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Pope Francis: The Catholic Church must be welcoming

Pope Francis waves during the Angelus on Sept. 26, 2021 / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Sep 26, 2021 / 06:35 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Sunday said the Catholic Church must be open and welcoming toward others, warning that division and exclusion come from Satan.

“We need to be vigilant about closure in the Church too,” he said before leading the Angelus prayer at the Vatican Sept. 26.

“Because the devil, who is the divider – this is what the word ‘devil’ means – always insinuates suspicions to divide and exclude,” he added.

Speaking from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, Francis said sometimes Catholics, instead of having humble and open communities, “can give the impression of being the ‘top of the class’ and keeping others at a distance.”

“Let us ask for the grace to overcome the temptation to judge and categorize,” he said, “and may God preserve us from the ‘nest’ mentality, that of jealously guarding ourselves in the small group of those who consider themselves good.”

Pope Francis warned that sometimes there are groups of people, such as a priest and his parishioners, some pastoral workers, or movements and associations with particular charisms which close themselves off to outsiders.

“All this runs the risk of turning Christian communities into places of separation and not of communion,” he stated. “The Holy Spirit does not want closedness; He wants openness, and welcoming communities where there is a place for everyone.”

After leading the Angelus, a traditional prayer about the Virgin Mary, the pope spoke about the Sept. 26 celebration of the World Day of Migrants and Refugees.

He said “it is necessary to walk together, without prejudice and without fear, placing ourselves next to those who are most vulnerable: migrants, refugees, displaced persons, victims of trafficking and the abandoned. We are called to build an increasingly inclusive world that excludes no one.”

Francis greeted several groups with the aim of helping migrants and refugees, which were gathered below him in St. Peter’s Square.

Groups which help migrants and refugees cheer during the Angelus Sept. 26, 2021. Vatican Media.
Groups which help migrants and refugees cheer during the Angelus Sept. 26, 2021. Vatican Media.

“Thank you all for your generous commitment,” he said. The pope then invited everyone present to visit the “Angels Unawares” sculpture before leaving the Vatican.

The 20-foot-tall bronze statue, unveiled in 2019, is based on Hebrews 13:2, “Be welcoming to strangers, many have entertained angels unawares.”

The sculpture, by Canadian artist Timothy Schmalz, depicts migrants throughout history crowded together on a boat with the Holy Family.

Pointing to the statue in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis said, “dwell on the gaze of those people and welcome in that gaze the hope of starting to live again that every migrant has today.”

“Go there, see that monument,” he urged. “Let’s not close the doors to their hope.”

Canadian sculptor Timothy P. Schmalz poses next to his sculpture, 'Angels Unawares.'  Daniel Ibanez/CNA.
<p>Canadian sculptor Timothy P. Schmalz poses next to his sculpture, 'Angels Unawares.' Daniel Ibanez/CNA.</p>

Before the Angelus, the pope also reflected on the day’s Gospel from St. Mark, in which the Evangelist recalls when Jesus said to his disciples: “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire.”

Pope Francis said Jesus wants us to stop judging others and to worry about our own behavior first. “Indeed, the risk is to be inflexible towards others and indulgent towards ourselves,” he noted.

“Jesus is radical, demanding, but for our own good, like a good doctor,” he continued. “Every cut, every pruning, is so we can grow better and bear fruit in love.”

“Let us ask, then: what is it in me that is contrary to the Gospel? What, in concrete terms, does Jesus want me to cut out of my life?”

“Let us pray to Mary Immaculate, that she may help us be welcoming towards others and vigilant over ourselves,” he concluded.

Father Kapaun's remains returned to Kansas

Fr. Kapaun with his pipe. Courtesy of the Diocese of Wichita. / null

Wichita, Kan., Sep 25, 2021 / 16:40 pm (CNA).

The remains of Servant of God Fr. Emil Kapaun returned to his hometown of Pilsen, Kansas on Saturday, ahead of his formal funeral Mass on Wednesday, Sept. 29. 

The arrival in Kansas marks the conclusion of a 70-year journey since Kapaun, a U.S. Army Captain and chaplain in both World War II and the Korean War, died in a North Korean prisoner of war camp at the age of 35. A private service will be held at his hometown parish in Pilsen, before a public vigil and funeral Mass will be celebrated in Wichita on Tuesday and Wednesday. 

Afterwards, Kapaun’s body will be interred at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Wichita. 

Kapaun’s remains were returned to the United States as part of the 1953 Korean Armistice Agreement, but they were not identified until March. He had previously been buried with a group of 866 other “unknowns” at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu. 

His remains were formally returned to his family in a ceremony at Pearl Harbor, and a “send off Mass” was celebrated in Honolulu Sept. 23 ahead of his journey back to Kansas. 

