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Survey: Catholics, like fellow Americans, favor abortion restrictions

CNA Staff, Sep 22, 2020 / 03:00 pm (CNA).-  

The vast majority of Catholic likely voters – more than 8 in 10 – favor restrictions on abortion, a new poll released this week has found.

Only 15% of those surveyed said abortion should be permitted at any time in a pregnancy. The same percentage said abortion should never be permitted.

Eight percent said abortion should only be allowed in the first six months of a pregnancy, while 21% favored limiting the procedure to the first three months of a pregnancy. Thirty-one percent said abortion should only be permitted in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother. Nine percent said it should only be allowed to save the life of the mother.

The poll, conducted Aug. 27 - Sept. 1 by RealClear Opinion Research in partnership with EWTN News, surveyed 1,212 likely voters who self-identify as Catholic.

The findings among Catholics are consistent with surveys showing that the majority of Americans support restrictions on abortion.

A January 2020 Marist Poll sponsored by the Knights of Columbus found that 70% of Americans favored banning abortion after three months of pregnancy, at the latest. Almost half of those who labeled themselves as pro-choice said abortion should be limited to the first three months of pregnancy, at most.

The majority of Catholic likely voters in the RealClear poll – 59% – said they are concerned about the issue of abortion as they consider the upcoming presidential election, with 30% identifying the issue as a “major concern.” Among weekly Massgoers, 70% said they were concerned about abortion, with 41% saying it is a topic of “major concern.”

Twenty-two percent of survey respondents said they were more likely to support a candidate for public office if that candidate supports abortion, while 30% said they were less likely to support a candidate who supports abortion.

Forty-three percent of weekly Mass attendees said they were less likely to support a candidate who supports abortion, compared to 26% of those who attend Mass monthly to yearly, and 18% of those who attend Mass less than once a year.


US bishops to Trump: 'Enough. Stop these executions'  

CNA Staff, Sep 22, 2020 / 02:45 pm (CNA).-  

The Catholic bishops of the United States on Tuesday implored President Donald Trump to halt two federal executions set to take place this week.

“We say to President Trump and Attorney General Barr: Enough. Stop these executions.” 

“After the first murder recorded in the Bible, God did not end Cain’s life, but rather preserved it, warning others not to kill Cain (Gn. 4:15). As the Church, we must give concrete help to victims of violence, and we must encourage the rehabilitation and restoration of those who commit violence,” the bishops wrote in a statement Sept. 22.

“Accountability and legitimate punishment are a part of this process. Responsibility for harm is necessary if healing is to occur and can be instrumental in protecting society, but executions are completely unnecessary and unacceptable, as Popes St. John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis have all articulated.”

The statement was signed by Archbishop Paul Coakley, chair of the bishops’ domestic policy committee, and Archbishop Joseph Naumann, chair of the pro-life committee.

Naumann, whose own father was murdered, said earlier this month: “Murder is an unspeakable evil. Those who perpetrate such a crime have inflicted a grave injustice, not only upon the person who was murdered but also upon all their loved ones.”

“The criminal justice system has a responsibility to protect the innocent from victimization and to deter the commission of violent crimes. However. in the United States in 2020, we have the ability to protect society from violent criminals without resorting to the death penalty.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes the death penalty as “inadmissible,” citing increasing effectiveness of detention systems, the unchanging dignity of the person, and the importance of leaving open the possibility of conversion.

William LeCroy is set to be executed Sept. 22, while Christopher Vialva’s execution is set for Sept. 24, both by lethal injection. The executions will be the sixth and seventh to take place in the last three months alone.

LeCroy was convicted of raping and killling a nurse in 2001; Vialva was convicted of killing two youth ministers in 1999, who reportedly prayed, spoke about God, and pleaded for their lives as Vialva murdered them.

Attorney General William Barr, a Catholic, during July 2019 announced that executions of federal death-row inmates would resume for the first time since 2003.

The U.S. bishops’ conference has repeatedly condemned the executions, as has Archbishop Charles Thompson of Indianapolis, whose diocese includes the federal prison in Terre Haute, where federal executions take place.

Though the COVID-19 pandemic and several legal challenges delayed the resumption, the federal government resumed executions during July 2020 after the Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

On July 7 of this year, several U.S. bishops joined a statement of more than 1,000 faith leaders opposing the resumption of federal executions.

Federal executions are rare, but the bishops noted that there have been more federal executions carried out already in 2020— five— than were carried out in the last sixty years.

One of the most recent federal executions was that of Lezmond Mitchell, a Navajo man whose tribe objected, asking that his sentence be commuted to life in prison. Bishop James Wall of Gallup led a virtual prayer vigil on the afternoon of Aug. 26 ahead of Mitchell’s execution.

