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Speaker Pelosi won’t answer if unborn child is a human being at 15 weeks

Michael Candalori/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Jun 18, 2021 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday would not say if an unborn child at 15 weeks was a human being.

At a press conference on Capitol Hill on Thursday, a reporter from CNSNews asked Pelosi about a case currently before the Supreme Court – Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization – regarding Mississippi’s ban on most abortions after 15-weeks. The exchange was broadcast by CBS News.

“Is an unborn baby at 15 weeks a human being?” the reporter asked Pelosi. The Speaker answered that she supported Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.

“Let me just say that I am a big supporter of Roe v. Wade. I am a mother of five children in six years. I think I have some standing on this issue, as to respecting a woman’s right to choose,” Pelosi answered.

Pelosi, a Catholic, has supported legal abortion during her time in Congress, and has pushed for taxpayer funding of abortion through removing the Hyde amendment.

In a Jan. 18 podcast with former senator and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Pelosi said that the support for President Trump by pro-life voters “gives me great grief as a Catholic.” She said that those who voted for Trump because of the abortion issue “were willing to sell the whole democracy down the river for that one issue.”

She added that those who “reject terminating a pregnancy” should “love contraception.”

Her local ordinary, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, responded in a statement several days later, “No Catholic in good conscience can favor abortion.” Archbishop Cordileone said that “Nancy Pelosi does not speak for the Catholic Church.”

In a 2008 interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press”, Pelosi said that regarding the question of when life begins, “over the centuries, the Doctors of the church have not been able to make that definition.” She said that her Catholic faith “shouldn’t have an impact on a woman’s right to choose.” 

“And on the question of the equal dignity of human life in the womb, she [Pelosi] also speaks in direct contradiction to a fundamental human right that Catholic teaching has consistently championed for 2,000 years,” he said.

In May, Cordileone expressed hope that “progress can be made” in talks with Pelosi on her support for legal abortion and worthiness to receive Holy Communion.  

Supreme Court oral arguments in the Dobbs case are scheduled for this fall.

In 2013, in response to a question about a 20-week abortion ban, Pelosi said the bill was part of an effort to ensure that “there will be no abortion in our country.” She described the issue as “sacred ground” to her.

“As a practicing and respectful Catholic, this is sacred ground to me when we talk about this,” she said.

In 2019, she said the passage of pro-life laws in several states was “about lack of respect for women.”

Bishops plan response to Native American Catholics who 'want their voice heard'

Bishop James Wall of Gallup greets parishioners following Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral. Photo courtesy of the Diocese of Gallup.

Denver Newsroom, Jun 18, 2021 / 13:10 pm (CNA).

Native American ministry was an action item for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on Thursday, as the relevant subcommittee sought approval for a new statement and a “comprehensive vision” for indigenous Catholics and those who serve them.


“There is at present no guide for the Catholic Church in the U.S. in approaching, understanding and promoting Catholic Native ministry,” said Bishop James Wall of Gallup, head of the Subcommittee on Native American Affairs under the U.S. bishops’ Standing Committee for Cultural Diversity.


In his June 17 remarks to the bishops’ spring assembly and in an interview with CNA, Wall outlined a plan for better enculturation of the Catholic faith, recognition of Native American ministry and spirituality, and the needs of Native American communities. He especially noted the need to address lingering issues of justice and reconciliation regarding historical matters like Catholic boarding schools that were part of the effort to assimilate and Americanize Native American children, often through coercion.


Native American Catholics have not had a new statement from the U.S. bishops in over four decades.


Subcommittee listening sessions with Native American Catholics drove home the point that “they wanted to make sure that their voice was being heard within the Church here in the U.S.,” Wall said. There was concern about a “perceived lack of interest” in Catholic Native American ministry by the Catholic Church. The statement would reassure Native Americans that their ministry has “a high priority” in the Church.


As subcommittee chairman, Wall proposed the formal question to the bishops: “Do the members authorize the development of a new formal statement and comprehensive vision for Native American and Alaska Native ministry?” 

The measure passed easily, with bishops voting 223 in favor, six voting against, and zero abstentions.

“The last time we had a pastoral plan was 1977. That was a long time ago and a lot has happened since,” Wall said. Many aspects of Native American ministry ministry have changed in the last 44 years: approaches to racism; canonization of the first indigenous North American saint, St. Kateri Tekakwitha of the Mohawk people; and new approaches to social justice in Native American communities. Pope Francis’ remarks “have made indigenous peoples a priority in the universal Church,” Wall added.


For their part, Native American Catholics have seen a need for coordination between Native Catholic organizations, dioceses, parishes, schools, and missions. A pastoral plan is “a most important step” in this coordination, said Wall.


The bishops who spoke in response welcomed the proposal.


“Natives can be present, yet unseen and unheard,” lamented Bishop Michael Warfel of Great Falls-Billings, who previously served in Alaska.


