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Arizona governor vetoes bill requiring insurance companies to cover trans ‘detransitions’

Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs sits in the audience prior to President Joe Biden's remarks at the Tempe Center for the Arts on Sept 28, 2023, in Tempe, Arizona. / Credit: Rebecca Noble/Getty Images

CNA Staff, Jun 19, 2024 / 15:45 pm (CNA).

Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs this week vetoed a bill that would have required insurance companies to cover “detransitioning” procedures for transgender-identifying individuals who had undergone sex-change surgeries.

The Democratic governor vetoed state Senate Bill 1511 after it passed both houses of the state Legislature. The measure would have stipulated that health insurance plans that offer “coverage for gender transition procedures” may not “deny coverage for gender detransition procedures.”

It would have also required that physicians who perform gender transition procedures “must agree to provide or pay for the performance of gender detransition procedures.”

“Detransitioners,” or transgender-identified individuals who have ceased trying to make their bodies resemble those of the opposite sex, have been getting increased attention in the media in recent years. 

Oftentimes such people have been on cross-sex hormones for years, resulting in significant or irreversible changes to their bodies; in other cases, they have undergone irreversible surgeries. Extensive medical work can be required to attempt to return their bodies to normal function. 

In a “veto letter” provided to CNA by the governor’s office on Wednesday, Hobbs said the measure was “unnecessary and would create a privacy risk for patients.”

On its website, the Arizona State Senate Republican Caucus said Hobbs in her veto of the bill was “aiding doctors and insurance companies taking advantage of a vulnerable population.”

State Sen. Janae Shamp, who sponsored the bill, argued on Tuesday that doctors “must be prepared to undo the damage” of gender transition procedures “as much as possible.”

Insurance companies should also pay for such reparative procedures, she said.

“Shame on Gov. Hobbs for sending a message that the institutions tasked with protecting their health and well-being have turned their backs on them,” Shamp said on the state senate GOP’s website.

Advocates say detransitioners demonstrate why doctors and health officials should proceed cautiously with transgender procedures, especially given that many of those procedures cannot be easily reversed, if at all. 

Some formerly transgender-identified individuals, such as young adult Chloe Cole, have spoken out strongly against what they say is a too-permissive medical culture that rushes into “gender-affirming” models of care.

In the Netherlands earlier this year, a study found that nearly two-thirds of children who had wished that they belonged to the opposite sex as adolescents ultimately became comfortable with their biological sex in early adulthood.

In an interview with the New York Times last month, meanwhile, English pediatrician Hilary Cass warned there is no comprehensive evidence to support the routine prescription of transgender drugs to minors with gender dysphoria. 

The doctor earlier this year published the independent “Cass Review,” commissioned by the National Health Service in England, which prompted England and Scotland to halt the prescription of transgender drugs to minors until more research is conducted.

Shamp, the Arizona senator, this week pointed to Chloe Cole as an example of the perils of transgender medicine.

Cole was “given puberty blockers and underwent a double mastectomy” at a young age and now struggles with “the severe damage left behind,” the senator said.

“It’s unfathomable that we consider mutilating an undeveloped child’s body as ‘health care,’” Shamp said, “but what’s even more horrifying is the fact that we deny them access to care when they go on to suffer the mental and physical consequences.”

Pope Francis tells Communion and Liberation leader: ‘Do not look at your navel’

Pope Francis greets members of the international Catholic movement Communion and Liberation in St. Peter's Square Oct. 15, 2022. / Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

CNA Staff, Jun 19, 2024 / 14:57 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis in an audience last week with the president of Communion and Liberation (CL) reportedly told the leader not to “look at your navel” but to share their movement with the whole Church.

Communion and Liberation is an ecclesial movement founded in the 1950s by Italian priest Father Luigi Giussani, a theologian and public intellectual. It received papal recognition in 1982 and today is present in 90 countries worldwide, with its members — clerical and lay — primarily focusing on community, culture, and Catholic education and faith formation. Its members meet weekly in small discussion groups that they call the “School of Community.”

In a June 15 audience, the pope received Davide Prosperi, president of CL, and Father Andrea D’Auria, director of CL’s International Center.

As reported by Prosperi, the pope spoke of “the need to share the charism and for a co-responsibility in the leadership of the movement.” He also stressed, Prosperi said, that every charism must conceive of itself as being at the service of the whole Church.

Prosperi said Pope Francis said several times during the audience: “Do not look at your navel, go outside, go outside! The whole Church needs this.”

“A movement, the Holy Father reminded us, must remain faithful to its charism by communicating itself creatively in every place around the world where it is present,” Prosperi said.

