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Cases yet to be accepted may be Supreme Court’s most-watched this term


Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Not much more than a year after the Supreme Court ruled that bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional, the court could again this term weigh in on state laws related to such marriages.

When the court opens its 2014 term Oct. 6, the docket will include cases dealing with taxation, apportionment of river water, employment law and a handful of lower court rulings dealing with First Amendment rights. However, at a Georgetown University Law Center briefing about the term Sept. 23, analysts spent the biggest chunk of time discussing cases the court might take, as opposed to those already on the calendar.

A same-sex couple from England holds their British marriage certificate March 29. In the U.S., the Supreme Court in its new term will consider whether to add to its docket one or more of a half-dozen lower court rulings overturning prohibitions on same-sex marriage. (CNS photo/Will Oliver, EPA)

A same-sex couple from England holds their British marriage certificate March 29. In the U.S., the Supreme Court in its new term will consider whether to add to its docket one or more of a half-dozen lower court rulings overturning prohibitions on same-sex marriage. (CNS photo/Will Oliver, EPA)

The docket so far is dominated by dryer matters or issues that will likely be settled in ways that won’t affect much more than the individuals involved in those specific situations.

But the cases that will catch the attention of the general public probably are those that were still pending: the half-dozen or so appeals of lower court rulings on state same-sex marriage laws. The justices were to consider several of those at their Sept. 29 conference, along with hundreds of other appeals.

The court also this term probably will be asked to review rulings on health insurance subsidies under the Affordable Care Act; some state laws intended to restrict access to abortion-inducing drugs and others legislating medical standards for abortion clinics.


Religious rights case

Before those might come along, however, the first religious rights case is scheduled for Oct. 7.

The justices will hear oral arguments that day about whether Arkansas inmate Gregory Holt, also known as Abdul Maalik, should be allowed to grow a short beard, in accord with his Muslim beliefs. The state prison policy bans all beards as security risk, although 40 other state prison systems and the federal prisons permit short beards under some circumstances.

Holt, who requested a half-inch beard, argues that the policy conflicts with the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, a 2000 federal law that extends to prisoners some of the protections of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. RFRA, as the latter bill is known, was the key to the court’s ruling in June that the federal government may not require closely held for-profit companies to provide contraceptives in employee health insurance if the owners say it would violate their religious beliefs.

In that ruling, the court accepted the argument of the owners of the Hobby Lobby crafts stores that the federal government failed to meet its goal of providing contraceptive coverage in a way that was the least restrictive of the owners’ religious rights as delineated by RFRA. In the Arkansas case, Holt makes a similar argument — that the prison system seeks to control inmates’ behavior without attempting to ensure policies allow for religious practices.

Among the religious and civil rights organizations that filed “amicus” or friend-of-the-court briefs encouraging the justices to find for Holt, one joint brief is by the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Muslim, Jewish, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Seventh-Day Adventist and United Church of Christ organizations. It discusses the benefits of religious practice among inmates.

Prisoners who are involved in religious activities not only are more stable emotionally, they are healthier and tend to have stronger connections to the outside world, were among the arguments that brief raised.

Free speech

Also on the court’s docket, though not on the calendars for October through December, is a free speech case brought by the Good News Community Church of Gilbert, Arizona. The church posts signs around town inviting people to Sunday services. Under Gilbert’s sign code, the church’s signs must be removed within hours, while other types of signs, including political ads, are allowed to remain for months.

The church argues that the sign code is content-based, in violation of the First Amendment. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2013 held that the code is not content-based, but “tailored to serve significant governmental interests.”

Among the arguments raised on the church’s side is that the prohibition on content-based discrimination does not require evidence that the discrimination is intentional or targeted at a specific type of speech.

Same-sex marriage bans

Looming large over the court’s term will be how the justices dispose of the many lower court rulings that have overturned same-sex marriage bans or laws prohibiting states from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states.

In June 2013, the court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law defining marriage as between one man and one woman, and overturned California’s Proposition 8, a voter-approved initiative barring same-sex marriage.

Since then seven federal court rulings rejecting several states’ laws have made it to the high court.

At the Georgetown briefing, professor Irv Gornstein, executive director of the Georgetown Law Supreme Court Institute, predicted the court would accept at least two of the pending appeals. Three are from Virginia and one each from Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah and Wisconsin.

He said that would enable the justices to address two separate streams of legal challenges, states must recognize same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions even if they are not legal in their own state, and laws prohibiting such marriages. Gornstein said the justices might have hoped it would take longer after the 2013 rulings before the next round of same-sex marriage cases reached them, but legal challenges have proceeded so fast they can’t wait.

