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Opponents of campaign finance bill say it presents pro-life, religious liberty concerns

Washington D.C., Mar 3, 2021 / 11:00 am (CNA).- An campaign finance bill under consideration in the House could present grave concerns for religious liberty, an opponent of the bill told CNA.  

Earlier this month, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi introduced the For the People Act of 2021 (H.R. 1), alongside Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and John Sarbanes (D-Md.), saying the bill is necessary because the state of American democracy is in “deep disrepair.”

But some opponents of the bill--including pro-life groups--have warned of First Amendment implications to religious freedom and free speech.

Hans von Spakovsky, manager of the Election Law Reform Initiative and Senior Legal Fellow at the Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at the Heritage Foundation, told CNA in an interview that he considers the For the People Act of 2021 the worst bill he’s seen in his 20 years in Washington. 

“It’s filled with so many unconstitutional provisions,” he said. “I think it would change the face of American politics.” He said it could even impose a religious test on people seeking to serve on redistricting commissions. 

Among the bill’s provisions is one that would take away the power to draw congressional districts from state legislatures and grant it instead to “independent redistricting commissions.” In order to serve on such a commission, an individual would need to meet certain criteria, including disclosing “any involvement with, or financial support of, professional, social, political, religious, or community organizations or causes.” 

That language could amount to the implementation of a religious test, von Spakovsky said. 

“It’s very concerning that to get on a commission like this you have to disclose which church, which religion, you’re a member of,” he said, adding “it would discourage individuals from participating.” 

Pro-life groups have come out in opposition to the bill as well. March for Life Action shared its concerns about the legislation to CNA in January, that pro-life donors could be subject to unnecessary public harassment.

The Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List) said in a letter to members of Congress that the legislation would put “onerous and unworkable regulatory standards on the ability of pro-life voters and the pro-life community to discuss policy issues with elected officials and the public.”

“It would subject citizens who contribute to nonprofit organizations to harassment and intimidation by making their personal information available in a government-controlled data base, and through an expansion of the definition of ‘electioneering communications’ it would subject virtually all issue-related ads to burdensome disclaimer requirements,” SBA List said.

Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life, warned that the bill “would allow lawmakers to employ the threat of criminal sanctions to reduce the amount of private speech regarding the actions of the lawmakers themselves.”

The White House supports the legislation, with President Biden issuing a statement Monday saying that his administration “supports House passage of H.R. 1, the For the People Act of 2021.” 

“In the wake of an unprecedented assault on our democracy, a never before seen effort to ignore, undermine, and undo the will of the people, and a newly aggressive attack on voting rights taking place right now all across the country, this landmark legislation is urgently needed to protect the right to vote and the integrity of our elections, and to repair and strengthen American democracy,” the statement said. 

The statement added that as with any bill “of this scope and complexity,” it intends to work with Congress “to refine provisions of H.R. 1 as it proceeds through the legislative process to ensure that the bill achieves lasting reform consistent with Congress’ broad constitutional authority to strengthen our democracy.”

The ACLU opposed a 2019 version of the bill and has criticized portions of the 2021 bill, but has not formally opposed the latest version. 

EWTN News to launch weekly discussion show

Washington D.C., Mar 3, 2021 / 10:00 am (CNA).- On Friday, EWTN News will launch a new weekly discussion show “EWTN News In Depth,” covering the intersection of faith and current events.

Montserrat “Montse” Alvarado, a Hispanic Catholic who also serves as Vice President and Executive Director of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, will be hosting the hour-long discussion program.

On Friday March 5 at 8 p.m. ET, EWTN News In Depth will launch its inaugural episode after being in production since January. The episode will encore on Sunday, March 7, at 11 a.m. ET.

Alvarado told CNA she hopes the show’s thorough treatment of issues will foster “encounter” and “engagement” in a time of widespread social isolation and division.

“Our Catholic community, our global community, has suffered intense division through a shifting political environment, a global pandemic, and a lack of fundamental truths,” Alvarado said.

“To drive out the effects of isolation and fear, we need to come together and encounter each other— and our faith— in a genuine way. My hope is that this show will be a forum to encourage deeper engagement,” she said.

The show will air weekly on Friday evenings at 8 p.m. ET, and will re-air on Saturday mornings at 1 a.m. ET, and again on Sunday mornings at 11 a.m. ET. Viewers can watch the show on EWTN or on the social media handle @EWTNNewsInDepth, streaming on Fridays.

