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Pope Francis, Mississippi bishop offer prayers for victims of deadly tornado
Posted on 03/26/2023 14:20 PM (CNA Daily News)
Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Mar 26, 2023 / 07:20 am (CNA).
Pope Francis on Sunday offered prayers for the victims of a deadly tornado that struck parts of Mississippi and Alabama Friday night.
Cutting a swath of ruin across the impoverished Mississippi Delta, the tornado killed at least 26 people and left twisted piles of debris where homes, businesses, and neighborhoods once stood. The death toll is expected to rise, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) warned.
Speaking after his weekly Angelus reflection in St. Peter’s Square March 26, the pope included victims of the storm among those suffering around the world from war and natural disasters.
“Yesterday, the solemnity of the Annunciation, we renewed the consecration of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, in the certainty that only the conversion of hearts can open the way that leads to peace,” he said.
“Let us continue to pray for the tormented Ukrainian people. And let us stay close also to the earthquake victims of Turkey and Syria,” he said. “Let us also pray for the population of the state of Mississippi, struck by a devastating tornado.”
On Sunday President Joe Biden issued an emergency declaration to speed federal aid to the area, adding that he and First Lady Jill Biden are praying for the victims of the storm.
“Jill and I are praying for those who have lost loved ones in the devastating tornadoes in Mississippi and for those whose loved ones are missing,” Biden said in a statement.
“The images from across Mississippi are heartbreaking. While we are still assessing the full extent of the damage, we know that many of our fellow Americans are not only grieving for family and friends, they’ve lost their homes and businesses,” he added.
The National Weather Service warned that more severe weather is possible for the area on Sunday.
‼️ A large portion of the state has the potential to see severe storms Sunday evening (3/26). Expect damaging wind gusts. Tornadoes cannot be ruled out.— msema (@MSEMA) March 25, 2023
Have a plan.
Know your safe place.
Have multiple ways to receive alerts. pic.twitter.com/afQfE5oDO8
‘Wiped off the map’
The loss of 25 people so far in Mississippi makes the March 24 twister the deadliest tornado in the state in at least 50 years, Mississippi’s Clarion Ledger reported. One man died in Alabama.
Much of the destruction is centered in the rural Mississippi towns of Silver City and Rolling Fork, about 60 miles northeast of Jackson, USA Today reported. Drone footage the Clarion Ledger posted on its website showed the breathtaking scale of the damage.
“It is almost complete devastation,” Royce Steed, emergency manager in Humphreys County, where Silver City is located, told USA Today. “This little old town … is more or less wiped off the map.”
At least 18 of the dead were from Rolling Fork, with other residents still unaccounted for, the Clarion Ledger reported.
“There are nearly 20 homes on Seventh Street with around 80 residents. Every home was a complete loss,” the news outlet reported.
MEMA officials have preliminarily categorized the tornado with an EF-4 rating. That classification is for tornadoes packing wind gusts from 166 mph to 200 mph, according to the AccuWeather weather service.
The Clarion Ledger spoke with Seventh Street resident John Brewer, a long-haul trucker who was home with his wife, Joyce, when the tornado roared through the neighborhood. The tornado lifted his 27,000-pound truck and dropped it on his neighbor’s home, killing L.A. Pierce and his wife, Melissa.
Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz of the Diocese of Jackson, Mississippi, issued a statement Saturday pledging the support of the diocese’s Catholic Charities disaster response team.
“At this time, we join in prayer for all those affected by the storms that crossed our state and for the repose of the souls of those lost to these devastating tornadoes,” Kopacz said.
“We pray for those who are desperately trying to reach loved ones and unable to reach them, as well as those still seeking safety who are missing as a result of the storms,” he continued.
“We give thanks and pray for first responders, who are working tirelessly in affected communities trying to reach those missing, restore power, and assist those surviving,” the bishop added.
“I encourage all to continue to pray and find ways to support all affected communities,” Kopacz concluded.
Nordic bishops issue letter affirming Church teaching on human sexuality
Posted on 03/25/2023 21:40 PM (CNA Daily News)
Rome Newsroom, Mar 25, 2023 / 14:40 pm (CNA).
Bishops from the five Nordic countries have released a letter on the traditional Christian teaching on sexuality, upholding the “embodied integrity of personhood” against modern transgender ideologies.
“Now, notions of what it is to be a human, and so a sexual being, are in flux. What is taken for granted today may be rejected tomorrow. Anyone who stakes much on passing theories risks being terribly hurt. We need deep roots,” the eight members of the Nordic bishops’ conference say in the letter, which was released Saturday.
“Let us, then, try to appropriate the fundamental principles of Christian anthropology while reaching out in friendship, with respect, to those who feel estranged by them,” they continue. “We owe it to the Lord, to ourselves, and to our world, to give an account of what we believe, and of why we believe it to be true.”
