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Traditionalist leader rejects reconciling with Rome

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The superior general of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X said Pope Francis, rather than denouncing errors in Catholic doctrine, has “encouraged” them.

Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior of the Society of St. Pius X,said June 29 that Pope Francis must return the church to its sacred traditions. (CNS file/Paul Haring)

Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior of the Society of St. Pius X,said June 29 that Pope Francis must return the church to its sacred traditions. (CNS file/Paul Haring)

“The Society of St. Pius X prays and does penance for the pope, that he might have the strength to proclaim Catholic faith and morals in their entirety,” said a statement published June 29, the feast of Ss. Peter and Paul, patron saints of the church of Rome.

Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior general of the society, issued the statement after a meeting June 25-28 of the group’s leaders.

The society has been in talks with the Vatican in a search for a way to reintegrate it and its members fully into the life of the Catholic Church. Bishop Fellay met personally with Pope Francis in April, which seemed to signal that progress was being made.

Talks with the group began under St. John Paul II and continued throughout the papacy of now-retired Pope Benedict XVI.

St. John Paul had excommunicated Bishop Fellay and other leaders of the society in 1988 when they were ordained without papal permission. Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, founder of the society and the bishop who ordained them, also was excommunicated; he died in 1991. Pope Benedict lifted the excommunications in 2009.

In the statement June 29, Bishop Fellay said that, “in the great and painful confusion that currently reigns in the church, the proclamation of Catholic doctrine requires the denunciation of errors that have made their way into it and are unfortunately encouraged by a large number of pastors, including the pope himself.”

The statement did not specify what errors it was referring to or how the society believes Pope Francis is encouraging them.

While the society “has a right” to full canonical recognition, he said, its primary aim is to teach the fullness of Catholic faith, “which shows the only route to follow in this age of darkness in which the cult of man replaces the worship of God, in society as in the church.”

“The restoration of all things in Christ intended by St. Pius X, following St. Paul (cf. Ephesians 1:10), cannot happen without the support of a pope who concretely favors the return to sacred tradition,” the statement said. “While waiting for that blessed day, the Society of St. Pius X intends to redouble its efforts to establish and to spread, with the means that divine providence gives to it, the social reign of Our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Pope prays for peace following deadly terrorist attack at Istanbul’s airport

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis led pilgrims in praying for peace and for the victims of a terrorist attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport in Turkey.

Relatives of one of the victims of the June 28 suicide attack at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport mourn June 29 in front of a morgue in Istanbul. The bombings killed 41 and wounded more than 200 as Turkish officials blamed the carnage at the international terminal on three suspected Islamic State group militants. (CNS photo/Osman Orsal, Reuters)

Relatives of one of the victims of the June 28 suicide attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport mourn June 29 in front of a morgue in Istanbul. The bombings killed 41 and wounded more than 200 as Turkish officials blamed the carnage at the international terminal on three suspected Islamic State group militants. (CNS photo/Osman Orsal, Reuters)

“Yesterday evening in Istanbul, a heinous terrorist attack was made that has killed and wounded many people. Let us pray for the victims, their families and for the dear Turkish people,” the pope said June 29 after reciting the Angelus prayer with visitors in St. Peter’s Square.

The attack took place June 28 in the international terminal and the parking lot of the airport when three suspected terrorists opened fire and, shortly after, detonated their suicide vests.

Turkish officials said that, as of early June 29, the attack claimed the lives of 42 people, among them 10 foreign nationals, and left more than 200 people wounded.

Although no group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told reporters that preliminary signs point to the Islamic State, according to Reuters.

The terrorist organization carried out a similar attack at Brussels Airport and the Maelbeek metro station in Belgium March 22, which killed 32 people and wounded over 300.

Before leading thousands of pilgrims in silent prayer followed by the “Hail Mary,” Pope Francis prayed that those who perpetrate such attacks would have a change of heart.

“May the Lord convert the hearts of the violent and sustain our feet into the way of peace,” the pope said.

 

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

Church’s teachings contribute to better society for all, says cardinal

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WASHINGTON — The Catholic Church’s teachings on morals and social justice not only have a right to be heard in the public square, but add to creating a better society for all, Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl said during an address at the American Enterprise Institute.

Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl gives a keynote address during a June 23 conference at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. The conference explored the intersection of Catholic thought and U.S. public policy and culture. (CNS photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann, Catholic Standard)

Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl gives a keynote address during a June 23 conference at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. The conference explored the intersection of Catholic thought and U.S. public policy and culture. (CNS photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann, Catholic Standard)

“There are fundamental truths against which our judgments and our legislative decisions should be measured, and to which we are all called to conform,” Cardinal Wuerl said. “This is not an imposition of narrow moral judgments, but a recognition of right and wrong, of basic fundamental human values.”

Cardinal Wuerl made his remarks June 23, when he gave a keynote address at the institute’s daylong conference, “Catholic Thought and Human Flourishing: Culture and Policy.”

The American Enterprise Institute, a Washington-based think tank that examines government, political, economic and social welfare issues, hosted the gathering to explore what it called “the intersection of Roman Catholic thought and U.S. public policy and culture.”

Cardinal Wuerl, during his talk, lamented what he called an “assertion of the primacy of the secular” in today’s society, which “tempts us to transfer authorship and ownership of all human life to ourselves.”

“There is a movement in some parts of our society to move away from the basic religious values,” Cardinal Wuerl said. “The assertion of the primacy of the secular comes with its own biases, its own orientations, its own orthodoxies.”

He said society faces “a daunting challenge” to protect “the self-evident truth of ‘One nation under God with liberty and justice for all.’”

By separating religious values and morals from society, Cardinal Wuerl said, “we have a culture that is losing respect for human life and dignity, family and sacrifice for others … We are losing a sense of right and wrong and the intrinsic value of every human life.”

Pointing to issues of racism, poverty, discrimination, abortion and other societal problems that are addressed without a religious framework has led to “a polarized society” with “dysfunctional politics that too often demonstrate paralysis and little cooperation working towards the common good.”

He called on politicians and others to “lower the decibel level and increase the respect with which we address each other.”

Noting that today’s political climate “is increasingly marked by an abandonment of civility,” Cardinal Wuerl said that “sadly some Catholics identify more with their own political party, ideology and interests rather than with the obligation that flows from the Gospel itself, and the words of Jesus Christ and the teaching of the church in her social and moral teachings.”

“Religion and religious principles, enhance, they don’t diminish our search for the common good,” he said. “They enrich, they don’t threaten pluralism.”

He warned “politics can be just about power, money, expediency and the contest of very narrow interests without solid, moral and social justice principles to guide us.”

“The foundation, the unfolding of our way of life, the way of life we have recognized from our country’s very beginning, has always recognized that good public policy that results in a good and just society and virtuous citizens ultimately must have some religious antecedents,” Cardinal Wuerl said. “There are moral imperatives not created by us. We don’t get to create right and wrong.”

He added that there will be “a mess we face if there are no solid moral and social justice principles to guide us” and to which “laws should be measured and called to conform.”

“Long accepted moral principles should not be seen as a threat, we should recognize them as a blessing,” Cardinal Wuerl said. “To speak out (with a moral or religious voice) is not to force values upon society but to call it back to recognize its own long accepted moral principles and traditional commitment to defend basic human dignity and life. It is not a threat, it is a blessing.”

He said the Archdiocese of Washington and other Catholic entities are working hard to protect “religious liberty as a basic, fundamental right.”

The archdiocese has joined with other dioceses, the Little Sisters of the Poor and other Catholic groups to fight the Health and Human Services mandate that would force those entities to violate their beliefs by providing abortion and contraceptive coverage in their health plans.

“We are standing up in court for religious rights,” Cardinal Wuerl said. “We are not asking for special treatment. This is not just to protect a narrow privilege, but to uphold the constitution and exercise our right to minister to the least of our brothers and sisters.”

He said that “recognition of human values remain at the heart of the American experience.”

What the church brings to the public square, Cardinal Wuerl said, is a reminder that “we don’t create this world we live in. We don’t create the moral order. We don’t create the moral framework in which we act.” It also brings “a recognition of the spiritual dimension of human life,” he said.

Calling the Catholic Church’s social teaching “nuanced and complicated,” he said, “the church’s social and moral vision is complex and cannot be reduced to sound bites.”

He asked those at the conference to consider “how much more harsh would our world be if we did not grow up hearing, ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, blessed are the merciful, blessed are the peacemakers.’”

He urged young people especially “to be engaged in the sanctification of the temporal order.”

“You know in your heart there is a right and wrong. Bring that with you into whatever vocation Providence has called you,” he said.

