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Bishop Burbidge: The pandemic is our ‘Pentecost moment’

CNA Staff, Sep 20, 2020 / 04:12 pm (CNA).- In a pastoral letter this past week, Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia said the coronavirus pandemic has prompted advances in sharing the Gospel message digitally, leading the Church to a “21st century Pentecost moment.”

“God is with us. This is the message of hope that we want to shout from the rooftops, that we want to beam over the airwaves, that we want to put on the front page of our publications and post on our social media accounts. Emmanuel: God is with us,” Burbidge wrote Sept. 15, in a letter entitled, "In Tongues, All Can Hear."

“The trauma of the pandemic, as well as the economic upheaval that has followed, has been and continues to be an opportunity for the Church to seize the moment...The Spirit has and will continue to enable the Church, even in a time of lockdown and isolation, to help us overcome our feelings of fear, loneliness, and vulnerability by reminding us that God is with us, always.”

The current pandemic, which has led to physical separation between people, in some ways mirrors the situation in which many of the first Christians found themselves, he said.

“Christians were apart in the distant communities of the first century, in isolation as prisoners for the faith locked away in cells and awaiting execution, or in remote communities far from a priest or the sacraments for extended periods of time,” he noted.

Despite this, the Christian community at the time remained spiritually close through communication and prayers for one another. In the same way, Catholics have found creative ways to communicate during the current pandemic— particularly through digital means such as livestreaming and social media— and to remain spiritually close, the bishop said.

“At a time when many felt alone, the gifts of the Church were made available to them in new ways,” he said, mentioning the many creative ways priests have managed to bring the sacraments— including the Eucharist, Confession, and Anointing of the Sick— to people during the pandemic.

The first followers of Christ communicated by deeds, Burbidge said, setting an example with their joy, sincerity, and their treatment of one another. They also proclaimed the Gospel with words, inviting people to join them and challenging the authorities to change their behavior.

The bishop pointed particularly to the example of St. Paul, who traveled relentlessly, preaching to Jewish and Gentile communities, debating Athens’ worldly philosophers, and addressing Roman authorities.

When authorities threatened the apostles, ordering them to cease preaching in public about the Good News of the Lord, Sts. Peter and John replied: “It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20).

The manner of fulfilling the Great Commission has evolved over the years, Burbidge noted, but the mandate itself, to proclaim the Kingdom, has never changed.

Despite advances in mass communication over the years, the proclamation of the Gospel remained, essentially, “the few talking to the many.” With the advent of the digital revolution, Burbidge said, the Church saw both risks and opportunities in the internet, social media, and the like, which can allow for evangelization but also bullying and manipulation.

Digital communication “appeals to the best and worst of human nature,” he said.

“The Church recognized that special effort would be necessary by all her members to use these tools effectively and wisely, so that true and accurate information would not get lost in a sea of misinformation and opinion,” he said.

“This is a critical time for the Church, beset as she is by many of the same stresses that are affecting secular institutions. Yet it is important that the Church maintain and develop the capacity to tell her story.”

This “21st century Pentecost moment” brought on by the pandemic, Burbidge said, has underscored the need for good communication in the Church across all forms of media, in order to invite people into the fullness of the Gospel.

“New forms of media cannot be the only tools we use,” he clarified. “The Church has communicated and evangelized over the centuries, using all available means to mobilize and inspire, to inform and explain. Some tools are good for mobilizing people. Other tools are good for informing, forming, and educating at greater depth, teaching Catholics to see the world through eyes of faith.”

“The Good News of the Gospel will set us free, but it is not to be marketed like a consumer product or adapted without thought to the razzle-dazzle of new technologies,” he said. “It is not propaganda. It is not spin. While the Church embraces new means of communication, she must not be enslaved by trends nor edit her message to be more popular or fashionable.”

 

 

 

 

Archbishop Cordileone: San Francisco Mass restrictions ‘mocking God’

CNA Staff, Sep 20, 2020 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- Catholics in San Francisco marched in Eucharistic processions across the city on Sunday to protest the city’s continued restrictions on public worship.

“For months I have pleaded with the City on your behalf, advocating for your need of the consolation of the Mass, and the consolation you derive from the practice of your faith and connection with your faith community. City Hall ignored us,” Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone said in his homily at an outdoor Mass following the processions Sept. 20.

“It has become clear to me that they just don’t care about you...We have been patiently putting up with unjust treatment long enough, and now it is time to come together to witness to our faith and to the primacy of God, and tell City Hall: No More!”

San Francisco’s restrictions on public worship remain among the strictest in the country. Mayor London Breed announced last week that starting Sept. 14, houses of worship may have 50 people at religious services outdoors. In addition, indoor private prayer is allowed, but only one person at a time is allowed inside.

Breed also said the city will allow indoor services up to a maximum of 25 people by Oct. 1. This is, Cordileone has noted, less than 1% of the capacity of San Francisco’s cathedral.

Previously, the limit for outdoor services had been 12 people, with all indoor services prohibited. The archdiocese covers the city and county of San Francisco— where the cathedral is located— as well as San Mateo and Marin counties.