“The opportunities to deeply listen to Native Americans and see how we could be of assistance would be a wonderful thing, and writing this document could help this,” said Bishop David Ricken of Green Bay, a former Bishop of Cheyenne. He said he had seen “tremendous, tremendous needs” among Native Americans and their communities, including “a lot of need for healing.”


Ricken suggested the subcommittee speak about the importance of Catholic spirituality “intersecting with Native American spiritualities to help them see the similarities and the differences.” St. Kateri Tekakwitha, he said, could help advance understanding given “the two worlds she lived in.”


Some bishops emphasized the need to consider the majority of Native Americans who live in urban centers, not reservations.


“There’s great poverty in urban centers. I certainly experienced that here in the Twin Cities,” said Archbishop Bernard Hebda of St. Paul and Minneapolis.


Wall said the subcommittee was taking the urban presence of Native Americans into account. The subcommittee is also looking at the needs of immigrant indigenous people with roots in Central and South America.


Bishop Steven Biegler of Cheyenne said there was a need for “greater understanding” of the history between Native and non-native peoples to help improve relations. Bishop Douglas Lucia of Syracuse asked whether the subcommittee might address the Doctrine of Discovery, the 500-year-old principle by which Christian explorers, European monarchs, and their colonies asserted the right to claim the lands of non-Christian natives.


Auxiliary Bishop Edward Clark of Los Angeles cited his two decades of involvement with the local Native American community, whose presence in Los Angeles is among the largest in the country. Clark said he has heard “deep suffering and pain over and over” from some Native Americans and noted the “suspicion” that many have towards the Church. California’s bishops have made “an outreach and a promise” to Native communities both on and off the reservation.


Wall said that the subcommittee’s listening sessions showed the need for the bishops to address the boarding school period of American history, which involved tens of thousands of indigenous children and their families


Boarding schools were run by the U.S. government, the Catholic Church, or Protestant ecclesial communities and bound up in the ideologies and assumptions of late 19th-century America. Children were sometimes forcibly removed from their homes to go to the schools. The schools generally assumed white racial superiority, the inferiority of indigenous cultures, and the need to assimilate and Americanize children in isolation from their families. They were physically punished for speaking their native languages. Native dress and cultural practices were also targeted for elimination.


Some schools had significant problems of neglect or physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. A lack of trained staff and adequate resources to care for the children compounded the dangers of common threats at the time like outbreaks of deadly diseases.


Wall’s comments came only weeks after the rediscovery of unmarked and likely undocumented mass graves of 215 children on the grounds of the closed Catholic-run Kamloops Indian Residential School in the Canadian province of British Columbia. The school, which closed in 1978, had hundreds of students each year. It opened in 1890 under lay Catholics, then operated by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate from 1893 to 1969, followed by a short period of government operation.


The Canadian residential schools, whose mission was similar to American boarding schools, came under major scrutiny in recent decades and have prompted apologies from many Canadian government and Catholic leaders. Prior to the discovery at Kamloops, a commission had estimated 4,100 to 6,000 students died as a result of neglect or abuse in the Canadian schools. Though established by the Canadian government, two-thirds of them were run by the Catholic Church or individual Catholic religious orders.


Bishop Wall told CNA the Kamloops revelations were “really sad and tragic news.” Wall said the bishops “need to be able to address that in a pastoral way so that we can bring things into the light and we can talk about it. We can bring healing, we can bring reconciliation, we can move forward in a healthy way.”


In response to Wall’s presentation, Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix said the current work of Catholic schools deserves to be acknowledged.


“We not only need to look at the residential schools in the past, but also the Catholic schools we have now that are serving the Native American people. We are blessed in the Diocese of Phoenix to have the St. Peter’s Indian Mission School, which does a really great job.”


“We should not forget that COVID had a really terrible impact on Native American peoples certainly here in Arizona. The health and the well-being of our native brothers and sisters is really important,” he said, adding that the bishops should seek to foster religious vocations among young Native Americans who are “a great source of leadership.”


Wall told the bishops’ assembly there is a need to address “a true sense of inculturation” for the Church in Native American communities, including through the Christian liturgy.


“Within the Native American communities, how is it that we are allowing the light of the Gospel to truly shine, like light through a prism?” he said to CNA. “How much are we letting that light shine through the beautiful culture of Native American peoples?”


Centuries ago, at the same time the Protestant Reformation drew millions of Europeans away from the Catholic Church, Wall noted, “Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to an indigenous person, St. Juan Diego.”


 “The evangelization of the ‘New World’ first came through an indigenous person,” he added. “They’ve always been a very integral part of the Church, just as any baptized person.”


In Wall’s view, Archbishop emeritus of Philadelphia Charles Chaput was a “trailblazer” in this ministry. The part-Potawatomi churchman, the first Native American U.S. archbishop, has “always been a strong voice for the Native American Catholics in the U.S.”


