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Vatican appoints new administrator of Steubenville Diocese amid possible merger

Bishop Edward M. Lohse. / Credit: Diocese of Kalamazoo

CNA Staff, Jun 14, 2024 / 14:05 pm (CNA).

The Vatican has removed Bishop Paul Bradley as apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Steubenville, Ohio, the bishop revealed on Friday, with Pope Francis appointing a new administrator to take his place. 

Bradley said in a letter to the diocese on Friday that the Holy Father had “informed me that my service as apostolic administrator of the diocese has been completed,” with Francis having “thanked me for my leadership over these last nine months.” 

The Vatican has appointed Kalamazoo Bishop Edward Lohse as the new apostolic administrator of the Ohio diocese, Bradley said. The appointment was effective immediately. 

Bradley had retired from the bishopric in Kalamazoo last July before being appointed by the pope as apostolic administrator of Steubenville on Sept. 28. 

The prelate was appointed to that role after the departure of prior Bishop Jeffrey Monforton, whom Pope Francis transferred to the Archdiocese of Detroit at the same time. 

While serving in the Steubenville Diocese, Monforton had proposed a merger between Steubenville and the Diocese of Columbus. That plan drew negative feedback and disappointment from many within Steubenville, including clergy who said they had not been consulted about the proposal. 

Monforton ultimately put a hold on the plan one week before the U.S. bishops’ conference planned to vote on the merger at its 2022 meeting in Baltimore.

Bradley and Columbus Bishop Earl Fernandes said in December of last year that the two dioceses were back into talks about a possible merger. 

The Steubenville Diocese was created in November 1944 out of territory previously part of the Diocese of Columbus. The diocese has seen a marked decline in population in the subsequent 80 years as the region has suffered from economic struggles stemming from losses in the coal and steel industries. 

In March of this year the two dioceses said in a press release that they had “submitted a summary of findings on how both dioceses could be affected by a potential merger” to Cincinnati Archbishop Dennis Schnurr as well as the apostolic nunciature. 

“No decision on a merger has been made,” the bishops said at the time. “The final decision will be made by the Holy Father, Pope Francis.” 

“This process of discernment is distinct from the process of implementation should a merger occur,” the bishops said. 

In his letter on Friday, meanwhile, Bradley said he was “so very grateful to the Holy Father” for the Steubenville appointment. 

He said Lohse, who will continue to serve as bishop of Kalmazoo, would “complete the current process of discernment” underway in the diocese.

“I am confident that Bishop Lohse will provide excellent leadership to the diocese throughout the remainder of this process,” the bishop said.

San Diego Diocese files for bankruptcy to address sexual abuse claims

Cardinal Robert McElroy, bishop of San Diego, celebrates Mass at St. Patrick's Church in Rome Aug. 28, 2022. / Credit: Hannah Brockhaus/CNA

CNA Staff, Jun 14, 2024 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

The Diocese of San Diego filed for bankruptcy on Thursday, the latest U.S. diocese to do so in response to hundreds of sexual abuse allegations leveled against it. 

San Diego bishop Cardinal Robert McElroy said in February 2023 that the diocese was considering declaring bankruptcy due to the “staggering” legal costs of responding to 400 new lawsuits brought during a three-year statewide expansion of the statute of limitations for child abuse cases.

In a letter to the diocese on Thursday, McElroy said that diocesan leaders have spent the past 16 months reviewing the abuse cases and that the diocese has “come to the conclusion that this is the moment to enter formally into bankruptcy and continue negotiations as part of the bankruptcy process.”

The bankruptcy filing, the cardinal said, was motivated by “the need for just compensation for victims of sexual abuse” as well as “the need to continue the Church’s mission of education, pastoral service, and outreach to the poor and the marginalized.”

McElroy pointed out that the diocese has already paid out a major sum stemming from a 2007 bankruptcy filing over other sex abuse cases. 

The diocese’s Chapter 11 filing this week “will achieve a definite conclusion to its legal liability for past claims of sexual abuse in the settlement we hope to reach in bankruptcy,” the prelate said. 

San Diego joins numerous other Catholic dioceses in filing for bankruptcy to address voluminous sexual abuse claims. Most recently, the Diocese of Fresno, also in California, filed for bankruptcy in May.

Numerous instances of diocesan bankruptcy have occurred after civil authorities have temporarily lifted the statute of limitations for sex abuse cases, allowing alleged victims to file lawsuits against Church authorities for abuses that reportedly occurred decades ago. 

