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Pittsburgh group calls for same-sex blessings 

A September 2015 gathering of the Association of Pittsburgh Priests. Credit: APP via Facebook.

Pittsburgh, Pa., Jun 17, 2021 / 20:19 pm (CNA).

An organization based in Pittsburgh has called on Bishop David Zubik to reject a March note from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith regarding blessings for same-sex couples, and has asked him to offer blessings to those who identify as LGBT. 

The Association of Pittsburgh Priests, a group composed of “ordained and non-ordained women and men,” released a statement on the matter June 14. 

“Our Catholic faith and tradition compel us to respect and honor the faith journeys of LGBTQ people,” the group, which claims some 300 members, wrote. 

“We know that those who enter into committed relationships do so out of love which is divinely inspired and supported.”

In March, the CDF clarified that the Catholic Church does not have the power to bless same-sex unions.

In answer to the question: “does the Church have the power to give the blessing to unions of persons of the same sex,” the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith responded, “negative.”

The Pittsburgh organization called the CDF’s statement “pastorally unacceptable and insensitive to the loving, committed relationships of many members of the body of Christ.”

The group called on Pope Francis and the Vatican to “reconsider” the March statement and pledged to “find pastoral ways to affirm and bless all LGBT people, whether they are single or in a committed relationship.” 

In connection with the statement, the group sent a letter to Bishop Zubik on Monday requesting his “blessing on the ministries to LGBTQ people and their families here in our own diocese,” the Post-Gazette reported. 

The CDF stated in its March note that “it is not licit to impart a blessing on relationships, or partnerships, even stable, that involve sexual activity outside of marriage (i.e., outside the indissoluble union of a man and a woman open in itself to the transmission of life), as is the case of the unions between persons of the same sex.”

The ruling and note, which were met with resistance from some Catholics, were approved for publication by Pope Francis. 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that those who identify as LGBT “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.”

The Catechism elaborates that homosexual inclinations are “objectively disordered,” homosexual acts are “contrary to the natural law,” and those who identify as lesbian and gay, like all people, are called to the virtue of chastity.

Barbara Finch, a spokeswoman for the Association of Pittsburgh Priests, told CNA in an email that the group, as a body, does not have plans to bless same-sex unions at this time. However, she said the group’s plans “would not eliminate the possibility that individuals within the group would prophetically choose to do so.”

“We do not believe that to be homosexual is sinful and committed relationships should have the opportunity to have there [sic] unions blessed,” Finch wrote to CNA.  

When asked if the group considers extramarital sexual activity sinful, Finch responded: “It is a wonderment why homosexual sexual activity is always scrutinized as being sinful and heterosexual sexual activity not as much.”

Despite the group’s explicit support for women’s ordination and blessings for same-sex relationships, Finch asserted that the group is in “good standing” with the Church. 

Finch said the diocese has, in recent years, “made small efforts to work with us simply because we are some of the most pastorally active in the Church.” She asserted that the diocese has several times “tried to have us change our name.”

In a statement to local media, the Diocese of Pittsburgh said the Association of Pittsburgh Priests “is not affiliated with the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh,” and added that the diocese “has nothing further to add to the statement from the Vatican issued on March 15, 2021.” 

The diocese did not respond to further questions about the group’s standing. 

The Association of Pittsburgh Priests says it is “is a diocesan-wide organization of ordained and non-ordained women and men who act on our baptismal call to be priests and prophets.  Our mission, rooted in the Gospel and the Spirit of Vatican II, is to carry out a ministry of justice and renewal in ourselves, the Church and the world.”

Finch said while the Pittsburgh group is independent, they have been “in dialogue” with an Irish organization called the Association of Catholic Priests, a group whose constitution places a special emphasis on “the primacy of the individual conscience” and “a redesigning of Ministry in the Church, in order to incorporate the gifts, wisdom and expertise of the entire faith community, male and female.”

The Irish organization’s founder, Redemptorist Fr. Tony Flannery, has been barred from public ministry for his views on the priesthood and sexuality. The CDF last September asked the 73-year-old to affirm four Catholic doctrinal propositions as a condition of returning to ministry, which he refused to do.

‘Overjoyed’ foster moms react to Supreme Court ruling in their favor 

Sharonell Fulton / Becket

Washington D.C., Jun 17, 2021 / 19:00 pm (CNA).

The foster moms at the center of the Supreme Court case Fulton v. City of Philadelphia celebrated the high court unanimously siding with them on Thursday. 

