Insights: Supreme Court Hears ‘Ministerial Exception’; Nurses Week

U.S. Supreme Court Considers Ministerial Exception

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments from two cases that will examine the parameters of the “ministerial exception,” a critical concept that prevents government interference in religious matters.

The two cases in question - Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru and St. James Catholic School v. Biel, which have been combined into one – were heard via teleconference by the nine members of the Court on Monday.

The cases stem from the dismissal of two teachers in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles who allege they were terminated due to discriminatory factors. The schools say their contracts were terminated based on performance-related issues.

Lawyers representing the schools contend that the “ministerial exception” applies to all religious employees and the cases should be dismissed. Counsel for the teachers argued that extending the exception so broadly would encroach on employee protections in other professions, such as nurses.

The Justices seem initially divided on a decision, with Justice Neil Gorsuch stressing that the government, which filed a “friend of the court” brief supporting the schools, is asking the court to decide who is playing an important role in religious institutions and who has a minimal one. 

A unanimous and landmark 2012 Supreme Court ruling (Hosanna-Tabor Lutheran Church v. EEOC) cited the exception to prohibit a lawsuit filed by a teacher at a Lutheran school who was also an ordained minister. However, the ruling failed to provide a formula by which to determine future cases.  The current cases may test that limit or the Justices may once again refrain from being too specific.

A decision on the case is expected this summer.  Read more about the cases at Becket Law and this Catholic News Agency article.


World Needs More Nurses

National Nurses Week, which concluded on Wednesday, was celebrated by communities across the country, recognizing the work of nurses for their courage and compassion under extremely challenging circumstances. The COVID-19 pandemic has made the impact nurses make even more apparent.

Earlier in the week, Pope Francis recognized nurses in a statement for International Nurses Day, commending them for their faithful service:

“At this critical moment, marked by the global health emergency caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, we have rediscovered the fundamental importance of the role being played by nurses and midwives. Every day we witness the testimony of courage and sacrifice of healthcare workers, and nurses in particular, who, with professionalism, self-sacrifice, and a sense of responsibility and love for neighbor, assist people affected by the virus, even to the point of putting their own health at risk,” he wrote.

The Catholic Health Association of the United States issued a prayer for nurses and other resources to help honor this selfless vocation. Visit for more.


U.S. Bishops Express Solidarity with Native Communities During COVID-19

The USCCB has released a statement declaring they are in solidarity with Native American and Indigenous communities who are being disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

“We are heartbroken over reports that Native and Indigenous communities across this country are suffering at disproportionately high rates from the COVID-19 pandemic and concerned about the lack of sufficient resources to respond to the crisis,” the Bishops said.  “We are especially mindful of the Navajo Nation where people are being infected with the coronavirus at some of the highest rates in the country. We hold in prayer our brothers and sisters who are suffering and grieving in these communities, and we stand with them in calling for a robust response to the pandemic in their lands.”



Road Map to Re-Opening Catholic Churches Safely

While we all eagerly await the return of public Masses, an ad-hoc group of medical and infectious disease experts have come together to outline a road-map for dioceses to use in re-opening parishes throughout the state.
The recommendations in the document were created by doctors on the front lines studying COVID-19 and its infection mechanism. Dioceses are using material like this -- along with consulting public health officials, tracking death and infection rates, developing church disinfecting methods, social distancing techniques, etc. factors -- in determining when it is safe to re-open parishes.



Coronavirus (COVID-19) Disaster Relief Assistance for Immigrants

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, California is providing one-time state-funded disaster relief assistance to undocumented adults who are ineligible for other forms of assistance, including assistance under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and pandemic unemployment benefits, because of their immigration status. This state funding is expected to reach about 150,000 undocumented adults.

Click here to learn how to apply in each California County.


Spiritual Resources for COVID-19

The Catholic Health Association of the United States also has some wonderful COVID-19 spiritual resources including prayers, meditations and online masses.

It also provides online chapels for prayer and candle lighting where individuals can enter the virtual chapel of their choice and leave an intention.


Prayer belongs to everyone: to men and women of every religion, and probably even to those who profess no religion. Prayer is born within the secrecy of our being, in that interior place that spiritual writers often call the “heart.” #GeneralAudience @Pontifex


May 15, 2020
Vol. 13, No. 18

En Español

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