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Papal envoy crowns Florida's Our Lady of La Leche

Cardinal Carlos Osoro Sierra of Madrid crowns the image of Our Lady of La Leche in St. Augustine, Florida. / St. Augustine Catholic/Fran Ruchalski.

St. Augustine, Fla., Oct 11, 2021 / 16:09 pm (CNA).

The image of Our Lady of La Leche was canonically crowned Sunday, during Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine in St. Augustine, Florida. 

“The Church that walks in St. Augustine is aware that a mother accompanies us in our mission: Our Lady of La Leche and Happy Delivery, whom we crown as queen and lady of all creation,” said Cardinal Carlos Osoro Sierra of Madrid, Spain, through a translator, at the Oct. 10 Mass. The cardinal served as an envoy for Pope Francis.

“I have been told, and I have noticed, these few days that I have been with you, the affection and devotion that you have for the Blessed Virgin Mary, our mother. I thank God because you are a people who have known how to fulfill what we have just heard in the Gospel and will have accepted with all its consequences the gift that Christ from the Cross, made through St. John to all men and women: ‘Behold, your mother.’ To accept such a great gift makes the people greater.”

Following the homily, the cardinal placed crowns, crafted of gold from Italy and Spain, on Mary and the child Jesus, depicted in the image of Our Lady of La Leche.  

“Today, this Diocese of St. Augustine also says the same words as the woman in the crowd, who listened to Jesus: “Blessed is the womb that carried you, and the breast at which you nursed”,” the cardinal said. 

“May she intercede for us today and make us feel her words in the depth of our hearts: “Do whatever he tells you,” as she said.”

Our Lady of La Leche is the fourth image in the United States to be canonically crowned. The first was Our Lady of Prompt Succor in New Orleans, in 1895. St. Pius X crowned Our Lady of Mount Carmel of New York in Manhattan in 1904, and Benedict XVI crowned Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception in Lake Charles, Louisiana, in 2013. 

The practice of canonical coronations dates to the 17th century. It is a formal crowning of an image of Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary, or St. Joseph, in the name of the Holy Father. A crowning honors an image’s universal importance for the Catholic Church. 

The image of Our Lady of La Leche has roots in Bethlehem, but Spanish settlers from Madrid brought the image to what is now Florida in 1577. 

Since then, a National Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche was constructed— the first Marian shrine in U.S. history, according to Bishop Felipe Estévez of St. Augustine. The shrine has become a popular pilgrimage site, especially for women hoping to become pregnant or praying for a safe delivery. 

Her full title is Nuestra Señora de La Leche y Buen Parto, which is Spanish for “Our Lady of Milk and Happy Delivery.” 

The image of Our Lady of La Leche is unique in that it features the Blessed Virgin Mary breastfeeding the infant Jesus. The National Shrine commissioned a new image of Our Lady of La Leche in honor of the coronation. The image was sculpted in northern Italy.

“It is kind of a Nativity of the Lord, because it is the child, recently born, in the hands of Mary,” said Bishop Estévez. “The image is Mary embracing the child— Emmanuel— and nursing him in his vulnerability...Her eyes are gazing on him, almost an invitation to us to always have our gaze on Jesus.”

Bishop Estévez said the image can be especially powerful within the pro-life movement. 

“To look at this devotion, and to nurture this devotion, is to affirm the dignity of the human person, the protection of human life, the welcoming of the child, the dignity of the woman,” he said. “It wraps up such good news, such good values that our culture is in desperate need of.”

US bishops welcome increased refugee admissions cap

U.S. Customs and Border Protection headquarters / Hiram Rios/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Oct 11, 2021 / 13:23 pm (CNA).

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops announced Monday their positive reaction to the news that the refugee cap will increase to 125,000 for the coming fiscal year.

“The last few years have had a devastating impact on refugee resettlement, all while we witness the greatest forced migration crises in decades,” said an Oct. 11 statement from Bishop Mario Dorsonville, an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington and chairman of the USCCB’s migration committee. 

“We commend the Administration for seeking to reassert American leadership in this area, and we look forward to continued action in support of this goal. We also urge Congress to provide the resources necessary to not only rebuild the Refugee Admissions Program but sustain it for the next four decades and beyond,” added Bishop Dorsonville. 

On Oct. 8, the Biden administration issued a Presidential Determination for Fiscal Year 2022, raising the refugee cap to 125,000. This figure is the highest level since 1993. Bishop Dorsonville had previously advocated for this figure. The new cap means that up to 125,000 refugees can be admitted to the United States through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, although that figure may not be met.

