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Gibraltar to hold referendum vote to legalize abortion

Liudmila Fadzeyeva/Shutterstock

Rome Newsroom, Jun 18, 2021 / 06:30 am (CNA).

The people of Gibraltar will vote in a referendum next week on a bill that would legalize abortion in the small British territory.

The referendum vote was postponed from March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic and will now take place on June 24.

Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory located at the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula. Its northern border is with Spain, which asserts a claim to the territory.

Gibraltar has a total population of around 32,000. It has one Catholic diocese and an estimated 25,000 Catholics.

An aerial view of Gibraltar. / Adam Cli (CC BY-SA 4.0).
An aerial view of Gibraltar. / Adam Cli (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Abortion is illegal in Gibraltar and punishable by up to life imprisonment. It is permitted only if the life of the mother is at risk.

In 2019, the Gibraltar Parliament passed the Crimes (Amendment) Act 2019, which would legalize abortion in Gibraltar up to 12 weeks if the woman’s mental or physical health are considered at risk or if she would face grave injury.

Abortion would also be permitted at any time if the child has a fatal fetal abnormality.

Gibraltarians will vote on whether to allow the Crimes (Amendment) Act 2019 to come into force.

The Gibraltar Pro-Life Movement has opposed the bill and is running the “Save Babies, Vote No” campaign.

Around 500 people attended the group’s March for Life on June 15, where campaigners said that abortion is not the solution, noting the importance of helping people in difficult situations, including with better mental health services.

Churches in the Catholic Diocese of Gibraltar are hosting holy hours and other prayer events for the intention of protecting unborn life.

HOPE, a support group for people who have experienced miscarriage and stillbirth, is leading a prayer novena to all the angels and saints for the protection of life in Gibraltar.

One parish will hold 12 hours of Eucharistic adoration on June 19 and the Institute of Christ the King has organized a 24-hour rosary relay before the Blessed Sacrament on the day of the referendum vote.

Thief returns relics of Polish Catholic saint who inspired Pope John Paul II

St. Albert Chmielowski. / Public Domain.

Krakow, Poland, Jun 18, 2021 / 05:30 am (CNA).

A thief on Friday returned the relics of a 19th-century Polish saint who inspired St. John Paul II and apologized for taking them.

St. Joseph’s Church in the Podgórze district of Kraków, southern Poland, announced on its Facebook page June 18 that the relics of St. Albert Chmielowski had been safely returned.

It said: “Today, just before 7 a.m. the stolen relics of St. Brother Albert returned to our Sanctuary. The perpetrator of the theft brought them personally and apologized for the situation. Thanks be to God! Thank you for your prayers!”

The parish reported the theft on June 11. “Let us pray for conversion and repentance for the perpetrator,” it said on Facebook.

In a newsletter dated June 13, it told parishioners: “We regret to inform you that last Tuesday after 9 a.m. a reliquary with the relics of St. Brother Albert was stolen from the Apostles of Mercy Altar.”

Chmielowski -- known as Brat Albert (Brother Albert) in Poland -- was born into a wealthy aristocratic family in 1845. He was injured at the age of 18 while participating in an uprising against Russian forces. His leg was amputated without an anesthetic.

He studied art and became a well-known painter in Kraków. But feeling a call to help those in need, he abandoned the art world, becoming a Secular Franciscan and taking the name Albert.

In 1887, he founded the Brothers of the Third Order of St. Francis, Servants of the Poor (Albertine Brothers). In 1891, he founded the Albertine Sisters. Both branches were dedicated to service of the poor and homeless.

Brother Albert died on Christmas Day 1916.

In 1949, the future Pope John Paul II wrote a play about Albert called “Our God’s Brother.” It was made into a film in 1997, directed by Krzysztof Zanussi.

The Polish pope recalled that when he was considering the priesthood he drew inspiration from Albert’s decision to leave the art world for a life of radical service.

John Paul II beatified Albert in 1983 and canonized him six years later, on Nov. 12, 1989. His feast day is June 17.

Myanmar military arrest Catholic priest amid crackdown

The flag of Burma (Myanmar). / Creative Photo Corner/Shutterstock.

Rome Newsroom, Jun 18, 2021 / 04:00 am (CNA).

A Burmese Catholic priest was arrested this week after the military raided his residence in the western part of the country.

