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Anti-Catholic vandalism in Northern Ireland deters families, prompts investigation

Belfast, Northern Ireland, Dec 6, 2019 / 12:00 am (CNA).- Reports emerged this week of a third act of sectarian vandalism at a social housing development in Northern Ireland, into which a Catholic mother and her daughter were in the process of moving from a different part of the city.

According to the Irish News, vandals smashed windows and hung a UK flag— a symbol associated with the Protestant-majority Democratic Unionist Party— from a drainpipe at the property in north Belfast.

The prospective tenant, a 24-year-old woman from a Catholic background with four children who declined to give her name, has reportedly abandoned plans to move in.

This is reportedly the third act of vandalism against homes in the housing development since last week, all of which targeted Catholic families moving to the area, the BBC reports. The first two incidents involved “sectarian” graffiti sprayed onto the houses, including an anti-Catholic slur.

The police are treating the incidents as hate crimes.

According to the Irish News, a councillor for the Democratic Unionist Party last month contacted the housing development, telling them that there was a “concern” about the mother moving to the area, but did not specify what the concern was.

The mother says she still has not heard from either the councillor or the housing development what the “concern” was. The housing development has refused to comment. She said she contacted the police, but the police later confirmed they were unaware of any threats against her.

"As a public representative I raised a concern to Choice Housing which came to my attention,” the councillor in question, Dale Pankhurst, said in a statement.

"This centred on the safety of the woman in question. I wished to raise this matter in confidence with the organisation. I have a duty of care to all residents when I receive any form of information that may indicate danger to life or property.”

Catholic Church discovered in Dublin archeology dig

Dublin, Ireland, Dec 5, 2019 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- After the demolition of a Dublin building, archaeologists have  discovered the foundations a 300-year-old church that was used during times of Catholic persecution.

The church was uncovered by a team of archeologists during a dig taking place before the development of a 10-story office building planned for the site.

Excavation of the church will likely take place until December.

“We have to dig here very carefully because the church is a recorded monument,” archeologist Franc Myles told The Irish Times.

The church, St. Andrew’s Parish in central Dublin, was built in 1709, when British penal laws outlawed the practice of Catholicism.

“There was probably a building used as a chapel from the foundation of St Andrew’s Parish in 1709 and it is depicted on John Rocque’s map [of Dublin] of 1756,” a developer’s archeological report explains about the site.

Despite the prohibitions on Catholicism, the parish grew in its first hundred years. In fact, the archaeological report adds that, after significant growth in the parish, “it was decided that the chapel would have to be reconstructed” in 1811.

Father Daniel Murray, who later wasArchbishop of Dublin from 1823 to 1852, laid down the foundation stone in 1814 for a new chapel. By 1831, significant progress had been made on the Church’s reconstruction, but a new parish priest decided to move the church to a different location.

Construction on the office building will likely continue after the archaeological process has been completed and recorded.

Myles had hope that the archeologists would have found on the site timber structures dating back to the 1670s. He said none of those have been found, and speculated they had been demolished by construction in the 1960s.

 

Tucson bishop: US policy puts migrants at risk of violent crime

Tucson, Ariz., Dec 5, 2019 / 03:59 pm (CNA).- The U.S. government’s “Remain in Mexico” policies put vulnerable migrants at risk of kidnapping, rape, cartel violence, gang activity, and other dangers across the border, the Catholic Bishop of Tucson, Arizona said this week.

“The Migrant Protection Protocol is a policy that does not provide protection to these most vulnerable people and in fact has placed them in significant danger in cities that cannot adequately assist them,” Bishop Edward J. Weisenburger of Tucson said Dec. 2. For these reasons I call on others of good will to oppose this policy and to join me in communicating this opposition to our congressional delegation.”

The Migrant Protection Protocols, also known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy, were announced in January 2019 by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. These policies have meant between 50,000 and 60,000 asylum seekers, mainly families with children, have remained in border cities like Tijuana, Juarez, Nuevo Laredo and Matamoros while their cases are processed by immigration courts – a procedure that may take years.

“The numbers of people forced across the border have overwhelmed the cities, the humanitarian aid organizations and the Mexican Government,” Weisenburger said.

Sanitary conditions in some areas are so bad in some areas that 2,500 people share only three toilets. Pregnant women receive only one bottle of water per day. Families and children live in “makeshift tents on sidewalks,” the bishop said.

“In addition to the inhumane conditions in which the people must remain, they are subject to extortion and kidnapping by cartels and gangs, 364 rapes and assaults have been reported in one city, and daily threats of violence when the family has no money to pay the extortion,” said Weisenburger.

