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Crown restored to Marian statue at Michigan parish after missing for 44 years

The Immaculata statue from Immaculate Conception Parish in Detroit was placed in a niche in the church where a confessional used to be, along with stands displaying news articles chronicling Immaculate Conception’s history, a reminder of what was lost and what has been saved. “The statue meant a lot to parishioners who came in here and adopted St. Hyacinth as their new home after Immaculate Conception was torn down,” sacristan Susan Kraus said. “It is only out of fairness and respect toward them that we restore her to her original beauty.” / Credit: Daniel Meloy | Detroit Catholic

Detroit, Mich., May 12, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

Susan Kraus got goosebumps when she discovered a decorative crown adorned with 12 stars in the basement of St. Hyacinth Parish in Detroit.

The treasured piece of local Church history at the east-side Detroit parish was once considered a long-lost piece of parish lore, the headpiece for the parish’s Immaculata statue, a forgotten gem from a tumultuous time.

“It is the original headpiece from when she was at the main altar at Immaculate Conception Church [in Detroit],” Kraus, a sacristan at St. Hyacinth, told Detroit Catholic. “She’s been without it for 40 years, and it’s about time she got it back.”

The crown was restored to its proper place on top of the statue and was unveiled to parishioners following the parish’s May crowning on May 5.

The Immaculata statue at St. Hyacinth Parish in Detroit, Michigan, originally from Immaculate Conception Parish, had its headpiece restored on May 5 after the parish’s May crowning ceremony. The crown dates back to when the statue was located in the main altar of Immaculate Conception Parish and went missing after the statue was moved to St. Hyacinth following the closure of Immaculate Conception Parish. Credit: Daniel Meloy | Detroit Catholic
The Immaculata statue at St. Hyacinth Parish in Detroit, Michigan, originally from Immaculate Conception Parish, had its headpiece restored on May 5 after the parish’s May crowning ceremony. The crown dates back to when the statue was located in the main altar of Immaculate Conception Parish and went missing after the statue was moved to St. Hyacinth following the closure of Immaculate Conception Parish. Credit: Daniel Meloy | Detroit Catholic

The Immaculata statue was built in 1920 by Paul Landowski, who also created the famous 98-foot Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The statue adorned the main altar of Immaculate Conception until the parish was demolished in 1981 to make way for the General Motors Detroit-Hamtramck plant.

It was a tense time for the Poletown community, with protests and even a sit-in at Immaculate Conception, but the parishioners eventually gave way — though not before the parish’s famed Immaculata statue was rescued and moved to neighboring St. Hyacinth.

The statue was placed in a niche in the church where a confessional used to be, along with stands displaying news articles chronicling Immaculate Conception’s history, a reminder of what was lost and what has been saved.

“The statue meant a lot to parishioners who came in here and adopted St. Hyacinth as their new home after Immaculate Conception was torn down,” Kraus said. “It is only out of fairness and respect toward them that we restore her to her original beauty.”

Susan Kraus, a sacristan at St. Hyacinth Parish reads a description of Mary from Revelation 12, describing the Blessed Mother as standing on the moon, wearing a crown with 12 stars. May 2024. Credit: Daniel Meloy | Detroit Catholic
Susan Kraus, a sacristan at St. Hyacinth Parish reads a description of Mary from Revelation 12, describing the Blessed Mother as standing on the moon, wearing a crown with 12 stars. May 2024. Credit: Daniel Meloy | Detroit Catholic

But the original crown, a reference to Revelation 12, describing a woman wearing a crown with 12 stars, standing on the moon, went missing, seemingly lost to history.

Lost until Kraus did some scrounging through the St. Hyacinth basement, coming across other treasures that are now being incorporated into daily use at the parish.

“The crown was found in an area left by the wayside,” Kraus said. “I understand when the statues came, she was without a crown. I don’t know who put the crown where I found it, but for the past several months I’ve been finding things in the basement. We recently found the ambry, the box where you keep your holy oils, that was recently installed directly behind the tabernacle.”

Parishioners stayed after Mass to take pictures of the Immaculata statue, now adorned with her crown, reflecting on the history of Immaculate Conception, St. Hyacinth, and other tales and treasures that make the history of Poletown unique.

“It means a lot to people, but I question why it wasn’t done 40 years ago,” Kraus said. “I’m new to the church here — six or seven years ago I came from Shelby Township — but I know what belongs in the church and the proper etiquette for church artifacts. We’re so glad to have the crown restored, back to where it belongs.”

This article was originally published in Detroit Catholic and is reprinted here with permission.

Mother’s Day 2024: 12 Catholic quotes on the beauty of motherhood

Mosaic of Our Lady of Guadalupe inside Christ Cathedral in Orange, California. / Credit: Kate Veik/CNA

Washington D.C., May 12, 2024 / 04:00 am (CNA).

On Mother’s Day, Catholics recognize the mothers in our lives as well as Mary, Mother of God. In celebration of all that mothers do, here are 12 quotes from saints and other Catholic figures on the beauty and significance of motherhood:

St. Thérèse of Lisieux:

“The loveliest masterpiece of the heart of God is the heart of a mother.”

St. Teresa Benedicta (Edith Stein):

“To be a mother is to nourish and protect true humanity and bring it to development.”

Pope Francis:

“A society without mothers would be a dehumanized society, for mothers are always, even in the worst moments, witnesses of tenderness, dedication, and moral strength. … Dearest mothers, thank you, thank you for what you are in your family and for what you give to the Church and the world.”

St. John Paul II:

“Thank you, women who are mothers! You have sheltered human beings within yourselves in a unique experience of joy and travail. This experience makes you become God’s own smile upon the newborn child, the one who guides your child’s first steps, who helps it to grow, and who is the anchor as the child makes its way along the journey of life.”

Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen:

“Motherhood then becomes a kind of priesthood. She brings God to man by preparing the flesh in which the soul will be implanted; she brings man to God in offering the child back again to the Creator … she is nature’s constant challenge to death, the bearer of cosmic plentitude, the herald of eternal realities, God’s great cooperator.”

St. Teresa of Calcutta:

“That special power of loving that belongs to a woman is seen most clearly when she becomes a mother. Motherhood is the gift of God to women. How grateful we must be to God for this wonderful gift that brings such joy to the whole world, women and men alike!”

St. Zélie Guérin Martin, mother of St. Thérèse of Lisieux:

“Above all, during the months immediately preceding the birth of her child, the mother should keep close to God, of whom the infant she bears within her is the image, the handiwork, the gift and the child. She should be for her offspring, as it were, a temple, a sanctuary, an altar, a tabernacle. In short, her life should be, so to speak, the life of a living sacrament, a sacrament in act, burying herself in the bosom of that God who has so truly instituted it and hallowed it, so that there she may draw that energy, that enlightening, that natural and supernatural beauty which he wills, and wills precisely by her means, to impart to the child she bears and to be born of her.”

St. Gianna Beretta Molla:

“Look at the mothers who truly love their children: how many sacrifices they make for them. They are ready for everything, even to give their own blood so that their babies grow up good, healthy, and strong.”

St. Augustine, son of St. Monica:

“And now thou didst ‘stretch forth thy hand from above’ and didst draw up my soul out of that profound darkness [of Manicheism] because my mother, thy faithful one, wept to thee on my behalf more than mothers are accustomed to weep for the bodily deaths of their children … And thou didst hear her, O Lord.”

Cardinal József Mindszenty:

“The most important person on earth is a mother. She cannot claim the honor of having built Notre Dame Cathedral. She need not. She has built something more magnificent than any cathedral — a dwelling for an immortal soul, the tiny perfection of her baby’s body. … The angels have not been blessed with such a grace. They cannot share in God’s creative miracle to bring new saints to heaven. Only a human mother can. Mothers are closer to God the Creator than any other creature; God joins forces with mothers in performing this act of creation … What on God’s good earth is more glorious than this; to be a mother?”

Alice von Hildebrand:

A “woman by her very nature is maternal — for every woman, whether married or unmarried, is called upon to be a biological, psychological, or spiritual mother — she knows intuitively that to give, to nurture, to care for others, to suffer with and for them — for maternity implies suffering — is infinitely more valuable in God’s sight than to conquer nations and fly to the moon.” 

Our Lady of Guadalupe, to St. Juan Diego:

“Do not be troubled or weighed down with grief. Do not fear any illness or vexation, anxiety, or pain. Am I not here who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not your fountain of life? Are you not in the folds of my mantle? In the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else you need?”

This was originally published on May 9, 2021, and has been updated.

‘The Chosen’ star Jonathan Roumie urges Catholic University grads to emulate Christ

"The Chosen" actor Jonathan Roumie gives the commencement speech at the Catholic University of America on Saturday, May 11, 2024. / Credit: Denny Henry/The Catholic University of America

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 11, 2024 / 15:18 pm (CNA).

Actor Jonathan Roumie, who plays Jesus Christ in the popular television series “The Chosen,” encouraged graduates at the Catholic University of America (CUA) to emulate Christ and strengthen their prayer lives during the university’s commencement ceremony Saturday morning.

“Last time I spoke [to] a crowd this big, there were loaves and fish and baskets of them,” Roumie joked, referencing the Sermon on the Mount. “So many leftovers.”

Roumie headlined the commencement ceremony for CUA graduates held on the lawn of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., which sits adjacent to the university.

The actor was also awarded an honorary doctorate in fine arts for his work evangelizing through his acting career.

The speech focused on three main points: emulating Christ, praying more, and surrendering oneself to God. These subjects, he said, are “concepts I wish I had heard upon graduating college myself.”

“You don’t need to play Jesus for the world in order to be Jesus to the world,” Roumie told the crowd of graduates. 

“I’ve realized that just because I play Jesus on a TV show doesn’t mean I can or I should stop being Christ to everyone I know when the cameras turn off, and neither should you,” he said.

“Just because you’re not an actor playing Jesus or a priest or a nun doesn’t mean you’re not meant to represent him at all times, wherever you go.”

Roumie said this does not mean “God is expecting perfection from you,” but that “you must endeavor to preach the Gospel by the life you live, by your actions and [by] the choices you make.” 

He said, as Catholics, this includes “the political positions you take and the advocacy for the causes you champion,” such as “defending life at all stages.”

His second message to outgoing students was to “pray more.” He referenced the First Epistle to the Thessalonians, in which St. Paul instructs the faithful to “pray without ceasing.” 

The actor said that “the era we’re living in demands a revolution of deep prayer.”

Roumie, who also partners with the Catholic prayer app Hallow to guide people through prayers and meditation, noted that regular access to the sacrament of reconciliation, followed by Mass and receiving the Eucharist, has been essential to him in preparing for his role in “The Chosen” and is important for everyone in following Christ. 

“By this, I’m granted peace,” Roumie explained. “I’m given wisdom in areas of my life experiencing conflict beyond my human understanding, and I’m strengthened to go forward and handle situations I’m otherwise overwhelmed by.”

Roumie emphasized “the power of prayer” and the intercessory role of the Blessed Virgin Mary and all of the angels and saints. 

In his speech, the actor also discussed the importance of “surrender” and recognizing that “you’re not in charge; God is.” 

Roumie noted that before his role in “The Chosen,” he had been struggling to find success as an actor and faced serious financial hardships. He said he surrendered all of his hardships to God: “I dropped to my knees and I poured myself out to the Lord and surrendered everything to him, saying, ‘I can’t do this without you.’”

“I would not be standing with you here today if God had not brought me to my knees in utter desperation to surrender my entire life and more specifically my career over to him — something I hadn’t even considered before,” the actor said. 

“It’s the hardest thing that I’ve ever done, but the greatest thing that has ever happened to me,” Roumie said. “And it will be the most life-changing thing that will ever happen to you if you allow it, especially at this point in your young lives.”

About 1,300 students graduated from the university on Saturday.

Four other attendees also received honorary doctorates: Father Piotr Nawrot, a priest of the Divine World Ministries who rediscovered and reconstructed 13,000 pages of music of the Moxo and Chiquito tribes; John Finnis, a Catholic legal and political thinker; Teresa Pitt Green, the co-founder of the Healing Voices magazine; and Rabbi Jack Bemporad, who has authored several books on Christian and Jewish relations and is the founding director of the Center for Interreligious Understanding.

Apostolate champions care of creation and souls in support of Catholics in rural areas

null / Credit: terazitu/Shutterstock

St. Paul, Minn., May 11, 2024 / 08:00 am (CNA).

Jerry Laughlin, 46, who took over a fifth-generation farm near Imogene, Iowa, in 1999 and hopes to move more into farming crops for food rather than industrial use, is grateful for his Catholic faith amid the challenges of farm life.

Seeing farming as a sacred profession is exactly what an “epic apostolate” founded 100 years ago aims to foster. Laughlin is considering, with his pastor, Father Lazarus Kirigia, starting a chapter of Catholic Rural Life at his parish.

Built on Archbishop Edwin O’Hara’s vision and philosophy of Catholic rural life, it continues his legacy of helping the rural Church promote U.S. farming and how it can foster virtuous living, while it also grapples with problems the archbishop identified a century ago, New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan said at a May 8 anniversary event titled “Rejoicing in the Harvest: Celebrating 100 Years of Catholic Rural Life” at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. 

As founder of what is now Catholic Rural Life (CRL), a national Catholic nonprofit of more than 600 members dedicated to the vitality of American rural life, “Archbishop O’Hara seemed only trying to remind people that there’s something sacramental about country life and that thus it deserves to be treated with dignity and care,” said Dolan, author of a 1992 biography of O’Hara, “Some Seed Fell on Good Ground.

During his keynote to many CRL members among the roughly 310 bishops, priests, deacons, religious, and laypeople in attendance, Dolan noted that the organization continues to face challenges that concerned its founder, including flight of youth from the country, agriculture as a business rather than a way of life, and a lack of Church resources in rural areas. 

Father Lazarus Kirigia, pastor of Diocese of Des Moines, Iowa, parishes St. Patrick in Imogene and St. Mary in Red Lake, with Jerry Laughlin, farmer and parishioner at St. Patrick in Imogene who is considering starting a Catholic Rural Life chapter at his parish. Credit: Susan Klemond/CNA
Father Lazarus Kirigia, pastor of Diocese of Des Moines, Iowa, parishes St. Patrick in Imogene and St. Mary in Red Lake, with Jerry Laughlin, farmer and parishioner at St. Patrick in Imogene who is considering starting a Catholic Rural Life chapter at his parish. Credit: Susan Klemond/CNA

“I just so admire you and the passion that you have for the country that was so loved by Jesus and so much a part of our sacred Scripture, of our Church tradition,” he said. “So don’t give up. We need you more than ever. May the second 100 years be as glorious as the first.”

Also celebrating CRL’s legacy while offering insights about farming history, Catholic social teaching, ecology, technology, and current rural issues at the one-day conference were sociology professor James Nolan of Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts; Christopher Thompson, academic dean and professor of moral theology at St. Paul Seminary; and Monsignor James Shea, president of the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota, who grew up on a dairy farm.

Based in St. Paul, Catholic Rural Life offers programs to develop lay Catholic leaders in rural communities and for clergy formation and spiritual renewal in rural areas. It has 29 chapters in 28 dioceses that organize faith and social programs, and it has offered a five-day retreat attended by 395 priests.

Originally named the National Catholic Rural Life Conference, the organization was founded in November 1923 during a gathering of bishops, priests, and laity in St. Louis. Then director of the Rural Life Bureau of the National Catholic Welfare Conference (now the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops), O’Hara founded the organization to improve Catholic education and bring more Church resources to rural communities. In 2013, the organization changed its name to Catholic Rural Life. 

The virtues and truth that have characterized the rural way of life in the U.S. are now threatened by the overall deterioration of faith, and the Christian vision needs to be rearticulated, Shea said in his talk.

“I’m convicted, and I know that many of you share this conviction, that we live in a time which is a change of the ages,” he said. “We live in a new apostolic age. The urgency of evangelization is very present to us, but, also, we have to change our strategies because we’re living in the first post-Christian age in all of history.”

Concerns of rural life

A blind spot about rural life seems to have crept into the Catholic imagination that CRL can address, Thompson noted in his talk, “Another Way of Seeing,” where he presented a theological perspective on humanity’s relationship with the created world and challenged chapter leaders to emphasize care of creation and understanding of Church teaching. Many major universities no longer offer agriculture programs, and some seminarians Thompson co-teaches in a rural ministry practicum for St. Paul Seminary show little enthusiasm for rural issues. 

“You can feel like you’re alone in a Catholic rural setting,” he said. “I want to express empathy to the challenge. CRL is there to provide the revelation, though, to lift up hearts and to renew our relationships there.”

Isolation and mental health issues are real problems in rural communities, and Kansas State University students, led by their campus chaplain, started the first student CRL chapter in 2021 on their agriculture-based Manhattan, Kansas, campus with one goal: to reach out to students from rural backgrounds.

“It’s been a big passion of mine, I guess, to kind of bring awareness to this and advocate for it, because I come from a line of very strong-willed farmers, and I see how hard it is for them to ask for help,” Jenna Reinert, a 21-year-old junior, told CNA.

Kansas State University students, from left: junior Dillon McGinn, 20; junior Jenna Reinert, 21; senior Halley Jones, 21; Elizabeth Wright, 22, (a 2023 graduate who started a Catholic Rural Life chapter in 2021); and Father Gale Hammerschmidt, pastor and chaplain at St. Isidore’s on campus. Credit: Susan Klemond/CNA
Kansas State University students, from left: junior Dillon McGinn, 20; junior Jenna Reinert, 21; senior Halley Jones, 21; Elizabeth Wright, 22, (a 2023 graduate who started a Catholic Rural Life chapter in 2021); and Father Gale Hammerschmidt, pastor and chaplain at St. Isidore’s on campus. Credit: Susan Klemond/CNA

Helping students connect and speak to the beauty of rural life were goals in starting the chapter, said Father Gale Hammerschmidt, pastor and chaplain at St. Isidore Catholic Student Center at Kansas State. 

Mental health is an issue throughout rural America, he said, “and so we want to get started early with students on the collegiate level, recognizing that it’s not shameful to need help in regards to mental issues.”

The resources and connections Bishop Brendan Cahill finds with other bishops and farmers in rural dioceses across the country have helped him become informed about mental health and other issues affecting his mostly rural southern Texas Diocese of Victoria, which is 30% Catholic. In his nine years of involvement with CRL, he told CNA he’s seen the work of the organization as “an affirmation of our faith in rural America.”

“We talk about what we’re doing in dioceses, how we’re working with our churches, what we’re doing with our vocations, what we’re doing with our priests, issues, mental health, things like that that we’re dealing with.”

The opportunity to educate farmers in the two parishes he pastors in Iowa is why Kirigia is considering starting CRL chapters there. The two parishes, St. Patrick in Imogene and St. Mary in Red Oak, each have about 150 households and are 24 miles apart. Kirigia, who is originally from Kenya, attended a CRL retreat for priests and said he was struck to learn that century-old predictions for American farming are true now, including the industrialization of farming. He also noted that less farm production now is actually grown for people’s food, unlike in his native Kenya, where he estimated 95% of food is grown for human consumption. 

There isn’t enough food in the world, he said, “but here we have an abundance, which is not really for food, right? While the rest of the world is starving because of lack of food.”

Caring for creation

Nolan of Williams College stated that foreign statesmen visiting rural America in the 19th and early-20th century saw a pervasive business approach to farming here, but the growth of the organic, slow-food movement and community-supported agriculture, whereby consumers buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer, are making inroads.

Citing Pope Francis’ call for a more affectionate posture toward creation in his encyclical Laudato Si’, he said: “Thus, on this 100th anniversary of Catholic Rural Life, we have a wonderful opportunity, in a time when the land and farms and rural communities that have been harmed by practices and ways of thinking [related to industrial and technological mindsets of exploitation and extraction] that have persisted in American society for many years, [to] renew our commitment to thinking and acting differently.”

Iowa farmer Laughlin said he found hope in changing the industrial mindset of agriculture.

“You need a sense of purpose and creation and spirituality, I think, to actually comprehend maybe a better way,” he said. “At least all the information, most of the information I know of, coming to farmers is based off of a capitalist mindset so it’s hard to break away from that and come out with a kind of a spiritual sense, in my opinion.”

In working the land and being close to creation, farmers develop trust, patience, resilience, and faith in forces of the invisible to believe in mystery and miracles, Dolan said in his homily during the conference Mass. 

“The people of the soil are dreamers,” he said. “They carry the mystery. They never give up. They have the values of trust and prominence and resilience in the heartache and the sense of the invisible. They are the ones who know that there’s mysteries and poetry going on in the cosmos, and they are the ones most in awe.”

Tabernacle untouched at Oklahoma parish hit by powerful tornado

A powerful tornado hit St. Mary's Catholic Church in rural Barnsdall, Oklahoma, on May 6, 2024. / Credit: Daniel McCay/Eastern Oklahoma Catholic

CNA Staff, May 11, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

A rural Oklahoma parish hit this week by a powerful tornado suffered serious damage, especially to its parish hall. But amid the rubble, broken glass, and winds possibly as high as 175 mph, the church’s tabernacle containing the body of Christ remained intact.

Father Emmanuel Nduka, who pastors three local churches including St. Mary’s, told CNA that the tabernacle’s survival served as a sign of God’s presence amid the devastation in the small Oklahoma town of Barnsdall.

“God is in control. There’s no reason why our church should be standing after what happened in Barnsdall Sunday night,” the priest told CNA.

Nduka lives in a neighboring town 30 minutes from Barnsdall, but early on May 7, as soon as he heard about the damage to the church, he raced over. No one was in the church building at the time of the tornado; the stone structure of the church building itself survived, while the parish hall next door was “completely leveled.”

The door of the small parish church was destroyed, and the force of the apocalyptic wind smashed the church’s windows, Nduka continued.  

“The wind really entered into the church. So it is very, very mind-boggling to see that the tabernacle was still standing there in the sanctuary, and the sanctuary light was still burning,” Nduka said.

He said when he entered the church, he immediately bowed down and offered thanksgiving to God for “showing his presence.” 

The tabernacle of St. Mary's in Barnsdall, Oklahoma, remained untouched despite widespread damage to the surrounding area after a tornado touched down on May 6, 2024. Credit: Daniel McCay/Eastern Oklahoma Catholic
The tabernacle of St. Mary's in Barnsdall, Oklahoma, remained untouched despite widespread damage to the surrounding area after a tornado touched down on May 6, 2024. Credit: Daniel McCay/Eastern Oklahoma Catholic

The National Weather Service in Tulsa concluded that the May 6 tornado that hit Barnsdall was an EF4 with wind speeds between 165 and 175 mph. It cut a 39-mile path of destruction, causing severe damage to trees, homes, and businesses, including a local refinery plant that provides many local jobs. The damage was so severe that the tornado’s path was visible from space.

According to local news reports, 30 to 40 homes were damaged or destroyed in Barnsdall, including a nursing home. One person is confirmed dead and another is still missing as of Friday.

The May 6, 2024, tornado left a path of destruction but spared the Catholic church in the rural Oklahoma town of Barnsdall. Credit: Daniel McCay/Eastern Oklahoma Catholic
The May 6, 2024, tornado left a path of destruction but spared the Catholic church in the rural Oklahoma town of Barnsdall. Credit: Daniel McCay/Eastern Oklahoma Catholic

 Nduka said he resolved to celebrate Mass this coming Sunday at the church “as a sign of hope.” Cleanup has been progressing and utilities have been restored, he said, so they are “over 90%” set for Mass in the church on Sunday.

The Diocese of Tulsa has been “very, very supportive,” Nduka said, adding that he has spoken to the bishop, and the chancellor has been out to visit the site. He said the parish is in the process of working with its insurance provider, but more funds will likely be needed for a full recovery. The diocese has encouraged people wishing to support the parish to donate to the diocese’s parish fund and select “St. Mary Barnsdall” to ensure their gift goes to the relief effort.

Nduka requested prayers for his parish community, saying many people, especially the men of the parish, have come together in the wake of the disaster to offer help. 

“I am very grateful to them, that we have such men who so much love their church and were willing to help in any way for the church to keep going,” the priest said. 

“We need prayer from people of goodwill, for strength ... knowing that God is in control and we shall bounce back better and stronger.”

Bishop Paprocki: Biden mocks Catholic faith by invoking Christ in pro-abortion message

Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois. / Credit: Diocese of Springfield in Illinois

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 10, 2024 / 17:30 pm (CNA).

Bishop Thomas Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield, Illinois, is accusing President Joe Biden of “making a mockery of our Catholic faith” after he made the sign of the cross while promoting abortion.

Biden, who is the country’s second Catholic president, made the sign of the cross at an abortion rally in Tampa, Florida, more than two weeks ago. In his speech, the president criticized Catholic Gov. Ron DeSantis for signing a bill that restricts abortion after six weeks of pregnancy. The governor had previously helped enact legislation limiting abortion to 15 weeks of pregnancy.

During the rally, Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Nikki Fried said that when DeSantis decided to run for president, “15 weeks wasn’t good enough; we had to go to six weeks,” at which point Biden made the sign of the cross in apparent disapproval of the pro-life laws.

In a May 8 video posted to the diocesan YouTube channel, Paprocki said: “To misuse this sacred gesture is to make a mockery of our Catholic faith.”

“Making the sign of the cross is one of the most profound gestures a Catholic can make in showing reverence for Christ’s death on the cross and belief in the Holy Trinity as we sign ourselves in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” the bishop said.

Paprocki expanded on his criticism of Biden on the diocesan “Dive Deep” podcast the following day, May 9, saying Biden is “mocking the gesture” of the sign of the cross because he was doing it “to promote something that was evil, and that’s what makes it sacrilegious.” 

In his original video, Paprocki discussed the provisions by which one could excommunicate himself and provided the definitions for heresy, schism, and apostasy. However, he stopped short of attaching any of those terms to Biden. During the podcast, the bishop said that would require a “canonical process,” which would likely need to take place within his diocese, the Archdiocese of Washington.

Paprocki did say that Biden’s support for abortion is “in effect … rejecting at least part of the Fifth Commandment,” which prohibits murder.

“[Biden] seems to be saying he has no problem with killing babies in the womb,” the bishop added.

“Even the president of the United States is bound by the truths as revealed by God,” Paprocki said later during the podcast. “We live in an age of relativism where people think ‘well you have your truth and I have my truth,’ [but] there really is only one truth as revealed by God.”

At the close of his original video, the bishop cited the sixth chapter of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians. 

“Make no mistake: God is not mocked, for a person will reap only what he sows, because the one who sows for his flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows for the spirit will reap eternal life from the spirit,” St. Paul wrote. “Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest, if we do not give up. So then, while we have the opportunity, let us do good to all, but especially to those who belong to the family of the faith.”

Paprocki voiced agreement with comments made by other bishops about Biden’s support for abortion. He said he agrees with Cardinal Wilton Gregory of the Archdiocese of Washington, who said in March that the president “picks and chooses” what elements of the Catholic faith he believes. 

“I would say there are things, especially in terms of the life issues, there are things that [Biden] chooses to ignore,” Gregory said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Easter. 

“The issues of life begin at the very beginning,” Gregory continued. “And they conclude at natural death. And you can’t pick and choose. You’re either one who respects life in all of its dimensions, or you have to step aside and say, ‘I’m not pro-life.’”

Paprocki also said he agreed with Spanish Bishop José Ignacio Munilla of the Diocese of Orihuela-Alicante, who said last week that Biden making the sign of the cross at a rally in support of abortion was “sacrilegious.”

Munilla said that making the sign of the cross is meant to be used as a sign “in which we remember that Jesus gave his life for us, he gave his life for all the innocents, he gave his life to restore innocence and to make us saints.”

Biden has promised that if he is elected and has a pro-abortion Congress, he will sign a bill to restore the abortion laws set in the now-defunct Roe v. Wade decision. This would prohibit states from enforcing laws that protect life in the womb. The president has also asked Congress to repeal laws that prohibit federal agencies from using taxpayer money to fund abortion. 

New bishop ordained in Portland, Maine: A Franciscan shepherd for the people

Bishop James Ruggieri prays during his ordination Mass in Portland, Maine on May 7, 2024. / Credit: McKenney Photography

National Catholic Register, May 10, 2024 / 14:30 pm (CNA).

New Bishop James Ruggieri became a Third Order Franciscan not long before his ordination in Portland, Maine, on Tuesday — a marker of why Pope Francis appointed him.

Ruggieri, 56, profiled by the National Catholic Register, CNA’s sister news partner, in April, is known for driving a food truck to homeless people when he was a pastor in Providence, Rhode Island.

“His love for the poor and the homeless certainly reflect these Franciscan ideals. And I am certain that the themes of the life of St. Francis and his spirituality will be reflected in the ministry of our new bishop, just as it is in the ministry of Pope Francis,” said Cardinal Seán O’Malley, a Capuchin Franciscan, the archbishop of Boston, and the principal consecrator of the new bishop during his ordination Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley and Bishop James Ruggieri during Ruggieri’s ordination Mass in Portland, Maine, on May 7, 2024. Credit: McKenney Photography
Cardinal Sean O’Malley and Bishop James Ruggieri during Ruggieri’s ordination Mass in Portland, Maine, on May 7, 2024. Credit: McKenney Photography

The papal nuncio, Cardinal Christophe Pierre, also highlighted poverty, quoting a November 2022 message from Pope Francis marking the World Day of the Poor that said: “Where the poor are concerned, it is not talk that matters; what matters is rolling up our sleeves and putting our faith into practice through a direct involvement, one that cannot be delegated.”

“Your closeness to the poor is one of the reasons that the Holy Father has decided to make you the shepherd of an even greater number of people,” Pierre said near the beginning of the Mass, before presenting Ruggieri with his letter of appointment from the pope.

Bishop James Ruggieri displays his letter of appointment from the pope during his ordination Mass in Portland, Maine, on May 7, 2024. Credit: McKenney Photography
Bishop James Ruggieri displays his letter of appointment from the pope during his ordination Mass in Portland, Maine, on May 7, 2024. Credit: McKenney Photography

Lack of material means is one type of poverty, Pierre said, but a bishop must also address “the many faces of poverty in our culture,” including what he called “the poverty that exists where Christ is not known, or where his love and mercy are not fully appreciated by those who are struggling to recognize their own dignity.”

O’Malley gave the sermon. As archbishop of Boston, the cardinal is also the metropolitan of the Ecclesiastical Province of Boston, which includes the Diocese of Portland.

O’Malley said Ruggieri is “being called to be a teacher of the faith” and that bishops “must be witnesses of the resurrection.”

In former times, he said, the Church was persecuted because of what it taught about Jesus, Mary, and the sacraments.

Bishop James Ruggieri kneels during his ordination Mass in Portland, Maine, on May 7, 2024. Credit: McKenney Photography
Bishop James Ruggieri kneels during his ordination Mass in Portland, Maine, on May 7, 2024. Credit: McKenney Photography

“Today so often the attacks on the Church come because of the Church’s teachings about the dignity of each and every human being, the centrality of life, and the Church’s social gospel. Of all of these truths, you must be a herald, proclaiming the good news with clarity, with enthusiasm, and with joy,” O’Malley said.

Ruggieri is now the 13th bishop of the Diocese of Portland, which includes all of Maine. He replaced Bishop Robert Deeley, 77, who is planning to stay in the diocese to assist as bishop emeritus.

“My joy would be complete if Bishop Deeley would grow a beard and become a Capuchin,” O’Malley said during his sermon, to laughter.

The cardinal served from 1992 to 2002 as bishop of Fall River, which is only about 16 miles from Providence, which is known for its Italian restaurants.

“The new bishop is from Providence. I could see Providence from my house on Highland Avenue in Fall River. And I was an occasional pilgrim to Federal Hill. After all, the shortest book in the world is the Irish cookbook, so ...” O’Malley said, to laughter.

Then he made a pun using Ruggieri’s previous home city, calling his appointment as bishop “an act of God’s providence.”

Cardinal Sean O’Malley presides over Bishop James Ruggieri’s ordination Mass in Portland, Maine, on May 7, 2024. Credit: McKenney Photography
Cardinal Sean O’Malley presides over Bishop James Ruggieri’s ordination Mass in Portland, Maine, on May 7, 2024. Credit: McKenney Photography

“God’s loving providence is giving us the new Catholic bishop here, in this local Church of Portland. In that sense, he’s not just a priest of Providence, but he is a providential bishop, a gift of God’s loving care for us. And we receive him with joy and with thanksgiving,” O’Malley said.

Ruggieri spoke for about eight minutes near the end of the ordination Mass but spent most of that time thanking people, including his brothers and his elderly mother, who attended.

Bishop James Ruggieri speaks to parishioners during his ordination Mass in Portland, Maine, on May 7, 2024. Credit: McKenney Photography
Bishop James Ruggieri speaks to parishioners during his ordination Mass in Portland, Maine, on May 7, 2024. Credit: McKenney Photography

He told one story, taken from Bishop Robert Mulvee (1930–2018), who served during the 1990s and 2000s as bishop of Providence, about an encounter Mulvee had with Mother Teresa (now St. Teresa of Calcutta).

“And he said Mother Teresa — as only Mother Teresa could unabashedly do — got kind of right in his face — in a loving way, of course. And she said to him, ‘Bishop: Don’t get in God’s way,’” Ruggieri said. “I take those words to heart today.”

Bishop James Ruggieri during his ordination Mass in Portland, Maine, on May 7, 2024. Credit: McKenney Photography
Bishop James Ruggieri during his ordination Mass in Portland, Maine, on May 7, 2024. Credit: McKenney Photography

This story was first published by the National Catholic Register, CNA’s sister news partner, and is reprinted here on CNA with permission.

South Carolina to ban sex-change treatments on minors

The South Carolina State House passed a bill banning transgender procedures on minors on May 19, 2024. / Credit: Public Domain

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 10, 2024 / 13:45 pm (CNA).

The majority-Republican South Carolina General Assembly has passed a bill to ban sex-change surgeries and treatments on minors. 

Titled the “Help Not Harm” bill, the measure prohibits health providers from performing sex-change surgeries or hormonal treatments on minors and bans public funding of transgender procedures through Medicaid and other government health plans.

The bill also bars public school officials from withholding information from parents regarding their children’s perception of their gender. 

The measure received final approval in a 67-26 vote by the South Carolina House on Thursday. This comes after the law was passed by the Senate with additional amendments in an overwhelming 27-8 vote on May 2. 

It is set to take effect immediately upon being signed by Gov. Henry McMaster, who has previously signaled his support. 

The bill states that “a physician, mental health provider, or other health care professional shall not knowingly provide gender transition procedures to a person under 18 years of age.” 

Providers violating this law by performing sex-change surgeries on minors are considered to have inflicted “great bodily injury upon a child” and are subject to criminal prosecution and could face up to 20 years in prison. 

The bill clarifies that health providers treating “appropriate medical services to a person for precocious puberty, prostate cancer, breast cancer, endometriosis, or other procedure unrelated to gender transition, or to a person who was born with a medically verifiable disorder of sexual development” are not subject to any penalties under this law. 

Regarding public schools, the law says that no school official may knowingly withhold information related to a minor’s belief that he or she is a member of the opposite sex nor may officials knowingly “encourage or coerce a minor” to withhold such information from his or her parents. The bill also requires school officials to “immediately” notify parents in writing if their child expresses a belief that he or she is of the opposite sex.

This comes shortly after the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes South Carolina within its jurisdiction, ruled on April 29 that state Medicaid programs and government-run insurance plans must cover transgender treatments.

It is unclear how this ruling will impact the Medicaid portion of the newly passed South Carolina law. 

South Carolina joins 24 other states that have banned or restricted sex-change procedures on minors.

House antisemitism bill raises concerns over use of Bible verses, free speech

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators occupy an encampment on the campus of UCLA on April 25, 2024, in Los Angeles. / Credit: Eric Thayer/Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 10, 2024 / 12:15 pm (CNA).

Following the passage of the Antisemitism Awareness Act by the House, critics have voiced concerns that the legislation could punish Christians for citing Scripture as well as restrict the right of students to protest Israeli military actions.

The proposed legislation would apply the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism as the standard for enforcing all federal discrimination laws related to education programs or activities, including campus protests.

That definition has drawn criticism from several Christian lawmakers since it lists among the examples of antisemitism “claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel.” Other examples of antisemitism listed, such as “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis,” also alarm free speech advocates.

Potentially implicated Bible verses 

Republican lawmakers Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Florida, and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Georgia, both Protestant Christians, have raised concerns about the impact of the measure on the use of biblical language.

Gaetz said on X that “the Gospel itself would meet the definition of antisemitism under the terms of this bill” and cited three Bible verses: Acts 4:10Acts 3:14-15, and 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16

In another post, Gaetz emphasized: “The Bible is clear in that its words plainly, textually would violate this law. That is nuts — and in deep conflict with the First Amendment.”

In Acts 3:14-15, for example, St. Peter, speaking to “you Israelites” in Jerusalem shortly after the death and resurrection of Jesus, tells them: “You killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead.”

Likewise St. Paul, in the above-cited epistle to the Thessalonians, speaks disparagingly of “the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets.”

However, the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Mike Lawler, R-New York, has directly pushed back against the notion that the bill implicates the use of Scripture, saying: “Those pushing that nonsense are truly idiotic and irrational.”

“The bill does not criminalize Christianity — I’m Catholic,” he said in a post on X. “It gives contemporary examples of potential antisemitism. Calling all Jews Christ killers is a form of antisemitism. Believing in the Gospel is not.”

What the Church teaches about these verses

In Article IV of “The Creed” in the Catechism of the Council of Trent, the Church rejects the notion that Jewish people are solely responsible for the Crucifixion, teaching that “our sins consigned Christ the Lord to the death of the cross.” 

“This guilt seems more enormous in us than in the Jews, since according to the testimony of the same Apostle: If they had known it, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory,” the text adds. 

The issue is also specifically addressed in the Second Vatican Council document Nostra Aetate. The council states that “what happened in His passion cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today.” Rather, it adds, “the Jewish authorities and those who followed their lead pressed for the death of Christ.” 

“Although the Church is the new people of God, the Jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God,” the document adds.

Stephen Hildebrand, a professor of theology at Franciscan University, told CNA that the crux of the matter is that “we don’t hold a whole people responsible for the actions of some of them.”

“To attribute guilt to a whole people on the basis of the actions of a few of them is profoundly unfair and against all sense and reason and … against the teaching of the Catholic Church,” Hildebrand said. 

Additional free speech concerns

The legislation, which passed the House of Representatives 320-91, has yet to be considered by the Senate. In the House, the measure received broad bipartisan support, with only 91 members (70 Democrats and 21 Republicans) opposed.

“I’m proud to support this important legislation that will protect our brave Jewish students who are watching their campuses be taken over by unsanctioned mobs of antisemites by requiring the Department of Education to use the IHRA definition of antisemitism when enforcing antidiscrimination laws,” said Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-New York, who is also Catholic.

Meanwhile, the civil libertarian Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression has argued that the legislation’s definition of antisemitism is “vague, overbroad, and includes criticism of Israeli government policy,” and that it would stifle speech that is protected under the First Amendment.

The American Civil Liberties Union has expressed similar concerns, saying the bill “threatens to censor political speech critical of Israel on college campuses.”

This article was updated on May 13, 2024.

Washington state asks court to force Seattle Archdiocese to comply with abuse inquiry

St. James Cathedral in Seattle. / Credit: DarrylBrooks/Shutterstock

CNA Staff, May 10, 2024 / 11:30 am (CNA).

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson this week announced legal action against the Archdiocese of Seattle over what the prosecutor said was a refusal to cooperate with the state’s ongoing investigation into an alleged cover-up of clergy abuse there. 

Ferguson’s office said in a Thursday press release and at an accompanying press conference that it was “initiating legal action against the Seattle Archdiocese” over the archdiocese’s alleged refusal “to comply with Ferguson’s investigation into whether the three Washington dioceses of the Catholic Church used charitable funds to cover up allegations of child sex abuse by clergy.”

The attorney general’s office said that pursuant to that investigation it had sent subpoenas to Washington’s three Catholic bishoprics — the Seattle Archdiocese as well as the Dioceses of Spokane and Yakima — but that the Seattle Archdiocese “refused to cooperate.”

Ferguson subsequently filed a petition in King County Superior Court demanding that the attorney general’s office be allowed to “enforce its investigative subpoena” and that the court “require the archdiocese to respond in full.”

“Washingtonians deserve a public accounting of how the Catholic Church handles allegations of child sex abuse, and whether charitable dollars were used to cover it up,” Ferguson said this week.

“As a Catholic, I am disappointed the Church refuses to cooperate with our investigation. Our goal is to use every tool we have to reveal the truth and give a voice to survivors.”

In a response to the announcement, the Archdiocese of Seattle in a Thursday statement said that it disagreed with the attorney general’s characterization of the dispute.

The archdiocese “welcomes this investigation because we have a shared goal of abuse prevention, healing for victims and transparency,” the statement said.

“We have been collaborating with the attorney general’s legal team on the shared legal analysis, which is common for investigations like this,” the archdiocese said.

The attorney general’s Thursday press conference “was a surprise to us since we welcome the investigation and have been working closely with the attorney general’s team for months now.”

“The attorney general’s claim that we have not ‘shared a single document that is not public’ is not how we see it,” the archdiocese continued. 

The statement said that earlier this week the archdiocese “offered to submit a series of private deposition documents” but that Ferguson’s office was “not interested in these private documents.”

The archdiocese also disputed an allegation made at the press conference that the archdiocese is not meeting abuse victims “face-to-face.”

“[E]ach victim is offered pastoral care, which includes an invitation for a face-to-face meeting with the archbishop and victim assistance coordinator, among other options to facilitate healing,” the statement said. 

The archdiocese said it “share[s] the common goal to prevent abuse and provide a path for healing for victims and their families.”

The Seattle Archdiocese is currently led by Archbishop Paul Etienne, who has served there since 2019.