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Florist case reopens before Washington Supreme Court

Olympia, Wash., Nov 14, 2018 / 10:28 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Attorneys representing florist Barronelle Stutzman filed their opening brief with the Washington Supreme Court on Tuesday, as the court re-hears the case after its previous ruling was reversed.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated a previous Washington state ruling against Stutzman, who in 2013 declined to make flower arrangements for a same-sex wedding.

The U.S. Supreme Court sent the case back to the Washington Supreme Court, instructing that the case be reconsidered in the light of Masterpiece Cakeshop.

In that decision, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with Christian cake baker Jack Phillips, who had declined to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. The Supreme Court ruled that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had shown an impermissible hostility toward religion in their handling of the case.

Stutzman’s attorneys have argued that a similar hostility against religion was on display in the handling of Stuzman’s case by Washington’s attorney general.

“While the attorney general failed to prosecute a business that obscenely berated and discriminated against Christian customers, he has steadfastly—and on his own initiative—pursued unprecedented measures to punish Barronelle not just in her capacity as a business owner but also in her personal capacity,” said Kristen Waggoner, senior vice president of Alliance Defending Freedom, the group defending both Phillips and Stutzman.

“In its Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling, the Supreme Court condemned that sort of one-sided, discriminatory application of the law against people of faith,” Waggoner said.

“Also, in the legal briefs that the attorney general has filed in Barronelle’s case, he has repeatedly and overtly demeaned her faith. He has compared her religious beliefs about marriage—which the Supreme Court said are ‘decent and honorable’—to racial discrimination,” Waggoner continued.

“This conflicts with the Supreme Court’s recognition in Masterpiece Cakeshop that it was ‘inappropriate’ for the government to draw parallels between those religious beliefs and ‘defenses of slavery’.”

The Washington case centers around 73-year-old Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Washington.

In 2013, Rob Ingersoll, a long-time friend and customer of Stutzman, asked her to arrange flowers for his same-sex wedding ceremony.

Stutzman knew that Ingersoll was gay, and had always been happy to create flower arrangements for birthdays and other special occasions.

However, because she believes marriage to be a sign of the relationship between Christ and his Church, she told Ingersoll that she could not make a flower arrangement for a same-sex wedding.

Ingersoll initially said that he understood and asked her to recommend another florist. Later, however, his partner posted a message on social media about Stutzman declining to take part in the wedding, and it went viral. Soon afterward, she was informed that she was being sued by the Washington State attorney general and the ACLU.

Stutzman, who is Southern Baptist, has said that she views weddings as more than just a job. She spends months or even years getting to know the bride and groom, to understand their vision and what they want to convey.

Because her wedding arrangements are such a deeply personal labor of love, she said that she felt that she could not in good conscience design flower arrangements for a same-sex wedding.

In February 2017, the Washington Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling against Stutzman. She then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to hear her case.

While the actual damages being sought by the gay couple are only around $7 – the mileage cost of driving to another florist – Stutzman could be responsible for more than $1 million in legal fees to nearly a dozen ACLU lawyers opposing her in the case. Her home, business, savings, and personal assets are all at risk in the case.

Over the last five years, Stutzman said she has received an outpouring of support and messages of encouragement from nearly 60 countries, but also death threats that have required her to install a security system and change her route to work.

In a statement earlier this year, Stutzman said that she serves all customers, but cannot create products for events that conflict with her deeply-held religious beliefs.

She said the Washington attorney general “has always ignored that part of my case, choosing to vilify me and my faith instead of respecting my religious beliefs about marriage.”

“When the state trial court ruled against me at the attorney general’s request, I wrote the attorney general a letter urging him ‘to drop’ the personal claims that risk stripping away ‘my home, business, and other assets’,” she said.

“He didn’t do that. For him, this case has been about making an example of me—crushing me—all because he disapproves of what I believe about marriage.”

USCCB elects six new committee chairmen

Baltimore, Md., Nov 14, 2018 / 09:42 am (CNA).- On Wednesday morning, the U.S. bishops voted on a slate of positions and committee chairs for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The votes were originally scheduled to be taken Thursday morning but moved up the schedule following a forecast for adverse weather.

