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8 quotes from saints on guardian angels

null / Petra Homeier/Shutterstock

Denver Newsroom, Oct 2, 2022 / 00:00 am (CNA).

On Oct. 2, the Catholic Church celebrates the memorial of the guardian angels.

Guardian angels are instruments of providence who protect their charges from suffering serious harm, and care for their salvation.

It is a theologically certain teaching that every one one of the faithful has his or her own guardian angel from baptism, and it is the general teaching of theologians that every human person has his or her own guardian angel from birth.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “From its beginning until death, human life is surrounded by their [angels’] watchful care and intercession. ‘Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life.’ Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united in God” (CCC, 336).

Several of our greatest saints have also shared their thoughts on guardian angels. Here’s what they had to say:

St. John Vianney: “Our guardian angels are our most faithful friends, because they are with us day and night, always and everywhere. We ought often to invoke them.”

St. John Bosco: “When tempted, invoke your angel. He is more eager to help you than you are to be helped. Ignore the devil and do not be afraid of him; he trembles and flees at the sight of your guardian angel.”

St. Jerome: “How great is the dignity of souls, that each person has from birth received an angel to protect it.”

St. Basil the Great: “Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd, leading him to life.”

St. Bernard of Clairvaux: “We should show our affection for the angels, for one day they will be our co-heirs just as here below they are our guardians and trustees appointed and set over us by the father.”

St. Francis de Sales: “Make yourself familiar with the angels, and behold them frequently in spirit. Without being seen, they are present with you.”

St. Josemaría Escrivá: “If you remembered the presence of your angel and the angels of your neighbors, you would avoid many of the foolish things which slip into your conversations.”

St. John Cassian: “Cherubim means knowledge in abundance. They provide an everlasting protection for that which appeases God, namely, the calm of your heart, and they will cast a shadow of protection against all the attacks of malign spirits.”

The rosary: common myths and facts

null / Vatican Media.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 1, 2022 / 02:00 am (CNA).

October is designated by the Catholic Church as the “Month of the Rosary.” Here are seven common myths and facts about this devotion to Our Lady.

Only Catholics can pray the rosary. 

False. While rosaries are typically associated with Catholics, non-Catholics can certainly pray the rosary — and in fact, many credit it with their conversion. Even some Protestants recognize the rosary as a valid form of prayer.

Praying the rosary is idolatry. 

False. Some have objections to the rosary, claiming it idolizes Mary and is overly repetitive. 

Just like any practice, the rosary could be abused — just as someone might idolize a particular pastor or priest, form of worship, or fasting. But the rosary itself is not a form of idolatry. 

The rosary is not a prayer to Mary — it is a meditation on the life of Christ revealed in five mysteries “with the purposes of drawing the person praying deeper into reflecting on Christ’s joys, sacrifices, sufferings, and the glorious miracles of his life.” 

When we pray the Hail Mary, we are not adoring Mary, we are asking for her intercession — just as we might ask a friend or family member to pray for us. 

Second, any prayer can lose its meaning if we do not intentionally meditate on it. Focusing on the mysteries with purpose and intention is key to the rosary’s transforming power. As one author encourages: “The rosary itself stays the same, but we do not.”

You can wear a rosary as a necklace.

It depends. It is typically considered disrespectful and irreverent to wear a rosary around one’s neck, even though the Church does not have an explicit declaration against doing so. 

However, Canon 1171 of the Code of Canon Law says that “sacred objects, set aside for divine worship by dedication or blessing, are to be treated with reverence. They are not to be made over to secular or inappropriate use, even though they may belong to private persons.”

It is important to treat the rosary with respect and intention. If you intend to wear the rosary as a piece of jewelry, this would not be respectful and should be avoided. It goes without saying that wearing the rosary as a mockery or gang symbol would be a sin. 

But if it is your intention to use the rosary and be mindful of prayer, then it could be permissible. It is not uncommon in some cultures, like in Honduras and El Salvador, to see the rosary respectfully worn around the neck as a sign of devotion.

Rosary rings or bracelets might be a better option if you want to keep your rosary close at hand as a reminder to pray, as they are kept more out of sight and would not be as easily misconstrued to be a piece of jewelry. 

The rosary is an extremist symbol.

False. A widely-shared Atlantic article this summer went viral for accusing the rosary of being an “extremist symbol.” 

“Just as the AR-15 rifle has become a sacred object for Christian nationalists in general, the rosary has acquired a militaristic meaning for radical-traditional (or “rad trad”) Catholics,” the article read.

The author also cited the Church’s stance on traditional marriage and the sanctity of life as evidence of “extremism” and claimed that Catholics’ tendency to call the rosary a “weapon in the fight against evil” as dangerous. 

As CNA reported this year, popes have urged Catholics to pray the rosary since 1571 — often referring to the rosary as a prayer “weapon” and most powerful spiritual tool. 

