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Female athletes can’t be silent when forced to compete with males, attorney argues

Washington D.C., Feb 26, 2021 / 02:30 pm (CNA).- Girls cannot be silent when forced to compete against biological males in athletics, one attorney argued on Friday.


In the case of Soule v. Connecticut Association of Schools, several female athletes had sued over Connecticut’s policy of allowing biological males—who identify as transgender females—to compete in girls’ sports. On Friday, oral arguments were held on the state’s motion to dismiss the case.


After the arguments, an attorney representing the athletes said that they will not be silenced in their complaint for equal treatment.


One of the girls “was told by coaches that if she was asked by the press how she felt about that, she just needed to say ‘no comment,’” said Roger Brooks, a senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) which represents the girls.


“And so yes, we’re deeply concerned with a world which is essentially sending a memo to girls that says ‘you’ll take it, and you’ll be meek and quiet, and say nothing,’” Brooks said.


ADF is a nonprofit group advocating for the defense of religious liberty.


In 2017, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference began allowing student-athletes to compete in sports based on their gender identity, and not their biological sex.


After the new policy, two biological males identifying as transgender females competed in girls’ track events and won 15 state titles.


Four high school track competitors—Soule, Alanna Smith, Chelsea Mitchell, and Ashley Nicoletti—filed a lawsuit against Connecticut in 2019, alleging that they had to unfairly compete against biological males identifying as transgender female.


Soule, currently a track-and-field athlete at a NCAA Division I college, said on Friday that she was simply told she had the chance to “compete” and not a right to “win.”


“But when we’ve asked questions, we’ve been told we’re allowed to compete, but we don’t have the right to win,” she told reporters on Friday at an online news conference after a hearing in the case. “We’ve worked incredibly hard to shave fractions of a second off of our times to win, not to place third and beyond.”


Brooks stated after oral arguments that “women and girls deserve an equal and level playing field in athletics.”


 “If the ACLU gets its way, women’s sports will no longer exist. There will be men’s sports, and there will be semi-co-ed sports,” he said. The ACLU has joined the lawsuit in defense of the state’s policy.


Mitchell alleges that her time would have been the best at the 2019 state championship for the women’s 55-meter indoor track competition, but the two male runners—Andraya Yearwood and Terry Miller—took first and second place, respectively.


Soule raced “17 times at least” against biological males and lost each time, Brooks said. Mitchell lost to four times to males in state championships, he added.


“I was defeated before stepping on to the track,” Alanna Smith on Friday recounted her experience facing the male runners. “Mentally, we know the outcome before the race even starts.”


“Four times, I ran races fast enough to take home a state championship,” Mitchell said.


“Girls across Connecticut and New England all knew the outcome of our races long before the start, and it was extremely demoralizing,” Soule said.  


Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits sex discrimination in federally-funded education programs and activities.


Brooks argued on Friday that Title IX doesn’t just give girls the “chance to compete” in sports, but to do so on an equal playing field mindful of the biological differences between males and females.


“Title IX promises our daughters athletic opportunities and experiences every bit the equal of what their brothers enjoy, but instead, the CIC and Connecticut are giving girls extra lessons in losing,” he said.


While the Department of Education in 2020 found that the state’s policy violated Title IX, the Biden administration withdrew those findings earlier this week.


President Biden has already signed an executive order stating that people shouldn’t be denied public goods based on their gender identity—and ADF and other groups have warned that the order would force women athletes to compete against biological males identifying as transgender females.


On Thursday, the House passed the Equality Act, a sweeping bill that would create protected classes for sexual orientation and gender identity in federal civil rights law. Critics of the bill, including U.S. bishops, have warned that it would threaten girls’ sports among a number of areas.


The act “certainly threatens equality on the track,” Brooks said, adding that he is “optimistic” the bill won’t pass the Senate. Bills such as the Equality Act “ignore the differences between men and women,” he said.



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USCCB opposes lack of pro-life protections in COVID relief bill

Washington D.C., Feb 26, 2021 / 11:02 am (CNA).- The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is opposing the COVID relief package currently under consideration in the House, over its lack of pro-life protections. 


In a digital campaign, the USCCB wrote that although the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 “addresses the needs of many vulnerable people related to the pandemic,” it lacks pro-life “Hyde” protections against funding of abortions and abortion coverage.  


The Hyde Amendment is a longstanding legislative provision that prohibits the use of taxpayer funding for elective abortions. If Hyde language is excluded from the bill, that would erase this limitation and allow for possible increased funding of abortion. 


As a candidate for president, Biden reversed his previous support of the Hyde Amendment, saying he now supports taxpayer-funded abortion. House Democratic leaders have also said they intended to repeal the policy in 2021.


The House is scheduled to vote on the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 on Friday evening. The $1.9 trillion package includes funding for vaccinations, testing and tracing, stimulus checks to families, and tax credits for paid sick and family leave.


The USCCB expressed its disappointment, however, noting that previous COVID bills provided economic relief and health care spending with pro-life provisions intact.


“Unfortunately, unlike previous COVID relief bills, this bill appropriates billions of taxpayer dollars that are not subject to longstanding, bi-partisan pro-life protections that are needed to prevent this funding from paying for abortions,” their website stated. 


The USCCB added it is “communicating to Congress its strong opposition to any taxpayer funding of abortion as part of this legislation,” and is urging Catholics and pro-life Americans to do the same. 


“Your voice is critically needed today to tell your representatives in Congress to support amendments that prevent abortion funding and to work for their inclusion in the final bill,” the conference stated.


In a statement posted to Twitter on Thursday, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) said she and some of her fellow Republican lawmakers are attempting to include the pro-life protections in the bill, “to FIX this to reflect Congress’s long bipartisan history of supporting Hyde.”



??? NEWS: Unfortunately, House Democrats did not include Hyde Protections in the $1.9 trillion reconciliation bill. @virginiafoxx, @RepWalorski, and I are leading to FIX this to reflect Congress’s long bipartisan history of supporting Hyde. #prolife #SaveHyde

— CathyMcMorrisRodgers (@cathymcmorris) February 25, 2021  


The congresswoman’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 


In a statement, Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, also argued that the Hyde protections should be included in the final bill. 


“At a time when our country is mourning the deaths of 500,000 Americans, very little (less than 10%) of the misnamed COVID relief package actually goes towards combatting the pandemic,” Mancini said in a written statement. “Instead, pro-abortion Democrats are using this bill to push through billions of dollars in subsidies for abortions, not only here in the U.S. but also abroad.” 


The Senate is using the procedure of reconciliation to pass the legislation needing only a simple majority, Mancini said, “because they would not otherwise have the votes needed to do away with popular pro-life riders that protect Americans from funding the life-ending procedure.”


“In fact, consistent polling shows that most Americans oppose their tax dollars funding abortion both here and abroad. So much for unity,” Mancini said.

Catholic Climate Covenant launches youth mobilization initiative

The mobilization effort will focus on four main areas: advocacy, community resilience, education and ecological spirituality. The hope is that young Catholics will mold the program to support what they want to do to further environmental stewardship.

Australia’s Catholic bishops issue plenary council working document

CNA Staff, Feb 26, 2021 / 06:05 am (CNA).- Australia’s Catholic bishops on Thursday issued a working document ahead of the first assembly of a landmark plenary council in October.

The text, released on Feb. 25, will inform discussions at the first plenary council of the Australian Church since 1937.

The document, entitled “Continuing the Journey,” calls for a sweeping renewal of the Church in Australia. 

It highlights a series of “major topics,” including “strengthening practices of discernment and synodality,” “co-responsibility in mission and governance,” “renewing the Church’s solidarity with First Australians and those on the margins of society,” and responding to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

It says that these topics will help to form “the skeleton of an agenda” at the plenary council’s first assembly.

Australia’s Catholic bishops formally announced their decision to hold a plenary council in May 2016. Pope Francis ratified the plan in March 2018.

According to the plenary council’s website, “a plenary council is the highest form of gathering of local church and has legislative and governance authority. The decisions that are made at the council become binding for the Catholic Church in Australia.” 

The organizers were forced to change their plans for the plenary council because of the coronavirus crisis. 

The first assembly was originally scheduled to take place in Adelaide in October 2020, followed by a second assembly in Sydney in July 2021.

The first assembly will now be held “via a multi-modal format” on Oct. 3-10, 2021, followed by a second assembly in Sydney on July 4-9, 2022.

In the plenary council’s first phase, known as “Listening and Dialogue,” more than 222,000 people took part, making 17,457 submissions. In the second phase, called “Listening and Discernment,” Catholics across the country participated in “writing and discernment sessions.”

Plenary council president Archbishop Timothy Costelloe, S.D.B., said on Feb. 25: “This is an exciting step forward and we take it together, amidst a time of great change. More than 220,000 people participated in the first stages of Listening and Dialogue, and those voices can be heard clearly in the working document.”

Organizers have also issued a reflection guide to accompany the working document, known in Latin as the “instrumentum laboris.”

Costelloe, the archbishop of Perth, said: “Every part of this journey so far has been embedded in prayer and, similarly, I invite people to recognize the need to engage with the instrumentum laboris with an open heart, an open mind, and a receptive spirit.”

Head of German Catholic bishops: ‘I do not deny Communion to a Protestant who asks for it’

CNA Staff, Feb 26, 2021 / 04:00 am (CNA).- The president of the German Catholic bishops’ conference said on Thursday that he would continue to give Holy Communion to Protestants who ask for it.

Bishop Georg Bätzing told journalists at a press conference on Feb. 25 that it was necessary to respect the “personal decision of conscience” of those seeking to receive Communion.

CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, reported that Bätzing was responding to a question about a controversial proposal for a “Eucharistic meal fellowship” between Catholics and Protestants.

The proposal was made by the Ecumenical Study Group of Protestant and Catholic Theologians (known by its German initials, ÖAK) in a 2019 document entitled “Together at the Lord’s Table.”

The ÖAK adopted the text under the co-chairmanship of Bätzing and the retired Lutheran Bishop Martin Hein. 

Asked how he would respond if a Protestant came to him seeking the Eucharist, he told reporters: “I have no problems with it and I see myself in line with papal documents.”

The 59-year-old bishop added that this was already a “practice” in Germany “every Sunday” and that priests in his Diocese of Limburg would not face negative consequences if a case were reported to him.

He underlined that one should not “simply invite everyone.” But while a general invitation to receive the Eucharist was not permitted, he said it was important to show “respect for the personal decision of conscience of the individual” seeking Communion.

“I do not deny Holy Communion to a Protestant if he asks for it,” he said.

The ÖAK was established in 1946 to strengthen ecumenical ties. It is independent of both the German Catholic bishops’ conference and the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), an organization representing 20 Protestant groups. But the ÖAK informs both bodies about its deliberations.

The ÖAK document raised concerns at the Vatican, prompting an intervention by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in September 2020.

In a four-page critique and letter to Bätzing, the doctrinal congregation emphasized that significant differences in understanding of the Eucharist and ministry remained between Protestants and Catholics.

“The doctrinal differences are still so important that they currently rule out reciprocal participation in the Lord’s Supper and the Eucharist,” it said.

“The document cannot therefore serve as a guide for an individual decision of conscience about approaching the Eucharist.” 

The CDF cautioned against any steps towards intercommunion between Catholics and members of the EKD.

Following the Vatican intervention, Bätzing reaffirmed his view that intercommunion with Protestants should be possible.

Cardinal Kurt Koch, prefect of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, has also expressed serious misgivings about the “Eucharistic meal fellowship” proposal.

At Thursday’s press conference, held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic, Bätzing underlined his high hopes for the “Synodal Way,” a process bringing together German lay people and bishops to discuss four major topics: the way power is exercised in the Church; sexual morality; the priesthood; and the role of women.

He was speaking at the end of the bishops’ spring plenary meeting, which saw the election of theologian Beate Gilles as the first female general secretary of the German bishops’ conference.

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