The Supreme Court ruled 9-0 in favor of the foster moms and Catholic Social Services in their lawsuit against the city of Philadelphia. The court found that the city violated the group’s free exercise of religion when it stopped contracting with them in 2018; the group had refused to certify same-sex couples as foster parents because of their Catholic beliefs on marriage.

Chief Justice John Roberts authored the majority decision of the court, joined by Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett. Justice Samuel Alito filed a concurring opinion, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch. Gorsuch also filed a concurring opinion, joined by Thomas and Alito, and Barrett also filed a concurring opinion, joined by Kavanaugh, and Breyer - in part.

In a statement on Thursday, foster mom and plaintiff Sharonell Fulton said she was “overjoyed that the Supreme Court recognized the important work of Catholic Social Services and has allowed me to continue fostering children most in need of a loving home.” 

“My faith is what drives me to care for foster children here in Philadelphia and I thank God the Supreme Court believes that’s a good thing, worthy of protection,” Fulton said.

“Our foster-care ministry in Philadelphia is vital to solving the foster care crisis and Catholic Social Services is a cornerstone of that ministry,” said Toni Simms-Busch, also a foster mom and named plaintiff in the case. “The Supreme Court’s decision ensure the most vulnerable children in the City of Brotherly Love have every opportunity to find loving homes.”

Philadelphia Archbishop Nelson Perez told reporters on a press call Thursday that the ruling is “a crystal clear affirmation of First Amendment rights for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and all charitable ministries in the United States who are inspired by their faith to serve the most vulnerable among us.”

“Today’s ruling allows our ministries to continue serving those in need, for foster families to find an agency that shares and reflects their faith, and for foster children to find a loving home,” Perez said.

The city of Philadelphia had argued that the Catholic Social Services policy constituted discrimination, and violated its nondiscrimination ordinance. In 2018, it said it would no longer work with the agency. As the city oversees all foster care placements, the work of the agency drastically diminished as the case proceeded in the courts, lawyers for Catholic Social Services argued. 

The high court on Thursday found that the decision violated the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. The city had a nondiscrimination policy and granted individual exemptions to the policy, the court majority ruled; thus, they needed a "compelling reason" to not exempt Catholic Social Services for religious reasons.

Legal expert Ryan Anderson, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, told CNA that while the majority decision is not perfect, “A 9-0 win at the Supreme Court is not something to take lightly.” 

“Yes, the holding was likely narrower than it would have been had it been decided 5-4 or 6-3,” Anderson said, also noting that other questions remain “as far as the extent of the Constitutional protections for Americans who believe marriage unites husband and wife.”

“Still, the Court ruled unanimously in favor of the free exercise of Catholic Social Services of Philadelphia," he said. "It ruled unanimously against the religious bigotry of the city of Philadelphia."

“This is a big win for religious liberty and for all Americans who support the truth about marriage.”

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion that “CSS seeks only an accommodation that will allow it to continue serving the children of Philadelphia in a manner consistent with its religious beliefs; it does not seek to impose those beliefs on anyone else.”

He added that the city’s demand the agency certify same-sex couples “cannot survive strict scrutiny, and violates the First Amendment.”

Diana Cortes, city solicitor for Philadelphia, said in a statement that the decision is “a difficult and disappointing setback for foster care youth and the foster parents who work so hard to support them.”   

“Allowing contractors and partners to set their own terms for how they provide public services will create a confusing patchwork in government programs and will weaken government non-discrimination guarantees,” Cortes said. 

Leslie Cooper, deputy director of the ACLU LGBTQ & HIV Project, argued in a statement that the court ruling was narrower than religious freedom advocates wanted, and “did not recognize a license to discriminate based on religious beliefs.”

Supporters of Catholic Social Services said that abiding by the Church’s teachings on marriage does not constitute discrimination.  

Catholic Charities USA on Thursday welcomed the court’s ruling.

“In their history, Catholic Charities agencies have enjoyed a cooperative partnership with government to work for the common good. Such cooperation has been predicated on valuing diverse perspectives and mutual respect. Hopefully, we will continue to work together to serve all people with dignity and respect,” the organization stated.

Kristen Waggoner, general counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, said in a statement, “Every child in need of a forever home deserves the chance to be adopted or cared for by a foster family.” 

“That’s what it means to keep kids first,” Waggoner said. “The Supreme Court’s decision today allows that to continue happening. The government can’t single out people of certain beliefs to punish, sideline, or discriminate against them. We’re grateful for the good decision today consistent with that principle."

US bishops debate extensively a motion to draft a teaching document on the Eucharist

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Washington D.C., Jun 17, 2021 / 16:59 pm (CNA).

