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Kansas pro-lifers counter misinformation on Value Them Both amendment

Student canvassers from Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America visit voters in Olathe, Kan., July 28, 2022. / Carl Bunderson/CNA

Topeka, Kan., Aug 1, 2022 / 14:16 pm (CNA).

Rosie the Riveter, apparently, doesn't want Kansas voters to approve the Value Them Both amendment.

Her iconic image representing American working women adorns a billboard along Interstate 435 in Kansas City, beside the words "VOTE NO" in large letters.

Located a short drive southwest of the airport in nearby Kansas City, Missouri, it's a sign of things to come as one heads west toward the heart of the Sunflower State. To judge by the profusion of yard signs, both for and against the amendment, which comes up for a vote Tuesday, nearly everyone seems to have strong opinions about it.

But many of those aren't hearing the truth of what Kansans are voting on Aug. 2.

Also known as Amendment 2, Value Them Both, if approved, would affirm that Kansas' state constitution does not provide a right to abortion, reversing a 2019 ruling by the state's Supreme Court.

The amendment would not ban abortion, as some are being misinformed, proponents of the amendment claim. Instead, it empowers state lawmakers to regulate abortion as they see fit, as is now possible after the U.S. Supreme Court on June 24 overturned a national right to abortion in Dobbs vs. Jackson's Women's Health Organization.

Opponents of the measure have seized on the Dobbs decision “to create a lot of confusion about the Value Them Both amendment and they have also spread a lot of misinformation,” Peter Northcott, executive director of Kansans for Life and campaign manager for the Value Them Both Coalition, told CNA.

Erin Newport, a Topeka resident and a volunteer with the Value Them Both campaign, said she has seen a lot of confusion and anger around the topic, saying there has been a great deal of misinformation — “manipulation, abuse of language, to make it confusing to people.”

Stanley Colaço, a volunteer with Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America’s student team visiting voters to educate them about the amendment, said he has encountered misinformation, with voters believing the initiative would itself ban abortion or even contraception.

And Father Nathan Haverland, pastor of Most Pure Heart of Mary parish in Topeka, said “people are informed” that the amendment is on the ballot, “but still there are questions,” adding that there is a “misinformation campaign on the other side.”

You can watch an “EWTN News In Depth” interview with two pro-life students involved in the campaign in the video below.

Defaced signs

Amendment 2 will be included in Kansans’ Aug. 2 primary ballots. It marks the first statewide vote on abortion in the United States since Dobbs was decided. 

Some of the mischaracterizations surround what constitutes an abortion, Northcott said. “They're trying to say that [treatment] of an ectopic pregnancy, a removal or treatment for a miscarriage, treatment for septic uterus, things like that, are abortion; they’re trying to equate them.”

A prime value of going door-to-door to talk with voters has been “having an open conversation with people. Cutting through the campaign rhetoric and having a real conversation with people has been really incredibly valuable,” Northcott reflected.

“We've had individuals who said that they were pro-choice, and they thought that this was going to be a 100% ban on abortion. In every case, when you have the conversation about the laws that currently exist on the books, people are like, ‘You know, that is very reasonable,’” he explained.

“Every one of our laws in Kansas passed with bipartisan support, and that's really where the people of Kansas are. They want limits on the abortion industry and that's the conversation you're having with people; Kansans will say, ‘Yeah, that's where I'm at.’ Not the scare tactics from the other side.”

The 2019 court decision that prompted the Value Them Both amendment has already led to two Kansas laws being struck down, Northcott said; one barring live dismemberment abortion, and one mandating clinic-specific licensing standards. A law requiring in-person prescription of medical abortion is currently being challenged.

In addition to misinformation coming from opponents of the amendment, the campaign has been marked by intimidation of and attempts to silence pro-life Kansans.

Churches have been vandalized, and “yes” signs have repeatedly been defaced or stolen, and sometimes even replaced with “no” signs.

A defaced sign in favor of the Value Them Both amendment outside Most Pure Heart of Mary parish in Topeka, Kan., July 27, 2022. Carl Bunderson/CNA
A defaced sign in favor of the Value Them Both amendment outside Most Pure Heart of Mary parish in Topeka, Kan., July 27, 2022. Carl Bunderson/CNA

Haverland of Most Pure Heart of Mary said the parish’s sign had been spray-painted over 10 or 12 times.

“We won’t let these things dampen our resolve,” he said. “We keep going. Everyone with a small sign has had it stolen at least once.”

“The tension is palpable,” he added.

The organization leading the campaign against the amendment, Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.

Newport’s family has taken to bringing in the sign from their lawn each night. She commented on how heartening it was when a group of men from Most Pure Heart sat outside several nights after the Dobbs decision to protect the church’s sign in favor of the amendment. 

“So many people are putting up the good fight,” she reflected. Some churches have put plastic around their signs to support and protect them, or put messages on electronic signs, and some Kansans have placed signs on high tree branches to dissuade would-be vandals.

Newport also expressed a supposition that there are more people who support the amendment who haven’t put up signs, because of the vandalism; some have also given up having signs in their yards after having them stolen so often. 

Opponents of the amendment have aimed at “silencing an opposing view,” Northcott commented.

