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Catholic health care giant Ascension to mandate coronavirus vaccines for employees

Ball Lunla/Shutterstock

Denver Newsroom, Jul 29, 2021 / 18:29 pm (CNA).

The Catholic health care network Ascension will mandate coronavirus vaccination for its employees, physicians, volunteers, and vendors. It cited a need for more action to overcome the Covid-19 pandemic and promised some exemptions to the mandate for people with health problems or religious exemptions.

“Like many health systems across the country, including in many of our markets, we are moving to require our associates to be vaccinated against COVID-19,” Ascension said July 27.

“Ascension conducted a thorough moral and ethical analysis as part of the decision-making process,” it added. “As a healthcare provider and as a Catholic ministry, ensuring we have a culture of safety for our associates, patients and communities is foundational to our work.”

Tens of thousands of its employees have already been vaccinated, said Ascension, which added: “But we must do more to overcome this pandemic as we provide safe environments for those we serve.”

The mandate applies to all employees regardless of whether they provide direct patient care or whether they work remotely. It also applies to employees of subsidiaries and partners; physicians and advanced practiced providers, including those who are independent; and volunteers and vendors who enter Ascension facilities.

“Together, we will put this pandemic behind us so that we can continue to focus on meeting the needs of those who come to us for care,” Ascension said.

The health network aims to fulfil this mandate by Nov. 12, aligned with its annual influenza vaccination requirement. There will be an exemption process similar to that used for its influenza vaccine process for those unable to be vaccinated because of a medical condition or a strongly held religious belief. Ascension said it is implementing the mandate in line with collective bargaining agreements.

According to the Alabama-based NBC15 News, an email sent to Ascension employees this week said fewer than 50% of its employees in Florida and the Gulf Coast are vaccinated.

Some employees have objected that the mandate violates their medical freedom and personal choice.

According to Ascension’s website, as of 2020 it has over 160,000 associates, 40,000 aligned health care providers and 9,000 employed providers. It has more than 2,600 health care facilities in 19 states and the District of Columbia, including 145 hospitals and over 40 senior care facilities.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has addressed concerns about the use of vaccines with a remote connection to abortion. The use of these vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process is acceptable “when ethically irreproachable Covid-19 vaccines are not available,” it said in a December 2020 note.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in a March 2 statement, said that the mRNA vaccines available from Pfizer and Moderna have “the least connection to abortion-derived cell lines should be chosen” and should be preferred to the vaccine from Johnson & Johnson.

In a July 2 statement, the National Catholic Bioethics Center discussed vaccine mandates. Any mandates should provide “robust, transparent, and readily accessible exemptions for medical, religious, and conscience reasons.” This safeguards the rights of conscience, establishes trust, and avoids “undue pressure,” the bioethics center said. Mandates can exert severe pressure if employment is threatened, and the current vaccines are approved only under an emergency use authorization.

“Recognizing the importance of public health, institutions that grant an exemption may require that recipients restrict their interpersonal interactions, but these restrictions should be the least burdensome possible,” the statement continued.

The National Catholic Bioethics Center said there is “no universal moral obligation” to accept or reject vaccines.

“Catholic institutions, in particular, should respect the decisions of people to decline use of vaccines dependent on abortion-derived cell lines,” said the center. “This is especially relevant when there are other means of mitigating risk.”

The novel coronavirus has killed over 612,000 people and hospitalized many more in the U.S. While the arrival of vaccines has significantly reduced the spread of the disease, there are concern that failures to vaccinate and the arrival of new viral variants could still cause significant harm.

A June survey from the Public Religion Research Institute, published July 27, reported that about 80% of Catholics would accept a coronavirus vaccine. Hispanic Catholics’ vaccine acceptance has particularly increased in recent months.

About 67% of Americans told the survey they had received at least one dose of the vaccine and another 4% said they aimed to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Overall, under 15% of Americans are hesitant. Concerns about possible long-term effects of vaccines appear to be decreasing.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association recommend vaccine mandates for all employees in health care and long-term care, the Detroit Free Press reports. California and New York have also required government workers to vaccinate or submit to regular testing.

President Joe Biden on Thursday announced a similar mandate for all civilian federal workers.

Traditional Latin Mass restrictions leave ‘a lot of unanswered questions,’ says Providence bishop

Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence / Diocese of Providence

Washington D.C., Jul 29, 2021 / 17:10 pm (CNA).

The bishop of Providence says patience and reflection are necessary while bishops study Pope Francis’ motu proprio that restricted traditional liturgies.

Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence told CNA in a phone interview this week that while he had heard rumors of liturgical changes coming from the Vatican, he was surprised when Pope Francis’ letter Traditionis custodes was released on July 16. The document, he says, is “very broad” and leaves “a lot of unanswered questions.”

The document restricted the use of traditional liturgies that preexisted the 1970 liturgical reforms. Most notably, it recognized the “exclusive competence” of bishops to authorize the Latin Mass according to the 1962 Roman Missal in their respective dioceses. It further instructed bishops to delegate locations for the Traditional Latin Mass, stipulating that the locations could not be at “parochial churches.”

Tobin said he initially found the motu proprio to be “a challenge and an opportunity.” Now, he thinks that the document was “very broad.” 

