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Dutch Catholic bishops cancel Christmas Midnight Masses due to COVID-19 pandemic

The dome of the Cathedral of St. Bavo in Haarlem, the Netherlands. / Frank de ruyter via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0 NL).

Rome Newsroom, Dec 1, 2021 / 08:30 am (CNA).

Catholic bishops in the Netherlands have decided to cancel Christmas Midnight Masses once again this year as a precaution to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The Dutch bishops announced on Dec. 1 that no Catholic Masses or other parish functions will be allowed to take place after 5 p.m., with public venues required to close between 5 p.m. and 5 a.m. under new government measures lasting until at least Dec. 19.

The Dutch bishops’ conference website explained that the decision, also taken last year, was made to prevent large crowds gathering for evening Masses on Christmas Eve. It added that it is difficult to maintain good ventilation with multiple Masses in one evening.

Other Church gatherings, such as catechesis meetings and parish council sessions, can only take place virtually after 5 p.m. Evening Masses on weekdays and Saturdays will be brought forward to finish at 5 p.m.

Dutch officials announced that researchers had found that there were cases of the new omicron variant of COVID-19 in the Netherlands before the variant was detected in South Africa, according to NPR.

More than 84% of the population in the Netherlands is fully vaccinated and a total of 587 people with COVID-19 are currently in hospital intensive care units, according to the Dutch government dashboard.

The new restrictions come as the Catholic Church in the Netherlands is struggling financially.

The Dutch newspaper Trouw reported on Nov. 30 that the 640 Catholic parishes in the Netherlands lost 15 million euros (around $17 million) last year due to the pandemic and the aging population.

It said that four out of five Catholic parishes in the Netherlands are in financial difficulty and that some parishes are selling church buildings as a result.

There are 3.7 million Catholics in the Netherlands, but only 4% regularly attend Mass, according to Dutch News.

How to listen to Supreme Court oral arguments in Dobbs abortion case

The exterior of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. / Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Dec 1, 2021 / 07:59 am (CNA).

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments today, Wednesday, Dec. 1, in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The case has the potential to overturn Roe v. Wade, which would return the issue of abortion to individual states. 

Cameras are not permitted in the chambers, but audio from the arguments will be broadcast on C-SPAN. Arguments are scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. EST. 

You can listen here:

Members of the EWTN News team, including reporters from CNA, will be on the ground in front of the Supreme Court. Follow along with their tweets here: 

Highlights from the Supreme Court's oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health

Groups gathered outside the Supreme Court on Wednesday, Dec. 1, ahead of oral arguments in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health. / Katie Yoder

Washington D.C., Dec 1, 2021 / 07:15 am (CNA).

This post will be continuously updated.

As the Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health, activists both opposed and in favor of abortion rights gathered outside the court in the early morning hours on Wednesday, Dec. 1.

CNA is outside the court and will be providing on-the-ground updates. (All times EST.)


11:55 a.m. The Supreme Court adjourns.


11:54 a.m. In his closing rebuttal, Stewart compared Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health to Brown v. Board of Education.

"In closing, I would say that in the dissent of Plessy v. Ferguson, Justice Harlan emphasized that there is no caste system here; and the humblest in our country is the peer of the most powerful. Our Constitution neither knows nor tolerate distinctions on the basis of race," he said.

"It took 58 years for this court to recognize the truth of those realities in a decision. And that was the greatest decision that this court ever reached. We're we're running on 50 years of Roe. It is an egregiously wrong decision that has inflicted tremendous damage on our country, and will continue to do so and take innumerable human lives," until it is overruled.


11:48 a.m. Prelogar states that she does not think "there's any line that could be more principled than viability."

"I think the factors the court would have to think about are what is most consistent with precedent, what would be clear and workable, and what would preserve the essential components of the liberty interest," she said. "Viability checks all of those boxes, and has the advantage as well as being a rule of law for 50 years."


11:45 a.m. Scenes outside the Supreme Court


11:33 a.m. "Shout Your Abortion" shares a video of women allegedly taking Mifepristone, the first drug in a two-drug abortion regimen, to cheers in front of the Supreme Court.

Mifepristone blocks the hormone progesterone from reaching the unborn child, and is used to terminate pregnancies under 10 weeks gestation.


