March 20, 2024 // National

News Briefs: March 24, 2024

U.S. Bishops Urge Prayer as Court to Hear Cases on Abortion Pill

WASHINGTON, D.C. (OSV News) – As the Supreme Court prepares to take up two cases on access to abortion pills, U.S. Catholic bishops have issued a nationwide call to prayer to end abortion and protect women and unborn children. The invitation was issued on Thursday, March 14, by Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for Military Services, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, Chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities. The prayer campaign, which seeks the intercession of St. Joseph as the “Defender of Life,” begins on Monday, March 25, the day before the Supreme Court hears oral arguments regarding lawsuits on the drug mifepristone and its widespread availability. Mifepristone has a two-decade history of use for early abortions when used with misoprostol, but the same drug combination in recent years has been prescribed for early miscarriage care. The daily prayer for the bishops’ campaign is available in English and Spanish at “We ask Catholics to offer this prayer daily, from March 25 through June, when a decision is expected,” wrote Archbishop Broglio and Bishop Burbidge.

Wisconsin Court Rules Against Catholic Charities Bureau

MADISON, Wisconsin (OSV News) – The Catholic Charities Bureau of the Diocese of Superior, Wisconsin, is not exempt from paying into the state’s unemployment insurance system because its operations aren’t primarily religious, Wisconsin’s Supreme Court found on Thursday, March 14. The group plans to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. The 4-3 decision by the state court in Madison raises the threshold for religious groups to prove their charitable organizations qualify for such an exemption under state law. The court’s ruling found that while the mission of the Catholic Charities Bureau and its subsidiaries is inspired by Catholic teachings, its actual work is “primarily charitable and secular” under the statute. Writing for the majority, Justice Ann Walsh Bradley wrote that asserting “a religious motivation behind their work” is “not enough to receive the exemption” under the statute, and that “paying a generally applicable tax is not a constitutionally significant burden” under First Amendment jurisprudence. Eric Rassbach, Vice President and Senior Counsel at Becket, a religious liberty law firm representing Catholic Charities Bureau, said in a statement, “The Wisconsin Supreme Court got this case dead wrong” and the organization “is religious, whether Wisconsin recognizes that fact or not.”

Pope Calls for Release of Religious Brothers Kidnapped in Haiti

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis called for the release of two religious brothers – members of the Congregation of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart – who are being held hostage in Haiti. “I have learned with relief that in Haiti, a teacher and four of the six religious brothers of the Frères du Sacré-Cœur Institute, kidnapped last February 23, have been freed,” the pope said after praying the Angelus in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, March 17. “I ask for the release as soon as possible of the other two brothers and all those people still being held hostage in that beloved country, so fraught with violence.” The kidnappings took place as Catholic religious have become targets for ransom in Haiti by armed gangs. In January, a group of six religious sisters were freed less than a week after being kidnapped by armed assailants. “I invite all the political and social actors to abandon any personal interest and to engage in a spirit of solidarity in the pursuit of the common good, supporting a peaceful transition to a country that, with the help of the international community, may be equipped with solid institutions capable of restoring order and tranquility among its citizens,” the pope said about the crisis in Haiti.

New Jersey Diocese Establishes Trust for Abuse Victims

CAMDEN, New Jersey (OSV News) – The Diocese of Camden, New Jersey, and related Catholic entities will fund a trust of $87.5 million for more than 300 survivors of sexual abuse in the diocese in a plan confirmed on Thursday, March 14, to resolve the diocese’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy. “Once again, I express my sincere apologies and prayers to all those who have been affected by sexual abuse in our diocese,” said Bishop Dennis J. Sullivan of Camden in a March 14 letter posted by the Catholic Star Herald, the diocesan newspaper. The plan “embodies” a settlement reached with a committee of survivors that was first announced in April of 2022, according to a March 14 statement from officials with the diocese. The diocese began Chapter 11 proceedings October 1, 2020.

In New Book, Pope Says He Has Not Considered Resigning

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – A pope’s ministry is meant to last his lifetime, Pope Francis said, and, at least until now, he has not considered resigning. However, he wrote in a new book, if he were seriously impaired, he would resign, but unlike the late Pope Benedict XVI, he would use the title “Bishop of Rome Emeritus” rather than Pope Emeritus, and he would live at Rome’s Basilica of St. Mary Major “to serve as a confessor and give Communion to the sick” rather than live at the Vatican. Pope Francis’ reflections on his life and his future are included in a new book, “Life: My Story Through History,” written with Italian journalist Fabio Marchese Ragona. The book was scheduled for a global release by HarperCollins on Tuesday, March 19, but the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera published excerpts on Thursday, March 14. The excerpts included Pope Francis saying he knows critics complain about his leadership and how he has changed the papacy, but “if I looked into everything that was said and written about me, I wouldn’t have time to do anything else, and I would need a weekly session with a psychologist!”

Medical Advances Must Be at Service of Those Most in Need, Pope Says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Cutting-edge science and medical research cannot benefit only the privileged few but must be placed at the service of those most in need, Pope Francis said. Meeting with the staff and patients from the Vatican-owned Bambino Gesù pediatric hospital in Rome on Saturday, March 16, the pope stressed the importance of “excellence in biomedical research,” but said it must be done “with special attention to the most fragile, such as patients with serious, rare, or ultra-rare diseases.” The pope wrote, “So that science and expertise do not remain the privilege of the few, I urge you to continue to make the fruits of your research available to all, especially where they are most needed,” praising the hospital for its training programs with doctors and nurses from Africa and Asia. The pope was greeted with applause and cheers from the many children present as he entered Paul VI Audience Hall using a wheelchair. Vatican News reported that among the approximately 200 children and parents were children from countries at war, such as Ukraine and Gaza, who are receiving treatment at Bambino Gesù that they were unable to get in their home countries.

Bagpipers march past St. Patrick’s Cathedral during the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City March 16, 2024. (OSV News photo/Eduardo Munoz, Reuters)

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