On the ballot were candidates for the chairman of the Committee on Catholic Education, as well as the chairmen-elect of five other committees: Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations; Divine Worship; Domestic Justice and Human Development; Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth; and Migration.

The chairman-elect serves for one year shadowing the current chairman before assuming the role for a three-year term of office.

The bishops elected Bishop Michael Barber of Oakland to serve as chairman of the Committee on Catholic Education. Barber has previously served as the Director of the School of Pastoral Leadership in the Archdiocese of San Francisco. He will replace Bishop John Quinn. Quinn had been serving as interim-chair of the committee following the departure of Bishop George Murry, who resigned following a diagnosis of leukemia.  

Archbishop Paul Etienne was elected Chairman of the Committee on National Collections.

Bishop James Checcio of Metuchen was elected as the chairman-elect of the Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations. He takes over from Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark.

The bishops elected Archbishop Leonard Blair of Hartford to serve as chairman-elect of the Committee on Divine Worship. Blair has served on several conference committees, including those on evangelization and doctrine

Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City was elected to lead the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

There was a tie in the election to name a successor to Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia as chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth. Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco and Bishop John Doerfler of Marquette each received 125-125 votes.

Archbishop Cordileone was declared the winner by virtue of being the bishop senior in consecration.

Washington, D.C. auxiliary Bishop Mario Dorsonville-Rodriguez was elected to lead the Committee on Migration, currently chaired by Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin. The committee seeks to provide awareness of and responses to the plight of immigrants, human trafficking, and refugees.

The bishops also elected Bishop Gregory Parkes of St. Petersburg, Florida, as treasurer-elect for the USCCB. The office of treasurer manages the conference’s funds and sits as vice-chairman on the Committee on Priorities and Plans. Parkes will take office in November 2019. He worked in the banking industry for several years before entering the seminary and being ordained.

The American bishops also chose two new members for the Board of Directors of Catholic Relief Services: Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services and Bishop Oscar Solis of Salt Lake City. Bishop James Johnston was also elected to serve a second term.

Where there are lies, there can be no love, pope says

Lying or being inauthentic is seriously wrong because it hinders or harms human relationships, Pope Francis said.

Bishops consider, comment on proposed pastoral against racism

The U.S. bishops took the first steps toward approving a pastoral letter against racism with the document's introduction Nov. 13 during their annual fall general meeting.

Quaker teacher looks at the end of life

Book review: In his 10th book, Quaker teacher and spiritual mentor Parker Palmer, 79, offers readers a backward view of his life and what he has learned. The book is Palmer's meditation on the meaning of his life, past, present and future.

Parish roundup: Catholics support Tree of Life Synagogue

The Field Hospital: Pittsburgh Catholics offer symbolic, financial support to their neighbors at Tree of Life Synagogue; pastor resigns as diocese investigates 'financial irregularities'; and more

Archbishop Etienne: Bishops need to address 'blind spot' of sex abuse

Some bishops have been more concerned about the reputation of the church than about victims of sexual abuse, indicating "clear corruption" and "a blind spot" that must be addressed, said Archbishop Paul Etienne of Anchorage, Alaska.

Psychologist: Communication failures obscure US bishops' progress on abuse

Strategies implemented since 2002 are working to prevent abuse, says Thomas Plante, past member of the National Review Board, and now is the time to plug any holes in child protection policies.

Intense debate over handling of abuse scandal ensues at USCCB meeting

Baltimore, Md., Nov 13, 2018 / 07:25 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- More than 20 bishops and cardinals offered passionate interventions during an open floor discussion on the sex abuse crisis at the U.S. bishops’ meeting in Baltimore on Tuesday afternoon.

More bishops wanted to speak, but due to time constraints, their comments were reserved for the next morning.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), opened the discussions with the announcement that he had created a “deliberately small” task force, comprised of himself and the former presidents of the USCCB.

The task force, which includes DiNardo and Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, and Archbishop Wilton Gregory, will work closely with the committees of the conference to examine instances of abuse and mishandling of abuse cases, and their work will culminate in a report presented at the next bishops’ meeting in June, DiNardo said.

Afterwards DiNardo opened the floor to any comments on the task force or the issue of the sex abuse crisis at large.

