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States continue ‘unprecedented’ surge of pro-life bills

Thomas Andreas/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., May 3, 2021 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

A multitude of pro-life bills passed through state legislatures last week, creating new protections for the unborn around the country. 

Idaho Gov. Brad Little (R) signed the state’s “heartbeat” bill into law on April 27, banning most abortions after a child’s heartbeat can be detected - usually around six weeks into pregnancy. The bill makes exceptions for cases of rape and incest. 

“Idaho is a state that values the most innocent of all lives – the lives of babies,” Little said. “We should never relent in our efforts to protect the lives of the preborn.” 

Unlike other “heartbeat” bills, Idaho’s legislation has a “trigger” provision; it will not go into effect until similar legislation in another state has been upheld by a federal appeals court. Presently, all attempts at passing “heartbeat” abortion bans have been blocked by federal courts; South Carolina’s “heartbeat” bill was temporarily blocked from going into effect by a federal judge in March.

On April 26, Gov. Greg Gianforte of Montana (R) signed three pro-life bills, including a “Pain-Capable” ban on abortions when an unborn child is determined to be capable of feeling pain - usually around 20 weeks into pregnancy. He also signed bills requiring that a mother see an ultrasound of her child before having an abortion, and restricting abortion-inducing drugs. 

“Life is precious and ought to be protected,” Gianforte said in a tweet. “Today, I proudly signed into law bills to protect the life of our most vulnerable, the unborn.”

The enactment of pro-life bills is the continuation of efforts at the state level to put restrictions in place on abortion. According to a report published April 30 by the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, 536 pro-life bills have been introduced in 46 states in the year 2021, with 61 new pro-life laws.

“The unprecedented surge of pro-life activity in state legislatures this year proves life is winning in America,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List. 

“The 61 new laws enacted and hundreds of bills introduced include legislation to stop late-term abortions after five months of pregnancy, end lethal discrimination against unborn children for reasons like a Down syndrome diagnosis, protect unborn babies from the moment their heartbeat can be detected, safeguard women from dangerous abortion drugs, and more,” she said.

On April 26, Oklahoma’s governor Kevin Stitt (R) signed three pro-life bills into law. The bills include a “heartbeat” abortion ban, a bill requiring abortionists to get a certification in obstetrics and gynecology, and a measure adding abortion to the list of unprofessional conduct by doctors.

The next day on April 27, Stitt signed S.B. 918, automatically outlawing abortions in the state if the Supreme Court were to ever overturn the abortion rulings Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson also signed a bill on April 27 requiring all facilities that perform abortions to obtain a license by the state Department of Health. Hutchinson previously signed a near-total ban on abortions in the state earlier this year, which will take effect at the end of the legislative term and is expected to be challenged in court.

Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona (R) signed a bill last week prohibiting abortions done solely because of a nonlethal genetic abnormality, such as Down syndrome. The state already prohibits race and sex-selective abortions. The new law also recognizes the civil rights of unborn children.

Earlier this year, other states advanced a number of pro-life bills. The Tennessee legislature approved a bill in April that would require medical providers to bury or cremate the bodies of aborted babies. 

The Florida state Senate introduced a “Pain-Capable” abortion ban in March. 

The Texas Senate passed six pro-life bills in March, including one banning abortion after the sixth week of pregnancy and one that would ban abortion outright should the Supreme Court overturn Roe.

Catholic sister: Pro-lifers must be ‘battle ready’ to defend the family

Lisa Bourne/Heartbeat International

Washington D.C., May 3, 2021 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

Catholics must be “battle ready” to defend the family and their faith, said Sister Deirdre Byrne, POSC, at an international pro-life conference on April 30. 

Byrne, a member of the Little Workers of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, is a surgeon and a retired colonel in the U.S. Army. She serves as the superior of her community and works at a medical clinic in Washington, D.C.  

“We have to be prepared, battle ready” as “soldiers for Christ in this dark time, where every day, things seem to be ramping up about things that are against the family and faith,” she said to the 50th annual conference of the pro-life group Heartbeat International; the conference was held in-person and streamed online for attendees. 

Heartbeat International is an association of pro-life pregnancy resource centers, medical clinics, maternity homes, and nonprofit adoption agencies. It says it is the largest association of pro-life pregnancy resource centers in the world.

The annual conference offers training for staff, board members, and volunteers at pregnancy clinics and other pro-life ministries, along with health care and social workers. 

