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WWII, Korea and Vietnam War veterans greeted with hero’s welcome


Catholic News Service


LINTHICUM, Md. — As the orange glow of sunrise breached the horizon at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, waiting travelers watched a Southwest Airlines jet taxi beneath a water cannon salute from the airport’s fire department.

“Good citizens of Maryland, travelers from afar,” announced Fred Taylor, a member of St. Mark Parish in Catonsville and the city of Annapolis town crier. “I bring news of great importance! Now arriving in the airport terminal: Honor Flight Cleveland, carrying veterans from World War II, Korea and Vietnam!” Read more »

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Pope offers prayers for victims of Texas shooting



VATICAN CITY  — Calling the mass shooting in a Texas Baptist church Nov. 5 an “act of senseless violence,” Pope Francis asked the local Catholic archbishop to convey his condolences to the families of the victims and to the injured. Read more »

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U.S. Bishops decry massive shooting at Texas Baptist church



WASHINGTON (CNS) — The U.S. Catholic Church stands “in unity” with the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, and the larger community after a shooting during Sunday services took the lives of at least 26 people and injured at least 20 others.

Those who died ranged in age from 5 to 72 years old, and included 14-year-old Annabelle Pomeroy. Her father, Frank Pomeroy, is pastor of the church but he was not at the service. Read more »

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Priest resigns as consultant to doctrine committee after letter to pope: Updated



WASHINGTON — After publication of his letter to Pope Francis questioning the pontiff’s teachings, Father Thomas Weinandy has resigned from his position as consultant to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine.

The Capuchin Franciscan priest is former executive director of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat of Doctrine and Canonical Affairs, serving in the post from 2005 until 2013. He expressed loyalty to the pope but at the same time told the pope that “a chronic confusion seems to mark your pontificate.” Read more »

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After Harvey, faith fuels Houston fans; World Series is boost city needed



HOUSTON — Baseball bats and rosary beads were the only thing on Tonya Killian’s mind as she walked toward Minute Maid Park for Game 3 of the 2017 World Series.

A longtime Houston Astros fan and parishioner at Mary Queen Catholic Church in Friendswood, Killian was on a mission to buy rosaries custom made for the World Series by members of Annunciation Catholic Church. Read more »

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Exorcism — A ministry of healing


Catholic News Service


Priest regards exorcism as a ministry of healing that helps people possessed by ‘intelligent evil’

Father Gary Thomas has served for the past 12 years in the Diocese of San Jose, Calif., as the priest authorized to perform the rite of exorcism.

The rite is the Catholic Church’s largely hidden and often-misunderstood ministry of healing that Hollywood has transformed into a cash cow of blood, gore and fantasy. Read more »

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New York Al Smith dinner features House Speaker as keynoter, actress as emcee


NEW YORK — “Everyone looks great tonight,” House Speaker Paul Ryan told the crowd of women in ball gowns and men in white tie and tails at the 72nd Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner in New York Oct. 19.

“We feel right at home. This looks just like our dinner parties in Janesville, Wisconsin,” the Republican said in his keynote speech.

House Speaker Paul Ryan delivers remarks at the 72nd Annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner in New York Oct. 19. (CNS photo/Andrew Kelly, Reuters)

“Amazing, I don’t think I’ve seen this many New York liberals and Wall Street CEOs in one room since my last visit to the White House,” the Catholic congressman quipped.

His speech followed the customary tone for the event, which has been a traditional opportunity for speakers to poke good-natured fun at themselves, one another and prominent guests from the worlds of politics, business and philanthropy without inflicting wounds.

Ryan was accompanied by his wife, Janna, at the dinner hosted by New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan.

Actress Patricia Heaton, a Catholic, was the emcee, the first woman to take that role at the august dinner. She stars in the ABC series “The Middle” and also played Raymond’s long-suffering wife in the popular comedy series “Everybody Loves Raymond.” Heaton is well known, too, for her support for pro-life causes.

Others on the 50-seat dais included Mayor Bill de Blasio, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, former Mayors Michael R. Bloomberg and David N. Dinkins, Catholic leaders and other dignitaries. U.S. Democratic Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer of New York could not attend, as they had to be in Washington for votes.