Fr. Michael Aung Ling and a student boarder were arrested in the small town of Kanpetlet, Chin State, June 16 on accusations of providing food to a civil resistance group, the Chinland Defense Force (CDF).

According to Vatican News, Ling was questioned and made to sign a document promising not to support opposition forces, before he was released around 11 hours later.

The CDF is one of the resistance forces which has opposed the military coup in Burma.

In the raid, the military also seized bags of rice and food stored in the house owned by the parish. The food is used to feed the students who board there, Agenzia Fides reported.

The Diocese of Hakha, where the church is located, has a population of 700,000, with 35,000 Catholics. Forty percent of the population is Protestant.

The death toll continues to rise in the predominantly Buddhist Southeast Asian country, officially known as Myanmar, where security forces have fired on people protesting against the Feb. 1 coup.

The advocacy group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners estimates that 865 people have died in the crackdown.

There have been other reports this month of priests being arrested and questioned by the military, as well as attacks on Catholic churches.

The country’s Catholic bishops issued a statement June 11 appealing for peace, a humanitarian corridor in the conflict zones, and respect for the sanctity of places of worship.

The bishops also asked the Catholic dioceses of Burma “to launch into a period of intense prayer, seeking compassion in the hearts of all and peace to this nation” with daily Mass, adoration, and the rosary.

“Peace is still possible. Peace is the way,” they wrote.

Ireland’s religious education teachers concerned by bullying of practicing Catholic students

Unsplash.

Dublin, Ireland, Jun 18, 2021 / 03:30 am (CNA).

Religious Education teachers in Ireland have expressed concern that bullies are targeting practicing Catholic students.

Their concerns emerged June 15 in a meeting of the Oireachtas (Irish parliament) Joint Committee on Education, Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation, and Science.

Sociology professor James O’Higgins Norman noted in an opening statement that much bullying behavior was driven by issues of identity.

“In terms of identity, a recent study at our Centre found that teachers of Religious Education have specific concerns about students who are practicing Catholics being targeted for bullying more than those who do not practice a religion,” said O’Higgins Norman, who holds the UNESCO Chair on Tackling Bullying in Schools and Cyberspace at Dublin City University (DCU).

He was referring to a research report produced by DCU’s Anti-Bullying Centre. The study is entitled “Inclusive Religious Education: The Voices of Religious Education Teachers in Post Primary Schools in Ireland: Identity, bullying, and inclusion.”

Ireland’s post-primary students are aged from 11 to 16 years old.

A DCU spokesperson told CNA that the report, written by Amalee Meehan and Derek Laffan, was currently awaiting publication and was likely to be available at the end of summer.

In his address to the Oireachtas joint committee, O’Higgins Norman recommended “awareness raising of the vulnerability of students based on identity, for example practicing Catholics, LGBTQ+, Ethnicity, etc.”

A 2016 census found that 78.3% of Ireland’s population identified as Catholic, the lowest level recorded. The highest level recorded was in 1961, when 94.9% of people described themselves as Catholic.

Pittsburgh group calls for same-sex blessings 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sharonell Fulton / Becket

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CNA stock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Costa Rican bishop calls Catholics to witness to faith in public life

Kzenon/Shutterstock.

Quesada, Costa Rica, Jun 17, 2021 / 16:38 pm (CNA).

The Bishop of Ciudad Quesada on Tuesday called on the faithful not to hide their faith in private, but to live it publicly and to share it with others, following the teaching of the Catholic Church.

On his June 15 "Fermento" program, Bishop José Manuel Garita Herrera recalled that the Catechism of the Catholic Church calls the faithful “to confess their baptismal faith before men.”

The bishop explained that “faith is not something to hide in private, since faith is a living experience that impels us and encourages us to share with others the event of Jesus Christ, who died and rose, who gave himself up for us to give us salvation.”

Referring to his second pastoral letter, the bishop said that "the values of faith must permeate the hearts and minds of all the baptized", because "only in this way will their words and works be credible, worthy of faith, consistent and capable of questioning the current paradigms about one’s personal identity.”

Bishop Garita lamented that "there are not a few so-called Catholics who practice or preach things contrary to the Magisterium."

The Bishop of Ciudad Quesada said that as Saint John Paul II taught in his 1990 encyclical Redemptoris missio, "all the lay faithful must dedicate part of their time to the Church, living their own faith with coherence."

