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Exorcist says porn addiction ‘an opening to the demonic,’ despite German priest’s controversial denials

Monsignor Stephen Rossetti has gained thousands of followers on social media after sharing the wisdom he has gained as an exorcist on online platforms. / Monsignor Stephen Rossetti

Boston, Mass., Dec 1, 2022 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

Monsignor Stephen Rossetti, an exorcist for the Archdiocese of Washington, said that a porn addiction puts one in grave spiritual danger, words that starkly contrast with those of a German priest who recently contradicted Pope Francis by saying that connecting porn to the demonic is a “spiritual exaggeration.”

“A pornography addiction, like any serious sin, is an opening to the demonic,” Rossetti told CNA in an email interview Wednesday. 

“It is never a good thing to exploit people as sexual objects, which the porn industry does,” he added. “A porn habit can be an open door to escalating sexual dysfunction."

Rossetti, 71, has spent 30 years working as a licensed psychologist. A priest of the Diocese of Syracuse, he has been an exorcist for the Archdiocese of Washington for over 15 years. He is the founder and president of the St. Michael Center for Spiritual Renewal, a ministry that specializes in healing for those in need of deliverance, which operates out of the archdiocese.

The exorcist’s clarity on the dangers of pornography echoes Pope Francis’ recent warning to seminarians studying in Rome. 

“Dear brothers, be careful of this. The pure heart, the heart that receives Jesus every day, cannot receive this pornographic information,” the Holy Father said to hundreds of seminarians Oct. 24.

“And if from your cell phone you can delete this, delete it, so you won’t have temptation at hand. And if you can’t delete it, protect yourself properly so you don’t have access to this. I tell you, it weakens the soul,” he said.

“The devil enters from there. It weakens the priestly heart,” the pope said repeatedly to the men.

Following Pope Francis’ comments, a German priest, Father Hermann Backhaus, in an interview with Katolisch.de — the news outlet of the Catholic Church in Germany — said that connecting porn to the demonic is a “spiritual exaggeration.”

In the interview, Backhaus also warned against “the somewhat dirty connotation” that is attributed to the term “pornographic.”

Backhaus claimed that “there are positive effects of explicit sexuality in relation to the couple” such as “making their love life become more alive.”

He added that for celibate people, “the consumption of explicit sexual representations can have a relieving effect, it can’t be denied.”

He said that “the clergy, religious, and other people at the service of the Church generally have experience with pornography.”

He disagrees with the pope regarding his assessment that “the devil enters through there” and added that “associating the devil with pornography is a very strong statement.”

In contrast, Rossetti cautioned against the use of pornography for any reason.

“A pornography addiction can destroy marriages. A porn addiction can distort a person’s sexuality,” he told CNA.

“A pornography addiction not only seriously harms the user, it supports a billion-dollar industry that exploits people, especially women and children,” he added.

Former parish employee identified as second victim of Louisiana double homicide

Ruth Prats offers a reflection on her relationship with Father Otis Young before Mass in June 2022. / Screenshot of YouTube video

Boston, Mass., Dec 1, 2022 / 15:32 pm (CNA).

The second victim in a Louisiana double homicide that also claimed the life of a local Catholic priest, Father Otis Young, has been identified. 

Ruth Prats, a 73-year-old former staff member who worked for Young when he was pastor at St. Peter Catholic Church in Covington, was identified as the second victim, St. Tammany Parish Coroner Dr. Charles Preston announced Thursday in a press conference.

Young’s death, which was confirmed Tuesday, was caused by “sharp- and blunt-force trauma,” the coroner’s office said. 

The homicides both occurred either Sunday night or Monday morning, the coroner’s office said. It was reported that both Young and Prats were reported missing on Sunday. 

The two bodies were found together “burned beyond recognition” less than a mile away from the church, according to police. The bodies were found in a back alley behind a glass store in downtown Covington, according to Sergeant James Hartman, a spokesman for the Covington Police Department. 

On Monday evening, police announced that they had taken a suspect, 49-year-old Antonio Donde Tyson of Covington, into custody.

Tyson was charged with two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree kidnapping, two counts of obstruction of justice, one count of resisting an officer, and one count of illegal possession of stolen things. 

Fox8live.com reported that Tyson was released from prison in August after serving part of a sentence he received in 1993. The outlet reported that he was serving time for charges of forcible rape and home invasion. 

