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USCCB official 'elated' over Harris, Biden's pro-choice VP pick

Denver Newsroom, Aug 13, 2020 / 02:43 pm (CNA).-  

An official at the U.S. bishops’ conference said Thursday that the selection of Senator Kamala Harris as Joe Biden’s presidential running mate is good news that will offer policies favorable to marginalized people.

“I was so elated. We, the community, need good news, and this was just wonderful,” Donna Toliver Grimes, associate director of African American affairs in the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church, told Catholic News Service, the official news service of the U.S. bishops’ conference, on Wednesday.

Grimes told CNS that Harris “wasn’t my top candidate in the primaries, and she wasn’t my top pick for vice president,” adding “she’s really deserving and brings a lot to the table.”

Mentioning her belief that Biden and Harris will offer “policy that is favorable to people on the margins,” Grimes said she expects Biden “would put good people in his Cabinet, who would not damage the agencies, or ignore the mission.”

Grimes, who was identified in the report by her USCCB position, also mentioned to CNS her hope that, if elected, Biden would address health care reform and voting-rights issues.

A spokesperson for the U.S. bishops’ conference told CNA Aug. 13 that “The Conference is a non-partisan 501(c)(3) organization that does not endorse or oppose specific candidates for office. Comments by individual Conference employees are not necessarily a reflection of the Conference’s official position.”

Grimes did not mention the issues on which Biden and Harris have clashed with U.S. bishops, among them conscience protections in healthcare policy, same-sex marriage, and, most frequently, abortion. Biden and Harris have pledged to restore currently restricted federal funding for abortion. Harris has previously pledged to use federal law to restrict state laws regulating or limiting abortion.

Pope Francis has called abortion “inhuman eugenics,” urged its eradication, and said that the unborn are among those marginalized on the “existential peripheries,” for whom the Church must have special care.

Nor did Grimes mention Harris’ 2018 questioning of a judicial nominee over his membership of the Knights of Columbus. In questions about the impartiality of nominee Brian Buescher, Harris asked if Buescher was aware that the Knights of Columbus “opposed a woman’s right to choose” and were against “marriage equality” when he joined.

The senator’s remarks were subsequently criticized as anti-Catholic and one U.S. bishop, Archbishop Charles Chaput, characterized them as “bigoted.”

Both Biden and President Donald Trump have been criticized by the U.S. bishops’ conference, with Trump frequently facing criticism for his immigration policies, use of the federal death penalty, and cuts to social safety nets.

Last year, USCCB spokeswoman Judy Keane left the bishops’ conference after media reports said that she had tweeted in support of President Trump or in opposition to Democrats.

Among Keane’s tweets was one that criticized Harris. Responding to a news story saying that Harris, then running for president, promised to raise teacher salaries, Keane wrote “She’ll be promising all kinds of things to get elected. Then she’ll raise taxes so hard-working Americans have to pay for it all. No thanks.”

After Keane’s tweets first emerged into the spotlight, the spokeswoman was placed on leave, and shortly thereafter left the bishops’ conference. The conference has not said whether she was fired or left voluntarily.

USCCB communications director James Rogers told the Washington Post at the time that “The bishops, not staff, set the conference’s federal policy positions.”

“We should be mindful not to create confusion as to where the bishops might be on any particular federal policy issue. The conference is nonpartisan and does not endorse political candidates. We take this very seriously.”

CNA asked the conference to provide its employee guidelines on political speech, but the conference has not yet done so.

Denver archbishop praying for conversion after St. Jude statue beheaded

Denver, Colo., Aug 13, 2020 / 01:33 pm (CNA).- After the statue of a saint was beheaded outside a Denver parish, the city’s archbishop said he’s praying for the conversion of those who have attacked churches and religious statues across the country in recent months.

A statue of St. Jude was beheaded in the courtyard of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish this weekend, diocesan officials confirmed, and devotional candles were destroyed at an outdoor prayer shrine.

“It is extremely disturbing to see a statue at one of our local parishes desecrated in this manner,” Archbishop Samuel Aquila told CNA Aug. 12.

“As our archdiocese begins a Rosary Crusade this weekend, one of our specific intentions is to pray for the conversion of those who carry out acts of desecration against our churches, statues, and religious symbols.”