Cardinal Roger Mahony, who has been barred from public ministry in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles for the mishandling and cover-up of abuse cases involving minors and priests there, opened up the comments from the bishops, urging them to seek a greater collegiality amongst themselves as “brother bishops.”

He said the bishops should look to the example of St. Charles Borromeo, who said “we are not bishops alone or separate, we belong to a college and have a responsibility to it.”

He also encouraged bishops to pray more together and to consider establishing houses of prayer for priests and bishops, similar to one found in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Finally, he urged the bishops to “not allow outside influences to interfere with or attempt to break bonds of ecclesial union” that they have with each other.

Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe, New Mexico then gave a brief intervention, in which he suggested that bishops look to their priests to know how the faithful are reacting to the crisis and for any suggestions about possible solutions.

“It occurs to me that we might benefit from the wisdom of our brother priests, they are our closest collaborators, by tapping them in a more formal way,” he said.

Following Wester, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco then gave a long intervention in which he described what he has been hearing from Catholics in his area.

“We’ve heard how important it is to listen to our people, I’ve held listening sessions in my own Archdiocese” regarding the abuse scandal, he said.

From this listening, Cordileone said he has found that Catholics tend to fall in one of two camps regarding the abuse crisis: the first camp believes that the Church is not talking about the real problem, which is the prevalence homosexuality among the clergy and its correlation with abuse, he said.

The second camp believes that the real problem is an all-male hierarchy, “because women would never have allowed this to happen,” and therefore women must be invited in to all levels of the clergy.

Cordileone, who clarified that he was merely reporting what he found among his people, said that both conclusions are overly simplistic, but neither are without some merit.

“We do sometimes act as a good old boys club,” he said, with problems of “cronyism, favoritism, and cover-up.” He urged the bishops to find solutions to these “legitimate concerns” of Catholics in the second camp.

When considering the first camp, Cordileone cautioned against the “overly simplistic” conclusion that homosexuality causes sexual abuse. That “obviously cannot be true” he said, as some priests with homosexual tendencies faithfully serve the Church, while some heterosexually priests serve the Church poorly.

Still, the concern “has some validity,” he said, pointing to a recently-published study by Father D. Paul Sullins, a Catholic priest and retired Catholic University of America sociology professor. Sullins’ analysis found a rising trend in abuse, and argued that the evidence strongly suggests links between sexual abuse of minors and two factors: a disproportionate number of homosexual clergy, and the manifestation of a “homosexual subculture” in seminaries.

“The worst thing we could do is discredit this study so we can ignore or deny this reality,” Cordileone said. “We have to lean into it...to ignore it would be fleeing from the truth.”

The archbishop recommended further studies into the correlation between homosexuality and sexual abuse, one that avoids “quick and easy answers” and would attempt to find the root causes of this correlation.

Cordileone’s was the first intervention met with applause from many bishops.

Another California bishop, Bishop Robert Barron of Los Angeles, followed Cordileone’s comments by asking about the status of the Vatican investigation into the accusations against former cardinal Theodore McCarrick, and whether the bishops might “bring any respectful pressure to bear” to the Holy See on furthering the investigation.

DiNardo responded, saying that he knew that the four dioceses in which McCarrick had served had opened investigations, but he did not know of the status of a Vatican investigation on the matter.

In his intervention, Bishop Michael Burns of Guam asked about “meaningful constraints” on bishops accused of abuse, such as his predecessor Bishop Anthony S. Apuron, who was found guilty of sexual abuse of minors by a Vatican tribunal, but who has asked for an appeal.

“It’s been grating on the people of God” to have no concrete knowledge of the status of Apuron’s constraints, he said.

In his comments, Bishop Robert Daniel Conlon of Joliet, Illinois, said he agreed with an earlier suggestion of Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, that the remedy for the abuse crisis and accusations against bishops may already be found in the bishop’s charters and laws.

“People say the Church is hung up on sex, this is evidence of that,” he said regarding the debate about the sex abuse crisis. “We are capable of malfeasance in many other areas as well,” he said, and urged the bishops to consider more broadly the ways bishops may have gone wrong.

“I promised celibacy during (ordinations),” he added, “and I have to say I’m a little chagrined to be asked to sign something that says I will be accountable to certain standards.”

