Have a Blessed Triduum!

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Correcting the Record about November’s Measure 1

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Screen Shot 2014-04-17 at 4.33.46 PMWhile covering yesterday’s news about Judge Hovland’s decision some news stories erred in describing the Human Life Amendment.

Claim: Following the ruling of a federal judge yesterday in North Dakota, several media outlets erroneously reported that Measure 1 on the ballot this November is a proposal that “would give personhood rights to embryos,” would effectively “ban abortion” and would “define life at conception.”

Fact: Measure 1, the Human Life Amendment, does not define when life begins, does not provide rights to embryos and does not ban abortion. The amendment prevents outside abortion groups from successfully suing in state court to impose an unfettered right to abortion under the state constitution.

Statement on Heartbeat Ban Ruling

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Christopher Dodson, Executive Director of the North Dakota Catholic Conference, has issued the following statement on yesterday’s ruling striking down the fetal heartbeat ban:

Yesterday U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Hovland, struck down North Dakota’s prohibition on abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat.


Though unfortunate, the ruling was expected. The current holdings of the U.S. Supreme 

Court make it difficult to protect human life before the vague and subjective “viability” stage.  No matter what reason abortion advocates conjure up, viability, unlike a heartbeat, tells us nothing about the humanity of the unborn child and should not be used to determine whether a child can live or die.

As frustrating as the U.S. Supreme Court holdings can be, North Dakotans should know that out-of-state abortion rights groups are trying to get state courts to grant a right to abortion that is even greater than the right found by the U.S. Supreme Court.  In fact, they have already convinced a judge in Fargo to help with their agenda.

The only way to stop this radical agenda to strike down North Dakota’s common sense laws is to pass the Human Life Amendment in November.  The amendment was placed on the ballot by a bipartisan vote of the state legislature to protect our existing common sense laws, provide a foundation for future laws based on North Dakota values, and stop judges from fabricating an unfettered right to abortion.  To find out more, visit www.ndchooselife.org.

New Column: Lessons Learned

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This spring marks my twentieth year with the North Dakota Catholic Conference.


People often ask what I have learned about politics and politicians during these twenty years. Three lessons stand out to me.
First, most people, including most lawmakers, are neither entirely “conservative” or “liberal.” The truth is that most of us live in a world of shades. Even the most tight-fisted fiscal conservative will loosen the purse strings for a cause close to her heart. A self-proclaimed “progressives” can shudder at breakdown of social norms.

Read the rest. . .

Ontario Catholic Bishops offer new reflection on agriculture

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From Catholic Rural Life:57
In 1989 the Social Affairs Commission of the Ontario Catholic Bishops issued a document about the agricultural community entitled “The People and the Land”. Now, twenty five years later, they take a renewed look at farming issues in their reflection Fruit of the Earth and Work of Human Hands.

The bishops explain that by offering this new reflection, “we can learn and better understand what our Creator has blessed us with, and carefully consider the questions and challenges that Catholic social teaching has to offer concerning Ontario’s farming community.”

For those interested in what Catholic social doctrine offers on questions of agriculture, creation, and the economy, the document is worth a look, especially for how views on the issues are similar and different between Canada and the United States.


Archbishop Wenski, Catholic Charities’ Father Snyder Ask Senate to Support Smarter Sentencing Act

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The Smarter Sentencing Act (S. 1410) is a “modest first step in reforming our nation’s broken sentencing policies,” said the chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development and the president of Catholic Charities USA in a March 27 letter to the U.S. Senate supporting the bill.
Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami and Father Larry Snyder called “one-size-fits-all” sentencing policies “inadequate in addressing the complexities of crime and community safety.” They urged the Senate to vote for the bill that, “though imperfect,” would expand options for judges handing down sentences for non-violent drug offenses and allow for reduced mandatory minimum sentences in certain circumstances.
“Rigid sentencing policies for non-violent offenses are costly, ineffective and can be detrimental to the good of persons, families, and communities,” wrote Archbishop Wenski and Father Snyder. “Prolonged incarceration often contributes to family instability and poverty. Those who finally leave incarceration face significant challenges upon reentering society, such as finding housing and stable employment, high rates of substance abuse, and physical and mental health challenges.”
They noted that the United States imprisons more people than any other nation and that the overall incarceration rate has increased 500 percent during the past 30 years. They also called the addition of three new categories of mandatory minimums in the amended bill “counterproductive.”
Archbishop Wenski and Father Snyder reiterated Catholic social teaching that the justice system should promote healing and restoration, rather than merely punishment, and echoed the words of Pope Francis that “God is in everyone’s life,” even those “destroyed by vices, drugs or anything else.”
“We continue to urge that instead of directing a vast amount of public resources to imprison more people and build more prisons and jails, the government should support effective programs aimed at crime prevention, rehabilitation, education efforts, substance abuse treatment, as well as programs of probation, parole and reintegration,” they wrote.

Catholic Conference Welcomes Settlement, Warns of Other Attacks on Common Sense Laws

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The North Dakota Catholic Conference, speaking on behalf of the Roman Catholic bishops of North Dakota, issued the following statement on the announcement by Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem that the Red River Women’s Clinic is dismissing its attempt to nullify new safety laws for abortions.

Statement of the North Dakota Catholic Conference on Settlement of Abortion Lawsuit

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem announced today that the Red River Women’s Clinic has agreed to dismiss its lawsuit against a 2013 law requiring that abortionists have admitting privileges at a local hospital.  The abortion clinic had challenged the law, claiming that it did not have to comply with the new safety standards because of an alleged right to abortion in the North Dakota Constitution.

