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Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 EX 22:20-26

Thus says the LORD:
"You shall not molest or oppress an alien,
for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt. 
You shall not wrong any widow or orphan. 
If ever you wrong them and they cry out to me,
I will surely hear their cry. 
My wrath will flare up, and I will kill you with the sword;
then your own wives will be widows, and your children orphans.

"If you lend money to one of your poor neighbors among my people,
you shall not act like an extortioner toward him
by demanding interest from him. 
If you take your neighbor's cloak as a pledge,
you shall return it to him before sunset;
for this cloak of his is the only covering he has for his body. 
What else has he to sleep in?
If he cries out to me, I will hear him; for I am compassionate."
 

Responsorial Psalm PS 18:2-3, 3-4, 47, 51

R. (2) I love you, Lord, my strength.
I love you, O LORD, my strength,
O LORD, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer.
R. I love you, Lord, my strength.
My God, my rock of refuge,
my shield, the horn of my salvation, my stronghold!
Praised be the LORD, I exclaim,
and I am safe from my enemies.
R. I love you, Lord, my strength.
The LORD lives and blessed be my rock!
Extolled be God my savior.
You who gave great victories to your king
and showed kindness to your anointed.
R. I love you, Lord, my strength.

Reading 2 1 THES 1:5C-10

Brothers and sisters:
You know what sort of people we were among you for your sake. 
And you became imitators of us and of the Lord,
receiving the word in great affliction, with joy from the Holy Spirit,
so that you became a model for all the believers
in Macedonia and in Achaia.
For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth
not only in Macedonia and in Achaia,
but in every place your faith in God has gone forth,
so that we have no need to say anything. 
For they themselves openly declare about us
what sort of reception we had among you,
and how you turned to God from idols
to serve the living and true God
and to await his Son from heaven,
whom he raised from the dead,
Jesus, who delivers us from the coming wrath.

Alleluia JN 14:23

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Whoever loves me will keep my word, says the Lord,
and my Father will love him and we will come to him.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 22:34-40

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees,
they gathered together, and one of them,
a scholar of the law tested him by asking,
"Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" 
He said to him,
"You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your soul,
and with all your mind.
This is the greatest and the first commandment.
The second is like it:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 
The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments."

- - -

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.

Camden diocese dedicates youth center to Blessed Carlo Acutis

CNA Staff, Oct 24, 2020 / 06:01 am (CNA).- The Bishop of Camden blessed a retreat center earlier this month, naming it for newly Blessed Carlo Acutis, an Italian teenager who dedicated his talents to sharing his love for the Eucharist.

Bishop Dennis Sullivan led the inauguration of the Blessed Carlo Acutis Youth Center in Absecon, 50 miles southeast of Camden, Oct. 8. He was joined by numerous students from Holy Spirit High School.

The event also involved Father Perry Cherubini, the president of Holy Spirit; Father Joshua Nevitt, the school’s director of Catholic identity; and Father Cosme de la Pena, pastor of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton parish.

Located across the street from the high school, the Blessed Carlo Acutis Youth Center was previously used as a convent.

Bishop Sullivan said Acutis’ example is a demonstration that senior citizens, “goody-two-shoes,” or priests are not the only people who can lead a life of holiness. He focused on the young saint’s youthful and humble piety as well as his dedication to the Eucharist and the poor.

“Holiness is possible for you,” the bishop told the high school students, noting that the young Italian was buried wearing sneakers and jeans. He stressed the value of using modern communication means to spread the faith.

Blessed Acutis died from leukemia at the age of 15 in 2006, and was beatified at the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi Oct. 10. Born in 1991, Acutis is the first millennial to be beatified.

The beatification drew an estimated 3,000 people to Assisi, including Acutis’ friends, family, and pilgrims inspired by his witness. The feast day of Carlo Acutis will be observed Oct. 12.

The young Italian had enjoyed computer science and video games. However, he also used his computer programming skills to spread devotion to the Eucharist and offered his suffering from cancer for the Church.

“Since he was a child … he had his gaze turned to Jesus. Love for the Eucharist was the foundation that kept alive his relationship with God. He often said ‘The Eucharist is my highway to heaven’,” Cardinal Agostino Vallini said in his homily for the beatification.

