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Doctor says Boston gender clinic mutilates and sterilizes children

null / Ink Drop/Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 15, 2022 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

Controversy erupted last week when news of Boston Children’s Hospital’s Gender Clinic for kids took over social media, prompting outrage over the hospital’s “first of its kind” program to facilitate sex-changes for children in the form of hormone treatments and irreversible surgeries.  

According to the hospital’s website, Boston Children’s Center for Gender Surgery offers a “full suite of treatment options” for children and teens to “transfer seamlessly” into transition surgeries, including double mastectomies for children as young as 15 and sterilizing genital surgeries for teens. The program has seen over 1,000 patients, as young as 3 years old. 

Pediatricians are condemning the program, which comes on the heels of news that youth gender clinics around the world are closing and changing guidance due to evidence that transition procedures harm, rather than help, children with gender dysphoria.

Dr. Michelle Cretella, a Catholic pediatrician and a member of the Catholic Medical Association (CMA), the largest association of Catholic physicians across the U.S., condemned Boston’s gender program in a statement to CNA.

“These surgeries do not treat mental illness nor prevent suicide,” Cretella said in a statement, “[but] they do mutilate and permanently sterilize children who have no capacity to assess let alone consent to such life-changing interventions.”

The procedures Boston Children’s Hospital conducts on transgender children and teens include breast augmentation, chest reconstruction, “facial harmonization,” a surgical procedure that modifies the face to appear more feminine or masculine, and surgical techniques to raise or lower a child’s voice to match how they identify.  

The hospital also performs genital surgeries that are known to carry a high risk of complications for teens. Boston’s initial guidance said these surgeries could be performed on minors 17 years of age, then updated its guidance to say 18, after the story broke. 

These include metoidioplasty and phalloplasty – the surgical creation of a penis using existing genital tissue or flaps of skin  – and vaginoplasty, the surgical creation of a vagina.

These procedures are described by surgeons and physicians at Boston Children’s Hospital in a series of YouTube videos that the hospital put out to market the procedures they offer. 

Phalloplasty, as the hospital describes, is a 12-hour surgery conducted on girls seeking to transition into boys. A girl who undergoes phalloplasty must first have a hysterectomy. Then skin is “harvested” to construct a penis from another place on her body, such as the thigh or forearm. The “vagina may also be removed” and the surgeon grafts the new “penis” into place. On average, it takes a patient 12 to 18 months to heal from a phalloplasty. 

Likewise, vaginoplasty is performed on boys seeking to transition into girls, which requires inverting the penis into a vagina which Boston Children’s acknowledges requires a significant recovery time and a “lifetime” of upkeep. Boys who undergo vaginoplasties initially have to use a catheter to urinate, the webpage states, and will need to dilate their “vagina multiple times a day to keep it open,” for the rest of their life. 

Cretella describes these surgeries as “horrors.”

“It is only a matter of time before the physicians who perform these mutilating surgeries on children, and the hospitals that employ them, are bombarded by patient and whistleblower lawsuits. This is ultimately what shined a light on the horrors of Tavistock and led to its being shut down,” she said.

The Tavistock clinic in the UK was closed as a result of an independent review earlier this year, after  complaints made by whistleblowers, patients, and their families – including 25-year-old Keira Bell, who brought a high court case against the clinic for prescribing her cross-sex hormones and facilitating her sex-transition. 

"It is ironic that Boston Children's Hospital's announcement should come about now. Just 2 weeks ago Tavistock Clinic in the UK, the world's largest children's gender clinic, was shut down due to risk of harm from transgender interventions,” she added.

When CNA reached out to Tavistock, a representative said the clinic was not yet aware of Boston Hospital’s new program and therefore had no comment, but explained that Tavistock clinic was shutting down because there was a need for a new model of gender care that is more “holistic.” 

A public relations representative from Boston Children’s Hospital repeatedly told CNA over the phone that the hospital had “no comment” on its gender program, “no comment” to critics who highlight the dangers of surgical sex-changes on children, and “no comment” about Tavistock closing.

‘The Atlantic’ publishes article on the rosary as symbol of far-right, violent extremism

null / CNA

Washington D.C., Aug 15, 2022 / 16:06 pm (CNA).

An article published Sunday in The Atlantic magazine suggests the rosary has become a symbol of violent, right-wing extremism in the United States.

The article set off a frenzy of reactions among Catholics, ranging from amusement to grave concern over what some see as anti-Catholic sentiment.  

The magazine later changed the article’s headline from "How the Rosary Became an Extremist Symbol" to "How Extremist Gun Culture is Trying to Co-Opt the Rosary." Among other edits to the text, an image of bullet holes forming the shape of rosary was replaced with a picture of a rosary. 

The graphic shows changes made to the article by editors of 'The Atlantic' after publication.
The graphic shows changes made to the article by editors of 'The Atlantic' after publication.

These editorial changes, nonetheless, left the article’s thesis that there is a connection between the rosary and extremism intact. The author's contention was based, in part, on his observations about the use of the rosary on social media and rosaries sold online.

“The rosary has acquired a militaristic meaning for radical-traditional (or “rad trad”) Catholics,” writes Daniel Panneton of the sacramental used in prayer by Catholics for centuries. 

“Militia culture, a fetishism of Western civilization, and masculinist anxieties have become mainstays of the far right in the U.S.—and rad-trad Catholics have now taken up residence in this company,” writes Panneton, whose article includes three links to Roman Catholic Gear, an online shop that sells rosaries.

