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Albany bishop asking to be laicized isn’t barred from publicly celebrating sacraments, as he claims

Bishop Emeritus Howard Hubbard of the Diocese of Albany / Screenshot from 2018 YouTube video

Boston, Mass., Nov 21, 2022 / 16:10 pm (CNA).

Bishop Emeritus Howard Hubbard of the Diocese of Albany has asked the Vatican to laicize him, claiming that Church policy prohibits him from publicly exercising his priestly functions while he is under investigation for sexual abuse allegations.

However, the Albany Diocese clarified Monday that Hubbard does retain the freedom to publicly celebrate the sacraments but has voluntarily stopped doing so.

“We would like to correct a point in some reports that said there is a diocesan policy that forbids an accused bishop from sacramental ministry,” the diocese said in a statement.

“A diocesan bishop may regulate, that is, limit, circumscribe, or ban exercise within his diocese of any or all sacramental ministries. Bishop Edward Scharfenberger [the current bishop of Albany] has done so in some cases, but in the case of Bishop Hubbard, it is he alone who voluntarily removed himself from any public celebration of sacraments,” the diocese’s statement said. 

“Our prayers are with Bishop Hubbard for his well-being and with all who accompany him, that all decisions and actions are in accord with God’s plan,” the statement said.

A lawsuit filed in March 2021 alleges that Hubbard molested an 11-year-old boy in 1977. That suit is ongoing. Hubbard maintains his innocence and said he would continue to fight in court to see his name cleared. 

Hubbard wrote about his laicization request in a statement Nov. 18.

“Recently, I asked the Vatican for relief from my obligations as a priest and permission to return to the lay state. In whatever time I have left on this Earth, I hope to be able to serve God and the people of our community as a lay person,” Hubbard wrote. 

“I had hoped that in my retirement I might be able to continue to serve our community as a priest. I am not able to do so, however, because of a church policy that prohibits any priest accused of sexual abuse from functioning publicly as a priest, even if the allegations are false, as they are in my case,” he wrote.

“Despite the impact on me, I still believe this is a sound policy. I implemented it in the Albany Diocese and continue to support it as a necessary means to maintain and restore public confidence in our clergy,” Hubbard continued. “In my particular case, the effect of the policy has been to deprive me of the single greatest joy of my life — serving our community as a Catholic priest in my retirement years.”

Mark Behan, a spokesman for Hubbard who is not connected with the diocese, told CNA Monday that Hubbard did, in fact, voluntarily remove himself from public ministry.

“Bishop Hubbard was referring in his statement to a policy that he implemented in the Albany Diocese when he was bishop. The policy required that a priest accused of sexual abuse of a minor should be removed from active ministry until the matter was resolved,” Behan said.

“Theoretically, he could have ignored the policy. Instead, he chose to impose on himself the same standard he applied to other accused clergy. His decision to abide by the policy denied him the greatest joy in his life — serving as a priest in retirement,” Behan told CNA by email. 

Hubbard, 84, served the Diocese of Albany from 1977 to 2014. He is now retired. 

In July 2021, Hubbard admitted to mishandling sexual abuse allegations against priests while he was bishop, saying that the diocese at one point did not notify law enforcement when allegations were made.

Colorado bishops pray for ‘peace and healing’ after shooting at LGBTQ nightclub

Law enforcement officials continue their investigation into Saturday's shooting at the Club Q nightclub on Nov. 21, 2022, in Colorado Springs, Colorado. On Saturday evening, a 22-year-old gunman allegedly entered the LGBTQ nightclub and opened fire, killing at least five people and injuring 25 others before being stopped by club patrons. / Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Denver, Colo., Nov 21, 2022 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

Catholic bishops in Colorado have voiced their sympathies and prayers in the wake of a shooting over the weekend that killed five and injured 25 at a Colorado Springs LGBTQ nightclub.

“The recent shooting and killing is especially troubling as it appeared to target a specific part of our community,” Bishop James Golka of Colorado Springs said Monday afternoon. “The shooter appeared to target members of the LGBTQ community. Anytime specific members of the population are targeted for violence, we should all be concerned. As Christians and Catholics, we believe in the intrinsic dignity and value of all human life. We commit ourselves to protecting and defending that human life.”

“We extend our deepest sympathies and prayers for the victims, their families, and friends,” he said.

The alleged gunman entered Club Q just before midnight on Saturday and began shooting.

Several people at the club overpowered the gunman and subdued him. He was hospitalized for injuries sustained during the fight.

Two of the dead were bartenders, one of whom was a co-owner of the nightclub.

