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Catholic News

By Carol GlatzVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- God does not conform to people'sexpectations, and he often presents himself and his graces in surprising ways,Pope Francis said."God does not conform himself to preconceptions. Wehave to make an effort to open our hearts and minds to accept the divinereality that presentsitself to us," the pope said before praying the Angelus to thosegathered in St. Peter's Square July 8.For example, the pope said, the people of Nazareth couldnot understand how Jesus, a simple carpenter with no formal education, couldperform miracles and outdo even the scribes with his teachings. Being so familiar with Jesus' family and modest roots,the residents go from being in awe to being incredulous at what the Lord had to say, Pope Francis said."Instead of opening themselves up to reality, theyare scandalized," he said, because in their minds, God would never lowerhimself to speak through such an ordinary man. "It's the scandal of the incarnation," whichstill exists today, ...

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- God does not conform to people's expectations, and he often presents himself and his graces in surprising ways, Pope Francis said.

"God does not conform himself to preconceptions. We have to make an effort to open our hearts and minds to accept the divine reality that presents itself to us," the pope said before praying the Angelus to those gathered in St. Peter's Square July 8.

For example, the pope said, the people of Nazareth could not understand how Jesus, a simple carpenter with no formal education, could perform miracles and outdo even the scribes with his teachings.

Being so familiar with Jesus' family and modest roots, the residents go from being in awe to being incredulous at what the Lord had to say, Pope Francis said.

"Instead of opening themselves up to reality, they are scandalized," he said, because in their minds, God would never lower himself to speak through such an ordinary man.

"It's the scandal of the incarnation," which still exists today, he said, when people have preconceived notions about God, which keep them from recognizing him.

"It's about having faith; the lack of faith is an obstacle to God's grace. Many baptized live as if Christ didn't exist -- they repeat the gestures and signs of faith, but these do not correspond to a real bond to the person of Jesus and his Gospel," he said.

"The Lord invites us to adopt an approach of humble listening and waiting meekly because God's grace often presents itself to us in surprising ways that do not match our expectations," he added.

St. Teresa of Kolkata is a good example of this, he said. She was a petite, poor nun who -- with prayer and good works -- did miraculous, great things and "revolutionized the charitable work of the church."

"She is an example for our day," the pope said, asking that people open themselves up to God's grace, truth, mission and mercy, "which is meant for everyone, without anyone excluded."

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Copyright © 2018 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.

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IMAGE: CNS photo/Jim Young, ReutersBy Mark PattisonWASHINGTON(CNS) -- Ever since the Personal Responsibility and Work OpportunityReconciliation Act of 1996 -- longhand for "welfare reform" -- became law, thefederal government has imposed work requirements for adults receiving TemporaryAssistance for Needy Families money. Generally,the recipient of such money has to work at a job, be actively seeking a job ortake part in a job training program -- and be able to document it -- to receivethe cash assistance. Those who don't are at risk of having their funds cut offfor months. For repeat offenders, it could be years.InJanuary, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that encouragedfederal agencies to find ways to expand work requirements as a condition ofreceiving benefits.That encouragementhas spread to states, as some have tied work requirements to expansion offederal Medicaid benefits to those not just below the federal poverty line, butbarely scraping above it.Congressalso...

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jim Young, Reuters

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Ever since the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 -- longhand for "welfare reform" -- became law, the federal government has imposed work requirements for adults receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families money.

Generally, the recipient of such money has to work at a job, be actively seeking a job or take part in a job training program -- and be able to document it -- to receive the cash assistance. Those who don't are at risk of having their funds cut off for months. For repeat offenders, it could be years.

In January, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that encouraged federal agencies to find ways to expand work requirements as a condition of receiving benefits.

That encouragement has spread to states, as some have tied work requirements to expansion of federal Medicaid benefits to those not just below the federal poverty line, but barely scraping above it.

Congress also has picked up on the hint, as the House version of the farm bill which passed in June imposed more restrictive work requirements for those receiving federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, once known as food stamps, with some critics warning that 2 million Americans -- many of them children -- would be in danger of being cut off from aid.

Does imposing work requirements work?

Andy Schneider, a research professor at the Center for Children and Families in Georgetown University's Health Policy Institute, suggested that when it comes to Medicaid coverage, the question is not germane.

"To get to the chase here, it's not about encouraging people to work. It's not about providing work supports like transportation or child care. That's not what Medicaid does," Schneider told Catholic News Service.

To date, 32 states have expanded their Medicaid coverage to all adults under 138 percent of the federal poverty level. Virginia, which approved Medicaid expansion and imposed work requirements in May, will be the 33rd. Of those, Kentucky, Indiana, Arkansas and Wyoming have gotten approval from the federal Department of Health and Human Services to impose work requirements, according to Schneider; Alabama and Mississippi have their requests pending at HHS.

Schneider said he was part of an amicus brief in a federal suit testing whether HHS' approval of new work requirements for Kentucky, which had expanded Medicaid protection years ago, is legal. But the case was rejected June 29 by a federal judge. Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, a Republican, has threatened to rescind the expansion if it is not tied to work requirements.

"Requiring people to work is not what Medicaid as a health insurance program does. It's not the purpose. It was not designed to do it. It doesn't provide and funds for work support," he said. And trying to do so, Schneider added, is like trying to put "mashed potatoes into a Popsicle mold."

LaDonna Pavetti, vice president of family income support policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, has been tracking government assistance to families since before the 1996 welfare overhaul.

Some states do better at supporting families, she said. "No program is perfect," but California's is "pretty comprehensive," Pavetti added. The state has "a pretty robust cash employment program. More people who need it (get it). They address the diversity of needs ... for people who really need it," including community college education, she said. Minnesota doesn't have the community college component, but much else of what California offers.