While Wall was hard pressed to name younger Native American Catholic leaders, he said some Native Americans are notably serving as deacons. He acknowledged the need for more vocations and lay involvement.


He praised the work of Maka Black Elk, a member of the Oglala Lakota Nation, who heads the reconciliation process at Red Cloud Indian School in Pine Ridge, S.D.


The proposal put to the bishops on Thursday had its origins in a meeting with Catholic Native American leaders in 2019, Wall told CNA. The bishops of the subcommittee were joined by bishops whose dioceses have a large Native American population for a “listening session” with Native American individuals and groups involved in Native American ministry. Also in attendance were subcommittee advisor Father Henry Sands of the Black and Indian Catholic Mission Office and some leaders of the Knights of Columbus, the Catholic fraternal organization which now has a Native American initiative.


About 20% of Native Americans are Catholic and make up about 3.5% of all U.S. Catholics, according to the Native American Affairs subcommittee section on the U.S. bishops’ website. Over 340 parishes serve predominantly Native American congregations. As of 2008, about 2.9 million Americans identified as Native Americans or Alaskan Natives. Another 1.6 million people claim some kind of Native American ancestry, about 780,000 of whom are Catholic.

US parishes must better serve hidden migrant communities, bishops hear

Aug. 17, 2017 - A volunteer at the Catholic Charities Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas helps a Central American refugee family / Vic Hinterlang/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Jun 18, 2021 / 13:10 pm (CNA).

Many parishes in the United States are unaware of the immigrant, refugee, and itinerant communities within their boundaries, the chair of the U.S. bishops’ subcommittee on pastoral care for migrants said on Friday.

In a presentation to the U.S. bishops at their annual spring meeting – held virtually this year –Bishop Joseph Tyson of Yakima introduced a new report by the Center of Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) on migrant communities in the United States, and the Church’s awareness of them at the parish level. The bishops’ conference contracted with CARA to produce the report.

Regarding migrant populations – which include immigrants and refugees, but also seasonal and transportation workers and human trafficking victims – “there is a widespread lack of awareness of the presence of the communities by Catholic worship sites, including parishes, missions, cathedrals, basilicas, chapels, shrines, and other pastoral centers,” said Bishop Tyson.

“Where worship sites do report an awareness of these communities, a majority do not provide specialized pastoral care to migrants, refugees, and itinerant communities,” Bishop Tyson,chair of the bishops’ subcommittee on pastoral care for migrants, refugees, and travelers, said on Friday.

The U.S. bishops met virtually this week for their annual spring general assembly. From Wednesday through Friday afternoon’s session, the bishops held public debates and votes as well as private meetings, discussing issues such as a planned three-year Eucharistic Revival initiative, two causes of canonization, translations of liturgical texts, pastoral statements, and a teaching document on the Eucharist.

The CARA report presented to the bishops on Friday was compiled through an inventory sent to nearly 20,000 “worship sites” in the United States, and which remained “in the field” from June 2017 to November 2020. Of these sites, 2,391 of them – parishes, basilicas, cathedrals, shrines, and chapels – responded for the survey.

Territorial parishes are “not necessarily stable” models now, Bishop Tyson said, noting that many Catholics are quickly transitioning in and out of parish boundaries.

According to a General Social Survey, four-in-10 of foreign-born persons residing in the United States in recent years self-identified as Catholic, Bishop Tyson said.

Prior to the pandemic, CARA studied residential mobility between dioceses, he said, and  the archdioceses of Miami, Galveston-Houston, and Los Angeles saw the majority of new residents coming from other countries.

“We hope the data collection will increase the visibility of the communities and provide the initiative to reach out to them, and develop new programming and resources to serve their needs and draw them closer to Christ and the Church,” Bishop Tyson said.

Among these communities are human trafficking victims, he said, stressing the need for parishes to provide specialized outreach to this vulnerable population.

“How can the Church assist the victims of human trafficking, who may not have anyone else to turn to in the new community that they’ve been taken to against their will?” he said.

Parishes in the South were slightly over-represented than those in other regions among respondents in the CARA report. This might reflect a greater number of migrant communities in the South and West, Fr. Thomas Gaunt, SJ, executive director of CARA, noted.

For sites that did not respond, “Many worship sites had no awareness of the presence of any of these communities in their territory, and so did not have anything to report,” Fr. Gaunt stated on Friday.

Of the parishes that responded, around 22% indicated they provide at least one Spanish Mass each weekend, and around 8% of them have a Mass in a language other than Spanish or English.

Of the respondents, 554 of the sites reporting serving an immigrant community, Fr. Gaunt said,

Of immigrant communities from various world regions, parishes were most aware of immigrants from Mexico, El Salvador, and Guatemala – out of Latin American and Caribbean countries. They were most aware of Nigerian immigrant communities from Africa, and in Asian and Pacific communities, they were most aware of immigrants from the Philippines, Vietnam, and India.

Some communities have high rates of Catholics; 65% of Filipino Americans self-identify as Catholic, Fr. Gaunt reported.