In contrast, hotels in San Francisco are fully reopened; indoor gyms are set to reopen at 10% capacity; and most retail stores are allowed to operate at 50% capacity, while malls are restricted to 25%. Gyms operated in government buildings for police officers and other government employees have already reopened.

In addition, Archbishop Cordileone has noted, businesses requiring extended, close one-on-one contact reopened Sept. 14, such as hair salons, nail salons and massage parlors, but “we are allowed only one person in church at a time for prayer.”

“One person at a time in this great Cathedral to pray? What an insult. This is a mockery. They are mocking you, and even worse, they are mocking God,” Cordileone said.

Three separate Eucharistic processions Sept. 20 began at St. Anthony, St. Patrick, and Star of the Sea parishes, and converged at United Nations Plaza near San Francisco City Hall before proceeding to the cathedral.

The archdiocese ordered banners for parishioners to carry during the processions; 100 in English, 15 in Spanish, and 5 in Chinese that read: “We Are Essential: Free the Mass!”

At the 11 am Mass celebrated by Archbishop Cordileone, and additional Masses celebrated simultaneously in the cathedral plaza, all 900 spaces prepared for the outdoor Masses were filled, with additional people lining the sidewalks. An archdiocesan spokesperson told CNA that she estimated about 1,500 people were in attendance.

Cordileone said his time as a pastor at a rural, desert parish near the US-Mexico border taught him that caring for the rejected and the downtrodden in society, in this case undocumented immigrants, is an essential part of the Church’s mission.

”The highest law is love of God and love of neighbor, and that law has to take precedence over the human-made law of the state when government would ask us to turn our backs on God or our neighbor in need,” he noted.

“Now in San Francisco, all of us here are being put at the end of the line.  No matter how rich or poor, no matter whether newly arrived or from families that have been here for many generations, it is our Catholic faith that unites us, and it is because of our Catholic faith that we are being put at the end of the line.”

Priests at many parishes around the archdiocese, including the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption, are celebrating multiple Masses every Sunday— outside, and spaced out— in order to adapt to the restrictions.

Outdoor Masses pose their own health challenges, as the Bay Area is experiencing some of the worst air quality in the world, due to smoke and other pollutants coming from wildfires ravaging the West Coast.

While Cordileone has said city officials have been “cordial and respectful” in their dialogue with the archdiocese, he said the city still has not responded to the archdiocese’s safety plan— outlining how churches could be safely opened for indoor services— which they submitted in May.

Becket, a religious liberty law firm, has a page tracking restrictions on public worship related to the pandemic. By their estimation, six states— California, Nevada, Virginia, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Maine— are treating religious activities unequally as compared to similar secular activities.

The City of San Francisco has been closely monitoring Catholic churches in the city and has repeatedly issued warnings to the archdiocese for apparent health order violations

Cordileone said he himself has noted “very few” violations of the city’s health orders by parishes in the archdiocese, although the few that have occurred have garnered heavy criticism in the secular press.

“This willful discrimination is affecting us all. Yes, discrimination, because there is no other word for it,” Cordileone said. 

“We ask: why can people shop at Nordstrom’s at 25% capacity but only one of you at a time is allowed to pray inside of this great Cathedral, your Cathedral?  Is this equality?  No, there is no reason for this new rule except a desire to put Catholics – to put you – at the back of the line.”

Cordileone encouraged Catholics to continue to pray, suggesting the rosary, Eucharistic Adoration, fasting on Fridays, and availing themselves of the sacrament of confession.

In advocating for a safe reopening of indoor Masses, Cordileone has cited a recent article on Mass attendance and COVID-19, authored Aug. 19 by doctors Thomas McGovern, Deacon Timothy Flanigan, and Paul Cieslak for Real Clear Science.

By following public health guidelines, Catholic Churches have largely avoided viral spread during the more than 1 million Masses that have been celebrated across the United States since the lifting of shelter-in-place orders, the doctors found.

They said in their article that there is no evidence that church services are higher risk than similar activities when guidelines are followed, and no coronavirus outbreaks have not yet been linked to the celebration of the Mass.

Even while protesting the city’s apparent unequal application of health restrictions, the archbishop has encouraged his priests to lead their parishes in following the city’s guidelines.

Many of San Francisco’s problems, from homelessness to drugs to crime, stem from an abandonment of God, he said.

“Our blessed Lord is openly mocked to the gleeful grins of the cultural elites. The sacred symbol of the religious habit is blasphemed with glowing approval of those who profess mutual respect and tolerance for others who are different, while they openly discriminate against us.”

“In fighting for justice, we fight for the glory of God. And so I am calling on every Catholic in this City, and this country, to continue to exercise responsible citizenship, to abide by reasonable public health rules, and to continue to serve our community, despite the mockery to which we are being subject in so many different ways. This is God’s way, and this is how I see Catholics serving Our Lord.”

Judge Amy Barrett's charismatic Catholicism- Who are the People of Praise?

Washington D.C., Sep 19, 2020 / 03:00 pm (CNA).-  

After the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, reports have circulated that Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a federal judge on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, is a leading candidate for the country’s high court.

Barrett, a Catholic, was appointed a federal judge in 2017. During and after her confirmation process, questions were raised about her faith, and about her affiliation with a group called the “People of Praise,” a charismatic “covenant community.”

