All aboard: WYD pilgrims know about the synod, share its concerns

By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – With the approach of the assembly of the Synod of Bishops, a major event in the pontificate of Pope Francis, it was surprising that the pope did not use the word “synod” or “synodality” in any of his talks to the 1.5 million young people gathered in Portugal for World Youth Day.

If he thought young Catholics were not aware of the synod, of its vision and of some of the controversy surrounding it, he was wrong.

The staff of the synod secretariat went to World Youth Day in Lisbon prepared to explain “synodality” to young Catholics, but they found the pilgrims from around the world already knew about the synod assembly planned for October and about many of the issues proposed for discussion.

“Being in contact with the young people was amazing, really amazing,” said Thierry Bonaventura, the synod communication manager. “Most of them knew about the synod, were ready to listen to more about it” and were eager to share their hopes and concerns.

The synod had a booth at the “City of Joy,” a venue in a Lisbon park where religious orders and Catholic service and mission organizations interacted with young people throughout World Youth Day Aug. 1-6.

The young people who visited the synod booth left thousands of prayers for the synod and for the church written on Post-it Notes and hundreds of letters to Pope Francis and synod members on full-sized sheets of paper pre-printed with “Say something to the synod.”

While Bonaventura and the synod staff were still sorting through the notes and letters back at the Vatican Aug. 9, he told Catholic News Service that the young Catholics’ chief concerns were clear, and first on their lists was the unity of the church.

One unsigned Post-it prayer read, “That together we may grow both in unity & diversity. All are welcome.”

And a message to the synod written in English signed by a German pilgrim said, “I hope that the synod will strengthen and renew the unity in the church and not lead to division. Please find a way to find all together in Christ.”

Young Catholics in Lisbon told synod staff they want more time and space in the church dedicated to them, Bonaventura said, but not simply as recipients of ministry. They want the church to welcome their gifts and talents, for instance by using their skills in technology and social media.

Recognizing and expanding the leadership of women in the church and ensuring LGBT Catholics feel welcome also were top concerns, he said.

Another frequently repeated concern, “always repeated with this idea of unity in diversity,” he said, was greater access to the pre-Vatican II Latin Mass.

On a “say something to the synod” form, a young man from the United States wrote that the traditional Latin Masses he has attended are “the most beautiful Masses that I have ever been to,” and he asked Pope Francis to end the restrictions on its celebration because they “exclude and ostracize a large group of faithful Catholics.”

For Bonaventura, World Youth Day was a clear demonstration of synodality in action: Young Catholics from around the world literally walked together, joining “to praise the Lord, to deepen their knowledge of Jesus, to gather around the pope and listen to his teaching.”

“And what astonished me a little bit, because I didn’t know it was so strong, was their awareness of mission, of really helping others who don’t know Jesus to know him,” he said.

While Pope Francis did not talk about the synod to the young people, his “todos, todos, todos” refrain – his insistence that all are welcome in the church – and his encouragement to share the Gospel will joy resonated with the pilgrims and echoed the key points of the synod’s theme: “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission.”

Cardinal Robert W. McElroy of San Diego, who was appointed by the pope to be a member of the synod, told CNS, “His constant refrain that all are welcome in the life of the church – that strikes young people very profoundly and beautifully.”

“This is how God relates to us: first, wanting us to know we are loved; second, wanting us to know that God stands with us as we face the problems which weigh us down; and thirdly that God is helping us to change in our lives,” the cardinal said.

Speaking to reporters on his return flight to Rome Aug. 6, Pope Francis said he knows some people don’t like his insistence on welcoming everyone. A common objection, he said, is: “But young people don’t always live life in accordance with morality.”

“Who among us has not made a moral mistake in our lives? Everyone has,” he continued. “Each of us has had downfalls in our own history. Life is like that. But the Lord is always waiting for us because he is merciful and is Father, and mercy goes beyond everything.”

In welcoming and ministering to all, he told the reporters, “One of the important things is patience: accompanying people step by step on their way to maturity.”

Father Hendrick Ardianto, SCJ of the Catholic Parishes of Northwest Mississippi displays the US Flag during an event at World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal.

Although Pope Francis did not speak to the WYD pilgrims about the synod, it was a significant part of his homily Aug. 2 at a prayer service with bishops, priests and pastoral workers in Portugal.
“The church is synodal,” he said. “She is communion, mutual assistance and shared journey.”

“In the boat of the church, there has to be room for everyone: all the baptized are called on board to lower the nets, becoming personally involved in the preaching of the Gospel,” the pope continued.

The model, he said, is “that passage of the Gospel in which the wedding feast of the son is all prepared, and people do not come to it. So, what does the Lord, the master of the feast, say? ‘Go out to the highways and byways and bring everyone, everyone: the sick, the healthy, young and old, the righteous and sinners. Everyone!’”

(Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden)

Sister Josephine Garrett shares ‘hope stories’ of Black Catholicsin podcast meant to inspire

By Katie Yoder

(OSV News) – A podcast production by Catholic publishing company OSV (the parent company of OSV News) with a nationally-recognized religious sister is featuring “Hope Stories with Black Catholics” this summer.

“A hope story is a time in someone’s life when he or she was called to hope in a deep way,” Sister Josephine Garrett, a member of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, told OSV News of the ongoing series. “Hope (especially hope that is deep and profound and connected to the deepest desires of our hearts) takes courage, and as we wait for what is longed for, we can experience grief, loss, joy, fear, expectancy – all sorts of feelings.”

“Hope isn’t the easiest experience to enter into,” she added, saying that “in each episode the guests share times in their life when they were brought to the thresholds of hope.”
In total, the podcast will consist of 15 episodes lasting around 30 minutes each while highlighting the stories of 17 U.S. Black Catholics from all walks of life.

This is an illustration for a new podcast called “Hope Stories,” hosted by Sister Josephine Garrett, a member of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth. The first episode launched June 26, 2023, and is available at (OSV News photo/OSV)

“Seventeen guests because some episodes include married couples!” Sister Garrett explained, adding that the podcast also will include single Catholics, deacons, religious, priests and a bishop.

Sister Garrett, a writer, speaker and mental health counselor based in Tyler, Texas, has experience talking about hope. A relevant voice on social media, where thousands of people follow her on platforms such as Twitter and Instagram, Sister Garrett became Catholic in 2005 before professing vows in 2020.