At the other end of the spectrum, "in Georgia, you basically have to be able to show up for 40 hours a week before you ever get on" the benefit rolls, Pavetti said, with only 5 percent of those eligible receiving TANF benefits. "Indiana, a few years, ago made a policy change and so there it's just plummeted."

Before the imposition of work requirements, according to Pavetti, 68 percent of those eligible nationwide received benefits. "Now it's 23 (percent). ... In some states, it's four. In some states, it's just disappeared."

Why? "It's a mix of things," Pavetti replied. "The requirements are onerous and people find it difficult to meet. The programs people are required to participate them are not great."

At the start of the 1996 welfare overhaul, "if you look what happened, there was an increase in employment, but five years out, they all go away," she said. That span coincided with an expansion and contraction of the economy, but the subsequent economic boom didn't trickle down far enough to affect needy families until now, which in Pavetti's calculations is roughly equivalent to 1996.

"You didn't see much of an increase in earnings or income. They lost cash assistance, so they canceled each other out," Pavetti added.

"The people who say this is a success story use four years of data, and then we have 17 years of data after that. They still spread this story that work requirements are the best thing since sliced bread," she said. "I always wonder what we've done wrong in telling this story."

The House version of the farm bill is already making some people nervous.

"I think the fear is that folks might lose some of these benefits with that new proposal which includes that new provision that would require folks to work 20 hours a week or lose their benefits," said Jose Chapa, a legislative campaign coordinator for Justice for Farmworkers, part of Rural Migrant Ministry in New York state.

"There are people who are not maybe able to find work. That's a big fear in the community," Chapa told CNS. "If you are not able to find those 20 hours of work a week, and you do have children that depend on meals, are they going to be affected by it? It seems that with this restructuring, some families would be affected by that change."

A June 26 analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 42 percent of those non-elderly adults receiving Medicaid benefits were already working full time, and another 18 percent were working part time. Fourteen percent said illness or disability kept them from working, 12 percent said they were caregivers and 6 percent said they were going to school. Of the remaining 7 percent, retirement or the inability to find work were among the top reasons for not working.

Politifact rated as "mostly false" a Jan. 22 Heartland Institute claim that work requirements have been "proven to help impoverished families move from dependency to self-sufficiency."

"Work requirements might help in some instances, but the data also show that they leave some families worse off," it concluded. "The most inclusive, long-term research shows that requiring work in order to get government benefits reduces the use of benefits and increases employment. It does not, however, reliably produce enough income gains to lift people out of poverty or free them from reliance on other government assistance."

But what happened to those who didn't meet the work requirements and got kicked off federal assistance?

They were "living in whatever ways they could," Pavetti said. "Some of it was doubling up with relatives. Some of it was whatever odd jobs they could get. Some of it was selling plasma. Some of it was living on their food stamps. ... Some kids got put in foster care."

She added, "It doesn't take much -- losing your job or your car breaking down -- to start the spiral."

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Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison

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Copyright © 2018 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.

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IMAGE: CNS photo/Larry Downing and University of Notre Dame handout via ReutersBy Steve LarkinWASHINGTON(CNS) -- President Donald Trump has the chance to reshape the Supreme Court byfilling the vacancy created by Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement.ReplacingKennedy, who is Catholic and has been on the court since 1988, with anyone onhis list of potential nominees will probably turn the court to the right on social issues and leave itabout where it is on economic issues, according to legal experts who spoke toCatholic News Service.White House officials said July 6 that Trump was focusing on three judges of six who have appeared on many of the reported shortlists. Two of them areCatholic: Brett Kavanaugh, of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, and Amy ConeyBarrett, of the 7th Circuit. The third is Raymond Kethledge, of the 6th Circuit. The other three on the shortlist are: Amul Thapar and Joan Larsen, both of the 6th Circuit; and Thomas Hardiman, of the 3rd Circuit.Trump said he will ...

IMAGE: CNS photo/Larry Downing and University of Notre Dame handout via Reuters

By Steve Larkin

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- President Donald Trump has the chance to reshape the Supreme Court by filling the vacancy created by Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement.

Replacing Kennedy, who is Catholic and has been on the court since 1988, with anyone on his list of potential nominees will probably turn the court to the right on social issues and leave it about where it is on economic issues, according to legal experts who spoke to Catholic News Service.

White House officials said July 6 that Trump was focusing on three judges of six who have appeared on many of the reported shortlists. Two of them are Catholic: Brett Kavanaugh, of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, and Amy Coney Barrett, of the 7th Circuit. The third is Raymond Kethledge, of the 6th Circuit. The other three on the shortlist are: Amul Thapar and Joan Larsen, both of the 6th Circuit; and Thomas Hardiman, of the 3rd Circuit.

Trump said he will announce his nominee July 9.

"Kennedy was a justice who occupied the middle of the court, and he was sometimes unpredictable, but he was strongly committed to freedom of speech, federalism and gay rights," said Michael Moreland, a professor of law and religion and director of the Eleanor H. McCullen Center for Law, Religion and Public Policy at Villanova University, a Catholic university in Pennsylvania.

"His involvement in decisions related to gay rights is certainly the thing he's most famous for," he added.

Boris Heersink, an assistant professor of political science at Jesuit-run Fordham University in New York, also said that Kennedy probably sees his rulings on LGBT issues as the main part of his legacy.

Heersink said that Kennedy's main motivation for stepping down from the court was an 81-year-old man's wish to retire. He also said that since same-sex marriage seems to be settled law, and the idea of overturning Obergefell v. Hodges has not been a big part of conservative discourse recently, Kennedy probably felt that his legacy there would be secure under a Republican president.