Bishop Garita advised the faithful that "when current trends and ideologies of the world move us to extinguish or hide the faith, or to live it only in private, we must remember that we can and must live it and profess it in public."

He affirmed that Catholics can do so "not only because of the conviction of our beliefs, but because it is a fundamental human right by virtue of religious freedom," and noted that Pope Francis taught in his 2020 encyclical Fratelli tutti that faith moves the Catholic to be a witness to the love of Christ for all humanity.

“If we consider ourselves witnesses” of the love of Christ, Bishop Garita continued, “we could make great contributions to society, in respect for human dignity, in the search for the common good, in the practice of love in solidarity as did the first Christians who were recognized by their gestures and detachment, because they remained united and witnesses to their faith.”

 “Having that correspondence between what we believe and what we do is what will allow us to show ourselves as true witnesses of the love of Jesus Christ; It will allow us to show the Church which he built, in which we, as its members, are called to preach the Good News in words and actions,” he stressed.

Finally, the Costa Rican bishop recalled the words of Benedict XVI in his 2005 encyclical Deus caritas est, explaining that the very decision to be a Christian does not arise from a mere idea, but is born from the encounter with Christ, who is Love, and therefore, He is the origin of our faith confessed in baptism.

“We have come to believe in God's love: in these words the Christian can express the fundamental decision of his life. Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.,” Benedict wrote.

"We Catholics do not believe in something, we believe in someone, that someone is Jesus Christ, whom we confess as our Lord and Savior," Bishop Garita emphasized.

“May the God of life help us to be courageous, determined and consistent in living and witnessing our faith; May we show the option for the Gospel and be true witnesses of the saving teaching that we have received from the moment of baptism,”  he concluded.

Colombian diocese condemns car bombing at army base

The flag of Colombia. / Politicnico Grancolombiano Departamento de Comunicaciones via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Cucuta, Colombia, Jun 17, 2021 / 15:49 pm (CNA).

The Diocese of Cúcuta has condemned Wednesday’s attack carried out against the 30th Brigade of the National Army, and warned that hatred and revenge create a maelstrom of violence.

A car bomb exploded June 16 at the military base in Cúcuta, injuring 36 people.

Bishop José Libardo Garcés Monsalve of Malaga-Soata, who is also serving as apostolic administrator of Cúcuta, said that the Cúcuta diocese "resolutely rejects all acts of violence" and that the attack causes "terror, pain, uncertainty and mistrust in the Colombian people."

"We convey our deepest and sincere feelings of solidarity and closeness to the families and victims of the attack, and we have already entrusted their care and speedy recovery to the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the patriarch Saint Joseph," he added.

Bishop Garcés made "an urgent call to the perpetrators of these events" to not  get carried away by the whirlwind of violence that "is stirred up with hatred and revenge, and rather with the participation of all, we may find a way out through dialogue, forgiveness and reconciliation.”

May Cúcuta “continue to be the place where fraternity and charity, love and respect for life are our greatest bastions in the achievement of peace. and the progress of the communities present in this border region,” he prayed.

The bishop also invited all people of good will "to pray ever more earnestly and with perseverance," asking God to keep Colombia "in the heart of his Son, a place where you learn to love and forgive."

The commander of the Army's 2nd Division, General Marco Evangelista Pinto, confirmed to the Colombian news outlet Noticias Caracol that the explosions occurred inside the garrison, very close to the entrance, mainly affecting the barracks and offices.

In a statement to the press, Defense Minister Diego Molano "vehemently condemned this vile act that intended to inflict bodily harm on our soldiers." Molana said the initial hypothesis is that the National Liberation Army, a left-wing guerrilla group, “is behind this insane and vile act.”

"The involvement of dissidents of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) is also a subject of the investigation," he added.

In January 2019 a car bomb attack at a police academy in Bogota killed 21. A vehicle carrying 175 pounds of pentolite, a military-grade explosive, accelerated into the General Santander police academy after being stopped at a checkpoint. The pentolite detonated when the SUV struck a wall. The academy was holding a promotion ceremony for cadets.

Car bombings were once not uncommon in the Colombian conflict, which has been ongoing among the government, right-wing paramilitaries, and left-wing guerrillas since 1964.

The conflict has abated since a 2016 peace deal between the government and the largest guerrilla group, the FARC.

The Colombian president has not taken up peace talks with the ELN.

Supreme Court again upholds Affordable Care Act

Rena Schild/Shutterstock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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