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‘God bless America’ - Popes speak to the United States

CNA Staff, Jul 3, 2020 / 11:20 am (CNA).- Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis each made apostolic visitations to the United States during the course of their pontificates. As the United States celebrates Independence Day, CNA remembers words to America from each of those popes:


Pope Francis

September 24, 2015, Address to a joint session of Congress


….I think of the political history of the United States, where democracy is deeply rooted in the mind of the American people. All political activity must serve and promote the good of the human person and be based on respect for his or her dignity. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” (Declaration of Independence, 4 July 1776).



If politics must truly be at the service of the human person, it follows that it cannot be a slave to the economy and finance. Politics is, instead, an expression of our compelling need to live as one, in order to build as one the greatest common good: that of a community which sacrifices particular interests in order to share, in justice and peace, its goods, its interests, its social life. I do not underestimate the difficulty that this involves, but I encourage you in this effort.



How essential the family has been to the building of this country! And how worthy it remains of our support and encouragement! Yet I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without. Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family. I can only reiterate the importance and, above all, the richness and the beauty of family life.

In particular, I would like to call attention to those family members who are the most vulnerable, the young. For many of them, a future filled with countless possibilities beckons, yet so many others seem disoriented and aimless, trapped in a hopeless maze of violence, abuse and despair. Their problems are our problems. We cannot avoid them. We need to face them together, to talk about them and to seek effective solutions rather than getting bogged down in discussions. At the risk of oversimplifying, we might say that we live in a culture which pressures young people not to start a family, because they lack possibilities for the future. Yet this same culture presents others with so many options that they too are dissuaded from starting a family.

A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as Lincoln did, when it fosters a culture which enables people to “dream” of full rights for all their brothers and sisters, as Martin Luther King sought to do; when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed, as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work, the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton.

In these remarks I have sought to present some of the richness of your cultural heritage, of the spirit of the American people. It is my desire that this spirit continue to develop and grow, so that as many young people as possible can inherit and dwell in a land which has inspired so many people to dream.

God bless America!


Pope Benedict XVI

South Lawn of the White House, April 16, 2008

I am happy to be here as a guest of all Americans. I come as a friend, a preacher of the Gospel and one with great respect for this vast pluralistic society. America’s Catholics have made, and continue to make, an excellent contribution to the life of their country. As I begin my visit, I trust that my presence will be a source of renewal and hope for the Church in the United States, and strengthen the resolve of Catholics to contribute ever more responsibly to the life of this nation, of which they are proud to be citizens.



From the dawn of the Republic, America’s quest for freedom has been guided by the conviction that the principles governing political and social life are intimately linked to a moral order based on the dominion of God the Creator. The framers of this nation’s founding documents drew upon this conviction when they proclaimed the “self-evident truth” that all men are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights grounded in the laws of nature and of nature’s God.

The course of American history demonstrates the difficulties, the struggles, and the great intellectual and moral resolve which were demanded to shape a society which faithfully embodied these noble principles. In that process, which forged the soul of the nation, religious beliefs were a constant inspiration and driving force, as for example in the struggle against slavery and in the civil rights movement. In our time too, particularly in moments of crisis, Americans continue to find their strength in a commitment to this patrimony of shared ideals and aspirations.
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Freedom is not only a gift, but also a summons to personal responsibility. Americans know this from experience – almost every town in this country has its monuments honoring those who sacrificed their lives in defense of freedom, both at home and abroad. The preservation of freedom calls for the cultivation of virtue, self-discipline, sacrifice for the common good and a sense of responsibility towards the less fortunate. It also demands the courage to engage in civic life and to bring one’s deepest beliefs and values to reasoned public debate.

In a word, freedom is ever new. It is a challenge held out to each generation, and it must constantly be won over for the cause of good (cf. Spe Salvi, 24). Few have understood this as clearly as the late Pope John Paul II. In reflecting on the spiritual victory of freedom over totalitarianism in his native Poland and in eastern Europe, he reminded us that history shows, time and again, that “in a world without truth, freedom loses its foundation”, and a democracy without values can lose its very soul (cf. Centesimus Annus, 46).

Those prophetic words in some sense echo the conviction of President Washington, expressed in his Farewell Address, that religion and morality represent “indispensable supports” of political prosperity.

Pope St. John Paul II

Detroit, September 19, 1987
 

America the beautiful! So you sing in one of your national songs. Yes, America, you are beautiful indeed, and blessed in so many ways:

- in your majestic mountains and fertile plains;
- in the goodness and sacrifice hidden in your teeming cities and expanding suburbs;
- in your genius for invention and for splendid progress;
- in the power that you use for service and in the wealth that you share with others;
- in what you give to your own, and in what you do for others beyond your borders;
- in how you serve, and in how you keep alive the flame of hope in many hearts;
- in your quest for excellence and in your desire to right all wrongs.

Yes, America, all this belongs to you. But your greatest beauty and your richest blessing is found in the human person: in each man, woman and child, in every immigrant, in every native-born son and daughter.

For this reason, America, your deepest identity and truest character as a nation is revealed in the position you take towards the human person. The ultimate test of your greatness in the way you treat every human being, but especially the weakest and most defenceless ones.

The best traditions of your land presume respect for those who cannot defend themselves. If you want equal justice for all, and true freedom and lasting peace, then, America, defend life! All the great causes that are yours today will have meaning only to the extent that you guarantee the right to life and protect the human person:

- feeding the poor and welcoming refugees;
- reinforcing the social fabric of this nation;
- promoting the true advancement of women;
- securing the rights of minorities;
- pursuing disarmament, while guaranteeing legitimate defence; all this will succeed only if respect for life and its protection by the law is granted to every human being from conception until natural death.

