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Lawsuit alleges Notre Dame, Georgetown among universities rigging financial aid

The Golden Dome at the University of Notre Dame, one of the 16 colleges named in a lawsuit accusing them of illegally conspiring to reduce financial aid. / Matthew Rice (CC 4.0)

Denver Newsroom, Jan 12, 2022 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

The University of Notre Dame and Georgetown University are among 16 elite private universities and colleges facing a federal lawsuit that alleges they illegally conspired to reduce financial aid awards to students, in effect a form of price-fixing.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Chicago Jan. 9, depicted these schools as a “cartel” that fixes prices and acts “not only to reduce the amount of total aid offered by each school, but also to reduce the total amount of aid offered to each prospective student at each defendant school.”

Current federal law requires financial aid decisions by colleges and universities to be need-blind as a condition for their antitrust law exemptions.

Peter McDonough, vice president and general counsel of the higher education public policy advocacy group American Council on Education, told the New York Times he would be “very surprised” if the lawsuit is found to have merit.

He said the defendants are “very antitrust aware and particularly sophisticated.”

“They have good advice provided to them,” he said, comparing the lawsuit to a 1990s Justice Department case filed against Ivy League schools and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. That case ended in a favorable ruling for the universities.

The lawsuit charges that the 16 schools still give preference in admission to the children of wealthy donors, make waitlist decisions on the basis of a prospective student’s finances and family wealth, or decide whether to admit applicants for particular programs based on student or family finances.

Five former undergraduates of Vanderbilt, Northwestern and Duke are the first plaintiffs in the case. The firms Roche Freedman, Gilbert Litigators & Counselors, Berger Montague and FeganScott filed the lawsuit in the Northern District of Illinois on their behalf late on Sunday.

The defendants in the lawsuit are some of the most elite schools in the country: Brown, the California Institute of Technology, the University of Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Duke, Emory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northwestern, the University of Pennsylvania, Rice, Vanderbilt, Yale, Notre Dame, and Georgetown.

The two Catholic universities on the list of defendants are the Congregation of Holy Cross-run Notre Dame and the Jesuit-run Georgetown University. They and seven other defendant institutions led the alleged conspiracy by ignoring need-blind admission policies. Instead, they took into account the financial circumstances of prospective students and their families “through policies and practices that favored the wealthy.”

Georgetown declined to comment on the case. CNA sought comment from Notre Dame but did not receive a response by deadline. A Yale spokesperson told the New York Times that the university is compliant with all applicable law.

Brown University spokesperson Brian E. Clark told NBC News that, based on a preliminary review, “the complaint against Brown has no merit and Brown is prepared to mount a strong effort to make this clear.”

The lawsuit claims that perhaps 170,000 students could be eligible plaintiffs, as well as those who helped pay for their college. The alleged financial overcharging totals into the hundreds of millions of dollars. Eligible plaintiffs to join the class action would have attended the schools, or paid for a student’s attendance, in the time period of 2003 in cases where the student would have received some form of financial aid short of full coverage of tuition, room and board.

Under Section 568 of the relevant 1994 federal law, colleges and universities that are need-blind in admission may collaborate with their competitors. This is an exemption from antitrust laws.

The lawsuit contended that the schools’ participation in the 568 Presidents Group, a collective of colleges and universities which stresses the requirement for need-blind college admissions, has instead resulted in collusion that prevents the institutions from competing on the price of tuition.

“While conspiring together on a method for awarding financial aid, which raises net tuition prices, defendants also consider the wealth of applicants and their families in making admissions decisions,” said the lawsuit.

The lawsuit faulted Notre Dame admissions for allegedly following a form of enrollment management model that is legally problematic. It also faulted the school’s partnership with a software company to use data analysis to “shape need-aware admissions decisions.”

In addition, the lawsuit cited various institutions’ admissions staff and executives who discussed the giving potential of prospective students and their families. These leaders also noted the favoritism shown toward the children of high potential donors.

