U.S. Church News


As election nears, 'split' Catholic voters try to find dialogue amid rancor

By Rhina Guidos Catholic News Service

A man in Orlando, Fla., waits in line to cast his ballot Oct. 19, 2020, as early voting begins ahead of the November election. (CNS photo/Octavio Jones, Reuters)

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Both are Catholic, but their views couldn't have been more different.

One woman said she was voting for a particular candidate because of her beliefs against abortion. The other said she was voting for his opponent because the incumbent had harmed life for many in a variety of ways and it went against her religious beliefs.

The views expressed by the two women showed the divide among Catholics about whom to vote for when the nation casts ballots in the Nov. 3 presidential election.

"We see, basically, Catholics are split like Solomon's baby between the two parties," said Emma Green, a reporter for The Atlantic magazine and one of several panelists participating in an Oct. 20 dialogue on "Faithful Citizenship: Moral and Political Choices for Catholics in the 2020 Election."

The livestreamed panel, sponsored by the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University in Washington, was seeking to foster dialogue and understanding days before the culmination of one of the country's most rancorous elections anyone alive remembers.

"It's interesting how all of this could exist in one Catholic Church under a roof of people who share a faith, certain principles and teachings," said Green, who writes about religion.

But it also showed how politics has seeped into the life of the church, as it has into so many other institutions, and how people have become shaped more by a political identity than a religious one, Green said.

"Catholics are more Republican and Democrats than they are Catholics," she added.

With name-calling, bullying and denunciations on social media, including by some religious officials, the initiative was aimed at letting Catholics with different points of view have their say in a conversation unusual for its absence of rancor.

"We think that no one should be written out of our Catholic family for how they form and follow their conscience about how to cast their ballot," said Kim Daniels, the initiative's associate director and panel moderator.

The dialogue drew much from the document that inspired the panel's name: "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship," by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which aims to educate U.S. church members about political responsibility.

John Carr, the initiative's executive director and a former USCCB staffer who participated in drafting the U.S. bishops' first document on Catholics and voting in the 1970s, said the most "countercultural" aspect of "Faithful Citizenship" is its central message: that politics is good and Catholics should take part, and that "if we focus on people, nothing else matters."

Carr said it outlines what the church should be: "political but not partisan, principled but not ideological, civil but not silent, engaged but not used."

Against that backdrop, the program offered Karina De Avila and Mary FioRito, both of Illinois, an opportunity to present their reasons for backing, respectively, former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee, and the Republican incumbent, President Donald Trump.

"As a Catholic, I have accepted the invitation of the bishops of the United States and educated myself about what's at stake," said panelist De Avila. "It's naive and almost irresponsible to think that there's only one issue that defines an election."

She said she considered the common good and also was affected by her experience working with immigrant communities, whose members have found themselves living in fear and adversely affected by the Trump administration's policies. She said she couldn't reconcile the contradictions of the Trump administration and how they went against her religious views.

"In conscience, I cannot vote for a man who is the opposite of everything that is humane and Christian," she said. "He has failed the Catholic world by promoting racism implicitly and explicitly. In my opinion, it's horrendous. He has lied by using the pro-life (stance), arguing he's against abortion, yet the administration restored the federal death penalty ... and now he wants to take away basic health care for millions of people including the most young and poor.

"He has failed the American nation and has failed the Catholic world," she continued, "by lying, distorting reality, disregarding the advice of scientists and advisers and making a mockery of the presidency of the United States."

Neither Biden nor his party is perfect "yet the decision is clear for me," she said.

FioRito said she was voting for Trump, concerned with what a possible Biden administration would mean for issues such as the legal protections for the unborn and for religious communities such as the Little Sisters of the Poor and their fight against providing birth control for employees, which violates their religious beliefs, and the Hyde Amendment, which bars the use of federal funds to pay for abortion except to save the life of the woman or in case of rape or incest.

Of not voting for Biden and running mate Kamala Harris, FioRito said, "They are not neutral on abortion." Biden, a Catholic, and Harris both support legalized abortion.

And there was something about Trump, she said, that correctly tapped into a part of the population of the United States that "felt very much marginalized and had been called stupid and deplorable."

"I think he tapped into some real anger and hurt from American citizens," she said, "who had just been going out there, blue-collar people, out there trying to do their best, and didn't particularly want government to be involved in their lives."

And that hurt and resentment was "not coming from vengeful hatred" but from a place of "woundedness," she said, and many responded and still support Trump because of it.

If something characterizes this election, said Green, it's voting for a candidate out of fear of what his opponent or his party might do.

