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Notre Dame cathedral to open in December 2024

Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, the day after a massive fire damaged parts of the roof and structure. /  UlyssePixel / Shutterstock.

Paris, France, Mar 7, 2023 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, whose spire and roof were destroyed by an April 15, 2019, fire, is expected be rebuilt within the five-year deadline set by the French government. 

As confirmed by the head of the construction site, French Army Gen. Jean-Louis Georgelin, in an interview with the Associated Press, the faithful and tourists should have access to the site again by the end of 2024.

Reconstruction work only began some 24 months after the tragic incident occurred, with the first phase consisting of cleaning and securing the site, involving more than 200 different companies. 

Although the beloved cathedral will not be ready for the Olympic Games to be held in the French capital in July and August 2024, it should have regained its former shape by then, with the reconstruction phase of its emblematic spire to begin in April. 

Before the end of the year, therefore, it should reappear in the Parisian sky as it was originally designed by the architect Eugène Viollet-le-duc in the 19th century, contrary to the initial wish of French President Emmanuel Macron, who had called for a “contemporary architectural gesture” in the restoration of the spire.

In a Dec. 1, 2022, communiqué issued by the Public Establishment in Charge of the Conservation and Restoration of the Cathedral, Georgelin had already announced “major advances” in the progress of the project.

“The completion of the reconstruction of the first of the collapsed vaults marks an important step, while the interiors are already regaining their beauty,” he said.

After the spire and transept, reconstruction of the large roof of the nave and of the choir, whose frameworks date back from the beginning of the 13th century, will take place.

The wood that will be used to rebuild the frame was blessed by the rector of the cathedral, Bishop Olivier Ribadeau Dumas, on Dec. 15, 2022. The beams were entirely handmade in the medieval manner. The blessing was perceived as the real kickoff of the effective reconstruction of Notre-Dame’s roof after several months of study and preparatory work.

The project officials have estimated that approximately 1,000 people throughout France are working daily on the restoration process. 

Georgelin expects the exterior restoration of the blaze damage will cost about 550 million euros ($580.5 million), 150 million euros ($158 million) having already been spent to secure the building. In 2021, several observers expressed their concern over the additional costs incurred during this preliminary phase, wondering if the available funds would be sufficient for the completion of the work. 

According to the director of the Cathedral Fund, Christophe-Charles Rousselot, the 800 million euros ($844 million) collected from more than 300,000 donors around the world will be enough money to entirely restore the framework and the roof, and to redo the spire. 

“It will be enough to repair the consequences of the fire. But there will not be enough money to repair the whole cathedral,” he said in an interview with Le Parisien in March 2022, estimating that a total of 1 billion euros ($1.5 billion) would probably be needed to repair the north and south facades of the building, which are not included in the current rebuilding project.

In the same way, the sum of the donations managed by the Public Establishment for the renovation does not include the cost of the interior fittings, which are the responsibility of the Diocese of Paris, the cathedral’s allocator. As of last March, according to Rousselot, the diocese was still between 6 million euros ($6.3 million) and 7 million euros ($7.4 million) short of donations to cover these expenses. The diocese has not communicated on this subject since then. 

However, it announced last February that it had officially selected two candidates to design the 1,500 chairs that will furnish the monument’s nave and that the name of the winner would be known during the second half of 2023.

The design of these chairs has been a central point of contention in the heated controversy over the diocese’s overall interior redesign project, approved by France’s heritage authorities in December 2021 and which is oriented toward a more contemporary style. 

The project also includes the installation of contemporary art in the side chapels, the projection of biblical messages on the walls, and a new “catechetical path” for visitors throughout the chapels, which, according to the diocese, would help them rediscover the Christian faith along the way. 

“At a time when many tourists visit the monument without knowing its real spiritual meaning, the [diocese’s] goal is to remind people of the reasons why the cathedral was built in the first place, beyond the heritage treasure it represents,” Karine Dalle, the spokesperson for the diocese at the time, told the National Catholic Register at the height of the debate surrounding the draft project. 

If all goes according to plan, it is envisaged that the cathedral will be open for worship on Dec. 8, 2024, on the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. 

Until then, the numerous lovers of this Gothic jewel can visit the exhibition “Notre-Dame de Paris: At the Heart of the Construction Site,” which opened on March 7 and pays tribute to the know-how of the many artisans working on its reconstruction. The exhibition, located in an underground room in front of the cathedral, is free and open to the public.

virtual show offering a complete immersion in the cathedral’s eight centuries of history has also been offered under the cathedral’s forecourt since the fall of 2022. The virtual-reality expedition titled “Eternelle Notre-Dame” is meant to be presented later throughout France, Europe, and then for the rest of the world.

California bishops to visit death row inmates at San Quentin

The lethal injection room at California's San Quentin State Prison. / California Department of Corrections via Wikimedia (CC BY 2.0)

Denver, Colo., Mar 7, 2023 / 08:40 am (CNA).

