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New Orleans Auxiliary Bishop Cheri dies at 71 after lengthy illness
Posted on 03/22/2023 21:00 PM (CNA Daily News)
New Orleans, La., Mar 22, 2023 / 16:00 pm (CNA).
Bishop Fernand (Ferd) Joseph Cheri III, OFM, a New Orleans native who had served since 2015 as auxiliary bishop of New Orleans, died March 21 at Chateau de Notre Dame in New Orleans following a lengthy illness.
Cheri, 71, served most recently as administrator of St. Peter Claver Parish in New Orleans until kidney and heart problems forced him to step away from active ministry. He was born with one kidney and had been on dialysis three days a week for several months.
“He has been called home to the Lord,” Archbishop Gregory Aymond said in a message to priests, religious, and laity of the archdiocese. “We mourn his death and thank God for his life and ministry.”
The archbishop said Cheri started his vocational journey in the Archdiocese of New Orleans “as a seminarian, as a priest, and as a pastor” and had directed a “very dedicated ministry.”
“And then, he heard God’s call to join the Franciscans and was a valued member of the Franciscan community,” Aymond said. “We were delighted to receive him back into the Archdiocese of New Orleans as auxiliary bishop in 2015, and I have enjoyed working with him in sharing episcopal ministry and shepherding God’s people.”
Lengthy medical setbacks
Cheri was hospitalized after attending the national Lyke Conference for Black Catholics last June, and he began dialysis several months later and was dealing with a serious heart condition.
“We saw him not only as a vocal advocate for African-American Catholics and advocating for our needs but also as a shepherd to the world,” said Dr. Ansel Augustine, director of the archdiocesan Office of Black Catholic Ministries. “When you think of bishops being shepherds, you see someone who cares about people, one on one. When you talked to him, you felt like you were the only person in the world that mattered even though he might have had 8 million other things going on. But Bishop Cheri’s charism — and maybe it’s the Franciscan thing of hospitality — was something you felt with him. I think that’s why so many people loved him.”
Cheri, who was ordained to the episcopacy on March 23, 2015, at St. Louis Cathedral, was one of seven active African-American bishops in the U.S.
In 2020, after the murder of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis, Cheri led a peaceful march of 250 from the archdiocesan chancery building to Notre Dame Seminary. The prayer service was called “Requiem for the Black Children of God.”
“Enough is enough,” he said from the steps of the seminary, where he did his theological studies. “This scene drains our spirits and clouds the union of the human family.
“As toxic as the crossroads of life are these days, will we have the courage and wisdom to stay vigilant amidst … the gross violence and abuse by law enforcement? This is not a time for the faint of heart but for the courageous.”
In a 2018 address honoring New Orleans’ tricentennial, Cheri traced the history of the Black Catholic Church in New Orleans and praised the Sisters of the Holy Family, founded in 1842 by Venerable Henriette Delille, a free woman of color; the Knights and Ladies of St. Peter Claver; the Office of Black Catholic Ministries; and the Institute of Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana, founded in 1980 to explore Scripture and Church teachings from both “a righteous Black consciousness and an authentic Catholic tradition.”
“These individuals and moments challenged the Catholic community of the Archdiocese of New Orleans to not only change the narrative of the Church but [also] to affirm that we share common journeys together,” Cheri said. “We were called to rise above the Code Noir and Jim Crow laws of our times that supported the politics of fear and anger and the foundation of racism in the South.”
Music tied to his faith life
A lifelong singer, he loved to break into song during a homily or whenever the mood struck. When he was just 3 years old, his mother, Gladys, recalled little Ferd, the first boy among her seven children, belting out a tune in their house on St. Anthony Street in New Orleans.
In a 2015 interview before his ordination, Cheri spoke about how he reveled in the gift of music and his vocation.
“The experience of becoming a bishop — and how people are reacting to it — I feel like I sang a solo that became the community’s prayer,” he told the Clarion Herald.
Cheri was named the 11th auxiliary bishop of New Orleans on Jan. 12, 2015. Until he received the phone call from the papal nuncio, the self-effacing Franciscan priest was directing campus ministry at Quincy University, a 1,300-student school run by the Franciscans in rural Illinois, about 135 miles northwest of St. Louis.
Cheri’s life story was one of amazing grace.
His father, Fernand Joseph Cheri Jr., was an Army veteran whose full-time job was delivering mail. He worked extra jobs to keep the children fed and in Catholic school uniforms. After finishing his regular mail route at 3 p.m., Cheri would drive to St. Mary’s Academy to do evening maintenance work. Later, he even helped build classroom buildings at the school.
Gladys Cheri, who squeezed every nickel out of her husband’s salary, somehow made it all work. Gladys also worked for many years cooking for the Sisters of the Holy Family who staffed St. Mary’s Academy.
“It was quite interesting,” Bishop Cheri said. “My dad would always say, ‘Y’all are breaking me!’ That was his favorite mantra. Of course, that never stopped us from saying we needed money. Somehow, we made it. When I think about living in a house with one bathroom for nine people, that’s amazing.”
At Epiphany Church, the Cheri family arrived like ducks, walking single file and taking up an entire pew. Young Ferd was too impatient and undisciplined to learn the piano from choir director James Freeman, but the young singer always could carry a tune.
