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Cardinal Nichols: Traditional rite confirmations no longer permitted

Cardinal Vincent Nichols celebrates a Pontifical Votive Mass of the Blessed Sacrament at Corpus Christi Church, Maiden Lane, London, Sept. 11, 2021. / Mazur/

London, England, Jan 25, 2022 / 06:55 am (CNA).

English Cardinal Vincent Nichols has said that confirmations in the traditional rite are no longer permitted in the Archdiocese of Westminster.

In a Jan. 20 letter to the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales, the cardinal noted that the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship recently issued a ruling on the topic.

The document, known as the “Responsa ad dubia,” answered questions about the application of Pope Francis’ 2021 motu proprio Traditionis custodes, which placed tight restrictions on the celebration of Traditional Latin Masses.

Responding to a Dec. 14 letter from the Latin Mass Society inquiring about confirmations in the traditional rite, the archbishop of Westminster wrote: “I apologize for the delay but I have wanted to absorb the implications of the ‘Responsa ad dubia’ issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship ...”

“One of the questions posed to the Congregation concerned the celebrations of sacraments according to the pre-Vatican forms. The Response given by the Congregation was negative. Indeed, all use of the pre-Conciliar Pontificale is now prohibited. This means that Confirmation must be celebrated using the form approved for the whole Latin Church on Aug. 15, 1971.”

“We will, of course, continue to reflect on the provisions established by the Holy See in these matters and on the importance of the liturgical renewal to which we are being called as well as to the pastoral needs of the faithful.”

Nichols is the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales but signed the letter as the Archbishop of Westminster.

For almost 20 years, the Latin Mass Society (LMS) has organized annual confirmations in the traditional rite at St. James’s Catholic Church, Spanish Place, in central London. Westminster archdiocese has provided an auxiliary bishop for the ceremonies since 2004.

The LMS said that it understood that another scheduled traditional rite confirmation ceremony, involving Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham, England, had been canceled.

LMS chairman Joseph Shaw said: “The cessation of these celebrations implies the loss of much that the Bishops of England and Wales have sought, and achieved, in establishing a serene co-existence between the new and old liturgical forms.”

“Confirmation is above all a sacrament for young people and converts. It will cut off many from accessing it in a form ‘particularly suited to them’ (as Pope Benedict expressed it). Others will be driven to seek it outside the structures of the Church.”

Traditionis custodes, which entered into force on July 16, 2021, the day it was released, said that it is a bishop’s “exclusive competence” to authorize Traditional Latin Masses in his diocese.

The document made sweeping changes to Benedict XVI’s 2007 apostolic letter Summorum Pontificum, which had acknowledged the right of all priests to say Mass using the Roman Missal of 1962 without having to seek their bishop’s permission.

Nichols told the clergy of Westminster archdiocese in July 2021 that he intended to grant faculties to priests seeking to celebrate Traditional Latin Masses as long as they fulfilled the conditions of Pope Francis’ motu proprio.

Correspondence about Traditionis custodes between Nichols and Archbishop Arthur Roche, the English prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, was published in November 2021.

The “Responsa ad dubia,” issued on Dec. 18, 2021, placed further limits on the use of pre-Vatican II liturgical books.

One of the questions it answered was whether it was possible, “according to the provisions of the motu proprio Traditionis custodes, to celebrate the sacraments with the Rituale Romanum and the Pontificale Romanum which predate the liturgical reform of the Second Vatican Council.”

The Pontificale Romanum contains the rites and ceremonies usually performed by bishops and the Rituale Romanum is one of the official ritual books used by a priest or deacon for rites not found in the Roman Missal, which is used for Mass.

In its response, the Congregation for Divine Worship said: “After discernment, the diocesan bishop is authorized to grant permission to use only the Rituale Romanum (last editio typica 1952) and not the Pontificale Romanum which predate the liturgical reform of the Second Vatican Council.”

“This permission is to be granted only to canonically erected personal parishes which, according to the provisions of the motu proprio Traditionis custodes, celebrate with the Missale Romanum [Roman Missal] of 1962.”

“It should be remembered that the formula for the Sacrament of Confirmation was changed for the entire Latin Church by St. Paul VI with the apostolic constitution Divinæ consortium naturæ (Aug. 15, 1971).”

Referring to observations by the LMS about the status of the “Responsa ad dubia” in canon law, Joseph Shaw urged Cardinal Nichols and his fellow bishops in England and Wales to review their stance.

“In light of the canon law guidance which we have published, which confirms that the recent Responsa ad dubia issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship, which appear to prohibit the use of the 1962 Pontificale, does not have the force of law, we call on His Eminence, Cardinal Nichols, and the Bishops of England and Wales, to reconsider their position, before real pastoral harm is done, and damage to the fabric of unity which will not easily be repaired,” he wrote.

