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White House spokeswoman grilled on fungibility of Title X funding

Jen Psaki, White House Press Secretary. / EWTN News Nightly YouTube

CNA Staff, Apr 14, 2021 / 14:18 pm (CNA).

Earlier today, EWTN’s White House Correspondent Owen Jensen questioned White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki about the proposed reversal of the Trump administration’s Protect Life Rule.

 

 

EWTN News Nightly White House Correspondent, Owen Jensen:

So today, as you well know, the Biden administration and HHS started the reversal of the Trump administration’s ban on abortion referrals at Title 10, family planning clinics. For my first question, why does the Biden administration insist that prolife Americans pay for abortions and violate their conscience?

 

White House Press Secretary, Jen Psaki:

Well, first, that's not an accurate depiction of what happened. And I know we want to be accurate around here. None of the funds appropriated under this title shall be used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning. That is written into the Public Health Service Act and it specifically states that.

 

Owen Jensen:

Indirect subsidies, money that is fungible that can't be traced… We know that, come on.

 

Jen Psaki:

That is not how it works. That is the law. So I'm stating what the law is and how it is implemented legally by these organizations. And the reason I though... since you give me the opportunity. The reason why the president took these steps is because he believes that advancing equity for all, including people of color and others who have been historically underserved, marginalized and adversely affected by persistent poverty and inequality can be helped by these actions. And by focusing on advancing equity in the Title X program, we can create opportunities for the improvement of communities that have been historically underserved, which benefits everyone. That's how these fundings are used in communities.

 

Owen Jensen:

You talk about equity. If I may interrupt, how is equity, how is it fighting systemic racism when abortion, we well know, disproportionately affects minority children?

 

Jen Psaki:

Again, funding cannot be used from this for abortion, but access to health care. Access to

health care in communities that have been marginalized, underserved, adversely affected by persistent poverty is always going to be something the president fights for.

 

 

 

The proposal from the Biden administration is set to be published April 15. A thirty-day comment period for the public on the proposed changes will then open.

 

Pro-life advocates have criticized the principle of funding abortion groups such as Planned Parenthood, even with prohibitions on the money directly funding abortion. They argue that since money is fungible, the additional funding frees up other funds to go toward abortions.

 

Amazon pulls transgender-critical book before relisting it

nito/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Apr 14, 2021 / 14:07 pm (CNA).

The online retail giant Amazon delisted a book critical of transgender ideology, before apparently relisting it for sale on Wednesday afternoon.

Maria Keffler, author of “Desist, Detrans, & Detox: Getting Your Child Out of the Gender Cult,” told CNA that her book is a “guidebook” for parents who don’t want to take an “affirmation-only” approach to matters of gender identity. 

“Right now, out in the culture, that’s all that’s being given to parents,” Keffler said. She is co-founder of the Arlington Parent Coalition & Partners for Ethical Care. 

The book was listed for sale on Amazon on April 7, Keffler said, but the listing was removed less than a week later. 

On Wednesday afternoon, however, the book appeared for sale on Amazon’s online Kindle store. 

A spokesperson for Amazon did not immediately respond to CNA’s request for comment. 

Amazon had told the publisher of Keffler’s book that it violated guidelines for submitting books with “content that is considered offensive.”

In an email obtained by CNA from Amazon’s Kindle Account Review to Partners for Ethical Care - the publisher and copyright holder for Keffler’s book - Amazon stated: “We have temporarily suspended your KDP account because you have repeatedly submitted books through your account that violate our Content Guidelines as they contain content that is considered offensive.”

According to Partners for Ethical Care, “Amazon did not contact the author or publisher before cancelling the book.”

The delisting of Keffler’s book came less than two months after after Amazon pulled the book “When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment” by scholar Ryan T. Anderson. 

Anderson, who is currently president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, said his book had been listed for sale on Amazon for three years after it was published in 2018. His book is a critical look at the transgender movement.