U.S. bishops held extensive debate on Thursday before voting on whether to draft a teaching document on the Eucharist, at their annual spring meeting held virtually this week.

Although the text of a proposed Eucharistic document has not yet been drafted, a proposed outline was provided by the bishops’ doctrine committee in advance of the U.S. bishops’ meeting this week. The document, if approved, would explain the Church’s Eucharistic teaching on a number of points, including the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, the importance of Sunday as a holy day, and the need for Catholics to live out the Church’s teaching in their lives after receiving Communion.

A parliamentary move to lift time limits on the bishops’ debate failed on Wednesday; that proposal would have granted speaking time to any bishop who wished. Nevertheless, conference president Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles on Thursday allowed for bishops to speak in the normal five-minute time slots long after their meeting was scheduled to wrap up.

Bishops supporting the vote to draft a document on the Eucharist cited the need for providing clarity and catechesis on the matter, citing polls showing a lack of belief in the Real Presence among Catholics. They argued that all Catholics – including Catholic politicians – must be aware of the Church’s teaching on worthiness to receive Communion.

Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, chair of the doctrine committee which proposed drafting the document, explained the committee’s reasoning behind the proposal June 17.

Saying the document was the “subject of misunderstanding and even mischaracterization,” he said that bishops had been concerned about a “downward trend” in Mass attendance and a decline in faith among Catholics, coupled with a widespread move to “spiritual communion” and virtual Masses during the recent pandemic.

“We are all concerned about the faithful’s absence from parish life,” he said, warning that many Catholics might not return to Mass in the coming months. Rhoades cited surveys to make his point. According to a 2019 report by the Pew Research Center, only 31% of Catholics surveyed said they believed in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

While the document does address worthiness to receive Communion, he said, it is not meant to be about one individual or one particularly bad action, but rather a “heightened” awareness of the need for Catholics to be conformed to the Eucharist.

Other bishops opposed the move to draft such a document. Some argued that in addressing worthiness to receive Communion – especially among pro-abortion Catholic politicians – the bishops would be seen as partisan actors.

Citing the current “political rancor,” Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento argued against drafting a document including a section on worthiness to receive Communion.

Archbishop Paul Etienne of Seattle expressed concern that the Eucharist, the “source of our life and charity and unity is now enmeshed in a conversation about politics, and that’s a very difficult place for us to be.”

Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington – Biden’s ordinary in the nation’s capital – expressed the need for unity and in-person dialogue.

“The choice before us at this moment, is either we pursue a path of strengthening unity among ourselves, or settle for creating a document that may not bring unity, but may well further damage it,” he said.

Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago argued that it would be obvious the document would be referring to particular Catholic politicians and their worthiness to receive Communion.

“I don’t know how we get around that, if we pass on this document,” he said.

Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego said that such a document would be divisive because it would be seen as political in stating the Church’s teaching on worthiness to receive Communion, especially among Catholics in public life.

“We will invite all of the political animosities that so tragically divide our nation” into the Mass, he said, which would then become a “sign of division.”

Yet some bishops disputed that a document outlining Church teaching would bring about disunity.

Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas said he was “somewhat amused” by those bishops who warned the conference was “rushing” into such a debate.

Worthiness to receive Communion is not just about abortion, he said, as politicians supporting other grave evils such as human trafficking or racism could also be unworthy to receive.

“It’s really some of our public officials” who prompted the debate about Communion by approaching the altar rail while supporting policies contrary to Church teaching, he said, not the bishops themselves.

 “Those who advocate for abortion no longer talk in the language of choice. They talk about it as a right,” he said, noting Biden’s support for taxpayer-funded abortion.

“We’re calling everybody to integrity, including those in public life,” he said.

Bishop Thomas Daly of Spokane said that "we can't have unity if we're not rooted in truth."

He responded to bishops’ calls to wait on considering the document until they can dialogue with each other and with politicians.

“This call for dialogue: sometimes I wonder if the dialogue is meant not truly to listen, but to delay,” he said.

“All of us want what’s best for the people we serve,” he said, pointing to the “salvation of the souls.”

Bishop James Wall of Gallup stressed the need for clarity from the bishops on the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist.

“I just make a plea on behalf of a poorer diocese,” he said.

“We rely upon the work of the conference,” he said, noting that a teaching document would be “very helpful to me, to my priests, to religious, to the lay faithful.”

“If the world really understood” the Real Presence, he said, bishops could double all Masses at parishes and still not have enough room for attendees.

Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler stressed the need for a connection between confession and Communion.

Costa Rican bishop calls Catholics to witness to faith in public life

Kzenon/Shutterstock.

Quesada, Costa Rica, Jun 17, 2021 / 16:38 pm (CNA).