While 20,000 yard signs for a candidate or topic “is a lot in any other year,” Value Them Both has “gone through 100,000 yard signs,” he said.

Pivotal state in a national debate

The intensity of the debate over Value Them Both harkens to Kansas’ key role in the national debate over slavery before the Civil War, said Mary Margaret Sperry, Newport’s daughter.

Most of its neighbors have restricted or banned abortion, and it could become an abortion destination if its legislature is not empowered to regulate the practice.

Value Them Both has garnered significant attention from outside Kansas. 

Out-of-state money has poured into campaigns against the amendment. The Kansas City Star reported July 20 that Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, the main opposition group, has received most of its funding “from national and regional organizations aimed at preserving abortion access.”

Much of that money has gone into TV and radio ads.

According to Northcott, more than 99% of the Value Them Both Coalition's funds have come from within Kansas, compared with 29% for the opposition.

The largest donors to Value Them Both have been Catholic organizations inside Kansas, but there have been thousands of dollars “from individuals across the state,” Northcott said.

“We get notes from people that are saying, ‘Hey, you know I'm only able to give $20,’ or ‘Our family is going to not go out to dinner this month so that we can help you all help protect moms and babies.’”

Value Them Both Association has received close to $4.7 million this year, while Kansans for Constitutional Freedom took in more than $6.5 million, according to state records. Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America committed at least $1.3 million to the “yes” campaign, the pro-life group announced in June. 

Northcott also highlighted support for Value Them Both coming from outside the Catholic Church. He noted support for the coalition coming from Southern Baptists, the Lutheran Church -Missouri Synod, and Mennonite, Bible, and independent churches. 

“We have broad support from individuals that are across faith traditions, from Catholics to evangelicals to mainline Protestants. We have individuals within our coalition that are of the Muslim faith, we have individuals that don't practice a religion,” Northcott said.

“The idea that Kansas could continue to be this destination for abortion, and we could have some of the most extreme abortion practices, cuts across denominational lines.”

“There's a box that I think that the media tries to put us in that this is just a Catholic effort, and it goes way beyond that,” Northcott explained.

Prayer vigils will be held the night of Aug. 1-2 for the success of the amendment. Ecumenical “Light the Night” events will take place, along with rosary vigils, 40 Hours devotions, and Eucharistic adoration.

Newport reflected that the spiritual aspect of the campaign is an asset to the pro-life side.

“Fasting and prayer,” she said. “Understanding that this is a spiritual battle. That’s the advantage for us.”

Uvalde students and families seek healing at Catholic Extension summer camp

Students from Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, at a summer camp run by Catholic Extension / Catholic Extension

Washington D.C., Aug 1, 2022 / 06:33 am (CNA).

Students from Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, the site of the tragic shooting on May 24, joined their families this month at a summer camp designed to help them begin the process of healing from their traumatic experiences.

“Camp I-CAN,” which stands for “Inner strength, Commitment, Awareness, and Networking,” is the latest initiative organized by the non-profit Catholic Extension to help the Uvalde community in the aftermath of the shooting.

"As a Church we cannot forget what has happened in Uvalde. This entire community has witnessed unspeakable violence, and an unfathomable loss of young life and innocence,” Joe Boland, Catholic Extension’s vice president of mission, told CNA. “The Catholic Church is a true agent of mercy and healing in Uvalde for these suffering children and families.”

Camp I-CAN, which took place July 15-28 at St. Henry de Osso Project Center in Uvalde, Texas, “provided 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders a safe space to heal, have fun, and gently reintegrated the children into a school-like setting around their peers,” according to a recent press release. It included faith-based activities, music, arts and crafts, physical activities, and other forms of entertainment for children to acclimate themselves to difficult circumstances.

Catholic Extension, according to their website, is a “fundraising organization that helps ensure that all American Catholics can practice their faith within vibrant faith communities.” Their stated mission is to “connect poor and remote Catholic communities with essential financial support, educational partnerships, and infrastructure.”

Father Jack Wall, president of Catholic Extension, said, “It is our goal, that through the spiritual accompaniment of religious sisters, the children and their families of Uvalde, Texas feel God’s presence, and are reminded that they are not forgotten or alone in the coming year and beyond.”  

Sister Dolores Aviles, the Teresian leader of Camp I-CAN, is an Uvalde native. She felt called to help after she heard God speak to her, saying “Let the children come to Me.”

“This week, we wanted the children and their families to know that we are praying for them, we love them, and that we will also take action for them. That’s what community is,” said Aviles.

Catholic Extension has a long history in Uvalde and a powerful connection with the victims and survivors of the shooting.

The Catholic Extension press release said, “Uvalde was one of the first-ever communities Catholic Extension supported, helping build Sacred Heart Church in 1906.” CNA reported that, following the shooting, 11 of the victims’ funerals took place at Sacred Heart Church.

Catholic Extension plans to fund more initiatives as time passes, and they said that Camp I-CAN is the “first of many.” For more information on ways to support the children in Uvalde through Catholic Extension's programs, please visit catholicextension.org/uvalde.

On Aug. 2, you can get this St. Francis-themed indulgence

St. Francis of Assisi. / Bradley Weber via Flickr CC BY NC ND 2.0.