He describes photos of rosary beads “made of cartridge casings, and complete with gun-metal-finish crucifixes,” along with warrior-themed memes and content catering to survivalists.

The Catholic reaction

Asked to comment on the article, Robert P. George, professor of political theory at Princeton University and former chairman of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), told CNA:

"It looks to me like the guy who is politicizing the rosary and treating it as a weapon in the culture war is … Daniel Panneton. I know nothing about the guy other than what he says in the article. I hadn’t heard of him before. Although it’s hard to miss the classic anti-Catholic tropes in the piece, perhaps he isn’t actually a bigot. Maybe he just overwrought and needs to take an aspirin or two and lie down for a while."

Chad Pecknold, theology professor at Catholic University of America, told CNA the publication of the article points to a "theo-political" conflict in the culture.

"The politically elite core in left-liberal media hate Western civilization and they mean to topple every natural and supernatural sign of it. That’s why it’s not sufficient to simply run a piece on right-wing gun cultures, but they must tie it to something which is theologically central to the civilization they feel most threatens their progressive ziggurat. It’s a sign of the theo-political conflict which now grips us; even still, they severely underestimate the power of Our Lady to reign victorious over evil," Pecknold said.

Fr. Pius Pietrzyk, OP, a Dominican priest of the Province of St. Joseph, told CNA, "The article is a long-running stream of inaccuracies, logical fallacies, and distortions."

The author, he said, fails to understand that "the notion of 'spiritual combat' has been with the Church from time immemorial.  Recall that a traditional view of Confirmation is that it made one a 'soldier for Christ.'"

"The problem is that The Atlantic does not seem to understand what metaphor means.  In no wise, does the notion of rosary as 'combat' imply physical violence," Pietrzyk added.

On Twitter, Fr. Aquinas Guilbeau, OP, responded to the article with a photo of white-robed two friars wearing their traditional rosary beads around their waists. “ WARNING: The image below contains rosaries,” read the caption.

Novelist and essayist Walter Kirn commented that The Atlantic article itself serves as an example of “extremism.”

Eduard Habsburg, Hungary's Ambassador to the Holy See, responded by conceding the rosary is indeed a weapon —  used for centuries against evil:

Catholic beliefs seen as extreme

Panneton makes it clear in his article that it’s not just about the rosary.

In the course of his argument, he refers to Catholic beliefs as evidence of “extremism.”

He sees extreme views on masculinity in the Catholic faith. He writes: “The militarism also glorifies a warrior mentality and notions of manliness and male strength. This conflation of the masculine and the military is rooted in wider anxieties about Catholic manhood.”

“But among radical-traditional Catholic men, such concerns take an extremist turn, rooted in fantasies of violently defending one’s family and church from marauders,” he continues.

The Church’s defense of the right to life of the unborn is also evidence of ties to right-wing extremists, according to Panneton.

 “The convergence within Christian nationalism is cemented in common causes such as hostility toward abortion-rights advocates,” he writes.

Pietrzyk, the Dominican priest interviewed by CNA said, "The author takes what are basic Catholic positions on the nature of the Church, Christian morality, and the like, and posit that they are somehow 'extremist.'  This is classic misdirection."

The rosary, a “weapon” of choice for centuries 

The rosary, first promoted by the Dominican Order by the 16th century, is a form of prayer based on meditations on the life of Christ. The beads are a tool to help keep track of prayers that are recited before and the meditations.

Since 1571, popes have urged Catholics to pray the rosary. In doing so they have often employed military terms for these prayer “weapons.”  In 1893, Pope Leo XIII saw the rosary as an antidote to the evils of inequality born of the Industrial Revolution, and during World War II Pius XI urged the faithful to pray it in hopes that “the enemies of the divine name (...) may be finally bent and led to penance and return to the straight path, trusting to the care and protection of Mary.”

More recently, Pope St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis have recommended the rosary as a powerful spiritual tool.

Online conference to examine ‘proclamation of the kingdom’

Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.

Denver Newsroom, Aug 13, 2022 / 15:30 pm (CNA).

“The Proclamation of the Kingdom” is an online conference being held later this month to discuss evangelization and the great commission to teach and baptize all nations.

The Aug. 20 conference is being presented by the Dialogos Institute, which studies the heritage of the Fathers of the Church in the context of both Latin and Byzantine Thomism.

Presentations will be given by Eduard Habsburg, Roy Schoeman, Derya Little, and Joshua Charles.

“There is a crisis in the zeal of the faithful to preach the Gospel,” Alan Fimister, director of the Dialogos Institute, told CNA. “The necessity of faith in Christ is questioned, as if a mere natural virtue could save us, and the duty to evangelise certain groups is either limited or denied altogether. The need to proclaim the kingdom not only to man as an individual but to man as a citizen and as the member of a family is ignored. Yet the mission to proclaim the kingdom to all nations is constitutive of the Catholic Church and is tied to the end of history and the destiny of the human race.”

He pointed to the statement in Lumen gentium, the Second Vatican Council’s dogmatic constitution on the Church, that “at the end of time [the Church] will gloriously achieve completion, when, as is read in the Fathers, all the just, from Adam and 'from Abel, the just one, to the last of the elect,' will be gathered together with the Father in the universal Church."

“The Proclamation of the Kingdom,” Fimister said, “seeks to bear witness to these truths in a time of confusion.”

Habsburg, Hungary’s ambassador to the Holy See and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, will open the conference speaking on Blessed Karl of Austria and the universality of Christendom.

Schoeman, author of “Salvation is from the Jews” and a convert from Judaism, will discuss the evangelization of the Jews, anti-semitism, and the coming of the Messiah.

