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Pope Francis: To stop evil, give more love than required

Vatican City, Apr 24, 2019 / 04:46 am (CNA).- To stop the spread of evil in the world, Catholics must go above and beyond, loving and forgiving others even when it is undeserved, Pope Francis urged Wednesday.

“Jesus inserts the power of forgiveness into human relationships. In life, not everything is resolved with justice,” he said April 24.

“Especially where we must put a barricade against evil, someone must love beyond what is necessary, to start a story of grace again,” he said, warning that “evil is familiar with its revenge, and if it is not interrupted it risks spreading and suffocating the whole world.”

The Easter Octave, he said, is a good time to think about the beauty of forgiveness and to pray to the Father for the grace to forgive others, explaining that Jesus replaced the “law of retaliation” with the “law of love: what God has done for me, I give it back to you!”

The pope continued his general audience catechesis on the ‘Our Father’ by reflecting on the line which says, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

In forgiveness we find “the bond between love for God and love of neighbor,” he said. “Love calls love, forgiveness calls forgiveness.”

“Every Christian knows that forgiveness of sins exists for him. This we all know, that Jesus forgives everyone and forgives always. Nothing in the Gospels suggests that God does not forgive the sins of those who are well disposed and who ask to be re-embraced,” he said.

“But,” he continued, “the abundant grace of God is always challenging. He who has received so much must learn to give so much.”

He said God gives every Christian the grace to do good in the lives of their brothers and sisters, even those who have done something wrong, and with “a word, a hug, a smile, we can convey to others what most precious thing we have received.”

“And what precious thing have we received? Forgiveness.”

Sometimes, the pope said, he has heard people say they will “never forgive” some person for what they have done to them. But God has told his people if they do not forgive others, they will not be forgiven, Francis underlined. “You close the door.”

He recounted a story told to him by a priest, who had visited an old woman on her death bed. She could barely speak, but when asked if she was sorry for her sins, she said ‘yes.’

But when the priest asked her if she forgave others, she said, ‘no.’ “The priest was distressed,” Pope Francis said. “If you do not forgive, God will not forgive you. If you cannot forgive, ask the Lord to give you strength to do it.”

Jesus tells a parable which illustrates the concept of forgiving others as God has forgiven you, he noted.

In the parable, found in the Gospel of Matthew, a servant owes his master a huge debt, something impossible to repay. But miraculously, he receives not only an extension, but full forgiveness of the debt. “An unexpected grace!”

But, Francis explained, the servant immediately turned to his brother to demand from him the much smaller debt he was owed.

“Therefore, in the end, the master calls him back and has [the servant] condemned,” he said. “Because if you do not try to forgive, you will not be forgiven; if you do not try to love, you will not be loved either.”

Supreme Court to hear sexual orientation, gender identity employment cases

Washington D.C., Apr 24, 2019 / 03:30 am (CNA).- In a decision that could have potentially far-reaching consequences, the U.S. Supreme Court has said it will hear cases involving claims that sexual orientation and gender identity should be included under current federal protections barring sex discrimination.

One case involves a male employee who identifies as a woman and was fired from a funeral home for deciding to wear women’s clothes to work.

John Bursch, vice president of appellate advocacy at the religious freedom legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, argued that the court should uphold current federal law.

“Neither government agencies nor the courts have authority to rewrite federal law by replacing ‘sex’ with ‘gender identity’—a change with widespread consequences for everyone,” he said April 22.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday said it would hear the cases in the upcoming court term, with decisions and opinions possible in 2020.

Alliance Defending Freedom is backing the funeral home at the center of one case, R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The family-owned funeral home, owned by Tom Roost, has operated since 1910 and now has several chapels.

In 2007 it hired a male employee who agreed to follow the company’s policies, including its sex-specific dress code. The ADF summary of the case said the dress code is “crafted to emphasize professionalism and keep the focus on those mourning the loss of a loved one.”

In 2013, the employee told Roost that he intended to begin dressing as a woman at work.

