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We're waiting on the decision about women deacons

NCR Connections: Will he or won't he? That's the question being asked in some circles as the date approaches for the pope's appearance at this year's May 6-10 meeting of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG), the leaders of the world's congregations of Catholic women religious.

Jesus replaced law of revenge with law of love, pope says

The scales of justice cannot solve everything, especially when it comes to stopping a cycle of evil vengeance, Pope Francis said.

Order to end affiliation with Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia

Wheeling Jesuit University will end its Jesuit affiliation at the end of the current academic year.

Pope Francis: To stop evil, give more love than required

Vatican City, Apr 24, 2019 / 04:46 am (CNA).- To stop the spread of evil in the world, Catholics must go above and beyond, loving and forgiving others even when it is undeserved, Pope Francis urged Wednesday.

“Jesus inserts the power of forgiveness into human relationships. In life, not everything is resolved with justice,” he said April 24.

“Especially where we must put a barricade against evil, someone must love beyond what is necessary, to start a story of grace again,” he said, warning that “evil is familiar with its revenge, and if it is not interrupted it risks spreading and suffocating the whole world.”

The Easter Octave, he said, is a good time to think about the beauty of forgiveness and to pray to the Father for the grace to forgive others, explaining that Jesus replaced the “law of retaliation” with the “law of love: what God has done for me, I give it back to you!”

The pope continued his general audience catechesis on the ‘Our Father’ by reflecting on the line which says, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

In forgiveness we find “the bond between love for God and love of neighbor,” he said. “Love calls love, forgiveness calls forgiveness.”

“Every Christian knows that forgiveness of sins exists for him. This we all know, that Jesus forgives everyone and forgives always. Nothing in the Gospels suggests that God does not forgive the sins of those who are well disposed and who ask to be re-embraced,” he said.

“But,” he continued, “the abundant grace of God is always challenging. He who has received so much must learn to give so much.”

He said God gives every Christian the grace to do good in the lives of their brothers and sisters, even those who have done something wrong, and with “a word, a hug, a smile, we can convey to others what most precious thing we have received.”

“And what precious thing have we received? Forgiveness.”

Sometimes, the pope said, he has heard people say they will “never forgive” some person for what they have done to them. But God has told his people if they do not forgive others, they will not be forgiven, Francis underlined. “You close the door.”

He recounted a story told to him by a priest, who had visited an old woman on her death bed. She could barely speak, but when asked if she was sorry for her sins, she said ‘yes.’

But when the priest asked her if she forgave others, she said, ‘no.’ “The priest was distressed,” Pope Francis said. “If you do not forgive, God will not forgive you. If you cannot forgive, ask the Lord to give you strength to do it.”

Jesus tells a parable which illustrates the concept of forgiving others as God has forgiven you, he noted.

In the parable, found in the Gospel of Matthew, a servant owes his master a huge debt, something impossible to repay. But miraculously, he receives not only an extension, but full forgiveness of the debt. “An unexpected grace!”

But, Francis explained, the servant immediately turned to his brother to demand from him the much smaller debt he was owed.

“Therefore, in the end, the master calls him back and has [the servant] condemned,” he said. “Because if you do not try to forgive, you will not be forgiven; if you do not try to love, you will not be loved either.”

Supreme Court to hear sexual orientation, gender identity employment cases

Washington D.C., Apr 24, 2019 / 03:30 am (CNA).- In a decision that could have potentially far-reaching consequences, the U.S. Supreme Court has said it will hear cases involving claims that sexual orientation and gender identity should be included under current federal protections barring sex discrimination.

One case involves a male employee who identifies as a woman and was fired from a funeral home for deciding to wear women’s clothes to work.

John Bursch, vice president of appellate advocacy at the religious freedom legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, argued that the court should uphold current federal law.

“Neither government agencies nor the courts have authority to rewrite federal law by replacing ‘sex’ with ‘gender identity’—a change with widespread consequences for everyone,” he said April 22.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday said it would hear the cases in the upcoming court term, with decisions and opinions possible in 2020.

Alliance Defending Freedom is backing the funeral home at the center of one case, R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The family-owned funeral home, owned by Tom Roost, has operated since 1910 and now has several chapels.

In 2007 it hired a male employee who agreed to follow the company’s policies, including its sex-specific dress code. The ADF summary of the case said the dress code is “crafted to emphasize professionalism and keep the focus on those mourning the loss of a loved one.”

In 2013, the employee told Roost that he intended to begin dressing as a woman at work.

“Tom determined that allowing this would not be in the best interests of his clients processing their grief,” Alliance Defending Freedom said on its website summary of the case. “He offered the employee a severance package, which the employee refused.”

The employee, who now goes by Aimee Stephens, wrote to colleagues that year: “What I must tell you is very difficult for me and is taking all the courage I can muster... I have felt imprisoned in a body that does not match my mind, and this has caused me great despair and loneliness.”

Stephens filed suit on legal grounds including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a federal law which bars discrimination on categories including race, religion, national origin and sex.

In 2016, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan backed the funeral home. However, the EEOC appealed the case, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit then ruled that the dress code was discriminatory against a male employee who identifies as a woman.

“It is analytically impossible to fire an employee based on that employee’s status as a transgender person without being motivated, at least in part, by the employee’s sex,” said the appellate court, according to the New York Times. “Discrimination ‘because of sex’ inherently includes discrimination against employees because of a change in their sex.”

Bursch, who served as solicitor general of Michigan from 2011 to 2013, said the funeral home wanted “to serve families mourning the loss of a loved one.” He charged “the EEOC has elevated its political goals above the interests of the grieving people that the funeral home serves.”

“Businesses have the right to rely on what the law is—not what government agencies want it to be—when they create and enforce employment policies,” Bursch added.

The Supreme Court accepted the funeral home case on the limited questions of whether Title VII bars discrimination against self-identified transgender people based on “their status as transgender” or “sex stereotyping” under a 1989 Supreme Court decision, Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins.

Alliance Defending Freedom’s brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court argued that the Sixth Circuit’s interpretation “undermines the primary purpose for banning discrimination based on sex,” namely to ensure equal opportunities for women and to eliminate workplace inequalities that have held women back.

If the lower court’s interpretation holds, it said, employment reserved for women like playing basketball in the WNBA or working at a shelter for abused women “now must be opened to males who identify as women.” Such a definition would also undermine Title IX efforts to advance women’s participation in sports and educational opportunities, it said.

“Substituting ‘gender identity’ for ‘sex’ in nondiscrimination laws also threatens freedom of conscience,” the ADF petition added, saying that such interpretations have forced doctors to participate in surgical efforts to alter sex “in violation of their deeply held beliefs” and best medical judgment.

“In sum, the Sixth Circuit ushered in a profound change in federal law accompanied by widespread legal and social ramifications,” the legal group charged.

Two other cases, Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia and Altitude Express, Inc. vs. Zarda, will also go before the Supreme Court. They were consolidated because of similar claims regarding employer discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, National Public Radio reports.

The case Altitude Express, Inc. v. Zarda involves the late New York skydiving instructor Donald Zarda, who said he was fired because he was gay. He was fired after a female customer complained. She had voiced concerns about being tightly tied to Zarda during a tandem dive, and Zarda tried to reassure her by telling her he was “100% gay,” the New York Times reports.

Zarda was killed in a skydiving accident in 2014 but his estate is continuing to pursue the case.

A divided 13-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit ruled that the lawsuit could proceed.

Chief Judge Robert A. Katzmann, writing the court’s majority opinion, said “sexual orientation discrimination is motivated, at least in part, by sex and is thus a subset of sex discrimination.” Sexual orientation discrimination is “predicated on assumptions about how persons of a certain sex can or should be, which is an impermissible basis for adverse employment actions.”

“(S)exual orientation discrimination—which is motivated by an employer’s opposition to romantic association between particular sexes—is discrimination based on the employee’s own sex,” Katzmann’s decision added.

The case Bostock v. Clayton County involves a Georgia child welfare services coordinator who said he was fired for being gay, the New York Times reports.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in July 2018 issued an unsigned opinion citing a 1979 5th circuit court decision ruling that firing for homosexuality is not barred by Title VII.

Most federal courts do not consider sexual orientation discrimination to be a form of sex discrimination, the New York Times reports.

EEOC publications on the commission website hold that “sex stereotypes” like “the belief that men should only date women or that women should only marry men” constitute illegal discrimination on the basis of sex. They say that the 1964 civil rights legislation against sex discrimination in the workplace includes discrimination “based on an applicant or employee’s gender identity or sexual orientation.”

However, those opinions lack Congressional approval. Proposed legislation known as the Equality Act would add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as protected categories under federal law.

Critics have warned that the legislation explicitly rejects religious freedom protections and would open the gates to anti-discrimination lawsuits against religious believers and institutions who disagree with the bill’s broad view of what constitutes LGBT discrimination.

Author makes case that sex in heaven could shape its place on Earth

Book review: Is there sex in heaven? Most theologians in the history of Christianity have said no. Theological ethicist Patricia Beattie Jung claims that sex could be a part of an afterlife full of love of God and others. 

Mystagogia in the parish

Daily Easter Reflections: "To the tombs I went to mourn the hope I thought was gone. Here among you I awoke to unexpected dawn."

Trump deserves impeachment, but failure would harm Constitution

Distinctly Catholic: I was wrong to think that someone like Attorney General William Barr would not misrepresent the findings of the Mueller report. But I wasn't wrong to think that impeachment remains unlikely.

Acceptance of inferiority and the freedom it brings

From Where I Stand: No doubt about it: The seventh degree of humility in the Rule of Benedict was meant for us. It's impossible, of course, to lead the world in everything. But tell any lie long enough and people are prone to believe it. And claim it. And assume it. And we do.

Copy Desk Daily, April 24, 2019

NCR Today: The Copy Desk Daily highlights recommended news and opinion articles that have crossed our desks on their way to you.