Aquila’s crusade invites Catholics in his diocese to pray a daily rosary, beginning on the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, Aug. 15, through the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows on Sept. 15. The archbishop asked that they pray for 15 distinct intentions, including for an end to the coronavirus pandemic and all those who have died of the virus, and end to abortion and euthanasia and attacks against life, as well as for peace, justice and an end to discrimination on the basis of race.

In remarks to CNA, Aquila said “it is troubling to see the increased reports of vandalism at Catholic churches this summer, both across the county and in our archdiocese.”

But the archbishop emphasized that, to date, “we are unsure of the motive behind this act and if it was a deliberate attack against the Church, or just a random act of vandalism.”

Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, which mostly serves Denver’s Hispanic community, was in 2016 designated an archdiocesan shrine.

Aquila named the parish a shrine “because of its service to the Hispanic population and with the purpose of promoting their salvation through the rich liturgical and devotional life that it offers to all the faithful,” he said in the official decree.

The parish has made plans to increase its security after the statue was beheaded, archdiocesan officials told CNA.

There has been a series of destructive acts at Catholic churches across the United States in recent months, including arsons, statue decapitations, and graffiti. But while some of the incidents have been caught on camera, in most cases the perpetrators, and their motivations have yet to be identified.

 

Denver archbishop praying for conversion after St. Jude statue beheaded

Denver, Colo., Aug 13, 2020 / 01:33 pm (CNA).- After the statue of a saint was beheaded outside a Denver parish, the city’s archbishop said he’s praying for the conversion of those who have attacked churches and religious statues across the country in recent months.

A statue of St. Jude was beheaded in the courtyard of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish this weekend, diocesan officials confirmed, and devotional candles were destroyed at an outdoor prayer shrine.

“It is extremely disturbing to see a statue at one of our local parishes desecrated in this manner,” Archbishop Samuel Aquila told CNA Aug. 12.

“As our archdiocese begins a Rosary Crusade this weekend, one of our specific intentions is to pray for the conversion of those who carry out acts of desecration against our churches, statues, and religious symbols.”

Aquila’s crusade invites Catholics in his diocese to pray a daily rosary, beginning on the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, Aug. 15, through the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows on Sept. 15. The archbishop asked that they pray for 15 distinct intentions, including for an end to the coronavirus pandemic and all those who have died of the virus, and end to abortion and euthanasia and attacks against life, as well as for peace, justice and an end to discrimination on the basis of race.

In remarks to CNA, Aquila said “it is troubling to see the increased reports of vandalism at Catholic churches this summer, both across the county and in our archdiocese.”

But the archbishop emphasized that, to date, “we are unsure of the motive behind this act and if it was a deliberate attack against the Church, or just a random act of vandalism.”

Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, which mostly serves Denver’s Hispanic community, was in 2016 designated an archdiocesan shrine.

Aquila named the parish a shrine “because of its service to the Hispanic population and with the purpose of promoting their salvation through the rich liturgical and devotional life that it offers to all the faithful,” he said in the official decree.

The parish has made plans to increase its security after the statue was beheaded, archdiocesan officials told CNA.

There has been a series of destructive acts at Catholic churches across the United States in recent months, including arsons, statue decapitations, and graffiti. But while some of the incidents have been caught on camera, in most cases the perpetrators, and their motivations have yet to be identified.

 

Nebraska passes dismemberment abortion ban 

CNA Staff, Aug 13, 2020 / 12:52 pm (CNA).- The Nebraska legislature on Thursday passed a ban on dilation and evacuation (D&E) abortions in the state, a move hailed by the Nebraska Catholic Conference.

"Life has won today in Nebraska. By ending dismemberment abortion, our state has demonstrated and reaffirmed its deep respect for the human dignity of preborn children and their mothers,” said Marion Miner, Associate Director for Pro-Life and Family at the Nebraska Catholic Conference, on Aug. 13.

“Passing LB814 will again establish Nebraska as a national leader in the cause for life. We are committed to affirming the humanity of every single life and making every form of abortion unthinkable."

D&E abortions, commonly known as dismemberment abortions, are typically done in the second trimester of pregnancy and result in the dismemberment of an unborn child.

State Sen. Suzanne Geist (District 25-Lincoln) introduced LB814 in January. Twenty-one state senators joined the legislation as co-sponsors upon its introduction, with another four joining later.

The measure passed its first vote in Nebraska’s unicameral legislature on August 5 by a 34-9 vote. Multiple senators attempted to filibuster the bill at that point, but the bill earned the 33 votes necessary to break the filibuster as Geist moved to invoke cloture.

