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Sri Lanka's Ranjith: 'I would have cancelled' Easter Mass if bomb warnings were passed on

Colombo, Sri Lanka, Apr 24, 2019 / 04:36 pm (CNA).- The Archbishop of Colombo says that government officials in Sri Lanka should be fired for failing to act on tips that terrorists attacks were imminent in the hours preceding Easter Sunday bombings in the country.

“It's absolutely unacceptable behavior on the part of these high officials of the government, including some of the ministry officials,” Cardinal Malcom Ranjith said April 23 in response to reports that Sri Lankan officials did not pass on credible warnings in the hours before the April 21 attacks, including some that specified that Catholic Church would be targeted.

Warnings reportedly came from the Indian government and from other intelligence sources, and said directly that churches could be targeted by Islamist terrorist attacks. Government officials have promised an inquiry into those reports.

“These kind of officials should be immediately sacked, removed from these positions. And human beings who have a feeling for the needs of others and for the people must be inserted into these positions,” Ranjith said.

The cardinal added that if he had been warned that Catholic Churches could be bombed on Easter Sunday, he would have cancelled Sunday Masses, “because, for me, the most important thing is human life. Human beings, they are our treasure.”

“I would have cancelled even the holy week itself,” Ranjith told Radio Canada.

Thousands of Catholics attended Easter Sunday Masses at St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo and St. Sebastian’s Catholic Church in Negombo, both of which were bombed at 8:45 a.m. Easter morning, as was the evangelical Zion Church in Batticaolo, on Sri Lanka’s east coast.

One the same morning, three hotels were bombed, as were other locations across the country.

At least 359 people are dead.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attacks, and more than 60 Sri Lankans have been arrested or questioned.

Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena has asked Hemasari Ferando, one of the country’s defense ministers, to resign, along with police Inspector General Pujith Jayasundara. Both are accused of mishandling intelligence reports.

Ranjith old EWTN News Nightly that the local Catholic community has suffered tremendously because of the horrible massacre on Easter Sunday.

“We lost so many valuable lives in both churches ... a huge amount of people,” Cardinal Ranjith told EWTN News Nightly April 22.

The Sri Lankan cardinal said that he rushed to St. Anthony’s shrine as soon as he heard of the attack Sunday morning, but the police did not allow him to enter because they suspected that more bombs could be inside the church.

“From the outside I saw a lot of devastation outside the church,” Ranjith said. “When I saw so many bodies, I was completely moved and disturbed.”

The Knights of Columbus have pledged $100,000 in aid for victims of the Sri Lankan attacks to help Cardinal Ranjith rebuild and repair his Christian community.

Pope Francis renewed his prayers for the victims in Sri Lanka and appealed for international support during his Regina Coeli address Monday.

“I pray for the many victims and wounded, and I ask everyone not to hesitate to offer this dear nation all the help that is necessary,” the pope said April 22.

“I also hope that everyone condemns these acts of terrorism, inhuman acts, never justifiable,” he said.

 

 

Bishops pray for victims of earthquakes in Philippines

Manila, Philippines, Apr 24, 2019 / 04:09 pm (CNA).- Catholic leaders have offered prayers for the Philippines after two earthquakes struck the region this week.

A magnitude-6.1 earthquake hit the nation’s largest and most populous island of Luzon on Monday. An unrelated magnitude-6.4 quake struck the island of Samar the following day.

Numerous buildings, including a few churches, were destroyed or damaged by the earthquakes. The wall of a supermarket near the capital city of Manila collapsed on Monday, killing at least five people and burying others who have not yet been found. Electricity has been shut down in some areas to prevent fires.

Vatican News reported that the death toll had risen to at least 20 people, while hundreds more are injured or missing.

According to the news website of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), the Archdiocese of San Fernando has barred activity in 24 historical churches until they can be inspected for safety.

Cardinal Luis Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, encouraged churches to practice safety drills in the wake of the earthquakes.

