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Pope Francis appoints Bishop Weisenburger to head Diocese of Tucson, AZ

The Register

Tucson, Ariz­­­. — The first time Bishop Edward Weisenburger traveled to Arizona was for the announcement that Pope Francis appointed him to serve as the bishop of Tucson.  The announcement came almost one year after Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, Ariz., tendered his resignation upon reaching his 75th birthday. Canon law requires bishops to turn in their resignation when they reach age 75.  “I am very grateful for our Holy Father,” Bishop Weisenburger said in an Oct. 3 press conference in Tucson. “The Diocese of Tucson is a very prominent Church with a rich history. I am humbled to be here.”

Bishop Weisenburger is now considered the Diocesan Administrator of the Diocese of Salina until he is installed in Arizona on Nov. 29. The installation is by invitation only.  He calls the appointment “bittersweet.”  “I feel as though I had a very happy home here,” he told staff in a meeting after returning from Arizona. “I thought if I was going to move that I would have five more years.  “They are about to spend $144 million upgrading Salina. I’m sad to be leaving at that time because such wonderful things are happening.”

Bishop Weisenburger was ordained and installed as the 11th bishop of the Salina Diocese on May 1, 2012.  The changes were announced in Washington Oct. 3 by Msgr. Walter Erbi, charge d’affaires at the Vatican’s nunciature in Washington.  During the press conference, he was asked about accomplishments in the Salina Diocese.  “I don’t think I have any,” Bishop Weisenburger said. “I think the people (of the diocese) have some  great accomplishments.”

He pointed to the newly opened Catholic Charities of Northern Kansas office in Salina, which was strongly supported by donors.  Bishop Weisenburger also said he values the priests of the Salina Diocese.  “It’s a small group of priests, but they are good men,” he said. “I enjoy that very much.”


The process for selection of a new bishop

It was announced by the Holy See on Oct. 3 that our current bishop, Bishop Edward Weisenburger will be transferred to become bishop of the Diocese of Tucson. He will be installed on Nov. 29. What happens next in our diocese? Shortly after his installation, a group of priests called the “consultors” elect a priest to serve as “Diocesan Administrator.” According to Church law, they must meet within eight days of the vacancy of the diocese to elect the Administrator. 

The consultors in the Salina Diocese are Father Keith Weber, Father Donald Zimmerman, Father Gale Hammerschmidt, Father Michael Elanjimattathil, Father Kerry Ninemire, Msgr. James Hake and Msgr. Barry Brinkman.

Once appointed, the Administrator has the responsibility of coordinating and managing the affairs of the diocese while we await the appointment of a new bishop. The Administrator has some of the authority of a bishop but he is prohibited from doing anything ‘innovative’ or making major changes in the diocese; he is charged with maintaining current ministries and initiatives.

What is the process for the selection of a new bishop? The Congregation for Bishops, an office of the Roman Curia, has the responsibility of naming the world’s bishops. Each year, hundreds of vacancies are effected by death, retirement, illness, or expansion of a diocese, as in the case of a need for auxiliary bishops. The Congregation for Bishops, in conjunction with the papal representative of a country (Papal Nuncio), makes inquiry into the suitability of one priest or another and submits to the Holy Father nominees for each post to be filled.

It is not as simple a process as it seems. First of all, the congregation must gather information on the exact needs of the diocese so that any appointment would meet the need of the local Church. This is done by sending questionnaires to priests within the diocese needing a bishop. When seeking potential new candidates for the office of bishop, Congregation for Bishop canvasses the local bishops as well as the priests and lay leaders of the diocese to see if they believe one among them to be worthy of the office of bishop.

As soon as it becomes apparent that one or two persons within a jurisdiction are considered by his peers and by the laity to be worthy of consideration, the diocesan bishop consults with the metropolitan of the province (archbishop), as well as with his brother bishops of the province, to ascertain their opinions on any candidates. The name of candidates are submitted to the Papal Nuncio of the country (who serves as a representative of the Pope), who also make separate inquiries (via questionnaires) on various candidates. From these consultations, the nuncio begins to compile a list of suitable candidates.

