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After punishing Christian cake baker, Colo. civil rights board revised

Denver, Colo., May 25, 2018 / 12:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A new law will revise the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, after the commission gained attention when its decision in a free speech case involving a Christian cake baker was taken to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Before the Colorado law was changed, the governor was allowed to appoint all seven commission members, with no more than four being from the governor’s own party.

The new law, signed by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper May 22, now limits the governor to appointing three Democrats, three Republicans and one unaffiliated as commissioners. Four members must be from classes protected by law, three members must be considered workers, and three members must be serving as business owners.

The commission will now be subject to legislative audit as well. The new law says that if a commissioner has been rejected by the state senate, the governor cannot re-appoint him or her to the commission for a period of two years, the Denver Post reports.

The changes come following a February vote by Republicans on the Colorado legislature’s Joint Budget Committee to withhold funding from the commission until legislative changes were made. The commission reviews allegations of discrimination and makes policy recommendations.

Colorado’s Civil Rights Commission was involved in a case that is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The case involves baker Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakes in the Denver suburb of Lakewood.

In 2012, Phillips was sued by a same-sex couple after he declined to make a wedding cake for them on the grounds that doing so would violate his religious beliefs. Phillips had offered to create a different cake for the couple. The couple was able to obtain a rainbow-themed cake from a bakery near Phillips’ cake shop.

Colorado law did not recognize same-sex unions as marriages at the time.

The couple took the case before the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which ruled that by declining to make the cake, the baker had violated the state’s anti-discrimination law categorizing sexual orientation as a protected class.

In the commission’s unanimous vote against the baker, then-Commissioner Diane Rice said: “Freedom of religion and religion has been used to justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history, whether it be slavery, whether it be the holocaust, whether it be—I mean, we ... can list hundreds of situations where freedom of religion has been used to justify discrimination. And to me it is one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use—…to use their religion to hurt others.”

The lawsuit was decided in favor of the plaintiffs in 2013, and a Colorado judge ordered Phillips to receive anti-discrimination training and to serve same-sex weddings or stop serving weddings altogether.

He chose to stop serving weddings through his bakery, which he had opened in 1993.

Phillips lost appeals at the state level, and the Colorado Supreme Court declined to take the case. In June 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, known as Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

Attorneys for the baker have argued that forcing Phillips to advance a message about marriage that is contrary to his faith violates the Constitution’s protections for free speech.

In oral arguments in December 2017, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy had asked whether the commission decision could stand if at least one member based his or her decision “in significant part” on grounds of “hostility to religion.”

Kennedy appeared critical of the commission, saying, “Tolerance is essential in a free society. And tolerance is most meaningful when it’s mutual… It seems to me that the state in its position here has been neither tolerant nor respectful of Mr. Phillips’ religious beliefs.”

At the same time, the justice had wondered whether a victory for the plaintiff’s argument would enable discrimination.

“It means that there’s basically an ability to boycott gay marriages,” said Kennedy, who is considered a swing vote in the case.

“If you prevail, could the bakery put a sign in its window, ‘We do not make cakes for gay weddings’?” Kennedy asked Solicitor General Noel J. Francisco. “And you would not posit that an affront to the gay community?”

Francisco, who backed Phillips’ case, suggested that the baker could say he does not make “custom-made wedding cakes for gay weddings, but most cakes would not cross that threshold.” While there are dignity interests at stake, Francisco said, and he would not minimize the same-sex couple’s dignity interests, “there are dignity interests on the other side here too.”

Phillips declines to bake other kinds of cakes that promote ideas at odds with his beliefs, such as cakes that portray anti-American, atheist, or racist messages or disparage members of the LGBT community, his attorneys said. Phillips also declines to create custom cakes for other events he is uncomfortable supporting, such as Halloween and bachelor parties.

Since the litigation started, Phillips has said that he has lost more than 40 percent of his business due to his inability to serve any weddings. As a result, he has lost nearly half of his employees, and now struggles to keep in business.

He has also received death threats and has voiced concern for the safety of family members.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of Phillips.

Be missionary disciples, Archbishop Naumann encourages Catholic prayer breakfast

Washington D.C., May 24, 2018 / 04:30 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The United States is in need of another great awakening and religious revival, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas told the crowd at Thursday morning’s 14th annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast.

