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Bishop Burbidge: The pandemic is our ‘Pentecost moment’

CNA Staff, Sep 20, 2020 / 04:12 pm (CNA).- In a pastoral letter this past week, Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia said the coronavirus pandemic has prompted advances in sharing the Gospel message digitally, leading the Church to a “21st century Pentecost moment.”

“God is with us. This is the message of hope that we want to shout from the rooftops, that we want to beam over the airwaves, that we want to put on the front page of our publications and post on our social media accounts. Emmanuel: God is with us,” Burbidge wrote Sept. 15, in a letter entitled, "In Tongues, All Can Hear."

“The trauma of the pandemic, as well as the economic upheaval that has followed, has been and continues to be an opportunity for the Church to seize the moment...The Spirit has and will continue to enable the Church, even in a time of lockdown and isolation, to help us overcome our feelings of fear, loneliness, and vulnerability by reminding us that God is with us, always.”

The current pandemic, which has led to physical separation between people, in some ways mirrors the situation in which many of the first Christians found themselves, he said.

“Christians were apart in the distant communities of the first century, in isolation as prisoners for the faith locked away in cells and awaiting execution, or in remote communities far from a priest or the sacraments for extended periods of time,” he noted.

Despite this, the Christian community at the time remained spiritually close through communication and prayers for one another. In the same way, Catholics have found creative ways to communicate during the current pandemic— particularly through digital means such as livestreaming and social media— and to remain spiritually close, the bishop said.

“At a time when many felt alone, the gifts of the Church were made available to them in new ways,” he said, mentioning the many creative ways priests have managed to bring the sacraments— including the Eucharist, Confession, and Anointing of the Sick— to people during the pandemic.

The first followers of Christ communicated by deeds, Burbidge said, setting an example with their joy, sincerity, and their treatment of one another. They also proclaimed the Gospel with words, inviting people to join them and challenging the authorities to change their behavior.

The bishop pointed particularly to the example of St. Paul, who traveled relentlessly, preaching to Jewish and Gentile communities, debating Athens’ worldly philosophers, and addressing Roman authorities.

When authorities threatened the apostles, ordering them to cease preaching in public about the Good News of the Lord, Sts. Peter and John replied: “It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20).

The manner of fulfilling the Great Commission has evolved over the years, Burbidge noted, but the mandate itself, to proclaim the Kingdom, has never changed.

Despite advances in mass communication over the years, the proclamation of the Gospel remained, essentially, “the few talking to the many.” With the advent of the digital revolution, Burbidge said, the Church saw both risks and opportunities in the internet, social media, and the like, which can allow for evangelization but also bullying and manipulation.

Digital communication “appeals to the best and worst of human nature,” he said.

“The Church recognized that special effort would be necessary by all her members to use these tools effectively and wisely, so that true and accurate information would not get lost in a sea of misinformation and opinion,” he said.

“This is a critical time for the Church, beset as she is by many of the same stresses that are affecting secular institutions. Yet it is important that the Church maintain and develop the capacity to tell her story.”

This “21st century Pentecost moment” brought on by the pandemic, Burbidge said, has underscored the need for good communication in the Church across all forms of media, in order to invite people into the fullness of the Gospel.

“New forms of media cannot be the only tools we use,” he clarified. “The Church has communicated and evangelized over the centuries, using all available means to mobilize and inspire, to inform and explain. Some tools are good for mobilizing people. Other tools are good for informing, forming, and educating at greater depth, teaching Catholics to see the world through eyes of faith.”

“The Good News of the Gospel will set us free, but it is not to be marketed like a consumer product or adapted without thought to the razzle-dazzle of new technologies,” he said. “It is not propaganda. It is not spin. While the Church embraces new means of communication, she must not be enslaved by trends nor edit her message to be more popular or fashionable.”





Archbishop Cordileone: San Francisco Mass restrictions ‘mocking God’

CNA Staff, Sep 20, 2020 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- Catholics in San Francisco marched in Eucharistic processions across the city on Sunday to protest the city’s continued restrictions on public worship.

“For months I have pleaded with the City on your behalf, advocating for your need of the consolation of the Mass, and the consolation you derive from the practice of your faith and connection with your faith community. City Hall ignored us,” Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone said in his homily at an outdoor Mass following the processions Sept. 20.

“It has become clear to me that they just don’t care about you...We have been patiently putting up with unjust treatment long enough, and now it is time to come together to witness to our faith and to the primacy of God, and tell City Hall: No More!”

San Francisco’s restrictions on public worship remain among the strictest in the country. Mayor London Breed announced last week that starting Sept. 14, houses of worship may have 50 people at religious services outdoors. In addition, indoor private prayer is allowed, but only one person at a time is allowed inside.

