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McConnell: Trump Supreme Court nominee ‘will receive a vote’

CNA Staff, Sep 18, 2020 / 07:22 pm (CNA).- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Friday night that after the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a Trump Supreme Court nominee will be voted on for confirmation by the United States Senate.

In a statement released Friday night, McConnell said that “President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”

McConnell elaborated on that decision, saying that “in the last midterm election before Justice Scalia’s death in 2016, Americans elected a Republican Senate majority because we pledged to check and balance the last days of a lame-duck president’s second term. We kept our promise. Since the 1880s, no Senate has confirmed an opposite-party president’s Supreme Court nominee in a presidential election year.”

“By contrast, Americans reelected our majority in 2016 and expanded it in 2018 because we pledged to work with President Trump and support his agenda, particularly his outstanding appointments to the federal judiciary, we will keep our promise,” McConnell said.

In March 2016, President Barack Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to fill the Supreme Court seat that had been held by Justice Antonin Scalia. Senate Republicans did not consider Garland’s nomination, saying that it would be more appropriate to wait until after the November election to fill the Court vacancy.

After his 2017 inauguration, Trump appointed Neil Gorsuch to fill Scalia’s seat, and the nominee was confirmed by the senate.

Senate Democrats have pointed to that 2016 decision in response to McConnell’s Sept. 18 statement.

A Trump appointment could tip the balance of the court to a 6-3 conservative majority, which Republicans have said would lead to the court overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that ensured legal protection for abortion across the U.S.

Trump last week expanded a list of potential judicial nominees under his consideration. At a presidential debate in October 2016, Trump pledged to appoint justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade. In addition to appointing Gorsuch, in 2018 Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was retiring.

Among the names on the new list are Stewart Kyle Duncan of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals—the former general counsel for the religious freedom firm Becket—and Peter Phipps of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, whose membership in the Knights of Columbus was the subject of tough questions by Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) when he was a district court nominee in 2018.  

Amy Coney Barrett of the Seventh Circuit court, a former professor at the University of Notre Dame and a Catholic mother of seven, was on the existing White House list of nominees.

Pro-life leaders hailed last’s week announcement. Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, said the appointment of pro-life judges to federal courts was “one of President Trump’s greatest accomplishments” of his first term, and that “[w]e anticipate that process will continue in a second term.”

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List and co-chair of the Trump campaign’s pro-life outreach said that his list “is filled with all-stars.”  

in the first major abortion case before the court during Trump’s presidency, the court struck down Louisiana’s safety regulations of abortion clinics, a blow to pro-life efforts at the state level. While Gorsuch and Kavanaugh ruled in the minority on the decision, Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the Court’s four liberal justices against the law.

Ginsburg, who served on the court for more than 27 years, died of pancreatic cancer Sept. 18. She was 87. President Bill Clinton appointed Ginsburg to the Supreme Court in 1993. Ginsburg had previously been an appeals court judge.


Catholics respond after Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

Denver Newsroom, Sep 18, 2020 / 06:55 pm (CNA).- Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who served on the court for more than 27 years, died of pancreatic cancer Sept. 18. She was 87.

President Bill Clinton appointed Ginsburg to the Supreme Court in 1993. Ginsburg had previously been an appeals court judge.

Ginsburg, who was Jewish, was noted for her friendship with Antonin Scalia, a Catholic and fellow Supreme Court Justice, who died in 2016.

Scalia’s son Christopher tweeted some recollections of his father’s friendship with Ginsburg after her death was announced.


I'm very sad to hear about the passing of my parents' good friend, and my father's wonderful colleague, Justice Ginsburg. May her memory be a blessing. I'd like to share a couple of passages that convey what she meant to my dad.../3

— Christopher J. Scalia (@cjscalia) September 18, 2020  

Ginsburg expressed her support for legalized abortion during her 1993 Senate confirmation hearing, as she had also done previously. Though she was publicly critical before her appointment of the legal reasoning used in Roe v. Wade, Ginsburg consistently penned opinions in favor of abortion and contraception, including a 2007 dissent in a case upholding a law that banned partial-birth abortion. 

Ginsburg’s death could tip the balance of the court to a 6-3 conservative majority, if President Donald Trump nominates a new justice to fill the vacancy left by Ginsburg before the November election.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said previously he would try to ensure Senate confirmation of a Trump Supreme Court nominee. Senate Democrats have expressed opposition to any nomination, citing McConnell’s objection to Barack Obama’s March 2016 of Merrick Garland to the court. At the time, Senate Republicans said they would not consider an appointment during an election year.

In a statement released Friday night, McConnell said that “President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”

Trump last week expanded a list of potential judicial nominees under his consideration. At a presidential debate in October 2016, Trump pledged to appoint justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade. In 2017, he nominated Neil Gorsuch to be Scalia’s replacement, and in 2018 he nominated Brett Kavanaugh to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was retiring.

