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CDC report finds one in four young adults contemplate suicide

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 14, 2020 / 02:05 pm (CNA).- Over a quarter of young adults aged 18-24 have seriously contemplated suicide over the last month, a new Centers for Disease Control survey has found. 

The report, titled “Mental Health, Substance Use, and Suicidal Ideation During the COVID-19 Pandemic — United States, June 24–30, 2020” was published on August 14. The data was collected from adults across the United States in late June. 

Tommy Tighe, a marriage and family counselor and host of the Catholic mental health podcast “Saint Dymphna’s Playbook,” told CNA that he found the data to be “really heartbreaking, though expected.” 

After months of extended lockdowns across the country, and anxieties about the coronavirus pandemic, Tighe said “our baseline level of anxiety has gone up during this experience.” 

“Trying to live with this higher baseline has certainly impacted our ability to tolerate frustration and stress.”

According to the CDC, “40.9% of respondents reported at least one adverse mental or behavioral health condition, including symptoms of anxiety disorder or depressive disorder (30.9%), symptoms of a trauma- and stressor-related disorder (TSRD) related to the pandemic (26.3%), and having started or increased substance use to cope with stress or emotions related to COVID-19 (13.3%).”

Those figures rose considerably among certain groups. Nearly three out of four adults aged 18-24 and slightly more than half of adults aged 25-44 reported “at least one adverse mental or behavioral health symptom” in the survey. Among Hispanics, 52.1% of respondents reported at least one adverse mental health symptom related to the pandemic, as well as two-thirds of respondents who had less than a high school diploma. 

Fifty-four percent of essential workers surveyed said they had experienced at least one adverse mental or behavioral health symptom related to COVID-19. 

Of all respondents, 10.7% reported “having seriously considered suicide” in the 30 days prior to taking the survey. That number rose to 25.5% of respondents aged 18-24, to 18.6% of Hispanic respondents, and to 15.1% of non-Hispanic black respondents. Just over 30% of “self-reported unpaid caregivers for adults” and 21.7% of self-reported essential workers said that they too had seriously considered suicide in the last month. 

Tighe said the bleak figures reflected a lack of mental health awareness in wider culture and a lack of access to services.

“Mental health symptoms and healthy coping skills to combat those symptoms are ignored by our culture at large, and thus many of us are left utterly unprepared for dealing with an experience of this magnitude,” he said. 

With the COVID-19 pandemic, schools of all levels throughout the country closed to in-person instruction. For graduating seniors at colleges and universities--most of whom are in the 18-24 age group--this meant that their final semester of college was spent online. Many students had their jobs or internships canceled due to the unstable economic effects of the pandemic. 

James Marafino, a Catholic social worker in the Washington, DC area, told CNA that these factors have certainly played a role in the feelings reported by 18-24 year olds.

“This is the age when [young adults] are going to college and finding employment,” Marafino told CNA. “This is one of their first experiences with independent living, and they are managing a pandemic most likely on their own.”

“This would cause significant mental/emotional distress. They may feel their lives are on hold or delayed, and do not know when they can ‘resume their lives,’” he said. 

Sophia Swinford, the founder of Catholic Mental Health, a nonprofit organization aiming to increase awareness and access to mental health resources for Catholics, told CNA that she is concerned that the stigma surrounding suicide prevents people, particularly those of a religious faith, from getting help. 

“It’s ironic--‘stigma’ comes from a word that refers to a mark or brand on a slave, and it is from this word that we get ‘stigmata,’” said Swinford. “So maybe it is precisely the ‘stigma’ around these people’s sufferings that should make it clear we are called to serve Christ in them.” 

Swinford called the rates of suicide and suicidal idelation a “social failure.” 

“We as a society have failed those individuals, and it’s about time we start to give serious discernment to how we can change that,” she said. 

Both Tighe and Marafino told CNA that they believe it is important to reach out to one another during this time. 

“We need to talk to each other and see how people are doing,” said Marafino. “We live in a time when we have technology to be in consistent contact with each other.” 

Spirituality plays a role in mental health as well. 

People need to “pray for each other like everything depends on it,” said Tighe. He also suggested that people facing stress set aside time to “pause, breathe, pray, medidate,” and to take note of their feelings without judgment. 

Tighe suggested taking a break from media and other settings that heighten anxiety is also important. 

“Remember to take breaks from upsetting content,” Tighe added.

