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Supreme Court Ruling Does Not Change the Facts about Abortion Pills, says Bishop Burbidge

WASHINGTON - “The Court’s ruling late last week on procedural grounds does not change the fact that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration [FDA] repeatedly and unlawfully cut corners to put chemical abortion pills on the market and then to reduce the safety protocols around them – putting the health of women and girls at risk,” Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities, said in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Food and Drug Administration v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine.

In its decision on Thursday, the Court determined that the pro-life health care professionals who brought the lawsuit did not have the legally required standing to challenge the FDA’s actions that have now made the abortion drug, mifepristone (previously known as RU-486), widely available.

Bishop Burbidge continued, “From my heart, I thank all of the faithful who joined Archbishop Broglio and myself in prayer regarding this important case. We will continue to pray, to advocate for the health and safety of women and the preborn, and to lovingly serve mothers in need so that they may feel prepared to welcome their children.”

The USCCB had joined an amicus curiae brief in the case in February. On the eve of oral arguments in March, Bishop Burbidge and Archbishop Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA and president of the USCCB, offered a nationwide invitation to prayer for the case and for the lives of women and their children. For more information on chemical abortion (sometimes called “medical abortion” or “medication abortion” by its proponents), the USCCB has multiple fact sheets available online.

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Catholic migrant shelter calls ‘human smuggling’ accusations ‘utter nonsense’

Migrants mostly form Central America wait in line to cross the border at the Gateway International Bridge into the U.S. from Matamoros, Mexico, to Brownsville, Texas, on June 4, 2024. / Credit: CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 17, 2024 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

As Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is threatening to shut down a Catholic nonprofit known as Annunciation House for allegedly facilitating illegal border crossings from Mexico, a lawyer for the group has called the state’s claims “utter nonsense.”

Attorneys representing both sides argued before El Paso District Judge Francisco Dominguez in a hearing on Monday.

Jerome Wesevich, a lawyer with Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid (TRLA), which is representing Annunciation House, claimed that Paxton’s actions constitute an attack on the free exercise of religion and violate the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Rob Farquharson, an attorney with the Texas attorney general’s office, claimed that Annunciation House has been breaking portions of the Texas penal law that prohibits “knowingly encourag[ing] or induc[ing] a person to enter or remain in this country in violation of federal law by concealing, harboring, or shielding that person from detection.” 

He said the nonprofit has “expressly said that the federal government knows that undocumented persons reside at Annunciation House” and the shelter “publicizes its willingness to shelter [illegal] immigrants and yet the federal government does not prosecute.”

Meanwhile, Wesevich called the state’s accusations “utter nonsense,” saying that “there’s no legitimate dispute that Annunciation House serves undocumented persons as an expression of the Catholic faith and Jesus’ command to love one another, no exceptions.” 

“I would submit that if religious freedom does not allow Annunciation House to obey Jesus’ primary command to love another by providing a child a safe and warm place to sleep on a cold night, then there is no religious freedom in Texas,” Wesevich said. 

What is Annunciation House?

Located just a few minutes from the U.S.-Mexico border in El Paso, Annunciation House is a lay-run Catholic organization that offers migrants temporary shelter, food, and clothing and advocates on their behalf. 

The attorney general’s office first approached Annunciation House on Feb. 7 with concerns that it may be facilitating illegal immigration. Paxton’s office ordered the nonprofit to immediately turn over various documents and records to examine whether it is engaged in unlawful activities. 

On Feb. 20 Paxton filed a lawsuit against Annunciation House, accusing the nonprofit of being “engaged in the operation of an illegal stash house by potentially allowing others to use its real estate to engage in human smuggling.” 

Dominguez issued a temporary ruling in March in which he said that Paxton could not revoke Annunciation House’s license to operate or force it to turn over documents immediately.

In a court document filed by Paxton in May, he claimed to have “reviewed and obtained sworn testimony” indicating that the nonprofit is engaging in illegal immigration activities.

Paxton said the group’s “own sworn testimony” as part of ongoing legal proceedings show that Annunciation House “knowingly shelters illegal aliens” and “even goes into Mexico to retrieve aliens who[m] border patrol denied.”

In response, Annunciation House has called Paxton’s actions “illegal, immoral, and anti-faith” and his allegations “unfounded.” 

What happened at the hearing?

