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7 things you need to know about St. Faustina and her vision of Hell

The tomb of St. Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938) in Łagiewniki, Poland. / Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk

Denver Newsroom, Oct 5, 2021 / 00:00 am (CNA).

While Catholics around the world are familiar with St. Faustina Kowalska and her connection to Divine Mercy, many may not know about the way in which Jesus talked to her about her calling, Hell, and her mission to proclaim the mercy of God. Here are seven important facts to know about this popular saint:

1. Her given name was Helena. St. Maria Faustina Kowalska of the Blessed Sacrament was born in Poland as Helena Kowalska on Aug. 25, 1905. She died on Oct. 5, 1938, after being chosen by Jesus and Mary to become the unlikely apostle of the Divine Mercy. She was canonized by Pope John Paul II on April 30, 2000. Her feast day is Oct. 5.

2. She didn’t plan to become a nun. Young Helena had no intention of entering religious life, but at age 19, while attending a dance with her sister Natalia in Lodz, she had a vision of a suffering Jesus, who asked her, "How long shall I put up with you and how long will you keep putting Me off?" After praying at the Cathedral she departed for Warsaw, where she joined the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy. On April 30, 1926, at the age of 20, she was clothed in the habit and received her religious name.

3. Jesus described to her how his Divine Mercy image should look. Faustina wrote that on the night of Sunday, Feb. 22, 1931, while she was in her cell in Plock, Poland, after partially recovering from tuberculosis, Jesus appeared wearing a white garment with red and pale rays emanating from his heart. According to her diary, Jesus told her to "Paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the signature: ‘Jesus, I trust in You’ [in Polish: “Jezu, ufam Tobie.”] I desire that this image be venerated, first in your chapel, and then throughout the world. I promise that the soul that will venerate this image will not perish.”

4. She saw a vision of Hell. In October 1936, during an eight-day retreat, she was led by an angel to what she called the “chasms of hell,” which she described in her diary as a place of “great torture” and “fire that will penetrate the soul without destroying it — a terrible suffering.” This hell was filled with darkness, and, despite that darkness, “the devils and the souls of the damned see each other and all the evil, both of others and their own.”

5. She was shown different levels of Hell. According to Paul Kengor, a professor of political science at Grove City College and a National Catholic Register contributor, Faustina "observed Dante-like sections of hell reserved for specific agonies earned in this fallen world." "There are caverns and pits of torture where one form of agony differs from another," Faustina recorded in her diary. "There are special tortures destined for particular souls. These are the torments of the senses. Each soul undergoes terrible and indescribable sufferings related to the manner in which it has sinned.”

6. Most of the damned hadn’t believed in Hell. Faustina said that what she was sharing was merely "a pale shadow of the things I saw. But I noticed one thing: that most of the souls there are those who disbelieved that there is a hell." She testified in her diary: “I, Sister Faustina Kowalska, by the order of God, have visited the abysses of hell so that I might tell souls about it and testify to its existence.”

7. Her vision was meant to save souls. Kengor says that, "scary as they are, (these visions) also echo a positive urgency to mercy. Through these visions and their messengers, the divine is giving us yet another chance. We’re being warned to get ourselves in order, to stop sinning and to seek conversion and redemption, before it’s too late."

Biden administration allows funding of abortion referrals, providers under new rule

null / Glynnis Jones/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Oct 4, 2021 / 16:10 pm (CNA).

The Biden administration will allow Planned Parenthood and other clinics providing abortions to once again receive federal family planning funds, although the funds cannot directly pay for abortions.

In a final rule announced on Monday, clinics participating in the Title X family planning program – which funds contraceptives and family planning services for low-income communities – can once again refer for abortions, and do not have to be physically separate from abortion facilities.

In 2019, the Trump administration had required Title X recipients to not refer for abortions, nor could clinic recipients be co-located with abortion facilities.

The rule was issued to help ensure separation of Title X funding from abortion. Under the original statute that created the program in 1970, federal grants would fund contraceptives for low-income women, but would not fund abortion as a method of family planning.

However, in April the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a proposed reversal of the 2019 Title X program requirements. According to the final rule, which will be officially published in the Federal Register on Oct. 7, Title X recipients can provide “nondirective” counseling to patients, including on abortion.

