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Kroger employees allege religious discrimination over 'rainbow' apron

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 22, 2020 / 04:00 am (CNA).- The federal government is suing the Kroger Company for discrimination after two employees at an Arkansas store were fired for not wearing a symbol they say represents the LGBT cause.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed suit against the supermarket chain on Sept. 14, alleging that store No. 625 in Conway, Ark., infringed on the religious beliefs of two employees who refused to wear a uniform apron with a multi-colored heart; Kroger fired the employees after disciplining them several times for failure to comply with the uniform.

The EEOC filed a Title VII lawsuit in a federal district court, seeking back pay, compensatory damages, and a halt to any future acts of discrimination against employees. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act forbids discrimination on a number of counts, including on the basis of religion.

“Companies have an obligation under Title VII to consider requests for religious accommodations, and it is illegal to terminate employees for requesting an accommodation for their religious beliefs,” Delner-Franklin Thomas, district director of the EEOC’s Memphis District Office, stated.

“The EEOC protects the rights of the LGBTQ community, but it also protects the rights of religious people,” he said.

When the Conway Kroger introduced a new dress code in April, 2019, it asked employees to wear an apron with a multi-colored heart emblem on the bib; the EEOC complaint says that it was a “rainbow-colored” emblem, while some pro-LGBT websites claimed that the heart was not rainbow-colored and was not an LGBT symbol.

The sites reported pictures of Kroger employees wearing an apron with a heart that appears to be navy blue in the center, with yellow, red, and light blue outline.

The rainbow flag is a common symbol of the LGBTQ movement, and both employees had a “good faith belief” that the multicolored heart represented the LGBTQ cause, the EEOC complaint said. 

A Kroger corporate affairs manager told CNA that the company would not comment on the case, due to the pending litigation. However, corporate marketing materials for other Kroger venues explain the four-colored heart as representing "Everyone Friendly and Caring, Everything Fresh, Uplift Every Way, Improve Everday."

The two women employees in the lawsuit—Brenda Lawson and Trudy Rickerd—say they declined to wear the emblem because of their Biblical religious beliefs against same-sex marriage.

Lawson, who had worked in the deli department at the Kroger since August of 2011, asked the store manager multiple times to wear her name tag over the heart and clarified her religious reasons for doing so. She also made the request of the store’s human resources department in writing.

The other employee, Trudy Rickerd, worked as a cashier and file maintenance clerk at the store since October, 2006. She wrote that she had “a sincerely held religious belief that I cannot wear a symbol that promotes or endorses something that is in violation of my religious faith.”

“I respect others who have a different opinion and am happy to work alongside others who desire to wear the symbol. I am happy to buy another apron to ensure there is no financial hardship on Kroger,” she wrote.

According to the EEOC, they were “repeatedly” disciplined for not wearing the heart, and Rickerd was fired on May 29, 2019; Lawson was fired shortly afterward on June 1.

The Lamp: Why these Catholics are creating a print magazine in a digital age

Denver Newsroom, Sep 22, 2020 / 03:01 am (CNA).- When Thomas Earnest Bradley wrote and edited The Lamp, a 19th century British Catholic periodical, he did so largely from his cell in debtors’ prison, “that horrible institution that existed in those days.”

Bradley sold his magazine for a penny, a fifth of the price of his competitors, and his definition of Catholic was broad.

“It ran articles on themes that were not always, in a narrow or straightforward sense, Catholic topics,” Matthew Walther told CNA.

“They would run a story about some new scientific innovation or about a book or a play, that was not by a Catholic or didn't have in any ostensible way a Catholic theme.”

That version of The Lamp has been defunct for years. But it was, in part, the inspiration for a new Catholic magazine by the same name, with the same logo.

Walther, a journalist, and his friend William Borman (friends call him Billy), founded The Lamp magazine in the United States this past year with similar goals in mind: “a magazine that was sort of witty and urbane, in a way that was not shrill or grating to read, that tried to speak to the full range of what the Church teaches,” Walther said. 

“We're operating under the assumption that anything that is good, true and beautiful falls within the purview of what should be in a good Catholic magazine,” he said.

Borman added that it is not a carbon-copy of the original Lamp magazine, which was “basically a working class daily magazine,” with a penchant for “scientific articles, almost like a Popular Science.” 

But the use of similar aesthetics, along with an equally-broad idea of what kinds of topics qualify as Catholic, gives the magazine “a throwback flavor. A little picture of the oil lamp burning on the cover is the same picture (as the original), with a slight modern twist,” Borman said. 

Some Catholics may protest that such a truly Catholic magazine already exists. There are, after all, several periodicals in the United States that label themselves as Catholic magazines.

But Walther and Borman would argue that it does not already exist. Not in the way they envision.

“(T)here really is no such thing, in an otherwise pretty wide and diverse landscape of Catholic media in the English-speaking world, something that is actually a magazine as opposed to a website or a newswire or what have you that is orthodox, without naming any names,” Walther said.

That’s what The Lamp hopes to be. A magazine faithful to the magisterial teaching of the Catholic Church that covers all manner of things from a Catholic point of view. It will cover politics - though only broader political ideas, and not so much the “shrill horse-race” of particular elections. It will cover goings-on in the Church, but not in the way of "Can you believe this bishop did this? Oh my goodness," Walther said. No pope-bashing, and no ultramontanism either.

So what kinds of stories is the new Lamp magazine interested in?

“We wanted something that would also tell people interesting (we hope), and at times encouraging or moving stories about parts of Catholic life that are ordinary, but also, not talked about very much. Things like the history of rural parish churches, or the lives of someone like the man in the first issue who served several decades of an unjust prison sentence.”

