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World needs action to back COVID vaccines and health care access, Cardinal Parolin tells UN

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, speaks at a press conference in Rome, Sept. 28, 2017. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

New York City, N.Y., Sep 27, 2021 / 17:39 pm (CNA).

The failure to provide health care access, testing, and vaccines during the COVID-19 pandemic deserves global scrutiny, Cardinal Pietro Parolin told the United Nations on Friday. His remarks addressed development, supporting the marginalized, and ensuring the UN adheres to its original mandate and does not empower interest groups that seek to advance disputed or misleading visions of human rights.

“Even today many have no access to testing, basic care, or vaccines or even to the energy infrastructure that would make such care possible,” Parolin, the Holy See’s Secretary of State, said Sept. 25 to the U.N. General Assembly. He called for “a renewed examination of how health care systems have largely been overwhelmed by the pandemic and left so many without sufficient care or any care at all.”

There have been 4.7 million confirmed deaths in the coronavirus pandemic. Both its spread and efforts to limit infections have disrupted many countries.

For Parolin, efforts to strengthen resilience mean examining the “fragility and shortfalls of our economic systems, which have left many behind as a result of the severe economic downturn and made the poor even more vulnerable.”

Parolin stressed the importance of hope in continuing to preserve peace and other achievements while working to make progress.

“Hope keeps us motivated when problems and disagreements seem unsolvable,” he said. “It facilitates forgiveness. It keeps us conscious that through reconciliation there can be a better future. It fosters resilience and inspires us to put in hard work even when we may not be able to see results achieved in our lifetime.” 

“For Christians, hope is the most divine gift that can exist in the heart of mankind,” he added. “To help the world build resilience through hope, the United Nations must lead by example, and the states, entities, and personnel that comprise the organization all have a key role to play in helping set that example. The Holy See is vigorously committed to playing its part.”

Parolin discussed reviving humanitarian development efforts and serving refugees, migrants, the poor, and others who are marginalized or oppressed. He also warned against efforts to misuse U.N. bodies and human rights language in ways that mislead.

The cardinal voiced the Holy See’s concern that some groups seek to turn all U.N. groups into “bodies that focus on a limited number of disputed issues.” He urged world leaders to “promote and safeguard the mandates of U.N. entities and fora.”

“The Holy See views with concern the push of some to break down the helpful division of labor among committees, commissions, meetings and processes, turning all into bodies that focus on a limited number of disputed issues. Furthermore, the principle of consensus must be safeguarded,” he said. “One common step in the right direction is preferable to many steps in different directions.”

Parolin was not specific about what these “disputed issues” might be. However, legal abortion, abortion funding, and LGBT causes recast in the language of human rights have been controversial topics at the U.N.

Though the Universal Declaration on Human Rights recognizes the family as the “natural and fundamental group unit of society,” Parolin said the family is sometimes “misrepresented.”

He criticized “novel interpretations of existing human rights, separated from their underlying universal values.” These “new rights” in many cases contradict foundational values and are “imposed despite the absence of any objective foundation or international consensus.”

“The Holy See believes that while depriving human rights of their original universal dimension, these new partial interpretations sadly become the ideological benchmark of spurious ‘progress’ and another ground for polarization and division,” Parolin continued. “Sadly, we are facing this in the constant pursuit of introducing controversial new agendas that drive U.N. processes contrary to the bodies’ given mandates.”

“In an age in which many universal human rights continue to be violated with impunity, these attempts in fact confuse, divert from implementing the human rights conventions, and impede the attention and energy that the promotion and protection of fundamental human rights and dignity deserve,” he said.

He encouraged the U.N. to renew itself through returning to its core principles and living up to its true aims, “rather than becoming a tool of the powerful.”

Parolin worried about the pandemic’s negative effects on development programs and sustainable development goals. Sustainable development must incorporate the poor, including “their gifts and creativity as agents of their own integral development.”

Discussing climate change, Parolin said the U.N. Climate Change Conference, to be held in Glasgow Oct. 31-Nov. 12, is an important opportunity for the international community to “to “commit anew to the protection of our common home.” He lamented “decades of inaction” and noted many recent extreme weather events. However, he praised technological advances and the decreasing costs of “clean energy,” saying they make it easier for governments and individuals to make environmentally conscious choices.

The cardinal warned against the dangers of weapons of mass destruction. Nuclear weapons are possessed “under the guise of nuclear deterrence” but the threat of their use “creates an ethos of fear based on mutual annihilation, and poisons relationships between peoples, obstructs dialogue, and undermines hope.” He called for progress towards nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and prohibition.

Among the most serious concerns of Pope Francis, the cardinal reported, are the “crisis of human relationships” and “a way of life dominated by selfishness and by the culture of waste” that tramples human dignity.

“Our societies today are the theater of many injustices where human beings are maltreated, exploited, ignored, killed, or left to languish in humanitarian emergencies,” said Parolin. “Women and girls, persons from different indigenous, racial, ethnic, and linguistic backgrounds experience violence and oppression or are reduced to second-class citizens.”