"He's sort of in the middle, but closer to the conservative justices than the liberal justices. He might prefer a Republican pick his successor," Heersink said. Stepping down under a Republican president would probably lead to his replacement by someone closer to his views on economic issues and First Amendment jurisprudence.

"He wasn't always predictable, but Kennedy very often voted as an originalist," said Cathleen Kaveny, a professor of theology and law at Boston College. She defined originalism as a theory of constitutional interpretation which says that jurisprudence is "bound to, in some way, what the Framers thought about the Constitution."

On abortion, "Justice Kennedy was very much in the middle of the court," Moreland said.

While many social conservatives are hoping Trump's pick will be an opponent of Roe v. Wade and lead a movement on the court to overturn that decision, Moreland said that was unlikely. Instead, he said, the thinks the court "would be more open to the states regulating and restricting abortion."

Kennedy also was often in the middle of the court on end-of-life issues.

While he voted against removing feeding tubes and assisted suicide in some decisions, he also was part of a majority in Gonzalez v. Oregon, in which the court found that the Controlled Substances Act could not be enforced against doctors who, following the Oregon state law, prescribed medicine that would allow patients to end their life.

Kennedy also voted in favor of several restrictions on the use of the death penalty while on the court, which prevent its use against minors and people with intellectual disabilities.

Heersink said that replacing Kennedy with any of the people on Trump's list would probably not affect the court's decisions on economic issues.

"There might not be that much of a difference. Perhaps the decisions will be written in a bit more conservative way," he said. "In all the recent decisions, Kennedy was on the conservative side."

"Kennedy moved the court in a strongly pro-free speech direction," said Moreland.

In some of the more famous cases decided while Kennedy was on the court, such as the recent Janus v. AFSCME and Citizens United v. FEC, Kennedy's bent in favor of free speech and his economic conservativism came together -- in Janus, to decide that requiring public sector workers who are not part of a union to pay "fair share" dues violated their rights to free speech, and in Citizens United, finding that the free speech clause of the First Amendment prevents restrictions on independent expenditures by corporations, labor unions, and other associations.

Moreland believes that any of the people on Trump's list would be successfully nominated. "I don't see how the Democrats could stop the nomination," he said. "Everyone on the list has an excellent reputation."

Heersink also mentioned that anyone Trump might nominate would know what they have to say in a Senate hearing in order to be confirmed.

"If you want to have a chance at the Supreme Court you have to say, 'I don't have pre-existing ideas about what I'd do in a hypothetical case,'" he said.

He also mentioned that Trump's nominee would probably not have a record of extensive writings or decisions about abortion, since such a record might make it difficult for them to make their way through the nomination process.

"If you think you might have a shot at the Supreme Court in the future and want to preserve it, you have to behave in a certain way as soon as you get out of law school. Maybe even while you're still in law school," Kaveny said.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, has said that she will oppose any nominee who shows "hostility" to Roe.

"Roe v. Wade is a constitutional right that is well established, and no less an authority than Chief Justice (John) Roberts said that repeatedly at his confirmation hearing," she said in an interview with CNN.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, is the other Republican in the Senate who supports keeping abortion legal, and her vote also could end up being necessary for the nominee's success.

Moreland said that political pressure on Democrats in red states could lead them to vote for Trump's nominee.

Three Senate Democrats up for re-election in 2018 in states that cast their electoral votes for Trump -- Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia -- voted to confirm Justice Neil Gorsuch in 2017, and they might vote for Trump's nominee for similar reasons.

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Copyright © 2018 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.

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IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media via ReutersBy Junno Arocho EstevesVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Hearts that are closed to welcomingmigrants and refugees are similar to those of the Pharisees, who often would preachsacrifice and following God's law without exercising mercy to those in need,Pope Francis said. Jesus' rebuke of the Pharisees' "insidiousmurmuring" is "a finger pointed at the sterile hypocrisy of those whodo not want to 'dirty their hands,' like the priest or the Levite in theparable of the good Samaritan," the pope said in his homily July 6 duringa Mass commemorating the fifth anniversary of his visit to the southernMediterranean island of Lampedusa."This is a temptation powerfully present in our ownday. It takes the form of closing our hearts to those who have the right --just as we do -- to security and dignified living conditions. It builds walls,real or virtual, rather than bridges," he said. According to the Vatican, an estimated 200 migrants,refugees and rescue volunteers ...

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media via Reuters

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Hearts that are closed to welcoming migrants and refugees are similar to those of the Pharisees, who often would preach sacrifice and following God's law without exercising mercy to those in need, Pope Francis said.

Jesus' rebuke of the Pharisees' "insidious murmuring" is "a finger pointed at the sterile hypocrisy of those who do not want to 'dirty their hands,' like the priest or the Levite in the parable of the good Samaritan," the pope said in his homily July 6 during a Mass commemorating the fifth anniversary of his visit to the southern Mediterranean island of Lampedusa.

"This is a temptation powerfully present in our own day. It takes the form of closing our hearts to those who have the right -- just as we do -- to security and dignified living conditions. It builds walls, real or virtual, rather than bridges," he said.

According to the Vatican, an estimated 200 migrants, refugees and rescue volunteers attended the Mass, which was celebrated at the altar of St. Peter's Basilica. Pope Francis greeted each person present after the Mass ended.

In his homily, the pope recalled his visit to Lampedusa and repeated "that timeless appeal to human responsibility, 'Where is your brother? His blood cries out to me.'"

Sadly, he said, "the response to this appeal, even if at times generous, has not been enough, and we continue to grieve thousands of deaths."

