Browsing News Entries

Appeals court says Title X rule can take effect while suits proceed

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced July 15 it would begin implementing the Trump administration's "Protect Life Rule" to bar Title X funds from being used for promoting or providing abortion as family planning.

On July 11, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a 7-4 decision said that even as court cases challenging it proceed, the rule can take effect. The ruling of the San Francisco-based court let stand its June 20 decision lifting injunctions blocking enforcement of the rule.

An emergency stay had been sought by some abortion rights advocates, including Planned Parenthood, and by 20 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

"We are greatly encouraged to see the 9th Circuit rule in favor of allowing President Trump's Protect Life Rule to take effect while it continues to be litigated," said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the national pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List.

"A strong majority of Americans have consistently voiced their opposition to taxpayer funding of abortion -- it is even unpopular among Democrats and self-described pro-choice Americans," she said July 15. "Without reducing Title X funding by a dime, the Protect Life Rule simply draws a bright line between abortion and family planning, stopping abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood from treating Title X as their private slush fund."

Represented by the Thomas More Society, a pro-life law firm based in Chicago, the Susan B. Anthony List has filed friend-of-the-court briefs in support of the Protect Life Rule and the federal government in the cases brought against it.

Dannenfelser noted that the nearly three decades ago, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld similar regulations and is optimistic the Trump administration's rule will prevail in the courts.

Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, also welcomed the news the rule
can take effect.

"Abortion is neither health care nor family planning and therefore should not be funded by the Title X program. This regulation helps to get taxpayers out of the abortion business, without cutting resources for those in need, and is a victory for all Americans," she said.

Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, also praised the action by the 9th Circuit.

"Implementing the Protect Life Rule makes sense when you consider all the funds misused by abortion vendors to sell abortions to unsuspecting women," she said. "Planned Parenthood has violated the spirit of the Title X family planning program for years by collecting millions of dollars while they marketed abortion."

Hawkins added, "Pregnancy is not a disease cured by abortion, and ending the connection between abortion and family planning is a victory for common-sense health care."

According to the HHS Office of Population Affairs, the Trump administration's Protect Life Rule is based on the most accurate interpretation of the Family Planning Services and Population Research Act of 1970, which enacted Title X. Section 1008 of this act states that "none of the funds appropriated under this title shall be used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning."

HHS said the rule requires "clear financial and physical separation between Title X funded projects and programs or facilities where abortion is a method of family planning. This separation will ensure adherence to statutory restrictions, and provide needed clarity for the public and for Title X clinics about permissible and impermissible activities for Title X projects."

"Planned Parenthood and others want to use public Title X funds to support their abortion services in blatant disregard of Congress explicitly and statutorily excluded abortion from the scope of Title X projects and funding," she added.Americans United for Life's president and CEO, Catherine Glenn Foster, said in a July 16 statement that under the rule, "no physician in America is being stopped from referring a patient for an abortion -- they just can't demand taxpayer funding to do so."

In a poll commissioned by Students for Life of America and conducted by The Polling Company/Woman Trend, 18- to 34-year-olds by a 3-to-1 margin said they preferred that their tax monies go to Federally Qualified Health Centers -- a government designation for centers that provide comprehensive health care services to underserved communities -- rather than to Planned Parenthood.

The Protect Life Rule's restrictions are like what President Ronald Reagan put in place in 1988. Planned Parenthood of New York City immediately challenged the regulations, claiming the denial of public funds violated their constitutional rights of free speech because the rules included a prohibition on abortion referrals.

In 1991, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 the government had the right to establish rules that fund only family planning programs that do not “encourage, promote or advocate abortion.” When President Bill Clinton took office in 1993, he reversed the regulations.

- By Catholic News Service

Administration to apply 'third country' rule for asylum-seekers

The Trump administration announced the U.S. departments of Justice and Homeland Security are adopting an interim "third country rule" requiring immigrants seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border to first apply for refugee status in another country.

A migrant and her daughter rest outside Our Lady of Guadalupe Cathedral in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, July 14. As part of the legal proceedings under a new policy established by the U.S. government, they were returned to Mexico from the United States to await their court hearing for asylum. (CNS photo/Jose Luis Gonzalez, Reuters)

News that the rule was taking effect July 16 brought quick condemnation by Catholic and other immigrant advocates, including the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston.

