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What’s this parish’s secret to forming missionary disciples? ‘It’s Boulder.’

null / Credit: St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Center Facebook page

Denver, Colo., Apr 1, 2023 / 06:00 am (CNA).

After interviewing three priests in January who were students at CU Boulder, Denver Catholic spoke to the men and women behind the ministry to figure out their “secret sauce.” What is the St. Thomas Aquinas Center doing to turn out great apostles?

“It’s Boulder,” said Father Peter Mussett, pastor at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Boulder. “The secret sauce that we have is that we get to do ministry in Boulder, which is on one hand, two steps ahead of the culture in its progressivism and on another hand, it actually facilitates this strange openness of exploration.”

“There’s oddly an openness to Boulder, too; there’s a curiosity,” said Megan Dillon, director of advancement for St. Thomas Aquinas. “It’s a tough environment but also there’s a genuine curiosity.” 

The St. Thomas Aquinas Center (St. Tom’s), serves the University of Colorado-Boulder community through its Catholic center for students and St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church. Mussett has been at St. Tom’s since 2006. During his time, he’s seen 10 “Buffs” (the CU-Boulder mascot is a buffalo) become priests and has a count of 21 priests who have come from Boulder over the years.

Father Peter Mussett has been assigned to St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Boulder, Colorado, since 2006. While it seems counterintuitive for a parish in a highly secularized city like Boulder to be home to a vibrant community of faith, St. Tom’s has earned a reputation as a diamond in the rough. Credit: Denver Catholic
Father Peter Mussett has been assigned to St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Boulder, Colorado, since 2006. While it seems counterintuitive for a parish in a highly secularized city like Boulder to be home to a vibrant community of faith, St. Tom’s has earned a reputation as a diamond in the rough. Credit: Denver Catholic

“If you really want to know the strength of the hero in any story, it’s going to be directly in relationship to the antagonist,” Mussett said. “The antagonistic parts of Boulder, the parts that are hostile towards Christianity, hostile towards any sort of living in a traditional way drive our student life here to really have a magnanimity and a strength of character.”

“We’ve been very intentional in structuring this ministry in creating missionaries,” Dillon said. “We are intentional with the students throughout their time here, even so much so that at graduation Father Peter prays the blessing of missionaries over our students and says, ‘I’m sending you out.’” 

Their goal is to form the minds of the students in the truths of the faith and also have a whole Catholic culture to surround them. Bible studies, intramural games, socials, liturgies, and more make up a typical week at St. Tom’s.

But the St. Tom’s Center is not just a club, Dillon said.  

One way the Catholic center keeps itself open to new people is the coffee shop located within St. Tom’s: Drogo’s Coffee Bar. Named for St. Drogo, the patron saint of coffee and coffee shop owners, Drogo’s serves not only the Catholic students at the center but also the wider Boulder community.  

“The coffee shop serves as kind of a bridge between the Catholic culture that we’re creating and also just the secular culture that we’re immersed in,” Mussett said. 

At any moment you might find professors, construction workers, moms who live in the neighborhood, and students frequenting the cafe. And with drip coffee priced at $1.75 and a latte for $3, it might be the most reasonably priced coffee in town.

That’s intentional, Mussett said.  

“Everybody knows that a cup of coffee is a ticket to sit in a chair at a table for as long as you possibly want,” he said. “If I can make that ticket cheaper than any other ticket in town, now all of a sudden I have somebody who’s sitting there, who wouldn’t have sat there for the next six hours, observing what the culture of Catholic Church is.” 

Among the outreach and ministries spearheaded by St. Tom’s is Drogos Coffee Shop. Named for St. Drogo, the patron saint of coffee and coffee shop owners, Drogo’s serves not only the Catholic students at the center but also the wider Boulder community. Credit: Denver Catholic
Among the outreach and ministries spearheaded by St. Tom’s is Drogos Coffee Shop. Named for St. Drogo, the patron saint of coffee and coffee shop owners, Drogo’s serves not only the Catholic students at the center but also the wider Boulder community. Credit: Denver Catholic

“[It’s] a place for us to engage the community,” Mussett said. “We all know that it’s so easy to get trapped in the Catholic bubble. The world’s a little scary.” 

Drogo’s gives students a chance to live out their faith and extend an invitation to someone new while still being in a familiar environment.  

“Invitation is the most powerful gift that we have been given by God, and teaching other people to invite into the light is the great joy of our work here,” Mussett said.

Amid the temptation to be insular in the harsh environment of Boulder, St. Tom’s stays outwardly focused, said Hilary Draftz, former student and FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) missionary at CU. Draftz is now the west area director for FOCUS, meaning she oversees 46 teams of missionaries, including the team at CU.

“It is a light in the darkness,” Draftz said. “The cultural opposition makes faith shine all the brighter.” 