Pope Francis has previously warned representatives of Catholic movements that the desire for power and recognition are temptations that hinder their call to serve the Church, saying it is “treachery” when a leader “wants to serve the Lord but also serves other things that are not the Lord.”

CL has faced dissension among some members in recent years over its governance. The Holy See in September 2021 appointed a special delegate to oversee Memores Domini, the lay-consecrated branch of CL. Two months later, Father Julián Carrón announced his resignation as president of CL, and Prosperi succeeded him.

Pope Francis spoke to thousands of CL members at a 2022 event marking the 100th anniversary of the birth of Giussani. Giussani died in 2005 and his cause for beatification was opened in 2012.

“Times of crisis are times of recapitulation of your extraordinary history of charity, culture, and mission; they are times of critical discernment of what has limited the fruitful potential of Father Giussani’s charism,” the pope said. “They are times of renewal and missionary relaunch in light of the current ecclesial moment as well as the needs, sufferings, and hopes of contemporary humanity.”

He encouraged the movement to foster unity amid diversity and to not waste any time with “gossip, mistrust, and opposition.” He added: “Please, do not waste time.”

Holy See convenes UN panel urging global abolition of surrogacy

Panelists speak at the event "Towards the Abolition of Surrogacy: Preventing the Exploitation and Commodification of Women and Children,” held by the Permanent Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations on Tuesday, June 18, 2024. / Credit: Permanent Mission of the Holy See

CNA Staff, Jun 19, 2024 / 12:30 pm (CNA).

The Holy See this week hosted a panel at the United Nations at which advocates highlighted the “exploitation and commodification” inherent in the surrogacy industry and stressed the need to regulate and eventually abolish surrogacy around the world.

The participants “highlighted the need for a universal ban to protect against exploitation and commodification,” the Permanent Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations said, with the panelists calling for “increased awareness and concrete steps at the U.N. level to abolish surrogacy and uphold human dignity.”

The event, titled “At What Price? Towards the Abolition of Surrogacy: Preventing the Exploitation and Commodification of Women and Children,” was held at the Palais des Nations at the U.N.’s Geneva headquarters.

The side event, held at the 56th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, was organized by the Holy See mission and co-sponsored by the Permanent Missions of Italy to the United Nations and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

Pope Francis earlier this year called surrogacy “deplorable” and called for a global ban on the exploitative practice of “so-called surrogate motherhood” in a speech to all of the world’s ambassadors.

“The path to peace calls for respect for life, for every human life, starting with the life of the unborn child in the mother’s womb, which cannot be suppressed or turned into an object of trafficking,” the pope said in January. 

A press release from the Holy See mission said the panel this week brought together “a wide range of participants” to discuss surrogacy, including a woman born through surrogacy who has since become a child rights activist, as well as an Italian government minister and other advocates.

It was moderated by Gabriella Gambino, the undersecretary of the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life.

Attendees listen to panelists at the event "Towards the Abolition of Surrogacy: Preventing the Exploitation and Commodification of Women and Children,” hosted by the Permanent Mission of the Holy See in Geneva on Tuesday, June 18, 2024. Credit: Permanent Mission of the Holy See
Attendees listen to panelists at the event "Towards the Abolition of Surrogacy: Preventing the Exploitation and Commodification of Women and Children,” hosted by the Permanent Mission of the Holy See in Geneva on Tuesday, June 18, 2024. Credit: Permanent Mission of the Holy See

Olivia Maurel, who was born in America through surrogacy and raised in France, told participants at the panel of the “severe emotional and psychological toll it took on her life,” according to the mission. 

She argued that surrogacy “commodifies children and exploits women, violating international laws and children’s rights,” the release said. 

Gambino, meanwhile, argued that surrogacy has resulted in “procreative tourism” around the globe. Italian Minister for Family, Natality, and Equal Opportunities Eugenia Roccella also argued that surrogacy regulations often fail to capture the complex ethical concerns regarding the exploitation of women and children. 

This has resulted in “a vast international movement of individuals and groups from diverse backgrounds advocating for a global ban on surrogacy,” the Holy See mission said. 

The mission held a similar event earlier this year at the 68th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women. 

At that event Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, apostolic nuncio and permanent observer of the Holy See Mission to the U.N., argued that “children have rights and interests which must be respected, starting with the moral right to be created in an act of love.”

The archbishop at the time called for “an international prohibition on this abusive practice.” 

Pope Francis tells faithful: Learn some of the Psalms by heart

Pope Francis gives a blessing to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square during his general audience on Wednesday, June 19, 2024. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Jun 19, 2024 / 11:45 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Wednesday there are Psalms to fit any need and that they should be learned by heart and repeated often.

