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Priest partners with PETA to condemn bullfighting, calls on Pope Francis to denounce it

Bullfighting, which has existed since 711 A.D., is being denounced and labeled as animal cruelty by Father Terry Martin, a Catholic priest in England and an outspoken advocate for the welfare of animals. Last year Martin sent a joint letter with priests from Canada and France to Pope Francis calling on the pope to condemn the “torture and violent slaughter of innocent bulls.” / Credit: Torero E. Ponce Feria de Melilla, via Wikimedia Commons

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 24, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Father Terry Martin, a Catholic priest from West Sussex, England, has appeared in an advertisement for The Tablet denouncing bullfighting in his continued calls and efforts for Pope Francis to condemn the sport. 

Partnering with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Martin appears in a July 18 ad in red vestments posing alongside a bull with a caption reading: “It’s a sin to torture animals.”

Martin has long been outspoken in advocating for the welfare of animals, having sent a joint letter with priests from Canada and France to Pope Francis last year calling on him to condemn the “torture and violent slaughter of innocent bulls.” This latest advertisement forms part of the PETA campaign that also beseeches the Holy Father to sever the Church’s links to the sport. 

In an op-ed published in the Catholic Herald earlier this year, Martin cites the Holy Father’s 2015 encyclical letter Laudato Si’, which states that “every act of cruelty toward any creature is contrary to human dignity.”

“Paragraph 2418 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church also states: ‘[I]t is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly,’” Martin continued. “Yet animals are taunted, terrorized, ridiculed, repeatedly stabbed, and eventually killed in bullfights.”

Bullfighting is a spectacle consisting of a physical contest between a bull and a matador in a sand arena in which the bull is normally killed. 

Before facing the matador, the bull’s neck is pierced with banderillas, or barbed lance, by picadors (men on horseback). With the bull’s range of motion impaired by this act, the matador then attempts to kill the creature by either thrusting a sword into its lungs or cutting its spinal cord with a knife. Oftentimes, the bull may be paralyzed but still alive as its ears or tail are cut off and presented as trophies to the matador before ultimately having its body removed from the arena.

The first bullfight traces back to Spain in 711 A.D. when the coronation of King Alfonso III was being celebrated. While this spectacle is banned in Italy, England, and many countries across South America, the sport currently continues on in Spain, Portugal, France, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela, and Ecuador — all of which have Catholic majorities within their populations. 

Martin poses alongside a bull in this advertisement partnering with PETA, which was featured on The Tablet July 18, 2024.  The Catholic priest from England says regarding the sport of bullfighting that "the lack of logic and absence of Christian compassion strikes me forcibly." Credit: PETA UK
Martin poses alongside a bull in this advertisement partnering with PETA, which was featured on The Tablet July 18, 2024. The Catholic priest from England says regarding the sport of bullfighting that "the lack of logic and absence of Christian compassion strikes me forcibly." Credit: PETA UK

Speaking with CNA, Martin referenced his faith as being an encouragement in his endeavors to decry bullfighting, stating that it “allows me to see the entirety of God’s creation as a loving, divine gift. I believe, with the Church, that all animals are God’s creatures and that God has created them decisively and consciously as part of his plan for the life of the world. The balance of ecosystems, and the Genesis depiction of animals as ‘companions’ to human beings (2:19), is inspiring and beautiful.”

“Given that in Spain, and in some other countries, the Catholic Church is culturally caught up with bullfighting, the lack of logic and absence of Christian compassion strikes me forcibly,” he said. “It seems that many bullrings have chapels and chaplains, and that matadors (a word that can easily be translated from the Spanish as meaning ‘murderer’) queue up for the Church’s blessing. More than this, many horrendous bullfights and bull runs that exist are held in honor of Catholic saints and in celebration of their feast days.”

As mentioned in Martin’s earlier op-ed, various Catholic celebrations such as San Fermín and San Isidro in Spain, as well as the Feria de Pâques in France, have often featured bullfights and chapels built inside these bullrings. 

Similarly, to celebrate the May 13 feast day of St. Peter de Regalado — a Franciscan friar who is considered a patron saint of bullfighters for having calmed the charge of bull that had escaped from a celebration near his convent — the town of Valladolid, Spain, hosts numerous bullfights as part of its annual San Pedro Regalado Fair. 

In one of the Church’s stronger stances against bullfighting, Pope Pius V issued an edict in 1567 prohibiting bullfighting under the threat of excommunication. Although this ban was rescinded by his successor, Gregory XIII, only eight years later at the request of King Philip II, Pius suggested at the time that the sport was “removed from Christian piety and charity.”

Calling on Pope Francis to take similar actions, Martin cited No. 2416 of the catechism, stating that “this is the official teaching of the Church. I would have to ask, with charity and openness to my hearer, is bullfighting bearing testament to this — and does the Church’s apparent involvement (and even celebration) of bullfighting align with this teaching?”

While PETA’s positions and campaigns do not completely align with Church teaching, Martin credited the organization as having a “habit of dramatically drawing attention to the cruelty and suffering to which so many animals are subjected, both here and throughout the world.”

“PETA is not a Catholic or Christian organization per se, but it does have a section called ‘PETA Lambs’ for Christians who support their animal advocacy,” he continued. “For me, the call to show compassion and goodwill to all living beings is a fundamental part of my Catholic view of the world and of human nature. It seemed, therefore, right that I confirm my willingness to help them in these matters.”

Through participating in this campaign, Martin then expressed his hope that by “inviting people to think about the place of animals in creation, and to consider more deeply the relationship between animals and humans, there might be a moment of clarity and new insight.”

“I suggest that our Catholic faith perfectly aligns with a way that is more charitable, more understanding, more compassionate, more creation-centered, and more Christ-like than that,” he said.

12 powerful quotes from the National Eucharistic Congress

More than 50,000 kneel in adoration of the Eucharist at the National Eucharistic Congress at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on July 18, 2024. / Credit: Jeffrey Bruno

CNA Staff, Jul 23, 2024 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

More than 50,000 Catholics recently gathered at Lucas Oil Stadium and the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis for the National Eucharistic Congress from July 17–21. 

