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US Catholic speaker recounts miracle healings at International Eucharistic Congress

Mary Healy speaks at the International Eucharistic Congress in Budapest, Hungary, Sept. 9, 2021. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Rome Newsroom, Sep 9, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Mary Healy said: ‘I have seen the Lord do so many amazing healings, including last night.’

English bishop urges Catholics to oppose assisted suicide bill

Bishop John Sherrington, Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster. / Mazur/catholicchurch.org.uk (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

London, England, Sep 9, 2021 / 11:00 am (CNA).

An English bishop is urging Catholics to write to members of the House of Lords urging them to oppose the legalization of assisted suicide in England and Wales.

Which corporations have come out against Texas' pro-life law?

Lyft and Uber stickers on the rear window of a vehicle offering rides in San Francisco Bay Area / Sundry Photography/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Sep 9, 2021 / 10:30 am (CNA).

Since Texas’ pro-life “heartbeat” law went into effect last week, some corporations responded by donating to pro-abortion groups or issuing statements in opposition. Meanwhile, other companies have remained silent.

The Texas Heartbeat Act, which went into effect Sept. 1, prohibits abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat and is enforced through private lawsuits. Women who have an illegal abortion cannot be sued under the law.

Ride-hailing services Lyft and Uber were two of the earliest corporations to enter the debate on the corporate level. Lyft, in a Sept. 3 statement, said the law “is incompatible with people’s basic rights to privacy, our community guidelines, the spirit of rideshare, and our values as a company.”

Lyft officials claimed that the law threatens to unfairly punish drivers for transporting customers to abortion clinics. The company created a legal fund for drivers sued under the law, and donated $1 million to Planned Parenthood. 

Dara Khosrowshahi, the CEO of Uber, said on Twitter that his company will be covering drivers' legal fees as well. “Right on @logangreen- drivers shouldnt be put at risk for getting people where they want to go,” he said. 

The Texas law allows for civil action against someone who “knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets the performance or inducement” of an illegal abortion. Plaintiffs may bring a lawsuit “regardless of whether the [defendant] knew or should have known that the abortion would be performed or induced in violation.”

Under the law, a defendant could offer an affirmative defense if they “reasonably believed, after conducting a reasonable investigation” that the abortion they stood accused of assisting in would have been legal.

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

Other companies have also promised financial support to employees sued under the law. 

In a memo to employees, Match Group CEO Shar Dubey said that the new law presented a “danger” to women, and that she is setting up a fund for her Texas employees in case they are penalized by the law. Match Group is the parent company of the dating app, Tinder. 

Bumble, a dating app and competitor of Match Group, also announced its opposition to the law and said it will be donating to six pro-abortion organizations.

Not only corporations have expressed opposition to the law. The Portland city council will be voting next week on an emergency resolution to ban future travel to the state of Texas, as well as the import of goods and services from Texas, “until the unconstitutional ban on abortion is withdrawn or overturned in court.”

The vote, which was supposed to take place on Sept. 8, was postponed so the city council could spend more time deliberating the effects of the resolution. A spokesperson for the city told CNA that over the last five fiscal years, approximately $35 million have been spent on business goods and services from Texas.

The web hosting company GoDaddy made headlines recently for removing a website used to report illegal abortions in Texas. 

GoDaddy notified Texas Right to Life that its website ProLifeWhistleblower.com would be taken down for violating GoDaddy policies. After the law went into effect on Sept. 1, ProLifeWhistleblower.com introduced a web page for anonymous tips called “Help Enforce the Texas Heartbeat Act.” The tip section asked for personal information as well as “information about potential violations of the Texas Heartbeat Act.”

GoDaddy notified the group’s IT department on Thursday that it had violated the terms of service. Texas Right to Life said that GoDaddy “neglected to specify how” it violated the terms.

GoDaddy told National Public Radio that the tip section violated the company’s policy on “collecting personally identifiable information about someone without the person's consent.”

The pro-life group’s main website is not hosted by GoDaddy, Kimberlyn Schwartz, a spokesperson for Texas Right to Life, told CNA on Wednesday.

