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Catholic teaching on Communion applies to politicians who support abortion, too, bishop says

Phoenix, Ariz., Apr 6, 2021 / 08:01 pm (CNA).- Catholic teaching sees the Eucharist as Christ’s transformative sacrifice on the cross and this Holy Communion must only be received worthily. This teaching is not partisan, but it certainly applies to political leaders who back abortion and euthanasia, Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix has said in an apostolic exhortation on the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.
“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,” Bishop Olmsted said, explaining that Church teaching on this has “always been clear and based on Scripture.”
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,” continued his exhortation, Veneremur Cernui.
“Not all moral issues have the same weight as abortion and euthanasia. The Church teaches that abortion or euthanasia is an intrinsically grave sin and that there is a grave and clear obligation for all Catholics to oppose them by conscientious objection,” the bishop said.
Olmsted said that the current political climate means the Church can be “easily accused of favoring one party and singling out politicians of a certain party with such a teaching.”
“However, the Church is only faithfully reaffirming its perennial teaching on the Eucharist and the worthy reception of Holy Communion which applies to every single person,” said the bishop. Elsewhere in the letter, he explained that in an unworthy reception of Holy Communion, the sacrament “becomes a sacrilege.”
He added: “the spiritual medicine becomes for that person – it is frightful to say – a form of spiritual poison.”
“When we do not really believe in Jesus, when we do not really seek to conform our entire life to Him and receive Jesus even though we know that we have sinned against Him, then this just leads to a greater sin and betrayal,” said Olmsted.
His exhortation included exhortations to an increase in devotional acts as well as to repentance and confession.
“The Church invites everyone to the Wedding Banquet while at the same time commits herself to helping everyone arrive properly dressed in a purified baptismal garment, lest the greatest Gift – the Eucharist – becomes his or her spiritual destruction,” he said.
Olmsted published the exhortation April 1, Holy Thursday, which marks the institution of the Eucharist.
“The more the Lord in the Eucharist is our central focus, the more surely He will bring us through these dark and turbulent waters,” said the bishop. “On this day when we commemorate the Institution of the Eucharist, I as your shepherd implore each of you to seek out Jesus in the Eucharist to be strengthened and renewed in your faith.”
He voiced hope that everyone, whether strong in faith or weak, Catholic or not, will have a sincere “Eucharistic amazement” incited in them.
Olmsted  emphasized that Christ “meant what he said” in the Bread of Life discourse: “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.”
“Despite the uproar caused by His teaching, Jesus did not soften His claim. On the contrary, He strengthened it,” said the bishop. “The Eucharist is the supernatural food that keeps us going along the difficult journey towards the Promised Land of eternal salvation.”
Invoking the imagery of the Old Testament, Olmsted portrayed the Mass as “the new Exodus from the Slavery of Sin.” The Eucharist fulfills both the Jewish Passover and the Covenant of Israel.
“The first Passover saved the Israelites from death and led to their liberation from slavery,” he said. “Every home that followed the rites commanded by God for this sacred meal were spared from the death of their firstborn sons.”
“Just as the Hebrews had no alternative means of liberation other than the Passover lamb, there is no other means to salvation than through the grace of Jesus’ own self-sacrifice,” he continued, adding that the Mass is the “eternal memorial of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross.”
“The sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary is perpetuated and made present to us in such a way that we can participate in it, linking our imperfect and sinful lives to the perfect and pure sacrifice of God and receiving all the divine benefits that flow from His eternal sacrifice,” said Olmsted.
“When we attend Mass, do we seek to join Jesus in His total surrender to the Father’s will? Do we bring our imperfections, our toil and sin, and lay them before Jesus to be consumed by His Death? We either say with Jesus, ‘Into Your hands, Father, I commend my spirit, too!’ or we choose to remain enslaved to our sin.”
Olmsted compared present-day anxieties, uncertainties, and doubts to those which faced the Israelites as they sought the Promised Land.
“(T)he Church at large is experiencing a grave crisis of faith in the Eucharist,” he said. “This crisis has inflicted additional significant implications for authentic Christian discipleship; namely, abysmal Mass attendance, declining vocations to marriage, priesthood, and religious life, waning Catholic influence in society. As a nation we are experiencing a torrent of assaults upon the truth.”
“The Gospel message has been watered down or replaced with ambiguous worldly values,” Olmsted continued. “Many Christians have abandoned Christ and His Gospel and turned to a secular culture for meaning that it cannot provide and to satiate a hunger that it can never satisfy.”
“In such troubled waters, our greatest anchor in these storms is Christ Himself, found in the Holy Eucharist,” said the bishop.
He chose the letter’s title, translated as “down in adoration falling”, from St. Thomas Aquinas’ hymn Pange lingua gloriosi. He exhorted the faithful to adore Christ “with ever increasing reverence.”
Every Mass, where Christ is present, is “immeasurable” in value and makes accessible “unfathomable” grace.
In response to a gift like the Eucharist, Olmsted asked various questions: “Do we really desire Him? Are we anxious to meet Him? Do we desire to encounter Him, become one with Him and receive the gifts He offers us through the Eucharist?”
Reception of Holy Communion is to change us and transform us into another Christ, he explained: “Being assimilated by Jesus in Holy Communion makes us like Him in our sentiments, desires, and our way of thinking. In Holy Communion, His heart nourishes our hearts; His pure, wise and loving desires purify our selfish ones, so that we not only know what He wants, but also start wanting the same more and more.”
The Eucharist also transforms those who receive it well into “one body, one spirit in Christ.”
Receiving Holy Communion “out of routine only, without openness to the Lord,” means we do not receive all the graces God wants to give us. Olmsted said it can be easy for us to “lose our sense of wonder” at the miracle of the Eucharist. Faith, however, is the “first essential requirement” to receive all the benefits and effects of Holy Communion.
“If we receive the Lord with the right dispositions, God’s grace will strengthen our resolve to follow, love and imitate Him. Our Lord Jesus deeply desires our union with Him in Holy Communion and through it He wishes to bring about our transformation into Him and the transformation of our society in which we live. But we, on our part, must ardently desire this union with Jesus Christ as well,” he said.
He emphasized the importance of church decoration, art, music, vestments, incense, candles and other details as a way of expressing Christian devotion and faith. Eucharistic prayer and adoration are also important, as is respectful dress.
There is an “intrinsic connection” between the Sacrament of Penance and the Eucharist. Benedict XVI’s 2007 apostolic exhortation Sacramentum caritatis warned against “a superficial approach that overlooks the need to be in a state of grace in order to approach sacramental communion worthily.”  St. John Paul II’s 2003 encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia said the Eucharist “presupposes that communion already exists, a communion that it seeks to consolidate and bring to perfection.” Anyone conscious of grave sin must refrain from Holy Communion, said Olmsted’s letter, citing the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