The Bishop of Ciudad Quesada on Tuesday called on the faithful not to hide their faith in private, but to live it publicly and to share it with others, following the teaching of the Catholic Church.

On his June 15 "Fermento" program, Bishop José Manuel Garita Herrera recalled that the Catechism of the Catholic Church calls the faithful “to confess their baptismal faith before men.”

The bishop explained that “faith is not something to hide in private, since faith is a living experience that impels us and encourages us to share with others the event of Jesus Christ, who died and rose, who gave himself up for us to give us salvation.”

Referring to his second pastoral letter, the bishop said that "the values of faith must permeate the hearts and minds of all the baptized", because "only in this way will their words and works be credible, worthy of faith, consistent and capable of questioning the current paradigms about one’s personal identity.”

Bishop Garita lamented that "there are not a few so-called Catholics who practice or preach things contrary to the Magisterium."

The Bishop of Ciudad Quesada said that as Saint John Paul II taught in his 1990 encyclical Redemptoris missio, "all the lay faithful must dedicate part of their time to the Church, living their own faith with coherence."

Bishop Garita advised the faithful that "when current trends and ideologies of the world move us to extinguish or hide the faith, or to live it only in private, we must remember that we can and must live it and profess it in public."

He affirmed that Catholics can do so "not only because of the conviction of our beliefs, but because it is a fundamental human right by virtue of religious freedom," and noted that Pope Francis taught in his 2020 encyclical Fratelli tutti that faith moves the Catholic to be a witness to the love of Christ for all humanity.

“If we consider ourselves witnesses” of the love of Christ, Bishop Garita continued, “we could make great contributions to society, in respect for human dignity, in the search for the common good, in the practice of love in solidarity as did the first Christians who were recognized by their gestures and detachment, because they remained united and witnesses to their faith.”

 “Having that correspondence between what we believe and what we do is what will allow us to show ourselves as true witnesses of the love of Jesus Christ; It will allow us to show the Church which he built, in which we, as its members, are called to preach the Good News in words and actions,” he stressed.

Finally, the Costa Rican bishop recalled the words of Benedict XVI in his 2005 encyclical Deus caritas est, explaining that the very decision to be a Christian does not arise from a mere idea, but is born from the encounter with Christ, who is Love, and therefore, He is the origin of our faith confessed in baptism.

“We have come to believe in God's love: in these words the Christian can express the fundamental decision of his life. Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.,” Benedict wrote.

"We Catholics do not believe in something, we believe in someone, that someone is Jesus Christ, whom we confess as our Lord and Savior," Bishop Garita emphasized.

“May the God of life help us to be courageous, determined and consistent in living and witnessing our faith; May we show the option for the Gospel and be true witnesses of the saving teaching that we have received from the moment of baptism,”  he concluded.

Colombian diocese condemns car bombing at army base

The flag of Colombia. / Politicnico Grancolombiano Departamento de Comunicaciones via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Cucuta, Colombia, Jun 17, 2021 / 15:49 pm (CNA).

The Diocese of Cúcuta has condemned Wednesday’s attack carried out against the 30th Brigade of the National Army, and warned that hatred and revenge create a maelstrom of violence.

A car bomb exploded June 16 at the military base in Cúcuta, injuring 36 people.

Bishop José Libardo Garcés Monsalve of Malaga-Soata, who is also serving as apostolic administrator of Cúcuta, said that the Cúcuta diocese "resolutely rejects all acts of violence" and that the attack causes "terror, pain, uncertainty and mistrust in the Colombian people."

"We convey our deepest and sincere feelings of solidarity and closeness to the families and victims of the attack, and we have already entrusted their care and speedy recovery to the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the patriarch Saint Joseph," he added.

Bishop Garcés made "an urgent call to the perpetrators of these events" to not  get carried away by the whirlwind of violence that "is stirred up with hatred and revenge, and rather with the participation of all, we may find a way out through dialogue, forgiveness and reconciliation.”

May Cúcuta “continue to be the place where fraternity and charity, love and respect for life are our greatest bastions in the achievement of peace. and the progress of the communities present in this border region,” he prayed.

The bishop also invited all people of good will "to pray ever more earnestly and with perseverance," asking God to keep Colombia "in the heart of his Son, a place where you learn to love and forgive."

The commander of the Army's 2nd Division, General Marco Evangelista Pinto, confirmed to the Colombian news outlet Noticias Caracol that the explosions occurred inside the garrison, very close to the entrance, mainly affecting the barracks and offices.