Little, who was raised a Muslim in Turkey and authored “From Islam to Christ,” will present about the mission to Islam.

She will discuss both past missions to Muslim territories, she told CNA, and “where the Catholic Church is as far as Muslim missions are concerned now.”

St. Francis of Assisi will be a particular focus for Little. It is often thought “that he just went on a mission of peace to visit the sultan, whereas he went there with the intention of converting Muslims, completely prepared to be a martyr,” she explained.

Little will also discuss personal experiences, the contemporary situation in Muslim countries, and misunderstandings of passages in the documents of the Second Vatican Council, particularly in Nostra aetate, its declaration on the relation of the Church to non-Christian religions.

Despite persecution in Middle Eastern countries, “we should be able to find a way to fill fulfill the Great Commission,” she reflected. 

Charles, a former speechwriter for Mike Pence and a convert, will speak on “The Mystery of the Restrainer and the Great Apostasy.”

Registration for the conference includes access to the live presentations, chat in the virtual classroom one can submit questions, and on-demand access to recordings of the talks.

Who was Joan of Arc?: Answers to your questions about this heroic saint  

Joan of Arc depicted on horseback in an illustration from a 1504 manuscript. / Wiki Commons

Denver Newsroom, Aug 13, 2022 / 11:09 am (CNA).

Visited by St. Michael the Archangel and commissioned by God at the age of 13 to lead the army of France and bring an end to the bloodiest war in European history up to that point, Joan of Arc seems more legend than history. 

Here are some of the questions people ask about the Maid of Orléans:

Who was Joan of Arc and what did she do? When and where did she live?

Joan of Arc was a young French peasant, born in 1412, 90 years into the Hundred Years’ War, in the small village of Domremy in eastern France. Destined to save the French from English incursion, she was burnt at the stake in 1431 at the age of 19 after a corrupt Church trial found her guilty of heresy. The trial would later be nullified by the Church and 500 years later, in 1920, Joan of Arc was declared a saint by Pope Benedict XV.

Did Joan of Arc hear voices? 

At the age of 13, Joan of Arc had locutions — an interior, mystical phenomenon that involves hearing a divine voice — and reportedly heard the voices of St. Michael the Archangel, St. Margaret of Antioch, and St. Catherine of Alexandria. These three informed her of a special mission given her by God to crown the rightful king of France and thereby end the dynastic dispute that undergirded the Hundred Years’ War. 

Along the way, she convinced lords, soldiers, and the French heir to the throne, Charles VII, of her mission. After a lengthy interrogation, she was given charge of the army and successfully lifted the siege of Orléans — on which the fate of the entire war hung — and then freed several towns along the route to crowning Charles VII in the cathedral of Rheims.

Is the story of Joan of Arc a true story?

The story of Joan of Arc is true and historically documented. For this reason, she is among the most famous heroines of history. The task given her by God was so exceptional that it would lead atheist Mark Twain, who wrote a book on her life, to earnestly but exaggeratedly call her “by far the most extraordinary person the human race has ever produced.”

Was Joan of Arc a knight? 

Joan of Arc was neither a knight nor a trained soldier, but when she mounted a horse for the first time she was so natural on it that the Duke of Lorraine gifted it to her

Who were Joan of Arc's parents?

Joan of Arc’s parents were simple peasants, Jacque d’Arc and Isabel Romée. They were farmers and owned sheep, which Joan of Arc tended in her youth.

Did Joan of Arc have any siblings? Does she have any living descendants?

Joan of Arc had three brothers named Jacquemin, Pierre, and Jean, and one sister, Catherine. Both Pierre and Jean accompanied Joan in her quest and fought alongside her. 

While Joan of Arc did not have descendants, her entire family was elevated to nobility after Charles VII was crowned, and her village dispensed from paying taxes for three hundred years by the crown. 

What was Joan of Arc's nickname?

Joan of Arc’s nickname was “La Pucelle” or the Maid, in reference to an old French prophecy that held that a virgin from Lorraine would save the people of France after an immoral woman, later held to be Isabella of Bavaria, jeopardized the crown. 

Could Joan of Arc read and write?

Joan of Arc could neither read nor write, and she did not know how to wield a sword before she began her mission. This makes her military success, where hardened commanders failed, even more extraordinary — an act of God as the people saw it. 

One of the three earliest paintings of St. Joan of Arc, dated to 1450, from the Archives Nationales in France. Wiki Commons
One of the three earliest paintings of St. Joan of Arc, dated to 1450, from the Archives Nationales in France. Wiki Commons

How did Joan of Arc die? 

Joan of Arc was executed by the Catholic Church after a sham trial condemned her of relapsed heresy. The trial was conducted by Church authorities sympathetic to the English, who hoped to see her claims of heavenly assistance to end the war with a French king on the throne discredited. Convicted of heresy, she was taken to the stake to be burned, at which point, under penalty of death, she signed a paper renouncing her visions and agreeing never to wear men’s clothing. Four days later, Joan of Arc confessed to being afraid of her death, said that the visions were true, and donned men’s clothing once again, all of which constituted her supposed relapse to heresy. She was burned at the stake, clutching a crucifix to her body and proclaiming the name “Jesus” as she died, prompting an onlooker to say, “We have burned a saint.”

Where is Joan of Arc buried?

Joan of Arc’s body was incinerated at the stake, but her heart remained intact after her execution. The soldiers threw the heart in the Seine River so that no one would be able to venerate her remains.

What did Joan of Arc look like?

