Browsing News Entries

New Montana law aimed at protecting women’s sports

lzf/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., May 10, 2021 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

Montana’s governor signed a bill on Friday requiring public school athletic teams to be designated by biological sex rather than gender identity.

The "Save Women's Sports Act,” signed by Gov. Greg Gianforte (R), would limit participation in women’s sports to only biological females, excluding biological males identifying as transgender females. The law states, “Athletic teams or sports designated for females, women, or girls may not be open to students of the male sex.” It is scheduled to go into effect on July 1.

The bill follows a wave of comparable legislation in states including Idaho, Mississippi, Arkansas, West Virginia, and Kansas. 

In a statement, Christiana Holcomb, legal counsel for the group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), said, “Allowing males to compete in girls’ sports destroys fair competition and women’s athletic opportunities.” 

ADF is currently representing female track runners in a lawsuit against the state of Connecticut; the state in 2017 began a policy allowing biological males identifying as transgender females to compete in women’s athletics.

The lawsuit is based on Title IXof the Education Amendments of 1972, federal law which prohibits sex-based discrimination in federally-funded education activities and programs. The group has argued that policies allowing athletes to participate in sports based on their gender identity can put girls at a disadvantage. 

Holcomb said that Gianforte and the state legislature “have acted to preserve a level playing field for all female athletes in the state, whether in high school or college.” 

“This bill protects athletic opportunities for women and girls and gives them vital legal recourse against unfair policies that arise,” she added. 

“In the face of ongoing pressure from woke corporations and special interests to reject this type of legislation, we are especially grateful to Gov. Gianforte, Rep. Fuller, and the Montana Legislature for taking a courageous stand and ensuring fairness for women and girls as they continue to pursue their dreams,” she said. 

The Human Rights Campaign, a group that says it fights for “LGBTQ equality and inclusion,” said in a tweet referencing the Montana law, “Sports are for everyone. This law is wrong.”

Some state governors, including Kristi Noem of South Dakota (R), have vetoed transgender sports bills or have pledged not to support them; Noem herself requested an amended version of a transgender sports bill to exclude strict requirements for college sports. Once her proposed amendments failed to pass the state legislature, she issued an executive order to “protect” women’s sports, adding that she would still work for a special legislative session to address the issue. 

Colorado Springs bishop calls for prayers after deadly shooting

Bishop Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs / CNA

Washington D.C., May 10, 2021 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

The bishop of Colorado Springs called Catholics to prayer on Monday after a shooter killed seven people, including himself, at a local mobile home community on Sunday .

“I join the people of Colorado Springs and the nation in mourning the tragic deaths of six family members and a gunman on Sunday,” Bishop Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs stated on Monday afternoon.

“We have seen far too many of these horrific acts in recent decades, and only the love of Christ will overcome the crushing despair that is a common symptom of the culture of death,” he said. 

The shooting occurred shortly after midnight on Sunday morning. The Colorado Springs Police Department said in a statement that officers arrived on the scene at Canterbury mobile home park and discovered six adults shot dead, with another mortally wounded. The injured man was taken to the hospital and later died from his injuries. 

The department said it believed the shooting occurred at a birthday party, and that “friends, family, and children were gathered inside” a home to celebrate. 

The shooter, who is believed to have been a boyfriend of one of the women shot and killed, “walked inside and began shooting people at the party before taking his own life,” said the police. None of the children present were harmed, and they are currently with relatives. 

The names of those killed have not yet been released, pending the notification of relatives. Police said they were seeking to determine a motive in the shooting.

“I invite all the faithful to pray for both those who died and for the survivors, and I especially invoke the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary so that, through her motherly care, the children impacted by this senseless act of violence will find consolation and healing,” Bishop Sheridan said. 

Department Chief Vince Niski expressed his sorrow at the shooting. 

“Words fall short to describe the tragedy that took place this morning. As the chief of police, as a husband, as a father, as a grandfather, as a member of this community, my heart breaks for the families who have lost someone they love and for the children who have lost their parents,” said a statement from Niski. 

Niski said that the officers of his department were “left incredibly shaken” by the crime scene. 

“This is something you hope never happens in your own community, in the place that you call home,” he said. “When these types of unspeakable acts happen, there is nothing that can be done to fully rebuild what was lost or replace those who are no longer with us.” 

Niski vowed that “this department will do everything we can to find you the answers you deserve and be here with you with an unwavering support.”

 

CDF highlights its Note on Catholics in politics in letter to US bishops on Eucharistic coherence

Luis Cardinal Ladaria, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in Rome, June 28, 2018. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Denver Newsroom, May 10, 2021 / 15:16 pm (CNA).

The prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith wrote Friday to the head of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops regarding admission to Communion, affirming the centrality of the congregation’s 2002 note on Catholic’s participation in politics and the importance of safeguarding the rights of ordinaries in their local Churches.

A 2004 memo from Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, then the prefect of the same congregation, should “be discussed only within the context of the authoritative Doctrinal Note,” read the May 7 letter by Luis Cardinal Ladaria to Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, which was obtained by CNA.

Archbishop Gomez had written the congregation in March to inform it that the US bishops will be addressing the situation of Catholics in public office who support permissive legislation regarding abortion, euthanasia, or other moral evils.

Cardinal Ladaria opened his reply by emphasizing that the 2004 letter from Cardinal Ratzinger to Theodore Cardinal McCarrick about the same problem “was in the form of a private communication to the bishops” and that “insofar, therefore, as these principles are not published by the Conference, they may be of assistance in the preparation of the draft of your document.”

He said Cardinal Ratzinger had “offered general principles on the worthy reception of Holy Communion in order to assist local ordinaries in the United States in their dealings with Catholic pro-choice politicians within their jurisdictions. Cardinal Ratzinger’s communication should thus be discussed only within the context of the authoritative Doctrinal Note which provides the teaching of the Magisterium on the theological foundation for any initiative regarding the question of worthy reception of Holy Communion.”

The cardinal noted that the Doctrinal Note on some questions regarding the participation of Catholics in political life was discussed during the 2004 US ad liminas, during which “it was clear that there was a lack of agreement regarding the issue of communion among the bishops,” and that “the development of a national policy” was not then under consideration.

He added that the problem arose again during the 2019-20 US ad liminas, and that the congregation “advised that dialogue among the bishops be undertaken to preserve the unity of the episcopal conference in the face of disagreements over this controversial topic. The formulation of a national policy was suggested during the ad limina visits only if this would help the bishops to maintain unity.”

“This Congregation notes that such a policy, given its possibly contentious nature, could have the opposite effect and become a source of discord rather than unity within the episcopate and the larger Church in the United States. Thus, we advised during the ad limina visits that the effective development of a policy in this area requires that dialogue occurs in two stages: first among the bishops themselves, and then between bishops and Catholic pro-choice politicians within their jurisdictions.”

Cardinal Ladaria urged that the episcopal dialogue would help the bishops “agree as a Conference that support of pro-choice legislation is not compatible with Catholic teaching.”

“The bishops should therefore discuss and agree to the teaching in the above-mentioned Doctrinal Note which affirms in article 3 that ‘Christians are called to reject, as injurious to democratic life, a conception of pluralism that reflects moral relativism and accept that democracy must be based on the true and solid foundation of non-negotiable ethical principles, which are the underpinning of life in society.’ The bishops should affirm as a Conference that ‘those who are directly involved in lawmaking bodies have a grave and clear obligation to oppose any law that attacks human life’,” the prefect of the CDF wrote.

Having done this, local ordinaries “would reach out to and engage in dialogue with Catholic politicians within their jurisdictions who adopt a pro-choice position regarding abortion legislation, euthanasia, or other moral evils, as a means of understanding the nature of their positions and their comprehension of Catholic teaching,” stated Cardinal Ladaria.

After these “two stages of extensive and serene dialogue”, then would the USCCB “face the difficult task of discerning the best way forward for the Church in the United States to witness to the grave moral responsibility of Catholic public officials to protect human life at all stages.”

“If it then decided to formulate a national policy on worthiness for communion, such a statement would need to express a true consensus of the bishops on the matter, while observing the prerequisite that any provisions of the Conference in this area would respect the rights of individual Ordinaries in their dioceses and the prerogatives of the Holy See.”

The cardinal added that “any statement of the Conference regarding Catholic political leaders would best be framed within the broad context of worthiness for the reception of Holy Communion on the part of all the faithful, rather than only one category of Catholic, reflecting their obligation to conform their lives to the entire Gospel of Jesus Christ as they prepare to receive the sacrament.”

He said that “it would be misleading if such a statement were to give the impression that abortion and euthanasia alone constitute the only grave matters of Catholic moral and social teaching that demand the fullest level of accountability on the part of Catholics.”

Cardinal Ladaria urged that “every effort” be be made “to dialogue with other episcopal conferences” so as “to preserve unity” in the universal Church.

Archbishop Gomez transmitted Cardinal Ladaria’s letter to each of the bishops in the US May 8, as requested. He noted that the prefect “has provided us with important background and insight that should prove helpful to us in our continued prayer and discernment of this matter.”

