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U.S. House passes bill to restrict funding of abortion

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WASHINGTON — After members of the U.S. House scuttled plans Jan. 22 to vote on a measure to prohibit abortion after 20 weeks, they passed a bill to restrict taxpayer funding of abortion.

Called the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, or H.R. 7, it applies the principles of the Hyde Amendment to federal health programs, including the Affordable Care Act.

Since 1976, the amendment has prohibited the use of taxpayer dollars to fund federal subsidies of any part of a benefits package that includes elective abortions.

H.R. 7 passed by a vote of 242 to 179. The action came as tens of thousands of people from around the country gathered on the National Mall for the annual March for Life marking the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe V. Wade decision legalizing abortion virtually on demand.

Speaking in favor of the bill before the vote, U.S. Rep. Diane Black, R-Tennessee, called it “common sense, compassionate legislation” that will protect Americans’ “conscience rights by ensuring their hard-earned tax dollars are not used to fund the destruction of innocent life.”

“Today is a somber occasion,” she said, referring to the anniversary of the “court’s tragic decision” on abortion.

“Our hearts ache for the 56 million unborn lives lost to the shameful practice of abortion,” Black added.

Passage of the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, Black and others, brought an immediate threat of a veto from the Obama administration, which said in a statement the bill “would intrude on women’s reproductive freedom and access to health care” and “increase the financial burden on many Americans.”

Originally, pro-life members of the House planned to mark the Roe anniversary by voting on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would prohibit abortion after 20 weeks, when an unborn baby can feel pain, unless the life of the mother is in danger.

But The Washington Post and other media outlets reported that more than 20 House members raised concerns about the measure, also known as H.R. 36, and by late Jan. 21, GOP leaders determined they would fall short of the needed votes to pass it and postponed consideration of that measure.

A day before the House dropped consideration of the measure, U.S. Rep. Daniel Lipinski, D-Illinois, who is a Catholic, told Catholic News Service in an interview he thinks that with the new Republican majority in the House and Senate, “we are in a better position now than we have been in in a number of years” to pass a significant federal pro-life measure.

Lipinski, a co-sponsor of H.R. 36, was the only Democrat in the March for Life congressional delegation.

Asked if it is difficult to be pro-life in a party that does not share those views, he said: “It definitely is difficult; it would be much easier if I were surrounded by people who were supportive of life.

“I also think it is very important for the pro-life movement to have people in both parties; it would be very harmful to the movement if the Democratic Party were completely without anyone who is pro-life,” he continued.

“I hope there will be an awakening and a realization that the Democratic Party used to be open to people who were pro-life and it needs to be open to people who are pro-life,” Lipinski added.

As for those who argue that the pro-life movement is anti-science, he said, “I think that science shows us that life begins at conception. We know that, at conception, that all the DNA is there and the whole blueprint for a unique human life is there. So I think that those who claim otherwise are not looking at what the scientific evidence is.”

Lipinski said seeing so many young people get behind the pro-life movement is encouraging.

“It shows that the pro-life movement is continuing to grow and that more people in younger generations are looking at and understanding the issue,” he said. “I think this shows that the pro-life movement is growing and that we are about to see a change in our nation.”

Results of a new poll show that nearly seven in 10 Americans — including millennials (ages 18-32) and women — are opposed to taxpayer funding of abortion. The findings were detailed in this year’s Knights of Columbus-Marist poll released in advance of the Roe anniversary.

Respondents said they oppose such funding by a margin of 68 percent to 28 percent, with millennials opposing it by 71 percent to 28 percent. There was no difference in opinions on the issue between women and men.

Women oppose taxpayer funding of abortion 69 percent to 28 percent, while men oppose it at a rate of 69 percent to 30 percent. Among both men and women, fewer than one in 10 “strongly support” such funding.

Another Knights-Marist poll shows 84 percent of Americans want significant restrictions on abortion, and would limit it to, at most, the first three months of pregnancy. The poll, released Jan. 19, showed that percentage includes almost seven in 10 respondents, or 69 percent, who identified themselves as “pro-choice.”

For both polls, 2,079 adults were surveyed by phone between Jan. 7 and Jan. 13. The Marist Poll conducted the survey, which was sponsored by the Knights of Columbus. The margin of error for both is plus or minus 2.1 percentage points.

 

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March for Life speakers emphasize that ‘every life is a gift’

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — On a chilly and cloudy morning on the National Mall in Washington, crowds gathered Jan. 22 for the annual March for Life, this year marking the 42nd anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion virtually on demand.

Tens of thousands gathered first to hear a lineup of speakers, before marching from the Mall up Constitution Avenue to the U.S. Supreme Court building on Capitol Hill.

