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Pope Francis to publish a book with reflections on St. John Paul II

Vatican City, Jan 28, 2020 / 08:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis has co-authored a book of reflections on the life of St. John Paul II to be published in Italian.

The book, entitled "St. John Paul the Great," is the product of a series of conversations between Pope Francis and Fr. Luigi Maria Epicoco which took place from June 2019 to January 2020, according to its preface.

The book is expected to be published sometime ahead of the 100 year anniversary of the birth of Karol Wojtyla on May 18.

When Wojtyla became Pope John Paul II in 1978, a 41-year-old Fr. Jorge Mario Bergoglio was serving as the provincial superior of the Jesuits in Argentina. Pope John Paul II appointed Bergoglio to be an auxiliary bishop in 1992, elevating him to become Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1998, and creating him a cardinal in 2001. Pope Francis canonized St. John Paul II in 2014.

The book’s co-author, Fr. Epicoco, 39, has written two dozen books on spirituality since his ordination in 2005, including “John Paul II: Memories of a Holy Pope” which he wrote with Archbishop Piero Marini in 2014. Epicoco is a professor of philosophy at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome, and offers numerous lectures and spiritual retreats throughout Italy.

The pope is known to admire Fr. Epicoco’s writing. Before Christmas, Francis gave each member of the Roman curia a copy of the Italian priest’s book, “Someone to look up to: A spirituality of witness”.

Judge allows student group’s abortion lawsuit to progress against Notre Dame

South Bend, Ind., Jan 28, 2020 / 12:59 am (CNA).- The University of Notre Dame’s refusal to pay for drugs that can cause early abortions will face further litigation in court, after a federal judge in Indiana allowed a lawsuit to challenge an agreement between the university and the Trump administration.

“Notre Dame stands on firm legal and moral ground in refusing to subsidize the limited number of contraceptive products that can act as abortifacients and harm an unborn child,” Paul Browne, vice president of public affairs and communications at the University of Notre Dame, said in a Jan. 20 letter to the editor of the Notre Dame Observer, a student-run newspaper.

U.S. District Court Judge Philip Simon rejected the university’s motions to dismiss the case on Jan. 16. A pretrial conference is scheduled for early March, the South Bend Tribune reports.

The lawsuit, filed in June 2018, charges that the Catholic university’s failure to provide abortifacient drugs violates a federal requirement dating back to 2012 holding that employer health plans must provide contraceptive coverage.

The lawsuit comes from a group of students allied with national pro-abortion rights NGOs.

Browne told the South Bend Tribune the university’s position is “grounded in the autonomy of litigants, including the government, to settle claims.” He added “we are confident that Notre Dame will prevail.”

Among the plaintiffs in the lawsuit are three unnamed students and the group Irish 4 Reproductive Health, a 501c4 non-profit not affiliated with or funded by the Catholic university.

“No one at Notre Dame — and no one anywhere —should have to choose between what is right for their body and life and what they can afford,” said the group Irish 4 Reproductive Health, a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

In February 2018, University of Notre Dame president Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., announced that while the insurance plan at the university will not provide abortifacients, the school will fund the use of “simple contraceptives.”

Irish 4 Reproductive Health still objected, contending that the policies follow a February 2018 “secretive deal with the Trump-Pence administration to impose unnecessary and burdensome costs on us and restrict our reproductive healthcare options to methods deemed acceptable by Fr. Jenkins’s coterie of advisors.”

The group of Notre Dame undergraduate and graduate students describes itself as an advocate for “reproductive justice.”

“We work to expand access to sexual health resources and information at the University of Notre Dame as well as in our surrounding community. Our feminism is intersectional and sex-positive,” it says on its Facebook page.

The group says the majority of its funding comes from individual donors but it also reports receiving grants from Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest performer of abortions, and Catholics for Choice, whose claims to be a Catholic organization have been rejected by the U.S. bishops.

Irish 4 Reproductive Justice works with South Bend-area pro-abortion rights and feminist groups as well as the National Women’s Law Center, and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. The latter two groups are assisting in the lawsuit, as is the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights and the Fried Frank and Macey Swanson law firms.

Americans United named Irish 4 Reproductive Health as its 2020 Students of the Year.

Named alongside Notre Dame in the lawsuit are the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Treasury, and Labor.

“The Supreme Court should affirm that it is unconstitutional for the Trump administration to misuse religious freedom to block employees’ and students’ access to birth control,” Rachel Laser, president and CEO of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said Jan. 17.

Laser cited similar court decisions in Pennsylvania and California.

The 2010 Affordable Health Care Act, she said, “guarantees employees and students the right to contraceptive coverage.”

The 2010 health care legislation required employer-provided health insurance plans are required to cover certain “preventative services.” Guidance issued under the Obama administration in January 2012 defined these services to include all FDA-approved sterilization procedures and contraceptive methods, including abortifacient birth control pills and IUDs.

Initially, there were no religious exemptions for those opposed to the distribution of contraceptives. The eventual exemption was so narrow in scope it excluded religious orders such as the Little Sisters of the Poor and non-profits like the EWTN Global Catholic Network.

In 2015,  the Supreme Court ruled against the mandate as it applied to Christian-owned business Hobby Lobby and similar “closely held for-profits.”

The Trump administration established new rules in October 2017 allowing companies with religious or moral objections to contraception to opt out of the mandate. Federal judges blocked the rules in December 2017, resulting in new rules in November 2018.

