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In Iowa, progress for pro-life constitutional amendment

Aykut Erdogdu/Shutterstock.

Des Moines, Iowa, May 5, 2021 / 21:01 pm (CNA).

Iowa lawmakers have laid the groundwork for a proposed state constitutional amendment to prevent recognition of abortion as a legal right, countering a state Supreme Court decision. The main questions now are whether the legislation will pass as soon as possible, and whether voters will back the amendment on a statewide ballot as early as 2024.

One pro-life group says it is important to pass the legislation during the current legislative year, which is expected to close soon.

“We’ve worked hard to educate Iowans and also advocate to our legislators that we feel very strongly in getting the Protect Life Amendment passed this session,” Maggie DeWitte, executive director of Iowans for Life, told the Cedar Rapids Gazette.

The Iowa Supreme Court found a “right to abortion” under the state’s constitution in 2018. That ruling struck down a 72-hour waiting period for abortion, on the grounds that “a woman’s right to decide whether to terminate a pregnancy is a fundamental right under the Iowa Constitution.” The proposed amendment would nullify the court’s finding.

DeWitte said the 2018 ruling was a “mistake” that was “even more extreme than Roe v. Wade,” the 1973 decision that mandated permissive abortion laws nationwide.

She said the amendment will allow Iowa voters and their elected representatives to make decisions about health and safety. Without the amendment, the state cannot prevent late-term abortions “even up to the point of birth.”

A proposed constitutional amendment must be approved by two consecutive legislative sessions before going to the ballot. The current legislative session will conclude in 2022.

The Iowa Catholic Conference has testified in support of the amendment, saying it would make the state constitution “abortion-neutral.”

“Without this change, if or when Roe v. Wade is struck down or federal law is modified, abortion will remain a fundamental right in Iowa,” the conference said in 2019. The state Supreme Court decision means strong scrutiny for “any regulation of abortion or efforts to restrict its public funding.”

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Steve Holt, R-Denison, said the proposal would pass either this year or next year but this would not affect when it goes on the ballot.

The House version of the amendment was written on the principle, “simpler is better,” Holt told the Cedar Rapids Gazette.

“To defend and protect unborn children, we the people of the State of Iowa declare that this Constitution does not recognize, grant, or secure a right to abortion or require the public funding of abortion,” said the proposed amendment.

The Senate’s version also speaks about protecting “mothers and unborn children from efforts to expand abortion even to the day of birth.” It says the constitution “shall not be construed” to recognize abortion as a right or to require public funding of abortions.

The Senate version was approved on a 30-17 party-line vote.

Senate President Jake Chapman, R-Adel, said the nature of the proposal as a constitutional amendment means “we need to be very careful about what we propose and get language right.”

A language compromise has been reached, according to Hold and Chapman.

Possible debate over the wording could include efforts to create constitutional protections for abortion in cases where the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest or to preserve the life of the mother, the Cedar Rapids Gazette reports.

DeWitte advocated for speedy passage for the amendment.

“It's better for us to get it passed this session so we can work on some other important pro-life and pro-family bills in the next legislative session,” she said.

Abortion backers were critical of the effort.

Jamie Burch Elliott, a lobbyist for Planned Parenthood Advocates Iowa, said the proposed amendment is “laying the groundwork to ban abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned.”

Elliott said that Planned Parenthood’s polling reports that only one-third of voters would vote for the amendment.

DeWitte said Iowans for Life’s polling reports that voters will favor the amendment when they understand it is “really about preventing unelected judges from forcing late-term abortion and taxpayer-funded abortion on Iowans.”

Archbishop Cordileone after stabbing of Asian women: "we must stop hating one another"

Archbishop of San Francisco Salvatore Cordileone / Archdiocese of San Francisco

San Francisco, Calif., May 5, 2021 / 18:26 pm (CNA).

Most Reverend Salvatore Cordileone, Archbishop of San Francisco, called on local Catholics to "engage in prayer, adoration and fasting for an end to violence and hatred," after two Asian women were stabbed at a bus stop in downtown San Francisco on Tuesday at around 5:00 pm.

In a statement released to CNA, Archbishop Cordileone wrote, "It happened again. This time, two Asian women were stabbed on the streets of San Francisco in broad daylight. How can this be happening? Our beloved city is deteriorating. The Tenderloin is the center of homelessness and poverty. Solutions are going to require new and creative ideas, and a hard and honest look at some very painful realities." 