“Tom determined that allowing this would not be in the best interests of his clients processing their grief,” Alliance Defending Freedom said on its website summary of the case. “He offered the employee a severance package, which the employee refused.”

The employee, who now goes by Aimee Stephens, wrote to colleagues that year: “What I must tell you is very difficult for me and is taking all the courage I can muster... I have felt imprisoned in a body that does not match my mind, and this has caused me great despair and loneliness.”

Stephens filed suit on legal grounds including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a federal law which bars discrimination on categories including race, religion, national origin and sex.

In 2016, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan backed the funeral home. However, the EEOC appealed the case, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit then ruled that the dress code was discriminatory against a male employee who identifies as a woman.

“It is analytically impossible to fire an employee based on that employee’s status as a transgender person without being motivated, at least in part, by the employee’s sex,” said the appellate court, according to the New York Times. “Discrimination ‘because of sex’ inherently includes discrimination against employees because of a change in their sex.”

Bursch, who served as solicitor general of Michigan from 2011 to 2013, said the funeral home wanted “to serve families mourning the loss of a loved one.” He charged “the EEOC has elevated its political goals above the interests of the grieving people that the funeral home serves.”

“Businesses have the right to rely on what the law is—not what government agencies want it to be—when they create and enforce employment policies,” Bursch added.

The Supreme Court accepted the funeral home case on the limited questions of whether Title VII bars discrimination against self-identified transgender people based on “their status as transgender” or “sex stereotyping” under a 1989 Supreme Court decision, Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins.

Alliance Defending Freedom’s brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court argued that the Sixth Circuit’s interpretation “undermines the primary purpose for banning discrimination based on sex,” namely to ensure equal opportunities for women and to eliminate workplace inequalities that have held women back.

If the lower court’s interpretation holds, it said, employment reserved for women like playing basketball in the WNBA or working at a shelter for abused women “now must be opened to males who identify as women.” Such a definition would also undermine Title IX efforts to advance women’s participation in sports and educational opportunities, it said.

“Substituting ‘gender identity’ for ‘sex’ in nondiscrimination laws also threatens freedom of conscience,” the ADF petition added, saying that such interpretations have forced doctors to participate in surgical efforts to alter sex “in violation of their deeply held beliefs” and best medical judgment.

“In sum, the Sixth Circuit ushered in a profound change in federal law accompanied by widespread legal and social ramifications,” the legal group charged.

Two other cases, Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia and Altitude Express, Inc. vs. Zarda, will also go before the Supreme Court. They were consolidated because of similar claims regarding employer discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, National Public Radio reports.

The case Altitude Express, Inc. v. Zarda involves the late New York skydiving instructor Donald Zarda, who said he was fired because he was gay. He was fired after a female customer complained. She had voiced concerns about being tightly tied to Zarda during a tandem dive, and Zarda tried to reassure her by telling her he was “100% gay,” the New York Times reports.

Zarda was killed in a skydiving accident in 2014 but his estate is continuing to pursue the case.

A divided 13-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit ruled that the lawsuit could proceed.

Chief Judge Robert A. Katzmann, writing the court’s majority opinion, said “sexual orientation discrimination is motivated, at least in part, by sex and is thus a subset of sex discrimination.” Sexual orientation discrimination is “predicated on assumptions about how persons of a certain sex can or should be, which is an impermissible basis for adverse employment actions.”

“(S)exual orientation discrimination—which is motivated by an employer’s opposition to romantic association between particular sexes—is discrimination based on the employee’s own sex,” Katzmann’s decision added.

The case Bostock v. Clayton County involves a Georgia child welfare services coordinator who said he was fired for being gay, the New York Times reports.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in July 2018 issued an unsigned opinion citing a 1979 5th circuit court decision ruling that firing for homosexuality is not barred by Title VII.

Most federal courts do not consider sexual orientation discrimination to be a form of sex discrimination, the New York Times reports.

EEOC publications on the commission website hold that “sex stereotypes” like “the belief that men should only date women or that women should only marry men” constitute illegal discrimination on the basis of sex. They say that the 1964 civil rights legislation against sex discrimination in the workplace includes discrimination “based on an applicant or employee’s gender identity or sexual orientation.”

