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St. Louis rule creates legal traps for pro-lifers, lawsuit charges

St. Louis, Mo., May 24, 2017 / 06:18 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A St. Louis city ordinance that could force Catholic schools and pro-life pregnancy centers to hire employees who support abortion has drawn legal opposition from the Archbishop of St. Louis and several pro-life organizations.

“As Catholics, we know that all life is a gift from God and our parents, and must be protected at any cost,” St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson said May 22. “Sadly, legal protection for those members of the human family waiting to be born in this country was removed by the Supreme Court in 1973.”

“Now, some of our St. Louis politicians have made a protected 'class' out of 'reproductive health,' which is merely a politically correct euphemism for abortion,” the archbishop said at a press conference on the steps of the federal courthouse in downtown St. Louis.

He said the archdiocese will not comply with the “vile bill.”

Archbishop Carlson was joined by Peggy Forrest of Our Lady’s Inn, which promotes abortion alternatives for pregnant women, archdiocesan newspaper the St. Louis Review reports. Also present was Sarah Pitlyk, special counsel for the Thomas More Society, which has filed the lawsuit seeking judicial review.

The Archdiocesan Elementary Schools of St. Louis, Our Lady’s Inn, and the private company O’Brien Industrial Holdings, LLC are parties to the lawsuit concerning St. Louis Ordinance 70459, also called Board Bill 203 Committee Substitute. The ordinance, enacted in February, creates a protected status for anyone who has “made a decision related to abortion,” even in cases where the abortion was not their own. The protections apply to corporations and all businesses, not only individuals.

Opponents said the bill would bar any individual or entity, including Christian organizations, from refusing to sell or rent property to individuals or businesses that promote or provide abortions. It could require Catholic schools to hire abortion supporters or potentially be sued.

The lawsuit notes the archdiocesan schools require teachers and employees to sign a statement saying they will not publicly support abortion and will otherwise live in harmony with Catholic teachings in their professional and personal lives. Organizations that require such a statement face criminal fines under the city bill, while individuals who enforce it face a fine and even jail time.

“The passage of this bill is not a milestone of our city’s success. It is, rather, a marker of our city’s embrace of the culture of death,” said Archbishop Carlson.

Pitlyk of the Thomas More Society further criticized the ordinance.

“The City of St. Louis, by pushing an abortion agenda, is clearly out of step with the rest of the state,” she charged. “The city has taken the protections typically granted to prevent discrimination for ‘race, age, religion, sex or disability’ and applied them to those who have made or expect to make ‘reproductive health decisions’,” she said.

Forrest said that the ordinance would bar Our Lady’s Inn from hiring only individuals who support its mission to provide abortion alternatives.

She said that since the ordinance was passed, her organization has received several suspicious calls that seemed like possible legal traps. She said there is a great possibility “that women either pretending to need services or knowing full well they don't want the services that we provide will engage us just to see if they can catch us in violating the ordinance.”

“It’s insincere and takes up time for women who really are interested in our services,” Forrest added. “We support women who have already made a choice for life. And if that's not the choice they’ve made then our services don’t match them.”  

The ordinance would also require businesses to include abortion coverage in employee health care plans, even if owners object. The Thomas More Society said this requirement is unlawful under the 2014 U.S. Supreme Court decision involving Hobby Lobby’s challenge to a federal rule mandating coverage of contraceptive drugs, including drugs that can cause abortion.

The Catholic-owned O’Brien Industrial Holdings, LLC, was also part of the Hobby Lobby case.

The St. Louis legal complaint said the ordinance violates other constitutional protections involving free speech, free association, the religion clauses of the First Amendment, due process rights, and equal protection, as well as several state laws.

Pitlyk also faulted the ordinance’s “extremely limited” religious exemptions for housing and employment, and its lack of exemptions for individuals who have “sincere religious, moral or ethical objections to abortion.”

“That is unconstitutional, and directly violates both federal and state law,” she said.

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson defended the law in a statement, saying, “We don’t believe the ordinance infringes on the rights of the Archdiocese,” according to the Associated Press.

While backers of the ordinance said it aimed to address discrimination against individuals who have had, or were planning to have abortions, they could not find examples of such.

Pitlyk said the ordinance was “a remedy in search of a problem.”

 

Pope Francis, Trump hold landmark first meeting (Updated)

Vatican City, May 24, 2017 / 02:48 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After months of anticipation, Pope Francis and U.S. President Donald Trump finally met at the Vatican Wednesday in a friendly encounter which included an emphasis on protection of life and freedom of conscience.