The show’s one-hour length will allow for thorough coverage of current events, culture, politics, and the Church—all from a Catholic lens. EWTN News correspondents from the network’s global bureaus will contribute to the conversations, as well as newsmakers and experts.

Alvarado said that she cannot “take credit for the idea” of the show, but aims to advance its goal of “informed discussions, in depth interviews, and explainer packages from EWTN correspondents that break down news and events from an authentically Catholic perspective.”

EWTN CEO and board chairman Michael Warsaw said he hopes the show will be a “resource” for Catholics everywhere.

"My hope is that EWTN News In Depth becomes a resource for people around the globe that they can turn to have a better understanding of the most important, most significant issues that are impacting them today, but also impacting us for generations to come,” Warsaw stated.

Alvarado said she hopes the show will better inform global Catholics to bring the Church’s teaching into the world.

“The Church is global and the Church is growing,” Alvarado said. “This show comes at the right time to accompany Catholics of all backgrounds so we can face our quickly changing world together with faith and hope for the future.”

Oscars voter: 'There is nothing entertaining or inspiring about killing unborn babies'

Denver Newsroom, Mar 2, 2021 / 05:19 pm (CNA).- A member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences— the nationwide body that votes for the Academy Awards— recently declined to watch a film that critiques abortion regulations, drawing public ire from a pro-choice filmmaker who created it.

The film, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always,” follows a 17-year-old girl as she travels from Pennsylvania to New York to obtain an abortion. The fictional film was inspired by news stories of women traveling from areas with more restrictive abortion laws to areas with more permissive laws, the director has said. 

The film has drawn praise from abortion advocates, with director Eliza Hittman awarded the 2020 “Media Excellence Award” from Planned Parenthood last month.

However, when recently asked via email by Hittman’s publicist if he had seen the film yet, filmmaker Kieth Merrill replied that he was not interested in reviewing it.

“[A]s a Christian, the father of 8 children and 39 grandchildren. AND pro-life advocate, I have ZERO interest in watching a woman cross state lines so someone can murder her unborn child,” the email, purportedly from Merrill to the filmmaker’s publicist, reads.

“75,000,000 of us recognize abortion for the atrocity it is. There is nothing heroic about a mother working so hard to kill her child.”

Hittman, the film’s director, took to Instagram to denounce Merrill for declining to watch her film and consider it for an Oscar.

“This email came in last night and was a harsh reminder that the Academy is still so painfully monopolized by an old white puritanical male guard. I wonder how many other voters out there won’t watch the film,” Hittman wrote in a now-deleted post, calling Merrill “puritanical.”

Merrill has been a member of the Academy for nearly 50 years, having won an Oscar in 1973 for the documentary “The Great American Cowboy.” He is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and has produced films in the past for the Mormon church, a nontrinitarian religion founded in the 19th century in New York.

The Academy has nearly 10,000 members, all of whom are eligible to vote for Best Picture. Voting ends March 10, with the Oscars ceremony set to be held April 25.

Members are not required to watch every film that qualifies for the Oscars, but are encouraged to watch as many as possible, Variety reported.

Variety reached out to Merrill for further comment.

“Her film is an expression of who she is. My absence of interest in watching her film is an expression of who I am,” Merrill wrote in an email response to Variety.

“We are equally valid in our choices, what we do, and how we choose to live our lives.”

He noted that with over 360 films in contention for best picture in 2021, Academy voters have to be discerning about what they choose to watch, lest it consume all their time.

Merrill told Variety that he does not watch any horror films or movies with “graphic sex or gratuitous violence or radical social agendas.”

“For me, there is nothing entertaining or inspiring about killing unborn babies. I chose not to watch [Hittman]’s film because it legitimizes abortion...I believe abortion is wrong in all but the most extreme circumstances. Not only wrong, I believe it is an evil, and incomprehensible atrocity.”

Merrill did not reply to CNA’s request for further comment.

Hittman has said that in researching her film, she visited Planned Parenthood clinics throughout the country, and pretended to be a pregnant woman in need of aid in order to gain access to pro-life pregnancy centers.

“Abortion tourism,” the topic of the film, is common in the United States as some states move to restrict abortion, while others seek to liberalize it.

Women in states such as Missouri, which has robust pro-life protections, often avail themselves of abortions in the neighboring states of Kansas and Illinois, which offer far less protection for unborn children.

