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Cardinal Newman’s time in Rome

October 11, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

Rome, Italy, Oct 11, 2019 / 01:12 pm (CNA).- Cardinal John Henry Newman, who will be canonized Oct. 13, is more often associated with Birmingham than Rome, but his four visits to the Eternal City mark significant moments in the life of this soon-to-be … […]

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Tax churches that oppose gay marriage, Democratic candidate says

October 11, 2019 CNA Daily News 1

Washington D.C., Oct 11, 2019 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- A Democratic candidate for president has said religious institutions should be stripped of their tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage. 

On Thursday night, during and Equality Townhall hosted and broadcast on CNN, Robert Francis O’Rourke, a former congressman, was asked by CNN anchor Don Lemon if he thought that  “religious institutions like colleges, churches, charities, should they lose their tax exempt status if they oppose same sex marriage?”

O’Rourke answered “yes,” and after applause and cheers from the crowd, added, “there can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break, for anyone or any institution, any organization in America that denies the full human rights and the full civil rights of every single one of us. And so, as president, we’re going to make that a priority, and we are going to stop those who are infringing upon the human rights of our fellow Americans.” 

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), another presidential candidate, was asked earlier in the night if he would strip the tax-exempt status of churches who were opposed to same-sex marriage. Booker said that such a move would entail a “long legal battle,” but signaled his sympathy with the idea. 

“I’m saying I believe fundamentally that discrimination is discrimination,” he said. “And if you are using your position to try to discriminate others, there must be consequences to that. And I will make sure to hold them accountable using the DOJ or whatever investigatory [body].”

Both O’Rourke and Booker are averaging less than 2% in polls of democratic voters. 

Of the five largest Christian denominations in the United States–the Catholic Church, the Southern Baptist Convention, the United Methodist Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and the Church of God in Christ–none condone or perform same-sex marriages and all consider same-sex activity to be sinful. 

Same-sex activity is banned in most mainstream forms of Islam, and most Orthodox Jewish rabbis will not conduct same-sex marriages. 

Tax-exempt status for religious institutions is protected by Supreme Court precedent.

In the 1970 case Walz v. Tax Commission of the City of New York, the court found that exempting religious institutions from taxes did not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. 

On the contrary, the Court decided that taxing churches could increase government entanglement with religion, as a church may be unable to pay its tax bill and be shut down. In order to avoid this from happening, the court instead the court found in favor of continuing to exempt religious institutions from taxation. 

Tax exemptions for organizations opposed to same-sex marriage have been an open question since the oral arguments of Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 case that resultred in same-sex marriage being legalized throughout the country. 

During arguments, Justice Samuel Alito asked Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr., who was arguing on behalf of same-sex couples, if colleges or churches would face the same fate as Bob Jones University. In the 1983 case Bob Jones University v. United States, the Supreme Court found that the IRS was right to deny a tax exemption to the school on the grounds that it engaged in racial discrimination by banning inter-racial dating (Bob Jones University dropped its anti-interracial dating policy in 2000, and regained federal tax-exempt status in 2017). 

At the time of oral arguments in Hodges, Verrilli admitted that he did not have an answer to Alito’s question “without knowing more specifics,” and said that “it’s certainly going to be an issue.” 

Luke Goodrich, vice president and senior counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, told CNA that he did not believe O’Rourke’s suggestion was constitutionally sound.  

“Stripping the tax-exempt status of religious groups simply because they hold beliefs that the government dislikes is blatantly unconstitutional,” said Goodrich. 

“It’s also foolish because those groups provide billions of dollars in essential social services to their communities. Churches and ministries should be allowed to hold centuries-old beliefs without fear of government retribution.” 

Transgender issues were also discussed on Thursday night, and transgender activists interrupted the townhall several times throughout the event. A nine-year-old girl who identifies as a transgender boy questioned frontrunner Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) about what she would do to protect transgender children in schools. Warren said she would dismiss the current Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who she characterized as one of the worst people to hold the position. 

“I want to make sure that the person I think is the right secretary of education meets you and and hears your story, and then I want you to tell me if you think that’s the right person and then we’ll make the deal,” Warren said to the child.

[…]

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‘Useless to pretend’: Vatican official dismisses German ‘binding synodal path’

October 11, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Oct 11, 2019 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- A senior legal official in the Vatican has dismissed the idea that a planned “synodal process” in Germany will be “binding,” noting that bishops must exercise their authority in unity and obedience to the authority of the pope.

Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta Ochoa, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, said the idea that a synodal process in any particular country could change universal Church teaching and discipline is “not a possible way of thinking” in the Church.