According to a May 24 Vatican communique, Pope Francis and Trump expressed satisfaction "for the good existing bilateral relations between the Holy See and the United States of America, as well as the joint commitment in favor of life, and freedom of worship and conscience."

The Pope and Trump met at the Vatican May 24, at 8:30a.m., immediately before the weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

Trump arrived to Italy May 23 after stopping in both Saudi Arabia and Israel as part of his first international trip. He is also set to attend a NATO meeting in Brussels on May 25 and a G7 summit in Sicily on May 26 before returning to the U.S.

President Trump arrived to the Vatican via the side entrance by Casa Santa Marta around 8:15a.m. and was greeted by a group of Swiss Guards in the San Damaso courtyard. After stepping out of the car, Trump and First Lady Melania greeted Archbishop Georg Ganswein and other Vatican dignitaries before entering the Apostolic Palace.

Pope Francis and Trump smiled as they sat down at the Pope’s desk in the papal library. Pope Francis said, “Welcome!” and Trump responded, “Thank you very much, this is such a great honor.”

Smiling, Francis explained that he doesn't speak English well and needs a translator, but added that he was “very happy to meet” Trump.

After the cameras left the two began the private portion of their conversation, which lasted about 30 minutes. In addition to Pope Francis and Trump, only the Pope's English translator, Msgr. Mark Miles, was present.

During the "cordial discussions," the two expressed hope for peaceful collaboration between the government and the Catholic Church in the United States, that it may be "engaged in service to the people in the fields of healthcare, education and assistance to immigrants," the Vatican communique stated.

Pope Francis and President Trump also exchanged views "on various themes relating to international affairs, the promotion of peace in the world through political negotiation and interreligious dialogue, with particular reference to the situation inthe Middle East and the protection of Christian communities."

After their formal conversation, gifts were exchanged between Francis, Trump and the president’s official delegation. There were 12 people in his entourage, including First Lady Melania Trump; daughter Ivanka, Tump's assistant and his son-in-law Jared Kushner, his assistant and senior advisor.

Also present for the meeting with Pope Francis were U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs H.R. McMaster and Louis Bono, American Chargé d'Affaires ad interim to the Holy See until Calista Gingrich us officially approved as ambassador.  

Despite their differing opinions on climate change, Pope Francis gave Trump a copy of his environmental encyclical Laudato Si’, as well as copies of his 2015 Apostolic Exhortation on the family “Amoris Laetitia” and his 2013 exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium.”

In addition to the customary gift of these three documents, Francis also gave President Trump a copy of his message for the 2017 World Day of Peace, saying: “I signed it personally for you.” Trump responded that he would be reading them.

The Pope also gifted the U.S. President with a medallion he said symbolized peace and unity, which, after the translator explained in English, he added in Spanish: “Have it so that you become an instrument of peace.” In response, Trump said that “we can use peace.”

On his part, President Trump gifted Pope Francis a set of books by Martin Luther King, Jr., saying: “I think you’ll enjoy them, I hope you do."

Members of the delegation each received a medal and a rosary from the pontiff. When greeting Francis, First Lady Melania told him that she would afterward be visiting the hospital. Joking, the Pope asked her if they had given her potica, a traditional Slovenian dessert, to eat, to which she responded, “yes, potica,” as they both laughed.

Departing with a handshake, Trump said to Francis: "Thank you, thank you, I won't forget what you said."

After meeting with Pope Francis, Trump met with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Secretary for Relations with States Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, as is customary for heads of state.

Pope Francis went immediately to begin the Wednesday general audience with thousands of pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square.

After the meeting, First Lady Melania paid a visit to the Vatican-owned Pediatric hospital Bambino Gesu, also known as the “Pope’s hospital.”

Bambino Gesu sits next to the Pontifical North American College on top of Rome’s Gianicolo hill, and is among the most important pediatric hospitals in the world. Founded in 1869 by the Duchess Arabella Salviati, the hospital was donated to Pius XI in 1924, with the aim of giving it a more stable future.

At the same time, Trump’s daughter and high-profile adviser, Ivanka, will make her way to the Roman neighborhood of Trastevere to meet with the Community of Sant’Egidio to discuss efforts to oppose human trafficking.

The Sant’Egidio Community is often praised by Pope Francis for their work with the poor and refugees, in particular.