The pope said that Jesus' invitation to those "who labor" to find rest in him is a promise of freedom for all who are oppressed. However, "he needs us to fulfill his promise."

"He needs our eyes to see the needs of our brothers and sisters. He needs our hands to offer them help. He needs our voice to protest the injustices committed thanks to the silence, often complicit, of so many," he said.

Solidarity and mercy, the pope continued, are the only components of a reasonable response to the migration crisis that is "less concerned with calculations than with the need for an equitable distribution of responsibilities, an honest and sincere assessment of the alternatives and a prudent management."

Speaking in Spanish to representatives of rescue teams stationed in the Mediterranean Sea, Pope Francis thanked them "for embodying in our day the parable of the good Samaritan, who stopped to save the life of the poor man beaten by bandits."

He also encouraged those who have been rescued to be "witnesses of hope in a world increasingly concerned about the present, with little vision for the future and averse to sharing."

"With respect for the culture and laws of the country that receives you, may you work out together the path of integration," Pope Francis said.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

 

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IMAGE: CNS photo/via Reuters TVBy Peter Ajayi DadaLAGOS, Nigeria (CNS) -- Nigeria'sCatholic bishops criticized the president's lack of action against ethnicFulani herdsmen who attack farmers and linked his inaction to his religion."It can no longer beregarded as mere coincidence that the suspected perpetrators of these heinouscrimes are of the same religion as all those who control the security apparatusof our country, including the president himself," the bishops said."If the president cannotkeep our country safe, then he automatically loses the trust of the citizens,"the bishops' conference said in a July 2 statement signed in the capital,Abuja, by its president, Archbishop Augustine Obiora Akubeze of Benin City, andgeneral secretary, Bishop Camillus Umoh of Ikot Ekpene. President Muhammadu Buhari "shouldno longer continue to preside over the killing fields and mass graveyard thatour country has become," they said.Buhari, a Muslim and a formermilitary ruler, won office in a democr...

IMAGE: CNS photo/via Reuters TV

By Peter Ajayi Dada

LAGOS, Nigeria (CNS) -- Nigeria's Catholic bishops criticized the president's lack of action against ethnic Fulani herdsmen who attack farmers and linked his inaction to his religion.

"It can no longer be regarded as mere coincidence that the suspected perpetrators of these heinous crimes are of the same religion as all those who control the security apparatus of our country, including the president himself," the bishops said.

"If the president cannot keep our country safe, then he automatically loses the trust of the citizens," the bishops' conference said in a July 2 statement signed in the capital, Abuja, by its president, Archbishop Augustine Obiora Akubeze of Benin City, and general secretary, Bishop Camillus Umoh of Ikot Ekpene.

President Muhammadu Buhari "should no longer continue to preside over the killing fields and mass graveyard that our country has become," they said.

Buhari, a Muslim and a former military ruler, won office in a democratic transfer of power in 2015 and plans to seek a second term in elections scheduled for February.

Communal violence is widely attributed to a decades-old cycle of conflict between predominantly Christian farmers and Muslim semi-nomadic herders, partly due to competition for arable land.

More than 200 people were killed in late June in violence in central Nigeria's Plateau state. There has been a spike in communal violence in Africa's most populous country, with hundreds of people being killed since the start of the year.

In the wake of more deaths in an upsurge in communal violence in Nigeria, the country's bishops said the government has lost the people's trust.

"Words are no longer enough for the president and his service chiefs to convince the rest of the citizens that these killings are not part of a larger religious project," the bishops said.

The country "is likely to witness another mass burial of innocent Nigerians as a result of the serial murderous activities of a group who clearly seems to be above the law of the country and who, by their actions and words, have insisted that human lives are worth less than the lives of cattle," they said.

Nineteen people, including two priests, were buried in May in Ayati. Father Joseph Gor, Father Felix Tyolaha and 17 parishioners were killed during the celebration of Mass at St. Ignatius Catholic Church, Ayar Mbalom, in Benue state.

"This shameful inversion of values portrays our country as barbaric and our society as brutish," the bishops said.

They called on the police to make swift arrests of perpetrators of the Plateau state attacks, noting that law enforcement happens fast when herders are killed.

In a letter to Buhari, Cardinal Anthony Olubunmi Okogie, retired archbishop of Lagos, said that every life is precious, irrespective of ethnic, regional or religious affiliation, and that citizens look to government to protect them.

"But, here in Nigeria, the blood of the innocent flows like water, despite Nigerians' desire and demand that government secure their lives and property," he said.

"Where were you, Mr. President, while innocent lives were being wasted in Plateau state? Where were your service chiefs when babies were being ripped out of their mothers' wombs by men who claimed to do so because of their cows?" he asked.

"I am not afraid to risk my life for the sake of this country, for the sake of future generations. I have no party affiliation," the cardinal said.

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IMAGE: CNS photo/Joel BreidenbachBy Junno Arocho EstevesVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican has released a documentthat establishes norms and principles for women who dedicate their lives asconsecrated virgins and their place in the life of the church.Presenting the new document at the Vatican press office July4, Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes ofConsecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, said it is the "firstdocument of the Holy See that delves into the character and discipline of thisway of life.""The instruction on the 'Ordo virginum' ('Order ofVirgins') intends to respond to the requests that numerous bishops andconsecrated virgins in these years have presented to the congregation forconsecrated life regarding the vocation and witness of the order of virgins,its presence in the universal church and, particularly, its formation andvocational discernment," Cardinal Braz de Aviz said. Consecrated by her local bishop, a member of the orde...

IMAGE: CNS photo/Joel Breidenbach

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican has released a document that establishes norms and principles for women who dedicate their lives as consecrated virgins and their place in the life of the church.

Presenting the new document at the Vatican press office July 4, Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, said it is the "first document of the Holy See that delves into the character and discipline of this way of life."

"The instruction on the 'Ordo virginum' ('Order of Virgins') intends to respond to the requests that numerous bishops and consecrated virgins in these years have presented to the congregation for consecrated life regarding the vocation and witness of the order of virgins, its presence in the universal church and, particularly, its formation and vocational discernment," Cardinal Braz de Aviz said.

Consecrated by her local bishop, a member of the order of virgins makes a promise of perpetual virginity, prayer and service to the church while living independently in society.

The publishing of the document, "Ecclesiae Sponsae Imago" ("The Image of the Church as Bride") comes two years ahead of the 50th anniversary of the promulgation of the renewed "Ritual for the Consecration of Virgins,'' an ancient rite in the church that fell into disuse in the years before the Second Vatican Council.

Divided into three parts, the document's first section highlights the biblical origins and characteristics of the order of virgins, in which women "with spousal love are dedicated to the Lord Jesus in virginity."

"Since this form of consecrated life was reintroduced in the church, there has been a real revival of the 'Ordo virginum,' whose vitality is evident in the rich variety of personal charisms placed at the service of the church's development and of the renewal of society in the spirit of the Gospel," the document stated.

Archbishop Jose Rodriguez Carballo, secretary of the congregation, told journalists that through prayer penance and works of mercy, women in the order of virgins "take the Gospel as the fundamental rule of life."

"The unique element of the 'Ordo virginum,' which distinguishes itself from the Institutes of Consecrated Life, is that the charism of virginity is harmonized with the charism of each consecrated woman, making room for a great variety of responses to vocations, in a creative freedom that demands a sense of responsibility and the exercise of a serious spiritual discernment," Archbishop Rodriguez said.

The document's second section, he added, deals with the pastoral duties of bishops in fostering and nurturing the vocation of consecrated virgins as well as their role within the diocese.

While rooted in their diocese, consecrated virgins are not confined to it and instead "are opened to the horizons of the universal mission of the church" in other dioceses, bishops' conferences and the universal church," Archbishop Carballo said.

Finally, the third section of "Ecclesia Sponsae Imago" details the discernment and formation of women who choose the life of consecrated virgins.

Bishops, the archbishop said, must ensure that their dioceses have the available resources to help women discern their calling that "deepens the understanding of the ecclesial value of this consecration."

"Reproposing this way of life in the church may seem as an anachronism, but it is an act of trust in the action of the spirit, who is leading many women to accept and interpret this vocation in the light of the path fulfilled by the church over the centuries and according to the needs of the current historical context. It is a true path of sanctification that is fascinating and demanding," Archbishop Carballo said.

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IMAGE: CNS photo/Larry Downing and University of Notre Dame handout via ReutersBy Steve LarkinWASHINGTON(CNS) -- President Donald Trump has the chance to reshape the Supreme Court byfilling the vacancy created by Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement.ReplacingKennedy, who is Catholic and has been on the court since 1988, with anyone onhis list of potential nominees will probably turn the court to the right on social issues and leave itabout where it is on economic issues, according to legal experts who spoke toCatholic News Service.Sixjudges' names that have appeared on many of the reported shortlists include twoCatholics: Brett Kavanaugh, of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and Amy ConeyBarrett, of the 7th Circuit; and Amul Thapar, Joan Larsen and Raymond Kethledge,all of the 6th Circuit; and Thomas Hardiman, of the 3rd Circuit.Trump said he will announce his nominee July9."Kennedy was a justice who occupied themiddle of the court, and he was sometimes unpredictable, but he was str...

IMAGE: CNS photo/Larry Downing and University of Notre Dame handout via Reuters

By Steve Larkin

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- President Donald Trump has the chance to reshape the Supreme Court by filling the vacancy created by Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement.

Replacing Kennedy, who is Catholic and has been on the court since 1988, with anyone on his list of potential nominees will probably turn the court to the right on social issues and leave it about where it is on economic issues, according to legal experts who spoke to Catholic News Service.

Six judges' names that have appeared on many of the reported shortlists include two Catholics: Brett Kavanaugh, of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and Amy Coney Barrett, of the 7th Circuit; and Amul Thapar, Joan Larsen and Raymond Kethledge, all of the 6th Circuit; and Thomas Hardiman, of the 3rd Circuit.

Trump said he will announce his nominee July 9.

"Kennedy was a justice who occupied the middle of the court, and he was sometimes unpredictable, but he was strongly committed to freedom of speech, federalism and gay rights," said Michael Moreland, a professor of law and religion and director of the Eleanor H. McCullen Center for Law, Religion and Public Policy at Villanova University, a Catholic university in Pennsylvania.

"His involvement in decisions related to gay rights is certainly the thing he's most famous for," he added.

Boris Heersink, an assistant professor of political science at Jesuit-run Fordham University in New York, also said that Kennedy probably sees his rulings on LGBT issues as the main part of his legacy.

Heersink said that Kennedy's main motivation for stepping down from the court was an 81-year-old man's wish to retire. He also said that since same-sex marriage seems to be settled law, and the idea of overturning Obergefell v. Hodges has not been a big part of conservative discourse recently, Kennedy probably felt that his legacy there would be secure under a Republican president.

"He's sort of in the middle, but closer to the conservative justices than the liberal justices. He might prefer a Republican pick his successor," Heersink said. Stepping down under a Republican president would probably lead to his replacement by someone closer to his views on economic issues and First Amendment jurisprudence.

"He wasn't always predictable, but Kennedy very often voted as an originalist," said Cathleen Kaveny, a professor of theology and law at Boston College. She defined originalism as a theory of constitutional interpretation which says that jurisprudence is "bound to, in some way, what the Framers thought about the Constitution."

On abortion, "Justice Kennedy was very much in the middle of the court," Moreland said.

While many social conservatives are hoping Trump's pick will be an opponent of Roe v. Wade and lead a movement on the court to overturn that decision, Moreland said that was unlikely. Instead, he said, the thinks the court "would be more open to the states regulating and restricting abortion."

Kennedy also was often in the middle of the court on end-of-life issues.

While he voted against removing feeding tubes and assisted suicide in some decisions, he also was part of a majority in Gonzalez v. Oregon, in which the court found that the Controlled Substances Act could not be enforced against doctors who, following the Oregon state law, prescribed medicine that would allow patients to end their life.

Kennedy also voted in favor of several restrictions on the use of the death penalty while on the court, which prevent its use against minors and people with intellectual disabilities.

Heersink said that replacing Kennedy with any of the people on Trump's list would probably not affect the court's decisions on economic issues.

"There might not be that much of a difference. Perhaps the decisions will be written in a bit more conservative way," he said. "In all the recent decisions, Kennedy was on the conservative side."

"Kennedy moved the court in a strongly pro-free speech direction," said Moreland.

In some of the more famous cases decided while Kennedy was on the court, such as the recent Janus v. AFSCME and Citizens United v. FEC, Kennedy's bent in favor of free speech and his economic conservativism came together -- in Janus, to decide that requiring public sector workers who are not part of a union to pay "fair share" dues violated their rights to free speech, and in Citizens United, finding that the free speech clause of the First Amendment prevents restrictions on independent expenditures by corporations, labor unions, and other associations.

Moreland believes that any of the people on Trump's list would be successfully nominated. "I don't see how the Democrats could stop the nomination," he said. "Everyone on the list has an excellent reputation."

Heersink also mentioned that anyone Trump might nominate would know what they have to say in a Senate hearing in order to be confirmed.

"If you want to have a chance at the Supreme Court you have to say, 'I don't have pre-existing ideas about what I'd do in a hypothetical case,'" he said.

He also mentioned that Trump's nominee would probably not have a record of extensive writings or decisions about abortion, since such a record might make it difficult for them to make their way through the nomination process.

"If you think you might have a shot at the Supreme Court in the future and want to preserve it, you have to behave in a certain way as soon as you get out of law school. Maybe even while you're still in law school," Kaveny said.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, has said that she will oppose any nominee who shows "hostility" to Roe.

"Roe v. Wade is a constitutional right that is well established, and no less an authority than Chief Justice (John) Roberts said that repeatedly at his confirmation hearing," she said in an interview with CNN.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, is the other Republican in the Senate who supports keeping abortion legal, and her vote also could end up being necessary for the nominee's success.

Moreland said that political pressure on Democrats in red states could lead them to vote for Trump's nominee.

Three Senate Democrats up for re-election in 2018 in states that cast their electoral votes for Trump -- Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia -- voted to confirm Justice Neil Gorsuch in 2017, and they might vote for Trump's nominee for similar reasons.

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Copyright © 2018 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.

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IMAGE: CNS photo/Leah Millis, ReutersBy Steve LarkinWASHINGTON (CNS) -- During his30 years on the Supreme Court, Justice Anthony Kennedy was usually in themiddle of the court on life issues.While he voted with the majorityin Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which reaffirmed the central holding of Roe v.Wade, he was in the minority in Hill v. Colorado, which limited the ability ofpro-life activists to distribute pamphlets and engage in sidewalk counseling outsideabortion clinics. He also was in the minority in a decision striking down astate ban on partial-birth abortion.Although many in theconservative movement have been hoping that, after Republican presidentsappoint enough justices, Roe v. Wade will be overturned, it seems unlikely thatPresident Donald Trump's pick to replace Kennedy will lead directly to anoverturn."What will probably happen isthat the Supreme Court would be more open to the states regulating andrestricting abortion. An outright reversal of Roe is less likely," said ...

IMAGE: CNS photo/Leah Millis, Reuters

By Steve Larkin

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- During his 30 years on the Supreme Court, Justice Anthony Kennedy was usually in the middle of the court on life issues.

While he voted with the majority in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which reaffirmed the central holding of Roe v. Wade, he was in the minority in Hill v. Colorado, which limited the ability of pro-life activists to distribute pamphlets and engage in sidewalk counseling outside abortion clinics. He also was in the minority in a decision striking down a state ban on partial-birth abortion.

Although many in the conservative movement have been hoping that, after Republican presidents appoint enough justices, Roe v. Wade will be overturned, it seems unlikely that President Donald Trump's pick to replace Kennedy will lead directly to an overturn.

"What will probably happen is that the Supreme Court would be more open to the states regulating and restricting abortion. An outright reversal of Roe is less likely," said Michael Moreland, a professor of law and religion and director of the Eleanor H. McCullen Center for Law, Religion and Public Policy at Villanova University.

"In a limited number of cases they'll make a sweeping decision -- Roe, Obergefell -- but the courts tend to take these things in multiple steps. They might not go all the way," he said.

Moreland added that the court overturning Roe and finding a right to life in the due process clause of the 14th Amendment is extremely unlikely. That clause says that no one shall be "deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law."

"Even (former Justice Antonin) Scalia thought the Constitution left the abortion issue to the states," he told Catholic News Service.

A Pew Research poll conducted in January found that 69 percent of Americans did not want to see Roe v. Wade overturned.