Catholics on social media urged prayers for Ginsburg and her family Friday evening.

Fr. Pius Pietrzyk, OP, a civil and canon lawyer and a professor of canon law at St. Patrick’s University and Seminary in California tweeted that: “In our modern divided politics the friendship between Justices Ginsburg and Scalia shone as a model of the respect that people can have for each other, even if they disagree.  May she, now along with him, rest in peace.”

In our modern divided politics the friendship between Justices Ginsburg and Scalia shone as a model of the respect that people can have for each other, even if they disagree. May she, now along with him, rest in peace.

— Fr. Pius Pietrzyk OP (@PiusOP) September 19, 2020  

Many reactions came from pro-life organizations, some of whom expressed their hopes for a pro-life replacement on the court.

“Rest in peace, Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Let's pray for the repose of her soul and for her family. Let's continue to pray for our nation,” said Lila Rose, president of the pro-life group Live Action.


Rest in peace, Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Let's pray for the repose of her soul and for her family. Let's continue to pray for our nation.

— Lila Rose (@LilaGraceRose) September 18, 2020 Americans United for Life, a national pro-life group, noted that despite some positive elements in Ginsburg’s efforts for gender equality, her pro-abortion jurisprudence has left a far more regrettable legacy.

“We are grateful for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s contributions as an advocate prior to being a judge, in bringing down legal barriers to women’s advancement in American society. We are deeply saddened by her death, particularly at this moment in our nation’s history,” the group said on Twitter.

“Abortion is understood for what it is by millions of Americans due to its cruelty and violence. Future generations will not smile on the culture of indifference toward human life that Justice Ginsburg perpetuated [for] women who deserve better...Abortion doesn’t contribute to women’s happiness, and abortion isn’t necessary for women to succeed.”


We are grateful for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s contributions as an advocate prior to being a judge, in bringing down legal barriers to women’s advancement in American society. We are deeply saddened by her death, particularly at this moment in our nation’s history.

— Americans United for Life (@AUL) September 19, 2020  

Pro-life group Students for Life tweeted: “Tonight, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has passed away, and our thoughts are with her family.”

“In partnership with Students for Life Action, we call for President Trump to move quickly with an appointment, in light of her tragic death.”


Tonight, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has passed away, and our thoughts are with her family.

In partnership with Students for Life Action, we call for President Trump to move quickly with an appointment, in light of her tragic death.

— studentsforlife (@StudentsforLife) September 19, 2020  

Ginsburg had survived several bouts of cancer before she died surrounded by her family, the Supreme Court said. Her husband, Marty Ginsburg, died in 2010.


Mike Pompeo: Holy See's moral witness needed in China

CNA Staff, Sep 18, 2020 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- Reflecting Friday on the state of the 2018 Vatican-China deal, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo noted that the human rights situation in China has deteriorated in recent years, and that the “moral witness” of the Vatican in support of religious believers is sorely needed.

“The Holy See has a unique capacity and duty to focus the world’s attention on human rights violations, especially those perpetrated by totalitarian regimes like Beijing’s. In the late twentieth century, the Church’s power of moral witness helped inspire those who liberated central and eastern Europe from communism,” Pompeo wrote in a Sept. 18 essay at First Things.

“That same power of moral witness should be deployed today with respect to the Chinese Communist Party,” he continued.

“What the Church teaches the world about religious freedom and solidarity should now be forcefully and persistently conveyed by the Vatican in the face of the Chinese Communist Party’s relentless efforts to bend all religious communities to the will of the Party and its totalitarian program.”

Pompeo said the human rights situation in China, especially for religious believers, has “deteriorated severely” under president Xi Jinping, who took office in 2013. He pointed out forced sterilizations and abortions of Muslims in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, the “abuse of Catholic priests and laypeople,” and the persecution of Protestant house churches, “all of which are parts of a ‘Sinicization’ campaign to subordinate God to the Party while promoting Xi himself as an ultramundane deity.”

He said that “now more than ever, the Chinese people need the Vatican’s moral witness and authority in support of China’s religious believers.”

The US Secretary of State also observed that Vatican and Chinese diplomats are meeting to negotiate a renewal of the 2018 deal; a renewal which is being confidently predicted in both Rome and Beijing,

“Two years on, it’s clear that the Sino-Vatican agreement has not shielded Catholics from the Party’s depredations, to say nothing of the Party’s horrific treatment of Christians, Tibetan Buddhists, Falun Gong devotees, and other religious believers,” Pompeo observed.

He added that “communist authorities continue to shutter churches, spy on and harass the faithful, and insist that the Party is the ultimate authority in religious affairs.”

