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USCCB approves drafting of Eucharist document, other action items

U.S. bishops meet at their fall general assembly in Baltimore, Maryland, in November 2019 / Christine Rousselle/CNA

Washington D.C., Jun 18, 2021 / 12:05 pm (CNA).

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops this week voted to move forward on several action items, including a draft of a teaching document on the Eucharist.

Meeting virtually for their annual spring general assembly, the U.S. bishops voted on Thursday to begin drafting “a formal statement on the meaning of the Eucharist in the life of the Church.” The vote took place after extensive and, at times, spirited debate on Wednesday and Thursday, with some bishops opposing the move to begin drafting the document.

The measure passed by a vote of 168 to 55, with six abstentions. A simple majority was required for passage of the action item. The U.S. bishops’ doctrine committee will now lead the process of drafting the document, with input from other conference committees. A draft of the document could be ready to be debated, amended, and voted on by the bishops at their November meeting - which is currently planned to be held in-person in Baltimore, Maryland.

Results of voting for the various action items of the spring meeting were announced on Friday afternoon, on the third and final day of the meeting. The bishops also authorized the development of a statement on Native American ministry, approved several liturgical translations, and approved a pastoral statement on marriage ministry.

They also held a canonical consultation on two causes of canonization, for Servant of God Fr. Joseph Verbis LaFleur, and Servant of God Marinus (Leonard) LaRue. The bishops voted overwhelmingly to “consider it opportune to advance on the local level” their causes of canonization.

One action item, which asked the bishops to “authorize the development of a new formal statement and comprehensive vision for Native American / Alaska Native ministry,” passed overwhelmingly by a vote of 223 to 6. 

Three action items concerned the approval of ICEL translations of readings and prayers for the feast of Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, as well as translations of prayers and intercessions for the Liturgy of the Hours and a translation of the Order of Penance. 

The action items passed by a vote of 188 to 2, 186 to 3 (with one abstention), and 182 to 6 (with two abstentions), respectively. The items required two-thirds of all Latin Church bishops present to vote in favor of approval. 

Another action item, to authorize the drafting of a national pastoral framework on youth and young adults, passed with a vote of 222 to 7. The bishops also voted to approve a  draft of a pastoral framework on marriage and family life ministry “Called to the Joy of Love,” which passed by a vote of 212 to 13, with four abstentions.

The bishops had extensive debate before voting to authorize the drafting of a teaching document on the Eucharist. A proposed outline of the document, provided by the doctrine committee, included the Church’s teachings on the “Real Presence” of Christ in the Eucharist, Sunday as a holy day, the Eucharist as sacrifice, and worthiness to receive Communion.

A proposal on the first day of the assembly to adjust the agenda to allow for unlimited dialogue on the draft of the statement stretched into an hour-long debate. Although the proposal failed with 59% of bishops voting in opposition, debate on Thursday stretched long after the proceedings were scheduled to end.

Voting was extended an extra hour on Thursday evening due to the extensive debate on the issues.

Berlin Catholic archdiocese releases previously unpublished section of abuse report

St. Hedwig’s Cathedral, the cathedral of the Berlin’s Catholic archdiocese. / Cedric BLN via Wikimedia (Public domain).

Berlin, Germany, Jun 18, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

The Catholic archdiocese of Berlin published Friday a previously unreleased section of a report on clerical abuse.

The archdiocese announced June 18 the publication of Part C of the report “Sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests, deacons, and male religious in the area of ​​the Archdiocese of Berlin since 1946.”

The report, originally issued Jan. 29, was commissioned by the archdiocese in November 2018 and compiled by the law firm Redeker Sellner Dahs.

It concluded that 61 clerics were accused of abusing 121 minors in the archdiocese that covers the German capital between 1946 and 2020.

Part C of the report presents the personnel files of the accused clerics.

CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, reported that the names of many of the 61 accused clerics do not appear in the newly published section.

Names, file numbers, place names, and other content relating to accused clergy are blacked out.

The archdiocese argued that the redactions were “legally necessary.”

