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‘This is about freedom’: EWTN Poland’s director thanks Catholics for helping to unblock YouTube channel

The perpetual adoration chapel in Niepokalanów, Poland. / EWTN Poland.

CNA Staff, Apr 21, 2021 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Employees of EWTN Poland were preparing for the Feast of Divine Mercy when they noticed a glitch in their YouTube channel, which brings live perpetual adoration to thousands of people around the world.

Viewers connecting to the live feed saw a black rectangle over an image of the adoration chapel in Niepokalanów, 25 miles west of the capital, Warsaw. The rectangle contained the message: “A recording of this broadcast is not available.”

/ EWTN Poland
/ EWTN Poland

Since 2018, EWTN Poland -- the Polish branch of the global Catholic media network founded by Mother Angelica -- has offered 24/7 adoration from the chapel in the basilica of a friary founded by St. Maximilian Kolbe, who volunteered to die in place of another captive at the Auschwitz death camp.

Fr. Piotr Wiśniowski, director of EWTN Poland, received a message from YouTube explaining that it had blocked the channel because of a breach of its community guidelines and that it would be unavailable for seven days.

But when he attempted to contact the online video platform for an explanation, he found it hard to get through to a real person.

“YouTube blocked the whole channel, including the adoration broadcast from Niepokalanów, where St. Maximilian Kolbe lived and worked. We have been broadcasting adoration for over two years and it has many viewers around the world,” he said.

“It’s the biggest online chapel of adoration in the world, over a thousand people who adore the Lord Jesus non-stop, millions of views in Europe, North and South America. Clearly, people felt affected. It turns out that Christians today need such an online community. The blockade caused an international protest whose scope was very wide.”

As the outcry over the blocking of the channel grew, employees at Google, YouTube’s parent company, reached out to Wiśniowski. It appeared that an automated system had flagged EWTN Poland’s channel for a possible breach of copyright.

“Our channel is focused on adoration and prayer,” the priest said. “There are also our journalistic programs and American EWTN programs with Polish translation. Transmissions of the Holy Mass and adoration constitute an important element. Everything is legal and we have rights to everything we broadcast.”

EWTN Poland was able to show that it had a license covering all copyrighted material on the channel. YouTube then restored the channel in time for Divine Mercy Sunday.

Writing on its Twitter account on April 10, EWTN Poland said: “We are happy to announce that DIALOGUE with the YouTube team has restored the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament from Niepokalanów to its place! A big thank you to all those who supported us by passing on and commenting on our case and for prayers.”

 / EWTN Poland.
/ EWTN Poland.

Wiśniowski commented: “The united voice of the Polish and foreign Catholic media caused Google to contact me personally. When people started talking to each other, the dialogue brought a solution.”

He added: “You know, I am a Catholic priest. That is, I am here to build reconciliation and peace by preaching Christ. So first of all, thank you for the opportunity for dialogue, for the conversation with one of the Google directors.”

But the EWTN Poland director said that he felt the incident -- which generated substantial media attention in Poland -- required further clarification.

He said: “Large companies should not simply block or delete accounts. This is not even about religion or Catholics, although we can talk a lot about how we are treated. This is about freedom, which is one of the basic values of all human beings. Without it, we enter a world of enslavement, which is how totalitarianism is born. We should all remember this.”

Coptic Orthodox Christian executed by ISIS affiliates in Egypt

The national flag of Egypt. / kb-photodesign via Shutterstock

Rome Newsroom, Apr 21, 2021 / 05:00 am (CNA).

A Coptic Orthodox Christian was killed by ISIS affiliates in Egypt earlier this week, five months after being kidnapped.

In a video, 62-year-old Nabil Habashy Salama can be seen being killed by a gunshot as he was kneeling in the Egyptian desert April 18.

Habashy’s son, Peter Salama, released a message after the execution saying that ISIS militants “in their efforts to have him abandon the faith, they humiliated my father, and broke all his teeth to torture him. Yet, through all this, he held on, and we are so joyful for him.”

“The ISIS militants used to contact me during the time when my father was kidnapped, and, though I knew he said this under pressure, he would say ‘All is fine, thank God,’” the son said.