Joan of Arc scholar Regine Pernoud noted that Joan of Arc was barely over five feet tall, based upon a robe ordered for Joan during her imprisonment by the Duke of Orléans.

How did Joan of Arc change the world and become a saint?

Joan of Arc was not canonized for her ability to free the French from English domination, but for her heroic dedication to the will of God and personal holiness. While Joan commanded the army of France, she drove prostitutes from camp, refused to allow soldiers to rape and pillage the towns that gave them entrance, encouraged confession before battle, and sharply reduced the cussing and oath-swearing of the men under her charge. 

She remained committed to a life of contemplation and prayer amid the battles she oversaw, never once lifting her sword against anyone save to chase out a prostitute. Her faith and insights became evident at her trial, forming the foundation of several summaries of theology in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and her confidence in Jesus and the Catholic Church remained unshaken, even after being wrongly condemned to death by the Church. 

What is Joan of Arc the patron saint of?

Joan of Arc is the patron saint of France, soldiers, prisoners, those in need of courage, those ridiculed for their faith, and youth, among other things. 

When is Joan of Arc's feast day?

Joan of Arc’s feast day is May 30. 

Will these African Americans be canonized?

null / Courtesy National Catholic Register.

Denver Newsroom, Aug 13, 2022 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Among the many Black men and women who have been declared saints in the Catholic Church, not one of them — yet — has been American. But that does not mean there aren’t numerous good candidates for the first African American saint in the Church’s history. 

Here are just a few of them. The men and women featured here are the subjects of a documentary, “A Place at the Table: African Americans on the Path to Sainthood,” set to air on EWTN on Aug. 20, 2022 at 8 p.m. EST. 

Venerable Pierre Toussaint

Toussaint was brought to New York from Haiti as a slave by his masters, the Bérard family. After the death of Mr. Bérard, Toussaint supported Mrs. Bérard financially out of Christian charity until she remarried.

He became a hairdresser at about the age of 20, while still enslaved by the Bérard family, and catered to New York’s high society. He was highly regarded for his professional abilities, but more importantly, because he would always listen to the problems of his clients with profound empathy, and with a supernatural perspective.

He and his wife Juliette—who had her own business—amassed significant wealth, but also gave generously, especially to Catholic ministries related to orphans. He was one of the main fundraisers for Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton’s orphanage in New York, even though at the time it only served white children.

Toussaint was also a generous donor to the Oblate Sisters of Providence—the first community of black religious—and supported their orphanage.

In 1991, Cardinal John O'Connor began the process for his beatification, and had Toussaint's body exhumed and reinterred in St. Patrick's Cathedral. He became the first layman to be buried in the crypt below the main altar.

In 1996, Toussaint was declared Venerable by St. John Paul II. He is the only layperson to be buried at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. 

Servant of God Mary Lange

Elizabeth Clarisse Lange was of African descent and born in Santiago de Cuba. In the early 1800s, Lange migrated to the United States from Cuba, and settled in Baltimore, Maryland, a popular landing spot for other French-speaking Catholic Haitian refugees at the time. She arrived in the U.S. well-educated and with some money to her name, indicating that her parents were also educated and well-off.

Sharon Knecht, external coordinator for her canonization, noted that Lange faced fourfold difficulties: She was an immigrant in a nativist society, a woman in a patriarchal society, a Catholic in an anti-Catholic society, and Black in a largely racist society.

Lange was living in Baltimore by 1813, and soon after realized that the children of her fellow refugees were in desperate need of education, something that was hard to come by for black children in antebellum America. 

Together with a friend, Marie Magdelaine Balas, Lange began offering free education to children of color from her home. In 1829, Lange founded not only the school but also a religious order of sisters for women of color. Lange and three other women took their first vows as Oblate Sisters of Providence. Lange, who became the superior of the order, took the religious name of Mary, and became known as Mother Mary Lange.

The school founded by the sisters, St. Frances Academy, is the oldest, continuously running school for black Catholics in the United States, and remains open today. By 1860, all children of color attending Catholic school in Baltimore were educated in schools run by the Oblate Sisters.

During her lifetime, Lange and her sisters not only educated children of color, but they housed orphans and vulnerable elderly, and took in extra washing and mending and begged on the streets to support those in their care. In 1832, the sisters also cared for the terminally ill during the cholera epidemic. After the Civil War, the sisters cared for dozens of black orphans who were living in Baltimore. 

On February 3, 1882, after a long life of service to others, Mother Mary Lange died. Her sainthood cause was opened in 1991. 

Venerable Henriette DeLille

Henriette DeLille was born in 1812 to a wealthy French father and a free Creole woman of Spanish, French, and African descent. Henriette was groomed throughout her childhood to become a part of the plaçage system, whereby free women of color entered into common law marriages with wealthy white plantation owners. But Henriette declared that her religious convictions could not be reconciled with the plaçage lifestyle for which she was being prepared. Raised Catholic, she believed that the plaçage system violated Church teaching on the sanctity of marriage.

Working as a teacher since the age of 14, Henriette's devotion to caring for and educating the poor grew. Even though she was only one-eighth African and could have passed as a white person, she always referred to herself as Creole or as a free person of color, causing conflict in her family, who had declared themselves white on the census.

In 1836, wanting to dedicate her life to God, Henriette used the proceeds of an inheritance to found a small unrecognized order of nuns, the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Her non-white heritage had barred her from admission to the Ursuline and Carmelite orders, which only accepted white women at the time. This group would eventually become the Sisters of the Holy Family, officially founded at St. Augustine's Church in 1842. The Sisters taught religion and other subjects to slaves, even though it was illegal to do so at the time, punishable by death or life imprisonment.

