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Wisconsin Catholic school victorious in reopening case

GUNDAM_Ai/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Jun 14, 2021 / 17:10 pm (CNA).

The Wisconsin state supreme court ruled in favor of a Catholic school last week in its case against a local prohibition on in-person learning during the pandemic.

“It's a big win and people should be rejoicing nationally because of the use of the state constitution to provide additional protection to the religious education of children,” one of the appellate attorneys in the case, Erick Kaardal, told CNA. 

The case of St. Ambrose Academy against executives of Dane County, Wisconsin, was officially decided on June 11. 

Citing dangers of the pandemic, county public health official Janel Heinrich issued an emergency order last August which prohibited in-person learning at all county schools grades 3 to 12. 

St. Ambrose Academy announced last August that it and other Catholic schools were seeking the immediate revocation of the emergency order, “citing harm to ‘parents, children, and schools across the County.’” They cited “freedom of conscience” clauses in the state constitution to make their case. 

St. Ambrose said it had worked with county health officials to produce a 35-page plan to reopen safely that fall, before the order was issued.

The court initially issued a preliminary injunction in September 2020, temporarily stopping the county from enforcing the order. The court’s official ruling was delivered on Friday, in a 5-3 decision in favor of the schools.

In the majority opinion,Justice Rebecca Grassl Bradley ruled that “local health officers do not have the statutory power to close schools,” and said that the prohibition on in-person education “infringes the Petitioners' fundamental right to the free exercise of religion.”

Kaardal, special counsel at the Thomas More Society, told CNA on Monday that Heinrich's policy was disappointing for many reasons, but emphasized the exemption of certain grade levels. “The University of Wisconsin-Madison could continue to meet in-person if it wanted to,” he said. “So, it seemed that the policy didn't make sense at a lot of levels.”

Kardaal said the “big message for Catholic schools across the country” is that the U.S. constitution and the state constitutions protect their right to exist and to operate according to their religious tradition. 

“We need to be resourceful as Catholics to make sure to use the courts to protect ourselves when the government overreaches and tries to close down, modify, alter, or change our Catholic schools,” he told CNA.

In the interview with CNA, Kaardal said that Friday’s decision provides a model for other courts to follow. 

“The Wisconsin supreme court was very resourceful in finding a way to protect Wisconsin religious school students and their parents and protect that decision-making process,” he said.

Kaardal compared the significance of the St. Ambrose Academy case to the case of the Brooklyn diocese against New York state pandemic restrictions. 

The U.S. Supreme Court said last November that New York state restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic were a violation of First Amendment protections of religious exercise. 

“That was one big case,” Kardaal said, referring to the high court’s ruling in favor of the Diocese of Brooklyn. “And I think this is the second big case, out of the Wisconsin supreme court, saying you can't shut down Catholic schools during a pandemic.”

Kaardal told CNA that the Wisconsin case is memorable because “it basically, in a blanket way says during a pandemic you can't close down religious schools - you got to find another way.”

CNA launches daily news podcast made for smart speakers

CNA

Denver Newsroom, Jun 14, 2021 / 16:02 pm (CNA).

Catholic News Agency has launched a new audio news update, designed specifically for smart speakers. 

Catholic News” is a two-minute audio briefing of CNA’s top stories of the day, powered by artificial intelligence. It’s now available every weekday on smart speakers and podcast platforms. 

“This is state-of-the-art stuff,” said Alejandro Bermudez, executive director of Catholic News Agency. 

“Our hope is that this product will help today’s Catholics stay informed about what’s happening at the Vatican, and the Church around the world,” Bermudez said. 

“‘Catholic News’ draws on the expertise, resources, and integrity that readers have come to expect from Catholic News Agency. It provides a brand-new and extremely convenient way to consume CNA’s award-winning reporting,” he said. 

Those wishing to listen can ask a smart speaker - any smart speaker - a special launch phrase. 

For a Google Home speaker, the phrase is “Hey Google, play Catholic News.” For those who own an Alexa device, the phrase is similar, “Alexa, open Catholic News.”

Listeners can also search for “Catholic News” and subscribe on any podcast app. 