The week was filled with opportunities for the faithful to grow closer to Jesus present in the Eucharist through perpetual adoration, Mass, confession, praise and worship, and talks from a plethora of Catholic speakers including Bishop Robert Barron, Jonathan Roumie, Father Mike Schmitz, Mother Olga of the Sacred Heart, Sister Bethany Madonna, and many more.

Here are 12 of the most powerful quotes given by speakers at the congress:

  1. “Knowledge can make one great; but only love can make you a saint.” — Father Mike Schmitz

  2. “Your Christianity is not for you. Christianity is not a self-help program, something designed just to make us feel better ourselves. Your Christianity is for the world.” — Bishop Robert Barron

  3. “The Eucharist for me is healing. The Eucharist for me is peace. The Eucharist for me is my grounding. The Eucharist for me is his heart within me.” — Jonathan Roumie 

  4. “The Lord is not overwhelmed by you. He loves you, and he sees you, and he’s not deterred by anything.” — Sister Miriam James Heidland

  5. “We need a new Pentecost. We need to be filled with boldness. We need to be filled with intrepidity. We need to be filled with love, with generosity to be able to sacrifice everything for the sake of the kingdom.” — Mother Adela Galindo

  6. “We have him and nobody can take him away from us.” — Mother Olga of the Sacred Heart

  7. “The love of God has been poured into our hearts and it’s the kindness of God that leads us to life-giving repentance.” — Sister Bethany Madonna

  8. “You can never have a revival without repentance.” — Father Mike Schmitz

  9. “He who made the promise is true and so we can be people who repent with courage and joy. What a contradiction to be people who say ‘I’m broken and I’m sinful, and I’m joyful and I’m hopeful.’ What would the world do with a pilgrim people like that?” — Sister Josephine Garrett

  10. “It’s time for faithful Catholics to stop trying to live for God. Instead we should start living from him. The body and blood of the Lord is the source of our life, our energy, and our joy. So let’s eat and drink here and every day to our heart’s content and then let’s rush out into a starving world and tell everybody we meet, ‘Starving people, listen! We found where the food is!’” — Monsignor James Shea

  11. “Those who choose to stay with Jesus will be sent by Jesus … Let us go to proclaim Jesus zealously and joyfully for the life of the world.” — Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle

  12. “Brothers and sisters, we believe that God desires to renew his Church and that this renewal will happen through you. And that in renewing his Church, he will renew the world.” — Bishop Andrew Cozzens

Knights of Columbus covers Rupnik art at John Paul II Shrine pending sex abuse investigation

The Knights of Columbus used a paper cover to temporarily cloak artwork created by Father Marko Rupnik at the St. John Paul II National Shrine in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, July 23, 2024. / Credit: Christina Herrera/EWTN News

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 23, 2024 / 16:38 pm (CNA).

The Knights of Columbus used a paper cover to temporarily cloak artwork created by Father Marko Rupnik at the St. John Paul II National Shrine in Washington, D.C., pending the outcome of a Vatican investigation into sexual abuse allegations against the Slovenian artist and priest.

Rupnik’s mosaics line the walls of the Luminous Mysteries Chapel, which contains a first-class relic of St. John Paul II’s blood at the front of the altar, and the larger Redemptor Hominis Chapel, both of which sit inside the shrine near the entrance. The shrine is sponsored and managed by the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization.

The paper cover will eventually be replaced with a fabric canvas while the Vatican continues to investigate allegations that Rupnik spiritually, psychologically, and sexually abused between 20 and 40 adult women, including religious sisters.

Rupnik’s artwork was fully covered on Tuesday, July 23, less than two weeks after Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly announced that the Catholic fraternal organization would cover its displays of his artwork at the shrine and at its headquarters in New Haven, Connecticut. 

Rupnik first faced allegations of sexual misconduct in 2018 and subsequently faced numerous allegations of past sexual abuse in 2021 and again in 2022, 2023, and 2024.

The Knights of Columbus used a paper cover to temporarily cloak artwork created by Father Marko Rupnik in the Luminous Mysteries Chapel at the St. John Paul II National Shrine in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, July 23, 2024. Credit: Christina Herrera/EWTN News
The Knights of Columbus used a paper cover to temporarily cloak artwork created by Father Marko Rupnik in the Luminous Mysteries Chapel at the St. John Paul II National Shrine in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, July 23, 2024. Credit: Christina Herrera/EWTN News

Kelly said in a statement on July 11 that the Knights of Columbus would cover up the artwork “because our first concern must be for victims of sexual abuse, who have already suffered immensely in the Church, and who may be further injured by the ongoing display of the mosaics at the shrine.”

The Knights of Columbus consulted with sexual abuse victims and those who minister to them, art historians, pilgrims to the shrine, bishops, and moral theologians before making the decision.

“While opinions varied among those consulted, there was a strong consensus to prioritize the needs of victims, especially because the allegations are current, unresolved, and horrific,” the statement read.

The Vatican investigated Rupnik in May 2019 for violating canon law by providing absolution during confession to an accomplice in sin — a woman with whom he had sexual relations. After the investigation, the Vatican confirmed in May 2020 that Rupnik had incurred an automatic excommunication, which the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) lifted two weeks later.

The Knights of Columbus used a paper cover to temporarily cloak artwork created by Father Marko Rupnik in the Luminous Mysteries Chapel at the St. John Paul II National Shrine in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, July 23, 2024. Credit: Christina Herrera/EWTN News
The Knights of Columbus used a paper cover to temporarily cloak artwork created by Father Marko Rupnik in the Luminous Mysteries Chapel at the St. John Paul II National Shrine in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, July 23, 2024. Credit: Christina Herrera/EWTN News

New sexual abuse allegations against Rupnik came to light in June 2021 from the Loyola Community in Slovenia, where he is accused of abusing nuns. The CDF stated in October 2022 that the statute of limitations had expired and Rupnik could not be investigated. However, in December 2022, he faced new allegations of abuse from his time at the Aletti Center in Rome. 