“Whether fleeing war, natural disaster, or persecution, the positive contributions of refugees to our society have been well documented,” said Bishop Dorsonville. “First and foremost, however, we recognize them as vulnerable members of the same human family to which we ourselves belong.”

The bishop stated that Catholics in particular are called in a “special way” to “this ministry of welcome and encounter, through which we express the fullness of the Church’s universality.”

“The bishops of the United States pledge our continued commitment to this work, and we praise the many Catholic organizations, communities, and persons dedicated to what Pope Francis has referred to as ‘a new “frontier” for mission, a privileged opportunity to proclaim Jesus Christ and the Gospel message at home, and to bear concrete witness to the Christian faith in a spirit of charity,’” he said. 

Previously, President Joe Biden had set the refugee cap at 62,500 for Fiscal Year 2021. In April of 2021, advocates for refugees complained that despite promises to increase the number of refugees, the process had been “effectively halted.” 

According to the International Rescue Committee, a nonprofit that assists refugees, only 2,050 refugees had been admitted to the United States by late April 2021. 

In February 2021, Biden pledged to raise the refugee cap to 62,500 - nearly four times the current cap of 15,000. He did not, however, make a Presidential Determination for this figure until early May, much to the frustration of resettlement organizations. A total of 11,411 refugees were admitted to the United States in FY2021.

Denver cathedral vandalized with anti-Catholic slogans 

Vandalism on a door of the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Denver, Colo., Oct. 10, 2021. / Photo courtesy of Fr. Samuel Morehead.

Denver, Colo., Oct 11, 2021 / 12:18 pm (CNA).

The Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Denver was spray-painted with anti-Catholic slogans on Sunday, the latest in a series of vandalism incidents against Catholic buildings in Colorado. 

Photos shared by local news reporters show slogans such as “Satan Lives Here,” “White Supremacists,” and “Child Rapists, LOL” written in bright red spray paint on the outside of the cathedral building, sidewalks, and on the base of a statue of St. John Paul II, who visited and stayed at the cathedral in 1993. 

Father Samuel Morehead, the cathedral rector, said he was alerted about the vandalism by parishioners as they arrived to prepare for Sunday Mass. 

Father Morehead told CNA that an eyewitness saw a person spray-painting the church around 7:45 am, in daylight, Oct. 10. Early indications are of a lone woman who carried out the attack, though police have not shared any information about persons of interest.

Father Morehead said police street cameras caught images of the person in the act, though he does not know if the footage is clear enough to make an identification. 

The graffiti has since been cleaned off with the help of parishioners and other volunteers. The paint has been power-washed off the main doors, Father Morehead said, and a specialist is currently working to remove the paint from the cathedral’s stonework. 

Father Morehead said the assailant seems to have some “deep personal wounds and grievances” against God and the Church, but “it remains to be seen” what the true motive for the crime was. 

A spokesperson for Denver Police confirmed to CBS4 that the department is investigating the incident. 

Archdiocese of Denver spokesman Mark Haas said since February 2020, at least 25 parishes or ministry locations in northern Colorado are known to have been the target of vandalism, property destruction, or theft.

“It continues to be troubling to see the increased reports of vandalism at Catholic churches, both across the county and in our archdiocese, and it is certainly unfortunate when our parishes are targeted simply because of our beliefs,” Haas said in a statement to CNA. 

“We continue to pray for the conversion of those who carry out acts of desecration against our churches, statues, and religious symbols.”

The cathedral sustained serious damage in mid-2020 amid racially charged protests in downtown Denver. The church building and rectory were spray painted with the slogans "Pedofiles" [sic], "God is dead," "There is no God," along with anti-police, anarchist, and anti-religion phrases and symbols. 

Gates surrounding the cathedral were damaged in those protests, tear gas that was fired to disperse the protests leaked into the rectory, and the outer doors to the cathedral sustained permanent damage. Three bags of rocks were collected from the parking lot, but the cathedral's most valuable windows were unharmed. Other windows on the cathedral's campus were shattered.  

In June of this year, Holy Ghost Catholic Church, also located in downtown Denver, was tagged with red graffiti in a possible reference to the ongoing controversy over former Catholic-run schools for Indigenous in Canada, though the exact motive remains unclear. 

In late August, the predominantly African-American parish of Curé d'Ars, located in north Denver, was broken into and robbed. All the church's vessels used for Mass were stolen from the vestry, which the thieves accessed by kicking in a wooden door. The thieves also cut all the copper piping off of the building's furnaces downstairs and from a stairwell on the building's exterior, flooding the church basement with water.

The church’s tabernacle, containing the Eucharist, was stolen from the sanctuary. Some of the stolen items have since been recovered, but the Eucharist remains missing. 