"It will not happen without us all uniting in deep love for our city and its people," the Archbishop also said. 

"We must stop hating one another. We must recognize in the other not an object of violence or hate, but a brother or sister made in the image and likeness of God. This is a big challenge for all of us. I ask San Francisco Catholics to engage in prayer, adoration and fasting for an end to violence and hatred. St. Francis, patron of San Francisco, pray for us," he concluded.

Both victims were transported to nearby hospitals, one of them, an 85-year-old woman, had to undergo surgery.

Patricia Lee, a witness who was working at a flower stand near the attack, told KGO-TV that the man who attacked the women “walked away like nothing happened, like Sunday morning.”

Two hours later, San Francisco police arrested 54-year-old Patrick Thompson, currently in police custody.

Upcoming Courage conference to focus on St. Joseph

St. Joseph and the Christ Child, by Guido Reni / Public domain

Washington D.C., May 5, 2021 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

The Catholic apostolate Courage International will be focusing its upcoming annual conference on St. Joseph, under the theme “St. Joseph: Model of Courageous Love.” 

Courage is an apostolate that provides pastoral support, prayer support, and fellowship for people who experience same-sex attraction. Its 34th annual conference will take place in July at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. 

“It is exciting that, by focusing our attention on Saint Joseph, our Courage and EnCourage apostolates will be united with the heart of the universal Church, which is celebrating the Year of Saint Joseph together in many ways,” said Fr. Philip Bochanski, executive director of Courage International, in an interview with CNA. 

“Saint Joseph is a model, an encouragement, and an intercessor for our members who strive to make a sincere gift of themselves and bear much fruit as disciples,” he said.

The July 15-18 conference will include talks on a variety of topics including pastoral ministry, spirituality, and ways to support family members and loved ones who experience same-sex attraction. Participants will be able attend daily Mass and Eucharistic Adoration, and will have opportunities to go to confession.

Commenting on this year’s theme - during the Year of St. Joseph - Bochanski noted that St. Joseph initially expected a “normal” marriage with the Blessed Virgin Mary.

“When he [Joseph] became more fully aware of his vocation, the purpose and plan for which he had been created,” Bochanski said, “he was willing to sacrifice the intimate sexual expression of love in his married life, in order to live out all the other responsibilities of being a husband with greater dedication and self-sacrifice.”

Bochanski said that Saint Joseph's integration and integrity allowed him to make a total gift of himself, to Mary, and ultimately to the plan of God. 

“This sacrifice bore fruit that he could never have foreseen, because it was in Joseph's home and in the heart of his family that God's promise of redemption was kept and the Savior entered into the world,” he said. 

He explained that chastity does not mean repressing human feelings and emotions, but rather requires understanding them in light of God's plan for marriage and sexuality, which always includes the complementarity of men and women. 

“Accepting and living this truth, which is rooted in their God-given identity and calling, involves sacrificing some intimate desires and relationships,” he said. 

Bochanski told CNA the result of this sacrifice is a full, fruitful and happy life where friendship, affection and charity can all flourish, because sexual desire is properly integrated. 

EnCourage is a sub-organization of Courage, and provides support for families and friends of persons who identify as LGBT. It aims to teach them how to reach out to their loved ones with compassion and understanding.

“For our EnCourage members, [St. Joseph] is a model of genuine fatherhood, and a reminder that to follow God’s plan for ourselves and our families, the most necessary thing is to stay close to, and focused on, Jesus and Mary,” Father Bochanski said in a press release. 

Delivering the keynote address at the conference will be Dr. Greg Bottaro, director of the CatholicPsych Institute and author of “Consecration to Jesus through St. Joseph: An Integrated Look At the Holy Family.”

Other speakers include Father Ricardo Pineda of the Fathers of Mercy; Mary Rice Hasson, director of the Catholic Women’s Forum; and Deacon Patrick Lappert, MD, a Courage chaplain. 

“Last year's virtual conference allowed us to connect with members and friends from around the world, and we don't want to lose those connections,” Bochanski told CNA. “Our conference this year will be a hybrid model -- conference talks and liturgies will be live-streamed for those who cannot attend in person for various reasons.”

Bochanski said that while Courage can't recreate all the benefits of the in-person conference in a virtual format, they are encouraging their members who will participate online to find ways to join with their local chapters, and watch the talks and discuss them together.