Humanitarian law is treated “as a recommendation rather than an obligation,” he lamented.

“Refugees, migrants and internally displaced persons are increasingly left in limbo or even left to drown, unwelcome and unable to find a new home to raise their family in dignity, peace and security,” he continued. “Religious believers endure harassment, persecution, death and even genocide on account of their faith. The elderly and persons with disabilities are cast aside, especially when they are frail or considered burdensome. Innocent children are deemed problematic, discarded by society even before they are born or have the chance to bring their own, unique contribution into the world.”

Parolin invoked Pope Francis’ 2020 encyclical Fratelli tutti, which said difficulties must be approached with “renewed hope” based on the “abundant seeds of goodness in our human family.”

“Many are the signs of hope, even in our weary societies,” said Parolin. “To be builders of peace in our societies means to find these seeds and shoots of fraternity.”

'Absurd' pro-abortion laws in California highlight need for parent-child communication, policy expert says

California State Governor Gavin Newsom. / Matt Gush/Shutterstock

Sacramento, Calif., Sep 27, 2021 / 15:25 pm (CNA).

California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a pair of bills Sept. 22 that relate to privacy surrounding abortion, and a policy expert commented to CNA that the laws highlight the importance of parent-child communication regarding difficult topics such as abortion. 

Kathleen Domingo, Executive Director of the California Catholic Conference, told CNA that the new laws, while “absurd” and harmful, are just the latest in a pattern of performative pro-abortion actions taken by California lawmakers over a period of decades. 

"The reality is that this isn't really anything new, and I think this is important for people to know...this has been the agenda of California for decades," she said. 

AB 1184 allows insured individuals, including minors, to keep “sensitive services” confidential from the insurance policyholder, generally their parents. 

The law requires insurance companies to “accommodate requests for confidential communication of medical information” regardless of whether “disclosure would endanger the individual.” Set to take effect in July 2022, the law specifically mentions “sexual and reproductive health” and “gender affirming care” as potentially “sensitive services.” 

California has a parental consent law for minors seeking abortions on the books, but the law is permanently enjoined by court order, meaning minors in California can seek abortions without their parents’ knowledge or permission. Planned Parenthood provides resources instructing teens how to hide abortions from their parents, Domingo noted. 

Also signed Sept. 22 was AB 1356, which makes it illegal to film or photograph patients or employees within 100 feet of an abortion clinic “with the specific intent to intimidate a person from becoming or remaining a reproductive health services patient, provider, or assistant.” Domingo said this law could affect pro-life campaigners and sidewalk counselors, who may merely want to film or photograph themselves and their work outside abortion clinics.

Domingo said laws of this kind reinforce the importance of parents and guardians talking to and building trust with their children, and encouraging them to seek their parents’ advice in difficult situations. 

"It really comes down to having conversations in your own families, and making sure that your children understand what your values are, and understand that they can come and talk to you if they have situations that are difficult," Domingo said. 

"If they know of someone who has a situation, if they themselves get into a situation where they need help, I think more than anything it's just continuing that conversation and making sure are families are equipped to know what to do in those moments, that our parishes are equipped to know what to do, so that if you have a situation where a young woman finds herself in need, she knows who to talk to: our pregnancy resource centers and our pro-life pregnancy clinics up and down the state." 

Domingo said while performative pro-abortion laws will likely continue to be passed in California, supporting pro-life alternatives is the best way to combat them. 

“That truly is the work that is needed. We can't necessarily combat these laws that keep compounding abortion in California, but we can do the grassroots efforts that we have been doing for almost 50 years in California of helping people one at a time and saving families one at a time."

A group of Republican lawmakers wrote to Newsom before he signed the bills into law, urging him to veto them instead. 

“We should be encouraging parents and family to be involved in their children’s lives, not removing them further from it,” the letter reads, which was signed by nine state senators. 

They also argued, in a more pragmatic vein, that AB 1184 would put policyholders in the “impossible position” of being financially responsible for bills incurred by their dependent children, but which they have no means of verifying because of the new confidentiality rules.

Newsom’s office heralded the laws as a strengthening of California’s status as a “haven” for women seeking abortions. 

“This action comes in the wake of attacks on sexual health care and reproductive rights around the country, including the U.S. Supreme Court’s failure to block Texas’ ban on abortion after six weeks,” a statement from Newsom’s office reads, referring to a pro-life law in that state that took effect Sept. 1. 

“California is a national leader on reproductive and sexual health protections and rights, and Governor Newsom’s actions today make clear that the state will remain a haven for all Californians, and for those coming from out-of-state seeking reproductive health services here.”

Some stolen items from Denver parish church recovered

Father Joseph Cao, assisted by Deacon Clarence McDavid, blesses the parts of the church affected by an Aug. 30 break-in, during a Mass of reparation at Curé d'Ars Catholic Church in Denver, Colo., Sept. 1, 2021. / Jonah McKeown/CNA.