During the hearing, which according to Dominguez was held online due to “security concerns,” Farquharson claimed that the nonprofit’s refusal to comply with the order to turn over documents relating to its operations “demonstrates concealment, harboring, and shielding” of illegal activity.

He also claimed that Annunciation House has been violating the Emergency Food and Shelter Act’s requirement to keep daily logs of the migrants they serve.  

Dominguez pressed Farquharson on whether Paxton’s lawsuit diminishes Annunciation House’s Fourth Amendment right to freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures and to due process.

“Are you saying that Annunciation House, regardless of what they do or who they are harboring, to use your language, are you saying they have a diminished Fourth Amendment right?” the judge asked.

Farquharson responded that nonprofits are not guaranteed the same degree of Fourth Amendment protections as individuals.

Wesevich countered that “corporations have Fourth Amendment rights” and said that Paxton has no authority to shut Annunciation House down because “there has been no clear proof of any violation of law.”

“The attorney general is not looking for documents,” Wesevich said. “What the attorney general is looking for is an excuse to close Annunciation House.”

Wesevich went on to say that the “burden of proof of reasonableness” for Paxton’s records request “belongs only to the attorney general.”

TRLA held a press conference after the hearing during in which Wesevich said that Texas’ actions are “an obvious attack on Annunciation House’s fundamental right to practice the Catholic faith.”

Wesevich told CNA during the press conference that if Paxton were to be successful in his actions against Annunciation House the result would be “more people out on the streets” and “everywhere more chaos.”

“If the attorney general were successful, it would result in no decreased immigration whatsoever and only increased chaos,” he went on. “For us, for the business community, for the community at large, for the religious community, as well as for the government.”

What’s next?

Dominguez said during the hearing that he plans to issue a ruling in the next two weeks.

Wesevich said that though he is optimistic, he believes that Dominguez’s ruling will likely be appealed and that the case will go on to higher courts.

Paxton’s office did not reply to CNA’s request for comment.  

Schismatic Spanish nuns have last chance to avoid formal excommunication

null / Credit: Declausura Foundation

ACI Prensa Staff, Jun 17, 2024 / 17:15 pm (CNA).

Three of the Poor Clares had to appear before the ecclesiastical tribunal at the latest on Sunday, June 16. However, through an email they requested an extension.

New data shows more people traveling for abortions post-Dobbs

Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks to pro-life supporters before signing a law restricting abortion in Florida. / Credit: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 17, 2024 / 16:30 pm (CNA).

Although birth rate and fertility data have shown that pro-life laws throughout the country have saved thousands of preborn children’s lives, new data from the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute found that more women are also traveling out of their states to obtain abortions.

The data, which tracks month-to-month abortion numbers in the United States, found that more than 171,000 Americans traveled out of state to obtain abortions in 2023 — nearly twice as many as the number of people who did the same in 2019, according to the New York Times. Out-of-state abortion procedures accounted for about one-fifth of total abortions in 2023. These numbers include both surgical abortions and chemical abortions.

Although most people who traveled to obtain abortions went to a neighboring state, thousands crossed multiple state lines for abortions. Longer travel to get an abortion was more common for people who live in states with strong pro-life laws that are also surrounded by other states that have similar pro-life protections.

For example, 3,500 people from Louisiana traveled through multiple states to procure abortions in states like Florida, Illinois, and Georgia because both Louisiana and its neighbors prohibit most abortions.

Some states with more permissive abortion policies that border pro-life states have seen a large influx of people traveling from another state to receive abortions. For example, about 71% of the abortions performed in New Mexico in 2023 were on women who traveled from a state with strong pro-life laws, such as Texas. In 2020, only about 38% of New Mexico’s abortions were performed on women traveling from another state.

Other states with a large increase in out-of-state people seeking abortions included Illinois, Kansas, South Carolina, and North Carolina.

Michael New, a senior associate scholar at the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute, told CNA that he believes the Guttmacher analysis is intended “to downplay the impact of protective pro-life laws and make pro-life policies appear ineffective.”

“It is true that some women circumvent pro-life laws by obtaining abortions in states where the laws are more permissive,” New said. “However, it is also true that a substantial body of birth data from Texas and other states that have recently enacted protective pro-life laws shows that recently enacted pro-life laws have saved thousands of lives.”

study last year by The Journal of the American Medical Association found that the state’s law that prohibits abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected led to nearly 9,800 more births over a nine-month period after it went into effect. Data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this year found that states with pro-life laws had slower declines in fertility rates than states that have permissive abortion laws.