And as it had vowed to do, the American Civil Liberties Union the same day filed suit against the regulation in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, which is based in San Francisco. Representing four California-based immigrant advocacy groups, the ACLU said the "crackdown" violates federal immigration and regulatory laws. ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt called the new rule the Trump administration's "most extreme run at an asylum ban yet."

Cardinal DiNardo called the new rule "drastically" limiting asylum "unacceptable," especially because it comes on the heels of the "misguided and untenable" actions by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to carrying out deportation orders for some immigrants.

"It is contrary to American and Christian values to attempt to prevent people from migrating here when they are fleeing to save their lives and to find safety for their families," the cardinal said in a July 16 statement.

ICE enforcement actions are creating fear in immigrant communities and now added to "to this climate of fear" is the administration's "further unacceptable action to undermine the ability of individuals and families to seek protection in the United States."

"The rule adds further barriers to asylum-seekers' ability to access life-saving protection, shirks our moral duty, and will prevent the United States from taking its usual leading role in the international community as a provider of asylum protection," the cardinal continued. "Further, while still reviewing the rule, initial analysis raises serious questions about its legality."

He urged President Donald Trump "to reconsider these actions, the new rule and its enforcement-only approach."

"I ask that persons fleeing for their lives be permitted to seek refuge in the U.S. and all those facing removal proceedings be afforded due process. All who are at or within our borders should be treated with compassion and dignity," Cardinal DiNardo added.

Other reaction to the third-country asylum rule included a statement from including Christopher Kerr, executive director of the Ignatian Solidarity Network.

"Yesterday, Catholics around the world attending Mass heard the 'Parable of the Good Samaritan' and a message of love for one's neighbor proclaimed in the Gospel," Kerr said July 15. "Today, our nation awoke to the news of the president of the United States seeking to shut off access to safety and refuge for Central American families facing horrific violence, repression and poverty in their home countries."

"This is not the act of a good Samaritan -- instead it is an effort that does not honor the inherent dignity of those seeking asylum in our country," Kerr said.

The rule will not only have "a profound impact on Central Americans facing poverty and gang violence" but also will affect people from many other countries fleeing religious persecution and other forms of abuse," he said.

"Asylum is an internationally recognized life-saving process that is firmly embedded in U.S. law and history," said Anna Gallagher, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc. "Attempting to subvert this process is a betrayal of American history and our legal system. Asylum-seekers need our protection, not another door slammed in their faces."

Gallagher's comments were included in a joint news release of reaction from several faith groups issues late July 15 by the Interfaith Immigration Coalition.

"As Pope Francis said last week in his return to the immigrant-receiving island of Lampedusa, we are called to be, as Scripture asks, 'those angels, ascending and descending, taking under our wings the little ones, the lame, the sick, those excluded.' Our call to care for others doesn't get much plainer than that," Gallagher added.

Kathryn Johnson, policy advocacy coordinator with the American Friends Service Committee, said that at a time of "multiple refugee crises across the world, the United States should be expanding U.S. protection for refugees, asylum-seekers and others seeking safety and taking in more of the world's persecuted people."

"Instead, she added, "this administration is shamefully putting more refugees' lives in danger through this and other attacks on our asylum system."

The new rule, being published in the Federal Register, says that "an alien who enters or attempts to enter the United States across the southern border after failing to apply for protection in a third country outside the alien's country of citizenship, nationality, or last lawful habitual residence through which the alien transited en route to the United States is ineligible for asylum."

- By Catholic News Service

Poor Clare marks silver jubilee; she traded in hoops for life of prayer

The last time Poor Clare Sister Rose Marie of the Queen of Angels hugged her mom or other family members was in 1994 when she made her solemn profession of vows to her religious order.

In June, when she renewed her solemn vows, more than 120 friends and family gathered to greet her at the Poor Clare Monastery of Mary, Mother of the Church in Alexandria. It was the first time she hugged many of her nieces and nephews.

"It was such a joy for all of us to celebrate this milestone in our sister's life. For someone to persevere for 25 years in a hidden life of prayer and penance is a proof of God's grace," said Abbess Mother Miriam Love.

"It helps confirm all of us in our vocation to serve the church with our prayer and with our lives," she told the Arlington Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Diocese of Arlington.

Before entering the convent, Sister Rose Marie, known as Shelly Pennefather, was a basketball star -- in Catholic high school and during her college career at Villanova University in Pennsylvania. She played three seasons of professional basketball for the Nippon Express in Japan after graduating from Villanova.