Other German dioceses are publishing similar reports, including Cologne archdiocese, which released the 800-page Gercke Report in March.

A study of the handling of abuse claims in the archdiocese of Munich and Freising, by the Munich law firm Westpfahl-Spilker-Wastl, is expected to be released in the next few months.

CNA Deutsch said that, unlike the Cologne study, the Berlin report did not provide an assessment of personal accountability when it came to the responsibility for handling cases.

CNA Deutsch noted that Archbishop Heiner Koch, archbishop of Berlin since 2015, was mentioned in 13 cases, as were other senior figures serving in the archdiocese over the past decades.

The archdiocese said that the report did not mark the end of its efforts to investigate past cases and “remedy identified structural deficits.”

“By publishing the report, the archdiocese of Berlin hopes that further victims of sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults will be encouraged to come forward and disclose their case,” it said.

Cincinnati archdiocese celebrates 200 years, looks forward 

Archbishop Dennis Schnurr of Cincinnati, outside the Cathedral Basilica of St. Peter in Chains at the bicentennial Mass for the archdiocese / The Catholic Telegraph

Denver Newsroom, Jun 18, 2021 / 11:33 am (CNA).

On June 19, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati celebrated its bicentennial with a Solemn Mass of Thanksgiving offered by Archbishop Dennis Schnurr at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Peter in Chains. 

At the Mass, Schnurr re-consecrated the archdiocese to Jesus through Mary. In his homily, he reflected on the growth and successes of the archdiocese in the 200 years since its founding. He also encouraged the faithful to continue the work of the Church by asking: “What in God’s plan must we do next?”

“The care and affection of God for His people of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati that we celebrate today is not unique to us. It is part of God’s constant providence,” Archbishop Schnurr said in his homily. 

“It is what has been going on from the very beginning. Loving and leading and pardoning and protecting and enlightening and enlivening is what God does as a matter of course,” he said, “and that is not going to change.” 

Pope Pius VII established the Archdiocese of Cincinnati in June 1821. The archdiocese, only the ninth diocese to be established in the United States at the time, originally encompassed the entirety of Ohio and the present-day state of Michigan, as well as parts of present-day Wisconsin. 

When bishop-elect Edward Fenwick set off to take possession of his new diocese at its founding, he faced a difficult journey and had to swim the Kentucky River on his way to Cincinnati, Schnurr said. 

Archbishop Schnurr noted that although the territory of the archdiocese has shrunk considerably since its founding, there are twice as many Catholics living in the archdiocese of Cincinnati today - some 440,000 - than resided in the United States in 1821. 

“This local Church has welcomed waves of immigrants, dealt with economic depressions and wars, and enjoyed times of unprecedented growth and prosperity,” he said. 

“And throughout it all, Our Lord’s teaching has been proclaimed, His sacraments celebrated, and His people bound together in the Body of Christ which is His Church.”

Despite expressing some uncertainty about the future - particularly whether the archdiocese will have enough priests in the coming years - Schnurr proclaimed confidence that God will continue to bless the archdiocese as He has in the past. He also emphasized the responsibility of the faithful to cooperate with God’s grace and support the mission of their local Church. 

“[T]o be alive as Church, as an archdiocese, and as the people of God, we must be keenly aware that, regardless of whether we celebrate successes or stress over challenges, what we see today is not the finish line,” he said. 

“We are all part of the Lord’s plan for his Kingdom,” he said. “God has given each of us something specific to contribute.” 

The Mass was also the culmination of a 33-day archdiocesan pilgrimage for the bicentennial celebrations. Beginning on May 16, participants walked over 300 miles with a statue of Our Lady of Fatima, ending at the cathedral basilica in time for the Mass. Pilgrims signed up for three-day walking shifts for the pilgrimage, and made stops at 36 parishes throughout the archdiocese.

Freshman congresswoman appointed as Pro-Life Caucus co-chair

lazyllama/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Jun 18, 2021 / 09:07 am (CNA).

The new co-chair of the House Pro-Life Caucus says that a top priority for her is fighting taxpayer funding of abortion and abortion providers. 