The whistleblower website was then reportedly registered with the host company Epik. A Sept. 6 Washington Post report noted that Texas Right to Life “agreed” to take its tips web page down, due to a violation of Epik’s terms of service. Epik confirmed to CNA that the website was removed due to a violation of its terms. 

Schwartz told CNA, however, that Texas Right to Life did not agree to take the tips website down, and that Epik did not force the group to take the site down. Rather, Texas Right to Life was working to improve security before relaunching its whistleblower web page, she said. 

“We haven't put it back up yet by our own choice,” she added. “We're working on extra security before putting it back up.”

Epik’s general counsel Daniel Prince told CNA on Wednesday that it will not serve Texas Right to Life if the group keeps its anonymous tips page active. Prince added that although the tips page violates Epik’s terms of service, the redirection to the Texas Right to Life homepage does not. As of Sept. 8, Texas Right to Life was still using Epik’s services.

Schwartz told CNA that Texas Right to Life was in talks with Epik, with the goal of relaunching with Epik as the domain registrar of the whistleblower website. She said the anonymous tips page will remain on the whistleblower website. 

While Texas Right to Life is using Epik for the website’s domain registrar, the actual web host provider remains classified.

The Eucharist should not be received unworthily, says Nigerian cardinal

Nigerian Cardinal John Onaiyekan speaks at the International Eucharistic Congress in Budapest, Hungary, Sept. 9, 2021. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Rome Newsroom, Sep 9, 2021 / 07:17 am (CNA).

Cardinal Onaiyekan said it is ‘the duty of pastors to make access to confession easily available.’

Catholic bishop: Slovakia has changed profoundly since last papal visit

Bishop Jozef Haľko, auxiliary bishop of Bratislava, Slovakia. / Peter Zimen.

Bratislava, Slovakia, Sep 9, 2021 / 07:00 am (CNA).

The last pope to visit Slovakia was St. John Paul II in 2003.

Supreme Court halts execution of inmate requesting vocal prayer at his death

U.S. Supreme Court building, east side / Claudette Jerez/CNA

Washington D.C., Sep 9, 2021 / 06:15 am (CNA).

The Supreme Court late Wednesday evening halted the execution of a Texas death row inmate who had requested his pastor be allowed to lay hands on him in the execution chamber. The inmate, John Henry Ramirez, was scheduled to be executed Wednesday night. 

The court also agreed to hear his case in its upcoming docket this fall, challenging the state’s prohibition of chaplains’ vocal prayer and physical contact with inmates inside the execution chamber.

“The application for stay of execution of sentence of death presented to Justice Alito and by him referred to the Court is granted,” said the Supreme Court in an order issued late Wednesday evening. The case could be argued in October or November 2021, according to the court order.

The order came about three hours before Ramirez was scheduled to be executed. He was sentenced to death in 2008 for the 2004 murder of 45-year-old convenience store clerk Pablo Castro.

Ramirez argued that a Texas Department of Criminal Justice prohibition on audible prayer and physical touch in the execution chamber was an infringement upon his religious liberty. Ramirez sought to have his spiritual advisor, Pastor Dana Moore of Second Baptist Church in Corpus Christi, present with him as he receives lethal injection, and laying hands on him as he is dying. 

The court’s decision was praised by advocates for religious freedom. 

"We welcome the Court's decision to set this case for argument this fall. This issue deserves the Court's, and the country's, full attention,” Eric Rassbach, vice president and senior counsel at The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, told CNA on Thursday. “We will urge the Court to recognize that the age-old practice of comfort of clergy is protected by the United States Constitution."

State officials argued that the audible prayer and laying of hands in the chamber would be disruptive and a potential security risk.

Texas in 2019 banned spiritual advisors from the chamber, following condemned inmate Patrick Murphy’s request for a Buddhist chaplain to join him at his execution. At the time, Texas only allowed state employees in the death chamber, and the state did not employ a Buddhist chaplain. 

In April 2021, the state criminal justice department updated its policies to once again allow spiritual advisors of any creed to join condemned inmates in the execution chamber. Later, the department added a restriction that chaplains could not pray out loud. 

An amicus brief filed by The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty on Tuesday, Sept. 7 called the updated Texas Department of Criminal Justice policy a clear violation of Ramirez’s Constitutional rights. 

“Given that focus on history, and the long tradition of audible prayer by clergy at the moment of death, the scope of the constitutional right is clear—audible prayer should be allowed,” the attorneys explained. 

Tradition that predates the founding of the United States upholds “respectful, nondisruptive—but audible—prayer at the time of executions,” said the brief. 

“Such expression was key to both the solace and spiritual help sought by the condemned and the guiding role the clergy sought to provide."

President of U.S. Bishops Conference Announces Emergency Collection for Natural Disasters in Wake of Hurricane Ida

WASHINGTON – Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), has sent a letter to all U.S. bishops asking them to consider taking up a voluntary special collection in their dioceses for the Bishops Emergency Disaster Fund. Donations to the special collection will assist with the humanitarian, long-term recovery, and significant Church needs stemming from Hurricane Ida which made landfall in the Gulf Coast and made its way inland as a tropical storm, causing damage across several states. Archbishop Gomez’s request follows another request he made several weeks ago to the bishops where he asked them to consider a voluntary special collection for Haiti in the aftermath of the August 14 earthquake and Tropical Storm Grace.

In his letter sent to bishops, Archbishop Gomez detailed that the funds collected in this special appeal would be used to support the pastoral and reconstruction needs of the Church, as well as the efforts of Catholic Charities USA and/or Catholic Relief Services. These official relief agencies of the U.S. Catholic Church along with their local agencies respond to immediate emergency needs and recovery efforts.

“Funds will be used in response to the hurricane and the impact of subsequent flooding and tornados and any other disasters that occur and will be distributed where they are most needed. However, if such purpose(s) become unnecessary, impractical, or impossible to fill, USCCB may use such contributions for other emergency disaster relief where it is most needed as determined by the Committee on National Collections using its emergency response protocol,” he said in his letter.

Recognizing the financial challenges posed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on parish and diocesan activities, but also acknowledging the great need for supporting the recovery efforts from the natural disasters that have hit the dioceses, Archbishop Gomez expressed hope in the generosity of the faithful and their care for those in need.

More information about the Office of National Collections and its support of emergency relief efforts can be found at https://www.usccb.org/committees/national-collections.  

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Media Contacts:
Chieko Noguchi or Miguel Guilarte
202-541-3200

 

USCCB Releases Updated Edition of National Directory for the Formation, Ministry, and Life of Permanent Deacons in the United States

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has released the second edition of the National Directory for the Formation, Ministry, and Life of Permanent Deacons in the United States. First promulgated in November 2004, the directory outlines the guidelines and directives to be used by dioceses in preparing or updating a diaconate program and formulating policies for the ministry and life of deacons.

According to the most recent available data from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University, there are 18,075 permanent deacons in the United States; it is also reported that 97 percent of the world’s permanent deacons live in the Americas and Europe. The updated directory reflects on the wisdom gleaned from a broad spectrum of deacons and their formators. With a focus on the identity of the deacon as a “living icon of Christ the Servant within the Church,” and a minister of Word, Liturgy, and Charity in the community, the new edition reflects poignantly on fifty years since the establishment of the permanent diaconate in the United States. Developed by the USCCB’s Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations (CCLV), the second edition includes norms that will take effect on June 9, 2022.

In a recent meeting with permanent deacons and their families in Rome, Pope Francis described the spirituality of deacons as “availability inside and openness outside…available inside, from the heart, ready to say ‘yes,’ docile, without making one’s life revolve around one’s own agenda; and open outside, looking at everyone, especially those who are left out, those who feel excluded.” The Holy Father reminded those present that the Church should have “a heart that burns with love and serves with humility and joy.”

Bishop James F. Checchio of Metuchen, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations expressed gratitude for the update of the document. “I am grateful for the good work of the CCLV committee that has led to the publication of the updated National Directory. This document will serve as an instrumental resource for dioceses as they work to strengthen their permanent diaconate programs. It is my hope that permanent deacons and those who accompany them will be encouraged by the new edition of the Directory and be inspired to continue in their faithful service to the Church in imitation of Christ the Servant.”

The National Directory, 2nd edition is available for purchase on the USCCB store: https://store.usccb.org/products/national-directory-for-the-formation-ministry-and-life-of-permanent-deacons.

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Media Contacts:
Chieko Noguchi or Miguel Guilarte
202-541-3200

Statement of U.S. Bishops’ Pro-Life Chairman on Supporting Pregnant and New Mothers

WASHINGTON – Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities issued a statement on supporting pregnant and new mothers.

Archbishop Naumann’s full statement follows:

“As chairman of the Pro-Life Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, I wish to echo the words of the Texas Catholic bishops who expressed gratitude for the growing network of support for pregnant mothers and their families in Texas. Recently, the Texas legislature increased support for low-income mothers by 25 percent through their Alternatives to Abortion program, in addition to expanding Medicaid coverage for new mothers.  

“Another new Texas law, which has elicited far more controversy, seeks to use civil rather than criminal law to protect the lives of vulnerable children in the womb. 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. And they seek to enshrine into federal law the failed policy of Roe v. Wade, which pits the welfare of mothers against their children.  

“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. Our national outreach, Walking with Moms in Need, helps parishes to identify and help provide the full range of needs for mothers and their unborn children, not only during pregnancy, but for years to come. We stand with Pope Francis, who reminds us that killing a child is never a solution to a problem. We advocate for surrounding both mother and her child with love and practical support as the humane response to a difficult pregnancy.”  

To learn more about the Walking with Moms in Need nationwide initiative to serve pregnant and parenting mothers, please visit www.walkingwithmoms.com.  

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Media Contacts:
Chieko Noguchi or Miguel Guilarte
202-541-3200

 

Charlotte diocese objects: Federal judge can't set employment standards for Catholic schools

null / Stephen Kiers/Shutterstock

Charlotte, N.C., Sep 8, 2021 / 19:00 pm (CNA).

The Diocese of Charlotte has said the law and religious freedom precedent are on its side, despite a federal judge’s ruling that a Catholic high school illegally discriminated when it said it would no longer hire a substitute teacher who announced that he would contract a same-sex marriage. 

The ruling both applies a new Supreme Court decision that defines sex discrimination to include sexual orientation, and holds that other religious freedom rulings do not apply.

“We respectfully disagree with the district court’s decision and are considering next steps,” the Charlotte diocese said Sept. 4. “The First Amendment, federal law, and recent Supreme Court decisions all recognize the rights of religious organizations to make employment decisions based on religious observance and preference. They do not — and should not — compel religious schools to employ teachers who publicly contradict their teachings.”

The diocese said its Catholic schools “exist to provide high-quality education and transmit the Catholic faith to the next generation.”

“Like all religious schools, Catholic schools are permitted to employ educators who support our Church’s teachings and will not publicly oppose them,” said its statement.

The plaintiff, Lonnie Billard, in October 2014 had posted to social media his intention to contract a same-sex marriage. He had worked as a full-time faculty member teaching drama and English at Charlotte Catholic High School from 2001. He retired in 2012 and became a long-term substitute teacher, working more than a dozen weeks a year.

In December 2014, an assistant principal at the school then told him he would no longer be hired as a substitute teacher.

U.S. District Judge Max Cogburn said the Diocese of Charlotte and the diocese’s Charlotte Catholic High School illegally discriminated against the plaintiff on the basis of sex under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The federal judge granted a summary judgement to Billard and said a trial would determine any legal relief.

“Plaintiff is a lay employee, who comes onto the campus of a religious school for the limited purpose of teaching secular classes, with no mandate to inculcate students with Catholic teachings,” said Cogburn, who was nominated to his position by Barack Obama.

Billard’s lawsuit, filed on his behalf by the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, claimed that the diocese ordered his termination because of his announcement. It sought back pay and benefits, punitive damage, compensatory damages for emotional distress, and a court order blocking the school and Catholic leaders from taking similar actions in the future, “restraining Defendants from engaging in further discriminatory conduct.”

The lawsuit said he was wrongly fired because of his intention to enter a same-sex civil marriage and “because he does not conform to sex-based stereotypes associated with men in our society.”

