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CNA - Daily News

US:    Pro-life policies and border funding fuel Congressional budget deadlock

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2019 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- With the end-of-the-month deadline for Congress to pass legislation to fund the federal government fast approaching, lawmakers remain at odds over a series of issues, including key pro-life policies, making the need for a short-term extension agreement likely.

Such a funding extension—a Continuing Resolution (CR)—would be “the best thing for pro-lifers right now,” Tom McClusky, president of March for Life Action, told CNA last week.

McClusky’s analysis came after Senate Democrats tried twice last week to insert pro-abortion measures into appropriations bills, resulting in two of the 12 bills meant to fund federal agencies being pulled from consideration.

The two amendments would have rolled back pro-life administration policies, the Title X “Protect Life Rule” and the expanded Mexico City Policy. Both are protections against taxpayer funding of abortions at home and abroad.

One of the policies, the “Protect Life Rule” which went into effect in August, clarified that any recipients of Title X family planning funding could not refer for women for abortions or collocate in the same facility with abortion clinics.

The administration’s expanded version of the Mexico City Policy applies restrictions to federal funding of abortions abroad to over $8.8 billion of U.S. foreign assistance, barring funding of foreign non-governmental organizations that perform or promote abortions.

Two Republicans on the Senate Appropriations Committee—Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)—were expected to vote for the amendments. In response, the legislation was pulled from consideration before it could reach a scheduled markup hearing last Thursday.

Senators from both parties are also at odds over other issues in the appropriations process, including border wall funding.

On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) cited the budget agreement struck between President Trump and Congressional leaders in July, and said Democrats were walking back their agreement not to insert “poison pill” amendments into appropriations bills.

McConnell added that he was moving to advance a package of House-passed appropriations bills in the Senate before resorting to a CR.

“They include several of the domestic funding bills along with the legislation to fund the Department of Defense. There should be no reason for Democrats to vote against this first procedural step,” he said.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday criticized Senate Republicans for “acting in a totally partisan way” by seeking to allocate an additional $12 billion in funding of the U.S.-Mexico border wall, in part by taking funding from medical research, opioid treatment and funding for military families.

“This is a stunt if I’ve ever seen one. Putting this bill—$12 billion more for the wall, no buy-in from Democrats—for a vote. It will lose. We know it will lose,” Schumer said on the Senate Floor on Tuesday.

As the Senate considers the 12 appropriations bills which must be passed before the end of the 2019 fiscal year, the House is now working on a CR in case the bills do not suceed, the text of which was yet to be released by Tuesday afternoon. House leaders indicated that a vote on a CR was likely before the end of the week.

While debate among legislators continued, a Continuing Resolution would at keep funding at the “status quo” level without the threat of new pro-abortion amendments in the meantime, McClusky told CNA last week.

A scenario that would be concerning, he added, would be the passage of a CR combined with an omnibus bill which would provide new funding for certain government agencies for the 2020 fiscal year in the “omnibus” section—while providing a short-term funding extensions for other government agencies in the CR section.

McClusky said that, because such a bill would be a much larger and more comprehensive piece of legislation than a simple CR, it would be harder for members to keep track of amendments as they were added—including controversial amendments to repeals of pro-life policies.

McClusky told CNA that the Congressional appropriations proves was in clear need of reform. “This is their day job,” he said.


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Europe:    Robert Bellarmine, the saint who defended the Church with charity

Rome, Italy, Sep 17, 2019 / 03:18 pm (CNA).- St. Robert Bellarmine, whose feast is celebrated Sept. 17 on the General Roman Calendar, was a Jesuit and a cardinal who used his incredible intellect to defend Catholic teaching, largely through responses to the Church’s opponents in the aftermath of the Protestant Reformation.

In all his writings, St. Bellarmine “maintained a charitable disputation that kept the focus on the theological issues,” according to Fr. Mitch Pacwa, S.J.

After the reformation, “for the most part, the Catholics and the Protestants responded to each other with vitriol,” he said. “They threatened each other, ridicule was typical of the debate.”

“And in that context, St. Robert Bellarmine never used ridicule or anger or opprobrium or reviling or any such thing. He always treated his opponents with great respect and charity. He was convinced that charity with the opponents of the Church would win them over much more readily.”

This is one of the things that made him a saint, Pacwa stated.

Fr. Mark Lewis, a professor of Church history and academic vice rector at the Pontifical Gregorian University, told CNA Bellarmine lived simply, in accord with his vow of poverty.

Several religious congregations founded in the 16th century, including the Society of Jesus, were trying to present a model of a reformed priest, “one who took his vows seriously, that lived simply, followed poverty, that was willing to go on apostolic missions,” he said.

Because Jesuits, as a general rule, do not take the honor of cardinal, in his early life Bellarmine avoided being named a cardinal or bishop, Lewis said. “But when he was named one, he insisted that he would be a model of a reformed prelate.”

Bellarmine was named a cardinal in 1599, at a time when bishops were also often political lords, or the ruler of a city or town, but he supported the poor through the sale of his possessions.

The cardinal and his friend, Venerable Cesare Baronius, “wanted to show that if you are going to be a bishop, or you are going to be a cardinal, it’s at the service of the Church,” Lewis said.

“As a Jesuit, he had a vow of poverty as well as obedience. He wasn’t allowed to own anything. He was trained in ascetism, so he wasn’t looking for luxuries in this world,” Pacwa said, noting that once, when people in Rome were suffering from plague and famine, Bellarmine sold the tapestries off the walls of his apartment for money to give to the poor. “He said the walls won’t get colder, the poor will.”

Bellarmine, who was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1931, is well known for having written a catechism of the faith and for his Disputationes de Controversiis Christianae Fidei adversus huius temporis hereticos, a book which responded to the various issues dealt with by Protestant “reformers.”

He responded to their arguments using scripture, the Church Fathers, and tradition, Pacwa explained. “This made him an orderly thinker willing to take on the issues of his day.”

Lewis explained that what Bellarmine did, then called controversial theology, would now probably be called “dogmatic theology.” Though it probably was not seen as a dialogue in Bellarmine’s own time, Lewis argued, it was: “He was developing responses to the Protestant theology of the time.”

Before being made cardinal, Bellarmine was a scholar and teacher, as well as rector of the Roman College. One of his students was St. Aloysius Gonzaga, next to whom, in the Church of St. Ignatius in Rome, Bellarmine asked to be buried.