“There are situations when we can honor God more by abstaining from Holy Communion than by satisfying a personal desire to sacramentally receive Him in communion,” he said, recounting a Catholic mother who abstained from Holy Communion for several years because she lived in an irregular marriage. Nonetheless, she faithfully attended Mass with her children and regularly took part in Eucharistic Adoration.
Olmsted emphasized the need to preserve Sunday as the “Day of the Lord” and the ultimate purpose of the week. Embracing some other thing, even a good thing, as more important than the worship of God will result in “bondage to some good but creaturely fixation” and “spiritual exhaustion and discouragement.” Sunday is not simply about freedom from work, since freedom from servile work makes it so that “we are free to participate in the work of our Redemption.”
He encouraged practical measures to make Sunday special, like turning off one’s phone for extended periods, moving any commitments to work, family, or friends to other times, and finding ways “to make the experience of Sunday Mass truly joyful and festive.” He suggested wearing one’s best clothes, having a good meal with loved ones afterward, playing great music at home, phoning loved ones, spending time in Bible reading, performing acts of charity, or savoring “something truly beautiful in nature or art.”
Daily Mass, a full hour of Eucharistic Adoration, or even a short visit to the tabernacle are also excellent ways to increase one’s devotion. He encouraged priests to make the Eucharist the source of their priesthood’s good work. Pastors should hold a Eucharistic procession each year in their parish. Eucharistic adoration is an evangelical opportunity.
“Many Catholics have wandered away from the practice of Sunday Mass, focusing more on work, sports, sleep, or entertainment rather than the Lord. There are also those who are physically there but not with their faith,” said Olmsted. “They may come to Mass but do not receive Jesus with faith, love, and reverence because they think that they are only receiving a symbol rather than God Himself who died for them. There are those who physically come to Mass, but their hearts cannot wait to leave Jesus’ presence. Indeed, the Eucharist is hard to believe! Thus, it is important for us to have patience and compassion for those whose faith is weak. Nevertheless, the call to faith is urgent.”

L.A. archdiocese to close, consolidate six elementary schools

CNA Staff, Apr 6, 2021 / 07:32 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Los Angeles announced this week that six Catholic elementary schools in the area will close and be consolidated with other schools, due to ongoing financial difficulties exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. 


“These six schools had been trying to overcome financial challenges long before the pandemic,” said Paul Escala, superintendent of Catholic Schools, according to NBC Los Angeles. Challenges facing the schools include  low enrollment, financial difficulties, and a shift in demographics.


“After careful discernment with Archdiocesan and school leadership, the decision was reached to consolidate these schools with nearby schools to create a union that would strengthen the school communities in the area so that all students can continue to receive the quality Catholic education that our schools provide,” Escala said.


At the end of the 2020-21 school year, six elementary schools will close - Assumption, Blessed Sacrament, St. Catherine of Sienna, St. Ferdinand, St. Francis of Assisi, and St. Madeline.


These schools will all be consolidated with other local elementary schools. 


The archdiocese noted that, during the current school year, students in Los Angeles Catholics schools outperformed their peers nationally in math and reading.


“Though there have been many challenges and some setbacks, our Catholic school communities have demonstrated resiliency throughout this crisis,”' said Escala, according to NBC Los Angeles. 


“As our Catholic schools welcomed students back, our students were able to celebrate the sacrament of their First Holy Communion something they missed early on in the pandemic,” he said. “Our Catholic schools continue to demonstrate academic performance growth in reading and math in both elementary and high schools. This among so many other accomplishments, is something we can all be proud of.”


Utah to require fathers to pay for half of pregnancy costs

Salt Lake City, Utah, Apr 6, 2021 / 06:19 pm (CNA).- A new law in Utah will require fathers to pay for half of the mother’s cost of pregnancy, making Utah the first state to mandate prenatal child support from the father. 

HB 113, sponsored by Rep. Brady Brammer, stipulates that the baby’s biological father must pay half of the mother’s insurance premiums while she is pregnant, as well as pregnancy-related medical costs, including the hospital birth of the child.

The father would only be required to pay those expenses after his paternity is confirmed, the law stipulates.

“We want to help people and actually be pro-life in how we do it as opposed to anti-abortion,” Brammer, the bill’s sponsor, told the AP.

“One of the ways to help with that was to help the burden of pregnancy be decreased.”

Under the law, if the mother obtains an abortion without the father’s consent, the father is not required to help pay for the abortion, unless the abortion was done to preserve the life of the mother or if the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest.

Gov. Spencer Cox signed the bill into law in February.

Jean Hill, director of the Archdiocese of Salt Lake City’s Office of Life, Justice and Peace, told CNA that the diocese supported the final version of the bill.

“In our view, the law is a positive pro-life measure to help women who want to keep their baby but feel overwhelmed by the costs,” Hill told CNA.

She said her office initially had concerns— which some lawmakers also had raised— that the law could unintentionally tie mothers financially to abusive partners.

The final law includes a provision that mothers are not legally required to seek financial help from the father if they do not want to. In addition, the Office of Recovery Services, which collects child support payments in the state, will serve as an intermediary between a mother and her potentially abusive partner.

“A woman may choose whether to seek payments and, if she does choose to pursue this option, reinforce the fiscal responsibility a father should accept for creating life,” Hill said.

Planned Parenthood has criticized the law, touting abortion as a more cost-effective solution.

“In the grand scheme of things, having a child and raising them to adulthood is going to be a lot more money,” Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Katrina Barker told the AP, adding that she does not believe the legislation will lead to fewer women having abortions, because the costs of pregnancy are typically small compared with the costs of raising a child.

Utah has a 72 hour waiting period for abortions, as well as a “trigger law” on the books which would ban abortion in the state if the Supreme court were to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision.

On March 23, Cox signed a bill into law to make pornography filters mandatory and switched on by default on cell phones sold in the state. The law will take effect Jan. 1, 2022, but only if five other states pass similar laws.

White House: Biden has ‘difference of opinion’ from Catholics concerned about Equality Act

Washington D.C., Apr 6, 2021 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- The White House on Tuesday said that President Joe Biden “has a difference of opinion” from Catholics concerned that the Equality Act would trample conscience rights.

At Tuesday’s White House press briefing, Owen Jensen of EWTN News Nightly asked what Biden would say to Catholics concerned about conscience rights in health care.

“What does the President, who we know is Catholic, say to Catholic doctors, Catholic institutions, who are fearful that if the Equality Act passes, it has the potential to trample on their conscience rights,” Jensen asked White House press secretary Jen Psaki.

“What does the President say to those people who are concerned about that?” Jensen added. 

When EWTN News Nightly White House Correspondent @owentjensen asked about Catholic doctors and their conscience rights, White House Press Secretary, Jen Psaki claimed President Biden is "a supporter of the Equality Act and he also is a practicing Catholic."

— EWTN News Nightly (@EWTNNewsNightly) April 6, 2021 In response, Psaki declined to answer Jensen’s questions directly. She said that President Biden “has a difference of opinion” from those concerned about the Equality Act, and that he “respects their difference of opinion.”

Psaki added that Biden “has been a supporter of the Equality Act, and he also is a practicing Catholic and attends church nearly every week.” 

Catholics, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), have been raising concerns about the Equality Act for months.

The legislation would extend federal civil rights protections to cover discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation. The USCCB has warned that the bill would require Americans of all faiths to assent to issues such as same-sex marriage and transgender ideology – or risk adverse action by the federal government.

Legal experts have said that the bill would require women-only spaces – such as bathrooms, locker rooms, sports teams, and shelters – to be available to biological males identifying as transgender females. Pro-life groups have also warned that by outlawing “pregnancy discrimination,” the legislation could recognize a right to an abortion.

Biden has promised to sign the Equality Act during the first 100 days of his administration. 

The USCCB has said that the bill did not include sufficient protections for religious freedom, and could be used to “punish” religious groups opposed to transgender ideology and the redefinition of marriage.

The conference has also warned that the bill would trample on the conscience rights of health care workers. Under the bill, doctors, nurses, and other staff could be forced to perform gender-transition procedures and abortions upon request, legal experts have said.

Psaki has previously refused to comment on conscience protections for medical professionals. Last month, she dismissed Jensen’s questions on the Equality Act and the rights of doctors to refuse to perform gender-transitioning procedures and abortions.

“Pro-life groups right now are very concerned about the phrase ‘pregnancy discrimination’ in the Equality Act,” Jensen said. “That it would force doctors to perform abortions, even if it violates their conscience. There are also concerns the bill would force doctors to perform gender-transition surgeries and sterilizations, again, even if it violates their conscience.”

“What does the president, President Biden, say about those concerns?” he asked Psaki.

The press secretary replied that Biden “has been a long supporter of Roe v. Wade,” the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. She said nothing about conscience protections.

When Jensen followed up by asking about Biden’s position on “conscience concerns,” Psaki simply repeated her previous statement.

In one of his first executive actions, Biden in January signed an executive order stating that his administration’s policy would interpret sex discrimination to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

Some legal experts told CNA at the time that this action would produce a “tidal wave” of consequences, requiring single-sex bathrooms or women’s sports to be available to people on the basis of their gender identity and not their biological sex.

Nebraska dioceses to restore Sunday Mass obligation in May

Lincoln, Neb., Apr 6, 2021 / 04:01 pm (CNA).- The bishops of the three local Churches in Nebraska will each restore the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and holy days next month.

The obligation will be restored May 23 in the Archdiocese of Omaha and the Dioceses of Lincoln and Grand Island.

