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Pittsburgh group calls for same-sex blessings 

A September 2015 gathering of the Association of Pittsburgh Priests. Credit: APP via Facebook.

Pittsburgh, Pa., Jun 17, 2021 / 20:19 pm (CNA).

An organization based in Pittsburgh has called on Bishop David Zubik to reject a March note from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith regarding blessings for same-sex couples, and has asked him to offer blessings to those who identify as LGBT. 

The Association of Pittsburgh Priests, a group composed of “ordained and non-ordained women and men,” released a statement on the matter June 14. 

“Our Catholic faith and tradition compel us to respect and honor the faith journeys of LGBTQ people,” the group, which claims some 300 members, wrote. 

“We know that those who enter into committed relationships do so out of love which is divinely inspired and supported.”

In March, the CDF clarified that the Catholic Church does not have the power to bless same-sex unions.

In answer to the question: “does the Church have the power to give the blessing to unions of persons of the same sex,” the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith responded, “negative.”

The Pittsburgh organization called the CDF’s statement “pastorally unacceptable and insensitive to the loving, committed relationships of many members of the body of Christ.”

The group called on Pope Francis and the Vatican to “reconsider” the March statement and pledged to “find pastoral ways to affirm and bless all LGBT people, whether they are single or in a committed relationship.” 

In connection with the statement, the group sent a letter to Bishop Zubik on Monday requesting his “blessing on the ministries to LGBTQ people and their families here in our own diocese,” the Post-Gazette reported. 

The CDF stated in its March note that “it is not licit to impart a blessing on relationships, or partnerships, even stable, that involve sexual activity outside of marriage (i.e., outside the indissoluble union of a man and a woman open in itself to the transmission of life), as is the case of the unions between persons of the same sex.”

The ruling and note, which were met with resistance from some Catholics, were approved for publication by Pope Francis. 

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

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

Barbara Finch, a spokeswoman for the Association of Pittsburgh Priests, told CNA in an email that the group, as a body, does not have plans to bless same-sex unions at this time. However, she said the group’s plans “would not eliminate the possibility that individuals within the group would prophetically choose to do so.”

“We do not believe that to be homosexual is sinful and committed relationships should have the opportunity to have there [sic] unions blessed,” Finch wrote to CNA.  

When asked if the group considers extramarital sexual activity sinful, Finch responded: “It is a wonderment why homosexual sexual activity is always scrutinized as being sinful and heterosexual sexual activity not as much.”

Despite the group’s explicit support for women’s ordination and blessings for same-sex relationships, Finch asserted that the group is in “good standing” with the Church. 

Finch said the diocese has, in recent years, “made small efforts to work with us simply because we are some of the most pastorally active in the Church.” She asserted that the diocese has several times “tried to have us change our name.”

In a statement to local media, the Diocese of Pittsburgh said the Association of Pittsburgh Priests “is not affiliated with the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh,” and added that the diocese “has nothing further to add to the statement from the Vatican issued on March 15, 2021.” 

The diocese did not respond to further questions about the group’s standing. 

The Association of Pittsburgh Priests says it is “is a diocesan-wide organization of ordained and non-ordained women and men who act on our baptismal call to be priests and prophets.  Our mission, rooted in the Gospel and the Spirit of Vatican II, is to carry out a ministry of justice and renewal in ourselves, the Church and the world.”

Finch said while the Pittsburgh group is independent, they have been “in dialogue” with an Irish organization called the Association of Catholic Priests, a group whose constitution places a special emphasis on “the primacy of the individual conscience” and “a redesigning of Ministry in the Church, in order to incorporate the gifts, wisdom and expertise of the entire faith community, male and female.”

The Irish organization’s founder, Redemptorist Fr. Tony Flannery, has been barred from public ministry for his views on the priesthood and sexuality. The CDF last September asked the 73-year-old to affirm four Catholic doctrinal propositions as a condition of returning to ministry, which he refused to do.

‘Overjoyed’ foster moms react to Supreme Court ruling in their favor 

Sharonell Fulton / Becket

Washington D.C., Jun 17, 2021 / 19:00 pm (CNA).

The foster moms at the center of the Supreme Court case Fulton v. City of Philadelphia celebrated the high court unanimously siding with them on Thursday. 

The Supreme Court ruled 9-0 in favor of the foster moms and Catholic Social Services in their lawsuit against the city of Philadelphia. The court found that the city violated the group’s free exercise of religion when it stopped contracting with them in 2018; the group had refused to certify same-sex couples as foster parents because of their Catholic beliefs on marriage.

Chief Justice John Roberts authored the majority decision of the court, joined by Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett. Justice Samuel Alito filed a concurring opinion, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch. Gorsuch also filed a concurring opinion, joined by Thomas and Alito, and Barrett also filed a concurring opinion, joined by Kavanaugh, and Breyer - in part.

