Archive of July 1, 2014

Former Legionaries of Christ leader dies from cancer

Mexico City, Mexico, Jul 1, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Father Álvaro Corcuera Martínez del Río, L.C., former general director of the Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi, died in Mexico on Monday after a long battle with cancer.

“I invite everyone to offer Masses and prayers to commend his soul to God and thank God for the life of this father, brother and friend who has been our General Director during the nine most difficult years in our history,” the Legion's current general director, Fr. Eduardo Robles-Gil, L.C., wrote in a June 30 letter to members of Regnum Christi, the Legion's lay affiliate.
Fr. Corcuera was the first successor of the disgraced Legionaries of Christ founder Fr. Marcial Maciel.

He was born in Mexico City on July 22, 1957 and became a lay consecrated member of Regnum Christi in 1975. He joined the Legion of Christ four years later and was ordained a priest in 1985.
From 1993 to 2000 he served as rector of the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum, a university of the Legion in Rome.
In 2005, after Fr. Maciel’s decision to step down from the congregation’s leadership, Fr. Corcuera was elected the Legionaries of Christ’s general director by the congregation’s general chapter.
After increasing allegations of sexual misconduct involving the congregation’s founder, the Legion, under the leadership of Fr. Corcuera, acknowledged in a March 2010 statement that “reprehensible actions” by Fr. Maciel, including sexual abuse of minors, in fact happened.    

“Given the gravity of his faults, we cannot take his person as a model of Christian or priestly life,” the statement said.
In May 2006 the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith ordered Fr. Maciel to retire to a life of “prayer and penitence.” Fr. Maciel died in Jacksonville, Florida, in January 2008.
Fr. Corcuera headed the Legion and Regnum Christi during the tumultuous period that followed a year-long visitation of all the congregation’s communities, a visitation ordered by Pope Benedict XVI. Once the visitation was completed, Pope Benedict in 2010 appointed then-Archbishop Velasio De Paolis, who was later made a cardinal, as pontifical delegate to the Legion and gave him full governing authority.       
In October 2012, Fr. Corcuera sought and was granted a leave of absence from his post as general director. In January 2013 he was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor.
“This sickness has allowed me to experience first-hand that life is a constant examination to prepare for our definitive encounter with God, a constant conversion to go to heaven,” Fr. Corcuera wrote at the time. “God is being very good in giving me this gift of being able to meditate more profoundly on this and to experience his mercy. There is no moment in which I don’t realize how good God is.”    
Weakened by the cancer treatment, he nevertheless participated in the general chapter of the Legionaries of Christ in January 2014.
Fr. Corcuera’s final resting place will be the French Cemetery in San Joaquín, Mexico City.

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Hobby Lobby ruling draws renewed commitment from Congress

Washington D.C., Jul 1, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Supreme Court’s highly anticipated ruling on the federal contraception mandate has prompted a renewed enthusiasm from lawmakers on both sides of the religious freedom debate.

Part of being an American “has always meant being able to freely choose our faith and live by the dictates of that faith at home, at church and in the public square,” said Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.), author of the Health Care Conscience Rights Act, a bill designed to enhance religious freedom protections.

Black argued in a June 30 statement that “increasing access to healthcare should never require forcing people to choose between coverage and their conscience,” and pledged to “continue to work on behalf of Americans across the country to ensure that their First Amendment rights are not being infringed on by this unconstitutional HHS mandate.”

Her comments came in response to the June 30 Supreme Court ruling that said Hobby Lobby and similar employers cannot be forced to comply with the federal contraception mandate against their religious beliefs.

The mandate, issued by the Department of Health and Human Services under the 2010 Affordable Care Act, requires employers to provide health insurance that covers contraception, sterilization and some drugs and devices that can cause early abortion.

Both the Hahn family – the Mennonite owners of Conestoga Wood Specialties – and the Green family – evangelical Christians who own and operate the Oklahoma-based Hobby Lobby – objected to the mandate's requirements that they pay for abortion-inducing drugs.

The court ruled that the mandate violates federal religious freedom laws when it is applied to “closely held corporations,” which are defined by the IRS as those in which the majority of stock is owned by five or fewer people.

