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Archbishop Hebda: Minnesota priest’s coronavirus homily ‘inappropriate’

CNA Staff, Sep 23, 2020 / 01:20 pm (CNA).-  

The Archbishop of St. Paul-Minneapolis has said that priests should not “present medical or scientific speculation” in their homilies, in response to a controversial homily on the coronavirus pandemic preached by Minnesota priest Fr. Robert Altier, which has become widely circulated on social media.

“The Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis is blessed with many fine priests. We have reason to expect them to teach the truth of the Gospel, faithfully passing on the teachings of our Church. None of our priests or bishops, however, is an expert in public health, infectious disease, epidemiology or immunology. It would be a mistake to attribute any expertise in these areas to us simply on the basis of our ordination,” Archbishop Bernard Hebda wrote in a Sept 22 letter.

Altier preached September 6 a homily at St. Raphael Parish in Crystal, Minnesota, saying the COVID-19 coronavirus is a “ man-made virus, whose work had begun at a lab in North Carolina, then they shipped it to China to finish the work, then it was released so that people would get sick.”

“All this is being done on purpose.”

Altier said that he wanted to tell his congregation “the truth, because that’s what God is going to hold me responsible for.”

“We are being lied to. We have been lied to in a huge way.”

“I have an obligation to stand here and speak the truth, even when people don’t like to hear.”

The priest, who is parochial vicar at the parish, said that only 9,200 people have died of the coronavirus pandemic, which is recorded to have killed more than 200,000 in the U.S., and that the virus was launched in order for unnamed figures to create propaganda networks and disinformation campaigns.

He said the goal of those campaigns is to achieve social control, by inducing people, out of fear, to receive a vaccine that is “designed to change the RNA in your body.”

Altier said he had told his elderly parents, “do not, under any circumstances allow them to put one of these vaccines in your body. The only way that I would allow it to happen to me is if they arrest me and hold me down and force it on me. There is no way.”

“It’s time we start to recognize that we are being lied to….This is all engineered. This is all an agenda. And it’s pointing in a certain direction. So far, like the good sheeple that we are, we’ve all put on our masks and we’re all staying six feet apart, but there comes a part where we have to draw the line.”

The priest said that for himself, the “line” would be refusal to submit to a vaccine. He encouraged parishioners to do their own research on the matter.

The 20-minute homily was posted on YouTube and has been viewed more than 400,000 times.

Some claims in Altier’s homily echoed claims made in a May “appeal” circulated by Archbishop Carlo Vigano, former apostolic nuncio to the U.S.

In his letter, Hebda said that Altier “remains firm in his opinions on the pandemic situation, but he has acknowledged that his remarks were inappropriate in the context of a homily during Mass.”

Citing the General Instruction on the Roman Missal and other Church texts, Hebda said that homilies should be used to explain some aspect of Sacred Scripture or other texts of the Mass.

“The use of a homily to present medical or scientific speculation does not serve that noble purpose and could be seen as an abuse of the cleric’s position of authority to address an issue unrelated to the liturgical celebration.”

“In the context of the liturgy, no member of the assembly, even if the world’s greatest expert in this area, would have been in a position to contradict Fr. Altier or to offer alternative points of reference,” the archbishop added.

Hebda included in his letter responses to some of Altier’s points offered, at the archbishop’s request, by the Minnesota Department of Health. He said that the archdiocesan chapter of the Catholic Medical Association also “considered some of Fr. Altier’s affirmations to be ‘erroneous.’”

Hebda noted that there are legitimate concerns about ethical vaccine production, and pointed to resources regarding the ethical concerns surrounding the use of fetal stem cell lines in vaccine productions.

Altier was ordained a priest in 1989 and has served in various capacities in the Minneapolis archdiocese. A 2018 homily from the priest also went viral online, in which Altier said in his view the Theodore McCarrick crisis and similar incidents in the Church had been caused by the systemic infiltration of the priesthood by predatory “homsexual networks” and by communist agents intent on harming the Church.

Hebda concluded his letter requesting prayers “for all those who are sick with COVID-19, those who care for them, those who are working on vaccines, and all those individuals and families affected in any way by the pandemic. Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us.”


