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Leading US bishops praise Biden's global vaccine pledge

Joe Biden. Credit: Drop of light / Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Jun 23, 2021 / 14:01 pm (CNA).

Leading U.S. bishops on Wednesday praised President Joe Biden for pledging 500 million COVID-19 vaccines to developing countries, and urged his administration to work with Catholic and other faith-based groups on vaccine distribution.

“As world leaders work together to help bring an end to this pandemic, we are grateful for President Biden’s leadership to aid the poor and vulnerable around the world who remain most at-risk,” read a statement on Wednesday from Archbishop Jose Gomez, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference (USCCB), and Bishop David Malloy of Rockford, chair of the USCCB international justice and peace committee.

The bishops responded to recent news that President Biden committed the United States to purchasing 500 million doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for 100 low-income countries.

At a summit of G7 member countries last week in Cornwall, England, the United States and other countries committed to providing in total more than one billion vaccine doses for countries in need. Other G7 partners of the United States include Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom.

“This gesture of global solidarity is timely, responding to those regions with the greatest need, particularly in Africa and South Asia,” Archbishop Gomez and Bishop Malloy.

They asked the Biden administration to partner with Catholic and other faith-based groups on vaccine distribution.

“We encourage the Administration to partner with Catholic and other well established and broad reaching faith-based health care structures throughout the developing world to facilitate and strengthen vaccine distribution as we work together to save and restore lives,” they stated.

Pope Francis, in his Easter 2021 “Urbi et Orbi” message, called vaccines an “essential tool” to combat the pandemic, and asked the international community, “in a spirit of global responsibility,” to expedite vaccine distribution “especially in the poorest countries.”

In his Christmas 2020 “Urbi et Orbi” blessing, Pope Francis said that a COVID-19 vaccine must be “for all,” and asked for “a solution for everyone: vaccines for all, especially for the most vulnerable and needy of all regions of the planet. Before all others: the most vulnerable and needy!”

Leaders of G7 countries have committed to financing and providing around 2.3 billion vaccines since 2020, according to the White House. Investment in local vaccine production will support at least one billion vaccine doses by the end of 2022, the White House claimed.

The World Health Organization said this week that the global vaccine initiative COVAX has yielded only 90 million doses in 131 countries, far fewer doses than needed to combat the spread of the virus in Asia and Africa, according to BBC News.

The aid group Catholic Relief Services also praised the Biden administration’s 500 million vaccines pledge on June 10, but said there must also be a “U.S.-led plan to get those vaccines in arms.”

Bill O’Keefe, executive vice president for mission, mobilization and advocacy at Catholic Relief Services, warned that virus cases were already “spiking in Haiti, Nepal, Brazil and across Africa.”

“The poor are getting poorer. The quicker we can vaccinate vulnerable populations, the quicker we can make up for such losses as well as prevent future loss,” he said.

New documentary warns about danger of the abortion pill

ivanko80/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Jun 23, 2021 / 09:00 am (CNA).

A new documentary series warns about the dangers of chemical abortions, as the Biden Administration has recently removed restrictions on the abortion pill regimen during the pandemic.

In an “emergency broadcast” by pro-life organizations on Tuesday evening which introduced the series, the president of the group Students for Life, Kristan Hawkins, warned that deregulating the abortion pill regimen would lead to a “domino effect throughout America.” 

Dr. Christina Francis, chairman of the board of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said the lifting of the safety regulations would be “an absolute attack on women's health in this country.” 

Dr. Francis said that if the federal regulations on the abortion pill are lifted, the abortion pill could be available over-the-counter or on internet websites. The pro-life movement’s push for abortion regulations across the country would effectively be rendered “moot,” she said.

The documentary series premiered directly after the broadcast on Tuesday evening on thisischemicalabortion.com. The series was produced by Charlotte Pence Bond, daughter of former Vice President Mike Pence, and the groups Students for Life and Heartbeat International both partnered in the production. 

The June 22 broadcast featured pro-life speakers, politicians, medical, and legal experts sharing information about the dangers of chemical abortion. They also discussed abortion pill reversal, and the Biden administration’s recent move to deregulate the abortion pill regimen. 

Since the year 2000, the regimen has been listed on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies (REMS) program, reserved for higher-risk drugs and procedures. As part of the REMS protocol, the regimen has to be prescribed and dispensed in-person, in a health clinic setting, by a certified prescriber. 