In his keynote address May 24, Naumann bemoaned the state of culture in the United States, and said it is necessary to re-embrace truth, as well as the living Christ.

Additional speakers at the event in Washington, D.C., included Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) and Sam Brownback, US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom.

Naumann expressed concern over the “large number of Millennials” who either do not believe in God at all, or who instead consider themselves to be “spiritual, but not religious.” The archbishop said this new mentality of a non-religious spiritualism is akin to “a new paganism,” where the God of revelation has been transformed into a god or gods who are created to re-inforce individual desires.

“Our culture is indeed experiencing a crisis of faith that leads to a denial of truth,” said Naumann. “Once the relationship between man and God is severed, man becomes just a highly developed organism.”

Without this relationship with God, humans are simply objects with a value determined only by how useful they can be to others, explained Naumann, who is the incoming chairman of the US bishops' pro-life committee.

A lack of relationship with God leads to hedonism, with “the pursuit of pleasure becoming the highest goal,” with people seeking to avoid suffering and death at all costs, he said. This further leads to a mentality that it is “acceptable to eliminate the one suffering,” whether it be someone who is elderly, unborn, or otherwise sick and unable to be cured effectively.

It is necessary to have a personal encounter with Christ in order to be able to live a virtuous life as Catholics, said Naumann.

“Without this personal encounter, our dogma and doctrine makes no sense,” he said.

The world has been plagued with sin since the Garden of Eden, but “God’s response to humanity’s rebellion is mercy,” and Christ rescued humanity when he became “one with us in all things but sin.”

“Like a special operations soldier dropped behind enemy lines, Jesus entered fully into our humanity, enduring unspeakable suffering because of our sin.”

Naumann ended his keynote with a call for the crowd of well over 1,000 people present to be “missionary disciples” who spread the word of the Risen Christ to everyone, particularly people on the peripheries of society.

“We are called to renew our nation, not primarily by enacting laws, but by announcing the joy and hope of the Gospel of Jesus to individuals in desperate need of its good news. It is our task to reclaim our culture one mind, one heart, one soul at a time.”

In his remarks at the prayer breakfast, Ryan emphasized the importance of Catholic social teaching, while Brownback discussed religious freedom as a “God-given right.”

Appeals court denies stay of ruling against California assisted suicide law

San Bernardino, Calif., May 24, 2018 / 04:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A state appellate court on Wednesday denied a request for an immediate stay of a ruling which said California's assisted suicide law was wrongly passed in a special legislative session.

The May 23 decision by California's 4th District Court of Appeal did give the state attorney general, Xavier Becerra, more time to provide arguments as to why the lower court's ruling should be overruled.

Judge Daniel Ottolia of the Riverside County Superior Court had ruled May 15 that lawmakers had unconstitutionally passed the law in a 2015 special session of the legislature dedicated to health care funding.

Ottolia's ruling was welcomed by the California Catholic Conference, whose executive director, Ned Dolejsi, said May 18 that “Our opposition to assisted suicide is no secret, but this legislation was also opposed by a broad coalition of doctors, nurses, seniors and the disabled community, who fought this bill for many, many reasons.”

“Health care professionals … questioned why the state was embracing doctor-assisted suicide as the standard of care for people who needed respect and support,” he said. “Others were offended at the way Medi-Cal patients - often refused coverage for palliative care – were offered coverage for lethal prescriptions instead.”

Dolejsi also noted that “At an oversight hearing in January to review the implementation of the End-of-Life Option Act, even though presented with clear evidence of poor data collection and other implementation uncertainties, legislators openly discussed ways that physician-assisted suicide could be expanded – especially to poor and minority communities.”

Under the law, lethal prescriptions may be given to adults who are able to make medical decisions if their attending physician and a consulting physician have diagnosed a terminal disease expected to end in death within six months.

The initial legislative effort to pass an assisted suicide bill failed in committee during the 2015 regular season. It was subsequently passed during a special legislative session later the same year which was called to address state health care funding shortages.

Opponents of the law have charged that it was rushed through the special session and lacks safeguards against abuse, such as an adequate definition of terminal illness.