“Social media really works against us. If we’re trying to work on our anxiety, we need to pay attention to the impact it is having on us and take breaks when needed.”

Arlington diocese launches online-only Catholic school

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 14, 2020 / 09:05 am (CNA).- The Diocese of Arlington is launching a new virtual school for families who want a Catholic education but are worried about sending their children back to in-person classes this September as the country still comes to grips with the coronavirus pandemic. 

The St. Isidore of Seville Virtual School was announced on August 12, in a press release from the Diocese of Arlington. The school, which is named after the patron saint of the internet, aims to be fully operational on September 8. 

Like most Catholic schools, St. Isidore of Seville will have Mass every week, along with daily prayer and preparation for the reception of sacraments. Unlike most Catholic schools, St. Isidore will have no in-person instruction, by design. 

The school will serve students in kindergarten through grade eight, and class sizes will be capped at 23 people.

“We hope this new virtual school provides parents concerned about their children returning to the classroom an option they are confident will meet the high standard of excellence they have come to expect throughout our schools,” said Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington in a statement announcing the school. 

Students at St. Isidore will be taught from the same curriculum as their brick-and-mortar peers in the diocese. 

Burbidge praised the “great creativity and flexibility” among the Catholic school community in the diocese “that has made this new endeavor a reality.” 

Dr. Joseph Vorbach, the Superintendent for Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Arlignton, told CNA that the school came about with the assistance of Burbidge during the planning process for re-opening. All of the diocese’s schools will have in-person instruction this coming school year, although some will do a hybrid model of in-person and e-learning. 

Vorbach said there was a realization “that there may be some families who are committed to Catholic education, but not ready to have their child go back into the brick and mortar school building,” as well as teachers who are at increased risk of coronavirus due to various factors.

“It started to coalesce around the idea that, ‘maybe we could develop a virtual school,’” Vorbach told CNA. This virtual school would be able to address both the needs of families, as well as “take advantage of the talents of teachers who find themselves in that situation.” 

Burbidge, he said, was “very supportive,” and that much work was done very quickly to get things ready before the school was announced. 

Tuition is set at $6,000 per year before financial aid--lower than the Catholic rate for diocesan elementary schools--and Catholic families with children at other Catholic schools in the diocese who move their children to St. Isidore will be able to apply their current financial aid discounts. Rebates will also be available if the school’s max capacity of 207 is reached. 

Tuition for other Catholic schools in the diocese varies school-to-school and depends on the number of children sent by a family, and if the family is Catholic and lives within the parish; it can be as high as $11,000 under some circumstances, and as low as $6,200 in others.

The first priority for enrollment at St. Isidore’s will be local Catholic families who were attending other schools in the diocese, said Vorbach. After diocesan families have registered, consideration will be given to those from outside the diocese who are interested in a virtual Catholic learning environment. Standard tuition is the same for all families.

Families who enroll at St. Isidore are committing for virtual education for the entirety of the 2020-2021 academic year, said Vorbach. However, their child’s slot at their previous diocesan school will be reserved for the 2021-2022 academic year if they wish to return to in-person instruction in the following Autumn. 

Vorbach told CNA that the diocese had conducted a series of surveys on virtual learning during the last semester to identify the best practices for a potential hybrid or all-online model for the coming school year. 

“The St. Isidore model is the beneficiary of everything that was learned during the spring, both in terms of technical components, as well as pedagogical components, and so on,” said Vorbach. 

“In the past, you couldn't say necessarily that anybody or any school had really tried to work through ‘What's the Catholic identity of a virtual school look like, and how do you do that?’’ Vorbach told CNA. 

The challenges of running a virtual Catholic school were unprecedented, said Vorbach. He told CNA he was not sure if there is any other entirely-virtual Catholic school in the country, except the Archdiocese of Miami Virtual Catholic School (ADOM-VCS). That school was founded in 2013. 

Unlike St. Isidore of Seville, which is for full-time online students in elementary and middle school grades, ADOM-VCS offers both full-time online programs as well as “blended learning” programs with archdiocesan schools for all grades.   

“In the spring, through the creative efforts of a lot of teachers and administrators, we saw all kinds of ways in which the Catholic identity and the particular Catholic identity of different parish schools was highlighted, reinforced, strengthened,” he said. 

While St. Isidore of Seville Virtual School is set to go for the coming school year, Vorbach told CNA that he is not sure if the school will continue on for years to come. 