“It is necessary to make the Psalms our prayer,” the pope said at his general audience in an overcast but hot and muggy St. Peter’s Square on June 19.

Continuing his series of catechesis on the Holy Spirit and the Church, he explained that the Psalms “are the songs that the Spirit himself has placed on the lips of the Bride, his Church.”

“If there are Psalms, or just verses, that speak to our heart, it is good to repeat them and pray them during the day. The Psalms are prayers ‘for all seasons’; there is no state of mind or need that does not find in them the best words to be transformed into prayer,” he said.

Pope Francis greets pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square during his general audience on Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis greets pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square during his general audience on Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

Speaking to a crowd of Catholics and tourists, he pointed out specific Psalms that could be helpful to pray in different circumstances, such as Psalm 50 for when one is feeling bad for having sinned.

He also recommended Psalm 51 for when one is feeling oppressed by remorse or guilt for being a sinner. “We can repeat with David: ‘Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy steadfast love,’” he said.

“If we want to express a strong personal bond with love, let us say: ‘O God, thou art my God / I seek thee, / my soul thirsts for thee; / my flesh faints for thee, / as in a dry and weary land where no water is,’ Psalm 63,” he continued.

“And if fear and anguish assail us, those wonderful words of Psalm 23 come to our rescue: ‘The Lord is my shepherd … Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, / I fear no evil.’”

A boy holds up a rosary as Pope Francis passes by in St. Peter’s Square during the pope’s general audience on Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media
A boy holds up a rosary as Pope Francis passes by in St. Peter’s Square during the pope’s general audience on Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

The pontiff told listeners that there are many Psalms that can help them in their day-to-day lives. He added that the Psalms do not lose their effectiveness by being repeated many times, unlike other prayers.

“Form the habit of praying with the Psalms. I assure you that you will be happy in the end,” Francis said.

He drew attention to another beautiful aspect of praying with the Psalms: the fact that they help one avoid reducing prayer to just a series of requests to the Lord — “give me, give us…” 

“The Psalms help us open ourselves to a prayer that is less focused on ourselves: a prayer of praise, of blessing, of thanksgiving; and they also help us give voice to all creation, involving it in our praise,” he said.

Pope Francis is surrounded by children in St. Peter’s Square during his general audience on Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis is surrounded by children in St. Peter’s Square during his general audience on Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

Pope Francis also pointed out that the Psalms are so important that, though they are part of the Old Testament, they are sometimes included together with copies of the New Testament.

This is the case with a book he received as a gift, he noted, an edition of the New Testament and Psalms that once belonged to a Ukrainian soldier who died in the war. The Holy Father keeps it on his desk, he said.

The pontiff highlighted that not every Psalm, or every part of some Psalms, is relevant to modern man given that they “reflect, at times, a historical situation and a religious mentality that are no longer our own.”

“This does not mean that they are not inspired,” he underlined, “but in certain aspects they are linked to a time and a temporary stage of revelation, as is also the case with a large part of ancient legislation.”

“What most commends the Psalms to our attention is that they were the prayers of Jesus, Mary, the Apostles, and all the Christian generations that have preceded us,” Francis said. “When we recite them, God listens to them with that grandiose ‘orchestration’ that is the community of saints.”

At the end of his hourlong audience with the public, the pope publicly greeted members of the Friends of Cardinal Celso Costantini Association as it marks the 100th anniversary of the First Council of the Catholic Church in China.

The “Primum Concilium Sinese” (the first Plenary Council of China) was held from May 15–June 12, 1924, and was led by Archbishop (later Cardinal) Celso Costantini.

Pope Francis said this anniversary makes him think of “the dear Chinese people.”

“Let us always pray for this noble people who are so brave and have such a beautiful culture. Let us pray for the Chinese people,” he said.

U.S. bishops approve plan for youth, young adult ministry

Pilgrims kneel in adoration at a World Youth Day event in Lisbon, Portugal, Aug. 2, 2023. The event was hosted by the U.S. bishops’ conference and featured a talk by Bishop Robert Barron culminating in a eucharistic procession and Holy Hour. / Credit: Claudette Jerez/EWTN News video screen shot

CNA Staff, Jun 19, 2024 / 11:15 am (CNA).

The U.S. bishops approved a new pastoral framework for youth and young adult outreach, titled “Listen, Teach, Send,” following their spring meeting in Louisville, Kentucky, last week. 

The framework was approved on Monday, passing with 188 in favor, four against, and four abstentions, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) announced in a Tuesday press release

The initial vote was held at the bishops’ spring plenary assembly, but not enough eligible bishops were present to vote and were contacted to cast their votes after, the release noted.