There is no evidence that suggests that the suspect and the victims knew each other, Hartman said.

The St. Tammany Parish district attorney’s office said law enforcement is still investigating the matter. 

The office offered this statement: “All capital cases submitted to our office undergo a thorough review process before a decision is made regarding the pursuit of the death penalty. That review process begins once law enforcement officially tenders the case to our office by submitting a complete report of its investigation of the alleged offense.”

New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond released a statement Wednesday offering prayers for both Young and Ruth Prats. At the time of the statement, Prats was not revealed as the second victim of the double homicide. She was, however, still listed as a missing person.

“The horror of the events that have unfolded here in Covington is beyond shocking. The pain, sadness, and disbelief that something like this could happen will stay with us, but particularly those who are most directly affected, for a very long time,” Aymond said in the statement. His full statement can be read here.

‘You taught us how to carry our crosses’

Young retired as a priest in July. Before his retirement, Prats offered a personal reflection on Young before a Mass for Young at St. Peter Catholic Church in June. The reflection can be watched in this YouTube video posted by the church. 

Addressing Young, Prats said: “It was an absolute gift to work with you as your pastoral associate for eight of the 10 years you were here at St. Peter parish.”

Prats reminisced over the wonderful renovations and improvements that Young brought to the church. She even reflected on Young’s joyful sense of humor. 

Prats said that “the greatest legacy” that Young would leave the parish is his example in showing the parishioners how to suffer. 

“You taught us how to carry our crosses,” Prats said. During her speech, she mentioned that she felt called to volunteer in a caretaking role for Young as his health declined, which led her to leave her role as a church staff member.

She described her time taking care of Young as “the most humble service” and said she was grateful.

In her speech, Prats mentioned a “sacred moment” when a glimpse of Young’s inner prayer life was revealed to the parish. The moment was when Young shared a prayer he prays before Mass to some young children making their first holy Communion. 

According to Prats, the prayer is: “Lord, grant me the grace to celebrate this Mass as if it was my first Mass, as if it was my last Mass, and as if it was my only Mass.”

“May Father Otis’ personal prayer become our prayer today at this Mass and from this day forward when we celebrate Mass,” she said.

“May we pass this prayer down to generations and to all who enter our doors here at St. Peter’s,” she said. “It will be in that prayer, his private prayer, that we will remember, Father Otis, that you walked in our midst as our pastor here at St. Peter’s and you touched our lives profoundly.”

Indiana AG files legal complaint against abortion doctor who performed a minor’s abortion

null / Unsplash.

St. Louis, Mo., Dec 1, 2022 / 15:15 pm (CNA).

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita has asked the state’s medical licensing board to discipline an abortion doctor, Caitlin Bernard, who in June performed an abortion on a 10-year-old rape victim who traveled from Ohio to Indiana. 

“Based on the physician’s own testimony under oath, she violated federal and Indiana law related to patient privacy and the reporting of child abuse,” the Republican AG said in a Nov. 30 statement.

Bernard, who already was known for her pro-abortion activism in Indiana, drew worldwide media attention to herself when she disclosed to the Indianapolis Star details about the abortion she performed on the child in late June, whom she did not name. Ohio has a “heartbeat” abortion law in place, which took effect after the June 24 overturning of Roe v. Wade, whereas Indiana at the time allowed abortions until 22 weeks’ gestation. 

Rokita contended that “simply concealing the patient’s name falls far short of her legal and ethical duties here.”

“Dr. Bernard violated the law, her patient’s trust, and the standards for the medical profession when she disclosed her patient’s abuse, medical issues, and medical treatment to a reporter at an abortion rights rally to further her political agenda,” Rokita said. 

Rokita said Bernard also “failed to immediately report” the abuse and rape of a child to Indiana authorities, as required under Indiana law. Bernard, through her attorneys, has stated that she reported the minor’s abortion to the relevant state agencies before the legally mandated deadline to do so, which in Indiana’s case is three days. Rokita contends, though, that a child abuse report should have been made to Indiana authorities within four hours so that the state could ensure the child was not being returned to an unsafe situation in Ohio. 

“As the Office of the Attorney General, it is our duty to ensure that doctors meet the standard of care. In our opinion, Dr. Bernard fell short in this situation,” Rokita concluded. 

“Now, it is up to the Medical Licensing Board to determine whether there are consequences for violating a patient’s privacy rights and the obligation to immediately report child abuse to Indiana authorities.”

