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Eucharistic pilgrims go ‘to the heights’ at the top of the Rocky Mountains

The Eucharist makes its way up a ski hill in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, as part of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage. / Credit: Greg Effinger/Archdiocese of Denver/Denver Catholic

CNA Staff, Jun 13, 2024 / 14:45 pm (CNA).

As far as “highlights” go on the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, thus far they don’t get much higher than 12,000 feet — at the top of the Continental Divide in the Colorado Rockies. 

There, last week, a priest held up the golden monstrance containing Jesus and blessed both halves of the nation, as Patrick Fayad and the other young Perpetual Pilgrims who are accompanying the Eucharist on a 2,000-mile trek looked on. 

“Just absolutely breathtaking, and even more breathtaking with Our Lord,” Fayad said while describing the experience at a Wednesday press conference featuring organizers of the congress and other Perpetual Pilgrims.

Fayad is one of the pilgrims on the Serra Route, which began in San Francisco. He said while the procession was in the Rocky Mountains, they visited the famous “Chapel on the Rock” in Allenspark and the Catholic summer camp Annunciation Heights, where they got a very enthusiastic reception from the young campers.

Chapel on the Rock. Credit: Patrick McKay via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Chapel on the Rock. Credit: Patrick McKay via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

The lofty heights of the Rocky Mountains soon gave way to the Great Plains and the Colorado capital of Denver, a city whose 1993 hosting of World Youth Day with St. John Paul II has left a legacy of vibrant Catholic apostolates. On Sunday, June 9, nearly 5,000 people joined the pilgrims and filled the streets of downtown Denver in what was likely the largest Eucharistic procession in the city’s history.

On the northern Marian Route, more than 3,000 faithful gathered near the riverside city of La Crosse and, together with Minnesota pilgrims, processed with the Eucharist across the Mississippi River, which was originally named the River of the Immaculate Conception by Jesuit explorer Father Jacques Marquette in 1673.

As in previous weeks, the pilgrims had nothing but praise for the people they have met along the way who have shown them hospitality and welcome. They also expressed amazement at the large numbers of people who have come out to join the processions. 

“It feels like we’ve been on this pilgrimage for three years now because it’s been so jam-packed, but that’s so amazing,” said Amayrani Higueldo-Sanchez, a pilgrim on the eastern Seton Route, which recently passed by the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Emmitsburg, Maryland. 

“I think culturally, for me, it’s been a real shocker just to see how many different cultures worship in such different ways, but we’re all united in Christ. It’s just so beautiful to witness,” she continued. 

“Maybe we speak different languages, but just knowing that we worship the same God, it’s been really just edifying to me and just so beautiful to share with these people that I have nothing in common with sometimes.”

The first few weeks have been “pretty intense,” Fayad admitted. He said it has been a learning experience figuring out how to cultivate silent reflection time. But the pilgrims said the portions of the routes where they are driving in the vans has provided some time for quiet and solitude. 

“I think humans were made for stability, and that is definitely not what we have right now,” he said.

Having little free time has been “difficult, but also definitely really, really good for detachment,” he continued, saying that many of life’s ordinary comforts, while not bad in themselves, “have been removed from us.”

“[E]very single day spending time with Our Lord ... I’m slowly becoming a person who loves the Lord much more and is much closer to him. And I’ve been able to depend on him a lot more … It’s been really beautiful and difficult … but it’s for a great cause. It’s been wonderful,” he said. 

The four pilgrimages are roughly at their halfway point as the pilgrims continue to converge on Indianapolis for the National Eucharistic Congress from July 17–21. 

Catholics throughout the U.S. are encouraged to register to join the pilgrims in walking short sections of the pilgrimages and joining in numerous other special events put on by their local dioceses.

To read much more ongoing coverage about the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage and National Eucharistic Congress, visit the National Catholic Register.

In unanimous decision, SCOTUS rejects doctors’ challenge to abortion pill

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments on March 26, 2024, for a lawsuit brought by the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine (AHM), which seeks to impose more restrictions on the prescription of mifepristone. / Credit: Peter Pinedo/CNA

CNA Staff, Jun 13, 2024 / 12:38 pm (CNA).

The Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously ruled against a physician-led challenge to the abortion pill, rejecting an attempt by advocates to impose stricter regulations on the drug. 

The court said in its Thursday ruling that the plaintiffs, represented by the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine (AHM), lacked standing to challenge U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) regulation of the abortion drug mifepristone.

AHM, which represents pro-life medical groups, sued the FDA in November 2022 to challenge the agency’s long-standing approval of the drug. 

The lawsuit further challenged the FDA’s subsequent deregulation of the drug, particularly its permission to prescribe the medicine without an in-person doctor’s visit and to dispense the drug through the mail. The high court heard oral arguments in the case in March of this year.