He called on young people to bring their religious values to “political, medical and entrepreneurial enterprises.”

“Remember you count and you can make a difference and you can renew the face of the earth. Now go do it,” he said.

By Richard Szczepanowski

Szczepanowski is a staff writer at the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.

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English bishops condemn rise in attacks on foreigners after Brexit vote

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Catholic News Service

MANCHESTER, England — Catholic bishops condemned a sharp rise in xenophobic and racist attacks following Britain’s vote to leave the European Union.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster said the “upsurge of racism, of hatred toward others is something we must not tolerate.”

“We have to say this is simply not acceptable in a humane society, and it should never be provoked or promoted,” he said.

Monika Cyrek, a Polish national who works in a grocery store that sells mostly Polish products, poses for a photograph June 18 in Walton-on-Thames, England. "If we're not wanted here, probably a lot of people will leave and try other places," said Cyrek. (CNS photo/Peter Nicholls, Reuters)

Monika Cyrek, a Polish national who works in a grocery store that sells mostly Polish products, poses for a photograph June 18 in Walton-on-Thames, England. “If we’re not wanted here, probably a lot of people will leave and try other places,” said Cyrek. (CNS photo/Peter Nicholls, Reuters)

The June 28 statement from Cardinal Nichols, president of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, came a day after the National Police Chiefs’ Council revealed that of 85 complaints of hate crime were received between June 23, the day of the referendum on United Kingdom membership in the EU, and June 26.

The figure represented a 57 percent increase in such offenses in a similar period just a month earlier.

Xenophobic incidents included the vandalism of the buildings of a Polish social and cultural association in London and the verbal abuse of foreigners on a tram in Manchester, a film of which was sent to Channel 4 News June 28.

Far-right nationalists at a rally in Newcastle June 25 unfurled a banner that demanded: “Stop Immigration, Start Repatriation” and, on June 28, a German woman who has lived in Britain since the 1970s wept as she told LBC London radio that she was too scared to leave her house three days after dog excrement was thrown at her windows.

She said: “My neighbors told me that they don’t want me living in this road and that they are not friends with foreigners.”

“My friend … has a grandson who is 7 and who was beaten up because he has a foreign grandmother,” she added.

Britain has been a primary destination for many citizens of poorer EU countries, with annual net migration reaching 330,000 people a year. Many of the migrants to the U.K. are Catholics from Central Europe, Asia and Africa.

Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth said in a June 28 telephone interview that, in his diocese, there were “huge numbers of immigrants from Poland, Kerala (India), the Philippines and Nigeria.”

“I am extremely sad to think of violence against foreign people who are living here,” he said. “There is no justification whatsoever for that.

“Many of these immigrants are already beloved members of our communities. They have contributed to local life and organizations,” he said.

“Britain has always, through the centuries, been a country which has assimilated people from abroad, and they have taken on our values, and also they have made us proud because they have made a great success of it,” Bishop Egan said.

“Both materially and spiritually, the vast majority of people who are working here and in our diocese are making a wonderful contribution,” he added. “To think of violence against them is self-destructive. It is self-harm. We are harming ourselves as much as we are inflicting division and suffering on others.”

Bishop Declan Lang of Clifton, the diocese based in Bristol, also issued a statement telling Catholics that it was important “to work for the common good and not create barriers of division and prejudice.”

“We should have a profound respect for one another, and this should be reflected in the way we speak and behave,” said the statement posted on the diocesan website June 27.

“We need to keep in mind the needs of all citizens, particularly those who may feel marginalized at this present moment, and continue to be a tolerant society, free of racial and religious prejudice,” he said.

Concerns over the phenomenon of mass migration, and the apparent inability of the U.K. to control its borders, had helped to fuel efforts to take Britain out of the EU in a referendum won by the “Leave” campaigners, with the public voting 52-48 percent to withdraw from the bloc.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, who had fought for the U.K. to remain inside the EU, announced his resignation June 24.

In the weeks before the referendum, national newspapers such as the Mail on Sunday had exposed how far-right nationalists, including neo-Nazis, had been actively campaigning on the Leave side.

Witold Sobkow, Poland’s ambassador to the U.K., expressed shock at the surge in xenophobic abuse.

Cameron told the House of Commons June 27 that such crimes must be stamped out. “We will not stand for hate crime or these kinds of attacks,” he said.