FOCUS has had a presence on campus for the last 24 years, Draftz said. The vibrancy of the center complements the work of the FOCUS missionaries.

“It frees up the missionaries to be the hands and feet on campus,” she said. Instead of spending time planning the events, the missionaries can concentrate on outreach while always having something to invite students to.

The parish has six students who are in the process of becoming Catholic this year.  

Mussett is also a key part of the center’s success, Draftz said. 

“He’s a very human priest,” she said. “He’s so confident being himself.”  

She described some of his quirky hobbies: jeeping, art, and jiu jitsu — where he even brought his sensei through RCIA.

“God wants to do amazing things through us,” Mussett said. “He’s not limited to us, but he loves working with us and doing great things. We are here to both foster and to catch those who experience grace.” 

The Buffalo Awakening retreat is a mainstay ministry at St. Tom’s in Boulder, Colorado. Many students, some of whom went on to become priests, credit this retreat as a crucial turning point in their spiritual life. Credit: Denver Catholic
The Buffalo Awakening retreat is a mainstay ministry at St. Tom’s in Boulder, Colorado. Many students, some of whom went on to become priests, credit this retreat as a crucial turning point in their spiritual life. Credit: Denver Catholic

Mussett and St. Tom’s make an impact on young men opening their lives to vocation, but it’s more than that.  

“There are on-fire disciples coming out of St. Tom’s,” Draftz said. Dynamic families and laypeople having an impact on the archdiocese are among the fruits from Boulder — not just priestly vocations.  

To date, 56 FOCUS missionaries have come out of St. Tom’s. And seven women alum have discovered religious vocations, Dillon said.

“None of this is inaccessible to anybody else,” said Mussett of their work at the center. “Inviting new people, risking ourselves, being personal, creating opportunities for grace. It’s just that God has asked us to do it in a place where it takes courage to do it. And courage always yields great results.” 

“If you’re willing to listen to what God is asking of you — that’s the secret sauce,” Mussett said. “Having the courage to listen to the voice of God and not resisting what God is asking you to do. That’s the only real way.”

This story was originally published in Denver Catholic and is republished here on CNA with permission.

These are the most popular FAQs about Palm Sunday — and their answers

A priest holds palms on Palm Sunday. / Grant Whitty via Unsplash.

Denver, Colo., Apr 1, 2023 / 04:00 am (CNA).

When is Palm Sunday 2023? 

Palm Sunday is on April 2, 2023. 

What is the meaning of Palm Sunday? 

Palm Sunday is the day we remember and honor Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem a week before his crucifixion. As Jesus entered the city on a donkey, people gathered and laid palm branches and their cloaks across Jesus’ path, shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” It is also significant because it fulfilled Old Testament prophecies. For example, Jesus rode into the city on a donkey, fulfilling the prophecy found in Zechariah 9:9. 

When was Palm Sunday first celebrated? 
According to Brittanica, the earliest evidence of Palm Sunday being celebrated dates back to the eighth century. 

Why do we use palm branches on Palm Sunday? 
The palm symbolized victory in the ancient world. All four Gospels tell us that people cut branches from palm trees and laid them across Jesus’ path and waved them in the air as he entered Jerusalem triumphantly a week before his death. As the Church enters Holy Week, the faithful use palms to commemorate his victory and Jesus’ passion liturgically. 

What kind of palms are used for Palm Sunday? Where do they come from?
Palm harvesters can be found around the world. However, a certain kind of palm tree grown in Florida, cabbage palmetto, makes up a large majority of the palms used in U.S. parishes. 

Where is Palm Sunday found in the Holy Bible? 

The account of Palm Sunday can be found in Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:28-44, and John 12:12-19.

Who celebrates Palm Sunday?

Catholic and Protestant communities celebrate Palm Sunday. 

Is Palm Sunday a holy day of obligation? 

Yes. Owing to the fact that every Sunday is a holy day of obligation, Palm Sunday is also a holy day of obligation.

How do you make a cross out of palms?

Watch this video with step-by-step instructions.

Can you eat meat on Palm Sunday? 

Yes, you can eat meat on Palm Sunday. Sundays during Lent are still celebrations of the Resurrection. Abstinence from meat, the traditional form of Lenten penance, occurs on Fridays during Lent. Fasting, which involves abstaining from meat and eating only one meal with two smaller snacks that do not equal the size of the main meal, occurs on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

Are Palm Sunday and Passion Sunday the same? 

Yes. Palm Sunday can also be referred to as Passion Sunday. Palm Sunday comes from the fact that it honors Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem, where the people carried palm branches. It also is called Passion Sunday because the Gospel narrative of Jesus’ passion is read on this Sunday. 

What is the link between Palm Sunday and Ash Wednesday? 

The ashes used on Ash Wednesday are the burned palms from the previous year’s Palm Sunday. That means the palms used this year will be burned into ashes to be used during Ash Wednesday next year. 