“All of this is strong evidence that recently enforced pro-life laws have saved tens of thousands of lives,” New added.

Isaac Maddow-Zimet, a data scientist at the Guttmacher Institute and project lead for the Monthly Abortion Provision Study project, said in a statement that the “striking” findings from the new data are “how often people are traveling across multiple state lines to access abortion care.”

“Traveling for abortion care requires individuals to overcome huge financial and logistical barriers, and our findings show just how far people will travel to obtain the care they want and deserve,” Maddow-Zimet said. “Despite the amazing resiliency of abortion patients and providers, we can’t lose sight of the fact that this is neither normal nor acceptable: A person should not have to travel hundreds or thousands of miles to receive basic health care.”

Florida was another state to witness an increase in women traveling across state lines to obtain abortions. However, Guttmacher Vice President for Public Policy Kelly Baden noted in a statement that Florida’s law that outlaws abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected — which occurs at about six weeks of pregnancy — went into effect this May, which will mean Florida will no longer be a common destination for women traveling out of state to obtain abortions. 

“We see that a state’s abortion policies affect thousands of people beyond that state’s borders,” Baden said.

The Guttmacher Institute’s data estimates nearly 1.04 million clinician-provided abortions took place in the United States in 2023 in states that do not prohibit most abortions.

Tessa Cox, a senior research associate, and Mia Steupert, a research associate, both at the Lozier Institute, told CNA in a joint statement that “a handful of pro-abortion states have driven up abortion rates by enacting increasingly extreme policies, including shipments of unregulated mail-order abortion drugs and abortionist shield laws.”

“There is a tendency to oversimplify abortion travel and conclude that the increase is solely attributable to Dobbs, but we know this is a complicated issue with many factors in play — just look at pro-abortion New York, where the largest group of out-of-state residents is women from New Jersey, accounting for nearly 3,000 abortions in 2023, according to Guttmacher,” they said.

Will Harvard return an alleged third-century relic of St. Sebastian to the Church?

Harvard University. / Credit: Jon Bilous/Shutterstock

Boston, Mass., Jun 17, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

As Harvard University undergoes the process of returning some of the thousands of Indigenous human remains in its possession to those with cultural, ancestral, or religious ties to them, one Catholic group is calling on the university to return a sacred first-class relic of St. Sebastian to the Catholic Church.

“The appropriate location for a relic of St. Sebastian is a Catholic church, chapel, or shrine, not the library of a secular university,” C.J. Doyle, executive director of the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts, told the College Fix in May. 

“Harvard should do the right thing and donate it to a local Catholic church,” he said.

In a statement to CNA, Harvard Library spokeswoman Kerry Conley said the relic was acquired by the school through a purchase from an antiquarian bookseller in 2021. 

The bone relic, in a medallion reliquary, is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity by the Catholic Church with two illegible signatures, according to its description on Harvard Library’s website.

The coat of arms of Bishop Nicola Angelo Maria Landini, titular bishop of Porphyreon — which is present-day Jieh, Lebanon — and vicar general of the Vatican Curia are on the certificate, which is dated Oct. 12, 1774. 

A cartouche on the reliquary says “S. Simonii Ap,” indicating that “it might have previously held a relic of St. Simon the Zealot,” the description says.

The relic is located in Houghton Library in its special collection stacks, an area only available to staff and researchers by request.

Conley said that, although the university listed the relic in a 2022 report detailing human remains located in Harvard museum collections, the object “has not been tested and we do not know whether it is indeed human, nor can we say whether it dates from the third century.”

“It was included in the university’s report because the documentation it accompanied purported the bone to be human; however, there is no genetic testing or carbon dating to affirm that claim,” she said.

Who is St. Sebastian?

In Pope Francis’ March 2019 postsynodal apostolic exhortation Christus Vivit, the Holy Father spoke of St. Sebastian as a role model for young people.

“In the third century, St. Sebastian was a young captain of the Praetorian Guard. It is said that he spoke constantly of Christ and tried to convert his companions, to the point that he was ordered to renounce his faith,” the Holy Father wrote.