Bishop Andrew Cozzens of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis said in his following intervention that he wished to see more fraternal correction among the bishops. He asked that bishops seek out the counsel of the bishops in their region if they are considering resigning, and also that bishops fraternally correct bishops in their region if they believe they should resign.

“I dream of a day when we as brothers are strong enough to say - we think you should resign, even if he’s not ready to hear that,” he said. “Those are difficult conversations to have, nobody wants to have them, but they can be very important.”

Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, a “small rural area” with a minority Catholic population, gave a notably strong intervention, in which he asked the bishops to consider how McCarrick got to be in the positions that he was “if we really believed that what was going on was wrong?”

“It’s part of our deposit of faith that we believe homosexual activity is immoral,” he said. “How did he get promoted if we are all of one mind that this is wrong? Do we believe the doctrine of the Church or not?”

Strickland said that while homosexual people are “children of God who deserve great care” and not personal condemnation, the Church should teach clearly that homosexual actions are sinful, and help people move from sin to virtue.

“There’s a priest that travels around saying that he doesn’t (believe this teaching), and he’s well promoted in various places,” Strickland said. “Can that be presented in our dioceses? That same-sex marriage is just fine and that the Church may one day grow to understand that? That’s not what we teach.”

Strickland’s intervention was also followed by applause from numerous bishops.

Bishop Thomas Daly of Spokane said he had heard from many concerned, faithful Catholic parents who want to encourage vocations in their children, but are growing impatient with a lack of answers on the abuse crisis from Church leadership.

It is a concern the bishops should “take very seriously,” he said. “My feeling is judging from their conversations, they’re running out of patience.”

DiNardo then commented that he personally reads “thousands” of letters that the “people of God” have sent to the USCCB.

“If there’s one thing that nags at everyone, it’s the Archbishop McCarrick thing,” he said. “It seems to be ubiquitous. This is the one that I think has to be addressed, it’s just bad for our people.”

In the next intervention, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, said he seconded an earlier suggestion from Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, that metropolitan bishops be given greater authority over the bishops in their region and the ability to conduct their own reviews and investigations.

“We have an existing structure but it needs to be empowered,” he said. He also added that it should be clarified which accusations against bishops and clergy should be made public - those that are deemed credible, or those that have been further substantiated.

He added that the media “has been very negative” about the Church following the crisis and has perpetuated a “myth” that nothing has changed since the 2002 Dallas Charter, and that the bishops must do a better job speaking out about what has already changed.

Archbishop George Lucas of Omaha, Neb., said in his intervention that the process for handling misconduct on the part of bishops must be made clear, transparent and expedient.

“How bishops are held accountable when there has been misconduct is not clear, it’s a process that happens sometimes, but it’s not timely, it’s not transparent,” he said.

He said that he was “very disappointed” by instructions from the Vatican to not hold votes on proposed changes, but said he saw it as an opportunity to be very clear with the Holy See about needs to be done at the meetings in February.

Bishop Earl Boyea of Lansing, Michigan, gave a brief intervention in which he said he also favored the suggestions of strengthening the role of metropolitan bishops, and that it would likely be well-received in Rome.

Bishop Murry of Youngstown, Ohio said in his intervention that while lay people are angry, they want to help the Church, and the bishops should accept their help.

Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, Florida joked at the beginning of his comments that the bishops should be glad Donald Trump is president, otherwise the Church would be receiving even more attention and “bad press” than it already has.

He urged the bishops not to get “distracted” by the media, and not to give in to the “industry and addiction” of outrage. Most people are not hung up on the sex abuse crisis, he said.

“People are coming to Church, they're praying, they’re sending their kids to Catechism, the life of the Church is moving on. If you’re not reading the blogs, if you’re not watching cable TV, this is not front and center for most of our people,” he said.

“We’ve done a lot, we have to tell our story better and not get played in the outrage business and get back to what we’re supposed to be doing as pastors,” he said, to applause from some bishops.

Bishop George Thomas from Las Vegas followed Wenski, and said that he had heard from people who were “rightfully” angry and disappointed that the Vatican had put a hold on the votes of the bishop’s conference on any proposals regarding sex abuse.