“He tried to get me to sing solos at church,” Cheri recalled. “I got up one day and I was so nervous and shaking that my voice quivered so badly. No one came to my rescue. I had to bear that cross alone.”
In the 1960s, when the archdiocese was making efforts to desegregate its churches and the Cheris had moved into St. Leo the Great Parish, Archbishop Joseph Rummel, working through the Epiphany pastor, asked them to attend Mass at the previously all-white St. Leo the Great.
Even though they were leaving behind all their church friends at Epiphany, Bishop Cheri’s parents respected the archbishop’s wishes.
“They did that to integrate the church,” Cheri said. “We were just going to do it. I don’t think there was any conversation about it.”
That experience, as mysterious as it was, was an important signpost of what it meant to grow up both black and Catholic in New Orleans. As a member of Epiphany — which was staffed by Josephite priests — Cheri grew up in a protective cocoon where there was a sense of “really strong community.”
“We were protected from a lot of the racism in the country and even in the city,” he said.
Even after his family began attending St. Leo the Great Church, Ferd continued attending Epiphany School, and he began thinking about the priesthood.
St. John Prep
He chose to attend St. John Prep, then a school for young men considering the priesthood. Cheri played fullback on the Chargers’ football team and sang in the glee club. While there, he met two other religious women — Marianite Sister Judy Gomila and Sister of the Holy Family Marie Bernadette — who worked in the Ninth Ward with the needy in St. Philip the Apostle Parish, which encompassed the Desire Housing Development.
“They were always showing us what we needed to do,” Cheri said. “They encouraged us by saying, ‘You can do this. You can do that.’ Sister Judy and Sister Bernadette were a great team.”
“Some people called us salt and pepper,” said Sister Judy, who is white. “I will remember his wonderful voice and his gift of music. He could sing even when he was sad.”
When Cheri went on to St. Joseph Seminary College in Covington, there were about 15 Black seminarians studying for dioceses across Louisiana.
There were difficult challenges. Sometimes it was an insensitive, racially charged remark by a professor that left him wondering if he truly would be able to persevere in his vocation. But every time something traumatic occurred, Cheri said, someone came into his life to help reassure him and save his vocation.
Many of those “father figures” were members of the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus, whom he had met during summer conferences. They became sounding boards whenever things got rough. He mentioned Father Thomas Glasgow, a New Orleans priest.
“There were a number of Black priests in the clergy caucus who were supportive of me,” Cheri said. “To hear some of those guys tell their stories about how they survived and stayed in the seminary, I felt like what I was going through, as difficult as it was, was nothing compared to what they went through.”
By the time he got to Notre Dame Seminary to begin his theology studies, Cheri felt compelled to learn everything he could about ministering to all people. He took a mission trip to Jamaica, and his role was to help run a catechetical program at an orphanage.
He was selected in the summer of 1976 to serve as a chaplain at California State Prison in Vacaville, a medical prison with 2,300 inmates. On his first day, he went for lunch and turned around with his tray only to see only one spot left at a table for six — and the other five men sitting at the table were inmates.
“I was scared to death,” Cheri said. “Of course, I was in my clerics, and to all of these guys, I was a Black Catholic priest, and they had never seen one before, nor did they care. I was the smallest person there. I felt like I was sitting with a football team. It was a moment where I had to be myself, but I also had to show a sense of self-assurance, otherwise it would have been damaging. In those 10 weeks, my ministry at Vacaville gave me the courage to go on to be a priest.”
He was ordained to the diaconate in January 1978 at Epiphany Church and then was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Philip Hannan on May 20, 1978, at St. Louis Cathedral.
He was assigned for a year to Our Lady of Lourdes in New Orleans, whose pastor was Bishop Harold Perry, and then went in 1979 to St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Marrero, working under Father Doug Doussan.
Just as he had at Our Lady of Lourdes, Father Cheri developed a strong music ministry, building a 70-member youth choir within three months. Even then, he had to tread carefully because there was a delicate balance between white and Black parishioners, and the youth choir was made up of mostly Black teens.
“We had so many people at church, we had to start another Mass,” Cheri said. “I made sure the leadership of the parish understood what was going to happen and what differences it would make culturally for the Mass.”
Parishioners reacted positively to the new music program.
“One woman got up and said, ‘I have all my young children in the choir and I used to battle with them about going to church,’” Cheri said. “‘Now, they’re battling with me to get me to church.’ That whole experience taught me that we really need to help people see the value of our differences. Sometimes we just don’t see it. We go with how we think things should be, but our view is not the only view.”
After serving from 1985-91 as pastor of St. Francis de Sales Parish in New Orleans, Cheri said he began to feel a tug to consider joining a religious community.
“I was toying with the idea because I was living alone and I had some nights when I just wished I could talk to somebody about stuff,” Cheri said. “You can call a friend, but it’s different when you’re eating with somebody and can share your day and what’s going on in your life.”
He began by calling the superiors of several different religious communities with whom he had experience working in New Orleans — the Franciscans, Josephites, Vincentians, Dominicans, and Holy Cross Fathers. Each superior came to New Orleans to meet with him.
“Basically, I chose the Friars because of St. Francis and his idea of service to the poor, the marginalized, the variety of possibilities of working with the homeless people or in prison ministry,” Cheri said. “I felt I wanted to do something other than just parish ministry. The Friars offered that possibility to me. I also knew of a lot of Black Friars who were working around the country. I thought this might be a good fit.”
