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Archive of September 30, 2011

Orthodox archbishop: we're internally divided on question of 'primacy'

Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Sep 30, 2011 (CNA) - A leading Russian Orthodox official says the Eastern Orthodox churches have yet to resolve the question of authority among themselves, a condition for future progress on the issue of the papacy.

“I would say that there are certain divergences, and there are different positions, of the Orthodox churches on the question of the primacy,” said Metropolitan Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev of Volokolamsk, head of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations, in a Vatican Radio interview following his Sept. 29 meeting with Pope Benedict XVI at Castel Gandolfo.

“As we discuss the primacy of the Bishop of Rome, within the framework of the next commission, we do not only discuss the primacy of Rome; but we have to touch the issue of the primacy in general,” noted the Orthodox metropolitan, apparently referring to future proceedings of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church.

“And here, of course, we have different traditions – not only between the Catholics and the Orthodox, because we never had such a centralized system as the Catholics have – but we also have some difference among the Orthodox, as to what should be the role of the 'first hierarch' in the Orthodox Church.” The Patriarch of Constantinople occupies that role, but his prerogatives are not fully defined.

Metropolitan Hilarion was scheduled to participate in the last session of the Catholic-Orthodox commission, held in 2007 to discuss the question of papal primacy. But an internal dispute between Constantinople and Moscow, over an Orthodox group in Estonia, prompted the Russian representative to walk out. The two churches also dispute the status of the Orthodox Church in America.

On Thursday, the metropolitan made an apparent reference to these types of difficulties between the Patriarchs of Moscow and Constantinople, saying that “if a particular Orthodox church will want to impose its own vision of this primacy on other churches, then of course we will encounter difficulties. And this is what is happening at the moment.”

Meanwhile, the world's local self-governing Orthodox churches are also attempting to organize a historic Pan-Orthodox Council, comparable to the Church councils held in the Byzantine empire during the first millennium. The new gathering has been in preparation for 50 years, as the Orthodox world seeks to determine how the Patriarch of Constantinople should exercise his authority.

“We believe that his role should be the primacy of honor, and also he is afforded some coordinating role: for example, he can convene the Pan-Orthodox Council,” said Archbishop Hilarion. “Of course, previously – in the history of the ecumenical councils – it was not the Patriarch of Constantinople, neither was it the Pope of Rome, but it was the (Byzantine) Emperor, who convened the councils.”

“So we have this model (of primacy), which is emerging in the Orthodox tradition. But generally, for centuries we had a very decentalized administration. Each autocephalous church is fully independent from other churches in its self-governance. And therefore we do not have a very clear picture as to what should be the role of the primate in the Orthodox tradition.”

“Without having this clear and unified vision, we cannot easily discuss the issue of how we see the role of the 'Primus Inter Pares' ('first among equals,' an Orthodox concept of the papacy) in the universal Church,” Metropolitan Hilarion admitted. 

The phrase “first among equals” signifies the typical Orthodox view of the Pope as having a primacy of honor but not jurisdiction. In his 2010 book “Light of the World,” Pope Benedict said the “first among equals” view of the Pope was “not exactly the formula that we believe as Catholics,” due to the Pope's “specific functions and tasks.”

Until Orthodoxy clarifies its own systems of authority, Archbishop Hilarion said, hopes for progress on the question of the papacy between Catholics and Orthodox are “probably not too high.”

“But still, there is hope, because if there is willingness to accommodate different positions and to produce a paper – or several papers, maybe – which would clearly state the differences, which would outline the way forward, then we can progress.”

The Moscow Patriarchate's ecumenical representative also expressed hesitation about a possible meeting between the Pope and the Patriarch of Moscow, which has never occurred in the centuries since Moscow's elevation to patriarchal status in 1589.

There are hopes that such a meeting could take place in 2013, on the 1,700th anniversary of Christianity's legalization by the Emperor Constantine. But Archbishop Hilarion said Catholics and Russian Orthodox believers should not jump to conclusions about when a meeting may occur between the Pope and the Patriarch of Moscow.