In a statement on Thursday, foster mom and plaintiff Sharonell Fulton said she was “overjoyed that the Supreme Court recognized the important work of Catholic Social Services and has allowed me to continue fostering children most in need of a loving home.” 

“My faith is what drives me to care for foster children here in Philadelphia and I thank God the Supreme Court believes that’s a good thing, worthy of protection,” Fulton said.

“Our foster-care ministry in Philadelphia is vital to solving the foster care crisis and Catholic Social Services is a cornerstone of that ministry,” said Toni Simms-Busch, also a foster mom and named plaintiff in the case. “The Supreme Court’s decision ensure the most vulnerable children in the City of Brotherly Love have every opportunity to find loving homes.”

Philadelphia Archbishop Nelson Perez told reporters on a press call Thursday that the ruling is “a crystal clear affirmation of First Amendment rights for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and all charitable ministries in the United States who are inspired by their faith to serve the most vulnerable among us.”

“Today’s ruling allows our ministries to continue serving those in need, for foster families to find an agency that shares and reflects their faith, and for foster children to find a loving home,” Perez said.

The city of Philadelphia had argued that the Catholic Social Services policy constituted discrimination, and violated its nondiscrimination ordinance. In 2018, it said it would no longer work with the agency. As the city oversees all foster care placements, the work of the agency drastically diminished as the case proceeded in the courts, lawyers for Catholic Social Services argued. 

The high court on Thursday found that the decision violated the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. The city had a nondiscrimination policy and granted individual exemptions to the policy, the court majority ruled; thus, they needed a "compelling reason" to not exempt Catholic Social Services for religious reasons.

Legal expert Ryan Anderson, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, told CNA that while the majority decision is not perfect, “A 9-0 win at the Supreme Court is not something to take lightly.” 

“Yes, the holding was likely narrower than it would have been had it been decided 5-4 or 6-3,” Anderson said, also noting that other questions remain “as far as the extent of the Constitutional protections for Americans who believe marriage unites husband and wife.”

“Still, the Court ruled unanimously in favor of the free exercise of Catholic Social Services of Philadelphia," he said. "It ruled unanimously against the religious bigotry of the city of Philadelphia."

“This is a big win for religious liberty and for all Americans who support the truth about marriage.”

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion that “CSS seeks only an accommodation that will allow it to continue serving the children of Philadelphia in a manner consistent with its religious beliefs; it does not seek to impose those beliefs on anyone else.”

He added that the city’s demand the agency certify same-sex couples “cannot survive strict scrutiny, and violates the First Amendment.”

Diana Cortes, city solicitor for Philadelphia, said in a statement that the decision is “a difficult and disappointing setback for foster care youth and the foster parents who work so hard to support them.”   

“Allowing contractors and partners to set their own terms for how they provide public services will create a confusing patchwork in government programs and will weaken government non-discrimination guarantees,” Cortes said. 

Leslie Cooper, deputy director of the ACLU LGBTQ & HIV Project, argued in a statement that the court ruling was narrower than religious freedom advocates wanted, and “did not recognize a license to discriminate based on religious beliefs.”

Supporters of Catholic Social Services said that abiding by the Church’s teachings on marriage does not constitute discrimination.  

Catholic Charities USA on Thursday welcomed the court’s ruling.

“In their history, Catholic Charities agencies have enjoyed a cooperative partnership with government to work for the common good. Such cooperation has been predicated on valuing diverse perspectives and mutual respect. Hopefully, we will continue to work together to serve all people with dignity and respect,” the organization stated.

Kristen Waggoner, general counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, said in a statement, “Every child in need of a forever home deserves the chance to be adopted or cared for by a foster family.” 

“That’s what it means to keep kids first,” Waggoner said. “The Supreme Court’s decision today allows that to continue happening. The government can’t single out people of certain beliefs to punish, sideline, or discriminate against them. We’re grateful for the good decision today consistent with that principle."

US bishops debate extensively a motion to draft a teaching document on the Eucharist

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Washington D.C., Jun 17, 2021 / 16:59 pm (CNA).

U.S. bishops held extensive debate on Thursday before voting on whether to draft a teaching document on the Eucharist, at their annual spring meeting held virtually this week.

Although the text of a proposed Eucharistic document has not yet been drafted, a proposed outline was provided by the bishops’ doctrine committee in advance of the U.S. bishops’ meeting this week. The document, if approved, would explain the Church’s Eucharistic teaching on a number of points, including the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, the importance of Sunday as a holy day, and the need for Catholics to live out the Church’s teaching in their lives after receiving Communion.

A parliamentary move to lift time limits on the bishops’ debate failed on Wednesday; that proposal would have granted speaking time to any bishop who wished. Nevertheless, conference president Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles on Thursday allowed for bishops to speak in the normal five-minute time slots long after their meeting was scheduled to wrap up.