In their ruling on Thursday, the justices argued that the plaintiffs had failed to establish the necessary legal standing to sue the FDA for its regulation of the pill. 

The medical groups “are pro-life” and opposed to elective abortions, including the use of mifepristone, the court said.

“Because plaintiffs do not prescribe or use mifepristone, plaintiffs are unregulated parties who seek to challenge FDA’s regulation of others,” the ruling said. 

The advocates advanced “several complicated causation theories” to justify the suit, the court ruled, but “none of these theories suffices” to establish standing. 

The doctors had argued that under FDA regulations they might be forced to violate their consciences with regard to the abortion pill; the justices dismissed that assertion, claiming that “federal conscience laws definitively protect doctors from being required to perform abortions or to provide other treatment that violates their consciences.”

The doctors had also argued that the FDA’s relaxed mifepristone regulations could lead to economic injuries in the form of increased liability complaints and time-consuming medical treatments of women who take the drug. The court described these claims as “too speculative” and “too attenuated to establish standing.”

To “establish causation” in injury claims, the ruling said, “the plaintiff must show a predictable chain of events leading from the government action to the asserted injury — in other words, that the government action has caused or likely will cause injury in fact to the plaintiff.”

The court acknowledged that the pro-life plaintiffs “have sincere legal, moral, ideological, and policy objections to elective abortion and to FDA’s relaxed regulation of mifepristone.”

But “those kinds of objections alone do not establish a justiciable case or controversy in federal court,” it said. 

Pro-life leaders and advocates responded with disappointment to Thursday’s ruling. 

SBA Pro-Life America said in a post on X that it was “a sad day for women’s health and unborn children’s lives.”

The abortion lobby “gaslights women about the risks of these drugs and seeks to block states from even collecting safety data — even though the FDA’s own data show abortion drugs send 1 in 25 women to the ER,” the group said. 

“[T]he fight isn’t over,” the pro-life group said. 

Ingrid Skop, a board-certified OB-GYN and the vice president and director of medical affairs at the Charlotte Lozier Institute, told the press that it was “deeply disappointing that the FDA was not held accountable today for its reckless decisions.” 

“As a practicing OB-GYN with over 30 years’ experience, I have seen firsthand that mail-order abortion drugs harm my patients, both mothers and their unborn children,” she said. 

The abortion pill is “not health care, it’s abandonment, and the pro-life community will never stop advocating for patients,” she argued. 

Erin Hawley, meanwhile — who serves as senior counsel at the legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom — said in a statement that the group was “disappointed that the Supreme Court did not reach the merits of the FDA’s lawless removal of commonsense safety standards for abortion drugs.”

“While we’re disappointed with the court’s decision, we will continue to advocate for women and work to restore commonsense safeguards for abortion drugs,” Hawley said.

Preservation group launches campaign to save New York churches from closure

The exterior of St. Casimir Church in Buffalo, New York / Credit: Michael Shriver/buffalophotoblog.com

CNA Staff, Jun 13, 2024 / 11:00 am (CNA).

A New York-based historical preservation group is launching an effort to save Catholic churches in the city of Buffalo that are allegedly “deeply at risk of vacancy and demolition” amid a diocesan restructuring plan. 

The organization Preservation Buffalo Niagara announced on its website on Tuesday that it was launching a “Save Our Sacred Sites” campaign, one aimed at “funding and submitting local landmark applications for churches within the City of Buffalo” that it said are at risk of closure by the Diocese of Buffalo.

The Buffalo Diocese announced last month that it will be merging over a third of its 160 parishes, calling the move an effort to “reinvigorate the Catholic faith in western New York.”

Buffalo Bishop Michael Fisher said in May that 34% of its parishes — about 55 parishes — will be merged in a process of “rightsizing and reshaping.”

The merges, part of the diocese’s “Road to Renewal” program, will be finalized later this summer. 

On its website, the Buffalo preservation group says that most of the churches it is working to save — about 15 all told — are “deeply at risk of vacancy and demolition because they have minimal or zero preservation protections.”

The campaign will focus on “submitting a local landmark application for each church to the City of Buffalo” as well as submitting a “determination of eligibility” application to the New York State Historic Preservation Office when necessary. 

Each application costs about $2,500 to complete, the group said. The organization is soliciting donations to meet that goal.

Preservation Buffalo Niagara said it would also “provide resources for churches as they come in,” though it said most grant funding for historical churches “requires either National Register of Historic Places status or being a local landmark within the City of Buffalo.”

“That is why this local landmark campaign is so important to do,” the group said. 

The preservation society said landmark status would offer “crucial protection for our cherished sacred sites.” 

In the event of landmark status, the local preservation board “must review any significant changes to the building,” while owners of the properties “can benefit from tax incentives, making preservation more feasible.”