11:26 a.m. U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Prelogar begins her arguments in support of Jackson Women's Health.


11:25 a.m. Rikelman has ended her arguments.


11:20 a.m. Justice Brett Kavanaugh notes that "when you really dig into it, history tells a somewhat different story" regarding stare decisis.

"I think that is sometimes assumed if you think about some of the most important cases, the most consequential cases in this court's history, there's a string of them where the cases overruled precedent," said Kavanaugh, singling out Brown v. Board of Education, Lawrence v. Texas, and Miranda v. Arizona as examples.


11:15 a.m. Alito questions Rikelman about the historical precedent in Roe/Casey. He asked if states had recognized abortion at the time of the 14th Amendment--there were none, said Rikelman, but says there was "common law."

Rikelman could not provide a case recognizing abortion as a right.


11:06 a.m. Alito calls the viability line "arbitrary," and says that it does not make sense.

"If a woman wants to be free of the burdens of pregnancy, that interest does not disappear the moment the viability line is crossed," said Alito. "The fetus has an interest in having life, and that doesn't change."


10:56 a.m. Justice Amy Coney Barrett questions Rikelman about "safe haven" laws, which permit a woman to terminate parental rights by placing the child for adoption shortly after they are born.

Rikelman notes that this case is not just about parenthood, and says pregnancy is potentially dangerous.


10:53 a.m. Chief Justice John Roberts asked Rikelman if a 15-week line could be more workable as a legal standard than viability.

"It seems to me that (viability) doesn't have anything to do with choice," said Roberts. "If it really is an issue about choice, why is 15 weeks not enough time?"

Rickelman said it would not, as enacting a pre-viability line would result in states moving to ban abortions earlier and earlier in a pregnancy.


10:46 a.m. Julie Rikelman, senior director of the Center for Reproductive rights, begins her arguments before the court.

"Casey and Roe were correct," she says. She added that there is an “an especially high bar here” as the Supreme Court rejected “every possible reason” for overturning Roe when it decided Casey.

"Mississippi's ban on abortion two months before viability is flatly unconstitutional under decades of precedent, " said Rikelman. "Mississippi asks for the court to dismantle this precedent and allow states to force women to remain pregnant and give birth against their will."


10:31 a.m. Justice Samuel Alito questions Stewart regarding the idea that being pro-life is a religious view only, and asks if any secular bioethicists believe life exists prior to viability.

"It's not tied to a religious view," says Stewart, who said that there are a host of secular people who have differing views on when life begins.


10:12 a.m. Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan are pressing Stewart on the issue of stare decisis.

Here's a breakdown about why this legal concept is so pivotal in the Dobbs case.


10:03 a.m.
Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey "have no basis in the Constitution," said Stewart. "They have no home in our history or traditions. They've damaged the democratic process. They poison the law. They've choked off compromise for 50 years."

Stewart said those cases have "kept this court at the center of a political battle that it can never resolve."

"Nowhere else does this court recognize a right to end a human life," he said.


10 a.m. Oral arguments will be starting momentarily. Video is not available, but an audio recording is provided by C-SPAN. Listen live here.


9:50 a.m. Arguments are set to begin in 10 minutes, and are scheduled to last 70 minutes. Normally, reporters and members of the public would be permitted to observe arguments, but the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has put a stop to this practice.

Scott G. Stewart, the solicitor general of Mississippi, will have 35 minutes to represent the state.

For Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Julie Rikelman, litigation director of the Center for Reproductive Rights, will have 20 minutes. U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Prelogar will also have 15 minutes to argue in support of Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

The crowd outside the court continues to swell as the "Empower Women, Promote Life" rally goes on.


9:02 a.m. This is Marion, from Mississippi. She told CNA that she remembers Roe v. Wade, and says that her generation allowed it to happen. That’s why, she said, her generation must also work to reverse it.

The Supreme Court first heard arguments in Roe v. Wade on Dec. 13, 1971, almost exactly 50 years ago. The case was then re-argued in front of the court on Oct. 11, 1972, and the court announced their decision in the case on Jan. 22, 1973.


8:33 a.m. Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch said today is a "new chapter in American history, leaving behind the false premise that abortion levels and the playing field for women."