Abortion clinics in states like Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico, which did not introduce any pandemic-related restrictions on abortion last year, saw increases in patients traveling from other states, such as Texas, to undergo the procedure during spring 2020.

Straw poll of conservative activists reveals pro-life policies to be least important issue

Washington D.C., Mar 2, 2021 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Pro-life leaders responded to a recent straw poll of conservative activists where pro-life policies received the least number of votes for the activists’ most important issues. 

Attendees at last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando were allowed to select up to three issues as their top policy priorities for the Washington Times/CPAC straw poll. Options included “election integrity,” “immigration/border wall,” and “second amendment.” 

A mere 16% of conference-goers choose pro-life policies as one of their top three issues, making it the issue that received the least number of votes among attendees. Election integrity, constitutional rights, and immigration were the three top-rated issues of importance, respectively.


#CPAC2021 poll on the most important issues... re-opening the economy was fourth

— Ryan James Girdusky (@RyanGirdusky) February 28, 2021  

The straw poll is conducted at the annual event, and measures attendees’ policy preferences as well as their preferred presidential candidate. CPAC, a project of the American Conservaive Union, describes itself as “the largest and most influential gathering of conservatives in the world,” and the conference is often billed as representative of the wider conservative movement. 

The American Conservative Union did not immediately respond to a request for comment on its attendees’ enthusiasm for the pro-life cause. 

Several pro-life leaders cautioned that the pro-life cause may already be a high priority for many Republicans, and thus the poll is not necessarily indicative of future GOP priorities. 

Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life of America, told CNA in an interview that it’s possible CPAC attendees didn’t prioritize pro-life policies because they believe the Republican Party has already demonstrated its opposition to abortion. 

“It’s obviously already something the party already fights really hard for,” Day said. 

Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, told CNA that abortion “was not always the partisan issue it is today and that better reflected the American people who may disagree on politics while embracing the humanity of the preborn.” 

“The rankings at CPAC show that abortion is among the issues animating people's votes, even when it isn't issue number one for everyone as it is for me and the Pro-Life Generation,” Hawkins said. 

“We are educating people on the need to vote pro-life first, and we will continue to work with people wherever they are at, to build a coalition dedicated to ending abortion,” she said. 

In an email to CNA, Mallory Quigley, vice president of communications for the Susan B. Anthony List, wrote that election integrity--the highest-rated issue at CPAC in terms of importance--and the pro-life cause are both connected.

“Those who used COVID-19 to expand access to dangerous chemical abortion drugs and try to suspend pro-life laws also used the pandemic as an excuse to weaken state laws that ensure free and fair elections, which severely compromised Americans’ faith in our elections process,” Quigley said. 

Quigley called this year’s CPAC straw poll “a snapshot of a particular moment in time – a time when voters are sincerely concerned about the integrity of our nation’s elections.” 

“We share deeply in this concern,” she continued. “The issues of protecting life and honest, fair elections are inextricably linked, especially for those of us in the pro-life movement who have chosen to engage in politics as the primary means of effecting change. Without this, we lose our ability to use the political system to bring about lifesaving law and policy changes.”

Day added that because pro-life policies are “a winning issue,” both parties would be wise to oppose “abortion extremisim.” 

“It’s very dangerous for Democrats to have abortion funding in the COVID relief bill and giving Republicans this ammunition,” she said. 

A massive COVID relief package under consideration by the Senate this week does not contain pro-life funding protections--thus possibly allowing for increased funding of abortion coverage and abortion providers. House Democrats rejected pro-life amendments to the bill that would have established safeguards against abortion funding.

“Republicans know it’s a winning issue. Abortion extremisim is not helping the Democrats at all,” Day said of pro-life issues.

A majority of respondents in the CPAC straw poll selected former President Donald Trump as their choice for the Republican Party’s 2024 presidential nomination. Trump addressed the conference on Sunday, repeating his claim that he won the 2020 presidential election but without offering any evidence.

Leading Christian adoption agency changes policy, will now work with same-sex couples nationwide

Washington D.C., Mar 2, 2021 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- A leading Christian adoption agency will now work with same-sex couples looking to foster or adopt children, in a change of its nationwide policy reported on Monday.

Bethany Christian Services, which is the largest Protestant adoption and foster care agency in the United States, has updated its inclusivity policy on matching children with same-sex couples. The new “nationwide policy of inclusivity” will “serve all families across Bethany's core service lines.” 

In addition, the new policy also removes the agency’s 2007 statement that “God’s design for the family is a covenant and lifelong marriage of one man and one woman,” according to the New York Times.