Last month, Sacred Heart of Mary Parish in nearby Boulder, Colorado, which is in the Denver archdiocese, was tagged with numerous spray-painted slogans including “Jesus [Loves] Abortion,” “Bans off our bodies,” “No Wire Hangers Ever,” and a symbol combining an “A” signifying “anarchy” and the traditional symbol for “female.” 

The parish had a display of 4,000 small white crosses in its front lawn, each one representing a baby aborted each day in the United States. The vandals trampled and desecrated at least half of the crosses. 

St. Louis Parish in nearby Louisville, Colorado was vandalized with similar pro-abortion graffiti recently. 

There have been at least 95 reported incidents of vandalism of Catholic churches across the United States since May 2020, according to a report by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Religious Liberty.

Incidents include arson, the destruction of statues, and the defacement of church buildings and gravestones with swastikas and anti-Catholic language.

How does U.S. abortion law compare to those in European countries?

The sixth national Walk for Life in Zagreb, Croatia, May 29, 2021. / Tomislav Bagarić

Rome Newsroom, Oct 11, 2021 / 11:24 am (CNA).

Abortion laws around the world are likely to be cited when the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments in December about the constitutionality of a Mississippi state law banning most abortions after the first 15 weeks of pregnancy.

That is because the drafters of the 2018 Mississippi law expressly compared U.S. regulations with those of other countries.

In their first legislative finding justifying the law, they wrote:  “The United States is one of only seven nations in the world that permits nontherapeutic or elective abortion-on-demand after the 20th week of gestation.” 

“In fact, fully 75% of all nations do not permit abortion after 12 weeks’ gestation, except (in most instances) to save the life and to preserve the physical health of the mother.”

The Mississippi law effectively challenges Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that swept away many federal and state abortion restrictions. That Supreme Court decision was accompanied by another, less well-known ruling, Doe. v. Bolton, permitting abortion on demand after “viability” for reasons related to the mother’s “health," which encompasses the mother's mental health.

Oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case that could potentially overturn Roe v. Wade, are due to begin at the Supreme Court on Dec. 1.

In a Supreme Court brief, Mississippi officials urged the court to recognize that the U.S. law is out of step with those of other Western nations. 

“The United States finds itself in the company of China and North Korea as some of the only countries that permit elective abortions after 20 weeks’ gestation,” they wrote.

“That is not progress. The time has come to recognize as much.”

Lawyers for the abortion providers challenging the Mississippi law also cited foreign laws in their brief, but in support of their contention that the U.S. is not an outlier. 

They wrote in a footnote that “in countries with legal traditions and democratic values most comparable to the United States, such as Great Britain and Canada, abortion is legal until at least viability.” 

“And many countries that have limits earlier in pregnancy continue to permit abortion for broad social and health reasons after that point, functionally allowing abortion later in pregnancy and making their laws entirely different from the [Mississippi] Ban.”

So, how does U.S. law match up to those of other countries?

A direct comparison is complicated by the fact that abortion restrictions and legal exceptions vary widely from country to country. In addition, many countries that had strict restrictions, such as Ireland, have liberalized their laws in recent years.

However, the Washington Post’s fact-checkers concluded in 2017 that “the data back up the claim” that the U.S. is one of only seven countries that allow elective abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. (PolitiFact also determined that the statement was true.)

The other six countries are North Korea, China, Vietnam, Canada, Singapore, and the Netherlands.

The Washington Post drew on a 2014 report by the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute, which studied the abortion laws of 198 countries, independent states, and semi-autonomous regions with more than a million people. (The United Nations officially recognizes 193 sovereign states.)

“Of these 198 countries, independent states, and regions worldwide, 59 allow abortion without restriction as to reason, otherwise known as elective abortion or abortion on demand,” the Charlotte Lozier Institute report found.

“The remaining 139 countries require some reason to obtain an abortion ranging from most restrictive (to save the life of the mother or completely prohibited) to least restrictive (socioeconomic grounds) with various reasons in between (e.g., physical health, mental health).”

The institute’s study concluded that “Upholding laws restricting abortion on demand after 20 weeks would situate the United States closer to the international mainstream, instead of leaving it as an outlying country with ultra-permissive abortion policies.”

A study released by the Charlotte Lozier Institute in July found that 47 out of 50 European countries, independent states, and regions analyzed either do not allow elective abortion or limit elective abortion to 15 weeks or earlier.

“No European nation allows elective abortion through all nine months of pregnancy, as is effectively permitted in several U.S. states, and America is one of only a small handful of nations, along with China and North Korea, to permit any sort of late-term elective abortion,” concluded the report’s author, Angelina B. Nguyen.