Rep. Michelle Fischbach (R-Minn.) was appointed co-chair of the House Pro-Life Caucus this week. A freshman congresswoman elected to the House last November, she previously served as the first female president of the Minnesota state senate and as the state’s lieutenant governor. 

In the state senate, she wrote Minnesota’s Women’s Right to Know Act, which requires women undergoing an abortion to be informed of certain medical risks assocated with abortion. 

Fischbach told CNA in an interview on Thursday that one of her first priorities as caucus co-chair will be to defend the Hyde Amendment, federal policy since 1976 which bars taxpayer funding of most elective abortions through Medicaid.

“We need to continue that fight,” she said, noting that she is “very excited and very honored” by her appointment to the caucus. 

“It’s a very important issue to my family and it's one of those fundamental things that it’s so important we work to defend,” Fischbach said.

Democratic leaders in recent years have called for the repeal of the Hyde amendment, which has been passed into law each year as a rider to budget legislation. 

President Joe Biden recently excluded the policy from his budget request submitted to Congress, the first step toward Congress eventually passing government funding bills that do not include the policy - and thus that would allow for abortion funding.

While Democrats appear to have the votes to pass appropriations bills without the Hyde amendment, it is unclear if such legislation would clear the Senate. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), seen as a crucial swing vote in the chamber, has pledged his support of the Hyde amendment. 

Fischbach said she is also fighting federal funding of abortion providers. The Title X program, which provides grants for contraceptives and family planning, prohibits direct funding of abortions. The Biden administration, however, has moved to allow Title X grants to once again go to groups that refer for abortions or are co-located with abortion clinics - such as Planned Parenthood affiliates.

Fischbach said that a bill she has authored, the Protecting Life and Taxpayers Act of 2021, would block taxpayer funding of entities that perform abortions.

“What we’re trying to do is on another level, like the Hyde amendment, block funds from going to grant recipients performing abortions,” Fischbach said. 

Fischbach criticized the recent re-introduction of the Women’s Health Protection Act, a bill that would override many state abortion regulations - like the one she authored in Minnesota. 

“The states are able to regulate things, and the federal government should not be telling them what they can and cannot do,” she said. “And so I don’t support them being able to pull all of those protections the states have done for the unborn.” 

In statements, Reps. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and Andy Harris (R-Md.), the other co chairs of the House Pro-Life Caucus, welcomed Fischbach to the role. 

Calling her a “steadfast champion of life,” Smith said that Fischbach’s “effective leadership could not come at a better time as we work to restore protections for the weakest and most vulnerable: the unborn baby.”

Harris said that “Rep. Fischbach is a welcome addition to our leadership team and widely supported by all those fighting for life.”

Fischbach is scheduled to discuss her new role on the caucus during an interview on EWTN Pro-Life Weekly next week. 

Paris archbishop: Notre-Dame Cathedral repairs a symbol of Christian renewal

Archbishop Michel Aupetit, center left, celebrates Mass at Notre-Dame Cathedral, Paris, France, June 16, 2021. / Thomas Samson/ Pool/AFP via Getty Images.

Rome Newsroom, Jun 18, 2021 / 08:00 am (CNA).

Wearing a hard hat and boots, the archbishop of Paris offered Mass in a nearly empty Notre-Dame Cathedral this week as restoration of the fire-damaged interior of the Gothic cathedral kicks off.

Archbishop Michel Aupetit used the occasion of the feast of the dedication of Notre-Dame de Paris to reflect on the spiritual metaphor of restoring one of the most important cathedrals in France, which was once called the “eldest daughter of the Church.”

“This cathedral is also the symbol of the restoration of this Church founded 2,000 years ago by Christ himself,” the archbishop said in his homily on the evening of June 16.

“Some believe that it is in ruins and that it is on the verge of collapse. Yet Christ asserted that the gates of death would not prevail against her. We believe it deeply: like our cathedral, the Church of Christ will remain standing.”

Aupetit pointed out that St. Peter’s first letter in the Bible calls the members of the Church “living stones.”

