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Indian cardinal denies cover-up to shield bishop charged with fathering a child

Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay speaks at a Vatican press conference, Oct. 22, 2015. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 10, 2022 / 15:47 pm (CNA).

Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias adamantly denied allegations that he attempted to arrange for a fake paternity test for a scandal-plagued bishop accused of secretly fathering a child, among other charges.

In a video statement posted on the Archdiocese of Bombay’s YouTube channel Sunday, Gracias said that a 2020 recording of a telephone conversation with Bishop Kannikass Antony William of Mysore had been “mischievously edited” to give the impression that the cardinal had tried to cover up the scandal.

The recording in question, originally posted by the website Church Militant, had been circulating on social media among Indian Catholics, according to various news accounts.

In the video, Gracias said that he was “distressed” to learn of the rumors, which he said he “categorically, emphatically and totally” denied.

He said that an unedited version of the recorded conversation would show that he was attempting to arrange for a paternity test in a reputable Catholic hospital.

“I did have a conversation with Bishop William in August 2020. During the conversation I urged Bishop William that it was advisable for him to undergo a paternity test. I impressed upon him that several people I know have been disturbed [by] the rumors going around the church and that the best way to end the controversy was to take this test,” he said.

“At no time did I suggest that we can control the outcome of the test,” said Gracias.

Gracias was appointed archbishop of Bombay by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006, and made a cardinal in 2007. Pope Francis appointed him to the Council of Cardinals in 2013.

In 2021 a Vatican investigation was launched into charges of misconduct by William, the bishop accused of fathering a child. The investigation, which has thus far not resulted in any actions from the Vatican, was prompted by a 2019 letter to Pope Francis from 37 priests from William’s diocese. In the letter the priests called for the bishop's removal, citing charges of sexual misconduct and the misappropriation of Church funds.

William was later accused of arranging for the immediate transfer of the 37 to remote villages.

In 2020, former Bombay judge Micheal Saldanha sent a letter to Gracias accusing William of “letting loose a virtual reign of terror” in the Diocese of Mysore, the Deccan Herald reported.  

Saldanha charged that the bishop was responsible for the deaths of four priests, in “two murders, one hanging, and one so-called accident.”

In 2021, a group of 113 people, including 22 priests, calling themselves the Save Mysore Diocese Action Committee, wrote to Cardinal Luis Tagle, prefect of Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, to demand that William step down as bishop.

What is the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life?

null / Vatican Media.

Rome Newsroom, Aug 10, 2022 / 09:47 am (CNA).

A controversy over a book and statements made on Twitter has recently drawn increased attention to the Vatican's Pontifical Academy for Life.

In late June, the academy's official Twitter account began promoting a Vatican-published book synthesizing a 2021 seminar on ethics, in which a participant discussed "the possible legitimacy of contraception in certain cases."

The pontifical academy said in an Aug. 8 press release that the seminar discussed "all the issues related to the ethics of life … including contraception and sexual matrimonial morality." Euthanasia was also a topic of the seminar.

Some of the promotional posts for the seminar and subsequent book received pushback in media reports and from Catholic Twitter users who said they presented wrong or confusing information about the Church's teachings.

The academy's Twitter account called the negative responses "insults and out-of-control criticism" by "fake accounts." On Aug. 10, several of the Tweets had been deleted.

A screenshot of a press release shared on Aug. 8, 2022, via a now-deleted Tweet from the Pontifical Academy for Life.
A screenshot of a press release shared on Aug. 8, 2022, via a now-deleted Tweet from the Pontifical Academy for Life.

A member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Spanish-based bioethicist Elena Postigo, distanced herself from the book, which is titled "Theological Ethics of Life: Scripture, Tradition, Practical Challenges."

"The book is not an official statement but the seminar records in which 20 people made their personal statements. Many members didn't know about it and are astonished," Postigo shared on Twitter.

What exactly is the institution which started this controversy?

The beginnings

The Pontifical Academy for Life is one of several academic and cultural institutions which bring together experts in their fields to discuss issues of relevance to the Church and the world.

St. Pope John Paul II founded the Pontifical Academy for Life in February 1994.

In the document establishing the academy, the motu proprio Vitae Mysterium, he wrote that the institute has "the specific task to study and provide information and training about the principal problems of law and biomedicine pertaining to the promotion and protection of life, especially in the direct relationship they have with Christian morality and the directives of the Church's Magisterium."

Venerable Jérôme Lejeune, a French pediatrician and geneticist who opposed the use of prenatal testing for the purposes of carrying out elective abortions, was the academy's first president, though he died from lung cancer in April 1994, just a few weeks after its founding.

Before his death, however, Lejeune managed to draft the academy's first bylaws and a declaration to be signed by members of the academy stating that "before God and men we bear witness that for us every human being is a person" and that "from the moment the embryo is formed until death it is the same human being which grows to maturity and dies."