Bishops supporting the vote to draft a document on the Eucharist cited the need for providing clarity and catechesis on the matter, citing polls showing a lack of belief in the Real Presence among Catholics. They argued that all Catholics – including Catholic politicians – must be aware of the Church’s teaching on worthiness to receive Communion.

Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, chair of the doctrine committee which proposed drafting the document, explained the committee’s reasoning behind the proposal June 17.

Saying the document was the “subject of misunderstanding and even mischaracterization,” he said that bishops had been concerned about a “downward trend” in Mass attendance and a decline in faith among Catholics, coupled with a widespread move to “spiritual communion” and virtual Masses during the recent pandemic.

“We are all concerned about the faithful’s absence from parish life,” he said, warning that many Catholics might not return to Mass in the coming months. Rhoades cited surveys to make his point. According to a 2019 report by the Pew Research Center, only 31% of Catholics surveyed said they believed in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

While the document does address worthiness to receive Communion, he said, it is not meant to be about one individual or one particularly bad action, but rather a “heightened” awareness of the need for Catholics to be conformed to the Eucharist.

Other bishops opposed the move to draft such a document. Some argued that in addressing worthiness to receive Communion – especially among pro-abortion Catholic politicians – the bishops would be seen as partisan actors.

Citing the current “political rancor,” Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento argued against drafting a document including a section on worthiness to receive Communion.

Archbishop Paul Etienne of Seattle expressed concern that the Eucharist, the “source of our life and charity and unity is now enmeshed in a conversation about politics, and that’s a very difficult place for us to be.”

Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington – Biden’s ordinary in the nation’s capital – expressed the need for unity and in-person dialogue.

“The choice before us at this moment, is either we pursue a path of strengthening unity among ourselves, or settle for creating a document that may not bring unity, but may well further damage it,” he said.

Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago argued that it would be obvious the document would be referring to particular Catholic politicians and their worthiness to receive Communion.

“I don’t know how we get around that, if we pass on this document,” he said.

Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego said that such a document would be divisive because it would be seen as political in stating the Church’s teaching on worthiness to receive Communion, especially among Catholics in public life.

“We will invite all of the political animosities that so tragically divide our nation” into the Mass, he said, which would then become a “sign of division.”

Yet some bishops disputed that a document outlining Church teaching would bring about disunity.

Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas said he was “somewhat amused” by those bishops who warned the conference was “rushing” into such a debate.

Worthiness to receive Communion is not just about abortion, he said, as politicians supporting other grave evils such as human trafficking or racism could also be unworthy to receive.

“It’s really some of our public officials” who prompted the debate about Communion by approaching the altar rail while supporting policies contrary to Church teaching, he said, not the bishops themselves.

 “Those who advocate for abortion no longer talk in the language of choice. They talk about it as a right,” he said, noting Biden’s support for taxpayer-funded abortion.

“We’re calling everybody to integrity, including those in public life,” he said.

Bishop Thomas Daly of Spokane said that "we can't have unity if we're not rooted in truth."

He responded to bishops’ calls to wait on considering the document until they can dialogue with each other and with politicians.

“This call for dialogue: sometimes I wonder if the dialogue is meant not truly to listen, but to delay,” he said.

“All of us want what’s best for the people we serve,” he said, pointing to the “salvation of the souls.”

Bishop James Wall of Gallup stressed the need for clarity from the bishops on the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist.

“I just make a plea on behalf of a poorer diocese,” he said.

“We rely upon the work of the conference,” he said, noting that a teaching document would be “very helpful to me, to my priests, to religious, to the lay faithful.”

“If the world really understood” the Real Presence, he said, bishops could double all Masses at parishes and still not have enough room for attendees.

Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler stressed the need for a connection between confession and Communion.

Supreme Court again upholds Affordable Care Act

Rena Schild/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Jun 17, 2021 / 14:30 pm (CNA).

The Supreme Court once again upheld the Affordable Care Act, in a 7-2 ruling against the latest challenge to the law on Thursday.

In the majority opinion authored by Justice Stephen Breyer, the court ruled that the state of Texas, in leading the case against the Affordable Care Act, “failed to show a concrete, particularized injury fairly traceable to the defendants’ conduct in enforcing the specific statutory provision they attack as unconstitutional.”

“They have failed to show that they have standing to attack as unconstitutional the Act’s minimum essential coverage provision,” Breyer wrote. The court vacated the Fifth Circuit’s judgment on standing, and remanded the case to the circuit court to dismiss. 

Breyer was joined in his opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Amy Coney Barrett, Elena Kagan, Brett Kavanaugh, Sonia Sotomayor, and Clarence Thomas. Additionally, Thomas filed a concurring opinion. 

Justice Samuel Alito wrote the dissenting opinion, and was joined by Justice Neil Gorsuch. 

In the case, the Supreme Court was asked to decide if the Affordable Care Act should be struck down if its “individual mandate” was effectively nullified by Congress in 2017. In 2017, Congress changed the penalty for not complying with the mandate to $0. 