Certain communities are more likely to be clustered in certain regions. The largest communities of Nigerian-born people are located in the archdioceses of Galveston-Houston, Washington, Atlanta, Baltimore, and Dallas. The largest communities of Filipino-born people are in the Pacific West, in Los Angeles, Honolulu, San Diego, Oakland, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Sacramento, and San Bernardino.

More than 270 responding parishes reported undocumented immigrant communities in their boundaries, while 256 parishes reported annual tourist and pilgrim populations. Nearly 220 parishes reported migrant farmworker communities. Other communities reported included refugees, family members of migrants in U.S. immigrant detention facilities, truck drivers, circus performers, unaccompanied child migrants, and airport communities.

Parishes in the Pacific and Mountain West – in California areas of Fresno, Los Angeles, Monterey, Yakima, and Sacramento, as well as Portland, Oregon, and Boise, Idaho – reported the largest foreign-born agricultural worker populations.

USCCB approves drafting of Eucharist document, other action items

U.S. bishops meet at their fall general assembly in Baltimore, Maryland, in November 2019 / Christine Rousselle/CNA

Washington D.C., Jun 18, 2021 / 12:05 pm (CNA).

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops this week voted to move forward on several action items, including a draft of a teaching document on the Eucharist.

Meeting virtually for their annual spring general assembly, the U.S. bishops voted on Thursday to begin drafting “a formal statement on the meaning of the Eucharist in the life of the Church.” The vote took place after extensive and, at times, spirited debate on Wednesday and Thursday, with some bishops opposing the move to begin drafting the document.

The measure passed by a vote of 168 to 55, with six abstentions. A simple majority was required for passage of the action item. The U.S. bishops’ doctrine committee will now lead the process of drafting the document, with input from other conference committees. A draft of the document could be ready to be debated, amended, and voted on by the bishops at their November meeting - which is currently planned to be held in-person in Baltimore, Maryland.

Results of voting for the various action items of the spring meeting were announced on Friday afternoon, on the third and final day of the meeting. The bishops also authorized the development of a statement on Native American ministry, approved several liturgical translations, and approved a pastoral statement on marriage ministry.

They also held a canonical consultation on two causes of canonization, for Servant of God Fr. Joseph Verbis LaFleur, and Servant of God Marinus (Leonard) LaRue. The bishops voted overwhelmingly to “consider it opportune to advance on the local level” their causes of canonization.

One action item, which asked the bishops to “authorize the development of a new formal statement and comprehensive vision for Native American / Alaska Native ministry,” passed overwhelmingly by a vote of 223 to 6. 

Three action items concerned the approval of ICEL translations of readings and prayers for the feast of Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, as well as translations of prayers and intercessions for the Liturgy of the Hours and a translation of the Order of Penance. 

The action items passed by a vote of 188 to 2, 186 to 3 (with one abstention), and 182 to 6 (with two abstentions), respectively. The items required two-thirds of all Latin Church bishops present to vote in favor of approval. 

Another action item, to authorize the drafting of a national pastoral framework on youth and young adults, passed with a vote of 222 to 7. The bishops also voted to approve a  draft of a pastoral framework on marriage and family life ministry “Called to the Joy of Love,” which passed by a vote of 212 to 13, with four abstentions.

The bishops had extensive debate before voting to authorize the drafting of a teaching document on the Eucharist. A proposed outline of the document, provided by the doctrine committee, included the Church’s teachings on the “Real Presence” of Christ in the Eucharist, Sunday as a holy day, the Eucharist as sacrifice, and worthiness to receive Communion.

A proposal on the first day of the assembly to adjust the agenda to allow for unlimited dialogue on the draft of the statement stretched into an hour-long debate. Although the proposal failed with 59% of bishops voting in opposition, debate on Thursday stretched long after the proceedings were scheduled to end.

Voting was extended an extra hour on Thursday evening due to the extensive debate on the issues.

Freshman congresswoman appointed as Pro-Life Caucus co-chair


Washington D.C., Jun 18, 2021 / 09:07 am (CNA).

The new co-chair of the House Pro-Life Caucus says that a top priority for her is fighting taxpayer funding of abortion and abortion providers. 

Rep. Michelle Fischbach (R-Minn.) was appointed co-chair of the House Pro-Life Caucus this week. A freshman congresswoman elected to the House last November, she previously served as the first female president of the Minnesota state senate and as the state’s lieutenant governor. 

In the state senate, she wrote Minnesota’s Women’s Right to Know Act, which requires women undergoing an abortion to be informed of certain medical risks assocated with abortion. 

Fischbach told CNA in an interview on Thursday that one of her first priorities as caucus co-chair will be to defend the Hyde Amendment, federal policy since 1976 which bars taxpayer funding of most elective abortions through Medicaid.

“We need to continue that fight,” she said, noting that she is “very excited and very honored” by her appointment to the caucus. 

