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White House won't give plans on Hyde Amendment, Mexico City Policy

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jan 20, 2021 / 06:45 pm (CNA).- Washington, D.C.—President Joe Biden’s press secretary would not say on Wednesday evening what the administration will do with current safeguards against taxpayer funding of abortions.


When asked by Owen Jensen of EWTN News what President Biden plans to do regarding the Hyde Amendment and the Mexico City Policy, White House press secretary Jen Psaki did not give any details of plans, in a Wednesday press briefing on the first day of Biden’s presidency.


“Well, I think we’ll have more to say on the Mexico City Policy in the coming days,” Psaki said, before adding that Biden is a “devout Catholic.”


“But I will just take the opportunity to remind all of you that he [Biden] is a devout Catholic, and somebody who attends church regularly,” Psaki told reporters. “He started his day with attending his church this morning.”


On Wednesday, Biden attended Mass at St. Matthew’s Cathedral with family and other congressional leaders, as well as Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, shortly before he was sworn in to office.


Although Biden did not unveil any pro-abortion policies on his first day in office, he is expected to overturn the Mexico City Policy, which bars federal funding of foreign NGOs that promote or perform abortions as a method of family planning. Incoming presidents have traditionally rescinded or reinstated the policy as among their first actions in office. 


Biden has also pledged to repeal the Hyde Amendment, which has been enacted into law since 1976 each year as a rider to spending bills. The policy prohibits federal funding of elective abortions in Medicaid.


A repeal of Hyde, however, would require initial action by Congress with both chambers passing spending bills stripped of the policy and sending them to Biden for signature.


Biden took office on Wednesday just days after former President Donald Trump proclaimed Jan. 22 as National Sanctity of Human Life Day. The date marks the 48th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide. Trump’s proclamation was one of his last actions taken in office.


In the proclamation published on Jan. 17, Trump called on Congress to protect and defend “the dignity of every human life, including those not yet born.” 


He called for the American people “to continue to care for women in unexpected pregnancies and to support adoption and foster care in a more meaningful way, so every child can have a loving home.” 


However, in Trump’s farewell address to the nation on Jan. 19, he did not mention pro-life victories while listing the policy accomplishments of his administration. 


In his farewell address, Trump touted tax cuts, trade policies, falling unemployment rates and the rise of the stock market, border security, and confirmation of judges as among his accomplishments in office, but did not mention life or religious freedom issues. 


Although President Biden announced a series of executive actions on Wednesday morning that did not include abortion, Punchbowl News reported on Wednesday that among his proposed actions for his first month in office, Biden indeed plans to reverse the Mexico City Policy and the Trump administration’s Protect Life Rule.


The latter rule requires Title X family planning grant recipients to not refer for abortions, and not be co-located with abortion clinics. As a result of the 2019 rule, Planned Parenthood backed out of the Title X program and forfeited an estimated $60 million per year in Title X grants rather than comply with the new requirements.


In addition, according to Punchbowl News, Biden will reportedly “disavow” the Geneva Declaration, a document signed in October by the U.S. and 31 other countries which rejects abortion as a human right.



In unprecedented move, Cardinal Cupich criticizes USCCB statement on Biden

CNA Staff, Jan 20, 2021 / 05:04 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Blase Cupich, archbishop of Chicago, used Twitter to issue a scathing criticism of the USCCB’s official statement on the inauguration of President Joe Biden.

In his four-part Twitter thread on Wednesday, Cardinal Cupich said that “the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued an ill-considered statement on the day of President Biden’s inauguration. Aside from the fact that there is seemingly no precedent for doing so, the statement, critical of President Biden, came as a surprise to many bishops, who received it just hours before it was released.”

“The statement was crafted without the involvement of the Administrative Committee, a collegial consultation that is a normal course for statements that represent and enjoy the considered endorsement of the American bishops,” he said.

“The internal institutional failures involved must be addressed, and I look forward to contributing to all efforts to that end, so that, inspired by the Gospel, we can build up the unity of the Church, and together take up the work of healing our nation in this moment of crisis,” the cardinal said.

The overt criticism of the USCCB came after Cardinal Cupich published a separate statement on his website that did not include these critiques. It follows a flurry of public reactions from his fellow U.S. bishops, who have supported the USCCB statement.

Three different bishops speaking on background to CNA said they were aware that Cardinal Cupich wanted a more supportive, clearly pro-Biden statement, and that he spent most of Wednesday trying to get the support of other bishops to come up with an alternative statement.

The USCCB statement to which Cupich was responding was originally expected to be released at 9 a.m. Eastern time. However, it was delayed and published only after Biden was sworn in to office and around the time Pope Francis published a message to the new president.

The statement was from Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the bishops’ conference.

Gomez stressed that the bishops’ job is not to be political, but to preach the truth. He said that while there are numerous issues of concern to the bishops’ conference, abortion is the preeminent issue that cannot be ignored.

Gomez said that “abortion is a direct attack on life that also wounds the woman and undermines the family. It is not only a private matter, it raises troubling and fundamental questions of fraternity, solidarity, and inclusion in the human community. It is also a matter of social justice. We cannot ignore the reality that abortion rates are much higher among the poor and minorities, and that the procedure is regularly used to eliminate children who would be born with disabilities.”

"Rather than impose further expansions of abortion and contraception, as he has promised, I am hopeful that the new President and his administration will work with the Church and others of good will. My hope is that we can begin a dialogue to address the complicated cultural and economic factors that are driving abortion and discouraging families,” he continued.

“My hope, too, is that we can work together to finally put in place a coherent family policy in this country, one that acknowledges the crucial importance of strong marriages and parenting to the well-being of children and the stability of communities,” Gomez said. “If the President, with full respect for the Church’s religious freedom, were to engage in this conversation, it would go a long way toward restoring the civil balance and healing our country’s needs.”

Knights of Columbus affirm Archbishop Gomez' 'balanced and prophetic statement' on inauguration

CNA Staff, Jan 20, 2021 / 03:51 pm (CNA).- The head of the Knights of Columbus on Wednesday expressed gratitude for the “balanced and prophetic” statement issued by the US bishops’ conference on the presidential inauguration of Joe Biden.

Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said Jan. 20 that the Knights are “grateful to Archbishop Gómez and the leadership of the USCCB for their balanced and prophetic statement about the teaching of the Church in relation to the issues that we face in our country.”

“In its fidelity to the Gospel, the Church must always promote unity rooted in the Truth. We commend the Archbishop’s hope for working with the new Administration and support his clear statement regarding the defense of all vulnerable people and the preeminent priority of the defense of the unborn.”

Anderson added that “We join with Pope Francis in offering the prayers of the Knights of Columbus for President Biden that God guide his hand in working ‘to foster understanding, reconciliation and peace within the United States and among the nations of the world in order to advance the universal common good.’”

The Knights also reiterated their “commitment to support the pastoral ministry of the bishops on behalf of life and justice as they work for unity and healing for our nation.”

The US bishops’ statement, signed by conference president Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, offered prayers for Biden and noted areas of both agreement but disagreement between the bishops and the new administration.

As CNA reported, the text of Archbishop Gomez’ statement -- particularly the expression of concern about some of Biden’s public policy positions on abortion, marriage, gender, and contraception -- received some opposition within the conference.

Archbishop Gomez stressed that the role of the Catholic bishops is not to endorse parties or candidates, but to offer principles that can guide consciences.

“Our duty to love and our moral principles lead us to prudential judgments and positions that do not align neatly with the political categories of left or right or the platforms of our two major political parties,” he said.

The archbishop said he finds hope and inspiration in Biden’s personal witness of relying on faith in difficult times and commitment to the poor.

At the same time, he said, “our new President has pledged to pursue certain policies that would advance moral evils and threaten human life and dignity, most seriously in the areas of abortion, contraception, marriage, and gender. Of deep concern is the liberty of the Church and the freedom of believers to live according to their consciences.”

Catholic leaders respond to Biden’s call for unity

Washington D.C., Jan 20, 2021 / 12:30 pm (CNA).- Catholic leaders responded to new President Joe Biden’s call for national unity in his inaugural address on Wednesday. 


Biden, the second Catholic to become president of the United States, said on Wednesday that “to restore the soul and secure the future of America requires so much more than words,” and added that “it requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy, unity. Unity.”


Biden also quoted St. Augustine to underline the need for unity in truth.


“Many centuries ago, St. Augustine, a saint in my Church, wrote that a people was a multitude defined by the common objects of their love,” he said. These “common objects” that define Americans, said Biden, are “opportunity, security, liberty, dignity, respect, honor and, yes, the truth.”


He added that “each of us has a duty and a responsibility as citizens, as Americans, and especially as leaders, leaders who have pledged to honor our Constitution and protect our nation, to defend the truth and defeat the lies.” 


However, multiple Catholic thinkers said that Biden left out Augustine’s reference to God in his citation.


Dr. Chad Pecknold, a theology professor at the Catholic University of America, noted that “Biden actually failed to quote Augustine in full,” and added that it was “more important still to note that he failed to identify the only common object of love that Augustine thought mattered for a true commonwealth: God.”


Other Catholic commentators praised Biden’s theme of unity in his address, but emphasized that his policies must match the Church’s teachings--including on abortion and religious freedom.


Dr. Charles Camosy, a theology professor at Fordham University and former board member of Democrats for Life of America, praised Biden for attending Mass at St. Matthew’s Cathedral on Wednesday morning, along with congressional leaders. 


Biden’s heart, Camosy said, “is a Catholic one and a deeply Catholic one at that. His decision to pray with Leader McConnell before being inaugurated shows a deep commitment to the kinds of values we would expect from a son of the Church.”


Catholics, Camosy said, should seek to work with Biden on areas of agreement and hold him accountable when his public policies conflict with the teachings of the Church--including on Biden’s support for taxpayer-funded abortion.


“Happily, he [Biden] believes in his Catholic heart that abortion is always wrong,” Camosy said. “This is a foundation on which to build for changing his mind about public policy.”


“There is common ground to be had on abortion, and we owe it to prenatal children and their mothers to seek to find it. No pro-lifer should allow their understandable anger and frustration to lead them to put castigation and vitriol before taking the chance to save lives,” Camosy said.


Mary Rice Hasson, a fellow at the Ethics & Public Policy Center, said that Biden’s words may have evinced a “‘feel-good’ moment,” but his first actions as president are saying otherwise.


She pointed to Biden’s announced executive order clarifying that workplace protections against sex discrimination be interpreted to include prohibitions of discrimination on the basis of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.”


The text of the order “is based on a lie,” Hasson said, “that ‘gender identity’ enables a male person to ‘be’ a woman. So much for truth.” 


She added that the order “puts the power of the federal government behind the lie, forcing religious believers—including his [Biden’s] own Church—to bend the knee to the transgender lie or be tagged as bigots and denied participation in federal programs, grants, and benefits.” 


However, Fr. James Martin, S.J., editor-at-large of America magazine who offered a prayer at the 2020 Democratic National Convention, told CNA that Biden “today invited our country into a time of unity and healing, which is what is needed in these divisive and demonizing times.”


He noted Biden’s specific references to faith “to remind us that God will help us in our efforts.”


Elsewhere in his address, Biden stressed the need to “set aside politics and finally face this pandemic as one nation.” He cited Psalm 30, reminding those that “weep, ye may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” 


“We will get through this together. Together,” he said. Biden paused for a moment of silent prayer for those who had died in the pandemic.


Coming together, said Biden, will help to heal “a broken land.” 

Bishops offer prayers for Biden on Inauguration Day

Washington D.C., Jan 20, 2021 / 11:50 am (CNA).- As Joe Biden took office as the 46th president of the United States on Wednesday, individual U.S. bishops offered statements of prayer and congratulations.


Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York tweeted, “Today of all days, we're one nation under God. In God we trust. We pray with and for President [Joe Biden] and ask that the Holy Spirit bring him wisdom and guidance.”



Today of all days, we're one nation under God. In God we trust. We pray with and for President @JoeBiden and ask that the Holy Spirit bring him wisdom and guidance.

— Cardinal Dolan (@CardinalDolan) January 20, 2021  


Cardinal Blase Cupich of the Archdiocese of Chicago also tweeted, “Join me in prayer for President Joseph Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris who assume office today. May God give them and all elected officials the strength and wisdom needed to heal this nation and build up the common good.”



Join me in prayer for President Joseph Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris who assume office today. May God give them and all elected officials the strength and wisdom needed to heal this nation and build up the common good.

— Cardinal Cupich (@CardinalBCupich) January 20, 2021  


Cardinal Joseph Tobin of the Archdiocese of Newark tweeted, “Let your light shine on us, Lord, as we begin a new chapter in our nation’s history. Heal our wounds. Unite us in justice, charity and peace for all.”


Earlier in the morning, the U.S. bishops’ conference was scheduled to release a statement by president Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, offering prayers for Biden and noting areas of agreement but also disagreement between the bishops and the incoming administration. 


The statement was not released until the afternoon, after Biden was sworn in to office and around the time Pope Francis published a message to the new president.


“At a time when the grave crises facing our human family call for farsighted and united responses, I pray that your decisions will be guided by a concern for building a society marked by authentic justice and freedom, together with unfailing respect for the rights and dignity of every person, especially the poor, the vulnerable and those who have no voice,” the pope said Jan. 20.


As CNA reported, the text of Gomez’s statement--particularly the expression of concern about some of Biden’s public policy positions on abortion, marriage, gender, and contraception--received some opposition within the conference. 


“My prayers are with our new President and his family today,” Archbishop Gomez said, adding that he looks forward “to working with President Biden and his administration, and the new Congress.”


“As with every administration, there will be areas where we agree and work closely together and areas where we will have principled disagreement and strong opposition,” he said. 


Other bishops offered prayers for Biden while also stating their support for Archbishop Gomez. 


Bishop Thomas John Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois said in a statement that while, “It is true that the Catholic Church shares the President’s concern for justice in matters of the economy, health care, and immigration,” there are several of the president’s policy positions “at odds with Catholic teaching about the dignity and integrity of human life.”


“In this regard, given the President’s public profession of full communion with the Church, I am pleased that Archbishop Gomez has spoken on behalf of all the bishops of the United States,” Paprocki said. 


“I join Archbishop Gomez and my brother bishops in praying that President Biden will be an effective and virtuous leader of our great nation and that he will truly seek healing and unity, which will necessarily include respect for the God-given freedom of people of faith to practice their religion freely,” he said. 


Archbishop Nelson Perez of Philadelphia also tweeted that “I share the sentiments of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ statement via Archbishop José H. Gomez.”


Bishop Michael Burbidge of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington said in a statement, “I ask Catholics and people of goodwill to pray for all elected leaders as they take on the task of carrying out the nation's work.” 


“We pray also for peace, civility and unity in our nation. The smooth transition of power is a hallmark of our extraordinary American experience and vital to the endurance of our thriving republic,” Burbidge said. 


Burbidge also offered prayers for Biden’s conversion on his public position on the issue of abortion. 


“Please pray that our new President will uphold the truths revealed and proclaimed in the Catholic Faith he professes. May the Lord grant him the wisdom and compassion to protect the most vulnerable, especially the unborn; respect the dignity of all people; uphold the traditional family as the foundation of society; defend the principle of religious freedom upon which this nation was founded; and advocate for the rights of the poor,” he said. 


Bishop Robert Deeley of the Diocese of Portland, Maine, said in a statement, “Every day we should thank God for the blessings of liberty, freedom, and democracy.”


“These are the characteristics of the American experience on full display today in our nation’s capital with the inauguration of the 46th President of the United States, Joseph R. Biden, Jr.” Deely said. “I join with my brother bishops in congratulating him on his election and inauguration. An inauguration is a beginning. That really means that the work of all of us has just begun as together we build our nation.”


Later on Wednesday, Cardinal Cupich released a statement extending prayers and "warmest wishes" to Biden.


“Only two weeks ago, the world watched as our democracy was attacked. Today, we proved its resilience,” Cardinal Cupich stated.


“We implore that every life be valued, protected and nurtured as we rebuild a nation once again dedicated to its founding ideals of liberty and justice for all,” Cupich stated.


Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver also offered prayers for President Biden, support for Archbishop Gomez, and hope that Biden would stand up to his party when it “seeks to advance ‘moral evils and threaten human life and dignity, most seriously in the areas of abortion, contraception, marriage, and gender’.”


“Advancing the idea that one can have a personal belief that is in direct contradiction with one’s public stance, especially on issues that involve the taking of life or the distortion of God’s plan for sexuality, is not a mark of integrity and calls for conversion of heart,” Aquila said.

Full text: Fr. Leo J. O'Donovan Inauguration Day invocation prayer at the US Capitol

CNA Staff, Jan 20, 2021 / 11:30 am (CNA).- The inauguration ceremony of President Joe Biden started with an invocation prayer delivered by Catholic priest Leo J. O'Donovan, Jesuit, a former Georgetown University President.

Here is the full text of this invocation prayer:

Gracious and merciful God, at this sacred time we come before you in need - indeed on our knees. But we come still more with hope, and with our eyes raised anew to the vision of a "more perfect union" in our land, a union of all our citizens to "promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity." We are a people of many races, creeds and colors, national backgrounds, cultures and styles - now far more numerous and on land much vaster than when Archbishop John Carol wrote his prayer for the inauguration of George Washington 232 years ago. Archbishop Carol prayed that you, O creator of all, would "assist with your Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude the President of these United States, that his administration may be conducted in righteousness, and be eminently useful to your people." Today, we confess our past failures to live according to our vision of equality, inclusion and freedom for all. Yet we resolutely commit still now to renewing the vision, to caring for one other in word and deed, especially the least fortunate among us, and so becoming light for the world. There is a power in each and every one of us that lives by turning to every other one of us, a thrust of the spirit to cherish and care and stand by others, and above all those most in need. It is called love, and its path is to give ever more of itself. Today, it is called American patriotism, born not of power and privilege but of care for the common good - "with malice toward none and with charity for all." For our new president, we beg of you the wisdom Solomon sought when he knelt before you and prayed for "an understanding heart so that I can govern your people and know the difference between right and wrong." We trust in the counsel of the Letter of James: "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you." Pope Francis has reminded us "how important it is to dream together... By ourselves," he wrote "we risk seeing mirages, things that are not there. Dreams, on the other hand, are built together." Be with us, Holy Mystery of Love, as we dream together, to reconcile the people of our land, restore our dream, and invest it with peace and justice and the joy that is the overflow of love. To the glory of your name forever. Amen.

Who is Father Leo J. O'Donovan?
Father O’Donovan is a Catholic priest, known as a friend of the Biden family. He was the main celebrant at the funeral Mass for Joe Biden's son Beau who died in 2015 after battling cancer. He was 46 years old. Beau was the eldest son of Joe Biden and his first wife Neilia Hunter Biden, who also passed in a car crash in 1972 with their infant daughter Naomi Biden.


Second federal court strikes down transgender mandate

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jan 20, 2021 / 07:55 am (CNA).- A federal court struck down the transgender mandate on Tuesday, the eve of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.

The mandate that doctors perform gender-transition surgeries upon the referral of a mental health professional—despite objections that the doctor may have to the procedure—dates back to the Obama administration.


On Tuesday evening, Judge Peter Welte of the Eastern District of North Dakota granted Catholic groups that challenged the mandate permanent injunctive relief from having to provide or cover gender-transition procedures.


Luke Goodrich, VP and senior counsel at Becket, which represented the plaintiffs, called the decision a “Major victory for #ReligiousFreedom.”


A coalition of Catholic organizations representing hospitals, doctors, and clinics, joined in part by the state of North Dakota, had challenged the mandate in court. The Catholic groups alleged that the mandate required them to perform and provide insurance coverage for gender-transition surgeries and abortions, against their conscientious objections.


Four Catholic groups under the Religious Sisters of Mercy, along with the Catholic Benefits Association and the state of North Dakota, brought the lawsuit.


Members of the Catholic groups “joyfully serve ALL patients regardless of sex or gender identity. They routinely provide top-notch care to transgender patients for everything from cancer to the common cold,” Goodrich tweeted. “They also provide millions of dollars in free and low-cost care to the elderly, poor, and underserved rural areas.”


While he granted the Catholic groups an injunction on the mandate’s requirement of gender-transition surgery and coverage, Judge Welte dismissed their abortion-related claims.


“The Court DECLARES that HHS’s interpretation of Section 1557 that requires the Catholic Plaintiffs to perform and provide insurance coverage for gender-transition procedures violates their sincerely held religious beliefs without satisfying strict scrutiny under the RFRA,” Welte wrote.


The court is the second federal court to rule against the mandate. In Oct., 2019, Judge Reed O’Connor of the North District of Texas struck down the mandate after doctors had sued, alleging violations of conscience.


“Today’s ruling protects patients, aligns with current medical research, and ensures doctors aren’t forced to violate their religious beliefs and medical judgment,” Goodrich stated. “This is a victory for common-sense, conscience, and sound medical judgment.”


The mandate, issued in 2016, stemmed from the Obama administration’s interpretation of Sec. 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which prohibits discrimination in health care in a number of areas.


The administration interpreted it to include protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and issued its requirement of doctors not to refuse gender-transition surgery referrals.

USCCB President on Biden Inauguration: My prayers are with new President

Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, issues a statement on Joe Biden’s inauguration as the 46th President of the United States, saying he looks forward “to working with President Biden and his administration.”

Italy's PM survives confidence vote

Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe wins a confidence vote in the Senate, allowing him to remain in office after a junior partner quit his coalition last week. But Giuseppe Conte failed to secure an absolute majority which means he now heads a minority government as the country battles to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic and recession.

Pope to Biden: foster peace and reconciliation in the US and the world

Pope Francis sends a message to President Joe Biden, urging him to be a bringer of peace and reconciliation to the United States and to the whole world.