The bill specifically bans the use of clamps, forceps or similar instruments in abortion procedures.

On Aug. 13, the final vote stood at 33-8. State Sen. Carol Blood (3-Bellevue) abstained from voting after saying she had concerns that the ban would not apply if suction is used to remove pieces of a fetus, and nor would it apply if the fetus was killed before being removed, a process that Blood called equally horrific, according to the Omaha World-Herald.

The bill now goes to the desk of Gov. Pete Ricketts, who supports the ban, to be signed into law.

According to the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, to date 11 states have passed bans on dilation and evacuation abortions, though because of courts blocking the measures, the bans in two states, Mississippi and West Virginia, are currently in effect, and an appeals court recently ruled to allow Arkansas’ ban to come into effect on Aug. 28.

Opponents of the Nebraska bill have maintained that courts will deem the legislation unconstitutional under Roe v Wade.

Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson recently released an opinion, at the request of State Sen. Ernie Chambers, concluding that LB814 is "likely constitutional” because it “does not appear that it will impose a substantial obstacle on abortion access in Nebraska.”

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled last Friday to reinstate the 2017 Arkansas laws. They can take effect August 28, although they may still face legal challenge.

The laws include a ban on abortions based solely on the sex of the baby, and two regulations on the preservation and disposal of tissue from aborted babies, as well as legislation prohibiting D&E abortions.

A district judge had blocked the rules following a legal challenge from the ACLU and the Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of a local abortion doctor.

A federal judge during July 2019 blocked Indiana’s D&E ban from taking effect.

In 2010, Nebraska became the first state to ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy, citing evidence that unborn children feel pain.

 

Catholic bishop in NJ: Don't be complacent in the face of legal assisted suicide

CNA Staff, Aug 13, 2020 / 11:58 am (CNA).- Reflecting on the first anniversary of the taking effect of a New Jersey law allowing assisted suicide, Bishop James Checchio of Metuchen has encouraged Catholics to continue in unconditional respect for human life.

“We cannot be complacent and just accept that physician-assisted suicide is the law now in our state,” Bishop Checchio said, according to an Aug. 12 statement from the Diocese of Metuchen. “When any human life, especially the weakest, is devalued by society it promotes a devaluing of all human life.”

The Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act allows competent New Jersey residents deemed by two doctors to have fewer than six months to live to request lethal medication to end their lives. The patient must administer the medication themselves.

The law was approved by the New Jersey legislature in March 2019, and signed into law the following month. It took effect Aug. 1, 2019. It was temporarily halted by a judge in the state, but an appeals court allowed it to take effect while a legal challenge against it was being heard.

According to the state health department, 12 New Jerseyans ended their lives under the law's provisions in 2019.

“All life is a gift from God and … every person has inherent and inalienable dignity because we are made in God’s image and likeness – young or old, healthy or sick, all human life is precious,” Bishop Checchio reflected.

He added that respect for human life “is the same foundation of our belief and our efforts to eliminate racism from our midst.”

The bishop encouraged Catholics to support the elderly and sick by easing “their physical, emotional, and spiritual suffering.”

“We count on our faithful and all people of good will to join in this effort to make our state one we can be proud to be a part of and we recommit ourselves to join with others in our state to do all that we can to proclaim the truth that every life is sacred.”

He lamented that the temptation to die can have been “exacerbated over recent months by the COVID-19 pandemic,” saying it “has brought a raft of new stressors, including loss of community and social isolation, that have been especially difficult for the elderly and the sick, and for their families. Sadly, some reports indicate a rise in suicides as well as an increase in requests for medically-assisted death.”

“Our need for compassionate care is more important than ever,” said Bishop Checchio. “We are now challenged with finding creative new ways to provide tender accompaniment for those who are sick or near the end of life so that no one feels compelled to choose assisted suicide.”   

The law was signed by New Jersey governor Phil Murphy, a self-described “lifelong, practicing Catholic”.

Murphy said that he was aware of the Church’s opposition to assisted suicide, but that after careful consideration and prayer, “I have concluded that, while my faith may lead me to a particular decision for myself, as a public official I cannot deny this alternative to those who may reach a different conclusion.”

“I believe this choice is a personal one and, therefore, signing this legislation is the decision that best respects the freedom and humanity of all New Jersey residents,” Murphy said.