In October 2023, Pope Francis lifted the statute of limitations and ordered the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith to begin a judicial process to investigate the claim. More allegations have come to light following that announcement. 

Rupnik was expelled from the Jesuits in June 2023 but is still a priest and a consultant to the Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

Rupnik’s artwork is still displayed around the world, including in the Vatican’s Redemptoris Mater Chapel.

‘Strong faith and humility’ mark swimmer Katie Ledecky’s life, her former principal says

Katie Ledecky visits students at Stone Ridge of the Sacred Heart School following the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic games / Credit: Stone Ridge of the Sacred Heart School

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 23, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Katie Ledecky, an Olympic athlete considered to be one of the best female swimmers of all time, often speaks about her faith and experiences of attending Catholic schools.

After winning her first Olympic gold medal in 2012 at age 15, Ledecky has gone on to become one of the best female swimmers of all time. With 10 Olympic medals and 21 world championship titles under her belt, Ledecky is poised to be one of the top competitors in the Paris Olympics later this month.

While her swimming feats have brought Ledecky accolades worldwide, those who knew the Maryland native in her youth while she attended Catholic schools describe her as being a bright, kind, and faithful student.

“She’s not only a wonderful athlete, but she is also a role model that you would want a young, Catholic woman to be,” Sister Rosemaron Rynn shared with CNA. “She’s grown into this wonderful person because of her great parents, her family life, and also the fact that she keeps herself close to God.”

Sister Rosemaron, who served as Ledecky’s principal at the Little Flower School in Bethesda, Maryland, said Ledecky attended the school from pre-K to eighth grade. “Her mom was a part of the Mystical Rose Society that takes care of the altar and other things in the church,” she added.

“Katie used to help her mom now and then with that, and I know from reading stories about her that she continues to say that her faith is very important,” Sister Rosemaron continued. “She has said that she prays before each event, and I believe that the Lord has really blessed her.”

In a 2016 interview with the National Catholic Register, CNA’s sister news partner, Ledecky shared that she often prays a Hail Mary before each of her races, stating: “More than anything, praying just helps me to concentrate and let go of things that don’t matter in that moment. It gives me peace knowing I’m in good hands.”

“I think our devotion to Mary is very beautiful,” Ledecky said. “She has a sacred role in Catholicism, and her strong faith and humility are things we can learn from.”

Humility is another attribute that Sister Rosemaron credits Ledecky as having, telling CNA that “[Katie] never touted the fact that she was that good. In fact, it blew our minds when we found out that she was going toward the Olympics.”

“She’d come in during the morning before school started, her hair all wet because she had been out swimming before school,” she said. “But she never bragged about anything, ever. She was truly humble.”

Upon entering Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart for high school in 2011, Ledecky continued to remain “extremely grounded” and “humbly gracious” amid her rise to fame, according to Stone Ridge Principal Catherine Karrels.

Katie Ledecky poses alongside her principal, Catherine Karrels, at her high school graduation in 2015. Credit: Stone Ridge of the Sacred Heart School
Katie Ledecky poses alongside her principal, Catherine Karrels, at her high school graduation in 2015. Credit: Stone Ridge of the Sacred Heart School

“On our swim team, there were students of all levels. We had Katie who was an Olympian and students who were just learning how to make their way across the pool,” Karrels told CNA. “One of the things I admired about Katie was that she was so inclusive and celebratory for the other kids and all that they were able to accomplish.”

In addition to being a member of the Stone Ridge swim team and setting numerous records, Ledecky also participated in many of the school’s service opportunities. She volunteered as a teacher’s aide in her former elementary school, served meals to homeless people at the Shepherd’s Table soup kitchen, and helped lead Stone Ridge’s campus ministry program among others.

“Katie really cares deeply about other people and is very focused on community and family. I think a lot of that comes from her faith in that she sees the dignity in everyone around her,” Karrels said. “All of these things fit in with a faith life that is grounded in strong values that come from her family and that were also expressed in her education here at Stone Ridge.”

Ledecky has kept her Catholic formation and roots close to her, often making stops to see both the Little Flower School and Stone Ridge following her Olympic feats and accomplishments. As Sister Rosemaron recounted, Katie would visit her and the other sisters, “bringing her medals, letting us each wear one to take pictures with her.”

Karrels echoed this, sharing with CNA that Ledecky has done “a great job in keeping in touch with us, frequently coming back to campus when she’s in town.”

“She will often come and talk to our student body and engage with the kids. Usually when she does that, she wants it to be very informal,” Karrels continued. “She likes to come back and check in with her teachers and coaches, roam the halls, and see how everyone’s doing. I think she also knows how much we like for the young girls to be able to see and get to know her because she’s such an inspiration and a great role model for them in so many different ways.”

Set to compete in the upcoming Olympic games’ 200-meter, 400-meter, 800-meter, and 1500-meter freestyle events — two of which she currently holds the record for — the 27-year-old Ledecky is favored to win the gold for several of these events.

Sister Rosemaron and her fellow sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary plan to watch Ledecky and cheer her on, and the priests and congregation at the Church of the Little Flower expressed their prayers and well wishes for the athlete as she competes in Paris.

Team USA swimming members and Stone Ridge alumni Katie Ledecky (‘15), Erin Gemmell (‘23), and Phoebe Bacon (‘20) pose in their alma-mater’s custom T-shirts. They will be competing in the Paris Olympics from July 26–Aug. 11, 2024. Credit: Stone Ridge of the Sacred Heart School
Team USA swimming members and Stone Ridge alumni Katie Ledecky (‘15), Erin Gemmell (‘23), and Phoebe Bacon (‘20) pose in their alma-mater’s custom T-shirts. They will be competing in the Paris Olympics from July 26–Aug. 11, 2024. Credit: Stone Ridge of the Sacred Heart School

Stone Ridge will be hosting an Olympic Pep Rally on July 25, where more than 500 are expected to celebrate not just Ledecky but the school’s other two alumni competing for Team USA in swimming — Phoebe Bacon and Erin Gemmell.