Among conservatives, there's a general fear that if Democrats win back political power, not just in the executive branch, but in the legislative branch, conservative Christian religious views will be pushed out of the public square. But certain religious communities and people of color, including Latinos and Muslims, fear what they'll deal with next given "Trump's discriminatory language" and policies aimed at them, Green said.

"Depending on where you're sitting, there's a lot of fear that one or the other side (political party), is going to push one side out of the public square and there's no space for pluralistic coexistence in public life," Green said.

U.S. Catholics, who swung from Republican to Democrat and back in recent elections, have been a religious bellwether of sorts. And the church's emerging Latino population, the second largest ethnic group among Catholics, seems to be making a difference in pulling the group toward Biden this time around.

"They are the ultimate swing constituency," Green said of U.S. Catholics. "In three-fourths of presidential elections of the last 50 years, Catholics sided with the winner. So, you can see why presidential candidates would be eager to recruit Catholic voters to their cause."

Though there still is strong support for Trump, particularly among white Catholics, an August poll by the Pew Research Center showed 53% of registered Catholic voters said they would vote for Biden, or leaned toward voting for him and 45% said they would vote for Trump or leaned toward voting for him.

More recent results from a poll published Oct. 19, conducted by RealClear Opinion Research and EWTN, showed that 52% of "likely Catholic voters" said they support Biden, while 40% said they support Trump.

Perhaps understanding how crucial the Catholic vote remains, both presidential candidates were busy in the last days of the campaign, making pitches to the Catholic constituency.

Biden made a special appeal to Catholics in places such as the crucial battleground state of Pennsylvania, touting his religious bona fides and ties to Catholic life in Scranton. Trump, on the other hand, touted that he's about to place a female Catholic judge on the highest court of the land.

Carr, citing the guidance of "Faithful Citizenship," said it was important to look at the issues, not at the candidates.

"Biden's appeal is personal; Trump's appeal transactional, what he's going to do for us," he said. "What the bishops want us to be is principled."


Archbishop says Catholic medical professionals live values of faith every day

By  Catholic News Service

Catholics attend an outdoor White Mass at St. Augustine Church in South San Francisco celebrated Oct. 16, 2020, by San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone. The annual Mass and blessing honors medical professionals. (CNS photo/Dennis Callahan, Catholic San Francisco)

SAN FRANCISCO (CNS) -- During this ongoing pandemic, the commitment of health care workers to treat COVID-19 patients even at risk to their own health and lives -- and some have died -- is an illustration of Judeo-Christian values still at work in the larger society, said Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco.

"We bear fruit by doing what Christ commands us to do," he said. "And what does he command us to do? 'This is my commandment: Love one another as I love you no one has greater love than this than to lay down one's life for one's friends.'"

"As de-Christianized as our society has become, we still see this happening" in the work and dedication of medical professionals, he said. "This tells me we still have the vestiges of what was once a society imbued with Judeo-Christian values. This is what a Christian society looks like."

Archbishop Cordileone made the comments in his homily for the archdiocese's second annual White Mass and blessing for medical professionals.

He was the main celebrant of the evening Mass, which took place Oct. 16 outside St Augustine Church in South San Francisco with socially distanced seating. Massgoers followed all state and local health protocols, including mask-wearing and hand-sanitizing.

The Benedict XVI Institute musicians played and sang from inside the church, and St. Augustine's audiovisual team piped the music out to those outside. The Mass invoked the Holy Spirit to provide his guidance and protection of medical professionals. The archbishop imparted a special blessing to all medical professionals in attendance.

The name of the White Mass comes from the color of uniforms traditionally worn by those in health care.

Gathering to pray for and show spiritual support for Catholic health care workers "is so important," Archbishop Cordileone said. "As the body is all interconnected, as the church is all interconnected, so is society as a whole. We've seen this interconnectedness in the distress of the current pandemic, physical health and economic health, the health of social life.

"Above all what is important in society is spiritual health. We must give primacy to the spiritual in order for a society to be healthy."

He added, "How we relate to one another, how we fulfill the duties of our state in life, how we live out our vocation, that all comes from where we are in our spiritual state, so we need to continue to exercise our most sublime duty as human beings in giving worship to God. We must make sure we do so in a safe way but we make sure that we do so."

Archbishop Cordileone thanked all in the health care profession "for your commitment to living your faith in your workplace."

"Your workplace, providing health care, is one of the most privileged places where the values of our faith can affect people on such a deep level," he said. "You understand this, you understand that your role is not only to improve the quality of your patients' life in this world but above all to help them improve the quality of their life everlasting."

Archbishop Cordileone also welcomed the formation a new chapter of the Catholic Medical Association in the archdiocese.