“Georgetown admits a range of students based on their families’ wealth, prestige, and influence,” said the lawsuit. “Some of these students are given ‘extra consideration’ based on their parents’ influence or political power, without any expectation of a financial contribution. On the other hand, some are given “extra consideration” on the basis of their ‘development potential’—namely, the ability of the family to make a financial contribution to the institution, and the likelihood that it will do so.”

‘We all weep for these victims’: Nigerian cardinal responds after gunmen kill 200 people

Nigerian Cardinal John Onaiyekan speaks at the International Eucharistic Congress in Budapest, Hungary, Sept. 9, 2021. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Rome Newsroom, Jan 12, 2022 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

After gangs of gunmen killed at least 200 people in Nigeria’s Zamfara State last week, Cardinal John Onaiyekan said that things must change.

The Nigerian cardinal explained that over the past five years armed bandits have terrorized northwestern Nigeria, causing a great deal of damage.

“They attack farmers’ fields, kill farmers and no one says anything. And then they started with kidnappings,” Onaiyekan said in an interview in Italian with Vatican News published on Jan. 10.

In the most recent incident, gangs of bandits on motorbikes attacked nine villages over the course of three days, causing at least 200 deaths, according to local authorities.

“We all weep for these victims,” Onaiyekan said.

Around 10,000 people are estimated to have been displaced by this month’s violence.

The release of 30 abducted students also made headlines over the weekend of Jan. 8-9. The students had been held in captivity for seven months.

“There are still many victims of kidnappings, and their parents and relatives have no way of paying what is requested. And the government believes it cannot do anything,” Onaiyekan said.

The 77-year-old archbishop emeritus of Abuja, the country’s capital city, said that it was “unacceptable” that armed bandits were still holding hundreds of children and teachers for ransom.

“The government says it cannot identify precisely where these bandits are and where they take their victims. Some children kidnapped from schools have been missing for more than a year, some girls for seven,” he said.

More than 1,400 children were abducted in Nigeria last year, according to the United Nations.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres condemned the “appalling attacks” in Nigeria in a statement on Jan. 10.

“I urge the Nigerian authorities to spare no effort in bringing those responsible for these heinous crimes to justice,” Guterres said.

The U.S. State Department removed Nigeria from its list of countries with the most egregious religious freedom violations in November — prompting an outcry among human rights advocates.

For Onaiyekan, the only way to change the situation is with “a government that helps us to rebuild our unity and national coexistence.”

“Of course we also need prayer,” he added.

The cardinal said that he did not view the situation as “a persecution of Christians by Muslims.”

“It is the wickedness of the terrorists who decide to kill people without any justification and it certainly cannot be said that they represent the Islamic religion in Nigeria,” he said.

“I pray for all my Catholic and Christian brethren, and I also pray for all my Muslim fellow citizens who have been in the hands of terrorists for years. The sooner we find a stable country for everyone, the better it will be for us Christians too,” Onaiyekan said.

Austria’s Catholic Church reports decline in membership, rise in income

The coat of arms of Austria and Vienna on the Albertine choir roof of St. Stephen’s Cathedral. / Bwag via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Vienna, Austria, Jan 12, 2022 / 09:10 am (CNA).

The Catholic Church in Austria on Wednesday reported a decline in membership and a rise in income.

New statistics published on Jan. 12 showed that the number of Catholics in Austria fell in 2021 by around 1.6%, from 4.91 million in 2020 to 4.83 million on Dec. 31, 2021.

The Central European country, located to the south of Germany, has an overall population of almost 9 million.

A total of 72,055 people formally left the Church in Austria in 2021, compared to 58,727 in 2020 and 67,794 in 2019.

CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, reported that the Church also released financial figures for the year 2020.

They showed that Austrian dioceses received 484 million euros (around $550 million) from the obligatory Church Contribution in 2020, compared to 481 million euros ($546 million) in 2019.

Registered Catholics in Austria pay around 1.1% of their taxable income to their local diocese, amounting to 75% of the Church’s annual revenue.

