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Ottawa archbishop: Some parents say flying LGBT flag ‘hijacks’ Ontario Catholic schools

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Washington D.C., Jun 3, 2021 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

With multiple Catholic school systems in the Canadian province of Ontario deciding to fly the rainbow LGBT Pride flag in June, one Ontario archbishop says that the movement contradicts Catholic teaching.

“To say ‘I want to live a life according to what the gay pride flag and movement promotes,’ well, I’m sorry, that’s not in line with our Catholic teaching,” Archbishop Marcel Damphouse of Ottawa-Cornwall told CBC News. "You can be in our Catholic school. That's a choice you make to come to our school, but know that we have certain values that we live by and that's what we'll be teaching.”

The archbishop added that some parents feel the schools flying the flags have been “hijacked.”

“The parents, if they send their children to a Catholic school, they have expectations of receiving a Catholic education, according to our Catholic values," Archbishop Damphouse said. “Those are the ones that are sending me emails right now saying, ‘We’ve been hijacked’.” 

At least eight Catholic school boards in Ontario have voted to fly the LGBT Pride flag, some for the whole month of June and some for the first week of the month. The celebration of June as Pride Month commemorates the June 1969 Stonewall Riots, when patrons of a gay bar in New York City rioted against a police raid.

While Archbishop Damphouse said that Catholic schools have certain values, Catholic school systems in Ontario are taxpayer-funded, and schools are not owned by the dioceses in which they operate. While bishops set catechetical curricula and ensure sacramental ministry in school contexts, they do not exercise control over elected boards. Provincial governments set basic rules for the operation of those schools, while local decisions are made by trustee boards elected by Catholics at the time of municipal elections.

Catholic schools have come under significant political, cultural and legal pressure to fly Pride flags and otherwise accede to LGBT demands. Some parents, however, have protested the decisions to fly the Pride flags.

Ahead of a May 25 Durham Catholic School Board vote on a motion to display the flag, which ultimately passed, the advocacy group Parents as First Educators circulated a petition titled “Lift high the Cross and not the Pride flag.”

“Parents exercise their choice when they send their children to Catholic schools, and they expect them to receive an education with Catholic moral teaching. Catholic schools need to be clear about the messages they give to children, and consistently teach students the truth about the faith,” the group said.

“Raising the Pride flag suggests approval of sexual activity of which the Catholic Church disapproves and violates Catholic teaching on chastity for all young people. Activists are using the Pride Flag motion to enforce their ideological agenda,” said the group.

The Durham Catholic school board’s motion cited the need to follow provincial legislation, as well as Ministry of Education policy and the Human Rights Code.

“Failure to address circumstances in which an individual suffers bullying, isolation or harassment as a result of their gender identity or sexual orientation and therefore does not have access to education free from discrimination would constitute a violation of the Canadian Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms and the Ontario Human Rights Code,” the school board’s motion said. 

“Discrimination is most easily identified in specific acts, however, the adoption of policies or procedures that do not adequately consider the lived experiences of individuals protected under the code is also discriminatory,” the motion stated.

The London District Catholic School Board did not consider a proposal to fly the Pride flag.

“As a group, we have not discussed it. It has not come to the board, and I have not received anything this year requesting we take a look at that,” Linda Steel, the chair of the Catholic board of trustees, told CBC News.

“Often, we take our lead from the community and so far we have not gotten that head-nod from the community. I think anything that the community wants us to discuss, we should have a thoughtful discussion about.”

Mark Adkinson, a spokesperson for the board, said the board receives several requests each year to fly flags to raise awareness about various issues. Its practice is to fly only the Canadian flag, the Ontario flag or the Franco-Ontarian flag. Each school has a “belonging plan” to promote “safe, caring, inclusive and health communities for everyone” he said.

Valeria Zambrano, whom CBC News described as an LGBTQ grade 10 student at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Secondary School in London, supported flying the flag.

"It bothers me a lot more now, because I see the flags up, and I think, 'How hard is it to support something that is not bad at all? I don't get it,” Zambrano said.

CBC News previously covered Zambrano in May 2019, reporting that she declared herself a lesbian to her eighth grade class. At the time, Zambrano, aged 13, and about two dozen schoolmates at Notre Dame Catholic Elementary School were planning to wear t-shirts to support students identifying as LGBT, with help from some of their parents. The move was in response to a school board decision not to fly a Pride flag.

The Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic School Board’s chair Patrick Daly said that the board would display the Canadian flag and the cross at all its schools, describing these as symbols of inclusion.

“I hope individuals will read the statement which is intended to show our clear commitment - past, current and future - to do all we can to ensure our schools are places where each belong,” Daly said May 30.

However, LGBT activists and their supporters - including the Ontario Parent Action Network - criticized the decision and demand that schools fly the Pride flag. The Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion claimed that the Catholic school board’s decision was perpetuating “violent, discriminatory acts.”

“This is not the time for separation and segregation as this is not a matter of church doctrine, but rather of public morals and human rights,” the Queer Trans Diversity Coalition of Hamilton said. “Raising a flag will not diminish your faith but strengthen it.”

Two trustees of the Waterloo Catholic District School Board resigned amid a Pride flag controversy, one of them citing the controversy as a contributing factor to his resignation.

“Flying the Pride flag is one aspect of my decision but not the sole concern,” former trustee Kevin Dupuis told CTV News. "This is a separation of a specific group and giving favors to one group only divides the other students.”

He said the board implemented the decision to fly the Pride flag without a vote from trustees, adding that he had sought a referendum on the question. Dupuis said that conversations about the Pride flag “seemed to be one-sided.” While the LGBT advocacy group Spectrum asked to speak to the board, Dupuis thought the board should have asked Right to Life groups and Parents as First Educators to speak as well.

