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San Francisco archbishop asks DA to prosecute Serra statue vandalism

Denver Newsroom, Oct 28, 2020 / 03:56 pm (CNA).- Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco has asked the Marin County district attorney to prosecute those arrested after an Oct. 12 riot at a mission church to the “full extent of the law,” after several of the rioters defaced and pulled to the ground a statue of St. Junipero Serra.

“This attack on a cherished religious symbol on our own church property is not a minor property crime, but an attack on Catholics as a people,” Cordileone wrote in an Oct. 26 letter to Lori Frugoli, the Marin County district attorney.

“If the perpetrators of this crime are not brought to justice, small mobs will be able to decide what religious symbols all people of faith may display on their own property to further their faith, and they will continue to inflict considerable spiritual suffering on ordinary Catholic people who would see our sacred spaces as unprotected by law.”

The riot that led to the statue’s destruction took place Oct. 12— which California and several other states mark as Indigenous Peoples Day— at Mission San Rafael Arcángel in San Rafael, about 20 miles north of San Francisco.

Critics have lambasted Serra as a symbol of European colonialism and the erasure of Native culture, and have in recent years sought to remove monuments to him and change the names of streets or landmarks named for him.

During the hourlong protest, organized by members of the Coast Miwok tribe, several masked people peeled off the duct tape and threw red paint in the statue’s face. At least five people can be seen pulling on the statue’s head with nylon cords and ropes.

Catholics rallied in a peaceful prayer demonstration the day after the riot, with Father Kyle Faller, parochial vicar at the mission, leading a rosary and urging the crowd of 75-100 people  to persevere in prayer, and offering a reflection on Jesus’ forgiveness in the face of persecution.

Cordileone performed an exorcism at the site of the statue Oct. 17, calling the statue’s destruction an “act of blasphemy.”

The San Rafael Police Department said in an Oct. 13 statement that five women had been arrested, issued citations and released, and that the cases had been forwarded to the district attorney’s office for prosecution. Police have also recommended charges for a sixth person they identified later, but whose name they have not released publicly.

Two of the women charged hailed from Oakland, one was a local, and two were from nearby communities.

Cordileone seconded the San Rafael Police Department’s request that the six individuals be charged with— in addition to trespassing and conspiracy— felony vandalism and vandalism in a house of worship, a hate crime.

Cordileone also thanked the police for their efforts. The department said they had worked with representatives from the Archdiocese of San Francisco to develop a plan in response to the Oct. 12 protest, as the protest’s organizers had announced the gathering on social media before it took place.

“I would like, on behalf of thousands of Catholics in the Bay Area and around this country, to thank the San Rafael Police both for arresting the miscreants and for being the first lawful civil authority to recognize that this crime they witnessed is a serious assault against a whole people’s right to display the religious symbols they wish on their own property,” Cordileone said.

Frugoli said last week that her office was reviewing the case and had not yet made a decision about whether to pursue criminal charges, the Marin Independent Journal reported.

Lucina Vidauri, one of the event’s organizers, told the Marin Independent Journal that the organizers of the demonstration never intended to vandalize the statue.

The demonstrators were calling for the mission to remove the Serra statue, and “it just got carried away,” she told the paper.

Vidauri declined CNA’s request for an interview.

CNA also attempted to contact Dean Hoaglin, chair of the Coast Miwok Tribal Council of Marin and another organizer of the Oct. 12 protest, for further information on the tribe and their reasons for opposing Serra, but did not receive a reply by press time.

The Coast Miwok people were the original inhabitants of what is today Marin and southern Sonoma Counties of California. The tribe gained federal recognition as the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria in December 2000.

In 2008, the former bishop of Sacramento, Francis Quinn, apologized to the Coast Miwok tribe that the Spanish “tried to impose a European Catholicism on the natives.”

The vandalism in San Rafael is the latest in a series of attacks on churches and Catholic statues across the country this year. On July 11, a fire under investigation for arson gutted the 249-year-old Mission San Gabriel in Los Angeles, a mission church founded by St. Serra.

During the eighteenth century, Serra founded nine Catholic missions in the area that would later become California, and many of those missions would go on to become the centers of major California cities. Though Serra himself did not found Mission San Rafael, it owes its existence to Serra’s legacy.

Serra’s defenders say that he was actually an advocate for native people, noting an episode of his life when he drafted a 33-point “bill of rights” for the Native Americans living in the mission settlements, and walked from California to Mexico City to present it to the viceroy.

While many Native peoples did suffer horrific abuse, an archaeologist told CNA earlier this year that activists tend to conflate the abuses the Natives suffered long after Serra’s death with the period when Serra was alive and building the missions.

The Benedict XVI Institute for Sacred Music and Divine Worship, a ministry of the archdiocese, on Oct. 28 announced a new fund, under the archbishop’s personal discretion and control, to support “ongoing efforts to advocate for fair treatment for faith communities in exercising their First Amendment right to worship and for protection of our holy ground from vandalism and mob attacks.”

Supreme Court adoption case could have national impact on religious liberty

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 28, 2020 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- As the Supreme Court prepares to hear a case touching religious liberty and adoption next week, one Washington couple will be watching closely.  

In 2019, Gail Blais and her husband James wanted to adopt her biological great-granddaughter, who is now just over one year old and currently in foster care. They were prevented from doing so by the state of Washington, because of their religious views against hormone therapy for gender dysphoria. The Blaises are Seventh-day Adventists.

As the Supreme Court hears oral arguments in another religious foster care case on Nov. 4, Fulton v. Philadelphia, its ruling could impact a number of other cases including the Blais’s.

“It shows what is coming next,” said Becket senior counsel Lori Windham on a conference call with reporters on Wednesday.

In the Fulton case, Philadelphia stopped contracting with local Catholic Social Services (CSS) on foster care referrals because CSS refused to work with same-sex couples. The city told CSS that it had to change its religious practice and work with same-sex couples, after which Philadelphia-area foster mothers joined CSS in suing the city, alleging a violation of religious freedom.

The case could decide the fate of other religious adoption agencies facing nondiscrimination ordinances, but according to Becket—which represents CSS—it could also impact prospective foster parents like the Blaises.

“If you are able to kick out these religious foster care agencies,” Windham said of Philadelphia’s ordinance, the next logical target for state and local nondiscrimination rules are “parents who have traditional views about marriage and sexuality.”

In Sept., 2019, Gail Blais’s biological great-granddaughter was born in Idaho but placed in foster care by the state. Gail and her husband James, who live in neighboring Washington, wanted to adopt the child but would have to receive a foster care license to do so. The licenses are dispensed by the Washington Department of Children, Youth, and Families.

A licensor from the state, Patrick Sager, then conducted a home visitation and interviewed the Blaises. He posed a series of hypothetical scenarios to the couple, asking them how they would react if their child eventually identified as a lesbian, or if she developed gender dysphoria and wanted to receive hormorne therapy.

The state department had enacted a policy in 2018 that forbids “discrimination or harassment” for children who identify as LGBTQ+ or are questioning their orientation.

According to district court Judge Salvador Mendoza, Jr., who eventually ruled in the Blais’s favor, the department apparently “applies Policy 6900 to prospective foster parents,” and the department sought to ensure an environment in foster homes that would affirm gender transitioning and LGBTQ+ ideology.

When the Blaises responded that they would love and support the child but could not assent to hormone therapy—according to their religious beliefs as Seventh-day Adventists—Sager was “alarmed,” according to court documents.

After that meeting, the Department sent the Blaises material on LGBTQ+ children and asked them to review it to “make a more informed decision about supporting LGBTQ+ youth in foster care.”

When Sager followed up with the Blaises on their application for a foster care license, the couple reiterated their faith-based stance against hormone therapy.

He asked them another series of questions, seeking their reactions to various scenarios involving their foster child: dressing as a boy, identifying as a lesbian and wanting to bring her girlfriend on a family trip or having a doctor’s order for hormone therapy.

When the Blaises repeated their faith-based stance to support their child but refuse to recognize fluid sexual orientation or gender identity, Sager encouraged them to drop their application - which that made in order to care for their own great-grandchild.

At a third meeting between the Blaises, Sager, and the Department’s LGBTQ+ head, the Blases answered in the same way as before.

The Department concluded they had reached an “impasse” in the process, after which the Blaises sued. The Department then denied their application for a foster care license.

The Blases then asked the court for a preliminary injunction granting them a foster care license. On Oct. 8, they won their case—in part. Judge Mendoza ruled that they couldn’t be denied a license based on their religious beliefs, but as they had not completed all the steps of the application process, he wouldn’t grant them a license. Instead, the Department would give them time to complete the necessary steps.

Mendoza called the Department’s policy a “religious gerrymander” against members of certain creeds.

“The Department denied the Blaises the privilege and benefit of providing foster care because of their sincerely held religious beliefs,” he wrote.

While the Department can take LGBTQ+ matters into account when considering prospective foster care licensees, it cannot make rulings based on hypotheticals—as it did with the Blases, Judge Mendoza wrote.

“If the only factor weighing against an otherwise qualified applicant has to do with their sincerely held religious beliefs, the Department must not discriminate against a foster care applicant based on their creed,” he said.

Senators condemn Chinese 'genocide' against Uyghurs

CNA Staff, Oct 28, 2020 / 02:30 pm (CNA).- A bipartisan group of senators introduced a resolution on Monday to declare China’s actions against the Uyghur population as a genocide. 