NY auxiliary appointed by Pope Francis will be one of world’s youngest bishops

Bishop-elect Joseph A. Espaillat. / Screenshot from Centro Católico Carismático YouTube channel.

Vatican City, Jan 25, 2022 / 05:49 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Tuesday appointed two new auxiliaries for the Archdiocese of New York, one of whom will be one of the world’s youngest bishops.

The Vatican announced on Jan. 25 that Father Joseph A. Espaillat and Father John S. Bonnici will be ordained as bishops.

Born on Dec. 27, 1976, Espaillat will be the youngest bishop in the United States once he is consecrated.

The 45-year-old is the director of the Hispanic Catholic Charismatic Renewal for New York archdiocese.

Espaillat launched a podcast and YouTube series called “Sainthood in the City” in 2021.

In a video promoting the launch, Espaillat, who also goes by Father J, said that the podcast would include discussions on faith, music, sports, fashion, and pop culture.

“We’re going to talk about Pop Smoke. We’re going to talk about Kanye. We’re going to talk about Kim Kardashian. We’re going to talk about everything under the sun, and Cardi B,” Espaillat said.

Bishop-elect Joseph A. Espaillat takes part in the podcast and YouTube series ‘Sainthood in the City.’. Screenshot from Centro Católico Carismático YouTube channel.
Bishop-elect Joseph A. Espaillat takes part in the podcast and YouTube series ‘Sainthood in the City.’. Screenshot from Centro Católico Carismático YouTube channel.

A featured speaker at Steubenville Youth Conferences, Espaillat says that he loves ministering the sacraments, playing softball and basketball, writing poetry and rapping.

He was ordained in 2003 and has served as the pastor of St. Anthony of Padua parish in the South Bronx since 2015.

Espaillat attended Cathedral Preparatory School in Manhattan before studying at Fordham University, where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy in 1998.

While in St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie, New York, Espaillat earned a Master of Divinity degree in Theology and a Master of Arts degree in Theology, specializing in Church history.

He has served as a director of youth ministry for the Archdiocese of New York, a pastor at St. Peter’s parish in Yonkers, and as a parochial vicar at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs in Manhattan.

Bonnici, 56, has served as a priest of the Archdiocese of New York for 30 years.

He holds a doctorate from the Pontifical John Paul II Institute in Washington (1995) and a licentiate degree from the Pontifical John Paul II Institute (1992) in Rome, where he also studied at the Pontifical North American College and the Gregorian University (1987-1990) before his ordination.

Bonnici previously served as director of the archdiocese’s Respect Life Office for six years and as the pastor of St. Columba in Chester from 2008 to 2021.

He was born in New York on Feb. 17, 1965, and earned a Bachelor of Science degrees in biology and philosophy from St. John’s University in Queens, New York in 1987.

Bonnici’s most recent assignment was as pastor of St. Augustine parish and Saints John and Paul parish in Larchmont.

Bonnici and Espaillat’s episcopal ordinations will take place at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on March 1.

The Archdiocese of New York has a total population of 6.2 million, 2.81 million of whom are Catholic. Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan has served as the archbishop of New York since 2009.

"Pope Francis has selected two outstanding priests, both experienced pastors, to serve the people of God of this archdiocese as auxiliary bishops," Dolan said in a statement on the archdiocese's website.

"I look forward to working even more closely with Bishop-elect Bonnici and Bishop-elect Espaillat, as they undertake this new role in their priesthood."

With the addition of Bonnici and Espaillat, there will be a total of five active auxiliary bishops serving the Archdiocese of New York.

The youngest bishop in the world is 40-year-old Bishop Cristian Dumitru Crişan, an auxiliary in Romania, according to

Bishop Andriy Rabiy, an auxiliary bishop for the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia, is the current youngest bishop in the United States at the age of 46.

German Catholic bishops welcome initiative seeking change in Church teaching on sexuality

Bishop Helmut Dieser, chairman of the Synodal Way forum on ‘Living in Successful Relationships,’ welcomes the #OutInChurch campaign, Jan. 24, 2022. / Screenshot from Deutsche Bischofskonferenz YouTube channel.

Aachen, Germany, Jan 25, 2022 / 04:15 am (CNA).

German Catholic bishops on Monday welcomed an initiative that is calling for a change in Church teaching on sexuality and gender identity.

The initiative titled “#OutInChurch — For a church without fear,” launched on Jan. 24, appealed for the revision of what it described as “defamatory and outdated” expressions of Catholic doctrine, reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

In a seven-point list of demands, the organizers wrote: “Defamatory and outdated statements of Church doctrine on sexuality and gender need to be revised on the basis of theological and human-scientific findings.”