Every human person - no matter how vulnerable or helpless, no matter how young or how old, no matter how healthy, handicapped or sick, no matter how useful or productive for society - is a being of inestimable worth created in the image and likeness of God. This is the dignity of America, the reason she exists, the condition for her survival-yes, the ultimate test of her greatness: to respect every human person, especially the weakest and most defenceless ones, those as yet unborn.

With these sentiments of love and hope for America, I now say goodbye in words that I spoke once before: "Today, therefore, my final prayer is this: that God will bless America, so that she may increasingly become - and truly be - and long remain one Nation, under God, indivisible. With liberty and justice for all"

 

Missouri cannot block Medicaid funding from Planned Parenthood, high court says

CNA Staff, Jul 3, 2020 / 03:12 am (CNA).- The Missouri Supreme Court on Tuesday struck down a provision that intended to cut Planned Parenthood off from Medicaid funding in the state.

The 6-1 ruling found the provision to be unconstitutional, according to an Associated Press report. The ruling mandates that Missouri tax dollars will fund contraception and some abortions in the state’s 11 Planned Parenthood clinics.

The ruling states that the provision is a “clear and unmistakable violation” of the Constitution, which does not allow the budget to determine matters of policy.

The decision was a blow to pro-life advocates in the state, who have consistently turned out pro-life legislation and court decisions in recent years.

Missouri Republican Gov. Mike Parson signed a comprehensive abortion ban into law in 2019, which set up a multi-tier ban on abortions after eight weeks, 14 weeks, 18 weeks and 20 weeks. In August of that year a federal judge struck down the bans, but retained a ban on abortions conducted solely because of the baby’s race, sex, or Down syndrome diagnosis.

Under Missouri law, abortion providers must distribute a booklet from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services which includes the statement: “The life of each human being begins at conception. Abortion will terminate the life of a separate, unique, living human being.”

State law also includes a “trigger law” that immediately bans all abortions except for medical emergencies if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

In June of this year, a federal appellate court dismissed a lawsuit filed by a member of the Satanic Temple against Missouri’s informed consent abortion law. The court rejected the group’s claim that the law established Catholic religious belief by stating that life begins at conception.

Later that month, the Missouri health department issued a license to the state's only abortion clinic, a Planned Parenthood facility in St. Louis.

The license had been previously revoked due to health and safety concerns, including violating multiple state standards of sterilization and storing of equipment, and the proper documentation of medication and procedures.

However, the state’s Administrative Hearing Commission ruled that the department of health was wrong to deny the license, saying that Planned Parenthood had “substantially complied” with Missouri law. As a result, the clinic may remain operational.

Alleged David Haas sexual assault victim speaks out

Denver Newsroom, Jul 2, 2020 / 03:12 pm (CNA).-  

In late May, allegations surfaced against contemporary Catholic musician and composer David Haas, which claimed that Haas had subjected multiple adult women to serial spiritual manipulation and sexual misconduct.

A former music and youth minister, who alleges that Haas aggressively kissed and groped her when she was 19, spoke to CNA this week about her experience. And one expert told CNA that the allegations against Haas point to the difficulties of ensuring that laity working in Church contexts are trustworthy, and beyond reproach.

 

Sidney

Sidney*, a California native, told CNA that she has worked in close proximity to the Church for more than 15 years, primarily in religious education, as a youth minister, and as a music minister.

It was through her interest in music ministry that she met David Haas, when she was 14 years old.

Haas was then, and remains to this day, one of the best-known contemporary Catholic composers, having written such contemporary standards as “Glory to God,” “You are Mine,” “We are Called,” and “Blest are They,” among others.

In 2002, Sidney was selected to attend a well-known music ministry camp in St. Paul, Minnesota called Music Ministry Alive (MMA). The weeklong camp brought in around 150 participants from around the country and featured workshops, peer groups, and a concert at the end of week, which Haas headlined.

“It was very clear that this was [Haas’] program,” Sidney said.

“He was not absent in any way— he was present for as many rehearsals as was possible, he would drop in when we were in workshops or peer groups, at the end of the evenings when we would do our evening check-ins he was around, he was seated with people during mealtimes,” she recalled.

At the same time, Sidney observed that Haas was a physical person. She emphasized that physical touching she observed throughout the camp did not appear to be criminal, but in hindsight certainly was problematic.

“There was a lot of touching, putting his hands on your shoulders, hugs— things that weren't exactly criminal but were, looking back, notable, and what we [now] know to be grooming patterns," she said.

A few years later, at age 19, Sidney attended the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress (LAREC) in Anaheim, California. Haas was there, and after he gave a workshop, the two struck up a conversation.

Sidney said Haas asked about her life, and whether her job was compensating her fairly. At the time, Sidney was struggling financially. Haas hinted that he might want to offer her some help, she told CNA, and asked to meet with her later. So Sidney agreed to meet him outside the convention center after dinnertime.

As the two chatted and walked outside the convention center, Sidney said they ended up toward the back of the convention center where there were loading docks and benches.

As they sat down, Sidney told CNA, Haas suddenly kissed her aggessively and groped her chest. As she tried to pull away, Haas attempted to pull her head onto his shoulder, Sidney said.

Sidney was scared. She was in a relatively isolated place with a much older and larger man.

“I tried to express my discomfort, but in a way that I would be safe,” she said.

“So I probably went along with it a little longer than I would have liked, and then I asked to leave, and he took my arm and walked with me back to where we had originally had met."

She said as she took leave of him, he kissed her again, on the mouth. He also gave her his cell phone number and told her which hotel he was staying in, inviting her to visit his room at any point during the conference, she said.

