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Bishop Barron says Minnesota’s new abortion law is ‘the worst kind of barbarism’

By Joe Bukuras Catholic News AGency

Winona-Rochester Bishop Robert Barron called a newly passed Minnesota abortion bill that enshrines abortion rights into law “the worst kind of barbarism.”

“I want to share with you my anger, my frustration over this terrible law that was just signed by the governor in Minnesota — the most really extreme abortion law that’s on the books in the wake of the Roe v. Wade reversal,” Barron said in a Jan. 31 video on social media following Democratic Gov. Tim Walz’s signing of the bill on Tuesday.

The bill, titled the Protect Reproductive Options (PRO) Act, enshrines a constitutional right to “reproductive freedom,” ensuring the right to abortion in Minnesota up to birth for any reason, as well as the right to contraception and sterilization.

“Basically, it eliminates any kind of parental notifications so a 12-year-old child can get an abortion without even telling her parents about it,” Barron said. 

“But the worst thing,” he added, “is it basically permits abortion all the way through pregnancy up to the very end. And indeed, indeed if a child somehow survives a botched abortion, the law now prohibits an attempt to save that child’s life.”

Protection for abortion in the state had preexisted the new law because the state’s Supreme Court ruled in the 1995 decision Doe v. Gomez that a woman had a constitutional right to abortion. Several restrictions to abortion in the state have also been ruled unconstitutional in the courts in prior years, the AP reported. Sponsors of the bill supported it because they wanted abortion protections in law, despite the political leaning of future appointed justices, the AP reported.

Pro-life advocates fiercely opposed the bill, as it gained national attention and underwent several hours of debate in the state Senate. The pro-life advocacy organization Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America called the legislation “the most extreme bill in the country.” 

Barron said that “I don’t know why this is really debated anymore in our country, but this strikes me as just the worst kind of barbarism. And in the name of, I don’t know, subjectivity, and freedom, and choice and all this, we’re accepting this kind of brutality.”

Barron’s condemnation of the law echoes that of the Minnesota bishops who raised their voices against it before its passage. 

The states’ bishops wrote in a Jan. 26 statement: “To assert such unlimited autonomy is to usurp a prerogative that belongs to God alone. Authorizing a general license to make and take life at our whim will unleash a host of social and spiritual consequences with which we as a community will have to reckon.”

In his video, Barron added: “What strikes me is this: If a child is born and now a day old, or two days old and resting peacefully in his bassinet and someone broke into the house and with a knife killed the child and dismembered him, well, the whole country would rise up in righteous indignation.”

“But yet, that same thing can happen with complete impunity as the child is in his mother’s womb about to be born. Again, I just think this is so beyond the pale and that we’ve so lost our way on this issue,” he said.

He acknowledged that there was no possibility of blocking the now-enacted legislation, but said that “we can certainly keep raising our voices in protest.”

“We can keep praying for an end to this barbaric regime in our country,” he said.

Minnesota Senate sends far-reaching abortion bill to governor’s desk

By Jonah McKeown - Catholic News Agency

ST. PAUL - The state Senate of Minnesota on Saturday morning (Jan. 28, 2023), narrowly passed a bill that would allow abortions in the state throughout pregnancy and for any reason. The bill now heads to the desk of Gov. Tim Walz, a Democrat, who has said that he will sign it into law.

Catholic leaders had strongly denounced the bill, proposing instead a slate of pro-family measures that they say will reduce demand for abortions in the midwestern state.

Known as the Protect Reproductive Options (PRO) Act, H.F. 1/S.F. 1 would codify into law a constitutional right to “reproductive freedom,” ensuring the right to abortion in Minnesota up to birth for any reason. Separate bills under consideration in Minnesota would remove parental notification requirements for minors procuring abortions as well as remove state protections for babies born alive after an abortion.

The bill had cleared the Minnesota House on Jan. 19, also by a narrow margin, 69-65. The party-line vote in the state Senate took place following 15 hours of contentious debate, MPR News reported. The controversy among Minnesota lawmakers is reminiscent of the fight over a similar bill in Colorado last year; that bill, which passed in Colorado, spawned two marathon debates, one lasting 23 hours — the longest such hearing in at least 25 years of Colorado history.

