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Faith inspires many at CPAC, including numerous Catholic speakers

Supporters of former US President and 2024 presidential hopeful Donald Trump attend the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, on February 24, 2024. / Credit: Mandel NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

CNA Newsroom, Feb 24, 2024 / 21:58 pm (CNA).

Faith-based convictions were highlighted by numerous Catholic and other Christian participants at the 2024 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), held just outside Washington, D.C. this past week. 

An annual gathering of some of the most prominent conservatives in the United States and around the world, this year’s edition of CPAC took place from Feb. 21 through Feb. 24. 

The conference’s agenda included opportunities for both Mass and Protestant services, a screening of the film "Cabrini" — about the life of St. Frances Cabrini, the first Catholic saint from the United States — as well as panels on a biblical understanding of gender and how to respond to efforts to push Christianity out of the public square.

“The question is what moral code are we going to live by," former Republican Sen. Rick Santorum, a Catholic, said during a panel titled "The Bible Uncancelled" on Saturday. 

"The left has their own woke code that they change depending on what power dynamics are in place to help them control people," Santorum added. "Whereas conservatives historically have said, no, … the moral code by which our country is going to live will be a biblically based one." 

Santorum warned that many in our society have "replaced the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob [with] the God of Self," noting that this breakdown has caused "all of this depravity and confusion and depression and anxiety" among young people in the country. 

During an earlier panel titled “Genesis 1:27”, pushing back on gender ideology, Terry Schilling, a Catholic father of six who serves as president of the American Principles Project, warned against the growing threat to parental rights and religious freedom for parents who refuse to go along with or facilitate the “gender transition” of their minor children. 

Parents, he warned, are being punished "for protecting their children from this [transgender] industry that will quite literally chew them up and spit them out with destroyed bodies.”

The faith was also directly referenced by speakers on panels that were not explicitly religious in nature. 

Eduardo Verástegui, a Catholic actor who starred in the anti-child sex trafficking film "Sound of Freedom," discussed the faith component in his activism.

"I'm asking God and Our Lady of Guadalupe to help me," Verástegui told the crowd to resounding cheers.

This expression of faith comes at a time when church affiliation in the United States has fallen and hostility toward traditional Christian views on controversial subjects has been on the rise. 

Santorum, in his panel discussion, noted that he has faced hostility for his faith-based views for a long time. 

"It’s OK," he said. "God did not say ‘pick up your box of candies and follow me.’ He said ‘pick up your cross daily and follow me’ and we all need to do that.”

Bishop Joseph Strickland, who was removed from his post as Bishop of the Diocese of Tyler, Texas last year, did not speak at the conference’s main event, but did give remarks at the Ronald Reagan dinner on Friday night.

Other Catholics who spoke at the conference included Ohio U.S. Senator J.D. Vance and political activist Jack Posobiec, along with Matt and Mercedes Schlapp, the husband and wife duo who lead the American Conservative Union, the parent organization of CPAC.

Former president and current Republican candidate Donald Trump also spoke at CPAC. The former president focused his remarks on other domestic and foreign policy issues, including the economy and immigration.

Trump's speech at CPAC took place on the same day he trounced his sole remaining rival for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination in the South Carolina primary. 

The Associated Press called the election for Trump shortly after the polls closed on Saturday evening, with the former president projected to defeat former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley in her home state by more than 20 percentage points.  

With over three quarters of the results in from the Palmetto State at 9:45 p.m. ET on Saturday evening, the AP projection was holding up, with Trump at 60% and Haley at 39%.


Pope Francis cancels Saturday audiences due to a mild flu, Vatican says

Pope Francis delivers an address during his Wednesday general audience on Feb. 14, 2024, in the Paul VI Audience Hall at the Vatican. / Credit: Vatican Media

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Feb 24, 2024 / 07:46 am (CNA).

Pope Francis canceled his public appearances on Saturday due to a mild flu, the Vatican has said.

The Holy See Press Office released a short statement announcing the cancellation on Saturday morning without further details.

“Due to a mild flu-like condition, as a precautionary measure, the pope has canceled the audiences scheduled for today,” the Feb. 24 statement said.

The cancellation comes after Pope Francis concluded a five-day Lenten retreat at his Vatican residence in which all of his regular activities were suspended from the afternoon of Feb. 18 to Feb. 23.

