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Some 2016 Trump critics say record on abortion, religious liberty changed their minds

Washington D.C., Oct 28, 2020 / 08:00 pm (CNA).-  

During the 2016 Republic primaries, some prominent conservative Catholics warned about Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy. Four years later, some say they now support his reelection, while one Catholic scholar told CNA his focus is on the future of American political discourse.

“I have never been more happy about being wrong,” Brian Burch, president of CatholicVote.org, told CNA about Trump.

In January 2016, Burch issued a warning that Trump, who was by then the Republican front-runner, would not uphold Catholic principles as president. Burch exhorted Catholics to support another candidate, saying that Trump would “sell out everyone and anyone when it benefits him.” In the general election, CatholicVote.org did not endorse Trump.

But four years later, Burch told CNA that Trump has delivered “far more than we ever thought possible” on pro-life issues and religious freedom.

In September, CatholicVote launched a nearly $10 million campaign to target Catholic voters, highlighting Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s record “on issues of fundamental importance to Catholics including the sanctity of life, religious liberty, judges, education, the dignity of work, and other core issues.”

Trump has been widely praised by pro-life advocates for his appointment of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, a Catholic, to the Supreme Court. The president said in 2016 that he would fully defund abortion providers, and sign laws to ban abortions after 20 weeks and make the Hyde Amendment permanent, actions which have not been completed during his term in office.

Burch noted those moves depend upon Congressional action.  “The president’s done what he can via executive order, but he had an unwilling Congress,” he told CNA.

Other Catholics also told CNA last week that Trump’s White House support for life and religious freedom causes has surprised them. They recalled that, early in the 2016 election, his record did not evince a deep grasp of social conservatism.

Trump was on the record in 1999 saying that he was “very pro-choice.” He had been criticized for making crude, sexually-explicit comments about women on host Howard Stern’s radio show and in other contexts.

Looking at those factors in 2016, some critics thought the president’s pledges on abortion would not have much follow through.

“I did not believe his promises on behalf of the unborn, or on judges, or on foreign policy. I thought he would start wars,” Chad Pecknold, a theology professor at the Catholic University of America, told CNA this month. “I was wrong.”

Pecknold added that he has not endorsed Trump, but he thinks a case can be made for supporting him in the 2020 election.

Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie did not believe that Trump would defend life and religious freedom causes, but voted for him reluctantly in 2016 because she thought his opponent Hillary Clinton would “expand” attacks on those causes.

When President Trump dramatically expanded a policy that prevents federal funding of foreign groups that provide or promote abortions—known as the “Mexico City Policy”— Christie said her doubts about him subsided.

As someone who grew up in Latin America, Christie saw Trump’s policy as a victory against “ideological colonization” of groups that promote abortions in developing countries.

“I know that he [Trump] has surrounded himself with really good people,” she said, “who really understand in a deeply philosophical way the issues of human dignity, marriage, and family.”

Nina Shea, an expert in religious freedom at the Hudson Institute, also warned about Trump’s candidacy in 2016. She recalled thinking that he did not have the foreign policy background required to promote religious freedom and defend persecuted religious minorities overseas.

A year later, Shea watched Vice President Mike Pence promise a summit on international Christian persecution that promoting religious freedom would be a priority for the administration.

The direct assurance was a departure from earlier administrations’ seeming reluctance to promote religious freedom in U.S. foreign policy, Shea said. Since then, she noted that Trump’s “speeches, initiatives, and directives” on religious freedom “have set the high water mark” for the issue.

Not all conservative Catholics who opposed Trump in 2016 support his re-election four years later.

Ramesh Ponnuru, a senior editor at National Review and a Catholic, wrote an Oct. 15 column he said was “a case for principled abstention.”

Ponnuru wrote that in his view, Trump’s “character flaws” are bad enough to “keep him from meeting the threshold conditions to be entrusted with the presidency.”

The president is “deficient” in “judgment, honesty, and self-control,” Ponnuru wrote, lamenting “a more degraded and less honest political culture, the cheapening of the president’s word, and a decline in trust.”

But in the same column, Ponnuru said he would also not be voting for Biden.

Biden “says he now favors taxpayer funding of abortion. He may seek to enlarge the Supreme Court to make room for more justices who won’t make room in American law for unborn children,” Ponnuru wrote.

“If there’s a persuasive case for recognizing abortion as a grave injustice and voting for Biden anyway, I haven’t seen it,” the columnist said, while explaining why he will abstain from voting for a presidential candidate.