Three names are eventually submitted to the Congregation for Bishops. After consultation and investigation within the Congregation of Bishop, the cardinal-prefect, during his weekly meeting with the Holy Father, submits the name deemed to be most suitable. The pope is not bound by the official nomination list yet almost always trusts the Congregation’s competency in these matters.

After the Holy Father has made his decision, the candidate is notified. He is bound by secrecy until the announcement is made at noon on the following (usually a Tuesday). Once the hour of noon passes in Rome, he is free to break the news to family, friends, and the faithful of the diocese. The Holy Father ordains new bishops in Rome only once each year; This happens on the Feast of the Epiphany. Any bishop nominated at other times throughout the year is traditionally ordained to the episcopacy at the cathedral of the new diocese he is to lead and govern. If he is already ordained a bishop, the bishop is “installed” if he has been transferred to serve another diocese.

Members of the Salina Diocese attend Blessed Stanley Rother’s beatification

The Register

Oklahoma City — Among the tens of thousands gathered to witness the beatification of Blessed Stanley Rother were a few familiar faces from the Diocese of Salina.  Father Don McCarthy, who was a seminary classmate of Blessed Rother’s, was among more than 50 bishops, 200 priests and 200 deacons to celebrate Sept. 23 in the Cox Convention Center.  “It was surreal,” Father McCarthy said. “I’d never seen a beatification before. It was beyond my expectations.”

The event was open to the public, and Salina resident Jeannie Hrabe said she was thankful to attend.  “It was beyond anything I ever imagined,” she said. “I’ve gone to weekend retreats, but not anything to this effect. It was breathtaking to see all of the people packed in there.”  Hrabe attended the event with her husband, Chris, and brother-in-law Brad. The trio stayed across the street from the convention center, and Hrabe said when they walked across the street before 7 a.m. “there were probably 500 people ahead of us in line.  “They were going to open the doors at 8:15, but they opened them shortly after 7 a.m. because the line was wrapped down the street.”

The beatification began with a 20-minute documentary about Blessed Stanley Rother.  “It gave the explanation of who Father Stanly is and what he stood for,” she said. “It explained how he worked with the people and how it crescendoed to this magnificent celebration. It really helped set the stage for the beatification.”

Trying to put the experience into words isn’t easy for Hrabe.  “It was more than what I expected,” she said. “These events can help feed our souls. It was very moving. Needless to say, I cried most of the Mass. It was very emotional, very uplifting, very spiritual.”

The Hrabe group made a trip out of it, stopping to visit Okarche, his hometown, the day before the beatification.  Likewise, Father McCarthy visited Holy Trinity Parish the day after the beatification with Father Daryl Olmstead, whose sister is married to a permanent deacon of the parish. The priests were among a small group who concelebrated Mass on Sunday.  “I’m so grateful I was able to experience that with my husband and brother-in-law,” Hrabe said of the beatification. “Father Stanley was an ordinary man. We are all ordinary and are all called to be saints.”

Residents of WaKeeney assisted by diocese

Dear fellow Catholic of the Salina Diocese,

I want to express my gratitude as well as speak a word of profound thanks on behalf of those who suffered immense losses following the tornadic winds (70 - 90 mph) and baseball-size hail of the Aug. 10 storm. Once the storm passed, I stepped outside where I found myself overwhelmed by the damage all around me. The roof of every home in WaKeeney was destroyed and 900 vehicles were totaled. In many instances the destroyed cars belonged to the working poor. Too, a tremendous amount of windows were shattered, with many homes exposed to the elements. Those who were uninsured or under-insured were facing the worst of the losses. 

I asked Bishop Weisenburger what help might be available for those in need.  With the consent of our Diocesan Council of Priests, he immediately transferred $3,000 from the Priests Council Aid Fund to Catholic Charities of Salina. Their office in Hays is responsible for distributing the funds in our area and they responded wonderfully with the resources the good people of our diocese provided them. In addition, Michelle Martin, Executive Director of our Diocesan Catholic Charities, applied for a $10,000 grant from Catholic Charities U.S.A. (the National branch of Catholic Charities). The grant was accepted and Catholic Charities was able to use some of these funds in collaborative efforts with Trego County Emergency Management. 