The government’s “Remain in Mexico” policy had not been implemented in the Tucson Sector until Nov. 22, when a change in policy was announced. The Department of Homeland Security decided the sector was a “weak link” in its efforts to detain undocumented migrants and asylum seekers, the bishop reported.

“The policy is not to apply to children traveling alone, pregnant women, people who are ill or with disabilities or those who were determined to face violence in Mexico,” he said. Still, he added, “There is reason to believe this policy has not been adequately implemented and that many of these most vulnerable people are living in the streets in the city of Juarez where they will be taken from Tucson.”

The bishop emphasized the Christian duty to aid migrants, asylum seekers and others in need.

“As Catholics, we are bound by faith to see all people as one family created in the image of God. We are called to offer hospitality to those who need us,” he said. “We are required to treat all with dignity and respect because they are our sisters and brothers. We are called to walk in solidarity with migrants on their journey.”

He pointed to the work of the Tucson diocese’s Catholic Community Services, which has been operating its migrant shelter Casa Alitas for six years. So far in 2019 it has aided 20,000 people, mainly families with children, as they travel to meet their sponsors and take part in the legal process to seek asylum.

“All people assisted at Casa Alitas are provided medical screening, clothing, food, assistance with transportation, a clean bed and a safe place to recover from the trauma of an arduous journey,” he said. “Few if any of these resources are available in Juarez.”

“Instead of care, concern and dignity these same families are being pushed into the street facing danger and the uncertainty if and when they will be given to opportunity to present their case to an immigration official,” said the bishop.

A Catholic-run migrant shelter in El Paso, Texas, across the U.S.-Mexico border from the city of Juarez, closed in mid-2019 because the migrants it would have assisted were barred from entering the country. After opening in 2018, before the policies changed, the shelter had been taking in 40 to 80 migrants per day after the migrants were cleared by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.

As a whole, the U.S. bishops have been critical of the Trump Administration and previous administrations’ handling of migration.

In a March 13 joint statement, Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, and Sean Callahan, president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services said the “Remain in Mexico” policy “needlessly increases the suffering of the most vulnerable and violates international protocols.”

“We steadfastly affirm a person’s right to seek asylum and find recent efforts to curtail and deter that right deeply troubling. We must look beyond our borders; families are escaping extreme violence and poverty at home and are fleeing for their lives,” the statement said.

The Trump administration has justified its policies on several grounds, including the need to limit the number of false asylum claims.

The number of asylum claims has dramatically increased over the last decade, with very few asylees being allowed to stay. In 2009, there were 35,811 people who applied for asylum in the United States, and 8,384 were granted. In 2018, that number had more than quadrupled to 162,060 claims, with 13,168 actually granted.

'If we give up our Christianity, we lose our identity,' says Hungarian minister

Washington D.C., Dec 5, 2019 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- Hungary is promoting pro-family policies because its Christian identity is at stake, the country’s family minister told CNA in an interview.

“If we give up on our Christianity, then we will lose our own identity, as Hungarians, as Europeans,” Katalin Novák, Hungary’s Minister of State for Family Affairs, told CNA in an interview on Wednesday.

Novák spoke at the second annual conference on family policy on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, co-organized with the Embassy of Brazil. She joined officials from the Trump administration, members of Congress, and representatives of non-governmental organizations in discussing how governments can promote pro-family policies.

Hungary’s birth rate is well below replacement level; the country’s central statistics office estimates the total fertility rate at 1.48 births per woman. Every country in the European Union has a sub-replacement level birth rate, Novak said. And according to United Nations data, both Eastern and Western Europe have estimated total fertility rates of 1.657 and 1.683 live births per woman for the years 2015 to 2020—well below the replacement rate of 2.1.

“We have a demographic challenge ahead of us,” Novák told CNA. While some countries may rely on immigration, Hungary is trying to reverse the trend with a two-pronged approach: financial incentives for families to have more children, and promoting a culture that is pro-life and welcoming of large families.  

In 2011, Hungary’s birth rate stood at just 1.23, Novák said on Thursday, causing the government to ask such questions as “what is the reason behind” the phenomenon, and “how can we help?”

Now, the administration of Prime Minister Viktor Orban has pushed a seven-point family protection action plan with incentives for marriage and children.

Women who marry before their 40th birthday will be eligible for a subsidized interest-free loan of around €31,000 from the state; one-third of the loan can be forgiven if the couple has two children, and the entire loan can be forgiven if they have three or more children. Women with four or more children will be exempted from income tax for life. Families with at least three children are eligible for a grant to purchase a car that seats seven or more people.

Housing assistance is also a key part of the platform. Families with two children will be eligible for mortgage loan reduction that could be increased if they have a third child.

Will the new financial incentives result in more children? Time will tell, but the matter is of utmost importance to the state.

“We are convinced that our future lies in strong families,” Novák told CNA.

Perhaps even more critical to strong families than financial incentives is a culture that encourages and normalizes children.

“We speak too much about money, actually,” Novák said on Wednesday. “Having children is not about money. Of course, not having children, it can be about money, but having children, it’s not your decision because of the financial incentives—it shouldn’t be.”

The state is aiming to create a culture that is more welcoming of families. It first tried to do this by enshrining certain pro-family and pro-life values in law.

Hungary was historically a Christian country since its first King Stephen, Novák said, and the state’s pro-family policies are meant to be a reflection of that in establishing a “strong identity.”

“Without a strong identity, you cannot take responsibility for others,” she told CNA.

In 2011, the Hungarian Parliament adopted its Fundamental Law that recognized the nation’s Christian roots and affirmed “inviolable” human dignity, the “right to life” of everyone and the protection of life from “the moment of conception,” marriage as the voluntary union of one man and one woman, the “family as the basis of the survival of the nation,” and the protection of persons with disabilities, Novák said.

In addition, the state is now issuing public messages that “life is a gift” and that having children is a “lifelong adventure.”

“Do you really acknowledge those who are taking care of children? Do you really value that stay-at-home mom who is taking care of five, six, seven children and is not playing an active role in the labor market?” Novák asked. “Do we really value them? Do we acknowledge them? Do we protect them?”

Hungary also sees part of its Christian identity in helping Christian victims of persecution in other countries. In Iraq, the government helped resettle Christian genocide victims through its aid program Hungary Helps, providing more than $3 million for the effort.

“For that reason, we see that we have the responsibility to provide help for the brothers and sisters who suffer from persecution anywhere in the world,” Novák said. “It’s not through international aid organizations with a lot of administration and a lot of costs,” she said, but rather “is really direct help, which is addressed to the persecuted ones”

The right to life from the moment of conception is a fundamental part of this identity. While the country’s abortion rate is at its lowest-recorded level, more work must be done, Novák said. “Nothing above zero is a good number.”

The approach the state is taking to advance the pro-life cause is to “acknowledge the life of the unborn,” she said, “by providing family benefits.” By the second trimester of pregnancy, women are already eligible for family benefits.

The state also acknowledges the importance of a “family-friendly workplace,” she said, and is trying to reward employers with generous family policies.

While other countries might see immigration as a demographic solution to a declining population, Novák warned against viewing it as a long-term support for the country’s future. Orban’s seven-point family plan was also rolled out as an alternative to immigration being a solution for the country’s future.

Hungary has received international criticism for its strict immigration policies. The UN’s human rights chief said its 2018 law criminalizing the assistance of asylum seekers was “blatantly xenophobic.” As of early 2018, the UN’s refugee agency said Hungary was only admitting around two asylum seekers per day through its transit zones.

The UN’s Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, who recently visited the country, said that “migrants are portrayed as dangerous enemies in both official and public discourses.”

Novák said that Hungary does not “see immigration as a solution to our demographic problem,” and is willing to assist with resettling refugees but is not prioritizing the acceptance of economic migrants seeking a “better life.”

“We are, in the first place, responsible for our own people. And if they need more help in order to be able to raise more children and have a family, then we have to provide this help,” she said.

Countries with a high outflow of economic migrants won’t be helped in the long run, she said.

“I actually do think that the responsible way of thinking is not if you extract the best-educated, the most mobile, and the wealthiest people out of these countries,” she said, “and what is going to happen to the others who just stay there?”

Hungary is providing training and free university education for thousands of students from these countries, she said, “to enable them to return to their countries and there to drive real change.”

However, in 2018 the Central European University had to stop its program for refugees after a significant tax by the government of Hungary on activities supporting immigration.

Pope Francis, in his message for the 2019 World Day of Migrants and Refugees, said that “our response to the challenges posed by contemporary migration can be summed up in four verbs: welcome, protect, promote and integrate.”

Pelosi fumes: 'I don't hate anybody. I was raised Catholic'

Washington D.C., Dec 5, 2019 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi on Thursday rejected the suggestion that she “hates” President Donald Trump, and said that her Catholic faith prevents her from hating anyone. 

"I don't hate anybody. I was raised in a Catholic house, we don't hate anybody—not anybody in the world,” said Pelosi. She had been asked by a journalist during her weekly press briefing if she “hates President Trump.”

Pelosi had earlier announced the House Democrats would begin drafting the articles of impeachment. 