“We believe that such a meeting will take place at some time in the future. We are not yet ready to discuss the date, or the place, or the protocol of such a meeting – because what matters for us, primarily, is the content of this meeting.”

“As soon as we agree on the content, on the points on which we still disagree or have divergent opinions, then I believe we can have this meeting. But it requires a very careful preparation, and we should not be hurrying up, and we should not be pressed to have this meeting at a particular point of time.”

Despite his cautious attitude toward this meeting and other ecumenical matters, Metropolitan Hilarion spoke warmly of Pope Benedict XVI himself. During his recent trip to Germany, the Pope met with representatives of the Orthodox churches in the country, and spoke of a “common engagement” among Christians to ensure that “the human person is given the respect which is his due.”

“His Holiness is a man of faith and whenever I meet with him I’m encouraged by his spirit, his courage and his dedication to the life of the Church worldwide,” Metropolitan Hilarion said after his meeting with the Pope on Thursday. 

“Of course I’m very impressed by his knowledge of the Orthodox tradition and the attention he pays to the dialogue between the Catholics and the Orthodox … I believe that this attitude of the Primate of the Roman Catholic Church will greatly help us in our way towards better mutual understanding.”

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New Orleans mourns loss of Archbishop Hannan

New Orleans, La., Sep 30, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -

Retired Archbishop Philip M. Hannan of New Orleans died in the early morning hours of Sept. 29. The archbishop, age 98, is being remembered for his tireless work for the poor and for being a “wonderful soldier of Christ.”

“Archbishop Hannan will be greatly missed,” said Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond of New Orleans.
   
“He was a man of the church, a man who loved God and certainly a man who loved God's people,” he said. “He was a great shepherd for us, and he also was a true New Orleanian.”
   
Archbishop Aymond recalled the “determination” and “great love for the poor” that Archbishop Hannan displayed throughout his life.

“People knew him and recognized him as THE archbishop of New Orleans,” he said. “I think that was a testament to the love, admiration and affection that people have for him.”

Kent Bossier, Archbishop Hannan’s former caregiver, recalled the archbishop as being someone who “loved humankind” and “could walk with the kings and the common men.”

“The archbishop was a pro-life warrior his whole life,” he told CNA on Sept. 29. “He was a wonderful soldier of Christ.”

Bossier cared for Archbishop Hannan from April 2007 until June 2011, when the archbishop was moved to a nursing facility designed to provide care for seniors in the archdiocese. Archbishop Hannan had envisioned and dedicated the facility several decades earlier.

In recent months, Archbishop Hannan has suffered from health problems including a series of strokes.

Bossier visited the archbishop for three hours on the afternoon before his death. He described it as a “wonderful visit.”

The archbishop, he said, was “somewhat responsive” and “not in any distress or pain”

“He always loved everyone he met, and he never lost his touch,” Bossier said. “He was an amazing person.”

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New Orleans issued a statement recalling Archbishop Hannan’s “visionary leadership” and his creation of new ways “to provide help to those in need in the Archdiocese of New Orleans.”

Among the Catholic Charities programs founded or supported by Archbishop Hannan are food distribution services, pregnancy centers, early childhood education centers, and services for refugees and victims of domestic violence.

Born in Washington, D.C. on May 20, 1913, Archbishop Hannan was the fifth of eight children.

He studied at St. Charles College in Cantonville, Md., the Sulpician Seminary in Washington, D.C. and the North American College in Rome. He also received a master’s degree and a doctoral degree from Catholic University of America.

Archbishop Hannan was ordained a priest in Rome on Dec. 8, 1939. He served at parishes in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. and worked as the editor-in-chief of the Washington, D.C. archdiocesan newspaper, the Catholic Standard, for 14 years.

He was appointed auxiliary bishop of Washington on June 16, 1956.

At the Second Vatican Council, he addressed the council fathers on nuclear warfare and on the role of the laity.

It was while he was attending the final session of Vatican II that Pope Paul VI appointed him Archbishop of New Orleans on Sept. 29, 1965.