The pastoral letter is being read aloud at Masses this weekend at Catholic churches in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, and Iceland. EWTN Norway provided CNA with a copy of the letter.
Cardinal Anders Arborelius, the bishop of Stockholm, Sweden, is among the document’s eight signers.
The others are: from Norway, Bishop Erik Varden of Trondheim, Bishop Berislav Grgić of Tromsø, and Bishop Bernt Eidsvig of Oslo; from Denmark, Bishop Czeslaw Kozon of Copenhagen; from Iceland, Bishop Dávid Tencer of Reykjavik and Bishop Emeritus Pierre Bürcher of Reykjavik; and from Finland, Father Marco Pasinato, apostolic administrator of Helsinki.
“Our mission and task as bishops is to point towards the peaceful, life-giving path of Christ’s commandments, narrow at the outset but growing broader as we advance,” the bishops state in the letter.
“We would let you down if we offered less,” the bishops say, adding, “we were not ordained to preach little notions of our own.”
The bishops explain that there is room for everyone in the Church, which, according to a fourth-century text, is “the mercy of God descending on mankind.”
“This mercy excludes no one. But it sets a high ideal,” the letter states.
The pastoral letter begins by recalling the 40 days and nights of rain that flooded the earth in the days of Noah.
It says that when Noah and his relatives stepped back onto the cleansed earth, God made his first covenant with man, promising that a flood would never again destroy the earth.
God asked mankind, instead, to revere God, to construct peace, and to be fruitful, the bishops said. To ratify the covenant, God created a sign: a rainbow.
“This covenantal sign, the rainbow, is claimed in our time as the symbol of a movement that is at once political and cultural,” the bishops note. “We recognize all that is noble in this movement’s aspirations. In so far as these speak of the dignity of all human beings and of their longing to be seen, we share them.”
“The Church,” the letter continues, “condemns unjust discrimination of any kind, also on the basis of gender or orientation. We declare dissent, however, when the movement puts forward a view of human nature that abstracts from the embodied integrity of personhood, as if physical gender were accidental.”
The bishops also say in the letter they protest that such a view is imposed on children as “not a daring hypothesis but a proven truth.”
Transgenderism is “imposed on minors as a heavy burden of self-determination for which they are not ready,” the bishops lament, calling it “curious” that in an intensely body-conscious society, the body is in fact taken too lightly.
People now refuse to see the body “as significant of identity, supposing that the only selfhood of consequence is the one produced by subjective self-perception, as we construct ourselves in our own image,” they observe.
The bishops explain that we are, instead, created in the image and likeness of God, in both body and soul.
“The image of God in human nature manifests itself in the complementarity of male and female,” the letter states. “Man and woman are created for one another: The commandment to be fruitful depends on this mutuality, sanctified in nuptial union.”
The letter goes on to say that the union of a man and a woman, as an image of God’s communion with mankind, is not always easy or painless.
“For some it seems an impossible option,” the bishops acknowledge. “More intimately, the integration within ourselves of masculine and feminine characteristics can be hard. The Church recognizes this. She wishes to embrace and console all who experience hardship.”
The Nordic bishops say they recognize that “the yearning for love and the search for sexual wholeness touch human beings intimately” and they want to be there to accompany everyone as they gradually grow in wisdom and virtue.
“We are called to become new women and men,” they say in the letter. “In all of us there are elements of chaos that need to be ordered. Sacramental communion presupposes coherently lived consent to the terms of the covenant sealed in Christ’s blood.”
They point out that circumstances may mean, therefore, that a Catholic is unable to receive the sacraments for a time. But “he or she does not therefore cease to be a member of the Church. Experience of internal exile embraced in faith can lead to a deeper sense of belonging. Exiles often turn out that way in Scripture. Each of us has an exodus journey to make, but we do not walk alone.
The bishops’ letter also offers some advice to those who are perplexed by the traditional Christian teaching on sexuality.
“First: Try to acquaint yourself with Christ’s call and promise, to know him better through the Scriptures and in prayer, through the liturgy and study of the Church’s full teaching, not just of snippets here and there. Take part in the Church’s life,” the bishops counsel.
“Secondly,” they add, “consider the limitations of a purely secular discourse on sexuality. It needs to be enriched. We need adequate terms to speak of these important things.”
The Church, they say, “shall have a precious contribution to make if we recover the sacramental nature of sexuality in God’s plan, the beauty of Christian chastity, and the joy of friendship, which lets us see that great, freeing intimacy can be found also in non-sexual relationships.”
You can read the full text of the bishops’ letter and watch a video of the letter being read below.