Bernard testified last week that she had confirmed that child abuse authorities in Ohio were actively investigating the case before the girl arrived in Indiana for the abortion, and her attorneys contend that that satisfies the requirements of Indiana law, Law&Crime reported. 

Since the abortion, a 27-year-old Ohio man has been charged with raping the girl. 

Arson at Colorado pregnancy center still unsolved; FBI offers major reward for leads

Spray-painted graffiti outside Life Choices, a pro-life pregnancy center in Longmont, Colorado. / Courtesy of Longmont Public Safety

Denver, Colo., Dec 1, 2022 / 14:40 pm (CNA).

The FBI is offering a $17,500 reward for credible leads in the arson of a a pro-life pregnancy center in northern Colorado that is still under investigation after five months.

Longmont Police Chief Jeff Satur told a Wednesday press conference that investigators have few leads, the Denver Gazette reported. Investigators are again asking for aid from anyone with local video from the time of the crime, this time from a wider area. They are also analyzing the handwriting of the vandals’ graffiti messages. One message was in cursive while the other was not.

“I believe there were probably two people there,” Satur said, noting that handwriting can be recognizable. “At some point we’re going to get the right lead.”

The fire took place early Saturday morning on June 25 and drew a response from Longmont Public Safety at 3:17 a.m.

The Life Choices pregnancy center in Longmont sustained fire and heavy smoke damage. The front of the building also was defaced with pro-abortion slogans, including “Bans Off Our Bodies.” The threatening phrase “If abortions aren’t safe neither are you,” was written in cursive with black spray paint.

The suspected arson took place in the wake of the June 24 U.S. Supreme Court decision Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned the pro-abortion cases Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey and returned the question of legal abortion to the states.

Northern Colorado Crime Stoppers has offered a reward of $2,500 for information related to the case. The FBI’s offered reward is an additional $17,500. The FBI will take tips through its website or its tip line 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324).

Life Choices on its website describes itself as “a Christ-centered ministry providing education, support, healing, and limited medical services for sexual life choices.” Its offerings include free pregnancy tests, clothes, and baby supplies.

Since the arson attack, the organization appears to be doing well.

Holly Hooten, director of client services at Life Choices, told the Denver Gazette “it’s only been great since the vandalism occurred.”

“In the end it was like God brought everyone out of the woodwork to pray for us and support the work here,” she said.

Satur said the FBI has done “heavy lifting” on the investigation through search warrants, subpoenas, and court orders.

Catholic churches, crisis pregnancy centers, and other pro-life groups have been on heightened alert about possible attacks by militant pro-abortion activists angered by the Supreme Court’s abortion decision.

Backlash began soon after the court’s draft decision was leaked in early May.

As of Sept. 22, CNA had recorded attacks on 33 churches, 55 pregnancy centers, three political organizations, and one maternity home since early May where the public evidence points to a pro-abortion motive. The crimes include vulgar graffiti, property damage, threats, theft, and even arson.

Some of the reported vandalism incidents appear to be copycat attacks. Several of the graffiti incidents featured the threatening phrase “If abortions aren’t safe, neither are you,” which reports indicate first appeared on a pro-life pregnancy center in Wisconsin in early May.

FBI Director Christopher Wray, in remarks to a Nov. 15 hearing of the U.S. Senate Homeland Security Committee, reaffirmed the bureau’s commitment to investigating crimes against pro-life groups and churches. Wray reported that since the Dobbs decision, pro-life organizations have faced about 70% of abortion-related threats. About 20 FBI field offices and joint terrorism task forces are investigating these crimes.

“My view — plainly expressed to all of our people, including in the context of abortion-related violence — is that I don’t care what side of the issue you’re on, you don’t get to engage in violence, and we are equal-opportunity when it comes to that,” Wray said.

‘Gravely disappointed’: U.S. bishops respond to passage of the same-sex marriage act

null / Ivan Galashchuk via www.shutterstock.com.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Dec 1, 2022 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

Today the U.S. bishops responded to the U.S. Senate’s passage of the Respect for Marriage Act, saying society “has lost sight of the purpose of marriage.”

Bishop Robert Barron, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth, strongly condemned the bill’s passage.

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

The Respect for Marriage Act passed the Senate Tuesday, redefining marriage to include unions between homosexual couples and mandating that all states must recognize homosexual marriages. The bill passed with bipartisan support, with 12 Republicans voting in favor. As passed by the Senate, the bill enshrines into law and expands the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized homosexual marriage across the nation.