However, those opinions lack Congressional approval. Proposed legislation known as the Equality Act would add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as protected categories under federal law.

Critics have warned that the legislation explicitly rejects religious freedom protections and would open the gates to anti-discrimination lawsuits against religious believers and institutions who disagree with the bill’s broad view of what constitutes LGBT discrimination.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 105:1-4, 6-9

1 O give thanks to the LORD, call on his name, make known his deeds among the peoples!
2 Sing to him, sing praises to him, tell of all his wonderful works!
3 Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice!
4 Seek the LORD and his strength, seek his presence continually!
6 O offspring of Abraham his servant, sons of Jacob, his chosen ones!
7 He is the LORD our God; his judgments are in all the earth.
8 He is mindful of his covenant for ever, of the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations,
9 the covenant which he made with Abraham, his sworn promise to Isaac,

First Reading: Acts 3:1-10

1 Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour.
2 And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at that gate of the temple which is called Beautiful to ask alms of those who entered the temple.
3 Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked for alms.
4 And Peter directed his gaze at him, with John, and said, "Look at us."
5 And he fixed his attention upon them, expecting to receive something from them.
6 But Peter said, "I have no silver and gold, but I give you what I have; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk."
7 And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong.
8 And leaping up he stood and walked and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.
9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God,
10 and recognized him as the one who sat for alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

Gospel: Luke 24:13-35

13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emma'us, about seven miles from Jerusalem,
14 and talking with each other about all these things that had happened.
15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them.
16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.
17 And he said to them, "What is this conversation which you are holding with each other as you walk?" And they stood still, looking sad.
18 Then one of them, named Cle'opas, answered him, "Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?"
19 And he said to them, "What things?" And they said to him, "Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people,
20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him.
21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since this happened.
22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning
23 and did not find his body; and they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive.
24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb, and found it just as the women had said; but him they did not see."
25 And he said to them, "O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!
26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?"
27 And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.
28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He appeared to be going further,
29 but they constrained him, saying, "Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent." So he went in to stay with them.
30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them.
31 And their eyes were opened and they recognized him; and he vanished out of their sight.
32 They said to each other, "Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?"
33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven gathered together and those who were with them,
34 who said, "The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!"
35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Now is the time to defend the truth, Phoenix bishop says at prayer breakfast

Washington D.C., Apr 23, 2019 / 04:28 pm (CNA).- Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix called on a gathering of the nation’s Catholic leaders to stand up to the heresies of the modern age and defend the dignity of the human person, body and soul, as an integral part of defending the faith.

Speaking at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast April 23, the keynote speaker said that the importance of the human body was at the center of a contemporary moral crisis, and crucial to presenting the Church’s teaching in modern society.

Olmsted said that he believes the “disaster” predicted by Pope St. Paul VI in the encyclical Humanae vitae had come to fruition. Quoting from an exhortation to the married couples of his own diocese, he said that the sexual revolution of the last century had caused humanity “a plague of misery on a scale never known before.”

“Enough! Husbands and wifes, mothers and fathers, you are called to have great hearts here, counter-cultural and brave. You can build something better, freer, more generous, and nobler,” he said, insisting that rebuilding society began in the home.

Husbands and wives have to be “all-in” for their sacramental marriage vows, explained Olmsted. This means that couples need to be open to new life, whether “by way of the marital act” or through adoption and fostering.

"Do not be afraid to sink your roots deeply into the living water that is Jesus Christ. He will not abandon you,” said Olmsted. “Lead your family, and lead in whatever other place the Lord asks, with deep and childlike faith in Him."

The family, Olmsted said, was the sign that would defeat the heresies of the current age, all of which concerned the human body.  Whether in reference to the true nature of marriage, life, and gender, or the resurrection of Christ, when the dignity of the body is questioned, Olmsted said, the truth preached by the Church is cast aside, to the detriment of marriage and unborn children.

