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Federal court rules against Tennessee abortion restrictions

Tennessee state house / Wangkun Jia/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Sep 10, 2021 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

A federal appeals court ruled against Tennessee’s abortion restrictions on Friday, nine days after another pro-life “heartbeat” law went into effect in Texas.

In July 2020, Tennessee enacted a law restricting abortions at several stages in pregnancy, including abortions conducted after detection of a fetal heartbeat which can occur as early as six weeks post gestation.

The law also prohibited abortions conducted because of the race or sex of the baby, or because of a Down syndrome diagnosis.

On Friday, a three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit ruled against both provisions, upholding a lower court’s ruling that halted them from going into effect.

Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey, authoring the majority opinion, wrote that “access to pre-viability abortion is a constitutionally protected right.” Daughtrey noted that “the law remains clear that if a regulation is a substantial obstacle to a woman seeking an abortion, it is invalid.”

The pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List stated on Twitter that the ruling was "disappointing" and that the state's pro-life provisions were "commonsense."

"However we're confident that soon SCOTUS will once again allow states to protect life," the group stated.

The ruling comes as a Texas law restricting most abortions in the state went into effect on Sept. 1. Later this fall, the Supreme Court will also hear oral arguments in the case of a Mississippi law prohibiting most abortions after 15 weeks.

Texas’ “heartbeat” law prohibits most abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, with exceptions for medical emergencies. That law is unique in that it is enforced through private party lawsuits and not by the state.

On Sept. 1, the Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the law hours after it had already gone into effect.

National pro-abortion groups and the Biden administration vowed to maintain abortions in Texas, as Biden said the law “blatantly violates the constitutional right established under Roe v. Wade and upheld as precedent for nearly half a century.” The Justice Department on Thursday sued Texas officials, as well as any private parties bringing lawsuits under the “heartbeat” law.

Judge Daughtrey on Friday noted the recent increase in state abortion restrictions, saying that “this development is not a signal to the courts to change course. It is, in fact, just the opposite. The judiciary exists as a check on majoritarian rule.”

“The State may not use the courts to ‘enforce [their moral principles] on the whole society through operation of the criminal law,’” Judge Daughtrey wrote.

However, Judge Amul Thapar called for the Supreme Court to reconsider Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide, as well as Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the 1992 decision that upheld Roe. He concurred in part and dissented in part from the majority opinion.

“None of these timing restrictions are permissible under the Roe/Casey framework,” he said of the Tennessee law. “But Roe and Casey are wrong as a matter of constitutional text, structure, and history.”

“Only seven other countries permit abortions after 20 weeks. That list includes China and North Korea—not exactly countries to emulate,” he wrote.

Regarding the law’s ban on abortions conducted for the “reason” of race, sex, or diagnosis, he said he would have upheld that provision.

“On this point, the majority stands alone,” he said. “And its decision to strike down the anti-discrimination statute at the altar of abortion is wrong.”

Catholics ask Gov. Newsom to reject St. Junipero Serra falsehoods

A statue of St. Junipero Serra outside the California capitol in Sacramento, which was destroyed by a mob July 4, 2020. / Nathan Hughes Hamilton via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Sacramento, Calif., Sep 10, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

Misleading claims about St. Junipero Serra have made their way into a bill sent to California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk, drawing concerns and objections from several Catholic leaders who say the errors shouldn’t stand amid debate about statues of the pioneering Spanish Franciscan missionary.

After vandals knocked down a decades-old statue of Serra on the grounds of the California capitol last year, the Democratic-controlled state legislature passed a bill to remove a place for the Franciscan missionary saint and instead place a Native American statue on the grounds.

“The California Catholic Conference supports the intention of A.B. 338 to create a monument that represents and honors the Native peoples of California,” Kathleen Domingo, executive director of the California Catholic Conference, told CNA Sept. 3. “We recognize the immense contributions of the Native peoples and the terrible hardships they have endured. The support for our Native peoples need not come at the cost of spreading false information about St Junipero Serra.”