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Suicide bombers hit Christian Lebanese village near border

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BEIRUT — Suicide bombers attacked a predominantly Christian village in northeast Lebanon twice in one day, and residents called on the government to support them, saying Islamic State fighters were holed up on the outskirts of town.

Two separate sets of four suicide bombers attacked the village of Qaa June 27; the first attack killed five people in addition to the bombers. About 30 people were injured in the two incidents, the second of which occurred near St. Elias Melkite Catholic Church as people were preparing for the funerals of the people killed in the first bombing.

Lebanese women hold guns June 28 in front of journalists in the village of Qaa, where suicide bomb attacks took place in the Bekaa valley. Suicide bombers attacked the predominantly Christian village twice in one day June 27 in northeast Lebanon. (CNS photo/Hassan Abdallah, Reuters)

Lebanese women hold guns June 28 in front of journalists in the village of Qaa, where suicide bomb attacks took place in the Bekaa valley. Suicide bombers attacked the predominantly Christian village twice in one day June 27 in northeast Lebanon. (CNS photo/Hassan Abdallah, Reuters)

The incidents sparked fears that the Syrian civil war was spilling into Lebanon; Qaa is near the border with Syria’s Homs district. Local news reports and security sources said the Islamic State group was suspected of the attacks, but no one claimed responsibility. The Lebanese Army has indicated Islamic State hopes to force the Christian community to leave the village and, by controlling Qaa, its militants will be able to start ensure a corridor to the Mediterranean Sea.

Melkite Catholic Archbishop Elias Rahal of Baalbek traveled to Qaa after the first attack and told Catholic News Service by phone: “We pray, we pray, we pray for the dead, for the injured. … We are here for the families and for their children,” he said, because people “are shaken by these terrorists.”

The sounds of people wailing could be heard in the background as he spoke to CNS.

“Despite all that has happened,” he said, the Christians are holding on to their faith and are determined to maintain their presence in the area. “We are here and we are here to stay.”

Before the second blast, Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregoire III Laham had visited with wounded who had been taken to a Beirut hospital, about 90 miles from the village.

Residents of Qaa had organized patrols to guard their village against such attacks and had been successful until these suicide bombings. The village has a population of about 15,000, predominantly Melkite Catholic, with some Maronite Catholic and Orthodox. Between 20,000 and 30,000 Syrian refugees also live in the area.

Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Rai, patriarch of Maronite Catholics, issued a statement June 27 during a pastoral visit to New York, expressing his “extreme sorrow” over the bombings.

“The hand of terror carried out once again on Lebanon’s soil … in the dear town of Qaa , a town of peace, love and coexistence,” he said.

He called on the Lebanese to “return to their national unity and solidarity to confront the terrorist schemes that are being plotted against Lebanon” and urged the Lebanese officials to “shoulder their national responsibilities in order to spare Lebanon more tragedies.”

Lebanon’s army has periodically fought off jihadist factions along the border area with Syria and has sought to clamp down on local cells operating in the area.

— By Doreen Abi Raad

 

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Retired Pope Benedict, on 69th anniversary of his priesthood, says he feels protected by Pope Francis

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — In his first public address in almost a year, retired Pope Benedict XVI expressed his sincere gratefulness to Pope Francis, saying that his goodness “from the first moment of your election, in every moment of my life here, touches me deeply.”

Pope Francis greets retired Pope Benedict XVI during a June 28 ceremony at the Vatican marking the 65th anniversary of the retired pope's priestly ordination. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano, handout)

Pope Francis greets retired Pope Benedict XVI during a June 28 ceremony at the Vatican marking the 65th anniversary of the retired pope’s priestly ordination. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano, handout)

“More than the beauty found in the Vatican Gardens, your goodness is the place where I live; I feel protected,” Pope Benedict said June 28.

Pope Benedict also conveyed his hope that Pope Francis would continue to “lead us all on this path of divine mercy that shows the path of Jesus, to Jesus and to God.”

Pope Francis led a Vatican celebration for the 65th anniversary of Pope Benedict’s priestly ordination. The two were joined by the heads of Vatican offices and congregations and several guests, including a delegation from the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

Those gathered gave Pope Benedict a standing ovation as he made his way into the Clementine Hall and took his seat to the right of the pope’s chair.

