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Brown vetoes California bill that targeted religious employers’ policies

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Religious freedom advocates and pro-life leaders praised California Gov. Jerry Brown for vetoing a bill called the Reproductive Health Nondiscrimination Act that targeted religious employers and their faith-based codes of conduct for employees.

Pro-life groups are praising California California Gov. Jerry Brown for vetoing a bill that would prohibited religious employers from living out “their beliefs within their own organizations.” (CNS photo/Mike Nelson, EPA)

Assembly Bill 569 would have made it illegal for a California employer to discipline or fire employees for “their reproductive health decisions, including, but not limited to, the timing thereof, or the use of any drug, device or medical service.”

Alliance Defending Freedom said the bill would have prohibited churches, religious colleges, religious nonprofit organizations and pro-life pregnancy care centers “from having faith-based codes of conduct with regard to abortion and sexual behavior.”

The government “should not and cannot tell” employers that they cannot live out their beliefs within their own organizations, said Elissa Graves, legal counsel for the alliance, which is a nonprofit legal group that advocates for religious freedom and sanctity of life and on marriage and family issues.

“Gov. Brown was right to veto this immensely unconstitutional bill, which would have been an unprecedented overreach on the part of the state of California,” she added in a statement about the governor’s late-night action Oct. 15.

“The First Amendment doesn’t allow the state to order churches and other faith-based groups to violate their most deeply held convictions,” Graves said. “They have the freedom to live according to their faith and to require those who work for them to do the same.”

The California Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state’s Catholic bishops, called the measure “a massive overreach by NARAL” and an attack on religious liberty. NARAL Pro-Choice America advocates for legal abortion and for expanding access to it.

After A.B. 569 was passed by the California Legislature as its 2017 session ended Sept. 18, the Catholic conference urged Catholics to send a message to Brown calling for him to veto it.

It said the bill “deliberately” targeted religious employers “in a false effort to stop widespread ‘reproductive discrimination’ but supporters cannot cite a single case in California where such discrimination has actually occurred.”

“There are no substantiated claims of discrimination in the secular workforce against women who are pregnant or exercise ‘reproductive choices’ because such actions have been illegal for decades under the Fair Employment and Housing Act,” the conference said.

It noted the bill’s supporters could only point to one case in the state in the last decade “implicating a religious employer” and “that matter was settled out of court.”

“In a reach unknown in any other legal system, supporters (of A.B. 569) have expanded those who can allege discrimination in court to include anyone in the employee’s family and holds supervisors personally and legally responsible for enforcing the policy of employers,” the conference said.

“With no restraint in sight,” the conference said, the bill did not allow employers to enforce codes of conduct, “even those negotiated with employees as part of union contracts.”

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Cross honoring soldiers who died in World War I deemed unconstitutional

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WASHINGTON — A 40-foot-tall cross memorializing soldiers who died in World War I that sits at a busy intersection in the Washington suburb of Bladensburg, Md., is unconstitutional, a federal appeals court ruled Oct. 18.

The monument “has the primary effect of endorsing religion and excessively entangles the government in religion,” said a 2-1 ruling from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals based in Richmond, Virginia.

The case was heard by a three-judge panel made up of Chief Judge Roger L. Gregory and Judges Stephanie D. Thacker and James A. Wynn Jr. Gregory, who dissented, said the government is not required by the First Amendment to “purge from the public sphere any reference to religion.”

A cross-shaped monument, a landmark in Bladensburg, Md., constructed in 1925 as a memorial to 49 Prince George’s County men lost in World War I, is pictured in this Oct. 19 photo. On Oct. 18 a federal appeals court declared the 40-foot-tall memorial unconstitutional in a 2-1 ruling that said the thousands of dollars in public funds for maintenance “has the primary effect of endorsing religion and excessively entangles the government in religion.” (CNS photo/Chaz Muth)

The First Liberty Institute said the decision “sets dangerous precedent by completely ignoring history.” The group, which supports religious freedom, represented the American Legion, the defendant in the case, and plans to appeal.

The ruling “threatens removal and destruction of veterans memorials across America,” Hiram Sasser, First Liberty’s deputy chief counsel, said in a statement.

Known as the Bladensburg Cross or the Peace Cross, the cement and marble memorial was erected by the Snyder-Farmer Post of the American Legion of Hyattsville, Maryland, to recall the 49 men of Prince George’s County who died in World War I. The cross, whose construction was funded by local families, was dedicated July 13, 1925.

The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission acquired the memorial from the American Legion in 1961. It is located at Maryland Route 450 and U.S. Route 1. The Washington Post reported that the state agency has spent about $117,000 to maintain and repair the memorial and has earmarked $100,000 for renovations.

The American Humanist Association, a Washington-based group that represents atheists and others, filed suit against the memorial because it is in the shape of a cross. It argued that having a religious symbol on government property violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment.

A District Court judge in 2015 said the cross did not have to be removed from public land, saying that although its Latin cross design “is undeniably a religious symbol,” it is “not a governmental endorsement of religion.”