He also objected to an “equity census report” that he thought excessively divided students by race, sex, gender and ethnicity, and was using “an awful lot of identity politics.”

“Everyone on the board including myself would like to see all of our students thrive as individuals, hold their heads high with dignity and be respected,” he said in an email to the Canadian news site Global News. “We just have different approaches on how that should be accomplished.”

Dupuis had criticized “wokeism” in his resignation letter, which he said was related to his concerns about “critical race theory.” He thought a “self-loathing attitude” was being created for students and he worried about an agenda he called “questionable,” he told 570 News. He specifically referred to the board’s statements supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, adding that others believe “all lives matter.”

“Things like that are concerning, and it seems to be driven by a very left-leaning agenda. That’s what I’m speaking out against – this need for identity politics when I think we’re all children of God; we should all be united and coming together as one. That’s why I’m resigning,” said Dupuis. He intends to run in the next federal election for Kitchener-Conestoga as a candidate for the People’s Party of Canada.

While the Toronto Catholic School District Board has voted to proclaim June as Pride Month and to fly the rainbow LGBT Pride flag outside all its schools, the Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto has emphasized the symbolic power of the cross, and Cardinal Thomas Collins has sought to emphasize the importance of the Sacred Heart of Jesus during June, the month of the Sacred Heart.

“The cross outside of Catholic schools and any Catholic church, hospital or institution, signals our commitment that all who enter the building are welcomed and loved in their beauty and uniqueness as children of God,” the Toronto archdiocese said in a May 4 statement.

Cardinal Collins had previously met with directors of education and chairs of Catholic school boards in the archdiocese to discuss inclusion issues, including requests that some school boards fly the Pride flag.

In a March 23 letter, Cardinal Collins addressed all Catholic school board trustees, directors of education, and all Catholic institutions about the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which he called the sign of Christ’s “true compassionate love” that all young people deserve. He noted that the solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus falls on June 11 and that June is celebrated in the Church as the Month of the Sacred Heart. He encouraged the celebration both of this feast and the month.

“(F)or a Christian the Sacred Heart signifies the steady, reliable, faithful, life-giving love which we experience in Jesus as we encounter him both in the Gospels and in our life of faith; we are called to imitate that faithful love,” Collins said.

Parish fundraises to repair vandalized Marian statue

Vandalized statue of Mary, St. Adalbert parish, Queens, New York / St. Adalbert parish

Washington D.C., Jun 3, 2021 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

A parish in Queens, New York is raising funds to repair its statue of Mary, which was found knocked over and split in half on May 28.

“We just started a GoFundMe page yesterday and within one hour there was already about $1500 in support from different people just wanting to restore the image,” Father Eric de la Pena, parochial vicar of St. Adalbert Parish in the Elmhurst neighborhood of the borough of Queens in New York City, told CNA.

As of Thursday afternoon, the parish GoFundMe site had raised more than $3,100 of its $5000 goal to restore the statue.

On Friday morning May 28, the Blessed Mother statue in the parish courtyard was found split in half, with the top section completely separated and on the ground.

There are no cameras in that area of the parish, although Fr. de la Pena told CNA the parish has new plans to put cameras in the courtyard because of the incident. 

“It’s a sad thing to see this happen but what’s heartwarming is to see the kind of response that we are getting,” de la Pena said.

“More than just the image being restored,” he said, “I'm supposing that [supporting the statue’s repair] is symbolic of restoring a community that has been hurt, and that speaks volumes.”

Robert Holden, a member of the New York City Council, expressed his dismay over the vandalism, which occurred at the church where he said he served as an altar boy and was married.

“I will not tolerate this mindless desecration of church property. This statue was located in the rear yard of the rectory, so the vandals had to trespass on church property,” Holden wrote on Facebook.

St. Adalbert parish is part of the Brooklyn diocese. In May, the diocese requested a greater police presence outside its churches after two incidents of vandalism in three days at church properties. The diocesan moderator of the curia expressed concern about “a pattern of hate crimes against Catholics.” 

A statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe was destroyed at a Brooklyn parish in September 2020. The Knights of Columbus donated $10,000 toward a new statue, which was installed on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Dec. 12.

Fr. de la Pena told CNA of the vandalism at St. Adalbert, “These are cheap thrills. And if one is looking for real happiness, then find that in doing something good and serving others.”

Vancouver archbishop promises 'tangible actions' after Indigenous graves discovered at Church-run school

Archbishop Michael Miller of Vancouver. CNA file photo.

Washington D.C., Jun 3, 2021 / 14:21 pm (CNA).

The Archdiocese of Vancouver has promised transparency and support for burial and identification efforts, following the discovery of unmarked Indigenous graves at a former Church-run residential school in Kamloops. 

In a June 2 letter to First Nations governments and other Indigenous populations, Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB of Vancouver expressed a “deep apology and profound condolences to the families and communities that have been devastated” by the discovery of the remains of 215 children at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. The children were buried in unmarked graves, and it is unclear how they died.

“Each time new evidence of a tragedy is revealed, or another victim comes forward, countless wounds are reopened, and I know that you experience renewed suffering,” the archbishop said to the First Nations and other Indigenous communities. 

The remains of the children were discovered in mid-May through the use of ground-penetrating radar. At least 51 children had already been reported dying while attending the school.. 

In the letter, Miller repeated his 2013 apology to the Indigenous populations for the abuses that occurred in Church-run residential schools, saying that he remains “committed and accountable” to those words. 

“I wish to apologize sincerely and profoundly to the survivors and their families, as well as to those subsequently affected, for the anguish caused by the deplorable conduct of those Catholics who perpetrated mistreatment of any kind in these residential schools,” said Miller. 