However, the Catholic conference said it “strongly objects” to the legislature’s findings presented in the bill about St. Junipero Serra and the mission system.

“Credible historians do not support the findings made in this bill, which are highly offensive and not historically accurate,” Domingo said. “The native peoples of California suffered a ‘genocide’ beginning in 1851 under California Governor Peter Burnett. This is a horrific part of our state’s history and a terrible tragedy for our Native brothers and sisters. This began long after Junipero Serra’s death in 1784.”

Junipero Serra's missions played a critical role in the spread of Christianity. Many of Serra’s missions form the cores of what are today the state's largest cities, including San Diego, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. He was particularly admired in the 20th century and various statues of him were erected on public grounds.

Critics have since lambasted Serra as a symbol of European colonialism and said the missions engaged in the forced labor of Native Americans, sometimes claiming Serra himself was abusive.

But Serra's defenders say the priest was actually an advocate for native people and a champion of human rights. They note that he often found himself at odds with Spanish authorities over mistreatment of native people, and the native communities themselves showed an outpouring of grief at his death.

“Catholics in California are proud of our rich history and the faith brought by St. Junipero Serra,” Domingo said. “We know that Serra and the missionaries fought for better treatment of the Native people and taught that all people have equal dignity under God. Our diverse parishes include Latinos and Native people praying together. Our Church in California must include a cooperative effort to celebrate the gifts and accomplishments of the Native people and the missions and a commitment to working together peacefully and respectfully for the better future.”

The California legislation’s purported findings side with Serra’s critics, however. The bill says, “One of the greatest gaps between history and reality has been the retelling of the mission period in Native American history and the role of Franciscan friar Junípero Serra.”

“Enslavement of both adults and children, mutilation, genocide, and assault on women were all part of the mission period initiated and overseen by Father Serra,” the bill continues. “Therefore, it is critical that California address the incomplete telling of the history and contributions of Native Americans in this state and that the devastating impact of the mission period, and Father Serra’s role in that devastation, be recognized and acknowledged.”

A statue of Junipero Serra was on the California Capitol Grounds from 1965 until July 4 of last year, when about 200 demonstrators damaged it and tore it down. Some protesters at the capitol had portrayed this gathering as an effort to “decolonize the streets.” Statues of Serra were vandalized or torn down across California, including some on church grounds.

“There have been a number of incidences of vandalism to statues, church buildings and other religious structures or artwork throughout California and the U.S.,” Domingo said. “This should be of great concern to everyone, religious or not. Throughout history, church buildings have been recognized as refuges of hope and healing, and religious art has been revered. We are seeing a growing hostility in our culture toward faith and people of faith.”

 

When vandals knocked down the Serra statue at the capitol grounds, Bishop Jaime Soto acknowledged the suffering of indigenous people under Spanish colonialism and later “the horror of government-sanctioned genocide under the nascent State of California.”

“Yet, it is also true that while Fr. Serra worked under this colonial system, he denounced its evils and worked to protect the dignity of native peoples,” he said in July 2020.

If Newsom signs A.B. 338, it would remove the legal statute that requires a statue of Junipero Serra to be maintained on the capitol grounds and instead require a monument to Native Americans. The governor can sign the bill, veto it, send it back for modification, or do nothing, Domingo explained. He has until Oct. 10 to act on the bill.

The Thomas More Society of Orange County, a group sponsored by lay Catholic lawyers and judges, in a Sept. 2 email charged that the legislature seeks “to permanently defame” Serra’s life and legacy. The group asked its members and supporters to contact Newsom’s office and state their opposition to the statements about Father Serra in the bill.

“The St. Thomas More Society of Orange County supports the concept of constructing a monument honoring the native people of the Sacramento region,” the group said. “However, we strongly oppose the absolutely unnecessary and conclusory findings tarnishing Fr. Serra, and we are concerned how these findings may be used in the future. The monument can certainly be constructed without disparaging Fr. Serra.”