This invitation struck Sidney as odd— partly because it was so obviously wrong, and crossed a boundary, but also because she knew that Haas generally travelled with his wife.

Sidney says she immediately reported what had happened to her, to a priest as well as to a friend and mentor who was a mandated reporter. She doesn't believe her complaint went anywhere— if it did, she said she never heard anything more about it.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles told CNA in a statement Thursday that it is “investigating allegations of sexual misconduct described in recent media reports involving” Haas.

The archdiocesan Office of Victims Assistance Ministry, which receives reports of misconduct, has no prior record of reports of sexual misconduct against Haas, the archdiocese stated.

However: “As part of the current investigation, the Archdiocese is looking into a past complaint of inappropriate interaction and/or communication by Mr. Haas with an adult woman and how it was handled,” the statement read. 

Sidney told CNA that for the next few years, after that first encounter at LAREC, she made a point of trying to avoid Haas, but she said because of the nature of their professions, and because they had mutual colleagues and friends, their paths did cross again several times.

Haas repeatedly ‘friended’ Sidney on Facebook during this time, she said, even after she deleted him as a friend, and he occasionally sent personalized cards to her home address.

In 2014, at a national conference in San Antonio, Haas was staying in the same hotel as Sidney. She said she kept running into him during the conference, and that he cornered her on several occasions, pressuring her to meet with him one-on-one.

Sidney agreed to meet Haas in a public setting.

As they talked, Haas asked Sidney if she was seeing anyone, and she told him that she was dating her now-husband.

"The word I would use is that he became 'irate.' He was extremely upset by that,” Sidney told CNA.

“Mind you, he doesn't know my husband, he's never met the man...it was very out of character. There was no reason that he should have not been anything but thrilled for me."

He also invited Sidney to breakfast, and implied that publishers and other people whom Sidney might want to meet and network with would be present at the breakfast. Sidney agreed because of the potential networking opportunity.

"When I showed up, it was actually just the two of us. So I was very uncomfortable," she said.

 

“Well, that's just the way he is”

Sidney later secured a high-level ministry position at a major archdiocese. At that job, Haas’ name occasionally came up as a possible ministry collaborator.

Sidney said she made it clear to her colleagues that she believed Haas did not have good boundaries, and that she knew of— without going into detail— instances in which he had behaved inappropriately.

“And I was basically told: 'Well, that's just the way he is,'” Sidney said.

It was widely known in that office, Sidney said, that Haas crossed boundaries. And this was discussed in that office setting, and subsequently brushed off, she said.

“It's difficult for me to know that there are people that I'm working with that are abusing that privilege that we have, because we have an immense amount of privilege as catechetical leaders, and we have to recognize our privilege and recognize that it is a privilege to be in these positions,” Sidney said.

“We're entrusted with quite a lot. We need to also acknowledge our position of power, and that we do exercise power over those that we serve. And we have to be extremely careful in our boundaries and how we interact with others."

Sidney said others who attended the MMA camp the same year she did noticed what they later realized was grooming behavior by Haas at MMA. She also said that a friend of hers has also made allegations against Haas.

Sidney said since the allegations against Haas broke in late May, she has seen commenters online asking why the alleged victims did not speak out sooner.

"What I think people fail to understand is that many of these women did report this, and we just weren't heard, weren't listened to, we weren't believed,” she said.

“Because it was brushed off as 'that's just how he is,' or 'boys will be boys' or 'it's not that big a deal' or 'well, do you have any proof?' And when you say those things to victims, and to women, you're not validating their experience and you're essentially silencing them.”

Some Catholic commentators have debated in recent weeks the best course of action to take regarding Haas’ music, which is regularly played at hundreds of parishes nationwide, and around the world.

Sidney said, in her opinion, it would be best if Haas’ music is retired— there’s no way to know if the minister singing or someone in the congregation is someone who has been affected by Haas' actions, she said. 

“This is somebody who, in my opinion, has operated with flagrant disregard for the code of ethics that we hold ourselves to. And it's because of his— what I perceive to be— entitlement and disregard for that code of ethics that he's been able to get away with this brazen behavior for years,” Sidney told CNA.

In her view, Sidney said, when dealing with an accused individual, there needs to be prudence and due process, but when allegations are repeated over and over again, steps must be taken to temporarily remove that person from positions of spiritual influence, or at least limit their access while an investigation takes place.

When whispers or suspicions come to light, those need to be acted upon, she said.

"When you see behavior that is unbecoming of a minister, period— male or female, doesn't matter— you have a responsibility to hold that person accountable. So I think that men in particular need to hold other men accountable, and women need to continue to speak out and make it clear that certain behaviors are and are not acceptable."

Sidney has not yet made her identity known publicly; nor have most of the women who have spoken out so far.

She said some of Haas’ fellow composers are raising their voices against Haas’ alleged behavior, listening to the anonymous voices of survivors— in many cases, not realizing that some of the victims are people that they know personally.

Haas did not respond to CNA’s request for a response to Sidney’s allegations. He told CNA June 17 that he had no plans to comment on allegations against him beyond a public statement he had issued.

His June 16 statement said that: “David Haas denounces Into Account Inc.’s allegations as false, reckless and offensive. He is also sad and disappointed that Into Account Inc. chose to use social media- a public forum- to deprive him of a fair and legitimate venue to face his accusers, but instead launched a marketing effort with the mission to destroy his reputation and livelihood.”

 

“We have to be serious about that”

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, in which Haas resides, has moved to limit Haas’ influence in the archdiocese in the wake of the allegations, but also has highlighted the difficulty of dealing with a situation of a layperson, who is not employed by the Church, but nevertheless has allegations against them.