New York City, N.Y., Aug 1, 2022 / 06:18 am (CNA).

The feast of Our Lady of the Angels of Porziuncola and its associated indulgence is a way to focus on the importance of Mary and the Franciscan tradition in the Church, said one friar.

The Aug. 2 feast is found in the Franciscan tradition, and marks the dedication of the parish church, called Porziuncola or “little portion,” which is one of those Italy's St. Francis of Assisi rebuilt in obedience to Christ's command to “rebuild my church.”

“The Porziuncola is at the heart of the Franciscan journey,” Father David Convertino, the Executive Director of the Franciscan Missionary Union, told CNA.

“For Francis, it was his most beloved place. He lived near it with the early followers … and he loved the Porziuncola, as it was part of his devotion to Our Lady.”

An indulgence is the remission of the temporal punishment due to sins which have already been forgiven, and it can be plenary or partial.

A plenary indulgence requires that the individual be in the state of grace by the completion of the acts, and have complete detachment from sin. The person must also sacramentally confess their sins and receive Communion, up to about 20 days before or after the indulgenced act.

Anyone who visits a Catholic church with the intention of honoring Our Lady of the Angels and recites the Creed, the Our Father, and prays for the Pope's intentions, may receive a plenary indulgence on Aug. 2.

“Any kind of a prayer form that helps people come closer to God is obviously a good prayer form, and certainly an indulgence is one way,” Fr. Convertino said.

“It helps us focus on, in this case, the meaning of the Porziuncola and the Franciscan tradition, how it's situated in the greater idea of the Church.”
 

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Porziuncola located inside the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli near Assisi. Credit: emmav674 via Flickr (CC BY_NC_SA 2.0)

The Porziuncola was built in honor of Our Lady of the Angels in the fourth century, and by St. Francis' time had fallen into disrepair. The church, which was then located just outside of Assisi, became the “motherhouse” of the Franciscan orders.

“Although Francis realized that the kingdom of heaven is found in every dwelling on earth … he had learned nevertheless that the church of Saint Mary at Portiuncula was filled with more abundant grace and visited more frequently by heavenly spirits,” says the life of St. Francis written by Friar Thomas of Celano, read today by Franciscans.

“Consequently he used to say to his friars: 'See to it, my sons, that you never leave this place. If you are driven out by one door return by the other for this is truly a holy place and God’s dwelling.'”

Fr. Convertino added that the Porziuncola “was the place he chose to lie next to on his deathbed, and at that time of course you could have looked up to the city of Assisi, which he also loved so well.”

The Porziuncola, a rather small chapel, is now located inside a large basilica which was built around it, to enclose and protect it.

“You have this large basilica built over this teeny tiny little chapel,” Fr. Convertino reflected. “If that chapel wasn't there then the basilica wouldn't be there, but if the basilica wasn't there, the chapel probably wouldn't be there either, given 800 years of war, weather, and turmoil.”

For Fr. Convertino, the duality of the big church and the little church is a reflection of the relationship between the world-wide Catholic Church and the smaller communities which make it up.

“We feel the Franciscans kind of convey, we're the ones at the heart of the Church, the little church there.”

He said that each time he visits Assisi, the “experience” of the Porziuncola is “compounded more and more,” and added that “it's such a magnificent place, and the friars there are wonderful.”

Fr. Convertino also discussed the fresco now painted around the entrance of the Porziuncola, which shows St. Francis, together with some of his followers, receiving the indulgence from Christ and Our Lady.

“The idea behind the story is that Francis is asking Jesus for a Porziuncola indulgence, and Jesus is saying to Francis, 'Well, you really better ask Mary, ask my mother.'”

Big-spending abortion backers target Kansas ballot measure, but pro-lifers hope for win

null / Shutterstock

Denver Newsroom, Jul 31, 2022 / 04:00 am (CNA).

Wealthy out-of-state donors who back legalized abortion are funding opposition to a Kansas constitutional amendment that would end the state Supreme Court’s ban on abortion restrictions. Backers of the effort expect to be outspent but are confident they will prevail at the ballot box on Tuesday, Aug. 2.

“The abortion industry will outspend us, perhaps 2 to 1 or more, but our most valuable ‘resource’ will be Catholics in the pew,” Chuck Weber of the Kansas Catholic Conference told CNA July 29. “The abortion industry has virtually unlimited money to buy TV ad time, radio, digital, satellite, texting, etc. We are reaching out to parish pro-life coordinators and Knights of Columbus councils, asking them to call everyone and anyone they know to vote ‘yes.’”

The proposed amendment, dubbed the Value Them Both Amendment, says that “because Kansans value both women and children, the constitution of the state of Kansas does not require government funding of abortion and does not create or secure a right to abortion.” It would allow laws regarding abortion “to the extent permitted by the Constitution of the United States.”

Voters will consider the amendment in the Aug. 2 primary election. Early voting began July 13.

In 2019, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that a woman has a right to an abortion under the state constitution, barring legislators from passing abortion restrictions. The ruling could endanger existing laws, including a ban on abortion 22 weeks or later into pregnancy.

The Value Them Both Association, which supports the amendment, has received close to $6 million this year. Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, foes of the amendment, took in more than $6.5 million.