The Catholic lawyers’ group provided a sample message to the governor which called the bill “misleading, conclusory and sparse on facts.” The bill “goes much farther” than recognizing Native Americans and contains “entirely unnecessary, unsupported legislative findings that disparage Fr. Serra.”

“It is offensive to Catholics and their heritage and history in California, and contains a highly incomplete and inaccurate portrayal of a great man,” said the sample message. The message urges the governor not to sign the bill or to remove “all legislative findings” about Fr. Serra from the bill.

The Catholic group objected that the bill relies on “a singly highly questionable source” and ignores “the plethora of evidence in favor of the Apostle of California.”

Among the longtime admirers of St. Junipero Serra is Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, a Mexican-American who has often depicted Serra as another “Founding Father” of the United States.

“The sad truth is that, beginning decades ago, activists started ‘revising’ history to make St. Junipero the focus of all the abuses committed against California's indigenous peoples,” Archbishop Gomez said in a June 29, 2020 column for Angelus News. “But the crimes and abuses that our saint is blamed for--slanders that are spread widely today over the internet and sometimes repeated by public figures--actually happened long after his death.”

He praised respectful debate about Serra monuments, but also defended Serra’s example.

“He learned their languages and their ancient customs and ways,” said the archbishop. “St. Junipero came not to conquer, he came to be a brother. ‘We have all come here and remained here for the sole purpose of their well-being and salvation,’ he once wrote. ‘And I believe everyone realizes we love them’.”

“Serious scholars conclude that St. Junipero himself was a gentle man and there were no physical abuses or forced conversions while he was president of the mission system,” said Archbishop Gomez.

Fr. Tom Elewaut, pastor of the Old Mission Basilica of San Buenaventura, told CNA last year that indigenous people are not uniformly critical of Serra.

“There is substantial evidence that among the Chumash St. Junipero Serra is revered and respected for his contributions to our county. Their voices have not been heard or respected. Their voices should have equal weight and import.” Some indigenous Americans, both in Ventura and Santa Barbara, are “appalled by the character assassination of St. Junipero Serra,” the priest reported.

Fr. Elewaut is the 30th successor of St. Junipero Serra at the San Buenaventura mission, which St. Junipero founded on Easter Sunday 1782. It was the final mission the friar founded.

“Historic fact supports the good Serra brought to the indigenous people of Alta California, his spiritual children,” he said, stating that indigenous Californians suffered the most after the mission period had ended. “Do your homework, read the historical facts, and learn who really abused the indigenous peoples. Not Serra himself and not the intent of the Mission Era.”

Pope Francis canonized Serra during his 2015 U.S. visit, making Serra the first Hispanic saint to minister in the continental U.S. He praised Serra as “the embodiment of 'a Church which goes forth', a Church which sets out to bring everywhere the reconciling tenderness of God.”

“Junípero sought to defend the dignity of the native community, to protect it from those who had mistreated and abused it,” the pope said. “Mistreatment and wrongs which today still trouble us, especially because of the hurt which they cause in the lives of many people.”

Providence bishop: Catholic congressman's abortion position 'terribly disappointing'

Congressman James Langevin. / (public domain)

Providence, R.I., Sep 10, 2021 / 11:00 am (CNA).

Bishop Tomas Tobin of Providence on Thursday lambasted a local congressman’s newspaper editorial which explains his support for federally codifying abortion rights, despite his Catholic faith and professed personal pro-life views.

“We are so tired of hearing Catholic politicians say, as Jim Langevin does, ‘Although I remain personally opposed to abortion . . .’ and then go on to support abortion,” Bishop Tobin wrote in a Sept. 9 statement. “That pathetic excuse doesn’t fly anymore.”

A Sept. 9 column in the Providence Journal by Rep. James Langevin, a Democrat who represents Rhode Island’s second congressional district, explains how his position on legalized abortion has “evolved.” He says his increased support for abortion rights is the reason he will be voting for the Women’s Health Protection Act when he arrives in Washington D.C. in the coming weeks.

