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Supreme Court again upholds Affordable Care Act

Rena Schild/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Jun 17, 2021 / 14:30 pm (CNA).

The Supreme Court once again upheld the Affordable Care Act, in a 7-2 ruling against the latest challenge to the law on Thursday.

In the majority opinion authored by Justice Stephen Breyer, the court ruled that the state of Texas, in leading the case against the Affordable Care Act, “failed to show a concrete, particularized injury fairly traceable to the defendants’ conduct in enforcing the specific statutory provision they attack as unconstitutional.”

“They have failed to show that they have standing to attack as unconstitutional the Act’s minimum essential coverage provision,” Breyer wrote. The court vacated the Fifth Circuit’s judgment on standing, and remanded the case to the circuit court to dismiss. 

Breyer was joined in his opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Amy Coney Barrett, Elena Kagan, Brett Kavanaugh, Sonia Sotomayor, and Clarence Thomas. Additionally, Thomas filed a concurring opinion. 

Justice Samuel Alito wrote the dissenting opinion, and was joined by Justice Neil Gorsuch. 

In the case, the Supreme Court was asked to decide if the Affordable Care Act should be struck down if its “individual mandate” was effectively nullified by Congress in 2017. In 2017, Congress changed the penalty for not complying with the mandate to $0. 

The mandate that every American have health insurance – or face a financial penalty – was seen as critical to the law’s implementation and guarantee of affordable health coverage for all. While the fine was reduced to nothing, the language of the individual mandate remained in the law. 

Texas, along with more than a dozen other states, sued, claiming that the mandate was unconstitutional without a fine to enforce it - and was also not severable from the rest of the law. Thus, Texas argued that the law must be thrown out as well. California and other states eventually intervened to defend the law’s constitutionality.

President Joe Biden (D), who was vice president when the law was passed, called the ruling on Thursday, “a big win for the American people,” and encouraged people to “sign up for quality, affordable health care.” 

“With millions of people relying on the Affordable Care Act for coverage, it remains, as ever, a BFD,” said Biden, referring to his hot-mic comment in 2010 that the bill was a “big [expletive] deal.”

Thursday’s ruling marks the third time the Supreme Court has upheld the Affordable Care Act as constitutional. 

In 2012, Chief Justice John Roberts authored the majority opinion that upheld the constitutionality of the law’s individual mandate. The Court ruled that the mandate’s penalty for non-compliance was a tax, and thus a lawful requirement of Congress to make on Americans.

Three years later, in 2015, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in the case King v. Burwell that the law’s subsidies and tax credits could be made available to people who purchased health insurance coverage on a federal, rather than a state, exchange. 

The U.S. bishops’ conference supported the law’s goal of expanded health coverage, but ultimately opposed its passage for several reasons, including that it “makes new and disturbing changes in federal policy on abortion and conscience rights.” The conference warned about funding of abortions in subsidized health plans under the law. 

Included in the law was a mandate for preventive services, which the Obama administration eventually interpreted to include the full range of FDA-approved contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortifacients. That mandate for employer coverage was challenged in court by Catholic dioceses and the Little Sisters of the Poor, who won their second Supreme Court case regarding the mandate last July.

Lay advisor urges U.S. bishops to reconcile with all Catholics over clergy abuse

Members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops pray at their fall meeting in Baltimore, Maryland on Nov. 11, 2019 / Christine Rousselle/CNA

Washington D.C., Jun 17, 2021 / 12:32 pm (CNA).

In responding to clergy sex abuse, U.S. bishops must expand their reconciliation efforts to include not only victim survivors, but all Catholics affected by the abuse crisis, the head of a lay advisory body to the U.S. bishops’ conference said on Thursday.

Suzanne Healy, chair of the National Review Board (NRB) - a lay advisory group to the U.S. bishops on protecting minors from abuse – addressed the U.S. bishops at their virtual spring meeting on Thursday.

“Since 2018 and 2019, there has been increased focus and expansion on responding to victim survivors by Church ministers,” Healy said, alluding to the recent revelations of abuse and misconduct by former cardinal Theodore McCarrick and by other bishops.

“But we must evolve in our response to reach the community of people in the pews, the people who have left the pews, and those who have yet to fill the pews, as well as the clergy who have suffered for the past failing of their brother clerics and have been devastated by the crisis,” she said.

The bishops are meeting for their annual spring meeting from June 16-18. They heard addresses from conference president Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles on Wednesday, as well as from the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Christoph Pierre.

On Thursday, the bishops are scheduled to vote on approval of two causes of canonization, as well as on authorizing the creation of a statement on Native American ministry and a teaching document on the Eucharist. They will also vote to approve a pastoral statement on marriage ministry.