In April, however, acting FDA commissioner Janet Woodcock announced that the administration would “exercise enforcement discretion” on the regimen during the COVID-19 public health emergency, allowing the protocol to be prescribed and dispensed remotely during the pandemic. 

The Secretary of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra, expressed support for allowing the regimen to be prescribed remotely through telemedicine and dispensed through the mail or by mail-order pharmacies, beyond the pandemic, at his Feb. 23 confirmation hearing.

Hosted by the former CEO of 40 Days for Life, David Bereit, the 50-minute webcast on Tuesday focused on the consequences of the removal of the REMS procedures. 

“This isn’t a bill that we can stop,” Hawkins said. “This is a mandate that's coming down from President Biden’s administration.” 

Tina Whittington, vice president of Students for Life, encouraged all viewers to sign a petition to the FDA to keep the safety regulations in place for chemical abortions. Signing the petition will hold back some of the “scourge” of mail-order abortions, Whittington said. 

Dr. Brent Boles, the medical director at Heartbeat International, said that the abortion industry deceives people with faulty statistics about the abortion pill. He criticized the conclusion of former Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards in her 2018 op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, that medication abortion is safer than taking Tylenol. 

“If you want to make an accurate conclusion about abortion safety across the board, you have to have comprehensive and accurate statistics,” Boles said. “No such database exists in the United States.”

Boles said that only 28 states are required to report complications and deaths from abortion to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, “and there’s no enforcement mechanism in any of those 28 states that ensures compliance.” The other 22 states do not report deaths or complications from abortion at all, he said.

Denise Harle, senior counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom, said the abortion industry was hypocritical in pushing to keep abortion clinics open during the pandemic as “essential” businesses, while advocating against the in-person requirements for abortion pill prescriptions.

Harle called out Becerra for his history of pushing for easy access to abortion pills as the former attorney general of California. 

President of Heartbeat International, Jor-El Godsey, said the abortion industry has major incentives to promote mail-order abortion. Godsey said that the REMS protocol protected women so that they would be able to see a doctor and get evaluated before putting themselves at risk.

Congressman Chip Roy (R-Texas) said that he has introduced new legislation which would withhold federal dollars from universities unless they certify they are not providing chemical abortions on campus.

Rep. Mary Miller (R-Ill.) called the Biden administration’s de-regulation of the abortion pill “political theatre,” in a pre-recorded speech for the webcast. 

“Why are doctors required for all other medical prescriptions to inform women about the potential risks but not when they prescribe chemical abortion drugs?” Miller asked. 

Bereit advised viewers to call on members of Congress to hold the FDA accountable, and to share the series “with everyone you know.”

Five Quotes to Bring you Closer to Saint John the Baptist

Close up from "The Baptism of Christ" (c. 1482) by Pietro Perugino. / Wikipedia.

Denver Newsroom, Jun 23, 2021 / 06:30 am (CNA).

Saint John the Baptist finds himself in elite company. Together with St. Joseph he is one of only two saints besides the Blessed Virgin Mary to have more than one feast day and he and the Blessed Virgin Mary are the only saints to have a feast day celebrating their birth.

June 24th is the solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist.  Here are five quotes to help you get to know the man of whom Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist.”

  1. “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire."

Bible scholar John Bergsma recently discussed John the Baptist’s formative years with the Essene movement. The Essenes intimately connected the Holy Spirit with water. John the Baptist went even further, connecting the baptism of the Messiah not just with water and the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit and fire. Bring on the heat!

  1. “He must increase; I must decrease.”


John’s birth is celebrated near the pinnacle of light in the northern hemisphere, the summer solstice. The liturgical calendar reveals something of the reality of John’s mission as a precursor to the Messiah, the Incarnate Son of God who is “the Light that shines in the darkness.” After the summer solstice each year, the amount of sunlight begins to decrease, just as John began to decrease in anticipation of the Messiah’s coming. It reaches its lowest ebb just before Christmas, when the Light of Lights descends from heaven and physical light itself begins to increase.  

  1. “Repent, the Kingdom of God is near.”

A true mystic, John’s interior life and supernatural vision of reality allowed him to lead others to the conviction that they must change their way of life to see Heaven. Baptized by the Holy Spirit in the womb of his mother, John’s life was marked by in-breaking of the Kingdom of Heaven from his earliest days. His words captured reality so clearly they became the first words of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark: “Repent, the Kingdom of God is at hand.”

