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Christ can overcome racism, Minnesota priest says at George Floyd prayer service 

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 29, 2020 / 08:00 pm (CNA).- The love of Christ can overcome the sin of racism, the pastor of a historic Minnesota African-American parish said Friday, at a prayer service in the aftermath of the protests and riots in St. Paul and Minneapolis following the death of George Floyd in police custody.

“Racism,” said Fr. Erich Rutten said, “is a very deep sin in our souls. In not only our personal souls, but in the soul of our country.”

“To get past it, we need the love of Christ,” he said. “We need to get out of our comfort zones and encounter one another. Pope Francis says so often that we need to truly encounter one another.”



Rutten, pastor of St. Peter Claver Church, led the service on Friday evening, hours after buildings in the parish neighborhood were set ablaze. The prayer service was also attended by Archbishop Bernard Hebda and auxiliary Bishop Andrew Cozzens of St. Paul-Minneapolis.

Because of coronavirus social distancing measures, parishioners attended the prayer service via a Facebook livestream.

St. Peter Claver Church was founded in 1888 as the first African-American Roman Catholic parish in Minnesota.

Rutten read the Gospel passage in which Jesus repeatedly asks Peter if he loves Him and then instructs Peter to feed His sheep.

The priest then preached about the nature of love, the sin of racism, and a need for justice in the world.

In the Gospel, said Rutten, Jesus asks those to love him and to commit to him, and “that the love of God the Father might include all in everything.”

And while people may say that they do desire to love everyone, this is often easier said than done, Rutten added.

“When we think about it in the abstract, sure, we want to love everybody,” said Rutten. “But it’s a little bit harder with family, it’s a little bit harder with our fellow parishioners. It’s even harder with people that we don’t know very well, or people that maybe are different than us, or people that might even frighten us.”

Rutten offered prayers for justice and peace, “because there can be no peace without justice.” To achieve these goals, Rutten said that he thinks “we need to be very humble, we need to be very generous, and we need to seek true reconciliation: restorative justice.”

This Sunday, Pentecost, the world needs “a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit,” said Rutten.

“Amidst our noisy lives, our noisy world, and especially the energy of the last couple of days, we pray for racial justice and peace,” he added.

Cozzens prayed “Wake Me Up Lord,” a prayer against racism that was published in the 1989 USCCB message “For The Love of One Another.”

At the close of the evening’s service, Hebda spoke of his “great fondness” for the parish of St. Peter Claver, and noted that the church has a unique and important role for the Catholic Church in the Twin Cities in raising awareness of racism and how the Church could be more welcoming.

“I’ve heard more than once in these walls that it can be ‘exhausting’ to teach the rest of the Church about racism, and I’m grateful for your patience and perseverance,” he said.

“We continue to learn from you and your deep prayer. So please, know of my great gratitude, and that of Bishop Cozzens as well, for all that you do,” said Hebda. 

 

New South Wales worship restrictions changed after complaints of unfair treatment

CNA Staff, May 29, 2020 / 05:46 pm (CNA).- Churches in New South Wales will be allowed to open with the same restrictions as other buildings, after Australian Catholics complained that religious services were being treated unfairly.

Over the past few days, 20,000 Catholics signed a petition by the Sydney Archdiocese asking Premier Gladys Berejiklian to offer churches the same treatment as other NSW venues.

When coronavirus restrictions begin to lift on June 1, bars, restaurants, and clubs will be permitted a maximum capacity of 50 people present. Churches, however, were only to be allowed 10 worshipers at any one time.

“I am at a loss to explain to Catholics in Sydney why our reasonable requests to the government are not being granted,” said Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney, according to the Catholic Weekly.

Following the launch of the petition, NSW officials announced Friday that places of worship will instead have a 50 person limit like other facilities, as long as social distancing protocols are followed. Weddings will only be allowed to have 20 people in attendance, but funerals will be permitted 50.

Fisher applauded the government's new regulation and expressed gratitude to the Catholics who signed the petition. He said it was “a victory of common sense.”

“The closure of our churches and indeed of all places of worship has been deeply distressing for many people of faith in our community,” Archbishop Fisher said, according to Catholic Weekly. “It added to the isolation and anxiety that so many were feeling.”

“With restrictions easing, many were concerned that the churches were being left behind, and wanted to make their voices heard. People of faith weren’t asking for special treatment, but wanted to be treated equally.”

“I look forward to welcoming them back in greater numbers from Monday,” the  archbishop said. “We will continue to abide by government health directives, and continue to pray for an end to the pandemic and all those affected by it.”