“(Traditionis custodes) seemed to put all the Catholics who favor the traditional Latin Mass into one category, more or less,” said Tobin. “And there were still many questions that linger after the document.”

“I think at some point, if we get more direction, more information to answer those questions, I think it will be helpful.” 

The bishop explained that he believes the pope’s letter provides an opportunity for an examination of conscience for the entire Church. 

For Catholics who prefer the extraordinary form of the Roman rite, he said Pope Francis’ letter should prompt reflection on whether their preference for the Latin Mass separates them from the Church. 

For Catholics who prefer the ordinary form of the Mass, Tobin said they must consider if they treat Mass “with a total respect and reverence that the Mass deserves and demands.”

“I think that a good question for people on both sides of the issue to ask is 'what's my attitude towards other Catholics?'” said Tobin. “And why would we be threatened by Catholics who prefer different liturgical styles?” 

Tobin said that while the document was addressed to the global Church, he did not believe that the situation described in Traditionis custodes is true for everywhere in the world. 

“And it does leave a lot of unanswered questions that I think we're all grasping for,” he said. 

The Diocese of Providence, the territory of which comprises the entire state of Rhode Island, is home to one parish administered by the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, as well as to several other locations for Latin Masses. 

While the bishop himself never learned to celebrate the traditional Mass, he told CNA that one of his priorities as bishop is for the diocese to continue to respect liturgical preferences. 

“At least for the time being, I don’t see any imminent threat to changing the status quo regarding the Latin Mass and the celebration of the Latin Mass in the diocese,” he said. 

He said the process of implementing the motu proprio will involve writing to his priests, and asking them to explain when and where they wish to celebrate the Latin Mass.

“And that will be the beginning of a dialogue; certainly not the end of the process, but I think that's the most beneficial aspect,” said Tobin. “And the key aspect of the Pope's directives is it does give the bishop some oversight, some authority, over the celebration of the Mass according to the Missal of 1962.”

Tobin said that this authority is “very appropriate and very helpful” when it comes to meeting the spiritual needs of his flock.

The motu proprio, coupled with the proposed “Eucharistic revival” discussions of the U.S. bishops, provides the ideal opportunity for self-reflection for all the Catholic faithful, said Tobin. 

The two issues “converge very nicely to raise up the centrality of the Eucharist, the importance of the Mass in the life of the Church,” said Tobin. 

“So it is providential. I'm sure it wasn't planned that way, but they come together very nicely,” he said. “And I hope everybody would just relax a little bit, and take in that peaceful and prayerful way.”

Tobin said that he viewed the various liturgical rites in the Catholic Church as a “mosaic.” 

“A mosaic comes together beautifully to form a beautiful picture,” he said. “So I hope that's what our liturgy throughout the Church does as well.”

House passes spending bills without restrictions on abortion funding

Nicole Glass Photography/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Jul 29, 2021 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

The House this week passed spending bills that would allow funding of abortions both in the United States and abroad.  

On Thursday afternoon, the House voted 219-208 to pass a large spending bill without customary prohibitions on federal funding of most elective abortions. The bill – H.R. 4502 – provides appropriations for a number of federal agencies and programs, but excludes the Hyde Amendment, federal policy since 1976 which bars funding of most elective abortions in Medicaid.

The legislation also omitted other prohibitions on funding of abortions and abortion coverage, and excluded the Weldon Amendment which conditions federal funding on state and local governments upholding conscience protections in health care. Pro-life leaders criticized the omission of these "riders" from the spending bills.

“The Knights of Columbus is extremely disappointed in this week’s actions by the House of Representatives to remove longstanding, bipartisan taxpayer and conscience protections including the Hyde Amendment,” stated Patrick Kelly, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, on Thursday. “The House vote to make taxpayers pay for abortions is both an assault on the dignity of life and contrary to the wishes of most Americans.”

“These important provisions protect the American public from funding or providing abortions against their will,” Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, stated on Thursday. “No one should be forced to compromise their values, but especially not on this life-or-death issue." 

The Hyde Amendment was a “bipartisan compact” in Congress for decades, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) said on Tuesday on the House Floor, while the legislation was being considered. “Now it’s gone.”

Members of both parties each year have voted for spending bills with the Hyde Amendment included. In 1993, some Democrats tried to remove the amendment from the budget process, with President Bill Clinton submitting his budget request to Congress without the policy. An amended version of Hyde – including exceptions for cases of rape, incest, and when the life of the mother is in danger – was later included in the congressional budget process. The spending bill that year was signed into law by Clinton.

Current president Joe Biden once supported the Hyde Amendment as U.S. senator, even outlining his reasons for doing so in a 1994 letter to a constituent. In 2019, while he was running for president, Biden reversed his support and pledged to repeal the Hyde Amendment. In May 2021, he submitted his budget request to Congress without the policy included.

Pro-abortion groups applauded the passage of the bill on Thursday without the abortion funding prohibitions.

“This is #AbortionJustice in action,” the group All* Above All tweeted of the House vote on Thursday.