  1. “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee before the coming wrath?”

John the Baptist wasn’t much for hypocrisy, as evidenced by his choice words for the Pharisees and Sadducees. He spoke kindly of tax collectors and prostitutes who repented, however. His words are a not so gentle reminder that humble acknowledgment of our sins is more important than keeping up appearances.

  1. “Behold, the Lamb of God!”

John the Baptist was among the first to recognize the divinity of Jesus. Not only does he leap in the womb, he instructs his own disciples Andrew and John to follow Jesus, calling him the Lamb of God. The priest repeats this startling recognition of Jesus’ identity at every Mass: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.”

May the words of John the Baptist kindle the fire of love within you on this solemnity so that you may decrease, see Heaven in the midst of everyday life, live with integrity, and behold the Lamb of God.

Catholic teen works toward Gold Award by serving single mothers 

Donation drive for Mary's Homes of Hope / Ciara Leal

Denver Newsroom, Jun 22, 2021 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

A Catholic teen in Colorado is hoping to earn the Gold Award, the highest award a Girl Scout can earn, by serving at a Catholic home for single mothers. 

Since 2019, Ciara Marie Leal has organized countless donation drives for Mary’s Homes of Hope, a Catholic ministry to women who have experienced homelessness, based in a Denver suburb. She also helped design a website for the organization. 

Statistics show that in Colorado, nearly 6% of households with children under the age of 18 are led by a single mother. 

However, Leal’s inspiration for her project was more personal. Her own sister is raising two children as a single mother. 

“I was close with her when I was younger, but once I got older we kind of drifted apart,” Leal said of her sister. “In 2019, she started coming back into my life, and I noticed the struggles that she's had as a single mother, who doesn't have any support or resources.”

Years earlier, Leal had done similar work with Catholic Charities of Denver’s Marisol Homes and Gabriel House - ministries for single mothers and young families - to earn her Bronze Award with the Girl Scouts of America. 

She learned about Mary’s Homes of Hope through Lynn Reid, OFS, who previously worked at Marisol Homes and Gabriel House.

Leal held several interviews with Reid, and began organizing donation drives in late 2019 and early 2020. Leal had to suspend her donation drives when the coronavirus pandemic started, but she wanted to find a way to continue spreading the word about Mary’s Homes of Hope’s mission.

“That's when I started thinking of the idea of a website, because I needed the message of Mary's Homes of Hope to basically get out there, to the media and to the world,” Leal said. 

Leal said the project has revitalized her Catholic faith. She held her donation drives at her parish, and spoke with countless parishioners about Mary’s Homes of Hope. 

“Once I reached high school, I kind of drifted away from my faith and I really needed a stepping stone to bring me back into my faith,” Leal said. “That's where my Gold Award plays in, in that it brought me back into my faith, to serve God and help his children in need.”

She has also grown closer to her sister through the project. 

“Once she realized that I was doing this as my Gold Award, she was so happy because she doesn't want other single mothers and women to face what she has faced in the past,” Leal said of her sister. 

Leal will deliver her final presentation for the Gold Award in mid-July. She is now a lifetime member of the Girl Scouts, and will no longer be eligible for further awards or badges. She said she is grateful for the 13 years she spent in Girl Scouts. 

“It definitely has shaped how I see the world,” she said. “It's taught me goal setting, math and money management, business, ethics, people skills and other  basic life needs that I need to work on throughout my development and growth.” 

“It has given me so many opportunities that I'm very grateful for.” 

To donate to Leal’s drive for Mary’s Homes of Hope, visit https://www.maryshomesofhope.com/ and click the donation tab. 

Now agreeing with former priest’s victim, Kansas City archdiocese says abuse claim was substantiated

Cathedral of St. Peter in Kansas City, Kansas / Mwkruse, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Denver Newsroom, Jun 22, 2021 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

Crediting a sex abuse victim for his challenge of a review board’s ruling in 2002, the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas says an allegation that a now-laicized priest abused a minor was, in fact, able to be substantiated. 

“The archdiocese is particularly grateful for this survivor’s courage and strength in coming forward to challenge the decision,” the archdiocese said in a June 18 statement in the case involving former priest William Haegelin.

“Due to this persistence, we are now able to acknowledge more fully the harm to the survivor and to better assist and support their healing,” the archdiocese said. “Archbishop Naumann offers his sincere apology to the survivor, their family and community.”

