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U.S. bishops say religious freedom protections in same-sex marriage bill are ‘insufficient’

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, chair of the USCCB religious liberty committee / Catholic News Agency

St. Louis, Mo., Nov 17, 2022 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

Following the advancement of a bill yesterday in the U.S. Senate to federally recognize same-sex marriages, the nation’s Catholic bishops reaffirmed the Church’s teaching on marriage. They also “expressed concerns that the legislation could lead to discrimination against individuals who hold to a traditional view of marriage.”

“The Catholic Church will always uphold the unique meaning of marriage as a lifelong, exclusive union of one man and one woman,” Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Religious Liberty, said in a Nov. 17 statement. 

“In doing so, we are joined by millions of what the Obergefell Court called ‘reasonable and sincere’ Americans — both religious and secular — who share this time-honored understanding of the truth and beauty of marriage,” Dolan continued, referencing the 2015 Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states. 

The Senate voted 62-37 Wednesday to advance the bill, which still needs a final vote to make it out of the Senate before final approval in the House of Representatives and then President Joe Biden’s signature. 

The Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA), if ultimately signed into law by Biden, would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a 1996 law signed by President Bill Clinton that defined marriage federally as the union of a man and a woman, and permitted states not to recognize same-sex marriages contracted in other states. DOMA already was effectively nullified by the 2013 and 2015 Supreme Court decisions United States v. Windsor and Obergefell v. Hodges.

The present bill would not require any state to allow same-sex couples to marry but would require states to recognize any and all marriages — regardless of “sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin” — contracted in other states.

A bipartisan amendment to the bill pertaining to religious freedom ensures that nonprofit religious organizations would not be required to provide services, facilities, or goods for the celebration of a same-sex marriage, and protects religious liberty and conscience protections available under the Constitution and federal law, including the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, CBS News reported. It also makes clear the bill does not authorize the federal government to recognize polygamous marriage. 

Finally, the amendment adds language ensuring that churches, universities, and other nonprofit religious organizations would not lose tax-exempt status or other benefits for refusing to recognize same-sex marriages and would not be required to provide services for the celebration of any marriage, the New York Times reported. 

Dolan said the bill opens people such as faith-based adoption and foster care providers, religious employers seeking to maintain their faith identity, and faith-based housing agencies to potential discrimination since it does not provide for individual conscience protections for those who hold to a traditional view of marriage. 

“The bill is a bad deal for the many courageous Americans of faith and no faith who continue to believe and uphold the truth about marriage in the public square today,” Dolan wrote.

“The Act does not strike a balance that appropriately respects our nation’s commitment to the fundamental right of religious liberty,” he continued. “Senators supporting the Act must reverse course and consider the consequences of passing an unnecessary law that fails to provide affirmative protections for the many Americans who hold this view of marriage as both true and foundational to the common good.” 

The U.S. bishops had urged senators in July to oppose the RFMA, citing the importance of stable marriages for the well-being of children and society and expressing concerns about the bill’s effect on the religious freedom of those who hold to a traditional definition of marriage. 

“People who experience same-sex attraction should be treated with the same respect and compassion as anyone, on account of their human dignity, and never be subject to unjust discrimination,” Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the bishops’ committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth, wrote in a letter to senators.

“It was never discrimination, however, to simply maintain that an inherent aspect of the definition of marriage itself is the complementarity between the two sexes,” he argued. “Marriage as a lifelong, exclusive union of one man and one woman, and open to new life, is not just a religious ideal — it is, on the whole, what is best for society in a concrete sense, especially for children.”

Organizers of National Eucharistic Congress announce pilgrimage plans, major budget cut

Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, one of the venues for the 2024 National Eucharistic Congress. / Shutterstock

Baltimore, Md., Nov 17, 2022 / 15:45 pm (CNA).

Organizers of the 2024 National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis have announced plans for a major pilgrimage to the event — and a big budget cut. 

The Congress, which is the culmination of the National Eucharistic Revival — a three-year initiative by the U.S. bishops to inspire Eucharist belief — is expected to draw some 80,000 people and have a “World Youth Day feel,” Bishop Andrew Cozzens of Crookston, Minnesota, told reporters at a briefing Wednesday in Baltimore.

When the initiative was approved a year ago, Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA — who now is president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops — raised concerns about the eucharistic congress’ $28 million budget.

“I think this is a wonderful proposal. I’m a little concerned, though, and I’ve mentioned this to you once before, the $28 million price tag on this gathering, I think, might appear to be a bit scandalous, if you think about all of the things that the Church needs and asks money for,” Broglio said at the time.

At the bishops’ fall assembly this year, which concluded in Baltimore on Thursday, Cozzens, who chairs the bishops’ eucharistic revival advisory group, said that “originally one of the great concerns for all of us was the cost, and we’ve been able to make significant inroads in getting the cost down.”

Cande de Leon, the revival’s chief advancement officer, said organizers “look[ed] at how can we be as efficient as possible but still put on a world-class national eucharistic congress that will really entice people, to bring people to want to come together in solidarity.”

“So, I’m happy to report that cost has almost been cut in half,” he said. 

He said that a “big part” of the cut is attributed to the revival’s choice to recruit experienced people who are “in-house” and have a “missionary spirit.”

Despite the budget cut, the congress itself isn’t being scaled down, a staff member working on the initiative told CNA. 

Some attending the event will be arriving on a pilgrimage to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, where the congress will take place starting July 17, 2024.

“We’re really modeling this on the road to Emmaus, walking with Jesus towards the experience of the breaking the bread that happens in Mass,” Cozzens said. 

Pilgrims will depart from four different locations, he said: one in the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas; in the Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticut, at the site of the tomb of Blessed Michael McGivney, the founder of the Knights of Columbus; in San Francisco at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption; and a fourth site in Crookston.

