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California parents sue governor over law banning notification of student gender identity

Sonja Shaw (center), president of the Chino Valley Unified School District in California, speaks at a press conference before the education committee hearing in the assembly on June 26, 2024. / Credit: Photo courtesy of Liberty Justice Center, California Family Council

CNA Staff, Jul 17, 2024 / 13:20 pm (CNA).

Nine California parents are taking legal action against California Gov. Gavin Newsom after he signed a bill on Monday prohibiting parental notification policies that require schools to inform parents if their child requests to be treated as a gender other than his or her biological sex. 

The new law, Assembly Bill 1955, mandates that employees of school districts “shall not be required to disclose any information related to a pupil’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression to any other person without the pupil’s consent unless otherwise required by state or federal law.”

The bill takes place amid a trend where growing numbers of minors identify as “transgender” — about 300,000 youths ages 13–17 identify this way now, according to a 2022 study by Williams Institute

Nine California parents, with the legal aid of the Texas-based nonprofit Liberty Justice Center (LJC), on Tuesday filed Chino Valley Unified School District v. Newsom in the District Court for the Eastern District of California against Newsom, state Attorney General Robert Bonta, and state school superintendent Tony Thurmond.

“School officials do not have the right to keep secrets from parents, but parents do have a constitutional right to know what their minor children are doing at school,”  said Emily Rae, senior counsel at the Liberty Justice Center. 

The California bill argues that students have a right to self-expression at school. 

“LGBTQ+ pupils have the right to express themselves freely at school without fear, punishment, or retaliation, including that teachers or administrators might ‘out’ them without their permission,” the bill stated. “Policies that require outing pupils without their consent violate pupils’ rights to privacy and self-determination.”

But Rae notes that these students are minors. 

“PK–12 minor students, most of whom are too young to drive, vote, or provide medical consent for themselves, are also too young to make life-altering decisions about their expressed gender identity without their parents’ knowledge,” she stated. “But that is precisely what AB 1955 enables — with potentially devastating consequences for children too young to fully comprehend them.” 

“Parents are the legal guardians of their children, not Gov. Newsom, Attorney General Bonta, or Superintendent Thurmond,” she added. “We will continue to defend parents’ rights and children’s well-being by challenging invasive laws like AB 1955 in court, at no cost to taxpayers.”

The complaint notes that parental notification exists for many cases, for instance, “if a student is injured, bullied, or exhibits suicidal behavior at school.” 

The bill follows a 2023 lawsuit by the attorney general against Chino Valley School District over the district’s parental notification requirement.

Sonja Shaw, president of the Chino Valley Unified School District, said in a May 24 statement following the proposal of the bill: “Parental notification policies are crucial because they foster trust between parents and schools.”

“These policies are a commitment to the community — they are a commitment that schools will not keep secrets from parents about their own children,” she continued. 

AB 1955 also puts in place protections for teachers against administration in relation to parental notification, which Shaw says is “misleading.”

“In addition, claiming teachers face retaliation is absurd. Teachers never handled parental notifications — district admins did,” she stated. “This provision is a smokescreen for a nonexistent problem. Children’s safety should never be second to unfounded fears of adults being retaliated against. This narrative is misleading and dangerous.”

Thurmond called the bill a “major step forward for the rights of students and families” in a July 15 California Department of Education press release.

“All of our students deserve to be safe at school in order to learn and thrive,” Thurmond stated. “Our LGBTQ+ youth need to be protected from bullying and harassment at school, and the families of our LGBTQ+ youth deserve privacy and dignity to handle deeply personal matters at home, without the forced intervention of school employees.”

“Our teachers can now focus on teaching the critical academic skills that our students need to succeed, not on policing the gender identities of children,” he added. 

AB 1955 is set to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2025. In the complaint, LJC is asking the court to declare AB 1955 unconstitutional and to prohibit the state government from enforcing the bill.

California parents sue governor over law banning notification of student gender identity

Sonja Shaw (center), president of the Chino Valley Unified School District in California, speaks at a press conference before the education committee hearing in the assembly on June 26, 2024. / Credit: Photo courtesy of Liberty Justice Center, California Family Council

CNA Staff, Jul 17, 2024 / 13:20 pm (CNA).

Nine California parents are taking legal action against California Gov. Gavin Newsom after he signed a bill on Monday prohibiting parental notification policies that require schools to inform parents if their child requests to be treated as a gender other than his or her biological sex. 

The new law, Assembly Bill 1955, mandates that employees of school districts “shall not be required to disclose any information related to a pupil’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression to any other person without the pupil’s consent unless otherwise required by state or federal law.”

