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Pencil Preaching for Wednesday, July 8, 2020

'Roe' abortion decision could still be overturned at SCOTUS, law professor says

Denver Newsroom, Jul 7, 2020 / 05:00 pm (CNA).-  

Even after the U.S. Supreme Court's overturned a Louisiana law regulating abortion clinics, one law professor says that longstanding abortion precedents could still be overturned, even if the makeup of the court does not change.

“Given the right case, a strong enough factual record developed by state legislatures and supported at trial, I believe that the current majority on the Supreme Court could overturn Roe and Casey, and return the question of abortion to the states to resolve through the usual political processes,” University of Notre Dame law professor O. Carter Snead told CNA July 7.

On June 29 the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a Louisiana law holding abortion clinics to the same standards as other surgical centers.

Its 5-4 decision in the case June Medical Services, LLC v. Russo ruled that the state’s law requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital posed substantial obstacles to a woman’s access to abortion, without significant benefits to the safety of women.

The decision was written by Justice Stephen Breyer, with Chief Justice Roberts filing a concurring opinion. In his concurrence, Roberts said that Louisiana’s law imposed restrictions “just as severe” as those of a Texas law struck down by the court in 2016. Thus, according to the “legal doctrine of stare decisis,” he said, Louisiana’s law “cannot stand” because of the court’s previous ruling in 2016.

The Supreme Court heard a similar case about Texas safety regulations for clinics in the 2016 ruling Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.

Roberts, long considered a skeptic of pro-abortion rights jurisprudence, had dissented from that 2016 ruling against the Texas law. He joined the dissent of Justice Clarence Thomas which criticized “the Court’s troubling tendency ‘to bend the rules when any effort to limit abortion, or even to speak in opposition to abortion, is at issue.’”

For Snead, the latest decision was disappointing, but also a “road map” for continued efforts.

He lamented that Roberts failed to join four other justices in “affirming the constitutionality of a modest health and safety law for women seeking abortions, namely, the requirement that abortion providers have hospital admitting privileges within thirty miles of where the abortion is performed.”

“Nothing in the Constitution forbids Louisiana from enacting such a law. But Chief Justice Roberts felt bound to strike it down under the prudential doctrine of stare decisis because it was so factually similar to a Texas law invalidated four years ago in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt (in which Chief Justice Roberts dissented).”

Snead thought the four justices who dissented in the Louisiana case were right that stare decisis did not require rejecting the law.

However, even with the Supreme Court's apparent dedication to a recent precedent, Snead was hopeful that pro-abortion rights decisions like 1973's Roe v. Wade and 1992's Planned Parenthood v. Casey could be overturned.

“No one in June Medical Services asked for Roe or Casey to be overturned, and Chief Justice Roberts applied Planned Parenthood v. Casey without affirming or endorsing it,” said Snead.

“He made it explicitly clear that he does not believe the Court can or should balance a woman's self-determination against a state's interest in the life of an unborn child. But this is the very calculus from whence the right to abortion came in Roe and Casey. So it's clear that Chief Justice Roberts believes that Roe and Casey are conceptually unsustainable.”

“That leaves the issue of stare decisis as the final obstacle to convincing him to undo the injustice of Roe and Casey. It is clear from his concurrence that pro life litigants need to explain why principles of stare decisis do not require Casey and Roe to be sustained,” he said.

In a July 4 essay for the First Things website, “The Way Forward After June Medical,” Snead argued that Roberts' concurrence is “the controlling opinion for purposes of precedent” and “leaves pro-life litigants on a better jurisprudential footing than before.”

“Most important, June is a road map for tailoring arguments to the new swing vote on abortion, Chief Justice Roberts,” Snead said. “It is certainly tempting to give up because there is still so far to go. But in the face of setbacks in the struggle for the equal protection of the law for every member of the human family, born and unborn, we must remind ourselves that none of it matters. We must find a way to win.”

Roberts' concurrence acknowledged that the 2016 law was wrongly decided. For Snead, a case can be “readily made” to address Roberts' concerns about precedent because of the unstable place of abortion in constitutional law. He wrote “it is built on outdated and dubious factual predicates.”