The Supreme Court specified that its decision “concerns only the contraceptive mandate and should not be understood to hold that all insurance-coverage mandates, e.g., for vaccinations or blood transfusions, must necessarily fall if they conflict with an employer's religious beliefs. Nor does it provide a shield for employers who might cloak illegal discrimination as a religious practice.”

White House press secretary Josh Earnest responded to the ruling in a June 30 press conference, saying, “We believe that the owners of for-profit companies should not be allowed to assert their own religious views to deny their employees federally mandated benefits.”

While the Obama and members of the administration “strongly disagree” with the high court’s ruling, “this administration will obviously abide by the ruling of the Supreme Court,” he said.

“There is a problem that has been exposed – which is that there is a group of women of an indeterminate size who no longer have access to free contraceptive coverage simply because of some religious views that are held, not by them, but by their bosses,” Earnest stated.

He vowed that the administration would work with Congress to fix what it viewed as a “problem that has been created.”

House minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called the Supreme Court’s decision “outrageous,” in a June 30 Facebook post, saying that it set “a dangerous precedent” that would allow companies to “pick and choose which laws to obey.”

However, religious freedom advocates in Congress applauded the decision.

Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), co-chair of the Bi-Partisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, said he was “pleased” by the ruling and the reaffirmation of the “bipartisan Religious Freedom Restoration Act - signed into law by President Bill Clinton twenty years ago,” which provided the main foundation for the court’s decision.

“Protecting religious liberty should not be viewed as a partisan issue,” Lipinski urged in a June 30 post on Facebook. “It is a fundamental right spelled out in the First Amendment of the Constitution.”

He added that “the ‘free exercise clause’ is not just freedom to worship, but freedom to exercise religious beliefs,” stating that the court’s ruling “upholds one of the core principles that makes the United States of America a model for freedom for the world.”

Rep Chris Smith (R-N.J.), another co-chair of the Bi-Partisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, also supported the ruling as a “resounding victory for religious freedom” and for conscience.

However, he said in a June 30 statement, there are still conscience issues surrounding the mandate that should be addressed, including “more than 50 cases involving nonprofit organizations,” who have also “sought similar relief in the courts in order to follow their religious beliefs as they provide healthcare for their employees.”

U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who authored the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act and filed a “friend of the court” brief on behalf of the Green family, also applauded the court’s decision to affirm “the fundamental religious freedom that Americans have enjoyed for more than 220 years.”

“Today’s ruling by the Supreme Court is an important victory to protect Americans’ fundamental right of religious freedom,” he said. “Americans should not be forced to choose between giving up their business for their faith or giving up their faith for their business.”

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US ambassador: Pope draws global attention to trafficking

Vatican City, Jul 1, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - U.S. ambassador to the Holy See Ken Hackett has praised the attention Pope Francis is giving to the “scourge” of human trafficking, and spoke of collaborative initiatives aimed at its eradication.

“These days when the Pope speaks on any issue it raises the attention level worldwide, and he has done that specifically with human trafficking calling it a ‘scourge,’” the ambassador told CNA June 27.

“I actually saw the note he wrote to one of the archbishops who heads the Pontifical Academy (of Sciences) saying, ‘What are you doing about this?’ So the Pope has given this special attention.”

Hackett serves as the 10th U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See after his nomination last fall, and spoke regarding the U.S. State Department’s 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report, which was released by the embassy June 20.

The annual report provides an assessment of 188 countries in terms of what they are doing to combat human trafficking in preventative and educational terms, as well as the assistance offered to recovered victims.

“The U.S. government has been interested in this for a long time,” as well as the embassy itself, Hackett said. The two countries collaborated when, in his second week in office, “we convened a meeting with anyone we could find in and around the Vatican who was dealing with the issue of human trafficking and brought them together to share their experiences.”

Hackett noted how the Pontifical Council of Sciences has organized two meetings in the last six months to address the issue with international law enforcement officials. The embassy has also partnered with both the Global Freedom Network and Talitha Kum.

Talitha Kum is a group of women religious who collaborate to fight human trafficking. The U.S. embassy to the Holy See recently partnered with them in their most recent campaign against trafficking for the World Cup, entitled “Play for Life, against Human Trafficking.”

Hackett also noted how the embassy is working with the the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to “beef up their work on human trafficking in the United States.”