Denver, Colo., Sep 27, 2021 / 14:49 pm (CNA).

Several valuable items belonging to a Denver Catholic parish, including the tabernacle and vessels used for Mass, were recovered late last week, after the church was robbed nearly a month ago. Consecrated hosts taken from the church were not found.

The predominantly African-American parish of Curé d'Ars, located in north Denver, was broken into and robbed overnight Aug. 30-31. All the church's vessels used for Mass were stolen from the vestry, which the thieves accessed by kicking in a wooden door. 

The church’s tabernacle, containing the Eucharist, was stolen from the sanctuary. 

In a Sept. 25 post on the church’s Facebook page, Deacon Clarence McDavid reported that he had been called in by a detective working the case to look at items recovered from a man Denver Police had recently arrested. 

The recovered items included a number of religious objects including a tabernacle, a ciborium, a communion bowl, and a container used to hold the priest's hosts.

“These items are clearly ours and have been retrieved from the police department. The person who is in police custody is believed to have broken into several other churches in the area,” McDavid wrote. 

McDavid said the consecrated hosts contained in the tabernacle, however, were still missing and were “obviously dumped.”

The vessels found have now been cleaned up and are at the church, he said, though not every single vessel has been recovered. A larger ciborium is still missing, he noted. 

Speaking with CNA Sept. 27, Deacon McDavid said he wished to thank everyone who, moved by the story of the robbery, reached out with donations, well-wishes, and prayers. 

“It certainly shows how connected we are as a Church. It’s been very moving to see,” he told CNA. 

Denver Police confirmed to CNA that an arrest had been made related to the Cure d’Ars burglary, and named the suspect as thirty-seven-year-old Deshaun Glenn. 

The Cure d’Ars burglary is believed to be a pattern burglary involving other churches, the police department confirmed to CNA. The investigation is ongoing and any charges against Glenn will be determined by the District Attorney. 

The thief, or thieves, also took a laptop used for live streaming Masses, and a sound board used to connect to the church's microphones. Those items were not among those recovered, and the church has since ordered new ones. 

The assailants also tore out several security cameras throughout the sanctuary, ensuring they would not be caught on video. McDavid said the security alarm company is set soon to replace the three security cameras that were stolen and broken.

The thieves also cut all the copper piping off of the building's furnaces downstairs and from a stairwell on the building's exterior, flooding the church basement with water. The church currently has no heating or air conditioning as a result, McDavid said. 

“Work to replace all five furnaces and the air conditioner units will hopefully start within the next two weeks. As reported previously, we need to wait until the necessary supplies are available before the installation can happen. The company that we are working with has escalated the matter as they know that we are without a heating or cooling system,” McDavid wrote in the Facebook post. 

Father Joseph Cao, the church's pastor, told CNA immediately following the robbery that he has no idea who could have done it. Around 8:40am on Aug. 31, Father Cao discovered that the church's outer door had been pried open. 

Fr. Cao found an upturned chair and several unconsecrated hosts on the ground when he entered the sanctuary. He then saw that the tabernacle was gone, and found the flood in the basement. 

"As you can imagine, this is very devastating for the entire community," Deacon McDavid told CNA Sept. 1. 

"We have people who have been here probably since the mid-60s...I've been a deacon here for 34 years."

Curé d'Ars parish dates to 1952, and its name honors St. John Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests who had care of souls in Ars, France, in the nineteenth century.

By the 1970s, thanks mainly to changing demographics in the area, Curé d'Ars served approximately 200 predominantly black families. The current church building was dedicated in 1978 under pastor Fr. Robert Kinkel. The parish later welcomed Charlie Bright as the first African-American deacon in the Denver archdiocese.

The sanctuary was blessed and rededicated as a sacred space Aug. 31.

Philadelphia Catholic agency can once again help make foster care placements, after settlement with city

Sharonell Fulton, one of the plaintiffs in Fulton v. Philadelphia who has fostered more than 40 children through Catholic Social Services / Becket

Washington D.C., Sep 27, 2021 / 08:00 am (CNA).

Catholic Social Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is once again helping make foster care placements, following a legal settlement with the city to cap a years-long court battle.

The Supreme Court in June ruled in favor of Catholic Social Services in its lawsuit against the city, in the major religious freedom case of Fulton v. City of Philadelphia. The agency and two foster moms working with it had alleged that the city violated religious freedom when, in 2018, it stopped contracting with the agency due to its religious stance on marriage. The city handles all foster care placements and contracts with various agencies to make referrals; Catholic Social Services does not refer foster children for same-sex or unmarried couples.

Following the ruling, Catholic Social Services reached a settlement with the city, and could once again help make placements of foster children on Friday, Sept. 24.

“Up until 2018, this had been a really positive relationship. Our goal is for that to be a positive relationship again,” said Lori Windham, senior counsel at The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, in an interview with CNA. Windham which represented Catholic Social Services and the two foster moms in the Fulton case.

While the details of the settlement were not released publicly, a federal district court order on Friday recognized the Catholic ministry’s victory in the case.

The court issued a permanent injunction, prohibiting the city from refusing to contract with Catholic Social Services on foster care services because of the ministry’s religious-based refusal to place children with same-sex or unmarried couples.

The city of Philadelphia agreed not to exclude the ministry from participating in foster care placements, and will not exclude foster parents who work with Catholic Social Services.

Referring to other cases around the country where religious adoption and foster care agencies face state and local mandates to work with same-sex couples against their religious beliefs, Windham said the settlement could serve as a blueprint for how to resolve those cases.

“I think that this should be a model for those other situations, because it shows how you can resolve those cases and allow Catholic charities to continue serving children,” she said of the settlement.

The Supreme Court in June unanimously decided in favor of Catholic Social Services in the Fulton case, with the majority opinion stating that the city’s refusal to contract “violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.”

Justice Samuel Alito, in his concurrence, warned that the majority opinion was too narrowly written and that the city could simply adjust its policy and still exclude Catholic Social Services from foster care placements in accord with the opinion.

However, according to Becket, Friday’s court ruling was definitive in that it was a permanent injunction, with a settlement entered into willingly by the city.

Until 2018, Catholic Social Services had worked in the city for over 100 years making foster care placements. The ministry would help find the best home for children and match them with foster parents.

In March 2018, the city announced it would stop referring foster children to agencies such as Catholic Social Services who would not match children with same-sex couples. At that point, lawyers for Catholic Social Services later argued, no same-sex couple had sought its certification to accept foster children.

Cardinal Burke provides update on his recovery from COVID-19

Cardinal Raymond Burke listens in the audience during the presentation of the new book Christvs Vincit by Bishop Athanasius Schneider, in Rome on Oct. 14, 2019. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 26, 2021 / 20:40 pm (CNA).

Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke updated his followers on his recovery from COVID-19 and thanked them for their prayers in a letter published late Sunday evening, saying it will be “several more weeks” until he will be ready to return to his normal activities. 

“Thanking you once again, with all my heart, for your faithful and generous prayers for the recovery of my health, I write to update you on the progress of my rehabilitation,” said Burke in the letter titled “Letter to Those Who are Praying for Me.”  

“In thanking you, I thank, above all, Our Lord, who, in answer to your prayers, has preserved me in life. I thank, too, Our Lady of Guadalupe, and all the Saints through whose intercession you have offered and are offering prayers for me,” he said. 

Burke announced that he had been discharged from the hospital on September 3, and is living in a house near his family members. 

“The house is well adapted for the rehabilitation program which I am following. My priest secretary has now come from Rome to stay with me to assist me with my program of rehabilitation,” he said. 

Burke’s representatives announced the 73-year-old cardinal had been admitted to the hospital and placed on a ventilator on August 14, four days after Burke said he had tested positive for the coronavirus. On August 21, he was taken off the ventilator and was discharged from the intensive care unit. Burke’s condition was described as “serious but stable” while he was in the ICU. 

The cardinal described his recovery as “steady” but “slow,” and said that his doctors believe he is doing well.

“For my part, I am trying to grow in patience,” said Burke. “My principal challenges, at the present, are regaining certain fundamental physical skills needed for my daily living, and overcoming a general fatigue and difficulty in breathing, which are typical for those who have suffered the contagion of the Covid-19 virus.” 

As part of his recovery process, Burke said that he would be unable to respond to messages individually and would be limiting the number of telephone calls and visitors. 

Burke credited God for his survival, which, at times, seemed uncertain. 

“Our Lord has preserved me in life for some work which He wishes me to carry out, with the help of His grace, for love of Him and of His Mystical Body, the Church,” he said. 

“I am determined to use the present time of rehabilitation in the best manner possible, so that I will be prepared to carry out His work. Throughout the time in the hospital and now, I continue to place myself into the care of Our Blessed Mother, so that my heart, one with her Immaculate Heart, may rest always securely in Our Lord’s Most Sacred Heart,” said Burke. 

The cardinal requested that people “continue to pray for my full recovery,” and added that “each day I offer my prayers and sufferings for your many intentions.” 

“Let us all pray and offer sacrifices for the world and the Church, which are beset with so much confusion and error to the great and even mortal harm of many souls,” said Burke. 

A leading prelate known for his outspoken defense of traditional Catholicism, Burke is prefect emeritus of the Apostolic Signatura and archbishop emeritus of the Archdiocese of St. Louis. He previously led the Diocese of La Crosse, his hometown diocese. 

Burke reportedly fell ill while visiting Wisconsin. He is normally based in Rome.

March for the Martyrs highlights 'global crisis of Christian persecution'

The March for the Martyrs in Washington, D.C., Sept. 25, 2021. / Christine Rousselle/CNA

Washington D.C., Sep 26, 2021 / 13:29 pm (CNA).