Rising income and declining membership are not unprecedented in the Catholic Church in Europe.

If an individual is registered as a Catholic in Germany, 8-9% of their income tax goes to the Church. The Church received more money in church tax than ever before in 2019 despite losing a record number of members. The rise was believed to be due to the growth of Germany’s economy in 2019.

The Austrian bishops’ conference did not offer an explanation on Wednesday for the increase in income from the Church Contribution in 2020, a year marked by the worldwide COVID-19 recession.

But bishops’ conference president Archbishop Franz Lackner thanked Catholic taxpayers in his Archdiocese of Salzburg for their contributions.

“Every euro from the Church Contribution makes our commitment and dedication to the people of our archdiocese possible,” he said on Jan. 12.

Austrian Church authorities announced that 4,301 people rejoined the Church or joined for the first time in 2021 — more than in 2020, when 4,068 joined or rejoined.

In addition, 545 people made use of their “right of withdrawal” in 2021. People invoking this right initially declared their intention to leave the Church, but decided not to take the step after contacting Church officials within a three-month period.

Wednesday’s figures showed a significant fall in the number of baptisms, with 32,521 in 2020 and 44,977 in 2019. The Church said that many baptisms were postponed in 2020 due to the outbreak of the coronavirus.

As the country continues to battle the pandemic, a rosary initiative launched in Austria is expanding worldwide.

Austria is expected to become the first Western country to introduce mandatory vaccination against COVID-19 from February 2022 — a move that has prompted large-scale street protests.

Austria’s bishops have suggested that the obligation is permissible if used as a last resort.

Commenting on the formal departure of 6,335 people in Salzburg archdiocese in 2021, Archbishop Lackner invited Catholics leaving to the Church to talk with him.

“Pope Francis repeatedly invites us to enter into dialogue together. Ultimately, a new credibility is needed — in the Church as well as in each individual. We must continue to work on this,” he said.

Catholic nun who secretly baptized babies under communism dies at 92

Pope Francis listens as Sister Marije Kaleta speaks in Tirana’s St. Paul Cathedral, Albania, Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014. / Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.

Rome Newsroom, Jan 12, 2022 / 07:10 am (CNA).

An Albanian nun who inspired Pope Francis with her courageous faith under communist persecution has died at the age of 92.

Sister Marije Kaleta risked her life to bring Holy Communion to the sick and dying under the regime of dictator Enver Hoxha, whose communist government destroyed churches and martyred Catholics in its effort to create an atheist state.

Albania is a country of 2.8 million people on southeastern Europe’s Balkan Peninsula, bordered by Montenegro, Kosovo, North Macedonia, and Greece. It was under communist rule from the 1940s to 1992.

In a meeting with Pope Francis in Albania in 2014, the Stigmatine sister shared the story of how she baptized babies in secret during this time of persecution.

Pope Francis was so moved by Kaleta’s story that he mentioned it in a homily four years later as “a beautiful example of the Church as a mother.”

“I baptized not only the children of the villages, but also all those who showed up at my door,” Kaleta told the pope in the cathedral of Tirana.

She recalled that one time when she was on her way home, she heard a voice from behind her.

“It was a woman with a baby girl in her arms who came running towards me and asked me to baptize her,” she said.

Kaleta said that she felt some fear because she knew that this woman was a communist.

“I told her I didn’t have anything to baptize her with because we were on the road, but she expressed so much desire that she told me there was a canal with water nearby,” she said.

“I told her I didn’t have anything to collect the water with, but she insisted that I baptize that child, and seeing her faith, I took off my shoe, which was made of plastic, and I filled it with water from the canal and baptized her.”

Born in Nënshat, northern Albania, on Nov. 10, 1929, Kaleta felt a call to religious life at a young age. Thanks to the help of her uncle who was a priest, she found her vocation in the Stigmatine Sisters.

She entered the convent in the 1940s, not knowing at the time that she would have to wait nearly 50 years before she would be able to make her final vows.