The 2016 changes 

Pope Francis approved new statutes for the Pontifical Academy for Life in 2016, the first significant reform of the institution since its beginning. The statutes are due to expire at the end of this year, after going into effect on Jan. 1, 2017, for five years.

The use of the declaration of pro-life belief drafted by Lejeune was dropped in the new statutes, and membership in the academy was changed from a lifetime term to a renewable five-year term.

The statutes also say members, or academicians, appointed by the pope, can be of any religion, though they should "promote and defend the principles regarding the value of life and dignity of the human person, interpreted in a way that conforms to the Magisterium of the Church."

An academician can have his or her membership revoked, the statutes say, "in the case of a public and deliberate action or statement manifestly contrary to said principles, or seriously offensive to the dignity and credibility of the Catholic Church and the Academy itself."

The structure

The academy is headed by president Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, who Pope Francis appointed in August 2016. Paglia had been president of the Pontifical Council for the Family before it was merged into the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life.

Under the president, there is the chancellor, Monsignor Renzo Pegoraro, and a board of directors called the governing council.

With the 2016 reforms, most of the 139 previous academicians' terms were ended, and new members appointed.

Academicians of the Pontifical Academy for Life can be clergy, religious, or laity and are chosen from among the top experts in law and bioethics issues around the world.

Members are categorized in one of four ways: Ordinary members and honorary members are chosen by the pope. In contrast, corresponding members and young researchers are selected by the academy's president and governing council.

There are currently 51 ordinary members and two honorary members, according to the Vatican's 2022 Pontifical Yearbook. Corresponding members appear to be around 90 in number, while there are about 13 young researchers who must be under 35 years old to qualify.

Most members were appointed in the summer of 2017.

Carl A. Anderson, the former Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, is among the academy's ordinary members after being reappointed in 2017 along with 27 other former members.

Other Americans in the academy include Kathleen M. Foley, a neurologist and secretary of the board of directors of Physicians for Human Rights; John M. Haas, president emeritus of the National Catholic Bioethics Center; and Ignatius John Keown, a professor of Christian ethics at Georgetown University.

Cardinal Willem Eijk, archbishop of Utrecht, Netherlands, and Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney, Australia, are also ordinary members based on their bioethics backgrounds.

Recent controversies 

Some 2017 appointments to the academy garnered criticism, in particular, that of Nigel Biggar, an Anglican theologian, who has previously supported legalized abortion up to 18 weeks and expressed qualified support for euthanasia.

A few other members, including Father Maurizio Chiodi, have also expressed a belief in the morality of contraceptive use in marriage, which the Catholic Church considers a grave sin.

The changes to the statutes of the Pontifical Academy for Life, the appointment of Archbishop Paglia as president, and the nomination of some non-Catholic members were also the subject of disagreement among some Catholics.

Controversy included disappointment at the removal of French geneticist Lejeune's declaration of fidelity to the pro-life teachings of the Church.

In an interview with the National Catholic Register in 2017, Paglia defended the revised statutes.

"I think [critics] will find that the new Statutes require a stronger commitment on the part of Members to the Church's pro-life teaching than do the old," he said.

"In that context, however," he added, "I also want to point out that the Academy's absolute fidelity to the Church's Magisterium in no way means that we are unable to undertake joint initiatives or enter into dialogue with persons who do not share our Catholic belief and commitment."

Earlier this year, a Jesuit-run Catholic journal came under fire from over 50 organizations for an article supporting legalized assisted suicide written by a Pontifical Academy for Life member.

In his article, Father Carlo Cassone, SJ, a moral theology professor at Rome's Pontifical Gregorian University, argued that an Italian bill to legalize assisted suicide could be "an acceptable 'imperfect' law."

The academy's chancellor, Father Pegoraro, also appeared to express sympathy for the idea in an interview with French Catholic newspaper La Croix. 

In another Twitter controversy, the Pontifical Academy for Life received over 200 responses, most negative, to a post on Apr. 6, 2021, marking the death of the dissenting theologian Hans Küng.  

The influential and controversial Swiss theologian, who rejected papal infallibility, Catholic teaching on contraception, and the moral impermissibility of assisted suicide, was described on the academy's Twitter as "a great figure in the theology of the last century whose ideas and analyzes (sic) must always make us reflect on the Catholic Church, the Churches, the society, the culture." 

In 2019, a week after Swiss bishops published guidelines stating pastoral caregivers should not be present during a person's death by assisted suicide, Pontifical Academy for Life President Paglia told journalists he would be willing to hold the hand of someone dying from assisted suicide, and that he did not see that as lending implicit support for the practice.

Fabrizio Mastrofini has been the Pontifical Academy for Life's social media manager and press officer since 2017.

Historian: Church did not give ‘carte blanche’ for mistreatment of indigenous in Americas

Painting by Dióscoro Puebla depicting the arrival of Christopher Columbus in America, on Oct. 12, 1492. / null

ACI Prensa Staff, Aug 10, 2022 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Unlike the “doctrine of discovery” allowing the European conquerors to mistreat indigenous people, a historian points out that “the Church didn’t give this carte blanche so that they could do what they wanted to do.”

In a interview with ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language sister news agency, Íñigo Fernández, a historian and professor at the Pan-American University in Mexico City, pointed out that shortly after the discovery of America, “the Church in fact began to set limits and said that with the conquest comes the obligation to evangelize the indigenous.”

In addition, he stressed, the Church played a role in the drafting of the Laws of the Indies, “which establish a series of obligations that the Spanish have with the indigenous.”

However, the Mexican historian pointed out that there are certainly differences between what the Catholic Church enjoined and the “compliance” of the conquerors.

“While it’s true that the Church and the Spanish Crown went hand in hand, political power will always have greater weight,” he said.

For Fernández, it’s important to see historical events in their context, and understand, for example, “what arriving in the Americas represents” for the Europeans.

“The Church in Spain views that the Americas are a ‘reward’ that God gave it,” he said, “because of the whole issue of the Reconquest,” which the Catholic Monarchs of Castile and Aragon, Ferdinand and Isabella, completed in early 1492, nine months before the arrival of Christopher Columbus to American lands.

The Reconquest was a series of military campaigns over the course of centuries waged by Spanish kings to retake the lands conquered by Muslim invaders in the eighth century.

‘One of the biggest mistakes’

For the Mexican historian, “one of the most serious errors” when looking at history today is to see the past with the eyes of the present.

“It’s like being judged for what your parents did,” he said.

Fernández stressed that “what history is about is seeking to be empathetic. And to be empathetic is to understand what happened in the context that it happened.”

The historian stressed that “history does not judge or justify. What history does is explain how things happened and why things happened, and frame them in a certain context.”

“When you don’t do that, it ends up manipulating history sometimes with good intentions and sometimes with bad,” he said.

Pro-Hispanic or pro-indigenous?

For Fernández, “a point that we have not yet resolved in Mexico” is the “very pro-Hispanic or very pro-indigenist views.”

“I think we should start from the present,” he said. “We have to understand that today’s Mexico is indigenous, and it is Spanish, and it is Mexico, too.”

After emphasizing that “Mexicans have a tremendous mingling of cultures,” Fernández pointed out that “the events of the past are not subject, and this is very valid, whether we like them or not.”

“The events of the past are there, and they’re a starting point or a line of continuity to understand what we are today,” he said.

“We have to understand that these two worlds that are going to give rise to Mexico had their points of collision, but that they also have their points of communication,” he said.

The Mexican historian lamented that looking for “that right balance” at this time “is very difficult,” because “today, in global terms, what is sought is to be in confrontation with the past.”

‘It’s not a matter of heroes and villains’

The professor at the Pan-American University pointed out that it’s important to see that the protagonists of the conquest of the Americas “are people: with the good, with the bad, with the imperfections, and with noble and ignoble ideas.”

“We are all human beings, and as human beings we are capable of the noblest things at some point, and also the villainous. No one is exempt from that,” he observed.

Neither Cortés, who conquered Mexico for Spain, nor Cuauhtémoc, the last Aztec emperor, “were perfect, nor were they that hero for some and this villain for others,” he stressed.

Fernandez lamented that “we are still half at odds with the past in Mexico,” discussing “about the conquest and whether it was good or bad.”

“Let’s take it all in. We can reflect on it, but it has already happened, the conquest took place, independence took place, the revolution took place,” he said.

“You can’t judge your life today or the current environment or others by things that happened in the past,” he stressed.

For the Mexican historian, “we have to point to the present and to the future, and have a healthy relationship with our past.”

“And kind of forgive ourselves a little bit and say: this is what it has been. It marks me, yes, but it doesn't condition me,” he added.

“The past is as it is, period, but it doesn’t make me better or worse,” he stated.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Kansas woman arrested after allegedly striking pro-life teen ‘with fists’ to the head

Students for Life Action volunteer Grace Hartsock / Courtesy of Students for Life

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 10, 2022 / 05:00 am (CNA).

Grace Hartsock was knocking on doors to encourage Kansas citizens to vote for a pro-life amendment when, she says, she was attacked.

The 18-year-old from Austin, Texas — a rising freshman at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas — walked away from one house after encountering a woman who opposed the amendment. That is when she heard “yelling and cursing” coming from inside, she told CNA.

“As I was walking back towards the street, the woman’s adult daughter came out of the house, still yelling, and started following me,” Hatsock recalled of the July 31 incident in Leawood, Kansas. “She pushed me with both hands, and hit me with her fists.”

Students for Life Action, the pro-life group with which Hartsock was canvassing, claimed in a blog post that the woman “shoved Hartsock in the chest with both hands and began violently hitting her in the head with closed fists.” 

When Hartsock reached the end of the driveway, she said the woman threw a dinner roll at her and continued to follow her as she yelled “I hope you get raped” and “I hope you get run over by a car.”

Students for Life later shared a 5-second clip that it said showed the woman who assaulted Hartsock. In the video, a woman shouts “f*** you” as she sticks her middle finger in the air. Another woman, in the background, instructs her to “stop it!”

The audio also captures the panting of the person holding the camera.

Capt. Brad Robbins at the Leawood Police Department confirmed that an 18-year-old female contacted them about the incident on July 31 just after 2 p.m.

“She stated that an hour earlier she had been going door-to-door representing Students for Life,” he told CNA in a statement. “At one address in the 11200 block of Granada Lane the victim was advised they did not wish to discuss the issue. As she was walking away from the address, she was yelled at and then struck by a female resident.”

As part of the police investigation, Robbins said that a 37-year-old suspect was arrested and charged in Leawood Municipal Court with misdemeanor battery and released.

“While an arrest has been made, it is still consider[ed] an open investigation and we will not be releasing any additional details of the event,” he said.

Robbins said that the victim was not visibly injured.

While Hartsock had a headache after being hit in the head, the local emergency room confirmed that she suffered from no serious injuries, she said. She added that, at the time, she also felt “nervous and shaken up.”

She shared what she would tell her alleged attacker, if she had the opportunity.

“I would tell her that rather than being ‘pro-woman’ as the pro-abortion movement claims to be, she is showing the world with her actions just how anti-woman she really is,” she said. “This is the hypocrisy of the pro-abortion side. Rather than being pro-woman, they condone violence against pro-life women just because we disagree with their narrative.”

Rather than being discouraged, Hartsock said that the incident left her even more motiviated in her pro-life advocacy, adding that “we as pro-lifers need to be more courageous than ever in not backing down and standing up to defend the vulnerable women and children in our communities.”

A Catholic, she said the faith and science support her pro-life position.

“While I am a faithful Catholic, and the Catholic Church teaches that all human life is made in the image and likeness of God,” she said, “I am pro-life because science shows that life begins at conception, where a unique human being comes into existence.”

Hartsock’s alleged attack is not an isolated one, according to Autumn Schimmer, the project manager at Students for Life of America.

“I was punched outside of the Supreme Court in September of 2020 while protesting a NARAL rally that was being held opposing the nomination of Justice Barrett to the Supreme Court,” she told CNA of a protest held by a pro-abortion group. 

She called violent attacks on pro-life advocates a “growing concern,” from the recent attacks at pregnancy centers to threats targeting Students for Life President Kristan Hawkins. 

“What happened to Grace in Kansas is unfortunately becoming more common in a post-Roe America,” Schimmer said, referring to the 1973 Supreme Court decision that previously legalized abortion nationwide. “Pro-life advocates should be aware of the violent acts pro-abortion supports are willing to carry out, without being fully deterred from advocating for the preborn and their mothers.”

Pope Francis: The desire for ‘eternal youth’ and ‘unlimited well-being’ is delusional conceit

Pope Francis at the general audience on Aug. 10, 2022 / Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Aug 10, 2022 / 04:48 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Wednesday that it is “delusional” to try to stop the natural passage of time in pursuit of “eternal youth” and “unlimited well-being.”

Speaking at his live-streamed general audience on Aug. 10, the pope pointed out that from the Christian perspective, the passing of time “is not a threat, it is a promise.”

“The conceit of stopping time — of wanting eternal youth, unlimited well-being, absolute power — is not only impossible, it is delusional,” Pope Francis said in Vatican City’s Paul VI Hall.

“Our existence on earth is the time of the initiation of life; it is life, but one that leads you toward a fuller life … a life which finds fulfillment only in God.”

The pope underlined that life on earth is best understood as a “novitiate,” a preparation for an eternal life in heaven that will be “superior to the time of our mortal life.”

“We are apprentices of life, who — amid a thousand difficulties — learn to appreciate God’s gift, honoring the responsibility of sharing it and making it bear fruit for everyone,” he said.

“We are imperfect from the very beginning, and we remain imperfect up to the end,” Francis added.

He explained that life is not meant to “be wrapped up in itself in an imaginary earthly perfection.” 

Life “is destined to go beyond, through the passage of death — because death is a passage. Indeed, … our destination is not here, it is beside the Lord, where he dwells forever,” the pope said.

With this reflection, Pope Francis concluded a cycle of catechesis on old age that he began in February. 

During this time, the 85-year-old pope has faced health problems that limited his mobility, particularly an injury to his right knee.

For his final catechesis on old age, the pope walked slowly using a cane as he made his way onto the stage of the audience hall. He later greeted the crowd from a wheelchair.

Pope Francis underscored that old age should be a time of “expectation” that brings one closer to life’s fulfillment in God. 

“In the fulfillment of God’s promise, the relationship is inverted: the space of God, which Jesus prepares for us with the utmost care, is superior to the time of our mortal life. Hence: old age brings closer the hope of this fulfillment,” Pope Francis said.

“Old age knows definitively, by now, the meaning of time and the limitations of the place in which we live our initiation. This is why old age is wise. God’s world is an infinite space, in which the passage of time no longer carries any weight,” he said.

At the end of the audience, Pope Francis prayed for Cuba, where a lightning strike at an oil facility set off multiple explosions of fuel storage tanks and caused a devastating fire. 

The pope also expressed his continued concern for Ukraine, where people are “still suffering from this cruel war,” and for migrants. 

In total, Pope Francis gave 16 reflections on the dignity of the elderly in his audiences this year. He has not yet said what will be the next topic for his weekly catecheses when he starts a new cycle next Wednesday morning.

“Old age is the phase in life most suited to spreading the joyful news that life is the initiation to a final fulfillment. The elderly are a promise, a witness of promise. And the best is yet to come,” Pope Francis said.

Is Latin more effective in driving out demons? An exorcist responds

null / Photo credit: David Clode / Unsplash

ACI Prensa Staff, Aug 10, 2022 / 04:00 am (CNA).

Is Latin more effective than vernacular languages in driving out demons? An exorcist answers this controversial question.

Interviewed by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language sister news agency, Father Francisco Torres Ruiz, a priest of the Diocese of Plasencia in Spain who is in charge of the ministry of exorcism, said that many people wonder “if it’s better to use the exorcism ritual of 1614, reformed by Pope Pius XII in 1952; [they wonder] if it’s better and more effective than the ritual promulgated by St. John Paul II in the year 2000.”

Exorcism: A sacramental of the Catholic Church

“In the first place,” said the priest, who is also a liturgy professor, it’s important “to establish a theological principle: exorcism is a sacramental celebration of the Church and, therefore, receives its efficacy from the prayer and faith of the Church.”

This, he stressed, “is one of the differences between sacraments and sacramentals.”

“The sacraments are outward signs that communicate grace, that are effective by themselves, because their effectiveness comes from Jesus Christ himself, who is the one who instituted them, and they are neither more nor less than seven, as the Council of Trent said,” the priest explained. 

“The sacramentals for their part are visible signs, structured in imitation, in a certain resemblance, to the sacraments, insofar as they are words and signs, but which have been instituted by the Church and their effectiveness is not ex opere operato, as for example a sacrament, rather it is ex opere operantis — that is, by the faith and prayer of the Church, which is pledged in them and engaged in these actions,” he said.

Torres said that “an exorcism is a simple thing; it’s a liturgical celebration of the Church in which the apotropaic action of Jesus Christ is invoked.”

“What does this somewhat strange word mean? Apotropaic means ‘battle,’ ‘defense,’ [or]’ combat,’” he noted.

“That is to say, it is Jesus Christ who confronts Satan, the rebellious spirits, in an exorcism while in that same ritual the victory of Jesus Christ over sin and death, over the devil, is proclaimed,” he said.

The devil ‘is commanded, he is ordered’

The Spanish priest also said that in an exorcism “there are two types of prayers that are done, facing the devil directly.”

“The first is what we call the prayer of supplication, which invokes divine help, the one that asks God to free the person, to protect the person who is being harassed, who is being mistreated by the devil,” he pointed out.

The second, he continued, is “a prayer of command, which is the prayer that only the priest authorized by his bishop directs straight at Satan, or against the demons that are there, exhorting them, adjuring them, commanding them, ordering them, threatening them so that they depart from the person they have subjugated.”

In this way, the devil “is commanded, ordered, above all by proclaiming that victory of Jesus Christ, that battle of Jesus Christ against them, and also reminding them at times of the pain of hell, the punishments to which they are doomed from the creation of the world by their rebellion.”

Is one ritual better than the other?

The Spanish exorcist stressed that “the ritual of 1614 is neither better nor more effective, nor is the ritual of 2000 better or more effective.”

“It’s true that the one from 1614 brought together a tradition that dates back at least to the 12th century of the most effective or most widespread prayers among exorcists in the Middle Ages for the fight against the devil,” he noted.

In the exorcism ritual of 2000, “the threats to the devil, the insults to the devil, have been suppressed, for example, because there were ritual prayers from 1614 that were directly a torrent of insults against the devil.”

“That is, they wanted to remove that part, let’s say, more threatening to the devil, to accentuate the kerygmatic proclamation of the Paschal Mystery of Jesus Christ,” he said.

Torres explained that “if an exorcist uses the ritual of 1614, he is acting correctly and it is effective, and if an exorcist uses the one from the year 2000, he is acting efficaciously and correctly, because the Church has pledged her prayer and her faith in those rituals.”

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Will Biden's Inflation Reduction Act work? Here's what cash-strapped families need to know

null / Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Aug 10, 2022 / 03:00 am (CNA).

President Joe Biden is poised to sign the $485 billion Inflation Reduction Act into law later this week, promising Americans relief from the rising cost of food and other necessities.

But the massive spending bill is drawing criticism from Republicans and even some Democrats who predict it will do little to stem record levels of inflation.

Soaring prices for everything from groceries to gasoline promise to be a major campaign issue for both parties heading into November’s midterm elections. Forty percent of Americans in a recent poll listed inflation as the No. 1 priority they want the government to address. The annual inflation rate jumped to 9.1% in June, a record 40-year high. 

Catholic families are among those feeling the squeeze. Nearly 90% of Catholics say they have had their finances significantly impacted by inflation, yet a majority (57%) say they do not have much or any confidence that Biden will be able to significantly curb inflation over the coming year, according to an EWTN/RealClear Opinion Research poll released in July.

Here’s a breakdown of what Catholic families worried about the rising cost of living need to know about the government’s plans to address the problem. 

Will the Inflation Reduction Act work?

From the Biden administration’s point of view, the bill would reduce inflation by investing about $485 billion into policy measures aimed at driving economic growth through tax breaks and spending on climate, energy, and healthcare.

The bill’s significant health policy changes include expanding Obamacare, providing free vaccines for seniors, and allowing Medicare to negotiate the cost of prescription drug prices.

The act also designates $124 billion to the Internal Revenue Service for beefed up tax enforcement. Senate Democrats say the move will ensure that “wealthy millionaires and billionaires” pay their fair share. Republicans disagree, with the House Freedom Caucus saying in a statement that the proposal would create “an army of 87,000 new enforcement agents" targeting Americans.

In a statement Sunday, Biden said that the bill will “lower the cost of prescription drugs, health insurance, and everyday energy costs, and reduce the deficit while making the wealthiest corporations finally pay their fair share.”

Biden emphasized that “[the bill] pays for all this by establishing a minimum corporate tax so that our richest corporations start to pay their fair share,” adding, “It does not raise taxes on those making under $400,000 a year — not one cent.”

Biden’s economic strategy centers on large spending packages and “offers government investments and incentives for domestic output, along with social support to bring more people into the labor market — while reducing environmental damage,” Bloomberg reported.

President Joe Biden gestures as he delivers remarks on the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 in the State Dining Room of the White House on July 28, 2022 in Washington, D.C. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images
President Joe Biden gestures as he delivers remarks on the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 in the State Dining Room of the White House on July 28, 2022 in Washington, D.C. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

But skeptics are speaking out about the bill’s projected flaws.

One of the bill’s more vocal critics is Democrat Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who referred to the legislation Saturday as “the so-called Inflation Reduction Act” in a speech on the Senate floor. Citing analyses by the Congressional Budget Office and other economic organizations, Sanders predicted that the bill “will, in fact, have a minimal impact on inflation.”

The Penn Wharton Budget Model — which Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia often relies on when assessing legislation — has predicted that the bill’s impact on inflation is “statistically indistinguishable from zero.” 

The analysis estimated that the bill would actually “slightly increase inflation until 2024 and decrease inflation thereafter … thereby indicating low confidence that the legislation will have any impact on inflation.”

However, Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, supports the bill, saying it will add a small amount of growth and “lean against inflation over the next decade.”

“It is more than paid for with tax hikes on large corporations and the well-to-do,” he added. 

Moody’s says the bill “will modestly reduce inflation over the 10-year budget horizon,” becoming “more meaningful later in the decade.” 

Many American families, however, want inflation relief now, not incremental decreases over time.  

Controversial climate change costs

The 755-page bill also includes a proposed $369 billion in climate change provisions designed to shift Americans to green energy and propel the U.S. to being a global leader on climate change.

In a statement Sunday, Biden championed the bill as “the largest investment ever in combating the existential crisis of climate change.” 

Among the climate provisions are $3 billion for “environmental and climate justice” programs, $250 million for making federal buildings green, incentives for Americans to buy electric vehicles, and a methane emissions tax.

Yet some economists and other groups warn these measures could hurt those already facing pressure on their pocketbooks.

A recent report by CatholicVote, a non-profit advocacy group run by Catholic laity, says the poor will be negatively impacted the most.

Green energy measures have large up-front costs, which could lead to “increased utility bills for the lower-middle and lower-income families who still rely on these sources for heating, cooling, lighting, and refrigeration,” the report explained. 

Michael Stojsavljevich, a managing partner at the economic advisory firm Geostratix and former Department of Labor official, told CNA that the bill is “inefficient” and will lead to more burdens on families.

“It does not do anything to address the underlying causes of inflation, which are supply-chain based and spending-based. We’re spending more money and chasing fewer goods,” he said.

Stojsavljevich says that the bill instead “shifts the focus to pursuing green energy policies" and goods that the average American can't afford or is unlikely to buy.

In a letter to Congress, the American Gas Association estimated that the bill’s methane tax would increase energy prices up to 17% for the average family and would impose “major new costs” in the form of higher bills for families and small businesses who use natural gas. 

“These outcomes are inconsistent with President Biden’s commitment to pay for reconciliation without imposing new taxes on lower-income Americans,” the industry group wrote in the letter, emphasizing that the bill would harm lower-income Americans the most. 

Young Catholics in Ireland say their voices have not been heard during synodal process

Celtic Cross on the hill at Cashel, Tipperary, Ireland. / Tom Haymes (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

CNA Newsroom, Aug 10, 2022 / 01:54 am (CNA).

A group of 500 young Catholics in Ireland have signed a letter saying they love the Church’s teaching, but that their voices had not been heard in the process leading up to the Synod on Synodality in Rome.

They express concern that the synodal process underway might falsely give the impression that all Catholics in Ireland would like to see changes made.

The letter is addressed to the Synod Steering Committee, responsible for gathering and summarizing responses to the questions posed in recent questionnaires for the Irish Synodal Pathway.

A copy was also sent to the bishops of Ireland.

Speaking to the Irish Catholic, Peadar Hand, one of the letter’s organizers, said, “among people who are actually practicing and trying their best to live their faith, there’s no desire for [a change in Church teaching].”

“The duty of the Church is not to change with the world, but to change the world,” he continued.
The letter reads: “As young practicing Catholics, we would like you to hear our voices regarding developments with the Synodal Synthesis.”

“We have concerns that following the presentations at the Pre-Synodal National Gathering in June, the emerging synthesis risks presenting a false conclusion, namely that the Sensus Fidei is in conflict with current church teaching and practice. This relates in particular to human sexuality, marriage and ordained ministry.”

The sensus fidei, or sensus fidelium, is defined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church as "the supernatural appreciation of faith on the part of the whole people, when, from the bishops to the last of the faithful, they manifest a universal consent in matters of faith and morals."

CNA has reached out to the Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference for comment.

Pope Francis announced a Synod on Synodality in March 2020 in order “to provide an opportunity for the entire People of God to discern together how to move forward on the path towards being a more synodal Church in the long-term.”

The synodal process to prepare the synod started with consultations at the diocesan level in October 2021. A continental phase is scheduled to commence in March 2023, according to the Synod on Synodality’s website. The final and universal phase will begin with the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, on the theme “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission,” at the Vatican in October 2023.

Vatican enlists influencers to get young, disenchanted Catholics to answer Synod survey

null / Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Aug 9, 2022 / 16:34 pm (CNA).

Last fall, Catholics around the world began gathering in church basements and school gyms to, in the words of Pope Francis, “look others in the eye and listen to what they have to say.” These listening sessions were the first phase of the two-year-long Synod on Synodality that will end in 2023 when the bishops meet to chew over what they’ve learned.

Now that parishes have recorded testimony from the faithful and compiled it in official reports, the Vatican is sending the message that they want to hear from those they may have missed – young or inactive Catholics who failed to show up at the parish meetings.

Jimmy Akin, a Catholic apologist and a host of the popular radio call-in show Catholic Answers Live, is one of several lay Catholic “influencers” the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communications asked to reach out to those unaccounted-for Catholics. 

Akin’s radio audience includes many non-Catholics, agnostics and atheists who try to trip him up with challenges to the faith. He answers respectfully, using logical arguments to defend the teachings of the Church, reminding his listeners that as a convert, he too faced similar obstacles before deciding to become a Catholic.

On Twitter Monday, Akin invited his 21,800-plus followers to participate in the Synod by filling out a survey. 

“The Vatican is doing an online survey to be submitted to the Synod of Bishops. They are interested in hearing from a wide range of people who may or may not be active Catholics. You can share your views here. The deadline is August 15,” he posted.

The survey, which he links to his website, asks respondents questions about their faith, how often they go to Mass, and whether they have had a personal encounter with God. 

Other questions, concerning attitudes towards the Church, provoked a negative reaction from some who took issue with the phrasing of the multiple choice answers.

One survey question, for example, asks, “Which of these attributes best define the Church?”

Survey takers are asked to select three adjectives from the following list: “supportive,” “selfish,” “authoritarian”, “participative,” “innovative,” “outdated,” “close,” and “distant.”

Another question, asking why people leave the Church, didn’t include enough options, some Twitter users suggested:

One Twitter user wrote, in response to Akin’s post, “I’m sorry Jimmy but this survey is rubbish, it is very clear that the one who made it is out of touch with the real challenges facing the Church nowadays (lack of reverence, suppression of tradition, relativism, religious indifferentism, going with the Zeitgeist etc. etc.).”


While the overwhelming majority of comments to Akin’s post were negative, there was some praise for the Vatican’s efforts:

Akin told CNA he wasn’t surprised at the reaction to the survey.

“Many people are suspicious of the upcoming Synod on Synodality, and that itself would generate concerns. Also, from filling out the questionnaire myself, it was clear that whoever composed the questions and answers was not thinking from the perspective of many active, engaged, orthodox Catholics,” he said.

“I expected that there would be individuals who saw the questionnaire as slanted towards a particular set of viewpoints and answers,” Akin added.

On the whole, he thinks it is worth completing the questionnaire.

“My view is that if the Vatican asks for your opinions, it is better to cooperate and give them, even if the instrument is imperfect. Having your voice heard is better than not having it heard at all,” Akin said.

Akin added that he was glad to help when asked.

"I recognize that the Holy See is a place with people who have many different views, and nobody except the pope has the final say on a thing. But I believe in being helpful and constructive when asked, so I was happy to help the Dicastery for Communications," he said.

The Vatican, he said, was also aware that Akin’s audience and that of the other influencers is not representative of active Catholics.

“Someone at the Vatican clearly understood that they would not be getting the views of people who don't go to Mass from the diocesan surveys. They made a point to us that participants do not need to be active Catholics to share their views. They want to hear from people of goodwill who are willing to engage with the Church in some form, even if some do not presently practice the Faith,” he said.

The Vatican’s communications office conducted a similar campaign in France and in Spain, employing “priest influencers” to reach out to young people who failed to attend the parish Synod meetings.

"Following the synod, from which young people were largely absent, the dicastery met with a group of Spanish influencers," Father Gaspard Craplet told the French Catholic website La Croix.

"They said that the digital world should be consulted and submitted the question to the pope, who replied that we should go for it," he said.

Craplet told La Croix that the dicastery contacted him and other priests who have a following on social media and asked them to pass along the survey. 

"Unlike a parish, influencers reach people who follow them freely, like sheep choosing their shepherd," he said.

The survey distributed in Spain sparked backlash because a possible gender identification was reportedly listed as “I do not know.”

That part of the survey was said to have been amended to read, “Don’t want to respond,” the answer that was subsequently adopted by the American version of the survey distributed by Akin.

The Synod on Synodality was announced in March 2020. It is focused on discernment with the whole people of God, journeying together, and listening to one another.

It began with a diocesan phase, in which each bishop has been asked to undertake a consultation process with his local Church. The results of these consultations are to be sent to the Vatican by Aug. 15.

This will be followed by a continental phase, from September until March 2023. It will conclude with a Synod of Bishops held at the Vatican in October 2023.

Lightning strike causes major fire damage to historic Illinois Catholic church

Firefighters work to put out a roof fire at historic St. James Catholic Church, in Rockford, Illinois, on Aug. 8, 2022. The Diocese of Rockford said a lightning strike was a possible cause. / Screenshot of Rockford Diocese video

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 9, 2022 / 15:10 pm (CNA).

A lightning strike caused a roof fire Monday that severely damaged a historic Catholic church in Rockford, Illinois, and left three firefighters injured, authorities said.

The Rockford Fire Department determined that lightning set the roof on fire at Saint James Catholic Church, Mike Rotolo, the department's fire prevention coordinator, told CNA Tuesday. The damage to the church may exceed $3 million, he said.

The city's building department posted a yellow sign with the message “Condemned: Do Not Enter” outside the church Monday, Rotolo said. This means that the building is not safe to use in its current condition, he said.

The church is located outside the Chicago metropolitan area in the far northern part of the state. The church was first blessed in 1853, according to the parish’s website.

In a statement, the Diocese of Rockford said the fire broke out before 7 a.m. on Aug. 8. The diocese posted a video on its Facebook page showing firefighters responding to the blaze.

No one was inside the church during the time of the fire and the pastor safely removed the Holy Eucharist from the building, the diocese said.

Three firefighters responding to the scene suffered non-life-threatening injuries, the fire department said in a tweet.

“Bishop David Malloy extends his profound gratitude to all the first responders, the vigilant neighbors, and all those around the diocese who have offered prayers during this extremely sad and unfortunate event,” the diocese’s statement said.

“Prayers are also being offered for those three courageous firefighters reported to have sustained injuries while fighting this fire,” the statement added.