Browsing News Entries
Posted on 04/8/2020 22:00 PM (CNA Daily News)
CNA Staff, Apr 8, 2020 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- A Catholic church in the Diocese of Greensburg was among the buildings heavily damaged by a tornado in western Pennsylvania early Wednesday morning.
Much of the roof of St. Mary of Czestochowa church was blown off during strong winds and heavy rains as a tornado touched down in New Kensington at 1:19 in the morning, according to the National Weather Service. About 15 minutes before the tornado, at 1:06 a.m., the Pittsburgh International Airport recorded winds at 75mph, which is the highest-ever recorded thunderstorm wind gust at that location.
Fr. Michael Begolly, the pastor of St. Mary’s and its partner parish St. Joseph, said he was “devastated” upon seeing the damaged roof on Wednesday morning.
Begolly told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he thought the winds “really sounded like a train” and that he was praying for the safety of everyone in New Kensington.
“And then when I came down here seeing the devastation, it’s just heart-breaking,” he said.
New Kensington is located about 18 miles northeast of the city of Pittsburgh, in the Diocese of Greensburg.
An aerial photographs show that nearly half of the church’s roof had been destroyed by the winds. Only the framework of the roof survived.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/BREAKING?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#BREAKING</a>: St Mary of Częstochowa Catholic Church in New Kensington heavily damaged by storms overnight. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NewsChopper2?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NewsChopper2</a> over the scene showing major roof and steeple damage. Other nearby buildings also damaged from storm. <a href="https://twitter.com/KDKA?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@KDKA</a> <a href="https://t.co/ZUn6UWnuoC">pic.twitter.com/ZUn6UWnuoC</a></p>— Ian Smith (@ismithKDKA) <a href="https://twitter.com/ismithKDKA/status/1247861380537110528?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">April 8, 2020</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
“Please pray for parishioners of this New Kensington parish, who suffered devastating news during Holy Week,” tweeted Catholic Accent, a publication of the Diocese of Greensburg, on Wednesday afternoon. “A severe storm early Wednesday morning caused major damage to the roof at St. Mary of Czestochowa Church in New Kensington.”
The full extent of the damage is currently unclear.
St. Mary of Czestochowa was founded in 1892 by a group of Polish immigrants who sought to attend Mass in Polish. With the assistance of a Polish priest in Pittsburgh, who advocated for them to the bishop of Pittsburgh, they founded the Society of Our Lady of Czestochowa that same year.
Construction on the first church building began in 1893, and the parish received their first pastor in residence that year. The existing building was completed in 1912, and underwent several renovations in the 1970s and 1990s, including the expansion of the parish’s organ. St. Mary of Czestochowa was partnered with St. Joseph Parish in 2008 as part of a restructuring of the Diocese of Greensburg.
In addition to the damage at St. Mary’s, the storm also damaged an airplane hangar and uprooted numerous trees.
Posted on 04/8/2020 21:30 PM (CNA Daily News)
Washington D.C., Apr 8, 2020 / 01:30 pm (CNA).- The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has canceled its Spring General Assembly due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The assembly, one of the two annual gatherings of the bishops of the United States, was scheduled to be held June 10-12 in Detroit, Michigan. The meeting would have been the first to be led by newly-elected USCCB President Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles.
In a statement released by the USCCB, Gomez said that the decision to cancel the event happened after a vote by the Administrative Committee.
“The Administrative Committee made this very difficult decision with consideration of multiple factors, but most importantly the health, well-being and safety of the hundreds of bishops, staff, observers, guests, affiliates, volunteers, contractors and media involved with the general meetings,” said Gomez.
“Additionally, even if the numerous temporary restrictions on public gatherings resulting from conditions associated with COVID-19 are lessened by June, the priority for the physical and pastoral presence of the bishop in his See will be acute to tend to the faithful,” he added.
At least three members of the USCCB--Bishop Barry Knestout of Richmond, Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, and Bishop Emeritus Paul Loverde of Arlington--would still be under a “stay-at-home” order during all or part of the scheduled assembly. The Commonwealth of Virginia has banned all but essential travel until at least June 10.
This is the first time in the history of the USCCB that a scheduled plenary assembly has been canceled. The USCCB’s fall meeting, which is held each year in Baltimore, Maryland, is still scheduled to go ahead. The USCCB’s bylaws state that there must be at least one plenary assembly per year.
A conference or council of American Catholic bishops has existed in some form since 1917, but the present-day USCCB was established in 2001.