Jeannie Riedel from Catholic Charities of Hays set up a table on four different days in front of the local library to hand out application forms for assistance. She also has met with our local Ministerial Alliance multiple times, coordinating with the Alliance to make sure that all who are suffering receive the help they need. We are blessed in our diocese to have such dedicated staff at Catholic Charities. As of this date, the people our Diocese have generously donated $47,000 for this disaster relief. I've never been more proud of Catholic Charities or more grateful for the generosity of our people.

My gratitude is profound for each of you who gave sacrificially to help those in need. I should note that Christ the King Parish of WaKeeney has full replacement insurance coverage, and for that reason the parish itself was not a recipient of any of these funds. Your donations will be used only for victims in our diocese with inadequate or no means to repair their damages. Your incredible response is truly heartwarming. Again, I thank you in the name of Christ the King Parish and the entire community of Wakeeney. 

Fr. Charlie Steier, Pastor

Birthday blessing

Salina — In her 105 years, Dorothy LaRocque has said a lot of rosaries.  “I think you’ve said more rosaries in life than I have,” Bishop Edward Weisenburger quipped prior to blessing the longtime member of Sacred Heart Cathedral.  Friends, relatives and the bishop gathered Sept. 28 to celebrate 105 years of life for LaRocque.

“Heavenly father, we especially thank you for the gift of life that you have given generously to Dorothy. Strengthen her so that she might continue to be a sign of grace and favor in our midst,” Bishop Weisenburger prayed. “May she know graces and joys through her family, many friends, the staff of this fine institution and all those who look upon her with kindness and love.”

Prayer is a central aspect of LaRocque’s life said Mary Bridges, chaplain at Presbyterian Manor.  “If she’s sleeping, she has her hands folded in prayer,” Bridges said. “If you go by and she’s taking a nap, she’s prayerfully in bed.”  LaRocque said her favorite prayer is “The Eternal Father” from the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.  “It’s just a prayer that can be said anywhere,” she said.

Bishop Weisenburger said it was a treat to celebrate with a saint.  “Well, I don’t know ….” LaRocque said.  “Leave it to me, I’m supposed to know those things,” he told the centenarian.

Born on the family farm in Glasco, LaRocque is the oldest of Paul and Anna LaRocque’s six children. She worked in Wichita at the Veteran’s Hospital as a nurse anesthetist. As her parents aged and retired in Beloit, LaRocque returned to the Salina Diocese to care for them.  She never married and has no children.

“I didn’t do anything to be 105,” LaRocque said simply.  Bridges said the faith shown daily by LaRocque is a powerful witness.  “She just seems so focused on her faith,” Bridges said. “(On her birthday), she apparently didn’t want to get up but she did and she has a smile on her face and a sense of calm. I think it’s a testimony to her faith. I think young people can see that in her.”

For her part, LaRocque said she never expected to live to be 105, and certainly didn’t expect to have the bishop visit.  “I didn’t expect nothing, not even a party,” she said.  After the blessing, the group visited, and Bishop Weisenburger said his goodbye.  “I’ll see you next year,” the bishop said.  “Me too,” LaRocque quickly responded.

Grant applications due Dec. 1

Salina — The Catholic Community Foundation is currently accepting grant applications for the 2018 Bishop’s Fund.  

Any Catholic entity with innovative ideas or projects within the Diocese of Salina is welcome to apply. The maximum amount of funding for each grant is $5,000. The Bishop and the board of the Catholic Community Foundation will review and determine grant awards at their December meeting. Funding will be available for the 2018 calendar year. 

The application process is completely online at the diocesan website, salinadiocese.org.  Click here to go to the "Grants" page.  All applications are due Dec. 1, 2017. 

“This is a helpful way for parishes, schools and ministries to access funding for a project that could not be funded in their annual budget,” said Beth Shearer, executive director of the foundation.  “The board is delighted to make these innovative and new projects possible. This follows the original intent of the Bishop’s Fund. We are proud partners with our grantees in fulfilling their missions across our diocese. Together we are strengthening our Catholic community of faith.”

Last year, the Bishop’s Fund awarded $33,272 for various projects.  Donors wanting to help the Bishop underwrite important projects established the Bishop’s Fund in 2008. Each year the diocese continues to receive donations to the Bishop’s Fund.

Applications are open to all parishes, Catholic schools and Catholic ministries within the diocese. The following are examples of grants that will be considered.