The bill takes place amid a trend where growing numbers of minors identify as “transgender” — about 300,000 youths ages 13–17 identify this way now, according to a 2022 study by Williams Institute

Nine California parents, with the legal aid of the Texas-based nonprofit Liberty Justice Center (LJC), on Tuesday filed Chino Valley Unified School District v. Newsom in the District Court for the Eastern District of California against Newsom, state Attorney General Robert Bonta, and state school superintendent Tony Thurmond.

“School officials do not have the right to keep secrets from parents, but parents do have a constitutional right to know what their minor children are doing at school,”  said Emily Rae, senior counsel at the Liberty Justice Center. 

The California bill argues that students have a right to self-expression at school. 

“LGBTQ+ pupils have the right to express themselves freely at school without fear, punishment, or retaliation, including that teachers or administrators might ‘out’ them without their permission,” the bill stated. “Policies that require outing pupils without their consent violate pupils’ rights to privacy and self-determination.”

But Rae notes that these students are minors. 

“PK–12 minor students, most of whom are too young to drive, vote, or provide medical consent for themselves, are also too young to make life-altering decisions about their expressed gender identity without their parents’ knowledge,” she stated. “But that is precisely what AB 1955 enables — with potentially devastating consequences for children too young to fully comprehend them.” 

“Parents are the legal guardians of their children, not Gov. Newsom, Attorney General Bonta, or Superintendent Thurmond,” she added. “We will continue to defend parents’ rights and children’s well-being by challenging invasive laws like AB 1955 in court, at no cost to taxpayers.”

The complaint notes that parental notification exists for many cases, for instance, “if a student is injured, bullied, or exhibits suicidal behavior at school.” 

The bill follows a 2023 lawsuit by the attorney general against Chino Valley School District over the district’s parental notification requirement.

Sonja Shaw, president of the Chino Valley Unified School District, said in a May 24 statement following the proposal of the bill: “Parental notification policies are crucial because they foster trust between parents and schools.”

“These policies are a commitment to the community — they are a commitment that schools will not keep secrets from parents about their own children,” she continued. 

AB 1955 also puts in place protections for teachers against administration in relation to parental notification, which Shaw says is “misleading.”

“In addition, claiming teachers face retaliation is absurd. Teachers never handled parental notifications — district admins did,” she stated. “This provision is a smokescreen for a nonexistent problem. Children’s safety should never be second to unfounded fears of adults being retaliated against. This narrative is misleading and dangerous.”

Thurmond called the bill a “major step forward for the rights of students and families” in a July 15 California Department of Education press release.

“All of our students deserve to be safe at school in order to learn and thrive,” Thurmond stated. “Our LGBTQ+ youth need to be protected from bullying and harassment at school, and the families of our LGBTQ+ youth deserve privacy and dignity to handle deeply personal matters at home, without the forced intervention of school employees.”

“Our teachers can now focus on teaching the critical academic skills that our students need to succeed, not on policing the gender identities of children,” he added. 

AB 1955 is set to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2025. In the complaint, LJC is asking the court to declare AB 1955 unconstitutional and to prohibit the state government from enforcing the bill.

Former Louisiana priest arrested on child pornography charges

Father Anthony Odiong, a former Louisiana priest, was arrested for possession of child pornography in Florida, law enforcement said on July 16, 2024, with the suspect also accused of multiple other instances of sexual abuse. / Credit: The Collier County Sheriff’s Office

CNA Staff, Jul 17, 2024 / 12:35 pm (CNA).

A former Louisiana priest was arrested for possession of child pornography in Florida, law enforcement said on Tuesday, with the suspect also accused of multiple other instances of sexual abuse. 

The Waco, Texas, Police Department said in a Facebook post on Tuesday that officers arrested Father Anthony Odiong in Ave Maria, Florida, with help from the U.S. Marshals service. 

Waco police said that in March it had received “credible information” regarding a sexual assault allegedly committed by Odiong in Texas in 2012. 

“During the subsequent investigation, a case of possession of child pornography was uncovered,” the police said. 

The priest was arrested in Florida by the state’s Caribbean Regional Fugitive Task Force. He will be extradited to Texas, the Waco Police Department said.

Odiong had previously served in the Archdiocese of New Orleans before being removed from his pastorship in December of last year amid controversy over homilies in which he alleged among other things that the Catholic Church was being taken over by “the gays.”

At that time the priest was also facing allegations of abusive behavior; a Louisiana woman had alleged in U.S. bankruptcy court that Odiong had committed both financial and sexual abuse against her. 

Prior to serving in the New Orleans Archdiocese, Odiong had served in at least two parishes in Texas. The Waco police on Tuesday said that during its sexual assault investigation, “the presence of other survivors was revealed.” 

“Multiple women have come forward to tell similar experiences as the sexual assault survivor who reported the initial allegation,” the police department said. 

