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Supreme Court rejects California county’s continued ban on indoor worship

Denver Newsroom, Feb 27, 2021 / 12:01 pm (CNA).- The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected a California county’s continued ban on indoor worship services due to the coronavirus pandemic, drawing the praise of a local bishop. 

“I join all Catholics and people of faith in Santa Clara County in expressing our satisfaction in tonight’s U.S. Supreme Court decision,” said Bishop Oscar Cantú of San Jose, in Feb. 26 statement. 

“Banning indoor worship and yet allowing people to gather at airports, personal services establishments, and retail shopping is unconstitutional—and the Supreme Court has said so several times.”

The court ruled by a 6-3 vote on Feb. 26 that Santa Clara County must allow indoor worship services up to 20% capacity effective immediately. The decision affects all parishes, missions and chapels in the Diocese of San Jose. 

Cantú said parishes in the Diocese of San Jose will continue to follow all masking, social distancing, and sanitizing protocols. The dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass will still be in effect, and parishes will continue to offer outdoor and livestream Masses for vulnerable parishioners. 

The court lifted California's ban on indoor religious services in a Feb. 5 unsigned order. The order said the total ban on indoor worship was unconstitutional, and the state of California may limit indoor capacity to 25% of normal. 

Santa Clara County ignored the Feb. 5 injunction, and said indoor worship would continue to be banned until further notice. The county claimed its rules to mitigate coronavirus spread were “fundamentally different” from Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order because they treated all indoor gatherings similarly.

The Feb. 26 decision concerned a challenge brought by Gateway City Church and The Spectrum Church in San Jose; The Home Church and Orchard Community Church in Campbell; and Trinity Bible Church in Morgan Hill. The five churches had sued California Gov. Gavin Newsom. The Diocese of San Jose worked with Becket Law to file a friend-of-the-court brief in the case.

Cantú praised the churches for their efforts “to uphold our right to worship in Santa Clara County, as guaranteed by the US Constitution.”

“Let us move forward in hope, continuing all necessary safety precautions and receiving the vaccine when it is our turn as we seek to protect life in our communities,” Cantú said. “Let us pray for all those suffering from the effects of the pandemic and its aftermath.”

House passes COVID relief, pro-life groups warn it funds abortion

Washington D.C., Feb 27, 2021 / 08:00 am (CNA).- The House passed a massive COVID relief bill early on Saturday morning, without protections against abortion funding.


After debating the bill on Friday evening and voting on early Saturday morning, the House passed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan of 2021 by a largely party-line vote of 219 to 212. The bill funds vaccines, testing and tracing, and provides economic relief including stimulus checks to American families.


It does not, however, include prohibitions on funding of abortions, something that pro-life groups—including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)—have warned would increase abortion funding.


The Hyde Amendment, enacted into law each year as part of appropriations bills, prohibits funding of elective abortions. “Hyde” language was included in the COVID relief bill that passed Congress last year, the CARES Act, and the bill also included provisions blocking Planned Parenthood affiliates from accessing emergency loans. Planned Parenthood affiliates were still able to apply for, and receive, around $80 million in emergency loans from the CARES Act.


However, the current package includes neither of those pro-life protections. Pro-life groups have warned that global health funding, health insurance subsidies, and funding of the Title X program could go to elective abortions, abortion coverage, and pro-abortion groups.


In his remarks on the House Floor on Friday evening, the co-chair of the House Pro-Life Caucus, Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), called the exclusion of pro-life language “a radical departure from all previous COVID-19 relief laws,” and one which “mandates taxpayer funding of abortion-on-demand."


On Friday, several members unsuccessfully tried to insert Hyde language through an amendment while the bill was considered by the Rules Committee. The amendment was cosponsored by 206 members. Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), and Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.)


The amendment sought to prohibit funding of abortion coverage for unemployed persons through the COBRA program, as well as in tax credits for health premiums. It also sought to apply pro-life protections to funding of the Title X family planning program.  


Rodgers and other Republicans tried to insert pro-life amendments to the legislation as it was considered in various House committees, but the amendments were rejected. The measures included redirecting Title X funding to support child suicide prevention, as abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood are expected to once again be eligible for Title X grants during the Biden administration.


Two Democrats joined Republicans in voting against the bill—Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), and Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine).


The American Rescue Plan also mandates a $15-per-hour minimum wage, although that provision is expected to be struck by the Senate Parliamentarian before the chamber considers the legislation.


March for Life president Jeanne Mancini stated on Friday that the bill includes “billions of dollars in subsidies for abortions, not only here in the U.S. but also abroad.”


In his floor remarks, Smith noted that President Biden once supported pro-life protections against abortion funding.


“Mr. Biden once wrote constituents explaining that his support for laws against funding for abortion by saying it would 'protect both the woman and her unborn child,’” Smith noted. 


