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Planned Parenthood getting more government funding, despite defunding efforts

Thu, 10/22/2020 - 11:00 PM

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 22, 2020 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- Recent annual reports show that federal funding to Planned Parenthood has increased, despite efforts by the Trump administration to eliminate federal funding for the abortion provider over the last four years. One healthcare funding expert told CNA that without congressional action, new avenues of federal funding for abortion providers could soon be made available by pro-choice policy makers. 

While campaigning for president, Donald Trump made a series of commitments to pro-lifers in September 2016 that included “defunding Planned Parenthood as long as they continue to perform abortions.”

Planned Parenthood is barred by law from using federal funds—largely in the form of Medicaid reimbursements for services—to cover elective abortions. However, pro-life critics of the organization claim that federal dollars still allow the abortion provider to free up other resources for abortions.

Planned Parenthood’s overall revenue has gone up in recent years, from nearly $1.3 billion in 2014-15 to more than $1.6 billion in 2017-18 and again in 2018-19, largely through increased government funding and donations from the private sector.

“Private contributions and bequests” have increased from $353.5 million in FY 2015 to its peak of $630.8 million in FY 2018, before dipping slightly to $591.3 million for FY 2019.

Federal funding of Planned Parenthood affiliates increased from the 2018 fiscal year to the 2019 fiscal year, and has gone up overall since FY 2015.

In its annual report for the 2018-19 fiscal year, Planned Parenthood said its affiliates received more than $616 million in taxpayer dollars—a 9% increase from the $563.8 million total the year before, and a 13% increase from two years before.

Planned Parenthood affiliates mainly receive taxpayer dollars from “health services reimbursements” through Medicaid and Title X programs, Melanie Israel, a research associate in the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation, told CNA, although since 2019 abortion providers have been ineligible for Title X funding. 

The Trump administration has the authority to strip some federal funding from abortion providers, Israel told CNA, and has already done so through changes to the Title X family planning program.

In 2019, the Trump administration effectively boxed out Planned Parenthood from Title X funding by updating the requirements for recipients. Under the new rule, recipients of Title X grants must not be co-located with abortion clinics and cannot refer for abortions—requirements that Planned Parenthood clinics refused to abide by.

Rather than comply with the regulations, Planned Parenthood withdrew from the program in August of 2019. Since that act occurred after the end of the fiscal year, the forfeited revenue would not necessarily be reflected in the numbers in its latest annual report.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, for his part, has said he would reinstate the Obama administration’s Title X policy, allowing clinics who refer for abortions to once again receive Title X grants.

Planned Parenthood affiliates in some states are also the beneficiaries of state funding.

For example, Planned Parenthood of Northern California reported receiving more than $26.5 million from the state’s family planning office alone, in the 2020 fiscal year. It also reported more than $14.3 million in revenues from Medicare and the state’s Medi-Cal program, and more than $1.3 million in government grants.

Planned Parenthood affiliates also received as much as $150 million in emergency PPP loans earlier this year during the onset of the coronavirus pandemic—despite congressional stipulations that were intended to bar Planned Parenthood from the loans.

To limit federal funding of Planned Parenthood, the government can approve waivers for states to effectively block abortion providers from Medicaid funding, Israel said. 

The Trump administration has allowed states to refuse Medicaid funding of Planned Parenthood, reversing a 2016 Obama administration rule that said states could not do so simply on the basis of a recipient being an abortion provider.

But Israel said that in her view, Congress also needs to use its authority to strip federal funding from abortions in other areas through a broad ban on abortion funding—something it has not done yet.

Federal funding of elective abortions through Medicaid reimbursements is prohibited by the Hyde Amendment, a policy enacted into law regularly since 1976 as an attachment to annual appropriations bills for the Department of Health and Human Services.

The amendment is not permanent law, and Democrats have signaled their intent to reverse the policy— House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently promised to not include Hyde protections in spending bills next year.

Some Congressmen have attempted to make Hyde protections more durable. Legislation authored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) in 2017 and again in 2019 would make the Hyde Amendment permanent, and extend its protections to appropriations bills for all federal agencies. It would also forbid abortions at federal facilities, and block federally-subsidized health plans under the Affordable Care Act from covering abortions.

Members of Congress have also tried passing laws to fully defund Planned Parenthood. The House in 2017 barred Medicaid reimbursements at Planned Parenthood clinics in its major health care bill, but the legislation died in the Senate. The Senate in 2018 failed to pass an amendment by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) to defund the organization.

Amid the debate of how to defund Planned Parenthood, the number of abortions performed by the organization has gone up, even as the national abortion rate has declined, Israel said.

In the 2018 fiscal year, Planned Parenthood affiliates collectively reported performing 345,672 abortions—the organization’s highest number of abortions on record, she said. 

Meanwhile, the organization’s clients for contraception, prenatal services, and cancer screenings have all declined between 2006 and 2018, as documented in a recent Heritage report.

Statues of Christ, Mary toppled outside parishes in New York, Arizona

Thu, 10/22/2020 - 10:15 PM

CNA Staff, Oct 22, 2020 / 04:15 pm (CNA).- Several religious statues— including two of Mary and one of Christ— outside Catholic churches were damaged in overnight attacks earlier this week, the latest of numerous acts of vandalism on Catholic churches and art this year in the US.

Police in New York City are investigating a vandalism attack against a statue of Mary outside Resurrection Catholic Church in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Marine Park, which is believed to have occurred overnight Sunday.

A parishioner who approached the statue to pray Monday morning noticed the statue’s left hand was cut off, and discovered a large crack in the statue’s head, ABC7 reported.

The church does not currently have a security camera system, but told ABC7 that they plan to install one. The suspect or suspects are still at large.

The damage in New York is at least the third documented act of vandalism against a statue of Mary in the city this year.

In July, at Cathedral Prep School and Seminary in Queens, an individual approached a 100-year-old statue of Mary shortly after 3 a.m. painted the word “IDOL” down its length.

On Sept. 11 at the Shrine of Our Lady of Solace, located in Coney Island, a man climbed over a fence, pulled a statue of Mary out of the ground, and threw the statue onto the sidewalk. The base of the statue was damaged by the vandalism.

According to the NYPD, the man is facing charges of criminal mischief. The NYPD is offering a reward of $2,500 for any information about his identity.

Likely the same evening as the vandalism against the Brooklyn statue, vandals knocked down a statue of Mary and a statue of Christ outside St. Germaine Catholic Church in Prescott Valley, Arizona, about 90 miles north of Phoenix.

The assailants also destroyed a bed of flowers and support poles for recently planted trees surrounding the Christ statue.

According to the Prescott Valley PD, the estimated cost to repair or replace the statue of Mary is $1,500. The statue of Christ did not sustain any damage, the police said Oct. 20.

Prescott Valley PD is offering $300 to anyone who has information that leads to an arrest in the case, local media reported.

Numerous attacks on Catholic art and churches in the US have been documented throughout 2020— including three separate desecrations of Marian statues in the same weekend in July.

A statue of the Virgin Mary was beheaded in Gary, Indiana on the evening of July 2 or morning of July 3.

On July 11, a Florida man was arrested after he reportedly admitted to crashing a minivan into Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Ocala, Florida, and then setting it on fire while parishioners were inside.

Also on July 11, a 249-year-old California mission founded by St. Junipero Serra burned in a fire being investigated as arson.

The same day, a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary was attacked and beheaded at a parish in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Three days later, vandals beheaded a statue of Christ outside Good Shepherd Catholic Church, in Southwest Miami-Dade County, the same day that a statue of the Blessed Virgin at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Colorado Springs was tagged with red paint in an act of vandalism.

At Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Bloomingburg, New York, a monument to unborn children killed by abortion was knocked over the weekend of July 18.

In late August, vandals beheaded a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Holy Family Parish in Citrus Heights, California. A statue of the Ten Commandments, placed at the parish “in dedication to all those who have lost their life through abortion,” was grafittied with a swastika.

In September, a man went on an hours-long vandalism spree at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Tioga, Louisiana, breaking at least six windows, beating several metal doors, and breaking numerous statues around the parish grounds.

The same month, vandals toppled a statue of St. Therese outside St. Therese of the Child Jesus Catholic Parish in Midvale, Utah.

Later in September, a man was charged for smashing a 90-year-old statue of Christ inside St. Patrick Cathedral in El Paso, Texas.

Also in September, a man wielded a baseball bat on the grounds of a Catholic seminary in Texas and damaged a crucifix and several doors, but caused no harm to seminary students.

Throughout the summer, numerous depictions of St. Junipero Serra, mostly in California, have been forcibly pulled down by mobs of protestors.

A crowd of about 100 people tore down another St. Junípero Serra statue in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park the evening of June 19. Rioters pulled down a statue of St. Junipero Serra in Sacramento on July 4.

A Oct. 12 protest at Mission San Rafael Arcangel began peacefully but then turned violent, as participants defaced the Junipero Serra statue of the saint with red paint before dragging it to the ground with nylon straps and ropes.

Argentine archbishop and Pope Francis advisor says 'civil union' not mistranslated in documentary

Thu, 10/22/2020 - 9:04 PM

CNA Staff, Oct 22, 2020 / 03:04 pm (CNA).-  

Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernandez, a long-time theological advisor to Pope Francis, has weighed in on the meaning of a phrase used by the pope in a video clip in “Francesco,” a documentary released Wednesday in Rome. The phrase, which is translated as “civil unions,” is at the center of a series of controversies about the documentary.

“Francesco,” a newly released documentary on the life and ministry of Pope Francis, made global headlines this week, because the pope appears to call for civil union legislation, in contrast to the positions of his predecessors.

“What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered,” the pope is seen to say in the documentary, during a scene in which Pope Francis talks about pastoral care for those who identify as LGBT.