Writing the majority opinion, the 4th Circuit’s Thacker said the lower court determined that a cross memorial maintained by local government and located on public property “does not run afoul of the Establishment Clause because the cross has a secular purpose … neither advances nor inhibits religion and it does not have the primary effect of endorsing religion. We disagree.”

“The Latin cross is the core symbol of Christianity,” the judge said. “And here it is 40 feet tall, prominently displayed in the center of one of the busiest intersections in Prince George’s County Maryland; and maintained with thousands of dollars in government funds. Therefore, we hold that the purported war memorial breaches ‘the wall of separation between church and state.”

In his dissent, Gregory said the Peace Cross “has always served as a war memorial, has been adorned with secular elements for its entire history,” and added that sits near other memorials in Veterans Memorial Park. “(Its) predominant use has been for Memorial Day celebrations,” he wrote.

The fact that in the memorial’s 90-year existence and 50-year government ownership, there has been no litigation until now “is a strong indication that the reasonable observers perceived its secular message,” he said.

A bronze tablet at the base of the monument quotes President Woodrow Wilson: “The right is more precious than the peace; we shall fight for the things we have always carried nearest our hearts; to such a task we dedicate ourselves.” Also at the base are the words, “Valor, Endurance, Courage, Devotion.” At the center of the cross is a gold star.

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U.S. bishops back extension of protected migrant status

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WASHINGTON — The head of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Migration said some migrants from Honduras and El Salvador cannot safely return to their home countries in the near future and should have a special immigration permit extended. Read more »

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Pope names Bishop Siegel to lead Evansville diocese

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Pope Francis named Auxiliary Bishop Joseph M. Siegel of Joliet, Ill., to head the Diocese of Evansville, Ind.

He succeeds Archbishop Charles C. Thompson, who was appointed in June to lead the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

Auxiliary Bishop Joseph M. Siegel of Joliet, Ill., has been named by Pope Francis to head the Diocese of Evansville, Ind. He is pictured celebrating Mass at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome in this 2012 file photo. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The appointment was announced in Washington Oct. 18 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Bishop Siegel, 54, has been vicar general of the Joliet diocese since 2011. He will be installed as the sixth bishop of Evansville Dec. 15.

“Over the past six years, I have come to appreciate Bishop Siegel’s many gifts and talents,” Joliet Bishop R. Daniel Conlon said in a statement. “It has been a blessing to work with him.

“He has been a great asset to the Church of Joliet, both as a priest and a bishop,” said. “I am confident that he will prove to be an effective and loving pastor in Evansville. May God bless him and the people he has been called to serve.”

Born July 18, 1963, in Lockport Township, Ill., Bishop Siegel is the youngest of nine children. He attended Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University and the Pontifical University of St. Thomas, also known as the Angelicum. He received his license in systematic theology at the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, Ill.

He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Joliet in 1988 and served in parishes before being named an auxiliary bishop for the diocese by Pope Benedict XVI Oct. 28, 2009. He was ordained a bishop Jan. 19, 2010, by then-Bishop J. Peter Sartain of Joliet, who is now Seattle’s archbishop.

Bishop Siegel has served as a member and chairman of the priests’ council and was appointed to the diocesan board of consultors. He also served as director of continuing formation for priests and as a member of the diocesan vocation board and the priest personnel board.

At the Catholic Conference of Illinois, the public policy arm of the state’s Catholic bishops, he served on the Executive Committee and was chairman of the Catholics for Life Department. He chaired the steering committee for the Joliet diocesan Year of the Eucharist and eucharistic congress and has been a member of the Bishops’ Respect Life Advisory Board. He is a fourth-degree Knight of Columbus and a member of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre.

The Diocese of Evansville covers more than 5,000 square miles. It has a total population of about 513,000; Catholics number more than 76,200, or 15 percent of the population.

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Saint of the Week: John Paul II

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Saint John Paul II

Feast Day: October 22

When this popular pope died in 2005, crowds in St. Peter’s Square chanted “santo subito” (“sainthood now”).

Pope John Paul II(CNS photo/Joe Rimkus Jr.)

The Vatican heard, and the sainthood cause for the jet-setting pontiff who helped bring down European communism was put on the fast track; he was beatified in 2011 and canonized in 2014.

A Pole and former actor shaped by World War II and the Cold War, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla of Krakow was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years.

In his 26-year pontificate, he evangelized on trips to 129 countries, upheld traditional church doctrine against dissent, connected with the world’s youth, and named more than 450 new saints.

He also modeled Christian values by forgiving his would-be assassin and living an increasingly frail old age in public.

His feast is celebrated on the anniversary of his papal inauguration, Oct. 22, rather than the traditional date of death which is used for most saints.

 

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Saint of the Day: Isaac Jogues

October 19th, 2017 Posted in Catechetical Corner Tags:

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Isaac Jogues

Feast Day: October 19

Born in Orleans, France, Isaac joined the Jesuits at a young age and was sent to his order’s North American mission in 1636.

St. Isaac Jogues (Wikimedia Commons)

He and Rene Goupil were captured and tortured by a band of Iroquois in 1642.

Rene was killed and Isaac was held as a slave until his rescue by Dutch settlers.

