20/20 hindsight

5 More Hard Truths We’ve Come to See with 2020 Vision

Over the past nine months, the Church has given the impression that the sacraments are not all that relevant and that we have little to offer during a crisis. We must never allow this to happen again

Msgr. Charles Pope BlogsJanuary 13, 2021

In the first part of this reflection we reviewed the painful year of 2020, focusing on the social and political ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic. This installment examines the Church’s response to the situation. Sadly, we didn’t handle things well, but I am hopeful that we have learned some valuable lessons. I am sympathetic to the fact that the initial reports on the potential impact of COVID-19 were dire. Nevertheless, given that hindsight is “20/20,” let’s look back at and examine the mistakes we made so that we can avoid them in the future.

First, we should not have completely suspended public Masses. While it may have been necessary in some (or maybe even many) cases, it was not necessary in every case. Even at the height of the pandemic shutdowns, meetings of 10 or fewer were still allowed in most areas. Early on, several dioceses completely suspended public Masses even though their governor still permitted gatherings of up to 250 people; others did so when 50 were still permitted by the governor.

Why was this done? If only 10 were permitted, then we should have celebrated Masses for 10 people, especially the most devout daily Mass attendees. Why close down entirely? Even when there were “stay-at-home” orders, a visit to a church or house of worship was still permitted in most regions. Why insist upon suspending all public celebrations of the Mass? We could have observed civil mandates while still celebrating Mass for some small number. Did some bishops think that parishes could not manage to adhere to the smaller numbers?

Even more egregiously, some pastors were instructed to lock their church entrances, barring the public from entering even for private prayer. Some bishops directed that Holy Communion and confession were not to be extended to anyone under any circumstances. This went far beyond what civil mandates required.

In my own diocese, thankfully, we were encouraged to keep our churches open for prayer, hear confessions, and hold Eucharistic Adoration, provided we did not exceed the mandated attendance limit. We had adoration every day and never exceeded the number. If there were too many people, some would wait outside until others left. When I celebrated my “private” Mass, I had three seminarians serving (all of whom resided in the rectory) and several religious sisters from our convent attended; all of them were “permitted” to receive Holy Communion. When several lay persons would quietly slip in, I would offer them Communion as well.

In all that time, we never exceeded the attendance limits set by the civil authorities or disregarded any of their policies. Ten to 15 people in a church that seats 700 is hardly a crowd!

Why were many dioceses stricter than even the secular leaders required? Was it fear of the virus? Was it fear of litigation? If shutdowns are imposed, we ought to be no stricter than is required by the secular leaders! If necessary, we should fight for our religious liberty to safely assemble, as some have already done.

Second, we were not as creative as we should have been in extending the sacraments to people outside of Masses and liturgies. Even if we had to limit the number of people inside our churches, why did we not try to get Holy Communion to people in other ways? The practice of giving Holy Communion outside of Mass is discouraged except for a serious reason. Well, a worldwide pandemic certainly seems like a pretty serious reason! Some priests tried such innovative solutions as parking lot Masses and drive-by Communion or confession. Others (like me) waited in the church on Sundays and then distributed Holy Communion to any of the individuals praying privately who requested it. It wasn’t hard, and again, we never disobeyed any of the rules put in place by civil authorities. Why were so many priests discouraged or forbidden from trying such solutions?

In my diocese, we were permitted to hear confessions provided that the screen was covered with a cloth, masks were worn, hand sanitizer was provided and the confessionals were regularly sanitized. In some dioceses, however, confessions were either outright forbidden or were required to be held maintaining a six-foot distance and out in the open, violating to some extent the right of the faithful to anonymity.

Were such things really necessary? Why did we restrict ourselves beyond what was required? We must learn through our 20/20 hindsight to do everything we can in the future to keep the sacraments available to God’s people, even if we cannot assemble in large numbers.

Third, we have overemphasized livestreamed and recorded Masses. Virtual is not real. Much has been made of the explosion of online connections that priests and parishes have made as a result of shutdowns and social distancing mandates. There is an aspect of this that is good: some meetings, Bible studies and classes can work well online. However, many have grown weary of endless online meetings and miss the community-building that comes from physical human interaction.

The word “virtual” means “sort of like, but not really.” For example, to say, “He went virtually crazy when he heard the news,” is to say that he was not actually crazy but kind of crazy. There is a place for livestreamed or recorded Masses, but they are no substitute for being physically present at Mass. You cannot receive Holy Communion online, or confess online, or have true fellowship online. You must actually be there; virtual doesn’t cut it.

There was also much talk about people making spiritual communion. This, too, has its place, but it is not a concept that should be emphasized when one can reasonably receive Holy Communion physically. There were even some Catholics who scolded others for having “spiritual gluttony” when they were rightly saddened at being denied the sacraments. They were told that they should be satisfied with livestreamed Masses and spiritual communion.

We have traditionally provided a televised Mass for the homebound, but as the pandemic restrictions are removed, we ought to discontinue all but one diocesan-sponsored Mass for shut-ins. Too many people have been heard to say that they prefer televised Mass because it’s so convenient to be able to stay home in their pajamas. This is wrong; they must attend Mass to actually receive sacraments. Our 20/20 vision must lead us to reasserting that virtual is neither the same nor as good as real.

Fourth, we squandered a crucial teaching moment. One of the great problems of the modern age is that many see no meaning to suffering and death. So meaningless does suffering seem to the modern world that euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide are proposed in order to alleviate it.

But as a Church, we were too fearful that the world would criticize us by saying, “You don’t care that people are dying.” Of course, that is not true — it is precisely because we do care that we try to give meaning and purpose to the suffering and death that inevitably come to all of us. In fact, our scriptural traditions teach us that suffering and ultimately death are among the most meaningful events of our lives! The fullness of our life is not here — it is in Heaven. On the subject of suffering, St. Paul said:

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, yet our inner self is being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary affliction is producing for us an eternal glory that is far beyond comparison. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

If we are faithful, the day we die is the greatest and happiest day of our life because we leave this sometimes-insane world and go home to meet God in Heaven, where things make sense.

I remember lying in the Intensive Care Unit the first days of my COVID illness pondering the fact that I might well die. On 100% heavy oxygen and still struggling to overcome respiratory failure, I certainly had a natural fear of death, but I rested in the words of St. Paul, who said:

For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. So what shall I choose? I do not know. I am torn between the two. I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better indeed. But it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and will continue with all of you…” (Philippians 1:21-26).

I do not know what those who have no faith think about death, but do I know this: We must give them our vision that death is not the end, that our entire life in this world is an invitation to go higher and seek that which is above, not below (cf Colossians 3:1). God is offering something better, something higher. Death (as well as the suffering that points to it) is not the worst thing. This world is not our lasting home. Our goal is to be with God in Heaven. Suffering or dying from COVID-19 is not our greatest threat — dying in mortal sin is.

This leads to the final observation in this reflection.

Fifth, we conveyed the idea that the physical body is more important than the soul. By canceling Mass and denying Holy Communion and confession for such an extended period, we seemed to send the message that our bodies are more important than our souls. While it may have been reasonable to suspend large gatherings, we did not try hard enough to provide access to the sacraments in other ways.

The unprecedented shutdowns and mask mandates, the intrusive interviews and the disclosures from government health departments about COVID-19 patients demonstrated an intense focus on the possible threat to human life and wellbeing. Whatever your views on these matters and the degree to which they were necessary, they surely manifest an intense focus on the bodily threat of COVID-19. Would that people everywhere had such focus on the disease of sin and the deadly and eternal effects of mortal sin! Imagine if people were willing to take drastic measures to prevent the spread of sin and the giving of scandal. An old song from the 1950s has this line: “Everybody’s worried about that atom bomb, but no one seems worried about the day my Lord will come.”

It is a grave concern to me as a pastor that a significant number of people got the message that the sacraments are not that essential. As the thinking goes, you might have to risk your health to go buy food or liquor or to engage in a protest, but receiving the sacraments is not important enough to risk getting sick. Never mind that there are few reported incidents of Catholics contracting COVID-19 at Mass.

To date, only one-third of those who were attending Mass before March 2020 have returned to Mass and the sacraments. If the plague were to end tomorrow, I am doubtful that 100% would suddenly return. Many got the message loud and clear: Sacraments just aren’t that important. Of course, the problem is that sacraments are essential, and that is why the Lord gave them to us. They are food and medicine for our souls! “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (John 6:53).