“This is of utmost relevance especially in view of worldwide Church responsibility for the human rights of LGBTIQ+ persons.”

The initiative, backed publicly by 125 people including priests, religion teachers, and Church employees, also appealed for blessings and “access to the sacraments” for same-sex couples.

The campaign — launched with a blaze of publicity in Germany, with an accompanying television program — was welcomed on behalf of the bishops’ conference by Bishop Helmut Dieser, chairman of the “Synodal Way” forum on “Living in Successful Relationships.”

The bishop of Aachen, western Germany, told reporters on Jan. 24 that the Synodal Way — a multi-year process bringing together bishops and lay people to discuss power, sexual morality, the priesthood, and the role of women in the Church — was approaching the issues raised by the initiative in “a new way.”

He said: “No one should be discriminated against, or devalued, or criminalized because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

“Because with the Synodal Way, we learn to understand more deeply that sexual orientation and gender identity are part of the person, and we have an image of the human being that tells us that the person is absolutely loved by God, and from this, we approach the topics of sexual orientation, identity, but also sexual fulfillment in a new way with the Synodal Way.”

“And I’m convinced that with the Synodal Way, especially in our forum that deals with these questions, we have the space to respond to these questions in a constructive way, so that precisely what this group that has now shown itself most wants, freedom from fear, is actually achieved.”

Archbishop Stefan Heße of Hamburg, northern Germany, also welcomed the campaign.

He said: “I have respect for the people who confess their sexual orientation in this initiative. A Church in which people have to hide because of their sexual orientation cannot, in my opinion, be in the spirit of Jesus.”

“We are always called to authenticity and transparency before God and, of course, before each other. There must and should be no fear of this.”

He added: “This topic is also being discussed at the Synodal Way of the Catholic Church in Germany. That is where I am participating in the discussion. It should lead to a further development of the Church’s sexual morality and also of the Church’s labor law.”

The initiative is calling for an overhaul of employment laws in the Catholic Church in Germany, the country’s second-largest employer after the state.

“An open life according to one’s sexual orientation and gender identity, even in a partnership or civil marriage, must never be considered a breach of loyalty or a reason for dismissal,” reads one of its demands.

Heße’s comments were echoed by Bishop Franz-Josef Bode of Osnabrück, northwest Germany, who said that he appreciated the campaign as “a courageous step by 125 queer employees of the Catholic Church from all over the country.”

He added that the initiative called for a “long overdue debate” on Church labor law.

“Under labor law, the loyalty of Church employees is closely linked to their lifestyle. Individual arrangements are possible, and these are sought sensitively and to the best of our ability in our diocese,” he said.

“But individual solutions always create uncertainties. It is urgently necessary to find reliable solutions for all sides. The Synodal Way reform process is working on this.”

He said that the topic would be discussed at the next meeting of the Synodal Assembly, the Synodal Way’s supreme decision-making body, on Feb. 3-5.

“The basic message of the Church is God’s unconditional love for all people — in their diversity and uniqueness. This must also apply to all relationships, provided they are based on love and mutual respect,” he commented.

Bishop Heinrich Timmerevers of Dresden-Meißen, eastern Germany, said that he was “very grateful” for the “impressive testimonies” gathered by the campaign.

Several German Catholic associations also expressed their support.

Priests and pastoral workers across Germany defied the Vatican in May 2021 by conducting blessing ceremonies attended by same-sex couples.

Organizers held a day of protest in response to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s declaration that the Church does not have the power to bless same-sex unions.

The Vatican statement, issued with the approval of Pope Francis, sparked protests in the German-speaking Catholic world.

Several bishops expressed support for blessings of same-sex couples, while churches displayed LGBT pride flags, and a group of more than 200 theology professors signed a statement criticizing the Vatican.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible.”

“This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”

“These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.”

It adds: “Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.”

Cardinal Czerny leads prayer service after Tonga volcano

Heavy ash fall is seen over Tonga, Jan. 17, 2022, several days after a volcanic eruption. / NZ Defence Force via Wikimedia (CC BY 4.0)

Rome, Italy, Jan 24, 2022 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

Cardinal Michael Czerny on Monday led a prayer service for Tonga, after an underwater volcanic eruption caused a devastating tsunami earlier this month.

“Tonga is a little known name, and for us it is a distant reality. Yet, those who suffer are never far from us who in Jesus recognize ourselves as ‘children always loved’ by the Father, called to share together with the human family a unique destiny, in the common home that is the earth,” Cardinal Czerny said Jan. 24 in Rome’s Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere.