“I would like to use the occasion of this announcement by recalling the deepest reasons why Catholics have a grave obligation to attend Mass as well as clarify, in light of COVID-19, when the obligation does not apply,” Bishop James Conley of Lincoln wrote in his March 31 announcement.

“The reason all Catholics have a grave obligation of being physically present for Mass on Sundays and holy days is because the Eucharist is at the heart of what it is to be a Christian.”

He added that “in the Eucharist, Jesus Christ, the Risen Lord is truly present … In Holy Communion, when we receive him worthily, that is, without mortal sin, we are physically and spiritually united to Him and to our brothers and sisters in Christ. Likewise, participation in the celebration of the Eucharist on Sundays is the primary way that we keep the Lord’s Day holy and so live out the third Commandment. These are some of the deepest reasons why there is an obligation and why we should freely want to fulfill this obligation.”

Bishop Conley explained that the obligation does not apply “when one is physically or morally prevented from attending,” giving the examples of bodily illness or having no means of reasonable transportation as ways of being physically prevented, and a parent taking care of a sick child, or if military personnel would compromise their duty for the common good, as moral preventions.

Regarding Covid-19 in particular, he said the obligation does not apply if you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or have good reason to believe that you may have contracted it; if you are ill or have a condition that would seriously compromise your health if you contracted COVID-19; if you care for the sick, homebound, or infirmed and have a compelling reason for believing that you would infect them by going to Mass; if you have significant and grave fear or anxiety of becoming ill by being at Mass; or if you are elderly or pregnant and have a serious reason to believe you would put yourself or your child at risk by attending Mass.

Archbishop George Lucas of Omaha wrote that “those who are prevented from attending [Mass] due to advanced age, sickness, disability or some other serious reason are excused” from the obligation, and that “for the foreseeable future, those who feel they are at heightened risk of contracting or communicating COVID-19 are excused.”

Bishop Joseph Hanefeldt of Grand Island wrote that the obligation “extends to all baptized Catholics who are of able body and sound mind,” but that some “may be excused from the obligation to attend Mass due to advanced age, sickness, disability or some other serious reason.”

Judge puts three dozen lawsuits against Buffalo parishes on hold amid bankruptcy

CNA Staff, Apr 6, 2021 / 03:02 pm (CNA).- A federal bankruptcy judge last week put 36 lawsuits against Buffalo Catholic parishes and schools on hold until this fall, stating that the lawsuits’ advancement would interfere with the Buffalo diocese’s bankruptcy reorganization. 


New York’s 2019 Child Victims Act (CVA) created a one-year “lookback” window where abuse victims could file lawsuits long after their statute of limitations had ended. 


The window opened in August 2019, and alleged victims have since filed hundreds of lawsuits— 260 against Buffalo parishes and schools alone, the Buffalo News reported. 


The Buffalo diocese announced in Feb. 2020 its filing for Chapter 11 reorganization under the U.S. bankruptcy code. 


During May 2020, the diocese asked a federal court for an injunction against all outstanding clergy sex abuse litigation against Catholic entites such as parishes and schools, which are named as co-respondents in CVA lawsuits and have not themselves declared bankruptcy. The diocese sought a permanent injunction on litigating these cases in order to reach a “global resolution” for all cases.


In January this year, the diocese released thousands of clergy abuse documents and related records to abuse victims and their lawyers as part of an agreement in ongoing clergy abuse negotiations during its bankruptcy.


According to The Buffalo News, these records were given to victims in exchange for an agreement that pending lawsuits against individual Catholic entities such as parishes or schools are stopped from proceeding. 


However, while most of the alleged victims agreed to halt their lawsuits in exchange for the documents, 36 people, represented by attorney Richard Weisbeck, did not. 


Chief Judge Carl Bucki of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Western District of New York ruled March 31 that those 36 cases would remain on hold until Oct. 1, citing a potential drain on diocesan assets that could threaten settlement payments for other alleged victims. 


Diocesan parishes and parochial elementary and secondary schools, as well as Catholic Charities of Buffalo, are not included in the bankruptcy filing as they are separate legal entities.


Bishop Richard Malone, who led the diocese from 2012 until last year, resigned in December 2019 following a Vatican-ordered investigation of the diocese by Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio.


Bishop Malone faced accusations during his tenure that he kept priests in active ministry who had been credibly accused of abuse, and shielded abuse allegations from the public eye. 


New York’s Attorney General Letitia James also filed a lawsuit during November 2020 in the state’s supreme court against the diocese, Bishop Emeritus Richard Malone, retired auxiliary Bishop Edward Grosz, and Buffalo’s apostolic administrator at the time, Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of Albany. 


The state alleges that the diocese, Malone, and Grosz failed to properly investigate claims of clergy sex abuse. The state also claims diocesan leadership did not “refer unassignable priests to the Vatican,” monitor priests with credible accusations, or take necessary action against diocesan priests credibly accused of child sex abuse. 


The state is seeking a court order for the diocese to comply with its own policies and procedures on clergy sex abuse, and for the appointment of an auditor to investigate the diocese’s compliance. 


In addition, the state is seeking restitution from Malone and Grosz, and a ban on their serving “a secular fiduciary role in a nonprofit or charitable organization” in the state.


Judge Bucki ruled on Feb. 23 of this year that Bishops Malone and Grosz 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.


Pope Francis named Bishop Michael Fisher, auxiliary bishop of Washington, D.C., as the new Bishop of Buffalo in Dec. 2020.


Arkansas legislature overrides veto of gender-transitioning ban

Washington D.C., Apr 6, 2021 / 01:15 pm (CNA).- The Arkansas state legislature voted on Tuesday to override a veto by Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) of a bill prohibiting gender-transitioning procedures for children.

Last month, the state’s Senate had approved House Bill 1570, the “To Create The Arkansas Save Adolescents From Experimentation (SAFE) Act.” The bill prohibited a “physician or other healthcare professional” from providing “gender transition procedures to any individual under eighteen (18) years of age.” 

In addition to banning the procedures for minors, the bill also blocked referrals and public funding for these procedures. 

Hutchinson had been expected to sign the legislation, but he vetoed the bill on Monday, citing government overreach. On Tuesday, both the state House and Senate overwhelmingly voted to override his veto, with the House voting 71-25 and the Senate 25-8 in favor of the veto override.

According to CBS News, Hutchinson said on Monday that he considered the bill “government overreach” and argued it would lead to “legislative interference with physicians and parents as they deal with some of the most complex and sensitive matters involving young people.”

“I am hopeful, though, that my action will cause conservative Republican legislators to think through the issue again, and hopefully come up with a more restrained approach that allows a thoughtful study of the science and ethics surrounding the issue before acting,” Hutchinson said.

The governor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday. 

Hutchinson is the second governor in recent weeks to veto legislation on the transgender issue. 

Governor Kristi Noem of South Dakota (R) on March 19 vetoed a bill that would have prohibited student-athletes identifying as transgender women from participating in women’s sports based on their gender identity. Noem struck multiple provisions, including one applying the prohibitions to college sports, and called on the legislature to pass an amended version of the bill. The legislature failed to override her veto.

The ACLU of Arkansas, which opposed the state’s bill, had applauded Hutchinson’s veto.

“This victory belongs to the thousands of Arkansans who spoke out against this discriminatory bill, especially the young people, parents, and pediatricians who never stopped fighting this anti-trans attack,” the group wrote on Facebook. 

Missouri nuns have a history of being targeted for shootings, harassment

Washington D.C., Apr 6, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- A recent series of shootings at a Benedictine abbey in Missouri is only the latest manifestation of ongoing violence and harassment against the nuns there, the mother abbess says.

Last week, the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of the Apostles in Gower, Missouri, reported that they were seeking to upgrade the security of their abbey following three shootings on the property since February. The nuns are looking to raise $200,000 for an eight-foot wall around the property. 

On March 24 two bullets had been fired into the bedroom of the mother abbess.

“On March 24th, just after 11:00 pm, loud gunshots were heard by many Sisters in the Abbey. Some of the Sisters arose, but soon returned to sleep, as we have sadly become desensitized on account of the many incidents of inappropriate activity around our monastery,” stated a message from the community after the shooting. 

“In the morning, Mother Abbess discovered two bullet holes in her bedroom. A bullet had entered through the exterior wall, punched a hole beneath the Sacred Heart picture, and continued to penetrate through the wall directly opposite, being stopped by shower wall on its other side. Mother Abbess was sleeping several feet from the bullet's trajectory,” the nuns said.

Yet Mother Abbess Cecilia, OSB, told CNA that the shooting was only the latest “offensive behavior” toward the nuns in the decade they have resided at the abbey. The nearby town of Gower has a population of just over 1,500; the abbey itself is located outside the town near the intersection of two roads. 

“In August of 2019, someone drove right on to our property and fired shots for about 45 minutes, even shooting directly toward two sisters,” she told CNA in an email. “They couldn't see the shooter, but heard bullets whiz past them.” 

Mother Cecilia told CNA that even before the nuns arrived in Gower, they were subjected to harassment and violence from the community.

“Even before we moved here, we put in place a shrine with a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes on the property. We discovered she had been shot in the waist on one of the visits to our property,” she said. 

Since the sisters moved in, Mother Cecilia said that cars have stopped to watch the nuns while they work, and that people have been “shouting obscenities and honking their horns as they drive by, shining headlights into our windows at night.” 

That harassment escalated into a shooting on the property in 2019, with three more shootings this Lent. 

“On Ash Wednesday, at about 10:15pm, a few sisters heard other shots fired toward our building. And a couple of days after that, a single shot was directed toward the church,” she said.  “We did not discover the bullet in the door trim, nor the hole in the stone until many days later.” 

Despite having two bullet holes pierce her bedroom wall on March 24, Mother Cecilia told CNA she’s doing “very well” and that there is “no doubt in my mind that St. Michael and our guardian angels are watching over and protecting us at all times.” 

“I think we might find out on the other side of the veil, how many bullets have been deflected by them, considering the number of shots we could hear being fired,” she said. “I, and all the Sisters, are peaceful and full of confidence in the loving care of Our Heavenly Father.”

In response, the nuns are seeking to raise funds for an eight-foot wall near the road, as well as for the installation of security cameras. 

“It is unsettling to have cars driving slowly by, sometimes stopping to watch while the Sisters work,” Mother Cecilia said. “This wall will be both for our security and much needed privacy.”

Police are currently investigating the shootings. The nuns have said that people may contribute to their security on their website, specifying that the donation is for the wall fund. 

One year later: How D.C. Catholic Charities is serving the most vulnerable during COVID-19

Washington D.C., Apr 5, 2021 / 07:00 am (CNA).- A year after the coronavirus pandemic forced closures of businesses and sent the national unemployment rate soaring, Catholic Charities D.C. is still serving the most vulnerable in the nation’s capital.

“Some people have really been hurt badly,” Fr. John Enzler, president and CEO at Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., told CNA in an interview on March 24. “We try to encourage people who have not been hurt, not been affected, to make extra donations this year, and to do more this year to help people.”

Food insecurity has been an ongoing issue in the region and around the country; the number of families receiving weekly meals at Catholic Charities increased tenfold during the pandemic. Fr. Enzler said that a looming eviction crisis will soon become a massive problem.

“Our biggest concern right now is evictions,” he said. “It’s going to be a tsunami if we’re not careful. Because lots of people are not going to be able to pay their rent. And their jobs have been out for almost a year.”

“And the landlords deserve their money,” he added. “They weren’t ready for this, either. So we’ve got to find a way to solve that problem.”

The director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently extended the nationwide Eviction Moratoria until June 30. A March 2021 survey cited by the CDC estimated that more than four million adults believed they were at imminent risk of eviction, as they were behind on rent payments.

Catholic Charities sprang into action in March 2020, as the spread of COVID-19 in the U.S. prompted stay-at-home orders in D.C. and neighboring states. With restaurants closed or open for takeout-only, many day workers – such dish washers, waiters, and food preppers – were out of work.

“We found that there was a whole group of people - mostly Latinos, frankly – in the District who were without jobs,” Fr. Enzler said. “Food became a big issue for us.”

While Catholic Charities had normally served weekly meals to around 50 families before the pandemic, the number of needy families soared to 500 or even 600 per week. Donors and local government grants supported the increase in food services, he said.

Mental health services are also critical, Fr. Enzler said, and Catholic Charities has still been able to provide services via Telehealth. The organization also provided emergency rent assistance and continued services for refugees and education for children with disabilities.

He also noted the success of the organization’s $100 million campaign begun two years ago. Through the generosity of donors and the commitment of young professionals to begin giving more than $83 monthly, the campaign has raised $99 million of its goal. “Young people are beginning to step up,” Fr. Enzler said.

While the campaign will certainly reach its goal in time, “it’s more important that we get more people involved,” Fr. Enzler said. The number of donors overall increased 10% in the past year, boosting the organization’s income.

The campaign will help improve services for immigrants and households in the poorest sections of D.C.

Bishop Paprocki explores link between physical and spiritual fitness in new book

Denver Newsroom, Apr 5, 2021 / 04:16 am (CNA).- Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois doesn’t generally introduce himself as a runner. His first love is hockey, which, at nearly 70 years old, he still plays regularly. He even coaches the goalkeepers at a local Catholic high school. 

“I'm still playing hockey, and I attribute that to my running,” Paprocki told CNA. 

Paprocki wasn’t a born runner. In fact, the first time he tried to “go on a run,” he kind of hated it. 

But he pressed on, and the reason was simple. Three of his grandparents died in their 50s from heart disease, and Paprocki realized a similar fate may be waiting for him if he didn’t improve his health. 

“I was reading about the cardiovascular benefits of aerobic training, running, biking or swimming, and so I thought, ‘If I want to live past 55 I better take up something,’ so I took up running,” he said. 

All told, since that day, Bishop Paprocki has run 24 marathons and counting. He’s also raised over half a million dollars for charity in the process. 

Paprocki recently wrote a book called “Running for a higher purpose: 8 Steps to Spiritual and Physical Fitness,” (Ave Maria Press) which released March 26. 

In it, he offers expert advice on running from a practical standpoint, while interweaving lessons on how to grow in one’s spiritual life. 

“One of the main premises of the book is the connection between body and soul. Unlike the ancient Greek philosophers who kind of saw the body as something that was discarded at death and you wouldn't need it anymore...We believe in the resurrection of the body, that our bodies will be raised up when our Lord comes again at the second coming, so we are to treat our bodies with respect,” Paprocki said. 

“The way I wrote this book was to keep that connection, so it's not like one chapter is about the spiritual life and the other chapter is about training to run. They're interwoven because, I think, most runners will tell you, especially marathon runners, that you need some deep spiritual resources in order to do a marathon.”

The practical steps that Paprocki lays out in the book begin with recommending an honest assessment of one’s physical fitness and health. 

“Once you identify where you need to improve, you have to figure out what you are going to do about that,” he said. 

An honest assessment of one’s spiritual health is not dissimilar, he said. A spiritual director can help with this. 

“It is a little more difficult to assess your spiritual fitness than it is your physical fitness. Your physical fitness, you have measurements, like how much you weigh, what's your blood pressure, what's your cholesterol, things like that, but even for that, we go to a doctor. We go for a physical and we have somebody check us out. That's where I think spiritual directors can also be helpful, because it's a little more difficult to quantify that,” Paprocki said. 

“‘How holy am I?’ Well, only God knows, in a sense, how we're growing in our holiness, but your spiritual director can help guide you in terms of making progress.”

Like with physical fitness, different people are going to be at different places in their spiritual life, and will measure their success differently. 

“If you're not praying regularly, just start out with a morning offering or say grace before your meals. If you're not used to saying the Rosary, just start with a decade - 10 Hail Marys - and work your way up to saying a full Rosary,” he suggested. 

Spiritual health, like physical health, takes repeated effort and a daily commitment, Paprocki said. 

“You can't go to Mass once and say, ‘Okay, I'm good. I went to Mass.’ We have to go to Mass every week, every Sunday. Confession, too...we have to do that frequently,” he noted.