In the first six months after the law took effect, 111 people in California committed assisted suicide under its provisions. Assisted suicide has also been legally sanctioned in Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, Hawaii, and the District of Columbia.

Pro-life pregnancy center demands removal from 'libelous' video

Denver, Colo., May 24, 2018 / 03:15 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A video that frames a Colorado women’s clinic as a bogus, sub-par healthcare provider is libelous, said the clinic’s directors and lawyer, who are demanding that it be corrected.

Last week, Attorney Michael J. Norton issued a cease and desist letter on behalf of Marisol Health, a network of women’s health care clinics in Denver created by Catholic Charities of Colorado.

The letter demands the removal of the clinic’s image and name from a video that suggests it is among crisis pregnancy centers that do not provide medically trained staff or accurate medical information.

“Marisol Health is justifiably proud of the services it provides to women and families and is thus disturbed by the false representations about Marisol Health in a ProgressNow video entitled ‘Crisis Pregnancy Centers’...with the description ‘Crisis pregnancy centers masquerade as medical facilities,’” Norton wrote in the letter.

In a press conference on Wednesday, Norton said that “Having reviewed the video and having significant knowledge about Marisol and the comprehensive, quality, professional healthcare services that Marisol Health provides, we found...great offense with that video, and we found it to be extremely defamatory, misleading and misrepresentative [of Marisol].”

The video, created about a year ago by progressive advocacy group ProgressNow, has been posted to the group’s facebook page, viewed more than 130,000 times, and republished by numerous affiliates of the organization.  

The video tells the story of 40-year-old Aubrey, an art teacher who recalls her unexpected pregnancy in college. At high risk because of a seizure disorder, Aubrey says in the video that she was referred to an unspecified crisis pregnancy center that lacked any trained medical professionals besides an ultrasound tech.

“I felt like they were really playing on my emotions and as I was walking out they handed me a bible,” Aubrey said in the video.

“The fact that they sent me to some crisis pregnancy center where there was no medical staff, that really bothers me, it really concerns me,” she added. “You had a political motivation or maybe a religious one that you felt was more important than my health.”

Footage in the video shows four different pregnancy centers around Colorado, including the building and name of Marisol Health, which was founded in 2016 - years after Aubrey’s pregnancy. It also includes text that states that crisis pregnancy center staff “rarely have any medical training” and that they “often lie or refuse to provide accurate information.”

At the press conference, Jan McIntosh, vice president of Marisol Services, said it was “outrageous” and “deceptive” to include Marisol in the video and to imply that it does not provide comprehensive health care with licensed medical professionals.

“Marisol Health is a network of clinics that are fully equipped to provide women with comprehensive health care and help them make informed decisions about their reproductive health,” she said. “With Marisol’s special partnership with Bella [Natural Women’s Care], we have fully licensed medical professionals who assist women in need with life-affirming medical care.”

Marisol Health. Credit: Marisol Health.

Among the services provided at Marisol are comprehensive OB/GYN and prenatal care, fertility awareness and infertility care, STD testing, counseling, ultrasounds, and mental health services.

Care is provided regardless of a woman’s ability to pay, McIntosh noted. According to Marisol, 45 percent of their patients have no income or an income of less than $15,000 a year, while 76 percent are on Medicaid or are without insurance.

“We want to take back the true meaning of reproductive care for women,” McIntosh added. “Marisol Health has what women deserve, a clinic that is staffed by licensed medical professionals and offers compassionate care.”

Dede Chism is the co-founder and executive director of Bella Natural Women’s Care and Family Wellness, which partners with Marisol Health.

She said that both Bella and Marisol “exist to fill the need for dignified, life-affirming healthcare, providing a broad scope of comprehensive obstetric and gynecological health care.”

The need for this kind of care is great among women of all religious, cultural and socio-economic backgrounds, Chism said, citing the 5,000-plus patients that have come to Bella in the past three and half years since they opened their doors.

“Across the lifespan of women from early adolescence through menopause, as a staff of board-certified and board-eligible physicians, midwives, nurse practitioners, certified ultrasonographers, registered nurses, we focus on the highest standards, cutting edge research that actually takes place within our facilities, and scientific methods that are both natural and cooperate with a woman’s body,” she said.