George Weigel, a distinguished senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, helped in March 2016 to initiate a petition urging Catholics to support alternative candidates to Trump during the Republican primary.

Weigel told CNA that he is grateful the Trump administration has defended religious freedom “at home and internationally” and has been “firmly pro-life.”

But the author lamented “continued coarsening of public debate, the deliberate polarization of opinion and sentiment, and the lack of any magnanimity toward opponents.”

Weigel said his focus is on the future. The author said that in his view both Trump and Biden are “seriously flawed in numerous ways.”

“My primary focus now is on building a political culture that doesn't, in the future, produce two such distasteful options. America can and must do better than this,” Weigel told CNA.

In an Oct. 28 column, Weigel pointed to the U.S. Senate as a critical aspect of the 2020 election.

American cultural renewal “will be more difficult if the Democratic party wins the presidency, the U.S. Senate, and the U.S. House of Representatives—and is thus able to enforce the agenda of lifestyle libertinism and intolerant 'tolerance' to which its platform commits it, especially in matters of the sanctity of life and the conscience rights of believers,” Weigel wrote.

“As the House will certainly have a Democratic majority in 2021-2022, prudence dictates maintaining a Republican Senate, irrespective of who is elected president,” he added.

Supporters told CNA that after reviewing his record, they think Trump’s policies are a more important consideration than his personal behavior.

“I’m happy with his policies. I don’t plan to have him over for dinner,” Christie said.

Pecknold acknowledged the importance of character in a president, but cautioned that character should not be “reduced to table manners.”

Political leaders, he said, “should be judged by whether their laws help a society to live in greater accord with virtue.”

 

US Secretary of State visits a site of Sri Lanka’s 2019 Easter bombings

CNA Staff, Oct 28, 2020 / 06:19 pm (CNA).- During a visit to Sri Lanka on Wednesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited St. Anthony’s Shrine, Kochchikade, one of the sites of the 2019 Easter bombings.

Pompeo laid a wreath at the shrine in Colombo Oct. 28.

Speaking to the press earlier in the day, he said that “it’s important for me to take a moment to go and visit the Shrine of St. Anthony, one of the five sites that was attacked by ISIS on Easter Sunday of 2019.”

 

Today, I laid a wreath at the Shrine of St. Anthony, one of the sites of the 2019 #EasterAttacks which killed and injured hundreds of innocent people. We stand with the Sri Lankan people and the world to defeat violent extremism and bring perpetrators to justice. #USwithSL pic.twitter.com/toQYKKHEPp

— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) October 28, 2020  

He continued: “I’ll shortly have the chance to pay my respects to the hundreds of victims of evil terrorists, including five Americans. I’m proud that the State Department has offered substantial counterterrorism assistance to help Sri Lankans bring killers of Americans and their own people to justice.”

“These Easter Sunday attacks represent the kind of sectarianism that Sri Lankans are ready to leave behind forever. Sri Lankans of all backgrounds – Buddhists, Hindus, Christians and Muslims alike – want a peaceful nation where their human rights are respected.”

Pompeo’s visit to Sri Lanka comes amid a week-long trip during which he is also travelling to India, Maldives, Indonesia, and Vietnam.

The State Department said that he is visiting Colombo “to underscore the commitment of the United States to a partnership with a strong, sovereign Sri Lanka and to advance our common goals for a free and open Indo-Pacific region.”

In his address with the Sri Lankan foreign minister, Pompeo emphasized their countries’ partnership, and contrasted it with what is sought by China. He added that the US “fully expect(s) that Sri Lanka will fulfill its pledges to take meaningful, concrete steps to promote accountability, justice, and reconciliation.”

On April 21, 2019, two Catholic churches, one evangelical Christian church, four hotels, and a housing complex were hit by nine suicide bombers. The attacks killed 259 people and injured another 500.

Five of seven suspects arrested in connection with the attacks were recently released by the country’s government.

The government has said the suspects were released due to a lack of evidence. However, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo, as well as friends and family of the victims, have said they fear the release means corruption, or a lack of a thorough investigation, on the part of the Sri Lankan Criminal Investigation Department.

Earlier this month the nation’s bishops said democracy would decay there if parliament passes a constitutional amendment that would strengthen the president's power.

After Pope Francis' civil union remarks, archbishop recalls Argentina's civil unions debate

CNA Staff, Oct 28, 2020 / 05:00 pm (CNA).-  

After remarks in a newly-released documentary from Pope Francis on civil unions, the archbishop emeritus of La Plata, Argentina, has offered his recollection of a 2010 debate on civil unions which took place within the Argentine bishops’ conference, while the country’s legislature was preparing to approve a same-sex marriage bill.