Born April 20, 1916 in Pilsen, Kapaun grew up on a farm. He was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Wichita June 9, 1940, and began at the U.S. Army Chaplain School at Ft. Devins four years later. 

Kapaun was sent to serve troops overseas, and was promoted to Captain in January 1946. His first stint of active duty ended in July of that year, but he re-enlisted and returned to active duty in 1948 at Ft. Bliss. 

In January 1950, Kapaun was sent to Japan as a chaplain in the 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division. In July 1950, they were sent to Korea. While in Korea, Kapaun regularly celebrated Mass, sometimes in the battlefield on the hood of a Jeep as a makeshift altar, and brought the sacraments to the troops. He was known for praying with troops in the foxholes and for his heroism in tending to injured troops--both his own and the enemy. 

After a series of near-death experiences, including when his pipe was shot out of his mouth by a sniper and when his Mass kit and Jeep were destroyed, Kapaun took to carrying the Blessed Sacrament, confession stole, holy oils, and a Mass kit on his person. 

He was awarded the Bronze Star for rescuing a wounded soldier despite heavy enemy fire. Kapaun was reportedly embarrassed and angered that news of his heroism was printed in newspapers back in Kansas.  

Kapaun and other soldiers were captured by communists in November 1950 during the Battle of Unsan. He and others were forced to march more than 60 miles to a prison camp in Pyoktong, North Korea. While in the camp, Kapaun would regularly steal food for his fellow prisoners, and managed to tend to their spiritual needs despite a prohibition on prayer. On Easter 1951, Kapaun celebrated Mass for his fellow prisoners in secret. 

On May 23, 1951, Kapaun died after months of malnutrition and pneumonia. He was posthumously awarded the Legion of Merit and a Purple Heart, and in 2013 he was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Barack Obama. Obama referred to Kapaun as “a shepherd in combat boots” who had been regarded by his fellow soldiers as “a saint, a blessing from God.” 

His cause for canonization was opened in June 2008. He had been named a Servant of God in 1993. Presently, the Congregation for Saints is reviewing his cause and Pope Francis may declare Kapaun “venerable.”

California governor moves to protect 'privacy' of minors who procure abortions 

Govenor Gavin Newsom of California. / Karl_Sonnenberg/Shutterstock

Sacramento, Calif., Sep 25, 2021 / 05:01 am (CNA).

California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a pair of bills Sept. 22 that relate to privacy surrounding abortion, both of which could make it easier for minors to hide abortions from their parents. 

AB 1356 makes it illegal to film or photograph patients or employees within 100 feet of an abortion clinic “with the specific intent to intimidate a person from becoming or remaining a reproductive health services patient, provider, or assistant.”

The second bill, AB 1184, would allow insured individuals, including minors, to keep “sensitive services” confidential from the insurance policyholder, generally their parents. 

The bill requires insurance companies to “accommodate requests for confidential communication of medical information” regardless of whether “disclosure would endanger the individual.” 

The bill, which is set to take effect in July 2022, specifically mentions “sexual and reproductive health” and “gender affirming care” as potentially “sensitive services.” 

Newsom’s office heralded the laws as a strengthening of California’s status as a “haven” for women seeking abortions. 

“This action comes in the wake of attacks on sexual health care and reproductive rights around the country, including the U.S. Supreme Court’s failure to block Texas’ ban on abortion after six weeks,” a statement from Newsom’s office reads, referring to a new pro-life law in that state that took effect Sept. 1. 

“California is a national leader on reproductive and sexual health protections and rights, and Governor Newsom’s actions today make clear that the state will remain a haven for all Californians, and for those coming from out-of-state seeking reproductive health services here.”

CNA reached out to the California Catholic Conference for comment. 

A group of Republican lawmakers wrote to Newsom before he signed the bills into law, urging him to veto them instead. 

“We should be encouraging parents and family to be involved in their children’s lives, not removing them further from it,” the letter reads, which was signed by nine state senators. 

They also argued, in a more pragmatic vein, that AB 1184 would put policyholders in the “impossible position” of being financially responsible for bills incurred by their dependent children, but which they have no means of verifying because of the new confidentiality rules.

Surgeon who operated on Cardinal Sarah: ‘I could feel his holiness’

Surgeon Domenico Veneziano with Cardinal Robert Sarah. / Courtesy photo.

Rome, Italy, Sep 25, 2021 / 04:00 am (CNA).

The surgeon who performed an operation on Cardinal Robert Sarah in southern Italy in July said that treating the Guinean cardinal allowed him to see the prominent churchman in a new way.

“When he was alone in his room, I took a few chances to talk to him a bit,” Domenico Veneziano told CNA.