“Unborn babies, Madame Speaker, need the President of the U.S. and members of Congress to be their friend and advocate, not their adversary,” Smith said.

Courage offers virtual Lenten reflection

Denver Newsroom, Feb 27, 2021 / 03:48 am (CNA).- As pandemic restrictions continue to affect in-person events, a pair of ministries for people with same-sex attraction and their loved ones is hosting a free, virtual Lenten reflection to foster spiritual growth and community. 

The day of reflection, hosted by Courage and Encourage, is at capacity, and registration is closed.

Father Colin Blatchford, Courage assistant director and the event’s speaker, said he is going to focus on the virtue of zeal in light of St. Joseph, to whom Pope Francis has dedicated this year. 

“I’m going to talk about the virtue of zeal, which is the virtue by which we have passion or are consumed in obtaining the object of our love, Christ,” he told CNA. 

“I've been thinking a lot because we've been going through the Litany of St. Joseph, and one of his titles is Zealous for Christ.”

The Lenten Day of Reflection will take place on March 6 via Zoom. This is the second virtual reflection put on by Courage and Encourage. The groups put on a similar event during Advent. 

The event will begin with a prayer to St. Joseph and then continue onto the first reflection with Fr. Blatchford. Afterward, the attendees will break into small groups to discuss their Lenten experiences and their thoughts on the reflection. The priest will then hold a final discussion before closing with an additional prayer to St. Joseph. 

Blatchford said the reflections will not necessarily be academic but will focus on practical ways to encounter the genuine and affirming love of God. He said Joseph is the perfect model for Christian zeal.

He said the event will look at a practical approach to zeal and seek to identify how to pursue God, raise children, and love one’s spouse amidst one’s daily routine and work.

He said Joseph took up God's will with trust and abandon to escape with his family to Egypt and then return back to Nazareth. He said the saint lived out “this weird sort of family life in which the Blessed Mother is his wife, and he's the most chaste spouse and he's also the [foster] father of God.”

The priest reflected on the importance of this event during Lent. While the purpose of Lent is sacrifice, he said, it should not be an experience of self-deprecation, but rather, stripping away the excess to prepare for Easter and the resurrection. 

Courage International is a Catholic group for those who experience same-sex attraction and are seeking to live chaste and faithful lives. 

Encourage is a partner organization that seeks to provide spiritual support for parents, spouses, and other family members of people who have same-sex attractions or identify as LGBT. It emphasizes prayer, formation, charity, and unity. 

Sorry for Your Loss

When the Catholic theologian and Commonweal contributor Paul J. Griffiths resigned from his faculty position at Duke Divinity School in 2017 following a conflict over an anti-racism workshop, his colleague Thomas Pfau told the Chronicle of Higher Education, “I profoundly regret his decision and, indeed, have conveyed to him that I regard it as a mistake.” Pfau’s statement—that he regrets something another person did—is a grammatical oddity, a bit like the semi-apology, “I’m sorry for your loss.” We say things like this all the time, and we understand what they mean as long as we don’t analyze them too carefully. 

In his new book, Regret: A Theology, Griffiths performs just such an analysis on a range of statements about regret, many of them drawn from literary works, in an effort to see what Christians can say about the topic. Regret, to Griffiths, is not just one thing but a spectrum of “otherwise-attitudes,” epitomized in the statement, “I would it were otherwise.” The spectrum begins with lament, sorrow over the state of things, though lament is not quite a species of regret because it does not necessarily wish things otherwise. Beyond lament are remorse, contrition, confession, and penance. Penance—particularly sacramental penance—is the “culmination” of these attitudes that together are indispensable to Christian life. “Someone who has no regrets is someone not fully human and not much formed as a Christian,” Griffiths writes. 

The heart of sacramental penance is being sorry for your own sins. That’s why regret on behalf of another’s actions is so conceptually strange. But Griffiths argues that you can regret something you are not responsible for because you have a degree of solidarity with the person who is. Parents regret the actions of their children, Americans today regret the actions of their forebears, and so on. You can even regret the extinction of the dinosaurs, even though no human is to blame. (Griffiths contends that the dinosaurs died because of the sins of angels, with whom humans have solidarity as fellow creatures.) Solidarity as a fellow scholar, a colleague, or a friend may well have been the source of Pfau’s regret on Griffiths’s behalf. Perhaps he wished he could have undone Griffiths’s decision himself, like an anxious parent who grabs the steering wheel from his teenage child, willing the otherwise into being. Or maybe Pfau was only lamenting a loss. (Griffiths does not comment on his departure from Duke in this book.) 

“Someone who has no regrets is someone not fully human and not much formed as a Christian,” Griffiths writes.

