Court says tax credit program can’t exclude religious schools

By Carol Zimmerman
WASHINGTON (CNS) – In a 5-4 ruling June 30, the Supreme Court said the exclusion of religious schools in Montana’s state scholarship aid program violated the federal Constitution.
In the opinion, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, the court ruled that if a state offers financial assistance to private schools, it has to allow religious schools to also take part. Separate dissents were written by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor.
Roberts said the decision by the Montana Supreme Court to invalidate the school scholarship program because it would provide funding to both religious schools and secular schools “bars religious schools from public benefits solely because of the religious character of the schools.”
“The provision also bars parents who wish to send their children to a religious school from those same benefits, again solely because of the religious character of the school,” he wrote.
Sister Dale McDonald, a Sister of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is the director of public policy and educational research for the National Catholic Educational Association, said she was happy with the decision, mainly because “it puts faith-based organizations on a level playing field” to be able to also take part in other opportunities.
And for the court to say these scholarship programs have to be inclusive, “that is a big victory,” she told Catholic News Service.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said the court “rightly ruled that the U.S. Constitution does not permit states to discriminate against religion. This decision means that religious persons and organizations can, like everyone else, participate in government programs that are open to all.”
The statement from Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee for Religious Liberty, and Bishop Michael C. Barber, of Oakland, California, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Catholic Education, also said the decision was “good news, not only for people of faith, but for our country.”
“A strong civil society needs the full participation of religious institutions,” the statement said. “By ensuring the rights of faith-based organizations’ freedom to serve, the court is also promoting the common good.”
Advocates for school choice also praised the decision. “The weight that this monumental decision carries is immense, as it’s an extraordinary victory for student achievement, parental control, equality in educational opportunities and First Amendment rights,” said Jeanne Allen, founder and chief executive of the Center for Education Reform.
The case, Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, was brought to the court by three Montana mothers who had been sending their children to Stillwater Christian School in Kalispell with the help of a state scholarship program.
The program, created in 2015, was meant to provide $3 million a year for tax credits for individuals and business taxpayers who donated up to $150 to the program. It was helping about 45 students and just months after it got started, the Montana Department of Revenue issued an administrative rule saying the tax credit donations could only go toward nonreligious, private schools – explaining the use of tax credits for religious schools violated the state’s constitution.

The U.S. Supreme Court in Washington is seen Jan. 19, 2020. In a 5-4 ruling June 30, the Supreme Court said the exclusion of religious schools in Montana’s state scholarship aid program violated the federal Constitution. (CNS photo/Will Dunham, Reuters)

The mothers were represented by the Institute for Justice, a nonprofit legal advocacy group based in Virginia. In 2015, these mothers sued the state saying that barring religious schools from the scholarship program violated the federal constitution. The trial court agreed with them, but the Montana Supreme Court reversed this decision.
The court based its decision on the state constitution’s ban on funding religious organizations, called the Blaine Amendment.
Thirty-seven states have Blaine amendments, which prohibit spending public funds on religious education. These bans date back to the 19th century and are named for Rep. James Blaine of Maine, who tried unsuccessfully in 1875 to have the U.S. Constitution prohibit the use of public funds for “sectarian” schools.
In oral arguments, Justice Brett Kavanaugh said the amendments reflected “grotesque religious bigotry” against Catholics. Adam Unikowsky, Montana’s attorney, argued that the state’s revised constitution in 1972 does not have “evidence whatsoever of any anti-religious bigotry.”
The USCCB’s June 30 statement said the court “dealt a blow to the odious legacy of anti-Catholicism in America,” stressing that Blaine Amendments “were the product of nativism and bigotry” and were “never meant to ensure government neutrality toward religion but were expressions of hostility toward the Catholic Church.”
Justice Samuel Alito, in a concurring opinion in the case, highlighted the anti-Catholic origins of state Blaine amendments like the one in Montana and he even included an 1871 political cartoon from the political magazine Harper’s Weekly to show the bigotry toward Catholics at the time. The cartoon depicts priests as crocodiles slithering toward children in the U.S. as a public school crumbles in the background.
The USCCB also filed a friend-of-the-court brief, along with several other religious groups, in support of the plaintiffs, which said: “Families that use private schools should not suffer government discrimination because their choice of school is religious.”
A group of Montana Catholic school parents also submitted a friend-of-the-court brief stressing that state Blaine amendments “should be declared unconstitutional once and for all.”
Before the case was argued, Richard Garnett, director of the University of Notre Dame’s Program on Church, State and Society, said it could have major implications for education-reform debates and policies and it “could remove, or at least reduce, one of the legal barriers to choice-based reforms like scholarship programs and tax credits for low-income families.”

(Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim)

Just as Paul proclaimed Christ, ‘so must we,’ says Birmingham’s new bishop

By Mary D. Dillard
BIRMINGHAM – The Diocese of Birmingham’s wait for a new shepherd came to a end Wednesday, June 23. The Mass of Installation for Bishop Steven J. Raica was celebrated at the Cathedral of St. Paul in downtown Birmingham.
Unlike the night before during solemn vespers, the sun was shining brightly as the clergy lined up outside the cathedral to begin the procession. Once all the clergy and servers were inside, the doors to the cathedral were closed so Bishop Raica could make the ceremonious knock. With the custom hammer, hand-made by Cathedral employee Philipp Szabo, Bishop Raica knocked on the door three times, after which Archbishop Thomas Rodi, Metropolitan of the Mobile Province, opened the door and welcomed Bishop Raica. Following his entrance, the bishop-elect venerated the crucifix held by Father Bryan Jerabek, pastor and rector of the Cathedral of St. Paul, then blessed those in the narthex with holy water.