Another friend of Bellarmine was the storied astronomer Galileo Galilei. But Bellarmine “was the kind of man who could be a friend and not necessarily agree with you,” Pacwa stated.

Galileo had put forward his unproven theory of heliocentricity, which the Church saw as contradicting scripture, Pacwa explained. Bellarmine gave Galileo a warning, because Galileo was asserting the theory as absolute truth without citing specific scientific proof to support the claim.

According to Pacwa, “this warning was given to Galileo, not as condemnation, and Galileo accepted it. Later there were rumors that Galileo had been forced to recant. And both Bellarmine and Galileo wrote that that wasn’t true, just that he had to be quiet about claiming that.”

When Galileo was later condemned, it was after Bellarmine’s death.

St. Robert Bellarmine was “indefatigable in his labor,” Pacwa asserted. “And he worked until he died,” on Sept. 17, 1621. Bellarmine was canonized by Pius XI in 1930.

“Knowing a lot does not make one a saint. Not everybody has the intellectual capacity that Robert Bellarmine did. But the way he used his magnificent intellectual capacity is what made him a saint,” Pacwa claims. “He committed his intellect to the service of God and the Church.”
 


EWTN’s Alexey Gotovsky contributed to this story


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US:    Cincinnati archbishop 'anticipating' Vatican investigation into handling of abuse case

Cincinnati, Ohio, Sep 17, 2019 / 02:37 pm (CNA).- Archbishop Dennis Schnurr of Cincinnati has submitted a report to Rome, following criticism of the archdiocese’s handling of allegations of sexual abuse against a local priest.

Archdiocesan officials told CNA Sept. 17 that a complete file on the case of Fr. Geoff Drew has been sent to the apostolic nuncio in Washington, DC, for transmission to the relevant curial departments, expected to include the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

A spokesperson for the archdiocese told CNA that a “full report” was sent to Rome via the nuncio on Aug. 30, and that Archbishop Schnurr “anticipates that the Vatican may order a full investigation” into the handling of the case.

“Archbishop Schnurr takes any accusations of sexual abuse very seriously, as well as any possible lapse in internal procedures for handling allegations,” the spokesperson told CNA.

Fr. Geoff Drew was arrested August 19 on a nine-count indictment for sexual abuse. The charges date back 30 years to before Drew’s time in ministry, when he was a music minister at a local parish. The accusations concern abuse said to have taken place over two years, when the reported victim was 10 and 11 years old. Drew pled not guilty during an Aug. 21 arraignment hearing. If convicted, the priest could face life in prison.

At the time of his arrest, Drew had already been removed from ministry following a several of allegations of misconduct with teenage boys which came to light in July and August.

Despite a series of complaints raised over a period of years, Drew had been able to remain in ministry and allowed to transfer from the parish of St. Maximilian Kolbe in Liberty Township, OH, to the parish of St. Ignatius, which is attached to the largest Catholic school in the archdiocese.

The handling of Drew’s case by archdiocesan officials, and his ability to transfer to another parish, has drawn heavy criticism from the priest’s former parishioners, who have asked how it was possible that a series of complaints was made to Church authorities and forwarded to local law enforcement, but resulted in no action against Drew.

In August, CNA reported that Cincinnati auxiliary Bishop Joseph Binzer had failed to inform Schnurr and the archdiocesan priest personnel board about past allegations against Drew dating back to 2013 and 2015.

As head of priest personnel, Binzer was in charge of the process that considers requests and proposals for priest reassignments, in conjunction with the priest personnel board. Neither the board nor the archbishop were made aware of the multiple complaints against Drew, and a 2018 transfer between parishes was approved for the priest.

After CNA presented its investigation to the archdiocese, a spokesperson said that Binzer would be removed from his position as head of priest personnel, effective immediately, while the archdiocese began its own internal investigation.

On Aug. 6 Binzer resigned from the USCCB’s committee on child and youth protection, which advises the bishops’ conference on all matters related to safe environment policy and child protection. Binzer had been serving as the regional representative for the dioceses of Ohio and Michigan.

The failure of bishops to act on allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse has been the focus of successive scandals in the Church in the past year. In addition to accounts that accusations against former Archbishop Theodore McCarrick were ignored by Church authorities over a period of years, the release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report revived criticism of past occasions where bishops ignored complaints against predator clergy.

The allegations that Binzer internally withheld the allegations against Drew came just weeks after the USCCB met in Baltimore to adopt measures aimed at building processes to address episcopal misconduct or neglect, and the ongoing crisis of credibility widely perceived to overshadow ongoing work to eliminate sexual abuse from the Church.

These measures included a set of directives applying in the U.S. the new universal norms for investigating allegations against bishops promulgated by Pope Francis in Vos estis lux mundi and which came into force on June 1.

A spokesperson for the archdiocese could not confirm whether Archbishop Schnurr had included a request for an investigation into Binzer’s conduct under the provisions of Vos estis, in the report submitted at the end of August, or whether Binzer will be the subject of the “anticipated” Vatican investigation.

“Archbishop Schnurr sent the full report to Rome on the whole case and he is waiting for the Vatican’s response,” the spokesperson told CNA.


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US:    Beware scammers, Cardinal Dolan warns, after online fraudster targets followers

New York City, N.Y., Sep 17, 2019 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York issued a statement Monday clarifying that he will not and has never used social media to privately solicit donations. The cardinal made the statement in response to an online scam operation being conducted using his name to solicit funds.

“I've heard from some of you you've received Facebook or Twitter messages from an account pretending to be me,” said the archbishop on Twitter Sept. 16. “Please know I will never reach out privately on social media to ask for donations.”

Dolan encouraged anyone who had been asked to donate money by an account purporting to be him on Twitter or Facebook to report it to the archdiocese. 

A spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York told CNA that they had received “several reports” that someone impersonating Cardinal Dolan was requesting money from people, “ostensibly for charitable purposes,” and that this was not the first time something like this has happened.

“Sadly, we’ve seen this scam being used in the past few months with other religious figures - pastors, priests, other clergy - being impersonated, and so wanted to remind people that Cardinal Dolan will never solicit donations in this way,” said Joseph Zwilling, the archdiocese’s director of communications.  

Zwilling added that, “While the internet and social media can be great tools of evangelization, they can also be used by unscrupulous individuals seeking to ‘rip-off’ trusting and generous people.” 

“It’s always a good idea to be cautious, and double or triple check, especially online, that the person is who he or she claims to be!” 