What are the Palm Sunday colors? 

Red is worn on Palm Sunday in honor of the Lord’s passion. 

How long is Palm Sunday Mass? 

This will vary but it will most likely be over an hour long. In many parishes, Mass begins with a procession. The procession symbolizes those who went to meet the Lord as he entered Jerusalem. The Gospel reading is also much longer than usual. The Passion narrative is read and the faithful participates throughout the reading.

Can you say Happy Palm Sunday? 

Yes, of course!

This story was first published April 9, 2022, and was updated March 31, 2023.

Archbishop Broglio offers prayers for 9 soldiers who died in Blackhawk helicopter accident in Kentucky

Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA praised Servant of God Vincent Capodanno at a memorial Mass marking the 55th anniversary of the death of the heroic chaplain Sept. 6, 2022. / Courtesy of Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA

Washington D.C., Mar 31, 2023 / 10:35 am (CNA).

Archbishop Timothy Broglio, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and archbishop for the Military Services, USA, offered prayers for the nine American soldiers who died in a tragic accident during a helicopter training exercise in Kentucky on Wednesday evening.

“The tragic helicopter crash in Kentucky is a grim reminder of the risks taken daily by our men and women in uniform. They put themselves in harm’s way to defend our freedom, our values, our way of life. In the process some pay the ultimate sacrifice,” Broglio said in a March 31 statement.

The nine soldiers were in the U.S. Army’s 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, based at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. The accident occurred in Trigg County, Kentucky, which is about a 38-minute drive away from Fort Campbell.

“We pray for the repose of the souls of the nine soldiers who died. May Almighty God welcome them to life eternal, and may their devotion to service, God, and country stand always as an example for us all,” Broglio said.

He also offered prayers for the families of the soldiers “in this time of extreme grief.”

“May our Blessed Mother of Sorrows comfort them in this painful hour,” Broglio added.

The 101st Airborne Division said in a March 30 press release that the two helicopters were Blackhawks, the Army’s utility tactical transport helicopter. The helicopter “provide[s] air assault, general support, aeromedical evacuation, command and control, and special operations support to combat, stability, and support operations,” according to the U.S. Army.

The accident occurred at about 10 p.m., the press release said. An investigation into the crash is being conducted by an aviation safety team from Fort Rucker, Alabama, the release said.

“This is a truly tragic loss for these families, our division, and Fort Campbell. Our No. 1 priority is caring for the families and the soldiers within our combat aviation brigade,” Brig. Gen. John Lubas, the 101st Airborne Division deputy commanding general for operations, said in the release.

“Our entire Fort Campbell community is surging resources in support. Our thoughts and prayers are with these families and soldiers during this difficult time,” he added.

The identities of the nine soldiers have not been released.

Speaking at a press conference on the accident, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said that the nine soldiers are “children of God.”

“We are blessed to live in the freest country in the history of planet Earth. We must remember that freedom relies on those who are willing to serve, some of whom pay the ultimate price,” he said.

“My faith teaches me that while the body is mortal, the soul is eternal, and we will see them again,” Beshear said.

Kentucky bans sex changes for kids, blocks schools from pushing trans ideology

null / itakdalee/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Mar 31, 2023 / 10:05 am (CNA).

Kentucky lawmakers passed a comprehensive bill that prohibits doctors from providing sex changes for children, prevents schools from pushing transgender ideology onto students, and grants parents more authority and oversight over their children in the public education system.

Following Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto of the legislation, Republican lawmakers successfully overrode his veto with a 29-6 vote in the House and a 76-23 vote in the Senate. The new rules regarding health care will go into effect 90 days after the veto was overridden Wednesday, but many of the new education rules went into effect immediately. 

“It should come as no surprise that Gov. Beshear put his party’s politics over the people of Kentucky, as he has done his whole political career,” Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, who sponsored the legislation, said in a statement.

“The goal of SB 150 is to strengthen parental engagement and communication in their children’s education,” Wise added. “This bill, which passed the Senate with bipartisan support, reinforces a positive atmosphere in the classroom and removes unnecessary distractions, like woke ideology and mandating use of specific pronouns in our schools.”

Medical providers will be barred from performing sterilizing surgery on patients under the age of 18 or performing surgery to remove a child’s genitals or altering the minor’s genitals to make them appear like the genitals of the opposite sex. 

The rules prohibit doctors from removing any healthy or nondiseased body tissue. Additionally, medical providers cannot prescribe any drugs that would delay or halt normal puberty or prescribe estrogen or testosterone at levels greater than what would normally be found in a child of that sex and age. 

The legislation provides exceptions for children who have sex development disorders, such as children born with ambiguous biological sex characteristics. The legislation also specifies that the rules do not prevent surgeries or drugs necessary to treat an infection, injury, disease, or disorder. 

