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Canada's bishops apologize for abuses at residential schools

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Severino accused the HHS of selectively enforcing the Church Amendments.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Upcoming St. Joseph Summit to begin Sept. 30

null / St. Joseph Summit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cardinal Kasper supports alternative ‘Synodal Way’ text

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Catholic school in Illinois hires coach in same-sex marriage, reversing earlier decision

A same-sex wedding cake topper. / edwardolive/Shutterstock

Joliet, Ill., Sep 24, 2021 / 11:17 am (CNA).

A Catholic school in suburban Chicago this week reversed a previous decision not to hire a coach who is civilly married to a person of the same sex, following massive internet backlash and protests from parents and students.

Benet Academy, a co-ed preparatory school located in Lisle, Ill. in the Diocese of Joliet, hired Amanda Kammes Sept. 21 to coach the girl’s lacrosse team, despite days earlier “deferring employment discussions” upon learning Kammes is in a same-sex civil marriage. Kammes reportedly listed her female partner as her emergency contact on employment papers.

Benet Academy initially defended its decision not to hire Kammes, citing the importance of hiring individuals who “manifest the essential teachings of the Church.”

The school's website says that the "Benet Academy does reserve the right to hire staff of good moral character who subscribe to the stated philosophy of the school and to the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church."

The Catholic Church teaches that while homosexual inclinations are not sinful, homosexual acts "are contrary to the natural law...under no circumstances can they be approved."

“Benet Academy respects the dignity of all human beings to follow their conscience and to live lives of their choosing,” school spokeswoman Jamie Moss told the Chicago Tribune in an email.

“Likewise, as a Catholic school, we employ individuals whose lives manifest the essential teachings of the Church in order to provide the education and faith formation of the young people entrusted to our care.”

A group of 40 or so students and parents at the school reportedly staged pro-LGBT protests after learning that the school had decided not to hire Kammes. The girl’s lacrosse team was photographed wearing rainbow masks in support of the prospective coach.

An online petition advocating for Kemmes’ hiring, which appears to have since been removed, reportedly garnered nearly 4,000 signatures. Social media posts from the school – many unrelated to the hiring situation – were flooded with comments, many from alumni, condemning the school’s decision not to hire the coach.

The school’s board said in a Tuesday statement that the school had, after extensive discussion, extended a job offer to Kammes, and that she had accepted.

“The Board has heard from members of the Benet community on all sides of this issue over the past several days. We had an honest and heartfelt discussion on this very complex issue at our meeting,” the statement reads.

“Going forward we will look for opportunities for dialogue in our community about how we remain true to our Catholic mission while meeting people where they are in their personal journey through life. For now, we hope that this is the first step in healing the Benet community."

Benet Academy lists on its website 24 board members, of whom five are Benedictine priests, brothers, or sisters; 12 are lay alumni of the school; and seven are non-alumni lay persons.

Kammes, a decorated lacrosse coach, had previously coached at a Catholic school in Lombard, Illinois. She said in a statement that she is “truly humbled by the outpouring of support” and expressed hope that “the LGBTQ+ community at Benet and other Catholic institutions, felt supported, loved, and know that they are not alone.”

Mary Massingale, director of communications for the Joliet diocese, told CNA via email that Benet Academy is operated by the Order of St. Benedict, and is not under the purview of the Diocese of Joliet, which was “not involved in the decision-making process.”

Nearby St. Procopius Abbey, whose abbott serves as chancellor to the school, declined to comment to CNA.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that people with "deep-seated homosexual tendencies" should be "accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided."

A 2003 document of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith taught that "in those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty...One must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws.”

Stephen Marth, head of school at Benet Academy, released a letter to the school community Sept. 22.

“As a person who has been raised Catholic, attended Catholic schools from kindergarten through graduate school, and devoted a substantial portion of my professional career to leadership in Catholic schools, I am truly committed to the value of educating our young people in the faith and in helping them to understand that, as they mature, they will have to struggle all the more with the complexities that result when authentic Church teaching is applied to situations encountered in life,” Marth wrote.