Breed also said the city will allow indoor services up to a maximum of 25 people by Oct. 1. This is, Cordileone has noted, less than 1% of the capacity of San Francisco’s cathedral.

Previously, the limit for outdoor services had been 12 people, with all indoor services prohibited. The archdiocese covers the city and county of San Francisco— where the cathedral is located— as well as San Mateo and Marin counties.

In contrast, hotels in San Francisco are fully reopened; indoor gyms are set to reopen at 10% capacity; and most retail stores are allowed to operate at 50% capacity, while malls are restricted to 25%. Gyms operated in government buildings for police officers and other government employees have already reopened.

In addition, Archbishop Cordileone has noted, businesses requiring extended, close one-on-one contact reopened Sept. 14, such as hair salons, nail salons and massage parlors, but “we are allowed only one person in church at a time for prayer.”

“One person at a time in this great Cathedral to pray? What an insult. This is a mockery. They are mocking you, and even worse, they are mocking God,” Cordileone said.

Three separate Eucharistic processions Sept. 20 began at St. Anthony, St. Patrick, and Star of the Sea parishes, and converged at United Nations Plaza near San Francisco City Hall before proceeding to the cathedral.

The archdiocese ordered banners for parishioners to carry during the processions; 100 in English, 15 in Spanish, and 5 in Chinese that read: “We Are Essential: Free the Mass!”

At the 11 am Mass celebrated by Archbishop Cordileone, and additional Masses celebrated simultaneously in the cathedral plaza, all 900 spaces prepared for the outdoor Masses were filled, with additional people lining the sidewalks. An archdiocesan spokesperson told CNA that she estimated about 1,500 people were in attendance.

Cordileone said his time as a pastor at a rural, desert parish near the US-Mexico border taught him that caring for the rejected and the downtrodden in society, in this case undocumented immigrants, is an essential part of the Church’s mission.

”The highest law is love of God and love of neighbor, and that law has to take precedence over the human-made law of the state when government would ask us to turn our backs on God or our neighbor in need,” he noted.

“Now in San Francisco, all of us here are being put at the end of the line.  No matter how rich or poor, no matter whether newly arrived or from families that have been here for many generations, it is our Catholic faith that unites us, and it is because of our Catholic faith that we are being put at the end of the line.”

Priests at many parishes around the archdiocese, including the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption, are celebrating multiple Masses every Sunday— outside, and spaced out— in order to adapt to the restrictions.

Outdoor Masses pose their own health challenges, as the Bay Area is experiencing some of the worst air quality in the world, due to smoke and other pollutants coming from wildfires ravaging the West Coast.

While Cordileone has said city officials have been “cordial and respectful” in their dialogue with the archdiocese, he said the city still has not responded to the archdiocese’s safety plan— outlining how churches could be safely opened for indoor services— which they submitted in May.

Becket, a religious liberty law firm, has a page tracking restrictions on public worship related to the pandemic. By their estimation, six states— California, Nevada, Virginia, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Maine— are treating religious activities unequally as compared to similar secular activities.

The City of San Francisco has been closely monitoring Catholic churches in the city and has repeatedly issued warnings to the archdiocese for apparent health order violations

Cordileone said he himself has noted “very few” violations of the city’s health orders by parishes in the archdiocese, although the few that have occurred have garnered heavy criticism in the secular press.

“This willful discrimination is affecting us all. Yes, discrimination, because there is no other word for it,” Cordileone said. 

“We ask: why can people shop at Nordstrom’s at 25% capacity but only one of you at a time is allowed to pray inside of this great Cathedral, your Cathedral?  Is this equality?  No, there is no reason for this new rule except a desire to put Catholics – to put you – at the back of the line.”

Cordileone encouraged Catholics to continue to pray, suggesting the rosary, Eucharistic Adoration, fasting on Fridays, and availing themselves of the sacrament of confession.

In advocating for a safe reopening of indoor Masses, Cordileone has cited a recent article on Mass attendance and COVID-19, authored Aug. 19 by doctors Thomas McGovern, Deacon Timothy Flanigan, and Paul Cieslak for Real Clear Science.

By following public health guidelines, Catholic Churches have largely avoided viral spread during the more than 1 million Masses that have been celebrated across the United States since the lifting of shelter-in-place orders, the doctors found.

They said in their article that there is no evidence that church services are higher risk than similar activities when guidelines are followed, and no coronavirus outbreaks have not yet been linked to the celebration of the Mass.

Even while protesting the city’s apparent unequal application of health restrictions, the archbishop has encouraged his priests to lead their parishes in following the city’s guidelines.