"I am so appreciative of the vision of your founders," he said. "It's something I have been desiring and envisioning and seeing the great need (for) here in this archdiocese, given what a great center of health care and health care research we are."

"We need to imbue this vocation, this endeavor of health care and health care research with the values that come from the Gospel otherwise what is quintessentially a Christian work can devolve into something that can be harmful in so many ways," the archbishop added.


UPDATE: Cardinal-designate Gregory thanks pope 'with grateful, humble heart'

By Mark Zimmermann Catholic News Service

Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Washington was one of 13 new cardinal named by Pope Francis Oct. 25, 2020. He is pictured in a 2019 file photo. (CNS photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann, Catholic Standard)

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Cardinal-designate Wilton D. Gregory, installed as Washington' s archbishop in May 2019, thanked Pope Francis "with a very grateful and humble heart" for naming him as one of 13 new cardinals Oct. 25.

"This appointment which will allow me to work more closely with him in caring for Christ's church," he said in a statement issued shortly after the pope announced new cardinals at the end of his Angelus address.

Cardinal-designate Gregory will be the first African American cardinal from the United States to be elevated to the College of Cardinals. He and the other 12 prelates will to be elevated at a Nov. 28 consistory at the Vatican.

Nine of the new cardinals are under age 80 and will be eligible to vote in a conclave; four elderly churchmen will receive red hats as a sign of esteem and honor.

In addition to Cardinal-designate Gregory, the pope chose as cardinal electors two officials of the Roman Curia and bishops from Italy, Rwanda, the Philippines, Chile and Brunei.

"Pope Francis is sending a powerful message of hope and inclusion to the church in the United States" by naming Washington's African American archbishop as a cardinal, said Los Angeles José H. Gomez, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

"As a former president of our national bishops' conference, (Cardinal-designate) Gregory displayed generous and principled leadership. The naming of the first African American cardinal from the United States gives us an opportunity to pause and offer thanks for the many gifts African American Catholics have given the church," Archbishop Gomez said in statement.

He asked the nation's Catholics to join him "in praying for the continued ministry" of the newly named cardinal, who was USCCB president from 2001 to 2004.

A native of Chicago, Cardinal-designate Gregory turns 73 Dec. 7. As a sixth grader attending St. Carthage School in Chicago in 1958, he was inspired by the example of the parish priests and Adrian Dominican sisters there to become Catholic.

At the news conference when he was introduced as Washington's new archbishop, he said, "Within six weeks of being in Catholic school and not being from a Catholic background, I said, 'I want to be a priest.'"

Wilton Daniel Gregory was baptized as a Catholic during the Easter Vigil that school year.

Later after studying as a seminarian he was ordained as a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago in 1973, and earned a doctorate in sacred liturgy from the Pontifical Liturgical Institute in Rome in 1980.

After serving as a parish priest in Chicago and as a master of ceremonies to Cardinals John Cody and Joseph Bernardin, he was ordained an auxiliary bishop of Chicago in 1983.

In 1994, Bishop Gregory was installed as the bishop of Belleville, Illinois, where he served for the next 11 years. Bishop Gregory was elected USCCB president in 2001 after serving as three years as the vice president.

During his three years as president, the church's clergy sex abuse crisis escalated, and under his leadership, the bishops implemented the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People."

St. John Paul II appointed Bishop Gregory to serve as the archbishop of Atlanta, where he was installed in 2005 and served until Pope Francis named his as the new archbishop of Washington in 2019.

At the news conference where he was introduced as Washington's new archbishop, Archbishop Gregory promised to work for healing in the archdiocese, which had been shaken by the clergy abuse crisis, including the resignation and removal from the priesthood of Theodore McCarrick, former Washington archbishop and cardinal, following charges that McCarrick had abused minors and engaged in sexual misconduct with adults.

"I am arriving with a commitment to transparency," then-Archbishop Gregory said. "The only way I can serve this archdiocese is by telling the truth. I will always tell the truth."

At his installation Mass as Washington's new archbishop, Archbishop Gregory pointed to the Gospel story of Jesus calming the stormy seas when he was in the boat with his apostles.

"I remind you ... he is here. He is here when the seas are calm, and he is here during every moment of uncertainty, anger, fear and shame. He invites us to place our trust in him," Archbishop Gregory said.

Archbishop Gregory emphasized that same message in 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic initially caused a shutdown of public Masses and the closure of Catholic school campuses.

In a column for the Catholic Standard, Washington's archdiocesan newspaper, Archbishop Gregory wrote that "even in the uncertainty of this current situation, if we are open, God will use this moment to bring our hearts closer to him and more firmly in union with one another."