Byrne has spoken openly about her political beliefs, as she addressed the August 2020 Republican National Convention in support of President Trump on the life issue. On Friday, however, she explained that the “battle” facing Catholics is not a partisan one. 

“This battle we face is not a battle between Republicans and the Democrats, it’s not conservatives or liberals, or left versus right,” said Byrne. “This is a battle between the devil, who is real, and Our Lord.”

Byrne said that Catholics must “fight with love” and continue to pray for elected officials. 

“We have to pray for the president, we have to pray for the [Speaker Nancy Pelosi], we have to pray for all these people, these politicians who are wanting to make the abortion pill over the counter so people will be able to take it like bubble gum or Tylenol,” she said. 

The Biden administration recently suspended regulations of the abortion pill regimen during the pandemic, allowing for it to be prescribed and dispensed remotely instead of at a health clinic setting as previously required.

“We have to pray for these people because their soul is in a mortal state,” she said of pro-abortion elected officials.

Part of Byrne’s work at her order’s Washington, D.C. medical clinic involves attempting to reverse the effects of the abortion pill. A chemical abortion is a two-step process; the first pill cuts off the supply of nutrients to the unborn baby, and the second causes the uterus to expel the deceased baby. 

“Abortion pill reversal” can occur with varying degrees of success after the first pill is taken. Byrne said on Friday that her work on abortion pill reversals has been “an incredible blessing,” and that about 60% of women who seek to reverse the effects of the first drug are able to continue their pregnancies. 

During her career in the army and as a missionary, Byrne explained that she had extensive experience with injuries and death in the wake of conflict and natural disasters. She said it was “horrible to see man’s inhumanity to man” in conflict settings. 

Abortion, however, is “the greatest” inhumanity,” she said. “It’s really bad because people don’t even think about it anymore, it’s become a natural thing.” 

Catholics will be forced to take a stand and “pick sides” in the figurative battle, she said. 

“We know that God is in charge and that He’s far greater than the devil,” said Byrne.

“It is He that’s going to make things better. And so we have to be just there, prayer warriors and be battle ready.”

Reckoning with history, Long Island diocese names 101 clergy accused of sex abuse

Cathedral of St. Agnes, Rockville Centre, New York / Nassau Crew via Wikimedia (CC0 1.0)

Washington D.C., May 3, 2021 / 11:00 am (CNA).

The Diocese of Rockvillle Centre has released a list of 101 diocesan clergy it believes to be credibly accused of sex abuse of minors. The list is not meant to be complete, and most allegations date back decades.

The list comes amid lawsuits from alleged clergy sex abuse victims and other compensation efforts in the New York diocese, which is one of the largest in the U.S.

“The list is not exhaustive,” said the introduction to the April 22 list. “The fact that this list may not include the name of the accused clergy who sexually abused you does not mean that you should not file a Sexual Abuse Proof of Claim Form.”

The names of 101 accused clergy are listed on the document, published at the website of Epiq Corporate Restructuring, LLC. The list names priests and deacons that the diocese’s review board determined to have a “credible” allegation of abuse against them. It also names clergy who faced an allegation through the diocese’s Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program that resulted in a payment to the alleged victim.

The list also names the clergy assignments and locations where they have been accused of abuse. Some clergy on the list have been in active ministry recently, but many have not been in ministry for decades.

The diocese said it had not previously published a list “because of ongoing investigations, privacy issues, as well as potential legal considerations. The inclusion of any name does not represent an admission of guilt on the part of the accused.”

The diocese’s territory on Long Island includes the counties of Nassau and Suffolk. It serves some 1.4 million Catholics out of 3 million residents, one of the largest dioceses by population in the U.S. Currently the diocese has about 130 parishes and about 390 priests in active ministry, with some 220 of these being priests of the diocese, according to the diocese’s website.

In October 2020 the diocese announced it would file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, after more than 200 new clergy sex abuse lawsuits were filed against the diocese. In March the diocese announced the sale of its $5.2 million pastoral center to help pay creditors.

The diocese said that it prayed that the compensation program and the Chapter 11 bankruptcy processes “will offer some measure of healing and reconciliation to the survivors of clergy sexual abuse.” It said it is working with its creditors on “a robust media campaign” so that sexual abuse survivors will know they have until Aug. 14 to file all claims.

Sean Dolan, a spokesperson for the diocese, told CNA on April 30 the bankruptcy court set the criteria for the list of clergy, not the Church.