People of Praise has been referred to in the media as a “cult,” and criticized for a practice, which has since been changed, that called leaders “heads” and “handmaidens,” both of which are references to Scripture.

But what is the “People of Praise?” Is it a cult? CNA spoke with current and former members to find out.

Bishop Peter Smith is a member of the Brotherhood of the People of Praise, an association of priests connected to the group, founded with the support of the late Cardinal Francis George of Chicago. Smith was ordained a bishop on April 29, 2014.

People of Praise was founded in 1971 as part of the era's “great emergence of lay ministries and lay movements in the Catholic Church,” Smith told CNA.

The group began with 29 members who formed a “covenant”- an agreement, not an oath, to follow common principles, to give five percent of annual income to the group, and to meet regularly for spiritual, social, and service projects.

Covenant communities- Protestant and Catholic- emerged across the country in the 1970s, as a part of the Charismatic Renewal movement in American Christianity.

While most People of Praise members are Catholic, the group is officially ecumenical; people from a variety of Christian denominations can join. Members of the group are free to attend the church of their choosing, including different Catholic parishes, Smith explained.

“We're a lay movement in the Church,” Smith explained. “There are plenty of these. We continue to try and live out life and our calling as Catholics, as baptized Christians, in this particular way, as other people do in other callings or ways that God may lead them into the Church."

Cardinal George, who was widely reputed among bishops for orthodoxy, wrote of the group: “In my acquaintance with the People of Praise, I have found men and women dedicated to God and eager to seek and do His divine will. They are shaped by love of Holy Scripture, prayer and community; and the Church’s mission is richer for their presence.”

The group was tapped to assist with the formation of deacons in at least one diocese, and several members have been ordained deacons.

While Barrett is known for her judicial conservatism, particularly on life issues, the group is not partisan. A person’s political viewpoints do not play a role in membership, Smith told CNA.

“I know for a fact there are both registered Republicans and Democrats as well as independents in the People of Praise,” said Smith.

There are an estimated 2,000 adult members of People of Praise. The organization has priest members in two dioceses, and operates three schools in the United States.

Barrett’s Catholic faith came under scrutiny in 2017, when she was nominated for the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. During a confirmation hearing, she was asked by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) if she was an “orthodox Catholic” who believed in the Church’s teachings. Feinstein also said that “the dogma lives loudly” in Barrett- that phrase has become which a rallying cry of sorts among many Catholics. #DogmaLivesLoudly has even become a popular hashtag.

Some former members of the People of Praise allege that leaders have exerted undue influence over family decision-making, or pressured the children of members to commit to the group before being able to make that decisions with maturity.

One critic, philosopher Adrian Reimers, has written that the group has made “serious errors” in its theological approach.

People of Praise does not publicy disclose its membership, and declined CNA's request for comment.

Acknowledging the criticisms the group has faced, a former member of People of Praise told CNA that “the rank and file People of Praise members are very, very good people, wholeheartedly dedicated to the Lord,” he said.

Bishop Smith rejected the idea that there is anything out of the ordinary or inappropriate about People of Praise. If affiliation with the group were something to be concerned about, he said, he would not have been made a bishop.

“When one becomes a bishop, they check your background out very, very closely,” Smith said. “My People of Praise affiliation was very clear in my consideration for appointment as bishop, so the Holy Father Pope Francis appointed me bishop, knowing full well my involvement with People of Praise.”

“If this was a nefarious group, I certainly wouldn't be part of it, and I certainly wouldn't be in the position that I’m in as well."

 

A version of this story was first published in July 2018, when Barrett was first on the shortlist for a Supreme Court seat. It has since been updated.

 

'Dogma lives loudly in you' - Amy Coney Barrett's 2017 confirmation hearing

Washington D.C., Sep 19, 2020 / 02:25 pm (CNA).- Federal Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a Catholic mother of seven, is on President Donald Trump’s shortlist for a Supreme Court nominee, as the president makes plans to replace on the court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Friday evening.

Barrett was appointed a judge on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017. In her confirmation hearing, the judge faced hostile questions about her Catholic faith, prompting outrage and frustration among some Catholic leaders.

The nominee appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee Sept. 6, 2017.

Questions from some Democratic senators focused on how Barrett’s Catholic faith might influence her decisions in cases involving abortion and same-sex marriage.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), ranking member of the committee, told Barrett directly that her Catholic beliefs were concerning, as they might influence her judicial decisions on abortion.

 

WATCH: Sen. Feinstein to appeals court nominee Amy Barrett, @NotreDame law prof/#Catholic mother of 7: "The dogma lives loudly within you." pic.twitter.com/mpDgNZGRsa

— Jason Calvi (@JasonCalvi) September 6, 2017  

“Why is it that so many of us on this side have this very uncomfortable feeling that dogma and law are two different things, and I think whatever a religion is, it has its own dogma. The law is totally different,” Feinstein said.

“And I think in your case, professor, when you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you. And that’s of concern.”

Before making that point, Feinstein praised Barrett personally, saying the nominee was “amazing to have seven children and do what you do.”

The senator pivoted quickly, however, to characterizing Barrett as a “controversial” nominee, “because you have a long history of believing that your religious beliefs should prevail” over the law.