The National Review Board was constituted by the U.S. bishops’ conference (USCCB) in 2002, after widespread revelations of the sexual abuse of minors by clerics that spanned decades and which occurred around the country. The board advises the USCCB Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People.

In her address to the bishops on Thursday, Healy said that the historic nature of most recent allegations of clergy sex abuse – allegations that date back decades – is evidence that recent abuse prevention standards are working.

Healy said that an annual audit from the compliance auditor StoneBridge revealed that 4,250 abuse allegations were reported in the year 2020 – and that most allegations were several decades old.

“This large number gives the appearance that nothing has changed in the Catholic Church, and we know that isn’t true,” she said, pointing to the age of most of the allegations. In the current year, 22 allegations have been reported – less than 1% of the previous year’s total – she said, adding that “of course, one is too many.”

Audits are conducted annually to ensure compliance among dioceses and eparchies with the 2002 Dallas Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People – drafted by the U.S. bishops as a response to the abuse crisis of the time.

Healy urged the bishops to strengthen abuse prevention, accountability, and transparency efforts.

Publishing lists of clerics with substantial abuse allegations - including diocesan, religious, or eparchal clergy – is just one way to tell survivors “we hear you,” she told bishops.

“We have a long way to go to be as transparent as possible in this area,” she said. “The NRB encourages you to look at such lists as exemplary models of transparency.”

She requested that all dioceses implement a formal parish audit program for child protection as “good risk-management,” noting that 35% of U.S. dioceses have yet to do so.

“We have not reached our commitment to the [Dallas] Charter until we have 100% participation from all dioceses and eparchies,” she said.

Bishop Mark Brennan of Wheeling-Charleston affirmed the importance of parish audits in the comment session following Healy’s address. He pushed for the audits to be conducted on-site, citing his previous experience as a pastor.

“That’s really where you find out what is going on, and we need to know what is going on, on the ground,” he said.

The review board also recommended audits of the bishop abuse reporting service, the national third-party reporting system for allegations of abuse, neglect, or misconduct made against bishops in the U.S. which launched in March 2020. The allegations are fielded and forwarded to the metropolitan archbishop, where they are assessed.

While praising implementation of the reporting service, Healy recommended it be audited as well “to ensure all matters are being handled according to proper standards.”

Regarding the McCarrick Report, which was published in November 2020, she noted its revelations of “systemic reporting failures,” “manipulation by offenders,” “instituting fraternal correction,” and “the handling of anonymous reports.”

 

She stated that the review board did not support the “metropolitan model” of Vos Estis, the process by which accusations against bishops are sent to their metropolitans. Yet, she added, “we are grateful that in the case of McCarrick, the process initiated by the Archdiocese of New York worked. What we have in place works.”

Update: US bishops vote in favor of advancing two causes of canonization

Fr. Joseph Lafleur, whose cause of canonization is one of those that will be considered at the USCCB Spring General Assembly, June 17, 2021. Credit: Andrepont Printing.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 17, 2021 / 10:44 am (CNA).

The US bishops voted Thursday that they consider it opportune to advance two causes of canonization, for Father Joseph Verbis Lafleur, a World War II military chaplain, and for Marinus (Leonard) LaRue, a merchant mariner who became a Benedictine monk.

Both causes were regarded as opportune by 99 percent of voting bishops in June 17 votes at the USCCB spring general assembly.

“It was something I would have never thought would have happened in my lifetime,” said Carrol Lafleur, the wife of Father Lafleur’s nephew, Richard. “I had always hoped that my children would have gotten to see it. But for Richard and I [sic] to actually see it, see it in progress, and to have people want to know about Fr. Lafleur is just beyond words.”

Fr. Lafleur is most remembered for his heroic service during World War II.

He  was born Jan. 24, 1912 in Ville Platte, Louisiana. During his summer breaks from Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, Lafleur would spend his time teaching catechism and first communicants.

He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Lafayette April 2, 1938 and requested to be a military chaplain, just before the outbreak of the Second World War. Initially, his request was denied, but when the priest asked a second time, it was granted. 

Carrol told CNA Fr. Lafleur wished to accompany the drafted men who had no choice but to fight in the war. 

He was deployed to the Philippines, and spent two and a half years as a prisoner of war of the Japanese.

“Fr. Lafleur did a lot of work in the prison camps as well,” said nephew Richard Lafleur. “He gave his own food when they were starving to death.”

Richard Lafleur told CNA that men in the camps with Fr. Lafleur testified that his character caused the conversion of about 200 men to Catholicism while in the prison camp.