Pompeo noted that “as part of the 2018 agreement, the Vatican legitimized Chinese priests and bishops whose loyalties remain unclear, confusing Chinese Catholics who had always trusted the Church. Many refuse to worship in state-sanctioned places of worship, for fear that by revealing themselves as faithful Catholics they will suffer the same abuses that they witness other believers suffer at the hands of the Chinese authorities’ increasingly aggressive atheism.”

Earlier this week the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom emphasized that religious freedom must be the result of any renewed Vatican agreement with China, noting that underground Catholics in the country continue to be persecuted.

Pompeo said that the recent imposition in Hong Kong of a National Security Law mandated by the mainland government “raises the specter that the Party will use the same tactics of intimidation and the full apparatus of state repression against religious believers.”

The top US diplomat observed that “many nations have joined the United States in expressing revulsion at the Chinese regime’s accelerating violations of human rights,” and said, “The State Department has been a strong voice for religious freedom in China and around the world and has taken steps to hold those who abuse the faithful responsible for their actions. We will continue to do so.”

After urging the Holy See to use its moral witness with the Chinese Communist Party, Pompeo wrote that “totalitarian regimes can only survive in darkness and silence, their crimes and brutality unnoticed and unremarked.”

“If the Chinese Communist Party manages to bring the Catholic Church and other religious communities to heel, regimes that disdain human rights will be emboldened, and the cost of resisting tyranny will rise for all brave religious believers who honor God above the autocrat of the day. I pray that, in dealing with the Chinese Communist Party, the Holy See and all who believe in the divine spark enlightening every human life will heed Jesus’s words in the Gospel of John, ‘The truth will set you free.’”

Pelosi 'misspoke' on San Francisco Mass attendance, spokesman claims

Washington D.C., Sep 18, 2020 / 05:58 pm (CNA).-  

Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office told CNA Friday evening that she “misspoke” when she described “recently” attending Mass in a San Francisco church, despite the city’s months-long ban on indoor Masses.

“The Speaker misspoke. She has not been in San Francisco since September 5th due to ongoing talks around COVID relief and appropriations,” spokesman Drew Hammill from the Speaker’s office told CNA in a statement on Friday evening.

“She [Pelosi] has been participating regularly in church services virtually,” Hammill said.

Hammill did not explain what Pelosi referred to when she described Sept. 18 attending what appeared to be an indoor Mass and receiving Communion “recently” at a San Francisco church.

Earlier on Friday morning, at a press conference at the U.S. Capitol, Pelosi was asked by Erik Rosales of EWTN News Nightly about a recent op-ed by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, Pelosi’s archbishop, on the “unfairness” of the city’s public health rules.

Cordileone had pointed out the city’s ban on indoor religious services—except for funerals—during the pandemic while gyms and hair salons were allowed to serve some customers indoors.

Pelosi answered that “I have been to church in San Francisco recently, and I did receive Communion.”

She then went on to describe the experience in some detail, noting that she had to “sign up” to attend and that “I got in under the wire” as there were only two places left.

San Francisco has banned public indoor religious services—except for funerals—for months. Outdoor services are permitted with a cap on 12 people, although Speaker Pelosi’s recollection of the event recounted an indoor service.

“And when we got there—the church maybe holds 250 people. There were probably 12 people,” she said, “very, very, very spaced. But that was it, no more would be allowed.”

“And then we did receive Communion,” she said, noting that the priest washed his hands before distributing Communion, and that she received Communion in the hand.

“I miss going to church regularly,” she said. “Of course, we have virtual Mass here, many Masses in D.C., but all the other places…”

On Friday evening, however, Pelosi’s office told CNA that she “misspoke,” but did not explain in what she had misspoken.

Public Masses in San Francisco were suspended by the archdiocese on March 17, and the city’s public health ordinances have not yet allowed for public indoor Masses.

Archbishop Cordileone later informed parishes that they could resume public Masses on June 14, according to the city attorney’s office. However, the city said it informed the archdiocese on June 11 that indoor Masses were still barred “for the time being” as a public health risk.

Exceptions were made only for funerals with 12 or fewer persons, and live-streamed services where only necessary personnel were present to help with the Mass or video production.

On June 29, the city sent the archdiocese a cease-and-desist letter for public indoor Masses, saying that it had not officially amended the health order to allow for them.

“Our intention has always been to conform to what we understand to be the City orders and timelines,” the archdiocese said July 2, noting that the city’s orders had changed through the pandemic.

The situation continued through the summer. Archbishop Cordileone on July 30 urged prayer and fasting for an end to the pandemic and “for a restoration of public worship unhindered.”

In August, Cordileone asked the mayor to “at a minimum, remove the excessive limits on outdoor public worship.”

The city, meanwhile, watched for any possible violations of its order, sending the archdiocese a letter on Aug. 12 outlining “several things of concern.”

