January 10, 2024 // National

News Briefs: January 14, 2024

Archbishop: Epiphany Highlights Ukrainians Fight for Freedom

KYIV, Ukraine (OSV News) – Amid Russia’s war on Ukraine, which continues attacks begun in 2014, and which has been declared a genocide in two human rights reports, the feast of the Epiphany highlights Ukrainians’ fight for “something new: the movement toward freedom,” said Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. “The enslaving Russian ideology proposes nothing more than a return to the old,” the prelate said. “They attempt to force upon us re-adoption of the old imperial and Soviet ways of thinking and living,” said the Major Archbishop, who celebrated a Divine Liturgy at the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ in Kyiv on Saturday, January 6. “We want to live in a new way; we seek the renewal that Christ gives us in today’s life-giving impulse of his Epiphany over the Jordan.” The waters of the Jordan River also recall the Red Sea through which God led the ancient Israelites out of slavery, while Pharaoh and his army perished, said Major Archbishop Shevchuk. “The power that had kept God’s people in bondage was … defeated,” he said. “Instead, a power that calls for and guides (us) toward freedom emerged.”

Dicastery Bishops Shouldn’t Stop Blessings for Gay Couples

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – While bishops may take a cautious approach to the Vatican’s guidance on blessing same-sex or other unmarried couples, they should not deny their priests the possibility of discerning and imparting blessings on people who ask for them, officials with the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith said. “Prudence and attention to the ecclesial context and to the local culture could allow for different methods of application, but not a total or definitive denial of this path that is proposed to priests,” officials said in a January 4 news release. Each bishop has a responsibility to discern the local application of the declaration Fiducia Supplicans on “the pastoral meaning of blessings,” signed by Pope Francis and published by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of Faith on Monday, December 18, but a bishop should not deny priests the ability to bless people who come to them, the press release said. Signed by Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, Prefect of the dicastery, the statement said it hoped “to help clarify” the reception of Fiducia Supplicans among bishops’ conferences.

Court Reinstates Idaho’s Abortion Ban

WASHINGTON, D.C. (OSV News) – The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on Idaho’s near-total abortion ban, which the court temporarily reinstated after the Justice Department asserted the law conflicted with a federal statute on emergency medical care. In a January 5 order, the Supreme Court scheduled oral arguments regarding the ban for April of 2024, while granting a stay on a preliminary injunction against the ban issued in August of 2022. At issue is Idaho’s “Defense of Life Act,” which bans abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or where a physician deems the procedure medically necessary to save a pregnant woman’s life, and went into effect following the Supreme Court’s decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case, which returned the issue of abortion to the states. The Justice Department argued Idaho’s law conflicted with the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, or EMTALA, under which hospitals that receive Medicare funding and have emergency rooms must provide “necessary stabilizing treatment for emergency medical conditions and labor.”

Former Minnesota Archbishop Acted ‘Imprudently’ but not Criminally

ST. PAUL, Minnesota (OSV News) – A multiyear investigation overseen by the Catholic Church into Archbishop John C. Nienstedt, who resigned from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, has ended with the Vatican finding he acted “imprudently” in several instances but not criminally under canon law, Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda said in a statement released on Friday, January 5. “None of those instances, either standing alone or taken together, were determined to warrant any further investigation or penal sanctions,” Archbishop Hebda said, but Pope Francis determined several administrative actions “are justified.” Among them, Archbishop Nienstedt “may not exercise any public ministries” in the “Province of St. Paul and Minneapolis” and “may not exercise ministry in any way outside of his diocese of residence” without permission of the local bishop. Archbishop Nienstedt resigned after criminal and civil charges were brought against the archdiocese in June of 2015 for failing to protect children from a former pastor convicted of sexually abusing three minors in his parish.

Vatican Doctrine Official Says Priestly Celibacy Should be Optional

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The Catholic Church should revise its celibacy requirement for Latin-rite priests, a senior official in the Vatican’s doctrinal office said. “If it were up to me, I would revise the requirement that priest(s) have to be celibate,” said Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, Adjunct Secretary of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, in an interview with the Times of Malta that was released on Sunday, January 7. “Experience has shown me this is something we need to seriously think about.” The interview was conducted in Maltese, but the Times of Malta provided an English translation of his remarks in its story and in subtitles on the video clip it released. Archbishop Scicluna said the Latin-rite Church “should learn from the Catholic Churches of the Oriental rite,” which have a tradition of married priests. Celibacy, Archbishop Scicluna said, “was optional for the first millennium of the Church’s existence, and it should become optional again.”

Nigeria’s Sorrow ‘Overflowing’ After Christians Massacred

SOKOTO, Nigeria (OSV News) – Governor Caleb Mutfwang of Nigeria’s Plateau state declared a week of mourning January 1-8 to honor the deaths of at least 200 Christians killed around Christmas by Fulani Muslim herders, targeting Christians in the country. Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of Sokoto said the attackers are “children of darkness” and come “from the deepest pit of hell.” The December 23-28 killings have also led to thousands of people being forced to flee their homes. As many as 80 villages in Plateau state were attacked, officials with Christian aid group Release International reported on Saturday, December 30. Bodies continue to be discovered, and attacks are expected to continue, officials with Release International reported. “I urge all citizens to use these days for intense prayers to seek the intervention of the almighty God in defending our territories against wicked men that have risen against us,” Mutfwang said in a video statement released on Tuesday, January 2.

USCCB Affirms Pope’s Description of Surrogacy

WASHINGTON, D.C. (OSV News) – Pope Francis told diplomats on Monday, January 8, that he finds surrogacy “deplorable” and would like to see the practice universally banned. The remarks made headlines in major U.S. secular news outlets, prompting calls to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the conference’s Spokesperson and Executive Director of Public Affairs Chieko Noguchi told OSV News. “As Pope Francis stated, with surrogacy, an unborn child is turned into ‘an object of trafficking’ because it exploits the birth mother’s material needs and makes the child the product of a commercial contract. This is why the Catholic Church teaches that the practice of surrogacy is not morally permissible. Instead, we should pray for, and work towards, a world that upholds the profound dignity of every person, at every stage and in every circumstance of life,” Noguchi said in a January 8 media statement. Gestational surrogacy is the practice in which a woman carries and delivers a baby for an individual or couple, sometimes for compensation. The gestational carrier is impregnated through in vitro fertilization, a practice the Church also forbids.

Michelle and Dylan Woods embrace during a prayer vigil after a shooting at Perry High School in Iowa Jan. 4, 2024. A 17-year-old opened fire at the small-town Iowa high school before classes resumed on the first day after the winter break, killing a sixth grader and wounding five others Thursday as students barricaded themselves in offices, ducked into classrooms and fled in panic. The high school shares a campus with Perry Middle School. (OSV News photo/Sergio Flores, Reuters)

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