The rosary is not biblical.

Untrue! Most of its words come directly from Scripture.

First, the Our Father is prayed. The words of the Our Father are those Christ taught his disciples to pray in Matthew 6:9–13.

The Hail Mary also comes straight from the Bible. The first part, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee,” comes from Luke 1:28, and the second, “Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb,” is found in Luke 1:42.

Finally, each of the decades prayed on the rosary symbolizes an event in the lives of Jesus and Mary. The decades are divided into four sets of mysteries: Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful, and Glorious, the majority of which are found in Scripture. 

A rosary bead, or pea, can kill you.

Somewhat true. A rosary pea, or abrus seed, is a vine plant native to India and parts of Asia. The seeds of the vine, which are red with black spots, are often used to make beaded jewelry — including rosaries. Rosary pea seeds contain a toxic substance called abrin, which is a naturally-occurring poison that can be fatal if ingested. However, it’s unlikely for someone to get abrin poisoning just from holding a rosary made from abrus seeds, as one would have to swallow them. 

Today, most rosaries are made from other non-toxic materials, such as olive wood, plastic, or glass — eliminating this concern.

Carrying a rosary can protect you.

True. The rosary has proven to be a miraculous force for protecting those of faith and bestowing upon them extra graces, such as the victory of the Christian forces at the Battle of Lepanto after St. Pius V implored Western Christians to pray the rosary.

Many great saints across history, including Pope John Paul II, Padre Pio, and Lucia of Fatima, have also recognized the rosary as the most powerful weapon in fighting the real spiritual battles we face in the world. 

We know that spiritual warfare is a real and present danger: “For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens” (Ephesians 6:11–12). 

“The Rosary is a powerful weapon to put the demons to flight and to keep oneself from sin … If you desire peace in your hearts, in your homes, and in your country, assemble each evening to recite the Rosary. Let not even one day pass without saying it, no matter how burdened you may be with many cares and labors,” Pope Pius XI said. 

Catholics converge on DC for a week of prayer and fasting

The International Week of Prayer and Fasting kicks off on Saturday, Oct. 1 at the National Basilica in Washington, DC. / The International Week of Prayer and Fasting (IWOPF)

Denver, Colo., Sep 30, 2022 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

On Saturday, Oct. 1, Catholics from around the world will once again kick off a week of prayer and fasting at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. 

Prayer and fasting are needed now more than ever, Maureen Flynn, founder of The International Week of Prayer and Fasting (IWOPF) told CNA. 

“It seems to be a real battle between the forces of darkness and the forces of light,” she said. 

The IWOPF is a grassroots movement made up of churches, schools, communities, and clergy who come together to pray and fast. In 2022, for the 30th IWOPF, Catholics everywhere are invited to pray for five intentions: the conversion of all peoples, to build a culture of life, defend the sanctity of marriage, for God’s mercy, and for all priests and vocations. 

The week of prayer and fasting will culminate in the National Rosary Rally at the steps of the U.S. Capitol on Oct. 9. The events cap a 54-day rosary novena prayed by Catholics around the country, which begins each year on Aug. 15, the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and ends on Oct. 7, the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.

Catholics joining in prayer for the 2019 IWOPF. IWOPF
Catholics joining in prayer for the 2019 IWOPF. IWOPF

Speakers at this year’s event include Bishop Joseph Coffey, who will offer the opening Mass on Oct. 1. Also speaking are Father Francis Peffley; Dave and Joan Maroney, founders of MOMM, a Divine Mercy apostolate; Father Robert Altier; and Ted and Maureen Flynn, the founders of IWOPF, and several others. 

In an interview with CNA, Maureen Flynn talked about the moment she decided to take action and get others to join in prayer and fasting. She recalled that in 1989 she was reading a newspaper article about some grandmothers who said they were for abortion.

“I was appalled,” she said. Soon after, she called a good friend and brought up the idea of starting a day of prayer. 

“Because this is ridiculous. These are grandmothers and they’re thinking it’s fine to kill children,” she remembers telling him.

However, instead of a single day of prayer, he suggested an entire week. The following year, the first conference was held in front of the U.S. Capitol. Approximately 500 people attended.

In 1997, the event was moved to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. That was also the year Mother Teresa was scheduled to be the keynote speaker. The event would be held on Oct. 5, 1997. However, Mother Teresa would not be in attendance. The now-saint died one month before, on Sept. 5. 

Flynn recalled that Mother Teresa had been very enthusiastic about the project.

“I remember at one point, she said, ‘My daughter, you must do this. God wants this. Prayer is the answer to the world's problems.’ I'll never forget what she said. So I think that gave us encouragement,” she said.

St. John Paul II also gave the organization two apostolic blessings, one in 1997 and the other in 2001. Pope Francis also gave his apostolic blessing to participants at the 22nd conference.

