5/24/2013 7:04:00 PM
Denver, Colo., May 24, 2013 / 05:04 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The lawyer representing Hobby Lobby and its Christian owners in a lawsuit challenging the federal contraception mandate is heartened following the case's hearing before a federal appeals court.
“We were encouraged by it; we were able to make our points forcefully, and we felt the judges heard what were were saying,” Kyle Duncan, general counsel with The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, told CNA May 24.
The arts and crafts retailer is one of well over 100 plaintiffs challenging a mandate issued by the Department of Health and Human Services requiring that employers provide insurance coverage for contraception, including abortion-inducing drugs and sterilizations.
On May 23, Duncan argued Hobby Lobby's case before the full eight-member panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. Such cases are usually heard by only three judges of an appellate court.
“The mere fact we were standing there before the entire 10th Circuit Court of Appeals is encouraging in and of itself... it's a really extraordinary thing,” he explained.
Duncan said it is a “fair inference” to believe the court granted a hearing with the full panel because “they wanted to bring all the resource of the court to bear, to make sure that everyone understood – including the Supreme Court – that they were giving this very careful consideration.”
Hobby Lobby is a for-profit business run by the the Green family, who are Christians and who exercise their faith through their business. They object to providing “earmarked gift certificates” for emergency contraceptives, which can induce abortions within the first week after sexual intercourse.
Both the Greens themselves, and Hobby Lobby, have brought the suit against the HHS secretary, and the oral arguments made May 23 focused on the Greens' 'standing,' or right to bring the suit.
They argue that their first amendment right to free exercise of religion is “substantially burdened” by the contraception mandate, as are their rights under the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Nearly 200 plaintiffs have filed lawsuits across the country, challenging the mandate on grounds of religious liberty.
The Greens run their business through a trust, by which they “bound themselves to have religious goals” in the corporation's work.
Much of the arguments focused on the exercise of religion in the public and commercial spheres, and when a judge asked if you can have it “both ways” – having both religious and commercial interests – Duncan replied that “it's not having it 'both ways,' it's 'both/and,'” and that religious goals are not inconsistent with business goals.
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act requires that the government have a “compelling interest” in restricting religious liberty, because it is regarded as so important and fundamental in American law.
Duncan argued that the government does not have a “compelling interest” in forcing Hobby Lobby to give its employees coverage for abortifacient drugs because “it has already granted exemptions from that portion of the mandate to many religious employers.”
“If the government really believed” that every woman must have insurance coverage for contraceptives, Duncan told CNA, then “it would make the mandate across the board – it would apply to everybody.
“And it doesn't apply to everybody. There are tens of millions of people who are exempted from this.”
During the arguments, Duncan explained to the court that Hobby Lobby's coverage of emergency contraceptives is not “indispensable” precisely because the HHS department has already exempted the employers of 87 million people from providing that very coverage.
The federal government has exempted churches from being subject to the mandate, as well as providing an “accommodation” to certain non-profit religious employers.
The federal government's lawyer, Alisa Klein, responded in the oral arguments that religious exercise under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act should be applied to “churches and spiritual leaders, as a paradigm” and that only “some types of entities” have free exercise of religion.
Extending such rights to for-profit businesses and their owners would “go towards” establishing a national church and would allow churches to “extend their influence” and “branch into for-profit entities,” according to Klein.
She characterized the Greens' claims as pitting their rights against the rights of their employees, saying that employees would be harmed if their employer did not pay for their emergency contraception.
Duncan told CNA that “the idea that Hobby Lobby is oppressing its employees or denying them a significant amount of benefits really doesn't measure up to the facts. Let's remember, Hobby Lobby provides generous wages well above the minimum wage, and generous benefits to its employees.”
“Hobby Lobby isn't violating the rights of its employees. Its employees are perfectly free to buy and use these drugs, even to use the generous wages Hobby Lobby gave them, to buy the drugs, so we think the government has the rights question really quite backwards,” he said.
He noted that the coverage the Greens refuse to pay for is “a very very small number of drugs,” within its “otherwise extraordinarily generous comprehensive health benefits.”
One of the judges made a similar point during the oral arguments, emphasizing the importance of religious liberty.
When Klein had acknowledged that the corporation provides wide-ranging insurance benefits to its employees, the judged asked her rhetorically, “So if you add an objectionable mandate to a lot (of mandates) that are okay, it's not a burden?”
Duncan noted that among the judges, there were some both friendly and hostile to both sides, but that “it's not easy” and can even be “dangerous” to “try and predict the outcome of oral arguments.”
While speaking to reporters outside the court room following the arguments, he said the court's decision will likely be handed down sometime in July.
