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Under financial pressure, Rockville Centre diocese sells pastoral center, closes several schools

St. Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Centre, New York. Credit: Nassau Crew via Wikimedia (CC0 1.0)

Rockville Centre, N.Y., Apr 15, 2021 / 14:01 pm (CNA).

In the wake of bankruptcy filings, the Diocese of Rockville Centre in March announced the sale of its $5.2 million pastoral center to help pay creditors. It also announced the closure of three more grammar schools on Long Island, noting additional financial troubles from the coronavirus pandemic.

According to Father Eric Fasano, the diocese’s vicar general, the move from the pastoral center will save costs.

“The sale and our relocation will have no effect on our ministry. In fact, the operating efficiencies that will result are expected to free resources that can be directed to those with the greatest need,” Fasano said March 26.

The property at 50 North Park Avenue in Rockville Centre includes a five-story building and a parking lot with space for about 58 cars. It has been sold to Synergy Holding Partners LLC.

The diocese had begun marketing the building in 2018 after it determined it was no longer cost effective. The diocese said it does not currently use all the space in the building. It plans to move to offices better suited to its needs.

The sale was approved by the bankruptcy court. All proceeds from the sale will go exclusively to creditors, the diocese and the official committee of unsecured creditors have agreed.

The diocese will remain in the building until Aug. 31.

In October 2020 the diocese announced it would file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, after more than 200 new clergy sex abuse lawsuits being filed against the diocese. Bishop John Barres said the diocese would not be able to carry out its spiritual, charitable, and educational missions if it had to shoulder “the increasingly heavy burden of litigation expenses associated with these cases.”

New York State’s 2019 Child Victims Act allowed for sex abuse lawsuits to be filed in past cases where survivors had not yet taken action, long after the statute of limitations had expired.

The coronavirus pandemic and accompanying restrictions have decreased diocesan revenues by as much as 40%, The NonProfit Times reports.

Last month the diocese announced the closure of three schools at the end of the current school year, saying the pandemic and its effects placed “significant burden” on schools that were already struggling.

Saint Raymond School, founded in 1927, was run by the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary at the campus of the parish of Saint Raymond in East Rockaway. Enrollment in nursery school through eighth grade had declined 49% to 130 students at the start of the 2020 school year. Last school year was subsidized by $330,000 from the parish and the diocese.

Saint Thomas the Apostle School in West Hempstead was founded in 1950 and originally run by the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Its enrollment in nursery school through eighth grade now stands at 209, a decline of 35% over five years. It relied on a $1 million parish subsidy in the last five years to stay open, plus another $272,000 from the parish and the diocese in the 2019-2020 school year.

Saint Christopher School in Baldwin has been staffed by the Sisters of St. Joseph since 1925. Its student enrollment of nursery school through eighth grade fell 41 percent from 2015, totaling only 179 students at the start of the 2020 school year.

Despite the parish efforts to manage costs, school operations needed a $350,000 subsidy each year.

Sean P. Dolan, the diocese’s director of communications, said March 16 that the diocese is “deeply saddened” by the closures. Dolan said enrollment declines and the effects of the pandemic on parish offertory collections and school fundraising mean that it is not feasible to keep the schools open.

“The Diocese of Rockville Centre thanks the dedicated and committed principal and teachers, both lay and religious, who have taught in these schools,” he said.

The diocese said students from the closed schools would be welcomed into other schools.

The three schools add to seven other grammar schools that have closed in the past year because of declining enrollments.

The diocese still operates over 30 parish and regional elementary schools. According to 2018 figures on the diocese’s website, over 13,700 students were enrolled in Catholic elementary schools in the diocese and over 10,500 enrolled in nine Catholic high schools. The enrollment figures include Catholic schools not run by the diocese.

The diocese’s territory on Long Island includes the counties of Nassau and Suffolk. It serves some 1.4 million Catholics out of 3 million residents, one of the largest dioceses by population in the U.S. The diocese has about 130 parishes.

‘Refugee resettlement has effectively been halted’: Catholics implore Biden to accept more refugees

Syrian refugee family at a camp in Passau, Germany - August 2015 / Jazzmany/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Apr 15, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

Catholic organizations expressed dismay that the United States this year could admit the lowest number of refugees in decades. 