“Even in the United States we’re still faced with those kind of issues. We’re not above it,” the ambassador admitted. “Prostitution, moving of people for forced labor, all exists within the United States as well as the rest of the world.”

Referring to how the report identified the trafficking of persons onto fishing vessels as a growing phenomenon being uncovered, Hackett stated that “It’s like something right out of the 18th century.”

“People are taken on board boats, their passports are taken and they work on those boats virtually as slaves,” he explained, observing how the Vatican organization the Apostleship of the Sea is putting forth great efforts “to work on that particular issue.”

There is a growing danger of trafficking in war and conflict zones due to the increased numbers of persons fleeing violence, paricularly in Syria and Iraq, Hackett said.

A conflit zone “is fertile ground,” he said, because “when the situation is de-stabilized that’s when bad things happen.”

Hackett affirmed that the embassy will be continue to be involved in fighting sex trafficking. A third international meeting organized by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences is already slated to take place between Vatican and civil law enforcement officials.

“We have great hopes that it will continue to raise the attention level worldwide to this scourge and encourage governments and other organizations to do more to eliminate this terrible evil.”

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Pope Francis to hold audience with elderly, grandparents

Vatican City, Jul 1, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Pontifical Council for the Family is organizing a day dedicated to the elderly, during which Pope Francis will meet with them as sign of the important role they play in a society that lives longer.

“The day is based on the assumption that old age is not a shipwreck but a vocation,” Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, said in a statement posted on the council’s website announcing the initiative.

Entitled “The Blessing of a Long Life,” the event will take place Sept. 28 in St. Peter’s Square. The square will open at 7:30 a.m. with the official celebration beginning at 9 a.m. The day will culminate with a Mass at 10:30 presided over by Pope Francis.

Archbishop Paglia spoke of the great richness that the elderly offer to society, stating that old age is a call whose meaning has yet to be fully explored. 

“Thanks to God the years of life have accumulated – society permits this – but, on the other hand, on this issue, an adequate reflection has not yet been developed,” he said. “There is none, neither in politics nor economics, nor in culture.”

The archbishop said he hoped the event would draw attention to this period of life and the humanity of the elderly. 

“It should be stressed that the elderly are not only the object of attention or care, but that they themselves also have a new perspective in life.”

“That's the point,” he observed. “Therefore, their advanced age needs to be rethought, and their commitment to the world and in the Church must be reconsidered.”

Even the Church has a responsibility to reconsider the role of the elderly beyond the traditional tasks of transmitting the faith and helping parents.

For example, Archbishop Paglia said, the elderly can play a vital role in areas such as “prayer – they have more time available – and transmitting the Gospel, thus, echoing Anna the prophetess.”

Finally, Archbishop Paglia explained that there are also “civil aspects” to advancing age, “with particular care to conceive the weakening of life not as a final tragedy but rather as a testimony of hope in the hereafter.”

More information regarding the day with the elderly can be found on the Pontifical Council for the Family’s website. Registration forms were made available as of July 1.

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Opus Dei to display remains of Bishop del Portillo after beatification

Rome, Italy, Jul 1, 2014 (CNA) - The Opus Dei press office announced that the remains of Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, the first successor to St. Josemaria Escriva, will be put on display September 29 to October 2 at the Basilica of St. Eugene in Rome.

On June 23, the beatification organizing committee released the schedule of events for the beatification of Bishop del Portillo, which is set for September 27.

Although the ceremony will take place in Madrid, commemorative acts will take place in Rome, where the Spanish bishop's remains are interred. Bishop del Portillo lived in the Italian capital from 1946 until his death in 1994.

“We are receiving petitions from young people and adults who desire to come to the city of St. Peter for the beatification in order to see the Pope and pray for him and his intentions, and to pray before the remains of the new blessed,” explained the spokeswoman for the events in Rome, Mara Celani.

“Many Roman families have expressed their willingness to open their homes to pilgrims coming from Africa, Asia, America and Oceania,” she added.

Bishop del Portillo's remains will be moved June 29 from the Church of St. Mary of Peace in Rome to the Basilica of St. Eugene.

The committee considered the basilica to be more accessible to the large number of pilgrims expected to attend because of its central location.

An exhibit on the life of Bishop del Portillo will be on display outside the basilica beginning on that same day.