Snead told CNA that American jurisprudence on abortion “has never offered a stable, coherent, or predictable legal framework; it has been re-theorized multiple times, thus reducing its precedential standing; and there is no evidence that women have structured their lives around access to abortion, nor evidence that their personal or social flourishing depends on it.”

He said Roberts' concurrence puts forward a “new standard.” If a state's abortion restrictions face legal challenge, the state needs only “to demonstrate that it is pursuing a legitimate purpose via rational means.”

Then the state needs only rebut the plaintiff's claims that the law at issue imposes a "substantial obstacle" to obtaining a pre-viability abortion. It remains to be seen how this standard will be applied, but Chief Justice Roberts noted that it is a more permissive test than "strict scrutiny," as prescribed by Roe, Snead added.

“This is a very low standard that states can almost always meet,” said Snead, saying this standard allows states “far more latitude to restrict and regulate abortion than before.”

“Indeed, the Supreme Court just vacated and remanded for reconsideration two cases where lower courts had previously struck down a parental notice law and a law requiring an ultrasound 18 hours prior to an abortion,” Snead told CNA.

“States should continue to pass laws that respect and protect the intrinsic equal dignity of all human beings, born and unborn, and extend the basic protections of the law to unborn children and their mothers,” Snead said. He advised a combination of abortion restrictions and laws that strengthen “the social safety net” for pregnant mothers and families.

States should make it easier for men and women to care for their babies or, where not possible, to make an adoption plan, he suggested.

“And in our own lives, we all have the duty to extend to all our brothers and sisters, born and unborn, love, respect, and radical hospitality,” he said.

 

Catholic military archbishop laments US Navy ban on 'off-base indoor religious services'

Denver Newsroom, Jul 7, 2020 / 04:07 pm (CNA).- The US Navy is reportedly loosening some restrictions on some sailors attending “off-base indoor religious services,” which it had promulgated in late June and which the archbishop for the military service had called “particularly odious to Catholics.”

The Navy had issued an order June 24 stating that "service members are prohibited from visiting, patronizing, or engaging in...indoor religious services,” according to First Liberty Institute, a religious freedom advocacy group.

Timothy Broglio, Archbishop for the Military Services USA, had on Sunday lamented the Navy’s policy, noting that the orders also add that “civilian personnel, including families, are discouraged from” indoor church services.

Broglio said upon learning about the order, he had immediately contacted the Navy Chief of Chaplains’ Office, which he said was not able to offer any relief from the Navy’s provisions. His attempt to contact the Chief of Naval Operations had not been acknowledged as of July 5.

“Certainly, the Navy personnel who fall under this restriction are dispensed from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass, because no one can be required to do what is impossible,” Broglio said.

“However, given the great lengths to which Catholic churches...have gone in order to ensure social distancing in seating, receiving Holy Communion, and even adjust the liturgy to avoid any contagion, I wonder why the Navy has decided to prohibit the faithful from something which even the Commander in Chief has called an essential service.”

The Navy’s director of Fleet Public Affairs told Fox News July 6 that if “conditions are met locally”— which the director did not specify— "Sailors are not prohibited from attending off-base indoor religious services.”

The Navy had on June 25 established a surveillance testing program, called Sentinel Surveillance Testing, to test asymptomatic service members for COVID-19.

Broglio called the Navy’s original order “particularly odious to Catholics,” because, he said, frequently there is no longer a Catholic program on naval installations due to budgetary constraints, or many installation chapels simply are still closed.

“Participation in the Sunday Eucharist is life blood for Catholics.  It is the source and summit of our lives and allows us to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord,” he said.

“I want to assure the Navy Catholic faithful of my prayerful solidarity, invite them to continue to participate in Masses that are broadcast or live-streamed, and to be fervent in their faith.  This situation will pass and, as Pope Francis reminded us, Christ is in the boat with us.”

CNA was unable to reach the Archdiocese for the Military Services USA for further comment today.