Voicing “deep sorrow for the suffering of victims and survivors of abuse,” the archdiocese said that former priest William Haegelin was in fact the subject of “a substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor.”

Haegelin was removed from ministry in 2002 and laicized in 2004. The archdiocese said an investigation in 2002 “led to an inaccurate determination and announcement that he did not sexually abuse a minor.”

The archdiocese’s statement did not explain the reasons for reversing the announcement.

A man who said the priest sexually abused him as a minor in the 1980s had written a two-page letter documenting his allegations to the archdiocese in 2002.

After receiving the letter, the archdiocese put Haegelin on administrative paid leave. The archdiocese’s independent review board then ruled there was no evidence that Haegelin had sexual relations with his accuser when the latter was a minor. There was, however, evidence that he did have relations when the accuser was a legal adult, the review board found.

Some 19 years later, the archdiocese has now added Haegelin’s name to its list of credibly accused priests, published on the archdiocese website. He had been listed before in the category “Previously Publicized Allegations Not Able to Be Substantiated.”

“Archbishop Naumann urges anyone harmed by William Haegelin to contact both law enforcement and the archdiocese,” the archdiocese said. 

“The archdiocese takes very seriously its obligation to address any allegation of abuse or misconduct by church personnel.”

The archdiocese encouraged any new allegation of abuse to be reported to the Kansas Protection Report Center. Those who suspect abuse or misconduct by an archdiocesan cleric, employee or volunteer should also contact the archdiocese’s confidential report line.

Haegelin’s last assignment was at St. Ann Catholic Church in Prairie Village, Kansas, a suburb of Kansas City. 

In 2002, the archdiocese’s then-vicar general Msgr. Charles McGlinn said then-Archbishop James P. Keleher hoped that Haegelin would return to service in the archdiocese after taking a sabbatical and undergoing spiritual counseling, the Kansas City Star reports.

In November 2002, Haegelin said in a statement that he thought the review board had conducted a “full and fair investigation.”

“I look forward to the coming time granted to me for spiritual renewal ... and ask for your continued prayers,” the priest stated at the time.

While incidents of Catholic sex abuse by clergy appear to have peaked in the U.S. in the mid-1970s, victims of abuse often take years to come forward. Only in 2002 did the Catholic Church come under massive external criticism, resulting in ongoing efforts by the U.S. bishops and other Catholic institutions to better address abuse, respond to and assist survivors, and mandate training to help prevent abuse.

Clergy sex abuse victimized tens of thousands of people in the U.S. and Catholic institutions have spent billions of dollars in legal judgments and other agreements.

Oakland bishop: Unmasked Massgoers should not be ‘policed’

Bishop Michael Barber of Oakland / Diocese of Oakland

Denver Newsroom, Jun 22, 2021 / 16:01 pm (CNA).

The bishop of Oakland, California on Monday said that Catholics fully vaccinated against COVID-19 do not have to wear masks at Mass, adding that those not vaccinated will not be forced to wear a mask.

“The mask rules for offices, schools, travel, public transportation and businesses are still being worked out by government health officials. But churchgoers may dispense with the mask if they have been vaccinated,” Bishop Michael Barber, SJ wrote in a June 21 column. He added that no one should be “forced or requested to prove their vaccination status to participate in worship.”

Those who are not yet vaccinated against COVID-19 are asked to continue to wear masks at Mass, Barber said, but the new protocols are based on the “honor system.” He cautioned that “no one should be criticized if they choose not to be vaccinated, and/or wear a mask inside our churches.” 

“Our ushers and greeters should extend a warm welcome and answer questions about the new policy, but they should never be used as ‘mask police,’” the bishop wrote. 

Dioceses across the country are continuing to lift the general dispensations from the Sunday Mass obligation, put in place last year due to the pandemic. The dispensation in the diocese of Oakland will end on Sunday, Aug. 15, the Solemnity of the Assumption.

“I extend a warm ‘welcome home’ to our parishioners, who have been starving spiritually during this pandemic,” Barber concluded.

“The Lord has given us ‘Bread from heaven, containing all sweetness within it.’ Let us do what the Good Shepherd commands us and open wide our doors to ‘Feed His lambs, feed His sheep’,” he said. 

California’s Alameda County, which includes the city of Oakland, has recorded about 90,000 total cases of COVID-19. 