Henriette Delille died in 1862 at age of 50, probably of tuberculosis. At the time of her death, her order had 12 members, but it would eventually peak at 400 members in the 1950s. The Sisters of the Holy Family are an active order in Louisiana today, with sisters working in nursing homes and as teachers, administrators and other pastoral positions.

Venerable Henriette Delille was the first U.S.-born African American to have a sainthood cause opened, according to her order.

Venerable Augustus Tolton 

Although black Catholics had been a part of the Catholic community in the United States for over three centuries at that point, Father Augustus Tolton was the very first black Catholic priest in the United States. Throughout his life, he endured extreme racism, even from fellow Catholics, but never gave up on his faith. 

Tolton was born into slavery in Monroe County, Missouri in 1854 and escaped to Quincy, Illinois with his family during the Civil War. Although Illinois had outlawed slavery in 1848, it was by no means a safe haven for escapees. This is true not only of the state as a whole, but also in the Catholic churches the Tolton family attended; the white parishioners in Illinois largely rejected their fellow black fellow Catholics. 

The priest at Tolton's parish approached the very bright young man and asked him if he had ever considered the priesthood. But Tolton faced a problem: Not one seminary in the United States to which he applied would accept him, because of his race. So instead he got the opportunity to study for the priesthood in Rome. He was ordained in 1889. 

Father Tolton fully expected to be sent to minister in a different country— maybe even to Africa. But instead, the Vatican sent him back to the U.S., to the country that had up to that point rejected him, because the Vatican wanted people in the US to see a black priest. Tolton served for three years at a parish in Quincy, eventually accepting an invitation to come to Chicago where he led St. Monica Parish. 

On July 9, 1897, Fr. Tolton collapsed during a hot day and died from sunstroke at the age of 43. A seminary set up in Baltimore by the Josephite religious order— whose charism is to minister to Black Catholics— opened not long after his death. Many young black Catholics saw the ministry of Father Tolton and were inspired to enter the seminary themselves. 

His cause for canonization was launched in 2010, and he was given the title "Servant of God" by the Vatican in February 2011. The research phase of his cause concluded Sept. 29, 2014.

Servant of God Julia Greeley

Born a slave in Hannibal, Missouri sometime between 1833 and 1848, Julia Greeley was known for her remarkable charitable efforts, despite massive personal hardships and health issues. 

After leaving the service of Colorado’s first territorial governor, Greeley found odd jobs around the city, and came upon the Sacred Heart Parish of Denver, where she would convert to Catholicism in 1880. She was an enthusiastic parishioner, a daily communicant, and became an active member of the Secular Franciscan Order starting in 1901. The Jesuit priests at her parish recognized her as a fervent promoter of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Despite her own poverty, Greeley spent much of her time collecting food, clothing, and other goods for the poor. She would often do her work at night, so as to avoid embarrassing the people she was assisting. Wearing a floppy hat, oversized shoes, and dabbing her bad eye — with a handkerchief, Greeley was often seen pulling her red wagon of goods to deliver to the poor and homeless of the city.

Julia Greeley died on June 7, 1918 - the feast of the Sacred Heart. Although her death came unexpectedly, she was able to receive last rites. It is estimated that she was around 80 years old, though because she was born into slavery, her exact age was never known. She is the only person buried in Denver’s Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. 

Servant of God Thea Bowman

The granddaughter of a slave, Thea Bowman was born Bertha Bowman in Yazoo City, Mississippi in 1937, to a doctor and a teacher. Though raised Protestant, she chose to become Catholic at age nine, and was moved by the kindness and generosity of the Franciscans Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, whose school she subsequently attended.

When she turned 15, she moved to Wisconsin and entered the order's novitiate. Although her parents tried to persuade their daughter to enter an African-American community, she was determined to enter the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, whose warmth and love had drawn her to the Catholic faith six years prior. 

At the time, she was the first and only black sister of the community in La Crosse. When she began teaching at a Catholic elementary school in La Crosse, Bowman would teach about racial diversity, and about the importance of love. She continued to be involved in the burgeoning civil rights movement, and helped to establish the National Black Sisters Conference and advocated for an increased representation of American-American people in Church leadership. She called for more encounters between white and non-white Catholics, and for a welcoming of music from different cultural backgrounds.

Bowman became a noted public speaker, and traveled around the country, talking about race and the Catholic faith, even after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 1984. She famously gave a speech before the U.S. bishops in 1989 and spoke about her identity as an African American Catholic as a “gift to the Church."

Bowman died on March 30, 1990. The Diocese of Jackson opened her canonization cause in 2018.

As Muslims in Albuquerque grieve murders, U.S. bishops offer sympathy and support

null / null

Denver Newsroom, Aug 12, 2022 / 15:20 pm (CNA).

The murders of four Muslim men in Albuquerque shocked the local community. In response, Catholic leaders have offered prayer and support.

“We join you in your sorrow and promise you a remembrance in our prayers,” Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago said Aug. 11. “May all people of good will work together to deliver our communities from all forms of violence so that we might enjoy the gift of God’s peace.”

Cupich is the Catholic co-chairman of the National Catholic-Muslim Dialogue. Bishop David Talley of Memphis, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, shared Cupich’s statement.

Four Muslim men of South Asian descent were killed in the Albuquerque area between November 2021 and August of this year, CNN reports. The latest three murders took place in the span of two weeks.

On Tuesday Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina said police had detained 51-year-old Muhammed Syed in connection to the crimes.