Bishop Steven J. Raica shows the apostolic letter of his appointment from Pope Francis to head the Diocese of Birmingham, Ala., during his installation Mass at the Cathedral of St. Paul in Birmingham June 23, 2020. (CNS photo/Mary D. Dillard, One Voice)

Archbishop Rodi greeted all those present and thanked Bishop Emeritus Robert Baker for his service to the Church in Birmingham. He then asked Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, to read the Apostolic Letter of Appointment. After the letter was read, it was handed to Bishop Raica who carried it throughout the cathedral for all those present to see. The last part of the Rite of Installation followed with the nuncio and the archbishop walking Birmingham’s new bishop to his Cathedra, or bishop’s chair. Archbishop Rodi then handed a smiling Bishop Raica the crosier of Bishop Joseph Vath, Birmingham’s first bishop.
Concelebrating bishops included Bishop Earl Boyea of Lansing, Bishop Kurt Burnette of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Passaic, Bishop Mark Spalding of Nashville, Bishop Richard Stika of Knoxville, Bishop David Talley of Memphis, Bishop Joseph Kopacz of Jackson, Bishop Louis Kihneman of Biloxi, Bishop William Wack of Pensacola-Tallahassee, and Bishop Emeritus Baker.
Keys to a Christian life
Birmingham’s new bishop began his homily welcoming those present and acknowledging those unable to physically attend due to current pandemic restrictions. He also took the opportunity to thank Bishop Emeritus Baker for his “tenure of faithful episcopal ministry” in the Diocese of Birmingham. Of Bishop Baker, he said, “The priests, deacons, religious and faithful of Birmingham have been truly blessed by your dedication to ministry and your steadfast discipleship with Christ our Lord! I can already see that I have some big shoes to fill!”
He went on to assure the faithful that he is committed to being their shepherd “for better, for worse, in sickness and in health.” As he continued, Bishop Raica highlighted three “keys” to help the Church of Birmingham “unlock the precise meaning” of the day.
The first key the bishop focused on was the “yes” that is required as witnessed through Mary, the Mother of Christ, and Mother of the Incarnate Word. He reflected on the “yes” saying, “The formal announcement of my transfer from Gaylord to Birmingham occurred on March 25, the Solemnity of the Annunciation … That announcement by the Archangel Gabriel to Mary is one of the most significant, and I dare say, the most revolutionary events in Christian history. No longer did we have to try to go and find God somewhere in the heavens, as if everything depended on our reaching out to a Mystery hoping that we might catch a glimpse of God. Rather, we are told, ‘The Word became Flesh.’ God’s Son, took our flesh. He came to find us!”
Bishop Raica expanded on his reflection by highlighting that Mary’s “yes” and subsequent conception of Jesus “opened for us a relationship that is now unbounded by time and dimension, but a reality that confronts us day in and day out.” He continued, “It allows us to see that a relationship with a person, whose voice we can know, invites us to know that our humanity is profoundly loved beyond anything we could ever imagine. It has profound dignity because each human being – especially in light of our recent civil turmoil and unrest, reflects the very image and likeness of God regardless of our age, whether we are unborn or in our waning years, the color of our skin or economic status. All are part of the one human family with a mosaic of experiences and cultures.”
The second key mentioned was “looking” for Christ. With the Mass of Installation being celebrated as a votive Mass of St. John the Baptist, Bishop Raica noted the saint’s words from the Gospel of John, “Look, there’s the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” The bishop stressed that in any form of evangelization, the very first word is “look.” In fact, the bishop said that we must open our eyes, ears, minds, and hearts, for the “One you have been waiting for … is here!”
The last key of “going forth on mission” is exemplified by the patron of the Diocese of Birmingham, St. Paul. It was Paul who became an ardent evangelist and his life has “become a point of reference in mission.” Bishop Raica told the faithful that as Paul proclaimed Christ, “So must we.” “Our faith doesn’t settle for minimums, but for real total engagement with reality. May we be bold to live up to the noble calling of becoming truly ourselves, what God has planned and purposed for each of us – people who are redeemed, joyful, fulfilled, and free,” he proclaimed.
Bishop Raica concluded his homily by bringing together the three keys that he says will “open the door for a fruitful life as a Christian here in the Diocese of Birmingham.” “To say ‘yes’ to God’s invitation, to ‘look’ and see Christ around us as the answer to our hearts’ deepest longing; and, to ‘go’ out and embark on a mission of witnessing God’s love by our lives … becoming a ‘missionary disciple’ offering hope to a world marred by violence, hate and lack of respect for others. That is a noble mission and one we should not shirk from each and every day, leaving a unique mark behind that says – through me, one could see Christ, know Christ and experience Christ’s love. A ‘yes’ to God’s invitation, to ‘look’ and see Christ around and with us, and ‘going out’ on mission. May God provide us with the grace and strength to live for Him each and every day!”
Bishop Raica succeeds Bishop Emeritus Robert J. Baker, who served the Diocese of Birmingham since October of 2007. Bishop Raica was born Nov. 8, 1952, ordained a priest Oct. 14, 1978, named as an Honorary Prelate of His Holiness in 1998, ordained and installed as Bishop of Gaylord, Michigan Aug. 28, 2014, and appointed Bishop of Birmingham March 25, 2020.