March for Life participants carry the banner past the front of the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington Jan. 22. Tens of thousands took part in the annual event, which this year marked the 42nd anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion across the nation. (CNS photo/Jonathan Ernst, Reuters)

March for Life participants carry the banner past the front of the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington Jan. 22. Tens of thousands took part in the annual event, which this year marked the 42nd anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion across the nation. (CNS photo/Jonathan Ernst, Reuters)

Early in the day, Pope Francis showed his support of the pro-life gathering by tweeting the theme: “Every Life is a Gift” with the hashtag #marchforlife.

By late morning, the temperature had reached about 40 degrees, warmer than many a previous march, and a music group opened the rally with the songs “To Be Loved” and “You’re Not Alone.”

Several members of Congress were in attendance, including U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kansas, who told Catholic News Service, “I am here to make my colleagues listen.” Huelskamp said life is a core issue in the public debate, and that Kansas was already at the forefront of human rights issues. “They were at the forefront of the slavery issue,” he said, and are now at the forefront of the life issue.

Levi Fox, a volunteer and a graduate of Liberty University, said, “Half of our generation is missing. Sixty million have been killed since Roe v. Wade, which is why I am dedicating my time to the March for Life.”

After the musical opening, Patrick Kelly, the chairman of the March for Life board, told the crowd they were attending “the largest and most important human rights rally in the world,” and noted the march is becoming “bigger and younger every year.”

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, the president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, opened the rally with prayer alongside priests, bishops and patriarchs of the Greek Orthodox, Orthodox American, Antiochean Orthodox and Serbian Orthodox churches, in a show of what the archbishop called “a sign of Christian unity.”

The archbishop called the marchers to not only “be joyful witnesses to the gospel of life,” but also to be loving and welcoming to those in dire circumstances.

Jeanne Monahan-Mancini, director of the March for Life, addressed the marchers, congratulating them for making a pilgrimage before focusing on this year’s theme.

“Every Life Is a Gift” emphasized that every life is a gift, regardless of a person’s difficulty or disability, and also was meant to emphasize that everyone has a call and a mission — and a role to play creating a culture of life.

A large congressional delegation in attendance emphasized the importance of the Health Care Conscience Rights Act before yielding the floor to a passionate and energetic address by Sen. Tim Scott, R-South Carolina, who said the defense of life was “the responsibility of every single person in America.” The conscience bill would implement a broad religious exemption and conscience protections for private employers who oppose the federal contraceptive mandate that is part of the Affordable Care Act.

Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, who followed Scott, told the crowd, “There have never been more pro-life lawmakers in Congress than we have today.”

In discussing the Knights of Columbus’ ultrasound initiative, which has just donated its 500th ultrasound machine, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said, “Women have a right to know the truth.”

In what may have been the most inspiring address of the day, Julia Johnson, a senior at Shanley Catholic High School in Fargo, North Dakota, said it was up to the youth of America to “end the scourge of abortion.”

As a member of “the pro-life generation,” she said she was proud to have come alongside “400 pro-life warriors,” referring to the school bringing its entire student body on the 1,300-mile journey to the march.

“Our generation has seen through the smokescreen of lies and secrets,” she added.

The president of Students for Life, Kristan Hawkins, discussed the gift of her son’s life despite a diagnosis of cystic fibrosis. Hawkins said, “I have personally witnessed the push in our culture to create perfect babies.” she said.

The remarks echoed those of the other speakers and marchers in declaring that “we are the pro-life generation.”

— By Nate Madden

 

 

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Young people find ‘amazing’ atmosphere, high energy at pro-life rally, Mass

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WASHINGTON — Just as the sun rose Jan. 22, thousands of Catholic teenagers and young adults from across the country poured into the Verizon Center to meet other pro-lifers, pray for the unborn and celebrate the joy of being alive at the annual Youth Rally & Mass for Life.

Many, like Megan Holzmeister, who attends a Catholic high school in Kansas City, Kansas, found that the combination of prayer, song and celebration kept them wide awake in the early morning hours.

Students from St. Anthony School in Washington hold signs during a pro-life youth rally at the Verizon Center in Washington Jan. 22. Thousands of young people gathered at the arena to rally and attend Mass before taking part in the annual March for Life, which this year marked the 42nd anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion across the nation. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

Students from St. Anthony School in Washington hold signs during a pro-life youth rally at the Verizon Center in Washington Jan. 22. Thousands of young people gathered at the arena to rally and attend Mass before taking part in the annual March for Life, which this year marked the 42nd anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion across the nation. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

“The atmosphere is amazing,” she said. “With all the young kids, it keeps it fun and upbeat, and it’s a great opportunity to meet people.”

Before the Mass, several youths in brightly colored, coordinated sweatshirts joined the long Dunkin Donuts line before hopping into the equally long line for the sacrament of penance.