These types of scams are called “phishing,” and are relatively common. A “phisher” will pose as either a known, trusted person or as a website, and request money, passwords, or other protected information. Frequently, phishers will create spoof emails and addresses that look like genuine emails from an organization or person in order to harvest passwords and credit card information from an unsuspecting victim. 

A person can protect themselves from phishing by using security tools like two-factor authentication, and exercising constant vigilance before sending personal information or money electronically. Electronic security experts advise considering if any request is typical policy for an organization, and to take a step back before blindly giving away sensitive info. 

Other safety recommendations include checking the full email or account address to ensure the authenticity of the sender or, in the example of a public figure such as Cardinal Dolan, to see if the social media account is verified as authentic. 


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Middle East - Africa:    Eritrean bishops say seizure of Catholic schools is 'hatred against the faith'

Asmara, Eritrea, Sep 17, 2019 / 01:45 pm (CNA).- Seven religious schools in Eritrea, four of them sponsored by the Catholic Church, have been seized by the country’s government this month. Catholic bishops in the country say the move was motivated by “hatred against the faith.”

“If this is not hatred against the faith and against religion what else can it be?” Eritrea’s bishops asked in a Sept. 4 letter addressed to the Minister of Public Education, Semere Re’esom.

The seven schools seized by the government include three run Protestant and Muslim groups, according to Comboni Catholic missionaries serving in the area. The schools have been nationalized, and will reportedly now be run by the country’s education ministry.

The Eritrean government has also seized Church-run health facilities.

"The actions that are being taken against our educational and health institutions are contrary to the rights and to the legitimate freedom of the Church,” the bishops wrote in their Sept. 4 letter.

The bishops also suggested that the government raise to them any objections to the way in which Catholic schools and hospitals are administered in Eritrea.

“If there are situations that need to be corrected or adjusted, not only is it good, but even the only viable way, in order for this to take place in a context of an open and constructive dialogue,” the bishops wrote.

Eritrea is a one-party state whose human rights record has frequently been deplored.

It is believed the seizures are retaliatory, after the Church in April called for reforms to reduce emigration.

The bishops had also called for national reconciliation.
Government seizure of Church property is not new, however.

A 1995 decree restricting social and welfare projects to the state has been used intermittently since then to seize or close ecclesial services.

In July 2018, an Eritrean Catholic priest helping immigrants and refugees in Italy told EWTN that authorities had recently shut down eight free Catholic-run medical clinics. He said authorities claimed the clinics were unnecessary because of the presence of state clinics.

Christian and Muslim schools have also been closed under the 1995 decree, according to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom's 2019 annual report.

Eritrea has been designated a Country of Particular Concern since 2004 for its religious freedom abuses by the US Department of State.

Many Eritreans, especially youth, emigrate, due to a military conscription, and a lack of opportunities, freedom, education, and health care.

A July 2018 peace agreement between Ethiopia and Eritrea, which ended a conflict over their mutual border, led to an open border which has allowed for easier emigration.

Catholics make up 4 percent of Eritrea’s population.

ACI Africa contributed to this report.


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US:    Massachusetts bishops say action is urgently needed on climate change

Boston, Mass., Sep 17, 2019 / 12:25 pm (CNA).- The bishops of Massachusetts warned in a new pastoral letter that climate change has reached a crisis level and requires decisive action. They encouraged Catholics to embrace the message of stewardship in Pope Francis 2015 encyclical, Laudato si’.

“In our home state of Massachusetts, we are blessed with inspiring natural beauty from the seashore on the east coast to the majestic mountain vistas in the west - with rolling hills, vibrant communities and rich farmlands throughout the state,” the bishops said.

They encouraged the faithful to reflect on this created beauty as a gift from God.

“To protect and sustain this gift we must act now within our faith institutions and throughout the state to take substantial, meaningful steps to protect our environmental [sic] and provide relief from the impact of toxic pollution and climate change to protect the health and safety of all citizens, particularly the most vulnerable in our society,” they said.

Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston, Bishop Robert McManus of Worcester, Bishop Edgar da Cunha of Fall River, and Bishop Mitchell Rozanski of Springfield released a pastoral letter this week. They cited reports indicating that climate change has reached a point of unprecedented urgency.

This past July was the hottest month ever recorded, according to the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration, which found that worsening wildfires, hurricanes and heat waves could continue affecting the United States, leading to a more than $400 billion impact on the U.S. economy each year, if climate change is not addressed.

The bishops also noted that world food security is at risk, due to changes in climate, according the United Nations, which estimates that there may be as little as 12 years to significantly cut global emissions in order to limit the rising temperature of the earth and prevent more catastrophic consequences.

The Massachusetts bishops pointed to Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato si’: On Care for Our Common Home as a model to follow in working to fight climate change.

In that encyclical, Pope Francis warns of increasing global temperatures and rising sea levels, saying, “Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it.”

With an eye to the Catholic principle of subsidiarity, the Massachusetts bishops called on individuals, schools, parishes and businesses to examine what they can do to be better stewards of the created world around them.

“Every person’s actions will depend on their life circumstance and their commitment to protect our natural resources,” they said.

“Families should discuss their concerns about the environment and how their lifestyle and consumption is contributing to the climate changes and other environmental degradation. Parishes should integrate Catholic social teaching on the environment in their liturgy and in their religious education program,” they continued. “Action is needed at all levels of government to encourage replacement of fossil fuels with renewable sources of energy while ensuring that the most vulnerable in society are protected from harm during this transition.”

The bishops echoed Pope Francis’ call for an “integral ecology,” saying that such an ecology “respects the dignity of each person, identifies a moral obligation to protect the environment, and promotes social justice by supporting responsible economic development with respect for all people and the earth.”


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Vatican:    Vatican City prosecutors asks that Italian priest be charged with sexual abuse during seminary

Vatican City, Sep 17, 2019 / 11:55 am (CNA).- The Vatican announced Tuesday that the Vatican City State’s Promoter of Justice has requested the indictment two Italian priests -- Fr. Gabriele Martinelli on charges of sexual abuse and Fr. Enrico Radice for “aiding and abetting.”

In 2012, Martinelli was accused of having, over a period of five years, sexually molested his roommate at the Vatican’s St. Pius X minor seminary, in which, in addition to seminarians, also live boys who altar serve for papal liturgical celebrations in St. Peter’s Basilica.