American exceptionalism needs a reboot

Today, however, we have become exceptional in another way. Going our own way, with total disregard for the desires and interests of other countries, we eschew multilateralism, whether in trade negotiations or dealing with climate change. We undermine NATO, the World Health Organization and other international institutions that we helped create.

Dakota Access pipeline temporarily shut down in legal and 'spiritual' battle

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has temporarily shut down the Dakota Access pipeline for the latest twist in what activists and religious leaders have called a " spiritual battle."

Vatican task force calls for an end to arms production

Human health, peace, security and progress would be better served with a complete end to the production of weapons worldwide, said members of a Vatican task force.

100-plus bishops demand supply chain due diligence 'now more than ever'

More than 100 bishops from around the world have signed on to a statement seeking mandatory due diligence laws and regulations in the international supply chain.

Mississippi bishops denounce racism in 4th of July letter

CNA Staff, Jul 7, 2020 / 01:12 pm (CNA).- The bishops of Mississippi’s two Catholic dioceses called on their priests to preach about racism and highlighted the Church’s anti-racism teachings in a letter to the state’s Catholics on July 4. 

Bishop Louis Kihnemann of Biloxi and Bishop Joseph Kopacz of Jackson issued an unequivocal call for all Catholics to reject racism in society in their joint Independence Day letter.

“We join our voices to vehemently denounce racism, a plague among us. It is an evil and a force of destruction that eats away at the soul of our nation. Ultimately, it is a moral problem that requires a moral remedy—a transformation of the human heart—and compels us to act,” said the letter. 

The bishops offered a list of “practical suggestions and goals” for the two dioceses in Mississippi on how to work to end racism. These include, on the parish level, a reading of the USCCB’s “Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love -- A Pastoral Letter Against Racism”; homilies speaking against racism and promoting “personal responsibility to eradicate it and encourage dialog”; prayers to end racism and injustice at Mass; listening seminars for members of the parish and wider community; and invitations for chaplains and police departments “to join seminars and discussions on racism.”

Individually, the bishops suggested that Catholics read Open Wide Our Hearts and other texts concerning Catholic Social Teaching; to learn more about history and causes of racism; vote; to “not take part in racial or discriminatory humor”; work on strengthening family life; and to “speak out whenever you see injustice, racism or discrimination.” 

The bishops’ letter comes at a time when many monuments and artifacts of the Confederacy are being removed around the country, including Mississippi. Last month, lawmakers in Mississippi voted to change the state flag, which included an emblem of the Confederate battle flag. Gov. Tate Reeves (R) signed the bill altering the flag into law on June 30. 

The flag had flown in its previous form since 1894. 

The bishops said that an honest appraisal of history is necessary to “recognize our participation in the chains of racism,” and to acknowledge that “significant numbers of African Americans are born into economic and social disparity.” 

“Generations of African Americans were disadvantaged by slavery, wage theft, ‘Jim Crow’ laws, and the systematic denial of access to numerous wealth-building opportunities reserved for others,” they added. These effects, when added up, have led to “social structures of injustice and violence,” they said. 

Pointing to the recent widespread protests and rallies “against the tyranny of racism” in response to the “heartless killing of George Floyd,” the bishops stated that a “critical mass” has been reached that has “exploded across our nation and beyond.” 

In their Independence Day letter, the bishops acknowledged that “for many of our fellow citizens, interactions with the police are often fraught with fear and even danger,” but that they also “reject harsh rhetoric that belittles and dehumanizes our law enforcement personnel as a whole,” as well as violence and riots. 

At the USCCB’s Fall General Assembly in November 2018, the bishops endorsed the Cause for Canonization of Sr. Thea Bowman, an African-American religious sister from Mississippi who often spoke out in favor of racial justice. In their July 4 letter, the bishops repeatedly cited Bowman’s work, and agreed with her declaration that low self-esteem due to repeated criticisms from “racist society” was “one of the great problems of the black community.” 

“The enduring call to love is the heart of the matter and the antidote to this toxin,” said the bishops.  

“Love is an extraordinary force which leads people to opt for courageous and generous engagement in the field of justice and peace. For many in Mississippi who strive to live by the Word of God, we cannot ignore the prophets,” they added.