Judges in California and Pennsylvania issued injunctions against these new rules in January 2019, again halting the Little Sisters of the Poor’s legal case. On Jan. 17, 2020 the U.S. Supreme Court said it would again hear the Little Sisters of the Poor’s case.

Americans United, one supporter of the lawsuit against Notre Dame, is historically an anti-Catholic group. Formerly known as Protestants and Other Americans United for Separation of Church & State, it was founded in 1947 with financial backing and other support from prominent Scottish Rite Masons, Southern Jurisdiction, Phillip Hamburger reports in his 2002 book “Separation of Church and State,” published by Harvard University Press.

In a Feb. 7, 2018 statement, Notre Dame’s president Father Jenkins acknowledged that the use of contraception is indeed “contrary to Catholic teaching.” Attempting to justify the health plan policy, he said that offering contraception in the school health plan was a way to “respect” other religious traditions and conscientious decisions—particularly decisions made by those in the university’s community who rely on access to contraception through the insurance plan.

This step came as a surprise to many, since the university was one of the institutions which sued the United States over the mandate. Prior to the mandate, Notre Dame did not provide contraception coverage in its insurance plans, except when prescribed to treat a medical condition.

Notre Dame law professor Gerard V. Bradley criticized the new university policy in a February 2018 Public Discourse essay “Notre Dame Swallows the Pill.” He said the policy was “a giant leap into immorality” that made the university “sole funder and proprietor of a contraception giveaway.”

Bradley cited Notre Dame’s previous claims that justified its lawsuit on the grounds of fidelity to Catholic teaching. In his words, the university argued that “to remain faithful to its beliefs, it could not be involved in any way whatsoever with a process designed to provide contraceptives to its employees, its students, or their dependents.”

Bradley said the allowance for contraception will cause incalculable harm to “so many persons’ minds, bodies and souls.”

“Our moral duty to respect others’ choices does not have anything to do with giving them the means to do evil,” he said.

 

Judge allows student group’s abortion lawsuit to progress against Notre Dame

South Bend, Ind., Jan 28, 2020 / 12:59 am (CNA).- The University of Notre Dame’s refusal to pay for drugs that can cause early abortions will face further litigation in court, after a federal judge in Indiana allowed a lawsuit to challenge an agreement between the university and the Trump administration.

“Notre Dame stands on firm legal and moral ground in refusing to subsidize the limited number of contraceptive products that can act as abortifacients and harm an unborn child,” Paul Browne, vice president of public affairs and communications at the University of Notre Dame, said in a Jan. 20 letter to the editor of the Notre Dame Observer, a student-run newspaper.

U.S. District Court Judge Philip Simon rejected the university’s motions to dismiss the case on Jan. 16. A pretrial conference is scheduled for early March, the South Bend Tribune reports.

The lawsuit, filed in June 2018, charges that the Catholic university’s failure to provide abortifacient drugs violates a federal requirement dating back to 2012 holding that employer health plans must provide contraceptive coverage.

The lawsuit comes from a group of students allied with national pro-abortion rights NGOs.

Browne told the South Bend Tribune the university’s position is “grounded in the autonomy of litigants, including the government, to settle claims.” He added “we are confident that Notre Dame will prevail.”

Among the plaintiffs in the lawsuit are three unnamed students and the group Irish 4 Reproductive Health, a 501c4 non-profit not affiliated with or funded by the Catholic university.

“No one at Notre Dame — and no one anywhere —should have to choose between what is right for their body and life and what they can afford,” said the group Irish 4 Reproductive Health, a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

In February 2018, University of Notre Dame president Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., announced that while the insurance plan at the university will not provide abortifacients, the school will fund the use of “simple contraceptives.”

Irish 4 Reproductive Health still objected, contending that the policies follow a February 2018 “secretive deal with the Trump-Pence administration to impose unnecessary and burdensome costs on us and restrict our reproductive healthcare options to methods deemed acceptable by Fr. Jenkins’s coterie of advisors.”

The group of Notre Dame undergraduate and graduate students describes itself as an advocate for “reproductive justice.”

“We work to expand access to sexual health resources and information at the University of Notre Dame as well as in our surrounding community. Our feminism is intersectional and sex-positive,” it says on its Facebook page.

The group says the majority of its funding comes from individual donors but it also reports receiving grants from Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest performer of abortions, and Catholics for Choice, whose claims to be a Catholic organization have been rejected by the U.S. bishops.

Irish 4 Reproductive Justice works with South Bend-area pro-abortion rights and feminist groups as well as the National Women’s Law Center, and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. The latter two groups are assisting in the lawsuit, as is the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights and the Fried Frank and Macey Swanson law firms.

Americans United named Irish 4 Reproductive Health as its 2020 Students of the Year.

Named alongside Notre Dame in the lawsuit are the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Treasury, and Labor.

“The Supreme Court should affirm that it is unconstitutional for the Trump administration to misuse religious freedom to block employees’ and students’ access to birth control,” Rachel Laser, president and CEO of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said Jan. 17.

Laser cited similar court decisions in Pennsylvania and California.

The 2010 Affordable Health Care Act, she said, “guarantees employees and students the right to contraceptive coverage.”

The 2010 health care legislation required employer-provided health insurance plans are required to cover certain “preventative services.” Guidance issued under the Obama administration in January 2012 defined these services to include all FDA-approved sterilization procedures and contraceptive methods, including abortifacient birth control pills and IUDs.

Initially, there were no religious exemptions for those opposed to the distribution of contraceptives. The eventual exemption was so narrow in scope it excluded religious orders such as the Little Sisters of the Poor and non-profits like the EWTN Global Catholic Network.

