Browsing News Entries

Federal judge says abortifacients lawsuit can proceed against Notre Dame

IMAGE: CNS illustration/handout, Irish 4 Reproductive Health

By Ann Carey

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (CNS) -- A lawsuit to force the University of Notre Dame to provide free contraceptives and abortifacient drugs in its health plans will proceed after receiving a green light from a federal district court in South Bend.

Judge Philip Simon of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana denied motions by Notre Dame and the federal government to dismiss the case, Irish 4 Reproductive Health v. Department of Health & Human Services et al. He issued the ruling Jan. 16.

The lawsuit originally was brought in 2018 against the U.S. departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and Treasury, and Notre Dame by a handful of women students calling themselves Irish 4 Reproductive Health, or I4RH.

The suit was filed for them by the National Women's Law Center, the Center for Reproductive Rights and Americans United for Separation of Church and State. The latter organization will honor the I4RH in March as "2020 Students of the Year."

The lawsuit alleges that the university had reached an "unlawful settlement" with the federal government that allowed it to "deny students, employees and their dependents insurance coverage of birth control guaranteed to them by the (2010) Affordable Care Act," better known as Obamacare.

President Barack Obama had promised conscience protection in his health plan, but when his Health and Human Services Department issued specific rules in 2011, only houses of worship were given an exemption from the mandate for employers to provide contraceptives in their employee insurance plans. Religiously affiliated schools, hospitals and other social service institutions were not included in that exemption.

Some Catholic entities, namely the Little Sisters of the Poor, refused to obey the mandate and have been fighting court battles ever since. Notre Dame did initially challenge the Obama-era mandate in two different lawsuits, but neither were successful. The university provided the mandated insurance to employees and students.

After President Donald Trump took office, he directed the secretaries of Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services to draft amended rules to address conscience-based objections to the Obamacare contraceptive mandate. In October 2017, the departments did so, issuing interim final rules that went into effect while public input was invited.

Those rules granted exemption from the mandate to entities with "sincerely held religious beliefs" and to nonprofits and small businesses with nonreligious moral opposition.

Initially, Holy Cross Father John Jenkins, president of Notre Dame, joined other Catholic leaders in praising the action and informed university employees Oct. 27, 2017, that the previously mandated contraceptive coverage would end Dec. 31 of that year.

Some small campus groups such as the Notre Dame Graduate Workers Collective and the ACLU of Notre Dame made their objections known, citing religious differences on campus. It is not clear how much these demonstrators influenced Notre Dame leaders, but just 10 days later, the university informed employees and students that a third-party health plan administrator would continue to provide the services free of charge.

A Notre Dame spokesman explained at the time that the administration reversed course after learning that the insurers would continue the coverage at no cost, so the university chose not to "interfere."

This action brought immediate objection from Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, who said he would continue to dialogue with Notre Dame leaders "in the context of fidelity of Notre Dame's Catholic mission."

Other objections came from the Notre Dame Chapter of University Faculty for Life, as well as many students and alumni, who noted particularly the availability of abortifacient drugs in the plan.

Three months later, on Feb. 7, 2018, Father Jenkins informed the campus community that after further thought and with additional information, the university would take steps "based on Catholic principles that nevertheless provide access to some coverage that members of our community seek." He said that the university would stop the government-funded range of drugs and instead provide coverage for "simple contraceptives (i.e., drugs designed to prevent conception)."

Bishop Rhoades at that time praised the decision to stop the government-funded insurance, but "strongly" disagreed with the decision to continue the birth control coverage, writing in a statement: "The Catholic Church clearly teaches that contraception is an immoral action that contradicts the truth of marital love."

Nevertheless, the new Notre Dame insurance was scheduled to go into effect in July 2018 for employees and in August for students.

On June 27, 2018, the I4RH filed suit against Notre Dame for terminating coverage for abortifacient drugs and for charging a co-pay for birth control pills. The group also included the federal government in the suit, claiming the HHS final rules are illegal.