“It’s a very important issue to my family and it's one of those fundamental things that it’s so important we work to defend,” Fischbach said.

Democratic leaders in recent years have called for the repeal of the Hyde amendment, which has been passed into law each year as a rider to budget legislation. 

President Joe Biden recently excluded the policy from his budget request submitted to Congress, the first step toward Congress eventually passing government funding bills that do not include the policy - and thus that would allow for abortion funding.

While Democrats appear to have the votes to pass appropriations bills without the Hyde amendment, it is unclear if such legislation would clear the Senate. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), seen as a crucial swing vote in the chamber, has pledged his support of the Hyde amendment. 

Fischbach said she is also fighting federal funding of abortion providers. The Title X program, which provides grants for contraceptives and family planning, prohibits direct funding of abortions. The Biden administration, however, has moved to allow Title X grants to once again go to groups that refer for abortions or are co-located with abortion clinics - such as Planned Parenthood affiliates.

Fischbach said that a bill she has authored, the Protecting Life and Taxpayers Act of 2021, would block taxpayer funding of entities that perform abortions.

“What we’re trying to do is on another level, like the Hyde amendment, block funds from going to grant recipients performing abortions,” Fischbach said. 

Fischbach criticized the recent re-introduction of the Women’s Health Protection Act, a bill that would override many state abortion regulations - like the one she authored in Minnesota. 

“The states are able to regulate things, and the federal government should not be telling them what they can and cannot do,” she said. “And so I don’t support them being able to pull all of those protections the states have done for the unborn.” 

In statements, Reps. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and Andy Harris (R-Md.), the other co chairs of the House Pro-Life Caucus, welcomed Fischbach to the role. 

Calling her a “steadfast champion of life,” Smith said that Fischbach’s “effective leadership could not come at a better time as we work to restore protections for the weakest and most vulnerable: the unborn baby.”

Harris said that “Rep. Fischbach is a welcome addition to our leadership team and widely supported by all those fighting for life.”

Fischbach is scheduled to discuss her new role on the caucus during an interview on EWTN Pro-Life Weekly next week. 

The Pursuit of Healing: Can Our Traumas Be Transcended Through Time?

A couple of years ago, a British Heart Foundation–funded study followed fifty-two patients over four months, aged between twenty-eight and eighty-seven, who suffered with what is officially known as takotsubo cardiomyopathy. An article in the UK Telegraph reports:  The little-known condition was first coined in Japan in 1990 and named after the native word for an octopus pot, which has a unique shape that resembles a broken left ventricle. It is provoked when the heart muscle is suddenly “stunned,” causing the left ventricle to change shape, and is typically prompted by “intense emotional or physical stress.” It affects the heart’s ability to pump blood and, according to the BHF, there remains no known medical cure. . . . Figures show that between three percent and 17 percent of sufferers die within five years of diagnosis.

Pittsburgh group calls for same-sex blessings 

A September 2015 gathering of the Association of Pittsburgh Priests. Credit: APP via Facebook.

Pittsburgh, Pa., Jun 17, 2021 / 20:19 pm (CNA).

An organization based in Pittsburgh has called on Bishop David Zubik to reject a March note from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith regarding blessings for same-sex couples, and has asked him to offer blessings to those who identify as LGBT. 

The Association of Pittsburgh Priests, a group composed of “ordained and non-ordained women and men,” released a statement on the matter June 14. 

“Our Catholic faith and tradition compel us to respect and honor the faith journeys of LGBTQ people,” the group, which claims some 300 members, wrote. 

“We know that those who enter into committed relationships do so out of love which is divinely inspired and supported.”

In March, the CDF clarified that the Catholic Church does not have the power to bless same-sex unions.

In answer to the question: “does the Church have the power to give the blessing to unions of persons of the same sex,” the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith responded, “negative.”

The Pittsburgh organization called the CDF’s statement “pastorally unacceptable and insensitive to the loving, committed relationships of many members of the body of Christ.”

The group called on Pope Francis and the Vatican to “reconsider” the March statement and pledged to “find pastoral ways to affirm and bless all LGBT people, whether they are single or in a committed relationship.” 

In connection with the statement, the group sent a letter to Bishop Zubik on Monday requesting his “blessing on the ministries to LGBTQ people and their families here in our own diocese,” the Post-Gazette reported. 

The CDF stated in its March note that “it is not licit to impart a blessing on relationships, or partnerships, even stable, that involve sexual activity outside of marriage (i.e., outside the indissoluble union of a man and a woman open in itself to the transmission of life), as is the case of the unions between persons of the same sex.”

The ruling and note, which were met with resistance from some Catholics, were approved for publication by Pope Francis. 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that those who identify as LGBT “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.”

The Catechism elaborates that homosexual inclinations are “objectively disordered,” homosexual acts are “contrary to the natural law,” and those who identify as lesbian and gay, like all people, are called to the virtue of chastity.

