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Fr. Michael McGivney, ‘holy priest’ and Knights of Columbus founder, beatified

Hartford, Conn., Oct 31, 2020 / 12:30 pm (CNA).-  

Fr. Michael McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus, was beatified October 31, at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford, Connecticut. He will now be known as “Blessed Michael McGivney” and his feast day will be observed August 13 in the Archdiocese of Hartford.

Fr. McGivney was formally beatified through an apostolic letter from Pope Francis that was read on Saturday by Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, the appointed representative of Pope Francis. Tobin was the principal celebrant of the beatification Mass at Hartford’s cathedral.

“Fr. McGivney’s life is an illustration of how a holy priest can provide the necessary and intimate connection, so crucial in the life and mission of a parish,” Tobin said. He described McGivney as a priest who loved his flock, and was happy to see them work together as a community.

“The signature accomplishment for which he is remembered, founding the Knights of Columbus, grew out of his ministry as a parish priest,” Tobin added.

“This great brotherhood of 2 million now spanning the globe was born from the pastoral ingenuity of a parish priest to respond to the twin challenges faced by the people he served. Because he knew his people well, so well.”

“We accept that like him, God calls each one of us in our own day and our own way, to be vessels of mercy, and so, enter into our heavenly inheritance.”

Cardinals Sean O’Malley of Boston and Timothy Dolan of New York were cardinal concelebrators of the Mass. Several other archbishops and bishops, including representatives from the Ukrainian Catholic Church, were also present.

Pope Francis said that McGivney’s “zeal for the proclamation of the Gospel and generous concern for his brothers and sisters,” that “made him an outstanding witness of Christian solidarity and fraternal assistance.”

The pope concluded that the Connecticut priest “henceforth be given the title blessed.”  The letter was dated September 13, 2020.

The date selected for McGivney’s feast, August 13, is the day between his birth, which was August 12, 1852, and his death, which was August 14, 1890.

Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore read an English translation of the letter. McGivney was ordained a priest in the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s cathedral in 1877.

A tapestry of Father McGivney’s portrait was unveiled in the cathedral’s sanctuary immediately after the letter was read.

Before the letter was read, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson read a biographical letter of McGivney’s life, and detailed his earthly ministry.

After the portrait was unveiled, Michael “Mikey” McGivney Schachle, accompanied by his parents and many of his siblings, presented a monstrance containing a relic of McGivney to Cardinal Tobin. Mikey Schaecle’s live birth after a prenatal diagnosis of fetal hydrops, a rare, typically fatal, condition, was confirmed by the Vatican to be a miracle attributed to the intercession of Bl. McGivney.

Archbishop Leonard Blair of Hartford read a letter of thanks to Tobin for presiding over the beatification Mass, and requested that Tobin relay his thanks to Pope Francis.

“I believe that Fr. McGivney is truly Pope Francis’ kind of priest,” said Blair. “A model of his time of closeness to Christ Jesus on the peripheries of life and society.”

In his homily, Tobin said that early Christians, weary due to the demands of a Christian life, were consoled that there was a “cloud of witnesses who would give them courage to go on” and reminding them that their fidelity would be rewarded in heaven.  
 
“In his beautiful reflection on holiness Pope Francis dares to name some of those witnesses. Abraham, Sarah, Moses, gideon, and others,” said Tobin.

“Today, in the name of the Church, Pope Francis recognizes one more face among those witnesses: the serene and youthful countenance of Fr. Michael Joseph McGivney.”

Today, explained Tobin, is a celebration of the faithfulness of God to the body of His Son, the Church. He said that the beatification of McGivney coincided with “timely signs of God’s providential care that can speak in a personal way to each one of us, especially in this moment of our history.”

McGivney, said Tobin, was someone who “worked to keep families united in dignity, and security,” and took special care for members of his flock who were immigrants to the United States.

“We are in the presence of an apostle, who cared for victims of an epidemic, before he himself would die of the disease,” said Tobin. “We acknowledge gratefully the providence of God by confirming in the holiness of this witness by the miraculous cure of an unborn child, healed in utero of a fatal, multi-organ failure, after prayer by his family to Fr. McGivney.”

“We praise God for the timeliness of the celebration, because 130 years after his death, the brief life of this holy man speaks eloquently to our own path to holiness. We should listen to his testimony,” said Tobin.

While August 13 is the date of McGivney’s feast in the Archdiocese of Hartford, priests outside the archdiocese will be permitted to celebrate votive Masses for Knights of Columbus gatherings on this date with permission of their bishops.
 
Blair closed the Mass by thanking those who had assisted with the beatification process and the logistics of planning and broadcasting the Mass amid a pandemic. He requested that people pray daily for McGivney’s continued intercession in the world.
 
“First, that with Bl. Michael McGivney as our model, and with his intercession, that many more men will heed God’s call to serve as priests,” said Blair.
 
“And second, that at Bl.Michael McGivney’s intercession, we may be blessed with a further miracle leading to his canonization as a saint for the whole Church.”

 

What to do about Halloween? Catholic moms – and an exorcist – weigh in

Denver, Colo., Oct 31, 2020 / 04:08 am (CNA).- For years, Cecilia Cunningham and her husband took their children trick-or-treating in their then-suburban Philadelphia neighborhood.

“It was the kind of neighborhood outside of Philadelphia where everybody knew each other, and it was a really fun neighborhood thing,” Cunningham told CNA. “People were just out talking while kids were trick-or-treating, and it had been really nice up until that point.”

That point, Cunningham recalled, was in the early 1990s, when pop culture saw a resurgence of the character “Freddy Krueger,” a skinless serial killer who slashes and kills his victims with a razored glove and first appeared in the 1984 film “A Nightmare on Elm Street.”