After a 2019 lawsuit, Bethany Christian Services began placing children with same-sex couples in 12 states, including in Michigan. Its updated policy extends this practice to all of its locations in the United States. Meanwhile, Catholic adoption agencies in several states have closed rather than comply with mandates that they work with same-sex couples.

Bethany said that it “recognizes that Christians of mutual good faith can reasonably disagree on various doctrinal issues, about which Bethany does not maintain an organizational position.” 

In an email to its employees, Bethany said that its new policy was approved by the agency’s board of directors in January, after about a decade of discernment on the issue. 

The agency’s headquarters is in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and it has offices in 32 U.S. states as well as seven countries in Europe, South and Central America, and Africa.

Nathan Bult, the senior vice president of public and government affairs at Bethany, told CNA in a statement that “faith in Jesus is the core of our mission,” and that “Bethany Christian Services has never wavered from our mission of demonstrating the love and compassion of Jesus to Children and families.” 

“We help families stay together, we reunify families who are separated, and we help vulnerable children find safe, stable homes when they cannot remain in their own,” said Bult. 

Placing children in stable homes is the key to Bethany’s mission despite any doctrinal concerns, Bult said. 

“We acknowledge that discussions about doctrine are important, but our sole job is to determine if a family can provide a safe, stable environment for children,” said the statement. 

“Unlike many other child and family welfare organizations, Bethany is committed to partnering with churches to find as many families for vulnerable children as possible, and we seek to place children with families that share our mission,” the organization stated. “We believe that Christians with diverse beliefs can unify around our mission of demonstrating the love and compassion of Jesus. It's an ambitious mission, and we can only accomplish it together.”

In 2018, the city of Philadelphia suspended its contracts with both Bethany Christian Services and Catholic Social Services of the archdiocese, due to their refusal to work with same-sex couples. The city had enacted a nondiscrimination ordinance, and also oversees the entire foster care system.

No same-sex couple had approached Catholic Social Services for foster care placement. There are numerous foster care agencies in Philadelphia that will work with same-sex couples.

Shortly after suspending these contracts, the city put out a call for additional foster homes due to increased demand for services. 

While Bethany Christian amended its policy and began working with same-sex couples, Catholic Social Services maintained that it could not do so according to the Church’s teaching on the family.

Sharonell Fulton and Toni Simms-Busch, two foster mothers from Philadelphia who worked with Catholic Social Services, sued the city of Philadelphia over the severed contract. 

The Supreme Court heard arguments in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia back in November, and is expected to decide on the case later in 2021. 

Catholic Charities in several states have had to end their adoption and foster care programs, due to state and local mandates that agencies work with same-sex couples. 

In 2010, Catholic Charities D.C. shuttered its adoption program because of the city’s law redefining marriage, and in subsequent years Catholic adoption programs stopped in other states such as New York, Illinois, and Pennsylvania.

Legislation repealing faith-based exemptions for adoption and foster care agencies passed the Virginia house of delegates in February, and is under consideration in the state senate.

White House silent on conscience concerns in health care

Washington D.C., Mar 2, 2021 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- The White House on Tuesday would not reveal its position on doctors being forced to perform abortions and gender-transition surgeries under the Equality Act.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki would not directly answer questions by EWTN News Nightly White House correspondent Owen Jensen on conscience rights in health care, at Tuesday’s White House press briefing.

Jensen brought up the Equality Act, which passed the House last week and which outlaws “pregnancy discrimination” and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The U.S. bishops’ conference (USCCB), as well as pro-life groups, have warned that the legislation would essentially create rights to procedures such as abortion, sterilization, and gender-transition surgery. The bill could also eviscerate conscience protections of health care workers opposed to participating in these procedures, these groups have warned.

“Pro-life groups right now are very concerned about the phrase ‘pregnancy discrimination’ in the Equality Act,” Jensen said. “That it would force doctors to perform abortions, even if it violates their conscience. There are also concerns the bill would force doctors to perform gender-transition surgeries and sterilizations, again, even if it violates their conscience.”

“What does the president, President Biden, say about those concerns?” he asked Psaki.

The press secretary replied that Biden “has been a long supporter of Roe v. Wade,” the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. She said nothing of conscience protections.

When Jensen followed up by asking about Biden’s position on “conscience concerns,” Psaki simply repeated her previous statement.