Chism invited anyone with doubts about Marisol or Bella’s quality of care to visit the clinics and see for themselves and “experience what is health care is all about.”

Norton said as of May 23 he had not received a response from ProgressNow regarding his May 17 cease and desist letter, and added that he is prepared to continue to prosecute ProgressNow in order to repair any damage caused to Marisol and Bella by the video.

Earlier this month, Marisol also responded to billboards in Denver that warned against crisis pregnancy centers, calling them “Fake Health Centers.” The billboards, in English and Spanish, were sponsored by the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR), a group also associated with the creation of the ProgressNow video, which it has embedded on its website.

A representative from COLOR told Fox News in Denver that they considered the crisis pregnancy clinics fake because they do not offer “abortion care” in their facilities and often lack trained medical professionals.  

The video from ProgressNow also comes at a time when the Supreme Court is deciding a case called National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra, which will decide whether a California law mandating that pro-life pregnancy centers post information about abortion is a violation of the First Amendment and free speech rights.

Similar laws, such as one in Baltimore, have been struck down in courts as unconstitutional.

Archbishop Chaput highlights voices of young adults ahead of synod

Philadelphia, Pa., May 24, 2018 / 02:36 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In an effort to highlight the voices of young people ahead of the Synod on Youth this fall, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia is periodically offering his column space in the diocesan newspaper to young adults over the next four months.

“With a synod of the world’s bishops focusing on young people scheduled for this October, hearing directly from the young and those engaged in guiding them can be a great resource,” he wrote.

The 2018 Synod will take place this October. Bishops from around the world will meet to discuss the theme, “Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment.”

In preparation for the gathering, the Vatican sent out a survey asking young people around the world about their experiences and beliefs. In March, 315 young adults were invited to the Vatican for a pre-synod gathering. They released a document summarizing their discussions at the end of the meeting.

Since Archbishop Chaput decided to open his column to young adults earlier this month, he has shared the comments of two young people: Regina Luczyszyn, a 26-year-old graduate from Temple University Law School who is currently engaged, and Brother Bryan Kerns, a 29 year-old seminarian who will be ordained this summer.

Last week, Luczyszyn reflected on the need for young adults to be accompanied by faithful mentors. In a world marked by confusion, she said, many people bear wounds from a damaged past, so guides are necessary to help navigate the way.

“Finding Christ in the darkness isn’t always an easy journey,” she said. “Christ gave us the answer by showing us the importance of mentorship and discipleship – a model the Church needs to revive if she expects young adults to follow Christ.”

She highlighted chastity as one issue in which mentorship would be helpful, particularly in guiding questions during dating about appropriate boundaries and ways to express love in virtue.

Luczyszyn suggested that priests, religious, and laity can all be mentors to help navigate young adults through these trails. Just as Christ spent three years forming his disciples, she said the Church must accompany her members by “strengthening them, loving them, and teaching them.”

This week, Brother Kerns reflected on the Church’s need to for strong witnesses, leading the Church towards the value of silence and rest. When the world is overwhelmed by noise, he said, people are unable to truly know themselves.

“The world is drowning in noise – the young in particular. And the noise is not the worst problem; it’s a symptom of our failure to understand our nature. We use noise as an antidote to our restlessness, when what we really need is rest.”

He said the Church needs to evaluate how young adults can be encouraged make silence in their lives to face the burdens of this world and rely on the Church for silent strength. Brother Kern said the answer is not another document or program – although those things may be helpful – but witnesses willing to lead by example.

“Our world, our Church, and especially our young people, need witnesses. Witnesses who prove irrefutably, through their words and actions, that Jesus Christ dwells with quiet fire in their hearts.”

 

Reform bill the ‘first step’ to restorative prison justice, advocates say

Washington D.C., May 24, 2018 / 05:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. House of Representatives has passed prison reform legislation that would integrate faith-based programs into federal prisons to help prisoners prepare to successfully reenter society.

The First Step Act was authored by Reps. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), and has the goal of incentivizing prisoner participation in vocational and rehabilitative programs. Lawmakers approved the bipartisan legislation by a 360-59 vote on May 22.

“I'm thrilled to see such bipartisan support for the First Step Act,” said James Ackerman, president of Prison Fellowship, the largest prison ministry in the United States.

“We have a duty as a society,” continued Ackerman, “to implement a more restorative approach to criminal justice -- one where people become healthier and more productive citizens when they return to society after serving time in prison then when they went into prison.”

The First Step Act calls for the implementation of individualized risk assessment interviews in federal prisons to better address each inmate’s personal needs, Prison Fellowship Vice President Craig DeRoche explained to CNA.

“For one person it, it might be addiction, for another it might be anger management and other issues to work through while they are incarcerated so that when they leave they are transformed and better suited for employability and success," said DeRoche.

This has proven successful at the state level in places like Texas, where it has “reduced expense and it has transformed lives in restored families and healing communities,” according to DeRoche.

Prison Fellowship operates in 428 prisons throughout the country. Their staff have seen many prisoners lives transformed by their faith-based programming.

Tiheba Williams-Bain previously served time in a federal prison in Texas. She explained to CNA that the skill-building and faith-based programming that she participated in positively impacted her life.

“I took advantage of every opportunity that was accorded to me while I was in prison to help me get better,” said Williams-Bain.

“It helped me navigate through the system, as well as my own self-doubt and insecurities that I had about myself,” she continued.

 Williams-Bain added that rehabilitation requires more than programs available, saying “it comes from the mindset of the person that utilizes the programs.”

Prison Fellowship Senior Vice President of Policy and Advocacy Craig DeRoche said that it was only through Christ that he was able to recover from 29 years of addiction.

He said that is why he believes it is significant that the First Step Act “affirmatively states that faith-based programs will be welcomed into the prisons as a solution.”

“No person is beyond Christ's touch and healing grace and offer of redemption,” said DeRoche.

“It doesn't matter if it is a non-violent criminal or a low-level  or a violent criminal that has done horrible things, we've seen that Christ can make a person new again,” he continued.

The First Step Act will likely face opposition from both sides in the Senate, but it has President Donald Trump’s support.

At the White House Prison Reform Summit on May 18, President Trump said, “At the heart of our prison reform agenda is expanding prison work and the programs so that inmates can reenter society with the skills to get a job. We also want more mental health services so released inmates can cope with the challenges of life on the outside.”

The president continued, “Get a bill to my desk.  I will sign it.”

 

A Catholic mom made a big difference in her community – by speaking up

Denver, Colo., May 24, 2018 / 12:29 am (CNA).- Abriana Chilelli is a Catholic mother of four children who lives in Denver, Colo.

Every day on their daily route to school, she and her kids would drive by a strip club downtown that featured a parked van with pornographic images of two women.

While disturbed by the images, especially on behalf of her children, Chilelli initially believed she would not be able to do anything to change it.

“The van was parked on the club’s private parking lot, but was directly facing the street passing by. It infuriated me when I saw it, but we live in a city and society which I assumed would not be offended by the image,” Chilelli told CNA.

“So, I figured what could I possibly do on a city level to get it taken down?” she continued.

However, the images on the van continued to bother Chilelli. She tried distracting her kids every time they passed by the strip club, but eventually they noticed the overt poster of two women “engaged in an obviously sexual act.”

“I got mad – furious – that my children, residents of this city, have an offensive image directed at their eye level every day that advertises the objectification of women and uses women’s bodies to advertise pornography,” Chilelli said.

Motivated to make a change, she began to research city zoning codes and found a few that she believed the strip club might be violating. She called the police non-emergency line to file a report against the club, but the police officer told her that the poster was “not violating public indecency laws in regards to clothing.”

Chilelli did not stop there, however. She took her complaints to her city councilman, who then passed her along to another councilman. Eventually, she received a response saying that the issue was being investigated.

“I expected the councilman to echo what the police officer initially told me over the phone,” she said.

But a few weeks later, Chilelli received news that the city’s Community Planning and Development Zoning board “found the club’s billboard to be out of compliance with Denver Zoning Code,” and was issuing a formal notice to the strip club.

A few days later, the van with the pornographic images was gone.

Looking back on the experience, Chilelli reflected on the need for Catholics to speak up “to proclaim what is true, good and beautiful.”