In recent years the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and several federal court cases have advanced the claim that “sex stereotypes” like the belief that that men should not marry men or that women should not date women constitutes illegal discrimination on the basis of sex.

Cogburn’s ruling rejected claims that religious freedom protected the school from the lawsuit.

Title VII employment law is “narrowly tailored” because of its carve-outs for religious discrimination, he said. The judge cited the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which said, “protecting non-ministerial employees from sex discrimination in church-affiliated schools is an interest ‘of the highest order’.”

Cogburn cited both longstanding interpretations of sex discrimination and the 2020 Bostock v. Clayton County ruling, which “held it is impossible to discriminate against someone for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against them based on sex.” He said it is “an unanswered question” whether a religious employer might have a legal or constitutional defense against Title VII claims of sexual orientation discrimination. The exemptions to Title VII allow religious discrimination, but not sex discrimination, said Cogburn.

Irena Como, senior staff attorney at the ACLU of North Carolina, said Sept. 3 that the decision is “one of the first applications of the Supreme Court’s ban on sex discrimination to employees of private religious schools.”

“The court sent a clear message that Charlotte Catholic violated Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination when it fired Mr. Billard for announcing his engagement to his same-sex partner,” she said. “Religious schools have the right to decide who will perform religious functions or teach religious doctrine, but when they hire employees for secular jobs they must comply with Title VII and cannot discriminate based on sexual orientation.”

Billard welcomed the decision.

“After all this time, I have a sense of relief and a sense of vindication. I wish I could have remained teaching all this time,” he said. For him, the decision “validates that I did nothing wrong by being a gay man.”

The judge said the defendants did not require the teacher to be Catholic and “even explicitly encourage him and other teachers of non-religious subjects to refrain from teaching religious topics in their classrooms.” The plaintiff was required to refer students with emotional and spiritual questions outside his disciplines to the proper individuals.

Cogburn cited a 2000 Fourth Circuit ruling involving the EEOC v. Roman Catholic Diocese of Raleigh, when the EEOC ordered the diocesan cathedral to rehire a fired music minister. That ruling said “where no spiritual function is involved, the First Amendment does not stay the application of a generally applicable law such as Title VII to the religious employer unless Congress so provides.”

The judge added that “hiring paid employees is commercial activity, not expressive association.” Keeping the plaintiff “as a substitute teacher for secular classes would not significantly impair its freedom of expressive association.”

Billard was a banker before he became a teacher, the Charlotte Observer reports. He said he brought his partner to school events and their relationship was known to students, teachers, parents, and administrators. He said that his adherence to Catholic teaching was never part of the employment process.

In January 2015, amid controversy over his firing, a diocesan spokesperson said Billard lost his job “for going on Facebook, entering in a same-sex relationship and saying in a very public way that he does not agree with the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

Then-communications director of the Charlotte diocese David Hains said that continued employment of Billard would be “legitimating that relationship” and wrongly indicate Church approval, the lawsuit said. He noted the Church’s belief that marriage is a union only of a man and a woman and rejected claims of discrimination.

“He’s not being picked on because he's gay. He lost his job as a substitute teacher because he broke a promise because he chose to oppose church teaching, something he promised he would not do,” the spokesperson said.

At the time, the ACLU argued that religious organizations are not exempt from the federal ban on sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. It claimed that other teachers violated Catholic teaching on divorce and other matters, but Billard was the only teacher fired.

As CNA has previously reported, a well-funded network of advocacy groups, legal groups and think tanks have advocated against a broad understanding of religious freedom protections. The American Civil Liberties Union has received funds from groups like the Arcus Foundation for projects to "beat back" religious exemptions, grant listings show.

The foundation, founded by billionaire heir Jon Stryker, has also funded some Catholic dissenting groups. Stryker was a major funder of the effort to redefine civil marriage in the United States.

The ACLU of North Carolina said that Billard is also represented in the lawsuit by the ACLU LGBTQ Project and the law firm Tin Fulton Walker & Owen. In March 2021 the national ACLU announced that it would rename its LGBTQ & HIV Project for Stryker and his same-sex spouse Slobodan Randjelovic, who made a $15 million grant to the project.