The pope is seen to use the Spanish-language phrase “convivencia civil,” which is translated in the film’s subtitles as “civil union.” After some Spanish-speaking priests said the translation was inaccurate, Archbishop Fernandez, a theologian who has long been close to the pope, said that the pope’s phrase is substantially equivalent to the phrase “civil union.”

Fr. Augustino Torres, CFR, a New York-based priest who works in youth ministry, posted a video on Wednesday saying he believes “the pope was misunderstood, misquoted, misinterpreted.”

In an October 21 post on Instagram, Torres said the original Spanish makes clear that the pope’s comments are not an endorsement of civil unions.

The priest said the phrase that has been translated by the media as “civil union” is actually better translated as “law of civil convivience” or “civil coexistence.”

By using this phrase, Torres said, Pope Francis is talking about some kind of legal protection, which the priest did not specify, but not a homosexual civil union.

But Fernández, Archbishop of La Plata, Argentina, said Wednesday that the pope’s term connotes a civil union as the term is commonly understood.

The archbishop posted on Facebook that before he became pope, then-Cardinal Bergoglio “always recognized that, without calling it ‘marriage,’ in fact there are very close unions between people of the same sex, which do not in themselves imply sexual relations, but a very intense and stable alliance.”

“They know each other thoroughly, they share the same roof for many years, they take care of each other, they sacrifice for each other. Then it may happen that they prefer that in an extreme case or illness they do not consult their relatives, but that person who knows their intentions in depth. And for the same reason they prefer that it be that person who inherits all their assets, etc.”

“This can be contemplated in the law and is called ‘civil union’ [unión civil] or ‘law of civil coexistence’ [ley de convivencia civil], not marriage.”

“What the Pope has said on this subject is what he also maintained when he was the Archbishop of Buenos Aires,” Fernández added.

“For him, the expression ‘marriage’ has a precise meaning and only applies to a stable union between a man and a woman open to communicating life…there is a word, ‘marriage,’ that only applies to that reality. Any other similar union requires another name,” the archbishop explained.

Fernandez said this view reflects the pope’s stance as a bishop in Argentina, when he proposed to brother bishops, during a 2010 debate over gay marriage in the country, that accepting civil unions might be a way to prevent the passage of same-sex marriage laws in the country.

The Vatican has not responded to questions about the documentary, or whether the pope’s comments represent his view on civil unions, but the prefect of the Vatican’s communications office, Paolo Ruffini, has seen the documentary and praised it.


Junipero Serra among 'inappropriate' San Francisco school names, district committee says

Thu, 10/22/2020 - 9:01 PM

Denver Newsroom, Oct 22, 2020 / 03:01 pm (CNA).- A San Francisco public school district committee this month recommended that 44 schools with “inappropriate” names be renamed, with Junipero Serra Elementary School near the top of the list.

The district’s superintendent appointed the School Names Advisory Committee in 2018 to assess which schools, if any, ought to be renamed.

Among the committee’s recommendations for schools that ought to change their names were schools named for George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Rooselvelt, Robert Louis Stevenson, John Muir, and Francis Scott Key.

St. Junipero Serra, an 18th-century Franciscan priest and missionary, has been criticized by some activists as a symbol of colonialism and of the abuses that many Native Americans suffered after contact with Europeans. However, historians say Serra protested abuses and sought to fight colonial oppression.

Among the criteria that the committee reportedly used to asses school names were those of "anyone directly involved in the colonization of people, slave owners or participants in enslavement, perpetrators of genocide or slavery, those who exploit workers/people, those who directly oppressed or abused women, children, queer or transgender people, those connected to any human rights or environmental abuse [and] those who are known racists and/or white supremacists and/or espoused racist beliefs."

The panel has requested schools share alternate names by Dec. 18, with the school board voting on proposed new names in January or February of 2021, the Chronicle reported.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed last week criticized the advisory committee’s decision to recommend dozens of school name changes in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement to local media, the school district said the schools are “not required or mandated to participate” in the renaming process.

CNA attempted to contact the principal of Junipero Serra Elementary to ask if the school plans to submit new name recommendations to the district, but did not receive a response.

Serra’s defenders say that he was actually an advocate for native people, noting an episode of his life when he drafted a 33-point “bill of rights” for the Native Americans living in the mission settlements and walking all the way from California to Mexico City to present it to the viceroy.

While many Native peoples did suffer horrific abuse, an archaeologist told CNA earlier this year that activists tend to conflate the abuses the Natives suffered long after Serra’s death with the period when Serra was alive and building the missions.

The saint lends his name to numerous buildings, schools, streets, and parks in California. Activists have led several successful efforts in recent years to expunge Serra’s name from some of them, including at Stanford University.

In 2018, Stanford renamed Serra Mall, a major thoroughfare through campus, “Jane Stanford Way.” The Serra House building and Serra House dorm in 2019 were renamed after Carolyn Lewis Attneave and Sally Ride respectively.

There is another Junipero Serra Elementary school near San Francisco in a different school district, whose name also has come under recent scrutiny. Members of the South San Francisco Unified School District Board of Trustees proposed a change to that elementary school’s name in June. The name has so far remained as it is.

Among the schools recommended for a name change in San Francisco is Diane Feinstein Elementary, named after a longtime and current Democratic Senator.

Abortion-advocacy groups called for Feinstein to step down as ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee after the confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett, claiming that Feinstein, who is pro-choice and has publicly criticized Barrett’s Catholic faith, lent an “appearance of credibility” to proceedings that were “widely out of step with the American people.”

‘The Holy Land changed my life:’ Archbishop Pizzaballa on 30 years in Jerusalem

Thu, 10/22/2020 - 8:00 PM

Rome Newsroom, Oct 22, 2020 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa has concluded his four-year mandate as apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

Since 1990, shortly after his priestly ordination, the Italian bishop and Franciscan friar has lived in the Middle East.

“The Holy Land changed my life. My life of faith also,” the 55-year-old bishop told EWTN News in Rome on Wednesday.

He said: “I arrived there 30 years ago. I didn’t know the languages. I came from a very, very Catholic context and I was suddenly in a context where [Christians] were just 1% of the population.”

“But early on I understood that in this quagmire of religions and political tensions, you can find men and women of faith that can help you to really live your faith in a new way through the holy places, the Scripture, and men of faith,” he said.

The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem is the See of the sui iuris Latin Church of the Holy Land. It is part of the Roman rite. The Latin Patriarchate has not had a patriarch since June 2016.

As apostolic administrator, Pizzaballa oversaw the patriarchate together with auxiliary Bishop Giacinto Marcuzzo, whose resignation, for the ordinary reason of age, was accepted by Pope Francis in August.

Now the Holy Land’s Catholics await the pope’s nomination of a new patriarch and auxiliary bishop.

Pizzaballa told EWTN News he could not share the news of his next position yet, but “in a few days it will be known.”

About the path before him, he said, “for 30 years, for most of my life, I lived in the Holy Land, so I am part of the Holy Land and I continue to be part of it. So we have to remain united in prayer, first of all, in friendship; wherever Providence will bring me, I will bring the Holy Land.”

The archbishop said that Christians in the Holy Land were suffering from the coronavirus pandemic, noting that Jerusalem had already experienced two separate lockdowns.

“And it was very difficult, not only because the health situation of many families but for the economic situation. The consequences of the lockdown is that thousands of families, especially Christian families, now are without jobs, without work,” he explained.

Pilgrimages to the holy sites are a major source of income for Christians, but with borders closed, “pilgrimage is now totally canceled,” he said, making it “a very, very difficult situation for hundreds of families in the Bethlehem area especially, in the Nazareth area, and in Jordan, of course.”

“I don’t think that in less than a year we can have the normal pilgrimage situation we had before,” he said.

Poverty is also growing for Christians in Palestine, who face the same problems due to the pandemic, as well as the inability to enter Israel for work.

After long-standing conflicts in the wider area, such as in Syria, and Iraq, as well as instability and disaster in Lebanon, poverty in Jordan, and the political situation between Israel and Palestine, you can feel that the people of the Holy Land are frustrated, Pizzaballa said.

“All these aspects that are not new, because we are seeing this situation since years, create a lot of frustration and a lot of temptations, temptation to leave, to find their future somewhere else,” he said.

“We try to insist to the population, to tell [them] they have to remain, that they have a vocation to remain. But when they have children and a family, it is difficult to convince them.”

Since he became apostolic administrator in 2016, Pizzaballa said that political tensions had worsened, but a “positive aspect” was that among Christians “we have a better understanding.”

Pope Francis appointed Pizzaballa to the position following his role as head of the Custody of the Holy Land, a province of the Order of Friars Minor which encompasses Israel, Palestine, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Cyprus, and the Dodecanese in Greece, with convents also in other countries.

The Franciscan followed Patriarch Fouad Twal in the Patriarchate of Jerusalem. In 2016, the Latin Patriarchate was facing grave financial difficulties and teetering on bankruptcy from debts amounting to more than $100 million. 

“They have been four difficult years,” Pizzaballa said. “I had a very clear mandate: first to put order in the administration.”

As apostolic administrator, the bishop reorganized the patriarchate’s financial management, put in place new internal and external controls, and created more transparency.

He was able to pay the debt with help from international donations, by cutting expenses, and with some property sales in Nazareth.

The bishop said that he was also given the task of improving the pastoral situation in the Holy Land, including creating more unity among the priests and the different Christian communities in Jordan, Israel, Palestine, and Cyprus.

He wanted to show “what we have in common,” he said. “And to create understanding, trust, among the different communities in the same diocese.”

“In the beginning it was very difficult. But once we have been transparent, I felt that all the community was very supportive and so we could overcome all our problems and turn the page finally,” he said.

US hosts signing of declaration rejecting 'human right' to abortion

Thu, 10/22/2020 - 7:00 PM

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 22, 2020 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- The United States hosted the signing ceremony of the Geneva Consensus Declaration on Thursday. The document rejects the claim that abortion is an international human right. 