In 2015,  the Supreme Court ruled against the mandate as it applied to Christian-owned business Hobby Lobby and similar “closely held for-profits.”

The Trump administration established new rules in October 2017 allowing companies with religious or moral objections to contraception to opt out of the mandate. Federal judges blocked the rules in December 2017, resulting in new rules in November 2018.

Judges in California and Pennsylvania issued injunctions against these new rules in January 2019, again halting the Little Sisters of the Poor’s legal case. On Jan. 17, 2020 the U.S. Supreme Court said it would again hear the Little Sisters of the Poor’s case.

Americans United, one supporter of the lawsuit against Notre Dame, is historically an anti-Catholic group. Formerly known as Protestants and Other Americans United for Separation of Church & State, it was founded in 1947 with financial backing and other support from prominent Scottish Rite Masons, Southern Jurisdiction, Phillip Hamburger reports in his 2002 book “Separation of Church and State,” published by Harvard University Press.

In a Feb. 7, 2018 statement, Notre Dame’s president Father Jenkins acknowledged that the use of contraception is indeed “contrary to Catholic teaching.” Attempting to justify the health plan policy, he said that offering contraception in the school health plan was a way to “respect” other religious traditions and conscientious decisions—particularly decisions made by those in the university’s community who rely on access to contraception through the insurance plan.

This step came as a surprise to many, since the university was one of the institutions which sued the United States over the mandate. Prior to the mandate, Notre Dame did not provide contraception coverage in its insurance plans, except when prescribed to treat a medical condition.

Notre Dame law professor Gerard V. Bradley criticized the new university policy in a February 2018 Public Discourse essay “Notre Dame Swallows the Pill.” He said the policy was “a giant leap into immorality” that made the university “sole funder and proprietor of a contraception giveaway.”

Bradley cited Notre Dame’s previous claims that justified its lawsuit on the grounds of fidelity to Catholic teaching. In his words, the university argued that “to remain faithful to its beliefs, it could not be involved in any way whatsoever with a process designed to provide contraceptives to its employees, its students, or their dependents.”

Bradley said the allowance for contraception will cause incalculable harm to “so many persons’ minds, bodies and souls.”

“Our moral duty to respect others’ choices does not have anything to do with giving them the means to do evil,” he said.

 

Legionaries of Christ: Sexual abuse was perpetrated at minor seminary

Vatican City, Jan 27, 2020 / 08:00 pm (CNA).- The Legionaries of Christ acknowledged that sexual abuse took place at the religious order’s El Ajusco minor seminary in Mexico City between 1985 and 1992.

The group issued two separate statements Jan. 24, during its general chapter in Rome. The statements were in response to allegations of sexual abuse on the part of Fr. Antonio Rodríguez Sánchez, 65, and laicized priests José María Sabín Sabín, 61.

In its statement on Rodríguez, Legion officials said that during an internal review, “several indications were found of possible sexual abuse of minors by Fr.  Rodríguez in relation to the period when he was rector of the El Ajusco minor seminary in Mexico, between 1983-1988.”

“The initial indications [of abuse] were confirmed by complaints from victims,” the Legion said, and the Rodriguez admitted the abuse.

The Legionaries said that Rodríguez has been banned from contact with minors and prohibited from public priestly ministry since September 2019.

An investigation into Rodriguez has been sent to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican, which began a canonical trial concerning the matter.

“There are no indications of the abuse of minors during other periods of his ministry,” the statement added.

In the case of José María Sabin, the Legionaries of Christ stated that “in relation to his time as rector of the minor seminary between 1988-1992, there are credible private complaints against him for the sexual abuse of minors that were compiled and verified during the work of reviewing cases from the past that the Congregation carried out in 2019.”

Sabín requested in 2014 to leave both the congregation and the priesthood, and the Holy See granted those requests in 2015.

The religious order said it plans to report the abuse to civil authorities in Mexico, and cooperate with any criminal investigation.

The group also said the cases of  Sánchez and Sabín are noted in a December 2019 report on abuse within the congregation, although the priests are not mentioned by name. The report documents statistics on sexual abuse but does not disclose details. 

Since its founding in 1941, 33 priests of the Legionaries of Christ have been found to have committed sexual abuse of minors, victimizing 175 children, according to the 2019 report.

Fr. Marcial Maciel, who founded the order, abused at least 60 minors, according to the order.

 

A version of this story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

 

TX judges increasingly denied abortion to minors without parental consent from 2016

Austin, Texas, Jan 27, 2020 / 06:18 pm (CNA).- A study of statistics from Texas suggests that since 2016, judges in the state were less likely to grant permission to minors to procure abortion without their parents’ consent than in previous years.

Thirty-seven states, including Texas, require minors to obtain parental consent before procuring an abortion. In those states, minors can also seek the approval of a judge, in what is known as a “judicial bypass.”

From 2000 to 2015, Texas’ laws mandated that a minor seeking an abortion without parental consent must demonstrate to a judge that they were mature and well-informed, that notifying a parent would not be in their best interest, and that notifying a parent might lead to physical, sexual or emotional abuse.

According to a study published this month in the American Journal of Public Health, between 2001 and 2015 the number of times a judge in Texas denied a minor an abortion ranged from zero to six per year, which in turn represented between 0% and 6.2% of the total requests judges received that year. The rate of denial was 2.8% in 2015.

