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Pelosi 'misspoke' on San Francisco Mass attendance, spokesman claims

Washington D.C., Sep 18, 2020 / 05:58 pm (CNA).-  

Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office told CNA Friday evening that she “misspoke” when she described “recently” attending Mass in a San Francisco church, despite the city’s months-long ban on indoor Masses.

“The Speaker misspoke. She has not been in San Francisco since September 5th due to ongoing talks around COVID relief and appropriations,” spokesman Drew Hammill from the Speaker’s office told CNA in a statement on Friday evening.

“She [Pelosi] has been participating regularly in church services virtually,” Hammill said.

Hammill did not explain what Pelosi referred to when she described Sept. 18 attending what appeared to be an indoor Mass and receiving Communion “recently” at a San Francisco church.

Earlier on Friday morning, at a press conference at the U.S. Capitol, Pelosi was asked by Erik Rosales of EWTN News Nightly about a recent op-ed by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, Pelosi’s archbishop, on the “unfairness” of the city’s public health rules.

Cordileone had pointed out the city’s ban on indoor religious services—except for funerals—during the pandemic while gyms and hair salons were allowed to serve some customers indoors.

Pelosi answered that “I have been to church in San Francisco recently, and I did receive Communion.”

She then went on to describe the experience in some detail, noting that she had to “sign up” to attend and that “I got in under the wire” as there were only two places left.

San Francisco has banned public indoor religious services—except for funerals—for months. Outdoor services are permitted with a cap on 12 people, although Speaker Pelosi’s recollection of the event recounted an indoor service.

“And when we got there—the church maybe holds 250 people. There were probably 12 people,” she said, “very, very, very spaced. But that was it, no more would be allowed.”

“And then we did receive Communion,” she said, noting that the priest washed his hands before distributing Communion, and that she received Communion in the hand.

“I miss going to church regularly,” she said. “Of course, we have virtual Mass here, many Masses in D.C., but all the other places…”

On Friday evening, however, Pelosi’s office told CNA that she “misspoke,” but did not explain in what she had misspoken.

Public Masses in San Francisco were suspended by the archdiocese on March 17, and the city’s public health ordinances have not yet allowed for public indoor Masses.

Archbishop Cordileone later informed parishes that they could resume public Masses on June 14, according to the city attorney’s office. However, the city said it informed the archdiocese on June 11 that indoor Masses were still barred “for the time being” as a public health risk.

Exceptions were made only for funerals with 12 or fewer persons, and live-streamed services where only necessary personnel were present to help with the Mass or video production.

On June 29, the city sent the archdiocese a cease-and-desist letter for public indoor Masses, saying that it had not officially amended the health order to allow for them.

“Our intention has always been to conform to what we understand to be the City orders and timelines,” the archdiocese said July 2, noting that the city’s orders had changed through the pandemic.

The situation continued through the summer. Archbishop Cordileone on July 30 urged prayer and fasting for an end to the pandemic and “for a restoration of public worship unhindered.”

In August, Cordileone asked the mayor to “at a minimum, remove the excessive limits on outdoor public worship.”

The city, meanwhile, watched for any possible violations of its order, sending the archdiocese a letter on Aug. 12 outlining “several things of concern.”

The city’s mayor, London Breed, announced this week that outdoor religious services with up to 50 people would be permitted beginning Sept. 14, but indoor religious services were still prohibited until Oct. 1, where they would be permitted with a cap at 25 people.

Archbishop Cordileone is leading a Eucharistic procession past city hall on Sept. 20 as a protest against the ongoing orders limiting Masses. He wrote in his Washington Post op-ed that “all we are seeking is access to worship in our own churches, following reasonable safety protocols.”

Pelosi, on Friday morning, said that the archbishop should abide by science in his desire to reopen churches.

“With all due respect to my archbishop, I think we should follow science on this,” she said.

She later added that “I don't know if he [Cordileone] was speaking as our pastor or as a lobbyist—advocate. But whatever it is, I am sure that he must have meant [reopen churches] if it is scientifically safe, rather than jeopardizing people’s health if they want to go to Church.”


Franciscan University honors NET Ministries for ‘strong Christian character’

CNA Staff, Sep 18, 2020 / 05:07 pm (CNA).- The Franciscan University of Steubenville this week bestowed its highest non-academic award to NET Ministries, a national evangelization program for young people, headquartered in Minnesota.