The closest analog to the U.S. law in Europe is arguably the Netherlands, a country of 17 million people known for pioneering controversial practices such as child euthanasia

The country’s Termination of Pregnancy Act permits abortions up to the 24th week of pregnancy, “the point at which the fetus becomes viable outside the mother’s womb.” 

Abortions after 24 weeks are permitted in certain circumstances, such as when the unborn child has an untreatable “disorder” or is deemed likely to suffer after its birth.

The latest Charlotte Lozier Institute study said that the Netherlands was one of just three European countries to permit elective abortion after 15 weeks, alongside Sweden (up to 18 weeks) and Iceland (22 weeks.)

In Germany, abortion for any reason is permitted in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. But the law requires counseling at a state-approved center and a three-day waiting period before the procedure can take place. 

The European Union’s most populous country, with 83 million people, Germany permits late-term abortions in cases of rape or if the physical or psychological health of the mother is considered at risk of serious harm.

Family News Service
Family News Service

Next door in France, a country of 63 million people, abortion on demand is allowed up to 12 weeks.

Abortions in the second and third trimesters are permitted only if two physicians certify that it is necessary to save the life of the mother, to prevent grave and permanent harm to her health, or the child has a severe and incurable illness.

In  Italy, abortion is legal for any reason within the first 90 days (almost 13 weeks) of pregnancy, and afterward for certain reasons with the referral of a physician.

The practice was legalized in 1978, despite opposition from Pope Paul VI, who encouraged doctors to exercise conscientious objection.

The RU486 abortion drug was legalized in Italy in 2009, and in 2010 standards were set which require women to be hospitalized for three days during its administration. It cannot be prescribed beyond the seventh week of pregnancy.

The United Kingdom, a country of 67 million people with cultural ties to the U.S., permits abortion for socio-economic reasons up to 24 weeks, but up to birth if “there is a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped.”

The U.K.’s Abortion Act 1967 initially permitted abortion up to 28 weeks. The law paved the way for other countries to legalize the practice in the ensuing years, including Canada in 1969 and the U.S. in 1973.

Ireland, a country of almost five million people neighboring the U.K., was until recently one of the few European nations recognizing the equal right to life of the pregnant woman and the unborn child. 

But the pro-life Eighth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland, introduced in 1983, was scrapped after a referendum in 2018. 

The Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018 permits abortions in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and later in cases of fatal fetal abnormality or where the woman’s life or health are deemed to be at risk.

The only remaining sizeable European country with pro-life laws is Poland. The nation of 38 million people, strongly influenced by the Catholic Church, permits abortion only in cases of rape or incest, or risk to the mother’s life. 

The country’s top court ruled in October 2020 that abortion on the grounds of fetal abnormality was unconstitutional, prompting nationwide protests. Demonstrators disrupted Masses while holding signs supporting abortion, left graffiti on Church property, vandalized statues of Polish pope St. John Paul II, and chanted slogans at clergy.  

Several small European states also have pro-life laws, including Malta, Liechtenstein, Andorra, and of course Vatican City.

Gibraltar, a British overseas territory, and San Marino, a microstate within Italy, both recently voted to legalize abortion. 

This report was updated on Oct. 13, 2021, with a reference to the Charlotte Lozier Institute’s July 2021 study.

Nancy Pelosi leaves Mass in Rome due to security concerns

Paul and Nancy Pelosi during their meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Oct. 9, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 10, 2021 / 09:19 am (CNA).

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her husband left Mass at a church in Rome Saturday evening due to a “security incident,” the church’s rector said.

“You probably heard or saw the commotion. Unfortunately, I guess, there was a security incident and sadly Speaker Pelosi and her husband had to leave,” Fr. Steven Petroff, rector of St. Patrick’s Church in Rome, said in a video posted on social media.

“She was going to do our second reading today, but of course her safety is most important,” he said.

Veteran Rome journalist Joan Lewis told CNA Sunday that she had spoken to Petroff, who told her that the security concerns stemmed from restive demonstrations going on in the streets of Rome Saturday that were moving into the area where St. Patrick’s is located around the time of the 6 p.m. Mass.

“What Fr. Steve learned after Mass was that a large number of the anti-Green Card protestors were moving in the direction of Via Veneto and they appeared to be violent,” Lewis said in an instant message exchange with CNA. Lewis emphasized that Pelosi wasn’t the target of heckling, as some news reports suggested. You can watch Petroff addressing the incident during his homily in the Twitter post below.

A spokesman for Pelosi told CNA on Sunday that “it was Italian security officials who made the decision to pull the Speaker out of the church.”

Pelosi, a leading Catholic politician who has clashed with her local ordinary, San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, over her support of abortion, traveled to Rome to give the keynote address at the opening session of the G20 Parliamentary Speakers’ Summit on Friday. On Saturday, she and her husband, businessman Paul Pelosi, met with Pope Francis and other top Vatican officials.

Editor's note: This story was updated to clarify that Italian security officials, not Pelosi's U.S. security detail, made the decision to remove her from the church.

Texas ‘heartbeat’ abortion law temporarily reinstated amid legal fight

The Texas capitol. / Ricardo Garza/Shutterstock.

Denver Newsroom, Oct 9, 2021 / 07:49 am (CNA).

A federal court on Friday evening issued a ruling allowing a Texas state law, which restricts abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, to take effect again amid an ongoing court fight.

A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued its ruling Oct. 8, reversing an Oct. 6 decision by a lower court. At least six Texas abortion clinics had resumed performing abortions after the Oct. 6 ruling, the New York Times reported, drawing strong criticism from pro-life groups.

Texas’ law, which is designed to be enforced through private lawsuits, prohibits abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected—around six weeks gestation— except in medical emergencies.

The law, which first took effect Sept. 1, allows for awards of at least $10,000 for successful lawsuits against those who perform or "aid and abet" illegal abortions; women seeking abortions cannot be sued under the law. 

The Oct. 6 ruling had barred Texas from actions such as awarding damages to successful lawsuits or enforcing judgments in such cases. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton appealed that ruling.

The pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List praised the Friday ruling.

“We are pleased the 5th Circuit has reinstated the Heartbeat Act while litigation continues. Every day this law is in effect, unborn children with beating hearts are saved and mothers are protected,” said SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser in an Oct. 9 statement.

Pro-life leaders have pointed out that the Texas state legislature recently increased public benefits for low-income mothers, expanding Medicaid coverage for new mothers and $100 million in annual funding for the Alternatives to Abortion program.

Paired with the additional funding for mothers in need, the "Heartbeat Act reflects the clear will of Texans to both protect unborn babies in the law and provide compassionate support for women and families," Dannenfelser said.

In early September the Supreme Court ruled that the abortion providers challenging the law had not made a sufficient case for relief from it, and declined to block the law in a 5-4 decision. 

President Joe Biden – a Catholic – called the law “an unprecedented assault on a woman’s constitutional rights,” and promised a “whole-of-government” effort to maintain abortion in Texas.

He directed federal agencies, including the Justice Department, to review what actions could be taken “to ensure that women in Texas have access to safe and legal abortions as protected by Roe.”

As a result of Biden’s directive, the Justice Department “urgently explores all options to challenge” Texas’ new law and “protect the constitutional rights of women and other persons, including access to an abortion," Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a Sept. 6 statement.

In a legal complaint filed in a federal district court Sept. 9, the Justice Department argued the state acted “in open defiance of the Constitution” in restricting “most pre-viability abortions,” and requested a preliminary injunction to block the law.

In late September, two non-Texas residents sued a Texas abortion doctor who announced he had performed an abortion in violation of the new law. A Texas pro-life group criticized those lawsuits, however, calling them “imprudent” and “self-serving," since neither were filed for pro-life reasons. 

It is unclear how many lawsuits have been filed to date under the Texas law.

This story has been updated with additional comment.

Archbishop Cordileone discusses satanists' support for abortion

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco. / Dennis Callahan, Archdiocese of San Francisco.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 9, 2021 / 06:34 am (CNA).

Abortion is a “satanic practice,” the archbishop of San Francisco said in a recent interview.

“When we figure that, what is it, one in four pregnancies in our country ends in an abortion, we are literally in the grip of the devil,” Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone told EWTN Pro-Life Weekly on Oct. 7.

The archbishop appeared on the show to talk about his “Rose and a Rosary for Nancy Pelosi” campaign hosted by the Benedict XVI Institute. The campaign invites Catholics to pray and fast for the conversion of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who backs abortion legislation, including the Women’s Health Protection Act. For every person that signs up, the campaign will send a rose to the California Democrat.

He addressed Speaker Pelosi’s position, and challenged those who equate abortion with health care.

“It’s another one of the smokescreens they use,” the archbishop said. “The smokescreen of choice, the smokescreen of health care, of reproductive choice, and so forth.”

As an example, he pointed to the Satanic Temple, which recently criticized Texas’ new abortion law that prohibits abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected and enables private citizens to enforce the ban. 