Many of San Francisco’s problems, from homelessness to drugs to crime, stem from an abandonment of God, he said.

“Our blessed Lord is openly mocked to the gleeful grins of the cultural elites. The sacred symbol of the religious habit is blasphemed with glowing approval of those who profess mutual respect and tolerance for others who are different, while they openly discriminate against us.”

“In fighting for justice, we fight for the glory of God. And so I am calling on every Catholic in this City, and this country, to continue to exercise responsible citizenship, to abide by reasonable public health rules, and to continue to serve our community, despite the mockery to which we are being subject in so many different ways. This is God’s way, and this is how I see Catholics serving Our Lord.”

Everything is unmerited grace, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Sep 20, 2020 / 06:35 am (CNA).- God’s grace is not something we deserve, but he gives it to us anyway, Pope Francis said Sunday during his weekly Angelus address.

God’s “action is more than just, in the sense that it goes beyond justice and manifests itself in grace,” the pope said Sept. 20. “Everything is grace. Our salvation is grace. Our holiness is grace. By giving us grace, he gives us more than we deserve.”

Speaking from a window of the apostolic palace, Pope Francis told those gathered in St. Peter’s Square that “God always pays the maximum.”

“He does not remain in half payment. He pays everything,” he stated.

In his message, the pope reflected on the day’s Gospel reading from St. Matthew, in which Jesus tells the parable of the landowner who hires laborers to work in his vineyard.

The master hires laborers at different hours, but at the end of the day, he pays each of them the same wage, upsetting those who started working first, Francis explained.

“And here,” the pope said, “we understand that Jesus is not talking about work and just wages, which is another problem, but about the Kingdom of God and the goodness of the heavenly Father who continually comes out to invite and pays the maximum to everyone.”

In the parable, the landowner tells the unhappy laborers: “Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?”

Finishing the parable, Jesus told his disciples: “Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Pope Francis explained that “whoever reasons with human logic, that is, that of merits acquired with one’s skill, is the first to find himself last.”

He pointed to the example of the Good Thief, one of the criminals crucified next to Jesus, who converted on the cross.

The Good Thief “‘stole’ heaven at the last moment of his life: this is grace, thus acts God. Even with all of us,” Francis said.

“On the other hand, those who try to think about their own merits fail; whoever humbly entrusts himself to the Father’s mercy, ultimately -- like the Good Thief -- finds himself first,” he said.

“May Mary Most Holy help us feel every day the joy and amazement of being called by God to work for him, in his field which is the world, in his vineyard which is the Church. And to have his love, the friendship of Jesus, as the only reward,” he prayed.

The pope said another lesson the parable teaches is the master’s attitude toward the call.

The landowner goes out five times to the square to call people to work for him. This image of an owner going out to look for workers for his vineyard “is touching,” he noted.

He explained that the “master represents God who calls everyone and always calls, at any time. God acts like this today too: he continues to call anyone, at any time, to invite them to work in his Kingdom.”

And Catholics are called to accept and imitate this, he emphasized. God is constantly searching for us “because he wants no one to be excluded from his design of love.”

This is what the Church must do, he said, “always going out; and when the Church is not going out, she falls ill with so many evils that we have in the Church.”

“And why these diseases in the Church? Because it is not going out. It is true that when one goes out there is the danger of an accident. But it is better a damaged Church going out, to proclaim the Gospel, than a Church sick from closure,” he added.

“God always goes out, because he is Father, because he loves. The Church must do the same: always going out.”


Report: Chinese government imprisoning more priests, bishops 

CNA Staff, Sep 19, 2020 / 04:56 pm (CNA).- The Chinese government continues to imprison Catholic clergy - including bishops - who refuse to support the Communist Party, according to a new report out of the province of Jiangxi.

According to UCA News, priests in the Diocese of Yujiang who refuse to join the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association have been placed under house arrest as of September 1. These priests have been forbidden from “engaging in any religious activity in the capacity of clergy” as part of their punishment.

For decades, the Church in China had been split between the “underground” Church, in full communion with Rome, and the state-run Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA), which was not. The communist government appointed bishops for the CPCA.

In September 2018, news was released of a provisional agreement between Beijing and Vatican officials, intended to unify the underground Church and the CPCA. While the terms of the agreement have been kept confidential, it reportedly allows the CPCA to choose a slate of nominees for bishop, from which the pope would then select in making his appointment.

Following that agreement, previously underground clergy were encouraged to join the state church, which involves affirming Communist Party authority over ecclesial affairs. Many underground clergy have refused to do so, citing doctrinal conflicts between Church teaching and CPCA rules. The Vatican has recognized that some clergy may choose not to join the CPCA for reasons of conscience.