Syed, who denies the allegations, is originally from Afghanistan. On Wednesday he was charged with the July 26 murder of Aftab Hussein, 41, and the Aug. 1 murder of Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, 27, NBC News reports.

Medina said Syed is a suspect in the Friday killing of Naeem Hussain, 25, and is the “primary suspect” in the Nov. 7 killing of Mohammad Zahar Ahmadi.

Ahmadi was originally from Afghanistan. He was shot outside a halal café and market he ran with his brother. His brother said that Ahmadi and the suspect had a confrontation two years prior when the suspect bought large amounts of rice from the store and tried to sell them back at a profit, NBC News reports.

After the confrontation, in early 2020, Syed allegedly slashed the car tires of Ahmadi’s brother outside Friday services at the Islamic Center of New Mexico in Albuquerque. Syed was temporarily banned from the mosque when security video footage appeared to show him slashing the tires.

The three most recent victims were from Pakistan and attended the same mosque. They were “ambushed with no warning, fired on and killed,” police said.

The fourth victim, Naeem Hussain, attended a funeral for two of the victims last Friday and was found dead hours later.

Medina told reporters the police department refrained from labeling the shootings hate crimes or attributable to a serial killer because “it would’ve been irresponsible for us as a police department to say that and further drive fear into a community that was already in fear.”

“We still don't have any indication that either of these topics or labels would've been appropriate,” he said, according to CNN.

Ahmad Assed, president of the Islamic Society of New Mexico, initially told the New York Times that he understood the authorities were exploring the possibility the suspect was a Sunni Muslim who resented his daughter’s marriage to a Shia Muslim. He later told Time magazine this was a “rumor” that requires further investigation.

Police said it is unclear whether this was a full motive, a partial motive, or part of “a bigger picture.”

Catholic leaders spoke out in support of Muslims and the affected community.

Citing “the tragic loss of four Muslim lives,” Cupich said he affirmed an Aug. 7 statement from the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, which includes Albuquerque.

“The Catholic community stands in support of our Muslim brothers and sisters during this time of crisis. The senseless murders of these upstanding members of our community bring sorrow to all of us,” the archdiocese said in a Sunday statement.

“We are fervently praying for the safety of all in the Muslim community and are asking our loving God to keep them safe and watch over them,” the Santa Fe archdiocese said. “Our hearts go out to those who have been killed and to those who lost loved ones. We pray that our loving God will take them quickly to Himself.”

Salman Rushdie attacked at lecture in New York

Salman Rushdie speaks at the Frankfurt Bookfair, Oct. 12, 2017. / Markus Wissmann/Shutterstock

Denver Newsroom, Aug 12, 2022 / 12:01 pm (CNA).

The author Salman Rushdie, whose novel “The Satanic Verses” led to a call for his assassination from Iran’s Supreme Leader in 1989, was stabbed in the neck on Friday while onstage in New York state.

The Associated Press said one of its reporters “witnessed a man confront Rushdie … and begin punching or stabbing him 10 to 15 times as he was being introduced” Aug. 12.

Rushdie, 75, was preparing to speak at the Chautauqua Institution, an educational center and resort in Chautauqua, New York, about 70 miles southwest of Buffalo.

Henry Reese, who was to interview Rushdie about the U.S. as a haven for exiled writers and artists, also suffered a minor head injury. Reese is co-founder and president of City of Asylum, a nonprofit housing exiled writers.

The attacker has been arrested, and Rushdie has been taken to hospital.

Rushdie, who was born in Bombay in 1947, won the Booker Prize in 1981 for “Midnight’s Children.”

“The Satanic Verses” was published in 1988. The book of magic realism, set in the present day, includes dream sequences involving Muhammad. These were considered blasphemous by some Muslims. 

Ruhollah Khomeini, then the Supreme Leader of Iran, issued a fatwa calling for Rushdie’s killing the following year. There was an assassination attempt that year, and in 1991 Hitoshi Igarashi, the Japanese translator of “The Satanic Verses,” was murdered. 

A bounty has been offered for Rushdie’s killing, and he lived in hiding for some time.

Bishops urge passage of bill that would give same sentences to crack and powder cocaine offenders

null / Inked Pixels/Shutterstock.

Washington D.C., Aug 11, 2022 / 16:50 pm (CNA).

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops pressed the U.S. Senate to make the penalty for distributing crack cocaine the same as that imposed on those caught dealing powder cocaine.

In an Aug. 1 letter to Congress, the bishops announced their support for legislation passed in the House of Representatives that would eliminate a disparity in federal sentencing the bishops say has a disproportionate effect on Black people.

“Although crack and powder cocaine are simply two forms of the same drug, crack cocaine is cheaper; therefore, it is more accessible than powder cocaine to persons experiencing poverty, many of whom are persons of color,” the letter read.

“We cannot ignore the racial impact of current federal cocaine sentences when Blacks are more than three times as likely to be convicted for crack cocaine trafficking as for powder cocaine trafficking,” wrote Bishops Paul S. Coakley and Shelton J. Fabre of the USCCB’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development and Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism.

An amendment to add the Eliminating a Quantifiably Unjust Application of the Law (EQUAL) Act to the defense authorization bill passed the House of Representatives on July 19 with bipartisan support. 

If approved by the Senate the EQUAL act would impose the same penalty on both forms of cocaine. In 1986 Congress passed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act which established separate sentences for cocaine and crack cocaine offenses. If two individuals were caught with the same amount of cocaine, the one with crack cocaine would receive a sentence 100 times as severe as the person convicted of distributing powder cocaine. 

In 2010, Congress passed reforms to reduce that disparity to 18:1. Today, the penalty for 500 grams of powder cocaine is the same as for 28 grams of crack cocaine. The EQUAL Act would eliminate the disparity altogether.

In their letter, the bishops called for an end to long sentences for drug offenses and a focus on rehabilitation and treatment of offenders.

“As pastors, the Catholic bishops understand concerns regarding recidivism, substance abuse, and overdoses; yet public safety is not served by excessively long sentences. We believe these concerns would more effectively be addressed through programs that focus on root causes of crime through rehabilitation, treatment, education, literacy, and job-placement,” they wrote.

The EQUAL act has an uncertain future in the Senate. Since it has 11 Republican co-sponsors, it could pass as a stand-alone bill. However, the ranking Republican member of the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Charles Grassley, has his own bill to address disparities in drug sentencing. His legislation would reduce but not eliminate the disparity. 

The prospect of the legislation's passage as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is far from guaranteed even though the legislation enjoys bipartisan support. Unrelated amendments attached to the NDAA often get removed in the process of reconciling the House and Senate bills.

Olivia Newton-John attended Catholic Mass, said ‘favorite prayer’ daily

Olivia Newton-John arrives for G'Day USA Los Angeles Black Tie Gala Jan. 27, 2018, in Los Angeles. The singer and actress died Monday, Aug. 8, 2022, at age 73 after a decades-long struggle with breast cancer. / Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 11, 2022 / 13:51 pm (CNA).

Singer and actress Olivia Newton-John, perhaps best known for her role as Sandy Olsson in the 1978 film “Grease,” shared her favorite prayer last year. She passed away Monday at age 73. 

The prayer was, she revealed in a 2021 interview, the Lord’s Prayer. 

She began reciting it daily after she became pregnant with her only child, Chloe, she said on the podcast “A Life of Greatness.”

“I was close to losing her at one point,” she recalled. “I asked God to please save Chloe and, if he did, I would say the Lord’s Prayer every night for the rest of my life.”

“So I have,” she said. “I think it’s a beautiful prayer. It’s a powerful prayer. I believe in prayer, I think prayer is very powerful.” Chloe was born in 1986.

Newton-John learned the Lord’s Prayer as a child, she said, adding that her family attended church while her father served as the head of a Presbyterian college — Ormond College at the University of Melbourne in Australia.

“I believe all the beliefs have validity and meaning to a lot of people,” she added, “but I find that prayer a very powerful one.”

In response to her death, which came after a decades-long struggle with breast cancer, Capuchin friar and deacon Brother Vince Mary remembered Newton-John on Twitter. He shared that Newton-John attended Catholic Mass.

Olivia Newton-John appears in the back pew at the Capuchin novitiate at San Lorenzo Seminary in Santa Ynez, California. Date unknown. Photo courtesy of Capuchin Brother Mick Joyce from Borromeo Seminary Cleveland
Olivia Newton-John appears in the back pew at the Capuchin novitiate at San Lorenzo Seminary in Santa Ynez, California. Date unknown. Photo courtesy of Capuchin Brother Mick Joyce from Borromeo Seminary Cleveland

“She was a frequent visitor to our Capuchin Novitiate in Santa Ynez for masses,” Brother Vince Mary tweeted. “God grant her eternal rest!”

He told CNA that Newton-John attended Mass frequently at the novitiate that has attracted other celebrity visitors — San Lorenzo Seminary in Santa Ynez, California. 

Newton-John lived near the friars. According to the Santa Barbara Independent, she passed away at her 12-acre residence in Santa Ynez Valley.

Father Jim Sichko, a papal Missionary of Mercy from the Diocese of Lexington, Kentucky, called Newton-John a close friend of his whom he kept in touch with constantly. Among other things, she wrote the afterward to his book published in 2021, “Encountering God,” and supported his Catholic ministry and outreach in Kentucky.

He had intended to introduce Newton-John to Pope Francis, but the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted their plans. It was his hope, he told CNA, that the pontiff would bless or anoint her.

Sichko said he first met her and her husband, John Easterling, roughly four or five years ago on a flight to Melbourne, Australia. He initially did not realize who she was. She asked him to pray for her and he gifted her a cross blessed by Pope Francis. That’s when she began to cry and revealed who she was.

Olivia Newton-John and her husband, John Easterling, take a photo with Father Jim Sichko at a Catholic church in Cranbourne, Australia. Courtesy of Father Jim Sichko
Olivia Newton-John and her husband, John Easterling, take a photo with Father Jim Sichko at a Catholic church in Cranbourne, Australia. Courtesy of Father Jim Sichko

That evening, he spotted Newton-John and Easterling at a talk he gave at a Catholic church in Cranbourne. At the end of the talk, he found the couple kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament. She was still wearing, around her neck, the cross he gave her. She wore it regularly ever since that day.

He remembered Newton-John as a person with “such strong deep faith” and as someone “in tune with God.”

“She died with great grace,” he said. “There’s no doubt that she’s in communion with God.”

He told CNA that he plans to attend her memorial service in September.

In March 2020, Newton-John publicly shared her appreciation for one Capuchin Franciscan. Newton-John posted a poem on Instagram written by a Capuchin Franciscan in Ireland, Brother Richard Hendrick, where he wrote about responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I was sent this poem by a friend and it said many things I was thinking — because I also believe that good things are coming out of this difficult time — which too will pass,” she commented. “Father Richard Hendricks says it so beautifully here.”