Abortion already is available in Minnesota throughout pregnancy for most reasons because of a 1995 state Supreme Court ruling, Doe v. Gomez, which found that certain abortion restrictions infringed on a “fundamental right of privacy” found in the state constitution.

The state’s Catholic leaders lamented the haste with which the bill is advancing and implored lawmakers to “pause” and consider the broader implications.

“When contemplating policy on any issue, we must consider all those who will be affected. In this case, that includes the mother, father, and most especially, the unborn child whose life is being taken,” Minnesota’s bishops said in a Jan. 26 statement.

“In a post-Dobbs world in which states that allow abortion have the responsibility to both regulate the practice and protect nascent human life, we should be working to find common ground on the challenges before us in Minnesota. We stand firm that every child should be welcomed in life and protected by law.”

The bishops’ concerns about H.F. 1/S.F. 1 go beyond abortion, however. They warned that an enshrining of “reproductive freedom” in the state could open the door to additional unintended consequences, including the ability of minor children to undergo sex-transition therapies and sterilization without parental consent. Also of concern is the potential infringement on the conscience and religious liberty rights of individual and institutional medical providers who do not wish to provide these treatments, the bishops said.

The Catholic leaders offered suggestions for legislative priorities that they said would help to offer support to mothers in need, reducing the demand for abortion. They noted that the Minnesota Catholic Conference has compiled a set of pro-family policy proposals at a dedicated website under the banner of a project called Families First.

Summarizing their proposals, “this support means, among other things, policies that fund: nutritional aid for expectant mothers; health care coverage during and after pregnancy for both mother and child; child care assistance; and adequate housing. Enacting reasonable paid family and caregiver leave laws would help people retain work and care for their newborns. Reconsidering whether our adoption policies are unreasonably burdened by excessive costs or barriers to participation is also an imperative,” the bishops said.

“We also contend that there is a social duty to remove unnecessary barriers to contracting marriage, having children, and being able to raise them well. By raising the family to the top of our state’s policy priorities, we can help restore the family to its proper position as the foundational building block of society where children best flourish.”

Minnesota is the latest U.S. state to make moves in its Legislature to enshrine a right to abortion following the overturning of Roe v. Wade last year. In addition to the impending codification of abortion as a right, Minnesota’s governor is poised to end state funding for crisis pregnancy centers amid activist pressure. According to MPR News, pro-life pregnancy centers outnumber abortion clinics in the state by 11 to 1.

Since 2005, Minnesota has given over $3 million in taxpayer money every grant cycle to 27 pro-life pregnancy centers as part of an abortion alternatives grant program, MPR News reported. Walz has proposed ending that funding in his latest budget proposal, contending that pregnancy centers do not provide “necessary comprehensive, unbiased, and accurate medical information in a manner consistent with national standards of care.” This follows a Minnesota attorney general report in 2021 that concluded that pregnancy centers “seek to prevent people from accessing abortion care as well as contraceptives.”


‘Families First’ Project, marijuana, abortion at heart of MCC’s legislative focus

By Gianna Bonello 
Central Minnesota Catholic -Diocese of St. Cloud

With the start of the 2023 Minnesota legislative session Jan. 3, the Minnesota Catholic Conference, the official public policy voice of the Catholic Church in Minnesota, is putting families at the top of its advocacy strategy for the year.

Ryan Hamilton, government relations associate, and Maggee Hangge, policy and public relations associate, work together at MCC’s new office, just across from the Minnesota State Capitol. (Photo by Gianna Bonello / The Central Minnesota Catholic)

“Oftentimes in the public arena, we’re stuck dealing with the downstream challenges of family fragmentation, poverty, addiction. … We thought it would be prudent to think about going upstream in the policy ecosystem and think about, how do we promote and strengthen the well-being of families?” said Jason Adkins, executive director of MCC. 