First chance to receive Eucharist at Mass in months leaves some in tears

By Catholic News Service
PORTLAND, Maine – A parish priest in Bangor, Maine, said he saw many Massgoers “in tears” as they took holy Communion for the first time in close to three months at a publicly celebrated Mass June 7, Trinity Sunday, at St. Paul the Apostle Church.
Father Augustine Nellary, parochial vicar of the parish, said he was “extremely excited to have some of our parishioners back in the church and celebrate the Eucharist with them. I saw many of them in tears as they received the Eucharist.”
Across the country, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles celebrated his first Mass with faithful present at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Attendance was limited to 100 people, on a first-come, first-served basis, following the guidelines and regulations set by the County Health Department and the archdiocese.
In his homily, Archbishop Gomez said: “Today marks a beautiful new beginning for the family of God here in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, as many of our churches are opening to celebrate the Eucharist for the first time in many weeks.”
On May 26, Archbishop Gomez told priests and parish staff churches in the archdiocese could begin to open to the public the first week of June if they implemented certain safety guidelines.
In recent weeks, U.S. dioceses have begun issuing plans for the gradual reopening of churches over several phases with the safety of congregants, priests, deacons and other parish staff foremost in the minds of Catholic officials – and with safety protocols in place, including required mask wearing and social distancing inside church, with seating in designated pews.
The gradual opening of churches or planned openings – with limits on congregation size – have for the most part come as cities and states announce a gradual reopening of a variety of what they deem as “nonessential” public and private entities, including churches, as the threat of COVID-19 has subsided – but not gone away entirely
Dioceses are still encouraging online giving to parishes, and Masses everywhere continue to be livestreamed.
In the statewide Diocese of Portland, Maine, the effort to reopen churches, even in a limited fashion, prompted creativity among clergy and parish staff. No more than 50 people could be in attendance, masks were mandatory, and temporary pew seating arrangements ensured social-distancing guidelines were followed. In addition, reservations were required to make sure capacity wasn’t exceeded.
But Catholics felt the regulations and protocols were small prices to pay for the opportunity to be together again.
“People were so very happy to be back at Mass. I told them how wonderful it was to have more people to pray with,” said Father John Skehan, pastor of St. Michael Parish in Augusta.
“We are grateful to God that we are able once again to celebrate and receive Eucharist together,” said Bishop Robert P. Deeley of Portland told Massgoers during his June 7 Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland.
“How nice to see you this morning! Over these last three months, I have known that you are there, but it is nice to see some of you actually here with us this morning,” he added.
The bishop also described the work being completed at Maine churches after each Mass to keep those attending safe, including the sanitization of seats and pews, knobs, door handles, bathrooms, altars, musical equipment and other touched surfaces.
In Ontario, the provincial government lifted the blanket ban on services, allowing churches to resume public Masses and seat up to 30% of their capacity – the highest allowance in Canada – starting June 12.
Premier Doug Ford announced the loosening of restrictions June 8 as Ontario moved into stage 2 of its reopening plan. With Ontario churches reopening, Quebec is the only Canadian province yet to resume public Masses in some form.
But not all Catholic churches in Ontario reopened June 12. They will need to develop protocols to provide added hygiene, allow parishioners to maintain proper distancing and ensure that no more than 30% of the pews are occupied.
Bishop Ronald Fabbro of London, Ontario, said the news must be tempered with patience and health and safety remains paramount. “I ask for your patience. We have been working hard to prepare for the re-opening of churches, but we will need to make sure our communities can worship safely,” he said.
Robert Du Broy, communications director for the Archdiocese of Ottawa-Cornwall, Ontario, said some churches in the archdiocese are more prepared to open quickly than others. He said it will be left to individual churches to decide if they have the necessary number of volunteers and sanitary precautions and other safe-distancing measures in place.
Bishop Douglas Crosby of Hamilton, Ontario, said the reopening brings new challenges and the church will not look the same as it did pre-pandemic.
“We can expect instructions about social distancing, use of hand sanitizers and face masks, and how to receive holy Communion, among other things,” said Bishop Crosby. “We count on the goodwill of everybody to assure the safety of priests and congregation. Some of this will not be easy, but together we can do it.”
The bishops said their current guidelines for public celebrations of the Mass remain in effect for now: sign up to attend, physical distancing, contact tracing, hand sanitizing, no singing, and requiring masks for volunteers and all those who wish to receive Communion.
“We are grateful to all those who have worked so hard to make the necessary preparations, and to our parishioners for the patience and the responsibility toward others that they have demonstrated as they have returned to Mass,” Alberta’s bishops said June 9.
Back in Maine, Julie Ann Smyth, a member of Good Shepherd Parish in Biddeford, was one of those brought to tears by being able to attend Mass in church once again.
“As soon as the opening song started playing, I teared up. It was overwhelming to think about the past two months,” she said. “To return to the pew and to be with others who share your love of your faith, it was just so special.”

Contributing to this story were the staff of Angelus in Los Angeles, Mickey Conlon at The Catholic Register in Toronto and Andrew Ehrkamp of Grandin Media.

Bishops ‘sickened’ by Floyd’s death, say racism ‘real and present danger’