“It is a matter of public record that the court determined the objective criteria for the list and the diocese was simply following the court order,” he said. “The diocese will continue that cooperation as we seek some measure of healing for survivors of abuse and maintain the highest standards for child protection.”

Others involved in diocesan finances and clergy sex abuse litigation have lists that name other clergy as alleged abusers.

A committee of the diocese’s unsecured creditors has published the names of 46 clergy not included on the list who at some point served in the Rockville Centre diocese’s territory, which was part of the Diocese of Brooklyn until 1957. 

The committee said it “has not independently investigated the allegations of sexual abuse against the people listed” and “does not assert that the allegations of sexual abuse against them are true.” Those named on the committee’s list either faced lawsuits accusing them of abuse or another diocese or religious order had found allegations against them to be credible.    

Those names include Bishop John McGann, who served as the second bishop of the Rockville Centre diocese from 1976 to 2000. Two women and a man have filed a lawsuit against the late bishop in October 2019. They allege that McGann, other priests, and a church groundskeeper abused them when they were children.

The creditors’ list, posted at LongIslandChurchCommittee.com, includes some priests who have not served in decades, including a priest ordained in 1916 who died in 1980, but was named as credibly accused by the Diocese of Brooklyn. The list also includes religious orders’ clergy, who tend to be under the jurisdiction of their religious order, not the diocese.

Jeff Anderson & Associates, a law firm specializing in Catholic clergy abuse lawsuits, in April released a database of 144 clergy accused of abuse in lawsuits the law firm says involves the Rockville Centre diocese.

Trusha Goffe, an attorney with Jeff Anderson and Associates, said the Rockville Centre diocese had been the only New York diocese that had not released a list of accused clergy.

“It was a decision made by this bankruptcy judge, that part of reaching survivors included the diocese being compelled to put out a list of names like this,” Goffe told the Bronx news station News 12.

On April 22 the law firm listed four “notable” alleged abusers not included on the diocese’s list but named on the creditors’ committee list, who have at least one lawsuit filed against them.  These alleged abusers include Bishop McCann, accused in one lawsuit; Harold Cox, accused in 11 lawsuits; Romano J. Ferraro, accused in 21 lawsuits; and Alan Placa, accused in two lawsuits both involving the Rockville Centre diocese.

Dolan told CNA the diocese is not commenting on particular cases but is addressing them in “appropriate legal forums.”

Papal Foundation announces $9m in grants for charitable projects

The flag of Vatican City with St. Peter’s Basilica in the background. Credit: Bohumil Petrik/CNA.

Denver Newsroom, May 2, 2021 / 10:00 am (CNA).

The Papal Foundation announced April 28 they will be distributing $9.2 million in grants to dioceses in 64 countries in the coming year. 

This year’s grants will finance the construction and repair of church and school buildings, environmental initiatives and the education of children in need, among other projects. The organization cited Pope Francis’ call earlier this year to rebuild church buildings in the Middle East as a guiding factor in this year’s grants. 

The Philadelphia-based Papal Foundation’s mission is to serve the Holy Father and the Roman Catholic Church through “faith, energy, and financial resources.” 

“The Holy Father has identified urgencies throughout the world, and The Papal Foundation is committed to working diligently to address his priorities to house, educate, heal, and feed individuals in need,” said Cardinal Sean O’Malley, chairman of The Papal Foundation Board of Trustees, in a statement provided to CNA. 

“In addition to providing for these basic human needs, The Papal Foundation is helping create the physical infrastructure to allow the faithful to receive the sacraments and practice their Catholic Faith.”

Among the projects that will be funded by the grants include the construction and repair of churches, chapels, libraries, laboratories and schools; the creation of a dialysis center in a Catholic hospital; the renovation of children’s centers; the purchase of surgical equipment for a Catholic teaching university; the education of intellectually disabled children and orphans; the housing of retired religious; environmental initiatives; and the fight against human trafficking and sexual explotation.

Eustace Mita, president of The Papal Foundation’s Board of Trustees, said that Pope Francis’ visit to the Middle East and his call to rebuild Catholic buildings in the region, as well as his message of a unified Christian community, influenced the work done by the foundation. 

“At The Papal Foundation, we are doing just that, funding projects and initiatives that support the Catholic Church’s presence in the Middle East and mission to educate children, offer vocational support for adults, and provide for medical needs in these countries,” said Mita in a statement provided to CNA. 

The buildings, said Mita, are “so much more” than the “physical manifestations of our faith” in the Middle East. 