“It’s important to speak up about issues like these…I often lament the immorality of our culture at large, which for me often ends in just that – lamenting,” Chilelli said, noting that to simply “wish away the problem…doesn’t actually help.” 

“I am quick to forget that I also exist in these public spaces – that my opinion and understanding about the truth of the body also exists in this public sphere we all exist together in, and that my rights as a citizen to not have to view offensive images should also be respected by our city, state, and federal codes and laws,” she continued.

Chilelli hopes that others will be encouraged by the idea that just one voice can promote change.

“[The experience] helped me realize that we can impact and affect change, despite how insurmountable the degradation of the culture seems,” she said. 

Chilelli added that this particular issue was especially important to speak out against because of the confusion fostered by a culture that believes the body is for sexual gratification, exploitation, and consumption.

“I want to encourage others to not passively accept the lies our culture tells us about our bodies, to not passively accept the lies our culture tries to teach our children about their bodies.”

She particularly called upon Catholics to share the truths of their faith, which she sees as a logical response to much of the world’s confusion.

“What I do think is important is that Catholics speak the language of the culture and do their best to identify areas where our culture is seeking truth, so we can speak the Gospel message to our very confused society, bringing light to what is so very dark about our culture’s understanding of the body and human sexuality.”
 
 
Editor’s note: Chilelli is related to CNA’s editor-in-chief, JD Flynn, who was not involved in the reporting or editing of this article.

 

 

Augustine Institute releases video series on the Eucharist

Denver, Colo., May 23, 2018 / 10:49 pm (CNA).- The wealth of the Catholic Church’s teachings and traditions can be challenging for many to understand, which is why the Augustine Institute has released a new video series focused on the Eucharist.

“Catholicism is so vast and deep, learning it can be overwhelming,” Dr. Tim Gray, president of the Augustine Institute, in an interview with CNA.

“But if there is one thing that we can teach Catholics, one thing that holds all our faith together and makes it stick for folks, that is understanding God’s presence in the Eucharist,” Gray continued, adding that “no other teaching can be so uplifting and tangible for people’s spirituality than this mystery, which is why the Church calls it the sum and summit of our faith.”

The Augustine Institute is a Denver-based graduate school and organization which aims to serve the Church through academic and parish programs in light of St. John Paul II’s call to the New Evangelization.

The video series, titled “Presence,” is available for purchase and was released by the Augustine Institute as part of their sacramental video series. It follows the succession of their previous video programs on marriage, baptism, and reconciliation.

“The next in line was the Eucharist,” Gray said.

“We did not want to start with the Eucharist because we knew it was the most important, so in a sense the other sacramental programs prepared us to approach this treatment of the Eucharist so that we could give it our best treatment,” Gray continued.

The series explores the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist through its institution at the Last Supper and its role in the Catholic faith. It is available in two editions – one for personal use and one for group use in parishes.

The personal edition includes three episodes and an explanation of the Mass for children. The parish edition is aimed at sacramental preparation and catechesis and also includes an apologetics section. The series also comes with leader kits and guides, as well as a personal participant guide.

Gray explained that each episode begins with a true story “that is both compelling and dramatic.” His personal favorite of the series are the beginning segments of episodes two and three, “which shows the incredible story of an amazing protestant minister and Jewish woman who encounter the beauty and mystery of the Eucharist.”

Gray went on to say that he hopes viewers will deepen their understanding of the Eucharist through the video series and be reawakened to the beauty of its mystery.

“The Mass and Eucharist is central to Christian life, but too often we assume that everyone understands this mystery when they don’t,” Gray noted.

“This series aims to help open eyes to understand the depth of mystery found in God’s amazing presence, but also rekindle a fire for those of us who believe but need to be reawakened to the tremendous gift we have in the Eucharist,” he continued.

“If Catholics understand this one thing, they will not leave the Church.”

Foreign bishops respond to German intercommunion proposal

Philadelphia, Pa., May 23, 2018 / 06:04 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Several bishops from outside Germany have critiqued a proposal to allow Protestant spouses of Catholics to receive communion in German dioceses under some limited circumstances, citing the proposal’s effects on their own local Churches.