"As a Catholic I resent you using the word 'hate' in a sentence that addresses me," a visibly angered Pelosi said, pointed her finger at the journalist. She went on to claim that she prays for Trump “all the time.” 

“So don't mess with me when it comes to words like that," she added. The Speaker said that any disagreement with Trump was rooted in policy, not in who he was as a person. 

Pelosi has in the past encouraged people to pray for President Trump. In October, Pelosi said that people should pray for the president’s health after she abruptly left a meeting with the President. In September, Pelosi said that she prays for the Trump family “all the time,” and that she “wish(es) that he would pray for the safety of other families and do something courageous on guns.” 

On Twitter, Trump said that he did not believe Pelosi prays for him, “not even close,” and that Pelosi had suffered a “nervous fit” during her briefing. 

“She hates that we will soon have 182 great new judges and sooo much more,” said Trump. “Help the homeless in your district Nancy,” he added. 

Pelosi has repeatedly cited her Catholic faith in the political realm, and used it to justify her positions, especially her long-standing support for abortion. Pelosi’s statements have occasioned significant pushback from members of the Catholic hierarchy at different times. 

In 2008, in her second year as Speaker of the House, Pelosi stated on an August 24 episode of “Meet the Press” that "as an ardent, practicing Catholic, [abortion] is an issue that I have studied for a long time. And what I know is, over the centuries, the doctors of the church have not been able to make that definition,” and that her faith “shouldn’t have an impact on a woman’s right to choose.” 

At least 22 bishops released statements correcting Pelosi on this statement, and clarified the Church’s teachings on abortion. 

“While in canon law these theories led to a distinction in penalties between very early and later abortions, the Church’s moral teaching never justified or permitted abortion at any stage of development,” said a statement published Aug. 25, 2008 by Cardinal Justin Rigali and then- Bishop William Lori. 

At the time, Rigali was the chair of the USCCB’s pro-life activities committee, and Lori led the USCCB Committee on Doctrine. Lori is now the Archbishop of Baltimore and Rigali retired in 2011. 

In June 2013, Pelosi opposed a bill that would ban abortion after 20 weeks gestation and said that the bill was an effort to ensure that “there will be no abortion in our country.”

“As a practicing and respectful Catholic, this is sacred ground to me when we talk about this,” she said at the time. “I don't think it should have anything to do with politics.”

Diocese of Rochester confirms it requested Fulton Sheen beatification delay

Peoria, Ill., Dec 5, 2019 / 12:50 pm (CNA).- The Diocese of Rochester confirmed on Thursday that it had requested a delay of the beatification of Archbishop Fulton Sheen, which had been scheduled for Dec. 21 until it was postponed indefinitely earlier this week.

But an official in the Diocese of Peoria said the Rochester diocese has not disclosed all of its interventions to delay the beatification.

“A person’s cause for beatification must entail a review of the person’s entire life. In this regard, the Diocese of Rochester has considered the tenure of Archbishop Sheen as the Bishop of Rochester,” the diocese said in a statement Dec. 5.

The diocese noted it had particularly considered the issue of Sheen’s role in “priests’ assignments.”

“The Diocese of Rochester did its due diligence in this matter and believed that, while not casting suspicion, it was prudent that Archbishop Sheen’s cause receive further study and deliberation, while also acknowledging the competency of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to render its decision. The Holy See ultimately decided to postpone the beatification,” the diocese said.

The statement came one day after CNA's first reported Dec. 4 that Bishop Salvatore Matano of Rochester had asked the apostolic nuncio to the United States to delay the beatification, citing concerns about an ongoing state attorney general’s investigation into the dioceses of New York state.

Sources told CNA that Matano was especially concerned that the attorney general could time the release of an announcement concerning Sheen to coincide with the beatification, potentially marring the celebration with allegations of scandal.

The Dec. 5 Rochester statement said the diocese had requested a delay “prior to any announcements of the beatification.”

The diocese said it had “provided the Diocese of Peoria and the Congregation for  the Causes of Saints through the Office of the Apostolic Nuncio with documentation that expressed concern about advancing the cause for the beatification of Archbishop Sheen at this time without a further review of his role in priests’ assignments.”

Msgr. James Kruse, an official in the Diocese of Peoria involved in advancing Sheen’s cause, told CNA that while the Rochester diocese had raised those concerns before the beatification date was set, it also raised them again in recent weeks. Two other officials connected to the beatification cause confirmed Kruse's statement.

Kruse said the Rochester press release did not acknowledge that fact.

The priest told CNA that Matano sent a letter to the apostolic nuncio Nov. 19, after the beatification was announced, saying that he could not support the scheduled beatification and requesting that it be delayed.

