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Mike Pence calls on Supreme Court to overturn Roe v Wade

Former US Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Nov. 30, 2021. / Screenshot taken from Susan B. Anthony List livestream

Washington D.C., Nov 30, 2021 / 17:06 pm (CNA).

Former vice president Mike Pence is calling on the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. 

“I came here today to speak about right and wrong, to say life is a human right, and urge the Supreme Court of the United States to choose life,” he said at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday. 

Pence delivered his remarks in anticipation of the oral arguments in the Supreme Court case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization on Dec. 1. The case involves a Mississippi law restricting most abortions after 15 weeks, and challenges two landmark decisions: Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which upheld Roe in 1992.

“As we stand here today, we may well be on the verge of an era when the Supreme Court sends Roe v. Wade to the ash heap of history where it belongs,” Pence said. 

A nonprofit organization founded by Pence, Advancing American Freedom, filed an amicus brief together with other organizations urging the court to overturn Roe and Casey.

“We are asking the court, in no uncertain terms, to make history,” Pence said at the Nov. 30 event. “We are asking the Supreme Court of the United States to overturn Roe v. Wade and restore the sanctity of life to the center of American law.”

He emphasized what he called the “truth about abortion.”

“Since the Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973, the heartbreaking consequences of the Roe decision cannot be overstated,” he said. “More than 62 million unborn children in the United States have been aborted.”

Their lives mattered, he urged.

“In the 48 years since the court’s ruling, unborn children have been relegated into a caste of second-class citizens, devoid of the most basic human rights,” he said. “Precious babies have lived outside the protection of the law, and at the mercy of a culture that devalues them and an abortion industry that profits from their suffering.”

Pence also highlighted the women wounded by abortion, including those facing regret after their abortions. He hoped that Roe v. Wade would be overturned, and declared that “Americans are ready for an end to the judicial tyranny of Roe v. Wade.”

“When the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade — and I believe with all my heart that day will come either now or in the near future — it will not come as a surprise to anyone,” he said. “It will simply be the culmination of a 50-year journey whose course and destination has been driven by the will of the American people.”

He called for prayers for the justices.

“I urge my fellow Americans to cherish life, to pray, tomorrow and every day between now and next spring for the justices on our Supreme Court to have the courage to seize this moment for life and join us as we humbly ask our new conservative majority on the Supreme Court of the United States,” he said, to “Overturn Roe v. Wade and give America a new beginning for life.”

Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of the Susan B. Anthony List, introduced Pence as a “longtime friend and pro-life leader” whose “tireless advocacy personally and at nearly every level of public service has been indispensable in getting us to this pivotal moment.”

“There’s no question that because of heroes like Mike Pence, and specifically because of Mike Pence, we are standing here today,” she said. 

“Without Trump and Pence, we would not be sitting here right now,” she told CNA of the previous administration, which appointed three Supreme Court justices. 

She also credited Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for refusing to move forward with the confirmation of Merrick Garland as a Supreme Court justice in 2016, during the Obama administration.

Like Pence, Dannenfelser expressed hope for the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

“It makes a lot of sense, given that four justices agreed to answer only one question — if any pre-viability abortion limit is constitutional,” she said of the question posed by the Dobbs case. 

The Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case asks “Whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional,” or whether states can ban abortion before a fetus can survive outside the womb. 

In Roe v. Wade, the court ruled that states could not ban abortion before viability, which the court determined to be 24 to 28 weeks into pregnancy. Nearly 20 years later, the court upheld Roe in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The 1992 ruling said that while states could regulate pre-viability abortions, they could not enforce an “undue burden,” defined by the court as “a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus.”

Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act, the subject of the Dobbs case, bans abortion weeks before the point of viability.

“To set themselves up with that question to only just go back to Roe v. Wade seems rather unlikely,” Dannenfelser told CNA. “The question in my mind is, what would it be? What would it look like?” 

“The stakes are nothing less than the lives of millions of little boys and girls waiting to be born and the welfare of their mothers,” she said during her introductory remarks.