The city’s mayor, London Breed, announced this week that outdoor religious services with up to 50 people would be permitted beginning Sept. 14, but indoor religious services were still prohibited until Oct. 1, where they would be permitted with a cap at 25 people.

Archbishop Cordileone is leading a Eucharistic procession past city hall on Sept. 20 as a protest against the ongoing orders limiting Masses. He wrote in his Washington Post op-ed that “all we are seeking is access to worship in our own churches, following reasonable safety protocols.”

Pelosi, on Friday morning, said that the archbishop should abide by science in his desire to reopen churches.

“With all due respect to my archbishop, I think we should follow science on this,” she said.

She later added that “I don't know if he [Cordileone] was speaking as our pastor or as a lobbyist—advocate. But whatever it is, I am sure that he must have meant [reopen churches] if it is scientifically safe, rather than jeopardizing people’s health if they want to go to Church.”


Franciscan University honors NET Ministries for ‘strong Christian character’

CNA Staff, Sep 18, 2020 / 05:07 pm (CNA).- The Franciscan University of Steubenville this week bestowed its highest non-academic award to NET Ministries, a national evangelization program for young people, headquartered in Minnesota.

Mark Berchem, founder and president of NET Ministries, accepted the Poverello Medal on behalf of the group.

NET (National Evangelization Teams) Ministries’ model involves training and sending Catholic young adults across the country, divided into teams, to share the Catholic faith with young people through retreats for nine months at a time.

NET has led more than 34,000 retreats and ministered to more than 2 million young Catholics since its inception in 1981, the group says. In addition to the U.S., NET is active in Australia, Canada, Guam, Honduras, Mexico, Germany, Malaysia, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Uganda and Ireland.

Father Dave Pivonka, president of Franciscan University, said he experienced “fellowship and the power of the Holy Spirit” as a NET missionary before attending Franciscan.

“Thanks to NET, teenagers who may have never otherwise had a personal encounter with Jesus Christ have come to embrace him as their Savior and make the Catholic Church their spiritual home. Amid a culture that often rejects Christian principles, they are emboldened and empowered to live their faith,” Pivonka said.

Today, NET is currently active in over 100 dioceses. A notable alumnus is Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Cozzens of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, who first came to St. Paul through NET and later served as a traveling missionary throughout the country.

According to Franciscan, the Poverello Medal honors organizations and individuals who follow in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi through strong Christian character, practical charity, and service to the poor.

The award was first presented in 1949 to the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. Other recipients include St. Teresa of Calcutta, Dorothy Day, the Little Sisters of the Poor, and Mary’s Meals.


What does the Catholic Church teach about voting? A CNA Explainer

Denver Newsroom, Sep 18, 2020 / 03:43 pm (CNA).-  

There is not a monolithic Catholic vote in the U.S., but Catholic voters do make a big difference in local, statewide, and national elections. And voting, the Church says, is part of participation in public life — part of contributing to the nation’s common good, the flourishing of its people.

The Church does not dictate to Catholics how they should vote, but it does provide guiding principles for making decisions about voting. This CNA Explainer offers some of those principles.


What does the Church teach about voting?

In 2007, the U.S. bishops’ conference issued “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” a guide to participation in public life, which included a section on voting. The bishops have periodically updated it since.

The bishops say that Catholics should vote according to “a well-formed conscience that perceives the proper relationship among moral goods.”

Last week, Bishop Alfred Schlert of Allentown wrote that: “A ‘well-formed conscience’ for the Catholic is one that has been formed under the guidance of the Holy Spirit through prayer, studying Scripture, and honestly informing oneself about the moral teachings of the Catholic Church.”

The “proper relationship among moral goods” means that voting is a kind of a weighing exercise, that not all issues have the same weight, and that voters need to prioritize various issues at hand in any election, and make hard choices about who to vote for, and who not to vote for.


Immoral acts

The Church says first that it is always immoral to vote for a person who supports an intrinsically immoral policy, if the reason for the vote is to achieve that policy:

“A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who favors a policy promoting an intrinsically evil act, such as abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, deliberately subjecting workers or the poor to subhuman living conditions, redefining marriage in ways that violate its essential meaning, or racist behavior, if the voter’s intent is to support that position.”

The bishops say it could be possible to vote for someone who supports something intrinsically immoral but only for “other morally grave reasons.” Before he became Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger described those as “proportionate reasons.”

In a 2004 letter to U.S. bishops, Cardinal Ratzinger wrote that: ”When a Catholic does not share a candidate’s stand in favor of abortion and/or euthanasia but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons.”

The idea of “proportionate reasoning” recognizes that there are no perfect candidates. The job of Catholic voters is to weigh the positions of all candidates, and to avoid choosing a candidate who supports something immoral, unless something good outweighs that immorality.