The dinner is named for Alfred E. Smith, a former governor of New York who was raised in poverty. In 1928, he was the first Catholic nominated by a major political party to run for president of the United States.

During a presidential election year, the dinner planners invite the Republican and Democratic nominees for the nation’s highest office to roast one another usually good-naturedly.

At last year’s event with then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his rival, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, the gloves came off and by all accounts was more contentious than in previous years.

The New York Times reported that outside this year’s dinner, about 100 protesters marched past the hotel decrying Trump’s plan for a border wall.

The paper said another 50 people demonstrated against the president’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, and accused Ryan of not supporting continuing the program. A CNN story from September said that Ryan was for Congress trying to keep DACA.

In his dinner remarks, Ryan took some shots at Trump, but the House leader also aimed some jabs at much of Washington officialdom, including fellow members of Congress. He also made a few funny remarks about growing up Catholic and the Catholic Church in general.

“Now I promise you, you can all relax about my remarks,” Ryan said in his speech. “I know last year at this dinner Donald Trump offended some people with his comments which critics said went too far. Some said it was unbecoming of a public figure and that his comments were offensive. … Well, thank God he’s learned his lesson.”

“Everyone will report what happened here tonight differently,” Ryan continued. “Breitbart will lead with ‘Ryan slams the president amongst liberal elites.’ The New York Times will report, ‘Ryan defends the president in a state Hillary won.’ And the president will tweet, ‘300,000 at Al Smith dinner cheer mention of my name.’”

So Ryan said he wanted to give some background facts about himself for those who don’t know him very well. “And they all must be true, you can find them on the internet,” he said.

For starters, “I’m from Wisconsin. It’s a great state to visit in the fall. Looking back, someone should have told Hillary.” Clinton famously skipped the blue state, feeling it was so solidly Democratic, she didn’t need to campaign there. But she lost the state in last year’s election.

“Speaking of which, I got Hillary’s new book,” Ryan continued. “This sums up today’s politics perfectly. She took eight months, writing 10 hours a day, to explain what happened in 512 pages. The president explained it in a tweet, ‘Hashtag, I won.’”

Citing another fact, he said, “I once drove the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile, which meant people were constantly laughing at me. It was the perfect preparation for being in Congress.”

“I am proud member of the church,” Ryan remarked. “You know, the Catholic Church actually has a lot in common with Washington, D.C. Either place it takes about seven years for someone to get confirmed.”

He also said that the only difference “between a Catholic Mass and a filibuster is that one ends with a sip of wine and the other ends with an entire bottle.”

He noted that at Trump’s inauguration Jan. 20, Cardinal Dolan gave the benediction and recited a prayer from the Book of Wisdom, “a book no one in Washington is familiar with.”

“Actually, there was just this one awkward moment — when the cardinal talked about the infallible almighty Supreme Being, the president stood up and took a bow … both presidents actually,” Ryan laughed, referring to Trump and former President Barack Obama.

Ryan ended his speech on a serious note, calling the evening “a magnificent event, and a much needed one, one needed now more than ever.”

“It is an opportunity for all of us to come together in support of a truly righteous mission — to bring hope to the neediest children of the Archdiocese of New York,” Ryan said. Earlier that day, he said, Cardinal Dolan had taken him to the Foundling Hospital, “where they are just doing incredible work to help underserved families rebuild their lives, to reclaim a greater sense of dignity and purpose.”

“We can achieve so much when we tackle poverty eye to eye, and soul to soul. As Catholics, we call this solidarity and subsidiarity,” he said.

He urged the audience to think of “our fellow citizens beyond these (New York) boroughs who are hurting tonight,” referring to the victims of hurricanes in Texas and Puerto Rico and of wildfires in California.

“So much has been taken, but not our spirit. Not our resilience. Not our faith,” he said.

“In these moments when people are suddenly isolated and separated from everything they know, it is those unspoken bonds between us — that common humanity — which brings us together and lifts us up,” Ryan said. “A lot of people are hurting tonight. Please keep them in your prayers. May they, in the fullness of time, find comfort and renewal.”

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Brown vetoes California bill that targeted religious employers’ policies


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


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



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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