“Today we put down a clear marker; no longer can UN agencies reinterpret and misinterpret agreed-upon language without accountability,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar during the ceremony Oct. 22.. 

“Without apology we affirm that governments have the soverign right to make their own laws to protect innocent life and write their regulations on abortion” Azar said. 

“In signing the declaration today, the United States is honored to stand alongside Brazil, Egypt, Hungary, Indonesia, and Uganda, the cross-regional cosponsors for the declaration,” he said. A total of 32 countries have signed onto the declaration. 

Azar called the signing the “high point” of his time leading the department, and noted that countries who have not yet signed the document can still do so. 

“The Geneva Consensus Declaration is a historic document, stating clearly where we as nations stand on women’s health, the family, honoring life, and defending national sovereignty,” said Azar, calling it “much more than a statement of beliefs.” 

“It is a critical and useful tool to defend these principles across all United Nations bodies and in every multilateral setting, using language previously agreed to by member states of those bodies,” he explained.  

The declaration was written partially in response to a “disturbing trend” in the United Nations, he said. 

“With increasing frequency, some rich nations and UN agencies beholden to them are wrongly asserting [that] abortion is a universal human right.” 

Azar said that these policies have the effect of forcing countries to implement “progressive” abortion laws or face the loss of funding or international standing. He accused some nations of having a “myopic focus on a radical agenda that is offensive to many cultures, and derails agreement on women’s health priorities.” 

The coalition of signing countries “will hold multilateral organizations accountable,” he explained, by denouncing these organizations for “promoting positions that can never gain consensus.”  

“We will unequivocally declare that there is no international right to abortion. We will proudly put women’s health first at every stage of life,” he said.  

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also spoke at the signing ceremony, calling the declaration a “deep and personal commitment to protect human dignity” and “the culmination of lots of hard work.” 

Pompeo highlighted the Trump administration’s “unprecedented defense of the unborn abroad,” and said that “the United States has defended the dignity of human life everywhere and always” over the last four years.  

“It’s historic to be here,” he said. “It’s the first time that a multilateral coalition has been built around the issue of defending life.” 

The Geneva Consensus Declaration, said Pompeo, is a “commitment to work together at the UN and in other international settings to achieve tangible results,” something he is “confident” will happen. He added that he was “truly proud” of the work being done. 

Valerie Huber, Special Representative for Global Women's Health at U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), provided background of the declaration. 

The declaration, Huber explained, was intended to be signed at the culmination of the World Health Assembly’s global women’s health summit, which was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We decided to move forward with the declaration now, because accelerating health gains for women cannot wait,” said Huber.

“Supporting the intrinsic value of the family cannot wait. Protecting life born and unborn, and the sovereignty of nations to make their own laws on this issue cannot wait.”

Pope Francis' homosexuality comments heavily edited in documentary, Vatican has no comment on civil unions

Thu, 10/22/2020 - 6:20 PM

CNA Staff, Oct 22, 2020 / 12:20 pm (CNA).-  

“Francesco,” a newly-released documentary on Pope Francis, contains comments from the pope on homosexuality and civil unions. Some of the remarks, however, are the result of editing distinct phrases from a papal interview and presenting them as a cohesive whole.

While filmmaker Evgeny Afineevsky told CNA and other journalists that Pope Francis made comments calling for the passage of civil union laws directly to him, the comments actually appear to come from a 2019 interview of Pope Francis conducted by Mexican journalist Valentina Alazraki.

The pope’s comments on civil unions have not been disputed by the Vatican despite multiple requests for clarity. The remarks were not contained in the published version of Alazraki’s interview, and have not been seen by the public except in “Francesco.”

On Wednesday, however, Fr. Antonio Spadaro, director of the influential journal La Civiltà Cattolica, told journalists that the pope’s remarks on civil unions are excerpted from the 2019 interview, and did not dispute the way in which they were presented in the documentary.

At the same time, a CNA analysis of the interview’s transcript shows that other papal comments on homosexuality featured in “Francesco” were compiled by heavy editing of the 2019 interview’s video footage.

“Francesco” presents Pope Francis saying the following, in remarks about his approach to pastoral care:

“Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family. They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it.”

While the pope did say those words on camera, he did not say them in that order, or use those phrases in immediate proximity.

CNA has bolded the appearance of those words in an excerpted translation of the pope’s remarks during his 2019 interview:

“I was asked a question on a flight - after it made me mad, made me mad for how one news outlet transmitted it - about the familial integration of people with homosexual orientation, and I said, homosexual people have a right to be in the family, people with homosexual orientation have a right to be in the family and parents have the right to recognize that son as homosexual, that daughter as homosexual. Nobody should be thrown out of the family, or be made miserable because of it.”

“Another thing is, I said when you see some signs in the children and from there send them to -  I should have said a ‘professional,’ what came out was ‘psychiatrist.’ I meant to say a professional because sometimes there are signs in adolescence or pre-adolescence that they don’t know if they are homosexually oriented or if it is that the thymus gland didn’t atrophy in time. Who knows, a thousand things, no? So, a professional. The title of the daily paper: ‘The Pope sends homosexuals to the psychiatrist.’ It’s not true!”

“They asked me the same question another time and I repeated it, ‘They are children of God, they have a right to a family, and such.’ Another thing is - and I explained I was wrong with that word, but I meant to say this: When you notice something strange - ‘Ah, it’s strange.’ - No, it’s not strange. Something that is outside of the usual. That is, not to take a little word to annul the context. There, what I said is that they ‘have a right to a family.’ And that doesn’t mean to approve of homosexual acts, not at all.”


After the presentation of those edited remarks, the pope is seen to say in “Francesco” that “What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered. I stood up for that.”

While those remarks seem certainly to come from the Alazraki interview, Francesco director Evgeny Afineevsky has told reporters otherwise, and the section of the Alazraki interview in which they would have come was not included in the published version, and is not available to the public.

But in addition to their context, some have called their meaning into question, suggesting that a phrase used by the pope, “convivencia civil,” was mistranslated by “Francesco” as “civil unions” in the film’s subtitle, and actually suggests a different kind of legal recognition.

But on Wednesday Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernandez, a theologian who has long been close to the pope, suggested that the pope’s phrase is substantially equivalent to the phrase “civil union.”

The archbishop posted on Facebook that before he became the pope, then Cardinal-Bergoglio “always recognized that, without calling it ‘marriage,’ in fact there are very close unions between people of the same sex, which do not in themselves imply sexual relations, but a very intense and stable alliance. They know each other thoroughly, they share the same roof for many years, they take care of each other, they sacrifice for each other. Then it may happen that they prefer that in an extreme case or illness they do not consult their relatives, but that person who knows their intentions in depth. And for the same reason they prefer that it be that person who inherits all their assets, etc. This can be contemplated in the law and is called ‘civil union’ [unión civil] or ‘law of civil coexistence’ [ley de convivencia civil], not marriage.” 



Where China's bishops stand as the Sino-Vatican deal is renewed

Thu, 10/22/2020 - 6:00 PM

Rome Newsroom, Oct 22, 2020 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- As the Sino-Vatican provisional agreement was renewed Thursday, an article in a Vatican newspaper said that two Chinese bishops had been appointed under the “regulatory framework established by the agreement.”

Vatican officials have repeatedly stressed that the accord between China and the Holy See -- which will not expire until Oct. 22, 2022 -- is focused solely on the appointment of bishops.

While the terms of the agreement have been kept confidential, it reportedly allows the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association to choose a slate of nominees for bishop.

An article published by L’Osservatore Romano Oct. 22 said: “The main purpose of the provisional agreement on the appointment of bishops in China is to support and promote the proclamation of the Gospel in those lands, restoring the full and visible unity of the Church … The question of the appointment of bishops is of vital importance for the life of the Church, both locally and universally.”

With this in mind, what do we know about the bishops who have been affected by the Sino-Vatican agreement? Those who were newly appointed under the confidential provisions of the deal, those whose excommunications were lifted after the deal, and the bishops who stepped back from their former leadership roles.

Who was appointed?

Bishop Antonio Yao Shun of Jining, in the Autonomous Region of Inner Mongolia, was the first bishop consecrated in China under the terms of the Sino-Vatican agreement, on Aug. 26, 2019. 

Prior to his appointment, Yao had served as the secretary and later vice director of the liturgical commission overseen by the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and the Council of Chinese Bishops since 1998. He returned to the Diocese of Jining in 2010 to serve as victor general.

Born in Ulanqab in 1965, Yao is a native of Inner Mongolia. He both studied and taught at the national seminary in Beijing. After his ordination to the priesthood in 1991, Yao completed a degree in liturgy in the United States at St. John’s University in Minnesota from 1994 to 1998. He also spent some time pursuing biblical studies in Jerusalem.

Yao’s episcopal motto is “Misericordes sicut pater,” which means “Be merciful as the Father is.”

The New York Times has reported that the Vatican had approved Yao as the successor of Bishop John Liu Shigong in the Diocese of Jining in 2010, but the Chinese government refused to approve him, even after Bishop Liu died in 2017 at the age of 89. 

But Chinese researchers have pointed out that Yao is not one to speak out critically about the Chinese government.

“The Communist Party feels comfortable with him,” said Francesco Sisci, a Beijing-based researcher on Chinese Catholicism told the Times in 2019. “They don’t want someone doing agitprop against them.”

Bishop Stephen Xu Hongwei of Hanzhong, in Shaanxi Province, was ordained a coadjutor bishop on August 28, 2019, at the age of 44. 

He serves the Diocese of Hanzhong as coadjutor to 91-year-old Bishop Louis Yu Runchen. The diocese was divided between underground and state-approved Catholic communities for many years. Yu Runchen was selected by the Chinese Patriotic Association to be bishop without the approval of the Holy See in 1985, a year after the Vatican’s appointment of Bishop Bartholomew Yu Chengti. The Vatican recognized Yu only after the underground bishop died in 2009.

After his ordination in 2002, Xu studied at the Pontifical Urban University in Rome from 2004 to 2008. He undertook further studies in the Diocese of Vancouver, Canada. Upon returning to China in 2010, he was appointed pastor of West Street Cathedral in the Diocese of Hanzhong. 

Xu was a member of a regional Standing Committee of the Chinese People’s Consultative Political Conference -- the consultative political body part of the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front -- in 2012 and 2017, and the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association.

Whose excommunications were lifted? 

With the signing of the provisional agreement between the Holy See and China in Sept. 2018, Pope Francis also lifted the excommunication of seven bishops who had been appointed illicitly by the state-controlled Chinese Patriotic Association. 

They include Bishop Joseph Guo Jincai, 52, of Chengde in Hebei Province. Pope Francis created the Diocese of Chengde in 2019 out of the Dioceses of Jinzhou and Chifeng in 2018, so that Guo could lead his own diocese after his excommunication was lifted. 

Guo participated in the Synod of Bishops in Rome in 2018 and has served three terms as a deputy to the National People’s Congress in Beijing. 

As a member of China’s legislative body, Bishop Guo publicly supported an amendment to eliminate presidential term limits and enshrine “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” in the Chinese constitution in March 2018.

“My position as a national legislator will not and cannot affect my religious service, as China implements the principle of separation of church and state,” Guo told the state-sponsored newspaper Global Times at the National People’s Congress in 2018.

Bishop Vincent Zhan Silu, 61, of Mindong/Funing in Fujian Province. After underground Bishop Joseph Guo Xijin stepped aside to allow him to lead the diocese, Zhan led a delegation of 33 priests from the Diocese of Mindong to participate in a “formation course” at the Central Institute of Socialism, in collaboration with the United Front of Fujian Province, where they listened to presentations on the “sinicization of religion.” 

“We must contribute to the creation of a new reality in the diocese of Mindong and in the Catholic Church of Fujian,” Zhan said after the course, according to Asia News. 

“We will deepen the content of Catholic doctrine in order to foster social harmony, progress and a positive culture. To carry out the sinicization of religion with determination, we will continue to follow a path that conforms to socialist society,” Zhan said in August 2019.

Bishop Paul Lei Shiyin, 56, of Leshan in Chongqing Province. Lei served as an official delegate at the government’s Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference in 2018. He previously served as a vice president of the Patriotic Association. 

After his excommunication was lifted, Lei was a speaker at a 2019 celebration of the Chinese Red Army’s Long March, led by Mao Zedong, in which he spoke of a meeting convened by Mao in a (requisitioned) Catholic priest’s house in Moxi in 1935 as a story of “patriotism of our country’s Catholicism,” according to the Catholic Patriotic Association website. 

Bishop Joseph Huang Bingzhang, 53, of Shantou in Guangdong Province. After he was appointed by the government without papal permission in 2011, Huang became vice president of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association. 

He served as a deputy in the most recent National People’s Congress, as well as the National People’s Congress that took place from 2008 to 2013.

Huang said in 2017 that he would work to actively promote the practice of Catholic patriotism, according to the Chinese Patriotic Association website.

Bishop Joseph Liu Xinhong, 56, of Anqing in Anhui Province. Illicitly ordained in 2006 after the government-controlled Catholic bishops’ conference combined the dioceses of Anqing, Bengbu and Wuhu to form the Anhui diocese -- a restructuring that was not recognized by the Holy See, according to UCA News.

Bishop Joseph Ma Yinglin, 55, of Kunming in Yunnan Province. Ma previously served as secretary for the Council of Catholic Bishops at a time when the government-controlled “episcopal conference” was not recognized by the Holy See. In 2010, Ma was appointed president of the Chinese patriotic association’s bishops’ conference.

Bishop Joseph Yue Fusheng, 56, of Harbin in Heilongjiang Province. Yue was illicitly named bishop of Harbin in 2012 by the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.

Bishop Anthony Tu Shihua of Hanyang and Puqi in Hubei province. Before his death in 2017 at the age of 98, Tu expressed a desire to be reconciled with the Holy See. One of China’s first illicitly named bishops, Tu was appointed without papal mandate in 1959, and later served as rector of the National Seminary in Beijing between 1983 and 1992, and as a leader of the Patriotic Association and the Council of Chinese Bishops. 

Who stepped aside?

Bishop Peter Zhuang Jianjian, 89, of Shantou in Guangdong Province was asked to retire by Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli in 2019 so that Bishop Joseph Huang Bingzhang would be recognized by the Vatican as the Bishop of Shantou.

Bishop Joseph Guo Xijin, 62, of Mindong/Funing in Fujian Province. In October this year, Guo announced that he was retiring to concentrate on prayer because he did not “want to become an obstacle to progress.” Guo was an underground bishop who previously agreed to become an auxiliary bishop so that state-appointed Bishop Zhan Silu would be recognized by the Vatican. “In any circumstance or change, you should never forget God, and neither ignore the Lord’s commandments, nor damage the integrity of faith, nor delay the salvation of the soul, which is the most important thing,” he said in a letter to his diocese Oct. 5.

Who is missing?

Bishop James Su Zhimin, 88, of Baoding in Hebei Province. The whereabouts of Bishop Su, who has spent 24 years in prison, is unknown. He was arrested by Chinese authorities in 1997. He was last seen by family at a hospital in 2003 while he was in government custody.

According to Bishop Su’s nephew, Chinese officials have reportedly asked the Vatican to appoint a new bishop of Baoding, UCA News reported on July 22. Their preferred candidate is said to be Coadjutor Bishop Francis An Shuxi, a member of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, the state-sanctioned church.

'Francesco' director receives film award in Vatican Gardens

Thu, 10/22/2020 - 5:22 PM

Vatican City, Oct 22, 2020 / 11:22 am (CNA).- The director of a new documentary about Pope Francis received an Italian film award in a ceremony in the Vatican Gardens on Thursday, amid international controversy over his documentary on the life and ministry of Pope Francis.

Filmmaker Evgeny Afineevsky, the director of “Francesco,” was presented with the Kinéo Movie for Humanity Award Oct. 22. 

Now in its 18th year, the award is given to those who promote social, humanitarian, and environmental issues in cinema.

Accepting the award, Afineevsky said “I’m so proud that finally ‘Francesco’ is on its way to the world to change hearts and minds.”

“I’m happy that I can bring the voices of the Rohingya refugees, refugees from Syria, voices of victims of sexual abuse, voices from different points and from different corners of the world. Something that Pope Francis really cares [about] and something that is really deeply in my heart,” he stated.

Afineevsky said that, while the pope cannot bring attention to those issues through papal travel at the moment, due to COVID-19, he was “so proud that today the movie can continue this mission.”  

The Vatican press office has not given any public statement on the film, which made international headlines on Wednesday for including a line from Pope Francis in a video interview calling for the passage of civil union laws for same-sex couples. 

Francis’ statement seems to depart from the position of the Vatican’s doctrinal office and the pope’s predecessors on the issue. 

Vatican officials were present at the award ceremony, including Paolo Ruffini, prefect of the communications dicastery, and dicastery secretary Msgr. Lucio Adrian Ruiz.

The officials were not available for questions after the award was presented.

Rosetta Sannelli, the award’s creator, said in a press release that “every trip of Pope Francis to various parts of the world is documented in Afineevsky’s work by images and news footage, and reveals itself as an authentic glimpse into the events of our time, a historical work in all respects.”

The Kinéo movie prizes are usually awarded at a ceremony in Venice, but Sannelli told EWTN News the Vatican was “the right place” to hold the ceremony recognizing “Francesco,” because “there is the spirituality of the place, of the location that you cannot find anywhere [else].”

She said that she chose the documentary after seeing a lot of submissions, calling it “the sum of humanity in a movie.”

“There is the pope... There is a person who fights against the problems and differences and tragedies of our times,” she continued. “I think that it’s a movie to open our look on the world, not from a Catholic point of view, but from a real point of view. There is a religious, spiritual base, but then you work on the base and you go into real themes of our century.”

The pope “faces real problems” of today, she said.

“Francesco” premiered at the Rome Film Festival Oct. 21, and is due to have its North American premiere on Sunday.

The film chronicles the approach of Pope Francis to pressing social issues, and to pastoral ministry among those who live, in the words of the pontiff, “on the existential peripheries.”

Questions emerge regarding Pope Francis' statement on same-sex civil unions

Thu, 10/22/2020 - 3:28 PM

CNA Staff, Oct 22, 2020 / 09:28 am (CNA).- Fr. Antonio Spadaro, SJ, director of the Jesuit magazine La Civiltà Cattolica, said on Wednesday evening that an expression of support for same-sex civil unions from Pope Francis is “nothing new” and does not signify a change of Catholic doctrine. But the priest’s remarks have raised some question about the origin of comments from Pope Francis on civil unions, which were featured in the newly-released documentary “Francesco.”

In a video released by Tv2000, a media apostolate of the  Italian bishops’ conference, Spadaro said that "the director of the film ‘Francesco’ compiles a series of interviews that have been conducted with Pope Francis over time, giving a great summary of his pontificate and the value of his travels.”

“Among other things, there are various passages taken from an interview with Valentina Alazraki, a Mexican journalist, and within that interview Pope Francis speaks of a right to the legal protection of homosexual couples but without in any way affecting doctrine,” Spadaro said.

Tv2000 is not affiliated with the Vatican, and Spadaro is not a Vatican spokesman.

On Wednesday, the documentary’s director, Evgeny Afineevsky, told CNA and other journalists that the pope’s statement in support of legalizing same sex civil unions was made during an interview the director himself conducted with Pope Francis.

But the interview Pope Francis gave to Televisa's Alazraki is shot in the same place, with the same lighting and the same appearance as the pope’s comments on civil unions that were aired in “Francesco,” suggesting that the remarks came from the Alazraki interview, and not an interview with Afineevsky.

Spadaro said Oct. 21 that "there is nothing new” in the pope’s remarks on civil unions.