A group of Catholic bishops will visit San Quentin Prison’s death row inmates on Tuesday as inmates await transfer to other facilities in light of California’s moratorium on executions.

The visit is “simply extending a pastoral presence to those whose lives are on the line and on a time clock,” Bishop Oscar Cantú of San Jose told CNA March 6.

Cantú is scheduled to visit the prison with Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, and Bishop Michael Barber of Oakland. The California Catholic Conference organized the March 7 visit.  

In 2019, Gov. Gavin Newsom imposed a moratorium on executions and ordered the closure of the execution chamber at San Quentin Prison, the Marin County facility near San Francisco that dates back to the 19th century.

The state of California aims to move 671 death row inmates, 21 of whom are women, to high-security units at other prisons, National Public Radio reported in January. Prison officials will approve inmate transfers based on the specific facts about each prisoner. They will make further judgments about whether the inmates may have prison jobs or cellmates, National Public Radio reported.

No prisoners were pardoned or released from prison and California prosecutors can still seek the death penalty.

Cantú said he regularly visits prisoners in his diocese. For him, such visits are “a reminder that we believe in the dignity of every human person from conception until natural death.”

Though the death row inmates have “committed some heinous crimes,” he said, “we recognize that human dignity does not disappear when one commits a crime,” even if sometimes that dignity is “marred and scarred.”

“We know from our theology, our Catholic theology of grace, that God’s grace is available until the moment of death. We’re simply practicing and following up in a very practical way on that theology of grace,” the bishop said.

“It’s not so much what we say. It’s what they say,” Cantú said about the inmates. “We represent the Church. We represent Christ. And what does that mean to them? What do they want to open up about?”

“Is there an element of remorse for crimes that they’ve committed?” he continued. “Do they want to ask for forgiveness, or are they simply hardened and closed off to God’s grace?

The bishops are visiting the prison “simply to be a reminder of God’s presence and of compassion and a reminder that Jesus had interactions with two criminals on the cross: one who derided Jesus, the other who asked for compassion and forgiveness.”

Cantú also had a message for crime victims and their families.

“We’re always here, present for them,” he said. “If any of them would like to visit with us, we are more than available to them. And we do reach out regularly.”

“We offer them our compassion,” Cantú said.

The San Jose bishop noted the work of his diocese’s restorative justice ministry for victims of violent crime and their families. Ministry participants offer Mass for crime victims and gather to pray at the site of crimes, whether the crime is a murder or a traffic death.

After Newsom announced the death penalty moratorium, Archbishop Cordileone issued a statement on behalf of the California Catholic Conference encouraging the governor to “use well the time of the moratorium to promote civil dialogue on alternatives to the death penalty, including giving more needed attention and care to the victims of violence and their families.”

“Capital punishment is not a cure for the suffering and turmoil inflicted by violent crime; the restorative healing of victims and their families to the extent possible is an essential part of justice,” he said.

California’s last execution was on Jan. 17, 2006. The state’s death row, with 671 inmates, is the largest in the country. Its numbers comprise nearly one-quarter of the total number of condemned prisoners in the United States.

After California, Florida has the second-most number of inmates on death row, 300, the Tallahassee Democrat newspaper reported Feb. 27. Texas has fewer than 190 on death row. The state executed three people this year and has five more executions scheduled, including two next week, according to the Texas Tribune.

Newsom has said the death penalty is costly, ineffective, and racially biased in its application. Before Newsom’s moratorium, California had not conducted an execution in over a decade due to a lack of availability of the drugs needed for lethal injection.

“The governor sees a problem with the death penalty,” Cantú told CNA. “I think that’s significant for a former Catholic who kind of thumbs his nose at the Church at times, in public ways. There seems to be a Catholic element here, where the governor is seeming to acknowledge that there is reason to pause the death penalty.”

Cantú summarized Catholic teaching on the death penalty in recent decades. With St. John Paul II there was an “addendum” to Church teaching on the death penalty that “virtually made it impossible to justify the death sentence.”

“Pope Francis just closed the door on it,” Cantú said. “In modern-day society we can protect ourselves from dangerous criminals, so the death penalty becomes unnecessary.”

“I think that society is opening its eyes to this realization. I think there’s hope in that,” the bishop said.

Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have abolished the death penalty, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Another 14 states, including California, have not executed a prisoner in at least 10 years.

A November 2022 Gallup survey, however, reported that 55% of U.S. adults support the death penalty for murders.

Abortion activists smash windows at Minnesota pregnancy clinic that provides free diapers

First Care, a pro-life pregnancy center in Minneapolis, was vandalized March 3, 2023. / First Care

Boston, Mass., Mar 6, 2023 / 14:20 pm (CNA).

Vandals smashed the windows of a pro-life pregnancy center in Minneapolis and spray-painted it with graffiti in the middle of the night March 3, in the latest incident in a wave of attacks against crisis pregnancy centers.