A few minutes later, Pope Francis entered the hall and made a beeline for his predecessor, who respectfully removed his zucchetto before greeting him. Pope Francis has made no secret of his admiration for the retired pontiff, often comparing him to a “wise grandfather at home.”

During his return flight to Rome from Armenia June 26, Pope Francis praised Pope Benedict for “protecting me and having my back with his prayers.”

Recalling Pope Benedict’s promise of obedience to his successor in the days leading up to the conclave, Pope Francis said he had heard that some people have been “sent away” by the retired pontiff after complaining “about this new pope.”

“If (the report) isn’t true, it is well-founded, because this man is like that: a man of his word, a righteous man!” Pope Francis exclaimed.

Speaking at the anniversary celebration, Pope Francis praised Pope Benedict’s life of priestly service to the church and recalled his writings on Simon Peter’s response to “Jesus’ definitive call: ‘Do you love me?’”

“This is the hallmark dominating an entire life spent in priestly service and of the true theology that you have defined, not by chance, as ‘the search for the beloved.’ It is this that you have always given witness to and continue to give witness to today,” he said.

Even in retirement, he said, Pope Benedict continues to serve the church and “truly contributes with vigor and wisdom to its growth” from the ‘little ‘Mater Ecclesiae’ (Mother of the Church) monastery in the Vatican.”

The monastery, Pope Francis continued, is the complete opposite of those “forgotten corners” society often assigns to those who have reached old age.

Instead, like the Porziuncola where St. Francis spent his final days in prayer, the Mater Ecclesiae monastery “has become a ‘Franciscan’ place that emanates tranquility, peace, strength, faithfulness, maturity, faith, dedication and loyalty which does so much good for me and gives strength to me and to the whole church,” Pope Francis said.

Congratulating his predecessor, Pope Francis expressed his hope that Pope Benedict “would continue to feel the hand of the merciful God that sustains him” and that he may “experience and give witness to God’s love.”

When Pope Francis finished speaking, Pope Benedict clasped his hands together and signaled his thanks to the pope. With a bit of effort, he rose to his feet and stretched out his arms to embrace Pope Francis.

After short speeches by Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, the retired pontiff slowly stood up once again to express his gratitude.

Despite his frailty, Pope Benedict vividly recalled his ordination 65 years ago, remembering a Greek word a priest ordained with him wrote on the remembrance card of his first Mass: “Eucharistomen” (“We give you thanks”).

“I am convinced that this word, in its many dimensions, has already said everything that can be said in this moment,” the retired pope said.

The word “eucharistomen,” he added, can bring everyone closer toward that “new dimension” of thanksgiving given by Christ, who transformed the cross, sufferings and the evils of the world “into grace and blessing.”

“We want to insert ourselves in this grace of the Lord and thus truly receive the newness of life and help in the transubstantiation of the world. May it be a world not of death but of life, a world in which love has overcome death,” he said.

 

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Students for Life leader says women lost in supreme court’s decision

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Just after 10 a.m. East Coast time June 27 in Washington, Kristan Hawkins, director of Students for Life, made an announcement to her small rally in front of the Supreme Court:

“Women across America just lost!”

Pro-life supporters pray at the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court June 27 during protests in Washington. In a 5-3 vote that day, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down restrictions on Texas abortion clinics that required them to comply with standards of ambulatory surgical centers and required their doctors to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. (CNS photo/Michael Reynolds, EPA)

Pro-life supporters pray at the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court June 27 during protests in Washington. In a 5-3 vote that day, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down restrictions on Texas abortion clinics that required them to comply with standards of ambulatory surgical centers and required their doctors to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. (CNS photo/Michael Reynolds, EPA)

Her comments followed the high court issuing its 5-3 decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. The court struck down restrictions on Texas abortion clinics that required them to comply with standards of ambulatory surgical centers and required their doctors to have admitting privileges at local hospitals.

The case challenged a 2013 state law, H.B. 2, placing the requirements on the state’s abortion clinics. Opponents of the law claimed the requirements were aimed at closing abortion clinics. But the state and many pro-life advocates maintained that the law protected women’s health.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote the majority opinion, joined by Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. The same five had issued an earlier ruling allowing abortion clinics in Texas to remain operational until a final decision was handed down in the case.

The ruling was met with a sense of resignation by the few who were able to make speeches to barely 100 at Hawkins’ pro-life rally before being drowned out by the adjacent rally. Numbering more than 2,000 in support of legal abortion, that group celebrated the decision as its loudspeakers blared Queen’s “We Are the Champions.”