“Survivors’ experiences ranged from sexual assault and indecent assault, more commonly recognized as groping, and financial abuse, with some survivors experiencing every element of Anthony Odiong’s manipulation.”

The police said they “believe there may be more survivors, and we wish to speak with anyone who [has] had similar encounters” with the priest. 

In a brief press release on Tuesday the Archdiocese of New Orleans noted Odiong’s arrest in Florida.

The archdiocese “encourages anyone with any information to contact law enforcement,” the release said.

Former Louisiana priest arrested on child pornography charges

Father Anthony Odiong, a former Louisiana priest, was arrested for possession of child pornography in Florida, law enforcement said on July 16, 2024, with the suspect also accused of multiple other instances of sexual abuse. / Credit: The Collier County Sheriff’s Office

CNA Staff, Jul 17, 2024 / 12:35 pm (CNA).

A former Louisiana priest was arrested for possession of child pornography in Florida, law enforcement said on Tuesday, with the suspect also accused of multiple other instances of sexual abuse. 

The Waco, Texas, Police Department said in a Facebook post on Tuesday that officers arrested Father Anthony Odiong in Ave Maria, Florida, with help from the U.S. Marshals service. 

Waco police said that in March it had received “credible information” regarding a sexual assault allegedly committed by Odiong in Texas in 2012. 

“During the subsequent investigation, a case of possession of child pornography was uncovered,” the police said. 

The priest was arrested in Florida by the state’s Caribbean Regional Fugitive Task Force. He will be extradited to Texas, the Waco Police Department said.

Odiong had previously served in the Archdiocese of New Orleans before being removed from his pastorship in December of last year amid controversy over homilies in which he alleged among other things that the Catholic Church was being taken over by “the gays.”

At that time the priest was also facing allegations of abusive behavior; a Louisiana woman had alleged in U.S. bankruptcy court that Odiong had committed both financial and sexual abuse against her. 

Prior to serving in the New Orleans Archdiocese, Odiong had served in at least two parishes in Texas. The Waco police on Tuesday said that during its sexual assault investigation, “the presence of other survivors was revealed.” 

“Multiple women have come forward to tell similar experiences as the sexual assault survivor who reported the initial allegation,” the police department said. 

“Survivors’ experiences ranged from sexual assault and indecent assault, more commonly recognized as groping, and financial abuse, with some survivors experiencing every element of Anthony Odiong’s manipulation.”

The police said they “believe there may be more survivors, and we wish to speak with anyone who [has] had similar encounters” with the priest. 

In a brief press release on Tuesday the Archdiocese of New Orleans noted Odiong’s arrest in Florida.

The archdiocese “encourages anyone with any information to contact law enforcement,” the release said.

5 things you shouldn’t miss at the 2024 National Eucharistic Congress

A relic of St. Junípero Serra at the Reliquary Chapel at the 2024 National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis. / Credit: Ursula Murua/EWTN News

CNA Staff, Jul 17, 2024 / 11:55 am (CNA).

The NFL’s Lucas Oil Stadium and the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis are all set to welcome more than 50,000 Catholics to the National Eucharistic Congress taking place July 17–21. The five-day congress will bring the faithful together to inspire people to encounter Jesus in the Eucharist.

The congress will have opportunities for attendees to take part in Eucharistic adoration, confession, liturgies, musical performances, and a variety of talks and keynote speeches aimed at fostering spiritual renewal and unity. 

There will also be five key exhibits that attendees can visit daily. These are the National Shroud of Turin Exhibit, the Eucharistic Miracles Exhibit, the Reliquary Chapel, a preview of “Bernadette de Lourdes, The Musical,” and the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. 

Here’s a closer look at these five activities open to all participants at the congress: 

National Shroud of Turin Exhibit 

A replica of the incredible 14-foot linen burial shroud will be on display in an interactive and immersive high-tech educational exhibit daily from noon to 6:30 p.m. at the Indiana Convention Center. 

The National Shroud of Turin Exhibit at the 2024 National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis. Credit: Ursula Murua/EWTN News
The National Shroud of Turin Exhibit at the 2024 National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis. Credit: Ursula Murua/EWTN News

There will also be three 45-minute presentations taking place each day at the exhibit. Dr. Cheryl White will give a talk titled “Jerusalem to Turin: The Shroud’s Elusive History,” Father Andrew Dalton will discuss how the shroud is a mirror of the Gospel, and Pam McCue will give a talk titled “Power of a Traveling Shroud Exhibit.” 

Eucharistic Miracles Exhibit 

This powerful exhibit will explore some of the most amazing Eucharistic miracles from around the world and will be open to attendees daily from noon to 6:30 p.m. at the Indiana Convention Center. The collection of miracles was compiled by Blessed Carlo Acutis with the hope to bolster people’s faith and prove Jesus’ very real presence in the Eucharist.

