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Amy Coney Barrett pledges 'humility' and 'service' after SCOTUS nomination

Washington D.C., Sep 26, 2020 / 04:30 pm (CNA).- Judge Amy Coney Barrett pledged to serve all Americans with impartiality if confirmed to the Supreme Court, following her nomination by President Donald Trump on Saturday.

Speaking in the White House Rose Garden on Sept. 26, Barrett said she was “deeply honored by the confidence” placed in her by the president. “I love the United States, and I love the United States Constitution,” she said.

If confirmed by the Senate, Barrett, a Catholic, said she “will be mindful of who came before me.”

“The flag of the United States is still flying at half-staff in memory of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, to mark the end of a great American life,” she said.

“Justice Ginsburg began her career at a time when women were not welcome in the legal profession, but she not only broke glass ceilings, she smashed them. For that, she has won the admiration of women across the country and indeed the world.”

Barrett paid tribute to her potential predecessor as “a woman of enormous talent and consequence and her life of public service is an example to us all,” as well as to her own legal mentor and past Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, for whom she clerked.

The close friendship between Scalia and Ginsburg, Barrett said, is “particularly poignant to me.”

“Justices Scalia and Ginsburg disagreed fiercely in print, without rancor in person,” she said.

“Their ability to maintain a warm and rich friendship despite their differences even inspired an opera. These two great Americans demonstrated that arguments, even about matters of great consequence, need not destroy affection.”

“In both my personal and professional relationships, I strive to meet that standard.”

Barrett affirmed of Scalia that “his judicial philosophy is mine too: a judge must apply the law as written,” she said. “Judges are not policy makers, and they must be resolute in setting aside any policy views they might hold.”

In his introductory remarks in the White House Rose Garden on Saturday, President Trump noted that Barrett, if confirmed, would be the first female Supreme Court justice with school-aged children.

Barrett, a mother of seven, also paid a warm tribute to her family, noting that, if confirmed she would be the ninth justice on the court. “As it happens, I am used to being in a group of nine,” she observed.

“Our children obviously make our life very full,” she said. “While I am a judge, I am better known back home as a room-parent, carpool-driver, and birthday-party planner,” Barrett said.

“Our children are my greatest joy, even though they deprive me of any reasonable amount of sleep,” she said, while praising the “unwavering support” of her husband, Jesse Barrett, also a successful lawyer, who “does far more than his share of the work.”

“It is important, at a moment like this, to acknowledge family and friends,” Barrett said. “But this evening I also want to acknowledge you my fellow Americans. The president has nominated me to serve on the United States Supreme Court. And that institution belongs to all of us.”

“If confirmed, I would not assume that role for the sake of those in my own circle and certainly not for my own sake. I would assume this role to serve you. I would discharge the judicial oath, which requires me to administer justice without respect to persons, do[ing] equal right to the poor and rich.”

In presenting his third nomination to the Supreme Court, President Trump recommended Barrett as “a woman of unparalleled achievement, towering intellect, sterling credentials and unyielding loyalty to the constitution,” and “eminently qualified” for service on the nation’s highest court.

Republican leaders have indicated that they will move quickly to schedule confirmation hearings before the Senate judiciary committee and bring Barrett’s nomination to a full vote.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said earlier this week that “the Senate will vote on this nomination this year,” but has not specified if he expects the vote to occur before or after the November election.

The president thanked members of the Senate present at the presentation on Saturday for their “commitment to providing a fair and timely hearing” for the nomination.

Barrett currently serves on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, a position to which Trump nominated her in 2017.

Noting that she received “bipartisan support” in her 2017 confirmation vote, the president said her “qualifications are unsurpassed, and her record is beyond reproach,” and that there should be a “straightforward and prompt” confirmation process.

“It should be very easy,” Trump said, “good luck.”

Speaking after Trump, Barrett said she “looked forward” to working with members of the Senate during the confirmation process.

“I will do my very best to demonstrate that I am worthy of your support,” she said

Barrett also said that she had “no illusions that the road ahead of me will be easy, either for the short term or the long haul.”

“I never imagined that I would find myself in this position, but now that I am,” she said, “I assure that I will meet the challenge with both humility and courage."

Day of prayer planned for 357 religious dead from COVID-19 in Spain

CNA Staff, Sep 26, 2020 / 04:23 pm (CNA).- The Spanish Conference of Religious (CONFER) has announced that September 29 will be observed as a day of prayer for the 357 religious who have died from the novel coronavirus during the pandemic in Spain.