“Carlo felt a strong need to help people discover that God is close to us and that it is beautiful to be with him to enjoy his friendship and his grace.”

Saturday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 EPH 4:7-16

Brothers and sisters:
Grace was given to each of us
according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
Therefore, it says:

He ascended on high and took prisoners captive;
he gave gifts to men.

What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended
into the lower regions of the earth?
The one who descended is also the one who ascended
far above all the heavens,
that he might fill all things.

And he gave some as Apostles, others as prophets,
others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers,
to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry,
for building up the Body of Christ,
until we all attain to the unity of faith
and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood
to the extent of the full stature of Christ,
so that we may no longer be infants,
tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching
arising from human trickery,
from their cunning in the interests of deceitful scheming.
Rather, living the truth in love,
we should grow in every way into him who is the head, Christ,
from whom the whole Body,
joined and held together by every supporting ligament,
with the proper functioning of each part,
brings about the Body’s growth and builds itself up in love.
 

Responsorial Psalm PS 122:1-2, 3-4AB, 4CD-5

R. (1) Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
I rejoiced because they said to me,
“We will go up to the house of the LORD.”
And now we have set foot
within your gates, O Jerusalem.
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
Jerusalem, built as a city
with compact unity.
To it the tribes go up,
the tribes of the LORD.
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
According to the decree for Israel,
to give thanks to the name of the LORD.
In it are set up judgment seats,
seats for the house of David.
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.

 

 

Alleluia EZ 33:11

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked man, says the Lord,
but rather in his conversion that he may live.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 13:1-9

Some people told Jesus about the Galileans
whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices.
He said to them in reply, 
“Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way 
they were greater sinners than all other Galileans?
By no means!
But I tell you, if you do not repent,
you will all perish as they did!
Or those eighteen people who were killed 
when the tower at Siloam fell on them–
do you think they were more guilty 
than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem?
By no means!
But I tell you, if you do not repent,
you will all perish as they did!”

And he told them this parable: 
“There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard, 
and when he came in search of fruit on it but found none,
he said to the gardener,
‘For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree 
but have found none.
So cut it down.
Why should it exhaust the soil?’
He said to him in reply,
‘Sir, leave it for this year also, 
and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; 
it may bear fruit in the future.
If not you can cut it down.’”

- - -

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.

Santa Fe archdiocese again suspending public Mass

Denver Newsroom, Oct 23, 2020 / 04:37 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Santa Fe is indefinitely suspending all public Masses after the weekend, citing rising COVID-19 cases in New Mexico and the approaching flu season.

The archdiocese’s schools may remain open.

In an Oct. 22 letter, Archbishop John Wester directed that all scheduled Masses be livestreamed or recorded starting Oct. 25. He said churches may remain open for private prayer, as long as people remain masked and socially distanced.

Funerals should be “delayed if possible,” with funeral rites without a Mass having ten or fewer people present, and anointing of the sick may continue “with due care,” he added.

Archbishop Wester said that “hospitals are also reaching maximum capacity for treating patients.”

The archbishop said there has been “no significant increase in the number of cases in our Catholic schools,” and thus Catholic schools may remain open “in accordance with the judgment of the pastor, superintendent and principals.” He said schools should prepare to provide online instruction if the need arises.

The archdiocese did not respond to CNA’s inquiry about whether there have been any outbreaks of the virus associated with the celebration of Mass in the archdiocese.

Since May 16-17, churches in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe have been allowed to reopen for the public celebration of Mass in line with phase one of the governor’s reopening guidelines, initially allowing for attendance set at 10% of building capacity, which was later expanded to 25%.

Under guidelines posted on the archdiocesan website, various restrictions on the celebration of the liturgy remain in place, including a prohibition on congregants singing.

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has not issued any new orders telling houses of worship in the state to close again, but urged all residents Oct. 23 to “stay home,” to wear a mask, and to avoid crowds.

Medical experts have told CNA that the celebration of Mass during the pandemic in the United States has been shown to be safe as long as safety guidelines are followed.