Police officials named the alleged gunman as 22-year-old Anderson Lee Aldrich. A man of the same name and age was detained by the El Paso County Sherriff’s Office last year after he threatened his mother with homemade bombs, weapons, and ammunition, Colorado Public Radio reported. In that incident, he had a lengthy standoff with sheriff’s deputies, who did not find any explosive devices when the standoff ended.

Authorities have not confirmed they are the same person.

The alleged nightclub shooter was being held on five counts of first-degree murder and five counts of bias-motivated crimes causing bodily injury, the Denver Post reported on Monday. Prosecutors have not officially filed charges, which means the charges could change.

Golka’s Nov. 21 statement noted that Colorado Springs police have investigated at least 34 homicides since the beginning of the year, a 100% increase over last year. He also cited the “disturbing” suicide rate in Colorado, the seventh-highest in the U.S., with El Paso County having the worst suicide rate in the state.

He cited the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ support for stronger gun control restrictions, including universal background checks and limits on the sales of high-capacity magazines. He also emphasized support for those suffering mental health issues and for addressing “the cultural roots of this increased violence, such as a lack of civility and increased polarization.”

He encouraged those in need of support to talk to their priest or church minister or to contact Catholic Charities of Central Colorado.

“Let us pray that all our beloved deceased will know the fullness of life in heaven. Let us pray and work so that through our actions and attitudes, God may bring peace and healing to our world and to our local community,” Golka said. He cited Jesus Christ’s words to the faithful, that they will have trouble in this world, adding “But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Colorado Springs is about 70 miles south of Denver. Denver’s Archbishop Samuel Aquila joined the reaction, praying for “the peace of Christ” in the wake of the shooting.

In a Sunday afternoon statement, Aquila said: “I am saddened by this tragic and senseless act in Colorado Springs and pray that those impacted are able to find peace in Christ.”

He cited St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, which urged “not to be overcome by evil, but to overcome evil with good."

“As we seek to overcome evil with good, we must promote the dignity of every human being created in the image and likeness of God,” he said.

“While the motives remain unclear, what is clear is that evil incidents like this have become far too common in our society,” Aquila said. “The random acts of killing innocent human beings must be condemned by a civil society.”

Criticism of ‘anti-LGBTQ rhetoric,’ Catholic teaching

Club Q was set to host an “all-ages musical drag brunch” on Sunday, according to its Facebook page. Some drag events for children have come under criticism for sexualized displays in front of children or for encouraging them to adopt false or misleading views of sex and gender. They have also become targets of in-person protests and sometimes threats from those who contend the shows are equivalent to sexual grooming.

Even before initial charges were filed against the alleged shooter, some news reports and commentators sought to connect the attack to political opposition to transgenderism and other LGBT causes.

A Denver Post report on Monday appeared to suggest that the Denver Archdiocese’s policy on sexual orientation and gender identity in Catholic schools was part of a trend of “anti-LGBTQ rhetoric” ahead of the nightclub attack. Last week the Denver Post’s editorial board called for Catholic and other schools to be excluded from high school sports associations because of their policies on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Denver Archdiocese policy has been in place since 2019 but drew critical coverage from the Denver Post in a Nov. 7 story. The story highlighted a section advising against the enrollment of students who reject their biological sex, especially if their parents are supportive of the student’s transition. It also considered how to handle students whose parent or parents are in a same-sex relationship.

“Ministry to students who experience same-sex attraction or gender confusion or are diagnosed with gender dysphoria, or to their families, should be carried out with charity and prudence, affirm God’s unconditional love for the person, be faithful to Church teachings, show compassion, and help students integrate their self-understanding with the truth,” the 2019 document said.

State Rep. Leslie Herod, who is running to become mayor of Denver in the 2023 elections, appeared to blame the Catholic school policy in Sunday comments posted to Twitter in response to the Club Q shooting.

“It’s not an accident that such an attack took place at the end of a week when we saw members of the LGBTQ+ community targeted for who they are and who they love,” she said. “From students denied entrance in schools to employees told they could not act on same-sex attraction and must conform to their biological sex, this community — my community, our community — has continued to suffer the ravages of discrimination.”

In response to the Denver Post story earlier this month, the archdiocese said: “We don’t expect everyone to ascribe to a Catholic worldview, but we strongly reject attempts to paint our position as bigoted or unloving.”

Sen. Mike Lee challenges Republicans backing ‘Respect for Marriage Act’

Sen. Mike Lee of Utah. / Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 21, 2022 / 11:20 am (CNA).

Sen. Mike Lee of Utah is calling on the 12 Republican senators who voted to advance the Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA) to adopt protections for Americans who believe marriage is between one man and one woman.

“The undersigned ask that you oppose cloture [closing or ending debate] on the Respect for Marriage Act unless the Lee amendment is added to the bill,” Lee, together with 20 other Republican lawmakers, wrote Thursday. “The free exercise of religion is absolutely essential to the health of our Republic. We must have the courage to protect it.”