“You’re controversial because many of us that have lived our lives as women really recognize the value of finally being able to control our reproductive systems,” she said. “And Roe entered into that, obviously.”

Barrett insisted that as a judge, she would honor binding precedents, and would not let her religious beliefs inappropriately alter her judicial decisions.

In the same hearing, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) grilled Barrett over her use of the term “orthodox Catholic” in an article she had co-authored as a law student. Durbin took umbrage with the term, and suggested that Barrett did not think persons who dissent from Church teaching on marriage to be truly Catholic.

“I’m a product of 19 years of Catholic education. And every once in a while, Holy Mother the Church has not agreed with a vote of mine. And has let me know,” Durbin told Barrett. “You use a term in that article – or you both use a term in that article -- I’d never seen before. You refer to ‘orthodox Catholics.’ What’s an orthodox Catholic?”

Barrett pointed to a footnote in the article that admitted it was “an imperfect term,” and that the article was talking about the hypothetical case of “a judge who accepted the Church’s teaching” on the death penalty and had a “conscientious objection” to execution.

“Do you consider yourself an orthodox Catholic?” Durbin asked Barrett, who replied that “I am a faithful Catholic,” adding that “my personal Church affiliation or my religious belief would not bear in the discharge of my duties as a judge.”

Durbin, who was in 2004 prohibited from receiving Holy Communion because of his stance on abortion, next said that “there are many people who might characterize themselves ‘orthodox Catholics,’ who now question whether Pope Francis is an ‘orthodox Catholic.’ I happen to think he’s a pretty good Catholic.”

“I agree with you,” Barrett replied, to which Durbin responded, “Good. Then that’s good common ground for us to start with.”

He also asked Barrett how she would rule on a case involving a “same-sex marriage,” given the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissent from the 2013 Obergefell decision that legalized same-sex marriage.

“From beginning to end, in every case, my obligation as a judge would be to apply the rule of law, and the case that you mentioned would be applying Obergefell, and I would have no problem adhering to it,” she said.

After the hearing, Barrett’s nomination was confirmed, and the former Notre Dame law professor took up her position as a judge.

But Catholic leaders said the questions she faced were disturbing.

“This smacks of the worst sort of anti-Catholic bigotry,” Dr. Chad Pecknold, a theology professor at The Catholic University of America, told CNA in 2017.

Pecknold called the hearing “a religious inquisition rather than an adjudication of legal competence for the bench.”

“I submit that the real dogmatists in the room are the ones mounting an inquisition against one of the nation's great legal scholars,” he added.

Other Catholic leaders also decried the questions about Barrett’s faith.

“Such bigotry has no place in our politics and reeks of an unconstitutional religious test for qualification to participate in the judiciary. What these Senators did today was truly reprehensible,” said Brian Burch, president of CatholicVote.org.

“Senator Feinstein's shockingly illegitimate line of questioning sends the message that Catholics need not apply as federal judges,” added Ashley McGuire, senior fellow with The Catholic Association.

After the hearing, the phrase “The dogma lives loudly” became something of a catchphrase among Catholic supporters of Barrett, and appeared as a hashtag, on coffee mugs and on t-shirts. The hashtag is begun to have a resurgence as speculation that Trump might appoint Barrett to the Supreme Court has intensified.

The president is expected to nominate a justice to the court within a week. Also on his shortlist are several federal judges, and three U.S. Senators.

 

Abortion key issue in Supreme Court nomination process

CNA Staff, Sep 19, 2020 / 12:08 pm (CNA).- As speculation mounts over who President Donald Trump will nominate as the next Supreme Court Justice, pro-life and pro-abortion voices are making it clear that the nominee’s stance on abortion will be a key issue.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pledged Friday that a Trump Supreme Court nominee will be voted on for confirmation by the United States Senate, even while there are fewer than seven weeks until the Nov. 3 presidential election.

Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a Catholic mother of seven, is reported to be Trump’s top choice, according to sources with insider knowledge. 

On Saturday, a major pro-life organization endorsed Barrett and urged President Trump to nominate her.

“At this crucial time in the history of our great nation, it is imperative that a respected nominee is selected who will understand that the role of the High Court is to fairly interpret America’s Constitution and laws according to the meaning and intention of Congress and the Framers, and not seek to write their own value judgments into law,” Catherine Glenn Foster, President & CEO of Americans United for Life, said in a Sept. 19 statement.

“It is a certainty that in the coming years, the Court will be asked to rule on questions fundamental to the functioning of our Republic, including the most important human rights question of our time: the human right to life,” she continued.

“We are confident that if appointed to the Supreme Court, Judge Barrett would prove herself a trusted caretaker of the Constitutional protections extended to every human person in America, including human lives in the womb.”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who served on the court for more than 27 years, died of pancreatic cancer Sept. 18 at age 87. President Bill Clinton appointed Ginsburg to the Supreme Court in 1993.

She was an outspoken supporter of legal abortion throughout her career, and consistently penned opinions in favor of abortion and contraception, including a dissent in a 2007 case upholding a law that banned partial-birth abortion. She wrote a concurring opinion in a 2016 case which struck down restrictions on abortion clinics in Texas.

Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, on Friday praised Ginsburg’s legacy of upholding abortion protections.