“They did not agree with the fact the beatification date was set and announced, and asked that further consideration be done,” Kruse told CNA Dec. 4.

CNA requested a copy of the Nov. 19 letter from the Diocese of Rochester. The diocese told CNA Dec. 5 that “it is not appropriate to release a letter addressed to the Apostolic Nuncio.”

Kruse told CNA Dec. 4 that the issue in question is the case of Gerard Guli, a former Rochester priest.

“Guli is the issue,” he told CNA.

The priest was ordained in 1956, and from 1963 to 1967 served in parishes in West Virginia. According to a document issued by the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, in 1963 the Diocese of Rochester received an allegation that in 1960 Guli committed abuse or misconduct against adults, not minors.

Kruse told CNA that the priest “returned from Wheeling to help his sick parents” in 1967.

Sheen became Rochester’s bishop in October 1966.

Some have claimed that Sheen gave Guli an assignment in the Diocese of Rochester, despite the 1963 allegation against him, Kruse said, and that Bishop Matano was concerned the NY attorney general would identify this issue in any report or announcement.

But Kruse said that Sheen never assigned Guli to ministry.

“We have studied extensively Sheen’s administrative decisions regarding Guli, and he never put children in harm’s way,” Kruse said.

“And in talking with Guli, assignments that some say Sheen gave him, Guli says ‘I never served there.’”

“And so this whole concept that Sheen appointed a pedophilic priest, that’s just not true,” Kruse added.

“The documents clearly show that Sheen’s successor, Bishop Hogan, appointed Guli, and it’s at that assignment that Guli offended again.”

“It’s [Bishop] Hogan who appointed Guli to the parishes in the towns of Campbell and Bradford where Guli offended, and it’s part of the reason that led to his ultimate removal and laicization, as well as other issues.”

Hogan was Sheen's successor.

In 1989, Guli was arrested for an incident of abuse involving an elderly woman. The priest was serving at Rochester’s Holy Rosary Parish at the time. He was subsequently laicized.

Guli was not mentioned in the Diocese of Rochester’s Dec. 5 statement, and the diocese declined to answer questions about the priest Dec. 4.

“We have known about the Guli issue for quite a long time and all of that has been thoroughly examined…that all of the life and everything has been vetted, and in the end, Sheen is exonerated in things. And likewise, Rome has vetted all of that also,” Kruse told CNA.

The Rochester diocese said Dec. 5 it “appreciates the many accomplishments that Archbishop Sheen achieved in his lifetime in proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ worldwide through media, thereby bringing the message of Jesus to a vast audience.  His legacy in the area of communications made him a prophet in the future use of mass media to advance the teachings of Jesus, a phenomenon recognized by Catholics and non-Catholics alike.”

On Dec. 3, the Diocese of Peoria said the delay of Sheen’s beatification is “unfortunate especially because there continue to be many miracles reported through Sheen’s intercession.”

“Bishop Jenky is deeply saddened by this decision. In particular, Bishop Jenky is even more concerned for the many faithful who are devoted to Sheen and will be affected by this news. He is firmly convinced of the great holiness of the Venerable Servant of God and remains confident that Sheen will be beatified. Bishop Jenky has every intention of continuing the Cause, but no further date for Beatification has been discussed.” the diocese added.

For its part, the Diocese of Rochester said that “a beatification process reminds us that we are all called to be saints to live with the Lord eternally in heaven, praying that the Lord judges us worthy to behold Him face to face in that beatific vision that brings everlasting joy. From his place with the Lord, Archbishop Sheen enjoys eternal peace and joy in the everlasting presence of God, Our Father, whom he did serve with dedication and zeal for the salvation of souls.”

 

 

Religious freedom is a basic human right, says lawyer for Little Sisters

IMAGE: CNS photo/Linda Petersen, Intermountain Catholic

By Linda Petersen

SALT LAKE CITY (CNS) -- As an attorney with Becket, a religious liberty law firm, Luke Goodrich is proud to be able to make a difference while earning a livelihood. He sees his work as a calling from God.

It entails representing religious groups or individuals who fall afoul of the federal government simply by trying to follow the dictates of their conscience.

Perhaps the most well-known of his clients are the Little Sisters of the Poor, who operate a number of homes for the elderly poor across the nation. The sisters continue to fight the Obama-era contraceptive mandate in the courts.

"I'm very grateful and very thankful that my life's work lines up with what I see as a fundamental issue of justice in Scripture," he said. "It's a great joy because I do think religious freedom is a basic human right and a basic issue of biblical justice."

Goodrich is a member of Misseo Dei Community, a nondenominational Protestant church in Salt Lake City. Originally from Florida, Goodrich has for the past seven years lived in Utah with his wife, Sarah, who grew up in Utah, and their seven children.

Prior to that, he attended the University of Chicago law school and afterward clerked for Judge Michael McConnell, one of the nation's leading scholars on religious freedom cases. He then worked for the U.S. State Department in the human trafficking division, followed by time at a private law firm in Washington.

When a position opened up at Becket in 2008, "I jumped at the opportunity," Goodrich told the Intermountain Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Salt Lake City.

Becket was founded in 1994, by Kevin "Seamus" Hasson, a Catholic. It is "the nation's only law firm dedicated exclusively to protecting religious liberty and to doing so for people of all faiths," said Goodrich, vice president and senior counsel. Becket's main headquarters are in Washington.

With regard to the legal battle being waged by the Little Sisters of the Poor, Goodrich called their case critically important for the defense of religious liberty.

"If the government can reach inside us and force us to violate our conscience, there's very little that the government can't do," he said. "Every human being is born with a religious impulse, a desire for transcendent truth and by its very nature we can't act on that impulse under coercion.

"If the government coerces us in matters of transcendent truth, it's going against our fundamental nature as human beings and therefore violating our human rights," he added.

President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law in 2010. The Department of Health and Human Services in 2013 added FDA-approved contraceptives to a list of preventive services, mandating all employer health care plans cover all forms of these methods. It included a very narrowly drawn exemption for churches.

This exemption did not cover religious employers such as the Little Sisters, Catholic dioceses and many other faith-based organizations, all of whom opposed the mandate on moral grounds, because some of the approved contraceptives are considered abortion-inducing.

More than 100 lawsuits have been filed over the Obama-era regulation by religious organizations.

"It's one of the only times in our nation's history where the federal government has attempted, on such a large scale, to force so many religious organizations to violate their conscience, particularly around the issue of abortion," Goodrich said.

When the Little Sisters sued, claiming a religious exemption, their case made it to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which rejected their argument. Becket intervened in the case on their behalf.

In 2016, the Supreme Court granted the Little Sisters of the Poor a religious exemption from the mandate.

Then, one year later, they were given further protection by an executive order issued by President Donald Trump requiring HHS to write a comprehensive exemption from the contraceptive mandate for the Little Sisters and other religious ministries.

HHS provided this exemption in 2018, but several states challenged it, including California, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, saying HHS didn't have the power to give this exemption.

In May, HHS introduced the "conscience rule" that protects individuals and health care entities from discrimination on the basis of their exercise of conscience in HHS-funded programs. Several state attorneys general subsequently filed suit against HHS and the administration, arguing that the new rule is unlawful.

The attorneys general cases "exploit essentially a loophole because the Supreme Court's decision did not issue a definitive ruling that the Obama-era regulation was unlawful," Goodrich said. "Instead, it urged the parties to figure out a solution that would respect the religious freedom of the sisters and also accomplish the government's goal of distributing contraception."

So far, the 3rd and 9th circuit courts, based in Philadelphia and San Francisco, respectively, have found against the Little Sisters and other religious organizations. Becket has appealed to the Supreme Court to rehear the Little Sisters case and give a definitive ruling.

The Supreme Court is expected to decide by June 2020 whether it will hear the case, which Goodrich said is likely.

He believes that ultimately the Little Sisters will prevail. Still, there are a number of significant religious freedom challenges on the horizon in the United States that Christians are ill-prepared to deal with, he said.

"Long-standing Christian beliefs about life, marriage and absolute truth, which used to be uncontroversial, are now viewed in many quarters as a threat to the prevailing culture," he said.

Goodrich has published his first book, "Free to Believe," examining the principle of religious freedom, threats to it and how to protect it. He offers three arguments why everyone should care about religious freedom: It benefits society, is the foundation of all of our other rights and is a fundamental human right.

Nevertheless, Goodrich believes all Christians should have hope. "As Christians, our hope doesn't rest primarily in the results of an election or the composition of the Supreme Court. If we are Christians, our hope rests in the person of Jesus Christ," he said.

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Petersen is a reporter for the Intermountain Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Salt Lake City.

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Update: Beatification for Archbishop Sheen postponed

IMAGE: CNS

By

PEORIA, Ill. (CNS) -- Bishop Daniel R. Jenky of Peoria said Dec. 3 Vatican officials have told him that the upcoming beatification of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen has been postponed.

A news release from the Diocese of Peoria said it was informed Dec. 2 that Vatican had decided to postpone the Dec. 21 ceremony "at the request of a few members" of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The diocese added, "In our current climate it is important for the faithful to know that there has never been, nor is there now, any allegation against (Archbishop) Sheen involving the abuse of a minor."