The mandate that every American have health insurance – or face a financial penalty – was seen as critical to the law’s implementation and guarantee of affordable health coverage for all. While the fine was reduced to nothing, the language of the individual mandate remained in the law. 

Texas, along with more than a dozen other states, sued, claiming that the mandate was unconstitutional without a fine to enforce it - and was also not severable from the rest of the law. Thus, Texas argued that the law must be thrown out as well. California and other states eventually intervened to defend the law’s constitutionality.

President Joe Biden (D), who was vice president when the law was passed, called the ruling on Thursday, “a big win for the American people,” and encouraged people to “sign up for quality, affordable health care.” 

“With millions of people relying on the Affordable Care Act for coverage, it remains, as ever, a BFD,” said Biden, referring to his hot-mic comment in 2010 that the bill was a “big [expletive] deal.”

Thursday’s ruling marks the third time the Supreme Court has upheld the Affordable Care Act as constitutional. 

In 2012, Chief Justice John Roberts authored the majority opinion that upheld the constitutionality of the law’s individual mandate. The Court ruled that the mandate’s penalty for non-compliance was a tax, and thus a lawful requirement of Congress to make on Americans.

Three years later, in 2015, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in the case King v. Burwell that the law’s subsidies and tax credits could be made available to people who purchased health insurance coverage on a federal, rather than a state, exchange. 

The U.S. bishops’ conference supported the law’s goal of expanded health coverage, but ultimately opposed its passage for several reasons, including that it “makes new and disturbing changes in federal policy on abortion and conscience rights.” The conference warned about funding of abortions in subsidized health plans under the law. 

Included in the law was a mandate for preventive services, which the Obama administration eventually interpreted to include the full range of FDA-approved contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortifacients. That mandate for employer coverage was challenged in court by Catholic dioceses and the Little Sisters of the Poor, who won their second Supreme Court case regarding the mandate last July.

Lay advisor urges U.S. bishops to reconcile with all Catholics over clergy abuse

Members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops pray at their fall meeting in Baltimore, Maryland on Nov. 11, 2019 / Christine Rousselle/CNA

Washington D.C., Jun 17, 2021 / 12:32 pm (CNA).

In responding to clergy sex abuse, U.S. bishops must expand their reconciliation efforts to include not only victim survivors, but all Catholics affected by the abuse crisis, the head of a lay advisory body to the U.S. bishops’ conference said on Thursday.

Suzanne Healy, chair of the National Review Board (NRB) - a lay advisory group to the U.S. bishops on protecting minors from abuse – addressed the U.S. bishops at their virtual spring meeting on Thursday.

“Since 2018 and 2019, there has been increased focus and expansion on responding to victim survivors by Church ministers,” Healy said, alluding to the recent revelations of abuse and misconduct by former cardinal Theodore McCarrick and by other bishops.

“But we must evolve in our response to reach the community of people in the pews, the people who have left the pews, and those who have yet to fill the pews, as well as the clergy who have suffered for the past failing of their brother clerics and have been devastated by the crisis,” she said.

The bishops are meeting for their annual spring meeting from June 16-18. They heard addresses from conference president Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles on Wednesday, as well as from the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Christoph Pierre.

On Thursday, the bishops are scheduled to vote on approval of two causes of canonization, as well as on authorizing the creation of a statement on Native American ministry and a teaching document on the Eucharist. They will also vote to approve a pastoral statement on marriage ministry.

The National Review Board was constituted by the U.S. bishops’ conference (USCCB) in 2002, after widespread revelations of the sexual abuse of minors by clerics that spanned decades and which occurred around the country. The board advises the USCCB Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People.

In her address to the bishops on Thursday, Healy said that the historic nature of most recent allegations of clergy sex abuse – allegations that date back decades – is evidence that recent abuse prevention standards are working.

Healy said that an annual audit from the compliance auditor StoneBridge revealed that 4,250 abuse allegations were reported in the year 2020 – and that most allegations were several decades old.

“This large number gives the appearance that nothing has changed in the Catholic Church, and we know that isn’t true,” she said, pointing to the age of most of the allegations. In the current year, 22 allegations have been reported – less than 1% of the previous year’s total – she said, adding that “of course, one is too many.”

Audits are conducted annually to ensure compliance among dioceses and eparchies with the 2002 Dallas Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People – drafted by the U.S. bishops as a response to the abuse crisis of the time.

Healy urged the bishops to strengthen abuse prevention, accountability, and transparency efforts.

Publishing lists of clerics with substantial abuse allegations - including diocesan, religious, or eparchal clergy – is just one way to tell survivors “we hear you,” she told bishops.

“We have a long way to go to be as transparent as possible in this area,” she said. “The NRB encourages you to look at such lists as exemplary models of transparency.”

She requested that all dioceses implement a formal parish audit program for child protection as “good risk-management,” noting that 35% of U.S. dioceses have yet to do so.

