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Feast of Saint Matthew, Apostle and evangelist

Reading I Eph 4:1-7, 11-13

Brothers and sisters:
I, a prisoner for the Lord,
urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received,
with all humility and gentleness, with patience,
bearing with one another through love,
striving to preserve the unity of the Spirit
through the bond of peace:
one Body and one Spirit,
as you were also called to the one hope of your call;
one Lord, one faith, one baptism;
one God and Father of all,
who is over all and through all and in all.

But grace was given to each of us
according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 

And he gave some as Apostles, others as prophets,
others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers,
to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry,
for building up the Body of Christ,
until we all attain to the unity of faith
and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood,
to the extent of the full stature of Christ. 

Responsorial Psalm 19:2-3, 4-5

R.    (5)  Their message goes out through all the earth.
The heavens declare the glory of God;
    and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
Day pours out the word to day,
    and night to night imparts knowledge.
R.    Their message goes out through all the earth.
Not a word nor a discourse
    whose voice is not heard;
Through all the earth their voice resounds,
    and to the ends of the world, their message.
R.    Their message goes out through all the earth.

Alleluia See Te Deum

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
We praise you, O God,
we acclaim you as Lord;
the glorious company of Apostles praise you.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Mt 9:9-13

As Jesus passed by,
he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post.
He said to him, “Follow me.”
And he got up and followed him.
While he was at table in his house,
many tax collectors and sinners came
and sat with Jesus and his disciples.
The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples,
“Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
He heard this and said,
“Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do.
Go and learn the meaning of the words,
    I desire mercy, not sacrifice.
I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”
 

- - -

Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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The religious freedom cases the Supreme Court could hear – and refuse – this fall

Religious sisters show their support for the Little Sisters of the Poor outside the Supreme Court, where oral arguments were heard on March 23, 2016 in the Zubik v. Burwell case against the HHS Mandate. / Catholic News Agency

Washington D.C., Sep 20, 2021 / 16:30 pm (CNA).

In addition to a major abortion case, the Supreme Court this fall will consider cases on vocal prayer at executions and state tuition assistance for religious schools, and could decide take up other religious freedom cases.

Although the court usually decides death penalty cases on the “emergency docket” - reserved for urgent petitions outside the formal appeals process - the court will hear arguments in the case of a Texas death row inmate this term on its “merits” docket. The court recently halted the execution of Texas death row inmate John Henry Ramirez in order to consider his case; Ramirez is requesting his pastor be allowed to lay hands on him and pray out loud as he is executed by the state.

Current policy of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice allows Ramirez’s pastor to be present with him in the execution chamber, but without physical contact or audible prayer as he is dying.

Prisoners ought to have the time-honored practice of clergy visitation and prayer at their time of execution, said Mark Rienzi, president of The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, on a call with reporters last week. Becket filed an amicus brief at the Supreme Court in support of Ramirez’s case.

At a “bare minimum,” Rienzi said, the state ought to let an inmate have prayer and comfort of clergy as he is being executed.

The Supreme Court will also hear arguments in Carson v. Makin, involving Maine’s policy barring public tuition assistance for religious schools.

For Maine students who do not have a local public school, the state provides tuition assistance for them to attend another school of their choice. They may not, however, use the assistance for attending a “sectarian” school. The case before the court involves a challenge to the state’s policy, pushing for the state assistance to be allowed for religious schools as well.

The Supreme Court justices have “repeatedly” come together in defense of religious freedom in such cases, Rienzi said.

Perhaps the most notable Supreme Court case this fall is Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, regarding Mississippi’s law restricting most abortions after 15 weeks. The court is considering the question of whether all state bans on pre-viability abortions are illegal.

Although Becket is not representing the plaintiffs or defendants in the case, it filed an amicus brief at the court explaining the impact of legal abortion on religious organizations.

When the court previously struck down state bans and regulations of abortion, those rulings “amped up the [abortion] controversy beyond what it may have been otherwise,” Rienzi argued, and supplanted the political process of settling differences on abortion at the state level.

As a result, numerous “proxy” fights have ensued in the courts, he said, with states or federal administrations forcing employers – including religious employers – to provide coverage of abortions or abortifacients in employee health plans. Becket is asking the court to consider the effects of its abortion rulings on religious groups who are facing such abortion mandates.