However, a Dec. 5 statement from the Diocese of Rochester, New York, said it had "expressed concern about advancing the cause for the beatification of Archbishop Sheen at this time without a further review of his role in priests' assignments."

The statement said the Rochester Diocese, prior to Vatican announcement Nov. 18 that Pope Francis approved the beatification, had provided documentation expressing its concern to the Diocese of Peoria and the Congregation for Saints' Causes via the apostolic nunciature in Washington.

Archbishop Sheen was bishop of Rochester from October 1966 until his retirement in October 1969. He received the title of archbishop at retirement.

The statement from the Rochester Diocese said, "Other prelates shared these concerns and expressed them," adding that "there are no complaints against Archbishop Sheen engaging in any personal inappropriate conduct nor were any insinuations made in this regard."

"The Diocese of Rochester did its due diligence in this matter and believed that, while not casting suspicion, it was prudent that Archbishop Sheen's cause receive further study and deliberation, while also acknowledging the competency of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to render its decision. The Holy See ultimately decided to postpone the beatification," the statement continued.

The Rochester Diocese added it would have no other comment.

Calling the delay "unfortunate," the Peoria Diocese's Dec. 3 release outlined some of the activities for which Archbishop Sheen was especially known, including "his personal dedication" a Holy Hour of daily prayer before the Blessed Sacrament and "courage in confronting the challenges in our society."

"Drawing strength from his personal prayer life and deep devotion to Our Lord, Fulton Sheen consistently demonstrated tremendous courage in confronting the challenges in our society," the statement said. "He was well known for his boldness in preaching the Gospel on radio and on television in the face of our secular culture. This same spirit of courage and boldness guided him as a bishop to preach the truth, to defend the faith and to safeguard the church."

The Peoria Diocese also said "there continue to be many miracles reported" through the archbishop's intercession. The diocese said there have been "several" miracles reported since the pope's announcement of the beatification ceremony.

"The Diocese of Peoria remains confident that Archbishop Sheen's virtuous conduct will only be further demonstrated," the statement said. "Bishop Jenky has every confidence that any additional examinations will only further prove Fulton Sheen's worthiness of beatification and canonization.

"The Diocese of Peoria has no doubt that Fulton Sheen, who brought so many souls to Jesus Christ in his lifetime, will be recognized as a model of holiness and virtue," the statement added.

The diocese said Bishop Jenky was "deeply saddened" by the Vatican's decision.

"In particular, Bishop Jenky is even more concerned for the many faithful who are devoted to Sheen and who will be affected by this news," the diocese said. "He is firmly convinced of the great holiness of the venerable servant of God and remains confident that Sheen will be beatified. Bishop Jenky has every intention of continuing the cause, but no further date for beatification has been discussed."

The Diocese of Peoria said it will offer no further comment "at this time."

Fulton J. Sheen, a native of El Paso, Illinois, was ordained Sept. 20, 1919, at St. Mary's Cathedral in Peoria. He went on to teach at The Catholic University of America in Washington and lead the Society of the Propagation of the Faith. Perhaps he is best remembered for his popular television show, "Life Is Worth Living."

He died in 1979 at age 84. His sainthood cause was officially opened in 2003. The church declared his heroic virtues and he was given the title "Venerable" in 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI.

In July, Bishop Jenky announced Pope Francis had approved a miracle attributed to the intercession of Archbishop Sheen, which led the way to the announcement he would be beatified.

The miracle concerns the healing of James Fulton Engstrom of Washington, Illinois, who was considered stillborn when he was delivered during a planned home birth Sept. 16, 2010. His parents, Bonnie and Travis Engstrom, immediately invoked the prayers of Archbishop Sheen and encouraged others to seek his intercession after the baby was taken to OSF HealthCare St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria for emergency treatment.

In general, two miracles must be accepted by the church as having occurred through the intercession of a prospective saint, one before beatification and the other before canonization.

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Pope Francis: Don't forget the real meaning of Christmas

Vatican City, Dec 5, 2019 / 10:40 am (CNA).- Ahead of the Vatican Christmas tree lighting Dec. 5, Pope Francis expressed hope that the nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square will serve as a reminder of what Christmas is truly about.

A nativity scene “is a genuine way of communicating the Gospel, in a world that sometimes seems to be afraid of remembering what Christmas really is, and blots out the Christian signs to only keep those of a banal, commercial imagination,” Pope Francis told an Italian delegation at the Vatican for the Christmas tree lighting ceremony Dec. 5.