“We have not reached our commitment to the [Dallas] Charter until we have 100% participation from all dioceses and eparchies,” she said.

Bishop Mark Brennan of Wheeling-Charleston affirmed the importance of parish audits in the comment session following Healy’s address. He pushed for the audits to be conducted on-site, citing his previous experience as a pastor.

“That’s really where you find out what is going on, and we need to know what is going on, on the ground,” he said.

The review board also recommended audits of the bishop abuse reporting service, the national third-party reporting system for allegations of abuse, neglect, or misconduct made against bishops in the U.S. which launched in March 2020. The allegations are fielded and forwarded to the metropolitan archbishop, where they are assessed.

While praising implementation of the reporting service, Healy recommended it be audited as well “to ensure all matters are being handled according to proper standards.”

Regarding the McCarrick Report, which was published in November 2020, she noted its revelations of “systemic reporting failures,” “manipulation by offenders,” “instituting fraternal correction,” and “the handling of anonymous reports.”

 

She stated that the review board did not support the “metropolitan model” of Vos Estis, the process by which accusations against bishops are sent to their metropolitans. Yet, she added, “we are grateful that in the case of McCarrick, the process initiated by the Archdiocese of New York worked. What we have in place works.”

Update: US bishops vote in favor of advancing two causes of canonization

Fr. Joseph Lafleur, whose cause of canonization is one of those that will be considered at the USCCB Spring General Assembly, June 17, 2021. Credit: Andrepont Printing.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 17, 2021 / 10:44 am (CNA).

The US bishops voted Thursday that they consider it opportune to advance two causes of canonization, for Father Joseph Verbis Lafleur, a World War II military chaplain, and for Marinus (Leonard) LaRue, a merchant mariner who became a Benedictine monk.

Both causes were regarded as opportune by 99 percent of voting bishops in June 17 votes at the USCCB spring general assembly.

“It was something I would have never thought would have happened in my lifetime,” said Carrol Lafleur, the wife of Father Lafleur’s nephew, Richard. “I had always hoped that my children would have gotten to see it. But for Richard and I [sic] to actually see it, see it in progress, and to have people want to know about Fr. Lafleur is just beyond words.”

Fr. Lafleur is most remembered for his heroic service during World War II.

He  was born Jan. 24, 1912 in Ville Platte, Louisiana. During his summer breaks from Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, Lafleur would spend his time teaching catechism and first communicants.

He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Lafayette April 2, 1938 and requested to be a military chaplain, just before the outbreak of the Second World War. Initially, his request was denied, but when the priest asked a second time, it was granted. 

Carrol told CNA Fr. Lafleur wished to accompany the drafted men who had no choice but to fight in the war. 

He was deployed to the Philippines, and spent two and a half years as a prisoner of war of the Japanese.

“Fr. Lafleur did a lot of work in the prison camps as well,” said nephew Richard Lafleur. “He gave his own food when they were starving to death.”

Richard Lafleur told CNA that men in the camps with Fr. Lafleur testified that his character caused the conversion of about 200 men to Catholicism while in the prison camp.

Fr. Lafleur earned the Distinguished Service Cross for Valor, and he ended up on a ship with other Japanese POWs that was torpedoed, unwittingly, by an American submarine that did not realize the ship was carrying POWs. 

He was last seen Sept. 7, 1944 helping men out of the hull of the sinking ship, for which he posthumously earned a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star, and a second Distinguished Service Cross for his acts as a POW.

Of the hundreds of prisoners on the ship, 82 survived, according to Fr. Lafleur’s nephew. Each surviving man came back to the United States telling stories about Fr. Lafleur’s heroic actions of leadership, sacrifice, and courage amid the prisoners’ conditions. 

Fr. Lafleur’s body was never found, but a shrine and monument exist at St. Landry Catholic Church, where he grew up. Each year Mass is celebrated in honor of his life around the date of his death. 

Bishop Douglas Deshotel of Lafayette opened Fr. Lafleur’s cause for canonization Sept. 5, 2020.

Fr. Lafleur was recognized in a keynote to the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC, on June 6, 2017, by Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the military archdiocese, who said: “He was a man for others right to the end… Father Lafleur responded to his POW situation with creative courage. He drew on his virtue to care for, protect, and fortify the men imprisoned with him.”

“Many survived because he was a man of virtue who gave unstintingly of himself. To speak of the greatness of our country is to speak of men and women of virtue who gave of themselves for the benefit of all. We build for a new tomorrow when we draw from that wellspring of virtue.”

Brother Marinus LaRue was also involved in military efforts during an American war. 

Born Jan. 14, 1914, LaRue attended the Pennsylvania Nautical School. After his graduation in 1934, he served as the U.S. Merchant Marine Captain of the SS Meredith Victory during the Korean War. 