In 2016, the year that Texas implemented a law changing regulations for minors requesting permission for abortions from judges, the number of denials rose to 23, which represented about 10.3% of the total requests that judges received that year. The number of denials dipped to 10 in 2017 (3.1%) and then rose slightly to 12 in 2018 (5.1%).

The data for 2016-18 came from the Texas Office of Court Administration, while that from 2001-15 were based on reports from Jane's Due Process, a group that provides legal representation to minors seeking to procure abortion without their parents' consent.

Reuters reported that one of the changes implemented in 2016 was the removal of the criterion related to physical, sexual, or emotional abuse if the minor tells the parent they are having an abortion. Another change implemented after 2016 required girls to file their petitions in the county they live in, and to include their name, address, and date of birth, Reuters reported.

The study's lead author, Amanda Stevenson, said that the purpose of the judicial bypass process “is to protect minors from a veto of their abortion decision. We find sometimes the process doesn’t protect them from being vetoed. It’s just the judge instead of the parent.”

Texas’ requirements regarding judicial consent for minors to obtain an abortion recieved national attention when a 17-year-old from Central America, known as Jane Doe, obtained state permission in September 2017.

The minor had been in federal custody in a Texas shelter operated by the Office of Refugee Resettlement – an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services. The Department of Health and Human Services objected to transporting the minor to abortion appointments.

The government argued that since she is a minor in their custody, it has the right to determine what is in the best interest of the teen, and also stated that it has an interest in not creating incentives for minors to cross international borders in order to obtain abortions.

On Oct. 20, 2017, a three-judge appellate panel ruled that Doe would not be allowed immediately to obtain the abortion. This overruled a Texas district court’s ruling that Doe should be allowed to access an abortion immediately.

However, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the decision five days later, ordering instead that an adult custodian be found for the teenager, which would remove her from federal custody. The teen subsequently procured the abortion.

Other states attempting to pass “parental notification laws,” such as Indiana, have been blocked by the courts.

Indiana law requires any Indiana minor seeking an abortion to provide the courts with written consent from a parent, but the state allows a minor to petition a court for approval to have an abortion without parental consent.

A 2017 law would have allowed judges to notify parents that their daughters are seeking to have an abortion without consent.

In 2017, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction that prevents judges from notifying parents when minors seek abortions, and the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that injunction during August 2019 by a vote of 2-1.

Also in 2017, a federal judge struck down an Alabama law requiring more scrutiny for minors who seek an abortion without parental consent, saying that the law violates the minor’s confidentiality by possibly bringing other people from her life into the process.

Efforts are currently underway to remove the longstanding requirement for teens to obtain parental consent before getting an abortion in Massachusetts, a rule that can only be bypassed if the minor is granted permission for the abortion by a state judge. The bill, which state Sen. Harriet Chandler introduced during January 2020, also seeks to establish a state right to an abortion, which would stand even if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned.

TX judges increasingly denied abortion to minors without parental consent from 2016

Austin, Texas, Jan 27, 2020 / 06:18 pm (CNA).- A study of statistics from Texas suggests that since 2016, judges in the state were less likely to grant permission to minors to procure abortion without their parents’ consent than in previous years.

Thirty-seven states, including Texas, require minors to obtain parental consent before procuring an abortion. In those states, minors can also seek the approval of a judge, in what is known as a “judicial bypass.”

From 2000 to 2015, Texas’ laws mandated that a minor seeking an abortion without parental consent must demonstrate to a judge that they were mature and well-informed, that notifying a parent would not be in their best interest, and that notifying a parent might lead to physical, sexual or emotional abuse.

According to a study published this month in the American Journal of Public Health, between 2001 and 2015 the number of times a judge in Texas denied a minor an abortion ranged from zero to six per year, which in turn represented between 0% and 6.2% of the total requests judges received that year. The rate of denial was 2.8% in 2015.

In 2016, the year that Texas implemented a law changing regulations for minors requesting permission for abortions from judges, the number of denials rose to 23, which represented about 10.3% of the total requests that judges received that year. The number of denials dipped to 10 in 2017 (3.1%) and then rose slightly to 12 in 2018 (5.1%).

The data for 2016-18 came from the Texas Office of Court Administration, while that from 2001-15 were based on reports from Jane's Due Process, a group that provides legal representation to minors seeking to procure abortion without their parents' consent.

Reuters reported that one of the changes implemented in 2016 was the removal of the criterion related to physical, sexual, or emotional abuse if the minor tells the parent they are having an abortion. Another change implemented after 2016 required girls to file their petitions in the county they live in, and to include their name, address, and date of birth, Reuters reported.

The study's lead author, Amanda Stevenson, said that the purpose of the judicial bypass process “is to protect minors from a veto of their abortion decision. We find sometimes the process doesn’t protect them from being vetoed. It’s just the judge instead of the parent.”

Texas’ requirements regarding judicial consent for minors to obtain an abortion recieved national attention when a 17-year-old from Central America, known as Jane Doe, obtained state permission in September 2017.

The minor had been in federal custody in a Texas shelter operated by the Office of Refugee Resettlement – an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services. The Department of Health and Human Services objected to transporting the minor to abortion appointments.

The government argued that since she is a minor in their custody, it has the right to determine what is in the best interest of the teen, and also stated that it has an interest in not creating incentives for minors to cross international borders in order to obtain abortions.

On Oct. 20, 2017, a three-judge appellate panel ruled that Doe would not be allowed immediately to obtain the abortion. This overruled a Texas district court’s ruling that Doe should be allowed to access an abortion immediately.

However, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the decision five days later, ordering instead that an adult custodian be found for the teenager, which would remove her from federal custody. The teen subsequently procured the abortion.