“This is a victory for progress: the new spending bill finally leaves out harmful abortion coverage bans like the Hyde amendment and sets up critical investments into sexual and reproductive health programs, including Title X,” the Twitter account of Planned Parenthood Action stated.

On Wednesday, the House also passed a State and Foreign Operations budget bill for the 2022 fiscal year that excluded the Helms Amendment. The 50-year-old federal policy bars funding of international abortions in U.S. foreign assistance.

Pro-abortion groups celebrated the news, with an official at Planned Parenthood Global, as well as the group Planned Parenthood Action, praising the legislation.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said in a statement on Wednesday that she was “especially proud” her bill removed “restrictions that have prohibited safe abortion and health care services for people in low-income countries for decades.”

Rep. Fortenberry, meanwhile, said the United States would be exporting abortion at the taxpayers’ expense.

“We are about to export our most divisive cultural issue – our pain, our woundedness – onto the poor of the world. Pope Francis has called this ‘ideological colonization.’ It’s unfair, it’s wrong, and it smacks of arrogance and elitism,” Fortenberry said on the House Floor on Tuesday while the bill was under consideration.

Lee’s bill would also permanently repeal the Mexico City Policy, dubbed by abortion supporters as the “global gag rule.” The executive policy can be instituted or repealed by a president’s administration and is not permanent law. It bars funding of foreign NGOs that provide or promote abortions as a method of family planning.

Before the final House vote to pass the funding bill on Thursday, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) offered a Motion to Recommit which would have reinstated pro-life provisions removed from the legislation. His effort failed by a vote of 208-217. Cole’s motion included language forbidding funding of abortion and abortion coverage, as well as restricting funding of abortion in the District of Columbia.

“Taxpayers should not be forced to pay for child dismemberment,” said Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, on Wednesday. “Rather than funding the death of a baby, I believe we must increase access to maternal and prenatal care and ensure access to safe blood and better nutrition.”

The legislation passed by the House on Wednesday and Thursday not only omitted the Hyde and Helms amendments, but also excluded other pro-life policies included each year in budget bills.

The Weldon, Kemp-Kasten, Smith, and Dornan amendments all restrict funding of abortions or pro-abortion causes. Normally included as part of government funding bills, none of the policies were included in the bills that passed the House this week.

The Weldon Amendment prohibits federal funding of state and local governments that discriminate against health care workers or providers who refuse to participate in, pay for, or cover abortions. The Kemp-Kasten Amendment restricts funding of international groups complicit in forced sterilizations and forced abortions. The Smith Amendment restricts funding of abortion coverage in federal employee health plans, and the Dornan Amendment bars federal funding of abortions in the District of Columbia.

Priests of Buffalo diocese continue to face sex abuse accusations

St. Joseph Cathedral in Buffalo, N.Y. / CiEll/Shutterstock

Buffalo, N.Y., Jul 29, 2021 / 14:52 pm (CNA).

Since June more than 90 sex abuse lawsuits involving the Diocese of Buffalo have been filed under New York’s Child Victims Act.

A July 27 statement from Stacey Benson, an attorney at Jeff Anderson & Associates, called on Bishop Michael Fisher “to publicly identify all perpetrators of child sexual abuse in the Diocese of Buffalo before the August 13, Child Victims Act deadline because we know there are more names the Diocese has yet to release.” 

The statement includes the names of 24 alleged abusers. It said 13 are believed to be deceased, and that the whereabouts of the remaining 11 are unconfirmed.

The Buffalo diocese declared bankruptcy in February 2020 after more than 250 clergy abuse lawsuits were filed against it under the Child Victims Act. The 2019 law opened a “lookback” window, which closes Aug. 14, allowing child sex abuse victims to file abuse lawsuits long after their statute of limitations had ended.

A federal bankruptcy judge on March 31 ruled that 36 abuse lawsuits against Buffalo Catholic parishes and schools would remain on hold until Oct. 1, 2021, so as not to interfere with settlement payouts that were a part of the bankruptcy process.

The diocese and its former bishops are also facing a lawsuit from the state of New York.

In November 2020, the state’s attorney general, Letitia James, sued the diocese in the state supreme court; Bishop Emeritus Richard Malone, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Edward Grosz, and Buffalo’s then-apostolic administrator, Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of Albany, were all named in the lawsuit.

The state alleged that the diocese, Bishop Malone, and Bishop Grosz, all failed properly to investigate claims of clergy sex abuse, to monitor priests with credible abuse accusations, and to take action against priests credibly accused.

In addition, the state is seeking restitution from Bishop Malone and Bishop Grosz, and a ban on their serving “a secular fiduciary role in a nonprofit or charitable organization” in the state.


A judge ruled in February that Bishop Malone and Bishop Grosz must pay their own legal fees, but may still have the right to seek reimbursement from the diocese’s insurers for their legal costs, the Buffalo News reported.

Former cardinal Theodore McCarrick charged with sexual assault of a minor

Theodore McCarrick before his laicization / Copyright Mazur_catholicchurch.org.uk

Washington D.C., Jul 29, 2021 / 12:11 pm (CNA).

Former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick is facing charges of sexually assaulting a teenage boy in Massachusetts in the 1970s, marking the first time the disgraced ex-prelate has been criminally charged since accusations of longstanding sexual misconduct by him first came to light three years ago.