“St. Augustine reminds us: ‘What we see here physically accomplished with walls must be spiritually accomplished with souls. What we see here accomplished with stones and wood must be accomplished in our bodies with the grace of God,’” he said, quoting Augustine’s Sermon 366 for the dedication of a church.

The archbishop continued: “The chief architect is the Father; the model is Christ; the director is the Holy Spirit. What will bring us together, shape us, and unify us to build a Church more beautiful than ever is the fulfillment of the great commandment of Christ: ‘Love one another as I have loved you.’”

Aupetit spoke beneath the large stained-glass windows of Notre Dame’s Saint-Georges chapel, which includes two 13th-century medallions.

The closed-door Mass, broadcast by the Catholic television station KTO, took place with only 12 people present, each wearing a hard hat for security reasons.

The Descent from the Cross, also known as Pieta, statue inside the Cathedral Notre-Dame de Paris before the fire.  /  Jeanne Emmel/Shutterstock.
The Descent from the Cross, also known as Pieta, statue inside the Cathedral Notre-Dame de Paris before the fire. / Jeanne Emmel/Shutterstock.

Aupetit has offered a private Mass inside the closed cathedral to mark the anniversary of its dedication each year since the devastating fire in April 2019.

While the French government is overseeing the cathedral’s structural restoration and conservation, the Catholic Church is responsible for its interior renewal.

Paris archdiocese launched an appeal on June 14 for this interior restoration, starting with the reliquary case of the Crown of Thorns, which was damaged on the night of the fire before it was rescued by Fr. Jean-Marc Fournier, chaplain of the Paris Fire Department.

The cathedral will reportedly reopen for worship with a Te Deum on April 16, 2024, five years after the blaze. Later that year, Paris will host the Summer Olympics.

“We are so happy now that our cathedral, which was in danger of ruin, is stabilized. We are now entering the restoration phase. It will be more beautiful than ever and this makes our hearts happy and fills us with hope,” Aupetit said.

Gibraltar to hold referendum vote to legalize abortion

Liudmila Fadzeyeva/Shutterstock

Rome Newsroom, Jun 18, 2021 / 06:30 am (CNA).

The people of Gibraltar will vote in a referendum next week on a bill that would legalize abortion in the small British territory.

The referendum vote was postponed from March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic and will now take place on June 24.

Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory located at the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula. Its northern border is with Spain, which asserts a claim to the territory.

Gibraltar has a total population of around 32,000. It has one Catholic diocese and an estimated 25,000 Catholics.

An aerial view of Gibraltar. / Adam Cli (CC BY-SA 4.0).
An aerial view of Gibraltar. / Adam Cli (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Abortion is illegal in Gibraltar and punishable by up to life imprisonment. It is permitted only if the life of the mother is at risk.

In 2019, the Gibraltar Parliament passed the Crimes (Amendment) Act 2019, which would legalize abortion in Gibraltar up to 12 weeks if the woman’s mental or physical health are considered at risk or if she would face grave injury.

Abortion would also be permitted at any time if the child has a fatal fetal abnormality.

Gibraltarians will vote on whether to allow the Crimes (Amendment) Act 2019 to come into force.

The Gibraltar Pro-Life Movement has opposed the bill and is running the “Save Babies, Vote No” campaign.

Around 500 people attended the group’s March for Life on June 15, where campaigners said that abortion is not the solution, noting the importance of helping people in difficult situations, including with better mental health services.

Churches in the Catholic Diocese of Gibraltar are hosting holy hours and other prayer events for the intention of protecting unborn life.

HOPE, a support group for people who have experienced miscarriage and stillbirth, is leading a prayer novena to all the angels and saints for the protection of life in Gibraltar.

One parish will hold 12 hours of Eucharistic adoration on June 19 and the Institute of Christ the King has organized a 24-hour rosary relay before the Blessed Sacrament on the day of the referendum vote.

Thief returns relics of Polish Catholic saint who inspired Pope John Paul II

St. Albert Chmielowski. / Public Domain.

Krakow, Poland, Jun 18, 2021 / 05:30 am (CNA).

A thief on Friday returned the relics of a 19th-century Polish saint who inspired St. John Paul II and apologized for taking them.