Cunningham’s youngest at that point was a year and a half, “and she spent the entire night crying upstairs because of all these kids coming to our door; every other kid was Freddy Krueger.”

That year, Halloween seemed to have taken a sharp turn towards the sinister and the dark, Cunningham said.

And she wasn’t alone in her observations. Several moms from the neighborhood and her weekly rosary group had noticed the same thing. That next fall, as Halloween approached, they decided that instead of trick-or-treating, they would host an All Saints Day party at their parish, complete with a potluck, saint costumes, and tons of candy.

“We knew it would be really important (to have candy) for kids who had been trick or treating, and it was an absolute blast, it was really so much better than we expected,” Cunningham said.

As some Catholics see darker elements of some Halloween celebrations, parents like Cunningham often face similar dilemmas – what to do about Halloween?

The History of the holiday

The exact origins of Halloween and its traditions are somewhat muddled.

Some historians claim that Halloween is a “baptized” form of Samhain, an ancient Gaelic festival celebrating the harvest and marking the beginning of winter – the time of year when a significant portion of the population would often die.

Because of the fear of death that came with winter, celebrations of Samhain seemed to have included going door to door asking for treats dressed in costumes, which were thought to disguise the living from life-taking spirits.

The Catholic feast of All Saints Days traces its origins in the Church to the year 609, and it was first celebrated in May. However, in the 9th century, Pope Gregory IV moved the holiday to Nov. 1, so that Oct. 31 would become the celebration of the vigil of the feast – All Hallow’s Eve.

While some historians believe this move was made so the holiday could coincide with, and thus “baptize,” the holiday of Samhain, other historians believe that this may have been because the Germanic church was already celebrating All Saints Day on November 1, and the move had less to do with Samhain than previously thought.

An exorcist’s perspective

Father Vincent Lampert is a Vatican-trained exorcist and a parish priest of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis who travels the country, speaking about his work as an exorcist and what people can do to protect themselves against the demonic.

He said when deciding what to do about Halloween, it’s important for parents to remember the Christian origins of the holiday and to celebrate accordingly, rather than in a way that glorifies evil.

“Ultimately I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the kids putting on a costume, dressing up as a cowboy or Cinderella, and going through the neighborhood and asking for candy; that’s all good clean fun,” Fr. Lampert said.

Even a sheet with some holes cut in it as a ghost is fine, Fr. Lampert said.

The danger lies in costumes that deliberately glorify evil and instill fear in people, or when people pretend to have special powers or dabble in magic and witchcraft, even if they think it’s just for entertainment.

“In the book of Deuteronomy, in chapter 18, it talks about not trying to consult the spirits of the dead, not consulting those who dabble in magic and witchcraft and the like,” he said, “because it’s a violation of a Church commandment that people are putting other things ahead of their relationship with God.”

“And that would be the danger of Halloween that somehow God is lost in all of this, the religious connotation is lost and then people end up glorifying evil.”

It’s also important to remember that the devil and evil spirits do not actually have any additional authority on Halloween, Fr. Lampert said, and that it only seems that way.

“It’s because of what people are doing, not because of what the devil is doing. Perhaps by the way they’re celebrating that day, they’re actually inviting more evil into our lives,” he said.

One of the best things parents can do is to use Halloween as a teachable moment, Fr. Lampert said.

“A lot of children are out celebrating Halloween, perhaps evil is being glorified, but we’re not really sitting around and talking about why certain practices are not conducive with our Catholic faith and our Catholic identity. I think using it as a teachable moment would be a great thing to do.”

Trick-or-treating Catholics

Anne Auger, a Catholic mom of three from Helenville, Wisc., said that while she lets her kids dress up in costumes and go trick-or-treating, she’s found that she has to screen the houses as they go, avoiding ones that are decorated with scarier things.

“Last year we had this experience this person came to the door dressed like this demonic wolf with glowing eyes and it was like, what on earth?” she said.

“Sometimes people dress up like witches and I can understand that, but this was a whole new level. It’s just so different from when we were little.”

She also makes sure to emphasize to her children the significance of Halloween as it relates to All Saints Day, Auger said.

“We let them know that we’re having a party because it’s celebrating the saints in heaven, we’re celebrating them, so when they’re trick or treating and doing all of this we tell them it’s because it’s a party for all the saints.”

Kate Lesnefsky, a Catholic mother of seven children ranging from ages 3-16, said she thinks it’s important for Catholics not to shun Halloween completely, since it has very Christian origins.

“I think as Christians we’re so used to being against the world, that sometimes we shoot ourselves in the foot, even though it might have been something that actually came from us,” she said. “But then we lose the history of it, and we think, ‘Oh well this is the devil’s day,’ just because some people say it is.”

Lesnefsky said she lets her kids choose their costumes for trick-or-treating, as long as they’re not too scary or demonic. The next day, her children go to Mass for All Saints Day, and the family uses it as an opportunity to talk about what it means when someone passes away, and what it means to be a saint.

“I have a sister that died when I was 19, so we talk about different people that we know in heaven, or my grandparents, and we’ll talk about different saints,” Lesnefsky said.

And while haunted houses and horror movies are off-limits to her children, Lesnefsky said she thinks Halloween is an important time for Catholics to celebrate and be a witness in the culture.

“As Catholics it’s important that we don’t become fundamentalist Christians, I think that can be a detriment to our faith,” she said. “If we are negligent of knowing history, then we don’t even know about things that could be life-giving in our culture.”

 

This article was originally published Oct. 31, 2015.

Ahead of beatification, priests reflect on McGivney's priesthood, and the miracle he prayed for

New Haven, Conn., Oct 30, 2020 / 09:50 pm (CNA).-  

A prayer vigil for priests on the eve of the beatification of Ven. Michael McGivney took place Friday, October 30, at St. Mary's Church in New Haven, the parish where McGivney served as a priest and founded the Knights of Columbus in 1882.