Karrels, who will be traveling to Paris in order to cheer on her former students and report back to the Stone Ridge community, shared that “it’s astounding to have such high representation from our alumni.”

“I am thrilled to be going to watch Katie, Phoebe, and Erin compete,” she stated. “Hopefully when they get back from the games, we’ll be able to find a time for them to come to campus and tell their stories to our students, and to celebrate again all that they’ve accomplished and all the lessons they learned.”

5 things to know about St. Bridget of Sweden, mystic and mother

St. Bridget of Sweden. / Credit: Carlston Marcks, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

CNA Staff, Jul 23, 2024 / 04:00 am (CNA).

On July 23, the Catholic Church celebrates the feast day of St. Bridget of Sweden, a mystic of the Middle Ages who was a wife, mother to a large family, lady-in-waiting to a queen, and founder of a religious order that still exists today.

1. St. Bridget experienced her first vision at age 10.

Bridget, or “Birgitta,” was born to wealthy, devout parents in Sweden in the year 1303. Her mother died early in her life, and she and her siblings were raised by their aunt. At 10 years old, Bridget had a vision of Christ on the cross in his agonizing suffering. In her vision, Bridget saw Christ with his wounds from Good Friday, with the wounds of “The Man of Sorrows” in Isaiah 53. She asked Jesus who hurt him, and he responded: “Those who despise me and refuse my love for them.” She would go on to write about these revelations; her works were published posthumously. 

2. Bridget served in the royal court of Sweden. 

Bridget was married in 1316 at the young age of 13 to 18-year-old Ulf Gudmarsson, the Swedish prince of Nericia. The two joined the Third Order of St. Francis and dedicated their resources to building a hospital and caring for the needs of the poor. Ulf served on the council of the king of Sweden, Magnus Eriksson, and the king asked Bridget to be a lady-in-waiting for his wife, Queen Blanche of Namur. 

3. Bridget was a mother to eight children, and one of them became a saint.

Bridget and Ulf raised a large family together while also serving the poor and managing their duties in court. Of Bridget’s eight children, two died in infancy, and another two died in the Crusades. Two of their surviving children were married, and another two joined religious life. One of those two became a saint and was canonized St. Catherine of Sweden.  

4. Bridget founded a religious order, the Bridgettines, after her husband died.

Bridget and Ulf made a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela between 1341 and 1343, but on their return trip, Ulf became ill. The couple stopped in France until Ulf regained his health, but soon after they returned to Sweden, in 1344, he passed away. 

After his death, Bridget donated her belongings to the poor and devoted her life to Christ, following a call from God to start a new religious order. 

She founded the Order of the Most Holy Savior, now known as the Brigittines, in 1346, and her congregation was approved by Pope Urban V in 1370. The Brigittines were to be led by an abbess and constitute both nuns and priests. The priests, who lived in a separate section, served as chaplains and confessors for the nuns.

King Magnus helped Bridget make the Abbey of Vadstena the home of the Brigittines. He donated a small palace and land for the new monastery.

But Bridget would never see her work come to fruition. She had a vision from Christ calling her to return to Rome and await the pope’s return from France during the Avignon Papacy. She never became a nun herself, and she never saw the monastery in Vadstena. She died several years before the pope’s permanent return to Rome. 

But her order spread through Europe and still exists today in both contemplative monasteries and apostolic convents, with branches in 19 countries including Sweden, Norway, Poland, Italy, Israel, India, the Philippines, Mexico, and the United States. 

5. St. Bridget is the co-patroness of Europe.

After Bridget died in Rome on July 23, 1373, her children brought her remains back to the headquarters of her religious order. Less than 20 years later, in 1391, Pope Boniface IX proclaimed her a saint. Her revelations and writings on the sufferings of Christ were published after her death. In 1999, St. John Paul II chose her as one of the three female co-patronesses of Europe, along with St. Catherine of Siena and St. Edith Stein.

Families with children encouraged by National Eucharistic Congress: ‘The Church is young’

Steven and Joelle Schlotter, from Louisville, Kentucky, created special homemade T-shirts for their children in honor of the National Eucharistic Congress. / Credit: Jonah McKeown/CNA

Indianapolis, Ind., Jul 22, 2024 / 17:52 pm (CNA).

The 10th National Eucharistic Congress concluded Sunday in Indianapolis with a clarion call for participants to share with others the love and joy of the Catholic faith that they just experienced. 

For the many parents who brought their young children to the historic July 17–21 gathering in Indianapolis, the congress was an inspiring confirmation that the Catholic Church is alive and well and that other families across the country are working hard to raise their kids in the faith. 

Brendan and Laura McKenzie and six of their eight children at the National Eucharistic Congress. Credit: Jonah McKeown/CNA
Brendan and Laura McKenzie and six of their eight children at the National Eucharistic Congress. Credit: Jonah McKeown/CNA

The McKenzie family — Brendan and Laura and their eight children — made the trip to the congress from Evansville, Indiana, a few hours south of Indianapolis on the Kentucky border. 

Brendan said for his older kids, he hopes that seeing the large numbers of priests and religious present at the congress will be something of a “normalizing” experience, helping to expose his children to those kinds of vocations as a possibility for their lives. 

For the younger of his children, Brendan said he appreciated the efforts made by organizers to engage with the children and make it a fun and memorable experience. 

“The musicians and the emcees did a great job interacting with the kids, getting them up and dancing and singing, which was good for the little kids,” Brendan said.  

“I think the speakers help infuse the faith and make it more real and personal for the kids. I think the environment has been very conducive, too — allowing kids to participate and not feel like they’re an annoyance. Even the speakers have been very good about welcoming the noise of the children, to put parents at ease.”

The congress featured numerous opportunities for Eucharistic adoration and Mass as well as workshops and educational sessions. 

Numerous families attended a family-focused session on Saturday presented by Damon and Melanie Owens, Catholic speakers from Philadelphia and parents of eight children. The Owenses said it was difficult early on in their marriage to find other families who shared their values. 