Other states attempting to pass “parental notification laws,” such as Indiana, have been blocked by the courts.

Indiana law requires any Indiana minor seeking an abortion to provide the courts with written consent from a parent, but the state allows a minor to petition a court for approval to have an abortion without parental consent.

A 2017 law would have allowed judges to notify parents that their daughters are seeking to have an abortion without consent.

In 2017, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction that prevents judges from notifying parents when minors seek abortions, and the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that injunction during August 2019 by a vote of 2-1.

Also in 2017, a federal judge struck down an Alabama law requiring more scrutiny for minors who seek an abortion without parental consent, saying that the law violates the minor’s confidentiality by possibly bringing other people from her life into the process.

Efforts are currently underway to remove the longstanding requirement for teens to obtain parental consent before getting an abortion in Massachusetts, a rule that can only be bypassed if the minor is granted permission for the abortion by a state judge. The bill, which state Sen. Harriet Chandler introduced during January 2020, also seeks to establish a state right to an abortion, which would stand even if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned.

Legislators back 'School Choice Week' as Supreme Court considers key case

Washington D.C., Jan 27, 2020 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- Political leaders have come out in support of School Choice Week, as the Supreme Court considers a crucial case on the right of parents to public assistance if they choose religious schools.

National School Choice Week is Jan. 26 through Feb. 1. “School choice” is a policy to provide families, particularly low-income families, the option of using public funds such as tax credits, public scholarships or vouchers, to help pay for the cost of sending their children to private schools or charter schools.

The U.S. bishops’ conference has promoted school choice over the years, in line with Church teaching that parents are the primary educators of their children.

The chair of the U.S. bishops’ education committee, Bishop Michael Barber, S.J. of Oakland, outlined the conference’s stances on school choice in a March, 2019 letter to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.), Education Freedom Scholarships.

“In addition to parents having the duty to educate their children, the Catholic Church also teaches that parents should have access to government resources to successfully meet the education needs of their children,” Bishop Barber wrote.

Byrne quoted Pope St. Paul VI’s declaration on Christian education, Gravissimum Educationis: “The public power, which has the obligation to protect and defend the rights of citizens, must see to it, in its concern for distributive justice, that public subsidies are paid out in such a way that parents are truly free to choose according to their conscience the schools they want for their children.”

Barber also praised Congress in December for reauthorizing the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP), which allows for education vouchers.

“The Catholic Church has consistently taught that children have the universal right to an education, and that parents have the right and responsibility to serve as the primary educators of their children,” Barber stated, “The Church also teaches that the state has a fundamental obligation to support parents in fulfilling such a right.”

President Trump, in a proclamation for School Choice Week issued last Friday, said that “[e]ach child is a gift from God who has boundless potential and deserves a fair shot at the American Dream.” The president said that “children and their families must be free to pursue an educational environment that matches their individual learning style, develops their unique talents, and prepares them with the knowledge and character needed for fulfilling and productive lives.” 

The USCCB has also weighed in on a recent school choice case, Espinoza v. Montana Dept. of Revenue, currently before the Supreme Court.

A clause in Montana’s state constitution that dates back to 1889, and which was included again in the state’s 1972 constitution, bars public funding of religious schools.

A state scholarship program funded by donations—through which donors could claim tax credits dollar-for-dollar—was created to help low-income parents to send their children to private schools, including religious schools. The state supreme court ruled that the program violated the state constitution and struck it down, saying that it could not be remedied.

Bishop Barber, along with USCCB religious freedom chair Bishop George Murry of Youngstown, stated that “Our country’s tradition of non-establishment of religion does not mean that governments can deny otherwise available benefits on the basis of religious status.”

Legislators have also drawn attention to School Choice Week. Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) sponsored the Senate resolution designating the week of Jan. 26 through Feb. 1, 2020 as School Choice Week. Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Education Committee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) were original cosponsors of the resolution.

“I firmly believe that a child’s zip code should not affect his or her access to quality education nor should it affect the child’s future, which is why I proudly support National School Choice Week,” Sen. Scott stated. 

“I have long believed that parents should have an informed and meaningful choice in their children’s education,” said Senator Feinstein.

Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla,) office tweeted on Monday that he “proudly supports the right of every parent to decide what educational option is best for their child, regardless of zip code or socioeconomic background.”

“Parents should be the ultimate decision makers on where their children go to school,” Sen. Cruz tweeted, adding that “poor and working class parents often have no choice about what schools their children can attend.”

The Joint Economic Committee in the Senate, which runs the Social Capital Project, stated Monday that “Public education aspired to be the common ground on which sectarianism could be put aside to focus on values we all share.” 

“This model is breaking down,” the committee said, “evidenced by parents frustrated at their inability to influence the content or context of their child’s educational experience.”

Legislators back 'School Choice Week' as Supreme Court considers key case

Washington D.C., Jan 27, 2020 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- Political leaders have come out in support of School Choice Week, as the Supreme Court considers a crucial case on the right of parents to public assistance if they choose religious schools.

National School Choice Week is Jan. 26 through Feb. 1. “School choice” is a policy to provide families, particularly low-income families, the option of using public funds such as tax credits, public scholarships or vouchers, to help pay for the cost of sending their children to private schools or charter schools.

The U.S. bishops’ conference has promoted school choice over the years, in line with Church teaching that parents are the primary educators of their children.

The chair of the U.S. bishops’ education committee, Bishop Michael Barber, S.J. of Oakland, outlined the conference’s stances on school choice in a March, 2019 letter to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.), Education Freedom Scholarships.