The vigil featured reflections from the father of a boy whose miraculous healing has been attributed to McGivney’s prayers.

The prayer vigil was structured around three lessons: Fr. McGivney as a parish priest of action and courage; Fr. McGivney as a model of co-responsible leadership; and Fr. McGivney’s intercession. Each lesson featured a Bible reading, a story about McGivney’s ministry that related to the theme of the lesson, and a reflection.  

The first lesson included a passage of McGivney’s remarks from a Mass he celebrated for a condemned prisoner, Chip Smith. Smith had been sentenced to death for murdering a police police chief while in a drunken state, and McGivney met him while ministering to prisoners at the jail in New Haven. McGivney became Smith’s spiritual director, and was with him on the day of his execution.

McGivney’s prison ministry was just one of the ministries he undertook as a diocesan priest, said Msgr. Joseph Donnelly. Donnelly provided the reflection for the first lesson.

The life of a diocesan priest “is characterized largely by activity for the sake of the Kingdom of God in which God’s presence is undeniably real,” said Donnelly.

“It draws us to prayer. It calls us to conversion of heart. It strengthens us in holiness,” he said. “Moreover, it strengthens our experience of the bond we share with God and with those we are called to serve.”

“We belong to them, they belong to us, and together we belong to God,” he said. He asked the priests present if this sentiment sounded familiar, and asked if “our diocesan brother,” McGivney, would agree.

“As I have read and reflected upon the story of his very active life and pastoral ministry, I recognize in Father Michael McGivney’s experience as a parish priest a familiar kinship in serving this diocesan Church,” said Donnelly. He said in particular, two examples from McGivney’s life stood out as examples of how he lived out his vocation as a diocesan priest: the founding of the Knights of Columbus, and his dedication to Smith’s pastoral needs in prison.

The Knights of Columbus was founded as a fraternal and charitable organization initially to assist widows and orphans, many of whom were in McGivney’s own flock.

“Prayerful compassion was at the root of his pastoral response to organize a means of offering much needed support to such families in his parish and beyond,” said Donnelly. “With his
vision, skills, energy, and prayer he led the first Knights to establish this global fraternal service order.”

McGivney visited Smith in prison for over a year, and during that time Smith returned to the practice of the Catholic faith.

“As his trial and various legal procedures continued, his conversations with Father McGivney touched something deep in both of them,” said Donnelly. “They both appear to have been profoundly affected by their time together.”

“Who of us has not had similar pastoral relationships that had similar effect on us while at the same time offering us a deeper and richer insight into the meaning of our vocation as diocesan priests,” asked Donnelly. “It strikes me that Father McGivney poured out his life for those he served.”

 

Send in your prayer intentions that will be left at the tomb of #FrMcGivney

Do so here: https://t.co/iIlVpY5sBS pic.twitter.com/LOEoTRj21t

— Knights of Columbus (@KofC) October 30, 2020  

Fr. Gabriel O’Donnell, O.P., spoke about McGivney’s charity, noting that the priest cared for others with “unusual intensity and unstinting self-sacrifice.”

“The climactic expression of his priestly charity was the founding of the Knights of Columbus, a fraternal benevolent society entirely based on the virtue of charity,” said O’Donnell. “Charity among the members, brother to brother; charity within the Church in collaboration with the priest; finally, an unbounded charity towards all those in need, regardless of race or creed.”

O’Donnell said McGivney collaborated with lay Catholics in order to tackle the issues facing the Church at that time.

“This spirit of cooperation and a certain sense of equality between priest and layman must be considered a unique aspect of McGivney’s spirituality,” he said. “ He spoke of his fellow Knights as ‘friends’ and had an ability to treat them as such without diminishing the ‘apartness’ of his priestly consecration and identity.”

McGivney’s spirituality, said O’Donnell, was centered on “a reverence for the human person; the dignity of work; and the sacredness of marriage and family.”

Priests today can look to McGivney for an example of how to persevere through difficulty and a culture that is hostile to the Church, said O’Donnell. Now, more than ever, priests “need one another for encouragement and strength to cling to the high ideal of holiness in the midst of real life that so inspired Father McGivney.”

“As inheritors of McGivney’s wisdom we must never forget our need to collaborate with the lay faithful,” said O’Donnell. “They have much to teach us as they look to us for strong spiritual leadership.”

 

Thank you for everyone who joined the prayer vigil. Vivat Jesus! #FrMcGivney https://t.co/pDVcKmNCFq pic.twitter.com/RkucPqDopb

— Knights of Columbus (@KofC) October 31, 2020  

The third lesson of the night was unlike the others, as it featured not an excerpt from McGivney’s life on earth, but a testimony of his intercession from heaven.

Daniel Schachle, the father of Michael McGivney Schacle, discussed the miraculous intervention of McGivney in saving his unborn son in utero from a fatal condition.

When his wife Michelle found out that her 13th child not only had Down syndrome, but fetal hydrops--an uncommon, typically fatal condition where fluid builds up around the vital organs of an unborn child--she and her husband appealed to Fr. Michael McGivney for his prayers. 

The unborn Schachle was given “no hope” for survival due to the combination of fetal hydrops and Down syndrome, and the Schachles were told that continuing the pregnancy could harm Michelle. Out of desperation, and what Daniel described as his “agony in the garden” moment, the Schachles decided to ask their friends to pray for the intercession of McGivney.

In the meantime, Daniel explained, the family had won a trip through the Knights of Columbus to go to Fatima. While they did not tell many people on the trip about their need for a miracle, they continued to pray for McGivney’s intercession. Michelle had a sonogram done before leaving for Europe, which showed fetal hydrops.