In August, doctors Thomas McGovern, Deacon Timothy Flanigan, and Paul Cieslak authored an article for Real Clear Science on Mass attendance and COVID-19. At that point, the doctors said, Catholic parishes had celebrated over a million public Masses in the United States since shelter-in-place orders were lifted.

At the time of their writing, “for Catholic churches following guidelines, no outbreaks of COVID-19 have been linked to church attendance.” Even in a few cases where asymptomatic infected individuals attended Mass, following the guidelines prevented outbreaks: maintaining distance, mask wearing, and washing hands.

“The few churches that have been reported as sources of COVID-19 outbreaks did not follow social distancing or require masks; they also promoted congregational singing,” the doctors stated.

The doctors said in their article that there is no evidence that church services are higher risk than similar activities when guidelines are followed.

In July priests in the archdiocese were warned they could lose the faculty to preach if they give homilies longer than five minutes.

Fr. Glennon Jones, archdiocesan vicar general, wrote in a July 31 memo to priests that the chancery had “received reports of some homilies going on for well over the 5-minute limit set by the Archbishop.”

“If such homilies continue, [Archbishop John Wester] will consider severer [sic] actions for subject clergy,” Fr. Jones wrote, “up to and including possible suspension of the faculty to preach.”

Lujan Grisham announced new coronavirus restrictions on restaurants, museums, and stores Oct. 20.

Retail businesses in the state will have to close by 10 pm daily, and state-operated museums and historical sites will be required to shut down completely, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.

New Mexico recorded 827 new cases Oct. 21, a single-day record.

Public schools in the state have reported 264 COVID-19 cases in 157 schools, with 157 infected staff members and 97 infected students, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.

Lujan Grisham had closed non-essential businesses March 24, and banned “mass gatherings” of five or more people in the state.

Churches were initially exempt from the ban, although all of New Mexico’s Catholic dioceses stopped public Masses by the end of March to help curb the spread of the virus.

On April 11, Lujan Grisham extended the ban on “mass gatherings” to include houses of worship.

On April 15, Bishop Peter Baldacchino of Las Cruces announced that he would resume public Masses, being the first US diocese to reopen public Masses. He allowed for Masses to be offered outdoors with attendees spaced more than six feet apart, or inside churches with fewer than five people present.

Mississippi asks US Supreme Court to solve circuit court split with 15 week abortion case

CNA Staff, Oct 23, 2020 / 02:01 pm (CNA).- The Mississippi Attorney General on Thursday urged the US Supreme Court to hear a case regarding the state’s ban on most abortions from 15 weeks into pregnancy, citing a circuit split over a question raised in the suit.

Lynn Fitch submitted a brief petitioning for writ of certiorari in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization Oct. 22.

“The circuit split...continues to grow,” she wrote, over the question “whether the validity of a pre-viability law that protects women’s health, the dignity of unborn children, and the integrity of the medical profession and society should be analyzed under Casey’s ‘undue burden’ standard or Hellerstedt’s balancing of benefits and burdens.”

“This case remains an ideal vehicle to promptly resolve both that question and the first question presented—the contradictions in this Court’s decisions over use of ‘viability’ as a bright line for measuring pro-life legislation,” Fitch stated.

Fitch noted that in a recent case, a panel of the Fifth Circuit acknowledged that its decision conflicted with one reached by the Eighth Circuit, and that the Sixth Circuit has “reached the exact opposite conclusion as the Fifth Circuit panel majority.”

The circuit split arises from differences in interpretation of the Supreme Court’s June decision in June Medical Services, LLC v. Russo, which struck down Louisiana’s requirement that abortion doctors have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

In December 2019 Judge Patrick Higginbotham of the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld a district court ruling that blocked Mississippi’s 15 week abortion ban.

The law allows abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy when the mother’s life or a major bodily function is in danger, or when the unborn child has a severe abnormality and is not expected to be able to live outside the womb at full term. Exceptions are not granted for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. Physicians who knowingly violate the law can lose their state medical license.

Defending the law, Mississippi’s attorneys have argued that it has an interest in protecting the life of the unborn, as well as maternal health. They pointed to an increased risk of complications for the mother when abortion is performed further into the pregnancy. They have also made a case that unborn babies are capable of feeling pain prior to viability.