By Julie Asher
WASHINGTON (CNS) – The U.S. Catholic bishops said May 29 they “are broken-hearted, sickened and outraged to watch another video of an African American man being killed before our very eyes.”
“What’s more astounding is that this is happening within mere weeks of several other such occurrences. This is the latest wake-up call that needs to be answered by each of us in a spirit of determined conversion,” they said in a statement about the May 25 death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis.
In recent weeks, Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed 25-year-old African American man in Georgia, was fatally shot ,and three white men were arrested and are facing murder charges in his death. In March, Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old African American woman, died at the hands of white police officers when they entered her apartment in Louisville, Kentucky.
“Racism is not a thing of the past or simply a throwaway political issue to be bandied about when convenient,” the bishops said. “It is a real and present danger that must be met head on.”
“As members of the church, we must stand for the more difficult right and just actions instead of the easy wrongs of indifference,” they said. “We cannot turn a blind eye to these atrocities and yet still try to profess to respect every human life. We serve a God of love, mercy and justice.”
“Indifference is not an option,” they emphasized and stated “unequivocally” that “racism is a life issue.”
The statement was issued by the chairmen of seven committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops:
Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana, Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism; Archbishop Nelson J. Perez of Philadelphia, Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church; Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, Committee on Pro-Life Activities; Bishop Joseph C. Bambera of Scranton, Pennsylvania, Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs; Auxiliary Bishop David G. O’Connell of Los Angeles, Subcommittee on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development; and Auxiliary Bishop Joseph N. Perry of Chicago, Subcommittee on African American Affairs.
Floyd, 46, was arrested by police on suspicion of forgery. Once he was handcuffed, a white officer pinned him down on the street, putting his knee on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes. A now widely circulated video shows Floyd repeatedly saying, “I can’t breathe.” He appears to lose consciousness or die and was later declared dead at the hospital.
The next day, hundreds of people protested at the intersection where police officers subdued Floyd, demanding justice for him and the arrest of the four officers involved. The officers were fired May 26 and as of midday May 29, local prosecutors filed criminal charges against at least one of the now former officers: The one seen putting his knee on Floyd’s neck, identified as Derek Chauvin, was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.
The federal Justice Department promised a “robust” investigation into the circumstances surrounding Floyd’s death.
Protests in Minneapolis have turned to violent demonstrations and lasted several days, prompting Gov. Tim Walz to bring in the National Guard May 29. The protests sparked similar rioting in at least a dozen U.S. cities, including Los Angeles, Phoenix, Denver, New York, Louisville, and Columbus, Ohio.
The bishops in their statement pointed to their “Open Wide Our Hearts” pastoral against racism approved by the body of bishops in 2018. In it, they said: “For people of color some interactions with police can be fraught with fear and even danger. People of good conscience must never turn a blind eye when citizens are being deprived of their human dignity and even their lives.”
In their May 29 statement, the committee chairmen called for an end to the violence taking place in the wake of the tragedy in Minneapolis but also said they “stand in passionate support of communities that are understandably outraged.”
They joined with Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda of St. Paul and Minneapolis in praying for the repose of the soul of Floyd “and all others who have lost their lives in a similar manner.”
In anticipation of the feast of Pentecost, May 31, they called on all Catholics “to pray and work toward a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit” and pray to “to rid ourselves of the harm that bias and prejudice cause.”
“We call upon Catholics to pray to the Holy Spirit for the spirit of truth to touch the hearts of all in the United States and to come down upon our criminal justice and law enforcement systems,” the bishops said urged every Catholic, regardless of ethnicity, to “beg God to heal our deeply broken view of each other, as well as our deeply broken society.”
Here is the full text of their statement:
We are broken-hearted, sickened and outraged to watch another video of an African American man being killed before our very eyes. What’s more astounding is that this is happening within mere weeks of several other such occurrences. This is the latest wake-up call that needs to be answered by each of us in a spirit of determined conversion.
Racism is not a thing of the past or simply a throwaway political issue to be bandied about when convenient. It is a real and present danger that must be met head on. As members of the Church, we must stand for the more difficult right and just actions instead of the easy wrongs of indifference. We cannot turn a blind eye to these atrocities and yet still try to profess to respect every human life. We serve a God of love, mercy, and justice.
While it is expected that we will plead for peaceful nonviolent protests, and we certainly do, we also stand in passionate support of communities that are understandably outraged. Too many communities around this country feel their voices are not being heard, their complaints about racist treatment are unheeded, and we are not doing enough to point out that this deadly treatment is antithetical to the Gospel of Life.
As we said eighteen months ago in our most recent pastoral letter against racism, “Open Wide Our Hearts,” for people of color some interactions with police can be fraught with fear and even danger. People of good conscience must never turn a blind eye when citizens are being deprived of their human dignity and even their lives. Indifference is not an option. As bishops, we unequivocally state that racism is a life issue.”

Protesters in Minneapolis gather at the scene May 27, 2020, where George Floyd, an unarmed black man, was pinned down by a police officer kneeling on his neck before later dying in hospital May 25. (CNS photo/Eric Miller, Reuters)

We join Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda of St. Paul and Minneapolis in praying for the repose of the soul of Mr. George Floyd and all others who have lost their lives in a similar manner. We plead for an end to the violence in the wake of this tragedy and for the victims of the rioting. We pray for comfort for grieving families and friends. We pray for peace across the United States, particularly in Minnesota, while the legal process moves forward. We also anticipate a full investigation that results in rightful accountability and actual justice.
We join our brother bishops to challenge everyone to come together, particularly with those who are from different cultural backgrounds. In this encounter, let us all seek greater understanding amongst God’s people. So many people who historically have been disenfranchised continue to experience sadness and pain, yet they endeavor to persevere and remain people of great faith. We encourage our pastors to encounter and more authentically accompany them, listen to their stories, and learn from them, finding substantive ways to enact systemic change. Such encounters will start to bring about the needed transformation of our understanding of true life, charity, and justice in the United States. Hopefully, then there will be many voices speaking out and seeking healing against the evil of racism in our land.
As we anticipate the Solemnity of Pentecost this weekend, we call upon all Catholics to pray and work toward a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Let us pray for a supernatural desire to rid ourselves of the harm that bias and prejudice cause. We call upon Catholics to pray to the Holy Spirit for the spirit of truth to touch the hearts of all in the United States and to come down upon our criminal justice and law enforcement systems. Finally, let each and every Catholic, regardless of their ethnicity, beg God to heal our deeply broken view of each other, as well as our deeply broken society.

Editor’s Note: The full text of the bishops’ 2108 pastoral against racism, Open Wide Our Hearts,” can be found online at


WASHINGTON (CNS) – Dos encuestas separadas muestran que los estadounidenses confían más en su fe para ayudar a perseverar durante la pandemia de coronavirus. El Centro de Investigación Pew, en una encuesta publicada el 30 de abril, mostró que casi un cuarto de todos los estadounidenses dice que su fe se ha fortalecido durante la pandemia, mientras que solo el 2% dijo que se había debilitado.
NUEVA ORLEANS (CNS) – Citando las crecientes preocupaciones sobre el impacto financiero de resoluciones extrajudiciales por abuso sexual del clero y la pandemia de coronavirus, la Arquidiócesis de Nueva Orleans solicitó el Capítulo 11 la reorganización de las finanzas de sus oficinas administrativas el 1 de mayo en el Tribunal de Bancarrota de los Estados Unidos para el Distrito Este de Luisiana.
WASHINGTON (CNS) – Con las colecciones del ofertorio de la misa dominical prácticamente inexistentes durante la pandemia de coronavirus, las diócesis ayudan a las parroquias a encontrar ingresos, incluidos los fondos PPP, en fuentes de ingresos para ayudar a evitar que una crisis se convierta en una segunda crisis, en medio de la pandemia. La última indicación es que alrededor de 8,000 de las 17,000 parroquias de los Estados Unidos han solicitado préstamos con éxito.

COVID-19 coronavirus in USA, 100 dollar money bill with face mask. Coronavirus affects global stock market. World economy hit by corona virus outbreak and pandemic fears. Crisis and finance concept.