EWTN’s foundress, Mother Angelica, was the keynote speaker in 2000 and gave a talk on the Lord in the Eucharist. Jim Caviezel joined the conference in 2003 as the keynote speaker after finishing the filming of “The Passion of the Christ.” 

Flynn told CNA that she is encouraged by how much more receptive Catholics are to prayer and fasting now. 

“Years ago it was like pulling teeth to try to get people to see the importance of the rosary and fasting. Now I hear people saying, ‘Tell me how to fast, and could you recommend some good books on fasting,’” she said.

Flynn feels optimistic about other aspects of the Church as well.

“There are prayer networks everywhere now, compared with 30 years ago. The prayer networks are amazing. They give me great hope,” she added. 

“There’s a lot of great ministries out there compared with 30 years ago; there are many Marian groups, many pro-life groups, a lot of publishers; there are just tremendous ministries out there now that weren’t there before,” she said. “So although the battle seems to be intensifying, you see the great goodness going on.”

This year’s conference will also be held virtually in addition to in person. The week’s events will be live-streamed on the IWOPF website, Facebook page, and YouTube channel beginning Oct. 1. 

Catholic bishops’ pro-life chair supports 15-week abortion ban nationwide

Archbishop Lori delivers the homily at Mass for the bicentennial of the National Shrine of the Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary / © 2021 Catholic Review Media. Photo: Kevin J. Parks/CR Staff. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 30, 2022 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore is expressing support for a nationwide abortion ban aimed at protecting unborn babies after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

As chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, Lori recently thanked Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey — both Republicans — for introducing the “Protecting Pain-Capable Unborn Children from Late-Term Abortions Act.”

“Although we will never cease working for laws that protect human life from its beginning and supporting mothers in need, we think that this proposed legislation is a place to begin uniting Americans regardless of their views on abortion,” Lori wrote in a Sept. 19 letter. “Further, we strongly agree that there is a federal role for protecting unborn human life.”

The legislation, proposed by Graham in the Senate and Smith in the House on Sept. 13, would ban abortion after 15 weeks, except in cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the mother is in danger.

“I support your efforts with the ‘Protecting Pain-Capable Unborn Children from Late-Term Abortions Act’ to protect the right to life of unborn babies from 15 weeks’ gestation,” Lori said. “All elected officials, including federally elected members of Congress, now have the opportunity to protect unborn human life and should rise to the occasion.”

He added: “It is long past time to end the barbaric practice of abortion and to provide life-affirming alternatives that support and protect both mother and child.”

The new legislation follows the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in June with the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. That decision found that the constitution does not grant a right to abortion and leaves abortion up to the people and their elected represenatives. 

Earlier this month, in anticipation of Respect Life Month in October, Lori called the Supreme Court’s decision an “answer to prayer” — and an opportunity to build a culture of life by practicing “radical solidarity and unconditional love.”

Recent research has revealed much that was previously unknown about babies in the womb, Lori said.

“Science continues to reveal the amazing development and characteristics of babies in utero, such as their ability to respond to music, to their mother’s voice, and to other stimuli,” he wrote. “Furthermore, there is significant scientific evidence that babies can feel pain as early as 12 weeks’ gestation.”

He cited the study, “Reconsidering Fetal Pain,” published by J Med Ethics in 2020.

In his Sept. 19 letter, Lori stressed that abortion puts mothers at risk.

“Finally,” he added, “not only does abortion end the life of the unborn child, but it is frequently harmful to the mother, emotionally and physically.” 

Citing additional sources, he urged: “Late-term abortions, such as those performed when the unborn child is 15 weeks or older, pose significant physical, and potential fatal, risks to the mother.”

The Catholic Church, he said, is committed to accompanying moms in need and providing life-affirming alternatives to abortion.

“The Catholic Church remains clear and consistent in asserting that true justice demands the right to life, the most basic human and civil right, for every child, from conception onward,” Lori wrote. “No person or government has the right to take the life of any innocent human being, regardless of its stage of development.”

Catholic Charities helps to pick up the pieces after Hurricane Ian

A woman looks over her apartment after floodwater inundated it when Hurricane Ian passed through the area on Sept. 29, 2022 in Fort Myers, Florida. The hurricane brought high winds, storm surge, and rain to the area, causing severe damage. / Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 30, 2022 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

Local and national Catholic Charities agencies are working to assess needs and provide aid after Hurricane Ian devastated Florida’s Gulf Coast this week, leading to what will likely be billions of dollars in damage and several confirmed deaths.

In an interview with EWTN News Nightly, Eddie Gloria, CEO of Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Venice, said that it was still too early to assess the extent of the hurricane’s damage but that “the diocese was hit hard and directly.”

“It’s safe to say that the recovery effort will be extensive,” Gloria said.

Catholic Charities has deployed teams on the ground to assess the damage and where their efforts are most needed. Most of the diocese, which includes the cities of Cape Coral and Fort Myers, is still without power — across the state, some 1.9 million customers remain without power.

The Diocese of Venice’s pastoral center was closed Friday and is expected to reopen Oct. 3. Bishop Frank Dewane posted a statement on the diocesan Facebook page Sept. 30.

“Thank you for your continued prayers for the Diocese of Venice and all those affected by Hurricane Ian. Damage is still being assessed, but it is clear that the devastation in the diocese is widespread,” Dewane wrote.

“There are several crews already at work throughout the diocese, and Catholic Charities is putting their local team into action. We are grateful for all those who have helped, and continue to help, during this difficult time.”

Gloria, the Catholic Charities CEO, said that communication was still a big challenge due to cell phone towers being downed in the storm. Various parts of the diocese, such as DeSoto County, Sanibel Island, Fort Myers Beach, and Naples, have been completely cut off due to roads and bridges being submerged under water.

Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA) has launched a dedicated disaster donation page with 100 percent of the funds raised going to support people impacted by Hurricane Ian and served by their local Catholic Charities agencies. Funds raised through CCUSA will be used for basic necessities such as food, water, and shelter. The Florida Catholic Conference urged donations to CCUSA in a Friday tweet. 

Gloria said Catholic Charities set up several relief sites before the storm, which they plan to activate soon based on their assessments of the sites. They plan to continue to work together with the diocese and parishes to reach people in need of basic necessities like emergency housing, food, and water.

“We’re walking through this cautiously and carefully … wherever we allocate our resources, that is where we are having the greatest impact,” Gloria said.

He also urged prayers to help them through the process.

Hurricane Ian made landfall on Wednesday as a Category 4 storm, pummeling Florida’s Gulf Coast with storm surges and heavy wind. Central Florida received 17 inches of rain as Ian passed overhead. Hurricane Ian has continued on and is expected to slam the South Carolina coast imminently.

A handful of Catholic parishes in the Fort Myers area have announced online that they have reopened. St. Cecilia parish in Fort Myers has power and Wi-Fi, but no water, according to a Thursday Facebook post. As of Thursday, there will be regularly scheduled Masses at St. Cecilia Catholic Community, the post says.

St. John XXIII Catholic Church in Fort Myers said in a Facebook post that its high school youth group will be gathering at the parish for Mass at 11:15 a.m. on Sunday and then going out into the community to try to help people in need.

“If you have power at your house… offer to launder someone’s salt water-drenched clothes and linens before the mold sets in. If you are strong… offer to pull out drenched carpet and baseboards in someone’s house. If you are in an area where there is no flooding… go bag up debris and save homes from future floods to clear the drains. Kids, let’s get to work and help our neighbor… it is exactly what Jesus would do,” the Sept. 30 post from the church reads. 

All Saints Byzantine Church in southwest Florida set up a separate webpage where the parish has been monitoring conditions and updating parishioners. As of the most recent update on Sept. 30, all services at the church had been canceled and the parish priest, Father Steven Galuschik, had evacuated. The church has asked for parishioners to contact the parish office with their safety status and to request any needs in the aftermath of the storm.

All Saints was not immediately available for a comment.

Ave Maria University, which is located south of where the direct path of the storm hit, issued an update on Thursday evening saying that power and air conditioning had fully been restored to the university and town.

Ave Maria is not in the floodplain zone but received small amounts of damage and power outages that were quickly resolved by generators. The university said that classes would resume today, Friday, Sept. 30, with an online option. Classes will resume fully in-person by Monday and campus Masses have fully resumed.

Ave Maria is engaging in various volunteer efforts to support relief for storm victims, including hosting families of first responders in the area because the school is considered a “shelter-in-place” location.

Four female athletes challenge Connecticut policy in fight to save women’s sports

Female student athletes prepare to take their case for fairness in sports to court Thursday. / Alliance Defending Freedom

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 29, 2022 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

Four female student athletes are at the center of an ongoing case to protect girls’ sports, which advanced to the 2nd District Court of Appeals this week. 

The case, Soule v. Connecticut Association of Schools, has been at the heart of the debate over whether or not male athletes who identify as female can compete on girls-only sports teams.

The girls are being represented in the case by attorneys from the conservative legal nonprofit Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).

“These young women, meet after meet, saw that in Connecticut those who were born female didn’t have an equal chance,” ADF Senior Counsel Roger Brooks argued before the court Thursday morning.

“Perhaps more problematic, their little sisters standing on the sidelines saw [that] those born female like them didn’t have an equal chance to win. That is contrary to the very heart of Title IX,” he concluded.

Title IX, adopted in 1972, protects Americans from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal funding.

Four female track athletes take a stand

ADF is representing four female track athletes — Selina Soule, Alanna Smith, Chelsea Mitchell, and Ashley Nicoletti — in a legal challenge to Connecticut’s policy that allows transgender athletes to compete on high school girls’ sports teams.

The complaint argues that Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference’s (CIAC) policy allowing males to compete on female sports teams violates Title IX and has deprived female athletes of the equal opportunity to compete, obtain medals, and advance to championships.

All of the girls were either denied medals and advancement opportunities as a result of male athletes dominating the playing field — something that has had a lifelong impact.

Mitchell, for example, would have won Connecticut’s 2019 state championship in the women’s 55-meter indoor track competition but was denied the gold medal when two male athletes identifying as transgender — Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood — took first and second place. 

Mitchell told CNA that she lost four state championships and other advancements in all New England awards as a result. 

“I don’t know exactly how that would have impacted my college recruitment,” she said. 

“Especially at the time, those state championships meant a lot to me. To train and work that hard to be in the contention for a state championship and lose because of biological males in my race was really disheartening and frustrating.”

The ACLU of Connecticut, which represented CIAC and its member schools in the suit — along with Miller and Yearwood who joined as defendants — did not respond to CNA’s request for comment. 

A CIAC spokesman told CNA the conference had no comment.

Because of the CIAC policy, Smith walked away from a regional New England meet with a bronze medal instead of a silver because a male took first place. 

“All the other female athletes weren’t able to advance to the state open or the New England Regional meet because the spots were taken by biological males,” Smith said. 

Soule lost the opportunity to qualify for the meet and the 55-meter dash, which she had previously qualified for, for the same reason.

“I was forced to watch my own event from the sidelines,” Soule added.

ADF senior counsel Christiana Kiefer said that on average, males have a 10%–15% higher performance average than females.

“Why should girls even try?” Kiefer asked. “The whole reason we even have women’s sports as a separate category is because we recognize those real physical differences.”

Uphill battle ahead for future of girls’ sports 

The girls’ case was dismissed earlier last year by a Connecticut district court judge when it was submitted. ADF then appealed the ruling to the 2nd Court of Appeals.

“What the district court did in dismissing the girls’ lawsuit is essentially [say] that their inaccurate records, their lost opportunities didn’t matter. And that’s simply wrong under Title IX,” Kiefer said. 

“Records do matter to athletes,” Kiefer added. “Chelsea Mitchell lost four state championship titles. She was four times the fastest girl in a state championship race, and yet the record books don’t reflect her accomplishments. That’s something that needs to be fixed.”

The complaint requests that CIAC grant the plaintiffs monetary relief, update the district’s records to remove males from the scores, and strike down the policy. 

Kiefer said that ADF was “optimistic” the court of appeals will rule in their favor because the Title IX violation was so “clear.”

She added that they hope it won’t be necessary to bring the case to the Supreme Court, “but if necessary, we will take this case as far as it needs to go.”

Biden’s Title IX policy muddies the waters

In June, President Biden reinterpreted Title IX’s federal ban on sex discrimination to include “sexual orientation or gender identity,” paving the way to require single-sex sports teams to allow transgender athletes.

Title IX was originally crafted in part to ensure fairness in women’s sports. 

Kiefer said that Biden’s recent proposed revisions to Title IX do not bode well for the future of protecting female-only sports.

“I think it could very well spell the beginning of the end of female sports,” Kiefer said.

Kiefer said that ADF believes Biden’s redefinition of sex in federal law is “unlawful.” 

“If the administration goes through with this, we will see ramifications and difficult situations for female athletes, like we saw in the state of Connecticut, that will be replicated across the entire United States,” she said. 

ADF was one of many other dissenting groups that submitted a public comment opposing the administration’s proposed regulations. 

“I hope that this won’t impact their future,” Soule said, speaking about younger female athletes who come after her, “and that girls will have a fair opportunity to not only participate but to succeed in the sports that they love.”

Smith added that she hoped “more female athletes will start to stand up so that a change can be made quicker.”

“The more people that speak up on this issue, the faster hopefully it’ll get rectified,” Mitchell agreed. 

“In the meantime, just keep working hard on your score. That’s all we really can do until this issue is fixed.” 

Cardinals Cupich, Dolan urge reconsideration of transgender mandate

Credit: lazyllama/Shutterstock / null

Denver Newsroom, Sep 29, 2022 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

The Biden administration’s proposal to force hospitals and doctors to perform gender-transition surgeries is “misguided” and should be reconsidered, two cardinals wrote Monday in an article published in America Magazine.

“Under this new proposed rule, it would be considered discrimination for a health care facility or worker to object to performing gender transition procedures, regardless of whether that objection is a matter of sincerely held religious belief or clinical judgment,” Cardinals Blase Cupich of Chicago and Timothy Dolan of New York wrote in a Sept. 26 statement.

“This is government coercion that intrudes on the religious freedom of faith-based health care facilities. Such a mandate threatens the conscience rights of all health care providers and workers who have discerned that participating in, or facilitating, gender transition procedures is contrary to their own beliefs.”

The rule proposed by the Department of Health and Human Services would apply to any health care program or activity that receives federal funding. It would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the nondiscrimination provision of the Affordable Care Act, Section 1557. 

It would reverse Trump-era conscience protections that sought to allow medical professionals to opt out of performing procedures contrary to their beliefs.

Cupich and Dolan said that Section 1557 “rightly prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in health care. We wholeheartedly support all efforts to ensure that everyone, without exception, receives the best health care that is their due.” 

They emphasized that at Catholic hospitals, “all people who come to us, no matter their age, sex, racial or ethnic background, or religion,” as well as “people who identify as transgender,” “will receive the same treatment as any other patient.”

“Catholic hospitals do not discriminate against anyone and to do so would be offensive to the embracing and expansive healing ministry of Jesus Christ,” the cardinals wrote. “However, if health care facilities are to be places where the twin pillars of faith and science stand together, then these facilities and their workers must not be coerced by the government to violate their consciences.”

“Does objecting to performing gender transition procedures — but welcoming patients who identify as transgender — constitute discrimination? Of course not. The focus of such an objection is completely on the procedure, not the patient,” they wrote. “Prohibiting the removal of a healthy, functioning organ is not discrimination, provided that the same determination would be made for anyone of any sex or gender, which is true at Catholic hospitals.”

The cardinals said that “People of many faiths, or of no faith yet with deep personal convictions, may find these procedures profoundly troubling, and their constitutional rights deserve to be respected. In a society that protects the free exercise of religion, religious health care providers cannot be expected to violate the teachings of their religion as a condition of continuing their care, and religious health care workers cannot be expected to violate their consciences as a condition of employment.”

The proposed rule “does not codify the rights of faith-based providers to decline procedures based on conscience, as other federal laws do,” according to Cupich and Dolan. “Rather, it holds that H.H.S. reserves the right to decide whether, despite those existing conscience protections, it can force faith-based providers to violate their beliefs.”

Noting that courts have ruled that similar mandates violate religious freedom, and the administration “is currently fighting” those rulings, they said that “it is reasonable to lack confidence in the department’s commitment to construing these laws to provide appropriately robust conscience protections.”

“We support H.H.S.’s efforts to ensure all people receive high-quality health care,” the cardinals wrote. “We have long proposed moral principles for discerning health care policy: It should respect the life and dignity of every person, be accessible to all, honor conscience rights, be truly affordable, and be comprehensive and of high quality.”

“By the same token,” they added, “Catholic hospitals and health care workers should not be punished because of their religious convictions or clinical judgments. We urge H.H.S. to reconsider its misguided mandate.”

Denial of clemency to death row inmate disappoints Oklahoma archbishop

null / California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation via Wikimedia (CC BY 2.0).

Denver Newsroom, Sep 28, 2022 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

One day after a parole board denied clemency to death row inmate Benjamin Cole, the archbishop of Oklahoma City registered his disappointment in the decision.

“The denial of clemency by the Pardon and Parole Board is disappointing, as there is hardly any justice to be seen in taking the life of a man who is hardly able to speak and lacks the basic understanding of why the state is seeking his execution,” Archbishop Paul Coakley said Sept. 28.

“While it is too late to provide Benjamin Cole with any care or treatment that might have prevented his crime almost 20 years ago, we still have an obligation to recognize the dignity bestowed upon him by God and the effects of his debilitating mental illness.”

Cole, the archbishop said, “should be allowed to live out what remains of his life in the hope that he receives the mental health care he should have received decades ago. Pray for the victims of violence and their families, that God brings them comfort and peace. Pray for the soul of the condemned and those who will be involved with his execution.”

The Pardon and Parole Board voted 4–1 to deny clemency to Cole, 57, on Sept. 27.

In 2002 Cole killed his 9-month-old daughter, Brianna.

His attorneys maintained that Cole is “severely mentally ill and that he has a growing lesion on his brain,” the AP reported. The lawyers told the board that he has refused medical care and has little or no communication with others.

Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor welcomed the panel’s decision, saying, “Although his attorneys claim Cole is mentally ill to the point of catatonia, the fact is that Cole fully cooperated with a mental evaluation in July of this year. The evaluator, who was not hired by Cole or the state, found Cole to be competent to be executed and that ‘Mr. Cole does not currently evidence any substantial, overt signs of mental illness, intellectual impairment, and/or neurocognitive impairment.’”

Cole had been incarcerated previously for the abuse of another of his infant children, and prosecutors, according to the AP, “noted that [Brianna] had numerous injuries consistent with a history of abuse.”

Relatives of Brianna’s mother asked that the board deny clemency.

A county judge is due to decide whether a trial will be held to determine whether Cole is competent to be executed. 

The parole board having denied clemency, the Oklahoma governor is unable to commute Cole’s sentence. Cole is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection Oct. 20.

While the Church teaches that capital punishment is not intrinsically evil, both Pope Francis and his immediate predecessors have condemned the practice in the West.

Regarding the execution of criminals, the Catechism of the Council of Trent taught that by its “legal and judicious exercise” civil authorities “punish the guilty and protect the innocent.”

St. John Paul II called on Christians to be “unconditionally pro-life” and said that “the dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil.” He also spoke of his desire for a consensus to end the death penalty, which he called “cruel and unnecessary.”

And Pope Benedict XVI exhorted world leaders to make “every effort to eliminate the death penalty” and told Catholics that ending capital punishment was an essential part of “conforming penal law both to the human dignity of prisoners and the effective maintenance of public order.”

In August 2018, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a new draft of the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s paragraph regarding capital punishment.

Quoting Pope Francis’ words in a speech on Oct. 11, 2017, the new paragraph states, in part, that “the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that ‘the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person,’ and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.”

Reasons for changing the teaching, the paragraph says, include: the increasing effectiveness of detention systems, growing understanding of the unchanging dignity of the person, and leaving open the possibility of conversion.

Dominican Father Thomas Petri, a moral theologian at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C., told CNA at the time that he thinks this change “further absolutizes the pastoral conclusion made by John Paul II.”

“Nothing in the new wording of paragraph 2267 suggests the death penalty is intrinsically evil. Indeed, nothing could suggest that because it would contradict the firm teaching of the Church,” Petri said.

Supreme Court Justice Alito: faith ‘should affect the way you treat people’ as a judge

U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Alito / Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 28, 2022 / 16:45 pm (CNA).

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito — author of the deciding opinion that overturned Roe v. Wade — stressed the importance of his Catholic faith to serving on the highest court in the country Tuesday in a lecture to law students at the Catholic University of America (CUA).

“A person’s faith shapes what kind of person [he or she] is,” Alito said, adding “it also should affect the way you treat [people] when you’re serving as a judge.”

Alito’s inaugural lecture was given at the opening of CUA’s new Project on Constitutional Originalism and the Catholic Intellectual Tradition (CIT), a program started for students at the university’s Columbus School of Law.

CIT explores the relationship of Catholicism to American Constitutionalism, focusing on doctors of the church such as Sts. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas and secular thinkers such as Aristotle and Cicero.

Professor J. Joel Alicea, who co-directs the program, said in the lecture’s opening statement that the school believes the Catholic intellectual tradition “can help us better think through the challenges of our day.”

Alicea, who clerked for Justice Alito in 2016, introduced the justice as the honorary chair of the project’s advisory board to the reception of thundering applause.

The justice then gave remarks outlining how CUA’s project will consider how the Catholic faith relates to law but did not address the overturning of Roe or other controversial opinions from the summer.

When asked by a student how his personal faith affected his professional life, Alito pointed to how formative Catholicism is in shaping how a person treats other human beings.

“Among other things, [faith] shapes how a person regards other people and treats other people,” Alito responded.

“Judges affect people — indirectly, but sometimes very powerfully, through their decisions,” he continued. “It’s important to keep in mind that these decisions are not just abstract discussions. They have a real impact in the world and you have to keep that in mind.”

Alito authored the historic Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade in June.

“Roe was … egregiously wrong and on a collision course with the Constitution from the day it was decided,” Alito wrote in the decision’s opinion.

The decision denounced the claim that there is a “constitutional right to abortion” and returned the question of it to the states.

“Abortion presents a profound moral question,” the opinion concluded.

The son of Italian immigrants, Alito was born to a Catholic family in Trenton, New Jersey. He was a graduate of Princeton University and Yale Law School. After serving in positions for the Justice Department and as the U.S. attorney general for the district of New Jersey, he was nominated to the Supreme Court by President George W. Bush — a position he’s held since 2006.

Following this summer’s landmark decision overturning Roe, Alito and the other justices have faced virulent criticism both nationally and abroad, increased violence, and even death threats.

Alito dismissed some of these attacks in a speech at a Notre Dame conference in July.

“I had the honor this term of writing, I think, the only Supreme Court decision in the history of that institution that has been lambasted by a whole string of foreign leaders who felt perfectly fine commenting on American law,” Alito said.

Afghan refugees reunited with baby thanks to pro-life pregnancy center

null / Vulnerable People Project

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 28, 2022 / 15:51 pm (CNA).

On Tuesday night Benafsha and her husband, Mustafa, anxiously waited at Dulles International Airport for their son, 22-month-old Jasoor, to arrive from Afghanistan.

Benafsha tugged at her long brown hair nervously, and Mustafa held his wife close to him as they watched for their son to walk through the airport security exit and into their arms.

The last time they saw Jasoor was over a year ago — they had been separated from him for more than half his life.

An unexpected, tragic parting

On Aug. 26, 2021, the family was supposed to begin a new life together. 