“The Haas matter illustrates the challenges of responding to allegations of inappropriate behavior by lay persons who work with Catholic groups, especially when they are self-employed,” the archdiocese said in a June 16 statement.

“We are committed to supporting anyone who has been harmed by persons of influence, prominence or power in our communities. At the same time, we recognize the importance of having a fair and appropriate forum that provides due process for those who have been accused.”

Ed Mechmann, director of the New York Archdiocese’ safe environment office, confirmed to CNA that the arena of accused laypeople in the Catholic Church is a very problematic one, because "there's no national license for being a 'good' Catholic, or an 'acceptable' Catholic."

For an employee, obviously there can be adverse employment action taken, he said. For people such as Haas, who operate as independent contractors or run their own entity, it’s different.

"If it's music ministers, speakers, mission directors working the circuit, the only thing to do is exclude them,” Mechmann told CNA.

“And people don't have a right to be in Catholic organizations, or in front of Catholic parishes. They don't have a right to do that, it's a privilege. And if we're going to protect people, we have to be serious about that."

In his work as a safe environment coordinator, Mechmann said dioceses generally try to avoid "blacklists," both for laypeople and for clerics.

Instead, he said, music ministers or Catholic authors on the speaking circuit could get a certificate from their home diocese, good for six months, to say there are no allegations of misconduct against them.

Some dioceses ask for letters of good standing, he said, for laypeople, but in his opinion even that course of action is relatively rare.

If an individual diocese is not willing to share information on laypeople, or if dioceses do not inquire about laypeople, he said, then laypeople can be moved around, “shuffled,” as were priests before the norms of 2002 Dallas Charter changed diocesan practices. 

In Mechmann’s opinion, laypeople should be held to the same standards as priests, because right now, he said, priests are held to a higher standard than laypeople.

But, it all comes back to the willingness of the layperson's home diocese or parish to share information, and dioceses may be worried about defamation suits, he said.

"Unless we implement some kind of systematic 'good standing' certification for people who are going into other dioceses from their home diocese, there's not going to be a good solution for this."

Change would require activism and insistence on some new policies by Catholic laity, he said.

Music publisher GIA said in a June 13 Facebook post that it learned about allegations of sexual misconduct “early this year” and has suspended” its sponsorship and publication of Haas’ work. On June 15, hymnal publisher OCP said it too would cut ties with Haas.

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis told CNA that it received allegations of misconduct against Haas in both 2018 and 1987. In 2018, two women told the archdiocese that the composer had “acted inappropriately” with them, and in 1987, the archdiocese “had received a complaint alleging that David Haas had made an unwelcomed sexual advance toward a young adult woman.”

The archdiocese said Haas has denied those allegations, but, “following the 2018 complaints, the Archdiocese informed Mr. Haas that the Archdiocese would not provide him with a letter of recommendation that he had requested.”

“Furthermore, the Archdiocese advised Mr. Haas that he was not allowed to provide services at Catholic institutions in the Archdiocese without disclosure of the complaints made against him,” archdiocesan spokesman Tom Halden added.

 

“It got worse”

A woman named Maria* told CNA that allegations against Haas fit a pattern that seems familiar to her.

In 1980, Maria was a freshman at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. Haas was in his early 20s and a student at the minor seminary.

Maria told CNA that Haas invited her to dinner in the fall of 1980, ostensibly to discuss music ministry. She had recently attended a music workshop that he had put on in St. Paul, and he had reached out to her directly by phone, she says.

She says during the evening Haas professed love for her, and that while he was driving after dinner, he refused to bring her back to her dormitory when she asked him to repeatedly, taking her instead to a second restaurant for dessert, despite her continued requests to be taken home.

Maria alleges that Haas tried to hold her back when she eventually did get out of his car, insisting on a kiss goodnight.

In later weeks, she says Haas pursued her with love notes and tried to meet with her one-on-one, even while he knew she was dating a man she eventually married. She says she rebuked his advances, "but it could have gone bad fast if I hadn't seen the writing on the wall," Maria told CNA.

When the Into Account allegations came to light in May, Maria says she began to reassess what had happened to her. He had taken her out under false pretenses— using his position as a music minister to get her to agree to meet him— and would not allow her to leave the situation, she said.

Maria also remembers hearing rumors that other members of the choir in which she participated in college— which Haas helped to lead— had experienced similar “dates” with Haas.

She said she hopes her story might inspire other women from that choir to come forward with their own allegations.

"[The allegations] didn't surprise me, frankly, but it just made me really sad that this seems to be at least a 40-year pattern of behavior, and that it got worse," she said.

Maria said she is not a vengeful person, and that her life today is very happy. But it bothers her greatly, she said, that Haas appears to have used his position of authority to cause harm to some young, vulnerable women over the years.

"It's no different to me than the priest scandal, except that he's not a priest," she commented.

Haas did not respond to CNA’s request for a response to Maria's allegations.

Maria said she has told the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis about the incident, and that she hopes they will use her information as part of an investigation into Haas’ misconduct.

Several other Catholic entities have sought to suspend or sever ties with Haas in recent weeks because of the allegations.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles told CNA that Haas is not authorized to perform in the archdiocese pending the outcome of its investigation.

“The Archdiocese stands against any sexual misconduct and is resolute in our support for victim-survivors of abuse,” a statement sent to CNA said, adding that anyone with information regarding the matter can report to the Office of Victims Assistance Ministry.

 

“I need to repent, and seek forgiveness”

Haas has spoken in the past about his struggles with mistreatment of others.

Onstage during a 2019 session at the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress— before any public allegations of misconduct came to light— Haas spoke candidly about his struggles with anger, and his desire to seek God's forgiveness.