As has been the case with other diocesan bankruptcy proceedings, McElroy noted this week that, for San Diego, “only the diocese will be filing for bankruptcy.” 

“The parishes, parochial schools, and high schools will not,” the bishop said. 

“But it is clear that as part of providing appropriate compensation to past victims of the sexual abuse of minors, both the parishes and high schools will have to contribute substantially to the ultimate settlement in order to bring finality to the liability they face,” he said.

Efforts over the last few decades to address the sex abuse crisis in the Church “cannot begin to mitigate the enormous moral responsibility that I, as your bishop, and the entire Catholic community continue to bear,” McElroy said in his letter. 

“May God never let this shame pass from our sight, and may God’s tenderness envelop the innocent children and teenagers who were victimized,” he said.

Update: U.S. bishops apologize to Indigenous Catholics, vow to address ‘unique cultural needs’

Interior view of a stained-glass window of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Pawhuska, Oklahoma. / Credit: Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 14, 2024 / 12:45 pm (CNA).

The U.S. Catholic bishops approved on Friday a document at their spring meeting that apologizes to Catholic Indigenous communities for a “history of trauma” caused in part by their “abandonment” by the Church and proposes a way forward that takes into account the “unique cultural needs” of these communities. 

The document, “Keeping Christ’s Sacred Promise: A Pastoral Framework for Indigenous Ministry,” provides an updated pastoral plan to address the concerns of Catholic Indigenous communities. The preface notes the last time the bishops formally addressed these communities was 1977.

The USCCB vote approving the text took place at the conference’s annual spring meeting in Louisville, Kentucky, on June 14. 

In the document, the bishops note the contributions of Catholic missionaries and the impact on Native people, stating: “Today, many North American Indigenous Catholics trace their faith to the decision of their ancestors to embrace Catholicism hundreds of years ago.” 

But the bishops continue with an apologetic tone, writing: “Sadly, many Indigenous Catholics have felt a sense of abandonment in their relationship with Church leaders due to a lack of understanding of their unique cultural needs. We apologize for the failure to nurture, strengthen, honor, recognize, and appreciate those entrusted to our pastoral care.”

The document takes into consideration insights from a previous listening session with bishops and Native leaders in 2019 and aims “to lift the major topics and concerns that emerged from those conversations, and to encourage local bishops to engage and deepen the dialogue with the local Native communities.”

The text first recalls a history of trauma experienced among Indigenous communities, starting in the 15th century with the arrival of Europeans in North America. Among the major sources of trauma the text lists “epidemics, national policies, and Native boarding schools, which stand out because of their profound effect on family life.”

It states: “The family systems of many Indigenous peoples never fully recovered from these tragedies, which often led to broken homes harmed by addiction, domestic abuse, abandonment, and neglect. The Church recognizes that it has played a part in traumas experienced by Native children.”

The text also notes that “European and Eurocentric world powers” exploited the language of papal letters from the 14th and 15th centuries, and developed “justifications to enslave, mistreat, and remove Indigenous peoples from their lands.” The draft document states: “Let us be very clear here: The Catholic Church does not espouse these ideologies.”

The text states: “Historical traumas are a significant contributor to the breakdown of family life among many Indigenous peoples. In response, youth and young adults are disaffiliating from the institutional authorities such as the Church, community, and their Elders. Many have rejected Christianity and turned to pre-Christian Indigenous religious practices. Many long for belonging and acceptance and might find solace in social media and other outlets.”

The draft calls for more listening sessions with Native American Catholics and partnerships “with ministries such as Catholic Charities and others that provide counseling and support groups for Indigenous peoples who struggle with woundedness from trauma.” 

The draft document also states a desire to support Indigenous Catholic communities as they unite to the sacramental life of the Church. The text says: “Let us not forget that the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, also serve as a prime opportunity for the Church to help heal past wounds.”

A connection is also made to traditional Native practices.

“For many Native communities, both healing rituals and those honoring the dead are meaningful,” it says. “The Church can use these beliefs to deepen Indigenous understanding of how Christ is present and active in the sacraments. Through embracing the sacraments, many communities have experienced the profound hope of reconciliation, healing, and eternal life.”

