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Two San Francisco Bay Catholic schools to close over security and other concerns

The chapel of St. Anthony Catholic School in Oakland, California. / Credit: Facebook of St. Anthony Catholic School

ACI Prensa Staff, Feb 27, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

The Diocese of Oakland in California has announced that at the end of the school year it will close two private Catholic schools in the east San Francisco Bay area amid concerns about security and the presence of human trafficking activity in the vicinity.

According to an investigative report by ABC 7 News, parents at St. Anthony Catholic School, part of Lumen Christi Academies, were informed of the decision two weeks ago by email.

In addition to security issues, the Diocese of Oakland’s email stated that the reasons for the closing of the schools also include financial problems as well as outside factors such as homelessness, unemployment, a shortage of affordable housing, and the presence of human trafficking activity near the school.

More than a year ago, the ABC7 News investigative team reported the existence of human trafficking activity in the area in a video showing apparent sex workers and pimps loitering near the school, which led the FBI to install surveillance cameras and traffic barriers in streets near the school.

In November 2023, Operation Phoenix, a large-scale operation conducted by various law enforcement agencies, dismantled an alleged human trafficking ring spanning several cities in the San Francisco Bay area.

Months earlier, in Operation Cross Country, local police rescued 200 trafficking victims and located 59 minors who were also victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation.

According to the most recent report from the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, during 2021 more than 5,200 alerts of possible cases were recorded in California, which topped the list with approximately 10% of the total.

In addition to St. Anthony Catholic School, the Diocese of Oakland confirmed that Our Lady of Guadalupe School in the bay city of Fremont will close its doors on June 6.

In an official statement, the diocese explained that the school run by the Dominican Sisters of Mission San José will close due to a “drastic decrease in enrollment” and a “reduction in reserve funds,” factors that made the continued operation of the school unsustainable.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Lisieux House: Convent turned young adult community celebrates 10 years 

Lisieux House ladies holding up a picture of St. Therese of Lisieux from a feast day celebration they had in her honor. / Credit: Photo courtesy of Angela Maccarrone

CNA Staff, Feb 27, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

The sad reality of dwindling vocations to religious life in the U.S. leaves the Catholic Church with an odd phenomenon — empty convents. But the Lisieux House, a small community of young adult women in Seattle, has brought life back into an old convent for nearly a decade.   

Founded in 2014, the convent-turned-residence first opened its doors to young women on the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. Almost 10 years later, it’s a vibrant community currently housing nine young women. And in a fitting twist, one member of the house has been accepted into candidacy as a religious sister with the Carmelites.

Lisieux House women in March 2023 at a spring retreat at Holy Theophany Monastery in Olympia, Washington. Pictured from left to right: Kendra Baker, Anne-Marie Droege, Hannah Gillespie (now alumna), Mikaela Rink, Sophia Basil, Theresa Ambat, Kelci Young (now alumna), Angela Maccarrone, and Maggie May. Courtesy of Maggie May
Lisieux House women in March 2023 at a spring retreat at Holy Theophany Monastery in Olympia, Washington. Pictured from left to right: Kendra Baker, Anne-Marie Droege, Hannah Gillespie (now alumna), Mikaela Rink, Sophia Basil, Theresa Ambat, Kelci Young (now alumna), Angela Maccarrone, and Maggie May. Courtesy of Maggie May

The founder of the Lisieux House, Molly Gallagher, was the director of religious education at a local parish when “God put [the house] in my path,” she said. 

Eucharistic at heart

By writing a “house constitution” that the young women still abide by today, Gallagher shaped the house for years to come. 

She began by visiting other young adult Catholic homes throughout the U.S., many of which have since disbanded. 

“What I found in the houses around the country is that they’re Eucharistic-centered,” she said. “And without the Eucharist, they tend to fail.” 

Basing their practice on the house constitution, the young women pray night prayer together Monday through Thursday, host weekly house dinners followed by the rosary, and have at least one monthly Mass in the house chapel. 

The women also have two retreats a year and encourage newcomers to read “Story of a Soul,” St. Thérèse of Lisieux’s autobiography. 

Throughout the day, residents can visit the chapel, which houses the Eucharist in a tabernacle. 

Maggie May, a 26-year-old engineer who is the current “house leader” at Lisieux, said that “living with the Blessed Sacrament” makes the house different from “anywhere else that I’ve lived.”

“The Eucharist is really the heart” of the house, Gallagher noted. 