Sacramental marriage “stands now in the way of the gender ideology,” he said, insisting that Catholics must proclaim the truth and oppose attempts to weaken marriage and the family - attempts which “do nothing to strengthen our great country.”

“Look at the vociferous opposition to the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act,” said Olmsted, referring to Congressional attempts to legislate to require that doctors provide age-appropriate care for infants who survive late-term abortions.

“Where does this blatant disregard come from?” he asked. “From a hardened heart.”

Olmsted said it is the great duty of Catholics to “stand up for each child,” offering a courageous witness for life. This, he said, requires each person to “expand our hearts to receive that child” and to “stand in the breech left by hardened hearts.”

“We Christians, then, must stand up for this reality of marriage today, in our homes, and in the public square, despite the real risk of persecution for doing so," he said.

“We can do this. We were made for such a time as this.”

Catholic church vandalized in Northern Ireland

Belfast, Northern Ireland, Apr 23, 2019 / 04:01 pm (CNA).- A Catholic church in Northern Ireland was desecrated with paint in the early hours of Easter Sunday morning, receiving disapproval from political officials.

Sacred Heart Church in Ballyclare, about 13 miles north of Belfast, had white paint thrown on it after midnight April 21.

Police arrested a 26 year-old man related to the “criminal damage.” He has cooperated with the police and has been released on bail.

A 35 year-old woman was also warned by the police for assisting an offender.

Noreen McClelland, a local politician of the Social Democratic and Labour Party, lamented the incident, saying, according to The Irish News: “This is an appalling, senseless act, the motive being to cause hurt and distress to the Catholic community of Ballyclare. Easter Sunday is a special date in the Christian calendar and for the congregation to find their church defaced in such a way is totally unacceptable.”

Members from the Democratic Unionist Party also spoke against the vandalism. MP Paul Girvan and assembly members Pam Cameron and Trevor Clarke released a joint statement, noting that these actions did not represent the community as a whole.

"All places of worship should be free from attack and from the fear of attack,” they said, according to The Irish News. “We stand with our neighbours at this time and assure them of our support.”

Religious disputes have long been part of the history of Northern Ireland, which is predominantly Protestant and is part of the United Kingdom, while the majority-Catholic Republic of Ireland gained its independence in 1916.

The region has had ongoing religiously and politically based conflicts, most notably “the Troubles”, which included violent clashes that lasted from the late 1960s until 1998, when the Good Friday Agreement was struck.

Since 1998, there has been only sporadic sectarian violence in Northern Ireland.

In July, St. Mary's church in Limavady was vandalized with sectarian graffiti. Paramilitary slogans from an anti-Catholic group marked a door and some of the walls of the church, and a large crucifix outside of the church was also painted on.

In October 2017, the loyalist paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force made threats which forced four Catholic families to flee their homes at a social housing project in Belfast.

Recent demographic figures have suggested that Catholics will likely outnumber Protestants in Northern Ireland by 2021. According to the last census, in 2011, Protestants outnumbered Catholics in Northern Ireland by just three percent.

Salvation is found in Jesus - not in ideologies - says Cuban priest

Havana, Cuba, Apr 23, 2019 / 03:05 pm (CNA).- While recent policy changes in the U.S. have left the people of Cuba facing increasing uncertainty, the message of the Catholic Church is always that security is ultimately found in Christ, said a priest from the island nation.

“This is the task of the Church: to say that salvation is found only is Jesus, who gives concrete, precise answers to the person seeking the truth,” said Fr. Yosvany Carvajal, pastor of the Cathedral of the Virgin Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Havana and director of the Father Felix Varela Cultural Center.

“Ideologies don't save people, ideologies are ideas. They are a body of ideas that exist in various political systems; but man's definitive salvation is found only in that true man and true God who has come to speak to us of an everlasting love that saves,” the priest told Vatican News April 21.

He highlighted the participation of the faithful in the Holy Week celebrations, saying that although the Church in Cuba is poor, it is “a living Church” with hope in “the Risen One who has conquered death, sin and evil.”

Religious celebrations were publicly banned in Cuba after the triumph of Fidel Castro's revolution. However, Christmas became a holiday beginning in 1997, as a concession to the request by Saint John Paul II before his visit in January 1998.

Likewise, during his visit to Cuba in March 2012, Benedict XVI made the same request for Good Friday. The communist government allowed its celebration as an exception in 2012 and 2013, and made it an official holiday beginning in 2014.

Carvajal said the faith of the Cuban people can be seen particularly clearly during Holy Week.

“Signs of Christianity are seen everywhere, and also popular religiosity. You can see that all this is alive, present in the people,” the priest said. He pointed to the high participation in Good Friday services as a sign that the people desire to be close to Christ in his Church.

The Cuban priest also said the Church in the country “is a Church that accompanies the people, which is suffering, especially these days due to the embargo policy.”

Last week, the Trump administration announced new penalties and tighter sanctions on Cuba. Among the new policies is the activation of a previously unused provision allowing U.S. citizens to sue foreign companies that operate on property confiscated by the government following the Castro revolution.

As a result of this, Carvajal said, “the population is going through hard times because they don't know what is going to happen.”

“The economic situation is not easy, but the Cuban people are a joyful people,” he said, and they never lose “the sense of the joy of living.”

He recalled the visits that Saint John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis made to Cuba, which “helped greatly the Church to not be afraid.”

“The people now find themselves in this difficult situation following the measures announced by the U.S. Government. There is concern,” he noted. “But with the message of the Gospel we must always announce the joy and hope of the definitive triumph of Christ. We must always continue on this path of announcing reconciliation and dialogue as the only possible way of seeking the true good.”

 

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Court rules against Catholic foster agency in Philadelphia

Philadelphia, Pa., Apr 23, 2019 / 02:23 pm (CNA).- After a yearlong legal struggle, a federal appeals court has ruled that city contractors in Philadelphia must place foster children with same-sex couples, a ruling that threatens the future of the local Catholic archdiocese’s foster placement program.

“We’re disappointed that the court decided to let the city place politics above the needs of kids and the rights of parents, but we will continue this fight,” said Lori Windham, senior counsel at the legal group Becket, which is representing the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Catholic Social Services.

Becket noted that despite being hundreds of beds short of what is necessary to serve the children in the foster care system, the City of Philadelphia failed to renew the Catholic foster care agency’s contract.

“The need to find those children homes is so dire that earlier this year the city put out an urgent call for 300 new families to become foster parents,” the institute wrote in an April 22 release.

“But shortly after this call for help, the city inexplicably prohibited Catholic Social Services from placing any more children with the families it has certified—solely because of the agency’s religious beliefs. There are dozens of families licensed to foster through Catholic Social Services who are willing to take in children, but because of the city’s actions, their beds have remained empty for close to a year.”

The City of Philadelphia received an allegation in March 2018 that two of the Department of Human Services’ 30 or so contracted agencies would not place children with same-sex couples as foster parents. After the department investigated, it stopped referring foster children to those agencies.

One of those agencies was Catholic Social Services (CSS), an arm of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia that has been working with foster children since its founding in 1917. CSS serves about 120 foster children in about 100 homes at any one time.

City officials cited the group’s unwillingness to place foster children with same-sex couples due to its religious beliefs on traditional marriage, even though lawyers for Catholic Social Services argued that no same-sex couple had ever approached the agency asking for certification to accept foster children.

Catholic Social Services in its lawsuit sought an order to require the city to renew its contract with them, arguing that the city’s decision violated their religious freedom under the constitution. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled against CSS in its April 22 ruling.

“The City’s nondiscrimination policy is a neutral, generally applicable law, and the religious views of CSS do not entitle it to an exception from that policy,” Circuit Judge Thomas Ambro concluded.

Catholic Social Services has never been the subject of discrimination complaints by same-sex couples. The agency says that it assists all children in need, regardless of a child’s race, color, sex, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity.