LaRue was tasked with delivering military supplies to a port in Hungnam, North Korea, where hundreds of thousands of soldiers and refugees were searching for safety from advancing communist forces.

Arriving before Christmas, LaRue came to discover the multitudes of people who were awaiting help. LaRue chose to unload almost all of the ship’s weapons and supplies, in order to provide space for as many refugees as possible on the ship. 

The USS Meredith Victory, which was designed to serve around 50 passengers, sailed away from the coast with approximately 14,000 refugees.

Father Pawel Tomczyk, postulator for LaRue’s the canonization cause said, “the fact that he was able to rescue so many without losing a single life” was inspiring. 

LaRue later discerned a religious vocation and entered St. Paul’s Benedictine Abbey in Newton, New Jersey in 1954, taking the name Brother Marinus in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Brother Marinus lived a humble life, dishwashing, working in a gift shop, and serving his brother monks. 

“This is the uniqueness of this cause in that he was one man but almost had two lives,” Fr. Tomczyk told CNA. “He combines the two vocations: One as a lay person, as a successful captain of a ship, and then the latter part of his life as a religious monk-as a Benedictine, a man of prayer and simplicity.”

Brother Marinus died Oct. 14, 2001. Bishop Arthur Serratelli of Paterson issued a decree opening Brother Marinus’ cause March 25, 20

A Eucharistic document: What the USCCB will be debating and voting on today

Alexey Gotovsky/CNA

Washington D.C., Jun 17, 2021 / 10:30 am (CNA).

On Thursday afternoon, the U.S. bishops are scheduled to debate and vote to begin drafting a teaching document on the Eucharist.

As the bishops meet for their annual spring general assembly, held virtually this year from June 16-18, they will consider whether the conference’s doctrine committee can begin drafting “a formal statement on the meaning of the Eucharist in the life of the Church.”

Although some bishops have warned against moving ahead with such a document due to its mention of Communion for Catholic pro-abortion politicians, the proposed outline of the document reveals a broad, comprehensive treatment of the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist.

The doctrine committee’s proposed outline covers teachings including the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, a “recovery of understanding the Eucharist as sacrifice,” “the importance of Sunday as a day of obligation,” the need for beautiful liturgies, Catholics living as a “Eucharistic people” in daily life, the Eucharist as a “call to conversion,” and the importance of practicing the works of mercy.

Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend – chair of the USCCB doctrine committee – explained on Wednesday that the proposed Eucharistic document is the fruit of the bishops’ three-year strategic plan “Created Anew by the Body and Blood of Christ, Source of Our Healing and Hope,” approved in November 2020.

The three main sections of the outline draw from Pope Benedict XVI’s 2007 apostolic exhortation Sacramentum caritatis, that followed the 2005 Synod on the Eucharist. In that document, Benedict described the Eucharist as a mystery to be “believed,” “celebrated,” and “lived.” The three main sections of the USCCB document outline list these three aspects of the Eucharist.

Both Bishop Rhoades and Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington on Wednesday said that the proposed document came about for multiple reasons – a chief one being a decline of belief in the Real Presence among Catholics.

The proposed document “isn’t anything brand new,” Bishop Burbidge said on Wednesday, at a press conference following the USCCB proceedings. “It’s what the Church has always taught in the Eucharist.”

The document would aim to reignite “a sense of Eucharistic wonder and awe that in many ways may need to be revitalized,” he said.

Rhoades cited a “convergence” of events that triggered the proposal for the document on the Eucharist, pointing to a poll showing a decline in Catholics’ belief in the Real Presence.

The document would be meant to “help to reignite that faith” and help catechize the faithful on the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist. “But it has to be the whole truth,” he emphasized.

General worthiness to receive Communion – “Eucharistic consistency” – is included as a sub-section in the document outline; the problem of Catholic politicians supporting policies contrary to Church teaching is also mentioned in the introductory note.

The topic of “Eucharistic consistency” was mentioned years ago, both Benedict XVI and by the Latin American bishops (including then-Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio) in their 2007 Aparecida document, the bishops noted.

“Consequently, Catholic politicians and legislators, conscious of their grave responsibility before society, must feel particularly bound, on the basis of a properly formed conscience, to introduce and support laws inspired by values grounded in human nature. There is an objective connection here with the Eucharist,” Benedict wrote in Sacramentum caritatis.

“Bishops are bound to reaffirm constantly these values as part of their responsibility to the flock entrusted to them,” he added.

Bishop Rhoades on Wednesday explained that although worthiness to receive Communion is just one part of the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist, it is an essential one.

“We want to talk about the whole truth about the Eucharist, and how can you do so without talking about the importance of living what we receive, and being in communion with the faith of the Church?” he said.

“That’s Eucharistic consistency. So, I think we can’t do a full treatment of the Eucharist without talking about that, or teaching about that,” he said.

Yet some bishops have warned against the document’s treatment of who may receive Communion, pushing for an outright delay on drafting the document and arguing that it required an in-person deliberation among the bishops.