It is unclear what faith or religion Newton-John practiced before her death. During the 2021 podcast interview, she spoke about praying and chanting with her friends who are Buddhist and about experiencing spirits. 

She also talked about life after death.

“Most humans, we want to believe that we go on,” she said. “I don’t know if that is so and I hope that I can let people know when it happens if it is.”

Editor’s note: This story was updated on Aug. 12 to include comments from Father Jim Sichko.

Religious freedom objections to mandatory health care coverage part of broader lawsuit

null / Gorodenkoff via Shutterstock.

Denver Newsroom, Aug 11, 2022 / 13:39 pm (CNA).

Religious freedom violations are among the claims of a federal lawsuit challenging mandatory “preventive care” coverage in employee health plans. But the lawsuit’s other challenges to federal rule-making could have far-reaching consequences.

Though the Texas-based plaintiffs echo previous challengers in objecting to abortifacient contraceptives as mandatory “preventive care,” they also object to mandatory no-cost coverage of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), a drug regimen intended to reduce the risk of HIV infection; STD tests and STD counseling; and drug use counseling.

“The government cannot possibly show that forcing private insurers to provide PrEP drugs, the HPV vaccine, and screenings and behavioral counseling for STDs and drug use free of charge is a policy of such overriding importance that it can trump religious-freedom objections,” said the lawsuit in Kelley v. Becerra.

The lawsuit was filed in 2020, but argued only last month before U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor.

John A. Di Camillo, an ethicist and director of personal consultations with the National Catholic Bioethics Center, told CNA that the objections raise valid moral questions.

“It certainly is an important moral consideration to know whether or not funding this kind of drug or this kind of procedure may actually incentivize or encourage or enable your employees to engage in immoral behaviors,” he said Aug. 9.

Alleged religious freedom violations constitute one of the eight claims made in the lawsuit. This claim charges violations of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which requires that the federal government may not “substantially burden” the free exercise of religion, unless there is a “compelling government interest” in doing so, and it is carried out in the “least-restrictive” manner possible.

A narrow court ruling on the issue of religious freedom could avoid a broader ruling about administrative law. A broad court ruling, however, could eliminate all requirements that insurers provide preventive care coverage at no cost, Bloomberg Law reported in April.

The lawsuit describes one plaintiff, orthodontist John Kelley of Tarrant County, Texas, as a Christian with religious objections to purchasing some health plans that subsidize abortifacient contraception or PrEP drugs that “encourage homosexual behavior and intravenous drug use.” He does not need or want health insurance that covers Truvada or PrEP drugs “because neither he nor any of his family members is engaged in behavior that transmits HIV.” He has no desire for contraceptive coverage “because his wife is past her child-bearing years.”

The other plaintiffs are Kelley Orthodontics, Joel Starnes, and Braidwood Management, Inc. Some plaintiffs, like Braidwood owner Steven F. Hotze, also object to mandatory coverage of STD screenings and counseling for those engaged in non-marital sexual behavior.

The plaintiffs claim a grounds for class action because the mandates still limit their options for health insurance that excludes or limits coverage as they desire.

Di Camillo, who has worked on ethics reviews of Catholic health insurance programs, told CNA that self-insured plans mean the employer is “actually directly paying out of pocket for the medical expenses.” This is in contrast to standard insurance programs where a large outside company pays for expenses.

“There's a more direct relationship, and so there's a heightened level of moral concern or responsibility for the employer in those situations,” he said.

Other claims in the lawsuit involve aspects of administrative law known as the non-delegation doctrine, which requires Congress to provide agencies with sufficient principles, policy, and standards to guide their action. The Supreme Court has not sided with claims of excessive delegation since two cases in 1935. The lawsuit charges that Congress wrongly delegated the definition of “preventive care” to regulators under the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services had ruled that mandatory preventive care in employee health plans must include contraception, including drugs that can cause abortion. It did not provide exemptions for those with objections to the coverage. In 2014, the Supreme Court ruled against this mandate in favor of Hobby Lobby, a closely-held company whose Christian owners had a religious objection to abortifacients. In 2020, the high court ruled in favor of the Little Sisters of the Poor, who objected to providing contraceptive coverage in their employee health plans.

If the Kelley v. Becerra case results in a broad ruling against the regulatory mandates, it would eliminate mandatory no-cost coverage of cancer screenings, vaccines, counseling for alcohol abuse, diet counseling for those at risk of chronic disease, and other preventive services, National Public Radio reports.  The American Medical Association has led a coalition of more than 60 medical organizations in warning against a broad ruling.

Di Camillo considered the ethical questions involved in health care plan coverage and employers’ moral objections.

“We don't want to be forcing a company to have to subsidize all of the consequences of immoral behaviors,” he said. “On the other hand, we can take the approach of a Christian mercy that sees we’re all sinners and sometimes people make bad decisions.”

“Certainly, in a Catholic perspective, we often look not to just whether something is tied to immoral behavior, but whether there are grounds for helping an individual in need, even if that need arises from immoral choices,” he said.

There are questions about whether the exclusions in the case would mean no coverage for those at risk of disease, such as a dependent minor, or no coverage for an employee at risk of disease because of an adulterous spouse.

There are also questions about whether a moral objection is too rigorous, but Di Camillo cautioned that objections should be taken seriously.

“I think there is a tendency to quickly assume someone else is misapplying or misunderstanding (ethics), (but) sometimes we ourselves may be the ones who are misapplying or misunderstanding.” 

Di Camillo emphasized that employers do have a duty to make clear to prospective and current employees any conscientious objection exclusions in their health coverage so that “this is not sprung on them as a surprise.”