Posted on 04/8/2020 20:11 PM (CNA Daily News)
CNA Staff, Apr 8, 2020 / 12:11 pm (CNA).- The Knights of Columbus announced this week that the organization will donate over $1 million to food pantries throughout the United States in an effort to feed those in need during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Catholic fraternal group announced April 7 that it would provide funding of $100,000 each to food banks in New York, Connecticut, and Los Angeles, as well as $50,000 donations each to food banks in Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Miami, Newark, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.
Supreme Knight Carl Anderson noted that since the group’s founding in 1882, the Knights have provided support throughout, during the 1918 flu pandemic, during two world wars, and after natural disasters.
In addition to the food bank donations, the Knights plan to fund the satellite transmission of several global broadcasts from the Vatican for Holy Week, including Good Friday Stations of the Cross April 10 led by Pope Francis, as well as the pope’s Easter Sunday Mass and Urbi et Orbi blessing April 12.
“With so many in Italy and around the world currently homebound, our support of Vatican broadcasts will allow our Holy Father to join in prayer with Catholics from every corner of the globe during this critical time,” Anderson said April 8.
Anderson said the group will also be donating $100,000 to the Vatican’s Bambino Gesù pediatric hospital in Rome, in order to allow the hospital to convert its neonatology department into a high-intensity treatment room for infants and newborns with COVID-19 infections.
Though the coronavirus outbreak in Italy has affected older adults most significantly, infants also are vulnerable. The treatment center will feature ventilators and other specialized equipment.
The Knights have announced several grassroots initiatives to respond to the needs of the COVID-19 pandemic. The organization has asked members to help provide food and other essentials to those in need. It has also urged members to take part in blood drives.
With public Masses suspended across the entire United States, many parishes are facing a cash flow shortfall due to a lack of in-person collections. Starting March 30, the Knights began offering a $1 million line of credit to Catholic dioceses to help dioceses and parishes suffering from the financial effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Knights of Columbus is a Catholic fraternal organization with nearly 2 million members in more than 15,000 local councils worldwide. Its members worked 76 million service hours in 2019 and helped donate more than $185 million in charitable causes.
Posted on 04/8/2020 18:30 PM (CNA Daily News)
Vatican City, Apr 8, 2020 / 10:30 am (CNA).- The first cardinal known to have tested positive for coronavirus has released a message from hospital, thanking his flock for their prayers and saying he is recovering from the disease.
Writing from the Gemelli Hospital in Rome, where he was hospitalized March 30, Cardinal Angelo De Donatis said: “Thank God I'm healing and I should be discharged soon.”
The cardinal, who is vicar general of Rome diocese, wrote in an April 8 message that he felt “supported and consoled by the prayers of all of you who have been close to me” during his ordeal.
He said: “All my gratitude goes to the doctors, the nurses and all the medical staff of the Agostino Gemelli Polyclinic who are caring for me and many other patients, with great competence and demonstrating a deep humanity, animated by the sentiments of the Good Samaritan.”
He also thanked the pope for his prayers and support. While Pope Francis is the Bishop of Rome, the day-to-day leadership of the diocese is provided for by De Donatis, who enjoys broad vicarious authority delegated by the pope.
Referring to Matthew 26:17, where the disciples ask Jesus where they should make preparations for him to eat the Passover meal, the cardinal said: “Meditating on this question, in light of the experience of the disease, I seem to have clearly perceived how none of us can really prepare for Easter without recognizing that, in the first place, it is Jesus who is eagerly yearning to ‘do Easter’ with us.”
“We only have to welcome the grace and enter with our life into the Paschal Mystery of Christ, ‘who died for our sins and rose again for our justification’. Let us allow the Lord, through His merciful love, to heal our infirmity and to console the sorrows we carry in our hearts.”
Posted on 04/8/2020 17:30 PM (CNA Daily News)
CNA Staff, Apr 8, 2020 / 09:30 am (CNA).- A Texas state restriction of abortions during the coronavirus pandemic was upheld by the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday.
A three-judge panel for the Fifth Circuit Court ruled in a 2-1 decision that Texas has the authority to halt elective abortions as non-essential medical procedures during a public health emergency.
Citing precedent, the court said that “the pressure of great dangers” constitutional law “allows the state to restrict, for example, one’s right to peaceably assemble, to publicly worship, to travel, and even to leave one’s home. The right to abortion is no exception.”
On March 31, the court had ruled in the state’s favor, putting a temporary stay on a lower court’s decision that halted Texas’ order from going into effect, and considering the matter further.