  • Technology, increasing and/or upgrading.
  • Catholic Education for both Catholic Schools and PRE programs.
  • Parish mission speakers and materials.
  • Mission work for the poor.
  • Liturgical enrichment, including seasonal programs.
  • Seed money to establish or initiate a new project or program.

The Foundation will NOT consider grants to the following:

  • Operating deficits or retirement of debt.
  • Ordinary recurring expenses.

Inquiries CAN be directed to Shearer at (785) 827-8746, ext. 42, or beth.shearer@ salinadiocese.org.

Statement from Bishop on Racism

Racism and bigotry are among the great evils of our age, and the resurgence of neo-Nazi and white-supremacist movements is profoundly troubling.  The follower of Jesus Christ can see something of God’s image in every human being. For this reason, people of faith must unite and speak truth to this evil in our midst.  Let us renew our firm commitment to truth, equality, and universal human dignity.

– Bishop Edward J. Weisenburger

White Mass to be celebrated.

Most Reverend Edward J. Weisenburger, Bishop of the Diocese of Salina, cordially invites you to celebrate a White Mass.

Wednesday, October 18th at 7:00 p.m.
at Sacred Heart Cathedral 
118 N. 9th Street
Salina KS

Traditionally a “White Mass” is celebrated for members of the healthcare profession.  Equally welcome are those who do not work or minister in the healthcare profession but wish to gather with us to pray for all healthcare professionals.  A reception will follow the Mass in the Hall of Bishops.


Featured Events

Catholic News Headlines

  • IMAGE: CNS photo/Mike Blake, ReutersBy Carol ZimmermannWASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Affordable Care Act -- on the examination table since President Donald Trump came into office -- has been poked, prodded and even pronounced dead while the fight to keep it alive keeps going. President Trump told Cabinet members Oct. 16: "Obamacare is finished. It's dead. It's gone. ... There is no such thing as Obamacare anymore," but that is not how those who want health care reform, including Catholic leaders, see it, and it's not the general public's view either, according to a recent poll. The Kaiser Family Foundation poll said seven in 10 Americans think it is more important for Trump to help the current health care law work than cause it to fail. Sixty-six percent of Americans want Trump and Congress to work on legislation to bolster the health insurance marketplaces rather than continuing their efforts to repeal and replace the ACA. The poll, conducted by the Washington-based group that examines key health policy issues, was released Oct. 13, the day after Trump announced some changes to the current health care law. By executive order, he directed federal agencies to make regulatory changes to the ACA to allow consumers to buy health insurance through association health plans across state lines and lifting limits on short-term health care plans. He also announced that he was ending federal subsidies to health insurance companies that help pay out-of-pocket health care costs for those with low incomes.The Obama administration had authorized the subsidies, but in 2016, Republicans filed a lawsuit, saying they were illegal because Congress had not authorized the payments. The president's plan to end the subsidy payments prompted swift criticism from Democrats, U.S. health care groups and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the USCCB's Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, said the bishops "will closely monitor the implementation and impacts of this executive order by the relevant administrative agencies." He said flexible options for people to obtain health coverage are important strategies, but he also cautioned that "great care must be taken to avoid risk of additional harm to those who now receive health care coverage through exchanges formed under the Affordable Care Act."A possible fix to Trump's cuts that would continue federal subsidies to insurance companies through 2019 was offered in a bipartisan Senate proposal by Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, and Patty Murray, D- Washington, which Trump initially appeared to support but then backed down from a day later. When the Obama administration authorized the subsidies, Republicans filed suit, saying they were illegal because Congress had not authorized the payments.By Oct. 20, there was no word on when the bill -- which also aims to provide states flexibility to skirt some requirements of the health care law -- might come to the Senate floor for a vote. Several senators have said they are waiting to see more details in the bill's text. Support from the House doesn't seem likely since House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, has said he opposes it.Sister Carol Keehan, a Daughter of Charity and president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, a leadership organization of more than 2,000 Catholic hospitals and health care facilities, has been keeping a close eye on the president's action on health care and the response by Congress. "Working out a deal to keep the subsidies for a longer-term plan is something that is very important and critical to the future, particularly for the most vulnerable among us," she said. Sister Keehan, who also is a nurse, told Catholic News Service Oct. 18 that she encourages the House and Senate to take immediate action to stabilize the insurance markets and delivery and "allow time for us to have a national conversation" about improving the health care law without letting those now covered with health insurance lost it or for "premiums to go out of sight." So far, she has only seen parts of the Senate bill, but she said the Catholic Health Association is "willing to do what we can to craft a compromise that will work in the short term until we have a longer-term solution." The Alexander-Murray bill is not the only text that needs a closer read to understand the future of the country's health care system. The new rules that will be written by federal agencies, per Trump's executive order, will also need a close look. These changes could appear within weeks but are unlikely to take effect before the end of the year.Dr. Steven White, a pulmonary specialist in Ormond Beach, Florida, who is chairman of the Catholic Medical Association Health Care Policy Committee, said he is awaiting to see how new rules and regulations are written but is hopeful that some changes will be a move in the right direction. White said his association sees less federal control and more patient control as a good thing and also would like the health law to offer more options, freedom and flexibility. He told CNS Oct. 18 that pouring more money into health care isn't the solution, but he also echoed Bishop Dewane's concern that changes shouldn't be made on the backs of those with low incomes. He said if Congress backs legislation that supports subsidies, they need to balance that with the realization that such a plan "can't last forever." "Something has to be done," he said a few times during the interview. But just what will happen still remains a mystery. Another finding of the Oct. 13 Kaiser poll showed that despite Americans' support for a bipartisan approach to health care, their confidence that Trump and Congress can work together to make this happen remains low. Seven in 10 Americans said they are either not too confident or not at all confident that cooperation can happen. - - - Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.- - -Copyright © 2017 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 cns@catholicnews.com.

  • IMAGE: CNS/Paul HaringBy Carol GlatzVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- When Sister Kathleen Schipani found out she was usually the very first person to teach deaf children to pray, she decided there had to be an app to fix that. Learning to pray usually happens in the family, when a parent or relative recites the words for grace before meals, asks for blessings or requests guidance or protection, the Sister of the Immaculate Heart of Mary told Catholic News Service in Rome. But when a child is born deaf into a hearing family, those kids shouldn't have to miss out on learning Catholic prayers or religious terms as they learn American Sign Language, she said Oct. 20. Sister Schipani, who is director of the office for persons with disabilities and the deaf apostolate at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, was in Rome as part of a conference sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization. The gathering Oct. 20-22 was dedicated to sharing best practices in engaging and catechizing persons living with disabilities. Lots of apps exist for learning ASL, she said, but there is nothing dedicated to religious terms, daily devotions or prayers of blessing, love, thanks and praise. The app meant to fill that gap is called, "Religious Signs for Families," and was to be available from the iTunes App Store and Google Play in early November. "The locus of learning your faith starts in the family, so this app is really to provide families with the ability" to foster prayer in the home and bond with each other and with God as they pray in ASL, she said. It also will help teachers who want to teach elementary school students how to pray using sign language. "Deaf people have deep experiences of prayer," she said, particularly because it involves praying with "their whole body" with signing and visualization. "Deaf people have never heard the language that we speak so they are not hearing the little voice in their head like we are," she said. Instead some people say they pray visually with beautiful imagery or with seeing hands signing in their head. While sacred music does not have the same ability to draw deaf individuals to prayer, sacred or beautiful art does, she said. "A lot of deaf people have not been catechized because there was no one to sign to them, and that really is what the sad thing is -- when there is no opportunity for deaf people to know religious language and have an experience of someone teaching them," she said. Sister Schipani said the beautiful thing about sign language is the signs are often "iconic," reflecting what the thing is and, therefore, they can convey the theology behind the concept. For example, she said, the sign for "heaven" in the Jewish faith is moving both hands in a way that suggests a semi-circular dome -- the heavens -- overhead. In the Christian faith, she said, the sign conveys the canopy of heaven, but with the other hand going through and up, "because we believe that Jesus, our savior, has come and we're saved so we can have the possibility of entering heaven." - - -Editor's Note: The app has captions and voiceover in English and Spanish. More information can be found at http://deafcatholicphilly.org/religious-sign-app/. - - -Copyright © 2017 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 cns@catholicnews.com.

  • By Junno Arocho EstevesVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christians are holy not because of their good works but because they recognize their sins before God and receive his forgiveness, Pope Francis said. In his homily at Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae Oct. 20, the pope said that good deeds are "the answer to the freely given love of God, who justifies us and forgives us always." "It is the Lord; he is the one who has forgiven our original sin and who forgives us every time we go to him," the pope said. "We cannot forgive our own sins with our works, only he can forgive. We can respond to this forgiveness with our works." The day's Gospel reading from St. Luke, in which Christ warns his disciples about the dangers of hypocrisy, speaks of people trying to appear holy to others, while remaining "all dirty" within, the pope said. "These people put makeup on their soul, they live off makeup, holiness is makeup for them," he said. "Jesus always asks us to be truthful, but truthful in our hearts." Jesus, the pope continued, offers a different path than the hypocrites, who are nothing more than "soap bubbles" -- here today and gone tomorrow. Pope Francis said Christ's warning on the danger of hypocrisy is a call for all men and women to "be consistent in our life, consistent in what we do and what we live," which brings with it the joy of God's forgiveness. "Truth always in front of God. Always! And this truth in front of God is what makes room so that the Lord forgives us," the pope said. - - - Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.- - -Copyright © 2017 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 cns@catholicnews.com.

  • IMAGE: CNS photo/Mike Nelson, EPABy SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CNS) -- Religious freedom advocates and pro-life leaders praised California Gov. Jerry Brown for vetoing a bill called the Reproductive Health Nondiscrimination Act that targeted religious employers and their faith-based codes of conduct for employees. Assembly Bill 569 would have made it illegal for a California employer to discipline or fire employees for "their reproductive health decisions, including, but not limited to, the timing thereof, or the use of any drug, device or medical service." Alliance Defending Freedom said the bill would have prohibited churches, religious colleges, religious nonprofit organizations and pro-life pregnancy care centers "from having faith-based codes of conduct with regard to abortion and sexual behavior." The government "should not and cannot tell" employers that they cannot live out their beliefs within their own organizations, said Elissa Graves, legal counsel for the alliance, which is a nonprofit legal group that advocates for religious freedom and sanctity of life and on marriage and family issues. "Gov. Brown was right to veto this immensely unconstitutional bill, which would have been an unprecedented overreach on the part of the state of California," she added in a statement about the governor's late-night action Oct. 15. "The First Amendment doesn't allow the state to order churches and other faith-based groups to violate their most deeply held convictions," Graves said. "They have the freedom to live according to their faith and to require those who work for them to do the same." The California Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state's Catholic bishops, called the measure "a massive overreach by NARAL" and an attack on religious liberty. NARAL Pro-Choice America advocates for legal abortion and for expanding access to it. After A.B. 569 was passed by the California Legislature as its 2017 session ended Sept. 18, the Catholic conference urged Catholics to send a message to Brown calling for him to veto it. It said the bill "deliberately" targeted religious employers "in a false effort to stop widespread 'reproductive discrimination' but supporters cannot cite a single case in California where such discrimination has actually occurred." "There are no substantiated claims of discrimination in the secular workforce against women who are pregnant or exercise 'reproductive choices' because such actions have been illegal for decades under the Fair Employment and Housing Act," the conference said. It noted the bill's supporters could only point to one case in the state in the last decade "implicating a religious employer" and "that matter was settled out of court." "In a reach unknown in any other legal system, supporters (of A.B. 569) have expanded those who can allege discrimination in court to include anyone in the employee's family and holds supervisors personally and legally responsible for enforcing the policy of employers," the conference said. "With no restraint in sight," the conference said, the bill did not allow employers to enforce codes of conduct, "even those negotiated with employees as part of union contracts."- - -Copyright © 2017 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 cns@catholicnews.com.

  • IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Jenevieve Robbins, Texas Department of Criminal Justice handout via ReutersBy Cindy WoodenVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis' recent statement that the death penalty is incompatible with the Gospel focused less on a government's role in protecting its people and more on the need to defend the sacredness and dignity of every human life. At least from the time of Blessed Paul VI in the 1960s, the Catholic Church has been increasingly critical of the use of capital punishment, even while acknowledging centuries of church teaching that a state has a right to punish offenders, including with the death penalty. St. John Paul II, in his 1995 encyclical letter, "The Gospel of Life," wrote of his alarm at "the extraordinary increase and gravity of threats to the life of individuals and peoples," but said one sign of hope was the increasing opposition around the world to capital punishment. "There is evidence of a growing public opposition to the death penalty, even when such a penalty is seen as a kind of 'legitimate defense' on the part of society. Modern society, in fact, has the means of effectively suppressing crime by rendering criminals harmless without definitively denying them the chance to reform," he wrote. Two years later, Pope John Paul had the Catechism of the Catholic Church revised to strengthen its anti-death penalty posture. The text now says that, "given the means at the state's disposal to effectively repress crime by rendering inoffensive the one who has committed it, without depriving him definitively of the possibility of redeeming himself, cases of absolute necessity for suppression of the offender 'today ... are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.'" Opponents of the death penalty cheered St. John Paul's move, and theologians recognized it as a "development" of church teaching. Death penalty opponents also welcomed Pope Francis' even stronger position against capital punishment, but his words set off a debate between those who saw his position as a further development of church teaching and those who saw it as a "change" that contradicted both the Bible and the traditional position of the Catholic Church. Edward Feser, a professor of philosophy at California's Pasadena City College and author of "By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment," told Catholic News Service that St. John Paul's teaching was "a nonbinding prudential judgment," which was in line with centuries of church teaching recognizing the right of states to impose the death penalty. And, writing in Britain's Catholic Herald Oct. 15, Feser said that if Pope Francis "is saying that capital punishment is always and intrinsically immoral, then he would be effectively saying -- whether consciously or unconsciously -- that previous popes, fathers and doctors of the church, and even divinely inspired Scripture are in error." But Jesuit Father Jan Dacok, a professor of moral theology and theologian at the Apostolic Penitentiary, a Vatican court, said the church always insisted there were limits to the conditions under which a state could legitimately impose the death penalty. St. John Paul, he said, emphasized those limits to the point of saying that now that it is easier to keep a murderer in jail for life, the necessary conditions for legitimacy are "practically nonexistent." Pope Francis took a further step forward, Father Dacok said. The pope "did not change church teaching, but places it on a higher level and points out the path toward its perfection." "What is accomplished with the death penalty?" the Slovakian Jesuit asked. "Do you obtain the true repentance of criminals? Do you offer them the possibility of correcting their ways, of asking for forgiveness?" "No," he said. "With the execution, the death, you irreversibly cancel the entire dynamic of hope" for repentance, conversion and at least some attempt at reparation. "Obviously, Pope Francis cannot change the laws of individual countries, because that's the competence of legislators," Father Dacok said. "But he can continually encourage respect for the sacredness of every human life, because the death penalty truly is not necessary." Because security and justice can be served without capital punishment, he said, the urgent matter today is to demonstrate respect for the sacredness of every human life, "even the life of public criminals responsible for the death of others." Father Robert A. Gahl Jr., a priest of Opus Dei and a professor of ethics at Rome's Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, said Pope Francis "continues the recent development of doctrine regarding the centrality of mercy for the Christian faith and the urgency to promote a culture of life in today's throwaway culture," where abortion and euthanasia are widely accepted. "Pope Francis wants the church to offer a radical example of the defense of all human life," Father Gahl said. And "without condemning all past practices, he vigorously demands the elimination of the death penalty." The priest noted the church's historic concern for the impact of the death penalty not just on the criminal, but also on judges and executioners. In fact, the 1917 Code of Canon Law, which was in effect until 1983, listed as those generally barred from priestly ordination "a judge who passed a sentence of death" and "those who take up the task of (execution) and their immediate and voluntary assistants in the execution of a capital sentence." On the question of whether Pope Francis' statement marks a "development" or a "change," Father Gahl said the pope probably intended to "shake up theologians and to force us to reconsider traditional formulations of permanent teaching in light of this new and authoritative development of mercy and human dignity." Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, said Pope Francis was exercising his right and obligation to teach on faith and morals. "Obviously, the church does not intervene on the level of civil legislation," the archbishop told CNS, "but today the pope authoritatively affirms that from a deeper understanding of the Gospel emerges the contradiction between the death penalty and the gospel of life." - - - Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.- - -Copyright © 2017 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 cns@catholicnews.com.