According to the International Rescue Committee, a nonprofit that assists refugees, only 2,050 refugees have been admitted to the United States in the current fiscal year. Although President Biden promised to raise the limit on the number of refugees accepted by the United States, he has yet to issue the final orders to implement that.

In February, Biden pledged to raise the refugee cap to 62,500 - nearly four times the current cap of 15,000. 

While he included that number in a proposed Presidential Determination - part of the administrative process for allowing refugees to come to the United States - he has yet to issue a final version of the determination. Catholic groups told CNA that they want Biden to issue a final determination. 

Bill Canny, executive director of the U.S. bishops’ conference (USCCB) migration committee, told CNA on Wednesday that he is “absolutely” disappointed with the Biden administration on refugee admissions.

“We are very disturbed that without a presidential determination, refugee resettlement has effectively been halted,” Canny said. 

“We know that there were hundreds of refugees prepared to come to the United States,” he added, but with no determination issued yet, “those refugees are not moving.”

Canny said that he is “certainly disturbed” by the slow pace of refugee resettlement. He said it is “not clear” why Biden has not made refugee resettlement a priority. 

Canny told CNA that he believes the United States can easily welcome additional refugees - and that it is the duty of a Catholic to do so. 

“We believe as the Catholic church that we need to do our part to welcome these people to our country,” Canny said. “And we are prepared certainly as a Church in the United States to assist and support refugees that the government allows into the country.”

Catholic Relief Services has also pushed for Biden to increase the United States’ refugee intake.

“We urge the administration to issue a formal Presidential Determination meeting its stated objective of increasing the number of refugee admissions this fiscal year,” Bill O’Keefe, Catholic Relief Services’ executive vice president for mission, mobilization and advocacy, told CNA on Wednesday. 

O’Keefe noted that refugees are “fleeing war, persecution and extreme violence,” and “often lack access to adequate healthcare, housing, food and water” - conditions which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The U.S. handpicks refugees who resettle here, and they go through multiple layers of interviews and security checks,” said O’Keefe.  “As the world’s most prosperous nation, we should be doing as much as possible to help refugees, including resettling our share of the most vulnerable.”

Biden in February issued an executive order stating goals of reforming the refugee assistance program and increasing the number of refugees accepted to 125,000 per year.

“President Biden’s Executive Order sends a message loud and clear: refugees are welcome in the United States of America,” Secretary of State Anthony Blinken stated after the order was issued.

The Trump administration progressively lowered the ceiling for refugee acceptance to the record-low of 15,000 for the 2021 fiscal year, and reportedly admitted fewer than 12,000 refugees in 2020. 

After vandalism, Houston parish welcomes back refurbished Our Lady of Guadalupe statue

Our Lady of Guadalupe. / Sacred Heart Cathedral Knoxville via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0).

CNA Staff, Apr 15, 2021 / 12:53 pm (CNA).

A Catholic parish in Houston held an inauguration ceremony this week for a refurbished statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe that had been vandalized late last year.

The ceremony, held April 11, was attended by parishioners of Queen of Peace Catholic Church. The statue was adorned with flowers, ABC13 news reported.

In December of 2020, the Our Lady of Guadalupe statue was shot with at least six bullets, reported parishioners. Witnesses of the attack said the perpetrator was wearing a black hat and a red suit.

In early February, the statue was repaired and brought back to its home.

“Good morning brothers and sisters in Christ,” a February 2 Instagram post from the Queen of Peace Catholic Church account read. “Please be advised that the statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe is now back at QOP. Thank you all so much for your prayers and may our Lord God bless you and bless the hands that repaired her.”

The attack follows a string of other vandalism incidents this year.

On Saturday March 13, Saint Joseph’s Parish on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. was vandalized with graffiti.

In early January, St. Theresa of the Child Jesus Catholic Church in Abbeville, La., was attacked in a similar manner. A statue of Saint Therese of Lisieux was found spray-painted on with an upside-down cross, the word ‘satan’, and a pentagram.

In early February three angel statues at St. Pius X Church in El Paso were found toppled over and broken.

Archbishop Gomez: Gospel is the answer to the 'new religion' of secularism

Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Washington D.C., Apr 15, 2021 / 10:21 am (CNA).