“The fate of our rights, our freedoms, our health care, our bodies, our lives, and our country depend on what happens over the coming months,” acting president of Planned Parenthood Alexis McGill Johnson said in a Sept. 18 statement.

“It would be an absolute slap in the face to the millions of Americans who honor and cherish Justice Ginsburg’s legacy if President Trump and Mitch McConnell were to replace her with someone who would undo her life’s work and take away the rights and freedoms for which she fought so hard,” Johnson continued.

Appointed a federal judge in 2017, Barrett had been a professor at Notre Dame’s law school until her nomination was confirmed. Barrett has twice been honored as “Distinguished Professor of the Year” at Notre Dame, and had clerked for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

As a nominee to the federal bench, Judge Barrett was pointedly questioned by Democratic senators on the Judiciary Committee in 2017 on how her Catholic faith would influence her decisions as a judge on cases of abortion and same-sex marriage.

According to Axios, Trump in 2018 said of Barrett that he was “saving her for Ginsburg” in explanation of his decision not to appoint her to the Supreme Court seat vacated by Justice Anthony Kennedy.

As pro-lifers have noted in the past, if the Supreme Court reverses Roe v. Wade and removes the inferred constitutional protection for abortion, the legality of abortion would be subject to state-by-state regulation.

As many as a dozen states, including New York and California, have enshrined a right to abortion in their own consitutions. Other states, such as Arkansas, have “trigger laws” on the books that would automatically ban abortion entirely if the case were overturned.

Ginsburg and her husband Marty, who died in 2010, were secular Jews. The couple was noted for their many years of friendship with the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and his wife Maureen, who were devout Catholics. 

Catholic Amy Coney Barrett front-runner as Trump signals Supreme Court nomination plans

CNA Staff, Sep 19, 2020 / 10:00 am (CNA).- President Donald Trump on Saturday signaled he would soon nominate a potential replacement to the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Friday evening at 87. Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a Catholic mother of seven, is widely reported to be the front-runner in the president’s deliberations regarding a nominee.

[email protected] We were put in this position of power and importance to make decisions for the people who so proudly elected us, the most important of which has long been considered to be the selection of United States Supreme Court Justices. We have this obligation, without delay!” the president tweeted Saturday morning.

 

.@GOP We were put in this position of power and importance to make decisions for the people who so proudly elected us, the most important of which has long been considered to be the selection of United States Supreme Court Justices. We have this obligation, without delay!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 19, 2020  

Barrett, a federal judge on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, is reported to lead the president’s short list, and was also a contender for Trump’s second Supreme Court nomination in 2018, before the president nominated Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

According to Axios, Trump in 2018 said of Barrett that he was “saving her for Ginsburg” in explanation of his decision not to appoint her to the Supreme Court seat vacated by Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Appointed a federal judge in 2017, Barrett had been a professor at Notre Dame’s law school until her nomination was confirmed. Barrett has twice been honored as “Distinguished Professor of the Year” at Notre Dame, and was a law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

As a nominee to the federal bench, Barrett was pointedly questioned by Democratic senators on the Judiciary Committee in 2017 on how her Catholic faith would influence her decisions as a judge on cases of abortion and same-sex marriage.

During confirmation hearings, Senator Diane Feinstein said of Barrett's Catholicism “the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you. And that’s of concern.”

“You’re controversial because many of us that have lived our lives as women really recognize the value of finally being able to control our reproductive systems,” she said. “And Roe entered into that, obviously.”

Barrett repeatedly said that as a judge, she would uphold the law of the land, but many pro-life groups believe she would be open to overturning the precedent of Roe vs. Wade, and uphold state restrictions on abortion.

Pro-life groups hailed Barrett’s 2017 appointment to the bench.

Barrett is the mother of seven children, including two adopted from Haiti; one of her children has special needs. She is also reportedly a member of the People of Praise charismatic community, which was criticized as a “cult” during her 2017 confirmation hearings.

Bishop Peter Smith, a member of a related association of priests, told CNA in 2018 that there is not anything unusual or out of the ordinary about the group, which is a “covenant community,” mostly of laity.

“We're a lay movement in the Church,” Smith explained. “There are plenty of these. We continue to try and live out life and our calling as Catholics, as baptized Christians, in this particular way, as other people do in other callings or ways that God may lead them into the Church.”

Whether or not he selects Barrett, Trump’s likely nomination of a Supreme Court Justice to replace Ginsburg has become a matter of serious political controversy, in an already fractious U.S. political and social context.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pledged Friday that a Trump Supreme Court nominee will be voted on for confirmation by the United States Senate, even while there are fewer than seven weeks until the Nov. 3 presidential election.

Democratic leaders have pushed back, and pointed to McConnell’s refusal to consider Obama Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland in March 2016, seven months before that year’s presidential contest. At the time, Republicans said that it would be more appropriate to wait until after the November election to fill the Court vacancy.

McConnell defended his decision Friday night, saying that “in the last midterm election before Justice Scalia’s death in 2016, Americans elected a Republican Senate majority because we pledged to check and balance the last days of a lame-duck president’s second term. We kept our promise. Since the 1880s, no Senate has confirmed an opposite-party president’s Supreme Court nominee in a presidential election year.”