After returning from Europe, Michelle had another ultrasound--this time, showing no fetal hydrops. The doctor who read the ultrasound, who was not Michelle’s regular doctor, was unaware that Michelle had previously been told her unborn child had “no hope,” and outlined the medical team that would assist with the birth.

“Michelle told her we were changing the name to Michael McGivney and why,” said Daniel. “The doctor was so happy as her dad was a knight.”

After extensive medical examination, the unexplained healing of Michael was decreed a miracle that arose through the intercession of Fr. McGivney. Pope Francis gave final approval to McGivney’s first miracle in May.

Schachle said his family was “humbled by this extra grace from heaven,” and how God is now using his son’s story to bless the Church with the beatification of McGivney. 

“Reverend Fathers, Our Founder is proof that one good priest can make a difference for the whole world,” said Schacle. “Thank you for being willing to follow in his footsteps. And like the lay men with whom he founded the Knights, count on my support and that of all the Knights, to continue to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a much-loved, but broken world.”

Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, reflecting on Schachle’s testimony, described McGivney as someone whose priestly ministry has a “surprisingly contemporary cast.”

“For that reason, we who are diocesan bishops and priests, as well as those who trying to live the Christian life and the ideals of the Knights of Columbus, can rightly claim Fr. McGivney as the parish priest of our souls,” said Lori.

“We can do so because he lived a life not unlike our own, but he also did so with extraordinary holiness, the kind of heroic virtue and holiness that lies within our reach.”

McGivney is set to be beatified on Saturday, in Hartford, and will be known as “Blessed Michael McGivney.” Beatification is the step before sainthood.

 

Brooklyn auxiliary bishop retires, remains as local pastor

CNA Staff, Oct 30, 2020 / 04:43 pm (CNA).- The Diocese of Brooklyn announced Friday the retirement of Octavio Cisneros from the office of auxiliary bishop. The Cuban-born bishop will remain in ministry as pastor at a local parish.

Cisneros had turned 75 in July. Diocesan bishops are required by canon law to submit their resignation to the pope upon reaching age 75. Pope Francis accepted Cisneros’ resignation Friday.

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn voiced gratitude for Cisneros.

“I am grateful to Bishop Cisneros for his willingness to serve and was honored to ordain him and consecrate him as an auxiliary Bishop on June 6, 2006,” said DiMarzio in a statement.

“He will remain as pastor at the Church of the Holy Child Jesus & St. Benedict Joseph Labre in Richmond Hill, Queens, and will continue to serve as Vicar for Hispanic Concerns. We thank Bishop Cisneros for his years of Diocesan leadership and are grateful he will continue to serve the Diocese in Brooklyn and Queens.”

In an Oct. 30 statement, Cisneros expressed his appreciation for the opportunity to serve as a bishop and for the dedication of Pope Francis to the clergy.

“I am most grateful to Pope Benedict and Bishop DiMarzio for giving me the fullness of the priesthood in 2006 so that I can help minister as auxiliary bishop, which has been rewarding and fulfilling for me,” he said.

“I am thankful to Pope Francis for his continued support of our bishops. He is an inspiration for all of us. I have lived a very happy priesthood in the Diocese of Brooklyn for 49 years and look forward to continuing my priestly ministry.”

Cisneros was born in 1945 in Las Villas, Cuba. During high school in 1961, he moved to the United States as part of Operation Peter Pan, an undercover Catholic program that brought 14,000 unaccompanied minors to the U.S. from Cuba as political refugees during the rise of Fidel Castro.

In 1971, he was ordained a priest in the Diocese of Brooklyn. He served at several local parishes before being appointed as the rector of Cathedral Seminary Residence in Douglaston and the Episcopal Vicar in the Brooklyn East Vicariate. Pope John Paul II named Cisneros a Prelate of Honor in 1988.

Cisneros worked with the Bishop’s Committee on the Liturgy and the Pastors' Advisory Committee, the Northeast Catholic Center for Hispanics, and the “Instituto Nacional Hispano de Liturgia.” He has served as the president of the Conference of Diocesan Directors for the Spanish Apostolate and on the board of governors for the Immaculate Conception Seminary.

On October 30, Cisneros celebrated a special Mass with the Cuban-American community at Our Lady of Sorrows parish. There, he presented a statue of Our Lady of Charity to Pastor Manuel de Jesús Rodríguez.

 

Despite concerns raised, New Zealand voters back assisted suicide

CNA Staff, Oct 30, 2020 / 04:21 pm (CNA).- A strong majority of New Zealand voters approved the legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia for the terminally ill Oct. 30. Foes of legalization said many voters appeared confused about the measure’s far-reaching effects and warned that the move will have consequences for the vulnerable.

The nationwide referendum passed with support from 65% of voters on Friday. It allows terminally ill persons who are believed to have six months or fewer to live to be euthanized or to take a lethal dose of prescribed drugs themselves, on the condition that two doctors agree the person is well-informed. Patients are eligible if they show significant, ongoing decline in physical ability and experience “unbearable suffering that cannot be eased.” The law will take effect Nov. 6, 2021.

Legalization opponent Euthanasia-Free NZ said some 80% of adult New Zealanders appeared to misunderstand the referendum. Only 20% knew the act would not make it legal to turn off life support machines. Such a practice is not illegal under current law.

“It seems that most New Zealanders voted for an end-of-life choice that is in fact already legal,” Renée Joubert, executive officer of Euthanasia-Free NZ, said Oct. 30.

Surveys indicated similar confusion about eligibility criteria. Only 29% knew that terminally ill people who have depression or another mental illness would be allowed to seek euthanasia. Only 13% of adults knew that the act does not require an independent witness.