The explanation for why it’s possible to regret the demise of prehistoric species, or what someone else has done, is one of this book’s many fruitful insights about a feeling our culture says we must avoid. Even theologians have rarely addressed this topic. (At least, not in terms like Griffiths’s; more on that in a moment.) Griffiths begins with a puzzle from Scripture: How can we understand God’s evident regret over making Saul king (1 Sam 15:11), given that Christians believe God exists outside of time? He answers by showing how Christians have to speak of God in two registers, the metaphysical and the historical. In the latter register, God’s intimate relationship with humanity entails responding to our actions. As they change, so does his judgment. In another chapter, Griffiths meditates on the notion of felix culpa, highlighting that regrettable events, such as a failed marriage, nevertheless often include non-regretted felicities, such as children. We shouldn’t weigh felicities against faults, but rather allow the good to “transfigur[e]” the things we wish otherwise.


I was once a theology professor, too. I resigned a tenured position both because I had burned out and to move with my wife for her new job. My regret over my career is complicated. I wish the job had been different: less taxing, more rewarding. I wish I had been a better scholar and thus a stronger candidate for jobs elsewhere. I wish I hadn’t merged my identity with my work. I sometimes regret going into academia at all, but when I consider the felicities that trailed that decision—friendships, accomplishments, the joy of seeing students learn—I also regret leaving it.

This act of wishing my career otherwise is what Griffiths calls remorse, the “deformed sibling” of the other forms of regret. Remorse, he asserts, feels like rats chewing at your flesh. (The word stems from the Latin mordere, “to bite.”) The problem with remorse is its self-focus, according to Griffiths. It is hopeless dwelling on your own suffering. This is why, in a poem Griffiths analyzes, Emily Dickinson named remorse the “Adequate of Hell.” We need to get past our own pain, he contends, and become contrite for the pain we have caused others.

I’m not sure anything beyond remorse is possible when it comes to a lost career, though. The higher forms of regret—contrition, confession, and penance—don’t quite fit such a case. Sure, I was unkind to colleagues and students while I worked as a professor, and those wrongs demanded atonement. But I don’t need to apologize for embarking on the career in the first place, or for quitting. My regret is not about finding and removing the obstacles between me and other people, or between me and God, which is for Griffiths the whole point of confession. Rather, my regret is a part of removing obstacles between my past and present selves. By thinking counterfactually about my past, I am not just wallowing in bygone pain but looking for continuities between it and the present. I am looking for who I might have become but never did. And in doing so, I hope to find the thread of who I am.

Our culture’s strong bias against regret arises from our perpetual drive to cut that thread. Just look at our recent president, a man who claimed he never sought forgiveness for any sins. To him, and often to the rest of us, the past is all sunk cost. Our one task is to survey present conditions and then act to our advantage. Survey, then act, always looking ahead. As a result, our past selves are alien to us. Regret, including the kind that terminates in remorse, knits the old and new selves together. It gets you to recognize your solidarity with a stranger: the stranger you were, who was thoughtless or malicious or whose life was just complexly unsatisfying. Making those connections enlarges the self; it’s a necessary component of moral growth. 


Griffiths’s account makes good sense of regret over the kind of actions Catholics are supposed to confess: acts of personal moral wrongdoing. Indeed, he thinks that in the sacrament of penance, we need only confess the general category of sin—theft, adultery, envy—and not get too deep into specifics. Our desire to narrate “the gorgeous detail of our sense of ourselves as the center of the cosmos...is an artifact of the Fall, and bringing it to nothing is, in essence, what confession’s avowal does.” 

This is good advice for the sacrament (if nothing else, it keeps the line to the confessional moving), but not for our larger project of moral development through self-narration. That may not matter to Griffiths, because for him, “The linear model [of time], commonsensical though it may seem, is incorrect.” Cyclical, liturgical time alone is “real.” But we leave the booth and go out into the world, having vowed to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin. Sometimes, by the grace of God, we even do a bit better. Linear time may be unreal, but it’s a useful fiction. It allows us to say, “I won’t break this promise like I did the last one.”

Griffiths’s focus on sacramental penance also makes it hard to say what we should think about failings both smaller and larger than the ones we confess through the screen. Our days are filled with small errors, from burnt toast to wrong turns to forgotten bill payments. They are regrettable, yet they paradoxically also constitute our character. At the other end of the scale, Griffiths takes an overly modest view of what it means for Christians to do penance for the structural violence and exploitation they are involved in as citizens of nation-states. Following Augustine’s outlook in The City of God, Griffiths writes that “the inhabitants of the LORD’s city learn, over time and always imperfectly, to lament their implication in and inextricability from the violence that marks the human city.” Beyond that, they can hope and pray for God to “deliver” them from these conditions, recognizing “that such delivery won’t come until the end.”