In comments sent to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, Archbishop Héctor Aguer noted that “the recent statement by the Supreme Pontiff promoting civil unions between people of the same sex caused a stir, in the Church and outside of it; i.e., proposing that they be granted a legal framework.”

The archbishop referred to comments published in “Francesco,” a documentary that premiered in Rome last week, in which Pope Francis was seen to call for civil unions legislation. The pope’s previously unpublished remarks were found to have come from a 2019 interview conducted by Mexican television network Televisa.

It has since been widely reported that Pope Francis supported the idea of civil unions legislation while he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires, as a compromise during the 2010 debate in Argentina over same-sex marriage.

Last week, Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernandez, the current Archbishop of La Plata, posted on Facebook that “What the pope has said on this subject is what he also maintained when he was the Archbishop of Buenos Aires.”

The archbishop added that before he became pope, then-Cardinal Bergoglio “always recognized that, without calling it ‘marriage,’ in fact there are very close unions between people of the same sex, which do not in themselves imply sexual relations, but a very intense and stable alliance.”

“This can be contemplated in the law and is called ‘civil union’ [unión civil] or ‘law of civil coexistence’ [ley de convivencia civil], not marriage,” Fernandez wrote.

Archbishop Aguer, who led the Archdiocese of La Plata from 2000 to 2018, recalled the 2010 debate about civil unions.

“Cardinal Bergoglio, then being the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, proposed in a plenary assembly of the Argentine bishops’ conference to support the legality of civil unions of homosexual persons by the state, as a possible alternative to what was called - and is called - 'marriage equality.'”

“At that time, the argument against him was that it was not a merely political or sociological question, but that it involved a moral judgment; consequently, the sanction of civil laws contrary to the natural order cannot be promoted. It was also noted that this teaching has been repeatedly stated in the documents of the Second Vatican Council. The plenary of the Argentine bishops rejected that proposal and voted against it,” Aguer said.

The archbishop added that “in 2003 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith declared that ‘respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions.’ It’s not unreasonable to think that such unions, to which it is proposed to grant legal recognition, are not ‘platonic’; therefore, it would be implicitly approving the coverage of homosexual activity in the law.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that those who identify as LGBT “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.”

The Catechism elaborates that homosexual inclinations are “objectively disordered,” homosexual acts are “contrary to the natural law,” and those who identify as lesbian and gay, like all people, are called to the virtue of chastity, and called to holiness.

The archbishop said that in his view, the Catechism proposes “a path of spiritual improvement oriented towards the achievement of chastity, through the practice of ‘the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom,' prayer and sacramental grace.”

For Aguer, "the ecclesiastical approval of ‘civil unions’ would bring on the de-Christianization and dehumanization of society."

The archbishop affirmed his respect for the pope, but said that in his view, the pope’s remarks in a documentary “do not have a magisterial character."

“I compare it with the conversations that the popes have during their trips with journalists in the plane’s passageway; They may be interesting, but they lack the specifications that are proper to a magisterial genre; although issued by a relevant personality, they are no more than private opinions.”

In addition, Aguer said, “in the case of a matter on which there is certain Catholic teaching, if the Holy Father had the intention of introducing a change, the reasonable thing is to maintain that he would expressly state it with authority and good arguments."

The archbishop warned against a tendency he called “Pope-olatry,” among some Catholics, saying it “is not healthy behavior.” He noted that “the initial repercussions” to the pope's words “already caused contrasting reactions, which raises fears of a widening of divisions among the faithful, a deepening of the ecclesial 'rift' which undeniably exists.”

“I hope that theologians, cardinals and bishops with greater wisdom and authority than I, will bring some light to these dark moments,” he said.

For Aguer, “it’s very painful to think of the spiritual damage the faithful who suffer due to their disorderly inclination will suffer if the Church should back the recognition of civil unions, sanctioned by the state as a right to have a family; this would place an obstacle to the possible healing process described in the Catechism.”

“Because the mercy of the truth is owed to these persons,” he said.

The archbishop urged Catholics to prayer, and urged them to “hope, which lights up suns in our night.”

 

A version of this story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Bishops call for peaceful dialogue amid protests of Poland abortion ruling

CNA Staff, Oct 28, 2020 / 04:11 pm (CNA).- The Polish bishops on Wednesday emphasized the protection of life and the importance of social peace, as critics of a court ruling against a law permitting abortion for fetal abnormalities have been blocking roads and bridges, and disrupting churches, across the country.