“Reasonable people know that Texas law H.B. 2 was in the best interest of women’s health,” said Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life.

“Today, women and women’s health are the real losers. Because of this decision today, beauty parlors, public pools and veterinary clinics will have high health standards than abortion clinics.”

Said Hawkins, “It is within the rights of the states, indeed, it is the duties of the states, to protects its citizens from predatory businesses, which is exactly what the abortion industry is.”

“What we’ve seen today is another win for special interests in Washington, D.C.” said Genevieve Wood, a communications fellow at the Heritage Foundation. “Women did not win, the abortion industry did.”

Evangeline Bartz, a lawyer for Americans United for Life, said: “The Supreme Court has accepted the argument that the abortion industry should keep its profits high and their standards low.”

Hawkins sensed when she arrived that the numbers and noise level weren’t going to work in her favor. “They’re pretty aggressive today,” she told Catholic News Service about groups in favor of legal abortion gathered in front of the court.

She also claimed “they paid a bunch of people to show up,” explaining that before the rally at the court, she had seen many of those demonstrators organizing at nearby Union Station and receiving packets of materials on the abortion issue.

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U.S. Supreme Court strikes down regulations on Texas abortion clinics

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — In a 5-3 vote June 27, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down restrictions on Texas abortion clinics that required them to comply with standards of ambulatory surgical centers and required their doctors to have admitting privileges at local hospitals.

A pro-life supporter yells in a megaphone in front of the U.S. Supreme Court June 23. Pro-lifers and those on the other side of the abortion issue gathered in front of the court in anticipation of a decision on a Texas abortion law. The court ruled against Texas restrictions on abortions on June 27. (CNS photo/Andrew Gombert, EPA)

A pro-life supporter yells in a megaphone in front of the U.S. Supreme Court June 23. Pro-lifers and those on the other side of the abortion issue gathered in front of the court in anticipation of a decision on a Texas abortion law. The court ruled against Texas’ restrictions on abortions on June 27. (CNS photo/Andrew Gombert, EPA)

The case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, challenged a 2013 state law, H.B. 2, placing the requirements on the state’s abortion clinics. Opponents of the law claimed the requirements were aimed at closing abortion clinics. But the state and many pro-life advocates maintained that the law protected women’s health.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and other religious groups submitted a joint friend of the court brief in the case supporting the Texas law, which was similar to other state laws regulating abortion clinics across the country.

Justice Stephen Breyer, who wrote the opinion, said the restrictions on the clinics “provide few if any health benefits for women, pose a substantial obstacle to women seeking abortions and constitute an ‘undue burden’ on their constitutional right to do so.”

“The court has rejected a common-sense law protecting women from abortion facilities that put profits above patient safety,” said Deirdre McQuade, assistant director for pro-life communications at the USCCB’s Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities.

She said the Texas law “simply required abortion facilities to meet the same health and safety standards as other ambulatory surgical centers.”

McQuade, in a statement issued after the ruling, also said: “Abortion claims the lives of unborn children, and too often endangers their mothers as well. This ruling contradicts the consensus among medical groups that such measures protect women’s lives.”

Dissenting votes in the case were from Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito Jr.

Thomas wrote that the court’s decision “simultaneously transformed judicially created rights like the right to abortion into preferred constitutional rights, while disfavoring many of the rights actually enumerated in the Constitution.” He added that the Constitution “renounces the notion that some constitutional rights are more equal than others. … A law either infringes a constitutional right, or not; there is no room for the judiciary to invent tolerable degrees of encroachment.”

The U.S. Supreme Court’s use of the words “undue burden” echoes its 1992 ruling in Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, in which it upheld provisions in Pennsylvania law requiring parental consent for minors, a 24-hour waiting period before an abortion, filing of detailed reports about each abortion and distribution of information about alternatives to abortion. It struck down a requirement that married women need to notify their husbands before having an abortion.

In essence, the court said a state may enact abortion regulations that do not pose an “undue burden” on pregnant women.

The phrase was often cited during the March 2 oral arguments in the Texas abortion clinics case where opponents of the state regulations said they were aimed at stopping abortions, because they forced clinics to close, which in turn, they said, puts an undue burden on women seeking abortions who would have to travel farther to find an available clinic.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports legal abortion, 25 states have laws or policies that regulate abortion providers and clinics that perform surgical abortions that it claims “go beyond what is necessary to ensure patients’ safety.”