While Sister Garrett’s podcast about hope stories will cover the same topic in each episode, each story is unique because each guest is unique, she stressed.

“We discuss the guest’s faith journey, their definition of hope, their hope story that they chose to share in the episode and each guest also shares their views on the place of Black culture in the life of the church,” Sister Garrett said.

As one of the guests, Father Robert Boxie, chaplain at Howard University and priest-in-residence at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Washington, told OSV News he “absolutely enjoyed” being a part of the podcast and sharing his hope story. He was grateful to share his work as the Catholic chaplain at one of the U.S.’s preeminent historically Black institutions of higher education ministering to young Black Catholics and students at Howard.

“I believe we are bringing hope in a real way because our Catholic faith has something to offer on campuses like Howard,” he said. “And more importantly, we are encouraging and forming a generation of Black Catholic leaders with the message that their faith, their gifts, their contributions and their presence in the church matter.”

Father Boxie also shared his advice for listeners seeking hope.

“We all have a story of hope to tell and all of us have a reason for our hope, that is, Jesus Christ,” he said. “My prayer is that listeners will be inspired by the stories of Black Catholics, appreciate the unique witness that we bring to the Catholic Church and realize how it’s necessary for these stories to be told.”

Sister Garrett agreed that every person has a hope story.

“We all have stories of hope, we are all called to hope courageously in the promises of God, so I believe these episodes will resonate in some way with all people,” she said before citing Romans 5:2-5: “We boast in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”

She said the podcast began after OSV decided to enter the podcasting space and invited her to host one that they hoped to launch.

“We knew the podcast would line up with my book that comes out in the fall and we zeroed in on highlighting Black Catholics before we zeroed in on telling stories of hope,” she said, referencing her upcoming book that will be released by OSV called “Hope: An Invitation.”

“It wasn’t a private inspiration, it was the fruit of my own prayer, my editor’s prayer and the prayer of other members of the OSV team,” she added.

If listeners take away one thing from the podcast, Sister Garrett hopes it is the realization “that every member of the body of Christ is a gift and brings something to the church that only he or she can bring.”

“While our stories are unique and our various hopes are unique, at the same time all of our stories and all of our hopes are rooted in Christ, and the hope of the resurrection won for us in Christ,” she said.

“I also want listeners to enter into the joy,” she added. “There is so much laughter and joy throughout this podcast and so I hope listeners take away the joy as well.”

Listeners can already tune in to the first several episodes of the production from OSV podcasts on a variety of platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Amazon Music, Castro, Castbox and Goodpods.

(Katie Yoder is a contributing editor for Our Sunday Visitor, a national Catholic newspaper based in Huntington, Ind. NOTES: A link to “Hope Stories with Black Catholics” is here:

At Congress closing Mass, Black Catholics urged, ‘Don’t let the fire go out!’At Congress closing Mass, Black Catholics urged, ‘Don’t let the fire go out!’

Editor’s note: Ivory Phillips, parishioner of Holy Ghost Jackson, wrote a summary of his experience at the 13th National Black Catholic Congress that took place from July 20-23 in National Harbor, Maryland. To read it, visit
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By Gina Christian
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. (OSV News) – A Sending forth the participants of the 13th National Black Catholic Congress at their July 23 closing Mass in the Washington metropolitan area, Bishop John H. Ricard offered them an admonition that he said he learned from his days as a youth camping in the woods – “Don’t let the fire go out!”

Bishop Ricard, the superior general of the Josephites, who formerly served as the bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Florida, was the homilist at the Mass, celebrated at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland. He encouraged the congress participants to be enlivened by the flame of the Holy Spirit, and to bring that spirit of faith back to their homes, parishes, dioceses and to the African American communities in their cities and towns.

“You’ve got to poke the flame and stir it up … We can’t let the fire go out,” he said, also encouraging people to address problems like violence in their communities, the mass incarceration of people of color, and the challenge of reaching out to young adult Black Catholics raised in the faith, who no longer go to church.

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – Pictured (l-r) at the National Black Catholic Congress are Maxine Ford (St. Francis Greenwood); Dr. Ivory Phillips (Holy Ghost Jackson); Sister Amelia Breton, SBS; Jackie Lewis (St. Francis Greenwood); Father Sebastian Myladiyil, SVD (Sacred Heart Greenville); Laveria Green (Holy Family Natchez); Vincent Green (Holy Family Natchez); Glara Martin (St. Francis Greenwood); Linda Simmons (Christ the King Jackson); Janie Hicks (Holy Family Jackson); and Edith Spells (St. Francis Greenwood). (Photo courtesy of Sister Amelia Breton, SBS)

An estimated 3,000 Black Catholics from 80 dioceses across the United States attended the four-day gathering, which included Masses, keynote addresses, breakout sessions for adults and youth, and a visit to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.
“I’m grateful to God that you are here in such great numbers, to bear witness to our church and our faith in the Lord,” Bishop Ricard, 83, said.

In his homily, Bishop Ricard praised the legacies of faith of the six U.S. Black Catholics being considered for sainthood whose portraits were depicted in large banners hanging behind the altar, noting how the Holy Spirit had reigned down on each of them.

“We’re here this weekend to reap the harvest that has been sown,” said Bishop Ricard.

Those candidates for sainthood include Venerable Henriette Delille of New Orleans, the foundress of the Sisters of the Holy Family; Venerable Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange of Baltimore, the foundress of the Oblate Sisters of Providence, the first religious congregation of African American women; Venerable Father Augustus Tolton of Chicago, the first publicly known Black Catholic priest in the United States; Venerable Pierre Toussaint of New York, renowned for his charitable works; Servant of God Julia Greeley of Denver, known for her devout faith; and Servant of God Sister Thea Bowman, a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration and dynamic evangelist from Mississippi who died of cancer in 1990.

Sister Thea, who was known for her soaring style of singing, participated in the sixth National Black Catholic Congress, held in 1987 on the campus of The Catholic University of America in Washington. Remembering the impact of her life, Bishop Ricard said, “The Holy Spirit came upon the songbird. Didn’t she become a witness of triumph over sickness and discrimination?”

Bishop Ricard also noted the legacy of Daniel Rudd, a pioneer Black Catholic journalist from Kentucky who founded the Congress of Colored Catholics that first met at St. Augustine Church in Washington in 1889.

That group, the bishop said, “is the granddaddy of the National Black Catholic Congress,” a movement that was revived in 1987, after Rudd’s group had held five earlier national gatherings around the turn of the century.