Pope Francis accepts resignation of vice president of German bishops’ conference
Posted on 03/25/2023 15:56 PM (CNA Daily News)
CNA Newsroom, Mar 25, 2023 / 08:56 am (CNA).
Pope Francis accepted the resignation of a German bishop on Saturday who played a key role in the German Synodal Way and had come under pressure over his handling of clerical sexual abuse in his diocese.
Bishop Franz-Josef Bode had previously refused to step down, despite an abuse report finding he had mishandled cases in his diocese in northwestern Germany.
The Holy See announced March 25 that Pope Francis had accepted the bishop of Osnabrück’s request to resign, CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, reported. There was no indication prior to Saturday’s announcement that Bode had offered to resign.
The 72-year-old bishop had been vice president of the German bishops’ conference since 2017.
Reacting to the news, Bishop Georg Bätzing — the conference president — said on March 25: “Today I lose my closest companion on the Synodal Way, which still has many stages ahead of us.”
Only two weeks ago, Bode made headlines when he announced he would implement resolutions passed by the controversial process, including the introduction of liturgical blessings of same-sex unions. He previously publicly supported women deacons.
In a statement published Saturday, Bode said: “In the almost 32 years of my episcopal ministry, almost 28 of them as bishop of Osnabrück, I have borne responsibility in a Church that has not only brought blessings but also guilt.”
“Especially in dealing with cases of sexualized violence by clergy, for a long time I myself tended to focus more on the perpetrators and the institution than on the victims,” Bode admitted. “I misjudged cases, often acted hesitantly, made many wrong decisions, and failed to live up to my responsibility as a bishop.”
Until two months ago, Bode repeatedly refused to resign, despite an interim abuse report published Sept. 20, 2022, finding he had mishandled abuse cases in the diocese he led since 1995.
The 600-page interim report was titled “Sexual violence against minors and vulnerable by clergy in the Diocese of Osnabrück since 1945.”
The report said in the first decades of his term, Bode “repeatedly” kept people accused of abuse in office or appointed them to other positions, including management tasks in youth pastoral care.
In December, an advisory body of sexual abuse survivors called for canonical procedures against Bode.
The victims’ council said it had filed an official complaint in Rome and referred to the decree Vos estis lux mundi, issued in 2019 by Pope Francis, which is aimed at providing norms and procedures for addressing the handling of clerical sexual abuse. The Vatican on Saturday announced that the pope has approved an updated version of those norms, which are now part of canon law.
In a statement accompanying their complaint, the council called on Archbishop Stefan Heße of Hamburg, head of the metropolitan archdiocese, to take “steps of action” against Bode.
In addition to Bode, several other prominent German bishops have been accused of mishandling cases of sexual abuse. They include Synodal Way initiator Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Synodal Way president Bishop Georg Bätzing — the successor to Marx as president of the bishops’ conference — and Hamburg’s Archbishop Heße.
All of them have so far remained in office.
Pope Francis extends ‘Vos estis’ decree to counter both lay and clerical abuse
Posted on 03/25/2023 15:20 PM (CNA Daily News)
Rome Newsroom, Mar 25, 2023 / 08:20 am (CNA).
Pope Francis permanently decreed Saturday an updated version of Vos estis lux mundi, his landmark legislation to counter sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.
The decree promulgated March 25 extends the Church’s norms for handling of abuse to cover lay leaders of international associations of the faithful recognized by the Vatican.
Vos estis lux mundi (“You are the light of the world”) reaffirms an obligation to report cases of “vulnerable adult” victims of abuse, including violence against religious women by clerics and cases of harassment of adult seminarians or novices by a superior.
It also includes protections for people who witness acts of abuse, in addition to those who submit reports of alleged abuse, stipulating that no “obligation of silence” may be imposed on those who report, witness, or are victims of abuse.
The new norms will go into force on April 30 and replace the pope’s previous provisional version of Vos estis lux mundi published nearly four years ago.
The norms regard what are called, in canon law, “delicts against the Sixth Commandment of the Decalogue,” consisting of sexual acts with a minor or vulnerable person; forcing someone to perform or submit to sexual acts through violence, threat, or abuse of authority; and the production or possession of child pornography.
In the apostolic letter signed on the solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, Pope Francis wrote that it is “good that procedures are universally adopted to prevent and combat these crimes that betray the trust of the faithful.”
The pope said that the updated version of the norms takes into account the comments he received from bishops’ conferences and the Roman Curia on Vos estis lux mundi since it was published.
Pope Francis first promulgated Vos estis lux mundi in May 2019 on an experimental basis for a period of three years.
The norms for the Church’s handling of sex abuse placed seminarians and religious coerced into sexual activity through the misuse of authority in the same criminal category as abuse of minors and vulnerable adults.