The text emphasizes the need for “authentic inculturation in the liturgy to deepen our relationship with Christ.” For Native Catholics, it notes “traditional rituals that complement and are compatible with Catholic doctrine and liturgical practices enhance the prayer life and religious experience of the people.”

Looking at some of the prevalent social issues, the draft says: “The Church in the United States must discern how best to allocate resources to support Indigenous communities in need.” The social concerns listed include an abuse of natural resources on Native lands, a lack of quality education, health disparities, racism, and inadequate housing.

Notably, the document mentions the importance of the USCCB anti-poverty program known as the Catholic Campaign for Human Development in addressing some of these concerns. The bishops will be discussing the future of this program at their spring meeting.

The U.S. bishops hope the document will “be used by dioceses, parishes, regions, Native Catholic leaders, Catholic schools, and other Catholic institutions serving Indigenous populations to develop specific priorities, initiatives, and programs, tailored to the needs, concerns, and aspirations of the local Native populations.”

In the document’s conclusion, the bishops note: “An unfortunate tension exists today for many Indigenous Catholics, who feel they are presented with a false choice: Be Native or be Catholic…For Native Catholics who feel this tension, we assure you, as the Catholic bishops of the United States, that you do not have to be one or the other. You are both. Your cultural embodiment of the faith is a gift to the Church.”

This article was first published on June 11, 2024, and updated on June 14, 2024.

Pope Francis’ ambassador conveys Holy Father’s enthusiasm for Eucharistic revival

Cardinal Christophe Pierre, the Vatican's nuncio to the United States, speaks to the U.S. bishops at their annual fall assembly in Baltimore on Nov. 14, 2023. / Credit: Screenshot of USCCB livestream

Louisville, Ky., Jun 14, 2024 / 12:30 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis’ ambassador to the United States conveyed the Holy Father’s support for the National Eucharistic Revival in a speech Thursday at the spring gathering of the U.S. bishops held in Louisville, Kentucky.

Cardinal Christophe Pierre, who has served as the apostolic nuncio to the United States since 2016 in addition to being the Vatican’s top diplomat in Washington, D.C., is tasked with representing the pope in his dealings with the U.S. bishops. 

“Pope Francis is united with us in his desire that people rediscover the power of the Eucharist,” Pierre said.

The National Eucharistic Revival, which launched on the feast of Corpus Christi in 2022, has a mission to “renew the Church by enkindling a living relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ in the holy Eucharist,” as stated on its website. Sponsored by the U.S. Catholic bishops, the revival aims to inspire people to encounter Jesus in the Eucharist. 

In his speech, Pierre said that Pope Francis has embraced this goal as a means to conversion of heart, a commitment to evangelization, service, and community.

“We have set out on this Eucharistic Revival because we want our people to come to a renewed and deeper appreciation of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist,” he said.

“We want them to know that Christ is there for them in the Eucharist: to receive their adoration, to accompany them in their earthly journey, and to feed them with the Bread of Life,” Pierre told the assembled bishops.

“We want them also to know the implications of encountering Christ in this way: how it calls them to an ongoing journey of conversion, and also how it commits them to a life of evangelization — of being people who offer an openhearted welcome of mercy to everyone who seeks a place in God’s Church,” Pierre said.

Synodality of Eucharistic pilgrimages

The apostolic nuncio also conveyed the Vatican’s support for the National Eucharistic Pilgrimages underway across the country, connecting them to the theme of synodality. 

“The Eucharistic processions that are going on right now, and which will converge on Indianapolis next month, are an outward symbol of what we want to happen on a spiritual level. We want people to turn to the Eucharistic Lord, to walk with him, and to be led by him. We also want this to happen in the context of community,” Pierre told the bishops.

“Our people need to experience that a journey with the Lord is also a journey with others who seek the Lord. That this journey is a true synod,” he said.

Bishops as wounded healers

He also called on the bishops to seek the fruits of a Eucharistic revival in their own lives.

“Let us not forget: We need Eucharistic revival too! Let’s be attentive in our own hearts to what the Lord is saying and doing among us,” he said. 

“The lesson is: The Eucharistic encounter with the risen Lord affords a new personal and ecclesial experience, one in which the wounds suffered in the body of Christ become signs of his victory over death,” he said.

He then suggested that the “woundedness” of the Church can similarly be a pathway forward to healing and listed those wounds.

“We are painfully aware of the most glaring wounds in today’s Church. The scandal of abuse and of failed oversight. The plague of indifference toward the poor and suffering, which can affect us all. Skepticism toward God and religion in a secularized culture. And an agitating temptation toward polarization and division, even among those of us who are committed to Christ and his Church,” he said.

“We find the answer in Christ. By showing the apostles his hands, feet, and side, the Lord is saying to them, and to us: ‘I choose to make your sin and failure a part of the story of my victory. If the marks of my crucifixion can exist on my resurrected body, then the marks of your own suffering and failures can exist in the body of my resurrected Church,” Pierre said.

Notre Dame religious liberty clinic backs lawsuit against church grant discrimination

The University of Notre Dame School of Law. / Credit: Wikimedia Commons

CNA Staff, Jun 14, 2024 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

The University of Notre Dame School of Law’s religious liberty initiative announced its support of a federal lawsuit challenging the exclusion of houses of worship from a state historic grant program. 

The amicus brief, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey in the case Mendham Methodist Church v. Morris County, argues that “excluding religious organizations from generally available grant programs” both “violates the law and harms congregations and their surrounding communities,” according to a press release from the school’s Religious Liberty Clinic. 

The lawsuit, originally filed last year, concerns a “Historic Preservation Trust Fund” run by Morris County, New Jersey. The county through that fund “distributes money to eligible organizations for the repair, restoration, and preservation of historic local buildings and resources,” the lawsuit indicates. 

For more than a decade after the fund was originally launched in 2003, churches were eligible for — and often received — funding from the trust, according to the plaintiffs. Yet the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in 2018 that the state constitution “bars the use of taxpayer funds to repair and restore churches” there. 

The lawsuit seeks to challenge that rule and open the grant funding up to churches. In its amicus brief, meanwhile, the Notre Dame law clinic argues that the U.S. Constitution “squarely prohibits the county from excluding groups who are otherwise qualified for [public aid] merely because they happen to be religious.”

In addition to violating the law, the exclusionary grant program “threatens significant harms that can never be undone through litigation,” the brief argues. 

Facing major budgetary shortfalls, many houses of worship around the country “have been unable to adequately preserve their historic buildings or had to abandon them altogether,” the brief states. 

Religious institutions “offer irreplaceable cultural and historic value to their communities,” the filing continues. Religious communities “often anchor community life itself,” the brief states.

The law clinic cited one study that indicated the closure of Catholic schools has been shown to “lead to less socially cohesive, and more disorderly, neighborhoods.” 

Meredith Holland Kessler, a staff attorney for the Religious Liberty Clinic, said in the group’s press release that the court should “recognize the vital contributions that communities from a variety of faith traditions have made to their neighbors for centuries.”

The filing asked the court to enter a preliminary injunction against the New Jersey county to halt the denial of the grant funds.

Boston Celtics head coach, now in NBA finals, treasures his Catholic faith

Head coach of the Boston Celtics Joe Mazzulla (left) and forward Jayson Tatum. / Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Boston, Mass., Jun 14, 2024 / 11:30 am (CNA).

The Boston Celtics are just one game away from clinching their first NBA title since 2008 — and their head coach Joe Mazzulla has already decided what he will do if they win.

“If we win the championship this year, we’re flying to Jerusalem and we’re walking from Jericho to Jerusalem,” Mazzulla said in an NBC Sports Boston docuseries released in May. 

“And it will be kind of like just our reconnect. But we went last year and we stopped right along this mountain side of the Kidron Valley and you could see a path in between the mountains… [and] during the time, the only way that [Jesus] could have gotten from Jericho to Jerusalem was through this valley. And right there I was like, ‘We have to walk that,’” he said.

“Most people go to Disney World or whatever but ... I think [the Holy Land is] the most important place to go back and recenter yourself,” the 35-year-old said.

A devout Catholic, Mazzulla is in his second season as head coach for the Boston franchise. 

Growing up in Rhode Island, he attended the Catholic-affiliated Bishop Hendricken High School, where in 2018 he was inducted into the athletics hall of fame and called “one of the best multi-sport athletes” in school history.

Although he’s a recent head-coaching addition to the league, Mazzulla has been catching the attention of basketball fans for taking his team deep into the NBA playoffs two years in a row.

But some who don’t follow the sport as closely still may recognize Mazzulla from a viral November 2022 postgame interview in which he was asked about the presence of Prince William and Princess Kate Middleton at the TD Garden, the Celtics’ home court.