If a health care provider has already prescribed these drugs to a child, the law states that doctors can systematically reduce the drugs over a period of time if immediately halting the use of the drugs would be detrimental to the child’s health. 

The legislation also prohibits schools from promoting transgender ideology through lessons that encourage the student to study or explore his or her gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation. It also bans schools from providing lessons on human sexuality and sexually transmitted diseases for students in the fifth grade or lower. Schools must receive written consent from parents before providing a student with lessons on human sexuality or sexually transmitted diseases in higher grades.

Per the legislation, schools must also ensure that bathrooms, locker rooms, changing rooms, and showers are reserved for students based on the student’s biological sex. This prevents a student from using a facility that is not consistent with his or her biological sex, even if that student self-identifies with the opposite gender. The legislation notes that schools can accommodate transgender students in other ways, such as by providing single-stall restrooms. 

“Parents have a reasonable expectation that schools will not allow minor children to be viewed in various states of undress by members of the opposite biological sex, nor allow minor children to view members of the opposite sex in various states of undress,” the legislation states. 

When a student enrolls in a school, the school district must provide parents with a written list of all health services and mental health services they provide concerning human sexuality, family planning, and contraception. Parents will be allowed to withhold consent for or decline any of those services. If parents allow the school to provide those services, they do not waive their rights to access education and medical records. 

Neither the Board of Education nor the local school district will be allowed to compel teachers or students to use a student’s preferred pronoun when it differs from the student’s biological sex, under these rules.

“Denying the truth that we are either male or female causes real harm to people, especially vulnerable children,” Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel Matt Sharp said in a statement.

“The Kentucky Legislature enacted vital protections for young children and parents to ensure they can’t be pressured into agreeing to life-altering, so-called ‘gender transition’ procedures,” Sharp added. “Young people deserve to live in a society that doesn’t subject them to risky experiments to which they cannot effectively consent.”

Transgender activists opposed the legislation and the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky has announced it intends to file a lawsuit to block the enforcement of these new rules. 

“[The bill] was rushed through the Legislature in a deliberately secretive process at the 11th hour,” a Kentucky ACLU statement read. “Trans Kentuckians, medical and mental health professionals, and accredited professional associations pleaded with lawmakers to listen to the experts, not harmful rhetoric based in fear and hate. Their pleas fell on deaf ears as the General Assembly passed the bill in a matter of hours.”

Several states have enacted legislation over the past two years to block sex changes on children and to change education guidelines or grant parents more control. In some cases, the laws are being fought through the court system.

Board game marketed as ‘Christian’ is actually demonic, exorcist warns

An exorcist is warning about the dangers of a Ouija-board-like product promising users that they will be able to "communicate directly with Jesus Christ." / Holy Spirit Games YouTube

Washington D.C., Mar 31, 2023 / 08:37 am (CNA).

Catholic exorcist Father Ernesto Caro is warning that what is being marketed on Amazon as a Christian “Holy Spirit” board game is “not a game” at all but instead “a trap from the devil.”

On a March 28 segment of EWTN News Nightly, Caro, an exorcist in the Diocese of Monterey, Mexico, said that “the devil is always looking for different ways that he can trap all the victims that he can take for him, and this is one.”

The board game’s packaging claims it allows people to “communicate directly with Jesus Christ” and its online advertising says it’s “perfect for churches, prayer groups, or just getting together with friends.”

The game’s layout is very similar to that of a Ouija board, but it features Christian imagery including images of God, the crucifixion, angels, and a dove. Whereas a Ouija board normally has a triangle pendant that is moved for users to communicate with spirits, the Holy Spirit Board has a golden-colored cross.

The game’s description says, “GET THE ANSWERS YOU NEED! — The Holy Spirit Board can answer all of life’s most important questions, straight from the man himself!” and assures potential buyers that “unlike other spirit boards, this one will NEVER contact evil ghosts or demons, so you can ask your questions with an assured sense of safety.”

Despite the Christian imagery, Caro says the so-called Holy Spirit Board is just a Ouija board repackaged to trick Christians into using it.

As an exorcist, Caro warns Christians to not be fooled and that using the board would be “opening a door that could be dangerous for you.”

The Catholic Church firmly condemns the use of Ouija boards as a form of occult participation and divination.

No. 2116 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “all forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to ‘unveil’ the future. Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all … contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.”

Based on the board’s advertising, “you would probably think that it is God that is talking with you,” Caro said, “but it’s not.”

“If the [Ouija board] triangle is moving by itself, be careful, it’s not God who is moving, it’s the devil,” Caro said. “Ouija games and all this are forbidden in the Bible.”

Calling the game “disturbing” and “deceptive,” EWTN News Nightly host Tracy Sabol asked Caro what Christians who were tricked into buying the game should do.