But we can do more than just lament social sin. What Griffiths says about individual faults—that words and actions can “transfigur[e] the past” and bring it “into the divine economy of the gift”—is also true of violent and unjust social realities. We can put otherwise-thinking into hopeful action. True, I am in no position to change U.S. foreign policy, but in communion with others, I can make local headway against structural evils like racism. 

Recent theologians have said little about regret, but they have said quite a bit about repentance. For example, my friend Jennifer McBride places “confession unto repentance” in public life at the core of Christian discipleship in her 2012 book, The Church for the World. McBride anchors her vision of repentant discipleship in Protestant Christology. “Through the crucifixion,” she writes, “God takes responsibility for sin and makes right for eternity all that is not.” To follow Christ, then, is to acknowledge your complicity in societal injustice and then, as a consequence of that metanoia, to work in solidarity with others to end it. 

Does regret play a role in such repentance? Did John the Baptist call for regret, for adopting an otherwise-attitude, in his preaching? This is where Griffiths could have said much more in this short book, even within the bounds of his “grammatical” aim “to write what can be written about wishing things otherwise using the lexicon and syntax provided me by a particular construal of the Christian-theological archive.” Part of the trouble is that Griffiths does not say what his “particular construal” of the archive is. He cites very few theological sources explicitly, instead training his attention on passages from poets and novelists: Paul Celan, Henry James, Jane Austen, and George Herbert among them. Granted, Griffiths has written multiple books on theological method, but it seems unfair to expect non-specialist readers to know them. It is frustrating that a writer as skilled as Griffiths leaves his methods obscure in Regret; would that it were otherwise.

In the book’s preface (a nearly-verbatim repeat of the preface in his 2018 book, Christian Flesh), Griffiths writes that theology first of all must respond to God. After that, “it should seek to be interesting.” Regret certainly is. Griffiths’s writing often prompts disagreement, his interlocutors frequently calling him “provocative.” American culture and the Catholic Church do not have well-formed theories about regret, and those who live by the “no regrets” maxim are unlikely to read this book, so it may not spur a vehement debate. The conversation it provokes may be quieter than what Griffiths has provoked in the past, but we need it nevertheless. 


A Theology

Paul J. Griffiths
University of Notre Dame Press
$30 | 152 pp. 


Amazon faces questions over removal of transgender-critical book

Washington D.C., Feb 26, 2021 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Online retailer Amazon is still facing questions several days after it removed a book critiquing the transgender movement. 


Ryan Anderson, who was recently appointed president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC), said earlier this week that his 2018 book “When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment” was no longer available for purchase on Amazon.com. The book critiques the biological, psychological, and philosophical areas of the transgender debate.


“I first discovered it on Sunday around 3 pm,” Anderson told CNA, adding he is not sure “when exactly it was removed.”


Anderson said that Amazon told him on Tuesday that the book “violates their 'content policy,’” but, he added, “they won't tell us what aspect of the policy it violated.” 


“They won't tell us what passage, what page, what sentence is the offending passage,” Anderson said. 


An Amazon spokesperson told CNA in an email on Friday, “As a bookseller, we provide our customers with access to a variety of viewpoints, including books that some customers may find objectionable. That said, we reserve the right not to sell certain content as described in our content guidelines for books, which you can find here. All retailers make decisions about what selection they choose to offer and we do not take selection decisions lightly.”


On a webpage regarding its “Content Guidelines for Books,” Amazon states that if the company removes a title, “we let the author, publisher, or selling partner know and they can appeal our decision.”


Anderson said that Amazon “acknowledged that they did not contact us ahead of time, in violation of their own policy to first contact authors and publishers.”


He warned about the precedent that the de-listing could send. “This means that anyone who's telling the truth that we're created male and female, whether from a faith-based perspective or from a science-based perspective, can be banned on a whim and without explanation,” Anderson said. 


Earlier this week, four Republican senators--Marco Rubio of Florida, Mike Lee of Utah, Mike Braun of Indiana, and Josh Hawley of Missouri--sent a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos inquiring about the company’s removal of Anderson’s book. 


The senators wrote that Amazon has not provided “a sufficient explanation as to how Anderson’s book, which reached the top of two of Amazon's best-seller lists before it was even released in 2018, supposedly violated a vague, undefined ‘offensive content’ standard.”


“When Harry Became Sally prompted important discussions in the national media and among policymakers in 2018, and remains one of the most rigorously researched and compassionately argued books on this subject,” the senators wrote. 


“By removing this book from its marketplaces and services, Amazon has unabashedly wielded its outsized market share to silence an important voice merely for the crime of violating woke groupthink,” they stated.


While Anderson’s book remains unavailable for purchase on Amazon, an ebook called “Let Harry Become Sally: Responding to the Anti-Transgender Moment” remains available on the retail giant’s website. The product description says some of the book’s proceeds will be donated to the National Center for Transgender Equality. 