The conference invited religious communities to participate in the day of prayer, which falls on the Feast of Holy Archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael.

These religious men and women, the conference stated, “have been faithful to the end of their days…And so, amid the pain of their loss, we are grateful for their witness until the end!”

According to statistics from CONFER 357 religious from 73 religious congregations have died from COVID-19, as of September 25. The conference noted that they continue to receive data daily.

“The best way to honor our deceased is to dedicate one day this September to their memory,” CONFER said.

All religious communities are invited on September 29 “during their morning prayer, their Eucharist together, and in their afternoon prayer, to commemorate them all, naming them during a moment of prayer.”

The conference proposed putting “a sheet of paper on the altar with the names of each person” and suggested that communities give “thanks to God for their witness, their fidelity, their perseverance in adversity and their decision to follow God's call until the end of their days.”

CONFER also suggested the congregations share that moment of prayer on social media so it can become “a small tribute to our brothers and sisters who departed but who are still very present among us in remembering them and their experience of the faith and the charism that they enriched.”

Trump nominates Amy Coney Barrett to Supreme Court

Washington D.C., Sep 26, 2020 / 03:25 pm (CNA).- President Donald Trump officially presented Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his nominee to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court on Saturday, following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last week.

Trump presented Judge Barrett, a Catholic, September 26, at a press conference in the White House Rose Garden shortly after 5pm. 

Presenting Barrett, Trump said the nomination of a Supreme Court justice is one of his “most important duties” as president.

“This is my third such nomination,” Trump said, “and it is a very proud moment indeed.”

“Today it my honor to nominate one of our nation’s most brilliant and gifted legal minds,” Trump said, paying tribute to Barrett as “a woman of unparalleled achievement, towering intellect, sterling credentials and unyielding loyalty to the constitution,” and “eminently qualified” for service on the nation’s highest court.

Speaking after the president, Barrett said she was “deeply honored” at by the nomination and called the moment a “rather overwhelming occasion.”

“I pledge to discharge the responsibilities of this job to the very best of my abilities,” she promised. “I am truly humbled by the prospect of serving on the Supreme Court.”

Trump also paid Trump paid tribute to Justice Ginsburg, saying “the nation mourned the loss” of a “legal giant and a pioneer for women.”

Barrett also paid tribute to Ginsburg in her own remarks, noting that the Justice “began her career at time when women were not welcome in the legal profession,” and “smashed glass ceilings” to lead a life of “enormous talent and consequence.”

The judge was presented by the president Saturday evening, where she was joined by members of her family as well as colleagues from the law school at the University of Notre Dame.

Barrett, 48, currently serves on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, a position to which Trump nominated her in 2017. 

It is now expected that the Senate judiciary committee will schedule hearings ahead of a vote on the Senate floor. Republican leaders have indicated that they will move quickly to schedule confirmation hearings before the judiciary committee and bring Barrett’s nomination to a full vote.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said earlier this week that “the Senate will vote on this nomination this year,” but has not specified if he expects the vote to occur before or after the November election.

Born in New Orleans, the eldest of seven children, Barrett graduated from Rhodes College before receiving a full scholarship to Notre Dame Law School where she graduated first in her class. 

Barrett went on to clerk for Judge Laurence Silberman and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, before going into private practice. She returned to Notre Dame Law School and taught classes in 2002 before becoming a professor in 2010. 

Barrett’s selection was widely anticipated, with many media outlets touting her as the leading candidate for the nomination. She has already faced concerted media scrutiny and criticism for her Catholic faith. 

During her 2017 nomination hearing, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) questioned her on her personal faith and values, saying that “when you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you. And that’s of concern.”

Barrett and her husband have seven children, including two adopted from Haiti. In a 2019 interview at a Notre Dame alumni event in Washington, DC, Barrett said that raising children is “where you have your greatest impact on the world” and that she could imagine no greater thing. In anticipation of her nomination, in recent days media criticism has also turned to the size of the judge’s family

During Barrett’s confirmation hearings, questions were also raised about Barrett’s association with the lay organization People of Praise. 

People of Praise has been referred to in the media as a “cult,” and criticized for a practice, which has since been changed, that called leaders “heads” and “handmaidens”--both of which are references to Biblical passages. 

People of Praise was founded in 1971 as part of a “great emergence of lay ministries and lay movements in the Catholic Church,” following Vatican Council II, Bishop Peter Smith, a member of the organization, told CNA.

The group began with 29 members who formed a “covenant”- an agreement, not an oath, to follow common principles, to give five percent of annual income to the group, and to meet regularly for spiritual, social, and service projects.

Catholic cathedral vandalized in California with 'white power,' 'BLM,' and swastikas

CNA Staff, Sep 26, 2020 / 01:30 pm (CNA).-  

A Catholic cathedral in California was defaced overnight, with swastikas, an upside-down cross, and other messages spray-painted on the church’s doors and entryways.

“This morning our beloved Cathedral was defaced with pentagrams, upside down crosses, white power, swastikas, BLM, etc. It reminds us to pray for my brethren in Iraq that are facing persecution. Pray for the criminals who did this,” St. Peter’s Chaldean Catholic Cathedral in El Cajon, California said in a statement posted on Facebook Sept. 26.

The cathedral is the seat of the Eparchy of St. Peter the Apostle of San Diego, an Eastern Catholic diocese of roughly 70,000 Catholics.

A video posted by the cathedral on Facebook showed numerous, seemingly opposed, symbols spray-painted on the church’s edifice and doors: swastikas, “White Power” and “WP,” alongside upside down crosses, “BLM,” standing seemingly for Black Lives Matter,” and “Biden 2020.”

Some symbols were indecipherable, others represented slogans or ideologies not ordinarily associated with each other, raising questions about what might have motivated the vandalism.

The Chaldean Catholic Church is an Eastern Catholic Church of more than 600,000 people. Headquartered in Baghdad, the Chaldean Catholic Church counts among its members Catholics in Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Syria, and in numerous Western countries. The Church has grown in the U.S. in recent decades, amid an influx of refugees and immigrants from the Middle East.

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

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

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

“Sometime last night our statue of St. Therese of the Child Jesus outside of the Main Church was broken and vandalized. We are currently in contact with the police,” the parish wrote on its Facebook page on Monday, September 14. The statue was pushed off its pedestal and the head was broken off. A planter by the statue was also smashed.

The parish urged people to “pray for the person who did this, that they may get the help they need,” and said the vandalism was an “unfortunate situation.”

On Tuesday, the parish once again reported vandalism. 

“As an update to our parishioners, we are upset to report that one of the houses on our parish property was vandalized and broken into last night,” said the parish in a Tuesday post to its Facebook page.

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

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

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

The eparchy could not be immediately reached for comment.

 

Trump: 'Faith in God' helps unite nation

CNA Staff, Sep 26, 2020 / 11:30 am (CNA).- President Donald Trump invoked faith as an enduring force for national stability and resilience during times of trial in a statement released by the White House on Saturday.

“Our great Nation was founded by men and women of deep and abiding faith—a faith that has stood the test of time,” Trump said in a presidential message to mark the inaugural National Day of Prayer and Return on Sept. 26.

The message was released to coincide with “The Return, A National and Global Day of Repentance" organized by some Pentecostal Protestant groups in Washington, D.C. on Saturday. The event is timed to fall 40 days before the U.S. general election.

“On this inaugural National Day of Prayer and Return,” Trump wrote in his message, “the First Lady and I join millions of Christians here in the United States and around the world in prayer, as we turn our hearts to our Lord and Savior.”

In an apparent reference to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and months of demonstrations and civil unrest across several U.S. cities over racial justice issues, Trump said that faith was an important support for civil and national unity.

“The trials and tribulations the American people have faced over the past several months have been great,” Trump said. “Yet, as we have seen time and again, the resolve of our citizenry—fortified by our faith in God—has guided us through these hardships and helped to unite us as one Nation under God.”

Several U.S. cities have seen violent protests in recent months following the police-involved deaths of Black Americans like Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.

“As we continue to combat the challenges ahead of us,” said Trump, “we must remember the sage words of President George Washington during his first Presidential Address: ‘propitious smiles of heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained.’” 

“As a country and a people, let us renew our commitment to these abiding and timeless principles,” said Trump.

On Wednesday, Louisville Archbishop Joseph Kurtz called for unity and prayer in the city following the announcement of the grand jury’s decision to indict one of the police officers involved in Taylor’s death. 

Taylor, 26, was killed March 13 in Louisville during a police raid of her apartment. Taylor, a Black woman, was shot five times by the police after her boyfriend initially fired at the officers who breached Taylor’s apartment’s door to execute a warrant. The officers involved were white. An issue of contention is whether, and how loudly, the officers announced themselves when entering the apartment.