The New Zealand law does not require a waiting period before a lethal dose is prescribed, nor does it require a competency test.

In November 2019 the New Zealand Parliament approved the bill, officially called “The End of Life Choice Bill,” by a vote of 69-51. The bill had the backing of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of the ruling New Zealand Labour Party and her main rival, Judith Collins of the center-right National Party, the New York Times reports. Voters had to approve the act in referendum in order for it to become law.

An earlier version of the bill would have allowed those with severe or incurable conditions who were not terminally ill to seek euthanasia or assisted suicide as well.

Joubert objected that parliament voted down more than 100 amendments that “could have made this law safer” and said the law lacks safeguards that have been standard in U.S. law.

“It’s disappointing that the New Zealand public were generally uninformed about the details of the End of Life Choice Act,” she said.

When New Zealand's National Party was governing the country, a parliamentary study on assisted suicide and euthanasia proposals concluded that “the public would be endangered” by legalization of the practices.

In 2017, the National Party-controlled Parliament's health committee said submissions on the proposal “cited concern for vulnerable people, such as the elderly and the disabled, those with mental illnesses, and those susceptible to coercion.”

“Others argued that life has an innate value and that introducing assisted dying and euthanasia would explicitly undermine that idea. To do so would suggest that some lives are worth more than others. There were also concerns that, once introduced, eligibility for assisted dying would rapidly expand well beyond what was first intended,” the committee said.

In 2018 the Catholic bishops of New Zealand published resources against assisted suicide legislation and encouraged Catholics to oppose legalization. The Nathaniel Centre, the New Zealand bishops-founded Catholic bioethics center, posted resources on Church teaching on euthanasia and assisted suicide to their website and social media pages ahead of the referendum.

Ahead of the election, the Nathaniel Centre said the act is “badly drafted and seriously flawed.”

“It will expose many New Zealanders to the risk of a premature death at a time when they are most vulnerable. Whatever one’s views about the idea of euthanasia, it is not compassion to vote for a dangerous law,” the center said. “The group most at risk if we legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide are those vulnerable to the suggestion they would be ‘better off dead’ – our elders, disabled people, and people with depression and mental illness who find themselves fitting the eligibility criteria.”

The center cited the Lawyers for Vulnerable New Zealanders, a group of over 200 lawyers, including some supporters of euthanasia, opposed the act on the grounds it is too broadly drafted, “dangerous,” and “broader in its scope and riskier than comparable laws overseas.”

Other opponents of the act included the New Zealand Medical Association, Hospice New Zealand, Palliative Care Nurses and Palliative Medicine Doctors.

David Seymour, the lawmaker who sponsored the act, praised its passage as “a great day,” the New York Times reports. In his view, the vote made New Zealand “a kinder, more compassionate, more humane society.”

Pope Francis has on multiple occasions spoken out against assisted suicide and euthanasia, both of which are “morally unacceptable” according to Church teaching. In 2016, Pope Francis told medical professionals that assisted suicide and euthanasia are part of the “throwaway culture” that offers people “false compassion” and treats human persons like a problem.

Euthanasia is legal in the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Canada and Colombia. Doctor-assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland. Some U.S. states have legalized assisted suicide.

Also on New Zealand's ballot was a proposal to legalize recreational marijuana use, allow adults age 20 and over to buy cannabis from licensed outlets, and allow adults to grow the plant at home. Advertising and smoking the drug in public would be banned. That proposal failed by a vote of 53% to 46%, according to preliminary results.

The country already has legalized medical marijuana.

Critics of the recreational use legalization warned that it would make the drug more accessible to children, Bloomberg News reports. They said cannabis is a serious drug harmful to mental health, especially among adolescents.

For their part, advocates said legalization would weaken the power of drug trafficking gangs, regulate quality and raise awareness of health risk through the use of warning labels. They said indigenous Maori people are disproportionately arrested and convicted for the drug.

Some figures suggest that New Zealanders are among the biggest users of marijuana in the world, with 80% having tried the drug by age 20 and 12% reporting use of the drug in the past year.

Pope Francis criticized drug use and legalization in a 2014 address to the International Drug Enforcement Conference in Rome.

“Let me state this in the clearest terms possible: the problem of drug use is not solved with drugs! Drug addiction is an evil, and with evil there can be no yielding or compromise,” the pope said. “To think that harm can be reduced by permitting drug addicts to use narcotics in no way resolves the problem. Attempts, however limited, to legalize so-called ‘recreational drugs’, are not only highly questionable from a legislative standpoint, but they fail to produce the desired effects.”

 

Catholic school in Michigan sues over mask mandate for elementary children

CNA Staff, Oct 30, 2020 / 02:01 pm (CNA).- A Catholic elementary school in Michigan is suing the state’s health department over a mandate that masks be worn continually during the school day, calling the requirement unnecessary, and harmful to its younger students.

Resurrection School in Lansing, along with two parents of children at the school, are suing Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon and several other public officials over an Oct. 9 mandate that students wear masks at school all day, even if their desks are spaced six feet apart in the classroom.

“In accordance with the teachings of the Catholic faith, Resurrection School believes that every human has dignity and is made in God’s image and likeness. Unfortunately, a mask shields our humanity. And because God created us in His image, we are masking that image,” the lawsuit, filed Oct. 22 in the Western District Court of Michigan, reads.

“Wearing a mask conveys the message that the wearer has surrendered his or her freedom to the government...a mask has become a symbol. And because a mask has become a political symbol, the wearing of a mask is a form of symbolic speech,” the plaintiffs argued.

“Consequently, via the mask mandates, Defendants are compelling Plaintiffs to engage in a form of expression and to convey a message with which they disagree.”