President Donald Trump has defended the use of the death penalty and has claimed that his support of the death penalty did not impact his pro-life credentials.

Attorney General Barr is set to be honored at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast on Sept. 23. 


Poll: Catholics overwhelmingly concerned about church attacks, oppose ‘defund the police’

CNA Staff, Sep 22, 2020 / 01:40 pm (CNA).-  

Eighty-three percent of Catholic likely voters are concerned about attacks on churches in recent months, a new poll has found.
The poll, conducted Aug. 27 - Sept. 1 by RealClear Opinion Research in partnership with EWTN News, surveyed 1,212 likely voters who self-identify as Catholic.

More than 60% of those surveyed said they were “very concerned” about recent vandalism and attacks on churches, and another 22% said they were “somewhat concerned.” Just 11% said they were either not very concerned or not at all concerned by the recent church attacks.

Recent months have seen numerous acts of vandalism and destruction at Catholic churches across the United States, including arsons and graffiti.

In July, a man crashed a minivan into a Florida Catholic church and then started a fire inside the building.

In Los Angeles, San Gabriel Mission church, founded by St. Junipero Serra, also burned in a fire being investigated for arson. Numerous statues of the saint have been vandalized or destroyed, most of them in California.

Several other churches across the country have been set aflame, and statues of Jesus or Mary have been toppled or decapitated.

While some attacks on statues have been committed by large groups with clear political affiliations, the perpetrators of other acts have not been identified.

Some commenters see the attacks against churches as part of a worrying rise in anti-Christian views.

More than 3 in 4 Catholics surveyed were concerned about anti-Christian sentiment amid recent social protests.

A little more than half of those surveyed said they were “very concerned” by the anti-Christian sentiment, and an additional quarter said they were “somewhat concerned.” Thirteen percent said they had little or no concern.

Nearly three-quarters of Catholics surveyed also voiced concern about vandalism of Catholic statues and burning of bibles at some recent protests.

More than 80% of Catholics who say they accept all or most of Church teaching said they were concerned about the acts of violence against statues, compared to just over half of those whos say their Catholic faith has little to no influence in their lives.

The survey comes amid ongoing protests against instances of police brutality and racism across the U.S. In some cases, demonstrators have become violent, including by attacking police officers. Law-and-order, police reform, and systemic racism have become major topics of discussion in the upcoming election.

An overwhelming majority – 82% of those surveyed – said they have at least some trust in their local police department to protect the interests of their family.

Older respondents were more likely to trust the police department than young adults, and white participants voiced higher levels of trust than Black and Hispanic participants, although all age ranges and racial groups saw more than 60% saying they trust the police.

Only 1 in 3 Catholics surveyed said they support “defund the police” initiatives, intended to shift funding from police departments to other social services.

Men were more likely to support defunding the police than women were, and young adults were more likely to support the initiatives than older people were.

Just 29% of white respondents supported “defund the police” initiatives, compared to 48% of Black respondents and 41% of Hispanics.

Fifty-three percent of poll participants said Catholics should be doing more to heal divisions in America on race, compared to 19% who said Catholics should not be more active on this issue, and 28% who were unsure.


Vatican cardinal: Pope Francis ‘concerned’ about Church in Germany

CNA Staff, Sep 22, 2020 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- A Vatican cardinal said Tuesday that Pope Francis has expressed concern about the Church in Germany.

Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, told the magazine Herder Korrespondenz Sept. 22 that he believed the pope backed an intervention by the Vatican’s doctrinal office in a debate over intercommunion between Catholics and Protestants. 

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) wrote last week to Bishop Georg Bätzing, president of the German bishops’ conference, saying that a proposal for a “Eucharistic meal fellowship” would harm relations with Orthodox Churches.

Asked if the pope personally approved the CDF letter, dated Sept. 18, Koch said: “There is no mention of this in the text. But the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ladaria, is a very honest and loyal person. I cannot imagine that he would do anything that Pope Francis would not approve of. But I have also heard from other sources that the pope has expressed his concern in personal conversations.”

The cardinal clarified that he was not referring simply to the question of intercommunion.

“Not only, but about the situation of the Church in Germany in general,” he said, noting that Pope Francis addressed a long letter to German Catholics in June 2019.

The Swiss cardinal praised the CDF’s critique of the document “Together at the Lord’s Table,” issued by the Ecumenical Study Group of Protestant and Catholic Theologians (ÖAK) in September 2019.

The 57-page text advocated “reciprocal Eucharistic hospitality” between Catholics and Protestants, based on previous ecumenical agreements on the Eucharist and ministry. 