CIUDAD DEL VATICANO (CNS) – El Papa Francisco en sus misas matutinas ha estado rezando por:
• Periodistas y miembros de los medios de comunicación que, a pesar de los riesgos, trabajan incansablemente para informar al público de la pandemia en curso.
• Los sacerdotes y los médicos que dieron su vida cuidando el bienestar espiritual y físico de los demás durante la pandemia de coronavirus son como Jesús, el buen pastor, que dio su vida por su rebaño.
• Familias de todo el mundo que han sido restringidas a sus hogares debido a la pandemia de COVID-19, el Papa Francisco incluyó la mención de víctimas de violencia doméstica.
• Los trabajadores, especialmente a aquellos pagados injusta o virtualmente esclavizados en la fiesta de San José el Trabajador, celebrada también como el Día Internacional de los Trabajadores y como el Día del Trabajo en muchos países.
CIUDAD DE MÉXICO (CNS) – Caritas Honduras ha pedido transparencia en la distribución de la asistencia COVID-19, que, de acuerdo con un creciente aumento de las acusaciones, se ha utilizado con fines políticos en el país empobrecido y plagado de corrupción. El padre German Calix, director de Caritas Honduras, dijo a Catholic News Service que el brazo caritativo de la iglesia quería una investigación para “probar o refutar” las acusaciones de suministros médicos que se compran a precios inflados y de funcionarios locales, responsables de proporcionar alimentos a las personas en cuarentena, que solo ofrecen asistencia a los afiliados al partido político en el poder.

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras – La vendedora callejera Marisol Maradiaga, que vive en la calle después de no poder seguir pagando el alquiler, juega con sus hijos en el 23 de abril de 2020, durante la pandemia de COVID-19. (Foto del CNS/Jorge Cabrera, Reuters)

SAO PAULO (CNS) – La conferencia de los obispos brasileños elogió un fallo de la Corte Suprema de que las mujeres infectadas con el virus Zika no podían abortar. “No corresponde a ninguna autoridad pública reconocer selectivamente el derecho a la vida, asegurándolo a algunos y negándolo a otros”, dijeron los obispos.
LIMA, Perú (CNS) – Los líderes católicos advierten que a medida que la pandemia de coronavirus se extienda a la cuenca del Amazonas, la región podría enfrentar una “tragedia humanitaria y ambiental”. Las personas indígenas que sufren violencia por sus esfuerzos para defender sus tierras contra mineros, madereros y acaparadores de tierras también corren un gran riesgo debido a COVID-19, según un comunicado de la Red de Iglesias Pan-Amazonas, REPAM. “El dolor y el lamento de la gente y la tierra se unen en un solo grito”, escribieron en la declaración, fechada el 18 de mayo.

A nurse adjusts an oxygen tank next to a tent for COVID-19 patients in the parking lot of a hospital in Lima, Peru, April 16, 2020. As coronavirus cases surge in Peru’s two largest LIMA, Perú – Una enfermera ajusta un tanque de oxígeno junto a una carpa para pacientes con COVID-19 en el estacionamiento de un hospital el 16 de abril de 2020. A medida que aumentan los casos de coronavirus en las dos ciudades amazónicas más grandes de Perú, Iquitos y Pucallpa, los líderes católicos estan luchando por encontrar formas de proporcionar a los enfermos la necesidad de salud más básica, oxígeno vital. (Foto del CNS/Sebastián Castaneda, Reuters).

Catholic women reflect on pregnancy, childbirth during the pandemic

By Katie Scott
PORTLAND, Ore. – At 8 a.m. on Easter, two days before giving birth, Jennifer Ratigan pulled into a hospital parking lot and waited for a physician’s assistant – donning full protective garb, including a face mask and shield – to reach through a rolled-down window to swab her nose for a COVID-19 test.
The hospital was preparing for a potential surge in coronavirus cases and was testing all mothers who’d likely deliver soon. Medical staff wanted to allocate equipment and health care workers properly.
Ratigan, whose test results were negative, understood the precaution. But the contrast between the strange early morning outing and her soul’s desire was acute and painful. She longed to be at Mass, to be among friends, to be watching her five children gleefully scramble for hidden eggs.
“It was emotional,” said the 42-year-old, a member of St. Rose of Lima Parish in Northeast Portland. “I felt sad and lonely.”
For pregnant and postpartum mothers, the pandemic has upended birth plans and altered expectations. It’s caused heightened uncertainty and twinges of fear. At the same time, many women, Ratigan included, say it’s intensified their awe of life and reliance on God.
“This Easter I needed the surrender prayer, ‘Jesus, I turn it over to you,’” Ratigan said.
On April 14, the Ratigan family welcomed child No. 6, a boy they named Luke. “It means ‘light,’ and he’s our light right now,” said his mother in a recent phone interview, the cries and coos of the newborn interrupting periodically.
Ratigan’s husband, Mitch, is a baseball coach, and before the virus, the couple wondered how the family would juggle baseball season with four sons who play and a baby on the way.
“When the pandemic started, it was a jolt into reality and the realization of how silly our little frets were before,” said Ratigan. After her previous births, she’d stayed in the hospital a few days. With Luke, it was a mere 24 hours. “It was very quick; they want to get people out,” she said. When her muscles ached, she reminded herself she wasn’t usually out of a hospital bed so early.
There have been many moments of pregnancy, pandemic and birth that she’ll never forget.
En route from the hospital, she texted Father Matt Libra, their pastor, asking if they could get a drive-by blessing. The priest came out of the rectory mask-clad and prayed over the family.
“That felt so very special,” recalled Ratigan.
A few nights ago, close family friends dropped off pizza on their doorstep and then stood across the street as Luke was held up and introduced.
“We are being really diligent and following social-distancing recommendations,” Ratigan said.
“No one wants to be responsible for getting anyone else sick. But that night I started to tear up. We will not ever underappreciate friendships.”
Prayer, thankfully, pays no heed to physical distance. “The many prayers of others have strengthened us through all this,” she said.
Because the coronavirus is new, it’s not yet clear if pregnant women have a greater chance than the general public of contracting COVID-19 or if they’re more likely to have serious complications. The CDC says pregnant women seem to have the same risk as those who are not pregnant.
There also currently is no evidence that the virus is transmitted in utero or through breast milk, said Dr. Judy Marvin, medical director of Providence Health and Services women’s clinics in Oregon.
Another impact of the virus is this: No doula in the delivery room. No post-birth hugs from her parents. No tender hospital moment of grandparents meeting their freshly arrived grandson.
“You have these expectations, and then – surprise – a pandemic is here and everything looks different,” said Angie Kelly, whose first baby was born on Palm Sunday.
She said of all the changes to her birth plan, keeping the baby, Tano Lorenzo Thomas Kelly, and her parents separate has been the hardest. First it was because of hospital limits on visitors, now it’s due to social distancing.
The lack of her anticipated support at the hospital meant “it was all the more meaningful to have such caring nurses,” said the 29-year-old.
Right now, Kelly and her husband are savoring this time with their son. “We’d be in the house all the time anyway,” she said with a laugh. “Instead of needing to turn down events or showing up late, we are able to just be with each other.”

Jennifer Ratigan, a parishioner of St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Portland, Ore., wears a required mask as she holds her newborn son Luke during a doctor’s visit in late April, 2020. Echoing other Oregon Catholics, she said pregnancy and childbirth during the coronavirus pandemic intensified her reliance on prayer and reverence for life. (CNS photo/courtesy Jennifer Ratigan) See COVID-PREGNANCIES April 30, 2020.

The couple has tried to limit their news consumption, while staying mindful of the suffering caused by the pandemic. “I want to soak in this awesome, wild, new-parent time,” said Kelly, cradling her baby. “From where I sit, the world looks beautiful.”
Christina Fordyce, a member of St. Joseph Parish in Salem, is having a home birth for her second baby, due in August.
“It was such an amazing experience with our first that we wanted to do it again,” said Fordyce, 25. Now she feels especially relieved at the decision, which a growing number of women nationwide are making during the pandemic.
Some women have concerns about their own and especially their babies’ potential vulnerability to the virus in hospitals.
Though Fordyce’s birth plan may remain in place even if the pandemic lasts through the summer, her visits with the midwives have changed. The last prenatal appointment was over the phone, and for the previous one the midwife wore a mask and gloves and stayed just long enough to check her vitals.
“The visits usually feel so intimate and personal,” said Fordyce. “Both their experience and mine were so different.”
It’s also been a bit tough to parent a toddler while pregnant without the in-person practical and spiritual support of her parish community.
Lent as a “big part of the pregnancy was providential,” she said. “It’s a time to get on your feet spiritually and pick up prayer routines you may have dropped. I needed that more than ever.”
“Trust” is a word that keeps coming to mind, she added. “There are so many unknowns right now. It’s an opportunity to place more trust in God.”
Olivia is an Oregon Catholic who’s three months pregnant with her third child. She’s keeping her name private so she can share the news in person with her extended family, now separated by social distancing.
“We are close to a lot of my family, and we really miss seeing them, our kids really miss seeing them,” said Oliva, who is in her late 30s.
She’s not due until the fall, but public health experts, including the head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have warned a second wave of coronavirus cases could appear around then.
“If we have to do social distancing and no one can come over, my husband may have to stay with the kids while I give birth,” Oliva said. “That’s a tough, sad reality to consider.”
“Even in the midst of these trials and the unknowns and the world changing so fast, life is a gift,” Olivia said. “I can celebrate the life in my womb in this moment. This baby in me is a source of joy in a strange time. This baby is a source of hope.”

(Scott is special projects reporter at the Catholic Sentinel, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Portland.)

Report highlights role of immigrants as essential workers in COVID fight

By Rhina Guidos
WASHINGTON (CNS) – On the feast of St. Joseph the Worker, the Center for Migration Studies of New York released a new report highlighting the role of 19.8 million immigrant laborers who work in “essential critical infrastructure” in the U.S. during the coronavirus pandemic.
“In the midst of the pandemic and in the places where they are most needed, immigrants are working to stem the spread of COVID-19 and to sustain their fellow Americans – often at great personal risk,” said Donald Kerwin, the center’s executive director in a statement released with the report on May 1. “These same workers are going to be essential to the United States’ economic recovery. They deserve our support and thanks.”
The report says immigrants comprise 16% of all health care workers in the country, including 33% of health care sector workers in New York State, 32% in California, 31% in New Jersey, states that have been hard-hit by the pandemic.
The center based its findings on 2018 U.S. Census Bureau data. The report also points out that “immigrants work at high rates in essential jobs that keep Americans safe, healthy, and fed” especially “distressed states.”
The report says that immigrants make up 31% of the country’s agricultural employees, 26% of workers in food and beverage manufacturing and processing, 26% of grocery wholesalers, and 17% of retail grocery and food and beverage industries.
The report pays particular attention to New York state, where higher deaths and infection rates for ethnic groups brought to the national spotlight disparities affecting communities of color.
The report says that the “majority of the New York foreign-born essential workers – 1.04 million – are naturalized citizens, 458,400 are legal noncitizens (mostly lawful permanent residents), and 342,100 are undocumented.”
The document was issued at a time when the Trump administration has been more strictly limiting immigration to the U.S., saying these measures are necessary to stop the pandemic.
In New York, immigrants make up about one-third of health care sector workers; two-thirds (or 66%) of home health care workers and aides for the elderly; undocumented immigrants make up 11% of all home health care workers and elderly aides in the state, according to the report. Other immigrants are 23% of workers in medical equipment manufacturing and another 30% in pharmaceuticals manufacturing, it says.
Many also are janitors and building cleaners (41%), work in disinfection (33%), and 38% manufacture soap and cleaning compounds.
They also are in the state’s transportation industry, operating buses, rails, and vehicles-for-hire, are gas station workers, or in warehousing, distribution, as well as agriculture and in food and beverage manufacturing and processing.
The center profiled immigrant essential workers such as Ismael Castellanos, a Mexican immigrant who has worked at a dairy farm in New York for the past seven years and lives in employer-provided housing with four others.
“If we get sick, the entire farm will get sick,” he said. “If the workers get sick, the farm won’t be able to operate, and if the farm stops producing, the workers will lose their jobs” and this will affect the food supply as well.
The farmworker said that while his employer provided masks, disinfecting gel, and transportation to buy groceries, not all employers are doing the same.
A group of U.S. bishops on April 29 called on government officials to consider the role and plight of U.S. migrant farmworkers during the coronavirus pandemic and made recommendations that include free testing and care should the workers test positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
They also expressed concern that since some of the farmworkers are “undocumented,” their immigration status could make them more vulnerable to abuse as some would be reluctant to address overcrowding, lack of social distance in their work, transportation or housing and lack of protective equipment – conditions also highlighted in the report.
With New York and much of the country in lockdown, the center said, “immigrant workers are sustaining the economy and helping to keep Americans healthy and safe.”
The report quotes Ismael, the farmworker, saying that while many U.S. workers are able to stay safely at home, earning much higher wages and “have a good job, own a house,” they are able to remain calm while not considering “who is working day and night to ensure that food is available in their supermarkets and grocery stores … we are the ones producing the food that arrives at their table.”