The U.S. bishops say that abortion has to weigh as an especially important factor when deciding whether it is morally acceptable to vote for a candidate.

In 2019, the bishops said that “The threat of abortion remains our preeminent priority because it directly attacks life itself, because it takes place within the sanctuary of the family, and because of the number of lives destroyed.”

There were 862,000 abortions in the U.S. in 2017, and there are 73 millions abortions each year around the globe.

The Church does not say that abortion is the only issue, but that it is a “preeminent” or foundational consideration about the moral acceptability of a candidate.

Pope Francis asked in Laudato si: “How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties?”

In Christifidelis Laici, Pope St. John Paul II taught that “the right to health, to home, to work, to culture is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination.”

In 2008, Bishop, now Cardinal, Kevin Farrell released a joint statement with Bishop Kevin Vann, saying that in their view, “There are no ‘truly grave moral’ or ‘proportionate’ reasons, singularly or combined that could outweigh the millions of innocent human lives that are directly killed by abortion each year.”

Also in 2008, Archbishop Charles Chaput said that Catholics who support pro-choice candidates “need a compelling proportionate reason to justify it.” 

“What is a ‘proportionate’ reason when it comes to the abortion issue? It’s the kind of reason we will be able to explain, with a clean heart, to the victims of abortion when we meet them face to face in the next life — which we most certainly will. If we’re confident that these victims will accept our motives as something more than an alibi, then we can proceed,” Chaput said.

In 1988, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago was asked whether Catholics can “disqualify” candidates who support a legal right to abortion.

The cardinal put it this way: “Well, certainly. That’s what the consistent ethic is all about. I feel very, very strongly about the right to life of the unborn, the weakest and most vulnerable of human beings. I don’t see how you can subscribe to the consistent ethic and then vote for someone who feels that abortion is a 'basic right' of the individual. The consequence of that position would be an absence of legal protection for the unborn.”


What to do?

The bishops have taught that supporting a pro-abortion candidate requires overcoming the high bar of proportional reasoning. But a candidate’s opposition to abortion does not, by itself, make him an acceptable choice for Catholics. Voters should weigh the issues, and also consider character, leadership abilities, and integrity before casting a vote in any candidate's favor, the bishops say.

All of those factors go into the weighing exercise of proportional reasoning.

And the bishops say that well-formed voters could reach several conclusions:

“When all candidates hold a position that promotes an intrinsically evil act, the conscientious voter faces a dilemma. The voter may decide to take the extraordinary step of not voting for any candidate or, after careful deliberation, may decide to vote for the candidate deemed less likely to advance such a morally flawed position and more likely to pursue other authentic human goods.”

The bishops do not rule out the possibilities of not voting, or of voting for third party candidates.

In 2016, Bishop James Conley offered this summary of “Faithful Citizenship’s” voting advice: “In good conscience, some Catholics might choose to vote for a candidate who, with some degree of probability, would be most likely to do some good, and the least amount of harm, on the foundational issues: life, family, conscience rights and religious liberty. Or, in good conscience, some might choose the candidate who best represents a Christian vision of society, regardless of the probability of winning. Or, in good conscience, some might choose not to vote for any candidate at all in a particular office.”

The U.S. bishops conference put it this way: “In making these decisions, it is essential for Catholics to be guided by a well-formed conscience that recognizes that all issues do not carry the same moral weight and that the moral obligation to oppose policies promoting intrinsically evil acts has a special claim on our consciences and our actions. These decisions should take into account a candidate’s commitments, character, integrity, and ability to influence a given issue.”

“In the end, this is a decision to be made by each Catholic guided by a conscience formed by Catholic moral teaching.”


Biden campaign downplays abortion, 'preeminent priority' of US Catholic bishops

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 18, 2020 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- Catholic supporters of Joe Biden sought to deflect the Democratic candidate’s support for abortion on Thursday by pointing to other issues, despite the U.S. bishops calling it the “preeminent” issue for Catholic voters to consider.

“We’ve got to deal with the abortion issue, and the way we’re dealing with it here in Pittsburgh is by saying if you’re going to vote with your Catholic faith informing your choice, then you’ve got to be a multi-issue voter,” said Kevin Hayes, a Biden supporter who is conducting voter outreach to Catholics in the Pittsburgh area ahead of the November presidential elections.

Hayes was one of several Catholics who spoke to Biden supporters online in a “national call to action” on Thursday evening. He was joined by “Catholics for Biden” co-chairs Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from 2013-2017, and Mark Kennedy Shriver, son of the late pro-life Democrat R. Sargant Shriver and president of Save the Children Action Network.

Biden, a Catholic, has supported legal abortion and has promised to expand taxpayer funding of abortion by repealing the Hyde Amendment. He has also said his administration would work to codify Roe v. Wade, review state regulations of abortion, and cover abortion and contraceptives in his “public option” health policy.