Most of "the original group" pictured with Father Jacques Philippe, who visited the house on Feb. 14, 2016. Philippe, a member of the Community of the Beatitudes in France, is known for his spiritual writings, including "Searching for and Maintaining Peace." From left to right: Stéphanie Baghoumina, Molly Gallagher, Alane Howard, Father Jacque Philippe, Michael Shelby Suberlak, Renee Corcoran, Francine Gregorios, and Molly McCloskey. Credit: Photo courtesy of Lisieux House
Most of "the original group" pictured with Father Jacques Philippe, who visited the house on Feb. 14, 2016. Philippe, a member of the Community of the Beatitudes in France, is known for his spiritual writings, including "Searching for and Maintaining Peace." From left to right: Stéphanie Baghoumina, Molly Gallagher, Alane Howard, Father Jacque Philippe, Michael Shelby Suberlak, Renee Corcoran, Francine Gregorios, and Molly McCloskey. Credit: Photo courtesy of Lisieux House

Making an ‘ugly’ building welcoming

Gallagher said she suspects that the strength of the House comes from its difficult beginning, which was marked by a “spirit of poverty.” 

“In the beginning, it wasn’t running as smoothly as it is now,” Gallagher said. “And so we all helped; everyone really helped to build the place.”

Moving into a convent that lacked insulation and furniture helped with “bonding us together,” she explained.  

“Stuff broke all the time,” she recalled. “It looked pretty ugly.”

But the spirit of poverty shone in the young women who lived there, whom Gallagher described as “humble” and “authentic.”

“That spirit of poverty helps communicate to other people that they don’t have to be impressive, that they’re just loved as they are,” Gallagher said.

“I didn’t really found it,” she said of the house. “God and all of these girls founded it.”

Faith and a broken pipe

Angela Maccarrone, a young woman pursuing her doctoral degree in clinical psychology, “immediately fell in love” with the Lisieux House after hearing about it in a local Catholic magazine

But Maccarrone has a rare form of muscular dystrophy that causes muscle weakness affecting her spine, neck, and respiratory muscles. She struggles with respiratory issues and uses a motorized scooter to move. 

Angela Maccarrone pictured with other Lisieux girls at a local parish in Seattle. Credit: Photo courtesy of Maggie May.
Angela Maccarrone pictured with other Lisieux girls at a local parish in Seattle. Credit: Photo courtesy of Maggie May.

When she reached out to the Lisieux House, Maccarrone said the young women helped brainstorm how to make the house accessible and “never shied away from the idea” of her moving in. But the parish couldn’t afford the cost of renovation. 

Then, a pipe burst in one of the bedrooms — the room that was potentially suitable for the accessibility renovation. 

The room had to be completely gutted, and because insurance covered it, the church was able to make the room accessible for Maccarrone’s needs.

“And at the time, the girls were praying a novena to St. Thérèse,” she said. “And so we like to joke that St. Thérèse likes to play jokes, and that she works with broken pipes.”

The building still isn’t fully accessible; Maccarrone has to go outside and around the house to access the chapel and the upstairs area because there’s no elevator or chair lift. 

“The house is an old convent,” Maccarrone noted. “You can tell it’s aged, and there’s lots of renovations and things that we need, but yet, at the same time, we make it home, and we try to foster that sense of hospitality and rest here at the house.”

This community helps form friendships that are “ultimately rooted in Christ,” Maccarrone said.

“I think the love and the community that Lisieux House has provided — it’s really not just a house with a bunch of roommates living together; it’s so much more than that,” she said. 

The secrets of Lisieux House

Gallagher, who moved into the house a couple of years after it was established and lived there for four years, said the house has “a few secrets.”

“You think you’re going to just move into a community and you’re just going to have a place to live,” she said. “But really, the way we set up the prayer life of the house, I think God really takes you and works on you in a deeper way.”

The women who stay at Lisieux are often in a transitional phase in their careers, May and Gallagher both noted.

“Something about Lisieux House really has a vocational element to it,” Gallagher said. “Because you’re in this safe, protected place, and anytime you’re in a place like that, God does deeper spiritual work because he sort of has you cloistered a little bit, so he can do deeper stuff.”

In fact, one Lisieux resident, Kendra Baker, will leave the house to begin her candidacy with the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles.

While many of the women at Lisieux have had “career pivots,” May noted, they are all “trying to live out their vocation in different stages of life.” 

Some of the women are teachers; one works at Seattle Children’s and another at a life-affirming clinic; another is a chef for local Dominican friars. 

“It’s not a cookie-cutter type thing,” May said. “And I think that’s really a testament to the universality of the Church and how everyone has their own individual calling.”

A community dinner at Lisieux House. Credit: Photo courtesy of Angela Maccarrone
A community dinner at Lisieux House. Credit: Photo courtesy of Angela Maccarrone

The need for Lisieux House 

When asked whether this could — or should — be repeated in other places, Gallagher said that while the Lisieux House model may not be for everybody, there is a need for community everywhere.  

“I think we’re in this period of time where people are more and more isolated, and they feel like they don’t have purpose,” she reflected.

Not only does the Lisieux House provide community for the young women living there, but they extend that community out by inviting others to house dinners and events. 

“We really wanted a deep charism of hospitality because there’s a lot of displaced people, a lot of isolation, especially in our modern era,” Gallagher said. 

She said that people have forgotten that “we’re supposed to be filled with the fire of the Spirit.” 