On Tuesday, the Fifth Circuit officially granted the state’s request for a writ of mandamus, stating that the lower court was “erroneous” in providing a “blanket exemption” for elective abortions during a public health emergency.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott on March 22 issued an executive order stopping non-essential surgeries and medical procedures in the state during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Attorney General Ken Paxton included elective abortions, except in cases where the mother’s life or health was deemed to be at stake, as part of the non-essential medical procedures that would be halted by the order.
Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers filed an emergency motion in court to stop the state’s act, and a Texas district court on March 30 ruled in their favor and put a temporary restraining order on the state’s act.
On Tuesday, judges Stuart Kyle Duncan and Jennifer Walker Elrod said that the district court “usurped the state’s authority to craft emergency health measures.”
Judge James L. Dennis, in his dissent, wrote that abortion is “time-sensitive reproductive healthcare” and “a right supported by almost 50 years of Supreme Court precedent.” The conclusion of the panel majority, he said, “is a recurring phenomenon in this Circuit in which a result follows not because of the law or facts, but because of the subject matter of this case.”
Other states, including Ohio, Alabama, and Oklahoma, have made similar attempts to restrict elective abortions during the pandemic but have not had the same success in court.
An Oklahoma district court judge on Monday ruled that some elective abortions, including medication abortions, in the state can continue during the pandemic. The Sixth Circuit Court ruled that some abortions can proceed in Ohio, and an Alabama district court judge ruled against the state’s limit of elective abortions.
In its decision, the Fifth Circuit panel majority also noted the gravity of the new coronavirus crisis, writing that “the current global pandemic has caused a serious, widespread, rapidly-escalating public health crisis in Texas,” and that the state’s “interest in protecting public health during such a time is at its zenith.”
Tuesday’s decision might not be the end of the matter, the court said, as the district court will hold a preliminary injunction hearing on April 13 where the state and abortion clinics could discuss the state’s order applying “in specific circumstances.”
The Fifth Circuit emphasized that the district court has the opportunity to “make targeted findings, based on competent evidence.”
Posted on 04/8/2020 14:30 PM (CNA Daily News)
Vatican City, Apr 8, 2020 / 06:30 am (CNA).- The Vatican announced Wednesday that Pope Francis has created a new commission to study the question of a female diaconate in the Catholic Church, after some members of the 2019 Amazon synod requested the pope re-establish a 2016 commission on the subject.
Among the 10 theologians making up the new study commission are two permanent deacons, three priests, and five lay women. They hail from Europe and the United States.
Pope Francis first created a 12-member commission in 2016 to examine the historic question of the role of deaconesses in the early Church.
In May last year, he said that the commission had not reached any consensus which would soon lead to a plan of action, but would continue its study.
Speaking aboard the papal plane returning from North Macedonia and Bulgaria, the pope said “for the female diaconate, there is a way to imagine it with a different view from the male diaconate,” but added that “fundamentally, there is no certainty that it was an ordination with the same form, in the same purpose as male ordination.”
“Some say there is doubt, let’s go ahead and study,” he said in May 2019.
The institution of the new commission also follows the discussion of the female diaconate during the 2019 Amazon synod.
At the end of the Oct. 6-27 meeting, synod members recommended to Pope Francis that women be considered for certain ministries in the Church, including the permanent diaconate, which is an order within the sacrament of Holy Orders.
Pope Francis said in his closing remarks for the Amazon synod Oct. 26 that he would re-open the 2016 commission, possibly adding new members, based on the synod’s request.
But in his apostolic exhortation on the Amazon, published Feb. 12, Pope Francis called for women in the South American region to be included in new forms of service in the Church, but not within the ordained ministries of the permanent diaconate or priesthood.
Francis wrote in Querida Amazonia that when considering the role of women in the Church, “we do not limit ourselves to a functional approach.”
The subject of women deacons has previously been studied by the Church, including in a 2002 document from the International Theological Commission (ITC), an advisory body to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).
In the document, the ITC concluded that female deacons in the early Church had not been equivalent to male deacons, and had neither a “liturgical function,” nor a sacramental one. It also maintained that even in the 4th century “the way of life of deaconesses was very similar to that of nuns.”
According to the April 8 Vatican announcement, Cardinal Giuseppe Petrocchi, the archbishop of L’Aquila, Italy, has been named president of the study commission. Fr. Denis Dupont-Fauville, a CDF official, was named secretary.
One of the two US-based members is James Keating, a permanent deacon and the director of theological formation at the Institute for Priestly Formation (IPF) based at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska.