Other dioceses have similarly discouraged “policing” of the vaccination status of Mass attendees. 

The Diocese of LaCrosse, Wisconsin announced on Tuesday the reinstatement of the Sunday obligation on the weekend of June 26-27. Bishop William Callahan noted that “vaccinated-only” Masses are not allowed, and that “checking vaccination status of Mass attendees is also not permitted.”

The ecclesiastical provinces of Baltimore and Washington - which include the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Archdiocese of Washington, and the dioceses of Wilmington, Arlington, Richmond, and Wheeling-Charleston - will lift the dispensation that same weekend. Fully vaccinated people will not need to wear a mask at Mass, and “do not need to supply proof of vaccination,” the dioceses announced recently, adding that “parishes should not ask to see or check vaccination cards.”

Ottawa archbishop apologizes for Church’s role in Canada’s residential schools

Memorial in tribute to 215 Indigenous children at the site of the former Kamloops residential school. / meandering images/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Jun 22, 2021 / 14:03 pm (CNA).

The archbishop of Ottawa-Cornwall on June 17 apologized for the role of the Catholic Church in administering the country’s residential school system, and requested a formal apology by Pope Francis.

“As we celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day, I extend my sincere apology for the involvement of the Catholic Church in the residential school system, and I pray for healing as the Church in Canada walks the path of reconciliation with the Indigenous people in our community,” said Archbishop Marcel Damphousse of Ottawa-Cornwall, in a video posted on YouTube on June 17. 

In Canada, National Indigenous Peoples Day is celebrated on June 21.  

“As a member of the Catholic Church, and as a bishop, I am so sorry. I know I am not alone in my sorrow and contrition,” said Damphousse. “I add my voice to those who are asking the Holy Father for an apology to Indigenous peoples of Canada.” 

In addition to Damphousse, the Archbishop of Vancouver recently suggested that Pope Francis should formally apologize for the Church’s role in the residential school system.

"I know that the apology that is being asked for from the TRC is that the pope come in person to issue an apology," Archbishop J. Michael Miller of Vancouver said, as reported by CBC on June 8. Miller was referring to the call for a papal apology, made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The commission operated from 2008 until 2015, and issued a lengthy report on the history of the residential school system and abuses committed in the system. 

"If someone asked me, do I think the pope should apologize, I would say yes," Archbishop Miller said.

Archbishop Damphousse said that he was at “a loss for words” to describe how he felt following the recent discovery of the remains of 215 Indigenous children at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia. The remains of the children were discovered the weekend of May 22, with the use of ground-penetrating radar. It is unknown how the children died, or who they were. 

The Kamloops Industrial School, later renamed the Kamloops Indian Residential School, was established by the federal government and began operations in 1890. At one point, it was the largest residential school in the country. 

The residential school system was set up by the federal government beginning in the 1870s, placing First Nations, Inuit, and Metis children in boarding schools and separating them from their families. According to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the school system aimed to strip the children of their cultural and familial ties, and force assimilation. The schools were run by Catholics and members of Protestant denominations.

A lay Catholic principal oversaw the Kamloops school until it was administered by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate beginning in 1893. In 1969, the Canadian government took control of the school, which at that point operated as a residence for First Nations children who were attending area day schools. The residence was closed in 1978. 

Previously, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission found that 51 children had died at the Kamloops school. The commission said that an estimated 4,100 to 6,000 students died as a result of neglect or abuse in the country’s residential schools. The last federally-run residential school in Canada closed in 1996. 

In 2017, Pope Francis met with Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who invited the pope to visit Canada and make a formal apology for the Church’s role in the residential school system. Trudeau recently said he was “disappointed” at the lack of a papal apology. Pope Francis has expressed his sadness for the recent discovery in Kamloops, and offered prayers for the children who died in the residential schools, but has not formally apologized. 

Leaders of the Assembly of First Nations and the Métis National Council are planning a visit to the Vatican this fall, alongside the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), to request a formal papal apology.

Bishop Joesph Nguyen of Kamloops told CFJC Today, regarding a papal apology, that it “is not only an apology for the Pope and the church. We’d like to have a long-lasting reconciliation. The Pope would like to listen directly from Indigenous people.”

Archbishop Damphousse said he has sought to better understand the suffering of Indigenous children in the residential schools.

“I have been reading more and listening to better understand the reality of the residential schools, and the impact they had on Indigenous peoples,” Archbishop Damphousse said. 