The clergy under house arrest reportedly include Bishop Lu Xinping of the Diocese of Nanking, who has been forbidden from celebrating Mass. Bishop Xinping has been recognized by the Vatican, but was consecrated as a bishop of the CPCA.

The news of priests under house arrests comes as the original Vatican-China deal is set to expire. The deal, which was signed in September 2018, expires next month. It is expected to be renewed.

Since the signing of the China deal, many priests have reported harassment from civil authorities as they have refused to join the CPCA. There have been scores of reports of the Chinese Communist Party tearing down churches for dubious reasons, such as permitting issues.

Persecution has been particularly intense in the province of Jiangxi. There, the Public Safety Bureau and the United Front Work Department informed clergy that unless they joined the CPCA, they would not be permitted to preach.

Additionally, the Chinese Communist Party attempted to re-write the 10 Commandments to better reflect communist principles, and is working on a rewrite of the Bible.

Elsewhere in China, a priest has been kidnapped for over two weeks due to his refusal to join the CPCA.

According to AsiaNews, Fr. Liu Maochun of the Diocese of Mindong has been held by the Religious Affairs Bureau for 17 days. The Diocese of Mindong is located in the Fujian Province.
Fr. Liu is not recognized as an official member of the clergy as he belongs to the “underground” Church.

Per AsiaNews, Liu’s whereabouts have been unknown since September 1, after he was taken by the Religious Affairs Bureau following a pastoral visit to a hospital.

Judge Amy Barrett's charismatic Catholicism- Who are the People of Praise?

Washington D.C., Sep 19, 2020 / 03:00 pm (CNA).-  

After the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, reports have circulated that Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a federal judge on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, is a leading candidate for the country’s high court.

Barrett, a Catholic, was appointed a federal judge in 2017. During and after her confirmation process, questions were raised about her faith, and about her affiliation with a group called the “People of Praise,” a charismatic “covenant community.”

People of Praise has been referred to in the media as a “cult,” and criticized for a practice, which has since been changed, that called leaders “heads” and “handmaidens,” both of which are references to Scripture.

But what is the “People of Praise?” Is it a cult? CNA spoke with current and former members to find out.

Bishop Peter Smith is a member of the Brotherhood of the People of Praise, an association of priests connected to the group, founded with the support of the late Cardinal Francis George of Chicago. Smith was ordained a bishop on April 29, 2014.

People of Praise was founded in 1971 as part of the era's “great emergence of lay ministries and lay movements in the Catholic Church,” Smith told CNA.

The group began with 29 members who formed a “covenant”- an agreement, not an oath, to follow common principles, to give five percent of annual income to the group, and to meet regularly for spiritual, social, and service projects.

Covenant communities- Protestant and Catholic- emerged across the country in the 1970s, as a part of the Charismatic Renewal movement in American Christianity.

While most People of Praise members are Catholic, the group is officially ecumenical; people from a variety of Christian denominations can join. Members of the group are free to attend the church of their choosing, including different Catholic parishes, Smith explained.

“We're a lay movement in the Church,” Smith explained. “There are plenty of these. We continue to try and live out life and our calling as Catholics, as baptized Christians, in this particular way, as other people do in other callings or ways that God may lead them into the Church."

Cardinal George, who was widely reputed among bishops for orthodoxy, wrote of the group: “In my acquaintance with the People of Praise, I have found men and women dedicated to God and eager to seek and do His divine will. They are shaped by love of Holy Scripture, prayer and community; and the Church’s mission is richer for their presence.”

The group was tapped to assist with the formation of deacons in at least one diocese, and several members have been ordained deacons.

While Barrett is known for her judicial conservatism, particularly on life issues, the group is not partisan. A person’s political viewpoints do not play a role in membership, Smith told CNA.

“I know for a fact there are both registered Republicans and Democrats as well as independents in the People of Praise,” said Smith.

There are an estimated 2,000 adult members of People of Praise. The organization has priest members in two dioceses, and operates three schools in the United States.

Barrett’s Catholic faith came under scrutiny in 2017, when she was nominated for the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. During a confirmation hearing, she was asked by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) if she was an “orthodox Catholic” who believed in the Church’s teachings. Feinstein also said that “the dogma lives loudly” in Barrett- that phrase has become which a rallying cry of sorts among many Catholics. #DogmaLivesLoudly has even become a popular hashtag.

Some former members of the People of Praise allege that leaders have exerted undue influence over family decision-making, or pressured the children of members to commit to the group before being able to make that decisions with maturity.

One critic, philosopher Adrian Reimers, has written that the group has made “serious errors” in its theological approach.

People of Praise does not publicy disclose its membership, and declined CNA's request for comment.