Her skills on the court got a mention from Arlington Bishop Michael F. Burbidge during his homily at the Mass he celebrated on Pentecost, June 9, when Sister Rose Marie celebrated her silver jubilee and renewed her vows.

"Having so many opportunities in front of her for a successful and professional career in basketball and to cling to what the world deems necessary for happiness, the Spirit of God proved to be more powerful than such allurements," Bishop Burbidge said.

"(This) allowed Sister Rose Marie to hear and to respond to God's voice inviting her to a radical new way of living in his presence within a community of sisters devoted entirely to the Lord and dedicated to prayer for his church and his people," he said.

Sister Rose Marie "asks for the grace to be strengthened in faith, hope and love and to persevere faithfully in her consecration," Bishop Burbidge said in his homily. "Together, we ask God 'to send the fire of the Holy Spirit into the heart of his daughter that she may always be one with him in loving fidelity to Christ, her bridegroom.'"

He added: "How blessed we are as her sisters, family members and friends to participate in this sacred liturgy and to thank God for the gift that Sister Rose Marie has been and remains to the church and to each one of us. I am sure that at the conclusion of this ceremony, we will all be able to say, 'There was no doubt that the Holy Spirit was here today.'"

After the homily, Sister Rose Marie came to the open communion doors to the right of the altar and renewed her vows.

After Bishop Burbidge asked her what she asks of God and the church, she replied, "I ask for the grace to renew my solemn vows, to be strengthened in faith, hope and love, and to persevere faithfully in my consecration."

After a prayer offered by Bishop Burbidge, Sister Rose Marie knelt before Abbess Miriam and placed her hands in the hands of the abbess and renewed her vows. Bishop Burbidge extended his hands over Sister Rose Marie in blessing and embraced her with the sign of peace.

Then, one by one, 40 to 50 members of her family extended the sign of peace.

As Shelly Pennefather, her basketball career took shape during three years at Bishop Machebeuf Catholic High School in Denver. She led Machebeuf to three consecutive state championships and a 70-0 record. When her family she moved, her final year of high school was at Notre Dame High School in Utica, New York. She led Notre Dame to a 26-0 record, making for a no loss record for her entire high school career.

Pennefather was named to the Parade All-American High School Basketball Team. She was a U.S. Olympic Festival selection in 1981 and 1983. She turned out for the USA Women's R. William Jones Cup Team in 1982 where she earned a silver medal.

Records she set at Villanova University (1983-87) include becoming the school's all-time leading scorer for both men and women with 2,408 career points; and the program's all-time leading rebounder with 1,171 rebounds. She received the Wade Trophy in 1987, given to the top player in NCAA Division One women's basketball, and is one of six Villanova women's basketball players to have her jersey retired.

During her off-seasons as a professional player with the Nippon Express, she volunteered at St. Teresa of Kolata's Missionaries of Charity mission in Norristown, Pennsylvania. She retired from basketball and entered the Poor Clare convent in 1991.

- By Elizabeth Bachmann / Catholic News Service

Census to go forward without citizenship question

In a July 11 announcement from the Rose Garden, President Donald Trump said he was ending his efforts to add a citizenship question to the census and would instead direct federal agencies by executive order to provide data about the country's citizens and noncitizens to the U.S. Commerce Department.

The White House is seen in Washington July 3. Although the Justice Department announced July 2 it would no longer argue to have the citizenship question added to the 2020 census, the Trump administration continues to look at all possible options to get the question included. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

Although the Justice Department announced July 2 it would no longer argue to have the citizenship question added to the 2020 census, the Trump administration had continued to look at all possible options to get the question included."We are not backing down on our effort to determine the citizenship status of the United States population," Trump said, in a move that ended a legal battle that had continued even after the Supreme Court's decision to block the question was announced more than two weeks earlier.

A federal judge in Maryland who heard one of the lawsuits on the citizenship question had given White House officials until midday July 5 to provide a credible reason for including the question.

The Justice Department's decision not to move forward with the question -- "Is this person a citizen of the United States?" -- came in response to the Supreme Court's decision to block it from the questionnaire and amid pressing deadlines to begin printing the forms, which started July 1.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement that he strongly disagreed with the high court's ruling over the planned additional question and President Donald Trump tweeted that it was a "very sad time for America when the Supreme Court of the United States won't allow a question of 'Is this person a Citizen of the United States?' to be asked on the #2020 Census."

He also said he asked the Commerce and Justice departments to "do whatever is necessary to bring this most vital of questions, and this very important case, to a successful conclusion."