“We’re hoping that ‘Listen, Teach, Send’ can offer new life for these ministries in our local Churches,” Bishop Robert Barron, who is heading the initiative as chair of the USCCB’s Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth, explained at the USCCB June Plenary Assembly in Louisville, Kentucky. 

Barron noted that it has been 30 years since the “last major moment” for the Church’s work with youth, the World Youth Day gathering in Denver, which was accompanied by the release of two national frameworks on youth and young adults. 

“Since then, frankly, enthusiasm has waned while disaffiliation has risen,” he told the bishops gathered in Louisville. “It’s our fond hope that the ‘Listen, Teach, Send’ framework, combined with the Holy Father’s encouragement in the Synod and Christus Vivit, will be another watershed moment.”

Five years ago, Pope Francis published Christus Vivit, “Christ Is Alive!”, an apostolic exhortation addressed to young people and the “entire people of God” after the Youth Synod. In response to this, the U.S. bishops authorized this framework in 2021.

The framework, “Listen, Teach, Send: National Pastoral Framework for Ministries with Youth and with Young Adults,” follows Jesus’ encounter with two disciples on the road to Emmaus and highlights how he listens to them, reveals Scripture to them, and sends them forth. 

“‘Listen, Teach, Send’ is a summons to the Church to renew her engagement with youth and young adults in imitation of Jesus Christ on the journey to Emmaus,” Barron explained.

“Like the Lord in that familiar story, we’re called deeply to listen to the realities facing young people with pastoral care and compassion; to teach in a new way that shares the light of Christ with young people and brings about a conversion of heart; and, finally, to send youth and young adults forth so they eagerly choose to follow God’s call and their mission to transform the world,” he continued. 

Barron and his department took inspiration from ministries such as the National Dialogue, the Hispanic ministry V National Encuentro, and Journeying Together, as well as other bishops’ insights in drafting the document.  

“What we heard was a strong desire to develop a framework that was streamlined and straightforward, one that could be used not just by pastors and pastoral ministers but also by families and by young people themselves who can evangelize and guide their peers to Christ,” Barron said.

“We heard a desire to name and address issues, including sexuality, mental health, disaffiliation, racial justice, polarization, and the desire of so many young people to transform our society,” he continued. “Most importantly, we heard that we cannot be silent or inactive when it comes to the engagement and accompaniment of youth and young adults.”

The framework highlights mutual listening, mentorship, evangelization, and vocation, noting that formation should take place in the home and through parents, grandparents, and families but can take place in a variety of contexts.

The USCCB will be releasing complementary and supplemental resources this year with concrete ideas for implementing the framework on a local level.

“In this, we encourage ministry leaders and families to establish conditions for mutual listening to take place: where older generations can truly listen to the young and where the young can truly listen to God speaking to them in the Word and the wisdom of the Church,” the document reads.

The document notes that young people “need faith-filled parents and pastoral ministry leaders (and peers) who can lovingly interpret young people’s stories through the lens of faith and foster a conversion of the heart.”

“Too many youth and young adults today lack mentors in their lives, and yet these wisdom figures can do so much to guide a young person along the right path,” it continues. “This experience of accompaniment is something that begins in the family and extends to the teachers, respected adults, Church leaders, and professional connections that a young person encounters as they mature through life.”

The framework explains the importance of conveying the whole Gospel, including what may challenge young people.

“The teachings of Christ are countercultural and transformative: seeking God’s kingdom first above all, loving enemies, living a moral life, and sacrificing one’s own self for the good of others, especially those who are marginalized and forgotten,” the document reads. “It may take time to embrace these truths, and young people should be given loving environments where they can ask questions without judgment and wrestle with difficult issues.”

“As young people are accompanied on a pilgrimage of faith, they need to hear a clear proclamation of the message of salvation, the implications of Gospel living (including the effects of sin), the embrace of God’s mercy, and the unconditional love that Christ offers those who follow him — all inculturated in their lives in a language and style they can understand, appreciate, and appropriate within their own lives,” the document notes.

The document concludes by highlighting that young people have a mission to “go where Christ is calling them,” highlighting the importance of reaching out to the vulnerable and marginalized, embracing the universal call to holiness, and being transformed by Christ through “prayerful openness” while recognizing God’s work in their lives. 