“In addition to parents having the duty to educate their children, the Catholic Church also teaches that parents should have access to government resources to successfully meet the education needs of their children,” Bishop Barber wrote.

Byrne quoted Pope St. Paul VI’s declaration on Christian education, Gravissimum Educationis: “The public power, which has the obligation to protect and defend the rights of citizens, must see to it, in its concern for distributive justice, that public subsidies are paid out in such a way that parents are truly free to choose according to their conscience the schools they want for their children.”

Barber also praised Congress in December for reauthorizing the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP), which allows for education vouchers.

“The Catholic Church has consistently taught that children have the universal right to an education, and that parents have the right and responsibility to serve as the primary educators of their children,” Barber stated, “The Church also teaches that the state has a fundamental obligation to support parents in fulfilling such a right.”

President Trump, in a proclamation for School Choice Week issued last Friday, said that “[e]ach child is a gift from God who has boundless potential and deserves a fair shot at the American Dream.” The president said that “children and their families must be free to pursue an educational environment that matches their individual learning style, develops their unique talents, and prepares them with the knowledge and character needed for fulfilling and productive lives.” 

The USCCB has also weighed in on a recent school choice case, Espinoza v. Montana Dept. of Revenue, currently before the Supreme Court.

A clause in Montana’s state constitution that dates back to 1889, and which was included again in the state’s 1972 constitution, bars public funding of religious schools.

A state scholarship program funded by donations—through which donors could claim tax credits dollar-for-dollar—was created to help low-income parents to send their children to private schools, including religious schools. The state supreme court ruled that the program violated the state constitution and struck it down, saying that it could not be remedied.

Bishop Barber, along with USCCB religious freedom chair Bishop George Murry of Youngstown, stated that “Our country’s tradition of non-establishment of religion does not mean that governments can deny otherwise available benefits on the basis of religious status.”

Legislators have also drawn attention to School Choice Week. Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) sponsored the Senate resolution designating the week of Jan. 26 through Feb. 1, 2020 as School Choice Week. Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Education Committee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) were original cosponsors of the resolution.

“I firmly believe that a child’s zip code should not affect his or her access to quality education nor should it affect the child’s future, which is why I proudly support National School Choice Week,” Sen. Scott stated. 

“I have long believed that parents should have an informed and meaningful choice in their children’s education,” said Senator Feinstein.

Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla,) office tweeted on Monday that he “proudly supports the right of every parent to decide what educational option is best for their child, regardless of zip code or socioeconomic background.”

“Parents should be the ultimate decision makers on where their children go to school,” Sen. Cruz tweeted, adding that “poor and working class parents often have no choice about what schools their children can attend.”

The Joint Economic Committee in the Senate, which runs the Social Capital Project, stated Monday that “Public education aspired to be the common ground on which sectarianism could be put aside to focus on values we all share.” 

“This model is breaking down,” the committee said, “evidenced by parents frustrated at their inability to influence the content or context of their child’s educational experience.”

Priest in N Ireland cancels Sinn Féin meeting at parish hall over abortion

Armagh, Northern Ireland, Jan 27, 2020 / 04:01 pm (CNA).- A pastor in Northern Ireland barred earlier this month the Irish nationalist party Sinn Féin from holding a meeting at a church-owned hall over its support for abortion rights.

The party has historically enjoyed significant Catholic support.

The Irish News reported Jan. 17 that Fr. Eugene O'Neill, parish priest in Coalisland, 15 miles north of Armagh, cancelled a Sinn Féin meeting at St. Patrick's Hall “after being contacted by pro-life campaigners.”

In 2018 party members endorsed the repeal of the Eighth Amendment in the Republic of Ireland, which protected unborn children. The party has endorsed legalized abortion in cases of rape, fetal abnormality, and where a woman’s mental or physical health faces serious threat, and it supported the liberalization of abortion laws in Northern Ireland imposed by the British parliament.

The party also demanded the recognition of same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland in 2017.

According to The Irish News, Fr. O'Neill wrote to pro-lifers saying that he had not been involved in the hall's booking by Sinn Féin, but that he contacted the party “to cancel it immediately” once he learned of it.

“In light of their recent behaviour regarding the abortion debate and due to their long-running policy on pro-life matters I would not entertain the use of church property for any such meeting,” he stated.

The priest was lauded by pro-lifers for his decision.

Bernadette Smyth, spokeswoman for Precious Life, said that “Fr. Eugene O'Neill has stood up for the faithful and strongly reaffirmed church teaching. He has informed us he was not aware of this meeting, but that he contacted Sinn Fein, who have a radical pro-abortion position, to cancel this meeting as soon as people responded to our action alert.”

“Fr Eugene must be commended for taking a strong stand for life, and standing up against Sinn Féin's radical and cruel abortion agenda,” she told The Catholic Universe.

Francie Brolly, a former Sinn Féin politician who resigned the party in 2018 for its abortion support, said Fr. O'Neill had “led the way” by his decision.

According to Mid-Ulster Mail, he said that “all the churches should be more vocal in supporting the right of the unborn to live.”

Brolly added that he anticipates that Catholics in Northern Ireland will “go against their religious beliefs to vote for Sinn Fein for various other reasons... fundamentally to keep the [Democratic Unionist Party] down.”

Catherine Sewell, spokeswoman for Tyrone Pro-Life Network, said: “No pro-abortion outfit should be allowed to use Catholic Church property. We determined to stop them and immediately began a mobilisation of activists.”

