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Dad, deacon, lawyer: Amy Coney Barrett’s father shares his testimony of faith

CNA Staff, Sep 28, 2020 / 08:41 pm (CNA).- Much has been made of the Catholic faith of Amy Coney Barrett, President Donald Trump’s most recent nominee to the United States Supreme Court.

The judge’s Catholicism has taken center stage in her political career thus far: from “the dogma lives loudly within you” comments made during her 7th Circuit Court of Appeals nomination hearing in 2017 to recent articles debating - and debunking - whether People of Praise, the charismatic movement to which Barrett belongs, was the inspiration behind the dystopian novel and T.V. series, The Handmaid’s Tale.

Like many Catholics, Barrett inherited her faith from her family. Her parents are Catholic, with seven children - Barrett being the eldest - and are also members of People of Praise. Her father, Mike Coney, has also been a permanent deacon for 38 years.

In a personal testimony of faith written in February 2018 for his home parish, St. Catherine of Siena in a suburb of New Orleans, Deacon Coney shared how “pivotal moments” of his life - both decisions and experiences - came to shape his life and his relationship with God.

“They are not random,” Coney said of the pivotal moments in his life. “I firmly believe the Lord is close at hand drawing us through human events closer to him.”

One of the first moments that shaped Coney’s faith was the death of his mother.

“In August 1962, the day before my 17th birthday, I came home from a summer job and found my mother dead,” he wrote. “At first I was filled with grief and anger at God.”

But then Coney remembered the story of Job, a man in the Old Testament who is tested by Satan, who kills off all of Job’s livestock, herdsmen, shepherds and children. Instead of blaspheming God, as Satan had wanted, Job rends his garments, cuts his hair, and prays: “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord!”

“That passage dissolved the anger I felt against the Lord,” Coney said. “All through the wake and funeral I kept repeating that passage as a kind of prayer. Although the grief remained, the anger left.”

His mother’s death left Coney considering for months “what really mattered in a person’s life,” and when he went on retreat his senior year of high school, he said he was struck by the verse from St. Matthew’s Gospel: “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world but suffer the loss of his soul?”

“Sure money is necessary but it can’t be the primary goal of life. That’s not what life is all about,” Coney wrote.

This experience led him to consider being a Jesuit, and he made a customary 30-day Ignatian retreat and spent one and a half years as a Jesuit novitiate, an experience that “remained the foundation of my adult life, as has the axiom that love manifests itself in deeds and not just in words.”

Rather than become a Jesuit priest, however, Coney married his wife Linda during his first year of law school. His marriage shaped his faith, Coney said, when he and Linda began praying together and when he made the decision to do one simple act of love for Linda every day.

“So picking up a towel on the floor or a shoe or putting a single cut flower in a vase became a way to grow in love and unity,” he said. “That practice continues to this day and the love grows.”

Throughout his marriage, Coney said he has jointly discerned the will of God with his wife many times. As an example, Coney and his wife jointly discerned to turn down a transfer in his career and a promotion that would have meant uprooting their (at the time) six children.

“Our discernment had told us that money and success were not as important as what was best for our family,” he said.

Coney’s decision to become a permanent deacon was also a joint discernment, brought about by the couple’s experience with the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, a movement with a particular emphasis on the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

“Like many people and most guys, I saw very little to like in Charismatics,” Coney wrote of his first impression of the movement. “I dodged it until I was trapped into attending a Life in the Spirit Seminar. When prayed with for a greater outpouring of the Holy Spirit, nothing happened.  Then later that night I began to speak in tongues.”

“More importantly,” he wrote, “I was filled with an insatiable appetite for reading scripture and spiritual books. Making time for personal prayer became important. I sensed a call from the Lord to serve.”

His wife independently confirmed that she had also felt a call from the Lord that Coney should enter the permanent diaconate, a decision that Coney said is always best discerned as a couple. By the time Coney was ordained, he and Linda had four children. After ordination, they had three more, becoming a family of nine.

He had to learn to “juggle” life as a husband, father, lawyer and deacon, he wrote, but he said the Lord helped him by making smaller stretches of sleep feel longer and by helping him write his homilies in about an hour.

His prayer, he said, became: “Give me wisdom, knowledge, discernment and sound judgement.”

It was also after ordination that the family felt called to join People of Praise, an ecumenical lay covenant community - to which Barrett continues to belong - that would allow his family to live in “a close knit Christian community, one like that described in the Acts of the Apostles, one that would help form our children into good Christians and strengthen our marriage and family.”

“The glue which binds the members of the (People of Praise) is a promise to share life together and to look out for each other in all things material and spiritual,” Coney added. “In this ecumenical community my faith has been nourished and my commitment to my friend Christ has grown deeper and stronger and has borne good fruit.”

In his conclusion, Coney wrote that reflecting on his testimony made him grateful for the generosity of the Lord in his life.

“This scripture from Deuteronomy sums up how I feel. ‘Do you not know that the Lord your God has carried you as a Father carries his child all along your journey?’”

Deacon Mike Coney continues to serve the parish of St. Catherine of Siena in Metairie, Louisiana.

Catholic schools take home 40 National Blue Ribbon awards

CNA Staff, Sep 28, 2020 / 07:08 pm (CNA).- Catholic schools received 80% of the 2020 National Blue Ribbon awards issued to private schools this year by the Department of Education. Of 50 private schools to win the award, 40 are Catholic.  

This year, the Department of Education designated 367 schools--317 public and 50 non-public--as National Blue Ribbon Schools. The 40 Catholic schools honored were from 17 states and 21 dioceses.

The awards were announced on September 24.

“The National Blue Ribbon Schools award affirms the hard work of students, educators, families, and communities in creating safe and welcoming schools where students master challenging content,” says the Department of Education’s website for the award.

“The National Blue Ribbon Schools flag gracing a school's building is a widely recognized symbol of exemplary teaching and learning. National Blue Ribbon Schools are an inspiration and a model for schools still striving for excellence,” says the site.

Schools can be designated as National Blue Ribbon winners once every five years.

For non-public schools to be recognized, their students must score in the top 15% nationally on standardized English and math tests.

Kelly Branaman, secretary for Catholic schools and superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Washington, told CNA that she was “appreciative” that non-public schools were recognized as well as public schools.

“This allows Catholic schools across the country to demonstrate their excellence on a national level,” she said to CNA on September 28.

Two schools in the Archdiocese of Washington were recognized as Blue Ribbon schools for this year.

“It is gratifying that the U.S. Department of Education recognizes what so many parents and teachers already know: that our Catholic schools provide a great education where academic excellence and our Catholic faith thrive,” said Branaman.

“We're grateful for this honor, and it will serve to inspire us as we will continue to offer our students an outstanding education.”

Archbishop Charles Brown appointed nuncio to the Philippines

Vatican City, Sep 28, 2020 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis on Monday appointed Archbishop Charles Brown as apostolic nuncio to the Philippines, a position which had been vacant since November.

The Sept. 28 appointment transfers Archbishop Brown, a New York native, from his role as nuncio to Albania.

Archbishop Brown was born Oct. 13, 1959, in New York.

He was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of New York in 1989; he holds degrees from the University of Notre Dame, Oxford University, the University of Toronto, and the Anselmianun.

From 1994 to 2011 he worked at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and he was appointed apostolic nuncio to Ireland in November 2011. His episcopal consecration was held Jan. 6, 2012.

Bishop Kevin Doran of Elphin said that during Archbishop Brown’s time in Ireland, he focused on renewing the bishops’ conference.

“He came among us as a diplomat, at a time when diplomacy was really needed, but he came with the heart of a pastor. Over the past five years, he has challenged us and encouraged us in equal measure,” Bishop Doran said.

“He was very supportive to us and was ready to do anything he could to help.”

Archbishop Brown remained in Ireland until 2017, when he was appointed apostolic nuncio to Albania.

Cardinal Becciu allegations mount as Vatican appoints new prosecutor

CNA Staff, Sep 28, 2020 / 05:28 pm (CNA).-  

Italian businessman Gianluigi Torzi has provided detailed information to investigators in the ongoing Vatican financial scandal, according to new reports. News of Torzi’s cooperation with prosecutors follows the resignation of Cardinal Angelo Becciu last week, and the announcement that Pope Francis has appointed a new prosecutor to strengthen the case.

As previously reported by CNA, Torzi was arrested by Vatican investigators in June, and charged with “extortion, embezzlement, aggravated fraud and self-laundering,” in relation to his part in the deal.

La Repubblica reported on Monday that, following his arrest, Torzi spent three days with Vatican authorities, walking them through details of the case, and that Italian authorities are now assisting the Vatican in tracking several hundred million euros of Vatican funds.

The Vatican also announced Monday that Pope Francis appointed an Italian lawyer and professor of commercial law to work as an additional prosecutor in the Vatican City State’s court, fueling expectation that Becciu and several of his former colleagues at the Secretariat of State could face criminal prosecution in Vatican City.

On the same day, Italian news site Domani carried a report that a brewing company owned by Cardinal Becciu’s brother received a 1.5 million euro loan from an African businessman with links to Becciu and the Secretariat of State. The loan was made by Angolan businessman Antonio Mosquito, a long-time acquaintance of Becciu, who served as apostolic nuncio to the African nation from 2001-2009.

In 2012, having moved to Rome as sostituto of the Secretariat of State, Becciu was involved in the secretariat’s consideration of a reported $200 million investment in Mosquito’s company Falcon Oil.

After vetting the deal for a year, the secretariat instead chose to invest the money with Italian businessman Raffaele Mincione, leading to the controversial purchase of a London building which kicked off the current investigation.

Mario Becciu told Domani that the money was intended to help children with autism.

Becciu resigned on Thursday following an unscheduled meeting with Pope Francis in which the pope told the cardinal he had lost his trust and ordered him to step down. The following morning, Italian newspaper L’Espresso published a story accusing Becciu of using his positions in the curia to funnel money to members of his own family.
 
Becciu’s resignation followed more than a year of reporting by CNA and other news outlets on various financial scandals involving Becciu and the Holy See’s Secretariat of State, where he served as sostituto for nearly a decade, until he was made a cardinal and placed in charge of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in 2018.
 
Many of those reports stemmed from the Secretariat’s controversial investments through Italian businessman Raffaele Mincione, an associate of Torzi’s, including the purchase from him of the London property for hundreds of millions of dollars.

In addition to Torzi’s arrest in June, Italian police served a search and seizure warrant on Mincione in July, issued at the request of Vatican prosecutors. Investigators took away cell phones and tablets for examination in relation to the case. Mincione has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, and earlier this year filed a lawsuit against the Secretariat of State in a U.K. court, asking a judge to rule he acted in good faith in his dealings with the Vatican.

On Monday, lawyers for the Becciu family released a statement to the media saying that they had lodged official complaints for the “slander and aggravated defamation” of their clients and for “illegal leakage of confidential information and documents” to media. The release did not specify which media, or to whom the complaint had been made.
 
Since October, investigators in Vatican City have conducted several raids on different Vatican departments in connection with the London property deal and connected investments. Investigators raided offices at the secretariat and the AIF, the Vatican’s financial watchdog, seizing computers and phones and resulting in the suspension of several members of staff.

After those raids, investigators also raided the home and offices of Msgr. Alberto Perlasca, who worked closely with Becciu at the Secretariat of State.
 
 

 

 

 

Ecuadorian president vetoes health code bill

Quito, Ecuador, Sep 28, 2020 / 05:19 pm (CNA).- The Ecuadorian president on Friday vetoed the entire Health Code bill passed by the country’s legislature. The bill would have opened the door to abortion, surrogate motherhood, and teaching gender ideology to minors.

Lenin Moreno vetoed the bill Sept. 25 because it contained many technical inaccuracies in health matters, according to the presidency’s legal secretary, Johana Pesántez.

The health code contained a "punitive approach that, far from guaranteeing the right to health, can become an obstacle to flexible and timely care by doctors and other healthcare personnel," Pesántez said, El Universo reported.

Moreno had the options of vetoing the bill in its entirety or partially, or signing it.

The National Assembly, Ecuador’s unicameral legislature, had passed the Health Code Aug. 26 and set a deadline of Sept. 26 for Moreno to sign or veto the bill.

Pro-life leaders in the country welcomed the veto.

Pro-life activist and member of Married Couples to the Rescue, Geraldine Weber, told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language news partner, that this veto is a victory for life, and asked citizens to remain alert and vigilant in the "mission of strengthening the values and principles of families, defending life and faith."

Archbishop Alfredo José Espinoza Mateus of Quito, said he received the news of the veto of the Health Code with joy and noted that "this is an historic day because life has triumphed."

The prelate thanked the authorities for listening to the cry of the people and "saying no to a code of death", and added that Ecuador is a country committed to life.

"From the very beginning we said that this code was a code of death and today we say with joy that life has triumphed," he emphasized.

Espinoza encouraged people to continue building up life and family and to continue believing in the young generations, "who must be educated in principles and values."

"Let us continue to advocate for life and for the true rights of the person and human values," he encouraged.

Abortion is legal in Ecuador only in cases of the rape of a woman with mental disabilities or when the mother’s life is determined to be at risk.

The Ecuadorian constitution states that “girls, boys and adolescents shall enjoy the rights common to human beings, in addition to those specific to their age. The state shall recognize and guarantee life including its care and protection from conception.”

Vatican has 'moral authority' to speak on China, Pompeo tells CNA in exclusive interview

Washington D.C., Sep 28, 2020 / 04:40 pm (CNA).-  

Ahead of a visit to the Vatican this week, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he plans to discuss human rights abuses in China, and urge Vatican officials to speak out about Chinese religious persecution.