“Although I remain personally opposed to abortion, as a matter of public policy, my position has evolved,” Langevin wrote. “I will join as a co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act. And when I return to Washington, D.C., in two weeks, I will vote to codify the protections afforded by Roe into federal law.”

The Women’s Health Protection Act would grant women the right to undergo an abortion, and health care workers the right to perform an abortion. It would prohibit states from restricting abortions through laws requiring mandatory ultrasounds or waiting periods before an abortion. It would also block restrictions on pre-viability abortions and on the method of abortions. 

The bill would eliminate the possibility for pro-life riders like the Hyde Amendment, which have protected Americans from paying for abortions with their tax dollars.

Abortion activist politicians have introduced the bill multiple times since 2013, but have had no success in passage. The bill has 48 co-sponsors in the Senate and 205 in the House. 

Bishop Tobin said that “although Congressman Langevin had previously attempted to nuance his pro-life position, his new statement on behalf of the ‘Women’s Health Protection Act’ removes any doubt about where he stands and is terribly disappointing.”

In his column, Langevin criticized Republicans for claiming to be pro-life while “consistently vote against policies that help millions of kids and families across our country.” 

The congressman explained how he has fought to expand access to healthcare and protect the social safety net, as well as “championed initiatives to ensure every child can find their forever home with a safe and loving family.”

He added that he hopes the policies he fought for would continue, but “cannot, in good conscience, sit idly by as the right-wing legislators of Texas — and a soon to be bevy of copycat states — take our country in a very dangerous direction.”

“Nor can I cast a vote against a policy that the people of Rhode Island have already seen fit to enshrine in our state law,” he said.

The congressman said he is “deeply alarmed by the direction the Republican Party and the right-wing Supreme Court are headed,” adding that he believes “the consequences will be disastrous, and the already fraying fabric of our nation will tear even further.”

Bishop Tobin said Langevin’s decision to “reconsider” his position on abortion shows he has joined the “partisan pro-abortion bandwagon.”

“Jim Langevin claims to be a ‘practicing Catholic,’” Bishop Tobin wrote, “but practicing Catholics do not promote the legalization of abortion which the Church clearly teaches is an ‘abominable crime.’” 

Bishop Tobin concluded by acknowledging the obligation to speak the truth: “that every time an abortion takes place, a child dies.”

“Sadly,” he said, “that reality will now be on the heart and soul and conscience of Jim Langevin.”

‘March for the Martyrs’ to raise awareness of Christian persecution

March for the Martyrs, Sept. 5, 2020 / For the Martyrs

Washington D.C., Sep 10, 2021 / 10:01 am (CNA).

The second annual March for the Martyrs, an event to draw attention to global Christian persecution, will be held on Sept. 25 in Washington, D.C. 

It will mark the first time the event has been held in the nation’s capital. The move to Washington from Long Beach, California was done to bring greater awareness of Christian persecution overseas. 

“We all see what’s going on in Afghanistan right now. Christians are being hunted down and killed,” said Gia Chacon, president of the group For the Martyrs which organized the march. 

“This is happening in so many other nations across the world, and so few people are talking about it. That’s why we’ve chosen to move the March for the Martyrs to Washington, D.C.” 

For the Martyrs is an advocacy group founded in 2019 that seeks to raise awareness of international Christian persecution and promote religious freedom. 

Chacon estimates that “thousands” will attend the march in Washington, and asked participants to wear red in solidarity with persecuted Christians. 

The march will begin on the National Mall, and will end at the JW Marriott hotel on Pennsylvania Ave. The day’s events include a rally on the National Mall, and “Night of the Martyrs,” featuring testimonies from survivors of Christian persecution as well as from advocates. 

Last year’s march “was and continues to be the United States’ first and only large-scale march representing persecuted Christians,” the group states.

While the board members of For the Martyrs are Catholic, the march is open to all. 

“I believe we can all unite around this cause - with one voice - as the body of Christ in the United States advocating for our persecuted brothers and sisters,” said Chacon.  

The march will be co-sponsored by The Catholic Connect Foundation, Open Doors USA, In Defense of Christians, Liberty University’s Freedom Center, and Students for Life.  