Ivanka is participating in each of the seven days of Trump’s first trip abroad as president, and was also present for the public portion of his meeting with Francis.

Before leaving with her father on his first international tour, Ivanka hosted an anti-human trafficking roundtable discussion at the White House May 17.

During her meeting with Sant’Egidio, she is expected to meet with several women who are victims of trafficking, and discuss various ways in which the Church and the U.S. government can collaborate on the issue.

This article was updated at 12:12 p.m. local time in Rome with information from the official Vatican communique.

This Italian nun is helping brides say 'yes' to the dress

Umbria, Italy, May 24, 2017 / 02:40 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Italian brides are finding wedding dresses at an unusual spot hidden in the Umbrian hills, where they are able to pick out their special gown – all for the cost of a donation.

Sister Maria Laura at the Augustinian monastery of St. Rita in Cascia, Italy began running the thrifty wedding dress service out of a surplus of donated wedding dresses.

“It gives me great joy to see a young woman who can fulfill her dream of love with a dress appropriate for the happiest day of her life,” said Sister Maria Laura, according to the DailyMail.  

Since about 1950, brides have been making pilgrimages to St. Rita's to ask for her special intercession in marriage, and would leave their wedding dresses at the monastery in gratitude. Over the years, the monastery has collected hundreds of dresses.

Sister Maria Laura entered monastic life at the age of 28, having previously been a seamstress and designer in Tuscany. She has been running the bridal dress collection at the monastery for the past few years with the help of other nuns, and uses her skills to alter the dresses to fit each and every bride that comes through.

The sewing sister only sees brides-to-be by appointment, who often bring family members and bridesmaids for their opinion. But, Sister Maria Laura noted her special intuition about each of the dresses.

“I know which one she will take; you can tell from their faces,” she said, according to the New York Times. “If you have a dream and we can make it come true, we’ll do our best.”

Currently, they have about three women a week visit to pick out wedding dresses, while up to 10 dresses a month are donated. All of the dresses are offered for free, but they do ask for a simple donation. According to the New York Times, one donation amounted to $1,200.

The Augustinian monastery is a special spot for brides, as St. Rita is the patron saint of difficult marriages. When Rita was 12, her parents forced her into a marriage with a husband who abused her for years.

After her husband died, Rita entered the monastery of St. Mary Magdalene in Cascia at the age of 36, which is now the same place where brides visit to pray for their own marriages, and try on wedding dresses.

As Italy continues in their recession, the monastery considers their service a charity for economical brides who are getting married but trying to keep costs down.

One bride explained that the second-hand gown service was her only option to buy a dress, saying that “if I can't find it here, I simply can't afford to buy one.” Another bride explained how she had “felt at home here from the very first minute.”

Cardinal Dolan finds lesson in humility in life of Irish migrant who saw Our Lady

New York City, N.Y., May 24, 2017 / 12:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- An Irish immigrant named John Curry passed away in 1943 in New York City after a modest life.

But when he was reburied earlier this month, a large congregation gathered to remember the man who had witnessed the apparition of Our Lady of Knock.

Among those who honored his memory was Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, who delivered the homily for Curry’s May 13 reburial Mass at St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral in Manhattan.

“We remember this sincere, honest, holy immigrant John Curry, who we come to bury today with reverence for who he was, with reverence for the country from whence he came, with reverence for the nation where settled, with reverence for what he saw that August 21, 1879,” the cardinal said in his homily.

On that evening, fifteen men, women, and children, mainly from the village of Knock in County Mayo, saw an apparition at Knock parish.

They ranged in age from 5 to 74 years old. Curry was the youngest, there with his cousin Patrick Hill.

Some of the witnesses reported figures that appeared to be the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph and St. John at the parish church’s gable wall. Amid luminous lights, they saw the figure of a lamb and a cross on an altar. In the pouring rain, the witnesses stayed, praying the rosary.

Cardinal Dolan said Curry beheld the apparition “with the simplicity and sincerity of a little five-year-old boy.” Throughout the rest of his life, Curry was “a man whose only quiet boast was that he was an altar boy, from his childhood at Knock to his death at Sacred Heart Home with the Sisters of the Poor, rarely if ever missing daily Mass and Holy Communion.”

Curry would later leave Ireland for the United States, then spent time in London before moving once again to New York. He spent his last years with the Little Sisters of the Poor at Sacred Heart Home and was buried in a donated, unmarked grave at Pine Lawn Cemetery on Long Island.