The second annual March for the Martyrs took place Saturday in Washington, D.C., featuring testimony from advocates for persecuted Christians and from survivors of persecution. 

For Gia Chacon, president of the group For the Martyrs, which organized the Sept. 25 march, the day was centered on bringing awareness to “the global crisis of Christian persecution.” 

“The reason that people don't care about Christian persecution is because they just don't know it's happening," Chacon told CNA. “When we look at countries throughout the Middle East, and even what’s happening now in Afghanistan--and it’s not just in the Middle East, it’s in China, it’s in North Korea, and actually in over 60 countries around the world.” 

“It's up to the body of Christ here in the United States to be [the persecuted Christians’] voice, otherwise our brothers and sisters are just suffering in silence,” she said. 

While Chacon and the majority of For the Martyrs’ advisory board are Catholics, Saturday’s march was ecumenical and featured many speakers from Protestant ecclesial communities.

It is important, said Chachon, to “come together as one voice” to stand up for Christians overseas who are risking their lives when they worship God. 

That sentiment was echoed by Fr. Benedict Kiely, the founder of and a priest of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. In 2014, Kiely decided to devote his life and ministry to serving and aiding the persecuted Church in the Middle East. 

“There’s very little attention to the fact that Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the entire world. So any public display to raise awareness is very important,” he said to CNA. 

Bridging division among Christians is another thing Kiely wanted to emphasize. 

“I’ve heard it myself from the people of Iraq and Syria: when the Islamists come to cut your head off, they don’t ask if you’re a Catholic or a Protestant or Orthodox. They ask you if you believe in Jesus,” said Kiely. “That’s that point. That unites us. That’s what Pope Francis called ‘the ecumenism of blood.’”

For Fr. Vincent Woo, a native of Hong Kong and a priest of the Diocese of Hong Kong, the March for the Martyrs was more personal than many of the attendees.

“All the persecution of democracy activists in Hong Kong, the crackdown of freedom--it’s going to happen to the Church pretty soon,” he said. “This is a way to show solidarity with Christians all around the world, especially those who are persecuted.” 

Social media played a key role in spreading the word about the March for the Martyrs. Dorothea Bauer, who traveled to Washington from Tampa, Florida, told CNA that she initially heard about the event on Instagram. 

“I think it’s really beautiful that we’re giving a voice to our brothers and sisters in Christ across the world who are suffering for their faith,” said Bauer. 

Payton Gibson, from Maryland, said that she was inspired to attend this year’s March for the Martyrs after seeing coverage of the event last year. She told CNA that she was struck hearing Chacon discuss her work with the persecuted Church and her travels overseas. 

“It just kind of pulled at my heart, especially now that I’m in the D.C. area. It sounded like a great event,” said Gibson. 

Saturday marked the move of the event to the east coast; last year’s March for the Martyrs took place in Long Beach, California. The move was both strategic and symbolic: Chacon said she wanted to garner the attention of powerful figures about helping persecuted Christians, and to further increase awareness of the cause. 

“We’re just excited to be here in the nation’s capital, and sending a message today that Christian persecution will no longer be ignored,” said Chacon. “Our brothers and sisters in these countries are not forgotten, and that the Lord still has the victory.” 

Alejandro Bermudez, executive director of Catholic News Agency, is an advisory board member of For the Martyrs.

Father Kapaun's remains returned to Kansas

Fr. Kapaun with his pipe. Courtesy of the Diocese of Wichita. / null

Wichita, Kan., Sep 25, 2021 / 16:40 pm (CNA).

The remains of Servant of God Father Emil Kapaun returned to his hometown of Pilsen, Kansas on Saturday, ahead of his formal funeral Mass on Wednesday, Sept. 29. 

The arrival in Kansas marks the conclusion of a 70-year journey since Kapaun, a U.S. Army Captain and chaplain in both World War II and the Korean War, died in a North Korean prisoner of war camp at the age of 35. A private service will be held at his hometown parish in Pilsen, before a public vigil and funeral Mass will be celebrated in Wichita on Tuesday and Wednesday. 

Afterwards, Kapaun’s body will be interred at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Wichita. 

Kapaun’s remains were returned to the United States as part of the 1953 Korean Armistice Agreement, but they were not identified until March. He had previously been buried with a group of 866 other “unknowns” at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu. 

His remains were formally returned to his family in a ceremony at Pearl Harbor, and a “send off Mass” was celebrated in Honolulu Sept. 23 ahead of his journey back to Kansas. 

Who was Father Emil Kapaun?

Born April 20, 1916 in Pilsen, Emil Kapaun grew up on a farm. He was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Wichita June 9, 1940, and began at the U.S. Army Chaplain School at Ft. Devins four years later. 

Kapaun was sent to serve troops overseas, and was promoted to Captain in January 1946. His first stint of active duty ended in July of that year, but he re-enlisted and returned to active duty in 1948 at Ft. Bliss. 