That allegation was reported by the Associated Press in 2018, and by Italian journalists in 2017. The initial handling of the case by the Vatican was severely criticized -- Kamil Jarzembowski, the former student who had made the allegation, was dismissed from the seminary while the alleged abuser, Martinelli, was ordained a priest in 2017.

Charges are also being brought against Fr. Enrico Radice, who was rector of the minor seminary at the time of the alleged abuse, for alleged “aiding and abetting.”

According to the Vatican statement, an investigation into the accusations was begun in November 2017, following media reports, but, according to a statement from the Vatican, the Vatican City State’s operative law at the time prevented a trial from taking place without a complaint from the alleged victim within one year of the alleged abuse.

The statement says the charges may now be brought forward because on June 29, Pope Francis made a special provision that would allow the case to proceed.

Martinelli, 26, is a priest in the Diocese of Como, in northern Italy and a member of the “Opera don Folci,” a religious association centered on the formation of priests. He is still listed on the diocesan website, but a parish is not indicated.

Italian media reported in early August that the prosecutor’s office in Rome is also close to indicting Martinelli on charges of abuse with the aggravating circumstance of abuse of power.

In comments published in early July, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano criticized the Vatican's handling of two cases of alleged sexual abuse, including the case of Martinelli.

Vigano claimed the case was “immediately covered up by the then-bishop of Como, Diego Coletti, together with Cardinal Angelo Comastri, Vicar General of Pope Francis for Vatican City.  In addition, Cardinal Coccopalmerio, then president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, who was consulted by Don Stabellini, strongly admonished him to stop the investigation.”

The former nuncio did not mention that the Church had since launched a new canonical investigation into the allegations. That investigation was triggered when the alleged victim came forward to make a complaint himself, according to a July 2018 AP report.

 

Ed. note: This story has been updated to clarify that the promoter of justice has requested the indictment of the two priests.

 


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Vatican:    Archbishop Gomez to present conclusions of V Encuentro to Pope Francis

Vatican City, Sep 17, 2019 / 11:19 am (CNA).- A delegation from the U.S., including Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, will present the conclusions and proceedings of the National V Encuentro of Hispanic and Latino Ministry to Pope Francis Wednesday.

The Encuentro was a September 2018 meeting of around 3,000 Hispanic and Latino Catholics on issues such as the accompaniment of immigrants, access to higher education, lay leadership formation, community outreach, and evangelization.

The four-day meeting was a culmination of four years of consultation and workshops at the parish, diocesan, and regional levels of the Church in the U.S. The theme was “Missionary Disciples: Witnesses of the love of God”.

Archbishop Gomez told CNA that the Encuentro helped “Latinos to understand that they really belong in the United States and they are bringing their gifts to our society.”

“I think it was beautiful to see their participation and the reality that we need them to be leaders in our community,” he said. “They are totally committed to the life, society in the United States and making a contribution to every single aspect of life in the United States and especially the values of the Gospel.”

He added that the Latino community bring with them a commitment to Christian values that are at the foundation of their own countries.

Gomez also urged U.S. Catholics to pray more for the government to reach a solution on comprehensive immigration reform.

The archbishop comes with a delegation of 12 people, including Bishops Nelson Pérez of Cleveland and Arturo Cepeda, an auxiliary bishop of Detroit, who will meet Pope Francis after the Sept. 18 General Audience.

The group has also had meetings with Vatican offices and dicasteries during their visit Sept. 13-18.

Pope Francis sent a video message at the start of the Encuentro last year, and Gomez said, “the first thing” he would like to do is thank the pope “for the assistance he sent and also for his support during this time.”

Gomez, who is vice president of the U.S. bishops’ conference and a Mexico native, said the group will present to Francis a document summarizing what different people experienced at the meeting and practical ways to follow-up the process.

“The Encuentro has been a beautiful process, that’s what we want to share with [Pope Francis] and everybody else,” Gomez said.

“It’s been a beautiful exercise of how to especially get the Latino community involved in the life of the Church. So that’s what we want to share with him.”

Bishop Perez is chairman of the USCCB Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church. He told CNA that some of the fruit of Encuentro has been the “emerging leadership, in so many ways, of the next generation of leaders and pastoral lay leaders in the church in the United States.”

On the parish level, he said, 3,000 parishes and 350,000 Catholics participated in the Encuentro process over the last several years.

He said the emergence of new leadership, especially young adults, was immediately apparent. “That was really promising and very hopeful.”

Junuee Castro, the director of youth and young adult ministry in the Diocese of Salt Lake City, seconded this. She told CNA the diocesan Encuentro meetings were very meaningful for her and that “young people have raised their hands and said yes, I am willing to go forward, I am willing to commit; I definitely want to see them in leadership roles.”

Bishop Perez also noted that 250 U.S. parishes started Spanish pastoral outreach and began holding Spanish Masses as a result of the V Encuentro. He added that they have also seen several dioceses establish and staff offices with new lay leaders.

“The V Encuentro is really in so many ways the implementation of the joy of the Gospel. So the whole process, the spirit, the mysticism of the spirituality revolves all around the joy of the Gospel,” Perez said.

He pointed to Pope Francis’ description, in Evangelii gaudium, of the Church “as a community of missionary disciples that takes initiative, that accompanies, that is engaged, that is fruitful, that is joyful.”

“This is the spirit of the V Encuentro,” he said.

Noting that deportations have taken place in his diocese, Perez said one of the blessings of the V Encuentro was that “it comes at a time of that uncertainty and fear and became, in so many ways, a soothing balm where people would come together and support each other, accompany each other and strengthen each other in a very tumultuous time.”

The delegation meeting with Pope Francis includes lay USCCB staff, members of the National V Encuentro Team, and other delegates with experience in diocesan and parish ministry.

Castro said, “what the Church can do is what the Encuentro process has done for us. They have paused and listened to us.”

“They have listened to us, which is key to anything we want to do as a Church; the mode of listening and accompaniment definitely. Being accompanied and being mentored by those who have been in ministerial roles we need their advice and we are willing to walk with them and them with us.”

Delegates and married couple Mario and Paola Martinez are co-directors of the marriage and family life ministry in the Diocese of San Bernardino. They said they serve a range of people in their work, and it has been critical for them to see way in which mothers and fathers seek help for themselves and their families.

“They have this desire for their families to be healthy, for their families to find this peace and they just want the best for their families. That’s what we see, that passion for family life among our Hispanic community. They have a love for their families and for their traditions and their cultures and you can just feel that in the communities that we serve,” Paola said.