“There is no question that our nation’s original sin of racism continues to destroy the lives of persons of color and that racism extends through so many systems of our society... educational, economic, religious, housing, criminal justice, voting, and employment,” said the archbishop. 

On Wednesday evening, the city of Louisville saw widespread protests which descended into violence in some places. Two police officers were shot and 127 people were arrested.

On Thursday, Kurtz offered prayers for the wounded officers and reiterated calls for peace.

“As our community deals with the challenges of the sin of racism and affirms the first amendment rights of those who protest, I again join with people of faith and good will to plead for peace and the rejection of violence,” Kurtz added.

“I am reminded of a statement that Pope Francis shared in his weekly audience in early June,” Kurtz said, quoting the pope saying “My friends, we cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life. At the same time, we have to recognize that the violence of recent nights is self-destructive and self-defeating. Nothing is gained by violence, and so much is lost…let us implore the national reconciliation and peace for which we yearn.”

Russia seeks to bar foreign-educated religious leaders from teaching, preaching

CNA Staff, Sep 26, 2020 / 06:01 am (CNA).- Catholic leaders in Russia are expressing concern about a bill that would restrict the ability of Russian religious ministers who receive religious education abroad to teach or preach in Russia.

The bill calls for “recertification” in Russian educational institutions of pastors and “personnel of religious organisations” who have received religious education abroad, ostensibly with the goal of preventing the spread of “extremist ideology” from abroad, the Barnabas Fund reports.

The bill was proposed in the Federal Assembly and approved for first reading Sept. 22, but the reading has been postponed.

Father Kirill Gorbunov, vicar general for the Archdiocese of the Mother of God at Moscow, told RIA Novosti, according to Asia News, that priests ministering from Russia who were educated elsewhere should be informed about the history, culture and religious traditions of Russia, and should not disseminate extremist ideas in their preaching.

However, he said it is the Church’s responsibility to regulate this, not the state’s— and the Catholic Church has no tolerance for extremist ideas, he said.

The attempt by the Kremlin to regulate what is being taught to religious leaders "does not provide for effective solutions, rather it would lead to inextricable contradictions.”

In addition to Catholics, Russsian Buddhists typically study abroad as part of their formation, Asia News reported.

The bill comes amid several years of deteriorating religious freedom in Russia.

In 2016, Russian president Vladimir Putin approved a new set of laws that would restrict evangelization and missionary activity to officially registered Church buildings and worship areas.

Anti-terrorism measures, catalyzed by the 2002 Federal Law on Countering Extremist Activity, have given Russian police powers to disrupt private worship services, to arrest and detain individuals handing out unapproved religious materials, and to outlay any publish preaching without prior approval from Russian authorities.

In 2017, the country’s Supreme Court banned Jehovah's Witnesses as an extremist group. Judges ordered the closure of the ecclesial community’s Russian headquarters and almost 400 local chapters, and the seizure of its property.

As of August 2020, over a thousand homes have been searched, nearly 400 Jehovah’s Witnesses have been charged, a few dozen convicted, and ten are currently serving time, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom reports.

Before Communism came to Russia, a majority of the country’s citizens were Eastern Orthodox Christians. During the reign of communism, the government attempted to destroy the Church by blowing up buildings and killing priests, religious sisters, and anyone who resisted them.

Once the government gained control of the Russian Orthodox Church, they appointed their own agents as hierarchy, who would then turn people in who came to the Church seeking baptism.

The seeds of distrust planted at that time still run deep, and the Russian Orthodox Church maintains its ties to the government today. 

On Sept. 16, USCIRF held a virtual hearing on the state of religious freedom in Russia and Central Asia, warning that “vague and problematic” definitions of "extremism" in Russian law give the authorities wide latitude to interfere in the religious sphere.

French authorities investigate act of terrorism

French authorities detain 7 people as they investigate what they view as an act of terrorism.

Pope appoints Cambridge professor to Pontifical Academy of Sciences

Professor Sir David Charles Baulcombe, Professor of Botany at Cambridge University, is appointed by Pope Francis as a Member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on Saturday.

Pope to educators: form people capable of responsibility in society

Pope Francis has sent a message to the annual congress of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP).

Young people in Malawi lead with parish contributions at an event

Mthawira Catholic Parish, in the Archdiocese of Blantyre, Malawi, has crowned a group of young people under the Young Christian Workers (YCW) for toping contributions at parish fundraising event.