Acknowledging the criticisms the group has faced, a former member of People of Praise told CNA that “the rank and file People of Praise members are very, very good people, wholeheartedly dedicated to the Lord,” he said.

Bishop Smith rejected the idea that there is anything out of the ordinary or inappropriate about People of Praise. If affiliation with the group were something to be concerned about, he said, he would not have been made a bishop.

“When one becomes a bishop, they check your background out very, very closely,” Smith said. “My People of Praise affiliation was very clear in my consideration for appointment as bishop, so the Holy Father Pope Francis appointed me bishop, knowing full well my involvement with People of Praise.”

“If this was a nefarious group, I certainly wouldn't be part of it, and I certainly wouldn't be in the position that I’m in as well."


A version of this story was first published in July 2018, when Barrett was first on the shortlist for a Supreme Court seat. It has since been updated.


'Dogma lives loudly in you' - Amy Coney Barrett's 2017 confirmation hearing

Washington D.C., Sep 19, 2020 / 02:25 pm (CNA).- Federal Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a Catholic mother of seven, is on President Donald Trump’s shortlist for a Supreme Court nominee, as the president makes plans to replace on the court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Friday evening.

Barrett was appointed a judge on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017. In her confirmation hearing, the judge faced hostile questions about her Catholic faith, prompting outrage and frustration among some Catholic leaders.

The nominee appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee Sept. 6, 2017.

Questions from some Democratic senators focused on how Barrett’s Catholic faith might influence her decisions in cases involving abortion and same-sex marriage.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), ranking member of the committee, told Barrett directly that her Catholic beliefs were concerning, as they might influence her judicial decisions on abortion.


WATCH: Sen. Feinstein to appeals court nominee Amy Barrett, @NotreDame law prof/#Catholic mother of 7: "The dogma lives loudly within you."

— Jason Calvi (@JasonCalvi) September 6, 2017  

“Why is it that so many of us on this side have this very uncomfortable feeling that dogma and law are two different things, and I think whatever a religion is, it has its own dogma. The law is totally different,” Feinstein said.

“And I think in your case, professor, when you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you. And that’s of concern.”

Before making that point, Feinstein praised Barrett personally, saying the nominee was “amazing to have seven children and do what you do.”

The senator pivoted quickly, however, to characterizing Barrett as a “controversial” nominee, “because you have a long history of believing that your religious beliefs should prevail” over the law.

“You’re controversial because many of us that have lived our lives as women really recognize the value of finally being able to control our reproductive systems,” she said. “And Roe entered into that, obviously.”

Barrett insisted that as a judge, she would honor binding precedents, and would not let her religious beliefs inappropriately alter her judicial decisions.

In the same hearing, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) grilled Barrett over her use of the term “orthodox Catholic” in an article she had co-authored as a law student. Durbin took umbrage with the term, and suggested that Barrett did not think persons who dissent from Church teaching on marriage to be truly Catholic.

“I’m a product of 19 years of Catholic education. And every once in a while, Holy Mother the Church has not agreed with a vote of mine. And has let me know,” Durbin told Barrett. “You use a term in that article – or you both use a term in that article -- I’d never seen before. You refer to ‘orthodox Catholics.’ What’s an orthodox Catholic?”

Barrett pointed to a footnote in the article that admitted it was “an imperfect term,” and that the article was talking about the hypothetical case of “a judge who accepted the Church’s teaching” on the death penalty and had a “conscientious objection” to execution.

“Do you consider yourself an orthodox Catholic?” Durbin asked Barrett, who replied that “I am a faithful Catholic,” adding that “my personal Church affiliation or my religious belief would not bear in the discharge of my duties as a judge.”

Durbin, who was in 2004 prohibited from receiving Holy Communion because of his stance on abortion, next said that “there are many people who might characterize themselves ‘orthodox Catholics,’ who now question whether Pope Francis is an ‘orthodox Catholic.’ I happen to think he’s a pretty good Catholic.”

“I agree with you,” Barrett replied, to which Durbin responded, “Good. Then that’s good common ground for us to start with.”

He also asked Barrett how she would rule on a case involving a “same-sex marriage,” given the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissent from the 2013 Obergefell decision that legalized same-sex marriage.

“From beginning to end, in every case, my obligation as a judge would be to apply the rule of law, and the case that you mentioned would be applying Obergefell, and I would have no problem adhering to it,” she said.

After the hearing, Barrett’s nomination was confirmed, and the former Notre Dame law professor took up her position as a judge.

But Catholic leaders said the questions she faced were disturbing.

“This smacks of the worst sort of anti-Catholic bigotry,” Dr. Chad Pecknold, a theology professor at The Catholic University of America, told CNA in 2017.

