which excludes them from admission to Holy Communion as long as they persist in the pro-abortion stance,” says a 2004 decree signed jointly by the bishops of Atlanta, Charleston, and Charlotte.

At the time Biden was denied Communion, his website stated that one of his priorities as president would be to “work to codify Roe v. Wade” into federal law, and that “his Justice Department will do everything in its power to stop the rash of state laws that so blatantly violate the constitutional right to an abortion,” including laws requiring waiting periods, ultrasounds, and parental notification of a minor’s abortion. 

“Vice president Biden supports repealing the Hyde Amendment because healthcare is a right that should not be dependent on one’s zip code or income,” said his website. 

Biden’s website also pledges him to “restore federal funding for Planned Parenthood,” and promises to “rescind the Mexico City Policy (also referred to as the global gag rule) that President Trump reinstated and expanded.” 

During his career as a senator, Biden voted numerous times in favor of the Hyde Amendment and Mexico City Policy, and opposed public funding for abortions. 

During the last year, Biden has shifted his views on abortion. Over the course of one week in June, Biden went from publicly supporting the Hyde Amendment--which prohibits the use of Medicaid funds for most abortions--to pledging to repeal it if he were to be elected president. 

Previously, Biden supported some aspects of pro-life legislation. In addition to his Senate vote in favor of the Hyde amendment, he also supported the Mexico City Policy in 1984, voted again in favor of Hyde in 1993, and voted to ban partial-birth abortion in 1995 and again in 1997.

In an interview shortly after the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, Biden refused to support unrestricted access to abortion and said that he thought the Supreme Court “went too far” in their decision. In 1981, he lent his name to the “Biden Amendment,” which bans the use of federal funds for biomedical research involving abortion or involuntary sterilization.

By 2012, in the vice presidential debate against then-Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), Biden described himself as being personally pro-life, though he also expressed his support for legally protecting abortion.