"If we're going to be peacemakers, it means that we try with all of our heart and soul to disengage of any kind of violence— physical, emotional, spiritual, psychological...We need to use every spiritual power we can access through the power of the spirit of God to not take part and to not promote such behavior. Now, I violate these principles all the time, and every time I do, I need to repent, and seek forgiveness," Haas said during the session.

"I need to ask for forgiveness, not only of God, but also from those who I've harmed. Jesus asks a lot of us Christians. And there are many times I know I want to lash out, seek revenge, and I'm deeply ashamed to admit that I can be a terrible gossip. And while I've never taken part in any violent act, when I search my heart, there are times when I know I want to punish others."

Haas said he was working to "recommit" himself to "soften the hateful, angry, and violent thoughts that sometimes fill my mind."

 

*Sidney and Maria both asked CNA for anonymity to avoid potential retaliation from Haas, professionally, and from the public.

 

San Francisco Catholic archdiocese 'surprised' by order to cease indoor, public Masses

Denver Newsroom, Jul 2, 2020 / 03:04 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of San Francisco is pledging to comply with the city and county public health orders barring indoor public Masses and limiting outdoor services, including funerals, to 12 people.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera sent a letter June 29 to the archdiocese’ lawyer, ordering the archdiocese to cease-and-desist indoor public Masses and giving it one day to comply.

“Upon reviewing the reports of multiple San Francisco parishes holding indoor Mass over the last few weeks, the Health Officer has concluded that the Archdiocese is putting not only its parishioners but the larger community at risk of serious illness and death,” the letter said.

The archdiocese told CNA today that it has made a good-faith effort to comply with the city’s public health guidelines, despite some occasional confusion and last-minute changes to the city’s public health orders.

“Our intention has always been to conform to what we understand to be the City orders and timelines,” the archdiocese said, noting that the city’s orders have been constantly changing throughout the pandemic, sometimes on short notice, the archdiocese said July 2.

Indoor gatherings are not currently permitted in San Francisco, but outside religious services and funerals are allowed with a 12-person limit, ABC7 reports.

The San Francisco archdiocese covers the city and county of San Francisco, as well as San Mateo and Marin counties.

The letter laid out several complaints the city had received about parishes around San Francisco holding indoor Masses.

According to the letter, Archbishop Cordileone had informed all parishes that they could resume public Mass June 14.

Dr. Tomas Aragón, the county public health officer, subsequently informed the archbishop that “he planned to issue a revised order that would allow for larger outdoor services and general indoor services...limited to 12 attendees, subject to safety and social distancing protocols, which would be effective June 29.”

Aragón later informed the archdiocese, on June 26, that such a revised order would be delayed.

A lawyer for the archdiocese sent a letter to the City Attorney's Office June 30 saying that Archbishop Cordileone has now notified his priests “that the order limiting religious services to outdoors with no more than 12 people remains in force with appropriate social distancing and face coverings."

One of the examples the City Attorney’s letter cited as a supposed example of a congregation flaunting the public health rules was a complaint that alleged that a priest from Star of the Sea parish “led a procession on June 8 without wearing a face covering.”

The letter cited the blog of Father Joseph Illo, Star of the Sea’s pastor, and a picture he posted June 13 of a Eucharistic procession in San Francisco.

In a July 2 email to parishioners, Father Illo disputed the letter’s characterization of the procession, which he said actually took place several years ago. The image first appeared on his blog during May 2016.

Illo said his parish will comply with the city’s orders, in obedience to the archbishop. But he lamented what he sees as an unjust application of the city’s orders.

“Dozens of people eat at restaurants on the streets around my church, without masks. The mayor addresses hundreds of people in a protest at City Hall, many of whom wear no masks. And the city is telling my church that we cannot have a gathering of more than 12 people, outside, for an activity that is specifically protected by the Constitution?” Illo wrote in his July 2 email to parishioners.

For its part, an archdiocesan spokesperson told CNA that they were surprised by the City Attorney’s letter.

“We have initiated contact to help decision-makers understand the nature of our religious services, the sizes of our churches and the care with which the California bishops have taken to plan very safe reopening of our churches for public Masses – when Public Health officials permit,” a statement from the archdiocese to CNA reads.

Archbishop Cordileone is currently seeking a meeting with “a senior city official” to discuss further “the nature of our religious services and how to fairly apply City policies to religious services,” the archdiocese concluded.

Massachusetts city recognizes polyamorous 'civil partnerships'

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 2, 2020 / 02:30 pm (CNA).- The city of Somerville, Massachusetts, has broadened its definition of domestic partnership to give polyamorous relationships the same rights as a married couple. 

Someone who is polyamorous is in a relationship with more than one domestic partner. 

City councilor J.T. Scott, quoted in the New York Times, said that he believes this to be the first ordinance of its kind in the United States. Scott was in favor of recognizing polyamorous relationships. 

“People have been living in families that include more than two adults forever,” said Scott, adding that “Here in Somerville, families sometimes look like one man and one woman, but sometimes it looks like two people everyone on the block thinks are sisters because they’ve lived together forever, or sometimes it’s an aunt and an uncle, or an aunt and two uncles, raising two kids.”

Scott was quoted as saying that the new ordinance would legally recognize someone as having more than one domestic partner, regardless of the nature of that relationship.  

“It has a legal bearing,” said Scott, “so when one of them is sick, they can both go to the hospital.”

The city councilor said he knew of at least two dozen people in Somerville who were engaged in polyamorous relationships, though he did not specify how many households they comprised. The city of Somerville has a population of about 80,000, and, until June, did not have any sort of domestic partnership ordinance. The original draft of the ordinance specified that a domestic partnership was between two persons, which was changed to allow for polyamorous relationships. 