Besides getting rid of the board immediately, Caro encouraged Christians who have bought the game to “repent and ask God for liberation” by going to confession and asking the priest to give an extra blessing for protection.

Tuesday’s Wisconsin Supreme Court election could determine future of state abortion ban

null / Credit: Aditya Romansa/Unsplash

St. Louis, Mo., Mar 31, 2023 / 06:00 am (CNA).

The 2023 Wisconsin judicial race, which might have remained obscure in other years even within Wisconsin, is garnering national media attention and record fundraising numbers for the candidates. 

Here’s what you need to know about the April 4 election, when voters will choose who will sit on the state Supreme Court for the next decade. Pro-life groups say this election could help determine whether abortion stays illegal in Wisconsin. 

Why is this election so potentially consequential?

Wisconsin is the only state in the nation with a pre-Roe v. Wade abortion ban in effect, at least on paper. Wisconsin’s ban, which is contained in Section 940.04 of the Wisconsin Statutes and dates to 1849, allows abortion only to save the life of the mother. The state’s Democratic governor and attorney general have said they will not enforce the ban and are currently suing in an attempt to have it overturned.

The law was previously unenforceable following the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, but Roe’s overturning last year allowed the statute to come into effect. So far, it has not been blocked in court, as has happened with pre-Roe bans in West Virginia and Michigan.

Pro-abortion groups within and outside Wisconsin have identified the state Supreme Court race as the key to getting 940.04 overturned. Gov. Tony Evers, along with Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul, announced a lawsuit last year to attempt to overturn the law, arguing that it has been superseded by subsequent legislation and cannot be enforced.

The lawsuit is likely to be ultimately decided by the state Supreme Court, which has had a 4-3 conservative majority for the past decade and a half. Now, there is an open seat being vacated by retiring conservative justice Patience Roggensack.

Pro-life advocates worry that should the state Supreme Court obtain a pro-choice majority, the state’s pre-Roe ban could be thrown out, as happened last year in neighboring Michigan.

Who’s running in the April 4 election?

In a Feb. 21 primary, Daniel Kelly and Janet Protasiewicz emerged as the two highest vote-getters, advancing to the nonpartisan general election on April 4. Protasiewicz earned the most votes in the February primary and Kelly the second most. The ultimate winner will serve a 10-year term on the state Supreme Court.

The race is officially nonpartisan, so neither Protasiewicz nor Kelly is running as a Democrat or Republican. Donations have poured into the race from across the country, making it likely the most expensive state Supreme Court race in history. Judge Protasiewicz has spent more than $10 million on television ads while Justice Kelly has spent less than $500,000 on them, the New York Times reported. 

Kelly is a former Wisconsin Supreme Court justice who served on the court from his appointment by then-Gov. Scott Walker in 2016 until he was voted out in 2020. He describes himself as a “constitutional conservative” and on his campaign website charges that his opponents are “judicial activists who seek to impose their own political agenda on our state.”

Amid a contentious campaign, Kelly has earned the endorsement of three statewide pro-life groups — Wisconsin Family Action, Pro-Life Wisconsin, and Wisconsin Right to Life.

In contrast, Protasiewicz has garnered endorsements from numerous top Democrats in Wisconsin, as well as from pro-abortion groups such as NARAL, Planned Parenthood, and EMILY’s List. Protasiewicz currently is a judge for Branch 24 of the Milwaukee County Circuit Court in Wisconsin, having been elected to that court in 2014.

Protasiewicz has also won the endorsement of Hillary Clinton. Kelly was endorsed by former president Donald Trump in his 2020 campaign, which he lost — he has not sought Trump’s endorsement in the present race. 

What have the candidates said lately?

The candidates engaged in a spirited debate March 21. During that debate, Protasiewicz pledged to recuse herself from any cases involving the Democratic Party due to the large number of donations she has received from them. She said she has been “very clear about [her] values” during the campaign, but insisted she has made “no promises” to pro-abortion groups such as Planned Parenthood and EMILY’s List. 

“My personal opinion is that [it] should be the woman’s right to make the reproductive health decisions, period,” she said during the debate.

Kelly said during the debate that he is not accepting any funds from the state Republican Party. He said his numerous endorsements from pro-life groups came about after having conversations with them about his pledge to uphold the Constitution, not because of any promise to keep the abortion ban in place. 

Following the debate, Wisconsin Right to Life took issue with Protasiewicz’s characterization of Kelly as a candidate who has “pledged” to uphold pro-life values, saying that the group’s endorsement of Kelly is “based on his judicial philosophy and not based on pledges to uphold any law or policy position.”

What has the Catholic Church in Wisconsin said?

In a Feb. 14 newsletter, the Wisconsin Catholic Conference noted the upcoming 2023 spring primary election and reminded voters that as Catholics, “we are called to form our consciences in light of Church teaching.”