“We’ve spoken pretty clearly about the human rights situation in China that has deteriorated under General Secretary Xi Jinping for religious believers throughout the country,” Pompeo told CNA in an exclusive interview Friday.

“The Church has an enormous amount of moral authority and we want to encourage them to use that moral authority, to improve the conditions for believers, certainly Catholic believers, but believers of all faiths inside of China, and so that’s the conversation that we’ll have,” the secretary added.

Pompeo will visit the Holy See this week during a trip that will also include meetings in Greece, Italy, and Turkey. While at the Vatican, Pompeo will meet with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State of the Holy See, along with Archbishop Paul Gallagher, who heads the Holy See’s office for relations with civil governments.

The secretary is not scheduled to meet with Pope Francis, with whom he met last October. While the pope does not always meet with foreign ministers visiting the Vatican, the Holy See has reportedly told U.S. diplomats that the pope did not want to meet with an American political figure so close to the November presidential election.

The meeting comes as the Holy See is expected to soon renew a deal it made two years ago with Beijing on leadership structures in the Church.

It also comes shortly after Pompeo published an essay Sept. 18 in First Things on the Vatican-China agreement.

In a tweet promoting the essay, Pompeo wrote that “The Vatican endangers its moral authority, should it renew the deal.” The remark made waves among diplomats for its pointed criticism of the Holy See’s policy.

But Pompeo stressed to CNA that he is committed to working with the Vatican, and he recognized its international importance on the subject of religious freedom.

The secretary said he believes the U.S. and the Holy See “have a shared interest in seeing that every human being in China has the opportunity to practice their faith, exercise their conscience rights.”

“Our administration has spent a lot of time and energy in promoting religious freedom all around the world, and I think the Catholic Church and the United States share the desire to create improved conditions for Catholics to exercise their faith tradition inside of China.”

The Vatican-China deal aimed to unify Catholics in China, who have been split between an “underground Church” loyal to Rome, and a nationally recognized organization, the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, in which bishops had previously been appointed and ordained without the permission of the pope, creating a de facto schism in the Church.

The deal, details of which have never been released publicly, was intended also to provide some legal protections for more than 9 million Catholics in China, at a time when Chinese President Xi Jinping has said that he aims to see China “actively guide the adaptation of religions to socialist society...supporting China’s religions’ persistence in the direction of sinicization.”

In practice, human rights observers say, that project has led to arrests of religious leaders, including Catholics, prohibitions on children attending Mass, and security cameras in churches, at the same time that the Uyghur Muslim people in China’s Xinjiang autonomous region have faced mass detention, forced labor, sterilization, and abortion in a campaign increasingly described as a genocide. Other religious and ethnic groups face similar conditions.

Pompeo told CNA that “we see enormous deterioration in the ability to attend Church...the things they’re doing to facilities for Christian believers, what’s happening in the west to the Muslim population in Xinjiang, we watch all this deteriorate and we urge the Vatican to exercise its capacity for moral witness and authority to support those believers.”

“That’s the conversation that I expect that I’ll have every time I encounter religious leaders around the world,” Pompeo said.

Critics of the Vatican-China deal say that it has caused Pope Francis to remain silent on human rights in China. That silence seems to have garnered little goodwill for Catholics living in China, some critics say, but it will compromise the Church’s ability to evangelize the country by making it appear complicit in the regime’s abuses.

Critics also note that while an agreement was apparently struck on the appointment of bishops in China, few bishops have actually been appointed to fill the numerous vacant dioceses in China, because Beijing has ground the appointment process to a halt by stalling.

Defenders of the deal, however, say that conditions for Catholics might be far worse in the country were it not for the Holy See’s willingness to engage with Beijing, and that even if few bishops are being appointed, putting a stop to the appointment of schismatic bishops is the beginning of reform.

Cardinal Parolin declined to respond to questions from CNA regarding Pompeo’s visit. An aide to the cardinal told CNA that Parolin expects to discuss issues related to the China deal with Pompeo.

Earlier this month, Parolin told journalists that the Holy See’s “current interest is to normalize the life of the Church as much as possible, to ensure that the Church can live a normal life, which for the Catholic Church is also to have relations with the Holy See and with the pope.”

Pompeo told CNA he understood the Church faces risks in China no matter how it engages with Beijing.

“The Holy See will have to balance those risks and I appreciate that, and I don’t know precisely what the arrangements are that have been agreed to.”

“But I can tell you that as you stare at the facts on the ground, conditions have worsened. The capacity for believers to exercise their faith has decreased. It has gone backwards,” he said.

“And so while it is the case that dialogue matters an awful lot, that these conversations are incredibly important and complex, the agreements that are entered into have to actually deliver outcomes that reflect a better situation. This is the kind of thing that we deal with all the time, where we certainly have imperfect solutions, but we never cease our call for what it is that we ultimately know is the right thing to do.”

“The United States is urging countries all across the world to have their eyes wide open with respect to what’s taking place [in China], whether that’s in the freedom that’s being denied in Hong Kong, or what’s taking place now against those who want to practice their faith in Tibet, in Inner Mongolia...We’re watching the deterioration of religious freedom, and each of us has a special responsibility [to address it],” he said.

“I am confident that the Holy See has a truly special and unique capacity to make life better for each of these people who simply want to exercise their most basic human right of exercising their ability to practice their faith,” the secretary said.

Cardinal Joseph Zen, emeritus bishop of Hong Kong, has been an outspoken critic of the China deal. Zen told CNA this month that “resounding silence will damage the work of evangelization.”

“Tomorrow when people will gather to plan the new China, the Catholic Church may not be welcome.”

Along with Zen, Cardinals Charles Muang Bo of Burma and Ignatius Suharyo of Indonesia have repeatedly denounced China’s human rights violations.

Pompeo told CNA that he believes more voices, including those from Rome, should be speaking. “The world, and that certainly includes the Vatican, has a responsibility to speak to that truth, to speak to the reality that’s taking place,” he said.

The secretary added that in his view, the United States and other nations have been making efforts to make change in the region.

Speaking of the United States, Pompeo said that “we have imposed costs on some of those who have been the most egregious violators, we have urged American businesses to ensure, for example, in Xinjiang, that they’re not doing business with those involved in the horrific human rights violations that are taking place there. So we’ve taken a number of actions to prevent these kinds of violations of the most fundamental human rights from taking place.”

Mentioning a forthcoming meeting with officials from Australia, Japan, and India, Pompeo said that his goal is “building out a coalition for freedom-loving peoples all across the world....to continue to defend these most basic rights.”

He said the Chinese Communist Party acts punitively toward countries opposing Chinese human rights abuses by severing or restricting trade relationships.

“We’ve talked to nations in the Pacific - Pacific island countries - who did something the Chinese didn’t like and they stopped sending tourists to their countries. It has a significant impact on their economy. Normal nations don’t do that. They don’t use a brand of punishment diplomacy that impacts the lives of real people.”

Speaking of Taiwan, where the Trump administration has made new diplomatic initiatives by sending both a senior-level diplomat and HHS Secretary Alex Azar in recent months, Pompeo said the island, which considers itself to be sovereign while Beijing regards it as a renegade province, “is certainly part of our effort,” but said “the challenge is so much greater than just any one single theatre, one single tactical space.”

“The challenge and the fight is not between the United States and China. This is a fight between authoritarianism, barbarism, and the rule of law and decency and the protection of fundamental human rights and freedoms. That is the challenge that is presented by the Chinese Communist Party, and it’s the one that President Trump has worked so diligently to build out against, to make sure at least for the American people, we’re going to get this right. We’re urging other nations to join us in this challenge.”

“Regimes that engage in authoritarian, totalitarian behavior,” the secretary said, “survive by darkness and obfuscation. And by the moral authorities of the world, those who value the most fundamental freedoms for every human being...that draw attention to those [regimes] ultimately create better lives for people,” Pompeo added.

“What I hope and what I know what the Holy See intends to do is continue to shine the light. That would be the right thing to do, it would be the thing the United States will ask them to do, and I am confident that they will do so. There’s a long history of that within the Church, and I am confident that they will continue to do that.”

 

Graffiti attacks on San Diego-area churches being investigated as hate crimes

Denver Newsroom, Sep 28, 2020 / 04:31 pm (CNA).- Two Eastern Catholic churches in San Diego County suffered graffiti vandalism attacks over the weekend, and while authorities are treating the incidents as connected, they have not yet determined the perpetrators’ motives.

St. Peter Chaldean Catholic Cathedral in El Cajon, California on Sept. 25 was defaced with graffiti depicting “pentagrams, upside down crosses, white power, swastikas,” as well as slogans such as “Biden 2020,” and “BLM” (Black Lives Matter).

The cathedral is the seat of the Chaldean Eparchy of St. Peter the Apostle of San Diego.

The same evening, Our Mother of Perpetual Help Catholic Church, also in El Cajon, was similarly attacked, with the pastor discovering spray-painted swastikas on an exterior wall of the church the next day.

Our Mother of Perpetual Help is a Syriac Catholic church, part of the Syriac Eparchy of Our Lady of Deliverance of Newark.

The sheriff’s department has not officially announced any suspects, but is investigating the incidents as hate crimes.

Monsignor Emad Hanna Al-Shaikh, pastor of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, told CNA he alerted all the relevant authorities when he discovered the vandalism, and later painted over the graffiti.

Msgr. Al-Shaikh said he strongly suspects the same perpetrators who hit St. Peter cathedral also defaced his church, though he does not yet have proof. The churches are located three miles apart.

He said he does not know of any reason why someone would vandalize his church, and does not know who might have carried out the attack.

“We’re friends with everybody, we love everybody, and we’re at peace with everybody,” he said.

Sargent Mike Hettinger, a detective investigating the incidents, told CNA that the Sheriff's Department does currently have some "good leads" in the case, including surveillance video, tips from the community, and physical evidence collected that they do not yet want to make public.

The department does believe the two crimes are related, he said. There appear to have been five perpetrators, and based on the video evidence they appeared to be juveniles, he said.

The motive for the crimes remains unclear, especially since the messages of the graffiti— which included, for example, both swastikas and "BLM"— appear to be at odds with each other.

There were protests taking place in downtown San Diego that evening, so the graffiti could be related to that, he said, but investigators are not yet certain on that point.

The vandalism comes amid a spate of similar incidents at Catholic churches that has lasted for months. Earlier last week a man burned pews in an arson attack in a Florida Catholic church, and a man with a baseball bat damaged a crucifix and several doors at a Texas seminary.

Last week a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was destroyed in a Texas cathedral.

Also last week, a parish in Midvale, Utah, saw back-to-back attacks. St. Therese of the Child Jesus Catholic Church had its namesake statue beheaded followed by burglary on subsequent nights.

A historic church built by St. Junipero Serra was burned in California this summer, in a fire being investigated as arson. A Florida man was arrested for setting flame to a parish church in the Orlando diocese.

Fires have been started and statues of Christ, Mary, and saints have been beheaded or destroyed at parishes across the country, while in California numerous public statues of St. Junipero Serra have been torn down, defaced, and destroyed.

While some attacks on statues have been committed by large groups with clear political affiliations, the perpetrators of other acts have not been identified.

A poll conducted at the end of August by RealClear Opinion Research in partnership with EWTN News found that 83 percent of Catholic likely voters are concerned about attacks on churches in recent months.

Parties divided over nomination of Amy Coney Barrett

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 28, 2020 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Following President Donald Trump’s nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court on Sept. 26, party leaders are at odds over the nomination process, and over Barrett as a nominee. 

Republicans have rallied around Barrett as a strict constitutionalist, while highlighting her personal commitment to faith and family. Democrats have argued she is a judicial ideologue aiming to upset the court on issues like the Affordable Care Act and abortion.

Barrett, a Catholic mother of seven, rose to national prominence during her confirmation process for the U.S. Court of Appeals in 2017, when she was questioned on her faith by Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.), who observed to Barrett that “the dogma lives loudly within you.”   

In a Sunday press call, Trump campaign officials pointed to that moment as evidence of what is to come in the nomination process. Justin Clark, Trump’s deputy campaign manager, called Barrett’s character and qualifications to serve as a justice “unimpeachable.”

Clark said Barrett’s Catholic faith might face “religious bigotry” in the weeks ahead.

“The stakes in this nomination couldn’t be higher,” Clark said, adding, “Because our faith as Catholics is under attack currently, and it is going to ramp up and get even worse.”

Clark called Biden, who is a baptized Catholic, “dead silent,” on attacks on Barrett’s faith.

“Just like he was silent when his administration persecuted the Little Sisters of the Poor, or when his own vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris disqualified someone based on their membership to the Knights of Columbus,” Clark said.

Meanwhile, many Democrats noted that arguments in a Supreme Court case that seeks to overturn the Affordable Care Act—former President Barack Obama’s signature health care law—are scheduled for November 10, a week after the November 3 election.

According to the Washington Post, in three years on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, Barrett has not considered any cases that directly dealt with the ACA. However, prior to her nomination to her current role, Barrett wrote an essay arguing that Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote the majority opinion the first time the high court upheld the ACA, “pushed the Affordable Care Act beyond its plausible meaning to save the statute.”

In a tweet, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden called Barrett “a jurist with a written track record of disagreeing with the Court’s decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act.”

“Vote like your health care is on the ballot — because it is,” the former vice president added.

In livestreamed remarks on Sunday, Biden added that if Barrett is confirmed, women “could lose their bedrock rights enshrined in Roe vs. Wade,” the Supreme Court case that legalized abortion nationwide, which Biden has committed to enshrining in federal law, if elected.

Since Barrett was announced as the nominee on Saturday, Senate Republicans have praised qualifications, which include clerking for the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, and working as a professor at Notre Dame Law School before becoming a federal judge.

In a statement, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Trump “could not have made a better decision.”

“Judge Amy Coney Barrett is an exceptionally impressive jurist and an exceedingly well-qualified nominee to the Supreme Court of the United States,” McConnell said.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said in a tweet that Barrett “is highly qualified in all the areas that matter – character, integrity, intellect, and judicial disposition.” Graham also announced that Barrett’s Senate confirmation hearing will begin on October 12.

Senate Democrats, including the party’s vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris, echoed Biden’s characterization of Barrett as an enemy of the Affordable Care Act.

In a tweet, Harris (D-Calif.), who is also a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said, “From day one, Trump made clear that he had a litmus test for Supreme Court Justices: destroy the ACA’s protections for people with preexisting conditions and overturn our right to make our own health care decisions.”

“We cannot let that happen—I strongly oppose this nomination,” Harris added.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a tweet, “Make no mistake: A vote for Judge Amy Coney Barrett is a vote to eliminate health care for millions of Americans and to end protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions in the middle the COVID-19 pandemic.”

'Advice and Consent': How the Senate will vet Amy Coney Barrett

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 28, 2020 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- President Donald Trump’s nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court sets in motion a highly-anticipated confirmation process, less than six weeks before a presidential election.

Barrett’s nomination is now referred to the Senate, where members of the Judiciary Committee will hear her testimony, ask questions, and call witnesses, as part of the process of “Advice and Consent” provided for in the Constitution.

After the hearings, the committee has several options with regard to Barrett’s nomination. Members can vote to send her nomination to the entire Senate favorably, unfavorably, or without recommendation—or they can choose to take no action.

Once her nomination is sent to the entire Senate, the body will then deliberate and vote to consider her confirmation.

During Barrett’s confirmation process to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017, she faced pointed questions about her religious beliefs on certain issues.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), ranking member of the committee, praised Barrett, noting that it was “amazing to have seven children and do what you do.” However, she then called Barrett a “controversial” nominee, “because you have a long history of believing that your religious beliefs should prevail” over the law.

“You’re controversial because many of us that have lived our lives as women really recognize the value of finally being able to control our reproductive systems,” she said. “And Roe entered into that, obviously.”

“And I think in your case, professor, when you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you. And that’s of concern,” Feinstein said.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) grilled Barrett over why she used the term “orthodox Catholic” in a 1998 article she co-authored as a law student, with law professor John Garvey. Durbin in 2004 was barred from receiving Holy Communion by a monsignor in Springfield, Illinois, because of his stance on abortion.

Looking to the example of recent Supreme Court confirmations, the entire process usually lasts between two to three months. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said that he will meet with Barrett this week and that the Senate would vote on her confirmation “in the weeks ahead,” but did not specify a target date.

Senate Judiciary Committee chair Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has said that Barrett’s confirmation hearings would begin Oct. 12, and “will last three to four days.”

The first hearing will consist of opening statements by committee members and by Barrett, followed by members questioning her. “Testimony by those who know Judge Barrett the best and [by] legal experts is expected to follow,” Graham’s office announced.

Barrett is not expected to receive any support by Democratic senators, who argue that the confirmation should wait until after the election. Senators Mazie Hirono (D-Hi) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) have already said they will not meet with Barrett prior to the committee hearings, with Blumenthal tweeting that the nomination is part of an “illegitimate sham process, barely one month before an election.”

Republicans hold a slight edge in the number of committee members and in the Senate as a whole, and so could confirm Barrett with party-line votes. However, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) has already said she would vote no, and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has opposed a nomination before the election, though both have said they would meet with Barrett, according to POLITICO.

The two most recent court nominees have only been narrowly sent by the Judiciary Committee for a vote of the full Senate, with other nominees in the 1990s receiving unanimous votes in the committee.

Justice Neil Gorsuch was approved by an 11-9 vote in April of 2017, and Kavanaugh by an 11-10 vote in October of 2018 after a contentious set of hearings; senators considered allegations of sexual assault made against Kavanaugh dating back to his teenage years.

However, in the 1990s, several Supreme Court justices were approved by the committee by a unanimous vote, including Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg who were each approved by an 18-0 vote in 1994 and 1993, respectively.

Two other recent nominees never even received a vote by the Judiciary Committee.

In 2016, President Obama nominated Merrick Garland to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) decided not to support the confirmation that year because of the presidential election—an action that Senate Republicans are appearing to contradict in starting the confirmation process for Barrett before the presidential election on Nov. 3.

In 2005, nominee Harriet Miers also did not receive a vote by the Judiciary Committee, withdrawing her nomination 21 days after she was selected by President George W. Bush.

According to the Senate website, of the 163 nominations for the Supreme Court made since 1789, 126 were confirmed and seven declined to serve.

Traditionally, judicial nominees needed 60 votes in the Senate to survive a filibuster, a parliamentary procedure where one senator can hold up a vote. In 1968, nominee Abe Fortas was recommended by the committee during a presidential election year but his confirmation in the Senate was held up by a filibuster; President Lyndon B. Johnson subsequently withdrew his nomination.

In 2013 then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) changed the parliamentary rules and abolished the filibuster for many federal judicial nominees and executive appointments, in a move known as the “nuclear option.”

Once Republicans gained the Senate majority in 2015, current Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has since used the move to confirm federal judicial nominees, including Supreme Court nominees Kavanaugh and Gorsuch.

Supreme Court confirmations have recently taken around two to three months. The proximity of Barrett’s nomination to Election Day raises questions as to whether McConnell can secure a confirmation vote by Nov. 3, only 38 days after the nomination.

Not since the confirmation of Sandra Day O’Connor in 1981 has a justice been confirmed in fewer than 38 days. Nominee Robert Bork was defeated by a vote of 58-42 in the Senate in 1988 after 108 days, while the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg was confirmed by the Senate in only 42 days.

German cardinal issues stark warning about ‘Synodal Way’

CNA Staff, Sep 28, 2020 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- A German cardinal issued a stark warning Saturday about his country’s controversial “Synodal Way.”

In an address to former students of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in Rome Sept. 26, Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki said that the initiative’s draft texts appeared to press for the ordination of women to the priesthood. 

“The synod texts seem to want to prepare quite consciously for the consecration of women,” he said.

“If this should not succeed, new offices [for women] are to be created -- not because one could cite concrete ‘needs.’”

The “Synodal Way” is a process bringing together German lay people and bishops to discuss four major topics: the way power is exercised in the Church; sexual morality; the priesthood; and the role of women.

When the German bishops launched the initiative, they initially said that the deliberations would be “binding” on the German Church, prompting a Vatican intervention

In his address, recorded by EWTN - Katholisches TV and reported by CNA Deutsch, the archbishop of Cologne said that the push for female ordination seemed to be a response to the perception that the exclusion of women from ordained offices was “hurtful and unjust.”

“Certainly an answer must be found to this reality of life, but not against revelation,” he said. 

He explained that the “reality of life” that had led to the “Synodal Way” in the first place was the damage to the Church’s credibility in the wake of the clerical sexual abuse scandals. But he said that the draft texts did not reflect this.

“If only a marginal paragraph is devoted to this problem [of damaged credibility], I cannot deny the suspicion that this reality of life seems to be only a vehicle to make long-cherished wishes come true,” he said.

Woelki hit the headlines in Germany earlier this month when he said that the worst outcome would be if the Synodal Way “leads to a split and thereby outside of the Church, out of communion with the universal Church.”

In a Sept. 17 interview with the German Catholic news agency KNA, the cardinal said he feared that this would create “something like a German national church.” 

His comments were downplayed by Bishop Georg Bätzing, president of the German bishops’ conference, who insisted that the Church in Germany is “part of the Universal Church and nothing will change that.”

Woelki was one of the speakers at a symposium bringing together the Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI Circles of Alumni (Schülerkreise) in Rome. The circles consist of an older group of former doctoral students of Joseph Ratzinger and newer members inspired by the retired pope’s theology. 

Other speakers included Cardinal Luis Ladaria, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who wrote to Bätzing earlier month expressing alarm about an appeal by German theologians for intercommunion between Catholics and Protestants.

In his address, Woelki made further criticisms of the “Synodal Way” process.

He said: “I also cannot deny a further suspicion, namely that it is the tradition and interpretative communion with the universal Church that is called into question here, rather than the concern of finding real answers that do justice to realities of life as well as to the truth of revelation.”

“I would therefore like to emphasize once again: I am willing to engage in a dialogue about the realities of life. I am not prepared to do so against the living tradition of the Church.” 

He continued: “This distorts the Word of God. This makes dialogue with God impossible, which should lead us to our actual happiness and to true joy. This blocks the path to communion with Him, which makes us into the person we are truly supposed to be and yearn to be.”