The ÖAK adopted the document under the co-chairmanship of Bätzing and the retired Lutheran Bishop Martin Hein. 

Bätzing announced recently that the text’s recommendations would be put into practice at the Ecumenical Church Congress in Frankfurt in May 2021.

Koch described the CDF’s critique as “very serious” and “factual.”

He noted that the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity had been involved with discussions about the CDF letter and that he had personally raised concerns about the ÖAK document with Bätzing.

“Those appear not to have convinced him,” he said.

CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German language news partner, reported Sept. 22 that the German bishops would discuss the CDF letter at their fall plenary meeting, which began Tuesday. 

When Bätzing was asked about Koch’s comments, he said that he had not had an opportunity to read the interview. But he commented that the CDF’s “critical remarks” would have to be “weighed up” in the coming days.

“We want to remove blockages so that the Church has a chance to evangelize in the secular world in which we move,” he said.

Koch told Herder Korrespondenz that the German bishops could not continue as before after the CDF intervention.

“If the German bishops were to rate such a letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith less highly than a document from an ecumenical working group, then something would no longer be right in the hierarchy of criteria among the bishops,” he said. 

Trump to UN: Protect the unborn and religious minorities

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 22, 2020 / 11:00 am (CNA).- President Trump told world leaders that the United States is committed to “protecting unborn children” in remarks to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) from the White House on Tuesday.

“America will always be a leader in human rights,” Trump said in his speech to the UNGA from the White House. Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, world leaders were invited to deliver their speeches to the assembly remotely, and they were then broadcast as “live.”

“My administration is advancing religious liberty, opportunity for women, the decriminalization of homosexuality, combatting human trafficking, and protecting unborn children,” the president said.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations.

Trump previously raised the defence of the unborn in his 2019 address to the UNGA, saying that “like many nations here today, we in America believe that every child, born and unborn, is a sacred gift from God.”

Trump’s administration has sought to redirect U.S. foreign assistance away from foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that provide or promote abortions, under the Mexico City Policy

While the Mexico City Policy applied to about $600 million in USAID family planning assistance, the administration expanded it to include billions of dollars in global health assistance and is now seeking to apply its conditions to military and government contracts with foreign NGOs.

The administration stopped funding the UN’s population fund (UNFPA) because of its partnership with China, where the Communist government’s two-child policy is enforced through forced abortion and sterilization. It also reduced funding for the Organization of American States after one of its organs apparently lobbied for abortion.

Trump’s remarks echoed those of the Holy See, also given at the UN this week.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, addressed a high-level meeting at the UNGA on Monday, commemorating the 75th anniversary of the UN.

“The UN has strived to champion universal human rights, which also include the right to life and freedom of religion, as they are essential for the much needed promotion of a world where the dignity of every human person is protected and advanced,” he stated.

On Tuesday, Trump also called on the UN to “focus on the real problems of the world,” which he said included “human and sex trafficking, religious persecution, and the ethnic cleansing of religious minorities.”

Trump also used his address to criticize China for its response to the new coronavirus pandemic, as well as its pollution of oceans and high rate of carbon emissions.

Although Trump criticized China and called on the UN to attend to religious persecution, he did not mention China’s mass imprisonment of an estimated 800,000 to 1.8 million Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in its northwest region.

The largely-Muslim ethnic population has reportedly been subject to forced birth control and sterilization, repression of religious practice, mass surveillance, and forced labor, and detainees have suffered indoctrination and torture.

Trump also defended the U.S. decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, saying that the country reduced its carbon emissions more than any other country in the accord last year.

Pope Francis in his 2015 speech at the UNGA, praised the Paris agreement as a step that could “secure fundamental and effective agreements” to protect the environment.

Who is potential Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett? What you need to know.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 22, 2020 / 08:00 am (CNA).- Following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on September 18, speculation on who President Donald Trump will nominate to replace her has focused on Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who currently serves on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. 

Who is Amy Coney Barrett? Here's what you need to know:

Dogma lives loudly

Barrett first rose to prominence during her confirmation hearing in September 2017, when Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) questioned her on her Catholic faith. 

“Why is it that so many of us on this side have this very uncomfortable feeling that dogma and law are two different things, and I think whatever a religion is, it has its own dogma. The law is totally different,” Feinstein said at the time.

“And I think in your case, professor, when you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you. And that’s of concern,” said Feinstein.

The California senator’s questioning of Barrett raised the Notre Dame Law School professor to a national figure. Just over two weeks after she was confirmed to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, she was added to President Donald Trump’s list of potential Supreme Court picks, and was rumored to have been one of the finalists to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy upon his retirement.

Trump chose Justice Brett Kavanaugh at that point, and a report emerged in 2019 that Trump had said he was “saving” Barrett to fill a potential vacancy caused by the death or retirement of Justice Ginsburg, the oldest member of the court at the time. With Ginsburg’s death, Barrett is once again being discussed for the highest court in the country. 

Personal life

Born in New Orleans, the eldest of seven children, she graduated from Rhodes College before receiving a full scholarship to Notre Dame Law School. After graduating first in her class from law school, and then clerked for Judge Laurence Silberman and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, before going into private practice. She returned to Notre Dame Law School and taught classes in 2002 before becoming a professor in 2010. 

Since Ginsburg’s death, Barrett has been scrutinized for her Catholic faith and family size. Barrett and her husband have seven children, including two adopted from Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. 

Catholic faith

At the time of her last judicial nomination, criticism of Barrett focused on the size of her family and her Catholic faith, attracting pushback from some commentators and making the judge a popular figure among many Catholics. 

Amid renewed scrutiny of Barrett’s personal life and beliefs in advance of a possible Trump nomination, Princeton University Professor Robert George highlighted the anti-Catholic tropes again being used in criticism of the judge.

“One would have hoped that having brought shame on themselves last time, and blunted their spear on Judge Barrett by attacking her religion, they would be more careful this time about exposing their bigotry to public view. But no,” he said on Twitter. 

During Barrett’s confirmation hearings, questions were also raised about Barrett’s association with the lay organization People of Praise. 

People of Praise has been referred to in the media as a “cult,” and criticized for a practice, which has since been changed, that called leaders “heads” and “handmaidens,” both of which are references to Biblical passages. 

People of Praise was founded in 1971 as part of a “great emergence of lay ministries and lay movements in the Catholic Church,” following Vatican Council II, Bishop Peter Smith, a member of the organization, told CNA.

The group began with 29 members who formed a “covenant”- an agreement, not an oath, to follow common principles, to give five percent of annual income to the group, and to meet regularly for spiritual, social, and service projects.

Covenant communities- Protestant and Catholic- emerged across the country in the 1970s, as a part of the Charismatic Renewal movement in American Christianity.

While most People of Praise members are Catholic, the group is officially ecumenical; people from a variety of Christian denominations can join. Members of the group are free to attend the church of their choosing, including different Catholic parishes, Smith explained.

What will happen next?

On Monday President Trump announced that he expects to name his nominee for the Supreme Court by the end of the week, following memorial and funeral services for Justice Ginsburg.

Ginsburg will lie in state at the National Statuary Hall of the U.S. Capitol on Friday, following two days of lying in repose at the Supreme Court on Wednesday and Thursday. Ginsburg will lie underneath the Portico, and the public will be permitted to view the casket outdoors. 

As per tradition, Ginsburg’s former law clerks will serve as her honorary pallbearers. 

Ginsburg will be buried in a private ceremony alongside her husband at Arlington National Cemetery.

Vatican official backs initiative to help prevent future pandemics

Rome Newsroom, Sep 22, 2020 / 08:00 am (CNA).- In an address to the International Atomic Energy Agency Monday, a Vatican official commended the organization for its preventative efforts to address another global threat: zoonotic diseases that cause pandemics.

The international organization known for safeguarding nuclear energy to prevent nuclear warfare has unveiled a new initiative entitled Zoonotic Disease Integrated Action (ZODIAC), which aims to help countries quickly detect and respond to diseases caused by bacteria, parasites, fungi or viruses that originate in animals and can be transmitted to humans.

“This important global network is crucial to helping national laboratories in monitoring, surveillance, early detection and control of animal and zoonotic diseases such as COVID-19, Ebola, Avian Influenza and Zika,” Archbishop Paul Gallagher said Sept. 21.

Zoonotic diseases are responsible for the deaths of 2.7 million people each year, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). 

Speaking in Vienna at the agency’s 64th annual conference, the Secretary for the Holy See’s Relations with States said that the Vatican supported the ZODIAC project and believed it could further the unique collaboration between laboratories of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and IAEA using nuclear or nuclear-derived technologies.

“This unprecedented pandemic sheds new light on the interdependence between nations and, in particular, on the necessity to consider health as a primary common good, which requires solidarity and coordinated action at the global level,” Gallagher said.

The Vatican diplomat added that it would be desirable for the ZODIAC program to support the research and development for “novel technologies … for early detection and surveillance” of these diseases. 

“The current COVID-19 pandemic has exposed problems related to virus detection capabilities in many countries, as well as the need for better communication between health institutions around the world,” he said.

Gallagher said that the Holy See was concerned about the signs of “an erosion of multilateralism and of the rules-based order” in the world, especially surrounding the control and ban of nuclear weapons. 

“The Holy See recognizes the important contribution of the IAEA in working for a world free of nuclear weapons,” he said, commending the agency’s goals of nuclear non-proliferation, nuclear disarmament, and the peaceful uses of nuclear technologies.

North Korea’s nuclear activities are currently of “serious concern,” Rafael Grossi, the head of the IAEA, said at the general conference Sept. 21.

“The continuation of the country’s nuclear program is a clear violation of relevant UN Security Council resolutions and is deeply regrettable,” Grossi added.

Gallagher said: “We must continue to work towards our common goal of the elimination of nuclear weapons.”

‘Grant me an undivided heart’: first biography reveals spiritual writings of Sr. Clare Crockett

CNA Staff, Sep 22, 2020 / 05:00 am (CNA).- On April 16, 2016, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Ecuador, killing at least 676 people, including a young religious sister called Sr. Clare Crockett. 

Two years after her death, her order released a film about her remarkable life in both English and Spanish. “All or Nothing: Sr. Clare Crockett” now has more than 3.5 million views on YouTube. 

This month sees the publication of the first full-length biography of Sr. Clare, amid a growing cult around the woman who abandoned a promising television career to pursue her vocation.

“Sr. Clare Crockett: Alone with Christ Alone” is written by Sr. Kristen Gardner, who was also responsible for the documentary.

“The most important discovery was her personal writings,”  Sr. Kristen told CNA. “She had several notebooks where she would write her personal reflections or prayers. It has been beautiful to see her interior life and her relationship with God. She had moments of darkness and struggle, but God’s love always triumphed.” 

Sr. Clare was born in the divided city of Derry in Northern Ireland in 1982. A fun-loving, charismatic teenager, she quickly caught the attention of television producers. By the age of 15, she was contracted to present a show on Britain’s Channel 4 network. When Nickelodeon came calling, it was clear that she was on the road to stardom. 

But in the year 2000, she went to Spain for a Holy Week retreat run by the Servant Sisters of the Home of the Mother, a community founded in 1982 with a focus on the Eucharist, Marian spirituality, and outreach to youth. 

She recalled later in her personal testimony that when she arrived in Spain she was “very superficial and a wild child.” But that began to change when she took part in the Good Friday adoration of the cross, kissing the feet of Jesus.  

“I do not know how to explain exactly what happened. I did not see the choirs of angels or a white dove come down from the ceiling and descend on me, but I had the certainty that the Lord was on the Cross, for me,” she remembered. 

“And along with that conviction, I felt a great sorrow, similar to what I had experienced when I was little and prayed the Stations of the Cross. When I returned to my pew, I already had imprinted in me something that was not there before. I had to do something for Him Who had given his life for me.”

It was the start of a long journey of conversion and healing that led to her joining the Sisters and taking her first vows in 2006. 

“Her deepest desire was to have an undivided heart for God and for Him to totally transform her into Himself,” said Sr. Kristen. “She knew she could not achieve this on her own and she constantly begged His help, ‘Grant me an undivided heart. Do not let anything ever enter in between Your heart and mine.’” 

Sr. Kristen, a native of Columbus, Ohio, who entered into the Servant Sisters in 2002, said that this prayer seemed to have been answered by the time Sr. Clare was sent on mission to South America, after stints in Spain and the United States.

“And right before going to Ecuador she wrote, ‘My heart is Yours, my mind is Yours, my thoughts are Yours. Ask me for anything. Nothing matters now, since nothing I have is mine! Possess me, Jesus,’” Sr. Kristen recalled.

“To see this strong interior life and relationship with God, which is what motivated her in her daily activity, to be generous and give her all to Him, was truly a blessing to discover and then to transmit in the book.”

Sr. Kristen, who is currently based in Rome, recalled that the news of Sr. Clare’s death spread rapidly around the world. The Sisters started to receive requests for more information about the 33-year-old’s life. 

“We began to go through our archives to see what footage we had of Sr. Clare and we found quite a lot. The project to do a documentary about her life then began,” she said. 

“Our way of going about it was quite simple: the communities of sisters in Spain, in the US and in Ecuador recorded interviews with the people who had known Sr. Clare. After about a year, all the material was gathered and I spent the summer of 2017 putting the film together. One of our sisters composed the music. All the sisters prayed. It was really a team effort.”  

The film was released on April 16, 2018, the second anniversary of Sr. Clare’s death. The community didn’t pay for any ads to promote the documentary, but it quickly reached a global audience thanks to word-of-mouth recommendations.

“People simply are touched and forward it to their families and friends. I am shocked every time people tell me, ‘I can’t even count the number of times I’ve watched it…’ They watch it over and over again. Why? Because Our Lord has wished to touch people’s hearts through Sr. Clare’s testimony and life. There is no other explanation,” said Sr. Kristen.

“Thanks to the original footage of her, I think people are truly able to get to know her as she was: full of joy. We have many clips of her laughing and joking around, and I think this permits the viewers to see the true happiness that only God can give.”

In response to the growing interest, Sr. Kristen took on a second project: writing the first extended biography of Sr. Clare. Meanwhile, reports of miracles began to reach the sisters.

“Several married couples who had difficulties having children have written us to give thanks for Sr. Clare’s intercession,” she said. “A few have even named their baby girl after Sr. Clare.”

Sr. Kristen highlighted the case of a couple who lost their baby daughter on the day she was born. The father, who had lived on the same street as Sr. Clare, prayed for his childhood friend’s intercession. The Sisters also prayed that his wife would be able to give birth to another child. Eventually, the couple welcomed a new daughter into the world. 

This is just one of several reports of fertility miracles attributed to Sr. Clare’s intercession.

“We do not have certainty as to whether these pregnancies have an explanation on a natural level or not,” explained Sr. Kristen. “We would have to wait for future studies about each case and the Church will have to deem whether they are truly miracles or not. The fact is that these couples are very thankful to Sr. Clare.”

“In any case, beyond the reports of ‘miracles’ of this type or others of other types of physical healings, the most reports we receive are of spiritual miracles. And these are the most important.” 

She continued: “There are people who were on the point of suicide and they have run into the documentary about Sr. Clare and they once again have hope and joy to live. Others were far from the Catholic Church and have found their faith again.”

“Others were living a lukewarm faith and Our Lord, through Sr. Clare’s testimony, has awoken them and given them new strength to give their all to the Lord and fight for holiness. Many young people have found the strength to respond to their vocation to the priesthood and religious life… and the list could go on.”

Sr. Kristen hopes that, after watching the documentary and reading about Sr. Clare’s life, people will be filled with a desire to follow the late sister’s example and give everything to God. She quoted from the Book of Job (7:1), where Job says “The life of man upon earth is a warfare.” 

“It’s important to recognize that we are in a spiritual battle,” she stressed. “The devil is fighting for all of our souls and we cannot let him have the last word. So many souls depend on our generous ‘yes’ to God. We can see this in Sr. Clare’s own life -- how many souls are reaching God through her testimony. What would have happened if she had said no?” 

Kroger employees allege religious discrimination over 'rainbow' apron

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 22, 2020 / 04:00 am (CNA).- The federal government is suing the Kroger Company for discrimination after two employees at an Arkansas store were fired for not wearing a symbol they say represents the LGBT cause.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed suit against the supermarket chain on Sept. 14, alleging that store No. 625 in Conway, Ark., infringed on the religious beliefs of two employees who refused to wear a uniform apron with a multi-colored heart; Kroger fired the employees after disciplining them several times for failure to comply with the uniform.

The EEOC filed a Title VII lawsuit in a federal district court, seeking back pay, compensatory damages, and a halt to any future acts of discrimination against employees. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act forbids discrimination on a number of counts, including on the basis of religion.

“Companies have an obligation under Title VII to consider requests for religious accommodations, and it is illegal to terminate employees for requesting an accommodation for their religious beliefs,” Delner-Franklin Thomas, district director of the EEOC’s Memphis District Office, stated.

“The EEOC protects the rights of the LGBTQ community, but it also protects the rights of religious people,” he said.

When the Conway Kroger introduced a new dress code in April, 2019, it asked employees to wear an apron with a multi-colored heart emblem on the bib; the EEOC complaint says that it was a “rainbow-colored” emblem, while some pro-LGBT websites claimed that the heart was not rainbow-colored and was not an LGBT symbol.

The sites reported pictures of Kroger employees wearing an apron with a heart that appears to be navy blue in the center, with yellow, red, and light blue outline.

The rainbow flag is a common symbol of the LGBTQ movement, and both employees had a “good faith belief” that the multicolored heart represented the LGBTQ cause, the EEOC complaint said. 

A Kroger corporate affairs manager told CNA that the company would not comment on the case, due to the pending litigation. However, corporate marketing materials for other Kroger venues explain the four-colored heart as representing "Everyone Friendly and Caring, Everything Fresh, Uplift Every Way, Improve Everday."

The two women employees in the lawsuit—Brenda Lawson and Trudy Rickerd—say they declined to wear the emblem because of their Biblical religious beliefs against same-sex marriage.

Lawson, who had worked in the deli department at the Kroger since August of 2011, asked the store manager multiple times to wear her name tag over the heart and clarified her religious reasons for doing so. She also made the request of the store’s human resources department in writing.

The other employee, Trudy Rickerd, worked as a cashier and file maintenance clerk at the store since October, 2006. She wrote that she had “a sincerely held religious belief that I cannot wear a symbol that promotes or endorses something that is in violation of my religious faith.”

“I respect others who have a different opinion and am happy to work alongside others who desire to wear the symbol. I am happy to buy another apron to ensure there is no financial hardship on Kroger,” she wrote.

According to the EEOC, they were “repeatedly” disciplined for not wearing the heart, and Rickerd was fired on May 29, 2019; Lawson was fired shortly afterward on June 1.

The Lamp: Why these Catholics are creating a print magazine in a digital age

Denver Newsroom, Sep 22, 2020 / 03:01 am (CNA).- When Thomas Earnest Bradley wrote and edited The Lamp, a 19th century British Catholic periodical, he did so largely from his cell in debtors’ prison, “that horrible institution that existed in those days.”

Bradley sold his magazine for a penny, a fifth of the price of his competitors, and his definition of Catholic was broad.

“It ran articles on themes that were not always, in a narrow or straightforward sense, Catholic topics,” Matthew Walther told CNA.

“They would run a story about some new scientific innovation or about a book or a play, that was not by a Catholic or didn't have in any ostensible way a Catholic theme.”

That version of The Lamp has been defunct for years. But it was, in part, the inspiration for a new Catholic magazine by the same name, with the same logo.

Walther, who is a journalist, along with his friend William Borman (friends call him Billy), founded The Lamp magazine in the United States this past year with similar goals in mind: “A magazine that was sort of witty and urbane, in a way that was not shrill or grating to read, that tried to speak to the full range of what the Church teaches,” Walther said. 

“We're operating under the assumption that anything that is good, true and beautiful falls within the purview of what should be in a good Catholic magazine,” he said.

Borman added that it is not a carbon-copy of the original Lamp magazine, which was “basically a working class daily magazine,” with a penchant for “scientific articles, almost like a Popular Science.” 

But the use of similar aesthetics, along with an equally-broad idea of what kinds of topics qualify as Catholic, gives the magazine “a throwback flavor. A little picture of the oil lamp burning on the cover is the same picture (as the original), with a slight modern twist,” Borman said. 


Kudos to @thelampmagazine - it is entertaining, gorgeously beautiful and does what it should do: get a Catholic thinking.

I loved some, didn't agree with other articles by writers like @hannonregular , @JDVance1 etc - and that's the way it's supposed to be. Bravo, ad multos

— Eduard Habsburg (@EduardHabsburg) August 10, 2020  

Some Catholics may protest that such a truly Catholic magazine already exists. There are, after all, several periodicals in the United States that label themselves as Catholic magazines.

But Walther and Borman would argue that it does not already exist. Not in the way they envision.

“(T)here really is no such thing, in an otherwise pretty wide and diverse landscape of Catholic media in the English-speaking world, something that is actually a magazine, as opposed to a website or a newswire or what-have-you, that is orthodox, without naming any names,” Walther said.

That’s what The Lamp hopes to be. A magazine faithful to the magisterial teaching of the Catholic Church that covers all manner of things from a Catholic point of view.

It will cover politics - though only broader political ideas, and not so much the “shrill horse-race” of particular elections. It will cover goings-on in the Church, but not in the way of "Can you believe this bishop did this? Oh my goodness," Walther said. No pope-bashing, and no ultramontanism either.

So what kinds of stories is the new Lamp magazine interested in?

“We wanted something that would also tell people interesting (we hope), and at times encouraging or moving stories about parts of Catholic life that are ordinary, but also, not talked about very much. Things like the history of rural parish churches, or the lives of someone like the man in the first issue who served several decades of an unjust prison sentence.”

The latter is told in the first issue of The Lamp, in which author Brandon McGinley tells the story of Jeff Cristina, who served a 40 year sentence for a wrongful conviction of murder as a juvenile. Cristina, nominally Catholic when his sentence began, returned to the sacraments and brought many others with him during his years behind bars. 

“The story had been on my desk for a while and I didn't have a home for it,” McGinley told CNA. But when Walther and Borman, friends of McGinley’s, started The Lamp, “they were really kind to offer it a home.”