Seen in satellite images from space, scientists have called the volcanic blast in the South Pacific on Jan. 15 the largest eruption in the world in three decades.

Some of the archipelago’s outlying islands were hit by 49-foot-high waves which destroyed homes, the Associated Press reported on Jan. 19.

Communications from Tonga were cut off after the eruption. Reuters has reported at least three known deaths from the tsunami waves.

“The majority of the population miraculously managed to avoid the worst as only three people lost their lives,” Czerny, 75, said during the prayer service. “However, the material damage is so enormous that it will take a long time to return to normal life. People have lost houses, plantations, machinery and materials for fishing and agriculture.”

“The government, the population, the Church and other entities are assessing the impact of this disaster in order to begin the work of reconstruction, inviting the international community to contribute,” he said.

The prayer service was hosted by the Catholic Sant’Egidio community. 

Cardinal Czerny serves as the interim prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, pending the appointment of new leadership following the resignation of Cardinal Peter Turkson, 73, in December.

Czerny has been under-secretary of the dicastery’s Migrants and Refugees Section since 2017.

The prayer service included the reading of a passage from the 38th chapter of the Book of Job.

The chapter begins: “Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm and said: Who is this who darkens counsel with words of ignorance? Gird up your loins now, like a man; I will question you, and you tell me the answers! Where were you when I founded the earth?”

“In the passage we have heard, God speaks to Job from the storm, subjecting him to the pressure of the unexpected, the unexpected upheaval of atmospheric phenomena, and challenges him as a human being to measure himself against the fundamental questions of existence,” Czerny said.

“Instead of answering his questions, of throwing light on what for Job remains obscure and indecipherable, God widens the field of the unknown and increases the questions,” Czerny explained: “‘Who are you?’, ‘Where were you?’, ‘Can you?’, ‘Do you know?’. It challenges every obvious answer, every cliché, every pre-understanding and forces him to recognize his own inability to have answers and control over everything.”

Society, the cardinal said, has been living under two great illusions in recent decades.

“On the one hand, as Pope Francis reminded us in his prayer in St. Peter’s Square during the pandemic, we have deluded ourselves ‘to remain always healthy in a sick world,’ in a world wounded by predatory exploitation; on the other hand, we have also deluded ourselves that we are almost omnipotent, that we dominate nature, the world, as if it were our own work,” he said.

“In this sense,” Czerny said, “Job’s story can be very revealing for us, because it shows us how presumption in the face of reality, and therefore also in the face of God, is an attitude inherent in the human heart, even in the most just and religious.”

Pope Francis offered prayers for the people of Tonga during his weekly audience on Jan. 19. 

“I am spiritually close to all the afflicted people, imploring God for relief for their suffering. I invite everyone to join me in praying for these brothers and sisters,” he said.

NYC pro-abortion activists curse at churchgoers, beam 'God loves abortion' onto St. Patrick's Cathedral

Pro-abortion demonstrators yelled obscenities at people leaving a pro-life vigil at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City on Jan. 22, 2022. / Joe Bukuras/CNA

New York City, N.Y., Jan 24, 2022 / 16:15 pm (CNA).

Barricades and a line of police protected pro-life attendees entering and exiting the Archdiocese of New York’s Prayer Vigil for Life at St. Patrick’s Cathedral Saturday night, as members of the activist group New York City for Abortion Rights chanted insults and screamed vulgarities at them.

“Go to h*** b****,” one protester screamed at a churchgoer. Multiple other demonstrators screamed “F*** you” and made obscene gestures as a range of people from young children to elderly men and women exited the midtown Manhattan church. 

In addition to the vulgarities, demonstrators chanted “Shame,” “Thank God for abortion,” “Go home fascists, go home,” and “New York hates you,” along with pro-choice slogans aimed at churchgoers.

Toward the end of the protest, pro-abortion slogans including "God loves abortion," and "Abortion forever" were illuminated up on the exterior of the cathedral as demonstrators cheered. On Jan. 20 in Washington, D.C., another activist group, Catholics for Choice, projected pro-choice slogans on the facade of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception during a Mass and Holy Hour on the eve of the March for Life.

Approximately 100 demonstrators attended the New York City rally, which organizers dubbed "F*** the March for Life" in an Instagram post. Many of the participants used drums, shakers, and other noisemakers, which were audible to those inside the cathedral.

The Prayer Vigil for Life marked the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide. In accord with the U.S. bishops' call for penance and prayer for violations against the dignity of the unborn, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York celebrated the Vigil Mass at 5:30 p.m., which was followed by an hour of Eucharistic adoration.