Courage will be holding a “Clergy Day” on July 14 for priests, deacons, and seminarians, which will include presentations on how to understand and present the Church’s teaching on same-sex attraction “with clarity and charity, and to provide authentic pastoral care,” the press release said.

Bochanski said he was looking forward to the participation of all including Courage chaplains, as  well as other clergy, religious, and laity who are engaged in pastoral ministry. He especially is excited to welcome a number of bishops, who will celebrate Mass and preach during the conference.  

“I am particularly grateful to Archbishop Naumann of Kansas City for welcoming us to his archdiocese, and agreeing to celebrate the opening Mass of the conference,” he said.

Bochanski noted that Courage is especially looking forward to the participation of their Spanish-speaking members from Europe and the Americas. “I am grateful that we have the ability to include them through simultaneous interpretation of keynote talks, as well as presentations, meetings and liturgies in Spanish,” he said.

‘We are alarmed’: Catholic aid groups respond to India’s COVID crisis

June 25, 2020: Health workers arrive at a check-up camp in Malad / Manoej Paateel/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., May 5, 2021 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

Catholic aid groups are mobilizing relief efforts in India, as the country is gripped by a worsening outbreak of the coronavirus.

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and Caritas India are on the ground in the subcontinent, and are administering aid. 

“In India and elsewhere, CRS and our Church partners are providing life-saving support to communities impacted by COVID-19,” Nikki Gamer, media relations manager for CRS, told CNA on Wednesday. 

Gamer said that CRS has reached more than 10 million people through on-the-ground efforts to prevent spread of the virus, support health responders, and “assist extremely vulnerable families to manage the compounded impacts of the pandemic on their lives.”

The Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), a papal agency that provides humanitarian and pastoral support for the Middle East, northeast Africa, India, and Eastern Europe, announced a new emergency campaign for India on Tuesday. The campaign will “help the local churches respond to the escalating COVID-19 crisis,” the agency said. 

“We cannot watch this catastrophe unfold and not share the heartbreak and feel the need to help,” the agency’s president Msgr. Peter Vaccari stated in a press release on Tuesday. 

The death toll from the pandemic in India is estimated to have exceeded 225,000. The country is averaging about 3,500 deaths per day from COVID-19, and hospitals are running low on bed and vital supplies. Experts believe the number of deaths to be undercounted, the AP has reported.

“We are alarmed by the spike in COVID-19 cases in India, Nepal and other hotspots. As our Asia regional director said last week, ‘Even as an increasingly vaccinated America looks forward to a light at the end of the COVID tunnel, a number of countries in Asia are hitting their darkest periods,’” Gamer said. 

Gamer told CNA that “it’s clear that the global response to the pandemic is not moving fast enough,” and that CRS is calling on the United States and other countries “to commit to bold and immediate action to prevent the threats posed by COVID-19 worldwide.” 

Msgr. Vaccari promised that his agency will be responding to where they are needed in India.

“When the world has needed us, CNEWA was there,” he said. “And we are there now, in India, where our regional office is at work, bringing assistance however we can to those in need.”

One of CRS’ top priorities is expanding vaccine education in hard-hit areas, said Gamer. 

“CRS and our Catholic partners play a unique role as a trusted source of information—which, at a time of fear and misinformation, is truly lifesaving,” she said. 

“We are extremely grateful for the continued generosity from American Catholics and others of goodwill,” she said. “We remain committed to the notion that to end this pandemic anywhere, we must end it everywhere.”

According to CRS’ website, the organization has focused on supporting migrant workers, who are at an increased risk of getting the virus. CRS also provides psychological care and hunger assistance.

'Demographic earthquake'? U.S. fertility rates fall again to record-low levels

TOMO/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., May 5, 2021 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

The U.S. total fertility rate fell to its lowest-recorded level last year and the number of births was the lowest in 42 years, new federal data published on Wednesday revealed.

According to provisional data of the National Vital Statistics System published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the total fertility rate in the United States dropped 4% from 2019 to 2020, reaching a record-low. The general fertility rate and overall number of births also declined by 4% last year, with the number of births at its lowest since 1979.

The total fertility rate – an estimate of the number of births that 1,000 women would have in their lifetimes – was only 1,637.5 births per 1,000 women in 2020, well below the “replacement level” rate of 2,100 births per 1,000 women.