We are going to have to work very hard to undo the message many received and summon them back to the sacraments with a sense of both joy and alarm, with encouragement and warning

So here are five lessons we were taught by 2020 and which we learned via “20/20” hindsight. The uniting factor of too many of these is that we as a Church weren’t there for God’s people when they needed us. We had little to say other than to refer them to the media and the folks wearing white lab coats. While we did significant virtual outreach, for too many, finding the church door locked and the rectory shuttered was a real countersign

There are many wonderful exceptions to this: priests and parishes that were creative, that were and out and about in the community with Rosary and Eucharistic processions, that celebrated outdoor Masses, and so forth. But too many of us were hunkered down, giving the impression that the Church doesn’t really have much to offer during a crisis and isn’t all that relevant.

May we never allow this to happen again! We are, by the gospel of Jesus Christ, the keeper of meaning, the giver of hope and the herald of courage. We should have been a shining light, but at least collectively, I fear we were hidden under a bushel basket. We waited to hear what the experts would tell us and sometimes begged the local authorities to allow us to reopen and to deem us “essential.”

Afterword: As the pandemic restrictions begin to lift, does your parish have an evangelization plan that is more than “Let’s hope they come back?” We’re going to have to do better than that if we ever hope to rebuild our devastated numbers. People need Jesus. They need the medicine of the sacraments and the formation of the Holy Liturgy. What are you and your parish ready to do to rebuild God’s flock? In my next article I will share a plan that my parish has used in the past and intend to use in the spring, and which I hope will benefit yours as well.

Msgr. Charles Pope Msgr. Charles Pope is currently a dean and pastor in the Archdiocese of Washington, DC, where he has served on the Priest Council, the College of Consultors, and the Priest Personnel Board. Along with publishing a daily blog at the Archdiocese of Washington website, he has written in pastoral journals, conducted numerous retreats for priests and lay faithful, and has also conducted weekly Bible studies in the U.S. Congress and the White House. He was named a Monsignor in 2005

Amid Pandemic, Vatican Offers Guidance on Ash Distribution for Ash Wednesday

The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments published a note Jan. 12, directing priests to say the formula for distributing the ashes once to everyone present, rather than to each person.

Pope Francis receives ashes on his head during Ash Wednesday in Rome, Feb. 26, 2020.
Pope Francis receives ashes on his head during Ash Wednesday in Rome, Feb. 26, 2020. (photo: Vatican Media)

Hannah Brockhaus/CNAVaticanJanuary 12, 2021

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican gave guidance Tuesday about how priests can distribute ashes on Ash Wednesday amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments published a note Jan. 12, directing priests to say the formula for distributing the ashes once to everyone present, rather than to each person.

The priest “addresses all those present and only once says the formula as it appears in the Roman Missal, applying it to all in general: ‘Repent, and believe in the Gospel,’ or ‘Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return,’” the note said.

It continued: “The priest then cleanses his hands, puts on a face mask and distributes the ashes to those who come to him or, if appropriate, he goes to those who are standing in their places. The Priest takes the ashes and sprinkles them on the head of each one without saying anything.”

The note was signed by the congregation’s prefect, Cardinal Robert Sarah, and its secretary, Archbishop Arthur Roche.

Ash Wednesday falls on Feb. 17 this year.

In 2020, the divine worship congregation put out various instructions for priests on administering the sacraments and offering Mass during the coronavirus pandemic, including for the celebration of Easter, which occurred when many countries were in lockdown and public liturgies were not permitted.

(One GIANT step towards women priest….Which is impossible JP II)

Pope Francis Admits Women to Ministries of Lector and Acolyte in New Motu Proprio

Pope Francis wrote a letter to Cardinal Luis Ladaria, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, explaining his decision to admit women to the ministries of lector and acolyte.

Pope Francis delivers his Angelus address in the library of the Apostolic Palace Jan. 6, 2021. Pope Francis delivers his Angelus address in the library of the Apostolic Palace Jan. 6, 2021. (photo: Vatican Media)

Courtney Mares/CNAVaticanJanuary 11, 2021

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis issued a motu proprio Monday changing canon law to allow women to serve as lectors and acolytes.

In the motu proprio “Spiritus Domini,” issued on Jan. 11, the pope changed canon 230 § 1 of the Code of Canon Law to read: “Lay people who have the age and skills determined by decree of the Episcopal Conference, they can be permanently assumed, through the established liturgical rite, to the ministries of lectors and of acolytes; however this contribution does not give them the right to support or to remuneration by the Church.”

Prior to this change, the law formerly said that “lay men who possess the age and qualifications established by decree of the conference of bishops can be admitted on a stable basis through the prescribed liturgical rite to the ministries of lector and acolyte.”

The roles of lector and acolyte are publicly recognized ministries instituted by the Church. The roles were considered “minor orders” in the tradition of the Church, and  have previously only been held by men. According to Church law, “before anyone is promoted to the permanent or transitional diaconate, he is required to have received the ministries of lector and acolyte.”

Pope Francis wrote a letter to Cardinal Luis Ladaria, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, explaining his decision to admit women to the ministries of lector and acolyte.

In this letter, the pope highlighted the distinction between “‘established’ (or ‘lay’) ministries and ‘ordained’ ministries,” and expressed hope that opening these law ministries to women might “better manifest the common baptismal dignity of the members of the People of God.”

He said: “The Apostle Paul distinguishes between gifts of grace-charisms (‘charismata) and services (‘diakoniai – ‘ministry [cf. Rom 12, 4ff and 1 Cor 12, 12ff]). According to the tradition of the Church, the various forms that charisms take when they are publicly recognized and are made available to the community and its mission in a stable form are called ministries,” the pope wrote in the letter published Jan. 11.

“In some cases the ministry has its origin in a specific sacrament, Holy Orders: these are the ‘ordained’ ministries, the bishop, the presbyter, the deacon. In other cases the ministry is entrusted, with a liturgical act of the bishop, to a person who has received Baptism and Confirmation and in whom specific charisms are recognized, after an adequate journey of preparation: we then speak of ‘instituted’ ministries.”

The pope noted that there is “an ever greater urgency today to rediscover the co-responsibility of all the baptized in the Church, and especially the mission of the laity.”

He said that the 2019 Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazonian region “signaled the need to think about ‘new paths for ecclesial ministeriality,’ not only for the Amazonian Church, but for the whole Church, in the variety of situations.”

“It is urgent that they be promoted and  confer ministries on men and women … It is the Church of baptized men and women that we must consolidate by promoting ministry and, above all, awareness of baptismal dignity,” Pope Francis said, quoting the synod’s final document.

It will be up to local bishops’ conferences to establish the appropriate for the discernment and preparation of candidates for the ministries of lector and acolyte in their territories, the pope said. 

“Offering lay people of both sexes the possibility of accessing the ministry of the Acolyte and the Lectorate, by virtue of their participation in the baptismal priesthood, will increase the recognition, also through a liturgical act (institution), of the precious contribution that many lay people, even women, offer to the life and mission of the Church.”

This is a developing story. More to follow

The full list of President Trump’s accomplishments shows why leftists are so desperate to ‘unperson’ him


As the world focuses on the deletion of Trump’s accounts from the most prominent social media sites, LifeSite presents these lists so that Trump’s pro-life, pro-family accomplishments are not forgotten.Mon Jan 11, 2021 – 8:32 pm EST

Featured Image
President Donald J. Trump salutes and First Lady Melania Trump places her hand on her heart as the United States Air Force Academy Concert Band performs the National Anthem during a Fourth of July celebration Friday, July 3, 2020, at Mount Rushmore National Memorial in Keystone, S.D.Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks / White House Flickr page

By LifeSiteNews staff


ANALYSIS

January 11, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) – Despite the fact that President Donald Trump has only 10 days left in office, the left is trying to impeach him yet again, saying that by urging protestors to “peacefully” march to the U.S. Capitol Trump “incited” an “insurrection.” There is also a coordinated effort banning him from almost all social media, showing that perhaps the leader of the free world isn’t necessarily the most powerful person in the world. Why is there such an effort to “unperson” him, to borrow a term from George Orwell’s prophetic 1984?

LifeSiteNews has reported on all aspects of Trump’s presidency as related to life, family, and culture issues. Despite Trump’s support of same-sex “marriage,” which we have never tried to sugarcoat or gloss over, he has nevertheless been a stalwart defender of unborn children, a thorn in Planned Parenthood’s side, and he has strongly defended religious liberty. Here we present a list of his accomplishments for the pro-life and pro-family movement as well as America in general. Much of this list is compiled using information from the Family Research Councilthe Susan B. Anthony List, the Trump administration itself, and previous LifeSite coverage.