He served as Archbishop of New Orleans until his retirement in 1988.

Archbishop Hannan’s memoirs, “The Archbishop Wore Combat Boots,” were published in 2010. In them, he described his time as a paratroop chaplain in World War II, as well as his close friendship with President John F. Kennedy, for whom he delivered a funeral eulogy. 

Archbishop Aymond will celebrate a funeral Mass for Archbishop Hannan on Oct. 6 at 2 p.m. in New Orleans' St. Louis Cathedral.

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Notre Dame joins outcry against HHS contraception mandate

South Bend, Ind., Sep 30, 2011 (CNA) - The University of Notre Dame added to the wave of criticism leveled at the proposed Health and Human Services mandate that requires health insurance providers to cover contraception and offers a narrow exemption for religious groups.

President Father John Jenkins, C.S.C., wrote in a Sept. 28 letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that the mandate places the school in the “impossible position” of having to defy Church teaching.

The department announced federal rules on Aug. 1 that will require nearly all new health plans, including those of most religious agencies, to cover all government-approved methods of contraception as well as surgical sterilization.

The guidelines, which were created in response to the 2010 health care law, require new health insurance plans to cover what it calls “women’s preventive services.” These include breastfeeding support, domestic violence screening and contraception without charging a co-payment, co-insurance or a deductible.

The mandate “would compel Notre Dame to either pay for contraception and sterilization in violation of the church's moral teaching, or to discontinue our employee and student health care plans in violation of the church's social teaching,” Fr. Jenkins said.

Notre Dame joins 18 other Catholic universities and colleges, as well as the U.S. bishops and numerous other Catholic organizations that have reacted strongly against the proposition.

Catholics have been encouraged to oppose the measure by contacting HHS before the Sept. 30 comment deadline.

Another point of contention among Catholics is that the proposed mandate offers exemptions only if a religious employer “has the inculcation of religious values as its purpose,” “primarily employs persons who share its religious tenets,” and “primarily serves persons who share its religious tenets.”

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, chairman of the U.S. bishops' pro-life committee, said Aug. 2 that although the measure “gives the agency the discretion to authorize a ‘religious’ exemption, it is so narrow as to exclude most Catholic social service agencies and healthcare providers.”

Fr. Jenkins noted in his letter that the mandate goes against the U.S.'s “history of federal conscience statutes that have been in effect to protect individuals and organizations like ours.”

Religious groups, he added, should not be required “to participate in, pay for, or provide coverage for certain services that are contrary to our religious beliefs or moral convictions.”

Fr. Jenkins urged Sebelius to broaden the scope of the exemption for religious employers and honor the U.S.'s tradition of “profound respect for the rights of conscience.” 

The proposed rules are set to take effect in August 2012. Calls to HHS were not returned in time for publication.

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Pope praying for terminally ill in October

Vatican City, Sep 30, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI is offered his prayers in October for those who are terminally ill and for the success of World Mission Day, which will be held Oct. 23.

The Pope's general prayer intention for October is: “That the terminally ill may be supported by their faith in God and the love of their brothers and sisters.”

His mission intention is: “That the celebration of World Mission Day may foster in the People of God a passion for evangelization with the willingness to support the missions with prayer and economic aid for the poorest Churches.”

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Spanish political party seeks to revise abortion law

Madrid, Spain, Sep 30, 2011 (CNA/Europa Press) - The spokesperson for the congressional caucus of the People’s Party in Spain, Soraya Saenz de Santamaria, has said the party is focused on changing parts of country’s new law on abortion.
 
During a Sept. 29 press conference at the offices of the newspaper La Razon, Saenz de Santamaria was asked about overturning the law on abortion, which many leaders of the People's Party have pledged to pursue. She offered no comment but instead emphasized the need to make changes to the law.
 
She said the party has already voiced its rejection of the abortion law passed by the government and that it has appealed it before Spain’s Constitutional Court.
 