In a statement to the press, Defense Minister Diego Molano "vehemently condemned this vile act that intended to inflict bodily harm on our soldiers." Molana said the initial hypothesis is that the National Liberation Army, a left-wing guerrilla group, “is behind this insane and vile act.”

"The involvement of dissidents of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) is also a subject of the investigation," he added.

In January 2019 a car bomb attack at a police academy in Bogota killed 21. A vehicle carrying 175 pounds of pentolite, a military-grade explosive, accelerated into the General Santander police academy after being stopped at a checkpoint. The pentolite detonated when the SUV struck a wall. The academy was holding a promotion ceremony for cadets.

Car bombings were once not uncommon in the Colombian conflict, which has been ongoing among the government, right-wing paramilitaries, and left-wing guerrillas since 1964.

The conflict has abated since a 2016 peace deal between the government and the largest guerrilla group, the FARC.

The Colombian president has not taken up peace talks with the ELN.

Supreme Court again upholds Affordable Care Act

Rena Schild/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Jun 17, 2021 / 14:30 pm (CNA).

The Supreme Court once again upheld the Affordable Care Act, in a 7-2 ruling against the latest challenge to the law on Thursday.

In the majority opinion authored by Justice Stephen Breyer, the court ruled that the state of Texas, in leading the case against the Affordable Care Act, “failed to show a concrete, particularized injury fairly traceable to the defendants’ conduct in enforcing the specific statutory provision they attack as unconstitutional.”

“They have failed to show that they have standing to attack as unconstitutional the Act’s minimum essential coverage provision,” Breyer wrote. The court vacated the Fifth Circuit’s judgment on standing, and remanded the case to the circuit court to dismiss. 

Breyer was joined in his opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Amy Coney Barrett, Elena Kagan, Brett Kavanaugh, Sonia Sotomayor, and Clarence Thomas. Additionally, Thomas filed a concurring opinion. 

Justice Samuel Alito wrote the dissenting opinion, and was joined by Justice Neil Gorsuch. 

In the case, the Supreme Court was asked to decide if the Affordable Care Act should be struck down if its “individual mandate” was effectively nullified by Congress in 2017. In 2017, Congress changed the penalty for not complying with the mandate to $0. 

The mandate that every American have health insurance – or face a financial penalty – was seen as critical to the law’s implementation and guarantee of affordable health coverage for all. While the fine was reduced to nothing, the language of the individual mandate remained in the law. 

Texas, along with more than a dozen other states, sued, claiming that the mandate was unconstitutional without a fine to enforce it - and was also not severable from the rest of the law. Thus, Texas argued that the law must be thrown out as well. California and other states eventually intervened to defend the law’s constitutionality.

President Joe Biden (D), who was vice president when the law was passed, called the ruling on Thursday, “a big win for the American people,” and encouraged people to “sign up for quality, affordable health care.” 

“With millions of people relying on the Affordable Care Act for coverage, it remains, as ever, a BFD,” said Biden, referring to his hot-mic comment in 2010 that the bill was a “big [expletive] deal.”

Thursday’s ruling marks the third time the Supreme Court has upheld the Affordable Care Act as constitutional. 

In 2012, Chief Justice John Roberts authored the majority opinion that upheld the constitutionality of the law’s individual mandate. The Court ruled that the mandate’s penalty for non-compliance was a tax, and thus a lawful requirement of Congress to make on Americans.

Three years later, in 2015, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in the case King v. Burwell that the law’s subsidies and tax credits could be made available to people who purchased health insurance coverage on a federal, rather than a state, exchange. 

The U.S. bishops’ conference supported the law’s goal of expanded health coverage, but ultimately opposed its passage for several reasons, including that it “makes new and disturbing changes in federal policy on abortion and conscience rights.” The conference warned about funding of abortions in subsidized health plans under the law. 

Included in the law was a mandate for preventive services, which the Obama administration eventually interpreted to include the full range of FDA-approved contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortifacients. That mandate for employer coverage was challenged in court by Catholic dioceses and the Little Sisters of the Poor, who won their second Supreme Court case regarding the mandate last July.

Polish Catholic priest guillotined by Nazis to be beatified in November

Fr. Jan Macha (1914-1942). / Public domain.

Katowice, Poland, Jun 17, 2021 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

A Polish Catholic priest guillotined by the Nazis will be beatified in November.

Fr. Jan Macha will be declared blessed at a Mass on Nov. 20 in the Cathedral of Christ the King, Katowice, southern Poland.

The Mass will be celebrated by Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints,

Macha, known as Hanik, was ordained a priest months before Nazi Germans invaded Poland in 1939. He offered aid to families who lost members in the fighting and was a member of an underground group codenamed “Konwalia” (Lily of the Valley).