On the eve of the law's taking effect, Bishop Checchio condemned assisted suicide as “a grievous affront to the dignity of human life” that “can never be morally justified.”

“Passage of this law points to the utter failure of government, and indeed all society, to care truly, authentically and humanely for the suffering and vulnerable in our midst, especially those living with an incurable disease as well as the frail elderly, the infirm and those living with disabilities,” he said.

In the US, assisted suicide is legal in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia, and in Montana by a court ruling.

Biden says nuns inspire him to run, plans to sue Little Sisters of the Poor

CNA Staff, Aug 13, 2020 / 08:30 am (CNA).- Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden has released a campaign video in which he credits his Catholic faith, Pope Francis, and the example of nuns for his personal inspiration. 

The short video was released August 9 on the Democratic National Convention’s Twitter account. Biden's use of nuns as an inspirational example of “generosity to others” comes despite his promise to renew legal action against the Little Sisters of the Poor should he win election.

Biden has promised to remove freedom of conscience protections which exempt the sisters from the "contraceptive mandate," opening them back up to renewed suits by the federal government for failure to provide contraceptives to their employees.

“This is the kind of moral conviction we need in the president of the United States,” says the tweet, which led into the video. 

This is the kind of moral conviction we need in the president of the United States. pic.twitter.com/iJKAOVoFns

— 2020 #DemConvention ?? (@DemConvention) August 9, 2020 In the video, Biden, a Catholic, narrates how once, after having a brief meeting with Pope Francis at St. Peter’s Basilica, he departed the church and ran into a group of religious sisters. 

These sisters, said Biden in a voiceover, “to me, epitomize everything Pope Francis talked about in his homily and what he stands for. About generosity to other people, about reaching out, about making it a point to understand that we are our brother’s keeper,” said Biden. 

Biden said the idea that people have an obligation to look out for one another had been imprinted on him during his Catholic upbringing and “being educated by the nuns.” 

“That’s what those lovely women I’m talking to symbolize to me,” said Biden. 

He quipped he thought it was a “good omen” to see the sisters, and said the encounter was an “exciting time and it gave me a lot of hope.” 

Recognizing that people are obligated to help each other is “the only way we’re gonna make the world better and safer,” said Biden. 

Biden and the pope met in the Vatican in April 2016, when Biden was presenting at a Vatican conference on regenerative medicine, and in 2013, when the then-vice president led a delegation from the United States to Francis’ papal inauguration. 

The images and videos in the ad are from the 2016 trip. 

Biden’s use of the nuns’ example of service for campaign purposes sits in contrast to his pledge to force one religious order to violate their consciences and provide birth control, sterilizations, and abortifacient drugs to their employees. 

Shortly after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Little Sisters of the Poor in Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania on July 8, Biden said he was “disappointed” by the decision and promised to reinstate Obama-era policies requiring the sisters to ensure access to birth control in violation of their religious beliefs. 

Following nine years of legal battles, and two trips to the Supreme Court, the court upheld an executive action offering the sisters religious freedom and conscience exemptions to the “contraception mandate” issued by the Department of Health and Human Services following the passage of the Affordable Care Act.

“If I am elected I will restore the Obama-Biden policy that existed before the [Supreme Court’s 2014] Hobby Lobby ruling: providing an exemption for houses of worship and an accommodation for nonprofit organizations with religious missions,” said Biden in July. 

“This accommodation will allow women at these organizations to access contraceptive coverage, not through their employer-provided plan, but instead through their insurance company or a third-party administrator.” 

The Little Sisters of the Poor would not have qualified as a “nonprofit organization with a religious mission” under the Obama-era accommodations. The order serves and employs people of all or no faiths, in accordance with their vocation to serve the elderly poor. 

The Little Sisters of the Poor have repeatedly stated that authorizing a “third-party administrator” to provide birth control to their employees is still a violation of their beliefs and is not an acceptable compromise.

Following the July 8 decision, Biden said that the decision “will make it easier for the Trump-Pence Administration to continue to strip health care from women--attempting to carve out broad exemptions to the Affordable Care Act’s commitment to giving all women free access to recommended contraception.” 

When the Affordable Care Act was signed into law in 2010, the legislation did not mandate that insurance plans provide at least one form of female contraception, including sterilization. The “contraception mandate” was announced as an interim final rule on August 1, 2011, and was finalized on January 20, 2012. 

If elected president, Biden said that he would “end Donald Trump’s ceaseless attempts to gut every aspect of the Affordable Care Act.”