Pro-abortion ‘grassroots donations’

Both sides have drawn thousands of small donors, though a spokesperson for Kansans for Constitutional Freedom reported a boost in “grassroots donations” after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, returning abortion restrictions to the states.

The politically influential abortion provider Planned Parenthood is actively opposing the proposed Kansas amendment. Its national political action committee, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, donated $850,000 to Kansans for Constitutional Freedom. Two Kansas Planned Parenthood affiliates, Planned Parenthood Great Plains and Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes, gave a combined $492,000.

However, the largest single institutional donation against the amendment came from the Sixteen Thirty Fund, which committed $1.38 million. News outlets including Politico and the New York Times have characterized the fund as a “dark money” group, given its ability to receive undisclosed donations.

The Sixteen Thirty Fund spent more than $410 million on Democratic Party-aligned efforts in the 2020 election. The fund’s president, Amy Kurtz, previously worked in campaign and election strategy for the National Education Association. The chair of the Sixteen Thirty Fund’s board of directors, Raul M. Alvillar, headed the Biden presidential campaign in New Mexico. He is also former national political director for the Democratic National Committee. He previously served in the Obama administration and did some LGBT liaison work for the Obama campaign.

Foes of the Kansas ballot initiative also have $500,000 in support from the Washington, D.C.-based North Fund, which was a major contributor to defeating a late-term abortion ban ballot initiative in neighboring Colorado. The Sixteen Thirty Fund is itself a major donor to the North Fund, according to Politico.

Other institutional donors back the pro-abortion status quo in Kansas. The American Civil Liberties Union gave $250,000 toward that effort, while its state affiliate, the ACLU of Kansas, gave half that — $112,500. For its part, the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights donated $125,000 to oppose the measure, while NARAL Pro-Choice America gave $100,000.

Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, a New York-based charitable giving advisory and management firm, committed $100,000 to Kansans for Constitutional Freedom. The Wichita-based Trust Women and the Trust Us Justice Fund gave $89,000 in combined donations.

The largest individual donor backing legal abortion is Stacy Schusterman, an heiress philanthropist and energy business executive from Tulsa, Okla., who gave $1 million. Another $250,000 came from Amy and Rob Stavis of New York.

Pro-life donors

State records show the Value Them Both Association has received close to $4.7 million this year. This does not include a major donation from the Susan B. Anthony List, which in June committed $1.3 million, the Kansas Reflector news organization reports. It is apparently the largest out-of-state donation to the pro-life cause. 

By comparison, the statewide pro-life organization Kansas for Life has given $325,000. The largest individual donation — $100,000 — comes from former gunpowder company executive J.B. Hodgdon of Shawnee, Kansas, according to CNA’s review of campaign contribution records at the website of the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission.

The Catholic Church in Kansas has been a major donor to the campaign. The Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas has committed $2.5 million, while the Wichita Diocese has given $551,000. The Salina Diocese has given at least $100,000, while the Kansas Catholic Conference gave at least $275,000. 

A few parishes have given major donations. St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church in Leawood, in the Archdiocese of Kansas City, gave $100,000. Many other Catholic churches and Knights of Columbus councils are among the listed donors, as are Protestant churches. Of these donations, many are under $1,000.

Kansas shouldn't be an ‘abortion destination’

Weber, the Kansas Catholic Conference executive director, said Catholics think the amendment is an important cause.

“The Catholic Church seeks justice in public policy, no matter the issue. We are proud of the leadership our bishops have demonstrated on the Value Them Both Amendment,” Weber said. “The Catholic Church has always has a target on her back, from the left and right ends of the political spectrum. Without fear or favor, we are proud to advocate for Value Them Both for this issue and a number of other issues.”

Weber added that the Catholic bishops of the United States and of Kansas have said that abortion is the “preeminent issue” of our day.

The constitutional amendment also has the support of the Kansas-Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. More than 450 faith leaders have signed a letter backing the Value Them Both campaign, as have more than 250 medical and mental-health professionals.

Weber characterized the amendment as “simply abortion neutral.” 

“Passing Value Them Both will level the scales and allow the people of Kansas, through their elected representatives, to set policy on abortion,” he said. “Without Value Them Both, all Kansas laws touching on the question of abortion regulation are ‘presumed unconstitutional’ and will almost certainly be overturned once challenged.”

If the amendment effort fails, Weber predicted, courts will end a ban on government funding for elective abortions and will end laws requiring parental consent for minors to get an abortion.“Already in Kansas, because of the Kansas state Supreme Court ruling, painful and brutal dilation and extraction abortions, also known as ‘live dismemberment abortions,’ are taking place in Kansas at a rate of nine or more per week, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment,” Weber told CNA. “Half of all abortions in Kansas now are performed on girls and women from surrounding states. This will certainly increase and make Kansas an abortion destination for the Midwest.”

Arlington bishop curtails Traditional Latin Masses

A Traditional Latin Mass. / Andrew Gardner via Wikimedia (CC BY 4.0).

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 30, 2022 / 12:53 pm (CNA).

Thirteen parishes in the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, must stop offering Traditional Latin Masses come Sept. 8 under new rules issued Friday by Bishop Michael J. Burbidge to conform with Pope Francis' liturgical directives.