Barron wrote that “decades of social and legal developments have torn sexuality, childbearing, and marriage from each other in the public consciousness.” In his statement, Barron called to mind Pope Francis’ 2016 address in which he said, “We can hardly stop advocating marriage simply to avoid countering contemporary sensibilities … We would be depriving the world of values that we can and must offer.”

Barron stated that Christians must share the truth of marriage as “a lifelong and exclusive union, a complete and mutual gift of the husband and wife to each other for their good and for the procreation and education of children, [and] is essential to the common good.”

In addition to contributing to the “diminishment of the sacredness and integrity of marriage in our society,” the act’s passage threatens religious freedom in the U.S., the statement said.

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

Having passed the Senate, the Respect for Marriage Act will return to the U.S. House of Representatives for a vote on the amendments added by the Senate.

The U.S. bishops stated in a November letter to Congress that the bill’s amendments do not sufficiently protect those with religious objections.

“The amended Act will put the ministries of the Catholic Church, people of faith, and other Americans who uphold a traditional meaning of marriage at greater risk of government discrimination,” the letter stated.

The November letter, penned jointly by Barron and Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York, posited that “the bill will be used to argue that the government has a compelling interest in forcing religious organizations and individuals to treat same-sex civil marriages as valid.”

While stating that “we affirm our respect for the dignity of all engaged in this debate,” Barron reaffirmed the U.S. bishops’ continued opposition to the Respect for Marriage Act.

Jihadists seeking to build ‘transcontinental caliphate,’ says report

null / Oleg Zabielin via www.shutterstock.com.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Dec 1, 2022 / 08:00 am (CNA).

Islamist terrorist groups are unleashing a new wave of violence and persecution to build a “transnational caliphate” stretching from west Africa to the Pacific, according to a new report on religious persecution. 

The report, released earlier this month by the international Catholic pastoral aid organization Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), found that as a result of increased jihadist activity, persecution of Christians along the equator has skyrocketed in recent years.

ACN’s report, “Persecuted and Forgotten? A Report on Christians Oppressed for their Faith, 2020-2022,” found that the equatorial regions of Africa and the Pacific have been particularly affected. Christians and other minority religions in these regions face violent persecution and in many cases the choice to “convert or die” at the hands of radical Islamist groups, some of which are affiliated with ISIS and Al-Qaeda. 

According to ACN, hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost and millions displaced as 14 African nations have been subjected to jihadist campaigns, with the situation in 12 of these nations being particularly dire. “With the growing Islamist radicalization, Christians tend increasingly to become a specific target for the terrorists,” ACN states.

The African region has been prone to sporadic and disorganized violence in the past, yet this new rise in jihadism is different, according to ACN. The radical Islamist groups not only are extending a jihad across the continent but are increasingly organizing and coordinating their efforts. ACN has found that “the threat from militant Islamist groups in Africa is not monolithic but comprises a constantly shifting mix of roughly two dozen groups actively operating — and increasingly cooperating — in 14 countries.”

Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, and Mozambique have all been subjected to radical Islamist terror campaigns intent on forcing their extreme version of Islam on the local populations.

With millions fleeing the impacted regions, grievous human rights violations abound. In many cases, men and boys are kidnapped and forced to join the extremists’ ranks or face beheadings. Meanwhile, women and children fleeing the violence have themselves been subjected to rape and forced servitude.

ACN’s report posits that the international community’s response to this crisis in Africa has been thus far insufficient to render proper aid to the suffering population. In some nations, such as Burkina Faso, hundreds of thousands have been displaced yet “more than 60 percent of the territory was not accessible to humanitarian aid workers” as of the end of 2020, according to ACN. 

ACN’s report states that “the multinational military missions deployed in West Africa have not been successful.” This is further evidenced in that the “Islamic State has declared six so-called ‘provinces of the caliphate’ in Africa.” 

In the Pacific, governments have either failed to quell or been complicit in the rise of jihadist movements within their nations, according to ACN. In its 2021 report on religious freedom in the world, ACN states that the threat to Christians and non-Muslims from groups identifying as part of the transcontinental caliphate, though on a smaller scale than in Africa, is very real and deadly.

The report also details incidents in which local authorities in Indonesia have cooperated with jihadist forces to close down Christian churches and places of worship for other minority religions. In 2017, an Indonesian radical Islamic group known as the Front for the Defense of Islam spearheaded a movement to oust the Christian governor of Jakarta, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, and even imprison him for two years on “blasphemy” charges.

The Maldives, a small nation south of India, is “in the grip of both state-imposed Islamic orthodoxy and non-state Islamist extremism,” according to ACN. Violent jihadism has been on the rise in the Maldives to which the government has in many ways cooperated, banning the expression of any other religion than Sunni Islam.

Even in the majority Catholic nation of the Philippines, ACN reports that jihadist groups including Abu Sayyaf (the so-called East Asia Province of the Islamic State) have unleashed a new wave of religiously motivated violence on non-Muslims. Since its founding, Abu Sayyaf has been responsible for bombings, kidnappings, and executions. Abu Sayyaf’s violence appears to have increased in recent years with new attacks on a hospital, a Catholic church, and a Filipino military camp. In 2019, the group claimed responsibility for the bombing of a Catholic church during Sunday mass that killed 21 of the faithful and injured many more.

ACN releases a biennial report, based on firsthand testimony from local sources, on the state of religious freedom across the globe. Visit the organization's website to download the complete report.

What the same-sex marriage vote means for Catholics

null / Gutzemberg / Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 30, 2022 / 16:45 pm (CNA).

With Congress now poised to enshrine same-sex marriage into federal law — largely thanks to Senate Republicans — opponents of the measure warn that Catholics and other people of faith should brace for incoming attacks on their faith. 

The Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA) repeals the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which federally defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman and did not force states to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

The Democrat-led RFMA goes further than the 2015 Supreme Court case that legalized same-sex marriage — Obergefell v. Hodges — by mandating that all states must recognize same-sex marriages performed out of state. 

The bill also elevates married same-sex couples to receive Medicare and Social Security benefits. 

The Senate’s passage of RFMA — successful due to the support of 12 Republican senators — has provoked widespread outcry from religious groups and conservatives, with some calling it the “Roe v. Wade” of marriage bills. 

Will the act threaten Catholics and religious organizations?

The text of RFMA claims the bill will have “no impact on religious liberty and conscience.” 

But policy experts and Church leaders say the opposite is true: The bill will empower the government to come after those who believe in the sanctity of marriage.

Jon Schweppe, policy director for American Principles Project (APP), explained that the religious protections that did make it in the RFMA are “really limited.”

“My biggest concern with this is that now we’re pretty much relying on the courts to uphold the First Amendment,” Schweppe said. “You can’t rely on the court system to save you. They’re going to find ways to persecute you.”

Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee’s amendment to include explicit religious liberty protections for those who hold to the sanctity of marriage failed by a vote of 48-49. 

Lee argued the RFMA will lead to litigation attacks against those who believe in traditional marriage unless the bill provides viable protections for them instead of solely the possibility of a court defense.

“Instead of subjecting churches, religious nonprofits, and persons of conscience to undue scrutiny or punishment by the federal government because of their views on marriage, we should make explicitly clear that this legislation does not constitute a national policy endorsing a particular view of marriage that threatens the tax-exempt status of faith-based nonprofits,” Lee wrote in a November letter to his fellow senators. 

Schweppe told CNA that the RFMA “also doesn’t protect conscience for individuals.”

“Ultimately there are going to be religious believers who will have their lives destroyed because of this bill,” he said. 

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is alarmed about what the bill’s passage will mean for people of faith. 

“Senators promoting the Act have claimed that their amended bill ‘respects and protects Americans’ religious liberties,’ but the provisions of the Act that relate to religious liberty are insufficient,” the USCCB wrote in a Nov. 17 statement opposing the bill. 

“The Act will be used as evidence that religious believers must surrender to the state’s interest in recognizing same-sex civil marriages,” the letter said, citing bakers, adoption providers, and other faith-based organizations at risk of discrimination. 

How many Republicans voted for the bill? 

Earlier in November, 12 Republican senators — Roy Blunt of Missouri, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Susan Collins of Maine, Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, Rob Portman of Ohio, Mitt Romney of Utah, Dan Sullivan of Alaska, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Todd Young of Indiana — joined 50 Democrats to vote for advancing the bill past a filibuster so it could reach a final vote.

The same Republican senators voted for final passage of the bill Tuesday, for a 61-36 vote total. 

The critical role Republicans played in passing the RFMA is viewed by many conservatives and people of faith as an egregious breach of trust.

“It's a stunning betrayal from the party that’s supposed to be fighting against wokeness; fighting against this evil movement on the left,” Schweppe said. 

Paige Agostin, policy director of the conservative think tank Center for Renewing America, called the passage “the Roe v. Wade of marriage bills.”

“[It] will weaponize the entire Left to go after people of faith,” she told CNA.

Wasn’t same-sex marriage already legalized? 

The Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage rights in the 2013 and 2015 Supreme Court decisions United States v. Windsor and Obergefell v. Hodges, obliterating the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman.

Under Obergefell, all states are required to allow same-sex marriages.

However, Democrats have pushed for the RFMA bill to further embed same-sex marriage protections into law after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade this summer. In that decision, Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurring opinion suggested the court should reconsider all “substantive due process” cases, including Obergefell. 

What’s next? 

The RFMA faces another round of voting in the House, where it is nearly certain to pass by the end of the year. It will then go to the desk of President Joe Biden, who has already promised to sign it into law. 

Louisiana priest confirmed as victim in double homicide, archbishop offers prayers

Father Otis Young, the former pastor at St. Peter Catholic Church in Covington, Louisiana, was killed in a double homicide less than a year after his retirement. / Screenshot 2020 YouTube video

Boston, Mass., Nov 30, 2022 / 13:35 pm (CNA).

Authorities have positively identified Father Otis Young, a local Catholic priest in the Archdiocese of New Orleans, as one of the victims of a double homicide.

The St. Tammany Coroner’s office said Tuesday that the cause of death was “sharp- and blunt-force trauma.” The homicide occurred either Sunday night or Monday morning, the office said. 

New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond released a statement Wednesday offering prayers for both Young and Ruth Prats, who worked closely with Young as a church staff member until Young’s retirement earlier this year. Aymond said that she is listed as a missing person. 

CNA contacted the local police to confirm that Prats is still listed as missing but did not hear back by time of publication.

“The horror of the events that have unfolded here in Covington is beyond shocking. The pain, sadness, and disbelief that something like this could happen will stay with us, but particularly those who are most directly affected, for a very long time,” Aymond said in the statement.

Aymond said that “as we await confirmation of the second victim, I offer my prayers for both victims of this heinous crime. In a particular way we prayerfully remember Father Otis, a beloved pastor who touched the lives of so many with his faith, warmth, and pastoral heart. This is a loss for our Church and for the entire community.”

Young, 71, who retired in July, was pastor for approximately 10 years at St. Peter Catholic Church in Covington, Louisiana. His body, along with another victim’s body, was found “burned beyond recognition” less than a mile away from the church, according to police. Fox8live.com reported that the bodies were found behind a glass store in downtown Covington.

Fox8live.com reported that the bodies of Young and the other victim were found hours after Young and Prats were reported missing.

The coroner’s office says it expects to have an identification of the second victim by the end of the week.

“Let us continue to pray for the repose of the soul of Father Otis and for Ruth Prats who remains missing, and for both their families and all who are suffering. Let us pray that we may all know God’s love, mercy, and hope,” Aymond said. 

On Monday evening, police announced that they had taken a suspect, 49-year-old Antonio Donde Tyson of Covington, into custody.

Tyson was charged with two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree kidnapping, two counts of obstruction of justice, one count of resisting an officer, and one count of illegal possession of stolen things. 

Fox8live.com reported that Tyson was released from prison in August after serving part of a sentence he received in 1993. The outlet reported that he was serving time for charges of forcible rape and home invasion. 

Nola.com reported that Tyson was working as a landscaper with his brother since his release a few months ago. Tyson’s sister, Leslie Tyson, said that she was “numb,” according to nola.com. 

“He was always with his family. He went to church every Sunday. I’m in disbelief,” the sister said, according to the outlet.  

“The St. Peter Parish community is devastated at the announcement that one of the victims in yesterday’s double homicide in downtown Covington is confirmed to be that of Father Otis Young, Jr. We are deeply saddened, and ask that you join us in praying for Father Otis and Ruth, who is still listed as a missing person, as well as for their families,” Aymond said in his statement. 

“I extend my prayerful support and that of the clergy, religious, and laity of the archdiocese to the Covington community and in particular for the parishioners of St. Peter Parish. I also want to extend my gratitude and prayers to the law enforcement personnel, the coroner, and all authorities who have worked so carefully and thoroughly through these very difficult circumstances,” Aymond said.

“For all those who are hurting and asking how this could happen, may I humbly offer that we turn to Our Lord Jesus in this time of mourning,” he added. 

St. Peter Catholic Church said in an online post Tuesday that the parish is “devastated” at the news of Young’s death. 

“We are deeply saddened, and ask that you join us in praying for Father Otis and Ruth, who is still listed as a missing person, as well as for their families,” the post said. 

On Monday night, an hour of eucharistic adoration was held at St. Peter Catholic Church to offer prayers for the victims. 

Father Daniel Brouillette, pastor of the church, said at the Holy Hour that “we are in a state of shock, horror, and disbelief.”

“Even as we grieve we must forgive. That is hard tonight,” he said.

Imploring the prayers of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Brouillette said: “May she wrap them in her heavenly mantle, may she do the same for us.”

Senate passes same-sex marriage bill, sending it back to the House

null / Africa Studio / Shutterstock

St. Louis, Mo., Nov 29, 2022 / 17:01 pm (CNA).

The U.S. Senate voted Tuesday evening to pass the Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA), sending the bill back to the House for a final vote before it reaches the president’s desk. 

The bill, which would repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and provide for federal recognition of same-sex marriages, has drawn criticism from Catholic leaders for not providing strong enough legal protections for individuals who believe marriage to be between one man and one woman, as taught by the Catholic Church. 

The present bill would not require any state to allow same-sex couples to marry, but would require states to recognize any and all marriages — regardless of “sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin” — contracted in other states. 

The bill garnered bipartisan support, clearing the Senate Nov. 29 by a vote of 61-36, and will return now to the House. Should the House pass this amended version, the bill will proceed to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature, which he has pledged to give. Biden first signaled his support for same-sex marriage a decade ago, putting him at odds with the teaching of his Catholic faith. 

The Senate had voted 62-37 in mid-November to end debate on the bill by reaching the required 60-vote threshold. Twelve Republicans crossed the aisle to join all the Senate’s Democrats in that vote, and the same number joined in the Nov. 29 vote.

The final version of the bill includes a bipartisan amendment meant to ensure that nonprofit religious organizations will not be required to provide services, facilities, or goods for the celebration of a same-sex marriage. It also provides for individual conscience protections to the extent provided under the Constitution and federal law, and makes clear the bill does not authorize the federal government to recognize polygamous marriage. 

DOMA, which the present bill would repeal, is a 1996 law signed by President Bill Clinton that defined marriage federally as the union of a man and a woman, reserved federal benefits to heterosexual couples, and permitted states not to recognize same-sex marriages contracted in other states. DOMA was already effectively nullified by the 2013 and 2015 Supreme Court decisions United States v. Windsor and Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states. 

The Catholic bishops of the United States had urged Senators in July to oppose the Respect for Marriage Act, expressing concerns about the bill’s effect on the religious freedom of those who hold to a traditional definition of marriage. 

And in November, following the bill’s advancement in the U.S. Senate, the nation’s Catholic bishops reaffirmed the Church’s teaching on marriage. They also reiterated their concerns that “the legislation could lead to discrimination against individuals who hold to a traditional view of marriage.”

“The Catholic Church will always uphold the unique meaning of marriage as a lifelong, exclusive union of one man and one woman,” Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Religious Liberty, said in a Nov. 17 statement. 

“[T]he act offers only limited protections. Those protections fail to resolve the main problem with the act: in any context in which conflicts between religious beliefs and same-sex civil marriage arise, the act will be used as evidence that religious believers must surrender to the state’s interest in recognizing same-sex civil marriages,” Dolan continued. 

Ahead of the Nov. 29 vote, Sen. Mike Lee of Utah called on the 12 Republican senators who voted to advance the RFMA to adopt explicit protections, by way of an amendment he introduced, for individuals who believe marriage is between one man and one woman. Lee had argued that the RFMA will lead to more litigation against those who hold to a traditional view of marriage, unless the bill explicitly provides protections for them and not merely the possibility of a defense in court. 

“Instead of subjecting churches, religious nonprofits, and persons of conscience to undue scrutiny or punishment by the federal government because of their views on marriage, we should make explicitly clear that this legislation does not constitute a national policy endorsing a particular view of marriage that threatens the tax-exempt status of faith-based nonprofits,” Lee wrote in a November letter to his fellow senators. 

“As we move forward, let us be sure to keep churches, religious charities, and religious universities out of litigation in the first instance.”

Lee’s amendment ultimately failed Nov. 29 by a vote of 48-49. 

The RFMA represents one of the first legislative responses to the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade in June. While the majority opinion in Dobbs said that “this decision concerns the constitutional right to abortion and no other right,” Democrats have pointed to Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurring opinion suggesting the court should reconsider all “substantive due process” cases, including the 2015 Obergefell decision on same-sex marriage.

Pray with the cast of ‘The Chosen’ this Advent season on Hallow

Hallow's Advent feat. The Chosen: #Pray25 Prayer Challenge / Hallow

Denver, Colo., Nov 29, 2022 / 16:30 pm (CNA).

Advent is a season of preparation, hope, and joy as we await the birth of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. As in every Advent, we are called during this time to prepare our hearts for his miraculous birth. 

This Advent, Hallow, a Catholic meditation and prayer app, invites us to dive further into the journey that led to Christ’s birth by participating in the Advent #Pray25 Challenge featuring the cast of “The Chosen," the hit streaming series about Jesus and his first disciples. 

Join Jonathan Roumie, the actor who plays Jesus; Elizabeth Tabish, who plays Mary Magdalene; George Harrison Xanthis, who plays John the Evangelist; Paras Patel, who plays Matthew; Vanessa Benavente, who plays Mother Mary; David Amito, who plays John the Baptist; and Dallas Jenkins, the director and founder of “The Chosen," in daily reflections, prayers, and meditations that tell the story of salvation. 

These daily reflections will take the listener back to the beginning with Adam and Eve, continue with Noah, Abraham, Moses, Ruth, David, and the prophets in the Old Testament, and end with the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Nativity in the New Testament, showing how God has called people throughout the generations.

The 25-day prayer challenge starts “in the beginning” with a meditation on the opening of the Gospel of John, read by Xanthis, and then turns its focus back to the Old Testament with the Book of Genesis. Each session starts with prayer followed by a reading from Scripture and ends with thought-provoking questions to guide your meditative prayer. 

When asked what his favorite part of the challenge was during an Instagram livestream Monday, Roumie explained that the imaginative prayers with Benavente, who plays Mother Mary, were particularly “impactful.”

“A lot of the placing yourself in the time periods and the moments before, and the moments leading up to Christmas, I think a lot of those readings were really impactful for me personally,” he explained. “Especially having that on-screen relationship with Vanessa Benavente, who plays Mother Mary, and then just thinking about our interactions and thinking about some of the stuff coming up this season even.”

Roumie added: “I think it was a really powerful instinct to move forward to try to execute this for Advent this year. I think people are really going to come away from it changed on another level.”

“I am excited for people to pray with their favorite characters on the show,” he said.

Alex Jones, CEO of Hallow, said in a press release on Nov. 23: “We’ve been blessed at Hallow to partner with a lot of amazing content creators, but I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited to announce a partnership than I am today. ‘The Chosen’ has changed my own life and brought so many millions of folks around the world closer to Christ. We’re blessed to be able to journey together with some of our favorite folks from the series this Advent season in a one-of-a-kind prayer experience.”

“The Chosen,” created and directed by Jenkins, an evangelical Christian, premiered on Christmas Eve in 2017. During its first season, the show was the largest-ever crowdfunded television series. The series has been translated into 56 languages and has more than 420 million views worldwide.

The first two episodes of Season 3 are being shown in theaters through Dec. 14. The production was among the top 10 grossing films over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, outselling “She Said,” the film about Harvey Weinstein and the “Me Too” movement.

“The Chosen” can be streamed for free through The Chosen app for iOS or Android systems and the website of its distributor, Angel Studios. From the app you can stream to your TV using another device, such as Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV, Android TV, and Chromecast. Season 1 was recently released on Netflix. The seasons are also available to purchase on DVD/BluRay.

Hallow bills itself as “the No. 1 Catholic app in the world” and the “No. 1 Christian app in the United States.” Launched in 2018, it has had more than four million downloads and has been used to pray more than 100 million times across 150 countries, according to the press release. It can be downloaded on the App Store and Google Play. 

Watch the trailer for Hallow’s “Advent featuring The Chosen: #Pray25 Prayer Challenge” here: