Catholic US News

Catholic US News

Why three gay Catholics left the Church – and why they returned

Philadelphia, Pa., Oct 15, 2015 / 03:38 am (CNA).- Dan, Rilene and Paul knew that once their stories were out, life would not be the same.

“We’ve been advised not to google ourselves,” Rilene said, laughing.

These three are the subjects of a recently released documentary, “Desire of the Everlasting Hills,” which chronicles their stories of having same-sex attraction, and how they eventually found peace in the Catholic Church.

The film made its world premiere in Pennsylvania July 19 last year at a conference for Courage, the Vatican-approved apostolate that reaches out to Catholics with same-sex attraction with the goals of growing closer to God, engaging in supportive friendships, and learning to live full lives within the call to chastity.

Its simple style and universal themes of human love and longing, however, make the film a touching and moving experience for a much broader audience.

All three said they approached their involvement in the film with some trepidation. They were hesitant about the responses they might get from their family and friends, and those in the LGBT community.

“I was very scared to do this movie,” Dan told CNA when the film debuted. A professional musician, he was worried what people in the music industry might think. He didn’t want to be seen as “Dan the gay man.” Before this film he had never been publicly out, and had occasionally dated women.

“But I was thinking about 1 Peter 3:15, where he says ‘Always be prepared to give an answer for the hope that lies within you.’ With how good God has been to me, if I can help other people through my story, that’s why I chose to do this.”

Dan’s passion is especially to help young people who are experiencing same-sex attraction. Although he was Catholic when he was young, his family became Protestant by the time he was in his teenage years. He remembers feeling like there was no one he could talk to about what he was experiencing.  

“I remember the pastor doing a series on sexual purity, and he was talking about lusting after women,” Dan said, “And I remember thinking, ‘Who can I tell, that the guy two pews in front of me is the guy that I’m lusting after?’”

In the film, Dan recounts going to a strip club as an experiment. He ended up talking vegetables with a dancer, and still uses some of her gardening tips to this day.
He then decided that he still wanted the normalcy of a dating relationship, so he started dating Jason, with whom he was in a relationship for about a year. But his desires for a family and biological fatherhood were reawakened when he found himself falling in love with Kelly, a woman at work.

When his relationship with Kelly ended, Dan said he found himself tempted to find another relationship with a man.

“But I had reached a threshold where I realized the path to peace … was not going back.”

Rilene participated in the film because she felt she owed it to God to be as outspoken about him as she had been about being gay.

“When I was gay I dragged my partner out of the closet,” she said. “I feel like I at least owe God the same level of full disclosure, so that’s why I am openly back in the Church and abandoned my gay identity.”

In the film, Rilene recalled that at first she wanted to be loved by a man and to have a family. But after a dating dry spell and a woman making a move on her at a party, she started questioning whether or not she might really be attracted to women.

On a business trip, she met a woman, Margo, who was to be her partner for 25 years.

“I think she was a lot like me in many ways, she was professional,” Rilene said. “And she wanted me, honestly. And I needed to be wanted.”

But even throughout that relationship, Rilene said she felt restless and often alone. After a series of financial downfalls and a marriage proposal from Margo, Rilene left the relationship and eventually found her way back into a Catholic parish.

She said she felt like the film was a good chance for her and the other subjects to sort through their thoughts and examine their lives.

“There were so many blessings in this movie for us, the actual conversation, the questioning, helped to focus our own thoughts for each of us on different aspects of our life that maybe we hadn’t considered as closely before.”

“And it has wonderful graces so far, and whatever else comes, that’s the way it goes, we’ll just take it as it comes.”

Paul got involved in the gay scene after moving to New York City in the 1970s. He landed a high-end job as an international model and rubbed elbows with celebrities at clubs in the city.

“Studio 54, especially if you were young and somewhat attractive, you could go there and it would be total heaven. The lights, the way people dressed, the music, the movie stars … it was exactly like you’ve heard,” he said in the film.
When he wasn’t at the studio or at the gym, Paul spent his time looking for partners. He found himself going through dozens, and then hundreds, and then thousands of lovers.

“It became frantic, and it was never my intention … but I became insensitive to what it means to be with a partner, both body and soul.”

When the AIDs epidemic claimed around 90 percent of his friends, Paul decided to move to San Francisco for a fresh start. He met his partner, Jeff, there and they moved to a cabin in Sonoma County.