Trump, Barr, Barron speak at National Catholic Prayer breakfast

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 23, 2020 / 11:50 am (CNA).- Attorney General William Barr warned of “a new orthodoxy that is actively hostile to religion” in his remarks to the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast on Wednesday. 

Speaking on the separation of Church and state, Barr said that “militant secularists have long seized on that slogan” to try to move religion out of the public square and out of conversations on the common good. They are replacing religion “with a new orthodoxy that is actively hostile to religion” which, he said, has resulted in “urban violence,” drug abuse, and broken families.

Barr addressed the annual event, held virtually in 2020, as he accepted its Christifideles Laici Award. 

“Separation of church and state does not mean—and never did mean—separation of religion and civics,” said Barr, as he insisted Catholics should be more involved in public life through advocating for religious freedom.

It is “never too late” to work in God’s vineyard, he said.

Barr addressed the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast (NCPB) on Wednesday through a pre-recorded video. The event is an annual gathering of Catholic leaders held in Washington, D.C., begun in 2004 to promote Pope John Paul II’s call for the New Evangelization. 

Pope Francis sent a greeting to the event through the apostolic nuncio to the U.S., Archbishop Christopher Pierre.

“Knowing the difficulties the nation is facing in the midst of civil unrest, racial tension, political polarization, and the COVID-19 pandemic,” Pierre said, “it is certainly hoped that pausing for prayer and invoking the divine mercy of God will lead to healing, reconciliation, and spiritual renewal.”

The archbishop encouraged listeners to “enter deeply into prayer” and “beseech the Eternal Father for an outpouring of grace that will lead to happiness and victory” in the present challenges, “according to His will and His plan.”

President Donald Trump was the second sitting president to address the gathering on Wednesday; President George W. Bush, a Methodist, attended the prayer breakfast each year from 2005 until 2008. Vice President Mike Pence, a baptized Catholic who later identified as an “Evangelical Catholic,” also addressed the event in 2017.

Trump announced at the breakfast plans to sign a “Born-Alive” executive order to ensure that babies surviving abortions get needed medical care.

“Our nation is strong because of Catholics and all people of faith,” the president said, adding that “every child, born and unborn, is made in the holy image of God.”

Bishop Robert Barron, auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, delivered the keynote address.

Barron pointed to two historical figures, the legacies of which are “under attack” today, Thomas Jefferson and St. Junipero Serra, and warned against the tendency to “privatize religion.”

“A privatized religion is bad for religion, it’s bad for democracy,” he said, calling on Catholics to “follow the promptings of the Second Vatican Council” and bring their faith into the public arena.

The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III, also addressed the gathering, noting that the pandemic had affected the Christians in the Holy Land. “Our Holy Sites lie empty” and local families “now struggle to feed their families,” he said.

NCPB board member Mark Randall stated at the outset that “our only agenda is prayer.” The event was originally scheduled for March, but, because of the pandemic, was rescheduled to Wednesday, prompting media focus on the participation of political figures, including Tramp and Barr, six weeks before the 2020 presidential election.

Neither Barr’s remarks nor Trump’s made mention of the election itself.  

Board member Leonard Leo introduced both Trump and Barr on Wednesday at the non-partisan event.

Trump, he said, has “fiercely defended the culture of life” and “more than any other president in my lifetime, and he’s done so much more to embrace policies that reflect the morals, teachings, and objectives of our faith.” He cited religious freedom and pro-life protections of the administration.

Leo praised Barr’s “integrity,” “honesty,” “humility,” and “sincere and wise counsel” before Barr was honored with the Christifideles Laici Award. Named for Pope St. John Paul II’s 1988 exhortation on the lay vocation, the award honors lay Catholics who promote the New Evangelization and the Church’s mission in their life and work.

Barr, who also served as the attorney general from 1991-93 in the George H.W. Bush administration, is Catholic. He has been criticized by some Catholics - including the bishops’ conference - for resuming executions of federal death row inmates, ending a nearly two-decade moratorium on the federal use of the death penalty.

On Tuesday, the day before Barr was to be honored, the chairs of the pro-life and domestic justice committees of the U.S. bishops’ conference condemned two federal executions scheduled for later this week.