“By responding to the Holy See’s requests, we are doing our small part to build the bonds of community Pope Francis referenced,” he said. “We are building connections between the hearts of the faithful and our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Fire reveals pieces of Mission San Gabriel's past as it prepares for jubilee year

The interior of the fire-damaged Mission San Gabriel April 19, 2021, after new steel beams were installed to begin construction of a new roof. / Victor Alemán

Los Angeles, Calif., May 1, 2021 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

Nine months after a mysterious fire ripped through Mission San Gabriel Arcángel, the historic church is still a mess.

The fire-blackened sanctuary walls hide behind layers of scaffolding. Pieces of peeling plaster remain. A temporary timber roof protects the 200-year-old interior from the elements, while a pair of scissor lifts shuffle around over the makeshift particle-board floors. Outside, contractors mill around the parish parking lot while the structure’s warped steel beams wait to be hauled away after being carefully unlodged over the course of weeks.

When the four-alarm fire struck in the predawn hours of July 11, 2020, destroying the mission’s roof and damaging most of its interior, mission officials and the local community were devastated. 

But now, as the mission prepares for its 250th anniversary, silver linings from the fire perhaps more valuable than the millions of dollars in damage it caused are starting to emerge. 

The mission church’s steel beams were warped by the intense fire. They had to be carefully removed and replaced by new ones last month. / Victor Alemán
The mission church’s steel beams were warped by the intense fire. They had to be carefully removed and replaced by new ones last month. / Victor Alemán

Behind those peeling layers of plaster, for example, workers have discovered painted walls with colorful designs that historians never knew existed. Beneath the sunken floors of the mission’s sacristy and tiny baptistery — crushed by the 150,000 gallons of water firefighters used to extinguish the blaze and save the mission from total destruction — previously unknown layers of old brick and slabs of stone mined from the San Gabriel Mountains have been unearthed.

Discoveries like these are handy tools to help historians understand the mission’s spotty past.  

For Terri Huerta, the mission’s historical director, the hidden blessings of last summer’s fire are becoming clearer every day.

“Mission San Gabriel has kind of been a sleeping giant,” she explained during a recent visit to San Gabriel. “It’s been here, but no one’s really had the opportunity, like we do now, to tell its story.”

In other words, the fire may turn out to be just the providential sign that LA’s oldest Catholic outpost needed to reconnect with its historical and missionary identity — and right in time to kickoff a “jubilee year” that Archbishop José H. Gomez is planning to mark its 250th birthday.

An unexpected opportunity

Telling the mission’s story has always been a challenge. The founding Spanish Franciscan missionaries were meticulous record-keepers — keeping track of everything from baptisms and weddings to crop yields — but after they were expelled in the 1830s, the newly privatized mission largely fell into decay under Mexican rule. Although it became a popular visitor attraction in the second half of the 1800s, its subsequent inhabitants did not always do a great job of keeping records. 

As Huerta admitted, the mission “has never really had a verifiable narrative.”

Few in this close-knit mission parish have taken the tragic fire more personally than Huerta. Since the ’70s, Huerta’s family has celebrated baptisms, weddings, confirmations, and anniversaries here. Her brother is buried in the cemetery on the mission grounds.

But now she is a first-person witness to how last summer’s fire is providing key insights into mysteries like what the church’s interior design first looked like, or how its design evolved over the centuries.

“We have learned so much about this building from the fire,” said Huerta. 

While researchers have long thought the structure was built with adobe bricks, the blaze has revealed that the natives and missionaries who worked together to build the mission actually used fired brick and mortar. 

Six wooden statues and a painting with a miraculous reputation damaged by the fire are in the process of professional restoration. The church’s original reredos and altar, which firefighters were able to save during the early morning firefight, also need to be cleaned and repainted. 

UC Riverside historian Steven Hackell is the chairperson of the mission’s Museum Committee. By forcing the removal of all of its surviving artifacts from the mission, the fire means his team can now develop a full inventory of those items, which include paintings, sculptures, books, and even liturgical vestments — and decide how and where to best preserve them. 

Like Huerta, he sees the work ahead as a special opportunity. 

“If you went through your attic and cleaned it up one day, you wouldn’t just put everything back where it was once the floors are dusted and the windows are clean,” Hackell explained. “You’d make decisions.”

Huerta hopes that some of those decisions will be formed by an advisory panel with art experts from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and the Getty Museum to guide the repainting of the church’s interior. 