Sinn Féin's abortion policy has allowed for some political realignments among Catholics in Ireland.

Michael Kelly, editor of The Irish Catholic, told CNA in 2018 that pro-life voters “have been left unrepresented by the mainstream political establishment” and that “Ireland is crying out for a new political movement.”

Kelly noted that “many pro-life voters remain reluctant voters for their traditional political party,” but that “there is some evidence that this is changing and that people are willing to set aside old tribal loyalties.”

In the Republic of Ireland, the legislator Carol Nolan resigned from Sinn Féin in June 2018 over the party's abortion policy. She had earlier been suspended from the party for voting against a bill allowing a referendum to be held on repealing the Eighth Amendment. She now sits as an independent in Dáil Éireann.

Peadar Tóibín, another deputy to the Dáil, was twice suspended from Sinn Féin for breaking with the party's platform on legalized abortion. He resigned the party in 2018, and launched Aontú as a pro-life, nationalist party last year. He is Aontú's sole member in the Dáil.

“Aontú want to make sure that there is a real voice and a real alternative for many people who feel that they have no-one to vote for,” Tóibín said at the party's launch. “We are simply saying that this is a core value for ourselves, and we won't let you down on this issue.”

Aontú members are standing for 26 constituencies in the 2020 Irish general election, being held Feb 8. The party contested seven of the 18 Northern Irelands seats in last year's UK general election, but won none.

In October 2019, ahead of the 2019 UK general election, a parish priest in Northern Ireland exhorted pro-choice politicians not to receive Holy Communion, and Catholic voters not to vote for pro-choice candidates or parties.

Legislation expanding abortion access in Northern Ireland had taken effect shortly before because the Northern Ireland Assembly, which had been suspended the prior two years due to a dispute between the two major governing parties, was not able to do business by Oct. 21.

Pro-life members of the Northern Ireland Assembly, largely comprised of members of the DUP, recalled the assembly in order to block the relaxed abortion restrictions, but members of the assembly from Sinn Fein, the Green Party, and People Before Profit did not participate.

“For Catholics and nationalists/republicans, in particular, Sinn Féin and the SDLP have betrayed us in a most hideous fashion,” Fr. Patrick McCafferty, parish priest at Corpus Christi in Belfast, wrote on Facebook Oct. 21, noting that “Sinn Féin is avowedly pro abortion.”

“The collapse of the Northern Ireland Assembly, due to the RHI Scandal, has left the door wide open for a phalanx of determined and fanatical pro abortion MPs in Westminster, led by Stella Creasy - unelected by the people of Northern Ireland - but aided and abetted by pro abortion-choice politicians in Sinn Féin, the SDLP, Alliance, PBP and the Green Party - to railroad through, at Midnight last night, one of the most extreme abortion regimes in the world,” the priest lamented.

The DUP have emerged as a leading pro-life party in Northern Ireland. However, the unionist party has had links to a the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster, an ecclesial community particularly hostile to the Catholic Church; the community's website lauds the leaders of the Protestant reformation for “their militant witness against the antichristian system of the Papacy.”

Arlene Foster, the leader of the DUP, wrote in September 2019 that the party's “position on abortion remains resolute and unchanged since the Party’s inception. We are a pro-life party and will continue to support the rights of both the mother and the unborn child.”

She noted that “the DUP is the only pro-life party in the [Northern Ireland] Assembly”, besides Jim Allister, the Traditional Unionist Voice's sole member of the legislative body.

At Kobe and Gianna Bryant's parish, prayer and Masses for crash victims

Newport Beach, CA, Jan 27, 2020 / 03:25 pm (CNA).- Hours before he died Sunday, basketball superstar Kobe Bryant attended Mass at Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church in Newport Beach, California. His parish is now praying for his soul.

Holy Mass was offered Monday at the parish for the souls of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven other victims of the Jan. 26 helicopter crash that took their lives, according to NBC 4 Los Angeles.

NBC also reported that parishioners have gathered to pray the rosary for the Bryants, and for the other victims of the crash.

Parishioners said Bryant was a regular part of their parish community.

Heny Russell, an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion at the parish, remembered that Bryant presented a bit of a challenge to her.

"When I give him communion I have to put my arm and feet up like that so I can reach him," Russell said, demonstrating a stretch on the tip of her toes.

“They are very humble people, you know,” Russell told NBC of her fellow parishioners.

Kobe Bryant, 41, was the father of four. Gianna Bryant, 13, was an upcoming basketball player in her own right, who had said she hoped to play for the University of Connecticut. They were killed Sunday, along with seven other people, while en route via helicopter to a youth basketball tournament.

Bryant, his wife, and children, are reported to be regular parishioners at Our Lady Queen of Angels Parish.

After his death was announced, Catholics reported their experiences of seeing Bryant at Sunday and weekday Mass in other parts of California, and other parts of the country. Some reported seeing him at Mass in their cities whenever the Los Angeles Lakers, the team for which Bryant played for 20 years, were in town.

Singer Cristina Ballestero posted on Instagram Jan. 26 a story of her encounter with Bryant at Holy Family Cathedral in Orange, California at a weekday Mass.

“As we went up to communion, [Bryant] waited for me to go. If you grew up in the Catholic Church, you understand this is a respectful thing men do in church as a sign of respect to women. He said I have a beautiful voice.”

“His most inspiring trait was his decision to turn to his faith in God and receive God’s mercy and to be a better man after a regretful decision,” Ballestero added.