True social justice is rooted in the Gospel and not in a secular materialist vision, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles told Catholic activists on Thursday.

“We are followers of Jesus Christ! We are not liberals or conservatives. The Church is not a political party and we are not activists. We are Catholics,” the archbishop told Catholic activists in Minnesota at a virtual conference.

Archbishop Gomez, the president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, delivered his remarks virtually on Thursday for Minnesota’s “Catholics at the Capitol” Day, hosted by the state’s Catholic conference.

Speaking to Catholics who are advocating for public policies at the state capitol, Gomez said that Catholics must present the Gospel as an alternative to an “aggressively secular” culture that replaces religion with politics.

Pope Francis, he said, has warned against “reductive anthropological visions” that diminish human dignity. Gomez added that these visions are manifested in some “critical theories and ideologies” today.

“Even though America has become very secular, the religious impulse has not died. In fact, among our cultural and political leaders and some of our neighbors, politics has become their new religion,” Gomez said.

Subsequently, he said, “our politics have become so cruel and uncompromising, and so lacking in mercy and hope.” Even “well-intentioned” secular policies of social justice cannot lead to true human flourishing, he noted.

“Without God, our politics is reduced to a kind of power struggle among competing interests,” he said. “And sadly, as we know, it is always the poor and vulnerable who are left to suffer at the hands of the powerful and privileged.”

In contrast to this secular vision, the Church cannot act like a non-governmental organization, but must rather be informed by the Gospel with Catholics living lives of faith and prayer.

“Our vision for social justice is distinctive. It is distinctive because we believe that the human person is a child of God, and because we believe that God has beautiful plan of love for every human life,” he said.

“In the Catholic vision, social justice is not about personal identity, or group power, or getting more material goods,” he said.

“True social justice is about building a society where people can be good, a society where people can love one another and take care of one another, where they can find God and know that they are made for heaven. And true social justice can never be obtained without simple human kindness, compassion, and forgiveness,” he said.

Gomez’s address was originally scheduled to be delivered to an in-person gathering. However, Thursday’s event was held virtually due to local unrest following the shooting of Daunte Wright, a 20 year-old Black male, by a Minneapolis police officer on Sunday.

Wright was pulled over by police in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center. As the reason for the traffic stop, police claimed he was driving a car with expired tags; officers subsequently tried to arrest him upon discovering he had an outstanding arrest warrant.

After Wright resisted arrest and entered his car, former officer Kim Potter shot him – claiming that she had intended to fire her taser instead. Wright drove several blocks, attempting to evade police, before crashing and dying at the scene of the crash.

The officer, Kim Potter, resigned this week and has been charged with second-degree manslaughter. Four days of protests ensued after the killing of Wright, with local authorities imposing a curfew and the state deploying the National Guard. Meanwhile, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is currently on trial for the killing of George Floyd in May 2020.

Addressing Thursday’s gathering, Archbishop Gomez offered his prayers for peace and justice, for the families of those involved in the shooting, and for “the whole Church in Minnesota.” The Church is committed to fighting racism, he said.

“Racism, as we all know, is a grave sin, a spiritual disease, and a social injustice. We need to stand together as one Church to eradicate this evil from our own hearts, from the hearts of our neighbors, and from the structures of our society,” Archbishop Gomez said.

Citing Pope Francis’ recent encyclical Fratelli Tutti, Gomez said that the Gospel must be the “wellspring” for Catholics in public life.

“If we believe that God is our Father, then we must believe and act as if all men and women are our brothers and sisters,” he said. “If we believe that Jesus died for the love of every person, then we know that ‘no one is beyond the scope of his universal love,’ as the Pope writes.”

However, today’s “aggressively secular” culture seeks to drive this vision out of the public square, he said, noting the “growing censorship of Christian viewpoints on the internet and social media.”

He exhorted Catholics to pray and frequent the sacraments.

“I want to urge you to keep praying and to keep going deeper into the sources of our faith — the Gospels, the writings and lives of the saints, the Eucharist and the sacraments,” he said.

“These are for us, as the Pope says, the ‘wellspring of human dignity and fraternity.’”

Members of Congress want a vote to protect abortion survivors – will they get one?

lazyllama/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Apr 15, 2021 / 04:00 am (CNA).