“Human reason tells us that the right to life is the first and fundamental right. Without life, none of our basic human rights — such as food, shelter, liberty — can be exercised,” the conference said in the newsletter.

“In addition, our Catholic faith holds that every human being, at every stage of life, is made in the image and likeness of God. When we encounter one another, we should do so with the understanding that we are encountering someone of transcendent worth, who like us is deserving of respect and protection from conception to natural death.”

In a March 15 statement, the conference urged Wisconsin legislators to oppose legislation that would create an exception in Wisconsin’s statute that would permit children conceived in rape and incest to be killed and expand abortion access in cases of fetal abnormality or risk to the mother. 

U.S. and Canadian bishops join Vatican’s condemnation of colonialist ‘doctrine of discovery’

Pope Francis address representatives of Canada's indigenous peoples at the archbishop's residence in Québec City. / Vatican Media

Washington D.C., Mar 30, 2023 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

The U.S. and Canadian bishops released statements Thursday praising the Vatican’s repudiation of the “doctrine of discovery,” which has been used in the past to justify European colonialism in the Americas and throughout the world.

The doctrine of discovery is a philosophical, political, and legal theory that posits that European colonizers have the right to expropriate indigenous lands and property.

The theory has been said to have its origin in certain 15th-century papal bulls including Dum Diversas, Romanus Pontifex, and Inter Caetera, and has been invoked by many, including the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1823 case Johnson v. McIntosh.

On Thursday, a joint statement of the Vatican’s Dicasteries for Culture and Education and for Promoting Integral Human Development formally denounced the doctrine of discovery, saying it “is not part of the teaching of the Catholic Church” and that the Church “repudiates those concepts that fail to recognize the inherent human rights of indigenous peoples.”

In an official statement, the secretary for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Archbishop Paul Coakley, responded by saying: “We welcome the [Vatican] statement’s renewed repudiation and condemnation of the violence and injustices committed against Native and Indigenous peoples as well as the Church’s ongoing support for their dignity and human rights.” 

“In the centuries that followed the papal bulls at issue, many popes boldly proclaimed the God-given rights owed to all peoples, but we must also confront those moments when individual Christians lacked such boldness or clarity,” Coakley said. “There were times when Christians, including ecclesiastical authorities, failed to fully oppose destructive and immoral actions of the competing colonial powers. In this regard, we too express deep sorrow and regret.”

“These papal bulls did not adequately reflect the equal dignity and rights of Indigenous peoples,” the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) said in an official statement, adding that the bulls “were manipulated for political purposes by competing colonial powers; and that Indigenous peoples suffered the terrible effects of the assimilation policies of colonizing nations.” 

Echoing the Vatican’s statement, the Canadian bishops recalled Pope Francis’ words during a Quebec address in which he said: “Never again can the Christian community allow itself to be infected by the idea that one culture is superior to others, or that it is legitimate to employ ways of coercing others.”  

During what he described as a “penitential pilgrimage,” Pope Francis spoke with Indigenous Canadians and listened to their complaints regarding their treatment by colonizers and the Catholic Church.

The CCCB also praised the Vatican’s recognition of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which if implemented, the CCCB says, “would help to improve the living conditions of Indigenous peoples, to protect their rights, as well as to support their self-development in continuity with their identity, language, history, and culture.”

Both the U.S. and Canadian bishops echoed the Vatican’s sentiment expressed in the joint dicastery statement, saying though the Church has defended the rights of the weak and poor throughout history, “many Christians have committed evil acts against Indigenous peoples for which recent popes have asked forgiveness on numerous occasions.”

According to both bishops’ statements, the USCCB and CCCB, with the encouragement of the Vatican, are “exploring” the establishment of an academic symposium for continued dialogue between indigenous and Catholic scholars.

“As a Church, it is important for us to fully understand how our words have been used and misused to justify acts that would be abhorrent to Jesus Christ,” Coakley said. “We hope for more dialogue among Indigenous and Catholic scholars to promote greater and wider understanding of this difficult history.”

“May God bless with healing all those who continue to suffer the legacy of colonialism, and may we all offer true aid and support,” Coakley concluded. “By God’s grace, may we never return to the way of colonization but rather walk together in the way of peace.”

Tabernacle stolen from murdered Bishop David O’Connell’s residence

Bishop David O'Connell. / Credit: KTLA screenshot

Boston, Mass., Mar 30, 2023 / 12:30 pm (CNA).

An empty tabernacle that was bolted to the wall has been stolen from the residence of the late Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop David O’Connell, who was murdered in his Hacienda Heights, California, home in February. 

A tabernacle is a structure found in a Catholic church or chapel that houses the holy Eucharist, which Catholics profess to be the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ. It is often made of gold and can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

News of O’Connell’s Feb. 18 murder shocked the nation following reports that he died after suffering multiple gunshot wounds. The local and wider Catholic community mourned O’Connell, who was remembered as a man of peace dedicated to serving the poor and immigrants.

First reported by LifeSiteNews, the burglary occurred sometime over the past weekend, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles told CNA in a statement. 

The archdiocese said that the tabernacle was located in O’Connell’s personal chapel. The theft was reported to law enforcement and “security has been enhanced,” the archdiocese’s statement said.

Lt. Michael Modica, a homicide detective with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department who has been in the late bishop’s residence, told CNA Thursday that he remembered seeing the tabernacle “bolted to the wall.” 

The man who was charged with the murder of O’Connell is 61-year-old Carlos Medina, the husband of the woman who was O’Connell’s housekeeper.

Medina pleaded not guilty at his arraignment in court March 22. It remains unclear what the motive for the murder might have been. 

Medina is being held on more than $2 million bail and will have his next court hearing May 17.

Before his not-guilty plea, Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón said in a Feb. 22 press conference that Medina admitted to the murder.

“He admitted that he had done the killing and we believe we recovered the weapon that they were using, and we have other evidence from the bed, certain things that indicate that they were in the place where the killing occurred,” Gascón said in Spanish, translated here by CNA.

Following the revelation of the alleged admission, a current and former colleague of Gascón criticized him for breaking the L.A. District Attorney’s Office’s policy of forbidding the disclosure of a defendant’s admission in an open criminal case.

John Lewin, a former deputy district attorney for Los Angeles, told Fox News Digital that the statement could affect the outcome of the trial.

“It cannot be more simply stated, George Gascón is a D.A. who either doesn’t know the basic ethical rules that govern the agency he leads or doesn’t care to follow them,” he said.

“What if a court decides that the confession will not be admitted to trial? You can’t put that genie back into the bottle,” he added.

John McKinney, a current L.A. deputy district attorney, told Fox News Digital that the disclosure was contrary to police department rules. 

“By disclosing a defendant’s confession in an open criminal case, George Gascón has not only committed a blatant violation of LADA policy but has also potentially violated the due process rights of the accused.” 

Obtained by CNA, the District Attorney’s Legal Policy Manual states that “at the time of arrest, the issuance of an arrest warrant, the filing of a complaint, or the public revelation of an indictment,” information about a confession, admission, or statement given by the accused shall not be released.

Marc Debbaudt, a former career deputy district attorney for Los Angeles, told CNA Feb. 27 that he didn’t think Gascón’s announcement of the admission could cause the case to be thrown out but said that “it could result in motions to change jurisdiction.”

Three days of memorial services were held for O’Connell, 69, in early March. O’Connell’s funeral was attended by thousands as Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez called him an intercessor for souls.

Speaking briefly at the conclusion of the funeral liturgy, Gomez said “Bishop Dave,” as O’Connell was affectionately known, would be sorely missed, but “we know that he’s in heaven.” 

“From there he’s going to continue to intercede for us,” Gomez said, “as he has done his whole life.”

Witnesses tell House panel that speech is being silenced on college campuses 

null / zimmytws/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Mar 30, 2023 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

A scholar whose talk was shut down at a university and a student who witnessed the silencing of speech on campus recounted their experiences at a U.S. House subcommittee on Wednesday. 

Manhattan Institute scholar Ilya Shapiro and Stanford sophomore Josiah Joner were among the four witnesses who testified before the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development. They discussed the absence of free speech at public universities and alleged bias against conservative and religious students and speakers. 

Shapiro, who wound up in a firestorm over a Tweet that criticized affirmative action, had his speech shut down at the University of California College of the Law, San Francisco, formerly called UC Hastings. 

“Shut up, was the response, in more obscene terms, that I got from students at UC Hastings when I tried to speak there just over a year ago about my last book, ‘Supreme Disorder,’” Shapiro told the committee members. “They prevented the event from taking place, chanting and banging as if it was Occupy Wall Street.”

Shapiro said this has happened at a variety of events with different types of speakers all across the country. He argued the common factor is that “speakers presented ideas that some didn’t like.”

The problem, as highlighted by Joner during his testimony, is not restricted to students but is amplified by employees of the university. He recounted a recent incident at Stanford University when Judge Kyle Duncan’s speech was shouted down by student protesters who then received support from a high-ranking college administrator, which caused the entire event to be shut down.

Duncan was appointed by former President Donald Trump and has been vocally critical of the Supreme Court’s ruling of a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. As a lawyer, he has defended institutions that restrict bathrooms to one’s biological sex, regardless of the person’s self-identified gender identity. 

“On the day of Judge Duncan’s Stanford speech, close to 100 students protested Judge Duncan, proceeding to enter the event and shout at him during his remarks,” Joner said. “The student protesters heckled Judge Duncan profusely, preventing the judge from speaking in what was one of the latest examples of the heckler’s veto, used to suppress free speech on our campus. They held obscene signs and shouted obscene remarks and Judge Duncan was not able to deliver his lecture.”

Joner added that an administrator, Dean Tirien Steinbach, took the microphone, condemned Duncan’s views, and defended the protesters’ actions. She was later suspended and wrote an apology for her behavior.

Joner told the panel he is concerned that the students are afraid to voice their opinions in this political climate.

“Students … are too scared to speak up in the classroom and share their viewpoints,” Joner said. “It has instilled angst into each student for fear of sharing their opinions. Anything they say might also be viciously condemned by these same university administrators. The best option is to merely stay silent and keep one’s opinion to themselves.”

Cherise Trump, the executive director of Speech First, argued that these problems are often institutional. Her organization has won lawsuits against colleges over policies that restrict speech. She said higher education institutions will sometimes broadly define harassment to include offensive speech or microaggressions as well as speech that threatens someone’s mental health or is humiliating without clearly defining the conditions for that metric. 

“I have visited dozens of campuses and spoken with thousands of students,” Trump told the panel. “Those students face an ever-growing, ever-present threat on campuses: that is, administrators, working to chill and silence their speech. … They take it upon themselves to adopt even broader definitions of harassment and discrimination. These policies completely disregard the federal guidelines that are meant to strike a balance between protecting students’ First Amendment rights while also protecting students.”

While questioning the panelists, Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Michigan) brought up alleged discrimination faced by faith-based student groups. 

“Countless studies have shown that religious organizations especially improve feelings of belonging, cultural awareness, and academic success,” Walberg said. “Yet, we often see universities restricting these beneficial groups from organizing with examples from 37 states involving 93 colleges and universities and these are just the ones that were actually reported.”

Walberg introduced legislation that would strip federal funding away from higher education institutions that refuse to provide faith-based groups the same access to resources as secular groups. Although a current federal regulation, the 2020 Religious Liberty and Free Inquiry Rule, provides that condition on federal funding, the Biden administration has announced plans to rescind it. 

“I would have thought that you don’t even need a regulation for that,” Shapiro said. “I’m frankly appalled that this regulation is being rescinded. … I don’t think that you even need this regulation or frankly further legislation to make the point. You can just say, as long as you’re complying with existing Supreme Court precedent and the sense of Congress about … equal treatment of different student organizations … you don’t even approach any sort of line about going too far.”  

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has asked Biden to keep the regulation in place. 

U.S. bishops ask for prayer for pope’s quick recovery

Pope Francis' General Audience in St. Peter's Square on March 29, 2023. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Washington D.C., Mar 30, 2023 / 09:30 am (CNA).

Following news of Pope Francis’ hospitalization on Wednesday, U.S. bishops asked for prayer for the pontiff’s quick recovery.

“On behalf of my brother bishops, I invite all the faithful to pause, if possible before the Blessed Sacrament, and pray for his speedy recovery. May our dear shepherd and all those in need of healing experience the comfort of Christ,” said Archbishop Timothy Broglio, the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The pope was taken to Rome’s Gemelli Hospital Wednesday due to a respiratory infection, the Vatican reported. He is expected to remain there for a few days.

“We have received word that Pope Francis is receiving treatment for a respiratory infection at Gemelli Hospital in Rome,” said Cardinal Blasé Cupich of Chicago Wednesday afternoon. “I am asking the people of the archdiocese to join me in praying for the swift and complete recovery of the Holy Father.” 

“Over the past month, people around the world prayed millions of Hail Marys to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Holy Father’s election to the chair of Peter. We responded then to Pope Francis’ often-repeated request to pray for him. Let us continue our prayers, this time for the return of this extraordinary shepherd to good health and to his work of spreading the joy of God’s love and mercy,” Cupich added.

Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles said Wednesday night: “Let’s pray for our Holy Father Pope Francis as he undergoes his medical treatments at Rome’s Gemelli Hospital. We entrust him to the tender care of Our Lady of Guadalupe and we ask that she keep him close in her love.” 

“Pope Francis often speaks about the power of prayer, and time and time again he has entrusted himself to our prayers. Let us once again pray for him during this time of need. We pray for a quick and full recovery and walk with him to overcome this health issue. Please join me in saying Pope Francis’ own prayer to Our Lady, Health of the Sick,” Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore said.

“Pope Francis, the love of God surrounds you and dwells within you,” said Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller. “You are bearing the cross of Jesus, your life and your love. We pray for you. We love you. Adelante y Arriba!”

On Thursday morning Pope Francis tweeted his gratitude for the many prayers, saying: “I am touched by the many messages received in these hours and I express my gratitude for the closeness and prayer.”

As of Thursday morning, the pope’s agenda lists no appointments for the day on March 30. He is still scheduled to preside over a Mass in St. Peter’s Square on April 2 for Palm Sunday and to give the usual Sunday Angelus address.