“CSS will only certify foster parents who are either married or single; it will not certify cohabitating unmarried couples, and it considers all same-sex couples to be unmarried. So far as the record reflects, no same-sex couples have approached CSS seeking to become foster parents,” Judge Ambro wrote.

Despite this, Ambro concluded that the City of Philadelphia “stands on firm ground in requiring its contractors to abide by its non-discrimination policies when administering public services,” and that the record demonstrates, in his view, the “City’s good faith in its effort to enforce its laws against discrimination” rather than an anti-religious bias.

Several foster families who relied on Catholic Social Services to help foster children were plaintiffs in the case, including the late Cecilia Paul, who has fostered more than 100 children, and Sharonell Fulton, the leading plaintiff who has worked with the agency for 25 years.

The U.S. Supreme Court in August 2018 declined to grant an injunction that would require the city to continue its foster-care placement with the agency during litigation over the matter.

Philadelphia is not the only city to refuse to work with a Catholic organization on the issue of foster care and adoption placement. In Buffalo, Catholic Charities recently ceased adoption and foster care work due to rules that would have forced the organization to violate their religious beliefs. Catholic Charities had done work with adoption in Buffalo for nearly a century before the rule change.

In recent years, faith-based child welfare providers in multiple states including in Massachusetts, Illinois, California, and the District of Columbia, have also been forced to shut down their adoption and foster care services because of beliefs that children should be placed with a married mother and father.

National Catholic Prayer Breakfast hears call for 'Catholic great awakening'

Washington D.C., Apr 23, 2019 / 01:30 pm (CNA).- The National Catholic Prayer Breakfast heard an uncompromising call to holiness and the defense of every human life Tuesday, with speakers calling for a “Catholic great awakening.”

A total of 1,400 gathered in Washington, DC for the 15th-annual prayer breakfast, where keynotes were delivered by Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix and Curtis Martin, founder and director of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students.

Leading attendees in the Divine Mercy Chaplet, Sr. Bethany Madonna, S.V., vocations director for the Sisters of Life, told the nation’s assembled Catholic leaders to be undaunted by their own failings and limitations. Christ “loves you, and wants your weakness,” she said.

“You can be strong with his strength,” she told the audience, “and you will be able to endure the insults that come with defending every human life.”

Pro-life activist Abby Johnson also addressed the crowd, urging them to work towards a society in which abortion was “unthinable” and its legality became irrelevant.   

In his keynote address, FOCUS president Curtis Martin noted that human history was punctuated by periods of renewal, sparked by a return to God in a spirit of atonement. But instead of doom and gloom, he said, the coming generation of young Catholics has the potential to do great things.

The current generation, he said, are “survivors by God’s design” having been born after abortion was legalized and are poised to “wake up” and “vanquish the devil in this generation.”

The United States has experienced ebbs and flows in religious devotion before, and has seen two “great awakenings” among Protestants that resulted in renewed faith for believers. Perhaps, said Martin, this is what the Church in America needs.

"Wouldn't it be a great time for a Catholic great awakening?"

Also among the speakers to address the the pro-life cause was acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, who assured the audience of the president’s personal commitment to protecting the unborn.

Trump was frequently criticized during the 2016 presidential campaign for his past statements in support of abortion. Since his election, the administration has made efforts to block state funding for abortion a consistent theme, renforcing the Mexico City policy preventing U.S. from going to organizations which fund or promote abortion.

Mulvaney told the crowd that uncompromisingly pro-life language in the 2019 State of the Union address was expanded at the president’s personal insistence.

Trump used the speech to condemn the newly-passed Reproductive Health Act in New York, which widely expanded abortion access. He was also critical of efforts to pass a similar law in Virginia. According to Mulvaney, these comments were Trump’s own last-minute additions to the text, made by hand as he reviewed the final draft.

Despite political battles and increased polarization in national political life, Mulvaney said that was “comfortable” serving in the Trump administration and with its priorities.

“The principles of our [Catholic] faith are alive and well and well-respected in this administration and are driving many of our policies,” Mulvaney said.