Speakers at the rally include Fr. Benedict Kiely, the founder of Nasarean.org; David Curry, president of Open Doors USA; Bob Fu, a Chinese defector and the founder of China Aid; and Toufic Baaklini, the president of In Defense of Christians. 

Alejandro Bermudez, executive director of Catholic News Agency, is an advisory board member of For the Martyrs.

Catholic health ministry head decries 'unjust' federal vaccine mandate

President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the White House, Sept. 9, 2021 / WhiteHouse.gov

Washington D.C., Sep 10, 2021 / 08:04 am (CNA).

President Joe Biden on Thursday announced a federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate for many private employers, drawing criticism from the head of one Catholic health care ministry.

“Coercing individuals into making a medical intervention is unjust,” said Louis Brown, executive director of the Christ Medicus Foundation and former acting deputy director of the Civil Rights Division of the HHS Office for Civil Rights, in an interview with CNA on Thursday.

“And a vaccine mandate that could cause millions of Americans to lose their jobs, to be excluded from large swathes of civil society – to become, effectively, second-class citizens – seriously undermines the principle of human dignity and the civil rights foundations of America,” he said.

President Biden on Thursday said his administration would require employers with 100 or more employees to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations, or ensure negative COVID-19 tests weekly. The emergency rule is being developed by the Labor Department, Biden said Thursday afternoon.

Those employers must give paid time off to workers to get vaccinated, Biden said, also appealing to entertainment venues to require proof of vaccine from customers.

Biden on Thursday also issued an executive order requiring executive branch federal employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19, and mandating the same for federal contractors.  Facilities receiving Medicaid or Medicare funding would also have to require the vaccine for staff, the Associated Press reported.

“Many of us are frustrated with the nearly 80 million Americans who are still not vaccinated, even though the vaccine is safe, effective, and free,” Biden said in remarks at the White House on Thursday.

“This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”

“We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin. And your refusal has cost all of us,” he said to unvaccinated Americans.

In his remarks, Biden did not specify if the Labor Department was crafting conscience accommodations for employees opposed to COVID-19 vaccines due to conscience concerns.

The three COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the United States have utilized controversial cell lines, drawn from fetal tissue from abortions believed to have been conducted in the 1970s. The vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna used the controversial cell lines in testing, while the Johnson & Johnson vaccine used the cell lines in both testing and production.

However, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in a December 2020 note, said that use of COVID-19 vaccines with connections to the cell lines is morally permissible, if no ethical option is available.

“The moral duty to avoid such passive material cooperation” with the abortions “is not obligatory,” the Vatican said, “if there is a grave danger, such as the otherwise uncontainable spread of a serious pathological agent--in this case, the pandemic spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19.”

The congregation went on to state that “vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation and that, therefore, it must be voluntary.”

For those refusing a vaccine “for reasons of conscience,” they must take precautions to avoid transmitting the virus, the Vatican said.

Catholic health care groups have also opposed vaccine mandates, while noting that Catholics have been encouraged to receive COVID-19 vaccines.

The Catholic Medical Association stated, on July 28, that it “opposes mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations as a condition of employment without conscience or religious exemptions.”

The National Catholic Bioethics Center also issued a July 2 statement opposing mandated vaccination with any of the three COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the United States.

“The best ethical decision-making occurs when individuals have sufficient information for discernment and are able to reflect without undue external pressures placed on them,” the center stated.

“Mandates, by their very nature, exert pressure that can be severe if employment or the ability to further one’s education are threatened.”

U.S. bishops have also issued statements on vaccine mandates and conscience exemptions.

Some, such as Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix, upheld the decisions of Catholics who declined COVID-19 vaccines out of conscience.

“For those who have discerned to receive one [vaccine], they can be assured that they can do so in good conscience. For those who have discerned not to receive one, they too can do so in good conscience,” Olmsted said in an Aug. 27 letter to Catholics in his diocese.

“What is primary for us as individuals is to form our conscience through the teachings of the Church.”

Bishop John Stowe of Lexington, however, required COVID-19 vaccines for all diocesan employees.

“This is an urgent matter of public health and safety. There is no religious exemption for Catholics to being vaccinated, and Pope Francis has repeatedly called this a moral obligation,” he said.

Vaccines and the federal government both have important roles to play in fighting COVID-19, Brown said, while warning against a federal vaccine mandate.

“I know folks that have died and been hospitalized because of COVID-19,” he said. “The disease should be taken seriously.”

“But there are better ways of combatting the virus,” he said, than “coercing Americans into making a medical intervention, and robbing them of the ability to make informed consent to this medical intervention.”

At International Eucharistic Congress, cardinal says ‘faith in Europe has become a very small flame’

Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich celebrates Mass at the International Eucharistic Congress in Budapest, Hungary, Sept. 10, 2021. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Budapest, Hungary, Sep 10, 2021 / 06:50 am (CNA).

Cardinal Hollerich said he prayed that ‘missionary dimension of faith may be rediscovered in Europe.’

Jan Figel: ‘It’s a pity there is no EU religious freedom envoy anymore’

Ján Figeľ, special envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion outside the EU from 2016 to 2019, meets Pope Francis in 2018. / Vatican Media/Ján Figeľ personal archive.

Bratislava, Slovakia, Sep 10, 2021 / 04:15 am (CNA).

The Slovakian politician was the first person to hold the post.

USCCB President on the Twentieth Anniversary of the September 11 Terrorist Attacks

WASHINGTON – Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, issued the following statement on the eve of the twentieth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

The full text of Archbishop Gomez’s statement follows:

"As we remember the twentieth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, our hearts are with all those who lost loved ones on that day. We pray for the innocent lives that were lost, and we pray for those who grieve, and for the many who still bear the wounds from these attacks, physical, emotional and spiritual.

"It was a dark day of destruction and death, but we remember also the heroes — first-responders, firefighters, police, emergency medical and rescue teams. Many gave their lives in the service of their neighbors. This violence, borne of the worst evil in the human heart, also brought out the best in our humanity. We think today of the courage and generosity of countless ordinary people and the spirit of unity and authentic patriotism we saw in the days after these attacks.

"We honor the dead by the way we live. And today we pray for a new spirit of national pride and unity. May God inspire in all of us to seek fellowship, reconciliation, and common purpose.

"We ask God to bring comfort to those who mourn and peace to every heart that is consumed by hatred, and may he bring peace to our troubled world.

"We entrust our prayers and our nation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God and the mother of each one of us."

###
Media Contacts:

Chieko Noguchi or Miguel Guilarte
202-541-3200

 

Cardinal Gregory ‘embarrassed’ at McCarrick abuse charges

Cardinal Wilton Gregory receives the red hat from Pope Francis in St. Peter's Basilica on Nov. 28, 2020. / Vatican Media/Catholic News Agency

Washington D.C., Sep 9, 2021 / 15:02 pm (CNA).

The Archbishop of Washington on Wednesday said he was “embarrassed” at the charges of sex abuse recently filed against his predecessor, and emphasized that the Church’s primary concern in such cases should be caring for victims.

Addressing a National Press Club luncheon on Wednesday, Cardinal Wilton Gregory answered questions on a wide range of issues including the clergy sex abuse crisis, COVID-19 vaccines, and becoming the first African-American cardinal in the United States.

The former archbishop of Washington, Theodore McCarrick, last week pleaded not guilty in a Massachusetts court to criminal charges of sex assault against a 16 year-old male; the acts allegedly took place in the 1970s while McCarrick was a priest.

McCarrick, a former cardinal who retired as Washington archbishop in 2006, was laicized in 2019 following a Vatican investigation that found him guilty of “sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and with adults” and solicitation in the confessional.

“I’m embarrassed,” Gregory said of his predecessor’s alleged acts. “I’m embarrassed not with the discovery – although that’s certainly a part of my embarrassment. But I’m embarrassed because it’s absolutely contrary to everything that I as a priest – my brother priests and bishops – should be pursuing, in terms of serving our people.”

“My first thought was about the people that he [McCarrick] had hurt,” Gregory said of seeing images of the 91-year-old McCarrick appearing at his Sept. 3 arraignment in Massachusetts.

From the beginning of the clerical sex abuse crisis, he said, the Church has been focused on the wrong questions - rather than on the victims.

“We’re trying to make sure that the proper attention is put in the proper place. The people who should get our sorrow and our concern and our compassion are those that were hurt,” Gregory insisted.

Gregory led the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops from 2001 to 2004, a tenure which included the 2002 revelations of widespread clergy sex abuse. The conference in the fall of 2002 drafted its response, the Dallas Charter, which established norms for dealing with alleged abuse by priests and deacons. McCarrick, then the archbishop of Washington, had a role in drafting the charter.

“We also took this position: that no one with a credible [abuse] allegation should ever be in public ministry,” Gregory said on Wednesday.

He added that bishops can only act on clergy abuse accusations that are credible, and that they have knowledge of.

“I can only act on that which I know,” he said.

Back in January, Cardinal Gregory delivered an invocation at a national memorial service for COVID-19 victims, held on the eve of President Biden’s inauguration.

Regarding Catholics who have “religious” concerns about taking COVID-19 vaccines, Gregory on Wednesday pointed to Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI having both received a vaccine.

“It’s difficult to say that ‘I have a religious concern’ when the last two pontiffs have already been vaccinated, and where Pope Francis has so clearly, and may I say with great insistence, urged Catholics to take the vaccine,” Gregory said.

“It doesn’t diminish their concern, but it certainly puts their concern on a pretty shaky platform.”

Some Catholics have voiced objections to receiving the three COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the United States. Two of the vaccines, produced by Pfizer and Moderna, have been tested with cell lines derived from abortions committed decades ago. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was not only tested on the controversial cell lines, but was also produced using the cell lines.

The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in December 2020 issued a note stating that Catholics may receive a COVID-19 vaccine with a connection to the cell lines, if no ethical option is available, due to the gravity of the pandemic.

For Catholics objecting out of “conscience,” they should take other precautions to prevent transmission of the virus, the Vatican stated.

On the topic of racial reconciliation, Gregory on Wednesday was asked by moderator Lisa Matthews, president of the National Press Club, what role the Church could play to bring Black Americans back to the faith.

Catholics “have a responsibility because of our faith to be on the forefront of the justice movement,” Gregory said. “It’s not something that should be foreign to any of us.”

He noted a generational decline in religious practice that is not unique to Catholicism.

“We have a problem – and it’s not just a Catholic problem,” he said, “of passing on the faith to the next generation.” For too many Catholics, he said, Catholicism “is a description rather than a practice or lived reality.”

Gregory also answered questions on immigration, labor, abortion, the death penalty, and the ordination of women.

He said that President Biden was “not demonstrating Catholic teaching” on when life begins, in response to Biden’s claim last week that life does not begin at conception. Gregory also called the death penalty “flawed,” before the Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed the execution of a Texas inmate.

Asked about the Church’s discipline on priestly celibacy and its connection to the clerical sex abuse crisis, Gregory said that celibacy is not the central problem at hand. Married priests, as well as married rabbis and ministers of other denominations have also abused children, he noted.

“The Catholic Church – we are the 800-pound gorilla. But we’ve got some other small relatives that have also demonstrated that same type of incredibly sick personality, behavior,” he said.

Reflecting on becoming the first Black cardinal in the United States in November 2020, Gregory pointed to his Chicago roots.

“Having been raised in an urban environment, like many African-American Catholics, the schools were a primary vehicle for entering the Catholic Church. And so it is with me,” Gregory said.

“When I knelt in front of Pope Francis to receive the biretta, the ring, and the sign, titular church – a lot of that heritage was running through my head at that time,” he recalled.