In May, some bishops wrote to the president of the USCCB, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, asking that the planned debate and vote on the Eucharistic document be postponed until the bishops can meet in-person. The letter was led by Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago.

Archbishop Gomez in response said that the discussion would proceed as originally planned.

Again, on Wednesday some bishops moved to delay consideration of the document, this time by proposing to remove time limits on discussion of the document and arguing that all bishops who want to speak should be allowed to do so.

“We owe this to our people,” said Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski of St. Louis, who introduced the motion. Cardinal Cupich – who originally called for a delay on debate of the Eucharistic document in his May letter to Gomez – on Wednesday supported Rozanski’s motion to allow for unlimited debate.

Other bishops, such as Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas and Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City, noted that the motion to remove time limits was essentially a “delaying tactic” and a “filibuster” on moving ahead with a Eucharistic document.

Thursday’s vote is merely to begin drafting a document, they argued, and the bishops will have the opportunity later on to debate the document’s text once it is approved and written.

Supreme Court sides unanimously with Catholic Social Services in religious freedom case

Steven Frame/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Jun 17, 2021 / 09:17 am (CNA).

The Supreme Court on Thursday decided unanimously in favor of Catholic Social Services in its lawsuit against the city of Philadelphia, ruling that the city violated the group’s free exercise of religion. 

The city in 2018 had stopped partnering with the agency in its foster-care program, since Catholic Social Services [CSS] would not certify same-sex couples as foster parents on religious grounds.

In the majority ruling, the high court found that “The refusal of Philadelphia to contract with CSS for the provision of foster care services unless CSS agrees to certify same-sex couples as foster parents violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.”

“CSS seeks only an accommodation that will allow it to continue serving the children of Philadelphia in a manner consistent with its religious beliefs; it does not seek to impose those beliefs on anyone else,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion. 

“The refusal of Philadelphia to contract with CSS for the provision of foster care services unless it agrees to certify same-sex couples as foster parents cannot survive strict scrutiny, and violates the First Amendment,” he added. 

According to Becket, a religious liberty law firm representing the foster moms and Catholic Social Services in the case, 29 other foster care agencies in Philadelphia work with LGBTQ couples, and three of those agencies are certified by the Human Rights Campaign for their excellent service to LGBTQ families. The firm also said that Catholic Social Services had not turned away any same-sex couples before the city ended the contracts. 

In a tweet, Becket stated on Thursday, “This is a huge victory for heroic foster moms and for #religiousfreedom. It ensures that religious groups like Catholic Social Services—who serve kids regardless of their race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation—can continue their great work.”

Roberts’ majority opinion was joined by Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett. Justice Samuel Alito filed a concurring opinion, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch. Gorsuch also filed a concurring opinion, joined by Thomas and Alito, and Barrett also filed a concurring opinion, joined by Kavanaugh, and Breyer - in part.

The case - Fulton v. City of Philadelphia - concerns the largest city in Pennsylvania ending its foster care contracts with Catholic Social Services because the faith-based agency said it would not certify same-sex couples to be foster parents; the agency’s policy was religious, due to the Church’s teachings on marriage and family. The agency also does not certify unmarried couples as foster parents, regardless of their sexual orientation. 

The city argued that the policy constituted discrimination according to its nondiscrimination ordinance, and would no longer work with the group. 

Two foster mothers who worked with the agency - Sharonell Fulton and Toni Simms-Busch - sued Philadelphia, arguing that in ending the contracts the city violated the agency’s First Amendment right to religious freedom. 

A spokesperson for the city of Philadelphia did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNA. 

Catholics and religious freedom advocates praised the decision on Thursday.

“Today's decision prohibits government sanctioned discrimination against religious adoption and foster care agencies because of their beliefs about marriage,” stated Ashley McGuire, senior fellow with The Catholic Association. “Those efforts are rooted in an anti-Catholic bigotry that refuses to tolerate pluralistic views and beliefs.”

“For more than two centuries, Catholic agencies have successfully placed the most at-risk kids in loving, forever homes. Today, the Supreme Court rightly affirmed that the Constitution guarantees faith-based agencies freedom from government harassment and discrimination because of their religious beliefs about marriage,” stated Brian Burch, president of CatholicVote.

Other pro-LGBT activists criticized the ruling.

In a statement, Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy group, said the decision “does not negate the fact that every qualified family is valid and worthy—children deserve a loving, caring, committed home.” 

One legal expert said the ruling was significant for religious freedom.

Professor Richard Garnett, a First Amendment expert, said the ruling "will have significant impact."

"It is striking, and telling, that the Court's more liberal justices joined the Court's decision," Garnett noted. "Today's ruling illustrates that respect for religious freedom should not be a partisan, or left-right issue.  All nine justices agree that, when a rule targets religious practices for disapproval, or singles our religious exercise for burdens, it is highly suspect."