“Since he refused, he was shot with arrows, yet he survived and continued to proclaim Christ fearlessly. In the end, Sebastian was flogged to death,” the pope wrote.

The early Church martyr is the patron saint of archers and athletes.

Is the relic real?

There are many purported relics that are actually not real relics at all, according to Sean Pilcher, an expert on relics and director of Sacra, an organization that promotes the veneration of relics while repairing and authenticating them.

“The question is less about whether it is actual human remains because there’s basically no doubt that it’s human remains. The question is: ‘Is it the relic that it purports to be? Are the bones in the reliquary the bones of that saint or is it a forgery?’” Pilcher told CNA in a phone call.

Pilcher, who has worked with thousands of relics, said he wouldn’t be able to authenticate the purported St. Sebastian relic at Harvard from afar. 

“I’d have to examine and compare the sources, find out where it came from, look at the seal and the document and some other tangibles about the relic,” he said.

Should Harvard return the relic?

If the relic is authentic, does Harvard have an obligation to transfer it to the Catholic Church?

In an email to CNA, Father Carlos Martins, another relic expert and director of Treasures of the Church, said “yes.”

“Yes, as would any organization that comes into possession of something held deeply sacred by a church or by another organization, such as a nation,” he wrote.

“Imagine if an individual somehow came into legal ownership of the original copy of the Declaration of Independence,” Martins wrote. “While it might be tempting for him to keep it — or even sell it for the great sum it would fetch — the noble, honorable, and moral thing to do is to return it to the people of the United States.”

“Great sensitivity and self-transcendence must be exercised whenever something is held to be sacred by others,” the priest said. 

“What is sacred is not just important. It is part of the very identity of the people who hold it to be such. It is a grave injustice for the object to be profaned or even just alienated from those people.”

Will Harvard give the relic to the Church?

A policy set by Harvard in 2022 put in place a process for the return of human remains and other sacred objects possessed by the university but notes that returns would be on a “case-by-case basis.”

Claimants must approach the university and provide evidence of “standing” for their request of the object or remains, the policy says. 

“Claims should demonstrate the significance of the object to the claimant, a category that could include sacred, cultural, religious, national, communal, or historical importance. How does the absence of the item affect the claimant community? Does the significance or other attribute of the item make it unsuitable for display and/or continued research? Are there other claimants?” the policy says.

As of June 7, no one has reached out to Harvard requesting the St. Sebastian relic, according to Conley. 

The Archdiocese of Boston did not respond to a request for comment about the alleged relic at Harvard. 

Harvard’s policy for the return of human remains is an extension of the school’s commitment to fulfill its legal obligation as outlined in federal law via the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 (NAGPRA). That law provides for the return of Native American human remains and cultural objects to the Native peoples.

Holly Jensen, a Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences spokeswoman, told Harvard’s student university newspaper in February that the school’s Peabody Museum has repatriated over 40% of its more than 10,000 held Indigenous “ancestors” under NAGPRA.

The Peabody Museum wrote on its website that “to address return of cultural items beyond NAGPRA, Harvard University published guidelines on the Consideration of Claims for the Return of Items in Harvard University Collections (2022),” which is the name of the policy.

Relics in other museums

According to Pilcher, the problem of relics in secular places is wider than just Harvard: “Any art museum of reasonable size in a large American city possesses sacred relics.”

In the Art Institute of Chicago, there is a relic of St. Christina. The museum also has relics of St. Anne, Sts. Bernward and Godehard of Hildesheim, St. Anianus, and St. Lawrence.

In the Cleveland Museum of Art, there is another bone relic of St. Sebastian. And in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, there is a copper reliquary from Italy that is purported to hold the tooth of St. Mary Magdalene.

Some reliquaries in American museums appear to still be holding objects inside them, such as this one from the Detroit Institute of Arts. However, its online exhibit does not specify whether the relic is still held within.

Martins said that relics “possess an innate sacredness” and are forbidden to be sold under canon laws.

“They are not sacramentals (e.g., rosaries, water, scapulars, crucifixes) that are blessed and become holy through the blessing (i.e., water that is blessed is called holy water),” he said. 

“Relics are holy in and of themselves simply by being what they are — an object associated with a saint, who is a ‘temple of the Holy Spirit,’” he said.

