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Survey shows most Americans support celebrating Columbus Day

IMAGE: CNS photo/Justin Lane, EPA

By

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (CNS) -- A new survey shows that almost six in 10 Americans, or 57 percent, believe that celebrating Columbus Day is a "good idea," while only 29 percent oppose the holiday.

Almost two-thirds of respondents who said they were Catholic, or 65 percent, expressed a "favorable" or "very favorable" opinion of Columbus and the national holiday that honors him. Overall, the poll found that Americans support Columbus and the observance of Columbus Day by nearly a 2-to-1 margin.

The survey results were released Oct. 3 by the Knights of Columbus, which is based in New Haven. The Marist Poll conducted the survey, funded in partnership with the Knights of Columbus.

Columbus Day is a national holiday in many countries in the Americas and elsewhere to officially celebrates the anniversary of Christopher Columbus' arrival in the Americas Oct. 12, 1492. The federal holiday in the U.S. this year is Oct. 9.

The survey showed that an overwhelming majority of Americans -- 76 percent -- believe that Columbus and other historical figures should be judged by the standards of conduct of their own lifetimes, as opposed to modern standards. Sixteen percent disagreed. Fifty-six percent view Columbus either "favorably" or "very favorably"; half as many, or 28 percent, take a negative view of the navigator.

Accusations by some historians that the Italian explorer opened the Americas to enslavement, genocide and "cultural destruction" have led some U.S. cities to cancel local Columbus Day parades and other commemorations and rename the holiday Indigenous Peoples' Day. New York City still has one of the nation's largest Columbus Day parades.

Father Michael McGivney, a candidate for sainthood, who founded the Knights of Columbus in 1882, chose to name the organization after Columbus "because he was a widely acclaimed Catholic figure from American history during a time when Catholics were frequently discriminated against and marginalized," said a news release from the Knights announcing the results of the survey.

"The Knights of Columbus joins the vast majority of Americans in celebrating Columbus Day," said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, the organization's CEO. "He was a man ahead of his time, who brought two worlds together and began the process that led to the founding of this country. It is a testament to Americans' commitment to a fair reading of history that the explorer's popularity has endured despite the unfair and hateful attacks by British propagandists, the Ku Klux Klan and revisionist academics."

The Marist Poll conducted the survey of 1,224 adults Sept. 11-13. Survey participants were 18 years or older and residing in the continental United States. They were reached through randomly selected landline or mobile numbers. Live interviewers recorded their responses.

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Trump administration expands exemptions on contraceptive mandate

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Trump administration Oct. 6 issued interim rules expanding the exemption to the contraceptive mandate for religious employers, such as the Little Sisters of the Poor, who object on moral grounds to covering contraceptive and abortion-inducing drugs and devices in their employee health insurance.

Leaders of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops praised the action as "a return to common sense, long-standing federal practice and peaceful coexistence between church and state."

The contraceptive mandate was put in place by the Department of Health and Human Services under the Affordable Care Act.

While providing an exemption for religious employers, the new rules maintain the existing federal contraceptive mandate for most employers.

President Donald Trump had pledged to lift the mandate burden placed on religious employers during a White House signing ceremony May 4 for an executive order promoting free speech and religious liberty, but Catholic leaders and the heads of a number of Catholic entities had criticized the administration for a lack of action on that pledge in the months that followed.

From the outset, churches were exempt from the mandate, but not religious employers. The Obama administration had put in place a religious accommodation for nonprofit religious entities such as church-run colleges and social service agencies morally opposed to contraceptive coverage that required them to file a form or notify HHS that they will not provide it. Many Catholic employers still objected to having to fill out the form.

The HHS mandate has undergone numerous legal challenges from religious organizations, including the Little Sisters of the Poor and Priests for Life.

A combined lawsuit, Zubik v. Burwell, made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where the justices in May 2016 unanimously returned the case to the lower courts with instructions to determine if contraceptive insurance coverage could be obtained by employees through their insurance companies without directly involving religious employers who object to paying for such coverage.

Senior Health and Human Services officials who spoke to reporters Oct. 5 on the HHS rule on the condition of anonymity said that the exemption to the contraceptive mandate would apply to all the groups that had sued against it. Groups suing the mandate all the way to the Supreme Court include the Little Sisters of the Poor, the Archdiocese of Washington, the Diocese of Pittsburgh, Eternal Word Television Network and some Catholic and other Christian universities.

In reaction immediately after the 150-page interim ruling was issued, religious groups that had opposed the mandate were pleased with the administration's action.

An Oct. 6 statement by Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president, and Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the USCCB's Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, said the new rule "corrects an anomalous failure by federal regulators that should never have occurred and should never be repeated."

The church leaders also said the decision to provide the religious and moral exemption to the HHS mandate recognizes that faith-based and mission-driven organizations and those who run them "have deeply held religious and moral beliefs that the law must respect."

Cardinal DiNardo and Archbishop Lori said the decision was "good news for all Americans," noting that a "government mandate that coerces people to make an impossible choice between obeying their consciences and obeying the call to serve the poor is harmful not only to Catholics but to the common good."

Michael Warsaw, chairman of the board and CEO of the EWTN Global Catholic Network, said the television network's legal team would be "carefully considering the exemptions announced today and the impact this may have on our legal challenge to the mandate, but we are optimistic that this news will prove to be a step toward victory for the fundamental freedoms of many Americans."

Mark Rienzi, senior counsel at Becket, told reporters in a telephone news conference an hour after the rule was released that it is a "common sense and balanced rule and a great step forward for religious liberty."

He said the rule "carves out a narrow exemption" and keeps the contraceptive mandate in place for those without moral or religious objections to it.

He noted that it does not provide immediate relief for those groups who had challenged it, such as the Little Sisters of the Poor, which Becket represents. They will "still need relief in courts," he said, but was confident now that it would happen.

"We've traveled a long way," he added, of the multiple challenges to the contraceptive mandate in recent years, which he described as an "unnecessary culture war fight."

Rienzi, noted that the HHS rule could have eliminated the contraceptive mandate completely but it did not do so. He also said the new rule is open for comments for a 90-day period and will likely face legal challenges, which already began in a lawsuit filed Oct. 6 by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of members of the ACLU and Service Employee International Union-United Health Care Workers West who say they are at risk of losing their contraception coverage because of where they work or attend school.

In the lawsuit, the ACLU said the interim rules violate the establishment clause regarding religion in the First Amendment and the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment in the Constitution "by authorizing and promoting religiously motivated and other discrimination against women seeking reproductive health care."

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.

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Julie Asher contributed to this story.

 

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

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Pope to honor fallen soldiers at American cemetery near Rome

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis will commemorate all those who have died in war by celebrating Mass at an Italian cemetery where thousands of American soldiers killed during World War II are buried.

The Vatican announced Oct. 6 that the pope will celebrate the feast of All Souls' Day, Nov. 2, at the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery and Memorial in Nettuno, 45 miles south of Rome.

The Mass will commemorate "all who have fallen in wars," the Vatican said.

More than 7,800 members of the U.S. military are buried at the 77-acre cemetery. Many of the soldiers died in 1943 during Operation Husky, the Allies' campaign to liberate the island of Sicily from the Axis powers.

The Allied victory led to the toppling of Italian Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini and weakened Nazi Germany's foothold in Europe.

After the Mass, Pope Francis will visit the Fosse Ardeatine monument, the site of a mass execution in which 300 Italian civilians were killed by Nazi troops in 1944.

Blessed Paul VI, St. John Paul II and retired Pope Benedict XVI have each visited the memorial and paid their respects to those murdered in the massacre.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

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