Cardinal Ratzinger’s 2004 memo told US bishops that a Catholic politician “consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws” is engaged in “manifest” and “formal cooperation” in grave sin.

In such a case, the politician’s “pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church’s teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist,” Cardinal Ratzinger wrote, adding that if the Catholic perseveres in grave sin and still presents himself for Holy Communion, “the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it.”

That 2004 memo was an application of canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law, which says that Catholics “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.”

Local ordinaries have in recent months been teaching about admission to Communion.

In March, Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield in Illinois told a regional conference of the Canon Law Society of America that Catholics who publicly and obstinately advocate for abortion, including politicians, can and should be denied Communion: “I'm talking about their external actions. If they're living in a way or holding positions that are contrary to church teaching, then the Minister of Communion has to deny them the sacrament.”

Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix released Veneremur Cernui, an apostolic exhortation on the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, in April. It says that “Holy Communion is reserved for those, who with God’s grace make a sincere effort to live this union with Christ and His Church by adhering to all that the Catholic Church believes and proclaims to be revealed by God.” This is why the Church “requires Catholic leaders who have publicly supported gravely immoral laws such as abortion and euthanasia to refrain from receiving Holy Communion until they publicly repent and receive the Sacrament of Penance,” Bishop Olmsted taught.

In an April 14 column on Eucharistic coherence, Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver wrote that “the Eucharist is a gift, not an entitlement, and the sanctity of that gift is only diminished by unworthy reception. Because of the public scandal caused, this is especially true in the case of public officials who persistently govern in violation of the natural law, particularly the pre-eminent issues of abortion and euthanasia, the taking of innocent life, as well as other actions that fail to uphold the church's teaching regarding the dignity of life.”

In a May 1 pastoral letter, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco taught that any Catholic formally cooperating with abortion should refrain from receiving the Eucharist.

During his homily at the Vigil Mass for Life in January, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas taught that Catholics should not receive Communion if they are contradicting “fundamental” Church teaching.

Bishop McElroy of San Diego recently wrote an essay in America Magazine arguing that refusing Holy Communion to pro-abortion rights politicians politicizes the Eucharist, and Blase Cardinal Cupich of Chicago took issue with Archbishop Aquila’s column on Eucharistic coherence.

In October 2019, while campaigning for president, Joe Biden was denied Communion at a parish in the Diocese of Charleston. A Charleston diocesan policy, which is also that of the Archdiocese of Atlanta and the Diocese of Charlotte, states that “Catholic public officials who consistently support abortion on demand are cooperating with evil in a public manner. By supporting pro-abortion legislation they participate in manifest grave sin, a condition which excludes them from admission to Holy Communion as long as they persist in the pro-abortion stance.”

Catholics slam ‘lawless’ HHS ‘transgender mandate’

JHVEPhoto/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., May 10, 2021 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

Catholic groups and legal experts denounced the Biden administration’s notice on Monday that it would prohibit denial of gender-transition procedures in health care.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Monday issued a notice that it would include, as unlawful sex discrimination, “discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation” as well as “on the basis of gender identity.”

Legal experts warned that HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, a Catholic, would be enforcing federal law to require gender-transition procedures, under the policy of nondiscrimination.

“Becerra is threatening to put doctors and hospitals that disagree with current transgender ideology out of business, including those with medical, religious, or moral objections to conducting sex-reassignment surgeries on minors,” said Roger Severino, former head of the HHS Office for Civil Rights and current director of the HHS Accountability Project at the Ethics & Public Policy Center.

Mandating gender-transition procedures, while many doctors remain opposed to providing them, is not sound medical policy, he added.

“Becerra is trying to change the fundamental practice of medicine and science by the stroke of a pen, but will soon learn through lawsuits that sex as a biological reality won’t be so easily erased,” Severino said.

The HHS notice, announced on Monday, states that it is interpreting sex discrimination in health care to include discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

In the Affordable Care Act, Sec. 1557 prohibited sex discrimination in health care; the Obama administration interpreted that provision to prohibit discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Thus, the administration said that the denial of some procedures, such as abortions and gender-transition surgeries, constituted unlawful discrimination in health care.

Using that interpretation, the administration in 2016 announced the “transgender mandate,” forcing all doctors who accept Medicaid and other federal funding to provide gender-transition surgeries upon the referral of a mental health professional. The administration did not allow exemptions for doctors who objected to the procedures because of conscience or medical reasons.

On Monday, the Biden administration said it was extending protections against sex discrimination to include sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination. It cited the Supreme Court's June 2020 decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, where the court found that federal laws against sex-based employment discrimination also applied to cases involving sexual orientation and gender identity.