Fr. Lafleur earned the Distinguished Service Cross for Valor, and he ended up on a ship with other Japanese POWs that was torpedoed, unwittingly, by an American submarine that did not realize the ship was carrying POWs. 

He was last seen Sept. 7, 1944 helping men out of the hull of the sinking ship, for which he posthumously earned a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star, and a second Distinguished Service Cross for his acts as a POW.

Of the hundreds of prisoners on the ship, 82 survived, according to Fr. Lafleur’s nephew. Each surviving man came back to the United States telling stories about Fr. Lafleur’s heroic actions of leadership, sacrifice, and courage amid the prisoners’ conditions. 

Fr. Lafleur’s body was never found, but a shrine and monument exist at St. Landry Catholic Church, where he grew up. Each year Mass is celebrated in honor of his life around the date of his death. 

Bishop Douglas Deshotel of Lafayette opened Fr. Lafleur’s cause for canonization Sept. 5, 2020.

Fr. Lafleur was recognized in a keynote to the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC, on June 6, 2017, by Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the military archdiocese, who said: “He was a man for others right to the end… Father Lafleur responded to his POW situation with creative courage. He drew on his virtue to care for, protect, and fortify the men imprisoned with him.”

“Many survived because he was a man of virtue who gave unstintingly of himself. To speak of the greatness of our country is to speak of men and women of virtue who gave of themselves for the benefit of all. We build for a new tomorrow when we draw from that wellspring of virtue.”

Brother Marinus LaRue was also involved in military efforts during an American war. 

Born Jan. 14, 1914, LaRue attended the Pennsylvania Nautical School. After his graduation in 1934, he served as the U.S. Merchant Marine Captain of the SS Meredith Victory during the Korean War. 

LaRue was tasked with delivering military supplies to a port in Hungnam, North Korea, where hundreds of thousands of soldiers and refugees were searching for safety from advancing communist forces.

Arriving before Christmas, LaRue came to discover the multitudes of people who were awaiting help. LaRue chose to unload almost all of the ship’s weapons and supplies, in order to provide space for as many refugees as possible on the ship. 

The USS Meredith Victory, which was designed to serve around 50 passengers, sailed away from the coast with approximately 14,000 refugees.

Father Pawel Tomczyk, postulator for LaRue’s the canonization cause said, “the fact that he was able to rescue so many without losing a single life” was inspiring. 

LaRue later discerned a religious vocation and entered St. Paul’s Benedictine Abbey in Newton, New Jersey in 1954, taking the name Brother Marinus in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Brother Marinus lived a humble life, dishwashing, working in a gift shop, and serving his brother monks. 

“This is the uniqueness of this cause in that he was one man but almost had two lives,” Fr. Tomczyk told CNA. “He combines the two vocations: One as a lay person, as a successful captain of a ship, and then the latter part of his life as a religious monk-as a Benedictine, a man of prayer and simplicity.”

Brother Marinus died Oct. 14, 2001. Bishop Arthur Serratelli of Paterson issued a decree opening Brother Marinus’ cause March 25, 20

A Eucharistic document: What the USCCB will be debating and voting on today

Alexey Gotovsky/CNA

Washington D.C., Jun 17, 2021 / 10:30 am (CNA).

On Thursday afternoon, the U.S. bishops are scheduled to debate and vote to begin drafting a teaching document on the Eucharist.

As the bishops meet for their annual spring general assembly, held virtually this year from June 16-18, they will consider whether the conference’s doctrine committee can begin drafting “a formal statement on the meaning of the Eucharist in the life of the Church.”

Although some bishops have warned against moving ahead with such a document due to its mention of Communion for Catholic pro-abortion politicians, the proposed outline of the document reveals a broad, comprehensive treatment of the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist.

The doctrine committee’s proposed outline covers teachings including the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, a “recovery of understanding the Eucharist as sacrifice,” “the importance of Sunday as a day of obligation,” the need for beautiful liturgies, Catholics living as a “Eucharistic people” in daily life, the Eucharist as a “call to conversion,” and the importance of practicing the works of mercy.

Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend – chair of the USCCB doctrine committee – explained on Wednesday that the proposed Eucharistic document is the fruit of the bishops’ three-year strategic plan “Created Anew by the Body and Blood of Christ, Source of Our Healing and Hope,” approved in November 2020.

The three main sections of the outline draw from Pope Benedict XVI’s 2007 apostolic exhortation Sacramentum caritatis, that followed the 2005 Synod on the Eucharist. In that document, Benedict described the Eucharist as a mystery to be “believed,” “celebrated,” and “lived.” The three main sections of the USCCB document outline list these three aspects of the Eucharist.

Both Bishop Rhoades and Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington on Wednesday said that the proposed document came about for multiple reasons – a chief one being a decline of belief in the Real Presence among Catholics.

The proposed document “isn’t anything brand new,” Bishop Burbidge said on Wednesday, at a press conference following the USCCB proceedings. “It’s what the Church has always taught in the Eucharist.”

The document would aim to reignite “a sense of Eucharistic wonder and awe that in many ways may need to be revitalized,” he said.

Rhoades cited a “convergence” of events that triggered the proposal for the document on the Eucharist, pointing to a poll showing a decline in Catholics’ belief in the Real Presence.

The document would be meant to “help to reignite that faith” and help catechize the faithful on the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist. “But it has to be the whole truth,” he emphasized.

General worthiness to receive Communion – “Eucharistic consistency” – is included as a sub-section in the document outline; the problem of Catholic politicians supporting policies contrary to Church teaching is also mentioned in the introductory note.

The topic of “Eucharistic consistency” was mentioned years ago, both Benedict XVI and by the Latin American bishops (including then-Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio) in their 2007 Aparecida document, the bishops noted.

“Consequently, Catholic politicians and legislators, conscious of their grave responsibility before society, must feel particularly bound, on the basis of a properly formed conscience, to introduce and support laws inspired by values grounded in human nature. There is an objective connection here with the Eucharist,” Benedict wrote in Sacramentum caritatis.

“Bishops are bound to reaffirm constantly these values as part of their responsibility to the flock entrusted to them,” he added.

Bishop Rhoades on Wednesday explained that although worthiness to receive Communion is just one part of the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist, it is an essential one.

“We want to talk about the whole truth about the Eucharist, and how can you do so without talking about the importance of living what we receive, and being in communion with the faith of the Church?” he said.

“That’s Eucharistic consistency. So, I think we can’t do a full treatment of the Eucharist without talking about that, or teaching about that,” he said.

Yet some bishops have warned against the document’s treatment of who may receive Communion, pushing for an outright delay on drafting the document and arguing that it required an in-person deliberation among the bishops.

In May, some bishops wrote to the president of the USCCB, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, asking that the planned debate and vote on the Eucharistic document be postponed until the bishops can meet in-person. The letter was led by Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago.

Archbishop Gomez in response said that the discussion would proceed as originally planned.

Again, on Wednesday some bishops moved to delay consideration of the document, this time by proposing to remove time limits on discussion of the document and arguing that all bishops who want to speak should be allowed to do so.

“We owe this to our people,” said Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski of St. Louis, who introduced the motion. Cardinal Cupich – who originally called for a delay on debate of the Eucharistic document in his May letter to Gomez – on Wednesday supported Rozanski’s motion to allow for unlimited debate.

Other bishops, such as Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas and Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City, noted that the motion to remove time limits was essentially a “delaying tactic” and a “filibuster” on moving ahead with a Eucharistic document.

Thursday’s vote is merely to begin drafting a document, they argued, and the bishops will have the opportunity later on to debate the document’s text once it is approved and written.

Supreme Court sides unanimously with Catholic Social Services in religious freedom case

Steven Frame/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Jun 17, 2021 / 09:17 am (CNA).

The Supreme Court on Thursday decided unanimously in favor of Catholic Social Services in its lawsuit against the city of Philadelphia, ruling that the city violated the group’s free exercise of religion. 

The city in 2018 had stopped partnering with the agency in its foster-care program, since Catholic Social Services [CSS] would not certify same-sex couples as foster parents on religious grounds.

In the majority ruling, the high court found that “The refusal of Philadelphia to contract with CSS for the provision of foster care services unless CSS agrees to certify same-sex couples as foster parents violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.”

“CSS seeks only an accommodation that will allow it to continue serving the children of Philadelphia in a manner consistent with its religious beliefs; it does not seek to impose those beliefs on anyone else,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion. 

“The refusal of Philadelphia to contract with CSS for the provision of foster care services unless it agrees to certify same-sex couples as foster parents cannot survive strict scrutiny, and violates the First Amendment,” he added. 

According to Becket, a religious liberty law firm representing the foster moms and Catholic Social Services in the case, 29 other foster care agencies in Philadelphia work with LGBTQ couples, and three of those agencies are certified by the Human Rights Campaign for their excellent service to LGBTQ families. The firm also said that Catholic Social Services had not turned away any same-sex couples before the city ended the contracts. 

In a tweet, Becket stated on Thursday, “This is a huge victory for heroic foster moms and for #religiousfreedom. It ensures that religious groups like Catholic Social Services—who serve kids regardless of their race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation—can continue their great work.”

Roberts’ majority opinion was joined by Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett. Justice Samuel Alito filed a concurring opinion, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch. Gorsuch also filed a concurring opinion, joined by Thomas and Alito, and Barrett also filed a concurring opinion, joined by Kavanaugh, and Breyer - in part.

The case - Fulton v. City of Philadelphia - concerns the largest city in Pennsylvania ending its foster care contracts with Catholic Social Services because the faith-based agency said it would not certify same-sex couples to be foster parents; the agency’s policy was religious, due to the Church’s teachings on marriage and family. The agency also does not certify unmarried couples as foster parents, regardless of their sexual orientation. 

The city argued that the policy constituted discrimination according to its nondiscrimination ordinance, and would no longer work with the group. 

Two foster mothers who worked with the agency - Sharonell Fulton and Toni Simms-Busch - sued Philadelphia, arguing that in ending the contracts the city violated the agency’s First Amendment right to religious freedom. 

A spokesperson for the city of Philadelphia did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNA. 

Catholics and religious freedom advocates praised the decision on Thursday.

“Today's decision prohibits government sanctioned discrimination against religious adoption and foster care agencies because of their beliefs about marriage,” stated Ashley McGuire, senior fellow with The Catholic Association. “Those efforts are rooted in an anti-Catholic bigotry that refuses to tolerate pluralistic views and beliefs.”

“For more than two centuries, Catholic agencies have successfully placed the most at-risk kids in loving, forever homes. Today, the Supreme Court rightly affirmed that the Constitution guarantees faith-based agencies freedom from government harassment and discrimination because of their religious beliefs about marriage,” stated Brian Burch, president of CatholicVote.

Other pro-LGBT activists criticized the ruling.

In a statement, Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy group, said the decision “does not negate the fact that every qualified family is valid and worthy—children deserve a loving, caring, committed home.” 

One legal expert said the ruling was significant for religious freedom.

Professor Richard Garnett, a First Amendment expert, said the ruling "will have significant impact."

"It is striking, and telling, that the Court's more liberal justices joined the Court's decision," Garnett noted. "Today's ruling illustrates that respect for religious freedom should not be a partisan, or left-right issue.  All nine justices agree that, when a rule targets religious practices for disapproval, or singles our religious exercise for burdens, it is highly suspect."

This story was updated on June 17.

Pro-life group files complaint with Small Business Administration over Planned Parenthood PPP loan

Glynnis Jones/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Jun 17, 2021 / 09:01 am (CNA).

A pro-life group recently filed a complaint with the U.S. Small Business Administration, alleging that a regional Planned Parenthood affiliate “unlawfully obtained” emergency loans during the pandemic.

In the complaint filed by New Hampshire Right to Life last week, the group said the Planned Parenthood of Northern New England received a $2,717,300 loan from the Paycheck Protection Program. They cited data from the administration showing the affiliate was approved for a PPP loan of that amount in April 2020.

Jason Hennessey, president of New Hampshire Right to Life, said in a statement that “Taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize or pay for abortions.” 

“The SBA has already determined that the Planned Parenthood affiliate structure is such that it was unlawful to apply for the PPP funds; therefore, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England should return the taxpayer funds,” Hennessey said. 

A spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNA. 

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was set up under a pandemic relief bill passed by Congress in March 2020, the CARES Act, and has been administered by the Small Business Administration. It was established to provide emergency loans to small businesses and eligible non-profits to keep employees on payroll; the loans could be forgiven provided certain conditions were met.

The loans were intended for businesses and non-profits with fewer than 500 employees. Planned Parenthood argued last year that its affiliates were individual non-profits with their own leadership structure, and thus would qualify as eligible small non-profits. 

Critics, including Republican senators, argued the affiliates are all part of a broader umbrella organization, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America - and thus the entire organization would be too large to receive the emergency loans. 

The Small Business Administration appeared to make that case multiple times. In one letter, the administration asked a Planned Parenthood affiliate in Delaware to return a loan it had received under the program. In another letter obtained by NPR last year, the administration told Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, Inc. that it was “ineligible” for the loan it received given its relationship to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. 

Last month, the office of Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), the ranking member of the Senate Small Business Committee, said the SBA did not respond to its inquiry as to why Planned Parenthood affiliates were continuing to receive PPP loans.

It was reported in May 2020 that Planned Parenthood affiliates had received $80 million in emergency loans under the Paycheck Protection Program. In recent months, data released by the SBA showed that two Planned Parenthood affiliates in Pennsylvania and New York were approved for loans on April 21 and April 27. 

Planned Parenthood Keystone, in Warminster, Pennsylvania, was approved for a PPP loan in the amount of $853,975 on April 21. On April 27, Planned Parenthood of Greater New York, Inc. in New York City was approved for a PPP loan of $10 million - the maximum loan amount under the program

Kentucky attorney general argues he can defend pro-life law in court

Daniel Cameron, Attorney General of Kentucky. Credit: Kentucky Office of the Attorney General.

Washington D.C., Jun 16, 2021 / 17:19 pm (CNA).

Kentucky’s Attorney General Daniel Cameron filed a brief on Monday in support of his ability to defend his state’s law banning dilation and evacuation abortions, as the issue heads to the Supreme Court. 

Cameron filed the brief June 14 for the case Cameron v. EMW Women’s Surgical Center. Unlike other cases relating to abortion, this does not concern the legality of the Kentucky law. Rather, it concerns who is permitted to defend the law in court. 

The US Supreme Court agreed in March to consider the case.

Cameron is a Republican. Kentucky’s current governor, Andy Beshear, is a Democrat who does not support the law. 

In 2018, Kentucky’s then-governor Matt Bevin, a Republican, signed into law a bill which banned the use of dilation and evacuation abortions. The bill was quickly challenged by an abortion clinic, EMW Women’s Surgical Center, and a federal judge agreed that the law was unconstitutional. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals also found the bill to be unconstitutional. 

In 2019, Bevin lost in his re-election bid to Beshear. Beshear and the state’s health secretary declined to challenge the Sixth Circuit’s decision, but the newly-elected attorney general, Cameron, moved to intervene to defend the law. 

The Sixth Circuit denied Cameron’s request to reconsider the law, and he then appealed to the Supreme Court saying that as the attorney general he had the right to defend the law, even when other state officials did not wish to do so. 

Susan B. Anthony List expressed their happiness with Cameron’s brief.

“We are proud to stand with Attorney General Cameron as he fights for the right to defend Kentucky’s pro-life laws and values, all the way to the Supreme Court,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony List. 

“Time and time again, science reveals the humanity of unborn children – including their capacity to feel pain, with pain receptors beginning to develop at seven and a half weeks. Kentucky lawmakers acted on the will of the people in banning the barbaric live dismemberment of tiny babies at a stage when they already possess fully formed arms, legs, fingers and toes, passing this legislation by overwhelming bipartisan majorities.”

Dannenfelser noted that the efforts to pass pro-life laws is not unique to Kentucky, saying, “Across the nation, momentum to humanize our extreme abortion laws is on the rise, with state legislators enacting 89 new pro-life laws and counting this year alone.”

Nuncio urges US bishops to unity in Christ

Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the US, addresses the USCCB's 2020 Fall General Assembly.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 16, 2021 / 15:19 pm (CNA).

Following the Covid-19 pandemic the Church needs to dialogue with an aim of unity, and emphasize the importance of Christ, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, said to the USCCB’s assembly on Wednesday. 

The assembly is taking place virtually via video conference. 

“I am firmly convinced that emerging from the pandemic, we need to be a Church that proclaims, with conviction, the basic kerygma and the person of Jesus Christ,” Archbishop Pierre said June 16.

“And we need to be a Church that follows the method of Jesus, which is one of accompaniment and dialogue, a dialogue directed toward salvation.”

Archbishop Pierre said there was a need for unity in the Church in America, noting that while this is a challenge, it is one that has been met before in other trying times. 

“In response to the abuse crisis, it answered with a unified and concerted effort that showed care and compassion for the plight of survivors; it provided for the needs of the immigrant community; it stood in solidarity with our persecuted brothers and sisters throughout the world by providing material and spiritual closeness; it came to the rescue of those affected by natural disasters; it spoke with one voice in defense of the dignity of all peoples and against the scourge of racial inequality,” said Archbishop Pierre. 

“These examples point to the undeniable truth that unity is possible and that the Church in the United States has numerous experiences of it.”

The bishops, he said, have a particularly important role to play in ensuring that this unity is achieved. He noted that the four dimensions of dialogue described by St. John Paul II in the 1995 encyclical Ut unum sint “can be helpful to illumine the path towards greater unity,” even though they were not written with this particular situation in mind. 

Those four dimensions--the dialogue of charity, of conversion, of truth, and of salvation--all play a role in helping to better unite the Christian people. 

Archbishop Pierre highlighted the need for the Church after the pandemic to center its evangelical efforts on the saving work of Christ, pointing out that “Christianity offers more than an NGO or a social service organization.” 

“The Church offers salvation in the person of Jesus Christ,” he said. 

“What is often lacking in the process of evangelization, and we certainly need to evangelize and catechize now more than ever, is ‘beginning again from Jesus Christ,’’’ said Archbishop Pierre. ’

“The starting point, therefore, 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,” he said. 

“With respect to the latter, Holy Communion is not merely a ‘thing’ to be received but Christ Himself, a Person to be encountered.”

Archbishop Pierre stressed the need to center the Church on Christ, saying that “a Catholicism that confuses itself with a mere cultural tradition or which cannot distinguish itself from other proposals, including political or ideological ones that are based on certain values, will never be convincing to this generation or to new ones.”

“Jesus Christ is a Person, not a concept,” he said.

US bishops vote to keep time limits on discussion of Eucharistic document

USCCB fall 2019 meeting, Baltimore, Maryland / Christine Rousselle/CNA

Washington D.C., Jun 16, 2021 / 14:57 pm (CNA).

While some U.S. bishops on Wednesday pushed for no time limits in debating a motion to draft a teaching document on the Eucharist, during their meeting this week, a majority opposed that push, allowing for a vote to proceed under the normal limits of debate. 

As the bishops began their annual spring meeting on Wednesday afternoon – held virtually this year due to the pandemic – they voted in a parliamentary move to approve their meeting agenda. Included in the meeting’s agenda for Thursday is a vote on whether to begin drafting a teaching document on the Eucharist.

Before the vote on the document on Thursday afternoon, there will be a period of debate governed by rules and time limits as part of the conference’s parliamentary procedures. Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski of St. Louis, however, moved to change the agenda to allow for unlimited debate.

At the end of the discussion, 59% of bishops voted against Archbishop Rozanski’s motion. The bishops then voted to approve the meeting agenda, which 86% of those present moved to do.

Rozanski said that due to the virtual nature of the assembly, there should be no time limits on debate among the bishops. “We owe this to our people,” he said. Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark seconded the motion.

The topic of Communion has been a topic of extensive discussion recently, with individual bishops speaking out on worthiness to receive Communion, especially with regard to Catholic politicians who support permissive legislation on grave evils such as abortion and euthanasia.

The prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Luis Ladaria, wrote to Archbishop Jose Gomez – the president of the U.S. bishops’ conference – on May 7, instructing that if the bishops were to issue any “national policy” on Communion, they would first need “extensive and serene” dialogue among themselves.

Some bishops, citing Ladaria’s call, wrote to Archbishop Gomez in May, asking for a delay in consideration of the Eucharistic document until the bishops can again meet in-person. Gomez, in turn, responded in a May 22 memo to all bishops that the discussion would take place as planned.

Bishops on Wednesday cited Ladaria’s words in calling for no time limits in the discussion on Eucharistic consistency.

Bishop John Stowe of Lexington emphasized the need to “discuss, and take our time” about such a document on the Eucharist. “It seems that some of the brother bishops want to rush this discussion,” he said, advocating the need to “take our time with something that is so important and so delicate.”

Bishop Shawn McKnight of Jefferson City expressed concern about the “yoking of too many important decisions” in one Eucharistic document, without the discussion that needs to take place. 

Every bishop who wants to speak should be given the opportunity, he said. “I do not think that Ladaria’s letter” is about asking conference committees to talk to each other, he said, adding that individual bishops must be able to debate among themselves on the document.

Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe said that the two issues of the “beauty” of the Eucharist and who may receive Communion should be discussed separately.

Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago expressed concern about a proposed outline of the document, saying that it is  “very clear, however, that the language within the draft does cause concern.” He called for a “full discussion” without time limits.

Proper discussion among the bishops “has not taken place,” he said, and discussion with Catholic politicians who support policies contrary to Church teaching has not taken place, either.

“And we should also have a discussion with Catholic politicians who have positions that are in conflict with the teachings of the Church to find out why they have those positions. That, too, has not taken place,” he said, arguing for no time limits on the discussion of the proposed Eucharistic document.

In 2019, Cupich told CNA he had ongoing “conversations” with Catholic leaders in the Illinois state legislature who championed an abortion coverage mandate. He told CNA that he thought it would be “counterproductive” to deny Holy Communion in his archdiocese to the legislators who championed the law.

“I have conversations with them, and those continue to take place. They have to,” he said in an interview with CNA on Communion for pro-abortion Catholic politicians, that took place on the side of the bishops’ June 2019 meeting.

Other bishops, however, said that Thursday’s planned vote is merely to begin drafting a document on the Eucharist - not approving any final text of such a document.

Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas said that a “full discussion” among the bishops “will really best be accomplished when we have a draft of the document” – which could be accomplished by the bishops’ fall meeting in November, if they vote to move ahead with the drafting of it this week.

He called efforts to change debate rules a “delaying tactic” that could hinder the timely manner of approving the document.