Pecknold called the hearing “a religious inquisition rather than an adjudication of legal competence for the bench.”

“I submit that the real dogmatists in the room are the ones mounting an inquisition against one of the nation's great legal scholars,” he added.

Other Catholic leaders also decried the questions about Barrett’s faith.

“Such bigotry has no place in our politics and reeks of an unconstitutional religious test for qualification to participate in the judiciary. What these Senators did today was truly reprehensible,” said Brian Burch, president of

“Senator Feinstein's shockingly illegitimate line of questioning sends the message that Catholics need not apply as federal judges,” added Ashley McGuire, senior fellow with The Catholic Association.

After the hearing, the phrase “The dogma lives loudly” became something of a catchphrase among Catholic supporters of Barrett, and appeared as a hashtag, on coffee mugs and on t-shirts. The hashtag is begun to have a resurgence as speculation that Trump might appoint Barrett to the Supreme Court has intensified.

The president is expected to nominate a justice to the court within a week. Also on his shortlist are several federal judges, and three U.S. Senators.


Abortion key issue in Supreme Court nomination process

CNA Staff, Sep 19, 2020 / 12:08 pm (CNA).- As speculation mounts over who President Donald Trump will nominate as the next Supreme Court Justice, pro-life and pro-abortion voices are making it clear that the nominee’s stance on abortion will be a key issue.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pledged Friday that a Trump Supreme Court nominee will be voted on for confirmation by the United States Senate, even while there are fewer than seven weeks until the Nov. 3 presidential election.

Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a Catholic mother of seven, is reported to be Trump’s top choice, according to sources with insider knowledge. 

On Saturday, a major pro-life organization endorsed Barrett and urged President Trump to nominate her.

“At this crucial time in the history of our great nation, it is imperative that a respected nominee is selected who will understand that the role of the High Court is to fairly interpret America’s Constitution and laws according to the meaning and intention of Congress and the Framers, and not seek to write their own value judgments into law,” Catherine Glenn Foster, President & CEO of Americans United for Life, said in a Sept. 19 statement.

“It is a certainty that in the coming years, the Court will be asked to rule on questions fundamental to the functioning of our Republic, including the most important human rights question of our time: the human right to life,” she continued.

“We are confident that if appointed to the Supreme Court, Judge Barrett would prove herself a trusted caretaker of the Constitutional protections extended to every human person in America, including human lives in the womb.”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who served on the court for more than 27 years, died of pancreatic cancer Sept. 18 at age 87. President Bill Clinton appointed Ginsburg to the Supreme Court in 1993.

She was an outspoken supporter of legal abortion throughout her career, and consistently penned opinions in favor of abortion and contraception, including a dissent in a 2007 case upholding a law that banned partial-birth abortion. She wrote a concurring opinion in a 2016 case which struck down restrictions on abortion clinics in Texas.

Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, on Friday praised Ginsburg’s legacy of upholding abortion protections.

“The fate of our rights, our freedoms, our health care, our bodies, our lives, and our country depend on what happens over the coming months,” acting president of Planned Parenthood Alexis McGill Johnson said in a Sept. 18 statement.

“It would be an absolute slap in the face to the millions of Americans who honor and cherish Justice Ginsburg’s legacy if President Trump and Mitch McConnell were to replace her with someone who would undo her life’s work and take away the rights and freedoms for which she fought so hard,” Johnson continued.

Appointed a federal judge in 2017, Barrett had been a professor at Notre Dame’s law school until her nomination was confirmed. Barrett has twice been honored as “Distinguished Professor of the Year” at Notre Dame, and had clerked for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

As a nominee to the federal bench, Judge Barrett was pointedly questioned by Democratic senators on the Judiciary Committee in 2017 on how her Catholic faith would influence her decisions as a judge on cases of abortion and same-sex marriage.

According to Axios, Trump in 2018 said of Barrett that he was “saving her for Ginsburg” in explanation of his decision not to appoint her to the Supreme Court seat vacated by Justice Anthony Kennedy.

As pro-lifers have noted in the past, if the Supreme Court reverses Roe v. Wade and removes the inferred constitutional protection for abortion, the legality of abortion would be subject to state-by-state regulation.

As many as a dozen states, including New York and California, have enshrined a right to abortion in their own consitutions. Other states, such as Arkansas, have “trigger laws” on the books that would automatically ban abortion entirely if the case were overturned.

Ginsburg and her husband Marty, who died in 2010, were secular Jews. The couple was noted for their many years of friendship with the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and his wife Maureen, who were devout Catholics. 