The residential schools were funded by the former Canadian Department of Indian Affairs, and were administered by Christian organizations including Catholic religious orders. The Kamloops Indian Reservation School was opened in 1890, under administration of the Catholic Church. It was operated by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate from 1893 until 1969 when the government took control of the school. 

Archbishop Miller said that “the Church was unquestionably wrong in implementing a government colonialist policy which resulted in devastation for children, families and communities,” and that his apologies “must be accompanied by tangible actions that foster the full disclosure of the truth.” 

Truth, he said, must come before reconciliation can be reached. 

The archbishop said that he would commit to five “first steps” to support the First Nations and other Indigenous people impacted by the discovery of the graves. 

Miller pledged to be “fully transparent with our archives and records regarding all residential schools,” adding that he would “strongly urge” other Catholic and government organizations to be transparent as well. 

He said that records related to the Kamloops Indian Residential School, located in the territory of the archdiocese until 1945 when the Diocese of Kamloops was created, were given to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. 

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, active from 2008 until December 2015 when it published its final report, aimed to reveal the history of the residential schools and uncover abuses. 

Canada’s residential school system operated from the 1870s until the last school closed in 1996. First Nations, Inuit, and Metis children were separated from their families and sent to the schools, established by the federal government and run by members of Christian denominations, to force assimilation and strip them of familial and cultural ties, the commission report found.

According to the commission, an estimated 4,000 to 6,000 students died as a result of neglect or abuse in the schools. 

Chief Roseanne Casimir of the Tk̓emlúps te Secwépemc band stated on May 27 that the unmarked graves were “spoken about but never documented by the Kamloops Indian Residential School.” 

Miller said that the archdiocese will offer “mental health support and counseling for other family members and others” who are possibly related to those found buried at the school. The archdiocese will further offer to “assist with the technological and professional support to help the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc and other affected Nations” with how they decide to honor and re-bury the deceased children. 

“We commit to supporting the same process and resources to all Nations in whose territories Catholic-run residential schools were forcibly located, and which fall within the historical boundaries of the Archdiocese of Vancouver,” he said.

The archbishop added that the archdiocese “will renew our efforts to listen to Indigenous Peoples to hear from you how we can best walk with you along the path of justice.”

Miller noted that “there is so much work remaining to be done,” but hoped that “if we persevere in these commitments with humility, we can restore the trust among us that will bring healing.”

George W. Bush donates to Catholic Charities’ work with immigrants and refugees

Former president George W. Bush / Joseph August/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Jun 3, 2021 / 13:10 pm (CNA).

Former President George W. Bush recently donated $100,000 to Catholic Charities USA in recognition of the group’s work with immigrants and refugees, the organization said this week. 

On Wednesday, Catholic Charities USA shared a letter they received from Bush, thanking the 43rd president for his donation and his “kind words.” 

In his letter, Bush had written that he was donating the proceeds from his new book, “Out of Many, One: Portraits of America's Immigrants,” to organizations that support immigrants and refugees. 

“Thank you for your efforts to aid those who have chosen to live among us and for helping them succeed in America,” Bush wrote to Catholic Charities USA.

A spokesperson for Bush’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNA on the donation. 

Patricia Cole, vice president of communications for Catholic Charities USA, told CNA on Thursday that “we are so grateful to be recognized by former President George W. Bush for our Immigration Advocacy and Refugee Services work.” 

Cole said that Bush’s donation will be used to assist migrants and refugees at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“His generous support will be used to help Catholic Charities agencies along the border meet the most basic needs of the immigrants and refugees that they serve,” Cole said. “Items such as shoes, toiletries, and food, for example, that they will need as they continue their journey.

In his letter, Bush said that in his book, he “was proud to paint the portraits and share the stories of 43 immigrants I have come to know.” He added that some of the individuals featured in his book told him they benefited from Catholic Charities’ assistance. 

“In honor of my friends and in recognition of your good work, I am pleased to enclose a check for $100,000 to support your Immigration Advocacy & Refugee Services,” Bush wrote. “Thank you for your efforts to aid those who have chosen to live among us and for helping them succeed in America.” 

The former president told CBS earlier this year that his failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform while in office is one of his biggest regrets from his presidency. 

Sister Norma Pimentel, a member of the Missionaries of Jesus and executive director of Catholic Charities Rio Grande Valley, was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People for 2020 for her work with migrants along the U.S.-Mexico border.

In an April 27 letter to the chair and ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Border Security, Facilitation, and Operations, Sister Donna Markham OP, President and CEO of Catholic Charities USA, described the organization’s work with unaccompanied child migrants along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Our border agencies are actively working to assist all migrants along the southern border, including families and unaccompanied children,” Sister Donna Markham wrote. “Last year, Catholic Charities agencies provided over 160,000 migrants with shelter and respite care.”

Why hundreds are still drawn to the powerful legacy of the 'Rosary Priest'

Fr. Patrick Peyton. Courtesy of Holy Cross Family Ministries.

Fall River, Mass., Jun 3, 2021 / 09:01 am (CNA).

Nearly three decades after his death, Father Patrick Peyton still receives fan mail.

People from all over the world submit letters and electronic notes - intercessory prayer requests and stories of prayers answered in the name of Father Peyton - to the desk of Father David S. Marcham.

Marcham, who is now vice postulator for the Cause of Venerable Patrick Peyton and director of the Father Peyton Guild, first discovered the many prayer requests and gratefully triumphant notes during a chance visit to Holy Cross Ministries in Easton, Massachusetts. The prayerful notes inspired him to join the effort in spreading Fr. Peyton’s message by advancing his cause for sainthood.