Five states currently require providers of either medication-induced abortion or surgical abortion to have admitting privileges at a local hospital and another 10 require the provider to have either admitting privileges or another type of relationship with a hospital.

In 2015, Arkansas adopted a new restriction that requires only providers of medication-induced abortions to have an agreement with a physician who has admitting privileges at a hospital; the law does not include a similar requirement for providers whose doctors do surgical abortions.

The state of Wisconsin, where federal judges have struck down hospital admitting privileges for abortion clinic doctors, is filing an appeal with the Supreme Court.

 

Follow Zimmermann on Twitter @carolmaczim.

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Christians should apologize for fostering hostility toward gay people, pope says

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Catholic News Service

ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM ARMENIA — Catholics and other Christians not only must apologize to the gay community, they must ask forgiveness of God for ways they have discriminated against homosexual persons or fostered hostility toward them, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis closes his eyes as he reacts to a question from Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service Rome bureau chief, aboard his flight from Yerevan, Armenia, to Rome June 26. The pope reacted as Wooden mentioned the June 12 shooting that killed 49 at a nightclub in Orlando, Fla. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis closes his eyes as he reacts to a question from Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service Rome bureau chief, aboard his flight from Yerevan, Armenia, to Rome June 26. The pope reacted as Wooden mentioned the June 12 shooting that killed 49 at a nightclub in Orlando, Fla. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“I think the church not only must say it is sorry to the gay person it has offended, but also to the poor, to exploited women” and anyone whom the church did not defend when it could, he told reporters June 26.

Spending close to an hour answering questions from reporters traveling with him, Pope Francis was asked to comment on remarks reportedly made a few days previously by Cardinal Reinhard Marx, president of the German bishops’ conference, that the Catholic Church must apologize to gay people for contributing to their marginalization.

At the mention of the massacre in early June at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, Pope Francis closed his eyes as if in pain and shook his head in dismay.

“The church must say it is sorry for not having behaved as it should many times, many times — when I say the ‘church,’ I mean we Christians because the church is holy; we are the sinners,” the pope said. “We Christians must say we are sorry.”

Changing what he had said in the past to the plural “we,” Pope Francis said that a gay person, “who has good will and is seeking God, who are we to judge him?”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church is clear, he said. “They must not be discriminated against. They must be respected, pastorally accompanied.”

The pope said people have a right to complain about certain gay-pride demonstrations that purposefully offend the faith or sensitivities of others, but that is not what Cardinal Marx was talking about, he said.

Pope Francis said when he was growing up in Buenos Aires, Argentina, part of a “closed Catholic culture,” good Catholics would not even enter the house of a person who was divorced. “The culture has changed and thanks be to God!”

“We Christians have much to apologize for and not just in this area,” he said, referring again to its treatment of homosexual persons. “Ask forgiveness and not just say we’’re sorry. Forgive us, Lord.”

Too often, he said, priests act as lords rather than fathers, “a priest who clubs people rather than embraces them and is good, consoles.”

Pope Francis insisted there are many good priests in the world and “many Mother Teresas,” but people often do not see them because “holiness is modest.”

Like any other community of human beings, the Catholic Church is made up of “good people and bad people,” he said. “The grain and the weeds — Jesus says the kingdom is that way. We should not be scandalized by that,” but pray that God makes the wheat grow more and the weeds less.

Pope Francis also was asked about his agreeing to a request by the women’s International Union of Superiors General to set up a commission to study the historic role of female deacons with a view toward considering the possibility of instituting such a ministry today.

Both Sister Carmen Sammut, president of the sisters’ group, and Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, have sent him lists of names of people to serve on the commission, the pope said. But he has not yet chosen the members.

As he did at the meeting with the superiors, Pope Francis told the reporters that his understanding was that women deacons in the early church assisted bishops with the baptism and anointing of women, but did not have a role like Catholic deacons do today.

The pope also joked about a president who once said that the best way to bury someone’s request for action was to name a commission to study it.

Turning serious, though, Pope Francis insisted the role of women in the Catholic Church goes well beyond any offices they hold and he said about 18 months ago he had named a commission of female theologians to discuss women’s contributions to the life of the church.