The reporter asked Mazzulla: “A non-basketball question: Did you get a chance to meet with the royal family and if not how was it having them there in the building?”

“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph?” Mazzulla responded, with a perplexed look on his face. The reporter responded, chuckling, and clarifying who she was referring to: “The prince and princess of Wales.”

“Oh no, I did not,” Mazzulla said. “I’m only familiar with one royal family. I don’t know too much about that one.”

Outspoken about his Catholic faith

That wasn’t the only time Mazzulla offered a candid response about faith to a question from the media. 

Following Boston’s first win against the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA finals, Mazzulla was asked by a reporter in a press conference about this matchup being the first time since 1975 that two black head coaches have faced off in the championship.

“Given the plight, sometimes, of black coaches in the NBA, do you think this is a significant moment? Do you take pride in this? How do you view this or do you not see it at all?” the reporter asked.

“I wonder how many of those have been Christian coaches?” Mazzulla answered, followed by a long moment of silence. That exchange, too, received heavy media attention. 

In the recent NBC docuseries, Mazzulla — who often dons a small gold cross pinned on his shirt while he coaches — said that he likes to get to the basketball facility around noon and do a “prayer walk,” seeming to reference his arrival time and ritual before games.

“I like to do a prayer walk around the court at the Garden. I like to be in the Garden when there’s not a lot of people there, just because it’s the Garden. So I get there at like 11-12, do a 20-minute walk around the court and just kind of take in how cold it is. I love that, the smell of it, just the banners obviously, taking all that in,” he said.

Shown during his “prayer walk,” Mazzulla can be seen holding a green and gold wooden rosary.

That rosary was a gift given to him made from the original floor of the now-vanished Boston Garden, Mazzulla said.

“And so it just ties two of the three most important things in my life, [which] is the job that I have for the Celtics, my faith, and the tradition of the Celtics, it’s just a really cool gift,” he said.

“I also love collecting rosary beads just because it tells a story of kind of where you were at,” he said.

Home chapel

In the docuseries, Mazzulla introduces viewers to his private home chapel in which he said he tries to begin and end his days in.

“So when Camai [his wife] came to look at the place, she walked in this room first and she was like, ‘This is the room for the chapel.’ So I always made a promise that we were going to have that. So it’s important,” he said.

“We try to start our day and end our day in here,” he added. 

The chapel has religious candles, statues of the Blessed Virgin Mary, other icons, an altar, kneelers, a holy water font, rosaries, a bookshelf, and a crucifix. 

Mazzulla also pointed to a photo of him and his childhood priest Father Marcel Taillon at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. 

“He’s the guy that blessed the crowd when we were down nine to Minnesota. He’s been my priest since I’ve been in eighth grade, so we’ve known each other now for almost 20 years,” Mazzulla said. Taillon was the former chaplain at Bishop Hendricken High School when Mazzulla attended from 2002 to 2006. 

The crowd blessing occurred on Jan. 10 when the Celtics were facing off with the Minnesota Timberwolves in the fourth quarter. The Celtics were down by nine points with just over four minutes left when Taillon, wearing his clerics, was shown on the jumbotron. Taillon began to bless the crowd and the assembly began to cheer. 

At that moment, “God’s Plan” by the hip-hop artist Drake began to play over the loudspeakers. The Celtics ended the game with a phenomenal comeback, pushing the game into overtime and clinching a win. 

When Mazzulla was appointed to the Celtics’ head coaching position in 2023, the priest said in a Hendricken press release that “Coach Mazzulla is right for the job, not only because of the Celtics’ record but [also] his ability to form the whole person whom he leads.”

“His faith life, his family life, and his deep gratitude for all he has received makes his life a response instead of a job.”

‘I’m not a basketball coach’

Mazzulla, who was a star athlete in college, said in the docuseries that when he was younger, his identity was “in being a basketball player.”

“All my affirmation and everything I was seeking I put into basketball, I put into being a basketball player. And I lost that identity when I got hurt and missed a season. And then I lost it again when I thought I was going to play overseas and I lost the game of basketball and it made me ask myself like who am I?” he said.

“Like who is Joe Mazzulla the basketball player versus Joe Mazzulla the person. And as I got into coaching I had to reinvent myself because my identity had been in something that is fleeting,” he added.

Mazzulla offered similar comments in a pregame interview last year when he was asked how he handles “life-altering world events” while also being a basketball coach and preparing for a game. 

“I’m not a basketball coach,” he responded. “I’m just a person that shows up to work everyday to help people.”

Faith is an ‘anchor’

Prior to Game 3 of the NBA finals, Mazzulla was asked in a press conference how he leans on his faith when coaching.

Mazzulla said his faith is “the most important thing.”

“I think the ability to handle the ebbs and flows, the humility to understand that there’s a plan that’s much bigger than just who you are individually and have an impact on other people and then using the gifts that God has given you to try to impact those people,” he said.

“So it’s my anchor and it’s been the most important thing, and I’ve enjoyed just the challenge of having to stick with that even when it’s difficult at times,” he said.

Archbishop Broglio reminds bishops about Church teaching on transgenderism

USCCB president Archbishop Timothy Broglio speaks at the bishops' spring meeting, Thursday, June 13, 2024. / Credit: USCCB

Louisville, Ky., Jun 14, 2024 / 08:00 am (CNA).

The president of the U.S. bishops’ conference in a speech to his fellow bishops gathered in Louisville, Kentucky, for their spring meeting discoursed on the subject of the incompatibility of “sex change” with the teachings of the Catholic Church.

In his speech to kick off the meeting, Archbishop Timothy Broglio, who serves as archbishop for the Archdiocese of the Military Services, USA, and is president of U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), reflected on the war in the Holy Land, the migrant crisis, the National Eucharistic Congress, and the persecution of the Church in Nicaragua, among other issues. 

The largest portion of his address, however, was devoted to a catechesis on the subject of the dignity of the body, with the prelate citing Pope Francis’ recent declaration on gender ideology and referring specifically to the issue of “sex change.”

Broglio’s remarks come less than a month after news broke that a woman identifying as a man had attended seminary and was living a religious vocation as a male hermit in Kentucky, with the apparent approval of Bishop John Stowe, who leads the Diocese of Lexington.

In his speech to the bishops, Broglio quoted heavily from Pope Francis and his recent document on gender theory.

“We are grateful for the recent declaration Dignitas Infinita from the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith. There we read a clear message about many issues that plague our times. In particular, ‘Regarding gender theory, whose scientific coherence is the subject of considerable debate among experts, the Church recalls that human life in all its dimensions, both physical and spiritual, is a gift from God,’” he said.

“‘This gift is to be accepted with gratitude and placed at the service of the good. Desiring a personal self-determination, as gender theory prescribes, apart from this fundamental truth that human life is a gift, amounts to a concession to the age-old temptation to make oneself God, entering into competition with the true God of love revealed to us in the Gospel,’” Broglio quoted from the Vatican document.

Broglio also cited the Catechism of the Catholic Church, saying it “expressly invites us to recognize that ‘the human body shares in the dignity of ‘the image of God.’”

“Such a truth deserves to be remembered, especially when it comes to sex change, for humans are inseparably composed of both body and soul,” Broglio said.

He concluded his discourse quoting from Pope Francis again on the dignity of the human body.

“Teaching about the need to respect the natural order of the human person, Pope Francis affirmed that ‘creation is prior to us and must be received as a gift. At the same time, we are called to protect our humanity, and this means, in the first place, accepting it and respecting it as it was created.”

At a press conference at the conclusion of the first day of the meeting, Broglio fielded a question about his speech. 

Asked whether the closed-door sessions during the bishops’ meeting had included any discussions of the transgender hermit in the Diocese of Lexington and possible implications for action by the conference, Broglio said the subject had come up at the “committee levels.”

“There certainly hasn’t been any discussion in the general assembly of the bishops. There is concern that has been expressed at some of the committee levels because of the nature of what hermetic life is in the Church and also the preparation necessary for that,” Broglio said.

“And also it’s just the general honesty that should be a part of that whole process of determining a vocation and responding to that vocation. At this point, that’s basically where the discussion is,” he said.

‘The fight for life is far from over:’ Principled pro-life advocates, lawmakers uphold cause

Former abortionist turned pro-life advocate Dr. John Bruchalski speaks at a Live Action press conference in Washington, D.C., on June 12, 2024. / Credit: EWTN News Nightly/Screenshot

CNA Staff, Jun 14, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

The same week the U.S. Supreme Court dealt a setback to the effort to rein in the growing distribution and use of chemical abortion pills, several leading pro-life advocates and lawmakers gathered in Washington, D.C., for a Live Action press conference to underscore the “violence” of chemical abortions and the importance of taking a principled stand on the issue.

At the event, former abortionist Dr. John Bruchalski, who founded Tepeyac OB/GYN and now heads Divine Mercy Care, discussed the growing popularity of chemical abortions and underscored that abortion “is a bloody, violent, brutal, unmerciful surgery or process that is emotionally filled with trauma, regret, hatred, shame, guilt, and malice.”

Bruchalski said the increasing number of chemical abortions “are turning apartments, homes, and bathrooms into memories of violence.”

“Today we are at a crossroads in medicine, in politics, and civil rights, testing whether this nation, conceived in liberty, is still dedicated to the proposition that all members of the human family are created equal,” he said.

“Two visions are before us, one dark and hopeless, one welcoming and hopeful,” Bruchalski continued. The physician advocates for a “two-patient approach” to care that provides pregnant women and their unborn children with “life-giving and compassionate, scientifically sound treatment options, never pitting the mother against her child within.” 

“The fight for life is far from over,” said Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado, who introduced a bill last June that would define unborn children as legal and constitutional persons.

Though Lamborn hails from Colorado, the first state to legalize abortion and one of the most radically pro-abortion states, he is a staunch advocate for life and called on pro-lifers to remain “vigilant.”

When Roe v. Wade was overturned in June 2022, the decision of whether or not to protect unborn children was returned to individual states to decide. In a post-Roe America, chemical abortions have increased, becoming 63% of all U.S. abortions in 2023, according to the Guttmacher Institute. 

Rep. Alex Mooney, R-West Virginia, discussed his pro-life legislation in the context of President Joe Biden’s position on the issue.

“Now, this might come as a surprise to you. There’s actually something Joe Biden and I agree upon,” Mooney said. “We both agree that life begins at conception. President Biden has said multiple times, it is his belief that life begins at conception. It’s mine also.” 

“I have a bill that defines human life at conception,” Mooney continued. “The problem is Mr. Biden, a lot of his allies, lack the courage, politically, of their convictions to protect and defend human life from the moment of conception. But my bill does that. These babies deserve that protection. They’re human beings.”

“My bill simply says that the right to life guaranteed by the Constitution protects the unborn from the moment of conception,” he said. “This is actually a biological fact, and I think most Americans understand that that’s a fact as well. But we need to have the courage of our convictions to put these policies into law to protect the unborn.”

Another lawmaker, Rep. Bob Good, R-Virginia, noted that many politicians have taken a hands-off, federalist approach to abortion after the overturn of Roe v. Wade.

“The Republican Party must — must — remain a party for life,” he emphasized.  

Meanwhile, prominent Democrats on Capitol Hill continue to lambast pro-life Republicans as the 2024 elections approach, calling the pro-life side “extreme.”

“The chaos, the fear, the heartbreak caused by extreme Republican abortion bans has only grown with each passing day, and we would like to say to any Republicans who are still in denial, this issue is not going away,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington.

U.S. bishops’ pro-life chair on opposition to abortion pill: It’s ‘because we love women’ 

Bishop Michael Burbidge of the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities. / Credit: Zelda Caldwell/CNA

Louisville, Ky., Jun 14, 2024 / 05:00 am (CNA).

The head of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ pro-life committee on Thursday expressed disappointment in the Supreme Court ruling that allowed the abortion pill to continue to be available, citing the health risks involved for women as well as concern for the life of the unborn. 

The high court’s unanimous decision on Thursday found that the plaintiffs did not have legal standing to sue the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which had issued the regulations that made the abortion pill widely available.

“We know it was a procedural ruling, and we did not speak to the ultimate legality of the abortion pill, but it’s still very disappointing because now the abortion pill remains very available,” Bishop Michael Burbidge of the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, told CNA.

As chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities, Burbidge had issued a call for Catholics to pray for the nation’s highest court to side with the pro-life medical groups challenging the FDA’s regulation.

The FDA allows the abortion drug mifepristone to be administered to chemically abort a child up to 10 weeks into a mother’s pregnancy. 

The lawsuit also challenged the FDA’s deregulation of the drug, which allowed it to be prescribed without an in-person doctor’s visit and to be dispensed through the mail. 