“We’ve had Italian cardinals, Polish cardinals, German cardinals, Irish cardinals. Now we have a Black cardinal. What is that going to do to the heart of the Church? What benefit will that bring to our Church? I’m still trying to figure that out.”

Biden administration sues Texas over pro-life law

Breaking News / CNA

Washington D.C., Sep 9, 2021 / 13:45 pm (CNA).

The Biden administration on Thursday sued Texas over its new law prohibiting most abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat.

In a complaint filed in a federal district court in West Texas, the Justice Department said the state acted “in open defiance of the Constitution” in restricting “most pre-viability abortions.”

“The Act is clearly unconstitutional under longstanding Supreme Court precedent,” Attorney General Merrick Garland stated on Thursday. 

“The United States has the authority and responsibility to ensure that no state can deprive individuals of their constitutional rights through a legislative scheme specifically designed to prevent the vindication of those rights.” 

The complaint, reported by Bloomberg News, seeks a permanent injunction on state officials and “private parties who would bring suit under the law, from implementing or enforcing” the law.

The Texas Heartbeat Act, S.B. 8, requires doctors to check for a fetal heartbeat before performing an abortion. If a heartbeat is detected – which can be as early as six weeks into pregnancy – the law prohibits abortions except in medical emergencies.

However, the law is enforced through private civil lawsuits and not by the state.

Abortion providers challenged the law in court, but the Supreme Court on Sept. 1 denied their petition to block the law from going into effect.

In response, President Joe Biden called the law “an unprecedented assault on a woman’s constitutional rights,” and promised a “whole-of-government” effort to maintain abortion in Texas.

He directed federal agencies, including the Justice Department, to review what actions could be taken “to ensure that women in Texas have access to safe and legal abortions as protected by Roe.”

Under the Texas law, plaintiffs may not sue women for illegal abortions. They may sue those who perform illegal abortions, and anyone who “knowingly” aids and abets an illegal abortion.

However, the law forbids those who impregnate women who then have abortions from bringing lawsuits in those cases.  

Successful lawsuits can net at least $10,000 in damages under the law, plus court costs and attorney fees.

Instead of enforcing the law, the state of Texas “has deputized ordinary citizens to serve as bounty hunters,” the Justice Department officials alleged in their complaint.

“It takes little imagination to discern Texas’s goal—to make it too risky for an abortion clinic to operate in the State,” the lawsuit argued. “Thus far, the law has had its desired effect. To date, abortion providers have ceased providing services prohibited by S.B. 8, leaving women in Texas unacceptably and unconstitutionally deprived of abortion services.”

Vice President Kamala Harris was scheduled to meet with “abortion and reproductive health providers and patients from Texas, Mississippi, Kentucky, and New Mexico” on Thursday afternoon, to discuss the Texas law.

"The right of women to make decisions about their own bodies is not negotiable," Harris said, according to the White House pool report of the meeting. "We need to codify Roe v. Wade."

In advance of the lawsuit on Thursday, one pro-life leader called it “anti-democracy.”

Pro-life leaders pointed out that the state legislature recently increased public benefits for low-income mothers, expanding Medicaid coverage for new mothers and funding the Alternatives to Abortion program.

“Texas is further leading in compassion for women and families with its $100 million Alternatives to Abortion state program and ten times as many pro-life pregnancy centers as abortion facilities,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, on Thursday.

Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, chair of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee, pointed to the bishops’ national outreach “Walking with Moms in Need” which helps parishes meet the needs of new and expecting mothers.

He cited the words of Pope Francis to say that “killing a child is never a solution to a problem.”

“Tragically, the President, Speaker of the House, and other public officials have responded with statements that ignore our nation’s sacred interest to protect the life and health of both mothers and their unborn children, instead responding with radical pledges to mobilize the full force of the federal government to block all efforts to protect the life of the child in the womb,” he stated.

“As Catholics, we are committed to working and praying for the conversion of minds and hearts so all people will respect the dignity of the human person from conception to natural death.”

This article was updated on Sept. 9 with new information.