Others took pictures in the photo booths, and then tweeted them out along with hashtag #Mass4Life or hashtag #iStand4Life to show an online witness.

Young adult Grace Duffley and her adopted brother, Chris, serenaded the crowd with “Hold Me” by Toby Mac and Jamie Grace, and then Chris, who is autistic and blind, sang and played “Open the Eyes of My Heart” on the piano.

The youth leadership team, consisting of teens from youth groups in parishes around the archdiocese, led the Verizon Center in praying the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary.

Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, the main celebrant at the Mass, was joined by hundreds of priests and religious as well as dozens of bishops who traveled with their young people to Washington.

He remarked that between the Verizon Center, the DC Armory, and some 14 churches in the archdiocese, “we’ll have some 30,000 energetic young people representing the next generation. These young people are saying, ‘Let us embrace every mother, let us embrace every child, let us embrace all life.’ That’s a great message.”

In his homily, Father Mario Majano, a parochial vicar at Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in Takoma Park, Maryland, said he considered a true hero to be someone who spoke up for the truth again and again. He gave an example of a woman who had three crisis pregnancies and chose life every time.

In one instance, her child was conceived in rape, and another child had the possibility of being born deformed because of the cancer treatment she was undergoing at the time. However the child was born healthy and grew up alongside her two siblings.

“So thanks, Mama,” said Father Majano, looking over to his mother in the crowd. Everyone stood and applauded.

Eleventh-grader Abby Durniat from Atlanta said in an interview that she was pro-life because the doctors told her parents to abort her twin sisters, believing they would have mental disabilities. Her parents refused, and her sisters were born without any disabilities.

“I don’t know where I’d be without them,” Abby said, looking over at her sister Ally. Even though her sisters were born healthy, Abby said she believes in the value of a human life no matter what obstacle or disability faces a child.

“I babysit a girl with Down syndrome, and she’s so important to me. Even when children have disabilities, they’re still kids, they’re still going to be a life that’s important,” she said.

After the rally and Mass, the participants headed over to the National Mall for the annual March for Life, marking the 42nd anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision.

Mary Archer and Seth Tavera, students at The Catholic University of America, were there selling T-shirts that featured a pro-life quote from Pope Francis. The proceeds from the sales were going toward the students’ mission trips to Costa Rica, Belize and Jamaica.

Archer and Tavera also were there with around 300 to 400 other Catholic University students to show their support for life. “Life is an inalienable right and it’s a tragedy that abortion is legal,”said Archer. “Plus, who doesn’t love little babies?”

— By Zoey Di Mauro

 

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Archbishop Kurtz asks pro-life marchers to be ‘holy, kind and brave’

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Catholic News Service WASHINGTON — The president of the U.S. bishops’ conference Jan. 22 exhorted the thousands of Catholics at the closing Mass for the National Prayer Vigil for Life to be “ambassadors for life.” Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, said to the worshippers, “Think of what an ambassador is … someone who represents to others a great case.” I

A young woman prays the rosary during the National Prayer Vigil for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington Jan. 21. The all-night vigil is held before the annual March for Life, which this year marked the 42nd anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion across the nation. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

A young woman prays the rosary during the National Prayer Vigil for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington Jan. 21. The all-night vigil is held before the annual March for Life, which this year marked the 42nd anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion across the nation. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

In this instance, the archbishop said, the case is the good news of Jesus Christ. “Today, you and I are being chosen as ambassadors for life, to stand up for life on the 42nd anniversary of the tragic decision of Roe v. Wade,” which permitted legalized abortion virtually on demand nationwide, Archbishop Kurtz said.

The Mass took place at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. The prayer vigil started at mid-afternoon Jan. 21 with confessions, followed by the opening Mass which attracted more than 11,000 people. After the Mass, activities continued overnight which included a rosary, night prayer, more opportunities for confession and a series of Holy Hours, followed by adoration with morning prayer and benediction before concluding with the morning Mass celebrated by Archbishop Kurtz.

In the Old Testament reading for the morning Mass, Samuel became a noted ambassador when God spoke to the young man three times one night while in the temple, where he was being raised. Once his mentor, Eli, figured out the source of the voice, he advised Samuel to respond if he heard the voice again. When he did, Samuel replied, “Here I am, Lord, send me.”

“Before we are sent out, Jesus always asks us to come and follow him,” Archbishop Kurtz said. In many situations, the ambassador does not know what he or she will confront, he added. But what Jesus wants of his ambassadors is for them to be “holy and kind and brave.”

When Pope Francis was in the Philippines, “he called the encounter with Christ key,” Archbishop Kurtz said. Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, according to the archbishop, was so moved with the pope’s remarks that he said, “We want to accompany you, Holy Father. We don’t all want to go to Rome with you. … We want to go to the Philippines” and accompany the people “who have no voice.”