Morning-after pill

Saenz de Santamaria said the law needs to be revised in specific areas, such as parental consent for minors who wish to obtain an abortion. “The reasonable and normal thing would be that minors are accompanied and supported by their parents at that moment,” she said.
 
Regarding the morning-after pill, she said the party opposes the government’s policy of making it available without a prescription. In a health care system like that of Spain, in which people have the option to seek emergency care, the argument that the pill needs to be available quickly without a prescription does not hold water, she added.

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Insults against Peruvian cardinal offend the entire Church, says journalist

Lima, Peru, Sep 30, 2011 (CNA) - Peruvian journalist Daniel Brousek published a Sept. 29 article calling the insults leveled against Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani of Lima, Peru “a blow to the entire Church.”
 
“I’d like to know what many Catholics and even bishops and priests do when a pastor of the Catholic Church is attacked or insulted. Do they pray? Do they smile sarcastically? Or are they indifferent? Do they show solidarity with that person via email, telephone or in a quiet way? Do they realize that hurting a religious person is a blow to the entire Catholic Church?” Brousek asked.
 
His comments were in reference to a incident outside the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru on Sept. 23. On that day, the university assembly rejected a request by the Vatican to modify its statutes in accord with the apostolic constitution on Catholic universities, “Ex Corde Ecclesiae.”
 
“In recent days Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani has been the target of an media offensive to undermine him and destroy his image as a pastor” by students from the university, its rector Marcial Rubio, “many professors” and some left-wing journalists, agnostics and atheists,” Brousek continued.
 
“They act triumphantly because a Catholic university has been kidnapped by relativism, and its captors cynically claim to be Catholic.  They offend the cardinal, the Church hierarchy and the Pope. They slam the door on the apostolic visitor sent by Benedict XVI,” he said.
 
True Catholics understand what it means “to appreciate and respect their priests, bishops, cardinals and the Pope. They have left everything, they have given up their lives to serve God and guide men toward salvation,” Brousek continued.
 
He also criticized the lack of voices defending Cardinal Cipriani from attacks against him. “Where are all the truly committed Catholics?” he asked.  “I don’t see any expressions of solidarity.  What negligence on the part of these Catholics in name only, these lukewarm bishops (a press release is not enough) and lukewarm priests,” Brousek said.

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Vatican police force celebrated on Feast of Archangels

Vatican City, Sep 30, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -

The bravery of the Pope’s police force was recognized Sept. 29 at a special ceremony in Rome. The event also saw the handing over of a flag used by papal soldiers who died defending the Vatican.
 
The Inspector General of the Gendarmerie, Commander Domenico Giani, explained to CNA that “we are celebrating the feast of the Gendarme Corps, an annual event to remember our Holy Patrons - Michael, Raphael and Gabriel. Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Michael in particular,” he said.

“And every year on this day we offer our fidelity yet again to the Holy Father, fidelity to the Church, the service we offer every day to the Holy Father and the Vatican City State.”

The Corps of the Gendarmerie protect the Vatican in cooperation with the Swiss Guard. The commemorative ceremony celebrating their work was held in the square that sits in front of the Governorate of Vatican City State.

A hugely colorful affair, it included about 70 Gendarmes in formation, led by their marching band.

The assembled crowds were also treated to a display of the Gendarmerie’s equipment including Ducati motorcycles, fire trucks, ambulances and an anti-terrorism unit complete with masked men in camouflaged all-terrain trucks.

The dignitaries present included the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, along with a number of civil and military authorities from the Italian government.

“You, dear Gendarmes, just as the Swiss Guards in their own environment, have as the first objective of your service precisely the protection of the august person of the Vicar of Christ, an unequaled task in dignity and valor, not only for the Holy Catholic Church but for all of humanity,” the gendarmes were told by Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, the outgoing President of the Governorate of Vatican City State.

Also among the guests was 84-year-old Prince Sforza Ruspoli. An Italian aristocrat, he gave the Gendarmerie a papal flag which has been in the possession of the Sforza Ruspoli family since the late 19th century. The banner had been carried by the papal troops who died trying to prevent the Italian army from capturing Rome in 1870. In fact, its yellow and white cloth is still peppered with bullet holes.