"When a nation founded on the right to life and the equal protection of law for all life finds such violence to be legal, as it did 49 years ago today in legalizing abortion, boy that’s tragic," Dolan said during his homily. "That’s not right. That’s not natural. That’s not the way God intended it. That’s not the way our country intended it."

Nathan Long (in white cap) and his teenage son have a brief interaction with one of the demonstrators at a pro-abortion rally outside St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City on Jan. 22, 2022. Joe Bukuras/CNA
Nathan Long (in white cap) and his teenage son have a brief interaction with one of the demonstrators at a pro-abortion rally outside St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City on Jan. 22, 2022. Joe Bukuras/CNA

Among those who were screamed upon exiting the vigil were Nathan Long and his teen-age son. The two had a brief interaction with one of the demonstrators.

“I looked at him and I was just kind of praying,” Long told CNA afterward. “He’s just uninformed and I think he’s lost the spirit of Christ.”

Long, a father of seven from Dallas, Texas, said he thinks most of the protesters aren’t educated on the issue of life. “We’re living in a society where people just want to pick up the torch and be angry at anything,” he added.

One of the many slogans that protesters chanted at churchgoers was “Stop harassing patients!”

The chant referred to a recurring pro-life day of prayer called Witness for Life, which consists of Mass and Eucharistic adoration, followed by a rosary procession to the nearby Planned Parenthood and then a vigil in front of the clinic. 

The pro-abortion demonstrators on Saturday handed out flyers that state that many attendees at the Prayer Vigil for Life are Witness for Life attendees as well. The flyers claim there is “nothing peaceful” about the Witness for Life.

“They intimidate patients by praying, holding offensive signs, [and] impersonating clinic escorts to coerce patients,” the flyer states.

New York City for Abortion Rights often protests the Witness for Life. The pro-abortion group made headlines in July for standing in front of the rosary procession in order to block their path to the Planned Parenthood. Police officers were required to escort the rosary procession and separate the demonstrators. 

Toward the end of Saturday’s rally, a woman who appeared to be an organizer announced to the demonstrators that the group would be protesting the next Witness for Life event Feb. 5 by slowing down participants' rosary procession “with our bodies.”

Pro-life ads removed in several Spanish cities

A pro-life ad at a bus stop in Spain. / ACDP

Madrid, Spain, Jan 24, 2022 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

Alfonso Galdón, founding president of the Spanish political party Valores, denounced Friday the Murcia city government for banning the pro-life “Cancelled” ad campaign.

In a Jan. 21 YouTube message, Galdón stated that “the constitutional rights of the Spanish people have been violated by the Murcia City Council.”

Pressure from the abortion lobby has led several Spanish city councils, including those of Valencia, Valladolid, and Murcia to ban the advertisements.

The “Cancelled” campaign opposes a bill being pushed by the ruling Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party which would criminalize "harassing women going to clinics for the voluntary interruption of pregnancy." Anyone promoting, favoring, or participating in demonstrations near abortion clinics would be subject to penalties.

Penalties for what would be deemed harassment would include jail terms of three months to a year, or community service from 31 to 80 days. Depending on circumstances, an individual could also be barred from a particular location for between six months and three years.

The mayor of Murcia is a member of the PSOE.

“Today the Murcia city government has done a great disservice to our democracy by trampling on the right to freedom of speech, requiring the removal the pro-life posters that until this afternoon could be seen in the streets of Murcia,” Galdón declared.

In opposition to the bill, beginning Jan. 18, 260 posters were placed in ad kiosks on streets and at metro stops in 33 Spanish cities to "raise our voices against prison sentences."

According to the bill making its way through Spain’s lower house, pro-lifers could be prosecuted without the aggrieved person or their legal representative being required to file a complaint. 

The "Cancelled” campaign "seeks to combat political correctness, the cancel culture and the repression of freedoms.”

The posters read: "Praying in front of abortion clinics is a great thing." By using a QR code on the poster, the testimony of Dr. Jesús Poveda, one of the main promoters of the pro-life movement in Spain, can be accessed. 

The campaign will also include interviews, educational videos, and written material.

The posters state that “more than 99,000 abortions abortions are performed in Spain every year. The crime of those who pray in front of abortion clinics is to want to save some of these lives.”  

In his video message, Galdón stated that these efforts to cancel the campaign have trampled on the freedom of speech, “which only seeks to defend the life of the weakest, the unborn.” Galdón told the politicians and those promoting abortion that “you’re not going to silence us, we are growing in the face of injustice.”

Legal group seeks protection for Navy personnel objecting to COVID vaccine on religious grounds

null / Glynnis Jones/Shutterstock.

Denver Newsroom, Jan 24, 2022 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

A Christian legal group has filed a class-action lawsuit with the goal of blocking the Navy’s COVID vaccine mandate for all U.S. Navy personnel who have requested religious accommodation. 