Members of the House are once again trying to bring up a vote on legislation protecting infant survivors of abortions.

On Wednesday, Rep. Kat Cammack (R-Fla.) filed a discharge petition to force a vote on the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act; the bill would require infants surviving abortions to receive the same standard of care as other prematurely-born babies.

Not all states publicize data on abortions. According to one data request from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, reported by the Charlotte Lozier Institute, 143 babies survived abortion attempts in the United States between 2003 and 2014; the CDC added that the number may have been an underestimate.

For 2019, Florida reported that two babies survived abortion attempts; between the years 2013 and 2019, 23 babies in Florida were reported to have been born alive during abortions.

The U.S. bishops’ conference (USCCB) supports the “Born-Alive” legislation.

“There should be no bill easier for Congress to pass than one that makes clear that killing newborn babies is wrong and will not be tolerated,” stated Kat Talalas, assistant director for pro-life communications for the USCCB’s pro-life committee.

“Infants who are born alive after an abortion attempt should be given the same degree of care to preserve their life and health as would be given to any other newborn baby,” Talalas stated.

Members sought to bring up a vote on the legislation in the previous Congress, but Democratic leadership stymied the attempts more than 75 times, Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) claimed.

The bill introduced on Wednesday, a version of which was introduced last Congress, requires babies surviving abortion attempts to receive the same standard of care that other children born prematurely would receive. Health care staff present for the botched abortion are required to give the care, and report failure to provide the care to law enforcement.

Failure to give the required care or to report a violation is punishable by fines or up to five years imprisonment under the legislation. Mothers of children who survive abortions and are not resuscitated can have a civil cause of action for the failure to provide the care to their child, and are protected from prosecution under the bill.

In order for the discharge petition to successfully bring up a vote on the bill, however, 218 members need to sign it. In the previous Congress, 205 members – including three Democrats and Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-N.J.) who switched party affiliations in 2019 – signed the discharge petition.

A 2002 law that passed both houses of Congress, the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, recognized unborn children as persons but did not include provisions requiring care for infant survivors of abortion.

Cammack is a freshman congresswoman endorsed by the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List. She recently told EWTN Pro-Life Weekly that, while she was in her mother’s womb, doctors advised her mother to have an abortion due to medical risks from the pregnancy.

“She had something inside of her that told her that everything was going to be okay,” Cammack said of her mother’s decision to choose life. “And that, to me, is the most powerful, impactful thing that really has shaped my views on this.”

As of Wednesday evening, 169 members had signed the new discharge petition.

House Republicans seek to defund UN agency over abortion concerns

Alexandros Michailidis/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Apr 14, 2021 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

House Republicans on Tuesday introduced a bill to defund the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), alleging its complicity in forced abortions and sterilizations in China.

Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) introduced the “No Taxpayer Funding for the United Nations Population Fund Act” on Tuesday to permanently strip the UNFPA of federal funding. The UNFPA partners with China, and Roy alleged that the organization is complicit in China’s population control program where women have reportedly endured forced abortions and sterilizations. 

More than three dozen members are co-sponsoring Roy’s legislation. 

The Trump administration stopped funding the UNFPA in 2017, citing the fund’s partnership with the Chinese government where “family planning policies still involve the use of coercive abortion and involuntary sterilization practices.”

Last week, President Biden included funding for the UNFPA in his discretionary budget request for the 2022 fiscal year, “including for the repayment of arrears, where applicable.” In January, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said the agency would work to make $32.5 million available for the fund in 2021.

Roy on Wednesday said that federal funds should not be subsidizing abortion, directly or indirectly.

“American tax dollars should never directly or indirectly support taking of innocent human life through abortion or the dehumanizing act of involuntary sterilization, and they certainly shouldn’t be used to support the oppressive, America-hating Chinese Communist Party in any way whatsoever,” Roy said. 

“Former President Trump was right to stop funding the UN Population Fund due to their open partnership with the oppressive Chinese regime and their support for China’s atrocious human rights violations. This legislation will continue that policy,” he added.

The UN Population Fund describes itself as the “sexual and reproductive health agency” of the United Nations. 

“Our mission is to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person's potential is fulfilled,” the UNFPA website states.