Juneteenth and the life of the first Black American Catholic priest

Venerable Augustus Tolton. / Credit: Public domain

CNA Staff, Jun 19, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

On June 19, the United States commemorates the anniversary of the 1865 order that gave freedom to enslaved African Americans in Texas, issued two months after the Civil War ended. More commonly known as “Juneteenth,” it became a federal holiday in 2021 and serves as a fitting day to remember the first Black Catholic priest in the U.S. whose cause has been opened for canonization — Venerable Augustus Tolton.

Tolton was born into slavery in Brush Creek, Ralls County, Missouri, on April 1, 1854, to Catholic parents Peter Paul Tolton and Martha Jane Chisley.

Peter Paul escaped shortly after the beginning of the Civil War and joined the Union Army, dying shortly thereafter. In 1862, Augustus Tolton, along with his mother and two siblings, escaped by crossing the Mississippi River into Illinois. 

“John, boy, you’re free. Never forget the goodness of the Lord,” Tolton’s mother reportedly told him after the crossing.

Tolton began to attend St. Peter’s Catholic School, an all-white parish school in Quincy, Illinois, thanks to the help of Father Peter McGirr. The priest went on to baptize Tolton, instruct him for his first holy Communion, and encouraged his vocation to the priesthood.

No American seminary would accept Tolton because of his race, so he studied for the priesthood in Rome and was ordained in 1886 at the age of 31, becoming the first African American ordained as a priest.

Tolton returned to the U.S. where he served for three years at a parish in Quincy. From there he went to Chicago and started a parish for Black Catholics — St. Monica Parish. He remained there until he died unexpectedly while on a retreat in 1897. He was just 43 years old. 

During his short but impactful life, Tolton learned to speak fluent English, German, Italian, Latin, Greek, and African dialects. He was also a talented musician with a beautiful voice. He helped the poor and sick, fed the hungry, and helped many discover the faith. He was lovingly known as “Good Father Gus.”

Tolton’s cause was opened by the Archdiocese of Chicago on Feb. 24, 2011, making him a Servant of God, and then on June 12, 2019, Pope France declared him Venerable, which is the second step toward canonization.

Cardinal Giovanni Simeoni, announcing to the committee deciding where Tolton would be sent after his ordination in 1886 and who overruled the previous decision to send him to Africa, reportedly said the following:

“America has been called the most enlightened nation in the world. We shall see whether it deserves that honor. If the United States has never before seen a Black priest, it must see one now.”

Despite President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation going into effect on Jan. 1, 1863, it could not be implemented in states still under Confederate control, and enforcement of the Proclamation relied upon the advance of Union troops. It wasn’t until Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger and some 2,000 Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas, on June 19, 1865, that more than 250,000 enslaved African Americans were freed by executive decree.

From alcoholic to future saint: The inspiring conversion of Ireland’s Matt Talbot 

Venerable Matt Talbot, an Irishman whose journey from alcoholism to the heights of holiness has inspired many who struggle with addiction, is being considered for sainthood in the Catholic Church.  / Credit: Courtney Mares/CNA

Rome Newsroom, Jun 19, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Venerable Matt Talbot, an Irishman whose journey from alcoholism to the heights of holiness has inspired many who struggle with addiction, is being considered for sainthood in the Catholic Church. 

After spending more than a decade of his life as an alcoholic, Talbot found strength in the Eucharist, the rosary, and confession to uphold a vow he made at the age of 28 to abstain from all alcohol and in the process cultivated a deep interior spiritual life that led some to dub him “an urban mystic.”

Father Selva Thomas, one of the Salesian priests who ministers at the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes in Dublin where Talbot is buried, says that many people grappling with alcoholism or drug addiction continue to come to Talbot’s tomb to pray nearly 100 years after his death.

The Matt Talbot Shrine in Dublin. Credit: Courtney Mares/CNA
The Matt Talbot Shrine in Dublin. Credit: Courtney Mares/CNA

“Matt Talbot has become the source of inspiration for so many,” Thomas told CNA.

People feel that the Matt Talbot Shrine in central Dublin is a place where they can come and experience “spiritual rehabilitation as they undergo other forms of rehabilitation,” he added.

Talbot was born into a poor working class family in Dublin on May 2, 1856. He was the second of 12 children — nine who survived beyond infancy — and grew up surrounded by poverty and alcohol abuse in the wake of Ireland’s Great Famine.

He dropped out of school barely knowing how to read or write and began working for a wine merchant at the age of 12 where developed the habit of sampling the drink, often coming home drunk. By his early teens, Talbot had already developed a dependency on alcohol, which consumed him for the next decade. 