“I am not a theologian, a psychiatrist, or a mediation specialist, and I have no pretention [sic] of possessing great wisdom with regard to how Catholic Church leadership and lay membership might best resolve some of the issues that have fractured our Church and / or caused some to leave the Church altogether. I am certain, however, that two things will be helpful in going forward – honest dialogue and patience,” he continued.

“How best to structure and ultimately accomplish this respectful discourse at Benet is something that will be receiving the focused attention of Benet leadership in the days and weeks ahead. My sincere hope is that the entire Benet family will come together and exercise mutual respect as we continue to fulfill the school’s mission.”

Marth, in an earlier letter, had encouraged students to wear symbols of the cross or crucifixes to school, which represent “God’s unconditional love for each and every one of us despite our human weaknesses, brokenness, and sinfulness,” rather than rainbow “pride” symbols, which for some “represent an affirmation of a particular lifestyle or life choices that the Church, in her wisdom, does not and cannot condone.”

However, in response, some parents called for his resignation.

According to a May 26 letter, Marth's position as head of school was created earlier this year with three foci, one of which is the “carrying out of the school's mission and vision”.

The school's mission statement says, in part, that the academy will have achieved its mission if graduating seniors leave it "having learned to incorporate the principles of Christian morality into all aspects of their daily lives".

CNA reached out to Marth for further information about how the decision in this case might affect future hiring decisions at the school, but did not receive a response by press time.

A Chicago radio personality on Wednesday shared online an excerpt of a letter, purportedly from a current Benet Academy parent to the school board, in which the parent expressed concern that Kammes’ hiring puts the school’s Catholic identity in jeopardy.

“A person who publicly lives outside the moral teaching of the Church on matters of human sexuality and marriage cannot model for students the truth and virtues that Benet seeks to instill in its students,” the letter reads in part.

“Moreover, if it hires Ms. Kammes there will be no limiting principle to this going forward. The school will have no basis for refusing to hire anyone in the future who dissents from the Church on grave matters of moral teaching. There will be no principled way it can refuse to hire a qualified teacher or coach who works weekends as a clinic escort for women seeking abortions at Planned Parenthood.”

The parent also speculated that Kammes’ hiring would prove to be a watershed moment for the school, and would be used to justify changes to other aspects of the school’s curriculum and mission going forward.

"In addition, in the near future, Benet will hear calls for the school to instruct its students in ways of thinking about profound moral questions invovling [sic] sexuality and other matters that contradict what the Church holds and has always held to be true. The same arguments now heard— about a lack of compassion, about a failure to respect the consciences of others— will be heard again, only now in demanding curricular changes,” the anonymous parent opined.

In the United States, various Catholic schools and dioceses have faced lawsuits from employees who have been fired after contracting civil same-sex marriages in violation of the diocesan or school policy.

Federal law prohibiting workplace discrimination – Title VII – includes an exception for ministers of religion. In a June 2020 ruling in the case Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru, the Supreme Court found that Catholic school teachers, even if not given the formal title of "minister,” can fall under the ministerial exception because the essence of their job is to transmit the faith to students.

Last month, Lynn Starkey, a guidance counselor at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis, a Catholic school, was fired for entering a same-sex marriage contract. A federal district judge later ruled that Starkey qualified as a minister of religion; thus, the archdiocese and school were exempt from federal workplace discrimination prohibitions.

However, earlier this month, a federal judge ruled that the Diocese of Charlotte discriminated against a substitute teacher by firing him upon his announcement – after more than a decade of openly dating a man – that he intended to contract a same-sex marriage.

The judge’s ruling rejected claims that religious freedom protected the school from the lawsuit, writing that “Plaintiff is a lay employee, who comes onto the campus of a religious school for the limited purpose of teaching secular classes, with no mandate to inculcate students with Catholic teachings.”

The diocese argued that “Catholic schools are permitted to employ educators who support our Church’s teachings and will not publicly oppose them.”

House responds to Texas pro-life law, passes bill codifying 'right' to abortion

null / Nicole Glass Photography/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Sep 24, 2021 / 10:15 am (CNA).

The House on Friday passed legislation overriding state pro-life laws and removing limits on abortion up to the point of birth in some cases.