“Today, as a wave of street protests sweeps through our country, pope Francis addressed important and meaningful words to Poles during the General Audience,” the permanent council of the Polish bishops’ conference said in an Oct. 28 statement.

They noted that the pope “recalled St. John Paul II, who ‘always called for special love for the weak and defenseless and for the protection of every human life from its conception to its natural death. These words are part of the Church’s constant call for protection, including legal protection, of the life of every human being, including the unborn, in accordance with the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’.”

Protests across Poland began after the constitutional court ruled Oct. 22 that a law permitting abortion for fetal abnormalities was unconstitutional. The Polish constitution says that the state “shall ensure the legal protection of the life of every human being". The court was asked to examine the law last year by a group of 119 MPs belonging to the ruling Law and Justice party, as well as two smaller parties.

About 1,000 abortions have legally procured in the country annually, the vast majority of them on the basis of fetal abnormality.

Abortion will continue to remain legal in cases of rape, incest, and risk to the mother’s life.

The bishops noted that Francis “asked God ‘to awaken in everyone’s hearts respect for the lives of our brothers and sisters, especially the weakest and defenseless, and to give strength to those who accept and care for them, even when it requires heroic love.’”

“The commandment of love imposes on us an important duty of caring, helping, and giving mothers and families who receive and raise sick children the protection they need,” the bishops reflected. “We thank all communities and institutions that have been doing this for years, and we appeal to parishes, Catholic movements, and other church organizations to undertake specific initiatives to meet those who need and will need both individual and institutional help.”

“The Church will always stand for life and support initiatives that protect it,” they added.

Protesters disrupted Sunday Masses across Poland this weekend. They have also left graffiti on church property, vandalized a statue of St. John Paul II, and chanted slogans at clergy. Roads and bridges have been blocked, and some workers were on strike Oct. 28.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Oct. 27 that “what is happening in the public space, those acts of aggression, attacks, barbarism, is unacceptable.”

The bishops spoke of their “great pain” at “the escalation of social tension and aggression.”

“The vulgar language used by some of the protesters, the destruction of social property, the devastation of churches, the profanation of sacred places, or prevention of the liturgy there are also disturbing.”

“We call on everyone to engage in meaningful social dialogue, to express their views without resorting to violence, and to respect the dignity of every human being,” they said.

Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski has said 76 people have been detained in connection with protests at churches, and 101 cases are being prosecuted.

The bishops commented that “we ask politicians and all participants of the social debate, at this dramatic time, to thoroughly analyze the causes of the situation and look for ways out, in the spirit of truth and for the common good, without instrumentalizing matters regarding the faith and the Church.”

The Archdiocese of Kraków has reported that young Catholics stood outside churches amid the protests in an effort to prevent disruption, and cleaned up graffiti.

The bishops thanked the pastors and laity “who are courageously defending their churches,” as well as the security services. “The Church wants to remain open to all people, regardless of their social and political affiliation,” they noted.

Reflecting on the impositions due to the coronavirus pandemic, they appealed for “solidarity and compliance with the sanitary safety regulations.”

“We also ask all believers to fast, to give alms, and to pray for social peace, with the intention of protecting life, putting an end to the ongoing crisis, and ending the developing pandemic,” they concluded.

San Francisco archbishop asks DA to prosecute Serra statue vandalism

Denver Newsroom, Oct 28, 2020 / 03:56 pm (CNA).- Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco has asked the Marin County district attorney to prosecute those arrested after an Oct. 12 riot at a mission church to the “full extent of the law,” after several of the rioters defaced and pulled to the ground a statue of St. Junipero Serra.

“This attack on a cherished religious symbol on our own church property is not a minor property crime, but an attack on Catholics as a people,” Cordileone wrote in an Oct. 26 letter to Lori Frugoli, the Marin County district attorney.

“If the perpetrators of this crime are not brought to justice, small mobs will be able to decide what religious symbols all people of faith may display on their own property to further their faith, and they will continue to inflict considerable spiritual suffering on ordinary Catholic people who would see our sacred spaces as unprotected by law.”

The riot that led to the statue’s destruction took place Oct. 12— which California and several other states mark as Indigenous Peoples Day— at Mission San Rafael Arcángel in San Rafael, about 20 miles north of San Francisco.

Critics have lambasted Serra as a symbol of European colonialism and the erasure of Native culture, and have in recent years sought to remove monuments to him and change the names of streets or landmarks named for him.