Earlier that day, the U.S. bishops praised the Supreme Court's decision June 27 to block the Trump administration's citizenship question stressing that "the inclusion of a citizenship question must ensure genuine reasons" for it.

The 5-4 ruling -- written by Chief Justice John Roberts and joined in part by the other justices -- sent the case back to a lower court saying the administration's reason for adding the citizenship question "seems to have been contrived."

The day the decision was announced, President Donald Trump tweeted that he was asking his lawyers if they can "delay the census, no matter how long" until the "Supreme Court is given additional information from which it can make a final and decisive decision."

Trump told reporters July 1 at the White House: "It's very important to find out if somebody is a citizen as opposed to an illegal."

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' statement on the high court's decision said: "All persons in the United States should be counted in the census regardless of their immigration status." It also reiterated its previous statement on the issue by stressing that "questions regarding citizenship should not be included in the census. We hope that this view will prevail, whether by administrative action or judicial determination."

The statement was issued by Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Bishop Joe S. Vasquez, of Austin, Texas, chairman of the Committee on Migration.

The census case hit a potential twist in late May, a month after oral arguments, when newly submitted evidence from the files of a deceased Republican strategist put the citizenship question in another light: as a means to create an advantage for whites and Republicans in future elections.

Then in late June, a federal appeals court in Maryland allowed a lower court to study the background of these files.

The government had asked the Supreme Court to rule on the census dispute by the end of June, so that it can finalize the census questionnaire and get the forms printed in time for distribution next year.

During oral arguments about the added census question in April, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said: "There's no doubt people will respond less" to the census questionnaire with a citizenship question, a point which she said "has been proven in study after study."

Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh said citizenship questions were common in other countries and had been on the U.S. forms over the years.

Both Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito said the decision by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to add a citizenship question -- for the first time since 1950 to improve compliance with the Voting Rights Act -- seemed reasonable. But Justice Elena Kagan said Ross' reason for adding this question seemed "contrived."

In its defense, U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco said the information it would provide would help enforce the Voting Rights Act. When asked about the question leading to potentially less participation, he said: "There is always going to be a trade-off."

Lawyers for New York, immigrant advocacy groups and the House of Representatives stressed that the question would prevent noncitizens from filling out the census and have a negative financial and political impact on communities with large immigrant populations.

A similar argument was raised in a friend-of-the-court brief opposed to the citizenship question filed by Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York and Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens in New York. The brief stressed that the added question would cause a "net differential undercount of people who live in noncitizen and Hispanic households" and would result in a "drastic and unwarranted reduction in funding in states and cities with large populations of such persons" and also would impact social service agencies.

In a USCCB statement issued on the day of oral arguments for the census case, Bishops Dewane and Vasquez stressed the importance of an accurate census count.

"The Catholic Church and other service providers rely on the national census to provide an accurate count in order to effectively serve those in need," said Bishop Dewane.

Bishop Vasquez said all people should be counted in the census, regardless of their citizenship and he said "proposed questions regarding immigration status will obstruct accurate census estimates and ultimately harm immigrant families and the communities they live in."

By one government estimate, about 6.5 million people might decide not to participate in the census with the added citizenship question.

The census is rooted in the text of the Constitution, which requires an "actual enumeration" of the population every 10 years. It determines federal funding for roads and schools, congressional districting and number of congressional representatives.

-By Carol Zimmermann / Catholic News Service

Pope mourns death of French patient after doctors withhold care

"Every life is valuable, always," Pope Francis tweeted after offering prayers for Vincent Lambert, a 42-year-old French man who died July 11, nine days after doctors stopped providing him with nutrition and hydration.

Pierre and Viviane Lambert leave Sebastopol Hospital in Reims, France, July 9. In early July, French doctors stopped life support of their son, Vincent Lambert. "Every life is valuable, always," Pope Francis tweeted after offering prayers for Vincent Lambert, who died July 11, nine days after doctors stopped providing him with nutrition and hydration. (CNS photo/Philippe Wojazer, Reuters)

"May God the Father welcome Vincent Lambert in his arms," the pope's tweet said. "Let us not build a civilization that discards persons whose lives we no longer consider to be worthy of living."

The Pontifical Academy for Life called the death of Lambert a "defeat for our humanity," and Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, called Lambert a "martyr" in a tweet.

Lambert, who suffered serious brain damage more than 10 years ago, died after years of court battles divided his family.