The 87-year-old pope has slowed down his schedule with less international travel since he underwent abdominal surgery last June to repair an incisional hernia. Francis canceled a trip to Dubai in December after his doctors advised him not to travel because of a bronchial infection.

When the Vatican said that Pope Francis had a “mild flu” in November, the pope underwent precautionary testing at a Roman hospital.

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said the pope’s Angelus address on Sunday is still on the schedule and that the Vatican does not plan to release any further health updates on Saturday. 

The pope had been scheduled to meet with deacons from the Diocese of Rome on Saturday morning in addition to his regularly scheduled meetings at the Vatican.

Beer for Lent? The Diocese of Scranton’s ‘40 Days’ brew helps feed the homeless

Beer lovers gather at the release of the "40 Days" beer brewed by Breaker Brewing and the Diocese of Scranton. / Credit: Kristen Mullen

CNA Staff, Feb 24, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

Many Catholics give up beer as part of the penitential rigors of Lent. One diocese is brewing it as part of a Lenten tradition stretching back 400 years.

The Diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania, has launched a beer collaboration with a local brewery to support its anti-hunger programs for the homeless.

The tradition of Lenten beer stretches back centuries. In Bavaria in the 17th century, Paulaner monks turned to a common staple of the time of their region — beer — to sustain them through their strict, no-solid-food fast during the Lenten season. Paulaner is now a global brand and is among the bestselling beers in Germany.

In the spirit of the Paulaner brewers, the Scranton Diocese on its Facebook page earlier this month shared that its “Forty Days” beer collaboration with local Breaker Brewing Company would be launching on Mardi Gras, Feb. 13. 

The Forty Days beer is a doppelbock, the announcement said. A doppelbock, according to CraftBeer.com, is “reminiscent of toasted bread” and may include “dark fruit flavors such as prune and raisin,” depending on the recipe used.

The "Forty Days" Doppelbock beer was produced by Breaker Brewing and the Diocese of Scranton. Kristen Mullen
The "Forty Days" Doppelbock beer was produced by Breaker Brewing and the Diocese of Scranton. Kristen Mullen

The brewery created the beer in collaboration with Father Brian Van Fossen. The priest told CNA this week that he went to high school with Mark Lehman, one of the co-owners of the brewery. 

“Back in November we met about the project and Mark asked me to do some research on the beer,” Van Fossen said.

“Though I thought it was a good idea, the diocese was not able to send Mark and me to Munich to do research on beer, so I went to the computer,” he joked. 

“I discovered a doppelbock beer which was rooted with the Paulaner brothers in Munich, Germany,” he said. “The beer consisted of strong grains and an interesting mixture of hops and barley, which provided a strong nutrient content.” 

The priest said the beer was originally developed as part of the “strict fast of the Paulaner monastery.” The beer “celebrates the history of the Doppelbock beer style and its ties with the Lenten season,” the press release announcing the beer said. 

Breaker Brewing is located in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, about 30 minutes outside of Scranton. The beer collaboration is meant to help fund the diocese’s “Rectory, Set, Cook!” program to help feed homeless people. 

The diocese announced the launch of that program in 2021. It was billed at the time as Scranton’s “first-ever, all-virtual, cook-off-style fundraiser,” one taking the form of “a friendly online showdown among more than 25 priests.”

“Participating parish priests are starring in individual videos showcasing a favorite recipe or recipes and counting on their flocks and friends far and near to show their support by making monetary donations as small as $10,” the diocese said. “Each $10 donation will represent one vote for a pastor chef or team.”

All proceeds of the fundraiser go to local anti-hunger efforts by Catholic Social Services, including the local St. Vincent de Paul Kitchen “as well as food pantries and programs across the CSS footprint.” 

The diocese continued the program for a third year, and the contest this year took the theme “Collars and Scholars,” with “some of the priests [being] assisted by Catholic school students and other young people.”

Sandy Snyder, the director of foundation relations and special events at the Diocese of Scranton, said that upon launching the program the diocese “considered it experimental and hoped to raise $50,000 to call it a success.” 

“We hit $50,000 pretty quickly, and the momentum just kept going,” she said. “We finished at $171,697 raised in our first year. So we knew there would be a Rectory, Set, Cook! 2023.”