Archbishop Rolando Tirona of Caceres also urged parishes and priests to revisit safety measures for all church buildings, including seminaries and convents.

“We must always ensure the safety of our churchgoers, and be pro-active in safeguarding our churches and the faithful against human violence and natural calamities,” said Tirona, according to CBCP News.

“Without causing undue panic and confusion, I enjoin you dear pastors to put in place security measures in your respective Churches to protect our faithful and to ensure peaceful liturgical celebrations,” he said.

Archbishop Romulo Valles, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, said the conference would be praying for all those affected by the earthquakes.

“We…pray especially for the grieving people, who have lost dear ones in the earthquake, and we hope recovery and help would come to these people,” Valles told CBCP News.

Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon, Myanmar, president of the Federation of the Asian Bishops’ Conferences, offered his condolences in a letter to the bishops and faithful of the Philippines.

“It is with deep sorrow that I heard about the multiple earthquakes that hit your nation and took the lives of some 20 people, injuring hundreds and with several people reported missing,” said Bo.

The cardinal said he is praying for victims, survivors, and caregivers in the wake of the tragedy.
 

Pro-life group launches targeted campaign for Born Alive bill

Washington D.C., Apr 24, 2019 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- The pro-life organization Susan B. Anthony List has launched a new campaign to pressure members of Congress to sign the discharge petition for the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act.

If 218 members of the House of Representatives sign the discharge petition, the bill will move to the floor, where it will be considered. Presently, 199 members have signed, including all but two Republican members, but only two Democrats: Reps. Dan Lipinski (D-IL) and Collin Peterson (D-MN).

The petition opened for signatures on April 2.

In an April 2 statement, Archbishop Joseph Naumann, chairman of the U.S. bishops' pro-life committee, called for the bill's passage.

“Our nation is better than infanticide. Babies born alive during the process of abortion deserve the same care and medical assistance as any other newborn. To not provide care is a lethal form of discrimination against the circumstances of the child’s birth.”

“I strongly urge all representatives to sign this petition, and then vote for the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. This bill would add specific requirements to help ensure that babies born alive after an abortion attempt can have a fair shot at life,” he said.

"The purpose of this campaign is to really focus on the House," SBA List Vice President of Communications Mallory Quigley told CNA. "This is where the pressure point is now because the Senate's already voted. We think this should be bipartisan."

Quigley said that signing the petition would not present an electoral problem for Democrats, “especially for people who were elected in Republican-leaning districts."

The new campaign, which will feature digital ads and events aimed at explaining what the Born Alive bill is, is focused on representatives in what SBA List considers to be persuadable districts.

Reps. Cindy Axne (IA-03), Collin Allred (TX-32), Abby Finkenauer (IA-01), Lizzie Fletcher (TX-07), Conor Lamb (PA-17), Lucy McBath (GA-06), Elissa Slotkin (MI-08), Abigail Spanberger (VA-07), and Haley Stevens (MI-11) have been singled out for attention, with each of them representing states won by President Donald Trump during the 2016 election.

“This is a very moderate proposal that we think they ought to support,” Quigley told CNA. She said the timing of the ad campaign was centered around the Congressional recess, when the members would be in their districts.

“Many Democrats who represent Republican-leaning districts have not yet signed the discharge petition to hold a vote on the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act,” said SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser in the press release.

The bill’s lead sponsor, Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO), said that her legislation was “a measure that has passed with bipartisan support in the past.”

Presently, 26 states have some sort of legal protection for babies who survive abortions. Wagner said that it was important that this be extended throughout the entire country.

Dannenfelser said the bill "is urgently needed" as lawmakers in New York, Virginia, and other states push a "radical agenda of abortion on demand through the moment of birth and even infanticide."

"The overwhelming majority of Americans – including 70 percent of Democrats – want Congress to protect vulnerable babies who survive abortions, yet Speaker Pelosi and House Democratic Party leaders have repeatedly blocked this compassionate, common-ground bill.”

She referred to the Democrats blocking the legislation as “extremists” who are out of step with their own party.

Polls have consistently shown that the majority of Americans, including Democrats and even those who call themselves pro-choice, are opposed to late-term abortion.

The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act would criminalize doctors who do not provide age-appropriate medical care to an infant that is born alive after an abortion. It also would provide the mother of the infant the ability to file a civil suit against her doctor. It does not criminalize abortion nor add any new restrictions on abortion.

Peruvian archbishop withdraws defamation suit against journalist

Piura, Peru, Apr 24, 2019 / 03:55 pm (CNA).- The Archbishop of Piura, Peru, José Antonio Eguren, announced that he will withdraw a complaint of aggravated defamation against journalist Pedro Salinas, who was found guilty and convicted in the first instance by a Peruvian court.

In a statement published April 24, the archbishop said that "today I have presented before the First Unipersonal Criminal Court of Piura my request for withdrawal of the complaint filed against the journalist Pedro Salinas Chacaltana for the crime of aggravated defamation towards me."

On April 22, the results of an April 8 judgment against Salinas were released. Judge Judith Cueva Calle sentenced Salinas to one year of probation and a fine of 80 thousand soles (about $24,000) for the crime of aggravated defamation against Archbishop José Antonio Eguren Anselmi.

In his statement, Eguren said the judgment provoked "a series of unjustified reactions, even within the Church , which I consider to impact a higher good, namely the unity of the Mystical Body of Christ."

"As a bishop, my first responsibility is to watch over the portion of the People of God entrusted to me. For this reason, without prejudice to the outcome of the judicial process, I have decided to renounce my right to defend my reputation and good name," he said.

The archbishop recalled that "my intention in presenting the lawsuit against Mr. Salinas, was to defend the fundamental right that we all have to the good name, to reflect on the value of the honor of the people, and to prevent those who would make false and offensive accusations without more foundation.”

Therefore, he said, "I trust that this decision will be understood in its proper dimension and can contribute to the unity of Peruvians and our Church, so important in the country’s current moment.”

The case of Pedro Salinas

Pedro Salinas is co-author of the book "Mitad Monjes, Mitad soldados," published in 2015, which recounts the sexual, physical and psychological abuses committed by Luis Fernando Figari, founder of the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, and other members of the same group. Eguren himself is a member of the group.

On Aug. 15, 2018, Eguren filed an aggravated defamation lawsuit against Salinas for comparing him in a January article to the Chilean bishop Juan Barros, who was accused of covering up the sexual abuse of ex-priest Fernando Karadima.

According to Salinas, Eguren himself would have a part of the system of physical, psychological and sexual abuse within the Sodalitium.

In the article, Salinas also cited an Al Jazeera article that accused Eguren of illegal land dealings in the city of Piura.

The archbishop reiterated in a statement on April 14 that Salinas declined to rectify those accusations and "dismissed all the information that was sent to him, via a notary, which proved that what he said was false."

In the same statement, he said that he requested that Salinas not be incarcerated, and that any civil judgment imposed on the journalist be donated to a shelter unconnected with the Sodalitium.

Judgment is a "historical fact"

Percy García Cavero, Eguren’s attorney, told ACI Prensa April 24 that the judgment against Salinas is a "historical fact,” and that Eguren decided to withdraw from the lawsuit because "he understands that there are higher interests, that in the present moment of the Church, require him to renounce the right to defend his honor. "

"The purpose is obviously to maintain unity and avoid any type of damage to the process of reparation and accompaniment to the victims of the Sodalitium," the attorney explained.

In this regard, he noted that the withdrawal of the complaint "is not a victory for Salinas, because Archbishop Eguren is not suggesting that is was wrong for him to complain, on the contrary.”

"He recognizes that he had every right, that his honor has been tainted and that an independent judge said so," said Garcia Cavero.

The lawyer said that the issue "is legally settled," recalling that the "sentence issued by the judge of first instance is fully valid in terms of legal oath."

"It is important reference for journalists in terms of regular practice of the profession and I think it should be a resolution of analysis in different legal and journalistic academic environments," he said.

This quarrel was a "historical fact that will not disappear because there was a process and a valid pronouncement that determined that Mr. Salinas Chacaltana slandered Archbishop Eguren," he said.

"Although there is no penalty, civil compensation or any sentence, the sentence has a moral content," he added.

The Sodalitium Christianae Vitae is a society of apostolic life founded in Peru to which the director of CNA, Alejandro Bermúdez, belongs.

 

This report was originally published by ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish-language sister agency. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Ending isolation key to fighting assisted suicide, Catholic heath group founder says

Washington D.C., Apr 24, 2019 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- The founder of a Catholic health-share group has said that battling loneliness is crucial to opposing the growing acceptance of assisted suicide in popular culture.

Chris Faddis, co-founder of Solidarity HealthShare, spoke to CNA about the importance of respecting the dignity of all patients at the end of life.

Speaking to CNA during the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast April 23, Faddis said that a rising social and legal acceptance of assisted suicide is exacerbated by a lack of healthcare options that are both ethical and affordable, but is ultimately driven by loneliness and despair in the face of suffering.

“When you see no way out, something like a pill seems tempting,” he said.

Solidarity helps patients and their families find other options to assisted suicide to ease suffering and, Faddis said, expressed a kind of communion in its structure. In a health-share system, members of the organization help to pay each other’s healthcare costs. Members are self-pay patients who can see the provider of their choice while Solidarity helps to negotiate a lower rate, which would then be paid by the group of members.

“We're just there to facilitate and to kind of direct them,” said Faddis. “The affordability is there because there's no profit in it. We're a non-profit, we're just kind of facilitating that sharing."

“In all ways, we lead our members to the options that are going to respect life, that are going to promote their dignity. We provide care management, we provide services. And we encourage them."

Faddis, who serves as the Catholic health-sharing company’s chief operating officer, told CNA that the experience of suffering and death in his own family had formed his commitment to protecting human dignity at the end of life and led to his founding Solidarity. He served as a caregiver for his wife as she was dying of cancer, and experienced first-hand the importance of dignified and respectful hospice and palliative care.  

The experiences like his, Faddis said, needed to be shared in the wider battle to resist a culture of death in which suffering has no meaning.

“If we don't tell [an alternative view of suffering], the other side's telling the horror stories of suffering all day long."

Approaching death with dignity, Faddis said, is important for patients and families alike. “It’s worth taking time over,” he said, noting that his family benefited “in ways too many to count” from the care and support his wife received from their own community.

Solidarity does not pay for health services that are contrary to Catholic teaching, such as abortion, contraception, or euthanasia. When members are diagnosed with terminal illnesses, Faddis said that his organization works to ensure that members are directed to specific palliative care physicians who will not encourage assisted suicide.

Faddis said that an approach that underscores the value of life is especially important for terminal patients who are often feel as though they are a burden on their family and community. Terminal illness was, he said, a painful experience, but one that can be lived with dignity and meaning.

"When people are cared for well, then they can suffer well. So as they're going through those difficult times, or just those difficult decisions, people can help them just by caring well for them,” he said.

Assisted suicide is now legal in eight states, and is being considered by an additional four. New Jersey’s Catholic governor recently signed it into law in his state, after “careful prayer.”

Faddis said that in the United States, there is a general fear of suffering, which has resulted in an embrace of a quick death.

"I think we have a responsibility to console and give solace to the dying,” he said, stressing that preventing isolation was a vital part of respecting the dignity of human life.

“And I think if we do that well, we've solved the problem. I mean, if you're dying alone, you want the pill."

US House asks court to block funding for border wall

Washington D.C., Apr 24, 2019 / 12:40 pm (CNA).- Lawyers representing the US House of Representatives on Tuesday filed a motion in federal court to block funding for the construction of a wall on the US-Mexico border, which President Donald Trump had planned to fund primarily using Department of Defense money.

“Absent this Court’s timely intervention, defendants are poised to begin construction on the border wall next month, using funds that Congress declined to appropriate for that purpose,” the motion reads.

“This Court should therefore issue a preliminary injunction to prevent that irreparable injury to the House.”

Trump had planned to fund the wall’s construction using money appropriated under an emergency declaration he issued in February. By invoking the National Emergencies Act, the president can gain access to sources of funding otherwise unavailable to him. The 1976 act does not contain a specific definition of what constitutes a “national emergency.”

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement Feb. 15 opposing Trump’s emergency declaration.

“We are deeply concerned about the President’s action to fund the construction of a wall along the U.S./Mexico border, which circumvents the clear intent of Congress to limit funding of a wall,” read a joint statement from USCCB President Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, who leads the USCCB’s migration committee.

In their statement, DiNardo and Vasquez said the wall is a “symbol of division and animosity” between the United States and Mexico.

Following Trump’s emergency declaration, the Democrat-controlled House sued Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and the executive branch, claiming the president’s decision to transfer Defense Department funds to fund the border wall violated the clause of the Constitution that gives Congress the power to designate federal spending.

Congress passed a spending package earlier this year— which Trump signed, ending a 35-day government shutdown— appropriating $1.375 billion for 55 miles of new barriers in the Rio Grande Valley sector. Trump had requested $5.7 billion.

The House’s motion notes that the Executive Branch has already transferred $1 billion in Defense Department money to the military’s Drug Interdiction and Counterdrug Activities fund, with plans to transfer $2.5 billion more. In addition, $3.6 billion will be reallocated to fund the wall from Department of Defense military construction projects, as well as $600 million from the Treasury Forfeiture Fund. The Executive Branch has already awarded contracts for construction of the wall, set to begin next month.

The motion asserts that the 2019 Department of Defense Appropriations Act only authorizes transfers for “higher priority items, based on unforeseen military requirements” and “in no case where the item for which funds are requested has been denied by the Congress.”

“The House is unaware of any other instance in American history where a President has declared a national emergency to obtain funding after having failed to win Congressional approval for an appropriation,” the motion reads.

U.S. District Court Judge Trevor McFadden has not yet set a date for a hearing on the House’s motion.

There are at least two lawsuits against Trump’s funding decision still pending. In one, 16 states are challenging the president’s actions, while another suit was brought by the Sierra Club and a border-communities group, according to Politico.

A judge in Oakland, California has agreed to hear motions for injunctions in those suits May 17, Politico reports.

Bishops of dioceses along both sides of the border have said that the additional construction of a wall would pose dangers to migrants and would create unnecessary divisions in societies that have transcended countries’ borders.

Although “the Church has long recognized the first right of persons not to migrate, but to stay in their community of origin,” Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso, Texas wrote in 2017, “when that has become impossible, the Church also recognizes the right to migrate.”

 

Pope Francis: To stop evil, give more love than required

Vatican City, Apr 24, 2019 / 04:46 am (CNA).- To stop the spread of evil in the world, Catholics must go above and beyond, loving and forgiving others even when it is undeserved, Pope Francis urged Wednesday.

“Jesus inserts the power of forgiveness into human relationships. In life, not everything is resolved with justice,” he said April 24.

“Especially where we must put a barricade against evil, someone must love beyond what is necessary, to start a story of grace again,” he said, warning that “evil is familiar with its revenge, and if it is not interrupted it risks spreading and suffocating the whole world.”

The Easter Octave, he said, is a good time to think about the beauty of forgiveness and to pray to the Father for the grace to forgive others, explaining that Jesus replaced the “law of retaliation” with the “law of love: what God has done for me, I give it back to you!”

The pope continued his general audience catechesis on the ‘Our Father’ by reflecting on the line which says, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

In forgiveness we find “the bond between love for God and love of neighbor,” he said. “Love calls love, forgiveness calls forgiveness.”

“Every Christian knows that forgiveness of sins exists for him. This we all know, that Jesus forgives everyone and forgives always. Nothing in the Gospels suggests that God does not forgive the sins of those who are well disposed and who ask to be re-embraced,” he said.

“But,” he continued, “the abundant grace of God is always challenging. He who has received so much must learn to give so much.”

He said God gives every Christian the grace to do good in the lives of their brothers and sisters, even those who have done something wrong, and with “a word, a hug, a smile, we can convey to others what most precious thing we have received.”

“And what precious thing have we received? Forgiveness.”

Sometimes, the pope said, he has heard people say they will “never forgive” some person for what they have done to them. But God has told his people if they do not forgive others, they will not be forgiven, Francis underlined. “You close the door.”

He recounted a story told to him by a priest, who had visited an old woman on her death bed. She could barely speak, but when asked if she was sorry for her sins, she said ‘yes.’

But when the priest asked her if she forgave others, she said, ‘no.’ “The priest was distressed,” Pope Francis said. “If you do not forgive, God will not forgive you. If you cannot forgive, ask the Lord to give you strength to do it.”

Jesus tells a parable which illustrates the concept of forgiving others as God has forgiven you, he noted.

In the parable, found in the Gospel of Matthew, a servant owes his master a huge debt, something impossible to repay. But miraculously, he receives not only an extension, but full forgiveness of the debt. “An unexpected grace!”

But, Francis explained, the servant immediately turned to his brother to demand from him the much smaller debt he was owed.

“Therefore, in the end, the master calls him back and has [the servant] condemned,” he said. “Because if you do not try to forgive, you will not be forgiven; if you do not try to love, you will not be loved either.”

Supreme Court to hear sexual orientation, gender identity employment cases

Washington D.C., Apr 24, 2019 / 03:30 am (CNA).- In a decision that could have potentially far-reaching consequences, the U.S. Supreme Court has said it will hear cases involving claims that sexual orientation and gender identity should be included under current federal protections barring sex discrimination.

One case involves a male employee who identifies as a woman and was fired from a funeral home for deciding to wear women’s clothes to work.

John Bursch, vice president of appellate advocacy at the religious freedom legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, argued that the court should uphold current federal law.

“Neither government agencies nor the courts have authority to rewrite federal law by replacing ‘sex’ with ‘gender identity’—a change with widespread consequences for everyone,” he said April 22.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday said it would hear the cases in the upcoming court term, with decisions and opinions possible in 2020.

Alliance Defending Freedom is backing the funeral home at the center of one case, R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The family-owned funeral home, owned by Tom Roost, has operated since 1910 and now has several chapels.

In 2007 it hired a male employee who agreed to follow the company’s policies, including its sex-specific dress code. The ADF summary of the case said the dress code is “crafted to emphasize professionalism and keep the focus on those mourning the loss of a loved one.”

In 2013, the employee told Roost that he intended to begin dressing as a woman at work.

“Tom determined that allowing this would not be in the best interests of his clients processing their grief,” Alliance Defending Freedom said on its website summary of the case. “He offered the employee a severance package, which the employee refused.”

The employee, who now goes by Aimee Stephens, wrote to colleagues that year: “What I must tell you is very difficult for me and is taking all the courage I can muster... I have felt imprisoned in a body that does not match my mind, and this has caused me great despair and loneliness.”

Stephens filed suit on legal grounds including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a federal law which bars discrimination on categories including race, religion, national origin and sex.

In 2016, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan backed the funeral home. However, the EEOC appealed the case, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit then ruled that the dress code was discriminatory against a male employee who identifies as a woman.

“It is analytically impossible to fire an employee based on that employee’s status as a transgender person without being motivated, at least in part, by the employee’s sex,” said the appellate court, according to the New York Times. “Discrimination ‘because of sex’ inherently includes discrimination against employees because of a change in their sex.”

Bursch, who served as solicitor general of Michigan from 2011 to 2013, said the funeral home wanted “to serve families mourning the loss of a loved one.” He charged “the EEOC has elevated its political goals above the interests of the grieving people that the funeral home serves.”

“Businesses have the right to rely on what the law is—not what government agencies want it to be—when they create and enforce employment policies,” Bursch added.

The Supreme Court accepted the funeral home case on the limited questions of whether Title VII bars discrimination against self-identified transgender people based on “their status as transgender” or “sex stereotyping” under a 1989 Supreme Court decision, Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins.

Alliance Defending Freedom’s brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court argued that the Sixth Circuit’s interpretation “undermines the primary purpose for banning discrimination based on sex,” namely to ensure equal opportunities for women and to eliminate workplace inequalities that have held women back.

If the lower court’s interpretation holds, it said, employment reserved for women like playing basketball in the WNBA or working at a shelter for abused women “now must be opened to males who identify as women.” Such a definition would also undermine Title IX efforts to advance women’s participation in sports and educational opportunities, it said.

“Substituting ‘gender identity’ for ‘sex’ in nondiscrimination laws also threatens freedom of conscience,” the ADF petition added, saying that such interpretations have forced doctors to participate in surgical efforts to alter sex “in violation of their deeply held beliefs” and best medical judgment.

“In sum, the Sixth Circuit ushered in a profound change in federal law accompanied by widespread legal and social ramifications,” the legal group charged.

Two other cases, Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia and Altitude Express, Inc. vs. Zarda, will also go before the Supreme Court. They were consolidated because of similar claims regarding employer discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, National Public Radio reports.

The case Altitude Express, Inc. v. Zarda involves the late New York skydiving instructor Donald Zarda, who said he was fired because he was gay. He was fired after a female customer complained. She had voiced concerns about being tightly tied to Zarda during a tandem dive, and Zarda tried to reassure her by telling her he was “100% gay,” the New York Times reports.

Zarda was killed in a skydiving accident in 2014 but his estate is continuing to pursue the case.

A divided 13-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit ruled that the lawsuit could proceed.

Chief Judge Robert A. Katzmann, writing the court’s majority opinion, said “sexual orientation discrimination is motivated, at least in part, by sex and is thus a subset of sex discrimination.” Sexual orientation discrimination is “predicated on assumptions about how persons of a certain sex can or should be, which is an impermissible basis for adverse employment actions.”

“(S)exual orientation discrimination—which is motivated by an employer’s opposition to romantic association between particular sexes—is discrimination based on the employee’s own sex,” Katzmann’s decision added.

The case Bostock v. Clayton County involves a Georgia child welfare services coordinator who said he was fired for being gay, the New York Times reports.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in July 2018 issued an unsigned opinion citing a 1979 5th circuit court decision ruling that firing for homosexuality is not barred by Title VII.

Most federal courts do not consider sexual orientation discrimination to be a form of sex discrimination, the New York Times reports.

EEOC publications on the commission website hold that “sex stereotypes” like “the belief that men should only date women or that women should only marry men” constitute illegal discrimination on the basis of sex. They say that the 1964 civil rights legislation against sex discrimination in the workplace includes discrimination “based on an applicant or employee’s gender identity or sexual orientation.”

However, those opinions lack Congressional approval. Proposed legislation known as the Equality Act would add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as protected categories under federal law.

Critics have warned that the legislation explicitly rejects religious freedom protections and would open the gates to anti-discrimination lawsuits against religious believers and institutions who disagree with the bill’s broad view of what constitutes LGBT discrimination.

Now is the time to defend the truth, Phoenix bishop says at prayer breakfast

Washington D.C., Apr 23, 2019 / 04:28 pm (CNA).- Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix called on a gathering of the nation’s Catholic leaders to stand up to the heresies of the modern age and defend the dignity of the human person, body and soul, as an integral part of defending the faith.

Speaking at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast April 23, the keynote speaker said that the importance of the human body was at the center of a contemporary moral crisis, and crucial to presenting the Church’s teaching in modern society.

Olmsted said that he believes the “disaster” predicted by Pope St. Paul VI in the encyclical Humanae vitae had come to fruition. Quoting from an exhortation to the married couples of his own diocese, he said that the sexual revolution of the last century had caused humanity “a plague of misery on a scale never known before.”

“Enough! Husbands and wifes, mothers and fathers, you are called to have great hearts here, counter-cultural and brave. You can build something better, freer, more generous, and nobler,” he said, insisting that rebuilding society began in the home.

Husbands and wives have to be “all-in” for their sacramental marriage vows, explained Olmsted. This means that couples need to be open to new life, whether “by way of the marital act” or through adoption and fostering.

"Do not be afraid to sink your roots deeply into the living water that is Jesus Christ. He will not abandon you,” said Olmsted. “Lead your family, and lead in whatever other place the Lord asks, with deep and childlike faith in Him."

The family, Olmsted said, was the sign that would defeat the heresies of the current age, all of which concerned the human body.  Whether in reference to the true nature of marriage, life, and gender, or the resurrection of Christ, when the dignity of the body is questioned, Olmsted said, the truth preached by the Church is cast aside, to the detriment of marriage and unborn children.

Sacramental marriage “stands now in the way of the gender ideology,” he said, insisting that Catholics must proclaim the truth and oppose attempts to weaken marriage and the family - attempts which “do nothing to strengthen our great country.”

“Look at the vociferous opposition to the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act,” said Olmsted, referring to Congressional attempts to legislate to require that doctors provide age-appropriate care for infants who survive late-term abortions.

“Where does this blatant disregard come from?” he asked. “From a hardened heart.”

Olmsted said it is the great duty of Catholics to “stand up for each child,” offering a courageous witness for life. This, he said, requires each person to “expand our hearts to receive that child” and to “stand in the breech left by hardened hearts.”

“We Christians, then, must stand up for this reality of marriage today, in our homes, and in the public square, despite the real risk of persecution for doing so," he said.

“We can do this. We were made for such a time as this.”

Catholic church vandalized in Northern Ireland

Belfast, Northern Ireland, Apr 23, 2019 / 04:01 pm (CNA).- A Catholic church in Northern Ireland was desecrated with paint in the early hours of Easter Sunday morning, receiving disapproval from political officials.

Sacred Heart Church in Ballyclare, about 13 miles north of Belfast, had white paint thrown on it after midnight April 21.

Police arrested a 26 year-old man related to the “criminal damage.” He has cooperated with the police and has been released on bail.

A 35 year-old woman was also warned by the police for assisting an offender.

Noreen McClelland, a local politician of the Social Democratic and Labour Party, lamented the incident, saying, according to The Irish News: “This is an appalling, senseless act, the motive being to cause hurt and distress to the Catholic community of Ballyclare. Easter Sunday is a special date in the Christian calendar and for the congregation to find their church defaced in such a way is totally unacceptable.”

Members from the Democratic Unionist Party also spoke against the vandalism. MP Paul Girvan and assembly members Pam Cameron and Trevor Clarke released a joint statement, noting that these actions did not represent the community as a whole.

"All places of worship should be free from attack and from the fear of attack,” they said, according to The Irish News. “We stand with our neighbours at this time and assure them of our support.”

Religious disputes have long been part of the history of Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom and has been predominantly Protestant, while the majority-Catholic Republic of Ireland gained its independence in 1916.

The region has had ongoing religiously and politically based conflicts, most notably “the Troubles”, which included violent clashes that lasted from the late 1960s until 1998, when the Good Friday Agreement was struck.

Since 1998, there has been only sporadic sectarian violence in Northern Ireland.

In July, St. Mary's church in Limavady was vandalized with sectarian graffiti. Paramilitary slogans from an anti-Catholic group marked a door and some of the walls of the church, and a large crucifix outside of the church was also painted on.

In October 2017, the loyalist paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force made threats which forced four Catholic families to flee their homes at a social housing project in Belfast.

Recent demographic figures have suggested that Catholics will likely outnumber Protestants in Northern Ireland by 2021. According to the last census, in 2011, Protestants outnumbered Catholics in Northern Ireland by just three percent.