Since 2007, the bishops of the United States have issued a document, titled “Forming Consciences for Faithful CItizenship,” to help Catholics decide how to cast their vote; it was most recently updated in 2019. 

Earlier this year, USCCB issued a letter, approved by the bishops, re-presenting the document along with a series of short videos. In that letter, the bishops identified abortion as the “preeminent priority” for Catholic voters “because it directly attacks life itself.”

Biden’s support for abortion was addressed by several campaign surrogates on Thursday evening, who asked listeners to look beyond the issue.

Dr. Anthea Butler, a professor of Religious Studies and Graduate Chair in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, said on Thursday she recognized that some of those on the Catholics for Biden call “have concerns” about Biden.

“You have concerns about whether he’s pro-life enough, whether he meets all of the criteria for Catholics. You’re listening to your bishops tell you one thing or another,” she said.

Butler asked listeners to instead consult their consciences. “You need to start to think about what it really means for us to have somebody who takes their faith and uses it in every area of their lives,” she said.

“Now that doesn’t mean that he [Biden] is always going to be thinking about his Catholicism when he has to vote, or all of that stuff. What it means is he has a moral core, he has a conviction, he knows right from wrong, he’s able to ask for forgiveness, he knows what it means to bear grief.”

Victoria Kovari, who is conducting outreach to Catholics in Michigan for Biden, said that she and other women, including a Catholic religious sister, developed talking points on abortion. The sister, she said, is a member of IHM, the Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Kovari identified herself as a “lifelong Byzantine Catholic,” and said that she is helping test out different campaign messaging with members of her Byzantine parish. Kovari was a member of Catholics for Obama in 2008 and in 2012, and served as national field director for the group Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good from 2007 to 2010.

In addition, she said, the group organized a letter to the state’s seven bishops calling for an end to “partisan public statements made by Catholic officials urging them to vote Republican.” 

“We urge you to ensure that all Church spokespersons strictly refrain from public partisan-political statements, whether direct or indirect,” the letter states. 

The letter notes that, in the past, Catholic communications directors, priests, and bishops “have advocated for a particular political party -- or have condemned specific candidates (usually Democrats)” by “selectively quoting sections of Faithful Citizenship,” the voting document of the U.S. bishops’ conference.

In several American dioceses in recent weeks, bishops have intervened to correct individual priests who made explicitly partisan statements, or statements of support or opposition of different candidates.

A priest of the diocese of La Crosse, Fr. James Altman, said in an Aug. 30 video that “You can not be Catholic and be a Democrat. Period.” His bishop subsequently said he was taking action to correct Fr. Altman, because the Church does not prohibit membership in the Democratic party.

Earlier this month, in the Archdiocese of Boston, Monsignor Paul Garrity apologized for causing “confusion and upset” after he posted comments on Facebook saying he “believe[s] in a woman’s right to choose,” and “will vote for Joe Biden for President because I believe that Joe Biden is pro-life like me.” Garrity also encouraged “Catholics and others” of similar viewpoints to vote for Biden as well. 

Boston’s archbishop, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, OFM, Cap., said that Catholics have “the right to expect the priests of the Archdiocese and those entrusted with handing on the faith to be clear and unequivocal on the Church’s teaching concerning respect and protection for life from the first moment of conception to natural death.”

“This teaching is of the highest priority for the Church,” the cardinal said in a statement provided to CNA after Garrity’s comments.

The national director of Priests for Life, Fr. Frank Pavone, once held official positions on the 2020 Trump campaign’s pro-life and Catholic outreach before stepping down at the request of his “competent ecclesiastical authority.” Canon law prohibits clerics from having an active role in political parties, unless they receive the permission of their bishop.

Pavone has remained outspoken in his support for Trump’s re-election, and made a series of controversial comments on social media. 

On Sept. 17, the Diocese of Amarilo noted that Pavone, in videos posted online, had condemned the act of “voting for candidates of a particular political party” and had reportedly suggested he might refuse absolution if such votes were confessed without contrition.

According to the diocese, Pavone also used “scandalous words not becoming of a Catholic priest.”

“These postings are not consistent with Catholic Church Teachings,” the diocese said in its statement. “Please disregard them and pray for Father Pavone.”

Bishops routinely issue letters advising Catholics on how to form their consciences while refraining from backing individual candidates.

On Sept. 9, Bishop Alfred Schlert of Allentown, Pa., issued a pastoral letter saying that “While there is no initiative on the part of the Church to support one candidate over another, it is an indispensable obligation of bishops, priests, and deacons to inform the faithful about the hierarchy of issues that must be considered in conscience by every voting Catholic.”