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US:    Louisville's Archbishop Kurtz will return to Kentucky before cancer surgery

Denver, Colo., Sep 17, 2019 / 10:03 am (CNA).- Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, who announced in July a diagnosis of the most common form of bladder cancer, said Sept. 16 that his surgeon will allow him to return to his diocese around Oct. 20 for three weeks.

Kurtz, who served as president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops from 2013 to 2016, has been staying in North Carolina for the duration of his treatment at the Duke University Cancer Institute.

“This date will mark the completion of the chemotherapy and immunotherapy and will allow me to be strengthened for the radical surgery that will occur at the Duke Cancer Institute on November 11,” Kurtz wrote on his blog.

“After the surgery, I hope to be released by my surgeon at Thanksgiving.”

Kurtz stepped down from leading the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ religious liberty committee a few weeks after announcing his diagnosis. Bishop Robert McManus of Worcester, Massachusetts, has been appointed as his replacement and will serve as acting chair of the committee until the November 2019 General Assembly meeting.

Kurtz said he has been sad to miss the many visits he would typically take throughout the summer to the various parishes in the archdiocese. He asked for continued prayers.

“While urothelial carcinoma is somewhat common, the form I have and its location is not,” he continued.

“Because of the aggressive nature of the cancer, I will be required to have this radical surgery on November 11 and should find out by Thanksgiving what ongoing treatment or limitations will be present.”

Kurtz said in July that Archbishop Christoph Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, was aware of his illness and imminent absence from his archdiocese, and was “supportive of the plan I have developed.”

He said his vicar general, Father Martin Linebach, traveled to North Carolina recently to “continue to develop pastoral directions on the horizons before us,” and next week diocesan Chancellor Dr. Brian Reynolds, Chancellor, and Vicar for Priests Father Jeff Shooner will visit North Carolina for additional discussions about pastoral issues for the fall.

He said his stamina remains good but he must still avoid crowds because of the risk of infection.

According to the American Cancer Society, urothelial carcinoma is the most common form of bladder cancer. The five-year relative survival rates for all stages of bladder cancer is 77 percent.

 


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Asia - Pacific:    Cardinal Pell submits appeal to Australian High Court

Melbourne, Australia, Sep 17, 2019 / 04:32 am (CNA).- Cardinal George Pell Tuesday submitted an application for leave to appeal his conviction to the Australian High Court, following the Aug. 21 decision by the Court of Appeal in Victoria to uphold his conviction for child sexual abuse.

The leave to appeal was filed in Melbourne by Pell's legal team Sept. 17, one day before the deadline of 28 days from the date of the Appeal Court decision.

Sources close to the cardinal told CNA Aug. 26 that Pell would be exercising his final appeal and that, while the majority of “special leave to appeal” cases were not granted by the High Court, his case would likely be accepted given the controversy triggered by the split decision of the Appeal Court judgement.

In seeking to take his case to the High Court in Canberra, Australia’s supreme court, Pell is exercising his last legal avenue to overturn a conviction which has divided opinion in the country and internationally.

Several Australian media outlets have reported that Pell will retain the same legal team which presented his case in Victoria, led by Brett Walker SC.

The cardinal was convicted Dec. 11, 2018, on five charges that he sexually abused two choristers after Sunday Mass while he was Archbishop of Melbourne in 1996 and 1997.

He was sentenced to six years in prison, of which he must serve at least three years and eight months before being eligible to apply for parole.

The cardinal, 78, who remains an archbishop and a member of the College of Cardinals, was returned to prison immediately after court adjourned, where he has remained. Pell has not been permitted to celebrate Mass in prison.

Pell’s appeal was presented on three grounds, two of which were procedural and dismissed by all three appeal judges.

The judges were divided on Pell’s primary ground of appeal, that the decision of the jury was “unreasonable.”

At particular issue was the question of whether the jury which convicted Pell had properly weighed all of the evidence presented in his defense, or reached the determination of guilt despite the demonstration of clear “reasonable doubt” that he committed the crimes with which he was charged.

Chief Justice Anne Ferguson and Court President Chris Maxwell formed the majority in favor of rejecting Pell’s appeal that the jury verdict was unreasonable on the evidence presented, finding that it was open to the jury to find beyond “reasonable doubt about the truth of the complainant's account.”

In an extensive dissent from the majority finding, Justice Mark Weinberg noted that the entirety of the evidence against Pell consisted of the testimony of a single accuser, whereas more than 20 witnesses were produced to testify against his narrative.

“Even the ‘reasonable possibility’ that what the witnesses who testified to these matters may have been true must inevitably have led to an acquittal,” Weinberg wrote, concluding that Pell had, in effect, been asked to establish the “impossibility” of his guilt and not merely reasonable doubt.

All three judges granted further leave to appeal on the ground of the unreasonableness of the jury’s conviction.

The decision by Pell to pursue the final legal avenue open to him means that a canonical process in Rome will be further delayed until the civil process concludes in Australia.


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US:    California Catholic Conference asks governor to veto college abortion bill

Sacramento, Calif., Sep 17, 2019 / 12:05 am (CNA).- California legislators passed a bill Friday that would require all state universities to offer medication abortions, despite the objections of pro-life leaders.

In a Sept. 16 statement, Andrew Rivas, executive director of the California Catholic Conference, encouraged California Governor Gavin Newsom to oppose the bill.

“We urge him to veto this unprecedented and unnecessary legislation because it purposely narrows a young woman’s choices and puts the state’s prestigious academic institutions in a position of actually promoting, facilitating and potentially funding only abortions,” he said.

The California State Assembly voted 55-19 in favor of the bill. It had passed through the Senate in May. Newsom has a month to decide whether to veto the bill or sign it into law.

Currently, a majority of campus health centers offer gynecological services and contraceptives, but they will refer students seeking an abortion to an off-campus abortion clinic. If the bill passes, all 34 public universities throughout California will be required to offer medical abortions for the first 10 weeks of a pregnancy.

The proposal would be funded by the College Student Health Center Sexual and Reproductive Health Preparation Fund, which would be established under the bill and administered through the Commission on the Status of Women and Girls.

The bill would require nearly $10.3 million in private money to be raised before Jan 1, 2020. According to the New York Times, supporters said the amount has already been raised. The money would be used to train staff and buy medical equipment. State law already requires abortion costs to be covered by insurers.

A spokesperson declined to comment on what Newsom intends to do, but during his campaign last year, he supported a similar bill vetoed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown, who said the bill was “not necessary” because abortion services were “widely available” off-campus.