Honoring the memory of Rudd’s effort, Bishop Ricard said, “They had the vision, they had the determination, and they had the will back then to come together, because Rudd believed that in the Catholic Church, there was the fullness of the revelation of the teaching of Jesus, and that was the answer to all of the problems that Blacks were facing.”

The main celebrant of the July 23 closing Mass was Washington Auxiliary Bishop Roy E. Campbell Jr., the president of the National Black Catholic Congress. He was joined by five other bishops, about 60 priests and nearly 50 deacons. Joining the laypeople in the congregation were numerous African American women and men religious.

(Mark Zimmermann is editor of the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.)

Catholics appeal for help as Biden declares Maui’s deadly fires a federal emergency

By Patrick Downes
(OSV News) – Catholic Charities Hawai’i in the Honolulu Diocese has appealed for donations to help the agency meet housing, food and other needs of what could be thousands of victims from wildfires raging on the island of Maui that wiped out an entire town and drove people to seek refuge in the ocean.

More than 11,000 people were evacuated as wildfires burned the historic town of Lahaina “to the ground,” as numerous news outlets reported. Maui County officials confirmed Aug. 17 that at least 111 people have died, with two of them identified; and possibly 1,000 still missing. Maui police have asked families of people still unaccounted for to submit DNA samples to aid in possible identification.

An assessment of the Lahaina fire by the Pacific Disaster Center and Federal Emergency Management Agency reported 2,170 acres burned and more than 2,200 structures were damaged or destroyed.

Other Maui communities affected by the fires include the Kihei area and inland communities known as Upcountry. Firefighting crews continued to extinguish flare-ups in Lahaina and Upcountry into the evening Aug. 12, and the Pulehu/Kihei area fire was declared 100% contained to avoid further spread of the flames.

An aerial view shows the community of Lahaina after wildfires driven by high winds burned across most of the town several days ago, in Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii, U.S. August 10, 2023. (OSV News photo/Marco Garcia, Reuters)

News reports said that wildfires also were affecting the Big Island (officially named Hawaii), and crews were battling a total of six fires, with three simultaneously torching Maui.

Various news outlets have reported on survivors supporting one another and receiving aid from local volunteer relief efforts. The Hawai’i Emergency Management Agency website maintains a page listing where to find the latest updates online and via radio, along with various agencies and resources on the ground for supplies, shelter, services and finding missing loved ones. Hawai’i Governor Josh Green said Aug. 13 that a Temporary Housing Task Force has been formed to work with federal partners, and has already secured 1,000 rooms to house those displaced by the fire with longer-term housing plans in the works.

“We can only imagine the distress and heartache that many are currently experiencing from the destructive wildfires on Maui, and our thoughts and prayers are with everyone impacted,” said a statement posted on the website of Catholic Charities Hawai’i, which urged people to make a donation to the agency for Maui relief at

“As a community of hope we can help those in need to overcome this tragedy and rebuild their lives through recovery efforts. Thank you for your consideration and for your continued support as we navigate through this challenging time together,” the agency said.

As the fires continued to burn and as the death toll continued to rise, Pope Francis offered his prayers, his encouragement to firefighters and rescue workers, and invoked “upon all the people of Maui Almighty God’s blessings of strength and peace,” according to a telegram sent by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, to Cardinal-designate Christoph Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States.

The Maui blazes began the night of Aug. 8. The National Weather Service said strong winds from Hurricane Dora, passing hundreds of miles to the southwest of the Hawaiian Islands, were partly to blame for fueling the fires, though authorities had not yet identified what caused the fires.

During an Aug. 10 visit to a Veterans Affairs medical center in Salt Lake City, President Joe Biden issued a federal disaster declaration for Maui and the Big Island, ordering “all available federal assets on the Islands to help with response.” Green requested the declaration, which makes federal funds available to affected individuals by providing grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses and other assistance. The federal funds can help businesses as well as state and eligible county governments, and nonprofit organizations.

“This is a tragic day for everyone in Hawai’i and the nation. Our hearts go out to the families of the victims and the survivors suffering through the deadliest natural disaster the state has seen in generations,” Green said in an Aug. 10 statement.

“In the coming days – as more and more details emerge – I ask that we as a state provide all the emotional and financial support we can to the people of Lahaina and Maui,” he said, adding that as governor, “I pledge to spare no resources to combat the destructive wildfires, shelter the displaced, treat and bring comfort to the traumatized, support our first responders, restore communication lines and enlist the aid of our federal and county partners to confront this this once-in-a-lifetime catastrophe.”

Lahaina’s Maria Lanakila Catholic Church miraculously survived the blaze.

In the days immediately following the fire, the Diocese of Honolulu had been unable to verify the fate of the church and its nearby parish school, K-8 Sacred Hearts School. The day before the fire, Aug. 7, half of the school’s roof blew off from the heavy winds.

Father Robert Ni Ni, a Missionaries of Faith priest who is pastor of the neighboring parish of St. Rita in Haiku and recently had been assigned to Maria Lanakila as parochial vicar, said he had heard conflicting reports on the fate of the church. He said it would be a “miracle” if the church survived.
The daily Honolulu Star-Advertiser had reported that the church had burned down. Another news source reported the church was still standing, Father Ni Ni told the Hawaii Catholic Herald, Honolulu’s diocesan newspaper, by phone Aug. 10.

The Star-Advertiser corrected its report Aug. 11 with a story that the church was still standing.
The Lahaina fire ripped down Front Street, leaving the famous waterfront home to visitors’ shops and restaurants a smoldering pile of ashes. The church is a block from Front Street.

With all the power and cellphone service out, the fate of Maria Lanakila Church was for several days the subject of rumor. The day after the fire ripped through Lahaina town, the word going around was that the church was “gone.” By Aug. 10 the diocese had received enough ground and aerial photographic evidence to determine that the church and rectory survived intact, while the school was heavily damaged. However, no one from the church has been able to visit the site because the area is closed off indefinitely as the search for victims continues.

Father Ni Ni reported that the pastor, Father Kuriakose Nadooparambil, and a visiting priest are safe as are three sisters of the Missionaries of Faith who work for the parish, and all the school and parish lay employees. At least five lost their homes, however.

Father Ni Ni has been one source of information about Lahaina as communication lines are down all over.