“We want to evaluate the service--the niche, if you will--that this school provides,” said Vorbach. 

If things go smoothly, and it makes financial sense to continue the school in the future, “we can really seriously look at it as a component of a thorough, flourishing Catholic education going forward in the future,” he said. 

US Senator asks attorney general to fight anti-Catholic vandalism

CNA Staff, Aug 13, 2020 / 04:09 pm (CNA).- A United States senator has asked the nation’s attorney general to intensify efforts to fight the vandalism that has been carried out against Catholic places and statues throughout the country in recent months.

“The trend of desecrating Catholic spaces and property must stop,” U.S. Senator John Kennedy (R-La.) wrote in an August 11 letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr.

“Catholics are under attack in America,” he said, referencing “at least nineteen attacks on Catholic churches, statues, businesses, cemeteries, parishioners, and personnel” since May.

In recent weeks, several Catholic churches have faced attacks and acts desecration. Last month, church in Ocala, Florida was set aflame while parishioners inside prepared for morning Mass. A California mission founded by St. Junipero Serra was also burned in a fire and is being investigated as an arson case, while several statues of Serra have also been pulled down.

A statue of the Virgin Mary was beheaded at a parish in Chattanooga, Tennessee. In Boston, a statue of Mary was set on fire, and in Brooklyn, a statue was tagged with the word “IDOL” in black spray paint.

Other states, including Colorado and Missouri, have seen similar acts of vandalism. While some attacks on statues, most notably in California, have been committed in public by large groups with clear political affiliations, the perpetrators of other acts have not been identified, nor have motives been determined.

“These crimes span from coast to coast and show no sign of ending,” Senator Kennedy said, noting that minority groups including Middle Eastern Christians who have fled their homelands to escape persecution have also been targeted.

“Christians have historically been and continue to be one of the most persecuted religious groups in the world,” the senator said. “To escape religious oppression, the pilgrims took a treacherous journey across the Atlantic to America, setting the stage for the eventual creation of the United States.”

America’s Founding Fathers believed religious liberty to be essential to the new nation, securing it with the First Amendment’s protections, Kennedy said. “We cannot let a handful of people destroy this fundamental right.”

He asked Attorney General Barr to work actively to prosecute those responsible for recent acts of desecration, as well as to prevent further vandalism.

“I am confident you will act swiftly and carefully in bringing an end to this injustice,” the senator concluded.

Pro-life Democrats hail Minnesota primary win

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 13, 2020 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- One of the last remaining pro-life Democrats in Congress won a primary victory in Minnesota’s 7th Congressional District on Tuesday.

In contrast to the struggles faced by pro-life Democrat candidates in other parts of the country, Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN) defeated two primary challengers in the August 11 election, garnering 75% of the vote. He will face Republican Michelle Fischbach, who is the state’s former lieutenant governor, in the general election in November. 

Peterson, who was first elected to Congress in 1990, narrowly won reelection in 2018 by a vote of 52 to 48 percent. The 7th District has been targeted by Republican campaigners, and is currently labeled a toss-up for November. The district voted for President Donald Trump in 2016. 

Democrats for Life of America (DFLA) President Kristen Day told CNA that her organization was “delighted” at Peterson’s win.

“He is an unusual species: a Democratic representative in a deep red district that overwhelmingly voted for Trump in 2016. He has an impressive record representing his constituents, especially farmers,” said Day. 

Day pointed to Peterson’s victory as proof that “pro-life Democrats are on the rise,” and are “tired of being silenced, marginalized, and pressured to violate our conscience on a matter of human rights.” She said that DFLA is working to find candidates on local levels “who feel emboldened to speak out” about abortion. 

“Stopping abortion extremism is urgent,” said Day. “Now is the time to save our Party.” 

Peterson’s victory in the primary comes months after fellow pro-life Democrat, Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL) was defeated in a hotly contested primary battle against challenger Marie Newman in March. Newman made her support for abortion rights the centerpiece of her campaign. 

Peterson and Lipinski were friendly during their time in Congress; in 2015, Peterson gave Lipinski his extra ticket to Pope Francis’ address. With Lipinksi’s primary loss, there are now fewer than five Democrats in Congress who identify as pro-life. 

Day told CNA that she wishes to see the Biden campaign reach out to pro-life Democrats, who she says number 21 million people.