Damon and Melanie Owens, Catholic speakers from Philadelphia and parents of eight children, present at a family session at the National Eucharistic Congress. Credit: Jonah McKeown/CNA
Damon and Melanie Owens, Catholic speakers from Philadelphia and parents of eight children, present at a family session at the National Eucharistic Congress. Credit: Jonah McKeown/CNA

Damon and Melanie spoke about the “communal dimension of marriage” and the importance of Catholic couples with children seeking out other like-minded families to “do life with.” They encouraged the families in attendance to make building a community around themselves a priority.

“Marriage is not private — our family life is not meant to be private. It’s personal, but it’s not private,” Damon Owens said. “I want to encourage and exhort you to honor that, to reverence that, and also to lean into it, to do the hard work of drawing even closer to one another.”

Paolo and Jessica Laorden from Mishawaka, Indiana, near South Bend, attended the talk with their five children. The Laordens said the Owenses’ talk about the importance of finding like-minded families resonated with them, especially since their family dynamic is different from many of their peers — Jessica is a family physician, while Paolo is a stay-at-home dad to their five children.

The talk, as well as the experience of seeing so many other families at the Congress, reminded Jessica that “there isn’t a perfect Catholic family and that we’re meant to share what we have, to support each other and find support, to depend on other people instead of turning in,” she said. 

Treating the congress as their “family vacation” for the summer, Paolo said a highlight has been the opportunity to take their kids to say “good morning” and “good night” to Jesus each day of the conference at the adoration chapel.

“They have gone above and beyond to make the conference work for families … we were really nervous about how we were going to make this work,” Jessica added. 

Paolo and Jessica Laorden, from Mishawaka, Indiana, brought their five children to the National Eucharistic Congress. Credit: Jonah McKeown/CNA
Paolo and Jessica Laorden, from Mishawaka, Indiana, brought their five children to the National Eucharistic Congress. Credit: Jonah McKeown/CNA

Paolo said he and Jessica want to be intentional about continuing the practice of bringing their children to Eucharistic adoration when they return home. Many churches in their hometown offer adoration, and “we want to do it again, on a more regular basis … even if it’s just for a couple of minutes, or an hour.”

“We want to make sure that when we go home, we bring it all home with us and be the life for the area,” he said.

Alec and Frannie Moen, from the St. Louis area, and their seven children await the start of the Eucharistic procession at the National Eucharistic Congress. Credit: Photo courtesy of Frannie Moen
Alec and Frannie Moen, from the St. Louis area, and their seven children await the start of the Eucharistic procession at the National Eucharistic Congress. Credit: Photo courtesy of Frannie Moen

Frannie and Alec Moen made the four-hour drive from Wildwood, Missouri, to attend the Congress with their seven children. Frannie said that although everyone they met was helpful and friendly, the experience was challenging — it was a workout getting the kids and stroller from one place to another, and anxiety-inducing keeping the kids from getting lost in the crowds. 

“But we trusted that God had us there for a reason, and that he’d help us keep track of them. It felt a lot like a pilgrimage,” Frannie said. 

Seeing the diversity of the Church as well as the large numbers of priests and religious “made a huge impression” on her kids, especially during Saturday’s Eucharistic procession. Frannie also mentioned a special moment when one of her daughters, who has a “unique Catholic name, and sometimes feels self-conscious about it,” met a religious sister with the same name who gave her a special handmade rosary.   

“I’d say every five minutes, someone stopped to thank us for what we are doing and for bringing our family,” Frannie said. 

“We do feel a deeper intimacy with Jesus in the Eucharist after going. We go to him every day, and we feel like he saw our loneliness and discouragement in this world and drew us to a place where we could be restored and sent back on mission to raise these children in the faith. It is hard, but we were reminded that it is worth it … The Church is young!”

Peter and Naomi Atkinson, and Naomi's mother Marlin, came to the Eucharistic Congress from Chicago with their two young children. Credit: Jonah McKeown/CNA
Peter and Naomi Atkinson, and Naomi's mother Marlin, came to the Eucharistic Congress from Chicago with their two young children. Credit: Jonah McKeown/CNA

Peter and Naomi Atkinson, who came from Chicago with their two young children, said the organizers of the congress did a good job of making the event family-friendly. Although they weren’t able to make it to any of the evening sessions because of their children’s bedtime, Naomi said that overall the accommodations to help families — and especially mothers with small children — feel comfortable at the congress were “amazing.” She said the space provided for nursing mothers was especially appreciated. 

“Seeing the other families who brought their kids here is really encouraging — the fact that there are so many families who are in the same boat we are, and trying to make the same sacrifices to bring their kids up with a deep love of the faith,” Peter said. 

“As Catholics, we don’t believe individually. We believe as a community. I think it’s really important for our families to see the strength and diversity and the unity of the faith,” he continued. 

“I think it’s really important for parents to receive that with other parents, and it’s important for children to see their parents receiving that, and to see other children being formed in those communities as well.”

New Hampshire becomes latest state to restrict sex-change surgeries for minors

“There is a reason that countries across the world — from Sweden to Norway, France, and the United Kingdom — have taken steps to pause these procedures and policies,” said New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu. / Credit: Gage Skidmore from Surprise, Arizona, United States of America, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 22, 2024 / 17:22 pm (CNA).

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu signed into law a bill that restricts sex-change surgeries on minors, along with a bill that restricts access to female athletic competitions in certain grades to only biological girls. 

“As the debate over [these bills] has played out in Concord and throughout the state, charged political statements have muddled the conversation and distracted from the two primary factors that any parent must consider: safety and fairness for their children,” Sununu said in a statement

“These two factors have been my primary consideration in reviewing these bills,” the governor added.

Sununu vetoed a third bill related to transgender policies. 

The vetoed legislation would have ended the state’s anti-discrimination protections for people who identify as transgender. This would have permitted public and private entities to restrict bathroom and locker room access based on biological sex rather than self-asserted gender identity.

Banning transgender surgery on minors

House Bill 619, which goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2025, prohibits doctors from performing “genital gender reassignment surgery” on anyone under the age of 18.

This includes a ban on internal and external gender transition surgeries. For boys, this ban includes removal of genitals and surgical interventions to make the genitals appear similar to a female. For girls, this ban includes the removal of ovaries or other surgeries that alter the genitals and make the genitals appear similar to a male.

“This bill focuses on protecting the health and safety of New Hampshire’s children and has earned bipartisan support,” Sununu said. “There is a reason that countries across the world — from Sweden to Norway, France, and the United Kingdom — have taken steps to pause these procedures and policies.”

However, New Hampshire’s restrictions do not go as far as many other Republican states. The law still allows other transgender surgeries, such as the removal of healthy breasts in girls and the addition of prosthetic breasts in boys to facilitate a sex change. The state will also continue to allow doctors to prescribe puberty-blocking drugs and hormone therapy to facilitate a sex change in minors.

The ban on genital surgery is enforced through licensing agencies. Minors or parents will also be permitted to sue doctors who perform banned surgery on minors. 

Protecting girls’ sports

House Bill 1205 ensures that only biological girls will be allowed to participate in female sports competitions in grades 5 through 12. The legislation does not affect lower grades or college sports.

The legislation requires that sports competitions for those grades be classified as either “male,” “female,” or “coed.” Only biological males can participate in “male” competitions, only biological females can participate in “female” competitions, and both can participate in “coed” competitions.

Per the legislation, a biological male who identifies as transgender could not participate in a sports competition reserved for girls.

“[This legislation] ensures fairness and safety in women’s sports by maintaining integrity and competitive balance in athletic competitions,” Sununu said. “With this widely supported step, New Hampshire joins nearly half of all U.S. states in taking this measure.”

Any student who is deprived of an athletic opportunity based on a violation of the law or who faces retaliation for reporting a violation will be allowed to sue the school for damages.

This bill goes into effect 30 days following the governor’s signature.

18 states back Indiana teacher’s religious liberty lawsuit in transgender pronoun dispute

null / Credit: orgarashu/Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 22, 2024 / 15:15 pm (CNA).

A coalition of 18 state attorneys general is throwing its support behind a lawsuit from a former Indiana high school teacher who lost his job because he would not use pronouns for students that were inconsistent with their sex. 

The Republican coalition, co-led by Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, filed an amicus brief with the United States Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit on Wednesday that asks the judges to rule that the teacher’s religious liberty was violated. 

An amicus brief, also known as a “friend of the court” brief, is a document filed by parties that have an interest in the outcome of the litigation but are not parties in the lawsuit.

Former music teacher John Kluge, who taught orchestra at the Brownsburg Community School Corporation just northwest of Indianapolis, was given the option of resigning or being fired from his job over the pronoun dispute, according to his lawsuit.

In 2017, the school district adopted a policy that forces teachers to use pronouns and names that reflect a student’s self-asserted gender identity, even if they are inconsistent with the student’s sex.

Kluge requested a religious accommodation that would allow him to avoid using any pronouns in reference to students, simply calling them by their last names, so he could avoid using pronouns that are inconsistent with a student’s biological sex.

The school district initially granted Kluge — a Christian — his requested accommodation and he taught for another year, according to the lawsuit. After receiving complaints from a few students and teachers, the school district revoked his accommodation, according to the lawsuit, and then “forced Mr. Kluge to resign or be fired.”

In the amicus brief, the attorneys general wrote that the school district “squandered an opportunity to showcase to students respect for people with different religious beliefs and practices” by forcing Kluge’s resignation. 

“Discriminating against teachers with religious convictions raises serious concerns as to the values taught to students and whether students are truly free to discover, learn, and grow in their own thought processes and beliefs,” the attorneys general added. “Schools should strive to teach respect for all religions instead of uniformity of thought.”

In a statement, Rokita said that Kluge’s compromise to avoid pronoun use altogether would allow him “to treat everyone equally and respectfully while also staying faithful to his own religious convictions.” 

“Kicking this teacher to the curb sends students the wrong messages about America’s heritage of respecting religion,” Rokita added. “And, at a time when teachers are in short supply, this kind of intolerance of faith among faculty members is sure to push additional good teachers out of the classroom.”

Rory Gray, who serves as senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom — the legal group representing Kluge — told CNA that “public schools can’t force teachers to abandon their religious beliefs.” 

“Mr. Kluge went out of his way to treat all his students with respect and care,” Gray said. “Yet the Brownsburg school district violated Title VII by censoring and punishing him for his religious beliefs. The 7th Circuit should … protect the religious convictions of employees, especially for teachers in our public schools.”

A spokesperson for the school district did not respond to a request for comment from CNA.

The school district has argued that the requested accommodation provides the district with an “undue burden” that jeopardizes the enforcement of its policies. 

The district has also argued that refusing to use a student’s preferred pronoun and name could violate Title IX’s prohibition on sex discrimination — a question that is currently before several courts.

In 2021, a Virginia teacher was fired after he criticized a proposed Loudoun County Public School Board policy that would require teachers to use a student’s preferred pronoun and name. The school board ultimately adopted the policy but reached a settlement with physical education teacher Byron “Tanner” Cross that gave him his job back.

Federal court rules in favor of Colorado church blocked from running homeless shelter

The Church of the Rock in Castle Rock, Colorado, is a nondenominational Christian church that was founded in the 1980s. After a legal battle with the town over a short-term homeless shelter, the church was vindicated on July 19, 2024, and permitted to continue its ministry on church property. / Credit: Photo courtesy of First Liberty Institute

CNA Staff, Jul 22, 2024 / 14:45 pm (CNA).

A federal judge sided with a Colorado church Friday in its dispute with a Denver-area town, granting the church the right to offer temporary housing for the homeless on its property.

Beginning in 2019, The Rock Church, a nondenominational church in Castle Rock, a town south of Denver, provided a recreational vehicle (RV) and a camper on the edge of its parking lot to temporarily shelter people experiencing homelessness. The church also provides temporary shelter during emergencies through a partnership with the Red Cross. 

On several occasions, town officials blocked the ministry, saying that housing people on church grounds violated zoning laws.

The Town of Castle Rock first notified the church of a zoning violation in 2021 and charged the church in 2023. 

In the lawsuit, which was filed in May, the church alleged that Castle Rock was “apparently operating on the cynical thesis that they do not want the homeless in their area.”

The lawsuit cited Scripture highlighting that helping the poor is essential to Christianity, arguing that the restriction infringes on the church’s religious freedom. The lawsuit also noted that there had been no safety complaints and that the shelters are barely visible from local residential housing, which is about 300 feet away from the parking lot.

The court ruled against the Town of Castle Rock on July 19, preventing the town from enforcing its land-use laws against the church to block the shelter. Additionally, the judge denied the church’s second and third claims that alleged interference by the town in the church’s Red Cross partnership. 

“We are pleased with the decision of the court that allows the church to carry out its religious freedom on its property,” Jeremy Dys, senior counsel with First Liberty Institute, a Christian legal nonprofit that argued the case, said in a statement shared with CNA.

“The court reopened the door of a caring church whose mission has always been to offer a warm environment for the homeless living on the cold, hard streets,” he added. 

U.S District Judge Daniel Domenico ruled that under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, a 2000 law designed to protect religious organizations from discrimination in zoning laws, the church could practice its homeless shelter ministry on its nonresidential property. 

“The church contends that it carries out these ministries because of its faith and its religious mission to provide for the needy, emphasizing the fact that ‘the Holy Bible specifically and repeatedly directs faithful Christians like the church’s members to care for the poor and needy out of compassion and mercy for those who are experiencing significant misfortune and hardship,’” the judge wrote in the 18-page order.  

When launching the ministry, The Rock Church planned to provide short-term housing for families and individuals in need as well as food, clothing, and other material necessities. The church has since housed several individuals and families, including a single mother and her 3-year-old son, as well as two people recovering from addiction. 

In its suit against the town, the church said the restrictions violated First Amendment rights and religious freedom as well as the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. 

The Rock Church argued that it “has suffered and will continue to suffer irreparable harm, including the loss of its constitutional rights,” and noted in its initial May 13 complaint that the town has no other temporary-shelter alternatives. 

The judge noted that “the church takes a number of precautions to ensure that its temporary shelter is safe,” including background checks by a third party and rules for conduct for RV tenants. 

Domenico found that the town’s restriction was irreparably harmful for the church’s practice of its sincerely-held religious beliefs. 

“The fact that the church has already had to turn away homeless families in need, in violation of its sincerely held beliefs that it must serve and house them on its property, makes this harm all too clear,” he noted. 

Packed adoration chapel at National Eucharistic Congress overflows with devotion to Jesus

Throughout the week, the perpetual adoration chapel at the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis has been full to overflowing. / Credit: Jeffrey Bruno

Indianapolis, Ind., Jul 22, 2024 / 09:00 am (CNA).

It was standing room only at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in downtown Indianapolis for much of the week as a steady stream of Catholics attending the 10th National Eucharistic Congress popped in and out of the church to pray before Jesus in the Eucharist.

The church suspended its regular Masses for the week to serve as the perpetual adoration chapel for the nearly 60,000 Catholics attending the Eucharistic congress July 17–21. Located across the street from the Indiana Convention Center where much of the event’s liturgies, workshops, panels, and exhibits were taking place, the historic church became home base for many attendees. 

Throughout the week, religious sisters stood under a tent outside the church handing out rosaries and slips of paper to attendees, inviting them to write down their prayer intentions for them to take to the Blessed Sacrament.

Sister Dominica, a Dominican Sister of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, an order based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, told CNA on Saturday that the sisters had received at least 2,000 prayer requests.

“We keep having to make runs to Jesus!” she said.

Sister Dominica, a Dominican Sister of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, told CNA on Saturday that they had received at least 2,000 prayer requests since the beginning of the National Eucharistic Congress. Credit: Zelda Caldwell/CNA
Sister Dominica, a Dominican Sister of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, told CNA on Saturday that they had received at least 2,000 prayer requests since the beginning of the National Eucharistic Congress. Credit: Zelda Caldwell/CNA

Sister Dominica and several members of her community were taking a shift under the tent in an effort organized by the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious and carried out by several orders of religious sisters. The Eucharistic prayer initiative has a special meaning for their order, she said.

“It’s a real outreach of our own — our own charism of Eucharistic adoration and promoting that devotion in the church. And we’re huge supporters of this Eucharistic revival,” Sister Dominica said. 

On the last full day of the conference, CNA spoke with some of those outside the church about their experience in adoration before the Eucharist and at the National Eucharistic Congress, an event planned by the U.S. bishops to help foster a deeper encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist. 

Andrew Niewald, a theology teacher from Beloit, Kansas, told CNA that he has been inspired by seeing so many other people in adoration share a faith and love for Jesus in the Eucharist.

“I believe that just seeing so many people here that believe in the Eucharist, you go into an adoration like that, where there seems to be hundreds of people just in almost complete silence, praying deeply. That moves your soul. It speaks to your soul a little bit,” Niewald said.

“You know, all of us probably get lost in our own churches where sometimes we feel like we’re battling an uphill battle, maybe because the real world meets our beliefs. And you just think that you’re the only one that stays with the Lord as they did in John 6. It’s very beautiful to be here with the masses that believe,” he said.

Andrew Niewald, a theology teacher from Beloit, Kansas, told CNA that he has been inspired by seeing so many other people in adoration share a faith and love for Jesus in the Eucharist. Credit: Zelda Caldwell/CNA
Andrew Niewald, a theology teacher from Beloit, Kansas, told CNA that he has been inspired by seeing so many other people in adoration share a faith and love for Jesus in the Eucharist. Credit: Zelda Caldwell/CNA


After spending time in the adoration chapel, Abigale LaFave, 17, of Ann Arbor, Michigan, told CNA that what she saw in the church also moved her.

“It is striking how there are so many people, and yet it is silent, and everybody’s attention is right on the Lord. I think that is what touched my heart the most, just the magnitude of people, and yet the reverence and the silence before him,” she said.

“It is a gorgeous church. Architecture should glorify the Lord, and this one definitely does it,” LaFave said of St. John’s, which was built in 1867.

“It’s a great community. Everybody is so on fire and so in love with the Lord, and just being in special adoration with those people, it is really moving,” said LaFave, who attended the congress with her family.

After spending time in the adoration chapel, Abigale LaFave, 17, of Ann Arbor, Michigan, told CNA that what she saw in the church also moved her. Credit: Zelda Caldwell/CNA
After spending time in the adoration chapel, Abigale LaFave, 17, of Ann Arbor, Michigan, told CNA that what she saw in the church also moved her. Credit: Zelda Caldwell/CNA

Victoria Smith, 20, of Maitland, Florida, upon leaving the church, told CNA that she has felt closer to Jesus after spending time in adoration while at the conference.

“I’ve never been much for adoration before, but you got to let go of all the thoughts like ‘I’m not praying right.’ Because the truth is, when you’re with someone you love, you’re not always talking to them, and not all your conversations are about something so deep. And not all of your conversations are going to change your life, but they’re all beautiful,” she said.

“Like your conversations with your mother, or if you’re just sitting with her at the breakfast table. What’s important is the love there, not always the words that [are] said.”

Victoria Smith, 20, of Maitland, Florida, upon leaving the church, told CNA that she has felt closer to Jesus after spending time in adoration while at the conference. Credit: Zelda Caldwell/CNA
Victoria Smith, 20, of Maitland, Florida, upon leaving the church, told CNA that she has felt closer to Jesus after spending time in adoration while at the conference. Credit: Zelda Caldwell/CNA

Nancy Betkoski of Beacon Falls, Connecticut, told CNA that sharing the experience of prayer with so many other Catholics has been “a touch of heaven.”

She said she had been writing in her journal during Eucharistic adoration and was reminded of her childhood desire to be a missionary.

Attending the conference with a friend, Betkoski said: ”We want to be here to be used for good. So we’re open to his mission.”

“I really hope that people will just be renewed knowing that they can have a friendship with Jesus. That’s what I really want, is people to have a friendship with Jesus. I’d say he’s my best friend,” she said.

Nancy Betkoski of Beacon Falls, Connecticut, told CNA that sharing the experience of prayer with so many other Catholics has been "a touch of heaven." Credit: Zelda Caldwell
Nancy Betkoski of Beacon Falls, Connecticut, told CNA that sharing the experience of prayer with so many other Catholics has been "a touch of heaven." Credit: Zelda Caldwell

Dominique Barksdale, 28, of Flossmoor, Illinois, told CNA that she has found her experience a challenging one.

“I was not expecting to go this way. I was expecting just to have fun and fellowship. And now I’m just like, I’m exhausted. I’ve been crying multiple times — it’s just the Spirit is moving,” she said.

Dominique Barksdale, 28, of Flossmoor, Illinois, told CNA that she has found her experience a challenging one. Credit: Zelda Caldwell/CNA
Dominique Barksdale, 28, of Flossmoor, Illinois, told CNA that she has found her experience a challenging one. Credit: Zelda Caldwell/CNA

Barksdale said that she hopes to develop a deeper awareness of Jesus after this experience.

“I carve out three hours with God every day. But am I being conscious of Jesus Christ? So I’m hoping after this, I’ll have Jesus as a priority, too. I feel like I’ve almost put him on a back burner. So it’s a hard thing to confront,” she said.

“I’m just trying to let the Holy Spirit lead me. And I saw that wonderful artwork that was in the conference room, the exhibit hall, that has Jesus in the monstrance. So that really helped me last night when the procession was happening — to imagine him walking in, not just the monstrance, but Jesus coming in,” she said.

Salvador Cerda of Joliet, Illinois, and his wife, Jenny, told CNA that in the 50 years they have been married, this is the first time they have taken a trip alone. Salvador said he felt called to attend the congress.

“The Lord made it possible. Any other time, I wouldn’t have been able to afford to come. But he made it possible this year. I don’t know why. It just all fell in place,” Salvador Cerda said.

“The Lord made it possible. Any other time, I wouldn't have been able to afford to come. But he made it possible this year. I don't know why. It just all fell in place,” Salvador Cerda told CNA. He and his wife, Jenny, said this is the first trip they have taken alone together in 50 years of marriage. Credit: Zelda Caldwell/CNA
“The Lord made it possible. Any other time, I wouldn't have been able to afford to come. But he made it possible this year. I don't know why. It just all fell in place,” Salvador Cerda told CNA. He and his wife, Jenny, said this is the first trip they have taken alone together in 50 years of marriage. Credit: Zelda Caldwell/CNA

“When I heard about the congress, something hit me. I got to go. I got to be there. I’ve been walking this journey with Our Lord, and more and more, I started attending daily Mass, and I see the Lord. I see him there, and I see him calling me for whatever, to inspire people, to move people, to to work with people. I just wanted to be here to share that love with others,” he said.

“But I’m surprised how many people are here. I just can’t believe it. That’s a feeling that I had before in the liturgies when we have the full choir and meditations,” he said with tears in his eyes.

“I miss that. We don’t have that now. It’s a historic church, but it’s very small. We don’t have that congregation that joins in with the choir and just sings their hearts. I just had to be here. I said, I got to share this with somebody. I got to be with somebody, with others that believe and love Christ. I just had to be here,” Cerda said.

St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church is located across the street from the Indiana Convention Center where the National Eucharistic Congress took place July 17-21, 2024. The sculpture in the foreground was created by Canadian artist Timothy Schmalz. Credit: Zelda Caldwell/CNA
St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church is located across the street from the Indiana Convention Center where the National Eucharistic Congress took place July 17-21, 2024. The sculpture in the foreground was created by Canadian artist Timothy Schmalz. Credit: Zelda Caldwell/CNA