On September 30, the Pope's vicar general for the Diocese of Rome, Cardinal Agostino Vallini, will celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving at the Basilica of St. John Lateran. The Archpriest of the Basilica of St. Mary Major, Cardinal Santos Abril y Castello, will celebrate a second Mass later in the afternoon.

On October 1, a large number of faithful from the beatification are expected to attend the Pope's general audience at St. Peter's Square to show their unity with the Holy Father and to thank him for the beatification.

That evening, a youth vigil will take place at the Basilica of St. Eugene.

On October 2, Eucharistic adoration followed by a blessing with the relic of the new blessed will take place at the basilica. Afterwards, Bishop del Portillo's remains will be re-interred at the Church of St. Mary of Peace.

All the ceremonies for the beatification will be streamed online at

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Show joy of Christian family life, Denver archbishop teaches

Denver, Colo., Jul 1, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver has published a pastoral letter calling on Catholics to live their faith in their families and to renew the role of the family in broader culture.

“We have to help couples live the fullness of the Gospel in a broken, skeptical and hostile culture. Above all, the Church must shine a light on the joy of living a faithful Christian family life,” Archbishop Aquila said in his June 29 letter, “Family: Become What You Are.”

He said the Church must focus on “rejuvenating families and helping them become the first school of Christian life where children witness their parents reflecting the generous, sacrificial love of the Trinity.”

Archbishop Aquila said that if the family is to thrive in the face of cultural challenges, “the Church must redouble her efforts to teach about the joy, beauty and goods of marriage.” Catholics and the Church must relate marriage and the family to “the joy that comes from experiencing the redemption and freedom from sin Christ won for us.”

The Church, he explained, “must respond to our wounded and skeptical society with mercy and truth. She must be, as Pope Francis has said, like a ‘field hospital’ where injuries can be healed and wounds bound up.”

“Family life is a great gift of God. Yet many families today feel weak and demoralized. Family life throughout the world is wounded, broken in many cases, and misunderstood.”

He acknowledged that it is not possible for “every difficult family situation to be neatly resolved.”

“But I do know that with the grace of God, every person and sit¬uation can more closely resemble the intimate exchange of love we were made to experience.”

The pastoral letter takes its title from St. John Paul II’s 1981 apostolic exhortation “Familiaris Consortio.” Archbishop Aquila’s letter focused on the family’s Trinitarian meaning, the nature of marriage, and the challenges to the family. He also suggested practical ways for families to “live out their mission to be a place of love and life.”

The archbishop cited the words of St. John Paul II, who said that it is “indispensable and urgent that every person of good will should endeavor to save and foster the values and requirements of the family.”

He gave several practical suggestions on how to form one’s family to make Jesus Christ and the Church its “foundation.”

Stressing the need for hearts that are open to a personal encounter with Christ and the Trinity, he encouraged personal prayer and reading of the Gospels, as well as family prayer beginning with prayer between spouses.

He encouraged Catholics to “live the sacramental life of the Church,” especially by receiving the Eucharist, going to confession “at least monthly,” and regular Sunday Mass attendance. He suggested that families take advantage of parish and diocesan programs that “can help you encounter Christ and help families grow.”

Archbishop Aquila also said that it is “vital” for Catholics to give witness in the public square about marriage, the family, and the dignity of human life.

“Too many Christian hearts and minds have been formed by the culture in which we live, and too many have left their faith at the doors of the church, rather than working for the transformation of culture and society as the Second Vatican Council teaches.”

The archbishop’s letter addressed “various attacks or distortions” related to the family, including challenges like “growing confusion about sexuality,” contraception and divorce.

He noted that the goods of marriage include children, fidelity between spouses, and the “unbreakable bond” between them. The permanent bond of marriage “points toward the heavenly marriage of Christ and his bride, the Church.”

Marriage is a spiritual, emotional and bodily union “founded on the complementarity of male and female,” he said. This human difference between the sexes is “willed by God for the benefit and fulfillment of human beings.” The unique marital union aims to form and perfect the interior life of both husband and wife “so that together they might increasingly grow in virtue and in true love of God and their neighbor.”