His reburial at Manhattan’s historic old cathedral drew Irish and Irish-American leaders. Their numbers included a group of Irish pilgrims from Knock, including relatives of the never-married Curry.

As an immigrant who first came to New York at the age of 21, Curry “really only distinguished himself by his simplicity, his humility, his kindness and his piety,” Cardinal Dolan said at the Mass. John Curry’s faith in Christ “animated his tender care for the sick” at the New York hospital where he later worked.

At the age of 63, the cardinal recounted, Curry testified “that he recalled the vision of Jesus the Lamb of God, silently adored by his mother, St. Joseph and St. John, as if it were last night.”  

“Jesus, Mary, Joseph and St. John,” said the cardinal. “They’re here, and the communion of saints, as is true at every Eucharist... as is the spirit of John Curry.”

“Our eyes are on Mary, are they not?” Cardinal Dolan asked. “The mother of Jesus, given by him to us as a parting gift from his cross on Calvary as our own mother too. Our eyes are on Mary as she appeared in that little village in County Mayo, Knock, on Aug. 21, 1879 in company with her spouse, St. Joseph, her spiritual son St. John, all three of them in silent adoration of the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.”

He also reflected on the place of immigrants in the United States.

“Our eyes this this morning as well are on the immigrant, as Jesus, Mary and Joseph were refugees once in Egypt,” he said.

“John Curry was but one of the millions of immigrants who came here to America, from Ireland to be sure, but from almost every nation in the atlas, to enrich this country mightily, and to make this nation a light to the world, through its embrace of the John Currys of the world--a light, my friends, we can not allow to grow dim today.”

According to Cardinal Dolan, Curry would say the day is not about him, but about Jesus and the Virgin Mary, of whom St. Elizabeth said, “Blessed is she who trusted that the Lord’s promise to her would be fulfilled.”

The day of the reburial Mass coincided with the May 13 observance of the centenary of the Our Lady of Fatima apparition.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 95:1-7

1 O come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
2 Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
3 For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods.
4 In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also.
5 The sea is his, for he made it; for his hands formed the dry land.
6 O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!
7 For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. O that today you would hearken to his voice!

First Reading: Revelation 21:1-5

1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.
2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband;
3 and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them;
4 he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away."
5 And he who sat upon the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." Also he said, "Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true."

Gospel: John 10:22-30

22 It was the feast of the Dedication at Jerusalem;
23 it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon.
24 So the Jews gathered round him and said to him, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly."
25 Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness to me;
26 but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep.
27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me;
28 and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand.
29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.
30 I and the Father are one."

New York City event to discuss how faith, modernity intersect

New York City, N.Y., May 23, 2017 / 08:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- An event exploring the interaction of the Christian faith with the modern world – in light of the writings of the founder of Communion and Liberation – will take place in New York City this summer.

The June 22 event, titled Christianity: An Encounter that Shapes Life, is the second annual Giussani series on Faith and Modernity. It will be presented by global ecclesiastical movement Communion and Liberation, Crossroads Cultural Center, and the Sheen Center in New York City.
 
The event is free and will focus on the heart of the Christian faith and true human encounter as described by Monsignor Luigi Giussani in his book, “Generating Traces in the History of the World.”

An Encounter that Shapes Life will feature discussions from Father Solanus Benfatti, a professor of Spirituality and Franciscan Traditions at St. Joseph's Seminary in the Archdiocese of New York, and Michael Waldstein, PhD, a professor of theology at Ave Maria University in Florida.
 
Communion and Liberation began to emerge in 1954 by Italian priest, Catholic thinker, and educator Msgr. Luigi Giussani. The movement focuses on the actualization of man's faith by living the Christian presence within community.

In his 1995 book “The Risk of Education,” Msgr. Giussani described the movement as “showing the relevance of faith to life's needs, and therefore – and this 'therefore' is important – showing that faith is rational, implies a specific concept of rationality.”

“When we say that faith exalts rationality, we mean that faith corresponds to some fundamental, original need that all men and women feel in their hearts.”

Crossroads Cultural Center was established in 2004 as an extension of Communion and Liberation. The group's mission is to foster knowledge of reality and life's meaning, as seen through the lens of Christian faith.

The event will be held at Sheen Center located in East Village of downtown New York City. The center is named after the previous archbishop of Rochester, Fulton Sheen, and hosts events which align to the truth, beauty, and goodness as expressed by the Catholic Church.