Under the rules, eight other parishes may continue to offer Masses in what is called the Extraordinary Form, but five of those may only do so in other locations besides their churches, including school buildings and a former church.

Moreover, none of the eight parishes may publish the times of their Latin Masses in their bulletins, parish websites, or social media channels, in conformity with the Vatican's requirements.

Three parishes in the 70-parish diocese may continue to host Latin Masses in their churches. They are: St. Anthony Mission in King George, St. Rita Church in Alexandria, and St. John the Beloved in McLean.

In a five-page document outlining the policy Burbidge says the rules are meant to “strengthen ecclesial communion” within the diocese and conform to the mandates Pope Francis published a little over a year ago in his motu proprio Traditionis custodes, as well as more specific restrictions the Vatican issued in December.

“The unique expression of the sacred liturgy is found in the liturgical books reformed according to the desires of the Second Vatican Council and promulgated by Pope Saint Paul VI and Pope Saint John Paul,” Burbidge says in the document.

The new policy makes no explicit mention of a ban on Masses said ad orientem, or facing away from the congregation, in either the new or old form, as is now in place in the neighboring Archdiocese of Washington.

The Arlington Diocese's policy goes into effect Sept. 8, the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The list of off-site TLM locations

A statement published on the Arlington Diocese’s website says Burbidge submitted a “request for dispensation from Traditionis custodes” to the Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in Rome.

Burbidge made the request so that “the approximately 2.5% of local, Mass-attending Catholics who prefer this liturgical form” in the diocese could continue to have access to Traditional Latin Masses, the statement says.

“Consequently, three parishes were granted permission to continue celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass in their parish churches for a term of two years,” the statement continues.

The diocese's policy says that this permission “may be extended upon the approval of the Dicastery, so long as ongoing work toward a unitary form (use of the third edition of the Roman Missal, promulgated in English in 2011 and in Spanish in 2018) of celebration of the Sacred Liturgy continues."

An additional five parishes may offer Latin Masses at off-site locations. They are:

  • St. John the Baptist Church, Front Royal, in Chelsea Academy, Front Royal;

  • Sacred Heart of Jesus Church, Winchester, in Sacred Heart Academy;

  • All Saints Church, Manassas, in Renaissance Montessori School, Nokesville;

  • St. John the Apostle Church, Leesburg, in the historic chapel, and

  • St. Patrick Church, Fredericksburg, in the former church building.

‘Pushed to the side’?

For some Catholics like Sean and Jennifer Nelson who prefer the Traditional Latin Mass, Burbidge's new policy came as a shock.

The Stafford, Virginia, couple, both adult converts, began attending Latin Masses at St. Patrick’s in Fredericksburg a year ago, drawn by the liturgy's timeless, sacred beauty.

“I can’t think of any greater countersign to the world than the liturgy of the old rite,” said Sean Nelson, 34.

“The interior participation, the beauty of the words, everything about it signals that this is a foretaste of heaven, that this is where you should be, this is the world of God,” he said.

“And I think that's especially important nowadays where we're losing so much of that sense of God's presence … to be in a place where that's so abundantly clear,” he said. “It just opens your heart up to the salvation that Christ and the Church offers.”

Sean and Jennifer Nelson, of Stafford, Virginia, on Easter Sunday 2022 at St. Patrick Church in Fredericksburg, Virginia, with their three sons: (left to right) Luke, Mark, and Matthew. Courtesy of Sean Nelson
Sean and Jennifer Nelson, of Stafford, Virginia, on Easter Sunday 2022 at St. Patrick Church in Fredericksburg, Virginia, with their three sons: (left to right) Luke, Mark, and Matthew. Courtesy of Sean Nelson

In January, Burbidge prohibited the use of the Extraordinary Form for baptisms, weddings, and other sacraments, in conformance with the Vatican's directives, but he allowed the then 21 parishes offering the Traditional Latin Mass to continue doing so for the time being.

Nelson said his family has been praying for the preservation of the Latin Mass at St. Patrick’s since Pope Francis issued his motu proprio a year ago. Their hope was that any additional policies the diocese might implement to conform to the pope’s directive would not result in dramatic changes.

Instead, Nelson learned Friday night that nearly two-thirds of the parishes in the diocese that now offer Latin Masses can no longer do so after Sept. 8. Also, St. Patrick’s Latin Masses must move from the parish’s new, classically styled church to its former, more modern-looking worship space, which no longer has pews and functions mostly as a “fellowship hall,” Nelson said.

“And so it was just sort of a shock and disappointing,” he said. “I felt like we're being pushed to the side.”

Nelson believes the diocese’s new policy may spark additional interest in the old liturgy. Even if that doesn’t happen, he wonders how just eight approved parishes and alternate sites will accommodate the diocese’s flourishing Traditional Latin Mass community.

As for Nelson and his family, they’ll squeeze into the alternate worship space or stand outside on the sidewalk if it comes to that.

“As long as we’re allowed to have it, we’re going to be there, however difficult it is,” he said.

“We'll just just pray harder and hope that people see that we're working to build the church and spread the Gospel, and do it the best way that we can.”

Delegate named

Burbidge named Father Bjorn Lundberg, pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Winchester, as his delegate “to assist with the implementation of this policy and to oversee the pastoral and spiritual care of the faithful who are impacted by it.”

Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington. CNA Photo
Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington. CNA Photo

“While these new norms will bring some change to the places and times of worship, I ask all in our diocese to maintain a spirit of unity and fidelity,” Burbidge said in a letter accompanying the new policy.

“The promulgation of Traditionis Custodes recalls for all of us, Christ's faithful, the Second Vatican Council's teaching found in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium: ‘Liturgical services are not private functions, but are celebrations of the Church, which is the “sacrament of unity,” namely, the holy people united and ordered under their bishops,'" the policy states.

“For this reason, we ask the Holy Spirit to increase his gifts of unity and peace within the universal Church and within our local church. Let us pray with ever greater fervor that God Our Father will be pleased to grant her peace, and guard, unite and govern her throughout the whole world."

Health care workers denied religious exemption to COVID-19 vaccine mandate settle lawsuit for $10.3M

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Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 29, 2022 / 16:10 pm (CNA).

A Christian litigation nonprofit announced Friday that it settled the “first classwide lawsuit for health care workers over a COVID shot mandate” in the United States. The settlement awards those workers more than $10.3 million.

Liberty Counsel brought the lawsuit against NorthShore University HealthSystem, located in the suburbs of Chicago, on behalf of more than 500 current and former workers who objected to its COVID-19 vaccine mandate on religious grounds.

These employees refused the vaccination due to its association with aborted fetal cells, according to Liberty Counsel.

The settlement was filed in the federal Northern District Court of Illinois, where it waits to be approved. In the settlement, NorthShore agrees to change its policy and consider rehiring workers who left because their religious exemption requests were denied.

NorthShore estimates that 523 workers requested and were denied religious exemption or accommodation to its policy requiring COVID-19 vaccination between July 1, 2021, and Jan. 1, 2022, according to the settlement. Of those, NorthShore estimates that 204 complied with the requirement while 269 were discharged or resigned based on their religious objection to a COVID-19 vaccine.

The settlement notes that Northshore approved the religious exemption and accommodation request from one person.

The Catholic Church’s position

Pope Francis and the Vatican have strongly encouraged Catholics to consider the COVID-19 vaccine.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith also issued a note on the morality of vaccines addressing concerns about their connection to abortion. It found that “when ethically irreproachable Covid-19 vaccines are not available … it is morally acceptable to receive Covid-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process.”

The note also cautioned against mandates while emphasizing that Catholics must consider the common good in their decision.

“At the same time, practical reason makes evident that vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation and that, therefore, it must be voluntary,” the note states.

Word on Fire’s Robert Barron installed as bishop of Rochester, Minnesota

Episcopal Installation of Bishop Robert Barron as the Ninth Bishop of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester / Co-Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist YouTube

Washington D.C., Jul 29, 2022 / 14:21 pm (CNA).

Bishop Robert Barron, the founder of the Catholic media apostolate Word on Fire, was installed as the ninth bishop of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota, at St. John the Evangelist Co-Cathedral in Rochester on Friday.

Appointed by Pope Francis earlier this summer, Barron is returning to the Midwest after almost seven years as auxiliary bishop in the Santa Barbara region of Los Angeles, California. 

As a young priest serving in Chicago, Barron broadcast his homilies on a local radio station, attracting the attention of Cardinal Francis George, who urged him to share his talents with the wider world. 

With George’s support, Barron founded the non-profit Word on Fire media apostolate that shares the traditions of the Catholic faith through a multi-media platform that includes artwork, theology, and philosophy. In the form of daily blog posts, articles, videos, and an archive of hundreds of online homilies, Barron’s ministry has reached millions across the globe.

In an Installation Mass which took place at the Co-Cathedral on Friday, apostolic nuncio to the United States Archbishop Christophe Pierre recognized Barron’s dedication to spreading the Gospel around the world, adding that he hoped his commitment to evangelization would “continue to be of great fruit.” 

It is no surprise that evangelization featured prominently in Barron’s homily during the Mass, a theme that has defined the pursuit of his vocation. 

Noting his delight that the Mass took place on the Feast Day of Sts. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, the bishop explained that the lives of the three “friends of Jesus” reflected the model he desired to bring to the diocese. 

Drawing on a quote from Pope Benedict XVI, the bishop explained that the three tasks of the Church are to worship God as Mary did, serve the poor with the commitment of Martha, and evangelize by exemplifying the life of Lazarus, who was one of Jesus’ most effective witnesses.

Like Lazarus, the bishop said, “Those whom Jesus has liberated and untied will most powerfully convey the truth of [Him] to others.” 

Barron called on parishioners to strengthen their devotion to corporal and spiritual acts of mercy, noting that he couldn’t help but see a correlation between the diocese’s location near the Mayo Clinic and the need for the Church to be a place of “spiritual healing.” 

In particular, the bishop noted the urgent need to draw young people back to the Church, citing that the disaffiliation rate is at least 50% among young Catholics.   

The Winona-Rochester Diocese serves over 136,000 Catholics, including 23 Catholic schools and St. Mary’s University. 

Barron was ordained to the priesthood in the Archdiocese of Chicago in 1986. In his new appointment, he succeeds Bishop John M. Quinn, whose resignation and title “emeritus” became effective at the Mass on Friday.