If added to the act, the proposed Lee amendment would prohibit the federal government from discriminating against anyone who holds a religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is a union between one man and one woman or is a union between two individuals.

The U.S. Senate voted 62-37 Wednesday to move forward with the RFMA — a bill that would federally recognize same-sex marriage and provide legal protections for interracial marriages. Reaching the 60 votes necessary, the legislation moved closer to becoming law.

Lee directed his letter to the 12 Republican lawmakers who joined Democrats in support of the RFMA, The Daily Signal reported. They are: Sens. Roy Blunt of Missouri, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Susan Collins of Maine, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, Rob Portman of Ohio, Mitt Romney of Utah, Dan Sullivan of Alaska, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Todd Young of Indiana.

In the letter, Lee listed his concerns.

“Obergefell did not make a private right of action for aggrieved individuals to sue those who oppose same-sex marriage,” he wrote, citing the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision on same-sex marriage. “It did not create a mandate for the Department of Justice to sue where it perceived an institution opposed same-sex marriage, but the Respect for Marriage Act will.”

He added: “What we can expect should this bill become law is more litigation against those institutions and individuals trying to live according to their sincerely held religious beliefs and moral convictions.”

He called for protecting such institutions and individuals.

“Instead of subjecting churches, religious nonprofits, and persons of conscience to undue scrutiny or punishment by the federal government because of their views on marriage, we should make explicitly clear that this legislation does not constitute a national policy endorsing a particular view of marriage that threatens the tax-exempt status of faith-based nonprofits,” he wrote. “As we move forward, let us be sure to keep churches, religious charities, and religious universities out of litigation in the first instance.”

His amendment, he said, would offer protections.

“My amendment would ensure that federal bureaucrats do not take discriminatory actions against individuals, organizations, nonprofits, and other entities based on their sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions about marriage by prohibiting the denial or revocation of tax-exempt status, licenses, contracts, benefits, etc.,” he urged. “It would affirm that individuals still have the right to act according to their faith and deepest convictions even outside of their church or home.”

Lee’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Exclusive interview: 7 questions for Archbishop Cordileone 

Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco / Dennis Callahan/Archdiocese of San Francisco

Baltimore, Md., Nov 20, 2022 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco sat down with CNA for an interview during a break in the proceedings of the U.S. bishops’ fall meeting in Baltimore last week.

Cordileone, a staunch advocate for the unborn, spoke out against Proposition 1, a ballot initiative to add the “right to abortion” to California’s constitution, which received over 66% of the vote in the 2022 midterm elections. One week later, the archbishop shared his thoughts on what is next for the pro-life movement, his hopes for the bishops’ eucharistic revival initiative, and how to address a lack of trust that priests have for their bishops. This interview was edited for length and clarity.

The pro-life movement suffered a defeat in California with the passage of Proposition 1. What advice do you have for opponents of abortion in this post-Dobbs political climate? 

We have to keep doing what we have been doing. I think the key is this Walking with Moms in Need [the U.S. bishops’ nationwide initiative to assist pregnant and parenting women]. We have to continue holding up what is real compassion for a woman in that situation, who’s scared, isolated, full of anxiety, under all kinds of pressure, and feeling lonely. She needs to be surrounded with love and support.

The answer is not violence. The answer is not killing. The answer is love and support. And we need to hold up, and I would hope — but I see a growing resistance to it — that even those who favor keeping abortion legal would favor giving women the full range of options. If she’s given information about what’s going on inside of her, if she’s given information about what her options are, and is given love and support and we walk with her, she will opt for life. I know this from crisis pregnancy clinics, that when they’re given that information, and they’re given love and support, 95% opt for life. So what we really need is for women to have real choice. 

Unfortunately, women who are in the lower income [brackets] don’t really have choice. So we need to give them real choice. I think that’s the way we build the culture of life. Laws are important, and political advocacy is important. Our pro-life manifestations are important to help raise consciousness about it. But in a bitterly polarized society, we need to support the women in these situations and show where true love and compassion is. 

That’s why I’m horrified at the hostility toward crisis pregnancy clinics. That’s all about love and support, and even beyond the birth of the child, making sure she and her baby are OK. This is the most worrying sign to me — the attacks on the crisis pregnancy clinics. And our leaders are not speaking out against it and being active in protecting them, and in fact, are denigrating them.

Considering how Proposition 1 succeeded, how can you move the needle on this issue? Do you put more money into Walking with Mothers in Need? Or do you put your efforts into doing a better job on communications?