Plans for how pilgrims will travel — whether that be by bus, car, foot, or some combination — have not been finalized yet.

Popular Protestant YouTube host announces decision to convert to Catholicism

Cameron Bertuzzi, a popular Protestant YouTube host, announced online on Nov. 17, 2022, that he is in the process of converting to Catholicism. / YouTube screenshot

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 17, 2022 / 14:45 pm (CNA).

Cameron Bertuzzi, a popular Protestant YouTube host, announced Thursday online that he is in the process of converting to Catholicism. 

“So, the big announcement is that on Sept. 20, 2022, I decided to become Catholic. I’m currently in an RCIA program and will be confirmed this coming Easter,” Bertuzzi said in a YouTube video

His conversion “came at the tail end of a deep study into the evidence for and against the papacy,” he said. 

“As a Protestant, I went into the study with an open mind. Ultimately, I told myself that I would follow the evidence wherever it leads, even if that conclusion is uncomfortable for me or for my family,” Bertuzzi said. 

His Protestant friends were “very confident” that his study would only confirm his Protestant faith, “but they were wrong,” he said.

“What I found was that the evidence strongly suggests that the papacy is true,” he said.

Bertuzzi, whose Capturing Christianity YouTube channel has just short of 150,000 subscribers, said that he will be speaking about the details of his conversion on other channels, not his own.  

Matt Fradd, popular Catholic YouTube host of the channel Pints with Aquinas, “got so excited about this news, as you can imagine, he decided to pay to fly me out to the Vatican, the one in Rome, to detail my journey on his channel,” Bertuzzi shared.

“So, if you’re interested in my reasons for conversion, the impact this decision has had on me and my family, and all the rest, then join Matt Fradd and I live on Pints with Aquinas from the Vatican tomorrow,” meaning Friday, Nov. 18. 

That video can be seen using this link.

Cameron Bertuzzi asked Bishop Robert Barron of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester if he should become Catholic in a video posted Sept. 25, 2020. YouTube Screenshot.
Cameron Bertuzzi asked Bishop Robert Barron of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester if he should become Catholic in a video posted Sept. 25, 2020. YouTube Screenshot.

Bertuzzi has hosted a multitude of well-known Christians and Catholics on his channel. Among them are Catholic apologists Trent Horn and Jimmy Akin of the apostolate Catholic Answers; Bishop Robert Barron of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester; theologian and professor Scott Hahn; Fradd; and Father Vincent Lampert, an exorcist for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

Videos with Barron and Lampert both gained hundreds of thousands of views respectively.

Bertuzzi’s channel can be seen here

Detroit TV personality Chuck Gaidica’s ‘breaking news’: he’s returned to the Church

Longtime Channel 4 (WDIV-TV in Detroit) personality Chuck Gaidica speaks Oct. 27, 2022, at St. Stephen Church, part of Holy Trinity Parish in Port Huron, Michigan, about his recent reconversion to the Catholic faith of his youth. Gaidica, who spent many years as a nondenominational pastor in Detroit after his news days, said he was urged to return to the Church eight years ago by a woman at St. Stephen. / Photo by Daniel Meloy | Detroit Catholic

Detroit, Mich., Nov 17, 2022 / 14:15 pm (CNA).

Chuck Gaidica has been in the TV business for more than 40 years, telling the stories of Detroiters as a well-known figure in the community.

But on a blustery fall evening at Holy Trinity Parish in Port Huron, Michigan, about 60 miles northeast of Detroit, the award-winning newsman reported on a story on which he has the ultimate scoop: his return to the Catholic Church. 

“Tonight, I want to be honest with you, I want to be blunt with you, and hope I can be really encouraging,” Gaidica said Oct. 27. “Because, to borrow a phrase from the TV news business, ‘I have breaking news, but first, these messages.’”

Gaidica’s talk, “Taking the Long Way Home,” was part of a relaunched speaker series at St. Stephen Church, part of Holy Trinity Parish, that recently resumed after the COVID-19 pandemic. 

It was the second time he’d spoken at St. Stephen, Gaidica said. He’d also been invited to speak in 2014, as the faith leader of a different denomination.

Gaidica, who grew up Catholic and later became a nondenominational pastor in Detroit during his television career, which included more than 30 years as an anchor and meteorologist on Channel 4 (WDIV-TV) in Detroit, acknowledged he didn’t expect to be back — especially not under these circumstances.

“I assumed the only time I would speak to this group in this place, in this parish, was eight years ago,” Gaidica said. “Then God, and a woman from this parish — or someone who was visiting that night — had a different plan, and that’s part of my story.”

Gaidica recalled telling the story about how he grew up on the northwest side of Chicago in a flat with three generations of his family.

After a successful career in TV news, he left full-time reporting to pursue a master’s degree in ministry and leadership and became the pastor of a large, nondenominational church in Novi, Michigan. He was invited to St. Stephen as part of the parish’s lecture series to discuss his faith journey and was enjoying coffee and cooking in the church when a woman approached him.

“The evening was over, I’d done my talk and answered some questions,” Gaidica said. “I was standing over by some people when this lady walked out, an older lady, older than me. She walked up, and as I extended my hand, she took my hand, grabbed my forearm and looked at me and said, ‘You have to come back to the Church.’”

Chuck Gaidica greets parishioners at St. Stephen Church in Port Huron, Michigan, following his talk Oct. 27, 2022. Photo by Daniel Meloy | Detroit Catholic
Chuck Gaidica greets parishioners at St. Stephen Church in Port Huron, Michigan, following his talk Oct. 27, 2022. Photo by Daniel Meloy | Detroit Catholic

The woman left before Gaidica could come up with a response. Intrigued, Gaidica later reached out to the parish to try to find her but could only remember “a woman who was wearing a coat,” he said. The parish had no idea who she was. 

“Her fingerprints, which means this place’s fingerprints, are on my spiritual journey, and that’s why I’ve come back,” Gaidica said. “And I know so many people along the way, including the Hale family, who have prayed for me, because goodness knows I could use the prayer.”

“So now, breaking news, I have returned to the Catholic Church,” Gaidica said to an applauding audience.

Gaidica said the mysterious woman planted a seed in his mind about returning to his childhood faith. His conversion meant leaving the church where he was pastor and explaining his decision to his wife, his family, friends, and the congregation. But as he began to research, he couldn’t shake the thought.

“The big ‘why’ is, ‘Why did I come back to the Catholic Church?’ And the intriguing part of that question is summed up best, I think, by a quote from G.K. Chesterton,” Gaidica said. “Why I am Catholic is that there are 10,000 reasons all amounting to one reason: that Catholicism is true.”

Gaidica’s TV career has taken him all over the world and allowed him to do some incredible things, including flying with the Blue Angels and becoming a scuba-certified diver and an instrument-graded pilot. But all those things came later in his life, Gaidica said, including his decision to return to the Catholic Church at age 64.

“I am here tonight for two reasons: to say thank you,” Gaidica said. “The second is to encourage. There is a lot going on in the world right now that is crazy. There is a lot going on in the Church that is crazy. So be encouraged. Those looking for a place to find peace in a very anxious world should know about the Catholic Church. They should be encouraged. The world is filled with anxiety. Others who have fallen away from the faith, and have given up, should be encouraged. It is never too late.”

Besides the chance encounter with a woman who encouraged him to come back to the Church, Chuck Gaidica quotes G.K. Chesterton when asked why he returned to the Catholic faith: “Why I am Catholic is that there are 10,000 reasons all amounting to one reason: that Catholicism is true,” he said. Photo by Daniel Meloy | Detroit Catholic
Besides the chance encounter with a woman who encouraged him to come back to the Church, Chuck Gaidica quotes G.K. Chesterton when asked why he returned to the Catholic faith: “Why I am Catholic is that there are 10,000 reasons all amounting to one reason: that Catholicism is true,” he said. Photo by Daniel Meloy | Detroit Catholic

Gaidica recalled when, during his childhood, his family stopped attending Mass. After the death of his uncle, whom Gaidica described as his best friend and affectionately called “Unc,” Gaidica said he had given up on the Church.

“I look back and think, ‘Did I fix my gaze on the wrong thing?’” Gaidica said. “Was I looking for an excuse not to come back? Looking back on it now, I wish my dad had the gusto in that part of my young life, as he did later in life, to attend church, to get involved in parish life, because that would have helped me.”

“And for those of us who fix our gaze on the wrong things instead of what is true and beautiful and art-filled and real in the Catholic Church,” Gaidica said, “I urge you to take your concerns to the foot of the cross. Take them to Jesus.”

Gaidica said his faith journey became a wrestling match with God. He found solace in Protestant churches, bouncing from denomination to denomination. He never considered returning to the Catholic Church — especially after the revelations of the 2002 sexual abuse scandals in Boston and elsewhere. 

Several years ago, Gaidica recalled driving in his car listening to a news report about the scandals, when he said aloud, “God, how can I ever come back to this Church?” 

“And an answer came back to my head,” Gaidica said. “I did not hear a voice. I didn’t see a flash of lightning. I didn’t see a talking donkey walk up my driveway; I heard nothing. But the message came right back into my head: ‘Why not? The Church never left you.’ I had to pull my car over because the answer was true. The Church has been, is, and will always remain. It is always here. I pictured God standing with his arms saying, ‘Come on; I knew you were coming. Come on.’”

Chuck Gaidica said he jumped at the chance to tell his reconversion testimony at St. Stephen, where his newfound faith was jump-started eight years ago. Photo by Daniel Meloy | Detroit Catholic
Chuck Gaidica said he jumped at the chance to tell his reconversion testimony at St. Stephen, where his newfound faith was jump-started eight years ago. Photo by Daniel Meloy | Detroit Catholic

Despite living in Northville, Michigan, today, Gaidica said he jumped at the chance to tell his re-conversion story in Port Huron, where a chance encounter eight years ago with a still-unidentified woman changed his life.

“He was encouraged to come back to the Catholic Church when he was here the last time, so he actually reached out to us and asked if he could come back,” Karen Clor, coordinator of adult faith formation at Holy Trinity Parish in Port Huron, told Detroit Catholic. “Because whoever said to him, ‘Come back to the Church,’ was here, so he came back to say thanks.” 

Clor said Gaidica was an appropriate person to relaunch Holy Trinity’s distinguished speaker series.

“I think he listens to the Lord, and that is inspiring to me,” Clor said. “So many times, we run through life and we don’t stop to discern what it is God wants for us. That is the inspiring part for me: Chuck stops and listens to the Lord and then acts.”

Gaidica took questions after his talk, including one from an audience member who asked what it was like breaking the news to his nondenominational church that he was rejoining the Catholic faith, and another who asked what makes him hopeful for the Church’s future.

“I think God didn’t need me back; he wanted me back,” Gaidica said. “He wants you back. All he wants for us is to be back and be all in, to be part of this rescue mission that is the greatest story ever told. So I’m encouraged. And if the Church — with Truth with a capital ‘T,’ with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — are all there, then they’ve got my back. I’m encouraged, and I hope you are, too.”

This story was originally published at Detroit Catholic, the news site of the Archdiocese of Detroit, and is reprinted here with permission.

Lay Catholic hospital chaplains look forward to newly-translated book of prayers for the sick

null / bymandesigns/Shutterstock

St. Louis, Mo., Nov 17, 2022 / 07:00 am (CNA).

