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College football coach, Ignatian scholar team up for video project

Mike Gutelius (center), head football coach of The Catholic University of America, watches the action on the sidelines. / The Catholic University of America

Washington D.C., Oct 22, 2021 / 14:35 pm (CNA).

If you visit The Catholic University of America’s campus in Washington D.C., you will be sure to notice members of the school’s football team walking around with a “chip” on their shoulders. 

That chip is figurative and literal, as head coach Mike “Gut” Gutelius has commissioned team shirts that say “All Gas, No Breaks” on the front, and the word “chip” located on the back right shoulder.

Football players at The Catholic University of America wear this T-shirt, featuring a "chip" on the shoulder, designed by Head Coach Mike "Gut" Gutelius, who has been trying to change the culture of the program since his hiring in December 2016. The Catholic University of America
Football players at The Catholic University of America wear this T-shirt, featuring a "chip" on the shoulder, designed by Head Coach Mike "Gut" Gutelius, who has been trying to change the culture of the program since his hiring in December 2016. The Catholic University of America

The symbolism appears to be having the desired effect, as Gutelius’s team is 5-2 and undefeated in its conference heading into its Oct. 23 game against the Merchant Marine Academy.

The Cardinals’ success this season is a product of Gutelius’ efforts to change the culture of the football program, a slow but steady process that began with his hiring after the 2016 season. His approach encompasses a special emphasis on faith: Team Bible studies, pre-game rosaries, and discussions about the Cardinal Virtues all figure into his plan for developing young men with character.

Although Gutelius describes himself as “just a coach,” his success and faith life on and off the field drew the attention of Ablaze Family Ministries (AFM) and world-renowned Ignatian spirituality speaker, Fr. Timothy Gallagher, O.M.V. 

AFM, a nonprofit organization based in Ellicott City, Maryland, with a mission to strengthen Catholic families, has teamed up with Gallagher to find a way to make St. Ignatius of Loyola’s 14 Rules for Discerning the Will of God more accessible and relatable to a younger audience. 

“St. Ignatius of Loyola has crafted an invaluable set of 14 practical guidelines (rules) to understand and respond to this daily ebb and flow in the spiritual life,” Gallagher told CNA. “As I know from almost 40 years of experience, people love the concrete wisdom of these rules that help them know what is of God and what is not, and how to accept the one and reject the other.”

Gallagher, a frequent speaker on EWTN, has an extensive international ministry providing retreats, spiritual direction, and teaching about the spiritual life. He currently holds the St. Ignatius Chair for Spiritual Formation at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver.  

Because of his platform as a college football coach and his authenticity as a faithful Catholic, Gutelius was a clear choice for AFM and Gallagher to help bridge the gap between the academic nature of Ignatian spirituality and a younger audience that could greatly benefit from Ignatius’ rules for discernment. 

Gallagher told CNA that Gutelius “brings a wealth of experience to help make this bridge between St. Ignatius’s words and our daily experience.”

The project, produced by AFM, is called the “Playbook for the Spiritual Life,” and features 10 videos explaining how to apply St. Ignatius’s rules for discernment. 

The 10-minute videos feature Gutelius, filmed in the locker room or on the field, giving a unique game situation and explaining how to act during that time of adversity. After the coach's brief introduction of the football concepts, Gallagher then explains how the football analogy is similar to a particular Ignatian rule.

"In football you have to be aware of what's going on, you have to understand the game, and you have to execute. It's the same in your spiritual life,” Gutelius told CNA. 

“You have to be aware of the traps that can be set for you. You have to be aware of your own limitations. You have to be aware of your own physical desires. And then you have to understand them in relation to God's plan. And then the real trick is, can you execute?"

In one video the two men discuss St. Ignatius' fourth rule, which states, “When your heart is discouraged, you have little energy for spiritual things, and God feels far away, you are experiencing spiritual desolation. Resist and reject this tactic of the enemy!” 

Gutelius first explains the necessity of lifting weights in order to succeed in the game. However, sometimes, he says, players are physically drained and are unmotivated to work out. The coach says the decision to either take a day off or push through the temptation makes the difference between winning and losing come gametime. 

Gallagher then likens the challenge of lifting weights during a time of unmotivation to a young man who “has no energy for prayer” and is tempted to scroll through his phone, rather than read scripture as he planned. Gallagher says that the choice to scroll through the phone will leave the young man feeling empty, while if he chooses to read scripture as planned, he will feel more fulfilled.

“Football is an analogy for life in general and in that sense you can find a lot of connections between football done well and spirituality done well,” Gutelius told CNA. “Both require practice, commitment, and a desire to get better, and you’re going to have bumps and bruises in both football and your spiritual life.”

Executive Director of Operations at AFM, Deacon Steve Sarnecki said the combination of all these elements make the videos effective.

“Father Gallagher’s theological excellence when it comes to Ignatian spirituality, Ablaze’s unique ability to create family friendly, approachable, accessible content, and Coach Gut’s ever-present witness and understanding of strategy and the spiritual life came together in a beautiful weave for this project,” he said.