This story was updated on June 17.

Pro-life group files complaint with Small Business Administration over Planned Parenthood PPP loan

Glynnis Jones/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Jun 17, 2021 / 09:01 am (CNA).

A pro-life group recently filed a complaint with the U.S. Small Business Administration, alleging that a regional Planned Parenthood affiliate “unlawfully obtained” emergency loans during the pandemic.

In the complaint filed by New Hampshire Right to Life last week, the group said the Planned Parenthood of Northern New England received a $2,717,300 loan from the Paycheck Protection Program. They cited data from the administration showing the affiliate was approved for a PPP loan of that amount in April 2020.

Jason Hennessey, president of New Hampshire Right to Life, said in a statement that “Taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize or pay for abortions.” 

“The SBA has already determined that the Planned Parenthood affiliate structure is such that it was unlawful to apply for the PPP funds; therefore, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England should return the taxpayer funds,” Hennessey said. 

A spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNA. 

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was set up under a pandemic relief bill passed by Congress in March 2020, the CARES Act, and has been administered by the Small Business Administration. It was established to provide emergency loans to small businesses and eligible non-profits to keep employees on payroll; the loans could be forgiven provided certain conditions were met.

The loans were intended for businesses and non-profits with fewer than 500 employees. Planned Parenthood argued last year that its affiliates were individual non-profits with their own leadership structure, and thus would qualify as eligible small non-profits. 

Critics, including Republican senators, argued the affiliates are all part of a broader umbrella organization, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America - and thus the entire organization would be too large to receive the emergency loans. 

The Small Business Administration appeared to make that case multiple times. In one letter, the administration asked a Planned Parenthood affiliate in Delaware to return a loan it had received under the program. In another letter obtained by NPR last year, the administration told Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, Inc. that it was “ineligible” for the loan it received given its relationship to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. 

Last month, the office of Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), the ranking member of the Senate Small Business Committee, said the SBA did not respond to its inquiry as to why Planned Parenthood affiliates were continuing to receive PPP loans.

It was reported in May 2020 that Planned Parenthood affiliates had received $80 million in emergency loans under the Paycheck Protection Program. In recent months, data released by the SBA showed that two Planned Parenthood affiliates in Pennsylvania and New York were approved for loans on April 21 and April 27. 

Planned Parenthood Keystone, in Warminster, Pennsylvania, was approved for a PPP loan in the amount of $853,975 on April 21. On April 27, Planned Parenthood of Greater New York, Inc. in New York City was approved for a PPP loan of $10 million - the maximum loan amount under the program

Kentucky attorney general argues he can defend pro-life law in court

Daniel Cameron, Attorney General of Kentucky. Credit: Kentucky Office of the Attorney General.

Washington D.C., Jun 16, 2021 / 17:19 pm (CNA).

Kentucky’s Attorney General Daniel Cameron filed a brief on Monday in support of his ability to defend his state’s law banning dilation and evacuation abortions, as the issue heads to the Supreme Court. 

Cameron filed the brief June 14 for the case Cameron v. EMW Women’s Surgical Center. Unlike other cases relating to abortion, this does not concern the legality of the Kentucky law. Rather, it concerns who is permitted to defend the law in court. 

The US Supreme Court agreed in March to consider the case.

Cameron is a Republican. Kentucky’s current governor, Andy Beshear, is a Democrat who does not support the law. 

In 2018, Kentucky’s then-governor Matt Bevin, a Republican, signed into law a bill which banned the use of dilation and evacuation abortions. The bill was quickly challenged by an abortion clinic, EMW Women’s Surgical Center, and a federal judge agreed that the law was unconstitutional. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals also found the bill to be unconstitutional. 

In 2019, Bevin lost in his re-election bid to Beshear. Beshear and the state’s health secretary declined to challenge the Sixth Circuit’s decision, but the newly-elected attorney general, Cameron, moved to intervene to defend the law. 

The Sixth Circuit denied Cameron’s request to reconsider the law, and he then appealed to the Supreme Court saying that as the attorney general he had the right to defend the law, even when other state officials did not wish to do so. 

Susan B. Anthony List expressed their happiness with Cameron’s brief.

“We are proud to stand with Attorney General Cameron as he fights for the right to defend Kentucky’s pro-life laws and values, all the way to the Supreme Court,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony List. 

“Time and time again, science reveals the humanity of unborn children – including their capacity to feel pain, with pain receptors beginning to develop at seven and a half weeks. Kentucky lawmakers acted on the will of the people in banning the barbaric live dismemberment of tiny babies at a stage when they already possess fully formed arms, legs, fingers and toes, passing this legislation by overwhelming bipartisan majorities.”

Dannenfelser noted that the efforts to pass pro-life laws is not unique to Kentucky, saying, “Across the nation, momentum to humanize our extreme abortion laws is on the rise, with state legislators enacting 89 new pro-life laws and counting this year alone.”