Archbishop Kurtz spoke of his recent visit to Haiti to observe the fifth anniversary of the earthquake that devastated the principally Catholic, and extremely poor, nation. Part of that visit included the rededication of St. Francis Hospital, which had been destroyed in the quake.

He recalled that when workers came upon the rubble, “the image they couldn’t get out of their mind was the overturned incubators.”

The tragedy claimed 300,000 lives, including those of children, but to see the incubator-dependent babies fatally trapped in the incubators must have been heartbreaking to see, according to the archbishop. In the same way, “something touches our hearts when a child in the womb dies,” he said.

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Cardinal O’Malley reveals an ‘Oprah moment’ and abortion myths at Prayer Vigil for Life

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Evoking a phrase long associated with the civil rights movement, Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston told an overflow crowd in Washington that “we shall overcome” in the fight against abortion.

Quoting Pope Francis in his homily Jan. 21 during the opening Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life, Cardinal O’Malley said, “The church cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for a better world.”

He added, “In our country, people have come together in the fight to overcome racism” and other social ills. “The quest for human rights and solidarity brought together people of faith to ‘repair the world,’ to use the Jewish expression.”

Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley gives the homily during the opening Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington Jan. 21. The all-night vigil is held before the annual March for Life, which this year marked the 42nd anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion across the nation. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Boston Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley gives the homily during the opening Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington Jan. 21. The all-night vigil is held before the annual March for Life, which this year marked the 42nd anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion across the nation. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Now, Cardinal O’Malley said, the fight is for the right to life, “and we shall overcome,” he said to applause from a crowd of more than 11,000 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.

Without saying so directly, Cardinal O’Malley’s use of the phrase as the linchpin for his homily might have come from a phone call from Oprah Winfrey.

The cardinal and some priests were eating dinner at a diner near the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston when the call came. “I presumed it was a telemarketer,” Cardinal O’Malley said, but Winfrey called to thank him for some comments he had made in an earlier blog posting about the movie “Selma,” of which she was one of the producers and had a featured role.

The comment focused on “how every person was made in the image and likeness of God,” Cardinal O’Malley said, a point often made in the pro-life movement.

The cardinal, who is chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, used his sermon to take apart some “American mythology” about abortion. The three biggest myths, he said, are that abortion is a woman’s issue, that most Americans “are pro-choice, pro-abortion,” and that “young people are overwhelmingly in favor of the pro-abortion position.”

But polling over the past 20 years, according to Cardinal O’Malley, shows “women have consistently been more pro-life than men.” By supporting abortion, he said, “men rationalize their irresponsibility” and push women to abort their unborn child, “threatening to abandon her if she ‘chooses’ to gives birth. … An abortion is a bargain compared to monthly child-support payments.”

On the second myth, Cardinal O’Malley quoted outgoing NARAL Pro-Choice America president Nancy Keegan said “there is a large intensity gap” among supporters of legal abortion and their foes.

And young people, the cardinal added to applause, “are the most pro-life segment of the American people.” Five years ago, the Gallup organization “declared pro-life is the new normal,” Cardinal O’Malley said. “Congratulations, young people — you’re normal.”

“We shall overcome indifference only by love,” Cardinal O’Malley said. “We must press on with the full assurance that we shall overcome.”

Worshippers did not seem bothered by the mixture of light rain and fluffy snowflakes that descended on Washington the afternoon of the Mass. Nor did they seem thrown by the Mass starting a half-hour earlier than in past years. The shrine was filled to the brim; even an hour before the scheduled 6:30 p.m. starting time.

More than 1,000 bishops, priests, seminarians, novices and servers took part in the 42-minute entrance procession. And they all had a chair on which to sit in the shrine’s massive sanctuary — which itself has the interior space of a medium-sized suburban church. There also was sufficient seating space in the sanctuary for several dozen nuns and select laypeople.

After the Mass, confession was offered from 9:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. in Our Lady of Hostyn Chapel in the lower level of the national shrine.

Pittsburgh Bishop David A. Zubik led those who stayed on in the National Rosary for Life in the Crypt Church. Bishop Kurt R. Burnette of the Byzantine Eparchy of Passaic, New Jersey, led a night prayer in the church with Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger of Albany, New York, as homilist.

 

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State of the Union speech hits on numerous social justice themes

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SCatholic News Service

WASHINGTON — In his Jan. 20 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama hit on numerous themes that resonated with Catholic advocates for social justice issues.