“We'll just have to wait and see,” he reflected.
5/24/2013 4:19:00 PM
Vatican City, May 24, 2013 / 02:19 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- According to an Italian bishop, Benedict XVI is concluding work on what was to have been his encyclical on faith, and Pope Francis will be writing an encyclical on poverty.
“Benedict XVI is finishing writing the encyclical on faith which will be signed by Pope Francis. Following this, he himself will prepare his first encyclical on the poor: Beati pauperes,” Bishop Luigi Martella of the Molfetta-Ruvo-Giovinazzo-Terlizzi diocese wrote May 23 on his diocesan website.
“Beati pauperes” is Latin for “Blessed are the poor,” and Bishop Martella added that it is to be about poverty “understood not in an ideological and political sense, but in the sense of the Gospel.”
Bishop Martella learned of these developments from Pope Francis earlier this month, while meeting with him. The bishops of the Italian region of Puglia travelled to Rome for their “ad limina” meeting with the Roman Pontiff from May 13 to 16.
The Bishop of Rome “wished to make a confidence, almost a revelation,” to the Puglian episcopacy, Bishop Martella wrote, in telling them of the encyclicals.
In April, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi had said he “would not exclude” the possibility of Pope Francis issuing his first encyclical “within this year.”
Benedict's had been preparing an encyclical on the virtue of faith when he announced his abdication on Feb. 11.
The following day, Fr. Lombardi said it “remains an awaited document, but one that we will not have in the way we expected, perhaps we will have it in a different way.”
Should Pope Francis promulgate Benedict's faith encyclical, it would not be the first time that one Pope has signed off on the work of another. It is reported that “Deus Caritas est,” Benedict's first encyclical, was based on unfinished writings of John Paul II.
In October, a high-ranking curial official told “Vatican Insider” that the text, even unfinished, “is beautiful. Benedict XVI manages to express even the most complex and very deep truths using simple language which has a widespread reach that goes beyond all imagination.”
The initial intention of the encyclical on faith was to form a trilogy with two of Benedict's other encyclicals on the theological virtues, “Spe salvi” and “Deus Caritas est.”
Before Benedict's decision to abdicate his role as Bishop of Rome, a Vatican official said “we expect it will be published during the Year of Faith.”
In his revelatory post on his diocesan website, Bishop Martella discussed the general topics touched on at the Puglian ad limina. He called Pope Francis an “extraordinary man” of “disarming simplicity.”
The Roman Pontiff spoke of his predecessor with “great kindness,” saying Benedict is “doing much better now,” after looking rather exhausted during their first meeting at Castelgandolfo, shortly after Pope Francis' election.
During ad liminas, bishops relate to the Roman Bishop the situation in their dioceses. Bishop Martella says he stressed to Pope Francis the goodness of the people of Molfetta, and that the area is “a land of welcome and of immigration.”
“I spontaneously told him: 'Your Holiness, visit Molfetta, we would be very happy,'” Bishop Martella wrote. “In response I got a beautiful smile, and I realized that the request was premature.”
5/24/2013 3:02:00 PM
Philadelphia, Pa., May 24, 2013 / 01:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia says Americans need to awaken to threats against religious freedom given the new revelations about IRS targeting of religious groups and the continued burdens of the HHS mandate.
“The day when Americans could take the Founders’ understanding of religious freedom as a given is over. We need to wake up,” Archbishop Chaput said in his May 24th column for CatholicPhilly.com.
“Selective IRS pressure on religious individuals and organizations has drawn very little media attention. Nor should we expect any, any time soon,” he said.
“But the latest IRS ugliness is a hint of the treatment disfavored religious groups may face in the future, if we sleep through the national discussion of religious liberty now.”
Although the IRS controversy initially focused on allegations the agency selectively targeted conservative-leaning “tea party” groups with burdensome demands, more incidents against other groups and individuals have been brought to light.
Anne Hendershott, a Catholic professor and writer, has said her Internal Revenue Service audit focused on her writings critical of President Obama and the 2010 health care legislation. She said the audit discouraged her from criticizing the president.
The IRS asked pro-life groups to provide large amounts of paperwork. The agency asked the groups to promise not to protest Planned parenthood or to say whether they planned to educate the public about both sides of the abortion issue. An IRS employee in 2012 allegedly leaked a confidential donor’s list from the National Organization for Marriage to the Human Rights Campaign, a backer of “gay marriage” whose president was named national co-chair of the Obama campaign.
Archbishop Chaput said the mandate from the Department of Health and Human Services similarly pressures religious groups.