First Liberty Institute, a Christian legal group, had filed a federal lawsuit and motion for preliminary injunction earlier this month on behalf of “dozens” of U.S. Navy SEALs and other Naval Special Warfare personnel, who represent Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant Christianity. 

As a result of the initial lawsuit, Judge Reed O’Connor of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas on Jan. 3 issued an injunction preventing the Department of Defense from taking “any adverse action” against the plaintiffs in the case because of requests for religious accommodation. 

The amended lawsuit, which the group announced this week, seeks to cover all Navy service members who have submitted requests for religious accommodation against the vaccine mandate, almost all of which, up to now, have been denied. The group says at least 3,000 service members have submitted requests. 

In August 2021, the Pentagon announced that all service members would have to be vaccinated against COVID-19. In advance of that announcement, Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services said that receiving one of the COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the United States was morally permissible, and that a vaccine mandate “seems prudent” and would be “very similar” to mandates already enforced in the military.

First Liberty says the religious objections that the plaintiffs in the initial lawsuit raised fell into four categories: opposition to abortion and the use of aborted fetal cell lines in development of the vaccine; belief that modifying one’s body is an affront to the creator; direct, divine instruction not to receive the vaccine; and opposition to injecting trace amounts of animal cells into one’s body.

Most of the requests made have been denied, O’Connor wrote in his ruling, and some of the plaintiffs report mistreatment as a result of asking for a religious exemption. 

Catholic bishops across the country have issued varying guidance for Catholics wishing to seek conscientious objections to COVID-19 mandates. A few have expressed explicit support for Catholics wishing to seek exemptions; some have said that Catholics may seek exemptions, but must make the case for their own conscience without the involvement of clergy; and some have stated that Catholic teaching lacks a basis to reject vaccination mandates.  

Archbishop Broglio has encouraged Catholics to follow the guidance of the Vatican and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, both of whom have stated that it is morally permissible to receive the COVID-19 vaccinations currently available in the United States, even ones with a remote connection to aborted fetal tissue. 

Archbishop Broglio has also said that service members should not be forced to receive a COVID-19 vaccine against their consciences. 

“The denial of religious accommodations, or punitive or adverse personnel actions taken against those who raise earnest, conscience-based objections, would be contrary to federal law and morally reprehensible,” Broglio said in October.

Walk for Life West Coast brings 15,000+ to San Francisco

The Walk for Life West Coast in San Francisco, Calif., Jan. 22, 2022. / Dennis Callahan via Walk for Life West Coast

San Francisco, Calif., Jan 24, 2022 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone condemned abortion as the equivalent of a sacrament of a “new secular religion” in his homily at the Mass for Walk for Life West Coast on Saturday at the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption in San Francisco. 

More than 15,000 people gathered Jan. 22 for the 18th annual Walk for Life West Coast. 

The event was held on the 49th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, which found that a woman had a legal right to an abortion throughout her pregnancy. 

Cordileone, speaking about how the devil is using a strategy of “divide and conquer” to alienate humanity from both God and each other, said that this form of secularism “has all become a sort of religion on its own, one that takes the form of a hyper-aggressive, anti-Christian kind of a secularism.” 

“This is all around us nowadays, and this kind of secularism has all the marks of a religion: infallible dogmas, rituals, saints, creedal statements and condemnation of heretical teachings along with punishment of the heretics who hold them and dare to speak them in public, index of forbidden books, even sacraments,” he said. 

Abortion, said Cordileone, has become the “blessed sacrament” of this militant secularism. 

It is “what they hold most sacred, the doctrine and practice upon which their whole belief system is built.” This is why, he explained, “we see such visceral and violent reaction to any even minimal regulation of abortion in the law, regulations that even those who believe it should be kept legal would see as reasonable, such as informed consent and parental consent.” 

“It should come as no surprise that the first to challenge the Texas Heartbeat Bill was the Satanic Temple, and precisely on the grounds of deprivation of religious liberty: they need abortion to carry out their religious rituals,” said Cordileone. 

The antidote to this, said the archbishop, is living “according to true wisdom,” meaning “the path to lasting happiness, a path which is walked by means of the virtues, both the natural and the theological virtues.” This is accomplished by a devotion to the sacraments. 

“We have the real Blessed Sacrament,” said Cordileone. “How much of the desecration of human life we witness in our time is due to a loss of the sense of the sacred, even that which is most sacred, the Blessed Sacrament? Do we do all possible to respect the integrity of the Blessed Sacrament and avoid its desecration by receiving reverently and worthily, always giving God our best in worship?” 