8:00 a.m.: It's a chilly 36 degrees, but people have assembled in front of the Supreme Court. A fence serves as a physical barrier between the two opposing groups.

Vatican archbishop ‘ultimately very optimistic’ about Catholic-Serbian Orthodox relations

Vatican Archbishop Paul Gallagher in 2018. / Bundesministerium für Europa, Integration und Äußeres via Wikimedia (CC BY 2.0).

Belgrade, Serbia, Dec 1, 2021 / 07:00 am (CNA).

The Vatican’s “foreign minister” has said that he is “ultimately very optimistic” about relations between Catholics and Serbian Orthodox Christians.

Archbishop Paul Gallagher made the remark during a visit to Serbia, a landlocked southeastern European country with a population of almost 7 million, around 85% of whom are Orthodox Christians.

The Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States met with Porfirije, the patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church, on Nov. 23.

“That obviously is a good sign and we believe that there is a dialog that needs to go on and needs to go forward,” he told Ivan Tašev in an interview published on Nov. 25 in the Croatian Catholic weekly Glas Koncila (“Voice of the Council”).

“There is a history that needs to be challenged and confronted and I’m ultimately very optimistic. We view very positively the signs and the comments of the new patriarch and also I can say that the Holy Father has great respect and esteem for him and considers him already a brother within the universal Christian Church.”

Porfirije was elected leader of the Serbian Orthodox Church, an autocephalous Eastern Orthodox Church, in February during an assembly of bishops in the Serbian capital, Belgrade.

In an interview after his election, he raised concerns about the canonization cause of Bl. Aloysius Stepinac, who is considered a hero by Catholics in neighboring Croatia.

Gallagher, who also visited Russia earlier this month, told Glas Koncila: “I think obviously there is a path to take, and that is the path of reconciliation. We need to obviously look at the shared history of the region.”

“We need to reinforce our identity above all as Christians and interpret history, the present, and the future in the light of the will of Christ. That is the thing that really matters.”

The 67-year-old English archbishop added: “There are a lot of other things such as wounds, there is contested history, and there are many other problems. In the end, what matters for the disciples of Christ is to do His will.”

No pope has visited Serbia, but Porfirije’s election raised hopes in Rome that Pope Francis might one day be invited to the country, where approximately 5% of the population is Catholic.

During a visit to Serbia in 2018, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, said that a papal visit could only take place “under the right conditions and when everyone agrees.”

Pope Francis: St. Joseph shows engaged couples what real love looks like

null / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Vatican City, Dec 1, 2021 / 05:15 am (CNA).

Pope Francis shared advice for engaged and married couples based on the example provided by the Holy Family at his Wednesday audience.

The pope highlighted how St. Joseph witnessed to what real, “mature love” looks like, particularly when life throws a couple unexpected challenges.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

He asked the crowd gathered in Vatican City’s Paul VI Hall on Dec. 1 to imagine that when Mary and Joseph were engaged to one another, “they had probably cultivated dreams and expectations regarding their life and their future,” when “out of the blue, God seems to have inserted himself into their lives.”

When Joseph learns that Mary is pregnant, “an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins’” (Matthew 1:20-21).

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Pope Francis underlined that “love is not the pretension that the other person, or life, should correspond to our imagination.”

“Rather, it means to choose in full freedom to take responsibility for one’s life as it comes,” he said. “This is why Joseph gives us an important lesson. He chooses Mary with ‘his eyes open.’ We can say ‘with all the risks.’”

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

“And Joseph’s risk gives us this lesson: to take life as it comes,” the pope said at the live-streamed audience.

In his address, Pope Francis urged Christian couples to remember that they are “called to witness to a love like this that has the courage to move from the logic of falling in love to that of mature love.”

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

He said that this requires making “a demanding choice” that “can fortify love so that it endures when faced with the trials of time.”

“Dear brothers and dear sisters, our lives are very often not what we imagine them to be. Especially in loving and affectionate relationships, it is difficult to move from the logic of falling in love to the logic of a mature love,” he said.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“We need to move from infatuation to mature love — you newlyweds, think about this. The first phase is always marked by a certain enchantment that makes us live immersed in the imaginary that is often not based on reality and facts, the falling in love phase.”

“But precisely when falling in love with its expectations seems to come to an end, that is where true love begins or true love enters in there.”

Pope Francis said that it is normal for married couples to quarrel sometimes, but advised couples to “make peace before going to bed.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“That spouses fight is our daily bread, eh … ‘And there are even times plates fly.’ It happens. But what can be done so that this does not damage the life of the marriage? Listen to me well: never finish the day without making peace,” he said.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“Remember always: never finish the day without making peace. And this will help you in your married life,” he added.

This was Pope Francis’ third reflection in a catechetical series on St. Joseph during his Wednesday general audiences.

Before ending this week’s audience, the pope made an appeal marking World AIDS Day.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“Today is World AIDS Day. It is an important occasion to remember the many people who are affected by this virus. For many of them, in some areas of the world, access to the necessary treatment is not available. My hope is that there might be a renewed commitment in solidarity to guarantee fair and effective health care,” Francis said.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

The pope also asked for prayers on the day before he departs for his trip to Cyprus and Greece on Dec. 2-6.

Among the crowd at the audience were newly married couples who came to the Vatican to receive the pope’s blessing for their marriages.

At the conclusion of his address, Pope Francis shared a prayer to St. Joseph for Christian couples:

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“St. Joseph,
you who loved Mary with freedom,
and chose to renounce your fantasies to give way to reality,
help each of us to allow ourselves to be surprised by God
and to accept life not as something unforeseen from which to defend ourselves,
but as a mystery that hides the secret of true joy.
Obtain joy and radicality for all engaged Christians,
while always being aware
that only mercy and forgiveness make love possible. Amen.”

EU Catholic bishops lament ‘anti-religious bias’ in guide discouraging word ‘Christmas’

Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, S.J., pictured at the Vatican on Oct. 10, 2018. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Brussels, Belgium, Dec 1, 2021 / 03:05 am (CNA).

Europe’s Catholic bishops said on Tuesday that a withdrawn document discouraging European Commission staff from using the word “Christmas” was marred by “anti-religious bias.”

The Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) welcomed the withdrawal on Nov. 30 of the 32-page internal document called “#UnionOfEquality. European Commission Guidelines for Inclusive Communication.”

“While respecting the right of the  European Commission to model  its  written and verbal communication, and appreciating the importance of equality and non-discrimination, COMECE cannot help being concerned about the impression that an anti-religious bias characterized some passages of the draft document,” the bishops’ commission said.

The guide urged officials at the European Commission — the executive branch of the European Union, a political and economic bloc of 27 member states — to “avoid assuming that everyone is Christian.”

“Not everyone celebrates the Christian holidays, and not all Christians celebrate them on the same dates,” the document said.

The guide encouraged staff based in the Belgian capital, Brussels, and Luxembourg to avoid a phrase such as “Christmas time can be stressful” and instead say “Holiday times can be stressful.”

It also recommended using the term “first name,” rather than “Christian name,” and said that when presenting hypothetical examples, officials should “not only choose names that are typically from one religion.”

Instead of “Maria and John are an international couple,” the guide recommended saying “Malika and Julio are an international couple.”

COMECE president Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, S.J., said: “Neutrality cannot mean relegating religion to the private sphere. Christmas is not only part of European religious traditions but also of European reality.” 

“Respecting religious diversity cannot lead to the paradoxical consequence of suppressing the religious element from public discourse.”

The archbishop of Luxembourg and relator general of the upcoming Synod on Synodality added: “While the Catholic  Church in the EU fully supports equality and countering discrimination, it is also clear that these two goals cannot lead to distortions or self-censorship. The valuable premise of inclusiveness should not cause the opposite effect of exclusion.”

The document discouraged staff from using the terms “Ms.” or “Mr.,” saying: “In case of doubt, use ‘Mx.’” It also called for forms to “include non-binary options (beyond male and female).”

Shortly before the guide was withdrawn, the Vatican’s Secretary of State sharply criticized the document.

In an interview published by Vatican News on Nov. 30, Cardinal Pietro Parolin said that the text was going “against reality” by downplaying Europe’s Christian roots.

Helena Dalli, the EU Commissioner for Equality, launched the guidelines on Oct. 26 but announced on Nov. 30 that she was recalling them.

She said: “It is not a mature document and does not meet all commission quality standards. The guidelines clearly need more work. I therefore withdraw the guidelines and will work further on this document.”

COMECE, which is based in Brussels, expressed concern that the document may have caused “damage” to “the image of the EU institutions and to the support  for  the European project in the member states.”

“It is to be hoped that a revised version of the document  will  take into account  these concerns,” it said.

Mike Pence calls on Supreme Court to overturn Roe v Wade

Former US Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Nov. 30, 2021. / Screenshot taken from Susan B. Anthony List livestream

Washington D.C., Nov 30, 2021 / 17:06 pm (CNA).

Former vice president Mike Pence is calling on the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. 

“I came here today to speak about right and wrong, to say life is a human right, and urge the Supreme Court of the United States to choose life,” he said at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday. 

Pence delivered his remarks in anticipation of the oral arguments in the Supreme Court case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization on Dec. 1. The case involves a Mississippi law restricting most abortions after 15 weeks, and challenges two landmark decisions: Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which upheld Roe in 1992.

“As we stand here today, we may well be on the verge of an era when the Supreme Court sends Roe v. Wade to the ash heap of history where it belongs,” Pence said. 

A nonprofit organization founded by Pence, Advancing American Freedom, filed an amicus brief together with other organizations urging the court to overturn Roe and Casey.

“We are asking the court, in no uncertain terms, to make history,” Pence said at the Nov. 30 event. “We are asking the Supreme Court of the United States to overturn Roe v. Wade and restore the sanctity of life to the center of American law.”

He emphasized what he called the “truth about abortion.”

“Since the Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973, the heartbreaking consequences of the Roe decision cannot be overstated,” he said. “More than 62 million unborn children in the United States have been aborted.”

Their lives mattered, he urged.

“In the 48 years since the court’s ruling, unborn children have been relegated into a caste of second-class citizens, devoid of the most basic human rights,” he said. “Precious babies have lived outside the protection of the law, and at the mercy of a culture that devalues them and an abortion industry that profits from their suffering.”

Pence also highlighted the women wounded by abortion, including those facing regret after their abortions. He hoped that Roe v. Wade would be overturned, and declared that “Americans are ready for an end to the judicial tyranny of Roe v. Wade.”

“When the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade — and I believe with all my heart that day will come either now or in the near future — it will not come as a surprise to anyone,” he said. “It will simply be the culmination of a 50-year journey whose course and destination has been driven by the will of the American people.”

He called for prayers for the justices.

“I urge my fellow Americans to cherish life, to pray, tomorrow and every day between now and next spring for the justices on our Supreme Court to have the courage to seize this moment for life and join us as we humbly ask our new conservative majority on the Supreme Court of the United States,” he said, to “Overturn Roe v. Wade and give America a new beginning for life.”

Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of the Susan B. Anthony List, introduced Pence as a “longtime friend and pro-life leader” whose “tireless advocacy personally and at nearly every level of public service has been indispensable in getting us to this pivotal moment.”

“There’s no question that because of heroes like Mike Pence, and specifically because of Mike Pence, we are standing here today,” she said. 

“Without Trump and Pence, we would not be sitting here right now,” she told CNA of the previous administration, which appointed three Supreme Court justices. 

She also credited Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for refusing to move forward with the confirmation of Merrick Garland as a Supreme Court justice in 2016, during the Obama administration.

Like Pence, Dannenfelser expressed hope for the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

“It makes a lot of sense, given that four justices agreed to answer only one question — if any pre-viability abortion limit is constitutional,” she said of the question posed by the Dobbs case. 

The Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case asks “Whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional,” or whether states can ban abortion before a fetus can survive outside the womb. 

In Roe v. Wade, the court ruled that states could not ban abortion before viability, which the court determined to be 24 to 28 weeks into pregnancy. Nearly 20 years later, the court upheld Roe in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The 1992 ruling said that while states could regulate pre-viability abortions, they could not enforce an “undue burden,” defined by the court as “a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus.”

Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act, the subject of the Dobbs case, bans abortion weeks before the point of viability.