Alessandro Gisotti, interim director of the Vatican press office, said in a statement, "With pain we heard the news of the death of Vincent Lambert. We pray that the Lord will welcome him into his home, and we express our closeness to his loved ones and all those who were committed to assisting him with love and dedication to the end."

Gisotti also reminded people what Pope Francis had said earlier about the case: "God is the only lord of life, from its beginning to its natural end, and our obligation is to safeguard it always and not give into the throwaway culture."

Since being involved in a motorcycle accident in 2008, Lambert had been variously described as being "minimally conscious" or in a vegetative state.

His wife and six of his siblings supported a recommendation made by doctors in 2013 that the provision of nutrition and hydration through a gastric tube should be stopped. Lambert was able to breathe on his own.

But Lambert's parents and two other siblings had fought the decision in courts, insisting as the Catholic Church does that nutrition and hydration were not extraordinary measures for prolonging his life.

Doctors at the clinic in Reims, France, where Lambert had been cared for, started withdrawing nutrition and hydration in May when a court ruled in his wife's favor. However, a few hours later, an appeals court reversed the decision and ordered a resumption of tube feeding and hydration.

In late June another court ruled that care could be discontinued; doctors began withholding nutrition and hydration July 2.

Archbishop Eric de Moulins-Beaufort of Reims, Pope Francis and several Vatican officials had made public comments about the case, emphasizing the church's position that while extraordinary means of prolonging a patient's life are not morally obligatory, in most cases nutrition and hydration are normal care and withholding them is a "serious violation of the dignity of the person."

- By Cindy Wooden / Catholic News Service

Praising God for gift of creation leads to respect for it, pope says

Human beings are called to praise God for his gift of creation, not be predators out to plunder the earth and all it contains, Pope Francis said.

This is an aerial view of a deforested plot of the Amazon at the Bom Futuro National Forest in Porto Velho, Brazil, Sept. 3, 2015. In a message sent in early July to participants of an Italian conference on the consequences of deforestation in the Amazon, Pope Francis said the current situation in the South American rainforest "is a sad paradigm of what is happening in many parts of the planet."(CNS photo/Nacho Doce, Reuters) 

In a message sent July 8 to participants of an Italian conference on the consequences of deforestation in the Amazon, the pope said the current situation in the South American rainforest "is a sad paradigm of what is happening in many parts of the planet."

It is "a blind and destructive mentality that prefers profit to justice; it highlights the predatory attitude with which men and women relate to nature," he said. "Please do not forget that social justice and ecology are deeply interconnected."

According to its website, the international forum sponsored by the Laudato Si' Community, an association inspired by the pope's encyclical on the environment, reflected on the Amazon as "the key to 'ecological conversion'" in order to obtain a "better understanding of integral ecology and obtain the knowledge of living in harmony with creation."

The conference took place in the central Italian town of Amatrice, which was devastated in 2016 after a 6.2 magnitude earthquake struck the region. Amatrice was the hardest-hit town, accounting for 234 of the estimated 290 deaths, according to the Italian Civil Protection office.

In his message, the pope said the conference's location was "a sign of hope" as well as a "sign of closeness to so many brothers and sisters who still live at the crossroads between the memory of a frightening tragedy and a reconstruction that is slow to take off."

Regarding the conference's theme, the pope said the deforestation and exploitation of the Amazon and its inhabitants has brought thousands of men and women to their knees and forced them to "become foreigners in their own land, deprived them of their own culture and tradition and broke the balance that united these peoples to their land for millennia."

Citing St. Paul VI's encyclical on integral human development, "Populorum Progressio," the pope said that humankind can no longer "remain an indifferent spectator in the face of this destruction, nor can the church remain mute: the cry of the poor must resound."

Pope Francis also offered three attitudes for the conference participants to reflect upon when discussing the care of the environment. The first word, doxology -- the liturgical formula of praise to God - is the attitude that all men and women must have before the beauty of God's creation.

"Praise is the fruit of contemplation, contemplation and praise lead to respect and respect becomes almost veneration before the goods of creation and its creator," the pope said.

An attitude that is eucharistic, he continued, helps men and women grasp the gift of life and recognize that "everything is given to us free of charge, not to be looted or devoured but to be a gift meant to be shared, a gift to be given."

Finally, an ascetic attitude toward the environment is important so that people may "know how to give up something for a greater good, for the good of others.

Asceticism, Pope Francis said, "helps us to convert a predatory attitude - that is always lurking - into sharing, building a relationship that is ecological, respectful and kind."