Following the removal of Anderson’s book - which is still not listed for sale on Amazon.com - four Republican senators sent a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos questioning the removal of Anderson’s book. The four senators were Marco Rubio of Florida, Mike Lee of Utah, Mike Braun of Indiana, and Josh Hawley of Missouri.

In response, Brian Huseman, Amazon’s vice president of public policy, wrote that the company has “chosen not to sell books that frame LGBTQ+ identity as a mental illness.”

Keffler argued that proponents of an “affirmation-only approach” to gender identity demonstrate “cult-like” behavior.

She added that her book is well researched, and said, “I would like to know if anyone at Amazon actually read it, and I would like for them to point out what specifically in the book they consider problematic.” 

“I would like to know what is offensive in this book,” she said, adding, “I think it’s a problem Amazon has taken one side on this issue. This is something they need to give better and deeper thought than they have.” 

Both Keffler’s and Anderson’s books remain available for sale by other retailers, including Barnes and Noble. 

Biden administration proposes restoring Title X funding for abortion clinics

Planned Parenthood clinic in Newton, NJ Credit: Glynnis Jones

CNA Staff, Apr 14, 2021 / 12:49 pm (CNA).

President Joe Biden is moving to reverse a Trump-era policy that barred federal Title X funding to entities that perform and refer for abortions, such as Planned Parenthood. 


A proposal from the administration, set to be published April 15, would restore regulations first set in the year 2000 under Bill Clinton.


Title X is a federal program created in 1965 that subsidizes family-planning and preventative health services, including contraception, for low-income families. It has been frequently updated and subject to new regulations. 


Title X does not pay for abortions, but under the Clinton administration’s 2000 rule, grant recipients had to provide abortion counseling and abortion referrals to clients upon request.


In May of 2018, the Trump administration first proposed requiring a strict physical and financial line of separation between Title X programs and any program or facility that performs abortion, or supports or refers for abortion. 


The change of regulations did not impact the amount of funding allocated for Title X family planning programs, but rather changed who was eligible to receive such funds. 


The March 2019 implementation of the Protect Life Rule, as the previous administration’s policy was known, mandated Title X fund recipients to be both physically and financially separate from facilities that perform abortions. It also made abortion counseling optional and forbade Title X recipients from referring for abortions. 


After the new rules were announced, Planned Parenthood said it was exiting the Title X program in order to continue performing abortions.


Planned Parenthood had been receiving about one-fifth of the total amount of Title X funds distributed, and withdrawing from the program meant a $60 million cut in federal funding for the organization each year. Planned Parenthood still receives roughly $500 million annually in Medicaid reimbursement.


The HHS, in its rule-change proposal, cited statistics from the Planned Parenthood-affiliated Guttmacher Institute that claimed that the 2019 rule led to nearly 182,000 “unintended” pregnancies. 


A thirty-day comment period for the public on the proposed changes will open on April 15. 


In March 2021, on the same day that nominee Xavier Becerra was confirmed as the next HHS Secretary, the agency said it would implement the rule-change.


Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, said April 14 that the 2019 rule “respected both the plain statutory language of Title X and the strong majority of Americans who oppose using taxpayer dollars to pay for abortion on demand.”


“Abortion is not ‘family planning’ and Biden-Harris Democrats pursue this extreme, unpopular agenda at their political peril,” Dannenfelser concluded. 


In March of this year, the Biden administration asked the Supreme Court to throw out a challenge to the 2019 rules, signaling it intends to roll back the restrictions.


The Baltimore mayor and city council, as well as a number of states and pro-abortion groups, challenged the rule in court. While the Fourth Circuit court in September ruled 8-6 against the rule, the Ninth Circuit court upheld the rule in February 2020, in a separate challenge.


In February of this year, the Supreme Court had agreed to hear the case which is currently scheduled to be argued during fall 2021. 


The federal Hyde Amendment currently prohibits federal funding for almost all abortions, though Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have expressed support for a repeal of the amendment.


Former Crookston bishop apologizes for failures in governance

Bishop Michael Hoeppner. CNA file photo.

Crookston, Minn., Apr 14, 2021 / 10:57 am (CNA).

Bishop Michael Hoeppner, who has resigned as Bishop of Crookston after being accused of mishandling cases of priests accused of sexual misconduct, apologized Tuesday for his failures at governing the diocese.

“The Church describes the ministry of a diocesan bishop as teaching, sanctifying and governing. It has been a joy and a blessing for me to have served as your bishop for the past 13+ years. I apologize to you, as I have apologized to our Holy Father, for my failures in governing as bishop,” Bishop Hoeppner wrote in an April 13 letter to the faithful of the Diocese of Crookston.

The resignation of Bishop Hoeppner had been accepted earlier that day.

Bishop Hoeppner, 71, was the first U.S. bishop to be investigated under Vos estis lux mundi, Pope Francis’ 2019 norms on investigating bishops accused of mishandling or obstructing allegations of clerical sexual abuse.

The bishop is reported to have pressured an alleged victim to drop his allegation of abuse against a priest, failed to follow mandatory reporting laws, and neglected to follow protocols designed to monitor priests accused of misconduct.

In his letter, Bishop Hoeppner wrote that Pope Francis had asked for his resignation, which “comes as a result of the investigation into reports that I, '…at times, failed to observe applicable norms when presented with allegations of sexual abuse involving clergy of the Diocese of Crookston.'”

He added his appreciation of “the many good things and blessings that God has showered upon us these past years … In our world of today where so many are confused about so many things, it is important that the truth of the Gospel and the Church’s Tradition be clearly presented for all to hear. I have enjoyed celebrating the Sacraments in the many wonderful parishes throughout our diocese.”

The bishop thanked “all the wonderful people with whom I have had the privilege to work these years,” particularly “the members of the diocesan curia and diocesan staff. It has been a delight to come to work each day and engage with such wonderful, dedicated people in the work of the Church.”

He announced his plan for the immediate future is to move with his sister to a warmer climate, and added, “I look forward to returning to Crookston for personal visits and will await the appointment of a new bishop here to determine other activity.”

“You who are the local Church of Crookston, will always be the premiere diocese for me. You have heard me say, and it is true, 'I am a blessed bishop.' And, it is as true today as the day I said it at my ordaination [sic] as your bishop, 'you have a bishop who loves you.' Be assured, I will continue to keep you all in my prayers each day. May God continue to be with you and bless you always.”

Bishop Richard Pates, Bishop Emeritus of Des Moines, has been appointed apostolic administrator of Crookston.

A report on the Vos estis investigation of Bishop Hoeppner was sent to Rome in late October 2019, and in February 2020, the Crookston diocese announced that the Vatican had ordered an additional investigation into the bishop.

Both investigations were conducted by Archbishop Bernard Hebda of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.

Bishop Hoeppner was not permitted to oversee sexual abuse cases in his diocese during the second investigation.

In depositions released in November 2019 as part of a legal settlement, Bishop Hoeppner is seen to admit to several of the charges against him. In those depositions, Bishop Hoeppner also defended a diocesan decision to allow a priest to remain in ministry, without notifying parents or parishioners, after the priest admitted that while he was teenager he had sexually abused a younger child.

The announcement in early 2020 about a second investigation into Bishop Hoeppner followed several months in which local Catholics called for Bishop Hoeppner’s resignation, and accused him of mistreating a popular priest removed from ministry under vague terms.

Priests in the diocese told CNA at the time that they expected Bishop Hoeppner to be removed from office, and that given the bishop’s record, the credibility of the Vos estis procedures could be called into question were he eventually permitted to remain in office.

Vos estis lux mundi allows the Vatican “to provide for a supplementary investigation” after initial steps are taken, if Vatican officials deem it necessary.

There are currently several Vos estis investigations going on in dioceses in the U.S.

In 2021, announcements were made about Vos estis investigations into Bishop John Brungardt of Dodge City and Bishop Howard Hubbard, Bishop Emeritus of Albany.

Pro-life leaders: Allowing mail-order abortion pill will pose 'grave danger' for women

Ivanko80/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Apr 13, 2021 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

Pro-life groups criticized the Biden administration for allowing the distribution of the abortion pill through the mail during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“With this action, the Biden administration has made it clear that it will prioritize abortion over women's safety,” said March for Life President Jeanne Mancini. “Allowing unsupervised chemical abortions via telemedicine, without requiring timely access to medical care, will put women in grave danger.”

In a Monday letter from the commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the FDA announced it would “exercise enforcement discretion” on its regulations of the abortion pill. Acting FDA commissioner Janet Woodcock said she would allow for the abortion pill regimen to be prescribed remotely and sent to women through the mail or through a mail-order pharmacy.

“Further, to the extent all of the other requirements of the Mifepristone REMS Program are met, CDER intends to exercise enforcement discretion during the COVID19 PHE with respect to the dispensing of mifepristone through the mail either by or under the supervision of a certified prescriber, or through a mail-order pharmacy when such dispensing is done under the supervision of a certified prescriber,” Woodcock wrote. 

Since 2000, the FDA had placed the abortion pill regimen on its REMS list, or “Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy.” The list is reserved for higher-risk drugs and procedures, and under the regimen, the abortion pill could only be prescribed in-person by a certified prescriber in a health clinic setting.

Pro-abortion groups sued the Trump administration over the regulation in 2020, however, claiming that the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic warranted that women be able to obtain the abortion pill remotely.

In July, Judge Theodore Chuang of the Maryland district placed an injunction on the FDA regulations during the pandemic. The Supreme Court ultimately ruled in the Trump administration’s favor by reversing Chuang’s injunction in a 6-3 decision. 

The FDA’s April 12 letter means that women will be able to receive the abortion pill through the mail during the pandemic.  

Mancini said that the FDA’s data from 2018 showed “thousands of adverse events” as a result of the abortion pill, “including 768 hospitalizations and 24 deaths since 2000.”

“Chemical abortions should have more medical oversight not less,” said Mancini.  

Xavier Becerra, the new Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), pushed for the FDA to roll back its regulations of the abortion pill during the pandemic. At his confirmation hearing in February, Becerra said that the regimen should be available remotely.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, said the FDA’s decision was “pure politics” and accused pro-abortion activists of “exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic from the beginning, working to eliminate safety precautions in order to expand the proliferation of dangerous chemical abortion drugs.”

Dannenfelser added that the decision to allow telemedicine abortions “prioritizes abortion industry profits over the health and safety of women” and is evidence of the “abortion extremism of the Biden-Harris administration.” 

“This is flagrant and dangerous disregard for the health and safety of American women and girls,” she said. 

Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins noted that Woodcock herself had testified in 2006 that “women have died and been injured ingesting these chemicals.” 

“The parsed language of her letter downplays all the reasons for greater medical engagement,” Hawkins stated.

“We know that the chemicals have four times the complications of surgical abortion, can cause dangerous complications later in pregnancy and in ectopic pregnancies, and can harm women’s future fertility if handed out without proper screening and treatment for blood type,” said Hawkins. 

Hawkins noted that the availability of the drugs through the mail poses a risk to women, “if abusers get hold of the drugs to force on women, sometimes without their knowledge or consent.”

Federal court upholds Ohio's Down syndrome abortion ban

Natalia Bratslavsky/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Apr 13, 2021 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

A federal court on Tuesday upheld an Ohio law prohibiting doctors from performing abortions based on a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome. 

The full Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 9-7 to lift an injunction on Ohio's Down Syndrome Non-Discrimination Act, signed into law by former Republican governor John Kasich in 2017. 

A federal district court judge first blocked the law from going into effect in March 2018. A three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit upheld the judge’s ruling in October 2019.

After the state of Ohio appealed the ruling to the full panel of the Sixth Circuit, a majority on Tuesday reversed the district court’s injunction. 

“The right to an abortion before viability is not absolute,” wrote Judge Alice Batchelder in the court’s majority opinion, adding, “Simply put, there is no absolute or per se right to an abortion based on the stage of the pregnancy.”

Ohio’s law H.B. 214 would make performing abortions based on a Down syndrome diagnosis - or the likelihood of such a diagnosis - subject to criminal penalties. Doctors would be in violation of the law if they knew the mother’s reason for seeking an abortion was a diagnosis of Down syndrome, or a belief that the child had Down syndrome.

Some pro-life advocates argue that the Supreme Court should now rule on the Ohio law, or on similar laws in other states.

In a statement, Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, said the ruling “upholds Ohio as a safe haven for unborn babies with Down Syndrome.” 

“This law includes reasonable, compassionate measures to prevent lethal discrimination in the womb,” Dannenfelser said. She added that the law “has the potential to pose a significant challenge to Roe v. Wade.” 

The court’s 1973 ruling in Roe found that women had a right to an abortion before the “viability” of the unborn child, but that states could regulate the issue once the child is viable. In the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey ruling, the court found that states could regulate abortion pre-viability, but could not pose an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to an abortion.

On Tuesday, a majority on the Sixth Circuit ruled that the law did not impose an “undue burden” on women seeking an abortion.

“We hold that the restrictions imposed, or burdens created, by H.B. 214 do not create a substantial obstacle to a woman’s ability to choose or obtain an abortion. Moreover, those restrictions are reasonably related to, and further, Ohio’s legitimate interests,” the majority opinion stated.

Dannenfelser said that the Supreme Court should rule on the matter. 

“Now that a circuit split has occurred on the issue of whether states may prohibit the eugenic practice of discrimination abortion, the Supreme Court has even more reason to weigh in on this important matter and declare these laws as constitutional,” she said. 

Other “discrimination abortion” bans have been passed by states, outlawing abortions conducted for reasons of the baby’s sex, race, or fetal anomaly.

“Discriminatory abortions based on sex, race and disability are no less than modern-day eugenics, and must swiftly come to an end,” Dannenfelser stated. 

Two Ohio Planned Parenthood affiliates were among the organizations that sued over Ohio’s law. Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement, “This abortion ban inserts politicians between patients and their doctors, denying services to those who need it.”

Former auxiliary bishop who mishandled reports of misconduct named pastor in Cincinnati archdiocese

Saint Peter in Chains Cathedral on W 8th Street in Cincinnati, Ohio. / Nagel photography/Shutterstock

Cincinnati, Ohio, Apr 13, 2021 / 16:01 pm (CNA).

A Catholic bishop who resigned last year as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati amid controversy for failure to report to his archbishop and to the archdiocese’s personnel board a priest's alleged innapropriate behavior with a minor has been named pastor of a two-church pastoral region.

Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Joseph Binzer was named pastor of the Corpus Christi and St. John Neumann Pastoral Region, which includes two Catholic churches in Hamilton County, the television station Fox19 reports.

An archdiocese spokesperson said Bishop Binzer would continue his roles as the program coordinator for senior clergy services; director of Health and Hospital Ministries; and chaplain for the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, Cincinnati.

In May 2020 the Holy See Press Office announced that Pope Francis had accepted the then-65-year-old bishop’s resignation as an auxiliary bishop of the Cincinnati archdiocese. The statement gave no reason for the decision.

At the time, Bishop Binzer apologized for his response to reports of misconduct by Father Geoff Drew, who will soon go to trial for raping a 10-year-old after pleading not guilty. The bishop said he was “deeply sorry for my role in addressing the concerns raised about Father Drew, which has had a negative impact on the trust and faith of the people of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.”

Archbishop Dennis Schnurr of Cincinnati removed Bishop Binzer from his position as head of priest personnel in August 2019, after CNA presented officials with its investigation into claims that Bishop Binzer failed to pass on reports that Fr. Drew had engaged in inappropriate behavior with teenage boys.

Bishop Binzer later resigned as a member of the U.S. bishops’ conference committee for the protection of children and young people.

Fr. Kyle Schnippel, the outgoing pastor of the Corpus Christi and St. John Neumann Pastoral Region, said he was “surprised” to be nominated for another assignment. The priest said the transition planning has already begun for Bishop Binzer.

Fr. Schnippel recounted his conversation with the bishop in a letter to parishioners at the St. John Neumann’s website.

“As I spoke to (the) bishop shortly after the announcements were made, he assured me of his excitement and joy at coming here,” Fr. Schnippel said. “The first thing he wanted me to pass along to everyone here is that he is already praying for us, for you: the parishioners of these two parishes. He has some connections here already. An aunt and uncle were parishioners at Corpus Christi for a time and he has celebrated Mass here a number of times as well. He is looking forward to getting to know you all better over the coming years.”

At the time of Bishop Binzer’s resignation, Archbishop Schnurr said the bishop would continue to serve in the archdiocese, as determined in conversations among the archbishop, the archbishop, and the priest personnel board.

“In this difficult and unfortunate time, please keep Bishop Binzer and all the people of the archdiocese in your prayers,” Archbishop Schnurr said in May 2020.

The bishop’s appointment as a pastor has drawn media attention and criticism because of his handling of misconduct reports against a priest.

In August 2019 CNA reported that Binzer was told in 2013 about allegations concerning Fr. Drew, and failed to disclose them to Archbishop Schnurr and other archdiocesan officials.

While the archdiocesan victims’ assistance coordinator, who reported to Bishop Binzer, was aware of the allegation, the information was not made known to the diocesan priest personnel board or Archbishop Schnurr.

In 2015, similar allegations were again made against Fr. Drew. The matter was forwarded to Butler County officials, who determined that the activity was not criminal. Again, Bishop Binzer reported neither the complaints nor the investigation to the archbishop or informed the priest personnel board.

Sources in the archdiocesan chancery told CNA in August 2019 that Bishop Binzer met with Fr. Drew twice, was assured by him that he would reform his conduct, and the bishop considered this sufficient.

In early 2018, Fr. Drew applied for a transfer to St. Ignatius of Loyola Parish in Green Township, which is attached to the largest Catholic school in the archdiocese.

As head of priest personnel, Bishop Binzer was in charge of the process that considers requests and proposals for reassignment, in conjunction with the priest personnel board.

Neither the board nor the archbishop were made aware of the multiple complaints against Fr. Drew, and the transfer was approved.

The allegations were also reportedly not recorded by Bishop Binzer in the priest’s personnel file that would have been available to the archdiocesan personnel board as part of the process.

A month after Fr. Drew’s arrival at St. Ignatius, a parishioner at Drew’s former parish resubmitted the 2015 complaints about the priest, but this time it was also brought to the attention of Archbishop Schnurr.

Also in 2018, Bishop Binzer received an additional complaint of similarly inappropriate contact by Fr. Drew, dating to his time as a high school music teacher, before his ordination as a priest.

Following a diocesan investigation, Fr. Drew was ordered to attend counselling with a psychologist.

On July 23, Fr. Drew was removed from ministry, when it emerged that he had sent a series of inappropriate text messages to a 17-year-old.

Fr. Drew, who is now 59 years old, is scheduled to go to trial April 26 on 9 counts of rape or enter a plea. He has pleaded not guilty, but could face life in prison if he is convicted. He is accused of raping a 10-year-old student multiple times from 1988-1991 as a music minister at a Catholic school, before he became a priest.

Following Supreme Court ruling, California lifts capacity limits on religious gatherings

Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church, Los Angeles / Leonid Andronov/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Apr 13, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

California lifted all capacity restrictions on religious gatherings on Monday, following the Supreme Court’s ruling over the weekend that the state’s restrictions were too harsh. 

“In response to recent judicial rulings, effective immediately, location and capacity limits on places of worship are not mandatory but are strongly recommended,” the state announced on Monday.

The state’s guidelines still recommend that worship services be held outside in counties with the most severe spread of COVID-19. For other counties at lesser risk of COVID-19 transmission, the state recommends that indoor religious services be limited to 25% capacity or 50% capacity. 

Other health restrictions, such as masking and social distancing, still apply to gatherings. Singing and chanting is permitted, but performers are subject to mask and distancing restrictions; the severity of the restrictions depends on the local level of COVID-19 risk.

According to California’s color-coding system for COVID-19 risk in counties, “purple” counties are determined to be at “widespread” risk of the virus; “red” counties are at “substantial” risk, “orange” counties at “moderate” risk, and “yellow” counties at “minimal” risk. Two counties are coded purple and two are yellow, with 22 counties labeled red and 32 counties labeled orange. 

The California Department of Public Health guidance on preventing virus transmission at gatherings, updated in November 2020, now adds that “limits will not be enforced to the extent that they have been enjoined by a court.”

In February, the Supreme Court ruled against the state’s near-total ban on indoor religious services, saying that the state could at most limit such services to 25% capacity.

Previously, the state limited indoor gatherings at homes to a maximum of three households. After residents sued to overturn the capacity limits for private Bible studies, the Supreme Court ruled on April 9 that the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court should have granted an injunction blocking the policy. 

The court majority noted in an unsigned order that the state’s “three households” rule did not apply as strictly to secular indoor gatherings - such as indoor shopping or businesses such as nail salons - as it did to private religious gatherings at homes.

“Where the government permits other activities to proceed with precautions, it must show that the religious exercise at issue is more dangerous than those activities even when the same precautions are applied,” said the court’s majority opinion in the 5-4 decision. “Otherwise, precautions that suffice for other activities suffice for religious exercise too.”

Chief Justice John Roberts, along with Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor, dissented from the majority opinion. 

Justice Kagan, writing a dissenting opinion joined by Justices Breyer and Sotomayor, stated that the state had treated religious and secular gatherings fairly.

“California limits religious gatherings in homes to three households. If the State also limits all secular gatherings in homes to three households, it has complied with the First Amendment,” Kagan said. “And the State does exactly that: It has adopted a blanket restriction on at-home gatherings of all kinds, religious and secular alike.”

Priest who served at Franciscan University of Steubenville indicted on rape allegations

The Portiuncula Chapel on the campus of the Franciscan University of Steubenville. / Robert Pernett via Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0).

Tacna, Peru, Apr 12, 2021 / 19:08 pm (CNA).

A Franciscan priest who once worked in campus ministry at Franciscan University of Steubenville has been indicted in Ohio for the alleged rape of a female patient who was mentally or physically impaired.

 

On April 7, Father David Morrier, T.O.R., was indicted in Ohio by the Jefferson County Grand Jury on two charges of sexual battery and a single charge of rape. He was removed from active ministry in 2015 on unspecified sexual misconduct charges, his Franciscan province has said.

 

The 59-year-old priest is a mental health professional. He allegedly maintained a three-year sexual relationship with a patient the indictment described as “substantially impaired because of a mental or physical condition,” the Steubenville newspaper The Herald Star reports. He allegedly falsely represented to her that sexual conduct was “necessary for mental health treatment purposes.”

 

An April 9 statement from the Office of the Minister Provincial of the Third Order Regular Franciscans’ Province of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus said that the alleged charges took place between November 2010 and spring 2013.

 

“Fr. Morrier was removed from public ministry in 2015 due to allegations of sexual misconduct,” the provincial’s office said. “He has not exercised public ministry since that time. Being removed from public ministry means that he has not publicly celebrated Mass or any sacraments. The province has cooperated fully with the investigation into this matter.”

 

“The province takes all allegations of sexual misconduct seriously and urges anyone who has been a victim of sexual misconduct to call law enforcement officials immediately,” the statement continued.

 

In an April 8 statement the Diocese of Steubenville said it first became aware of the case “when the alleged victim presented the allegations to the diocese in November 2018.”

 

“Although Father Morrier is not a priest of the Steubenville Diocese, the diocese began an immediate preliminary investigation with the alleged victim and officers with the Steubenville police department,” the statement said.

 

“The Diocese of Steubenville submitted a report to the Minister General of the T.O.R.’s in Rome as well as to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Holy See on December 11, 2018. Since that time, the diocese has continued to work with the Steubenville police department and has provided updates on the investigation to the Holy See,” the statement added. The Steubenville diocese said it takes abuse allegations “most seriously” and “encourages victims of abuse to contact the local police department in whose jurisdiction the abuse occurred.”

 

Morrier was ordained a priest for the Franciscan province in 1997. The charges against him overlap his time as a campus minister at Franciscan University of Steubenville, a position he held through 2014.

 

An April 8 statement from the Franciscan University of Steubenville said “the university has cooperated and will continue to cooperate fully with authorities concerning the conduct of Father David Morrier, T.O.R., prior to 2014.”

 

“Franciscan University removed him permanently from campus ministry, and he was also prohibited from returning to campus,” said the university. It did not clarify the timing of the removal.

 

“Sexual assault is not only a crime but a serious sin,” it added, saying all sexual misconduct complaints face action under the university’s Policy on Discrimination, Harassment and Sexual Misconduct.

 

“Anyone who may have been harmed while at Franciscan University is offered counseling and other appropriate services,” said the university. “Anyone who experienced or is aware of sexual misconduct at Franciscan University is encouraged to make a report to the University and/or the Steubenville Police Department.”

 

After Morrier’s time at Steubenville, he appears to have served at a Franciscan church in Arlington, Texas in the Diocese of Fort Worth. According to a cached version of the St. Maria Goretti Catholic Church and School website, Morrier was announced as the new parochial vicar of the parish on May 1, 2014, with his duties beginning June 3 of that year. The parish is run by the Franciscan Friars, Third Order Regular.

Archbishop Cordileone calls for ‘inoculation against racism’

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone speaks at the San Francisco for Unity prayer service against racism. / Dennis Callahan/Archdiocese of San Francisco.

CNA Staff, Apr 12, 2021 / 17:51 pm (CNA).

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco last week condemned violence against Asian people in the United States, drawing comparisons between the COVID-19 vaccine and standing against racism.

 

“Inoculation against racism can be summed up in one word: virtue,” Cordileone said April 10 at the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption.

 

The archbishop’s remarks were made at a prayer service “for an end to violence and racism particularly against Asians, for healing for our nation, and for the flourishing of peace and justice in our land.”

 

The event was held amid recent reports of rising violence against the Asian community in the United States.

 

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 36% of people in San Francisco County are of Asian descent. Cordileone noted that immigration from China has been a constant in the city from its beginning, and immigration from other Asian countries is also common in the area. He called it “very disturbing” that “racial violence would rear its ugly head here.”

 

The archbishop cited Pope Francis, who described racism as “a virus that quickly mutates and, instead of disappearing, goes into hiding, and lurks in waiting.”

 

Cordileone said “the virus of racism” is a lot like COVID-19. “It never goes away, but there are ways to inoculate oneself against it, even if one has to be always vigilant to protect oneself from being infected.”

 

He noted that a vaccine will not kill the virus, but instead prevents a person from being harmed if exposed to it.

 

“But what is our inoculation against racism?” the archbishop questioned. He highlighted the early Christian communities depicted in the Acts of the Apostles as a “good start in answering that question.”

 

“We see here,” said the bishop, “the qualities that make such a peaceful and harmonious common life possible: each one looked out first and foremost for the good of the other, not what they were going to get out of it.”

 

Cordileone challenged the congregation to live out the Christian “mission of mercy.” He concluded by listing virtues he thought best acted as the “inoculation against racism” – specifically, “generosity, selflessness, trust and trustworthiness, humility, courage, conviction, forgiveness, and, of course, mercy itself.”

 

The archbishop encouraged San Franciscans to lead by example and “make our Golden Gate an authentic symbol of a city that will let no stranger wait outside its door.”