The decree also established obligatory reporting for clerics and religious, required that every diocese had a mechanism for reporting abuse, and put the metropolitan archbishop in charge of investigations of accusations against suffragan bishops.
According to the law, the metropolitan archbishop conducts the investigation into a suffragan bishop with a mandate from the Holy See. The metropolitan is required to send reports to the Holy See on the progress of the investigation on a strict timeline.
The metropolitan archbishop may use the assistance of qualified laypeople in carrying out the investigation, though it is primarily his responsibility, the norms state. Bishops’ conferences may establish funds to support these investigations.
Since the pope first promulgated Vos estis lux mundi, a number of bishops have been investigated and sanctioned under the norms for mishandling of abuse cases, including U.S. Bishop Michael Hoeppner of Crookston, Minnesota, and several Catholic bishops in Poland.
Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio was cleared after a Vos estis lux mundi investigation found no “semblance of truth” in the allegations of abuse.
Holding leaders accountable
The new norms call for the presumption of innocence of all those who are under investigation and to safeguard “the legitimate protection of the good name and privacy of all persons involved, as well as the confidentiality of personal data.”
The updated version also requires that dioceses and eparchies must have an office or organization that is easily accessible to the public to receive reports of abuse, which include not only abuse of children and vulnerable adults but also covers sexual violence and harassment resulting from the abuse of authority.
Archbishop Filippo Iannone, the prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Legislative Texts, explained that the latest version of Vos estis lux mundi “takes up what has already been established by the new penal law canon law, in force since December 2021, and identifies them in minors, in those who habitually have an imperfect use of reason, and in vulnerable adults to whom the law ensures particular protection.”
“I believe this new norm, wanted by the pope, demonstrates the particular attention that the Church reserves for the weakest and most defenseless people, whose freedom and dignity must be respected and protected by all, punishing their violation in an exemplary way,” Iannone said.
Cardinal Blase Cupich, the archbishop of Chicago, also had high praise for the permanent application of Vos estis lux mundi.
“I think that this document is a clear indication that the Holy Father is saying that people in authority in the Church are going to be held responsible for how they handle [abuse],” Cupich said in an interview with Vatican News published March 25.
“So, it’s a clear indication that the Holy Father is going to hold people responsible, not only those who have committed abuse, but those in authority who have responsibility for handling them in a way that protects victims and gives justice to victims.”
Archbishop Charles Scicluna, the adjunct secretary of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, said that the pope’s official confirmation of Vos estis lux mundi introduces new elements “in the history of canon law, such as the criminal relevance of the abuse of a vulnerable adult.”
“Among the changes is a further clarification of who the victims of abuse are. Previously, we spoke of minors and vulnerable persons, now we also speak of ‘vulnerable adults’ and ‘persons who habitually have an imperfect use of reason,’” Scicluna said.
He added: “This law concerns the future and makes it very clear that when it comes to an allegation against a layperson in the leadership of an international association, reference must be made to this particular law, which has become universal.”
In the pope’s apostolic letter, Francis underlined that “crimes of sexual abuse offend Our Lord, cause physical, psychological, and spiritual harm to the victims and harm the community of the faithful.”
“In order for these phenomena, in all their forms, [to] never happen again, a continuous and profound conversion of hearts is needed, attested by concrete and effective actions that involve everyone in the Church, so that personal sanctity and moral commitment can contribute to promoting the full credibility of the Gospel message and the effectiveness of the Church’s mission,” Pope Francis said.
A magical shrine: Orlando basilica ministers to Catholics visiting Disney World
Posted on 03/25/2023 13:00 PM (CNA Daily News)
Orlando, Fla., Mar 25, 2023 / 06:00 am (CNA).
Tens of millions of people visit the Orlando area each year, and while some only frequent the “altars” of Mickey Mouse and Harry Potter during their stay, others carve out time to worship the source of all blessings. They are welcomed with open arms at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe — a spiritual oasis nestled amid limitless dining, retail, and entertainment options.
“Let Mary Queen be your spiritual home while you are in Orlando,” said Missionary of Mercy Father Anthony Aarons, the church's rector. Visitors from every continent make up the majority of the congregation and often share where they are from after Mass or during confession. “Our priests are available to speak with you and our gift shop is your one-stop shopping place for religious gifts,” he said.
The large, 2,000-seat shrine commands attention from passersby on I-4, the region’s primary highway, and is situated near major attractions including Disney World, Universal Orlando, and retail outlets. It features many stained-glass windows and side chapels, including one devoted to Our Lady of Guadalupe. The broad main altar and gold-tone organ pipes behind it are bathed in natural sunlight, which bounces off the crystal backing of the crucifix suspended overhead. Marian-themed art on display includes a 17th-century painting of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the back of the basilica attributed to Spanish painter Bartolomé Murillo. A gift shop offers books, rosaries, statues, and other religious goods.
Outside, the grounds include a rosary garden, chapel, bell tower, and religious statues. Natural amenities include a peaceful pond populated by turtles, fish, and birds with nearby willow trees and other greenery.
Like many vacation destinations, the Orlando area is climbing closer to pre-pandemic levels of tourism. More than 70 million people visited from 2017 to 2019, according to estimates published by Visit Orlando. After the number of visitors plummeted in 2020, approximately 59 million people came in 2021, the most recent data available.
The schedules for Mass and confession reflect the vacation-friendly vibe. Daily Mass is celebrated at 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. and Saturdays at noon. On weekends, a 6 p.m. Saturday Vigil Mass and Sunday Masses at 8 a.m., 10 a.m., and noon are offered.
The wide availability of confession year-round is striking — approximately 24 hours total over six days between Monday and Saturday. Weekdays it is offered 10-11:30 a.m. and 2-4 p.m. On Saturdays, priests are present to counsel penitents for six hours, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
According to Father Aarons, this is in keeping with the church’s designation by Pope John Paul II as a shrine, sought out by pilgrims who can gain a plenary indulgence through confession and the usual requirements.
This year is the 30th anniversary of the shrine’s 1993 dedication. Its opening was the culmination of decades of work by local Catholics to address the spiritual needs of their brethren from every corner of the globe, growing in scale along with the entertainment nearby.
Since becoming rector last August, Aarons has expanded offerings for the faithful. He added the weekday morning Mass and a noon Mass on Saturdays in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary (unless a feast or obligatory memorial precludes it); a First Saturday speaker series; First Friday eucharistic exposition and Benediction with Divine Mercy Chaplet; and he converted the former gift shop into a conference center.
This story originally appeared in the Arlington Catholic Herald and is published here on CNA with permission.
Why the Stations of the Cross were a daily devotion for Mother Angelica
Posted on 03/25/2023 11:00 AM (CNA Daily News)
Denver, Colo., Mar 25, 2023 / 04:00 am (CNA).
It is tradition for Catholics around the world to participate in the Stations of the Cross each Friday during Lent. However, for EWTN foundress Mother Angelica, it was a daily devotion.
EWTN chaplain Father Joseph Mary Wolfe collected Mother Angelica’s spiritual guidance that she shared with him into a book titled “Mother Angelica’s The Way of the Cross,” published by EWTN Publishing.
In an interview with EWTN News Nightly, Wolfe discussed the inspiration behind the book, which features actual pictures of the stations then-Rita Rizzo (Mother Angelica’s given name) prayed in front of in her hometown of Canton, Ohio, before entering the monastery.
It was during a visit to St. Anthony’s Church, the church where Rizzo prayed the Stations of the Cross as a teenager in Canton, that Wolfe thought it “would be wonderful if we could take these actual stations that she prayed before and make them available to people.”
The Stations of the Cross were very meaningful to Mother Angelica. Wolfe recalled the advice she gave him when she encouraged him to pray the Stations of the Cross daily, “because she knew that I would find strength in that.”
“Life has troubles. Life has sufferings. It has difficulties,” he said. “So when we go to the Stations of the Cross, we’re reflecting on Our Lord’s sufferings but also his love and something of his strength and his love is imparted to us.”
Mother Angelica herself had a variety of sufferings from her family’s breakup, her mother’s depression, the poverty she grew up in, and her own physical problems. Due to this, Wolfe said, “Mother could relate to people because she understood their sufferings.”
“Mother said to me one time that suffering was her companion that kept her dependent on God,” he said.
Wolfe recalled an interaction with a woman who was left debilitated after surgery on a brain tumor. “She said, ‘You know, I think the most important lesson that Mother left me ... is how to suffer, how to suffer well,’” he said.
Mother Angelica died on Easter Sunday in 2016. Wolfe was with her during her last moments. He remembered the suffering she was in on the Good Friday before she passed. Together with caregivers and fellow sisters, he and the friars prayed a Divine Mercy Chaplet with her at 3 p.m., which seemed to give her peace.
“There’s a crucifix that was in her room. And so I took that crucifix, as I had done many other times on Good Friday, and held it up to Mother and she kissed it for the last time,” he revealed.
“She always wanted to kiss not the feet on the corpus, but the open heart,” he added.
This story was originally published on CNA on March 17, 2022.
Parents at school board meetings were subject to FBI intimidation, witnesses say
Posted on 03/25/2023 00:15 AM (CNA Daily News)
Washington D.C., Mar 24, 2023 / 17:15 pm (CNA).
House Republicans held a hearing Thursday featuring testimony from parents who said their decision to speak up at school board meetings resulted in a Department of Justice effort to intimidate and silence them.