The proposal has been championed by Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, who announced in February that the German bishops’ conference would publish a pastoral handout that allows Protestant spouses of Catholics "in individual cases" and "under certain conditions" to receive Holy Communion, provided they "affirm the Catholic faith in the Eucharist”.

But the proposal was questioned by seven German bishops, who asked the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith whether the question can be decided on the level of a national bishops' conference, or if rather "a decision of the Universal Church" is required in the matter.

When several bishops from Germany visited Rome May 3, an inconclusive meeting ended with the Vatican sending the Germans back, saying Pope Francis wants the bishops to come to an agreement among themselves.

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia was pointed in his criticism of the proposal in an essay published May 23 at First Things, raising doctrinal concerns regarding what it would mean to allow these non-Catholics to receive the Eucharist.

Chaput explains that while bishops everywhere have disagreements, he believes the situation in Germany to be different due to both the “global prominence of the controversy,” as well as the doctrinal issues. He added that “What happens in Germany will not stay in Germany. History has already taught us that lesson once,” citing the effects of Martin Luther’s schism.

“The essence of the German intercommunion proposal is that there would be a sharing in holy communion even when there is not true Church unity,” writes Chaput, noting that there are serious difference between Protestant theology and Catholic theology, including debate over the divinity of Christ among some more liberal Protestants.

Chaput disagrees with the proposal, as it would fundamentally redefine what the Church is as well as who she is, given that the Eucharist “is the sign and instrument of ecclesial unity.”

The German proposal would, “intentionally or not”, then, be “the first stage in opening communion to all Protestants, or all baptized persons, since marriage ultimately provides no unique reason to allow communion for non-Catholics.”

Admitting Protestant spouses of Catholics to Communion would "adopt a Protestant notion of ecclesial identity" for the Catholic Church, in which only baptism and a belief in Christ would be necessary to receive. Chaput questions if the Protestant spouse would have to also profess belief in other sacraments, such as holy orders. If this were not the case, Chaput suggests that perhaps the German bishops do not believe this sacrament relies on apostolic succession, which would be a “much deeper error.”

The proposal also “severs the vital link between communion and sacramental confession,” he stated.

“Presumably it does not imply that Protestant spouses must go to confession for serious sins as a prelude to communion. But this stands in contradiction to the perennial practice and express dogmatic teaching of the Catholic Church, the Council of Trent, and the modern Catechism of the Catholic Church, as well as the ordinary magisterium. It implies, in its effect, a Protestantization of the Catholic theology of the sacraments.”

Chaput writes that the intercommunion practice would do nothing more than insert a lie into what should be a profound encounter with Christ.

“To insert a falsehood into the most solemn moment of one’s encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist -- to say by one’s actions,’I am in communion with this community’ when one is demonstrably not in communion with that community -- is a lie, and thus a serious offense before God.”

Cardinal Willem Eijk of Utrecht was critical of the pope’s request that the German bishops come to a consensus. Writing in the National Catholic Register May 5, Eijk said Pope Francis’ response was “completely incomprehensible,” as the doctrine of the Eucharist has not changed and cannot change, even with unanimity among a bishops’ conference.

“The practice of the Catholic Church, based on her faith, is not determined and does not change statistically when a majority of an episcopal conference votes in favor of it, not even if unanimously,” wrote Eijk.

Instead, Eijk says that he thinks Pope Francis should have been more direct to the German episcopal conference, and should have instead given them “clear directives, based on the clear doctrine and practice of the Church.”

Eijk’s comments were echoed by Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa, who said May 23 at the Catholic Register it was “puzzling” that Pope Francis instructed Germany’s bishops to come to a unanimous decision on the issue.

“This kind of open communion is against Catholic teaching and from what I can see in non-Catholic congregations that follow a discipline of ‘open communion,’ it is also spiritually and pastorally unfruitful,” said Prendergast.

He noted that people in his local Church have already been asking about the German proposal.

Prendergast believes there should be more teaching on the benefit of attending Mass without receiving the Eucharist, as well as what it means “to be properly disposed and in the state of grace.”

“We need to invest more in receiving the sacraments worthily and fruitfully. This is true for the Eucharist, but also for Baptism and Confirmation,” Prendergast added.