Sen. Connie Leyva, sponsor of the bill, said the legislation comes at a time when other states are “rolling back women’s health care.” She said California is leading the charge in reproductive rights.

“SB 24 reaffirms the right of every college student to access abortion. By ensuring that abortion care is available on campus, college students will not have to choose between delaying important medical care or having to travel long distances or miss classes or work,” she said, according to The Sacramento Bee.

The California Catholic Conference said the bill overemphasizes abortion as an option for college pregnancies. While the bill invites health centers to include abortion counseling services, the conference said it is “specifically written in such a way to exclude pro-life counseling.”

“This bill will promote only abortion-inducing drugs on college campuses,” said Rivas. “No government-funded institution, medical or counseling center, should ever provide only one set of services. If this bill is truly about providing choices for female students, the state should then also require and fund life-affirming services on campus.”

“Offering state-funded abortions as the only alternative to pregnancy undermines the ability of a state academic institution to promote the value of diversity and the empowerment of women,” he added.

Rivas said college-age women deserve a safe and supportive environment when faced with a pregnancy. He said campus centers should offer services like pregnancy counseling, childcare, housing assistance, and adoption.

“The life and dignity of every person is due respect and protection at every stage and in every condition. The right to life is the first and most fundamental principle of human rights. As Catholics, we recognize the sacredness and primacy of human life and we oppose any legislation or attempt to deny the basic human right to life,” he said.

Other groups, including the Department of Finance and California’s major university systems, have also questioned the bill’s effectiveness and potential problems with its implementation.

According to The Sacramento Bee, the Department of Finance said the program will likely exceed the established fund and expressed doubt that the commission had enough experience to lead a program of this size.

The New York Times reported that the University of California and California State University systems have raised questions about financial logistics and liability. If the private implementation fund is exhausted, the costs would have to be covered by the universities, who might then have to increase student health fees.

California’s bishops have also condemned the bill. In July, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles and Bishop James Soto of Sacramento encouraged their parishioners to oppose the bill.

“If we are going to be the people God calls us to be, if we are going to restore and renew the Church and rebuild society, then we need a new dedication to living our Catholic identity and communicating that identity in everything we do, from our schools and religious education programs to the way we live our faith in society,” Gomez said in the Angelus, the archdiocesan publication.

“This is unprecedented intrusion on university campuses. It is unnecessary and only serves to further indoctrinate the young to the ideology of abortion,” said Soto in a pastoral letter. “We must continue our efforts to stop this deadly piece of legislation. The womb should not become a tomb for any child anywhere in our state. Women and children deserve better.”


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Vatican:    Analysis: The Amazon and Germany - A tale of two synods

Vatican City, Sep 16, 2019 / 04:48 pm (CNA).- For the next two months, most of the ink spilled by Catholic journalists will be dedicated to the Amazon, and especially the three-week Rome meeting of bishops in October that will discuss the region. But while the Amazon synod of bishops holds popular attention, some astute Church-watchers wll be more attentive to the emerging controversy surrounding a different synod, to be held in Germany.

The pan-Amazonian synod has become the latest battleground in the long series of internecine conflicts that have plagued the Church in recent years. Conservative figures have decried the synod’s preparatory documents as pantheistic heterodoxy, while progressive Churchmen have cast the meeting as the occasion of some kind of new beginning for the Church, after which, at least one bishop has said, “nothing will be the same.”

At issue, at least theoretically, are two loaded topics in the Church’s life: the possibility of ordaining married men to the priesthood, and the quagmire surrounding questions of “inculturation,” which ask how the Gospel can be expressed in diverse cultural settings.

The topic of ordaining married men is on the table because the remoteness of some Amazon villages, which almost never see a priest, has led to the suggestion that ordained “viri probati,” older, married men, could make it possible for more Catholics to have access to the sacramental life.

But some bishops are concerned that considering the possibility of married priests in the Amazon region, where priests are few, will lead to widespread adoption of the practice, and the loss of the custom of clerical celibacy. There is also concern that a broadly applied dispensation from the obligation of priestly celibacy will stir up the simmering debate over ordaining women to the diaconate, and even the officially settled argument over ordaining women as priests.

While most proponents of the possibility say their sights are fixed only on the problems of Amazonia, critics are skeptical. Among advocacy groups, intellectuals, and even a few bishops, heated rhetoric has begun to fly.

As the synod grows closer, the rhetoric will grow only more intense, from all corners of the Church.

Rome will host an entire cottage industry of pundits in the weeks preceding the synod, and “experts,” from both the left and the right, will hold symposia and conferences, trying to make the case that the synod matters, that their opponents are wrong and that, whatever their viewpoint, it is the only legitimately Catholic perspective on the matters at hand.

The pan-Amazonian synod, in short, is likely to follow the playbook that has characterized the two most recent synods in Rome, beginning with the 2015 Synod on the Family. After that meeting, which is best remembered for a fracas over divorce and communion, a 2018 synod on youth and young people was similarly polemical.

The conflicts surrounding synods are unfortunate, for at least two reasons. In the first place, they distract from the sincere and earnest conversation that might take place among bishops about critical issues.

Synods are supposed to be conversations, and the topics discussed are usually ones about which many people in Church leadership or pastoral ministry have something to contribute, or something to learn. The Amazon region, in which Pentecostalism is overtaking Catholicism, in which child labor and human trafficking are serious issues, and deforestation threatens whole communities, is in need of the Church’s leadership and pastoral presence. A conversation, rather than a debate, over the issues in the Amazon would be of real benefit to the Church there. But conflict over hot-button issues, and a sense that the synod is a gladiatorial contest between warring sides, is likely to blunt that conversation.

Conflict over synods of bishops is unfortunate mostly because there is very little to be gained from it. Synod assemblies are low-stakes affairs: synods have no power, they can not make policies or declare doctrine or do anything, except publish documents to be reviewed by the pope as he formulates his thoughts on the topic under discussion. Synods are consultative conversations. They do not bind the pope, or instruct him. They just offer the advice of a usually diverse-thinking assembly of leaders.

Synods have grown contentious because Pope Francis used his 2016 post-synodal document Amoris laetitia to signal an openness to the possibility that divorced and remarried people could, under certain circumstances, receive the Eucharist while remaining in a sexual relationship. That suggestion has been divisive, and because it is associated with the family synod of 2015, at least some bishops have begun to treat synods as though they are convened to legislate for the Church.