The U.S. bishops on Wednesday voted to move forward with the creation of a new prayer book for laypeople who work among the sick.

Since the book still needs the approval of the Vatican, it might be a year or two before it hits the shelves. But several lay chaplains whom CNA spoke to are already expressing interest.

Moira Bucciarelli, a lay Catholic chaplain who ministers in Maryland, said she does not often use prayers from a book, preferring to “pray from the heart, spontaneously,” but occasionally she will pray prayers she finds online, she said.

She affirmed that there is a need for the prayer book that the bishops have now decided to create.

“I like the concept of it — having specifically Catholic prayers, perhaps for different occasions, all in one resource. That sounds great to me,” she said. “I would love it if there were more Catholic resources for chaplains.”

Only priests are allowed to perform the sacrament of anointing of the sick, which can be administered whether or not the sick person is in danger of death with the hoped-for effect of physical and spiritual healing. But there are several liturgical books — including the book used for the anointing of the sick — that include material that is specifically designed to be used by laypeople when a priest isn’t available.

Father Andrew Menke, executive director of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat of Divine Worship, told CNA that he hopes the potential new prayer book will be helpful for laypeople who want to minister to the sick.

“A pastor can put this book into the hands of the folks who help him in visiting the nursing homes, hospitals, and places where there isn’t a priest-chaplain every day, but there might be a layperson there,” Menke said.

The compiled prayers are drawn from at least four books that are typically used by priests in their ministry to the sick. The prayers are not “new,” but because the prayer book is part of an ongoing project by the bishops to revise all liturgical translations for accuracy, all the source material for this book has been newly translated from Latin in the past five years or so, Menke said.

There already exists an “unofficial” compilation of such prayers called “A Ritual for Laypersons: Rites for Holy Communion and the Pastoral Care of the Sick and Dying,” published by Liturgical Press in 1993.

Joshua Allee, a lay Catholic chaplain of 16 years who lives in St. Louis, told CNA that he sees the potential new prayer book as a good idea and a potentially useful resource for laypeople ministering to the sick. Allee said oftentimes when praying with a patient, he prays with him or her “from the heart” and often ends with an Our Father or Hail Mary, but only after “reading the room” and determining what the patient and his or her family would be most comfortable with.

He said he also uses the prayers for laypeople contained in “Anointing of the Sick and their Pastoral Care,” a priest-centric volume commonly referred to as the “green book.” When administering holy Communion to a patient, those prayers come straight from the book, he said, and his copy is heavily dog-eared on the relevant pages — though he also has many of the prayers memorized by now after a decade and a half of ministry.

Joshua Allee. Courtesy photo
Joshua Allee. Courtesy photo

A book compiling all the lay prayers would be a useful item to “throw in your satchel” when hustling to an emergency situation, he said, and would also be valuable for younger chaplains who don’t yet have the prayers memorized.

Allee serves as regional vice president of mission integration for SSM Health St. Louis, a Catholic health care system. His job, he says, is to keep alive the Catholic charism of the nuns who founded the hospital system.

He noted that the “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services” — the document from the U.S. bishops that governs Catholic health care — has an entire section on the pastoral and spiritual responsibilities of Catholic health care institutions to their patients.

These include a mandate to make sacraments such as Communion, reconciliation, the anointing of the sick, and confirmation available to patients who ask for them; there are Catholic priests on call, and Masses are offered at the hospital at least weekly, if not more often. In addition, he said, they keep a Rolodex of Protestant clergy, rabbis, and imams to ensure that they can provide spiritual care to people of all faiths.

“Pastoral care encompasses the full range of spiritual services, including a listening presence; help in dealing with powerlessness, pain, and alienation; and assistance in recognizing and responding to God’s will with greater joy and peace,” the directives read.

‘Overall well-being’

Laura Fetters, who serves at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C., taught English and religion at Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Washington for 35 years before making the pivot to chaplaincy; she will be eligible for board certification in 2023. She said a pivotal moment in her journey toward this career was the death of her father in 2013.

“I paid close attention to the work of the hospice care team and also reflected on the role of the chaplain who came to minister to our family during that hard time. That was probably the first time the seed was planted for chaplaincy work,” Fetters told CNA.

Laura Fetters, a lay Catholic hospital chaplain, in her office in Washington, D.C. Courtesy photo
Laura Fetters, a lay Catholic hospital chaplain, in her office in Washington, D.C. Courtesy photo

She said a day at work for her usually begins with a report about what has gone on during the night — updates on patients, emergencies, deaths. Chaplains are assigned units in the hospital, and Fetters said they make sure that each patient has a chaplain visit as soon as reasonably possible once they have been admitted.

“In general, most people are welcoming. Many are lonely and anxious. Some might also appear curious because they have never been visited by a chaplain before so they wonder if they are going to be “preached to or going to be made uncomfortable,” Fetters noted.

“Others automatically assume that we have been sent because their illness has reached a dire point; in this case we have to alleviate their fears and explain that we visit everyone in the mission of cura personalis — care for the whole person.”

Fetters said she prefers to pray a “personal, extemporaneous” prayer with the patients after conversing with the patients and learning about their families, concerns, and hopes. She said her prayers will include a request for blessings for the doctors and medical team, petitions for peace of mind and comfort for the patient and family members, gratitude for healing if appropriate, and expressions of trust in God’s mercy and compassion.

If the occasion arises to use a book of prayers, Fetters says she uses “A Ritual for Laypersons,” the unofficial — but still useful — prayer compilation mentioned earlier.

In the course of her work, she has come to realize that many patients “feel quite comforted by the presence of a Catholic lay chaplain; we (the patient and I) can create an emotionally safe space together where fears and anxieties can be shared.”