“In Holy Communion we receive the Lord, and so, to receiving worthily, we need to be fully open to Him and connected to His Church, visibly and invisibly, institutionally and internally. That and nothing less is Catholic teaching.”

As a fellow Jesuit, Archbishop Prendergast also spoke to Pope Francis, thanking him “for reminding us that accompanying people through their lives, especially in dark times, is essential for being a priest.”

“We Jesuits always have to remember that most Catholics are not Jesuits — a fact we tend to overlook sometimes,” he added. “Our spirituality is not for everyone … For me, becoming a bishop was a real change, for then I had to recognize the whole spectrum of theologies, spiritualities, ministries and charisms present in the diocese entrusted to me. Through this I came to realize what a great gift doctrine is for the Church, enabling it to be one, holy, and catholic.”

The Code of Canon Law already provides that in the danger of death or if “some other grave necessity urges it,” Catholic ministers licitly administer penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick to Protestants “who cannot approach a minister of their own community and who seek such on their own accord, provided that they manifest Catholic faith in respect to these sacraments and are properly disposed.”

Trump at SBA gala: 'Vote for love' and 'vote for life'

Washington D.C., May 23, 2018 / 12:23 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Delivering the keynote address at the Susan B. Anthony List’s Campaign for Life Gala, President Donald Trump emphasized the importance of electing pro-life candidates in the upcoming November midterm elections.

“Between now and November,” said Trump, “we must work together to elect more lawmakers who share our values, cherish our heritage, and proudly stand for life.”

Susan B. Anthony List is a network of organizations that includes a PAC supporting the election of pro-life candidates to Congress.

Trump’s May 22 address highlighted the steps his administration has taken to preserve and promote pro-life values and religious liberty, including the reinstatement of the Mexico City Policy, which prevents taxpayer dollars from funding abortion overseas.

That move, said Trump, was “a little reminiscent of Ronald Reagan.”

“We’ve appointed a record number of judges who will defend our Constitution and interpret the law as written,” explained Trump, saying that he was likely to have the “all-time record for the appointment of judges.”

Early in his presidency, Trump appointed Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Gorsuch, widely supported by pro-life advocates, wrote a 2004 dissertation at the University of Oxford on euthanasia and assisted suicide, under the supervision of Catholic legal scholar John Finnis.

Trump used the gala to officially announce that his administration has proposed a rule to prohibit Title X funds from going to abortion clinics.

“For decades, American taxpayers have been wrongfully forced to subsidize the abortion industry” through these funds, Trump told the crowd, who gave him a standing ovation.

“We have kept another promise.”

If the rule becomes policy, clinics such as Planned Parenthood would not be eligible to receive federal Title X funds for family planning services unless they decide to stop performing abortions.

Shifting gears to the upcoming elections, Trump said that his goal is to pass a nationwide ban on abortion after 20 weeks gestation. A bill to that effect has already passed the House of Representatives, but remains stalled in the Senate and is unlikely to pass.

In order for this bill to become law, Trump said the country needs to elect Republicans to Congress, because “the Democratic Party is far outside the American mainstream.” He specifically cited Sens. Jon Tester (D-MT), Heidi Heitcamp (D-ND), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) as four senators up for reelection who voted against the abortion bill. Each of those senators represents a state Trump won in the 2016 election.

“We are nine votes away from passing the 20-week abortion bill in the Senate, so we have to get them out there,” Trump told the crowd.

“Democrats like to campaign as moderates at election time, but when they go to Washington, they always vote for the radical Pelosi agenda down the line,” said Trump to applause, before adding “Can you imagine having Nancy Pelosi as the Speaker of the House?”

Trump warned the crowd against growing complacent going into this November’s midterms, saying that unless the Republicans are able to maintain their majorities in the House and senate, it will be impossible to appoint pro-life judges and pass pro-life legislation.

“Every values voter must be energized, mobilized, and engaged, said the president. “You have to get out there.”

“So this November, vote for family. Vote for love. Vote for faith and values. Vote for country. And vote for life.“

Although Trump’s remarks were decidedly partisan, the Susan B. Anthony List is not directly affiliated with a political party, and has supported pro-life candidates from both major political parties. The PAC supported Rep. Steve Lipinski (D-IL) in a contentious 2017 primary election.