       

Ver esta publicación en Instagram                   I wanna tell a story about the time I met Kobe Bryant. I was sitting in the very back of Holy Family Cathedral in Orange, CA, on a WEEKDAY mass. At the time I was very into wearing veils and on this particular day I had a scarf I used as veil. Right as mass begins I see a huge shadow in my right peripheral vision and hear a decently loud creak from probably a big man. I double took to see... it was KOBE BRYANT IN THE SAME PEW AS ME ON THE OTHER END! I just went about my normal praying and singing as usual cause he like all of us came to pray. Thank God I had the veil so I could stay focused on Jesus not this insanely talented Basketball player my whole family has looked up to and watched our whole lives. As we went up to communion, he waited for me to go. If you grew up in the Catholic Church, you understand this is a respectful thing men do in church as a sign of respect to women. He said I have a beautiful voice. I said thank you and went up to communion. @marydallal @mandymissyturkey and a couple other friends saw him standing behind me going to receive Jesus. And we talked about it after mass and freaked out together. It was such a cool experience to receive Jesus right before him, and also, to walk up to receive Jesus together. It was also cool to see him come for a weekday mass. He said in his GQ interview how a Catholic Priest helped him through the tough time he went through in the media. He also talks about how his faith is important. His most inspiring trait was his decision to turn to his faith in God and receive God’s mercy and to be a better man after a regretful decision. Him and his wife do so much great work with their foundation. I’m heartbroken at the news of his death, alongside his daughter Gianna. My prayers go out to his Family, friends and loved ones. Eternal rest grant unto him, and her oh Lord and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they Rest In Peace, Amen. We love you Kobe & Gianna. ? . . . . #kobebryant

Una publicación compartida por Cristina Ballestero (@cristinaballestero) el 26 de Ene de 2020 a las 12:44 PST


After Bryant’s death was reported, but before news emerged that his daughter Gianna had also been killed, Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez tweeted his condolences.

So very sad to hear the news of #KobeBryant’s tragic death this morning. I am praying for him and his family. May he rest in peace and may our Blessed Mother Mary bring comfort to his loved ones. #KobeBryantRIP pic.twitter.com/QYMRL7RvCL

— Abp. José H. Gomez (@ArchbishopGomez) January 26, 2020 An auxiliary bishop in Los Angeles, Bishop Robert Barron, also tweeted his condolences.

Friends, I just learned of the shocking death of Kobe Bryant, the legendary basketball icon here in Los Angeles. We pray for the repose of his soul, along with the others killed in the helicopter crash. May the Lord grant them his mercy and welcome them into his heavenly kingdom. pic.twitter.com/3ngYRC0zZn

— Bishop Robert Barron (@BishopBarron) January 26, 2020 Bishop Kevin Vann of Orange, Bryant’s bishop, also tweeted a message of prayer.

A message from @OCBishop pic.twitter.com/h13LJpjSWl

— Diocese of Orange (@OrangeDiocese) January 26, 2020 Bryant credited his Catholic faith with helping him move past a challenging period in his own life and the life of his family.

In 2003, Bryant was arrested after he was accused of raping a woman in a Colorado hotel room.

Bryant admitted a sexual encounter with the woman, but denied that he had committed sexual assault. When the allegation became public, Bryant lost sponsors and faced criminal charges, which were eventually dropped.

Bryant issued an apology to his accuser, with whom he also reached a settlement in a civil lawsuit.

“Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did. After months of reviewing discovery, listening to her attorney, and even her testimony in person, I now understand how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter,” Bryant said in his 2004 apology.

In 2015, the basketball player told GQ that after the matter was resolved, he decided to shed some superficiality he felt he had built up in his public persona.

“What I came to understand, coming out of Colorado, is that I had to be me, in the place where I was at that moment.”

Bryant said it was a priest who helped him to make some important personal realizations during the ordeal.

Describing his fear of being sent to prison for a crime he believed he had not committed, Bryant told GQ that “The one thing that really helped me during that process—I’m Catholic, I grew up Catholic, my kids are Catholic—was talking to a priest.”

“It was actually kind of funny: He looks at me and says, ’Did you do it?’ And I say, ’Of course not.’ Then he asks, ’Do you have a good lawyer?’ And I’m like, ’Uh, yeah, he’s phenomenal.’ So then he just said, ’Let it go. Move on. God’s not going to give you anything you can’t handle, and it’s in his hands now. This is something you can’t control. So let it go.’ And that was the turning point,” Bryant said.

Bryant’s Catholic faith is also reported to have helped the basketball superstar renew his marriage. His wife Vanessa filed for divorce in 2011.

But Bryant said he decided not to give up on his marriage, and two years later, his wife withdrew her divorce petition.

“I’m not going to say our marriage is perfect, by any stretch of the imagination,” Bryant told GQ in 2015.

“We still fight, just like every married couple. But you know, my reputation as an athlete is that I’m extremely determined, and that I will work my ass off. How could I do that in my professional life if I wasn’t like that in my personal life, when it affects my kids? It wouldn’t make any sense.”

Bryant’s longtime teammate and sometime rival, Shaquille O’Neal, tweeted Sunday that Bryant was “a family man.”

Kobe was so much more than an athlete, he was a family man. That was what we had most in common. I would hug his children like they were my own and he would embrace my kids like they were his. His baby girl Gigi was born on the same day as my youngest daughter Me’Arah. pic.twitter.com/BHBPN5Wq8V

— SHAQ (@SHAQ) January 26, 2020 Funeral plans for Bryant and his daughter Gianna have not yet been announced.