“By contrast, Americans reelected our majority in 2016 and expanded it in 2018 because we pledged to work with President Trump and support his agenda, particularly his outstanding appointments to the federal judiciary, we will keep our promise,” McConnell said.

Also reportedly on Trump’s short list are is 11th Circuit Court judge Britt Grant, 6th Circuit Court Judges Amul Thapar and Joan Larsen, and 10th Circuit Judge Allison Eid.

McConnell: Trump Supreme Court nominee ‘will receive a vote’

CNA Staff, Sep 18, 2020 / 07:22 pm (CNA).- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Friday night that after the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a Trump Supreme Court nominee will be voted on for confirmation by the United States Senate.

In a statement released Friday night, McConnell said that “President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”

McConnell elaborated on that decision, saying that “in the last midterm election before Justice Scalia’s death in 2016, Americans elected a Republican Senate majority because we pledged to check and balance the last days of a lame-duck president’s second term. We kept our promise. Since the 1880s, no Senate has confirmed an opposite-party president’s Supreme Court nominee in a presidential election year.”

“By contrast, Americans reelected our majority in 2016 and expanded it in 2018 because we pledged to work with President Trump and support his agenda, particularly his outstanding appointments to the federal judiciary, we will keep our promise,” McConnell said.

In March 2016, President Barack Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to fill the Supreme Court seat that had been held by Justice Antonin Scalia. Senate Republicans did not consider Garland’s nomination, saying that it would be more appropriate to wait until after the November election to fill the Court vacancy.

After his 2017 inauguration, Trump appointed Neil Gorsuch to fill Scalia’s seat, and the nominee was confirmed by the senate.

Senate Democrats have pointed to that 2016 decision in response to McConnell’s Sept. 18 statement.

A Trump appointment could tip the balance of the court to a 6-3 conservative majority, which Republicans have said would lead to the court overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that ensured legal protection for abortion across the U.S.

Trump last week expanded a list of potential judicial nominees under his consideration. At a presidential debate in October 2016, Trump pledged to appoint justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade. In addition to appointing Gorsuch, in 2018 Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was retiring.

Among the names on the new list are Stewart Kyle Duncan of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals—the former general counsel for the religious freedom firm Becket—and Peter Phipps of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, whose membership in the Knights of Columbus was the subject of tough questions by Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) when he was a district court nominee in 2018.  

Amy Coney Barrett of the Seventh Circuit court, a former professor at the University of Notre Dame and a Catholic mother of seven, was on the existing White House list of nominees.

Pro-life leaders hailed last’s week announcement. Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, said the appointment of pro-life judges to federal courts was “one of President Trump’s greatest accomplishments” of his first term, and that “[w]e anticipate that process will continue in a second term.”

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List and co-chair of the Trump campaign’s pro-life outreach said that his list “is filled with all-stars.”  

in the first major abortion case before the court during Trump’s presidency, the court struck down Louisiana’s safety regulations of abortion clinics, a blow to pro-life efforts at the state level. While Gorsuch and Kavanaugh ruled in the minority on the decision, Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the Court’s four liberal justices against the law.

Ginsburg, who served on the court for more than 27 years, died of pancreatic cancer Sept. 18. She was 87. President Bill Clinton appointed Ginsburg to the Supreme Court in 1993. Ginsburg had previously been an appeals court judge.

 

Catholics respond after Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

Denver Newsroom, Sep 18, 2020 / 06:55 pm (CNA).- Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who served on the court for more than 27 years, died of pancreatic cancer Sept. 18. She was 87.

President Bill Clinton appointed Ginsburg to the Supreme Court in 1993. Ginsburg had previously been an appeals court judge.

Ginsburg, who was Jewish, was noted for her friendship with Antonin Scalia, a Catholic and fellow Supreme Court Justice, who died in 2016.

Scalia’s son Christopher tweeted some recollections of his father’s friendship with Ginsburg after her death was announced.

 

I'm very sad to hear about the passing of my parents' good friend, and my father's wonderful colleague, Justice Ginsburg. May her memory be a blessing. I'd like to share a couple of passages that convey what she meant to my dad.../3

— Christopher J. Scalia (@cjscalia) September 18, 2020  

Ginsburg expressed her support for legalized abortion during her 1993 Senate confirmation hearing, and had so previously. Though she was publicly critical before her appointment of the legal reasoning used in Roe v. Wade, Ginsburg consistently penned opinions in favor of abortion and contraception, including a 2007 dissent in a case upholding a law that banned partial-birth abortion. 

Ginsburg’s death could tip the balance of the court to a 6-3 conservative majority, if President Donald Trump nominates a new justice to fill the vacancy left by Ginsburg before the November election.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said previously he would try to ensure Senate confirmation of a Trump Supreme Court nominee. Senate Democrats have expressed opposition to any nomination, citing McConnell’s objection to Barack Obama’s March 2016 of Merrick Garland to the court. At the time, Senate Republicans said they would not consider an appointment during an election year.

In a statement released Friday night, McConnell said that “President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”

Trump last week expanded a list of potential judicial nominees under his consideration. At a presidential debate in October 2016, Trump pledged to appoint justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade. In 2017, he nominated Neil Gorsuch to be Scalia’s replacement, and in 2018 he nominated Brett Kavanaugh to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was retiring.