Higginbotham wrote that “In an unbroken line dating to Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court’s abortion cases have established (and affirmed, and re-affirmed) a woman’s right to choose an abortion before viability. States may regulate abortion procedures prior to viability so long as they do not impose an undue burden on the woman’s right but they may not ban abortions.”

In July, Governor Tate Reeves signed into law the Life Equality Act, banning abortion based on sex, race, or genetic abnormality.

Trump and Biden clash on immigration and coronavirus during final debate

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 23, 2020 / 01:30 pm (CNA).- Immigration and the coronavirus pandemic took center stage on Thursday’s final debate between President Donald Trump and former vice president Joe Biden, while issues like abortion and religious liberty were not up for discussion, as the candidates enter the final two weeks of the presidential campaign. 

The debate, hosted by Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, featured new rules designed to improve the flow of discussion. Because of COVID-19 concerns, the candidates were spread apart and had a plexiglass barrier in between them. 

The night started off with moderator Kristen Welker of NBC questioning the two candidates about how they would lead the country through the “next stage” of the pandemic. 

Trump defended his record, saying he “closed the greatest economy in the world” to fight the disease, and noted that the excess mortality rate was “way down” compared to other countries. He also said that a vaccine is “coming” and “ready,” and will be “announced within weeks.” 

When pressed, Trump said that there was “not a guarantee” on the timeline but that he thinks there is a “good chance” a vaccine will be announced “within a matter of weeks.” 

Biden attacked the president for not encouraging mask wearing earlier in the pandemic, and said that he had “no comprehensive plan” for tackling the virus, which has caused the deaths of more than 250,000 people in the country.

“What I would do is make sure we have everyone encouraged to wear a mask, all the time. I would make sure we move in the direction of rapid testing, investing in rapid testing. I would make sure that we set up national standards as to how to open up schools and open up businesses to be safe, and give them the wherewithal and financial resources to be able to do that,” said Biden. 

Biden said that a vaccine process must be “totally transparent” in order for Americans to be willing to actually take the vaccine. He also defended calling Trump “xenophobic” when the president restricted travel from China at the beginning of the pandemic, and then added that the president “did it late.” 

The former vice president said that while he would not immediately endorse another shutdown, he had not ruled out the possibility, should a community experience a high rate of cases. 

Trump, conversely, pressed for the increased opening of schools, and stated that “we’re not going to shut down.” 

Following the discussion of coronavirus, the debate shifted to national security and foreign policy, and then onto health care reform. 

Trump was questioned about the recent claim that more than 500 children separated at the border from their families could not be reunited as their parents could not be located. 

During the approximately two months that the administration enforced its “zero tolerance” policy, which included family separation, was in effect, about 3,000 children were separated from their parents, plus an additional 1,000 children who were separated from their parents during a pilot program of the policy in 2017.

Catholic leaders, both domestic and international, have repeatedly criticized the family separation policy. 

At the end of June 2018, the court ordered that the children be reunited with their families.

The president appeared to deflect the question, saying first that “Children are brought here by coyotes and lots of bad people, cartels, and they’re brought here and it’s easy to use them to get into our country.” 

Trump said that he was “working” on a plan to reunite these children with their families, but said that this was difficult as “a lot of these kids come up without the parents” via a cartel or coyote. 

 A “coyote” is a slang term for a person paid to smuggle people into the United States. 

Biden objected to these claims, saying that “these 500 plus kids came with parents” and were separated from them at the border. He also rejected the idea that coyotes were responsible for bringing children across the border, saying that “their parents were with them.” 

Biden and Trump sparred on the topic of the now-infamous “cages” that temporarily housed children who were separated from their parents at the border. 

Trump noted that the “cages” were built during the Obama administration,during which time President Obama was referred to as the “deporter-in-chief” for the record-high number of deportations during his time in office. 

Biden countered that the policy of separating families made a “laughingstock” of the country, and said the failure to achieve immigration reform during his vice presidency was “a mistake” and that he would create a pathway to citizenship for “over 11 million undocumented people” within the first 100 days of his presidency. 

During exchanges on healthcare, Trump credited himself with “terminating” the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act, which he called “the worst part of Obamacare.” 

