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Former priest files new sexual abuse lawsuit against Theodore McCarrick

Theodore McCarrick outside Dedham District Court, Friday, Sept. 4, 2021. / Joe Bukuras/CNA

Denver Newsroom, Nov 23, 2021 / 18:35 pm (CNA).

A former Catholic priest who has previously alleged that ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick sexually abused him when he was a seminarian has filed a lawsuit against McCarrick and the Newark archdiocese.

“I’m only doing the lawsuit mainly because three years ago when I did that, I also wrote a letter to Cardinal (Joseph) Tobin, and the Archdiocese of Newark and I never heard anything back,” plaintiff Michael Reading said in a video message posted to his attorneys’ website. “The whole thing is disappointing, but I’m just very disappointed that I never heard anything and got no response from the Church.”

When he sees media coverage of McCarrick’s court appearances, he said, “it all comes back again.”

“Today is actually the anniversary of the day I was ordained by him, 35 years ago today,” he said in the Nov. 22 video, adding that he “felt like telling my story could be helpful.”

Reading, who now lives near Seattle, is represented by Jeff Anderson of the Minnesota-based firm Jeff Anderson & Associates.

“When he was in formation, in preparation for becoming a priest, in the Archdiocese of Newark, it was then-Archbishop Ted McCarrick who was mentoring him and ultimately had the power over him to become a priest,” Anderson said at a Nov. 23 press conference. “McCarrick used his position as the archbishop, over him, to assault and coerce and exploit him.”

McCarrick’s civil attorney, Barry Coburn of the Washington, D.C. firm Coburn & Greenbaum, declined to comment to CNA. For its part, the Newark archdiocese said it takes all allegations seriously and has programs in place to prevent abuse and work with survivors.

“Although we are limited in what information we can share given pending litigation, it is important to note that the Archdiocese of Newark takes seriously all allegations of abuse,” Maria Margiotta, communications director for the Newark archdiocese, told CNA Nov. 23.

“We remain fully committed to our comprehensive programs and protocols to protect the faithful and to working with survivors of abuse, their legal representatives and law enforcement authorities in an ongoing effort to resolve allegations of past abuse,” she said.

At the Tuesday press conference with Anderson’s law firm, Reading said he initially wanted to remain anonymous because he was worried about others’ perceptions. However, he decided to use his real name to encourage other victims in New Jersey to come forward.

“I feel a sense of relief, and of a burden being lifted,” he said. “It’s a long way to go with that, but it’s a start.”

The New Jersey legislature created a special window for victims who suffered sex abuse as adults or children to file lawsuits, but this legal window closes on Nov. 30.

Reading’s lawsuit is the eighth lawsuit that Anderson’s law firm has filed against McCarrick.

Anderson has filed abuse lawsuits against the Catholic Church for decades. While some say he has been an advocate for victims, critics characterize him as a self-promoter who has sensationalized and embellished claims in order to attract media attention to litigation.

In statements about other lawsuits he has claimed papal power is to blame for abuse, and has blamed Pope Francis himself. He has cited unproven claims by the controversial Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano about the Holy See's response to McCarrick.

Anderson’s lawsuit on behalf of Reading also cites the Vatican’s 2020 report on its investigation into what church officials knew about McCarrick.

Reading, known as Doe 308 in the lawsuit, was ordained a priest on Nov. 22, 1986. He served as a priest for only seven years.

The lawsuit accuses McCarrick of committing “harmful and offensive bodily sexual contact” on Reading. The former priest has told his story elsewhere, including in a Sept. 12, 2018 Washington Post story.

Reading told the Washington Post that in 1986 he was invited to a barbeque and overnight stay for seminarians at McCarrick’s beach house in Sea Girt, N.J. According to Reading, McCarrick lingered in the bedroom when the twentysomething seminarian was changing into a swimsuit. McCarrick later approached the seminarian after the barbeque and put his hand down his swimsuit.

The seminarian was shocked by the incident and didn’t report it or tell family members until allegations against McCarrick became public in 2018.

He said that the incident affected him throughout the rest of his time as a priest.

“I feel like the priesthood was taken away from me,” he told the Washington Post. “And I loved what I did.”

The lawsuit also alleges that Father Edward J. Eilert engaged in “unpermitted sexual contact” with Reading in 1978. At the time, the plaintiff was a parishioner at St. John the Apostle Church in Linden, N.J., a city on the state border across from the New York City borough of Staten Island.

Eilert is on the Newark archdiocese’s February 2019 list of credibly accused clergy for “multiple” allegations. He is listed as permanently removed from ministry. The website of Anderson’s law firm lists him at a retirement home for priests as early as 2005.

In 2002 Eilert was among three priests accused of sexually abusing a teenage girl in the 1980s. Though the Union County Prosecutor’s Office said the accusations were credible, charges were not allowed under the statute of limitations, NJ.com reported in 2013.

Anderson’s law firm has recently filed three separate actions against other priests who allegedly committed abuse, including one priest who is still active in ministry.

In September, McCarrick pleaded “not guilty” to several charges of sexual assault in Massachusetts regarding incidents which allegedly took place in the 1970s.

McCarrick was once a high-ranking and influential U.S. prelate with an impressive international resume. He resigned from the College of Cardinals in July 2018 following a past allegation of sex abuse against a teenager that the New York archdiocese deemed credible. In February 2019, Pope Francis laicized McCarrick after a canonical investigation found him guilty of “solicitation in the Sacrament of Confession, and sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and with adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power.”