He returned to France, secured permission to continue saying Mass despite mutilated hands, and returned to Canada in 1644.

He and John Lalande were tomahawked and beheaded by Huron Indians who invited them to a meal.

These three and five others, the North American martyrs, are patron saints of Canada and North America.

They share this feast and shrines in New York State and Ontario, Canada.

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Saint of the Day: St. Luke

October 18th, 2017 Posted in Catechetical Corner Tags:

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St. Luke

Feast Day: October 18

Early historians said this author of the third Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles was born to a pagan family in Antioch

“St. Luke Painting the Madonna,” by Jan Gossaert (Wikimedia Commons)

(Turkey) and converted to Christianity.

According to Paul’s letters and Acts, he was a doctor and Paul’s companion during his later journeys and imprisonment in Rome.

Luke’s New Testament writings in Greek were for gentiles, extending to them the salvation promised to Israel.

He is the patron of physicians and surgeons and, because of a legend that he painted a Marian icon, of painters.

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Senate confirms Callista Gingrich as U.S. ambassador to the Holy See

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WASHINGTON — The Senate confirmed Callista Gingrich as the new U.S. ambassador to the Holy See.

Voting late Oct. 16, senators approved her nomination 70-23. More than 20 Democrats joined Republicans in supporting Gingrich, the wife of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a vocal ally of President Donald Trump.

Callista Gingrich testifies during a U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing in Washington July 18 after being nominated by President Donald Trump to be the U.S. ambassador to the Vatican. The U.S. Senate Oct. 16 voted to confirm Gingrich, wife of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. (CNS photo/Jonathan Ernst, Reuters)

Gingrich, 51, a lifelong Catholic and a former congressional aide, has been president of Gingrich Productions, a multimedia production and consulting company in Arlington, Virginia, since 2007.

She was expected to present her credentials at the Vatican in the coming weeks.

Gingrich’s associates welcomed the vote. Among them was Msgr. Walter R. Rossi, rector of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, where Gingrich has been a longtime member of the choir.

“Callista has been part of our shrine family for two decades and so, as any family rejoices when good news arrives, we rejoice with Callista,” Msgr. Rossi said in an Oct. 17 statement. “Both Callista and Speaker Gingrich are wonderful supporters of our ministry here at Mary’s shrine, most especially our music program.

“More importantly, Callista has a great love for the church and our country,” he added. “Her faith is an integral part of her life and I am confident that her faith will be her solid foundation as she enters a new service to church and nation.”

The Bethlehem University Foundation wished Gingrich “great success in her new role.” The Gingrichs have been foundation patrons, serving as advisers to its executive director and donors.

During her confirmation hearing July 18, Gingrich emphasized her desire to work with the Vatican to protect religious freedom and human rights, fight terrorism and human trafficking, and seek peaceful solutions to international crises.

Gingrich also explained under sharp questioning that the U.S. wanted to be a leader in addressing environmental issues despite initiating efforts to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. She said the White House was committed to sustaining “our clean air and our clean water.”

“We are all called to be stewards of the land,” she said, echoing a theme expressed by Pope Francis.

In 2010, Gingrich’s company released the film “Nine Days That Changed the World” about St. John Paul II’s nine-day pilgrimage to Poland in 1979 and how it played a part in the fall of communism in Europe. She also has written the “Ellis the Elephant” children’s American history series and co-authored “Rediscovering God in America.”

Gingrich graduated from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, in 1988, majoring in music, a passion that has remained with her throughout life. She served as a congressional aide for more than 30 years.

She is the third woman to serve as ambassador to the Holy See after Lindy Boggs, who held the post from 1997 to 2001, and Mary Ann Glendon, who served in 2008-2009. Gingrich succeeds Ambassador Ken Hackett, who retired in January.

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Saint of the Day: Ignatius of Antioch

October 17th, 2017 Posted in Catechetical Corner Tags:

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St. Ignatius of Antioch

Feast Day: October 17

This Syrian-born martyr, who gave himself the nickname “God-bearer” because of his certainty of God’s presence within him and who may have been a disciple of St. John the Evangelist, became bishop of Antioch about 69.

St. Ignatius of Antioch (CNS)

Eventually he was arrested and sent to Rome, where his strong desire for martyrdom was fulfilled when he was thrown to the lions in the Colosseum.

In seven letters written to Christians in Asia Minor and Rome, he stressed the need to heal church conflicts, the authority of local bishops and the Eucharist as a source of unity.

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Saint of the Day: Hedwig of Silesia

October 16th, 2017 Posted in Catechetical Corner Tags:

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St. Hedwig of Silesia

Feast Day: October 16

A laywoman from Bavaria, in southern Germany, Hedwig married the duke of Silesia, in southern Poland.

Henry I encouraged his wife’s numerous charitable activities, one of which was founding an abbey of Cistercian nuns at Trzebnica.

The couple vowed to live chastely after their seventh child was born in 1209.

When Henry died in 1238, Hedwig moved to the abbey, where her daughter Gertrude was abbess, but without becoming a nun.

She used her fortune to aid the poor and suffering nearby, and is remembered for increasing German influence in Silesia.

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