When the fire struck, Honolulu Bishop Larry Silva was on vacation in California as he returned from World Youth Day. His office quickly organized a Zoom virtual rosary to pray for the victims.

“What is needed is prayer for those who have lost their homes and businesses, prayers for our firefighters and first responders and police, and all those you are trying to protect the community, prayer for our social service agencies which are gearing up to help those who are most in need in this time of crisis and trial,” he said, introducing the virtual prayer session that was attended by about 300 people.

“And so we pray to our Blessed Mother for victory over all these tragedies,” he said, noting that Maria Lanakila translates into “Our Lady of Victory.”

“We ask the Lord to quench those fires immediately, so that they will no longer do any damage, so that they will be a memory of the past so we can begin the work of recovery and rebuilding,” he said in closing.

According to the National Park Service, Lahaina holds deep cultural significance for Hawaiians as the district “was once the capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom.” The Lahaina Historic District, which encompassed downtown Lahaina, Front Street and its vicinity, was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1962, according to the park service’s website.

The first Mass was celebrated in Lahaina in 1841 by Sacred Hearts Father Modestus Favens, in a grass structure belonging to the Spanish cowboy Joakini. A bronze plaque on Front Street marked the spot.

According to the parish website, Maria Lanakika Church was established in 1846.

In 1862, Sacred Hearts Father Aubert Bouillon opened Sacred Hearts School with two classrooms. The English-speaking school was run by laywomen until the Sisters of St. Francis took it over from 1928 to 2001.

A new school building and convent, built of donated second-hand lumber, were blessed in 1951 by Bishop James J. Sweeney.

An arsonist burned the school down in 1971. The sisters rebuilt it with donations and by selling sweetbread, pickled mango and other items.

Patrick Downes is editor of the Hawaii Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Diocese of Honolulu. OSV News staff contributed to this report. Julie Asher is senior editor for OSV News.

Cardinal Gregory: Till memorial should inspire youth to’work for a better world’

By Mark Zimmermann
(OSV News) – Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington, the Catholic Church’s first African American cardinal, reacted to President Joe Biden establishing the Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley National Monument in Mississippi and Illinois July 25, saying it was important to remember that youth’s brutal, tragic murder and his mother’s heroic quest for justice as the work for civil rights continues.

In a statement, Cardinal Gregory said, “It is painful to recall yesterday’s violence, but it is necessary so that the lessons learned in tears will hopefully prevent us from such tragedies in the future. Emmett Till and his courageous mother Mamie offered the world a sorrowful image of a pieta in 1955. If we remember such moments from the past, perhaps there will be less possibility of a future such image.”

Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the archbishop of Washington, speaks during a May 2023 interview with the Catholic Standard and El Pregonero newspapers. (OSV News photo/Mihoko Owada, Catholic Standard)

In August 1955, Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African American youth from Chicago, was visiting family in Mississippi when he was accused of making unjust advancements toward a white female grocery clerk, which his cousins and friends at the scene disputed. Four days later, he was pulled from bed, kidnapped and brutally murdered. Three days after his abduction, his mutilated body was pulled from the Tallahatchie River.

His mother Mamie Till-Mobley held an open-casket viewing and funeral for her son in Chicago, at Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ. Over several days, an estimated 125,000 people attended the visitation and funeral services. Emmett Till’s lynching helped galvanize the Civil Rights Movement and inspired Rosa Parks’ activism.

Among those who filed past Emmett Till’s casket was Wilton Gregory, a native of Chicago who was then nearly 8 years old. In a May 2023 interview with the Catholic Standard and the Spanish-language El Pregonero, newspapers of The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, Cardinal Gregory remembered that experience.

“I grew up in the mid-‘50s, and the great challenges that were going on in the United States at that time involved the Civil Rights Movement. I can remember as a young man going to the wake of Emmett Till, my grandmother took me to the wake. That was a pivotal moment in the Civil Rights Movement. And certainly, you know, just a startling moment for the African American community of Chicago, because he was a kid from Chicago that had been murdered in Mississippi.”

In that interview, Cardinal Gregory said he remembered “the sense of hope and determination that the Civil Rights Movement engendered,” and he also noted that he grew up in an era when President John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were assassinated.

“Those moments of tragedy … of the killing of Emmett Till, the assassination of those public figures, they didn’t break the spirit of the people of the time. They saddened us deeply, but they didn’t break our spirits. And I hope that’s also the case of the young people in today’s world, which is so divided,” the cardinal said. “My prayer, my hope is that our young people don’t lose hope, that they don’t just throw up their hands and say all is lost, (that) there’s no possibility of improvement, because there is. And that possibility of improvement resides with the young people themselves, that they work for a better world.”

In a 2020 interview with CNN journalist Christiane Amanpour, the cardinal also reflected on what it was like to attend the viewing of Emmett Till.

“I can remember that my grandmother took me to the wake … Emmett Till’s mother insisted that it be an open casket wake, so that people could see the brutality that her son had endured. And I was 7 or 8 years old at the time. And I went with my grandmother, along with literally thousands of African-American Chicagoans, to witness the awful brutality that that young man had suffered. It was – it was something that I shall never forget. We were in a long line. And, obviously, we just walked past the casket. And I recall seeing the awful, disfigured body of that young man.”

During a 2020 panel discussion sponsored by Georgetown University’s Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life, Cardinal Gregory said viewing the video of the murder of George Floyd – the African American man who died in police custody after a Minneapolis officer knelt on his neck for an extended period – brought back a flood of memories, including the viewing of Emmett Till. He said that Floyd’s death reminded him of “a whole collage of individuals who have been assassinated for no other reason than the color of their skin.”

President Biden signed the proclamation establishing the Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley National Monument on July 25, on a day that would have been Emmett Till’s 82nd birthday. The new monument will be at three sites, at Graball Landing in Mississippi, believed to be the site where Emmett Till’s body was discovered in the Tallahatchie River; at Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ in Chicago, where his viewing and funeral were held; and at the Tallahatchie County Second District Courthouse in Sumner, Mississippi, where the trial of Emmett Till’s two accused murderers was held in September 1955, and an all-white jury acquitted them after an hour of deliberation. Both those men later admitted to killing the youth.

Emmett Till Murder Trial historical marker, Sumner, Mississippi. (Photo by BigStock)

At the ceremony where President Biden signed the proclamation establishing the new national monument, Vice President Kamala Harris said, “Today we gather to remember our history. We gather to remember an act of astonishing violence and hate, and to honor the courage of those who called upon our nation to look with open eyes upon that horror and to act. The story of Emmett Till and the incredible bravery of Mamie Till-Mobley helped fuel the movement for civil rights in America, and their stories continue to inspire our collective fight for justice.”