One of the goals of Word on Fire is to reinvigorate Catholicism in the modern world by highlighting the “truth, beauty, and goodness of our ancient faith,” a mission that has attracted many to the faith. 

In a statement regarding his new appointment, Barron assured followers that Word on Fire’s work would continue, reflecting that “It is a blessing for me to work with you to introduce people to Jesus Christ and invite them to share all the gifts he wants his people to enjoy.”

Bishop comes out in support of Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh

Bishop Earl Boyea of the Diocese of Lansing. University of Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh at his introductory press conference on Dec. 30, 2014. / Diocese of Lansing | Eric Upchurch, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Denver, Colo., Jul 29, 2022 / 10:46 am (CNA).

After Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh made headlines for speaking publicly about his pro-life views, he received a tip of the hat from the bishop of his own diocese in Lansing.

In a statement released on July 28, Bishop Earl Boyea praised Harbaugh for having the courage of his convictions. 

“Jim Harbaugh has eloquently spoken-up for two of the most vulnerable groups in our society: mothers in crisis pregnancy situations and their unborn children,” said Boyea. “What is more, he has done so with great courage, compassion and, indeed, common-sense.” 

He continued, “Across the Diocese of Lansing, there will be many people – and not just Catholics – who are enormously encouraged by Coach Harbaugh’s public witness to the sanctity of human life. For that he has our gratitude and, of course, our prayers.”

Harbaugh was a keynote speaker at the Plymouth Right to Life dinner and auction on July 17 and gave a powerful speech in defense of the unborn.

“I believe in having the courage to let the unborn be born,” he said, according to the Detroit Catholic. “I love life. I believe in having a loving care and respect for life and death. My faith and my science are what drive these beliefs in me. Quoting from Jeremiah, ‘Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Before you were born, I set you apart. I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.'”

“In God’s plan, each unborn human truly has a future filled with potential, talent, dreams and love,” he added. “I have living proof in my family, my children, and the many thousands that I’ve coached that the unborn are amazing gifts from God to make this world a better place. To me, the right choice is to have the courage to let the unborn be born.”

Later in an interview with ESPN, Harbaugh shared how he has told his family, players, and staff members that if they found themselves in an unplanned pregnancy and could not take care of the baby then he and his wife would raise the child.  

"I've told [them] the same thing I tell my kids, boys, the girls, same thing I tell our players, our staff members. I encourage them if they have a pregnancy that wasn't planned, to go through with it, go through with it," Harbaugh said. "Let that unborn child be born and if at that time, you don't feel like you can care for it, you don't have the means or the wherewithal, then Sarah and I will take that baby." 

He continued, "Any player on our team, any female staff member or any staff member or anybody in our family or our extended family that doesn't feel like after they have a baby they can take care of it, we got a big house. We'll raise that baby."

House Republicans and Democrats come together to combat human trafficking

Photo illustration. / Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 28, 2022 / 14:17 pm (CNA).

On the eve of Saturday’s World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill on July 26 that would help victims of human trafficking and go after those who profit off their misery. 

The legislation, titled the Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act of 2022, was sponsored by Republican Rep. Chris Smith from New Jersey and Democrat Rep. Karen Bass of California, and received support from both sides of the aisle in a 401-20 vote. 

“Every human life is of infinite value—and we, as lawmakers, have a duty to protect the weakest and most vulnerable from harm,” Smith told CNA, following a July 26 statement.

“The enormous support in the House for this critical human rights and law enforcement legislation is a testament to a widespread consensus and underscores the absolute urgency for securing the funds needed to protect victims, prosecute perpetrators and prevent trafficking from occurring in the first place,” Smith said.

The bill’s key provisions include $1.1 billion in funding to ensure that each trafficking survivor obtains equitable care, reauthorization of Homeland Security’s Angel Watch Center to prevent international sex tourism travel by offenders, enhancement of trafficking education and awareness through programs, and $35 million in funding to provide housing opportunities for survivors.

The legislation would reauthorize the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, also authored by Smith, which provides funding and education needed to combat human trafficking.

“This critical legislation will go a long way toward protecting so many vulnerable people from exploitation while providing tremendous support and resources to victims. It also reaffirms America’s leadership and commitment to fighting for an end to modern-day slavery,” said Smith.

When the legislation advances to the Senate, it is expected to have strong bipartisan support, according to the statement.

Smith told CNA in a June interview that advocacy for these victims who are most often women and children is part of protecting society’s weakest and most vulnerable. He referenced the Bible verse Matthew 25, which says “‘Whatever you did for the least of my brethren, you did for me.” 

Would proposed Biden rule force doctors to perform transgender surgeries and abortions? 

Emergency room doctors. / Syda Productions/Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 28, 2022 / 14:03 pm (CNA).

The Biden administration proposed a new rule this week that legal experts say, if finalized, would force hospitals and doctors to perform gender-transition surgeries and abortions.

The rule proposed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) revises Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to add “sexual orientation and gender identity” and “reproductive health care services” including “pregnancy termination" to existing “protections against discrimination on the basis of sex.” 