“To be clear, though,” she continued, “many conversations are also light because patients might want a distraction from the heaviness of their medical situations. Consequently, they talk about their dogs, their gardening, and their grandchildren. Typically, the patient should feel welcome to talk about whatever feels most healing and comfortable for him/her; sometimes a lay chaplain is a perfect fit for those situations.”

The presence of chaplains in a health care facility demonstrates that the mission of the program is a patient’s overall well-being, Fetters said.

“Chaplains minister to help patients access hope and experience compassionate spiritual care during treatment. Studies have indicated that a patient’s access to personal hope can be significant in overall healing and efficacy of medical treatment,” she noted.

Allee, the St. Louis chaplain, said he hopes to get the word out about the “great need” for lay chaplains to the sick. Certified Catholic chaplains are a “diamond in the rough” these days, he said, with by and large more retirements than new people joining the ministry. NACC says the average age of a professional chaplain in the U.S. is 64.

But Allee noted that chaplaincy is a real career and is very much appreciated by the patients he encounters. He said he’s received enough thank-you notes over the years to fill a large file drawer.

“It’s a true apostolate of the Church,” Allee said of lay chaplaincy.

Sharing God's love

Bucciarelli says a big part of her job as the outpatient chaplain at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore is simply making herself available to cancer patients and their caregivers, introducing herself to patients as a “spiritual resource.”

She often prays with patients, and leads retreats and performs blessings for staff. She does her ministry work alongside a Catholic priest as well as several colleagues of other faiths.

Moira Bucciarelli. Johns Hopkins
Moira Bucciarelli. Johns Hopkins

Bucciarelli recently became board-certified as a chaplain with the National Association of Catholic Chaplains, a body that collaborates with the U.S. bishops to train and certify chaplains both clerical and lay. Bucciarelli was able to do a three-month internship to assess whether the role would be a good fit for her.

“Chaplaincy offers women, lay Catholic women, wonderful opportunities for leadership in ministry,” she noted.

And although Johns Hopkins is not a Catholic hospital, Bucciarelli says, “It’s also the first job I've had where I feel like I can bring my whole self, including my faith-filled self, my love of God, into my workplace.”

Bishop Barron reconsecrates cemetery vandalized on Halloween

Bishop Robert Barron at Calvary Cemetery in Rochester, Minnesota, where he led a reconsecration rite on Nov. 11, 2022. / Screenshot from YouTube video

Denver, Colo., Nov 17, 2022 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Bishop Robert Barron of Rochester, Minnesota, has reconsecrated the diocese’s Calvary Cemetery after one or more vandals damaged the grounds with obscene and satanic graffiti.

“Halloween night, this place was desecrated with some really obscene graffiti,” he said ahead of the ceremony Nov. 11. “Even the name of Satan invoked. I found that outrageous.”

Five memorial walls in the cemetery were heavily covered with blue and brown graffiti, the Diocese of Rochester reported. Two grave markers, a statue of Christ, and a cross were covered in graffiti. The cleanup and repair costs could go as high as $8,000.

One or more vandals desecrated a Catholic cemetery in Rochester, Minnesota, on Oct. 31, 2022, Halloween night. Courtesy of Calvary Cemetery
One or more vandals desecrated a Catholic cemetery in Rochester, Minnesota, on Oct. 31, 2022, Halloween night. Courtesy of Calvary Cemetery

Photos of the graffiti show vulgar messages and the words “In Satan we trust.” According to KMT3 News, the vandals have not yet been identified.

Barron’s reconsecration was joined by many Catholic laity and seminarians

“Thanks to the crew here who did a really marvelous job cleaning up,” Barron said at the cemetery. “But I think we need to do some spiritual cleaning as well to restore this place, which is meant to be a place of peace and prayer where we honor those who lie here.”

A video posted to Barron’s YouTube channel Nov. 12 shows him conducting the rite for reconsecrating a profaned cemetery. It included praying the litany of the saints, a reading of Psalm 50, and the sprinkling of holy water across the grounds of the cemetery, especially those places where the deceased were profaned.

He prayed that God “deign to purify and to reconcile this resting place of your pilgrims, who look for a haven in the heavenly kingdom.

“May you finally awaken the bodies of those who are, or will be buried here, by the power and glory of your resurrection, to incorruptible glory.

“Call them forth not to condemnation but to unending happiness,” he said. “We ask this of you who are coming to judge the living and the dead, and the world by fire.”

Barron condemned the vandalism and voiced support for the families affected.

“This vandalism is an affront to not only common decency but to those families who, as a work of mercy, placed the remains of their loved ones in a place where prayers could be offered and their memory could be cherished,” he said in the description of his YouTube video.

U.S. bishops decide to put off rewriting voting guide until after 2024 election

null / Shutterstock

Baltimore, Md., Nov 16, 2022 / 17:30 pm (CNA).

The U.S. Catholic bishops will postpone writing a full revision of the teaching document on the political responsibility of Catholic voters until after the 2024 election.

The teaching document, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” is meant to advise Catholic voters on how to apply Church teaching to the decisions they make in the ballot box. The guide, for example, states that the abortion should be a “preeminent” political issue for Catholics. 

In the introduction to the 2019 document, the bishops wrote: “The threat of abortion remains our preeminent priority because it directly attacks life itself, because it takes place within the sanctuary of the family, and because of the number of lives destroyed. At the same time, we cannot dismiss or ignore other serious threats to human life and dignity such as racism, the environmental crisis, poverty, and the death penalty.”

Gathered in Baltimore for their annual fall assembly, the bishops voted Wednesday to keep the guidance the same but include a new introduction and “supplemental inserts,” to be ready before the 2024 election. 

In discussion of the document before the vote, several bishops raised objections to delaying revisions.