Many people grappling with alcoholism or drug addiction continue to come to Venerable Matt Talbot’s tomb at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Dublin to pray nearly 100 years after his death. Credit: Cograng, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Many people grappling with alcoholism or drug addiction continue to come to Venerable Matt Talbot’s tomb at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Dublin to pray nearly 100 years after his death. Credit: Cograng, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Despite holding various jobs as an unskilled laborer at the Dublin docks and later as a bricklayer, his wages were often squandered at the pub, leaving him in a state of destitution and despair.

The turning point came in 1884, when, at the age of 28, Talbot, penniless and humiliated after being refused credit, vowed to change his ways. He went to confession and made a solemn pledge to abstain from alcohol for three months. This initial pledge was the first step in a journey of lifelong sobriety, which was underpinned by a profound spiritual conversion. 

Amid the difficulties of withdrawal, Talbot turned to prayer and found solace in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist as well as the rosary. He eventually embraced a life of prayer, penance, and dedication to the Church. He joined many prayer groups and confraternities, which provided a strong sense of community. He became one of the first members of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association of the Sacred Heart after it was founded in Dublin in 1898.

With Talbot’s newfound sobriety, he was finally able to learn how to read and write, which allowed him to deepen his faith. He read biographies of St. Catherine of Siena, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Philip Neri, St. Thomas More, and many more saints, as well as “The Practice of Perfection and Christian Virtues” by St. Alphonsus Rodriguez, “Growth in Holiness” by Father Frederick William Faber, and “True Devotion to Mary” by St. Louis de Montfort.

The Matt Talbot Shrine in Dublin. Credit: Courtney Mares/CNA
The Matt Talbot Shrine in Dublin. Credit: Courtney Mares/CNA

Talbot was “a poor man who lived an extraordinary kind of focused life,” according to Father Hugh O’Donnell, who has served at the Matt Talbot Shrine for 20 years.

O’Donnell told CNA that even as Talbot continued working in a tough environment down on the docks he was “always focused on the divine.”

“Prayer was like breathing for him,” O’Donnell said. “It wasn’t an effort. It was what he loved to do.”

“He was able to do his work, but every time there was a lull in his work … he’d be either reading or praying,” he added.

For the last 35 years of his life, Talbot was a member of the Third Order of St. Francis, or Secular Franciscans. He rose early to attend daily Mass before he began work at 6 a.m. He embraced the ascetic traditions of the early Irish monks, taking on many personal penances. 

A statue of Matt Talbot at Matt Talbot Bridge in Dublin with Dublin’s financial district in the background. Credit: Cograng, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
A statue of Matt Talbot at Matt Talbot Bridge in Dublin with Dublin’s financial district in the background. Credit: Cograng, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

“He slept on a couple of planks which he had by the side of his bed and a little block of wood that he rested his head on, which must have been awful,” O’Donnell said.

“He seemed to manage to be able to work a full day doing physical labor on a very small amount of food, which always struck me as some kind of connection with the Eucharist,” he added.

Talbot’s death on June 7, 1925, was as humble as his life. Collapsing on a Dublin street on his way to Mass for Trinity Sunday, he was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead. It was only then that the extent of some of his penances became known, revealing secret chains he had worn as acts of devotion.

The Franciscans recall Talbot’s memory each year on June 19. Next year will mark the 100th anniversary of Talbot’s death. His legacy is one of hope. 

A prayer plaque with the Prayer for Canonization of Venerable Matt Talbot at the Matt Talbot Shrine in Dublin. Credit: Courtney Mares/CNA
A prayer plaque with the Prayer for Canonization of Venerable Matt Talbot at the Matt Talbot Shrine in Dublin. Credit: Courtney Mares/CNA

Talbot’s story has inspired many people battling addiction, serving as a testament to the possibility of recovery, redemption, and the human capacity for change, regardless of past mistakes.

The Salesian priests at the Matt Talbot Shrine hold a special Mass on the first Monday of every month offered for people struggling with addictions and their families. Many churches and cathedrals throughout Ireland now also offer a Mass at the same time for this intention. 

The Matt Talbot Prayer Society prays daily for its enrolled members to be freed from addictions, including alcohol, drugs, pornography, gambling, eating, and smoking, through Talbot’s intercession.

‘American Spartacus’: Honoring a Black Catholic Civil War hero on Juneteenth

An 1889 rendition by architects Bullard & Bullard of the National Emancipation Monument proposed for Springfield, Illinois (Library of Congress), superimposed on a 34-star U.S. flag dating to the Civil War. / Credit: Wikimedia Commons

National Catholic Register, Jun 19, 2024 / 04:00 am (CNA).

Juneteenth is a federal holiday recognizing the liberation of Black Americans and marking the conclusion of the U.S. Civil War. On June 19, 1865, enslaved Black Americans in Galveston, Texas, saw the Union Army, which included regiments of armed Black Americans fighting under the American flag, reunite the country and declare them free from bondage. 