Cordileone stated that Christians who are in favor of abortion rights, who have been “mindlessly co-opted by the new secular religion and its false blessed sacrament” are equivalent to the Israelites who worshiped Moloch. 

“But there is only one Blessed Sacrament; to live as if there were two brings desecration of what is sacred on both fronts: the Bread of Life on the altar and human life in the womb,” he said. 

Now, said the archbishop, society is at a “very pivotal moment” with the upcoming Supreme Court Decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Despite this, and the serious potential for the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, Cordileone warned that it is not the time to “think we can relax our efforts even with the right decision.” 

“The devil will not stop until he is defeated and returned to hell definitively when our Lord returns,” he said. “There will always be attacks on the dignity of human life, and they will intensify,” noting that California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) pledged to make California a “sanctuary state for abortion.”

“So we will continue to work to build a culture of life, by advocating for life, by providing women in crisis pregnancies love and support and all that they need to know they are valued, respected and have friends walking with them in their time of distress, giving them the opportunity to make the happiest decision of all, the decision for life,” he said.

Finnish MP facing jail after tweeting Bible verse pleads not guilty as trial begins

Päivi Räsänen, Finland’s interior minister from 2011 to 2015, speaks to reporters while holding her Bible at Helsinki District Court on Jan. 24, 2022. / ADF International.

Helsinki, Finland, Jan 24, 2022 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

A former government minister facing jail in Finland after tweeting a Bible verse pleaded not guilty to three criminal charges on Monday.

Päivi Räsänen appeared at Helsinki District Court on Jan. 24, the first day of her trial, alongside Juhana Pohjola, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland, who is facing one criminal charge.

Finland’s Prosecutor General filed criminal charges against the pair on April 29, 2020, formally charging them with the crime of “ethnic agitation,” which falls under the section of “war crimes and crimes against humanity” in the country’s criminal code.

The state prosecutor asserted that the statements made by Räsänen, who served as Finland’s interior minister from 2011 to 2015, were “likely to cause intolerance, contempt, and hatred towards homosexuals.”

The charges against Räsänen, a 62-year-old physician and mother of five, relate to her comments in a 2004 pamphlet, her appearance on a 2018 television program, and a Twitter post in 2019.

The charge against Pohjola concerns his decision to publish Räsänen’s pamphlet, “Male and Female He Created Them.”

When the defendants arrived at the court, they were greeted by supporters holding banners.

Supporters of Päivi Räsänen Juhana Pohjola outside Helsinki District Court, Finland, on Jan. 24, 2022. ADF International.
Supporters of Päivi Räsänen Juhana Pohjola outside Helsinki District Court, Finland, on Jan. 24, 2022. ADF International.

ADF International, a Christian legal group supporting the Christian Democrat MP, said that as the trial began, the prosecution argued that the views shared by Räsänen and Pohjola were discriminatory towards minorities.

The defense appealed to the court not to impose its own theological interpretation of scripture on Finland’s 5.5 million citizens, by criminalizing traditional Christian views on marriage and sexuality.

The defense said that a guilty verdict would amount to the de facto criminalization of the Bible verses tweeted by Räsänen.

Around two-thirds of the population of Finland — a country bordering Norway, Russia, and Sweden — belong to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, one of the country’s two national churches, alongside the Finnish Orthodox Church.

The MP, who was chairwoman of the Christian Democrats party from 2004 to 2015, is an active member of the Finnish Lutheran Church. But she questioned her church’s sponsorship of an LGBT pride event in 2019.

On June 17, 2019, she asked in a Twitter post how the sponsorship was compatible with the Bible, linking to a photograph of a biblical passage, Romans 1:24-27, on Instagram. She also posted the text and image on Facebook.

Discussing the tweet in court on Monday, she underlined that the post was directed at Church leaders and concerned an important topic facing the Church.

Police began investigating Räsänen in 2019. She faced several police interviews and had to wait more than a year for the Prosecutor General’s decision.

The International Lutheran Council has described the decision to prosecute Räsänen and Pohjola as “egregious.”

It said: “The vast majority of Christians in all nations, including Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, share these convictions. Would the Finnish Prosecutor General condemn us all? Moreover, shall the Finnish state risk governmental sanctions from other states based on the abuse of foundational human rights?”

Addressing the pamphlet, which described homosexuality as “a disorder of psycho-sexual development,” Räsänen told the court that she was asked to write a text outlining Lutheran teaching on sexuality for members of her church, from her viewpoint as a politician, doctor, and Christian.

She said that the pamphlet was outdated given changes in research and legislation since 2004. But she argued that it should still exist as a document testifying to the discussions taking place at that time.

Paul Coleman, executive director of ADF International, noted that a guilty verdict would not set an instant legal precedent for other European countries. But he suggested that it would “set a new European low bar for free speech standards.”

He added that similar cases “really could happen anywhere else” because of hate speech laws across the continent.

Closing arguments will take place on Feb. 14.

How St. Irenaeus helped save the early Church from schism

St. Irenaeus depicted in the apse of Holy Ascension Orthodox Church in Charleston, South Carolina. / Andrew Gould via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Vatican City, Jan 24, 2022 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

St. Irenaeus once helped to save the 2nd-century Church from schism. Today, the newly declared “Doctor of Unity” is the patron saint of a group of theologians working on current problems in Orthodox-Catholic dialogue.

According to the St. Irenaeus Joint Orthodox-Catholic Working Group, the newest Doctor of the Church understood that “diversity in practice does not imply disunity of faith.”

During the “Paschal Controversy” in the 2nd century, Irenaeus played a decisive role in mediating the dispute over the date of Easter.

Two principal traditions existed in the early Church at the time. In much of Asia Minor, Easter was celebrated on the 14th Nisan (the Jewish Passover), an observance known as Quartodecimanism. But in Rome and much of the East, the feast fell on a given Sunday — a divergence that also had implications for fasting practices.

When Irenaeus was serving as a presbyter in Lyons, in modern-day France, he was sent to Rome in 177 to mediate a resolution to the controversy.

Irenaeus wrote: “The disagreement in the fast only speaks for our agreement in the faith.”

The saint “successfully intervened with Pope Victor to lift the excommunication of the Quartodecimans and thus avert a schism,” the Irenaeus group told CNA on Jan. 23.

The 26 Catholic and Orthodox theologians who make up the St. Irenaeus Joint Orthodox-Catholic Working Group discussed Irenaeus’ role in the Paschal Controversy during its most recent meeting in Rome.

It was during this meeting that Pope Francis first revealed that he planned to name Irenaeus the 37th Doctor of the Church with the title “Doctor of Unity.”

The pope made this official on Jan. 21 with a decree signed during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Following the decree’s promulgation, the St. Irenaeus Joint Orthodox-Catholic Working Group told CNA why Irenaeus was an apt choice for the title “Doctor of Unity.”

“As a native of Asia Minor who eventually became a bishop in the West, Irenaeus in his person reflects the close interconnection between East and West in the early Church,” the group told CNA.

“His writings address critical issues such as the ‘rule of faith,’ apostolic succession, the canon of scripture, all of which are key elements of the faith held in common by Catholics and Orthodox.”

The St. Irenaeus Joint Orthodox-Catholic Working Group is comprised of 13 Catholic theologians and 13 theologians from various Orthodox Churches (Constantinople, Antioch, Russia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, America).

The group has met annually since 2004, alternating between Catholic and Orthodox majority countries, including Italy, Russia, France, Romania, Austria, and Greece.

In line with the joint working group’s style, its responses to CNA’s questions were co-written by a Catholic and an Orthodox representative of the group and then approved by both of its co-secretaries: Assaad Elias Kattan, chair for Orthodox Theology at the University of Münster, and Johannes Oeldemann, the Catholic director of the Johann Adam Möhler Institute for Ecumenism.

“Irenaeus has left us a magnificent theological legacy written in a way particularly dear to the Orthodox, because it integrates intellectual and spiritual motifs, and at the same time so cherished in the West that his main writings have been preserved in Latin,” the group said.

With the new papal decree, Irenaeus became the first saint to hold both the titles of martyr and Doctor of the Church.

In the wake of the decree, some have raised the question of whether there is historical proof that Irenaeus was truly a martyr.

The St. Irenaeus Joint Orthodox-Catholic Working Group, however, explained why it holds that Irenaeus should have both titles.

“Though he is venerated as a martyr by both Catholics and Orthodox, there is little information about the actual manner of his death,” it said.

“However, martyrdom is not only measured by factual suffering, but also by a love expressing that eagerness to go through whatever God allows to happen. Irenaeus, in this sense, was at least a martyr of desire.”

“Moreover, in his influential writings, he was a powerful witness (‘mártys’ in Greek) to Christian faith, certainly deserving the title of martyr and ‘Doctor of Unity.’”

Cardinal Kurt Koch, the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, has welcomed the St. Irenaeus Joint Orthodox-Catholic Working Group’s work over the past 18 years as a valuable support for the international Roman Catholic-Orthodox dialogue.

The group’s next meeting will be held in Romania in October 2022.

“The teaching of this saintly pastor and teacher is like a bridge between East and West: this is why we call him a Doctor of Unity, Doctor Unitatis,” Pope Francis said in his Angelus address on Jan. 23.

“May the Lord grant us, through his intercession, to work together for the full unity of Christians.”