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New Florida law requiring parental consent for abortion limits harm, Catholic bishops say

CNA Staff, Jul 1, 2020 / 01:37 pm (CNA).- After Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a new law requiring parental consent for a minor’s abortion, the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops praised the effort for reducing the “grave harm” of abortion.

“This common-sense measure simply holds abortion to the same consent requirements as most every other medical decision involving a child, including simple interventions such as taking an aspirin or getting ears pierced,” the bishops said June 30.

“As Catholics, we condemn abortion as a grave injustice that denies the fundamental human right to life. However, as long as abortion is legal, we support measures such as parental consent that will reduce the grave harm it inflicts.”

Under the new law, minors seeking an abortion will be required to receive notarized approval from at least one parent or guardian. The minor may seek a waiver from a circuit court judge.

Doctors who perform abortions without the parental consent of a girl under 18 would face up to five years in prison for a third-degree felony.

The Florida House of Representatives passed SB 404 by a 75-43 vote Feb. 20. It had cleared the Senate 23-17 in an earlier vote.

“We are especially grateful to the legislative leaders who advanced this pro-life legislation, particularly bill sponsors Senator Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland) and Representative Erin Grall (R-Vero Beach),” the bishops said. “We also commend the Democratic lawmakers who courageously crossed party lines and voted in support of this good bill.”

The bishops thanked Republican Gov. DeSantis for signing the bill into law.

Senate President Bill Galvano, a Republican, praised the legislation.

“The serious and irrevocable decision to end a pregnancy involves undergoing a significant medical procedure that results, in many cases, in lifelong emotional and physical impacts,” he said in a statement. “The parents of a minor child considering an abortion must be involved in such a substantial and permanent decision.”

The bill would expand restrictions under the current Florida law, approved by voters in 2004, which only requires a minor to give notice to their parent, guardian, or a judge that they intend to procure an abortion

The Florida legislature first enacted a parental consent law in 1979, but the state Supreme Court struck it down a decade later, saying it violated privacy rights. Backers of the new law are confident it with withstand legal challenge, given changes on the court.

Florida’s Catholic bishops commented the day after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a Louisiana law holding abortion clinics to the same standards as other surgical centers.

“While deeply disappointed in the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision yesterday regarding an abortion case out of Louisiana, we are pleased that Florida has taken a step forward today in ensuring vital protections for parents and their children,” said the bishops.

Planned Parenthood of Florida said the parental consent law would “endanger young people who, in many cases, have experienced abuse at the hands of their own parents or guardians.” The group said few court clerks could offer information on the judicial bypass, and access to the courts is hindered by coronavirus epidemic restrictions, CBS 4 Miami reports.

Stephanie Fraim, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, said the bill “could open the door to a reinterpretation of our constitutional right to privacy and the right to a safe and legal abortion in Florida.”

The law also strengthens legal protections for infants who survive an abortion.

“This law sends a clear message that here in Florida, we will do everything we can to prevent the abomination of infanticide in our state,” Galvano said. “When a child miraculously survives this brutal medical procedure, that child’s life must be preserved and treated with great respect and care. The penalty for refusing to provide medical care to an infant struggling for life should be significant.”

'Soft despotism' of anti-Catholicism on the rise, USCCB religious liberty chair warns

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 1, 2020 / 12:10 pm (CNA).- The new leader of the U.S. Catholic bishops on religious liberty has warned of a “soft despotism” of religious intolerance in the U.S.  Archbishop Thomas Wenski told CNA that “new Jacobins” are driving Catholics from the public square for their beliefs.  

“We’re not second-class citizens because we are people of faith,” said Wenski, Archbishop of Miami and head of the U.S. bishops’ religious freedom committee, in an interview with CNA on Tuesday.

The archbishop said a new wave of religious intolerance is forcing believers and belief out of public life.

Wenski pointed to laws forbidding public funding of religious schools—overruled by the Supreme Court this week—but also in the HHS contraceptive mandate case of the Little Sisters of the Poor, and 21 year-old Jack Denton, who was removed from his student government position at Florida State University for defending Church teaching.

Hostility to public Catholicism is “treating us as somehow less worthy of full participation in the benefits of American life,” he said.

Wenski is the new acting chairman of the U.S. bishops’ religious freedom committee, taking office this month after the former chair Bishop George Murry, S.J. of Youngstown died on June 5 after a relapse of leukemia.

The archbishop spoke with CNA this week after the Supreme Court decided in favor of religious schools in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue. In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled that Montana’s state constitution discriminated against religious schools in barring their access to a taxpayer-funded scholarship program.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the opinion of the court that the U.S. constitution “condemns discrimination against religious schools and the families whose children attend them.”