McCarrick, now 91, is charged with three counts of indecent assault and battery on a person over the age of 14, according to court documents filed July 28 in District Court in Dedham, MA. McCarrick has not been arrested, the court documents show, and is scheduled to appear in court Aug. 26 for his arraignment to formally answer the charges. Each of the three criminal charges carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

The charges were first reported Thursday by the Boston Globe. Neither McCarrick nor his lawyer could be reached for comment Thursday.

Long a powerful and high-profile Catholic leader in the United States with an impressive international resume, McCarrick was dismissed from the clerical state by Pope Francis in 2019, after the Vatican conducted an expedited canonical investigation and found McCarrick guilty of “solicitation in the Sacrament of Confession, and sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and with adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power.”

You can read the full text of the criminal complaint below. Out of privacy and safety concerns, CNA has redacted McCarrick's Social Security Number and phone number, which were left unredacted in the criminal complaint. Warning: These documents describe incidents of alleged sexual assaults in graphic detail.

The criminal complaint was signed Wednesday by a Wellesley, MA police detective in Massachusetts' Dedham District Court. The criminal investigation appears to have been set in motion by a letter sent to the Middlesex District Attorney by the Boston-based attorney, Mitchell Garabedian, representing McCarrick's alleged victim, who is now in his 60s, court records show.

Documents accompanying the criminal complaint refer to "various incidents of abuse by McCarrick, most of which took place outside of Massachusetts," in New Jersey, New York and California.

The criminal charges stem from a series of sexual assaults alleged to have to have taken place on June 8, 1974 during the wedding reception of the alleged victim's brother. The alleged victim was 16 at the time, court records show.

The wedding and the reception were held at Wellesley College, where the brother’s new wife had attended school, according to court documents.

McCarrick is described in court documents as a close friend of the alleged victim's family at the time who took "trips with his family" and presided over the family's baptisms, weddings and funerals. The alleged victim told authorities that his uncle had attended Fordham Prep with McCarrick and had introduced the gregarious priest to the family.

According to the court documents, the alleged victim was approached by McCarrick while the wedding reception was going on, ostensibly at the boy's father’s request, because he was skipping Mass and being “mischievous.”

“We need to go outside and have a conversation,” McCarrick said, according to court documents.

During a walk around the campus, the alleged victim stopped to urinate in the bushes, and while he was doing so McCarrick allegedly came over to the boy, stating, "Here, let me help you with that," and then placing his hand on the boy's genitals, according to court documents.

When McCarrick and the boy returned to the reception, McCarrick allegedly took him into a small coat room and told the boy that he needed to go to confession, court documents state. McCarrick allegedly instructed the boy to pull down his pants and allegedly sexually assaulted him again, telling the boy afterward to "say three our fathers and a hail Mary or it was one our father and three hail Mary's, so god can redeem you of your sins," according to notes of the alleged victim's interview with authorities included in the court documents.

The alleged victim told authorities that at the time of that assault he “knew what was going to happen” next but “didn’t want to make a scene at his brother’s wedding and disturb everything because he had more respect for his mother, father and brother than himself at the time," according to court documents.

McCarrick was ordained a priest in 1958 and became auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of New York in 1977. He became in 1981 Bishop of Metuchen, New Jersey, then Archbishop of Newark in 1986, and then in 2001 Archbishop of Washington, DC, where he retired in 2006.

He became a cardinal in 2001, but resigned from the College of Cardinals after it emerged in June 2018 that he had been credibly accused of sexually assaulting a minor. Allegations of serial sexual abuse of minors, seminarians, and priests soon followed, and McCarrick was dismissed from the clerical state in February 2019.

The criminal complaint lists McCarrick's address as a location in Dittmer, MO, which is the site of the Vianney Renewal Center. The center is a treatment facility run by the Servants of the Paraclete, which, according to its website, provides "a safe and supportive environment for the rehabilitation and reconciliation of priests and religious brothers." The Servants of the Paraclete have long operated centers for the treatment of priests and religious with problems of sexual or substance abuse.

McCarrick lived in the St. Fidelis Friary of the Capuchin Franciscans in Victoria, Kan., from shortly after he was publicly accused of abuse in 2018, until the opening days of 2020. At that time, senior Church officials told CNA he had moved to a residential community of priests who have been removed from ministry.

The former cardinal himself made the decision to leave the Kansas friary over the Christmas 2019 period, sources said, adding that his continued presence in the friary had become a strain on the Capuchin community that was hosting him.

According to Jeffrey Anderson, a prominent attorney for sex abuse victims, McCarrick resided in the rectory of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York at the time of the alleged abuse in 1974.

As CNA previously reported, in 1971 McCarrick became secretary to New York’s Cardinal Terence Cooke and lived in the rectory attached to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. He also grew close with several large Catholic families in the area in the years that followed. He called teenage children in these families “nieces” and “nephews” while accepting the nickname “Uncle Ted,” and traveled regularly with teenagers he befriended, including on overnight trips.

"Former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick's history of prolific sex crimes has been ignored by the highest-ranking Catholic officials for decades," Anderson said Thursday. "For too long Catholic institutions have been self-policing while making pledges and promises without action. McCarrick should be behind bars for his crimes."