The Gestapo, the secret police of Nazi Germany, arrested him on Sept. 5, 1941, at a train station in Katowice, Upper Silesia. After humiliating interrogations, he was sentenced to death on July 17, 1942.

He was executed by guillotine at a prison in Katowice at 12:15 a.m. on Dec. 3, 1942, despite his mother’s efforts to secure a pardon.

He was 28 years old when he died and had served only 1,257 days as a priest. His body was never recovered.

Welcoming the beatification, Archbishop Wiktor Skworc of Katowice said: “The beatification is certainly a very important event for our local Church. I am happy that our Hanik will be proclaimed blessed. He has waited a long time for this, and so have we.”

“I hope that this event will turn into an opportunity to strengthen the faith and revitalize religious life in our archdiocese in this difficult time of recovery from the pandemic.”

Fr. Damian Bednarski, the postulator of Macha’s beatification cause, said: “The time of the pandemic has shown us that we must learn patience. We waited patiently for the decision regarding the date of the beatification.”

“Now, let us ask Providence that we may participate in the elevation of the martyr from Upper Silesia to the altars without any obstacles.”

“We need permanent points of reference and the clear testimonies of those who have given their lives out of love for Christ. This can help us renew our faith.”

The beatification was originally scheduled for Oct. 17, 2020, but was postponed due to the pandemic.

Fr. Tomasz Wojtal, spokesman for the archdiocese of Katowice, said: “We wanted to wait until all the faithful wishing to take part in the ceremony could be present.”

Macha’s sainthood cause opened in 2013. After the diocesan stage was completed in 2015, the cause was sent to Rome. Pope Francis issued a decree recognizing him as a martyr on Nov. 29, 2019.

Macha was the subject of the 2011 documentary film “Without One Tree, a Forest Will Stay a Forest,” directed by Dagmara Drzazga.

The title comes from a line in a letter Macha wrote to his family shortly before his execution.

“This is my last letter. In four hours, the sentence will be carried out. So when you read this letter, I will no longer be among the living! Stay with God! Forgive me for everything,” he said.

“I am going before the Almighty Judge who will judge me now. I hope that He will accept me. My wish was to work for Him, but it was not given to me. Thank you for everything!”

He continued: “I die with a clear conscience. I have lived a short life, but I believe that I have achieved my goal. Don’t despair! Everything will be all right.”

“Without a one tree, the forest will stay a forest. Without one swallow, the spring will come and without one man, the world will not collapse.”

Abortion is not healthcare, bishops say ahead of European Parliament vote

The European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. / JLogan via Wikimedia (public domain).

Rome Newsroom, Jun 17, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

A commission of European bishops has responded to a report on abortion, due to be debated and voted on by the European Parliament next week.

The group said that it was “very concerned about a number of the representations and arguments” made in the so-called Matić Report, which seeks the recognition of a “right to abortion” and the redefinition of conscientious objection as a “denial of medical care.”

The position paper of the Secretariat of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE), published June 17, said that it was “ethically untenable” to classify abortion as an “essential health service.”

“A medical intervention of such magnitude cannot and must not become a normal practice; its qualification as an essential service degrades the unborn child,” the paper said.

The bishops wrote that “as Church, we are convinced that human life from the beginning, including unborn life, possesses its own dignity and independent right to protection. In the Church’s view, abortion is not a means of family planning or part of ordinary healthcare.”

“The unborn child has a human right to life,” the commission underlined.

COMECE, which consists of bishops delegated by the bishops’ conferences of the 27 member states of the European Union, said that human health is a core concern of the Catholic Church, which recognizes the right to health as “an essential basis for a dignified life.”

“Standing up for human rights is a central component of the Church’s social-ethical proclamation; it sees human rights as the basis for peaceful coexistence between peoples and is convinced that they correspond profoundly to the Christian and biblical understanding of the dignity of the human being,” the paper said.

The commission added that it valued the fundamental concern of the draft resolution, which is the protection of the health and rights of women, but regretted the document’s “one-sided perspective” on abortion.

The Matić Report “does not reflect the tragedy and complexity of the situations in which mothers considering aborting their unborn child find themselves,” it said.

Quoting a 1996 document from the German bishops, it said that “‘all too easily,’ however, ‘the independent right to life of the child is left out of the consideration and it is overlooked that the unborn child is not the property of the parents, but precisely in its defencelessness is only entrusted to them.’”

“There is no question that the life of the unborn cannot be protected against the mother, but only with her,” the bishops said. “Taking care of women who are in distress or in a conflict situation because of their pregnancy is a central part of the diaconal ministry of the Church and should be also a duty of our societies.”