In addition to the below accomplishments, Trump also kept the U.S. out of new wars; brokered historic peace deals in the Middle East; oversaw record economic growth and employment numbers; axed the Obamacare individual mandate which forced people to buy expensive, low-quality, and often pro-abortion health plans; and signed the biggest package of tax cuts and reforms in history. Under Trump, the FDA approved more affordable generic drugs than ever before in history and many drug companies froze or reversed planned price increases.— Article continues below Petition —President Trump: Please pardon all involved in the case of Lisa Miller 

Also notable is the fact that Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord and the U.S.-Iran Deal, both of which were pushed by far-left radicals. The pro-abortion Paris Climate Accord includes language “designed to promote abortion and contraception,” as Voice of the Family put it. It is also premised on dubious “climate change” science and undermines national sovereignty.

Joe Biden has said he will rejoin the Paris Climate Accord and has promised to implement the left’s long wish-list, which includes laws (particularly the so-called Equality Act) and/or executive orders protecting abortion on demand, transgenderism in civil rights law, and forcing Americans to violate their consciences as related to abortion, contraception, same-sex “marriage,” and transgender confusion.SUBSCRIBEto LifeSite’s daily headlinesSUBSCRIBEU.S. Canada World Catholic

Additionally, Trump has made numerous strong statements about national sovereignty and the role of Christianity in the public square. These include his pro-God Poland speech and Christmas messages about the birth of Jesus which have gone viral.

He has also pushed back against political correctness and the divisive, anti-human “critical race theory” that undergirds it. And during the coronavirus crisis as leftist governors tried to ban people from going to church (among other normal and necessary activities) while keeping marijuana shops and abortion centers open, Trump spoke out in favor of religious freedom, calling places of worship “essential.”

As the world focuses on the deletion of Trump’s accounts from the most prominent social media sites, LifeSite presents these lists so that Trump’s pro-life, pro-family accomplishments are not forgotten. They are long lists, but worth reading all the way through.

Broad pro-life accomplishments

An important part of being pro-life is protecting the rights of people with disabilities

The above-mentioned Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has taken many actions to protect the rights of vulnerable people, particularly those with disabilities. It is this office that was part of the Trump administration’s efforts to get California and Vermont to comply with laws protecting conscience rights in healthcare, and its intervention to ensure people hospitalized with the coronavirus had access to a priest and the Last Rites.

Below is a list from OCR of its many accomplishments in the area of protecting and helping Americans with disabilities. Many of these also intersect with bioethics, like the rationing of healthcare. OCR compiled this list in honor of the 30th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).

Defending Rights and Supporting Critical Needs During COVID-19

  • Awarding Funding to Address the Needs of Individuals with Disabilities in Emergency Responses: CDC has awarded $3 million in COVID-19 funding to support the development of resources for people with disabilities who have extreme low literacy and the creation of national standards to inform emergency response communications for reaching people with disabilities. CDC also awarded $10 million in COVID-19 funding to the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, the National Association of County and City Health Officials, and the Association of University Centers on Disabilities to address the needs of Americans with disabilities in COVID-19 preparedness, planning, mitigation, and recovery efforts.
  • Unprecedented Support for Independent Living: Through the CARES Act, the Administration for Community Living (ACL) awarded an unprecedented $85 million in direct funding to more than 350 Centers for Independent Living (CILs), community-based organizations led by individuals with disabilities. With this funding, individuals received food and prepared meals, personal care and basic home items, personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves to ensure continuity of support services, housing assistance, and alternative transportation for medical appointments. CILs also transformed direct services to include virtual options and supported people with disabilities by providing access to technology and the Internet.
  • Guidance on Disability Rights Protections: In March 2020, the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued a Bulletin on Civil Rights laws and HIPAA during the COVID-19 pandemic, reminding covered entities of their obligations to provide effective communications and reasonable modifications to persons with disabilities. This follows emergency guidance issued in 20172018, and 2019.
  • Preventing Disability Discrimination in Triage Decisions: In April 2020, OCR resolved a complaint against Pennsylvania after the state revised its interim Crisis Standards of Care to prevent disability discrimination in triaging of vital health care.
  • Preventing Disability Discrimination in Ventilator Allocation Decisions During COVID-19: In April 2020, OCR resolved a complaint with the state of Alabama concerning ventilator rationing guidelines that categorically excluded persons with profound intellectual disabilities.
  • Preventing Disability Discrimination in Hospital “No Visitor” Policies During COVID-19: In June 2020, OCR resolved a complaint with the state of Connecticut after the state issued an executive order on no-visitor policies in hospitals to ensure these policies do not deny reasonable access to needed support persons for people with disabilities. OCR also resolved a complaint with Hartford Hospital after it agreed to grant a 73-year-old woman with aphasia access to support persons to help with her communication and comprehension in her treatment.
  • Protecting Rights and Preventing Abuse in Long-Term Care: ACL began issuing guidance in March to help State Long-Term Care Ombudsmen continue working to protect the health, welfare, and rights of nursing home residents, most of whom are protected under the ADA.
  • Protecting Against Disability Discrimination in State Triage Plan: In June 2020, OCR resolved a complaint against Tennessee after it updated its crisis standards of care plan to ensure that the criteria does not discriminate against persons based on disability or age. Through technical assistance, the state updated its policies to ensure that hospitals do not deny life-saving care during a crisis based on stereotypes about disabilities or other impermissible factors.

Protecting Rights in Healthcare

  • Access to Health Care for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities: In February 2019, OCR resolved a case in North Carolina alleging discrimination against an individual with autism who was deemed ineligible to be on a heart transplant wait list because of his disability. After OCR intervened in the case, the medical facility reversed course and allowed the individual to be eligible for the waiting list.
  • Access to Sign Language Interpreter for Deaf Child: In July 2019, OCR resolved a case with Mid-Maryland Musculoskeletal Institute to protect a 6-year-old patient’s rights to effective communication while attending physical therapy sessions.

Preventing Discrimination in Human Services

Empowering Americans with Disabilities to Live in the Community

  • Helping Veterans with Disabilities Remain in Their Homes: ACL has worked with the Department of Veterans Affairs to expand the Veteran-Directed Care program, which allows veterans to use VA benefits to work with ACL-supported aging and disability networks to access the services they need to live independently.
  • Training and Assistance under the ADA: ACL’s ADA National Network provides training and technical assistance on the Americans with Disabilities Act. In 2019, the Network hosted over 1,100 training activities and nearly 17,000 individual consultations with people with disabilities, agencies, businesses, and state and local governments. During the pandemic, the ADA Network has provided technical assistance to consumers and employers on the implications for disability-related services and return to work.
  • Promoting Innovation to Combat Isolation: In partnership with the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, ACL launched a prize competition to combat social isolation for people with disabilities, veterans and older adults. The Mobilizing and Empowering the Nation and Technology to Address Loneliness & social isolation (MENTAL) Health Innovation Challenge will award $750,000 in prizes for development of an easy-to-use online system that offers recommendations for programs, activities, and resources that can help users connect to others and engage in the community, based on their individual needs, interests, and abilities. The winning system will be announced and demonstrated at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January 2021 and will become the centerpiece of a national public awareness campaign.
  • Improving Home- and Community-Based Services (HCBS) in Medicaid: CMS issued several pieces of guidance to assist states in implementing the criteria defining a home and community-based setting, balancing the need to ensure settings facilitate and empower beneficiary autonomy and community integration with the need to ensure a workable implementation approach for states and providers. CMS has developed an HCBS quality framework, strategy, and work plan to align and coordinate activities within CMS and with other partners related to HCBS quality measurement, in order to ensure the health and safety of people receiving HCBS; promote high-quality and accessible HCBS; and promote value-based care and services for people receiving HCBS.
  • A New Center to Combat Health Inequities: In September 2019, ACL launched the Center for Human Dignity in Healthcare for Individuals with Disabilities to reduce life-limiting healthcare inequities faced by people with disabilities. The center, based at the Children’s Hospital Medical Center at the University of Cincinnati, increases education around four focus areas: Prenatal Genetic Testing, Mental Health and Suicidality, Organ Transplantation and Aging and End of Life. The Center is conducting an analysis to identify gaps and investigate the impact of discrimination and disparities on the medical treatment outcomes of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (ID/DD). In response to COVID-19, the Center developed two fact sheets on medical discrimination: one for people with disabilities and one for medical practitioners.
  • Promoting Physical Activity for Americans with Disabilities: ACL refocused the I Can Do It program, returning it to its roots as a program that partners with schools to encourage and support physical activity for children with disabilities.