“Vice President Biden, as a Catholic, should be willing to at least ask for our vote,” said Day. “Senator [Kamala] Harris, as a Baptist, should take the lead of her congregation, which encourages its members to ‘engage in meaningful dialogue on abortion with openness and Christian compassion.’” 

The 2016 Democratic Party Platform included, for the first time, a plank advocating for the repeal of the Hyde Amendment. The Hyde Amendment prevents the use of taxpayer funding for abortions. 

Biden counted himself among the bipartisan supporters of the Hyde Amendment for over 40 years before switching his view on the issue overnight in June 2019.

USCCB official 'elated' over Harris, Biden's pro-choice VP pick

Denver Newsroom, Aug 13, 2020 / 02:43 pm (CNA).-  

An official at the U.S. bishops’ conference said Thursday that the selection of Senator Kamala Harris as Joe Biden’s presidential running mate is good news that will offer policies favorable to marginalized people.

“I was so elated. We, the community, need good news, and this was just wonderful,” Donna Toliver Grimes, associate director of African American affairs in the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church, told Catholic News Service, the official news service of the U.S. bishops’ conference, on Wednesday.

Grimes told CNS that Harris “wasn’t my top candidate in the primaries, and she wasn’t my top pick for vice president,” adding “she’s really deserving and brings a lot to the table.”

Mentioning her belief that Biden and Harris will offer “policy that is favorable to people on the margins,” Grimes said she expects Biden “would put good people in his Cabinet, who would not damage the agencies, or ignore the mission.”

Grimes, who was identified in the report by her USCCB position, also mentioned to CNS her hope that, if elected, Biden would address health care reform and voting-rights issues.

A spokesperson for the U.S. bishops’ conference told CNA Aug. 13 that “The Conference is a non-partisan 501(c)(3) organization that does not endorse or oppose specific candidates for office. Comments by individual Conference employees are not necessarily a reflection of the Conference’s official position.”

Grimes did not mention the issues on which Biden and Harris have clashed with U.S. bishops, among them conscience protections in healthcare policy, same-sex marriage, and, most frequently, abortion. Biden and Harris have pledged to restore currently restricted federal funding for abortion. Harris has previously pledged to use federal law to restrict state laws regulating or limiting abortion.

Pope Francis has called abortion “inhuman eugenics,” urged its eradication, and said that the unborn are among those marginalized on the “existential peripheries,” for whom the Church must have special care.

Nor did Grimes mention Harris’ 2018 questioning of a judicial nominee over his membership of the Knights of Columbus. In questions about the impartiality of nominee Brian Buescher, Harris asked if Buescher was aware that the Knights of Columbus “opposed a woman’s right to choose” and were against “marriage equality” when he joined.

The senator’s remarks were subsequently criticized as anti-Catholic and one U.S. bishop, Archbishop Charles Chaput, characterized them as “bigoted.”

Both Biden and President Donald Trump have been criticized by the U.S. bishops’ conference, with Trump frequently facing criticism for his immigration policies, use of the federal death penalty, and cuts to social safety nets.

Last year, USCCB spokeswoman Judy Keane left the bishops’ conference after media reports said that she had tweeted in support of President Trump or in opposition to Democrats.

Among Keane’s tweets was one that criticized Harris. Responding to a news story saying that Harris, then running for president, promised to raise teacher salaries, Keane wrote “She’ll be promising all kinds of things to get elected. Then she’ll raise taxes so hard-working Americans have to pay for it all. No thanks.”

After Keane’s tweets first emerged into the spotlight, the spokeswoman was placed on leave, and shortly thereafter left the bishops’ conference. The conference has not said whether she was fired or left voluntarily.

USCCB communications director James Rogers told the Washington Post at the time that “The bishops, not staff, set the conference’s federal policy positions.”

“We should be mindful not to create confusion as to where the bishops might be on any particular federal policy issue. The conference is nonpartisan and does not endorse political candidates. We take this very seriously.”

CNA asked the conference to provide its employee guidelines on political speech, but the conference has not yet done so.

Denver archbishop praying for conversion after St. Jude statue beheaded

Denver, Colo., Aug 13, 2020 / 01:33 pm (CNA).- After the statue of a saint was beheaded outside a Denver parish, the city’s archbishop said he’s praying for the conversion of those who have attacked churches and religious statues across the country in recent months.

A statue of St. Jude was beheaded in the courtyard of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish this weekend, diocesan officials confirmed, and devotional candles were destroyed at an outdoor prayer shrine.