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has issued nearly 200 executive orders since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Her order mandating masks in the classroom for elementary school students, announced Sept. 25, was set to go into effect Oct. 5.

The state Supreme Court invalidated all of Whitmer’s executive orders Oct. 12, but the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services subsequently revived some, including the elementary school mask mandate, as emergency epidemic orders.

Father Steven Mattson, pastor of the parish church to which the school belongs, and principal Jacob Allstot, sent a letter Oct. 27 to school parents explaining the rationale for the lawsuit.

Resurrection has taken steps to space students’ desks six feet apart in the classroom and is taking measures to disinfect common areas and install UV lights and filtration systems in each room.

The school leaders argued that data from the state shows that young children are unlikely to carry and contract the virus. Mattson and Allstot noted that Michigan has documented 5,816 cases of COVID-19 associated with a school population, only 151 of which arose from preschools and elementary schools.

Resurrection serves students aged kindergarten through eighth grade. As of Oct. 20, Mattson and Allstot wrote, approximately 98% of documented COVID-19 cases associated with a school outbreak in Michigan occurred in children aged sixth grade through college.

Mattson and Allstot related the story of an anonymous kindergartener at Resurrection, who is shy and has a speech impediment. “Wearing a facial covering exacerbates her struggles with speech,” they said.

Students have been back at Resurrection School since August, and the school has not had any cases of coronavirus among students or staff since reopening, the letter reads.

The school has clarified that they are only "contesting masks for younger children when socially distanced in their own classrooms," and not for teachers, older students, or younger students when they are in mixed groups, Fox News reported.

Under an earlier executive order by Whitmer, elementary students didn’t have to wear masks while seated in class, only during transition periods. Whitmer’s later order and the MDHHS order made it mandatory for students to wear masks at all times while learning.

According to state data, no elementary schools in Michigan have experienced an outbreak of coronavirus with more than 10 people infected.

Philadelphia archbishop offers prayers, calls for peace after days of unrest

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 30, 2020 / 11:00 am (CNA).- Archbishop Nelson Perez of Philadelphia has offered prayers for the family of a man recently killed in a police shooting, and decried the violence which has broken out across the city following the incident. 

“In recent days, emotions have again flared and spilled into the streets in the City of Philadelphia as people collectively struggle with the tragic circumstances surrounding the death of Walter Wallace, Jr.,” said Perez in a statement provided to CNA on Friday, October 30. 

“I express my deepest and prayerful condolences to Mr. Wallace’s family, loved ones, and all of those seeking to cope with a variety of complex feelings at this time.” 

Wallace, a Black man, was shot and killed by police on October 26. At the time of his death, his family said he was experiencing a “psychological episode,” prompting his family to call for an ambulance. He was shot after police say he advanced towards them while carrying a knife. 

“Like many Philadelphians I have been watching the news with growing anxiety and sadness as civil unrest ensued again in our beloved City,” said Perez. 

“We must not allow the negative and destructive actions of a few to distract from issues and questions that need to be addressed. Violence in any form has no place in our hearts and deepens wounds rather than heals them,” he added. 

Since Wallace’s death, there have been incidents of violence and looting throughout the city of Philadelphia. Two men were arrested and charged with several felonies on Thursday after they were discovered with a van full of explosives. 

At least 11 ATMs have been stolen, and as of Thursday, more than 200 people have been arrested. At least 40 of those arrests were for burglary related to widespread looting on Wednesday night. 

The National Guard was brought into Philadelphia earlier this week, and the city was placed under a 9 p.m. curfew on Wednesday night. 

“May God bring peace to the City of Philadelphia,” said Perez. “May He fill our hearts with goodness so that we might see the Lord in all of our brothers and sisters and treat one another with charity, dignity, and respect.”

Biden touts ‘inspiration’ of Catholic faith, despite abortion and religious freedom positions

CNA Staff, Oct 30, 2020 / 10:30 am (CNA).- Democratic nominee for president Joe Biden said this week that his Catholic faith motivates his political career and underpins his plan for governing, but did not mention his support for abortion, his plan to end religious freedom protections for nuns, or his support for expansive new transgender laws, all of which have drawn criticism from U.S. bishops. 

Writing in The Christian Post Thursday, an essay from Biden, “The greatest commandment has guided my politics,” discussed the former vice president’s coping with family bereavement, his concept of public service, and his plans for serving as president. 

“These abiding principles – loving God and loving others – are at the very foundation of my faith,” said Biden. He wrote that throughout his 47 years in politics, “these values have kept me grounded in what matters most,” and are “the cornerstone upon which our family is built.”

Biden has made his Catholic faith a part of his campaign messaging in recent weeks, as the candidate tries to reach Catholic voters in swing states, whose votes could be crucial for either candidate in close states. 

Biden wrote Thursday that his “Catholic faith drilled into me a core truth – that every person on earth is equal in rights and dignity, because we are all beloved children of God.” 

“We are all created ‘imago Dei’ – beautifully, uniquely, in the image of God, with inherent worth,” said Biden.  

While he wrote that all people are created in the image of God, Biden did not discuss how this statement of belief relates to his support for abortion up to the point of birth, and for increased federal funding for abortion, both explicit platform commitments of his campaign.

The U.S. bishops have said that ending legal protection for abortion is the “preeminent priority” in politics because of the gravity of abortion. Pope Francis has argued that legal protection for the unborn is a necessary predicate to a just society, compared abortion doctors to hitmen, and the practice of abortion to Nazi-style eugenics.

The former vice president said that “as a country, we are facing numerous crises, including threats to the very idea of imago Dei,” and calling the election part of “a battle for the soul of the nation.” 