Damphousse said that the reports of abuses in the schools, alleged by survivors in recent weeks and by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission several years ago, were “shameful.” He added that “as a Church we failed, not only to be authentic witnesses to the goodness of Jesus Christ, but we sinned against our brothers and sisters in our care.” 

“Words cannot undo the hurt or return the deceased children to their families,” he said.

The archbishop said that he has “reached out for help” from area organizations, “to learn how to best support our local Indigenous community.” 

“I listened to requests for concrete actions we can take, including participating and promoting listening encounters with Indigenous people in our archdiocese, working with Indigenous peoples in providing education for clergy and parishioners, facilitated by members of the Indigenous peoples,” he said. 

Other actions, he said, would be announced in the future.

Texas governor signs 'trigger' abortion ban

Texas state capitol / Inspired By Maps/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Jun 22, 2021 / 10:01 am (CNA).

The governor of Texas signed two bills last week, to prevent the future closure of churches during disasters and to ban abortions if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned.

Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed the bills among a series of other measures last week. 

He signed the Human Life Protection Act of 2021, House Bill 1280, on June 16. The bill makes it illegal for anyone to “knowingly perform, induce, or attempt an abortion,” with exceptions for situations where the life of the mother would be at risk in continuing the pregnancy. 

Women who have abortions would not be held liable or penalized under the law. Abortionists could be fined $100,000 for illegal abortions.

The bill would only go into effect, however, 30 days after the Supreme court issued a judgment “overruling, wholly or partly, Roe v. Wade, as modified by Planned Parenthood v. Casey.” The 1973 Roe decision legalized abortion nationwide and prohibited states from banning “pre-viability” abortions. The 1992 Planned Parenthood ruling upheld Roe and established a new test, prohibiting state abortion regulations from imposing an “undue burden” on abortion.

Alternatively, Texas’ “trigger” law would also go into effect after any Supreme Court decision or constitutional amendment that permitted states to ban abortion. 

The Texas Senate passed the bill on May 25 by a vote of 19 to 12. On May 6, the Texas House of Representatives approved the bill by a vote of 81 to 61. The bill was sponsored in the Senate by state Sen. Angela Paxton (R) and in the House by Rep. Giovanni Capriglione (R). 

The Human Life Protection Act of 2021 is essentially the opposite of bills in states such as New York, Vermont, and Massachusetts, which codified a right ot abortion even if the Supreme Court were to rule otherwise. 

Also on June 16, Abbott signed a bill preventing public agencies and officials from ordering a house of worship closed, or issuing an order that effectively closes churches. 

House Bill 1239 states “A government agency or public official may not issue an order that closes or has the effect of closing places of worship in this state or in a geographic area of this state.”

The bill passed with bipartisan support in both the Texas House of Representatives and in the Texas Senate. The bill passed the Senate on May 21 by a vote of 28 to 3; a week later on May 28 it passed the House by a vote of 113 to 30.

Massachusetts mayor challenges local pro-abortion Catholic politicians

Mayor Thomas Koch of Quincy, Massachusetts, speaks at the city's "Night 4 Life" rally on Thursday, June 17. / Lisa Aimola

Washington D.C., Jun 22, 2021 / 05:00 am (CNA).

A Massachusetts mayor called out pro-abortion Catholic politicians last Thursday at a pro-life rally in Quincy. 

In his speech at a June 17 “Night 4 Life” rally in Quincy, Massachusetts, the city’s mayor Thomas Koch asked, “Where are the consciences today of our elected politicians – particularly the Catholic and Christian ones?” the New Boston Post reported.

The pro-life rally, which took place at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Quincy, was attended by hundreds of participants. 

In an email following the event, Mayor Koch told CNA that "the Gospel of life is at the heart of Jesus' message and I am so proud that our city hosted the Night for Life affirming respect for every human being from conception to natural death." 

Koch, a practicing Catholic, left the Democrat party in 2018 in response to comments by Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez that all Democrats should support abortion rights. Koch is now a registered independent.

Koch’s speech, delivered off-the-cuff, entailed a story of his own failure to rally the local Democratic politicians on a critical pro-life cause. At the end of 2020, the state legislature voted to override Gov. Charlie Baker’s veto of the ROE Act, a bill that expanded legal abortion throughout a woman’s pregnancy. 