Biden did, however, support members of the Leadership Council of Women Religious (LCWR) groups after the Vatican ordered an inquiry into their conduct and political advocacy.

During a 2011 meeting with then-Pope Benedict XVI, Biden told the pontiff that he was being “entirely too hard on the American nuns” and that he needed to “lighten up.” 

The video is not the first time that Biden, who has promised to enshrine the fullest application of Roe v. Wade in federal law, ensuring unlimited access to abortion in the United States, has used his Catholicism in his campaign.

In February, he released a video displaying black-and-white pictures of himself 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,” he said. 

While Biden has repeatedly profiled his Catholicism during this election campaign, his faith 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.”

The annual Assumption tradition of blessing the sea

Denver Newsroom, Aug 13, 2020 / 02:43 am (CNA).- For hundreds of years, Catholic parishes in coastal cities have participated in the tradition of blessing the sea and praying for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the Feast of the Assumption.

While believers in landlocked areas may be unfamiliar with the practice, it is a longstanding tradition that provides an opportunity not only to pray for safe travel at sea during the coming year, but also to profess one’s faith outside of church walls, one priest told CNA.

“Obviously, the prayers and blessings are good in themselves … I think it's [also] a good reminder that there is not simply a place for religion in public, but there's a hole that we needed to fill and it helps make us better people,” said Father John Solomon, pastor at St. Mary, Star of the Sea in Ocean City, Maryland, which has taken part in the tradition for more than 20 years.

The tradition of blessing of the sea dates back to 15th century Italy and has since become a custom in coastal cities throughout Europe and the United States.

According to the Trenton Monitor, the custom is believed to have begun when a bishop traveled by sea during a storm on the Feast of the Assumption. The bishop then threw his pastoral ring into the ocean and calmed the waters.

Some parishes throw a wreath of flowers into the sea and or conduct the blessing from a boat. Participants may go swimming afterward or use bottles to collect the seawater.

Parishioners at St. Mary, Star of the Sea typically begin the celebration with a Mass celebrated by the bishop. This is followed by a procession to the local beach, where holy water is sprinkled into the ocean as the community prays.

More than 60 people gathered at the event last year, said Solomon, noting that it had been his first year at the parish and first year attending the event.

“Then after the blessing, we also have a lot of international students who work here in the summer … We'll give them a meal and just an opportunity for them to come in and just relax.”

This year, because of COVID-19 restrictions, the parish will omit the Mass and procession. Instead, parishioners will meet on the beach, practicing social distancing and wearing masks.

Solomon noted that travel by sea was a dangerous means of transportation, especially hundreds of years ago. Even today, travel by sea carries risks.

For this reason, the priest said, it is fitting to pray for safe ocean travel to Mary Star of the Sea, a medieval title that emphasizes Mary’s role as a "guiding star” for those pursuing Christ.

“From pretty early times, there was an understanding of asking for Mary's intercession as the Star of the Sea,” he stressed. “She is one of the patrons of the ocean for keeping us safe as we travel … it's good to know that there is one who is a mother that is trying to keep us safe.”

Solomon said the event is also an opportunity to show the Catholic faith to the local community. While there may be a stereotype that religious people are simple or unintelligent, the blessing of the sea is a public chance to express the Catholic faith and show that normal people can have a devotion to Christ and his Church.

“To believe doesn't mean that one is less intelligent or less reasonable, but in a sense, the most reasonable because this is faith and this is truth,” he said.

“It's good to see we are not a bunch of crazy people going out, but these are people who are leaders in the community, these are people who are business people, these are people, who, at the same time, have a great love for Jesus. There's something true about that and something attractive as well. We are not here to destroy the American ideal but, instead, when we do actually live our faith correctly, we are some of the best citizens.”

 

 

Covid-19: Philippine Bishops hold prayer campaign to heal the nation

The Catholic Bishops of the Philippines are calling for a massive, nationwide prayer campaign for the healing of the country and the end to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Laity to participate in pastoral care of Sicilian parish

The Bishop of Cefalù in Sicily entrusts a participation in the pastoral care of the parish of St Paul the Apostle to a team of lay people, under the direction of a priest moderator.

Belarus: Catholic Bishops call for dialogue amid ongoing unrest

A second protester dies in Belarus following Sunday’s disputed presidential election, as the country’s Catholic Bishops call for calm and for a fruitful dialogue based on truth.