The temple condemned the law “precisely on the grounds of it’s a violation of their religious liberty,” the archbishop said. “They need to have access to abortion to carry out their rituals. It’s a satanic practice.”

According to its website, the temple professes seven tenets, including “One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone.”

The group also claims that it doesn’t believe in the "existence of Satan or the supernatural." Instead, it argues, “To embrace the name Satan is to embrace rational inquiry removed from supernaturalism and archaic tradition-based superstitions.” At the same time, its members have engaged in activities that appear to mock Christiainity, from creating a “Snaketivity” around Christmastime to publicizing a purported black mass.

To combat abortion, the archbishop called for prayer and fasting. 

“We need prayer and fasting if we have any hope that God will bless us in turning our nation back to a culture of life,” he concluded.

'Sancta Nox' album of Christmas Matins debuts at #1 on Billboard Traditional Classical Albums chart

Seminarians of the FSSP's International Seminary of St. Peter. / Photo courtesy of Sophia Institute Press.

Denver Newsroom, Oct 8, 2021 / 17:01 pm (CNA).

On Sept. 28, a community of seminarians from the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter’s European seminary released an album of Christmas Matins, “Sancta Nox: Christmas Matins from Bavaria”. This week, the 17-song collection topped the Billboard’s Traditional Classical Albums chart.  

“We are very surprised and grateful that people have already found this recording, and humbled that they have decided to add this music to the Christmas experience and traditions,” said Manuel Vaz Guedes, one of the singers, who is from Lisbon.  

Recorded in surround sound at St. Magnus Abbey, Bad Schussenried in Germany, the album features mostly Gregorian chant, sung by seminarians of Saint Peter Wigratzbad Seminary. The abbey was built in the 12th century, with acoustics “perfect” for recording Gregorian chant, said Vaz Guedes. 

The seminarians go to the abbey from time-to-time to celebrate special feast days, said Vaz Guedes. 

“It was a very inspirational setting for recording this music,” he said.

The album includes a multi-lingual arrangement of “Stille Nacht”, along with several songs arranged by the seminarians themselves. 

“We set about bringing our very best to recording music that was representative of the beauty found in the truth,” said Vaz Guedes, who discovered he could sing through Gregorian chant. “I think music is one of the most perfect ways of exteriorizing the faith and one of the most profound ways to pray to God.” 

Matins are part of the Divine Office, which priests and monks pray every single day. In the album, Vaz Guedes said, listeners will find the “life and prayer of a seminarian” during Christmas.

“Christmas Matins have a great importance because they precede, immediately, the Christmas night Mass and one of the most solemn and beautiful moments of the liturgical year,” Vaz Guedes said.  “We wanted to share how we pray on Christmas night.”

The seminarians recorded the album under the direction of Christopher Alder, a Grammy Award-winning classical music producer and Christian Weigl, a Grammy Award-winning engineer. 

“The uniqueness of this recording resides in the fact that we are very young singers singing very ancient and venerable music,” said Vaz Guedes. “The average age of our group is 25 and the average age of the music we are singing is probably 800. That’s a very gratifying collaboration to be part of.”

The music, Vaz Guedes said, can be enjoyed by a wide audience, including listeners who prefer traditional sacred music, as well as those who want to experience peace. 

“We must be attentive to the words we are saying and to the beauty of the melody we are singing,” he said. “ We can meditate on the words because they are the formal part of the prayer—they are the prayer we address to God—But we have the opportunity to do it [while]  enjoying the beauty of the melody or the harmony, because the beauty of music is a participation of the perfect beauty that is God.” 

The FSSP’s North American seminary, Our Lady of Guadalupe, had in 2017 released an album featuring the chants of the Requiem Mass.

Churchgoing Catholics disapprove of limits on Traditional Latin Mass, but Pope Francis still popular

The prostration of the ordinandi during the Litany of the Saints at Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini, the FSSP's parish in Rome, June 22, 2013. / CNA

Denver Newsroom, Oct 8, 2021 / 16:50 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis’ restrictions on the Traditional Latin Mass appear to be unpopular among regularly practicing Catholics, but most American Catholics have not even heard of the changes, a survey reports.

“Catholics who attend Mass weekly are both more likely to be aware of the new restrictions and more inclined to oppose them than Catholics who attend less frequently,” the Pew Research Center, which conducted the survey, said Oct. 7

About 58% of Catholics who attended Mass weekly had heard about the restrictions. Regular Mass attendees were the most sceptical of the Pope’s move. Of these, 29% disapproved of the new restrictions, 11% approved, while 17% had no opinion. However, 42% had not heard of the changes.

On July 16, in Traditionis custodes, Pope Francis issued rules giving a bishop “exclusive competence” to authorize the Traditional Latin Mass in his diocese. Bishops with groups celebrating this form of the liturgy in their dioceses are to ensure that the groups do not deny the validity of the Second Vatican Council. The council, held in the 1960s, preceded major changes in the Roman Catholic liturgy. These changes were codified in 1970 with St. Paul VI’s Roman Missal, the missal used in most Catholic parishes in vernacular languages.

The restrictions on the traditional Latin Mass are a break from the practice established in a 2007 apostolic letter from Benedict XVI, Summorum Pontificum, which had acknowledged the rights of all priests to offer the Mass according to the Roman Missal of 1962, promulgated by St. John XXIII.

Overall, some two-thirds of Catholics told Pew that they had heard “nothing at all” about the changes from Pope Francis, 28% had heard “only a little,” while 7% had heard “a lot.” Overall, 9% approved, 12% disapproved, and 14% declined to answer.

Catholics who attend Mass monthly or yearly slightly favored the new restrictions rather than opposed them. Respondents’ opinions appeared not to differ significantly by age. Besides religious practice, Catholics’ favorability towards Traditional Latin Mass restrictions broke along partisan lines.

Among Catholics who are Republicans or lean Republican, only 4% approved the pope’s move, while 20% disapproved. Another 15% had no opinion, while 61% had not heard of the change. By contrast, 13% of Catholics who are Democrats or lean Democrat supported the move, 6% opposed it, 13% had no opinion and some 68% had not heard of it.

Pope Francis said he had issued the restrictions on the Traditional Latin Mass “in defense of the unity of the Body of Christ,” saying, “I am constrained to revoke the faculty granted by my predecessors.” He said permission to celebrate this form of the liturgy had led to “distorted use” that was contrary to the intentions that had allowed it.

In response to the papal action, some bishops have said that priests may continue to offer the Traditional Latin Mass in their dioceses, while others have banned it. Still others have said they need more time to consider their response.

Laity and clergy who support the traditional Latin Mass had their own reactions.

Joseph Shaw, the chairman of the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales, told CNA that many priests and lay Catholics have worked to combine an interest in the Traditional Latin Mass with “sincere loyalty and affection for the hierarchy and the Holy Father.” He said they have been “let down by this document.”

Cardinal Raymond Burke, the former prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, told the National Catholic Register that the text was “marked by a harshness” towards those who attend extraordinary form Masses.

New York Times columnist Ross Douthat was also critical, contrasting the action with Francis’ stress on accompanying people: “Accompaniment for some, slow strangulation of their rites for others.”

It is unclear how many Traditional Latin Mass parishes will be affected by the pope’s new limits and how the limits will affect diocesan clergy and laity who seek to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass going forward. Catholic parishes that celebrate this Mass are a small minority. As of Oct. 8, the Latin Mass Directory website lists 662 venues in the U.S. By comparison, there are over 16,700 parishes in the U.S., according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate.

Pew’s survey also asked respondents whether they had a favorable or unfavorable view of Pope Francis.

American Catholics’ favorability of the pope hovered at about 83%, with Catholics who attend Mass monthly or yearly slightly more favorable towards Pope Francis. Democratic or Democrat-leaning Catholics gave the pope 91% approval, compared to 71% of Republicans or Republican sympathizers. Overall, only 14% of Catholics had an unfavorable view of the pope.

However, 49% of Republican or Republican-leaning Catholics described the pope as too liberal. Only 30% of all Catholics, and 16% of Democratic or Democrat-leaning Catholics said the same.

Strong majorities of Catholic respondents tended to agree that Pope Francis should be described as compassionate, humble, and open-minded, and tended to reject describing him as out of touch or naïve. However, only 52% said he is in good physical health, and Republican or Republican-leaning respondents tended to be less positive in their descriptions of the pope.

American Catholics tend to be more favorable towards Pope Francis than Americans overall. Only 60% of all U.S. respondents had a favorable view of the pontiff, with 28% voicing an unfavorable view.

The Pew Research Center’s survey of 6,485 U.S. adults, 1,374 of whom are Catholic, was conducted Sept. 20-26 as part of Pew’s American Trends Panel. Pew said the survey is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by sex, race, ethnicity, party affiliation, education, religious affiliation and other categories.

The survey claims a margin of error of plus or minus 1.9 percentage points for all Americans, plus or minus 4.3 percentage points for all Catholics, and plus or minus 8.4 percentage points for Catholics who attend Mass at least weekly.

Parishioners ‘in deep grief’ over removal of Dominicans from historic New Haven church

A portrait of Bl. Michael McGivney, unveiled Oct. 31 during the priest's beatification Mass. / Christine Rousselle/CNA

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 8, 2021 / 15:40 pm (CNA).

The forced departure of the Dominican Order from historic St. Mary’s Church in New Haven, Connecticut after 135 years has deeply upset and puzzled some parishioners, who question why the move is necessary as part of a restructuring of the Archdiocese of Hartford.

“To be honest, we are in deep grief right now,” parishioner Erika Ahern told CNA in an email. “Both as a family and as a parish community, we see the removal of the Dominicans as a great spiritual tragedy.” 

Established in 1886, St. Mary’s is the second-oldest Catholic parish in Connecticut and the home church of the Knights of Columbus, whose founder, Bl. Michael J. McGivney, once the parish's assistant pastor, is entombed there.

In response to dwindling parish rolls, the archdiocese plans to merge multiple New Haven parishes into a single parish centered at St. Mary’s, which priests of the archdiocese will administer.

In a statement, the archdiocese told the New Haven Register that St. Mary is “uniquely suited as the center of a municipal model of pastoral care with several priests living together and serving the ten city churches.”

The number of Catholics in New Haven has declined from 70,000 in the 1930s to 10,000 today, the newspaper reported.

Once parishioners realized that the removal of the Dominicans was “a likely possible outcome of the archdiocese’s pastoral planning,” Ahern said, she and other lay faithful started a prayer group in late June to pray that the friars could be left undisturbed at St. Mary’s.

“We came together to fast and pray a novena to Our Lady of the Rosary,” Ahern said. “When that finished, we prayed a 54-day novena for the intentions of both the provincial and the archbishop.” 

On Oct. 5, Fr. John Paul Walker, O.P., the pastor of St. Mary’s, announced that the Dominicans would indeed be leaving the archdiocese as part of a larger restructuring plan by the archdiocese. 

“After discussions over the summer, the archdiocese has recently informed our Dominican Province that when this second phase is implemented, the pastoral care of this municipal parish will be entrusted entirely to the care of priests of the Archdiocese of Hartford — and thus a continuing presence of the Dominican friars in the pastoral ministry of St. Mary Parish or in residence at St. Mary Priory will no longer be possible,” said Walker in a letter to his parish. 

“It is thus with great sadness I share with you that in January 2022, the pastoral care of St. Mary Parish will be turned over to the priest(s) named by the archbishop, and the Dominican friars will depart from St. Mary Priory.” 

For Ahern, and many others at the parish, the decision to remove the Dominican friars from the archdiocese amid a shortage of priests is a confusing one. 

“It's difficult to understand this decision,” she said. “We have heard for so many years that there is a shortage of priests and a crisis of vocations in the archdiocese. It just seems strange to be severing ties with a thriving source of new vocations as is happening now with the Province of St Joseph.”

The Province of St. Joseph is one of the four provinces of the Dominican Order in the United States, and its territory stretches from New England to Virginia, and westward to Ohio. In August, the province welcomed 14 new novices into the community. 

Ahern told CNA that she and other parishioners do not view the situation as a “zero sum game” that necessitates the departure of the Dominicans. 

“It should be that the archdiocese can work together with the province so that the spiritual fruits of St. Mary’s can continue to thrive under the direction of the Dominicans,” she added.

The presence of the Dominican friars, said Ahern, “has greatly blessed our family and the families of the parish.” She said that her parish has “been gifted friars of the highest virtue and charity,” who have “brought a level of reverence to the liturgy that many of us never experienced before.” 

“It's hard to articulate just the depth of their influence on our lives,” said Ahern. “We are especially grateful for the good example they have given us during this difficult time of humility, prayer, and reverence for the hierarchy of the Church.”

The Dominicans may, in the future, have some sort of presence within the Archdiocese of Hartford, but what that is remains to be seen. According to Walker, the archdiocese “asked the Dominican Province to consider three new ministries in the Archdiocese as an alternative to St. Mary’s.”

“As each of these would entail a radically new configuration of the Dominican life and mission in the Archdiocese, the Dominican Province has decided to evaluate these new offers at our next provincial chapter, which will take place in June of 2022,” he said.  

But for now, while they wait to see what happens next, Ahern and other parishioners of St. Mary’s are relying on the wisdom of another Dominican: St. Catherine of Siena. 

“She has been an example to us during this time of confusion and dismay,” said Ahern. “We hope that both the provincial and the archbishop feel the power of our prayers for them both. We look forward to seeing what fruit God will bring out of what feels like a tragedy at this point.” 

The Archdiocese of Hartford did not respond to CNA’s request for comment in time for publication.