"One way in which Kennedy was an originalist was he didn't consider assisted suicide to be a constitutional right," said Cathleen Kaveny, a professor of theology and law at Boston College.

Kennedy was on the Supreme Court when it heard its first right-to-die case in 1990. He was part of a 5-4 majority that upheld the lower court's decision that the parents of someone in a vegetative state could not direct the hospital to remove the feeding tube without adequate proof that their daughter would make the same decision.

He also was on the court for a unanimous ruling in Washington v. Glucksberg in 1997 that assisted suicide is not protected by the due process clause.

In 2006, he was part of a majority in Gonzalez v. Oregon, in which the court found that the Controlled Substances Act could not be enforced against doctors who, following the Oregon state law, prescribed medicine that would allow patients to end their life.

Kennedy also voted in favor of several restrictions on the use of the death penalty while on the court.

In Atkins v. Virginia, he was part of a majority that ruled the use of the death penalty unconstitutional if the offender has an intellectual disability; in Roper v. Simmons he wrote the majority opinion, which states that executing minors constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, and in Kennedy v. Louisiana he wrote for the court that imposing the death penalty for child rape where the child did not die also constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

"Maybe those limits on the death penalty will go and maybe they won't," Kaveny said.

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Copyright © 2018 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.

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IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Kennedy King Memorial InitiativeBy Mark PattisonNEW YORK (CNS) -- By all accounts,Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, shot down June 5, 1968, as he ran for the Democraticpresidential nomination, was the most devout Catholic among his siblings.Aformer altar boy who sometimes spoke of joining the priesthood, Kennedy'sfaith, drawn inward after the 1963 assassination of his older brother thepresident -- and somehow not diminished by a growing belief in existentialism-- informed his political views and his compassion for the poor.Allgood elements for a TV or film biography, right? So far, apparently not.Inthe 44 years since the somber TV docudrama "The Missiles of October" created asensation with actors, and not impressionists, using the famous family'sidiosyncratic accent to bring the Kennedys to dramatic life, it's been mostlycampaign rallies and White House corridors for Robert, the former attorneygeneral and U.S. senator from New York.Here'sa moment in the blink-and-yo...

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Kennedy King Memorial Initiative

By Mark Pattison

NEW YORK (CNS) -- By all accounts, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, shot down June 5, 1968, as he ran for the Democratic presidential nomination, was the most devout Catholic among his siblings.

A former altar boy who sometimes spoke of joining the priesthood, Kennedy's faith, drawn inward after the 1963 assassination of his older brother the president -- and somehow not diminished by a growing belief in existentialism -- informed his political views and his compassion for the poor.

All good elements for a TV or film biography, right? So far, apparently not.

In the 44 years since the somber TV docudrama "The Missiles of October" created a sensation with actors, and not impressionists, using the famous family's idiosyncratic accent to bring the Kennedys to dramatic life, it's been mostly campaign rallies and White House corridors for Robert, the former attorney general and U.S. senator from New York.

Here's a moment in the blink-and-you'll-miss-it category: In the 1985 TV miniseries "Robert Kennedy and His Times," based on Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.'s 1978 biography, Kennedy's mother, Rose (Beatrice Straight), on a windswept beach at Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, tells Robert (Brad Davis) after the assassination of President Kennedy, "It's up to you now to lead us forward."

She's clutching a rosary. That's it for Catholicism.

The new Netflix documentary series, "Bobby Kennedy for President," has a brief clip of the senator at an outdoor Mass for striking immigrant farm workers in California -- and nothing else.

Kennedy, who was just 42 when he was assassinated in Los Angeles, came of age long before Washington politicians proclaimed their adherence to any particular faith. And Protestant opposition in 1960 to John F. Kennedy as the first Catholic president was a very large and well-organized force.

So the younger Kennedy likely would have considered it unseemly to announce in speeches, as House Speaker Paul Ryan has done from time to time, that any of his political philosophy was rooted in Catholic social doctrine.

As for TV and film dramatizations, they are necessarily stuffed with political pageantry and a cast of oversize characters that includes Sen. Joseph McCarthy, President Lyndon Johnson, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. Rich opportunities for colorful speeches and hammy character actors don't leave room for quiet moments of reflection and Catholic discussion.

But the next go-round of biopics (and with Kennedy family lore, there's invariably a next go-round) may finally give fuller dimensions to Robert Kennedy's life. Recent biographies have dived into his faith, and as they're adapted into dramas, the Catholic elements should be folded into those as well.

One problematic element in the writing of these profiles is the divide that has grown ever deeper, in the years since Kennedy's death, between social (as opposed to economic) liberalism and Catholic teaching. Since Kennedy was and is a towering figure for the left, authors celebrating him seem uncomfortable portraying Kennedy as straightforwardly pious.

Here are samplings from a couple of new biographies:

-- Larry Tye, "Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon" (Random House, 2016).

Tye writes that, following JFK's assassination, "religion helped, too, but on his terms, not the church's. He kept a missal beside him in the car and thumbed through to prayers he found consoling. Instead of attending Mass mainly on Sundays and days of obligation, as had been his adult routine, he was in the pew nearly every day. His faith helped him internalize the assassination in a way that, over time, freed his spirit."

Tye's best religious anecdote, related by former Kennedy aide John Seigenthaler, centered on a 1964 discussion Bobby and wife Ethel had with Holy Cross Father John Cavanaugh, a former president of the University of Notre Dame, about whether President Kennedy was in heaven or purgatory, since he wasn't able to confess his sins before he died.

Ethel wanted an assurance that John was in heaven, but Cavanaugh, Tye writes, "equivocated." Finally, Bobby spoke up: "I don't think that's how God gets his kicks."

-- Chris Matthews, "Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit" (Simon & Schuster, 2017).

The colorful MSNBC host, also the product of a bumptious Catholic upbringing, concludes that Bobby was not only the most religious of the Kennedy children, but also the "least assimilated."

Growing up, Bobby "couldn't help but reveal himself if circumstances evoked it," Matthews writes. He once fired off an angry letter to Boston's archbishop, Cardinal Richard Cushing, complaining about a priest, believed to be anti-Semitic, who had interpreted too strictly the doctrine that outside the church there is no salvation.

Matthews includes the wry comment made by Jacqueline Kennedy during the 1960 campaign, and reprinted many times since then: "I think it's so unfair of people to be against Jack because he's a Catholic. He's such a poor Catholic. Now, if it were Bobby, I could understand it."

Bobby also left St. Paul's, a Protestant New Hampshire boarding school, after just two months because both he and his mother disliked its exclusive use of the King James Bible.

As for Catholic social teachings, Matthews writes that Bobby, long before he began his presidential campaign, "drew upon an old reservoir ... illuminated by Dorothy Day and Michael Harrington."

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Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

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By WASHINGTON(CNS) -- The 15th annual report on the implementation of the U.S. bishops'"Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People" shows adecrease in allegations of clergy sex abuse from the two previous years butalso indicates the need for continued vigilance since charges were raised bymore than 650 adults and 24 minors.Theoverall decrease in allegations coupled with the fact that charges of abuse arestill being made is something Francesco Cesareo, chairman of the NationalReview Board, which oversees the audits, finds troubling.Inintroductory remarks to the report released June 1, he said: "Whileprogress continues to be made, there are worrisome signs for the futurerevealed in this year's audit that cannot be ignored."Hesaid he was most concerned by signs of general complacency such as a shortageof resources available to fully implement programs, failure by some dioceses tocomplete background checks in a timely manner and, in some cases, poor recordkeeping.Cesareowro...

By

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The 15th annual report on the implementation of the U.S. bishops' "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People" shows a decrease in allegations of clergy sex abuse from the two previous years but also indicates the need for continued vigilance since charges were raised by more than 650 adults and 24 minors.

The overall decrease in allegations coupled with the fact that charges of abuse are still being made is something Francesco Cesareo, chairman of the National Review Board, which oversees the audits, finds troubling.

In introductory remarks to the report released June 1, he said: "While progress continues to be made, there are worrisome signs for the future revealed in this year's audit that cannot be ignored."

He said he was most concerned by signs of general complacency such as a shortage of resources available to fully implement programs, failure by some dioceses to complete background checks in a timely manner and, in some cases, poor record keeping.

Cesareo wrote that this "apparent complacency" could indicate that some in the church think "sexual abuse of minors by the clergy is now an historic event of the past."

This view would be untrue, as the current report indicates, he said, adding: "Any allegation involving a current minor should remind the bishops that they must re-dedicate themselves each day to maintaining a level of vigilance that will not permit complacency to set in or result in a less precise and thorough implementation of the charter."

The newly released report -- based on audits conducted between July 1, 2016, and June 30, 2017 - shows that 654 adults came forward with 695 allegations. Compared to 2015 and 2016, the number of allegations decreased significantly due to fewer bankruptcy proceedings and statute of limitations changes. The report also notes that 1,702 victim/survivors received ongoing support and that all dioceses and eparchies that received an allegation of sexual abuse during the 2017 audit year reported them to the appropriate civil authorities.

According to the charter, 24 new allegations were raised by came from minors. As of June 30, 2017, six were substantiated and the clergy were removed from ministry. These allegations came from three different dioceses and four of the six allegations were against the same priest. Eight allegations were unsubstantiated as of June 30, 2017. Three were categorized as "unable to be proven" and five investigations were still ongoing at the time of the audit.

The report acknowledges the church's ongoing efforts to ensure the safety of children and vulnerable adults pointing out that in 2017, more than 2.5 million background checks were conducted on church clergy, employees and volunteers and more than 2.5 million adults and 4.1 million children have been trained on how to identify the warning signs of abuse and how to report those signs.

Regarding compliance with the charter, two eparchies and one diocese did not participate in the audit this year and all 191 participating dioceses were found in compliance. Of the 63 dioceses/eparchies participating in the on-site audits, three eparchies were found noncompliant.

The report's introductory remarks stress the importance of the honesty of victims and survivors who have come forward.

"It is because of these brave individuals that victim assistance and child protection are now central components of the church," wrote Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in the report's preface.

The cardinal stressed that implementing the charter is "not something that can be done by only one person. It takes the effort of multiple people in every diocese and in every parish to ensure that victims/survivors have opportunities for healing, and that the church is a safe place for children and vulnerable adults. "

It is also something that will remain a key part of the church in years ahead, as he said: "We must continually rededicate ourselves to keeping our promise to protect and pledge to heal."

The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, based at Georgetown University in Washington, gathers data for the report, and StoneBridge Business Partners, based in Rochester, New York, conducts the annual audits.

The annual report has two parts. The first is the compliance report of StoneBridge, which carried out on-site audits of dioceses and eparchies and reviewed diocesan documentation. Under canon law, dioceses and eparchies cannot be required to participate in the audit, but it is strongly recommended that they do.

The second part of the report is the "2017 Survey of Allegations and Costs," conducted by CARA.

According to the 2017 report, dioceses, eparchies and religious institutes reported $263,809,273 in total costs related to child protection efforts as well as costs related to allegations that from July 1, 2016, to June 30, 2017, which represents a 50 percent increase from the amount reported the previous year.

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Editor's Note: The link https://bit.ly/2JpeCYo goes to the full report.

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Copyright © 2018 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.

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