Lasting peace requires all warring parties in dialogue, cardinal says

The only way to achieve true, stable and just peace is by having all sides of a conflict involved in dialogue, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, said at a peace summit in Switzerland.

"The Holy See expresses its hope that the diplomatic effort currently being promoted by Ukraine and supported by so many countries will be improved, in order to achieve the results that the victims deserve and that the entire world is hoping for," he said in his speech June 16.

Upon Ukraine's request, Switzerland organized a Summit on Peace in Ukraine, which was held at a resort overlooking Lake Lucerne in the Canton of Nidwalden June 15-16. Switzerland invited more than 160 heads of state and other government leaders to kick-start a peace process by developing "a common understanding of a path towards a just and lasting peace in Ukraine." 

zelenskyy
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy gestures as he speaks at a press conference during a summit on peace in Ukraine held in Stansstad, Switzerland, June 16, 2024. (CNS photo/KEYSTONE/EDA/POOL/Michael Buholzer)

About 100 delegations, including 57 heads of state and governments, attended the conference. Russia, which escalated its attacks on Ukraine with a full-scale assault in 2022, was not invited after it had indicated multiple times it had no interest in participating, and China, repeatedly called on by international leaders to use its leverage to bring Russia to the negotiating table, was also absent.

Cardinal Parolin, who led the Vatican delegation, said, "It is important to reiterate that the only means capable of achieving true, stable and just peace is dialogue between all the parties involved."

"In the face of war and its tragic consequences, it is important never to give up, but to continue to seek ways to end the conflict with good intentions, trust and creativity," he said, praising Ukraine for working "continuously on the diplomatic front, eager to achieve a just and lasting peace" all while it is "making enormous efforts to defend itself from aggression."

The Vatican is deeply concerned about "the tragic humanitarian consequences" of the war "and is especially committed to facilitating the repatriation of children and encouraging the release of prisoners, especially seriously wounded soldiers and civilians" by maintaining direct contact and communication with both Ukrainian and Russian authorities, he said.

"The reunification of minors with their families or legal guardians must be a paramount concern for all parties, and any exploitation of their situation is unacceptable. It is therefore imperative that every available channel is strengthened to facilitate this process," he said. 

peace summit
About 100 delegations, including 57 heads of state and governments, attend a plenary session of a summit on peace in Ukraine held in Stansstad, Switzerland, June 16, 2024. (CNS photo/KEYSTONE/EDA/POOL/Urs Flueeler)

The Vatican "remains prepared to assist in the implementation of potential mediation initiatives that are acceptable to all parties and benefit those who have been affected," he said, encouraging all nations and members of the international community "to explore ways of providing assistance and facilitating mediation, whether of a humanitarian or political nature."

"We trust that by supporting these efforts, we can help to find consensus and ensure the timely implementation of these projects," he said.

The Vatican participated in the summit as an observer state and, as such, did not sign the final joint communiqué on a peace framework meant to be the basis for a peace agreement to end Russia's two-year war.

Annual Survey Provides Insight into the State of the Permanent Diaconate in the Church

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations has released its annual survey, A Portrait of the Permanent Diaconate in 2023: A Study for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Since 2005, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University has conducted this survey which provides important statistics and forecasting trends on the state of the permanent diaconate in the Church in the United States. 

Bishop Earl A. Boyea of Lansing, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations expressed his gratitude for the service of permanent deacons in the Church: “An important part of the life of deacons has been their service of the poor or vulnerable by bringing them the love of Christ and guidance. The faithful and tireless witness of deacons is greatly appreciated, and it challenges each of us to strive to serve our neighbor better. I invite the faithful to pray and support deacons in their efforts to spread the Word of God and serve those who are many times the least, the last and the lost. 

The survey utilized contact information from the National Association of Diaconate Directors (NADD) and was sent to the Office of the Permanent Diaconate in the Latin and Eastern Rite (arch)dioceses and eparchies. In total, CARA received responses from 128 of the 185 (arch)dioceses/eparchies whose bishops are members of the USCCB and have an active Office of Deacons, for a 69% response rate. 

  • The estimated number of permanent deacons in active ministry was 13,718 in 2023, roughly 69% of all permanent deacons in the Latin Church. 
  • The Archdiocese of Chicago had the greatest number of permanent deacons (827) followed by Galveston-Houston (346), New York (357), and Joliet in Illinois (307). 
  • There were 587 men ordained to the permanent diaconate in 2023. Since 2014, the estimated number of ordinations averaged 613. 
  • Most active deacons are between 60-69 years old (42%) followed by deacons 70 and older (36%). 
  • Most permanent deacons are Caucasian/white (73%) followed by Hispanic/Latino (20%), Asian/Pacific Islander (3%), African American/black (3%), and Native American/other (1%). 
  • Active permanent deacons most commonly serve in a parish ministerial position, such as a DRE or youth minister (23%), followed by a parish non-ministerial position, such as administration or business (20%), diocesan non-ministerial positions (12%). Additionally, 9% were entrusted with the pastoral care of one or more parishes, 8% serve in prison ministry and hospital ministry. 

The full survey conducted by CARA may be accessed here.

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Innovate to care for the environment, the excluded, pope tells CEOs

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Today's businesses must focus their innovation in caring for the environment, Pope Francis told a group of leaders of major companies and banks.

"It is no longer enough merely to comply with the laws of states, which are proceeding too slowly: we need to innovate by anticipating the future, with courageous and forward-looking choices that can be imitated," he said.

"We are living in a time of serious environmental crisis that depends on many individuals and factors, among which are the economic and business choices of the past and present," he told the group during an audience at the Vatican June 15.

The group included 25 CEOs who are part of the Sustainable Markets Initiative. Established in 2020 by King Charles III, the initiative brings together leaders from different sectors to commit to concrete action that supports sustainable economic growth and caring for the environment.

The pope urged the leaders to pay attention to and critically discern the impact of their businesses so as to "fully exercise responsibility for the direct and indirect effects of your choices."

Pope Francis rides the popemobile in St. Peter's Square.
Pope Francis smiles as he rides the popemobile around St. Peter's Square before his weekly general audience at the Vatican June 12, 2024. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

He gave them three tasks: to help care for the environment, the poor and young people.

"I urge you to place the environment and the earth at the center of your attention and responsibility," he said, adding that "the innovation of the entrepreneur nowadays must first and foremost be innovation in caring for our common home."

"Do not forget the poorest and the discarded," he said. Just as people seek to recycle materials and waste, "we have not yet learned -- allow me to use the expression -- to 'recycle' and not discard people and workers, especially the most vulnerable, to whom the culture of waste often applies."

He warned against a kind of "meritocracy" that is used to legitimize excluding the poor, "who are judged as undeserving, even to the point of viewing poverty itself as their fault."

"And let us not settle for merely a little philanthropy, that would be insufficient. The challenge is to include the poor in businesses, to make them resources for the benefit of all," he said.

"I dream of a world in which the discarded can become protagonists of change," he said, pointing to Jesus as someone who did just that.

Lastly, he said, young people are often among today's poor, in that they may lack resources, opportunities and a future.

He urged them to practice "corporate hospitality, which means generously welcoming young people even when they lack the required experience and skills, for every job is learned only by doing it."

New study suggests more than two-thirds of Catholics believe the Eucharist is truly Jesus

Archbishop Samuel Aquila carries the Eucharist out of the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Denver on June 9, 2024. / Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA

CNA Staff, Jun 16, 2024 / 07:30 am (CNA).

A new study has found that 69% of Mass-going Catholics believe in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist — a result that calls into question the accuracy of a bombshell 2019 study from Pew Research Center, which found that only a third of Catholics believe in this core tenet of the faith. 

Vinea Research, a Catholic firm that conducted the new survey in late 2022, says the survey language it used, which was different from Pew’s, produced a figure that “more accurately represents how Catholics understand the Eucharist.”

“[U]sing language more commonly understood by Catholics, Vinea’s research indicates that many more Catholics than originally thought have an authentic understanding of the core Catholic teaching of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist,” the group said in a press release. 

The 2019 Pew study was widely cited as a catalyst for the ongoing National Eucharistic Revival, an initiative of the U.S. bishops beginning in 2022 to spread and deepen devotion to Christ in the Eucharist. The revival will culminate with the National Eucharistic Congress, a major gathering in Indianapolis from July 17–21. 

As part of the 2022 survey, Vinea sampled 2,200 people, giving half of the respondents the original Pew wording and the other half questions the group revised to better reflect Catholic language. (The Vinea study was done independently, said Hans Plate, founder of Vinea Research, with no involvement or sponsorship by the U.S. bishops or the Eucharistic Revival.) 

The Pew study asked respondents what they think the Church teaches about the Eucharist and also what they personally believe, using the same question for both: 

“During Catholic Mass, the bread and wine… 

a. Actually become the body and blood of Jesus Christ 

b. Are symbols of the body and blood of Jesus Christ”

Vinea’s revised questions, taking into account the fact that the Catechism of the Catholic Church describes Jesus as “truly present” in the Eucharist, read as follows:

  1. Which of the following best describes Catholic teaching about the bread and wine used for Communion? 

    a. Jesus Christ is truly present in the bread and wine of the Eucharist 

    b. Bread and wine are symbols of Jesus, but Jesus is not truly present 

    c. Not sure 

  2. Regardless of the official teaching of the Catholic Church, what do you personally believe about the bread and wine used for Communion? 

    a. Jesus Christ is truly present in the bread and wine of the Eucharist 

    b. Bread and wine are symbols of Jesus, but Jesus is not truly present

Plate told CNA that among their respondents who got the original Pew questions, 41% expressed belief in the Real Presence — slightly higher, but not dissimilar, to Pew’s result. However, among those who got the revised questions, 69% overall expressed belief. 

“I don’t want to compare my study to Pew’s study, but I am comparing Pew’s language to more Catholic-accurate language … wording matters significantly,” he said. 

Plate also noted that the level of belief in the Real Presence varied considerably by self-reported Mass attendance.

Among those Catholics who say they “seldom” attend Mass, only 51% expressed belief in the Real Presence. By contrast, 81% of Catholics who attend weekly and 92% who attend more than weekly said they believe. Even among Catholics who only attend a few times a year, nearly two-thirds said they believe in the Real Presence.

This study is not the first to attempt to revise the questions posed by Pew to get more a more accurate sense of Eucharistic belief; in 2023, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University conducted a study tweaking the wording of the questions and found that 64% of those surveyed “provided responses that indicate they believe in the Real Presence.” That study also found that 95% of weekly Mass attendees and 80% who attend at least once a month believe in the Real Presence.

Plate was quick to point out that Vinea’s study does not in any way refute the need for a national “Eucharistic revival.” In addition to the still-sizable portion of Catholics who don’t believe in the Real Presence, he noted that their study uncovered a Catholic population that rarely attends Mass yet believes Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist. 

“That’s something that, I think, can be nurtured with a lot of the things that the Eucharistic Congress and Revival are doing,” he said. 

“That’s where the revival and further catechesis on the Eucharist is really important, to get them to want to know and love the Eucharist, and want it for themselves.”

In addition, Plate said a large majority of Catholics in the survey — 88% — who were aware of the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist also said that is what they themselves believe. 

“What this tells me is that for the ‘symbol only’ people, it’s less about rejecting Church teaching and more about being misinformed,” he explained. 

“I’m drawing a conclusion on the basis of just two questions, but that seems to me to be a reasonable hypothesis that could be explored in future Eucharistic-centered research.”

Tim Glemkowski, CEO of the National Eucharistic Congress, told CNA that they are “grateful to Vinea for this research, which shows the reality of Catholics in the pews with greater precision.”

“Catholics do love and believe in the Real Presence and are coming out in droves to encounter Our Lord in the Eucharist as he passes through the country along the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage routes,” he said in an email to CNA. 

“Though a larger number believe in the Real Presence than previously thought, the Church is still far from 100% of Mass-going Catholics holding that core belief,” Glemkowski noted. 

“In response to this, the National Eucharistic Congress has been preparing for the last two years to prepare disciples to go out and share the good news of our Eucharistic Christ with the world. This will continue to be the core mission of the National Eucharistic Congress organization as we complete the revival and go forward from there.”

Men’s group at Ave Maria University aims to form selfless husbands and loving fathers

Young men at Ave Maria University take part in an event hosted by the St. Joseph's Men's Group, which strives to form selfless husbands, loving fathers, and emulate the group's namesake. / Credit: Ave Maria University

CNA Staff, Jun 16, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

A men’s group on the campus of Ave Maria University in Ave Maria, Florida, is equipping young men with the tools necessary to become selfless husbands and loving fathers. The St. Joseph’s Men’s Group is made up of roughly 190 men striving to emulate the group’s namesake.