“Last year, we finished at $197,313,” she said. “So this is the year we hope to make Rectory, Set, Cook! a six-figure fundraiser times two and raise more than $200,000, which is important because we’ve added homelessness as a second benefiting cause.” The diocese is focused on building a brand-new permanent shelter in Luzerne County, she said.

Lehman, the co-owner of the brewery, told CNA that the beer was brewed using “Pilsen, Munich, and melanoidin malts with Hallertau hops to balance out the sweetness.” 

“Notes of this medium-brown-hued malty sweet delight is that of toasted bread, slight caramel/toffee, with hints of raisins throughout,” he said.

“The beer was one of the top sellers since its release, competing with another one of our beers for the top slot each day,” Lehman said. “Although we made quite a bit, I believe at this rate, we may not have enough to make it through the 40 days.”

Van Fossen confirmed that the beer is selling “like Lenten fish dinners.” Buyers have ordered the drink from as far away as Maine, he said, allowing the diocese to direct considerable funds to its homeless program. 

“All we need to do is look to the cross,” the priest said. “So if the joy of Lent can be found in a beer while feeding the hungry and giving shelter to the homeless, I think God is being glorified in all things.”

CPAC speakers urge lawmakers to embrace life, end coerced abortions

Stanton Healthcare CEO Brandi Swindell and Concerned Women for America President Penny Nance speak at the 2024 Conservative Political Action Conference. / Credit: CPAC Screenshot/Rumble

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Feb 24, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

With elections in the United States less than nine months away, pro-life speakers at the 2024 Conservative Political Action Conference are urging candidates for public office to embrace the issue of life and for lawmakers to crack down on coerced abortions. 

“At 16 weeks, a little baby girl has all her major organs, has fingernails and eyebrows, can hear and respond to her mother’s voice, and can feel pain,” Penny Nance, the CEO and president of Concerned Women for America, said during a panel titled “Babies-R-Us.” 

“She’s an important part of our human family,” Nance said. 

The panel addressed the upcoming elections in the U.S., which includes races for the presidency, every seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, and 34 seats in the United States Senate. In 13 states, there will be elections for governor and several states will also hold local races. 

Nance criticized the “media” and the Washington, D.C., “consulting class,” which she claims has fed false narratives of the abortion issue.

“The other side thinks abortion should be legal any time, any reason, any number, at any point in gestation, all paid for by the taxpayer,” Nance continued. “That is an extremist position.”

Since the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, more than 20 states have passed into law stricter limits on abortion. However, in every state in which abortion policy was directly placed on the ballot via a ballot initiative since the overturning of Roe, every pro-life ballot initiative has failed and every pro-abortion initiative has succeeded.

Brandi Swindell, the founder and CEO of the pro-life pregnancy center group Stanton Healthcare, also spoke on the panel and emphasized the need to end coerced abortion. 

“If you are a victim or a survivor of abortion abuse, we believe you, we stand with you, and we will not abandon your stories, and there is help and hope,” Swindell said. “We have got to end abortion abuse as a society.” 

Stanton Healthcare is launching a new initiative and website to combat coerced abortion, which includes seeking criminal charges against anyone who has forced a woman to abort her child. Swindell said the organization already has 2,000 affidavits for confirmed cases of abortion abuse that they are looking into.

Swindell claims that the pro-abortion movement, including Planned Parenthood, “has normalized and enabled” abortion abuse. She said pro-life pregnancy centers provide alternatives for women who desire to keep their children.

“We stop the cycle of substance abuse, of domestic abuse, all these different things, of poverty, economic issues,” Swindell said.” When a woman finds hope through unexpected pregnancy, she gets her life together and does what’s best for her baby and what’s best for her if she has access to quality health care services that are life-affirming.”

During the panel, Nance encouraged women who regret their abortions and men who regret their participation in abortions to join the pro-life movement. “Our movement is replete with people who deeply regret their abortions,” Nance said.

“At the cross of Jesus Christ, he forgives all sin,” Nance continued. “There’s nothing you could ever have done that’s bad enough that he won’t love you, he won’t forgive you, and he won’t be in a relationship with you and want to spend eternity with you.”

CPAC is an annual event that features leading conservative speakers from the U.S. and around the world. The event, which is held at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, began on Feb. 21 and concludes on Feb. 24.

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