“I think it’s a great opportunity for us to be a little more methodical about deciding what the mission is going to look like after we’re done, and what educational opportunities we have to share with the public,” said Huerta.

The thousands of gallons of water used to put out the fire last July caused the floor of the mission’s sacristy to sink, revealing layers of stone and brick used to first build the church. No human remains have been found in excavations since the fire. / Victor Alemán
The thousands of gallons of water used to put out the fire last July caused the floor of the mission’s sacristy to sink, revealing layers of stone and brick used to first build the church. No human remains have been found in excavations since the fire. / Victor Alemán

Both Huerta and Hackell see the events of the last year as a much-needed jumpstart to the task of restoring the mission for future generations to behold. 

“We have this really unparalleled opportunity to not just restore the mission itself, but to more fully understand the material culture of the mission, which was so crucial,” said Hackell. 

Meanwhile, the mission is working on submitting remodeling plans to the City of San Gabriel, which include modern electrical and HVAC systems. 

The timeline for the restoration is still unfolding. Mission officials hope to have the new roof and ceiling fully installed by the time Archbishop Gomez celebrates the inaugural Mass for the jubilee year, slated for Sept. 11 (location still to be determined), and expect the mission to be “fully functional” by the end of the jubilee a year later.

A new generation of missionaries?

For Father Parker Sandoval, the San Gabriel fire and the devastating consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on parishes are signs that the church in Los Angeles is being called to a “new beginning.” It is why, in Father Sandoval’s words, the timing of the mission’s 250th jubilee this year is nothing short of “providential.”

“I think the state of San Gabriel Mission right now is how the whole Church feels,” said Father Sandoval, vice chancellor for Ministerial Services for the archdiocese. “This has been a traumatic year. And I think that image of the church under reconstruction following a disaster is an appropriate image of the whole Church right now.”

The July 11, 2020 early morning fire at San Gabriel Mission burned the roof and most of the interior of its sanctuary. / John McCoy
The July 11, 2020 early morning fire at San Gabriel Mission burned the roof and most of the interior of its sanctuary. / John McCoy

The idea of a “Jubilee Year” originally comes from the Book of Leviticus, in which God commanded Israel to observe every 50th year as a time of mercy — when debts were forgiven, people in bondage were set free, and lands were returned to their original owners.

Since the 14th century, the Church has celebrated jubilees at regular intervals. The pope can also proclaim “extraordinary jubilees” to mark special events or anniversaries or to fulfill a special need (the last was in 2000, celebrated as “The Great Jubilee,” marking the beginning of the third millennium since the birth of Jesus).

To each jubilee the Church attaches certain indulgences, which are opportunities for grace and mercy. They may involve pilgrimages, prayers, or charitable works.

In Los Angeles, the San Gabriel jubilee year is being organized around both senses of the word “mission”: Special events, parish initiatives, and pilgrimage opportunities are being planned, with the intention of educating Catholics about the mission’s past while forming them to evangelize in the future.

“The hope for this jubilee year is not simply to celebrate the past, but to raise up a new generation of missionaries for our time and place,” said Father Sandoval, who is overseeing planning for the special year under the tagline “Forward in Mission” — an adaptation of Mission San Gabriel founder St. Junípero Serra’s famous motto, “Always Forward!”

The year will kick off on Sept. 8 with an opening prayer service at San Gabriel Mission, followed by 40 consecutive hours of eucharistic adoration at 22 parishes around the archdiocese designated as jubilee pilgrimage sites (one in each of the archdiocese’s 20 deaneries, plus St. Catherine of Alexandria on Catalina Island and La Placita near downtown LA).

An opening Mass for the jubilee will be held either at the mission or the cathedral on Saturday, Sept. 11, and a closing Mass on Sept. 10 of the following year.

In between, the archdiocese will be promoting “pilgrimage walks” between missions, parish retreats, a historical exhibit on the mission at the cathedral, and a curriculum on local church history and evangelization for use in Catholic schools. 

For Huerta, the educational element of the jubilee year is especially important in the wake of recent attacks on statues of St. Junípero, Mission San Gabriel’s founder, fueled by narratives that depict the evangelization of California as an act of oppression.

“We have an opportunity to change the narrative,” said Huerta. One component of the mission’s renewal will be the creation and dedication of an outdoor sacred space on the mission grounds designed by local descendants of Tongva natives. 

Both Huerta and Father Sandoval believe there is little use in clamoring for the past, when the opportunities for the mission’s renewal going forward are so obvious. 