This year’s Vatican Christmas tree comes from the northern Italian region of Vicenza, which was greatly damaged by storms in October 2018. The red spruce in St. Peter’s Square is a little over 85 feet tall.

The Christmas tree lighting ceremony also revealed a life-size nativity scene carved out of wood with tree trunks from Vicenza placed in the background in memory of the storm.

“The wooden trunks, coming from the areas hit by the storms, which form the backdrop to the landscape, underline the precariousness in which the Holy Family was found on that night in Bethlehem,” Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis met with delegations from the Italian diocese of Trento, Padua and Vittorio Venetoin at the Vatican’s apostolic palace Dec. 5 before the Christmas tree and nativity scene were presented.

“Today's meeting offers me the opportunity to renew my encouragement to your people, who last year suffered a devastating natural disaster, with the demolition of entire wooded areas,” Pope Francis told the delegation.

“I was pleased to learn that, replacing the plants removed, 40 fir trees will be replanted to replenish the woods severely damaged by the storm of 2018,” he said.

The Vatican Christmas tree is illuminated by energy-saving Christmas lights from the German multinational OSRAM, to reduce the environmental impact of the display.

Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello and Bishop Fernando Vérgez Alzaga chaired the Vatican Christmas lighting ceremony. The nativity scene and Christmas tree will remain on display in St. Peter’s Square until January 12, 2020, the feast of Christ’s Baptism.

Pope Francis began Advent with a trip to the Italian town of Greccio, where St. Francis of Assisi created the first nativity scene in 1223. In Greccio, Pope Francis signed the apostolic letter, Admirabile signum, on the meaning and importance of nativity scenes.

“All those present experienced a new and indescribable joy in the presence of the Christmas scene. The priest then solemnly celebrated the Eucharist over the manger, showing the bond between the Incarnation of the Son of God and the Eucharist,” Pope Francis wrote in the letter describing the St. Francis’ first nativity.

“As we contemplate the Christmas story, we are invited to set out on a spiritual journey, drawn by the humility of the God who became man in order to encounter every man and woman. We come to realize that so great is his love for us that he became one of us, so that we in turn might become one with him,” Pope Francis said.

Vatican committee asks UN for World Day of Human Fraternity

Vatican City, Dec 5, 2019 / 10:00 am (CNA).- Members of a Vatican special committee met with the Secretary General of the United Nations on December 4 to deliver a petition on human fraternity co-authored by Pope Francis and the Sunni Islamic Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed Al-Tayeb. 

The committee was formed in August, under the auspicies of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. The message from the two religious leaders requested that Feb. 4 be declared the “World Day of Human Fraternity,” and asked the United Nations, along with the Holy See and the Al-Azhar Mosque, to create a “World Summit On Human Fraternity.” The Al-Azhar Mosque is located in Cairo, Egypt, and the Grand Imam of that mosque is considered to be one of the highest positions in Sunni Islam. 

According to a statement released by the Pontifical Council on Dec. 5, Dr. Antonio Guterres, the secretary general of the United Nations, “expressed his appreciation and availability for the initiative,” and said that he believed it was important to work “at the service of all humanity.”

Guterres appointed Dr. Adama Dieng, who is presently the United Nations Secretary General’s  Special Adviser for Hate Speech and the Prevention of Genoicde, to work along with a Vatican special committee on the proposed summit and World Day of Human Fraternity. 

The Holy See’s Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue formed the committee in late August to work towards the goals for advancing world peace and coexistence laid out in the Document on Human Fraternity. That document was released on Feb. 4, when Pope Francis made an apostolic journey to the United Arab Emirates. 

The committee, which is led by Cardinal Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, contains members belonging to Christian, Muslim, and Jewish faiths. Ayuso Guixot also heads the Pontifical Council. 

Ayuso Giuxot, in an interview with Vatican News Aug. 26, called the creation of the committee a “significant act” with a “noble” objective, and stated that he believes “fear is the number one enemy of interreligious dialogue.”

“The Catholic Church recalls the value of its own identity, of the courage of otherness and the sincerity of intentions,” he said. “It is not a matter of making a ‘melting pot’ in which all religions are considered equal, but that all believers, those who seek God and all people of good will without a religious affiliation, have equal dignity.”

“I think the Abu Dhabi declaration is a global appeal to the ‘civilization of love’ which contrasts with those who want a clash of civilizations!” the archbishop said.

About three weeks after the superior committee was formed, the Catholic and Muslim members met in the Holy See on Sept. 11 to pray for the victims of the 9/11 attacks in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington, as well as for the victims of every act of terrorism. 

According to the Holy See Press Office, the committee chose to meet Sept. 11 as “a sign of the will to build life and fraternity where others sowed death and destruction.”