The Oct. 26 resolution was co-sponsored by Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ). Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD), Jeff Merekly (D-OR), James Risch (R-ID) and Maco Rubio (R-FL) also joined in the resolution. 

The resolution would express “the sense of the Senate that the atrocities perpetrated by the Government of the People's Republic of China against Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and members of other Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region constitutes genocide.” 

It would declare that China is violating the norms outlined in the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, and would trigger an international response to China’s actions.

"For far too long, the Chinese government has carried out a despicable campaign of genocide against millions of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims," said Cornyn. "This resolution recognizes these crimes for what they are and is the first step toward holding China accountable for their monstrous actions.”

Menedez said that there was “no question” that the Chinese government’s actions in Xinjiang constitute genocide. 

“Stopping a genocide is consistent with our national security and our values, and it starts by standing up and speaking the truth,” he said. Menendez added that he hopes President Donald Trump and Sec. Mike Pompeo will endorse the resolution and work to respond to China.  

Risch pointed to the Chinese government’s “systematic use of forced sterilization, abortion, and other practices” in the province of Xinjiang as proof they were committing genocide against an ethnic group. 

“I am proud to join colleagues on both sides of the aisle in introducing a resolution that defines them as such,” he said. “The United States and countries around the world must continue to draw attention to what is happening in Xinjiang.” 

Whistleblowers have come forward to report their participation in systematic campaigns of forced abortions and sterilizations on the Uyghur population.

Free nations “must urgently come together and press for an end” to the Chinese government’s actions in Xinjiang, said Rubio. He said there was a need to be “clear about the nature of these atrocities.” 

“Congress cannot – and must not – turn a blind eye to China’s shocking, systematic abuse of its Uyghur population, as well as of ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgz, and members of other Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region,” said Cardin. He added that human rights violations of this level “demand a forceful U.S. response.”  

“That is why I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing this resolution, which makes clear that the Senate will not shy away from calling these atrocities what they are: a genocide,” he said.

Maskless pope blames 'this lady called COVID' for distance

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2021 Issue Calendar

Catholic bishops back Title IX law on 'trans athletes'

CNA Staff, Oct 28, 2020 / 11:00 am (CNA).- The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has given its support to a new piece of legislation that aims to keep male athletes from competing in athletic teams and competitions for women and girls. 

Bishop Michael C. Barber, S.J. of Oakland and Bishop David A. Konderla of Tulsa sent a letter on October 27 to Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) and Rep. Greg Steube (R-FL), the lead sponsors of the Senate and House versions of the Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act, applauding their bill. 

The legislation would prevent entities receiving federal Title IX funds from allowing male students to participate in athletic programs and teams for female students. 

Barber is the leader of the USCCB’s committee on Catholic education; Konderla is the chairman of the subcommittee for the promotion and the protection of marriage. 

“Youth who experience gender identity discordance should be assured the right to participate in, or try-out for, student athletics on the same terms as any of their peers, in co-educational activities or, where sexes are separated, in accord with their given sex,” said the bishops, adding that “Harassment or unjust discrimination against them in this regard is unequivocally immoral.”

The bishops advocated for a “loving response” to these students, saying that it would assist in developing “a genuine peace with their mind and body, rather than facilitating drastic ‘transitions’ in pursuit of an identity fully independent of their physical body.” 

Allowing male students to participate in athletics with girls “can be both unfair, and especially in high-contact sports, unsafe,” said the bishops. 

While they acknowledged that some women have been able to play successfully in mostly-male sports, “any time a policy facilitating such male competition takes an athletic opportunity away from a female, it is a loss for basic fairness and the spirit of Title IX.”

Several female track athletes from Connecticut are presently suing the state’s interscholastic athletic conference after two students, born male but who identify as female, dominated the girl’s track competitions at the state level. The female athletes argued that the two male runners took away chances for them to compete on the national and state levels.

“In general, males possess distinct physical advantages in a number of sports, and this is already playing out in athletic events worldwide,” said the bishops.

“Their stature can also pose physical safety concerns in high-contact sports. Neither of these concerns is remediated by cross-sex hormone procedures which are required by some athletic associations for participation in sports of the opposite sex, as they do not fully address disparities in average muscle mass, bone characteristics, and lung capacity once puberty is underway (which is typically the case for student athletes).” 

The bishops also raised concerns that undergoing various hormonal therapies to better resemble their chosen gender could be harmful for an athlete. Lupron, a chemotherapy drug that is frequently prescribed off-label as a “puberty blocker” to children seeking to change their gender, has a side effect of reducing bone density. 

“The Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act would address these increasing questions in the important context of education, from primary school through college, and reestablish a fair and safe playing field for all children and young adults,” said the bishops.

“We can do better by all students, and should continue to uphold the progress made with Title IX in promoting the opportunities for women and girls.”

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