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Sen. Mike Lee challenges Republicans backing ‘Respect for Marriage Act’

Sen. Mike Lee of Utah. / Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 21, 2022 / 11:20 am (CNA).

Sen. Mike Lee of Utah is calling on the 12 Republican senators who voted to advance the Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA) to adopt protections for Americans who believe marriage is between one man and one woman.

“The undersigned ask that you oppose cloture [closing or ending debate] on the Respect for Marriage Act unless the Lee amendment is added to the bill,” Lee, together with 20 other Republican lawmakers, wrote Thursday. “The free exercise of religion is absolutely essential to the health of our Republic. We must have the courage to protect it.”

If added to the act, the proposed Lee amendment would prohibit the federal government from discriminating against anyone who holds a religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is a union between one man and one woman or is a union between two individuals.

The U.S. Senate voted 62-37 Wednesday to move forward with the RFMA — a bill that would federally recognize same-sex marriage and provide legal protections for interracial marriages. Reaching the 60 votes necessary, the legislation moved closer to becoming law.

Lee directed his letter to the 12 Republican lawmakers who joined Democrats in support of the RFMA, The Daily Signal reported. They are: Sens. Roy Blunt of Missouri, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Susan Collins of Maine, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, Rob Portman of Ohio, Mitt Romney of Utah, Dan Sullivan of Alaska, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Todd Young of Indiana.

In the letter, Lee listed his concerns.

“Obergefell did not make a private right of action for aggrieved individuals to sue those who oppose same-sex marriage,” he wrote, citing the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision on same-sex marriage. “It did not create a mandate for the Department of Justice to sue where it perceived an institution opposed same-sex marriage, but the Respect for Marriage Act will.”

He added: “What we can expect should this bill become law is more litigation against those institutions and individuals trying to live according to their sincerely held religious beliefs and moral convictions.”

He called for protecting such institutions and individuals.

“Instead of subjecting churches, religious nonprofits, and persons of conscience to undue scrutiny or punishment by the federal government because of their views on marriage, we should make explicitly clear that this legislation does not constitute a national policy endorsing a particular view of marriage that threatens the tax-exempt status of faith-based nonprofits,” he wrote. “As we move forward, let us be sure to keep churches, religious charities, and religious universities out of litigation in the first instance.”

His amendment, he said, would offer protections.

“My amendment would ensure that federal bureaucrats do not take discriminatory actions against individuals, organizations, nonprofits, and other entities based on their sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions about marriage by prohibiting the denial or revocation of tax-exempt status, licenses, contracts, benefits, etc.,” he urged. “It would affirm that individuals still have the right to act according to their faith and deepest convictions even outside of their church or home.”

Lee’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Did the Vatican ‘snub’ German bishops over Synodal Way?

Facing the German bishops in Rome, Nov. 18, 2022: Cardinal Luis Ladaria Ferrer, SJ, prefect of the Dicastery of the Doctrine of the Faith; Cardinal Pietro Parolin, secretary of state; and Cardinal Marc Ouellet, PSS, prefect of the Dicastery of Bishops (from left). / Vatican Media

CNA Newsroom, Nov 21, 2022 / 10:04 am (CNA).

Bishop Georg Bätzing said supporters of the Synodal Way wanted to remain Catholic, “but we want to be Catholic in a different way.”

Nun who won The Voice of Italy singing competition leaves consecrated life

Cristina Scuccia, winner of The Voice Italy 2014 / Credit: Shutterstock

CNA Newsroom, Nov 21, 2022 / 08:47 am (CNA).

Sister Cristina Scuccia, the religious sister who won the 2014 edition of The Voice of Italy, has left the consecrated life after 15 years.

U.S. Catholic leaders speak out against three November executions

WASHINGTON (CNS) — In the third week of November, three executions by lethal injection took...

UPDATE: Catholic leaders respond to shooting at Colorado nightclub

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Catholic leaders have condemned the Nov. 19 attack on an LGBTQ nightclub...

Mass for image of Our Lady ‘miraculously saved’ from a fire in the Ukrainian capital

The depiction of Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn / St. Nicholas Parish in Kyiv

CNA Newsroom, Nov 21, 2022 / 06:57 am (CNA).

The image of Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn was hanging right on the organ in the church of St. Nicholas when the fire started in September 2021.

Visiting his family, pope celebrates feast of Christ the King

ASTI, Italy (CNS) — With several of his cousins and their children and grandchildren present,...

Exclusive interview: 7 questions for Archbishop Cordileone 

Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco / Dennis Callahan/Archdiocese of San Francisco

Baltimore, Md., Nov 20, 2022 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco sat down with CNA for an interview during a break in the proceedings of the U.S. bishops’ fall meeting in Baltimore last week.

Cordileone, a staunch advocate for the unborn, spoke out against Proposition 1, a ballot initiative to add the “right to abortion” to California’s constitution, which received over 66% of the vote in the 2022 midterm elections. One week later, the archbishop shared his thoughts on what is next for the pro-life movement, his hopes for the bishops’ eucharistic revival initiative, and how to address a lack of trust that priests have for their bishops. This interview was edited for length and clarity.

The pro-life movement suffered a defeat in California with the passage of Proposition 1. What advice do you have for opponents of abortion in this post-Dobbs political climate? 

We have to keep doing what we have been doing. I think the key is this Walking with Moms in Need [the U.S. bishops’ nationwide initiative to assist pregnant and parenting women]. We have to continue holding up what is real compassion for a woman in that situation, who’s scared, isolated, full of anxiety, under all kinds of pressure, and feeling lonely. She needs to be surrounded with love and support.

The answer is not violence. The answer is not killing. The answer is love and support. And we need to hold up, and I would hope — but I see a growing resistance to it — that even those who favor keeping abortion legal would favor giving women the full range of options. If she’s given information about what’s going on inside of her, if she’s given information about what her options are, and is given love and support and we walk with her, she will opt for life. I know this from crisis pregnancy clinics, that when they’re given that information, and they’re given love and support, 95% opt for life. So what we really need is for women to have real choice. 

Unfortunately, women who are in the lower income [brackets] don’t really have choice. So we need to give them real choice. I think that’s the way we build the culture of life. Laws are important, and political advocacy is important. Our pro-life manifestations are important to help raise consciousness about it. But in a bitterly polarized society, we need to support the women in these situations and show where true love and compassion is. 

That’s why I’m horrified at the hostility toward crisis pregnancy clinics. That’s all about love and support, and even beyond the birth of the child, making sure she and her baby are OK. This is the most worrying sign to me — the attacks on the crisis pregnancy clinics. And our leaders are not speaking out against it and being active in protecting them, and in fact, are denigrating them.

Considering how Proposition 1 succeeded, how can you move the needle on this issue? Do you put more money into Walking with Mothers in Need? Or do you put your efforts into doing a better job on communications?

Well, it’s all of the above. That’s a good question, “Where do we put the emphasis?” We do need better communication about it. Because we’re up against a lot with that, especially with the false narratives that are being perpetrated about these clinics. And I think the best thing is for women to tell their stories, women who have gone through this experience. We need women to tell their stories and let it get out there because it’s the personal story that touches hearts. And that’s what begins to change the conversation.

How do you reach young women who support abortion because they think it may be necessary for their personal success?

Yes. I think they need to be walked with, as well. Why would it get in the way of their career or their education? Why can’t she continue with her education, or begin her career and bring the baby to term, and if she wants to, put the child up for adoption? We need to emphasize adoption a lot more. Are universities prepared to support their women students in giving birth? Are the health care services offered? Do they have that prenatal care available? What if she has to absent herself from class? Can she do online instruction during the time she has to be away? Even something as simple as diaper-changing stations? So do they have all of that? And if not, then where’s the equality? The man doesn’t have to worry about that. We can just walk away and continue, but the woman can’t. She’s facing very hard choices. Why aren’t they giving her the support? Where’s the equality in that?

In your view, what is the most troubling issue of our day?

The most urgent crisis today is the attack on life in the womb, and the lack of support for women who are in need to be able to make a choice for life. I’d say, the celebration of abortion as a good. You know, it was originally something that people said was a necessary evil, then it became a choice. And then it became health care. Now they’re calling it reproductive freedom, which can mean all kinds of things. And now it’s celebrated as a good. So I’d say that’s the most, most urgent and critical issue we need to react to.

What are your hopes for the eucharistic revival? Are you seeing enthusiasm for it, and do you think the initiative will bear fruit?

We’re having these processions with the Blessed Sacrament from the four parts of the country. And the one from the West Coast, as it turns out — I didn’t suggest it — but it’s starting from our cathedral. So as plans start coming together it’s starting to generate some excitement. So I’d say that it has a lot of potential, but it’s always the takeaway: What’s going to change afterwards? It can’t be just a happy memory. It has to change the way we treat the Eucharist, the way we regard it, the way we prepare for Mass, and the way Mass is celebrated and carried out. All of that has to change — the quality of preaching, the frequency of confession, all these. There has to be some change. That’s the takeaway, but I’m hoping that this three-year eucharistic revival will be a catalyst for that.

What in particular about the Mass needs to change?

How the Blessed Sacrament is handled and how people prepare to receive Communion respectfully. There’s a lot of goodwill out there. I think people just need better formation and awareness about it. So I do think there’s a lot to work on.

Some Catholics think the only way to properly and respectfully receive Communion is on the tongue. Could this be an idea that could resonate with most people or even many bishops?

I wonder the same thing. That’s a good example of the casualness with which a lot of people treat the Eucharist. It’s very easy to be casual when receiving in the hand. It’s a lot more challenging to preserve reverence for the Eucharist when it’s given in the hands. If we are going to do it, we have to be very intentional about it. When I was a pastor, I would regularly instruct people about how to receive Communion properly. Actually at Sunday Mass for the homily, I would demonstrate how to receive on the tongue as well as in the hand. I’d see it happen, and the priests on Monday would find hosts on the floor, under the pews, or in the pages of a missalette. So I had the ushers at the Communion station to make sure people did not walk off with the host.

You know, [Catholics] used to have to fast from midnight [the night before Mass], and be on their knees, and receive only on the tongue. We need to have some kind of practical measures in place, reminders to people of who they are receiving when they are receiving Communion. Never has Communion been treated so casually, In any of the apostolic churches, in any of the Eastern rites, or in the West. So this is a new thing we’re trying to grapple with. 

Advent 2022: Check out some of our favorite Advent calendars for 2022

null / nito/Shutterstock.

Denver, Colo., Nov 20, 2022 / 11:00 am (CNA).

It’s that time of year again! Time to decorate the Christmas tree, hang the stockings, and grab your favorite Advent calendar. 

What exactly are Advent calendars, and how did they come about?

It is said that the Advent calendar was first used by German Lutherans in the 19th and 20th centuries and then spread to other Christian denominations. Gerhard Lang is credited with creating the first printed Advent calendar in the early 1900s. However, his company was forced to close during World War II.

By the late 1940s, Richard Sellmer took up mass production of Advent calendars. These calendars began to be imported to the U.S. in the 1950s, and his company continues to operate to this day. In 1958, the first chocolate Advent calendar was produced.

Advent calendars typically begin on Dec. 1 and end on Christmas Day. The secular world has picked up on these countdown calendars by using them to provide a small treat or gift on each day leading up to Christmas. However, Advent calendars can also be faith-based by offering a daily prayer or meditation as the world awaits the birth of Jesus.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops says Advent calendars “can help you fully enter into the season with daily activity and prayer suggestions to prepare you spiritually for the birth of Jesus Christ” and serve as a reminder of the true meaning of the season.

So, what are some of our favorite Advent calendars this year?

The Precious Moments Nativity Advent calendar offers a wonderful way to relive the Nativity story. Wooden boxes contain little figurines of the wise men, shepherds, farm animals, and, of course, the Holy Family that correlate to a short reading. This is a great way to bring the family together to join in reading part of the Nativity story as you place each figurine in the stable atop the calendar. 

If you’re looking for something to get children more involved, Loyola Press has a printable Advent calendar that encourages children to perform an act of kindness each day during Advent. Some acts include: “I will be a peacemaker today in school and at home,” “I will be grateful and thank God today for all the food I have,” and “I will speak kindly to all I meet today.”

The EWTN Religious Catalog has several Advent calendars that retell the Nativity story. As you open each flap on the calendar, text from the Bible will tell the story of Jesus’ birth. Depending on the calendar you choose, you might even get to enjoy a sweet treat!

For adults looking to dive deeper into their faith this Advent season, consider Good Catholic’s Journey to Christmas led by Father Matthew Kauth. In this program, you will receive daily devotional emails, weekly guidance videos, written reflections, and more. This series can help you steer clear of the business of the season and remain focused on the true reason for the season.

If you prefer listening to daily meditations and prayers, Hallow will be doing its Advent #Pray25 challenge. Participants will meditate on passages from Scripture that led to the birth of Jesus. The daily reflections will focus on how God has called people throughout generations, from the Old Testament to the New Testament. This year’s challenge will be guided by the cast of “The Chosen,” which includes Jonathan Roumie, who plays Jesus; Elizabeth Tabish, who plays Mary Magdalene; George Xanthis, who plays John the Evangelist; and Dallas Jenkins, director and creator of the show, among others. 

While it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, remember that Jesus’ presence is the only true present that matters this Christmas.

Meet the U.S. Catholic bishops’ new pro-life chair

Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ fall plenary assembly in Baltimore, Nov. 16, 2022. / Katie Yoder/CNA

Baltimore, Md., Nov 20, 2022 / 08:00 am (CNA).

The new pro-life chair for the U.S. Catholic bishops wants pregnant women who are struggling or feeling scared to know that they are not alone. 

“I would like to say and, in such a heartfelt way, for them to know that they are not alone,” Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, told CNA hours after being elected to his new position Nov. 16. 

“We, as the Catholic Church — to anyone of any denomination — we will be there for you,” the 65-year-old bishop added.

“We are willing to accompany you and provide you the support that you need,” he said, listing everything from prayers and counseling to financial help and medical assistance. “We are there for you every step of the way. So please don’t be afraid.”

A longtime advocate for the unborn, Burbidge was chosen as chair of the bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities during the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ annual fall assembly in Baltimore. The surprise election took place after Burbidge’s predecessor, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, was elected as the bishops’ new vice president.

Born in 1957 in Philadelphia, Burbidge entered St. Charles Borromeo Seminary after high school and was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in 1984. He later became an honorary prelate to Pope John Paul II, beginning in 1998, and was appointed the rector of his former seminary in 1999.

Before coming to Arlington in 2016, he served as an auxiliary bishop of Philadelphia starting in 2002 and as the bishop of Raleigh, North Carolina, beginning in 2006.

His election as pro-life chair came as a surprise, Burbidge revealed to CNA, emphasizing that he feels “very honored.” 

The focus of his new position will be the “joy of the Gospel,” or “reaffirming the joy that so many mothers and fathers have in bringing a child into the world,” he said.

“That’s the Gospel of Life, to share that joy of life itself, the tremendous gift that it is,” he explained. “The joy of being — all of us — created in the image and likeness of God and to see each other that way.”

He called for building a culture of life where abortion is unthinkable. 

While he acknowledged what he called the “harsh reality in which we’re living,” with misinformation and extreme proposed laws, he also stressed that the Catholic Church holds the truth — the truth that “all life is sacred, it comes from God.”

Following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in a ruling that frees states to decide abortion policy, Burbidge said that the priorities of the pro-life committee will remain consistent, with a focus on advocacy, witness, and service.

“I think what we have learned in the post-Dobbs decision is that we still have a lot of work to do,” he said, referring to the decision that overturned Roe. “We’re celebrating victory in the sense of Roe vs. Wade being overturned, but the work is just beginning.”

That work includes, he said, engaging public officials, bringing the faith into the public arena, and energizing the Catholic faithful.

He called the overturning of Roe a “tremendous victory.”

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to, I think, remember and honor all those who have gone before us, maybe who are only seeing this from heaven, who for years and years and years, when abortion first became legalized, began to pray the rosary outside of abortion clinics, to participate in the national March [for Life],” he added. “And to see that God never allows our efforts to be in vain.”

Burbidge recalled being in high school when Roe v. Wade became the law of the land, in 1973. 

“I remember, even at a young age, just being traumatized. And certainly, in going to a Catholic high school, we were made aware of what was at stake,” he said. “I could never fathom that … in our country, we’re legalizing the taking of innocent lives.”

He added: “I never tired of doing my little part, like we all try to do, to say this … is not right. This cannot be.”