The communist regime forced her to leave and return home to her parents seven years after entering the convent.

Following her parents’ death, she lived alone and learned “to keep the faith alive in the hearts of the faithful, although secretly.”

“Thanks to the consent of the priests, I kept the Blessed Sacrament in a cabinet at my home and brought it to the sick and dying,” she said.

As communist rule came to an end in Albania, Kaleta was able to make her final vows in 1991.

“When I think of it, I wonder how we were able to endure such terrible sufferings, but I know the Lord gave us strength, patience and hope,” she said

“The Lord gave strength to those He called, in fact he has repaid me from all my sufferings here on earth,” she added, saying that she “had the fortune of becoming a religious.”

Kaleta died on Jan. 2 in her convent in Shkodër, northern Albania.

German Catholic bishop criticizes delay in Synodal Way gender-neutral language debate

Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer speaks at a press conference on June 22, 2020. / Diocese of Regensburg.

Regensburg, Germany, Jan 12, 2022 / 06:20 am (CNA).

A Catholic bishop has criticized leaders of Germany’s “Synodal Way” for delaying a debate on gender-neutral language.

In a Jan. 7 open letter, Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg accused organizers of failing to keep a promise to hold a discussion at the Synodal Way’s next plenary session in February, reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

“I protest against this approach. Once again, the [Synodal Way’s leadership] disregards a request from the members of the Synodal Assembly,” the bishop said.

The debate centers on a proposal to use the so-called “gender star” in Synodal Way documents. The linguistic innovation, which dates to around 2013, places an asterisk after the stem of a German noun, rendering it neither masculine nor feminine.

For example, the German word for “friend” is usually written as either Freund (masculine) or Freundin (feminine). But under the new system, criticized by the Association for German Language, it is spelled Freund*in.

Two Catholic youth organizations have controversially opted to render the German word for God with an asterisk.

A Jan. 10 news release from the Diocese of Regensburg said that the debate was “urgent” since it concerned “not only the style and readability of the texts to be voted on.”

“‘Starred texts’ would also be an unmistakable commitment to gender ideology and thus a contradiction to biblically based anthropology,” the diocese said.

Voderholzer, whose diocese is located in Bavaria, southern Germany, is a prominent critic of the Synodal Way, a multi-year process bringing together bishops and laypeople to discuss four main topics: the way power is exercised in the Church; sexual morality; the priesthood; and the role of women.

The German bishops’ conference initially said that the process would end with a series of “binding” votes — raising fears at the Vatican that the resolutions might challenge the Church’s teaching and discipline.

Bishops and theologians have expressed alarm at the process, which is due to end in 2023, but bishops’ conference chairman Bishop Georg Bätzing has vigorously defended it.

Voderholzer launched a website in September presenting alternative texts for the Synodal Way, which he has accused of using the abuse crisis in Germany to reshape the Church on Protestant lines.

The 62-year-old bishop addressed his open letter to members of the Synodal Committee, the body responsible for preparing meetings of the Synodal Assembly, the Synodal Way’s supreme decision-making body.

The Synodal Committee is composed of the chairman and the vice chairman of the German bishops’ conference and the president and vice president of the powerful lay Central Committee of German Catholics (Zdk).

The Synodal Assembly consists of the German bishops, 69 ZdK members, and representatives of other parts of the German Church.

The second meeting of the Synodal Assembly ended abruptly in October 2021 following votes in favor of a text endorsing same-sex blessings and a discussion of whether the priesthood is necessary.

In his letter, Voderholzer said that participants were told that they could discuss gender-neutral language for Synodal Way texts at the next assembly on Feb. 3-5.

But he noted that the item did not appear in the agenda for the February meeting and an invitation to the event explained that the debate would take place at the fourth Synodal Assembly on Sept. 8-10.

“This is justified by the fact that only then do the deliberations on a text of the Synodal Forum IV about trans- and intersexual persons take place,” he wrote.

He added: “From my point of view, this justification is not valid. The debate about gender spelling has been going on in public for years. Scientific contributions on this can be found by everyone in sufficient numbers.”

“In order to be able to conduct this debate in a meaningful way, the Synodal Assembly is not dependent on a resolution of Synodal Forum IV.”

Voderholzer concluded: “I request that the third Synodal Assembly, as announced and recorded in the minutes of the second Synodal Assembly, deal with the topic of ‘Gender spelling in texts of the Synodal Way’ in a separate agenda item.”

“Logically, this debate must be held before the final adoption of texts of the Synodal Way.”

At the start of 2022, Pope Francis received a manifesto, backed by almost 6,000 Catholics, challenging the Synodal Way.

The pope was presented with the document, “New Beginning: A Manifesto for Reform,” after his general audience on Jan. 5.

He addressed concerns about the Synodal Way in an interview with the Spanish radio station COPE aired in September 2021.

Asked if the initiative gave him sleepless nights, the pope recalled that he wrote an extensive letter expressing “everything I feel about the German synod.”

Responding to the interviewer’s comment that the Church had faced similar challenges in the past, he said: “Yes, but I wouldn’t get too tragic either. There is no ill will in many bishops with whom I spoke.”

“It is a pastoral desire, but one that perhaps does not take into account some things that I explain in the letter that need to be taken into account.”

Pope Francis prays for workers ‘crushed by an unbearable burden’ in COVID-19 recession

Pope Francis’ general audience in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican, Jan. 12, 2021. / Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.

Vatican City, Jan 12, 2022 / 02:55 am (CNA).

Pope Francis prayed on Wednesday for workers “crushed by an unbearable burden” amid the COVID-19 recession.

At his Jan. 12 general audience in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, the pope asked for a moment’s silence for workers who took their lives after losing their jobs amid the pandemic.

“Many young people, many fathers and mothers, experience the ordeal of not having a job that allows them to live tranquilly, they live from day to day. And how often the search for work becomes so desperate that it drives them to the point of losing all hope and the desire to live,” he said.

“In these times of pandemic, many people have lost their jobs — we know this — and some, crushed by an unbearable burden, reached the point of taking their own lives. I would like to remember each of them and their families today.”

“Let us take a moment of silence, remembering these men, these women, who are desperate because they cannot find work.”

The pope dedicated his live-streamed general audience, which was sparsely attended, to St. Joseph the carpenter. It was in the seventh installment in his cycle of catechesis on Jesus’ foster father, which he launched in November.

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

He noted that the Gospel writers Matthew and Mark described Joseph as a “carpenter” or “joiner.”

He said: “The Greek term ‘tekton,’ used to specify Joseph’s work, has been translated in various ways. The Latin Fathers of the Church rendered it as ‘carpenter.’”

“But let us bear in mind that in the Palestine of Jesus’ time, wood was used not only to make plows and various pieces of furniture, but also to build houses, which had wooden frames and terraced roofs made of beams connected with branches and earth.”

“Therefore, ‘carpenter’ or ‘joiner’ was a generic qualification, indicating both woodworkers and craftsmen engaged in activities related to construction.”

The pope explained that Joseph’s trade, which he passed on to Jesus, did not provide the Holy Family with “great earnings.”

He said: “This biographical fact about Joseph and Jesus makes me think of all the workers in the world, especially those who do grueling work in mines and certain factories; those who are exploited through undocumented work; the victims of labor — we have seen a lot of this in Italy recently; the children who are forced to work and those who rummage among the trash in search of something useful to trade…”

The pope said it was a social injustice when men and women were unable to earn money to feed their families, stressing that labor is connected to human dignity.

He explained that work was not only a way of earning a living, but also “an essential component of human life, and even of the path of sanctification.”

“Unfortunately, however, labor is often a hostage to social injustice and, rather than being a means of humanization, it becomes an existential periphery. I often ask myself: With what spirit do we do our daily work? How do we deal with fatigue? Do we see our activity as linked only to our own destiny or also to the destiny of others?” he asked.

He added: “It is good to think about the fact that Jesus himself worked and had learned this craft from St. Joseph. Today, we should ask ourselves what we can do to recover the value of work; and what contribution we can make, as the Church, so that work can be redeemed from the logic of mere profit and can be experienced as a fundamental right and duty of the person, which expresses and increases his or her dignity.”

After the address, a precis of the pope’s catechesis was read out in seven languages. After each summary, he greeted members of each language group.

He said: “I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, especially those from the United States of America. Upon all of you, and your families, I invoke the Lord’s blessings of joy and peace. God bless you!”

The audience concluded with the recitation of the Our Father and the Apostolic Blessing.

The pope ended his address by reciting a prayer offered by his predecessor Paul VI on May 1, 1969:

O St. Joseph,
Patron of the Church!
You, who side by side with the Word made flesh,
worked each day to earn your bread,
drawing from Him the strength to live and to toil;
you who experienced the anxiety for the morrow,
the bitterness of poverty, the uncertainty of work:
you who today give the shining example,
humble in the eyes of men
but most exalted in the sight of God:
protect workers in their hard daily lives,
defending them from discouragement,
from negative revolt,
and from pleasure-loving temptations;
and keep peace in the world,
that peace which alone can ensure the development of peoples
Amen.

Rep. Chris Smith highlights bipartisan bill on National Human Trafficking Awareness Day

Man bound hand and foot, vicitim of human trafficking. / Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jan 11, 2022 / 18:07 pm (CNA).

In recognition of National Human Trafficking Awareness Day on Jan. 11, a New Jersey congressman is calling on the U.S. House of Representatives to pass a bipartisan piece of legislation intended to combat what his office calls “modern-day slavery.”

“Human traffickers have benefitted from a culture of denial and a lack of awareness throughout our communities,” U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) said in a Jan. 11 press release. “Education and awareness programs — especially and including those provided by local grassroots organizations — are the victim’s best friend and the trafficker’s worst nightmare and go a long way toward preventing this heinous crime in the first place.”

That is why he and U.S. Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) authored the Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act of 2021 (H.R. 5150)­­­, first introduced in September.

According to Smith, the act would provide “approximately $1.6 billion over five years to strengthen and expand education, awareness and other critical programs that protect victims, prosecute perpetrators and prevent trafficking.”

At the time of its introduction, the legislation named after abolitionist Frederick Douglass was already endorsed by 17 anti-trafficking organizations and coalitions, Essence magazine reported. Ken Morris, the great-great-great-grandson of Douglass, spoke at the initial press conference and coordinated with lawmakers. 

“I have the great privilege of being descended from one of America’s best-known abolitionists,” Morris, who serves as president of Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives, said, Essence reported. “But I didn’t inherit an understanding of contemporary forms of slavery. That’s why our knowledge of these crimes — and the institutional support to stop them — must continue to expand. This bill will do that.”

Smith has sponsored anti-human legislation trafficking in the past, such as the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000. This newer piece of legislation proposes to continue and add to the 2000 law.

“We cannot let our guard down,” Smith added in his press release. “We must continue to do everything we can to stop predators from harming the most vulnerable and innocent among us.”

The U.S. Department of State defines human trafficking as a “crime of exploitation” where “traffickers profit at the expense of their victims by compelling them to perform labor or to engage in commercial sex in every region of the United States and around the world.” It cites an “estimated 24.9 million victims worldwide at any given time.”

In an effort to fight human trafficking, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops hosts an Anti-Trafficking Program to “educate on the scourge of human trafficking as an offense against fundamental dignity of the human person, to advocate for an end to modern day slavery, to provide training and technical assistance on this issue, and to support survivors through community based services.”

According to the USCCB, “an estimated 17,000 vulnerable men, women and children are trafficked across our borders and then forced into slavery” every year.

“Some people are trafficked for prostitution, pornography, and other forms of sexual exploitation. Some are trafficked for forced labor in agriculture, sweat shops, and domestic servitude,” the USCCB says. “In both cases the person who is enslaved is treated as an object for another's benefit. The person's God-given human dignity is either ignored or forgotten.”

Mother Angelica Museum receives Communion rail from her home parish

Mother Angelica. Photo courtesy EWTN.

Youngstown, Ohio, Jan 11, 2022 / 17:29 pm (CNA).

The original communion rail from Mother Angelica’s baptismal parish has been donated to the Mother Angelica Museum in Canton, Ohio. 

Two pieces of what is believed to be the original communion rail from St. Anthony’s parish were donated last summer to the museum. 

Previously, the pieces of the rail were at an Italian restaurant in neighboring Perry Township. They were moved there with permission from the parish after the communion rail was removed during a renovation in the 1970s. 

Barbara Gaskell, who owns the Mother Angelica Museum, learned that the restaurant had repurposed part of the communion rail last summer. She was put into contact with Dr. Robin Capaldi Ford-Rigsby, whose parents owned the restaurant, and inquired about the rails. Ford-Rigbsy’s late father was a parishioner at St. Anthony’s, and knew Mother Angelica.

"She was so nice; she got back to me the next day," Gaskell told The Repository, a newspaper in Canton. "I told her what we were doing and she was delighted. They let us take the front two pieces. Her husband even helped us remove it."

Additionally, Ford-Rigsby donated two lights that formerly hung in the sanctuary at St. Anthony’s to the museum. 

Ford-Rigsby told The Repository that her parents would be “thrilled and proud” to have been able to make a donation to the museum’s collection. 

"When Barbara contacted me, it was such a cool completion of the circle," said Ford-Rigsby. "So many blessings were said at that railing."

The Mother Angelica Museum, which is free to enter, is located at the St. Raphael Center & Bookstore in Canton. It opened in 2020. 

The museum has photos, letters, and other mementos from Mother Angelica’s life, including a statue of the Virgin Mary from her home altar, a “St. Peter” fishing lure that was sold to raise money for the nascent EWTN, and recording equipment. 

In addition to the museum, Gaskell also operates a “Mother Angelica Tour”, which takes attendees to locations in Canton. St. Anthony’s is a stop on the tour.  

Born Rita Rizzo, the young Mother Angelica attended Mass at St. Anthony’s as a child. At the time, the parish was predominated by Italian emigrants. After experiencing a miraculous healing following a visit from now-Servant of God Rhoda Wise, Mother Angelica prayed a novena to St. Therese of Lisieux while discerning religious life.

She then entered a monastery in Canton before departing for Alabama, where she would eventually found EWTN. 

Gaskell admired Mother Angelica for her candor and wit.

"She was just real," Gaskell said. "She'd just flat-out say it. She was funny. She had a good sense of timing. I don't think a lot scared her. She had a lot of chutzpah. She was like somebody's Italian grandmother.”

Ballot initiative to enshrine abortion rights is 'sad' and 'harmful', Michigan bishops say

null / roibu / Shutterstock.

Lansing, Mich., Jan 11, 2022 / 16:16 pm (CNA).

Abortion advocacy groups in Michigan have launched a ballot initiative to override a state abortion ban— which is currently unenforced— by way of a constitutional amendment. The state’s Catholic Conference said the effort shows the power of the abortion industry in influencing state policy. 

“More than anything, women considering an abortion deserve support, love, and compassion. For decades, abortion has been touted as the only option, harmless and easy, yet we know this is a lie. Abortion hurts women,” Rebecca Mastee, Policy Advocate for the Michigan Catholic Conference, said Jan. 7.

“Today’s news that some are looking to enshrine abortion in the state constitution is a sad commentary on the outsized and harmful role the abortion industry plays in our politics and our society. We look forward to standing with women through a potential statewide ballot campaign to promote a culture of life and good health for both moms and unborn children.”

Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan and the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan are two of the organizations sponsoring the ballot drive. Organizers of the ballot initiative need about 425,000 valid voter signatures to put it before the electorate in November, the AP reports. 

According to another group involved with the campaign, Michigan Advance, the ballot measure would amend Michigan’s constitution explicitly to affirm Michiganders’ right to “make and carry out decisions relating to pregnancy, including abortion, birth control, prenatal care and childbirth.” 

Michigan is one of several states with an abortion law on the books which is currently unenforceable due to Roe v. Wade. A 1931 Michigan state law makes it a felony for anyone to provide an abortion unless "necessary to preserve the life of such woman." 

Michigan is not the only state where efforts to enshrine abortion rights into state law are underway. In Vermont, a similar ballot measure has been in the works and will likely appear on the November ballot.  

New Jersey lawmakers passed a bill on Jan. 10 which codifies a “fundamental right to reproductive autonomy, which includes the right to contraception, the right to terminate a pregnancy, and the right to carry a pregnancy to term.” That bill is awaiting the New Jersey governor’s signature. 

Michigan recorded nearly 30,000 abortions performed in 2020, the most in the state since 1996, but still 40% fewer than the peak of 49,000 in 1987, the Detroit Free Press reported. 

Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer has called on the Republican-led state legislature to repeal the abortion ban. 

In late September 2021, Whitmer line-item vetoed from the state budget about $16 million worth of funding for alternatives to abortion, drawing consternation from the state’s Catholic conference. 

“Governor Whitmer’s vetoes amplify the disappointing reality of this administration that the abortion industry is more important than vulnerable mothers and their unborn children,” David Maluchnik, Vice President for Communications at the Michigan Catholic Conference, said at the time.

The provisions vetoed included $10 million to develop “factual educational information materials on adoption as an alternative to abortion”; $1.5 million for pregnancy resource centers; $1 million for pregnant and parenting services at colleges and universities; and $50,000 for the health department to inform the public that it does not use taxpayer dollars to fund any elective abortion.

Priest denounces Spanish Caritas for Christological error

Gerard David's Triptych of Jan Des Trompes, 1505. / null

Cuenca, Spain, Jan 11, 2022 / 15:51 pm (CNA).

Father Antonio María Domenech Guillén, a priest of the Diocese of Cuenca, harshly criticized Spanish Caritas for writing “nonsense” about Christ on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

Spanish Caritas tweeted Jan. 9: “Jesus was baptized as one more seeker of truth and justice in his time, without calling attention to himself, away from the Temple. Jesus is the Church that goes out, he receives the Spirit of God who recognizes him as a beloved Son and he understands that this Love is to be shared. We are invited to do the same.”

Fr. Domenech responded on Twitter, “Don't talk nonsense. First of all,  the first part has nothing to do with the second. That Jesus is the Church that goes out is not because he is baptized as one more seeker of the truth. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life; and the only way to go to the Father.”

"He didn’t have to look for any truth because He was the truth," the priest pointed out.

“The problem is the moment when we Christians forget that Christ is the truth or we don’t believe it and then we send out messages that are so equivocal that they are, apart from lies, nonsense," he continued.

Fr. Domenech also stressed that "Christian charity, the charity of Christ, cannot be practiced if there is no faith in Christ."

“The day the Father says 'this is my beloved Son' and everyone discovers it because the heavens open and the Holy Spirit descends and John points to him as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, you can’t tell me that he’s there looking for the truth,” he said.

The priest noted that it’s true that Christ "placed himself among sinners, but not because he had to seek the truth, but so that we would realize that we had gone wrong."

"So, before sending out a message for us to share, let’s carefully convey the true faith of seeking first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you."

Fr. Domenech warned that if it’s not done this way, "if we seek all these things and forget the Kingdom of God, we’re going to run out of funds because we didn’t impart Christ."

"Brothers in Caritas: Correcting those who err is a Christian obligation, a work of mercy, a work of charity."

To conclude, the priest exhorted: "Apologize, correct the tweet and study Christ!"

As of press time, Spanish Caritas had not made any correction to its tweet.