During the hourlong protest, organized by members of the Coast Miwok tribe, several masked people peeled off the duct tape and threw red paint in the statue’s face. At least five people can be seen pulling on the statue’s head with nylon cords and ropes.

Catholics rallied in a peaceful prayer demonstration the day after the riot, with Father Kyle Faller, parochial vicar at the mission, leading a rosary and urging the crowd of 75-100 people  to persevere in prayer, and offering a reflection on Jesus’ forgiveness in the face of persecution.

Cordileone performed an exorcism at the site of the statue Oct. 17, calling the statue’s destruction an “act of blasphemy.”

The San Rafael Police Department said in an Oct. 13 statement that five women had been arrested, issued citations and released, and that the cases had been forwarded to the district attorney’s office for prosecution. Police have also recommended charges for a sixth person they identified later, but whose name they have not released publicly.

Two of the women charged hailed from Oakland, one was a local, and two were from nearby communities.

Cordileone seconded the San Rafael Police Department’s request that the six individuals be charged with— in addition to trespassing and conspiracy— felony vandalism and vandalism in a house of worship, a hate crime.

Cordileone also thanked the police for their efforts. The department said they had worked with representatives from the Archdiocese of San Francisco to develop a plan in response to the Oct. 12 protest, as the protest’s organizers had announced the gathering on social media before it took place.

“I would like, on behalf of thousands of Catholics in the Bay Area and around this country, to thank the San Rafael Police both for arresting the miscreants and for being the first lawful civil authority to recognize that this crime they witnessed is a serious assault against a whole people’s right to display the religious symbols they wish on their own property,” Cordileone said.

Frugoli said last week that her office was reviewing the case and had not yet made a decision about whether to pursue criminal charges, the Marin Independent Journal reported.

Lucina Vidauri, one of the event’s organizers, told the Marin Independent Journal that the organizers of the demonstration never intended to vandalize the statue.

The demonstrators were calling for the mission to remove the Serra statue, and “it just got carried away,” she told the paper.

Vidauri declined CNA’s request for an interview.

CNA also attempted to contact Dean Hoaglin, chair of the Coast Miwok Tribal Council of Marin and another organizer of the Oct. 12 protest, for further information on the tribe and their reasons for opposing Serra, but did not receive a reply by press time.

The Coast Miwok people were the original inhabitants of what is today Marin and southern Sonoma Counties of California. The tribe gained federal recognition as the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria in December 2000.

In 2008, the former bishop of Sacramento, Francis Quinn, apologized to the Coast Miwok tribe that the Spanish “tried to impose a European Catholicism on the natives.”

The vandalism in San Rafael is the latest in a series of attacks on churches and Catholic statues across the country this year. On July 11, a fire under investigation for arson gutted the 249-year-old Mission San Gabriel in Los Angeles, a mission church founded by St. Serra.

During the eighteenth century, Serra founded nine Catholic missions in the area that would later become California, and many of those missions would go on to become the centers of major California cities. Though Serra himself did not found Mission San Rafael, it owes its existence to Serra’s legacy.

Serra’s defenders say that he was actually an advocate for native people, noting an episode of his life when he drafted a 33-point “bill of rights” for the Native Americans living in the mission settlements, and walked from California to Mexico City to present it to the viceroy.

While many Native peoples did suffer horrific abuse, an archaeologist told CNA earlier this year that activists tend to conflate the abuses the Natives suffered long after Serra’s death with the period when Serra was alive and building the missions.

The Benedict XVI Institute for Sacred Music and Divine Worship, a ministry of the archdiocese, on Oct. 28 announced a new fund, under the archbishop’s personal discretion and control, to support “ongoing efforts to advocate for fair treatment for faith communities in exercising their First Amendment right to worship and for protection of our holy ground from vandalism and mob attacks.”

Supreme Court adoption case could have national impact on religious liberty

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 28, 2020 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- As the Supreme Court prepares to hear a case touching religious liberty and adoption next week, one Washington couple will be watching closely.  

In 2019, Gail Blais and her husband James wanted to adopt her biological great-granddaughter, who is now just over one year old and currently in foster care. They were prevented from doing so by the state of Washington, because of their religious views against hormone therapy for gender dysphoria. The Blaises are Seventh-day Adventists.

As the Supreme Court hears oral arguments in another religious foster care case on Nov. 4, Fulton v. Philadelphia, its ruling could impact a number of other cases including the Blais’s.

“It shows what is coming next,” said Becket senior counsel Lori Windham on a conference call with reporters on Wednesday.