Through fellowship, presentations, and small-group discussions, these young men help one another grow and support one another in their vocations. The group is made up of two kinds of members — regular members who actively participate in the group’s community life and “fraternity” members who lead smaller, more intentional gatherings on specific topics. There are currently 12 fraternity members.

Young men at Ave Maria University take part in an event hosted by the St. Joseph's Men's Group, which strives to form selfless husbands, loving fathers, and emulate the group's namesake. Credit: Ave Maria University
Young men at Ave Maria University take part in an event hosted by the St. Joseph's Men's Group, which strives to form selfless husbands, loving fathers, and emulate the group's namesake. Credit: Ave Maria University

Joseph Cox, a recent Ave Maria graduate, founded the group in 2022. He spoke with CNA about his inspiration for creating the group and how it helped him find his own vocation — the priesthood. 

Cox shared that he knew he wanted to create a group on campus the summer before his sophomore year; however, he initially wanted the group to help young men struggling with pornography. After thinking more about it, he decided to make the group more broad so that even those who may not be Catholic could join.

“I thought of the idea of just simply starting a men’s group on campus — the St. Joseph’s Men’s Group — really with the idea of creating an environment where guys can come together with no sort of commitment but could come together and just grow in fraternity, grow in masculinity, a greater set of holiness,” Cox said.

He added: “The idea was also to bring together, to create a common ground, those at Ave that are bought into the mission and bought into the spiritual life, and those that are not bought into the mission and those that may not be Catholic or who may not practice the faith anymore.”

The 21-year-old explained that the group’s events begin with food and socializing, followed by a speaker who talks about a topic tailored to men. The attendees then break out into small groups for the last part of the event, which are led by the 12 fraternity members. Cox pointed out that most of the fraternity members are actually athletes on campus.

“These athletes are guys that are very respected by their teammates because they’re athletically gifted — they may be a captain on a team for whatever sport they play — but as well as them being athletically gifted, they also have a relationship with Christ,” he shared.

In addition to hosting events on the campus of Ave Maria, Cox partnered with the University of Miami’s men’s group that is a part of FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) to have combined events a couple of times each semester on their campus. 

This past Lent, the members of the St. Joseph Men’s Group took part in the “Consecration to St. Joseph” by Father Donald Calloway, MIC, which is a 33-day consecration to the beloved saint. 

“We had a little over 200 guys that went through with the consecration,” Cox recalled. “So in addition to all the guys doing the 33-day consecration on their own, we would have a weekly meeting [with] smaller groups … and then on the 33rd day, when they would actually make their consecration to St. Joseph, we had a big event. It was a big Mass, with adoration and confession, and all the guys who had done the consecration consecrated themselves collectively as a group of guys together.”

He encourages both men and women alike to “look to the virtues of St. Joseph — his purity, his silence, his obedience.”

Young men at Ave Maria University take part in an event hosted by the St. Joseph's Men's Group, which strives to form selfless husbands, loving fathers, and emulate the group's namesake. Credit: Ave Maria University
Young men at Ave Maria University take part in an event hosted by the St. Joseph's Men's Group, which strives to form selfless husbands, loving fathers, and emulate the group's namesake. Credit: Ave Maria University

Now Cox will be heading to the seminary in three weeks and credits, in part, his involvement with the men’s group in finding his vocation. 

“I would say that what inspired me more for the priesthood was seeing guys with options,” he shared. “Meaning that guys that could be the best fathers, the best husbands, in the best jobs, and they were willing to sacrifice all of that for something that they believe is greater.”

He added that being a part of the group has given him the “desire to live out mission especially on the college campus.”

Cox explained that he originally wanted to become a FOCUS missionary after college, but when he came across the Legionaries of Christ he noticed that they were now focusing more on serving as campus chaplains for different colleges around the country. 

“So when I came to kind of this crossroad it was really could I see myself doing college ministry as an occupation with something like FOCUS or potentially as a vocation for the rest of my life with the priesthood,” Cox explained. “If anything, this group, what it’s done is given me that desire to continue the college route.”

“At the end of the day, I’ve always said if the Lord calls me out of the seminary and I don’t become a priest I go right in FOCUS. College ministry is where I want to spend my life — whether that’s with FOCUS or the priesthood, the Lord will make it known but it will be through that mission.”