The Eucharistic Miracles Exhibit at the 2024 National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis. Credit: Ursula Murua/EWTN News
The Eucharistic Miracles Exhibit at the 2024 National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis. Credit: Ursula Murua/EWTN News

Reliquary Chapel

Catholics attending the congress will have a rare opportunity to venerate the relics of the patron saints of the National Eucharistic Revival, Congress, and Pilgrimage each day from noon to 6:30 p.m. at the Indiana Convention Center. The relics included are from Sts. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Manuel González García, Paschal Baylon, Junípero Serra, Juan Diego, and Blessed Carlo Acutis as well as part of a relic known as the “Veil of Our Lady.” 

You can read more about each of these relics here

The reliquary chapel at the 2024 National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis. Credit: Ursula Murua/ EWTN News
The reliquary chapel at the 2024 National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis. Credit: Ursula Murua/ EWTN News

‘Bernadette de Lourdes, The Musical’

Attendees will also have the opportunity to watch a 30-minute preview of “Bernadette de Lourdes, The Musical” on July 18 from 6:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Lucas Oil Stadium. The French musical tells the story of Bernadette Soubirous, an ordinary girl who witnessed something extraordinary and became a beloved saint of the Church. The musical will be making 30 stops in cities across the U.S. as it tours the country in 2025.

Catechesis of the Good Shepherd

For those attending the congress with little ones, the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is a powerful approach to the spiritual formation of children. Using Montessori principles, children of all ages will encounter God in age-appropriate ways. There are options for infants and toddlers, ages 3–6, and children ages 6–9 and 9–12. This unique experience will be available at the Indiana Convention Center from noon to 6:30 p.m. daily. 

5 things you shouldn’t miss at the 2024 National Eucharistic Congress

A relic of St. Junípero Serra at the Reliquary Chapel at the 2024 National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis. / Credit: Ursula Murua/EWTN News

CNA Staff, Jul 17, 2024 / 11:55 am (CNA).

The NFL’s Lucas Oil Stadium and the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis are all set to welcome more than 50,000 Catholics to the National Eucharistic Congress taking place July 17–21. The five-day congress will bring the faithful together to inspire people to encounter Jesus in the Eucharist.

The congress will have opportunities for attendees to take part in Eucharistic adoration, confession, liturgies, musical performances, and a variety of talks and keynote speeches aimed at fostering spiritual renewal and unity. 

There will also be five key exhibits that attendees can visit daily. These are the National Shroud of Turin Exhibit, the Eucharistic Miracles Exhibit, the Reliquary Chapel, a preview of “Bernadette de Lourdes, The Musical,” and the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. 

Here’s a closer look at these five activities open to all participants at the congress: 

National Shroud of Turin Exhibit 

A replica of the incredible 14-foot linen burial shroud will be on display in an interactive and immersive high-tech educational exhibit daily from noon to 6:30 p.m. at the Indiana Convention Center. 

The National Shroud of Turin Exhibit at the 2024 National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis. Credit: Ursula Murua/EWTN News
The National Shroud of Turin Exhibit at the 2024 National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis. Credit: Ursula Murua/EWTN News

There will also be three 45-minute presentations taking place each day at the exhibit. Dr. Cheryl White will give a talk titled “Jerusalem to Turin: The Shroud’s Elusive History,” Father Andrew Dalton will discuss how the shroud is a mirror of the Gospel, and Pam McCue will give a talk titled “Power of a Traveling Shroud Exhibit.” 

Eucharistic Miracles Exhibit 

This powerful exhibit will explore some of the most amazing Eucharistic miracles from around the world and will be open to attendees daily from noon to 6:30 p.m. at the Indiana Convention Center. The collection of miracles was compiled by Blessed Carlo Acutis with the hope to bolster people’s faith and prove Jesus’ very real presence in the Eucharist.

The Eucharistic Miracles Exhibit at the 2024 National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis. Credit: Ursula Murua/EWTN News
The Eucharistic Miracles Exhibit at the 2024 National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis. Credit: Ursula Murua/EWTN News

Reliquary Chapel

Catholics attending the congress will have a rare opportunity to venerate the relics of the patron saints of the National Eucharistic Revival, Congress, and Pilgrimage each day from noon to 6:30 p.m. at the Indiana Convention Center. The relics included are from Sts. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Manuel González García, Paschal Baylon, Junípero Serra, Juan Diego, and Blessed Carlo Acutis as well as part of a relic known as the “Veil of Our Lady.” 