“We do not want to return to normal. We want to return to the Gospel, which calls us to better than normal, because normal was decline,” said Father Sandoval. “We can’t simply revert to business-as-usual, maintenance mode. This is the moment to be intentionally missionary.”

“Even in these circumstances, even in this disaster zone, we find something new.”

Louisiana diocese ends mask requirement at Mass, but bishop advises 'continued vigilance'

Bishop Shelton Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux. / Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux.

Denver Newsroom, May 1, 2021 / 13:01 pm (CNA).

A Louisiana bishop has lifted mask requirements for Mass in several of the state’s cities, but he still encouraged parishioners to follow previous coronavirus regulations during worship.

“While masks will no longer be required for those attending Mass in our diocesan Catholic churches, I do still strongly encourage those at Mass to continue to wear masks, and also to socially distance themselves as best they can,” said Bishop Shelton Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, according to the Louisiana newspapers The Courier and Daily Comet.

The statement followed the decision of Gov. John Bel Edwards, who ended mask requirements on Wednesday. According to the bishop, parishioners in Terrebonne, Lafourche, and Morgan City will no longer be required to wear masks to attend Mass.

However, safety regulations, such as social distancing, capacity limitations, and masks, will still be required at Catholic school Masses.

“With the concerns regarding the virus still very much part of our everyday lives, we cannot lose sight of the importance of our continued vigilance because the pandemic’s hold on our state, country and world has not completely subsided, and the fight against this virus continues,” the bishop said, according to Houma Today.

“With the great many elderly, homebound, and immuno-compromised of our faithful unable to attend Mass, I am also maintaining that the obligation to attend Sunday Mass remains dispensed for all Catholics in the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux at this time.”

Archbishop Cordileone: Catholics supporting abortion should not present themselves for Holy Communion

Archbishop of San Francisco Salvatore J. Cordileone. / Getty Images

San Francisco, Calif., May 1, 2021 / 10:05 am (CNA).

The Archbishop of San Francisco, Salvatore J. Cordileone, released on May 1, 2021 a pastoral letter about the worthiness required for the reception of Holy Communion in which he insisted that any Catholic cooperating with the evil of abortion should refrain from receiving the Eucharist.

“It is fundamentally a question of integrity: to receive the Blessed Sacrament in the Catholic liturgy is to espouse publicly the faith and moral teachings of the Catholic Church, and to desire to live accordingly,” wrote Cordileone. “We all fall short in various ways, but there is a great difference between struggling to live according to the teachings of the Church and rejecting those teachings.”

The letter, issued on the feast of St. Joseph the Worker and at the beginning of the month honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary, comes on the heels of growing media coverage regarding whether President Biden should be admitted to Holy Communion within the Catholic Church.

Contained within his letter was a section specifically for Catholic public officials who advocate for abortion. “You are in a position to do something concrete and decisive to stop the killing,” he said. “Please stop the killing. And please stop pretending that advocating for or practicing a grave moral evil – one that snuffs out an innocent human life, one that denies a fundamental human right – is somehow compatible with the Catholic faith. It is not. Please return home to the fullness of your Catholic faith.”

Both the Washington Post and the AP published articles earlier this week which highlighted debate about whether Biden, a staunch promoter of abortion and funding for abortion but also a Catholic, would be asked to refrain from reception of the Eucharist.

According to the longstanding teaching of the Church outlined by the archbishop, formal cooperation and immediate material cooperation with evil, such as cooperation in the evil of abortion, precludes one from receiving Holy Communion. “The Church’s teaching and discipline on worthiness to receive Holy Communion has been consistent throughout her history, going back to the very beginning,” the archbishop noted.

“[T]he teaching of our faith is clear: those who kill or assist in killing the child (even if personally opposed to abortion), those who pressure or encourage the mother to have an abortion, who pay for it, who provide financial assistance to organizations to provide abortions, or who support candidates or legislation for the purpose of making abortion a more readily available ‘choice’ are all cooperating with a very serious evil,” stated archbishop Cordileone. “Formal cooperation and immediate material cooperation in evil is never morally justified.”

The Archbishop quoted St. Paul’s teaching in First Corinthians to explain the danger of receiving Holy Communion while cooperating with grave evil, an act long hailed in the Church as unworthy: “Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself (1 Cor 11:27-29).” 

He also included the testimony of early Church Father St. Justin Martyr who taught that, “No one may share the Eucharist with us unless he believes what we teach is true; unless he is washed in the regenerating waters of baptism for the remission of his sins, and unless he lives in accordance with the principles given us by Christ.”