“This is an interview given a long time ago that has already been received by the press,” Spadaro added.

And on Wednesday, the priest told the Associated Press that “there’s nothing new because it’s a part of that interview,” adding that “it seems strange that you don’t remember.”

While Alazraki's interview was released by Televisa June 1, 2019, the pope’s comments on civil union legislation were not included in the published version, and had not previously been seen by the public in any context.

In fact, Alazraki told CNA she has no recollection of the pope making remarks about civil unions, although comparative footage suggests the remark almost certainly came from her interview.

It is not clear how unpublished footage from Alazraki's interview, of which Spadaro seemed aware in his remarks on Wednesday, became available to Afineevsky during the production of his documentary.

On May 28, 2019, Vatican News, the official news outlet of the Vatican, published a preview of Alazraki's interview, which also did not contain reference to the pope’s remarks on civil unions.

In a 2014 interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Pope Francis spoke briefly about civil unions after he was asked about them. The pope distinguished between marriage, which is between a man and a woman, and other kinds of government-recognized relationships. Pope Francis did not weigh in on during the interview on a debate in Italy over same-sex civil unions, and a spokesman later clarified that he had no intention of doing so.

Pope Francis is also on record speaking about civil unions in the little known 2017 book “Pape François. Politique et société,” by French sociologist Dominique Wolton, who wrote the text after several interviews with Pope Francis.

In the English translation of the book, titled “A Future of Faith: The Path of Change in Politics and Society,” Wolton tells Pope Francis that “homosexuals aren't necessarily favorable toward 'marriage.' Some prefer civil union (sic) It's all complicated. Beyond the ideology of equality, there is also, in the word 'marriage', a search for acknowledgment.”

In the text, Pope Francis briefly responds: “But it isn’t a marriage, it is a civil union.”

Based on that reference, some reviews, including one published in America magazine, claimed that in the book, the Pope "repeats his opposition to gay marriage but accepts the civil union of people of the same sex."

Journalists from CNA and other media outlets have asked the Vatican press office for clarification on the source of the pope’s interview, but have not yet received a response.


Senate Judiciary Committee advances Amy Coney Barrett to full Senate vote

Thu, 10/22/2020 - 2:35 PM

Washington D.C., Oct 22, 2020 / 08:35 am (CNA).-  

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted on Thursday to advance the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, setting up a final confirmation vote by the whole Senate. Democratic members of the committee boycotted the vote and did not attend.

Barrett is a Catholic judge on the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. A mother of seven, she was formerly a law professor at the University of Notre Dame. If confirmed to the Supreme Court, she would be the sixth Catholic on the Court’s bench.

Twelve Republicans on the committee voted on Thursday to report Barrett’s nomination favorably to the entire Senate; the ten Democrats on the committee were “not present,” having informed chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) the night before that they would boycott the hearing, according to Graham.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said that a vote to confirm Barrett would take place on Oct. 26.

Committee hearings were held last week to consider Barrett’s nomination.

On Thursday, Graham noted Barrett’s faith and some “disgusting” attacks on her religious beliefs and family. Senate Democrats on the committee, however, “did not go too far” in their questions of her at last week’s hearings, Graham said.

“She embraces her faith like millions of other Americans, and there’s some things being said about her and her family that are disgusting, and I just want to complement her family for giving her the backing she needed to take on this job,” Graham said.

“And I want to thank the members on this committee for standing up against some pretty vile things,” he said.

When Barrett was considered for the Seventh Circuit court in 2017, some Democrats asked pointed questions to her about her Catholic faith and its influence on how she might rule on abortion cases. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) even told Barrett that “when you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you. And that’s of concern.”

Last week, Democrats stayed away from direct questions about Barrett’s faith, instead asking her opinions on previous Supreme Court cases including those which legalized abortion and contraception.

Barrett largely declined to give her opinions of Court rulings, offering “no hints, no previews, no forecasts” of her future decisions.

When Graham asked her if she could “set aside” Church teaching when ruling on the bench, in order to make judgments based upon her reading of the law, Barrett answered “I can.”

Jeannie Mancini, president of March for Life, praised the markup vote of Barrett’s nomination.

“Her immense respect for the law and Constitution will allow her to fairly apply the law and consider the rights of everyone who comes before her, including the unborn,” Mancini said of Barrett.


Polish court declares abortion in cases of fetal abnormalities unconstitutional

Thu, 10/22/2020 - 2:30 PM

CNA Staff, Oct 22, 2020 / 08:30 am (CNA).- Poland’s constitutional court ruled Thursday that a law permitting abortion for fetal abnormalities is unconstitutional.

In the highly anticipated ruling Oct. 22, the Constitutional Tribunal in Warsaw declared that the law introduced in 1993 was incompatible with Poland’s constitution.

The ruling, which cannot be appealed, could lead to a significant reduction in the number of abortions in the country. 

Until now, Polish law had permitted abortion only in cases of rape or incest, risk to the mother’s life, or fetal abnormality. 

Approximately 1,000 legal abortions take place in Poland each year. The majority are carried out in cases where the unborn child has a severe and irreversible disability or a life-threatening incurable disease. Polish pro-life campaigners describe the legal provision as “eugenic.”

The court’s verdict will be welcomed by Catholics across Poland who prayed a novena ahead of the ruling. 

The ruling will also be applauded by the hundreds of thousands of Poles who supported a citizen-initiated bill to ban abortion in cases of fetal abnormality earlier this year.

Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, president of the Polish bishops’ conference, expressed delight at the outcome.

“With this decision, it was found that the concept of ‘life not worth living’ is in sharp contradiction to the principle of a democratic state ruled by law. The life of every human being from conception to natural death is of equal value to God and should be equally protected by the state,” he said.

He added: “While rejoicing in this epochal change of law, let us now remember that children -- who are directly affected by today’s decision of the Constitutional Tribunal -- and their families should be surrounded with special kindness and real care on the part of the state, society, and the Church.”

Dunja Mijatović, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, criticized the ruling, describing it on Twitter as “a sad day for women’s rights.”

The constitutional court was asked to examine the law last year by a group of 119 MPs belonging to the ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS), as well the smaller parties Konfederacja and PSL-Kukiz’15. 

Abortion will continue to remain legal in cases of rape or incest and risk to the mother’s life.

Oct. 22 is the feast day of the Polish pope St. John Paul II, who led the Church from 1978 to 2005 and galvanized the pro-life movement around the world. 

This report has been updated to include Archbishop Gądecki’s comments

Polish city unveils giant St. John Paul II mural in centenary year

Thu, 10/22/2020 - 12:00 PM

CNA Staff, Oct 22, 2020 / 06:00 am (CNA).- A Polish city has unveiled a giant mural of St. John Paul II in honor of the birth centenary of the pope whose feast day is celebrated Thursday.

City authorities in Stalowa Wola, southeastern Poland, commissioned the portrait, which is 30 feet wide and 100 feet high, to mark the anniversary year, which is being commemorated by events in Rome and Poland.

The image, on the side of an apartment building on the city’s John Paul II Avenue, depicts the pope who led the Church from 1978 to 2005 leaning on his crozier while praying. The mural was officially blessed Oct. 18 by Bishop Edward Frankowski, a retired auxiliary bishop of Sandomierz.

At the base of the portrait are words that the Polish pope spoke about the city: “I embrace with my heart Stalowa Wola, a city symbolic of the great faith of working people.”

The city held a competition to design the mural. The winner, Piotr Topczyłko, was selected by a jury ahead of six other candidates. 

Lucjusz Nadbereżny, the mayor of Stalowa Wola, shared a video on Twitter Oct. 16, the 42nd anniversary of John Paul II’s election as pope, showing how the mural was created. 


W Stalowej Woli na 30 metrowej ścianie wieżowca powstał niezwykły mural z wizerunkiem Świętego Jana Pawła II. Na krótkim filmie widać jak autor Piotr Topczyłko tworzy piękny mural Papieża.
Janie Pawle II nasz święty orędowniku, miej w opiece Miasto i Mieszkańców Stalowej Woli.

— Lucjusz Nadbereżny (@lucjuszn) October 16, 2020  

The city secured the agreement of both the housing cooperative that manages the building and residents. 

While John Paul II never visited the city as pope, he expressed his admiration for its inhabitants, applauding their determination to build the Church of Our Lady, Queen of Poland, despite opposition from the communist authorities. 

He consecrated the church in 1973, when he was archbishop of Kraków. Later, as pope, he gave the church the status of a minor basilica.

Local media quoted the city’s mayor as saying: “Just as in this mural St. John Paul II is leaning against the cross, let this image be a support for us. Our pope, with his life, like the Moses of our time, opened the hearts of others, so let us also be kind, warm, and loving to one another. Then we will fulfill the life and teachings of St. John Paul II.”

Meanwhile, in an interview marking the Polish pope’s feast day, Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki recalled his encounters with St. John Paul II.

The president of the Polish bishops’ conference said that the pope was an “extremely brave” man who “could talk with anyone.” 

“It seems to me that a focal point was his reverence for the Eucharist. The Holy Father restored the Corpus Christi processions in Rome. He led the processions from St. John in Lateran to the Basilica of St. Mary Major,” he recalled. 

“Back then, when he was able to walk, and later when he could no longer walk, it was extremely edifying to watch his behavior and see how he revered the Eucharist. Now, I think that the whole Church needs that today.”

Killer of martyred Italian nun: ‘I can have of her only a memory of love’

Thu, 10/22/2020 - 11:00 AM

Rome Newsroom, Oct 22, 2020 / 05:00 am (CNA).- The three teenage girls who killed Sr. Maria Laura Mainetti 20 years ago attested afterward that, while they were stabbing the 60-year-old religious sister to death, she told them she forgave them.

“The sister cried out. She said she would not report us. That she forgave us,” Milena De Giambattista, Ambra Gianasso, and Veronica Pietrobelli told police when they confessed to killing the woman as part of a Satanic ritual.