Bishop John Stowe, OFM, of Lexington, Kentucky, said revisions were needed in time for the next election to take account of the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6 and the division and polarization in the country.

“I think the time [to revise the document] is now,” he said.

Cardinal Robert McElroy of San Diego echoed his remarks, adding that people are “uneasy” and looking for guidance on how to govern themselves “in a way that divisions and bigotry are not the hallmarks” of our political system.

Bishop Daniel DiNardo from Galveston-Houston, Texas, was one of several bishops who spoke up in favor of delaying revisions to the document.

He noted that it took two or three years to write the original document and that the bishops’ guidance does not necessarily need to reflect recent political events.

“It can’t be today’s news,” he said. “It is supposed to be a teaching document.”

At a later press conference, Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City said the proposed supplemental inserts to the document will address “challenges” facing Catholic voters.

“We will be taking a look at what we have put out in the past, what’s still relevant, what needs to be updated” and “will undoubtedly be doing some discerning and what are the things that are on people’s minds that are presenting challenges,” he said.

“Whether it’s a world war raging in Ukraine, people’s questioning of our democratic system, or whatever it might be, we need to help provide some kind of guidance in any number of issues,” he said. “We’ll try to discern what we can offer to people and help them apply teaching in a way that’s meaningful to them.”

Senate advances same-sex marriage bill amid religious freedom concerns

null / Kulniz/Shutterstock.

St. Louis, Mo., Nov 16, 2022 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

The U.S. Senate voted 62-37 Wednesday to pass a bill that would federally recognize same-sex marriage and provide legal protections for interracial marriages.

The Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA), if ultimately signed into law by President Joe Biden, would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a 1996 law signed by President Bill Clinton that defined marriage federally as the union of a man and a woman, and permitted states not to recognize same-sex marriages contracted in other states. DOMA was already effectively nullified by the 2013 and 2015 Supreme Court decisions United States v. Windsor and Obergefell v. Hodges. 

The present bill would not require any state to allow same-sex couples to marry but would require states to recognize any and all marriages — regardless of “sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin” — contracted in other states.

The bill now returns to the House, which must pass the revised version before clearing it for President Biden’s signature, The New York Times reported. 

In the previous July 19 vote in the House, Democrats in favor of the bill were joined by 74 Republicans. The effort was led by Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), who sought to get 10 Republicans to cross the aisle and vote for the bill; 12 ultimately did. 

A bipartisan amendment to the bill pertaining to religious freedom ensures that nonprofit religious organizations would not be required to provide services, facilities, or goods for the celebration of a same-sex marriage, and protects religious liberty and conscience protections available under the Constitution and federal law, including the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, CBS News reported. It also makes clear the bill does not authorize the federal government to recognize polygamous marriage. 

Finally, the amendment adds language ensuring that churches, universities, and other nonprofit religious organizations would not lose tax-exempt status or other benefits for refusing to recognize same-sex marriages and would not be required to provide services for the celebration of any marriage, the New York Times reported. 

The RFMA represents one of the first legislative responses to the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade in June. While the majority opinion in Dobbs said that “this decision concerns the constitutional right to abortion and no other right,” Democrats have pointed to Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurring opinion suggesting the court should reconsider all “substantive due process” cases, including the 2015 Obergefell decision on same-sex marriage.  

The Catholic bishops of the United States urged Senators in July to oppose the RFMA, citing the importance of stable marriages for the well-being of children and society, and expressing concerns about the bill’s effect on the religious freedom of those who hold to a traditional definition of marriage. 

“It is unfortunate that Congress has not responded with a meaningful effort to help women in need with unexpected or difficult pregnancies. Rather, it is advancing an unnecessary bill to create a statutory right to same-sex civil marriage, which some claim is threatened by Dobbs, even though the Supreme Court’s majority was explicit in its Dobbs holding that the decision had no bearing on the issue,” wrote Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the bishops’ committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth, in a letter to senators. 

“People who experience same-sex attraction should be treated with the same respect and compassion as anyone, on account of their human dignity, and never be subject to unjust discrimination. It was never discrimination, however, to simply maintain that an inherent aspect of the definition of marriage itself is the complementarity between the two sexes. Marriage as a lifelong, exclusive union of one man and one woman, and open to new life, is not just a religious ideal — it is, on the whole, what is best for society in a concrete sense, especially for children.”

Cordileone also noted that states have used laws that redefine marriage “to threaten the conscience and religious freedom of individuals such as wedding vendors, and entities such as foster care and other social service providers, who seek to serve their communities without being punished for their longstanding and well-founded beliefs.”

Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, a Catholic who voted against the measure, said in a statement following the vote that the bill as passed puts religious freedom in jeopardy. 

“While the Respect for Marriage Act purports to simply codify the existing right to same-sex marriage, which is not in jeopardy, it goes far beyond that in ways that threaten religious liberty. This legislation would enable activists to sue faith-based groups that provide vital services for our communities in an attempt to force them to abandon their deeply held beliefs about marriage, or close their doors,” Toomey’s statement says. 

“Faith-based adoption agencies, such as Philadelphia’s Catholic adoption agency, have already come under attack for adhering to their faith, even though there are other local adoption agencies that will place children with same-sex couples. This legislation would dramatically increase the risk of litigation designed to put those faith-based organizations out of business,” Toomey said.

Ryan Anderson, a Catholic and president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, said in a statement that the bill “pays lip service to religious liberty and conscience rights, but it does not offer any meaningful protections for those rights.”

“It enshrines a false definition of marriage in our law and then tells people they can have their day in court if and when they get sued. That’s not public policy for the common good,” Anderson asserted. 