Catholics on social media urged prayers for Ginsburg and her family Friday evening.

Fr. Pius Pietrzyk, OP, a civil and canon lawyer and a professor of canon law at St. Patrick’s University and Seminary in California tweeted that: “In our modern divided politics the friendship between Justices Ginsburg and Scalia shone as a model of the respect that people can have for each other, even if they disagree.  May she, now along with him, rest in peace.”

In our modern divided politics the friendship between Justices Ginsburg and Scalia shone as a model of the respect that people can have for each other, even if they disagree. May she, now along with him, rest in peace.

— Fr. Pius Pietrzyk OP (@PiusOP) September 19, 2020  

Many reactions came from pro-life organizations, some of whom expressed their hopes for a pro-life replacement on the court.

“Rest in peace, Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Let's pray for the repose of her soul and for her family. Let's continue to pray for our nation,” said Lila Rose, president of the pro-life group Live Action.

 

Rest in peace, Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Let's pray for the repose of her soul and for her family. Let's continue to pray for our nation.

— Lila Rose (@LilaGraceRose) September 18, 2020 Americans United for Life, a national pro-life group, noted that despite some positive elements in Ginsburg’s efforts for gender equality, her pro-abortion jurisprudence has left a far more regrettable legacy.

“We are grateful for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s contributions as an advocate prior to being a judge, in bringing down legal barriers to women’s advancement in American society. We are deeply saddened by her death, particularly at this moment in our nation’s history,” the group said on Twitter.

“Abortion is understood for what it is by millions of Americans due to its cruelty and violence. Future generations will not smile on the culture of indifference toward human life that Justice Ginsburg perpetuated [for] women who deserve better...Abortion doesn’t contribute to women’s happiness, and abortion isn’t necessary for women to succeed.”

 

We are grateful for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s contributions as an advocate prior to being a judge, in bringing down legal barriers to women’s advancement in American society. We are deeply saddened by her death, particularly at this moment in our nation’s history. pic.twitter.com/hnLkVsbCBc

— Americans United for Life (@AUL) September 19, 2020  

Pro-life group Students for Life tweeted: “Tonight, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has passed away, and our thoughts are with her family.”

“In partnership with Students for Life Action, we call for President Trump to move quickly with an appointment, in light of her tragic death.”

 

Tonight, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has passed away, and our thoughts are with her family.

In partnership with Students for Life Action, we call for President Trump to move quickly with an appointment, in light of her tragic death. https://t.co/z9kKwPX9om

— studentsforlife (@StudentsforLife) September 19, 2020  

Ginsburg had survived several bouts of cancer before she died surrounded by her family, the Supreme Court said. Her husband, Marty Ginsburg, died in 2010.

 

Mike Pompeo: Holy See's moral witness needed in China

CNA Staff, Sep 18, 2020 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- Reflecting Friday on the state of the 2018 Vatican-China deal, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo noted that the human rights situation in China has deteriorated in recent years, and that the “moral witness” of the Vatican in support of religious believers is sorely needed.

“The Holy See has a unique capacity and duty to focus the world’s attention on human rights violations, especially those perpetrated by totalitarian regimes like Beijing’s. In the late twentieth century, the Church’s power of moral witness helped inspire those who liberated central and eastern Europe from communism,” Pompeo wrote in a Sept. 18 essay at First Things.

“That same power of moral witness should be deployed today with respect to the Chinese Communist Party,” he continued.

“What the Church teaches the world about religious freedom and solidarity should now be forcefully and persistently conveyed by the Vatican in the face of the Chinese Communist Party’s relentless efforts to bend all religious communities to the will of the Party and its totalitarian program.”

Pompeo said the human rights situation in China, especially for religious believers, has “deteriorated severely” under president Xi Jinping, who took office in 2013. He pointed out forced sterilizations and abortions of Muslims in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, the “abuse of Catholic priests and laypeople,” and the persecution of Protestant house churches, “all of which are parts of a ‘Sinicization’ campaign to subordinate God to the Party while promoting Xi himself as an ultramundane deity.”

He said that “now more than ever, the Chinese people need the Vatican’s moral witness and authority in support of China’s religious believers.”

The US Secretary of State also observed that Vatican and Chinese diplomats are meeting to negotiate a renewal of the 2018 deal; a renewal which is being confidently predicted in both Rome and Beijing,

“Two years on, it’s clear that the Sino-Vatican agreement has not shielded Catholics from the Party’s depredations, to say nothing of the Party’s horrific treatment of Christians, Tibetan Buddhists, Falun Gong devotees, and other religious believers,” Pompeo observed.

He added that “communist authorities continue to shutter churches, spy on and harass the faithful, and insist that the Party is the ultimate authority in religious affairs.”

Pompeo noted that “as part of the 2018 agreement, the Vatican legitimized Chinese priests and bishops whose loyalties remain unclear, confusing Chinese Catholics who had always trusted the Church. Many refuse to worship in state-sanctioned places of worship, for fear that by revealing themselves as faithful Catholics they will suffer the same abuses that they witness other believers suffer at the hands of the Chinese authorities’ increasingly aggressive atheism.”

Earlier this week the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom emphasized that religious freedom must be the result of any renewed Vatican agreement with China, noting that underground Catholics in the country continue to be persecuted.