“The Supreme Court got it right” on religious schools, Wenski told CNA on Tuesday, but “a lot of people were not happy with the decision [Monday] on the abortion issue,” he said of the court’s ruling in June Medical Services, LLC v. Russo that struck down Louisiana’s safety regulations of abortion clinics.

Montana’s no-aid clause at the heart of the Supreme Court case, which forbids public funding of “sectarian” causes or religious institutions, was initially passed as a Blaine Amendment in the state’s 1889 constitution and was included again in its 1972 constitution.

Blaine Amendments were commonly enacted by states in the late 19th-century, with 37 states adopting such provisions. Archbishop Wenski said that they were anti-Catholic in nature, as they meant to block public funding of Catholic parochial schools that the largely-Protestant public school system received.

“France doesn’t have any problem supporting parents who send their children to Catholic schools,” Wenski said. “The same is true of Canada, Australia, et cetera.”

“Such laws have never really been neutral, as they pretend to be,” he said.

Another recent example of “soft despotism” in American life Wenski highlighted is the case of Jack Denton, former president of the Florida State University student senate and a rising senior at the school.

Denton expressed concerns about some policy positions of the groups, the ACLU, and Reclaim the Block in a messaging forum of the university’s Catholic student union.

He noted that the “fosters ‘a queer-affirming network’ and defends transgenderism,” while the ACLU “defends laws protecting abortion facilities.” Reclaim the Block, Denton said, “claims less police will make our communities safer” and supports budget cuts to police departments. These positions, he said, are “things that are explicitly anti-Catholic.”

Another member of the forum sent screenshots of Denton’s statements to members of the student senate, who ultimately voted to remove him as head after a petition received thousands of signatures calling for his removal, accusing him of making “transphobic and racist remarks.” 

Denton said he did not make the statements in his official capacity as student senate president and he was simply posting “defenses of, basically, Catholic moral teachings,” Wenski said, yet “that was a step too far for many of these new Jacobins we see around.”

Such events are “becoming more common than remarkable, unfortunately,” the archbishop said, noting that Catholics are increasingly becoming ostracized, ridiculed, or even denied jobs because of their religious beliefs.

One religious freedom case that the Supreme Court has yet to decide is that of the Little Sisters of the Poor against the HHS contraceptive mandate. Archbishop Wenski said he hopes that Tuesday’s decision in Espinoza will bode well for the Sisters.

Both cases, he said, “really deal with the freedom to serve” and the freedom of Catholics to live out their faith in the public square.

As the new chair of the religious freedom committee, Archbishop Wenski said his most pressing issue is simply figuring out how to operate the committee in spite of the “handicaps” of the new coronavirus pandemic.

One positive note, he said, was the “tremendous assistance to parishes and schools across the country” from loans under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), an emergency loan program set up by Congress in March to keep small businesses and non-profits afloat during the pandemic. According to CBS News, by early May around 9,000 Catholic parishes received funding under the first two rounds of PPP loans, to help keep employees on payroll.

Religious freedom in foreign countries is also under threat, Wenski said, from a “hard despotism” in regions such as the Middle East and China, where Christians are imprisoned, tortured, and killed for their faith.

Meanwhile, some Christian churches have been locked in court battles with state and local governments over restrictions on public gatherings during the new coronavirus pandemic. The Justice Department has said that restrictions on churches must be temporary and not single out religion for stricter limits than other gatherings such as protests or commerce.  

New York City mayor Bill de Blasio justified his encouragement of mass protests against racism despite public health warnings on mass gatherings, saying that the protests “grappling” with America’s history of racism “is not the same question as the understandably aggrieved store owner or the devout religious person who wants to go back to services.”

“As Catholics, we understand the common good,” Wenski told CNA, noting that bishops suspended public Masses during the pandemic because it was understood as “a real public health threat.”

However, he said, governments cannot target religious groups unfairly, allowing mass protests or other gatherings while putting strict limits on public Masses.

“When you see that disparate treatment, then you have to ask whether that is because of some religious animus, and that’s where we have to be very careful,” he said.

Wenski brings prior experience with the conference to his new role, having served as the chair of the bishops’ domestic justice and human development committee from 2013 to 2016, and head of the international justice and peace committee from 2005 to 2008.

Both he and Murry ran for the position of religious liberty chair of the conference in November of 2019, to fill the vacancy left by Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville who had resigned from the position because of his bladder cancer condition.

Wenski and Murry received the same number of votes from the conference and Murry was selected as the religious liberty head because of his seniority, being two years older than Wenski.