Jensen then asked if Biden would maintain the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The division was created in 2018 to enforce federal statutory conscience protections and field complaints by health care workers who claimed they were forced to participate in procedures such as abortions.

Psaki, again, would not directly answer that question. “You’ll have to talk to a future secretary Becerra once he is confirmed,” she said.

Xavier Becerra, currently the attorney general of California, is the nominee to lead HHS and could be confirmed by the Senate on Wednesday. He was twice found to be in violation of federal conscience laws by the HHS Office for Civil Rights, for his defense of state mandates that pro-life groups provide abortion coverage and that crisis pregnancy centers advertise for abortions.

At his confirmation hearing last week, Becerra would not say when asked whether he would maintain the existing conscience division at HHS. He simply said he would “respect” and “enforce” the law—which would include a number of existing federal conscience protections in health care.

The HHS conscience division has outlined those conscience protections and enforced them in recent years. In 2019, for instance, the HHS civil rights office found a Vermont hospital to be in violation of federal law after a nurse complained of being forced to assist at an abortion.

Becerra, at his hearings, would not name a single abortion restriction that he supported. He refused to answer, when asked, if he would support bans on sex-selective or partial-birth abortions. He did, however, comment that his wife is an OB/GYN doctor who cares for babies and that his mother prays the rosary.

Becerra also sued the Trump administration over its granting religious and moral exemptions to the HHS contraceptive mandate. The mandate forced employers to provide coverage for contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortifacients in their health plans.

California’ lawsuit, along with Pennsylvania’s, ultimately forced the Little Sisters of the Poor to go back to court to defend their religious exemption. The sisters won at the Supreme Court last July, but President Biden said during his presidential campaign that he would repeal their religious exemption.

When asked about the sisters’ religious exemption to having to provide contraception coverage and last week, Becerra said he would “defend the law and support the law that’s in place.”

U.S. bishops express solidarity with people of Burma after coup

Washington D.C., Mar 2, 2021 / 11:00 am (CNA).- The U.S. bishops’ conference expressed solidarity with the people of Burma on Tuesday, one month after a military coup seized control of the country.

“On behalf of the Committee on International Justice and Peace, I wrote a solidarity letter to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Myanmar and have asked U.S. government officials to carefully consider the insights the local Church can offer towards achieving a just resolution to the current crisis,” said Bishop David Malloy of Rockford, Illinois, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ international justice and peace committee.

“As protests continue in Myanmar, I call on all Catholics and people of good will to pray for the people and leaders of the land,” he added.

Burma—also referred to as Myanmar—has a relatively small Catholic population, which has been vocal in their opposition to the coup and in support of a return to democracy. Protests in the Southeast Asian country have been ongoing since the Feb. 1 coup. Christians form only around 6% of Burma’s majority-Buddhist population. 

Catholic nuns have also taken part in the protests. The Vatican newspaper on March 1 published reports of Sister Ann Nu Thawng, a member of the Sisters of St. Francis Xavier who knelt before advancing police officers and asked them not to hurt protesters; the act reportedly took place in Myitkyina, the capital of Burma’s northern Kachin State. 

On Feb. 11, the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition Myanmar prayed and protested outside of the Chinese embassy in Mandalay. 

Bishop Malloy noted that Pope Francis was among the people who had condemned the coup, and had called for peace.

“I echo the call by the Holy Father and the bishops of Myanmar on the need for dialogue as a way forward toward peace and reconciliation,” he said.

At least 18 protesters were killed and 30 people were wounded on Sunday when police fired live rounds and used non-lethal force against the crowds, according to the UN’s human rights office. 

On Sunday, Burmese Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon proclaimed that “Innocent blood may not be spilt on this land.” The cardinal, who is a longtime supporter of democracy in the country, lamented that “so much of pain, suffering, and resistance” had occurred since the coup.

Cardinal Bo is also the president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences.

“Slowly hatred seemed to infiltrate the peaceful marches. We pray that no violence happens,” Cardinal Bo said. 

He also lamented the “violence” in online discourse. “Social media, especially Facebook, is a virtual hell where hatred rules supreme; good people become violent in that virtual hell, destroying others. Humanity is disfigured in Facebook,” he said. 

According to the UN, more than 1,000 people in Burma have been arbitrarily arrested and detained in the month since the coup began.

Biden mentions Our Lady of Guadalupe, shows rosary beads, in meeting with Mexican president

Washington D.C., Mar 2, 2021 / 09:00 am (CNA).- President Joe Biden cited Our Lady of Guadalupe and displayed his rosary beads in a conversation with the president of Mexico on Monday.