“The sadness of a woman just being alone, unaccompanied — I don’t think people are aware of the harmful effects. It’s because we love women that we’re concerned that this pill remains so accessible,” Burbidge said from the Omni Louisville Hotel, where the USCCB’s spring meeting is being held.

A study published by the U.S. bishops cites safety concerns with  the abortion pill, including blood loss, infections, and even death. The study notes that the rate of adverse effects from chemical abortions is more than 5%, which is four times higher than with first-trimester surgical abortions. 

The bishops will continue to focus their efforts on helping women in need and educating people about the safety concerns of the abortion pill, he said, adding that women would not choose to have an abortion if they had the support they need.

“We’re going to surround them, hopefully, accompany them, love them, provide for them in every way possible,” he said, adding that the bishops’ Walking with Moms in Need program has expanded options for pregnant women facing difficult situations.

The bishop said he and his fellow bishops have not given up the legal fight against the abortion pill.

“We’re just going to certainly look at other ways, other means of making sure that we continue to raise this as an issue and to challenge the legality and the safety of this abortion pill,” Burbidge said. 

“They said the pro-life doctors did not have standing to bring the lawsuit. Well, we’re going to continue to look at ways where we challenge this ruling,” he indicated.

Democratic, Republican bills on IVF voted down in U.S. Senate

U.S. Capitol, Senate side. / Credit: Public domain

CNA Staff, Jun 13, 2024 / 16:50 pm (CNA).

The U.S. Senate on Thursday voted down a bill that Democrats said was designed to protect access to in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedures nationwide, with the measure coming amid a continued national debate over the medical procedure that also spawned a competing pro-IVF bill from Republicans. 

The Right to IVF Act, introduced by Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, failed 48-47 on Thursday, needing 60 votes to pass. It would establish a right to receive fertility treatments, including IVF, and also the right to “make decisions and arrangements regarding the donation, testing, use, storage, or disposition of reproductive genetic material, such as oocytes, sperm, fertilized eggs, and embryos.”

The U.S. Catholic bishops had urged Catholics to contact their lawmakers and tell them not to pass the bill, warning among other things that the bill could create a new health insurance mandate to cover IVF. 

The Catholic Church opposes the use of IVF on the grounds that it separates the marriage act from procreation and establishes “the domination of technology” over human life.

Also at issue was Senate Democrats’ insistence that families who make use of IVF should be allowed to discard fertilized embryos — a necessary part of the IVF process and one of the key arguments against IVF from a Catholic perspective — without legal repercussions.

The use of IVF, which necessarily includes a selection process of the “best” embryos, has led to millions of rejected human embryos being discarded and millions more frozen and stored in a state of limbo.

All 49 Senate Republicans, meanwhile, on Wednesday signaled support for IVF — which remains popular among the public — but decried the Democratic-sponsored IVF bill as “fearmongering intended to mislead and confuse the American people.” 

As an alternative to the Democratic IVF bill, Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Katie Britt of Alabama put forth another bill, which Cruz described as a “clear, straightforward, ironclad protection for IVF.” That bill would require that states not prohibit IVF services as a condition of receiving federal Medicaid funding.

Cruz attempted to bring the bill to a vote June 12 but Democrats blocked the measure, with Democratic Sen. Patty Murray arguing that Republican support for “fetal personhood” would undermine the legality of the discarding of fertilized embryos. 

The IVF vote comes a week after the U.S. Senate rejected the “Right to Contraception Act,” which would have created a federal right to contraception, with legal implications for religious freedom and protections for minors. 

The current debate over IVF erupted following a ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court in February that found that frozen human embryos are children under state law. Alabama lawmakers have since passed a bill that grants immunity to IVF providers in cases of death or injury to unborn babies during the IVF process.

The U.S. Catholic bishops expressed opposition to an earlier version of the Democratic Senate bill in February. 

“We can understand the profound desire that motivates some of these couples to go to great lengths to have children, and we support morally licit means of doing so,” the heads of four U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ committees wrote in a letter to lawmakers.

“The solution, however, can never be a medical process that involves the creation of countless preborn children and results in most of them being frozen or discarded and destroyed,” the bishops emphasized.

IVF, the bishops warned, is “a threat to the most vulnerable of human beings.” They further rebuked the IVF industry as one that is “built on millions of children who are created to be destroyed or abandoned.” 

Thursday’s Senate vote also comes one day after the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S., voted to approve a resolution opposing the use of IVF.