The exposure of McCarrick prompted many questions about how he rose in the Church despite long-rumored claims of corruption. Various individuals came forward saying they had sought to report his misconduct.

In 2018, Cardinal Joseph Tobin told a journalist that shortly after his 2017 arrival as head of the Newark archdiocese, he had heard rumors about McCarrick’s sexual misconduct. He said he did not investigate those rumors because he found them unbelievable.

The Archdiocese of Newark and the Diocese of Metuchen in June 2018 acknowledged that they had reached legal settlements with some alleged victims of McCarrick in 2005 and 2007. Tobin said he did not learn about those settlements until June 2018, shortly before they were publicly announced.

Brisbane archbishop gives priests until Dec. 15 to be fully vaccinated

Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane speaks at a Vatican press conference, Oct. 19, 2015. / Bohumil Petrik/CNA.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 23, 2021 / 17:12 pm (CNA).

The Australian Archdiocese of Brisbane has announced that all archdiocesan employees, including clergy, contractors and some volunteers, must be fully vaccinated by Dec. 15 in accord with the state’s mandate unless they have a medical exemption. 

“As we view the situation in Australia and internationally, it is clear that vaccination is the most effective way to lessen the risk of exposure or the risk of passing the virus on to others within our community,” Archbishop Mark Coleridge said a Nov. 16 statement on the archdiocese’s website says. 

“Therefore,” the statement continued, “the Archdiocese of Brisbane has made the decision that employees, contractors and certain volunteers will need to have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccination by 15 December unless they have an official medical exemption.”

Coleridge said that clergy who are not fully vaccinated are putting the faithful at “risk.”

“A pastor or assistant pastor in parish ministry is to know the faithful, visit families, care for the faithful strengthening them in the Lord and refresh the faithful with the sacraments,” he wrote in the letter.

“That means that clergy engaged in parish ministry must be close to people. In the circumstances of the pandemic, clergy engaged in pastoral ministry who are not doubly vaccinated put the faithful of the parish at risk. They present a risk to the faithful to whom they minister, as well as to their families,” he added.

Priests and deacons who are not “doubly vaccinated are failing in their duty of care for the faithful,” Coleridge wrote.

An official medical exemption is the only type of exemption Archbishop Mark Coleridge will be accepting, according to a letter that the archbishop sent to deacons and priests seen by The Australian, Sky News reported.

According to the archdiocese’s website, the medical exemption certificate must certify “that the person is unable to receive the COVID-19 vaccination because they have a recognised medical contraindication; and indicating whether the medical contraindication will permanently or temporarily prevent COVID-19 vaccination; and if the medical contraindication only temporarily prevents a COVID19 vaccination, specifying when the person may be able to receive the COVID-19 vaccination.”

“A medical contraindication against one COVID-19 vaccination does not necessarily translate to a contraindication against all vaccines,” he said.

“I will not consider conscientious objection to receiving the vaccination as a valid exception to the provisions set out here,” Coleridge wrote.

“I fully respect the right of conscience, especially when properly formed in the Catholic understanding," he stated. “But I too have a conscience, and it is not just legal obligation but consciences which has led to my decision."

The statement on the archdiocese’s website notes that Queensland, the state that encompasses the archdiocese, will reopen their borders in the coming weeks causing an increased risk of COVID-19 infection.

Queensland has implemented strict guidelines on travel in and out of the state. Reaching 70% vaccination in November, Queensland has laid out a plan to ease restrictions, mostly for fully vaccinated travelers across state borders, as vaccination rates go up.

When Queensland reaches 80% vaccination, estimated to be on Dec. 17, unvaccinated people will be unable to visit “vulnerable settings” like nursing homes, hospitals, prisons and others.

Unvaccinated individuals also will not be able to attend “hospitality venues” such as hotels and pubs, and others. They will not be able to attend indoor or outdoor entertainment venues, festivals, or attend Queensland government-owned galleries, museums or libraries. 

A full list of restrictions can be seen on the website

The Archdiocese of Brisbane has 98 Parishes, 144 schools and 109 Centacare early EdCare, aged care, disability and family and relationships service locations, according to their website. Almost 22,000 jobs are provided for by the archdiocese.

City of Philadelphia to pay $2 million to Catholic foster care agency in settlement

Sharonell Fulton has fostered more than 40 children through Catholic Social Services. / Photo courtesy of Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

Philadelphia, Pa., Nov 23, 2021 / 16:08 pm (CNA).

The city of Philadelphia will pay Catholic Social Services a $2 million settlement and reinstate their foster care contract after the Supreme Court unanimously found in June that the city had discriminated against the group due to their religious beliefs. 

Most of the money will be used to pay Catholic Social Services’ [CSS] legal fees, and CSS will receive $56,000. 

As part of the settlement, CSS will be exempt from Philadelphia’s nondiscrimination ordinance, and will receive a contract for $350,000 for foster care. Additionally, CSS will have to state on its website that, while it does not work with same-sex couples, it will refer them to an organization that will. 

Ken Gavin, a spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, said the archdiocese was “grateful that our ministries can continue serving those who count on us, especially foster children in need of a loving home.” 

The Supreme Court ruled in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia that the city discriminated in ending its contract with Catholic Social Services. The suit was sent back to the appellate court, and the city did not pursue additional legal action. Their settlement agreement was approved by the U.S. District Court on Oct. 1. 

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the city backed down due to fears of additional constitutional changes. 

“Certainly, this was not the outcome we wanted,” Deputy Mayor Cynthia Figueroa told the Inquirer. “But it was clear if we took this further down the road, we could actually open it up for radically changing other existing constitutional law.”

Two foster mothers who worked with CSS, Sharonell Fulton and Toni Simms-Busch, filed suit against the city in 2018 after the contract was canceled.

That year, Philadelphia abruptly ended CSS’s contract for its foster-care program, since CSS would not certify same-sex couples as foster parents on religious grounds. No same-sex couple ever approached CSS seeking certification as a foster parent. 

Part of the settlement reached requires that Philadelphia work with Fulton and Simms-Busch under the new contract. 

In the majority ruling, the high court found that “The refusal of Philadelphia to contract with CSS for the provision of foster care services unless CSS agrees to certify same-sex couples as foster parents violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.”

“CSS seeks only an accommodation that will allow it to continue serving the children of Philadelphia in a manner consistent with its religious beliefs; it does not seek to impose those beliefs on anyone else,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion. 

In March 2018, the city of Philadelphia announced that it was experiencing a shortage of foster families, in part due to the opioid crisis, and put out a call for 300 new families to help accept children.

A few days later, the city announced that it would no longer refer foster children to agencies that would not place them with same-sex couples, including CSS. Prior to that announcement, CSS served about 120 foster children in approximately 100 homes at any given time. 

In recent years, faith-based child welfare providers in multiple states including in Massachusetts, Illinois, California, and the District of Columbia, have also been forced to shut down their adoption and foster care services due to their beliefs that children should be placed with a married mother and father.

Legal group joins outcry over removal of Nigeria from religious freedom watch list

The flag of Nigeria on a military uniform. / Bumble Dee/Shutterstock.

Denver Newsroom, Nov 23, 2021 / 15:14 pm (CNA).

An international legal group has joined the outcry over the U.S. State Department’s decision to remove Nigeria from this year’s watchlist of countries with the most egregious violations of religious freedom. 

“Persecution against Christians and other religious minorities around the world must end,” wrote Sean Nelson, legal counsel for global religious freedom for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) International, in a Nov. 22 statement. “For too long, governments and non-state actors have abused people of faith, including in countries like Nigeria, India, Afghanistan, and Vietnam.” 

“The United States has been a leader on International Religious Freedom for decades, and we are deeply concerned that the State Department found no need to designate these countries as Countries of Particular Concern or to add them to the Special Watch List.”

The State Department released its annual designations Nov. 15. Nigeria was included in a list of “Countries of Particular Concern” (CPC) in 2020, but the country was not included in the 2021 list. 

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) had been recommending the designation of Nigeria as a CPC since 2009. ADF International and dozens of other human rights organizations joined USCIRF in calling for the State Department to re-designate Nigeria as a CPC again this year. 

It remains unclear why the State Department removed Nigeria from the list. 

“Outcry over the State Department’s removal of CPC status for Nigeria’s religious freedom violations is entirely warranted,” Nelson wrote. “No explanations have been given that could justify this decision. If anything, the situation in Nigeria has grown worse over the last year.”

“Removing CPC status for Nigeria will only embolden the increasingly authoritarian government there. We call on the U.S. government to rectify this inexplicable decision, and instead continue America’s long tradition of standing up for those who are persecuted worldwide.”

In its own annual religious freedom report, USCIRF found that Nigerian citizens faced violence by militant Islamists, as well as discrimination, arbitrary detentions, and capital blasphemy sentences by state-sanctioned Shariah courts.

Kidnappers in Nigeria targeted Christians for abduction and execution, at least 11 churches were attacked in the country’s Middle Belt, and the local chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria in Adamawa State was beheaded by Boko Haram fighters in 2020, according to the report.

A recent study by a Nigerian legal group found that at least 17 Christians were killed every day in the first half of 2021 alone.

In its Nov. 22 statement, ADF applauded the State Department’s inclusion of Russia as a CPC, and addition of Algeria to a “Special Watch List” (SWL). 

“We urge the State Department to prioritize advocacy in every country facing grave religious freedom conditions, and to ensure that the United States remains a global leader for religious freedom advocacy,” Nelson wrote.

Austria coronavirus lockdown: Catholic bishops tighten guidelines on church celebrations

The high altar of St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, Austria. Credit: Bwag via Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 4.0). / null

Rome Newsroom, Nov 23, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

Austria’s Catholic bishops’ conference has tightened rules for attending Mass and other celebrations as the country went into full national lockdown on Monday.

The country’s bishops have said that they will not exclude anyone from Mass, but they will follow the government’s restrictions, which order those who are unvaccinated against COVID-19 to remain in their homes except to get food or medicine, or for “basic religious needs.”

Officials ordered the whole country into lockdown starting Nov. 22, a week after they had implemented a lockdown only for unvaccinated residents. The lockdown followed other partial restrictions that targeted only the unvaccinated, barring them from restaurants and most cultural or social areas.

The current measures go through Dec. 13, though authorities said they will be reassessed in the middle of next week and may end sooner. Restrictions on the unvaccinated are expected to continue even after the national lockdown ends.

The country has also said that COVID-19 vaccinations will be mandatory starting Feb. 1.

The bishops’ “framework regulations” for church celebrations say that attendees are required to wear FFP2 (“filtering facepiece”) masks at indoor or outdoor Masses and all religious rites and services

The priest celebrant or other liturgical ministers will be required to show proof of vaccination, recovery from COVID-19, or a negative test result. Choirs will not be permitted, but up to four cantors can sing at the Mass only with proof of vaccination or recovery from the coronavirus.

Austria’s bishops have also encouraged Catholics to postpone reception of the sacraments of baptism, First Communion, confirmation, and marriage, during the lockdown.

Bishop Anton Leichtfried, the conference’s liturgy chair, said: “These celebrations are now to be postponed as much as possible in the interest of fellow celebrants.”

Protests against COVID-19 regulations and lockdowns took place over the weekend in Austria and other European countries, including Belgium, the Netherlands, and Italy.

Some Catholics have also expressed opposition to Austria’s restrictions, saying that they impinge on religious practice.

The bishops of Austria announced on Nov. 23 that they have again postponed their ad limina meetings with Pope Francis.

The Austrian bishops received the Vatican’s approval to delay their ad limina meetings, scheduled to begin on Sunday, until sometime in 2022, a spokesman for the bishops’ conference confirmed on Nov. 23 to CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

This is the second time that the meetings have been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, after they were originally planned for February.

Book Review: A primer on how to recover the art of preaching

Diego Cervo/Shutterstock.

Denver Newsroom, Nov 23, 2021 / 12:33 pm (CNA).

For the past decade, one of the missions of Father Daniel Cardó’s parish, Holy Name in Sheridan, Colo., has been liturgical renewal. With the hope of leading the congregation into full, conscious, and active participation at Mass, the church sanctuary was remodeled with beautiful details and symbols, the stained glass windows now depict glorious saints, the congregation loudly and joyfully chant the propers of the Mass, and the choir sings works of Palestrina, Byrd, and the like each Sunday.

In addition, careful preparation is taken with Cardó’s homilies in order to engage, encourage, and educate his flock. His latest publication, “The Art of Preaching: A Theological and Practical Primer” (The Catholic University of America Press, 2021) is a natural extension of the homilies he preaches each Sunday as well as his work as the Benedict XVI Chair of Liturgical Studies at St. John Vianney Seminary in Denver.

As a professor of homiletics, he has experience teaching seminarians studying for the priesthood the art of preaching, which he neatly organizes in this book, aiming to provide the theoretical and theological foundations of preaching, along with very practical advice and examples. As the author indicates in the introduction, his goal has been to create one volume with all the basic teachings for those aiming to learn or improve the art of preaching. 

At the beginning of the book, Cardó outlines both the challenges and opportunities that homilists face when preaching, encouraging them to use the powerful platform they have each Sunday to do something great with their homilies. But, needless to say, encouragement is not enough. The book offers a wide and well-researched view of the necessary foundations for preaching.

After an engaging first chapter in which the author describes the challenges for preaching, particularly those of our day and age, the book offers a useful overview of the main Magisterial teachings on the homily. Based on this, the author unpacks in a short chapter the best insights from the art of rhetoric, both classic and modern. Building on this human foundation, the reader is taken into a journey through the theology of preaching, reflecting on the who, where, and what of homiletics. 

"The Art of Preaching," by Father Daniel Cardó. Courtesy of The Catholic University of America Press
"The Art of Preaching," by Father Daniel Cardó. Courtesy of The Catholic University of America Press

The book enters into a more practical section, with the chapters on the preparation and the delivery of the homily. The author offers very concrete advice based on the best literature on the topic, but also on his own experience of preaching and teaching to preach. Homilists will appreciate the suggestions for preparation and the tips for delivery. 

Cardó illustrates his points through the example of the preaching of St. Augustine, and closes this section with the bold suggestion that all preachers are theologians who put their years of learning into practice in the daily and weekly effort of exploring God’s message to his people here and now. 

The second section of the book is a well-selected “Homiletics Reader,” containing 14 brilliant homilies, with brief introductions and questions for study and dialogue. 

Lay people who read this book might be surprised by how fruitful the experience can be. The laity too, as Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said about this volume, “will be grateful for this book,” which, we can only hope, will be read by many seminarians, deacons, priests, and bishops. As such, Chaput also says, “The Art of Preaching will be a wonderful gift for all your clergy friends.”

Spanish bishop gets civilly married

Bishop Xavier Novell Gomà, Bishop Emeritus of Solsona. / Conferencia Episcopal Española via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Barcelona, Spain, Nov 23, 2021 / 12:05 pm (CNA).

Bishop Xavier Novell, who unexpectedly resigned in August as bishop of Solsona, Spain, entered into a civil marriage with Silvia Caballol on Nov. 22.

As reported by Catalan television TV3, the marriage ceremony took place on Monday at the courthouse in Suria, Barcelona province, and was attended by only two witnesses.

According to this same source, last Friday the couple asked the justice of the peace that the wedding take place on Monday outside normal hours, as the Justice of the Peace and Civil Registry of Suria are only open Tuesday through Friday.

A priest or bishop who has not received a dispensation from the clerical state from the Vatican commits a canonical crime by contracting a civil marriage, which by virtue of his state as a vowed celibate is invalid from the canonical point of view.

Canon 194 of the Code of Canon Law stipulates that “the cleric who attempts  to marry, even if only civilly,” will be “removed from ecclesiastical office.”

Canon 1394 adds that “a cleric who attempts marriage, even if only civilly, incurs a latae sententiae (immediate) suspension. If he does not repent after being warned and continues to give scandal, he can be punished gradually by privations or even by dismissal from the clerical state.”

After learning of Novell's intention to marry, Cardinal Juan José Omella, the archbishop of Barcelona, said Oct. 19 in an interview with Cadena SER radio in Catalonia that the bishop emeritus of Solsona "can only opt for a civil marriage, because he is still a bishop. And if he does this, he already knows what will come next. But I’m not entering into judgment and condemnation. This morbidness tastes very bad to me and that doesn’t help those who have faith."

Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Novell as bishop on Aug. 23.

Shortly after, it was learned that the resignation had been motivated by the relationship between the bishop emeritus of Solsona and Silvia Caballol, 38, a divorced mother of two children from her previous marriage. In addition, the woman is the author of erotic novels with satanic overtones.

On Sept. 6, the Diocese of Solsona published a statement saying that "the diocesan Church, in communion with its apostolic administrator, Bishop Romà Casanova, continues to pray for the Bishop with all hope placed in the Lord."

On Oct. 7, the Civil Registry of Suria, as required by regulations, published the intention of Novell and Caballol to marry so that all persons who may know of “any legal impediment” to the celebration of the marriage make it known “in writing or orally to the court within a period of 15 days.”

Subsequently, Spanish media reported that Silvia Caballol may be pregnant with twins.

Novell was born in 1969 in Spain’s Lérida province.

He earned a degree in agricultural technical engineering from the University of Lleida, a bachelor's in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in 1997, and a doctorate in 2004.

He was ordained a priest of the Solsona diocese in 1997, and in 2010 he was consecrated a bishop and appointed ordinary of the same diocese.

Upon Novell’s resignation, Bishop Romà Casanova Casanova of Vic was appointed apostolic administrator of Solsona. 

Women scholars discuss danger of redefining women

Libresco, Favle and Bachiochi during the “The Dignity of the Sexed Body: Asymmetry, Equality, and Real Reproductive Justice” panel Nov. 13. / Steve Toepp / University of Notre Dame

South Bend, Ind., Nov 23, 2021 / 11:46 am (CNA).

Efforts to redefine women undermine their feminine dignity and unjustly pressure them to resort to abortions to keep pace with men in the workforce, a panel of women scholars said earlier this month in a discussion that highlighted the harmful consequences of de-sexing society.

Titled “The Dignity of the Sexed Body: Asymmetry, Equality, and Real Reproductive Justice,” the Nov. 13 discussion took place at the 21st annual fall conference of the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture at the University of Notre Dame, and featured presentations by English professor Abigail Favale, legal scholar Erika Bachiochi, and writer Leah Libresco Sargeant.

Favale, the dean of the College of Humanities at George Fox University, in Newberg, Ore., spoke about the dangers of divorcing the terms “woman” and “female.”

Currently, she noted, “defining a woman as an adult human female is considered hate speech” by some, and use of the terms “pregnant woman” or “breastfeeding” can be labeled discriminatory. Yet “appropriating the identity of a woman is considered laudatory, liberating, the next frontier of civil rights,” she said. 

“[I]f woman no longer names the billions of persons who are female, how do we speak about them?” Favale asked.

Apparently, the answer is not so easy. Favale cited three failed definitions as proof.

One, from the Australian Academy of Sciences, defines a woman as “anyone who identifies as a woman.” A second definition, offered by British philosopher Katherine Jenkins, is someone who “experiences the norms that are associated with women in her social context as relevant to her.”

A third definition comes from trans-identified person Susan Striker, who says a woman is “useful shorthand for the entanglement of femininity and social status regardless of biology — not as an identity, but as the name for an imagined community that honors the female, enacts the feminine and exceeds the limitations of a sexist society.”

Favale says these definitions unseat the dignity of women in a deeply disquieting manner. 

Libresco, Favle and Bachiochi during the “The Dignity of the Sexed Body: Asymmetry, Equality, and Real Reproductive Justice” panel Nov. 13. Steve Toepp / University of Notre Dame
Libresco, Favle and Bachiochi during the “The Dignity of the Sexed Body: Asymmetry, Equality, and Real Reproductive Justice” panel Nov. 13. Steve Toepp / University of Notre Dame

“The most stunning aspect of this linguistic insurrection is the unnaming of female humans,” she said. “To quote Helen Joyce: The quest for the liberation of people with female bodies has arrived at an extraordinary position: that they do not even constitute a group that merits a name.”

The divorce between woman and adult human female also puts women in physical danger, Favale argued.

Women are the primary beneficiaries of the “few sex segregated spaces that continue to exist in western, liberal democracies — bathrooms, locker rooms, prisons, shelters, sports teams — [and] all of those exist for the benefit of women who are more vulnerable to sexual assault and harrasment,” she said. 

Ironically, Favale lays blame at the feet of the feminist movement. 

“For the past five decades mainstream feminism has enthusiastically been sawing off the branch it has been sitting on,” Favale said. 

“While there are myriad iterations and definitions of feminism, a common denominator among them is ostensibly a serious concern about the status and well-being of women,” she said. “And yet this very concept has been steadily eroded of content by feminists themselves.”

Without a reuniting of the two terms, warns Favale, the dignity of women will no longer be protected. 

“[A] feminism that rejects an entire definition of woman grounded in the concrete reality of the sexed human body cannot effectively advocate for those whose lives and circumstances are shaped by that body,” she concluded.  

Is it men who’ve been liberated?

Bachiochi, a pro-life feminist legal scholar and fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., elaborated on these bodily realities in her discussion of “the natural asymmetry of the sexed body.”

As Aristotle observed, “males reproduce outside of themselves and so can walk away, and females reproduce inside of themselves and so cannot,” Bachiochi noted. She went on to describe the physical differences between male and female arousal, the effect of testosterone in men, and the waves of oxytocin which uniquely affect the woman after the sexual act, chemically bonding her to her sexual partner whether he is worthy or not. 

“[A]t the heart of sex, there is a deep inequality,” she argued. 

Bachiochi claimed this asymmetry has prompted many movements to rectify the imbalance.

“Now, throughout human history women have attempted all sorts of means and methods to manage and even escape these natural asymmetries, asymmetries that make women vulnerable not only to stronger and more libidinous men, but also to the dangers and difficulties of childbearing,” she said. “From nascent contraceptives to dangerous aborations even to infanticide, desperate women have often resorted to desperate measures.”

What is new today, she said, is that women believe that equality with men “demands the affirmative right to engage in the killing of one’s own vulnerable and dependent child” and the right to engage in “putatively consequence-free sex just like a man.” 

Libresco, Favle and Bachiochi during the “The Dignity of the Sexed Body: Asymmetry, Equality, and Real Reproductive Justice” panel Nov. 13. Steve Toepp / University of Notre Dame
Libresco, Favle and Bachiochi during the “The Dignity of the Sexed Body: Asymmetry, Equality, and Real Reproductive Justice” panel Nov. 13. Steve Toepp / University of Notre Dame

Ironically, however, women’s liberation seems to have liberated men more than women, she argued. She highlighted that women experience this “right” to consequence-free sex with a great deal of cognitive dissonance.

Many women engage in casual sexual relationships “as a kind of right, a right that..too often becomes a kind of duty,” one that can result in the unintended consequence of pregnancy, Bachiochi said.

“It is the government, then, in seeking to restrict abortion, that would force [a woman in this position] to be a mother,” she said. “And so equality demands, from this perspective, that women enjoy the right to engage in a life-destroying, child-destroying act.”

Bachiochi, who also serves as the director of The Wollstonecraft Project at the Abigail Adams Institute, contrasted this attitude with the vision of Mary Wollstonecraft, a British advocate of women’s rights.

Wollstonecraft believed that asymmetries in the sexed body led to further asymmetries in the political, legal, and social realms. But rather than seeking to rectify these differences by making women more like irresponsible and libidinous men, Bachiochi said, Wollstonecraft and others believed the solution to procuring equality lay in greater chastity among the male sex. 

“The little respect paid to chastity in the male world is, I am persuaded, the grand source of many of the physical and moral evils that torment mankind, as well as of the vices and follies that degrade and destroy women,” Wollstonecraft famously said. 

“In Wollstonecraft’s view, engaged and attentive fatherhood was the very best means to direct men’s desires properly, by bringing them into the light of shared domesticity,” argued Bachiochi. 

The pressure to conform

Sargeant, the author of “Arriving at Amen: Seven Catholic Prayers that Even I Can Offer,” and “Building the Benedict Option,” agreed with Bachiochi’s contention that women’s equality is not synonymous with the ability to have sex and walk away from any consquences as men can do. 

“[C]ontraception and abortion are the most dangerous compromises that women are asked to make in order to make up for not being as good at being men, as it would be convenient for others if we were,” she argued. 

“Ruth Bader Ginsberg thought … that women cannot have equal protection under the law, cannot be equal as citizens, without having the ability to pay the entrance price to society, which is the ability to abandon somebody who is vulnerable and depends on you,” Sargeant said.

While that premise is false, she said, this is the way society is currently structured.  

“Abortion is one more example where we say to a woman, ‘The problem is that you are a woman. It's your responsibility to find a way for us all not to have to deal with that unpleasant reality, and whatever compromise, whatever sacrifice, whatever suffering you have to cause … is worth it because we don’t have room for women here,’” Sargeant said.

Sargeant sees this outlook manifested in the unreasonable pressures routinely placed on new mothers to return to work days or weeks after giving birth. In essence, women in these situations are told to be like men, she said.

Instead, Sargeant argued that the culture needs an entirely different argument about the human person, one that recognizes vulnerability, dependence, and the dignity of love, rather than asking women to conform to a standard of masculine autonomy.

Pope Francis prays for Wisconsin parade victims

Pope Francis celebrates Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on the feast of Christ the King, Nov. 21, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Nov 23, 2021 / 06:38 am (CNA).

Pope Francis is praying for the people injured and killed by an SUV that plowed into marchers during a Christmas parade in the Milwaukee suburb of Waukesha, the Vatican press office said Tuesday.

A message sent to Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki of Milwaukee said that the pope was “asking the Lord to bestow upon everyone the spiritual strength which triumphs over violence and overcomes evil with good.”

“The Holy Father asks you kindly to convey the assurance of his spiritual closeness to all affected by the tragic incident that recently took place in Waukesha,” said the telegram, released on Nov. 23 and sent on the pope’s behalf by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

“He commends the souls of those who died to Almighty God’s loving mercy and implores the divine gifts of healing and consolation upon the injured and bereaved.”

Five people were killed in the SUV incident and nearly 50 injured, including a Catholic priest, multiple parishioners, and Catholic schoolchildren.

The incident involved a red SUV that barreled through barricades and into a crowd marching down the main street of Waukesha just before 4:40 p.m. on Nov. 21.

Videos posted on social media showed the vehicle racing down the parade route, with police in pursuit, past horrified onlookers moments before marchers were struck.

The Milwaukee Dancing Grannies, the Waukesha Xtreme Dance team, and a marching band were also hit by the vehicle, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Several of the dead were part of the dancing grandmothers’ group, while another was a Citizen Bank employee walking with a float.

The youngest to die was 52, while the oldest was 81. Among those hospitalized for their injuries were at least 18 children.

Also marching in the parade were individuals and institutions of the local Catholic community.

Waukesha has four Catholic parishes. In the wake of the incident, the city’s parishes provided social media live streams of the rosary and Eucharistic adoration.

Authorities named Darrell Brooks Jr. as the suspected driver, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Among other recommended charges, he could face five charges of first-degree intentional homicide, each of which has a sentence of mandatory life in prison.

Brooks, 39, was the subject of an ongoing domestic violence case. The Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office said on Nov. 22 that prosecutors had recommended an “inappropriately low” bail in the case and it is investigating the recommendation.

In the last two years, Brooks has faced three charges of recklessly endangering others’ safety. He jumped bail for a July 2020 incident for allegedly firing a handgun during an argument.

Most recently, in early November, he allegedly ran over a woman with his vehicle in the parking lot of a Milwaukee gas station. She was hospitalized for her injuries. Brooks was freed on $1,000 bail.

At a Monday afternoon press conference, Waukesha’s police chief confirmed that Brooks was involved in a “domestic disturbance” before he drove onto the parade route.

The archbishop of Milwaukee published a video on Nov. 22, calling on people to turn to God in the face of the tragedy.

“As the shepherd of the Catholic community of southeastern Wisconsin, I feel compelled to stand in solidarity with those who have been affected by this senseless act,” Listecki said.

“When confronted with the shock and the grief encountered by our brothers and sisters in Waukesha, it is now important for us to turn to our faith which offers us God’s loving presence and consolation.”

Sir David Amess: Slain Catholic lawmaker is remembered as ‘true bridge-builder’ at Requiem Mass

The Requiem Mass of Sir David Amess at Westminster Cathedral, London, England, Nov. 23, 2021. / Mazur/cbcew.org.uk.

London, England, Nov 23, 2021 / 06:00 am (CNA).

The slain Catholic lawmaker Sir David Amess was remembered as “a true bridge-builder” at a Requiem Mass on Tuesday.

Preaching at the Mass at Westminster Cathedral, London, on Nov. 23, Canon Pat Browne said that even in death, the veteran Member of Parliament brought people on opposing sides together.

Mazur/cbcew.org.uk.
Mazur/cbcew.org.uk.

“David was a true bridge-builder. To see the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition stand shoulder to shoulder in silence and prayer, paying their respects in Southend after his death, and have them reach across the chamber in unity and fellowship, was something Parliament does not see very often,” said Browne, the Parliamentary Roman Catholic Duty Priest since 2009.

“David’s death was the catalyst for everyone in Parliament realizing their oneness as a community working differently, but together, for the good of the nation in our world.”

Mazur/cbcew.org.uk.
Mazur/cbcew.org.uk.

Sir David, 69, was stabbed to death during a weekly meeting with constituents at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, on Oct. 15.

The live-streamed Requiem Mass was celebrated by Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster. Mourners included British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, members of the Cabinet, the former prime ministers John Major, David Cameron, and Theresa May, and the Leader of the Opposition, Keir Starmer.

Mazur/cbcew.org.uk.
Mazur/cbcew.org.uk.

In a message read out by Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, the apostolic nuncio to Great Britain, Pope Francis offered his “heartfelt condolences and the assurance of his spiritual closeness to the Amess family.”

“His Holiness recalls with gratitude Sir David’s years of devoted public service guided by his strong Catholic faith and evidenced in his deep concern for the poor and the disadvantaged, his commitment to the defense of God’s gift of life, and his efforts to foster understanding and cooperation with the Holy See in its universal mission,” said the message, sent by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin to Bishop Alan Williams of Brentwood, Sir David’s home diocese.

“Commending Sir David’s soul to the loving mercy of Jesus Christ our Savior, the Holy Father prays that all who honor his memory will be confirmed in the resolve to reject the ways of violence, to combat evil with good, and to help build a society of ever greater justice, fraternity, and solidarity.”

Nichols, the president of the English and Welsh bishops’ conference, said that the pope offered “words of deep condolence and support and prayers for the family of Sir David.”

Mazur/cbcew.org.uk.
Mazur/cbcew.org.uk.

The cardinal thanked God “for the example that he gave and the goodness that he achieved,” praying “for God’s mercy and His judgment and for the welcome to be given to Sir David to his heavenly home.”

Sir David, a champion of pro-life causes, served as a Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) from 1983 until his death, representing Southend West from 1997.

He established an All-Party Parliamentary Group for relations with the Holy See in 2006 and was instrumental in arranging Benedict XVI’s historic visit to Parliament in September 2010.

Mazur/cbcew.org.uk.
Mazur/cbcew.org.uk.

The first reading at the Requiem Mass, Wisdom 3:1-9, was read by former U.S. Congressman Robert Pittenger.

Deacon Damien Wade of Brentwood diocese read the Gospel, John 15:12-17, in which Jesus says: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Mazur/cbcew.org.uk.
Mazur/cbcew.org.uk.

In his homily, Canon Pat Browne described the impact of Sir David’s death on his staff.

“Since my appointment to Parliament 12 years ago, David’s office was one place I was always made welcome into for a cup of tea and a chat. So we go back a long way,” said Browne, who officiated at Sir David’s wedding at Westminster Cathedral in 1983 and later baptized his five children.

“Sadly, my last visit to his office was on that awful Friday afternoon. I had just finished a wedding in the Chapel of St. Mary Undercroft in Parliament, and heard the tragic news. I went over immediately to see his staff. They were devastated.”

“There were many tears and it struck me forcefully: these people weren’t just his staff; they were his friends. They loved him. They were his team, his collaborators in the work for the constituents of Southend West.”

Mazur/cbcew.org.uk.
Mazur/cbcew.org.uk.

“Friendship was David’s great gift to others. Not just to those who worked alongside him and agreed with him, but to everyone in the House [of Commons, the lower house of the U.K. Parliament], including those who did not share his political or religious views.”

Browne recalled the lawmaker’s gift for making others laugh, recounting what he called “the boiled sweet episode,” which occurred when the pope passed the lawmaker in St. Peter’s Square in Rome.

“Seeking to pull [his rosary beads] out for the pope to bless, he presented instead a boiled sweet in its packet, which Pope Benedict innocently blessed and moved on,” the priest said.

“His dressing up as a knight and riding on a horse in the streets of Southend when he became Sir David: these things enabled others to laugh with him. His genuine charm, wit, and warmth broke through many barriers as he looked for those things in others that they could agree on and work together.”

Mazur/cbcew.org.uk.
Mazur/cbcew.org.uk.

He went on: “David was also serious. For him, life was a gift to be gratefully accepted, cherished, nourished, and lived to the full. He took his life in his two hands and threw himself into it. Indeed, he died doing so, in service of others. As today’s Gospel tells us: ‘A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends’… his constituents, his country. David did so.”

“His Catholic faith informed his passionate commitment to the very right to life, to human dignity, and to the common good. But it was also rooted in his absolute conviction that an MP’s first priority was to their constituents — it was the death of a constituent from hypothermia which led to his successful Private Members’ Bill on fuel poverty.”

Mazur/cbcew.org.uk.
Mazur/cbcew.org.uk.

The man accused of killing Sir David — Ali Harbi Ali, 25, of Kentish Town in north London — is expected to face trial from March 7, 2022. The British citizen of Somali descent is charged with murder and the preparation of terrorist acts.

The lawmaker’s death sparked a debate about priests’ access to crime scenes to administer the last rites.

Fr. Jeff Woolnough, the pastor of St. Peter’s Catholic Church, Eastwood, in Leigh-on-Sea, said that he rushed to Belfairs Methodist Church when he heard that Amess had been attacked.

A police officer outside the church reportedly relayed his request to enter the building, but the priest was not given access. He prayed the rosary outside the police cordon instead.

Mazur/cbcew.org.uk.
Mazur/cbcew.org.uk.

Following Sir David’s death, Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury, western England, called for greater recognition of the last rites as an “emergency service.”

U.K. lawmakers have formally proposed an “Amess amendment” to a bill going through Parliament.

The idea emerged days after Sir David was killed. Paying tribute to his slain colleague in the House of Commons on Oct. 18, the Labour MP Mike Kane suggested that lawmakers pass an amendment guaranteeing priests access to those requiring last rites.

Stefan Rousseau - Pool/Getty Images.
Stefan Rousseau - Pool/Getty Images.

Cardinal Nichols and London’s police chief agreed earlier this month to create a joint group reviewing Catholic priests’ access to crime scenes.

The day before the Requiem Mass, a private service attended by family members was held at St. Mary’s Church, Prittlewell, Essex. It was led by the Anglican church’s vicar, Rev. Paul Mackay, and Msgr. Kevin Hale, the pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Joseph, Leigh-on-Sea.

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Mazur/cbcew.org.uk.

Former Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe read out a statement from the Amess family during the service.

“We are enormously proud of him, our hearts are shattered, however, there was still so much David wanted to do so this is not the end of Sir David Amess MP, it is the next chapter,” it said.

“‘Strong and courageous’ is an appropriate way to describe David. He was a patriot and a man of peace, so we ask people to set aside their differences and show kindness and love to all because that is the only way forward.”

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Mazur/cbcew.org.uk.

“We must set aside hatred and work towards togetherness; whatever one’s race, religious or political beliefs, we must be tolerant and try to understand.”

Following the service, a horse-drawn carriage bore Sir David’s casket through the streets of Southend-on-Sea, which was granted city status in tribute to the lawmaker, who had long campaigned for the coastal town to be recognized as a city.

Mazur/cbcew.org.uk.
Mazur/cbcew.org.uk.

Widdecombe, who converted to Catholicism in 1993, also gave the eulogy at Westminster Cathedral.

Speaking shortly before Cardinal Nichols blessed the lawmaker’s coffin and said the Prayer of Commendation, she recalled that Sir David was “an ardent pro-lifer and campaigner against abortion.”

She said: “In his last days in a Roman prison awaiting execution, St Paul wrote: ‘I have fought the good fight, I have kept the faith, I have finished my course.’ David Amess fought many good fights, he certainly kept the faith and now, sadly for those left behind but gloriously for him in heaven, David Amess has finished his course.”