A theologian, he leads the IPF’s retreats for seminary faculty and seminary formators. Keating is also the author of several books and articles on holy orders and the diaconate.
The second American member of the commission is Dominic Cerrato, a permanent deacon and director of diaconal formation in the Diocese of Joliet, Illinois.
In the past Cerrato has taught theology at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, where he established the Distance Learning Masters in Theology program. In 2014, he published a book on the theology of the diaconate based on the personalist thought of Pope St. John Paul II.
Other members of the commission include Fr. Santiago del Cura Elena from Spain and Fr. Angelo Lameri from Italy.
Barbara Hallensleben is a professor of dogmatic theology at the University of Freiburg in Switzerland and a former member of the International Theological Commission. She is also a member of the Pontifical Ecumenical Council.
Fr. Manfred Hauke is a German priest teaching theology in Lugano, Switzerland. He has published articles on the possibility of female ordination and feminist theology, among other subjects.
Catherine Brown Tkacz is a professor at the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv. Her research includes women in the Bible and Christian tradition.
Caroline Farey is a diocesan mission catechist for the Diocese of Shrewsbury in the United Kingdom. In the past she has taught at St. Mary’s College, Oscott. She was also one of three lay women to take part in the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization as an expert in 2012. Farey has also worked in the past in the Pontifical Academy for the New Evangelization and Catechesis.
Anne-Marie Pelletier is a French biblical scholar, who was chosen by Pope Francis to write the meditations for the Stations of the Cross at the Colosseum on Good Friday 2017. Pelletier was also a 2014 recipient of the Ratzinger Prize.
Rosalba Manes is also a bible scholar, teaching in Viterbo, Italy.
Posted on 04/8/2020 12:00 PM (CNA Daily News)
New York City, N.Y., Apr 8, 2020 / 04:00 am (CNA).- Charlotte Price and Ellen Rogers thought they would be getting confirmed together on April 11, the Easter Vigil, at St. Vincent Ferrer in Manhattan. They thought they would have a crowd of their friends with them, and they thought they would be able to celebrate immediately with their loved ones.
None of that happened.
Thanks to the COVID-19 outbreak in New York City, the Archdiocese of New York suspended the public celebration of Mass on March 14, meaning that the chances of an Easter Vigil liturgy a month later looked pretty slim. So the Dominicans who taught Price and Rogers’ RCIA classes did what they did best: improvised.
And that is how, over the course of one year of discernment, prayer, and RCIA, Price went from having never been to Mass to being confirmed at a private one; and from never knowing a religious sister to having an audience of 12 of them at her confirmation Mass.
Raised a Congregationalist in Massachusetts, Price, 34, found herself outside of any sort of religion for about two decades. Her journey to the faith took many twists and turns, but she eventually found herself at St. Vincent Ferrer, and emailing Fr. Joseph Martin Hagan, O.P., the newly-ordained priest who was in charge of RCIA.
Rogers’ journey to the Catholic faith was nearly the opposite of Price’s--she had always been religious, and had even attended Catholic Mass for years.
Raised an Anglican in Texas, Rogers attended the University of Dallas, where she began to feel the call to enter into full communion with the Church around the age of 19. About four years later, after moving to New York City last June, she began that journey in earnest, and signed up for RCIA at St. Vincent Ferrer.
Neither sought out St. Vincent Ferrer due to its connection with the Dominican Order--the church is the location of the headquarters of the Eastern Province--but both grew to appreciate the Dominican friars at the parish.
Rogers was told by a friend that St. Vincent Ferrer was “the most beautiful church in the city,” which prompted her to take a visit.
“I just fell in love with the liturgy and saw they had a big sign outside like ‘email for RCIA,’ and I said, ‘okay.’”
Price told CNA that before attending St. Vincent Ferrer, she did not know what a Dominican friar was, and thought the name was a reference to the Dominican Republic.
“I was like, ‘is it gonna be in Spanish?’” she said, laughing. After learning that Mass was, in fact, celebrated in English at St. Vincent Ferrer, she began attending regularly.
The two both told CNA that their RCIA journeys went relatively smoothly--until the first cases of COVID-19 were found in the city and churches around the world began shutting their doors and suspending public Masses.
“I probably started thinking ‘this might not happen’ very early,” Price said. “I think I remember the first time I thought, ‘oh, this probably isn't going to happen’ was Ash Wednesday. And at that point, everyone said I was being ridiculous.”
She said that she took the news of the likely cancelation of Easter Vigil very hard, particularly because she feared the possibility of dying without being confirmed, receiving the Eucharist, or going to confession.
“I was very upset,” Price told CNA. “I mean, I didn’t blame the Church or anything, but especially since I had a much longer period away from any church--like I spent 20 years probably not going to any church at all--so for me, I was like, ‘Oh, I finally figured it out,’ I finally said ‘yes’ to Christ, and now I’m not going to be able to even to join the Church.”
She said because she had read news reports about healthy people her age that were dying of COVID-19, she was particularly concerned about getting her spiritual affairs in order in case she contracted the virus.
“All of a sudden, my mortality is right there,” she said.
“Before, I was like, ‘I’m fine waiting,’” she said. “Whatever God has in mind. But then I was like, if I die, and I haven’t been confirmed, I haven’t gotten to confess my sins, I just absolutely do not want that to happen.”
Price quickly sprung into action, and arranged her first confession. Rogers soon followed suit.
When it became clear that New York was going to implement some sort of shelter-in-place directive, St. Vincent Ferrer moved quickly to accommodate as many people from their RCIA class as possible, but within the city’s guidelines regarding social distancing and canon law. Price responded to the email first, and was confirmed in a private Mass.
The audience was just six friends--the number she was told she could invite--and 12 members of the Sisters of Life, who “sang beautifully,” said Price.
Music, she explained, was one of the things that drew her to the Church, so the experience of getting a private choir at her confirmation Mass was “amazing.”
Fr. Hagan, who celebrated the Mass, preached a homily that was entirely about Price’s journey to the faith. Price took Mary, the Mother of God, as her confirmation saint.
Rogers, who was confirmed at a separate Mass with several others, took St. Catherine of Bologna as her confirmation saint.
Rogers told CNA that her first time receiving the Eucharist was “amazing,” even though it was extremely unusual. Due to archdiocesan regulations aimed at preventing the spread of disease, the candidates had to receive the Eucharist by intinction, which means that the Host was dipped in the Precious Blood before it was given to the communicant.
“All of us were kneeling in the first pew, and Father just came to each of us and brought the sacrament to us,” Rogers said.
“So we were still kneeling, and I will never forget the Precious Body being dunked in the Blood and then looking up and seeing it, and for the first time ever seeing the flesh and blood together and it had never been so real,” she said. “That is the literal flesh and blood of my Savior, and He had just never been so personal, and so real.”
As someone who was raised Anglican, and whose family is very involved in the Anglican communion—her brother is an Anglican seminarian--Rogers said coming to terms with the differences between the communion and rituals she participated in as a child and those in the Catholic Church was one of the hardest parts of her journey into the faith.
“I just decided, it is not for me to worry about anymore,” she said, but she continues to pray that her family will join her across the Tiber.
Both women told CNA that they cried at different parts of their confirmations. For Price, it was when she received the Eucharist. For Rogers, it was when she was reciting the Profession of Faith.
“There's like a single sentence in the (Profession of Faith), ‘I confess and believe everything that the Holy Roman Catholic Church teaches,’ and it was just that, that one sentence that I could feel my voice trembling and just the single, like, soap opera tear down my cheek,” she said
“And I was like, hold it together. Hold it together.”
One of the six people Rogers invited to her confirmation was Price, who called the experience “such a gift.”
At that Mass, “I could actually receive Communion for the first time like a normal Catholic,” said Price.
She does not yet know when she will be able to do that again.
The continued suspension of public Masses has not been easy for neither Price nor Rogers, but both said that they have taken immense comfort in their last-minute reception of the sacraments.
As someone who regularly attended Catholic Masses before she was received into the Church, Rogers said that she had been “surprised” by how it felt to watch live-streamed Masses as a freshly confirmed Catholic.
“There's almost less distance now than there has been,” she said.
“Just the grace of having received the sacraments, and there's of course longing and sorrow for not being physically present, but knowing that ‘I have received the sacraments. I am in a state of grace. I can recite the act of spiritual communion.’ There is this sense of ‘I am part of the universal Church,’ and that can never be taken from me.”
Price said knowing that she was “really part of a community now” has helped ease her feelings of isolation and loneliness.
“I mean, I'm an only child, but now I have brothers and sisters in Christ everywhere,” she said.
Posted on 04/8/2020 11:30 AM (CNA Daily News)
Vatican City, Apr 8, 2020 / 03:30 am (CNA).- Meditating on Christ's Passion can help us as we struggle with questions about God and suffering during the coronavirus crisis, Pope Francis said at his general audience Wednesday.
Speaking via livestream due to the pandemic, the pope urged Catholics April 8 to spend time in Holy Week sitting in silent prayer before a crucifix and reading the Gospels.
At a time when churches around the world are closed, “this will be for us, so to speak, like a great domestic liturgy,” he said.
The suffering unleashed by the virus raises questions about God, the pope noted. “What is He doing in the face of our pain? Where is He when everything goes wrong? Why does He not solve our problems quickly?"
"The account of the Passion of Jesus, which accompanies us in these holy days, is helpful to us," he said.
The people acclaimed Jesus as he entered Jerusalem. But they rejected him when he was crucified because they had expected "a powerful and triumphant Messiah," rather than a gentle and humble figure preaching a message of mercy.
Today we still project our false expectations on to God, the Pope said.
"But the Gospel tells us that God is not like that. He is different and we could not know Him with our own strength. That is why he came close to us, he came to meet us and precisely at Easter he revealed himself completely.”
"Where? On the cross. There we learn the features of God's face. Because the cross is God's pulpit. It will do us good to look at the Crucified One in silence and see who our Lord is.”
The cross shows us that Jesus is “He who does not point the finger at anyone, but opens his arms wide to everyone”, the pope said. Christ does not treat us as strangers, but rather takes our sins upon himself.
"To free ourselves from prejudices about God, let us look at the Crucified One,” he advised. “And then we open the Gospel."
Some might object that they prefer a "strong and powerful God," the pope said.
"But the power of this world passes, while love remains. Only love guards the life we have, because it embraces our frailties and transforms them. It is the love of God who at Easter healed our sin with his forgiveness, who made death a passage of life, who changed our fear into trust, our anguish into hope. Easter tells us that God can turn everything to good, that with Him we can truly trust that all will be well."
"That is why on Easter morning we are told: 'Do not be afraid!' [cf. Matthew 28:5]. And the distressing questions about evil do not suddenly vanish, but find in the Risen One the solid foundation that allows us not to be shipwrecked."
At morning Mass April 8, in the chapel of his Vatican residence, the Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis prayed for those who were taking advantage of others during the coronavirus crisis.
"Today we pray for people who in this time of pandemic exploit the needy," he said. "They take advantage of the needs of others and sell them: the mafia, loan sharks and many others. May the Lord touch their hearts and convert them."
On the Wednesday of Holy Week, the Church focuses on Judas, the pope said. He encouraged Catholics not only to ponder the life of the disciple who betrayed Jesus, but also to "think of the little Judas that each one of us has inside of us".
"Each of us has the ability to betray, to sell, to choose for our own interest," he said. "Each one of us has the possibility of letting ourselves be attracted by the love of money, or goods, or future well-being."
After Mass, the pope presided at Adoration and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, leading those watching around the world in a prayer of spiritual communion.
Posted on 04/8/2020 01:46 AM (CNA Daily News)
Denver, Colo., Apr 7, 2020 / 05:46 pm (CNA).- In the wake of the coronavirus epidemic, the nationwide shutdown of Catholic churches has halted regular Mass attendance and impeded access to other sacraments for the Catholic faithful. Now, some Catholics have endorsed an open letter asking the Catholic bishops to do everything possible to make the sacraments more available.
“We don’t absolutely need to have the Eucharist, but we want to be in the presence of the Eucharist, we want to have Mass said. We want adoration, we want processions, we want all these things,” she told CNA April 2, describing the goals of the open letter and its supporters.
“We're putting our emphasis on the last rites, the Anointing of the Sick, and Mass and Adoration,” said Smith, a retired professor of moral theology at Detroit's Sacred Heart Major Seminary. For her, the greatest concern is what she says is “the failure to work extremely hard to make certain that those who are sick and dying can receive the anointing of the sick.”
“Most concerning is the refusal by at least one bishop to permit his priests to give the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick,” Smith told CNA. “I am impressed with one order who offered to make it more available even to those who are not terribly sick. The sacrament does have the power to heal and strengthen.”
Amid the pandemic, some American dioceses have allowed pastors to administer some sacraments and devotions in conformity with government rules banning large assemblies of people. Some priests have implemented “drive-through” confessionals or “drive-in” Eucharistic adoration and benediction.
Some bishops have regularly livestreamed messages and Masses, or adore the Eucharist in public view on cathedral steps.
Other bishops have had a more cautious reaction. Some have locked all church buildings in their diocese, and have attempted to bar the administration of all sacraments except in danger of death, even if not required by law or public health recommendation to do so.
“The precipitous closing of the churches is very concerning. In Rome within 24 hours after they were closed, they were reopened. In those places where the law has decreed that people must stay home, we should abide, but if churches can be open, they should be. Surely we can ensure that for private prayer and adoration, people can remain 6 ft apart,” Smith said.
“The one size fits all policy seems very wrong headed. In small rural communities with no outbreak of the disease, more freedom to gather should be permitted than in urban communities that are being devastated by the disease,” she added.
For backers of the open letter, more needs to be done for the laity.
“Bishops, we, your faithful flock, implore you to do everything you can to make the sacraments more available to us during this crisis. Something is terribly wrong with a culture that allows abortion clinics and liquor stores to remain open but shuts down places of worship,” the open letter says.
“While safety and cooperation with civil authorities is necessary, we must do everything we can to have access to what is essential for our spiritual lives. We should certainly not voluntarily deprive ourselves of the sacraments.”
Smith said the bishops’ response to the coronavirus pandemic has been about about “trying to protect human life,” and the letter endorsers “share completely” that goal.
“We don't want anything to be done that isn’t following the guidelines,” she said.
The open letter encourages bishops to do everything possible t o provide some form of a public Mass, especially for the Easter liturgy, including offering it themselves.
It is unclear whether some gatherings, like “drive-in” Masses offered in parking lots while attendees sit in their cars, would comply with government bans on large public gatherings, a local bishop's ban on public Masses, or public health experts’ recommendations on social distancing.
The open letter asks bishops to “demand that civil authorities permit events such as offering and attending a Mass in a parking lot, if they are currently prohibited.”
Smith said if a state or local government ban on large public gatherings includes people going to a parking lot in their car to hear Mass, “that has to be fought.”
“We want the bishop calling up the governor and the mayor and calling up the legislators and calling up whoever, and saying 'No no no, this is freedom of religion that we have to be allowed to do',” she said.
“We are not asking for anything that would put our neighbors in danger. All due precautions would be observed. How can a parking lot Mass where everyone drives there in their cars and stays in their cars and where there is no distribution of the Eucharist put anyone at danger? That is one of our chief requests to be put under consideration.”
“There is absolutely no way that this relates to the spread of the virus,” Smith told CNA.
Asked if letter organizers had consulted with public health experts on their proposals, Smith said:
“We didn’t consult any, although we have heard from many who have provided more good ideas on what can be done. We are not proposing anything specific but are asking the bishops to do everything they can to provide the sacraments within the parameters determined necessary by experts.”
Smith herself raised and then answered the question of whether organizers should have gone directly to the bishops. She said “it's not possible.”
“They're busy with meetings, and it's hard to get through,” she said. “But if you do a petition that we hope thousands will sign, then I hope we get their attention.”
The open letter advocates that civil authorities recognize religious services as “essential services,” a move which some states have done amid stay-at-home orders.
Referring to emergency declarations' distinction between “essential” and “non-essential” employees and businesses, Smith said she is concerned “the Catholic world does not seem to understand that it is simply wrong to concede that religious services are 'non-essential'.”
“Yes, we can dispense with them as virtually everything can be dispensed with in certain conditions,” she said. “But the conditions we are in right now do not, at least as far as the experts tell us, require all that our bishops have done and have allowed to be done.”
In Smith's view, “the bishops are missing in action in clearly responding to the spiritual needs of their people.” She acknowledged that almost all bishops are streaming Masses on Sunday, saying this is “a good thing” but “not the most important thing.”
While she has seen many priests doing “very innovative things” to make available the sacraments and ensure the spiritual needs of their people are being met, she others are not visibly doing enough. Some, she said, were “almost denying sacraments before they needed to.”
“We need bishops who are trying as hard as priests are to attend to the spiritual needs of people,” she said. “They are making decisions that impact our spiritual lives and we need explanations of them. We need them to tell us how we can keep our spiritual lives alive.”
The “We are an Easter People” open letter said that if the government prohibits priests ministering to the sick in the hospital or their homes, bishops should “make a personal and formal request of civic leaders to permit such ministry with assurances that all due precautions will be taken.” They should find ways for priests to provide the anointing of the sick, “especially to those at risk of dying.”
While priests who minister to the sick are encouraged to take precautions like wearing personal protective equipment, such equipment has been the subject of a nationwide shortage. Smith acknowledged the shortage and said health care professionals should have priority for their use. In many places, she added, there is not a shortage. She added that an increase in manufacturing could eliminate a shortage before long.
The open letter lists more than 20 project endorsers, including Catholic commentators, video bloggers and others. More than 24,000 internet users had signed the letter as of Tuesday afternoon.