In May, Pope Francis declared Venerable Maria Laura Mainetti a martyr, killed in “hatred of the faith” in Chiavenna, Italy. She will be beatified on June 6, 2021, the 21st anniversary of her murder.

Born in a small town in northern Italy, Mainetti entered the Congregation of the Sisters of the Cross at age 18. In 1984 she moved to the convent in Chiavenna, where she became superior.

Mainetti was known in the small town for her social and charitable commitment to dispossessed youth and poor people. According to a person who knew her, Mainetti had “an unconditional love for the weak. A life that was a real witness of love for Christ.”

“She never said no to anyone: she always opened the door ready to listen,” the person added.

The sister displayed this quality on the seemingly ordinary Tuesday night when the teens drew her out of the convent with a call claiming that a girl was pregnant by rape and needed to speak with her. They brought the sister to an isolated and dark street, near a cliff called “Paradise,” which originated from an ancient soapstone quarry.

According to local legend, a 160-feet tall and nearly 500-foot deep opening in the side of the cliff leads to the “inferno,” and was the work of the devil, who created the fissure to escape to hell while fleeing the Virgin Mary.

The three teens, dressed in black, then stabbed Mainetti 19 times with a kitchen knife and beat her, while shouting abuse. They had, according to Italian media reports, intended to stab her 18 times, six times each, to form by their violence the number 666. 

“I deceived her by drawing her into a trap and then I killed her, and while we were doing this she forgave us,” Milena De Giambattista wrote to Sr. Mainetti’s religious community some years after the act.

“I can have of her only a memory of love. And in addition to this, it also allowed me to believe in something that is neither God nor Satan, but which was a simple woman who defeated evil,” Milena wrote.

“Now in her I find comfort and the grace to endure everything. I always pray and I am sure she will help me become a better person.”

Milena’s letter is included in an Italian-language biography of Mainetti written by Sr. Beniamina Mariani in 2005.

Sr. Mainetti was known to the girls, who did not have any prior history of violence or crime. They confessed that they had originally planned to kill the parish priest, but decided that, because he was larger, it would prove too difficult. Investigators said that the girls’ notebooks were filled with Satanic writings and they had made a blood oath some months earlier.

The three served sentences in different juvenile prisons. After their release, between six and seven years later, at least two of them spent time in community recovery centers. According to media reports, the women changed their names, and now have jobs and families.

After her release from prison in 2006, Milena was a guest for several years of the Exodus communities in the area of Verona -- residences for the prevention and treatment of drug addiction, founded by Fr. Antonio Mazzi.

Mazzi once said, as recounted by Amedeo Mainetti, the murdered nun’s brother, that Milena “is fully aware of what she did and at the same time repentant and convinced that she can be reborn and recover better and better.”

Speaking to Il Giorno Milano newspaper in June this year, Mazzi said that Milena had been an active participant in the communities, though she never spoke about the murder and they never “fully faced the fact” with her. 

The priest also noted that Milena “never declared herself a believer and neither the opposite.”

“She did not want to give testimony for the sister. However, she radically changed her life, and with her actions she clearly showed that she was repentant and that she understood that she had made a great mistake,” he said. “Today she has her own life and her own job.”  

In a 2008 interview in the magazine Panorama, Veronica asked the public to forget her. 

“Prison, psychologists, and the recovery community have allowed me to become the person I otherwise would never have been,” she said.

“It was decided to kill at age 16 while sitting for six hours over a beer in a small village bar,” she recalled. “Everything we said, thought and did was worthless. What was I terrified of? Of Sr. Maria Laura’s gaze? Of blood? I don’t know, because it was dark and I didn’t look at her face, just as I didn’t look at the blood. At that moment and only then, I was afraid of everything, even of Ambra and Milena.”

In her biography of the slain religious sister, Mariani wrote that when she was among young people, Mainetti felt “at ease and loved to entertain them both in scheduled meetings and in casual ones.”

Someone who knew her said in an interview for the book that “only God can know how much she sacrificed herself for young people! Meetings, talks, school camps, world youth days, catechesis, individual accompaniment.” 

The biography reproduced what Mainetti wrote in her journal on the day of her perpetual profession in 1964: “Give me your feelings, Jesus, those of the Beatitudes: the poor who trusts, abandons himself/the child who feels loved by him/the affliction that is participation in that of Christ and is salvation/Mercy, Benevolence, Purity of body and heart, Humility. To serve Christ is to reign: Here I am… The joy of my service every instant in conformity with Your Divine Will.”

From this life, “a spring gushes out, a gush of evangelical life,” Sr. Kitty Hiriat Urruty, the superior of her congregation, wrote at the time of Mainetti’s martyrdom.

“This spring speaks to us of our consecration, of our life offered to the Trinity, of our desire of identification with Jesus Christ, of our choice of the poorest, of the wounded in life. And this leads to the origins of our Congregation,” the sister said.

“She showed that our charism is alive and very current,” she continued. “In this style of love and gift, she gave herself with both hands, without calculation, just like someone who knows that all she has is a gift of love, to be shared and made to bear fruit.”

Vatican and China renew provisional agreement on appointment of bishops

Thu, 10/22/2020 - 10:00 AM

Vatican City, Oct 22, 2020 / 04:00 am (CNA).- The Vatican and China have renewed a provisional agreement on the appointment of bishops for two more years, the Holy See announced Thursday.

An Oct. 22 Vatican communique said that the Chinese government and Vatican authorities agreed “to extend the experimental implementation phase” of the two-year provisional agreement first signed on Sept. 22, 2018, concerning the nomination of bishops. It added that the two parties intended to pursue “an open and constructive dialogue.”

“The Holy See considers the initial application of the agreement -- which is of great ecclesial and pastoral value -- to have been positive, thanks to good communication and cooperation between the parties on the matters agreed upon, and intends to pursue an open and constructive dialogue for the benefit of the life of the Catholic Church and the good of Chinese people,” the communique said.

An article in L’Osservatore Romano Oct. 22 lauded the results of the agreement, saying that “processes for new episcopal appointments are underway, some at an early stage, others at an advanced stage.”

It reported that two bishops had already been appointed under the “regulatory framework established by the agreement”: Bishop Antonio Yao Shun, of Jining Autonomous Region of Inner Mongolia, and Bishop Stefano Xu Hongwei, of Hanzhong in Shaanxi Province.

“It must be acknowledged that there are many situations of great suffering. The Holy See is deeply aware of this, takes it into account and does not fail to attract the attention of the Chinese government to encourage a more fruitful exercise of religious freedom. The path is still long and not without difficulties,” the Vatican newspaper said.

Following the Vatican-China agreement in 2018, state officials in different regions of China removed crosses and demolished church buildings, and underground Catholics and clergy have reported harassment and detention. A 2020 report of the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China found that Chinese Catholics suffered “increasing persecution” after the deal.

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin told journalists Oct. 21 that he was “happy” with the agreement. But he acknowledged “there are also many other problems that the agreement was not intended to solve.” 

The cardinal said that the goal of the agreement is “unity of the Church” and that through this unity “it will become an instrument of evangelization,” according to a transcript provided by Italian newspaper Avvenire.

When asked about the persecution of Christians in China, Parolin responded: “But, what persecutions … You have to use the words correctly. There are regulations that are imposed and which concern all religions, and certainly also concern the Catholic Church.”

In China, religious education of any person under the age of 18 is illegal. This means that catechism classes have been closed and minors are not allowed to enter church buildings. Catholic churches registered with the Chinese authorities are closely monitored via CCTV cameras connected to the public security network. Priests have been forced to attend government training courses.

The Chinese government continues to imprison Catholic clergy who refuse to support the Communist Party, according to a September report out of the province of Jiangxi.

But other religious groups have fared far worse under the Chinese Communist Party’s policies of “sinicization” and technological control, particularly the Uyghur Muslims in China’s Xinjiang province, who have suffered forced labor, indoctrination, sterilization, forced abortion, and torture in dentention camps.

While introducing more restrictive rules on religious practice, President Xi Jinping’s repeatedly stated goal has been the “sinicization” of religions. The authorities have sought to diffuse “religious theories with Chinese character” into the five official religions supervised by the government, including the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association. This has included instructing Chistian churches to remove images of the Ten Commandments and replace them with the sayings of Chairman Mao and Xi.

In March 2018, the Chinese government instituted a major change in its religious regulation by placing the management of religions, including Catholicism, under the direct control of the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front Work Department (UFWD). The United Front has the task of ensuring that groups outside of the CCP, such as Xinjiang Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists, Hong Kong democracy activists, and the Catholic Patriotic Association, are following the party line.

Xi Jinping has called the United Front Work Department one of his “magic weapons,” used to co-opt and control.

Despite mounting international condemnation of China’s internment of more than a million Uyghurs in detention camps, neither Pope Francis nor the Holy See has commented publicly on the situation.

Cardinal Joseph Zen, the emeritus Bishop of Hong Kong, attributes this silence to the Vatican’s ongoing diplomatic talks with the Chinese government.

“It seems that in order to save the agreement, the Holy See is closing both eyes on all the injustices that the Communist Party inflicts on the Chinese people,” Zen wrote Oct. 7.

The Vatican-China agreement gave CCP officials a say in the ordination of bishops, but also allowed for the enforcement of “sinicization” in Church matters, Zen said. 

Cardinal Parolin has previously compared “sinicization’” to the Church’s practice of “inculturation,” saying in 2019 that “these two terms … refer to each other without confusion and without opposition.”

In his most recent comments to journalists this week, Parolin said that the contents of the Sino-Vatican agreement would not be made public. But he added that what has been agreed to thus far “does not envisage the establishment of diplomatic relations.”

“On both sides, as long as the agreement is ad experimentum [provisional], it was decided to keep the contents confidential,” Parolin said, 

“For the moment there is no talk of diplomatic relations, we are focused on the Church,” he said. “The agreement does not concern diplomatic relations nor does it envisage the establishment of diplomatic relations. The agreement concerns the situation of the Church, a specific point which are the appointments of bishops and the difficulties that exist and that we hope to tackle through dialogue.”