Love of baking, culinary skills and prayer make religious brother a winner

By Richard Szczepanowski
WASHINGTON (CNS) – The oven timer dings, alerting Capuchin Franciscan Brother Andrew Corriente the chocolate layer cake he is baking needs to be checked.
A quick test with a toothpick tells him the cake needs about five more minutes in the oven, more than enough time for him to soften the butter that will eventually become the buttercream icing that will top the confection.
The enticing aromas in the kitchen at Capuchin College in Washington signal that Brother Andrew is busy creating another treat for the men who call the friary home.
Brother Andrew knows his way around a kitchen. In fact, he was crowned this year’s baking champion on ABC’s “The Great American Baking Show: Holiday Edition.” The program, which aired during the month of December and concluded Jan. 2, is an adaptation of the wildly popular “Great British Bake Off.”
Brother Andrew said he wanted to participate in the program “because I love to bake, and I wanted to learn from the others” who were part of the production. “They were very good, incredible cooks,” the brother said of his competition. Several of them have since become good friends of his.
“The Great American Baking Show: Holiday Edition,” now in its fifth season, features 10 amateur bakers who compete in a series of challenges in which they must produce outstanding baked goods. Contestants are eliminated one by one until a champion is selected.
Brother Andrew emerged as the victor after he and the other two finalists were charged with making three individual party desserts of their choice. He earned the crown with chocolate cookies with lime cream and blackberry jam, sponge cakes with fresh cream and fruits, and a puff pastry.
Brother Andrew was given the nod to appear on the show last June, but he applied for the program in 2017.

“In 2018, they (producers of the show) called me, but I said no because I was taking my final vows,” he told the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington. “They called me again this year, and I did it.”
He said he spent the month of July “recipe developing and recipe testing” before traveling to London in August, where the entire season was taped over the course of that month. “Filming sometimes took up to 14 hours a day,” Brother Andrew said. “I had to stay focused so that I could get my prayers in, Mass in and meditation in.”
Although it was very hot in the kitchen where the contestants competed, Brother Andrew chose to wear his distinctive brown Capuchin robes as he baked.
“I love my life so much, and I wanted people to see that,” he said. “My ability to bake is so tied to my way of life. Everything I have is from God, and I wanted people to see how all of that is integrated.”
The friary where Brother Andrew regularly creates his bakery masterpieces is part of the St. Augustine Province of the Order of Friars Minor. The 30 men who live at Capuchin College are either studying nearby at The Catholic University of America, preparing for the priesthood, serving in various ministries throughout the Archdiocese of Washington or are retired.
Capuchin Franciscan Father Paul Dressler, the province’s guardian and director of formation at Capuchin College, called Brother Andrew’s appearance on the program “part of the new evangelization.”
“Brother Andrew wanted to be on the show as a witness. He went to evangelize and put before the world the Gospel and our order,” Father Dressler said.

Capuchin Father Tom Betz, the provincial of the St. Augustine Province, gave the nod and Brother Andrew was on his way.
“Brother Andrew brought attention to the goodness of God and the goodness of religious life,” Father Dressler said.
He added that it is not unusual for a religious to be familiar in the kitchen. “Religious life has long been a source of nourishment,” Father Dressler said. He also pointed to the ancient tradition of monks brewing beer, making wine and even giving coffee lovers everywhere the eponymous cappuccino.
“It is connected to the fact that all good things come from God,” Father Dressler said.
In episode four of “The Great American Baking Show: Holiday Edition,” Brother Andrew struggled with the challenge of creating a cheesecake tower with at least three tiers, with two of one flavor and one of a different flavor. As he struggled to construct his tower, Brother Andrew stopped, lifted his hands in prayer and uttered the word, “surrender.”
Brother Andrew is a third-year seminarian. After studying filmmaking in college, the now 31-year-old native of California, “had a desk job in the entertainment industry,” working for a talent agent.
“I was searching for other jobs, but never thought about religious life,” he said. “A friend of mine from college became a nun, and when I went to see her profess her vows, I met a Capuchin.” That spurred Brother Andrew to give the order a try. “I met the guys, and the rest is history,” he said.
Brother Andrew regularly bakes for the residents of the friary and one of his specialties is “kouign amann,” a French pastry made with multiple layers of buttery croissant pastry caramelized with slightly burnt sugar.
Baking, he said, “is in a way eucharistic.”
“Jesus gave us himself in the bread and wine,” Brother Andrew said. “For me, I put myself out there with my cooking. It is kind of a sacrificial love.”
His interest in baking, he added, was spurred during his postulancy.
Brother Andrew said he finds time for prayer as he cooks. For example, in preparing meringue – a confection made of whipped egg whites and sugar – he discovered “the best way to time my stirring is by praying the Hail Mary.”
The “guys,” as Brother Andrew calls his fellow Capuchins, sent their favorite baker off to compete in London with “a really nice blessing and prayer.” Brother Andrew’s family – mother Elna, father Rodel and sister Theresa – flew to London to watch the finale.
When he won, Brother Andrew was sworn to secrecy; for more than four months he was not allowed to tell others that he had won.
The residents of the friary would gather each week to watch the show together, cheering their brother on. Father Dressler said it was akin to watching the Super Bowl. The friary, he said, exploded with whoops and shouts and cheers when Brother Andrew was named the winner.
In addition to his baking, Brother Andrew uses his culinary skills to help the less fortunate and the working poor. He and a group of brothers and lay volunteers cook and serve dinner every Sunday for the day laborers who congregate at a local Home Depot looking for work.
After he is ordained to the priesthood in two years, Brother Andrew is unsure whether his priestly vocation will permit him as much time to pursue his baking avocation. “God has already zigzagged my life in so many ways that I am open to anywhere he leads me,” he said.