Egyptian security forces have captured and killed three of the militants responsible for Habashy’s death.

Habashy was abducted in front of his home in Bir-al-Abd in North Sinai in November 2020. A businessman, he owned a jewelry, mobile phone, and clothing store, and was active in the Christian community.

He used his financial resources to help build the city’s church, St. Mary.

Sarah Bassil, communications manager for human rights organization In Defense of Christians (IDC), told EWTN News that Habashy was “a very active parishioner of the church there, and actually he helped build one of the only churches in the area, so his loss is truly felt by the community.”

Salama said that his father “poured his heart and soul into this church, and always said, ‘Do not think that I am building this church for here; I am building for myself a home in heaven.’”

In a statement, the Coptic Orthodox Church called Habashy “a faithful son and servant” who “adhered to his religion until death.”

Bassil said that the Copts of Egypt, the largest Christian community in the Arab world, continue to be denied many legal rights as they face increasing physical violence.

“Unfortunately this is the reality for the Coptic community in Egypt and IDC grows more and more worried about the situation,” she said.

Holy Week begins on Sunday for Orthodox Christian communities, which will celebrate Easter on May 2.

In 2017, two Coptic Orthodox churches in northern Egypt were bombed by ISIS militants during their Palm Sunday services. The attacks killed at least 44 people and injured more than 100.

Pope Francis at the general audience: ‘We can all learn from the perseverance of the Russian pilgrim’

Pope Francis gives a general audience address in the library of the Apostolic Palace. / Vatican Media.

CNA Staff, Apr 21, 2021 / 03:20 am (CNA).

Pope Francis encouraged Catholics on Wednesday to read a 19th-century Russian spiritual classic.

Speaking at his general audience on April 21, the pope said that everyone could benefit from reading “The Way of a Pilgrim,” the story of an unnamed pilgrim who travels across Russia seeking to discover the secret of constant prayer.

He said: “We all have something to learn from the perseverance of the Russian pilgrim, mentioned in a famous work on spirituality, who learned the art of prayer by repeating the same invocation over and over again: ‘Jesus Christ, Son of God, Lord, have mercy on us, sinners!’ He repeated only this…”

“If graces arrive in our life, if prayer becomes so warm one day that the presence of the Kingdom were perceived here among us, if that vision could be transformed until it became like that of a child, it would be because we have insisted on reciting a simple Christian exclamation. In the end, it becomes part of our breathing.”

He added: “It is beautiful, the story of the Russian pilgrim: it is a book that is accessible to all. I recommend you read it; it will help you to understand what vocal prayer is.”

The pope gave his address, dedicated to vocal prayer, in the library of the Apostolic Palace due to coronavirus restrictions.

The speech was the 30th reflection in his cycle of catechesis on prayer, which he launched in May and resumed in October following nine addresses on healing the world after the pandemic.

Pope Francis meditated on the role of words in prayer.

“We create words, but they are also our mothers, and to some extent they shape us. The words of a prayer get us safely through a dark valley, direct us towards green meadows rich in water, and enable us to feast in front of the eyes of an enemy, as the Psalm teaches us,” he said, referring to the celebrated Psalm 23.

He noted that words both spring from feelings and can help to shape them.

He said: “This is why Sacred Scripture teaches us to pray, sometimes even with bold words. The sacred writers do not want to deceive us about the human person: they know that our hearts harbor also unedifying feelings, even hatred.”

“None of us are born holy, and when these negative feelings come knocking at the door of our hearts, we must be capable of defusing them with prayer and God’s words.”

The pope said that reciting prayers out loud is a sure way of praying because it is not dependent on our feelings.

“Although we are all aware that praying does not mean repeating words, vocal prayer is nevertheless the surest, and can always be practiced,” he said.

“Feelings, on the other hand, however noble, are always uncertain: they come and go, they leave us and return.”

He contrasted what he called “the prayer of the lips” with the “prayer of the heart.”

“The prayer of the heart is mysterious, and at certain times it is lacking,” he explained. “Instead, the prayer of the lips, that which is whispered or recited chorally, is always accessible, and is as necessary as manual labor.”