Gutelius said he was enthusiastic to be included in the project. "I hope that if I have any small part in maybe reducing a barrier for young people, then I am fired up to do it,” he said.

“I feel like I have a little bit of a pulpit as the head football coach at the Catholic University of America, and if I don't use it to help people understand the truth, to help people understand that God has a plan for them that they have to figure out, if I don't use that, then I might wind up at the pearly gates and not get the reception I'm looking for."

Mike "Gut" Gutelius (back to the camera), the head football coach at The Catholic University of America, leads his football team in prayer. The Catholic University of America
Mike "Gut" Gutelius (back to the camera), the head football coach at The Catholic University of America, leads his football team in prayer. The Catholic University of America

Gabe Aparicio, the team’s senior captain, told CNA that Gutelius has been a spiritual and fatherly role model for the whole team. 

“Gutelius’ office door is always open for us and I’ve had multiple conversations with him about life and faith, and honestly, he’s the type of person, the type of Catholic I aim to be someday,” Aparicio said. 

Gutelius graduated from The Catholic University of America in 1992 with a major in politics and a minor in philosophy. When he is not on the field or in the game-film room, he can often be found attending a campus Mass or showing prospective players around campus. He currently resides in Maryland with his wife Kimberly, and children Michael, 21, Sam, 19, and Mary, 16.

“I firmly believe St. Ignatius will be pleased with how this series presents his rules for discernment,” Gutelius said.

“Maybe even pleased enough that he might intercede a little bit to help the Cardinals get a big win this weekend?” he added. “We can always use a little heavenly help in worldly matters but especially this weekend vs the Merchant Marine academy!"

Supreme Court to hear challenges to Texas heartbeat law

Texas state capitol building / f11photo/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Oct 22, 2021 / 11:40 am (CNA).

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to consider two legal challenges to Texas’ pro-life heartbeat law, just weeks before it hears oral arguments in another major abortion case.

Both the Biden administration and abortion providers had challenged the Texas Heartbeat Act, a law which went into effect Sept. 1 and which restricts most abortions after detection of a fetal heartbeat. The law is enforced through private civil lawsuits.

On Friday, Oct. 22, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to consider both challenges to the law and expedited the cases, with oral arguments scheduled for Nov. 1. The court will consider whether the federal government can sue to block implementation of the law by the state, state courts, and private citizens; it will also consider whether lawsuits under the law can move forward, according to the website SCOTUSBlog.

In the meantime, the court is leaving the law in place as it considers both cases.

In her opinion accompanying the court order on Friday, Justice Sonia Sotomayor criticized the court’s refusal to temporarily block the law while considering challenges to it.

“The promise of future adjudication offers cold comfort, however, for Texas women seeking abortion care, who are entitled to relief now,” Sotomayor wrote. “These women will suffer personal harm from delaying their medical care, and as their pregnancies progress, they may even be unable to obtain abortion care altogether.”

The law is unique in that it is enforced through private civil lawsuits against those performing or, in some cases, those assisting in illegal abortions. Successful lawsuits can net at least $10,000 in damages.

Certain parties are barred from filing lawsuits, such as men who impregnate women who then have abortions; women who have illegal abortions also cannot be sued under the law.

The Justice Department challenged the law in court, and on Oct. 6 a federal district judge barred the state from enforcing judgments or awarding damages in successful lawsuits against illegal abortions. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit temporarily reversed that decision on Oct. 8, and on Oct. 14 allowed the law to remain in effect.

The Justice Department then appealed its case against the law to the Supreme Court on Oct. 18.

In the second case that the court is taking up, Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson, a coalition of abortion providers, staff, and patients had sued to prevent lawsuits over illegal abortions from going forward in Texas.

The high court is considering the cases ahead of another major abortion case in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Oral arguments in that case, which involves Mississippi’s law restricting most abortions after 15 weeks, are scheduled for Dec. 1.

Shortly after the law went into effect in September, the Supreme Court declined to block the law in a 5-4 decision.

In its Oct. 21 brief before the Supreme Court, Texas argued that the court should reconsider landmark abortion cases if it took up the Biden administration’s appeal.

“The Court erred in recognizing the right to abortion in Roe and in continuing to preserve it in Casey,” the brief read. “The heartbeat provisions in SB 8 reasonably further Texas’s interest in protecting unborn life, which exists from the outset of pregnancy.”

“If it reaches the merits, the Court should overturn Roe and Casey and hold that SB 8 does not therefore violate the Fourteenth Amendment,” the state argued. 

Texas had accused the Biden Administration of overreach after the Justice Department challenged the law. The brief called the Justice Department’s challenge “extraordinary in its breadth and consequence” and asked the Supreme Court to decline its request. 

This article was updated on Oct. 22.

Father Bill Atkinson canonization cause completes first phase, moves onto Rome

Father Thomas Dailey, O.S.F.S.; Philadelphia Archbishop Nelson J. Perez; Msgr. Gerald Mesure, archdiocesan chancellor; and Father Sean Bransfield, vice chancellor, hold the official documents for the canonization cause of Father Bill Atkinson during the closing ceremony on Oct. 19, 2021. / Sarah Webb

Philadelphia, Pa., Oct 22, 2021 / 08:00 am (CNA).

Father Bill Atkinson, an Augustinian priest from Philadelphia who died in 2006, is one step closer in the cause for canonization. In a ceremony on Tuesday, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia officially closed the diocesan phase, which is the first step in the process. The archdiocese will now hand over all materials to Rome for further examination.

“He was really a very quiet man, a humble man, but a very dedicated and devout individual in terms of his commitment to religious life, to his Augustinian identity, and to his service working for 30 years with young men in one of our high schools,” said Father Michael Di Gregorio, O.S.A., prior provincial of the Province of St. Thomas of Villanova, of which Father Bill was a member.

Father Bill was the first priest to be ordained who was a quadriplegic. He was paralyzed from the neck down in a sledding accident during his first year in the novitiate for the Order of Saint Augustine, also known as the Augustinians.

“He was always responsive to requests that were made of him to use his ministry on behalf of other people who were in situations that could be identified with his own in terms of his disability,” Father Michael said.

He often visited hospitals and spoke to veterans who had been injured, using his own experience as a paraplegic to minister to those who had disabilities.

“There’s something very ordinary about Father Bill in terms of how he did his work,” Father Michael said. “The extraordinary part was that he did his work, his ministry, exercised his priesthood in the context of great limitation—a physical limitation, but certainly not any limitation in terms of his mental ability or his will and his desire to be of service.” 

Born in Philadelphia in 1946, Father Bill entered the novitiate following a year as a postulant at Augustinian Academy in Staten Island, New York. In the accident, it was unclear if Father Bill would survive, so he was given the opportunity to profess first vows from the hospital bed. He began a long and extensive rehabilitation process and continued in the novitiate.

“I really noticed most of all that he was just one of the rest of us,” said Father Michael, who lived with Father Bill during several years of formation. “He was in a wheelchair and needed the assistance of others around him all the time, but he participated in everything that we did. He was always at prayer. He came to meals with us. He fit right in, and never saw himself or wanted others to see him as different from the rest of us.” 

Almost nine years after the accident, Father Bill completed his studies and petitioned St. Paul VI to be ordained a priest. The pope granted a dispensation and on Feb. 2, 1974, Father Bill was ordained a priest. 

“He did what he needed to do without any assurance of where it would lead—it had never been done before,” Father Michael said. “He wrote his letter to Pope Paul VI and the answer came back, ‘Yes, it’s possible.’”

“Perseverance was a great hallmark of his life, but it wasn’t guaranteed. It was always a trust that whatever God’s will is here, that’s what will happen,” Father Michael said.

Father Bill died Sept. 15, 2006, at Saint Thomas Monastery at Villanova University. Several years later, the Augustinians decided to examine the possibility of introducing a cause for canonization. The postulator general met with relatives, friars, friends, and caretakers of Father Bill, and asked them to explain to him their reasons for wishing to have Father Bill’s cause introduced.

“Father Joseph, who was the postulator, said, ‘Well, you have convinced me that this is a cause that we should undertake.'” Father Michael said. 

The postulator gathered written material over several months and made an appointment with Archbishop Charles Chaput, then the Archbishop of Philadelphia, who then took it to the USCCB for a confirmation.

“The response was overwhelmingly positive, if not unanimous,” Father Michael said.

In 2015, Archbishop Chaput appointed a tribunal and an historical commission to look at documentation about Father Bill. The tribunal was charged with the task of interviewing people who knew Father Bill and who wanted to offer testimony toward the cause. 

“This is where all the ground work is done in speaking to people, in gathering information,” Father Michael said. 

The closing ceremony, which was held at Saint Thomas of Villanova Church Oct. 19, marked the official end of the first phase of the process. The materials were bound and sealed in preparation for the transfer to Rome, where the cause will go before the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to make sure the process was completed correctly.

“Then we need to wait for a miracle—a miracle can happen at any time along the process,” Father Michael said. “There are some favors that have been presented to us that we forwarded to our postulator general.” 

If a miracle happens, it can speed up the process and put someone in a higher priority for review, Father Michael said. 

“From our perspective, what seems to have been given as a great cross became a great opportunity, because he was able to touch and influence the lives of people precisely through his challenge that he might never have had the opportunity to touch otherwise,” Father Michael said.

Bishops of Lake Charles, Raleigh issue statements on Latin Mass

Bishop Glen Provost of Lake Charles / Catholic News Agency

Washington D.C., Oct 21, 2021 / 18:01 pm (CNA).

Three months after the release of Traditionis custodes, Pope Francis’ restrictions on traditional liturgies, U.S. bishops are continuing to implement the apostolic letter within their respective dioceses. 

The Bishop of Lake Charles is allowing traditional liturgies to be offered at the cathedral parish and at a second parish in the southwest Louisiana diocese. He granted both parishes a canonical dispensation from the document’s restrictions on traditional liturgies being celebrated at parochial churches.

“As a pastor and a bishop, I am aware of the needs of the flock and address them,” said a letter from Bishop Glen Provost published on the diocesan website on Oct. 19. Provost noted that his diocese has endured several natural disasters within the last year, in addition to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and that many within his diocese are still displaced from their homes.

“Given these burdens and the emphasis on mercy exhibited by our Holy Father, I am prompted to address this implementation, where appropriate, in a spirit of epikeia and with the application of Canon 87,” he said. 

Canon 87 of the Code of Canon Law states, “A diocesan bishop, whenever he judges that it contributes to their spiritual good, is able to dispense the faithful from universal and particular disciplinary laws issued for his territory or his subjects by the supreme authority of the Church.”

The diocese already seeks to address the needs of certain groups of Catholics, he said, “such as our University students, the Hispanic community, and the hearing impaired.”

“Our pastoral concern extends as well to those who worship in the usus antiquior, that is, with the Roman Missal of 1962, and who have done so since the establishment of the Diocese,” he wrote. 

The Diocese of Lake Charles was established on Jan. 29, 1980, nearly a decade and a half after the closing of the Second Vatican Council. 

In his motu proprio Traditionis custodes, issued and made effective on July 16, 2021, Pope Francis allowed individual bishops to authorize the celebration of traditional liturgies in their dioceses. Among the document’s provisions, bishops allowing the Traditional Latin Mass are to designate locations for celebration of the Mass; the liturgies cannot be offered at “parochial churches.”

In a letter accompanying the document, Pope Francis cited the need to promote unity in the Church. He said he was “saddened” that the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass “is often characterized by a rejection not only of the liturgical reform, but of the Vatican Council II itself, claiming, with unfounded and unsustainable assertions, that it betrayed the Tradition and the ‘true Church’.” 

In his letter, Bishop Provost wrote that he was “unaware of anyone in this community who has expressed opposition to the Second Vatican Council, much less denied its legitimacy,” and that “those who have chosen to discuss with me their devotion to the usus antiquior have insisted upon the validity of the reformed liturgy.” 

Restricting the Latin Mass in the diocese, he said, “would be grossly negligent, if not callous” in light of what Catholics in his diocese have endured. 

“In my many years of having the privilege of celebrating the Sacraments in the Diocese of Lake Charles, I have been continually struck by the tender devotion of the faithful,” said Provost. “I am also aware, as well as can be, of the needs of the people as they have expressed them to me. Whether at Masses in newer or older rites, I know the people with their concerns.”

These concerns, he explained, include financial issues, unemployment, deaths, illnesses, and many others. 

“They suffer quietly, not advertising their problems, seeking some solace in the rites of the Church, whether in the vernacular or in Latin,” he said. “If we, as pastors, do not acknowledge these realities and instead continue to engage in arguments that the faithful find incomprehensible, then we truly risk becoming a ‘resounding gong and clashing cymbal’ and just as irrelevant.” 

Earlier in October, Bishop Luis Zarama of Raleigh stated in a letter to priests that the Novus Ordo Mass is to “take priority” in the diocese, which includes the eastern half of North Carolina. 

“It is my expectation that priests serving all parishes, missions, stations and chapels of ease will celebrate Mass using [the 2011 Missal] every Sunday and on weekdays, as the principal celebration(s) of the day,” he wrote in an Oct. 12 letter to the priests of the diocese. 

The monthly Sunday Latin Masses at the Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral in Raleigh and the Basilica Shrine of Saint Mary in Wilmington will continue, he wrote, as will Sunday Latin Masses at two other parishes in the diocese. However, he restricted the time of day at which the Masses can be offered on Sundays. 

The Masses may begin no earlier than 1 p.m., and the translations for the prescribed scripture readings in the vernacular should be taken either from the Revised Roman Lectionary or the New American Bible, Revised Edition, he said.

The weekday Latin Masses that had previously been offered at Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish in Rocky Mount will be suppressed under the implementation of Traditionis custodes

Only priests who have previously received faculties from Zarama are permitted to celebrate the Latin Mass using the Roman Missal of 1962, he wrote, “as the faculty to do so is a personal privilege and not one proper to a parish or faith community nor any other group of the faithful.” 

The changes will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2022, he wrote. 

“It is my hope that this direction may assist us as a Diocesan family to continue to grow in holiness through a renewed relationship with God through our prayer and integrity of life, but also by fostering further formation throughout our Diocese on the beauty, theology and praxis of the sacred liturgy, where we encounter Our Lord most intimately,” said Zarama.

Santa Fe archdiocese: Woman's attempted ordination invalid

The Cathedral Church of St. John in Albuquerque, N.M., seat of the Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande, which hosted the attempted ordination of Anne Tropeano Oct. 16, 2021. / teofilo via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Santa Fe, N.M., Oct 21, 2021 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

The supposed ordination of women is invalid, the vicar general of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe reiterated Monday, shortly after a woman claimed to have been ordained a priest in Albuquerque.

“As Pope Saint Paul VI explained, because Jesus freely chose only men for apostles, ‘…in fidelity to the example of the Lord, [the Church] does not consider herself authorized to admit women to priestly ordination.’ Thus, the Roman Catholic Church does not see attempted ordination of women as valid and, indeed, is [sic] an excommunicable action,” Fr. Glennon Jones said Oct. 18.

Anne Tropeano was the recipient of an attempted priestly ordination held Oct. 16 at the Cathedral Church of St. John, an Episcopalian cathedral in Albuquerque. She simulated Mass the following day at St. Paul Lutheran Church, an ELCA community in Albuquerque.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith decreed in 2007 that whoever “shall have attempted to confer holy orders on a woman as well as the woman who may have attempted to receive holy orders, incurs a latae sententiae excommunication.” That decree was reflected in a 2010 modification made to the norms regarding more grave delicts, which added the attempted ordination of a woman to the delicts reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The existing Code of Canon Law makes clear that ordination is validly received only by “a baptized male,” and a revision that will enter into force in December codifies the 2007 decree of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

In its 1976 declaration Inter insigniores, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said it is necessary to recall that the Church “does not consider herself authorized to admit women to priestly ordination.”

St. John Paul II’s 1994 apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis taught definitively that only men may be ordained priests.

Prior to the promulgation of Inter insigniores and Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, that holy orders can be validly received by a baptized male only was held to be a theologically certain teaching.

But subsequently, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith responded to a dubium regarding whether the apostolic letter's teaching, that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women, is to be understood as belonging to the deposit of faith.

In a 1995 response, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith answered in the affirmative, writing that “this teaching requires definitive assent, since, founded on the written word of God, and from the beginning constantly preserved and applied in the Tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium. Thus, in the present circumstances, the Roman Pontiff … has handed on this same teaching by a formal declaration, explicitly stating what is to be held always, everywhere, and by all, as belonging to the deposit of faith.”

And in a 1998 doctrinal commentary related to Ad tuendam fidem, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, then the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, wrote that the doctrine that priestly ordination is reserved only to men is to be held definitively, it having “been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.”

Last year, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith required submission to the proposition that only a baptized male can be ordained validly as the condition for the return to ministry of a priest whom it had barred in 2012.

The Irish Times reported in September 2020 that the congregation had written to the Redemptorists that Fr. Tony Flannery “should not return to public ministry prior to submitting a signed statement regarding his positions on homosexuality, civil unions between persons of the same sex, and the admission of women to the priesthood.”

According to the Association of Catholic Priests, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith asked that Fr. Flannery, to return to ministry, sign a proposition that "according to the Tradition and the doctrine of the Church incorporated in the Canon Law (c. 1024), a baptized male alone receives sacred ordination validly."

This proposition regarding the reservation of priesthood to men was supported by excerpts from Ordinatio Sacerdotalis and from Pope Francis' 2020 apostolic exhortation La querida Amazonia.

Denver archbishop denounces ‘anti-Semitic and hateful vandalism’ at two schools

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila says Mass for the Transitional Deacon Ordination in 2020. / Archdiocese of Denver, photography: A&D Creative LLC

Washington D.C., Oct 21, 2021 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver denounced recent incidents of “anti-Semitic and hateful vandalism” that occurred at two area schools last weekend. 

“I condemn the recent incidents of anti-Semitic and hateful vandalism at George Washington High School, and the property destruction at Denver Academy of the Torah,” Aquila said in an Oct. 20 statement. “These acts have absolutely no place in our society, and we stand in solidarity with our Jewish brothers and sisters.” 

The Denver Post reported that George Washington High School, a public school, was vandalized with graffiti containing racist and anti-Semitic messages, according to the school’s principal, Kristin Waters. The incident is being investigated by the school district and the Denver Police, and the graffiti has been removed.

At the nearby Denver academy of the Torah, a Jewish day school, a rock was thrown through one of its windows and an electrical box inside was found damaged, the Post reported. According to the Anti Defamation League, a witness confronted the suspect who allegedly made an anti-Semitic statement before leaving the scene. 

Police are investigating the incident, and are in the process of determining if the two incidents were related. 

“These acts have absolutely no place in our society, and we stand in solidarity with our Jewish brothers and sisters,” Aquila said on Wednesday. 

In recent weeks, Denver’s Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception and a Catholic church in nearby Boulder were both vandalized with spray paint. 

The cathedral doors were defaced with the slogan “Satan lives here” on Oct. 10, and the outside walls, sidewalks and a statue on the property were all spray-painted. The parish of Sacred Heart of Mary in Boulder was vandalized in September with pro-abortion slogans. 

Aquila thanked the Jewish Community Relations Council and the ADL Mountain States Region for speaking out against recent acts of vandalism against churches in the diocese, and for offering their support. 

“As brothers and sisters in faith,” he said, “I acknowledge our common bonds and desire to be able to worship freely without fear of attack or intimidation in its many forms.”

Aquila added that even in a “divided and pluralistic society,” committing acts of violence and hate “are never the answer to our differences.” 

“I pray for an end to these attacks, heading for the impacted communities, and that God’s love will be known by anyone who feels compelled to commit these acts,” he said. 

Aquila called on local elected officials to denounce the recent acts of vandalism.

“Finally,” he said, “we are grateful to the police departments that have responded to these incidents, and to the numerous community members who, regardless of their beliefs, have reached out to our parishes and offered support and help in cleaning up after these attacks.”

Other incidents of vandalism and theft have occurred at churches in Northern Colorado in recent months.

St. Louis parish in Louisville, Colorado was vandalized with pro-abortion graffiti in early September. 

In late August, the predominantly African-American parish of Curé d'Ars, located in north Denver, was targeted for burglary. All the church's vessels used for Mass were stolen from the vestry, which the thieves accessed by kicking in a wooden door. The thieves also cut out copper piping, flooding the church basement with water. By late September, some of the stolen items - including the tabernacle and church vessels - were found; stolen consecrated hosts had not yet been recovered and were “obviously dumped,” according to the parish deacon.

In June, Holy Ghost Catholic Church in downtown Denver was tagged with red graffiti in a possible reference to the ongoing controversy over former Catholic-run schools for Indigenous in Canada, though the exact motive remains unclear. 

The U.S. bishops’ conference on Oct. 14 reported that churches and Catholic sites have been targeted in more than 100 acts of vandalism, arson, and other destruction since May 2020. The conference began tracking such attacks on churches in May 2020, and now says that at least 101 incidents have occurred in 29 states since then. 

“These incidents of vandalism have ranged from the tragic to the obscene, from the transparent to the inexplicable. There remains much we do not know about this phenomenon, but at a minimum, they underscore that our society is in sore need of God’s grace,” stated Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City on Thursday, Oct. 14.

Missouri Christian church wins settlement over coronavirus restrictions on worship

null / Photo Spirit/Shutterstock

Kansas City, Mo., Oct 20, 2021 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

A Kansas City-area Baptist megachurch has reached a $150,000 settlement with the county over coronavirus restrictions, with the church claiming that the county treated them more harshly than secular institutions when it came to COVID protocols. 

Abundant Life Baptist Church, which has locations in Lee’s Summit and Blue Springs, Missouri, filed a lawsuit against Jackson County over a year ago, arguing, as places of worship in other states have, that the county’s coronavirus restrictions treated places of worship more harshly than secular institutions such as retail stores. 

Under the terms of the settlement, Jackson County vowed that in exchange for the church dropping the lawsuit, it would ensure that future enforcement measures would not impose stricter requirements on religious organizations than their secular counterparts, the Christian Post reported. 

Jackson is one of Missouri’s largest counties by population, and Abundant Life claims that some 4,500 people generally attend their services. 

When the church filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri during May 2020, the county’s coronavirus restrictions limited church services to no more than 10 people, while stores, restaurants and bars did not have numerical limitations, but rather percentage-based limits, generally 10-25% of capacity.

The church argued that the rules went against both the First Amendment and the Missouri Constitution. 

“If Abundant Life were to engage in retail sales, or served food and liquor as a bar, rather than religious worship at its Lee’s Summit location, Jackson County’s Phase I plan would allow 474 people in the building at a time while meeting or exceeding the CDC’s guidelines,” the lawsuit claims. 

Dan Tarwater, one of the six county legislators who approved the settlement with the church, told the Kansas City Star that they believed they were “going to lose” the case unless they approved the settlement. Equal halves of the settlement will be paid by the county and by University Health, formerly known as Truman Medical Centers, which operates the county health department. 

The Supreme Court had ruled in late November 2020 that New York state restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic constituted a violation of the First Amendment's protection of free religious exercise. After the ruling the Bishop of Brooklyn, whose diocese was a plaintiff in the suit, said that religious worship should be considered an essential during the coronavirus pandemic.

The state's restrictions at the time forbade the attendance of more than 10 people at religious services in state designated "red zones”, and 25 people in "orange zones."

"Not only is there no evidence that the applicants have contributed to the spread of COVID–19 but there are many other less restrictive rules that could be adopted to minimize the risk to those attending religious services. Among other things, the maximum attendance at a religious service could be tied to the size of the church or synagogue," the court wrote.

"...even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten. The restrictions at issue here, by effectively barring many from attending religious services, strike at the very heart of the First Amendment's guarantee of religious liberty," the decision concluded.

During February 2021 an unsigned order from the U.S. Supreme Court said that the total ban on indoor worship, which was in effect for most of California at the time, is unconstitutional. At most, the state may limit indoor capacity to 25% of normal, the court said, citing its November ruling in the Brooklyn case. 

The Washington D.C. archdiocese appealed to a district judge in late 2020 over rules that limited houses of worship to 25% capacity, up to a maximum of 250 people inside, regardless of their official capacity. This included the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the largest church in North America, which has a total capacity of around 6,000 people for its upper church.

A subsequent March 2021 court order allowed houses of worship in D.C. to admit as many people inside as they can, in line with other public health regulations such as social-distancing. 

In April 2021, the Supreme Court ruled that California’s coronavirus restrictions on home-based religious gatherings like Bible studies, worship and prayer meetings were more strict than the constitution allows. Citing an appeals court decision in a different case, the unsigned majority’s court order said the state cannot “assume the worst when people go to worship but assume the best when people go to work.”

The court majority found that comparable secular activities treated “more favorably than at-home religious exercise” under California rules included private suites at sporting events and concerts as well as indoor restaurant dining, where more than three households were allowed to gather.

Two priests in Lincoln diocese reassigned with restrictions, following review of alleged misconduct

Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska in St. Peter's Square, a day before the canonization Mass of St. John Henry Newman, Oct. 12, 2019. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Washington D.C., Oct 20, 2021 / 16:09 pm (CNA).

Two priests in the Diocese of Lincoln are being reassigned to ministry with restrictions, following diocesan review of accusations of sexual misconduct. Neither priest was charged with a crime.

Fr. Scott Courtney, suspended from active ministry in September 2018 over accusations of having sexual relations with an adult woman, has now been assigned to minister to prisons, nursing homes, and retirement homes, as well as providing administrative assistance to the chancery, starting in January 2022. 

Bishop James Conley of Lincoln said in an Oct. 8 statement that the reassignment was made after a hearing from the ministerial conduct board. Courtney had undergone “a professional evaluation and a period of personal renewal,” he said. 

Another priest, Fr. Thomas Dunavan, is being tasked with providing administrative assistance to the chancery and helping retired priests, as of Nov. 8, 2021. In March 2019, shortly after he was ordained a priest, Dunavan faced an accusation of sexual misconduct that dated back 20 years. He was placed on administrative leave following the allegations.

“After commissioning an independent investigation, consultation with the Holy See, and hearing from the ministerial conduct board, restrictions have been imposed on Father Dunavan’s public ministry,” Bishop Conley said in a separate statement on Oct. 8. 

According to the state’s criminal justice website, neither priest was charged with a crime, the Lincoln Journal-Star reported.

A third priest in the diocese has recently retired after pleading no contest to serving alcohol to a 19-year-old male. 

Fr. Charles Townsend resigned his pastorate at St. Peter church in Lincoln in August 2018, and in May 2019 was found guilty of providing alcohol to a minor; he pleaded no contest to the charge. The Journal-Star reported that the 19-year-old was an altar server. The diocese says it investigated the matter and forwarded its findings to the Holy See.

Townsend was sentenced to 30 days in jail and 18 months probation. The Lincoln diocese said that while his relationship with the then-19-year-old was inappropriate, it was not sexual in nature. 

In July, the diocese announced that it imposed restrictions on his public ministry and that he was a retired priest. 

“The Congregation for the Clergy, after its independent examination of the matter, determined that no perpetual penalty could be imposed on Fr. Townsend,” Conley stated on July 23.

After Catholic football coach was fired for refusing COVID-19 vaccine, lawyer alleges anti-religious animus

Former Washington State University head football coach Nick Rolovich / Washington State University

Washington D.C., Oct 20, 2021 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

The former Washington State University football coach, a Catholic, intends to sue the school after he was refused a religious exemption to the state’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate and was subsequently fired for not getting vaccinated.

Nick Rolovich had previously announced in July that he would not be receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, but would follow state guidance. As head football coach at a state university, Rolovich was subject to the state’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. 

He requested a religious exemption from the vaccine requirement, but the university denied this request and he was subsequently fired on Oct. 18, along with four assistant coaches who were unvaccinated.

His lawyer, Brain Fahling, said on Wednesday that Rolovich will be taking legal action against the university, and called it "a tragic and damning commentary on our culture" that Rolovich "has been derided, demonized, and ultimately fired from his job, merely for being devout in his Catholic faith.”

Fahling called the firing “unjust and unlawful,” in his statement published by KXLY.

“It came after Coach Rolovich’s request for a religious exemption from the vaccine was denied by the University. The institution also indicated that even if the exemption had been granted, no accommodation would have been made. As a result, Coach Rolovich will be taking legal action against Washington State University, and all parties responsible for his illegal termination,” he said. 

Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced the vaccine mandate on Aug. 18, requiring employees in K-12 schools, most early childhood learning centers, and institutions of higher education to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Although the mandate allowed for religious exemptions, Rolovich applied for an exemption but did not receive one by the deadline of Monday, Oct. 18.

Per Washington state’s Office of Financial Management, 1,887 state employees had either left their jobs or been fired as of Oct. 18 due to the mandate. This figure is nearly identical to the number of accommodations - 1,927 - granted by the state. 

A total of 89.4% of the state’s roughly 63,000 employees have been vaccinated, and an additional 4.6% are “pending action, which includes being in the process of being vaccinated, pending retirement, pending accommodation or separation.”

Fahling said that the university’s athletic director Pat Chun had Rolovich escorted off campus following his termination, and forbade Rolovich from going into his office or speaking to the football team. 

Fahling accused Chun of having “animus towards Coach Rolovich’s sincerely held religious beliefs,” and said that the extent of his “dishonesty” would be revealed in the coming lawsuit. Fahling did not state when the suit would be filed. 

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith both have acknowledged ethical concerns with the COVID-19 vaccines currently in use, due to their use of cell lines derived from an elective abortion. However, the Vatican congregation called the vaccines’ connection to the evil of abortion “remote,” and said their use is “morally licit” due to the “grave danger” of the pandemic.

The vaccines, however, are not “a moral obligation,” the congregation stated, and those refusing the vaccines out of “conscience” must take alternative actions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Bishop Thomas Daly of Spokane, whose diocesan territory includes Washington State University, has said that Catholics may receive the COVID-19 vaccines available for use despite their “remote” connections to abortion. 

In a Jan. 29, 2021 letter to the diocese concerning vaccines, Daly wrote, “We may accept these vaccines for the morally proportionate reasons in this circumstance, such as the preservation of health, lives, and livelihoods.” 

Daly said that while “individuals are morally free to decline the vaccine,” they “should remain attentive and responsive to ways that they can contribute to the common good in this time of pandemic.” 

Daly has also acknowledged the conscience rights of Catholics to refuse COVID-19 vaccines, but has dissuaded priests from signing documents affirming their conscience exemptions. 

Synod on Synodality a learning opportunity for Catholic Church, Archbishop Gomez says

Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles at the USCCB's fall meeting in Baltimore, Md., Nov. 11, 2019. / Christine Rousselle/CNA

Denver Newsroom, Oct 20, 2021 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

The upcoming gatherings of Catholics for a synodal process are important opportunities for outreach, support, and communication, according to Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference.

“The Holy Father has called for the local churches to hold inclusive consultations with the People of God as part of the synod,” Gomez said Oct. 20. “We face a challenge after over a year of being physically distanced within our communities because of the Covid-19 pandemic. This synod is an opportunity to meet the immense and important request of the Holy Father to engage in dialogue to better understand our call to holiness and feel the responsibility to participate in the life of the Church.”

A synod is a meeting of bishops that aims to discuss a topic of theological or pastoral significance, in order to prepare a document of advice or counsel to the pope.

“Outreach, communication, support, and encouragement are vital in order to be missionary disciples,” Gomez continued. “As is with the nature of the synod, I hope we will learn as we ‘journey together,’ and I pray that the process will enrich and guide the future path of both the local Church as well as the universal Church over the course of the next two years, and beyond.”

The Synod on Synodality, opened by Pope Francis earlier this month, is a two-year, worldwide undertaking during which Catholics will be encouraged to submit feedback to their dioceses.

Synodality is generally understood to represent a process of discernment, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, involving clerics, religious, and lay Catholics, each according to the gifts and charisms of their vocation.

Father Michael Fuller, interim general secretary for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is leading efforts to share synod-related information with U.S. bishops, the bishops’ conference said.

The U.S. bishops’ conference’s diocesan liaison is Richard Coll, executive director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development.

“I welcome the opportunity to be a resource to the diocesan representatives as they engage with their local faithful in this most important phase of the synod,” Coll said.

The bishops’ conference is providing tools and tips for local diocesan synod efforts, as well as sharing the preparatory documents prepared in Rome by the Synod of Bishops.

The U.S. bishops’ conference website will provide highlights from the local-level synod and aim to incorporate synodal experiences into its resources.

The opening phase of the global synod process is a diocesan phase expected to last until April 2022. The Vatican has asked all dioceses to participate, hold consultations, and collect feedback on specific questions laid out in synod documents.

In Sept. 18 remarks, Pope Francis said the synod is “not about gathering opinions, no … it is about listening to the Holy Spirit.” At an Oct. 10 Mass, the pope stressed the importance of using the synod to encounter God and one another. He said he hoped the acts of encountering, listening, and discerning would characterize the synodal path.

One objective of the synod on synodality, according to the preparatory document, is to examine “how responsibility and power are lived in the Church as well as the structures by which they are managed, bringing to light and trying to convert prejudices and distorted practices that are not rooted in the Gospel.”

The Vatican documents ask a “fundamental question” for dioceses and bishops to consider: “A synodal Church, in announcing the Gospel, ‘journeys together.’ How is this ‘journeying together’ happening today in your local Church? What steps does the Spirit invite us to take in order to grow in our ‘journeying together’?”

A second, continental-level phase of the synod will take place from September 2022 to March 2023. The third, universal phase will begin with the Sixteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, dedicated to the theme “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission,” at the Vatican in October 2023.