U.S. bishops advance 3 women ‘transformed by God’s love’ toward sainthood

Michelle Duppong, Cora Louise Evans, Mother Margaret Mary Healy-Murphy / Screenshot of USCCB livestream

Baltimore, Md., Nov 16, 2022 / 16:18 pm (CNA).

The U.S. Catholic bishops voted to advance the causes for sainthood for three American women on Wednesday: a mother and Catholic convert considered to be a mystic, a young campus missionary who struggled with cancer, and a religious sister who ministered to the poor and to the African American community.

During their fall general assembly in Baltimore, the U.S. bishops supported advancing on the local level the causes of beatification and canonization for Servants of God Cora Louise Evans, Michelle Duppong, and Mother Margaret Mary Healy-Murphy.

“Today we are blessed to hear about three women, each of whom followed unique paths,” Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki of Milwaukee, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance, told his fellow bishops.

He added: “But each used their individual gifts to serve others — sometimes during great suffering and adversity — but who allowed themselves to be transformed by the love of God and which moved them to share the Lord’s joy and peace through the ordinary circumstances of their lives.”

Under Church law, diocesan bishops promoting a sainthood cause must consult with the regional bishops before the cause can advance.

“We are not being asked to approve the causes,” Listecki clarified. “We are invited to offer any observations related to a cause’s advancement in view of the social, religious, and even political significance.”

Here are the stories of these three women.

Cora Louise Evans

Born in 1904, Cora Louise Evans was raised a Mormon in Utah. Her first of many mystical experiences — an apparition of the Blessed Mother — came when she was only 3 years old, according to the website promoting her cause. But her search for the Catholic faith began on her wedding day.

“I was without a God and religion but had gained a very wonderful husband,” she said after her marriage ceremony, according to the site. “As I looked at him and learned to love him more and more, I resolved to help find a God for him. After 10 years of searching, we found the One True God in the Roman Catholic Church.”

Cora Evans. Quo Vadis YouTube channel screen shot
Cora Evans. Quo Vadis YouTube channel screen shot

During that search, Cora and her husband, Mack, welcomed three children: two daughters, LaVonne and Dorothy, and one son, Bobby, who died when he was a baby.

Cora encountered Catholicism in a new way one day after listening to a Catholic program on the radio while lying sick in bed. This led her to visit the local Catholic church and ask the parish priest questions about the faith.

Less than a year later, in 1935, Cora was baptized and received her first Holy Communion. Her husband and daughters did the same soon after.

The parish priest, Father Edward Vaughn, later wrote that Cora’s efforts inspired hundreds of Mormons to convert to the Catholic faith.

Still, in 1941, the family decided to move to California because her husband faced religious and cultural prejudices while trying to hold a job, the website reads. Five years later, in 1946, Cora said that Jesus asked her to promulgate the mystical humanity of Christ, or, as the website for her cause describes, “a way of prayer that encourages people to live with a heightened awareness of the indwelling presence of Jesus in their daily lives.”

In addition to her mystical experiences, Cora is considered to have had the ability to bilocate — to appear in two places at once — and to have suffered from the stigmata, Christ’s wounds on the cross present in her own flesh.

She died exactly 22 years after her baptism, on March 30, 1957, in Boulder Creek, California. Before her death, she hoped, as St. Thérèse of Lisieux did, to spend her life in heaven doing good on earth.

Michelle Duppong

Michelle Duppong dedicated her life to God, serving as a Catholic campus missionary for six years before becoming the director of adult faith formation for the Diocese of Bismarck, North Dakota.

During a surgery in 2014 intended to remove ovarian cysts, the surgeon discovered something else: stage 4 cancer.

Michelle Duppong, about whom the Diocese of Bismarck has opened an investigation with a view to a cause for beatification. University of Mary
Michelle Duppong, about whom the Diocese of Bismarck has opened an investigation with a view to a cause for beatification. University of Mary

“Upon hearing this, I knew that this was God's will and that he would be with me in the midst of whatever would happen,” she wrote in one of her columns published by the Dakota Catholic Action newspaper. “God also allowed me to know that this cross was an invitation to me to help bring others closer in their relationship with him.”

She had two months to live, doctors said, but she lived another 12 — until Christmas Day in 2015. She was 31.

Born in Colorado in 1984, Michelle was one of six kids and grew up on her family’s farm in Haymarsh, North Dakota. She went on to study horticulture at North Dakota State University in Fargo, where she graduated in 2006, before serving as a student missionary for FOCUS at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, South Dakota State University, the University of South Dakota, and the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota.

According to her obituary, she loved farm life, working in the gardens and vineyards, and taking part in campfire singalongs.

In another column, she addressed sainthood and “seeking holiness in the ordinary.”

“You were made to be a saint. Do you believe that? Do you think you can do it?” she wrote. “I want to remind you that there’s no doubt in God’s mind that you CAN do it!”

Before dying, Michelle consoled her Aunt Jean, who was dying of brain cancer, Michelle’s mother told the National Catholic Register.

“They cried and held each other,” Mary Ann remembered. “Jean told her that sometimes she didn’t feel Jesus with her. Michelle told her, ‘Sometimes, I don’t feel him either. Tell Jesus how you feel. He wants to know everything. Just turn to him.’”

“That’s what Michelle did,” her mother said. “She told Jesus everything.”

Mother Margaret Mary Healy-Murphy

More than 100 years ago, in 1893, Mother Margaret Mary Healy-Murphy founded the first order of women religious in Texas: the Sisters of the Holy Spirit and Mary Immaculate. She began the order after spending years as a laywoman ministering to the poor, African Americans, and Mexican Americans.

Born in Ireland in 1833, Margaret Mary emigrated to the United States in 1845, according to her order’s website. For a time, she lived in Mexico, where she met her future husband, John Bernard Murphy.