One day while watching T.V., Paul came across a strange image and called Jeff into the room to laugh at what they saw.

“I’m laughing mockingly at this nun with a patch over her eye, a distorted face (I didn’t know she had a stroke at the time), and a complete, old fashioned habit,” he said.

It was Mother Angelica on EWTN.

Jeff and Paul both laughed at “these crazy Christians”, but when Jeff left the room, Paul kept watching.

“I was about to change the channel, she said something so intelligent and so real and so honest that it really struck me.”

“You see God created you and I to be happy in this life and the next. He cares for you. He watches your every move. There’s no one that loves you (that) can do that,” Mother Angelica said.

From then on, Paul was hooked on Mother Angelica. But he hid his new obsession. He would change the channel after watching her so that Jeff or anyone who used the T.V. wouldn’t see the nun.

“And it reminded me as I was doing this of when I used to turn the channel when I was watching porn because I didn’t want Jeff or anyone else to see a porn station come up.”

Paul anticipates that the negative response to this film will be huge. Even though the film wasn’t public at the time of the interview, Paul said he’s already seen a reaction.

“I got blowback because I walked up the stairs … of a church called the Catholic Church. I lost clients, I lost friends.”

“People were in shock that an educated, relatively intelligent man could believe in Jesus Christ. These were the few friends that were aware that I was back in the Church.”

Dan echoed Paul’s sentiments about the reaction he expects from the film.

“I think my colleagues would have no problem if I were to come out as gay. I think they’re baffled by the fact that I’m Catholic.”

All three also said that once they were back in the Church, they started to distance themselves from the label “gay” or “lesbian”.

Within the Church, the terminology is not preferred because it tends to pigeonhole people by defining them first by their sexual drives.

“I went to a Protestant conference and one of the people said, ‘Maybe you need to consider the fact that the label ‘gay’ doesn’t define you,’ and that was one of the most liberating things,” Dan said. “I think the very fact that the Church would avoid the terms gay and lesbian speaks to the truth of the human person, and there’s something vitally important about the Church’s refusal to use that.”

When asked about what the Church needs to do to better serve people with same-sex attraction, the answer was resoundingly that priests and the Church need to be better educated about the Church’s position.

Rilene said within the first few years of living with Margo, a priest knocked on her door for a parish survey. When she burst into tears, explaining that she used to be Catholic but felt unwanted by the Church because she was a lesbian, the priest didn’t know what to say.

“He just said, ‘No, we want you!’ But there was nothing behind that … he just had no tools. So I think that our priests need the education, they need training. I know priests who I don’t think even know what the Church’s position is on it, or are resistant to it.”

“So, that’s what we need to do. We need to arm our priests.”

Dan said he hoped that priests would also not shy away from the topic, or the Church’s teachings on the subject.

“One of the guys in Courage said chastity isn’t a consolation prize. Our lives are better because of the Church’s teaching, and we shouldn’t be embarrassed by that,” he said. “We should shout it from the mountaintops, it’s the good news!”

*This story originally ran July 25, 2014 with the headline “Film: People with same-sex attraction find peace in Church”


Catholic US News

Chicago shrine seeks help to rebuild after devastating fire

Chicago, Ill., Oct 8, 2015 / 04:36 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- This morning the Shrine of Christ the King Sovereign Priest in Chicago launched a online restoration fund following Wednesday’s fire at the church which collapsed much of its roof.

Firefighters responded to the conflagration shortly before 6 a.m. Sept. 7.

The following day the shrine, a certified charity, launched a GoFundMe campaign aimed at raising $500,000 for its restoration. In the last nine hours, it has already raised more than $11,000.

The community writes that “This church has an aura of hope. The Canons and staff at the Shrine are fully committed to carry on the work of restoration, in spite of the devastating fire.”

While the choir loft and part of the roof collapsed, and the windows and much of the interior furnishings were destroyed, the building’s walls and bell tower were secure following the fire. Adjoining the shrine are a rectory and a women’s shelter (formerly a school), both of which were unharmed.

No one was injured, and among the valuables rescued from the blaze were the tabernacle and a 17th century statue of the Infant of Prague.

“Unfortunately, most of the roof collapsed into the structure,” said Deputy Fire Commissioner John McNicholas, according to the local CBS affiliate. “So as beautiful as the structure is, it sustained an awful lot of damage.”
The church is a historic landmark – it was built in 1923 as St. Gelasius parish, and the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest was already in the midst of renovating the building.