Among the items included in Obama’s policy agenda in the president’s annual speech before a joint session of Congress were what Father Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA, called the “bold ideas” of proposals to enable students to have two years of community college education without paying tuition; to expand paid leave to working parents and to make home ownership more accessible.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, look on as President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address in front of the U.S. Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington Jan. 20. During his address, Obama mentioned his shift in policy toward Cuba, quoting Pope Francis, who said diplomacy is the work of "small steps." (CNS photo/Larry Downing, Reuters)

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, look on as President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address in front of the U.S. Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington Jan. 20. During his address, Obama mentioned his shift in policy toward Cuba, quoting Pope Francis, who said diplomacy is the work of “small steps.” (CNS photo/Larry Downing, Reuters)

In a statement, Father Snyder said such proposals are “what is needed to break up the status quo that leaves so many on the sidelines.”

But Father Snyder also said he thinks the country needs further discussion about how to address the plight of the 45 million people who live at or below the poverty line.

Obama’s speech made little mention of such poverty, though he did raise the issues of affordable child care and raising the minimum wage. He challenged members of Congress who oppose raising the minimum wage: “If you truly believe you could work full time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, try it. If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise.”

Father Snyder said on that topic, “for those living in poverty, the state of our union leaves them struggling to get by. We urge the president and both chambers of Congress to bring their best ideas to the table about building a nation that enables everyone to achieve their full potential.”

Obama made several references to “middle-class economics,” what he described as “the idea that this country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, everyone plays by the same set of rules. We don’t just want everyone to share in America’s success, we want everyone to contribute to our success.”

Obama elaborated, saying middle-class economics “means helping working families feel more secure in a world of constant change … helping folks afford child care, college, health care, a home, retirement.”

Father Snyder said that “we often hear about the need to support the middle class,” adding “it’s important to remember that there are millions of individuals and families who are still seeking to escape the cycle of poverty in America.”

“The percentage of individuals and families living at or below the federal poverty line remains roughly where it was when our nation’s War on Poverty was launched more than 50 years ago,” Father Snyder said. “People of good will can have disagreements about the strategies to achieve a future without poverty, but what we cannot do is let divided government or differences of opinion prevent us from working together to strengthen pathways out of poverty for those in need.”

Network, a Catholic social justice lobbying organization, said in a statement that Obama’s speech was “an eloquent call to renew our nation’s values. Are we to continue as a country where only the super-rich do well, or one where we all have a fair shot?”

The statement focused on Obama’s call to change the tax code “so all pay their fair share,” which the group said “exacerbates an economy of exclusion.”

Network echoed Obama’s call for a higher minimum wage, for equal pay for women, his support for immigration reform, access to child care, maternity leave, health care and “a dignified retirement,” but added that “some portions of the speech concerned us.”

The statement raised concerns about Obama’s support for new trade agreements, saying “the trade agenda has been fueled by the business community, which is rarely focused on the impact of trade policies on people in local communities.

“Catholic sisters working in places like Mexico and Central America have seen firsthand how bad trade deals harm families and communities,” the Network statement said. “Unjust trade agreements have fueled migrations in our hemisphere, creating crises on our borders and disruptions in our nation. Any trade initiative deserves a full discussion where all voices are considered, but fast track would short-circuit this need.”

Obama also referenced Pope Francis in remarks about foreign policy, specifically a new approach to Cuba announced a month earlier. Obama called the longstanding trade embargo and severed diplomatic relations “a policy that was long past its expiration date.” He said shifting back toward official diplomacy and more openness “has the potential to end a legacy of mistrust in our hemisphere.”

“As his Holiness, Pope Francis, has said, diplomacy is the work of ‘small steps,’” Obama said. “These small steps have added up to new hope for the future in Cuba.”

 

 

 

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St. Paul and Minneapolis archdiocese files for bankruptcy protection

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ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis announced Jan. 16 that it is filing for bankruptcy protection in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court of the District of Minnesota to settle clergy sexual abuse lawsuits.

“I make this decision because I believe it is the fairest and most helpful recourse for those victims/survivors who have made claims against us,” Archbishop John C. Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis wrote on the archdiocesan website Jan. 16.

Archbishop John C. Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis. (CNS)

Archbishop John C. Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis. (CNS)

He said reorganization of the archdiocese will allow its resources “to be distributed equitably among all victims/ survivors. It will also permit the archdiocese to provide essential services required to continue its mission within this 12-county district.”

The archdiocese is the 12th U.S. diocese in the past several years that has filed for bankruptcy protection to settle sex abuse claims against clergy, religious and laypeople working for the church. Several of those dioceses that have since emerged from bankruptcy include Tucson, Arizona; Davenport, Iowa; Spokane, Washington; Wilmington, Delaware; and Portland, Oregon. Two religious communities also filed for bankruptcy protection: the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus and the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers.

With 825,000 Catholics, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis is the second-largest U.S. Catholic Church jurisdiction to file for Chapter 11 reorganization, after the Diocese of San Diego, which has nearly 1 million Catholics, according to the 2014 Official Catholic Directory.