Expanding Work Opportunities

  • A First-Ever Task Force to Boost Employment for Americans with Disabilities: ACL launched a historic government-wide task force focused on expanding employment for Americans with disabilities, to build on the historically low unemployment rates for Americans with disabilities in the booming Trump economy before COVID-19. Fourteen federal agencies actively participate in the task force’s work on key issues, particularly the removal of barriers that inhibit employment and, recently, the anticipated difficulty of post-COVID-19 employment and reentry.
  • A Prize to Boost Private-Sector Support for Employment: As part of National Disability Employment Awareness Month 2019, ACL announced a national prize competition, Inclusive Talent Pipeline for American Business, which drew nearly 60 applicants from the private and nonprofit sectors to create and operationalize innovative and market-disruptive approaches to recruiting, retaining, and advancing employees with disabilities. Five Round One prize winners were announced in April 2020 and are currently preparing to pilot their proposed models in the fall of this year.

Improving Healthcare

  • New Wheelchair Options in Medicare: Medicare expanded coding and increased payments for complex rehabilitative wheelchairs to ensure access to newer, expensive complex rehabilitative wheelchair options and accessories.
  • Broader Access to Therapy: Medicare allowed therapy assistants (rather than only therapists) to perform maintenance therapy under the Medicare home health benefit starting in 2020, helping to expand access to this important service for all beneficiaries, including individuals with disabilities.
  • Reforming Payment for Medicare Advantage Beneficiaries with Disabilities: Starting in 2017, CMS modified the Medicare risk adjustment model used to pay beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans to have separate factors for disabled (versus aged) beneficiaries, to better reflect their expected cost to the plans, allowing payments to be better targeted to plans based on the cost of their enrollees.
  • Expanding More Flexible Preventive Services: For 2018, CMS finalized billing codes for “prolonged preventive services,” allowing for additional Medicare payment for preventive service visits that extend beyond the typical time, which can be important for beneficiaries with mobility or cognitive disabilities who may take extra time to complete these visits.
  • Closing the Life Expectancy Gap: In June 2020, ACL announced a funding opportunity to improve health outcomes for the ID/DD population, who have significantly lower life expectancy than their non-ID/DD peers. Funding will support a national consortium that will build upon existing efforts to collaborate with medical and allied health schools to embed ID/DD content into their curriculum.

Expanding Research on Disability Issues

  • Establishing Prevalence of ID/DD: ACL is leading an interagency effort to establish and maintain valid and reliable prevalence rates of intellectual and developmental disabilities and to improve data about health status and factors that influence health outcomes of individuals with ID/DD.
  • A First-Ever Government Wide Inventory: A partnership between the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and ACL’s National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) aims to create a government-wide inventory of all federally supported disability research, launching in the fall of 2020, housed at the NIH Library.
  • Building a Limb Loss and Preservation Registry: In 2018, NIH and the Department of Defense announced plans to establish a registry to document the number of people in the United States living with limb loss and to provide insights on their challenges and needs.
  • Studying Conditions that Affect Americans with Down Syndrome: In June 2018, NIH launched the INCLUDE (INvestigation of Co-occurring conditions across the Lifespan to Understand Down syndromE) project to study conditions that affect both individuals with Down syndrome and the general population. The goal is to learn more about these conditions in both populations so that new treatments can be developed in both groups. People with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities have often been excluded from participating in clinical research and clinical trials because it was thought that it would be too difficult to include them in complicated research studies, or the process to provide informed consent would be too challenging. People with Down syndrome are now being invited to speak up about their research needs, and new clinical trials supported by INCLUDE focus on topics such as sleep apnea, Alzheimer’s disease, and treatment of co-occurring ADHD.
  • New Hope for Turning Thoughts into Speech: The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communications Disorders (NIDCD) supported groundbreaking research on augmentative and alternative communication devices, which help people with voice, speech, or language disorders communicate. This includes people with ALS or brainstem stroke who lose their ability to move their muscles for writing or speaking, even as they are able to think and reason normally. In an important advance, NIDCD-supported researchers developed an approach to turn a person’s thoughts directly into speech. The scientists trained a computer algorithm that is typically used to interpret voice commands to decipher brain activity instead. Individuals with epilepsy undergoing brain surgery listened to sentences spoken by different people, and the researchers used the neural patterns measured from these patients to train the computer algorithm. When the patients simply thought of the words they had heard, the algorithm was able to accurately decipher the thoughts 75 percent of the time.
  • Making Hearing Aids More Accessible and Affordable: Approximately 28.8 million adults in the United States could benefit from using hearing aids, yet only one in four has ever used one. Research funded by NIDCD directly contributed to a measure included in the 2017 FDA reauthorization act to create a first-of-its-kind category of direct-to-consumer hearing aids for adults with perceived mild-to-moderate hearing loss, which is expected to spur innovation, reduce consumer costs, and improve hearing health care for millions of Americans who have hearing loss by making hearing aids more accessible and affordable.
  • Designing Visually Accessible Spaces for People with Low Vision: Mobility challenges are one of the most serious consequences of impaired vision, and one approach for dealing with this problem is to make public spaces more accessible for people with low vision. Building on the concept of environmental modifications that enhance physical mobility (such as ramps for wheelchairs), the National Eye Institute (NEI) supported a combination of empirical and computational research to extend the concept of environmental modifications to “visual accessibility” (i.e., to what degree one can use vision to travel safely through an environment). In the final phase of this project, the models developed to predict low-vision visibility and navigability of real-world spaces are being translated into a set of open-source software modules to enhance architectural and lighting design for visual accessibility. The intended use is for architects and lighting designers to submit a design to the software and get a labeled output indicating what is likely to be a potential mobility hazard for pedestrians with reduced acuity and/or contrast sensitivity.
  • Advances in Turning Thoughts into Computer Control: NEI is supporting work aimed at helping quadriplegic people use computer interfaces. By implanting recording electrodes in visual and motor areas of the brain, the researchers are able to turn the person’s intentions for cursor movements on a computer screen into action.
  • Progress on Restoring Visual Perception to the Blind: NEI is supporting work aimed at helping blind people achieve useable visual perception. By placing stimulating electrodes on the visual cortex of the brain, the researchers are able to turn images recorded by a camera mounted on the head into the sensation of a rough pattern of light and dark. This interface is being gradually improved by training computational algorithms to optimize the pattern of stimulation. The blind patient also has to be trained to work with the brain-machine interface, but good progress is being made.

Detailed list of accomplishments related to pro-life issues, religious liberty, and the family

The Family Research Council Action published this list of Trump’s accomplishments by year on issues social conservatives care about. It was last updated September 3, 2020. A PDF of this excellent FRC resource is available here.

2017

  • On January 23, President Trump reinstated and expanded the Mexico City Policy, which blocks funding for international organizations that perform or promote abortion. This new program is known as Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance (PLGHA), which now covers $8.8 billion in family planning and global health funds that go to organizations abroad (none of whom may perform or promote abortion).
  • On February 22, the Department of Education, in conjunction with the Department of Justice (DOJ) rescinded President Obama’s guidance that required public schools to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms and showers of their choice.
  • On April 7, President Trump’s nominee Neil Gorsuch was confirmed to the Supreme Court. Justice Gorsuch has already developed a reputation as an originalist who will rule the right way on religious liberty issues. Gorsuch is representative of President Trump’s judicial nominees overall.
  • On May 4, President Trump signed an Executive Order Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty (known as the “Religious Liberty Executive Order”), broadly setting forth religious liberty as a policy priority of the administration, and requiring all federal agencies to take action to protect it. The order also more specifically addressed conscience protections, forthcoming guidance from the DOJ, and religious liberty in the context of free speech.
  • On August 25, President Trump announced changes to the Obama administration’s Department of Defense (DOD) policy which had allowed military personnel to serve even if they openly self-identified as transgender. (A DOD study found the Obama administration’s policy to be detrimental to military readiness, lethality, and unit cohesion.)
  • On September 7, DOJ filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court defending the religious freedom rights of baker Jack Phillips in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. This filing is representative of other actions defending religious freedom taking place throughout the Trump administration DOJ.
  • On October 6, DOJ issued guidance and an implementing memo (as instructed by the Religious Liberty Executive Order) to all federal agencies explaining religious freedom law and how religious liberty must be protected. This guidance laid out a broad defense of religious liberty based on multiple statutes and provided each federal agency with guidelines for protecting religious liberty.
  • Also on October 6, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) proposed two regulations to deal with the Obamacare “HHS contraceptive mandate” that had for years violated conscience and religious liberty. These new regulations exempt organizations that have moral or religious objections to purchasing insurance that includes coverage of contraceptives and abortion-causing drugs and devices.

2018

  • On January 16, DOJ filed an amicus brief with the District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on behalf of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. The Archdiocese had wanted to promote a religious message during the Christmas holiday but, had been denied advertising space within the District’s public transit system.
  • On January 18, DOJ filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue defending the First Amendment rights of parents and students who attend a religious school, to participate in a private school scholarship program.
  • On January 18, HHS announced a new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division within its Office of Civil Rights (OCR). This new division was established to enforce federal laws that protect conscience rights and religious freedom.
  • On January 19, HHS issued a new proposed regulation on conscience protections related to abortion. Specifically, the regulation proposed to implement 25 laws that protect pro-life healthcare entities against discrimination by federal agencies — or state or local governments receiving federal funds — due to their objections to participating in abortion, sterilization, and other morally objectionable procedures.
  • On January 24, Sam Brownback was confirmed as U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom. In choosing Brownback for this role, President Trump demonstrated the administration’s commitment to religious freedom by choosing someone with gravitas and experience on the issue.
  • On March 23, 2018, the White House and DOD issued a new policy allowing existing personnel to remain in the military while preventing those who have been diagnosed with “gender dysphoria” or had undergone gender transition surgery from joining the military. Those who are transgender and stable for 36 months could join so long as they serve in accordance with their biological sex.
  • On April 26, Mike Pompeo was confirmed as Secretary of State. In choosing Pompeo for this position, President Trump chose someone who cares deeply about religious liberty and will make it a priority to see the issue advanced through this administration.
  • On April 30, during a press conference with Nigeria’s president, President Trump raised the issue of religious freedom and the killing of Christians in that country — bringing attention to an issue that had largely been neglected by other government officials.
  • On May 22, HHS issued a new proposed regulation reversing the Title X family planning regulations implemented by President Clinton. The proposed regulation would restore the separation of abortion services from the federal Title X family planning program, which President Reagan first implemented. The proposed regulation would also ensure parents are more involved in the decisions of minors to obtain services from Title X clinics. It reverses the discriminatory abortion referral requirement the Clinton regulations implemented and is poised to put a dent into Planned Parenthood’s roughly $60 million annual revenues from the Title X program.
  • On June 13, DOJ announced the Place to Worship Initiative, designed to increase enforcement and public awareness of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUPIA). This federal law protects places of worship and other religious uses of property. Through this initiative, federal prosecutors will receive training about legal protections for houses of worship.
  • On July 24-26, the State Department held the first-ever Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom. Political and civil society leaders from around the world gathered in Washington, D.C. for a three-day summit to discuss religious freedom issues and solutions. The Potomac Declaration, issued at the Ministerial, made a strong statement about the state of religious freedom around the globe and provided a plan of action for promoting global religious freedom. The U.S. also announced the International Religious Freedom Fund (to provide emergency assistance to victims of religiously motivated discrimination and abuse around the world) and the Genocide Recovery and Persecution Response Initiative (which has provided nearly $373 million to help persecuted ethnic and religious minorities in northern Iraq restore their communities). The U.S. was among 25 countries who signed a statement condemning terrorism and the abuse of religious believers by non-state actors.
  • On July 30, DOJ announced a Religious Liberty Task Force to fully implement religious liberty guidance and policy across all components of the DOJ.
  • On August 1, the Trump administration relied on Executive Order 13818 (which builds on Global Magnitsky Act authority) to sanction two Turkish officials over the detention of American pastor Andrew Brunson due to his Christian faith. This Executive Order ultimately resulted in Pastor Brunson’s release.
  • On September 24, HHS terminated a $15,900 contract with Advanced Bioscience Resources to procure fetal tissue from aborted babies for research. The termination of this contract led HHS to announce an audit of all acquisitions and research involving human fetal tissue to ensure consistency with statutes and regulations.
  • On October 6, President Trump’s nominee Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court. Kavanaugh is the second constitutional originalist the president saw confirmed to the Court.
  • On November 7, HHS finalized its two regulations to protect conscience and religious liberty from long-running problems with the Obamacare “HHS contraceptive mandate.” These two final regulations exempt organizations with either a moral or religious objection to purchasing insurance with coverage of contraceptives and abortion-causing drugs and devices. The regulations took effect on January 14, 2019.
  • On November 9, HHS proposed a new regulation to address an abortion surcharge hidden in many plans purchased on the Obamacare exchange. This proposed regulation would enforce the requirement that abortion surcharges are to be collected separately from other insurance premiums. This requirement was not closely followed under the Obama administration, leading HHS to now more strictly enforce the separation of abortion payments from other payments.
  • On December 26, DOJ filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court defending a publicly-displayed cross-shaped veteran’s memorial that had been challenged as a violation of the Establishment Clause. This position is representative of the Trump administration’s originalist approach to the Constitution concerning First Amendment rights and other issues. Such an approach results in legal analysis that interprets the law rather than injecting policy preferences into it.

2019

  • On January 18, HHS notified California that its law requiring pregnancy resource centers to post notices about how to obtain an abortion violated the pro-life Weldon and Coates-Snowe Amendments. This marks the first time that the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division at HHS found a state in violation of these laws. This demonstrates the administration’s commitment to enforcing conscience protections and its pro-life priorities.
  • On January 19, at the request of 169 members of Congress and 49 senators, President Trump sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in which he promised to veto any legislation that weakens current pro-life Federal policies and laws. This letter was a message to the new Democrat ma jority in the House that longstanding pro-life protections like the Hyde Amendment and safeguards protecting the conscience rights of health care providers are not negotiable.
  • On February 22, HHS announced final rule changes governing the Title X family planning program. Consistent with federal law, these rule changes ensured that Title X clinics would be financially and physically separate from abortion facilities and would not refer patients for abortions. Since the implementation of the rule, Planned Parenthood and several pro-abortion states voluntarily decided to withdraw from the program rather than quit performing abortions or referring patients for abortions.
  • On March 8, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback criticized China’s poor religious freedom record in a speech he delivered in Hong Kong.
  • On April 12, the Trump administration’s policy on military service by those with gender dysphoria went into effect. This policy will help halt the deterioration of military readiness, lethality, and unit cohesion caused by social experimentation in the military.
  • On May 2, HHS announced a final rule to expand the structure in which federal conscience laws are enforced. In 2011, President Obama issued a rule that enforced only three federal conscience provisions. The new regulation under President Trump covers 25 existing statutes, which will be enforced by the new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division, part of the HHS OCR.
  • On May 5, at the World Health Assembly, the Trump administration issued a joint statement on behalf of the United States and eight other nations calling on other countries to join an effort to focus on women’s health issues that unify rather than create dissension among members (like abortion and sexual and reproductive health). This statement was the first action taken under the administration’s new Protecting Life in Global Health Policy (PLGHP), which seeks to build a global coalition to promote women’s health while also protecting unborn life and strengthening the family. This policy works in conjunction with the Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance (PLGHA) program, which restricts funding for organizations abroad that perform or promote abortion.
  • On May 24, HHS proposed a new regulation that clarifies that discrimination on the basis of sex in section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act was to be interpreted under the plain meaning of the word. Therefore, it does not include “gender identity” or “termination of pregnancy” as set forth by a 2016 Obama administration regulation. The HHS regulation will continue to enforce existing civil rights protections; however, it makes clear that the federal government will not force physicians to participate in gender reassignment surgeries or abortions.
  • On June 5, after an extensive audit into fetal tissue research, the Trump administration announced a major change in the enforcement of research contracts. HHS would no longer conduct intramural (internal) research using tissue from aborted babies and would greatly increase the ethics rules and safeguards that govern extramural (external) fetal tissue research contracts. All new external contracts will be subject to a congressionally authorized ethics advisory board, making it much more difficult for fetal tissue research contracts to be awarded by the National Institute of Health.
  • On July 16-18, the State Department held the second Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced a new global initiative, the International Religious Freedom Alliance, meant to provide a way for like-minded countries to work together to advance religious freedom. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai gave a compelling speech condemning the use of technology to track and control the lives of religious minorities. The United States was among 14 signatory countries on a statement of concern about technology and religious freedom. The U.S. was also one of 34 countries that signed a statement of concern on counterterrorism as a pretext for the repression of religious freedom; one of 27 countries that signed a statement condemning blasphemy, apostasy, or other laws that restrict religious freedom; and was one of 46 countries that signed a statement that called upon government officials to condemn attacks on places of worship and to work with religious communities to protect these places. At this event, the State Department and USAID also announced new religious freedom training programs for foreign service officers.
  • On July 16, the State Department placed targeted sanctions on Burmese military officials for their human rights and religious freedom violations committed against the Rohingya Muslim population.
  • On July 18, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and HHS Secretary Alex Azar issued a joint letter on International Partnerships that called states to join a coalition of countries that seek to advocate against pro-abortion policies at the World Health Organization and the United Nations (UN).
  • In August 2019, DOJ filed amicus briefs with the Supreme Court in two important religious liberty cases, R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Bostock v. Clayton County/Altitude Express, Inc. v. Zarda. Through these filings, DOJ advanced a biologically binary definition of sex and those who operate accordingly, whether because of science or religious belief.
  • On August 15, the Department of Labor (DOL) proposed a new regulation that would clarify the scope and application of religious exemptions for federal contractors. Under the Obama administration, the scope of religious exemption at the DOL was severely narrowed. The current DOL relied on the history of our nation’s preservation of religious liberty, the First Amendment, and Supreme Court decisions to re-invigorate the exemption to its historical and constitutional parameters.
  • On August 28, the HHS OCR issued a notice of violation to the University of Vermont Medical Center for forcing a nurse to participate in an abortion despite a conscience objection. This marks the third time that the HHS Religious Freedom Division under President Trump has investigated a conscience complaint related to participating in or promoting abortion.
  • On September 10, the State Department placed targeted sanctions on Russian officials for their religious freedom violations and torture of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
  • On September 23, President Trump hosted a meeting during the U.N. General Assembly and gave a speech solely on the topic of religious freedom. During the speech, he announced a U.S. policy initiative to protect places of worship, pledging an additional $25 million in funding to protect religious sites and relics. President Trump also announced the U.S. would form a coalition within the business community to protect religious freedom. This is the first time a U.S. president has hosted a meeting focused solely on religious freedom at the UN.
  • On September 24, President Trump discussed the need to protect religious freedom during his UN General Assembly speech, in which he also discussed China and Iran — two major violators of religious freedom.
  • On September 25, HHS Secretary Alex Azar delivered a statement at the UN General Assembly stating that there is no international right to abortion, and that the U.S. does not support ambiguous terms like “sexual and reproductive health” in UN documents.
  • On October 7, the Department of Commerce blacklisted 28 Chinese companies whose surveillance technology products are used to systematically oppress and control — and violate the religious freedom — of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, China.
  • On October 11, 2019, Attorney General Barr delivered a striking defense of religious liberty at Notre Dame Law School. He noted, “[t]he imperative of protecting religious freedom was not just a nod in the direction of piety. It reflects the Framers’ belief that religion was indispensable to sustaining our free system of government.” The Attorney General proceeded to remind the audience that religion gives us the “right rules to live by.” Barr highlighted the recent attacks on religious liberty, and that the DOJ under his leadership has been fighting back and protecting religious liberty.
  • On November 14, the U.S. government lead a statement on behalf of itself and 10 other countries at the Nairobi Summit, once again calling upon the international community to focus on areas of consensus instead of divisive issues like abortion and sexual and reproductive health.
  • On November 19, HHS issued a rule removing burdensome requirements that all grantees, including those that are faith-based, must accept same-sex marriages and profess gender identity as valid in order to be eligible to participate in grant programs. This included the adoption and foster care space, where these requirements had been used to shut down faith-based providers of foster care and adoption.
  • On November 27, President Trump signed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act into law, which affirms Hong Kong’s semi-autonomous status and protects against Chinese government encroachment, which is a threat to Hong Kong’s religious freedom.
  • On December 19, the Treasury Department sanctioned two Iranian judges responsible for human rights violations. One of the judges was known to violate the rights of Iran’s Christian and Baha’i religious minority communities
  • On December 20, the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a final regulation to address the abortion surcharge hidden in many plans purchased on the Obamacare exchange. This final rule aligns federal regulations with section 1303 of the Affordable Care Act, ensuring that consumers know their health care plan covers abortion and that funding for abortion is kept separate from all other covered services.

2020

  • On January 16, HHS Secretary Alex Azar hosted 34 countries for a meeting on how to promote women’s health and protect the lives of the unborn. This meeting followed an invitation sent by Secretary Azar and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to 70 different countries inviting them to join a coalition to oppose international efforts to enshrine abortion as a human right.
  • On January 16, the Departments of Education and Justice issued guidance on constitutionally protected prayer and religious expression in public elementary and secondary schools. This guidance ensures that prayer in schools is properly protected and not unconstitutionally prohibited or curtailed.
  • On January 16, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) sent a memo to the heads of executive departments and agencies providing guidance on Executive Order (EO) 1379 8 “Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty.” In order to protect the ability of religious organizations to operate in the public square, this memo required the agencies to review the EO and publish policies on how they will comply.
  • On January 17, nine federal agencies (the Departments of AgricultureEducationHomeland SecurityVeterans AffairsJusticeLabor,Health and Human Services, and Housing and Urban Development, along with the U.S. Agency for International Development) proposed rules leveling the playing field for faith-based organizations wishing to participate in grant programs or become a contractor. The rules eliminated two requirements placed on faith-based organizations that were not placed on secular organizations.
  • On January 22, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services at HHS approved a family planning waiver for Texas to implement a state-run Medicaid program that excludes abortion providerslike Planned Parenthood. This makes Texas the first state to receive Medicaid funding for a family planning program that does not include abortion providers.
  • On January 24, President Trump became the first sitting president to give remarks in person at the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. In his address he stated the eternal truth that every child is a sacred gift from God and reiterated his effort to defend the dignity and sanctity of every human life.
  • Also on January 24, HHS Secretary Alex Azar announced live at Family Research Council’s ProLifeCon event that HHS issued a notice of violation to California for violating the federal Weldon Amendment by mandating all health insurers provide coverage for abortion. California’s abortion coverage mandate has deprived over 28,000 residents of plans that do not cover abortion. This marks the second time that HHS has issued a notice of violation to California for violating federal conscience laws and is the fourth enforcement action taken by the HHS OCR’s Conscience and Religious Freedom Division.
  • In February, the Trump administration filled the role of Special Adviser to the President on International Religious Freedom within the National Security Council. This role was authorized by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, but has remained unfilled for over 20 years since that law’s enactment. President Trump is the first president to dedicate a full-time staffer to this role and fill it on a permanent basis.
  • On February 4, during his State of the Union address, President Trump called on Congress to pass legislation that would ban late-term abortions. To highlight the need for this legislation, he invited special guest Ellie Schneider, who was born at just 21 weeks gestation.
  • On February 5, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo launched the International Religious Freedom Alliance. The Alliance will unite government leaders from like-minded nations to strategize ways to promote religious freedom and protect religious minorities around the world.
  • On February 25, OMB issued a Statement of Administrative Policy strongly supporting two pro-life bills being voted on in the U.S. Senate: the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act and the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. Had Congress passed these bills, the president’s advisors would have recommended that he sign both into law.
  • On March 24, DOJ filed a statement of interest in a case protecting women against men intruding on their sporting competitions. The statement made clear that athletic qualifications on the basis of “gender identity” were harmful to women’s sports.
  • On March 28, amid the coronavirus pandemic, HHS OCR issued a strong statement reminding health care entities of their obligation to treat persons with disabilities with the same dignity and worth as everyone else. OCR reiterated its duty to enforce current civil rights laws and has already worked with states to remove discriminatory practices from their pandemic health plans.
  • On April 2, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback held a special briefing. He called upon China, North Korea, Iran, and Russia to release their prisoners of conscience in light of the contagious coronavirus. Many of these prisoners were imprisoned for their religious faith.
  • On April 3, the Small Business Administration (SBA) issued a FAQ document confirming that churches and religious nonprofits are eligible for assistance like the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) in the coronavirus relief legislation known as the CARES Act. These clarifying protections ensure organizations would not be discriminated against based on their religious affiliation and would not have to give up their religious freedom in order to participate in these programs. In addition, the administration used an affiliation rule to ensure that large abortion providers like Planned Parenthood would not be eligible for coronavirus relief in the CARES Act.
  • On April 14, DOJ filed a statement of interest protecting the religious liberty of church-goers in Greenville, Mississippi. During the coronavirus pandemic, the city of Greenville banned all religious services, even those that were able to abide by social distancing standards with drive-in church services.
  • On April 17, the Department of Homeland Security included “clergy for essential support” in its list of personnel and entities deemed “essential” for purposes of responding to the coronavirus. This designation allows clergy and pastors more freedom to continue to operate and serve those around them in need at this time.
  • On April 27, Attorney General William Barr directed federal prosecutors to monitor and, if necessary, take action to correct state and local policies that discriminate against religious institutionsand believers while battling the coronavirus pandemic.
  • On May 3, DOJ filed a statement of interest supporting the religious freedom of Lighthouse Fellowship Church in Chincoteague Island, Virginia. After the church held a 16-person worship service on Palm Sunday (following strict social distancing protocols), a criminal citation and summons were issued against the pastor pursuant to Governor Ralph Northam’s executive order which banned in-person religious services but allowed large gatherings for businesses like liquor stores and dry cleaners.
  • As of May 12, the Trump administration has overseen the confirmation of 193 federal judges, including two Supreme Court justices and 51 federal appeals court judges. Counting seven other judicial confirmations for roles outside the federal court system, President Trump has confirmed 200 judges so far during his time in office. An overwhelming number of President Trump’s judicial nominees have been constitutional originalists, who will interpret the law as written, rather than interpret it according to their personal policy preferences. As judges, these nominees will rule correctly on religious liberty and pro-life issues.
  • On May 15, the DOL issued guidance implementing the administration’s Religious Liberty Executive Order and the DOJ religious liberty guidance. The DOL guidance also cited to the OMB memo from earlier this year which directed all grant-administering agencies to detail how they will protect religious liberty in the context of such grants, and included specific action steps to ensure that religious liberty is protected.
  • On May 18, USAID Acting Administrator John Barsa sent a letter to the UN Secretary General advocating that the UN not push abortion during the coronavirus crisis. Barsa noted that abortion is not an “essential service,” and there are many actual health needs at this time. Therefore, the United States, which stands with the international pro-life community under the Trump administration, does not look kindly on these efforts to promote abortion.
  • On June 2, President Trump signed an Executive Order on Advancing International Religious Freedom, which recognized the promotion of international religious freedom as a moral and national security imperative for the United States.
  • On June 12, facing strong opposition from LGBT rights organizations, HHS finalized its regulation that clarifies that discrimination on the basis of sex in section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act is to be interpreted under the plain meaning of the word. Therefore, it does not include “gender identity” or “termination of pregnancy” as set forth by a 2016 Obama administration regulation. The HHS rule will continue to enforce existing civil rights protections; however, it makes clear that the federal government will not force physicians to participate in gender reassignment surgeries or abortions.
  • On June 19, the DOJ filed a statement of interest defending the constitutionality of Idaho’s Fairness in Women’s Sports Act. The Fairness in Women’s Sports Act ensures that only biologically female athletes are permitted to compete in female sports. By restricting male athletes from participating, female athletes have a fair shot when competing.
  • On June 24, President Trump issued an executive order to strengthen America’s foster care and adoption system. Among other things, this action seeks to increase partnerships with faith-based organizations to care for children and preserve families.
  • On June 29, the White House released a statement condemning the Supreme Court ruling on June Medical Services v. Russo. This ruling concluded that requiring individuals who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at hospitals is unconstitutional.
  • On June 30, the White House released a statement praising the Supreme Court ruling on Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue. This ruling is a victory for religious freedom, ensuring that religious schools are not discriminated against in state voucher programs.
  • On July 8, HHS Secretary Alex Azar issued a statement celebrating the Supreme Court ruling in Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania. The ruling upheld the Trump administration’s expansion of religious freedom protections under the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate.
  • On July 9, the Treasury Department sanctioned four current or former Chinese government officials and one Chinese g overnment entity for their abuses against the Uyghur Muslim minority in China.
  • On July 21, OCR resolved a religious discrimination complaint against the Prince George’s Hospital Center of the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS). Because of COVID-19 restrictions, the hospital denied a patient’s request to have a Catholic priest visit the hospital to provide spiritual care. OCR worked with the hospital system to revise their visitor’s policy to allow religious visitations during the pandemic.
  • On July 31, the Treasury Department sanctioned a Chinese paramilitary organization in connection to their human rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims in China.
  • On August 5, Vice President Mike Pence gave a speech on the importance of protecting life and reaffirmed the administration’s pro-life positions. He also became the first vice president to visit a pregnancy resource center – these centers are valuable lifelines that offer abortion-free services for women facing crisis pregnancies.
  • On August 17, the State Department, in coordination with other federal agencies, released a second review of President Trump’s PLGHA Policy, which requires U.S. global health funds recipients to certify that they will not promote or perform abortions. This report reaffirmed the policy’s effectiveness and the U.S. government’s ability to simultaneously protect unborn life and promote better health outcomes for women globally.
  • On August 18, the Human Fetal Tissue Research Ethics Advisory Board—which was convened as a part of President Trump’s June 5, 2019 fetal tissue research policy—issued recommendations on the ethics of fetal tissue research proposals. The board recommended against funding 13 of the 14 proposals because of ethical concerns with how fetal tissue from aborted babies would be used. This board will continue to review any new fetal tissue research proposals applying for federal funds.
  • On August 20, OCR resolved a civil rights complaint against the state of Utah, helping the state amend their crisis standards of care (CSC) guidelines to ensure the elderly and disabled are not discriminated against when medical resources are scarce. This is now OCR’s seventh resolution helping states create CSC plans that value the dignity of all human life.
  • On August 25, USAID released its updated Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Policy with the purpose of “empowering women and girls to participate fully in and equally benefit from the development of their societies.” The updated policy takes into account the biological differences between males and females and recognizes the importance of strengthening “families and communities” to achieving its goal.

And just today, the Trump administration proposed another rule to make it harder to experiment on aborted babies.

When God say’s “No”

By Patrick Miron

When God chooses to say “No”

Dear friends in Christ Jesus;

Like you, I am bitterly disappointed in the results of the USA election; which as many of us believe was bought and paid for by Satanic forces of the New World Order. Be that as it may; “what is; “IS.”

First an apology for the delay and writing this. I had a poor nights sleep; then 8am Mass, and today is the day I co-teach RCIA (Rites of Christian Initiation for Adults.) So that takes up the entire morning. Then lunch, and an oh, so necessary nap.

When I was praying for guidance on just what to share with you; once again Divine Providence led the way. My daily bible reading today was Luke chapter 12; and from that chapter I share with you the following wisdom; with a preamble.

When we pray and ask J.M.J., and other Saints as well, for their intercession; we must keep in mind that there are these possible answers (always based on what GOD knows will be best for our Spiritual welfare;) “Yes”, “No,” “Not Now,” “Not as requested” are their options.

Here God choose to say “No”. (“enough is enough”); actually way too much. In recent generations, what has taken place, as well as all that lies before us is known to God from all eternity. We have seen a dramatic decrease in morality, and a deluge of immorality, led by Abortions, and culminating in the Obama era of legalized government funded abortion-advocacy; same sex unions we are Lawfully Mandated to term “marriages”, Gay and Transgender legalization; unisex locker rooms and bathrooms, and who knows what else will NOW be heading our way?

From Luke Chapter 12

[4]And I say to you, my friends: Be not afraid of them who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. [5]But I will shew you whom you shall fear: fear ye him, who after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell. Yea, I say to you, fear him.

 [8] “And I say to you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God. [9]But he that shall deny me before men, shall be denied before the angels of God”

[11] And when they shall bring you into the synagogues, and to magistrates and powers, be not solicitous how or what you shall answer, or what you shall say; [12] For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what you must say”

“[25] And which of you by being anxious can add a cubit (anything) to his span of life?”

[32] Fear not, little flock, for it hath pleased your Father to give you a kingdom.”

[43] Blessed is that servant, whom when his lord shall come, he shall find so doing. [44] Verily I say to you, he will set him over all that he possesseth”

[48]………… “And unto whomsoever much is given, of him much shall be required: and to whom they have committed much, of him they will demand the more.”

 [59] I say to thee, thou shalt not go out thence, until thou pay the very last penny” (Purgatory).

So what is God expecting from each of us now?

Pray, fast, sacrifice and share our TRUE-faith, at every opportunity the Holy Spirit presents us with the opportunity to do so. BUT, above all; LOVE everyone who crosses your life-path. Hold NO bitterness; knowing fulwell that Our Lives Are a “GOD TEST”; which we either pass or fail.

Expect a full out, frontal- attack on Freedom of religion and speech. Endeavor to make use of the Sacraments as FREQUENTLY as is sacrificially-possible. We’ll need ALL of the grace God desires to give is in this WAR; and yes; that is precisely what we are entering.

Do not be at all surprised if they FLOOD the Supreme Court with their minions, at the earliest possible moment. We are completely at the hands of Satan’s minions; and only prayer and LOVE is our defense.

To Jesus THROUGH Mary,

Patrick Miron

Dear Blog Friends,

After prayerful consideration, I have decided to END my Blogging effective January 1, 2021

It has been a JOY but I can no-longer invest the amount of time I have been spending to search out the many articles I cull and send each day,

I am so very grateful to each of you. We ARE friends. I especially wish to thank those who “LIKED” what I POSTED on a regular basis. Your efforts did not go unbeknownst, nor unappreciated. Thank YOU for your loyalty.

May God make it possible for each of us to meet again in heaven,

To Jesus THROUGH Mary,

Patrick Miron.

The unsung helpers that helped us keep the faith in 2020 (Thank you one and all)

KSIĄDZ W MASECZCE

Philippe Lissac / Godong

Theresa Civantos Barber – published on 12/31/20

These 5 groups of people made it possible for us to stay connected to our parishes and to our faith communities.

The past year has been a tough one, but there are reasons for hope as we look ahead to next year. And there is much to be grateful for from the past year, especially the many generous and courageous people who deserve our thanks for their service in 2020.

As I look back on 2020, I think of some wise words from Fred Rogers, the Presbyterian minister best known for his popular children’s television program, “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” He once said,

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

Countless people have helped others this past year, in ways large and small. Let’s take a moment to acknowledge 5 of these helpers and thank them for all that they have done.

1MASS VOLUNTEERS

Even before the pandemic, Mass usually included a number of volunteers: lectors, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, and so on. But volunteering at Mass is a much bigger endeavor in 2020. Now volunteers have additional tasks such as checking registration, taking temperatures, distributing hand sanitizer, and sanitizing pews between services.

It’s a lot more work, but we are deeply grateful for the volunteers who have given generously of their time and energy so that others can attend Mass.

On Christmas Eve, my family went to a “drive-in” parking-lot Mass at a church of the Dominican Order near our home. I sat in our car, my two youngest children squeezed onto my lap, and watched in awe as a small army of parishioners and priests checked us in, directed us where to park and what radio station to tune into, set up the projector screen, and distributed hand sanitizer and then Holy Communion—all outdoors in the bitter 17° Chicago winter.

I was filled with gratitude at their sacrifice of warmth, comfort, and time, all to make it possible for people like my family to attend Mass. When it comes to self-sacrificing exemplars of 2020, Mass volunteers are at the top of my list. Deepest thanks to all who have volunteered at Mass in 2020!

2PRIESTS

During the pandemic crisis, priests have responded and adjusted rapidly to share Christ’s message through new channels. Chicago’s University of Saint Mary of the Lake, also known as Mundelein Seminary, honored them by awarding its annual “In Service of One Another” Catholic Humanitarian Award to “hero priests of the pandemic.”

MASECZKI W KOŚCIELE

Priests in Boston and Chicago have formed teams of “spiritual first responders” to give Anointing of the Sick to hospital patients. Priests have livestreamed countless Masses, often learning new technology on the fly.

They’ve walked with parishioners in so many ways: visiting the dying, comforting the bereaved, and finding ingenious ways to give the Sacraments. Thank you to priests for your flexibility and compassion in 2020!

3CATHOLIC SCHOOL TEACHERS AND ADMINISTRATORS

Whether teaching in person or through virtual means, teachers and administrators have gone above and beyond the call of duty for their students.

TEACHER

They’ve speedily adapted lessons for online learning, adjusted to new regulations in the classroom, and done everything possible to help their students thrive in difficult times. Thank you, teachers, for all that you’ve done this year!

4TECH WORKERS AND VOLUNTEERS

It seems like everything has moved online this year—not only Mass and religious services, but also conferences and retreatsVolunteers at many parishes and ministries have given generously of their time and talent to make this content available.

A big thank you to everyone who has helped record, livestream, upload, or coordinate online faith-based events this year!

5JANITORS AND CLEANING STAFF

Their work often goes unseen, but cleaning staff have kept so many institutions running this year — hospitals, churches, schools, libraries, and many other places rely on their work. Thank you, custodial staff everywhere, especially those serving our religious institutions, for making it possible for people to attend events, services, and classes this year!

6 Beautiful ways to say “Happy New Year!”

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RĘCZNIE PISANE KARTKI ŚWIĄTECZNE

Shutterstock

Edifa – published on 12/31/20

Some tips to convey more personal and sincere wishes to loved ones and strangers alike.

On the occasion of a New Year, the pope presents his good wishes in as many languages as possible so that everyone can receive them. Although it can’t substitute for a visit in person, a phone call or a simple letter with a few warm words can alleviate someone’s loneliness, especially when this is one of the few contacts you have with them over the year.

Rather than limiting his wishes to his close circle of friends, Steven has decided this year to send his best wishes to his “best enemy.” Julie, for her part, has decided to write to her husband, her parents and her children: “We spend so little time telling them that we love them and sometimes it is more difficult because of the proximity.” So, this year, why not take the time to ask yourself who to wish a happy year to as a priority and, above all, how to do it in a different way than saying a simple “Happy new Year!” or “All the best!”

1SAY GOOD THINGS ABOUT THEM (IT FEELS GOOD!)

Our relationships with others “are often governed by conflict, criticism, judgment and condemnation, rather than by blessing and openness of heart,” explains psychologist Yves Boulvin. The deep meaning behind these messages is to wish them well, to speak well of them (benecidere in Latin means, literally, “to speak the good”). It means entering into a logic of love that sees the good, the beautiful things, the good side of each one and gives thanks for it. Evoking a quality or expressing our gratitude has unsuspected repercussions: “Words of blessing are good for the soul,” assures the Benedictine monk Anselm Grün.

2BLESS EACH OTHER

During the Visitation, the Virgin Mary is blessed by Elizabeth, who sees in her the mystery of the woman she is and child she is carrying — an expression that is not exclusively for a spiritual elite, since we are all blessed by God. If God loves each one of us absolutely freely, we can certainly bless each other. And so we become a source of blessing, just as others are for us. In the Christian tradition, a blessing is always accompanied by words. By our words, we express what God can offer to this person, the way He sees them, and what they mean to Him. To bless someone goes beyond interceding on someone’s behalf through prayer; it is a way to show that: “You are loved by God, you are precious to Him.”

3MAKE IT WARM AND PERSONAL

“When I write or call to wish someone a happy new year,” says Perri, “I try to remember what they most want. Using personal words is more moving than using ready-made formulas, as long as those words are chosen carefully, because the word creates a relationship with the other person.

The way you say it is just as important as what you say. There is no need to write something long, but it should be appropriate, as close as possible to what the other person is hoping for, without knowing for sure if your words will have the desired effect. It is a way to learn to give without expecting anything in return, an act that is done freely. What will be good for the other person? What is he or she looking for? Then, your wishes for them, beyond the standard formulas, will express your affection that can can be quite touching for them. Sometimes, you will get a reassuring answer back, “like a friend who sent me a message I wasn’t expecting. She told me, ‘What you are telling me makes me happy and sheds light on the things I was feeling but didn’t know how to express’,” Sophie explains. Unfortunately, it can also happen that a message full of good intentions falls on deaf ears or lacks finesse. To find the right words, “I pray before the Holy Sacrament,” confesses Steven, “and I ask the Holy Spirit to inspire me as I think of each person.”

4BE WILLING TO SHARE YOUR FEELINGS

Sincere greetings require that we take the risk of speaking our deepest feelings—a way of letting ourselves be truly seen and therefore loved. These feelings can be expressed in different registers: friendship, gratitude for moments of grace, empathy towards those who are going through a hard time, recovering a neglected relationship, a request for forgiveness … opportunities, in any case, to express and live in charity. They encourage an authentic encounter. For Anne-Charlotte, a mother who lives far from her friends, “it’s a way of sharing our lives, respecting where the other person is at, paying your respects to what they are going through.”

5WISHING SOMEONE TRULY THE BEST

Wishing someone well is not the same as pretending that the year will be free of suffering or hardships. We can only wish to be able to accept everything that comes along with trust and the belief that the Lord is hoping we live it with Him. “For us Christians, it is perhaps an occasion to contemplate this new year as a new birth, like a child waiting and expecting,” says Anne-Charlotte. As Benedict XVI advised in his homily on October 19, 2006, on the occasion of his pastoral visit to Verona, we should express our wishes for the new year not in a triumphal manner, but in peace, “encouraged by the awareness that only Christ can satisfy the deepest hopes of every human heart and respond to the most disturbing questions about pain, injustice and evil, about death and the beyond.”

6GIVE TESTIMONY TO THE PRESENCE OF GOD

The origins of the tradition go back beyond Antiquity, when the Romans released birds to the sky from the Capitol to take their good wishes to the farthest reaches of the Empire. On January 1 of each year, the liturgy of the Mass repeats God’s blessing on Aaron from more than 3,000 years ago, at the end of the Liturgy of the Hours: “May the Lord bless you and keep you; may the Lord look upon you with favor and extend his love to you; may the Lord show you his favor and grant you peace” (Num 6:24-26). In the original text, the threefold invocation of the name of God assures Israel of the presence of the God of the Covenant, the source of every blessing. When we personally bless someone, our words should express this maternal tenderness of God over us, which continues to remain with us until the end of time.

Raphaëlle Simon