The debate about President Biden and communion hit a new high when the Washington Post published a story and tweet that described President Biden as “very Catholic,” sparking an impassioned response from Catholic leaders.

The archbishop's own response addressed the importance of witnessing to the truth about the grave evil of abortion. “For decades now western culture has been in denial about the harsh reality of abortion. The topic is swathed in sophistries by its advocates and discussion about it is forbidden in many venues.

“In the case of public figures who identify as Catholic and promote abortion, we are not dealing with a sin committed in human weakness or a moral lapse: this is a matter of persistent, obdurate, and public rejection of Catholic teaching,” he penned. “This adds an even greater responsibility to the role of the Church’s pastors in caring for the salvation of souls.

“It is my conviction that this conspiracy of disinformation and silence is fueled by fear of what it would mean to recognize the reality with which we are dealing.

“The right to life itself is the foundation of all other rights. Without protection of the right to life, no other talk of rights makes sense,” he said, noting that the science is “clear” on when this life begins. “[A] new, genetically-distinct human life begins at conception.”

Archbishop Cordileone was careful to emphasize that “abortion is never solely the mother’s act. Others, to a greater or lesser degree, share culpability whenever this evil is perpetrated.”

He noted that his responsibility as pastor and shepherd of souls required him to be clear on the both the gravity of abortion’s evil and the reasons why a person who procures, assists, or promotes abortion in any way cannot receive Holy Communion unless they first repent and are absolved in confession.

“Speaking for myself,” he said, “I always keep before me the words from the prophet Ezekiel…I tremble that if I do not forthrightly challenge Catholics under my pastoral care who advocate for abortion, both they and I will have to answer to God for innocent blood.”

At the end of his letter, the archbishop thanked those in public life who stand firm for the cause of the unborn. “Your bold and steadfast stand in the face of what is often fierce opposition gives courage to others who know what is right but might otherwise feel too timid to proclaim it in word and deed,” he opined.

Archbishop Cordileone also reached out to women who have had an abortion and others affected by it. “God loves you. We love you. God wants you to heal, and so do we, and we have the resources to help you. Please turn to us, because we love you and want to help you and want you to heal,” he posited, adding that those who have healed from abortion can become tremendous witnesses to the Gospel of Mercy. “Because of what you have endured, you more than anyone can become a powerful voice for the sanctity of life."

The archbishop of San Francisco concluded the letter by inviting all those of good will to “work for a society in which every new baby is received as a precious gift from God and given a welcome to the human community” and by invoking the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the unborn, as well as St. Joseph and St. Francis, patron of the archdiocese.

To read the letter in its entirety, click here.

As epidemic wanes, New York archdiocese schools plan for full reopening

Students in a classroom.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 1, 2021 / 07:01 am (CNA).

When the next school year begins, all Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of New York will be open for in-person learning for the full school week because new health directives mean the schools can operate without needing hybrid or remote classes for students.

“My goal and that of the Health and Safety Task Force is to commit all our collective expertise and resources to ensure all our schools will be open for five full days a week of in-person instruction for all students beginning in September 2021,” Michael J. Deegan, Superintendent of Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of New York, wrote in an April 20 letter to students' families.

“Your faithful commitment to our rigorous protocols has ensured the continued health and safety of our school communities,” Deegan said. “Our children have been learning and have been safe!”

The plans are still dependent on the rule and requirements of federal and local health agencies and on a low level of COVID-19 infections.

The Archdiocese of New York’s Catholic schools serve more than 67,000 students from Pre-K to twelfth grade, throughout the ten southern counties of New York State. Soon after the coronavirus epidemic arrived in the U.S. and devastated the northeastern U.S., the New York Catholic school system set up a Health and Safety Sask Force to help determine whether and how education should proceed in the novel circumstances.

Despite the coronavirus epidemic, the Catholic schools have been open for in-person, five-day-a-week instruction since September 2020. However, many schools are working on a hybrid model and alternate some students between remote learning and in-person education, the Staten Island Advance news website reports.

The superintendent's letter also gave guidance for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year.

The letter announced that fully remote students, “effective immediately,” will no longer be required to present a negative coronavirus test to participate in school events, graduation ceremonies and the Catholic sacraments.

Deegan noted the Centers for Disease Control recommendations have reduced social distancing requirements from six to three feet, which have allowed for schools to free up space for more students.