Although the Catholic bishops have long supported access to adequate health care coverage, he said, “health care has now morphed into a religious liberty issue provoked entirely – and needlessly — by the current White House.”
He said the Obama administration, despite “a few small concessions,” refuses to withdraw or “reasonably modify” the mandate requiring insurance coverage for sterilizations, contraceptives and abortifacient drugs. Archbishop Chaput said the mandate “violates the moral and religious convictions of many individuals, private employers and religiously affiliated and inspired organizations.”
He said the mandate “can only be understood as a form of coercion.”
“Access to inexpensive contraception is a problem nowhere in the United States,” the archbishop said. “The mandate is thus an ideological statement; the imposition of a preferential option for infertility. And if millions of Americans disagree with it on principle – too bad.”
He said that these controversies show that the debate on issues of sexual morality needs “a parallel and vigorous defense of religious freedom.”
The U.S. bishops’ conference will hold another Fortnight for Freedom from June 21-July 4. Like last year, it will feature public rallies, prayer vigils and Masses for the defense of religious freedom.
5/24/2013 11:50:00 AM
Vatican City, May 24, 2013 / 09:50 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis counseled the Italian bishops to avoid becoming lukewarm by remaining vigilant in their love for God, as he reflected on Jesus asking Peter if he loved him.
“The question is addressed to me and to each one of you, to all of us,” the Pope told them on May 23, as they listened to his meditation on John 21 inside Saint Peter’s Basilica.
“If we avoid reacting too hastily and superficially, it encourages us to look within, to enter into ourselves,” he stated.
The pontiff warned that a “lack of vigilance … makes the pastor lukewarm” and he “runs the risk, like the Apostle Peter, of denying the Lord, even if he is present to us and speaks in his name.”
“He becomes distracted, forgetful and even impatient,” the Pope said.
A careless priest can become seduced by “the prospect of a career, the lure of money, and compromises with the spirit of the world,” he added.
The lack of attentiveness “makes him lazy, turning him into a functionary, a cleric worried more about himself, about organizations and structures, than about the true good of the People of God,” he told the bishops.
The Italian bishops were gathered in Rome to hold their 65th general assembly. Their meeting culminated in a Thursday evening prayer service that included a Liturgy of the Word, a reflection from Pope Francis, and a solemn profession of faith that he led.
The ceremony began with Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, the President of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, delivering opening remarks and offering his thanks to the Pope.
After the Liturgy of the Word, Pope Francis offered a brief meditation on the Bible passages that were read, including John 21, where Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves him.
Turning to Jesus response to Peter – “feed my sheep” – Pope Francis said that being pastors means “walking in front of the flock, freed from the burdens that hinder a healthy apostolic swiftness, and without hesitation in leading, to make our voice recognizable both to those who have embraced the faith, but also to those who are not of this fold.”
And it also means to be “capable of listening to the silent story of the suffering and bearing up the steps of those who are afraid of not succeeding,” the Holy Father reflected.
He said that they should do this “to raise up, to reassure, and inspire hope” and encouraged them to share their faith with “the humble” and particularly with priests, whom he called “our sons and our brothers.”
“A special place is reserved for our priests,” advised the Pope. “Especially for them, our hearts, our hands, and our doors remain open at all times.”
“They are the first faithful we bishops have, our priests,” he added. “Let us love them, let us love them from the heart!”
The bishops and Pope Francis closed their encounter by making a solemn profession of faith in front of St. Peter’s tomb.
“The profession of faith that we now renew together is not a formal act, but is a renewal of our response to the ‘follow me’ with which the Gospel of John concludes,” the pontiff said.
“Allow your own life to unfold according to the project of God, committing your whole self to the Lord Jesus,” he remarked.
According to Pope Francis, the consequence of loving the Lord is “giving absolutely everything, even one’s very life.”
“This is what must distinguish our pastoral ministry, it is the litmus test that shows how profoundly we have embraced the gift received in response to the call of Jesus, and how we are joined to the people and the communities that have been entrusted to us,” he said.
5/24/2013 11:00:00 AM
Rome, Italy, May 24, 2013 / 09:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- One of the oldest movements in the Church will be celebrating its 100th anniversary next year, but on Wednesday its members received an early gift when they learned that the chapel where it all started was being given to them.
Father Andrew Pastore, the movement’s communications officer, explained in a May 23 interview with CNA that the Pallottine Fathers announced during their provincial assembly that “they’re actually going to give the shrine to the Schönstatt Movement as a gift for this great jubilee year in the hope that we can together move forward.”
The provincial superior of the movement, Father Theo Breitinger, added in a May 22 statement that the community received the “surprising” news with “great joy” and that the gift shows the Pallottine’s “good will.”