Benafsha had served as a translator for coalition forces in Afghanistan, and when the U.S. withdrew its last troops from the country after more than 20 years, she was among the lucky ones granted Special Immigrant Visas to evacuate to the United States. 

While the family was waiting to board a flight to the U.S. at Kabul’s airport, a suicide bomber detonated explosives, killing more than 170 people. Jasoor was in the arms of his grandmother, and in the chaos that ensued, as soldiers exchanged gunfire with militants of the Islamic State – Korasan Province, the pair were separated from the baby’s parents. 

Benafsha and Mustafa, distraught but powerless in the face of a military operation reacting to a wartime situation, were forced to leave Kabul without Jasoor. The hope that they would soon be reunited and that by leaving they would best ensure their son’s safety sustained them as they departed without him.

A crisis pregnancy center says 'yes'

By December, however, that hope appeared to be fading. It had been almost four months since they had seen their son, and things were not going well. Jasoor and his grandmother were barely surviving on their own in Kabul — as the dead of winter approached, they were running out of coal and had little food. 

Things were no better for Benafsha and Mustafa, who were about to be evicted from the temporary housing they had found with a relative in Texas. Adding to the stressful situation, Benafsha was pregnant and in need of medical care.

Desperate for help, she contacted the Pflugerville Pregnancy Resource Center outside of Austin. Little did she know that this pro-life crisis pregnancy center would not only help her with her immediate needs, but it would be the means to seeing her son again.

Brittany Green, executive director of the pregnancy center, told CNA that when Benafsha came to them, they saw there were two critical issues facing the couple: medical care and housing. 

The clinic helped her get health insurance and made an appointment with the center’s medical director for OB-GYN care. 

Next came finding a place for the couple to live. While the pro-life pregnancy center offers counseling and health care to women in crisis pregnancies, there’s a lot more to the services they offer. 

“Our perception here is we come from a place of ‘yes.’ If it is something that we can do, we’re going to do it. If it’s something we can’t do, we’re going to find the people who can help us do it,” Green said. 

“The people that we serve often hear ‘no.’ And we don’t want them to come to us and hear another ‘no.’ So we will do everything in our power to make sure that their future and success is set up,” she explained.

With the help of Loveline Outreach Ministry and a local church, the Pflugerville pro-life clinic found Benafsha and Mustafa a hotel room for a month, and they helped Mustafa find a job. Then, through Texas Alliance for Life, she learned about Jason Jones’ work evacuating refugees in Afghanistan through the nonprofit he founded, the Vulnerable People Project (VPP). 

Green got in touch with Jones, who happened to be in Texas at the time, and arranged to have coffee with Jones, Benafsha, and Mustafa.  

Jones asked for Jasoor and his grandmother’s address, and within 24 hours a care package of coal and food was delivered to them in Kabul. He also helped make funds available for Benafsha and Mustafa to secure more permanent housing in Texas. VPP works with organizations in Afghanistan to provide much-needed services including food, health care, and education to those still in the country. 

‘Only God could make this happen’

In addition to providing aid in Afghanistan, the VPP has helped thousands of Afghan citizens obtain visas to leave their country and find a safe haven elsewhere. Jones set the wheels in motion to get Jasoor a visa to the U.S. 

Marilis Pineiro, the nonprofit’s legislative and diplomatic relations liaison, successfully lobbied the State Department to approve Jasoor’s visa after months of paperwork and negotiations. 

Since Jasoor is considered an infant, it was particularly difficult to get him a visa to travel without his parents, Pineiro told CNA. The State Department finally allowed his 24-year-old aunt a visa to accompany him.

Vulnerable People Project
Vulnerable People Project

While Pineiro has helped shepherd hundreds of Afghanis to safety, she said that reuniting Jasoor with his parents was an especially emotional experience for her.

“I’m still in shock because it was such a seemingly impossible task,” Pineiro told CNA. “I ask myself ‘How?’ and the answer is that only God could make that happen.”

Jones told CNA that getting the family back together again showed the important role pro-life pregnancy centers play in serving mothers and their families.

“I’m so grateful for the thousands of pregnancy centers across America that help women meet their needs. If not for this pro-life clinic reaching out to us, we never would have met Benafsha and Mustafa and been able to help them reunite with Jasoor,” he said.

When a curly-haired Jasoor, now a toddler, finally entered the international arrivals waiting area at Dulles Airport, his mother and father hugged him and kissed him as they thought they might never get a chance to see him again.

The last time they saw each was at another airport, and the circumstances could not have been more different. 

“This is the happiest day of my life,” Benafsha said, holding baby Helen in her arms, and Jasoor by his hand, as they set off to their new home in Virginia, a dream come true after so much sorrow and uncertainty. 

The family of four is together for the first time. Vulnerable People Project
The family of four is together for the first time. Vulnerable People Project

Vulnerable People Project
Vulnerable People Project