Catholic Amy Coney Barrett front-runner as Trump signals Supreme Court nomination plans

CNA Staff, Sep 19, 2020 / 10:00 am (CNA).- President Donald Trump on Saturday signaled he would soon nominate a potential replacement to the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Friday evening at 87. Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a Catholic mother of seven, is widely reported to be the front-runner in the president’s deliberations regarding a nominee.

[email protected] We were put in this position of power and importance to make decisions for the people who so proudly elected us, the most important of which has long been considered to be the selection of United States Supreme Court Justices. We have this obligation, without delay!” the president tweeted Saturday morning.


.@GOP We were put in this position of power and importance to make decisions for the people who so proudly elected us, the most important of which has long been considered to be the selection of United States Supreme Court Justices. We have this obligation, without delay!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 19, 2020  

Barrett, a federal judge on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, is reported to lead the president’s short list, and was also a contender for Trump’s second Supreme Court nomination in 2018, before the president nominated Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

According to Axios, Trump in 2018 said of Barrett that he was “saving her for Ginsburg” in explanation of his decision not to appoint her to the Supreme Court seat vacated by Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Appointed a federal judge in 2017, Barrett had been a professor at Notre Dame’s law school until her nomination was confirmed. Barrett has twice been honored as “Distinguished Professor of the Year” at Notre Dame, and was a law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

As a nominee to the federal bench, Barrett was pointedly questioned by Democratic senators on the Judiciary Committee in 2017 on how her Catholic faith would influence her decisions as a judge on cases of abortion and same-sex marriage.

During confirmation hearings, Senator Diane Feinstein said of Barrett's Catholicism “the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you. And that’s of concern.”

“You’re controversial because many of us that have lived our lives as women really recognize the value of finally being able to control our reproductive systems,” she said. “And Roe entered into that, obviously.”

Barrett repeatedly said that as a judge, she would uphold the law of the land, but many pro-life groups believe she would be open to overturning the precedent of Roe vs. Wade, and uphold state restrictions on abortion.

Pro-life groups hailed Barrett’s 2017 appointment to the bench.

Barrett is the mother of seven children, including two adopted from Haiti; one of her children has special needs. She is also reportedly a member of the People of Praise charismatic community, which was criticized as a “cult” during her 2017 confirmation hearings.

Bishop Peter Smith, a member of a related association of priests, told CNA in 2018 that there is not anything unusual or out of the ordinary about the group, which is a “covenant community,” mostly of laity.

“We're a lay movement in the Church,” Smith explained. “There are plenty of these. We continue to try and live out life and our calling as Catholics, as baptized Christians, in this particular way, as other people do in other callings or ways that God may lead them into the Church.”

Whether or not he selects Barrett, Trump’s likely nomination of a Supreme Court Justice to replace Ginsburg has become a matter of serious political controversy, in an already fractious U.S. political and social context.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pledged Friday that a Trump Supreme Court nominee will be voted on for confirmation by the United States Senate, even while there are fewer than seven weeks until the Nov. 3 presidential election.

Democratic leaders have pushed back, and pointed to McConnell’s refusal to consider Obama Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland in March 2016, seven months before that year’s presidential contest. At the time, Republicans said that it would be more appropriate to wait until after the November election to fill the Court vacancy.

McConnell defended his decision Friday night, saying that “in the last midterm election before Justice Scalia’s death in 2016, Americans elected a Republican Senate majority because we pledged to check and balance the last days of a lame-duck president’s second term. We kept our promise. Since the 1880s, no Senate has confirmed an opposite-party president’s Supreme Court nominee in a presidential election year.”

“By contrast, Americans reelected our majority in 2016 and expanded it in 2018 because we pledged to work with President Trump and support his agenda, particularly his outstanding appointments to the federal judiciary, we will keep our promise,” McConnell said.

Also reportedly on Trump’s short list are is 11th Circuit Court judge Britt Grant, 6th Circuit Court Judges Amul Thapar and Joan Larsen, and 10th Circuit Judge Allison Eid.

St. Januarius' blood liquifies in Naples

Rome Newsroom, Sep 19, 2020 / 05:59 am (CNA).- The blood of early Church martyr St. Januarius liquified in Naples Saturday, repeating a miracle dating at least to the 14th century.

The blood was declared to have turned from solid to liquid at 10:02 am in the Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary Sept. 19, the feast of St. Januarius.

Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, archbishop of Naples, announced the news to a mostly empty cathedral, due to coronavirus restrictions.

“Dear friends, dear all the faithful, once again with joy and emotion I inform you that the blood of our holy martyr and patron St. Januarius has liquefied,” Sepe said.

His words were received by an applause from those present inside and outside the cathedral.

Sepe added that the blood had “completely liquefied, without any clots, which has happened in past years.”