“We say to President Trump and Attorney General Barr: Enough. Stop these executions,” Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City and Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City .

Archbishop Charles Chaput, who retired as Archbishop of Philadelphia this year, was scheduled to address the prayer breakfast in March but was “unavailable” for the Sept. 23 event, communications staff for the event told CNA.

Chaput’s prepared remarks were published by the journal First Things on Monday. Chaput acknowledged in those remarks “many challenges” that face Catholics in the U.S., from within and without the Church.

“But don’t be fooled. God never loses,” he wrote. “And his Church can never lose when we, as her sons and daughters, remember our history, our Christian identity, and our mission to speak God’s truth with love.”

Regarding the honor given to Barr, Chaput’s remarks said: “Amen.”

“Throughout my life, the men and women I’ve most admired have all had the same qualities: a thinking Catholic brain, a character of substance, and a moral spine. General Barr has all three,” he said. “As an added bonus, he’s disliked by all the right people. I want to thank the various and interesting critics of General Barr for confirming me in that judgment.”

The conferral of the award on Barr was criticized by Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who said Wednesday she was “expressing dismay” that Barr was being honored. Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of the lobbying group Network, also criticized the recognition of Barr. Campbell, who spoke at the Democratic National Convention last month, told CNA ahead of the convention that the question of abortion’s legality was “above her pay grade.”

Activist group Faithful America said it gathered more than 22,000 signatures protesting Barr’s award.

The group has previously run petition campaigns against Christian groups it sees as “right-wing,” but has also opposed actions of bishops, schools, and churches upholding the Church’s teaching on marriage, claiming those efforts are anti-LGBT.

Trump announces 'Born Alive' executive order for abortion survivors

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 23, 2020 / 10:40 am (CNA).- President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced an executive order that would require medical care be given to infants who are born alive after failed abortion attempts.

“Today I am announcing that I will be signing the Born-Alive Executive Order to ensure that all precious babies born alive, no matter their circumstances, receive the medical care that they deserve. This is our sacrosanct moral duty,” said Trump Sept. 23, speaking in a pre-recorded video address during the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast virtual even. 

The Born-Alive Infant Abortion Survivors Act has been introduced several times in Congress, but has failed to become law. The bill stalled in the House of Representatives in 2019-2020 because an insufficient number of members signed a discharge petition which would have triggered a vote on the bill. 

The proposed law would not have created any new limit or restriction on access to abortion, but would require that infants born alive after an attempted abortion be given appropriate medical care consistent with that given to a child of the same gestational age born under a different circumstance. Several states have passed their own version of the bill.

The full text of the executive order has yet to be released, but is expected to mirror the attempted federal legislation on the issue. 

Trump also announced that his administration would be “increasing federal funding for neonatal research, to ensure that every child has the very best chance to thrive and to grow.” September is Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Awareness month. 

The National Catholic Prayer Breakfast had been rescheduled from March 30 due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and was held as an online broadcast. This was Trump’s first time speaking at the event, although administration officials, including Vice President Mike Pence and former acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, have addressed the breakfast in past years. 

"I want to express my deep gratitude everyone who prays for me, for the First Lady, and for our great country," Trump said.

The president also spoke of how he grew up near a Catholic church in the New York City borough of Queens, and had seen for himself the “incredible work” the Church does for the marginalized.

"I grew up next to a Catholic church in Queens, New York and I saw how much incredible work the Catholic Church did for our community. These are amazing people. These are great, great people," the president said. 

"Catholics of all backgrounds share the love of Christ with the most vulnerable, as they care for the elderly, the homeless, and neighbors in need. Our nation is strong because of Catholics and all people of faith," he added.

Leonard Leo, co-chairman of the Federalist Society and board president of the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, introduced Trump. Leo praised the Trump administration’s efforts to protect religious schools and religious liberty.

Leo also praised Trump’s commitment to life issues. The president has taken an active and vocal stance in opposition to abortion; he become the first sitting president to address the March for Life earlier this year, has prohibited domestic abortion providers from receiving some federal funds, and has announced plans to expand the Mexico City policy that prohibits federal foreign aid from being given to organizations that promote or perform abortions.

The president’s administration has garnered praise from the U.S. bishops’ conference for those efforts, while facing criticism from them for ending a moratorium on the federal death penalty, and authorizing the executions of several inmates in recent months.

The virtual event featured a keynote address from Bishop Robert Barron, auxiliary of Los Angeles, and the conferral of the annual Christifideles Laici Award to Attorney General Bill Barr.

Amy Coney Barrett and 'building the Kingdom of God'

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 23, 2020 / 07:45 am (CNA).- Judge Amy Coney Barrett has been the subject of renewed criticism regarding her Catholic faith, following reports that she is a leading candidate for President Donald Trump’s nomination to fill the current Supreme Court vacancy.

With much criticism focused on a comment she made in 2006, CNA asked experts what it means for Catholics to "build the Kingdom of God."

In a 2006 commencement speech at Notre Dame Law School, Barrett exhorted graduates not to make their legal careers an end in and of themselves, but “a means to an end” that is part of “building the Kingdom of God." Barrett is a judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals and a former professor at the University of Notre Dame Law School.

During Barrett’s confirmation hearings before the judiciary committee, Senate Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) observed to Barrett that “the dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern.”

The website Bustle pointed to her remarks on “building the Kingdom of God” in 2018 as an example of “why many liberals are worried about her potential nomination.” Barrett was reportedly being considered at that time to replace retiring justice Anthony Kennedy on the Court bench.

Barrett’s name is once again in consideration, as President Trump said he would announce on Saturday his nominee to replace the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and the same line from her 2006 speech has been the focus of several media profiles.

Matthew Franck, a lecturer in politics at Princeton University and senior fellow at the Witherspoon Institute, told CNA on Tuesday that Barrett’s reference to the “Kingdom of God” had nothing to do with building a theocracy or proselytizing.

“Anyone who reads into this that Judge (then Professor) Barrett wants them to pursue ‘the kingdom of God’ in the sense of some political project just isn’t interested at all in what she actually said,” Franck told CNA.

The full text of Barrett’s 2006 speech aims to convey Notre Dame Law graduates are distinct.

At the beginning of her speech, Barrett asked graduates "what does it even mean to be a different kind of lawyer in the Notre Dame tradition?"

“One way” Notre Dame Law graduates could distinguish themselves is to “always keep in mind that your legal career is but a means to an end,” and “that end is building the kingdom of God,” Barrett said.

She advised graduates against treating their careers as ends in themselves, letting “ambition,” or “satisfaction, prestige, or money” guide their career decisions. She advised graduates to prayerfully discern job opportunities, tithe, and try to make friends with a similar faith wherever they move.

Theology professor Jacob Wood of the Franciscan University of Steubenville said that Barrett was not talking about any theocratic political project, but “was simply restating the teaching of Vatican II that the Kingdom of God is built up any time Catholics join with fellow citizens of any faith or none to work for the common good of our society.”

Such an effort, he said, “is at the heart of what it means to be a lay Catholic,” but is also “the very first thing a new justice promises to uphold when she or he takes the oath of office.”

Barrett’s comments, Wood told CNA, speak to the power of God’s grace in human affairs--and to the tragedy of Catholics in public life who do not bring their faith into the public square.

Grace, he said, “presupposes, perfects, and empowers what we do as individuals and a society, by healing all of our cultural and political endeavors from sins that make them less than human, less than fair, and less than just, and restoring them to the basic goodness that God intended for them from the beginning.”

Many Catholics, however, overlook this and are “abdicating” their vocation to holiness. 

For those who do bring their faith into the public square, he said, “politics and culture have nothing to fear from faith, and everything to gain,” as grace would empower a judge to serve “with a justice and fairness which is more powerful than ideology or political party.”

“Our nation desperately needs that justice and the peace it brings right now,” he said.

Incoming Supreme Court justices take an oath to uphold the Constitution as well as a second oath—or a combination of the two. In their oath, justices must swear to “administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich.”

This pledge to uphold justice, Wood said, is also part of the call of Catholics working for the common good.

Furthermore, Wood said, those who argue that Barrett might promote some kind of theocracy or would proselytize from the bench “are often trying to distract us from the real issue at hand.”

This issue, he said, is the imposition “by judicial fiat of beliefs about human life, gender, and marriage upon our nation that are contrary to the natural moral law which is present in the heart of every person.”

“That is why some people are worried about a faithful Catholic judge like Amy Barrett: not because she would impose her religious beliefs on our nation, but because they know that she would stand up against the political pressure to impose theirs,” he said.

University of Iowa 'targeted' Christian group, lawyers argue

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 23, 2020 / 07:00 am (CNA).- Lawyers representing a Christian group kicked off of a college campus over its religious beliefs have said they are confident after making their case in court Tuesday. They argue that the University of Iowa targeted the group Business Leaders in Christ, and violated their own policies in doing so.

“The court had tough questions for both sides, but I feel optimistic that they saw the extreme nature of the conduct by the university officials in this case,” Attorney Eric Baxter of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty told CNA on Tuesday, September 22 following oral arguments at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. 

Baxter is representing Business Leaders in Christ (BLinC), a group at the University of Iowa,

BLiNC hosted Christian business professionals on campus, and aims “to form future business leaders who will integrate their religious values such as integrity, service, and compassion into the workplace.” 

The group was removed from campus in 2017, when the organization posted a “statement of faith” on their website after they refused to allow an openly gay student a leadership position in the group. 

After the student filed a complaint against the group, “the university called BLinC to a meeting and said, ‘well, we really can’t tell you who to select as your leaders, but you ought to at least let students know what your beliefs are,’” Baxter explained to CNA. 

The University of Iowa did not require other groups to publish similar statements, but BLinC complied and put their statement of faith in the group’s constitution. The statement of faith upheld the Biblical definition of marriage, which the University of Iowa took as discrimination, leading to their removal from campus. BLinC filed suit against the university of Iowa following their removal.  

“The whole thing is ironic and really a ridiculous tale of how the university went out of its way to break its own rules to target this group,” said Baxter. Baxter noted that other student groups, including an LGBT-affirming business group, are permitted to require that their members or leaders adhere to a certain ideology. 

In the wake of BLinC’s lawsuit against the school, the University of Iowa placed every campus group with a religious affiliation on probation while the case was decided. 

In February 2019, the court ruled that BLinC, along with the 32 other religious groups on campus, were treated unequally by the school and must be treated the same as other student groups. 

“The Constitution does not tolerate the way [the university] chose to enforce the Human Rights Policy. Particularly when free speech is involved, the uneven application of any policy risks the most exacting standard of judicial scrutiny, which [the university] ha[s] failed to withstand,” said that ruling. 

The University of Iowa appealed that decision. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to issue a decision by the end of the year. 

“These students wanted to provide a space on campus where they could support one another in their faith. And instead they've spent three and a half years fighting the university just to be treated the same as every other group on campus,” said Baxter. 

“And that's a travesty,” he added. “The University should be ashamed for treating them like second-class citizens.”

More than 130 Colorado doctors, scientists support late-term abortion ban 

Denver, Colo., Sep 23, 2020 / 04:06 am (CNA).- More than 130 medical professionals and scientists in Colorado have signed a letter in support of Proposition 115, a ballot measure seeking to ban abortion after 22 weeks of pregnancy.

“As Healthcare professionals we are totally aware of the science of human development. The humanity of a 22-week fetus is apparent to each of us. There can be no doubt that the 22-week fetus is fully alive and fully human,” the letter reads.

Colorado currently has no laws regulating late-term abortion, either restricting the procedure or explicitly protecting it. As a result, abortions can take place up until birth.

This November, Proposition 115 will ask voters if they want to ban abortion in the state after 22 weeks of pregnancy, unless a mother’s life is threatened. If the ballot measure passes, doctors would face a three-year suspension of their license for performing or attempting to perform an abortion. Women would not be charged with seeking or obtaining an abortion.

More than 150,000 people from across Colorado signed a petition to place the initiative on the upcoming ballot.

In their letter, released last week, the 134 health care professionals and scientists outlined facts of fetal development that illustrate the humanity of an unborn baby at 22 weeks.

Babies at this age may react to their mother’s touch, experience pain, and demonstrate a preference for their mother’s voice, as well as for musical pieces to which they have been exposed. Children at this age may even exhibit social interaction with a twin in utero.

Advances in neonatal medicine mean that babies born at 22 weeks are often able to survive, the signers of the letter said. They noted that some medical centers in the U.S. have a 70% survival rate for premature babies born at this age.

A fetus can also undergo surgery, and is treated as a separate and distinct patient from the mother, the doctors and scientists noted, adding, “Therefore, they should be treated as individuals by Colorado law.”

“With advances in medical science, it has become obvious that the fetus is much more than ‘just pregnancy tissue’, as some would claim. There can be no equivocation that the fetus is a living, learning and actively participating human being,” they stressed. “Every one of these lives has inherent value and dignity. They deserve to be embraced and protected by the citizens of Colorado, as equal members of our society.”

The doctors and scientists recognized the difficulties some pregnant women face. Rather than abortion, they said, these women should be offered a robust support system, through both public and private venues. They encouraged adoption, perinatal hospice programs, and housing for pregnant women.

The signers of the letter applauded the efforts of both public and faith-based pregnancy resource centers, including the Caring Pregnancy Resource Center of Northeast Colorado, Little Flower Maternity Home, Let Them Live, Alternatives Pregnancy Center, and Marisol Health.

“We stand in solidarity with all those who work privately and publicly to support women during their pregnancies, especially those women who face difficult circumstances or challenges during their pregnancies,” they said.

Know some excellent parishes of the pandemic? There's an award for that

Denver Newsroom, Sep 23, 2020 / 04:00 am (CNA).- Scot Landry has worked for the Catholic Church for years. So he knows that diocesan and parish offices typically hear very little about what they’re doing well, and a lot about what's not going right.

“The ratio of compliments or gratitude or praise, to complaints...that ratio was in the complaint end of things, stronger than any other time of my life,” Landry told CNA, reflecting on his years working for the Archdiocese of Boston.

For years, Landry has wanted to do something to recognize parishes doing exemplary things, but it never seemed to be the right time.

This year, however, as a global pandemic shut down public Masses in many parts of the world, Landry said he watched parishes find new and creative ways to reach their flocks, and he wanted to celebrate that. That’s why Landry, in partnership with the Parish Excellence Summit and Good Catholic Leadership Group, created the first-ever Parish Excellence Awards.

“There was immediate mission-driven innovation related to continuing the parish’s sacramental and other ministries” in response to the coronavirus pandemic, Landry said in a release announcing the awards.

Catholics can nominate their parishes for excellence awards in a variety of categories, which aim to recognize things like technological excellence to parish outreach and re-opened Mass protocols. There are three “Broadcast Mass” categories alone.

“Most parishes have now turned into broadcasters,” Landry said, because of the temporary closure of public Masses throughout the United States this past spring.

Some parishes were “excellent on the technical side of things, and the broadcast is beautiful. Others were excellent at trying to maximize the number of parishioners who were watching the livestream. Others were good at solving the complexity of doing livestreams when they have a multilingual, multicultural community.”

The Parish Excellence Awards are similar to another national effort, by Mundelein Seminary, which earlier this month accepted nominations for “hero priests” of the pandemic, who went above and beyond to reach their flock in these unprecedented times.

Landry said while his idea wasn’t inspired by the “hero priest” awards, he was glad there are others who also wanted to recognize all that parishes have done for their people during this time.

“We do need to hold up people who are doing great work during the pandemic. I was glad to see that Mundelein was thinking of it,” Landry said.

Winners of the Parish Excellence Awards will be chosen by small committees of volunteers, Landry said, and will be announced at the Parish Excellence Summit, a virtual event held from Nov. 9-13. All who nominate their parish for an award will be invited to the Summit for free.

At the summit, Landry said he plans on presenting three awards each day, and showing video interviews with winners, who can give tips and pointers to other parishes wanting to model initiatives after ones that have been recognized for making a difference.

The summit will highlight the two reasons for the parish awards in the first place, Landry said, which is to recognize excellent parishes, and to pass on ideas for best practices to other parishes who are also striving for excellence.

“One of the ways to honor a parish that is innovative in a mission-driven way, is to learn from it,” Landry said. “Apply it to your own context and then help it to strengthen your own parish. We certainly hope...we wouldn't be doing this if that wasn't one of our big hopes at the end of it.”

Catholics can nominate parishes in 16 different categories through October 19.

And while the Parish Excellence Awards this year are specifically focused on innovation during the pandemic, Landry said he hopes the awards are something he can continue year after year.

“Winning people back after the pandemic, that could be a theme for next year,” he said. “As long as there’s a need to share what's working in some parishes with all the other parishes in the church, at least in the United States, we certainly have an interest in doing it.”

Survey: Catholics, like fellow Americans, favor abortion restrictions

CNA Staff, Sep 22, 2020 / 03:00 pm (CNA).-  

The vast majority of Catholic likely voters – more than 8 in 10 – favor restrictions on abortion, a new poll released this week has found.

Only 15% of those surveyed said abortion should be permitted at any time in a pregnancy. The same percentage said abortion should never be permitted.

Eight percent said abortion should only be allowed in the first six months of a pregnancy, while 21% favored limiting the procedure to the first three months of a pregnancy. Thirty-one percent said abortion should only be permitted in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother. Nine percent said it should only be allowed to save the life of the mother.

The poll, conducted Aug. 27 - Sept. 1 by RealClear Opinion Research in partnership with EWTN News, surveyed 1,212 likely voters who self-identify as Catholic.

The findings among Catholics are consistent with surveys showing that the majority of Americans support restrictions on abortion.

A January 2020 Marist Poll sponsored by the Knights of Columbus found that 70% of Americans favored banning abortion after three months of pregnancy, at the latest. Almost half of those who labeled themselves as pro-choice said abortion should be limited to the first three months of pregnancy, at most.

The majority of Catholic likely voters in the RealClear poll – 59% – said they are concerned about the issue of abortion as they consider the upcoming presidential election, with 30% identifying the issue as a “major concern.” Among weekly Massgoers, 70% said they were concerned about abortion, with 41% saying it is a topic of “major concern.”

Twenty-two percent of survey respondents said they were more likely to support a candidate for public office if that candidate supports abortion, while 30% said they were less likely to support a candidate who supports abortion.

Forty-three percent of weekly Mass attendees said they were less likely to support a candidate who supports abortion, compared to 26% of those who attend Mass monthly to yearly, and 18% of those who attend Mass less than once a year.


US bishops to Trump: 'Enough. Stop these executions'  

CNA Staff, Sep 22, 2020 / 02:45 pm (CNA).-  

The Catholic bishops of the United States on Tuesday implored President Donald Trump to halt two federal executions set to take place this week.

“We say to President Trump and Attorney General Barr: Enough. Stop these executions.” 

“After the first murder recorded in the Bible, God did not end Cain’s life, but rather preserved it, warning others not to kill Cain (Gn. 4:15). As the Church, we must give concrete help to victims of violence, and we must encourage the rehabilitation and restoration of those who commit violence,” the bishops wrote in a statement Sept. 22.

“Accountability and legitimate punishment are a part of this process. Responsibility for harm is necessary if healing is to occur and can be instrumental in protecting society, but executions are completely unnecessary and unacceptable, as Popes St. John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis have all articulated.”

The statement was signed by Archbishop Paul Coakley, chair of the bishops’ domestic policy committee, and Archbishop Joseph Naumann, chair of the pro-life committee.

Naumann, whose own father was murdered, said earlier this month: “Murder is an unspeakable evil. Those who perpetrate such a crime have inflicted a grave injustice, not only upon the person who was murdered but also upon all their loved ones.”

“The criminal justice system has a responsibility to protect the innocent from victimization and to deter the commission of violent crimes. However. in the United States in 2020, we have the ability to protect society from violent criminals without resorting to the death penalty.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes the death penalty as “inadmissible,” citing increasing effectiveness of detention systems, the unchanging dignity of the person, and the importance of leaving open the possibility of conversion.

William LeCroy is set to be executed Sept. 22, while Christopher Vialva’s execution is set for Sept. 24, both by lethal injection. The executions will be the sixth and seventh to take place in the last three months alone.

LeCroy was convicted of raping and killling a nurse in 2001; Vialva was convicted of killing two youth ministers in 1999, who reportedly prayed, spoke about God, and pleaded for their lives as Vialva murdered them.

Attorney General William Barr, a Catholic, during July 2019 announced that executions of federal death-row inmates would resume for the first time since 2003.

The U.S. bishops’ conference has repeatedly condemned the executions, as has Archbishop Charles Thompson of Indianapolis, whose diocese includes the federal prison in Terre Haute, where federal executions take place.

Though the COVID-19 pandemic and several legal challenges delayed the resumption, the federal government resumed executions during July 2020 after the Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

On July 7 of this year, several U.S. bishops joined a statement of more than 1,000 faith leaders opposing the resumption of federal executions.

Federal executions are rare, but the bishops noted that there have been more federal executions carried out already in 2020— five— than were carried out in the last sixty years.

One of the most recent federal executions was that of Lezmond Mitchell, a Navajo man whose tribe objected, asking that his sentence be commuted to life in prison. Bishop James Wall of Gallup led a virtual prayer vigil on the afternoon of Aug. 26 ahead of Mitchell’s execution.

President Donald Trump has defended the use of the death penalty and has claimed that his support of the death penalty did not impact his pro-life credentials.

Attorney General Barr is set to be honored at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast on Sept. 23. 


Poll: Catholics overwhelmingly concerned about church attacks, oppose ‘defund the police’

CNA Staff, Sep 22, 2020 / 01:40 pm (CNA).-  

Eighty-three percent of Catholic likely voters are concerned about attacks on churches in recent months, a new poll has found.
The poll, conducted Aug. 27 - Sept. 1 by RealClear Opinion Research in partnership with EWTN News, surveyed 1,212 likely voters who self-identify as Catholic.

More than 60% of those surveyed said they were “very concerned” about recent vandalism and attacks on churches, and another 22% said they were “somewhat concerned.” Just 11% said they were either not very concerned or not at all concerned by the recent church attacks.

Recent months have seen numerous acts of vandalism and destruction at Catholic churches across the United States, including arsons and graffiti.

In July, a man crashed a minivan into a Florida Catholic church and then started a fire inside the building.

In Los Angeles, San Gabriel Mission church, founded by St. Junipero Serra, also burned in a fire being investigated for arson. Numerous statues of the saint have been vandalized or destroyed, most of them in California.

Several other churches across the country have been set aflame, and statues of Jesus or Mary have been toppled or decapitated.

While some attacks on statues have been committed by large groups with clear political affiliations, the perpetrators of other acts have not been identified.

Some commenters see the attacks against churches as part of a worrying rise in anti-Christian views.

More than 3 in 4 Catholics surveyed were concerned about anti-Christian sentiment amid recent social protests.

A little more than half of those surveyed said they were “very concerned” by the anti-Christian sentiment, and an additional quarter said they were “somewhat concerned.” Thirteen percent said they had little or no concern.

Nearly three-quarters of Catholics surveyed also voiced concern about vandalism of Catholic statues and burning of bibles at some recent protests.

More than 80% of Catholics who say they accept all or most of Church teaching said they were concerned about the acts of violence against statues, compared to just over half of those whos say their Catholic faith has little to no influence in their lives.

The survey comes amid ongoing protests against instances of police brutality and racism across the U.S. In some cases, demonstrators have become violent, including by attacking police officers. Law-and-order, police reform, and systemic racism have become major topics of discussion in the upcoming election.

An overwhelming majority – 82% of those surveyed – said they have at least some trust in their local police department to protect the interests of their family.

Older respondents were more likely to trust the police department than young adults, and white participants voiced higher levels of trust than Black and Hispanic participants, although all age ranges and racial groups saw more than 60% saying they trust the police.

Only 1 in 3 Catholics surveyed said they support “defund the police” initiatives, intended to shift funding from police departments to other social services.

Men were more likely to support defunding the police than women were, and young adults were more likely to support the initiatives than older people were.

Just 29% of white respondents supported “defund the police” initiatives, compared to 48% of Black respondents and 41% of Hispanics.

Fifty-three percent of poll participants said Catholics should be doing more to heal divisions in America on race, compared to 19% who said Catholics should not be more active on this issue, and 28% who were unsure.