In grim accounting, Canadian report says assisted suicide saves health care money

Thu, 10/22/2020 - 6:18 AM

CNA Staff, Oct 22, 2020 / 12:18 am (CNA).- A Canadian report has put a dollar figure on legal assisted suicide, claiming that legalization has saved millions of dollars in health care costs—and that a looming expansion of legal assisted suicide, known by backers as “aid in dying,” would save millions more.

A new Parliamentary Budget Officer report, released Oct. 20, is intended to provide economic and financial analysis of legislation to improve parliamentary debate and promote “greater budget transparency and accountability.”

While the report acknowledged cost savings of assisted suicide, it said “this report should in no way be interpreted as suggesting that (medical aid-in-dying) be used to reduce health care costs.”

At the same time, the report acknowledged the “disproportionately high” health care costs to care for people in their last year of life, especially in their last month. Such patients represent 1% of the population and 10% to 20% of total health care costs.

Access to medically assisted suicide, the report said, reduces health care costs for Canada's provincial governments, the primary health care providers. Since the legalization of assisted suicide in June 2016, the report estimated some $66 million in U.S. dollars have been saved because individuals are helped to die rather than receive health care or palliative care.

A Quebec superior court last year ruled that it was unconstitutional to limit medically assisted suicide only to those whose natural death is “reasonably foreseeable,” according to the Canadian news site Global News. Canada's Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada chose not to appeal the decision, a decision lamented by Canada's Catholic bishops.

This court ruling required the government to introduce legislation to comply. That legislation would no longer require natural death to be “reasonably foreseeable” for a patient to be eligible for assisted suicide.

Rather, the bill provides easier eligibility rules for people near death and stricter eligibility rules for people who are not near death. It removes a 10-day waiting period for those whose natural death is “reasonably foreseeable.”

For persons whose natural death is not reasonably foreseeable, eligibility assessments must take at least 90 days unless loss of capacity to consent is imminent. According to a summary of the bill at the website of Canada's Department of Justice, two independent doctors or nurse practitioners must provide an assessment and confirm the requester is eligible. At least one doctor or practitioner assessing the person's eligibility must have expertise in the medical condition causing his or her suffering.

The bill allows the possibility to waive final consent for assisted suicide for patients whose death is reasonably foreseeable and who are at risk of losing the ability to consent. It would also reduce the number of required witnesses for patient consent from two to one.
Under the legislation, the patient must be informed of options to relieve suffering, including counseling, mental health and disability support, community services, and palliative care. Mental illness as a sole underlying condition would not be sufficient to access legal assisted suicide.

The report's financial analysis predicted an estimated 6,465 assisted suicide deaths in 2021 under the current law, with over $66.14 million in U.S. dollars saved in provincial health budgets due to these deaths. The number of dollars saved is reached by subtracting the costs of palliative care, about $55.4 million, from mean end-of-life costs of about $138.6 million, and then subtracting $17 million in costs to administer that number of assisted suicides.

The new legislation to expand access to assisted suicide will result in another 1,164 assisted suicide deaths in Canada in 2021, the report predicted, with an estimated $46.8 million in health care costs saved. This would increase total estimated savings to some $113.4 million, compared to a situation in which assisted suicide was illegal, the Parliamentary Budget Officer report said.

“While this amount may appear significant, it only represents 0.08% of total provincial health care,” said the report. The cost reduction “represents a negligible portion of the health care budgets of provinces.”

Justice Minister David Lametti introduced the latest assisted suicide bill in February but its progress was halted when the House of Commons adjourned in mid-March because of the coronavirus epidemic.

The bill, numbered C-7, is characterized as a “medical assistance in dying” bill. It would modify Bill C-14, passed by Canada's Parliament in 2016 to legalize and regulate doctor-assisted suicide.

In February the Catholic Bishops of Canada voiced “the greatest concern and dismay” about efforts to expand assisted suicide. They condemned “the lamentable legislative aim” of broadening access to assisted dying, and insisted “that every opportunity for due diligence be taken during the parliamentary process.” They have said better palliative care is needed.

“We unequivocally affirm and maintain the fundamental belief in the sacredness of all human life, a value that we share with many others in our country, including persons of different faiths and no faith at all,” Archbishop of Winnipeg Richard Gagnon, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in an October letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“Despite the misleading euphemism, ‘Medical Assistance in Dying’ remains simply euthanasia and assisted suicide – that is, the direct taking of human life or the participation in his/her suicide, which can never be justified,” Gagnon added, according to Grandin Media.

A report released by the Canadian government said that more than a third of those who opted for “medical assistance in dying” cited concerns of being a burden to family or carers.

Assisted suicide opponents have warned that legalizing such killings helps increase social or financial pressure on a person to kill him or herself, whether this pressure comes from insurance companies, private or government health care administrations, or relatives. They question how society can campaign against suicide for the healthy or in favor of better palliative care for the ill while justifying assisted suicide at the same time.

They say there is a danger that assisted suicide further marginalizes the disabled, the elderly and the terminally ill and undermines the duty to respect and care for them. People facing treatable conditions could be presented assisted suicide as a better option, they warn.


What did Pope Francis say about civil unions? A CNA Explainer

Thu, 10/22/2020 - 12:49 AM

Denver Newsroom, Oct 21, 2020 / 06:49 pm (CNA).-  

“Francesco,” a newly released documentary on the life and ministry of Pope Francis, has made global headlines, because the film contains a scene in which Pope Francis calls for the passage of civil union laws for same-sex couples.

Some activists and media reports have suggested that Pope Francis has changed Catholic teaching by his remarks. Among many Catholics, the pope’s comments have raised questions about what the pope really said, what it means, and what the Church teaches about civil unions and marriage. CNA looks at those questions.

What did Pope Francis say about civil unions?

During a segment of “Francesco” which discussed Pope Francis’ pastoral care of Catholics who identify as LGBT, the pope made two distinct comments.

He said first that: “Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family. They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it.”

While the pope did not elaborate on the meaning of those remarks in the video, Pope Francis has spoken before to encourage parents and relatives not to ostracize or shun children who have identified as LGBT. This seems to be the sense in which the pope spoke about the right of people to be a part of the family.

Some have suggested that when Pope Francis spoke about a “right to a family,” the pope was offering a kind of tacit endorsement of adoption by same-sex couples. But the pope has previously spoken against such adoptions, saying that through them children are “deprived of their human development given by a father and a mother and willed by God,” and saying that “every person needs a male father and a female mother that can help them shape their identity.”

On civil unions, the pope said that: “What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered.” 

“I stood up for that,” Pope Francis added, apparently in reference to his proposal to brother bishops, during a 2010 debate in Argentina over gay marriage, that accepting civil unions might be a way to prevent the passage of same-sex marriage laws in the country.

What did Pope Francis say about gay marriage?

Nothing. The topic of gay marriage was not discussed in the documentary. In his ministry, Pope Francis has frequently affirmed the doctrinal teaching of the Catholic Church that marriage is a lifelong partnership between one man and one woman.

While Pope Francis has frequently encouraged a welcoming disposition to Catholics who identify as LGBT, the pope has also said that “marriage is between a man and a woman,” and said that “the family is threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage,” and that efforts to redefine marriage “threaten to disfigure God's plan for creation."

Why are the pope’s comments about civil unions a big deal?

While Pope Francis has previously discussed civil unions, he has not explicitly endorsed the idea in public before. While the context of his quotes in the documentary is not fully revealed, and it is possible the pope added qualifications not seen on camera, an endorsement of civil unions for same-sex couples is a very different approach for a pope, one that represents a departure from the position of his two immediate predecessors on the issue.

In 2003, in a document approved by Pope John Paul II and written by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith taught that “respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behaviour or to legal recognition of homosexual unions.”

Even if civil unions might be chosen by people other than same-sex couples, like siblings or committed friends, the CDF said that homosexual relationships would be “foreseen and approved by the law,” and that civil unions “would obscure certain basic moral values and cause a devaluation of the institution of marriage.”

“Legal recognition of homosexual unions or placing them on the same level as marriage would mean not only the approval of deviant behaviour, with the consequence of making it a model in present-day society, but would also obscure basic values which belong to the common inheritance of humanity,” the document concluded.

The 2003 CDF document contains doctrinal truth, and the positions of John Paul II and Benedict XVI on how best to apply the Church’s doctrinal teaching to policy questions regarding the civil oversight and regulation of marriage. While those positions are consistent with the long-standing discipline of the Church on the issue, they are not themselves regarded as articles of faith.

Some people have said what the pope taught is heresy. Is that true?

No. The pope’s remarks did not deny or call into question any doctrinal truth that Catholics must hold or believe. In fact, the pope has frequently affirmed the Church’s doctrinal teaching regarding marriage.

The pope’s apparent call for civil union legislation, which seems to be different from the position expressed by the CDF in 2003, has been taken to represent a departure from a long-standing moral judgment that Church leaders have taught supports and upholds the truth. The CDF document said that civil union laws give tacit consent to homosexual behavior; while the pope expressed support for civil unions, he has also spoken in his pontificate about the immorality of homosexual acts.

It is also important to note that a documentary interview is not a forum for official papal teaching. The pope’s remarks were not presented in their fullness, and no transcript has been presented, so unless the Vatican offers additional clarity, they need to be taken in light of the limited information available about them.

We have same-sex marriage in this country. Why is anyone talking about civil unions?

There are 29 countries in the world that legally recognize same-sex “marriage.” Most of them are in Europe, North America, or South America. But in other parts of the world, the debate over the definition of marriage is just getting started. In parts of Latin America, for example, the redefinition of marriage is not a settled political topic, and Catholic political activists there have opposed moves to normalize civil union legislation.