When the Trump administration defunded the UNFPA, it redirected the funding to the US Agency for International Development for family planning programs in line with the Mexico City Policy. That policy required U.S. family planning and global health assistance to not fund groups promoting or performing abortions. 

Biden revoked the pro-life Mexico City Policy as one of his first acts in office. Previous Democratic presidents have repealed the policy at the outset of their presidencies. 

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and many other pro-life organizations support Roy’s bill. 

“The current Administration plans to restart funding UNFPA despite the organization’s consistent support for China’s brutal child policy and the lack of evidence that UNFPA has changed course,” said Thomas McClusky, president of March for Life Action. 

“The United States should support human rights, not fund international groups complicit in their violation.”

White House spokeswoman grilled on fungibility of Title X funding

Jen Psaki, White House Press Secretary. / EWTN News Nightly YouTube

CNA Staff, Apr 14, 2021 / 14:18 pm (CNA).

Earlier today, EWTN’s White House Correspondent Owen Jensen questioned White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki about the proposed reversal of the Trump administration’s Protect Life Rule.

 

 

EWTN News Nightly White House Correspondent, Owen Jensen:

So today, as you well know, the Biden administration and HHS started the reversal of the Trump administration’s ban on abortion referrals at Title 10, family planning clinics. For my first question, why does the Biden administration insist that prolife Americans pay for abortions and violate their conscience?

 

White House Press Secretary, Jen Psaki:

Well, first, that's not an accurate depiction of what happened. And I know we want to be accurate around here. None of the funds appropriated under this title shall be used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning. That is written into the Public Health Service Act and it specifically states that.

 

Owen Jensen:

Indirect subsidies, money that is fungible that can't be traced… We know that, come on.

 

Jen Psaki:

That is not how it works. That is the law. So I'm stating what the law is and how it is implemented legally by these organizations. And the reason I though... since you give me the opportunity. The reason why the president took these steps is because he believes that advancing equity for all, including people of color and others who have been historically underserved, marginalized and adversely affected by persistent poverty and inequality can be helped by these actions. And by focusing on advancing equity in the Title X program, we can create opportunities for the improvement of communities that have been historically underserved, which benefits everyone. That's how these fundings are used in communities.

 

Owen Jensen:

You talk about equity. If I may interrupt, how is equity, how is it fighting systemic racism when abortion, we well know, disproportionately affects minority children?

 

Jen Psaki:

Again, funding cannot be used from this for abortion, but access to health care. Access to

health care in communities that have been marginalized, underserved, adversely affected by persistent poverty is always going to be something the president fights for.

 

 

 

The proposal from the Biden administration is set to be published April 15. A thirty-day comment period for the public on the proposed changes will then open.

 

Pro-life advocates have criticized the principle of funding abortion groups such as Planned Parenthood, even with prohibitions on the money directly funding abortion. They argue that since money is fungible, the additional funding frees up other funds to go toward abortions.

 

Amazon pulls transgender-critical book before relisting it

nito/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Apr 14, 2021 / 14:07 pm (CNA).

The online retail giant Amazon delisted a book critical of transgender ideology, before apparently relisting it for sale on Wednesday afternoon.

Maria Keffler, author of “Desist, Detrans, & Detox: Getting Your Child Out of the Gender Cult,” told CNA that her book is a “guidebook” for parents who don’t want to take an “affirmation-only” approach to matters of gender identity. 

“Right now, out in the culture, that’s all that’s being given to parents,” Keffler said. She is co-founder of the Arlington Parent Coalition & Partners for Ethical Care. 

The book was listed for sale on Amazon on April 7, Keffler said, but the listing was removed less than a week later. 

On Wednesday afternoon, however, the book appeared for sale on Amazon’s online Kindle store. 

A spokesperson for Amazon did not immediately respond to CNA’s request for comment. 

Amazon had told the publisher of Keffler’s book that it violated guidelines for submitting books with “content that is considered offensive.”

In an email obtained by CNA from Amazon’s Kindle Account Review to Partners for Ethical Care - the publisher and copyright holder for Keffler’s book - Amazon stated: “We have temporarily suspended your KDP account because you have repeatedly submitted books through your account that violate our Content Guidelines as they contain content that is considered offensive.”