‘Racism is not a thing of the past’ – US bishops respond to George Floyd killing

Washington D.C., May 29, 2020 / 05:36 pm (CNA).- Leaders of the U.S. bishops’ conference responded to the killing of an African American man in Minneapolis this week by stressing that the fight to eradicate racism is a pro-life issue.

“As bishops, we unequivocally state that racism is a life issue,” they said in a May 29 statement.

“Racism is not a thing of the past or simply a throwaway political issue to be bandied about when convenient. It is a real and present danger that must be met head on,” the bishops said.

“As members of the Church, we must stand for the more difficult right and just actions instead of the easy wrongs of indifference,” they said. “We cannot turn a blind eye to these atrocities and yet still try to profess to respect every human life.”

The statement was released by Bishop Shelton Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, chair of the U.S. bishops’ committee against racism; Archbishop Nelson Pérez of Philadelphia, chair of the cultural diversity committee; Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City, head of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, chair of the pro-life committee; Bishop Joseph Bambera of Scranton, head of the Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs; Auxiliary Bishop David O’Connell of Los Angeles, chair of the Subcommittee on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development; and Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Perry of Chicago, chair of the Subcommittee on African American Affairs.

The bishops responded to the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody this week. Footage of the incident circulated widely on the internet. It showed Floyd, who is black, subdued and laying on his stomach, saying repeatedly, “I cannot breathe” and groaning as a police officer knelt on his neck for almost eight minutes, and other officers stood nearby and watched.

Floyd was taken to a local hospital, where he died shortly later. His death has prompted protests in numerous cities, including rioting and looting in some parts of Minneapolis.

After widespread protest, former police officer Derek Chauvin was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter on May 29. The officers present at Floyd’s arrest were fired from the Minneapolis police force.

In their statement, the bishops said they were “broken-hearted, sickened, and outraged to watch another video of an African American man being killed before our very eyes.”

“What’s more astounding is that this is happening within mere weeks of several other such occurrences,” they said. “This is the latest wake-up call that needs to be answered by each of us in a spirit of determined conversion.”

The bishops called for non-violent protests, while acknowledging that people are understandably outraged.

“Too many communities around this country feel their voices are not being heard, their complaints about racist treatment are unheeded, and we are not doing enough to point out that this deadly treatment is antithetical to the Gospel of Life,” they said.

Catholics must fight indifference surrounding the issue of racism and speak up to fight it, the bishops said. They pointed to their most recent pastoral letter on racism, “Open Wide Our Hearts,” which calls for greater engagement on the issue.

The bishops encouraged Americans to encounter people of different cultural backgrounds and seek greater understanding and unity.

“Such encounters will start to bring about the needed transformation of our understanding of true life, charity, and justice in the United States,” they said.

Hearing ‘cry of the poor’ is key message of 'Laudato si', Cardinal Turkson says

Washington D.C., May 29, 2020 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Peter Turkson has said that the principle of “non-violence” extends beyond opposing physical violence, and must include the protection human rights from exploitation.

Acknowledging the week's protests and rioting in Minneapolis, the Vatican cardinal made the comments during an event to mark five years since the promulgation of the papal encyclical Laudato si’.

“There’s a lot of talk within the same church about Christian non-violence,” said Cardinal Turkson, head of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, making reference to the social unrest in Minneapolis following the death of George Floyd.

“Christian non-violence is not only when you [do not] hold a gun or a knife to the throat of somebody. Christian non-violence is also when you do not do violence to people’s dignity, people’s rights,” he said.

When the conditions necessary for human flourishing are not met in society, then the “cry of the poor” can be heard, he said, pointing to prayers for victims of racism and injustice in the wake of the Minneapolis riots.  

Cardinal Turkson made his remarks as he led an online panel discussion on Friday. The event “Laudato Si After Five Years: Hearing the Cry of the Earth and the Cry of the Poor” was co-sponsored by the Vatican and Georgetown University’s Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life.

Kim Daniels, associate director of the initiative, began Friday’s event with a prayer for George Floyd “and all those who suffer from acts of racism and injustice,” after a “tragic week” where large riots and protests had occurred in Minneapolis, New York, and other cities in the U.S. Daniels was appointed by Pope Francis to the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communication in 2016.

The protests followed the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on Monday after a police officer was seen kneeling on his neck for several minutes while arresting him. Floyd, moaning and crying out in apparent pain, said repeatedly that he could not breathe in a video of the incident taken by bystanders. 

Floyd appeared unconscious several minutes into the video, and according to the police department was later taken to a hospital where he died. Four police officers involved in Floyd’s arrest were fired from the department, and one was arrested on Friday and charged with murder and manslaughter.

Noting the prayer for Floyd and other victims of racism and injustice at the beginning of Friday’s event, Turkson said that “it’s just a cry for people to recognize that every human being requires a minimum of social conditions to enable him to live, and live successfully and happily.”

Both human beings and the environment need to be cared for, he said, and when they are not “the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor” is heard—a key message of Laudato si’.

The “cry of the poor” occurs because “what they need to constitute their thriving, prosperous environment, is denied them,” the cardinal said. “And that’s why we talk about justice.”

The human and economic toll of the new coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has also taught ecological lessons, he said. 

Turkson pointed out that lockdown conditions have resulted in emissions drops, causing cleaner air in India and China, but the sudden unemployment of millions of people as a result of the economic shutdown challenges the very sustainability of the current economic system.

Cardinal Turkson said that Pope Francis’ letter was the “result of a lot of teaching” from previous popes.

Pope St. Paul VI’s encyclical Populorum progressio stressed care for nature and established ecology as “a set of conditions which constitute an environment which enables something to thrive,” Turkson said, while Pope St. John Paul II talked about human ecology and the environment of moral conditions which one needs to live well, and Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical Caritas in Veritate taught that “society itself also has an environment that needs to be respected.”

Integral ecology, he said, is “ecology of nature, ecology of the human person, ecology of society, ecology of peace.”

After death of George Floyd, Minnesota Catholics pray for justice

Denver Newsroom, May 29, 2020 / 03:55 pm (CNA).- While rioters and looters took to the streets and parts of Minneapolis burned, some Minnesota Catholics called for justice and unity after the death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed by a police officer on Monday.

“I am saddened. I am sickened. I am angered. And I am tired. I am tired of such things happening again and again. ‘How long, O Lord,’ must we endure such things?” Fr. Erich Rutten, pastor of St. Peter Claver Parish in St. Paul, said in a YouTube message May 27, two days after Floyd was killed.

“The love of God, revealed in Jesus Christ, clearly shows us that we are all children of one God, and that we are all equally subjects of Christ our King, in the Kingdom of God our Father. We are all brothers and sisters.”

The parish is home to the largest African-American Catholic community in the Twin Cities. In 1888, it was the first Catholic Church founded by and for African-Americans living in Minnesota.

“Here is a case where white supremacy has cost someone their life. The misguided idea that white people can somehow push other people around, or that we own this country, or that we own Minneapolis, leads to terrible disrespect. Leads to poverty. Leads to, in this case, violence, and in many cases, violence,” Rutten added in his video.

“This particular case is so egregious,” Rutten told CNA Wednesday, “that it’s just maddening.”

“Our faith calls us way beyond racism, into a radical unity, in the Kingdom of God. A Kingdom we're all brother and sisters. I mean truly: Really brothers and sisters,” Rutten added.

“There's a great African-American hymn: 'We've come this far by faith, leaning on his holy Word, he hasn't failed us yet.' It's just enduring faith that God will always be with us through it.”

St. Peter Claver is located in a St. Paul neighborhood where buildings were damaged by looters on Thursday evening.

“It was a crazy night, with lots going on around here,” Rutten said in a video released Friday morning.

“Just feeling very badly for our community, for so much pain, and hoping we can find ways for healing, reconciliation and peace. I know that won’t be easy.”

The parish will livestream a prayer service Friday evening.

St. Peter Claver parishioners have also called for justice.

Estelle Jones, 75, leads the social justice committee at St. Peter Claver, and facilitates a parish support group for families of incarcerated men and women.

On Tuesday, she told CNA that “I am feeling...it’s very difficult to even want to talk about it.”

“Something has to stop, I hope. It’s sad, but I hope, and it’s too sad, that George Floyd’s death would wake up the community, and the United States of America, that we stop this violence and police brutality, and this racism.”

God made all of us. It’s hard to understand why black people and brown people are hated so much. I’m devastated.”

Jones said she watched in 2015 as police assaulted her own grandson, then in his mid-thirties, while at a traffic stop. She said her grandson “got out of his car, and, um, they— he didn’t resist them at all. In fact, he was standing with his hands in the air. The next thing we knew, they had thrown him on the ground and were tasing him.”

“We were there. My daughter, his mother, and me. This was one of the most horrible, horrific things to ever see happen to a loved one, and we were standing there.”

Jones said her grandson was hospitalized for his injuries.

“Watching what happened to George Floyd just brought back this whole situation to me. To just know what this family must be going through, what the community is going through….Something has to stop this.”

Jones said her social justice and social support work at her parish is part of her effort to help young people in the parish understand the struggle for civil rights, and an ongoing struggle for racial justice. But she says she can’t do that alone.

In his YouTube video, Rutten said the parishioners of St. Peter Claver are called to “agitate both in our Church and in our world for racial justice and peace and healing, and the reality that we truly are brothers and sisters.”

“Remembering George, we need to continue that mission,” Rutten said.

Jones said she hopes for justice in the case of George Floyd.

“To me, justice— I feel like everyone else. Too many black men have been murdered, and nothing has been done by the police.”

Jones mentioned the deaths of Phliando Castile, Treyvon Martin, and Eric Garner.

“Enough is enough. And with George Floyd- that is blatant killing somebody in front of the whole world. How can you do that and think you can get away with it? Justice should be them being prosecuted, and serving some prison time.”

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was arrested May 29, and has been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. He and the three other officers present at Floyd’s arrest were fired from the Minneapolis police force.

St. Paul and Minneapolis Archbishop Bernard Hebda offered a Mass for the soul of George Floyd and for his family May 27.

“The video of George Floyd in police custody Monday evening is gut wrenching and deeply disturbing. The sadness and pain are intense. Let us pray for comfort for his grieving family and friends, peace for a hurting community and prudence while the process moves forward. We need a full investigation that results in rightful accountability and veritable justice,” Hebda said in a May 27 statement.

“Particularly at this time when human fragility has been brought into focus by the Covid-19 pandemic, we are called to respect the worth and dignity of each individual, whether they be civilians in need of protection or law enforcement officers charged with providing that protection. All human life is sacred.”

“Please join our Catholic community in praying for George Floyd and his family, and working for that day when ‘love and truth will meet [and] justice and peace will kiss,’” Hebda added, quoting Psalm 85.

For her part, Estelle Jones told CNA she hopes Catholics across the country will pray for George Floyd.

She also said she hopes Catholics will remember that “God created us all as equals, and to recognize that we all should love each other no matter what the color of our skin is, our economic status, or anything that would make us seem different from anybody else. To accept us all as human beings. As God would want us to do.”

 

Update: Racism seen 'at heart' of man's death at hands of Minneapolis police

IMAGE: CNS photo/Eric Miller, Reuters

By Julie Asher

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The racism "at the heart" of the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis "penetrates every aspect of life in the United States" and seeds "the terror that threatens communities of color and disfigures all our humanity," Pax Christi USA said May 28.

The Catholic peace organization, based in Washington, said it stands "in solidarity with our siblings in Minneapolis who are protesting white supremacy with their voices and their bodies, and we recommit ourselves to working to dismantle systemic racism in all its forms."

Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man, was arrested by police May 25 on suspicion of forgery. Once he was handcuffed, a white officer pinned him down on the street, putting his knee on Floyd's neck for eight minutes. A now widely circulated video shows Floyd repeatedly saying, "I can't breathe." He appears to lose consciousness or die and was later declared dead at the hospital.

The next day, hundreds of people protested at the intersection where police officers subdued Floyd, demanding justice for Floyd and the arrest of the four officers involved. The officers were fired May 26 and as of midday May 29, local prosecutors filed criminal charges against at least one of the now former officers: The one seen putting his knee on Floyd's neck, identified as Derek Chauvin, was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.

For several days, protesters have set fires and vandalized police vehicles and the Minneapolis Police Third Precinct building, as well as several local businesses. The precinct building was set on fire the evening of May 28; other buildings have been torched as well. Government officials have called in the National Guard to help keep the peace. The federal Justice Department promised a "robust" investigation into the circumstances surrounding Floyd's death

Across the U.S., riots have erupted in a number of cities, including Los Angeles; Phoenix; Denver; New York; Louisville, Kentucky; and Columbus, Ohio.

In its statement, Pax Christi USA said it is "outraged and heartbroken" over Floyd's death, as well as the recent the fatal shooting of an unarmed 25 year-old African American man in Georgia, Ahmaud Arbery -- "and so many others, which reveal a complete disregard for the lives and dignity of people of color in our nation." Three white men were arrested in Arbery's death and were facing murder charges.

"Pope John Paul II called racism 'the most persistent and destructive evil of the nation,'" the statement continued. "As Catholics, it is not enough to relegate our concern to words, thoughts and prayers. Our church, at every level, must speak out boldly and unequivocally against the sin of racism, including the plague of police brutality aimed at George Floyd in Minneapolis this week."

The Catholic Church -- "from our institutional leaders through the faithful in the pews" -- must let "the injustice and violence of these needless deaths seep into our bones, rend our hearts and puncture our souls," Pax Christi USA said.

Because of "their privilege," white Catholics, it said, "are afforded a safe distance from the despair and agony that communities of color experience in moments like this. None of us can stand for this any longer."

Pax Christi USA called on its white members to "support people of color movements" in their local areas "and stand with them as allies."

In Baltimore, Archbishop William E. Lori said in a May 28 statement: "All who profess to be followers of Jesus Christ are obligated to work relentlessly to defeat the painful and persistent reality of racism in every instance and wherever it is manifested. Our hearts ache for the family of Mr. Floyd as we pray for them in this hour of their great anguish.

"We pray also for the people of Minneapolis as they now come to terms with this latest instance of injustice and with God's help begin to bind the wounds that it has exposed."

Bishop Nicolas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, New York, said the protests and violence that have followed Floyd's death are taking place because "persons of color feel they have no recourse."

"We Christians must be fierce in our opposition to the evil of racism, but we must respond peacefully and remember the Lord's call to us to love one another as He loves us," he added.

Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops, the public policy arm of the state's bishops, prayed "for the Holy Spirit's guidance as we approach this season of Pentecost in order to work toward a society where justice, peace, and charity may be shared with all of God's children."

Bishop Robert J. Brennan of Columbus, Ohio, said Floyd's death "calls for an honest self-examination on the part of all of us that seeks to identify sinful attitudes and judgments that must be remedied. Laws and policies must do more to protect the fundamental rights of those at risk."

"As people of faith in God, we must be totally committed to eradicating racism and encouraging all our neighbors to peace toward people of every race, creed and color," he said, adding that he recognizes "most in our law enforcement community are very good people who find these situations abhorrent" and are themselves calling for investigation and action to stop such situations.

"I thank them for their service and willingness to risk their well-being to help assure the common good," Bishop Brennnan added.

Tim Marx, president and CEO of Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, called Floyd's death a tragedy that "tears at the fibers that bring us together and shines a harsh light on the systemic injustices that too many must confront every single day of their lives. We are one human family -- what affects one of us, affects all of us."

"George Floyd was killed not far from several Catholic Charities locations serving children and adults, where staff work hard to build a culture of safety and community for individuals who have experienced unthinkable trauma in their lives," Marx said. "They are reeling, and our staff are at a loss to provide comfort."

He made the comments in a May 29 letter to the agency's supporters and friends.

It may be hard to find the words "to describe the pain, grief and anger our community is experiencing right now, but silence is not an option," he said. "We cannot be numb. We cannot separate ourselves from the injustices in our community. And we must not stop communicating, even if it's hard to find the words."

Catholic Charities' mission "is to serve those most in need and to advocate for justice in the community. We stand with all those who are working to confront the systemic racism and prejudice that created the conditions that allowed George Floyd to die so tragically," Marx said.

He said the "community is shaking with emotion and violence" and the agency was concerned about the safety and well-being of its clients, its staff and the community at large.

Pax Christi in its statement said "tangible steps" are needed to build an "anti-racist society" and include "addressing the culture of policing that upholds white supremacy and working to dismantle it"; teaching the history of "systemic and institutional racism" and diving "deeply into the discomfort that ... such realities raise for some of us, especially white people."

The history of the Catholic Church "includes support for slavery, the promotion of segregation, discrimination against people of color and the silence that equals complicity," the statement added.

In other reaction, Lawrence E. Couch, who director of the National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, said May 29 the bottom line regarding the Floyd tragedy and the Aubrey murder is "we continue to see people of a different color as the other; and that continues to matter and reverberate throughout our society."

"And as people of goodwill, we pray for an America united in love and purpose: united in our aspiration for racial equality, in freedom for all to dream, and an opportunity for all to become who we want to be. Sadly and tragically, we are not there yet."

The Institute Leadership Team of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas said: "We pray for comfort for each of these families as they face the painful loss of their loved ones. We pray for the African American community, repeatedly impacted by the trauma these killings produce, (pray) that supportive care is accessible and available. We pray for this nation's deep racial divide and that true healing will occur."

The leadership team named a third African American who died in March at the hands of white police officers when they entered her home: Breonna Taylor of Louisville. "We stand in solidarity with the many calling for justice and an end to the extrajudicial killings of African Americans," the team said.

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Follow Asher on Twitter: @jlasher

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Last Missouri abortion clinic will stay open, despite state’s safety concerns

CNA Staff, May 29, 2020 / 03:15 pm (CNA).- The last abortion clinic in Missouri will be allowed to continue operating, despite the state’s decision not to renew its license last year because of health and safety concerns. 

The Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis had been battling the state of Missouri in court for over a year after the state Health Department argued that the clinic— the last one allowed to perform surgical abortions in the state— is unsafe. 

Sreenivasa Rao Dandamudi, Missouri’s Administrative Hearing Commissioner, issued a ruling May 29 stating that Planned Parenthood has “substantially complied” with Missouri state law, and that “in over 4,000 abortions provided since 2018, the Department has only identified two causes to deny its license,” the Associated Press reports. 

The hearing, presided over by Dandamudi, began last October.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services initially refused to renew the clinic’s abortion license in June 2019, following a inspection that March that found evidence of at least four “failed abortions”— meaning they took multiple procedures to complete— at the clinic. 

The Health Department submitted a “Statement of Deficiencies” in court, citing an “unprecedented lack of cooperation” on the part of the St. Louis clinic, and a “failure to meet basic standards of patient care.”

In one instance, inspectors found that a woman had undergone an abortion that took five attempts to complete, the AP reports. In another instance, a Planned Parenthood physician reportedly failed to notice that a woman seeking an abortion was pregnant with twins.

The Health Department also said Planned Parenthood went back on an agreement to perform pelvic examinations as a “preoperative health requirement,” and that several doctors at the clinic refused requests to provide interviews with the department. 

For its part, Planned Parenthood has accused the state of weaponizing the regulatory process and claimed the state has admitted the pelvic exams are “medically unnecessary.”

When the clinic’s license expired in June, 2019, lawyers representing the Planned Parenthood affiliate secured a restraining order from Judge Michael F. Stelzer of Missouri Circuit Court in St. Louis to allow the clinic to continue performing abortions without a license.

Missouri enacted a comprehensive abortion ban in 2019, which Gov. Mike Parson (R) signed into law. Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis supported the measure.

Missouri’s law set up a multi-tier ban on abortions after eight weeks, 14 weeks, 18 weeks and 20 weeks, as well as bans on abortions conducted solely because of the baby’s race, sex, or Down syndrome diagnosis.

The law was crafted to be able to survive successive challenges in the courts, but a federal judge in August, 2019, struck down all of the bans related to every stage of pregnancy. The following months, the same judge also struck down the part of the Missouri law banning Down Syndrome abortions while the legal challenges continue to be heard. 

In the adjacent state of Illinois, Gov. JB Pritzker (D) signed legislation to expand access to abortion in that state.

In response to the possible closure of the St. Louis clinic, Planned Parenthood announced in October, 2019, the opening of an 18,000 square foot, $7 million “mega” abortion clinic in southern Illinois, just a dozen miles from the Missouri site.

Planned Parenthood reportedly arranged construction through a shell company, shielding the nature of the building from public view - and even from workers helping in the construction.

Louisiana bishop: 'People are losing their lives because of racism'

IMAGE: CNS photo/Carlos Barria, Reuters

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The bishop who heads the U.S. bishops' Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism said the May 25 death of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police "reminds us that people are losing their lives because of racism."

It also serves as a reminder that "racism is a life issue," said Bishop Shelton T. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana, whose committee produced "Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love -- A Pastoral Letter Against Racism," which was approved by the U.S. bishops in 2018.

"Until we take the human dignity of each and every person -- regardless of the circumstances of their lives -- serious(ly), there will continue to be a loss of life due to racism," he added. "It is outrageous that this is another African American death in police custody."

Bishop Fabre, in a May 29 phone interview with Catholic News Service, said: "Such events as this make it very, very clear to us that racism is not a thing of the past. It's not a political issue, it's a human issue. It's about people's lives. Racism is a danger. Racism is still with us."

Floyd, 46, was pronounced dead at a Minneapolis hospital after being handcuffed by police, with one of the four responding officers kneeling on his neck for about eight minutes. Video footage of the police tactics, with Floyd saying "I can't breathe," spread quickly across social media, sparking outrage and protests.

The four police officers were fired and as of midday May 29, local prosecutors filed criminal charges against at least one of the now former officers: The one who was seen putting his knee on Floyd's neck, identified as Derek Chauvin, was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. In addition, the federal Justice Department promised a "robust" investigation into the circumstances surrounding Floyd's death.

However, those responses were not fast enough to satisfy angry and anguished protesters in Minneapolis, who overran and set fire to a police station May 28 and engaged in vandalism and looting after police retreated. Other protests against Floyd's death took place in neighboring St. Paul, Minnesota, across the Mississippi River from Minneapolis, but also at the Colorado Capitol in Denver, the Ohio Capitol in Columbus, plus New York City and Phoenix.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz sent 500 Minnesota National Guard soldiers to the Twin Cities to quell the unrest. President Donald Trump weighed in on Floyd's death on Twitter May 29, saying "THUGS" were "dishonoring" Floyd's memory, and seemed to warn against rioting: "When the looting starts, the shooting starts." Twitter censored Trump's comment as potentially "glorifying violence."

"I hope the protests will be peaceful, that we will notice them and that we will hear what the protests are trying to convey, and that they will open our hearts anew to hear what is being shared with us. This is coming from people who are not being heard, people who feel they are not being heard," Bishop Fabre told CNS.

The widespread nature of the protests "reminds us that racism is far-reaching. Each and every one of us has a story with regard to racism. People of color have a story as to how racism has deeply affected them," Bishop Fabre said. "It is something you can see in protests brewing up."

Asked if there were something in "Open Wide Our Hearts" that addresses the current moment, Bishop Fabre suggested this: "One thing we can all do is enter into conversation with people of color and ask, 'How did you feel when George Floyd lost his life?' and listen to their feelings with our hearts and with our ears. Listen to what they say. When we can continue to begin acting on that belief, that common respect for one another will lead to action. And that action will lead to an end to such loss of life as we have seen."

Otherwise, he said, "we're gong to have events like these for a long time."

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Editor's Note: The full text of the bishops' pastoral against racism, "Open Wide Our Hearts," can be found online at https://bit.ly/2XLbpYv.

 

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Swiss accounts frozen in Vatican property deal probe

CNA Staff, May 29, 2020 / 02:30 pm (CNA).- Tens of millions of euros have been frozen in Swiss banks as part of the investigation into a Vatican property investment, according to a Swiss media report. Swiss authorities have also forwarded documents to Vatican prosecutors, as part of an investigation into investments made by the Holy See Secretariat of State.

On May 23, NZZ am Sonntag reported that Holy See prosecutors sent Swiss authorities a formal request for help examining the Holy See Secretariat of State’s investment of more than $300 million in a luxury London property development.

"The Federal Office of Justice received a request for legal assistance in this matter," spokesman Raphael Frei told NZZ. "With a diplomatic note dated April 30, 2020, the Federal Office sent the Vatican a first part of the requested documents." 

The newspaper also reported that its sources had confirmed tens of millions of euros have been frozen in several Swiss banks as part of the investigation.

Vatican investigators are examining the Secretariat of State’s purchase of the building at 60 Sloane Avenue, London.  In October 2019, four officials at the department were suspended following a raid by Vatican gendarmes in which they seized files and computers. A further raid on a former senior official at the secretariat was conducted in February.

CNA has reported that that deal was at least partially financed with loans from several Swiss banks, including Credit Suisse and BSI.

BSI was the subject of a damning report by Swiss banking authorities in 2016, which found that the bank was in “serious breaches of the statutory due diligence requirements in relation to money laundering and serious violations of the principles of adequate risk management and appropriate organization.” The bank was ordered into an extinctive merger with EFG Group in 2017, on condition that no BSI officer retain a management role.

Credit Suisse acknowledged to NZZ that it was involved in the investigation, but said that it was not the subject of any accusation by either Swiss or Vatican authorities. 

"Credit Suisse is not the subject of the Vatican's investigation, but is working with the authorities in compliance with the applicable regulations," said bank spokeswoman Anitta Tuure.

The London building was purchased by the Secretariat of State in stages, over a period of years, from Italian businessman Raffaele Mincione, who at the time was managing hundreds of millions of euros of secretariat funds.

When it sold to the secretariat 30,000 of 31,000 shares in the project, Minicone’s holding company retained the 1,000 voting shares needed to control the holding company which owned the building. Mincione eventually offered to part with those, at greatly inflated prices.

To complete the sale, in 2018 the Secretariat of State enlisted the help of another businessman, Gianluigi Torzi, who acted as a commission-earning middleman for the purchase of the remaining shares. Torzi earned 10 million euros for his role in the deal.

Earlier this month, CNA reported that one of the five suspended employees, Fabrizio Tirabassi, who was charged with managing the secretariat’s investments, was made a director of a Luxembourg-registered holding company belonging to Torzi.  

Sources close to the Prefecture for the Economy told CNA that Tirabassi has been involved in managing several financial transactions at the secretariat that are now being examined by financial investigators at the Vatican.

CDC removes faith guidance discouraging choirs, shared cups 

Washington D.C., May 29, 2020 / 12:56 pm (CNA).- The Trump administration has removed guidance on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website which discouraged, among other things, singing, choirs and “shared cups” at religious services.

Despite the CDC’s backtrack, Catholic medical professionals and other experts with whom CNA has spoken continue to recommend that singing and the Communion cup ought to be discouraged at Mass for the time being.

Religious communities should “consider suspending or at least decreasing use of a choir/musical ensembles and congregant singing, chanting, or reciting during services or other programming, if appropriate within the faith tradition,” the guidelines, posted May 22, originally read.

“The act of singing may contribute to transmission of COVID-19, possibly through emission of aerosols.”

CNA learned from a person familiar with the deliberations that the White House did not approve the original CDC guidance before it was published.

That guidance was reportedly met with concern by many people of faith for certain provisions that seemed to intrude on the autonomy of religious groups, such as one recommendation that Jews should be allowed to use electronic devices on the Sabbath to stream services online.

A new CDC guidance page went live May 23. The new guidance, CNA was told, was to have the input of lawyers with experience in religious freedom cases. It was to be more sensitive to the autonomy of churches and religions and apply a “lighter touch” to them, functioning as a set of recommendations rather than instructions, and implying that actions taken by state and local governments that go beyond the federal recommendations are inappropriate.

The new guidance page contains no specific guidance related to singing or choirs. A recommendation to suspend the use of “shared cups” and passed or shared objects such as collection plates also was removed in favor of a recommendation to “clean and disinfect” such objects between uses.

The Washington Post, citing anonymous administration officials, has reported that the White House pushed against the CDC issuing guidance for churches, with the concern that it did not want to unnecessarily limit their freedom under the First Amendment.

The new guidance states at the top that it is not “intended to infringe on rights protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution or any other federal law.”

It goes on to say that the federal government may not prescribe standards for interactions of faith communities in houses of worship, and that in accordance with the First Amendment, no faith community “should be asked to adopt any mitigation strategies that are more stringent than the mitigation strategies asked of similarly situated entities or activities.”

As the novel coronavirus spread in March, all U.S. Catholic dioceses curtailed public Masses to prevent the spread of the disease. However, beginning in mid-April, dioceses have begun resuming the offering of public Masses.

An April 28 document from the Thomistic Institute in Washington D.C., written by medical professionals, researchers, and theologians and distributed to dioceses by the U.S. bishops’ conference, recommends that singing at Mass ought to be discouraged.

The Thomistic Institute’s document also recommends that the Precious Blood ought not be distributed at Mass.

To date, dioceses that have developed Church reopening plans have called for suspension of distribution of the Precious Blood. The Catholic Church teaches that reception of either the host or the chalice is a complete act of Eucharistic reception.

The Thomistic Instutute’s website does state, however, that the  guidelines “will be updated as the situation changes and as the WHO/CDC guidance changes.”

Deacon Tim Flanigan is a member of the Thomistic Institute’s working group, an infectious disease specialist who has battled Ebola outbreaks, and a professor of medicine at Brown University. Flanigan also told CNA that Catholics can return to Mass and the sacraments safely if they observe CDC protocols.

“The question is: can I follow the CDC guidance just as carefully, in each setting, in order to decrease transmission of coronavirus? Can I maintain safe distancing? Can I maintain good hand hygiene? Can I ensure that I am not ill?” Flanigan told CNA last week.

If CDC guidelines are followed, “There is no reason to prohibit church services when you don’t prohibit other gatherings,” Flanigan said.

“The CDC gives us that guidance to decrease the rate of transmission. It’s just as important that guidance be followed at a house of worship, as at a conference, as at any other gathering.”

An ad-hoc committee of seven Catholic doctors and medical school professors released on May 12 a plan entitled “Road Map to Re-Opening our Catholic Churches Safely.”

That group of doctors concluded that “choirs and singing should be avoided” due to the aerosol risk.

They also concluded that the safest recommendation is to receive Communion in the hand rather than on the tongue. The plan does not contain specific guidance on the use of the cup at Mass.

The doctors’ plan calls for Mass to be held with social distancing, and for the use of masks and hand sanitizer. Those who are ill or believe they may have been exposed to the virus should stay home, it says.

Churches have been the focus of concern during the epidemic because of the close proximity of church attendees, socialization before, during and after services, and singing. Some churches have older congregations and so are believed to be more vulnerable to extreme consequences from coronavirus infection.

A May 22 article from the CDC reported that among the 92 attendees at a rural Arkansas church, 38% developed a laboratory-confirmed case of infection after a pastor and his wife, who had the virus, attended several events there in early March.

Twenty-six additional cases— including one death— in the community also were linked to the church.

The CDC had also, earlier this month, released a report chronicling a COVID-19 “superspreader” event, whereby a single symptomatic person infected more than 50 people— two of whom died— at a choir practice in Washington state in March.

Deacon Robert Lanciotti, a microbiologist and the former chief of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s diagnostic and reference laboratory in Fort Collins, Colorado, told CNA that in his opinion, the Washington state “superspreader” example does not entirely exclude the possibility of singing in church.

“The key issue here is that a symptomatic individual practiced for 2.5 hours in close contact with others with no facial coverings,” Lanciotti pointed out.

That individual also engaged in close-contact activities such as eating and talking, he said in an email to CNA.

“I think that it is likely that this individual infected others primarily by singing in close contact with others. However, it may still be safe to sing in a church in which symptomatic people stay home and those present are wearing masks.”