“Fr. Peyton has the ability through his message and through his intercession to work on the level of our individual families, but also to work worldwide,” he said.

Father Patrick Peyton (1909-1992) was a dynamic advocate for family prayer and a trailblazer in radio broadcast and televised evangelization.

Like many Irish families, Peyton grew up praying the Rosary. His devotion to Mary deepened when he was healed of advanced tuberculosis with no explanation, shortly after his ordination. He credited the intercession of the Blessed Mother for his recovery, and became committed to spreading the importance of prayer through Mary.

In doing so, he caught the attention of Hollywood.

After World War Two ended, Peyton began a radio show to pray in thanksgiving for peace. His show reached wide audiences with his passionate calls for family prayer, and it featured prominent public figures, from President Harry Truman to New York’s Archbishop Spellman. A strong proponent of the Rosary and a firm believer in its power, Peyton had each guest pray the Rosary for the world to hear.

However, executives of the radio station wanted to explore the idea of bringing in Hollywood stars. Peyton ambitiously called Bing Crosby, who had just seen his big break in Going My Way--a movie about a priest who created a church choir to help a group of boys reorient their lives.

“After Father Peyton explained what he was doing, [Bing Crosby] said, ‘Of course I’ll be on the program!’” said Father Willy Raymond, the current Holy Cross Family Ministries president and previous director of Family Theater Productions, both of which Father Peyton began.

“With [Crosby’s] name on it, it really got the nation’s attention,” Raymond added.

Family Theater Productions continues Peyton’s legacy in the film industry, providing a community for Hollywood Catholics and producing spiritual content. One of its most recent efforts, The Dating Project, was recently released in April, and the program Catholic Central provides short, informative films geared toward young people.

Along with promoting prayer in his shows, Peyton held “Rosary Rallies” around the world - from Peru to the Philippines to Papua New Guinea - earning him the title that he still bears to this day of “The Rosary Priest.”

Last December, Pope Francis recognized the heroic virtues of Fr. Peyton, declaring him “Venerable.” The priest’s information is currently under review for further advancement toward canonization.

An event celebrating the declaration of Fr. Peyton as Venerable drew a crowd of around 700 people to Holy Cross Family Ministries in North Easton, Massachusetts earlier this month.

Attendees - families, notable Catholic figures and international dignitaries alike - took part in the festivities. Auxiliary Bishop Arthur Colgan of Lima, Peru, celebrated the June 10 Mass. Raymond Flynn, former mayor of Boston and former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican, was also present, along with Shane Cahill, Irish Consul General in the U.S., and Bishop Howard Hubbard of Albany, N.Y.

Included in the celebration were three key parts of Father’ Peyton’s faith-based daily routine: a Eucharistic Procession, a celebration of the Mass and the praying of the Rosary.

“Every day, no matter how busy he was, Father Peyton prayed the Rosary many times during the day… he always made a holy hour with Eucharistic Adoration as a part of his day,” said Fr. Marcham. “And he also, every day, celebrated the holy sacrifice of the Mass.”

Everyone present at the June 10 prayer event was given a blessed Rosary, and many took Rosaries for their loved ones who could not make it, said Marcham. Each family was also provided with a Rosary prayer kit.

Marcham was inspired by the turnout at the event. He said many attendees found it “spiritually uplifting to hear that Father Peyton’s cause is progressing… they also found it was spiritually uplifting to be part of it.”

The sweeping commonality that “every one of us comes from a family” - along with the late priest’s zeal for holiness - is what still draws people to Fr. Peyton, said Marcham.

Many, he said, speak of the “realization of how something is going on in every person’s family - even the ones that look like they’re perfect from the outside.”

“Father Peyton offers a way for us to have God’s grace help us to reconcile, to heal, to move through challenges.”

Like the families of the post-World War era, modern families face difficulties, said Marcham.

“We basically have schedules and structures of life today that have family members going in all different directions,” he said, adding that many modern families struggle with high divorce rates, opioid addictions, misuse or overuse of technology and a demanding corporate culture.

“Making sure that God is welcome in the home is absolutely essential to give meaning and purpose to people’s lives,” Fr. Raymond added. When a family is rooted in prayer, he said, children “grow up knowing and trusting that God is real, that he’s present, that he loves them, and he’s going to be with them through thick and thin.”

Both priests recalled Fr. Peyton’s popular saying, “The family that prays together stays together.”

“We need the biggest promoter of this message we could get, and he’s the one,” Father Marcham said.

Marcham and his colleagues’ mission is “not to glorify Father Peyton,” he clarified. “It’s to make people aware of him and his holiness and his efficacy of his intercessory prayer. And really, the purpose of all this is to draw all of us and invite everyone to join...in this to grow closer to our Blessed Mother and our Lord.”

“I’m encouraging everyone and inviting everyone to join me.”

This article was originally published on June 24, 2018.

Eden Invitation offers reflections as an alternative to Pride Month

An Eden Invitation backpacking trip in Wyoming's Wind River Range, July 2019. Photo courtesy of Eden Invitation.

Denver Newsroom, Jun 2, 2021 / 17:01 pm (CNA).

The month of June is understood in the secular community as Pride Month. Eden Invitation, a movement for young adult Catholics experiencing same-sex desires and gender discordance, offers something different in their month-long initiative Inheritance. 

“We genuinely care about what our members are experiencing, so when the world is overtly celebrating Pride Month, it’s going to affect you in a variety of ways,” said Anna Carter, co-founder of Eden Invitation. “We always try to do something during Pride Month—not so much to celebrate all the things that the culture is saying—but to say, ‘Hey, this is going on, and it’s affecting people.’”