Preservation Buffalo Niagara is “the region’s only full-service, professionally staffed preservation organization,” the group says on its website. 

The Buffalo diocese told CNA on Thursday that the diocesan Vicar for Renewal and Development Father Bryan Zielenieski would be meeting with the preservation group soon to discuss the campaign.

The ongoing diocesan merger plan was initiated in response to priest shortages and financial difficulties, among other factors. In 2020 the diocese declared bankruptcy amid hundreds of sexual abuse lawsuits filed against it.

Fisher said in May that the Church in western New York “is not the same as it was 50 years ago, not 20 years, not even 10 years ago.”

The diocese in March announced the sale of its headquarters in downtown Buffalo.

What is ‘green burial’ and does the Catholic Church allow it?

null / Credit: Sarah Marchant/Shutterstock

CNA Staff, Jun 13, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

In an era of increasing environmental consciousness, the practice of “green burials” is growing in popularity — including at numerous Catholic cemeteries throughout the United States. 

The funeral and burial economies in the United States — commonly grouped together as the “death care industry” — are both financially lucrative and highly resource-intensive. The National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) says on its website that the death care industry as a whole generated about $16 billion in the latest annual data.

Just over $3.3 billion of that amount is linked to “cemeteries and crematories.” Industry estimates, meanwhile, indicate that cemeteries bury tens of thousands of tons of steel coffins every year, along with several million gallons of “embalming fluids” such as formaldehyde and methanol.

The significant environmental costs of those materials has led many to seek alternative forms of interment, such as “green” or “natural” burials, which use considerably fewer resources and are more environmentally friendly as a result.

‘The original form of burial’

Cathy Vail, the executive director of the Catholic Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Rochester, New York, said green burial is “a process that returns humans to earth as simply as possible.”  

“The main difference from common burial practices is the interment process,” Vail told CNA. 
In green burials, she said, caskets are placed directly in the ground rather than in a poured concrete “vault.” 

The body, meanwhile, “must be in a biodegradable container (casket/urn) or shroud,” rather than the more common steel-fabricated coffins.

“Each cemetery may have different ‘levels’ or certification of green/natural burial,” she said. “These will determine the level of maintenance of the section.”

The Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Rochester, she said, is certified via the Green Burial Council, which requires a certain level of upkeep in the cemetery’s green burial sections. Uncertified cemeteries, she noted, can let their green plots grow more wild if they so choose.

At the Rochester facility’s newest burial section, green burials account for “44% of all graves purchased,” Vail said. The Green Burial Council says on its website that surveys show a “growing interest” in the practice.

Deacon Ed Handel, the director of the Office of Cemeteries and Funeral Services at the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, Virginia, told CNA that the diocese offers green burials at one of its cemeteries, located at the city of Roanoke in the western part of the state. 

“It’s becoming a more popular request,” Handel said. The diocese has sold several burial spots in the green section, he said, though they have not yet buried any bodies there. 

Perhaps the most notable difference in green burials is the absence of embalming fluid in the preparation process. The vast majority of burials in the U.S. include embalming, in which the body is preserved using numerous chemicals to allow for viewings and wakes. The practice became widely used during and after the U.S. Civil War.

In addition to the lack of embalming, Handel said, a green burial casket is a relatively simple receptacle. The body is “placed in, for lack of a better term, a plain pine box,” he said. “There’s nothing artificial — no metal, no varnish — so that it naturally decomposes.” 

“Instead of six feet deep, the burial is actually done in the three- to four-foot-deep range, because that’s optimal for body decomposition,” he said. 

The lack of a concrete vault in green burials, Handel said, does present some structural challenges. A vault “keeps the grave from caving in when the casket breaks down,” he said. 

“With green burial there is no vault,” he noted. “Obviously in those areas there will be more backfill required as time goes on, because the body will decompose and the casket will cave in.”

The Roanoke facility isn’t the only Catholic green burial option in the state: Several years ago Holy Cross Abbey in Berryville began offering green burials

The abbey on its website says that, in its green burial process, “the body [is not] embalmed,” the casket is not made of metal, and there is no concrete vault. 

Graves, meanwhile, “are marked with simple engraved stones obtained from these same sacred grounds.”

Not all green burial methods ‘manifest respect’

Other environmentally friendly forms of burial have been the subject of debate in recent years, and the Church has declared some of them unsuitable for Catholics. 

Some environmental advocates have argued that “human composting” offers a solution to resource-intensive burials. In that practice, a human body is placed inside a reusable container where deliberately seeded microbes and bacteria break it down into soil. 

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops last year said that human composting, along with the chemical-based process of alkaline hydrolysis, “pose serious problems in that they fail to manifest the respect for last remains that Catholic faith requires.”