The doctor said when he visited Sarah’s hospital room, “I could feel his holiness... He told me about the popes and their uniqueness. We also had a few chances to joke.”

“I can say that it’s been an honor to know both sides of Cardinal Sarah: the man and the Eminence,” Veneziano said, referring to the title of honor given to cardinals.

Sarah, the 76-year-old retired prefect of the Vatican’s liturgy office, underwent robot-assisted surgery on his prostate in July, according to the health director at the hospital where the procedure took place.

The urological operation was performed with the help of the da Vinci robot, a technology in use since 2016 at the Great Metropolitan Hospital (GOM) in Reggio Calabria, a city on the southernmost point of the Italian peninsula.

Veneziano performed Sarah’s surgery from the console of the da Vinci robot, while another surgeon assisted at the bedside.

A robot-assisted operation is a less invasive alternative to open surgery, Veneziano said, which allowed the cardinal to make a quicker recovery.

The surgery had “no complications, no intraoperative issues. I have to admit that I could feel the pressure of operating on a person with such a standing,” the surgeon added.

Veneziano, who performed some routine follow-up checks on Sarah in Rome in September, said that “the cardinal is doing fine.”

He noted that the cardinal was still able to fulfill his busy schedule following the operation, traveling to five different countries in the first month post-operative.

“In full respect of his privacy, I can say that his disease, in order to be properly treated, needed high-precision surgery,” he noted.

Veneziano, who is moving to New York City with his family next year, said he hoped to continue following the cardinal’s progress.

“After reading a lot about him in the media, with all the conflicts and mystery that some journalists have poured on him, I was sincerely amazed to know him personally and to share some thoughts with him,” he said.

Veneziano described Sarah as “a true supporter of the original Christian principles, a very cultured and profound person who is willing to serve the Church for the rest of his life.”

“I got the feeling that he was unjustly attacked by the media, for a misinterpretation of his work, perhaps to make news,” the surgeon suggested, adding that “a person who lives to spread love and Christian principles is just the profile every Christian would search for in the next pope.”

Cardinal Sarah is “a good man with an aura of holiness,” he said.

New Brunswick dioceses will not require COVID vaccination to attend Mass

The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception seen amid Saint John, New Brunswick. / Wangkun Jia/Shutterstock.

Fredericton, Canada, Sep 24, 2021 / 19:12 pm (CNA).

The Archdiocese of Moncton announced Friday the four bishops in New Brunswick province have adopted a common policy for attendance at Mass amid rising COVID-19 cases, and that proof of vaccination will not be required.

The Moncton archdiocese had a week ago announced it would require proof of full vaccination, while the Diocese of Saint John, one of its suffragrans, did not do so. The Diocese of Edmundston had also briefly required double vaccination.

The new policy is in line with a state of emergency and mandatory order over COVID-19 announced Sept. 24 by the provincial government.

“Last night, we received new directives from the Minister of Health concerning the sanitary measures to be implemented in our churches. Accordingly, the four bishops of NB agree on the following steps to make our churches as safe as possible for our faithful,” Archbishop Valery Vienneau of Moncton wrote in a Sept. 24 announcement.

“No proof of vaccination is required for Sunday or weekday masses, baptisms, prayer groups,” the archbishop wrote. 

However, capacity is limited to 50 percent, attendants must wear masks, and there is to be two meters of physical distance between households.

“The names and contact information of all attendees shall be recorded, and the lists maintained,” Archbishop Vienneau added.

Proof of vaccination will be required for weddings and funerals. 

Essentially identical guidelines were posted Sept. 24 by the Diocese of Bathurst

In his communique, Bishop Daniel Jodoin of Bathurst stated: “It should be noted that the situation in our province is evolving and that these regulations may change depending on the circumstances.”

“We understand the concerns of Public Health and continue to collaborate by following the guidelines issued to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. We are all concerned about the current situation in the province,” the bishop said.

New Brunswick announced a state of emergency and mandatory order over COVID-19 Sept. 24, citing three recent deaths and 78 new cases of the disease. New Brunswick’s population numbers over 750,000.

Under the mandatory order, “faith venues” must either “ensure all participants show proof of full vaccination and continuously wear masks”, or operate at 50 percent capacity.

Proof of vaccination is required at such venues as restaurants and movie theatres, but an accommodation was made for religious venues. Some members of the United Church of Canada, an ecclesial community, have requested that churches not be given an accommodation.

The CBC reported that the mandatory order will be lifted when there are 10 or fewer hospitalizations in the province, and that the province’s premier said there are now 31 persons in hospital. 

Natasha Mazerolle, communications director for the Diocese of Saint John, told CNA Sept. 22 that “No person will be turned away from Mass, nor any other Sacrament.”