Mark Berchem, founder and president of NET Ministries, accepted the Poverello Medal on behalf of the group.

NET (National Evangelization Teams) Ministries’ model involves training and sending Catholic young adults across the country, divided into teams, to share the Catholic faith with young people through retreats for nine months at a time.

NET has led more than 34,000 retreats and ministered to more than 2 million young Catholics since its inception in 1981, the group says. In addition to the U.S., NET is active in Australia, Canada, Guam, Honduras, Mexico, Germany, Malaysia, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Uganda and Ireland.

Father Dave Pivonka, president of Franciscan University, said he experienced “fellowship and the power of the Holy Spirit” as a NET missionary before attending Franciscan.

“Thanks to NET, teenagers who may have never otherwise had a personal encounter with Jesus Christ have come to embrace him as their Savior and make the Catholic Church their spiritual home. Amid a culture that often rejects Christian principles, they are emboldened and empowered to live their faith,” Pivonka said.

Today, NET is currently active in over 100 dioceses. A notable alumnus is Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Cozzens of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, who first came to St. Paul through NET and later served as a traveling missionary throughout the country.

According to Franciscan, the Poverello Medal honors organizations and individuals who follow in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi through strong Christian character, practical charity, and service to the poor.

The award was first presented in 1949 to the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. Other recipients include St. Teresa of Calcutta, Dorothy Day, the Little Sisters of the Poor, and Mary’s Meals.


Cardinal says Syria has been hit with a ‘poverty bomb’

Rome Newsroom, Sep 18, 2020 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- After nearly 10 years of war, the Syrian people have now been hit with a “poverty bomb” amid the coronavirus pandemic, a Vatican diplomat said this week.

Cardinal Mario Zenari, apostolic nuncio to Syria since 2008, said that many Syrians had died in the country’s long conflict from various types of weapons, “from cluster bombs, to barrel bombs, to missiles launched everywhere.”

“However, if there were these bombs before, now there is what I call the poverty bomb: according to United Nations data, this bomb is hitting more than 80% of people, and this is very serious. You can see the effects of hunger, malnutrition of children, above all,” Zenari said in an interview published in L’Osservatore Romano Sept. 18.

Syria is facing an unprecedented hunger crisis, according to the United Nations World Food Programme, which estimates that 9.3 million Syrians are food insecure -- an increase of 1.4 million people from the beginning of 2020 as economic instability has increased the cost of food.

UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock told the UN Security Council Sept. 16 that in northwest Syria 45% of households depend on day labor for their income at a time when 70% of households say their income does not cover their needs.

He added that 45% of businesses in Syria have temporarily shut down, 25% are running at reduced levels, and 15% are permanently closed. 

Despite the difficulties, Zenari said that there was “less and less talk of Syria at a time when Syria is truly suffering a lot.” 

“Like all conflicts that last over time, at some point they are forgotten, people no longer have an interest in hearing this news,” he commented.

Recent events have only worsened Syria’s humanitarian situation. Neighboring Lebanon’s economy, which served as an important bridge to Syria’s, has one of the world’s highest public debt burdens. The national currency has lost 80% of its value against the U.S. dollar since last year. 

“The Lebanese crisis has hit Syria hard,” the cardinal said.

Zenari explained that humanitarian aid for Syria typically passed through Lebanese banks, which have been in crisis, and humanitarian projects, including those of the Church, also generally passed through Lebanon. But in recent months the closure of Syria’s borders with Lebanon and Jordan had complicated matters. 

At the same time that the explosion in Beirut’s port left Lebanon reeling, a wave of the coronavirus hit Syria.

A study published Sept. 15 by a team of researchers affiliated with the London School of Economics, Google, and medical institutions estimated that only 1.25% of the actual coronavirus deaths in Damascus were counted. 

There have been only 3,654 cases of COVID-19 documented in Syria. But the United Nations has said that cases have been under-reported for months, daily deaths have risen since July, and infection rates among health workers have also been rising.

Two Franciscan friars serving in Aleppo died in August after contracting COVID-19 within 10 days of each other. At least two other friars in Syria also tested positive for the coronavirus.

“The war has led to the destruction of about half of the hospitals, and it is a very serious thing, now that COVID-19 presents itself, to have these health facilities devastated,” Zenari said.

“What, unfortunately, is dying in Syria, in the hearts of different people, is hope: many people, after 10 years of war, no longer seeing economic recovery, reconstruction, are losing hope.”

Cardinal Zenari estimated that it would take about $400 billion to rebuild Syria. But he said that too often “whoever can offer this aid places conditions.” He added that the international sanctions imposed on Syria have had “quite negative effects.”

The Vatican diplomat said that the Church’s task was alleviate Syrians’ sufferings and aid in the rebuilding of the country destroyed by war. 

“As a Church, as the Holy See, we have no military interests, we have no economic interests, we have no geopolitical strategies: we -- the Church, the Holy See, the pope -- are on the side of the people, of the people who suffer. We want to be the voice of the voiceless,” he said.

What does the Catholic Church teach about voting? A CNA Explainer

Denver Newsroom, Sep 18, 2020 / 03:43 pm (CNA).-  

There is not a monolithic Catholic vote in the U.S., but Catholic voters do make a big difference in local, statewide, and national elections. And voting, the Church says, is part of participation in public life — part of contributing to the nation’s common good, the flourishing of its people.

The Church does not dictate to Catholics how they should vote, but it does provide guiding principles for making decisions about voting. This CNA Explainer offers some of those principles.


What does the Church teach about voting?

In 2007, the U.S. bishops’ conference issued “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” a guide to participation in public life, which included a section on voting. The bishops have periodically updated it since.

The bishops say that Catholics should vote according to “a well-formed conscience that perceives the proper relationship among moral goods.”

Last week, Bishop Alfred Schlert of Allentown wrote that: “A ‘well-formed conscience’ for the Catholic is one that has been formed under the guidance of the Holy Spirit through prayer, studying Scripture, and honestly informing oneself about the moral teachings of the Catholic Church.”

The “proper relationship among moral goods” means that voting is a kind of a weighing exercise, that not all issues have the same weight, and that voters need to prioritize various issues at hand in any election, and make hard choices about who to vote for, and who not to vote for.


Immoral acts

The Church says first that it is always immoral to vote for a person who supports an intrinsically immoral policy, if the reason for the vote is to achieve that policy:

“A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who favors a policy promoting an intrinsically evil act, such as abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, deliberately subjecting workers or the poor to subhuman living conditions, redefining marriage in ways that violate its essential meaning, or racist behavior, if the voter’s intent is to support that position.”

The bishops say it could be possible to vote for someone who supports something intrinsically immoral but only for “other morally grave reasons.” Before he became Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger described those as “proportionate reasons.”

In a 2004 letter to U.S. bishops, Cardinal Ratzinger wrote that: ”When a Catholic does not share a candidate’s stand in favor of abortion and/or euthanasia but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons.”

The idea of “proportionate reasoning” recognizes that there are no perfect candidates. The job of Catholic voters is to weigh the positions of all candidates, and to avoid choosing a candidate who supports something immoral, unless something good outweighs that immorality.



The U.S. bishops say that abortion has to weigh as an especially important factor when deciding whether it is morally acceptable to vote for a candidate.

In 2019, the bishops said that “The threat of abortion remains our preeminent priority because it directly attacks life itself, because it takes place within the sanctuary of the family, and because of the number of lives destroyed.”

There were 862,000 abortions in the U.S. in 2017, and there are 73 millions abortions each year around the globe.

The Church does not say that abortion is the only issue, but that it is a “preeminent” or foundational consideration about the moral acceptability of a candidate.

Pope Francis asked in Laudato si: “How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties?”

In Christifidelis Laici, Pope St. John Paul II taught that “the right to health, to home, to work, to culture is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination.”

In 2008, Bishop, now Cardinal, Kevin Farrell released a joint statement with Bishop Kevin Vann, saying that in their view, “There are no ‘truly grave moral’ or ‘proportionate’ reasons, singularly or combined that could outweigh the millions of innocent human lives that are directly killed by abortion each year.”

Also in 2008, Archbishop Charles Chaput said that Catholics who support pro-choice candidates “need a compelling proportionate reason to justify it.” 

“What is a ‘proportionate’ reason when it comes to the abortion issue? It’s the kind of reason we will be able to explain, with a clean heart, to the victims of abortion when we meet them face to face in the next life — which we most certainly will. If we’re confident that these victims will accept our motives as something more than an alibi, then we can proceed,” Chaput said.