Biden added that he has been influenced by “faith leaders, organizations, and communities devoted to being our brother’s and sister’s keepers and working to ensure opportunity for all” throughout his career. 

“People of faith have been at the forefront of many of our country’s most important achievements for justice, equality, and peace,” he said. He added that he is “committed to partnering with congregations, faith-based organizations, and faith leaders,” to help them assist their communities.

Biden has said repeatedly that he would repeal religious freedom exemptions to the so-called contraceptive mandate, which had granted relief to Catholic organizations, including the Little Sisters of the Poor, who were compelled under the order to provide contraceptive and abortifacient drugs for their employees. 

Earlier this year, Biden called a Supreme Court ruling in favor of the sisters’ protections “disappointing” and promised to revoke their exemption once elected. 

On the same day the article in the Christian Post was published, Biden also reiterated his support for the Equality Act, which would create broad anti-discrimination protections for sexual orientation and “gender identity.” 

In March, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops said that “the Act’s definitions alone would remove women and girls from protected legal existence.” 

The bishops also warned that the Equality Act would harm free speech, conscience, and exercise of religion. It would require that homeless shelters place biological men with vulnerable women and adoption agencies place children with same-sex couples, even if this violates their beliefs and the birth mother’s wishes. 

The act would also require health professionals to provide “gender transition” treatments and surgeries in violation of their medical and ethical judgments, the bishops said.

As part of the legislation, the Equality Act would exempt itself and its enforcement from the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a move that the bishops called “unprecedented.”

Biden has promised to see the Equality Act passed in the first 100 days of his administration.

‘Let Michael be the miracle’ - The baby healed through Fr. McGivney’s prayers

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 30, 2020 / 10:20 am (CNA).- Fr. Michael McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus, will be beatified Oct. 31. This is the story of the miracle attributed to his prayers.

Catholics have a whole host of saints to choose from in times of trouble or anguish. There’s St. Rita, patroness of the impossible, St. Dymphna, the patroness of anxiety, and when all else fails, there’s always the patron of lost causes himself, St. Jude.

But when the Schachle family of Dickson, Tennessee, needed a saint - and a miracle - they went a different route.



When Michelle Schachle found out that her 13th child not only had Down syndrome, but fetal hydrops--an uncommon, typically fatal condition where fluid builds up around the vital organs of an unborn child--she and her husband appealed to Fr. Michael McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus, for help.

The unborn Schachle was given “no hope” - the combination of fetal hydrops and Down syndrome meant that he had no chance of survival.

“The doctor that ran the neonatal high risk clinic at Vanderbilt University told us that she had been doing this for 30 years and she had never seen a child survive the diagnosis,” Daniel, the baby’s father, told CNA. Michelle had already had one stillborn child, and she was overcome with fear at the thought that would happen again.

Asking Fr. McGivney for his intercession was a no-brainer for the Schachle family. Daniel works for the Knights of Columbus and had previously been Grand Knight of his local council. The Schachles even dubbed their homeschool the “Fr. McGivney Academy.”



“We’ve worn out his prayer card over the years,” said Daniel. When it came time to invoke some spiritual help during a crisis, there was no question about what they would do next.

“We knew that (Fr. McGivney) looked out over our family, and we looked to him a lot and asked him to pray for us, anyways. So it was more of a natural, I would say, flow,” said Daniel. Michelle concurred, telling CNA that McGivney had answered prayers “many times” for their family.

When they prayed for their unborn baby, Fr. McGivney came through again - in a big way. With hundreds of people praying for McGivney’s intervention for her child, and following a quick pilgrimage to Fatima with the Knights of Columbus, Michelle’s next ultrasound showed no sign of fetal hydrops.

Her doctor that day, initially unaware that her patient was the woman she had heard about - the woman with the terminally ill baby - began to discuss what they would do when the baby was born. Michelle was confused by that development.

“And so I just looked at her and I said, ‘Doctor, I was told there was no hope’,” she told CNA. She said learning her son would likely survive his birth sent her into “a lot of shock” and that the rest of that day was a blur.

One thing Michelle clearly remembers, however, is being asked by her doctor what she would name her baby. Until that day, she and her husband had planned to name the baby Benedict, and had been referring to him as “Baby Ben.” But when she heard that her child had been healed, Michelle knew he had to be named Michael, in honor of McGivney.

“I just remember weeping and saying, ‘His name is Michael,’” said Michelle. “And we never called him Ben after that.”

On May 27, 2020, Pope Francis confirmed what the Schachles already knew: they had witnessed a miracle. After extensive medical examination, the unexplained healing of Michael was decreed a miracle that arose through the intercession of Fr. McGivney.

As a result of that miracle, McGivney will be beatified, and referred to as Bl. Michael McGivney.

The Schachles told CNA it had crossed their minds that their prayer could lead to the miracle needed to advance Fr. McGivney’s cause for canonization, but that was not their specific goal in asking for his intercession.

“I remember praying the whole, the entire trip (to Fatima), ‘let Michael be the miracle,’ but like in my heart of hearts, that meant he would live,” Michelle explained to CNA. “And I never thought beyond him living...I only wanted him to live.”



Daniel told CNA that he remembered thinking, “There's gotta be a baby (who) survives this at some point. Why can't it be ours?” along with “You know, Fr. McGivney needs a miracle. Why can't it be Michael?”

During the investigation into Michael’s healing from fetal hydrops, the Schachles were repeatedly asked why they did not pray for Michael’s healing from Down syndrome as well. They explained that they viewed a child with Down syndrome as a “blessing” to their family, and that they were only concerned about him being born alive.

Despite the miraculous healing from fetal hydrops, the rest of Michelle’s pregnancy did not go entirely according to plan. She delivered her son in an emergency cesarean section after just 31 weeks gestation. Michael weighed only 3 pounds 4 ounces, and spent the first 10 weeks and one day of his life in the hospital.

Michael was born on May 15, 2015. They call him Mikey.

Even with Michael’s early arrival into the world, the hand of providence - and Fr. McGivney - was at work with the Schachle family.

Michael’s birthday, May 15, is the anniversary of the chartering of the first Knights of Columbus council. Michelle and McGivney have the same birthday. Both Michael and McGivney were born into families of 13 children - McGivney was the eldest, and Michael the youngest.

Michael was born with a heart defect commonly found in children with Down syndrome, and had heart surgery at just seven weeks old. He had another brush with death at six months old, when he came down with a respiratory illness that landed him in the hospital for six weeks.

But today, Michael is a happy and active five-year-old. He has no conditions related to his prematurity or fetal hydrops, and, by his family's account, he's thriving.



His parents told CNA that while their youngest “definitely knows he is special” and “knows that he is the king of the world,” he is not yet aware about the miraculous circumstances surrounding his birth. They say that Michael has strengthened their prayer lives, and has made a “big impression” on his doctors.

“There were times where (the doctors) were like, ‘We don't know what's going to happen and he's going to make it or not,’” Michelle said to CNA. “And I'm like, ‘I don't think you understand, God has big plans for this child.’” 

“When God shows up like that, it changes everything,” she said.

This report was first published in June, 2020.

 

Congressman urges vigilance on anniversary of anti-trafficking law

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 30, 2020 / 09:40 am (CNA).- Two decades after the enactment of a landmark anti-trafficking law, the threat has evolved during the current pandemic—and so too, must the response, says the congressman who wrote the law.

“We’ve got to make sure that there’s a continued prioritization of all the law enforcement—from the cop on the beat, to the prosecutors, to the U.S. attorneys—to make this a priority,” said Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), author of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000, in an interview with CNA.

Smith is also the special representative on human trafficking issues to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, an international body of legislators from 57 member states that promotes security through dialogue.

During the new coronavirus pandemic, he warned, children are more vulnerable than before to being trafficked, and survivors are at greater risk of being re-trafficked.

“In talking to the NGOs, the Catholic Church, others, they know that there has been a very serious increase—and law enforcement backs this up as well—in grooming of children online,” Smith said.

With children at home more often during lockdowns or partial lockdowns, predators try to contact them online. “That becomes a process of exploitation that ends with rape and other kinds of heinous activity,” Smith said.

“These people who do it know how to manipulate the mind of a child.”

Also as a result of the pandemic, trafficking survivors may have less access to the help they need if the operations of NGOs and charities are restricted because of public health orders, or a lack of donations. Shelters or employment programs might not be available. Jobs that once helped victims get back on their feet may not exist in the current economic climate.

“They’re very susceptible for being re-trafficked,” Smith said of survivors.

Smith authored the TVPA, which was signed into law 20 years ago on Oct. 28. Although the Mann Act had prohibited prostitution and unlawful sexual behavior across state or country borders, there were “no prosecutions whatsoever” for human trafficking at the time before the TVPA, Smith said.

The public was also not fully aware of the scope of the problem. Smith recalled talking to U.S. attorneys about trafficking, but they would think he was referring to drug trafficking.  

Some people thought the issue of sex trafficking to be just a “vice,” without considering the abuses inflicted upon women and children. There was a “very antagonistic view toward prostitutes and prostitution,” Smith said, “not realizing, I believe, that so many of those women are coerced into that profession.”

His law not only beefed up prosecution of traffickers—establishing punitive sentences up to life imprisonment, and asset confiscation—but effected a “sea change” in how trafficking victims were treated under the law, he said.

Under the TVPA, minors with at least one commercial sex act were considered sex trafficking victims and could not be prosecuted. If “force, fraud, or coercion” against an adult were established in a trafficking case, those adult victims could not be prosecuted either.

Furthermore, the law had a comprehensive approach to fighting trafficking. It both punished perpetrators, and set up what Smith calls a “whole-of-government” strategy including funding protection for victims, and prevention programs.

It reauthorized the Violence Against Woman Act, for instance, and doubled funding under the law for women’s shelters, rehab programs, and housing and other initiatives for battered and abused women. It set up a national hotline for victims to report and get connected to help, and created a whole new asylum category, the “T Visa,” for trafficking survivors to come to the U.S. temporarily.

With trafficking occurring across international borders, the TVPA established an office at the State Department for monitoring other countries’ records on fighting trafficking, and holding them accountable.

In the 20 years since the law’s enactment, there have been thousands of trafficking prosecutions—including some recent notable ones.

Charges made in 2019 against investment banker Jeffrey Epstein were under Smith’s TVPA. “Smallville” actress Allison Mack and NXIVM’s Keith Raniere were charged under the TVPA for running a sex trafficking ring.

“We could always do better, no doubt about it,” Smith said of increasing prosecutions, “but the key is a serious and sustained effort to, wherever there is a pimp that’s cruelly mistreating a woman, we go after him. And we stop him. And we put him behind bars for a very, very long periods of time.”

On Oct. 27, Raniere was sentenced to 120 years in prison for sex trafficking and racketeering.

The next day, deputy attorney general Jeffrey Rosen looked back on the enactment of the TVPA on its 20th anniversary.

“It is important to look back at the coordinated efforts that produced the TVPA,” he said, “a collaboration of survivors, civil society advocates from faith-based groups and across the political spectrum, and policymakers.”

That collaboration, Smith told CNA, was critical in the fight against trafficking the past two decades. Federal agencies have come together with leaders of faith communities and NGOs, and local and state prosecutors and law enforcement “to all get on the same page for combatting this.”

“That approach, I think, still is a good one,” he said.