In January 1950, Kapaun was sent to Japan as a chaplain in the 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division. In July 1950, they were sent to Korea. While in Korea, Kapaun regularly celebrated Mass, sometimes in the battlefield on the hood of a Jeep as a makeshift altar, and brought the sacraments to the troops. He was known for praying with troops in the foxholes and for his heroism in tending to injured troops--both his own and the enemy. 

After a series of near-death experiences, including when his pipe was shot out of his mouth by a sniper and when his Mass kit and Jeep were destroyed, Kapaun took to carrying the Blessed Sacrament, confession stole, holy oils, and a Mass kit on his person. 

He was awarded the Bronze Star for rescuing a wounded soldier despite heavy enemy fire. Kapaun was reportedly embarrassed and angered that news of his heroism was printed in newspapers back in Kansas.  

Kapaun and other soldiers were captured by communists in November 1950 during the Battle of Unsan. He and others were forced to march more than 60 miles to a prison camp in Pyoktong, North Korea. While in the camp, Kapaun would regularly steal food for his fellow prisoners, and managed to tend to their spiritual needs despite a prohibition on prayer. On Easter 1951, Kapaun celebrated Mass for his fellow prisoners in secret. 

On May 23, 1951, Kapaun died after months of malnutrition and pneumonia. He was posthumously awarded the Legion of Merit and a Purple Heart, and in 2013 he was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Barack Obama. Obama referred to Kapaun as “a shepherd in combat boots” who had been regarded by his fellow soldiers as “a saint, a blessing from God.” 

His cause for canonization was opened in June 2008. He had been named a Servant of God in 1993. Presently, the Congregation for Saints is reviewing his cause and Pope Francis may declare Kapaun “venerable.”

California governor moves to protect 'privacy' of minors who procure abortions 

Govenor Gavin Newsom of California. / Karl_Sonnenberg/Shutterstock

Sacramento, Calif., Sep 25, 2021 / 05:01 am (CNA).

California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a pair of bills Sept. 22 that relate to privacy surrounding abortion, both of which could make it easier for minors to hide abortions from their parents. 

AB 1356 makes it illegal to film or photograph patients or employees within 100 feet of an abortion clinic “with the specific intent to intimidate a person from becoming or remaining a reproductive health services patient, provider, or assistant.”

The second bill, AB 1184, would allow insured individuals, including minors, to keep “sensitive services” confidential from the insurance policyholder, generally their parents. 

The bill requires insurance companies to “accommodate requests for confidential communication of medical information” regardless of whether “disclosure would endanger the individual.” 

The bill, which is set to take effect in July 2022, specifically mentions “sexual and reproductive health” and “gender affirming care” as potentially “sensitive services.” 

Newsom’s office heralded the laws as a strengthening of California’s status as a “haven” for women seeking abortions. 

“This action comes in the wake of attacks on sexual health care and reproductive rights around the country, including the U.S. Supreme Court’s failure to block Texas’ ban on abortion after six weeks,” a statement from Newsom’s office reads, referring to a new pro-life law in that state that took effect Sept. 1. 

“California is a national leader on reproductive and sexual health protections and rights, and Governor Newsom’s actions today make clear that the state will remain a haven for all Californians, and for those coming from out-of-state seeking reproductive health services here.”

CNA reached out to the California Catholic Conference for comment. 

A group of Republican lawmakers wrote to Newsom before he signed the bills into law, urging him to veto them instead. 

“We should be encouraging parents and family to be involved in their children’s lives, not removing them further from it,” the letter reads, which was signed by nine state senators. 

They also argued, in a more pragmatic vein, that AB 1184 would put policyholders in the “impossible position” of being financially responsible for bills incurred by their dependent children, but which they have no means of verifying because of the new confidentiality rules.

Don't let Colo. law silence same-sex marriage objections, web designer asks Supreme Court

Lorie Smith, owner and founder of 303 Creative. / Alliance Defending Freedom.

Denver, Colo., Sep 24, 2021 / 17:28 pm (CNA).

A Colorado web designer who fears prosecution under state anti-discrimination law for stating her faith-based objections to providing services that promote same-sex marriage or weddings has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear her case.

“Artists don’t surrender their freedom of speech when they choose to make a living by creating custom expression,” Lorie Smith, a web designer who operates the design studio 303 Creative, told reporters Sept. 24. “Those who create speech for a living are entitled to the full protection of the Constitution. Just because we communicate one viewpoint doesn’t mean we should be forced to promote an opposing viewpoint. Laws should not be weaponized to force us to do so.”

“Colorado is censoring my speech,” she said in a press call hosted by the Alliance Defending Freedom legal group. “I cannot even post my beliefs about my views on my own website. The government should not banish people from the marketplace based on their views, whether those views are about marriage or something else.”

Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act includes sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes. The lawsuit challenges parts of the law on the grounds that they violate First Amendment protections of free speech and free exercise of religion.