“The Diocese of Saint John continues to do its utmost to protect both the physical and spiritual needs of its faithful,” said Mazerolle. “It takes the directives of public health seriously and understands the need to make sacrifices to protect the common good, and to be prudent in slowing the spread of the virus. It also recognizes that the faithful are not to be excluded from the Sacraments for any reason, and that the Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith (and indeed what is most needed to help us face these challenging times).”

Mazerolle said “worship services (including Catholic Mass) are not directly mentioned in the government regulation.” She added “an individual’s right to practice their religion is protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

“The regulations published on the Government of New Brunswick’s website do not mention worship services or Mass,” Mazerolle said. “While there can be many interpretations, the diocese defers to what has been officially written in the regulation under the Public Health Act and posted on the Government of New Brunswick’s website.”

The provinces of Alberta and Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, are also mandating proof of vaccination to enter some venues. Nova Scotia will begin to mandate proof of vaccination Oct. 4, but that mandate does not apply to places of worship, the Canada-based site Global News reports.

In a December 2020 note, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said that “vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation” and therefore “must be voluntary.” It said that the morality of vaccination depends on both the duty to pursue the common good and the duty to protect one’s own health, and that “in the absence of other means to stop or even prevent the epidemic, the common good may recommend vaccination.”

Don't let Colo. law silence same-sex marriage objections, web designer asks Supreme Court

Lorie Smith, owner and founder of 303 Creative. / Alliance Defending Freedom.

Denver, Colo., Sep 24, 2021 / 17:28 pm (CNA).

A Colorado web designer who fears prosecution under state anti-discrimination law for stating her faith-based objections to providing services that promote same-sex marriage or weddings has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear her case.

“Artists don’t surrender their freedom of speech when they choose to make a living by creating custom expression,” Lorie Smith, a web designer who operates the design studio 303 Creative, told reporters Sept. 24. “Those who create speech for a living are entitled to the full protection of the Constitution. Just because we communicate one viewpoint doesn’t mean we should be forced to promote an opposing viewpoint. Laws should not be weaponized to force us to do so.”

“Colorado is censoring my speech,” she said in a press call hosted by the Alliance Defending Freedom legal group. “I cannot even post my beliefs about my views on my own website. The government should not banish people from the marketplace based on their views, whether those views are about marriage or something else.”

Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act includes sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes. The lawsuit challenges parts of the law on the grounds that they violate First Amendment protections of free speech and free exercise of religion.

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys argued that the law bars creative professionals from expressing views about marriage that suggest someone is “unwelcome, objectionable, unacceptable, or undesirable.” They may not express views that suggest the designer won't create particular works because of those beliefs.

Failure to secure a court ruling against the law, Smith’s attorneys said, would force her to live under threat of prosecution if she declines to design and publish websites that promote messages or causes that conflict with her beliefs, such as messages that promote same-sex marriage or same-sex weddings.

In a 2-1 July decision, a panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Smith, stating that the state of Colorado had an interest in combatting discrimination.

The panel agreed that the Colorado law forced Smith to create websites and speech that she “would otherwise refuse” and created a “substantial risk” of removing “certain ideas or viewpoints from the public dialogue,” including Smith’s beliefs about marriage. However, it ruled in favor of the law, in part on the grounds that she creates “custom and unique” expression.

“The government shouldn’t weaponize the law to force a web designer to speak messages that violate her beliefs,” Kristen Waggoner, general counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, told reporters. “This case involves quintessential free speech and artistic freedom, which the 10th Circuit astonishingly and dangerously cast aside.”

“The 10th Circuit found that yes, Lorie’s website designs were speech protected under the First Amendment and that, yes, Lorie would, in fact, serve everyone regardless of who they are. But despite all that, the 10th Circuit said that the government could force Lorie to speak views she opposes and prevent her from posting about her beliefs on her own website,” Waggoner said.

Waggoner said that both the Eight Circuit Court of Appeals and the Arizona Supreme Court have ruled in favor of artists facing possible pressure from similar laws.

Smith’s case is not a response to government action. Rather, it is a pre-enforcement challenge intended to prevent the use of the law that Smith's attorneys say affects creative professionals who have religious or moral concerns about creating content that violates their beliefs. The law prevents Smith from seeking to expand her business to include designing websites for weddings.

Attorneys for the state of Colorado have argued that the plaintiff lacks standing, saying the threat of an enforcement action is hypothetical. The appellate court decision disagreed, saying the plaintiff has “a credible fear of prosecution” for violating the law.

State attorneys said that businesses involved in the wedding industry must serve same-sex couples under anti-discrimination law, Law Week Colorado reports. Their brief said, “if a merchant is willing to design a website featuring certain statements — like ‘Alex and Jordan request the honor of your presence’ … or ‘Taylor and Morgan invite you to share their joy’ — for an opposite-sex couple,” then the business must provide that service to a same-sex couple.