The political action arm of Planned Parenthood applauded the announcement on Monday. “Great Monday news: there will no longer be a gag rule on #TitleX funding!” the Twitter account for Planned Parenthood Action stated. In 2019, Planned Parenthood withdrew from the Title X program rather than comply with the Trump administration’s prohibitions on abortion referrals and requirement of physical separation of Title X clinics from abortion facilities.

Planned Parenthood Action added that the new rule included “disappointing language allowing providers to refuse to counsel/refer patients for abortions due to their own personal beliefs.”

The rule states that “objecting individuals and grantees will not be required to counsel or refer for abortions” in the program.

Under the text of the final rule, Title X recipients can provide abortion referrals but “may not take further affirmative action” such as transporting the patient to an abortion clinic. They may also “be a dues paying participant in a national abortion advocacy organization, so long as there are other legitimate program-related reasons for the affiliation.”

Pro-life groups have argued that the program’s funding of abortion providers, while not directly subsidizing abortions, helped free up other resources at those clinics for abortions. Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, forfeited an estimated $60 million in annual Title X funding when it withdrew from the program in 2019.

“The Department agrees that it is not under a duty to subsidize abortion. It does not do so, and it is prohibited from doing so,” the HHS rule stated, adding that the agency “disagrees that Title X grant funds allow for the ‘creation of slush funds’ or that those funds are ‘fungible.’”

The 2019 rule created a gap in health care services by driving clinics out of the Title X program, the rule claimed.

Vatican diplomat warns US leaders not to use God for selfish ends

Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, delivers the homily for the 69th annual Red Mass at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 3. / Archdiocese of Washington/YouTube

Washington D.C., Oct 4, 2021 / 15:01 pm (CNA).

A leading Vatican diplomat on Sunday exhorted U.S. government officials and justices to not use God for their own selfish ends.

“There is the risk to use even God for our own ends instead of serving him,” said Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, in his homily for the 69th annual Red Mass at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

“Even just laws,” he noted, “can result in injustice when unaccompanied by a just heart.”

Those who, instead of trying to “grasp” God, ask for and receive Him, by doing so “draw near” to God’s justice, Caccia said.

This also applies to human relationships, he added. “Every time we treat others as objects that we can grasp and use for our own purposes, we lose them,” he said. “If we, however, receive them as a gift, we can start a relationship that may last a lifetime.”

The Red Mass has been held annually in Washington, D.C. since 1953. Attended by government officials and justices, the Mass is offered to invoke God’s blessing upon civic leaders for the coming year. It is held just before the beginning of the Supreme Court’s fall term.

The Mass also has a tradition dating back centuries in Rome, Paris, and London. Its name is derived from the color of the celebrant’s vestments for the Mass of the Holy Spirit.

Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington celebrated the Mass on Sunday. Those in attendance included Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough, along with the presidents of Georgetown University and The Catholic University of America. Clergy who were present included Archbishop Christopher Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, and Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington.

At the end of Mass, Cardinal Gregory expressed gratitude for those in attendance, and thanked Archbishop Caccia for representing Pope Francis, “calling and summoning us to peace and international unity.”

Archbishop Caccia noted the current risk “to exploit justice instead of deliver it.” He urged those in attendance at the Red Mass to always practice justice with mercy in a spirit of fraternity.

“Justice without fraternity is cold, blind, and minimalistic,” he said, noting that justice together with fraternity “is transformed into an attentive application of laws to persons we care about.”

“Fraternity is what makes it possible for justice to be perfected by mercy for all involved, since the restoration of justice is ultimately the resolution of a family dispute, considering we are all members of the same human family,” he said, citing Pope Francis’s 2020 encyclical Fratelli tutti (“All brothers”).

The encyclical, he added, presented “a new vision of fraternity and social friendship that will not remain at the level of words.” In contrast to the biblical figure of Cain, who asked “am I my brother’s keeper,” he noted, “Pope Francis proposes the way of the Good Samaritan.”

The upcoming Supreme Court term will feature arguments in a critical abortion case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, as well as arguments in several religious freedom cases.

Need more of Our Lady in your life? Then this personal retreat is for you

Book cover of "Behold the Handmaid of the Lord," by Marian theologian Father Edward Looney, published by Ave Maria Press. / Ave Maria Press

Denver Newsroom, Oct 4, 2021 / 01:00 am (CNA).

Very few dispute (I may be one of them, since I am a St. Bernard guy) that St. Louis Grignon de Montfort's "True Devotion to Mary" is the greatest Marian book ever written. The spiritual fruits, the conversion, the spiritualities and the millions of consecrations to Mary attest to its importance.

But with his new book "Behold the Handmaid of the Lord," from Ave Maria Press, Marian theologian Father Edward Looney has provided an even more practical way to make progress with this classic by masterfully summarizing the central teachings of St. Louis in a 10-day personal retreat that will bless even those who have completed the full devotion.

The book is indeed, a very practical work book for a personal 10-day retreat to better encounter the presence of Our Beloved Mother in our daily lives.

During the course of those 10 days, you’ll explore 10 different titles for Mary popularized by St. Louis. Each presents a distinct aspect of her motherhood and protection while illuminating the spiritual path to Jesus through Mary.

You’ll get to know Mary and become devoted to her as:

  • The Queen of All Saints

  • Our Lady of the Holy Trinity

  • The New Eve

  • The Mother of the Interior Life

  • The Mother of Disciples

  • The Star of the Sea

  • The Queen of All Hearts

  • The Mediatrix of Grace

  • The Mold of God

  • Our Mother and Our Queen

Each day you will reflect on Mary’s role in your life and the practical implications of that connection before wrapping up with a brief closing prayer tailored to the day’s title. You’ll come away prepared to begin or renew your consecration to Mary and with a refreshed love for the Mother of Jesus.

Bonus: The book includes an appendix for step-by-step consecration to Mary.

Do women need abortion to succeed? Women legal scholars say no

null / Credit: Izf/Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 4, 2021 / 00:00 am (CNA).

Women need abortion to succeed, according to a recent U.S. Supreme Court brief filed by more than 500 female athletes. But not all women agree. In another brief for the same case, hundreds of professional women present a different argument: Abortion harms women. 

Law professors Teresa Collett and Helen Alvaré and legal scholar Erika Bachiochi filed an amicus brief representing 240 women scholars and professionals and various pro-life organizations in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which the Supreme Court will hear on Dec. 1. The case challenges Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that legalized abortion nationwide, and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which upheld Roe in 1992.

In their brief, these women point to evidence that counters the narrative that women need abortion to succeed and acheive equality with men. More specifically, the brief takes issue with Casey’s argument that the “ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives.”

This belief is widespread today. In the athletes’ brief, three-time Olympic swimming medalist Crissy Perham shares her story about undergoing an abortion prior to an important race early in her college career.

“I was on scholarship, I was just starting to succeed in my sport, and I didn’t want to take a year off,” she relates. 

“I wasn’t ready to be a mom, and having an abortion felt like I was given a second chance at life,” she continues. “That choice ultimately led me to being an Olympian, a college graduate, and a proud mother today.”

In their brief, the women legal scholars cite data and research they say refutes the idea that abortion is both responsible and critical for women’s progress in society. Among their arguments:

1. Women were making progress before Roe.

Women's progress and advancement began well before Roe, rather than because of Roe, the scholars argue.

As evidence, they point to Jeannette Rankin, the first woman elected to Congress. A Republican from Montana, Rankin was elected in 1916, four years before the Nineteenth Amendment secured women the right to vote. Following the amendment, a “number of women entered political office at the highest levels,” who became senators, congresswomen, and governors, the brief states. 

Women also enjoyed protections in the law before Roe. These included the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which established a minimum wage regardless of sex. The Supreme Court, in the 1947 case Fay v. New York, also appreciated that women are equally qualified to serve on juries. 

The brief presents a long list of federal legislation in the 1960s and early ’70s, prior to Roe, that promoted women’s equality. These include: the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which prohibited sex-based wage discrimination; the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited sex discrimination in employment, education, or public accommodations; the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which prohibited sex-based housing discrimination; the Public Works and Economic Development Act of 1971, which prohibited sex discrimination in federally funded programs or activities, and the Equal Employment Act of 1972, which called for equal access to jobs for those with similar qualifications.

The brief also references a number of state constitutional provisions, statutes, and cases protecting women against discrimination that went into effect around the same time.

It “is impossible to claim that abortion access is specially responsible for the progress that American women have made in any of the above arenas,” the brief states, “as compared with the massive array of statutes and cases described above and women’s vigorous pursuit of the opportunities they provide.”

2. There is no consistent correlation between abortion and women’s socioeconomic success.

The women scholars acknowledge that women made progress immediately after Roe, as abortion rates and ratios rose. But, they emphasize, this progress began decades before Roe and “continued when abortion rates and ratios were falling at a dramatic pace.” 

Between 1990 and 2016, the scholars say, abortion rates declined 46% and abortion ratios fell 52%. But women’s progress didn’t slow down. Instead, it continued to accelerate.

The “percentage of women in the workforce with a college degree or more rose from 24.5% to 41.6%,” the brief states. Women also earned an increasing percentage of men’s income: 15.5%.

Women-owned businesses also skyrocketed. According to the Census Bureau’s economic census, 5.4 million women-owned businesses existed in 1997. Twenty years later, in 2017, women owned 11.1 million businesses, according to the National Association of Women Business Owners.

In higher education, women’s participation grew. Their college enrollment climbed nearly 4%. At the same time, women’s law school enrollment increased from 47.4% in 1990 to 52% in 2016, and the number of women in medical schools rose from 39.2% in 1990 to 49.8% in 2016. 

Women also continued to succeed in government. Women in state government increased by 41%. At the federal level, women’s representation increased 248%. On the federal bench, women’s participation increased 380%. In the video clip below, Erika Bachiochi, one of the women legal scholars who co-authored the Dobbs brief, explains how abortion came to be associated with the feminist movement.

3. The evidence shows abortion disadvantages women.

The women scholars argue that “relatively easy access to abortion has changed society in several ways disadvantageous to women.” 

Citing Phillip Levine, a Wellesley College economics professor and research associate in the National Bureau of Economic Research, the women scholars write that “easy access to abortion tends to change sexual behavior in favor of greater sexual risk-taking, which disincentivizes contraceptive use and leads to more uncommitted sexual relations.” 

This behavior disproportionately impacts women, the scholars maintain. Abortion, in particular, severs “sex from any idea of a joint future” and establishes “nonmarital sex as the price of a romantic relationship, even as women continue to report that this new sex ethic is undesirable to them, and that many are having fewer children than they would like.” 

A 2018 analysis of fertility data by economist Lyman Stone published in the New York Times, lends support to their argument. Stone observed that "the gap between the number of children that women say they want to have (2.7) and the number of children they will probably actually have (1.8) has risen to the highest level in 40 years."

Because abortion enables the idea that children are a woman’s “choice,” children are viewed as being a woman’s responsibility, the brief states. With this in mind, the scholars warn, the “connection between sex and potential fatherhood … has grown far more tenuous, contributing to the feminization of poverty we see today.” 

Research from Brookings Institution scholar Isabel Sawhill supports their findings. She found in 1999 that the “growth of single parent families can account for virtually all of the increase in child poverty since 1970.”

Abortion also gives society a facile remedy to the complex challenges women continue to face in society, the scholars argue.

“The widespread availability of abortion and ‘abortion as equality’ arguments also confirm public and private actors’ inclinations to avoid expensive accommodations for women with children in educational and work settings,” the brief states. For this reason, the scholars write, it is “unsurprising that complaints of ‘rampant’ pregnancy and caregiver discrimination persist” decades after Roe.

Investigative reports, including a 2019 New York Times story titled “Pregnancy Discrimination Is Rampant Inside America’s Biggest Companies,” back up these concerns. The report tells the stories of several women, including one former saleswoman who claimed that her boss told her that “women who find themselves in my position — single, unmarried — should consider an abortion.” 

In an interview with CNA, Helen Alvaré, a co-author of the brief, said the comment speaks volumes about the real problems women continue to face in the workplace, despite Roe.

It is a “frightening statement for women who want children, and who are already aware of employers’ low enthusiasm for their female employees’ childbearing,” Alvaré said.

“It is a ‘throwing-our-hands-up’ in despair,” she continued, “as if it is hopeless for professional women to expect help or encouragement in the difficult task of doing justice first at home and also at work.”

Notre Dame to host 31st Annual Black Catholic Theological Symposium

The 31st annual meeting of the Black Catholic Theological Symposium will take place Oct. 7-9 at the University of Notre Dame. / The University of Notre Dame

Notre Dame, Indiana, Oct 3, 2021 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

On Oct. 7, the University of Notre Dame will begin to host the 31st annual Black Catholic Theological Symposium (BCTS) on its campus. The three-day symposium will feature lectures by M. Shawn Copeland and Bishop Edward Braxton, and a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Wilton Gregory.

“This will provide a very interesting, triple approach to issues of race,” said Dianne Pinderhughes, a professor of political science and Africana studies at Notre Dame. “You have an academic, a bishop, and a cardinal—all of them African-American—coming at these issues from their perspectives. They all bring issues about the challenges associated with race that the country is going through directly to faculty, to students, and to the leadership of the university.” 

Dianne Pinderhughes, professor of political science and Africana studies at Notre Dame. University of Notre Dame: Department of Political Science
Dianne Pinderhughes, professor of political science and Africana studies at Notre Dame. University of Notre Dame: Department of Political Science

The BCTS is an interdisciplinary theological society initiated in 1978 and renewed in 1991. They have met annually since 1991 to provide a forum for Black Catholics to foster an ethical community of scholarly dialogue.

In the two years since the symposium’s last convening in the fall of 2019, “a lot of things have happened that need attention from a place like Notre Dame, from an institution like the Catholic Church,” said Father Paulinus Odozor, C.S.Sp., who has been a professor of theology at Notre Dame since 1999. 

“These are very serious thinkers,” Father Odozor said. “A lot of other voices from our African-American community—from the secular community—have been saying things, but we have not, over this period of time, had this concentrated situation where we could bring people who are speaking decidedly, openly from the Catholic perspective on this matter.”

Father Paulinus Odozor, C.S.Sp., professor of theology at Notre Dame. University of Notre Dame Department of Theology
Father Paulinus Odozor, C.S.Sp., professor of theology at Notre Dame. University of Notre Dame Department of Theology

The symposium, which is co-sponsored by the Department of Africana Studies and the Department of Theology at Notre Dame, will also include two days of private meetings for BCTS members to share working papers, and a listening session to hear about the experiences of local Black Catholics in Notre Dame. 

The public events are an opportunity for the BCTS to be “engaged with the local university and local community, as well as, hopefully the national community,” said Eric T. Styles, rector of Notre Dame’s Carroll Hall and one of the main organizers of the symposium. The private events, he said, are a chance for the attending theologians and scholars to build community and support one another.

“Each of these things is about making space for African American Catholics on campus,” Styles said. “If this is the preeminent institution for American Catholics, Black Catholics have to be able to see themselves in this place, and to feel like this is a destination for them.”

Eric T. Styles is the rector of Carroll Hall at the University of Notre Dame and one of the organizers of the 31st annual meeting of the Black Catholic Theological Symposium. University of Notre Dame
Eric T. Styles is the rector of Carroll Hall at the University of Notre Dame and one of the organizers of the 31st annual meeting of the Black Catholic Theological Symposium. University of Notre Dame

On Oct. 8, Bishop Braxton, who served as Bishop of Belleville from 2005 until 2020, will deliver a lecture titled “The Catholic Church and the Racial Divide in the United States,” which will examine the reasons why the racial divide persists in the U.S. and in the Catholic Church, he said. He also will share the reasons he believes the divide “will not be successfully bridged in the near future,” he said. 

“The racial divide began when the first free men and women of color were brought in chains from West Africa to the United States in 1619  to provide ‘free’ laborers to maintain the economy by working as ‘beasts of burden’ on sugar, tobacco, and cotton plantations,” Bishop Braxton said. “The racial divide is apparent to this day in the systemic and systematic treatment by many of People of Color as inferior and undeserving in this country.” 

“This leaves them at a disadvantage when they seek a good education, meaningful employment, decent housing and health care, and every other form of social advancement and benefits,” he said. “All of these instances of the racial divide are examples of racism.” 

Bishop Edward Braxton. Courtesy of The Catholic University of America Communications Office.
Bishop Edward Braxton. Courtesy of The Catholic University of America Communications Office.

Bishop Braxton said that while he believes that most Americans and most Catholics “are probably not racist,” in his understanding of the word, “it is possible for someone to live with unconscious or a barely conscious awareness that they harbor biases, prejudice, and stereotypes that influence their attitudes towards people of different races, nationalities, religion, sexual orientations and the like.” 

“These attitudes, this moral fault becomes racism, which is a moral evil and a grave sin, when individuals and groups allow these biases to lead them to think they are objectively superior to all members of the group in question,” he said.

Bishop Braxton said that universities are responsible for “contributing [to] the process of pushing back the horizons of ignorance by planting seeds that, over time, may contribute to the kind of interior personal transformation and moral conversion that is essential if there is to be any hope of overcoming the racial divide.”

The final public event will be the celebration of Mass by Cardinal Gregory of Washington. The Mass will include African American music, and vestments commissioned specifically for the BCTS. 

“This more than just issues around discrimination—those are important, absolutely—but it's also simply praying together in a distinctive cultural idiom,” said Styles. “Bringing together, seeing one another, reverencing one another, and, and believing that God is already present in that community, and in this community—it's important for my students to experience that.”

All three public events are free and no tickets are required to attend. They will also be livestreamed on Notre Dame’s Department of Theology website.

“I hope [the BCTS] opens the doors to many other things, not only for the Black community, but for the Latino community, and various Asian American populations that are served and are part of our Church,” Styles said. “‘Catholic’ means ‘universal,’ so we need to be able to see varying cultural ways of celebrating that faith that we value so much.” 

A girl asked an archbishop why God allows disabilities. Here’s his response.

null / Denis Kuvaev via www.shutterstock.com.

Louisville, Ky., Oct 3, 2021 / 08:09 am (CNA).

A Kentucky archbishop still remembers when a little, 6-year-old girl asked him, “Why was my brother born with autism?”

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, who leads the archdiocese of Louisville, recently shared his answer with EWTN News In Depth.

“I said, ‘Well, you know when you and I get to heaven, and I hope we both do,’ I said, ‘we have a lot of questions to ask,’” he recalled on Sept. 24. 

The archbishop said he asked the girl if she loved her brother; she said yes. That’s when he added, “One thing we know we don't have to ask is that you and I will be changed because of the love we have for our brother.”

“That's a gift you can already begin to say ‘thank you’ to God for,” he stressed.

The archbishop spoke from personal experience. His older brother, George, lived with Down syndrome. He’s also the primary reason why the archbishop serves as episcopal moderator for the National Catholic Partnership on Disability today.

“I can't imagine two brothers that got along better than the two of us did,” Archbishop Kurtz said. “One of the things I learned is, as I've said before, is that ‘life is not a problem to be solved but a mystery to be lived,’” he added, citing 19th century Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard.

The archbishop highlighted that those who spend time with people with disabilities receive more than they give.

“The reality is that when we linger with someone, and especially with someone who labors under a disability, that person has a lot to teach us,” he concluded. 

The Church herself appreciates the beauty of every human person, he said.

“The foundation of our Church teaching is very simple and that is the great dignity of every person,” he began. “We don't measure people by how much money they have or what exactly their job is, and so whether a person is alive with a disability or not, that person is great in God's eyes and so we treat each person as precious.”

People with disabilities belong in the Catholic Church just like everyone else. The archbishop pointed to a 1978 Pastoral Statement of U.S. Catholic Bishops on Persons with Disabilities. In 2018, the bishops reaffirmed the statement that calls for the Church to welcome and include persons with disabilities.

The biggest change that came in 2018, he said, is that “we began talking about not the disability as a problem but the person as a gift.”

“The fact that the sacraments being received by that person not only is good for that person's spiritual life and well-being and immortal soul, but also it's good for the body of the Church, the body of Christ,” he explained.

“And so the emphasis very much in the new document is about belonging – not just including people who are excluded – but actually having every one of us see that we all have a deep desire to belong to Christ and to belong to one another, to a family of faith.”

People with disabilities, he added, “have us maybe see that in more bold relief.”

Cincinnati archdiocese implementing reorganization process of parish mergers

Archbishop Dennis Schnurr of Cincinnati. / null

Cincinnati, Ohio, Oct 2, 2021 / 15:23 pm (CNA).

The Archdiocese of Cincinnati is implementing a multi-year parish reorganization process which will transform its 208 parishes into 60 “families of parishes.” 

The diocesan website touts the new initiative, Beacon of Light, as offering: “People united on a journey of missionary discipleship. Full churches. Joyous liturgies. Priests who have the time to be present and attend to the needs of their people. Parishes that are alive in faith, filled with vitality, ready to form people to radiate Christ.”

The website quotes Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI saying that, “The parish is a beacon that radiates the light of the faith and thus responds to the deepest and truest desires of the human heart, giving meaning and hope to the lives of individuals and families.”

The website cites many problems the diocese and Church-at-large is facing. The website says that “religious practice is declining nationwide,” also citing “the average Sunday Mass in our archdiocese is only one-third full.”

The website also says that the number of registered Catholic households in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati has declined at a rate of 2.72 per day for the past decade.

“Our priests are stretched to the limit,” the website says, citing “the number of available priests will decrease by approximately 20% by 2026.”

The website says that as a result of these deficiencies, many church buildings are “grossly underutilized,” there is a lack of a sufficient amount of resources, and many parish communities “are not the vibrant communities of faith Catholics need them to be.”

A video on the website says that Beacons of Light is studying and addressing these issues to determine “how to best move from maintenance to mission.”

“Parishes will first be grouped into families of parishes,” the video says. “Each family will decide how to best organize for evangelization and discipleship,” the video continues.

The video announces the mission of Beacons of Light as better to equip “parishes and people to radiate Christ.”

In a Sept. 17 letter to the faithful of his diocese, Archbishop Dennis Schnurr wrote that “the mission of the Catholic Church, our mission, entrusted to the apostles by Jesus, is to proclaim the Good News of salvation and ‘make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you’ (Mt. 28:19-20).”

Archbishop Schnurr wrote that “We have a responsibility to make the best use of all the means which God has provided us to pursue this sacred mission.”

After explaining the initiative’s content, the archbishop asked for each parishioner’s feedback for “public comment October 1-20,” on the website.

“Please be sure to familiarize yourself with the information on the website,” Archbishop Schnurr wrote, “then prayerfully provide your input on this important step which will shape the future of our archdiocese.”

Beacons of Light is in a stage where “draft models” of families of parishes are made public for feedback. This coming winter, families of parishes will be finalized and announced. 

In spring 2022, pastors and parish leaders will begin preparing for the parish planning process. In summer 2022, the implementation actually begins, with each family of parishes beginning its parish planning process.

The initiative would eliminate more than 70% of active parishes, which could affect schools as well, Cincinnati.com reported.

Archbishop Schnurr told the website that the initiative is necessary, citing the decline in priestly vocations over the past decades, adding that changes in demographics have left some schools and churches in non-Catholic situated areas.

“We’re very sensitive to the fact that change is difficult,” Archbishop Schnurr told them. Cincinnati.com also reported the archbishop believes the initiative will revitalize every parish, “allowing them to combine operations, share financial resources and create more opportunities for Catholics to engage fully with their faith.”

Holy See asks Missouri governor to halt scheduled execution

Archbishop Christophe Pierre addresses the 2020 USCCB Fall General Assembly. / null

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 2, 2021 / 11:19 am (CNA).

The Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, asked the governor of Missouri on Monday to spare the life of Ernest Johnson, a man sentenced with the death penalty for murdering three people in the 1990s. 

“In the Holy Father’s name,” Archbishop Pierre wrote to Governor Michael Parson, “I sincerely request the you halt the planned execution of the Mr. Johnson and grant him some appropriate form of clemency.” 

Archbishop Pierre wrote that the Holy Father’s request is not based on “the facts and circumstances of his crimes; who could not argue that grave crimes such as this deserve grave punishments?”

Johnson, who was trying to rob a convenience store for drug money, killed three employees: 46-year-old Mary Bratcher, 57-year-old Mable Scruggs, and 58-year-old Fred Jones, the Associated Press reported.

“Rather, His Holiness wishes to place before you the simple fact of Mr. Johnson’s humanity and the sacredness of all human life,” the nuncio wrote.

Archbishop Pierre noted that “all of society benefits” when any form of violence is restrained, “even the violence of a legal execution.”

Citing Pope Francis’ encyclical Fratelli tutti, Archbishop Pierre wrote: “Do not let the atrocity of their sins feed a desire for vengeance, but desire instead to heal the wounds which those deeds have inflicted.”

The nuncio acknowledged the “courageous stands in support of the dignity of life” that Missouri has made, referring to the state’s pro-life record for protecting life at its “earliest and most vulnerable stage.”

“For this we are very grateful,” Archbishop Pierre added.

He implored Parson to reject the implementation of the death penalty, because “it would be an equally courageous recognition of the inalienable dignity of all human life.”

Once again highlighting the Holy Father’s words, Archbishop Pierre wrote, “If I do not deny the human dignity of the worst criminals, I will not deny human dignity to anyone.”

The archbishop concluded, “Is not a universal recognition of our sacred human dignity the best possible defense for society against the war and violence in our world.”

Johnson, 61, is scheduled for lethal injection Oct. 5, the AP reported

There is debate over whether Johnson is intellectually disabled, which could stop his execution.

Jeremy Weis, Johnson’s public defender, said Johnson meets the appropriate and clinical requirements of intellectual disability and has also consistently shown an IQ range of 67 to 77 in multiple tests, the AP wrote.

The Missouri Supreme Court denied a petition from his lawyers that argued his execution would be cruel and unusual based on his intellectual disability, the Kansas City Star reported.

The Star also reported the court ruled that Johnson “‘failed to prove he is intellectually disabled.’” 

Johnson’s lawyers previously argued before the Missouri Supreme Court asking for death by firing squad, citing Johnson’s brain tumor, the AP reported. His lawyers argued the tumor could cause a painful death by lethal injection.

The court denied the request, saying that the state prohibits death by firing squad. They also refused to halt the execution based on concerns regarding the lethal injection drug.

Johnson has been on death row three times, according to the AP. 

In 2001 Johnson was scheduled for the death penalty but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that executing the mentally ill was unconstitutional. In 2003, a new hearing was given to Johnson, where he was again sentenced to death. The sentence was overturned by the state and in 2006, he again was sentenced to death.

Louisiana state Sen. Katrina Jackson: ‘It’s racist to fund abortions’

Louisiana State Senator Katrina Jackson at the Live Action Life Awards. / Francesca Pollio/CNA

Washington D.C., Oct 2, 2021 / 10:03 am (CNA).

“It’s racist to fund abortions,” Katrina Jackson recently told EWTN Pro-Life Weekly, “because you’re going to have to cut the budget somewhere.” 

Jackson, a pro-life Democrat, spoke with the show in an episode that aired Sept. 30. She responded to the push by Democrats to repeal the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits taxpayer funding from going toward abortion with the exceptions of rape, incest, and to save the mother’s life. Established in 1976, Hyde has saved more than two million lives according to pro-life estimates. Today, it’s under threat by Democrats, many of whom call it racist. 

During a House vote in July, not a single Democrat supported Hyde.

“I was shocked,” Jackson remembered. “I was even more disappointed that some Democrats advocated that it was racist for us not to repeal the Hyde Amendment.” 

Jackson spoke from personal experience, she said.

“I sit in a room with African American women every day. 60% of my district is African American,” she emphasized. “I’ve never been in a group of African Americans who’ve asked me to fund abortion.”

Instead, she said, the African American community is “still screaming for equitable education and access to health care.”

The funding of abortion is racist, she stressed, because that funding will be taken from something else.

“At every level of government, in order to spend more money, unless more revenue comes in, you cut the budget somewhere,” she said. “In Louisiana, generally we have a deficit, we have to cut education and health care.”

This goes against what the African American community is actually asking for, she said. “What we’re screaming for right now in the African American community all over this country is, of course, things like health care, education, having a seat at the table, business, economic development,” she said.

She shared her message for President Biden, who reversed his decades-long support of the Hyde Amendment while preparing for the 2020 presidential election.

“I would tell him that those who voted for him and his base didn’t ask him to fund abortion,” she said. “He’s listening to a small segment of America, an extremely small segment of America who are asking him to do this. And he needs to listen to the voice collectively of a whole in America.”

Earlier this year, a Knights of Columbus-sponsored Marist poll found that nearly six in 10 (58%) Americans oppose using tax dollars to pay for abortion, including 31% of Democrats.