Becket, a legal group which is representing a coalition of doctors and religious groups opposed to the transgender mandate, said on Monday that the HHS announcement will “punish” doctors and hospitals opposed to the mandate.

Becket vice president and senior counsel Luke Goodrich said the group would be asking a federal court on Friday for a permanent injunction from the mandate.

HHS said that it would comply with existing court orders against the transgender mandate, as well as federal religious freedom protections under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. However, Becket said that the administration is still fighting these cases in court.

“In today’s announcement, HHS says it will comply with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and ‘applicable’ court rulings--but it is these very rulings HHS is fighting to overturn in court,” Goodrich said. Congress is also considering the Equality Act, a law which prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity and which specifically overrides RFRA. The White House has supported the legislation and called for its passage.

Severino on Monday called the Biden administration’s announcement “lawless.”

“This lawless action circumvents the public rulemaking process followed by both the Trump and Obama administrations on this issue and contradicts an existing court injunction,” he said. Two federal courts have ruled against the HHS transgender mandate.

As head of the HHS civil rights office, Severino twice found Becerra – then-attorney general of California – in violation of federal conscience laws, due to his defense of state abortion mandates.

Other Catholic leaders condemned the HHS announcement.

“Coercing doctors to carry out highly controversial and unproven ‘treatments’ like administering puberty blocking hormones to children and performing irreversible sex changes – against their best medical judgment and conscience – is the latest effort by the Biden administration to force anyone who dissents from its radical ideology into compliance,” stated Grazie Pozo Christie, M.D., policy advisor for The Catholic Association.

Brian Burch, president of CatholicVote.org, said the announcement was all about mandating gender-transitioning, and not about actual “health care.”

“Contrary to the misleading HHS announcement, no American is being denied care for broken arms, or standard medical procedures based on their gender ‘identity’ or sexual orientation. This move by HHS is a setup to normalize and strong arm doctors into administering puberty blocking drugs on children, performing sex-change surgeries, and more,” he stated. “Catholic hospitals and doctors are likely to come under increased pressure and scrutiny as a result.”

In 2020, the Trump administration said it would only interpret sex discrimination under biological sex, and not gender identity or sexual orientation.

Diocese of Buffalo drafting parish grouping plan

St. Joseph Cathedral, Buffalo / CiEll/Shutterstock

Denver, Colo., May 10, 2021 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

The Diocese of Buffalo is preparing to draft a plan for regrouping parishes, with a finalized plan due in September. 

Bishop Michael Fisher told participants at a May 8 virtual meeting that the plan will include the creation of “families” of three to six parishes that work closely with each other to provide for the spiritual, sacramental and educational needs of parishioners, the Buffalo News reported.

The parish plan will then be implemented over the next three years 

The Zoom meeting with Bishop Fisher was organized by the Movement to Restore Trust, a local group of lay Catholics founded in 2018 amid allegations of abuse cover-up by Bishop Richard Malone, Fisher’s predecessor. 

Malone resigned as bishop of Buffalo in December 2019, and Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of Albany served as the diocese’s interim apostolic administrator until Fisher’s installation in January 2021.

"There are going to be lay leaders that are formed to help guide parishes in this renewal,” Father Bryan Zielenieski, the diocese’s vicar of renewal and development, said at the meeting as reported by Spectrum News. He added that clergy will be assigned to minister to the parish families rather than to single parishes. 

Father Zielenieski added that under the plan, individual parishes would maintain their own identities, corporate structures, trustees and parish councils, the Buffalo News reported. 

In recent years, the diocese has been rocked by revelations of past clergy sex abuse and allegations of a cover-up by former Bishop Malone, former auxiliary bishop Edward Grosz, and diocesan officials. 

In November 2018, Bishop Malone’s former assistant leaked records reportedly showing that the diocese worked with lawyers to conceal credible abuse allegations from the public.

While the diocese had reported the names of some priests credibly accused of abuse, it had not reported others, the records appeared to show. Bishop Malone denied claims that he had covered up abuse.

In September 2019, Malone again faced controversy when his secretary leaked audio of the bishop appearing to admit he knew a diocesan priest faced credible allegations of harassment, grooming, and a violation of the seal of confession - months before Malone removed the priest from active ministry.

Malone, who had led the diocese since 2012, resigned in December 2019 following a Vatican-ordered investigation of the diocese. Pope Francis named Bishop Fisher, formerly auxiliary bishop of Washington, D.C., as the new bishop of Buffalo in December 2020.

Following the August 2019 implementation of the Child Victims Act - which created a temporary “window” for child sex abuse lawsuits to be filed in old cases when the statute of limitations had expired - the Buffalo diocese was named in hundreds of abuse lawsuits. It filed for Chapter 11 reorganization under the U.S. bankruptcy code in February 2020.

At least 260 lawsuits have been filed against Buffalo parishes and schools under the Child Victims Act, the Buffalo News reported. 

A bankruptcy judge ruled in February that the diocese has “no obligation” to retain a law firm on behalf of Bishop Malone and Bishop Grosz, whom the state attorney general is suing for alleged cover-up of sexual abuse. Under the ruling, the bishops must pay their own legal fees, but may still have the right to seek reimbursement from the diocese’s insurers for their legal costs, the Buffalo News reported. 

A federal bankruptcy judge in April put 36 lawsuits against Buffalo Catholic parishes and schools on hold until this fall, stating that the lawsuits’ advancement would interfere with the diocese’s bankruptcy reorganization process. 

Peoria diocese continues promoting Sheen’s beatification cause

Archbishop Fulton Sheen / Dumont Network

Washington D.C., May 10, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

The Diocese of Peoria is continuing to promote the cause for beatification of Ven. Fulton Sheen, almost 18 months after his planned beatification Mass was abruptly canceled. 

“We continue to promote the cause for both his beatification and canonization,” said Bishop Louis Tylka at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Peoria, Illinois, on May 8. Tylka was celebrating a Mass commemorating Sheen’s birthday. 

The bishop added that “so much more so” is the diocese promoting Sheen’s cause to further “the preaching and sharing of the Gospel.”

Bishop Tylka is coadjutor bishop of the Peoria diocese, and will become the diocese’s ninth bishop once current Bishop Daniel Jenky, CSC, retires in March 2022 when he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 75.

Born in El Paso, Illinois on May 8, 1895, Peter John Sheen was ordained a priest of the Peoria diocese on Sept. 20, 1919. He was called “Fulton” in honor of his mother’s maiden name.

On June 11, 1951, Sheen was consecrated as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of New York. He remained in that post until 1966, when he was named the Bishop of Rochester until his retirement in 1969 at the age of 74. 

In 1969, Sheen was given the title of Archbishop of the titular see of Newport, Wales, and was known as “Archbishop Fulton Sheen.” 

Tylka called Sheen a “trailblazer” due to his Emmy-winning television show “Life is Worth Living.” The show aired on television from 1952 until 1957. 

Sheen “reached millions of people because of [the show],” says Tylka. “He was so far ahead of his time in that reality that we take for granted today.” 

Sheen died on Dec. 9, 1979. In 2002, his cause for canonization was opened, and he was declared venerable in 2012. Seven years later, Pope Francis approved of a miracle attributed to the intercession of Sheen, and his beatification was scheduled for Dec. 21, 2019. 

However, two-and-a-half weeks prior to the scheduled beatification, the event was canceled at the request of the Bishop of Rochester. 

“With deep regret, Bishop Daniel Jenky, C.S.C, Bishop of Peoria, announces that he has been informed by the Holy See that the beatification of Fulton Sheen will be postponed,” a Dec. 3, 2019 press release from the Peoria diocese stated. 

“Bishop Jenky is deeply saddened by this decision,” said the press release. “In particular, Bishop Jenky is even more concerned for the many faithful who are devoted to Sheen and who will be affected by this news.” 

The bishop of Rochester reportedly requested the delay of Sheen’s beatification due to concerns that he could be named in the final report of an ongoing investigation into clergy sex abuse in New York. The state attorney general’s office is conducting an ongoing investigation into New York’s bishops and dioceses.

Throughout his life, Sheen embraced the media as a means of evangelization. He launched “The Catholic Hour,” a radio show on NBC Radio, in 1930. The show ran for 22 years. 

“Life is Worth Living” aired nationally from 1952 until 1957, and won the Emmy for “Most Outstanding Personality” in 1953. He received two other Emmy nominations during his show’s run. 

Biden administration says it will enforce health care protections for people identifying as LGBTQ

Mark Van Scyoc/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., May 10, 2021 / 10:00 am (CNA).

The Biden administration on Monday announced it would interpret and enforce existing law to ensure people identifying as LGBTQ were not denied access to health care.

“It is the position of the Department of Health and Human Services that everyone – including LGBTQ people - should be able to access health care, free from discrimination or interference, period,” said Xavier Becerra, Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), on Monday.

The law in question, Sec. 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, prohibits sex-based discrimination in health care. The Obama administration interpreted it to include protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. This was the basis of the administration’s “transgender mandate,” ruling that people could not be denied gender-transition surgeries upon the referral of a mental health professional.

The administration did not exempt doctors who were opposed to providing the surgeries, for medical or conscience reasons.

Luke Goodrich, vice president and senior counsel at Becket, which is fighting the mandate in court, said the administration’s announcement on Monday “will punish doctors and hospitals if they won't perform harmful gender-transition procedures against their conscience and medical judgment.”

“This is bad for patients, doctors, and religious liberty,” Goodrich stated.

Catholic hospitals and health care groups sued over the transgender mandate, and two federal district judges have put an injunction on the mandate going into effect. A federal circuit court has also instructed one of the district courts to consider whether the hospitals opposed to the mandate should receive permanent relief.

“The plaintiffs in the case are religious doctors, hospitals, and clinics who joyfully serve ALL patients regardless of sex or gender identity,” Goodrich stated. “Yet the Biden Administration is fighting them in court--and threatening multi-million dollar penalties that jeopardize the millions of dollars in free and low-cost care they give to elderly, poor, and underserved rural areas.”

In its announcement, the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) said it would comply with existing federal protections for religious freedom under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The office also said it would comply with court orders in transgender mandate cases.

However, Goodrich said that the administration says it will “comply” with these laws and rulings while it is actively fighting to overturn them in court.

The Trump administration allowed exemptions for doctors opposed to providing the surgeries, and clarified that sex discrimination did not include protections for gender identity or abortion. In August, a federal judge blocked that rule from going into effect.

In January, President Biden issued an order interpreting federal civil rights protections against sex discrimination to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration in April filed an appeal to keep the mandate in place.

“The mission of our Department is to enhance the health and well-being of all Americans, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation. All people need access to healthcare services to fix a broken bone, protect their heart health, and screen for cancer risk,” Becerra said on Monday.

Dr. Rachel Levine, HHS assistant secretary, stated, “No one should be discriminated against when seeking medical services because of who they are.” Levine is the first openly-transgender federal official confirmed by the Senate.

The HHS announcement was made citing the Supreme Court’s June 2020 ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County, where the court ruled that federal civil rights protections against sex-based discrimination in employment included protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

This article was updated on May 10.

Just 'do the next thing': How one Colorado couple is raising four children with Down syndrome

The McGarrity family (L to R) Jeffrey, Augustine, Sonia, Charlotte, Jeff, RoseMarie, Cecilia, Sean, Brendan, Thomas. Photo courtesy of Patrick Sola.

Denver, Colo., May 9, 2021 / 06:01 am (CNA).

Many things in the McGarrity household start early, including preparations for Mother’s Day. Sonia McGarrity has eight children, ranging in age from three to 18, three of whom are adopted. Four kids, including McGarrity’s third oldest son and their three adopted daughters, have Down syndrome. For Mother’s Day, McGarrity has all of her children—biological and adopted—sign cards for the three birth mothers and six grandmothers of the girls. 

While McGarrity first thought about adopting a child with Down syndrome after she miscarried in her second pregnancy, the thought took a back seat when she and her husband, Jeff, welcomed sons Sean, Jeffrey, and Brendan into their home. Jeffrey was born with Down syndrome, unbeknownst to the McGarritys before his arrival. Pregnant with their fourth child, the McGarritys moved from Washington, D.C. to Colorado.

“We were extremely busy, doing therapies, trying to find and remodel a house, and were not actively discerning adopting,” Sonia McGarrity said. “But, when Brendan was about two years old, I had had two miscarriages, and we were open to having more children. One thing that struck our hearts was to learn about Down syndrome.”

In their research, the McGarritys learned about how many children were being aborted with a prenatal diagnosis. 

“I contacted the National Down Syndrome Adoption Network to ask if it was crazy to be a parent of a child with Down syndrome who also wants to adopt a child with Down syndrome,” McGarrity said. “The woman on the other end of the line said, ‘I have four children with Down syndrome,’ and I was like, ‘Ok, I guess I’m not crazy.’” 

The McGarritys began a home study in May 2010 to see where God would lead them. Shortly after finalizing their home study, they were contacted by Cecilia’s birth parents to ask if they would be open to parenting her. They agreed and Cecilia, or “CeCi,” came home to them in December of 2010. Throughout the adoption process, the McGarritys professed their Catholic faith and shared that they would be raising their children in the Church.

“Nobody understands what these beautiful souls, with their unconditional love and acceptance of every single person they meet, can do,” Sonia shared. “It’s about opening your heart to say ‘God, I want to love as much as you will give me love. We are surrounded by love and opportunities to love.”

Sonia and Jeff welcomed a fifth son, Augustine in 2011, followed by the adoption of RoseMarie in 2015 and Charlotte in 2018. RoseMarie and Charlotte both have Down syndrome. 

When asked about the possibility of adopting Charlotte, McGarrity, who was 50 at the time, said she didn’t think she had the energy to chase after a two year old. In her prayer, she told God that if he was calling them to do this, it needed to be really clear. 

“We didn’t think we could handle it, but obviously we can because she’s ours,” McGarrity said with a laugh. “There is this beautiful thing that happens when you meet your [adopted] child where you are like, ‘Oh, yeah, she’s mine.’ God knows who your children are going to be and he picks you specifically to parent them.” 

A normal day in the McGarrity household begins around 5:30 a.m. Sonia makes breakfast and lunches for the whole family and tries to get everyone out the door to one of their four respective schools by 8:30 a.m. 

“I made two loaves of french toast this morning and six pounds of bacon,” Sonia said. “My kitchen right now is an utter wreck. We wake up and the whole kitchen is clean, and getting seven children out the door for the day with lunches, it’s chaos.”

With the older children off to school, Charlotte, now two-and-a-half-years-old, has in-home therapy, and Sonia cleans up from the morning rush. Then, they head to a local food bank, where Sonia volunteers stocking shelves for a couple of hours.

In the afternoon, Sonia and Charlotte return home and get ready for the other kids to return from school. She also tries to have dinner ready by 1 p.m., for the kids to “grab and go” in the evening between various therapies, sports and music activities. Each of the children with Down syndrome have about eight hours of therapy every week. 

“I probably have about three pages of things to get done, and might get through a quarter of a page each day,” Sonia said. “I’m never caught up, but that’s where the Lord has to keep saying, ‘I’m not asking you to complete the list. I’m just asking you to do what you need to do today.’ And the most important thing I have to do every day is love my kids.”  

Though she never imagined she would have four children with Down syndrome, Sonia feels that God has blessed her family with children who are “little love machines,” she shared. 

Today, Sonia and Jeff are active in helping other parents who have a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome. They invite expecting parents into their home and talk openly about the challenges and joys of parenting children with Down syndrome, as well as adoption plans. 

“Our goal has always been to say, ‘If you are a birth parent and you have a prenatal diagnosis, come and meet our family. Come and see what life is like,’” Sonia said. “Because there is this sort of unknown with a stigma attached, and what doctors are telling you, that makes it difficult to decide whether to parent or write an adoption plan.”

The McGarritys’ home study remains open, and Sonia has been active in various Facebook groups to let expectant mothers know that if they have a prenatal diagnosis and are considering an abortion, she is happy to parent their child.  

“God has called us to spread the joy of Down syndrome adoption,” she shared. 

When asked how she does it all, Sonia credits her husband, a supportive parish, great girlfriends, and good neighbors. She also makes time for frequent confession and encourages her kids to do the same.

“I have a wonderful husband,” she said about Jeff, who works as the director of music for St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Centennial, Colorado. “Everybody who knows us says we make a great team. Our new thing is that every morning when he wakes up, he comes downstairs, gives me a big hug, and he says, ‘Are you ready to do it again today?’ It reminds me that whatever comes our way, we can tackle it, we can take it, and I’m not alone.”

The family ends each day with Compline from the Liturgy of the Hours, singing the Marian antiphon and praying for forgiveness for whatever is on their hearts. 

“Number one, I remind myself every day that we live in the ‘valley of tears,’ but this is not our home,” Sonia said. 

“My only job is to get myself and my kids to heaven. I just do the next thing.”

Mother’s Day: 12 Catholic Quotes on the Beauty of Motherhood

Mosaic of Our Lady of Guadalupe inside Christ Cathedral in Orange, California / Kate Veik/CNA

Washington D.C., May 9, 2021 / 04:00 am (CNA).

On Mother’s Day, Catholics recognize two important figures: our mother, and Mary, Mother of God. In celebration of all that mothers do, here are 12 quotes from saints and other Catholic figures on the beauty and significance of motherhood:

1. St. Thérèse of Lisieux: “The loveliest masterpiece of the heart of God is the heart of a mother.”

2. József Cardinal Mindszenty: “The Most Important Person on earth is a mother. She cannot claim the honour of having built Notre Dame Cathedral. She need not. She has built something more magnificent than any cathedral—a dwelling for an immortal soul, the tiny perfection of her baby’s body….The angels have not been blessed with such a grace. They cannot share in God’s creative miracle to bring new saints to Heaven. Only a human mother can. Mothers are closer to God the Creator than any other creature; God joins forces with mothers in performing this act of creation….What on God’s good earth is more glorious than this; to be a mother?”