Although a general rule of thumb is that the court rarely accepts challenges of significance across jurisdictions unless there are disagreements in how federal circuit courts rule, Gornstein and fellow panelists said they doubt that will apply in this situation.

“Given how much is at stake,” Gornstein said, “so many couples, so many states,” it’s not realistic of the court to delay.

He said accepting two cases also will reflect the importance of the issue and help avoid continuing confusion over what is constitutional.


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Bishop Cupich named to succeed Cardinal George as Chicago archbishop


Catholic News Service

CHICAGO — The Archdiocese of Chicago now knows who will succeed Cardinal Francis E. George.

Pope Francis has named Bishop Blase J. Cupich of Spokane, Wash., as archbishop of Chicago, succeeding Cardinal Francis E. George. The appointment was announced Sept. 20. Bishop Cupich is pictured in a 2011 photo. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

Pope Francis has named Bishop Blase J. Cupich of Spokane, Wash., as archbishop of Chicago, succeeding Cardinal Francis E. George. The appointment was announced Sept. 20. Bishop Cupich is pictured in a 2011 photo. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

Pope Francis has appointed Bishop Blase J. Cupich of Spokane, Washington, as the ninth archbishop of Chicago.

The appointment was announced Sept. 20 in Washington by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Archbishop Cupich, 65, will be installed in Chicago Nov. 18 during a Mass at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago.

Cardinal George is 77, two years past the age when bishops are required by canon law to turn in their resignation to the pope. He retains the office of archbishop until his successor’s installation.

The cardinal was first diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2006 and had a recurrence of cancer in 2012. In August, the archdiocese announced that he was participating in a clinical research trial for a new cancer drug.

His health concerns stepped up the process of searching for his successor as archbishop of Chicago.

Cardinal George introduced Archbishop Cupich (pronounced “Soo-pich”) during a news conference held at the Archbishop Quigley Pastor Center in Chicago the day the appointment was announced.

“Bishop Cupich is well prepared for his new responsibilities and brings to them a deep faith, a quick intelligence, personal commitment and varied pastoral experiences,” Cardinal George said.

The new archbishop is no stranger to Chicago having served on the board of Catholic Extension since 2009. The Chicago-based organization supports the work and ministries of U.S. mission dioceses.

Archbishop Cupich said his appointment “humbles and encourages” him and his priority as the new archbishop is to be attentive to the way God is working through the people in the archdiocese.

He learned of the appointment 10 days before the announcement and said he felt overwhelmed and surprised when Archbishop Vigano called him.

Some in the media describe Archbishop Cupich as a moderate but when asked about the description, he said, “Labels are hard for anybody to live up to, one way or another. I just try to be myself and I try to learn from great people. You’ve had great people here in this archdiocese pastor you. And I’m following a great man.”

When asked if his appointment, the first major appointment made by Pope Francis in the United States, sends a message about the pontiff’s agenda, Archbishop Cupich said no.

“I think the Holy Father is a pastoral man. I think that his priority is to send a bishop, not a message,” he said.

That Archbishop Cupich’s new flock is a lot larger than his present flock is not lost on him.

“This is an enormous upgrade, so to speak,” Archbishop Cupich told the media. “We had a hundred thousand Catholics in eastern Washington and I had 27,000 Catholics in South Dakota.” There are 2.2 million Catholics in the Archdiocese of Chicago, which is the third largest archdiocese in the nation.

When pressed on what tone he will bring to the archdiocese, the new archbishop said: “I think it’s really important to keep in mind that it’s not my church, it’s Chris’’s church. I have to be attentive to his voice in the lives of the people and the word of God and the way that he communicates to all of us through the pointers that he gives.”

In an interview with the Catholic New World following the new conference, Archbishop Cupich thanked Catholics in archdiocese for their warm welcome and said he looks forward to visiting parishes and communities.

“I really am sincere in saying I know that I can only do this if I have their support and prayers. I want to be very pronounced in asking, begging for their prayers,” he told the archdiocesan newspaper.

Archbishop Cupich did his doctoral work on Scripture readings used in the liturgy and that remains a part of his spiritual nourishment, he said.

“I find that, not just the word of God in the Bible, but the convergence of how the texts are put together in the liturgy is a source of my own spiritual life.”

Born March 19, 1949, in Omaha, Nebraska, he is one of nine children and the grandson of Croatian immigrants. He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Omaha in 1975. He was named bishop of Rapid City, South Dakota, in 1998. In 2010, he was appointed to Spokane. He speaks Spanish and lives at the seminary there.

He has degrees from what is now the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and The Catholic University of America in Washington.

He served as secretary at the apostolic nunciature in Washington and was pastor of two parishes in Omaha. On the national level, he currently chairs the U.S. bishops’ Subcommittee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe and is former chair of the Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People.

