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Catholic group fighting HHS mandate disappointed exemption still unissued

August 1, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Denver, Colo., Aug 1, 2017 / 03:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After the US Department of Justice did not drop its appeal of a contraceptive mandate lawsuit by the Catholic Benefits Association on Monday, the group expressed its disappointment.

“It is disappointing that that process hasn’t moved forward. It does seem to be stalled currently,” Douglas Wilson, CEO of the Catholic Benefits Association, told CNA Tuesday.

Catholic Benefits Association is comprised of over 700 Catholic employers, including dioceses, schools, hospitals, and social service agencies. The group helps the employers provide quality Catholic health care in accordance with Church teaching.

The association had previously asked the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice to drop the government’s appeal of their lawsuit against the HHS contraceptive mandate. The Tenth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals gave the government until July 31 to reply to CBA’s request.

In a July 27 statement, Wilson said that “President Trump took an important first step by instructing these agencies to change their mandate and to protect religious liberty.”

“HHS and DOJ need to follow President Trump’s lead by dropping their appeal by July 31,” he said.

CBA had filed a motion in court asking either for “summary affirmance” of its claim that the HHS contraceptive mandate was illegal, or for the administration to drop its appeal of the case.

The Department of Justice was given until July 31 by the Tenth Circuit Court to reply, and said on Monday that it was still working on a final rule on exemptions from the contraceptive mandate.

Wilson said on Tuesday that the CBA wants the administration “to get those interim regulations filed and promulgated as soon as possible.”

The Catholic Benefits Association is one of dozens of non-profit organizations which sued the Department of Health and Human Services during the Obama administration over the contraceptive mandate and its “accommodation” offered to objecting entities.

While the mandate ordered employers to provide cost-free coverage in their employee health plans for contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortion-inducing drugs, the government offered an “accommodation” to non-profits that conscientiously objected to complying with the mandate. They would notify the government or the third party administrator of their plan of their objection, and their administrator would then provide the coverage to the employees.

Many non-profits, including the Archdiocese of Washington and the Little Sisters of the Poor, claimed that this “accommodation” still forced them to cooperate with morally-objectionable practices of providing access to contraceptives.

Last year, in the middle of the contraceptive mandate case Zubik v. Burwell, the Supreme Court sent the case back to the lower courts and directed both parties to come to an agreement where the interests of the government – providing coverage for contraceptives and the other drugs and procedures – were respected, while the religious liberty of objecting parties was also respected.

However, even under the Trump administration the Department of Justice had not stopped its appeals of the HHS mandate cases. On May 4, however, President Donald Trump announced that, as part of his religious freedom executive order, the objecting religious non-profits would receive relief from the mandate.

He told the non-profits and the nuns present from the Little Sisters of the Poor that “your long ordeal will soon be over” and that “we are ending the attacks on your religious freedom.”

HHS Secretary Tom Price said the agency “will be taking action in short order to follow the President’s instruction to safeguard the deeply held religious beliefs of Americans who provide health insurance to their employees.”

A draft interim final rule from the HHS was leaked in May, which reportedly carved out religious exemptions from the mandate for the objecting non-profits that were more broad than the narrow exemptions determined by the Obama administration, which applied to churches and very few other religious groups.

Becket, a religious freedom law firm defending many of the objectors to the HHS mandate, said the language in the draft would offer sufficient protections from the mandate for the religious groups.

In the draft, the government also admitted in the draft that the contraceptive mandate did not advance a compelling governmental interest, which is one of the necessary qualifications for a law that infringes upon someone’s sincere religious beliefs to succeed the test, under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

However, the administration’s rule has not yet been released. The Catholic Benefits Association finally filed a motion in court asking the government to drop its appeal of the HHS mandate case, and citing the government’s admission in the draft rule that the mandate did not further a “compelling governmental interest.”

The court gave the government a July 31 deadline to reply to the motion. On Monday, the Department of Justice replied that the administration was still in the process of crafting the final rule for religious non-profits and the contraceptive mandate, and asked the court to suspend the motion until the process was finished.