However, he said that the majority of Catholic schools would maintain the six-foot social distance guidelines because they are unable to meet CDC and New York State criteria for moving to a three-foot distance. Schools will consider the three foot distance standard only if this both allows for in-person learning every day and if six feet distance is able to be maintained during mask breaks.

Deegan wrote that schools with Health and Safety Task Force permission to reduce desk space to three feet will be “required by the state to have parent meetings and revise and submit their plans to the local health department as well as the New York State Department of Health and State Education Department.”

Deegan thanked the support of parents, students, pastors, and school staff for their work throughout the pandemic.

Santa Fe archdiocese to sell over 700 properties amid mounting abuse settlements

Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi / Nagel Photography/Shutterstock

Denver Newsroom, Apr 30, 2021 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

The Archdiocese of Santa Fe intends to sell over 700 properties by year’s end to help pay for settlements to sexual abuse survivors, an examination of court records has found. 

An examination of court records by the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper found that the diocese has sold at least six properties over the past year and intends to sell 732 more by late July. 

Those first six sales generated $7.5 million for the diocese, the records show. According to the AP, among the buildings sold were several surrounding a Carmelite Monastery in Santa Fe. 

Of the many more properties to be sold by an auctioneering firm, most are small vacant lots, fields, or grazing land donated to the archdiocese by families, the New Mexican reported. 

In August 2020, the archdiocese listed the vacant St. Francis Cathedral School in downtown Santa Fe for $3.6 million.

The archdiocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in late 2018. At the time, Wester said there were between 35-40 active sexual abuse claims against the archdiocese. 

The New Mexican now reports that nearly 400 people have now filed claims of abuse in the archdiocese.

Throughout the bankruptcy process, some alleged abuse survivors have accused the archdiocese of transferring some properties’ ownership from the archdiocese to individual parishes to protect them from being lost in the settlement process. 

In October 2020, a U.S. bankruptcy judge ruled that lawyers for clergy sex abuse survivors can file lawsuits alleging the archdiocese fraudulently transferred the property and assets in order to shield them from being used for payouts, the AP reported. 

The archdiocese did not respond by press time to CNA’s request for further comment.

With 'message of hope,' consecration of California to St. Joseph coming to multiple churches

A detail from St. Joseph with the Child, by Francesco Conti (1681–1760) / Public domain

Denver Newsroom, Apr 30, 2021 / 17:04 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis has declared 2021 to be the Year of St. Joseph, and Catholics will gather at multiple California churches on May 1, the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker, to consecrate their state to the foster father of Jesus Christ.

Among them will be Father Donald Calloway, an Ohio-based priest of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception and author of the book “Consecration to St. Joseph: The Wonders of Our Spiritual Father.” He encouraged others to take part the consecration.

“I am so excited to be participating in the Consecration of California to St. Joseph on May 1.” Calloway said on the website of BVM Blue Mantle, the group organizing the event. “In these very difficult times, we need a message of hope, and all families, marriages, men, women, children, bishops, priests, and nuns need to go to St. Joseph!”

One major event is hosted at St. John the Baptist Church in Costa Mesa. It will begin Saturday May 1 with Mass at noon, followed by the consecration prayers at 1:15. The congregation will lead a procession with a statue of St. Joseph at 2 p.m.

Father Calloway will then deliver a talk and sign books at 2:30.

BVM Blue Mantle, LLC, describes itself as a group of Catholics “whose love for our Lord and Mary has inspired us to consecrate California to Our Lady, and now to St. Joseph.” While the group has invited all Californians to join them for the consecration at the Costa Mesa church, they encouraged others to involve their parish or take part at events at other churches.

Participating churches include St. Mary Catholic Church in Escondido, St. Ephrem Maronite Catholic Church in El Cajon, Star of the Sea Parish in San Francisco, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church in San Diego, St. Anne Catholic Church in San Diego, and St. Andrew Catholic Church in Pasadena.

Blue Mantle encouraged those without access to Mass to pray the rosary and consecration prayer outside a local church.

The group invoked Pope Francis’ proclamation of a Year of St. Joseph.

“Let’s ask St. Joseph to help us to defeat the Culture of Death. Together we are praying for an end of abortion, euthanasia, (and) natural disasters,” Blue Mantle said. “As brothers and sisters in Christ, we will be praying for the sick, elderly, unwanted, and an end to the violence, sex abuse, drugs, alcoholism, (and) sex trafficking.”

Blue Mantle’s website is called Consecrate California.