According to Partners for Ethical Care, “Amazon did not contact the author or publisher before cancelling the book.”

The delisting of Keffler’s book came less than two months after after Amazon pulled the book “When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment” by scholar Ryan T. Anderson. 

Anderson, who is currently president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, said his book had been listed for sale on Amazon for three years after it was published in 2018. His book is a critical look at the transgender movement.

Following the removal of Anderson’s book - which is still not listed for sale on Amazon.com - four Republican senators sent a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos questioning the removal of Anderson’s book. The four senators were Marco Rubio of Florida, Mike Lee of Utah, Mike Braun of Indiana, and Josh Hawley of Missouri.

In response, Brian Huseman, Amazon’s vice president of public policy, wrote that the company has “chosen not to sell books that frame LGBTQ+ identity as a mental illness.”

Keffler argued that proponents of an “affirmation-only approach” to gender identity demonstrate “cult-like” behavior.

She added that her book is well researched, and said, “I would like to know if anyone at Amazon actually read it, and I would like for them to point out what specifically in the book they consider problematic.” 

“I would like to know what is offensive in this book,” she said, adding, “I think it’s a problem Amazon has taken one side on this issue. This is something they need to give better and deeper thought than they have.” 

Both Keffler’s and Anderson’s books remain available for sale by other retailers, including Barnes and Noble. 

Biden administration proposes restoring Title X funding for abortion clinics

Planned Parenthood clinic in Newton, NJ Credit: Glynnis Jones

CNA Staff, Apr 14, 2021 / 12:49 pm (CNA).

President Joe Biden is moving to reverse a Trump-era policy that barred federal Title X funding to entities that perform and refer for abortions, such as Planned Parenthood. 


A proposal from the administration, set to be published April 15, would restore regulations first set in the year 2000 under Bill Clinton.


Title X is a federal program created in 1965 that subsidizes family-planning and preventative health services, including contraception, for low-income families. It has been frequently updated and subject to new regulations. 


Title X does not pay for abortions, but under the Clinton administration’s 2000 rule, grant recipients had to provide abortion counseling and abortion referrals to clients upon request.


In May of 2018, the Trump administration first proposed requiring a strict physical and financial line of separation between Title X programs and any program or facility that performs abortion, or supports or refers for abortion. 


The change of regulations did not impact the amount of funding allocated for Title X family planning programs, but rather changed who was eligible to receive such funds. 


The March 2019 implementation of the Protect Life Rule, as the previous administration’s policy was known, mandated Title X fund recipients to be both physically and financially separate from facilities that perform abortions. It also made abortion counseling optional and forbade Title X recipients from referring for abortions. 


After the new rules were announced, Planned Parenthood said it was exiting the Title X program in order to continue performing abortions.


Planned Parenthood had been receiving about one-fifth of the total amount of Title X funds distributed, and withdrawing from the program meant a $60 million cut in federal funding for the organization each year. Planned Parenthood still receives roughly $500 million annually in Medicaid reimbursement.


The HHS, in its rule-change proposal, cited statistics from the Planned Parenthood-affiliated Guttmacher Institute that claimed that the 2019 rule led to nearly 182,000 “unintended” pregnancies. 


A thirty-day comment period for the public on the proposed changes will open on April 15. 


In March 2021, on the same day that nominee Xavier Becerra was confirmed as the next HHS Secretary, the agency said it would implement the rule-change.


Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, said April 14 that the 2019 rule “respected both the plain statutory language of Title X and the strong majority of Americans who oppose using taxpayer dollars to pay for abortion on demand.”


“Abortion is not ‘family planning’ and Biden-Harris Democrats pursue this extreme, unpopular agenda at their political peril,” Dannenfelser concluded. 


In March of this year, the Biden administration asked the Supreme Court to throw out a challenge to the 2019 rules, signaling it intends to roll back the restrictions.


The Baltimore mayor and city council, as well as a number of states and pro-abortion groups, challenged the rule in court. While the Fourth Circuit court in September ruled 8-6 against the rule, the Ninth Circuit court upheld the rule in February 2020, in a separate challenge.


In February of this year, the Supreme Court had agreed to hear the case which is currently scheduled to be argued during fall 2021. 