The Supreme Court’s upcoming fall term might be notable not only for the religious freedom cases on the docket, but also for the pending cases the court might accept or refuse in the coming days.

The Catholic dioceses of Albany and Ogdensburg, as well as other Catholic and Christian ministries, have appealed to the Supreme Court for relief from New York state’s 2017 abortion coverage mandate. The state had required employers to provide abortion coverage in health insurance for employees, but the plaintiffs argue that they “can’t in good conscience” buy an insurance policy for someone else covering the killing of a child, Rienzi said.

While the state crafted a religious exemption for some employers, “it’s an awfully stingy and, I think, illegally stingy” exemption, Rienzi said. Only religious employers which employ and serve members of the same creed could be eligible for an exemption.

“They drafted a religious exemption that Jesus Christ himself would fail,” Rienzi said. “It prefers a very, very narrow subset of religious groups.” The Supreme Court will decide later this month whether or not it will hear the case of Diocese of Albany v. Lacewell.

In another case, the California-based Dignity Catholic health system was sued for refusing to provide a sex-change operation. The court could soon decide whether it will take up the case this term, Rienzi said.

There are several other religious freedom cases where “cert petitions” have been filed, or requests for the court to take up a particular case.

In one case of Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, a high school football coach in Washington state was fired for silently taking a knee and praying after games. He has appealed his case to the Supreme Court for a second time.

In the case of Seattle Union Gospel Mission, a faith-based homeless ministry is arguing it should be able to hire only employees of faith; the ministry faces a lawsuit from a man claiming the mission refused to hire him upon hearing he was in a same-sex relationship.

After a years-long court battle, the Little Sisters of the Poor gained relief from a federal contraceptive mandate when the Supreme Court upheld the sisters’ religious exemption to the mandate in 2020. That case, however, could be reignited if the Biden administration acts to remove the sisters’ religious exemption to the mandate.

“The case that never ends,” Rienzi quipped of the Little Sisters’ case, which is currently on hold in California and Pennsylvania. The Biden administration has asked judges for more time to act, but has not revealed any actions it might take.

“I think it’s pretty clear that the Biden administration has no place to go,” Rienzi said.  The Obama administration – which first issued the mandate – “was never able to win this in court,” he said.

“The law has actually improved on religious liberty since then. I don’t think there’s actually a path for the Biden admin to revive the contraceptive mandate successfully,” he said.

Local artists add beauty to Los Angeles exhibit ‘250 Years of Mission’ to celebrate Jubilee Year

Lalo Garcia's painting of Saint Junípero Serra is featured in the '250 Years of Mission' exhibit. / Lalo Garcia.

Los Angeles, Calif., Sep 20, 2021 / 15:34 pm (CNA).

On September 11, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles began a Jubilee Year, Forward in Mission, to mark 250 years since the opening of the region’s first church, Mission San Gabriel Arcángel, founded in 1771 by Saint Junípero Serra. An exhibit titled 250 Years of Mission will be on display at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels through Sept. 10, 2022, to tell the story of the Catholic faith in the region.   

“The Church has left such an indelible mark on our culture here from street names, the city names, and everything in between, to our radical charity in the community,” said Father Parker Sandoval, Vice Chancellor for Ministerial Services for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. “We thought it was very important to put forward to everyone for free, in an accessible space, a display of beauty and an opportunity to learn the richness of our history.” 

Local artists Aurelio G. D. Mendoza, Lalo Garcia, and John Nava are featured in the exhibit, which spans four galleries inside the cathedral. The galleries include historical documents and artifacts; colonial art from Spain and Mexico; Native American religious art; and the contributions of Mendoza, Garcia, and Nava. 

“Historically, here in Southern California, the missions are extremely important, not only as a tourist attraction, but as the seed of Catholicism,” said Garcia, whose oil painting of Saint Junípero Serra is in the exhibit. “I hope that you get a feel of Southern California, who we are, the buildings that we have here in the Camino Real, feel proud of the heritage as Californianos, and see the good things that he [St. Junípero Serra] did.” 

Garcia’s painting, which was commissioned by Archbishop José Gomez in honor of the canonization of Saint Junípero Serra in 2015, measures 30-by-40-inches and has a halo made of 24-karat gold leaf. He hopes his works become an “instrument for historians, priests, seminarians, teachers, anybody who acquires the piece, so that they can actually talk about it,” he said.

“I spend a lot of time reading, meditating, and thinking about the piece that I am going to create,” said Garcia, who came to the United States from Mexico when he was 13 years old. “It gives me more responsibility to create this type of art when I have seen people praying in front of an image that I have painted. I want the piece to be worthy of the space it’s going to take.” 

Two large oil paintings by Aurelio G. D. Mendoza (1901-1996) are also included in the exhibit. The two pieces are part of a trilogy called El Camino Real, which aim to depict both conversion of the Indigenous people and the construction of missions in California. In the first piece, which measures six-feet tall by five-feet wide, Mendoza painted Saint Junípero Serra pointing ahead, “signaling the way to follow,” said his granddaughter Lucy Mendoza. 

Mendoza’s second painting in the exhibit, titled Mision San Diego de Alcala, is five feet tall by eight-and-a-half feet wide. It shows Saint Junípero Serra with Father Sanchez, the architect of the San Diego mission, among both the Indigenous people and the Spanish soldiers.

“He took great care in making sure the Indigenous were portrayed with such beauty and grace,” said Lucy Mendoza.

Both pieces were completed in approximately 1976, when Mendoza was 75 years old. 

“You want people to feel a sense of pride in the history of California—and I know there's been some pain, there's been some controversy—but I also feel that there's so much good also,” said Lucy Mendoza. “My abuelito always said that so much can be learned through art.” 

The scale of Mendoza’s pieces, Father Sandoval said, are in themselves impactful. 

“They’re huge, they literally fill walls, and the images just pop,” he said. “Then, knowing that these were painted by people who have a devotion to the saints they are depicting makes them particularly beautiful.”

John Nava, the third local artist included in the exhibit, wove the tapestry for the Mass of Canonization of Saint Junípero Serra in 2015 in Washington, D.C.. Nava’s tapestry is on display in the same chapel as the other artists’ works. 

“It's not simply that they're great artists, but fundamentally they're people of faith,” said Father Sandoval. “That really comes through in the artwork.”

In addition to the local artists, 250 Years of Mission includes religious objects and art from Mission San Gabriel Arcángel, which fell victim to arson in July 2020, as well as materials from the archdiocesan archives. 

The exhibit aims to be both educational and beautiful, said Father Sandoval. 

“We live in a time where we are bombarded by bad news and ugliness on the newsfeed, on the front page, and on the screen,” said Father Sandoval. “That’s why we thought it was really important to accent the beauty of our faith and the history of the church and our mission here.” 

The exhibit is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; and Sundays from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Since the galleries line the sides of the cathedral, the exhibit is open anytime the cathedral is open to the public. 

“We hope that people not only enjoy the beauty and learn the history, but, above all, feel inspired to build on the legacy of faith that started here 250 years ago,” said Father Sandoval. “This is a summons to revival, to renewal, to refocus on what matters most, which is putting people in contact with Jesus.” 

“We hope we can bring as many people—especially young people—as possible to visit and feel moved to move into mission,” he said. 

‘The most radical abortion bill of all time’: House to vote this week on codifying ‘right’ to abortion

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) / Michael Candelori/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Sep 20, 2021 / 14:49 pm (CNA).

The House this week will vote on a bill that the U.S. bishops’ conference warns would effectively impose abortion on-demand throughout pregnancy.

The Women’s Health Protection Act (H.R. 3755), introduced by Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), recognizes the “statutory right” of women to have abortions. It also states the “right” of doctors, certified nurse-midwives, nurse practitioners and doctor’s assistants to perform abortions. It prohibits many limitations on this right, such as state pro-life laws requiring ultrasounds or waiting periods before abortions.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), a Catholic, announced the House vote on the bill earlier this month after a Texas law went into effect restricting abortions after detection of a fetal heartbeat; a fetal heartbeat can be detected as early as six weeks into pregnancy. The Texas law is enforced through private civil lawsuits.

After the Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the law on Sept. 1, Pelosi vowed to bring up the Women’s Health Protection Act and “enshrine into law reproductive health care for all women across America.” The bill is scheduled to be voted on this week in the House.

In an action alert, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) calls the legislation “the most radical abortion bill of all time.”

Archbishop Joseph Naumann – chair of the USCCB's pro-life committee – outlined how the bill would expand abortion, in a Sept. 15 letter to members of Congress.

“This deceptively-named, extreme bill would impose abortion on demand nationwide at any stage of pregnancy through federal statute,” Archbishop Naumann wrote. The legislation, he said, would also override state and local pro-life laws such as parental notification and informed consent requirements.

“It would force all Americans to support abortions here and abroad with their tax dollars,” he said, and “would also likely force health care providers and professionals to perform, assist in, and/or refer for abortion against their deeply-held beliefs, as well as force employers and insurers to cover or pay for abortion.”

The bill overrides prohibitions on abortion “pre-viability,” or before the age an unborn child is determined to be likely to survive outside the womb.

However, the bill also allows for late-term abortions when a physician’s “good-faith medical judgment” deems the mother’s life or health at risk from the pregnancy. This, the USCCB argues in a fact-sheet, is not a “meaningful limitation” on late-term abortion and would effectively allow abortions until birth.

The bill would also likely require health care workers to perform abortions, overriding possible conscience exemptions under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the conference argues. For states defending their pro-life laws in court, they would have to meet a form of “strict scrutiny” test – “a heavy burden of proof,” the conference said.

On Monday, the White House stated its support for the legislation.

“In the wake of Texas’ unprecedented attack, it has never been more important to codify this constitutional right and to strengthen health care access for all women, regardless of where they live,” the White House stated.

Former Republican congressman Keith Rothfus stated on Twitter that Pelosi “makes a big deal about being #Catholic. But this week she plans to bring the most pro-#abortion bill ever up for a vote.”

The White House statement comes after President Joe Biden promised a “whole-of-government” effort to maintain abortion in Texas, following implementation of the state’s “heartbeat” law.

On Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a “three-pronged” response to the Texas law, increased funding for emergency contraceptives and “family planning services” in the state.

This article was updated on Sept. 20 with new information.

San Marino to vote on abortion legalization Sept. 26

Guaita tower, San Marino / princeztl/Shutterstock

Denver Newsroom, Sep 20, 2021 / 13:15 pm (CNA).

The tiny European nation of San Marino, where abortion has been illegal for nearly a century and a half, is set to hold a referendum on the legalization of abortion later this month. 

The nation of about 35,000 people, which is estimated to be over 90% Catholic, will vote Sept. 26 on whether to allow abortions up to 12 weeks into pregnancy; the vote would also determine the legality of abortion after 12 weeks if there “are anomalies and malformations of the fetus that involve a serious risk for the physical or psychological health of the woman.” 

Over 3,000 signatures were collected in support of the referendum, more than double the legal requirement, the Guardian reported. Several attempts to change the country’s abortion law over the past 20 years have failed after vetoes from successive governments. 

The currently-ruling Christian Democratic Party has urged citizens to vote no on the legal change. 

Abortion has been illegal in San Marino since 1865. Italy, which geographically surrounds the microstate, legalized abortion in 1978. Other majority-Catholic countries, notably Ireland, have liberalized their abortion laws in recent years by referendum. 

“San Marino has no obligation to adopt the laws of its border nations and it doesn’t need to depend on the bad example of Italy,” said Dr. Adolfo Morganti of Comitato Uno di Noi (“One of Us Comittee”), a pro-life group which campaigned against the legalization of abortion in San Marino. 

Morganti warned that the referendum language could open San Marino to the possibility of “abortion tourism,” as it does not impose a citizenship or residency requirement.

He also questioned the need for abortion legalization, given the strong welfare system in the country that provides aid to pregnant women in need. San Marino also has an already low birthrate of about 1.2 children per woman, and legal abortion will likely add to the state’s population decline, he said. 

Comitato Uno di Noi has received criticism from abortion advocates for a campaign of posters in San Marino that depict a boy with Down syndrome, with the caption: “I am an anomaly, so do I have fewer rights than you? Vote no [on the referendum].”

In many countries with liberal abortion laws, such as Iceland and the Netherlands, abortion rates for babies diagnosed witth Down syndrome is over 90%. Morganti said the poster conveys “a very uncomfortable truth, which is that wherever abortion has been liberalized, the hunt for [people with Down syndrome] has started immediately.”

Father Gabriele Mangiarotti, a priest who serves at a church in the historic center of San Marino, told France24 that changing the country’s abortion law would be a betrayal of the country’s principles. San Marino "was founded by a saint and therefore has a Christian presence in its DNA,” he said. According to tradition, a Christian named Marinus in the fourth century established a Christian community which eventually became the city-state of San Marino.

"Killing an innocent child is a serious act, a crime," he said. 

Supreme Court sets argument date for challenge to Roe v. Wade

null / Addie Mena/CNA

Washington D.C., Sep 20, 2021 / 12:02 pm (CNA).

The Supreme Court announced Monday that it will hear arguments in a critical abortion case on Dec. 1.

In the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a challenge to Mississippi’s law restricting most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, the court will decide the question of whether all state abortion bans pre-viability are unconstitutional. “Viability” is the court’s legal standard from 1973, regarded as the point at which an unborn child can survive outside the womb.

The court on Monday announced the date of oral arguments in the Dobbs case, scheduled for Dec. 1. Both the state of Mississippi and the abortion clinic challenging the law will have an opportunity to present arguments in-person to justices both for and against the law.

The Dobbs case is considered to be the latest and perhaps the best opportunity for pro-life advocates to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide. States, the court ruled in Roe, could not ban abortions pre-viability.

Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act, the law in question, was signed into law in 2018 but is not currently in effect. Although it restricted most abortions after 15 weeks, it included exceptions for when the mother’s life or major bodily function is in danger, or in cases where the unborn child has a severe abnormality and is not expected to survive outside the womb at full term.

The law would be enforced by revocation of state medical licenses for doctors in violation, and a fine of up to $500 for falsification of medical records about the circumstances of an abortion.

One pro-life leader on Monday expressed support for Mississippi’s law.

“It is time to follow the science and modernize our laws,” stated Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List.

The Supreme Court’s abortion jurisprudence has hampered state efforts to regulate abortion, she said, arguing that it has “made the United States one of only seven countries in the world – including China and North Korea – that allow abortion on demand for any reason up to birth.”

Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Mississippi’s lone abortion clinic, submitted its legal brief to the Supreme Court last week arguing that the court should maintain its abortion jurisprudence in Roe, as well as the 1992 case that upheld Roe, Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The clinic is represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Although the case regards Mississippi’s abortion law, both the state and Jackson Women’s Health Organization focused their legal briefs on either overturning or upholding Roe and Casey.

The state of Mississippi asked the Court to overturn Roe, arguing that “the conclusion that abortion is a constitutional right has no basis in text, structure, history, or tradition.”

Meanwhile, the brief of Jackson Women’s Health claimed that Mississippi’s law was a violation of rights established in the Roe and Casey decisions. Because of the two abortion rulings, “two generations … have come to depend on the availability of legal abortion,” the clinic argued.

Furthermore, Mississippi’s standard of 15 weeks violates Roe’s standard of viability, the brief argued.

“Medical consensus and the undisputed facts in the case establish that viability occurs no earlier than 23-24 weeks of pregnancy, precisely the time identified thirty years ago in Casey,” the brief stated.

On Monday, Dannenfelser stated that “[s]cience reveals the undeniable humanity of the unborn child.”

“By 15 weeks, an unborn baby’s heart has beat nearly 16 million times. She already shows a preference for her right or left hand, responds to taste, and can feel pain. They and their mothers deserve protection in the law,” she said.

Jeanne Mancini, president of the group March for Life, said on Monday, "We look forward to when the Supreme Court will reconsider the status quo of abortion jurisprudence which currently allows abortions to take place through all nine months of pregnancy."

"States have the right to protect all of their citizens, including those developing in the womb," she said.

This article was updated on Sept. 20 with a statement from March for Life.