Cheri spent one year in the Franciscans’ pre-novitiate, which gave him a chance to see what living in community was all about while doing prison ministry in Joliet, Illinois.
He then went for two years of study in the novitiate in Franklin, Indiana, in order to learn more about the ministries and inner workings of the Franciscans’ Province of the Sacred Heart.
He taught and was a campus minister at Hales Franciscan High School in Chicago from 1993-96 and then served from 1996-2002 as pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Church in Nashville, Tennessee, that diocese’s only Black Catholic parish.
From 2002-2008, he helped in a special project of the Friars in East St. Louis, Illinois, living at St. Benedict the Black Friary and working as a guidance counselor and choir director at Althoff Catholic High School in Belleville, Illinois. While at Althoff, Cheri also tried to convince parents to do anything they could to send their children to a Catholic high school.
“It was the best secret in the Diocese of Belleville,” Cheri said. “I wanted to get some of the kids from East St. Louis to go there because the public high school was horrible. The dropout rate in the public high school was terrible. Sixty-seven percent of the freshman class never made it to graduation. You needed an alternative place.”
After spending a year as associate director of campus ministry at Xavier University back home in New Orleans, Cheri served for three and a half years as campus minister at Quincy University.
And then he returned to the city of his birth, where his parents scrimped and saved, worked and worshiped, to make something of their lives. He can hear the music of his birth.
Shall we gather at the river?
“I’ve never left New Orleans,” he said. “It’s always been a part of me.”
The article was originally published on the Clarion Herald website and is republished with permission on CNA.
Biden DOJ sued for allegedly hiding info on attacks of churches, pro-life groups
Posted on 03/22/2023 19:47 PM (CNA Daily News)
Washington D.C., Mar 22, 2023 / 14:47 pm (CNA).
A coalition of conservative organizations is taking legal action to obtain documents from the Department of Justice related to the surge in pro-abortion attacks on churches and pro-life pregnancy centers and a lack of prosecution from the agency.
Based on data compiled by CNA, there have been more than 100 attacks on churches and pro-life pregnancy centers since the May 2022 leak of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, which overturned the abortion protections guaranteed in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The DOJ has failed to prosecute the perpetrators in nearly all of the attacks.
A lawsuit led by the Heritage Foundation and Advancing American Freedom accuses the DOJ of failing to provide them with documents requested through the Freedom of Information Act. The documents requested include all records and internal DOJ communication related to crimes against pro-life pregnancy centers and churches. The requests also include all communications between the DOJ and the Domestic Policy Council or the Executive Office of the President related to investigations of these crimes.
The lawsuit accuses the DOJ of failing to “promptly review agency records for the purpose of locating and collecting those records” and failing “to conduct searches for responsive records” required by FOIA and DOJ regulations. The lawsuit further claims that the coalition has “exhausted their administrative remedies” in attempting to obtain the documents. It further accuses the DOJ of wrongfully denying their request for a waiver of the FOIA request fees.
“[Attorney General] Merrick Garland and his top officials at DOJ clearly hold us in contempt,” Mike Howell, the director of the Oversight Project, said in a statement provided to CNA. Howell is one of the people suing the DOJ for these documents.
“They refuse to prosecute those who violently attack pro-life organizations simply for existing and who attempt to coerce and intimidate Supreme Court justices into ruling the way the mob desires,” Howell continued. “Meanwhile, they send SWAT teams to the homes of pro-life Americans to arrest and prosecute them on trumped-up, phony charges.”
The lawsuit states that the groups have faced “irreparable harm” because “they are being denied information to which they are statutorily entitled.” The lawsuit asks the court to order the DOJ to conduct searches and provide the documents within 20 days or whatever date the court deems appropriate. It also asks the court to order the DOJ to provide the documents free of charge.
“It is clear that President Biden’s politicized Department of Justice is fearful of igniting the wrath of the far left and abortion extremists,” J. Marc Wheat, who serves as general counsel for Advancing American Freedom, said in a statement provided to CNA. The organization is part of the coalition suing the DOJ.
“The American people have a right to know why those who burned and vandalized pregnancy centers have not been held accountable for their violence against traditional conservatives and pro-life groups,” Wheat added.
Despite the allegations in the lawsuit, the DOJ has claimed it has lived up to its legal obligations in how it has handled the FOIA requests. As mentioned in the lawsuit, the Federal Bureau of Investigation responded to the request but closed it because it did not “contain enough descriptive information to permit a search of our records.”
The DOJ has also stated that its Office of Information Policy informed the coalition that the searches could take longer than 30 days and provided contact information for a FOIA public liaison to assist with the request. The DOJ has further noted that the DOJ provided them with contact information for the Office of Government Information Services, which it has argued is consistent with the legal requirements for an agency if it cannot produce the documents within 30 days.
In January of this year, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution that condemned the attacks on churches and pro-life pregnancy centers. However, the condemnation was mostly partisan: All 219 House Republicans voted in favor of the resolution, but only three Democrats voted for it.