In addition, with the push from some legislators to remove limitations on abortion, Adkins also stressed that “if we’re going to have a permissive abortion policy in Minnesota, we also want to make Minnesota the best place to have a child, raise a child, and help that child flourish.” 

In light of this goal, MCC will promote a “Families First” agenda — a series of bills and policies that seeks to put families first by promoting the economic and holistic prosperity of families. 

“We want to lower barriers to family formation and having a child,” Adkins said. 

To date, there are 13 different policy proposals as part of the Families First Project. Among them are a “lifetime state income tax exemption for women who have four or more children,” a “Minnesota Minivan Act,” which would create a grant program to offer $5,000 to families with three or more children to buy a larger vehicle, and a “paid caregiver leave policy.” 

The centerpiece, Adkins said, is the child tax credit, which is a fully refundable per-child tax credit that would offer $1,200 to $1,800 a year. 

“We think it’s a matter of what we call tax justice and tax fairness to families,” he said. 

Adkins said the Families First Project “transcends” both partisan and ecclesial divides. 

“It can both strengthen families … and encourage family formation and childbearing, but it also can help economically support those most disadvantaged,” he said. “It’s tailored toward low- and middle-income families,” he said. 

Adkins believes the Project can give Catholics a cause to rally around. He stressed the importance of the family as the building block of society and a mirror of the Trinity. 

“We’ll be focusing on about five or six [proposals] from the standpoint of our staff this session, but we’ll also be encouraging Catholics and giving them the tools on our website to advocate for these bills themselves,” Adkins said. 

He noted the Catholic call to faithful citizenship, saying the tools MCC provides are not just advocacy resources, but catechetical tools as well. 

“We want to help Catholics understand how Catholic social teaching applies in a variety of contexts,” he said. 

Achieving the goals of the Family First initiative will take time. MCC hopes to get the majority of bills for the Families First Project passed by the end of the 2026 legislative session. 

Adkins encouraged Catholics to join and rally for the cause. As faithful citizens, it’s not just about showing up to vote every couple of years, but about being an “advocate for policies that impact human dignity and the common good,” he said. 

“Pick a policy, educate yourself about it and the potential impact; we give you the tools on the website, and then go talk to your legislator,” he said. 

This could be done through parish groups, such as a respect life committee or social concerns group. He said the project is “a powerful opportunity to come together and advocate for good legislation.” 

Other issues that the Minnesota Catholic Conference will be monitoring in 2023: 

  • Legalization of recreational marijuana: “We will take a strong opposition to the legalization of recreational marijuana, which is not simply decriminalization,” Adkins said. “We think there could be reforms to sentencing laws and other things that have a social and racial justice impact. But oftentimes people are using the need to do sentencing reform and criminal justice reform as an excuse to create a commercial and recreational marijuana business, and we think that’s definitely the wrong approach.”

  • Education savings account and school choice: MCC will continue to advocate for education savings accounts as a different paradigm for education finance. “Education dollars should follow students, and not systems. … School choice is a positive alternative to simply putting more money into the system as a balm for addressing persistent achievement gaps, the presence of very divisive curriculum, and … underperforming schools that for whatever reason aren’t serving some students’ well-being.”

  • Technology access reform: “I don’t think [some] people fully grasp the way in which technology companies are targeting our children …. Some of the things we’ve already been supporting was a bill last year that limited the use by tech companies of certain algorithms that target and seek to pull in children and young people to their social media platforms. … There also needs to be some consideration given to allowing parents to approve whether or not their child uses social media apps.”

  • Immigrant driver’s licenses: “We’re forming our coalition and working on provisional immigrant driver’s licenses. It’s back on the table, so we’re looking forward to finally perhaps getting that across the finish line.” The measure would improve the situation of immigrant families and protect public safety, according to MCC.

  • Human services and homelessness: “We’ll continue to work on homelessness issues and making sure that our human services programs are protected and that there are relative cost-of-living adjustments when appropriate.” 