The movement first began on Oct. 18, 1914, when Pallottine Father Joseph Kentenich lead a group of his students in dedicating themselves to Mary in the small chapel that had served as a garden tool shed before they refurbished it.
“You can imagine 1914 was the outbreak of the First World War. Father Kentenich was looking for ways to ground these people in faith and to give them a strength that they needed to take on the challenges of the transforming world around them,” Fr. Pastore said.
“There weren’t many people in the little chapel, there was Father Kentenich and a few of the boys who were around the age of 14 to 16,” he explained.
“Fr. Kentenich just very tentatively said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if Our Lady would take up her throne here and from this little place she could work throughout the course of history, the course of time, the course of the world.”
With the transfer of the original chapel, both the Pallottines and the Schönstatt movement hope that “the things that have happened in these last 100 years can happen in the 100 years to come.”
The historical interaction has not been without its difficulties, though, as is often the case with new movements that are born from a pre-existing community.
In 1964 the Schönstatt movement and Fr. Kentenich parted ways with the Pallottine Fathers, but the small chapel remained in the hands of the religious order, which provided for the pastoral needs of those who came to the shrine.
Fast-forward 50 years and the movement is present all over the globe and is gearing up to celebrate its 100th anniversary, with activities planned in Schönstatt and Rome.
The organizers expect around 15,000 pilgrims from 48 countries to attend the Oct. 16-19, 2014 festivities at the shrine in Schönstatt, which will also include a Mass with Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko.
Fr. Pastore explained the importance of also holding a celebration in Rome by quoting from the words inscribed on their founder’s coffin: “Delexit Ecclesiam” (He loved the Church).
The gathering in the Eternal City will take place between Oct. 23-26 next year, and will feature a pilgrimage on foot from the Basilica of St. Mary Major to St. Peter’s Basilica, visits to the shrines run by the movement, and a possible meeting with Pope Francis.
During the meetings the movement will also focus on five areas in the culture that it is working to proclaim the message that “Mary bears Christ as the answer to the burning questions of the age.”
Those areas are: marriage and family life, working with youth, education, integrating its charism into diocesan life, and renewing society.
To learn more about the Schönstatt Movement and its celebrations, please visit: http://www.schönstatt.org.
5/24/2013 6:04:00 AM
Calgary, Canada, May 24, 2013 / 04:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A pro-life group in Canada is renewing its efforts to ignite discussion and conversion in their country by calling out major politicians who support abortion.
“We very much want to change public opinion so that we can change public policy,” Stephanie Gray of the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform told CNA May 21.
The campaign called “Face the Children” consists of postcards featuring images of some of Canada’s most powerful politicians alongside graphic pictures of aborted children.
“Our experience has been that when people see the pictures it does change their minds,” Gray explained.
With a team made up of volunteers, summer interns and staffers, the organization has been scouring neighborhoods with the postcards and distributing them door-to-door.
“We’ve seen a range of reactions,” Gray said. While some recipients have called their office with words of encouragement and suggesting that they target more pro-choice politicians, others have been angry and upset.
“The point we make is that the images are disturbing,” Gray said, “but what’s more disturbing is that the picture of the politician next to the image has failed the children.”
“If we just had leaders who would implement laws to protect the pre-born, then these images wouldn’t have to be circulated,” she added.
So far, the group has revealed two of the five politicians they will be highlighting throughout the summer.
In the first round of postcards, a smiling picture of the Prime Minister is shown next to a baby girl aborted at six months with text that reads “Stephen Harper won’t ban this.”
The second postcard the group began distributing just this week features Michelle Rempel, Member of Parliament of Calgary Centre North, alongside a baby aborted at six months with the words “One of
Canada’s most powerful women failed Canada’s most powerless children.”
Each round of the campaign, which will run for five weeks, distributes 50,000 postcards in each politicians riding – or constituency – amounting to a total of 250,000 postcards circulating throughout Canada.
“So, if you think just that on average, say two people see a postcard, that’s basically half a million people that will be targeted with the pro-life message in four months,” Gray said.
Just as the murder trial of Kermitt Gosnell – the late-term abortionist who was convicted of first-degree murder for three babies who survived botched abortions and third-degree murder of one mother – has brought the images of abortion to the public eye in the United State, so too will this campaign in Canada.
“We need to bring what’s in darkness into light because if it remains in the dark, it will carry on,” she said, “but if it comes into the light those with functioning consciences will respond accordingly.”
This is not the first campaign featuring graphic images that the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform has conducted.
The group frequently gathers outside of high schools with poster board-sized images of aborted babies and engages in conversation about what abortion actually is.