July 5, 2023 // National

News Briefs: July 9, 2023

Franciscan Friar Sentenced to Nearly a Year Behind Bars for Abortion Clinic Protests

NEW YORK (OSV News) — Father Fidelis Moscinski, a member of the Franciscan Fathers of the Renewal, received his longest jail sentence so far — a federal conviction of six months — on Tuesday, June 27, for obstructing a Planned Parenthood clinic in Hempstead, a community on Long Island, New York, last year. It was his first conviction under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, or FACE Act. Six months is the maximum penalty for a first-time offense. Additionally, he received a 90-day sentence on Friday, June 30, for a separate case involving another abortion clinic protest on Long Island. Father Moscinski, 53, a resident of Our Lady of the Angels friary in the Bronx, has been active in clinic protests organized by the Michigan-based Red Rose Rescue, but his activities in Hempstead were done on his own. In that incident, according to New York State Attorney General Letitia James, Father Moscinski placed six industrial locks and chains on the front gates of the clinic, blocking the driveway into the parking lot and pedestrian access gates. When police removed the locks, Father Moscinski lay down in the driveway and had to be physically removed. The Catholic Church opposes abortion because it holds that all human life is sacred from conception to natural death. However, the Church also makes clear that all advocacy for justice must use only moral means even when the intention is to protect or promote the welfare of a person or society in general.

High Court Sides with Christian Web Designer Opposed to Making Websites for Same-Sex Marriages

WASHINGTON, D.C. (OSV News) — The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Friday, June 30, in favor of a Christian web designer who argued she had a First Amendment right to refuse to provide services for same-sex marriages despite a Colorado law prohibiting discrimination against people who identify as LGBTQ+. In a 6-3 decision split down the court’s ideological lines, justices found the First Amendment protects Lorie Smith, a website designer who said her Christian faith requires her to decline customers seeking wedding-related services for same-sex unions. The court ruled that for Colorado to force her to do so, against her religious convictions, would be unconstitutional compelled speech. “Colorado seeks to force an individual to speak in ways that align with its views but defy her conscience about a matter of major significance,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in a majority opinion for 303 Creative v. Elenis. In a dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor countered, “Today, the Court, for the first time in its history, grants a business open to the public a constitutional right to refuse to serve members of a protected class.” Kristen Waggoner, President, CEO and General Counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, the public interest firm which represented Smith, said in a statement the Supreme Court “rightly reaffirmed that the government can’t force Americans to say things they don’t believe.” She added, “The ruling makes clear that nondiscrimination laws remain firmly in place, and that the government has never needed to compel speech to ensure access to goods and services.”

In Naming New Prefect, Pope Asks Doctrine Office to Promote Evangelization

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis appointed his longtime theological adviser and fellow countryman Archbishop Víctor Manuel Fernández of La Plata, Argentina, to lead the Vatican’s doctrinal office, urging him in a public letter to expand the office’s focus beyond its reputation as a watchdog pursuing possible doctrinal errors and to promote the understanding and transmission of the faith. Archbishop Fernández, who turns 61 on July 18, replaces Jesuit Cardinal Luis Ladaria, 79, according to Vatican officials, who made the announcement on July 1. In an open letter to the archbishop, the pope asked him to lead the dicastery toward promoting theology that is attentive to the essentials of the faith and at the service of evangelization. “Its central purpose is to guard the teaching that flows from the faith in order to ‘give reasons for our hope, but not as an enemy who critiques and condemns.’” The pope wrote that, “The dicastery which you will preside over in other times came to use immoral methods. Those were times when, rather than promoting theological knowledge, possible doctrinal errors were pursued. What I expect from you is certainly something very different.” Given that the specific section for disciplinary matters is staffed “with very competent professionals, I ask you as prefect to dedicate your personal commitment in the most direct way to the principal aim of the dicastery which is keeping the faith,” he wrote. The pope wrote that task consists of “increasing the understanding and transmission” of the Catholic faith, especially before questions “posed by the progress of the sciences and the development of society.”

McCarrick Not Competent to Stand Trial

DEDHAM, Massachusetts (OSV News) — Disgraced former cardinal Theodore McCarrick is not competent to stand trial in Massachusetts on charges he sexually abused a teenage boy nearly 50 years ago, according to the prosecution’s expert brought in to examine the now 92-year-old. On Thursday, June 29, Norfolk County Assistant District Attorney Lisa Beatty submitted the state’s report to Dedham District Court Judge Michael Pomarole, which stated that the Commonwealth’s medical examiner found McCarrick not currently competent to participate in the criminal trial. A defense expert made the same assessment in February. This could result in the dismissal of the charges in this case, in which McCarrick faces three counts of indecent assault and battery of a person over the age of 14. If convicted, McCarrick could have been sentenced to up to five years in prison on each individual count. McCarrick pleaded not guilty in September of 2021. The prosecution’s report in the Massachusetts case is not being made public, and Pomarole will consider both the prosecution and defense reports at an upcoming Aug. 30 hearing to make a final decision. It is unlikely there are medical treatments that can restore McCarrick to competency, given the claims he has dementia. It is not clear if the eventual Massachusetts decision will impact recent charges of sexual assault in Wisconsin regarding an alleged incident that took place in 1977. McCarrick has been accused of sexually abusing dozens of child and adult victims over decades, a scandal that finally became public in 2018. After the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (now dicastery) found McCarrick guilty of abuse in 2019, he was laicized by Pope Francis.

Aid to Ukrainians Tops Charity Funded by Peter’s Pence In 2022

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Donations to the annual Peter’s Pence collection, which supports the work of the Roman Curia and funds the charitable activity of the pope, were down in 2022, but the amount of money the fund distributed increased significantly thanks to the proceeds of property sales, Vatican officials said. Overall, “in 2022, Peter’s Pence income amounted to 107 million euros ($116 million),” they said. And the fund spent 95.5 million euros ($103.5 million) to support the work of the offices of the Holy See and the apostolic nunciatures around the world and to fund emergency aid to Ukraine and other countries facing devastation as well as to support the mission of local churches in need.

The Vatican press office released the report on the 2022 activity of Peter’s Pence on Friday, June 30, the day after the feast of SS. Peter and Paul when the 2023 collection began in parishes and dioceses around the world. Dioceses, foundations, private donors, and religious orders — in that order — gave a total of 43.5 million euros to Peter’s Pence in 2022, the report said. In comparison, the amount of direct donations in 2021 was 44.4 million euros.

Be Modern Prophets by Guiding Others to the Holy Spirit, Pope Asks

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Christians are called to be modern-day prophets who guide others to see the Holy Spirit at work in everyday life and not to be superstitious people who try to predict or control the future, Pope Francis said. “A Christian does not believe in superstitions like magic, cards, horoscopes, or similar things,” he told some 15,000 visitors gathered in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, July 2, to pray the Angelus. He admonished those who do so saying, “many Christians go to have their hands read.” Prophets are not limited to the biblical figures who anticipated Jesus’ coming, since “Jesus himself talks about the need to welcome prophets,” the pope said, reflecting on the day’s Gospel reading from St. Matthew in which Jesus says, “Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward.” Pope Francis said that “A prophet is he who, by virtue of baptism, helps others read the present under the action of the Holy Spirit,” which helps people “understand God’s plans and align yourselves” with them. The pope said a prophet is someone who “shows Jesus to others, who witnesses him, who helps live today and build tomorrow according to his design.” Pope Francis encouraged Christians to reflect how they live out their baptismal calling to be prophets in their daily lives, and to ask themselves: “How is my witness going? How is my prophesy?”

A person stands near a burning vehicle July 1, 2023, as unrest continues following the killing of a 17-year-old teenager by a French police officer during a traffic stop, in the Paris suburb of Nanterre, France. (REUTERS/Yves Herman)

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