Well, it’s all of the above. That’s a good question, “Where do we put the emphasis?” We do need better communication about it. Because we’re up against a lot with that, especially with the false narratives that are being perpetrated about these clinics. And I think the best thing is for women to tell their stories, women who have gone through this experience. We need women to tell their stories and let it get out there because it’s the personal story that touches hearts. And that’s what begins to change the conversation.

How do you reach young women who support abortion because they think it may be necessary for their personal success?

Yes. I think they need to be walked with, as well. Why would it get in the way of their career or their education? Why can’t she continue with her education, or begin her career and bring the baby to term, and if she wants to, put the child up for adoption? We need to emphasize adoption a lot more. Are universities prepared to support their women students in giving birth? Are the health care services offered? Do they have that prenatal care available? What if she has to absent herself from class? Can she do online instruction during the time she has to be away? Even something as simple as diaper-changing stations? So do they have all of that? And if not, then where’s the equality? The man doesn’t have to worry about that. We can just walk away and continue, but the woman can’t. She’s facing very hard choices. Why aren’t they giving her the support? Where’s the equality in that?

In your view, what is the most troubling issue of our day?

The most urgent crisis today is the attack on life in the womb, and the lack of support for women who are in need to be able to make a choice for life. I’d say, the celebration of abortion as a good. You know, it was originally something that people said was a necessary evil, then it became a choice. And then it became health care. Now they’re calling it reproductive freedom, which can mean all kinds of things. And now it’s celebrated as a good. So I’d say that’s the most, most urgent and critical issue we need to react to.

What are your hopes for the eucharistic revival? Are you seeing enthusiasm for it, and do you think the initiative will bear fruit?

We’re having these processions with the Blessed Sacrament from the four parts of the country. And the one from the West Coast, as it turns out — I didn’t suggest it — but it’s starting from our cathedral. So as plans start coming together it’s starting to generate some excitement. So I’d say that it has a lot of potential, but it’s always the takeaway: What’s going to change afterwards? It can’t be just a happy memory. It has to change the way we treat the Eucharist, the way we regard it, the way we prepare for Mass, and the way Mass is celebrated and carried out. All of that has to change — the quality of preaching, the frequency of confession, all these. There has to be some change. That’s the takeaway, but I’m hoping that this three-year eucharistic revival will be a catalyst for that.

What in particular about the Mass needs to change?

How the Blessed Sacrament is handled and how people prepare to receive Communion respectfully. There’s a lot of goodwill out there. I think people just need better formation and awareness about it. So I do think there’s a lot to work on.

Some Catholics think the only way to properly and respectfully receive Communion is on the tongue. Could this be an idea that could resonate with most people or even many bishops?

I wonder the same thing. That’s a good example of the casualness with which a lot of people treat the Eucharist. It’s very easy to be casual when receiving in the hand. It’s a lot more challenging to preserve reverence for the Eucharist when it’s given in the hands. If we are going to do it, we have to be very intentional about it. When I was a pastor, I would regularly instruct people about how to receive Communion properly. Actually at Sunday Mass for the homily, I would demonstrate how to receive on the tongue as well as in the hand. I’d see it happen, and the priests on Monday would find hosts on the floor, under the pews, or in the pages of a missalette. So I had the ushers at the Communion station to make sure people did not walk off with the host.

You know, [Catholics] used to have to fast from midnight [the night before Mass], and be on their knees, and receive only on the tongue. We need to have some kind of practical measures in place, reminders to people of who they are receiving when they are receiving Communion. Never has Communion been treated so casually, In any of the apostolic churches, in any of the Eastern rites, or in the West. So this is a new thing we’re trying to grapple with. 

Advent 2022: Check out some of our favorite Advent calendars for 2022

null / nito/Shutterstock.

Denver, Colo., Nov 20, 2022 / 11:00 am (CNA).

It’s that time of year again! Time to decorate the Christmas tree, hang the stockings, and grab your favorite Advent calendar. 

What exactly are Advent calendars, and how did they come about?

It is said that the Advent calendar was first used by German Lutherans in the 19th and 20th centuries and then spread to other Christian denominations. Gerhard Lang is credited with creating the first printed Advent calendar in the early 1900s. However, his company was forced to close during World War II.

By the late 1940s, Richard Sellmer took up mass production of Advent calendars. These calendars began to be imported to the U.S. in the 1950s, and his company continues to operate to this day. In 1958, the first chocolate Advent calendar was produced.

Advent calendars typically begin on Dec. 1 and end on Christmas Day. The secular world has picked up on these countdown calendars by using them to provide a small treat or gift on each day leading up to Christmas. However, Advent calendars can also be faith-based by offering a daily prayer or meditation as the world awaits the birth of Jesus.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops says Advent calendars “can help you fully enter into the season with daily activity and prayer suggestions to prepare you spiritually for the birth of Jesus Christ” and serve as a reminder of the true meaning of the season.