Notre Dame and the federal government filed for dismissal of the lawsuit, but Judge Simon denied the motions to dismiss. He allowed five counts in the complaint to go forward, but did dismiss two counts, writing that the Constitution provides no "established" or "fundamental" right to subsidized contraceptives, as the I4RH claimed.

The five claims allowed to proceed all involve the legality of the HHS final rules. Those claims are similar to claims in two lawsuits against the Little Sisters of the Poor, who had appealed lower court decisions on those cases to the Supreme Court.

Ironically, on Jan. 17, the day after Simon refused to dismiss the "Irish 4" lawsuit, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the Little Sisters' appeal.

Depending on how the Supreme Court rules this summer on the Little Sisters' case, the lawsuit against Notre Dame could fall apart.

- - -

Carey writes for Today's Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.

- - -

Copyright © 2020 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Update: Remembering Holocaust is 'a duty,' pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Yad Vashem Archives via Reuters

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis said remembering the millions of men, women and children who perished in the Holocaust is a call for the world today to reflect and commit to not repeating the atrocities of the past.

Speaking to pilgrims in St. Peter's Square Jan. 26, the pope said that "in the face of this immense tragedy, this atrocity, indifference is inadmissible, and remembering is a duty."

"We are all called to have a moment of prayer and reflection, each one saying in his or her own heart, 'Never again, never again!'" the pope said.

International Holocaust Remembrance Day is observed around the world Jan. 27, which marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Oswiecim, Poland.

Operated from 1940 to 1945, Auschwitz was the Nazi's largest camp and consisted of three parts: Auschwitz I, where many were imprisoned and murdered; the Birkenau extermination camp -- also known as Auschwitz II -- and Auschwitz III (Auschwitz-Monowitz), an area of auxiliary camps that included several factories.

In 1942, Auschwitz became the site of the mass extermination of over 1 million Jews, 23,000 Roma, 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war and thousands of Polish citizens of different nationalities.

The Nazi's systematic persecution and genocide led to the deaths of 6 million Jews in Europe.

During his visit to Poland in 2016, the pope visited the Auschwitz death camp, where he prayed in silence and met with survivors of the Holocaust.

The pope has also denounced anti-Semitism and violence against Jewish people, including in November when reports surfaced of an escalation in anti-Semitic violence and vandalism across Europe.

During his weekly general audience Nov. 13, the pope said that the world has "seen so many brutalities done against the Jewish people, and we were convinced that this was over."

"But today the habit of persecuting Jews is beginning to be reborn," he said. "Brothers and sisters: this is neither human nor Christian; the Jews are our brothers and sisters and must not be persecuted! Understood?"

Two organizations representing the bishops of Europe also issued a joint statement to mark the anniversary of the liberation of the death camp.

The Council of European Bishops' Conferences and the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Union said "Auschwitz has become a symbol of all German concentration camps, and even of all such extermination sites."

"Here, the Nazis took the power to decide who is human and who is not. Here, euthanasia met with eugenics," they said. "Auschwitz-Birkenau is a result of the system based on the ideology of national socialism, which meant trampling the dignity of man who is made in the image of God. Another totalitarianism, namely communism, acted quite similarly, also reaching a death toll of millions."

The bishops said they wished to "appeal to the modern world for reconciliation and peace, for respect for each nation's right to exist and to freedom, to independence, to maintain its own culture."

"We cannot allow the truth to be ignored or manipulated for immediate political needs," said the Jan. 26 statement. "This appeal is extremely important now, for -- despite the dramatic experience of the past -- the world in which we live is still exposed to new threats and new manifestations of violence."

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

- - -

Copyright © 2020 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

God's word brings light to life's dark corners, pope says at Mass

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- God's saving word doesn't seek pristine and safe places to reside but instead goes in search of the dark corners of people's lives that it can brighten, Pope Francis said.

By taking his ministry to the "periphery" of Galilee, Jesus proves that God "wants to visit the very places we think he will never go," the pope said in his homily Jan. 26 during Mass in St. Peter's Basilica.

Jesus "is not afraid to explore the terrain of our hearts and to enter the roughest and most difficult corners of our lives. He knows that his mercy alone can heal us, his presence alone can transform us and his word alone can renew us," he said.

The Mass marked the first Sunday of the Word of God, an annual celebration Pope Francis has set for the third Sunday in Ordinary Time.

In his Sept. 30 declaration of the day, the pope said it would be devoted "to the celebration, study and dissemination of the word of God," which will help the church "experience anew how the risen Lord opens up for us the treasury of his word and enables us to proclaim its unfathomable riches before the world."

Before the Mass ended, the pope handed copies of the Bible to people representing various professions and states of life, including cardinals, religious leaders, refugees, children and men and women with disabilities.

In his homily, the pope reflected on the Sunday Gospel reading in which Jesus preaches in Galilee, calling on the people to repent and inviting Sts. Peter and Andrew to follow him.

Jesus' call for people to "repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand," is a reminder that "God is not far from us" and that he "has torn down walls and shortened distances," the pope said.

"We ourselves did not deserve this: he came down to meet us. Now this nearness of God to his people is one of the ways he has done things since the beginning, even in the Old Testament," he said. "And this nearness became flesh in Jesus."

God, he continued, did not take on "our human nature" out of duty but out of love because "one embraces what one loves."

While Christ also chooses to enter the darkest recesses of one's heart, the pope said that many times, "we are the ones who close the door, preferring to keep our confusion, our dark side and our duplicity hidden. We keep it locked up within, approaching the Lord with some formal prayers, wary lest his truth stir our hearts. And this is concealed hypocrisy."

Nevertheless, he added, Jesus enters the hearts of men and women in the same way he passed through the "varied and complex region" of Galilee in order to heal and call people to follow him.

"To follow Jesus, mere good works are not enough; we have to listen daily to his call," Pope Francis said. "He, who alone knows us and who loves us fully, leads us to put out into the deep sea of life. Just as he did with the disciples who heard him."

After celebrating Mass, the pope greeted pilgrims in St. Peter's Square for his Sunday Angelus address.

Volunteers from UNITALSI, an Italian Catholic pilgrimage association that brings the sick and volunteers together for prayer and pilgrimages to Lourdes and other Marian shrines, handed free bibles to the pilgrims.

The pope thanked the volunteers, as well as local dioceses and communities who proposed initiatives to promote "the centrality of Holy Scripture in the life of the church."

The Sunday of the Word of God, Pope Francis said, was instituted "to better celebrate and receive always the gift of the word that God has made and gives daily to his people."

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

- - -

Copyright © 2020 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Pope Names Auxiliaries of Archdiocese of México

Three Appointed

The post Pope Names Auxiliaries of Archdiocese of México appeared first on ZENIT - English.

Four SOS Chretiens d’Orient Missing in Iraq

Organization Supports Christian Communities

The post Four SOS Chretiens d’Orient Missing in Iraq appeared first on ZENIT - English.

Pope Appoints New Bishop of Achonry (Ireland)

Rev. Paul Dempsey of the clergy of the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin

The post Pope Appoints New Bishop of Achonry (Ireland) appeared first on ZENIT - English.

January 27: International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Six Million Died in Nazi Death Camps

The post January 27: International Holocaust Remembrance Day appeared first on ZENIT - English.

Basketball Legend Kobe Bryant and Daughter Die in California Helicopter Crash

Former Player Credits Catholic Faith for Changing Life

The post Basketball Legend Kobe Bryant and Daughter Die in California Helicopter Crash appeared first on ZENIT - English.

Auschwitz: Eucharist for Formerly Imprisoned With Participation of Presidential Couple  

'The 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, in the spirit of Pope Francis’ words, obliges us to expressly fight against all acts that trample on human dignity'

The post Auschwitz: Eucharist for Formerly Imprisoned With Participation of Presidential Couple   appeared first on ZENIT - English.