Barbara Finch, a spokeswoman for the Association of Pittsburgh Priests, told CNA in an email that the group, as a body, does not have plans to bless same-sex unions at this time. However, she said the group’s plans “would not eliminate the possibility that individuals within the group would prophetically choose to do so.”

“We do not believe that to be homosexual is sinful and committed relationships should have the opportunity to have there [sic] unions blessed,” Finch wrote to CNA.  

When asked if the group considers extramarital sexual activity sinful, Finch responded: “It is a wonderment why homosexual sexual activity is always scrutinized as being sinful and heterosexual sexual activity not as much.”

Despite the group’s explicit support for women’s ordination and blessings for same-sex relationships, Finch asserted that the group is in “good standing” with the Church. 

Finch said the diocese has, in recent years, “made small efforts to work with us simply because we are some of the most pastorally active in the Church.” She asserted that the diocese has several times “tried to have us change our name.”

In a statement to local media, the Diocese of Pittsburgh said the Association of Pittsburgh Priests “is not affiliated with the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh,” and added that the diocese “has nothing further to add to the statement from the Vatican issued on March 15, 2021.” 

The diocese did not respond to further questions about the group’s standing. 

The Association of Pittsburgh Priests says it is “is a diocesan-wide organization of ordained and non-ordained women and men who act on our baptismal call to be priests and prophets.  Our mission, rooted in the Gospel and the Spirit of Vatican II, is to carry out a ministry of justice and renewal in ourselves, the Church and the world.”

Finch said while the Pittsburgh group is independent, they have been “in dialogue” with an Irish organization called the Association of Catholic Priests, a group whose constitution places a special emphasis on “the primacy of the individual conscience” and “a redesigning of Ministry in the Church, in order to incorporate the gifts, wisdom and expertise of the entire faith community, male and female.”

The Irish organization’s founder, Redemptorist Fr. Tony Flannery, has been barred from public ministry for his views on the priesthood and sexuality. The CDF last September asked the 73-year-old to affirm four Catholic doctrinal propositions as a condition of returning to ministry, which he refused to do.

‘Overjoyed’ foster moms react to Supreme Court ruling in their favor 

Sharonell Fulton / Becket

Washington D.C., Jun 17, 2021 / 19:00 pm (CNA).

The foster moms at the center of the Supreme Court case Fulton v. City of Philadelphia celebrated the high court unanimously siding with them on Thursday. 

The Supreme Court ruled 9-0 in favor of the foster moms and Catholic Social Services in their lawsuit against the city of Philadelphia. The court found that the city violated the group’s free exercise of religion when it stopped contracting with them in 2018; the group had refused to certify same-sex couples as foster parents because of their Catholic beliefs on marriage.

Chief Justice John Roberts authored the majority decision of the court, joined by Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett. Justice Samuel Alito filed a concurring opinion, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch. Gorsuch also filed a concurring opinion, joined by Thomas and Alito, and Barrett also filed a concurring opinion, joined by Kavanaugh, and Breyer - in part.

In a statement on Thursday, foster mom and plaintiff Sharonell Fulton said she was “overjoyed that the Supreme Court recognized the important work of Catholic Social Services and has allowed me to continue fostering children most in need of a loving home.” 

“My faith is what drives me to care for foster children here in Philadelphia and I thank God the Supreme Court believes that’s a good thing, worthy of protection,” Fulton said.

“Our foster-care ministry in Philadelphia is vital to solving the foster care crisis and Catholic Social Services is a cornerstone of that ministry,” said Toni Simms-Busch, also a foster mom and named plaintiff in the case. “The Supreme Court’s decision ensure the most vulnerable children in the City of Brotherly Love have every opportunity to find loving homes.”

Philadelphia Archbishop Nelson Perez told reporters on a press call Thursday that the ruling is “a crystal clear affirmation of First Amendment rights for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and all charitable ministries in the United States who are inspired by their faith to serve the most vulnerable among us.”

“Today’s ruling allows our ministries to continue serving those in need, for foster families to find an agency that shares and reflects their faith, and for foster children to find a loving home,” Perez said.

The city of Philadelphia had argued that the Catholic Social Services policy constituted discrimination, and violated its nondiscrimination ordinance. In 2018, it said it would no longer work with the agency. As the city oversees all foster care placements, the work of the agency drastically diminished as the case proceeded in the courts, lawyers for Catholic Social Services argued. 

The high court on Thursday found that the decision violated the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. The city had a nondiscrimination policy and granted individual exemptions to the policy, the court majority ruled; thus, they needed a "compelling reason" to not exempt Catholic Social Services for religious reasons.

Legal expert Ryan Anderson, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, told CNA that while the majority decision is not perfect, “A 9-0 win at the Supreme Court is not something to take lightly.” 

“Yes, the holding was likely narrower than it would have been had it been decided 5-4 or 6-3,” Anderson said, also noting that other questions remain “as far as the extent of the Constitutional protections for Americans who believe marriage unites husband and wife.”

“Still, the Court ruled unanimously in favor of the free exercise of Catholic Social Services of Philadelphia," he said. "It ruled unanimously against the religious bigotry of the city of Philadelphia."

“This is a big win for religious liberty and for all Americans who support the truth about marriage.”

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion that “CSS seeks only an accommodation that will allow it to continue serving the children of Philadelphia in a manner consistent with its religious beliefs; it does not seek to impose those beliefs on anyone else.”

He added that the city’s demand the agency certify same-sex couples “cannot survive strict scrutiny, and violates the First Amendment.”

Diana Cortes, city solicitor for Philadelphia, said in a statement that the decision is “a difficult and disappointing setback for foster care youth and the foster parents who work so hard to support them.”   

“Allowing contractors and partners to set their own terms for how they provide public services will create a confusing patchwork in government programs and will weaken government non-discrimination guarantees,” Cortes said. 

Leslie Cooper, deputy director of the ACLU LGBTQ & HIV Project, argued in a statement that the court ruling was narrower than religious freedom advocates wanted, and “did not recognize a license to discriminate based on religious beliefs.”

Supporters of Catholic Social Services said that abiding by the Church’s teachings on marriage does not constitute discrimination.  

Catholic Charities USA on Thursday welcomed the court’s ruling.

“In their history, Catholic Charities agencies have enjoyed a cooperative partnership with government to work for the common good. Such cooperation has been predicated on valuing diverse perspectives and mutual respect. Hopefully, we will continue to work together to serve all people with dignity and respect,” the organization stated.

Kristen Waggoner, general counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, said in a statement, “Every child in need of a forever home deserves the chance to be adopted or cared for by a foster family.” 

“That’s what it means to keep kids first,” Waggoner said. “The Supreme Court’s decision today allows that to continue happening. The government can’t single out people of certain beliefs to punish, sideline, or discriminate against them. We’re grateful for the good decision today consistent with that principle."

US bishops debate extensively a motion to draft a teaching document on the Eucharist

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Washington D.C., Jun 17, 2021 / 16:59 pm (CNA).

U.S. bishops held extensive debate on Thursday before voting on whether to draft a teaching document on the Eucharist, at their annual spring meeting held virtually this week.

Although the text of a proposed Eucharistic document has not yet been drafted, a proposed outline was provided by the bishops’ doctrine committee in advance of the U.S. bishops’ meeting this week. The document, if approved, would explain the Church’s Eucharistic teaching on a number of points, including the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, the importance of Sunday as a holy day, and the need for Catholics to live out the Church’s teaching in their lives after receiving Communion.

A parliamentary move to lift time limits on the bishops’ debate failed on Wednesday; that proposal would have granted speaking time to any bishop who wished. Nevertheless, conference president Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles on Thursday allowed for bishops to speak in the normal five-minute time slots long after their meeting was scheduled to wrap up.

Bishops supporting the vote to draft a document on the Eucharist cited the need for providing clarity and catechesis on the matter, citing polls showing a lack of belief in the Real Presence among Catholics. They argued that all Catholics – including Catholic politicians – must be aware of the Church’s teaching on worthiness to receive Communion.

Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, chair of the doctrine committee which proposed drafting the document, explained the committee’s reasoning behind the proposal June 17.

Saying the document was the “subject of misunderstanding and even mischaracterization,” he said that bishops had been concerned about a “downward trend” in Mass attendance and a decline in faith among Catholics, coupled with a widespread move to “spiritual communion” and virtual Masses during the recent pandemic.

“We are all concerned about the faithful’s absence from parish life,” he said, warning that many Catholics might not return to Mass in the coming months. Rhoades cited surveys to make his point. According to a 2019 report by the Pew Research Center, only 31% of Catholics surveyed said they believed in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

While the document does address worthiness to receive Communion, he said, it is not meant to be about one individual or one particularly bad action, but rather a “heightened” awareness of the need for Catholics to be conformed to the Eucharist.

Other bishops opposed the move to draft such a document. Some argued that in addressing worthiness to receive Communion – especially among pro-abortion Catholic politicians – the bishops would be seen as partisan actors.

Citing the current “political rancor,” Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento argued against drafting a document including a section on worthiness to receive Communion.

Archbishop Paul Etienne of Seattle expressed concern that the Eucharist, the “source of our life and charity and unity is now enmeshed in a conversation about politics, and that’s a very difficult place for us to be.”

Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington – Biden’s ordinary in the nation’s capital – expressed the need for unity and in-person dialogue.

“The choice before us at this moment, is either we pursue a path of strengthening unity among ourselves, or settle for creating a document that may not bring unity, but may well further damage it,” he said.

Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago argued that it would be obvious the document would be referring to particular Catholic politicians and their worthiness to receive Communion.

“I don’t know how we get around that, if we pass on this document,” he said.

Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego said that such a document would be divisive because it would be seen as political in stating the Church’s teaching on worthiness to receive Communion, especially among Catholics in public life.

“We will invite all of the political animosities that so tragically divide our nation” into the Mass, he said, which would then become a “sign of division.”

Yet some bishops disputed that a document outlining Church teaching would bring about disunity.

Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas said he was “somewhat amused” by those bishops who warned the conference was “rushing” into such a debate.

Worthiness to receive Communion is not just about abortion, he said, as politicians supporting other grave evils such as human trafficking or racism could also be unworthy to receive.

“It’s really some of our public officials” who prompted the debate about Communion by approaching the altar rail while supporting policies contrary to Church teaching, he said, not the bishops themselves.

 “Those who advocate for abortion no longer talk in the language of choice. They talk about it as a right,” he said, noting Biden’s support for taxpayer-funded abortion.

“We’re calling everybody to integrity, including those in public life,” he said.

Bishop Thomas Daly of Spokane said that "we can't have unity if we're not rooted in truth."

He responded to bishops’ calls to wait on considering the document until they can dialogue with each other and with politicians.

“This call for dialogue: sometimes I wonder if the dialogue is meant not truly to listen, but to delay,” he said.

“All of us want what’s best for the people we serve,” he said, pointing to the “salvation of the souls.”

Bishop James Wall of Gallup stressed the need for clarity from the bishops on the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist.

“I just make a plea on behalf of a poorer diocese,” he said.

“We rely upon the work of the conference,” he said, noting that a teaching document would be “very helpful to me, to my priests, to religious, to the lay faithful.”

“If the world really understood” the Real Presence, he said, bishops could double all Masses at parishes and still not have enough room for attendees.

Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler stressed the need for a connection between confession and Communion.

Supreme Court again upholds Affordable Care Act

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Washington D.C., Jun 17, 2021 / 14:30 pm (CNA).

The Supreme Court once again upheld the Affordable Care Act, in a 7-2 ruling against the latest challenge to the law on Thursday.

In the majority opinion authored by Justice Stephen Breyer, the court ruled that the state of Texas, in leading the case against the Affordable Care Act, “failed to show a concrete, particularized injury fairly traceable to the defendants’ conduct in enforcing the specific statutory provision they attack as unconstitutional.”

“They have failed to show that they have standing to attack as unconstitutional the Act’s minimum essential coverage provision,” Breyer wrote. The court vacated the Fifth Circuit’s judgment on standing, and remanded the case to the circuit court to dismiss. 

Breyer was joined in his opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Amy Coney Barrett, Elena Kagan, Brett Kavanaugh, Sonia Sotomayor, and Clarence Thomas. Additionally, Thomas filed a concurring opinion. 

Justice Samuel Alito wrote the dissenting opinion, and was joined by Justice Neil Gorsuch. 

In the case, the Supreme Court was asked to decide if the Affordable Care Act should be struck down if its “individual mandate” was effectively nullified by Congress in 2017. In 2017, Congress changed the penalty for not complying with the mandate to $0. 

The mandate that every American have health insurance – or face a financial penalty – was seen as critical to the law’s implementation and guarantee of affordable health coverage for all. While the fine was reduced to nothing, the language of the individual mandate remained in the law. 

Texas, along with more than a dozen other states, sued, claiming that the mandate was unconstitutional without a fine to enforce it - and was also not severable from the rest of the law. Thus, Texas argued that the law must be thrown out as well. California and other states eventually intervened to defend the law’s constitutionality.

President Joe Biden (D), who was vice president when the law was passed, called the ruling on Thursday, “a big win for the American people,” and encouraged people to “sign up for quality, affordable health care.” 

“With millions of people relying on the Affordable Care Act for coverage, it remains, as ever, a BFD,” said Biden, referring to his hot-mic comment in 2010 that the bill was a “big [expletive] deal.”

Thursday’s ruling marks the third time the Supreme Court has upheld the Affordable Care Act as constitutional. 

In 2012, Chief Justice John Roberts authored the majority opinion that upheld the constitutionality of the law’s individual mandate. The Court ruled that the mandate’s penalty for non-compliance was a tax, and thus a lawful requirement of Congress to make on Americans.

Three years later, in 2015, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in the case King v. Burwell that the law’s subsidies and tax credits could be made available to people who purchased health insurance coverage on a federal, rather than a state, exchange. 

The U.S. bishops’ conference supported the law’s goal of expanded health coverage, but ultimately opposed its passage for several reasons, including that it “makes new and disturbing changes in federal policy on abortion and conscience rights.” The conference warned about funding of abortions in subsidized health plans under the law. 

Included in the law was a mandate for preventive services, which the Obama administration eventually interpreted to include the full range of FDA-approved contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortifacients. That mandate for employer coverage was challenged in court by Catholic dioceses and the Little Sisters of the Poor, who won their second Supreme Court case regarding the mandate last July.