“I brought the flag today because for the last 20 years they've been asking me for the flag,” Prince Sforza Puspoli told CNA.

“But, I was waiting for the beatification of Pope Pius IX, the great Pope who was the victim of September 20, 1870. And, they talked for a long time--for political reasons I imagine--to arrive at the beatification of Pope Pius IX and after his beatification I would have been very glad to hand over the flag.”

Yesterday, at a private audience, the prince symbolically handed the flag over to Pope Benedict XVI. He said that wanted to give over the flag “because I am no longer young and I prefer that that flag is in the hands of the Pope.” It will now be put on display in the Historical Museum of the Lateran Palace.
 

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Vatican: Pope did not intervene in Mexican Supreme Court decision on abortion

Mexico City, Mexico, Sep 30, 2011 (CNA) - Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi has dismissed claims that Pope Benedict XVI intervened in Mexico's recent Supreme Court ruling on abortion.

“According to the statement issued today by the Holy See through its spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, His Holiness Benedict XVI did not make any phone calls to our country to influence the debate carried out by the justices of the Supreme Court on the issue of the right to life,” a statement from Mexican Bishops’ Conference explained on Sept. 30.
 
Bishop Isidro Guerrero Macias of Mexicali had previously claimed that Benedict XVI intervened in the pro-life victory. “Yesterday we almost lost, but a call from the Pope, I don’t know to who, don’t ask me, changed everything,” the bishop said.

However, statement from the Mexican bishops' conference clarified: “As the Vatican spokesman himself has stated, the opinion of Bishop Isidro Guerrero Macias of Mexicali ‘was unfounded.'”
 
“We know that it is not the practice of the Holy Father, who always respects the internal affairs of nations, to take such action, and in this particular case, he did not intervene in the decision of the Supreme Court justices,” they underscored.
 
Sources at the Mexican bishops’ conference told CNA that the statements of the Mexicali bishop were only “an unfortunate opinion.”
 
“The Supreme Court categorically denies having received a call from Church officials or of any other kind,” the statement said.
 
A ruling being considered by the Supreme Court this week to declare pro-life reforms enacted in Baja California unconstitutional failed to receive the eight votes needed to be adopted.

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Pennsylvania bishops blast HHS contraception rule as indefensible

Harrisburg, Pa., Sep 30, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -

The Catholic Bishops of Pennsylvania are speaking out against rules that could mandate contraception and sterilization in new health plans, calling them an indefensible assault on conscience and freedom.

“There is no reasonable defense for a coercive approach to contraception in health insurance coverage,” Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said in a Sept. 29 statement. “The Health and Human Services mandate is not simply 'bad' social policy, but precedent-setting in its disregard for conscience rights.”

The Department of Health and Human Services' proposed rules, formulated in response to the 2010 federal health care law, were announced Aug. 1 and are open to comment until Sept. 30. They require nearly all new health plans, including those of most religious groups, to cover government-approved methods of contraception and surgical sterilization.

In their official public response filed with the Department of Health and Human Services, the Pennsylvania bishops noted that the supposed “religious exemption” included in the mandate “fails miserably to assure that religious conscience is protected.”

The exemption for religious groups, they said, “is so narrowly crafted that hospitals, universities, religious affiliated social service agencies, Catholic dioceses, parishes and even Catholic elementary schools would be subject to the contraceptive/sterilization mandate.”

“Ignoring the broad nature of the Church's religious ministries and the care, services and education provided to a diverse group by mandating coverage is an unwarranted attack on religion in general,” they said.

Besides the effort to force Catholic ministries to provide contraception and sterilization, the rule also raises the question of government deciding whether an institution is “religious” in nature or not. The Pennsylvania Catholic Health Association, which joined the bishops in condemning the contraceptive mandate, described the government's attempt to define religious activity as “fraught with danger.”

In the response its officials filed with the Department of Health and Human Services, the health association said the contraceptive mandate “ignores this nation's foundations which were built upon freedom of conscience and freedom of religion,” with a proposed rule that “directly violates the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

Pennsylvania's Catholic bishops noted that the proposed mandate would harm the religious integrity of institutions that millions of people rely upon.

Within Pennsylvania’s dioceses there are “over 3. 2 million Catholics; over 1,000 parishes; nearly 500 Catholic schools; 27 Catholic colleges; nearly 100 Catholic social service agencies; 14 Catholic hospitals; 34 long-term care facilities, numerous health care systems and other related health care entities,” they told the federal department.

“The interim rule is one of significant impact upon the Church in Pennsylvania and that impact will not go unnoticed within the vast Catholic community.”

Philadelphia's bishops and health care association join 19 Catholic universities and colleges, as well as the U.S. bishops and numerous other Catholic organizations that have reacted strongly against the proposed contraception mandate.

In a Sept. 30 Washington Post editorial, Catholic University of America President John Garvey wrote that it “does not take a college education to see the hypocrisy in offering to pay for the very services we condemn in our theology classes and seek forgiveness for in our sacraments.”

Garvey said it “should not be the business of the federal government to force Catholic schools and other Catholic institutions into such a collective violation of our own conscientious beliefs.”

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Bishops' new religious freedom chairman sees government playing God

Washington D.C., Sep 30, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Emerging threats to religious freedom have inspired the U.S. bishops to establish a new committee for its protection. Its chairman sees government taking God's place as the source of the “first freedom.”

Bridgeport Bishop William E. Lori told CNA on Sept. 30 that a “principal and overarching error,” connecting several different threats to the free exercise of faith, is “the view that it is the state that grants religious liberty, and not God.”

Bishop Lori was announced as chairman of the new committee in a Sept. 29 letter from U.S. bishops' conference president Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan.

“Even though religious liberty is enshrined at the head of the Bill of Rights, in the First Amendment, there is an increasing tendency to make it a lesser right – and to make it quite relative to other, 'newly-discovered' rights in our law and in our culture,” said the Connecticut bishop, whose 2010 pastoral letter “Let Freedom Ring” addressed the subject of state intrusion against believers.

The chair of the new Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty said respect for “religion as a merely private affair” remains largely intact.

But he warned that the “institutional conscience” of religious hospitals and similar establishments is being threatened at high levels – as are the conscience rights of individuals in “clutch situations” like filling prescriptions or issuing marriage licenses.

“Their rights are being trampled upon,” said Bishop Lori.

In his letter announcing the new committee's formation, Archbishop Dolan said that the “basic right” to religious freedom “is now increasingly and in unprecedented ways under assault in America,” especially from an “an increasing number of federal government programs or policies that would infringe upon the right of conscience of people of faith.”

Archbishop Dolan outlined current threats to religious liberty, starting with federal regulations proposed by the Department of Health and Human Services which would mandate coverage of contraception and sterilization in nearly all new health plans, including those of most religious employers.

HHS has also demanded that the Church's Migration and Refugee Services provide what it calls the “full range of reproductive services”—a reference to contraception and abortion—to trafficking victims and unaccompanied minors.

Archbishop Dolan additionally cited Catholic Relief Services' concern that USAID, under the Department of State, is increasingly requiring HIV prevention activities such as condom distribution “within a range of international relief and development programs.”

He also lamented the federal Department of Justice 's ongoing “attack” on the Defense of Marriage Act, with the department claiming that supporters of the law “could only have been motivated by bias and prejudice.”

“If the label of bigot sticks to us—especially in court—because of our teaching on marriage, we’ll have church-state conflicts for years to come as a result,” he warned.

Archbishop Dolan said that the establishment of the religious liberty committee signals “a new moment” in the history of the conference.

“Never before have we faced this kind of challenge to our ability to engage in the public square as people of faith and as a service provider,” he said. “If we do not act now, the consequence will be grave.”

The committee has effectively begun and will report its activities to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops during its fall assembly in November.

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