The witnesses offered their testimony at the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Limited Government’s first hearing on “Free Speech: The Biden Administration’s Chilling of Parents’ Fundamental Rights.”
Much of the discussion surrounded the DOJ’s October 2021 memorandum that Attorney General Merrick Garland issued to address an alleged “spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence at school board meetings.”
The memo called for federal intervention and tasked the FBI with investigating parents to “facilitate the discussion of strategies for addressing threats” against education officials.
Nicole Neily, the founder of Parents Defending Education, told the committee her office worked with parents who became worried about speaking against their school boards following the memo.
“Unsurprisingly, parents were frightened by this escalation,” Neily said. “In the days following the release of [the] DOJ’s memo, we fielded dozens of requests from concerned parents who worried whether they should continue their advocacy work or simply stay home, fearing a knock at the door from federal law enforcement.”
Rep. Mike Johnson, R-Louisiana, who chairs the subcommittee, said during his opening speech that the memo was used to “target concerned parents” and “to intimidate these parents into silence by sicking federal law enforcement on them.”
The congressman alleged that the “ambiguity” of the document helped the administration “silence the critics of its radical education policies.”
Tiffany Justice, the founder of the parental rights organization Moms for Liberty, agreed with Johnson’s assessment and said the FBI “made phone calls to parents” who confronted school board officials.
She cited one mother affiliated with her organization who was allegedly questioned by the FBI about whether she owned guns or had mental health problems because she “disagreed with her school board.”
According to Justice, the memo “sent shockwaves across this country that we still feel today.” She said activists in her organization were frequently mistreated.
“We attended school board meetings, often facing unjust treatment,” Justice said. “Parents were expelled, their mics were cut off, and many were prevented from speaking.”
Several Republican lawmakers expressed empathy with the parents, including Rep. Wesley Hunt, R-Texas, who noted that the FBI investigations failed to find any criminal activity.
“According to the FBI, not one of these school-board-related investigations resulted in federal arrests or charges,” Hunt said. “Not a single one.”
Democratic members of the subcommittee disputed some of the testimony and the statements made by Republican subcommittee members.
Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, D-Pennsylvania, who serves as the subcommittee’s ranking member, said the memo was focused on potential criminal activity, such as threats of violence.
“Any reasonable person can see the difference between threats of political violence and legitimate political discourse,” Scanlon said. “Unfortunately, this hearing is based upon [a] false narrative … designed to promote chaos and division in our communities.”
Scanlon claimed the “real First Amendment threat” comes from “extremists [who] are imposing their beliefs on all students and parents through library book bans, bans on certain subjects in the public school curricula, and censorship of educators all to the detriment of students’ learning.”
PEN America Managing Director Nadine Johnson also testified before the committee about states and school districts that have restricted access to controversial books in school libraries.
“In this new era of censorship, we have tracked 303 bills, which we term educational gag orders, in 44 states,” Johnson said. “These government restrictions forbid the teaching of specific curricula or ban certain concepts from the classroom.”
Several Republican committee members, including Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, countered that they believe the books being removed from school libraries are inappropriate for children.
Roy referred to the book “Gender Queer,” which he said contained “graphic pictures that are being put in front of our kids in schools,” such as “two men engaged in a sexual position” and “two men engaged in oral sex.”
Rep. Mike Johnson indicated there would be additional hearings from the subcommittee to address these matters further.
U.S. House passes ‘Parents Bill of Rights’ with amendments on transgender issues
Posted on 03/24/2023 23:42 PM (CNA Daily News)
Washington D.C., Mar 24, 2023 / 16:42 pm (CNA).
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives narrowly passed a “Parents Bill of Rights” designed to ensure that parents can have a stronger role in the public education system, which included last-minute amendments to bolster transparency on schools’ transgender policies.
The resolution, sponsored by Rep. Julia Letlow, R-Louisiana, passed the House in a 213-208 vote, with the support of most Republicans and no Democrats.
“As a mom of two and a former educator, I believe for children to succeed, they need families and schools to work together as partners throughout the learning process,” Letlow said in a statement. “After spending nearly a year and a half working to pass this bill, I’m grateful that we’re finally able to advance this critical legislation.”
The resolution would set new federal standards for the public education system that would mandate greater transparency over the school curriculum and budget, set up more opportunities for parents to voice their opinion on school matters, and establish stronger privacy rights and security protocols for students.
To bolster transparency, the resolution would require school districts to publicly post their school curriculum and provide a list of library books and other library reading materials to parents. It would require states to provide parents with timely notice if gifted and talented programs are to be eliminated and publicize all changes to academic standards and learning benchmarks. The resolution would further mandate that school district budgets, individual school budgets, and all revenues and expenditures be publicly disclosed.
In addition, the resolution would seek to ensure greater cooperation between the schools and the parents by requiring school boards to provide opportunities for parents to address the board and mandating that teachers offer parents at least two in-person meetings every year.
To ensure students’ privacy, the resolution would require that schools receive parental permission before sharing student data with technology companies and would ban the sale of student data for any commercial purposes. It would also require that schools get parental consent prior to any medical exams of students.
As a way to improve student safety and transparency, the resolution would require schools to inform parents of violent activity on school grounds and at school-sponsored events. The schools would be required to maintain the privacy of students involved in the violence when notifying parents.
Lawmakers also approved some last-minute amendments to the resolution, which included two proposed by Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colorado. Her amendments would require that schools notify parents if they allow biological males who identify as female to participate in girls’ sports or use the girls’ restrooms.
“We have seen public schools promote extremely divisive content like critical race theory, radical gender ideology, and even drag shows to impressionable young children,” Boebert said in a statement. “Speaking as a mother of four boys, enough is enough. I send my boys to school to receive an education, not indoctrination. Parents have a right to know what’s happening at their child’s school, and my amendments will ensure just that.”
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-New York, issued a statement that accused Republicans of putting “politics over parents” by passing the resolution and claimed they were intent on banning books.
“Rather than actually invest in empowering parents, making sure parents have the opportunity to be engaged and involved in the education of their children, extreme MAGA Republicans want to jam their right-wing ideology down the throats of students, teachers, and parents throughout America,” Jeffries said.
The resolution now heads to the Democratic-controlled Senate, where it faces an uphill battle.
Nancy Pelosi criticizes the U.S. Catholic bishops during Georgetown panel discussion
Posted on 03/24/2023 23:12 PM (CNA Daily News)
Washington D.C., Mar 24, 2023 / 16:12 pm (CNA).
Speaking at a panel discussion at Georgetown University’s Center on Faith and Justice on Thursday, former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi criticized the U.S. Catholic bishops over their opposition to abortion and transgender treatments for children.
“They [the bishops] are willing to abandon the bulk of [Catholic social teaching] because of one thing [abortion],” Pelosi said. “And that’s the fight that we have.”
As an outspoken abortion advocate as well as a supporter of the LGBTQ+ movement, Pelosi regularly cites her Catholic faith as the reason behind her policy positions.
During her time as speaker of the House, first in 2007–2011 and then again in 2019–2023, Pelosi backed legislation opposed by the U.S. bishops, including the Affordable Care Act and the Respect for Marriage Act.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has called abortion a “grave evil” and LGBTQ+ legislation “deeply concerning.”
In May 2022, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, the city Pelosi represents, announced in an open letter that he would begin forbidding the priests in his diocese from distributing holy Communion to Pelosi because of her stance on abortion.
On Thursday, Pelosi said, “I figure that’s his problem, not mine.”
“He made it very clear, maybe we’re not all God’s children. Maybe we do not have a free will,” Pelosi said of Cordileone, whom she also criticized for opposing LGBTQ+ ideology.
“We have had very negative, anti-LGBTQ stuff coming from our archbishop and others,” Pelosi said, criticizing in particular the bishops’ stance against transgender surgeries on children.
“Right now our challenge is trans kids, that in certain states they will arrest you if you try to meet the health needs of your trans child. They will call that child abuse. So, yeah some of it is stirred up by some of the more conservative leaders in the Church. It’s sad to say — not His Holiness.”
When it comes to her pro-abortion stance, Pelosi said she considers herself pro-life because she had five children in just over six years and because she cares about children.
“I was raised in a family that you would describe probably as ‘pro-life,’ although I think I’m pro-life because I care about children,” Pelosi said. “Because I had five children in six years and one week … so I keep saying to my members, you got five kids in six years? You want to talk about this subject?”
According to Pelosi, she and the bishops are “pretty much in sync” with most Catholic social teaching except for the abortion issue.
Pelosi also touted her role in passing the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, in 2010.
The USCCB opposed Obamacare on the grounds that it would result in taxpayer dollars being used to pay for abortions as well as force employers to cover abortions and include contraceptives in their employees’ health insurance plans. Congress eventually passed the legislation by overcoming opposition from pro-life Democrats with the inclusion of restrictions to abortion in ACA insurance plans.
Pelosi claimed that the U.S. bishops “were mischaracterizing what was in that bill,” adding that she believes that “their purpose was to destroy Roe v. Wade, right in that bill.”
“Today is the 13th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, something that I’m very, very proud of,” Pelosi said. “But all I can say about how we passed that is, thank God for the nuns, thank God for the nuns because they offset the bishops.”
Though the USCCB opposed the Affordable Care Act, the bill was endorsed by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. The Vatican has investigated the organization and censured it for embracing a political agenda in contrast with the teaching of the Church.
Jim Wallis, director of Georgetown University’s Center on Faith and Justice, also chimed in, saying that “Catholic women religious were central” in passing Obamacare, “because they thought the Affordable Care Act was pro-life.”
Wallis called this a “consistent ethic of life” based on Catholic social teaching that is “not just focus[ed] on one issue.”
Instead, she asserted that “because we had the nuns, we were able to prevail … So, when we pushed open that gate, the nuns were right there with us, pushing open the gate.”
According to Pelosi, her style of faith and politics is something she shares with President Joe Biden.
“Justice is something that means a great deal to President Biden, in his Catholicism, justice in how we meet the needs of the people, justice in listening to how they want their needs,” she said. “When you’re in [politics], you have to be prepared to take a punch, and you have to be prepared to throw a punch, for the children, always for the children.”
“My ‘why’ is one in five children lives in poverty, goes to sleep hungry at night,” Pelosi added. “That’s what took me from the kitchen to the Congress, from housewife to House speaker.”
During the discussion at the Jesuit Catholic university, Pelosi also called for the Church to start allowing women to become priests, saying that her mother had wanted her to be a nun, but she would have preferred to be a priest.
“Every day [priests] have the power … of turning bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, that is real power, now we’re talking power, and that’s why I was more attracted to that than being a nun,” Pelosi said. “On the other hand, maybe women will be able to do that as well, that’s something to think about, something I was hoping the pope would do.”
Catholics urged to be generous to Good Friday collection to benefit the Holy Land
Posted on 03/24/2023 21:00 PM (CNA Daily News)
St. Louis, Mo., Mar 24, 2023 / 14:00 pm (CNA).
As in past years, a special collection will be taken in Catholic churches throughout the world on Good Friday to support Christians in the Holy Land.
The Vatican has overseen the annual Holy Land — “Pro Terra Sancta” — collection since 1974, when St. Paul VI established Good Friday as the day for it to be taken up by parishes and bishops around the world. This year, Good Friday falls on April 7. U.S. Catholics can donate to the collection online as well as at churches.
The collection is traditionally split, with 65% going to the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, which has maintained the Holy Places of Christianity in the region for more than 800 years. The remaining 35% is given to the Dicastery for the Eastern Churches to support seminarians and priests as well as educational and cultural activities. Last year the collection brought in over $9 million.
Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, prefect of the Dicastery for the Eastern Churches, wrote in a March 24 appeal letter that Pope Francis asked him to extend an invitation to “solidarity with the Christian community of the Holy Land,” keeping alive the memory of Christianity’s origins.
“As the prophet Isaiah recalls: ‘Consider the rock from which you were hewn’ (Is 51:1),” the archbishop wrote.
“The Church spread throughout the world with the preaching of the apostles, and each of us through baptism has become a stone called to remain united to the foundation, which is Christ the Lord, in order to construct a spiritual building. In Jerusalem are our wellsprings, and we want to remain united with the brothers and sisters who continue to testify to the Gospel there.”
Gugerotti said the massive February earthquake in Syria and Turkey — which was felt in Jerusalem — has led to a renewed need for the charity that Christians in the Middle East and the Holy Land provide. Christians in the Holy Land “remain sources of hope by caring for the littlest ones, educating school children and youth, accompanying mothers in difficulty, attending to the elderly and the sick, as well as offering housing projects for new families and creating jobs, so that it is worthwhile continuing to stay in the Places of Salvation.”
Apart from the recent difficulties caused by war and the earthquake, Gugerotti also recalled an incident last month whereby a vandal desecrated an image of Jesus in a Catholic church in Jerusalem.
“That mutilated crucifix invites us to recognize the pain of so many of our brothers and sisters who have seen the bodies of their loved ones tortured under the rubble or hit by bombs,” Gugerotti wrote.
“The precious presence of the Friars of the Custody of the Holy Land not only guarantees the maintenance of the sanctuaries but also safeguards the life of the Christian communities, often tempted to lose their vocation to be Easter people in the lands blessed by the presence of the Redeemer.”
In past years, the collection has been used to finance numerous projects in the Holy Land including renovations of historic buildings, scholarships for students, housing for the needy and young couples, and emergency assistance for victims of war. The territories benefitting from the donations include Jerusalem, Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Turkey, Iran, and Iraq.
In a report on its activities in 2021, the Custody of the Holy Land noted the strain on its finances caused, in part, by a precipitous drop in tourism numbers due to the pandemic.
It said: “Ever since the end of February 2020 we have found ourselves without pilgrims, and this means serious economic difficulties for the local Christian communities, for the Christian families, and also for the Custody.
“In the meantime, we are trying to continue the mission that has been entrusted to us, knowing that divine providence, which has willed our presence here, will continue to take care of us.”