Black Americans began Juneteenth celebrations in Texas, and the celebration eventually spread throughout the country as the struggle to secure the peace and promise of racial equality won by the Civil War continued. This Juneteenth 2024 marks 168 years after the first Juneteenth celebration and is the fourth time the entire U.S. will observe it as a national holiday. 

Catholics on Juneteenth should celebrate this day by honoring the memory of Capt. André Cailloux, the Black Catholic hero and patriot called the “American Spartacus,” whose ultimate sacrifice on the battlefield was crucial to turning the tide of the Civil War and allowing us the opportunity to live in a country that strives after “peace and justice for all.” 

In 1861, at the outset of the Civil War, Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens proudly declared the Confederacy would be the first nation in the world built on white supremacy, “upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition.”

But the Confederacy would end in ruins by 1865, and the United States would triumph, because Black Americans — making up 10% of the Union Army and suffering 10% of total battlefield casualties — would help turn the tide of the U.S. Civil War.

President Abraham Lincoln, at the strong urging of abolitionists like the Black orator Frederick Douglass, agreed in 1863 to allow the enlistment of Black Americans for combat regiments. But everything depended on how the first Black Americans proved their valor in battle and whether Black Americans would join in the overwhelming numbers needed to win the war.

Cailloux responded to the call to form one of the first Black combat regiments in the Union Army, the First Louisiana Native Guard. Moreover, this Catholic — a married father who owned a cigar business, supported the charitable works of the Church, and proudly called himself the “Blackest man in New Orleans” — was a commissioned officer. So much responsibility rested on his decisions; he doubtless knew his conduct in the heat of battle would become the measure by which the fighting capability of Black Americans would be judged.

Cailloux and his men met their finest hour in the bitter siege of Port Hudson, Louisiana. He was ordered to lead the First Louisiana Native Guard in an assault on entrenched Confederate fortifications — practically a suicide mission in the face of artillery and sharpshooters. In his charge, Cailloux never wavered, urging his men onward in both French and English as the bullets pierced his flesh, until finally an artillery shell struck him down. Even then, he managed to give one final order for his lieutenant to take charge.

The news of Cailloux’s undaunted heroism in the face of certain death electrified the country, and the significance of his pivotal sacrifice as a Black officer, soldier, and free man led African Americans to enlist in droves into the Union Army. With the valiant sacrifices of the Black volunteers of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry at the Battle of Fort Wagner following Cailloux’s death in July 1863, the U.S. had its answer: Black Americans would fight with courage and distinction for the union and freedom. 

Over the next two years, Gen. Robert E. Lee would see the ideology of the Confederacy unravel before his very eyes. White and Black Americans together in the Union Army fought his Army of Northern Virginia, and with their combined strength, finally defeated Lee and forced his surrender at Appomattox Court House. 

Cailloux’s body would later be recovered with the fall of Port Hudson. New Orleans commemorated this native son and hero with a military parade, with mourners stretching a mile long. Cailloux’s funeral Mass was celebrated by Father Claude Paschal Maistre, the only Catholic priest in New Orleans who opposed slavery against the pro-Confederate clergy and suffered greatly for his witness at the hands of his own archbishop.

Cailloux’s life was cut short in his prime, but contemporaries stood in awe of his decisive contribution to ending the Civil War.

Louisiana civil rights activist Rodolphe Desdunes (1849–1928), whose brother served under Cailloux, wrote: “The eyes of the world were indeed on this American Spartacus. The hero of ancient Rome displayed no braver heroism than did this officer who ran forward to his death with a smile on his lips and crying, ‘Let us go forward, O comrades!’”

One Union Army veteran, Col. Douglass Wilson, would say of Cailloux: “If ever patriotic heroism deserved to be honored in stately marble or in brass that of Captain Caillioux deserves to be, and the American people will have never redeemed their gratitude to genuine patriotism until that debt is paid.”

This article was first published by the National Catholic Register, CNA's sister news partner, and has been updated and adapted by CNA.

Bishops speak out against worsening violence in southwest Colombia

The flag of Colombia. / Politicnico Grancolombiano Departamento de Comunicaciones via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

ACI Prensa Staff, Jun 18, 2024 / 17:50 pm (CNA).

The bishops of the dioceses located in the Valle del Cauca district of Colombia have demanded that armed groups stop their actions that continue to cause more deaths in the southwestern part of the country and have called on the authorities to “find the solutions” that would bring peace to the country.