The report, which was presented to the European Parliament, the EU’s law-making body, by Croatian politician Predrag Fred Matić, is due to be debated on June 23. A vote will take place the next day.

COMECE also noted “with concern and regret” the draft resolution’s negation of the fundamental right to conscientious objection, “which is an emanation of freedom of conscience.”

“While other rights such as the right to life can take precedence in specific situations, we are alarmed that the text questions the mere existence of a right of medical institutions and their staff to refuse to provide certain health services, including abortion, on the basis of conscience clauses,” the position paper said.

"This reference entails a blatant disregard for the right of organizations based on religion or belief to follow their ethos and to organize their services in accordance with them. It also neglects the right of individuals to follow their conscience.”

The COMECE statement also said that the report does not do justice to the legislative competence of the member states in the area of “sexual and reproductive health and rights.”

“We recall that a fundamental principle of the European Union is the principle of conferral, whereby the Union shall act only within the limits of the competences conferred upon it by the member states in the treaties to attain the objectives set out therein,” the bishops said.

Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, the president of COMECE, said in an interview published this week that he believed that “we must make it clear that approving such a report is against subsidiarity, because abortion is a subject of national and non-EU legislation.”

“It would therefore be a grave sin for the European Union not to respect the subsidiarity of which it always speaks,” he said.

Lay advisor urges U.S. bishops to reconcile with all Catholics over clergy abuse

Members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops pray at their fall meeting in Baltimore, Maryland on Nov. 11, 2019 / Christine Rousselle/CNA

Washington D.C., Jun 17, 2021 / 12:32 pm (CNA).

In responding to clergy sex abuse, U.S. bishops must expand their reconciliation efforts to include not only victim survivors, but all Catholics affected by the abuse crisis, the head of a lay advisory body to the U.S. bishops’ conference said on Thursday.

Suzanne Healy, chair of the National Review Board (NRB) - a lay advisory group to the U.S. bishops on protecting minors from abuse – addressed the U.S. bishops at their virtual spring meeting on Thursday.

“Since 2018 and 2019, there has been increased focus and expansion on responding to victim survivors by Church ministers,” Healy said, alluding to the recent revelations of abuse and misconduct by former cardinal Theodore McCarrick and by other bishops.

“But we must evolve in our response to reach the community of people in the pews, the people who have left the pews, and those who have yet to fill the pews, as well as the clergy who have suffered for the past failing of their brother clerics and have been devastated by the crisis,” she said.

The bishops are meeting for their annual spring meeting from June 16-18. They heard addresses from conference president Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles on Wednesday, as well as from the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Christoph Pierre.

On Thursday, the bishops are scheduled to vote on approval of two causes of canonization, as well as on authorizing the creation of a statement on Native American ministry and a teaching document on the Eucharist. They will also vote to approve a pastoral statement on marriage ministry.

The National Review Board was constituted by the U.S. bishops’ conference (USCCB) in 2002, after widespread revelations of the sexual abuse of minors by clerics that spanned decades and which occurred around the country. The board advises the USCCB Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People.

In her address to the bishops on Thursday, Healy said that the historic nature of most recent allegations of clergy sex abuse – allegations that date back decades – is evidence that recent abuse prevention standards are working.

Healy said that an annual audit from the compliance auditor StoneBridge revealed that 4,250 abuse allegations were reported in the year 2020 – and that most allegations were several decades old.

“This large number gives the appearance that nothing has changed in the Catholic Church, and we know that isn’t true,” she said, pointing to the age of most of the allegations. In the current year, 22 allegations have been reported – less than 1% of the previous year’s total – she said, adding that “of course, one is too many.”

Audits are conducted annually to ensure compliance among dioceses and eparchies with the 2002 Dallas Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People – drafted by the U.S. bishops as a response to the abuse crisis of the time.

Healy urged the bishops to strengthen abuse prevention, accountability, and transparency efforts.

Publishing lists of clerics with substantial abuse allegations - including diocesan, religious, or eparchal clergy – is just one way to tell survivors “we hear you,” she told bishops.

“We have a long way to go to be as transparent as possible in this area,” she said. “The NRB encourages you to look at such lists as exemplary models of transparency.”

She requested that all dioceses implement a formal parish audit program for child protection as “good risk-management,” noting that 35% of U.S. dioceses have yet to do so.

“We have not reached our commitment to the [Dallas] Charter until we have 100% participation from all dioceses and eparchies,” she said.