United for Life: Minnesota's Pro-Life Advocacy Day

United for Life is a pro-life advocacy day at the Minnesota State Capitol on Tuesday, February 28, 2023, bringing together pro-life Minnesotans, organizations, and church bodies from across the state to stand up for life. We hope you can join us!

Together, we will care for women, children, and families by inspiring legislators to fight for the fundamental rights of all human beings, from conception to natural death. By walking with mothers and children in need, and encouraging our legislators to do the same, we can make Minnesota the best place to welcome a child into this world.

The day will consist of a rally in the Capitol Rotunda, educational opportunities, and meetings with your state representatives. You will get to hear from a variety of inspiring speakers, and get a chance to connect with many of the leading pro-life organizations from around the state. It is now more important than ever to UNITE and make the pro-life message heard in Minnesota.

Join the Minnesota Catholic bishops for United for Life. United, we stand up for justice--for the unborn, for mothers, for children, and for families. See you on February 28th!

Pope Francis Names Rev. Michael John Izen Next Auxiliary Bishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis

Pope Francis this morning named Father Michael John Izen, a priest of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, assigning him the titular see of Newport.

Bishop-elect Izen is currently the pastor of the Churches of Saint Michael and Saint Mary in Stillwater, the parochial administrator of the Church of St. Charles in Bayport and the canonical administrator of Saint Croix Catholic School. A native of Fairmont, Minnesota, Bishop-elect Izen, 55, earned an undergraduate degree in mathematics and computer science from St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota, and upon graduation, went to work for 3M as a systems analyst. During his nine years at 3M, it became clearer that God was calling him to discern a possible vocation to the priesthood, so he enrolled at The Saint Paul Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, earning a Masters of Divinity. Bishop-elect Izen was ordained to the priesthood May 28, 2005, by Archbishop Harry J. Flynn. Fifteen men were ordained to the priesthood that day, one of the largest ordination classes in decades.

Following ordination, then-Father Izen ministered at Divine Mercy in Faribault until 2007, when he became pastor at Saint Timothy in Maple Lake, where he served until 2012. In February of 2012, he became pastor at Saint Raphael in Crystal, where he served until 2015 when he was assigned to Stillwater.

As an auxiliary bishop, Bishop-elect Izen will work alongside Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda of Saint Paul and Minneapolis and Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Williams, to lead the Church in the 12-county metro area.

“I was surprised, humbled, and a little terrified when I received the call from the Apostolic Nuncio informing me that Pope Francis had appointed me as an auxiliary bishop,” Bishop-elect Izen said. “Archbishop Hebda has been very supportive and reassuring since I first received the news - very fatherly. I look forward to being an extension of him to our Archdiocese, and serving and being present to the people of God.”

Archbishop Hebda said: “It is with deep gratitude to Pope Francis and Christmas joy that I welcome the wonderful news of the appointment of Bishop-elect Michael Izen as an auxiliary bishop of this Archdiocese. The priests and faithful of the Archdiocese should be honored that once again the Holy Father has chosen a priest of this local Church to serve as a successor of the apostles. I have come to know Bishop-elect Izen as a generous and capable pastor with a great love for Christ and for his sheep. I have particularly admired his ability to collaborate effectively with brother priests, Religious Sisters, and lay leadership in advancing the work of the Church. His impressive natural gifts all suggest that the Lord has long been preparing him to serve as a bishop. I am confident that the Archdiocese will benefit greatly from his leadership and experience and I personally look forward to working with him more closely as he begins this new ministry. Please join me in both congratulating Bishop-elect Izen and offering him our prayers as he prepares for his upcoming ordination.”

 Bishop-elect Izen was born January 12, 1967 to John and JoAnna Izen. He is the youngest of their six children. He grew up in Fairmont (in the Diocese of Winona-Rochester), attended St. John Vianney grade school and Fairmont High School, graduating in 1985.

His episcopal ordination is scheduled for April 11, 2023, at the Cathedral of Saint Paul. The ordination will be live-streamed on the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis’  Facebook page.