Mother Margaret Mary Healy Murphy. Credit: Sisters of the Holy Spirit and Mary Immaculate
Mother Margaret Mary Healy Murphy. Credit: Sisters of the Holy Spirit and Mary Immaculate

The couple married in 1849 and later moved to Corpus Christi, Texas, where her husband worked as a lawyer and served as mayor. According to the Black Catholic Messenger, the well-to-do couple owned slaves there. While they had no biological children, the couple adopted three young girls who needed a home — two of whom later entered religious life.

In 1884, John died, leaving Margaret Mary a widow. Her life dramatically changed again, three years later, when she moved to San Antonio and heard a letter from the U.S. bishops read from the pulpit. In that letter, the bishops called on Catholics in the South to minister to the post-Civil War African American population, her order’s website details.

Margaret Mary decided to answer that call. That same year, she funded construction for the first Catholic free school and church for African Americans in San Antonio. It was dedicated a year later.

Facing constant criticism and racial prejudice, she struggled to maintain a teaching staff, and the local bishop suggested that she start a religious congregation to help. That’s when, in 1892, she and three other women became novices with the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur, the website details. A year later, the four made their first vows and the Sisters of the Holy Ghost and Mary Immaculate began.

By the time of her death, the order had grown to 15 sisters and two postulants. She died in 1907 at age 74.

U.S. Catholic bishops affirm support for Ukraine war with Russia

Ukrainian Catholic Archbishop Borys Gudziak, archeparch of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia / Matt Cashore / Notre Dame de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture

Baltimore, Md., Nov 16, 2022 / 14:08 pm (CNA).

The U.S. Catholic bishops showed their support for the Ukraine war effort at their fall meeting in Baltimore Wednesday, pledging solidarity and continued humanitarian aid following an impassioned speech on the war against Russia by Ukrainian Catholic Archbishop Borys Gudziak. 

Cardinal Robert McElroy of San Diego, who was named to the College of Cardinals by Pope Francis this May, urged the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to stand by Ukraine.

Referring to rumblings that the U.S. Congress might decrease the nation’s commitment to the war effort in Ukraine, McElroy called on the bishops to act with haste to ensure continued U.S. support.

“I urge the conference to make it a very high priority to move quickly to preempt any moves in our national policy in that direction,” McElroy said.

Noting his past support for pursuing peaceful means to end conflict, McElroy said that the war between Ukraine and Russia is different.

“This is an instance that demands resistance,” he told the assembled bishops.

‘It’s liberty or death’

McElroy’s comments came after a moving speech by Gudziak, the American-born archbishop for the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia, in which he thanked the bishops for standing by Ukraine since Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion. 

In his remarks, Gudziak characterized Russia’s invasion as a sign of the sort of “imperialism” that is no longer tolerated in the world.

“Russia is the last of the European empires, and scandalously, it is the last to use the Gospel, the Church, to justify colonialism,” he said.

He thanked the bishops for “Catholic solidarity and for American solidarity” with the Ukrainian people, whom he said remain defiant.

“Ukrainians are saying, ‘It’s over. We’re not going to be colonized. We’re not going to be subject. It’s over. It’s liberty or death,’” he said.

When asked about chances for a negotiated peace between Ukraine and Russia, Gudziak said Russia would need to leave Ukraine first.

“All Ukrainians are very much for peace; the country gave up its nuclear weapons, reduced its army by 80%, and it just wants peace throughout the country. So when Russia is ready to leave, the preconditions for negotiations will be present,” he told CNA.

“It’s like somebody coming into your house, occupying your bedroom, and saying, ‘Let’s now negotiate about your kitchen,’” Gudziak said.

U.S. and Catholic aid to Ukraine

Gudziak’s speech recognized the U.S. government’s aid to the war effort. The Biden administration has committed $18.2 billion in military assistance in Ukraine since the invasion and has contributed $302 million in humanitarian aid this year. 

In thanking the bishops for their aid, Gudziak noted that Catholic dioceses had collected $40 million in donations for humanitarian aid, that Catholic Relief Services had contributed $100 million (with some in the form of government contracts), and that the Knights of Columbus had donated $20 million more.

In his speech, Gudziak said that 14 million Ukrainians have been displaced and urged the bishops to help welcome more Ukrainian immigrants into the United States.

“Along with Bishop Mario Dorsonville, we are asking that all dioceses and all bishops consider hosting one family. You can only get into the humanitarian pool if you’re sponsored. So far there have been 150,000 people that have come into the humanitarian pool,” Gudziak said.

He compared the 150,000 Ukrainians welcomed into the U.S. with the greater numbers that have been welcomed by European countries.

“But look at the European reception. Poland and Germany right now have over a million people. France has 200,000, and Italy has probably 300,000. All these countries have been tremendously generous,” he said.

Gudziak told the assembled bishops that the Catholic Church in Ukraine and the U.S. have had a salutary effect on Ukraine, particularly on Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy. He said the 44-year-old former comedian has become a “follower” of Ukraine’s Catholics and has been “canonized“ by them.

“American Catholics supported the Catholic Church through thick and thin in Ukraine,” he said. “You have helped through scholarships, through internships, through the training of conditions in seminaries, religious and laypeople for people to understand what Catholic social doctrine is. It’s subsidiarity in the army, it’s solidarity among the refugees. It’s the willingness to give your life for God-given dignity,” he said.

Of Zelenskyy, Gudziak said: “It’s the conversation of common goodness, and it has become the language of a secular president. He doesn’t know that you’ve influenced him. And he’s influencing the world back. He’s bringing a language of values back to the global geopolitical discourse in the world.”

The bishops gave Gudziak a standing ovation. After the speech, several bishops rose to affirm the U.S. bishops’ support for Ukraine and pledge of continued humanitarian aid.