Following Archbishop Cupich’s remarks at the Sept. 20 news conference, Cardinal Francis George told the media he is grateful to Pope Francis for accepting his resignation and is relieved.

“I’ve been a bishop for many years and before that I was a religious superior. And in a sense, in those jobs, as you can imagine, you are hostage to what hundreds even thousands of people do over which you have no control,” he said. Every morning he would check the news to find out what happened that he was accountable for. “I have to confess, it will be a relief not to read the paper with that vision in mind but just to get information.”

When reminded that he has frequently said it was his goal to retire and meet his successor, something not accomplished but any other archbishop of Chicago since all died in office, Cardinal George pumped his fist in the air and smiled.

He said the appointment is also a relief to him because of his health problems.

“Others who have retired I’ve asked them how it went and they’ve said, ‘Well, it’s strange. One moment you’re at the center of everything and the next moment you’re not.’ You have to adjust to that,” he said.

Cardinal George is the first native Chicagoan to serve as archbishop of Chicago. Born in 1937, he attended Catholic schools in Illinois before entering the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate in 1957. He was ordained a priest Dec. 21, 1963. He was his order’’s vicar general in Rome from 1974 to 1986.

He was bishop of Yakima, Washington, from 1990 to 1996 and archbishop of Portland in Oregon for less than a year before being Pope John Paul II named him archbishop of Chicago in 1997.


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U.S. bishops urge FCC to protect open Internet

September 18th, 2014 Posted in Featured, National News Tags: , , ,


Catholic News Service WASHINGTON — More than a dozen religious bodies, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, argued in a joint letter to the Federal Communications Commission that the Internet must remain available to all without “fast lanes” and other devices meant to speed up traffic for extra revenue while keeping nonpaying traffic in a slow lane.

A teenager is seen using an iPad. The U.S. bishops have sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission urging them to keep the Internet open to all users and avoid “fast lanes” and other devices meant to speed up traffic for extra revenue while keeping nonpaying traffic in a slow lane.CNS photo illustration/Lisa Johnston, St. Louis Review)

A teenager is seen using an iPad. The U.S. bishops have sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission urging them to keep the Internet open to all users and avoid “fast lanes” and other devices meant to speed up traffic for extra revenue while keeping nonpaying traffic in a slow lane.CNS photo illustration/Lisa Johnston, St. Louis Review)

“We are concerned about paid prioritization and other policies that will increase costs and limit opportunities for our organizations and the communities we serve,” said the Sept. 15 letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and the other four FCC commissioners. “We urge you to adopt the strongest protections possible to protect an open Internet and to use the strongest legal authority available so that you can eliminate paid prioritization and that these protections will survive court challenge. Robust net neutrality protections are essential for all sectors of society, including ours,” the letter said. Also, Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Communications, advocated for an open Internet in a Sept. 16 op-ed essay. “Access to the Internet is as essential and necessary for Americans as is access to education, news and other services that allow us to flourish and make positive contributions to society,” Bishop Wester said. But a “two-tiered” Internet, which the FCC flirted with earlier this year, “will impair for many Americans this basic need — fast, reliable access to all Internet content,” he added. “Instead of adopting rules that permit the wealthiest companies to purchase the best service, the FCC should insist on fair treatment for everyone no matter our income.” The churches’ letter and Bishop Wester’s essay are just two of more than a million comments sent to the FCC on the net-neutrality issue, the overwhelming majority of them urging the commission to maintain an open Internet. In short, net neutrality is the concept that all traffic on the Internet is treated equally. Internet service providers have in the past blocked content they suspected was violating copyright law, although some of the blocked items were in the public domain. More recently, however, Netflix, after its customers reported slow speeds when downloading its content, has paid some Internet service providers a premium to guarantee that its movies and television programs are not bogged down on the information superhighway. “Use of the Internet is critical in every area of religious life in the same way that it is in every other aspect of American life. Robust internet protections are vital to enable our institutions to communicate with members, to share religious and spiritual teachings, to promote activities on-line, and to engage people, particularly younger persons, in our ministries,” the multidenominational letter said. “Without open Internet principles which prohibit paid prioritization, we might be forced to pay fees to ensure that our high-bandwidth content receives fair treatment on the Internet,” it added. “Nonprofit communities, both religious and secular, cannot afford to pay to compete with profitable commercialized content.” The Franciscan Action Network and the Conference of Major Superiors of Men joined the USCCB in signing the letter. Other signers included Church World Service; Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, California; the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America; the Islamic Society of North America; the National Council of Churches; the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.); Trabajo Cultural Caminante; the United Church of Christ’s Office of Communication and Justice and Witness Ministries; the United Methodist Church’s General Board of Church and Society; and the World Association for Christian Communication, North America. “It is almost impossible for anyone who is trying to improve her life or to contribute to her community, to do so without access to the Internet. Knowledge is power, and for the marginalized, denial of Internet service often means being made even more powerless,” Bishop Wester said. In the past 15 years, “digital activity outside of the workplace has become almost universal,” he added. Bishop Wester called the Internet “an international treasure of information, creativity and human potential. It should be preserved and protected by regulation as a place that fosters the best in humankind. The FCC needs a better vision of what the Internet is and what it can do.”

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‘Nuns on the Bus’ tour gets a boost from Biden


DES MOINES, Iowa — “We the people, we the voters” is the theme of the third “Nuns on the Bus” tour, which kicked off Sept. 17 in Des Moines with Vice President Joe Biden thanking the sisters for their effort.

The sisters began a 10-state tour promoting voter registration and participation in the political process.

“With the vice president, we share faith and a commitment to democracy,” said Sister Simone Campbell, a Sister of Social Service, who is the executive director of Network, a nonprofit Catholic social justice lobby.

To Sister Simone, Biden said, “I want to thank you and all your colleagues for your commitment and fight for basic economic rights.”

“It gives me renewed faith,” he said on the steps of the Iowa Capitol. “It’s been a great honor to work with Sister Simone over the years on so many critical issues.”

Two years ago, the “Nuns on the Bus” tour began in an effort to discuss the ramifications of a budget proposal of U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, which they said would have hurt social service programs that help the poor. Last year, the tour focused on immigration reform.

This year, the focus is on voter registration.

In the last eight years, there were 81 pieces of legislation in state capitols across the country that would have curtailed people’s right to vote, he said.

“The nation is strongest when everyone’s voice is heard and everyone has a seat at the table,” Biden said.

Referring to Sister Simone’s book, “A Nun on the Bus: How All of Us Can Create Hope, Change, and Community,” he concurred with her that the U.S. Constitution does not refer to “We the rich,” “We the politicians” or “We who got here first.”

“The Constitution is about ‘We the people.’ It sounds corny but that’s exactly what it is,” said Biden. “That’s why the work to increase voter registration is so important.”

Biden began his remarks noting he had 12 years of Catholic schooling.

In her introduction of the vice president, Sister Simone said, “With the vice president, we share faith and a commitment to democracy.”

The monthlong tour is to cover 5,252 miles and go from Iowa to Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan, Kentucky, West Virginia, North Carolina, Louisiana, Georgia and Colorado. Network plans 75 events in 36 cities.

Sisters taking part in the Iowa leg of the “Nuns on the Bus” tour, organized by Network, included: Mercy Sister Kathy Thornton, of Cedar Rapids; Sister Mary McCauley, a Sister of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, of Dubuque; Sister Marge Clark, also Sister of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is from Dubuque and works with Network; three members of the Congregation of the Humility of Mary — Sisters Elaine Hagedorn and Marilyn Jean Hagedorn, both of Des Moines, and Bea Snyder, of Dubuque; Sister Marge Stout, a Dubuque Franciscan living and ministering in Sioux City; Franciscan Sister Jan Cebula, of Clinton; and Sister Rochelle Friedman, a Sister of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, of Dubuque.

— By Anne Marie Cox and Kelly Mescher Collins


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Bishop criticizes Texas senator for politicizing summit on Mideast Christians


Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — A Catholic bishop criticized Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, for politicizing a conference of diverse political and church leaders working on behalf of Christians and other minorities in the Middle East.

“When you come to a hard political stance on anything, it’s going to cause a flare-up, and that’s what happened last night,” Maronite Bishop Gregory J. Mansour of Brooklyn, New York, told Catholic News Service Sept. 11.

Cruz was a keynote speaker at the gala solidarity dinner at the inaugural summit of In Defense of Christians, a new organization with the aim of shaping policy and heightening awareness of Christians in the Middle East.

The conference brought together more than 500 politicians, church leaders, including Catholic and Orthodox patriarchs flown in from the Middle East, and Christians in the diaspora. The patriarchs emphasized that their differences did not preclude unity on behalf of all minorities in the Middle East.

Cruz, touted as a potential Republican candidate for president in 2016, left the stage after he was booed for saying that Christians have no better ally than Israel.

In a statement posted on his website, Cruz said: “After just a few minutes, I had no choice. I told them that if you will not stand with Israel, if you will not stand with the Jews, then I will not stand with you. And then I walked off the stage.”

Bishop Mansour said he felt Cruz “had a litmus test for us: If we don’t stand with Israel, then he won’t stand with us. Well, that’s not an approach that is viable for a Christian.

“Christians don’t ally themselves to any state,” said Bishop Mansour. “We are not allied to the state — to the United States or to Iraq, or to Syria. Christians must be free to engage their society, to build up what is beautiful in it, and to critique what is not.”

Jesuit Father Drew Christiansen, distinguished professor of ethics and global development at Georgetown University, attended the conference but was not at the gala.

In a blog for ncronline.org, scheduled for publication Sept. 15, Father Christiansen contrasted the unanimity of the patriarchs’ message on Christians with Cruz’s remarks, which he called divisive.

“Members of the audience responded that calls made by Cruz and other speakers for respect for Jews and their inclusion in a pluralist Middle East had met with wide approval,” wrote Father Christiansen, who has spent years advocating for Mideast Christians in his work as a policy adviser for the U.S. bishops’ conference and as editor of America magazine.

“It was Cruz’s assertion that Israel was an ally of Middle Eastern Christians to which they objected,” he wrote. “They felt that their effort to build a coalition had been hijacked for the sake of Cruz’s own political ambitions and the ultra-Zionist cause.”

Bishop Mansour, who said he liked Cruz personally, told CNS: “I ran after him, and I saw him, face to face, as you and I are talking. He was very upset.”

But he pointed out that many in the audience at the gala dinner were Palestinian Christians.

“Come on, you have to talk to your audience, you have to talk to the people who are here. I felt that showed a great insensitivity on his part,” said Bishop Mansour, whose comments were echoed by others in attendance.

“We’ve been very careful, all the organizers and everybody involved,” said Bishop Mansour. “The only one who was not very careful was Sen. Cruz.”

“He made it very clear about defense of Jews and defense of Christians, but he did not mention defense of Muslims,” said Bishop Mansour. He said everyone at the conference had been “very careful to defend the best of the Muslim tradition and to condemn the worst in it.”

The bishop noted that 18 congressmen and senators had had talks with the Christian leaders on Capitol Hill without any kind of animosity.

After Cruz left the stage, one of the event organizers chastised the crowd, and In Defense of Christians posted a statement on its website from its president, Toufic Baaklini:

“As (Lebanese) Cardinal (Bechara) Rai so eloquently put it to the attendees of the In Defense of Christians’ inaugural summit gala dinner: ‘At every wedding, there are a few problems.’ In this case, a few politically motivated opportunists chose to divide a room that for more than 48 hours sought unity in opposing the shared threat of genocide, faced not only by our Christian brothers and sisters, but our Jewish brothers and sisters and people of all other faiths and all people of good will.

“Tonight’s injection of politics when the focus should have been on unity and faith momentarily played into the hands of a few who do not adhere to IDC’s principles. They were made no longer welcome,” the statement said, without indicating whether that meant the hecklers or Cruz.

The senator also posted a statement on his website:

“Tonight in Washington should have been a night of unity as we came together for the inaugural event for a group that calls itself ‘In Defense of Christians.’ Instead, it unfortunately deteriorated into a shameful display of bigotry and hatred,” the statement said.

“When I spoke in strong support of Israel and the Jewish people, who are being persecuted and murdered by the same vicious terrorists who are also slaughtering Christians, many Christians in the audience applauded. But, sadly, a vocal and angry minority of attendees at the conference tried to shout down my expression of solidarity with Israel.

“They cannot shout down the truth. And we should not shy away from expressing the truth, even in the face of, especially in the face of, ignorance and bigotry,” it said.


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Christian leaders discuss plight of Mideast minorities with Obama


Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Eight Eastern Christian leaders spent 40 minutes talking to President Barack Obama about the situation of Christians and other minorities in the Middle East.

U.S. President Barack Obama gestures during a meeting with Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Rai, fourth from left, and other religious leaders at the White House Sept. 11. (CNS photo/Pete Souza, courtesy White House)

U.S. President Barack Obama gestures during a meeting with Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Rai, fourth from left, and other religious leaders at the White House Sept. 11. (CNS photo/Pete Souza, courtesy White House)

“We felt how deeply moved he was by what was happening to the Christians there,” Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Rai, Maronite patriarch, said at a Mass later the same day at Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Catholic Church. The Sept. 11 Mass closed the three-day inaugural In Defense of Christians summit. A conference organizer told Catholic News Service an American businessman from the Middle East sent his private jet to transport the Christian leaders to the summit.

The cardinal said each of the leaders from Eastern Catholic and Orthodox rites had a chance to speak individually to Obama, who the White House said “dropped by National Security Advisor Susan Rice’s meeting at the White House.”

Although the White House did not release details of the discussion, throughout the summit the Christian leaders spoke of the threat to Christians and other minorities posed by Islamic State militants, particularly in Iraq and Syria. Several said they were advocating religious freedom, an inherent right. They spoke of the need for local leaders and the international community to become involved in a solution because, as one Orthodox bishop said, “no one can possibly agree to a beheading.”

A White House statement, read out near the end of the In Defense of Christians summit, said Obama reinforced the U.S. commitment to fight Islamic State militants and other groups that threaten the Middle East, as well as American personnel and interests in the region.

“He underscored that the United States will continue to support partners in the region, like the Lebanese Armed Forces, that are working to counter (Islamic State fighters) and promote regional stability. The delegations agreed on the need for all leaders in the region to reject violence and prejudice and call for moderation, tolerance of other views and religions, and an end to sectarian divisions.

“The president emphasized that the United States recognizes the importance of the historic role of Christian communities in the region and of protecting Christians and other religious minorities throughout the Middle East,” the statement said.

The Christian leaders who met with Obama and rice were Cardinal Rai; Catholicos Aram of Cilicia, patriarch of the Armenian Apostolic Church; Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan; Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregoire III Laham; Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II; Bishop Angaelos, general bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria; retired Chaldean Bishop Ibrahim Ibrahim of St. Thomas the Apostle of Detroit; and Antiochian Orthodox Metropolitan Joseph of New York and All North America.


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Archbishop Sheen sainthood process suspended indefinitely — second update


The canonization cause of Archbishop Fulton Sheen has been suspended indefinitely, according to a statement issued Sept. 3 by the Diocese of Peoria, Illinois, where the archbishop was born.

The late U.S. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen is pictured preaching in an undated photo. His cause for sainthood has been relegated to to the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints' historic archive, according to the Diocese of Peoria, Ill. (CNS)

The late U.S. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen is pictured preaching in an undated photo. His cause for sainthood has been relegated to to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints’ historic archive, according to the Diocese of Peoria, Ill. (CNS)

The suspension was announced “with immense sadness,” the diocese said. “The process to verify a possible miracle attributed to Sheen had been going extremely well, and only awaited a vote of the cardinals and the approval of the Holy Father. There was every indication that a possible date for beatification in Peoria would have been scheduled for as early as the coming year.”

Archbishop Sheen, who gained fame in the 1950s with a prime-time television series called “Life Is Worth Living,” died in New York in 1979.

The diocesan statement said the Archdiocese of New York denied a request from Bishop Daniel R. Jenky of Peoria, president of the Archbishop Sheen Foundation, to move the archbishop’s body to Peoria.

Deacon Greg Kendra, in a Sept. 3 posting on his blog The Deacon’s Bench, said the reason for the request was for “official inspection and to take first-class relics from the remains.”

A Sept. 4 statement from Joseph Zwilling, communications director for the New York Archdiocese, said Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York “did express a hesitance in exhuming the body” absent a directive from the Vatican Congregation for Saints’ Causes and family approval. The statement added that Archbishop Sheen’s “closest surviving family members” asked that the archbishop’s wishes be respected and that he had “expressly stated his desire that his remains be buried in New York.”

Zwilling said Cardinal Dolan “does object to the dismemberment of the archbishop’s body,” but, were it to be exhumed, relics that might have been buried with Archbishop Sheen might be reverently collected and “shared generously” with the Peoria diocese.

A subsequent statement Sept. 5 from the Peoria diocese said it had received a “shocking statement” June 27 from an attorney for the New York Archdiocese saying the archdiocese “would never allow the examination of the body, the securing of relics or the transfer of the body.”

The new statement said Bishop Jenky had been assured in 2002 by Cardinal Dolan’s predecessor, now-retired Cardinal Edward M. Egan, that New York had no interest in pursuing Archbishop Sheen’s sainthood cause. A 2005 request to transfer the body to Peoria received a response from the Vatican congregation that it was not yet an appropriate time. “With this inquiry complete and a miracle being attributed to Sheen, now is an appropriate time,” the Sept. 5 Peoria statement said.

It added, “Clearly Archbishop Sheen’s wishes for his final resting place could not have anticipated that he would go through a canonization process led by his native Diocese of Peoria, after it was turned down by the Archdiocese of New York.”

Peoria diocesan chancellor Patricia Gibson said in the statement, “After New York clearly turned down the cause, Peoria was happy to put forth the lengthy work and effort because of how much he is loved by the priests and lay faithful in this diocese.”

In an interview published Sept. 6 by Crux, the Boston Globe’s Catholic news website, Cardinal Dolan said, “We’ve had some issues (with Peoria) over what to do with the remains of Archbishop Sheen and what relics we might be able to share, and I’m committed to doing whatever we can that’s consistent with Sheen’s own wishes, the wishes of his family, the instructions we get from the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and New York state law.”

If the Peoria diocese’s decision is final to suspend Archbishop Sheen’s cause and to assign it to the Vatican congregation’s historical archives, Zwilling said, “the Archdiocese of New York would welcome the opportunity to assume responsibility for the cause in an attempt to move it forward.”

Cardinal Dolan told Crux, “I guess my next step is to write a formal letter to Bishop Jenky and the congregation, saying we’d be honored to take over the cause if that’s what seems best.”

“After further discussion with Rome, it was decided that the Sheen Cause would now have to be relegated to the congregation’s historic archive,” the Sept. 3 Peoria diocesan statement said.

Bonnie Engstrom, whose delivery of a stillborn baby in 2010 provided the basis for a possible miracle attributable to Archbishop Sheen, expressed sadness and confusion over the delay in the sainthood cause.

“We are very disappointed that the cause to canonize Venerable Fulton Sheen had to be closed, especially because it had been progressing so well,” she told the Catholic Herald, a British Catholic newspaper. “We are incredibly saddened and confused by the Archdiocese of New York’s decision to not cooperate with the Sheen Foundation on the cause. We trust in the goodness of God.”

Engstrom’s son James had no recorded heartbeat for 61 minutes after delivery. Then, as doctors were about to pronounce the child dead, James’ heart started beating. He has defied doctors’ predictions that he would not survive, or that he would have severe physical and developmental limitations. In March, a seven-member team of medical experts convoked by the Vatican reported there is no natural explanation for the boy’s survival.

“Countless supporters especially from the local church in Central Illinois have given their time, treasure and talent for this good work with the clear understanding that the body of Venerable Sheen would return to the diocese,” the Sept. 3 Peoria statement said. “Bishop Jenky was personally assured on several occasions by the Archdiocese of New York that the transfer of the body would take place at the appropriate time. New York’s change of mind took place as the work on behalf of the cause had reached a significant stage.”

Archbishop Sheen, after his years in the TV limelight, retained a high profile by running the Society for the Propagation of the Faith out of New York City.


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Cardinal Dolan backs decision to allow gay groups to march in St. Patrick’s Day Parade


Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York said he continues to support the city’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee after it lifted a ban prohibiting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender groups from marching openly in the annual event.

A flag twirler from Seaford High School in Seaford, N.Y., smiles as she marches in the 253rd annual St. Patrick's Day Parade in New York March 17. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

A flag twirler from Seaford High School in Seaford, N.Y., smiles as she marches in the 253rd annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York March 17. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

The cardinal, who will be the grand marshal of the 254th St. Patrick’s Day parade in March, said in a statement Sept. 3 that neither he nor his predecessors determined who could or could not march in the parade. He said he has “always appreciated the cooperation of parade organizers in keeping the parade close to its Catholic heritage.” “My predecessors and I have always left decisions on who would march to the organizers of the individual parades,” the cardinal’s statement said. “As I do each year, I look forward to celebrating Mass in honor of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland and the patron saint of this archdiocese, to begin the feast, and pray that the parade would continue to be a source of unity for all of us.” The parade committee’s decision comes in an effort to defuse the controversy that arose prior to this year’s parade over the exclusion of gay banners in the annual celebration of Irish and Catholic heritage. The ban led New York Mayor Bill de Blasio to refuse to march earlier this year. Guinness also withdrew its sponsorship. The NBC television network, which has broadcast the parade for years, also was prepared to drop coverage of the event unless a compromise was reached to allow a group of the network’s gay employees to march under a banner identifying the organization, Irish Central reported. There was no immediate word on whether the decision would lead to a wider gay presence in the parade.

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Phila. auxiliary bishop to lead Toledo diocese


WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has named an auxiliary bishop of Philadelphia, Bishop Daniel E. Thomas, to head the Diocese of Toledo, Ohio.

Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States, publicized the appointment Aug. 26.

Pope Francis has named Auxiliary Bishop Daniel E. Thomas of Philadelphia, 55, to head the Diocese of Toledo, Ohio. (CNS/L'Osservatore Romano)

Pope Francis has named Auxiliary Bishop Daniel E. Thomas of Philadelphia, 55, to head the Diocese of Toledo, Ohio. (CNS/L’Osservatore Romano)

Born June 11, 1959, and raised in the Philadelphia neighborhood of Manayunk, Bishop Thomas, 55, has been an auxiliary bishop in his hometown since 2006. He was ordained for the Philadelphia archdiocese in 1985, after attending the local St. Charles Borromeo Seminary and obtaining his licentiate in sacred theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University.

He was named to what has been a vacant see since October, when Bishop Leonard P. Blair was named Archbishop of Hartford, Conn.

At a news conference in Toledo Aug. 26, Bishop Thomas expressed his gratitude to Pope Francis, to his predecessor in Toledo and to Father Charles Ritter, who has served as diocesan administrator since Bishop Blair left. He joked about having the same name as the late actor Danny Thomas, but said the important way to identify himself is by “simply stating ‘I am a Roman Catholic bishop,’ I think should say it all.”

In Philadelphia, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said the appointment “demonstrates the confidence our Holy Father has in Bishop Thomas’ pastoral and administrative skills.” He said that since he arrived in Philadelphia almost three years ago, he has “witnessed (Bishop Thomas’) wisdom, intelligence, personal warmth and keen affection for the people of God.”

“The Diocese of Toledo has been given a true gift in Bishop Thomas,” the archbishop said. “I know he will serve them well as a faithful shepherd and spiritual father.”

Bishop Thomas was ordained a priest by Cardinal John Krol in 1985 and ordained an auxiliary bishop by Cardinal Justin Rigali in 2006. The son of the late Francis and Ann Thomas grew up in Holy Family Parish. He graduated in 1977 from Roman Catholic High School before entering St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.

Following his ordination as a priest, and studies at the Gregorian University, he worked in the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops for 15 years.

He returned to Philadelphia in 2005 as pastor of Our Lady of the Assumption Parish in Strafford before his ordination as bishop a year later. As an auxiliary bishop, he was responsible for administrative oversight of the Department for Media Affairs, the Office for Clergy, the Office for Vocations to the Diocesan Priesthood and for Region II, a grouping of 57 parishes in Montgomery County and Northwest Philadelphia.

Bishop Thomas has served on various archdiocesan boards and remains a member of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ committees for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, the Ad Hoc Committee on Catechism, and the Committee on Divine Worship. He is also a member of the National Advisory Council for the Saint John Vianney Center in Downingtown, Pennsylvania, and the Episcopal Advisory Board for the National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors.

Bishop Thomas will lead a diocese that is home to 124 parishes and 320,000 Catholics out of a total population of 1.46 million. Founded in 1910, the diocese covers 19 counties in northwest Ohio between Cleveland and Detroit, an area roughly four times larger than the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.


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Chicago cardinal in a clinical cancer drug trial


CHICAGO — Chicago Cardinal Francis E. George is participating in a clinical research trial for a new cancer drug, the Archdiocese of Chicago announced Aug. 22.

Cardinal George was first diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2006 and had a recurrence of cancer announced in 2012. The clinical trial at the University of Chicago involves a drug, currently known as MPDL3280A, that is designed to activate cells of the immune system, enabling them to attack cancer cells, the archdiocese said in a statement released to media.

“This approach differs from that of traditional chemotherapy, which uses drugs designed to be toxic to cancer cells,” the statement said. “A preliminary trial of this new drug has shown promising results for patients who have the same type of cancer as Cardinal George.”

The University of Chicago reported that in the first round of the clinical trial, 43 percent of patients with advanced bladder cancer “showed evidence of a ‘durable effect.’” While undergoing the trial, the cardinal will maintain his regular schedule, the archdiocese said.

After his 2006 bladder cancer diagnosis, Cardinal George had surgery at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood to remove his bladder, his prostate gland and parts of his ureters.

Five years passed without a recurrence of the cancer, but in August 2012, doctors found cancerous cells in one of his kidneys and in a nodule that was removed from his liver.

After the diagnosis, he underwent a series of chemotherapy treatments. Four months after being diagnosed, the cardinal was told that doctors could no longer find any sign of cancer. However, in March of this year, Cardinal George announced in his column in the Catholic New World that the cancer had returned.

“After many tests, scans, biopsies and other inconveniences, the settled judgment is that the best course of action is to enter into a regimen of chemotherapy, with drugs more aggressive than those that were used in the first round of chemo,” he wrote.

Bladder cancer is the ninth most common cancer worldwide. The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 74,000 Americans will be diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2014, and approximately 15,000 new diagnoses are made when bladder cancer is in advanced stages.

The cardinal’s health concerns have stepped up the process of searching for his successor as archbishop of Chicago, reported the Catholic New World, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Chicago. During an April 11 press conference, Cardinal George, who turned 77 in January, told reporters that he recently urged the papal nuncio, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, to begin the process.

“It’s a question of being able to spend your entire energy on what is my responsibility as archbishop of Chicago. This is a position that demands a lot of constant attention,” he said. “Now it looks as if I’m going to have to be spending a little more attention on my health and so it’s just not fair to the archdiocese to have someone who may not be able to do the job as well as I believe it should be done.”


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