Archbishop Hebda will introduce Bishop-elect Izen today at 11:30 a.m. at the Archdiocesan Catholic Center in Saint Paul. The introduction will be live-streamed on the Archdiocese’s Facebook page. Media interested in attending in-person should contact Tom Halden, Director of Communications, at  [email protected].

Please see  The Catholic Spirit for more information on Bishop-elect Izen’s appointment and see the Archdiocese’s event page for additional information on his episcopal ordination.

Father Patrick Neary, C.S.C, appointed next bishop of Diocese of St. Cloud

ST. CLOUD - On Thursday, Dec. 15, 2022, the Holy See announced that Pope Francis has appointed Father Patrick Neary, C.S.C., a member of Congregation of Holy Cross, as the 10th bishop of the Diocese of Saint Cloud. His episcopal ordination and installation as bishop of Saint Cloud has been set for Tuesday, Feb. 14. Vespers will take place on Monday, Feb. 13.

The appointment was announced Dec. 15 in Washington by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States. Bishop-elect Neary succeeds Bishop Donald J. Kettler, who will serve as apostolic administrator until Bishop-elect Neary’s installation.

“No one is more surprised than I am to be asked to serve as bishop of the Diocese of St. Cloud,” Bishop-elect Neary said. “Yet I have always trusted that Christ has guided me through every stage of my life as a priest. I so look forward to meeting everyone who is a part of this diocese, my new family. I especially ask God to help me build on the legacy of Bishop Kettler and all the clergy and personnel who serve in the diocese with zeal and devotion. Please pray for me that I can be a faithful and loving servant to all of you.”

Bishop Kettler said he is very excited about the appointment. “Father Neary is tremendously qualified with his experiences as a pastor, seminary rector, formation director and missioner. I am very appreciative that he said yes to the call to serve the people of this diocese as their bishop, and I welcome him warmly to Central Minnesota.”

Bishop-elect Neary was born on March 6, 1963, in La Porte, Indiana, to Jacob and Marybelle Neary. He is the first-born of six children and has five sisters. His family belongs to St. Joseph Parish in La Porte, where the Neary siblings attended St. Joseph’s Grade School.

He graduated from La Porte High School in 1981 and entered the undergraduate seminary with the Congregation of Holy Cross at the University of Notre Dame. While at Notre Dame, he spent a semester at Anahuac University in Mexico City, where he learned Spanish. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1985 with a bachelor’s degree in history.

After completing his novitiate year in Cascade, Colorado, Bishop-elect Neary began his M.Div. studies in 1986 at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, California. In 1988, he spent the entire year at the congregation’s seminary in Santiago, Chile, where he practiced his Spanish.

He professed perpetual vows with Congregation of Holy Cross on Sept. 1, 1990, and was ordained a priest at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at Notre Dame on April 1, 1991, by Bishop Paul Waldschmidt.

In 1994, Bishop-elect Neary was assigned to the University of Notre Dame and worked in the Office of Campus Ministry, primarily ministering to Latino students at Notre Dame and serving as R.O.T.C. chaplain.

In 2000, he was appointed assistant rector at Moreau Seminary at Notre Dame and in 2004 was named rector of Moreau Seminary for a six-year term. He served on the Provincial Council of the U.S. Province of Priests and Brothers from 2003-2010, and served on the Vocation and Formation Commission of the General Administration for the Congregation of Holy Cross in Rome from 2002-2010.

When he finished his term as rector, Bishop-elect Neary was asked to run the congregation’s seminary in Nairobi, Kenya, for two years to train a new team of formation personnel and build up the seminary program. He began his service in Nairobi in June 2010. The following year he was elected district superior of Holy Cross in East Africa and moved to the district headquarters in Uganda. There he served two three-year terms as district superior and finished his time of service in East Africa in January 2018.

Since July 2018, Bishop-elect Neary has served as pastor of Holy Redeemer Parish in Portland, Oregon.

The Diocese of Saint Cloud encompasses 16 counties in Central Minnesota. It includes 131 parishes grouped into 29 Area Catholic Communities and a Catholic population of approximately 125,000 people.