- By Junno Arocho Esteves / Catholic News Service

Father Nick Nelson: Are socialism and Catholicism compatible?

"Socialism” was the most looked-up word at Merriam-Webster.com in 2012 and is currently second all time. Recently, especially among the young and idealistic, socialism has developed a more favorable opinion. It has become increasingly popular and trendy to call oneself a socialist or espouse socialist ideas and goals.

Father Nicholas Nelson
Father Nick Nelson
Handing on the Faith

This is understandable considering what socialism promises — equality, a good standard of living, solidarity. And at first glance, socialism can seem to be very compatible with our Catholic faith. We are called to care for the poor and to help those in need.

But when we consider the fundamental principles of socialism, we see that it is contrary to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In fact, our Holy Fathers since Pius IX in 1849 have repeatedly condemned socialism. Here are just a few examples:

Pope Leo XIII wrote, “They [socialists, communists, or nihilists] debase the natural union of man and woman, which is held sacred even among barbarous peoples; and its bond, by which the family is chiefly held together, they weaken, or even deliver up to lust. Lured, in fine, by the greed of present goods, which is ‘the root of all evils, which some coveting have erred from the faith’ (1 Timothy 6:10- 13), they assail the right of property sanctioned by natural law; and by a scheme of horrible wickedness, while they seem desirous of caring for the needs and satisfying the desires of all men, they strive to seize and hold in common whatever has been acquired either by title of lawful inheritance, or by labor of brain and hands, or by thrift in one’s mode of life” (encyclical “Quod Apostolici Muneris,” 1878).

Pope St. John XXIII wrote that no Catholic can even subscribe to moderate Socialism, “The reason is that Socialism is founded on a doctrine of human society which is bounded by time and takes no account of any objective other than that of material well-being. Since, therefore, it proposes a form of social organization which aims solely at production, it places too severe a restraint on human liberty, at the same time flouting the true notion of social authority” (encyclical “Mater et Magistra,” 1961).

St. Pope Paul VI emphasizes the real historical failures of socialism. “Too often Christians attracted by socialism tend to idealize it in terms which, apart from anything else, are very general: a will for justice, solidarity, and equality. They refuse to recognize the limitations of the historical socialist movements, which remain conditioned by the ideologies from which they originated” (apostolic letter “Octogesima Adveniens,” 1971).

History has shown that socialism doesn’t work even as an economic theory. See the current situation in Venezuela. It doesn’t work because incentive is so important to the economy, and socialism minimizes or eliminates incentive. In his 1995 essay “Why Socialism Failed,” Mark Perry wrote that incentives are based on the three Ps: 1) prices determined by market forces; 2) a profit and loss system of accounting;and 3) private property rights which are a natural human rights. When you don’t have these three Ps, you don’t have an incentive to work hard, and the economic system fails.

And maybe most condemning of socialism is St. John Paul II. He wrote, “We have to add that the fundamental error of socialism is anthropological in nature. Socialism considers the individual person simply as an element, a molecule within the social organism, so that the good of the individual is completely subordinated to the functioning of the socioeconomic mechanism. Socialism likewise maintains that the good of the individual can be realized without reference to his free choice, to the unique and exclusive responsibility which he exercises in the face of good or evil. Man is thus reduced to a series of social relationships, and the concept of the person as the autonomous subject of moral decision disappears, the very subject whose decisions build the social order. From this mistaken conception of theperson there arise both a distortion of law, which defines the sphere of the exercise of freedom, and an opposition to private property” (encyclical “Centesimus Annus,” 1991).

St. John Paul II gets to the heart of the matter. Socialism’s only measure of well-being is material well-being and production. The good of the individual is subordinated to the good of the economy. Socialism sets up a system and envisions a world where everything is equally distributed, and therefore there is no need for voluntary human acts of justice, charity, compassion, etc. The human person isn’t called to make morally upright choices because there is no room for them, no need for them. But as we know, part of being a good human person is exercising our free will and autonomy for the good.

We must not be fooled by the utopian promises of socialism. Socialism has failed over and over again. Its fundamental principles contradict the truths of our faith regarding the nature of the human person, the family, and natural rights. Abortion, contraception, sexual license, and non-traditional family structures are hallmarks of socialism.

Yes, there are inequalities in the world, and that is where the Gospel challenges us personally. “Those of you who have two cloaks should give one to him who has none” (Luke 3:11). But it’s not for the state to demand and orchestrate at the expense of the dignity of the human person.

Father Nick Nelson is pastor of St. Mary, Cook; St. Martin, Tower; and Holy Cross, Orr. He studied at The Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Rome. Reach him at [email protected]

Deacon Kyle Eller: Dealing with the weariness of our seemingly endless culture war

Many years ago, at the height of the Iraq War, I got an email newsletter from a well-known evangelical Protestant pro-life and pro-family group. In it was a deeply unworthy column mocking concerns over the torture of prisoners that had come to public prominence at that time.

Deacon Kyle Eller
Deacon Kyle Eller
Mere Catholicism

This was a betrayal of the principles, such as the dignity of the human person and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that the organization was supposedly based on, principles I shared. It strongly suggested partisan politics as the real motivating principle. (I have since come to learn that that is all too common.)

I was quick on the “unsubscribe” button.

Another scene: Last year, as Ireland prepared to vote on whether to legalize abortion, one of my favorite bands, U2, a band with music so full of Christian references that in its early days it had to resist being classified as Christian rock, came out in favor of legalizing abortion.

Now, when U2 comes on the radio, I change the station.

Those examples come to mind from an extremely long list — human rights organizations like Amnesty International that abandon the human rights of unborn children, pro-life media outlets that consistently sensationalize and take quotes from their opponents out of context, Catholic musicians posting rainbow flags and ignoring questions about whether they hold the fullness Catholic belief regarding human sexuality.

Often (not always) my response is to simply walk away and no longer associate with such things. Or, one might say, I let them walk away.

Sometimes I express my sadness as this happens, but for me, the point is not really boycotting or protesting, not anymore. I do believe in miracles and grace, but short of such divine intervention I have no illusions posting some message on social media in the midst of a public controversy is going to make a difference to the people involved here.

Even imagining I’m wrong about that — suppose, for instance, U2 faced so much backlash that they felt compelled to walk it back in some way — what would it really accomplish? Not, I think, a real change of heart for people who, presumably after due consideration and reflection and consultation, decided a “right” to dismember helpless unborn children was a cause they wanted to get behind publicly.

Absent some kind of personal relationship, of course they are not going to care. Offending people like me is often part of the point.

Many people responding to these things seem driven by outrage. I feel like I’m less and less so. Mostly I feel sadness. And the more I admired the person or group, the worse that is. Countless famous musicians publicly support abortion, but it’s not like the visceral gut-punch I felt seeing U2 do it, because U2 was supposed to be (and in many ways was) the good guys. There’s an old Latin maxim, “corruptio optimi pessima,” which means “the corruption of the best is the worst.” I think that’s true. The more admirable people are, the worse it is to see them embrace something awful.

This has all really come to a head for me over the past month, with half of my social media draped in rainbow flags and much of corporate America demanding abortion. I’m experiencing a deep weariness of it all.

Once upon a time, not so long ago in years, although it feels like another lifetime, every square inch of public and private life were not a culture war battlefield.

Once upon a time, I didn’t know every ugly thought that went through the mind of everyone I know. Boy, do I miss those days.

Ideology and politics have long infused news and entertainment media, and to a lesser degree sports. But it wasn’t this way, this endless, dreary, daily drone.

I remember when major companies such as Netflix kept to themselves their contempt for huge numbers of customers and whole states regarding controversial topics like abortion. (Did I miss a memo here? Aren’t the sexual revolutionaries at this very moment hauling business owners to court arguing they should not be allowed to conduct business according to their moral and religious convictions?)

I remember when the Minnesota State Parks and Trails did not celebrate “Pride” on its Facebook page and neglect to delete comments by the “inclusive” suggesting that those who have objections should get off the trails. (Did I miss another memo? It seems like only yesterday the sexual revolutionaries demanded government remain as neutral as possible on moral and religious issues.)

And I think I remember a time when outrage over the outrage du jour was not the measure of one’s commitment to a good cause, and a time when being kind and reasonable in hopes of persuading rather than being pugnacious and bitter in hopes of destroying was a virtue.

So what do we do? Compromising the faith is not a solution — the faith is the most critical good of all to defend, the true hope of the world. But what, then? Walk away? Speak up? Stand silent? Start building small, intentional communities where our faith is lived and loved? Rely on the “apostolate of friendship” and walk with one soul at a time?

Depending on the circumstances, any of those (or several of them) might be a right answer. It’s that old question of what it means for us to be in the world and not of the world, and it seems, in our time, to be getting harder.

Whatever we do, we should recognize that this kind of discernment is difficult and think gently of those struggling to manage it. And most of all we should sincerely forgive and pray for those who have betrayed the things we hold dear.

Deacon Kyle Eller is editor of The Northern Cross. Reach him at [email protected]

Bishop Paul Sirba: Steps to hold bishops accountable were taken at USCCB meeting

At our June meeting, the bishops of the United State of America approved documents to hold bishops accountable for instances of sexual abuse of children or vulnerable persons, sexual misconduct, or the intentional mishandling of such cases. We committed to involving lay professional experts. We also established a new, independent mechanism for the reporting of such cases.

Bishop Paul Sirba
Fiat Voluntas Tua

Following the Apostolic Letter, or motu proprio, issued by the Holy Father, Pope Francis, in May 2019, which strengthened current practice for the universal Church by establishing broad mandatory internal reporting, establishing whistleblower protection for those making those reports, expanding the definition of vulnerable adults to include anyone coerced into sexual acts through an abuse of power, and reiterating and clarifying that bishops are subject to the universal law of the Church that forbids sexual abuse and its intentional mishandling of cases, the U.S. bishops added significant new measures.

In addition, our votes in June mean that the bishops will establish a national reporting system for complaints against bishops. This will reaffirm our commitment to place ourselves under the very same codes of conduct that hold priests, deacons, and employees accountable. It includes prohibitions on sexual harassment and other sexual misconduct and made more explicit the fraternal correction necessary when a brother bishop fails in his obligations to the people of God, such as restricting the privilege to participate in the USCCB.

While these new initiatives or in some cases refinements of protocols and policies we have had in the United States dioceses since 2002 are concrete steps to hold bishops accountable, they are still a work in progress, and we will need constant vigilance. It will continue to be the work of our lifetime.

The full text of the pope’s motu proprio, entitled “Vos Estis Lux Mundi” (“You are the Light of the World”), as well as the reforms we voted on at the June meeting of the USCCB, are available on the new website the USCCB launched June 7: www.usccbprevention.org.

I received an advance copy of Bishop Robert Barron’s book, “Letter to a Suffering Church: a Bishop Speaks on the Sexual Abuse Crisis.” I know many of our priests have received a copy already, and I ordered copies for the pastoral center staff and our deacons. I recommend this fine piece to you. I share the sentiments of Bishop Barron. We are contemporaries, ordained the same year as priests. He traces the painful reality of clergy sexual abuse, calling the recent crisis “the Devil’s Masterpiece.” He also proposes the way forward, which is to stay and fight.

Above all, among the compelling arguments he offers for reforming the clergy and by extension all the rest of us is to fight by our pursuit of holiness in our own lives. Fight by becoming the saint that you are meant to be.

During this month of July, when, please God many are able to take some vacation days or at least some time to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation in a Minnesota summer, we can bring to God our needs and bask in His love. Jesus is victorious through His cross and resurrection and we can never forget that.

Bishop Paul Sirba is the ninth bishop of Duluth.

Editorial: Remember the facts in the abortion debate

The abortion debate that has sometimes smoldered and sometimes raged since even before the 1973, when the travesty of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision was made, has flared dramatically in recent weeks. States are jockeying to position themselves for the possibility the court could overturn Roe. Some states have passed laws restricting abortion, in part hoping to get Roe overturned. Others have lurched the other way, eliminating abortion regulations in extreme and barbaric ways, aiming to preserve legal abortion in an America after Roe.

Along with this has come an increase in vitriol, especially directed at the pro-life movement, and a flood of biased reporting.

In such cases, it’s often helpful to go back to two basic facts at the heart of the matter: Human life begins at conception, and the point of abortion is to end that life.

That’s not a religious view. That’s biology.

This is true whether the person saying it is a woman or a man or whether they favor this political party or that, and no matter what religion, if any, a person adheres to. From a strictly logical point of view, it remains true whether the person saying it is a saint or a mean, hypocritical villain, although we’d certainly prefer the former. And while we care deeply about the suffering of those who have been wounded by abortions, the truth of these facts also does not depend on whether people find it hurtful or offensive.

This is just what is.

When all the sophistry is stripped away, when all the feet have been stamped, when all the name-calling has been exhausted, these facts remain, even though only one side seems to want to take them seriously.

Where our faith comes into these facts is in bidding us to defend the innocent while loving and supporting both mother and child. Our culture would have us pretend not to see these truths. That ought to be a very clear choice for us all.