“It is extremely disturbing to see a statue at one of our local parishes desecrated in this manner,” Archbishop Samuel Aquila told CNA Aug. 12.

“As our archdiocese begins a Rosary Crusade this weekend, one of our specific intentions is to pray for the conversion of those who carry out acts of desecration against our churches, statues, and religious symbols.”

Aquila’s crusade invites Catholics in his diocese to pray a daily rosary, beginning on the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, Aug. 15, through the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows on Sept. 15. The archbishop asked that they pray for 15 distinct intentions, including for an end to the coronavirus pandemic and all those who have died of the virus, and end to abortion and euthanasia and attacks against life, as well as for peace, justice and an end to discrimination on the basis of race.

In remarks to CNA, Aquila said “it is troubling to see the increased reports of vandalism at Catholic churches this summer, both across the county and in our archdiocese.”

But the archbishop emphasized that, to date, “we are unsure of the motive behind this act and if it was a deliberate attack against the Church, or just a random act of vandalism.”

Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, which mostly serves Denver’s Hispanic community, was in 2016 designated an archdiocesan shrine.

Aquila named the parish a shrine “because of its service to the Hispanic population and with the purpose of promoting their salvation through the rich liturgical and devotional life that it offers to all the faithful,” he said in the official decree.

The parish has made plans to increase its security after the statue was beheaded, archdiocesan officials told CNA.

There has been a series of destructive acts at Catholic churches across the United States in recent months, including arsons, statue decapitations, and graffiti. But while some of the incidents have been caught on camera, in most cases the perpetrators, and their motivations have yet to be identified.


Nebraska passes dismemberment abortion banĀ 

CNA Staff, Aug 13, 2020 / 12:52 pm (CNA).- The Nebraska legislature on Thursday passed a ban on dilation and evacuation (D&E) abortions in the state, a move hailed by the Nebraska Catholic Conference.

"Life has won today in Nebraska. By ending dismemberment abortion, our state has demonstrated and reaffirmed its deep respect for the human dignity of preborn children and their mothers,” said Marion Miner, Associate Director for Pro-Life and Family at the Nebraska Catholic Conference, on Aug. 13.

“Passing LB814 will again establish Nebraska as a national leader in the cause for life. We are committed to affirming the humanity of every single life and making every form of abortion unthinkable."

D&E abortions, commonly known as dismemberment abortions, are typically done in the second trimester of pregnancy and result in the dismemberment of an unborn child.

State Sen. Suzanne Geist (District 25-Lincoln) introduced LB814 in January. Twenty-one state senators joined the legislation as co-sponsors upon its introduction, with another four joining later.

The measure passed its first vote in Nebraska’s unicameral legislature on August 5 by a 34-9 vote. Multiple senators attempted to filibuster the bill at that point, but the bill earned the 33 votes necessary to break the filibuster as Geist moved to invoke cloture.

The bill specifically bans the use of clamps, forceps or similar instruments in abortion procedures.

On Aug. 13, the final vote stood at 33-8. State Sen. Carol Blood (3-Bellevue) abstained from voting after saying she had concerns that the ban would not apply if suction is used to remove pieces of a fetus, and nor would it apply if the fetus was killed before being removed, a process that Blood called equally horrific, according to the Omaha World-Herald.

The bill now goes to the desk of Gov. Pete Ricketts, who supports the ban, to be signed into law.

According to the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, to date 11 states have passed bans on dilation and evacuation abortions, though because of courts blocking the measures, the bans in two states, Mississippi and West Virginia, are currently in effect, and an appeals court recently ruled to allow Arkansas’ ban to come into effect on Aug. 28.

Opponents of the Nebraska bill have maintained that courts will deem the legislation unconstitutional under Roe v Wade.

Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson recently released an opinion, at the request of State Sen. Ernie Chambers, concluding that LB814 is "likely constitutional” because it “does not appear that it will impose a substantial obstacle on abortion access in Nebraska.”

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled last Friday to reinstate the 2017 Arkansas laws. They can take effect August 28, although they may still face legal challenge.

The laws include a ban on abortions based solely on the sex of the baby, and two regulations on the preservation and disposal of tissue from aborted babies, as well as legislation prohibiting D&E abortions.

A district judge had blocked the rules following a legal challenge from the ACLU and the Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of a local abortion doctor.

A federal judge during July 2019 blocked Indiana’s D&E ban from taking effect.

In 2010, Nebraska became the first state to ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy, citing evidence that unborn children feel pain.


Catholic bishop in NJ: Don't be complacent in the face of legal assisted suicide

CNA Staff, Aug 13, 2020 / 11:58 am (CNA).- Reflecting on the first anniversary of the taking effect of a New Jersey law allowing assisted suicide, Bishop James Checchio of Metuchen has encouraged Catholics to continue in unconditional respect for human life.

“We cannot be complacent and just accept that physician-assisted suicide is the law now in our state,” Bishop Checchio said, according to an Aug. 12 statement from the Diocese of Metuchen. “When any human life, especially the weakest, is devalued by society it promotes a devaluing of all human life.”

The Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act allows competent New Jersey residents deemed by two doctors to have fewer than six months to live to request lethal medication to end their lives. The patient must administer the medication themselves.

The law was approved by the New Jersey legislature in March 2019, and signed into law the following month. It took effect Aug. 1, 2019. It was temporarily halted by a judge in the state, but an appeals court allowed it to take effect while a legal challenge against it was being heard.

According to the state health department, 12 New Jerseyans ended their lives under the law's provisions in 2019.

“All life is a gift from God and … every person has inherent and inalienable dignity because we are made in God’s image and likeness – young or old, healthy or sick, all human life is precious,” Bishop Checchio reflected.

He added that respect for human life “is the same foundation of our belief and our efforts to eliminate racism from our midst.”

The bishop encouraged Catholics to support the elderly and sick by easing “their physical, emotional, and spiritual suffering.”

“We count on our faithful and all people of good will to join in this effort to make our state one we can be proud to be a part of and we recommit ourselves to join with others in our state to do all that we can to proclaim the truth that every life is sacred.”

He lamented that the temptation to die can have been “exacerbated over recent months by the COVID-19 pandemic,” saying it “has brought a raft of new stressors, including loss of community and social isolation, that have been especially difficult for the elderly and the sick, and for their families. Sadly, some reports indicate a rise in suicides as well as an increase in requests for medically-assisted death.”

“Our need for compassionate care is more important than ever,” said Bishop Checchio. “We are now challenged with finding creative new ways to provide tender accompaniment for those who are sick or near the end of life so that no one feels compelled to choose assisted suicide.”   

The law was signed by New Jersey governor Phil Murphy, a self-described “lifelong, practicing Catholic”.

Murphy said that he was aware of the Church’s opposition to assisted suicide, but that after careful consideration and prayer, “I have concluded that, while my faith may lead me to a particular decision for myself, as a public official I cannot deny this alternative to those who may reach a different conclusion.”

“I believe this choice is a personal one and, therefore, signing this legislation is the decision that best respects the freedom and humanity of all New Jersey residents,” Murphy said.

On the eve of the law's taking effect, Bishop Checchio condemned assisted suicide as “a grievous affront to the dignity of human life” that “can never be morally justified.”

“Passage of this law points to the utter failure of government, and indeed all society, to care truly, authentically and humanely for the suffering and vulnerable in our midst, especially those living with an incurable disease as well as the frail elderly, the infirm and those living with disabilities,” he said.

In the US, assisted suicide is legal in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia, and in Montana by a court ruling.

Biden says nuns inspire him to run, plans to sue Little Sisters of the Poor

CNA Staff, Aug 13, 2020 / 08:30 am (CNA).- Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden has released a campaign video in which he credits his Catholic faith, Pope Francis, and the example of nuns for his personal inspiration. 

The short video was released August 9 on the Democratic National Convention’s Twitter account. Biden's use of nuns as an inspirational example of “generosity to others” comes despite his promise to renew legal action against the Little Sisters of the Poor should he win election.

Biden has promised to remove freedom of conscience protections which exempt the sisters from the "contraceptive mandate," opening them back up to renewed suits by the federal government for failure to provide contraceptives to their employees.

“This is the kind of moral conviction we need in the president of the United States,” says the tweet, which led into the video. 

This is the kind of moral conviction we need in the president of the United States.

— 2020 #DemConvention ?? (@DemConvention) August 9, 2020 In the video, Biden, a Catholic, narrates how once, after having a brief meeting with Pope Francis at St. Peter’s Basilica, he departed the church and ran into a group of religious sisters. 

These sisters, said Biden in a voiceover, “to me, epitomize everything Pope Francis talked about in his homily and what he stands for. About generosity to other people, about reaching out, about making it a point to understand that we are our brother’s keeper,” said Biden. 

Biden said the idea that people have an obligation to look out for one another had been imprinted on him during his Catholic upbringing and “being educated by the nuns.” 

“That’s what those lovely women I’m talking to symbolize to me,” said Biden. 

He quipped he thought it was a “good omen” to see the sisters, and said the encounter was an “exciting time and it gave me a lot of hope.” 

Recognizing that people are obligated to help each other is “the only way we’re gonna make the world better and safer,” said Biden. 

Biden and the pope met in the Vatican in April 2016, when Biden was presenting at a Vatican conference on regenerative medicine, and in 2013, when the then-vice president led a delegation from the United States to Francis’ papal inauguration. 

The images and videos in the ad are from the 2016 trip. 

Biden’s use of the nuns’ example of service for campaign purposes sits in contrast to his pledge to force one religious order to violate their consciences and provide birth control, sterilizations, and abortifacient drugs to their employees. 

Shortly after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Little Sisters of the Poor in Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania on July 8, Biden said he was “disappointed” by the decision and promised to reinstate Obama-era policies requiring the sisters to ensure access to birth control in violation of their religious beliefs. 

Following nine years of legal battles, and two trips to the Supreme Court, the court upheld an executive action offering the sisters religious freedom and conscience exemptions to the “contraception mandate” issued by the Department of Health and Human Services following the passage of the Affordable Care Act.

“If I am elected I will restore the Obama-Biden policy that existed before the [Supreme Court’s 2014] Hobby Lobby ruling: providing an exemption for houses of worship and an accommodation for nonprofit organizations with religious missions,” said Biden in July. 

“This accommodation will allow women at these organizations to access contraceptive coverage, not through their employer-provided plan, but instead through their insurance company or a third-party administrator.” 

The Little Sisters of the Poor would not have qualified as a “nonprofit organization with a religious mission” under the Obama-era accommodations. The order serves and employs people of all or no faiths, in accordance with their vocation to serve the elderly poor. 

The Little Sisters of the Poor have repeatedly stated that authorizing a “third-party administrator” to provide birth control to their employees is still a violation of their beliefs and is not an acceptable compromise.

Following the July 8 decision, Biden said that the decision “will make it easier for the Trump-Pence Administration to continue to strip health care from women--attempting to carve out broad exemptions to the Affordable Care Act’s commitment to giving all women free access to recommended contraception.” 

When the Affordable Care Act was signed into law in 2010, the legislation did not mandate that insurance plans provide at least one form of female contraception, including sterilization. The “contraception mandate” was announced as an interim final rule on August 1, 2011, and was finalized on January 20, 2012. 

If elected president, Biden said that he would “end Donald Trump’s ceaseless attempts to gut every aspect of the Affordable Care Act.”

Biden did, however, support members of the Leadership Council of Women Religious (LCWR) groups after the Vatican ordered an inquiry into their conduct and political advocacy.

During a 2011 meeting with then-Pope Benedict XVI, Biden told the pontiff that he was being “entirely too hard on the American nuns” and that he needed to “lighten up.” 

The video is not the first time that Biden, who has promised to enshrine the fullest application of Roe v. Wade in federal law, ensuring unlimited access to abortion in the United States, has used his Catholicism in his campaign.

In February, he released a video displaying black-and-white pictures of himself with various religious figures, including Pope Francis.

“Personally for me, faith, it’s all about hope and purpose and strength, and for me, my religion is just an enormous sense of solace,” he added.

“I go to Mass and I say the rosary. I find it to be incredibly comforting,” he said. 

While Biden has repeatedly profiled his Catholicism during this election campaign, his faith has been a source of controversy over his lengthy political career, and he has endorsed policies that are contrary to Church teaching.

Shortly after his election as vice president, the then-bishop of his hometown of Scranton, PA, rebuked Biden for his views on abortion. 

“I will not tolerate any politician who claims to be a faithful Catholic who is not genuinely pro-life,” said Bishop Joseph Martino of Scranton in 2008. 

“No Catholic politician who supports the culture of death should approach Holy Communion. I will be truly vigilant on this point.”

During the 2008 campaign, Biden also received a letter from the then-bishop of the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee, after he received Communion at a parish in the diocese. The letter reiterated the Catholic Church’s views on abortion, and the bishop offered prayers that Biden would “live by the virtue of fortitude as you proclaim your support to the Person of Christ in the most vulnerable of his members: the pre-born child.” 

In October 2019, Biden was refused Communion at a Catholic church in South Carolina. The priest denied Biden Communion in accord with a 2004 diocesan policy that prohibits politicians who have been supportive of legal protection for abortion from receiving the Eucharist. 

“Catholic public officials who consistently support abortion on demand are cooperating with evil in a public manner. By supporting pro-abortion legislation they participate in manifest grave sin, a condition which excludes them from admission to Holy Communion as long as they persist in the pro-abortion stance,” says a 2004 decree signed jointly by the bishops of Atlanta, Charleston, and Charlotte.

At the time Biden was denied Communion, his website stated that one of his priorities as president would be to “work to codify Roe v. Wade” into federal law, and that “his Justice Department will do everything in its power to stop the rash of state laws that so blatantly violate the constitutional right to an abortion,” including laws requiring waiting periods, ultrasounds, and parental notification of a minor’s abortion. 

“Vice President Biden supports repealing the Hyde Amendment because healthcare is a right that should not be dependent on one’s zip code or income,” said his website. 

Biden’s website also pledges him to “restore federal funding for Planned Parenthood,” and promises to “rescind the Mexico City Policy (also referred to as the global gag rule) that President Trump reinstated and expanded.”

The annual Assumption tradition of blessing the sea

Denver Newsroom, Aug 13, 2020 / 02:43 am (CNA).- For hundreds of years, Catholic parishes in coastal cities have participated in the tradition of blessing the sea and praying for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the Feast of the Assumption.

While believers in landlocked areas may be unfamiliar with the practice, it is a longstanding tradition that provides an opportunity not only to pray for safe travel at sea during the coming year, but also to profess one’s faith outside of church walls, one priest told CNA.

“Obviously, the prayers and blessings are good in themselves … I think it's [also] a good reminder that there is not simply a place for religion in public, but there's a hole that we needed to fill and it helps make us better people,” said Father John Solomon, pastor at St. Mary, Star of the Sea in Ocean City, Maryland, which has taken part in the tradition for more than 20 years.

The tradition of blessing of the sea dates back to 15th century Italy and has since become a custom in coastal cities throughout Europe and the United States.

According to the Trenton Monitor, the custom is believed to have begun when a bishop traveled by sea during a storm on the Feast of the Assumption. The bishop then threw his pastoral ring into the ocean and calmed the waters.

Some parishes throw a wreath of flowers into the sea and or conduct the blessing from a boat. Participants may go swimming afterward or use bottles to collect the seawater.

Parishioners at St. Mary, Star of the Sea typically begin the celebration with a Mass celebrated by the bishop. This is followed by a procession to the local beach, where holy water is sprinkled into the ocean as the community prays.

More than 60 people gathered at the event last year, said Solomon, noting that it had been his first year at the parish and first year attending the event.

“Then after the blessing, we also have a lot of international students who work here in the summer … We'll give them a meal and just an opportunity for them to come in and just relax.”

This year, because of COVID-19 restrictions, the parish will omit the Mass and procession. Instead, parishioners will meet on the beach, practicing social distancing and wearing masks.

Solomon noted that travel by sea was a dangerous means of transportation, especially hundreds of years ago. Even today, travel by sea carries risks.

For this reason, the priest said, it is fitting to pray for safe ocean travel to Mary Star of the Sea, a medieval title that emphasizes Mary’s role as a "guiding star” for those pursuing Christ.

“From pretty early times, there was an understanding of asking for Mary's intercession as the Star of the Sea,” he stressed. “She is one of the patrons of the ocean for keeping us safe as we travel … it's good to know that there is one who is a mother that is trying to keep us safe.”

Solomon said the event is also an opportunity to show the Catholic faith to the local community. While there may be a stereotype that religious people are simple or unintelligent, the blessing of the sea is a public chance to express the Catholic faith and show that normal people can have a devotion to Christ and his Church.

“To believe doesn't mean that one is less intelligent or less reasonable, but in a sense, the most reasonable because this is faith and this is truth,” he said.

“It's good to see we are not a bunch of crazy people going out, but these are people who are leaders in the community, these are people who are business people, these are people, who, at the same time, have a great love for Jesus. There's something true about that and something attractive as well. We are not here to destroy the American ideal but, instead, when we do actually live our faith correctly, we are some of the best citizens.”