“It is useless for anyone to pretend that the German synod is binding, because no one has given that authority to the German synod. No one can bind the faithful beyond their authority to bind or pastors beyond their authority to bind,” Arrieta said in an Oct. 11 interview.

Arrieta was one of the drafters and signatories to a legal assessment of the draft statutes for a Synodal Assembly currently being advanced by the bishops of Germany.

That assessment, which concluded that the German plans were “not ecclesiologically valid” was sent to Cardinal Reinhard Marx, president of the German bishops’ conference, on September 4 by Cardinal Marc Ouellet, head of the Congregation for Bishops.

Speaking to Alejandro Bermudez, executive director of the ACI Group, of which CNA is a part, Arrieta explained that bishops’ conferences are not autonomous bodies, but subject to the authority of the Congregation for Bishops because of their obligation of obedience to the pope.

“The bishops and their synods, and episcopal conferences, fall under the authority of the Congregation for Bishops,” Arrieta said. 

“The connection is direct; they depend upon the pope, but through the Congregation for Bishops. In a vicarious, stable, delegated way, the pope has entrusted them to the direction of the congregation.”

In March of this year, Cardinal Marx announced that the Church in Germany would embark on a “binding synodal process” to tackle what he called the “key issues” arising from the clerical abuse crisis: clerical celibacy, the Church’s teaching on sexual morality, and a reduction of clerical power.

The synodal proposals call for the creation of an assembly in partnership with the Central Committee of German Catholics, a group whose leadership supports the ending of clerical celibacy, the changing of Church teaching on sexual morality to endorse homosexual unions, and the ordination of women to the priesthood.

In May, the committee’s leadership informed its members that the group would participate in the synodal process because it had received guarantees that the synod assembly could and would treat issues of universal teaching and discipline and pass “binding” resolutions, something Arrieta said went far beyond the authority of any country’s bishops to do.

“The philosophy of legal positivism is not the way of the Church,” Arrieta said. “For the Church it is not a possible way of thinking. What truly links the Church, and the faithful, are the sacraments, the word of Christ. No authority is binding that rejects the sacraments; that is not possible, acting that way would not be possible, even if some say that it could be so.”

“Pastors depend upon the pope, and only the pope can give the authority by which a synod would be binding,” Arrieta added. “Without that, saying ‘this is binding,’ or ‘I accept that this is binding’ does not make it so; no one would be bound. It is not useful for anyone to say that it is, or for someone to pretend that it is, or write a norm about it, because the norm itself would not have authority.”

In response to Ouellet’s September letter and the PCLT assessment, Marx flew to Rome and met with both Pope Francis and Cardinal Ouellet last month. Officials in the Congregation for Bishops told CNA that Marx had used the meetings to attempt to “minimize” the significance of the synodal plans, and to insist that Vatican criticisms are unfounded.

Before Marx arrived in Rome, Matthias Kopp, a spokesman for the German bishops’ conference told Catholic News Service that the term “binding” was not meant to imply any Church figure would be bound by the synodal conclusions. “Binding means it is a vote,” not simply a discussion, Kopp said.

The German bishops’ conference subsequently voted to adopt the statutes by a margin of 51-12 with 1 abstention during their plenary session on Sept. 25. At that time, Bishop Rudolph Voderholzer of Regesburg said that there was “a dishonesty at the beginning of the Synodal Process.” 

The statutes are now with the Central Committee of German Catholics, the leaders of which will agree on an amended version with Cardinal Marx.

The synodal process in Germany is due to begin on the first day of Advent.

[…]

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Legal group warns about sex-selective abortion on Day of the Girl Child

October 11, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

New Delhi, India, Oct 11, 2019 / 10:13 am (CNA).- On the International Day of the Girl Child, a legal advocacy group in India is drawing attention to the problem of sex-selective abortion and calling for efforts to end the practice.

“In our country, 7,000 babies are aborted every day for one reason: they are girls instead of boys,” said Tehmina Arora, director of ADF India.

“India’s skewed sex ratio shows that, as a nation, we have failed girls. They are either aborted or, once born, subject to various forms of violence.”

Arora called for greater awareness of the devastation caused by sex-selective abortion, and a commitment to fight against it, on the International Day of the Girl Child.

The day, which has been observed on Oct. 11 since 2012, “aims to highlight and address the needs and challenges girls face, while promoting girls’ empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights,” according to the United Nations.

“We need to uphold the equal rights, voices and influence of girls in our families, communities and nations,” said UN Secretary General António Guterres in a statement marking the day. “Girls can be powerful agents of change, and nothing should keep them from participating fully in all areas of life.”

Part of this effort to promote the rights of girls is protecting their right to life, ADF International insisted.

The group noted that the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery cautioned in a recent report that an imbalance in numbers of men and women has led to women being trafficked and forced into marriage and surrogacy.

In India alone, more than 63 million girls have been aborted in the past decade, simply because they were not boys, ADF International said.

“Not only in India, but in many countries, sex-selective abortion has become a growing threat to girls’ lives,” the group warned. “Millions of girls worldwide have not been born due to this practice.”

Through its #VanishingGirls campaign, ADF India draws attention to the problem of sex-selective abortion in the country and pushes for the full implementation of a 1994 India law banning the practice.

The campaign, begun in 2016, has also held events celebrating girls and promoting nutrition, safety, and education for girls.

“Every child is precious. Both girls and boys have an equal right to life and liberty,” Arora said.

“Our nation cannot afford to lose its little girls to discrimination and neglect,” she continued. “India’s future is interlinked with the lives of the girls and women of the country. Whoever believes that girls share the same rights as boys cannot turn a blind eye to what is happening in India today.”

[…]

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Texas Knights of Columbus work with Mexican Knights to aid migrants

October 10, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Oct 10, 2019 / 09:01 pm (CNA).- Following an August announcement from the Knights of Columbus that the group would commit at least $250,000 to aid migrants at the US-Mexico border, the fraternal organization’s Texas leaders are announcing a joint effort with a Mexican council to aid migrants south of the border.

A caravan of Knights of Columbus from both Texas and Mexico arrived Oct. 5 at Casa del Migrante, an aid facility in Ciudad Juarez, delivering a truckload of supplies valued at $61,000, according to Terry Simonton, the Knights’ Supreme Director for Texas.

The supplies for the Juarez diocese-run facility included medicine, food, water, diapers, and shoes, he said. The over 40 Knight-volunteers were joined by Bishop José Guadalupe Torres-Campos of Ciudad Juarez and Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso.

The Knights in El Paso were already providing supplies, cooking meals, and paying for a rented shower for migrants in the city. In May, the Knights’ Diocesan Deputy for El Paso sent a request for additional funds which made its way to Simonton, who talked it over and realized that the Supreme Council in Connecticut would have to help.

“[The El Paso Knights] were renting the showers and they were getting donations to cover that expense— and renting those showers was $1,500 a day,” Simonton, a former state deputy in Texas, explained to CNA.

“It was the kind of shower that sits on a trailer, and it was $1,500 a day. So the more we looked into it, it said they were asking for $9,000 to purchase their own portable heated showers. And that would accommodate probably 60 showers per day…it just made sense to purchase the showers.”

Simonton asked the Supreme Council to cover half the cost.

“They liked the idea, but when it got to the table, and the Supreme Knight, Carl Anderson, said ‘Yes we need to help, but we must do more.’ And that’s when Carl Anderson started the initiative to help out Southern border. Without his vision, this would have never happened.”

He said a number of parishes and virtually all the Knight of Columbus councils in El Paso have been busy, especially since January, raising funds for border relief. Council 11926 and Council 2592 in El Paso had raised about $10,000 on their own to help migrants in the city, he said.

“Between the councils and the parishes, they’d already spent $54,000,” Simonton said.

“All the councils were involved in this in El Paso. But their funds were being depleted, so that’s why they came to us for help. And just out of that simple, $9,000 request, has come this tremendous initiative.”

There were about 75 migrants present at the Casa del Migrante Oct. 5— out of an estimated 20,000 migrants currently waiting in Ciudad Juarez.

“To be able to see the little kids, they were so happy to be there at that center. Because we don’t know what they faced two or three days before then, before they got to the center. So it’s sad, but at the same time they;’re happy, they’re all smiles, because soon hopefully they’ll be able to continue their journey with their families.”

To watch the Knights of Columbus from both the Mexico and the United States work together was a “tremendous blessing,” he said.

Possibly as soon as late October, Simonton said the Knights plan to go and provide similar aid at the border city of Laredo, which is across the fence from Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, as well as Eagle Pass, Texas and Piedras Negras, Mexico.

The Knights also recently made gifts for humanitarian aid of $100,000 to the Diocese of El Paso and $50,000 to the Diocese of Laredo.

“Let me be clear: this is not a political statement,” Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said in August. “This is a statement of principle. This is about helping people who need our help right now. And it is a natural and necessary extension of our support for refugees across the world.”

Bishop Seitz, along with Catholic leaders of the Dioceses of Las Cruces, San Jose, Victoria, and Ciudad Juarez toured the Casa del Migrante in late September as well as a Ciudad Juarez parish that has been providing aid to migrants. 

The Department of Homeland Security announced new Migrant Protection Protocols in January, providing that migrants arriving illegally or without proper documentation “may be returned to Mexico and wait outside of the U.S. for the duration of their immigration proceedings, where Mexico will provide them with all appropriate humanitarian protections for the duration of their stay.”

These policies have meant the flow of migrants into El Paso has largely dried up, as thousands of migrants remain in Mexico while their asylum claims are processed.

The migrants in Mexico are mostly from Central America, but also from other places including Africa, Haiti, Cuba, and some from South America and Europe, the Knights said.

Bishop Seitz told CNA in September that the diocese  opened a shelter in Oct. 2018 at the pastoral center, a “purely volunteer response,” to deal with the large number of people passing through the city. The temporary shelter has since closed due to a drop in the number of migrants passing through.

“Right now, we’ve seen a huge drop off in the number of people coming because of enforcement actions in Mexico,” Seitz noted.

“So what’s happening is there’s kind of a bottleneck in Ciudad Juarez, and we estimate that there are up to 20,000 people that are pretty much stuck there. They’re afraid to go home, because that’s where they’re fleeing from…they’re afraid to stay in Mexico, because most of them have faced violence there.”

Robberies and kidnappings among the migrants waiting in Mexico are common, he said.

The HOPE Border Institute, along with the Diocese of El Paso, in July initiated a Border Refugee Assistance Fund to send money to organizations working with migrants and refugees in Juarez.

[…]

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Disabled woman who narrowly avoided forced abortion to get forced contraception

October 10, 2019 CNA Daily News 1

London, England, Oct 10, 2019 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- A judge in England has decided that a disabled woman who is pregnant will be fitted with a contraceptive device immediately following her Caesarean section, Premier Christianity has reported.

The woman was originally ordered to undergo a forced abortion by another judge, until that ruling was overturned on appeal.

Justice MacDonald heard arguments in the case at the Court of Protection of England and Wales, which hears cases related to people who do not possess the capacity to make decisions for themselves.

He will soon publish a ruling giving the reasons for his decision, according to Premier Christianity.

The 24-year-old woman, who has been identified in court as AB, and her mother, “CD”, are devout Catholics, and are members of the Igbo people. The woman has “moderate learning disabilities” and “exhibits challenging behaviour and functions at a level of between 6 and 9 years old.” AB is also said to have had a mood disorder, for which she is medicated.

The NHS trust at the hospital where the woman is being cared for argued that she should be given a contraceptive device while under anaesthesia immediately following the delivery of her child.

Fiona Paterson, the barrister representing the NHS trust, told the court it would not be in the woman’s interest again to conceive a child, and that she is vulnerable and could not be supervised constantly.

But the woman’s mother, a social worker who assists her, and the barrister representing her said there was a plan to safeguard the woman and that such interference in her autonomy was unjustified.

Susanna Rickard, the woman’s barrister, said the chances of the woman being exposed to “further sexual activity” was “close to nil.”

There is a plan to keep her from being left home alone, unsupervised with a male, or unaccompanied while out, Rickard noted.

AB is believed to have become pregnant while visiting family in Nigeria over Christmas. It is unknown who is the father of the child, and it is conceded by all parties that she lacks the capacity to consent to sex.

The woman had been ordered June 21 to undergo a forced abortion at 22 weeks pregnant by Justice Nathalie Lieven of the Court of Protection.

The Court of Appeal overturned Lieven’s decision just three days later, on June 24, finding that Lieven’s decision disregarded the assessment and wishes of AB’s mother and social worker, and went against her human rights.

Lieven “was in error in failing to make any reference in her ultimate analysis to [the mother’s] views about AB’s best interests when, as the judge found, she knew AB better than anyone and had her best interests at heart,” reads the Court of Appeal’s judgement.

Writing for the three judge panel, Lady Justice King concluded that Lieven “went beyond what the evidence could support” in concluding that the woman’s circumstances made a forced late-term abortion in her own best interests.

While Lieven’s conclusion on the balance and weight of evidence was rejected by the appeal court, King nevertheless underscored the right of the court to impose an abortion if the circumstances merit it.

“Carrying out a termination absent a woman’s consent is a most profound invasion of her Article 8 [human] rights, albeit that the interference will be legitimate and proportionate if the procedure is in her best interests,” King concluded.

[…]