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has 21 pending clergy sexual abuse cases, and faces the potential for more than 100 additional suits. Cases are now being brought forward because the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse claims was lifted under the Minnesota Child Victims Act signed into law in 2013.

According to the archdiocese, the cost to separately settle or go to trial with each pending or future claim is impossible to determine definitively. It said there is no telling how many additional claims could be made before the statute of limitations window closes next May. And although the archdiocese has insurance coverage, that coverage may not be available to pay every claim or the full amount of every claim.

In his letter, the archbishop said the bankruptcy filing does not affect parishes and schools.

He also said this action “will not in any way avoid our responsibilities to those who have been affected by clerical sexual abuse. This is not an attempt to silence victims or deny them justice in court. On the contrary, we want to respond positively in compensating them for their suffering.”

The archbishop said the bankruptcy decision was made “thoughtfully, prayerfully and collaboratively” and involved his consultation with experts in the field of bankruptcy, finance, insurance, civil and canon law, law enforcement, child sexual abuse and victim advocacy.

“They have advised me that Chapter 11 reorganization is the fairest and most helpful recourse for resolution of victims’ claims,” he wrote.

He stressed that the archdiocese would continue to care those who have been harmed by clergy sexual abuse and would “continue to facilitate the healing process for our local church in order to restore trust with the Catholic faithful.”

He also said the archdiocese will “work had to restore trust with our clergy, who are dedicated men deserving of our confidence and respect.”

Archbishop Nienstedt said there was still “a long journey ahead as we restore trust through humility, competency and transparency, in order to respond with compassion to all those who have been hurt, to continue to atone for sins that have been committed, and to foster healing.” He added that the bankruptcy filing was an “important step on our way forward as a local church.”

Contributing to this story was staff at The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

 

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Many see Rev. King’s vision ‘still in process of coming true’ in United States

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For young Jaymee Dixon, the tribute to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at Holy Angels Cathedral “means a lot. It feels great to be a black person doing something.”

Dixon, 15, is a member of the Wirt-Emerson Concert Choir that performed at the eighth annual King tribute at the cathedral Jan. 11. The high school student said black history today is loaded with stories of young black people dying.

Aaron Brown of Houston and Arielle Phillips of Charlotte, N.C., pause to view a 30-foot sculpture of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Washington . (CNS r/Reuters file)

Aaron Brown of Houston and Arielle Phillips of Charlotte, N.C., pause to view a 30-foot sculpture of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Washington . (CNS r/Reuters file)

The cathedral event was held in observance of Rev. King’s birthday, Jan. 15. The federal holiday marking his birthday this year is Jan. 19.

Joyce F. Gillie Cruse, guest speaker at the tribute, addressed those deaths, some of which have become household names, including Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Ferguson, Missouri.

Noting how Rev. King’s fight for all races and against a system that promotes racism and racial divide, Gillie Cruse said Rev. King’s “vision is still in the process of coming true” decades after the civil rights leader was slain in 1968.

Recalling the recent deaths of young black males, Gillie Cruse said, “There is something wrong in this country.”

While many in this country have blamed police actions for these deaths, Gillie Cruse said there are other issues to be addressed — issues that “make black males an endangered species.”

These issues, Gillie Cruse said, include a low percentage of black voters, black teen homelessness, failing school systems, high crime rates, and unemployment or jobs that do not pay a living wage. Also, she said, only 26 percent of African-Americans get married.

“We have some serious issues, and it’s not just the police,” Gillie Cruse said.

An adjunct professor at Xavier University and Loyola University in New Orleans, Gillie Cruse previously served in the Diocese of Gary, working with Gary cluster parishes on adult faith formation and evangelization.

“We need to do something,” she said. “What are we going to do for our children, to help them see a good future? We must re-assess the balance of our society and think out of the box.”

Gillie Cruse suggested opening 24-hour community youth centers, keeping schools open at night, having leaders who address these issues, and church members allotting 10 percent of their tithe to promote children’s programming, including money for college.

In short, Gillie Cruse said, “Do more than hear a speaker.”

Gillie Cruse encouraged her audience to “meet somewhere” to discuss challenges in society. “Do what you can to address these issues.”

The annual King tribute included several selections performed by the Wirt-Emerson Concert Choir, comments from local representatives, and orator Troy Patterson Thomas’ rendition of Rev. King’s iconic “I have a dream” speech.

Father Mick Kopil, rector of Holy Angels Cathedral, recalled the words of Blessed Paul VI, who said there can be no peace without justice. The Sunday afternoon tribute, Father Kopil said, honors the memory of a man “who worked among us for peace and justice.”

Father Charles Mosley, pastor at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Hammond, noted a recent interview with civil rights leader Andrew Young, who said that Rev. King’s mission was not so much about changing the world as it was about changing a reality “of how African-Americans are seen.”

Citing low black voter turnout in the last election, Father Mosley said, “We need to change our reality, so we can move forward.” Instead of talking about racism or black lives lost at next year’s King tribute, the Hammond pastor said people should discuss their accomplishments and additional work to be done.

Father Mosley prayed for “new hope, new light” to help achieve Rev. King’s vision. “Bless us, guide us, help us become all you want us to be, so we can give glory to your name.”

In Jan. 16 statement released in Washington, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called on communities to strive to live the words of Rev. King, who urged the nation to move “from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.”

“Our communities will only reflect this dignity if we first turn to prayer to guide our actions toward ending years of isolation, disregard and conflict between neighbors,” said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky. “That which seems impossible can only be brought about through God and his powerful intervention in our hearts.”

He expressed gratitude for Rev. King’s work and the efforts of so many others on behalf of justice and to advance “our country’s recognition of the dignity and equality of each person.”

“Continuing tensions and violence in our communities remind us that although significant progress has been made in erasing the stain of racism and the cycle of related violence, we still have much work to do,” Archbishop Kurtz said.

“As we consider the gains of the past and the challenges before us, I urge each of us to pray for healing and peace as we work for ever greater communion. Every human life has profound dignity, rooted in our creation in the image of God. We are one family,” he added.

In a Jan. 14 column, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput wrote that the annual King observance is much more than a celebration of the civil rights leader’s service on behalf of the nation’s black community and other ethnic minorities. It’s also, he said, “a celebration of the power of religious faith working through believers who open themselves selflessly to that which God calls them to do in the world.”

“More than 50 years have passed since Martin Luther King Jr. stepped into America’s racial divide of the 1950s and 1960s. Although that divide has eased in some important ways, recent events show that much remains to be done,” the archbishop said in his column, posted on CatholicPhilly.com, the Philadelphia archdiocesan news website.

This year’s King observance “comes at a key moment,” he continued. “We should take advantage of it by reflecting on why King’s efforts to fight racial injustice bore such good fruit, and what his witness means for the United States today.

“It’s a moment for those of us who are Christians to re-examine our own lives in light of the Gospel, and to ground ourselves again in the same word of God that gave Martin Luther King the courage and perseverance to seek healing where sin had wrought racial conflict.”

In today’s secular society, “people can too easily forget” that Rev. King’s pursuit of justice for minorities “was fundamentally Christian,” Archbishop Chaput said. “The inspiration for his activism came not from a devotion to any political party or even set of public policy solutions, but rather from his understanding of Christian discipleship.”

He urged that celebrating the King holiday not only pay tribute to Rev. King’s “great service” but also be a reminder of the power of religious faith and the selfless acts that God calls all to undertake, “even when it involves suffering, difficulty and sacrifice.”

By Steve Euvino

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Franciscan in Black Catholic ministry named auxiliary bishop for New Orleans

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Pope Francis has named Franciscan Father Fernand “Ferd” Cheri III, a New Orleans native who is director of campus ministry at Quincy University in Illinois as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

The appointment was announced Jan. 12 in Washington by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Bishop-designate Fernand "Ferd" Cheri III responds to reporters questions during a press conference in New Orleans Jan. 12. The appointment of the New Orleans native as auxiliary bishop of his home archdiocese was announced earlier in the day. (CNS photo/Frank J Methe, Clarion Herald)

Bishop-designate Fernand “Ferd” Cheri III responds to reporters questions during a press conference in New Orleans Jan. 12. The appointment of the New Orleans native as auxiliary bishop of his home archdiocese was announced earlier in the day. (CNS photo/Frank J Methe, Clarion Herald)

Bishop-designate Cheri, who turns 63 Jan. 28, has a background that includes extensive roles in black Catholic liturgy, music and spirituality, in addition to having served on the Franciscans’ provincial council and as their director of friar life.

He also is a board member of the National Black Catholic Congress and has been involved in activities including the NBCC gatherings, the U.S. bishops’ subcommittee on Black Catholic worship and the National Joint Conference of Black Religious Planning Committee.

He originally was ordained as a priest for the Archdiocese of New Orleans May 20, 1978. He studied at Notre Dame University and at the Institute for Black Catholic Ministry at Xavier University, both in New Orleans.

During a news conference in New Orleans after his appointment was announced, Bishop-designate Cheri said he was surprised but thrilled that Pope Francis had appointed him as auxiliary bishop in the city where most of his family still lives. He said he is pleased that he will be working alongside Archbishop Gregory V. Aymond.

“I’d like to say first of all thank you to Pope Francis for appointing me to this position,” he said.

“It was a total surprise, but it was a wonderful moment to just be told that I was appointed auxiliary bishop,” added Bishop-designate Cheri. “I also want to thank Greg for accepting me in this position as well. I look forward to just working with the people of New Orleans again. I never left New Orleans. It’s always a part of me. Wherever I go, I bring New Orleans. It’s going to be great to be back in the city.”

Bishop-designate Cheri will be ordained bishop at a Mass March 23 at St. Louis Cathedral.

“He is very gifted in music and preaching and liturgy,” Archbishop Aymond said. “This is also a very significant moment, I think, for us as New Orleans (Catholics) — another hometown boy joining us again. But also a great gift from the African-American community to the church and to the archdiocese.”

As a diocesan priest for four years at four parishes in New Orleans and Marrero, Louisiana, Bishop-designate Cheri was involved in ministry in the black Catholic community. It was at that time that he began discernment in becoming a Franciscan.

“A lot of my support at that time was from the religious communities that were primarily staffing parishes in the black community of New Orleans,” he said.

“I got used to that. I said, ‘Well, if I’m getting support from them, I might as well be a religious.’ Being a diocesan priest for me was very lonely. I grew up with a family and bouncing things off of other people. I needed that support. I received a lot of that from the religious communities of New Orleans.”

He entered the novitiate for the Order of Friars Minor, in the Sacred Heart Province, based in St. Louis in 1992 and made his solemn profession as a Franciscan two years later. Since then he has served as a chaplain at Hales Franciscan High School in Chicago and as pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Church in Nashville, Tennessee.

He also served as a choir director and guidance counselor at Althoff Catholic High in Belleville, Ill., while part of a contingent that launched St. Benedict the Black Friary in East St. Louis, an outreach to the poor, African-American community.

Prior to beginning his position at Quincy University in 2011, he was director of campus ministry at Xavier University. In addition to his post at Quincy, he is vicar of Holy Cross Friary, located on the campus.

Bishop-designate Cheri said he organized teams of students from Quincy University to provide annual cleanup and repairs in New Orleans. Last year, 50 students made the mission trip.

Prior to beginning his position at Quincy University in 2011, he was director of campus ministry at Xavier University in New Orleans. In addition to his post at Quincy, he is vicar of Holy Cross Friary, located on the campus.

According to his biography on the NBCC website, he created youth gospel choirs in several places, began the Black Saints Celebrations for the Archdiocese of New Orleans and is convener and facilitator of Go Down Moses Retreats for African American Catholic Young Men.

The New Orleans archdiocese has had no auxiliary bishops since Bishop Shelton J. Fabre was named in 2013 to become bishop of Houma-Thibodaux. Auxiliary Bishop Dominic Carmon retired in 2006.

 

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Florida bishops speak out about state’s same-sex ruling

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MIAMI — A day after a federal judge’s Jan. 5 ruling struck down the state’s ban of same-sex marriage, Miami Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski sent a letter to archdiocesan employees stressing that they need to “understand the church’s position” on this issue.

Along with the letter, which he said he wrote because of “recent decisions by courts in Florida,” the archbishop attached a statement issued by the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops that expressed disappointment with the court’s redefinition of marriage saying it “will have implications not yet fully understood.”

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle of Tallahassee overturning a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage made Florida the 36th state to legalize same-sex marriage.

Archbishop Wenski reminded employees that they “publicly represent the Catholic Church and the archdiocese” in everything they do and say. He also quoted the archdiocesan employee handbook which points out that “certain conduct, inconsistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church, could lead to disciplinary action, including termination, even if it occurs outside the normal working day and outside the strict confines of work performed by the employee.”

The handbook also states, as pointed out in the archbishop’s letter, that “employees should exercise discretion when posting on social media sites, and note that online activity indicative of prohibitive behaviors may subject an employee to disciplinary action or termination.”

In a Jan. 6 column in the Tampa Bay Times, Bishop Robert N. Lynch of St. Petersburg said he wanted to add his voice to “discussion regarding the challenges we in the Catholic Church face as we strive to preserve the traditional sacramental understanding of marriage even as the law now accommodates couples of the same sex.”

He pointed out that the church upholds marriage “as an indissoluble relationship between a man and a woman committed to mutual consolation and open to procreation” and said that understanding is “rooted not only in the church’s long-standing theological understanding of married life, but in the church’s understanding of Christian anthropology.”

The bishop also noted that “together with Pope Francis and in light of the discussions at the recent Extraordinary Synod on the Family held in Rome” that today’s families present the church with pastoral challenges particularly “as the church strives to accept people in the specific circumstances of their lives and support and encourage them in their search for God and their desire to be members of the church.”

He said he did not wish to contribute to “notions which might suggest that same-sex couples are a threat incapable of sharing relationships marked by love and holiness and, thus, incapable of contributing to the edification of both the church and the wider society.”

Bishop Lynch also pointed out that “with patience and humility, our church must continuously strive” to discern a “pastoral response faithful to church teaching and marked by respect and sensitivity” to same-sex couples.

 

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