They are not convened for that purpose.

And the pope could have introduced his ideas about divorce, remarriage, and the Eucharist in any way he chose. He happened to do it in a post-synodal document, but not because the synod in some way freed him to do so, or mandated that he do so. It is sometimes suggested that the synod gave him some political cover, but since the idea did not have full-throated support from the synod’s participants, the hypothesis seems flimsy.

In short, nothing about the synod compelled, authorized, or permitted the pope to teach as he did. But because of Amoris laetitia, and the controversial synod of 2015, pundits seem now to characterize each synod not as an exchange of ideas, but as a battle for the pope's endorsement.

While the stakes of the pan-Amazonian synod are far lower than they’re usually perceived, the stakes of a showdown over a synod in German are much higher than has likely been realized by many Catholics.

The German bishop are planning a two-year “synodal pathway” in the country. The idea is to bring bishops together with lay people, especially those associated with the Central Committee of German Catholics, to pass “binding resolutions,” on controversial topics, including sexual morality and clerical leadership.

The planned synod in Germany is not intended to be a conversation. It is intended to redefine the course of Christianity in Germany, even while giving new consideration to long-established points of Christian doctrine.

The Vatican has warned the German bishops not to continue with their plans, noting that a synod of the type planned by the Germans would disrupt the Church’s life, and could cause a catastrophe by denying the Church’s doctrinal teaching.

But the German bishops, under the leadership of Cardinal Reinhard Marx, have insisted that the synod will proceed, and that the Vatican simply doesn’t understand what’s at stake.

Marx will meet with Vatican officials this week. The cardinal hopes to persuade the Vatican to allow him to proceed with his plans. He is not in a position to back down, because he has assured the Central Committee of German Catholics, which includes advocates of same-sex marriage, that they will have a deliberative voice in the future of the German Church. Relenting, for Marx, would likely mean losing his support among secular German figures, and, by admitting that the Vatican was right, falling out of favor among the Churchmen who support him.

Cardinal Marx, by some estimates, seems to be playing a kind of ecclesiastical game of chicken with the Vatican, and betting that the pope’s Curia will back down before he does.

But if the Vatican does not relent, and the Germans push forward, a great deal is at stake: some experts have suggested that if the Germans proceed with their synodal path in defiance of instructions from Pope Francis and the Vatican, they run the risk of being declared in schism.

At the moment, Marx seems unintimidated by efforts from two different Vatican offices to rein in Germany’s planned synodal process. He might be persuaded, if at all, only by a direct and personal intervention from Pope Francis.

Marx is said to be persuasive with Pope Francis, but sources tell CNA that the pope is growing impatient with the cardinal’s approach to the German synod. If Francis has to intervene, and Marx does not accept the pope’s direction, the result would be a serious crisis for the Church in Germany.

The situation is still developing.

The pan-Amazonian synod will provide plenty of fodder for debate this autumn. But a serious ecclesiological crisis is unfolding in Germany, and how it will be resolved remains to be seen.


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US:    Ousted Planned Parenthood president says board violating contract on terms of exit

Washington D.C., Sep 16, 2019 / 03:59 pm (CNA).- Dr. Leana Wen, the former president of Planned Parenthood whom the board fired in July amid a dispute over the group’s mission, is reportedly still locked in a contract disagreement with the board over the terms of her exit.

According to reports, Wen says that Planned Parenthood is refusing to give her severance pay and pay for her family’s health insurance unless she agrees to a gag clause.

The New York Times reported Saturday that Wen had on Sept. 9 sent a 1,400 word letter to Planned Parenthood’s Board of Directors, accusing the organization of withholding her contractually-mandated health insurance and severance pay as “ransom” to pressure her to sign a confidentiality agreement.

The Times has not released the full text of the letter, and Wen has expressed her disappointment that the letter leaked to the press.

“There should be no dispute regarding the terms of my employment contract, which are clearly spelled out,” she said in a statement.

Melanie Newman, a senior vice president for communications at Planned Parenthood, called Wen’s accusations “unfortunate, saddening, and simply untrue.”

“The attorneys representing the board have made every good faith effort to amicably part from Dr. Wen, and are disappointed that they have been unable to reach a suitable resolution regarding her exit package,” she said, as quoted by the Times.

According to the Times, Newman stated that Wen has remained on payroll during the negotiations and will be salaried through mid-October, with health benefits through the end of that month. She said Planned Parenthood had offered Wen a full additional year of salary and health benefits.

Wen took the reigns at Planned Parenthood in September 2018, following the 12-year presidency of Cecile Richards. She was president until July 16, when she announced that the “board ended my employment at a secret meeting.”

“We were engaged in good faith negotiations about my departure based on philosophical differences over the direction and future of Planned Parenthood,” she said via Twitter.

Wen cited philosophical differences with the new board chairs over the direction that the organization should be moving. Wen has said she firmly believes Planned Parenthood to be a healthcare organization, not primarily a political advocacy organization.

“The new Board leadership has determined that the priority of Planned Parenthood moving forward is to double down on abortion rights advocacy,” Wen said.

Planned Parenthood is the largest abortion performer in the United States. In 2016, the organization performed about one out of every three abortions.

Alexis McGill Johnson, a former political organizer, was named acting president after Wen’s ouster, and the organization has said that they hope to appoint a new president by the end of 2019.

Wen said in her September letter, as quoted by the Times, that “there is a vocal minority” including many national staff and board members “who prefer a stridently political, abortion-first philosophy.”

Wen has recently announced her new position as visiting professor at George Washington University, and also that she and her husband are expecting a baby.

Former Planned Parenthood director-turned pro-life advocate Abby Johnson told CNA that Planned Parenthood is “once again showing their true loyalties” and that she hopes Wen will open up about her experience. Johnson left her position as Planned Parenthood and founded And Then There Were None, an organization that seeks to help abortion clinic workers leave the abortion industry.

“Dr. Wen has been horribly betrayed by Planned Parenthood. It's heartbreaking to watch her former employer throw her under the bus because she dared to question their commitment to actual healthcare,” Johnson said in a statement to CNA.

“They don't value their employees because they don't value people, especially pregnant women, who they see more as dollar signs than human beings.”

Johnson has been publicly reaching out to Wen on Twitter to encourage her to speak confidentially about her situation.

"Dr. Wen doesn't need to go through this ordeal alone,” Johnson said.