The panel court decision agreed with this analysis, saying that “grave harms” can come when public accommodations discriminate. “Combatting such discrimination is, like individual autonomy, ‘essential’ to our democratic ideals,” said the ruling.

While the panel’s majority agreed that a diversity of faiths and religious exercise, including those of the plaintiff, enriches society, it added: “Yet, a faith that enriches society in one way might also damage society in other ways, particularly when that faith would exclude others from unique goods or service.”

Chief Judge Timothy Tymkovich, in his dissent, said the case “represents another chapter in the growing disconnect between the Constitution’s endorsement of pluralism of belief on the one hand and anti-discrimination laws’ restrictions of religious-based speech in the marketplace on the other.”

“It seems we have moved from ‘live and let live’ to ‘you can’t say that’,” he said. Tymkovich objected that the majority decision concluded that the state has a “compelling interest in forcing Ms. Smith to speak a government-approved message against her religious beliefs” and also that the public accommodation law is “the least restrictive means” to do so.

The ruling “endorses substantial government interference in matters of speech, religion, and Conscience,” he said. He criticized the Colorado law as “overbroad and vague,” and said the statements of the state’s attorneys showed it is willing to “distribute punishment inequitably.”

For her part, Smith said her approach to design is a personal one. Every website, graphic, and design she creates is a representation of her.

“I work in close collaboration with each client for each project, and what I create for them is truly artwork that conveys some message and celebrates some ideals,” she said.

“Artists must be free to create and speak messages consistent with their convictions without the threat of unjust punishment,” said Smith. “Today, it’s me, but tomorrow it could be you. My case is about the freedom of all Americans to live and work consistent with their beliefs. Free speech is for everyone, not just those that agree with the government.”

At issue in the 303 Creative case is the same law that brought Lakewood, Colo. baker Jack Philips and his business Masterpiece Cakeshop to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2012, Philips declined to make a cake for a same-sex wedding, on the grounds that doing so would violate his religious beliefs. His prospective customers filed a complaint, and Philips went before the Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

The civil rights commission ordered Phillips and his staff to undergo anti-discrimination training and to submit quarterly reports on how he is changing company policies. He had to cease making wedding cakes to continue operating his business according to his conscience while not running afoul of the law.

In June 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Colorado commission had violated Phillips' rights. Its 7-2 opinion said the commission “showed elements of a clear and impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs motivating his objection.”

The high court also cited inconsistent treatment of complaints by Colorado authorities. When a man complained that other bakeries refused to create cakes with an anti-gay marriage message, religious imagery, and loosely paraphrased Bible passages, state authorities rejected the complaints.

Phillips was then caught up in another controversy when a prospective customer asked him to make a cake to celebrate a gender transition, and he declined citing his religious beliefs. While state officials rejected the customer’s complaint that this constituted discrimination on the basis of gender identity, the customer filed a civil lawsuit against Phillips. In June 2021 a judge ruled against the baker and ordered him to pay fines, though he has appealed that decision.

Canada's bishops apologize for abuses at residential schools

St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Kamloops, Canada, in February 2015. Credit: Alan Levine via Flickr (CC BY 2.0). / null

Ottawa, Canada, Sep 24, 2021 / 16:05 pm (CNA).

The Catholic bishops of Canada issued a formal apology to the Indigenous population of the country for the abuses of the residential school system, and said they would request that Pope Francis make a pastoral visit to the nation.

“We, the Catholic Bishops of Canada, gathered in Plenary this week, take this opportunity to affirm to you, the Indigenous Peoples of this land, that we acknowledge the suffering experienced in Canada's Indian Residential Schools,” said the statement, which was issued Sept. 24 following the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops’ annual plenary assembly. 

“We commit ourselves to continue accompanying you, the First Nations, Métis and Inuit Peoples of this land,” said the apology. “Standing in respect of your resiliency, strength and wisdom, we look forward to listening to and learning from you as we walk in solidarity.”

The bishops noted that “many Catholic religious communities and dioceses” were involved in the residential school system, “which led to the suppression of Indigenous languages, culture and spirituality, failing to respect the rich history, traditions and wisdom of Indigenous Peoples.”

“We acknowledge the grave abuses that were committed by some members of our Catholic community; physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, cultural, and sexual,” said the bishops. “We also sorrowfully acknowledge the historical and ongoing trauma and the legacy of suffering and challenges faced by Indigenous Peoples that continue to this day.”