Archbishop Alexander Sample of Portland in Oregon agreed, saying that in his 15 years in the conference he knew that time limits are necessary for discussion of issues. The full discussion among bishops, “which is certain to be very lively, I’m sure,” can happen when the text of the document is ready, he said.

Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend – chair of the doctrine committee which proposed the document – explained that the document “is broader” than just discussing admission to Communion.

“I think what we plan to do is completely in accord with what Cardinal Ladaria communicated in his letter,” he said. “We are no longer proposing a national policy” on Communion, he said, an idea that “was in the original proposal to the administrative committee, but we never meant it as it’s been interpreted in many media sources.”

The proposed outline of a document on the Eucharist does include a section on “Eucharistic consistency,” or general worthiness to receive Communion. The doctrine committee also noted the particular responsibility of Catholic public officials to uphold Church teaching. However, the entire proposed outline includes many other aspects of the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist, including the real presence of Jesus, the importance of Sunday, and recovering a sense of the Eucharist as a sacrifice.

Archbishop Gomez opens USCCB meeting with passionate call for unity 

Archbishop Gomez addresses his brother bishops after being elected to a three-year term as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops during the USCCB's fall meeting in Baltimore, Nov. 11, 2019 / Christine Rousselle/CNA

Washington D.C., Jun 16, 2021 / 14:20 pm (CNA).

In his opening address at the 2021 spring meeting of the U.S. bishops on Wednesday, conference president Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles made a passionate call for unity.

Archbishop Gomez reminded fellow bishops that “only a Church that is united can heal the brokenness and challenge the injustices that we see more clearly now.” 

“We have been living through some extraordinary times,” the archbishop said. “We’ve seen a pandemic shut down our civilization, including the Church, for more than a year. We’ve lived through riots in our major cities, rising social divisions and unrest, and maybe the most polarized election our country has ever seen.”

He also said that “the Church’s mission will be shaped for years to come by the troubles of these recent months.” 

“I was noticing, even before the pandemic, how often Pope Francis talks about the importance of unity — not only among peoples, but also unity within the Church,” Archbishop Gomez said, as he quoted Pope Francis’ encyclical Fratelli Tutti in its call for unity among the human family. 

Gomez observed that it is “not realistic to expect the Church to stay immune from the pressures of division. Those pressures are all around us. The Church is divine, she is the Body of Christ. But we are all human in the Church, after all. And we are living in a secular society where politics is becoming the substitute religion for a lot of people.” 

“So, we need to guard against the temptation to think about the Church in simply political terms,” he said. 

He then quoted Pope Francis’ recent homily for Pentecost Sunday: “Today, if we listen to the Spirit, we will not be concerned with conservatives and progressives, traditionalists and innovators, right and left. … The Paraclete impels us to unity … the harmony of diversity. He makes us see ourselves as parts of the same body, brothers and sisters of one another.”

“Unity in the Church,” Archbishop Gomez continued, does not mean conformity of opinion or automatic agreement among bishops. “The apostles argued passionately. They disagreed over pastoral strategies and methods. But never about the truth of the Gospel.” 

“Only a Church that is united can heal the brokenness and challenge the injustices that we see more clearly now in the wake of this pandemic,” he added. 

According to the USCCB president, “the power of our Catholic vision flows from our profound awareness of the unity of life, from conception to natural death, and the unity of the human family, every person a child of God.” 

He acknowledged that “there are forces at work right now in our culture that threaten not only the unity of the human family, but also the very truth about God’s creation and human nature.” He quoted Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, saying, “This is the age of sin against God the Creator.” 

“My brothers,” Gomez stated, “we stand at a historic crossroads, as our Holy Father is telling us. It falls to the Church in this moment to defend the truth about God the Creator, and the truth about the sanctity of the human person and the unity of the human family in God’s plan for creation.”

“My prayer is that we all remain united in what is essential — our love for Jesus and our desire to proclaim him as the living God and the true path for humanity.”

In concluding, referring to his Mexican roots, Archbishop Gomez reminded his fellow bishops that “as you know, I have a deep devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe. When I was growing up my family went on pilgrimage to the shrine in Mexico City nearly every summer.”

“And I find myself turning to her a lot during these days,” he continued. “I was reflecting today how the Popes see her apparition as a sign of unity for the continent. St. John Paul II called her shrine ‘the Marian heart of America’.” 

May she help us to keep our hearts humble and united in the service of Jesus, as we seek to continue the evangelization of our country and our continent in this moment.

Archbishop Gomez addressed the spring meeting of the U.S. bishops, which is taking place virtually from June 16-18. The bishops will deliberate and vote on several agenda items, including approving of two causes of canonization, approving a pastoral statement on marriage ministry, and authorizing statements on Native American ministry and the Eucharist in the life of the Church.