The miracle is “a sign of God’s love, goodness, and mercy, and of the closeness, the friendship, the fraternity of our St. Januarius,” the cardinal stated, adding “Glory be to God and veneration to our saint. Amen.”

St. Januarius, or San Gennaro in Italian, is the patron saint of Naples. He was bishop of the city in the third century, and his bones and blood are preserved in the cathedral as relics. He is believed to have been martyred during the Christian persecution of Emperor Diocletian.

The liquefaction of St. Januarius’ blood happens at least three times per year: the saint’s feast day of Sept. 19, the Saturday before the first Sunday of May, and Dec. 16, which is the anniversary of the 1631 eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

The reputed miracle has not been officially recognized by the Church, but is known and accepted locally and is considered to be a good sign for the city of Naples and its region of Campania.  

In contrast, he failure of the blood to liquefy is believed to signal war, famine, disease, or other disaster.

When the miracle occurs, the dried, red-colored mass of blood one one side of the reliquary becomes a liquid covering nearly the entire glass.

The last time the blood did not liquefy was in December 2016.

The miracle did occur while Naples was under lockdown for the coronavirus pandemic on May 2. Cardinal Sepe offered Mass via livestream and blessed the city with the relic of the liquefied blood.

“Even in this time of coronavirus, the Lord through the intercession of St. Januarius has liquified the blood!” Sepe declared.

This could be the last time Sepe offers the feast day Mass and confirms the miracle of St. Januarius. Pope Francis is expected to soon name a successor to Sepe, who is 77 years old, in what is considered a very important archdiocese for Italy.

Cardinal Sepe has been archbishop of Naples since July 2006.

In his homily at Mass Sept. 19, the archbishop condemned the “virus” of violence and those who take advantage of others through money lending or stealing funds intended for economic recovery in the pandemic’s wake.

“I think of violence, a virus that continues to be practiced with lightness and cruelty, whose roots go beyond the accumulation of social evils that favor its explosion,” he said.

“I think of the danger of interference and pollution of the common and organized underworld, which tries to grab resources for economic recovery, but also tries to hire proselytes through criminal assignments or money lending,” he continued.

The cardinal said he thinks also “of the evil sown by those who continue to chase wealth through illegal actions, profiteering, corruption, scams” and he worries about the tragic consequences for those who are unemployed or underemployed and now are in an even more precarious situation.

“After the lockdown we are realizing that nothing is the same as before,” he stated, and encouraged the community to be sober minded in considering the threats, not only of disease, to daily life in Naples.

Sepe also spoke about young people and the hope they can give, lamenting the discouragement young people face when they cannot find work.

“We all know well that [young people] are the real, great resource of Naples and the South, of our communities and our territories that need, like bread, the freshness of their ideas, their enthusiasm, their cleverness, their optimism, their smile,” he encouraged.


Pope Francis makes surprise donation to struggling poultry workers

CNA Staff, Sep 19, 2020 / 04:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis has made a surprise donation to struggling poultry workers in Italy.

The regional newspaper Il Quotidiano del Molise reported Sept. 18 that the pope donated 10,000 euros (almost $12,000) after he heard about the plight of the employees in Bojano, a town in the province of Campobasso in south-central Italy.

Fr. Alberto Conti, director of Caritas in the Diocese of Trivento, explained that the pope was moved when he heard that 273 workers face an uncertain future as a government subsidy that they are currently receiving is due to expire in November.

Conti met with Pope Francis Sept. 15, according to a report on the website L’Eco dell’Alto Molise. 

Writing in Il Quotidiano del Molise, Conti recalled that before he asked the pope to give him a blessing, he asked him to pray for the workers, who fear they will be unemployed after November. He told him that they had appealed to both the diocesan and national branches of Caritas for help.

“The Holy Father asked me: ‘Do you have any way to help them?’ I replied: ‘Holy Father, there are 273 families and they ask first of all for the right to work. But we will do what we can to stay close to them,’” Conti said. 

“The pope got up and went out of the small room where we were. He returned after a few minutes and behind him came his young secretary, who handed him an envelope that he placed in my hands. I immediately grasped that it was an offering, and I must therefore have seemed embarrassed, because, with great simplicity, he encouraged me, exhorting me: ‘Take it, take it.’”

“When I got out in the car, I opened the envelope and discovered that the Holy Father had wanted to donate 10,000 euros to those workers in difficulty I had just told him about.”

Conti said that after consulting with Bishop Claudio Palumbo of Trivento he decided to use the gift to buy educational materials for the workers’ children. 

He said that when times were difficult culture, education and the training of young people were always the first things to lose out. 

“They must instead be defended because they represent the only weapon of peace that the most needy possess to improve their conditions, to grow as people, to help the development of the region and therefore the good of all,” Conti wrote.