New Loyola Marymount alumni petition targets use of preferred pronouns

Alumni of Loyola Marymount University have launched a petition drive calling for the Los Angeles-area Catholic school to stop encouraging students to use preferred pronouns tied to their gender identity. / Shutterstock

Boston, Mass., Nov 30, 2021 / 14:05 pm (CNA).

After learning that students at Loyola Marymount University allegedly were required to include their preferred pronouns on assignments and are given the option to change their name and gender identity, an alumni-led group is petitioning the Los Angeles-area Catholic school to stop its “institutional commitment to gender ideology."

The petition partly stems from an email that a professor, Christopher Miller, allegedly sent to students on Sept. 9. The content of the email was posted on Twitter Nov. 12 by Libs of Tik Tok, a popular conservative Twitter account.

Loyola Marymount's website identifies Miller as Bhagwan Mallinath Assistant Professor of Jainism and Yoga Studies. Jainism is an ancient Indian religion.

“I added a new syllabus to Brightspace and the one major change we all need to take note of is that all are required to include their gender pronouns next to their name in their blog posts,” the alleged email reads. “I will count this toward your grade when I check for your name each time I grade the blogs.” Brightspace is a software platform for online teaching.

“Our own LMU Provost links this article in his own signature after he identifies his pronouns,” Miller allegedly wrote. “For those who are not aware of why this is important please take a few minutes to read this article.”

The linked article, addressing the importance of respecting one’s personal choice of pronouns, appears on a website called MyPronouns.org. 

“Using someone’s correct personal pronouns is a way to respect them and create an inclusive environment, just as using a person’s name can be a way to respect them,” the article states.

“Just as it can be offensive or even harassing to make up a nickname for someone and call them that nickname against their will, it can be offensive or harassing to guess at someone’s pronouns and refer to them using those pronouns if that is not how that person wants to be known,” the article continues. “Or, worse, actively choosing to ignore the pronouns someone has stated that they go by could imply the oppressive notion that intersex, transgender, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming people do not or should not exist.”

The petition calls on Loyola Marymount to stop promoting gender ideology and to renew its "institutional commitment to Roman Catholicism." The group behind the effort is called RenewLMU, which describes itself as “an alliance of students, alumni, faculty, donors, and other LMU supporters who seek to strengthen LMU’s Catholic mission and identity.”

“I was a student at LMU, and I would never have wanted a professor to try to force me to do something against my Catholic faith,” Anne Rosen, a 1985 Loyola Marymount graduate who wrote the petition, told CNA.

“This professor's actions contradict the Catholic faith because they both presuppose and reinforce what Pope Francis calls ‘gender ideology,’" she added.

RenewLMU has another petition underway calling for the university to re-install a statue of St. Junípero Serra on the school's Westchester campus. The university said in a statement to CNA that it removed the statue of the Franciscan missionary for repairs in the summer of 2020 and has since formed a task force to "invite feedback from the community and to develop recommendations on future plans." Those deliberations are still underway, the statement said.

The petition regarding preferred pronouns and gender identity includes a screenshot of what purports to be an email insignia from the dean of the Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts, Robbin D. Crabtree, which includes her pronouns and a link labeled “why they matter.” 

The email signature block allegedly belonging to Robbin Crabtree, daean of Loyola Marymount University's Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts, includes a reference to preferred pronouns and a link labeled “why they matter.”. Courtesy of RenewLMU
The email signature block allegedly belonging to Robbin Crabtree, daean of Loyola Marymount University's Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts, includes a reference to preferred pronouns and a link labeled “why they matter.”. Courtesy of RenewLMU

CNA emailed Miller and the university's media office seeking comment but did not receive a response prior to publication. CNA was unable to reach Crabtree or Thomas Poon, Loyola Marymount's executive vice president and provost, for comment.

Another catalyst for Rosen’s petition is Loyola Marymount's “Chosen Name Project.” The project encourages students to choose a name, preferred gender, and pronoun identity, which all can be changed on a student’s personal information page on a school system called “PROWL,” a self-service portal for students.

A chosen name is “simply a name that a person uses in their daily life that is different than the name appearing on their legal records,” according to the university website. Transgender and “gender non-conforming” members of the college, students who use a nickname, and international students are some examples of students who “are most likely to benefit from” using a “chosen name,” according to the website.

The “Chosen Name Project” also includes a video put out by campus ministry staff that encourages students to reflect on their name. Among the questions the video poses is, “Can this name of mine represent my mission in life? Or do I need another name to give me clarity of mission to this world?”

At odds with Pope's teaching

The petition on RenewLMU.com reads: “Forcing students to declare their pronouns violates the promotion of justice because it violates the right of free speech. The right of free speech, which LMU says it protects, includes the right to remain silent, the right not to say something that you do not want to say. Compelled speech is not free speech.”

The petition says that forcing students to declare their pronouns also violates students' privacy. 

“Some students may want to remain private about their gender identity,” the petition says. “It is invasive and inappropriate for a professor to force his students to publicly declare their sexual orientation or their gender identity.”

The “service of faith” is also being violated, the petition says, because forcing students to declare their preferred pronouns signals endorsement of what Pope Francis has called "gender ideology.”

“The Pope teaches that the human body, as male or female, is part of the good gift of God’s creation. Any university whose mission statement includes the service of faith should protect students of faith from being forced to act against their faith,” the petition says.

Pope Francis has denounced gender ideology several times during his pontificate. In one instance, in an address to Polish bishops in July 2016, the pope stated that “in Europe, America, Latin America, Africa, and in some countries of Asia, there are genuine forms of ideological colonization taking place. And one of these — I will call it clearly by its name — is [the ideology of] ‘gender.’

"Today, children — children! — are taught in school that everyone can choose his or her sex. Why are they teaching this? Because the books are provided by the persons and institutions that give you money," the pope continued. "These forms of ideological colonization are also supported by influential countries. And this is terrible!”

The petition states that “we believe, as the Catholic Church believes, that all human beings deserve to be respected by everyone and protected against unjust discrimination,” and adds that “we should love all human beings, including every person with gender dysphoria.”

The petition continues: “Protecting people does not mean forcing other people to act contrary to their faith or their consciences. And loving all people does not mean speaking or acting contrary to the truth. As St. Edith Stein taught, ‘Do not accept anything as the truth if it lacks love. And do not accept anything as love which lacks truth.’”

The petition had collected 248 signatures as of Tuesday morning, Nov. 30, RenewLMU said.

Bishop Deeley presides at outdoor prayer service for unclaimed remains in South Portland

Bishop Robert Deeley leads a committal of unclaimed cremated remains at the Old Cemetery at Calvary in South Portland, Maine, Nov. 22, 2021. / Diocese of Portland

Portland, Maine, Nov 30, 2021 / 14:01 pm (CNA).

In view of the tombstones and damp terrain of the large and rolling Old Cemetery at Calvary, a small crowd stood reverently as Bishop Robert Deeley prayed over the unclaimed and cremated remains of ten people.

“May God grant them a merciful judgement, deliverance from death, and pardon of sin,” said Bishop Deeley. “May they rejoice forever in the presence of the eternal King and in the company of all the saints.”

Bishop Deeley then sprinkled holy water on the remains, which sat next to the All Souls burial plot, part of a special outdoor prayer service on Monday, November 22.

The rite of final commendation and committal of cremated remains is an act of mercy that serves as a reminder of the sacredness of the human person. In committing the body to its resting place, the community expresses the hope that, with all those who have gone before marked with the sign of faith, the deceased awaits the glory of the Resurrection. The rite of committal is an expression of the communion that exists between the Church on earth and the Church in heaven.

“We commend to Almighty God our brothers and sisters, and we commit their earthly remains to their resting place, earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” the bishop prayed during the Prayer of Committal. “The Lord bless them and keep them.”

The remains on Monday came from area funeral homes.

“The diocese offers at no charge, to all funeral homes and to anyone who is considering scattering, the dignified committal of cremated remains at Calvary,” said Jessica Letendre, director of cemeteries for the Diocese of Portland.

“There are different reasons for remains to be unclaimed, including no family or the cost,” said Kenneth Greenleaf of Maine Catholic Cemeteries. “Bishop Deeley being at this service sends a powerful message that we have a bishop who is a leader that takes care of the poor and those in need.”

Respecting and taking care of families and the faithful departed is a central mission of Maine Catholic Cemeteries, one it proudly and humbly completes each day.

“We’re serving these families today. There are ten families here that don’t have anybody,” said Greenleaf. “We’re here serving them to make sure they are not forgotten.”

Joining the bishop on Monday was Monsignor Marc Caron, Deacon Mark Tuttle, and Sister Rita-Mae Bissonnette.

Fittingly, the service was held in November, a month in which Catholics are encouraged to pray for deceased loved ones and recall that they enjoy communion with each other on earth and with those who have preceded them in death.

Those in attendance at the service on Monday remained mindful of the persons, men and women, represented by the remains as they were commended to God in the hope of eternal peace.

“Burial in a Catholic cemetery recognizes baptismal commitment and gives witness, even in death, to our belief in the Resurrection,” said Letendre. “It was an honor to have Bishop Deeley preside over our outdoor prayer service on Monday afternoon, highlighting the great importance of respecting and revering all remains.”

One of the Corporal Works of Mercy is “bury the dead,” the act of which offers the opportunity to grieve and show others support during difficult times. Through prayer and action during these times, we show our respect for life, which is always a gift from God, and comfort to those who mourn.

“In gathering to bury the dead today, we are reminded of the humanity of those who we gather to bury, the way they shared the world in which we all live, and the charity they shared with others,” the bishop said during the service. “This is an act of mercy.”

This article was first published by the Diocese of Portland, and is reprinted with permission.

Pope Francis’ prayer intention for December is for catechists

Pope Francis meets young people of the Scholas Community at Rome’s Pontifical International College Maria Mater Ecclesiae, Nov. 25, 2021. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Vatican City, Nov 30, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis instituted a new ministry of catechist in May.

Pope Francis to Orthodox leader: May God prepare us to receive gift of full unity

Pope Francis meets with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I at the Vatican, Oct. 4, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Nov 30, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

The pope sent the message on the feast of St. Andrew.

Vatican cardinal criticizes advice to avoid word ‘Christmas’ in EU commission communications guide

Cardinal Pietro Parolin speaks in a Vatican News interview published Nov. 30, 2021. / Screenshot from Vatican News - Italiano YouTube channel.

Vatican City, Nov 30, 2021 / 06:22 am (CNA).

The guidelines were withdrawn on Tuesday.

7 things to know about the Dobbs abortion case now before the Supreme Court

Pro-life and pro-abortion advocates outside of the Supreme Court during oral arguments in the case Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, March 2, 2016. / Catholic News Agency

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 30, 2021 / 02:00 am (CNA).

Part of a continuing series examining the U.S. Supreme Court case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a direct challenge to the 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion throughout the United States.

The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing a historic case on Dec. 1 that directly challenges Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. Here’s what you need to know:

1. What is the case about?

The case, known as Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, involves a 2018 Mississippi law restricting most abortions after 15 weeks. “Dobbs” stands for Thomas E. Dobbs, who serves as the state health officer of the Mississippi State Department of Health. Jackson Women’s Health Organization provides abortion in Jackson, Mississippi, and is the only abortion clinic in that state.

The case centers on the question of “Whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional,” or whether states can ban abortion before a fetus can survive outside the womb. The case challenges two landmark abortion cases that Mississippi calls “egregiously wrong”: Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

2. Why does the case challenge Roe and Casey?

In Roe v. Wade, the court ruled that states could not ban abortion before viability, which the court determined to be 24 to 28 weeks into pregnancy. Nearly 20 years later, the court upheld Roe in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The 1992 ruling said that while states could regulate pre-viability abortions, they could not enforce an “undue burden,” defined by the court as “a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus.”

Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act, the subject of the Dobbs case, bans abortion weeks before the point of viability.

“Under the Constitution, may a State prohibit elective abortions before viability? Yes,” Mississippi argues in its brief. “Why? Because nothing in constitutional text, structure, history, or tradition supports a right to abortion.”

3. What time are the arguments?

The oral arguments are scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 1, and will last for 70 minutes. 

4. Who will argue the case before the court?

Three people will speak before the justices. Scott G. Stewart, the solicitor general of Mississippi, will have 35 minutes to represent the state. For Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Julie Rikelman, litigation director of the Center for Reproductive Rights, will have 20 minutes. U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Prelogar will also have 15 minutes to argue in support of Jackson Women’s Health Organization.  

5. How can Americans hear or read the arguments? 

The Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. is temporarily closed to the public due to COVID-19, but Americans can still listen in. The high court provides an audio livestream of all oral arguments on its website. Following the event, its website also offers an audio recording and same-day transcript of the arguments. C-SPAN also livestreams the audio of Supreme Court arguments on its website and on its YouTube channel. CNA will provide updates on the arguments as they occur.

6. Who will be outside the Supreme Court during the arguments?

In support of abortion, the Women’s March will march to the Supreme Court at 2:15 p.m. The Center for Reproductive Rights and the National Abortion Access Coalition will gather outside at 7:30 a.m. NARAL Pro-Choice America will arrive at the same time.

A pro-life rally called “Empower Women Promote Life” will begin at 8 a.m. outside of the Supreme Court. Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch recently released the speaker list, which includes a slew of pro-life women of diverse backgrounds and numerous politicians.

7. What happens after the oral arguments are completed?

What happens next is that America waits. Nothing will be decided on Dec. 1. The Supreme Court generally releases decisions in high-profile cases, such as this one, in June. So there will be plenty of time between now and then to parse the questions that the various justices will pose during the oral arguments, looking for hints of how this or that justice might vote.

Whatever the court ultimately decides, the consequences for the country will be enormous.

If Roe and Casey are overturned, abortion law would be left up to each individual state. The Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive research organization once associated with Planned Parenthood, predicts that 26 states would certainly or likely ban abortion.

If the Mississippi law is struck down, and Roe and Casey are affirmed, it would be a devastating setback for the pro-life movement, which has pinned its long-term legal strategy on someday having a conservative supermajority on the Supreme Court, as is the case today.


Phil Saviano, survivor of clerical abuse featured in 'Spotlight,' dies at 69

Clerical sexual abuse survivor Phil Saviano at the premiere of "Spotlight" in 2015. / Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 29, 2021 / 14:48 pm (CNA).

Phil Saviano, a survivor of clerical sexual abuse whose story was featured in the 2015 film “Spotlight” died on Sunday, Nov. 28, at the age of 69. 

Saviano wrote in a Facebook post on Oct. 23 that doctors had informed him that they had exhausted all possible treatment options for his gallbladder cancer. He moved in with his brother, Jim Saviano, at his house in Douglas, Mass., and began hospice care. 

His death was announced in another Facebook post shortly after 3 p.m. on Sunday.

In December 1992, Saviano came across a news article in The Boston Globe saying that a priest named Father David Holley had been arrested for the sexual abuse of boys at a church in New Mexico during the 1970s. 

Saviano told People Magazine in 2015 that discovering that article was a “big life-changing moment.”  

“I was very much surprised and just stunned,” he told the magazine. “It was just sort of a one shot, fairly short story in the Globe, not even in the front section, I could’ve easily missed it. But I didn’t.”

Starting as an 11-year-old child at St. Denis Catholic Church  in Douglas, Saviano was molested for one and a half years by Holley. Speaking in a video with the Daily Mail, he said that Holley was unlike other priests, and had the ability to speak on the level of an adolescent boy. Saviano said that  Holley “took an interest in me” and initially had him do odd jobs around the rectory and parish after CCD class. 

“I remembered feeling lucky that this priest, who was so revered and respected in the community, was paying attention to me,” said Saviano to the Daily Mail. The funny stories shared by the priest quickly became sexual in nature, and which then progressed to assault. 

Motivated by the news report, Saviano came forward with the story of his abuse in 1992. At the time, having been diagnosed with AIDS, he did not think he had much longer to live. He figured that by coming forward with his story, he had nothing to lose. 

After filing a civil suit, Saviano was given access to Holley’s record. It was then he learned that there were “seven priests in four states” who were aware that the priest was a child-molesting pedophile. 

“I knew that the bishops were in on the cover up,” he said to the Daily Mail. “I settled my case without signing a confidentiality agreement, which gave me the ability to talk about this.” 

Holley died in prison in 2008, 15 years into a 275-year sentence for the sexual assault of eight boys in New Mexico. 

After settling with the diocese in 1995, Saviano attempted to contact The Boston Globe three years later with his story. He was initially rebuffed, but years later, the paper once again took an interest in his case. In January 2002, The Boston Globe published the first of its “Spotlight” team investigations into abuse by Catholic priests and subsequent cover-up. 

Cardinal Bernard Law, the then-archbishop of Boston, resigned in the wake of the scandal. 

Saviano was portrayed in the Academy Award-winning movie “Spotlight” by Neal Huff. Saviano and Huff became friends throughout the course of filming, and Saviano advised writers on the screenplay. 

Actor Neal Huff (left) and Phil Saviano attend the "Spotlight" New York premiere at Ziegfeld Theatre on October 27, 2015 in New York City. Shutterstock
Actor Neal Huff (left) and Phil Saviano attend the "Spotlight" New York premiere at Ziegfeld Theatre on October 27, 2015 in New York City. Shutterstock

In 1997, he founded the New England chapter of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP.) 

In a statement released by SNAP, the organization said it was “heartbroken” at Saviano’s death, and praised him as someone who “played an integral part in exposing sexual assaults against children by Roman Catholic priests in the Archdiocese of Boston.” 

“There are not enough words to describe this terrible loss for both our movement and the world,” said SNAP. 

“Anyone who met Phil immediately recognized his gentleness and humility. He was a kind soul who helped provide a listening ear and shoulder to cry on as the founder of the New England SNAP chapter,” said the organization. “He embraced the principles of seeking truth and justice as the means to bring about healing for survivors at a time when the scandal was still in its infancy.”

Saviano’s funeral will be held Dec. 3 at St. Denis, his childhood parish.

Catholic priests survey finds lower morale, 'conservative shift' among U.S. clergy

Priest collar / / null

Denver Newsroom, Nov 29, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

First in a series of articles examining the 2021 Survey of American Catholic Priests (SACP) findings.

A new survey released this month suggests a more “pessimistic” view of the Catholic Church among U.S. priests today as compared to 2002, as well as an increasing perception of “more theologically conservative or orthodox” young priests as compared to their older counterparts. 

A Nov. 1 report summarized findings from the 2021 Survey of American Catholic Priests (SACP), which comprised 54 questions posed to 1,036 Catholic priests in the United States. 

“If the major story of the SACP had to be summarized briefly it would be noticeable conservative shifts among U.S. priests over the last two decades coupled with a turn toward pessimism about the current state and trajectory of the Catholic Church in America,” write the report’s three researchers.  

When asked about politics, the priests surveyed were significantly more likely to describe themselves as “conservative” as compared to respondents in 2002, the researchers say. 

In addition, the percentage of priest respondents overall who view younger priests as “much more conservative” than older priests increased from 29% in 2002 to 44% in the new survey.

To track changes in answers over time, the survey reused questions from a 2002 poll of Catholic priests conducted by the Los Angeles Times, and also a few questions from a survey of priests from 1970. 

The priests were contacted in late 2020 via two unconnected email lists, one provided by the Official Catholic Directory and one provided by an unidentified “Catholic NGO.” Despite the small sample size, the authors say the results they garnered from the two email lists are “reassuringly similar,” both to each other, and to the 2002 results. 

The researchers analyzed the data they collected, classifying each priest by his self-described political persuasion. They also classified the priests into “cohorts” based on their ordination year. 

Brad Vermurlen, the survey’s co-author and a sociologist with the University of Texas at Austin, wrote in an article announcing the study that researchers observed a “relatively conservative cohort of priests ordained prior to 1960” followed by “more permissive or liberal men ordained to the priesthood in the 1960s and 70s.”

“After the permissive cohorts, there is a steady move toward more conservative views with each successive cohort. Catholic priests ordained since the year 2000 tend to be the most conservative,” Vermurlen wrote. 

Priests in the more recent survey were, on average, less in favor of female deacons, less in favor of ordaining women as priests, and less favorable toward the idea of married priests compared to the 2002 survey, the researchers write. 

Morale

While priests today are slightly less likely to leave the priesthood than they were in 2002, “life satisfaction” for priests is lower overall, the researchers write, down from 72.1% of priests in 2002 saying they were “very satisfied” with their life as a priest, to 62% saying the same in 2021.

“Over the same time that priests became more conservative in multiple ways, their perceptions of the current state of the Catholic Church in America took a pessimistic turn, now with a majority of priests saying things in the Church are ‘not so good’ — and this holds true across the political spectrum,” the researchers, two of whom work at the University of Texas at Austin, wrote. 

Orthodoxy

The researchers’ measure of “orthodoxy” was a theological question: whether the priests surveyed believe faith in Jesus Christ to be the “sole path to salvation.” 

The Catholic Church teaches in Paragraph 846 of the Catechism that “all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body,” and notes that Jesus Himself “explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism.” 

However, in the next Catechism paragraph, the Church affirms that those who “through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation.” Nevertheless, “the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men."

Priests in 2021 were, overall, slightly more likely to affirm belief that faith in Jesus Christ is the “sole path to salvation” than priests in 2002, but stark differences emerged among the different political persuasions. 

Among priests who self-identified as “very liberal,” nearly 40% “disagreed strongly” with the assertion that the sole path to salvation is through faith in Jesus Christ. On the other end of the spectrum, among “very conservative” priests, 82% said they “agreed strongly.”

Morality

To assess opinions on morality among the priests, the researchers laid out six activities that the Church teaches to be sinful, and asked whether the surveyed priests also consider them sinful. These activities were: nonmarital sex; abortion; birth control use in married couples; homosexual behavior; suicide to relieve suffering, and masturbation.

The researchers concluded that priests in 2021 were more likely than their 2002 counterparts to say each of those six activities to be sinful. 

Assessment of Pope Francis

The researchers also asked about the priests’ approval of Pope Francis. They found that priests ordained in more recent years are less likely to approve of how Pope Francis is handling his duties.

“In the latest cohort of priests, ordained in 2010 or later, only 20.0 percent ‘approve strongly’ of Pope Francis and nearly half (49.8 percent) disapprove, whether ‘somewhat’ or ‘strongly,’” the researchers found. 

Is the Church getting better or worse?

The priests were asked about their opinion of the Catholic Church’s “trajectory”— whether the Church is getting better, staying the same, or getting worse. 

The researchers noted that priests who assessed the Church as “not so good” spanned the political spectrum, and speculated that the apparent pessimism seems to be a “period effect,” meaning “there is something about the early 2020s distinctly different from 2002 generating these changes.”

The researchers speculate that one reason for the increased pessimism among priests might be “the spiritual and moral lives of the Catholic laity.” The researchers claim that just 22% of priests reported that “most” of the laity they encounter are living out the Church’s teachings on moral issues such as those relating to sexuality, a decrease from 30% in 2002.

They also cited a “challenging, ‘post-Christian’” society and the fallout from the sexual abuse crisis as likely drivers of lower morale. 

Report: Pope Francis could bring 50 migrants from Cyprus to Italy

Pope Francis greets a migrant at a welcoming hub near Cesena, Italy on Oct. 1, 2017. / L'Osservatore Romano.

Vatican City, Nov 29, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

The pope will arrive in Cyprus on Dec. 2.