Bishop Mark Brennan of Wheeling-Charleston affirmed the importance of parish audits in the comment session following Healy’s address. He pushed for the audits to be conducted on-site, citing his previous experience as a pastor.

“That’s really where you find out what is going on, and we need to know what is going on, on the ground,” he said.

The review board also recommended audits of the bishop abuse reporting service, the national third-party reporting system for allegations of abuse, neglect, or misconduct made against bishops in the U.S. which launched in March 2020. The allegations are fielded and forwarded to the metropolitan archbishop, where they are assessed.

While praising implementation of the reporting service, Healy recommended it be audited as well “to ensure all matters are being handled according to proper standards.”

Regarding the McCarrick Report, which was published in November 2020, she noted its revelations of “systemic reporting failures,” “manipulation by offenders,” “instituting fraternal correction,” and “the handling of anonymous reports.”

 

She stated that the review board did not support the “metropolitan model” of Vos Estis, the process by which accusations against bishops are sent to their metropolitans. Yet, she added, “we are grateful that in the case of McCarrick, the process initiated by the Archdiocese of New York worked. What we have in place works.”

Pope Francis: Do not forget workers pushed to the margins by pandemic

Pope Francis at his general audience address in the library of the Apostolic Palace May 5, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Jun 17, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis addressed an International Labor Organization (ILO) summit Thursday, calling for dignified working conditions and support for workers on the margins of the labor market still affected by pandemic losses.

“In 2020, we saw an unprecedented loss of employment all over the world. In our haste to return to greater economic activity, at the end of the COVID-19 threat, let us avoid excessive fixations on benefit, isolation and nationalism, blind consumerism, and denial of the clear evidence of discrimination against our ‘dispensable’ brothers and sisters in our society,” the pope said via a video message to the ILO’s World of Work Summit on June 17.

“On the contrary, let us look for solutions that will help us build a new future of work based on decent and dignified working conditions, originating in collective negotiation, and promoting the common good, a phrase that will make work an essential component of our care for society and Creation. In this sense, work is truly and essentially human.”

The pope was one of several world leaders to speak on the first day of the ILO’s virtual summit.

U.S. President Joe Biden, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, and Félix Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo, the president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, also addressed the summit on the same day.

In his video message delivered in Spanish, Pope Francis warned summit participants against having an “elitist dynamic” that discards others and sacrifices “those who have been left behind, on the so-called ‘altar of progress.’”

“Faced with the Agenda of the International Labor Organization, we must continue as we did in 1931, when Pope Pius XI, after the Wall Street crisis and in the midst of the ‘Great Depression,’ denounced the asymmetry between workers and entrepreneurs as a flagrant injustice that gave carte blanche and means to capital,” the pope said.

Quoting Pius XI’s encyclical, Quadragesimo anno, he said: “‘Property that is, ‘capital,’ has undoubtedly long been able to appropriate too much to itself. Whatever was produced, whatever returns accrued, capital claimed for itself, hardly leaving to the worker enough to restore and renew his strength.’”

He added: “Even in those circumstances, the Church promoted the position that the amount of pay for work done should not only be intended to meet the immediate and current needs of workers, but also to open up the ability of workers to safeguard their families’ future savings and investments to provide a margin of security for the future.”

“Legal norms must be geared towards employment growth, dignified work, and the rights and duties of the human person,” he said.

The pope called for the expansion of social protection systems to ensure access to health services, food, and basic human needs. He said that the lack of social protection during the pandemic resulted in increased poverty, unemployment, and an increase in illegal work.

“We are called upon to prioritize our response to workers on the margins of the labor market who are still affected by the COVID-19 pandemic: low-skilled workers, day laborers, those who work illegally, migrant and refugee workers, those who carry out what is commonly referred to as … dangerous, dirty and degrading,” he said.

The ILO is a United Nations agency based in Geneva dedicated to improving labor conditions. Its member states are not only represented by government officials, but also by leaders of trade unions.

Pope Francis told the ILO that the trade union movement currently faces two major challenges. The first is not to forget its “prophetic” call to “expose the powerful who trample on the rights of the most vulnerable workers, defend the cause of foreigners, the least and the rejected.”

“Clearly, when a trade union becomes corrupt, it can no longer do this, and its status transforms into that of a pseudo-employer, itself distanced from the people,” the pope said.

The second challenge facing trade unions is that of innovation, he explained, adding that unions should also protect those who are excluded from work and rights.

“As we seek to shape our future action and shape a post-COVID-19 international agenda, we should pay particular attention to the very real danger of forgetting those who have been left behind. They run the risk of being attacked by a virus even worse than COVID-19: that of selfish indifference,” Pope Francis said.