Anderson said that “When Harry Became Sally” may be purchased directly from its publisher, Encounter Books, “as well as from Barnes and Noble, where it is currently the #2 selling book in America.”

Female athletes can’t be silent when forced to compete with males, attorney argues

Washington D.C., Feb 26, 2021 / 02:30 pm (CNA).- Girls cannot be silent when forced to compete against biological males in athletics, one attorney argued on Friday.


In the case of Soule v. Connecticut Association of Schools, several female athletes had sued over Connecticut’s policy of allowing biological males—who identify as transgender females—to compete in girls’ sports. On Friday, oral arguments were held on the state’s motion to dismiss the case.


After the arguments, an attorney representing the athletes said that they will not be silenced in their complaint for equal treatment.


One of the girls “was told by coaches that if she was asked by the press how she felt about that, she just needed to say ‘no comment,’” said Roger Brooks, a senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) which represents the girls.


“And so yes, we’re deeply concerned with a world which is essentially sending a memo to girls that says ‘you’ll take it, and you’ll be meek and quiet, and say nothing,’” Brooks said.


ADF is a nonprofit group advocating for the defense of religious liberty.


In 2017, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference began allowing student-athletes to compete in sports based on their gender identity, and not their biological sex.


After the new policy, two biological males identifying as transgender females competed in girls’ track events and won 15 state titles.


Four high school track competitors—Soule, Alanna Smith, Chelsea Mitchell, and Ashley Nicoletti—filed a lawsuit against Connecticut in 2019, alleging that they had to unfairly compete against biological males identifying as transgender female.


Soule, currently a track-and-field athlete at a NCAA Division I college, said on Friday that she was simply told she had the chance to “compete” and not a right to “win.”


“But when we’ve asked questions, we’ve been told we’re allowed to compete, but we don’t have the right to win,” she told reporters on Friday at an online news conference after a hearing in the case. “We’ve worked incredibly hard to shave fractions of a second off of our times to win, not to place third and beyond.”


Brooks stated after oral arguments that “women and girls deserve an equal and level playing field in athletics.”


 “If the ACLU gets its way, women’s sports will no longer exist. There will be men’s sports, and there will be semi-co-ed sports,” he said. The ACLU has joined the lawsuit in defense of the state’s policy.


Mitchell alleges that her time would have been the best at the 2019 state championship for the women’s 55-meter indoor track competition, but the two male runners—Andraya Yearwood and Terry Miller—took first and second place, respectively.


Soule raced “17 times at least” against biological males and lost each time, Brooks said. Mitchell lost to four times to males in state championships, he added.


“I was defeated before stepping on to the track,” Alanna Smith on Friday recounted her experience facing the male runners. “Mentally, we know the outcome before the race even starts.”


“Four times, I ran races fast enough to take home a state championship,” Mitchell said.


“Girls across Connecticut and New England all knew the outcome of our races long before the start, and it was extremely demoralizing,” Soule said.  


Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits sex discrimination in federally-funded education programs and activities.


Brooks argued on Friday that Title IX doesn’t just give girls the “chance to compete” in sports, but to do so on an equal playing field mindful of the biological differences between males and females.


“Title IX promises our daughters athletic opportunities and experiences every bit the equal of what their brothers enjoy, but instead, the CIC and Connecticut are giving girls extra lessons in losing,” he said.


While the Department of Education in 2020 found that the state’s policy violated Title IX, the Biden administration withdrew those findings earlier this week.


President Biden has already signed an executive order stating that people shouldn’t be denied public goods based on their gender identity—and ADF and other groups have warned that the order would force women athletes to compete against biological males identifying as transgender females.


On Thursday, the House passed the Equality Act, a sweeping bill that would create protected classes for sexual orientation and gender identity in federal civil rights law. Critics of the bill, including U.S. bishops, have warned that it would threaten girls’ sports among a number of areas.


The act “certainly threatens equality on the track,” Brooks said, adding that he is “optimistic” the bill won’t pass the Senate. Bills such as the Equality Act “ignore the differences between men and women,” he said.



USCCB opposes lack of pro-life protections in COVID relief bill

Washington D.C., Feb 26, 2021 / 11:02 am (CNA).- The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is opposing the COVID relief package currently under consideration in the House, over its lack of pro-life protections. 


In a digital campaign, the USCCB wrote that although the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 “addresses the needs of many vulnerable people related to the pandemic,” it lacks pro-life “Hyde” protections against funding of abortions and abortion coverage.  


The Hyde Amendment is a longstanding legislative provision that prohibits the use of taxpayer funding for elective abortions. If Hyde language is excluded from the bill, that would erase this limitation and allow for possible increased funding of abortion. 


As a candidate for president, Biden reversed his previous support of the Hyde Amendment, saying he now supports taxpayer-funded abortion. House Democratic leaders have also said they intended to repeal the policy in 2021.


The House is scheduled to vote on the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 on Friday evening. The $1.9 trillion package includes funding for vaccinations, testing and tracing, stimulus checks to families, and tax credits for paid sick and family leave.


The USCCB expressed its disappointment, however, noting that previous COVID bills provided economic relief and health care spending with pro-life provisions intact.


“Unfortunately, unlike previous COVID relief bills, this bill appropriates billions of taxpayer dollars that are not subject to longstanding, bi-partisan pro-life protections that are needed to prevent this funding from paying for abortions,” their website stated. 


The USCCB added it is “communicating to Congress its strong opposition to any taxpayer funding of abortion as part of this legislation,” and is urging Catholics and pro-life Americans to do the same. 


“Your voice is critically needed today to tell your representatives in Congress to support amendments that prevent abortion funding and to work for their inclusion in the final bill,” the conference stated.


In a statement posted to Twitter on Thursday, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) said she and some of her fellow Republican lawmakers are attempting to include the pro-life protections in the bill, “to FIX this to reflect Congress’s long bipartisan history of supporting Hyde.”



??? NEWS: Unfortunately, House Democrats did not include Hyde Protections in the $1.9 trillion reconciliation bill. @virginiafoxx, @RepWalorski, and I are leading to FIX this to reflect Congress’s long bipartisan history of supporting Hyde. #prolife #SaveHyde pic.twitter.com/HTSo4tdjs5

— CathyMcMorrisRodgers (@cathymcmorris) February 25, 2021  


The congresswoman’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 


In a statement, Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, also argued that the Hyde protections should be included in the final bill. 


“At a time when our country is mourning the deaths of 500,000 Americans, very little (less than 10%) of the misnamed COVID relief package actually goes towards combatting the pandemic,” Mancini said in a written statement. “Instead, pro-abortion Democrats are using this bill to push through billions of dollars in subsidies for abortions, not only here in the U.S. but also abroad.” 


The Senate is using the procedure of reconciliation to pass the legislation needing only a simple majority, Mancini said, “because they would not otherwise have the votes needed to do away with popular pro-life riders that protect Americans from funding the life-ending procedure.”


“In fact, consistent polling shows that most Americans oppose their tax dollars funding abortion both here and abroad. So much for unity,” Mancini said.

As Fr Pfleger abuse inquiry continues, Chicago archdiocese counters 'misconceptions' of priest's supporters

Chicago, Ill., Feb 25, 2021 / 07:01 pm (CNA).- Defenders of outspoken activist priest Fr. Michael Pfleger are wrong to claim an investigation has cleared him of decades-old sexual abuse allegations or to claim that the priest was singled out, the Archdiocese of Chicago has said.

“It is mystifying why anyone would believe the leadership of the archdiocese, which has consistently supported Fr. Pfleger’s good works, would concoct a ruse to remove him,” the Chicago archdiocese said Feb. 24.
“Let’s be clear. This case began when an adult male came forward to the archdiocese on his own with an allegation of child sexual abuse,” the archdiocese continued. “His brother subsequently came forward to the archdiocese with an allegation of child sexual abuse. The archdiocese did not have any prior contact with these men, nor did it look for them or anyone else. These men have made serious allegations, which demand that we follow the same process as we have in other cases.”
Earlier that day a group of about 100 people gathered outside the headquarters of the Chicago archdiocese to call for Pfleger’s reinstatement, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
Pfleger, who is white, has been a politically involved community leader based out of the predominantly African-American Saint Sabina Parish in Chicago. He has served at the church since 1983 and is presently described as its senior pastor.
Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago asked Pfleger to step away from his duties in early January after the first accusation of abuse.
Two brothers have come forward, saying they were each sexually abused separately by Pfleger dozens of times over several years, beginning in the 1970s when they were 12 or 13 years old.
The men, both Black, are in their early 60s and live in Texas. The younger brother told the other brother that he had filed a complaint against Pfleger, and the older man said that he had also been abused by the priest.
Pfleger denies the accusations.
“Let me be clear and restate what my lawyers said in the beginning,” the priest said on Twitter Feb. 24. “I am innocent of these false allegations. When this is over, which I hope is soon, I will have much more to say.”