Project endorsers include Thomas Farr, president of the Religious Freedom Institute; former abortion clinic manager Abby Johnson; Phillip F. Lawler, editor of Catholic World News; and Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, founder and president of the Ruth Institute; Catholic speaker Mary Beth Bonnaci, a Catholic speaker; podcaster Matt Fradd; author and movie producer Steve Ray; and Daily Wire columnist Matt Walsh.
In mid-March 2020, after the coronavirus had begun to devastate Italy, Farr told CNA that bans on religious gatherings due to high rates of deadly infection can be justified, but may not target a particular religion or religion in general. They should be based on “overwhelming evidence,” with clear time limits.
“Speaking as a Catholic for whom the sacraments are not optional, and are necessary to health and welfare, however, I would hope that the Italian Church, or the Church in any jurisdiction would do everything it could reasonably do to make the sacraments available in ways that would be consistent with just authority,” Farr said.
“We invited people who have large followings in the Catholic community who would have an interest in having the sacraments and having their bishops explain their choices,” Smith told CNA.
One open letter endorser, Peter Kwasniewski, is an independent scholar who signed a 2019 letter accusing Pope Francis of heresy. Another endorser, YouTube video caster Patrick Coffin has expressed skepticism regarding of media reporting and the government response to the coronavirus.
In a March 28 YouTube video titled “The Truth About the Commie Virus,” Coffin discusses “media-fueled hysteria” and “hyperbole” about coronavirus models. They are “misleading, because they are incomplete,” he said in the video and its description. After presenting his interpretation of a medical journal article co-authored by Dr. Anthony Fauci, Coffin declared "We are burning the house down to kill a termite."
A March 24 video from Coffin is entitled “Did Pope Francis Help Cause the Covid-19 Pestilence?”
Project endorsers have “a wide variety of views,” Smith told CNA. “They are endorsing us; we are not endorsing all their positions.”
Both expert opinion and public opinion about the coronavirus response have changed in recent months. Two separate surveys from a Public Agenda-USA Today-IPSOS and ABC News-IPSOS suggest a vast majority of respondents now support canceling large-scale events. Most Americans now say they are avoiding large gatherings or crowds, and a significant minority now say they avoid religious services.
The letter’s request, Smith told CNA “is one that helps us grow in the virtues that enable us to do all the good things we should be doing now. We should speak of our love for Jesus and our need for Jesus. Our belief that He is truly there in the sacrament and just being close to him is a powerful experience of intimacy with the divine.”
Posted on 04/8/2020 00:00 AM (CNA Daily News)
Washington D.C., Apr 7, 2020 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear the Archdiocese of Washington’s appeal to place religious ads on public transit in Washington, D.C.
The denial leaves in place the D.C. Circuit Court’s 2018 ruling against the archdiocese, which had sought a mandatory preliminary injunction to place ads on Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) trains and buses.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who heard arguments in the case at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in March of 2018 but did not join in authoring the opinion of the court in July, also did not partake in the Supreme Court’s decision on Monday.
WMATA first issued guidelines for advertisements on its buses and trains in November of 2015, in which it prohibited ads promoting religion or religious practices and beliefs.
In December of 2017, WMATA rejected an ad proposal by the Archdiocese of Washington during Advent that would have directed people to the archdiocese’s “Find the Perfect Gift” campaign website.
The website contained Mass times, Christmas and Advent traditions, and links to make charitable contributions to various Catholic groups. The archdiocese then went to court to have its ads featured in the WMATA transit system.
The D.C. Circuit Court ruled against the archdiocese in July of 2018, saying that the archdiocese failed to prove viewpoint discrimination in the case, or that WMATA had unconstitutionally violated the First Amendment by rejecting religious ads but allowing for secular ones.
Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch, while respecting the Supreme Court’s decision to not hear the appeal, credited it to the inability of the full Court to consider the case.
“Because the full Court is unable to hear this case, it makes a poor candidate for our review,” the justices stated on Monday.
However, they added, in their opinion WMATA engaged in “viewpoint discrimination” and violated the First Amendment by seeking out Christmas-themed advertisements but rejecting religious ones.
“No one disputes that, if Macy’s had sought to place the same advertisement with its own website address, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) would have accepted the business gladly,” the justices wrote.
“So the government may designate a forum for art or music, but it cannot then forbid discussion of Michelangelo’s David or Handel’s Messiah,” they continued. “The First Amendment requires governments to protect religious viewpoints, not single them out for silencing.”