The latter is told in the first issue of The Lamp, in which author Brandon McGinley tells the story of Jeff Cristina, who served a 40 year sentence for a wrongful conviction of murder as a juvenile. Cristina, nominally Catholic when his sentence began, returned to the sacraments and brought many others with him during his years behind bars. 

“The story had been on my desk for a while and I didn't have a home for it,” McGinley told CNA. But when Walther and Borman, friends of McGinley’s, started The Lamp, “they were really kind to offer it a home.”

McGinley is a Catholic speaker, and author of The Prodigal Church as well as a contributing editor to Plough Quarterly. Like the founders of The Lamp, McGinley believes that the magazine is filling a previously empty niche in Catholic media - a niche for longform journalism that is “broad both in the kind of content, the topics that they cover, and in terms of the specific points of view that they're bringing in (while) still being faithfully and integrally and genuinely Catholic.”

“And it's fun,” McGinley added. “In the opening section, the ‘feuilleton’ (a French word for the opening section of a magazine with short, light literature), Matthew is just hilarious. They have fun with this, it's not joyless.” As an example, one of the sample articles on The Lamp’s website is “The Bull Against Open Letters” (or, The Open Letter Against Open Letters), which the author declares are the “most revolting, foul, noxious, poisonous, blasphemous, vicious, wicked, deceitful, covinous, Brummagem, catch-penny Pamphlets...offensive to  to men, women, holy priests, deacons, sub-deacons, porters, lectors, exorcists, acolytes, virgins, wives, sons, daughters, suckling babes, lawyers, practitioners after physick, and others, we hereby declare anathema these selfsame base cullions, rascals, apes, dogs, shoes, &c. who have addressed themselves to the baptized under the supposed appellation of ‘Open Letters.’”

The aforementioned letter, as well as a handful of other sample articles, appear on The Lamp’s website - but not much else does, as the publication is primarily a print magazine, a decision Borman and Walther are well aware was a risky one in a digital age.

“We'd heard (that print was dead), but we are both unfortunately terrible book collectors,” Borman said. “And so we're maybe just in the habit of thinking that print is superior to online or to digital.”

“That costs money, but we found people have been plenty willing to pay it,” Borman said. They’ve thus far had successful fundraisers - some online, due to the pandemic - and have attracted readers, primarily between the ages of 25-45, from all over the world, from “New York and Washington to London, Australia, and India.”

The first issue of the bi-monthly magazine came out in Easter, at the height of the global coronavirus lockdowns, an unforeseen challenge when the idea for The Lamp was conceived, Borman said. It delayed their first issue and caused some shipping snafus, but otherwise did not have too big of an impact.

Besides having an affinity for physical copies, a print magazine also helps further the goals of The Lamp, Walther said - it’s a beautiful object people can hold in their hands that prompts them to slow down and enjoy what they’re reading, something that they’d want to save and display on their coffee table or bookshelf. Borrowing a phrase from Cardinal Robert Sarah, Walther said a print magazine helps elevate The Lamp above the “culture of noise.”

“The great upside in online journalism is that now people, no matter where they are, if they have access to an internet connection, they can read as much as they want from as many different voices or perspectives as possible, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year,” Walther said.

“And the downside of online journalism is all of those things, because it becomes this cycle in which you get caught up in and you can lose sight of more important things when you're immersed in not even day-to-day, but hour-to-hour, minute-to-minute-cycle in journalism,” he said.

“We wanted to create something that will allow people to step away from the computer for an hour or two, put their feet up, and have a drink and immerse themselves in something very different, something slower, and, we hope, maybe a little bit more thoughtful, and less animated by the kinds of concerns that prevail in the online media infrastructure,” he said.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Evening plans now that issue #2 arrived <a href="">@thelampmagazine</a> <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Cullen (@CullenETB) <a href="">August 25, 2020</a></blockquote> <script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

The desire to rise above divisiveness is key to The Lamp’s identity, Borman added.

“I think that people today more than ever are growing tired with the constant outrage and the relentless attention to partisan (politics) sometimes at the expense of the faith,” he said.

“We are attempting to be a kind of an anomaly in an age of a barrage of constant information - where we publish six times a year and we print very few illustrations in here,” he said.

“I think that people are really hungry for it, and the response we've gotten has confirmed this for us. They're hungry for an approach to life in the light of the faith that takes its reader seriously and gives them serious ideas to think about.”

McGinley agreed that The Lamp is “breaking the mold” of the deeply-entrenched partisan rhetoric that can be found on social media today.

“It's not on a team, that's the first thing I think about it,” McGinley said.

“The content you're going to find in this magazine, in this journal, is not going to be easily identifiable with any currently existing alliance in Catholic politics and politics generally,” he said, noting that thus far the magazine has included pieces from a Jewish Marxist alongside those of Catholic scholars.

So far, Borman and Walther have found contributors to the magazine from among their friends and connections, but they also accept cold submissions. They’re looking for pieces that are entertaining, edifying, moving, and thought-provoking.

“Apart from the obvious goals that any magazine would have, which is producing something that readers will enjoy, I think what we really want is to encourage people to lay aside secular prejudices and really think through what it means to approach our political and cultural issues with the mind of the Church,” Walther said.

Ultimately, he said, “we just want people to try to think like Catholics.”

Black Catholic leader calls for ‘a new era of authentic love and justice’

CNA Staff, Sep 22, 2020 / 12:00 am (CNA).-  

A Black Catholic leader said Friday that the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation is the wrong organization to lead an important movement against racism in the U.S., because, he said, it asserts a relativistic agenda that will cause harm to Black families.
“While it is important to affirm the truth that black lives matter, unfortunately, the Black Lives Matter organization (BLM) itself is ill-equipped to lead,” Louis Brown wrote in an essay published Friday in First Things.