“It’s just disheartening,” Tammy Kocher, executive director of New Life Family Services, which oversees the First Care clinic, told CNA Monday.

“Why do you want to hurt single moms and families that are struggling, who need resources?” she asked of those responsible for the attack.

Video surveillance shows two masked individuals at about 1 a.m. tagging the clinic with graffiti and breaking the windows with a hammer, she said.

Among other statements, the graffiti on the clinic said “If abortions arn’t safe neither r u” and “Jane was here.” 

A group called Jane’s Revenge has claimed responsibility for similar attacks on pro-life pregnancy centers in a wave of attacks since Roe v. Wade was overturned. 

Kocher said the center has yet to estimate the damage but expect it will exceed $20,000.

“I hope that they are held accountable for the damage they’ve done to our center and or any other places they’ve done that to,” she said. “They should be prosecuted.”

Local police told the clinic staff that the attack is a “federal hate crime” and falls under the FACE Act, which is a 1993 federal law that prohibits “violent, threatening, damaging, and obstructive conduct intended to injure, intimidate, or interfere with the right to seek, obtain, or provide reproductive health services.” 

The act’s protections include pro-life pregnancy centers and places of worship as well. However, the Biden administration has almost exclusively used the act to target pro-lifers.

Police referred the vandalism to the Department of Justice, Kocher said.

The clinic is one of five that New Life Family Services oversees. The clinics provide baby clothes, car seats, strollers, and 100,000 diapers to families in need each year. The clinic has licensed social workers who guide more than 2,000 women through a variety of challenges including homelessness and domestic violence.

Kocher said that her clinic provides all its services to women and families for free. The clinic is situated in a low-income neighborhood in Minneapolis where there is a high level of poverty, she said.

“Every woman deserves to feel cared for and supported through an unexpected pregnancy. And so we provide professional holistic support,” she said.

Kocher called the attack “strange timing,” as Minnesota has recently taken steps to lessen restrictions on abortion, legalizing it “up to birth,” she said.

In January, a Minnesota bill titled the Protect Reproductive Options (PRO) Act, enshrined a constitutional right to “reproductive freedom,” ensuring the right to abortion in Minnesota up to birth for any reason as well as the right to contraception and sterilization.

“There’s so much misinformation and false information put out about pregnancy centers that just simply aren’t true. And they’re especially not true of our centers,” Kocher said.

“Abortion is legal through birth now. So why do they feel the need to target pregnancy centers? I don’t understand,” she said.

Wind rips roof off historic Indiana Catholic church

Undamaged trees surround St. Joseph Church in Vanderburgh County, which lost its roof to a severe storm that moved through the area March 3, 2023. / Don Werner/The Message, Diocese of Evansville

St. Louis, Mo., Mar 6, 2023 / 13:45 pm (CNA).

A parish church in southern Indiana that dates to the late 19th century had its roof ripped off in a windstorm Friday.

Photos shared by the Diocese of Evansville show the roof of St. Joseph Parish church, which is located in rural Vanderburgh County, lying in a crumpled heap nearby.

One of two large pieces of the roof from St. Joseph Church in Vanderburgh County landed adjacent to — but did not significantly damage — the stone marker in front of the church. Don Werner/The Message, Diocese of Evansville
One of two large pieces of the roof from St. Joseph Church in Vanderburgh County landed adjacent to — but did not significantly damage — the stone marker in front of the church. Don Werner/The Message, Diocese of Evansville

Father Gene Schroeder, the church’s pastor, told CNA that the roof came off shortly after a funeral took place in the church and while class was in session at the nearby parish school. Miraculously, no one was injured.

Schroeder said powerful straight-line winds lifted the metal roof — which was about 10 years old — entirely off, depositing debris largely in the parking lots as well as in a neighbor’s yard and driveway. He said neither the school, rectory, nor the parish office sustained any damage. The windstorm caused thousands of power outages in the Indiana, Kentucky, and Illinois tri-state area and damaged a hospital in Evansville, local outlet 14 News reported. 

The owners of the home across the street from the church told 14 News that they had gotten married at the church 59 years ago. They said that they saw, through their front window, the ripped-off roof barreling toward them and are thankful that the roof hit their garage and not their window. 

A large portion of the roof from St. Joseph Church in Vanderburgh County landed in the driveway of church neighbors and parishioners Harry and Madonna Lincoln. Don Werner/The Message, Diocese of Evansville
A large portion of the roof from St. Joseph Church in Vanderburgh County landed in the driveway of church neighbors and parishioners Harry and Madonna Lincoln. Don Werner/The Message, Diocese of Evansville

Schroeder said because there is a plaster ceiling above the sanctuary, the interior of the church did not sustain any damage. He said crews are in the process of putting a temporary cover over the roof to prevent water damage, since rain is forecast for later this week. 

The parish community is one of the oldest in the diocese, having been established in 1841. The original church building was destroyed in a fire in 1886 and rebuilt two years later. 

“Back when the church burned down in 1886, they didn’t have any insurance,” Schroeder noted. 

“But we have insurance. I don’t know if that will cover the whole cost, but we’re blessed because we do have insurance and we’ve had insurance adjusters out there and people working with them without too much difficulty at all.”

Despite the damage to the church, the parish was still able to host its parish fish fry the day that the windstorm occurred. 

Schroeder said he has been heartened by other faith communities in the county extending offers of prayers and material support, including St. Paul’s United Church of Christ and a local community of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Above all, the Catholic community is eager to help rebuild their historic church, he said. He also said many of the workers helping to fix the church have connections to the parish.

“This is a small little country parish in a lot of ways, and people love the church. And of course, they’re kind of heartbroken by seeing [the roof] down, but they just want to do everything they can to fix it up,” the pastor said. 

In Netflix special, Chris Rock likens abortion to hiring a hitman, echoing Pope Francis

Chris Rock performing in 2017 / Andy Witchger|Wikipedia|CC BY 2.0

Washington D.C., Mar 6, 2023 / 12:20 pm (CNA).

Award-winning comedian Chris Rock compared paying for an abortion to hiring a hitman during a new Netflix special, echoing rhetoric used by Pope Francis, who has made that comparison in the past.

During his March 4 special, “Chris Rock: Selective Outrage,” the comedian, who is known for courting controversy, turned to an issue that most celebrities won’t touch: abortion.

“There’s a part of me that’s pro-life,” he said, before using humor to remind the audience that abortion “is killing a baby.” 

“I believe women should have the right to kill babies,” Rock said. “That’s right, I’m on your side. I believe you should have the right to kill as many babies as you want. Kill them all, I don’t give a [expletive]. But let’s not get it twisted, it is killing a baby.”

Rock further compared the process of obtaining an abortion to the process of obtaining a hitman.

“Whenever I pay for an abortion, I request a dead baby,” Rock said. “Sometimes I call up a doctor like a hitman: ‘Is it done?’”

Rock reassured the audience that “I am absolutely pro-choice” because “I want my daughters to live in a world where they have complete control of their bodies.” 

He then showed in no uncertain terms that abortion means taking the life of a human being. 

“I think women should have the right to kill a baby until he’s 4 years old,” Rock said. “I think you should be able to kill a baby until you get that first report card.”

The comparison between getting an abortion and hiring a hitman is one that Pope Francis has used on more than one occasion to criticize abortion. 

“Is it right to take a human life to solve a problem?” Pope Francis rhetorically asked an audience in St. Peter’s Square on Oct. 10, 2018. “It’s like hiring a hitman. Violence and the rejection of life are born from fear.” 

Pope Francis used the analogy again in an interview with Reuters on July 2, 2022. 

“I ask: ‘Is it licit, is it right, to eliminate a human life to resolve a problem?’” the pontiff said. “It’s a human life — that’s science. The moral question is whether it is right to take a human life to solve a problem. Indeed, is it right to hire a hitman to solve a problem?”

Abortion became a more contentious issue in American politics after the Supreme Court in June 2022 ruled in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that states could enact laws that restrict or outlaw abortion. About a dozen states have banned abortion in most cases, four states added more restrictions to abortion, and some states are in ongoing legal battles over abortion policy. 

McCarrick denies sex abuse charges in telephone interview

Theodore McCarrick. / US Institute of Peace CC BY NC 2.0

Boston, Mass., Mar 6, 2023 / 10:45 am (CNA).

For the first time since criminal court proceedings began against him, former cardinal Theodore McCarrick spoke publicly about allegations that he sexually abused a teenager at a wedding ceremony in the 1970s in Wellesley, Massachusetts.

In an interview with, McCarrick said the alleged victim’s testimony was “not true.” The telephone conversation took place one day after McCarrick filed a motion claiming he is unfit to stand trial due to dementia.

The alleged victim in the case against McCarrick was also identified by for the first time as James Grein, a 64-year-old former New Jersey resident. Grein went public in 2018 to the New York Times, which referred to him only by his first name, with allegations that the now-laicized clergyman had serially sexually abused him beginning when he was 11.

McCarrick, laicized by Pope Francis in 2019, held one of the highest offices in the Catholic Church and has been accused of sexually abusing minors and seminarians. 

Despite these accusations of sexual misconduct, the charges in Massachusetts, to which McCarrick has pleaded not guilty, are the first criminal proceedings against him.

“Do you remember James Grein?” the reporter asked McCarrick on a 10-minute phone call Feb. 28. 

“Yes. I remember him,” McCarrick responded to the reporter. Speaking of the allegations against him, McCarrick said, “It is not true.” 

“The things he said about me are not true,” he added. “If you want more information about it, you can talk to my lawyers.”

The outlet reported that it attempted to reach McCarrick by phone several times before he returned the call. McCarrick told the outlet that he was currently in Missouri and that he was “feeling well, considering that I am 92 years old. It’s not like I’m 40 or 50 anymore.”

McCarrick declined to discuss the criminal case against him but answered questions about Grein “politely,” the outlet reported.

“I don’t want to speak of these things,” McCarrick said. “You can speak to my lawyer.”

Before getting off the phone, McCarrick told the outlet, “I hope you will not do a snow job on me.” 

Grein told the outlet that McCarrick was a close friend of his family and would attend their gatherings. McCarrick was given the nickname “Uncle Ted,” he said.

“He sexually and spiritually abused me,” Grein said. He said that McCarrick had abused him in his home, hotels, and during confession. 

On Feb. 27, McCarrick filed a motion in Dedham District Court in Massachusetts claiming he is “legally incompetent” to stand trial for sex abuse charges, citing “significant, worsening, and irreversible dementia.”

The court filing cited a neurological exam of McCarrick conducted by Dr. David Schretlen, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Schretlen’s report, which is unavailable to the public, concluded that McCarrick has a “severe cognitive disorder” and “everyday functional disability” that classifies as dementia and is most likely due to Alzheimer’s disease, the court filing says.

The court filing says that although McCarrick “remains intelligent and articulate,” he is unable to stand trial because his dementia prevents him from “meaningfully consulting with counsel and effectively participating in his own defense.”

The state of Massachusetts told CNA that it wants an opportunity to examine McCarrick’s competency to stand trial.

International group launches proposal to ban surrogacy worldwide

null / Credit: Omurden Cengiz/Unsplash

CNA Newsroom, Mar 6, 2023 / 09:45 am (CNA).

A group of lawyers, doctors, psychologists, and others from five continents gathered in Casablanca, Morocco, on March 3 to call for the repeal of all laws allowing or tolerating surrogacy around the world. 

The group released a signed document titled “International Declaration for the Universal Abolition of Surrogacy,” which aims to raise global awareness of what the group considers to be a practice that violates human dignity. Along with the statement, a proposal for an international convention was made available to all organizations and governments that wish to ratify it.

“We call on [countries] to condemn surrogacy in all modalities and kinds, whether remunerated or not, and the implementation of measures to fight such practice,” the signatories, who represent more than 70 countries, wrote in their “Casablanca Declaration,” at the same time maintaining to be “aware of the suffering of people who may not conceive” and of the “appeal of reproductive technologies.”

Surrogacy is when a woman — usually referred to as a “surrogate mother” — carries in her womb one or more children on behalf of intended parents to whom the child will be given after birth. The contract is sealed directly between the surrogate mother and the parents or through one or more third parties.

To date, no binding text has been adopted on the issue at the international level. Although the practice is currently authorized in a limited number of countries (some American states, Canada, the U.K., Ukraine, Russia, the Netherlands, Denmark, Greece, and India), many countries maintain a legal vagueness on the issue, especially concerning the recognition of children born by surrogate motherhood abroad. It has the effect of considerably expanding the boundaries of the practice.

Aude Mirkovic, senior lecturer in law and one of the main organizers and coordinator of the initiative, told CNA that one major issue facing countries where surrogacy is still illegal is that foreign commercial companies are given an avenue to come and recruit potential clients.

“We are particularly aware of this issue in France as we are experiencing very aggressive canvassing by mainly Ukrainian and American companies that come to sell us their services with impunity; we just let it happen,” she said.

“The result is that women are being used, exploited to give birth to children for clients in various countries, and these children are being ordered and delivered in execution of a contract,” Mirkovic said.

“Not to mention the damage to filiation, the separation from the woman who bore them, which deliberately exposes them to the wound of abandonment,” she continued.

The main interest of this collective statement, according to Mirkovic, is to draw attention to the issue at the international level in order to prompt a global response. Hence the geographical diversity of the experts who took part in the initiative and the participation, as an observer, of Suzanne Aho, member of the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child, at last week’s conference.

“We wish to arouse the interest of the greatest number of [countries] and international organizations and in this sense, our approach is political,” Mirkovic said, pointing out that the signatories made the deliberate choice not to mention the organizations to which they belong in order to gather people of various sensibilities, including simple scholars with no particular political or ideological affiliation.

It is in this same frame of mind that the drafters of the declaration, and the accompanying outline convention, chose to keep both texts brief.

Indeed, the recommendations contained in the convention proposal are limited to five: “prohibit the practice of surrogacy on their territory; deny any legal validity to contracts bearing the undertaking from a woman to carry and deliver a child; punish the individuals and corporations acting as intermediaries between the surrogacy mothers and the orderers; prosecute the individuals entering into surrogacy on their territory; prosecute their nationals entering into surrogacy outside their territory.”

“Anybody can take hold of the text. It is enough to agree with its content to appropriate it and present it to one’s government or elected representative. Our hope is that political structures will take hold of it,” Mirkovic continued. 