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys argued that the law bars creative professionals from expressing views about marriage that suggest someone is “unwelcome, objectionable, unacceptable, or undesirable.” They may not express views that suggest the designer won't create particular works because of those beliefs.

Failure to secure a court ruling against the law, Smith’s attorneys said, would force her to live under threat of prosecution if she declines to design and publish websites that promote messages or causes that conflict with her beliefs, such as messages that promote same-sex marriage or same-sex weddings.

In a 2-1 July decision, a panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Smith, stating that the state of Colorado had an interest in combatting discrimination.

The panel agreed that the Colorado law forced Smith to create websites and speech that she “would otherwise refuse” and created a “substantial risk” of removing “certain ideas or viewpoints from the public dialogue,” including Smith’s beliefs about marriage. However, it ruled in favor of the law, in part on the grounds that she creates “custom and unique” expression.

“The government shouldn’t weaponize the law to force a web designer to speak messages that violate her beliefs,” Kristen Waggoner, general counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, told reporters. “This case involves quintessential free speech and artistic freedom, which the 10th Circuit astonishingly and dangerously cast aside.”

“The 10th Circuit found that yes, Lorie’s website designs were speech protected under the First Amendment and that, yes, Lorie would, in fact, serve everyone regardless of who they are. But despite all that, the 10th Circuit said that the government could force Lorie to speak views she opposes and prevent her from posting about her beliefs on her own website,” Waggoner said.

Waggoner said that both the Eight Circuit Court of Appeals and the Arizona Supreme Court have ruled in favor of artists facing possible pressure from similar laws.

Smith’s case is not a response to government action. Rather, it is a pre-enforcement challenge intended to prevent the use of the law that Smith's attorneys say affects creative professionals who have religious or moral concerns about creating content that violates their beliefs. The law prevents Smith from seeking to expand her business to include designing websites for weddings.

Attorneys for the state of Colorado have argued that the plaintiff lacks standing, saying the threat of an enforcement action is hypothetical. The appellate court decision disagreed, saying the plaintiff has “a credible fear of prosecution” for violating the law.

State attorneys said that businesses involved in the wedding industry must serve same-sex couples under anti-discrimination law, Law Week Colorado reports. Their brief said, “if a merchant is willing to design a website featuring certain statements — like ‘Alex and Jordan request the honor of your presence’ … or ‘Taylor and Morgan invite you to share their joy’ — for an opposite-sex couple,” then the business must provide that service to a same-sex couple.

The panel court decision agreed with this analysis, saying that “grave harms” can come when public accommodations discriminate. “Combatting such discrimination is, like individual autonomy, ‘essential’ to our democratic ideals,” said the ruling.

While the panel’s majority agreed that a diversity of faiths and religious exercise, including those of the plaintiff, enriches society, it added: “Yet, a faith that enriches society in one way might also damage society in other ways, particularly when that faith would exclude others from unique goods or service.”

Chief Judge Timothy Tymkovich, in his dissent, said the case “represents another chapter in the growing disconnect between the Constitution’s endorsement of pluralism of belief on the one hand and anti-discrimination laws’ restrictions of religious-based speech in the marketplace on the other.”

“It seems we have moved from ‘live and let live’ to ‘you can’t say that’,” he said. Tymkovich objected that the majority decision concluded that the state has a “compelling interest in forcing Ms. Smith to speak a government-approved message against her religious beliefs” and also that the public accommodation law is “the least restrictive means” to do so.

The ruling “endorses substantial government interference in matters of speech, religion, and Conscience,” he said. He criticized the Colorado law as “overbroad and vague,” and said the statements of the state’s attorneys showed it is willing to “distribute punishment inequitably.”

For her part, Smith said her approach to design is a personal one. Every website, graphic, and design she creates is a representation of her.

“I work in close collaboration with each client for each project, and what I create for them is truly artwork that conveys some message and celebrates some ideals,” she said.

“Artists must be free to create and speak messages consistent with their convictions without the threat of unjust punishment,” said Smith. “Today, it’s me, but tomorrow it could be you. My case is about the freedom of all Americans to live and work consistent with their beliefs. Free speech is for everyone, not just those that agree with the government.”

At issue in the 303 Creative case is the same law that brought Lakewood, Colo. baker Jack Philips and his business Masterpiece Cakeshop to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2012, Philips declined to make a cake for a same-sex wedding, on the grounds that doing so would violate his religious beliefs. His prospective customers filed a complaint, and Philips went before the Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

The civil rights commission ordered Phillips and his staff to undergo anti-discrimination training and to submit quarterly reports on how he is changing company policies. He had to cease making wedding cakes to continue operating his business according to his conscience while not running afoul of the law.

In June 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Colorado commission had violated Phillips' rights. Its 7-2 opinion said the commission “showed elements of a clear and impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs motivating his objection.”

The high court also cited inconsistent treatment of complaints by Colorado authorities. When a man complained that other bakeries refused to create cakes with an anti-gay marriage message, religious imagery, and loosely paraphrased Bible passages, state authorities rejected the complaints.