He continued: “We should all have the humility of certain elderly people who, in church, perhaps because their hearing is no longer acute, recite quietly the prayers they learned as children, filling the nave with whispers. That prayer does not disturb the silence, but testifies to their fidelity to the duty of prayer, practiced throughout their lives without fail.”

“These practitioners of humble prayer are often the great intercessors in parishes: they are the oaks that from year to year spread their branches to offer shade to the greatest number of people.”

“Only God knows when and how much their hearts have been united to those prayers they recited: surely these people too had to face nights and empty moments. But one can always remain faithful to vocal prayer. It is like an anchor: one can hold on to the rope and remain, faithful, come what may.”

Concluding his address, he urged Catholics not to overlook vocal prayer.

He said: “One might say, ‘Ah, this is for children, for ignorant folk; I am seeking mental prayer, meditation, the inner void so that God might come to me…’ Please! Do not succumb to the pride of scorning vocal prayer.”

Connecticut legislature considers ending religious exemptions for vaccines


CNA Staff, Apr 20, 2021 / 20:41 pm (CNA).

The Connecticut House of Representatives has advanced a bill to end the religious exemption from childhood vaccine requirements, beginning in 2022.


The bill to end the religious exemption for childhood vaccines advanced by a bipartisan vote of 90-53. It has the support of Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont but still needs to pass the state Senate.


Connecticut’s Catholic bishops took no position on a similar bill in 2020, but stressed the importance of vaccines, the need for sound public health policy, and the need to scrutinize any attempt to remove religious exemptions.


About 7,600 K-12 students now have religious exemptions from the state’s vaccination requirements. The bill was amended to ensure it would not apply to any of the several thousand K-12 students with a current religious exemption. Some critics have questioned what would happen to the 683 children in pre-K and daycare who currently have exemptions.


There has been an increase in the number of requests for religious exemption from childhood vaccinations. In as many as 100 schools, vaccination rates have fallen below 95%. Public health officials stress the importance of high vaccination rates to protect against outbreaks.


State officials in April said an unvaccinated child from Fairfield County contracted measles on an international trip.


One backer of legislation to remove the exemption, Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, a Democrat who chairs the Public Health Committee, said “vaccine hesitancy is becoming a direct and serious threat to the public health” and demands a “proactive approach.”


Steinberg said “efforts by health care professionals and educators to educate families about vaccines have been unable to compete with fear instilled by the disinformation net,” NBC Connecticut reports.


Commenting on a similar bill in January 2020, before the coronavirus epidemic arrived in the United States, the Catholic bishops of Connecticut recognized conscientious objection to “certain vaccines that use human fetal cell lines,” but said “the use of such vaccines is not immoral according to Church guidance. That is, there is no religious teaching against the use of these vaccines for Catholics.”


They referred to the Pontifical Academy for Life’s guidance on public health, vaccinations, and alternatives. At the same time, the bishops stressed the Connecticut Catholic Conference’s stand as “a defender of religious liberty for all.”


“In general, the conference maintains that all religious exemptions should be jealously guarded. Any repeal of a religious exemption should be rooted in legitimate, grave public health concerns. The existence of a health risk in the state of Connecticut is a question of fact beyond our expertise at this time,” their January 2020 statement said.


CNA sought comment from the Connecticut Catholic Conference but did not receive a response by deadline.


Some 45 states have a religious exemption for childhood vaccination requirements. New York, California, Maine, Mississippi and West Virginia have eliminated the exemption. Court challenges to the exemption in five other states have failed.


Democratic Rep. Jaime Foster, a backer of the Connecticut bill now under consideration, said disease outbreaks have consequences. A 2018 measles outbreak in New York had financial consequences of $8.4 million, while the median cost of a measles outbreak is $32,000 per case, Foster said.


House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora said the law could be challenged in court because the state constitution guarantees the right to a public education. According to Candelora, lawmakers report hearing from parents who face difficulty securing a medical exemption that they are forced to seek a religious exemption. 


He objected that the bill is “totally silent” on what to do with students and parents who cannot comply with mandatory vaccination.


“There are individuals in our caucus who want to protect those children from being thrown out, but it doesn’t fundamentally address the questions of what we do going forward as a state and how the children who are unable to have public education, how that education is provided to them.”