The bishops vowed to “recommit ourselves to continue to liberate the Church from the evil of racism,” which “severely compromises our mission to make disciples of all nations in the name of Jesus Christ.” 

“With the ordained priests and deacons, religious and laity in our diocese we pledge ourselves to strengthen our Catholic tradition to educate, to serve, and to empower all who are on the margins in our communities, especially those who are oppressed by the yoke of racism,” they said. 

“We are not powerless, and the witness of Sister Thea’s life is an icon of hope that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

Cleveland priest faces multiple federal child pornography charges

A grand jury indicted a Catholic priest on federal charges involving child pornography and the sexual exploitation of children.

Catholic bishops join 1,000 faith leaders to oppose federal executions

CNA Staff, Jul 7, 2020 / 10:10 am (CNA).- Several U.S. bishops, along with clergy and religious brothers and sisters from around the country, have signed a statement opposing federal executions that are scheduled to resume this month.

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Bishop William Medley of Owensboro, Kentucky, Bishop Oscar Solis of Salt Lake City, Bishop Thomas Zinkula of Davenport, Iowa, and Bishop Richard Pates who is the apostolic administrator of Joliet, Illinois, all joined more than 1,000 faith leaders in calling for a stop to scheduled executions of four federal death row inmates.

“As faith leaders from a diverse range of traditions, we call on President Trump and Attorney General Barr to stop the scheduled federal executions,” the statement read.

Catholic priests and religious, deacons, and lay leaders signed on to the statement, as well as members of Christian denominations, Reform Judaism and Conservative Jewish congregations, and Buddhist leaders, among others.

“As our country grapples with the COVID 19 pandemic, an economic crisis, and systemic racism in the criminal legal system, we should be focused on protecting and preserving life, not carrying out executions,” the faith leaders stated.

Bishop Pates issued his own statement in addition to the joint letter, saying that “[t]he Church believes that just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation.”

Last summer, Attorney General William Barr instructed the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to resume execution of federal prisoners on death row for the first time since 2003.

The inmates scheduled for execution are Daniel Lewis Lee, Lezmond Mitchell, Wesley Ira Purkey, Dustin Lee Honken, and Alfred Bourgeois, convicted of the murders of children and adults and, in some cases, torture.

Four of the inmates—Lee, Purkey, Honken, and Bourgeois—challenged the execution protocol, and in November a federal judge granted them an injunction so they could appeal to the Supreme Court.

The BOP had not conducted an execution since 2003, after the Obama administration decided to review the old three-drug execution protocol for lethal injection. Although Barr proposed a one-drug execution method of pentobarbital, the inmates challenged the new protocol.

The D.C. Circuit Court ruled against the inmates and vacated the injunction in April, and the Supreme Court on June 29 declined to hear their appeal, allowing for the executions to continue. The first of four executions has been scheduled for July 13, and the last on August 28.

The executions are scheduled to occur in Terre Haute, Indiana, within the archdiocese of Indianapolis. Archbishop Charles C. Thompson of Indianapolis opposed the executions on June 18, noting his jurisdiction with regard to the location of Terre Haute federal prison and stating that “the supreme law of the Church, the salvation of souls, demands that I speak out on this very grave matter at hand.”

“Since the pontificate of Pope St. John Paul II, it has been the Catholic position that today’s prison system is quite adequate to protect society from inmates escaping or being unlawfully set free,” he said. While the crimes of the federal inmates cannot be ignored, he said, “humanity cannot allow the violent act of an individual to cause other members of humanity to react in violence.”

“While the Church is certainly concerned with the soul of every person, including those on death row, I make this plea against the death penalty out of ultimate concern for the eternal soul of humanity,” he said.

Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City, who chairs the U.S. bishops’ domestic justice committee, has also called for the government to stop the executions.

He noted that Pope St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis have all called for an end to the death penalty, and that the U.S. bishops’ overwhelmingly voted in favor of Pope Francis’ new language in the Catechism calling the death penalty “inadmissible.”