This month, Eden Invitation will provide opportunities to dialogue about faith and sexuality in weekly discussion groups. The topic of this year’s series is “Inheritance”, which focuses on their inheritance as Catholic Christians, human beings and LGBTQ persons, according to their website.

“If you look at the secular space, there is a lot of creativity, there’s a lot of energy and there is a multiplicity of secular apostolates—different organizations that have different tones and emphasize different things,” said Carter. “It can be hard for people who experience this to know what the future is going to hold, which is part of the reason why the secular space is so enticing.”

Eden Invitation will also offer a mini-retreat, and publish reflections on living with same-sex attraction or gender discordance, as well as how to best support friends and family members who identify as LGBTQ.

Eden Invitation, which is a lay- and peer-led ministry in full accord with the Magisterium, focuses on the whole person, Carter said, which includes formation, community, and creative discipleship. An individual who wants to learn more about the organization is invited to a confidential video call with someone from the Eden Invitation office to build a human connection first. Then, participants can join book clubs, retreats, encounters, and local, in-person groups.  

“It’s easy to find the experts online, it’s easy to read the blogs and watch the video, but to find a friend is a lot harder,” said Carter. “That’s another thing we are able to offer people—dynamic friendships and community.” 

Carter and co-founder Shannon Ochoa both have backgrounds in ministry and evangelization, and started Eden Invitation in 2017 to witness to Christ’s love in the LGBTQ community. Eden Invitation currently serves in 45 states and 15 countries across five continents.

“This particular topic, this particular population, and this particular part of myself was put on my heart,” she said. “I realized the poverty of witnesses around this topic.”

The apostolate has seen a lot of fruits, Carter said, notably a deep recognition of God’s love, renewed discipleship, and a desire to stay in the Church.

According to a 2016 report from the Public Religion Research Institute, 29 percent of people who have left their childhood religion cited a negative experience of religious teachings about LGBTQ people. Young adults are three times more likely than seniors to state this as their reason for leaving the Church, according to the same report. 

“Here in the Church, so often our pastoral response has kind of seemed a little ‘one note’ for a number of years—it’s a good note, it’s a beautiful note that we’ve been hitting,” said Carter. “But the truth is, our faith is really a full symphony. Apologetics is one tool in the tool kit, and sometimes we overuse that tool.” 

The Church, Carter said, has been caught up in a culture war on this topic. 

“This is one of the premier concerns of our day,” she said. “We need a more robust catechesis on the teachings that speak to the modern world. This is pressing, and the way we articulate this to the world matters a lot.”

“We as a Church need to continue to be transformed by the renewal of our hearts, the renewal of our minds, to become more and more like Jesus,” she said.

Carter was asked to give a talk recently on the Church’s teaching on sexuality, and whether the teachings of the Church meant a life of misery for people with same-sex attraction. She shared a reflection on the Paschal Mystery and how the story could provide a lens through which to think about living with same-sex attraction.

“I’ve always found a lot of consolation in the more we can see ourselves and see our lives in the life of Christ, the better off we’re going to be as Christians, as disciples and as people,” she said. “These movements [in the Paschal Mystery] are archetypical movements of the Christian life. How do we move through life as Christians experiencing same-sex desires?”

Her talk and subsequent blog post provided principles for integrating the passion, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ into the experience of same-sex attraction. She also emphasized the need for support and community, both inside the LGBTQ community and among their families and friends.

“The main thing is to relax and be friends,” she said. “Listen to somebody's story, hear about their faith journey and listen to how same-sex attraction impacted it, inside or outside of the Church.”

True accompaniment, Carter said, takes into account the whole person, not just their sexuality.

“Recognize that people are people and what a person is dealing with on a particular day may have nothing to do with same-sex attraction,” she said. “Our lives are complex, and in listening to one another, we’ll hear that. It’s not just about conversations about sexuality. It’s about doing life together.”

Mixed 'blessings' as Bishop Stowe attends Catholic dissenters' Pride Month event

Denver Newsroom, Jun 2, 2021 / 15:45 pm (CNA).

Catholic dissenters and LGBT activists on Tuesday hosted an online Pride Month “blessing” in reaction to a Vatican statement reiterating that same-sex unions cannot be blessed. Speakers made comments that rejected Catholic teaching, talking about “God’s triumph of queer love” or declaring that pride is not sin but “salvation” and “a promise of liberation for all.”

 

Bishop John Stowe, OFM Conv., of Lexington, made an appearance, delivering a simple, general blessing inviting the attendees to a deeper relationship with God and to know his love.

 

“We know that there are many, many Catholics who love, support, and, yes, bless their LGBTQ+ family members, friends, and neighbors,” Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of event organizer Dignity USA, said June 1 ahead of the event. She said there are many Catholics who support family, friends, and neighbors who self-identify as LGBTQ+.

 

“We wanted to create a way for them to make their love visible,” Duddy-Burke said. “Many of these people felt disheartened and disappointed by the Vatican statement and appreciated the chance to send a different message.”

 

On March 15 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a response to the query “does the Church have the power to give the blessing to unions of persons of the same sex?”. The congregation answered, “negative,” outlining its reasoning in an explanatory note and accompanying commentary.

 

The response said that God “cannot bless sin,” but also stressed, “the Christian community and its pastors are called to welcome with respect and sensitivity persons with homosexual inclinations and will know how to find the most appropriate ways, consistent with Church teaching, to proclaim to them the Gospel in its fullness.”

 

The CDF statement, issued with the approval of Pope Francis, sparked protests in the German-speaking Catholic world. Several bishops expressed support for blessings of same-sex couples, while churches displayed LGBT pride flags, and a group of more than 200 theology professors signed a statement criticizing the Vatican.