“I heard somebody say once [that] we need people to stand on the hill holding the torch to remind people of where to go and remind people of who they are because it’s lost information,” she continued. 

But founding a house is “a very hard thing to do,” and Gallagher credited “the grace of God” for it all.

“It’s sort of a miracle that Lisieux House has happened and is still running,” she said. 

But the effects of the house are powerful, even 10 years later.

“When you haven’t been aware of a type of love and then you suddenly are in it, you can’t go back,” Gallagher said. “It changes you.”

More information about the Lisieux House can be found here.

Leading bishop urges U.S. to send humanitarian aid to Ukraine, two years into war

Bishop Abdallah Elias Zaidan of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles serves as chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace. / Credit: Joe Bukuras/CNA

CNA Staff, Feb 26, 2024 / 17:10 pm (CNA).

A leading Maronite Catholic bishop this week urged ongoing humanitarian support for the suffering people of Ukraine, two years after the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion. 

Bishop A. Elias Zaidan of the Maronite Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon, which encompasses a large portion of the western United States from California to Ohio, said in a Feb. 23 statement that he urges “the U.S. government to do all that it can to provide much-needed humanitarian assistance quickly.”

Zaidan, who is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, noted that according to a recent U.N. report, the number of civilians killed and injured since February 2022 exceeds 30,000. Separately this week, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy said an estimated 31,000 troops have died in the conflict. 

“Schools, hospitals, apartments, and basic infrastructure supplying power have been hit by missiles. In the face of such destruction and death, people are repeatedly displaced, insecure as to where to find safety,” Zaidan wrote. 

“The Catholic Church, including many Catholic welfare organizations, [is] trying to meet these enormous needs both within Ukraine and in other countries impacted by this war, which has raged on for two full years. The USCCB’s national collection for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe has been critical in providing much-needed aid to the region.”

People of faith have been targeted in the conflict, Zaidan said, with reports of religious communities, particularly the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, “being attacked by Russian forces in territories they have seized,” Zaidan noted.

“Over 600 religious structures have been damaged, some occupied by Russian forces and turned into military bases. Clergy have been harassed, persecuted, kidnapped, and even killed.”

Zaidan noted that Pope Francis earlier this year said of the war in Ukraine that “one cannot allow the persistence of a conflict that continues to metastasize, to the detriment of millions of persons; it is necessary to put an end to the present tragedy through negotiations, in respect for international law.” He concluded by calling for people of goodwill to set aside Feb. 24, the anniversary of the start of the war, as a “solemn day of prayer, fasting for the end of the war, and for peace to come to this war-torn land.”

Though the U.S. bishops have continually supported humanitarian aid to Ukraine amid Russia’s war, U.S. lawmakers remain divided over the way forward in terms of military support for the embattled nation. 

President Joe Biden, a Catholic, has repeatedly appealed in recent weeks to Congress to fully pass a new aid package with $60 billion in military aid to Ukraine, which the Senate sent to the House nearly two weeks ago. Most recently, Biden is set to convene the top four congressional leaders on Tuesday to urge them to send the measure to his desk, CNN reported Monday. The measure faces opposition in the House, particularly from Speaker Mike Johnson, who has said he will not bring the bill to the House floor in its current form. 

Here’s what Trump, Biden, and the Catholic Church are saying about IVF

Former president Donald Trump and President Joe Biden. / Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images; MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Feb 26, 2024 / 14:30 pm (CNA).

Both former president Donald Trump and President Joe Biden are voicing staunch support for the type of fertility treatment known as in vitro fertilization (IVF), slamming an Alabama Supreme Court decision that established the personhood of frozen embryos.

In the wake of the ruling, some Alabama fertility clinics have put IVF treatments on hold.

As the U.S. bishops have pointed out, many Catholics may not be aware that the Catholic Church forbids the use of assisted reproductive technology — such as IVF — that replaces the marriage act to achieve pregnancy. In addition, Church teaching deems the destruction of unwanted human embryos common in the procedure “morally unacceptable.”

Trump said in a Truth Social post on Friday that he strongly supports the availability of IVF “in every state” because he wants to “make it easier for mothers and fathers to have babies, not harder.”

“The Republican Party should always be on the side of the miracle of life — and the side of mothers, fathers, and their beautiful babies. IVF is an important part of that,” Trump said, going on to call on the state’s Legislature to “act quickly to find an immediate solution to preserve the availability of IVF in Alabama.”

Biden, meanwhile, called the Alabama ruling “outrageous” and linked it to what he considers a usurpation of women’s rights across the country.

“Make no mistake: This is a direct result of the overturning of Roe v. Wade,” Biden said in a Thursday statement.

Vice President Kamala Harris went after Trump directly, saying on X that “no matter what Donald Trump says about IVF,” he is “the architect of this health care crisis.”

What was the Alabama ruling? 

The Alabama Supreme Court ruled on Feb. 20 that frozen human embryos constitute children under state statute, a decision that could have wide-reaching effects on in vitro fertilization treatments in the state.

The 8-1 ruling came following a lawsuit brought by several parents whose frozen embryos had been accidentally destroyed at a fertility clinic. The court said that the state’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act provisions extend to children “regardless of their location.”

“It applies to all children, born and unborn, without limitation,” the ruling said, adding this is “especially true where, as here, the people of [Alabama] have adopted a constitutional amendment directly aimed at stopping courts from excluding ‘unborn life’ from legal protection.”

What is IVF and what does the Catholic Church say about it? 

IVF is a procedure that artificially fuses sperm and egg in a lab environment to conceive a child outside the natural sexual act. According to the Mayo Clinic, IVF is typically used as a “treatment for infertility” that “also can be used to prevent passing on genetic problems to a child.” 

The Catholic Church has long opposed IVF as “morally unacceptable” because of the rejection of the natural procreative act of husband and wife, the commodification of the human child, and the destruction of embryonic human life, which is very common in the procedure. 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that though “research aimed at reducing human sterility is to be encouraged,” practices such as IVF “disassociate the sexual act from the procreative act” and “entrusts the life and identity of the embryo into the power of doctors and biologists and establishes the domination of technology over the origin and destiny of the human person.”

“Such a relationship of domination,” the Catechism explains, is “contrary to the dignity and equality that must be common to parents and children.”

John Grabowski, a professor of moral theology and ethics at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., told CNA that the issue is “interconnected” with abortion because “IVF typically results in the creation of ‘spare embryos,’ many of which are frozen, discarded, or destroyed through embryonic stem cell research.” 

Speaking on “EWTN News In Depth” on Feb. 23, National Catholic Bioethics Center President Dr. Joseph Meaney said the Alabama ruling clearly reflects the reality of unborn human life.

“We become new human beings at the moment of conception. The Church is very clear about this and science is very clear about this,” Meaney pointed out.

“We have to realize that if life begins at conception, then all those conceived human beings should be protected,” Meaney said. “Whether they’re in an IVF lab or in the wombs of their mothers, these are new human beings that deserve protection.”

Texas death row inmate to be executed in days as Catholics call for clemency

Ivan Cantu is scheduled to be executed by the state of Texas on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024. / Credit: Texas Department of Criminal Justice

CNA Staff, Feb 26, 2024 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

Catholics are continuing to call for clemency for a convicted murderer in Texas who is facing execution amid an ongoing dispute over his guilty verdict. 

Texas has scheduled the execution of Ivan Cantu for Wednesday, Feb. 28. Cantu was convicted for a double murder that took place in 2000. 

In November of that year, according to the state, Cantu shot and killed both his cousin and a 21-year-old woman. He also stole jewelry and a car, the state says. 

Cantu has been on the state’s death row since November 2001. He was previously scheduled to be executed in April 2023 but was granted a stay of execution based on new testimony that alleged a possible false witness in his murder trial. 

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals subsequently dismissed Cantu’s request for an evidentiary hearing. His attorneys have argued since then that he should be granted a new trial based on claims that the chief witness at his first trial was unreliable. 

Cantu has drawn support from a wide variety of Catholics as his execution has drawn nearer. The Catholic anti-death penalty group Catholics Mobilizing Network (CMN) urges readers on its website to “contact Gov. [Greg] Abbott and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles” to urge them to forgo the execution.

“Newly discovered evidence — which was not heard by the jury and has never been considered by any court — casts significant doubt on Ivan’s conviction,” the group says. 

“Some of the jurors who voted to sentence Ivan to death have since called for this evidence to be reviewed, declaring that they are disturbed by the prospect they heard false and misleading testimony during the trial,” CMN says.

Catholic religious Sister Helen Prejean, meanwhile, said on her website that she has “promised to be beside Ivan if his execution proceeds” but that “there is so much wrong with the case against him.”

Prejean, who has been a vocal opponent of the death penalty for decades, wrote on her website: “There’s no way I’m simply going to acquiesce, hold his hand, and pray him into eternity without doing every single thing I can to get the truth out so that Texas does not execute this man.”

Cantu has also drawn support from the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops. Last year after the delay in Cantu’s execution, the bishops said they were “grateful [that] a judge has shown mercy to Ivan Cantu” by scrapping the April execution date. 

The case against Cantu was “riddled with serious uncertainties including false testimony, withholding of evidence, and potential framing of Mr. Cantu,” the bishops said. 

Jennifer Allmon, the executive director of the TCCB, told CNA on Monday the conference has written the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Governor Greg Abbott to request a stay of execution.

“We continue to advocate for a review of his case based on the new information and his claim of innocence,” Allmon said. 

“Taking another’s life who is potentially innocent of the crime for which he is being killed is not moral and should not be condoned by the state of Texas,” she argued. 

“The Church teaches it is ‘inadmissible’ for modern societies to use capital punishment, because it is ‘an attack on the inviolability and the dignity of the person.’ We expect accountability for harm, legitimate discipline and reparation, and the protection of society, all of which can be realized without executions,” she said.

Cantu faces execution by lethal injection on Wednesday, the sole method allowed in Texas. 

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, Texas has executed 586 people since 1976, more than any other state. Oklahoma is second, at 123. 

Texas claims the second-most number of executions per 100,000 residents in the country at roughly 1.9; only Oklahoma claims more, at 3.0 executions per 100,000. 

This article has been updated.

Faith inspires many at CPAC, including numerous Catholic speakers

Supporters of former US President and 2024 presidential hopeful Donald Trump attend the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, on February 24, 2024. / Credit: Mandel NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

CNA Newsroom, Feb 24, 2024 / 21:58 pm (CNA).

Faith-based convictions were highlighted by numerous Catholic and other Christian participants at the 2024 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), held just outside Washington, D.C., this past week. 

An annual gathering of some of the most prominent conservatives in the United States and around the world, this year’s edition of CPAC took place from Feb. 21 through Feb. 24. 

The conference’s agenda included opportunities for both Mass and Protestant services, a screening of the film “Cabrini” — about the life of St. Frances Cabrini, the first Catholic saint from the United States — as well as panels on a biblical understanding of gender and how to respond to efforts to push Christianity out of the public square.

“The question is what moral code are we going to live by,” former Republican Sen. Rick Santorum, a Catholic, said during a panel titled “The Bible Uncanceled” on Saturday. 

“The left has their own woke code that they change depending on what power dynamics are in place to help them control people,” Santorum added. “Whereas conservatives historically have said, no, … the moral code by which our country is going to live will be a biblically-based one.” 

Santorum warned that many in our society have “replaced the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob [with] the God of self,” noting that this breakdown has caused “all of this depravity and confusion and depression and anxiety” among young people in the country. 

During an earlier panel titled “Genesis 1:27,” pushing back on gender ideology, Terry Schilling, a Catholic father of six who serves as president of the American Principles Project, warned against the growing threat to parental rights and religious freedom for parents who refuse to go along with or facilitate the “gender transition” of their minor children. 

Parents, he warned, are being punished “for protecting their children from this [transgender] industry that will quite literally chew them up and spit them out with destroyed bodies.”

The faith was also directly referenced by speakers on panels that were not explicitly religious in nature. 

Eduardo Verástegui, a Catholic actor who produced the anti-child-sex-trafficking film “Sound of Freedom,” discussed the faith component in his activism.

“I’m asking God and Our Lady of Guadalupe to help me,” Verástegui told the crowd to resounding cheers.

This expression of faith comes at a time when church affiliation in the United States has fallen and hostility toward traditional Christian views on controversial subjects has been on the rise. 

Santorum in his panel discussion noted that he has faced hostility for his faith-based views for a long time. 

“It’s OK,” he said. “God did not say ‘pick up your box of candies and follow me.’ He said ‘pick up your cross daily and follow me,’ and we all need to do that.”

Bishop Joseph Strickland, who was removed from his post as bishop of the Diocese of Tyler, Texas, last year, did not speak at the conference’s main event but did give remarks at the Ronald Reagan dinner on Friday night.

Other Catholics who spoke at the conference included Ohio U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance and political activist Jack Posobiec, along with Matt and Mercedes Schlapp, the husband and wife duo who lead the American Conservative Union, the parent organization of CPAC.

Former president and current Republican candidate Donald Trump also spoke at CPAC. The former president focused his remarks on other domestic and foreign policy issues, including the economy and immigration.

Trump’s speech at CPAC took place on the same day he trounced his sole remaining rival for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination in the South Carolina primary. 

The Associated Press called the election for Trump shortly after the polls closed on Saturday evening, with the former president projected to defeat former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley in her home state by more than 20 percentage points.  

With more than three quarters of the results in from the Palmetto State at 9:45 p.m. ET on Saturday evening, the AP projection was holding up, with Trump at 60% and Haley at 39%.

Beer for Lent? The Diocese of Scranton’s ‘40 Days’ brew helps feed the homeless

Beer lovers gather at the release of the "40 Days" beer brewed by Breaker Brewing and the Diocese of Scranton. / Credit: Kristen Mullen

CNA Staff, Feb 24, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

Many Catholics give up beer as part of the penitential rigors of Lent. One diocese is brewing it as part of a Lenten tradition stretching back 400 years.

The Diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania, has launched a beer collaboration with a local brewery to support its anti-hunger programs for the homeless.

The tradition of Lenten beer stretches back centuries. In Bavaria in the 17th century, Paulaner monks turned to a common staple of the time of their region — beer — to sustain them through their strict, no-solid-food fast during the Lenten season. Paulaner is now a global brand and is among the bestselling beers in Germany.

In the spirit of the Paulaner brewers, the Scranton Diocese on its Facebook page earlier this month shared that its “Forty Days” beer collaboration with local Breaker Brewing Company would be launching on Mardi Gras, Feb. 13. 