Opponents of the bill testified that it could divide families or force families who cannot afford it to homeschool. Some parents said they would be forced to keep children home because they do not believe they should be vaccinated.


While backers of the bill said exemptions put at risk children with compromised immune systems who cannot get a vaccine, Rep. Doug Dubitsky, a Republican, said students have little choice in the matter of their religion.


“So throwing those children out of school, it’s not based on their choice, it’s based on the choice of the people in this chamber, people who should know better,” he said, the Associated Press reports.


The debate comes after more than a year of the new coronavirus epidemic, which has killed hundreds of thousands and hospitalized many more. The roll-out of vaccines against the COVID-19 virus is hoped to mark a permanent decline in new coronavirus infections.


A March 4 letter from the Connecticut Catholic Conference, signed by the state’s leading Catholic bishops, said “people should feel free in good conscience to receive any of the vaccines currently available for the sake of their own health and the common good, which requires the prompt vaccination of as many people as possible.”


The bishops cited the guidance of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and of the Holy See.


“At the same time, the Church continues to advocate for the creation of vaccines that do not rely on cell lines derived, even remotely, from abortion,” Connecticut’s bishops said.


The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops last month echoed the Vatican in stating that it is “morally acceptable” to receive COVID-19 vaccines produced using cell lines from aborted fetuses when no alternative is available, but if possible, Catholics ought to choose a vaccine with a more remote connection to abortion.


The mRNA vaccines available from Pfizer and Moderna have an extremely remote connection to abortion in the testing phase, leading ethicists to judge those vaccines “ethically uncontroversial,” the USCCB said.


The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published a note in December 2020 explaining that “the use of such vaccines does not constitute formal cooperation with the abortion from which the cells used in production of the vaccines derive,” while also urging pharmaceutical companies and governmental health agencies to “produce, approve, distribute and offer ethically acceptable vaccines that do not create problems of conscience for either health care providers or the people to be vaccinated.”

Who will be the next Bishop of Hong Kong?

The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Hong Kong. Credit: Volodymyr Dvornyk/Shutterstock

Hong Kong, China, Apr 20, 2021 / 19:01 pm (CNA).

Catholics in Hong Kong are reeling after several pro-democracy figures were sentenced last week to prison terms for their peaceful resistance to the Chinese Communist Party and its efforts to crack down on Hong Kongers’ freedom. 

In the wake of the sentences, one observer said this week that this would be an ideal time for Pope Francis to appoint Hong Kong auxiliary Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing, who has publicly supported the island’s pro-democracy movement, as bishop of the diocese. 

“Bishop Ha, a Franciscan, is widely loved and respected in Hong Kong as a pastoral leader who cares for his flock, and a shepherd who combines wisdom and courage, to stand true to his values as a religious leader without being a firebrand,” Benedict Rogers, co-founder and chair of the monitoring group Hong Kong Watch, wrote in an April 18 op-ed at UCA News

“If I were in the Vatican, this would be precisely the moment to promote Bishop Ha. To appoint as bishop of Hong Kong someone who is courageous but not reckless, who has the trust of his flock but has proven in the past two years his ability to lie low if required, would be exactly the right exertion of ecclesial and papal authority required. Whether the Vatican will have that courage remains to be seen.”

Hong Kong has been without a permanent bishop since the death of Bishop Michael Yeung Ming-cheung in January 2019. John Cardinal Tong Hon, who retired as Bishop of Hong Kong in 2017, has served as the diocese’ apostolic administrator since then. 

In 2019, CNA learned that the Vatican had resolved to appoint Bishop Ha to lead the diocese. 

While the appointment was being processed, however, Bishop Ha was publicly seen at the front of pro-democracy demonstrations against an extradition law, and his nomination was reversed before a public announcement could be made.

During January 2020, CNA reported that the Vatican had selected Fr. Peter Choy Wai-man, a vicar general of the diocese, as Hong Kong’s new bishop but had decided to delay the announcement of Fr. Choy’s appointment indefinitely. Some in the diocese have voiced concerns about Fr. Choy’s closeness to state authorities. 

The Vatican has not announced any current candidates for the position. 

Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China. Hong Kongers have historically enjoyed freedom of worship and evangelization, while in mainland China, by contrast, there is a long history of persecution for Christians who run afoul of the government.

With the 2020 passage of new “national security laws,” the Chinese government seized more power to suppress pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, which it sees as a direct challenge to its power.

Hong Kong’s National Security Law is broad in its definitions of terrorism, sedition, and foreign collusion. Under the law, a person who is convicted of the aforementioned crimes will receive a minimum of 10 years in prison, with the possibility of a life sentence.

On April 16, authorities in Hong Kong sentenced several Catholic pro-democracy figures, including lawyer Martin Lee and media tycoon Jimmy Lai, to prison sentences under the new security law. 

Lai, whose publication Apple Daily is consistently critical of the government, was given a 12-month sentence, while Lee— the founder of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy party– was given an 11-month suspended sentence. Both are significantly below the maximum sentences they could have faced under the security law. 

Joseph Cardinal Zen Ze-kiun, SDB, who led the Diocese of Hong Kong from 2002-2009 and is a critic of the Vatican’s relationship to the Chinese government, has several times signaled his support for Bishop Ha. 

Cardinal Zen tweeted Rogers’ op-ed April 19, urging that people write to Luis Cardinal Tagle, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, presumably to urge the appointment of Bishop Ha.

The cardinal referred to Rogers’ statement that “where China is concerned, the Vatican prefers to play politics and diplomacy rather than exercise its moral leadership,” and mentioned an interview given by Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States at the Secretariat of State.

Archbishop Gallagher had last month told The Standard, a Hong Kong daily held to be politically pro-Beijing, that “I don’t think that ‘grandstanding’ statements” from the Vatican on democracy in Hong Kong “can be terribly effective.”

“I think you have to ask what effect [a statement] is going to have? Is it going to produce a positive change, or does it make the situation more complicated for the local church and for relations with the Holy See? At the moment, we feel that’s the right approach,” he stated.

In 2018, the Vatican reached an agreement with the Chinese government on the appointment of bishops. The terms of the agreement, which was renewed in October 2020 for two more years, have never been publicly revealed.

The agreement was undertaken to help unite the state-run Church and the underground Church. An estimated 6 million Catholics are registered with the Chinese Communist Party, while several million are estimated to belong to unregistered Catholic communities which have remained loyal to the Holy See.

According to new rules set to take effect on May 1, 2021, the state-run Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association will be responsible for selecting episcopal candidates. The candidates will then be “approved and consecrated by the Chinese Catholic Bishops’ Conference.” The rules reportedly do not mention any role of the Vatican in approving bishops.

According to Cardinal Zen, Christians in China have continued to be persecuted and harassed by authorities, “despite the agreement.”

Tennessee House passes bill requiring burial or cremation for aborted babies

Credit: Eleonora_os/Shutterstock.

CNA Staff, Apr 20, 2021 / 18:46 pm (CNA).

The Tennessee House of Representatives advanced a bill this week that would require medical providers to bury or cremate the bodies of aborted babies.

The bill passed through the House on Monday. It is scheduled for a vote at the state’s Senate on Wednesday. 

Lawmakers and pro-life supporters say the bill would help preserve human dignity.

“It’s not fetal tissue, it’s dismembered children,” said Rep. Robin Smith, according to AP News. 

If passed, HB 1181 would require medical providers to either bury or cremate the remains of a baby who has been aborted. According to the Memphis Flyer, the bill’s House sponsor Rep. Tim Rudd (R) stated that the average burial will cost about $150 and cremation services will cost $350. 

Under the measure, pregnant women would have the right to choose either form of burial as well as select the location, but may choose not to exercise that right. If a woman requests an alternative burial method, she would be required to cover the costs herself. 

Rudd said that while no state funds have been set aside for these costs, many funeral homes and charities have offered to cover these services free of charge. 

Rep. London Lamar (D), who opposes the bill, called it “one of the most offensive pieces of legislation I’ve heard this year,” according to the Memphis Flyer. 

“You are forcing women who have potentially been raped and forcing them to bury or cremate that,” Lamar said.