The prelates issued a statement on June 14 signed by the archbishop of Cali, Luis Fernando Rodríguez; the bishop of Buenaventura, Rubén Darío Jaramillo; Bishop César Alcides Balbín of Cartago; Bishop José Roberto Ospina of Buga; as well as the bishop-elect of Palmira, Father Rodrigo Gallego Trujillo, and the apostolic administrator of the same diocese, Bishop Edgar de Jesús García.

In their statement, the prelates decried “the worsening of polarization, threats, harassment, extortion, attacks, murders, and other acts of violence in Valle del Cauca and in a good part of southwestern Colombia, resulting in uncertainty, sadness, pain, and death, creating fear and eroding the hope of citizens.”

Given the situation, the prelates strongly reiterated their call to the armed groups “to cease these actions.”

“In the name of the Lord, we exhort those who plan and carry out these insane acts to become aware of the evil they do to the population and even to themselves. Nothing justifies violence!” the bishops stated.

They also asked the authorities on behalf of “the population that feels overwhelmed and afraid” to join forces with civil society “in order to find the solutions that will lead to overcoming this disturbing and painful situation.”

In their statement, the bishops of the Valle del Cauca district also reiterated the commitment of the Catholic Church “to continue accompanying all efforts to foster bridges of dialogue that would make it possible to achieve the pacification of hearts and the silencing of weapons.”

The Institute of Studies for Development and Peace (Indepaz) noted on its X account that on the same day that the bishops issued their statement, “three people were shot to death in the Nuevo Horizonte neighborhood of Florida, Valle of Cauca.”

According to Indepaz, the Dagoberto Ramos Front of the Western Bloc, local gangs, the Adán Izquierdo Company, with “Front 57 possibly moving in,” operate in this area. 

The Dagoberto Front and Front 57 are factions of the marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) that rejected the 2016 peace agreement with the government.

Indepaz also noted that in its early warning 031/23, the People’s Ombudsman’s Office stated that “between southern Valle del Cauca and the northern Cauca there is a worsening of the armed conflict and direct violence, not only due to the presence and territorial control of the groups present but also for the entry into these areas of other illegal armed elements.”

Indepaz said these groups were not executing a “permanent incursion or operations” in these regions “beyond sporadic transiting or pamphleting.”

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

U.S. bishop applauds Biden’s move to allow undocumented spouses pathway to citizenship

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks at an event marking the 12th anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in the East Room at the White House on June 18, 2024, in Washington, D.C. / Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 18, 2024 / 17:30 pm (CNA).

The head of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso, Texas, on Tuesday praised the Biden administration’s new plan to offer a pathway to citizenship for undocumented spouses and children of American citizens.

This new streamlined process will permit noncitizen spouses married to U.S. citizens to apply to legally live and work in the U.S. without fear of being deported. In addition to the spouses, noncitizen children of applicants would also be allowed to receive such protections.

To be eligible for this process, noncitizens must have resided in the U.S. for 10 years or more and be legally married to an American citizen while satisfying all other applicable immigration requirements. Those who qualify under these guidelines would be eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship after three years while also being allowed for work authorization in that period of time.

“We welcome today’s announcement and the hope it brings to thousands of American families who have grappled with the fear of separation for a decade or more,” Seitz shared following Tuesday’s announcement from the White House.

This executive action would also relieve the visa process for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), who would be able to stay in the country upon receiving a degree from an American educational institution and a job offer with a company based in the United States.

The Biden administration’s announcement comes on the anniversary of DACA, an Obama-era program created to protect eligible young adults who were brought to the United States illegally as children.

“As we commemorate the 12th anniversary of DACA, we’ve seen the positive impacts such programs can have, not only for beneficiaries themselves but for the families, employers, and communities that rely on them. This new program is sure to yield similar benefits,” Seitz stated. “However, as the fate of DACA hangs in the balance, we also know how insufficient these programs are.”

This plan of action comes amid an ongoing legislative stalemate on immigration reform. Last month, a bipartisan security bill pushed by the Democrat-led Senate failed to advance on a 43-50 procedural vote. Immigration policy has especially remained a prominent issue leading up to November’s presidential election, in which both candidates have spoken extensively of the topic on their campaign trails.

Despite this, Seitz emphasized the importance of advancing legislation centered on families.

“Legislators have a moral and patriotic duty to improve our legal immigration system, including the opportunities available for family reunification and preservation. A society is only as strong as its families, and family unity is a fundamental right,” he said. “For the good of the country, Congress must find a way to overcome partisan divisions and enact immigration reformation that includes an earned legalization program for longtime undocumented immigrants.”