“Now [the ACA] is in court, because Obamacare is no good,” said Trump. “No matter how well you run it, it’s no good. What we’d like to do is terminate it.” 

The president said that if Obamacare were “terminated,” he would “come up with a brand new beautiful healthcare” policy that would continue to protect people with pre-existing conditions. 

Biden said that, if elected, he would “pass Obamacare with a public option.” He referred to this as “Bidencare.” This public option would cover people who qualify for Medicaid but “do not have the wherewithal...to get Medicaid.” 

Biden said that he would not eliminate private insurance.

Catholic leaders call for clarity on Pope Francis civil union remarks

CNA Staff, Oct 23, 2020 / 12:00 am (CNA).- Bishops and prominent Catholics have responded to a new documentary in which Pope Francis is featured calling for civil recognition of same-sex unions, calling for caution and telling Catholics to await clarity from the Vatican after the remarks caused confusion.

The pope’s comments were made in “Francesco,” a documentary on the life and ministry of Pope Francis, released Wednesday. The film made global headlines, because the it contains a scene in which Pope Francis is portrayed calling for the passage of civil union laws for same-sex couples.

In the film, the pope is shown saying that “What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered.” The apparent endorsement of civil recognition of same-sex couples by the pope garnered the widespread reaction.

“Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family,” the pope also was shown to say in the video, in a section subsequently shown to be heavily edited. “They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it,” the pope said, in reference to his approach to pastoral care.

The pope has often spoken of the need for pastoral closeness and love for people who identify as LGBT, and against family members, especially parents, ostracizing or rejecting them on account of their sexual orientation. The pope has also repeatedly said that marriage exists between one man and one woman.

Some activists and media reports have suggested that Pope Francis had changed Catholic teaching by his remarks.

The context and manner in which the film was shot, compiled and edited, have raised questions about what the pope said, the context in which he said it, what it means, and what the Church teaches about civil unions and marriage.

“Pope Francis’ remarks giving qualified support to civil unions of same–sex couples are not his first as pope,” said St. Paul-Minneapolis Archbishop Bernard Hebda on Wednesday.

“While affirming Church teaching that marriage can only be between one man and one woman, he along with others who defend traditional marriage, has shown openness to civil unions as a kind of middle way that would allow persons of the same sex in long-term relationships to have legal benefits without a civil redefinition of marriage itself.”

The archbishop said that “Church teaching on marriage is clear and irreformable,” but that “the conversation must continue about the best ways to reverence the dignity of those in same–sex relationships so that they are not subject to any unjust discrimination.”

Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh said that the comments in the documentary “reflect [the pope’s] pastoral approach to persons who may be on the peripheries of society,” and “in no way signal a departure from the teaching of the Catholic Church concerning marriage or homosexuality.”

“It speaks, rather, of a pastoral approach to these issues,” Zubik said.

“In essence, Pope Francis has not promoted change in the moral or sacramental teaching of the Church. He has simply called for all people to be treated with the dignity and love which is their due by being created in God’s image and likeness and being children of the Heavenly Father.”

A 2003 document issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith expressed opposition to civil unions for same-sex couples, saying that “respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions.”

The film’s portrayal of a papal endorsement of same-sex unions did not change Church teaching, or alter the Church’s understanding of the nature of homosexual acts. But Francis’s apparent call for legal “cover” for same-sex unions would represent a shift in the prudential judgement of public policy options made by his predecessors.

Bishop Michael Olson of Fort Worth also responded to the film’s release, saying that “the Church is obliged to hand on faithfully what she has received from Christ. It is the mind of Christ that marriage is an indissoluble bond between one man and one woman. The Church preaches and acts upon this truth, regardless of the passing opinions of nations, states, or cultures.”

Noting that Pope Francis has repeatedly affirmed the Church’s unchanging position that marriage exists, and can only exist, between one man and one woman, Olson said that “comments recently recorded in the making of a documentary about Pope Francis regarding civil recognition of ‘unions’ between homosexual couples appear to have led some to the erroneous conclusion that the Church’s teaching on marriage has changed or is about to change.”
 
“It is a misunderstanding of rights to suggest or infer that legal arrangements of civil societies canconfer a status equivalent to marriage to couples who do not conform to God’s intention and design for marriage.”

Following the release of “Francesco”, some prominent Catholics highlighted their own past support for civil unions as a way of providing legal protections for couples of various kinds, without building a bridge towards civil recognition of same-sex marriage.

Ryan Anderson, senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation, noted Wednesday that he and Princeton Professor Robert George had previously argued that civil unions would “neither introduce a rival ‘marriage-lite’ option, or treat same-sex unions as marriages.”

The Church previously opposed the recognition of civil unions, even those explicitly defined as distinct from marriage, because they could lead to eventual recognition of “same-sex marriage,” as they have done in countries like the U.K., and because they could have “the consequence of making it a model in present-day society,” and “also obscure basic values which belong to the common inheritance of humanity.”

Some have raised questions about the significance of the pope’s comments, given that many Western countries have already brought in laws recognizing same-sex civil unions and “same-sex marriage.” But Jesuit priest and LGBT campaigner Fr. James Martin said on Twitter that the pope’s comments are “a big deal.”

“For those who think the Pope's comments about same-sex civil unions are no big deal: Perhaps in the US or Western Europe. But in places like Poland, where some bishops are virulently anti-LGBT; or Uganda, where bishops side with laws criminalizing homosexuality, it's a big deal.”

Martin’s comments triggered a strong response from Eastern European and African Catholics, who suggested the Jesuit’s comments were a form of cultural colonialism.

“What a shame to see an American priest passing judgement on African bishops!” responded Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier of Durban. “Why is it a shame? Because [Martin] doesn’t know the context.”

“In recent years, especially in [President] Obama’s time, enormous pressure was put on African leaders to introduce all the Western ‘isms’ as a condition for receiving aid,” the cardinal said.

“Legalizing of abortion and homosexuality were the foremost,” Napier said.

Federal judge: Colorado’s anti-coronavirus rules can’t single out churches

CNA Staff, Oct 22, 2020 / 10:56 pm (CNA).- A federal judge has said Colorado officials may not enforce anti-coronavirus limits against two churches, saying that the state rules lack sufficient exemptions for the free exercise of religion.

The regulations treat churches more strictly than similar gatherings, which are required to observe social distancing but not observe occupational limits as well, the judge said, adding that the rules fail to protect congregations that may wish to remove facial coverings for religious reasons.

“With each exception Colorado makes for secular institutions, the failure to make the same exemption for houses of worship becomes increasingly problematic,” U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Domenico said in his Oct. 15 order. “Colorado’s failure to offer a compelling reason why houses of worship are subject to greater restrictions than warehouses, schools, and restaurants violates the First Amendment’s guarantee of the free exercise of religion.”

The judge’s order exempts the two churches from mask requirements and occupancy limits that they believe bar their religious practice. However, they still must follow sanitation requirements, maintain social distancing, and prohibit shaking hands. The temporary injunction is in place while the case is heard in court.

“(T)he Constitution does not allow the State to tell a congregation how large it can be when comparable secular gatherings are not so limited, or to tell a congregation that its reason for wishing to remove facial coverings is less important than a restaurant’s or spa’s,” Domenico said.

The plaintiffs are two Protestant pastors and their Denver-area churches: Bob Enyart of Denver Bible Church in Wheat Ridge and Joey Rhoads of Community Baptist Church in Brighton. In August they filed a complaint against federal and state officials charging that the state health orders were vague and infringed on religious freedom.

“The lawsuit calls both the federal government and Colorado leaders into account for their violations of the right to free exercise of religion, among other abuses of power, primarily resulting from Governor Jared Polis’ COVID-19 related executive orders,” said Thomas More Society special counsel Rebecca Messall, who with co-counsel Brad Bergford represented the complainants.

The plaintiffs did not demonstrate a likelihood of success on most of their claims, but their First Amendment free exercise claim against state officials will likely succeed, the judge said. State officials may not enforce executive orders or public health orders against the plaintiffs “to the extent those orders treat houses of worship differently from comparable secular institutions.”

Officials may not enforce additional numerical occupancy requirements against the two churches, nor enforce the “requirement that congregants wear face masks at all times during worship services,” said Domenico.

The State of Colorado has filed an appeal.

“Absent some sort of bad faith, a law that is otherwise neutral and generally applicable does not suddenly become unconstitutional simply because it contains limited exceptions for certain secular activities but not religious activities,” said the motion from the office of the Colorado attorney general.

“Nothing in the state defendants’ public health orders reveals discrimination or bigotry targeted at religion,” the motion continued. “If anything, Colorado’s orders treat religious organizations more favorably than comparable organizations that are nonreligious.”

The state's motion argued that Domenico took scientific evidence out of context, the Denver Post reports.

Enyart, one of the pastors, appeared skeptical of the coronavirus response.

“It’s like ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf’,” he told CBS4 News before the judge issued the order. “If it was a true emergency, people would be inclined to ignore government orders because of government’s overreach. There’s so much evidence coming out that the lockdown is hurting people.”

Enyart, who also hosts a radio show, has sometimes been a controversial figure. He has vocally criticized and even conducted protests of other Christian groups, pro-life groups and politicians he believes to be insufficiently opposed to abortion.

According to the pastors' complaint, compliance with state rules, executive orders and public health rules violates the plaintiffs' “sincerely held religious beliefs.” The rules “substantially burden” free exercise of religion.

The rules “restrict or prevent religious speech and the expression of personal communication in how closely plaintiff pastors can be to persons in their congregations, and in how closely congregants can be to each other, to meet, pray, talk, stand, sit, walk, sing, pray, embrace, shake hands, smile or facially express their thoughts, opinions and emotions verbally and through facial expression.”

“Moreover, plaintiffs are restricted in holding baptisms, communion services, marriage ceremonies and laying of hands,” the complaint continued. It said the two churches conduct religious services and fellowship activities for congregations larger than 50 people. The capacity limits on houses of worship are “more severe” than those that apply to similar settings, it said.

“The state also allows a variety of exceptions to its facial-covering requirement where it recognizes that removing a mask is necessary to carry out a particular activity,” said the complaint.

Domenico said the court does not doubt the good faith decisions of state officials' efforts “to balance the benefits of more public interaction against the added risk that inheres in it.”

While the Constitution “doesn't kneecap a state's pandemic response,” he said, “the existence of a crisis does not mean that the inalienable rights recognized in the Constitution become unenforceable.”

Although the religious must comply with neutral, generally applicable restrictions, he said, “the First Amendment does not allow government officials, whether in the executive or judicial branch, to treat religious worship as any less critical or essential than other human endeavors. Nor does it allow the government to determine what is a necessary part of a house of worship’s religious exercise.”

Most Colorado outbreaks have taken place at workplaces, schools and businesses, not churches, Domenico said, citing state data. The largest outbreaks have been at colleges and prisons. Less than 2% of the 900 active or resolved outbreaks in Colorado have taken place at religious facilities.

Other religious groups' challenges to Colorado limits on public gatherings have not prevailed in court.

In September, U.S. District Judge Christine M. Arguello rejected the Colorado Springs-area Andrew Wommack Ministries' challenge to coronavirus limits, saying public health was at risk. Health officials said a novel coronavirus outbreak at a July Bible conference hosted by the organization led to 63 cases and one death, Colorado Public Radio said.

 

EWTN's Warsaw: 2020 election about competing visions for America

CNA Staff, Oct 22, 2020 / 10:00 pm (CNA).-  

The head of the EWTN media network said ahead of Election Day that the 2020 presidential election offers, beyond a choice between individuals, a philosophical choice between different views of American life.

“One campaign has built itself on the notion that America is a great country, with much to offer. It embraces a vision that sees religious practice and belief in God as central to the country’s private and public life,” EWTN board chairman and CEO Michael Warsaw wrote in an Oct. 17 publisher’s note in the National Catholic Register.

Central to that campaign’s vision, Warsaw said, is a perception that faith is a critical aspect of America’s foundational principles.

“Under this view of America, Christians and other people of faith are seen as a large part of the solution to the challenges our country faces, just as they have been central to so many positive movements in American history — from the right-to-life movement of the past four decades to many of the great causes for justice and rights of the 19th, 20th and the 21st centuries,” Warsaw added.

“This view does not hold that everything in America is perfect, or that every founder of our country or leader who espoused this view is a saint, but it believes in the greatness of the country and the idea that the tools exist within our Constitution and system of government to fix those problems that arise without having to completely change our system of laws and government. This is the classical view of America.”

Warsaw’s essay did not directly identify political candidates, but it did draw a sharp distinction between political outlooks.

The other philosophical choice open to voters, he wrote, is a “progressive view,” which perceives that “America has much to atone for and little to be proud of.” In such a vision, religion is perceived as discriminatory, abortion is recognized as a right while religious liberty and freedom of conscience are diminished, Warsaw said.

“The redefinition of sexual values and of the family itself are central to this worldview,” he added, and while America is criticized as imperialist, “a blind eye is turned to the real imperialism of communist countries.”

“Religion must submit to politics and the state in this view. Period.”

With fewer than two weeks until Election Day, voters in many states have already begun early voting, and a record turnout of mail-in ballots is expected across the country this year, driven largely by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Both President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden have made a push for Catholic votes ahead of the election, with Trump championing his record on abortion and religious liberty, and Biden citing his own Catholic roots.

A recent EWTN News / Real Clear Polling survey found that Biden enjoys a lead among likely Catholics voters, although that lead narrows considerably in several swing states thought to be critical to the election.

U.S. Catholic bishops have largely emphasized the abortion in voting guidance ahead of the election, and have identified ending legal protection for abortion as the “preeminent priority” of Catholic political activity.

Warsaw’s essay lamented that in a progressive political standpoint, “values — and vocabulary — from yesterday are constantly supplanted by new values and new language. Their goal is not static but evolving, yet undeniably in an anti-Christian direction. Politicians that supported the Defense of Marriage Act, or the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or the Hyde Amendment a few decades ago now find these all to be repugnant. For advocates of this understanding of America, values are not unchanging, but utterly changeable depending on political expediency and cultural trends.“

“This — more than the candidates themselves — is what is on the ballot. You are casting your vote this year for a long-term vision of America, not for a person. Keep that in mind: Pray, and vote — for the future of your country.”

EWTN Global Catholic Network is the largest religious media network in the world. EWTN’s 11 global TV channels are broadcast in multiple languages 24 hours a day, seven days a week to over 300 million television households in more than 145 countries and territories.

EWTN platforms also include radio services transmitted through SIRIUS/XM, iHeart Radio, and over 500 domestic and international AM & FM radio affiliates; a worldwide shortwave radio service; one of the largest Catholic websites in the U.S.; electronic and print news services, including Catholic News Agency, The National Catholic Register newspaper, and several global news wire services; as well as EWTN Publishing, its book publishing division.

 

 

Friday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 Eph 4:1-6

Brothers and sisters:
I, a prisoner for the Lord,
urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received,
with all humility and gentleness, with patience,
bearing with one another through love,
striving to preserve the unity of the spirit
through the bond of peace;  
one Body and one Spirit,
as you were also called to the one hope of your call;
one Lord, one faith, one baptism;
one God and Father of all,
who is over all and through all and in all.

Responsorial Psalm 24:1-2, 3-4ab, 5-6

R.    (see 6) Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.
The LORD’s are the earth and its fullness;
the world and those who dwell in it.
For he founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers.
R.    Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.
Who can ascend the mountain of the LORD?
or who may stand in his holy place?
He whose hands are sinless, whose heart  is clean,
who desires not what is vain.
R.    Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.
He shall receive a blessing from the LORD,
a reward from God his savior.
Such is the race that seeks for him,
that seeks the face of the God of Jacob.
R.    Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.

 

 

Alleluia See Mt 11:25

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth;
you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the Kingdom.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 12:54-59

Jesus said to the crowds,
“When you see a cloud rising in the west
you say immediately that it is going to rain–and so it does;
and when you notice that the wind is blowing from the south
you say that it is going to be hot–and so it is.
You hypocrites!
You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky;
why do you not know how to interpret the present time?

“Why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?
If you are to go with your opponent before a magistrate,
make an effort to settle the matter on the way;
otherwise your opponent will turn you over to the judge,
and the judge hand you over to the constable,
and the constable throw you into prison.
I say to you, you will not be released
until you have paid the last penny.”

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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.