In the Fulton case, Philadelphia stopped contracting with local Catholic Social Services (CSS) on foster care referrals because CSS refused to work with same-sex couples. The city told CSS that it had to change its religious practice and work with same-sex couples, after which Philadelphia-area foster mothers joined CSS in suing the city, alleging a violation of religious freedom.

The case could decide the fate of other religious adoption agencies facing nondiscrimination ordinances, but according to Becket—which represents CSS—it could also impact prospective foster parents like the Blaises.

“If you are able to kick out these religious foster care agencies,” Windham said of Philadelphia’s ordinance, the next logical target for state and local nondiscrimination rules are “parents who have traditional views about marriage and sexuality.”

In Sept., 2019, Gail Blais’s biological great-granddaughter was born in Idaho but placed in foster care by the state. Gail and her husband James, who live in neighboring Washington, wanted to adopt the child but would have to receive a foster care license to do so. The licenses are dispensed by the Washington Department of Children, Youth, and Families.

A licensor from the state, Patrick Sager, then conducted a home visitation and interviewed the Blaises. He posed a series of hypothetical scenarios to the couple, asking them how they would react if their child eventually identified as a lesbian, or if she developed gender dysphoria and wanted to receive hormorne therapy.

The state department had enacted a policy in 2018 that forbids “discrimination or harassment” for children who identify as LGBTQ+ or are questioning their orientation.

According to district court Judge Salvador Mendoza, Jr., who eventually ruled in the Blais’s favor, the department apparently “applies Policy 6900 to prospective foster parents,” and the department sought to ensure an environment in foster homes that would affirm gender transitioning and LGBTQ+ ideology.

When the Blaises responded that they would love and support the child but could not assent to hormone therapy—according to their religious beliefs as Seventh-day Adventists—Sager was “alarmed,” according to court documents.

After that meeting, the Department sent the Blaises material on LGBTQ+ children and asked them to review it to “make a more informed decision about supporting LGBTQ+ youth in foster care.”

When Sager followed up with the Blaises on their application for a foster care license, the couple reiterated their faith-based stance against hormone therapy.

He asked them another series of questions, seeking their reactions to various scenarios involving their foster child: dressing as a boy, identifying as a lesbian and wanting to bring her girlfriend on a family trip or having a doctor’s order for hormone therapy.

When the Blaises repeated their faith-based stance to support their child but refuse to recognize fluid sexual orientation or gender identity, Sager encouraged them to drop their application - which that made in order to care for their own great-grandchild.

At a third meeting between the Blaises, Sager, and the Department’s LGBTQ+ head, the Blases answered in the same way as before.

The Department concluded they had reached an “impasse” in the process, after which the Blaises sued. The Department then denied their application for a foster care license.

The Blases then asked the court for a preliminary injunction granting them a foster care license. On Oct. 8, they won their case—in part. Judge Mendoza ruled that they couldn’t be denied a license based on their religious beliefs, but as they had not completed all the steps of the application process, he wouldn’t grant them a license. Instead, the Department would give them time to complete the necessary steps.

Mendoza called the Department’s policy a “religious gerrymander” against members of certain creeds.

“The Department denied the Blaises the privilege and benefit of providing foster care because of their sincerely held religious beliefs,” he wrote.

While the Department can take LGBTQ+ matters into account when considering prospective foster care licensees, it cannot make rulings based on hypotheticals—as it did with the Blases, Judge Mendoza wrote.

“If the only factor weighing against an otherwise qualified applicant has to do with their sincerely held religious beliefs, the Department must not discriminate against a foster care applicant based on their creed,” he said.

Senators condemn Chinese 'genocide' against Uyghurs

CNA Staff, Oct 28, 2020 / 02:30 pm (CNA).- A bipartisan group of senators introduced a resolution on Monday to declare China’s actions against the Uyghur population as a genocide. 

The Oct. 26 resolution was co-sponsored by Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ). Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD), Jeff Merekly (D-OR), James Risch (R-ID) and Maco Rubio (R-FL) also joined in the resolution. 

The resolution would express “the sense of the Senate that the atrocities perpetrated by the Government of the People's Republic of China against Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and members of other Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region constitutes genocide.” 

It would declare that China is violating the norms outlined in the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, and would trigger an international response to China’s actions.

"For far too long, the Chinese government has carried out a despicable campaign of genocide against millions of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims," said Cornyn. "This resolution recognizes these crimes for what they are and is the first step toward holding China accountable for their monstrous actions.”

Menedez said that there was “no question” that the Chinese government’s actions in Xinjiang constitute genocide. 

“Stopping a genocide is consistent with our national security and our values, and it starts by standing up and speaking the truth,” he said. Menendez added that he hopes President Donald Trump and Sec. Mike Pompeo will endorse the resolution and work to respond to China.  

Risch pointed to the Chinese government’s “systematic use of forced sterilization, abortion, and other practices” in the province of Xinjiang as proof they were committing genocide against an ethnic group. 

“I am proud to join colleagues on both sides of the aisle in introducing a resolution that defines them as such,” he said. “The United States and countries around the world must continue to draw attention to what is happening in Xinjiang.” 

Whistleblowers have come forward to report their participation in systematic campaigns of forced abortions and sterilizations on the Uyghur population.

Free nations “must urgently come together and press for an end” to the Chinese government’s actions in Xinjiang, said Rubio. He said there was a need to be “clear about the nature of these atrocities.” 

“Congress cannot – and must not – turn a blind eye to China’s shocking, systematic abuse of its Uyghur population, as well as of ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgz, and members of other Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region,” said Cardin. He added that human rights violations of this level “demand a forceful U.S. response.”  

“That is why I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing this resolution, which makes clear that the Senate will not shy away from calling these atrocities what they are: a genocide,” he said.

Pope Francis recognizes martyrdom of Lebanese priests killed under Ottoman Empire

Vatican City, Oct 28, 2020 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis Wednesday advanced the sainthood causes of nine men and women, including two Lebanese priests martyred under the Ottoman Empire.

Fr. Leonard Melki and Fr. Thomas Saleh were Capuchin friars and missionaries in what is now Turkey who were arrested, tortured, and martyred by the forces of the Ottoman Empire in 1915 and 1917 respectively. 

Melki was given a choice: convert to Islam and be freed, or die as a Christian. Refusing to apostatize, the Lebanese priest was forced to march with more than 400 Christian prisoners into the desert, where he was killed “in hatred of the faith” on June 11, 1915, alongside the Armenian Catholic archbishop Blessed Ignatius Maloyan, who was beatified by John Paul II in 2001.

Saleh was arrested and sentenced to death after giving shelter to an Armenian priest during the Armenian genocide. Before his death, he said: “I have full trust in God, I am not afraid of death,” according to the Capuchin Order in Lebanon.

Pope Francis recognized the martyrdom of Melki and Saleh on Oct. 28, as well as that of two other martyrs: Fr. Luigi Lenzini, who was killed in Italy in 1945, and Brazilian Isabel Cristina Mrad Campos, who was murdered in 1982 at the age of 20 for resisting rape.

Following a meeting with Cardinal-elect Marcello Semeraro, the prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, the pope also approved miracles attributed to three founders of religious orders. 

Blessed Fr. Giustino Maria Russolillo (1891-1955) can now be canonized after the pope approved a second miracle attributed to his intercession, involving the healing in 2016 of a religious with serious respiratory damage belonging to the order he founded in Naples, according to Vatican News.

Russolillo was a parish priest in Naples who was highly regarded as a spiritual director and preacher. He founded the Society of Divine Vocations, also known as the Vocationist Fathers, and the Congregation of the Sisters of Divine Vocations.

Pope Francis also approved a miracle attributed to the intercession of a blind Polish nun, Venerable Róża Maria Czacka (1976-1961). 

Czacka suffered from eye problems at an early age and completely lost her sight at the age of 22. She devoted her life to helping other people who were blind, founding an educational facility for the blind in Warsaw in 1909. 

This work led her to find her religious calling, and in 1918 she founded the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters, Servants of the Cross, dedicated to serving the blind. 

Another founder who can now be beatified is Venerable Maria Lorenza Requenses in Longo, a 15th-century Spanish noblewoman who founded the Hospital of the Incurables in Naples and a monastery of Capuchin nuns after she was widowed.

With the decree from the Congregation of the Causes of Saints, the pope also recognized the heroic virtue of Brazilian Brother Roberto Giovanni (1903-1994) of the Congregation of the Sacred Stigmata, who dedicated his long life to serving the poor and the sick, and the heroic virtue of Maria Teresa of the Heart of Jesus (1844-1908), co-founder of the Handmaids of the Divine Heart of Jesus in Spain.

Catholic bishop laments deaths of children after migrant boat sinks in English Channel

CNA Staff, Oct 28, 2020 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- A Catholic bishop expressed sorrow Wednesday after a migrant boat sank in the English Channel, killing four members of a family, including two children.

Bishop Paul McAleenan said Oct. 28 that he hoped the incident would not be used to score political points. 

“All who value human life, whatever their position on migrants and refugees, will be united in sorrow following yesterday’s tragedy in the Channel,” said the chairman of the English and Welsh bishops’ office for migration policy.

“Immediate thoughts should be with the adults and children who died, their families wherever they are in the world, and their companions who will remember forever what they witnessed. It is hoped that no one will want to make a mere political point because of the incident.”

More than 7,400 migrants have reached the U.K. in small boats so far this year, compared with 1,825 in 2019.

McAleenan, an auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Westminster, added: “What is truly needed is a meeting of minds. That will require a shifting of mindset on the part of those who set the rules, and the pursuit of heartless profiteers to ensure that no one feels compelled or encouraged to risk their life, or that of their children, in a dangerous craft on the open sea.”

The four members of a Kurdish-Iranian family died Tuesday when their small fishing boat capsized as they were crossing the Channel from France to the U.K. 

They were identified as Rasoul Iran-Nejad, 35, Shiva Mohammad Panahi, 35, Anita, nine, and Armin, six. Artin, their 15-month-old baby boy, is still missing. 

Fifteen other migrants were rescued and taken to hospital.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson offered his condolences to those who had lost family members.

“My thoughts are with the loved ones of those who tragically lost their lives in the Channel,” he said on Twitter.

“We will do all we can to crack down on the ruthless criminal gangs who prey on vulnerable people by facilitating these dangerous journeys.”

McAleenan urged the U.K. and France in July to address the “underlying reasons” for the rise in migrants risking their lives to cross the Channel.

He said that a new agreement between the two countries should focus on saving the lives of migrants who attempt the perilous crossing from France to the U.K.

“Their focus must be in determining why so many choose to flee their home country and use their influence to eradicate the underlying reasons why these same people are willing to risk their lives in the open sea,” he said.

Migrants brought ashore by the U.K. Border Force in recent months have fled from war-torn countries such as Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, and Yemen, as well as impoverished nations including Chad, Eritrea, and Sudan. The U.K. Home Office has said that the migrants should claim asylum in the first safe European country they reach, rather than traveling on to the U.K.

McAleenan was responding to a meeting between British Home Secretary Priti Patel and French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin.

The two ministers signed a Declaration of Intent July 12 establishing a Franco-British Operational Research Unit to combat migrant smuggling. They also underlined their commitment to returning migrant boats to France, rather than allowing them to dock in the U.K.

McAleenan said: “I would like to see the details of the agreement between the U.K. and France, that would indicate how they understand and perceive what is taking place in the English Channel.”

“Surely two countries which pride themselves on being progressive and enlightened will see that the welfare of those who are destitute is vital. Protection of people should be foremost in their thinking.”

Saint Alphonsus Rodriguez

Painting titled Vision of Alphonsus Rodriguez, by Francisco de Zurbarán
Image: Detail | Vision of Alphonsus Rodriguez | Francisco de Zurbarán

Saint of the Day for October 30

(1533 – October 30, 1617)
Audio file

Saint Alphonsus Rodriguez’s Story

Tragedy and challenge beset today’s saint early in life, but Alphonsus Rodriguez found happiness and contentment through simple service and prayer.

Born in Spain in 1533, Alphonsus inherited the family textile business at 23. Within the space of three years, his wife, daughter, and mother died; meanwhile, business was poor. Alphonsus stepped back and reassessed his life. He sold the business, and with his young son, moved into his sister’s home. There he learned the discipline of prayer and meditation.

At the death of his son years later, Alphonsus, almost 40 by then, sought to join the Jesuits. He was not helped by his poor education. He applied twice before being admitted. For 45 years he served as doorkeeper at the Jesuits’ college in Majorca. When not at his post, he was almost always at prayer, though he often encountered difficulties and temptations.

His holiness and prayerfulness attracted many to him, including Saint Peter Claver, then a Jesuit seminarian. Alphonsus’ life as doorkeeper may have been humdrum, but centuries later he caught the attention of poet and fellow-Jesuit Gerard Manley Hopkins, who made him the subject of one of his poems.

Alphonsus died in 1617. He is the patron saint of Majorca.


Reflection

We like to think that God rewards the good, even in this life. But Alphonsus knew business losses, painful bereavement, and periods when God seemed very distant. None of his suffering made him withdraw into a shell of self-pity or bitterness. Rather, he reached out to others who lived with pain, including enslaved Africans. Among the many notables at his funeral were the sick and poor people whose lives he had touched. May they find such a friend in us!


Saint Alphonsus Rodriguez is the Patron Saint of:

Majorca


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