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Bishop Chairman Addresses Senate Vote on the Respect for Marriage Act

WASHINGTON – On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate passed the Respect for Marriage Act (H.R. 8404). The bill, which first passed the U.S. House of Representatives in July, will codify the nationwide redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples in federal statute for the first time. The bill will also heighten the threats to religious liberty that have persisted after the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision of 2015. Bishop Robert E. Barron of Winona-Rochester, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, issued the following statement in response:

“We are gravely disappointed that the misnamed Respect for Marriage Act passed the Senate and continue to call for its rejection.

“Pope Francis wrote in 2016 that ‘we can hardly stop advocating marriage simply to avoid countering contemporary sensibilities…. We would be depriving the world of values that we can and must offer.’ Indeed marriage, which is a lifelong and exclusive union, a complete and mutual gift of the husband and wife to each other for their good and for the procreation and education of children, is essential to the common good.

“However, decades of social and legal developments have torn sexuality, childbearing, and marriage from each other in the public consciousness. Much of society has lost sight of the purpose of marriage and now equates it with adults’ companionship.

“This bill fails to include clear, comprehensive, and affirmative conscience protections for religious organizations and individuals who uphold the sanctity of traditional marriage that are needed.

“We affirm our respect for the dignity of all engaged in this debate, and acknowledge differing perspectives in our civil society, but the impact of this bill will only contribute to the diminishment of the sacredness and integrity of marriage in our society.”

Archbishop Cordileone, the prior chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, had also written to Congress in opposition the Act, in a joint letter to the House of Representatives on July 19, 2022, and a separate letter to the Senate on July 22.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York and chairman of the USCCB’s Committee for Religious Liberty, wrote about the religious freedom harms of the bill in a recent article. Last week, Cardinal Dolan and Bishop Barron implored Congress to reverse course, offering a detailed analysis of how the bill tips the scales against religious freedom.

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Sunday Mass attendance in Belgium falls to 2.5% (Pillar)

Average Sunday Mass attendance fell from in Belgium fell from 241,029 in 2019 to 166,785 in 2021, according to a report released by the nation’s episcopal conference on November 30. The Sunday Mass attendance rate has fallen from 42.9% in 1967 to 2.5% in 2021.

In 2021, there were 36,834 baptisms (162 of them adult baptisms), 41,751 First Communions, and eight priestly ordinations. 5,237 Catholics requested that their names be removed from baptismal registries.

Male fertility crash accelerating worldwide: study (The Hill)

“While reasons for the decline are unclear, one major factor could be endocrine-disrupting chemicals found in thousands of everyday items,” according to the report on a study that appeared in the journal Human Reproduction Update. “These compounds — found in everything from personal care products to food packaging — have particularly dire impacts on reproductive function.”

No information on whereabouts of 2 Ukrainian Catholic priests detained by Russian forces (Fides)

Two Redemptorists priests at a Ukrainian Greek Catholic parish in Berdiansk were detained by Russian security forces on November 16. Russian forces occupied the city of 100,000 on February 27, shortly after the invasion began.

Father Ivan Levytskyy and Father Bohdan Heleta are accused of hiding weapons and explosives in their church. The Redemptorist order said that two weeks after their detention, there is no information on their whereabouts.

'Amid scandals and politics, Poland's youths lose faith in Catholic Church' (New York Times)

“Only about a quarter of young Poles now regularly go to church, less than half the level of three decades ago,” according to the report, which focuses on Bydgoszcz, a city of 350,000.

'Love gives birth to heroes,' Ukrainian Catholic leader says (Columbia)

In an interview with Columbia (the magazine of the Knights of Columbus), Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, said that his “most important pastoral duty” is “to cultivate love, because we are conscious that hatred gives birth to criminals, but love gives birth to heroes. Ukraine is revealing itself to be a nation of heroes.”

He added, “People are looking for meaning: ‘How are we supposed to live when my house is destroyed, when my dearest ones are killed?’ The response to such existential questions can only come from the eternal perspective, from God’s Word and wisdom.”

Déjà vu in Vatican as 'Vatileaks' defendant cited at trial (AP)

“The Vatican tribunal hearing a financial crimes case had something of a déjà vu [on November 29] when a high-profile defendant in a previous trial over leaked documents emerged as a key figure in advising the prime prosecution witness to cooperate with prosecutors,” the report begins.

“Prosecutor Alessandro Diddi announced he had received a series of 126 text messages over the weekend that explained how key prosecution witness Msgr. Alberto Perlasca decided to change his story and cooperate with the investigation into the Vatican’s bungled investment in a London property.”

Pope prays for peace in 'dear and martyred' Ukraine (L'Osservatore Romano (Italian))

“Brothers and sisters, we have entered the time of Advent full of hope, and with fervor we implore the Prince of Peace to bring consolation to our wounded hearts, as well as to nations tried by wars and crises of all kinds, for a dignified and serene life,” Pope Francis said during his November 30 general audience, following his remarks on a daily examination of conscience.

“May the intercession of the holy brother apostles Peter and Andrew soon grant the Church to fully enjoy her unity and peace to the whole world, especially at this moment in dear and martyred Ukraine, always in our hearts and in our prayers,” he added.

CCHD awards 'strategic national grant' to environmental advocacy network (USCCB)

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development, the US bishops’ controversial anti-poverty program, has awarded a strategic national grant to the Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC), a network of eight organizations engaging in environmental advocacy.

The typical size of such grants was $500,000 in 2016, the most recent list on the CCHD website.

CCHD “chose WORC to receive a five-year Strategic National Grant to build resilient and prosperous communities, support economic diversification, and grow green economies,” CCHD director Ralph McCloud said in a newsletter released November 28. “WORC is working to heal the scars from decades of fossil fuel extraction and industrialization, to support economic diversification, and to expand environmentally sustainable practices.”

USCCB committee chairman hopes violation of Vatican-China agreement will not be repeated (USCCB)

Without Vatican consent, the Chinese government recently transferred Bishop Peng Weizhao, by Pope Francis’s appointment the underground bishop of Yujiang, to Jiangxi, where he will serve officially as an auxiliary bishop. A statement from the Vatican press office expressed “surprise and regret” at the event.

“It is unusual for the Holy See to issue a public statement on what they note to be an event that ‘has not taken place in conformity with the spirit of dialogue that exists between the Vatican parties and the Chinese parties and what has been stipulated in the Provisional Agreement on the Appointment of Bishops,’” said Bishop David Malloy of Rockford (IL), chairman of the US bishop’s Committee on International Justice and Peace.

He added, “I share in the hope conveyed by the Holy See that such actions will not be repeated as well as the recent call of Pope Francis for a deep and on-going dialogue with Chinese authorities so as to continue to engage and seek the good of the Church and the people of China.”