So, what are some of our favorite Advent calendars this year?

The Precious Moments Nativity Advent calendar offers a wonderful way to relive the Nativity story. Wooden boxes contain little figurines of the wise men, shepherds, farm animals, and, of course, the Holy Family that correlate to a short reading. This is a great way to bring the family together to join in reading part of the Nativity story as you place each figurine in the stable atop the calendar. 

If you’re looking for something to get children more involved, Loyola Press has a printable Advent calendar that encourages children to perform an act of kindness each day during Advent. Some acts include: “I will be a peacemaker today in school and at home,” “I will be grateful and thank God today for all the food I have,” and “I will speak kindly to all I meet today.”

The EWTN Religious Catalog has several Advent calendars that retell the Nativity story. As you open each flap on the calendar, text from the Bible will tell the story of Jesus’ birth. Depending on the calendar you choose, you might even get to enjoy a sweet treat!

For adults looking to dive deeper into their faith this Advent season, consider Good Catholic’s Journey to Christmas led by Father Matthew Kauth. In this program, you will receive daily devotional emails, weekly guidance videos, written reflections, and more. This series can help you steer clear of the business of the season and remain focused on the true reason for the season.

If you prefer listening to daily meditations and prayers, Hallow will be doing its Advent #Pray25 challenge. Participants will meditate on passages from Scripture that led to the birth of Jesus. The daily reflections will focus on how God has called people throughout generations, from the Old Testament to the New Testament. This year’s challenge will be guided by the cast of “The Chosen,” which includes Jonathan Roumie, who plays Jesus; Elizabeth Tabish, who plays Mary Magdalene; George Xanthis, who plays John the Evangelist; and Dallas Jenkins, director and creator of the show, among others. 

While it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, remember that Jesus’ presence is the only true present that matters this Christmas.

Meet the U.S. Catholic bishops’ new pro-life chair

Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ fall plenary assembly in Baltimore, Nov. 16, 2022. / Katie Yoder/CNA

Baltimore, Md., Nov 20, 2022 / 08:00 am (CNA).

The new pro-life chair for the U.S. Catholic bishops wants pregnant women who are struggling or feeling scared to know that they are not alone. 

“I would like to say and, in such a heartfelt way, for them to know that they are not alone,” Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, told CNA hours after being elected to his new position Nov. 16. 

“We, as the Catholic Church — to anyone of any denomination — we will be there for you,” the 65-year-old bishop added.

“We are willing to accompany you and provide you the support that you need,” he said, listing everything from prayers and counseling to financial help and medical assistance. “We are there for you every step of the way. So please don’t be afraid.”

A longtime advocate for the unborn, Burbidge was chosen as chair of the bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities during the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ annual fall assembly in Baltimore. The surprise election took place after Burbidge’s predecessor, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, was elected as the bishops’ new vice president.

Born in 1957 in Philadelphia, Burbidge entered St. Charles Borromeo Seminary after high school and was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in 1984. He later became an honorary prelate to Pope John Paul II, beginning in 1998, and was appointed the rector of his former seminary in 1999.

Before coming to Arlington in 2016, he served as an auxiliary bishop of Philadelphia starting in 2002 and as the bishop of Raleigh, North Carolina, beginning in 2006.

His election as pro-life chair came as a surprise, Burbidge revealed to CNA, emphasizing that he feels “very honored.” 

The focus of his new position will be the “joy of the Gospel,” or “reaffirming the joy that so many mothers and fathers have in bringing a child into the world,” he said.

“That’s the Gospel of Life, to share that joy of life itself, the tremendous gift that it is,” he explained. “The joy of being — all of us — created in the image and likeness of God and to see each other that way.”

He called for building a culture of life where abortion is unthinkable. 

While he acknowledged what he called the “harsh reality in which we’re living,” with misinformation and extreme proposed laws, he also stressed that the Catholic Church holds the truth — the truth that “all life is sacred, it comes from God.”

Following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in a ruling that frees states to decide abortion policy, Burbidge said that the priorities of the pro-life committee will remain consistent, with a focus on advocacy, witness, and service.

“I think what we have learned in the post-Dobbs decision is that we still have a lot of work to do,” he said, referring to the decision that overturned Roe. “We’re celebrating victory in the sense of Roe vs. Wade being overturned, but the work is just beginning.”

That work includes, he said, engaging public officials, bringing the faith into the public arena, and energizing the Catholic faithful.

He called the overturning of Roe a “tremendous victory.”

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to, I think, remember and honor all those who have gone before us, maybe who are only seeing this from heaven, who for years and years and years, when abortion first became legalized, began to pray the rosary outside of abortion clinics, to participate in the national March [for Life],” he added. “And to see that God never allows our efforts to be in vain.”

Burbidge recalled being in high school when Roe v. Wade became the law of the land, in 1973. 

“I remember, even at a young age, just being traumatized. And certainly, in going to a Catholic high school, we were made aware of what was at stake,” he said. “I could never fathom that … in our country, we’re legalizing the taking of innocent lives.”

He added: “I never tired of doing my little part, like we all try to do, to say this … is not right. This cannot be.”

U.S. bishops make ‘the suffering of Lebanon’ priority with election of Maronite to key post

Bishop Abdallah Elias Zaidan of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles is the chairman-elect for the U.S. bishops' Committee on International Justice and Peace. / Screenshot of YouTube video

Baltimore, Md., Nov 20, 2022 / 04:00 am (CNA).

One of the two Maronite bishops in the United States was elected to lead the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace this past week in Baltimore. 

Bishop Abdallah Elias Zaidan of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles, who originally hails from Lebanon, spoke with CNA after his election about the Church’s role amid the political and economic turmoil in his home country. 

“The Lebanese people are suffering,” said Zaidan, who will serve a term from November 2023 to November 2026. 

“Definitely with all the difficulties Lebanon is facing — and now, Lebanon is somewhat ignored — it’s not a priority for many of the countries, especially with the war in Ukraine and other fronts.” 

The committee’s mission is to advise the U.S. bishops on international issues. Zaidan, who has been a committee member, was chosen as chair over Archbishop Nelson Pérez of Philadelphia by a vote of 148-95. He succeeds Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford, Illinois. 

Zaidan listed a plethora of struggles causing instability in the country including its seeming inability to elect a new president, its devalued and inflated currency, and high unemployment rates. 

“Plus, everything is becoming more expensive. Unemployment is very high in Lebanon because of the uncertainty and corruption,” he said, adding that due to a lack of infrastructure for electricity and other necessities “people have to do it on their own.”

Zaidan said that if Lebanese citizens have family outside the country who can financially support them in small ways “that little hundred dollars makes a big difference for them.”

But, he added, “if they don’t have anybody it’s very difficult, and that’s why people would like to leave.”

Despite the many unfortunate circumstances burdening the Lebanese people, Zaidan said that the Church in Lebanon is doing whatever it can to be close to the suffering people. He praised the work of Caritas Internationalis, the Church’s humanitarian arm, in using its resources to keep people alive.

“Often the priest is what we call the main person you go to because he knows his people. He knows who are the needy, who don’t have any other one to help them,” he said. 

Zaidan said that many priests are calling their bishops and taking the initiative to assist their flock.

He said he wanted to send a message of thanks to the parish priest in Lebanon and to “commend him for standing with his people and being part of that and serving them with all the difficulties going through himself and to stay there and do his best for his people.”

Zaidan also urged “everybody here and wherever they are to first keep Lebanon in your mind. Keep our brothers and sisters in your mind, in your prayers, and whatever you could spare here could make a big difference in Lebanon,” he said.

Zaidan said that Christ is closest to the people who are suffering and needy. 

“We need to know [that] anyone who’s in need, whatever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you’ve done it to me, Christ told us,” he said. Zaidan said that there are many inspiring stories about people who are in need, and who assist someone who is in a worse situation than they are. 

“It’s amazing,” he said. 

Zaidan said that the Maronites in Lebanon played a significant role in making Lebanon a great country. He said that Maronite Patriarch Elias Hoyaek de Helta, who served from 1898-1931, “was instrumental in making Lebanon great as in its own borders today.”

Zaidan said that it’s important for Lebanon to be a “beacon of hope” and a “haven” for Christians in the Middle East. 

“Lebanon, as John Paull II said, is a message between the East and the West, between the Christians and the Muslim — and also among the Christians — between the Catholics and Orthodox, as well.

“It’s a unique mission from that perspective,” he said. 

Zaidan said that many Lebanese migrated to the United States over the past 100 years.

“We always think about Lebanon as the mother church and the branches who are spread all over the world and are present in different parts of the world,” he said. 

“Hopefully, we could bear fruits and let the mother church enjoy some of those fruits as well,” Zaidan said.

How a Cincinnati parish became home to the first church dedicated to ‘Christ the King’

Our Lord Christ the King parish in Cincinnati, Ohio, was the first in the world to have a church with that name. An earlier church building gained that distinction in 1926. This is a photo of the current church, built in the 1950s. / Courtesy of Amber Dawson

Denver Newsroom, Nov 20, 2022 / 04:00 am (CNA).

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, celebrated this year on Nov. 20, also is referred to as the feast of Christ the King, Christ the King Sunday, or Reign of Christ Sunday.

While the concept of Jesus Christ as King is as old as the Gospels, the feast is fairly recent in the Roman Catholic calendar. 

The feast was introduced in the Western liturgical calendar in 1925 by Pope Pius XI, via the encyclical Quas Primas.

Surprisingly, the first parish in the world to be consecrated in honor of Our Lord Christ the King was established by Pope Pius XI not in Europe but in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1926. 

“The 225 worshippers who attended Our Lord Christ the King’s first Mass on December 5, 1926, embodied the essence of what it means to be ‘church.’ With neither bricks nor mortar to call their own, this gathering of believers placed their faith in Providence and celebrated early liturgies in humble surroundings,” reads an account posted on the parish’s website. “There was no electricity for the first Eucharist, so the room was illuminated by headlights beamed from parked cars. Pastor Father Edward J. Quinn, a former World War I chaplain, used his Army Mass kit.”

The current church, built in the 1950s, was designed by famed church architect Edward J. Schulte in what is known as a Brutalist style.

Our Lord Christ the King Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1926, an earlier church building became the first church in the world to bear the name Our Lord Christ the King. Courtesy of P.J. Daley
Our Lord Christ the King Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1926, an earlier church building became the first church in the world to bear the name Our Lord Christ the King. Courtesy of P.J. Daley

Despite the fact that the first parish ever to be dedicated to Christ the King was in the United States, some American clergy originally had difficulty explaining the new solemnity in the context of American Protestant patriotism, which frowned upon kings and kingdoms as opposed to democracy as the most perfect form of government.

A key passage from Quas Primas provided Catholic preachers with a helpful synopsis. “This kingdom (of Christ) is spiritual and is concerned with spiritual things ….The gospels present this kingdom as one which men prepare to enter by penance and cannot actually enter except by faith and by baptism, which, though an external rite, signifies and produces an interior regeneration. This kingdom is opposed to none other than to that of Satan and to the power of darkness. It demands of its subjects a spirit of detachment from riches and earthly things, and a spirit of gentleness. They must hunger and thirst after justice, and more than this, they must deny themselves and carry the cross.”

Pope Pius XI established the feast to be celebrated on the last Sunday of October, so that it would always take place before the celebration of the solemnity of All Saints. But in the new liturgical calendar of 1970, its Roman rite observance was moved to the last Sunday of Ordinary Time. Therefore, the earliest date on which it can occur is Nov. 20 and the latest is Nov. 26.

Senators urge Biden to rejoin coalition finding no ‘international right’ to abortion

Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma (pictured) along with Sen. Steve Daines, R-Montana, introduced a resolution Nov. 17, 2022, requesting that President Joe Biden recommit the U.S. to the Geneva Consensus Declaration. Daines and Lankford, together with Republican Rep. Jody Hice of Georgia, served as congressional honorary co-chairs of a GCD commemoration luncheon held in the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C. / Katie Yoder/CNA

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 19, 2022 / 10:00 am (CNA).

U.S. Senators are calling on President Joe Biden to rejoin a growing coalition of 37 nations finding that there is no “international right” to abortion, after he previously withdrew the United States’ support.

Republican Sens. Steve Daines of Montana and James Lankford of Oklahoma introduced a resolution Thursday requesting that Biden recommit the U.S. to the Geneva Consensus Declaration (GCD) — a declaration that promises to support women’s health and well-being, the family as the foundation of society, and the right to life of every human being.

Two years ago, in 2020, the U.S. hosted the signing ceremony of the GCD. At that time, 35 nations signed on, representing more than 1.6 billion people. The United States later withdrew its signature under the Biden administration.

“President Biden should reverse this decision and have the United States rejoin the Declaration,” Daines said in a press release. “Protecting the most vulnerable among us is an all-hands-on-deck battle and together we can work towards a future that recognizes the dignity of every life, everywhere.”

Lankford added: “It is embarrassing that the United States would surrender its moral leadership on the international stage, but this resolution affirms the United States’ commitment to protect life and uphold families.”

Daines and Lankford, together with Republican Rep. Jody Hice of Georgia, served as congressional honorary co-chairs of a GCD commemoration luncheon held in the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., on Thursday.

A host of foreign dignitaries, U.S. legislators, and representatives of nonprofits attended the event sponsored by the Institute for Women’s Health (IWH), a women’s health policy organization. Valerie Huber, IWH’s president and CEO, served as the GCD’s architect while at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“I saw the needs for girls’ and women’s health around the world going unanswered because of ideological agendas, and the GCD was created in response to that — to give countries a way to bind together around common values and to promote health and thriving,” she told CNA.

At the event, she announced that Kazakhstan was joining the coalition. She called the country’s addition a “hopeful indication of more in 2023.”

Along with leaders from around the world, Daines and Lankford also delivered remarks at the luncheon.

“Despite President Biden sadly, tragically removing the United States from the declaration, I will tell you this does not represent the view of the American people,” Daines said.

Citing the Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and leave the issue of abortion up to the people and their elected representatives, he added: “What the U.S. has accomplished on the issue of life in the last year is a cause for thanksgiving.”

“The fact that the United States now recognizes that there is no right to abortion written in invisible ink in our nation’s Constitution,” he stressed to world leaders, “should encourage all of us in our shared efforts that international law and international agreements are not really written to invent an international right to abortion that would override the duly and active laws of your countries protecting preborn babies.”

Daines called life a gift and a “precious miracle given to us by God” that no government or court can take away.

Lankford hoped that, one day, the U.S. will view the protection of the unborn as unquestionable.

“I believe, in the coming decades around the world, nations will look back at their history, when they used to destroy children because they were inconvenient, and will say, ‘Why did we ever do that?’” he said. “Just like we do in our nation, when we look back and say, ‘Why did we ever have slavery in our nation? Why did we ever have a time when women couldn’t vote in our nation?’”

In 2021, Daines and Lankford also introduced a concurrent resolution in celebration of the first anniversary of the GCD’s launch.

At the time of its signing, in 2020, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar said that it was written partially in response to a “disturbing trend” in the United Nations, with more nations and supporting U.N. agencies considering abortion a “universal human right.”

On abortion, the GCD condemns the use of abortion as a “method of family planning” and maintains that there is “no international right to abortion.”

FBI investigating crimes against churches, pro-life groups, director affirms

Vandalism at St. John XXIII parish in Fort Collins, Colo., May 7, 2022. / Eileen Pulse

Denver, Colo., Nov 18, 2022 / 16:30 pm (CNA).

FBI Director Christopher Wray has reaffirmed the bureau’s commitment to investigating crimes against pro-life groups and churches, reporting that they face about 70% of abortion-related threats since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision.

“My view — plainly expressed to all of our people, including in the context of abortion-related violence — is that I don't care what side of the issue you're on, you don't get to engage in violence, and we are equal-opportunity when it comes to that,” Wray said at a Nov. 15 hearing of the U.S. Senate Homeland Security Committee, Fox News reports.

He spoke in response to Sen. Rick Scott, R-Florida, who questioned Wray about the FBI’s response to crimes against churches, pro-life pregnancy centers, and other pro-life organizations motivated by pro-abortion sentiment.

Wray said the FBI has “quite a number of investigations” into “attacks or threats against pregnancy resource centers, faith-based organizations, and other pro-life organizations.”

The FBI director said that since the Dobbs decision in late June, “probably in the neighborhood of 70% of our abortion-related violence cases or threats cases are cases of violence or threats against … pro-life organizations.”

As of Sept. 22, CNA had recorded attacks on 33 churches, 55 pregnancy centers, three political organizations, and one maternity home since early May where the public evidence points to a pro-abortion motive. The crimes include vulgar graffiti, property damage, threats, theft, and even arson.

Peaceful protests, as well as crimes, followed the leak in May of a draft of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision, which revealed that Roe v. Wade would be overturned and end a nationwide requirement that states allow legal abortion.

Wray told the Senate hearing that the bodies investigating crimes against pro-life churches and organizations bodies include “about 20 field offices,” he said, as well as joint terrorism task forces. He cited the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, known as the FACE Act, which since 1994 has barred the blocking of access to abortion clinics and places of worship. The Department of Justice has said the legislation also protects pro-life pregnancy centers.

“We take it very seriously,” Wray said. “And again, I don't care if you're motivated by pro-life views or pro-choice views. You don't get to use violence to express it,” he said.

Last month Republican lawmakers in the House and Senate asked why the FBI and the Department of Justice appear to be targeting pro-life people disproportionately under the FACE Act. They contrasted these actions with an apparent lack of investigations or Department of Justice prosecutions related to the rise in violence against pro-life individuals and institutions.

At the Nov. 15 hearing, Sen. Scott pressed Wray about whether the public thinks the FBI is more concerned about prosecuting pro-life advocates and not those who threatened him.

“We don't have the time for me to tell how frustrated I sometimes get by some of the news reporting about our work and the misreporting of our work,” he said. “The circumspection that we display with regard to discussing our investigations is based on rules and practices that are important to people having confidence in the integrity of our work and go back decades, multiple administrations.”

The Department of Justice continues to have a National Task Force on Violence Against Reproductive Health Care Providers. It was established in November 1998 after an abortionist was shot and killed in western New York. According to the task force’s website, its functions appear to focus on investigating violence against abortion clinics and providers.