“To set themselves up with that question to only just go back to Roe v. Wade seems rather unlikely,” Dannenfelser told CNA. “The question in my mind is, what would it be? What would it look like?” 

“The stakes are nothing less than the lives of millions of little boys and girls waiting to be born and the welfare of their mothers,” she said during her introductory remarks.

Chile legislature defeats bill that would have permitted elective abortion

Credit: Syda Productions/Shutterstock. / null

Santiago, Chile, Nov 30, 2021 / 16:23 pm (CNA).

The lower house of Chile’s legislature defeated Tuesday a bill that would have legalized elective abortion up to 14 weeks of pregnancy.

The bill was defeated in the Chamber of Deputies Nov. 30 by a vote of 65-62, with one abstention. 

Since September 2017, abortion in Chile has been legal up to 12 weeks of pregnancy on the grounds of rape, and there is no upper limit for fetal non-viability or risk to the life of the mother.

Rosario Corvalán, a lawyer with the legislative department of the Chilean NGO Comunidad y Justicia, expressed her joy over "the result and for the message it sends to citizens."

"They must stop giving us the message that ‘the majority of citizens want these bills,’ because our representatives have spoken and they don’t want abortion," Corvalán said.

Voting against the bill from the Christian Democratic Party were Matías Walker, Jorge Sabag, and Joanna Pérez, among others.

One of those absent for the vote was Gabriel Boric of Social Convergence, who is also a presidential candidate for the Apruebo Dignidad coalition who will be in the Dec. 19 presidential runoff election against José Antonio Kast of the Republican Party.

In his campaign platform, Boric promises to work to incorporate a comprehensive feminist perspective and to implement policies such as “legal, free and safe abortion on demand” as well as changes to the gender identity law.

Corvalán explained that some legislators who voted against the bill were in favor of abortion on the grounds passed in 2017. However, "they aren’t going to vote for abortion on demand" because they realize the manipulation involved and the end to be achieved.

“Although the law can’t change reality, it can be instructive. If you see that the majority of Congress says that ‘abortion is a crime,’ that helps citizens to reflect and say that ‘abortion is a bad thing,’” the lawyer said.

Corvalán encouraged pro-life people “not to stop defending their ideas, thinking that they’re an exception or something unusual. Let's go back to this common sense idea of defending the life of an innocent person."

The bill was introduced in January. 

The Chamber of Deputies’ Committee on Women, Equity and Gender had voted 7-6 against recommending the bill in August, but the larger body discussed it nevertheless.

After the debate in the lower house, the bill was sent back to the committee and was tabled until after the first round of the presidential elections Nov. 21.

The bill was debated during three sessions amid other issues, and was defeated in a full session of the Chamber of Deputies.

New Loyola Marymount alumni petition targets use of preferred pronouns

Alumni of Loyola Marymount University have launched a petition drive calling for the Los Angeles-area Catholic school to stop encouraging students to use preferred pronouns tied to their gender identity. / Shutterstock

Boston, Mass., Nov 30, 2021 / 14:05 pm (CNA).

After learning that students at Loyola Marymount University allegedly were required to include their preferred pronouns on assignments and are given the option to change their name and gender identity, an alumni-led group is petitioning the Los Angeles-area Catholic school to stop its “institutional commitment to gender ideology."

The petition partly stems from an email that a professor, Christopher Miller, allegedly sent to students on Sept. 9. The content of the email was posted on Twitter Nov. 12 by Libs of Tik Tok, a popular conservative Twitter account.

Loyola Marymount's website identifies Miller as Bhagwan Mallinath Assistant Professor of Jainism and Yoga Studies. Jainism is an ancient Indian religion.

“I added a new syllabus to Brightspace and the one major change we all need to take note of is that all are required to include their gender pronouns next to their name in their blog posts,” the alleged email reads. “I will count this toward your grade when I check for your name each time I grade the blogs.” Brightspace is a software platform for online teaching.

“Our own LMU Provost links this article in his own signature after he identifies his pronouns,” Miller allegedly wrote. “For those who are not aware of why this is important please take a few minutes to read this article.”

The linked article, addressing the importance of respecting one’s personal choice of pronouns, appears on a website called MyPronouns.org. 

“Using someone’s correct personal pronouns is a way to respect them and create an inclusive environment, just as using a person’s name can be a way to respect them,” the article states.

“Just as it can be offensive or even harassing to make up a nickname for someone and call them that nickname against their will, it can be offensive or harassing to guess at someone’s pronouns and refer to them using those pronouns if that is not how that person wants to be known,” the article continues. “Or, worse, actively choosing to ignore the pronouns someone has stated that they go by could imply the oppressive notion that intersex, transgender, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming people do not or should not exist.”

The petition calls on Loyola Marymount to stop promoting gender ideology and to renew its "institutional commitment to Roman Catholicism." The group behind the effort is called RenewLMU, which describes itself as “an alliance of students, alumni, faculty, donors, and other LMU supporters who seek to strengthen LMU’s Catholic mission and identity.”

“I was a student at LMU, and I would never have wanted a professor to try to force me to do something against my Catholic faith,” Anne Rosen, a 1985 Loyola Marymount graduate who wrote the petition, told CNA.

“This professor's actions contradict the Catholic faith because they both presuppose and reinforce what Pope Francis calls ‘gender ideology,’" she added.

RenewLMU has another petition underway calling for the university to re-install a statue of St. Junípero Serra on the school's Westchester campus. The university said in a statement to CNA that it removed the statue of the Franciscan missionary for repairs in the summer of 2020 and has since formed a task force to "invite feedback from the community and to develop recommendations on future plans." Those deliberations are still underway, the statement said.

The petition regarding preferred pronouns and gender identity includes a screenshot of what purports to be an email insignia from the dean of the Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts, Robbin D. Crabtree, which includes her pronouns and a link labeled “why they matter.” 

The email signature block allegedly belonging to Robbin Crabtree, daean of Loyola Marymount University's Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts, includes a reference to preferred pronouns and a link labeled “why they matter.”. Courtesy of RenewLMU
The email signature block allegedly belonging to Robbin Crabtree, daean of Loyola Marymount University's Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts, includes a reference to preferred pronouns and a link labeled “why they matter.”. Courtesy of RenewLMU

CNA emailed Miller and the university's media office seeking comment but did not receive a response prior to publication. CNA was unable to reach Crabtree or Thomas Poon, Loyola Marymount's executive vice president and provost, for comment.

Another catalyst for Rosen’s petition is Loyola Marymount's “Chosen Name Project.” The project encourages students to choose a name, preferred gender, and pronoun identity, which all can be changed on a student’s personal information page on a school system called “PROWL,” a self-service portal for students.

A chosen name is “simply a name that a person uses in their daily life that is different than the name appearing on their legal records,” according to the university website. Transgender and “gender non-conforming” members of the college, students who use a nickname, and international students are some examples of students who “are most likely to benefit from” using a “chosen name,” according to the website.

The “Chosen Name Project” also includes a video put out by campus ministry staff that encourages students to reflect on their name. Among the questions the video poses is, “Can this name of mine represent my mission in life? Or do I need another name to give me clarity of mission to this world?”

At odds with Pope's teaching

The petition on RenewLMU.com reads: “Forcing students to declare their pronouns violates the promotion of justice because it violates the right of free speech. The right of free speech, which LMU says it protects, includes the right to remain silent, the right not to say something that you do not want to say. Compelled speech is not free speech.”

The petition says that forcing students to declare their pronouns also violates students' privacy. 

“Some students may want to remain private about their gender identity,” the petition says. “It is invasive and inappropriate for a professor to force his students to publicly declare their sexual orientation or their gender identity.”

The “service of faith” is also being violated, the petition says, because forcing students to declare their preferred pronouns signals endorsement of what Pope Francis has called "gender ideology.”

“The Pope teaches that the human body, as male or female, is part of the good gift of God’s creation. Any university whose mission statement includes the service of faith should protect students of faith from being forced to act against their faith,” the petition says.

Pope Francis has denounced gender ideology several times during his pontificate. In one instance, in an address to Polish bishops in July 2016, the pope stated that “in Europe, America, Latin America, Africa, and in some countries of Asia, there are genuine forms of ideological colonization taking place. And one of these — I will call it clearly by its name — is [the ideology of] ‘gender.’