The action would reverse Trump-era conscience protections which sought to allow medical professionals to opt out of performing procedures against their beliefs. It also would expand the Obama-era version of the rule to include abortion. 

On Wednesday, the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB) condemned the move in a public statement, saying that the proposed rule would “threaten [the Catholic Church’s] ability to carry out our healing ministries [and] mandate health care workers to perform life-altering surgeries to remove perfectly healthy body parts.”

In the statement, the bishops questioned the rule’s supposed religious liberty protections. 

“Assurances that HHS will honor religious freedom laws offer little comfort when HHS is actively fighting court rulings that declared HHS violated religious freedom laws the last time they tried to impose such a mandate,” the statement read, adding, “We call on HHS to explicitly disavow any such intent.”

HHS did not respond to CNA’s request for comment on the USCCB’s statement. 

Dr. Tim Millea, a retired orthopedic surgeon and chair of the Catholic Medical Association’s (CMA) Health Care Policy Committee, warned that the rule could prevent the Catholic medical professionals from practicing medicine.

“If finalized, the proposed rule would have a devastating impact on those who truly adhere to the principles of Catholic healthcare and biomedical ethics,” Millea said.

Luke Goodrich, vice president and senior counsel for Becket — a nonprofit law firm that is representing thousands of Christian medical professionals in ongoing cases against the rule — helped break down what this news would mean for Catholic hospitals and physicians morally opposed to performing such procedures.

What would the proposed rule do? 

If finalized, Goodrich says that the updated rule could be used to compel hospitals and doctors receiving federal funds to conduct procedures many find unconscionable. 

The rule states that it would prohibit hospitals and physicians who receive federal funding from refusing to provide procedures for “gender-affirming” purposes that might otherwise be used in routine circumstances.

Goodrich explained, “A hospital that would perform a hysterectomy for a woman with uterine cancer would also have to perform a hysterectomy for a woman who wants to transition to living as a man. If not, [it would be] guilty of sex discrimination and subject to multi-million-dollar penalties.”

The rule itself outlines this very scenario, he said. Hysterectomies are often sought by women transitioning to men to stop the menstrual cycle and prevent any likelihood of pregnancy.

Goodrich explained that the same regulation would apply to medical procedures used in abortions, such as dilation and curettage (D&C), a procedure that can be used to remove the body of an already deceased baby lost in a miscarriage. Under the rule, physicians who perform miscarriage treatment would also be forced to conduct D&Cs on a living baby in the womb, brutally ending his or her life through a painful method of abortion. 

Recipients of federal funds who refuse to comply risk being charged with discrimination and face penalties through massive fines, Goodrich said. 

Doesn’t the rule include religious exemptions?

HHS officials have stated that the rule will “refine” the process by which medical professionals raise religious freedom objections, but Goodrich says that the actual protection is weak. The Biden administration's proposed rule does not apply any blanket religious exemption to the rule, he said.

Instead, it includes what is called “notification of views regarding application of federal conscience and religious freedom laws,” Goodrich said, putting the burden on individual hospitals and doctors to notify HHS if they believe they are exempt.

That language, in turn, allows HHS to decide whether or not these individuals are religiously protected, Goodrich explained. 

Can hospitals and doctors with religious objections be protected from providing procedures at odds with their faith? 

As Goodrich explained, the most effective religious protection exists in two already decided court cases and the preliminary injunctions filed by Becket and others on behalf of two organizations: the Christian Medical and Dental Association (CMDA) and Catholic Health Association (CHA). 

Two federal courts already have blocked the Biden administration from implementing a similar transgender mandate in 2021. The administration has since issued appeals in the two cases, though Goodrich expects the original rulings to be upheld.

“HHS is not allowed to enforce the statute to require our clients to perform gender transition or abortions,” Goodrich explained. Becket’s clients include thousands of religious medical professionals across the country who belong to the two associations. 

If the regulation is made final, anyone who is a plaintiff in one of the cases already is protected under the permanent injunctions. The rule would apply, however, to doctors and hospitals across the country falling outside this protection.

What about the doctors and hospitals not protected by the courts?

For those who aren’t protected, the options are minimal, Goodrich says. 

“Either they’d need to roll the dice and hope that the government doesn't come after them, or they would need to get relief from the Court," Goodrich said. He added that he wouldn’t advise any such religious organization to believe it would be safe to submit a religious exemption notification to HHS in the hopes that the agency would grant one, given how hard the Biden administration already has fought existing court protections. 

Should medical providers worry?

Though the rule will not affect those protected by preliminary court injunctions, Goodrich emphasized that those not protected should be very concerned.

Goodrich said that the Biden administration is choosing to impose the rule even if it won’t hold up in court in the hopes “that others might just be cowed into submission [out of] fear of massive penalties.”

“It seems like HHS is willing to treat these court losses in the injunctions as the price to pay for trying to change the norms in the medical profession," he said.

The administration’s main goal lies beyond implementing a specific regulation, Goodrich said. “What they’re really trying to do is change the norms in the medical profession to include gender transition and abortion.” 

The proposed rule is not yet published in the Federal Register, the official journal of the federal government of the United States that contains government agency rules, proposed rules, and public notices. Once it is published, the public will have 60 days to comment on the proposed rule. Comments may be submitted online at regulations.gov