 

Priests and pastoral workers in some 80 cities in Germany and in Zurich defied the Vatican on May 10, conducting blessing ceremonies attended by same-sex couples. The backlash prompted commentators and several bishops in other countries to express fears that the Church in Germany was heading for schism.

 

Dignity USA solicited support for the Catholic Pride Blessing on its website, saying the CDF’s March statement “has caused pain and will continue to harm many.” The group said that many Catholics “already support, affirm and bless LGBTQI individuals and couples with their care.” 

 

“True blessing doesn’t come from hierarchies of power; it comes from communities of care, love, and solidarity,” the group said on its website.

 

“We won’t wait for the Vatican to recognize the gifts that LGBTQI people and their love bring to the Church, ” the group added. “As Pride Month approaches, we want to speak boldly in support of the inclusion of LGBTQI people, couples, and families. We pray that this Pride month would be an empowering season of solidarity and that the Vatican's pronouncements on LGBTQI people and their love will not be the final word.”

 

The online event, held on Zoom, had over 200 attendees.

 

Bishop Stowe began his video message: “Dear friends in the LGBTQ community. I offer a prayer, a blessing, for each of you during this annual celebration of Pride.”

 

“I know that you are beloved by God and that God is inviting you to draw near and that God is inviting you to draw near and that God desires a deep and intimate relationship with each of you,” he said. “May God the source of life and love fill you with the joy of knowing your great dignity and worth as God’s child, who is created in love and filled with blessings from the first moment of your existence.”

 

“May God who sustains us all in life continue to walk with you and share your joys and sorrows while calling you to something ever greater,” the bishop continued. “May God bless your capacity to love and be loved, and to share that divine presence with a broken and struggling world. May God almighty give you his peace.”

 

Just before the bishop’s video message, Duddy-Burke delivered what she called a “Pride Blessing.” Her remarks depicted a narrator hearing a voice: “You have been judged worthy and holy of my delight. Therefore go with pride, which is not sin for you but salvation, a promise of liberation for all. You are my beloved. With you I am well pleased.”

 

CNA had sought comment from the Diocese of Lexington but did not receive a response by deadline.

 

Another speaker was the Irish-born Father Bernard Lynch, a member of the Society of African Missions until he was expelled in 2011. The event described him as a longtime member of Dignity New York and a “married Roman Catholic priest.” In his memoirs, Lynch has claimed to have been religiously married to his same-sex partner in 1998, with the blessing of a Cistercian monk. He said he has officiated at same-sex ceremonies. He contracted a same-sex civil partnership in 2006 and a same-sex civil marriage in Ireland in 2017.

 

At the Zoom meeting, Fr. Lynch gave a “blessing for couples” which claimed that through the power of God’s love, these couples have “asserted a stubborn faith in the justice of your reign and co-equality of all people.”

 

“Bless them, Lord, in their covenants of love as LGBTQI couples. They are true prophets of Jesus Christ and his gospel” he said.

                                                                           

Other Dignity USA “video blessings” came from Mary McAleese, past President of Ireland, a vocal LGBT advocate and critic of Catholic teaching on sexual morality. Previously she has called Catholic teaching “evil” and contended that it “conduces to homophobia.”

 

Former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Miguel H. Diaz also spoke. Diaz was President Barack Obama’s ambassador to the Vatican from 2009 to 2012. He is currently the John Courtney Murray S.J. Chair in Public Service at the University of Loyola Chicago theology department.

 

Diaz presented a poem he said was inspired by St. John of the Cross before saying to the LGBT audience:

“Blessings on you who patiently wait as you resist in spirit ungodly beliefs, teachings and stereotypes which attempt to extinguish your light.”

 

“Blessings on your families, your friendships, your loving unions, may they all participate in and celebrate the mystery of God’s triumph of queer love,” said Diaz, adding “you are called to be a prophet of God’s love.”

 

Before the event, Dignity USA circulated a “Pride Blessing” statement that blesses self-identified LGBT, intersex, and queer people as “a unique and glorious reflection of God's astounding creativity and love.” They “create new kinds of families formed by love rather than by law,” and “seek to worship in spirit and in truth.” Their prayer “arises from humble hearts,” and they are “reviled and persecuted, yet persistent in faith, hope and love,” in the words of the prayer. They “dare to bring the truth of who you are into loving relationship with others—you heal and strengthen the body of Christ.”

 

Dignity USA rejects Catholic teaching on sexual morality, the nature of marriage, and the ordination of only men to the priesthood, among other issues. In July 2015 it and several other groups called for the Catholic  Church to recognize same-sex unions as sacramental marriage, what it called sacramental equality. Dignity USA’s funders have included the Arcus Foundation, founded by billionaire heir Jon Stryker. The foundation has funded LGBT activists that have helped split Christian denominations over controversies about ecclesial authority, marriage, and sexual morality.

 

Other co-sponsors of Tuesday’s event include the Institute Leadership Team of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, NETWORK Lobby, the Maryland-based WATER feminist theology group, and the Women’s Ordination Conference. In addition, other co-sponsors are Faith in Public Life and the Human Rights Campaign, which have led some communications and advocacy campaigns against the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops or against individual Catholic bishops. The National LGBT Task Force was another co-sponsor, as was the Tyler Clementi Foundation, an anti-bullying organization named for a college student who died by suicide after his roommate secretly recorded him kissing an older man in their dorm room.

 

Some of the speakers at the Pride Blessing have faced allegations of sexual harassment or misconduct.