Phillips was then caught up in another controversy when a prospective customer asked him to make a cake to celebrate a gender transition, and he declined citing his religious beliefs. While state officials rejected the customer’s complaint that this constituted discrimination on the basis of gender identity, the customer filed a civil lawsuit against Phillips. In June 2021 a judge ruled against the baker and ordered him to pay fines, though he has appealed that decision.

Former HHS official: Biden administration trying to 'bail out' Texas abortion providers

Secretary of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra / vasilis asvestas/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Sep 24, 2021 / 15:01 pm (CNA).

The Biden administration is looking to “bail out” Texas pro-abortion groups with its new actions, one former senior HHS official told CNA this week.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is “twisting and turning and distorting the law in order to try to bail out their friends at Planned Parenthood,” said Roger Severino, senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, in an interview with CNA this week.

Severino formerly headed the HHS civil rights office from 2017 to 2021, under President Trump’s administration.

The agency on Sept. 17 had announced three actions as part of an effort to “bolster” abortion in Texas, after the state’s pro-life law went into effect on Sept. 1.

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said his agency would increase family planning funding for clinics in the state, and enforce two existing federal health care laws.

“Today we are making clear that doctors and hospitals have an obligation under federal law to make medical decisions regarding when it’s appropriate to treat their patients. And we are telling doctors and others involved in the provision of abortion care, that we have your back,” Becerra stated.

One of the two laws which HHS said it would enforce is the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), a 1986 law requiring Medicare-participant hospitals to provide emergency stabilizing treatment to people who need it, or transfer patients to another hospital that can provide the treatment.

An HHS memo accompanying Becerra’s announcement said this law also applies to cases of active labor. Severino said this implies that HHS believes the law requires abortion as part of emergency care at hospitals.

“They are specifically now opining that abortion may actually be required under federal law,” Severino said of the announcement. “And that is absolutely outrageous.”

The text of the 1986 law makes specific references, in the case of a pregnant woman at a hospital, to the “unborn child” as well as the mother. Severino said the law “specifically protects unborn children and requires them to be stabilized, as well as mothers, in emergency situations.”

“Intentionally killing a child in the womb does not qualify as stabilizing treatment for the mother, and certainly not for the child,” he said.

The Trump administration in 2019 clarified that the law protects infants who survive botched abortion attempts, requiring that they be given necessary stabilizing care.

Other pro-abortion groups have contended that the law requires abortions as part of emergency care at hospitals. The American Civil Liberties Union has filed multiple lawsuits in the past against the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and a Catholic health care system in Michigan, because of Catholic hospitals’ refusal to provide abortions as part of emergency care. The ACLU sued the bishops’ conference over its Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, which prohibits abortion.

In response to a CNA inquiry on enforcement of the law, an HHS spokesperson referred CNA to the secretary’s guidance issued on the Church Amendments – the second federal law the agency says it will enforce.

The Church Amendments prohibit discrimination against both health care workers who perform or assist in abortions, and those who object to performing or assisting in abortions.

Severino’s office in 2019 went public with allegations against the University of Vermont Medical Center, for allegedly forcing a nurse to participate in an abortion. Later in 2020, HHS referred the matter to the Justice Department, which filed a lawsuit arguing that the hospital had violated the Church Amendments in forcing the nurse to assist in the abortion.

The Biden administration quietly dropped the lawsuit in July, upon request by Becerra’s HHS.

Severino accused the HHS of selectively enforcing the Church Amendments.

“They are protecting abortionists instead of the victims of abortionists, which is beyond ironic. And they don’t have a legal basis to do so,” he said.

Furthermore, he said, the Church Amendments apply to employers and not to the state of Texas – which would mean that HHS’ enforcement of the Church Amendments in this case would be moot.

“But the Texas [heartbeat] law doesn’t really speak to Texas as an employer. So, they [HHS] are really barking up the wrong tree on this one, in order to signal to the administration’s allies in the abortion industry that they’ve got their back,” he said.

The agency is also making $10 million available to the group Every Body Texas, which disburses grants to clinics for family planning services. Under the Title X program, funds cannot directly pay for abortions, although the Biden administration loosened existing regulations and will allow grants to abortion providers for services other than abortion.

Becerra announced that Texas clinics can now apply for HHS resources to help women “impacted by” the Texas law.

“They are shoveling loads of money towards their abortion industry allies on the pretext that, with fewer abortions being available in Texas, that there’s going to be an emergency need for more contraceptives,” Severino explained.

“That is effectively an admittance that people getting abortions were using it as a method of family planning,” he said, counter to a narrative that abortions might be “rare.”

The Texas Heartbeat Act restricts most abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, which can occur as early as six weeks into pregnancy. The law is enforced through private civil lawsuits, and not by the state.

President Joe Biden in response promised a “whole-of-government” effort to maintain abortion in Texas.