The chamber passed the Women’s Health Protection Act (H.R. 3755), introduced by Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), by a vote of 218 to 211 largely along party lines. The bill recognizes a “statutory right” to abortion, blocking state abortion regulations and removing restrictions on pre-viability abortions.

It also blocks limits on late-term abortions in cases where the “life or health” of the mother is determined to be at risk – which allows abortions until birth without “meaningful” limits, the U.S. bishops’ conference (USCCB) has warned.

Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, the USCCB’s pro-life chair, has warned that the bill also mandate public funding of abortion, and could require health care workers to perform or assist in abortions against their consciences.

The legislation is “really about abortion up until birth,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, in a call with reporters on Friday.

Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) was the lone Democrat to vote against the bill.

Individual U.S. bishops this week called on members of Congress to oppose the bill.

“The Church is clear that all abortion is evil, and it is true that laws and regulations will go only so far in protecting the unborn,” stated Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver on Wednesday. “We no doubt have much work to do to change the hearts and minds of those who view abortion as something to be valued, especially among those who claim to follow Jesus Christ.”

“However,” he added, the bill “will put thousands of vulnerable lives at risk, and it must be prevented from becoming law.”

On Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) – a Catholic who resides in the San Francisco archdiocese – explained her “disagreement” with her local ordinary Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone on legal abortion. She said that God gave people “free will” to choose abortion, and that it was not the “business” of lawmakers to make that decision for them.

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco on Friday called on members of Congress to use their “free will” and “vote no to legalizing the killing of babies even weeks from birth.”

Pelosi had announced earlier in September that the House would vote on the Women’s Health Protection Act, following Texas’ pro-life “heartbeat” law going into effect. On the House floor on Friday, she cited her faith as she defended the legislation.

“I come to this as a Catholic, mother of five [children] in six years, and one week,” she said. “And the joy that all that meant to us. But with the recognition that my husband and I – it was our decision.”

The House, she said, “should not be making decisions for the women in America.”

The bill comes as the Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in a major abortion case in December, on Mississippi’s law restricting most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The court will consider the question of whether all bans on pre-viability abortions are unconstitutional – possibly setting the stage to alter or reverse the Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.

Pro-life leaders on Friday said the pro-abortion legislation was extreme.

“If Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, and their allies get their way, the United States will soon be indistinguishable from North Korea and China on the human rights issue of abortion,” said Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life.

“For the first time ever by congressional statute, this legislation would legally enable the death – the violent death - of unborn baby girls and boys by dismemberment, decapitation, forced expulsion from the womb, and deadly poisons, for any reason until birth,” said Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus.

“This bill will nullify every modest pro-life restriction ever enacted by the states,” he added.

Dannenfelser noted it is “rather unlikely” that the bill “would even get a vote in the Senate.”

“For those of us who stand for life, we must do a better job of listening and loving,” said Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-Wash.) on the House floor on Friday. “I can imagine abortion seeming like an easy solution,” she said, adding that it “breaks my heart” for those who think abortion is their “best option” or “only option.”

Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) stated that he “proudly voted no” on the bill.

“I encourage those who stand with me to look up your local pregnancy resource center today and see what you can do to help out.”

Pope Francis mourns Venezuelan cardinal who ‘gave his life to the service of God and the Church’

Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino of Caracas speaks with CNA, Feb. 13, 2015. / Bohumil Petrik/CNA.

Vatican City, Sep 24, 2021 / 09:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis expressed his sorrow on Friday at the death of a Venezuelan cardinal who “gave his life to the service of God and the Church.”

The pope paid tribute to Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino, the emeritus archbishop of Caracas, in a telegram issued Sept. 24, the day after the cardinal died following his admission to hospital with COVID-19.

Addressing Cardinal Baltazar Enrique Porras Cardozo, apostolic administrator of Caracas archdiocese, he wrote: “Upon receiving the news of the death of Cardinal Jorge Liberato Urosa Savino, archbishop emeritus of Caracas, I express to your eminence my feelings of sorrow, asking you to kindly convey them also to the relatives of the deceased prelate and to all those who form part of this ecclesial community.”