The shrine is located in the Woodlawn neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. It forms the United States headquarters of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, a society of apostolic life whose aim is to spread the reign of Christ in all spheres of life, and which celebrates the extraordinary form of the Roman rite.

Parishioners at the Shrine participating in the Mass of Palm Sunday. Photo courtesy of the ICKSP.

The shrine had offered concerts and social events to edify the neighborhood since having been entrusted to the Institute in 2004.

Fire officials have said the fire may have been started from rags which were improperly stored after varnishing a portion of the shrine’s floor.

Catholic US News

This Catholic healthcare group is being sued for refusing to provide abortions

Detroit, Mich., Oct 4, 2015 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Trinity Health Corporations, one of the largest Catholic health care operations in America, is seeking the dismissal of a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union over its refusal to provide women with abortion services at their medical facilities.  

“This case has no merit.  A federal court already dismissed a similar ACLU claim, and we will seek dismissal of this suit for the same reason,” stated Eve Pidgeon, the manager of public relations at Trinity Health Corporations.

Trinity Health Corporations is a multi-facility operation headquartered in Livonia, a Detroit suburb, with more than 80 other hospital locations across America.

The health group adheres to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ ethical and religious protocol for medical practice, which includes the refusal to perform abortions and tubal ligations within their hospitals.

These directives for Catholic health services from the USCCB have been consistently followed by Trinity Health Corporation hospitals, which also cover various other medical issues from palliative care to birth control.

The ACLU and the ACLU of Michigan are suing Trinity Health over allegations that pregnant women are being denied “emergency health care” – specifically abortions – when they seek care at their hospitals. The ACLU is also underscoring Trinity Health’s refusal to perform operations such as tubal ligations on pregnant women because of the medical directives they follow.

The ACLU maintains that Trinity Health Corporations is in violation of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA). According to the ACLU, failing to offer pregnant women abortion services because of religious directives breaches this federal law.

However, when a similar case was brought against the USCCB in 2013 Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, president of the bishops’ conference, called the lawsuit “baseless,” saying their medical directives “urge respectful and compassionate care for both mothers and their children, both during and after pregnancy.”

That lawsuit was dismissed in June by a federal district court. The ACLU filed an appeal the following month.

Trinity Health also refuted the current allegations from the ACLU, upholding their ethical and medical procedures as coherent with best practices for women’s health.

“The Ethical and Religious Directives are entirely consistent with high-quality health care, and our clinicians continue to provide superb care throughout the communities we serve,” Pidgeon asserted, defending the USCCB regulations the hospital group follows.

“We are proud that more than 25,000 licensed physicians work directly with our health system and share our commitment to people-centered care,” Pidgeon continued, maintaining Trinity Health’s standard of practice.

The lawsuit against Trinity Health Corporations was announced Oct. 1 at a U.S. district court in Detroit, and Trinity Health Corporations is seeking dismissal of the case.

The ACLU has long opposed Catholic hospitals operating according to Catholic teaching. The ACLU and the group the MergerWatch Project co-authored a 2013 report that claimed the growth of Catholic hospitals was a “miscarriage of medicine.”

The report says the ACLU’s work in this area is supported by the “generous support” of two anonymous donors as well as the Arcus Foundation, the Herb Block Foundation, the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, the George Gund Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and the Scherman Foundation.


Kevin J. Jones contributed to this report.

Photo credit:

Catholic US News

‘You are not alone’ – Oregon bishops, priests support a community in shock

Portland, Ore., Oct 2, 2015 / 04:34 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In the wake of a mass shooting at a community college in Roseburg, Oregon, members of a local Catholic parish are reaching out to offer sympathy, comfort and hope.

“I think people are just in shock. In the small town of Roseburg…nothing like this has ever happened. We hear about it in the news throughout the United States but never hitting home, and now it has hit home,” said Fr. William Holtzinger.

After serving at the local Catholic parish, St. Joseph’s, from 2000-2002, Fr. Holtzinger now serves at a parish about an hour away from Rosenburg. As soon as heard about the shooting, he headed to Rosenburg to assist with Mass and to offer pastoral care to the grieving community.

As he offered care to the community, Fr. Holtzinger said he tried to remind people of the mercy and consolation God offers his people in times of tragedy.

“I’m sharing with people to be mindful if they are angry, to be aware of where that anger may come from, and be mindful that God is there to console us,” he told CNA.

He warned about the need for a proper response to the grief and anger that are natural consequences to a tragic situation.

“We need to be careful not to let anger become sin. It is just to be angry about an injustice, and an injustice has occurred, but also be mindful that we are all suffering from loss, and from loss can come lots of inappropriate anger.”

“As to why these things happen I don’t have a great answer, but we do know that God saves,” he said.

On October 1, a 26 year-old man left 10 dead and several others wounded after going on a shooting rampage at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, according to police.

After news broke of the tragedy, St. Joseph’s held a Mass to pray for the victims and their families. Portland Auxiliary Bishop Peter Smith presided over the Mass. At the end, he repeatedly told attendees, “You are not alone,” stressing that the bishops and entirety of the archdiocese were grieving with them and offering support.

Several reports from witnesses at the scene describe the shooting as religiously motivated.

Stacy Boylan, told CNN that his daughter, who survived the shooting, described to him how the gunman asked his victims to state their religion before shooting them.

“’Are you a Christian?’ he would ask them, ‘and if you are a Christian stand up,’” Boylan recalled, “because if you’re a Christian you’re going to see God in just about one second.”

Another survivor, Kortney Moore, gave a similar account to a local newspaper, The News-Review.

“Here are people who have professed their faith, and because of their profession, they were executed,” Fr. Holtzinger said.

“In my mind, those sound like martyrs to me.”

“And they may have been killed anyway, because (the shooter) then went on a rampage, but my question to myself is, what would I have done?” Fr. Holtzinger said.

“I hope I would have had the courage to stand up like these other individuals and to say, ‘Yes, I am a Christian.’”   

Just before Mass, a family belonging to St. Joseph’s contacted the parish in a panic – their daughter attended Umpqua, and they still hadn’t heard from her. After Mass, Father Jose Manuel Campos Garcia, the pastor at St. Joseph’s, learned that his young parishioner was in fact among the dead, and left immediately to be with the family.

Fr. Holtzinger said he was also especially moved by how quickly Archbishop Alexander Sample and Auxiliary Bishop Peter Smith offered support to Fr. Jose and the Roseburg community. Bishop Smith was able to attend the Mass, while Archbishop Sample immediately sent condolences and prayers.

“These terrible shooting tragedies are becoming far too common an experience in our contemporary society. They are always shocking and sobering events, but they are even more so when they strike so close to home,” Archbishop Sample said in an initial statement he posted on social media. “My prayers are with the victims of the shooting and their families. I can only imagine the trauma they are experiencing.”

“My prayers are also with the community at UCC and the wider community of Roseburg. As the Catholic shepherd of western Oregon, I wish to express my closeness to the people at this sad and tragic time.”

Not long after, Archbishop Sample sent out a letter to all the priests to be distributed around the Archdiocese of Portland, saying that he was “saddened beyond words” by the shooting and that his heart was “very heavy with sorrow as I grieve with all of you.”

“We must unite our suffering and the suffering of all those most directly affected by this tragedy with the cross of Jesus. In Christ, sorrow, death and loss are transformed by the glory of the resurrection. Jesus has conquered sin and death and opened the way to eternal life,” he said.

“Let us prayerfully commend our deceased brothers and sisters to the mercy of our loving Father. Let us also pray for healing and strength for all those who grieve the loss of loved ones and who care for the wounded.”  

Catholic US News

Dating apps could be leading to a rise in STDs – and Tinder isn’t happy about it

Denver, Colo., Oct 1, 2015 / 04:46 pm (CNA).- A new billboard linking dating apps with an increase in sexually transmitted disease rates spurred one app – Tinder – to issue a cease and desist order against the group behind it.

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which posted the billboard in Los Angeles, said they hoped to raise awareness about increasing STD rates, which have been linked to an increase in dating app use. The billboard featured four silhouettes of men and women with the words “Tinder, Chlamydia; Grindr, Gonorrhea,” and encourages people to get tested.

“Mobile dating apps are rapidly altering the sexual landscape by making casual sex as easily available as ordering a pizza,” Whitney Engeran-Cordova, a senior director at the foundation, said in a statement.

“In many ways, location-based mobile dating apps are becoming a digital bathhouse for millennials wherein the next sexual encounter can literally just be a few feet away – as well as the next STD,” Engeran-Cordova said.

While it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly how many people use Tinder – the company claims 8 billion – in the past few years, the app has become one of the most widely-used dating apps.

What sets Tinder apart in the online or mobile dating experience is speed and brevity. Based on a photo, first name, and age alone, users decide whether to swipe left (to pass) or right (to like). With GPS tracking, the app also tells users exactly how far away potential matches may be, making life even easier for those just looking for a quick hook-up.  

However, Tinder contests that the new billboard unfairly smears the app.

“These unprovoked and wholly unsubstantiated accusations are made to irreparably damage Tinder’s reputation in an attempt to encourage others to take an HIV test by your organization,” Tinder attorney Jonathan Reichman said in the letter, according to reports from the Los Angeles Times.

But the problem of increased STDs with strong correlations to dating app use isn’t limited to California, and is not wholly unsubstantiated.

Throughout the country, health departments are reporting an uptick in sexually transmitted diseases in patients, who are also increasingly reporting that they met their partners through location-based online or mobile dating services.

In July 2015, the Rhode Island Department of Health found that rates of syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia were at a 10-year high in the state. While health officials did not have firm numbers as to how many of these cases came about because of a dating app, they said they were alarmed at the rate with which infected patients said they met their partners through apps like Tinder.

“We do not know how much social media has contributed to the rise in STDs, but we believe it is a contributing factor,” the Rhode Island health department said in a statement to the Globe.

A September 2015 report from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment found a 56 percent increase in the number of early syphilis cases during January 1 to July 31 when compared to the same period in 2014.

Nearly half of all reported cases – 47 percent – reported that they had used dating apps to find sexual partners.

“So the state investigates each new case of syphilis and they ask people, ‘who do you think you got this from and where did you meet him or her?’ This particular syphilis outbreak, if you want to call it that, or trend, is mostly affecting men,” Dr. Sarah Rowan, Interim Director of HIV and Viral Hepatitis Prevention with Denver Public Health, said in an interview with Colorado Public Radio.

“Ninety-eight percent of the cases have occurred in men. So they ask men, ‘where do you think that you met your partner?’ and about 50 percent say they met them through an internet app – Grindr, SCRUFF, Craigslist – so those may be associated. In some ways, internet apps make it harder to do some contact tracing – so to say, ‘well, let me find this person and ask them to get tested and ask their partners as well.”

New York, Utah and Texas are also among the states reporting increased instances of syphilis and other STDs, with several health experts also linking these increases to dating apps.

Catholic US News

What meeting Pope Francis was like for elementary students in Harlem

New York City, N.Y., Sep 30, 2015 / 03:05 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Students and community members in East Harlem were moved, sometimes to tears, by Pope Francis’ words and example during his visit to the New York neighborhood.

“It was mindblowing and at the same time very shocking,”  Aaron Diaz, a third grader from Our Lady, Queen of the Angels School told CNA, “because not many people are able to meet him.”

Negueubou Kamwa, a fourth grader at Our Lady, Queen of the Angels, added that the meeting “amazing and it was like a big opportunity and a blessing,” and that the experience was so overwhelming “I started crying all over the place.”

“It was just incredible, and I cried.”

Pope Francis visited Our Lady, Queen of the Angels on Sept. 25, during the second day of his visit to New York City. While at the school, the Pope met with students from four schools in the neighborhood, as well as with migrants and refugees chosen by Catholic Charities of New York.

Diaz explained that out of over 7,000 students in the neighborhood, there were “only six of us and I was chosen.”

While the students didn’t have time to talk to Pope Francis, Pope Francis spoke to them – and was very funny, Diaz said.

“When we were singing he said ‘are you asleep!? Make it louder!’”

Diaz was also excited to receive a picture, and pulled out a his rosary. “He actually blessed it,” he explained, responding when asked if he would pray with it, “yes, I will.”

This 8 y/o had a “mind-blowing” and “shocking” meeting w/ Pope Francis. #PopeinNYC via @AddieDMena

— Matthew Hadro (@matthadro) September 26, 2015

Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, executive director of Catholic Charities of New York, explained to CNA that when planning the event “we wanted to make sure that he reached out and touched the communities of people in the United States,” and could not think of a better community or neighborhood for that goal than East Harlem.

The neighborhood, he elaborated “is a community that has welcomed immigrants for many many years.”

“The way we planned the event was just to try to get representatives with as many immigrant groups that Catholic Charities is working together so that the Pope could see the breadth of what is going on in New York, the breadth of how Catholic Charities is helping immigrants and refugees.”

The meeting also touched Msgr. Sullivan on a personal level as well.  “For me, I just kept looking around the room and seeing it filled with so many different people from so many different countries,” he recalled. “You know, in that room, there were immigrants and refugees from every single continent except Antarctica, because the penguins wouldn’t come,” the monsignor joked.  

“It was just the diversity of New York was there, and it was just a magnificent experience.”

During the meeting the Pope addressed following one’s dreams, a message which resounded with the experiences of many of the immigrants who came.

Odette Manzano, an immigrant herself, was touched by the experience. She was invited by Catholic Charities to come to the event as well as write a letter to Pope Francis, which was compiled into a book that was given to the Pope during the visit.

“It was one of a kind and it was one of the best experiences of my life and just hearing himself pronounce himself in Spanish, my native language, it was just amazing.”

She also found the Pope’s example even more inspiring in person. “He’s a leader, one of the greatest leaders, and he’s just showing what a leader should do, which is to be humble.”



Catholic US News

Pope Francis reportedly met with Kim Davis, offered support

Washington D.C., Sep 30, 2015 / 08:47 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Embattled county clerk Kim Davis met with Pope Francis in Washington, D.C. last Thursday, her lawyer has told multiple media outlets.

When asked about the meeting, the head of the Hole See press office, Fr Federico Lombardi, would not comment on the matter and neither confirmed nor denied that it happened.

Robert Moynihan, editor of the publication “Inside the Vatican,” first broke the story about the alleged meeting. According to his account, Pope Francis and Davis met at the Vatican Embassy in D.C. on Thursday afternoon after the Pope’s address to the U.S. Congress. He offered her words of support – “Thank you for your courage” – and told her to “stay strong,” offering rosaries to Davis and her husband.

Davis, a clerk for Rowan County, Kentucky, made headlines this past summer for refusing out of conscience to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, after the U.S. Supreme Court in June legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states in its decision, Obergefell v. Hodges.

The district court judge ordered that Davis serve jail time for refusing to obey the law, stating that her conscientious objection was not enough for her to lawfully recuse herself from issuing licenses. Davis served five days in jail.

According to Moynihan, Vatican sources confirmed the details of the meeting. Davis’ attorney Mathew Staver confirmed to multiple outlets that the meeting occurred and told CBS News that the two promised to pray for each other, and that Pope Francis offered Davis and her husband rosaries.

“I can confirm the meeting took place Thursday afternoon in DC,” the Twitter account for Mathew Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel and attorney for Davis, said on Tuesday night.

Liberty Counsel released a statement Tuesday evening linking to Moynihan’s report. The rosaries that Pope Francis reportedly presented to Davis and her husband were blessed by the Pope and would be given to Kim’s parents, both of whom are Catholic, the group said.

According to the Liberty Counsel statement, Davis responded that she was “humbled” to meet the Pope.

“Pope Francis was kind, genuinely caring, and very personable. He even asked me to pray for him. Pope Francis thanked me for my courage and told me to ‘stay strong,’” she said, according to the statement.

Last Wednesday, Sept. 23, Pope Francis made an unscheduled stop to visit with the Little Sisters of the Poor in Washington, D.C., at their Jeanne Jugan Residence to support the sisters as they await word on whether or not the Supreme Court will hear their case against the federal contraception mandate.

The sisters sued the Obama administration over its mandate that employers cover sterilizations, contraceptives, and drugs that can cause abortions in employee health plans. Although revised rules were offered in the manner of an “accommodation,” the sisters still charge that the updated rules would force them to violate their consciences, or endure crippling fines.

On the flight back to Rome from the U.S., Pope Francis was asked by ABC’s Terry Moran about his visit to the sisters, along with whether he supported the appeal to religious liberty made by those, including government clerks, who could not obey a law in good conscience. Moran gave the example of “issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.”

Pope Francis answered that “I can’t have in mind all cases that can exist about conscientious objection. But, yes, I can say conscientious objection is a right that is a part of every human right.”

When asked if government officials possessed this right he answered, “It is a human right and if a government official is a human person, he has that right. It is a human right.”

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