“As we explained in our status report of July 14, 2017, the new Administration has initiated the rulemaking process to amend the regulations at issue here,” the agency said on Monday. “That process has not, however, reached conclusion. This Court has properly maintained abeyances in related cases while the rulemaking process proceeds, and it should do the same here.”

In response, Wilson said that “the Tenth Circuit made clear that it wanted the government’s response to address ‘with specificity’ the arguments in our motion, which of course they have not done to date.”

The agency had initially requested from CBA an extension to reply to the motion, which CBA would have opposed, Wilson said. However, later on Monday, the agency instead filed a short brief in response to the motion.

“We’re disappointed in that all of the facts come to our side of the equation, they favor our argument,” Wilson said. He said that “we’re very heartened that the response that they filed is in our opinion lacking in substance, and we feel hopeful that the court’s going to see it the same way.”


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Welsh seminarians mistaken for bachelor party nearly kicked out of pub

August 1, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Cardiff, Wales, Aug 1, 2017 / 12:24 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Seven seminarians walk into a bar … and almost get kicked out.

That’s what happened to a group of seminarians in Cardiff over the weekend when they went to The City Arms pub to celebrate the July 29 ordination of Father Peter McClaren.

Thinking they were a rowdy stag party in fancy dress, pub management initially asked the men to leave.

Realizing their error, they invited the men to stay and bought them a round of drinks.

“The staff thought they were a stag. We do have quite a few issues on the weekends with parties wearing fancy dress so it is our policy to turn them away,” said assistant manager Matt Morgan, according to the BBC.


The actual Reverend Robert James drinking @brainsbrewery @TheRevTweets beer.

— The City Arms (@cityarmscardiff) July 29, 2017


He added that the seminarians were “all great sports and saw the funny side of the situation.”

Archbishop George Stack of Cardiff commented that “It is wonderful to hear that the seminarians were celebrating their own path to priesthood by having a good time in Cardiff, which of course they are allowed to have,’ adding that “Priests are of the community and for the community they serve.”

He also noted that “The diocese has celebrated the ordination of two seminarians in a week; despite rumours about the shortage of men presenting themselves for priesthood.”

Fr. McClaren was ordained a priest of the Cardiff archdiocese July 29 after having served as a deacon for more than 10 years.

He had been ordained a deacon while married, and after the death of his beloved wife Marie, he spent time in discernment and chose to attend London’s Allen Hall Seminary to become a priest.

The seminarians told Wales Online that when they were asked to leave, they thought it was a joke, until “it became clear that this was not the case and he was in fact serious.”

The men were on their way out the door when a manager approached them and said he believed that they were in fact seminarians, and invited them back in for a free round.

“We were entertained and encouraged by the whole affair and look forward to future visits to the well-known establishment,” the seminarians said, according to Wales Online.

They said they received a warm welcome from staff and customers at the pub for the rest of the afternoon, including several who had questions for them.

The pub staff was also amused to find that there was a Reverend James in the crowd of men in clerics –  which is also the name of a popular beer brewed by Brains Brewery served at the pub.

“Even the management found it amusing that the Reverend Robert James, also a city native, was partial to the odd pint of the ale bearing his surname,” the priests said.

“Our Rev James ale is one of our most popular beers so it was great to have a real-life Reverend James and his fellow priests enjoying a pint or two!” Morgan added.

The Archdiocese of Cardiff also chimed in on the incident, joking that the pub better not kick out any more clerics, as many of them, including the archbishop, like to frequent The City Arms.

“We’d like to thank ‘The City Arms’ for being good sports through all of this and their kind gesture to our seminarians – and please note a number of our clergy, including the Archbishop of Cardiff, frequent your bar so don’t turf any more out please!”

“The seminarians in question included our own Rev. Nicholas Williams, Rev. Robert James (no the pint isn’t named after him), Elliot Hanson and Dale Cutlan who took it all in good spirit,” the archdiocese said. “Although initially shocked their only thought was ‘where are we going for our pint now?’”

Williams and James were both ordained to the diaconate in June.

Overall, the archdiocese said the seminarians “walked away encouraged by the positive reaction of the local community – all thanks to a bit of white plastic around their neck and the everyday situation in which they like to partake.”

Morgan added that he would gladly have the group back to his pub.

“It’s not every day you have a group of priests drinking in the pub and they would be welcome back any time.”


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Vatican urges vacation-goers to be responsible tourists

August 1, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Aug 1, 2017 / 10:25 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As Rome and other parts of the world gear up for their August holidays, the Vatican has urged tourists to remember the human person and the environment in their travels, treating people and things with respect.

“Holiday time cannot be a pretext either for irresponsibility or for exploitation: in fact, it is a noble time in which everyone can add value to one’s own life and that of others,” Cardinal Peter Turkson wrote Aug. 1.

The Catholic Church supports the idea of “sustainable tourism” promoted by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

“This means that it must be responsible, and not destructive or detrimental to the environment nor to the socio-cultural context of the locality.”

“Moreover, it must be particularly respectful of the population and their heritage, with a view to safeguarding personal dignity and labor rights, especially those of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable people,” he continued.

Cardinal Turkson, head of the dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, sent the message for the occasion of World Tourism Day, which will be celebrated Sept. 27, 2017.

The message, which takes its title from this year’s theme of “Sustainable Tourism – a tool for development,” notes that “every genuinely human activity” – including tourism – “must find its place in the hearts of Christ’s disciples.”

According to the World Tourism Organization, in 2016, the number of international tourist arrivals was around 1.2 billion. Worldwide, the sector accounts for 10 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and seven percent of total exports. One out of every 11 jobs are in tourism.

Therefore sustainable tourism “is also a development tool for economies in difficulty if it becomes a vehicle of new opportunities and not a source of problems,” Turkson said.

Particularly because of its economic, social and cultural contributions, it “can be an important tool for growth and the fight against poverty” as well.

But this is true only as long as it promotes integral human development, embracing “all aspects of life: social, economic, political, cultural, and spiritual, making them elements in a single synthesis, the human person.”

Sustainability is promoted under three dimensions, he said: “the ecological, aiming for the maintenance of ecosystems; the social, which develops in harmony with the host community; and the economic, which stimulates inclusive growth.”

We must ask ourselves, he continued, how these principles can be practically applied to the development of tourism. “What are the consequences for tourists, entrepreneurs, workers, governors, and local communities? It is an open reflection.”

“We invite all those involved in the sector to engage in serious discernment and to promote practices towards attaining this, accompanying behaviors and lifestyle changes towards a new way of relating to each other.”

The Church is also making her contribution, he noted, including with initiatives that place tourism at the service of the development of the human person.

“This is why we talk about tourism with a human touch, which is based on projects of community tourism, cooperation, solidarity, and an appreciation of the great artistic heritage which is an authentic way of beauty,” he said.

Conscious of the Church’s call to promote the integral development of the human person, the cardinal said that Christians must offer their own contribution to tourism, especially for the development of those most disadvantaged.

“We therefore propose our reflection. We recognize God as the creator of the universe and father of all human beings, and He who makes us brothers.”

“We must put the human person as the focus of our attention,” he continued. “We recognize the dignity of each person and the relationships among persons; we must share the principle of the common destiny of the human family and the universal destination of earthly goods.”

Concluding, he quoted from Pope Francis’ speech to the United Nations in September 2015, when he said: “The common home of all men and women must continue to rise on the foundations of a right understanding of universal fraternity and respect for the sacredness of every human life, of every man and every woman […].”

“May we live out our commitment in the light of these words and these intentions!” Turkson stated.


The Dispatch

Lessons from the Holy Maccabees

August 1, 2017 Peter M.J. Stravinskas 4

Editor’s note: The following homily delivered by the Reverend Peter M. J. Stravinskas, Ph.D, S.T.D., on 1 August 2017, commemoration of the Holy Maccabees (Extraordinary Form) at the Church of the Holy Innocents in New […]

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Catholic schools are a pillar of Church in Sudan

August 1, 2017 CNA Daily News 1

Khartoum, Sudan, Aug 1, 2017 / 06:01 am (CNA).- Dust and mud brick houses everywhere – as far as the eye can see. The houses are indistinguishable in color from the ground on which they stand. Trees are few and far between.

The road leading northwards from the Sudanese capital of Khartoum shimmers in the burning heat. The temperature tops 110 degrees. At a certain point the car turns off into an unpaved road with deep potholes, entering a residential suburb.

“Welcome to the St. Kizito School of Dar es Salaam,” says our host, Father Daniele, as we stand in the courtyard of the school, which is named after the youngest of the Ugandan martyrs. This Italian priest is a member of the clergy of the Archdiocese of Khartoum. His fluent Arabic enables him to communicate with the people of his parish in their own language.

“I belong to the Neo-Catechumenal Way and I studied at our seminary in Beirut. I’ve been living in Sudan now for more than 10 years” – a move he has never regretted, he tells his visitor from international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

“But it is an extremely difficult pastoral challenge for priests here,” he adds. This has to do more than anything with the life circumstances of his parishioners.

Fr. Daniele explains: “They are totally uprooted people. The parishioners here are for the most part come from the Nuba mountains in the south of Sudan. Their lives there were marked by the customs and traditions of their villages. But here, far from their homeland, they are completely lost.”

Many of the people many years ago came to the Khartoum area, in search of work or in order to escape the fighting in their homeland. But most of them can only survive as day laborers, and this eats away at the men‘s sense of self-worth.

“Many of them simply drift around idly when they don‘t have any work,” says Fr. Daniele, and many have no work at all. “In their traditional view of themselves, they are herders and warriors. But since there is no fighting no herding to be done here, all the work falls on the shoulders of the women.”

Unlike 90 percent of the Sudanese people, who are Sunni Muslims, the people of the Nuba mountains are Christians. There are often syncretic tendencies, with belief in magic rubbing shoulders with the Christian faith. For this reason Fr. Daniele attaches great importance to helping people grow in their faith. He says: “I want to show people above all that, despite their poverty, God loves them – and each of them individually.”

This is not always easy to understand for people imbued with a tribal way of thinking, he explains. But at least he has no concerns about church attendance. “The people come in large numbers to church. On Sundays our church is full,” he tells us.

“It is extremely important that the church be a beautiful and worthy place,” Fr. Daniele stresses, “as it is undoubtedly the most beautiful place in the lives of these people, who otherwise know only their own poverty-stricken huts and homes.“

Fr. Daniele has a particular concern for the children, and the parish school is his most important resource in this respect.

“Many of the children would spend the whole day roaming around the streets if they didn‘t come to us in school,” he explained. “Their parents show little concern for them. Attention, and even tenderness, is something most of them have never experienced, and above all not from their fathers.”
Fr. Daniele works hard to convey to the children a sense of their own self-worth. He says: “We want to show them that they are respected, precious people, loved by God. We do so by listening to each one of them and showing them respect.”

Precisely because the circumstances of the children are so difficult and their families so large and so poor – eight children or more is by no means unusual – the priest places great hope in the schools, saying that “however modest our means are here, without education the children will have no chance of a better life.”

Indeed, the Catholic school system is one of the pillars of the small Church in Sudan. For one Church official, who requested that his name not be used, the Church educational system is crucially important.

The official explains: “Our schools gain us acceptance among the majority Muslim community, and above all with the state. The state is strongly Islamic, but – because of the rapid population growth, the number of people moving into cities and limited public resources – its budget is overstretched and insufficient to provide enough schools. Hence, the government is happy to see the Church involved. As a Church we maintain almost 20 public schools in the city of Khartoum alone, and permission to build schools, unlike permission to construct churches, is something that is always granted to us.”

The schools are attended both by Christians and by Muslims. The Church official acknowledges that the quality of the schools is not the best. He says: “after all, we hardly have money for teachers and books, and nor do our students.”

But no pupil is refused admittance, even if he or she cannot afford the school fees. “For the children of the poorest families the school is the only possibility of bringing a little order into their lives,” the official stresses.

ACN is committed to support the Catholic schools in Sudan.

“The Church in Sudan has asked us for help,” says Christine du Coudray-Wiehe, who oversees ACN-funded projects in Sudan.

“It is an urgent necessity to respond, as the majority of the pupils are from Catholic families from southern Sudan,” she added. “It is vital for these families that are children be able to attend a Christian school – for this is the only way we can prevent them from being Catholics at home and Muslims at school.”


Oliver Maksan writes for Aid to the Church in Need, an international Catholic charity under the guidance of the Holy See, providing assistance to the suffering and persecuted Church in more than 140 countries. (USA); (UK); (AUS); (IRL); (CAN)


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JD Flynn named new editor-in-chief of Catholic News Agency

August 1, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Irondale, Ala., Aug 1, 2017 / 05:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- J.D. Flynn, a Catholic commentator currently serving the Diocese of Lincoln, has been named the new editor-in-chief of Catholic News Agency, which is part of the EWTN family.

“J.D. is a very talented writer and editor, and has very broad experience with the Church in the United States,” said Alejandro Bermudez, executive director of CNA. “This will be great for CNA and for the Church.”

Michael P. Warsaw, chairman of the board and CEO of EWTN, announced the appointment Aug. 1.

“I’m very glad to have him on board,” Warsaw said. “J.D.’s extensive background in diocesan administration and communications, and his work and training as a canon lawyer, bring a unique perspective to Catholic News Agency.”

EWTN said Flynn will manage CNA’s reporting for its news syndication service and for its social media audience. He will work to advance greater collaboration between CNA and the news coverage of EWTN news outlets the National Catholic Register and EWTN News Nightly.

Flynn will succeed former CNA editor-in-chief Marianne Medlin, who is pursuing her Ph.D., and will move to the role of editor-at-large.

“We’re thrilled to have J.D. with us,” Medlin said. “His reputation precedes him, and we are greatly looking forward to our collaboration moving forward.”

Flynn has written for First Things, National Review, the National Catholic Register, Catholic Vote and other publications. He holds a licentiate in canon law from the Catholic University of America as well as a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Franciscan University of Steubenville. He will begin his position Aug. 28.

“Both Michael Warsaw and Alejandro Bermudez are remarkable leaders – and CNA’s writers and editors are a talented and dynamic team,” Flynn said. “This is a group of people writing and thinking from the heart of the Church, telling important stories through the eyes of faith. I’m humbled to be offered this opportunity.”

He voiced gratitude to Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, whom he presently serves as special assistant and as the Diocese of Lincoln’s communications director. He said it was “a privilege” to serve Bishop Conley in Lincoln. Flynn has previously served as chancellor of the Archdiocese of Denver.

CNA has bureaus in the U.S., Europe, and South America. EWTN acquired CNA in 2014.

EWTN Global Catholic Network is the largest religious media network in the world. Its 11 television channels reach 268 million households in over 145 countries and territories. Its radio services includes Sirius/XM, iHeart Radio, and over 500 domestic and international radio affiliates.


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Why the drafting of ‘Humanae Vitae’ matters, 50 years later

August 1, 2017 CNA Daily News 5

Vatican City, Aug 1, 2017 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As its 50th anniversary approaches, the story of how Blessed Pope Paul VI arrived at the final text of “Humanae Vitae” will be a main focus of discussion.

Paul VI issued his encyclical in 1968, after a commission of theologians and experts spent four years meeting to study in-depth whether the Church could be open to the contraceptive pill or other artificial forms of birth control.
In his encyclical, Pope Paul VI reaffirmed that sexual relations cannot be detached from fecundity. The event was a watershed moment in the Church.

A study group from the Rome-based John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family aims to produce a paper on the development of the encyclical. The group is led by cultural anthropology professor Monsignor Gilfredo Marengo, who teaches at the institute.

Professor Marengo told Vatican Radio July 25 that the commission in the end “was not able to give Bl. Paul VI what he needed to draft the encyclical,” and so the Pope “had almost had to start again.”

He underscored that Bl. Paul VI’s work was made even more difficult by the fact that “public opinion in the Church was very much polarized, not only between in favor and in opposition to the contraceptive pill, but also among theologians, who presented the same polarized counter-position.”

While the discussion was still ongoing, a document favorable to Catholic approval of the birth control pill was published simultaneously in April 1967 in the French newspaper Le Monde, the English magazine The Tablet, and the American newspaper the National Catholic Reporter.
The report emphasized that 70 members of the Pontifical Commission were favorable to the pill, but in fact the document was “just one of the 12 reports presented to the Holy Father.” Those are the words of Bernardo Colombo, a professor of demographics and a member of the commission, writing in the March 2003 issue of “Teologia,” the journal of the theological faculty of Milan and Northern Italy.
When Paul VI published Humanae Vitae, public opinion was thus already oriented against the Church’s principles which the pontiff reaffirmed, and the Church’s teaching was strongly targeted.
Prof. Marengo told Vatican Radio that “Humanae Vitae” deserved an in-depth study.

The professor’s first impression is that when the study group’s research is complete “it will be possible to set aside many partisan readings of the text” and will be easier to “grasp the intentions and worries that moved Paul VI to solve the issue the way he did.”
The story of the encyclical dates back to 1963, when St. John XXIII established the commission to study the topics of marriage, family, and regulation of birth.
Pope Paul VI later enlarged the commission’s membership from six to twelve people. Then he further increased its numbers to 75 members, plus a president, Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; and two deputies, Cardinals Julius Doepfner and John Heenan.
After the end of the works of the commission, Paul VI asked a restricted group of theologians to give further examination to the topic.
Pope Francis has shown great appreciation for Bl. Paul VI and for “Humanae Vitae” several times, such as in an interview March 5, 2014 with the Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Sera, ahead of two synods on the family.
Asked if the Church was going to take up again the theme of birth control, the Pope responded: that “all of this depends on how ‘Humanae Vitae’ is interpreted. Paul VI himself, at the end, recommended to confessors much mercy, and attention to concrete situations.”
The Pope added that Bl. Paul VI’s “genius” was “prophetic,” because the Pope “had the courage to place himself against the majority, defending the moral discipline, exercising a culture brake, opposing present and future neo-Malthusianism.”
“The question,” Pope Francis concluded, “is not that of changing the doctrine but of going deeper and making pastoral (ministry) take into account the situations and that which it is possible for people to do. Also of this we will speak in the path of the synod.”
Prof. Marengo told Vatican Radio that it would also be “very useful to piece together the path to the drafting of the encyclical, which developed in different phases from June 1966 to its publication on July, 25th 1968.”

He said the encyclical must be placed in the context of “everything important and fruitful the Church has said on marriage and family during these last 50 years.”
Prof. Marengo’s study group includes John Paul II Institute president Prof. Pierpaolo Sequeri; Prof. Philippe Chenaux of the Pontifical Lateran University, an authority regarding the Second Vatican Council and the history of the contemporary Church; and Professor Angelo Maffeis, president of the Paul VI Institute based in Brescia.

As in the lead-up to “Humanae Vitae,” there is misleading news coverage of the study group.

When the news of the study group first broke, it was described as a “pontifical commission” aimed at changing the teachings of “Humanae Vitae.”

Professor Marengo dismissed this as an “imaginative report” in a June interview with CNA. For his part, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, chancellor of the John Paul II Institute, confirmed that no pontifical commission had been appointed. He maintained that “we should look positively on all those initiatives, such as that of Professor Marengo of the John Paul II Institute, which aim at studying and deepening this document in view of the 50th anniversary of its publication.”