W. Brad Wilcox, senior fellow at the Institute for Family Studies, called the report “pretty sobering demographic news.”

He added that “we could be on the cusp of a major demographic shift, or almost like a demographic earthquake here in the United States.”

According to the report, the total fertility rate has been below replacement level “generally” since 1971, and “consistently” since 2007 – just before the global economic crisis of the following year.

The U.S. fertility rate is actually lower than Japan’s in 1988, Wilcox noted. Japan’s fertility rate went on to drop precipitously after that year, he said, effecting a demographic decline with around a million more deaths than births in recent years.

“The question is, are we heading down the Japanese road?” Wilcox asked, pointing to Southern Europe and East Asia as other examples of regions with low birth rates.

For 2020, the general fertility rate stood at 55.8 births per 1,000 women ages 15-44, a record-low.

The overall number of births in the United States fell 4% last year to just more than 3.6 million births in 2020 – the sixth consecutive year that figure has decreased and the lowest number of births since 1979.

There might be a number of causes behind the low birth rates, Wilcox said. While demographers have warned of a possible “baby bust” due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic crisis it caused, those numbers would only be revealed in the December statistics at the very end of 2020, he said.

“We would predict that 2021, this year, is going to be even more dramatic” in the declining birth rate, he said, noting that the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic could markedly influence the 2021 birth statistics.

Furthermore, birth rates have fallen since the 2008 economic crisis but have not rebounded as the U.S. economy bounced back from the “Great Recession,” he said, implying that causes other than the economy are also responsible for the decline in fertility rates.

“Delays in marriage” are a large driver of the decline, Wilcox said. The rise of technology impacting social life is another, he said, with fewer people socializing and dating in-person. Adults are also more invested in education and work, he said, and are less likely to view marriage and parenthood as “anchors” of adult life.

While federal policies such as paid parental leave and a generous child allowance could play a role in increasing the birth rate, Wilcox noted that Northern European countries with generous family policies are still seeing birth rates fall.

“That’s not a cure-all,” he said of federal pro-family policies, while noting that they would be "helpful."

Among demographic subgroups, the general fertility rate in 2020 dropped 9% for non-Hispanic Asian women, and 4% for non-Hispanic white and non-Hispanic Black women, according to the numbers published by the CDC on Wednesday.

Birth rates among teenagers and young adults continued their steep declines in recent decades.

The provisional birth rate for teenagers ages 15-19 dropped by 8% in 2020, while the provisional birth rate among women ages 20-24 declined by 6% to a record-low 62.8 births per 1,000 women. The birth rate among this subgroup has dropped by 40% since 2007.

While the birth rate among women aged 40-44 had generally risen since 1985, it fell by 2% from 2019 to 2020, to 11.8 births per 1,000 women.

Charleston diocese, Black colleges seek federal injunction to get COVID-19 relief

Historic court house and post office in Charleston, South Carolina / Jon Bilous/Shutterstock

Denver, Colo., May 5, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

A 19th-century constitutional amendment in South Carolina is wrongly blocking coronavirus relief money for Catholic schools, an attorney for the Charleston diocese said in federal court Monday.

The state’s version of a Blaine Amendment, a policy barring state funding of religious institutions, was enacted in 1895. The Diocese of Charleston and an association of colleges are challenging it in court, claiming that it unlawfully shut off Catholic schools from critical relief funds during the pandemic. 

The lawsuit argues that amendment violates the free exercise and equal protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution. A hearing in the case was held at a federal district court in Charleston, South Carolina, on May 3. 

The plaintiffs’ attorney Daniel Suhr asked U.S. District Judge Bruce Hendricks to issue an injunction against the amendment, arguing that it is rooted in efforts to deprive Catholics and Blacks of education funds.

“South Carolina has come a long way since 1895,” said Suhr. “But though the state has come a long way, its past is with us still.” 

He argued that the Blaine Amendment still prevents Catholic schools and historically Black colleges and universities from “fair, equitable access” to the relief funds, the Charleston Post and Courier reported.

Some $34 million in federal funds are at stake in the case, provided as discretionary spending under the federal CARES Act which passed Congress in March 2020 for pandemic relief. 

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster had designated $32 million to help low-and moderate-income families in enrolling or remaining in private schools during the pandemic; he set aside another $2.4 million to assist with health upgrades and distance-based learning technology at the state’s historically Black colleges and universities, most of which are private.

However, the state Supreme Court blocked these efforts under the state’s Blaine Amendment.

In response, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston filed a lawsuit against South Carolina last month. The diocese has 33 schools and 7,000 students. South Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities, a nonprofit organization that includes five historically Black colleges and universities and 20 schools in total, is a co-plaintiff in the case.

Bishop Robert Guglielmone of Charleston has commented on the lawsuit, saying, “This appeal to our state’s courts is not only to, at long last, expunge the anti-Catholic and racist sentiment that still haunts our past. It is about creating a more inclusive, uplifting future for parents and children who seek an education that best fits their values and needs of their students.”

“Many families have been significantly hurt by the COVID pandemic and they should not be denied financial assistance based on where they desire to send their children to school,” he added.

The Blaine Amendment dates back to South Carolina’s 1895 constitutional convention. Versions of Blaine Amendments were passed by many states in the late-19th century, forbidding public funding of religious or “sectarian” causes.

The plaintiffs have pointed to the historical context of the provision, which was backed by the national anti-Catholic group American Protective Association, and South Carolina politician and eventual-U.S. Senator Ben “Pitchfork” Tillman, then-governor of the convention.

“Pitchfork Ben’s racial bigotry lined up nicely with other delegates’ anti-Catholic bigotry,” the plaintiffs said. They objected that a Baptist food pantry, a Catholic hospital, and a Muslim mosque can receive COVID-19 relief, but not schools or universities affiliated with religion.

In a previous statement, the plaintiffs charged that the Blaine Amendment was passed “in order to suppress the education of newly freed slaves and to enable discrimination against Catholic immigrants.” They called the amendment “born of bigotry and prejudice, based on race and religion.”

Last month, Suhr said the lawsuit is based on a principle everyone can support. “We’re fighting to strike down a century-old law that was enacted with the purpose of discriminating against our fellow citizens,” he said. 

McMaster had sought to allocate $14 million in private school vouchers, but the state Supreme Court’s decision put that effort into limbo as well, the Charleston Post and Courier reported. While McMaster disagreed with the state Supreme Court Decision, his attorney said, he must enforce the law.

The law, however, could face significant scrutiny given recent court cases.

In June 2020, the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that the Montana state constitution’s ban on public funding of religious institutions violated the First Amendment. The provision constituted “discrimination against religious schools and the families whose children attend them,” the majority opinion stated. That case concerned a ban on students at religious schools benefitting from a state scholarship program funded by tax credits.

The New Mexico Supreme Court in 2018 upheld a book-lending program that gives school children at public and private schools equal access to state-approved textbooks; the program had been challenged under the state Blaine Amendment. The 2017 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer found that a state cannot deny public benefits to religious entities simply because they are religious.                                           

Illinois bishops urge support for school choice measure, while Nebraska bill fails

Stephen Kiers/Shutterstock

Denver, Colo., May 5, 2021 / 11:00 am (CNA).

Illinois bishops are urging Catholics in the state to support a scholarship program funded by donations with tax credit incentives - tax credits that the governor intends to cut. 

Illinois’ Invest in Kids Act, enacted in 2017, allows for a 75% state income tax credit for charitable donations to an approved scholarship-granting organization; the scholarships help students to attend the school of their choice. 

The act, which passed with strong Catholic support, has led to scholarships granted to some 20,000 children in Illinois so far, the state’s bishops say; more than 25,000 students are still in line for scholarships. 

Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) and the Illinois Education Association do not support the act, however, claiming that it diverts money away from public schools. Pritzker has recommended cutting the tax credit from 75% to 40%. 

Parents should have greater school choice for their children, the state’s bishops said. 

“One of the most important decisions parents make is where their children will attend school. All of us concerned with the common good should advocate for greater access to excellent educational opportunities,” Illinois’ six Catholic bishops wrote in a joint letter this week. 

“Because this is an issue that will be negotiated during the budget negotiating process, there is no specific bill number to give you.  We ask you to simply call your state legislators and urge them to oppose the Governor’s plan to cut the Invest in Kids program and instead support efforts to extend and improve the Invest in Kids Scholarship Tax Credit,” they wrote. 

In Nebraska, the state bishops’ conference lamented the failure of a school choice bill last week in the state legislature. 

The legislature failed to pass LB364, a measure that would have created a tax credit for donors to scholarship funds for low-income students; the funds could have been used for students attending private school, with a yearly cap of $5 million on the funds. 

After eight hours of debate in the Senate, with opponents arguing that the bill would sap resources from the state’s public schools, the bill ultimately failed April 28 amid a filibuster. 

Jeremy Ekeler, Associate Director of Education Policy for the Nebraska Catholic Conference, lamented the bill’s failure to pass, saying that lawmakers had “prioritized politics over parents’ rights.” 

“LB364 affirms the truth that every child deserves the right to pursue an education that is best for them, regardless of zip code or income,” Ekeler said in an April 28 statement. 

“While LB364 did not advance today, a full day of thoughtful debate on this issue is a big step in the right direction. We will continue to advocate for families until we have true educational freedom in our state,” he stated. 

Nebraska and Illinois have not been the only states considering school choice-related policies. 

In late March, Kentucky lawmakers voted to override Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto of school choice legislation; the bill allows the use of tax credits to fund vouchers for students in some of Kentucky’s largest counties to attend private schools. Kentucky’s four Catholic bishops applauded the bill’s passage. 

A previous version of this story stated that the proposed Nebraska tax credit was 50%; the actual proposal was for a 100% credit. The story has been corrected.

Catholic bishops oppose Texas gun bill that ‘advances a culture of violence’

Alexander Oganezov/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., May 5, 2021 / 10:00 am (CNA).

Catholic bishops in Texas have voiced opposition to a bill allowing certain adults to carry handguns without permits, which they say “advances a culture of violence.” 

House Bill 1927 would allow residents of the Lone Star State to carry handguns without permits if they are at least 21 years old and if they are not “otherwise prohibited by state or federal law from possessing the firearm.” Texas law currently requires a license to carry handguns.

The bill has passed the state House and could be voted on by the state Senate next week, according to the Texas Tribune.

In an open letter to Texas lawmakers and Catholics, the state’s Catholic bishops said they are “alarmed at the aggressive calls for the unfettered presence of weapons carried into public places."

“Too often we have seen how guns are used in the public forum by someone acting in anger,” they stated. “Instead of relying on law enforcement and our justice system, people with guns in public areas can become the aggrieved, the jury and the judge, in swift and violent sequence.”

The bill, they said, “fails to reflect a commitment to life or a vision of hope and instead accomplishes nothing more than to make it easier for potentially violent persons to act in anger or delusion. This will cause people to feel more threatened and more afraid.”

The letter was signed by the ordinaries of the state’s 15 Catholic dioceses, as well as Bishop Stephen Lopes of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter; the ordinariate has jurisdiction over a Houston Catholic parish of the Anglican Use.

Gov. Greg Abbott (R-Texas) signaled his support for the bill during a recent radio interview on WBAP.

“I believe it should reach my desk and we should have constitutional carry in Texas,” Abbott said. “This is something that 20 other states already have adopted, and it’s time for Texas to adopt it too.”

The bishops said they have seen communities “shattered” following mass shootings.

“We have all seen the loss of lives, the suffering of victims, the inconsolable sorrow at the funerals,” the bishops wrote. 

They argued that law enforcement officials also “do not support HB 1927, as it makes their oath to protect the public much more difficult.” 

“Nor do we, since it advances a culture of violence that puts everyone at further risk,” the bishops concluded. 

An April “Action Alert” from the Diocese of Corpus Christi stated that the Church recognizes both the legitimate use of self-defense in proportion to a threat, and the lawful authority of the state to regulate the sale and possession of weapons.

“While the Church recognizes that recourse to self-defense is legitimate when necessary to protect one’s safety and that many of our fellow Texans are lawfully-exercising their Second Amendment constitutional rights, this does not mean that the state cannot promote reasonable regulation of firearms to uphold the safety and wellbeing of all persons in our community,” the diocese stated.

“The increased prevalence of weapons in society does not promote a culture of life. In fact, recent mass shootings in Georgia, Colorado, and, tragically, in our own state bear out this reality,” the diocese added.

Why Catholics are reluctant to share their faith... and what to do about it

EWTN Publishing

Denver, Colo., May 5, 2021 / 10:00 am (CNA).

First things first: this is the closest I have seen to the book I always wanted to write and never found the time to do. The title of the book is Web of Faith: A Curious Catholic's Answers to Theological Questions, and brilliantly brings together the two things that I see rank-and-file Catholics are craving: answers to tons of questions from all the fields of Catholicism and a book written so concisely that the answers can be read in the time it takes to clean the family table for dessert.

The authors, Fr. John Trigilio and Fr. Ken Brighenti, are hosts of EWTN’s Web of Faith, and the book is the result of their years of experience explaining the faith in a manner that can be not only understood, but shared with others. So, in the book, they decided to compile a comprehensive list of the best questions ever asked of them, responding to each with intellectual heft, spiritual acuity and charity.

In the introduction, Most Reverend Ronald W. Gainer, Bishop of Harrisburg, tells the story of a lively question-and-answer period following a conference on evangelization where the presenter was asked: "Why are we Catholics so reluctant to talk to others about our Faith?"

“His response,” writes the Bishop, “caught me off guard. He said 'Most often we are afraid of the second question.’”

There are indeed good Q & A Catholic books out there, but this one, in my opinion, is the best in dealing not only with tradition, but also with contemporary challenges to our Faith.  As Bishop Gainer writes, "the book you are holding is an excellent resource to help dispel any fear of the second, third or fourth question."

 The result is 400 pages of rewarding material touching on practically every major category of Church life and Catholic teachings. 400 pages? Fear not ye Catholics. The book is very well organized in four main subjects: Doctrine, Liturgy, Morality, and Prayer.

Thus, the book responds to questions from the impact of mental illness on living the faith, to questions about same-sex attraction, to the level of importance of "repetitive" prayers such as the Rosary or Litanies.

 And then it deals with everything in between such as:

  • How to go to Confession and how not to

  • What you must believe versus what you can have your own opinion about

  • Sacred Scripture’s claims and mandates

  • How to deal with family collapse

  • Why customs matter

  • Who the Church Fathers and Doctors are, and what they teach us

  • Bad words and unwanted thoughts: what is sinful and what is not

  • Psychics and their dangers

  • How canon law applies to laypeople

  • How to avoid the dangers of the Internet

The book is slated to be released on May 25, 2021.

Web of Faith - EWTN Publishing

Ave Maria law school announces new dean

John Czarnetzky / University of Mississippi School of Law

Washington D.C., May 5, 2021 / 07:00 am (CNA).

The Ave Maria School of Law announced its new dean on Tuesday, who will take over the position on June 1.

Tom Monaghan, chairman of the law school’s board of governors, said that John Czarnetzky, a professor of law at the University of Mississippi, will become the new dean of the law school. 

In addition to teaching courses at the University of Mississippi School of Law, Czarnetzky also works as a legal advisor to the Holy See’s Mission to the United Nations, and has represented the Holy See in various negotiations and in international treaties. Czarnetzky also a lay Dominican and a Third Degree member of the Knights of Columbus. 

He was unanimously selected for the position by the school’s board of governors. Czarnetzky replaces Kevin Cieply, who resigned at the end of February due to personal reasons. 

"I am blessed and humbled by the confidence Ave Maria School of Law is placing in me with my appointment as Chief Executive Officer and Dean," said Czarnetzky in a press release from the school. 

"Ave Maria Law is a unique and important organization, known for both its dedication to the Catholic intellectual tradition as well as its family-like commitment to its students. I am overjoyed to now be part of this important academic institution as it looks toward the brightest of futures," he said. 

Monaghan said he took “great pleasure” in announcing Czarnetzky as the new dean. 

"I am excited about his appointment and what it means for the future of the law school,” said Monaghan. “I look forward to Dean Czarnetzky bringing his vast academic experience as well as his strong faith to Ave Maria School of Law in order to help the school continue to excel both academically and spiritually.”

Monaghan thanked those who “worked so hard” during the national search for a new dean.

Prior to his law career, Czarnetzky served as an officer in the U.S. Army. He was an intelligence analyst who specialized in foreign chemical, biological and nuclear capabilities. He then practiced law with Sidley & Austin in Chicago, and McGuire, Woods, Battle & Boothe in Richmond, Virginia. 

In 2016, Czarnetzky was honored with the Elsie M. Hood Award, the highest honor given to a member of the faculty at the University of Mississippi. 

According to his bio at the University of Mississippi School of Law, Czarnetzky represented the Holy See in negotiations establishing the International Criminal Court and the Convention on Persons with Disabilities. 

According to his curriculum vitae at the school, he was also a member of the Mississippi state advisory committee of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, taught a freshman seminar on Catholic social doctrine, and was faculty advisor and cofounder of the St. Thomas More Society for Catholic law students.