Pompeo said that the recent imposition in Hong Kong of a National Security Law mandated by the mainland government “raises the specter that the Party will use the same tactics of intimidation and the full apparatus of state repression against religious believers.”

The top US diplomat observed that “many nations have joined the United States in expressing revulsion at the Chinese regime’s accelerating violations of human rights,” and said, “The State Department has been a strong voice for religious freedom in China and around the world and has taken steps to hold those who abuse the faithful responsible for their actions. We will continue to do so.”

After urging the Holy See to use its moral witness with the Chinese Communist Party, Pompeo wrote that “totalitarian regimes can only survive in darkness and silence, their crimes and brutality unnoticed and unremarked.”

“If the Chinese Communist Party manages to bring the Catholic Church and other religious communities to heel, regimes that disdain human rights will be emboldened, and the cost of resisting tyranny will rise for all brave religious believers who honor God above the autocrat of the day. I pray that, in dealing with the Chinese Communist Party, the Holy See and all who believe in the divine spark enlightening every human life will heed Jesus’s words in the Gospel of John, ‘The truth will set you free.’”

Pelosi 'misspoke' on San Francisco Mass attendance, spokesman claims

Washington D.C., Sep 18, 2020 / 05:58 pm (CNA).-  

Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office told CNA Friday evening that she “misspoke” when she described “recently” attending Mass in a San Francisco church, despite the city’s months-long ban on indoor Masses.

“The Speaker misspoke. She has not been in San Francisco since September 5th due to ongoing talks around COVID relief and appropriations,” spokesman Drew Hammill from the Speaker’s office told CNA in a statement on Friday evening.

“She [Pelosi] has been participating regularly in church services virtually,” Hammill said.

Hammill did not explain what Pelosi referred to when she described Sept. 18 attending what appeared to be an indoor Mass and receiving Communion “recently” at a San Francisco church.

Earlier on Friday morning, at a press conference at the U.S. Capitol, Pelosi was asked by Erik Rosales of EWTN News Nightly about a recent op-ed by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, Pelosi’s archbishop, on the “unfairness” of the city’s public health rules.

Cordileone had pointed out the city’s ban on indoor religious services—except for funerals—during the pandemic while gyms and hair salons were allowed to serve some customers indoors.

Pelosi answered that “I have been to church in San Francisco recently, and I did receive Communion.”

She then went on to describe the experience in some detail, noting that she had to “sign up” to attend and that “I got in under the wire” as there were only two places left.

San Francisco has banned public indoor religious services—except for funerals—for months. Outdoor services are permitted with a cap on 12 people, although Speaker Pelosi’s recollection of the event recounted an indoor service.

“And when we got there—the church maybe holds 250 people. There were probably 12 people,” she said, “very, very, very spaced. But that was it, no more would be allowed.”

“And then we did receive Communion,” she said, noting that the priest washed his hands before distributing Communion, and that she received Communion in the hand.

“I miss going to church regularly,” she said. “Of course, we have virtual Mass here, many Masses in D.C., but all the other places…”

On Friday evening, however, Pelosi’s office told CNA that she “misspoke,” but did not explain in what she had misspoken.

Public Masses in San Francisco were suspended by the archdiocese on March 17, and the city’s public health ordinances have not yet allowed for public indoor Masses.

Archbishop Cordileone later informed parishes that they could resume public Masses on June 14, according to the city attorney’s office. However, the city said it informed the archdiocese on June 11 that indoor Masses were still barred “for the time being” as a public health risk.

Exceptions were made only for funerals with 12 or fewer persons, and live-streamed services where only necessary personnel were present to help with the Mass or video production.

On June 29, the city sent the archdiocese a cease-and-desist letter for public indoor Masses, saying that it had not officially amended the health order to allow for them.

“Our intention has always been to conform to what we understand to be the City orders and timelines,” the archdiocese said July 2, noting that the city’s orders had changed through the pandemic.

The situation continued through the summer. Archbishop Cordileone on July 30 urged prayer and fasting for an end to the pandemic and “for a restoration of public worship unhindered.”

In August, Cordileone asked the mayor to “at a minimum, remove the excessive limits on outdoor public worship.”

The city, meanwhile, watched for any possible violations of its order, sending the archdiocese a letter on Aug. 12 outlining “several things of concern.”

The city’s mayor, London Breed, announced this week that outdoor religious services with up to 50 people would be permitted beginning Sept. 14, but indoor religious services were still prohibited until Oct. 1, where they would be permitted with a cap at 25 people.

Archbishop Cordileone is leading a Eucharistic procession past city hall on Sept. 20 as a protest against the ongoing orders limiting Masses. He wrote in his Washington Post op-ed that “all we are seeking is access to worship in our own churches, following reasonable safety protocols.”

Pelosi, on Friday morning, said that the archbishop should abide by science in his desire to reopen churches.

“With all due respect to my archbishop, I think we should follow science on this,” she said.

She later added that “I don't know if he [Cordileone] was speaking as our pastor or as a lobbyist—advocate. But whatever it is, I am sure that he must have meant [reopen churches] if it is scientifically safe, rather than jeopardizing people’s health if they want to go to Church.”