“I don’t think it’s the place of the government to tell people what is or is not a family,” said city councilor Lance Davis, who drafted the domestic partnership ordinance. 

“Defining families is something that historically we’ve gotten quite wrong as a society, and we ought not to continue to try and undertake to do so,” said Davis. 

According to the New York Times, the ordinance means that city employees will be able to extend health insurance benefits to more than one partner. It is unclear if private companies will also allow for employees in polyamorous domestic partenrships to share health insurance plans to their multiple partners.

Davis said that he had been told by constituents that they were happy the city will be “legally recognizing and validating” the existence of polyamorous relationships. 

“That’s the first time this is happening,” said Davis. 

Ryan Anderson, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, told CNA that he was not surprised by the latest efforts to redefine marriage to include multiple people. 

“Of course it was never going to stop with same-sex couples,” Anderson told CNA. 

“Once you redefine marriage to eliminate the male-female component, what principle requires monogamy?”

The former cultural norm of marriage between one man and one woman, Anderon said, “was that only one man and one woman could unite as one flesh as husband and wife in the very same act that could produce new life, and then connect that new life with his or her own mother and father.”

“Once the law and culture says the male-female aspect of marriage violates justice and equality, we haven’t ‘expanded’ marriage, we’ve fundamentally redefined what it is. And those redefinitions have no principled stopping point,” he said.

SCOTUS rejects cases on abortion, Catholic schools, citing recent decisions

CNA Staff, Jul 2, 2020 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- After striking down Louisiana’s unsafe abortion law this week, the Supreme Court on Thursday instructed federal courts to reconsider two Indiana abortion laws in light of that ruling. The court also sent a case concerning Catholic schools in Wisconsin back to the lower court.

Indiana laws requiring parental consent for minors seeking abortions, as well as for mothers seeking abortions to receive an ultrasound, were struck down or halted from going into effect by the federal courts. The Supreme Court on Thursday vacated those rulings and instructed them to be considered again in light of its Monday decision in June Medical Services, L.L.C. v. Russo.

One pro-life leader commended the instruction to reconsider the cases. “We are confident that the Seventh Circuit will allow these compassionate, life-saving laws to stand upon further review,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List.

In the Monday decision, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 against Louisiana’s requirement that abortion facilities have the same admitting-privileges standards as other surgical centers. Under the law, abortionists were required to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.

An abortion regulation, the court said, must promote “women’s health and safety” and cannot put “a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking an abortion.” Louisiana’s law did not meet this standard, the court said.

After failing at the federal circuit court level, Indiana had appealed its ultrasound and parental consent laws to the Supreme Court, asking the court to consider the laws as well as the legal ability of abortion clinics to file lawsuits claiming injuries to women from state abortion laws, known as “third-party standing.” Lower courts will now have to reconsider the case.

In several other cases, the Supreme Court on Thursday refused to hear appeals, including that of a lawsuit against a “buffer zone” enacted by the city of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania outside of abortion facilities.

Two pro-life sidewalk counselors, Colleen Reilly and Becky Biter, had challenged the city’s law in court that had established a 20-foot barrier outside health clinics, including abortion facilities.

Both a federal district court and the Third Circuit appeals court denied their petition for relief from the law, and the Supreme Court also denied their appeal on Thursday.

Dannenfelser said she was “disappointed” at the news, saying that “buffer zones” in reality “restrict the free speech of pro-life Americans who seek to provide love and assistance to women considering abortion.”

In another case where the court denied an appeal, Hill v. Whole Woman’s Health Alliance, Indiana had denied a license to Whole Woman’s Health to open a new facility in South Bend that offered abortion counseling and the abortion pill. The state said that the organization hadn’t provided documentation of past complaints against its affiliates.

A federal district court sided with Whole Woman’s Health and granted it immunity from the regulations to open the new clinic, while also overruling Indiana’s licensing regulations in the process.

The Seventh Circuit appeals court acknowledged Indiana’s authority to license clinics, but ruled that the state acted unconstitutionally in denying Whole Woman’s Health a license for the new clinic.

Indiana then appealed to the Supreme Court to hear the case, or at least hold it until deciding Louisiana’s abortion law; the court on Thursday denied its appeal.

Also this week, in the case Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, the Supreme Court ruled that religious schools must have co equal access to public aid programs with secular private schools. That decision concerned a scholarship fund for private schools and the state’s constitutional bar on public funding of religious institutions, which the court found violated the First Amendment. 

Following that decision, the Supreme Court sent another case appealed to it back down to a lower court. St. Augustine Catholic school and parents of its students had sued the state of Wisconsin for not providing public busing to students of the school. A state law allows for busing of private school students, but only for one school of each religious denomination in a given area. Another Catholic school, St. Gabriel of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, was already being served in the district.

The Seventh Circuit court sided with the state, saying that it did not unlawfully discriminate against religion. On Thursday, the Supreme Court vacated that judgment and sent it back to the circuit court, to be considered in light of the court’s Tuesday ruling in Espinoza.

Mississippi bans abortion on sex, race, genetic disability

CNA Staff, Jul 2, 2020 / 01:10 pm (CNA).- Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves signed the Life Equality Act into law on Wednesday, July 1, banning abortion based on sex, race, or genetic abnormality. The law went into effect upon passage. 

Pro-life advocates called the signing of the law a “historic victory for the pro-life citizens of Mississippi.” 

“Starting now, unborn babies in Mississippi cannot be targeted for abortion based on their sex, race, or potential disability, such as Down syndrome,” said Susan B. Anthony List State Policy Director Sue Liebel in a statement provided to CNA. 

“Such lethal discrimination, whether inside or outside the womb, should be unacceptable anywhere in society,” Liebel added. 

About two thirds of all children prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted. Several countries have prohibited ultrasounds to determine the sex of an unborn child due to the prevalence of sex-selective abortions. 

The Life Equality Act was authored by Rep. Carolyn Crawford (R-Pass Christian). It was passed in the Mississippi House of Representatives in a 79-33 vote on March 12, with bipartisan support. 

The bill passed the Mississippi Senate on June 17 by a 33-11 vote that was along party lines. The Senate bill was sponsored by Sen. Jenifer Branning (R-Philadelphia). Six days later, on June 23, the House concurred with the Senate version of the bill and sent the bill to Reeves’ desk for signing. 

Doctors who are found to have aborted a child due to their sex, race, or genetic anomaly will be guilty of a felony and face a minimum of one and a maximum of 10 years imprisonment. 

Women who are found to have undergone an abortion for these reasons will not be charged. 

Several states have banned sex-selective abortion, abortion due to potential disability, or due to the ethnicity of the unborn child. Mississippi, however, is just one of two states that have prohibited abortion for all three of those reasons. The other is Missouri.

Kentucky attempted to enact a similar law, but it was blocked from going into effect by a court order. 

There is one abortion clinic in Mississippi.

US bishops ask Trump administration to reconsider federal executions

CNA Staff, Jul 1, 2020 / 06:43 pm (CNA).- The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has asked the Trump administration to halt several scheduled executions after the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from four death row inmates.

Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City, head of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development at the USCCB, emphasized the Church’s position on capital punishment and urged the administration to reconsider the three executions scheduled for July 13.

“Now that the Supreme Court has declined to hear the appeals of four federal death row inmates, and the Justice Department has set new execution dates beginning July 13, I reiterate the call made last July for the Administration to reverse course,” he said in a June 30 statement.

“As articulated to the Supreme Court in another case earlier this year, the bishops have been calling for an end to the death penalty for decades,” he said. “Pope St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis have all called for an end to the death penalty around the world.”

In July 2019, Attorney General William Barr announced that the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Prisons would resume federal executions for the first time in nearly 20 years, and named five people who would be the first group of federal death row inmates to be executed.

“Under Administrations of both parties, the Department of Justice has sought the death penalty against the worst criminals, including these five murderers, each of whom was convicted by a jury of his peers after a full and fair proceeding,” said Barr.

Three of the executions are scheduled to take place on July 13. The last federal execution occurred in 2003.

Four of the plaintiffs, who were sentenced to death for multiple murders, challenged a new execution protocol, which permits the use of only one lethal drug instead of the three drugs normally used.

In November 2019, U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan issued an injunction delaying the executions until the Supreme Court ruled whether or not to take up the case. Chutkan pointed to a rule under the Federal Death Penalty Act that requires federal executions to be administered “in the manner prescribed by the state of conviction.” Two of the four plaintiffs had been convicted in states using the three-drug protocol.

On Monday, the Supreme Court declined to hear the inmates’ challenge, clearing the way for the executions to take place as planned.

Archbishop Coakley reiterated the Church’s opposition to the use of the death penalty in modern society.

“As Pope Francis articulated through the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the death penalty is unacceptable as an affront to the Gospel and to respect for human life,” he said. “At their June 2019 meeting, the Catholic bishops of the United States voted overwhelmingly in affirmation of this position.”

“Two of my brother bishops and I wrote. . . last year: ‘To oppose the death penalty is not to be “soft on crime.” Rather, it is to be strong on the dignity of life.’ To this end, I implore Attorney General Barr and President Trump to abandon this path to preside over the first federal executions in 17 years.”

‘An affront to human dignity’: Ethicists react to death of Michael Hickson

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 1, 2020 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Ethicists and disability rights activists have expressed grave concerns over reports of the recent death of Michael Hickson, a black man with quadriplegia and a brain injury who was denied medical treatment due to his disabilities. 

Hickson, 46, died on June 11, six days after a doctor at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center told Hickson’s wife, Melissa, that he did not think that Michael had a quality of life due to his disabilities and would therefore not receive medical treatment, he was subsequently transferred to hospice care. Melissa recorded the conversation, and the video was posted on YouTube. 

Michael was admitted to the medical center after he contracted COVID-19 and pneumonia at the nursing home where he lived. 

Dr. John Di Camillo, and ethicist at the National Catholic Bioethics Center told CNA that denying care based solely on a disability or presumptions about a patient’s quality of life is an “affront to the dignity of the human person and a tragedy of medical ethics.”

“A patient or surrogate decision-maker has the moral option to decline treatments that are extraordinarily burdensome or minimally beneficial,” Di Camillo said, “and clinicians have the duty to convey facts, expectations, and recommendations, but a refusal of care based on quality of life alone simply should not happen.” 

Dr. Harold Braswell, an bioethicist at St. Louis University, told CNA that while he cannot be sure what the doctor in the video was thinking, “given the objections of the family [...] and a general tendency among health care professionals to underestimate quality of life among disabled people, it’s grounds for concern.” 

“Disability rights advocates have almost universally opposed ‘quality of life’ as a criteria for making triage decisions during COVID-19,” said Braswell, and that the preferred metric for triage is “survivability.” “Survivability” refers to the chance that a person will survive the medical interventions. 

“But survivability doesn't seem to be an issue in this case--hence Mrs. Hickson's surprise that her husband was being put on ‘hospice,’” said Braswell. He called the citation of “quality of life” a “big red flag.” 

At least one disability activist views Mr. Hickson’s death as a homicide. 

“The murder of Michael Hickson by a hospital system that doesn’t care is a tragic example of how our priorities have shifted,” Steven Spohn, a public speaker and disability activist, told CNA. 

“We used to be a nation that cared about Christian values and taking care of one another. Now people who need our support go unheard,” he said. 

Spohn told CNA that he believes there are “thousands of cases just like Michael’s” who do not receive media attention. 

“I wish that the media would pay attention to the injustice being done to people with disabilities on many fronts,” he said. 

Dr. Charles Camosy, a professor of bioethics at Fordham University, also told CNA that he was confused by the relative lack of major media attention given to Hickson’s death, especially in light of the increased attention to racial justice. 

“Given what we know about how rightly distrustful African Americans are of contemporary U.S. medicine, especially at the end of life, it is absolutely shocking that this clear issue of racial justice and medicalized violence is not being picked up broadly by major media outlets,” Camosy said first on Twitter and then to CNA. 

Since the death of George Floyd, a black man who died on May 25 in the custody of the Minneapolis Police, there have been a series of protests and increased attention given to the mistreatment of ethnic minorities in American society, something Camosy said is “helpfully exposing examples of both personal and structural racism.” 

“And yet, at least for now, all we hear are crickets [regarding Hickson’s death] except in the pro-life and disabilitiy communities,” said Camosy. 

Camosy acknowledged that while there may be times that require medical rationing, “there is no evidence that this was the case, and the doctor made it clear on the recording that he was aiming at his patient’s death on the basis of his disability.” 

In the video, when Melissa asked to clarify that the doctor was referring to Michael’s disabilities when he claimed that her husband “didn’t have much” of a quality of life, the doctor replied “correct.”

In the recorded video, the doctor explained to Melissa that the patients who were treated successfully with the drug he was refusing to administer to Michael were “walking and talking,” unlike her husband. 

In a second video Melissa posted to YouTube, she describes how she was not informed of her husband’s death for over 12 hours, and states that she was not allowed to visit him in hospice or have a FaceTime call with him before his death. She called for people to contact her husband’s doctors and medical guardians, who she says failed him in his final days. 

“Michael's widow is pleading for us to hold the people who did this to account, and that we must do,” said Camosy. “Because black lives matter.”

How Catholics can work to 'expel this demon' of racism

Washington D.C., Jul 1, 2020 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- Catholics can use the weapons of faith to expel racism from society, black Catholic leaders said on Wednesday at an online forum on the future of the United States.

Gloria Purvis, host of EWTN’s radio show “Morning Glory,” who has served on the National Black Catholic Congress, said on Wednesday that Catholics need to work together to “expel this demon” of racism through prayer and fasting.

Purvis noted how Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco performed an exorcism on June 27 at a local park where a statue of St. Junipero Serra was torn down by a crowd.

Catholics, Purvis said, could travel to other sites where an evil has occurred and pray for an exorcism there, such as the spot where George Floyd was knelt on by a police officer in Minneapolis or to Tulsa, Oklahoma where African-Americans were massacred in 1921.  

“We can take our faith and bring it into the public square,” she said.

Purvis spoke on Wednesday at an online symposium “What’s Next for America,” co-hosted by the National Review Institute and the Sheen Center for Thought and Culture, which has hosted a series of discussions on “faith, hope, and love” online.

Joining Purvis on the panel was Louis Brown, executive director of the Christ Medicus Foundation, and moderator Kathryn Jean Lopez, senior fellow at the National Review Institute and editor-at-large of National Review.

Lopez began the discussion by invoking Pope Francis’ 2015 address to U.S. Congress where he said that the response to injustice “must instead be one of hope and healing, of peace and justice.”

She asked what could be done by Catholics to respond to current-day challenges of the new coronavirus pandemic and widespread anti-racist protests and riots.

Brown said that people must first “recover our identity” as “all sons and daughters of God” who “have equal human value.”

“It boils my blood” to see an African-American man “clearly murdered, and people want to talk about his rap sheet,” Brown said of efforts to diminish the dignity of a fellow person. “Murder is always murder.”

Purvis said that, when the pandemic hit and Americans had to quarantine, she saw the shutdown as an opportunity to make sacrifices for others.

Now, she said, Catholics must make sacrifices to atone for the sin of racism. St. Theresa of Avila would tell sisters who witnessed a fellow nun doing something wrong to practice the opposite virtue, Purvis said.

“Why are we not doing reparation to God for the sins that we have done to each other?” she asked. “Until we have a conversion of heart, there is not going to be peace among us.” Catholics can examine their consciences to see where they might have committed sins of racism, take them to the confessional, and ask God to heal them, Purvis said.

Brown gave the example of the pro-life movement, where members pray and fast for an end to abortion even though they might never have had an abortion or participated in one. Catholics can do the same with racism, he said.

Catholics can also make an effort to understand the experiences of others they may not be familiar with. For instance, Brown said, African-American communities have especially suffered from COVID-19. “Part of it is that we don’t have access to medical care that we should have,” he said.

Some other concrete actions Catholics can take to “unleash” the “force of love,” he said, is to set up communal forums at their parish for better understanding between communities and healing. If someone has an issue with their local police department, he said, “be engaged.”

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission set up in South Africa in 1994 was not perfect, Brown said, but people confessed of injustices they committed, and healing occurred. “We need that now in America,” he said. “We have never dealt with our woundedness here in the United States of America. We change a law and we try to move on. That’s clearly not working.”

The social bonds of faith, family, and love, he said, “have been seriously, seriously threatened and diminished,” and if Catholics don’t take action now to help the country heal, “we may not have the country that we love.”