“Hence, a Catholic voter is to approach the ballot box with the defense of innocent human life uppermost in his/her mind and conscience,” he wrote, adding that Catholic voters should consider whether their vote would constitute cooperation “with a candidate’s promotion of the grave sins of abortion and euthanasia.”

“Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” says that Catholics may vote for a candidate for political office who takes “unacceptable” positions on intrinsically evil acts; they may vote this way only “for truly grave moral reasons,” and “not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil.”

“A ‘well-formed conscience’ for the Catholic is one that has been formed under the guidance of the Holy Spirit through prayer, studying Scripture, and honestly informing oneself about the moral teachings of the Catholic Church,” Schlert said.

Dioceses in southern US shut down as Hurricane Sally brings floods

CNA Staff, Sep 18, 2020 / 02:01 pm (CNA).- Dioceses in Florida and Alabama have shut down offices and schools as a large storm has flooded numerous houses and left over half a million people without power.

Hurricane Sally made landfall Sept. 16 near Gulf Shores, Alabama, as a category 2 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph.

By midday, the hurricane downgraded to a tropical storm with 35mph winds, but its slow progress and large quantities of rain caused large amounts of flooding.

"Catastrophic and life-threatening flooding continues over portions of the Florida Panhandle and southern Alabama," the National Hurricane Center said.

A majority of the damage has been brought by the large amounts of rain, which has been measured about 18 inches in many regions.

Ginny Cranor, fire chief for Pensacola told CNN that the city has witnessed "four months of rain in four hours.” Pensacola has been hit particularly hard by the rain.

The damages include flooded homes, uprooted trees, and downed power lines. According to, about 253,000 people in Florida and 290,000 in Alabama are without power.

The storm has also caused at least one death and another person to be missing in the town of Orange Beach, the BBC reported.

The Archdiocese of Mobile closed Catholic Schools in Mobile and Baldwin counties Sept. 15 -18. The Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee closed nine Catholic schools in Escambia, Santa Rosa and Bay Counties Sept. 15-16.

Archbishop Thomas Rodi of Mobile tweeted: "I observed a generations-old tradition: the Archbishop blesses Mobile Bay when a hurricane nears & prayed that Jesus, who calmed the storm, would hear our prayers for protection from Hurricane Sally. On this feast of Our Lady of Sorrows may she wrap her mantle around us.”

Online course for Catholic politicians to study Thomas More, John Paul II, Dag Hammarskjöld

CNA Staff, Sep 18, 2020 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- What do St. Thomas More, St. John Paul II, and Dag Hammarskjöld have in common?

According to a new course by the International Catholic Legislators Network, they all modeled the beatitudes in their roles as political and religious leaders.

In the second part of online classes for Catholic and other Christian political leaders, ICLN is studying these three men for their course “The Virtues Practiced by Great Statesmen who Changed the World.”

“What these remarkable leaders had in common was that they were Christians first, and all else followed from this that constituted their core identity,” the ICLN said in a statement about the course.

“The times in which they lived and fruitfully worked in the service of God and their fellow human beings were no less challenging than the conflict-ridden and confused world in which we live today,” the ICLN stated. “Thus, they offer concrete answers and useful suggestions for what it takes to be a faithful and highly effective Christian leader in public office in secular society today.”

St. Thomas More was a 15th century lawyer, author, and statesman who lost his life opposing Henry VIII's plan to subordinate the Church to the English monarchy.

More's eventual martyrdom would come as a consequence of Henry VIII's own tragic downfall. The king wanted a declaration of nullity of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, a marriage that Clement VII declared to be valid. More refused, and was eventually imprisoned and killed for refusing to accept Henry VIII’s new marriage to Anne Boleyn and for rejecting his attempt at seizing control of the Church. In the ICLN course, More will be studied for modeling the virtues of humility and righteousness, according to the course outline.

Dag Hammarskjöld is the second statesmen to be studied in the course. Hammarskjöld, a Swedish diplomat, served as the Secretary General for the United Nations from 1953-1961. He was known for being a deeply religious man who led with integrity and a strong peacekeeping ability. “From scholars and clergymen on my mother’s side, I inherited a belief that, in the very radical sense of the Gospels, all men were equals as children of God, and should be met and treated by us as our masters in God,” he said in a radio program in 1953.

Hammarskjöld died under mysterious circumstances in a plane crash in 1961 while on a peacekeeping mission to what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Initial investigations said the cause of the crash was likely pilot error, while subsequent investigations have said that the plane may have been attacked or compromised. The ICLN course noted that Hammarskjöld will be studied as someone who modeled the beatitudes of being “pure in heart” and a “peacemaker.”