The Forty Days beer is a doppelbock, the announcement said. A doppelbock, according to CraftBeer.com, is “reminiscent of toasted bread” and may include “dark fruit flavors such as prune and raisin,” depending on the recipe used.

The "Forty Days" Doppelbock beer was produced by Breaker Brewing and the Diocese of Scranton. Kristen Mullen
The "Forty Days" Doppelbock beer was produced by Breaker Brewing and the Diocese of Scranton. Kristen Mullen

The brewery created the beer in collaboration with Father Brian Van Fossen. The priest told CNA this week that he went to high school with Mark Lehman, one of the co-owners of the brewery. 

“Back in November we met about the project and Mark asked me to do some research on the beer,” Van Fossen said.

“Though I thought it was a good idea, the diocese was not able to send Mark and me to Munich to do research on beer, so I went to the computer,” he joked. 

“I discovered a doppelbock beer which was rooted with the Paulaner brothers in Munich, Germany,” he said. “The beer consisted of strong grains and an interesting mixture of hops and barley, which provided a strong nutrient content.” 

The priest said the beer was originally developed as part of the “strict fast of the Paulaner monastery.” The beer “celebrates the history of the Doppelbock beer style and its ties with the Lenten season,” the press release announcing the beer said. 

Breaker Brewing is located in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, about 30 minutes outside of Scranton. The beer collaboration is meant to help fund the diocese’s “Rectory, Set, Cook!” program to help feed homeless people. 

The diocese announced the launch of that program in 2021. It was billed at the time as Scranton’s “first-ever, all-virtual, cook-off-style fundraiser,” one taking the form of “a friendly online showdown among more than 25 priests.”

“Participating parish priests are starring in individual videos showcasing a favorite recipe or recipes and counting on their flocks and friends far and near to show their support by making monetary donations as small as $10,” the diocese said. “Each $10 donation will represent one vote for a pastor chef or team.”

All proceeds of the fundraiser go to local anti-hunger efforts by Catholic Social Services, including the local St. Vincent de Paul Kitchen “as well as food pantries and programs across the CSS footprint.” 

The diocese continued the program for a third year, and the contest this year took the theme “Collars and Scholars,” with “some of the priests [being] assisted by Catholic school students and other young people.”

Sandy Snyder, the director of foundation relations and special events at the Diocese of Scranton, said that upon launching the program the diocese “considered it experimental and hoped to raise $50,000 to call it a success.” 

“We hit $50,000 pretty quickly, and the momentum just kept going,” she said. “We finished at $171,697 raised in our first year. So we knew there would be a Rectory, Set, Cook! 2023.”

“Last year, we finished at $197,313,” she said. “So this is the year we hope to make Rectory, Set, Cook! a six-figure fundraiser times two and raise more than $200,000, which is important because we’ve added homelessness as a second benefiting cause.” The diocese is focused on building a brand-new permanent shelter in Luzerne County, she said.

Lehman, the co-owner of the brewery, told CNA that the beer was brewed using “Pilsen, Munich, and melanoidin malts with Hallertau hops to balance out the sweetness.” 

“Notes of this medium-brown-hued malty sweet delight is that of toasted bread, slight caramel/toffee, with hints of raisins throughout,” he said.

“The beer was one of the top sellers since its release, competing with another one of our beers for the top slot each day,” Lehman said. “Although we made quite a bit, I believe at this rate, we may not have enough to make it through the 40 days.”

Van Fossen confirmed that the beer is selling “like Lenten fish dinners.” Buyers have ordered the drink from as far away as Maine, he said, allowing the diocese to direct considerable funds to its homeless program. 

“All we need to do is look to the cross,” the priest said. “So if the joy of Lent can be found in a beer while feeding the hungry and giving shelter to the homeless, I think God is being glorified in all things.”

CPAC speakers urge lawmakers to embrace life, end coerced abortions

Stanton Healthcare CEO Brandi Swindell and Concerned Women for America President Penny Nance speak at the 2024 Conservative Political Action Conference. / Credit: CPAC Screenshot/Rumble

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Feb 24, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

With elections in the United States less than nine months away, pro-life speakers at the 2024 Conservative Political Action Conference are urging candidates for public office to embrace the issue of life and for lawmakers to crack down on coerced abortions. 

“At 16 weeks, a little baby girl has all her major organs, has fingernails and eyebrows, can hear and respond to her mother’s voice, and can feel pain,” Penny Nance, the CEO and president of Concerned Women for America, said during a panel titled “Babies-R-Us.” 

“She’s an important part of our human family,” Nance said. 

The panel addressed the upcoming elections in the U.S., which includes races for the presidency, every seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, and 34 seats in the United States Senate. In 13 states, there will be elections for governor and several states will also hold local races. 

Nance criticized the “media” and the Washington, D.C., “consulting class,” which she claims has fed false narratives of the abortion issue.

“The other side thinks abortion should be legal any time, any reason, any number, at any point in gestation, all paid for by the taxpayer,” Nance continued. “That is an extremist position.”