Before he signed the proclamation, President Biden emphasized how, after Emmett Till’s murder, his mother Mamie Till-Mobley “insisted on an open casket for her murdered and maimed and mutilated son, 14 years old. She said, ‘Let the people see what I have seen.’ The country and the world saw, not just heard, the story of Emmett Till and his mother as a story of a family’s promise and loss, and a nation’s reckoning with hate, violence and racism.”

In March 2022 during a White House ceremony, President Biden signed the Emmett Till Antilynching Act, a law that makes lynching a federal hate crime.

When the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture opened in 2016, the artifacts included the casket of Emmett Till.

(Mark Zimmerman writes for the Catholic Standard.)

McCarrick not competent to stand trial

By Damien Fisher

(OSV News) — Disgraced former cardinal Theodore McCarrick is not competent to stand trial in Massachusetts on charges that he sexually abused a teenage boy nearly 50 years ago, according to the prosecution’s expert brought in to examine the now 92-year-old.

On Thursday, Norfolk County Assistant District Attorney Lisa Beatty submitted the state’s report to Dedham District Court Judge Michael Pomarole, which stated that the Commonwealth’s medical examiner found MCarrick not currently competent to participate in the criminal trial. A defense expert made the same assessment in February. This could result in the dismissal of the charges in this case, in which McCarrick faces three counts of indecent assault and battery of a person over the age of 14.

The prosecution’s report itself is not being made public, and Pomarole has yet to make the final decision on McCarrick’s status. It is unlikely there are medical treatments that can restore McCarrick to competency, given the claims he has dementia.

Former Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick wears a mask during arraignment at Dedham District Court in Dedham, Mass., Sept. 3, 2021, after being charged with molesting a 16-year-old boy during a 1974 wedding reception. A medical expert consulted by Massachusetts prosecutors says McCarrick is not competent to stand trial. (OSV News photo/David L Ryan, Pool via Reuters)

Pomarole will consider both the prosecution and defense reports at an upcoming Aug. 30 hearing.

If convicted, McCarrick could have been sentenced to up to five years in prison on each individual count. McCarrick pleaded not guilty in September 2021.

McCarrick was recently charged with sexual assault in Wisconsin over an alleged incident that took place in 1977. It’s not clear if the eventual Massachusetts decision on his ability to stand trial will impact the Wisconsin case.

Even if he is determined to be unable to go to trial on the criminal charges, that does not end the legal jeopardy for a man once considered to be the one of the most powerful clerics in the American Church.

Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who represents the Massachusetts victim, still plans to pursue civil lawsuits filed in other states against McCarrick. The alleged victim is reportedly disappointed with the prosecution’s report.

Garabedian said he does not believe McCarrick being found incompetent will prevent the civil cases from proceeding. “By proceeding with the civil lawsuits my client is empowering himself, other clergy sexual abuse victims, and making the world a safer place for children,” he said.

McCarrick’s lawyers, Barry Couburn and Daniel Marx, first raised the competency issue in February when they filed a motion to have the charges dismissed based on a report from a medical expert they hired. The defense attorneys claimed McCarrick was incompetent to stand trial due to advancing and irreversible dementia.

“While he has a limited understanding of the criminal proceedings against him, his progressive and irreparable cognitive deficits render him unable to meaningfully consult with his counsel or to effectively assist in his own defense,” Coburn and Marx wrote.

The defense report, prepared by Dr. David Schretlen, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, is also under seal.

Prosecutors responded to the Schretlen report by hiring their own medical expert. That expert flew to Missouri to examine McCarrick, and also reviewed his medical records, before coming to the conclusion he cannot go to trial.

The Massachusetts case started in 2021, when McCarrick was charged for the alleged assaults. According to court records, McCarrick was close to the victim’s family, celebrating Masses for them and even going on family trips. The victim told investigators that McCarrick abused him during trips out of state. It was also under the guise of providing spiritual direction to the victim that the abuse took place, according to the criminal complaint.

One incident allegedly took place in the 1970s at the wedding reception for the victim’s brother, which was held on the Wellesley College campus. McCarrick allegedly got the victim, 16 at this time, to go outside with him to talk about the victim not attending Mass. During this encounter, McCarrick fondled the victim, according to the criminal complaint.

Allegedly, the pair went back to the reception, where McCarrick told the victim he had to go to confession, using a closet for privacy. Then, using the sacrament as cover, McCarrick continued to abuse the boy, according to the complaint. McCarrick gave the boy three Our Fathers and a Hail Mary as penance, according to the complaint.

McCarrick, known for his charm and his fundraising prowess, has been accused of sexually abusing dozens of child and adult victims over decades, a scandal that finally became public in 2018. After the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (now dicastery) found McCarrick guilty of abuse in 2019, he was laicized by Pope Francis.

(Damien Fisher writes for OSV News from New Hampshire.)

Newly named ‘venerable,’ Sister Lucia spread Fatima message throughout her long life

(OSV News) — Carmelite Sister Lucia dos Santos, the last surviving Fatima visionary, died in the Carmelite cloister in Coimbra, Portugal, in February 2005 at the age of 97. At the time of her death, St. John Paul II recalled their “bonds of spiritual friendship that intensified with the passing of time.”

“I always felt supported by the daily gift of her prayers, especially in difficult moments of trial and suffering,” the pope wrote in a message to Bishop Albino Mamede Cleto of Coimbra, less than two months before the pope’s own death. “May the Lord repay her abundantly for the great and hidden service she gave the church.”

Sister Lucia dos Santos meets with Pope John Paul II on May 13, 1982, in Fatima, Portugal, one year to the day after the pope was shot in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. The pope credited the Virgin Mary with helping him to survive the assassination attempt, which occurred on the feast of Our Lady of Fatima. Sister Lucia died Feb. 13, 2005, at the age of 97 at her convent in Coimbra, Portugal. She was declared “venerable” on June 22 by Pope Francis. (OSV News photo/KNA)

On June 22, Pope Francis declared Sister Lucia “venerable” with a decree recognizing the Fatima visionary’s heroic virtues. The next step toward official recognition of sainthood is beatification, after which Sister Lucia would be called “blessed,” followed by canonization, where she would be declared a saint. In general, the last two steps each require a miracle attributed to the intercession of the sainthood candidate and verified by the church.

The Portuguese girl was only 10 years old when she and her two younger cousins told their family and friends that they had seen the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima in 1917. Mary first appeared to Lucia, 9-year-old Francisco Marto and 7-year-old Jacinta Marto on May 13, and the apparitions continued approximately once a month until October 1917, culminating in the “Miracle of the Sun.” The Catholic Church has ruled that the apparitions and the messages from Our Lady of Fatima were worthy of belief.

Francisco died in 1919 and Jacinta died 1920, both of the Spanish flu. St. John Paul beatified them in 2000.

That same year, St. John Paul, who met Sister Lucia three times, ordered the publication of the so-called “third secret” of Fatima, which he may have believed referred to the 20th-century persecution of the church under atheistic systems, such as Nazism and particularly Russian communism, and spoke of the 1981 attempt to assassinate him.

The pope was shot May 13, 1981, the anniversary of the first of the Fatima apparitions.

St. John Paul said he believed Mary saved his life that day; he sent one of the bullets removed from his abdomen to Fatima, where it is part of the crown on the statue of Our Lady.

In his 2005 message to Bishop Cleto, who died in 2012, the pope said that with her death, Sister Lucia “reached the goal she always aspired to in prayer and in the silence of the convent,” and she was a “humble and devout Carmelite who consecrated her life to Christ, the savior of the world.”

Seeing the Virgin Mary as a child “was the beginning of a unique mission for her, one to which she was faithful until the end of her days,” he said.

“Sister Lucia leaves us an example of great fidelity to the Lord and of joyfully following his divine will,” the pope wrote.

Sts. Jacinta and Francisco Marto are pictured in a colorized image with their cousin, Lucia dos Santos (right), in a file photo taken around the time of the 1917 apparitions of Mary at Fatima, Portugal. Sister Lucia was declared “venerable” on June 22 by Pope Francis. (OSV News photo/Reuters)

Upon Sister Lucia’s death, speculation surrounding her cause for canonization was immediate. Some wondered if St. John Paul would waive the five-year waiting period after a person’s death for a cause to open.

Jesuit Father Paolo Molinari, postulator of the cause for Sts. Francisco and Jacinta, said at the time he personally believed it was important to wait.

“We must avoid the danger of people thinking that she is being beatified or canonized just because of the visions,” he told Catholic News Service in 2005.

“The apparitions of Our Lady and what Our Lady said certainly had an impact on Sister Lucia’s life,” he said, but they did not make her holy.

“She accepted the message and she lived according to the message for more than 80 years, offering her life for the sake of sinners. This is holiness, not just receiving the grace of a vision,” said the Jesuit, who died in 2014, three years before Francisco and Jacinta were recognized as saints.

Ultimately, St. John Paul’s successor, Pope Benedict XVI, waived the standard waiting period for Sister Lucia’s cause, and it was opened in 2008. The Coimbra Diocese completed its investigation and forwarded documentation to the Vatican’s Congregation (now Dicastery) for the Causes of Saints in 2017, the apparitions’ centennial year.

Three months later, on May 13, 2017, Pope Francis canonized Sts. Francisco and Jacinta Marto.

(This reporting drew from Catholic News Service archives.)

Abuse allegations down, but challenges remain,say US bishops in report

By Gina Christian

(OSV News) – Abuse allegations against Catholic clergy and religious in the U.S. declined last year, but challenges remain regarding protecting vulnerable adults and ensuring online safety, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

On July 14, the USCCB’s Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection released the “2022 Annual Report – Findings and Recommendations on the Implementation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.”

USCCB President Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of Military Services said in his preface the report was “a milestone accounting of the continued efforts in the ministry of protection, healing, and accompaniment.”

The document – covering the period July 1, 2021, to June 30, 2022 – consists of a progress report from the secretariat; an audit report conducted by the Rochester, New York-based consultants StoneBridge Business Partners; and a survey of abuse allegations and costs by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University.

Now in its 12th year of performing the audit, StoneBridge visited 62 dioceses and eparchies, 48 in person and 14 virtually.

The report itself is the 20th of its kind since 2002, when the U.S. bishops established the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” as a number of clerical abuse scandals emerged.
Commonly called the “Dallas Charter” for the city in which the bishops met at the time of its ratification, the document lays out a comprehensive set of procedures for addressing allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy. The charter also includes guidelines for reconciliation, healing, accountability and prevention of abuse.

During the 2022 report period, 1,998 individuals came forward with 2,704 allegations of abuse, with claims down 399 from 2021 and 1,548 from 2020. The decrease was largely due to resolutions of allegations received through lawsuits, compensation programs and bankruptcies. Most allegations (83%) were initially brought to diocesan officials by an attorney.

Sixteen reports during the period involved current minors, with all other allegations made by adults citing abuse as minors.

The CARA portion of the report said that 194 responding dioceses and eparchies had judged 245 allegations of sexual abuse of a minor by a priest or deacon to be credible. Of those, 20 allegations involved children who were under the age of 18.

CARA also calculated that total costs incurred by dioceses and eparchies due to allegations were down 19% from the previous year, totaling over $157 million. (Costs for men’s religious communities, by contrast, rose 53%, approaching $45 million.)

The secretariat said in its assessment “the year-over-year trends are encouraging as the number of current minor allegations in the U.S. remains low.”

Many dioceses and eparchies “have taken certain measures that go beyond the specific requirements of the charter,” StoneBridge noted in its report.

Among the measures cited were recurring adult training, parish audits and background check renewals (which are not currently required by the charter).

However, StoneBridge found that more than 30% of diocese and eparchies it had visited during the report period struggled with “some dysfunction” in their review boards, including “lack of meetings, inadequate composition or membership, not following the by-laws of the board, members not confident in their duties (and) lack of rotation of members.”

Auditors pointed out an unevenness in the charter’s overall application, with “196 different implementations” of the document resulting from the various policies of dioceses and eparchies.
Another concern centers on the protection of “vulnerable adults,” a definition for which is not contained in the charter, said auditors.

A year after the charter’s most recent revision in 2018, Pope Francis issued the motu proprio “Vox Estis Lux Mundi” (“You are the light of the world”), outlining global legal procedures for how the church should deal with clergy sexual abuse, including procedures for investigating bishops.

The document, implemented for a three-year experimental period beginning June 1, 2019, included the term “vulnerable person,” defined as “any person in a state of infirmity, physical or mental deficiency, or deprivation of personal liberty which, in fact, even occasionally, limits their ability to understand or to want or otherwise resist the offense.”

On March 25, Pope Francis published an updated version with the specific term “vulnerable adults,” without altering the previous definition. The revised text also was broadened to include investigations of leaders of Vatican-recognized international Catholic lay associations and movements.

Yet Suzanne Healy, chairwomen of the lay-led USCCB National Review Board, highlighted findings by StoneBridge in her remarks in this report, saying that while the charter addresses clerical abuse of children, “there is confusion in reporting matters pertaining to “Vos Estis Lux Mundi” and canon law regarding penal sanctions.

The board “recommends the pursuit of a separate auditable resource with specific guidelines for these adult and lay matters of abuse,” she wrote.

The audit results represent 194 of the 196 dioceses and eparchies in the U.S., with the report listing the Chaldean Eparchy of St. Peter the Apostle and St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy as not participating.

Father Richard Janowicz, vicar general and safe environment coordinator for the Chicago-based St. Nicholas Eparchy, said in an email to OSV News he was “quite surprised” to learn the eparchy had been listed as such, since it had been audited by StoneBridge on April 17 of this year, and confirmed in a June 21 letter that the eparchy had remediated its initial lack of a children’s safe environment training program. It remains unclear as to why the eparchy was listed in the report as “not participating,” and OSV News has reached out to the USCCB for clarification.

Father Simon Esshaki, secretary to Bishop Emanuel Shaleta of the St. Peter Eparchy in El Cajon, California, said in an email to OSV News that the eparchy “did in fact have a full ‘Protecting God’s Children’ program for 2022,” but “unfortunately for some reason the statistics were not shared with the USCCB.”

The dioceses of Birmingham, Alabama, Lubbock, Texas, and St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands were each found noncompliant regarding Article 2 of the Dallas Charter, which in part specifies a required review board, comprised of mostly laypeople not employed by the diocese, that meets regularly and serves as a consultative body to the bishop. Each diocese subsequently corrected the deficiency.
For the Birmingham Diocese, the problem was one of timing, Donald Carson, director of communications and public relations, told OSV News.

Two resignations due to health concerns and the transfer of a religious sister left three vacancies on that review board during the audit period. The seats “have since all been filled, bringing the number of representatives not employed by the diocese back in compliance with the requirements of the charter,” he said in an email to OSV News.

In the Lubbock Diocese, COVID was at its height during the reporting period and had “stopped many areas of our work,” Lucas Flores, communications director, told OSV News in an email, adding that the diocese had resumed review board meetings.

OSV News was awaiting a response from the Diocese of St. Thomas.

(Gina Christian is a national reporter for OSV News. Follow her on Twitter at @GinaJesseReina.)

Mother Lange, who is now ‘venerable,’ is nation’s ‘greatest modelfor evangelization,’ says deacon

By Gerry Jackson

BALTIMORE (OSV News) – When Deacon B. Curtis Turner received word that Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange had moved a step closer to sainthood June 22, he hoped to be the first to celebrate the good news with a visit to her room at St. Frances Academy.

He was delighted to see several of his students at the East Baltimore school had beaten him to it. A handful had already gathered to pray and celebrate at the site where the nun whom Pope Francis declared “venerable” resided, prayed and died.

“We couldn’t be more excited,” said Deacon Turner, the head of school at the academy Mother Lange co-founded in 1828. “Everything we do here is guided by her. It was heartwarming to see kids in her room talking about her cause.”

Sister Marcia Hall, vocations director for the Oblate Sisters of Providence, said it was somewhere between a celebration and business as usual at the motherhouse in Halethorpe, near Baltimore, since the sisters didn’t get official word until the afternoon of June 22.

“We’re very grateful and very excited,” Sister Marcia said. “We’re just going to continue to pray until she reaches sainthood, and we encourage everyone else to pray with us.”

Catholics throughout the Archdiocese of Baltimore rejoiced at the prospects of one of their own moving closer to sainthood. Mother Lange, also the founder of the Baltimore-based Oblate Sisters of Providence, was declared venerable when Pope France signed a decree recognizing her as having “lived the Christian virtues in a heroic way.”

A painting depicts Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange, who founded the Oblate Sisters of Providence in Baltimore, the world’s first sustained women’s religious community for Black women. Pope Francis signed a decree June 22, 2023, recognizing the heroic virtues of Mother Lange and declaring her “venerable.” (OSV News photo/courtesy Catholic Review)

A miracle attributed to her intercession is still necessary before she can be beatified. Another miracle would be needed for her canonization.
The Archdiocese of Baltimore and the Oblate Sisters have championed the cause for the sainthood of the founder of the first Catholic order of African American nuns.

Archbishop William E. Lori said he was overjoyed by the news and noted that Baltimore still draws on Mother Lange’s grace.

“I am delighted that the Holy See has officially recognized the heroic virtues of Mother Mary Lange, for her virtues and example still enliven and grace this local Church,” Archbishop Lori said in a June 22 statement. “I am especially happy for the Oblates of Providence who have been praying and working fervently for the canonization of their beloved founder. Today’s news marks an important step forward in the path towards her beatification. Let us continue to pray for her cause and ask her intercession for our needs.”

In February, when the Vatican accepted the theological and historical record of Mother Lange, Archbishop Lori noted: “With each step forward, more people learn about the life and legacy of our beloved Mother Lange. She unlocked educational opportunities for children in Baltimore and beyond during her lifetime – and that impact continues today. The Oblate Sisters have worked very hard to help bring about this key development. Along with so many others, we are delighted.”

St. Frances Academy’s Deacon Turner, a deacon of the Archdiocese of Washington, called Mother Lange the greatest model for evangelization the nation has.

“She teaches us to love the church even when the church doesn’t seem like it loves us back,” Deacon Turner told the Catholic Review, Baltimore’s archdiocesan news outlet. “She is the ultimate model for us to learn about forgiveness.”

Adrienne Curry, director of the Archdiocese of Baltimore Office of Black Catholic Ministries, said it’s “an exciting time” for Baltimore.

“I am absolutely thrilled,” said Curry. “We are very excited that she is one step closer. It’s very moving. We need people to pray for her cause.”