However, Rudd argued that the bill does “not restrict abortion or have anything to do with abortion; this is post-abortion,” the Memphis Flyer reported.

“The way this is now handled — with the [remains] either thrown in the trash or flushed in the toilet — it is appalling,” said Rudd. “Pets and farms animals are treated with more dignity [in state law] but there’s nothing about the dignity of an unborn child.”

The Tennessee Right to Life group has expressed support for the measure. 

“Pro-abortion activists will oppose this legislation on the false pretense that it creates an obstacle for women, but in fact, their opposition comes from the refusal to acknowledge the humanity of the unborn child and to thereby treat their bodies with dignity and respect,” the group said in a statement. 

In 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld part of a similar Indiana law requiring aborted babies to be cremated or buried. 

In an unsigned three-page opinion, the Supreme Court cited a previous decision that states have a “legitimate interest in proper disposal of fetal remains.”

Biden administration appeals to keep transgender mandate in place

Transgender flag / flag ink Drop/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Apr 20, 2021 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

The Biden administration is appealing to keep in place a mandate that doctors and hospitals provide gender-transition surgeries, regardless of their conscientious beliefs.

On Tuesday, the legal group Becket – which represents Catholic doctors and hospitals in their case against the “transgender mandate” – reported that the administration had filed an appeal to keep the mandate in place.

#BREAKING: The Biden Admin just filed an appeal seeking to force religious doctors and hospitals to perform potentially harmful gender-transition procedures against their conscience and professional medical judgment,” stated Luke Goodrich, VP and senior counsel at Becket, on Twitter on Tuesday.

The Obama administration in 2016 first issued the mandate, interpreting a nondiscrimination provision in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to require doctors and hospitals to provide gender-transition surgeries upon the referral of a mental health professional.

The mandate did not include exemptions for religion and conscience, thus applying even to doctors and hospitals with conscientious or even medical opposition to performing gender-transition surgeries.

As almost all doctors receive Medicare and Medicaid funds, the mandate as attached to federal funding would apply almost universally, Becket argued.

“The Biden Admin says it can punish doctors and hospitals for ‘sex discrimination’ unless they perform controversial gender-transition procedures,” Goodrich tweeted on Tuesday.

More than 19,000 healthcare professionals, nine states, and several religious organizations filed two lawsuits against the mandate; in December 2016, two federal courts placed an injunction on the mandate.

Two more federal district court judges ruled against the mandate in 2019 and 2021. In January, a judge in North Dakota granted permanent injunctive relief to Catholic doctors, hospitals, clinics, and benefits groups that sued over the mandate.

On Tuesday, the Biden administration appealed that ruling, asking that the mandate stay in effect. “This is bad for patients, doctors, and religious liberty,” Goodrich said.

Goodrich added that “we look forward to another ruling that protects patients, aligns with current medical research, and ensures doctors aren’t forced to violate their religious beliefs and professional medical judgment.”

In another ongoing case against the mandate, the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on April 15 sent the case back to a lower court, instructing that the district court decide whether the mandate could be permanently stopped. The North Texas district court had previously granted relief to plaintiffs against the mandate; the Fifth Circuit noted new developments in the matter, including President Biden's executive order redefining "sex" in federal civil rights law to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

Becket represents a coalition of doctors and hospitals – including Catholic doctors, hospitals, and benefits groups – opposed to the mandate.

“The plaintiffs are religious doctors, hospitals, and clinics who joyfully serve ALL patients regardless of sex or gender identity,” Goodrich said. “They also provide millions of dollars in free and low-cost care to the elderly, poor, and underserved--care that is jeopardized by the government’s attempt to punish them with multi-million dollar penalties.”

Section 1557 of the ACA prohibits discrimination in health care on the basis of sex; the Obama administration interpreted that to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, and pregnancy – thus forbidding the denial of abortions and gender-transitioning procedures in health care.

The Trump administration did establish conscience protections for doctors opposed to the mandate in 2020, but a federal court placed an injunction on that rule.

This article was updated on April 21.

Humanist group strips Richard Dawkins of award for questioning gender theory


Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Apr 20, 2021 / 17:19 pm (CNA).

The American Humanist Association on Monday withdrew an award from Richard Dawkins for his position against gender theory.