The residential school system was set up by the Canadian federal government, beginning in the 1870s, as a means of forcibly assimilating Indigenous children and stripping them of familial and cultural ties. Catholics and members of Christian denominations ran the schools, although the Catholic Church or Catholics oversaw more than two-thirds of the schools. The last remaining federally-run residential school closed in 1996.

While many Catholic dioceses and religious orders in Canada that were directly involved in the administration of the residential school system have already apologized, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops wished to “express our profound remorse and apologize unequivocally.” 

The bishops said they “are fully committed to the process of healing and reconciliation” with the Indigineous population, and pledged to “undertake fundraising in each region of the country to support initiatives discerned locally with Indigenous partners.” The Diocese of Calgary has already announced one such fund. 

“Furthermore,” said the bishops, “we invite the Indigenous Peoples to journey with us into a new era of reconciliation, helping us in each of our dioceses across the country to prioritize initiatives of healing, to listen to the experience of Indigenous Peoples, especially to the survivors of Indian Residential Schools, and to educate our clergy, consecrated men and women, and lay faithful, on Indigenous cultures and spirituality.”

Additionally, the bishops said they will assist with the work of identifying those who were found buried in unmarked graves at the sites of the former residential schools by providing access to documents and other records. 

According to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a Canadian body set up to investigate abuses in the schools, at least 4,100 children died from “disease or accident” at the schools. That number was called into question this summer following the discovery of numerous unmarked graves at the sites of former schools throughout the country. It is unclear who was buried in the graves, as well as their manner of death. 

One of the commission’s calls in its 2015 report was for a formal papal apology for the Church’s role in the residential school system. Pope Francis has repeatedly refused to offer this apology, but will meet with a delegation of Indigenous Canadians this December. 

“Having heard the requests to engage Pope Francis in this reconciliation process, a delegation of Indigenous survivors, Elders/knowledge keepers, and youth will meet with the Holy Father in Rome in December 2021,” said the bishops. 

“Pope Francis will encounter and listen to the Indigenous participants, so as to discern how he can support our common desire to renew relationships and walk together along the path of hope in the coming years,” they said, pledging to work with both the Holy See and Indigenous partners “on the possibility of a pastoral visit by the Pope to Canada as part of this healing journey.”

Former HHS official: Biden administration trying to 'bail out' Texas abortion providers

Secretary of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra / vasilis asvestas/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Sep 24, 2021 / 15:01 pm (CNA).

The Biden administration is looking to “bail out” Texas pro-abortion groups with its new actions, one former senior HHS official told CNA this week.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is “twisting and turning and distorting the law in order to try to bail out their friends at Planned Parenthood,” said Roger Severino, senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, in an interview with CNA this week.

Severino formerly headed the HHS civil rights office from 2017 to 2021, under President Trump’s administration.

The agency on Sept. 17 had announced three actions as part of an effort to “bolster” abortion in Texas, after the state’s pro-life law went into effect on Sept. 1.

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said his agency would increase family planning funding for clinics in the state, and enforce two existing federal health care laws.

“Today we are making clear that doctors and hospitals have an obligation under federal law to make medical decisions regarding when it’s appropriate to treat their patients. And we are telling doctors and others involved in the provision of abortion care, that we have your back,” Becerra stated.

One of the two laws which HHS said it would enforce is the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), a 1986 law requiring Medicare-participant hospitals to provide emergency stabilizing treatment to people who need it, or transfer patients to another hospital that can provide the treatment.

An HHS memo accompanying Becerra’s announcement said this law also applies to cases of active labor. Severino said this implies that HHS believes the law requires abortion as part of emergency care at hospitals.

“They are specifically now opining that abortion may actually be required under federal law,” Severino said of the announcement. “And that is absolutely outrageous.”

The text of the 1986 law makes specific references, in the case of a pregnant woman at a hospital, to the “unborn child” as well as the mother. Severino said the law “specifically protects unborn children and requires them to be stabilized, as well as mothers, in emergency situations.”

“Intentionally killing a child in the womb does not qualify as stabilizing treatment for the mother, and certainly not for the child,” he said.

The Trump administration in 2019 clarified that the law protects infants who survive botched abortion attempts, requiring that they be given necessary stabilizing care.

Other pro-abortion groups have contended that the law requires abortions as part of emergency care at hospitals. The American Civil Liberties Union has filed multiple lawsuits in the past against the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and a Catholic health care system in Michigan, because of Catholic hospitals’ refusal to provide abortions as part of emergency care. The ACLU sued the bishops’ conference over its Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, which prohibits abortion.

In response to a CNA inquiry on enforcement of the law, an HHS spokesperson referred CNA to the secretary’s guidance issued on the Church Amendments – the second federal law the agency says it will enforce.

The Church Amendments prohibit discrimination against both health care workers who perform or assist in abortions, and those who object to performing or assisting in abortions.

Severino’s office in 2019 went public with allegations against the University of Vermont Medical Center, for allegedly forcing a nurse to participate in an abortion. Later in 2020, HHS referred the matter to the Justice Department, which filed a lawsuit arguing that the hospital had violated the Church Amendments in forcing the nurse to assist in the abortion.

The Biden administration quietly dropped the lawsuit in July, upon request by Becerra’s HHS.

Severino accused the HHS of selectively enforcing the Church Amendments.

“They are protecting abortionists instead of the victims of abortionists, which is beyond ironic. And they don’t have a legal basis to do so,” he said.

Furthermore, he said, the Church Amendments apply to employers and not to the state of Texas – which would mean that HHS’ enforcement of the Church Amendments in this case would be moot.

“But the Texas [heartbeat] law doesn’t really speak to Texas as an employer. So, they [HHS] are really barking up the wrong tree on this one, in order to signal to the administration’s allies in the abortion industry that they’ve got their back,” he said.

The agency is also making $10 million available to the group Every Body Texas, which disburses grants to clinics for family planning services. Under the Title X program, funds cannot directly pay for abortions, although the Biden administration loosened existing regulations and will allow grants to abortion providers for services other than abortion.

Becerra announced that Texas clinics can now apply for HHS resources to help women “impacted by” the Texas law.

“They are shoveling loads of money towards their abortion industry allies on the pretext that, with fewer abortions being available in Texas, that there’s going to be an emergency need for more contraceptives,” Severino explained.

“That is effectively an admittance that people getting abortions were using it as a method of family planning,” he said, counter to a narrative that abortions might be “rare.”

The Texas Heartbeat Act restricts most abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, which can occur as early as six weeks into pregnancy. The law is enforced through private civil lawsuits, and not by the state.

President Joe Biden in response promised a “whole-of-government” effort to maintain abortion in Texas.

Upcoming St. Joseph Summit to begin Sept. 30

null / St. Joseph Summit

Washington D.C., Sep 24, 2021 / 14:03 pm (CNA).

A California-based ministry, with the support of the Diocese of Orange, is hosting a virtual four-day summit on St. Joseph beginning Sept. 30. The event will include more than 40 presenters teaching the spiritual importance of Jesus’ foster father. 

The diocese just released an online video trailer previewing the summit. 

“Saint Joseph can have a powerful influence in your life and wants to be your spiritual father,” the trailer says. “He wants to give you that protection. But we need to learn how to call upon him in prayer; learn how to foster a better devotion to him.”

“The Saint Joseph Summit will give you the keys to bring Saint Joseph into your life, the life of your family, and the church,” the trailer says. “This September 30, you’re invited to pilgrimage to the heart of St. Joseph.”

The virtual summit which will take place from Sept. 30 to Oct. 3 is being run by Spirit Filled Hearts Ministry, an organization within the diocese dedicated to evangelization.

Summit founder, Deacon Steve Greco, called St. Joseph “the greatest male saint in the Catholic Church,” in a Sept. 22 press release. 

On Dec. 8, 2020, Pope Francis declared the start of the “Year of Saint Joseph” and issued his apostolic letter on St. Joseph, Patris corde (“With a father’s heart”). The year will conclude on Dec. 8, 2021.

The St. Joseph summit is free to “attend” online, but those who purchase a “passport” upgrade will be granted lifetime access to the summit presentations, as well as a copy of the Consecration to Saint Joseph in audio book or e-book format.

Some presenters at the summit include Fr. Donald Calloway – who compiled the “Consecration to St. Joseph” – along with Cardinal Raymond Burke; Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston; Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York; Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco; Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas; Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference; Bishop Gerald Barbarito of Palm Beach; Bishop Kevin Vann of the Diocese of Orange; Dr. Scott Hahn; and Chris Stefanick, host of EWTN’s “Real Life Catholic.” 

“Saint Joseph is the man of the hour,” Greco said. “This is his year and we know that this summit is a point of grace for people everywhere who are seeking in these most challenging times.”

Other “special guest” summit speakers include: Jason and Crystalina Evert from the Chastity Project, Leah Darrow from Lux Catholic, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus Patrick Kelly, filmmaker and brother of actor Mark Wahlberg, James Wahlberg. 

Cardinal Kasper supports alternative ‘Synodal Way’ text

Cardinal Walter Kasper. / Mazur/ (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

Rome, Italy, Sep 24, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

An influential theologian considered to be close to Pope Francis has praised an alternative text for Germany’s controversial “Synodal Way.”

In a lecture delivered in Rome, Cardinal Walter Kasper offered support for a text presenting an alternative to a document endorsed by members of the Synodal Way dedicated to the way power is exercised in the Church.

He said that the Synodal Way text attempted “to reinvent the Church in the face of the crisis with the help of an erudite theological structure,” reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner

“There is much that is correct in it, but also much that is hypothetical. In the end, many wonder whether all this is still entirely Catholic,” he commented.

He added that “some statements clearly deviate from the basic concerns of Vatican II,” including on the sacramental understanding of the Church and the episcopate.

The 88-year-old former president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity offered the critique in a lecture delivered on Sept. 17 and shared on Sept. 22 by the Diocese of Regensburg, southern Germany.

The Synodal Way is a multi-year process bringing together bishops and lay people to discuss four main topics: the way power is exercised in the Church; sexual morality; the priesthood; and the role of women.

The German bishops’ conference initially said that the process would end with a series of “binding” votes -- raising concerns at the Vatican that the resolutions might challenge the Church’s teaching and discipline.

Bishops and theologians have expressed alarm at the process, which is expected to end in February 2022, but bishops’ conference chairman Bishop Georg Bätzing has vigorously defended it.

Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg presented the alternative text on a new website launched on Sept. 3.

The 36-page document, which has been translated into English and is called “Authority and responsibility,” is the first in a series that will also address the topics of the other three synodal forums.

The text was co-authored by Fr. Wolfgang Picken, dean of Germany’s federal city of Bonn, Marianne Schlosser, a theology professor in Vienna, Austria, journalist Alina Oehler, and Augsburg auxiliary Bishop Florian Wörner.

Kasper said that the alternative document “has a clear grounding in the Council, which we all should have in common.”

“It recognizes the open questions left by the Council and seeks to continue on the path of the Council on the secure ground of the Council,” he said.

“In doing so, it can show: It is not necessary to turn everything upside down. On the ground of the Council, one can go beyond the Council in the spirit of the Council without coming into conflict with the teachings of the Church. This is the way of the living tradition, the way of the Church.”

“It does not understand tradition as a daunting bulwark, but as an invitation to set out on the way of the Church and to be surprised by new insights.”

Kasper’s comments come as participants prepare to attend a plenary session of the Synodal Way in Frankfurt, southwestern Germany, on Sept. 30-Oct. 2. The event will be the second meeting of the Synodal Assembly, the supreme decision-making body of the Synodal Way.

The assembly consists of the German bishops, 69 members of the powerful lay Central Committee of German Catholics (Zdk), and representatives of other parts of the German Church.

Kasper said in June that he was “very worried” about the initiative’s direction.

“I have not yet given up hope that the prayers of many faithful Catholics will help to steer the Synodal Way in Germany on Catholic tracks,” he said.

In “Authority and responsibility,” the co-authors expressed concern about the direction of the Synodal Way.

“In the current debate on Church renewal, the necessity of which has become obvious through the abuse crisis, positions are often put forward whose contents have no secure connection with the reappraisal or prevention of abuse of power within the Church,” they wrote.

“Thus, the calls for the introduction of women’s ordination or the desire for a comprehensive adaptation of Church structures to the standards of modern democracies (especially with regard to the separation of powers), as well as doubts about the spiritual authority of the ordained ministry, the plea for its consistent desacralization or a far-reaching reorganization of the Church’s sexual morality are components of a reform agenda whose origins lie far before the abuse crisis and have only been secondarily associated with it.”

They continued: “Such a conflation of interests does not serve the serious concern with which the Synodal Path was begun and brings with it the danger of new divisions within the German Church as well as in its relationship with the Vatican and the universal Church…”

“If the hope is raised that majority votes of a German synodal assembly could lead to changes in official Church doctrine and universal canon law or at least legitimize a German Sonderweg (special path) in questions of the doctrine of faith and morals, the end result threatens to be a potentiation of the energy-sapping frustration that has already been associated for decades with the struggle for radical reforms in the Catholic Church.”

Pope Francis addressed fears about the trajectory of the Synodal Way in an interview with the Spanish radio station COPE aired on Sept. 1.

Asked if the initiative gave him sleepless nights, the pope recalled that he wrote an extensive letter that expressed “everything I feel about the German synod.”

Responding to the interviewer’s comment that the Church had faced similar challenges in the past, he said: “Yes, but I wouldn’t get too tragic either. There is no ill will in many bishops with whom I spoke.”

“It is a pastoral desire, but one that perhaps does not take into account some things that I explain in the letter that need to be taken into account.”

In June 2019, Pope Francis sent a 19-page letter to German Catholics, urging them to focus on evangelization in the face of a “growing erosion and deterioration of faith.”

“Every time an ecclesial community has tried to get out of its problems alone, relying solely on its own strengths, methods, and intelligence, it has ended up multiplying and nurturing the evils it wanted to overcome,” he wrote.