She noted that four African Americans up for sainthood now have been declared venerable – Mother Lange, Mother Henrietta Delille, Father August Tolton and Pierre Toussaint. (Two other African Americans with canonization causes are Sister Thea Bowman and Julia Greeley.)

Auxiliary Bishop Bruce A. Lewandowski, urban vicar, is glad to see the Lange cause advancing as well.

“Patience in God’s providence pays off,” Bishop Lewandowski said. “This is wonderful news for so many who are praying and working for Mother Lange’s canonization. God is so good!”

Mother Lange helped establish in 1829 the Baltimore-based Oblate Sisters of Providence, the first religious order for women of color. Mother Lange, who also established the first Catholic school for children of color in the United States, was born in Cuba in 1784 and lived in Haiti before coming to Baltimore as a French-speaking immigrant in 1813.

She died Feb. 3, 1882, in Baltimore at St. Frances Academy.

The late Cardinal William H. Keeler began the canonization process for Mother Lange nearly three decades ago while he was archbishop of Baltimore when he submitted a report to the Vatican. Dr. Camille Brown Privette, president of the Mother Mary Lange Guild, wrote a six-page historical document about the history of African Americans from slavery through Reconstruction, Civil Rights Act and other changes that Cardinal Keeler submitted, along with other materials, to what was then called the the Congregation for Saints Causes at the Vatican.

“She was determined to respond to that need in spite of being a Black woman in a slave state long before the Emancipation Proclamation,” according to the official website of her sainthood cause. “She used her own money and home to educate children of color.”

With the encouragement and support of a priest and Archbishop James Whitfield of Baltimore, she and three other women made promises of poverty, chastity and obedience in 1829, founding the Oblate Sisters of Providence, an order that continues today.

The pope also recognized Sister Lucia dos Santos, who as a child reported seeing Mary with her cousins in Fatima, Portugal.

At the same meeting with Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, prefect of the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints, Pope Francis also recognized the martyrdom of Father Manuel González-Serna Rodríguez and 19 other diocesan priests, laymen and laywomen killed in 1939 during the Spanish Civil War. The recognition of martyrdom clears the way for their beatification without a miracle.

The other notable decree of heroic virtues involved a religious sister who died much more recently. Sister Lucia dos Santos died in Coimbra, Portugal, in 2005 at the age of 97. Pope Francis canonized her cousins, Francisco Marto and Jacinta Marto, in 2017.

(Gerry Jackson is on the staff of the Catholic Review, news outlet of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Catholic News Service Rome contributed to this story.

NOTES: To read more about Mother Mary Lange’s cause for sainthood, visit and More about Mother Lange, her life and ministry, and her sainthood cause can be found at the website of the Mother Lange Guild, visit

Supreme Court expands protections for workers

By Kate Scanlon

WASHINGTON (OSV News) – The U.S. Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision June 29 in favor of a former postal worker who said he was denied a religious accommodation to observe Christian precepts on keeping holy the Lord’s Day by his former employer.

The case Groff v. DeJoy concerned Gerald Groff, an evangelical Christian and former U.S. Postal Service worker, who was denied an accommodation to observe his Sunday Sabbath by not taking Sunday shifts that resulted in the loss of his job.

The Supreme Court’s ruling found that federal law requires workplaces to make appropriate accommodations for their employees’ religious practices unless those practices cannot be “reasonably” accommodated without “undue hardship.”

The court threw out its prior “de minimis” standard from its 1977 decision, Trans World Airlines v. Hardison, which had found that the “undue hardship” standard is met even at a minimal cost.
In Groff v. DeJoy, the court ruled an employer denying religious accommodations must show the burden of granting an accommodation would actually result in substantial increased costs.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote in his majority opinion that “diverse religious groups tell the Court that the ‘de minimis’ standard has been used to deny even minor accommodations.”

“Faced with an accommodation request like Groff’s, an employer must do more than conclude that forcing other employees to work overtime would constitute an undue hardship. Consideration of other options would also be necessary,” Alito wrote.

First Liberty Institute, which represented Groff, said the ruling strengthens legal protections for employees seeking religious accommodations, including schedule changes to observe holy days, is far-reaching and has an impact on employment rights at every workplace with at least 15 employees across the country.

“This is a landmark victory, not only for Gerald, but for every American. No American should be forced to choose between their faith and their job,” Kelly Shackelford, president, CEO, and chief counsel for First Liberty, said in a statement. “The Court’s decision today restores religious freedom to every American in the workplace. This decision will positively help millions and millions of Americans – those who work now and their children and grandchildren.”

Groff said in his own statement, “I am grateful to have had my case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court and that they have decided to uphold religious liberty. I hope this decision allows others to be able to maintain their convictions without living in fear of losing their jobs because of what they believe.”
Aaron Streett, partner at Baker Botts LLP, who argued Groff’s case before the high court, said,
“We are thrilled the Court today recognized that an America that values religious pluralism should respect the religious liberty rights of every employee.”

“Our nation has a long history of protecting its employees from being treated differently at work just because of their faith,” Streett said. “This decision is consistent with that history and is a tremendous win for all people of faith.”

Groff alleged in federal court that the U.S. Postal Service failed to provide him with reasonable accommodations for his religious practices. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Postal Service, arguing it would face “undue hardship” by accommodating Groff’s request to excuse him from Sunday shifts.

The Supreme Court’s ruling vacates that finding and sends Groff’s case back to the lower court for reconsideration.

However, Rachel Laser, president and CEO of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, cast the high court’s ruling for the lower court to reconsider Groff’s case as a victory, stating they “live to fight another day.”

“We’re facing an aggressive movement working to weaponize religious freedom, but religious freedom must never be a license to harm others, and that remains true in the workplace,” Laser said. She argued the court simply “clarified,” but did not overturn, its standard for granting religious accommodations.

Laser said “the court’s ‘clarified’ standard correctly allows employers to continue to consider the burdens an employee’s requested accommodation could impose on co-workers.”

The Supreme Court’s decision has religious liberty implications for working Catholics. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are to refrain from engaging in work or activities that hinder the worship owed to God, the joy proper to the Lord’s Day, the performance of the works of mercy, and the appropriate relaxation of mind and body.”

The Catholic Church also teaches this “requires a common effort” and both public authorities and employers are obliged to “ensure citizens a time intended for rest and divine worship.”
OSV News has reached out to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for comment on the decision.

NOTES: A link to the decision can be found here: