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Supreme Court gives second chance to Oregon cake bakers who declined same-sex wedding

Portland, Ore., Jun 18, 2019 / 12:20 am (CNA).- An Oregon bakery whose owners declined to make a cake celebrating a same-sex commitment ceremony will get another chance in court, after the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 17 ruling ordered lower courts to reconsider a massive fine and other penalties in light of a similar Colorado case.

“The Constitution protects speech, popular or not, from condemnation by the government,” Kelly Shackelford, president, CEO and chief counsel of the legal group First Liberty, said June 17. “The message from the court is clear, government hostility toward religious Americans will not be tolerated.”

“This is a victory for Aaron and Melissa Klein and for religious liberty for all Americans,” added Shackleford.

The Kleins, who are practicing Christians, owned Sweet Cakes by Melissa, a bakery in the Portland suburb of Gresham, Ore. In January 2013, the couple declined to bake a cake for a same-sex commitment ceremony, citing their religious views. They then lost an effort to fight a lawsuit charging they had illegally discriminated.

First Liberty, a non-profit legal firm based in Plano, Texas, focuses on religious freedom cases with a nationwide scope. It is representing the Kleins as are two attorneys from its network: C. Boyden Gray, former U.S. Ambassador to the European Union; and Adam Gustafson, both of Boyden Gray & Associates.

Boyden Gray said the Supreme Court should decide whether its 2015 ruling that mandated legal recognition of same-sex marriage “can be wielded as a shield in defense of same-sex unions but also — as in this case — a sword to attack others for adhering to traditional religious beliefs about marriage,” NBC News reports.

The women who had attempted to commission the cake from the Klein’s bakery filed a complaint with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, claiming discrimination based on sexual orientation. The mother of Rachel Cryer, the woman who tried to order the cake, had asked Aaron Klein to reconsider, but he declined.

While the legal complaint was pending, Aaron Klein posted the first page of the couple’s complaint, which contained their names and contact information, on the Sweet Cakes by Melissa Facebook page. The women said they received death threats as a result of the posting, which was taken down after one day.

The State of Oregon in its filing with the Supreme Court had argued that the lower courts had ruled correctly. “Baking is conduct, not speech,” its filing said. “A bakery open to the public has no right to discriminate against customers on the basis of their sexual orientation.”

Requiring equal treatment for customers regardless of sexual orientation does not compel support for same-sex marriage “any more than the law compels support for religion by requiring equal treatment for all faiths,” said the state filings, according to NBC News.

Sweet Cakes by Melissa closed in September 2013, a decision that the owners described as a “devastating loss.”

In April 2015, the Oregon labor bureau ordered the Kleins to pay damages to the plaintiffs, ruling that by declining to design and make the cake, they had violated Oregon law barring discrimination in public accommodations. The labor bureau ordered them to pay a $135,000 penalty for emotional damages and issued a gag order that prevented them from “even talking about their beliefs,” First Liberty said June 17.

The Kleins initially attempted to raise the cost of the fine on the crowdfunding website GoFundMe, but their effort was taken down by the site, which cited a violation of their terms of service.

In their appeals, the Kleins claimed that their First Amendment right to free speech was violated by the state’s decision.

Their prior appeal to the Oregon Supreme Court was rejected in June 2018. This left in place the decision of the Oregon Court of Appeals, which rejected claims that a cake is a work of art. That court said “even when custom-designed for a ceremonial occasion, they are still cakes made to be eaten.” Those who attend a wedding might consider the cake to be an expression of the views of the couple who undergo the ceremony, not the views of the baker, the court said.

That same month, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a narrow ruling in favor of Colorado baker Jack Phillips, owner of the bakery Masterpiece Cakeshop, who refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding. The court found that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had not respected Phillips’ sincerely-held religious beliefs when it ordered him to make a custom cake for a same-sex couple.

There are 21 states that bar discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation, among other categories.

Similar laws and regulations have affected wedding industry professionals in other states, including bakers and photographers. Such laws and regulations have also closed or stripped funding from Catholic and other Christian adoption agencies that decline to place children with same-sex couples.

The proposed federal Equality Act, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time in May, would add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes under federal law and strip defendants’ ability to appeal to religious freedom as a defense against discrimination claims.

The Masterpiece Cakeshop itself has faced two more lawsuits. It refused to bake a cake to a transgender person seeking a “gender transition cake,” with the lawsuit thrown out of court. A second lawsuit later came from the same person seeking to make a similar cake, but then added it was a birthday cake with special status for the individual as a self-identified transgender woman.

Wealthy philanthropic foundations have spent close to $10 million in targeted grants seeking to limit religious freedom protections on issues such as abortion access and compliance with LGBT concerns. About $500,000 of that went to advocacy and public relations campaigns related to the Masterpiece Cakeshop Supreme Court Case, CNA has reported.

 

Analysis: How will the USCCB vote in first elections since McCarrick scandal?

Washington D.C., Jun 17, 2019 / 06:00 pm (CNA).- While the spring meeting of the U.S. bishops’ conference has only just concluded, some bishops are already looking to the election of new conference officers at their November meeting. While the elections are still five months away, bishops are already discussing their options - particularly in light of the scandal the Church in the U.S. has faced in the last year.

It is widely expected that Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, the bishops’ conference vice president, will be elected to succeed Cardinal Daniel DiNardo as conference president. Gomez has several factors working in his favor. Most notably is the sheer force of custom: With only one recent exception, the conference vice president has been elected president as a matter of course. That Gomez has served in the second slot for the last three years is likely sufficient by itself for him to secure the votes of most bishops.

Within the conference, Gomez is perceived to cut across traditional ideological and social lines. He was ordained a priest of Opus Dei, and he has a long history of leadership on pro-life and marriage issues. But, an immigrant himself, he is also among the most outspoken advocates for the conference’s call for just immigration reform and advocacy for the poor. He is, in short, difficult to pigeonhole into a partisan camp, and at a time when the Church is increasingly segmented by politics, many bishops see that as an important advantage.

Some bishops have also mentioned to CNA the symbolic significance of electing a Hispanic archbishop, a Mexican-American immigrant, in advance of the 2020 U.S. presidential election. While the bishops have a working relationship with the Trump administration on issues pertaining to abortion, marriage, and religious liberty, they remain strongly opposed to the president’s immigration policies, and if Trump wins a second term, they will likely be at odds with him over that issue throughout. Gomez is seen to be the right voice to lead advocacy on behalf of their immigration agenda.

If a Democrat wins the presidency in 2020, Gomez’ well-known advocacy on immigration could make it easier for him to gain a hearing from a Democratic administration, especially during the battles over religious liberty on gender and sexuality that would be sure to come.

Because Gomez, who leads the largest U.S. diocese, has not been made a cardinal, it is sometimes speculated that he might have a difficult working relationship with Pope Francis, or that the Holy Father might consider him to be too conservative.

This speculation seems to be grounded in particularly American misunderstandings of both men: caricatures of Gomez as a doctrinaire conservative and Francis as a freewheeling progressive work only if the frame of reference is the U.S. left-right divide. Those with experience in Latin and South America are far more likely to see the common threads running through the thought of both: especially a common concern for solidarity with the powerless and the marginalized, including both the unborn and the immigrant.

Ultimately, that Gomez is not yet a cardinal could reflect more about the hermeneutics of the Congregation for Bishops than about any actual division between Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Los Angeles.

Whatever the reason that Gomez is not a cardinal, the archbishop is not perceived to be ineffective in engagement with Rome. Gomez is seen to have successfully manned the point position in negotiating with the Holy See an approach to establishing sexual abuse policies that would be acceptable in both Rome and the U.S. The archbishop became an especially active figure in deliberations after the breakdown in communications that led to the cancelled votes at the bishops’ November meetings.

He does not seem most comfortable at a podium, presiding over the full assembly of bishops, though his aptitude in that role has grown over the course of recent meetings. While DiNardo leads the room with a poise that seems at once fraternal and efficient, Gomez is more reserved in a large public setting. But if this is seen as a liability by some bishops, it is unlikely to overcome both the archbishop’s personal reputation and the force of precedent.

Of course, in recent history, custom has been overcome in conference elections. In 2010, Cardinal Timothy Dolan was unexpectedly elected conference president ahead of Bishop Gerald Kicanas, who was then vice president. Dolan was elected through the work of a cadre of bishops who thought a Kicanas presidency would be out of step with the leadership and emphases of Pope Benedict XVI.

It is possible that Gomez could face a credible and organized opponent in November 2019. Most frequently discussed at the conference, and mentioned to CNA by a few bishops, is the idea that the newly-installed Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Washington, DC, could challenge Gomez for the presidency.

As it stands, though, electing Gregory seems a very remote possibility. In the first place is, again, the sheer force of custom. For Gregory’s supporters to overcome that force would require a great deal of organization, and a good amount of time spent convincing bishops to make a change.

Making their task especially difficult is that Gregory was conference president from 2001 to 2004, and presided over the bishops’ conference response to the sex abuse crisis of 2002. Gregory was the bishop who ushered into being the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” and the accompanying “Essential Norms.”

While the Charter is widely thought to have changed ecclesial culture for the better with regard to child and youth protection, it has been panned during the last year because it is understood to pertain to priests and deacons only, using language that explicitly delineates the exclusion of bishops from some norms.

The shortcomings of the “Dallas Charter,” are not Gregory’s fault, but bishops who want to convey that the Church is moving on from “business as usual” may be reticent to elect as president someone so directly connected to the Charter.

There is also Gregory’s task in Washington. The archbishop is 71, and is largely understood to have only a four-year mandate to begin the process of restoring trust among Catholics in the Archdiocese of Washington, which has been the epicenter of the McCarrick affair, through which Gregory’s predecessor, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, lost a great deal of trust among his priests, and among ordinary Washington Catholics. This task, Gregory is known to understand, will require a considerable investment of personal and pastoral time, and for that reason, the archbishop may not find the prospect of running the bishops’ conference a temptation.

But if he does want the job, there is at least one thing Gregory could do to improve his chances of being elected: He could release from the Archdiocese of Washington’s files on Theodore McCarrick as many records as possible, and encourage other diocesan bishops to do the same. Gregory has the opportunity in Washington to establish a new paradigm of transparency in Church governance – a paradigm much discussed but not yet much demonstrated – by releasing as much as possible on McCarrick, his finances, his friends and protectors, and then encouraging the other dioceses where McCarrick served to do the same.

While Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark told CNA this week that he is precluded from issuing a full report on McCarrick by an attorney general’s investigation in the state, Gregory has not indicated that he is under any similar restriction. A comprehensive release of information from his archdiocese would do a great deal to restore confidence in Church leadership among practicing Catholics, and it would likely raise esteem for him considerably among the younger bishops in the conference, who have been calling for just such a release from Rome.

If that does happen, Gomez could face more of a challenge for election as conference president than expected.

Who will be elected vice president?

Some bishops have mentioned to CNA that Tobin could be a natural candidate for the position.

The Archbishop of Newark is affable and friendly to other bishops, well-known, and articulate. He has the experience of leading his own religious community, the Redemptorists, of a senior leadership position at the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life at the Vatican, and has led archdiocesan sees in both the Midwest and on the East Coast. As chairman of the USCCB Committee on Consecrated Life, Clergy, and Vocations, Tobin has played a prominent role in the Church’s response to the McCarrick crisis, and he presented one of the major policy documents on sexual abuse approved by the bishops at their November meeting.

The cardinal, in short, has considerable experience and qualifications that seem relevant to a leadership position at the conference.

But even if he were nominated as a candidate, Tobin might not accept the nomination. The cardinal withdrew from participating in the October 2018 synod on youth, which came just a few months after the McCarrick scandal began. At the time, Tobin recognized the havoc wrought by the McCarrick revelations on his archdiocese, which McCarrick led for more than a decade, and he explained the priority he placed on being present to the people of his own archdiocese, and especially to his priests.

Tobin is a cardinal, which means that he already has responsibilities taking him to Rome with regularity. Given his clear aversion to becoming an “airport bishop,” the cardinal might decline the possibility of adding even more frequent trips to Washington, DC to his schedule, especially as his archdiocese will soon grapple with fallout from the New Jersey attorney general’s investigation, and from the eventual release of Rome’s report on McCarrick.

If he were to stand for election, Tobin would face both episcopal support and criticism for his endorsement of “Building a Bridge”, a 2017 book by Fr. James Martin, SJ, who is a frequent writer and speaker on the topic of Church engagement with those who identify themselves as LGBT or LGBT activists. Bishops are divided on how best to approach that kind of engagement, and Martin’s work is at the center of that divide, because some bishops say that Martin’s work is not faithful to the teachings of the Church, while others actively promote it. While some bishops might be reticent to support a Tobin candidacy because of this, others would take Tobin’s position as a positive sign in the conference.

Tobin’s work on the U.S. implementation of Vos estis lux mundi is appreciated by bishops, as is his work on revisions to the national directory for deacons. But during the last year, Tobin has been the subject of rumors and questions about his personal life from some blogs and websites. The cardinal has denied rumors of misconduct, and scant evidence has turned up to support conjectures made about him. It is unlikely that Tobin would allow such rumors to keep him from serving the Church in whatever way he thinks himself to be called, but there are likely some members of the bishops’ conference who, given the sensitivities surrounding McCarrick and the Archdiocese of Newark, might judge this an inopportune time for the cardinal to stand for election.

Another frequently named possibility for conference vice president is Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City. Coakley has been a bishop for 15 years, and served a term as chairman of Catholic Relief Services, the bishops’ international humanitarian aid apostolate.

In his role at CRS, he is generally regarded as having addressed lingering issues pertaining to the Catholic identity of the institution and its partners, in part by bringing together a coalition of moral theologians and international development experts to work through thorny issues. Coakley is also thought to have capably overseen leadership transitions amid a complex period of expansion during his term as CRS board chairman.

Bishops also noted to CNA that Coakley’s archdiocese, Oklahoma City, is perceived to have handled safe-environment related matters well, and that Coakley is perceived to have prioritized recruiting lay collaborators for the administration of his archdiocese.

Though he has a relatively low public profile, some bishops told CNA that Coakley has a moderating voice, is calm under pressure, a clear teacher and an organized administrator. And Coakley is already set to begin in November 2019 a term as chair of the bishops' influential Domestic Justice and Human Development committee.

While some bishops might prefer a bishop with more name recognition beyond the conference, others told CNA that because he is not seen to carry any “baggage” into the election, the choice of Coakley for vice president could be exactly the right move after the bishops’ year of scandal.

Other names that have been mentioned as candidates for conference vice president are Archbishop Gregory Aymond, Archbishop Allen Vigneron, and Archbishop Bernard Hebda of St. Paul-Minneapolis, who is well regarded for his work to heal an archdiocese deeply wounded by grave clerical abuse scandals.

Of course, none of these figures have yet been nominated to the slate. Nomination requires that diocesan bishops propose the names of the candidates they would like to see considered for the post; a process that will take place over the next few months. But bishops have already begun talking about the needs of the Church, and the needs of their conference. The results of their discussion will be clear in November.   

 

Forum forms women in leadership, dignity, faith

Washington D.C., Jun 17, 2019 / 11:30 am (CNA).- The 2019 GIVEN Catholic Young Women’s Leadership Forum, which met last week, convened more than 100 professional Catholic women in Washington, DC, to discuss faith, vocation, dignity, and leadership.

The June 12-16 forum was conducted by the newly-launched GIVEN Institute, and aimed to equip young Catholic women with the tools, mentorship, and advice needed to become leaders in the modern world while remaining true to their faith.

“We live in fast-moving and distracted world, so it’s easy to lose one’s grounding in the truth or even to never learn that there is a Truth, and one that sets us free,” Anne Marie Warner, director of operations for the GIVEN Institute, told CNA.

The GIVEN Forum seeks to remind attendees that not only is there a truth, but that women have unique, God-given gifts that they can use to better serve their communities.

Participants were invited after a rigorous application process that examined both their engagement with the Church and their aptitude for leadership. Additionally, applicants had to submit an “Action Plan Proposal.”

“The Action Plan is each woman’s unique initiative to activate her God-given gifts in a way that will benefit others in her community, or in the Church or the world,”said Warner. The plan is “It is a specific concrete project that (the attendee) will accomplish during the year following the GIVEN Forum,” she added.  

Warner was an attendee of the first GIVEN Forum, in 2016. She said she was “very inspired” by the diversity of the speakers at the event, and that it was “so encouraging to see the many ways that women are called to live out their femininity in the Church and in the world.”

Warner told CNA that she hopes each of the 120 attendees of this year’s forum will return home from the forum knowing that “her dreams matter, and that she has a place to be received and accompanied as she seeks to implement these for the good of others.”

Another goal of the conference, Warner said, is to recognize the place in the Church for the whole person.

“The Church is a place where (forum attendees) can be received in their strengths and in their weaknesses, a home where they are loved not for what they do, but for who they are; a family in which their unique heart is essential and cherished.”

In addition to the Action Plan, forum attendees are also mentored by older Catholic women. Warner believes this relationship is beneficial for both the mentor and the mentee, and “allows a collaboration between those whose lives are being formed in adulthood and those who have wisdom and love to share.”

“Our hope is that, through this relationship, the gift of both will be magnified and the gift of women in the Church will be magnified and, in turn, the gift of the Church to the world will be magnified,” she said.  

Attendees of the GIVEN Form shared their experiences with CNA.

Lily Alvarez traveled from Los Angeles to attend the forum. Alvarez, a native of Mexico, works for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. She said she was encouraged to apply for this year’s forum by friends who attended the first incarnation of the event in 2016.

“GIVEN has opened my eyes to see that God wants me to be intentional in the way I live my femininity, through conversations, people and testimonies I’ve heard here,” she said.

For Alvarez, one of the highlights of the forum was the opportunity to meet religious sisters. The first GIVEN Forum was intended to be a one-time event sponsored by the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR), who later expanded the event into the GIVEN Institute non-profit organization. Due to this relationship, there were many religious sisters at the forum, representing many religious orders.

“I’ve never had the chance to have deep conversations, play or even spend a day with (religious sisters),” Alvarez told CNA. “It’s been quite inspirational to see how professional, joyful and motherly they are.”

Alvarez described GIVEN as a “transformational conference,” that changed the way she viewed the dignity of women and offered “a fresh angle full of opportunities” as well as “a space of true friendship and deep understanding of God’s encounter with us.” She told CNA that she is eager to see what she and her fellow attendees are able to accomplish in the next year.

“I think now the world is lucky to have 120 new leaders of true femininity ready to make a change in the culture about the place of women in society,” she said.

Another attendee, Molly Sheahan, expressed a similar sentiment. Sheahan, a California native who is now a graduate student in Washington, DC, told CNA that she applied for the GIVEN Forum seeking to “gain practical skills for leadership and advice for future action and advocacy in the Church and in the world.”

Sheahan said she particularly enjoyed the opportunity to meet other forum attendees, women “who shared their passion and dreams for their Church, (and) their hope and fire to evangelize.” She told CNA that she received “a newfound courage and fire” from hearing the speakers, and she has been inspired to further share the things she has learned.

“Although my faith is strong, having a new community of women this week has given me a spiritual boost,” said Sheahan. “I feel called on to prayer in a new way now.”

Guam's Catholics oppose governor's plan to expand abortion

Hagatna, Guam, Jun 17, 2019 / 11:01 am (CNA).- Catholics in Guam have organized a prayer rally to protest the territorial governor's plan to recruit a doctor willing to perform abortions, after the retirement of the island's last abortion doctor.

“Say no to recruiting doctors who will kill our unborn children! Say yes to recruiting doctors who help us save lives,” read an invitation to the prayer rally sent by Patricia Perry, co-chair of the Catholic Pro-Life Committee, according to the Pacific Daily News, a Hagatna daily.

“We will not stop until all abortion is outlawed and all anti-life laws will be abolished,” Perry stated.

Guam Governor Lou Leon Guerrero, a former nurse who took office in January, recently expressed her wish to expand abortion access in the territory, but no doctors on the island are willing to perform abortions. The territory's last abortion doctor retired in June 2018.

The island's government is also offering waivers and discounts for contraception through a public health clinic.

According to the Pacific Daily News, the Archdiocese of Agaña said that “human life begins at conception and the Roman Catholic Church affirms and promotes this truth. There is no other moral or logical place to draw the line.”

Guam is predominantly Catholic, and Leon Guerrero has said that finding a doctor willing to perform abortions there “will take some work.” She said officials are trying to recruit doctors to come to the island and establish clinics.

Elective abortion is legal in Guam up to 13 weeks, and the procedure is legal up to 26 weeks in case of rape or incest; anyone who procures an abortion without help from a doctor can be charged with a felony. Doctors have the legal right to refuse to perform an abortion except in the case of a medical emergency.

Women in Guam seeking abortions fly thousands of miles from the island to seek abortions elsewhere, many in Hawaii.

There have only two or three Guam women given abortions in Hawaii since last year, and none was an elective procedure, an OB-GYN and University of Hawaii professor told the AP.

Guam's public health department received reports of an average of 246 abortions annually between 2007 and 2017. Since the 2018 retirement of Dr. William Freeman, none have been reported.

The Pacific Daily News reported that the territory is in need of more foster families. It said a recent bill introduced to improve foster care noted that in May, there were 270 children in foster placement, and 37 licensed foster families.

“If you don’t do anything to help these kids, you’re not pro-life. You’re just pro-birth. I’m not saying that you should abort these children to avoid the system but if we’re not going to have an abortion clinic here on Guam, something needs to be fixed,” Kimmi Yee, a 20-year-old Guam resident and abortion rights supporter, told the Pacific Daily News.

U.S. federal law applies in Guam and its people are U.S. citizens; the island is home to about 170,000 residents.

Meet the bishop who weaves Gospel verses, art, and Tolkien into his ministry

Baltimore, Md., Jun 17, 2019 / 03:01 am (CNA).- There are bishops who may or may not tweet with any regularity, and then there’s “Amigo de Frodo”, who provides daily Gospel verses, bits of art and literature, and maybe a Lord of the Rings quote or two at a Confirmation: Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville.

“As a bishop, I think Twitter—you shouldn’t take yourself too seriously,” Bishop Flores, who tweets under the handle @bpdflores, told CNA at the annual spring meeting of the U.S. bishops last week.

“It can be – it often isn’t – but it can be a humanizing platform. And I think the challenge, just for Catholic Twitter in general, is to kind of be a humanizing voice in it that’s respectful and that encourages and has imagination, and in a certain sense humor, in terms of how things can be.”

One thing that can be seen on the bishop’s account every single day is a Gospel verse from that day’s reading and a brief reflection, in Spanish and in English.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">*Everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.<br><br>As charity— gift of the Risen Christ— takes possession of the heart, enabling us to love God and serve the good of others, there is less room in the heart to consent to sin. <a href="https://t.co/jBzGw2oKwo">pic.twitter.com/jBzGw2oKwo</a></p>&mdash; Amigo de Frodo (@bpdflores) <a href="https://twitter.com/bpdflores/status/1139487295411802113?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">June 14, 2019</a></blockquote>
<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

“I do think, fundamentally, for the Catholic Church, before we can tackle the problems and the issues, if we aren’t fundamentally reading the Gospel every day and letting that inform how it is that we think and how it is that we see the world, then we’re not doing what we’re supposed to be doing in terms of being a people who are able to look at the world through the eyes of the Gospel, instead of judging the Gospel through the eyes of the world,” he said.

“So it’s just my way of saying ‘folks, we all need to be reading the Gospel, and then we can deal with reality’.”

Among the items discussed and voted upon by the bishops were measures to respond to the clergy abuse crisis, among them authorizing a hotline for victims of abuse by bishops to confidentially report the case.

On Tuesday, during a presentation of heads of the working group on immigration, bishops discussed the need for the Church to be concretely present to migrants and refugees, and especially undocumented immigrants whose future legal status is in question and who face deportation.

One item discussed was the threat of tariffs by President Trump against Mexico, to push for a stronger effort to curtail migration from Central America to the U.S.

“We can’t use the immigrant as a bargaining chip,” Bishop Flores told CNA of the tariff threats.

Bishop Flores is one of the “border bishops”, whose diocese has for years been at the center of the rise in migrant children and women coming to the U.S. seeking asylum.

These migrants cannot be ignored, he said. “It’s about the reality of the children and mothers and families are suffering. And we have to address that. There is no reading of the Gospel that the Church is familiar with that says we can exempt ourselves from any interest of what is going on here.”

Ahead of the 2020 elections, immigration is once again expected to be a core issue among voters. When asked how voters can consider the Church’s teaching on the right to migrate and on the state’s just authority to regulate immigration, Bishop Flores pointed to global solidarity, the common good, and the limits of national sovereignty.

“The good of survival is a very high good in terms of Catholic social teaching,” he said. “And while a country has a responsibility to defend its borders, it also has a responsibility to be just and reasonable in attending to the human crisis which is beyond our borders. Because Catholic social teaching has never considered national sovereignty as an absolute right that is sort of ‘free to be capricious, it’s not our problem’.”

Pope Francis has taught of the “responsibility in global solidarity” to pay attention to crises beyond the borders of one’s own country, he said, and the pope has pointed out problems that transcend national boundaries and demand the attention of everyone, such as human trafficking.

To ignore these problems, and the plight of migrants, as a country, “we will simply just kind of shrivel in terms of our own human awareness of the basic commonality we have as human beings.”

“And the Gospel certainly calls us to look with open eyes as to the Lazaruses at the door. And to try to find some sort of reasonable accommodation to address those situations,” he said. Migrants are often victims of gang violence and human traffickers, he said, “basically what the pope calls the modern slave trade. It happens not just in the Americas, it happens across the world.”

“And this is, as the Holy Father keeps saying to the world, especially to the economically successful in the world, you can’t keep pretending this is not happening.”

Pro-life groups laud Pampers move to place changing tables in men's restrooms

Cincinnati, Ohio, Jun 16, 2019 / 02:01 pm (CNA).- Pro-life groups are cheering an initiative from Pampers which is seeking to place 5,000 diaper changing tables in men’s restrooms throughout the United States and Canada.

“Picture this...dad is out and about, enjoying quality time with his baby and the inevitable hits – diaper duty. Cue the search for a changing table, only for dad to find there’s nowhere for him to change that stinky booty in the men’s restroom,” the Pampers company, a popular brand of baby and toddler products, said in an announcement of the initiative.

“It’s an all too familiar story that’s happening across the country, with new Pampers research revealing that 9 out of 10 dads have gone into a public restroom that has not had a baby changing table,” Pampers added. “As part of its ‘Love the Change’ campaign, Pampers is proud to announce they’re providing 5,000 changing tables for public restrooms across North America by 2021, so more dads and babies can #LoveTheChange together when they’re out-and-about.”

The initiative was inspired largely by the #SquatforChange campaign, which started after frustrated Florida father Donte Palmer posted a photo of himself, squatting on the floor of a public restroom and balancing his child on his knees while trying to change the child’s diaper.

The photo, which Palmer posted to Facebook and Instagram, went viral, and Palmer told the Washington Post he was encouraged by the response, which indicated that it was a widespread issue for dads across the country.

Kristi Hamrick, a spokesperson for the pro-life group Students for Life of America, applauded the Pampers initiative, and told CNA that it points out an age-old “discrepancy” that assumes mothers are always the ones changing their children’s diapers.

“Students for Life has always been an advocate for helping both mothers and fathers take care of their children,” she said. “In fact, we've been pointing out the discrepancy for years, because moms can use a break, and I know from experience that my husband was just as good as I was at helping our children on diaper duty.”

“A pro-life/pro-family society puts policies and infrastructure in place to help young families succeed in raising happy, healthy children. We may pursue different programming ideas, but helping families should be a goal for all of us as we all need the next generation to do well,” she added.

Hamrick noted that the initiative is similar to other efforts of Students for Life groups throughout the country, including the 2018 installment of diaper decks at the University of Wyoming, after the encouragement of the local Students for Life group, as well as efforts to support paid family leave acts in Congress.

Carol Tobias, a spokesperson for the pro-life group National Right to Life, told CNA that she welcomed the Pampers initiative, and that she imagined most mothers did too.

“Fathers seem to be more involved in the care of their children than previous generations so it makes sense that diaper-changing stations are available to help them provide that care,” she said.

According to Pampers, the installation of the diaper decks will take place over the next two years, in partnership with Koala Kare.

The companies “will identify high-need public locations and provide baby changing tables for installation in the men’s restrooms. Dads and babies visiting places such as parks and recreation centers, community centers and libraries in cities such as Cincinnati, Dallas, Philadelphia, Detroit, and many others across the U.S. and Canada, are in line to benefit from Pampers’ commitment,” Pampers announced.

Pampers noted that the first 500 locations for the installation of diaper decks have already been selected, and will be installed in the coming weeks.

St Louis University: employee who signed abortion rights letter apologized, retracted support

St. Louis, Mo., Jun 14, 2019 / 05:12 pm (CNA).- A group of 180 business leaders this week signed an open letter, published June 10 as a full-page advertisement in the New York Times and online, in support of abortion rights and declaring abortion restrictions “bad for business.”

“Restricting access to comprehensive reproductive care, including abortion, threatens the health, independence and economic stability of our employees and customers. Simply put, it goes against our values and is bad for business,” the letter read.

Among the original list of signatories was Cindy Mebruer, director of the Center for Supply Chain Excellence at Saint Louis University’s Richard A. Chaifetz School of Business. SLU is a Jesuit institution with a total enrollment of 13,000.

Mebruer signed the letter on behalf of the center, and the name of the university was included in the online version of the letter.   

“Saint Louis University had no knowledge of the New York Times advertisement until it was brought to the University’s attention Thursday,” the university said in a statement to CNA.

“The employee who signed the letter has apologized for including the University within the petition profile in a way that may have been misconstrued as a statement that reflects the University’s viewpoint, rather than her own personal views.”

The Center for Supply Chain Excellence is classified as a “Center of Distinction” within the Richard A. Chaifetz School of Business at the university, and offers certificate programs related to supply chain management.

“[The employee] has stated that it was not her intent to speak for the entirety of the University and upon hearing of the misunderstanding, immediately reached out to the advocacy group to request that her employer's name be removed from the statement,” the university continued.

As of Friday afternoon, neither the university, the center, nor Mebruer's name appear on the online version of the letter.

“Saint Louis University is committed to acting consistently with the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. While the University respects the freedom of conscience for each person, any official University action is in accord with SLU’s Catholic identity,” the statement concluded.

A coalition of pro-abortion organizations, including Planned Parenthood Federation of America, NARAL Pro-Choice America, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the American Civil Liberties Union coordinated the letter.  

“We, the undersigned, represent more than 108,000 workers and stand against policies that hinder people’s health, independence and ability to fully succeed in the workplace,” the letter continued.

Signatories include CEOs on behalf of multi-billion dollar corporations such as Bloomberg, H&M, Atlantic Records, and Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. The list includes a number of influential technology companies such as Slack, Zoom Video Communications, and Yelp.

Raoul Scherwitzl, the CEO of Natural Cycles, an app to track fertility, also signed the letter.

Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Square, a payment processing company, is another signatory; Dorsey is also the CEO of Twitter.

The letter was prompted, in part, by the recent passage of laws restricting abortion in states such as Georgia, Alabama, and Missouri, where Saint Louis University is located.

Missouri Governor Mike Parson signed the “Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act” in May, which criminalizes performing abortions after eight weeks in the state, except when the life of a mother is determined to be in danger.

The law criminalizes the performance of abortions or the prescribing of medical abortions, punishable as a Class B felony, for doctors and medical professionals. It does not penalize women who obtain abortions. Class B felonies are punishable by 5-15 years in prison in the state of Missouri.

St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson applauded the new law, calling it a “giant step forward for the pro-life movement.”

Should Catholics attend 'pride' events?

Denver, Colo., Jun 14, 2019 / 03:50 pm (CNA).- On June 1, Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence tweeted that Catholics should not attend Pride events during the month of June, which is commemorated as “Pride Month” throughout the United States.

“A reminder that Catholics should not support or attend LGBTQ ‘Pride Month’ events held in June,” Tobin tweeted. “They promote a culture and encourage activities that are contrary to Catholic faith and morals. They are especially harmful for children.”

By the following day, the bishop issued another statement after widespread backlash against his original tweet.

“The Catholic Church has respect and love for members of the gay community, as do I,” Tobin said, adding that “individuals with same-sex attraction are beloved children of God and our brothers and sisters.” While the bishop expressed regret that some people took offense at his tweet, he did not apologize for or retract any of the content of his original statement.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly teaches what Tobin tweeted: that people with same-sex attraction must be treated with love and respect, and that the promotion of same-sex sexual relationships is contrary to faith and morals, and God’s plan for human sexuality.

Given these two teachings, what should a Catholic do if invited to participate in “Pride” events?

How Pride month started

The commemoration of June as “Pride Month” was officially established by President Bill Clinton in 1999, but it was already being unofficially celebrated for decades prior to that.

Pride Day, which eventually grew to be Pride Month, has been commemorated since June 1969, during the Stonewall Uprising, when activists and other New Yorkers took to the streets to protest against police raids at the Stonewall Inn, a popular bar and lounge at the time for people identifying as gay and lesbian.

Today, Pride Month is celebrated throughout the U.S. with parades, parties and concerts celebrating the gay rights movement and celebrating the LGBT lifestyle.

CCC 2358

Chris Stefanick, a Catholic author, speaker and lay minister at Real Life Catholic, said in a video posted to his Facebook page that he would not be attending “Pride” events, and that he also discouraged other Catholics from doing so, especially with children.

“The Catechism of the Catholic Church is really clear about this,” Stefanick said. He cited the Catechism’s paragraph 2358, which states that people with same-sex attraction “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”

Stefanick noted in his video that “Pride” events, in their origin, were largely about speaking up against just that - unjust discrimination and harsh treatment towards LGBT people.

“I agree with the Catechism on that because I’m a devout, card-carrying Catholic. If that’s all that ‘Pride’ parades were about, I would show up, I would march in one, and I would have a t-shirt that said ‘Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2358.’ Right? Because it would be a Catechism of the Catholic Church 2358 parade!” he said.

But “Pride Parades” today encompass a much larger agenda than anti-discrimination, Stefanick said.

“They’re largely funded by, supported by, attended by, the secular LGBT agenda. And while one sliver of what they’re standing for and pushing against in society is upholding the dignity of the person, which I would agree with, there’s a whole lot more that they’re pushing for that’s directly against my faith,” he said.

In follow-up comments to CNA via email, Stefanick said that that video cost him a donor, who accused Stefanick of being unloving for his opposition to attending Pride events. In a subsequent email to that donor, Stefanick reiterated that he was attempting to approach the issue out of love for all people, and in line with his faith.

“So much confusion exists around this issue,”  Stefanick said.

“And that confusion is often perpetuated by people in Church leadership who add to the world's perception that anything said with clarity is hateful and hurtful and bigoted. It's perpetuated by people who refuse to clarify which aspects of the LGBT movement we agree with, and which ones we have to absolutely reject...not because we're moralists, but because Jesus Christ is the fulfillment and happiness we're looking for, and nothing else will do!”

How to love without compromise

Courage is a Catholic organization for people with same-sex attraction and for those who love them. It supports them in leading a chaste life and building community and deep friendships with others in the Church who support them.

Courage is active in about two-thirds of the Catholic dioceses of the U.S., as well as in multiple other countries, with more than 150 Courage Chapters and just under 100 Encourage Chapters. Encourage is the apostolate for relatives and loved ones of people who identify as LGBT.

Fr. Philip Bochanski, the executive director of Courage, told CNA that Catholics should keep in mind that Pride events “were originally meant to draw attention to unjust discrimination and harsh and sometimes even violent treatment against people because of their sexual attractions and their understanding of their sexual identity.”

“And so the idea that we ought to call that out and condemn it is simple. That's something that The Church is fully in agreement with,” he said, also referencing CCC 2358.

“And a letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith from 1986 goes even further and says: 'It's deplorable that homosexual people have been and are the object of violence malice in speech and in action, and that such behavior deserves condemnation from the Church's pastors whenever it occurs,’” Bochanski added.

“The Church has always been in agreement that people who are living with these experiences should not be discriminated against unjustly and should not be treated with malice or violence,” he said.

But the Church also teaches that the answer to the unjust treatment of people identifying as LGBT “is not to change the Church's teaching or to say that homosexual relationships are good or moral, but the answer really should be to teach the truth more clearly about the dignity of the human person, and call all of our brothers and sisters to a life in holiness which always includes the virtue of chastity, among the other virtues,” he said.

Bochanski added that he has some Catholic friends, many of whom are involved in the Courage apostolate, who attend Pride events -- though not as participants or marchers.

“They're there along the route offering words of encouragement about God's love and the inherent dignity of every person, talking about the virtue of chastity, offering people friendship and support and if they'd like to know more about what the Catholic Church teaches about same-sex attraction, offering them support if they want to understand what chastity means and how to embrace it.”

Still, he said, while it may be good for some people to attend Pride events in order to witness to God’s love and the teachings of the Church, it would be “foolish to ignore the reality” that sometimes, at some of these events, some people display “images that can be lewd and in some cases offensive and scandalous and especially for younger people.”

“(Catholics) have to be very prudent and careful about that reality and not expose ourselves to situations we can't control that are offensive or obscene, or raise issues that a person is too young to understand,” he noted.

Bochanski said that Catholics can love those who identify as LGBT by being willing to listen seriously to them, and by accompanying them on a path of holiness.

“I think that trying to welcome and accompany people as Jesus would do really starts with a willingness to listen to where people are coming from and what they're going through,” he said.  

“So, I often say, a person who wants to spread the Good News and lead people to understand God's plan for sexuality and relationships and virtues like chastity...(should) say, first of all, 'I love you very much,'” to such a person, he said.

“Second, 'I believe that God has a plan for your life and for your relationships and for sexuality, and if you follow that plan, it's going to lead you to be happy.' And third, 'I want to hear your story so that we can see your story in light of the Gospel story and we can walk together as we see that path that God has marked out for us,'” Bochanski added.