St. John Paul II is the third statesmen that the ICLN will study, as someone who modeled the virtues of “courage under persecution and suffering”, as well as mercy. As a young seminarian, St. John Paul II (then Karol Wojtyla) lived through Nazi rule of Poland in World War II. As a priest, bishop, and cardinal, he worked peacefully to oppose the anti-religious communist rule in Poland. Once he became pope in 1978, besides leading the Catholic Church for more than 25 years, John Paul II was a key leader in bringing about a peaceful end to communist rule in eastern Europe.

Dr. Christiaan Alting von Geusau, J.D., LL.M, will be the instructor for the ICLN course. Catholic and Christian political leaders who wish to participate in the course may register online. The course will be held for 50 minutes each Thursday, and participants may participate in the live-streamed course or through saved recordings of the course.

Pelosi says she attended Mass in San Francisco church, despite city health order

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 18, 2020 / 12:10 pm (CNA).- After San Francisco’s archbishop called on the city to reopen churches for indoor Masses, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said he should listen to the “science,” but admitted she had recently attended a church service in the city, possibly in violation of public health orders.

“With all due respect to my archbishop, I think we should follow science on this,” Pelosi told reporters at a press conference at the U.S. Capitol on Friday.

“I don't know if [San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone] was speaking as our pastor or as a lobbyist—advocate. But whatever it is, I am sure that he must have meant [reopen churches] if it is scientifically safe, rather than jeopardizing people’s health if they want to go to Church,” she added.

Citing a recent Washington Post op-ed by Cordileone, in which the archbishop criticized the “unfairness” of a city health order that currently bars indoor religious services except for funerals, while allowing businesses such as gyms and nail salons to serve customers indoors, Erik Rosales of EWTN News Nightly asked Pelosi, a Catholic elected from a San Francisco district, for comment.

Rosales asked Pelosi on Friday, “Should churches in San Francisco be allowed to reopen with precautions?”

Pelosi’s answer suggested she may have violated standing health regulations herself. The congresswoman said that she had attended church in San Francisco “recently, and I did receive Communion.” She noted that she had to sign up in advance to do so, and “there were probably 12 people” in attendance, observing social distance, in a church that fit around 250 people.


"With all due respect to my archbishop, I think we should follow science on this, and faith & science are sometimes counter to each other" -- @ErikRosalesNews asked @SpeakerPelosi whether churches in San Francisco should be allowed to re-open if they adhere to safety precautions.

— EWTN News Nightly (@EWTNNewsNightly) September 18, 2020  

San Francisco's guidance for gatherings currently says that only one person at a time is allowed inside a church "for prayer, individual counseling, to pick up, or drop off items."

The city’s mayor London Breed announced this week that outdoor religious services with up to 50 people would be permitted beginning Sept. 14, but indoor religious services were still prohibited until Oct. 1, where they would be permitted with a cap at 25 people.

A June 29 cease-and-desist letter from the San Francisco city attorney to the archdiocese said that indoor religious services were not allowed, with exceptions for funeral services with up to 12 people or live-streamed Masses with necessary personnel present for the streaming. 

Speaker Pelosi’s office did not respond to an inquiry from CNA as to the Mass she attended, whether it was a funeral Mass or whether it occurred before the city’s health order.

Pelosi also claimed that “faith and science are sometimes counter to each other. Around here people say to me, ‘you’re a person of faith, why do you believe in science?’”

Science, she said, is “an answer to our prayers.”

Pelosi, a Catholic whose district comprises much of San Francisco, has been an outspoken supporter of abortion and the redefinition of marriage. She has been endorsed by the National Abortion Rights Action League in 2020, and promised that “with the support of NARAL, we will defend Roe v. Wade” and support “a woman’s right to choose.”

Recently, Pelosi promised to withhold the Hyde Amendment from relevant spending bills next year—threatening to end a decades-old policy that has barred taxpayer dollars in the form of Medicaid reimbursements from funding elective abortions.

In June of 2014, Pelosi asked Archbishop Cordileone to cancel his participation in the March for Marriage in Washington, D.C., saying that some supporting groups had pushed “disdain and hate towards LGBT persons.” While noting that “[w]e share our love of the Catholic faith and our city of San Francisco,” she said she respected the archbishop’s “view” of same-sex marriage.

In 2009, Pelosi told Newsweek magazine that she had “some concerns about the church's position respecting a woman's right to choose,” as well as “about the church's position on gay rights.”

“I am a practicing Catholic, although they're probably not too happy about that. But it is my faith,” she said, adding that “women should have that opportunity to exercise their free will.”

In response, then-San Francisco Archbishop George Niederauer wrote in a column that her statement included “some fundamental misconceptions about Catholic teaching on human freedom.”

He wrote that it is “entirely incompatible with Catholic teaching to conclude that our freedom of will justifies choices that are radically contrary to the Gospel—racism, infidelity, abortion, theft. Freedom of will is the capacity to act with moral responsibility; it is not the ability to determine arbitrarily what constitutes moral right.”