The ROE Act allows minors to get an abortion without parental consent, allows abortion after 24 weeks in the case of a fatal diagnosis of the unborn child, and strikes down a state law that requires doctors to try to save the life of a baby born alive after a failed abortion attempt. 

The local Quincy state legislators voted to override Baker’s veto. With a population of almost 95,000, the city south of Boston is home to three Democratic state representatives and one Democratic state senator. According to the New Boston Post, local representatives Bruce Ayers and Ron Mariano, as well as state senator John Keenan, all identify as Catholic.

In response to Koch’s speech, Keenan told CNA that he has already expressed his opinion through his vote and declined to comment further. Keenan also declined to comment on whether he was a Catholic.

In his speech, Koch said that he learned how to be “principled” from a young age after watching his father, Richard J. Koch, distance himself from Senator Ted Kennedy. As a campaign aide for Kennedy, Koch’s father spent extensive time with the senator but “departed” the position after Kennedy supported legal abortion.

In his speech, Koch encouraged the crowd to bring the pro-life discussion into the different spheres of public and social life. 

“We are the apostles of our time,” Koch said. “We need to be that light of hope.”

Other speakers at the June 17 rally included the Archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Sean O’Malley. Mother Olga Yaqob, founder of the religious order Daughters of Mary of Nazareth, also spoke, as well as former NFL tight end Benjamin Watson and former Planned Parenthood employee Abby Johnson.

USCCB president: Eucharistic document seeks to deepen 'awareness,' 'amazement'

Archbishop Jose Gomez at the fall 2019 USCCB meeting / Kate Veik/CNA

Washington D.C., Jun 21, 2021 / 18:15 pm (CNA).

The U.S. bishops are seeking to deepen “awareness” of the Eucharist with their new teaching document, the president of the U.S. bishops’ conference stated on Monday.

“As bishops, our desire is to deepen our people’s awareness of this great mystery of faith, and to awaken their amazement at this divine gift, in which we have communion with the living God,” Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference (USCCB), stated on Monday. “That is our pastoral purpose in writing this document.”

At their annual spring meeting last week, the U.S. bishops voted decisively to begin drafting a teaching document on the Eucharist.

Of those bishops who voted, nearly three-fourths, 168 bishops, voted in favor of drafting a formal statement on “the meaning of the Eucharist in the life of the Church.” Fewer than one-quarter, 55 bishops, voted against the motion, while six bishops abstained from voting.

Archbishop Gomez said the proposed document will focus on “the beauty and power of the Eucharist.”

“The Eucharist is the heart of the Church and the heart of our lives as Catholics,” he said. “In the Holy Eucharist, Jesus Christ himself draws near to each one of us personally and gathers us together as one family of God and one Body of Christ.”

Following the bishops’ vote, the USCCB doctrine committee will begin drafting the document, with regional meetings and consultations to follow, Gomez explained. The bishops will consider the full document at their fall meeting in November.

A proposed outline of the document, advanced by the USCCB doctrine committee, included various sections on the Church’s Eucharistic teachings, including the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, Sunday as a holy day, the importance of the works of mercy, and worthiness to receive Communion.

It is being advanced as the bishops also voted to launch a three-year Eucharistic Revival initiative, which will begin in 2022 and is planned to culminate in a national Eucharistic congress in 2024.

The USCCB’s working group to deal with Biden’s election recommended that the bishops issue a teaching document on the Eucharist. The group also cited previous plans of the conference to launch a three-year Eucharistic Revival initiative, as well as the USCCB’s 2021-2024 strategic plan “Created Anew by the Body and Blood of Christ.”

A teaching document would supplement these two initiatives, the working group said.

Such a document, while addressed to all Catholics, was needed to clarify the problems of Catholic public officials advocating policies contrary to Church teaching on grave moral issues, the working group said.

Biden, a Catholic, supports taxpayer-funded abortion and the Equality Act, and has advanced pro-LGBT policies through his administration.

The proposed document includes a subsection on “Eucharistic consistency,” or worthiness to receive Communion. The Church teaches that Catholics conscious of serious sin since their last confession cannot approach to receive Communion.

Archbishop Gomez on Monday asked Catholics to pray for the bishops as they draft and consider the document.

“I invite everyone in the Church to pray for the bishops as we continue our dialogues and reflections. I pray that this will be a time for all of us in the Church to reflect on our own faith and readiness to receive our Lord in the Holy Eucharist,” he said.