Opponents of civil unions say they are usually a bridge to same-sex marriage legislation, and marriage campaigners in some countries have said they are concerned that LGBT lobbyists will use the pope’s words in the documentary to advance a pathway to same-sex marriage.

What does the Church teach about homosexuality?

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.

Are Catholics bound to agree with the pope on civil unions?

Pope Francis’ statements in “Francesco” do not constitute formal papal teaching. While the pope’s affirmation of the dignity of all people and his call for respect of all people are rooted in Catholic teaching, Catholics are not obliged to support a legislative or policy position because of the pope’s comments in a documentary.

Some bishops have expressed that they are awaiting further clarity on the pope’s comments from the Vatican, while one explained that: “While Church teaching on marriage is clear and irreformable, the conversation must continue about the best ways to reverence the dignity of those in same–sex relationships so that they are not subject to any unjust discrimination.”

Los Angeles' Archbishop Gomez denies claim that he plans to vote for Biden

Thu, 10/22/2020 - 12:01 AM

Denver Newsroom, Oct 21, 2020 / 06:01 pm (CNA).-  

Archbishop Jose Gomez has rebuked an online claim that he plans to vote for Joe Biden in the November presidential election, stating that an alleged conversation in which he disclosed his voting plans never actually took place.

“In all my years as a priest and a bishop, I have never publicly or privately endorsed a political candidate or told anyone who I might be voting for. It is disgraceful that some would use the media to spread misinformation and try to confuse and divide people,” Gomez, the president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, said in an Oct. 20 statement., a website based in California, published a blog post Tuesday evening which alleged that in February 2020, Gomez and a “wealthy ex-donor to the church” met over breakfast at the Jonathan Club in downtown Los Angeles.

The blog post claimed that Gomez told the individual that he is “voting [for] and supporting Jose [sic] Biden because he did not ‘like the way Trump talks.’”

“[T]he president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is voting for a pro-abortion, pro-gay-marriage, socialist because he 'does not like the way Trump talks'…. I am sure that he is also forcing priests in the archdiocese to support Biden… So infuriating!” the blog reads.

Gomez denied the alleged conversation, and even the breakfast, ever took place.

A spokeswoman for the archdiocese told CNA on Wednesday that the archbishop had no breakfast meetings on his calendar during the month of February.

In his statement, Gomez urged Catholics to pray and reflect on the U.S. bishops’ voting guide, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility.”

Since 2007, the bishops of the United States have issued the “Faithful Citizenship” document to help Catholics decide how to cast their vote; it was most recently updated in 2019.

“And let us pray for the grace to treat one another as brothers and sisters, with dignity and respect,” Gomez concluded.

The “ex-donor” who made the claim against Gomez plans to release an affidavit doubling down on his claims, based on an alleged audio recording of the conversation, according to John Paul Norris, one of the founders of

According to Norris, the accuser, who has declined to be named publicly, had— before the alleged February conversation— been meeting with Gomez at least once a year, and was a significant donor to the archdiocese.

"Everyone in the diocese knows him very well," Norris told CNA.

Norris told CNA the accuser has an audio recording of the alleged conversation with Gomez stored on his cell phone, but has no plans to release it to the public. He said the recording includes Gomez stating that if Biden earns the Democratic nomination for president, Gomez would vote for him “because he’s Catholic.” 

In 2019, Norris was removed from the Los Angeles cathedral after confronting Gomez about Cardinal Roger Mahony and the McCarrick scandal.

Norris’ blog post this week was appended to a petition on, which Clean the Church created in 2018, calling for criminal prosecution of Mahony, who led the Los Angeles archdiocese from 1985 to 2011. Mahony has faced scrutiny for his handling of the sexual abuse crisis during his tenure as archbishop of Los Angeles, and been accused of covering up serial acts of abuse.

The petition calls on all of Los Angeles’ bishops to “act now or resign from their posts.”

Norris also told CNA his group suspects the archdiocese has cut a “deal” with vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris.

Despite a history of public anti-Catholic bias on Harris' part, Norris said he believes Gomez favors the Biden/Harris ticket because Harris appeared unwilling to prosecute Cardinal Mahony when she was district attorney in LA.

“She may be anti-Catholic faith, but she's certainly a defender of the prelates, of the clergy,” he contended.

Norris offered no evidence of a “deal” regarding Mahony, and admitted that allegations of one are likely to remain unproven.

Joe Biden, a Catholic, has in recent months doubled down on his support for legal abortion.

In July, the pro-abortion group NARAL endorsed Biden for president, just over a year after the group issued a scathing statement demanding he reverse his support for the Hyde Amendment, which bars taxpayer funding for abortions. Biden withdrew his decades-long support for the Hyde Amendment and announced in 2019 he was opposed to the policy.

This month, Biden repeated his pledge to codify a right to abortion into federal law should the Supreme Court overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

Norris said his group believes that Gomez is not strong enough in his public pro-life statements.

The archbishop has, however, written frequently in recent years about the “preeminent” importance of ending legal protection for abortion.

“Among the evils and injustices in American life in 2016, abortion and euthanasia are different and stand apart. Each is a direct, personal attack on innocent and vulnerable human life,” Gomez wrote in the foreword for a book on Catholics’ responsibilities in the public square.

“Abortion and euthanasia are ‘fundamental’ social issues because if the child in the womb has no right to be born, if the sick and the old have no right to be taken care of, then there is no solid foundation to defend anyone’s human rights, and no foundation for peace and justice in society.”

Earlier in 2020, the USCCB issued a letter, approved by the bishops, re-presenting the “Faithful Citizenship” document along with a series of short videos. In that letter, the bishops, led by Gomez, identified abortion as the “preeminent priority” for Catholic voters “because it directly attacks life itself.”



Bishops in Kerala on hunger strike for Catholic education

Wed, 10/21/2020 - 10:42 PM

CNA Staff, Oct 21, 2020 / 04:42 pm (CNA).- Several bishops in Kerala held a day-long hunger strike Tuesday to protest the state government’s withholding of funds from Catholic schools.

The hunger strike was held Oct. 20 in front of the Kerala state secretariat. The prelates participating were Bishops Joshuah Kizhakkeveettil of the Syro-Malankara Eparchy of Mavelikara, chair of the Kerala bishops’ education commission; Paul Mullassery of Quilon, the vice chair; and Thomas Tharayil, an auxiliary of the Syro-Malabar Archeparchy of Changanacherry.

Archbishop Maria Callist Soosa Pakiam of Trivandrum said the state government “curtails our rights as a religious minority to run education institutions through arbitrary orders and amendments to the existing laws," UCA News reported.

Christians run about 5,000 of Kerala’s 13,000 schools. The government is required to provide financial aid to over half of these schools to support teachers’ salaries.

Archbishop Soosa Pakiam said that in the last five years, over 3,000 teachers in Catholic schools have not been paid because the government has not distributed its promised aid. Since May 2016, the Kerala government has been led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

The archbishop said it was an “act of cruelty” to deny these employees’ salaries during the coronavirus pandemic.

Archbishop Soosa Pakiam said the hunger strike is not seeking to solicit “special favors from the state. It is to ensure our constitutional rights.”

Father Charles Leon, secretary of the Kerala bishops’ education commission, told UCA News that “it is an indefinite protest.” Protests were held in each of Kerala’s 14 districts.

He also said the state government tried “to meddle in the appointment of teachers in the state-aided schools.”

Minority schools have the right to appoint their own teachers, but the state government has stalled in approving the appointments in the last five years.

US bishops launch novena for Election Day

Wed, 10/21/2020 - 9:00 PM

CNA Staff, Oct 21, 2020 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- The bishops of the United States are encouraging Catholics to pray a novena to help form their consciences ahead of Election Day on Nov. 3. 

“For nine consecutive days, Monday, October 26 through Tuesday, Nov. 3, participants will be encouraged to pray one Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be for the day’s intention,” says the USCCB’s webpage for the 2020 Election Novena. 

A closing prayer for elected leaders will be offered on day 10, Wednesday, November 4. 

The closing prayer asks that “the leaders elected this week be guided by the Holy Spirit as they fulfill their positions.” 

Due to the prevalence of mail-in voting this election, it is possible that the results of some elections may not be known for several days. 

The USCCB will write a new intention each day of the novena, and a signup link for email reminders is provided on the noevena’s webpage, along with graphics for social media. 

None of the daily intentions are partisan in nature, and most are reminders of various facets of Catholic teaching, including a plea for dialogue, a reminder of the importance of the dignity of human life, and a stress on the importance of religious freedom. 

The intention for Election Day reads “Today, as we approach the polls, may we understand & embrace the principles of our Faith that should guide our political engagement.” 

The USCCB, as well as individual bishops, do not endorse specific candidates for election. 

Earlier this year, the U.S. bishops’ conference re-issued its document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” which aims to assist Catholics in deciding for whom to vote. 

In a new introductory letter to the document, approved by the bishops in November 2019, reminds Catholics that they are called to “bring the richness of our faith to the public square.” 

“We draw from both faith and reason as we seek to affirm the dignity of the human person and the common good of all,” the bishops wrote, saying that “everyone living in this country is called to participate in public life and contribute to the common good.”

“Our approach to contemporary issues is first and foremost rooted in our identity as followers of Christ and as brothers and sisters to all who are made in God’s image,” said the letter. 

“For all Catholics, including those seeking public office, our participation in political parties or other groups to which we may belong should be influenced by our faith, not the other way around.”

“Pope Francis has continued to draw attention to important issues such as migration, xenophobia, racism, abortion, global conflict, and care for creation,” wrote the bishops. 

“In the United States and around the world, many challenges demand our attention. The threat of abortion remains our preeminent priority because it directly attacks life itself, because it takes place within the sanctuary of the family, and because of the number of lives destroyed,” they said.

“At the same time, we cannot dismiss or ignore other serious threats to human life and dignity such as racism, the environmental crisis, poverty and the death penalty.”