The group envisions initially a presentation of the text before bodies such as the Council of Europe or the United Nations and that it could lead to multilateral agreements between countries.  

“We followed the model of learned societies to put our expertise at the service of a cause and make concrete proposals,” Mirkovic said. “It is easier to get governments to sign up to something that already exists than to have to think up a political project from scratch, and this can create a ripple effect.”

“The feeling that unites us all is the determination not to stand by and watch this human commodification, this modern slavery, develop,” she concluded. “Slavery would never have been abolished if our ancestors had been as individualistic as the present generation is. But human dignity must be defended at all times and in all places, and everyone has a part to play.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that “techniques that entail the dissociation of husband and wife, by the intrusion of a person other than the couple (donation of sperm or ovum, surrogate uterus), are gravely immoral” (No. 2376).

Pope Francis spoke against surrogacy in a June 2022 meeting with members of the Federation of Catholic Family Associations in Europe.

“The dignity of men and women is … threatened,” he said, “by the inhumane and increasingly widespread practice of ‘womb renting,’ in which women, almost always poor, are exploited, and children are treated as commodities.”

Exclusive: Harrison Butker’s advice on how to be a saint

Harrison Butker and Cardinal Raymond Burke after Butker broke the Kansas City Chiefs’s field-goal record in week of the 2022-2023 season. / Austin Quick

Boston, Mass., Mar 5, 2023 / 04:00 am (CNA).

Super Bowl-winning Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker is a champion on the field and in the spiritual life, where he says he wants nothing less than to become a saint. 

“If we want to be saints, we have to die to ourselves,” Butker told CNA in an interview Wednesday.  

During his team’s stunning Feb. 12 Super Bowl victory against the Philadelphia Eagles, players were slipping all over the field, leading many to change their cleats during the competition. Butker experienced a slip himself, but of a different sort.

Butker’s scapular made a timely appearance as it slipped out of his jersey while more than 100 million fans across the globe watched him line up for a 27-yard field goal attempt with 11 seconds left on the clock in a tie game. 

“I think that was our Blessed Mother asking for the spotlight to be shown on her and reminding me that all the glory goes to God and to her,” Butker said. That kick sailed through the goal posts, clinching the game for the Chiefs.

The scapular, which is made up of two pieces of brown wool and is worn hanging across one’s chest and back, is a sacramental from the Carmelite tradition that anyone can wear as a sign of their consecration to Mary.

It wasn’t until the 2022-2023 season that Butker began wearing his scapular 24/7, after realizing he needed to take a leap of faith and entrust himself to Mary at all times through the devotion.

Picking it up in college, Butker’s scapular has sparked conversations about his Catholic faith within the Chiefs’ locker room, with some players asking: “What is that brown necklace you’re wearing?”

Butker said he’s had “some really good conversations” in the locker room and his scapular has given him opportunities to witness to the power of devotion to Mary and the Catholic faith.

He said it’s important for Catholics to be open about their faith in their jobs even if it makes them appear “weird” or “different.”

“We can’t be ashamed of our faith because, if we are Catholic, we know of all the fruits that Our Lord has given to us. And if we hoard those fruits, and we don’t open up those fruits to those that are around us, especially in the workplace, where God wants us to evangelize, then I think we’re doing a disservice to Our Lord. And we’re not being charitable with our time in sharing the Gospel with those around us,” he said.

Arguably the best-known Catholic who is active in the National Football League, it’s clear that Butker takes his faith very seriously, but many may be surprised to learn that this Super Bowl winning season was his biggest trial of faith yet. 

“I’ve been around a 90% field goal kicker my entire career,” Butker said, adding that this season “I was missing a lot of kicks. So it was the first time I felt like a lot of people had a lot of negative things to say about me.” 

Additionally, in the first game of the season — on the same slippery field at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, where he would eventually kick the game-winning field goal in the Super Bowl — Butker took a fall on a kickoff and suffered a devastating ankle sprain, sidelining him for weeks.

If Butker were to have it his own way, he’d stay healthy and have every ball he kicks go through the uprights. 

“But I always say God’s will is better than my own will.”

God certainly had a plan for Butker, and that plan involved the prayers of a member of the College of Cardinals watching the game at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.

Not knowing if his sprained ankle would be healed in time to play, Butker invited Cardinal Raymond Burke, archbishop emeritus of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, who is a friend and role model of his, to a home game against the Buffalo Bills. 

Crediting God’s providence, Butker returned to the field that same week. He then broke both a personal and a Chiefs’ record by kicking an 62-yard field goal, something he attributes in part to Burke's prayers. 

Burke congratulated Butker after the game and explained why he wanted the cardinal there that night. 

“The holiness of this man and the amount of virtue that he has, and the amount of insight into the spiritual life is unbelievable. And I want to take advantage of as many opportunities as I get to be around him, because I want people around me that are going to push me to be a saint to be better,” he said.

Butker told CNA he is being “intentional” with who he spends time with. 

“And at the end of the day, we have to ask ourselves, is this person pushing us to be a saint and to be closer to God?” If the answer is “no,” Butker said, then the friendship doesn’t have to be cut off, but it’s important to find other friends who will “push us to grow.”

“Iron sharpens iron,” he added.

Butker’s field goal percentage in the 2022-2023 season fell to 75%, much lower than what he consistently hits each season as one of the best kickers in the league. In fact, he said that this season presented him with “the most suffering” and “the most adversity” that he’s had to face. He said he’s thankful for it because it pushed him to rely on God and grow in humility.

“When you are suffering, how do you get through it? You can only get through it by relying on that foundation, which is Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament,” he said.

“So it’s funny, this was the most suffering, the most adversity I’ve faced, but I am also the most thankful. And I’m just excited for what God has in store for my life,” he said.

‘Abortion doula’ at Notre Dame speaker series adds to Catholic concern

The campus of the University of Notre Dame. / Shutterstock

Denver, Colo., Mar 4, 2023 / 11:43 am (CNA).

In the wake of the Dobbs Supreme Court decision overturning the pro-abortion rights Roe v. Wade ruling, several bodies at the University of Notre Dame are hosting an event series dedicated to “reproductive justice.” The series has attracted criticism for its decidedly pro-abortion slant: an “abortion doula” with a tattoo of abortion equipment is one of the speakers at its next event.

Critics say the series conflicts with university policy requiring the presentation of Catholic teaching at such events.

“We have a series that so far has been dedicated to opposing the Dobbs decision and promoting the pro-choice position, as opposed to the Catholic position, at one of the leading Catholic universities in the country,” William H. Dempsey, a Notre Dame alumnus and president of the Sycamore Trust, told CNA March 3.

“There have been no panelists who have explained the Catholic Church’s position on abortion and responded to what’s been said by the opponents of Church teaching,” he said.

Sycamore Trust is a group of Notre Dame alumni and supporters concerned about Catholic identity at the university. The group claims more than 18,000 subscribers to its distribution list.

The series at the university, titled “Reproductive Justice: Scholarship for Solidarity and Social Change,” is sponsored by the University of Notre Dame’s gender studies program and the university’s Reilly Center for Science, Technology, and Values. Several other bodies within the university and several external groups also provide support.

The latest event, “Trans Care + Abortion Care: Intersections and Questions,” is scheduled to be held on Zoom on March 20. It aims to address “the intersections between trans care and abortion care” followed by questions and answers with the audience, according to the website of the university’s Gender Studies Program.

One speaker is Ash Williams, described as “a Black trans abortion doula, public intellectual, and abolitionist community organizer.” Williams is based in North Carolina but is a decriminalizing abortion resident at Project Nia, a Chicago-based advocacy group that favors “restorative and transformative justice” instead of criminal incarceration.

National Public Radio profiled Williams in an October 2022 report. As an abortion doula, the report said, Williams “provides physical, emotional, or financial help to people seeking to end a pregnancy.”

Williams, who identifies as a transgender man, has had two surgical abortions and has a forearm tattoo of a tool used in the abortion procedure known as a manual vacuum aspiration, National Public Radio reported. Williams praised the abortion procedure, saying “it’s one and done. It’s quick.”

Another speaker at the upcoming Notre Dame event is Jules Gill-Peterson, a history professor at Johns Hopkins University who has argued that “transgender children” are not a new phenomenon.

The reproductive justice series’ previous events included two in-person panels on the end of Roe v. Wade in fall 2022. On Feb. 17, the series presented a virtual panel on the topic “Reproductive Health Disparities and Injustice.”

The series receives support from multiple other programs and academic bodies, including Notre Dame’s departments of American studies, anthropology, English, film, television and theater, history, political science, and sociology. The neighboring St. Mary College’s Department of Gender and Women Studies and the Indiana University-South Bend Women’s and Gender Studies Program are also supporters, as is the South Bend Civil Rights Heritage Center.

CNA sought comment from the University of Notre Dame, its Department of Gender Studies, and the Reilly Center but did not receive a response by publication.

According to Dempsey, the failure to express the Catholic position on abortion is “contrary to the policy of the university” set out in the Common Proposal of Chairs of the College of Arts and Letters and then university president Father John I. Jenkins, CSC. The 2006 agreement places on academic departments and their chairs the responsibility to provide a forum for multiple viewpoints and, where relevant, “appropriate balance” to present Catholic views.

“When a panelist or panelists expresses views contrary to important Catholic Church teaching, the obligation of the sponsoring department is to ensure that the Catholic Church’s position is presented,” Dempsey said. “That has not been done.”

He deemed it “an empty gesture” to claim the reproductive justice panels are balanced by other pro-life events on campus. For Dempsey, this failure to follow policy means that the sponsors support the expression of positions contrary to Church teaching. It means “that an important component of the university is itself opposed to Catholic Church teaching.”

“The Dobbs decision has opened a severe fault line at the University of Notre Dame, as I expect it has in Catholic institutions across the country,” Dempsey told CNA. Though a “significant” number of Notre Dame faculty oppose Church teaching, that was largely irrelevant under Roe v. Wade. For Dempsey, the newly open divisions “undermine the Catholic identity of the university,” a situation that would be prevented if the university required departments to follow the terms of the Common Proposal.

“The Church’s position on abortion is that it is the highest order of evil to take the lives of innocent human beings,” he emphasized. “As the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has said, this is the preeminent issue in American public life today.”

He supported the exploration and even expression of views contrary to Catholicism on campus, “provided that the position of the Catholic Church is given equal treatment, so to speak.”

The university was the focus of major controversy among Catholics when it hosted the strongly pro-abortion rights President Barack Obama as a speaker for its May 2009 commencement ceremonies. Following the controversy, the university launched multiple pro-life initiatives.

Ken Hallenius, communications specialist at the university’s De Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture, told CNA the center does not comment on events sponsored by other university departments.

Hallenius said the center has sponsored “multiple pro-life events, lectures, panel discussions, and conferences” in the last year. Its upcoming events include the Notre Dame Vita Institute, an intellectual formation program for pro-life leaders, to be held on campus June 11–16. On April 29, it will present the Notre Dame Evangelium Vitae Medal to Princeton law professor Robert P. George.

Does ChatGPT get Catholics? Check out this Jesuit/Dominican rap battle

null / Credit: CHUAN CHUAN/Shutterstock

Boston, Mass., Mar 4, 2023 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Who would win a rap battle between a Dominican and a Jesuit? Let’s see:

“We’re the ones who educated the world’s best,

From Georgetown to Harvard, we’re the top notch, blessed,

Our scholars and theologians, they’re second to none,

Our mission, to serve others, with a passion that can’t be undone,” the Jesuit says.

The Dominican responds:

“Hold up, hold up, you may have brains and wit,

But you can’t deny, we’re the ones who bring the Holy Spirit,

St. Dominic founded our order, we’ve been preaching for centuries,

You may be fancy, but we’re the real heavyweight entries.”

To the dismay of many Catholic rap fans, this was not a real battle between the orders. These verses were generated by the new online artificial intelligence (AI) program ChatGPT.

The online artificial intelligence model is designed to simulate human conversation and is “programmed to learn from vast amounts of text data,” it told CNA. ChatGPT caught national attention after its November 2022 launch and has since been the subject of debate on the ethics and power of artificial intelligence while boasting more than 600 million page visits since its debut, according to Similar Web.

When asked by CNA for three adjectives to describe its capabilities, it said it’s “informative,” “conversational,” and “learning.” So, we dug a little deeper into ChatGPT’s Catholic arsenal.

CNA asked ChatGPT to tell us a Catholic joke. It took a few tries before realizing we had to ask for a “clean” Catholic joke. Here’s what it said.

“One Sunday morning, a priest was giving a sermon on the importance of forgiveness. He asked his congregation, ‘How many of you have forgiven your enemies?’ Everyone in the congregation raised their hand, except for one elderly woman in the front row. The priest was surprised and asked the woman, ‘You mean you haven’t forgiven your enemies?’

“The woman replied, ‘I don't have any enemies, Father.’ The priest was taken aback and said, ‘That’s very unusual. How old are you?’ ‘I’m 98 years old,’ the woman replied.

“The priest was amazed and said, ‘98 years old and you don’t have any enemies? That’s incredible! Tell me, what’s your secret?’ The woman leaned forward and whispered, ‘I’ve outlived all of them.’”

Finally, CNA asked ChatGPT to come up with a schedule for a parent who has kids and who works eight-hours a day but would like to follow Pope Francis’ advice on prayer.

ChatGPT responded with a rather helpful, very specific schedule:

5:30 a.m. — Wake up and spend 15 minutes in personal prayer and reflection.

6 a.m. — Get ready for the day and help kids get ready for school.

7 a.m. — Eat breakfast with the family and read a short passage from the Bible or other spiritual text.

7:30 a.m. — Commute to work.

8 a.m. to 5 p.m. — Work an eight-hour shift.

5:30 p.m. — Commute back home and spend time with family.

6 p.m. — Have dinner with the family and talk about the day.

7 p.m. — Spend 30 minutes in family prayer or reflection, including a short prayer and reflection on a shared spiritual text.

7:30 p.m. — Help kids with homework and spend quality time with the family.

8:30 p.m. — Spend 15-30 minutes in personal prayer or meditation before going to bed.

9 p.m. — Go to bed.

“Of course, this schedule can be adjusted to fit each family’s needs and preferences. The important thing is to make time for prayer and reflection each day, as Pope Francis encourages us to do,” ChatGPT said.

ChatGPT left CNA with some encouragement from St. Paul, in Romans 8: “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”