You can read more about each of these relics here

The reliquary chapel at the 2024 National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis. Credit: Ursula Murua/ EWTN News
The reliquary chapel at the 2024 National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis. Credit: Ursula Murua/ EWTN News

‘Bernadette de Lourdes, The Musical’

Attendees will also have the opportunity to watch a 30-minute preview of “Bernadette de Lourdes, The Musical” on July 18 from 6:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Lucas Oil Stadium. The French musical tells the story of Bernadette Soubirous, an ordinary girl who witnessed something extraordinary and became a beloved saint of the Church. The musical will be making 30 stops in cities across the U.S. as it tours the country in 2025.

Catechesis of the Good Shepherd

For those attending the congress with little ones, the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is a powerful approach to the spiritual formation of children. Using Montessori principles, children of all ages will encounter God in age-appropriate ways. There are options for infants and toddlers, ages 3–6, and children ages 6–9 and 9–12. This unique experience will be available at the Indiana Convention Center from noon to 6:30 p.m. daily. 

Anti-death penalty activists celebrate 200th death row exoneree: ‘Undoubtedly optimistic’

null / Credit: txking/Shutterstock

CNA Staff, Jul 17, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

Opponents of the death penalty in the United States are celebrating a milestone as the country marks the 200th death row exoneree in roughly 50 years and more states continue to abolish capital punishment. 

Catholic Mobilizing Network (CMN), which advocates ending capital punishment in the U.S., said in a press release this month that California prisoner Larry Roberts had become “the 200th death row exoneration since 1973.” Roberts had been on death row since 1983 after his fellow prisoners claimed he killed both a prison guard and another inmate. 

CMN Executive Director Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy said in the press release that the 200 exonerations were the result of “the tireless efforts of faithful advocates and committed lawyers.”

Exonerations, according to CMN, are cases involving former death row inmates who have, since 1973, either been acquitted of all charges related to the crime that placed them on death row or had all charges related to the crime that placed them on death row dismissed by the prosecution. It also includes prisoners who have been granted a complete pardon based on evidence of innocence.

“[W]hile we praise God that these lives have been spared, we also remember the many individuals — both innocent and guilty — who did not, and will not receive the same grace, whose lives are discarded by a system determined to throw them away,” she said. 

Murphy told CNA in a phone interview that the hundreds of exonerations are “a significant indicator of the brokenness of the death penalty.”

‘The trends are moving in our favor’

On its website CMN says it plays “a central role in state and federal repeal campaigns, collaborating closely with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, state Catholic conferences, local dioceses, religious communities, and secular abolition groups.”

The group helps spearhead “prayer vigils, press events, webinars, and speaking tours” against the death penalty; it also works at “connecting key players, like Church leaders and abolition movement organizers.”

Asked if the anti-capital punishment movement is optimistic about its efforts, Murphy said: “Undoubtedly.” 

She pointed out that nearly half of all U.S. states, as well as the District of Columbia, have abolished the death penalty. 

“The trends are moving in our favor,” she said. “The use of the death penalty is decreasing, as are the people being sentenced to death. The repeals are much more bipartisan than they’ve ever been.” 

“I think Americans are getting less and less tolerant of this practice,” she said. “For all these reasons we’re continually encouraged.”

Among the groups with which CMN has partnered against the death penalty include Witness to Innocence, which works “to empower exonerated death row survivors to be the most powerful and effective voice in the fight to end the death penalty and reform the justice system in the United States.”

Herman Lindsey, the executive director of Witness to Innocence, was sentenced to death in Florida in 2006 for murder. The state Supreme Court subsequently exonerated him in 2009, ruling that Florida “had failed to produce any evidence in this case placing Lindsey at the scene of the crime at the time of the murder.”

Lindsey told CNA in a phone interview that Witness to Innocence offers exonerees — many of whom have trouble finding work — a chance for employment while speaking out against capital punishment. 

“We run a lot of campaigns at one time,” he said. “We’re involved in a lot of cases. We work with each and every state, and with attorneys on the cases.” 

“If it’s a case that’s out there, most likely we’re active in it in some type of way, somehow,” he said. 

Murphy said there are “exciting things on the horizon for Catholics to help us mobilize and speak on this issue more effectively.” 

“We’ve got Oct. 10 coming up, the World Day Against the Death Penalty,” she said. She praised Pope Francis for making it “explicit” that Catholics should work against the death penalty in the upcoming Jubilee Year of 2025.

The death penalty “is at odds with the Christian faith and eliminates all hope of forgiveness and rehabilitation,” Murphy said. “We should be thinking and acting on this issue in the Jubilee Year.”

Both Lindsey and Murphy expressed happiness at the milestone 200th exoneration while lamenting the need for those exonerations at all. 

“It’s a great thing, but it’s a bad thing, that we reached the 200 mark,” Lindsey said. “But the good thing about it is it shows that organizations and attorneys are working hard.”

Murphy, meanwhile, said she was “delighted that there has been success in more cases to get people off of death row.” 

“But at the same time, it’s also sad that so many people have had to go through that, where they’re sentenced to death and then exonerated,” she said. “Can you imagine that?”

Anti-death penalty activists celebrate 200th death row exoneree: ‘Undoubtedly optimistic’

null / Credit: txking/Shutterstock

CNA Staff, Jul 17, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

Opponents of the death penalty in the United States are celebrating a milestone as the country marks the 200th death row exoneree in roughly 50 years and more states continue to abolish capital punishment. 

Catholic Mobilizing Network (CMN), which advocates ending capital punishment in the U.S., said in a press release this month that California prisoner Larry Roberts had become “the 200th death row exoneration since 1973.” Roberts had been on death row since 1983 after his fellow prisoners claimed he killed both a prison guard and another inmate. 

CMN Executive Director Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy said in the press release that the 200 exonerations were the result of “the tireless efforts of faithful advocates and committed lawyers.”

Exonerations, according to CMN, are cases involving former death row inmates who have, since 1973, either been acquitted of all charges related to the crime that placed them on death row or had all charges related to the crime that placed them on death row dismissed by the prosecution. It also includes prisoners who have been granted a complete pardon based on evidence of innocence.

“[W]hile we praise God that these lives have been spared, we also remember the many individuals — both innocent and guilty — who did not, and will not receive the same grace, whose lives are discarded by a system determined to throw them away,” she said. 

Murphy told CNA in a phone interview that the hundreds of exonerations are “a significant indicator of the brokenness of the death penalty.”

‘The trends are moving in our favor’

On its website CMN says it plays “a central role in state and federal repeal campaigns, collaborating closely with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, state Catholic conferences, local dioceses, religious communities, and secular abolition groups.”

The group helps spearhead “prayer vigils, press events, webinars, and speaking tours” against the death penalty; it also works at “connecting key players, like Church leaders and abolition movement organizers.”

Asked if the anti-capital punishment movement is optimistic about its efforts, Murphy said: “Undoubtedly.” 

She pointed out that nearly half of all U.S. states, as well as the District of Columbia, have abolished the death penalty. 

“The trends are moving in our favor,” she said. “The use of the death penalty is decreasing, as are the people being sentenced to death. The repeals are much more bipartisan than they’ve ever been.” 

“I think Americans are getting less and less tolerant of this practice,” she said. “For all these reasons we’re continually encouraged.”

Among the groups with which CMN has partnered against the death penalty include Witness to Innocence, which works “to empower exonerated death row survivors to be the most powerful and effective voice in the fight to end the death penalty and reform the justice system in the United States.”

Herman Lindsey, the executive director of Witness to Innocence, was sentenced to death in Florida in 2006 for murder. The state Supreme Court subsequently exonerated him in 2009, ruling that Florida “had failed to produce any evidence in this case placing Lindsey at the scene of the crime at the time of the murder.”

Lindsey told CNA in a phone interview that Witness to Innocence offers exonerees — many of whom have trouble finding work — a chance for employment while speaking out against capital punishment. 

“We run a lot of campaigns at one time,” he said. “We’re involved in a lot of cases. We work with each and every state, and with attorneys on the cases.” 

“If it’s a case that’s out there, most likely we’re active in it in some type of way, somehow,” he said. 

Murphy said there are “exciting things on the horizon for Catholics to help us mobilize and speak on this issue more effectively.” 

“We’ve got Oct. 10 coming up, the World Day Against the Death Penalty,” she said. She praised Pope Francis for making it “explicit” that Catholics should work against the death penalty in the upcoming Jubilee Year of 2025.

The death penalty “is at odds with the Christian faith and eliminates all hope of forgiveness and rehabilitation,” Murphy said. “We should be thinking and acting on this issue in the Jubilee Year.”

Both Lindsey and Murphy expressed happiness at the milestone 200th exoneration while lamenting the need for those exonerations at all. 

“It’s a great thing, but it’s a bad thing, that we reached the 200 mark,” Lindsey said. “But the good thing about it is it shows that organizations and attorneys are working hard.”

Murphy, meanwhile, said she was “delighted that there has been success in more cases to get people off of death row.” 

“But at the same time, it’s also sad that so many people have had to go through that, where they’re sentenced to death and then exonerated,” she said. “Can you imagine that?”

Listen to the musicians performing at the National Eucharistic Congress

Matt Maher performs at SiriusXM Studios on Nov. 1, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee. / Credit: Jason Kempin/Getty Images for SiriusXM

CNA Staff, Jul 17, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

More than 50,000 people will gather in Indianapolis this week for the National Eucharistic Congress, the culmination of the multiyear National Eucharistic Revival. The goal of the revival has been to “renew the Church by enkindling a living relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ in the holy Eucharist.”

As part of the celebrations, participants will take part in large-scale Revival Sessions, the capstone of each day of the congress. These sessions, held in Lucas Oil Stadium, will feature dynamic speakers as well as praise and worship. The different tracks of the congress, which feature speakers and workshops that are tailored for Catholics of various walks of life, will also include musical performances.

Meet and preview the music of just a few of the talented musicians who will perform at the Congress. The full list of musicians can be found on the “Speakers” page of the Congress website.

Saturday worship leader: Matt Maher

Matt Maher, a Canadian musician best known for his contemporary worship hits such as “Lord I Need You” and “Your Grace Is Enough,” will lead a massive worship session in Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday, July 20.

The Grammy Award-nominated Catholic musician recently told “EWTN News in Depth” that Eucharistic adoration has “been part of my journey of faith, I think, in a very unique way.”

“I’ve witnessed that so many times throughout the years — people of all ages coming to a deeper awareness of God’s love for them in their life, but I think in a specific way, God’s love for them in the Eucharist,” Maher said.

“[And] if we could be more available to the grace present in it, and allow it to transform our lives, it should spill out into society … the biggest thing that I’m excited about is just knowing the seeds that God is going to plant that night and how hopefully it will spill out into all our smaller parishes and communities.”

Revival Sessions: Dave and Lauren Moore

Other than Saturday evening, the music for each of the massive Revival Sessions will be provided by Dave and Lauren Moore.

The Moores are Catholic musicians from Texas who co-founded the Catholic Music Initiative, a nonprofit apostolate that aims to create beautiful and singable music for Mass. They say their work strives to build a bridge between contemporary and traditional. Dave is a singer-songwriter, producer, and liturgist, while Lauren is vocalist in a variety of styles, recently focusing on sacred chant.

‘Cultivate’ sessions

Steve Angrisano and Francesca LaRosa will provide music for the “Cultivate” sessions, which are geared toward families.

Angrisano is a well-known Catholic composer, presenter, and music minister. In addition to leading worship for many Catholic events, especially youth events, he has composed music for Oregon Catholic Press for the past 25 years.

Joining him is LaRosa, an Indianapolis-based Catholic composer best known for her settings of the Psalms and prayers set to music. She told CNA in 2020 that she is a “firm believer that music can offer healing and music can give comfort, and that music can lead us back to God.”

‘Empower’ sessions

The Empower sessions are “for anyone who wants practical tools to become a ‘Eucharistic missionary’ evangelizing their community and taking on a deeper role in spreading the Gospel to those around them.”

Josh Blakesley, a musician from Houston, is one of the music leaders for these sessions. Blakesley has led music for 20-plus years at various events, churches, festivals, and conferences including Steubenville Conferences.

Joining also is The Vigil Project, a collective of musicians formed in 2016 with a common mission to make Catholic music for Catholic prayer. TVP says it maintains a seasonal touring schedule between producing new music and film projects.

‘Encuentro’ sessions

The Encuentro sessions are designed for all those Spanish-speakers who desire a more profound faith and comprehension of Jesus and the holy Eucharist.

Nico Cabrera, a bilingual worship leader born and raised in Colombia, has traveled the world teaching and leading worship. In 2019 he played on the main stage in World Youth Day Panama.

Kairy Márquez, a Latina worship leader who was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in New York City, now lives in a suburb of Atlanta. She has recorded two Spanish worship albums and has traveled to many Latin American and European countries to share the Gospel and lead people to encounter and adore Jesus in the Eucharist.

‘Encounter’ sessions

Sarah Kroger, a well-known Catholic singer and songwriter, will provide music for the Encounter sessions, which are designed for “everyone who desires a deeper renewal of their faith, a richer understanding of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, and clarity on what the next step in their faith journey will be after the National Eucharistic Congress.”

Dave and Lauren Moore will also be providing music for the Encounter sessions.

‘Awaken’ sessions

The Awaken sessions are designed for high school youth — incoming freshmen through just-graduated seniors.

Andrew Laubacher, who goes by “ALOB,” is a revert to the Catholic faith who returned after attending a Steubenville Youth Conference. He is on the road full time, traveling and evangelizing around the world.

Joining for the Awaken sessions is Ricky Vazquez, a bilingual worship leader and songwriter and recording artist of Puerto Rican descent. Vazquez is a part of the worship collective called “Village Lights,” which was nominated for a GMA Dove Award. He is also a part of Anchor Hymns, a collective of artists writing new hymns for the Church.

Details on additional musicians are available here.

Listen to the musicians performing at the National Eucharistic Congress

Matt Maher performs at SiriusXM Studios on Nov. 1, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee. / Credit: Jason Kempin/Getty Images for SiriusXM

CNA Staff, Jul 17, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

More than 50,000 people will gather in Indianapolis this week for the National Eucharistic Congress, the culmination of the multiyear National Eucharistic Revival. The goal of the revival has been to “renew the Church by enkindling a living relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ in the holy Eucharist.”

As part of the celebrations, participants will take part in large-scale Revival Sessions, the capstone of each day of the congress. These sessions, held in Lucas Oil Stadium, will feature dynamic speakers as well as praise and worship. The different tracks of the congress, which feature speakers and workshops that are tailored for Catholics of various walks of life, will also include musical performances.

Meet and preview the music of just a few of the talented musicians who will perform at the Congress. The full list of musicians can be found on the “Speakers” page of the Congress website.

Saturday worship leader: Matt Maher

Matt Maher, a Canadian musician best known for his contemporary worship hits such as “Lord I Need You” and “Your Grace Is Enough,” will lead a massive worship session in Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday, July 20.

The Grammy Award-nominated Catholic musician recently told “EWTN News in Depth” that Eucharistic adoration has “been part of my journey of faith, I think, in a very unique way.”

“I’ve witnessed that so many times throughout the years — people of all ages coming to a deeper awareness of God’s love for them in their life, but I think in a specific way, God’s love for them in the Eucharist,” Maher said.

“[And] if we could be more available to the grace present in it, and allow it to transform our lives, it should spill out into society … the biggest thing that I’m excited about is just knowing the seeds that God is going to plant that night and how hopefully it will spill out into all our smaller parishes and communities.”

Revival Sessions: Dave and Lauren Moore

Other than Saturday evening, the music for each of the massive Revival Sessions will be provided by Dave and Lauren Moore.

The Moores are Catholic musicians from Texas who co-founded the Catholic Music Initiative, a nonprofit apostolate that aims to create beautiful and singable music for Mass. They say their work strives to build a bridge between contemporary and traditional. Dave is a singer-songwriter, producer, and liturgist, while Lauren is vocalist in a variety of styles, recently focusing on sacred chant.

‘Cultivate’ sessions

Steve Angrisano and Francesca LaRosa will provide music for the “Cultivate” sessions, which are geared toward families.

Angrisano is a well-known Catholic composer, presenter, and music minister. In addition to leading worship for many Catholic events, especially youth events, he has composed music for Oregon Catholic Press for the past 25 years.

Joining him is LaRosa, an Indianapolis-based Catholic composer best known for her settings of the Psalms and prayers set to music. She told CNA in 2020 that she is a “firm believer that music can offer healing and music can give comfort, and that music can lead us back to God.”

‘Empower’ sessions

The Empower sessions are “for anyone who wants practical tools to become a ‘Eucharistic missionary’ evangelizing their community and taking on a deeper role in spreading the Gospel to those around them.”

Josh Blakesley, a musician from Houston, is one of the music leaders for these sessions. Blakesley has led music for 20-plus years at various events, churches, festivals, and conferences including Steubenville Conferences.

Joining also is The Vigil Project, a collective of musicians formed in 2016 with a common mission to make Catholic music for Catholic prayer. TVP says it maintains a seasonal touring schedule between producing new music and film projects.

‘Encuentro’ sessions

The Encuentro sessions are designed for all those Spanish-speakers who desire a more profound faith and comprehension of Jesus and the holy Eucharist.

Nico Cabrera, a bilingual worship leader born and raised in Colombia, has traveled the world teaching and leading worship. In 2019 he played on the main stage in World Youth Day Panama.

Kairy Márquez, a Latina worship leader who was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in New York City, now lives in a suburb of Atlanta. She has recorded two Spanish worship albums and has traveled to many Latin American and European countries to share the Gospel and lead people to encounter and adore Jesus in the Eucharist.

‘Encounter’ sessions

Sarah Kroger, a well-known Catholic singer and songwriter, will provide music for the Encounter sessions, which are designed for “everyone who desires a deeper renewal of their faith, a richer understanding of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, and clarity on what the next step in their faith journey will be after the National Eucharistic Congress.”

Dave and Lauren Moore will also be providing music for the Encounter sessions.

‘Awaken’ sessions

The Awaken sessions are designed for high school youth — incoming freshmen through just-graduated seniors.

Andrew Laubacher, who goes by “ALOB,” is a revert to the Catholic faith who returned after attending a Steubenville Youth Conference. He is on the road full time, traveling and evangelizing around the world.

Joining for the Awaken sessions is Ricky Vazquez, a bilingual worship leader and songwriter and recording artist of Puerto Rican descent. Vazquez is a part of the worship collective called “Village Lights,” which was nominated for a GMA Dove Award. He is also a part of Anchor Hymns, a collective of artists writing new hymns for the Church.

Details on additional musicians are available here.