Green burials, in contrast, are permitted by the Catholic Church, Handel said, reiterating that the practice is perfectly in line with Church teaching.

“From the Catholic perspective, I don’t see why we shouldn’t promote green burial,” he said, “because it goes back to our tradition that the preferred method of disposition at the end of your life is a full body burial, not cremation.”

Vail echoed those remarks, calling green burials “the original form of burial.” 

“The final act in the Catholic rites of burial is the committal in consecrated ground,” she said.  “Therefore, this type of burial is in line with Catholic teaching.”

The opening of St. Anthony’s tomb and the ‘Feast of the Tongue’

Gold reliquairies containing the chin and tongue of St. Anthony of Padua in the Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua in Italy. / Credit: Richard Mortel/CC BY 2.0 via Flickr

CNA Staff, Jun 13, 2024 / 04:00 am (CNA).

St. Anthony of Padua is one of the most famous saints in the Catholic Church, partly because of his connection to St. Francis of Assisi and also because he is popularly invoked as the patron saint of lost items. 

St. Anthony’s feast day is today, June 13. But you may not be aware that there’s another important day of the year when St. Anthony is celebrated in Padua: Feb. 18, the day his tongue was removed. 

Thankfully, this took place after the saint had died, during the first of two exhumations of the saint in the year 1263, three decades after his death. 

Father Mario Conte, OFM Conv, one of the 50 friars who minister in the Basilica of St. Anthony in Padua, told CNA in 2022 that when the tomb was opened all those years ago, what was found was “really exceptional” — St. Anthony’s jaw and tongue appeared to be incorrupt

According to Catholic tradition, saints who are miraculously preserved from decay give witness to the truth of the resurrection of the body and the eternal life in heaven that is to come. 

“All the body had gone to ashes and bones basically, apart from the vocal apparatus, which was still wet and soft,” Conte explained. 

“And so they took these parts, the tongue and the jaw, and they put them into some reliquaries. And if you go to the Basilica of St. Anthony, there is a chapel dedicated to the relics of St. Anthony and you will see them in that particular chapel.”

The Catholic Church has a long tradition of giving honor to relics, which are objects that have a direct association with the saints or with Christ himself. Relics are not worshipped but given honor — “venerated” — because of the saint’s love of and closeness to God. Those praying with relics often ask for that saint’s intercession.

The 1263 exhumation was carried out by the then-minister general of the Franciscans, St. Bonaventure, because the Franciscans were moving the saint’s body to a new and larger church. Conte said that when Bonaventure found the tongue, he said: “‘This is really a miracle. God wants us to know that St. Anthony was really the messenger of God’s love.’”

Today, the day that St. Anthony’s tongue was found is celebrated with Masses at the basilica that bears his name in Padua, northern Italy. 

St. Anthony’s tomb was not to be opened again for more than 700 years — between January and February 1981. Conte described what it was like to be present for the second opening of St. Anthony’s tomb. 

“In 1981, we decided to open St. Anthony’s tomb for the second time … I was young at the time,” Conte told CNA in 2022. 

“That was when we found how the body of St. Anthony had been put inside a new coffin by St. Bonaventure,” he continued, and explained that additional relics from St. Anthony’s decayed body — pieces of the saint’s flesh, but not identifiable pieces of the body — were removed at this point and put into reliquaries. 

Today, these relics of St. Anthony travel all over the world, making stops at parishes and dioceses where large crowds often come out to venerate them. 

Who was St. Anthony?

Born in Lisbon, Portugal, in 1195, St. Anthony moved to Padua, Italy, after joining the Franciscan order. Anthony is known not only for his eloquent preaching and frequent rebukes of heretics but also for his loving care for the poor he encountered. 

In 1224, St. Francis of Assisi gave Anthony permission to teach theology in the Franciscan order, which he did in several French and Italian cities while strictly following his Franciscan vows and preaching regularly to the people. Later, he dedicated himself entirely to the work of preaching as a missionary in France, Italy, and Spain, teaching an authentic love for God to many people who had fallen away from Catholic faith and morality.

Known for his bold preaching and austere lifestyle, St. Anthony also had a reputation as a worker of miracles. He died in 1231 amid poor health at the age of 36. 

St. Anthony, a doctor of the Church, has his feast day celebrated June 13. In 2015, Pope Francis declared the Shrine of St. Anthony in Padua a minor basilica.

Southern Baptist Convention approves resolution opposing IVF

A technician does control check of the in vitro fertilization process using a microscope. / Credit: Shutterstock

CNA Staff, Jun 12, 2024 / 18:05 pm (CNA).

The Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S., on Wednesday voted to approve a resolution opposing the use of in vitro fertilization (IVF) and called on Christian couples to “consider the ethical implications of assisted reproductive technologies as they look to God for hope, grace, and wisdom amid suffering.” 

The resolution, which is a statement of belief and is nonbinding, comes following a landmark ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court in February that found that frozen human embryos are children under state law. The ruling sparked a national debate, and 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. 

IVF is a medical procedure that fuses sperm and egg in a lab environment to conceive a child outside of the sexual act. The live embryo is then later implanted into a uterus to continue developing until birth.

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. 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.

The SBC resolution passed on Wednesday echoes Catholic teaching in affirming that while “all children are to be fully respected and protected, not all technological means of assisting human reproduction are equally God-honoring or morally justified.” (Nearly a third of Alabamans are members of the Baptist faith.)

“The in vitro fertilization process routinely creates more embryos than can reasonably be implanted, thus resulting in the continued freezing, stockpiling, and ultimate destruction of human embryos, some of which may also be subjected to medical experimentation,” the resolution continues. 

“[W]e call on Southern Baptists to love all of their neighbors in accordance with their God-given dignity as image bearers and to advocate for the government to restrain actions inconsistent with the dignity and value of every human being, which necessarily includes frozen embryonic human beings.”

Debate on the floor of the SBC annual meeting, taking place in Indianapolis, saw several delegates from Baptist churches around the country — known as “messengers” — rise in support of and opposition to the resolution.

One messenger, Kentuckian Monica Hall, rose in support of the resolution, saying that there is “no way to describe the treatment of embryos at any point on the IVF process as ethical or dignified.” She endorsed a section of the resolution calling for the adoption of existing frozen embryos — a practice that the Catholic Church has not definitively ruled on but has expressed serious moral reservations about. 

Prominent Southern Baptist leaders had signaled opposition to IVF in recent weeks, with Albert Mohler, president of the flagship Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) in Louisville, Kentucky, and a longtime critic of IVF, urging Christians to support the “correct ruling and judgment by the Alabama Supreme Court.” Mohler authored the SBC resolution along with SBTS professor Andrew Walker.

“Quite frankly, we know that in our churches we have compromised on this issue. But if we believe in the sanctity and dignity of every single human life from the moment of fertilization, we need to recognize any intervention with an embryo, any commodification of the embryo, any turn of the embryo into a consumer product is an assault upon human dignity,” Mohler said as reported by AL.com. 

In late May, the staff of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the SBC sent a letter to the U.S. Senate in which the commission, led by president Brent Leatherwood, noted that the IVF industry and the fertility industry at large “currently operate in the U.S. free from basic regulations and requirements [with] few protections in place for parents or for the embryos created.”

“A human embryo is a life. This life is as deserving of protection and all the standards of care we would give to a child or an adult. In the post-Roe moment we find ourselves in, we must make the most of this opportunity to stand for life in all its forms. We must redouble our efforts to create a culture where the preborn — even at the earliest stage — are seen as essential neighbors in our society worthy of being saved, where parents are served, and where families can flourish,” the letter reads.

“Though I understand the political dynamics that have driven many lawmakers to advocate for IVF ‘protections,’ no political justification should prevail over preventing the destruction of innocent life and the development of robust ethical frameworks in this area.”

The SBC vote comes ahead of an expected vote in the U.S. Senate on Thursday on a bill designed to establish a nationwide right to IVF, which has drawn criticism from some Republicans, who say it could have unintended consequences including the legalization of human cloning. 

The nun in a tent: Meet the sister who’s following the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage

Sister Mary Rose Chinn of the Handmaids of the Triune God attends a Byzantine Divine Liturgy at Holy Protection of the Mother of God Byzantine Catholic Church in downtown Denver on June 8, 2024. / Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA

Denver, Colo., Jun 12, 2024 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

In her day-to-day life, Sister Mary Rose Chinn of the Handmaids of the Triune God works with public school kids in Ventura, California, a coastal city northwest of Los Angeles. But this summer, she hit the road to camp out and follow Jesus in the Eucharist.

When Chinn learned that a group of “Perpetual Pilgrims” would be making its way from California to Indiana on the Junipero Serra Route of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, she wanted to be a part of it.

Equipped with her car, a tent, and the “angels and saints in heaven,” Chinn follows the online schedule of the pilgrims, who are accompanying Jesus in the Eucharist on foot and by van on their way to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, where the National Eucharistic Congress will be held July 17–21.

Along the way, she’s offering up the prayer intentions of the people in Ventura and offers to pray for the prayer intentions of those she meets from city to city and parish to parish.

Sister Mary Rose Chinn (center) participates in a Eucharistic procession in downtown Denver that brought nearly 5,000 people on June 9, 2024. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA
Sister Mary Rose Chinn (center) participates in a Eucharistic procession in downtown Denver that brought nearly 5,000 people on June 9, 2024. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA

Chinn’s days are a blend of meeting people, visiting different parishes, and attending processions followed by the solitude of camping.

“It gives me a time to be quiet and in solitude with him [Jesus] during the times that I’m not in the churches or in the parish,” she told CNA. “Because there’s a lot of RV campers but very few tent campers anymore.”

Chinn has gone on many types of pilgrimages before, whether with an organization or “making her own way.” With some backpacking experience, she said she felt prepared for this pilgrimage. 

“The opportunity of a pilgrimage, for me, is like a microcosm of daily life, where you really have to listen and just trust in God’s providence for the next step,” she said. “You can make your plans … but then you turn your plans over to the Lord and see how he works out the day. That’s how it’s been.”

Conversion through the Eucharist

“My intention for the pilgrimage was to give thanks to the Lord for his gift of himself in holy Communion,” Chinn explained. 

Chinn, a convert to the Catholic Church, said another reason she joined the pilgrimage was because “it was really Jesus in the Eucharist that brought me into the Catholic Church.” 

“Because when I went to Mass with a friend, I was reading the Old Testament, wondering what happened to all the Old Testament laws regarding sacrifice, the Protestant churches, and there was no sacrifice,” she explained. “But as soon as I attended Mass, I saw Jesus in sacrifice.” 

Though initially mentored in Christianity by Pentecostals, she learned more about the faith from a Catholic priest before she eventually joined the Catholic Church.

“Of all my years of growing up, I had a lot of Catholic friends, but nobody ever shared Mass with me. They never invited me to Mass,” she said. “I was introduced to Christianity by customers at my parents’ restaurants who were Pentecostal Christians, and they invited me to their church. That’s how I first encountered Jesus in his word and through prayer and through the possibility of the Holy Spirit bringing healing, inflaming your life.”

When she faced the decision between Catholicism and Pentecostalism, the Eucharist pulled her toward the Catholic faith. 

“And so at the end, then, in my prayer, I asked Jesus, ‘So had I really been given the gift of faith to believe in Jesus in the Eucharist, on the altar in the tabernacle?’ and I said ‘Yes,’” she recalled. “So, how could I walk away from the Catholic Church? Because it would be denying Jesus.”

Sister Mary Rose Chinn receives the Eucharist during a Byzantine Catholic Divine Liturgy on June 8, 2024. The Eucharist is given via “intinction,” where the small cubes of consecrated, leaven bread are placed in the chalice and given on a spoon. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA
Sister Mary Rose Chinn receives the Eucharist during a Byzantine Catholic Divine Liturgy on June 8, 2024. The Eucharist is given via “intinction,” where the small cubes of consecrated, leaven bread are placed in the chalice and given on a spoon. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA

Along the pilgrimage, Chinn said she intends “to pray and ask God's forgiveness — the old word is ‘reparation’ — for those who do not believe in his real presence and [I am] praying for their conversion to be able to come back.”

Chinn said that since the COVID-19 pandemic she noticed that many people haven’t returned to Mass. She prays that they may “worship God as Jesus has given himself to us.”

“I find there’s a tendency, and it’s perennial, and it’s throughout all parishes, where the parents will send [their children] for the sacraments, but then they don’t practice the faith on a regular basis,” Chinn explained. “And [I pray] for them to fall in love with Jesus and holy Communion, and the Eucharist, and that Mass — that they would be consistent and constant.” 

“If they only realize it makes life much more stable,” she continued. “The Lord is with them all the time — that relationship can develop.”

Sister Mary Rose Chinn attends a Eucharistic procession in downtown Denver that brought nearly 5,000 people on June 9, 2024. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA
Sister Mary Rose Chinn attends a Eucharistic procession in downtown Denver that brought nearly 5,000 people on June 9, 2024. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA

“I think what has struck me the most is the number of parishes that the pilgrimage [reaches]. We, at least sometimes on Sundays, go through at least three parish cities,” she said. “And then there’s Benediction. So I’ve received Benediction at least three times a day.”

When asked what has stood out to her so far, Chinn explained that it has been the faith of the people she meets.

“I find, because I’m able to intermingle with the parishioners, they’re definitely people of faith,” she continued. “There’s an identification, even though they don’t know me, and I don’t know them. They’ve been very generous in the walk with me.”

“The basic faith of the people is still there,” Chinn said. “Even though they say Catholicism in the United States is dwindling, there is a solid portion of people who are still believers, who are willing to come out extra and then to worship God — especially Jesus in the Eucharist.”

Eucharistic pilgrims and others attend the Byzantine Divine Liturgy at Holy Protection of the Mother of God Byzantine Catholic Church in downtown Denver on June 8, 2024. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA
Eucharistic pilgrims and others attend the Byzantine Divine Liturgy at Holy Protection of the Mother of God Byzantine Catholic Church in downtown Denver on June 8, 2024. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA

Two court rulings deal blow, victory to U.S. transgender advocates

null / Credit: Brian A. Jackson/Shutterstock

CNA Staff, Jun 12, 2024 / 12:20 pm (CNA).

Two court rulings in Florida and Texas simultaneously dealt both a victory and a setback to transgender advocates in the United States this week. 

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced on his website on Tuesday that the state had “won a major victory” against the Biden administration over the White House’s attempt to rewrite federal Title IX law to include transgender protections.

The U.S. Department of Education issued new regulations in April that radically redefined long-standing federal sex discrimination policy under federal Title IX provisions. The new rules in part redefined “sex discrimination” under Title IX to include protections for “gender identity.”

Title IX rules apply to any educational institutions that accept federal money. Paxton in his press release noted that the revised rules “would have forced Texas schools and universities to allow biological males to use women’s restrooms, locker rooms, and other sex-specific spaces.”

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas said in its Tuesday ruling that the federal government “cannot regulate state educational institutions in this way without violating federal law.”

The government “engaged in unlawful agency action taken in excess of [its] authority, all while failing to adhere to the appropriate notice and comments requirements when doing so,” the court said. 

To allow the order to stand “would be to functionally rewrite Title IX in a way that shockingly transforms American education and usurps a major question from Congress,” the court said. “That is not how our democratic system functions.”

The Texas attorney general said the White House’s effort to redefine the federal law had been “stopped in its tracks.” 

“Threatening to withhold education funding by forcing states to accept ‘transgender’ policies that put women in danger was plainly illegal,” the attorney general said. “Texas has prevailed on behalf of the entire nation.”

Florida court strikes down ban on transgender procedures for minors

In a separate court decision, meanwhile, a Florida court struck down the state’s ban on extremist transgender procedures performed on minors, claiming that the law violated the U.S. Constitution. 

The state last year enacted a law banning transgender “medical care” procedures — such as synthetic cross-sex hormones and puberty-stunting drugs — for individuals under 18 years old. 

The law also said adults could only seek transgender-related treatment from doctors instead of nurses or other medical officials. 

In his ruling on Tuesday, District Judge Robert Hinkle said the bans and restrictions were “unconstitutional,” with the judge claiming that the state “can regulate as needed but cannot flatly deny transgender individuals safe and effective medical treatment.”

“Gender identity is real,” the judge said. “Those whose gender identity does not match their natal sex often suffer gender dysphoria. The widely accepted standard of care calls for appropriate evaluation and treatment.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office told media on Tuesday that the governor plans to appeal the decision. 

“Through their elected representatives, the people of Florida acted to protect children in this state, and the court was wrong to override their wishes,” a DeSantis spokesman said. “We disagree with the court’s erroneous rulings on the law, on the facts, and on the science.”

A growing number of doctors and lawmakers are calling for increased regulation over transgender procedures, particularly those performed on children.

Top medical groups and physicians recently signed a “Doctors Protecting Children” declaration that expressed “serious concerns” about the treatment of minors who are uncomfortable with their biological sex, with doctors calling upon the medical industry to “respect biological reality and the dignity of the person” rather than engage in extreme experimental procedures.

Other states including South CarolinaTennesseeand Alabama have passed various bans on transgender procedures for children. Countries in Europe including England and Scotland, meanwhile, have pulled back on allowing those procedures to be performed on minors.

Foster parents sue Vermont after state revokes license for rejecting gender ideology

Bryan and Rebecca Gantt, two foster parents in Vermont, had their licenses revoked for refusing to embrace gender ideology. / Credit: Photo courtesy of Alliance Defending Freedom

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 12, 2024 / 11:35 am (CNA).

Two Vermont families who were inspired by their faith to foster children in their homes have filed a lawsuit against the state’s Department for Children and Families after the agency revoked their licenses for refusing to embrace gender ideology.

The foster parents, who are represented by the legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), have provided foster care to children for several years. However, their licenses were revoked because they did not agree to a policy that would require them to support a child’s decision to identify with a gender that is separate from his or her biological sex or to bring the child to events that promote homosexuality if he or she identifies as homosexual.

In both cases, neither set of parents was caring for a child who identified as transgender or homosexual. However, Vermont’s policy requires the foster parents to affirm that they would support a child in his or her self-asserted gender identity and sexuality — if the hypothetical situation were to occur.

“Vermont’s foster-care system is in crisis: There aren’t enough families to care for vulnerable kids, and children born with drug dependencies have nowhere to call home,” ADF Legal Counsel Johannes Widmalm-Delphonse said in a statement. “Yet Vermont is putting its ideological agenda ahead of the needs of these suffering kids.”

According to the department’s policies, parents are encouraged to “support children’s identities even if it feels uncomfortable” and “bring young people to LGBTQ organizations and events in the community.” It instructs foster parents to use “appropriate pronouns” — which would be inconsistent with the child’s biological sex if the child identifies as transgender — and “support young people’s gender expression.” 

The foster parents who filed the suit are Protestant Christians: Brian Wuoti, a pastor, and his wife, Katy; Bryan Gantt, who is also a pastor, and his wife, Rebecca. Both couples argue in the lawsuit that complying with this policy would violate their religious beliefs and their rights to free speech.

“The Wuoti and Gantt families have adopted five beautiful children between them, including children with special needs,” Widmalm-Delphonse said. “Now Vermont says they’re unfit to parent any child because of their traditional religious beliefs about human sexuality. Vermont seems to care little about the needs of vulnerable children, much less the constitutional rights of its citizens. That’s why we’re suing them in federal court.”

The lawsuit asks the United States District Court for the District of Vermont, Windham Division to find that the policy and its enforcement against these two sets of foster parents violates the constitutionally protected rights to free speech, free association, religious exercise, due process, and equal protection under the law. 

Further, the lawsuit asks the court to order that the department halt its enforcement of this policy, which denies or revokes licenses based on a person’s beliefs about sexuality and gender.

Aryka Radke, deputy commissioner of the Vermont Department for Children and Families, Family Services Division, said in a statement provided to CNA that the department “takes the care and support of youth in our custody seriously and we work to ensure that youth in foster care are placed in homes that support all aspects of what makes them who they are,” which includes “their sexual orientation and gender identity.”

“With the understanding that many children may not have fully figured out their sexual orientation and/or gender identity, an honestly answered question today may not reflect the honest feelings of those same children the next day,” Radke added. “That given, it is our responsibility to ensure all children and youth will reside in a home with caregivers who are committed to fully embracing and holistically affirming and supporting them.” 

However, the statement noted that the department “does not comment on the specifics of pending lawsuits” and did not comment on the alleged constitutional violations.

U.S. bishops gear up for spring gathering in Louisville, Kentucky

U.S. bishops gather in Baltimore for their spring assembly in 2019. / Credit: Kate Veik/CNA

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 12, 2024 / 10:15 am (CNA).

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) will be meeting in Louisville, Kentucky, from June 12–14 for their 2024 spring plenary assembly.

During the assembly’s public sessions, beginning June 13, the bishops will vote on whether to approve a draft document that contains a pastoral plan for the U.S. Church’s Native American ministry, “Keeping Christ’s Sacred Promise: A Pastoral Framework for Indigenous Ministry.”

In the draft document, a copy of which was obtained by EWTN News, the bishops apologize for Native American Catholics’ “abandonment” by the Church and propose a way forward that takes into account the “unique cultural needs” of these communities.

Also up for vote is a document proposing a new framework for ministries with youth and young adults called “Listen, Teach, Send.” The document is the culmination of a process begun in response to Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Christus Vivit, released in 2019 after the Vatican’s Synod of Bishops on young people, faith, and vocational discernment. 

The assembled bishops will also consider whether to advance on the local level the cause of beatification and canonization of Adele Brise, who in 1859 witnessed the first and only approved Marian apparition in the United States in Champion, Wisconsin.  

The Latin Church members of the USCCB will also vote on whether to approve changes to the translation of the Liturgy of Hours.

Before the public meetings, the bishops will “spend time in prayer and fraternal dialogue with one another,” according to a press release from the USCCB. They will also consider the future of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), the national anti-poverty program of the U.S. Catholic bishops, which has experienced a financial shortfall amid a decline in donations following the COVID-19 pandemic. The campaign is funded by an annual collection in U.S. parishes.

Beginning in 2008, the CCHD was criticized by activists — and some Catholic bishops — for funding organizations that have taken positions contrary to Church teaching, such as on abortion and same-sex marriage. In 2010, the USCCB instituted new controls to help ensure that grantees conform with Catholic teaching.

On Thursday, June 13, Cardinal Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, will address the assembly, followed by an address by the president of the USCCB, Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA.

Later in the day, Archbishop Borys Gudziak, chairman of the conference’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Bishop Robert Barron, head of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth, will provide updates on the USCCB’s mental health campaign.

In addition to action items up for vote on Friday, Bishop Mark Seitz, chairman of the migration committee, will update the bishops on the status of the religious worker visa program. As the National Catholic Register, CNA’s sister news partner, reported in December 2023, a new change in U.S. visa policy has left thousands of visa applicants — including Catholic priests seeking permanent residency — unable to obtain green cards before their initial visas expire. 

The public sessions on June 13 and 14 will be livestreamed on the USCCB website.