Marriage is also ordained by God for “the procreation and education of children,” who are the “ultimate crown” of the married spouses. Even those spouses who cannot conceive children can share in and realize this “uniquely comprehensive type of human communion,” he added.

Archbishop Aquila reiterated Christian teaching that sexual activity is “reserved to those who are married.” He rejected the notion that sex is “merely an instrument of pleasure,” saying this idea confuses human identity, misuses our bodies, and separates us from God.

“Chastity recognizes the dignity of the human person and never treats another person as an object for pleasure. Chastity acknowledges the truth, dignity, meaning and purpose of sexual intimacy and requires self-mastery, which is difficult,” the archbishop acknowledged, while adding that chastity is possible “with the help of Christ.”

For the married, chastity means “respecting the goods of marriage in all marital relations.” For the unmarried, chastity means “refraining from sexual activity.”

“Not only homosexual acts, but the sexual acts of all non-married persons are contrary to God’s design for human flourishing,” he said.

Archbishop Aquila also voiced his “fatherly care” for those who experience same-sex attraction, saying that they “carry a heavy cross” whose struggle is “more than most of us understand.”

“Your tears do not go unseen by Jesus,” he said.

The archbishop’s letter explained Catholic rejection of some forms of medically-assisted conception, such as in vitro fertilization, while also noting that other medical treatments for infertility are “morally legitimate.”

He noted the fears and concerns that tempt married couples to contracept, but also said that contraception is “a barrier to married love and an enticement to selfishness.” He said Pope Paul VI’s encyclical against contraception rightly warned that it would increase infidelity, degrade morality, and cause men to lose respect for women.

He also explained the role natural family planning can play in a Christian marriage.

Furthermore, Archbishop Aquila lamented the high divorce rate and the suffering divorce causes for both spouses and children. The Catholic belief in the permanence of marriage is rooted in the teachings of Jesus Christ, he explained, lamenting that hearts have “become hardened” to the permanent and lifelong commitment of marriage.

“Couples who truly reverence Christ and put him first in their marriage, loving one another as Christ loves, will remain faithful to each other even in difficult times in their marriage,” he said.

Archbishop Aquila noted the upcoming Extraordinary Meeting of the Synod of Bishops, to be held in Rome in October 2014, will focus on the family, as will the Ordinary Synod of Bishops in October 2015. In addition, the World Meeting of Families will be held in Philadelphia in September 2015.

The synods will address important concerns like raising children in broken homes, effective pastoral care for the divorced and civilly remarried, and marriage preparation.

The archbishop hoped that the letter will provide a “solid foundation” for archdiocesan Catholics and “all people of good will” so that they may “effectively respond to the challenges that families experience today.”

The Archdiocese of Denver has released several resources to accompany the pastoral letter, including a video message and prayer materials for a family rosary and grace before and after meals.

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Retired Lincoln bishop recovering from heart attack

Lincoln, Neb., Jul 1, 2014 (CNA) - Bishop emeritus Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Neb., is in good spirits and grateful for prayers as he recovers after suffering a heart attack last week.

“We’re looking forward to Bishop Bruskewitz’s recovery,” said J.D. Flynn, communications director for the Diocese of Lincoln.

“He is an important part of our diocesan life, and we expect him back on his feet, and back in ministry, soon,” Flynn told CNA June 30.

Bishop Bruskewitz, age 78, suffered a heart attack at his home in Lincoln after celebrating Mass for the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart on Friday, June 27th.

According to the Lincoln Journal Star, the retired bishop was transported by ambulance to Bryan Medical Center in Lincoln. He was discharged in stable condition with the expectation of full recovery.

“He is in good spirits, is comfortable, and looking forward to resuming full time ministry,” Flynn said.

“Bishop Bruskewitz is a grace to our diocese, and to the entire Church,” he added, voicing trust that the prayers of the faithful around the nation, as well as the mercy of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, have been with the bishop in recent days.  

From 1992 until 2012, Bishop Bruskewitz served as head of the Diocese of Lincoln. Now retired, he is an active participant in the community.

Accomplishments during his time as bishop include the founding of St. Gregory the Great Seminary, overseeing growth in schools and parishes of the Diocese of Lincoln, and recognition as a defender of orthodoxy, a champion of vocations, and as a pastor of souls.

“He knows how many people were praying for him, and he’s grateful,” Flynn said.

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Christian doctors encouraged but cautious after Court ruling

Washington D.C., Jul 1, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - A Christian doctors' organization celebrated the Supreme Court’s recent religious freedom ruling, while at the same time cautioning that threats to religious liberty remain.  

“We are very thankful that the Supreme Court acted to protect family businesses from government coercion and fines for simply honoring the tenets of their faith,” said Dr. David Stevens, CEO of the 15,000-member Christian Medical Association.

In a June 30 statement, Stevens welcomed a Supreme Court ruling saying that Hobby Lobby and similar employers cannot be forced to comply with the federal contraception mandate against their religious beliefs.

The mandate, issued by the Department of Health and Human Services under the 2010 Affordable Care Act, requires employers to provide health insurance that covers contraception, sterilization and some drugs and devices that can cause early abortions.

The court ruled that requiring “closely held corporations” to obey the mandate against their religious beliefs violates federal religious freedom laws. The IRS defines “closely held corporations” as companies in which the majority of stock is owned by five or fewer people.

Citing the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Supreme Court said that the government could have found less restrictive ways to advance its goal of providing free birth control to women, without restricting the religious freedom of family-run businesses who object to funding it.

In its opinion, the court clarified that its decision only concerns the contraceptive mandate and does not mean that other insurance-coverage mandates, such as those for vaccinations or blood transfusions, will automatically fail in cases where they come into conflict with an employer's religious beliefs.

Stevens hailed the ruling, but warned that the mandate is only one part of a larger “assault on the values of the faith community,” which greatly affects the medical community in addition to other realms of society.

“We are witnessing increasing attempts by the government to coerce the faith community to adopt the government's viewpoint in matters of conscience,” he said.

In addition to the contraception mandate, he pointed to a weakening of federal conscience regulations in health care, discrimination against pro-life health care professionals, and the denial of federal funds to ministries that oppose abortion.

“There seems to be growing intolerance of the faith community by some government officials who appear to want to extinguish the First Amendment freedoms that allow for a diversity of values,” Stevens explained.

“We are seeing this antagonism expressed in coercive government mandates enforced with harsh penalties and discriminatory practices that threaten to eliminate the faith community from the public square.”

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Legal experts: Hobby Lobby ruling may have broad implications

Washington D.C., Jul 1, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - While the full impact of the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on Hobby Lobby may not yet be clear, legal scholars said that it has the potential to be used in future religious freedom cases.

“This opinion makes clear that for-profit businesses are entitled to the protections of RFRA [Religious Freedom Restoration Act],” said law professor Carter Snead, who serves as director of the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture.

A publicly-traded corporation could potentially be protected, but it would have to establish that it had “a sincerely held religious belief that was threatened by a particular law,” he told CNA.

Snead’s comments came in response to the Supreme Court’s June 30 ruling that Hobby Lobby and similar companies do not have to comply with the federal contraception mandate.

Issued under the Affordable Care Act, the mandate requires employers to offer health insurance covering contraception, sterilization and some drugs that can cause early abortions.

Hobby Lobby’s owners – the Green family – are Christians who object to abortion and say that the mandate forces them to violate their faith.

The Supreme Court said that the mandate violates federal religious freedom laws that prohibit government from “substantially burdening the free exercise of religion” unless doing so is the “least restrictive means” of furthering a “compelling government interest.” In this case, the court said, there are ways to provide free birth control to women, if the government wishes to do so, without infringing on the religious liberty of employers.

The court struck down the mandate for “closely held corporations” that have religious objections to its demands. The IRS defines “closely held corporations” as those with 50 percent or more of their stock held by five or fewer individuals.

While the decision does not concretely address larger publicly-traded companies, legal experts said the logic used in the court decision could potentially be extended to situations as well.

Larger corporations “have exactly the same right” to have their religious beliefs protected as Hobby Lobby does, suggested Robert Destro, director of the Interdisciplinary Program in Law and Religion at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

“It’s not the role of the federal government to police the internal relationships among shareholders and other corporate stake-holders,” he stated. “These are questions for the boards of directors and shareholders to decide.”

Furthermore, the decision could be cited in future rulings on the scores of non-profit and religiously-affiliated organizations required to abide by a modified version of the mandate offered by the federal government as an “accommodation.”

Snead acknowledged that the Supreme Court did not explicitly rule on these groups, many of which say that the “accommodation” being offered still requires them to immorally facilitate outside insurers in providing the problematic coverage.

However, the language of the Supreme Court’s ruling “made clear” that the government couldn’t “second guess” a religious organization’s “understanding of moral complicity, cooperation, and scandal,” he said, and this could be used in future court decisions.

He pointed to the temporary injunction blocking the mandate, which was granted to the EWTN Global Catholic Network just hours after the Supreme Court ruling.

In granting the injunction, Judge William H. Pryor of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals said that he thinks EWTN is “substantially likely to succeed” in its argument that the mandate and “accommodation” violates its religious freedom

“The Network bases its complaint on the undisputed declarations of a Catholic theologian and the Network’s chief executive about ancient teachings of the Catholic Church. The Network complains that it would violate those teachings and commit a grave sin if it were to comply with the mandate,” Pryor wrote, before adding, “It is neither our duty nor the duty of the United States to tell the Network that its undisputed belief is flawed.”

Destro also suggested that the ruling may have an impact on businesses that have religious objections to same-sex “weddings.”

If Congress or the Obama administration tried to move forward with the proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) involving sexual orientation and gender identity, it would likely spark a “huge debate over ‘religious exemptions’,” he added.

If such a case came before the Supreme Court, Destro said, it is “very clear” that the four dissenting justices in the Hobby Lobby case would also rule against the businesses, and Justice Anthony Kennedy could be the deciding vote.

One area the Supreme Court’s ruling will likely not affect is state-level contraception mandates. Some 28 states currently require insurers that cover prescription drugs to also cover all FDA-approved contraceptives.

Rather than turning to the First Amendment, the Supreme Court based its ruling on federal law, which is not applicable to the states.

Snead explained that businesses seeking to avoid these mandate would need to invoke the protection of a state religious exemption statute or the First Amendment. “The jurisprudence of the First Amendment is more complicated and difficult for such cases,” he noted.

Destro added that while the states will not be bound by the Hobby Lobby decision, it still “spells trouble” for state-level mandates in those states where religious exemption statues exist.

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Minn. archbishop cooperates with investigation of 'false' claims

St. Paul, Minn., Jul 1, 2014 (CNA) - Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul, Minn., has ordered a third party investigation of himself following recent accusations of sexual misconduct, which he denies as being “entirely false.”

Three months ago, Archbishop Nienstedt was cleared of an accusation of touching a male minor’s posterior region during a confirmation photo shoot in 2009. During that investigation, Archbishop Nienstedt removed himself from public ministry but was happy to return after no charges were brought against him.

Late last year, around the time the first case was opened, allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct with seminarians, priests, and other men came to light, prompting a new investigation and a statement released by the archbishop denying the claims.

“These allegations are absolutely and entirely false,” Archbishop Nienstedt said. “Nonetheless, I ordered Bishop Lee Piché to oversee an independent, thorough investigation and that he hire an outside firm unaffiliated with the Archdiocese to conduct the investigation.”

According to a July 1 article in Commonweal Magazine, the archdiocese opened an investigation in early 2014 after being informed that a former Twin Cities priest had accused Nienstedt of making unwanted sexual advances.

Following the archbishop’s orders, the archdiocese sought out a third party attorney and hired the top-ranked Minneapolis firm of Greene Espel to investigate and interview his current and former associates and employees. Archbishop Nienstedt  and auxiliary bishops Lee Piché and Andrew Cozzen flew to Washington D.C. to inform the apostolic nuncio of allegations before the investigation began.

“I have ordered that the investigation be conducted for the benefit of the Archdiocese,” the archbishop said in a July 1 statement. “The Archdiocese investigates all allegations of clergy misconduct. It would be unfair to ignore these allegations simply because I know them to be false.”

The current accusations do not involve minors or any lay person, nor do they implicate any illegal or criminal behavior, according to Archbishop Nienstedt’s statement.

Once the investigation is complete, Green Espel attorneys will compile a report that will be given to the archdiocese and Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the pope’s ambassador to the United States.

“Let us pray that the truth would come out as a result of the investigation,” Archbishop Nienstedt said.

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