 

Diaz, after his term as ambassador, became a professor of faith and culture at the University of Dayton. The Ohio university in 2013 found “reasonable cause” to believe that Diaz sexually harassed a married couple while a professor there and engaged in “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, particularly after being told to stop.”

 

Fr. Lynch, the priest in a same-sex marriage, was named in a November 2019 lawsuit filed in Manhattan Supreme Court. The lawsuit alleged that Fr. Lynch sexually abused a teenage student at Mount St. Michael Academy in 1978 and 1979, where Fr. Lynch served as campus chaplain, the Irish News reported. 

 

In 1989, a Bronx court acquitted him of sexually abusing a different teenager at the same school. His accuser recanted his accusation on the courtroom steps, saying he had been pressured to make the accusation. Fr. Lynch had denied the allegations, contending he was the subject of a “witch hunt.”

Lawsuit claims Virginia teacher was suspended for objecting to 'preferred pronoun' policy 

Andrii Zastrozhnov/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Jun 2, 2021 / 15:23 pm (CNA).

A Virginia teacher sued his school district this week, claiming he was unlawfully suspended for opposing the district’s proposed “preferred pronoun” policies.

The law firm Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed a lawsuit against Loudoun County Public Schools on Tuesday on behalf of Tanner Cross, a teacher at Leesburg Elementary School. Cross said he was suspended from his position after objecting to two proposed school policies during the public comment period of a May 25 school board meeting. 

The proposed policies would require that students identifying as transgender be addressed by their preferred gender pronouns, rather than by the pronouns corresponding with their biological sex. 

Tyson Langhofer, Senior Counsel for ADF and director of its Center for Academic Freedom, said in a statement on Tuesday that public schools “have no business compelling teachers to express ideological beliefs that they don’t hold, nor do they have the right to suspend someone simply for respectfully providing their opinion at a public meeting.” 

“The school district favors a certain set of beliefs on a hotly contested issue, and it wants to force Tanner to cry uncle and endorse them as well,” Langhofer said. “That’s neither legal nor constitutional, and neither was the school’s move to place Tanner on leave.”

ADF obtained a May 27 letter from the school district stating that Cross was placed on administrative leave with pay “pending an investigation of allegations that [he] engaged in conduct that had a disruptive impact on the operations of Leesburg Elementary School.” The letter was dated two days after Cross made his objection at the public meeting.

Cross could not access school district property, nor could he attend “school-sponsored activities or extracurricular events,” the district said. 

In the lawsuit, ADF said that the district engaged in “viewpoint-based retaliation” in suspending Cross. 

Cross “endeavors to treat every person with dignity, love, and care,” but has “sincerely held religious beliefs” about gender that would make addressing students by chosen pronouns tantamount to lying, and would therefore “violate biblical commands,” the lawsuit stated. At the school board meeting, Cross spoke “in his personal capacity,” the lawsuit stated. 

A spokesperson for Loudoun County Public Schools confirmed to the Associated Press that Cross is on paid leave but declined to comment further on the matter.

ADF attorneys wrote to the school district last Friday, arguing that the district illegally retaliated against Tanner for expressing his beliefs in a public forum, and requesting that Tanner be reinstated. The school district stood by its decision, according to ADF, prompting the lawsuit.

Federal court: Vermont can’t exclude religious schools from tuition program

Stephen Kiers/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Jun 2, 2021 / 14:15 pm (CNA).

A federal appeals court on Wednesday ruled that the state of Vermont cannot refuse to fund tuition for religious institutions that would otherwise qualify for the funding. 

The June 2 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit changes a state no-aid policy that dates back more than two decades. 

The case of A.H. v. French was brought by four Catholic high school students, their parents, and the Catholic Diocese of Burlington. They claimed that the state was discriminating by refusing to allow for religious schools to benefit from the state’s town tuition program.

The Catholic school students were represented in court by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a law firm promoting religious freedom.

In Vermont, residents of towns without public schools for all grade levels are eligible to have their tuition at another private school funded by the state, through the Vermont Town Tuition Program. The town pays tuition for students who attend eligible schools in lieu of operating a public school. 

Previously, students who opted to attend religiously-affiliated schools were not eligible for tuition assistance, while students at secular private schools and public schools in nearby towns were eligible. In February 2021, the Second Circuit issued a mandate preventing towns from enforcing the policy against religious school students. 

On Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the court cited the Supreme Court’s 2017 ruling in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer; in that decision, the court ruled that a Missouri no-aid clause could not be used to block a church-owned playground from accessing a public benefit it would otherwise be eligible for, simply on account of its religious status. 

“Four years ago, the Supreme Court reminded states that it ‘has repeatedly confirmed that denying a generally available benefit solely on account of religious identity imposes a penalty on the free exercise of religion that can be justified only by a state interest of the highest order,’” the Second Circuit court judges stated. 

“Today the court powerfully affirmed the principle that people of faith deserve equal access to public benefits everyone else gets,” said ADF Legal Counsel Paul Schmitt in a statement on Wednesday. 

“Once Vermont chose to subsidize private education, it could not disqualify some private schools solely because they are ‘too religious.’ When the state offers parents school choice, it cannot take away choices for a religious school,” he said. 

In June 2020, the Supreme Court further ruled in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue that the state of Montana could not block public funding of religious institutions or causes, while allowing similar secular organizations access.

Citing the Espinoza ruling, Judge Steven Menashi of the Second Circuit court wrote that the Supreme Court had “emphasized that ‘[s]tatus-based discrimination remains status based even if one of its goals or effects is preventing religious organizations from putting aid to religious uses’ and that a state cannot justify discrimination against religious schools and students by invoking an ‘interest in separating church and State more fiercely than the Federal Constitution.’”