He also said that it’s important to present the fullness of the truth of God’s plan for sexuality, which is a Church teaching that cannot change: “that's always going to be true, because it comes from the Word of God.”

Bochanski emphasized loving people with same-sex attractions as full persons, and helping them to see that their identity does not lie solely within their sexuality. This is the reason the apostolate typically uses the terms “people with same-sex attractions” rather than “gay” or “lesbian,” for example.

“(A)s we're striving to love someone, we shouldn't label them or encourage them to label themselves according to their sexual attractions, saying 'this is who I am and how God made me,'” he said, “because it's not telling the whole truth about the nature of the human person and the nature of God's plan for our bodies, our sexuality, our relationships.”


 

Bea Cuasay and Michelle McDaniel contributed to this report.

What’s going to bring the ‘nones’ back to the Church?

Baltimore, Md., Jun 14, 2019 / 02:49 pm (CNA).- As the U.S. bishops gathered in Baltimore this week, primarily to vote on proposals to respond to the clergy abuse crisis, another crisis loomed large with no easy solutions—how to evangelize the “nones,” or people with no religious affiliation.
 
Bishop Robert Barron, auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles and chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, delivered a presentation on Tuesday morning at the annual spring meeting of the U.S. bishops on “this massive attrition of our own people, particularly the young” from the Church. He exhorted fellow bishops “to look at this issue of who are the unaffiliated, why are they leaving, and how do we get them back.”
 
He presented some sobering statistics: for every one person joining the Church today, 6.45 are leaving. Almost eight in ten leave by the age of 23, and the median age for leaving the Church is just 13 years old.
 
Where are they going? While roughly one quarter are becoming Evangelical, and another 25 percent are joining another religion or denomination of Christianity, half are simply atheist, agnostic, or without any religious affiliation, Barron said.

“Most are ambivalent about religion rather than hostile to it,” he noted.
 
They are leaving Catholicism primarily because “they don’t believe it,” he told CNA in an interview on Thursday. Regarding “the questions about God and about Jesus and about eternal life and about the soul,” he said, “they don’t believe it. They think religion’s at odds with science. That comes through all the time.”
 
Bishop Christopher Coyne of Burlington, Vt., agreed with the assessment that a primary reason for young people leaving the Church is a lack of belief. However, he challenged the assumption that there are clear-cut intellectual reasons why teenagers as young as 13 are leaving the Church. “The question that popped into my head was were they really believing (in the first place)?” he said of the statistic.  
 
According to Barron, some of the other common reasons given for lack of religious affiliation are a perceived intolerance of revealed religion, opposition to being told what to do, a belief in a personal relationship with God outside of revealed religion, and a perception that religion is anti-science or anti-rational.
 
Some of the reasons Barron gave for the migration of young people away from the Church are secularism, and with it, a culture of relativism “which gives rise to the self-invention culture (of)...I decide who I am. I decide what I believe.”
 
Thus, when the Church makes objective claims and preaches dogmas and doctrines, “that meets with a lot of resistance,” particularly teachings on sexuality and morality which are a “stumbling block for a lot of people,” Barron added.
 
However, despite recent revelations of clerical sex abuse and misconduct and cover-up by bishops and prelates, the abuse crisis has not played a primary role in young people departing the Church, both bishops said.
 
“It’s not been certainly one of the top reasons. It’s there, but certainly not a top reason,” Barron said.
 
“All of the surveys that I’ve seen around people who have turned 18 since 2000,” Coyne said, “the abuse crisis is way, way down on the list of why they left the Church, and why they’re not affiliated with the Church.”
 
According to a survey of the religiously unaffiliated by the Pew Research Center conducted in December of 2017, 25 percent of respondents said that “I question a lot of religious teachings” is the most important reason they do not identify with a religion, the leading reason among the “Nones” for their lack of affiliation.
 
“I think we’ve underplayed the intellectual side. We’ve undervalued what kids are capable of, intellectually,” Barron said, noting that young people are leaving the Church “more and more consciously. They are making a conscious decision—not just drifting away, but they are deciding to go. And that’s often on intellectual grounds.”
 
During his presentation to the bishops, Barron brought up University of Toronto psychology professor Jordan Peterson and his popular online discussion of the Bible as an example of young people still showing interest in religion despite having no official affiliation.
 
However, the mere mention of the controversial best-selling author of “12 Rules for Life” at the meeting of the bishops provoked backlash and claims that the conference had endorsed Peterson’s treatment of the Bible as a “model” for evangelization.
 
On Thursday. Barron clarified that he brought up Peterson not to cast him as a model for evangelization, but rather to draw attention to his online appeal and evoke questions as to why he is so popular.
 
“It really wasn’t about the content at all, except that he is talking about the Bible, which I think is really interesting, and getting millions of views with learned talks about the Bible, which aren’t bad,” Barron told CNA. “From a psychological perspective, they’re pretty good I think.”
 
He brought up Peterson “to look at the phenomenon and say maybe we’ve been underplaying what our young people are capable of. Maybe we can address these issues at a high level too.”
 
However, in addition to paying attention to intellectual currents among the religiously unaffiliated, cultural and sociological currents need to be considered as well, Coyne insisted. For example, there are trends showing that Millennials do not join parishes or social clubs at nearly the same rates as previous generations once did—and thus may be harder to reach within the traditional boundaries of parish life.
 
Furthermore, approaches to evangelization cannot be “too high-altitude,” he cautioned, because in addition to young people who are invested in intellectual debates about religion such as online forums about atheism or Jordan Peterson’s discussion of the Bible, there are many other Millennials without a college education who don’t partake in any of these discussions.
 
Vermont has one of the highest graduation rates for high school students, Coyne said, but one of the lowest rates of graduates who enter college; instead of tertiary education, they pursue careers in small business, the military or other occupations that don’t require a college degree.
 
“A 22 year-old in a double-wide in rural Vermont is not going to put the YouTube of the psychologist from Toronto on who talks about faith,” he said.
 
So what is working for evangelization in his diocese? Ideally, the faith is learned at home, practiced by the parents, and passed on to the children, he said.
 
“I would say if we’re going to try and help people raise children in the faith so as to make a good choice to stay in the faith, then they have to be disciples,” Coyne said. “I’m seeing that in a lot of our families that stay in the Church, the parents are disciples because they choose to stay in the Catholic Church.”
 
“It’s not a matter of cultural Catholicism, it’s Catholicism by choice,” he added.
 
For adults who are religiously unaffiliated and living apart from their families, there’s also networking, he said. Lay Catholics in Burlington have begun to form Catholic business associations and medical associations not unlike the guilds from centuries ago, and in the process have been able to form relationships and support each other in the faith.
 
“It’s the Holy Spirit, it’s incredible,” Coyne said. “The evangelization part is really being picked up by lay men and lay women, and they understand that evangelization is relational.”
 
“They come together, they pray, they support each other, and they also talk about the struggles of being a Catholic in the medical profession or being Catholic in the business community.”
 
For example, a local doctor started a Catholic medical association group and “they had their first meeting at my house, they had about 40 people come who are all in the medical profession, who are all Catholics who are looking to network,” Coyne said.
 
Meanwhile, regarding evangelization on the intellectual level, Barron pointed to the Catholics who are prolific in their evangelization through social media and in person such as his Word on Fire Ministries, FOCUS, St. Paul Street Evangelization, and figures such as Scott Hahn and Peter Kreeft.
 
He also admitted to other paths to the faith than through purely intellectual arguments, such as the “way of beauty” and the “way of justice.”
 
“Young people respond very much to the call to social justice,” he said. “There’s a huge part of our tradition around that, from John Chrysostom to Dorothy Day and Pope Francis. That’s a wonderful tradition.”
 
If there was one thing he could tell a lay Catholic at a parish about evangelization to others, Barron said, “don’t be afraid to tell them about your relationship with the Lord.”
 
“Don’t be afraid to share your faith, and talk about your faith and what it means to you. And people will respond to that, even if they don’t seem to at first."

 

Analysis: 'Job begun' not 'job done' in Baltimore

Baltimore, Md., Jun 14, 2019 / 10:21 am (CNA).- Today the bishops of the United States return home after the USCCB General Assembly.

After a week’s worth of meetings and votes, they can point to real steps taken towards healing the breach of trust between the hierarchy and the faithful. But the passage of several worthy policy documents to one side, there is much work left for the bishops to do.

After a year marked by one episcopal scandal after another, the message the bishops take back to their diocese is more “job begun” than “job done.”

Four key measures were approved by overwhelming majorities during the sessions in Baltimore.

An independently administered, national reporting mechanism is to be set up, to ensure that complaints against bishops can be processed in a clear and credible way.

Directives for applying the pope’s new universal law Vos estis lux mundi were approved, laying out a clear role for lay involvement in the implementation of the “metropolitan model” for investigating allegations.

The weight of the last year’s scandals was addressed with an “Affirmation of Our Episcopal Commitments” by all the bishops: “Because of these failures, the faithful are outraged, horrified, and discouraged,” they wrote, while rededicating themselves to their core mission as shepherds and the high standards the people pews had every right to expect of them.

The bishops also passed, virtually without comment, a set of protocols explaining how a diocesan bishop can restrict the ministry of his retired predecessor when necessary, and made clear that the USCCB president could formally disinvite retired or resigned bishops from attending conference meetings.

By passing these four reforms, the bishops have given themselves a considerable amount of homework.

Contracting a vendor for the independent national reporting line has been left to the conference leadership, and will take some time to put in place – though it will be up and running no later than May next year. But once a complaint is made, the hotline will have to alert the appropriate metropolitan archbishop or senior suffragan -as well as the competent lay person each has designated to help in such cases.

Accounting for every metropolitan and senior suffragan, this means that for the national reporting mechanism to come online, 64 lay people have to be identified, trained, and put in place across the country – no small task. The USCCB have promised a set of guidelines to help with this process by Labor Day.

The question of lay involvement also carries over to the directives implementing Vos estis. During a closed meeting this week of the country’s 32 metropolitans, there was, according to more than one archbishop, unanimous agreement about the “indispensable” role of independent lay experts. But ensuring that each archbishop– and each senior suffragan bishop – can put in place an expert suitably qualified to add value to the process of evaluating allegations will not be done overnight.

Much work is still needed on the standards against which allegations are to be assessed.

The affirmation of episcopal responsibility commits every bishop to publish “clear explanations as to what constitutes sexual misconduct with adults, as well as what constitutes sexual harassment of adults.” Set within the wider question of what constitutes the sexual abuse of a “vulnerable” adult raised by Vos estis, every bishop in the country is now committed to drawing “clear” lines against which to measure the often very messy facts of individual cases, a legal and pastoral challenge the size of which many might not yet fully appreciate.

On Thursday, Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark told CNA that there would necessarily be different definitions of misconduct and harassment in different dioceses, because each had to reflect civil laws in each state. Thirteen states plus the District of Columbia have laws criminalizing sexual contact between a religious minister and a congregant. But how such distinctions will play out canonically could prove problematic – few will likely be impressed if a bishop in one diocese can escape unpunished for behavior that would be termed serious misconduct in another.

Technical questions like these went largely undiscussed on the assembly floor in Baltimore, with debate finishing nearly two hours ahead of schedule – something which many of the bishops may yet come to see as a missed opportunity.

It is possible that having had to wait since their last meeting in November to pass measures aimed at showing substantive progress in response to scandals like that of former cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the U.S. bishops were in a hurry to cast their votes. But in their haste, the bishops may also have passed up a pastoral opportunity to speak directly to the faithful.

While acknowledging the “outrage and horror” of the faithful at the behavior of some bishops, few in the assembly hall expressed those emotions at the microphone.

While passing the protocols to limit the ministry of retired or resigned bishops under clouds of serious scandal, there was no debate or conversation about the clear cases to which they could be usefully and immediately applied.

While the president of the conference can now formally disinvite retired bishops from future meetings, no bishop rose to suggest this be extended immediately to cover, for example, Cardinal Roger Mahony, who attended the last session in November; Bishop Robert Finn, who was in Baltimore this week; Archbishop John Neinstedt; or Bishop Michael Bransfield, who was at the center of a damning report released just prior to the June meeting.

Seeing the bishops overcome their squeamishness at calling out their scandalous brethren is, to many faithful, more than just an exercise in catharsis.

Anonymous votes may signal unity, but they are unlikely to displace McCarrick as the image that comes to mind for many when they think of the American bishops; individual bad cases may be the small minority, but the majority remain essentially faceless for many ordinary Catholics. For all the solidarity behind the reforming measures in Baltimore, the assembly lacked a clear, urgent, moral voice denouncing the sins of the few and sharing the anger, not just the sadness of the faithful.

As they return to their dioceses, the bishops have considerable work still to do before they meet again. Much of that essential work will take place in chancery offices, but the more urgent – and likely more fruitful – work will be in the pulpit.