“Catholic News” joins the CNA podcast lineup that also includes “CNA Newsroom,” an award-winning weekly news and storytelling podcast that launched in 2018. 

Visit catholicnewsagency.com/smartspeakers for more information. 

First Nation leaders ask Canadian Catholics to skip Mass to protest abuses of Indigenous

Memorial in tribute to 215 Indigenous children at the site of the former Kamloops residential school. / meandering images/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Jun 14, 2021 / 15:30 pm (CNA).

First Nation leaders are encouraging Canadian Catholics to skip Mass in response to historic abuses at Catholic-run schools for Indigenous children.

“Something that everybody and every Christian can do is have that show of solidarity and not show up for church on Sunday,” said Felix Thomas, chief of the Kinistin Saulteaux Nation, to Canadian media on Friday, June 11. The Kinistin Saulteaux Nation, a First Nation community, is located northeast of Saskatoon, the largest city in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. 

“If it’s not this Sunday,” said Thomas to Catholics of skipping Mass, “pick a Sunday.” 

Thomas was referring to Pope Francis having not issued a formal apology for the Church’s role in Canada’s residential schools. The remains of 215 Indigenous children were recently discovered in unmarked graves at the site of a former Catholic-run boarding school in Kamloops, British Columbia. 

Canada’s residential school system operated from the 1870s until the last school closed in 1996. First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children were separated from their families and sent to the schools, established by the federal government and run by Catholics and members of Protestant denominations, to force assimilation and strip them of familial and cultural ties.

The Catholic Church, or Catholic religious orders, ran more than two-thirds of these schools. A 2015 report of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission claimed that anywhere from 4,100 to 6,000 Indigenous children died at the schools as a result of neglect or abuse.

Thomas hoped that the proposed liturgical boycott would send a message to Church authorities that Catholics in Canada are upset at the Kamloops school findings. 

Since the discovery at Kamloops, there have been demands for Pope Francis to issue a formal apology. In response, Bishop Fred Henry, the retired bishop of Calgary, pointed to previous formal apologies by Canadian bishops over the residential school abuses. Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto also said that a formal papal apology would require a papal trip to Canada, involving significant logistical difficulties. 

Pope Francis, at his Sunday Angelus on June 6, expressed sorrow over the findings at Kamloops and emphasized the need for a “turn away from the colonizing model.”

Another tribal leader, David Pratt, said that he does not think that Pope Francis has “gone far enough.” 

Pratt is the vice chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, an organization which represents 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan. In Canada, some Indigenous groups are known as “First Nation.” 

“They have to apologize,” he said of the Church. “I know some people say it’s not important, but we believe it’s really important. There has to be an acknowledgment of the wrongs done by the Catholic Church.”

Pratt told Canadian media that there was “no excuse for (the Church) not accepting their role” in the residential school system. He said the lack of apology from the pope has compounded the pain of survivors of residential schools and their families, particularly since many members of First Nations are Catholics. 

“Many of our people are practising Catholics as well,” said Pratt. “They need to hear the leader of their church recognizing the harms that they’ve done to them,” he added.

Individual bishops in Canada, as well as the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and individual religious orders, have repeatedly apologized for the role played by the Church in operating the schools.

Meanwhile in Vancouver, a church run by the same religious order that formerly operated the Kamloops Indian Residential School - the Oblates of Mary Immaculate - was vandalized on Saturday. 

The phrases “release the records” and “killers” were spray-painted on the door of St. Augustine’s Roman Catholic Parish overnight. The parish was founded by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, the order that ran the Kamloops residential school from 1893 until 1969. 

Kamloops, the city where the school was located, belonged to the Archdiocese of Vancouver until the Diocese of Kamloops was created in 1945.

Archbishop Michael Miller of Vancouver issued a “statement of commitment” to the First Nations of Canada on June 2, following the discovery of the remains. 

In the statement he expressed his “deep apology and profound condolences to the families and communities that have been devastated by this horrific news,” and pledged full transparency with regards to any archival records of residential schools.

The following day, Bishop Peter Nguyen of Kamloops issued a similar letter, apologizing for the Church’s role, and pledging to develop “a long-term pastoral approach” for reconciliation and healing.

The story of St. Anthony of Padua’s only approved apparition

Shrine of St. Anthony, Radecznica, Poland / EWTN News Nightly

Washington D.C., Jun 14, 2021 / 13:59 pm (CNA).

Catholics may know St. Anthony of Padua as a Franciscan friar, a Doctor of the Church, and the patron saint of lost items - but only one person has ever seen St. Anthony in an approved apparition. 

In 1664, Szymon the weaver - hailing from the little Polish village Radecznica - encountered St. Anthony in an apparition. Among other things, the saint requested the building of a nearby shrine. More than three centuries later, that miraculous shrine still exists, and on St. Anthony’s feast day – June 13 – pilgrims celebrate with a Eucharistic procession.

Although he was born in Lisbon, Portugal in 1195, St. Anthony moved to Padua, Italy, after joining the Franciscan order. Yet his apparition occurred in a third country, Poland. Fr. Teofil Czarniak, provincial minister of the Order of Friars Minor, called the saint’s apparition a “special event.”

Szymon “had a vision of St. Anthony and St. Anthony gave him some messages,” Fr. Czarniak told EWTN News Nightly on June 11. “One of them was the request of constructing a shrine on [a] nearby hill.”

As a result, he added, “one of the promises of St. Anthony was that whoever comes to this place – because he appeared near the water source – whoever will clean his wounds or drink this water with the faith will be given the graces.”

News of the vision spread across Poland and soon builders constructed the Shrine of St. Anthony next to the nearby lake. 

The shrine later captured the Vatican’s attention. In 2015, Pope Francis named it a minor basilica.

“It was the first confirmed apparition of St. Anthony in the world,” Fr. Teofil Czarniak said. “At the moment, today, you can see [the] beautiful shrine” adorned with a picture of St. Anthony, he said. The shrine is filled with colorful religious art and gilded in gold. 

When pilgrims visit the beautiful church, they receive graces “through the intercessions of St. Anthony,” he added. They gather in a special way on the saint’s feast day, when the faithful participate in a Eucharistic procession with a statue of St. Anthony. 

“We invite every pilgrim, everyone who needs help from God through the intercession of St. Anthony – who is a big, big saint in heaven – to come and visit,” Fr. Czarniak concluded. “To come and pray. To come and become one of the pilgrims in this holy place.”

Louisiana poised to create window for sex abuse lawsuits

Louisiana state capitol / Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Jun 14, 2021 / 11:20 am (CNA).

The Louisiana state legislature last week passed a bill allowing for new lawsuits in old cases of child sex abuse where the statute of limitations had already expired.

An amended version of the bill, House Bill 492, passed the state house on Thursday with 102 votes in favor, none against, and three abstentions. On Friday it was sent to Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) for signature.

The legislation creates a three-year period during which survivors of child sex abuse can file lawsuits against their alleged abuser, even when the statute of limitations would normally impede such lawsuits.

The Archdiocese of New Orleans announced in May 2020 that it was filing for bankruptcy. Thus, for survivors who filed claims against the archdiocese in bankruptcy courts by the March 1 deadline, they would not be able to sue in state courts. Survivors could still sue their alleged abusers who operated in religious orders or lay ministries, the New Orleans Advocate reported. The normal statute of limitations for lawsuits in child sex abuse cases is before the victim’s 28th birthday, the Advocate reported.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jason Hughes (D), spoke on the state house floor on Thursday, noting that his bill aims “to give some sense of justice and closure to children that have been malicious and heinously robbed of their innocence. Period.”

“They were robbed of their voice. I did not seek this bill; in many ways, it sought me. Members, all I am seeking is to give the voiceless some sense of justice. Some sense of closure,” Hughes stated.

The Advocate reported in March that the New Orleans archdiocese faces around 400 abuse claims in bankruptcy court.

Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans had cited the cost of sex abuse lawsuits as a significant factor in last year’s declaration of bankruptcy.

“The prospect of more abuse cases with associated prolonged and costly litigation, together with pressing ministerial needs and budget challenges, is simply not financially sustainable,” he said. “Additionally, the unforeseen circumstances surrounding COVID-19 have added more financial hardships to an already difficult situation.”

In late 2018, the archdiocese released a list of priests who had been credibly accused of sexual abuse of minors. The archdiocese said in 2020 that it had allotted more than $8 million for payment of abuse claims.

The archdiocese told CNA in October that it had been seeking to laicize priests who had been removed from ministry over accusations of child sex abuse, in the wake of the 2018 report. Under canon law, dioceses are obligated to provide for the needs of priests removed from ministry, such as for housing and health care. They are not obliged to provide for the needs of priests who have been laicized.

Monday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time

Reading I 2 Cor 6:1-10

Brothers and sisters:
As your fellow workers, we appeal to you
not to receive the grace of God in vain.
For he says:

    In an acceptable time I heard you,
        and on the day of salvation I helped you.

Behold, now is a very acceptable time;
behold, now is the day of salvation.
We cause no one to stumble in anything,
in order that no fault may be found with our ministry;
on the contrary, in everything we commend ourselves
as ministers of God, through much endurance,
in afflictions, hardships, constraints,
beatings, imprisonments, riots,
labors, vigils, fasts;
by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness,
in the Holy Spirit, in unfeigned love, in truthful speech,
in the power of God;
with weapons of righteousness at the right and at the left;
through glory and dishonor, insult and praise.
We are treated as deceivers and yet are truthful;
as unrecognized and yet acknowledged;
as dying and behold we live;
as chastised and yet not put to death;
as sorrowful yet always rejoicing;
as poor yet enriching many;
as having nothing and yet possessing all things.

Responsorial Psalm 98:1, 2b, 3ab, 3cd-4

R.    (2a)  The Lord has made known his salvation.
Sing to the LORD a new song,
    for he has done wondrous deeds;
His right hand has won victory for him, 
    his holy arm.
R.    The Lord has made known his salvation.
In the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice.
He has remembered his kindness and his faithfulness
    toward the house of Israel. 
R.    The Lord has made known his salvation.
All the ends of the earth have seen
    the salvation by our God.
Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;
    break into song; sing praise.
R.    The Lord has made known his salvation.

Alleluia Ps 119:105

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
A lamp to my feet is your word,
a light to my path.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Mt 5:38-42

Jesus said to his disciples:
“You have heard that it was said,
    An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.
But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil.
When someone strikes you on your right cheek,
turn the other one to him as well.
If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic,
hand him your cloak as well.
Should anyone press you into service for one mile,
go with him for two miles.
Give to the one who asks of you,
and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.”

- - -

Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Parents lose three children to tragic accident: ‘If Jesus can forgive me, I can forgive’

Danny and Leila Abdallah / EWTN News In Depth

Washington D.C., Jun 13, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

It was a hot summer day when Danny and Leila Abdallah found out that three of their children had perished in a car accident. 

The proud parents of six, Danny and Leila never imagined that the last time they would speak with three of their children was when they gave them permission to walk down a footpath in Sydney, Australia, for ice cream. Minutes later, a car hit their children - ages nine, 12, and 13 - and their lives changed forever. 

While the Abdallahs live in Australia, Danny and Leila first met in Lebanon, they told EWTN News In Depth on June 4. From the beginning, they were attracted to each other’s faith. 

Danny’s “first question to me was, ‘Do you pray?’ And that was my sign from God,” said Leila, who was raised in a strong Catholic family.

Likewise, Danny valued Leila’s faith. “I always say the biggest decision you make in your life is who you marry, and I know that a woman that loves and fears God will be with you in your darkest hour,” he said.

They married, and later welcomed six beautiful children: Antony, Angelina, Liana, Sienna, Alex, and Michael.

“We loved every minute, every second even when we were tired and exhausted we still – we love them so much,” Danny said. “I used to say to myself my day begins when I get home.”

But a terrible tragedy shook their family last year, in February 2020. The family was celebrating a birthday when the parents let their kids walk down the street to buy some ice cream.

“I heard my sister saying to Danny, ‘Are you sure it's okay for them to walk?’” Leila remembered. “Then he goes, ‘Yeah, they're only walking on the footpath, what's gonna happen?” 

A few minutes later, something unthinkable did happen. Danny and Leila received a phone call about an accident, and rushed to check on their children.

“What we saw was beyond our comprehension,” Danny remembered when he arrived at the scene. “When I saw them, I realized I had to surrender to God.”

Leila compared it to a “war zone.”  

“I started praying when everyone around me was screaming,” she said. “My immediate response, I'm like, ‘Why would God do that to us? No, He can't take our kids. He wouldn’t do that to us.’”

They later found out more about the tragic accident. A 30-year-old under the influence of alcohol, cocaine, and other drugs lost control of his car. He drove over the sidewalk at a high speed and hit their children.

“Sometimes you see those movies where your body comes out and you look back into the, over like a top view, of what's happening. That's how it felt,” Danny described. “I was in shock and then I just started to fix what I could.”

He grabbed Liana who was conscious, he said. Still, “I felt in my heart that I'd lost my kids that day.”

Arriving at the hospital, four priests met with Danny and Leila and broke the news to them: 13-year-old Antony, Angelina (12), Sienna (9), and their niece, Veronique (11), did not survive.

“I was screaming, I'm like no, no, they didn't die,” Leila recalled.

Despite their tremendous suffering and pain, the Abdallahs did not hate the driver, who was sentenced to 21 years in prison.

“I feel sorry for him,” Danny said. “I pray for him. The devil used him as a puppet.”

In a move that shocked the news media, Leila publicly forgave him.

“Forgiveness is something you practice, is something you practice all your life. Then eventually you can forgive on a bigger scale,” she explained. “And you forgive not because the others deserve to be forgiven. It's because you deserve to be at peace.”

Her faith, she said, inspired her.

 “If Jesus can forgive me, then of course I can forgive the driver,” she stressed. “If He died on the cross for me, then of course I can pray for that driver. Our Christianity, our faith got me to forgive him.”

She offered a special message to viewers of EWTN News In Depth

“Remember that if Jesus carried his cross, we are meant to carry our cross and follow Him,” the mother concluded. “And on this earth while we're living, enjoy every moment, hug your family tight, kiss your kids, don't take anything for granted, because anything can change in the blink of an eye.”

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading I Ez 17:22-24

Thus says the Lord GOD:
I, too, will take from the crest of the cedar,
    from its topmost branches tear off a tender shoot,
and plant it on a high and lofty mountain;
    on the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it.
It shall put forth branches and bear fruit,
    and become a majestic cedar.
Birds of every kind shall dwell beneath it,
    every winged thing in the shade of its boughs.
And all the trees of the field shall know
    that I, the LORD,
bring low the high tree,
    lift high the lowly tree,
wither up the green tree,
    and make the withered tree bloom.
As I, the LORD, have spoken, so will I do.

Responsorial Psalm 92:2-3, 13-14, 15-16

R. (cf. 2a) Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.
It is good to give thanks to the LORD,
    to sing praise to your name, Most High,
To proclaim your kindness at dawn
    and your faithfulness throughout the night.
R. Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.
The just one shall flourish like the palm tree,
    like a cedar of Lebanon shall he grow.
They that are planted in the house of the LORD
    shall flourish in the courts of our God.
R. Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.
They shall bear fruit even in old age;
    vigorous and sturdy shall they be,
Declaring how just is the LORD,
    my rock, in whom there is no wrong.
R. Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.

Reading II 2 Cor 5:6-10

Brothers and sisters:
We are always courageous,
although we know that while we are at home in the body
we are away from the Lord,
for we walk by faith, not by sight.
Yet we are courageous,
and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord.
Therefore, we aspire to please him, 
whether we are at home or away.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ,
so that each may receive recompense,
according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil.

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The seed is the word of God, Christ is the sower.
All who come to him will live forever.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Mk 4:26-34

Jesus said to the crowds:
“This is how it is with the kingdom of God;
it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land
and would sleep and rise night and day
and through it all the seed would sprout and grow,
he knows not how.
Of its own accord the land yields fruit,
first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.
And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once,
for the harvest has come.”

He said,
“To what shall we compare the kingdom of God,
or what parable can we use for it?
It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground,
is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth.
But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants
and puts forth large branches,
so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”
With many such parables
he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it.
Without parables he did not speak to them,
but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.

- - -

Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

Reading I 2 Cor 5:14-21

Brothers and sisters:
The love of Christ impels us,
once we have come to the conviction that one died for all;
therefore, all have died.
He indeed died for all,
so that those who live might no longer live for themselves
but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

Consequently, from now on we regard no one according to the flesh;
even if we once knew Christ according to the flesh,
yet now we know him so no longer.
So whoever is in Christ is a new creation:
the old things have passed away;
behold, new things have come.
And all this is from God,
who has reconciled us to himself through Christ
and given us the ministry of reconciliation,
namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ,
not counting their trespasses against them
and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
So we are ambassadors for Christ,
as if God were appealing through us.
We implore you on behalf of Christ,
be reconciled to God.
For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin,
so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.

Responsorial Psalm 103:1-2, 3-4, 9-10, 11-12

R. (8a) The Lord is kind and merciful.
Bless the LORD, O my soul;
and all my being, bless his holy name.
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.
He pardons all your iniquities,
he heals all your ills.
He redeems your life from destruction,
he crowns you with kindness and compassion.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.
He will not always chide,
nor does he keep his wrath forever.
Not according to our sins does he deal with us,
nor does he requite us according to our crimes. 
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
so surpassing is his kindness toward those who fear him.
As far as the east is from the west,
so far has he put our transgressions from us. 
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.

Alleluia See Lk 2:19

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed is the Virgin Mary who kept the word of God
and pondered it in her heart.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Lk 2:41-51

Each year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover,
and when he was twelve years old,
they went up according to festival custom.
After they had completed its days, as they were returning,
the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem,
but his parents did not know it.
Thinking that he was in the caravan,
they journeyed for a day
and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances,
but not finding him,
they returned to Jerusalem to look for him.
After three days they found him in the temple,
sitting in the midst of the teachers,
listening to them and asking them questions,
and all who heard him were astounded
at his understanding and his answers.
When his parents saw him,
they were astonished,
and his mother said to him,
“Son, why have you done this to us?
Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”
And he said to them,
“Why were you looking for me?
Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
But they did not understand what he said to them.
He went down with them and came to Nazareth,
and was obedient to them;
and his mother kept all these things in her heart. 

- - -

Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Eucharistic coherence and the USCCB spring meeting: Five questions you need answered

A priest distributes Holy Communion. / Noah Seelam/AFP via Getty Images

Denver Newsroom, Jun 11, 2021 / 22:00 pm (CNA).

Where did the term eucharistic coherence originate?

The term eucharistic coherence originated in the final document of the Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean, held in Aparecida, Brazil, in 2007. Then Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, a principal draftee, lauded the document and Pope Benedict XVI authorized the final text praising the “wealth of reflections in the light of the faith and the contemporary social context.”

This is the full paragraph:

“We hope that legislators, heads of government, and health professionals, conscious of the dignity of human life and of the rootedness of the family in our peoples, will defend and protect it from the abominable crimes of abortion and euthanasia; that is their responsibility. Hence, in response to government laws and provisions that are unjust in the light of faith and reason, conscientious objection should be encouraged. We must adhere to ‘eucharistic coherence,’ that is, be conscious that they cannot receive holy communion and at the same time act with deeds or words against the commandments, particularly when abortion, euthanasia, and other grave crimes against life and family are encouraged. This responsibility weighs particularly over legislators, heads of governments, and health professionals.”

Why is eucharistic coherence linked so closely to abortion and euthanasia?

The theology of eucharistic coherence builds upon the teachings of the Church contained in the encyclical Evangelium Vitae and the post-synodal exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis. U.S. bishops referencing the term are thus using a term squarely coined by reflection upon magisterial teaching.

Evangelium Vitae, footnoted in Aparecida document paragraph 436, highlights the gravity of abortion and euthanasia, the clear need to oppose all laws that claim to legitimize them, and the prohibition against formal cooperation with this evil, while Sacramentum Caritatis more specifically explores the ramifications of living these teachings on reception of the eucharist

According to Benedict XVI, eucharistic consistency, a term coined in Sacramentum Caritatis, recognizes the “objective connection” between the Eucharist and the fundamental values a Catholic must hold to in personal and public life, including “respect for human life, its defense from conception to natural death, the family built upon marriage between a man and a woman, the freedom to educate one's children and the promotion of the common good in all its forms.”

Why is eucharistic coherence linked with Catholic politicians in particular?

Published just three months before the Aparecida document, Sacramentum Caritatis reflects the development of the thought of Pope Benedict XVI. As head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he wrote a memorandum to the U.S. bishops in 2004 in response to debate concerning Democratic presidential candidate and abortion proponent John Kerry presenting himself for reception of holy communion.

Among the principles included in the memorandum are whether a Catholic is in full communion with the Church, guilty of grave sin or under penalty of excommunication or interdict, and whether the person fasted for one hour. 

The memorandum also detailed that when cooperation with abortion and euthanasia becomes manifest—“understood, in the case of a Catholic politician, as his consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws”—the pastor should deny Holy Communion if the politician does not repent after a private meeting instructing the person on the Church’s teaching. This follows the prescription outlined in Canon Law by Canon 915.

Sacramentum Caritatis further develops the duties of Catholics in public life to affirm fundamental, non-negotiable values, preventing them from divorcing personal beliefs from public duties and reminding them of “their grave responsibility before society.”

The Aparecida document likewise references the duties of legislators and heads of governments with regard to life issues, namely, to oppose the “abominable crimes of abortion and euthanasia” or recognize that they cannot receive holy communion.

Why do medical professionals have special responsibility to live eucharistic coherence?

The Aparecida document makes clear that defense of human life and eucharistic coherence is not limited to government officials; rather, it is the special duty of every baptized doctor, nurse, and healthcare worker to uphold the dignity of life or refrain from receiving the eucharist.

“’Causing death’ can never be considered a form of medical treatment, even when the intention is solely to comply with the patient's request,” wrote John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae. “Rather, it runs completely counter to the health-care profession, which is meant to be an impassioned and unflinching affirmation of life.” John Paul II called on health care professionals to exercise conscientious objection rather than participate in the evils of abortion and euthanasia.

In a speech to the Pontifical Academy for Life Benedict XVI reaffirmed that “every human community and the political community itself are founded” on the right to life.  Accordingly, professionals, doctors, and lawyers must engage in “courageous objection of conscience” to the evils threatening the right to life.

Why is eucharistic coherence connected to the USCCB spring 2021 meeting next week?

In 2004, Joseph Ratzinger penned a memo to the USCCB while the U.S. bishops were embroiled in the Kerry communion debate. The discussion soon broadened to  pro-choice politicians in general. In 2006, as a response to these questions and the implications for all Catholics, the USCCB published a document on preparation to receive the Eucharist worthily.

A crisis of faith in the belief in the Eucharist among Catholics writ large revealed itself in intervening years. In 2019, a Pew Research report confirmed that only 31% of Catholics believed in the doctrine of the real presence of the Eucharist. The urgency of the question about worthy reception of the Eucharist resurfaced as prominent Catholic and abortion supporter Joe Biden, a Democrat, began his own presidential run.

A working group on eucharistic coherence formed in November 2020 to deal with the question of scandal posed by such a prominent public figure receiving holy communion. The group, headed by USCCB vice president Archbishop Allen Vigneron, proposed the creation of a document on the Eucharist--a document aimed at all Catholics and not specifically at one politician. 

In recent months the use of the term eucharistic coherence exploded, and bishops across the country are defending the long-standing church teaching behind the term and its implications for politicians and medical professionals, as well as the general Catholic population, based on an understanding of the fundamental nature of the right to life.

The current head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Luis Ladaria, also affirmed the need for eucharistic coherence in a letter to U.S. Bishops, widely mischaracterized as asking for a pause in the normal USCCB procedures.

The bishops will discuss an outline of a draft document on the eucharist elaborated by the Committee of Doctrine during their June 2021 spring meeting next week. The meeting will be held virtually June 16-18, 2021.