In the virtual conversation with Mexico’s President López Obrador, Biden—a Catholic—claimed a devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe from his previous travels to Mexico as vice president.

“During my visits, I got to know Mexico a little bit and its people, and paid my respects to the Virgin of Guadalupe.  As a matter of fact, I still have my rosary beads that my son was wearing when he passed,” Biden said according to a White House transcript of the event. He noted that he visited Mexico four times as vice president.

Biden has previously referenced his son Beau’s death from brain cancer as an incident where he relied upon his faith. In a 2020 campaign ad, he said that his faith supported him through tough times, noting that “I go to Mass and I say the rosary. I find it to be incredibly comforting.”

Our Lady of Guadalupe is patroness of the Americas, given the title by Pope St. John Paul II, and is also patroness of unborn children.

Biden is just the second Catholic U.S. president, and the U.S. bishops’ conference has noted the unique circumstance of having a Catholic president who upholds Church teaching on policies such as immigration and fighting poverty, but contradicts Church teaching on life issues, marriage, religious freedom, and gender ideology.

The USCCB formed a working group in November to advise the conference on how to deal with Biden; the working group made two chief recommendations before stopping its work in early February.

One of the recommendations was for USCCB president Archbishop Jose Gomez to send a letter to Biden that was pastoral in nature, but clarify areas of agreement and disagreement with the conference—especially his contradiction on the “preeminent” issue of abortion.

Biden has supported taxpayer-funded abortion and has pledged to sign the Equality Act, legislation the USCCB has warned would codify gender ideology in law and would "punish" objecting religious groups.

In a Jan. 20 statement for Biden’s inauguration, Archbishop Gomez offered prayers for the new president and emphasized his own role as bishop in forming consciences, rather than in being a partisan.

Biden, warned Gomez, “has pledged to pursue certain policies that would advance moral evils and threaten human life and dignity, most seriously in the areas of abortion, contraception, marriage, and gender. Of deep concern is the liberty of the Church and the freedom of believers to live according to their consciences.”

Abortion, said Gomez, “remains the ‘preeminent priority’” of the conference, as it “is a direct attack on life that also wounds the woman and undermines the family.”

Although Biden’s staff have referred to him as a “devout Catholic,” the USCCB’s pro-life chair has said they should stop using that term due to his support for abortion.

“The president should stop defining himself as a devout Catholic, and acknowledge that his view on abortion is contrary to Catholic moral teaching,” said Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, in an interview with Catholic World Report published on Feb. 13.

Archbishop Naumann noted that “we bishops have the responsibility to correct him” for using the term. He added that Biden “is usurping the role of the bishops and confusing people” by calling himself a “devout Catholic” while opposing the Church's teaching on life issues.

At the bilateral meeting on Monday, both presidents discussed the COVID-19 pandemic, economic cooperation, and climate change.

During his conversation with Lopez, Biden also noted that he has a bust of Catholic social activist César Chávez in the Oval Office.

In response to Biden’s remarks on Monday, President Lopez thanked him through an interpreter “for your confession regarding your devotion to the Virgin of Guadalupe.”

“We, as Mexicans, respect and admire two symbols,” he said, one being “the Virgin of Guadalupe” and the other being former president Benito Juárez.

This article was updated March 2 to include the title "patroness of unborn children" for Our Lady of Guadalupe.


How to obtain a plenary indulgence during Holy Week

CNA Staff, Mar 2, 2021 / 12:43 am (CNA).- A plenary indulgence is a grace granted by the Catholic Church through the merits of Jesus Christ, Mary and all the saints to remove the temporal punishment due to sin.

The indulgence applies to sins already forgiven. A plenary indulgence cleanses the soul as if the person had just been baptized.

A plenary indulgence can be obtained during Holy Week for oneself or for a deceased person if one of the following works established by the Church is performed.

Holy Thursday

1. If during the solemn reservation of the Blessed Sacrament (typically on a side altar), which follows the Mass of the Lord's Supper, you recite or sing the Eucharistic hymn “Tantum Ergo.”

2. If you adore the solemnly reserved Blessed Sacrament for a half hour.

Good Friday

1. If you venerate the Cross in the solemn celebration of the Lord's Passion.

2. If you piously participate in the Stations of the Cross

Holy Saturday

1. If two or more people pray the Holy Rosary.

2. If you attend the celebration of the Easter Vigil at night and renew your baptismal promises, which is part of the liturgy of that Mass.