St. Joseph’s Church in the Podgórze district of Kraków, southern Poland, announced on its Facebook page June 18 that the relics of St. Albert Chmielowski had been safely returned.

It said: “Today, just before 7 a.m. the stolen relics of St. Brother Albert returned to our Sanctuary. The perpetrator of the theft brought them personally and apologized for the situation. Thanks be to God! Thank you for your prayers!”

The parish reported the theft on June 11. “Let us pray for conversion and repentance for the perpetrator,” it said on Facebook.

In a newsletter dated June 13, it told parishioners: “We regret to inform you that last Tuesday after 9 a.m. a reliquary with the relics of St. Brother Albert was stolen from the Apostles of Mercy Altar.”

Chmielowski -- known as Brat Albert (Brother Albert) in Poland -- was born into a wealthy aristocratic family in 1845. He was injured at the age of 18 while participating in an uprising against Russian forces. His leg was amputated without an anesthetic.

He studied art and became a well-known painter in Kraków. But feeling a call to help those in need, he abandoned the art world, becoming a Secular Franciscan and taking the name Albert.

In 1887, he founded the Brothers of the Third Order of St. Francis, Servants of the Poor (Albertine Brothers). In 1891, he founded the Albertine Sisters. Both branches were dedicated to service of the poor and homeless.

Brother Albert died on Christmas Day 1916.

In 1949, the future Pope John Paul II wrote a play about Albert called “Our God’s Brother.” It was made into a film in 1997, directed by Krzysztof Zanussi.

The Polish pope recalled that when he was considering the priesthood he drew inspiration from Albert’s decision to leave the art world for a life of radical service.

John Paul II beatified Albert in 1983 and canonized him six years later, on Nov. 12, 1989. His feast day is June 17.

Ireland’s religious education teachers concerned by bullying of practicing Catholic students

Unsplash.

Dublin, Ireland, Jun 18, 2021 / 03:30 am (CNA).

Religious Education teachers in Ireland have expressed concern that bullies are targeting practicing Catholic students.

Their concerns emerged June 15 in a meeting of the Oireachtas (Irish parliament) Joint Committee on Education, Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation, and Science.

Sociology professor James O’Higgins Norman noted in an opening statement that much bullying behavior was driven by issues of identity.

“In terms of identity, a recent study at our Centre found that teachers of Religious Education have specific concerns about students who are practicing Catholics being targeted for bullying more than those who do not practice a religion,” said O’Higgins Norman, who holds the UNESCO Chair on Tackling Bullying in Schools and Cyberspace at Dublin City University (DCU).

He was referring to a research report produced by DCU’s Anti-Bullying Centre. The study is entitled “Inclusive Religious Education: The Voices of Religious Education Teachers in Post Primary Schools in Ireland: Identity, bullying, and inclusion.”

Ireland’s post-primary students are aged from 11 to 16 years old.

A DCU spokesperson told CNA that the report, written by Amalee Meehan and Derek Laffan, was currently awaiting publication and was likely to be available at the end of summer.

In his address to the Oireachtas joint committee, O’Higgins Norman recommended “awareness raising of the vulnerability of students based on identity, for example practicing Catholics, LGBTQ+, Ethnicity, etc.”

A 2016 census found that 78.3% of Ireland’s population identified as Catholic, the lowest level recorded. The highest level recorded was in 1961, when 94.9% of people described themselves as Catholic.

Pittsburgh group calls for same-sex blessings 

A September 2015 gathering of the Association of Pittsburgh Priests. Credit: APP via Facebook.

Pittsburgh, Pa., Jun 17, 2021 / 20:19 pm (CNA).

An organization based in Pittsburgh has called on Bishop David Zubik to reject a March note from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith regarding blessings for same-sex couples, and has asked him to offer blessings to those who identify as LGBT. 

The Association of Pittsburgh Priests, a group composed of “ordained and non-ordained women and men,” released a statement on the matter June 14. 

“Our Catholic faith and tradition compel us to respect and honor the faith journeys of LGBTQ people,” the group, which claims some 300 members, wrote. 