Some Republican lawmakers have accused Garland and the DOJ of selective enforcement of the law, claiming that they aggressively enforce laws that protect abortion facilities but neglect to enforce laws that protect pro-life pregnancy centers. In October, Rep. Jim Jordan, who now chairs the House Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, launched an investigation into allegations that the DOJ has harshly enforced laws against pro-life activists but has failed to enforce them against pro-abortion activists who have attacked churches and pro-life pregnancy centers.
Discovering Pier Giorgio Frassati: Film sheds light on humanity, holiness of Italian blessed
Posted on 03/22/2023 14:00 PM (CNA Daily News)
Rome, Italy, Mar 22, 2023 / 09:00 am (CNA).
That Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati liked to go mountain climbing is not a surprise to those who know even a little about the 20th-century Italian youth’s story.
“To the Top,” a new docudrama produced in cooperation with EWTN, uses this aspect of the blessed’s life as a focal point to better understand both Frassati’s humanity and his holiness.
“Pier Giorgio Frassati was one of these strong and powerful figures that we could really present to the audience of EWTN,” the film’s writer and director, Daniela Gurrieri, told EWTN News during production in August 2022.
“The audience will discover many aspects that are normal aspects of a youth of his time,” she said. “He loved to go with his friends in the mountains, to play jokes among them, to laugh, to have a good time together. But at the center of everything was faith, was prayer, was love for God.”
Gurrieri, together with members of the all-Italian cast and a niece and nephew of Frassati, were present at the Italian premiere of the film at Farnese Cinema in Rome on March 18.
The English-language drama is 52 minutes long, followed by approximately 30 minutes of interviews explaining more about Frassati’s life.
The name “To the Top” was taken from a phrase written on a photo of Frassati mountain climbing, dated a few weeks before his sudden death from polio at the age of 24.
On the photo, Frassati wrote “Sunday, June 7, 1925,” and in Italian, “Verso l’alto,” which is sometimes also translated in English as “to the heights.”
The docudrama centers on a day Frassati spent mountain climbing with some of his friends. Scenes of an early morning Mass followed by taking a train to the mountains and the hike itself are interspersed with flashbacks to Frassati’s life as a student and the son of a prominent journalist and Italian diplomat.
Scenes show Frassati’s dedication to prayer and the Mass, his generosity to the poor, his opposition to fascism, his lack of concern for his own comfort — and how he always maintained a strong enthusiasm for life and joy in his Catholic faith.
Frassati, who died on July 4, 1925, was beatified by Pope John Paul II on May 20, 1990.
“To discover Pier Georgio Frassati’s life and spirituality helped me be more prayerful, for example,” director Gurrieri said, “to trust more in God, to be more attentive also to the needs of the people, and also to be more kind. Pier Giorgio was very kind.”
Francesco Buttironi, a 27-year-old Italian actor, played Frassati.
He told EWTN News during production of the film in 2022 that it was challenging to play a Blessed.
“I think the tendency is to go to just abstract stuff,” he said. “Actually, we’re always talking about a human being ... so we have a life, we have a body, we have a family, and so I try to stay with that human part.”
“And from the human part … I have been traveling into his soul, into his spiritual behavior and spiritual life,” Buttironi added.
The actor said one particularly touching moment for him during the making of the docudrama was when they were filming a scene of Frassati and his friends praying the rosary in the mountains.
A member of the crew told Buttironi a personal story of something he had experienced once while reciting the rosary.
“And in that moment, in that specific moment while being in the mountains, in these wonderful places [where] we’ve been shooting in Abruzzo,” he said, “thinking about his experience touched me in some way.”
“It was really, really strong, and what was just another scene to shoot at some point became something really powerful, really strong that touched me even personally, I have to say.”
“To the Top” will premiere on EWTN on June 28 at 10 p.m. ET and re-air on July 1 at 8 p.m. ET.
Gänswein to Costa Rica? Report of Benedict’s secretary becoming nuncio is ‘speculation,’ Vatican sources say
Posted on 03/22/2023 13:36 PM (CNA Daily News)
CNA Newsroom, Mar 22, 2023 / 08:36 am (CNA).
Following a report that Pope Francis will appoint Archbishop Georg Gänswein as the Vatican’s next ambassador to Costa Rica, sources inside the Vatican have told CNA Deutsch that the news was “speculation at best.”
The Spanish news site Religión Digital reported Tuesday that Benedict XVI’s longtime private secretary is set to serve as the next apostolic nuncio to the Central American nation.
According to “ecclesiastical sources,” the Holy See contacted the country’s state authorities last week to make the appointment, the online portal said — adding that the current apostolic nuncio, Monsignor Bruno Musaro, is about to turn 75 and is headed for retirement.
Several media outlets picked up news of Gänswein’s transfer to Costa Rica. The Vatican has so far not commented. However, sources told CNA’s German-language partner agency CNA Deutsch that the information was little more than speculation.
Gänswein’s future role has been the subject of rumor and gossip across Rome and the Church in Germany for many days. The eloquent prelate is fluent in several languages, including German and Italian.
Hailing from the Black Forest region of Germany, the son of a blacksmith was ordained a priest in 1984 by Archbishop Oskar Saier in Freiburg and holds a doctorate in canon law from Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich.
A longtime secretary to Benedict, Gänswein also served as prefect of the Papal Household to both Benedict and his successor, Pope Francis, until February 2020.
Pope Francis received Gänswein in an audience in January.
Currently, the 66-year-old is serving as executor of Benedict XVI’s will and has been tracking down relatives of the retired pontiff, who died on Dec. 31, 2022.
Notre Dame ‘abortion doula’ talk was unworthy of Catholic university, local bishop laments
Posted on 03/22/2023 13:06 PM (CNA Daily News)
CNA Newsroom, Mar 22, 2023 / 08:06 am (CNA).
The University of Notre Dame’s local bishop has strongly criticized the Catholic university for hosting a “reproductive justice” talk featuring abortion doula Ash Williams, who described abortion as “a type of birth.”
According to a National Public Radio profile, Williams’ role as an abortion doula is to provide “physical, emotional, or financial help to people seeking to end a pregnancy.” In remarks during the event on March 20, Williams, who identifies as a trans man, explicitly rejected the idea that the number of abortions should be reduced.
“Not surprisingly, inviting an abortion doula to provide an unrebutted case for abortion has prompted a great deal of concern and criticism around the country and in our diocese,” Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend said in his March 21 column for the diocesan newspaper Today’s Catholic. “I share these concerns and consider the decision to feature such a speaker on campus to be both intellectually unserious and unworthy of a great Catholic research university.”
Rhoades objected that the event sponsors provided an abortion facilitator “a platform for unanswered pro-abortion activism.” The lecture series, he said, “appears to be an explicit act of dissent from Notre Dame’s admirable institutional commitment to promoting a culture of life that embraces and affirms the intrinsic equal dignity of the unborn, pregnant mothers, and families.”
The series, titled “Reproductive Justice: Scholarship for Solidarity and Social Change,” is sponsored by the University of Notre Dame’s gender studies program and the university’s Reilly Center for Science, Technology, and Values. Several other bodies within the university and several external groups also provide support.
The series’ most recent event, “Trans Care + Abortion Care: Intersections and Questions,” was held on Zoom on March 20 and drew an audience of about 105 viewers. According to the website of the university’s Gender Studies Program, the event aimed to address “the intersections between trans care and abortion care.”
During the event, Jules Gill-Peterson, a history professor at Johns Hopkins University and self-identified trans woman, offered reflections and asked questions of Williams, described as “a Black trans abortion doula, public intellectual, and abolitionist community organizer.” Williams is based in North Carolina but is a decriminalizing abortion resident at Project Nia, a Chicago-based advocacy group that favors “restorative and transformative justice” instead of criminal incarceration.
“For the last five years, Ash has been vigorously fighting to expand abortion access by funding abortions and by training other people to become abortion doulas,” Pam Butler, associate director of Notre Dame’s gender studies department, said in the introduction to the event.
Williams’ remarks depicted abortion and birth as a false binary, as some gender activists view male and female as a false binary.
“For me, abortion is a type of birth,” Williams said. “Abortion and birth could be binary, but I believe that it is a binary worth busting just like man and woman.” This contrasted with how others might see gender transition, abortion, and birth as “processes.”
“Not every person who has an abortion experiences grief or loss, but for the people who do, sometimes, societally, we say, ‘Well, that’s what they deserve,’” Williams said, contending that this is rooted in the “disenfranchisement of the choice to have an abortion.”
The first mention of Catholicism at the Notre Dame event came more than an hour into the discussion when Williams recommended the pro-abortion counseling group Faith Aloud.
“It’s actually a resource that I use for Catholic people, for Baptists, for Buddhists, for all types of people who are religious [and] who want to have an abortion. They can talk to a priest, a bishop, a reverend, a minister, a shaman, they can talk to whoever they need to talk to to get a pro-choice answer from them,” said Williams, who added: “A lot of my job looks like connecting people to resources.”
CNA sought comment from Faith Aloud and its parent organization All Options to confirm the involvement of Catholic clergy but did not receive a response by publication. The faith-based counseling program offers “compassionate and nonjudgmental support from trained clergy and religious counselors,” according to the All Options website. Faith Aloud’s trained counselors include “clergy and religious counselors from a variety of faiths: Roman Catholic, Jewish, Unitarian-Universalist, Protestant Christian, and Buddhist.”
The Faith Aloud website recommends resources such as the website of Catholics for Choice, a pro-abortion front organization whose claim to be Catholic has been repeatedly rejected by the Catholic bishops. It also links to a purported Catholic priest’s blessing for someone about to have an abortion. The authorship of the blessing is credited to Rev. Chris Tessone of the “Independent Catholic Movement,” not in communion with Rome. The blessing is hosted on the website of the Reproductive Coalition for Reproductive Choice.
One audience question at the Notre Dame event came from a student, a self-described pro-life Catholic and prison/police abolitionist who thinks abortions can be reduced through comprehensive sex education, accessible contraception, and through “real financial and community support for pregnant women and parents.”
“How can I explain to my pro-life friends and family that abortion bans and criminalization make everyone less safe?” the student asked.
Williams called this a “great question,” but added: “The first thing that I want to say is that this idea about reducing the amount of abortions, I just want to push back on that a little. Abortion is, for some, a form of contraception. That shouldn’t be limited, because we would never say ‘Oh, we should limit that birth control. We should limit people’s access to condoms.’ It may be that abortion isn’t something that should be limited for the same reasons that condoms and other forms of contraception shouldn’t be limited.”
“Before abortion was criminalized, pregnancy is criminalized, right?” Williams added, contending that abortion bans “target mostly brown people and Black people.” People who “really need access” to abortion are “bearing the brunt of the criminalization aspect.”
Gill-Peterson suggested Williams took a position distinct from the “mainstream feminist position” of leaders and groups such as Betty Friedan and the National Organization of Women, classifying them as disproportionately middle-class and white. Gill-Peterson suggested it can be hard to see that the fates of “trans care and abortion care” are “entwined.”
Williams suggested that “transphobia” was to blame for this, adding: “I often come up against these fissures, these ruptures, as if I’m not allowed to talk about trans care and abortion care at the same time, and my Black trans abortion.” Instead, Williams advocated a trans-centered reproductive justice movement that, for example, would not need to rewrite its PowerPoint presentations to be gender-inclusive. This movement is Black, “anti-state,” decolonial, and abolitionist toward the police and prison systems.
The speaker also referred by name to a Georgia group that funds abortions.
“I want to end this by saying fund abortion, support people,” Williams said at the close of the event. “You don’t have to be an abortion doula to help someone to affirm someone’s decision to give them good information about an abortion, and then to emotionally be there for them.”
Criticism of ‘activist propaganda’
Bishop Rhoades’ reflection cited reports that Williams has a left forearm tattoo of a tool used for manual vacuum aspiration — a type of abortion procedure.
He criticized the event as “simply a conduit for activist propaganda that is not merely wrong, but squarely contrary to principles of basic human equality, justice, dignity, and nonviolence that the Catholic Church, Notre Dame, and many others (including non-Catholics) have affirmed for millennia.”
The bishop said the gender studies department and the Reilly Center’s sponsorship was “a grave mistake in judgment that creates scandal.”
“It is particularly troubling that Notre Dame’s Center for Social Concerns — whose mission involves ‘justice education’ — would support an event promoting the injustice of abortion and a series antithetical to the social doctrine of the Church,” he said.
Butler, in her introduction to the event, said the series “invites the Notre Dame community to zoom out from the issue of abortion and from intractable pro-choice versus pro-life debates to the wider frame of reproductive justice.” For Butler, this includes topics like “Black and Latina maternal mortality, adoption and tribal sovereignty, criminalization of pregnancy, miscarriage and abortion care work, and the value of human interdependence.”
She cited the Atlanta-based activist group SisterSong’s definition of reproductive justice as “the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.”
“University of Notre Dame policy calls for balance when sensitive but important topics such as abortion are discussed on campus,” Butler noted. She said organizers would provide “a list of a few of the many events held on campus that reflect the university’s position on questions related to abortion” as well as resources or citations from the discussion.
An email sent to registrants more than 24 hours after the event included two documents. The first provided links to SisterSong, FaithAloud, a 43-page “Reproductive Justice Briefing Book,” the Guttmacher Institute’s tracker on abortion legislation, and a website tracking transgender-related legislation. The second document listed various pro-life events at the University of Notre Dame, including events from last fall, as well as links to Notre Dame Right to Life, the Notre Dame Office of Life and Human Dignity, the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture, the Women and Children First Initiative, and O. Carter Snead’s book “What It Means to Be Human: The Case for the Body in Public Bioethics.”
Pope Francis invites Catholics to renew consecration to Immaculate Heart of Mary on March 25
Posted on 03/22/2023 11:40 AM (CNA Daily News)
Vatican City, Mar 22, 2023 / 06:40 am (CNA).
Pope Francis has invited Catholics to annually renew an act of consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on March 25.
The solemnity of the Annunciation on Saturday marks one year since Pope Francis consecrated Russia and Ukraine to the Blessed Virgin Mary in St. Peter’s Basilica with a prayer asking for peace in the world.
At the end of his general audience on March 22, the pope recalled his historic act of consecration and called on parish communities and prayer groups to annually renew the Marian consecration.
“Saturday will mark the solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, and our thoughts turn to March 25 last year when, in union with all the bishops of the world, we consecrated the Church and humanity, especially Russia and Ukraine, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary,” Pope Francis said.
“Let us not tire of entrusting the cause of peace to the Queen of Peace,” he said. “Therefore, I would like to invite each believer and community, especially prayer groups, to renew every March 25 the act of consecration to Our Lady, so that she, who is Mother, may guard us all in unity and peace.”
Pope Francis also urged people not to forget to pray for “martyred Ukraine, which is suffering so much.”
Last year, Pope Francis asked all the bishops of the world to join him in consecrating Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, one month after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
From the tip of Florida to Seattle, every U.S. diocese participated in the consecration in one form or another. The bishop of Fairbanks prayed the consecration on the shores of the Bering Sea, facing Russia, his diocese’s neighbor just a few hundred miles to the west.
The act of consecration was also read simultaneously by Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal.
In Moscow, Catholics tuned in and prayed along with a live broadcast of the pope’s consecration from the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
The Virgin Mary specifically asked that Russia be consecrated to her Immaculate Heart in the 1917 apparitions at Fatima.
The Vatican’s Dicastery for Divine Worship defines consecration to Mary as an overt recognition of the “singular role of Mary in the mystery of Christ and of the Church, of the universal and exemplary importance of her witness to the Gospel, of trust in her intercession, and of the efficacy of her patronage.”
In the past, several popes have consecrated the Church and world to Mary. Pope Pius XII consecrated the entire world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on Oct. 31, 1942.
St. John Paul II — who consecrated the entire Church and world to Mary three times during his pontificate — taught that by consecrating oneself to Mary, we accept her help in offering ourselves fully to Christ.
Before praying the consecration last year, Pope Francis explained that it is “an act of complete trust on the part of children who, amid the tribulation of this cruel and senseless war that threatens our world, turn to their Mother, reposing all their fears and pain in her heart and abandoning themselves to her.”
“It means placing in that pure and undefiled heart, where God is mirrored, the inestimable goods of fraternity and peace, all that we have and are, so that she, the Mother whom the Lord has given us, may protect us and watch over us.”
Pope Francis: Christian witness requires consistency between how one lives and what one proclaims
Posted on 03/22/2023 10:20 AM (CNA Daily News)
Vatican City, Mar 22, 2023 / 05:20 am (CNA).
To effectively witness to the Gospel, Christians need to be consistent in what they believe, how they live, and what they preach, Pope Francis said Wednesday.
“The witness of an authentically Christian life involves a journey to holiness,” Pope Francis said on March 22.
Speaking at his weekly audience in St. Peter’s Square, the pope underlined that Christian witness must include “professed faith” of what the Church teaches that transforms both one’s relationships and “the values that determine our choices.”
“Witness, therefore, cannot be separated from consistency between what one believes, what one proclaims, and how one lives,” he said.
“A person is credible if there is harmony between what he believes and how he lives. Many Christians only say they believe, but live something else … and this is hypocrisy.”
The pope asked the crowd to reflect on three questions first posed by Paul VI in his apostolic exhortation on evangelization in the modern world, Evangelii Nuntiandi: “Do you believe what you are proclaiming? Do you live what you believe? Do you preach what you live?”
Pope Francis emphasized that holiness is “not reserved for a few” but is “a gift from God that demands to be received and made to bear fruit for ourselves and for others.”
“Paul VI teaches that the zeal for evangelization springs from holiness, springs from a heart that is full of God,” he said.
“Nourished by prayer and above all by love for the Eucharist, evangelization, in turn, increases holiness in those who carry it out.”
Because of the importance of bearing witness to the Gospel, Pope Francis said that it is necessary for the Church to constantly be “evangelizing herself.”
“Indeed, ‘she needs to listen unceasingly to what she must believe, to her reasons for hoping, to the new commandment of love. She is the people of God immersed in the world, and often tempted by idols … and she always needs to hear the proclamation of the mighty works of God … this means that she has a constant need of being evangelized if she wishes to retain freshness, vigor, and strength in order to proclaim the Gospel,’” he said, quoting Evangelii Nuntiandi.
“A Church that evangelizes herself in order to evangelize is a Church that, guided by the Holy Spirit, is required to walk a demanding path of continuous conversion and renewal,” he added.
Pope Francis arrived at the general audience in the popemobile to a Florentine flag corps performance by a colorfully-clothed group that preserves the music and traditions from Tuscany’s medieval and Renaissance history.
At the end of the audience, the pope blessed a large bell engraved with the words “Voice of the Unborn,” which will be installed in Lusaka, Zambia.
The giant bell was forged in the workshop of Jan Felczyński in Przemyśl, Poland, as part of an initiative by the Polish Yes to Life foundation. Pope Francis has previously blessed “Voice of the Unborn” bells for Poland, Ecuador, and Ukraine.
Francis called the bell a “sign of the need to protect human life from conception to natural death.”
“Let its sound carry the message that every life is sacred and inviolable. I bless you from my heart,” he said.
Pope Francis also recalled the upcoming anniversary of his consecration of Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Virgin Mary on March 25, the solemnity of the Annunciation.
“Let us not tire of entrusting the cause of peace to the Queen of Peace,” the pope said.
“Therefore, I would like to invite each believer and community, especially prayer groups, to renew every March 25 the act of consecration to Our Lady, so that she, who is Mother, may guard us all in unity and peace.”
Argentine archdiocese repudiates destruction of blasphemous art exhibition
Posted on 03/21/2023 20:30 PM (CNA Daily News)
CNA Newsroom, Mar 21, 2023 / 15:30 pm (CNA).
The Archdiocese of Mendoza, Argentina, repudiated the acts of violence that took place Monday afternoon against an art exhibition offensive to the Christian faith.
The exhibition, titled “#8M Visual Manifestos,” is being exhibited during the month of March at the Rector’s offfice of the National University of Cuyo for Women’s Month. “8M” stands for March 8, International Women’s Day.
Some of the exhibited works had drawn criticism among those who profess the Catholic faith and among Christians in general for their explicit blasphemous content.
One of them alludes to the crucifixion of Jesus represented by the body of a naked woman; another symbolizes a vulva that simulates the silhouette of the Virgin Mary.
When the Social Ministry of the Archdiocese of Mendoza learned of the exhibition, the ministry repudiated it for carrying out “symbolic violence against Christian religious signs” and added that it “seriously offends” religious convictions.
Members of the educational community also spoke out and collected signatures for the exhibition to be removed from the university facilities.
On the afternoon of March 20, a group of people gathered to pray in the room where the exhibit was displayed and ended up trashing it.
In response to the vandalism, the Social Ministry of the Archdiocese of Mendoza issued a new statement, this time repudiating “this act of physical violence towards the works exhibited there.”