The federal Hyde Amendment currently prohibits federal funding for almost all abortions, though Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have expressed support for a repeal of the amendment.


Former Crookston bishop apologizes for failures in governance

Bishop Michael Hoeppner. CNA file photo.

Crookston, Minn., Apr 14, 2021 / 10:57 am (CNA).

Bishop Michael Hoeppner, who has resigned as Bishop of Crookston after being accused of mishandling cases of priests accused of sexual misconduct, apologized Tuesday for his failures at governing the diocese.

“The Church describes the ministry of a diocesan bishop as teaching, sanctifying and governing. It has been a joy and a blessing for me to have served as your bishop for the past 13+ years. I apologize to you, as I have apologized to our Holy Father, for my failures in governing as bishop,” Bishop Hoeppner wrote in an April 13 letter to the faithful of the Diocese of Crookston.

The resignation of Bishop Hoeppner had been accepted earlier that day.

Bishop Hoeppner, 71, was the first U.S. bishop to be investigated under Vos estis lux mundi, Pope Francis’ 2019 norms on investigating bishops accused of mishandling or obstructing allegations of clerical sexual abuse.

The bishop is reported to have pressured an alleged victim to drop his allegation of abuse against a priest, failed to follow mandatory reporting laws, and neglected to follow protocols designed to monitor priests accused of misconduct.

In his letter, Bishop Hoeppner wrote that Pope Francis had asked for his resignation, which “comes as a result of the investigation into reports that I, '…at times, failed to observe applicable norms when presented with allegations of sexual abuse involving clergy of the Diocese of Crookston.'”

He added his appreciation of “the many good things and blessings that God has showered upon us these past years … In our world of today where so many are confused about so many things, it is important that the truth of the Gospel and the Church’s Tradition be clearly presented for all to hear. I have enjoyed celebrating the Sacraments in the many wonderful parishes throughout our diocese.”

The bishop thanked “all the wonderful people with whom I have had the privilege to work these years,” particularly “the members of the diocesan curia and diocesan staff. It has been a delight to come to work each day and engage with such wonderful, dedicated people in the work of the Church.”

He announced his plan for the immediate future is to move with his sister to a warmer climate, and added, “I look forward to returning to Crookston for personal visits and will await the appointment of a new bishop here to determine other activity.”

“You who are the local Church of Crookston, will always be the premiere diocese for me. You have heard me say, and it is true, 'I am a blessed bishop.' And, it is as true today as the day I said it at my ordaination [sic] as your bishop, 'you have a bishop who loves you.' Be assured, I will continue to keep you all in my prayers each day. May God continue to be with you and bless you always.”

Bishop Richard Pates, Bishop Emeritus of Des Moines, has been appointed apostolic administrator of Crookston.

A report on the Vos estis investigation of Bishop Hoeppner was sent to Rome in late October 2019, and in February 2020, the Crookston diocese announced that the Vatican had ordered an additional investigation into the bishop.

Both investigations were conducted by Archbishop Bernard Hebda of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.

Bishop Hoeppner was not permitted to oversee sexual abuse cases in his diocese during the second investigation.

In depositions released in November 2019 as part of a legal settlement, Bishop Hoeppner is seen to admit to several of the charges against him. In those depositions, Bishop Hoeppner also defended a diocesan decision to allow a priest to remain in ministry, without notifying parents or parishioners, after the priest admitted that while he was teenager he had sexually abused a younger child.

The announcement in early 2020 about a second investigation into Bishop Hoeppner followed several months in which local Catholics called for Bishop Hoeppner’s resignation, and accused him of mistreating a popular priest removed from ministry under vague terms.

Priests in the diocese told CNA at the time that they expected Bishop Hoeppner to be removed from office, and that given the bishop’s record, the credibility of the Vos estis procedures could be called into question were he eventually permitted to remain in office.

Vos estis lux mundi allows the Vatican “to provide for a supplementary investigation” after initial steps are taken, if Vatican officials deem it necessary.

There are currently several Vos estis investigations going on in dioceses in the U.S.

In 2021, announcements were made about Vos estis investigations into Bishop John Brungardt of Dodge City and Bishop Howard Hubbard, Bishop Emeritus of Albany.