“Women think differently than we men do,” he said, “and we cannot make good, sound decisions without listening to the women.”

During the inflight news conference, Pope Francis also said:

  • He believes “the intentions of Martin Luther” were not wrong in wanting to reform the church, but “maybe some of his methods were not right.” The church in the 1500s, he said, “was not exactly a model to imitate.”
  • He used the word “genocide” to describe the massacre of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians in 1915-18 because that was the word commonly used in his native Argentina and he had already used it publicly a year ago. Although he said he knew Turkey objects to use of the term, “it would have sounded strange” not to use it in Armenia.
  • Retired Pope Benedict XVI is a “wise man,” a valued adviser and a person dedicated to praying for the entire church, but he can no longer be considered to be exercising papal ministry. “There is only one pope.”
  • “Brexit,” the referendum in which the people of Great Britain voted to leave the European Union, shows just how much work remains to be done by the EU in promoting continental unity while respecting the differences of member countries.
  • The Great and Holy Council of the world’s Orthodox churches was an important first step in Orthodoxy speaking with one voice, even though four of the 14 autocephalous Orthodox churches did not attend the meeting in Crete.
  • When he travels to Azerbaijan in September, he will tell the nation’s leaders and people that the Armenian leaders and people want peace. The two countries have been in a situation of tension since 1988 over control of Nagorno-Karabakh, a predominantly Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan.

 

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Shared faith should lead to action on behalf of persecuted Christians, pope and patriarch say

By

Catholic News Service

YEREVAN, Armenia — Applying the common faith they professed publicly earlier in the day, Pope Francis and Armenian Apostolic Catholicos Karekin II urged common action on behalf of persecuted Christians, welcome for refugees and defense of the family.

Pope Francis and Catholicos Karekin II, patriarch of the Armenian Apostolic Church, release doves from the Khor Virap monastery near Lusarat village in Armenia June 26. In the background is Mount Ararat, believed to be where Noah's Ark came to rest. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano, handout)

Pope Francis and Catholicos Karekin II, patriarch of the Armenian Apostolic Church, release doves from the Khor Virap monastery near Lusarat village in Armenia June 26. In the background is Mount Ararat, believed to be where Noah’s Ark came to rest. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano, handout)

The pope and the Oriental Orthodox patriarch signed their joint declaration at the end of Pope Francis’ June 24-26 visit to Armenia.

Earlier in the day, at an Armenian Divine Liturgy, both had spoken of their unity as believers in Christ and of their conviction that Christians are called by God to assist the poor, the persecuted and the needy.

While their joint declaration mentioned the progress made in the official Catholic-Oriental Orthodox theological dialogue and their hopes for its continuation, the heart of the text focused on common Christian action to relieve suffering.

“We are witnessing an immense tragedy unfolding before our eyes,” the two leaders said. “Countless innocent people” are “being killed, displaced or forced into a painful and uncertain exile by continuing conflicts on ethnic, economic, political and religious grounds in the Middle East and other parts of the world.”

“Religious and ethnic minorities have become the target of persecution and cruel treatment to the point that suffering for one’s religious belief has become a daily reality,” they said.

The Christians being martyred for their faith belong to different churches and their suffering “is an ‘ecumenism of blood,’ which transcends the historical divisions between Christians.”

The two leaders prayed that the terrorists waging war on Christians and other minorities would convert, and they also prayed that “those who are in a position to stop the violence” would hasten to do so.

“We implore the leaders of nations to listen to the plea of millions of human beings who long for peace and justice in the world, who demand respect for their God-given rights, who have urgent need of bread, not guns,” the declaration said.

The two denounced the use of a religion “to justify the spread of hatred, discrimination and violence.”

While focused on the headline-grabbing war in Syria, the two leaders did not ignore the tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave in Azerbaijan where the majority of people are ethnic Armenians and had voted for independence. The joint declaration urged “a peaceful resolution” of the conflict.

“We ask the faithful of our churches to open their hearts and hands to the victims of war and terrorism, to refugees and their families,” they said. The Christian faith demands concrete acts of charity, Pope Francis and Catholicos Karekin insisted.

Looking at the spread of secularization, the pope and patriarch noted how heavily cultural change is impacting the family. “The Armenian Apostolic Church and the Catholic Church share the same vision of the family, based on marriage, an act of freely given and faithful love between man and woman,” they said.

 

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