The ministry also expressed its solidarity “with the artists who saw the fruit of their work and effort damaged.”
“We call again for harmony and peace that is lost in extremes,” the ministry said.
At the same time, the archdiocesan ministry recalled that “behind a work or a religious symbol there are people who have beliefs or ideologies that should not be violated, ridiculed, or offended.”
Finally, the ministry lamented the actions of those who “live their religiosity as in dark times, which have been so painful for humanity.”
The statement concluded by invoking “the protection of God, source of all reason and justice,” citing the Argentine Constitution.
The university’s rector, Esther Sánchez; vice rector, Gabriel Fidel; and other officials condemned “all kinds of violence” and urged dialogue.
“The National University of Cuyo with its plurality of ideas, visions, and thoughts offers its space for reflection. It calls for listening and accepting differences in peace,” they said.
“The mission of producing knowledge and forming people can only be carried out in a peaceful environment and of sincere debate where the recognition of the other person and their ideas allows innovating and contributing solutions that unite and don’t alienate,” they said.
This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.
New Wyoming law restricts girls’ sports to biological girls
Posted on 03/21/2023 20:00 PM (CNA Daily News)
Washington D.C., Mar 21, 2023 / 15:00 pm (CNA).
Beginning on July 1, only biological girls will be allowed to participate in seventh- through 12th-grade girls’ athletic competitions in Wyoming, per a new law adopted in the state.
The legislation requires schools that participate in interscholastic sports competitions to clearly designate programs as male, female, or coed. Those designations will be based on a student’s biological sex, even if the student identifies as a different gender. The law defines sex as “the biological, physical condition of being male or female, determined by an individual’s genetics and anatomy at birth.”
When the legislation goes into effect, biological male students who identify as girls will not be allowed to participate in female-designated athletic competitions. Biological males will only be allowed to participate in male-designated or coed athletics. Biological girls will not have the same restrictions put on them and will be able to participate in any athletic competition.
“A student of the male sex shall not compete, and a public school shall not allow a student of the male sex to compete, in an athletic activity or team designated for students of the female sex,” the legislation reads.
The bill overwhelmingly passed both chambers of the Legislature, which are heavily controlled by Republicans. The bill passed the House 51-10 and the Senate 27-3. All five House Democrats and five House Republicans opposed the bill. Both Senate Democrats and one Senate Republican also opposed the bill.
Although Republican Gov. Mark Gordon allowed the legislation to become law, he did so without signing the bill. Despite objecting to the bill, the Legislature would have likely had the votes to override a veto if the governor had decided to go against it.
In a letter to Secretary of State Chuck Gray, the governor said he believed the bill was “well-meaning as a way to protect the integrity and fairness of women’s sports,” but thought it would have been better handled on a case-by-case basis because of how seldom this affects athletics in the state.
“With only four known transgender students competing in school athletics out of 91,000 students total, this seems to call for individualized considerations, where families, students, teams, and others can thoughtfully address specific circumstances rather than such a punitive, ostracizing broad-brush approach,” Gordon said in the letter.
Wyoming will be the 19th state to restrict female athletics competitions to only biologically female athletes.
Benedict’s personal secretary searches for five cousins who are heirs of the late pontiff
Posted on 03/21/2023 19:30 PM (CNA Daily News)
Rome, Italy, Mar 21, 2023 / 14:30 pm (CNA).
Five German cousins of the late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI are the direct heirs to his personal property, the pope’s personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, told Italian media after a Mass celebrated in Rome on Sunday at Santa Maria Consolatrice parish, Cardinal Ratzinger’s titular church.
Benedict XVI died Dec. 31, 2022.
The archbishop explained that he thought there were two direct heirs. However, he was surprised to learn that there are three more, hitherto unknown. “This has been very interesting for me. I thought he had two relatives, two cousins, but there are five cousins in total,” he said.
“By law I have to write to the cousins who are the closest relatives, and also by law I have to ask them: ‘Do you accept the inheritance or do you not accept it?’” he told various Italian national media.
In addition, in a statement to the Italian newspaper Il Messaggero, Gänswein noted that “other personal items, from watches to pens, from paintings to liturgical items, were included in a list meticulously drawn up by Benedict XVI before he died.”
He recounted that part of these personal items have been delivered to people close to him: “He hasn’t forgotten anyone; collaborators, secretaries, seminarians, students, drivers, parish priests, friends.”
Gänswein also explained that the rights to his books will remain with the Vatican and a portion of them will go to the Joseph Ratzinger Vatican Foundation.
Personal documents destroyed
As for the most personal documents of the pope emeritus, such as letters and notes, his former secretary confirmed that according to the will of Benedict XVI, they have been destroyed.
Gänswein clarified that there are no longer any unpublished writings of the pope emeritus and that Benedict XVI’s last book is “What Is Christianity?” published posthumously in January.
“A shame? Yes, I told him that, too, but he gave me this instruction, there is no going back. There are no unpublished writings left,” Gänswein affirmed.
Finally, he spoke about his future and noted that “the Catholic Church is vast geographically, but also culturally.”
“Pope Francis has not yet given me any responsibilities. He must reflect and then he will tell me. I am available for the Church, and I am loyal and faithful,” he concluded.
This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.