McCarrick’s public disgrace in 2018 and dismissal from the clerical state a year later shocked Catholics in the United States and around the world, and triggered an international crisis of credibility for the Church’s hierarchy, leading to Pope Francis calling an unprecedented meeting of the world’s bishops in 2019 to address issues of sexual abuse and accountability in the Church.

The fallout of the 2018 allegations against McCarrick, and reports that Church leaders knew for years about possible instances of misconduct but failed to act, also contributed to Pope Francis’ promulgation of Vos estis lux mundi, a new provision in canon law allowing for the investigation and trial of bishops for the failure to act on allegations.

Made in His Image founder writes book on trauma, forgiveness, and healing

Maura Preszler, author of 'Choosing to See Beauty'. Credit: Hannah Quintana Photography.

Denver Newsroom, Jul 29, 2021 / 10:54 am (CNA).

Maura Preszler grew up in an abusive household, despite the family’s outward Catholic appearance. They went to Mass on Sundays, prayed the rosary together and celebrated the saints’ feast days, but her home was filled with domestic violence behind closed doors. She learned how to keep secrets, she said, and to internalize her feelings, which resulted in a debilitating eating disorder and depression in early adolescence.

Preszler shares the challenges she faced, as well as her journey to recovery in her forthcoming book Choosing to See Beauty, available for pre-order from CatholicPsych Press. The book is scheduled to ship by Aug. 15. 

In 8th grade, Preszler overheard a couple high school girls when they were gossiping about the weight of one of her field hockey teammates. This was the moment she began to associate beauty with a certain weight, she said. Preszler stopped eating and started running more, fueled by the attention she received for losing weight on her already small figure. 

Her eating disorder required medical intervention after her body weight dropped to a dangerously low number. With her pulse severely impacted, she was not able to do the activities she enjoyed, like dancing or running, until she put the weight back on.

“Even after I returned to my normal weight, I had these burning questions like ‘Who am I?’ ‘What am I made for?’ ‘Does God love me?’ ‘Why is this happening to me?’” Preszler said. “I had this yearning to be known and seen.”

After finishing high school, she attended Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey, where she was a Division I runner. Preszler began dating a man who later revealed that he had a sexual addiction and ended their relationship. She found herself starting to spiral again, with many of the same questions unanswered.

“It was devastating for me and I felt so rejected,” she said. “But it was what I needed to be cracked open.”

Pursued by a determined FOCUS missionary, Preszler joined a Varsity Catholic Bible study, and, later, learned about FOCUS’ mission trips. She applied to go to Kolkata for six weeks between her junior and senior year. 

“It was the most life-changing experience,” said Preszler, who worked at Mother Teresa’s Kalighat Home for the Dying. “It was our mission to show them God’s love.” 

While in India, Preszler prayed a Holy Hour before the Eucharist every day. Each night, the FOCUS missionaries led a prayer or reflection, one of which on God’s love was especially meaningful for Preszler. 

“God showed up in such a radical way,” said Preszler. “It all came to a head, all these walls I had built up fell down, and I thought, ‘This is what I’m actually searching for.’ I felt at home and at peace.”

The trip launched an intense journey of recovery for Preszler, who committed to a daily Holy Hour upon returning to the U.S. She also went through a full psychological evaluation and was diagnosed with chronic depression, chronic post-traumatic stress disorder, and a borderline personality disorder. 

“On one hand, I was so frustrated that I had these labels on me, but on the other hand, it was so freeing to know that this is why I can’t concentrate, this is why I have horrible nightmares,” she said. “Part of me was really reluctant to get help, but the other part of me was determined to not turn out like my parents.”

Preszler sought out a Catholic psychologist and moved to Nashville to begin two years of intense therapy, including medication and frequent counseling sessions. 

“It was the hardest, but most beautiful thing,” she said. “It dug up so much from the past, but he [the psychologist] was just the person I needed. The therapy was so healing, so hard, so good.”

The therapist suggested Preszler channel her suffering into something to help other people. She started a blog, Made in His Image, which became a nonprofit organization to help women overcome trauma, abuse, eating disorders, and violence. 

Choosing to See Beauty is the next step in her journey, Preszler said. 

“This has helped me live in gratitude for what I’ve been given,” she said. “If I hadn’t had the experience with counseling and therapy, I don’t think I would be married. I wouldn’t be able to be in a stable relationship. I wouldn’t be able to be a mom.”

One of Preszler’s goals, she said, is to break the stigma and shame of therapy and mental health.

“A lot of people think you have to pray more or you have to do more,” Preszler said. “No, you don’t have to ‘do more.’ You have to let yourself be healed. A result of the way I grew up was that my brain wasn’t functioning normally and I needed help to fix that.”

The only way to heal, Preszler said, was to work through the difficulties and acquire the tools to break the cycle of abuse, noting that abuse repeats generation after generation without intervention. 

“We have to step towards the pain,” she said. “The only way is through. If we look at the Cross, if we look at Jesus, the only way to Easter is to die on the Cross. The only way to the Resurrection is Good Friday, and we need to find that Good Friday in our life. Jesus is going to bring so much beauty out of it.”