“Black lives do matter—the phrase is correct that all God’s people deserve love, dignity, truth, and freedom. Our brothers and sisters who peacefully protest for justice with signs of ‘black lives matter’ march justly. However, there is a difference between asserting ‘black lives matter’ and the BLM organization itself, which is seriously flawed.”

Brown, executive director of the Christ Medicus Foundation, is an attorney who worked for the Democratic National Committee, before his pro-life views led him to leave the position. Brown has worked for both Democratic and Republican lawmakers, and in a senior position in the civil rights office of the federal department of Health and Human Services.

The phrase “#BlackLivesMatter” began to trend online following the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012, and a movement grew amid protests and riots in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014 after a young black man, Michael Brown, was shot in an altercation with a police officer.

“Black Lives Matter” has become the rallying cry for a broad social movement. But there are also specific organizations which take the name “Black Lives Matter.” The largest and best-funded of those groups is the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, which has a network of local chapters around the U.S. and in other countries.

Brown said that organization “asserts a worldview of moral relativism that recognizes no objective truth, ‘disrupts’ the natural family, and undermines the natural law foundation of civil rights. Its agenda divides people in an arbitrary manner that will, ironically, lead to greater strife especially for black families.”

“By advocating for gender ideology, BLM rejects the basic truths of human dignity in the natural law. Gender ideology replaces the scientific and biological reality of maleness and femaleness with the false belief that one’s sex can be changed. However, as both Pope Francis and the African Cardinal Robert Sarah have asserted, gender ideology is a false construct with no basis in scientific reality. Gender ideology is destructive because it rejects the truths of male and female existence. There can be no dignity or freedom without truth,” he added.

The website of the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation recently altered a page outlining controversial beliefs of the organization on the family and sexuality.

As recently as Sept. 17, the organization’s “about” page said the group was a “a queer‐affirming network” that works toward “freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking, or rather, the belief that all in the world are heterosexual,” to “dismantle cisgender privilege,” and to ‘disrupt’ the ‘nuclear family.’

New text on the group’s website reaffirms its positions on gender ideology, saying that “Black liberation movements in this country have created room, space, and leadership mostly for Black heterosexual, cisgender men — leaving women, queer and transgender people, and others either out of the movement or in the background to move the work forward with little or no recognition.”

Brown is not the only Black Catholic leader to criticize the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, and distinguish it from important calls for racial justice.

“It’s time to state honestly what BLM really stands for - destroying the traditional Family AND what it actually does - destroying property including religious building and objects!” tweeted Cardinal Wilfred Napier of Durban, South Africa, who himself is Black, on Aug. 28, in reference to the organization. Napier was a part of the Church in South Africa's struggle against apartheid.

Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers, a Black Catholic deacon of the Diocese of Portland, Oregon, author, and co-host of EWTN’s Morning Glory radio show told Catholic World Report in August that, like Brown, he draws a distinction between a movement and an organization.

“When you put those three words together—black lives matter—as a social movement, it’s a statement of truth, which is a good thing.”

“But the term ‘black lives matter’ has been conflated with the national organization, Black Lives Matter. In a lot of people’s minds, when you say ‘black lives matter,’ people automatically think of the national organization,” he lamented.

Noting that the organization’s values “raise some red flags” for him, he mentioned especially that the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation does not address the importance of fatherhood.

“Look at all that, plus the violence that is being perpetrated, the rioting, the looting, the tearing down statues, all of these things,” the deacon said. “No Catholic in good conscience can have anything to do with a group like that. Period.”

Brown’s essay said that the U.S. needs to address “racial discrimination and unjust inequality,” but called for a Christian approach to those issues.

He pointed to “police misconduct and racial discrimination in our criminal justice system, and to the disproportionate suffering that COVID-19 has wrought in many communities of color.”

“As a black man, I am pained to learn of police officers killing unarmed black people.”

“As an attorney who has also worked as a staffer in Congress and the executive branch, I have seen that the majority of law enforcement officials are good people seeking to protect and serve,” Brown wrote, but “racial discrimination in the criminal justice system continues in the form of racial profiling, police misconduct, and discriminatory criminal sentencing.”

Pointing to healthcare inequality, exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, Brown noted that “Even once this health crisis ends, many African American communities will still not have the medical care they deserve. Historical patterns of racial exclusion have exacerbated negative health care outcomes. Ensuring that the vulnerable have access to proper medical care is necessary to restoring a culture of life.”

Brown’s essay came as polling shows declining support for the Black Lives Matter movement, and after the destruction of police stations and other public buildings amid protests in some cities, and the shooting of two Los Angeles sheriff's deputies Sept. 12.

On that date, a gunman approached a parked police car near the light rail station in Compton, California, opening fire with a pistol at the two police officers inside. Both survived despite multiple gunshot wounds, and the shooter fled on foot.

The officers, a 31-year-old mother and a 24-year-old male, had been on the job less than a year, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said after the shooting.

The incident garnered additional attention because of a protest that took place later that evening outside St. Francis Medical Center, where the officers had been transported for surgery.

A video posted by a local journalist on the scene shows several men shouting at a group of police officers outside the hospital, and one can be heard shouting “I hope they [expletive] die.”

Police arrested two people in connection to the protest, including the journalist who filmed the scene; the journalist was released later that night with a citation for obstructing a police officer.

Protestors blocked the path of the ambulance carrying officers to the hospital, and the LA County Sheriff’s office said via Twitter: “DO NOT BLOCK EMERGENCY ENTRIES & EXITS TO THE HOSPITAL. People's lives are at stake when ambulances can't get through,”

News reports have not confirmed whether the protest at the hospital was an officially organized event convened by Black Lives Matter.

Protestors identifying themselves as being affiliated with Black Lives Matter have staged protests at police precincts across the country in recent months, with mobs destroying police precincts in Minneapolis and Portland in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in May. 

Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, a local affiliate of the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, did not respond to CNA’s request for comment.

Pentecostal minister Eugene Rivers, director of the Seymour Institute for Black Church and Policy Studies, told CNA he considers it “a moral disgrace that the BLM organization did not condemn the shooting of the police officers in Compton, California. Under no circumstances could the moral and political failure to speak up be justified.”

Rivers, who is Black, called the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation “a scam that exploits the suffering of Black people to promote gender ideology.”

The minister said the organization “is peddling morally, tactically, and intrinsically stupid ideas,” reminiscent of “the Black Panther Party, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, and Revolutionary Action Movement and others who laid out an assortment of dystopian visions for the Black community and the country in general.”

Rivers said the group has “repudiate[d] Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy,” replacing it with “irrational ideas that have so quickly led to violence in its name rather than maintaining the non-violent high ground MLK staked out from his Christian perspective.”

Leaders of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles have said their efforts are more than a movement for racial justice, but are a “spiritual movement,” which have incorporated spiritual rituals into protests, drawing from animistic religions by calling forth deceased ancestors and pouring out libations for them.

Brown wrote last week that an authentic movement for racial justice needs to be rooted in love, and, ultimately, in Christ.

“Racial injustice is part of the culture of death. To build a culture of life in America, we need a revival of God’s love and a new era of civil rights,” he wrote.

“True justice is based on the foundational principle of civil rights: each person’s God-given natural rights as embodied in the natural law. Thanks to the natural law, abolitionists knew slavery was wrong even though civil law said it was right, and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. knew segregation was wrong even though the voting majority in many states likely supported it.”

“A new era of authentic love and justice is needed and will begin with a Christian revival of love for God and neighbor. This love is the only force powerful enough to bring lasting healing.”

“The Christian faithful must rededicate themselves to love through spiritual and corporal works of mercy that serve communities of color and the vulnerable. We must give the best of the Church, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, to those on the peripheries.”
“God calls us to do justice in bringing about the Kingdom of God and building up the culture of life,” Brown concluded.
“Agendas opposed to human dignity strengthen the culture of death, and can never lead us toward justice. As Christians, we must charge ahead in the love of Christ to lead a revival of God’s love and bring about a new era of Christian humanism in America.”


Survey finds correlation between Catholic Mass attendance, political views 

CNA Staff, Sep 21, 2020 / 06:00 pm (CNA).- A recent survey has found a correlation between the religious practices of Catholic likely voters, their party affiliation, and the political issues they say are important, with Catholics who attend Mass regularly saying they are more concerned about abortion, among other issues.

Conducted Aug. 27 - Sept. 1 by RealClear Opinion Research in partnership with EWTN News, the poll surveyed 1,212 likely voters who self-identify as Catholic.

The poll was conducted before the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, which is expected to shake up electoral polling as events unfold. EWTN News and RealClear Opinion Research plan to launch a new poll in mid-October, which is expected to reflect the impact on voters of Ginsburg’s death and the subsequent Supreme Court nomination process.

Among poll participants, 36% say they attended Mass once or more per week before restrictions were placed on worship services due to the coronavirus. Another 42% said they attended Mass between once a month and once a year, and 22% said they attended Mass less than once per year.

Sixty-eight percent said at the time of the poll that Supreme Court appointments were a concern in the upcoming election, while 59% said the same about abortion – although among weekly Mass attendees, concern about abortion jumps to 70%.

When broken down by Mass attendance, the new poll showed a significant difference in presidential preferences, as well as differences in their trust of the two main candidates on various topics.

Respondents overall favored Biden over Trump in the upcoming election 53% to 41%, while Catholics who attend Mass at least once per week were split evenly between Biden and Trump. Biden has led Trump overall among Catholic voters in two previous EWTN News/ RealClear polls, while Trump has maintained a lead among some groups of Catholics, including those who attend Mass more than once a week or daily.

As far as party affiliation, Catholic likely voters who are independent or unaffiliated with a major political party were most likely to attend Mass at least weekly, with 44% saying they did so. Thirty-nine percent of Republicans in the survey said they attend Mass at least weekly, and 31% of Democrats said the same.

A quarter of independents said they accept all of what the Church teaches and try to reflect that in their lives, compared to 17% of Republicans and 11% of Democrats in the survey.

Republicans surveyed were slightly more likely to say they pray at least once per week, with 83% saying they did. Seventy-seven percent of Democrats and 75% of independents in the poll said the same.

Asked about issues of concern in the upcoming election, some 9 out of 10 Catholics polled - regardless of Mass attendance - said they were concerned about the coronavirus pandemic, health care, the economy and jobs.

On each of those issues, poll participants trusted Biden more than Trump. However, the divide between weekly Massgoers was narrower than among Catholics overall, and that demographic was split evenly in its trust of Biden and Trump on the economy.

On China trade policy, respondents were more likely to trust Trump than Biden.

Other significant issues for Catholics included civil unrest, over which 84% voiced concern, as well as race relations and immigration, which were each listed by just over three-fourths of poll participants as areas of concern. Sixty percent listed religious freedom as a concern in the upcoming election.

Catholics who attend Mass at least once per week were more likely to be concerned about race relations, immigration, and religious freedom than those who attend Mass less often.


Recalling the unlikely Ginsburg-Scalia friendship

Denver Newsroom, Sep 21, 2020 / 05:15 pm (CNA).- Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died last week at age 87, is remembered as a hero of the political left— a self-described feminist who made a name for herself by advocating for women’s equality, and for socially liberal positions such as legalized abortion and same-sex marriage.

She was, in some ways, the last person you might expect to be close friends with a conservative, committed Catholic.

But in fact, Ginsburg had a warm friendship with the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia— a conservative icon and devout Catholic, who died in 2016.

“Their friendship can offer Americans an important lesson in these tense times. They remind us that we share a lot more than politics,” Scalia’s son, Chris, told CNA late last year.

“There's a lot more to life than political opinion. It is possible to disagree with somebody, to have different outlooks on life and politics and the law and your profession, but focus instead on what you have in common, and the things in life that you both enjoy, and focus on those things, and develop a real friendship out of those things.”

Scalia was born in Trenton, New Jersey, the son of an Italian immigrant, and grew up in New York City. He was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1986, and served until his death at age 79 in 2016.

Ginsburg also grew up in New York; she was born in 1933 and raised in a Jewish home. President Bill Clinton appointed her to the Supreme Court in 1993.

Famously, Scalia and his wife would spend every New Years Eve throughout the 1980s with the Ginsburgs, Chris said, sometimes staying at their house talking, laughing, and debating until four in the morning.

Some years, Ginsburg’s husband would cook for dinner the venison that Scalia had gathered on his post-Christmas hunting trip.

In the minds of Scalia’s children, “the Ginsburgs were just this couple my parents got to know and really just enjoyed spending time with,” Chris said.

Another of Scalia’s sons, Fr. Paul, a priest of the diocese of Arlington, described his father as a strong personality, a strong intellect, and an unabashed contrarian who loved to debate.

“He was very much a ‘man in full’ as the saying goes, and had a broad variety of interests, from hunting and fishing to the opera,” Fr. Paul told CNA.

His father also was a proud Catholic, who loved the Mass, the liturgy, and the Church's intellectual tradition, the priest said.

Scalia’s love of debate was one of the things that drew him to Ginsburg— a woman with whom he disagreed on many things, including many aspects of the law. But Scalia admired Ginsburg’s determination, especially in an era when it was harder for women to achieve the career success that Ginsburg attained.

“She was a sparring partner with him…My father liked people who would match him, and who would push back,” Father Paul noted.

“He would hire clerks who would challenge him on things. He wanted that. He wanted that intellectual engagement, because he knew that it was good for him. It would test his line of thought and his principles.”

As the longest serving justice on the bench at the time of his death, Justice Scalia is remembered for his strong emphasis on interpreting the law as it was originally written and intended. Ginsburg, in contrast, believed in a “living Constitution” that could be adapted to the times. The two frequently criticized each other’s legal reasoning and opinions.

In their nearly 23 years together on the bench, they heard and debated hugely consequential cases having to do with such issues as abortion, same-sex marriage, and the 2000 presidential election.

When asked about their friendship in a 2014 interview, Justice Scalia seemed to brush off suggestions that it was somehow extraordinary.

“I have never gotten angry at Ruth or at any of my colleagues because of the way they voted in an opinion. I mean, if you cannot disagree with your colleagues on the law without taking it personally, you ought to get another day job,” Scalia said.

“It’s just not the kind of a job that will allow you to behave that way. Ruth and I disagree on the law all the time. It’s never had anything to do with our friendship.”

Another facet of the Scalia-Ginsburg friendship was a mutual sense of humor, Scalia’s sons said. Scalia possessed a rich sense of humor, and loved to sing and tell jokes.

“I think one of the reasons Justice Ginsburg liked my father is that he cracked her up...She said that very few people could make her laugh out loud; basically it was her husband, and my father,” Chris said.

Scalia and Ginsburg first struck up a friendship in the 1980s, when they served together on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Chris said Scalia used to whisper jokes to Ginsburg during arguments, and she would have to pinch herself to keep from laughing out loud.

When they again sat together on the bench, this time on the Supreme Court, Scalia would pass notes to Ginsburg with jokes or funny comments on them.

“I think it strikes us as weird in part because we live in such polarized times, and because they are themselves kind of heroes of very different sides— [Ginsburg] is a legend for the left, and my father is kind of the equivalent for the conservative legal movement. So I think that makes it even stranger to people,” Chris said.

“Obviously they had big differences as far as their jurisprudence went. But it’s really not that strange when you consider the many things they had in common.”

These similarities included growing up in New York around the same time, enjoying good food and wine, and a love of opera.

There even exists a comedic opera about the two justices, called Scalia/Ginsburg, written by a graduate of the Yale School of Music-turned-law school student. The opera includes many jokes and gags that riff on the two’s intellectual and philosophical differences, but also includes moments of unity between the two characters, including a heartwarming duet.

Obviously, there were elements of their worldviews— very significant elements— that Ginsburg and Scalia did not share. Scalia was a devout Catholic, and Ginsburg and her husband Marty were secular Jews.

Still, Father Paul noted that since Scalia was so committed to living out his faith, their friendship doubtless gave Ginsburg a chance to encounter a truly lived Catholicism— and it is clear that she respected that.

“I think my father was aware of giving good witness to the Catholic faith. That was part of who he was. So in his friendship with her, that was going to be part of it...And I think this is the beginning of evangelization: simply demonstrating the ability to be a serious Catholic, but also capable of friendship, and friendship with somebody who is different and who disagrees,” Father Paul said.


Knights of Columbus donates to vandalized Brooklyn parish

CNA Staff, Sep 21, 2020 / 04:09 pm (CNA).- The Knights of Columbus has contributed thousands of dollars to a Brooklyn parish following an act of vandalism earlier this month.

The Knights of Columbus announced Sept. 21 a $10,000 donation to Our Lady of Solace Church. An unknown perpetrator destroyed a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe at the parish Sept. 11.

“The desecration of our Catholic statues and churches is a grievous crime against all people who value religious freedom,” said Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight.

“Together with Pope Francis, our bishops and faithful everywhere, we stand against violence, hatred and bigotry.”

Father Javier Flores, the parish administrator, said the gift was “overwhelming” and expressed hope that a replacement statue would be erected before Our Lady of Guadalupe’s feast, Dec. 12.

The parish has been struggling financially since the pandemic has reduced tithing, WLNY reported.

According to the church’s security camera, a man climbed the fence in front of the church, toppled a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and then tossed the statue onto the sidewalk.

“Who knows mentally what’s going on with that person in that moment, but you don’t do stuff like that. This is vandalism,” said Coney Island resident Sara Marerro, according to WLNY.

Marerro said an onlooker tried to place the statue back in its proper place, and the two men got into an argument. 

“The other guy came trying to put the statue back. And that’s when they started fighting because the other guy, they were drunk,” Marerro said.

John Quaglione, deputy press secretary for the Diocese of Brooklyn, said the statue often attracts visitors, especially each Sept. 11

“To attack the Blessed Mother on 9/11 in broad daylight is not only brazen, it’s a direct assault of the people that were walking by that day wanted to have a moment of prayer to themselves, wanted to remember someone they may have lost,” Quaglione told WLNY.

The New York City Police Department has offered a $2,500 reward for any relevant information on the man who destroyed the statue.

Vandalism cases at Catholic churches have recently been on the rise throughout the United States.

Isaiah Cantrell, 30, was arrested after he walked into St. Patrick Cathedral in El Paso Sept. 15 and proceeded to smash a nearly 90-year-old statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus that was displayed behind the altar.

Chandler Johnson, 23, was arrested for vandalizing the Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Tioga, La., Sept. 11. For over two hours, Johnson vandalized the church, breaking at least six windows, beating several metal doors, and destroying numerous statues around the parish grounds.

On July 10, a statue of the Virgin Mary at Cathedral Prep School and Seminary in Queens was defaced by graffiti. Security footage shows an individual approaching the 100-year-old statue shortly after 3 a.m. Friday morning and daubing the word “IDOL” down its length.

Will Catholics return to Mass after the pandemic? Many want to go more often

CNA Staff, Sep 21, 2020 / 04:08 pm (CNA).- The coronavirus pandemic is affecting the way many Catholics think about their faith, a new study has found, and just over half of Catholic likely voters say that once restrictions are lifted, they plan to attend Mass more frequently than they did before the pandemic.

Sixty-four percent of Catholics surveyed said the pandemic has made them think “a lot” differently about what is important in life, while an additional 27% said it has had “some” impact on their perspective. Only 9% said the pandemic has not affected how they think about what is important in life.

The poll, conducted Aug. 27 - Sept. 1 by RealClear Opinion Research in partnership with EWTN News, surveyed 1,212 likely voters who self-identify as Catholic.

Among poll participants, 36% said they attended Mass once or more per week before restrictions were placed on worship services due to the coronavirus. Another 42% said they attended Mass between once a month and once a year, and 22% said they attended Mass less than once per year.

Just over half of those surveyed said that once restrictions are lifted, they plan to attend Mass more frequently than they did before the pandemic. A little more than one-third said they will continue attending Mass with the same frequency, and about 1 in 8 said they will attend Mass less often than they did before.

Sixty-one percent of respondents said the coronavirus has made them think differently about their faith.

Hispanic respondents were most likely to say the pandemic has influenced how they view their faith, with 72% saying it has, compared to 54% of white non-Hispanics and 56% of Black non-Hispanics.

Of those who attended Mass at least once per week before virus restrictions were enacted, 73% said the pandemic has affected their view of their faith, compared to 58% of those who attended Mass monthly or yearly, and 48% who attended Mass less than once per year.

Overall, 44% said their faith has increased since the pandemic began, while 10% said their faith has decreased, and 46% said it has stayed about the same.

Nearly 1 in 5 young adults – those between 18 and 34 years old – said their faith has decreased during the pandemic, compared to fewer than 1 in 10 respondents age 35-54 and 1 in 25 over the age of 54.

Seventy-nine percent of respondents said they have found themselves closer to God during the pandemic, and 93% said they have grown closer to their family.

The inability to attend Mass due to restrictions put in place during the pandemic has been disturbing for the majority of Catholics surveyed. Overall, 71% said they found the experience distressing. Older respondents were more likely to be distressed by the inability to attend Mass than young adults were.

Frequency of Mass attendance before the pandemic was correlated with concern over having to miss Mass. However, even among those who said their Catholic faith has little to no influence in their life, the majority said they were distressed to be unable to attend Mass during the pandemic.

Fifty-eight percent of Catholics surveyed said they feel safe returning to Mass under the current conditions in their state. Comfort levels were highest in the Midwest and lowest in the Western region of the country.

Sixty-four percent of those who attended Mass at least once a week before the pandemic said they feel safe returning to church, compared to 45% of those who previously attended Mass monthly or yearly.

Two-thirds of white, non-Hispanic Catholics said they feel safe returning to Mass currently, while fewer than half of Black and Hispanic Catholics answered similarly.

Overall, 42% approve of how Donald Trump has responded to the pandemic, while 57% disapprove. Joe Biden’s approval rating on the pandemic was 48% among poll participants, with 36% disapproving.

The U.S. bishops’ response to the pandemic met with a 38% approval rating, while 22% said they disapproved. Another 40% were unsure of how to rate the bishops’ response.


Catholic judge Barbara Lagoa on the shortlist of Supreme Court nominees

CNA Staff, Sep 21, 2020 / 03:05 pm (CNA).-  

President Donald Trump’s shortlist of potential nominees to the Supreme Court includes Judge Barbara Lagoa, a Catholic who has spoken about how her faith has shaped her legal career.

Lagoa, 52, was born in Miami and is the daughter of Cuban immigrants. Trump appointed Lagoa to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta in late 2019. She had previously served as a Justice on the Florida Supreme Court, the first Hispanic woman to do so.

President Donald Trump announced Monday that he would announce a nominee by Sept. 26 to replace the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Friday evening at 87.

In addition to an existing White House list of two dozen potential Supreme Court nominees, Trump added 20 more names Sept. 9, including three sitting U.S. senators.

Trump said that he was “looking at five, probably four, but I'm looking at five very seriously” options to replace Ginsburg. Trump had also said he will nominate a woman for the position.

Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a Catholic, is widely reported to be the front-runner in the president’s deliberations regarding a nominee, but Lagoa is also on Trump’s shortlist, and Florida lawmakers are said to be advocating for her appointment.

Lagoa, who has three children, has spoken about the importance of the Catholic faith in her own life.

Speaking at an October 2019 dinner for the Thomas More Society, a Catholic lawyers’ organization, Lagoa praised the group’s namesake saint as a model for Catholic law professionals, who she said should not compartmentalize their professional lives from their spiritual lives.

“I suggest that in order to be a good Catholic advocate, one should start with St. Thomas More,” Lagoa told the attorneys. More, the patron saint of attorneys, is hailed for his commitment to his conscience and to Catholic doctrine, which lead eventually to martyrdom.

“It is more than going to Mass every Sunday, and to me at least, it means having a personal relationship with God that in turn informs how we treat others,” she said of her Catholic faith.

Following More’s humility in legal practice “starts with reminding ourselves, even when it is hardest, of the dignity of each human being — even the most difficult opposing counsel — and it also starts with reminding ourselves that none of us are perfect and that we ourselves can contribute to or exacerbate a difficult situation,” she said.

Lagoa also urged lawyers to ask for the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and the gifts of wisdom, counsel and fortitude, in daily life, according to the Florida Catholic.

Lagoa has also been outspoken about the importance of her own Catholic education, having attended Catholic elementary and high school in Miami.

As a Florida Supreme Court Justice, she took part in a major ruling reversing a judge’s decision striking down a Florida law that requires that people with past serious criminal convictions pay all fines, restitution and legal fees before regaining the right to vote, NBC News reported.

Lagoa is married and a mother of three.

"I think the most important thing I can tell women about their leadership roles is the thing I tell my three daughters, which is: do not be afraid of failure, do not be afraid to make mistakes, be bold, and take risks,” she said in an April 2019 interview.

“That's the one thing I can tell you about all women who are in positions of leadership; they all have taken risks...Nothing is ever perfect. Just do it, and you will be happy that you did. Maybe you will fail initially, but failure also leads to learning."

Since Justice Ginsburg’s death last week, pro-life and pro-abortion voices have made it clear that any nominee’s stance on abortion will be a key issue. Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz has described Lagoa as “very pro-life, reliably pro-life.”

Lagoa said in written answers to the Senate upon her nomination to the appeals court that she believes Roe v. Wade is “settled law” and that as an appellate court judge, she “would faithfully follow it as I would follow all precedent of the Supreme Court.”

“I am particularly mindful of the fact that under our constitutional system, it is for the legislature, and not the courts, to make the law. It is the role of judges to apply, not to alter, the work of the people's representatives. And it is the role of judges to interpret our constitution and our statutes as they are written,” Lagoa said in a speech after being appointed to the Florida Supreme Court.

If the Supreme Court reverses Roe v. Wade and removes the inferred constitutional protection for abortion, the legality of abortion would be subject to state-by-state regulation.

As many as a dozen states, including New York and California, have enshrined a right to abortion in their own constitutions. Other states, such as Arkansas, have “trigger laws” on the books that would automatically ban abortion entirely if the case were overturned.

On Saturday, Americans United for Life, a major pro-life organization, endorsed Judge Barrett and urged President Trump to nominate her.

Trump’s likely nomination of a Supreme Court Justice to replace Ginsburg has become a matter of political controversy, in an already fractious U.S. political and social context.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pledged Friday that a Trump Supreme Court nominee will be voted on for confirmation by the United States Senate, even while there are fewer than seven weeks until the Nov. 3 presidential election.

Democratic leaders have pushed back, and pointed to McConnell’s refusal to consider Obama Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland in March 2016, seven months before that year’s presidential contest. At the time, Republicans said that it would be more appropriate to wait until after the November election to fill the Court vacancy.

McConnell defended his decision Friday night, saying that “in the last midterm election before Justice Scalia’s death in 2016, Americans elected a Republican Senate majority because we pledged to check and balance the last days of a lame-duck president’s second term. We kept our promise. Since the 1880s, no Senate has confirmed an opposite-party president’s Supreme Court nominee in a presidential election year.”

Supreme Court: Full docket of religious liberty cases during nomination fight

CNA Staff, Sep 21, 2020 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- As the Trump Administration looks to fill the vacant seat on the Supreme Court, the coming judicial session features a slate packed with religious freedom cases.

The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Friday created the first opening on the Court during a fall or spring term since 2017; the Court’s opening conference for the fall is on Sept. 29.

The Court also announced on Sept. 16 that it will begin its fall term hearing oral arguments telephonically and not in-person, a continuation of its extraordinary policy from last spring that was due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Perhaps the most notable religious freedom case this term, that of Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, will be heard on Nov. 4. A decision could impact faith-based adoption and foster care agencies around the country which are affected by state and local non-discrimination ordinances.

In 2018, the city of Philadelphia notified Catholic Social Services with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, as well as Bethany Christian Services, that their policies of not working with same-sex couples on foster care placements were discriminatory; the city stopped contracting with both services.

Later in the year, Bethany Christian said that while the organization’s religious beliefs on marriage remained the same, it would begin working with same-sex couples. Catholic Social Services, however, did not alter its policy and has not had any new foster care placements through the city.

Sharonell Fulton and Toni Simms-Busch, who have fostered more than 40 children and who partnered with Catholic Social Services, brought the case against the city that is currently before the Supreme Court.

Another religious freedom case pending before the Supreme Court, Dalberiste v. GLE Associates, involves a lawsuit by a Seventh-Day Adventist, Mitche Dalberiste, who is seeking a religious accommodation for the technician job for which he was hired.

The job reportedly required employees to serve 12-hour shifts seven days a week for a period of time, but Dalberiste requested leave from sundown on Fridays until sundown on Saturdays, to observe the Sabbath. He filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) when the job offer was rescinded.

Becket is also representing three Muslim men, Muhammad Tanvir, Jameel Algibhah, and Naveed Shinwari, who were placed on the FBI’s No-Fly list in order to pressure them to act as informants on Muslim communities.

Becket is arguing that individual government officials can be held liable for damages in Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) cases, or where they unlawfully violate someone’s religious freedom.

The group Alliance Defending Freedom is also bringing a college free speech case to the Court, and is petitioning for the Court to consider a pro-life speech case.

In Uzuegbunam v. Preczewski, a student at Georgia Gwinnett College sued over the college’s restrictions on the space where he could evangelize fellow students; while using the limited space, he was also told by a campus police officer to stop and was charged with “disorderly conduct.” The school altered its policy, but Uzuegbunam sued, alleging the previous violation of his free speech.

There are also multiple cases which the Supreme Court has not yet taken up, but which Becket and others are asking it to consider.

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is asking the Supreme Court to hear the case of Nikki Bruni and other pro-life sidewalk counselors, who has challenged Pittsburgh’s 15-foot “buffer zone” outside abortion clinics; they were banned from speaking with women or praying within the zone, which included sidewalks and streets.

ADF has also petitioned the Court to consider the case of the Michigan non-profit Thomas More Law Center, which litigates religious freedom, family, and life issues. 

In 2012, the California attorney general’s office demanded that the center provide the names and addresses of its California supporters.

Proclaim 'universality of salvation', Archbishop Gomez says at immigrant Mass

CNA Staff, Sep 21, 2020 / 10:23 am (CNA).- The US needs to hear the proclamation of the unity of nations and the universality of salvation, Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles preached Sunday during a Mass recognizing immigrants.

“In this moment, I believe God is calling our immigrant Church to be a light to our immigrant nation,” the archbishop said during his homily during Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles Sept. 20.

“He is calling us to proclaim what St. Paul proclaimed, what the Catholic Church has proclaimed since the day of Pentecost – the unity of the nations, the universality of salvation. The mercy and forgiveness of God that is available to every person, of every nation under heaven.”

He continued: “Our great nation still needs to hear this good news! That no matter what the color of your skin, or the blood of your race, or the language you speak – you are a child of God. And Jesus Christ died for you, offered his body and blood for you.”

The Mass of the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time was said “in Recognition of All Immigrants”.

It came amid the Archdiocese of Los Angeles' Sept. 18-26 novena meant to prepare for the 2020 World Day of Migrants and Refugees, observed Sept. 27. The archdiocese has held an annual Day in Recognition of All Immigrants since 2013.

The celebration includes a 60-mile walking pilgrimage tracing the path St. Junipero Serra walked as he founded the first nine mission churches of California.

Archbishop Gomez preached that the Mass was held “to praise God our Father and celebrate our identity as children of God whom he has called from every nation and race to build his Kingdom here in our country.”

The reading at Mass tell us “that our lives have a purpose in [Christ's] plan of love.”

The meaning of our lives is that “we belong to God. He gives us life so that we can serve Christ, so that we can labor and bear fruit in his vineyard, which is the Kingdom that he has planted and is growing in the world.”

“God is One and the human race that he created is one,” he excaimed. “But he creates us as 'many' – many races, many nationalities, many languages, and ethnic cultures.”

God delights in humans' “variety and diversity,” the archbishop said. “And yet, for all this diversity that we can see in God’s vineyard, we are still one. One people, one family.”

He said St. Paul preached that God is Lord over every nation, and that we are his children.

“In this moment in God’s vineyard in America, I think this is a powerful message that our Lord is calling us to bring to our neighbors,” Archbishop Gomez said.

He reflected on the current conversation about racism in America, and said the Church is to be a light amid it.

“In Christ we have one love, one hope, one destiny. And in Christ, we have one calling.We are called to this beautiful duty to live for him and to share his teaching, to bear fruit for his vineyard, his Kingdom.”

The archbishop said that “no matter who you are or how you came here, today once more he is sending you into his vineyard. We have a responsibility … He is sending each of us into this vineyard in this moment to labor for unity and justice, for the right to life, for equal opportunity and freedom for every person.”

The labor of the vineyard is first of all internal, Archbishop Gomez said: “We need to root out all the intolerance and envy and selfishness from our hearts … Let’s ask for the grace to love with a generous love, to show the same mercy and forgiveness to others as God shows to us. We need to build strong communities and strong families; we need to raise up our children to love and serve the Lord.”

He added that he dreams that the archdiocese will “have vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life coming from every race and nationality to serve all people!”

“This is the great mission that we have as Catholics, as the Church in this moment. Let us go out today into his vineyard and let us renew our country in the beautiful vision of God and make America truly a home for peoples of all nations and races,” the archbishop concluded.