(Szczepanowski is managing editor of the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.)

U.S. Bishops’ president calls for building the “beloved community,” inspired by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s example

WASHINGTON – Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has issued the following statement to mark the observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on January 20, 2020.
Archbishop Gomez’s full statement follows:
“As our nation prepares to commemorate the life and witness of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., we are grateful for his courageous stand in solidarity with all who suffer injustice and his witness of love and nonviolence in the struggle for social change. But we are once again painfully aware that we are still far off from his dream for America, the ‘beloved community’ for which he gave his life.
“We have come a long way in our country, but we have not come nearly far enough. Too many hearts and minds are clouded by racist presumptions of privilege and too many injustices in our society are still rooted in racism and discrimination. Too many young African American men are still being killed in our streets or spending their best years behind bars. Many minority neighborhoods in this country are still what they were in Rev. King’s time, what he called ‘lonely islands of poverty.’ Let us recommit ourselves to ensuring opportunity reaches every community.
“In recent years, we have seen disturbing outbreaks of racism and prejudice against other groups. There has been a rise of anti-Semitic attacks and also ugly displays of white nationalism, nativism, and violence targeting Hispanics and other immigrants. Such bigotry is not worthy of a great nation. As Catholics and as Americans, we must reject every form of racism and anti-Semitism.
“Racism is a sin that denies the truth about God and his creation, and it is a scandal that disfigures the beauty of America’s founding vision. In our 2018 pastoral letter on racism, my brother bishops and I stated: ‘What is needed, and what we are calling for, is a genuine conversion of heart, a conversion that will compel change and the reform of our institutions and society.’
“Let us honor the memory of Rev. King by returning to what he called ‘the best in the American dream and the most sacred values in our Judeo-Christian heritage.’ Let us commit ourselves once more to building his ‘beloved community,’ an America where all men and women are treated as children of God, made in his image and endowed with dignity, equality, and rights that can never be denied, no matter the color of their skin, the language they speak, or the place they were born.”
The U.S. Bishops’ 2018 pastoral letter on racism, “Open Wide Your Hearts: The Enduring Call of Love,” and other resources from the Ad Hoc Committee on Racism can be found at:

March for Life theme borrows page from suffragist centennial

By Mark Pattison
WASHINGTON (CNS) – The March for Life, the annual march in Washington to protest legalized abortion in the United States, is tying itself in 2020 to the women’s suffrage movement for the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.
The theme of the march is “Life Empowers: Pro-Life Is Pro-Woman.” Jeanne Mancini, head of the March for Life, remarked how two noted suffragists of their day, Alice Paul and Susan B. Anthony, were themselves staunchly against abortion. A video made to support the upcoming march, to be held Jan. 24, said the women called abortion “the ultimate exploitation of women.”
An unnamed woman speaking in the video said 30 million female babies had been aborted since the twin 1973 Supreme Court rulings in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton that legalized abortion virtually on demand.

A young woman joins other pro-life advocates outside the U.S. Supreme Court Jan. 27, 2017, during the annual March for Life in Washington. The theme for the Jan. 24, 2020, March for Life is “Life Empowered: Pro-Life is Pro-Woman.” (CNS photo/Leslie E. Kossoff)

Mancini said speakers lined up for the pre-march gathering include Louisiana State Sen. Katrina Jackson, a pro-life Democrat who authored a bill in 2014 to require abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. It was ruled unconstitutional in 2017, but that ruling in June Medical Services v. Gee was reversed by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The U.S. Supreme Court said in October it would take up the case, its first abortion-related case since the death of Antonin Scalia and the retirement of Anthony Kennedy.
Also on the speakers’ list is U.S. Rep. Christopher Smith, R-New Jersey, long a pro-life advocate, who has sponsored the Born-Alive Survivors Protection Act, which would bar the killing of any baby who survives an abortion. Two such survivors will speak as well, according to Mancini.
The 2020 march will be the 47th such march. “We march regardless,” Mancini said during a Dec. 3 news briefing in Washington about the march. In 2016, “we had ‘Blizzard-geddon,'” she added. An even stronger blizzard in 1982 that crippled the Washington region and its transportation network did not deter those hardy but few marchers who had already made it to the nation’s capital.
The 2019 march was “the first one we marched during a government shutdown,” Mancini added. She said she is working with the U.S. Park Service to assure that there would be no complications to conducting the march should the government be shut down again.
The March for Life now bills itself as “the world’s largest human rights demonstration” and “the world’s largest pro-life event.” Mancini, during the news briefing, called it “the single unifying pro-life event” bringing together people from all points on the pro-life spectrum.
Mancini said more legislation on the abortion front is being advanced at the state level, and that the March for Life would be replicated elsewhere, including Virginia, Connecticut and Chicago.
While the march promotes legislation reflecting pro-life interests, it also aims to “change hearts and minds,” Mancini said.
Tom McClusky, president of March for Life Action, which is the sister organization of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund headed by Mancini, also spoke at the briefing. “If Roe v. Wade is overturned or weakened,” he said, “there will be even more action in the states.”
(Editor’s note: Groups from around the Diocese of Jackson will be in attendance at March for Life 2020, including students from Natchez Cathedral and St. Joseph Starkville Catholic Campus Ministry.)