“I sincerely hope she knows she has an ally in me, someone who went through a similar situation and who has not only excellent attorneys but also a vast network of support through And Then There Were None who would welcome Dr. Wen with open arms.”

In the past decade, Planned Parenthood has seen its number of patients decline. The number of cancer screenings, contraceptives distributed, and prenatal services provided by the organization decreased as well.

Abortions, however, have increased by about 10 percent since 2006, despite Planned Parenthood seeing fewer patients.

 


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US:    More than 2,000 aborted remains discovered at doctor's home

South Bend, Ind., Sep 16, 2019 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- An investigation has been launched by police after more than 2,000 remains of aborted children were found at the former home of late-term abortionist Dr. Ulrich “George” Klopfer in Will County, Illinois. 

Klopfer passed away on September 3. Nine days later, an attorney representing his family contacted the Will County coroner's office, reporting that “medically preserved fetal remains” had been discovered on the property and requesting proper removal. It was discovered that a total of 2,246 fetal remains were on the property. 

Authorities say there is no evidence that Klopfer was performing abortions at his house in Illinois.

The Will County Sheriff’s Office declined to comment further to CNA, citing the open and ongoing investigation into the remains and deferring all questions to a forthcoming press conference.

It is unknown what the approximate gestational ages of the fetal remains are, how old the remains were, or where the abortions took place. It is not legal to transport fetal remains over state lines, and abortion in Indiana is not legal past the 22nd week of pregnancy. If the abortions were found to have been performed on older fetuses, Klopfer also would have been guilty of this crime as well. 

Klopfer’s medical license was suspended in 2016 following numerous safety and legal violations in the state of Indiana.

Prior losing his medical license, Klopfer was believed to be one of the most prolific abortionists in Indiana. Over his four-decade career, he is estimated to have aborted more than 30,000 children. He worked at three clinics, which he owned, with locations in South Bend, Fort Wayne, and Gary. Klopfer only reported performing first-trimester abortions, rasing further questions about the nature and developmental age of the fetal remains.

His home in Will County, where the remains were discovered, is not far from the Indiana border. 

Klopfer’s license was initially suspended in 2015 after he failed to timely report that two of his patients were 13-year-old girls. He was charged with a misdemeanor, but that charge was dropped after the completion of a pre-trial diversion program. 

Indiana law requires that abortions on patients that young must be reported within three days, and Klopfer instead waited six months to report their abortions. The state medical board voted to suspend his license, even though the charges were dismissed. The three clinics he owned were all closed by November 2015.

Indiana’s age of consent for sexual intercourse is 16 years old, although there are “Romeo and Juliet” exceptions for consensual relations between two underage teens. 

In 2016, after his license was suspended, the state’s attorney general’s office filed a complaint alleging that Klopfer had failed to provide proper personnel to monitor women who were undergoing a surgical abortion procedure. Klopfer was accused of regularly failing to offer painkillers to women undergoing an abortion, and often performed surgical abortions without any anesthetic.

During those proceedings, Klopfer also admitted to performing an abortion in Illinois on a 10-year-old girl who had been raped by her uncle, and that he did not report the crime to the appropriate authorities. 

The state’s medical board also found that Klopfer was using outdated surgical practices from the 70s and 80s, and that his facility in Fort Wayne was “rundown, not well-maintained” with expired medications and equipment that did not work. 

Police said Klopfer’s family has been cooperating with the investigation. 

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is currently a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president of the United States. In August, Buttigieg expressed support for an unlicensed abortion clinic, Whole Woman’s Health, was beneficial for the women of his city. Due to a court injunction, the clinic is allowed to continue to operate. 

“The South Bend clinic would be the only one for a radius of several counties," said Buttegieg’s press secretary Chris Meagher. "It is a restriction on a woman's right if she is low-income, or doesn’t have a vehicle, and she has to visit multiple times, but the clinic is dozens of miles away.”

The administrator of Whole Woman’s Health’s South Bend location is a former employee of Dr. Klopfer who worked at his now-shuttered South Bend clinic. 

As Mayor of South Bend, Buttigieg attempted to block the operation of a pro-life pregnancy center that was attempting to open next door to Whole Woman’s Health, saying that he thought it was not “responsible.” The pregnancy center, Women’s Care Center, was eventually able to open across the street.


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US:    Arizona Supreme Court says artists have right to decline same-sex wedding creations

Phoenix, Ariz., Sep 16, 2019 / 01:47 pm (CNA).- The Arizona Supreme Court ruled Monday in favor of two Christian artists who argue that they should not be forced to create custom artwork for same-sex weddings in opposition to their religious beliefs.

“The rights of free speech and free exercise, so precious to this nation since its founding, are not limited to soft murmurings behind the doors of a person’s home or church, or private conversations with like-minded friends and family,” the court ruled. Rather it said, “these guarantees protect the right of every American to express their beliefs in public. This includes the right to create and sell words, paintings, and art that express a person’s sincere religious beliefs.”

Attorney Jonathan Scruggs, who had argued the case before the court, hailed the ruling in Brush & Nib Studio v. City of Phoenix as a victory for religious freedom.

“The government shouldn’t threaten artists with jail time and fines to force them to create custom artwork, such as wedding invitations, expressing messages that violate their beliefs, and that’s what the court has affirmed today,” said Scruggs, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom.

Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski are the owners of Brush & Nib Studio. The pair creates custom artwork, such as wedding invitations and place cards with calligraphy and handpainting. The women say that their religious convictions forbid them from using their artwork to promote a message they disagree with morally.

The women were challenging Phoenix’s public accommodation law. Under the criminal law, they could face up to six months jail time, $2,500 in fines, and three years probation for declining to create artwork for same-sex weddings.

The city of Phoenix says declining same-sex weddings is an illegal act of discrimination based on sexual orientation, in violation of City Code Section 18-4(B). However, the women say that they will happily serve clients of any sexual orientation, but that they cannot promote all messages.

In a brief filed with the court, ADF argued that “Courts have long recognized individuals’ right ‘to hold a point of view different from the majority and to refuse to foster…an idea they find morally objectionable.”
The brief warned that imposing on the right to refrain from speaking or supporting a certain message poses a threat to all people, regardless of belief.

A lower court had ruled against Duka and Koski. Scruggs said the Arizona Supreme Court was right to overturn the lower ruling.

“Joanna and Breanna will now be able to create custom wedding invitations and to communicate about their beliefs without fear of government punishment, as any artist should be free to do,” he said. “This isn’t just a victory for them. It’s a victory for everyone.”


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