“We know that those who enter into committed relationships do so out of love which is divinely inspired and supported.”

In March, the CDF clarified that the Catholic Church does not have the power to bless same-sex unions.

In answer to the question: “does the Church have the power to give the blessing to unions of persons of the same sex,” the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith responded, “negative.”

The Pittsburgh organization called the CDF’s statement “pastorally unacceptable and insensitive to the loving, committed relationships of many members of the body of Christ.”

The group called on Pope Francis and the Vatican to “reconsider” the March statement and pledged to “find pastoral ways to affirm and bless all LGBT people, whether they are single or in a committed relationship.” 

In connection with the statement, the group sent a letter to Bishop Zubik on Monday requesting his “blessing on the ministries to LGBTQ people and their families here in our own diocese,” the Post-Gazette reported. 

The CDF stated in its March note that “it is not licit to impart a blessing on relationships, or partnerships, even stable, that involve sexual activity outside of marriage (i.e., outside the indissoluble union of a man and a woman open in itself to the transmission of life), as is the case of the unions between persons of the same sex.”

The ruling and note, which were met with resistance from some Catholics, were approved for publication by Pope Francis. 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that those who identify as LGBT “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.”

The Catechism elaborates that homosexual inclinations are “objectively disordered,” homosexual acts are “contrary to the natural law,” and those who identify as lesbian and gay, like all people, are called to the virtue of chastity.

Barbara Finch, a spokeswoman for the Association of Pittsburgh Priests, told CNA in an email that the group, as a body, does not have plans to bless same-sex unions at this time. However, she said the group’s plans “would not eliminate the possibility that individuals within the group would prophetically choose to do so.”

“We do not believe that to be homosexual is sinful and committed relationships should have the opportunity to have there [sic] unions blessed,” Finch wrote to CNA.  

When asked if the group considers extramarital sexual activity sinful, Finch responded: “It is a wonderment why homosexual sexual activity is always scrutinized as being sinful and heterosexual sexual activity not as much.”

Despite the group’s explicit support for women’s ordination and blessings for same-sex relationships, Finch asserted that the group is in “good standing” with the Church. 

Finch said the diocese has, in recent years, “made small efforts to work with us simply because we are some of the most pastorally active in the Church.” She asserted that the diocese has several times “tried to have us change our name.”

In a statement to local media, the Diocese of Pittsburgh said the Association of Pittsburgh Priests “is not affiliated with the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh,” and added that the diocese “has nothing further to add to the statement from the Vatican issued on March 15, 2021.” 

The diocese did not respond to further questions about the group’s standing. 

The Association of Pittsburgh Priests says it is “is a diocesan-wide organization of ordained and non-ordained women and men who act on our baptismal call to be priests and prophets.  Our mission, rooted in the Gospel and the Spirit of Vatican II, is to carry out a ministry of justice and renewal in ourselves, the Church and the world.”

Finch said while the Pittsburgh group is independent, they have been “in dialogue” with an Irish organization called the Association of Catholic Priests, a group whose constitution places a special emphasis on “the primacy of the individual conscience” and “a redesigning of Ministry in the Church, in order to incorporate the gifts, wisdom and expertise of the entire faith community, male and female.”

The Irish organization’s founder, Redemptorist Fr. Tony Flannery, has been barred from public ministry for his views on the priesthood and sexuality. The CDF last September asked the 73-year-old to affirm four Catholic doctrinal propositions as a condition of returning to ministry, which he refused to do.

‘Overjoyed’ foster moms react to Supreme Court ruling in their favor 

Sharonell Fulton / Becket

Washington D.C., Jun 17, 2021 / 19:00 pm (CNA).

The foster moms at the center of the Supreme Court case Fulton v. City of Philadelphia celebrated the high court unanimously siding with them on Thursday. 

The Supreme Court ruled 9-0 in favor of the foster moms and Catholic Social Services in their lawsuit against the city of Philadelphia. The court found that the city violated the group’s free exercise of religion when it stopped contracting with them in 2018; the group had refused to certify same-sex couples as foster parents because of their Catholic beliefs on marriage.