McGinley is a Catholic speaker, and author of “The Prodigal Church” as well as a contributing editor to Plough Quarterly. Like the founders of The Lamp, McGinley believes that the magazine is filling a previously empty niche in Catholic media - a niche for longform journalism that is “broad both in the kind of content, the topics that they cover, and in terms of the specific points of view that they're bringing in (while) still being faithfully and integrally and genuinely Catholic.”

“And it's fun,” McGinley added. “In the opening section, the ‘feuilleton’ (a French word for the opening section of a magazine with short, light literature), Matthew is just hilarious. They have fun with this, it's not joyless.”

As an example, one of the sample articles on The Lamp’s website is “The Bull Against Open Letters” (or, The Open Letter Against Open Letters), which the author declares are the “most revolting, foul, noxious, poisonous, blasphemous, vicious, wicked, deceitful, covinous, Brummagem, catch-penny Pamphlets...offensive to  to men, women, holy priests, deacons, sub-deacons, porters, lectors, exorcists, acolytes, virgins, wives, sons, daughters, suckling babes, lawyers, practitioners after physick, and others, we hereby declare anathema these selfsame base cullions, rascals, apes, dogs, shoes, &c. who have addressed themselves to the baptized under the supposed appellation of ‘Open Letters.’”

The aforementioned letter, as well as a handful of other sample articles, appear on The Lamp’s website - but not much else does, as the publication is primarily a print magazine, a decision Borman and Walther are well aware was a risky one in a digital age.

“We'd heard (that print was dead), but we are both unfortunately terrible book collectors,” Borman said. “And so we're maybe just in the habit of thinking that print is superior to online or to digital.”

“That costs money, but we found people have been plenty willing to pay it,” Borman said. They’ve thus far had successful fundraisers - some online, due to the pandemic - and have attracted readers, primarily between the ages of 25-45, from all over the world, from “New York and Washington to London, Australia, and India.”

The first issue of the bi-monthly magazine came out in Easter, at the height of the global coronavirus lockdowns, an unforeseen challenge when the idea for The Lamp was conceived, Borman said. It delayed their first issue and caused some shipping snafus, but otherwise did not have too big of an impact.

Besides having an affinity for physical copies, a print magazine also helps further the goals of The Lamp, Walther said - it’s a beautiful object people can hold in their hands that prompts them to slow down and enjoy what they’re reading, something that they’d want to save and display on their coffee table or bookshelf. Borrowing a phrase from Cardinal Robert Sarah, Walther said a print magazine helps elevate The Lamp above the “culture of noise.”

“The great upside in online journalism is that now people, no matter where they are, if they have access to an internet connection, they can read as much as they want from as many different voices or perspectives as possible, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year,” Walther said.

“And the downside of online journalism is all of those things, because it becomes this cycle in which you get caught up in and you can lose sight of more important things when you're immersed in not even day-to-day, but hour-to-hour, minute-to-minute-cycle in journalism,” he said.

“We wanted to create something that will allow people to step away from the computer for an hour or two, put their feet up, and have a drink and immerse themselves in something very different, something slower, and, we hope, maybe a little bit more thoughtful, and less animated by the kinds of concerns that prevail in the online media infrastructure,” he said.


Evening plans now that issue #2 arrived @thelampmagazine

— Cullen (@CullenETB) August 25, 2020  

“I think that people today more than ever are growing tired with the constant outrage and the relentless attention to partisan (politics) sometimes at the expense of the faith,” he said.

“We are attempting to be a kind of an anomaly in an age of a barrage of constant information - where we publish six times a year and we print very few illustrations in here,” he said.

“I think that people are really hungry for it, and the response we've gotten has confirmed this for us. They're hungry for an approach to life in the light of the faith that takes its reader seriously and gives them serious ideas to think about.”

McGinley agreed that The Lamp is “breaking the mold” of the deeply-entrenched partisan rhetoric that can be found on social media today.

“It's not on a team, that's the first thing I think about it,” McGinley said.

“The content you're going to find in this magazine, in this journal, is not going to be easily identifiable with any currently existing alliance in Catholic politics and politics generally,” he said, noting that thus far the magazine has included pieces from a Jewish Marxist alongside those of Catholic scholars.

So far, Borman and Walther have found contributors to the magazine from among their friends and connections, but they also accept cold submissions. They’re looking for pieces that are entertaining, edifying, moving, and thought-provoking.

“Apart from the obvious goals that any magazine would have, which is producing something that readers will enjoy, I think what we really want is to encourage people to lay aside secular prejudices and really think through what it means to approach our political and cultural issues with the mind of the Church,” Walther said.

Ultimately, he said, “we just want people to try to think like Catholics.”