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May 23, 2016   •   VOL. 54, NO. 10   •   Oakland, CA
News in Brief

Women religious and others demonstrate against the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive mandate March 23 near the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington.
Jaclyn Lippelmann/Catholic Standard, CNS
Court sends Zubik case back to courts

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court May 16 sent the Zubik v. Burwell case, which challenges the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive requirement for employers, back to the lower courts.

The justices' unanimous decision, explained in a nine-page order, was based on the information that both sides submitted a week after oral arguments were heard in the case about how and if contraceptive insurance coverage could be obtained by employees through their insurance companies without directly involving religious employers who object to this coverage.

The court made clear that it is not expressing an opinion on the merits of the cases that are challenging aspects of the federal government's health legislation and it also was not ruling on the issue of a potential violation of religious freedom.

Because of the "gravity of the dispute and the substantial clarification and refinement in the positions of the parties," the court stated that religious employers and the government should be "afforded an opportunity to arrive at an approach going forward that accommodates petitioners' religious exercise while at the same time ensuring that women covered by petitioners' health plans receive full and equal health coverage, including contraceptive coverage."

Archaeologist Jeffrey Mitchem points to the pattern of the post hole just below where it was removed from the mound April 20 in Cross County, Arkansas.
Jessica Crawford, The Archaeological Conservancy/CNS
Remains of explorer's cross found

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The first U.S. Catholic liturgy is believed to have occurred in Arkansas 475 years ago, but archaeologists are working to authenticate physical proof of that celebration near the St. Francis River, about 40 miles from the Mississippi River. The Parkin Archeological State Park in Cross County is home to what could be the physical evidence of a Catholic liturgy in the form of a cross, hidden in a mound until April 18.

A team of archaeologists unearthed what is believed to be the base of the cross erected by Spanish explorers with Hernando de Soto's expedition in 1541. "The only thing we can really say is it's the first recorded Christian ceremony held in the state of Arkansas. From the Catholic perspective especially, we know it was a Catholic Christian ceremony," said Jeffrey Mitchem, Arkansas Archeological Survey's research station archaeologist for Parkin. The survey, part of the University of Arkansas system, studies and protects archaeological sites in the state. Now that the wood has been excavated from the site about 30 miles northwest of Memphis, Tennessee, it's a matter of authenticating it. De Soto traveled around what eventually became Arkansas for a year before leading his men back to the Mississippi River in southeast Arkansas.

Independent community
SCITUATE, Mass. — Parishioners who have maintained a presence in a closed church in the Archdiocese of Boston since 2004 said they planned to form an independent Catholic community after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected their appeal. A representative of the Friends of Frances X. Cabrini, the organization that has occupied the church, said members would meet May 29 to "finalize their transition." The group previously said its members would leave the church within 14 days of the court's ruling.

Obama rule 'disturbing'
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration's May 13 directive on transgender access to bathrooms "that treats 'a student's gender identity as the student's sex' is deeply disturbing," said the chairmen of two U.S. Catholic bishops' committees. "The guidance fails to address a number of important concerns and contradicts a basic understanding of human formation so well expressed by Pope Francis: that 'the young need to be helped to accept their own body as it was created,'" the two bishops said in a statement May 16.

Biden, Boehner honored
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — The University of Notre Dame conferred it prestigious Laetare Medal on Vice President Joe Biden and former House Speaker John Boehner without incident at graduation May 15, but the controversy over the recipients still hung in the air. From the moment the university announced the 2016 medal recipients March 5, criticism swirled over the decision because the medal is supposed to honor Catholics for "outstanding service to the church and society."

Synod on family life
SAN DIEGO — Bishop Robert W. McElroy of San Diego, in a pastoral message to Catholics of the diocese, announced he would convoke a synod in October on marriage and family life. "A diocesan synod is the most significant level of dialogue, discernment and decision in the life of a diocese. It brings together the bishop, the priestly leadership and lay and religious representatives from throughout the diocese to wrestle with the most important questions that a diocese faces," Bishop McElroy said in the message.

Tulsa bishop named
WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Edward J. Slattery of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and named as his successor Father David Konderla, a priest of the Diocese of Austin, Texas. The appointment was announced in Washington May 13 by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States. Bishop Slattery is 75, the age at which canon law requires bishops to turn in their resignation.

Ecumenical meeting
SALT LAKE CITY — Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints met May 4 to discuss matters of common concern and to strengthen relationships between the two churches. The archbishop, who heads the Archdiocese of Louisville, Kentucky, was in Salt Lake City at the invitation of the LDS church leaders.

New bishop installed
SOUTH PLAINFIELD, N.J. — Clergy, religious and the faithful of the Diocese of Metuchen welcomed its new shepherd, Bishop James F. Checchio, with song and prayer during a Mass marking his episcopal ordination and installation at the Church of the Sacred Heart. Bishop Checchio, the diocese's fifth bishop, reciprocated by thanking them during the May 3 ceremony for "the love and kindness you have shown me during the past two months of transition."

Shrine put up for sale
PHILADELPHIA — The Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, the congregation founded by St. Katharine Drexel, announced that it will sell its historic motherhouse in Bensalem, Pennsylvania. The 44-acre property also contains the National Shrine of St. Katharine Drexel and her tomb. At a future date, St. Katharine's tomb will be moved to the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia. At the same time, the congregation has placed for sale a 2,200-acre property in Virginia that was the location of two schools founded by St. Katharine and her sister, Louise Drexel Morrell. A portion of the proceeds from the sales will support the care of retired sisters.

— Catholic News Service


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