“Richard Dawkins is no longer deserving of being honored by the AHA” an April 19 statement from the American Humanist Association read. The statement noted that Dawkins had won the award in 1996. 

“Dawkins has over the past several years accumulated a history of making statements that use the guise of scientific discourse to demean marginalized groups, an approach antithetical to humanist values,” the statement said. “His latest statement implies that the identities of transgender individuals are fraudulent, while also simultaneously attacking Black identity as one that can be assumed when convenient. His subsequent attempts at clarification are inadequate and convey neither sensitivity nor sincerity.”

The AHA told CNA that its denouncement of Dawkins was because of a tweet in which he compared those with gender dysphoria to Rachel Dolezal, a white woman who posed as a black woman for years. 

“In 2015, Rachel Dolezal, a white chapter president of NAACP, was vilified for identifying as Black. Some men choose to identify as women, and some women choose to identify as men. You will be vilified if you deny that they literally are what they identify as. Discuss” the tweet read.

Responding to the incident, Richard Budd, Director of Marriage & Family for the Diocese of Lansing told CNA, "In recent months there have been an increasing number of voices, many from unexpected quarters, who are expressing serious misgivings about the 'transgender' lobby's approach to those with gender dysphoria, especially as it affects young people, and also to the wider proposition that our gender is but a social construct, a proposition that more and more people, upon scrutiny, are finding difficult to square with reason and science."

Budd affirmed the inseparability of body and soul as the basis of human nature. 

“As Pope Saint John Paul II said in his encyclical Veritatis splendor, only in reference to the human person in his ‘unified totality,’ that is, as ‘a soul which expresses itself in a body and a body informed by an immortal spirit,’ can the specifically human meaning of the body be grasped.”


"I think we are ever more realizing the great wisdom of Pope John Paul's prophetic maxim that we should never accept truth without love nor love without truth as one without the other becomes a destructive lie,” Budd said.

Minneapolis archbishop calls for healing after Derek Chauvin verdict

People in Minneapolis react after the verdict was read in the Derek Chauvin trial on April 20, 2021. / Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

CNA Staff, Apr 20, 2021 / 17:01 pm (CNA).

Archbishop Bernard Hebda of Minneapolis called for peace, reconciliation, and a greater respect for human life after former police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of the 2020 murder of George Floyd.

In a statement shortly after the verdict was released, Hebda called it a “sobering moment for our community.”

“The decision by a jury of peers punctuates the grief that has gripped the Twin Cities in these last months and underscores the soul-searching that has taken place in homes, parishes, and workplaces across the country as we together confront the chasm that exists between the brokenness of our world and the harmony and fraternity that our Creator intends for all his children,” he said.

The archbishop pointed to the crucified and risen Christ as the example of “the healing power of forgiveness, compassion, reconciliation, and peace.”

“It is our shared brotherhood with Jesus that calls us to a deeper respect for all human life,” he said. “We ask him to bring healing into our communities, comfort to the family of George Floyd and all who mourn, and satisfaction to those who thirst for justice.”

A jury on April 20 determined that Chauvin was guilty on three charges of unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. Chauvin's trial began on March 8.

On May 25, 2020, Chauvin restrained Floyd, a 46 year-old Black man, during an arrest for using a counterfeit $20 bill.

Video footage from bystanders showed Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes as Floyd audibly gasped, moaned, and complained he could not breathe. Towards the end of the video, Floyd appeared unconscious. After an ambulance arrived and transported Floyd to a nearby hospital, he was pronounced dead.

Chauvin was arrested on May 29 and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. Prosecutors later upgraded the charges to second-degree unintentional murder. The four officers who were involved in the attempted arrest, including Chauvin, were fired by the Minneapolis Police Department.

After Floyd's death, widespread protests, rallies, and riots ensued throughout the country and the world highlighting police brutality and racism.

In his statement, Hebda offered his hope that the “many reminders of the Lord’s loving closeness even in challenging times [may] inspire us to treat each other with unfailing respect, to work non-violently for the common good and to be instruments of reconciliation.”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops also responded to the verdict.

Bishop Shelton Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, chairman of the bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, and Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, released an April 20 statement noting that God is the source of both justice and mercy.

“The death of George Floyd highlighted and amplified the deep need to see the sacredness in all people, but especially those who have been historically oppressed. Whatever the stage of human life, it not only matters, it is sacred,” they said.

“The events following George Floyd's death also highlighted the urgent need for racial healing and reconciliation,” they added. “As we have seen so plainly this past year, social injustices still exist in our country, and the nation remains deeply divided on how to right those wrongs.”

The bishops prayed that the country may find healing from the wounds caused by racism.

“Let us pray that through the revelation of so much pain and sadness, that God strengthens us to cleanse our land of the evil of racism which also manifests in ways that are hardly ever spoken, ways that never reach the headlines,” they said.

“Let us then join in the hard work of peacefully rebuilding what hatred and frustration has torn down. This is the true call of a disciple and the real work of restorative justice.”

Minnesota bishops call for prayer and civility before jury finds Derek Chauvin guilty


Washington D.C., Apr 20, 2021 / 15:40 pm (CNA).

Minnesota bishops called for prayer and civility shortly before a jury on Tuesday found former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of second-degree unintentional murder and manslaughter charges in the killing of George Floyd.

After deliberating on Monday evening and Tuesday, the jury determined that Chauvin was guilty on three charges of unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. Chauvin's trial began on March 8.

The state’s bishops released a statement on Tuesday afternoon before the verdict was announced, asking for civility, prayer, and justice, and calling for an end to racism.

“The Catholic Church in Minnesota invites all people of faith to come together to speak with one another in a civil and charitable manner. Let us pray with one another and for one another,” read a statement by Archbishop Bernard Hebda of St. Paul-Minneapolis and the bishops of the five other dioceses in the state.

“Let us respect one another as children of God, created in his image. Let us collectively confess the truth and recognize that we urgently need each other now to get out of these cycles of fear and violence,” the bishops stated. “There are no victims and no oppressors in the Kingdom of God. For our children’s sake, let us embrace our true identity, without waiting another day.”

There is far too much evidence that prejudice has an impact in criminal justice matters, influencing not only the way individuals are treated by some police and court systems but also the rates of incarceration. Whatever the verdict may be in the Chauvin trial, the Church remains committed to providing long-term leadership in eradicating structures of sin and racism in Minnesota and beyond.

Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, was charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter for the death of George Floyd, a 46 year-old Black man, on May 25, 2020; Chauvin restrained Floyd and held him in custody.

Video footage from bystanders showed Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes as Floyd audibly gasped, moaned, and complained he could not breathe. Towards the end of the video, Floyd appeared unconscious. After an ambulance arrived and transported Floyd to a nearby hospital, he was pronounced dead.

Chauvin was arrested on May 29 and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. Prosecutors later upgraded the charges to second-degree unintentional murder. The four officers who were involved in the attempted arrest, including Chauvin, were eventually fired by the Minneapolis Police Department.

After Floyd's death, widespread protests, rallies, and riots ensued throughout the country and the world highlighting police brutality and racism. Pope Francis on June 3 prayed for Floyd’s soul and asked for the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe for peace and justice.

 “We cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life. At the same time, we have to recognize that the violence of recent nights is self-destructive and self-defeating. Nothing is gained by violence and so much is lost,” the pope said amid widespread protests and riots in the United States.

The state’s bishops cited the U.S. bishops’ 2018 pastoral letter on racism, as they called for Catholics to work for peace and justice.

“As the U.S. bishops noted in a 2018 pastoral letter on racism, Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love, it is a sad and undeniable truth that racial prejudice and discrimination continue to impact the lives and livelihoods of millions of U.S. citizens,” the bishops stated.

“There is far too much evidence that prejudice has an impact in criminal justice matters, influencing not only the way individuals are treated by some police and court systems but also the rates of incarceration,” they said.

Bishop Michael Fisher of Buffalo also issued a statement on Tuesday afternoon, after the jury’s verdict was announced.

“Today’s verdict of accountability in the tragic killing of George Floyd is an important step in healing the deep wounds of racial tension caused by his senseless killing,” Bishop Fisher said.

This story was updated on April 20 to include new information.