Pfleger’s causes include advocacy on behalf of the Black community, opposition to gun violence, and support for gun control. He has also helped launch several employment and social services programs for youth, the elderly and the homeless.
At times he has voiced support for the ordination of women as Catholic priests; that a woman cannot be ordained a priest is a truth belonging to the deposit of faith.
The Saint Sabina Facebook page made claims about the Pfleger investigation in a Feb. 24 post, claims that the Chicago archdiocese disputed.
The post claimed that the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services has “completed their investigation on Fr. Pfleger with the results unfounded. #Facts.” The post claimed that Illinois officials had concluded their investigation 20 days previously. “The archdiocese has not given us an update as to when Fr. Pfleger can return even though the allegations have been deemed baseless. #facts.”
“With all due respect, our request is simple: Reinstate Fr. Michael Pfleger and clear his name. Period,” the post said.
In the archdiocese’s view, there is a “basic misunderstanding” about the state officials’ investigation.
“Our understanding is that the (Department of Children and Family Services) is not directly investigating the veracity of the allegations against Fr. Pfleger,” the archdiocese emphasized. Rather, the department is investigating whether there is a “risk of harm” to children. Depending on the contents of the letter the archdiocese receives from state officials, “there may be no conclusion about guilt or innocence in this case.”
There is also disagreement over whether Illinois officials have completed their investigation into whether there is currently a minor victim and have notified the relevant parties.
Bill McCaffrey, spokesman for the Department of Children and Family Services, confirmed to the Sun-Times that the archdiocese was sent a letter Feb. 4 and Pfleger Feb. 24. Neither the archdiocese nor Pfleger’s attorney say they received a letter.

Eugene Hollander, an attorney representing the two alleged victims, said he “would not put much stock” in the findings. Neither brother gave a statement to the department, he said.

The Chicago archdiocese and the Chicago Police Department have ongoing investigations into the accusations.
State Sen. Jacqueline Collins, a parishioner at St. Sabina, is among those urging the priest’s reinstatement.
“It is time for the archdiocese to expedite the process and bring a renewal, a rebirth and a restoration of Fr. Pfleger’s good name, his dignity and his decency,” she said, according to the Sun-Times. “Time is of the essence because in the court of public opinion, time becomes the jury.”
The Chicago archdiocese stressed the need to take every abuse allegation seriously and to follow the same process.

“The Church has been accused, at times correctly, of not taking accusations seriously, of conducting cursory investigations and restoring misbehaving priests to ministry prematurely,” the archdiocese said. “We are convinced that the procedures for dealing with these cases, developed and enhanced over the years, work. They should be followed by all organizations that care for and educate young people. It is ironic that we are now accused of taking too long to consider allegations because a priest is prominent and well regarded.”
Stressing the need to spend time on accusations to arrive at a “just conclusion,” the archdiocese said it would work on all cases, “always giving priority to the protection and healing of victims.”
“Fr. Pfleger has always been free to comment as he and his attorneys see fit,” said the archdiocese. It said his comments were restricted only insofar as he could not name his accusers and the circumstances they described. “He was encouraged to make public his declaration of his innocence,” the archdiocese added.
The archdiocese rejected claims it has not reached out to the parish.
“In addition to the letters sent by the cardinal, our Office for the Protection of Children and Youth has contacted St. Sabina multiple times, explaining the process and offering assistance. The offers were refused,” said the archdiocese’s statement.
Pfleger has often been a source of controversy. In 2019 he invited Louis Farrakhan to speak at his parish after Farrakhan was banned from Facebook for violating its hate speech policies.
In 2011 the priest was suspended from ministry at St. Sabina and barred from celebrating the sacraments because of public statements Pfleger had made threatening to leave the Church if he were reassigned from his current parish. He was reinstated after he apologized.

NY archdiocese reports slight offertory downturn as Child Victims Act payments loom

New York City, N.Y., Feb 25, 2021 / 05:10 pm (CNA).- Timothy Cardinal Dolan of New York on Wednesday offered an update on finances in the archdiocese, noting that although offertory was down overall for the fiscal year, the percentage of offertory given online increased.

He also noted that a large number of clerical abuse lawsuits filed under New York’s Child Victims Act present a challenge to the financial stability of the archdiocese.

“Thanks to the generosity of you, our people, the dedication and commitment of our pastors and priests, and the hard work behind-the-scenes of people in the field and in the chancery, we have
managed to hold our own in some ways, but continue to face some uphill battles in others,” Dolan wrote in a Feb. 24 Flocknote.

Dolan pointed to clerical abuse claims brought under the Child Victims Act, which the state enacted in 2019 following the revelations of abuse perpetrated by former cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

The law set up a one-year window for clergy sex abuse lawsuits in cases where the statute of limitations had previously expired. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has since extended the window for filing lawsuits until Aug. 14, due to complications caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The New York archdiocese has since 2016 offered an independent compensation program for victims of clergy sex abuse. Those victims who accepted compensation from the archdiocese in the fund would waive the right to sue for more money later.

CNA reported in December 2017 that nearly 200 clergy sex abuse victims had already received compensation totaling more than $40 million from the New York archdiocese; the figure may now be as high as $200 million.

Dolan said the flood of new lawsuits presents a financial challenge to the archdiocese.