In 1988, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago was asked whether Catholics can “disqualify” candidates who support a legal right to abortion.

The cardinal put it this way: “Well, certainly. That’s what the consistent ethic is all about. I feel very, very strongly about the right to life of the unborn, the weakest and most vulnerable of human beings. I don’t see how you can subscribe to the consistent ethic and then vote for someone who feels that abortion is a 'basic right' of the individual. The consequence of that position would be an absence of legal protection for the unborn.”


What to do?

The bishops have taught that supporting a pro-abortion candidate requires overcoming the high bar of proportional reasoning. But a candidate’s opposition to abortion does not, by itself, make him an acceptable choice for Catholics. Voters should weigh the issues, and also consider character, leadership abilities, and integrity before casting a vote in any candidate's favor, the bishops say.

All of those factors go into the weighing exercise of proportional reasoning.

And the bishops say that well-formed voters could reach several conclusions:

“When all candidates hold a position that promotes an intrinsically evil act, the conscientious voter faces a dilemma. The voter may decide to take the extraordinary step of not voting for any candidate or, after careful deliberation, may decide to vote for the candidate deemed less likely to advance such a morally flawed position and more likely to pursue other authentic human goods.”

The bishops do not rule out the possibilities of not voting, or of voting for third party candidates.

In 2016, Bishop James Conley offered this summary of “Faithful Citizenship’s” voting advice: “In good conscience, some Catholics might choose to vote for a candidate who, with some degree of probability, would be most likely to do some good, and the least amount of harm, on the foundational issues: life, family, conscience rights and religious liberty. Or, in good conscience, some might choose the candidate who best represents a Christian vision of society, regardless of the probability of winning. Or, in good conscience, some might choose not to vote for any candidate at all in a particular office.”

The U.S. bishops conference put it this way: “In making these decisions, it is essential for Catholics to be guided by a well-formed conscience that recognizes that all issues do not carry the same moral weight and that the moral obligation to oppose policies promoting intrinsically evil acts has a special claim on our consciences and our actions. These decisions should take into account a candidate’s commitments, character, integrity, and ability to influence a given issue.”

“In the end, this is a decision to be made by each Catholic guided by a conscience formed by Catholic moral teaching.”


Biden campaign downplays abortion, 'preeminent priority' of US Catholic bishops

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 18, 2020 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- Catholic supporters of Joe Biden sought to deflect the Democratic candidate’s support for abortion on Thursday by pointing to other issues, despite the U.S. bishops calling it the “preeminent” issue for Catholic voters to consider.

“We’ve got to deal with the abortion issue, and the way we’re dealing with it here in Pittsburgh is by saying if you’re going to vote with your Catholic faith informing your choice, then you’ve got to be a multi-issue voter,” said Kevin Hayes, a Biden supporter who is conducting voter outreach to Catholics in the Pittsburgh area ahead of the November presidential elections.

Hayes was one of several Catholics who spoke to Biden supporters online in a “national call to action” on Thursday evening. He was joined by “Catholics for Biden” co-chairs Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from 2013-2017, and Mark Kennedy Shriver, son of the late pro-life Democrat R. Sargant Shriver and president of Save the Children Action Network.

Biden, a Catholic, has supported legal abortion and has promised to expand taxpayer funding of abortion by repealing the Hyde Amendment. He has also said his administration would work to codify Roe v. Wade, review state regulations of abortion, and cover abortion and contraceptives in his “public option” health policy.

Since 2007, the bishops of the United States have issued a document, titled “Forming Consciences for Faithful CItizenship,” to help Catholics decide how to cast their vote; it was most recently updated in 2019. 

Earlier this year, USCCB issued a letter, approved by the bishops, re-presenting the document along with a series of short videos. In that letter, the bishops identified abortion as the “preeminent priority” for Catholic voters “because it directly attacks life itself.”

Biden’s support for abortion was addressed by several campaign surrogates on Thursday evening, who asked listeners to look beyond the issue.

Dr. Anthea Butler, a professor of Religious Studies and Graduate Chair in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, said on Thursday she recognized that some of those on the Catholics for Biden call “have concerns” about Biden.

“You have concerns about whether he’s pro-life enough, whether he meets all of the criteria for Catholics. You’re listening to your bishops tell you one thing or another,” she said.

Butler asked listeners to instead consult their consciences. “You need to start to think about what it really means for us to have somebody who takes their faith and uses it in every area of their lives,” she said.