World nurses' congress to focus on unity in mission, faith

MonkeyBusinessImages/Shutterstock

Allentown, Pa., Jul 28, 2021 / 19:01 pm (CNA).

Held every four years, the upcoming World Congress of Nurses comes at a providential time for many Catholic nurses around the world whose professional skills, families and faith have been sorely tested by the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.

The event, taking place Aug. 2-4 at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Doylestown, PA, is open to “nurses (students included) front-liners, innovators, educators, researchers, and policy makers,” according to its overall sponsor, the International Catholic Committee of Nurses and Nurse Practitioners, or CICIAMS (for the Comité International Catholique des Infirmières et Assistantes Médico-Sociales.)

“Our Congress days are filled with spiritual nourishment, inspiring speakers, and highlights of the amazing work that Catholic Nurses are accomplishing from the jungles of Malaysia to the streets of Poland and all points in between,” said registered nurse Janet Munday, a spokeswoman for the National Association of Catholic Nurses, USA, or NACN-USA, a CICIAMS member organization that is hosting this year’s gathering.

Reflecting NACN-USA’s mission to foster a network of nurses who can share their struggles, research, and best practices, the theme of this year’s congress is “United in Mission, United in Faith.”

“Nurses today need to have relationships with other nurses” so they ask each other about “those ethical situations” they commonly face while caring for sick and infirmed, Munday said.

Munday noted that a Catholic nurse’s faith can infuse all aspects of one’s professional life.

“We always like to elevate our nursing to be something related to the corporal works of mercy, the spiritual works of mercy, so it’s an elevation of our nursing practice aligned with our Catholic faith,” she said.

Munday said in the face of “widespread suffering” due to the pandemic “the love of Christ” has given many Catholic nurses the strength to continue under such extraordinary circumstances.

As Dr. Khosi R. Mthethwa, the President of CICIAMS, wrote on May 12, 2021 in a letter on the commemoration of the International Nurses and Midwives Year, “Although, we are different national groups facing different challenges, I have realized that the COVID-19 pandemic has united us in a special way.”  

At the same time, nurses face moral distress in an increasingly secularized culture. “The breakdown of the family is witnessed by school nurses,” Munday said. “The strain and pains of patients living with addiction and substance abuse is a heavy pack for behavioral health and emergency room nurses.  The lack of dignity toward life in all stages, also lays a heavy burden on nurses who answer the call to walk with others in their healthcare struggles and sufferings.” 

Pope Francis acknowledged these challenges in 2018 while speaking in the Vatican to members of the Federation of Professional Nursing Colleges, Health Assistants, and Child Wardens. He described those in the nursing profession as “promoters of the life and dignity of people.”

“The role of nurses in assisting the patient is truly irreplaceable,” the pope observed. “Like no other, the nurse has a direct and continuous relationship with patients, takes care of them every day, listens to their needs and comes into contact with their very body.”

Confession must be part of talks on worthiness to receive Communion, Nuncio says

Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, addresses the July 28 online panel hosted by Georgetown University's Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life / Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life

Washington D.C., Jul 28, 2021 / 17:05 pm (CNA).

The sacrament of confession must be part of the U.S. bishops’ discussions on worthiness to receive Communion, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States said on Wednesday.

Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, said at an online panel that the conversion of souls should be the bishops’ primary aim when teaching about reception of Holy Communion.

“The starting point cannot be to shame the weak, but to propose the One Who can strengthen us to overcome our weaknesses, especially through the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist,” Archbishop Pierre said at an online panel discussion on Wednesday.

“By the way, there is a link between the two [sacraments],” the nuncio added.

Archbishop Pierre addressed a July 28 online panel discussion of “Communion, Catholics, and Public Life,” which focused largely on a draft Eucharistic document of the U.S. bishops’ conference.

At their recent spring meeting, held virtually this year due to the pandemic, the U.S. bishops voted decisively to begin drafting a teaching document on the Eucharist. The meeting featured extensive debate both for and against moving ahead with the document at the time.

A proposed outline of the document covered various teachings on the Eucharist, including a subsection on worthiness to receive Communion – “Eucharistic consistency.”

That subsection received most of the attention at the bishops’ meeting. Some bishops opposed to drafting the document at the time argued that in addressing worthiness to receive Communion, the bishops would be seen as partisan players, rebuking Catholic politicians who oppose the Church’s teachings on abortion laws.

Some bishops critical of the motion also said that to pronounce who should and should not receive Communion would drive Catholics away from the Eucharist at a time when unity in the Church is needed.

Archbishop Pierre was asked about the episcopal deliberations on Wednesday. He admitted the difficulty the bishops faced in “discerning” what to do on the teaching document.

“The discernment is quite difficult, because there is always the danger to be overwhelmed by the tensions. And we know these tensions are quite often ideological tensions which may divide us,” he said.

“This is why we have heard about the risk of instrumentalization of the sacraments, and indeed, of the Eucharist,” he continued, noting “how to remain firm, faithful to the message of the Gospel and avoid any kind of ideological war.”

After the Nuncio spoke on Wednesday, two U.S. bishops participated in the online dialogue on Communion – Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, chair of the doctrine committee at the U.S. bishops’ conference (USCCB), and Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark.

As current chair of USCCB doctrine committee, Bishop Rhoades is currently in charge of drafting the teaching document on the Eucharist.

The idea for the document surfaced shortly after the election of President Joe Biden. A USCCB working group was established in November 2020 to deal with challenges of a Catholic in the White House – Biden – who contradicted Church teaching on life and marriage issues. Biden supports taxpayer-funded abortion and the redefinition of marriage, among other policies contrary to Church teaching.

The bishops’ working group recommended a teaching document on the Eucharist, to inform Catholics – especially Catholic politicians – of the need to conform their lives to Church teaching in order to receive the Eucharist worthily and avoid giving scandal.

Bishop Rhoades on Wednesday said the Eucharistic document is meant to be “a teaching document,” one “that would focus more broadly on the Eucharist as the source and summit of our identity as Catholics.” It is addressed to all Catholics and is not a political statement, he said.

Regarding worthiness to receive Communion, the Church already has taught that discipline in canons 915 and 916 of the Code of Canon Law, he said on Wednesday. Canon 915 states that those “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.”

The document, Rhoades emphasized, “will not be establishing national norms or a national policy” on admittance to Communion.

Bishop Rhoades added that it is the teaching of the Church that, in order to be properly disposed to receive Communion, a Catholic must “assent to the deposit of faith that’s contained in Scripture and Tradition that the Apostles entrusted to the Church.”

Meanwhile, Cardinal Tobin on Wednesday expressed some criticism about the decision to draft the document at the current moment. “This document was born in some confusion,” he said, warning that it would be received by many Catholics as a partisan gesture.

Cardinal Tobin noted that the USCCB established a working group and drafted a document on worthiness to receive Communion after the election of Joe Biden. They did not do so right after the election of Donald Trump as president in 2016, he said, taking more than a year to set up any such working group during Trump’s presidency.

Part of the USCCB’s reason for setting up the working group in 2020 was Biden’s professed Catholic faith, and the added possibility of scandal with a Catholic in the White House contradicting Church teaching on grave moral issues.

Bishops should be consulting not only among themselves, but with the lay faithful on the Eucharistic document, Tobin said.

“I think what we need is a broader consultation with the American church on the mystery of the Eucharist,” Cardinal Tobin said, “not one that, like it or not, is perceived as a political action.”

Cardinal Tobin was also asked about recent reports on the use of the gay dating and “hookup” app Grindr by clergy and seminarians.

The Catholic news website The Pillar on July 20 published its investigation claiming that, according to records of app signal data, the cell phone of the USCCB’s associate general secretary regularly emitted Grindr data signals during parts of the years 2018-2020. The secretary in question, Monsignor Jeffrey Burrill, became USCCB general secretary after the bishops’ November 2020 meeting. He resigned his post shortly before The Pillar published its investigation.

The Pillar has since published stories saying it reviewed data of Grindr app usage at rectories in the Newark archdiocese, and at the Vatican. The Archdiocese of Newark responded last week that it would investigate the allegations.

Cardinal Tobin on Wednesday said that priests could not be using the apps after having taken vows of celibacy, but also noted the “ethics” surrounding the gathering of the phone app data.

“All of us as Catholics take promises,” he said, noting vows made related to the sacraments of Baptism, Matrimony, and Holy Orders. “We should keep our promises, and we should repent when we don’t keep our promises,” he said.

For priests who have taken vows of celibacy, having a dating app on their phone “is asking for trouble,” Tobin said.

He also noted the “very questionable ethics around the” gathering of phone app data, and added that the information The Pillar shared with the Newark archdiocese “is very general.” Tobin would not comment further on the story.

A ‘true living medieval experience’: Catholic University students replicate Notre Dame cathedral architecture

Professors and students stand in front of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception at The Catholic University of America's campus, to begin building truss number six of Notre Dame Cathedral in France. / Patrick G. Ryan, university photographer

Washington D.C., Jul 28, 2021 / 15:03 pm (CNA).

Students and professors at the Catholic University of America (CUA) are building a full-scale truss replicating that which was destroyed in a 2019 fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. 

On the lawn in front of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., students and professors at the university are working with the architecture non-profit Handhouse Studio to create a wooden truss, a roofing framework. The truss has the same specifications as one of the hundreds of trusses destroyed in the devastating April 2019 fire at Notre Dame Cathedral.

“The making of this in front of the Basilica is magic.” said Tonya Ohnstad, visiting professor at the university’s school of architecture and a leader in construction effort, to CNA in a July 27 phone interview. 

The truss, which will be approximately 45 feet wide and 35 feet tall when finished, is being constructed in partnership with Handhouse Studio during a 10-day workshop. Ohnstad compared the rebuilding of the truss to a “true living medieval experience.” 

The workshop began on Monday morning when 30 White Oak trees donated from neighboring Virginia forests arrived at the university campus, along with a crane. Traditional timber framers, carpenters, faculty, students, and alumni have been participating in the project, using the methods and materials of the original medieval builders of Notre Dame.

“It's so incredible,” Ohnstad said, “I wish everyone could come and see the way they would have seen the construction of these important buildings with people working, all of the embodied energy of the humans, and everything people are pouring into these logs that would then be part of the church.”

An architecture graduate student involved in the effort, Sam Merklein, told CNA that his class contributed research into different joints, sketches, and dimensions of the truss; the students worked in collaboration with the Notre Dame architects in France.

“It's amazing to see all the drawings that detail all the different components of the building,” Merklein said, “but then also just to be able to say that we're helping to reconstruct a cathedral that is hundreds of years old and has had so much work put into it throughout the century is amazing.”

The university’s architecture department is teaching a related course on the history and reconstruction of the cathedral, which includes a public lecture series featuring experts from many fields.

Ohnstad’s architecture class on the cathedral, which began at the end of June, prepared for four weeks before the timber arrived on campus. She told CNA her team is rebuilding the sixth truss out of the hundreds of trusses that held up the cathedral. 

When asked if the truss will be used in the actual rebuilding of the cathedral, Ohnstad told CNA it has not been decided yet. She called the truss building a “gesture of global solidarity” to show the French that “we're in this with them, we want to help them reconstruct it, and that we hope that they will take a truss from us and put it in Notre Dame.” 

Ohnstad told CNA that she is collaborating with the group Charpentiers sans Frontières (“Carpenters Without Border”). As the team at CUA could have slightly different measurements and estimates than the team in France, the truss could be ruled out from being used in the Cathedral for that reason. 

However, when finished, the truss will be raised in front of the basilica for display on August 3 at 5:30 p.m. At the event, Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington will come to bless the structure. 

The truss will then be raised for display on the National Mall on August 5, in partnership with the National Park Service’s Historic Preservation Training Center and with the support of Preservation Maryland. 

The National Building Museum also found interest in the truss, and will be exhibiting the structure within its “Great Hall” for sight seeing from August 6 to September 16.

“I think it's really amazing that across the Atlantic we're able to help out with the cathedral,” Merklein said, “and whether or not the timber framers here are going to send over a truss into the cathedral, or if it's just going to be a symbolic effort and gesture, I think it’s a really great experience and something I'm proud to work on.”

Archbishop of Santiago de Compostela calls Holy Year ‘a time of grace and encounter’

Santiago de Compostela cathedral / artem evdokimov/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Jul 28, 2021 / 09:05 am (CNA).

The Archbishop of Santiago de Compostela emphasized the graces of the current Jubilee Year at the shrine of St. James the Apostle, in a homily on Sunday, the saint’s feast day.

In his July 25 homily, Archbishop Julián Barrio Barrio of Santiago de Compostela called the Holy Year "a time of grace, healing and encounter," according to Vatican News.

In Barrio’s homily, he highlighted the unifying benefits to praying to St. James.  He said that the saint could help the people of Spain maintain a “fraternal coexistence.” 

The feast of Saint James the Apostle fell on a Sunday this year, which means that pilgrims may gain an indulgence by visiting through the cathedral’s Holy Door. The beginning of the Jubilee Year of Compostela in Spain launched on December 31, 2020, and was set to continue for a year. However, because of the pandemic, Pope Francis decided it would continue through 2022.

This theme of this year’s jubilee is “Come out of your land! The Apostle is waiting for you!” 

The name comes from Pope Francis’s letter to Archbishop Barrio last year in which he wrote: "Following in the footsteps of the Apostle, we leave our self, those certainties to which we cling, but with a clear objective in mind, we are not wandering beings, always revolving around ourselves without getting anywhere.” 

“It is the voice of the Lord that calls us and, as pilgrims, we welcome it in an attitude of listening and seeking, undertaking this journey to meet God, others and ourselves,” the pope wrote.

Barrio made references to the coronavirus pandemic by praying for all victims, frontline workers and the deceased. “The mission of the Church,” he said, “is to lead people to God, but also to urge all people of goodwill to become aware of the root from which evils come, so that they may remedy the injustices and deplorable conditions in which many people live.”

The archbishop prayed that through the intercession of St. James, people would find hope and embrace “the liberating novelty of Christianity to give credible answers” to existential questions. 

Barrio said that Western civilization is in need of Christ because it has an “impoverished soul” which sees life as meaningless. Christianity gives all hope, he said, because it offers “love and solidarity” through the charity of God, “who abandons no one.”

During a Holy Year, when the feast of Saint James falls on a Sunday, the Holy Door in the cathedral remains open for the whole year, and pilgrims can gain a plenary indulgence for themselves, for someone who is ill or for a deceased person. 

To do so, pilgrims must visit the cathedral and fulfill the general conditions for receiving an indulgence: going to confession, receiving Communion, praying for the pope’s intentions, and possessing an interior detachment from sin.

Pilgrims have been making the journey to Santiago de Compostela for more than a thousand years to commemorate the life and sacrifice of James the apostle. The tradition of the Holy Year in Santiago de Compostela dates back to 1122, when Pope Callixtus II first allowed for a plenary indulgence for pilgrims to the shrine. 

The cathedral was completed in 1211 and houses the relics of St. James in its crypt. It is the destination of the “Camino de Santiago” pilgrimage route.