3. Pope St. John Paul II: “Thank you, women who are mothers! You have sheltered human beings within yourselves in a unique experience of joy and travail. This experience makes you become God’s own smile upon the newborn child, the one who guides your child’s first steps, who helps it to grow, and who is the anchor as the child makes its way along the journey of life.”

4. St. Teresa Benedicta, also known as Edith Stein: “To be a mother is to nourish and protect true humanity and bring it to development.”

5. The Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen: “Motherhood then becomes a kind of priesthood. She brings God to man by preparing the flesh in which the soul will be implanted; she brings man to God in offering the child back again to the Creator….she is nature’s constant challenge to death, the bearer of cosmic plentitude, the herald of eternal realities, God’s great cooperator.”

6. St. Teresa of Calcutta: “That special power of loving that belongs to a woman is seen most clearly when she becomes a mother. Motherhood is the gift of God to women. How grateful we must be to God for this wonderful gift that brings such joy to the whole world, women and men alike!”

7. St. Zélie Guérin Martin, mother of St. Thérèse of Lisieux: “Above all, during the months immediately preceding the birth of her child, the mother should keep close to God, of whom the infant she bears within her is the image, the handiwork, the gift and the child. She should be for her offspring, as it were, a temple, a sanctuary, an altar, a tabernacle. In short, her life should be, so to speak, the life of a living sacrament, a sacrament in act, burying herself in the bosom of that God who has so truly instituted it and hallowed it, so that there she may draw that energy, that enlightening, that natural and supernatural beauty which He wills, and wills precisely by her means, to impart to the child she bears and to be born of her.”

8. St. Gianna Beretta Molla: “Look at the mothers who truly love their children: how many sacrifices they make for them. They are ready for everything, even to give their own blood so that their babies grow up good, healthy, and strong.”

9. St. Augustine, son of St. Monica: “And now thou didst ‘stretch forth thy hand from above’ and didst draw up my soul out of that profound darkness [of Manicheism] because my mother, thy faithful one, wept to thee on my behalf more than mothers are accustomed to weep for the bodily deaths of their children….And thou didst hear her, O Lord.”

10. Alice von Hildebrand: A “woman by her very nature is maternal – for every woman, whether married or unmarried, is called upon to be a biological, psychological, or spiritual mother — she knows intuitively that to give, to nurture, to care for others, to suffer with and for them — for maternity implies suffering — is infinitely more valuable in God’s sight than to conquer nations and fly to the moon.”

11. Pope Francis: “A society without mothers would be a dehumanized society, for mothers are always, even in the worst moments, witnesses of tenderness, dedication and moral strength….Dearest mothers, thank you, thank you for what you are in your family and for what you give to the Church and the world.” 

12. Our Lady of Guadalupe, to St. Juan Diego: “Do not be troubled or weighed down with grief. Do not fear any illness or vexation, anxiety or pain. Am I not here who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not your fountain of life? Are you not in the folds of my mantle? In the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else you need?”

Catholic Charities Arlington sees growing interest in adoption 

Motortion Films/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., May 8, 2021 / 05:00 am (CNA).

A spokesperson for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington says the organization has seen a growing interest from prospective adoptive parents.

Meaghan Lane, program director of pregnancy & adoption support at Catholic Charities Diocese of the Diocese of Arlington, told EWTN News In Depth in an interview that the organization has seen “a dramatic jump” in applications to adopt.

Lane said she sees a few reasons for this increase. She said that families have re-examined their priorities during the COVID-19 pandemic, and that families who have adopted through the program have told others of their experience. 

“All of us in one way or another started to evaluate where we are in life, we’ve had time to stop and reflect,” Lane said of the pandemic. “I do think that families who were thinking about adoption stopped to say ‘hey, let’s go ahead and move on this.’”

Lane cautioned that Catholic Charities does have discussions with prospective adoptive families about whether they’ll still be open to the adoption process once their lives return to “normal.”

“All of our families have done really well with that,” she said. 

Lane said she believes her program’s growth can also be attributed to its holistic approach. 

“We have taken such an emphasis on the importance of how our work is done, that I believe people want to work with us more and more because they hear about that,” Lane said. 

“My program is ‘Pregnancy and Adoption Support’ and that ‘pregnancy’ component isn’t just a word in the title, we are providing pregnancy support to women who are considering adoption, and women who are not considering adoption,” she said. “I think that’s something unique to what we’re able to provide.” 

The interview with Catholic Charities Diocese of Arlington aired on EWTN News In Depth on Friday night.