Since the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, more than 20 states have passed into law stricter limits on abortion. However, in every state in which abortion policy was directly placed on the ballot via a ballot initiative since the overturning of Roe, every pro-life ballot initiative has failed and every pro-abortion initiative has succeeded.

Brandi Swindell, the founder and CEO of the pro-life pregnancy center group Stanton Healthcare, also spoke on the panel and emphasized the need to end coerced abortion. 

“If you are a victim or a survivor of abortion abuse, we believe you, we stand with you, and we will not abandon your stories, and there is help and hope,” Swindell said. “We have got to end abortion abuse as a society.” 

Stanton Healthcare is launching a new initiative and website to combat coerced abortion, which includes seeking criminal charges against anyone who has forced a woman to abort her child. Swindell said the organization already has 2,000 affidavits for confirmed cases of abortion abuse that they are looking into.

Swindell claims that the pro-abortion movement, including Planned Parenthood, “has normalized and enabled” abortion abuse. She said pro-life pregnancy centers provide alternatives for women who desire to keep their children.

“We stop the cycle of substance abuse, of domestic abuse, all these different things, of poverty, economic issues,” Swindell said.” When a woman finds hope through unexpected pregnancy, she gets her life together and does what’s best for her baby and what’s best for her if she has access to quality health care services that are life-affirming.”

During the panel, Nance encouraged women who regret their abortions and men who regret their participation in abortions to join the pro-life movement. “Our movement is replete with people who deeply regret their abortions,” Nance said.

“At the cross of Jesus Christ, he forgives all sin,” Nance continued. “There’s nothing you could ever have done that’s bad enough that he won’t love you, he won’t forgive you, and he won’t be in a relationship with you and want to spend eternity with you.”

CPAC is an annual event that features leading conservative speakers from the U.S. and around the world. The event, which is held at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, began on Feb. 21 and concludes on Feb. 24.

National Eucharistic Pilgrimage: When is it passing through your town?

The National Eucharistic Revival recleased a detailed map of the upcoming pilgrimage routes ahead of the National Eucharistic Congress. / Credit: National Eucharistic Revival

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Feb 23, 2024 / 18:25 pm (CNA).

The National Eucharistic Pilgrimage released a schedule of all the stops along the four pilgrimage routes planned across the country and ending at the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis this July. 

The stops, which were announced by organizers on Thursday, include shrines, cathedrals, parishes, cultural sites, and parks.  

At the stops, the faithful in the area will have the chance to join in the national event by participating in Mass, adoration, devotions, praise and worship, and fellowship as well as have opportunities to accompany the Eucharist on the streets as part of the pilgrimage.

Tim Glemkowski, CEO of the National Eucharistic Congress, Inc., said that “a cross-country pilgrimage of this scale has never been attempted before.”

“It will be a tremendously powerful action of witness and intercession as it interacts with local parish communities at stops all along the way,” Glemkowski said. “Following Jesus and praying through cities and rural towns is going to be life-changing for the Church across America.”

He also stressed that Catholics in communities across the country are “invited to be part of the historic movement to set hearts ablaze.”

What is the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage? 

The National Eucharistic Pilgrimage is being organized in conjunction with a three-year-long Eucharistic revival campaign by the U.S. Catholic bishops.

The national pilgrimage consists of four different routes beginning on opposite sides of the country and meeting in Indianapolis for the National Eucharistic Congress July 17–21.

Collectively the four National Eucharistic Pilgrimage routes will traverse 6,500 miles, 27 states, and 65 dioceses while carrying Christ in the Eucharist. 

The organizers are calling it “our national Emmaus moment” after the biblical passage in which Jesus walked with two of his disciples along the road to Emmaus. Through this campaign, the bishops plan to rededicate the country to Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.

Where can I meet up with it? 

The National Eucharistic Pilgrimage’s four routes are the Marian Route from the north, the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Route from the east, the St. Juan Diego Route from the south, and the St. Junipero Serra Route from the west. 

To see when the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage is making a stop near you, click here

The Northern “Marian Route” will begin with a Pentecost Mass and Eucharistic procession at a historic site in the Lake Itasca region of Minnesota.

The Eastern “Seton Route” begins with Mass at the birthplace of the Knights of Columbus, St. Mary’s Church in New Haven, Connecticut, on May 18. 

The Southern “Juan Diego Route” will begin with a Pentecost Mass on May 19 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Brownsville, Texas, just a few minutes’ walk from the U.S. border with Mexico. 

The Western “Junipero Serra Route” will begin on May 18 with solemn vespers and adoration at the historic Mission Dolores Basilica in San Francisco, at which Serra once celebrated Mass. 

Who will be leading the pilgrimages? 

According to the statement, each route will be led by a team of eight “Perpetual Pilgrims,” who have already been selected and whose names will be announced on March 11. 

A “rotating cadre” of 30 Franciscan Friars of the Renewal will provide “ecclesial support” for the pilgrims. 

How can I participate? 

Participating in the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage is simple and costs nothing. Exact details on individual events at pilgrimage stops, including registration information, are available on the route pages

You can also participate by walking portions of the pilgrimage with the Perpetual Pilgrims. To do so, organizers ask that you register, which you can do by clicking here.

After Alabama Supreme Court’s embryo personhood ruling, what comes next?

Technician does control check of the in vitro fertilization process using a microscope. / Credit: Shutterstock

CNA Staff, Feb 23, 2024 / 17:50 pm (CNA).

An Alabama Supreme Court decision that established the personhood of frozen embryos drew praise from pro-life groups. The possible wider effects of the decision, meanwhile, remain shrouded in uncertainty. 

The state Supreme Court ruled that frozen human embryos constitute children under state statute, a decision that could have wide-reaching effects on in vitro fertilization treatments.

The nine-judge court said in the 8-1 ruling that the state’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act is “sweeping and unqualified” and that its provisions extend to children “regardless of their location.”

“It applies to all children, born and unborn, without limitation,” the ruling said. “It is not the role of this court to craft a new limitation based on our own view of what is or is not wise public policy.”

The court’s decision came about as part of a lawsuit brought by several parents whose frozen embryos had been accidentally destroyed at a fertility clinic. The plaintiffs had argued that the destruction fell under the state’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act.

Pro-life advocates praised the decision. Katie Daniel, the state policy director for SBA Pro-Life America, said in a statement to CNA that the court in its ruling “recognized what is obvious and a scientific fact — life begins at conception.” 

“That does not mean fertility treatment is prohibited,” Daniel said. “Rather it means fertility treatments need not carelessly or intentionally destroy the new life created.” 

“Alabama or anyone concerned by this decision can look to Louisiana, which has had a law in place since the 1980s that requires IVF be practiced in a more ethical way,” she said. She noted that “1,000 babies are born every year in that state as a result of IVF.”

Lila Rose, the president and founder of Live Action, likewise said after the ruling that the decision “affirms the scientific reality that a new human life begins at the moment of fertilization.”

“This ruling, which involved a wrongful-death claim brought by parents against a fertility clinic that negligently caused the death of their children, rightly acknowledged the humanity of unborn children created through in vitro fertilization,” Rose said, calling the decision “an important step towards applying equal protection for all.”

Will it affect other states?

Though the ruling was understandably welcomed by pro-life advocates, it is less certain how the court decision may play out beyond the state of Alabama.

The question before the state Supreme Court was whether or not frozen embryos should be considered children under Alabama state statute. Jay Tidmarsh, a professor at Notre Dame Law School, told CNA that the ruling “decided only a question of state law.”

“On whether this will go to the U.S. Supreme Court, I think many people do not realize that the U.S. Supreme Court decides only issues of federal law,” Tidmarsh said. 

“On matters of [Alabama] state law, the Alabama Supreme Court has the final word, not the United States Supreme Court,” Tidmarsh said. 

“For the United States Supreme Court to become involved in this case, therefore, the Alabama decision must involve an issue of federal law,” he said.

The Constitution established the Supreme Court as overseeing cases involving “controversies to which the United States shall be a party,” as well as “controversies between two or more states.” The Alabama decision “does not decide or invoke any matter of federal law,” Tidmarsh pointed out. 

“I could well imagine some theories of federal law that the decision might implicate, but none of those theories was mentioned in the opinion,” he said. 

Danielle Pimentel, who serves as policy counsel at Americans United for Life, echoed Tidmarsh’s assessment. 

“Right now I don’t see there are any federal questions to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court,” she said. The decision was “focused on Alabama law and will stay within Alabama,” she said.

The ruling “doesn’t limit IVF or access to it,” she pointed out. “It simply ensures that both the parents and the children are protected under the Wrongful Death of the Minor Act. If the fertility clinic is acting negligently, parents can potentially bring a civil claim.”

The state Supreme Court’s decision, meanwhile, is only part of the lawsuit brought by the parents whose embryonic children had died at the fertility clinic, Pimentel noted. 

“[The court’s ruling] wasn’t a ruling on the merits,” she said. “We still don’t know what a trial court will decide on whether the defendants have violated the act. I think we’ll have to wait and see what the trial court decides.”

The Catholic Church has long condemned the IVF process and the production of embryos. There are now an estimated 1 million frozen embryos in the U.S. alone.

In 1996, Pope John Paul II made an “appeal to the conscience of the world’s scientific authorities and in particular to doctors, that the production of human embryos be halted.”

The Holy Father had noted at the time that there “seems to be no morally licit solution regarding the human destiny of the thousands and thousands of ‘frozen’ embryos which are and remain the subjects of essential rights and should therefore be protected by law as human persons.” 

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, meanwhile, wrote in the 1987 document Donum Vitae that even an IVF and embryo-transfer procedure that is “free of any compromise with the abortive practice of destroying embryos and with masturbation remains a technique which is morally illicit because it deprives human procreation of the dignity which is proper and connatural to it.”