The North Dakota Catholic Conference welcomes this development.  So long as abortion is legal, the health and safety of women having abortions must be protected. We are pleased that the abortion clinic decided to comply with this common sense law rather than tie up the courts with its attempt to invent an unfettered right to abortion.

Nevertheless, North Dakotans should be concerned that the clinic and its out-of-state lawyers are still trying to nullify common sense laws passed by the North Dakota legislature.  The only way to prevent this abuse of the legal system and this disregard for women’s health and safety is to pass the Human Life Amendment on the November ballot.  The amendment, which will be Measure One, will prevent judicial nullification of reasonable legislation that protects human life, including the lives of women having abortions.

Bishops Express Thanks on First Anniversary of Pope Francis, Highlight Concern for Poor, Reform of Curia, Outreach to Alienated

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Pope Calls on Catholics To Renew Gospel Values

Wants Church To Be for the Poor, Reach Out to Marginalized

Emphasis on Mercy, Humanity Inspires People Around the Globe

The first anniversary of the election of Pope Francis, March 13, is a time to give thanks, said the U.S. bishops’ Administrative Committee, meeting in Washington, March 11-12. The Administrative Committee is the highest ranking body of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops when the bishops are not in plenary session.

“He has encouraged us to be a Church of the poor and for the poor, reaching out to the marginalized and being present to those on the periphery of society,” the bishops said in the statement issued March 11. “He has set an example by choosing a personal simplicity of life, by washing the feet of prisoners, and by taking into his hands and kissing the badly disfigured.”

The entire statement follows.



Gathered together in Washington, DC, for their annual March meeting, the members of the Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have noted with thanksgiving the first anniversary of the election of His Holiness Pope Francis as the 266th successor of the Apostle Peter.

In his first year in office, Pope Francis has consistently called upon Catholics to look again at the fundamental values of the Gospel. He has encouraged us to be a Church of the poor and for the poor, reaching out to the marginalized and being present to those on the periphery of society. He has set an example by choosing a personal simplicity of life, by washing the feet of prisoners, and by taking into his hands and kissing the badly disfigured. His Holiness has also set in motion a process that will lead to the reshaping of the Roman Curia in a way that will enhance the effectiveness of his ministry and better serve the needs of the Church in our present day.

In this way the Holy Father has brought to light new dimensions of the Petrine Ministry and added new life to the office he holds. His constant outreach to the alienated, his emphasis on mercy and his sheer humanity have served as an inspiration not only to Catholics but also to other Christians and people of good will around the globe. On this first anniversary of his election, the Administrative Committee invites the prayers of all the faithful that Christ our Lord will bless Pope Francis and grant him many years of fruitful ministry as Bishop of Rome, as the Servant of the Servants of God.

Column: Church Teaching on Private Property

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Questions about oil development, “extraordinary places,” and conservation measures have brought renewed attention to property rights in North Dakota. As with most issues, Catholics will have to assess the merits and consequences of each proposal. Before doing so, however, a person should look at what Catholic social doctrine has to say.museocivico05

The Church has long defended the right to private property. It might surprise many in our country that the Church views this right very differently than the typical American. Americans tend to view property ownership as a mostly absolute dominion over a thing; a power to do what one wishes with the property and to prevent others from interfering with that power.
Catholic doctrine, however, does not consider private property an intrinsic good, that is, something that is itself good. Rather, the Church views private property as necessary because it serves the human person. As such, the right is limited to what is good for the human person and to what extent it is consistent with the universal destination of goods.

The Catechism expresses it this way:

2402    In the beginning God entrusted the earth and its resources to the common stewardship of mankind to take care of them, master them by labor, and enjoy their fruits.  The goods of creation are destined for the whole human race. However, the earth is divided up among men to assure the security of their lives, endangered by poverty and threatened by violence. The appropriation of property is legitimate for guaranteeing the freedom and dignity of persons and for helping

each of them to meet his basic needs and the needs of those in his charge. It should allow for a natural solidarity to develop between men. 
2403    The right to private property, acquired or received in a just way, does not do away with the original gift of the earth to the whole of mankind. The universal destination of goods remains primordial, even if the promotion of the common good requires respect for the right to private property and its exercise.

2404    “In his use of things man should regard the external goods he legitimately

owns not merely as exclusive to himself but common to others also, in the sense that they can benefit others as well as himself.” The ownership of any property makes its holder a steward of Providence, with the task of making it fruitful and communicating its benefits to others, first of all his family.

When discussing the main principles of the Church’s social doctrine, the

Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church does not even list the right to private property.  Rather, it discusses the right in the context of the more fundamental universal destination of goods.  Private property derives from the dignity of human work and the right to posses it derives from its functional aspects of strengthening the family and preserving liberty (176)
The Compendium also notes that “Christian tradition has never recognized the right to private property as absolute and untouchable: ‘On the contrary, it has always understood this right within the broader context of the right common to all to use the goods of the whole of creation: the right to private property is

subordinated to the right to common use, to the fact that goods are meant for everyone.’” (177)

That the right to private property derives from its functional nature is emphasized further: “Private property, in fact, regardless of the concrete forms of the regulations and juridical norms relative to it, is in its essence only an instrument for respecting the principle of the universal destination of goods; in the final analysis, therefore, it is not an end but a means.” (177)

As is often the case, the Catholic view of private property is somewhere in the middle, between absolute individualism and absolute collectivism. We should not be surprised. Errors, like heresies, will always fall on one or the either side of the Truth.

New Lenten Calendar

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Catholics can take inspiration from Pope Francis and find advice and ideas for observing Lent on this downloadable calendar.