“Likewise, remembering this devoted pastor who, for years and with fidelity, gave his life to the service of God and the Church, I assure my prayers for the eternal repose of his soul, so that the Lord Jesus may grant him the crown of glory that does not fade, and I impart to all the Apostolic Blessing, as a sign of Christian hope in the Risen Lord.”

Porras announced the death of the 79-year-old cardinal on Sept. 23, almost a month after Urosa was hospitalized after testing positive for the coronavirus, reported ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner.

“Dear Venezuelans, I have to give you the news of the death of my dear brother Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino, who, after a long illness and convalescence, has surrendered his spirit to the Lord,” Porras said in a video message on the Twitter account of Caracas archdiocese.

“I ask everyone to pray for his eternal rest that grieves the Venezuelan Church and the universal Church. Soon we will be giving details of what we will have to do from the Church of Caracas, Valencia, and all Venezuela to unite in this moment of pain and mourning.”

“Rest in peace our dear brother, Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino.”

Urosa was hospitalized on Aug. 27. The following day, the cardinal wrote a message making “a brief declaration of love for God and love for the Church, and of love for the people of Venezuela.”

In his message, Urosa said that he felt “immensely happy to have been a priest” and asked “forgiveness from God and all my brothers for the faults I may have committed, especially for the faults of omission.”

"I also express my great affection for the Venezuelan people and my absolute dedication to their freedom, to their institutions, to defending the rights of the people against the abuses committed by national governments,” he said.

“I hope that Venezuela comes out of this negative situation,” he added.

Urosa was born on Aug. 28, 1942. He was ordained a priest on Aug. 15, 1967, and incardinated in Caracas archdiocese, which covers Venezuela’s capital city.

He obtained a doctorate in dogmatic theology in 1971 at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

He was vice-rector and later rector of the San José Seminary of El Hatillo and rector of the interdiocesan seminary of Caracas, where he was a professor of philosophical anthropology.

He was also president of the Organization of Venezuelan Seminaries and vice-president of the Organization of Latin American Seminaries.

Pope John Paul II named him auxiliary bishop of Caracas on July 3, 1982, and he was ordained on Sept. 22 of that year, aged just 40 years old.

On March 16, 1990, he was appointed archbishop of Valencia, an archdiocese in the northwestern state of Carabobo, where he served for 15 years.

On Sept. 19, 2005, he was named archbishop of Caracas

Pope Benedict XVI gave him the red hat at a consistory on March 24, 2006.

He also attended the family synod in October 2015, standing out for his strong defense of Catholic doctrine, reported ACI Prensa.

In his speech at the synod, Urosa encouraged the synod fathers not to forget the teachings of Jesus and the Church while discussing the possibility of divorced and remarried Catholics receiving the Eucharist.

He was also one of the 13 cardinals who sent a letter to Pope Francis expressing concerns about the synod’s procedures.

The pope accepted Urosa’s resignation as archbishop of Caracas on July 9, 2018, after he passed the retirement age of 75.

Being an archbishop emeritus, he did not attend the Amazon synod in Rome in October 2019, but he wrote several articles in which he recalled the importance of priestly celibacy and highlighted the need for the proclamation of Christ and his Gospel in the Amazon.

He was a sharp critic of the socialist regime of Hugo Chávez, which earned him more than one public attack by the late president. He was also critical of the leadership of President Nicolás Maduro, whom he publicly and repeatedly requested, together with the bishops of Venezuela, to leave power, calling for fair and democratic elections.

For years, he promoted the cause of Dr. José Gregorio Hernández, the doctor of the poor, who was beatified on April 30, 2021.

A version of this story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, written by Walter Sánchez Silva. It has been adapted by CNA.

Pope Francis appoints delegate to oversee Communion and Liberation’s consecrated laity

Pope Francis at his general audience address in the library of the Apostolic Palace May 5, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Sep 24, 2021 / 07:10 am (CNA).

Pope Francis appointed Friday a special delegate to oversee Memores Domini, the lay consecrated branch of the Communion and Liberation movement.

Archbishop Filippo Santoro of Taranto, Italy, will temporarily assume the governance of the association “in order to safeguard its charism and preserve the unity of the members,” the Vatican announced Sept. 24.

In addition, the Vatican Dicastery for the Laity, Family, and Life maintains its appointment of Fr. Gianfranco Ghirlanda, S.J., as the pontifical assistant for canonical matters relating to Memores Domini.

Ghirlanda, a specialist in canon law, was previously appointed by the dicastery in June 2020 to guide the revision of the association’s statutes.

Fr. Luigi Giussani, Communion and Liberation’s late founder, helped to establish the Memores Domini in 1964 for lay members dedicated to “living the Gospel in the world.”

The Pontifical Council for the Laity recognized the Memores Domini as an international association of the faithful in 1988.

Four female members of Memores Domini worked in Benedict XVI’s papal household and also moved with him to the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery after his retirement.

Archbishop Santoro will take over governance of the association starting Sept. 25, when the current general government of the association will be dissolved.

Thirty-seven years ago, Santoro was asked by Giussani to help Communion and Liberation in Brazil as a fidei donum priest, a diocesan priest sent to carry out a temporary service.

Santoro then became responsible for Communion and Liberation in Latin America from 1988 to 1996.

Benedict XVI later appointed Santoro as the metropolitan archbishop of the southern Italian city of Taranto, Puglia, in 2011.

Since then, the 74-year-old bishop has also taken on a leadership position in the Italian bishops’ conference as president of the bishops’ social justice commission.

Italian media reported in 2015 that Santoro wrote to Pope Francis after the pope gave a speech to Communion and Liberation members in which he spoke about what it means to be faithful to one’s charism.

“Faithfulness to the charism does not mean ‘to petrify it’ -- the devil is the one who ‘petrifies,’ do not forget. Faithfulness to the charism does not mean to write it on a parchment and frame it,” Francis said.

“Fr. Giussani would never forgive you if you lost the liberty and transformed yourselves into museum guides or worshippers of ashes. Pass on the flame of the memory of that first encounter and be free,” he said.

After the speech, Santoro reportedly replied to the pope in a letter that thanked him for his words on charisms, with the comment that the “Jesuits have made more mistakes in their admirable history as missionaries and saints than us.”

Pope Francis met with representatives of lay Catholic associations, movements, and new communities last week at the Vatican, and gave a speech warning that the desire for power and recognition are temptations that could hinder their call to serve the Church.

The pope underlined that governance in the Church is “nothing but a call to serve.”

He highlighted the Vatican decree issued on June 11 that set term limits for the leaders of international associations of the faithful and new communities. The pope said that it was implemented because “the reality of the last few decades has shown us the need for the changes.”

“The exercise of government within associations and movements is a theme that is particularly close to my heart, especially considering ... the cases of abuse of various kinds that have also occurred in these realities and which always find their root in abuse of power,” Pope Francis.

“Not infrequently the Holy See, in recent years, has had to intervene, starting not easy processes of reorganization. And I think not only of these very bad situations, which make noise; but also to the diseases that come from the weakening of the foundational charism, which becomes lukewarm and loses the capacity of attraction.”

Pope Francis meets with newly elected Armenian Catholic patriarch

Patriarch Raphaël Bedros XXI Minassian. / Courtesy photo.

Vatican City, Sep 24, 2021 / 06:15 am (CNA).

Pope Francis met Friday with the newly elected patriarch of the Armenian Catholic Church.

Patriarch Raphaël Bedros XXI Minassian was elected as the 21st Catholicos-Patriarch of Cilicia of Armenian Catholics during the Eastern Catholic Church’s synod in Rome this week.

The 74-year-old succeeds Patriarch Gregory Peter XX Ghabroyan, who died last May at the age of 86.

“The election of Your Beatitude took place at a time when people are particularly tested by various challenges,” Pope Francis wrote in a letter to the patriarch on Sept. 23.

“I am thinking of the sufferings of Syria and Lebanon -- countries where the Church of Cilicia of the Armenians is present -- as well as of the pandemic, which is still far from being overcome in many parts of the world.”

The pope wrote that he wished “to join in the joy” of the Armenian Catholic Church and the universal Church at the election of the new patriarch, to which Pope Francis said he gladly granted the required ecclesiastical communion in accordance with tradition.

Before his election as patriarch, Minassian served as the bishop of Armenian Catholics in Eastern Europe since 2011.

He told CNA earlier this year that he felt uncomfortable being addressed as “Your Excellency.”

“I leave everything to divine providence because I’m a very simple clergy working for the Church,” he explained. “‘Excellency,’ etc., are for other people, not for me,” he said in an interview last January.

As patriarch, Raphaël is now responsible for the more than 700,000 members of the Armenian Catholic Church throughout the world.

The Armenian Catholic Church is one of 23 Eastern Catholic Churches sui iuris [of its own right] and in full communion with the Catholic Church under the leadership of the pope.

On the day of the patriarch’s meeting with the pope, Sept. 24, the delegation of Armenian Catholics that accompanied him prayed in St. Peter’s Basilica and sang a hymn in front of the tomb of St. Peter.

The main cathedral of the Patriarch of Cilicia is the Cathedral of St. Elias and St. Gregory the Illuminator, in Beirut.

Minassian was born to an Armenian family in Lebanon on Oct. 24, 1946. He was ordained in 1973 in Beirut as a priest of the Patriarchal Congregation of Bzommar, an Armenian Catholic religious congregation of priests founded in 1750.

From 1990 to 2006, he served as a pastor in California, where he helped to create a foundation supporting humanitarian projects in Armenia. He also initiated the construction of St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Catholic Church in Glendale.

In 2005, he was appointed leader of the Armenian Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate of Jerusalem and Amman. In 2009, he established perpetual Eucharistic adoration at the church marking the Fourth Station of the Way of the Cross on the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem.

When he was appointed as bishop of Armenian Catholics in Eastern Europe nine years ago, he decided to prioritize the Catholic Church’s social and spiritual mission.

He told CNA that Armenian Catholics show the utmost respect for members of the Armenian Apostolic Church, one of the six ancient Oriental Orthodox Churches and Armenia’s national church.

"There is no difference in the proclamation of the faith between the Armenian Catholic Church and the Armenian Apostolic Church. They have the same creed. They have the same liturgy. They have the same prayer,” he said.

He added that, while some clergy emphasized the differences between the two communions, “we don’t have any difficulty or any problematic situation working with everybody and assisting everybody.”

In Pope Francis’ letter to the patriarch, the pope encouraged Armenian Catholics to walk to meet the “Crucified One who is Risen.”

“We know the Armenian people as experts in suffering because of the many trials throughout the more than 1,700 years of Christian history, but also because of its inexhaustible capacity to flourish and bear fruit, through the holiness and wisdom of its saints and martyrs,” the pope wrote.

“The Church which Your Beatitude has been called to lead is fully inserted in the affairs of the Armenian people, preserving their memory and traditions, and at the same time deeply linked to the Successor of the Apostle Peter: I entrust to you the care of the younger generations, the promotion of vocations, and the wise harmony that you must be able to find among the different branches of your community,” he said.

Pope Francis confirms Cardinal Woelki in post after apostolic visitation of Germany’s Cologne archdiocese

Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki of Cologne. / Jochen Rolfes/Archdiocese of Cologne.

Cologne, Germany, Sep 24, 2021 / 04:25 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has ruled that Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki should remain in charge of Germany’s Cologne archdiocese after a Vatican investigation into his handling of abuse cases, the Holy See announced on Friday.

The Vatican said on Sept. 24 that the pope had asked the 65-year-old cardinal to continue leading the archdiocese in western Germany after a period of leave, reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

The statement explained that the investigation had found no evidence that Woelki acted unlawfully in relation to abuse cases.

“Nevertheless, Cardinal Woelki has also made major mistakes in his approach to the issue of coming to terms with abuse overall, especially at the level of communication,” it said.

“This has contributed significantly to a crisis of confidence in the archdiocese that has disturbed many of the faithful.”

The Holy See noted that the pope and Woelki had “a long conversation” last week.

It said: “The Holy Father is counting on Cardinal Woelki, acknowledging his loyalty to the Holy See and his concern for the unity of the Church.”

“At the same time, it is obvious that the archbishop and the archdiocese need a time of pause, renewal and reconciliation. This has prompted Pope Francis to grant Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, at his own request, a period of spiritual leave, beginning in mid-October until the start of Lent next year.”

“Until his return, [Cologne auxiliary bishop] Rolf Steinhäuser, as apostolic administrator sede plena [while the post remains filled, rather than vacant], will ensure the proper administration and, above all, that the archdiocese, for its part, finds itself in a spiritual process of reconciliation and renewal.”

In a Sept. 24 statement, Woelki said: “I go this way with the clear message of the Holy Father that we have cleared up seriously and comprehensively and have not covered up anything. I would like to ask you to pray for the archdiocese and for me in the coming weeks. I also promise you my fervent prayer.”

Steinhäuser commented: “I have great respect for the magnitude of the task. We will continue the path of reconciliation in the archdiocese of Cologne already initiated by Cardinal Woelki.”

Pope Francis ordered the apostolic visitation in May amid fierce criticism of the archdiocese’s handling of abuse cases.

The archdiocese said in a May 28 statement that the pope’s apostolic visitors would evaluate “possible mistakes” made by Woelki.

The apostolic visitors were Cardinal Anders Arborelius of Stockholm, Sweden, and Bishop Johannes van den Hende of Rotterdam, president of the Dutch bishops’ conference.

“During the first half of June, the Holy See’s envoys will visit the archdiocese to get a comprehensive picture of the complex pastoral situation in the archdiocese,” the statement said.

It added that the visitors would also examine possible errors committed by Archbishop Stefan Heße of Hamburg, who was Cologne archdiocese’s vicar general from 2012 to 2015, and the Cologne auxiliaries Bishop Dominikus Schwaderlapp and Bishop Ansgar Puff.

The apostolic nunciature in Berlin announced on Sept. 15 that the pope had asked Heße to remain as archbishop of Hamburg, northern Germany.

Commenting on Schwaderlapp and Puff on Sept. 24, the Holy See said: “In the case of both bishops, there are isolated deficiencies in the handling of procedures in their previous responsibilities, but not an intention to cover up abuse or ignore those affected.”

“Bishop Ansgar Puff will resume his regular ministry immediately. Bishop Dominikus Schwaderlapp has asked to be allowed to work for one year as a pastor in the Archdiocese of Mombasa, in Kenya, before returning to his ministry as auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Cologne. The Holy Father has granted this request.”

Cologne archdiocese said that Puff would donate part of his salary to a fund for those affected and continue to work in pastoral care for the homeless.

Woelki said in December 2020 that he had asked Pope Francis to review the decisions he took regarding an accused priest -- identified only as “Pastor O.” -- in 2015.

Woeki, who was appointed archbishop of Cologne in 2014, has faced calls to resign since the archdiocese controversially declined to publish a report by the Munich law firm Westphal Spilker Wastl.

In January 2019, the archdiocese commissioned Westpfahl Spilker Wastl to examine relevant personnel files from 1975 onwards to determine “which personal, systemic or structural deficits were responsible in the past for incidents of sexual abuse being covered up or not being punished consistently.”

After lawyers advising the archdiocese raised concerns about “methodological deficiencies” in the law firm’s study, Woelki commissioned Cologne-based criminal law expert Professor Björn Gercke to write a new report.

The 800-page Gercke Report was published in March. It covers the period from 1975 to 2018 and examines 236 files in detail with the aim of identifying failures and violations of the law, as well as those responsible for them.

In June, Pope Francis declined the resignation of another German Church leader, Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising.

The 67-year-old cardinal wrote to Pope Francis in May, offering to resign amid the fallout from the clerical abuse crisis in Germany.

Marx is a member of the pope’s Council of Cardinals and the coordinator of the Vatican Council for the Economy. Until last year, he served as the chairman of the German bishops’ conference.

In a June 10 letter to the cardinal, the pope wrote: “We will not be saved by the prestige of our Church, which tends to conceal its sins; we will not be saved by the power of money or the opinion of the media (so often we are too dependent on them).”

“We will be saved by opening the door to the Only One who can do it and confessing our nakedness: ‘I have sinned,’ ‘we have sinned’... and weeping, and stammering as best we can that ‘depart from me, for I am a sinner,’ a legacy that the first pope left to the popes and bishops of the Church.”