“We are still assessing what the economic impact will be on the archdiocese, although
it is likely to be extremely significant. Cases continue to be filed, and we are anxious to reach just settlements with those who have meritorious claims, just as we already did through the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program,” Dolan said.

“We are prayerful and hopeful that our primary insurance carrier recognizes the moral imperative to resolve meritorious suits as soon as possible though unfortunately we have met resistance in our effort. We will continue to press and will report back soon.”

Although offertory collection overall dropped by 10% since the beginning of the pandemic until the end of the fiscal year on Aug. 31, 2020, a greater percentage of the archdiocese’ parishes began using online giving services.

Online giving activity more than doubled, from 10% to 25% of all offertory, Dolan said.

Dolan noted that most of the archdiocese’ parishes had applied for and received Paycheck Protection Program loans, after being encouraged to do so by the archdiocese.

“Fortunately, most of our needy parishes properly made use of the Paycheck Protection Program funds, which went to pay the salaries of parish and school staff, and partially offset this overall decline in offertory throughout the archdiocese,” Dolan said.

“In so many cases, a parish is not just a place of worship but a second home for people. It is important that we continue our effort to support these communities of worship.”

The Cardinal’s Annual Stewardship Appeal met its goal of $20 million this year, he said.
Although the New York Catholic Conference initially opposed the Child Victims Act, the conference eventually dropped its opposition, the archdiocesan spokesman told CNA in January. When the bill was amended to allow lawsuits by alleged victims of not only religious clergy, but also alleged victims of public employees such as public school teachers, the conference stopped opposing it.

House passes Equality Act, which bishops warned would ‘punish’ religious groups

Washington D.C., Feb 25, 2021 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- The House on Thursday passed the Equality Act, a bill that the U.S. bishops have warned would trample religious freedom protections while codifying gender ideology in federal law.


By a vote of 224 to 206, the House passed the Equality Act only six days after it was introduced on Feb. 18. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), recognizes sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes under civil rights law and forbids discrimination on the basis of those classes in a number of areas.


The U.S. bishops’ conference (USCCB) has opposed the legislation, saying it upholds gender ideology and the redefinition of marriage and frames gender as simply a “social construct.” Furthermore, it would “punish” religious groups opposed to these beliefs, the conference warned.


Through the bill, Congress is forcing “novel and divisive viewpoints regarding ‘gender’ on individuals and organizations,” stated a Feb. 23 letter by five USCCB committee chairs to members of Congress.


The bishops were Bishop Michael Barber, S.J., of Oakland, chair of the USCCB education committee; Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City, chair of the USCCB domestic justice committee; Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, chair of the bishops’ religious liberty committee; Bishop David Konderla of Tulsa, chair of the marriage subcommittee; and Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, chair of the USCCB pro-life committee.


The act, they said, “includes dismissing sexual difference and falsely presenting ‘gender’ as only a social construct.”


They warned that the bill could force church halls to “host functions that violate their beliefs.” Women would have to share shelters, sports, and locker rooms with biological males identifying as transgender females. Religious adoption agencies would have to match children with same-sex couples or possibly face closure.


The legislation prevents religious freedom claims from being made by individuals and groups under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The landmark 1993 law has been invoked by many as a defense against various government mandates, but the Equality Act would override those religious freedom protections.  


During House debate over the legislation, Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) said the bill “dismantles Title IX” protections for girls’ sports. Religious adoption agencies in several states have already been shut down because of mandates that they place children with same-sex couples, she said.


“The Equality Act stipulates that religious beliefs and faith no longer matter in the Democrats’ new world order,” Hartzler said.


The bill would override conscience protections for health care workers, said Rep. Yvette Herrell (R-N.M.). The act would “force both people and organizations in everyday life and work settings to speak and act in support of gender transitions, including health care workers and licensed counselors, even when it’s against their professional judgement,” she said.


Under the act, “it is Washington, D.C., that ultimately decides the morality of our children and our churches,” Herrell said.


Pro-life groups have also warned that the legislation could expand taxpayer-funded abortion, as it amends civil rights law to forbid “pregnancy” discrimination. Thus, they say that women seeking abortions under the law could claim discrimination if they are denied an abortion.


“Tragically, this Act can also be construed to include an abortion mandate, a violation of precious rights to life and conscience,” the bishops wrote in their Feb. 23 letter.


The pro-life Susan B. Anthony List called the bill a “Trojan horse” that upholds “a ‘right’ to abortion,” as it “equates abortion with pregnancy and childbirth.”


The president of a Catholic college also warned that, under the legislation, professors could be censored for teaching the truth about marriage and sexuality.


“It doesn’t ensure equality for our faculty, who would not be allowed to proclaim the truth about human dignity and sexuality,” Father Dave Pivonka, TOR, president of the Franciscan University of Steubenville, said of the act.


President Biden promised to sign the act within his first 100 days in office. The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.