"Today, children — children! — are taught in school that everyone can choose his or her sex. Why are they teaching this? Because the books are provided by the persons and institutions that give you money," the pope continued. "These forms of ideological colonization are also supported by influential countries. And this is terrible!”

The petition states that “we believe, as the Catholic Church believes, that all human beings deserve to be respected by everyone and protected against unjust discrimination,” and adds that “we should love all human beings, including every person with gender dysphoria.”

The petition continues: “Protecting people does not mean forcing other people to act contrary to their faith or their consciences. And loving all people does not mean speaking or acting contrary to the truth. As St. Edith Stein taught, ‘Do not accept anything as the truth if it lacks love. And do not accept anything as love which lacks truth.’”

The petition had collected 248 signatures as of Tuesday morning, Nov. 30, RenewLMU said.

Bishop Deeley presides at outdoor prayer service for unclaimed remains in South Portland

Bishop Robert Deeley leads a committal of unclaimed cremated remains at the Old Cemetery at Calvary in South Portland, Maine, Nov. 22, 2021. / Diocese of Portland

Portland, Maine, Nov 30, 2021 / 14:01 pm (CNA).

In view of the tombstones and damp terrain of the large and rolling Old Cemetery at Calvary, a small crowd stood reverently as Bishop Robert Deeley prayed over the unclaimed and cremated remains of ten people.

“May God grant them a merciful judgement, deliverance from death, and pardon of sin,” said Bishop Deeley. “May they rejoice forever in the presence of the eternal King and in the company of all the saints.”

Bishop Deeley then sprinkled holy water on the remains, which sat next to the All Souls burial plot, part of a special outdoor prayer service on Monday, November 22.

The rite of final commendation and committal of cremated remains is an act of mercy that serves as a reminder of the sacredness of the human person. In committing the body to its resting place, the community expresses the hope that, with all those who have gone before marked with the sign of faith, the deceased awaits the glory of the Resurrection. The rite of committal is an expression of the communion that exists between the Church on earth and the Church in heaven.

“We commend to Almighty God our brothers and sisters, and we commit their earthly remains to their resting place, earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” the bishop prayed during the Prayer of Committal. “The Lord bless them and keep them.”

The remains on Monday came from area funeral homes.

“The diocese offers at no charge, to all funeral homes and to anyone who is considering scattering, the dignified committal of cremated remains at Calvary,” said Jessica Letendre, director of cemeteries for the Diocese of Portland.

“There are different reasons for remains to be unclaimed, including no family or the cost,” said Kenneth Greenleaf of Maine Catholic Cemeteries. “Bishop Deeley being at this service sends a powerful message that we have a bishop who is a leader that takes care of the poor and those in need.”

Respecting and taking care of families and the faithful departed is a central mission of Maine Catholic Cemeteries, one it proudly and humbly completes each day.

“We’re serving these families today. There are ten families here that don’t have anybody,” said Greenleaf. “We’re here serving them to make sure they are not forgotten.”

Joining the bishop on Monday was Monsignor Marc Caron, Deacon Mark Tuttle, and Sister Rita-Mae Bissonnette.

Fittingly, the service was held in November, a month in which Catholics are encouraged to pray for deceased loved ones and recall that they enjoy communion with each other on earth and with those who have preceded them in death.

Those in attendance at the service on Monday remained mindful of the persons, men and women, represented by the remains as they were commended to God in the hope of eternal peace.

“Burial in a Catholic cemetery recognizes baptismal commitment and gives witness, even in death, to our belief in the Resurrection,” said Letendre. “It was an honor to have Bishop Deeley preside over our outdoor prayer service on Monday afternoon, highlighting the great importance of respecting and revering all remains.”

One of the Corporal Works of Mercy is “bury the dead,” the act of which offers the opportunity to grieve and show others support during difficult times. Through prayer and action during these times, we show our respect for life, which is always a gift from God, and comfort to those who mourn.

“In gathering to bury the dead today, we are reminded of the humanity of those who we gather to bury, the way they shared the world in which we all live, and the charity they shared with others,” the bishop said during the service. “This is an act of mercy.”

This article was first published by the Diocese of Portland, and is reprinted with permission.