Following the nationwide racial protests in the wake of the death of George Floyd, who died May 25 after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes during an arrest, Archbishop Gregory said in a statement that "this incident reveals the virus of racism among us once again even as we continue to cope with the coronavirus pandemic."

Archbishop Gregory has praised peaceful protests for racial justice, saying the young people helping lead those marches offer hope for building a more just nation where all lives are respected.

On the morning Pope Francis named him as a new cardinal, Archbishop Gregory was scheduled to celebrate a 250th anniversary Mass for Holy Angels Parish in Avenue, Maryland, which is located near St. Clement's Island in Southern Maryland. The first Catholic Mass in the English-speaking colonies was celebrated at St. Clement's Island in 1634.

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Cindy Wooden in Rome contributed to this story.

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Zimmermann is editor of the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.


Judges again block Trump's efforts to keep unauthorized immigrants out of census

By Carol Zimmermann Catholic News Service

Farmworkers take a break from picking strawberries in Watsonville, Calif., Oct. 20, 2020, as two hold 2020 Census bags given to them during one of several Watsonville Campesino Appreciation Caravans. A second federal court blocked the Trump administration Oct. 22, 2020, from excluding immigrants in the U.S. without legal status from the census count. (CNS photo/David Rodriguez, USA Today Network via Reuters)

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- For the second time this fall, a panel of three federal judges said President Donald Trump acted unlawfully with his order in July to exclude immigrants in the U.S. without legal documentation from being counted in the 2020 census for the redrawing of congressional districts.

Although the Supreme Court just agreed Oct. 16 to take up this issue, the panel from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued a permanent injunction Oct. 22 against the president's order. The panel said it was unlawful and that it violated the Constitution, the federal Census Act and the separation of powers of the federal and state governments.

"The Constitution's text, drafting history, 230 years of historical practice, and Supreme Court case law all support the conclusion that apportionment must be based on all persons residing in each state, including undocumented immigrants," the California judges wrote.

The Trump administration has already appealed a previous decision to block its efforts regarding the census issued by a panel of federal judges in New York Sept. 10. That ruling is what the Supreme Court is taking up Nov. 30.

Maryland, Massachusetts and the District of Columbia also have pending challenges against Trump's census order.

The federal judges in New York said Trump's order violated laws about how the census is conducted and the process for redrawing congressional districts based on census numbers, emphasizing that people in the United States illegally qualify to be counted in the states where they live.

"Throughout the nation's history, the figures used to determine the apportionment of Congress -- in the language of the current statutes, the 'total population' and the 'whole number of persons' in each state -- have included every person residing in the United States at the time of the census, whether citizen or noncitizen and whether living here with legal status or without," the panel said.

Democratic leaders, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and immigration advocates took issue with the president's memorandum on the census and predicted that it would meet legal challenges and would not likely become policy.

Many also questioned how the administration would accurately go about determining how many people to exclude from data used to redraw congressional districts.

A July 22 statement issued by the chairmen of two USCCB committees described the president's memo as "simply wrong and divisive." They urged Trump to rescind it and instead make "efforts to protect and heal our nation and all who are living in our country."

"As we have stated before, we urge all people to be counted and fully included in the census," said the statement issued by Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Auxiliary Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville of Washington, chairman of the Committee on Migration.

"Counting the undocumented in the census and then denying them and the states in which they reside their rightful representation in Congress is counter to the Constitution and a grave injustice," they said, adding the policy also "makes people feel invisible and not valued as human beings."

"This is nothing but an unconstitutional and xenophobic attempt to weaponize the census to silence and scare immigrants. The immigrant community will not be silenced," tweeted Cabrini Immigrant Services of New York City July 21.

The Hope Border Institute tweeted: "The Constitution says the Census must count everyone, no exceptions." It also said on Twitter that the "Trump administration's illegal attempt to politicize the #Census and do an end run around the Constitution to exclude certain folks would mean overlooking 1.6 million folks in Texas alone and the financial impact to the state would be incalculable."

The president said excluding "illegal aliens" from the 2020 census "reflects a better understanding of the Constitution and is consistent with the principles of our representative democracy."

His memorandum went on to say: "My administration will not support giving congressional representation to aliens who enter or remain in the country unlawfully, because doing so would create perverse incentives and undermine our system of government."

"Just as we do not give political power to people who are here temporarily, we should not give political power to people who should not be here at all," it said.

Last year, the Supreme Court looked at the census and blocked the administration's attempt to add a citizenship question, saying the reason given for adding the question -- to help enforce voting rights -- seemed contrived.

The census is rooted in the text of the Constitution, which requires an "actual enumeration" of the population every 10 years. It determines federal funding for roads and schools and provides population numbers for redrawing congressional district boundaries and determining how many House representatives each state gets.

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczi

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