“The perception is that justice delayed is justice denied,” he said. He said he still hoped the conference would hold an “advisory vote that reflects the gravity of the issue at hand, the urgency of the matter, the depth of the breach of trust…(in order to) remove a cancer and help heal this wound that is affecting so deeply the living body of Christ.”

Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, where McCarrick had once served, provided an update on the two investigations ongoing in his diocese, which he said are moving along but can become complicated when they overlap.

He said the diocese is “committed” to sharing the findings with the Holy See. He added that if Catholic’s trust in the credibility of their bishops was so easily shattered by the sex abuse crisis, “what was there before? What was our credibility built on, that it could be so swept away?”

Cardinal William Levada, emeritus prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said in his intervention that the McCarrick situation may have been prevented if there were stronger investigations conducted when transferring bishops to different dioceses.

Bishop Shawn McKnight of Jefferson City, Missouri reiterated in his interventions the “necessity” of the laity, who could serve as a “tremendous resource” in responding to the abuse crisis.

Archbishop Alexander Sample of Portland, Oregon, said the abuse crisis has caused him to “take a real good hard look at myself and how I’m living my life as a bishop in the Church today,” spiritually and pastorally.

“Have we lost sight about what our mission is truly all about?” he said. “Our mission is to sanctify the world,” through shepherding and being close to the people.

“Reform begins with us individually,” he said.

Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, California said in his intervention that he disagreed with all of the proposals to strengthen the role of the metropolitan bishops, an effort which he said would be perceived by lay Catholics as too little, too late.

“Maybe that moment has passed and we’ve missed our opportunity to do that,” he said. “In the current time, the transparency and independent review seems to be more on the minds of the faithful. We have to continue to pursue what has been proposed by the committee.”

All other interventions were reserved for the following morning. Following an announcement about expected ice and snow, the bishops broke for the evening. Thursday is the final day for the fall meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which this year has focused almost exclusively on their response to the sex abuse crisis in the U.S. Church.

Alleged victim of Archbishop McCarrick speaks at rally outside USCCB meeting

Baltimore, Md., Nov 13, 2018 / 05:34 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- James Grein, the man who came forward this summer alleging he was abused for 18 years by Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, appeared in public Tuesday for the first time and revealed his full name. Previously, the New York Times had identified him only as “James.”

Grein appeared at the Nov. 13 “Silence Stops Now” counter-rally organized by several groups critical of the bishops’ approach to addressing the sexual abuse crisis. The rally was held near the location of the USCCB’s Fall General Assembly in Baltimore.

Grein was visibly nervous taking the stage, where he delivered a short speech about his experience coming forward with his story, and received an extended standing ovation when he finished.

In July Grein came forward with his story to the New York Times. He said McCarrick began abusing him when he was 11 years old. At that time, McCarrick was 39 years old, and a priest of the Archdiocese of New York.  

This abuse continued for the next 18 years, he said, during which McCarrick was consecrated a bishop and served in the local Churches of New York, Metuchen, and Newark. In November 2000, he was appointed Archbishop of Washington, where he served the remainder of his career until his 2006 retirement. In 2001, McCarrick was elevated to the College of Cardinals. About a week after Grein’s allegation was published, McCarrick resigned from the College of Cardinals.

Grein credited the first survivor coming forward for giving him the strength to share his experience.

"That article would never have been written had it not been for a 16-year-old altar boy who accused McCarrick of abusing him," he said. After that survivor went public, and his claim was found to be credible, Grein said he felt as though “my time has come” and chose to share his story.

Previously, he felt there was “no place” for him to report his abuse, and that nobody would believe him even if he were to report it. Grein said he was motivated to go public Tuesday as a way to inspire other victims.

"I do this today so that others like me have the strength to come forward. Think about what you can do to help others. This movement must continue to gain strength,” he said.

“Our bishops must know that the jig is up.”

Grein said he believed that McCarrick’s punishment of a life of prayer and penance was a “necessary step” on the extended journey to “reform and reclaim the Church.” McCarrick is currently living in a monastery in Kansas until he is faces a canonical trial.

Despite his abuse, Grein said that he has continued to put his faith in Christ, and continues a regimen of prayer and fasting.

"Jesus' law is much higher than pontifical secrets,” he told the crowd.

“It’s not Francis' Church. It’s Jesus Christ's Church.”