A life stream of the conference will be made available at 7 p.m. Eastern time on Sheen Center’s website: https://sheencenter.org/shows/giussani2/

US bishops welcome Trump administration's reprieve for Haitian migrants

Washington D.C., May 23, 2017 / 04:38 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Trump administration’s decision to allow 50,000 Haitian earthquake victims to remain in the United States prompted gratitude from the U.S. bishops’ conference, which stressed the need for continued work to aid Haitians here and in their home country.

“While this extension is helpful, it still leaves many Haitian families in the United States in an insecure and vulnerable position, particularly with respect to ensuring legal work authorization,” Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ migration committee, said May 23.

The Department of Homeland Security’s decision extended the Obama administration’s protections for Haitians who had arrived in the U.S. within a year of the massive 2010 earthquake. They may remain with work authorizations until January 2018.

Sources in the department told Reuters that Secretary John Kelly of the Department of Homeland Security believes that conditions in Haiti are improving, but Haitians in the U.S. still need protections.

At the same time, there is no commitment to extending protections past January. Officials recommended that Haitians with temporary protective status begin seeking travel documents to return to Haiti.

In a May 23 letter to Secretary Kelly, Bishop Vasquez said that extending temporary protective status serves an important humanitarian role by promoting the safety and stability of Haitian families in the U.S.

“We encourage our government to work proactively with the Haitian government to provide life-saving aid and recovery assistance,” he said. “Haiti will continue to struggle to receive back those who are temporarily protected, even those who may be returned in the near future.”

The bishop said that Catholic service networks in the U.S. will continue to aid Haitian families and the rebuilding process in Haiti. These networks will also look for opportunities to collaborate with the Church in Haiti and with the U.S. and Haitian governments.

The earthquake killed an estimated 220,000 people and affected over 3.5 million more.

Temporary protected status may be provided to citizens of countries that are suffering from severe violence, disease and natural disasters. At present countries designated for that status include Sudan, Somalia, Syria, El Salvador, Nepal, and Yemen, Reuters reports.

Here's the plan for Melania and Ivanka's day in Rome

Rome, Italy, May 23, 2017 / 03:18 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- When U.S. President Donald Trump stops in Rome for a meeting with Pope Francis Wednesday, both his wife Melania and daughter Ivanka will have their own schedules, which include stops at a Vatican hospital and a round-table on human trafficking.

Ivanka serves in her father's administration in an unpaid position as an assistant to the president.

Pope Francis and Donald Trump will meet at the Vatican May 24 at 8:30 a.m., before the Pope’s General Audience. Melania and Ivanka will both be present for the public portion of the visit, but will each follow their own itinerary after.

Once the meeting is finished, the First Lady will a visit the Vatican-owned pediatric hospital Bambino Gesu. During her tour of the facility, Melania is expected to greet patients and visit one of their playrooms as well as the chapel.  

While Melania visits Bambino Gesu, Ivanka, a high-profile adviser to her father, will make her way to the Roman neighborhood of Trastevere to meet with the Community of Sant’Egidio to discuss efforts to oppose human trafficking.

The Sant’Egidio Community is often praised by Pope Francis for their work, in particular for the projects they lead aimed at helping the poor and refugees.

During her meeting with Sant’Egidio, Ivanka is expected to meet with several women who are victims of trafficking, and discuss various ways in which the Church and the U.S. government can collaborate on the problem.

Before leaving with her father on his first international tour, Ivanka hosted an anti-human trafficking round-table at the White House May 17 that hosted a swath of bipartisan lawmakers and representatives of numerous organizations that deal with human trafficking.  

According to reports, during the discussion Ivanka spoke about the Trump administration’s efforts to combat trafficking not only in the U.S., but throughout the world, telling attendees that “combatting human trafficking and modern slavery is both a moral and strategic interest domestically and abroad.”

That particular round-table was a follow-up to a February discussion on the same topic, which was also organized by Ivanka. At the time, according to reports, President Trump said he would use the “full force and weight” of the U.S. government to fight human trafficking.

Both stops highlight key priorities for Pope Francis, who after his election in 2013 personally requested that the Pontifical Academy of Sciences study the issue of human trafficking. As a result, the institution has held at least two symposiums or conferences on the topic each year.

Francis has also mentioned several times that he is bothered by the suffering of children, saying it is one of life’s mysteries that he still fails to comprehend.