Conditions in all cases:

In order to obtain the plenary indulgence, in addition to performing the specific works mentioned above, the following conditions must be fulfilled:

A plenary indulgence requires that the individual be in the state of grace by the completion of the acts, and have complete detachment from sin. The person must also sacramentally confess their sins and receive Communion, up to about 20 days before or after the indulgenced act.

A single sacramental confession is sufficient for several plenary indulgences.

For each plenary indulgence that is sought, however, a separate Holy Communion and a separate prayer for the intentions of the Holy Father are required.

The prayer for the intentions of the Holy Father is left up to the choice of the individual.

Columbus diocese announces strategic planning initiative

Columbus, Ohio, Mar 1, 2021 / 08:01 pm (CNA).- The Diocese of Columbus announced Monday a strategic planning initiative meant to discern the future of the local Church, encouraging evangelization and missionary discipleship.

“This really is our plan – all of us together,” Bishop Robert Brennan of Columbus said March 1. “Our goal is to identify the needs of our Diocese for the 21st Century and how we meet those needs, and to expand Catholic presence to all our people, which is going to take some creativity. That’s at the heart of it. We want to make the presence of the Lord, the experience of the Sacraments, the encounter with Christ – we want to make that more available to people.”

The initiative, “Real Presence, Real Future”, was announced to parishes and schools in the diocese Feb. 27-28, and to priests Dec. 1, 2020.

The diocese said that “this initiative aims to reimagine how the Church serves her people through a process of listening to their needs, ideas, concerns, and desires. This planning and consultation phase will be held throughout 2021 and the findings will be implemented over the next few years. The full scope of the ‘Real Presence, Real Future’ initiative will prepare the Diocese to increase its Catholic presence over the next 10 to 20 years.”

It added that the initiative “is intended to meet the many needs of the Diocese of Columbus’ diverse areas and ethnicities, while emphasizing the utilization of active diocesan priests and deacons, mission-oriented parishes and schools, and all other available resources.”

“Real Presence, Real Future” will focus on engaging Catholics to reflect on and share Christ’s presence in their lives; planning the Catholic presence in each of the diocese’s 23 counties “by integrating missionary outreach, parish and school footprints, and leadership requirements for the next five years”; and developing resources “to support priests, deacons, and lay leaders in parishes and schools.”

Six “evangelization subcommittees” were formed months ago, with foci on forming missionary disciples; increasing outreach at universities; social media; deploying lay missionaries in parishes and schools; formation of faculty and staff in Catholic schools; and outreach to the irreligious.

Father Adam Streitenberger, Bishop’s Coordinator for Evangelization, said that “Each of the evangelization subcommittees will develop a plan to address the needs and initiatives for evangelization and missionary discipleship formation identified by Bishop Brennan.”

He emphasized the importance of evangelization, and said that “all of the baptized must respond to the call and be formed as missionary disciples, and to be equipped to bring Christ to their families and communities.”

The Columbus diocese was erected in 1868, and Bishop Brennan said, according to The Catholic Times, “We live in a diocese that was founded on an 1868 model, built for the needs of 1868. We have to be able to use and harness some of the new resources … in a way that helps us to meet the needs to proclaim the Gospel.”

“We’re looking at diocesan offices, what are the structures that we need and what works, what needs to change, not because of any judgment on people but what structures do we need in this new millennium, how do we best serve the needs of the parishes in the proclamation of the faith,” he added.

Bishop Brennan said: “The same is true in terms of how do we deploy priest personnel. We try to do the best that we can to meet needs as they arise. But we know that we will have fewer priests just by the numbers and by the numbers of men in formation. I’m hoping to see all that grow, but we can make some realistic predictions.”

Between 1999 and 2016, the number of parishes in the diocese fell by one, from 107 to 106. In the same time, the total number of priests serving in the diocese, both secular and religious, dropped from 234 to 201.

“How do we structure ourselves so that we can have strong, vibrant communities and worship together and make Masses available for people at times that are convenient by working together rather than everybody duplicating what the parish next door is doing. So it’s going to take a little bit of creativity on all of our parts,” the bishop commented.

The initiative is being facilitated by the Catholic Leadership Institute, a nonprofit strategic planning group. The group has launched a Disciple Maker Index Survey for parishioners which will be available through March 22.