Analysis: As Archbishop Viganò denounces Vatican II, the Vatican is not speaking

Denver Newsroom, Jul 1, 2020 / 11:35 am (CNA).-  

When Archbishop Carlo Viganò made headlines in August 2018, it was for a sweeping open letter that accused Church officials of complicity and cover-up in the scandal surrounding sexual abuser Theodore McCarrick.

The pope’s response to the Viganò letter was direct: “I will not say a single word on this.”

Two years later, Archbishop Viganò is still speaking. But the archbishop has changed his topic, from the McCarrick affair to conspiracy theories about the coronavirus pandemic, the Marian apparition at Fatima, and the Second Vatican Council. The archbishop’s audience has grown large in the last two years; it now includes even the president of the United States. And now his allegations have begun to teeter on a repudiation of the authority of the Church itself.

Still, neither Pope Francis nor the Vatican have said a word about Viganò or his growing pile of missives, even as prominent analysts say the archbishop is at the point of “breaking with the Church,” and may well bring his followers with him. There could be a few reasons for that.

In an interview last month, Viganò offered a set of criticisms against the Second Vatican Council that are not especially original, but are striking because they come, apparently, from the pen of a former papal representative to the U.S.

Viganò claimed that at the Second Vatican Council — an ecumenical council of the Church — “hostile forces” caused “the abdication of the Catholic Church” through a “sensational deception.”

“The errors of the post-conciliar period were contained in nuce in the Conciliar Acts,” the archbishop added, accusing the council, and not just its aftermath, of overt error.

His interview, and his other recent comments on Vatican II, made arguments familiar to anyone who has spent time among adherents of the Society of St. Pius X or other traditionalist groups outside the full communion of the Church: That the council’s decrees on religious liberty and interreligious dialogue reject Catholic doctrine. That as a “pastoral council” Vatican II does not bind Catholics. That the council has led to “the infiltration of the enemy into the heart of the Church.”

Viganò has suggested that the Second Vatican Council catalyzed a massive, but unseen, schism in the Church, ushering in a false Church alongside the true Church.

Those arguments have been addressed and critiqued repeatedly by theologians and historians, including Benedict XVI, and in the mind of the Church’s hierarchy, have been sufficiently refuted. Objections to the council’s authority have long been rejected by the Church’s authorities.

To be sure, few theologians or bishops would argue that Vatican II’s documents are above reproach, in terms of their style, their language, or their presentation of the faith. And scholars continue to disagree about how to interpret some key texts of the council. But accepting the legitimacy and authority of the Second Vatican Council is a necessary component of maintaining communion with the Church herself.

Viganò’s recent interviews have largely been understood as a call to reject the entirety of the Second Vatican Council. A pope, he says, must “rejoin the thread of Tradition there where it was cut off,” and the Church must “recognize the error and deception into which we have fallen.” 

In the most charitable interpretation possible, Viganò’s claims can be understood as studiously ambiguous— attempting to avoid a direct repudiation of Catholic doctrine while doing precisely that, just in a more circumspect manner. Catholics have criticized the work of Fr. James Martin, SJ, for the same kind of studied ambiguity, albeit on a different subject, and criticized the Holy See for failing to respond. 

Still, given that Viganò has decried the “perverse nature” of the Second Vatican Council, the plain meaning of his argument seems clear, and it seems nearly impossible to lend his claims even the designation of “studied ambiguity.” But whether his writing meets the formal criteria of either heresy or schism is subject only to the judgment of the Holy See.

The Vatican, however, has not spoken.

One possible reason for the silence is that Church leaders, including Pope Francis, might simply not grasp how much influence Viganò has. The archbishop’s reach is impossible to judge completely, but his letters and interviews are the regular fodder for a set of websites and YouTube channels with very large audiences, and after the archbishop was endorsed by President Trump last month, he has become a figure of awe among the web of QAnon conspiracy theorists.

Most of his influence is online; he has no official power whatsoever, and the Holy See might simply not appreciate how many people read and revere the archbishop.

But his admirers are not just fringe figures. A sitting U.S. diocesan bishop signed onto Viganò’s open letter accusing shadowy authorities of exploiting the coronavirus pandemic to usher in a one-world government, and the U.S. president has invoked an open letter from Viganò as a kind of institutional Catholic endorsement.

Vatican authorities might be hoping Viganò goes away quietly, but that seems increasingly unlikely, especially if the archbishop and his supporters are emboldened by a positive response to his recent turn against the Second Vatican Council, and towards the American political landscape.

It is also unlikely that Viganò will go away quietly if, as some observers have speculated, the archbishop is being supported by a Catholic faction with a clear objective and, through Viganò, a mouthpiece. How Viganò is supporting himself, and where he is now living, are matters only of speculation. But there is a point worth noting about the archbishop’s recent missives.

Viganò is a lawyer who worked as a government official and a diplomat. He is not a theologian. He is, by many accounts, a practical man, more inclined to get things done than to wax philosophic. But his writing has taken an uncharacteristic turn towards the theological arguments of those who have rejected the Second Vatican Council, and it displays surprising familiarity with those arguments. If the Holy See does decide to investigate Viganò’s publications, it might consider the circumstances in which they have been written, and what kind of “assistance,” and from whom, Viganò has received.

The Holy See might also be reflexively disinclined to address Viganò because, for all his peculiarities, he is still an archbishop and a retired high ranking diplomatic figure. In the system of Vatican court etiquette, criticizing him openly would be something of a brutta figura. One aspect of clericalism is a near ironclad unspoken commitment among bishops to avoid publicly criticizing one another, and that may be a factor in discomfort with responding to Viganò’s claims.

But beyond clericalism, the Holy See might be disinclined to any kind of open criticism if it has sincere concerns for the archbishop's health, or his personal circumstances.

Finally, there is the uncomfortable fact that Viganò’s more substantive claims — those regarding McCarrick — have not yet been addressed.

A criticism of the archbishop’s theological missives could come across as a very selective responsiveness, especially given that many Catholics, not just the pope’s critics, know that questions regarding Amoris Laetitia have also gone unanswered. Ultimately, though, it seems unlikely that optics are a major factor in the Holy See’s considerations of the Viganò situation, because, quite simply, its communications apparatus does not usually seem to engage public issues with that level of tactical analysis.

Whatever the reason, the voice of Archbishop Viganò has become influential among a broad swath of Catholics, who are now hearing from the archbishop that an ecumenical council should be rejected. Viganò is speaking more frequently, and more boldly. Whether the pope, and the Holy See, will decide that now is the time to say a “single word,” or more, remains to be seen.


Cardinal Dolan: Amid statue toppling, let's avoid a cultural revolution

CNA Staff, Jul 1, 2020 / 11:22 am (CNA).- Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York wrote Sunday that the destruction of monuments is detrimental to the knowledge of history, and warned against a 'cultural revolution' like that of China under Mao Zedong.

“God forbid we’d go through a cultural revolution as China did five decades ago. Beware those who want to purify memories and present a tidy – and inaccurate – history,” the cardinal wrote in a June 28 opinion piece at the Wall Street Journal.

China's Cultural Revolution of 1966-76 sought to eradicate traditional elements from Chinese society, particularly old customs, old culture, old habits, and old ideas.

“And who’s to say which statues, portraits, books and dedications are spared,” the cardinal asked. "Remember when some objected to raising the status of the Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday to a national holiday, citing his self-admitted flaws?”

Many public monuments have been the focus of vandalism or have been thrown down in recent weeks.

Long-controversial statues of Confederate leaders were toppled in some localities, as were statues of George Washington, Christopher Columbus, and Ulysses S. Grant. At least two statues of St. Junipero Serra were knocked down by rioters in California, and a statue of St. Louis has been protested against.

The cardinal recalled the story of a parishioner who opposed his dedication of a new parish to Saint Peter, citing the first pope's three-fold denial of Christ.

“Knowing her and what parish she was from, I wrote back, ‘But you’re a proud parishioner at St. Mary Magdalene Church. She was sure not a paragon of virtue for a chunk of her life. Yet, by God’s grace, she became a radiant, inspirational saint. If we can’t name churches after sinners, the only titles we’d have left would be Jesus and His Mother!’”

He noted that the same is true “of America's historical personalities,” adding that “all of them had flaws, yet all of them still contributed a lot of good to our nation’s progress.”

He said toppling statues and vandalizing monuments is comparable to book burning.

“Our children need to know their country’s past, its normative figures and their virtues and vices. That’s how we learn and pass on our story,” he said.

He suggested that there is no “more effective way to comprehend America's history of racism” than by reading Huckleberry Finn or the short stories of Flannery O'Connor.

“My own mom kept a photo of her parents hanging on the wall of our house. Her dad, my grandfather, was an abusive drunk who abandoned his family. I’m glad we got to know of him, the good and the bad,” Cardinal Dolan wrote.

He reflected that “if we only honor perfect, saintly people of the past, I guess I’m left with only the cross. And some people would ban that.”

Having studied American Church history, he said that “as a historian … I want to remember the good and the bad, and recall with gratitude how even people who have an undeniable dark side can let light prevail and leave the world better.”

“I want to keep bringing classes of schoolchildren to view such monuments, and to explain to them how even such giants in our history had crimes, unjust acts and plain poor judgment mixed in with the good we honor.”

What the SCOTUS decision on anti-trafficking rules means for pro-life policies 

CNA Staff, Jul 1, 2020 / 09:00 am (CNA).- The Supreme Court is deciding major life and religious freedom cases this term, but one less-recognized ruling could impact billions of dollars in U.S. foreign aid.   

In USAID v. Alliance for Open Society International, the court ruled on Monday in a 5-3 decision that foreign entities of international humanitarian organizations do not have free speech rights.

As a result, U.S. foreign aid to these groups can be conditioned on them taking certain stances, including anti-prostitution and anti-trafficking positions. Other requirements -- such as that foreign non-governmental organizations (NGO) not promote abortion -- can also be levied, the court found.

The case of Open Society focused on an anti-prostitution and anti-sex trafficking pledge required by U.S. law for all groups participating in PEPFAR, the massive President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief program, begun in 2003, and largely administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) inserted an amendment to the law that created PEPFAR. As a condition for receiving U.S. assistance to fight AIDS and other diseases, organizations would have to take anti-human trafficking and anti-prostitution pledges.

Smith, in his floor remarks around the time of the bill’s passage, explained why: Many AIDS victims are also trafficking victims, he said.

“The issue that is before us today is whether or not we will provide money to organizations that seek the legalization of prostitution and also enable the traffickers, and stand side by side with the traffickers and, regrettably, enable them to enslave these women, whether or not we will provide the money to them,” he said.

In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that the anti-prostitution requirement was an unconstitutional violation of free speech when applied to domestic organizations. However, on Monday, the issue before the Court was whether those same protections extended to foreign affiliates of domestic organizations, with potential knock-on effects for life issues.

Many non-governmental organizations such as March for Life U.S., March for Life Canada, and March for Life Ireland, might share similar branding but are separate organizations with separate funding streams.

Pro-life groups were concerned that had the court ruled the other way, finding that foriegn NGOs had free speech protections, it would affect other government requirements, such as the Mexico City Policy, which mandates that foreign NGOs receiving U.S. funding do not promote or perform abortions.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh—who acknowledged in oral arguments the possibility that the impending decision could be applied to the Mexico City Policy—wrote the opinion of the court in Monday’s decision.

“In sum, plaintiffs’ foreign affiliates are foreign organizations, and foreign organizations operating abroad possess no rights under the U. S. Constitution,” he said.

The Leadership Act which created PEPFAR, he said, has helped save 17 million lives and “is widely viewed as the most successful American foreign aid program since the Marshall Plan.”

Smith called the decision “a major victory in the struggle against HIV, for human rights and the fight against sex trafficking.”

“Who we fund—not just what—matters a great deal,” he said.

Santiago de Compostela Cathedral reopens to pilgrims

Rome Newsroom, Jul 1, 2020 / 08:00 am (CNA).- Pilgrims can walk the Camino de Santiago once again as the pilgrimage’s destination, the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, reopened its doors Wednesday.

The cathedral, pilgrim welcome center, and public hostels along the Spanish pilgrimage route reopened on July 1 following a more than three-month closure due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Masses resumed at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela for up to 75 people at a time to facilitate social distancing requirements. The tomb of St. James the Apostle is now open for veneration from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day, however the traditional embrace of the statue of St. James has been prohibited.

The July 1 reopening coincided with the European Union’s decision to allow tourists to visit its 27 member states from 14 countries, including Canada, Australia, and South Korea, but excluding the United States. 

The Camino de Santiago, or “Way of St. James,” is an ancient pilgrimage route that typically draws hundreds of thousands of international pilgrims each year. The “camino” consists of a network for trails across Europe leading to the tomb of St. James in Spain. 

St. James, the brother of John the Evangelist, was the first apostle to be martyred. He was beheaded by order of Herod of Agrippa. He is the patron saint of pilgrims and of Spain.

Pilgrims have been making the journey to Santiago de Compostela for more than a thousand years to commemorate the life and sacrifice of the apostle. Although it is a religious pilgrimage, many non-believers also have made the trek.

To complete the Camino de Santiago officially pilgrims are required to complete at least 100 kilometers, or about 62 miles. The most popular route begins in France and crosses into Spain. 

The Santiago Cathedral museum has also reopened and offers tours of the cathedral’s 16th-century cloisters. 

Benedict XVI’s brother Georg Ratzinger has died 

Rome Newsroom, Jul 1, 2020 / 04:30 am (CNA).- Benedict XVI’s older brother Georg Ratzinger died Wednesday, just a little more than one week after the pope emeritus' visit.

Msgr. Georg Ratzinger died in Bavaria at the age of 96 on July 1.

The pope emeritus was able to say a last goodbye to his older brother on June 22 at the end of a four-day trip to Germany to spend time with his ailing brother.

“One can only wish everyone such affection, such a fraternal togetherness, as witnessed in the relationship of the Ratzinger brothers. It lives on fidelity, trust, selflessness and a solid foundation: in the case of the Ratzinger brothers, this is the common, living faith in Christ, the Son of God,” Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg said June 22.

Voderholzer said that the Eucharist was offered every day at Georg’s bedside during Benedict’s visit. The bishop said that when he participated in the Mass with the two brothers he felt that this “is the source upon which they live.”

Msgr. Ratzinger was born in Bavaria on January 15, 1924 as the first son of Joseph and Maria Ratzinger. He expressed an early talent for music, learning to play the violin and the church organ as a child.

He went on to serve as the choir master of the Regensburger Domspatzen, the cathedral choir of Regensburg, from 1964 to 1994.

On June 29, 2011, he celebrated his 60th anniversary as a priest in Rome together with his brother. Both men were ordained priests in 1951.

Pope Francis praying for Polish Catholics seeking Vatican intervention on clerical abuse

Vatican City, Jul 1, 2020 / 04:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis is praying for a group of lay people who appealed to him to crack down on clerical abuse in Poland, the Vatican said Tuesday.

More than 600 people took out a full-page advertisement in the Italian daily newspaper La Repubblica on Monday, June 29, urging the pope to intervene in the growing abuse crisis in the country.

Matteo Bruni, director of the Holy See Press Office, told journalists June 30: “The Holy Father is informed of the appeal. He is praying for those who sent it. The entire Church must do everything possible so that the canonical norms are applied, cases of abuse are brought to light and those guilty of these serious crimes are punished.” 

In March 2019, the Polish bishops’ conference issued a report which concluded that 382 clergy sexually abused a total of 624 victims between 1990 and 2018.

The appeal, published in Italian, was headlined “Holy Father, rebuild our Church! We are begging you!”

It continued: “Please look with care at the Church in Poland where there have been cases of pedophilia, and loyalty to the institution is blind and deaf -- more important than the victims.”

“The lack of a decisive reaction by the ecclesiastical hierarchy to the reports of reprehensible behavior attributed to some bishops is a cause of public scandal and is detrimental to the Church’s well-being.”

“It affects her unity, because it divides us into those who are concerned about the image of the institution and those who care about the well-being of the victims.”

The advertisement concluded by urging the Vatican and Pope Francis to intervene in order to “heal the wounds” in the Polish Church.

The initiative came days after Pope Francis appointed an apostolic administrator to take charge of a Polish diocese whose bishop is under investigation over his handling of an abuse case.

The Vatican announced June 25 that the pope had named Archbishop Grzegorz Ryś of Łódź to oversee the Diocese of Kalisz in central Poland, following accusations that the local ordinary, Bishop Edward Janiak, failed to take action against an alleged clerical abuser.

The newspaper advertisement encouraged readers to visit the lay group’s website,, which can be translated as “Enough injustices.”

The website cites the cases of two bishops, Archbishop Sławoj Leszek Głódź and Bishop Jan Tyrawa, who it claims were reported to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Congregation for Bishops. It says that the Vatican congregations took no action against the bishops.

Głódź, who has served as archbishop of Gdańsk since 2008, was portrayed as indifferent to clerical abuse in the documentary Tell No One, which has been viewed almost 24 million times on YouTube since its release last year.

The documentary accused Tyrawa, the bishop of Bydgoszcz since 2004, of mishandling the case of Paweł Kania, who was dismissed from the clerical state in 2019.

A note on the group’s website explains that its members are drawn from various Polish dioceses, including those of Gdańsk,  Poznań, Warsaw, Wrocław, Kraków, Gniezno, and Kalisz. 

“We come from different environments and backgrounds, from various parishes and religious communities, but there is one thing that connects us – our faith in Jesus Christ. Many of us work in our parishes, evangelizing and helping people in need,” the note says.

Analysis: What’s next for the Supreme Court and abortion?

Washington D.C., Jul 1, 2020 / 03:01 am (CNA).- Monday’s ruling in June Medical Services v. Russo came as a major letdown for the pro-life movement in the U.S., dashing hopes that the Supreme Court would use the opportunity to strike at the foundation of legalized abortion in the country.

But the Louisiana law being questioned in the June Medical Services case was just one of several hundred abortion restrictions that have been passed at the state level in recent years.

Numerous other state laws are working their way through the court system, and any one of them could arrive at the Supreme Court in the coming months, paving the way for another major ruling.

Here are three cases for pro-life observers to watch:

Ohio’s ban on aborting babies with Down syndrome

Several states have recently enacted laws banning abortion on the grounds of sex, race, or disability of the baby. Last year, the Supreme Court avoided ruling on the issue, which was among the provisions of a challenged Indiana law. The court upheld a regulation requiring aborted babies to be aborted or cremated, but declined to make a decision on the remainder of the law, saying the topic had not yet received adequate consideration at the appellate level.

Further appellate court consideration of such laws could come out of Ohio, where a 2017 law banning abortions based on a Down syndrome diagnosis is currently being challenged. The law was quickly blocked from taking effect, and a panel of judges from the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the injunction in October 2019. In a rare move, however, the full appellate court then agreed to rehear the case. Arguments were heard in March, and a ruling has not yet been issued.

Attorneys defending the Ohio law say it operates within the framework established by Roe v. Wade and subsequent cases, because the state has a compelling interest in protecting the Down syndrome population from discrimination and elimination. Those challenging the law disagree. The losing party will likely appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, setting up a chance for the high court to rule on the issue of “eugenic abortions.”

Texas’ law prohibiting D&E abortions

A few states have also banned Dilation and Evacuation (D&E) abortions, sometimes known as “dismemberment abortion,” a method of abortion which is most commonly performed in the second trimester.

In November 2017, a federal district court blocked a Texas ban on D&E abortions, saying it was unconstitutional because it placed an “undue burden” on a woman’s “right to an abortion.” Texas appealed, and the case went before the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

In May 2019, the appeals court announced that it would not issue a decision in the case until the Supreme Court had ruled in June Medical Services. With that ruling now delivered, the Fifth Circuit can move forward with a decision in the Texas case, considering whether the logic of Monday’s ruling is applicable to the D&E ban.

Heartbeat abortion bans

The Supreme Court has declined several times in the last five years to hear cases involving laws which ban abortion after a baby’s heartbeat is detectable – often around six weeks into pregnancy. But if the court were to consider one of these laws, which a handful of states passed last year, it could be among the most significant rulings handed down in this generation.

While pro-life laws are often crafted to fit within the structure of state regulatory authority established by Roe v. Wade and other decisions, heartbeat bans openly defy Roe v. Wade, meaning a court challenge to one of these laws could set the stage for Roe itself to be reconsidered. Supporters of these laws are hopeful that one will arrive before a favorable Supreme Court, which will use the opportunity to overturn the 1973 case that established a nationwide “right to abortion.”

While stricter bills offer greater protection for unborn babies, they are also more difficult to defend in court. When Mississippi recently saw both a 15-week ban and a six-week ban struck down, the state’s attorney general said she wants to focus on appealing the 15-week ban, which may have a higher chance of success than the six-week ban.

Commentary: Ordination amid coronavirus - A call for humility and courage

Vatican City, Jun 30, 2020 / 08:40 pm (CNA).- Last Saturday, June 27, many churches witnessed the ordinations of dozens of priests and deacons, in ceremonies that were far from typical. Even while some parts of the world “reopen” after the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, social distancing was required, and cameras provided live streaming so that family, friends and loved ones could participate by TV, tablet or smartphone.
On this occasion, I had the joy and honour of ordaining, in the Gesù Church in Rome, two Jesuit priests and eighteen deacons from all over the world—from Italy, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Ukraine, and Austria to Rwanda-Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, China, Bangladesh and India—wearing masks and connecting online with parents, relatives, friends and fellow Jesuits. Physical presence was not possible as Italy slowly recovers from this health crisis; the borders are still closed and travel restrictions are still in place.

The following reflections expand upon the homily I pronounced just before the ordination of these twenty candidates for the priesthood and the diaconate.

Breath of life

As a priest or deacon “to be”, you may feel a bit incomplete because you cannot share this very important moment with your loved ones. You might feel anxious, too: we’re living in the unknown and in unchartered territories for the Church, for all of us. And as you prepare yourself for ordination, you might ask: what does this mean for me, right now and right here?

Perhaps the answer can be found on Easter evening, when the apostles had locked themselves into the upper room for fear of what was happening "outside". (Even nowadays, our Church sometimes feels fearful and closed in on itself.) Suddenly Jesus becomes visible, audible, tangible among them. “Shalom!” is his first word, “Peace be with you!” He shows them his wounded hands and pierced side. These permanent signs of his Passion proclaim and prove God's tenacious love. And then, amazingly, Jesus sends them out into the same world they were so afraid of.

How does he do this? With this tremendous gesture: he breathes on them. Just like in the beginning: God breathed his breath of life into Adam. By breathing on his disciples and giving them his Spirit, Jesus lifts them to a new order. That is, he ordains them as heralds of the Gospel "to the ends of the earth", as it says in the book of Acts.

You are about to receive this deep and generous and transforming breath of life, the Spirit of the Father and the Son. You will be able to say, repeating Isaiah, "the spirit of the Lord is upon me", to heal and to comfort, to liberate and to reconcile, to raise up and make glad. And to be a herald of the Gospel, a minister of reconciliation and of liberation, in the world of today and tomorrow, where everything seems to be constantly and rapidly new.

With your ordination just moments away, let me remind you that we are all witnessing a bigger moment now, where the whole Church and your family and friends, are encouraging you to choose the uphill path of the "new" rather than the downhill path of the "safe".

Renewal is nothing new

Our Church has a long history and, from the beginning, it has coped with new conditions, for instance through its Councils. Vatican II proclaimed that the Church must consciously embrace the world. We must discern and "scrutinize the signs of the times". But while discernment is part of the Jesuit life, style and training, it is not exclusively Jesuit property, nor is it a prerogative of the ordained.

Why is this so? Because of baptism. According to Vatican II, every member of the Church enjoys the dignity of having been baptized and therefore shares in the mission and ministry of the Church. Ordained ministry does not exhaust or monopolize this ministry, for it is the Church as a whole that is "ministerial" and “missionary”. All its members share in that responsibility. This expands the role of the laity — a work in progress, according to many engaged Christians. Today’s ministers are ordained to foster the active inclusion of God’s people in the life, mission and responsibilities of the Church.

Vatican II embraces the world as the privileged place of announcing the Good News. In doing so, it restores its priests to the world, inviting them to leave the comfort zones called “sacristies” where, like the disciples on the first Easter evening, they had been shut in for fear of what was happening “outside”. Now the world, with its problems and struggles, with its contradictions and its values, with its opportunities and obstacles, is essential to the service of those who will be ordained today.

The courage of witness

Do not expect a map of the unknown land ahead to which you are being sent. It is a daunting prospect to enter uncharted territories. As I said earlier, ministers of the Church need to have the courage of witness, to choose the uphill path of the "new" and not to take the downhill path of the "safe". May you always have friends and family and companions in the Church to constantly ‘en-courage’ you, even if they can only be with you in spirit.

Keep in mind that discerning the meaning of Christ’s call to us today is a task of the whole Church, not of a chosen few. Don’t try to dominate or own this discernment; instead, accompany others and put yourselves at the service of the discernment of the whole Church.

In doing so, you will be participating in the synodal practice that is gradually growing in the Church. Let us try to walk together with ever greater enthusiasm. Your huge contribution depends on looking honestly and listening sincerely, without thinking that you already have the best answer or all the answers. Try to draw on many people and listen to many voices. However small or large your network is, you will find that it requires both humility and courage to recognize that one cannot do everything on one's own.

Don’t expect it to be easy, don’t expect it to be without controversy, don’t expect to be rewarded, don’t expect to be liked by others, don’t expect that the critics will acknowledge your difficult struggles, don’t expect quick success. But be confident that you won’t be alone if you let others walk with you.

This is something to pray for, today and always. Ask God to help us see the world as Jesus does, especially in this very difficult time.

The Covid-19 pandemic is showing us the complexity and contradictions of our social and economic systems, where the gap between wealth and poverty is growing out of all proportion, and where so many feel abandoned and thrown away, excluded and unwanted.

Would Jesus not weep for the refugees and migrants who do not receive medical attention because they are "foreigners", many of them crowded into irregular settlements, who have lost what little they already had and live today in despair? Would Jesus not see the indigenous peoples who are discriminated against for food aid, the prisoners who have been abandoned to the mercies of the virus, and the more than 3 billion poor people worldwide?

I cannot imagine Jesus waiting in an upper room or a sacristy; he would urge us to join him in the margins of the margins, where the courage of life and hope is most needed.

May we enlighten the world with the truth of the Gospel, and propose effective and genial solutions, not just to the present emergency, but to the enormous sufferings of God’s people and of our common home.
Pope Francis speaks often of joy: “The Joy of the Gospel” (Evangelii gaudium) and “Rejoice and be Glad” (Gaudete et exsultate) and “The Joy of Love” (Amoris laetitia). May you experience abundant grace, consolation and joy in carrying out the charge that you are about to accept in your ordination. Peace be with you!


Cardinal Michael Czerny, as a member of the Jesuit community, has worked in Canada, Latin America, Africa, and Rome, in the service of faith and the promotion of justice. Since 2017, he has been Under-Secretary of the Vatican’s Migrants and Refugees Section. In 2019 Pope Francis elevated him to cardinal. Card. Czerny is also a member of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.