“Now that doesn’t mean that he [Biden] is always going to be thinking about his Catholicism when he has to vote, or all of that stuff. What it means is he has a moral core, he has a conviction, he knows right from wrong, he’s able to ask for forgiveness, he knows what it means to bear grief.”

Victoria Kovari, who is conducting outreach to Catholics in Michigan for Biden, said that she and other women, including a Catholic religious sister, developed talking points on abortion. The sister, she said, is a member of IHM, the Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Kovari identified herself as a “lifelong Byzantine Catholic,” and said that she is helping test out different campaign messaging with members of her Byzantine parish. Kovari was a member of Catholics for Obama in 2008 and in 2012, and served as national field director for the group Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good from 2007 to 2010.

In addition, she said, the group organized a letter to the state’s seven bishops calling for an end to “partisan public statements made by Catholic officials urging them to vote Republican.” 

“We urge you to ensure that all Church spokespersons strictly refrain from public partisan-political statements, whether direct or indirect,” the letter states. 

The letter notes that, in the past, Catholic communications directors, priests, and bishops “have advocated for a particular political party -- or have condemned specific candidates (usually Democrats)” by “selectively quoting sections of Faithful Citizenship,” the voting document of the U.S. bishops’ conference.

In several American dioceses in recent weeks, bishops have intervened to correct individual priests who made explicitly partisan statements, or statements of support or opposition of different candidates.

A priest of the diocese of La Crosse, Fr. James Altman, said in an Aug. 30 video that “You can not be Catholic and be a Democrat. Period.” His bishop subsequently said he was taking action to correct Fr. Altman, because the Church does not prohibit membership in the Democratic party.

Earlier this month, in the Archdiocese of Boston, Monsignor Paul Garrity apologized for causing “confusion and upset” after he posted comments on Facebook saying he “believe[s] in a woman’s right to choose,” and “will vote for Joe Biden for President because I believe that Joe Biden is pro-life like me.” Garrity also encouraged “Catholics and others” of similar viewpoints to vote for Biden as well. 

Boston’s archbishop, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, OFM, Cap., said that Catholics have “the right to expect the priests of the Archdiocese and those entrusted with handing on the faith to be clear and unequivocal on the Church’s teaching concerning respect and protection for life from the first moment of conception to natural death.”

“This teaching is of the highest priority for the Church,” the cardinal said in a statement provided to CNA after Garrity’s comments.

The national director of Priests for Life, Fr. Frank Pavone, once held official positions on the 2020 Trump campaign’s pro-life and Catholic outreach before stepping down at the request of his “competent ecclesiastical authority.” Canon law prohibits clerics from having an active role in political parties, unless they receive the permission of their bishop.

Pavone has remained outspoken in his support for Trump’s re-election, and made a series of controversial comments on social media. 

On Sept. 17, the Diocese of Amarilo noted that Pavone, in videos posted online, had condemned the act of “voting for candidates of a particular political party” and had reportedly suggested he might refuse absolution if such votes were confessed without contrition.

According to the diocese, Pavone also used “scandalous words not becoming of a Catholic priest.”

“These postings are not consistent with Catholic Church Teachings,” the diocese said in its statement. “Please disregard them and pray for Father Pavone.”

Bishops routinely issue letters advising Catholics on how to form their consciences while refraining from backing individual candidates.

On Sept. 9, Bishop Alfred Schlert of Allentown, Pa., issued a pastoral letter saying that “While there is no initiative on the part of the Church to support one candidate over another, it is an indispensable obligation of bishops, priests, and deacons to inform the faithful about the hierarchy of issues that must be considered in conscience by every voting Catholic.”

“Hence, a Catholic voter is to approach the ballot box with the defense of innocent human life uppermost in his/her mind and conscience,” he wrote, adding that Catholic voters should consider whether their vote would constitute cooperation “with a candidate’s promotion of the grave sins of abortion and euthanasia.”

“Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” says that Catholics may vote for a candidate for political office who takes “unacceptable” positions on intrinsically evil acts; they may vote this way only “for truly grave moral reasons,” and “not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil.”

“A ‘well-formed conscience’ for the Catholic is one that has been formed under the guidance of the Holy Spirit through prayer, studying Scripture, and honestly informing oneself about the moral teachings of the Catholic Church,” Schlert said.