Instead of adjusting the state program to comply with the Espinoza ruling, “the officials who administer Vermont’s Town Tuition Program...nevertheless continued to discriminate against religious schools and students in violation of the first Amendment,” said the opinion. 

“The Supreme Court has made clear that the prevailing practice in Vermont—maintaining a policy of excluding religious schools from the TTP—is unconstitutional.

Schmitt on Wednesday stated, “For too long, Vermont unconstitutionally forced families to choose between exercising their religion or enjoying a publicly available benefit.” 

Other states, including neighboring New Hampshire and Maine, have similar town tuition programs which also exclude religiously-affiliated schools. In September, a family sued the New Hampshire Department of Education when it refused to pay tuition for a Catholic school.

Nuns producing Communion hosts adapt, as pandemic decimates industry

Alexey Gotovsky/CNA

Denver Newsroom, Jun 2, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

A community of Benedictine nuns known for inventing and distributing low-gluten Communion hosts has seen their business decimated by the pandemic, as the widespread suspension of public Masses last year led to a drop in demand for hosts nationwide. 

The Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Clyde, Missouri have produced Communion hosts - also called “altar breads” - since the early 20th century, as a means of sustaining their community.

Sister Ruth Starman, OSB, head of the abbey’s altar bread department, told CNA that their altar bread sales dropped significantly when the pandemic swept through the United States in the spring of 2020. Compared to a normal pre-pandemic year, the abbey's business in 2020 dropped by about 75%. 

"Our sales basically went down to zero for a couple of months," she said. "The sales for our presider breads remained somewhat steady; they did drop somewhat, but with only priests saying Mass, we were only able to sell some of those presider hosts,” she said.

Sister Ruth said the massive drop in demand led the abbey to lay off 13 people in the altar bread production department - mostly lay employees from the local community - last September. 

"That's really a lot of people not able to go to Mass and receive the sacraments, which is really the important thing; our sales don't really matter," she said. 

"But it's an indication of people not being able to partake in the sacraments." 

Last fall, the sisters’ business began to increase as parishes reopened. Over the last few months, Sister Ruth said, orders for altar bread have increased as dioceses across the country are reinstating the Sunday Mass obligation.

Yet Sister Ruth said she would be surprised if their sales of altar bread ever reached pre-pandemic levels again. Some people might not return to Mass after the pandemic, and the pandemic could have accelerated the ongoing consolidation or closure of many parishes across the country. 

As recently as the 1960s, hundreds of religious orders nationwide were producing hosts as a means of supporting themselves. The sisters in Clyde were already running a school and a print shop when they branched off into altar bread production in 1910.  

"We were the largest religious producer of altar breads in the U.S.," Sister Ruth said, noting that in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the community was producing as many as 8 million hosts a month. 

"It fits so well with our charism of adoration, that it really was a very difficult decision [to shut down production]," she said.

The sisters also developed the recipe for the Catholic Church’s first low-gluten hosts - a product they still produce and sell to this day. 

There is a common misconception that priests and Catholics with an intolerance to gluten can use “gluten free” hosts, while in reality the Vatican has, since 1995, mandated that Communion hosts must contain at least some gluten. 

As wheat bread is the matter of the sacrament, the Vatican stated in 2003 that low-gluten hosts are acceptable so long as “they contain a sufficient amount of gluten to obtain the confection of bread without the addition of foreign materials and without the use of procedures that would alter the nature of bread.”

The typical recipe for a Communion host includes only wheat flour and water. The wheat used in low-gluten hosts has had the gluten - which holds the bread together - removed by a process of milling. As a result, the sisters’ first attempts at creating a low-gluten host were extremely difficult, and the hosts were too hard to actually eat. 

It took over ten years of experimentation for the sisters to develop the right recipe. Sister Lynn D’Souza joined the effort in 1999, and put her degree in biochemistry to good use. 

Finally, the process benefitted from the help of the Holy Spirit. 

“We were done with an experiment for the day, and kind of had a little batter left on the spoon, so we flicked it onto the waffle iron, and forgot about it and went and washed dishes,” Sister Jane Heshmeyer, who works in the altar bread department, recalled. 

“We opened [the waffle iron] up and there was a lacy looking edible thing. So we ate it right away and forgot how we got there, but the Holy Spirit helped us get back to that.”

The sisters had the hosts tested in a lab for their gluten content, and also asked several volunteers with celiac disease to eat the hosts and report any adverse effects. The scientists found that the hosts contained just .001% gluten, low enough to be safe for most people with celiac disease. 

The Vatican approved the sisters’ low-gluten bread for Communion in 2003. Before the pandemic, the sisters produced about 82,000 individual low-gluten hosts per month, on average. 

Sister Ruth said the current demand for low-gluten hosts is about two-thirds of normal - higher than the demand for the sisters' altar bread overall. Today, sisters from the abbey make up the entire staff producing the low-gluten hosts. 

Before the pandemic, Cavanagh Altar Breads - a large secular corporation headquartered in Rhode Island, had steadily consumed the lion’s share of the market for Catholic Communion hosts. 

In addition to having a far greater production capacity than any one religious order, their hosts are different from the ones made by hand; the wafers have a sealed edge, which some priests prefer because they are less likely to produce crumbs. 

Due to the large drop in their capacity for in-house production, Sister Ruth said the sisters have begun receiving shipments of altar breads from Cavanaugh once a week, which they then repackage and resell. 

Despite the hit to the abbey's income, Sister Ruth said the abbey remains financially sound thanks to donors, as well as to the sisters’ secondary business of selling homemade lotion, candles, and soap.

"There's been a drop in demand for altar breads over the years," she said, adding that she hopes people start returning to Mass to receive the sacraments, because "it's just not the same watching on TV."