Chief Justice John Roberts authored the majority decision of the court, joined by Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett. Justice Samuel Alito filed a concurring opinion, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch. Gorsuch also filed a concurring opinion, joined by Thomas and Alito, and Barrett also filed a concurring opinion, joined by Kavanaugh, and Breyer - in part.

In a statement on Thursday, foster mom and plaintiff Sharonell Fulton said she was “overjoyed that the Supreme Court recognized the important work of Catholic Social Services and has allowed me to continue fostering children most in need of a loving home.” 

“My faith is what drives me to care for foster children here in Philadelphia and I thank God the Supreme Court believes that’s a good thing, worthy of protection,” Fulton said.

“Our foster-care ministry in Philadelphia is vital to solving the foster care crisis and Catholic Social Services is a cornerstone of that ministry,” said Toni Simms-Busch, also a foster mom and named plaintiff in the case. “The Supreme Court’s decision ensure the most vulnerable children in the City of Brotherly Love have every opportunity to find loving homes.”

Philadelphia Archbishop Nelson Perez told reporters on a press call Thursday that the ruling is “a crystal clear affirmation of First Amendment rights for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and all charitable ministries in the United States who are inspired by their faith to serve the most vulnerable among us.”

“Today’s ruling allows our ministries to continue serving those in need, for foster families to find an agency that shares and reflects their faith, and for foster children to find a loving home,” Perez said.

The city of Philadelphia had argued that the Catholic Social Services policy constituted discrimination, and violated its nondiscrimination ordinance. In 2018, it said it would no longer work with the agency. As the city oversees all foster care placements, the work of the agency drastically diminished as the case proceeded in the courts, lawyers for Catholic Social Services argued. 

The high court on Thursday found that the decision violated the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. The city had a nondiscrimination policy and granted individual exemptions to the policy, the court majority ruled; thus, they needed a "compelling reason" to not exempt Catholic Social Services for religious reasons.

Legal expert Ryan Anderson, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, told CNA that while the majority decision is not perfect, “A 9-0 win at the Supreme Court is not something to take lightly.” 

“Yes, the holding was likely narrower than it would have been had it been decided 5-4 or 6-3,” Anderson said, also noting that other questions remain “as far as the extent of the Constitutional protections for Americans who believe marriage unites husband and wife.”

“Still, the Court ruled unanimously in favor of the free exercise of Catholic Social Services of Philadelphia," he said. "It ruled unanimously against the religious bigotry of the city of Philadelphia."

“This is a big win for religious liberty and for all Americans who support the truth about marriage.”

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

He added that the city’s demand the agency certify same-sex couples “cannot survive strict scrutiny, and violates the First Amendment.”

Diana Cortes, city solicitor for Philadelphia, said in a statement that the decision is “a difficult and disappointing setback for foster care youth and the foster parents who work so hard to support them.”   

“Allowing contractors and partners to set their own terms for how they provide public services will create a confusing patchwork in government programs and will weaken government non-discrimination guarantees,” Cortes said. 

Leslie Cooper, deputy director of the ACLU LGBTQ & HIV Project, argued in a statement that the court ruling was narrower than religious freedom advocates wanted, and “did not recognize a license to discriminate based on religious beliefs.”

Supporters of Catholic Social Services said that abiding by the Church’s teachings on marriage does not constitute discrimination.  

Catholic Charities USA on Thursday welcomed the court’s ruling.

“In their history, Catholic Charities agencies have enjoyed a cooperative partnership with government to work for the common good. Such cooperation has been predicated on valuing diverse perspectives and mutual respect. Hopefully, we will continue to work together to serve all people with dignity and respect,” the organization stated.

Kristen Waggoner, general counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, said in a statement, “Every child in need of a forever home deserves the chance to be adopted or cared for by a foster family.” 

“That’s what it means to keep kids first,” Waggoner said. “The Supreme Court’s decision today allows that to continue happening. The government can’t single out people of certain beliefs to punish, sideline, or discriminate against them. We’re grateful for the good decision today consistent with that principle."