Jessica Morel is approaching a heart-wrenching crossroads.
Morel, a 42-year-old Catholic mother of four, is in the midst of a five-year education and discernment process with the U.S. Army to become a military chaplain. The problem is, there is no pathway for women to become Catholic chaplains in the military, and the military requires chaplains to be ordained.
If Morel decides to become a military chaplain, her ordination in an interdenominational church would automatically excommunicate her from the Catholic Church, a prospect Morel says feels "heavy and almost paralyzes me."
Seeking support, Morel discovered Discerning Deacons, an organization that brings together Catholics, including women discerning the diaconate, to learn, pray and discern the possible future of a permanent diaconate open to women. Through the group Morel found support alongside other women who are exploring their ministerial calls.
NCR columnist Phyllis Zagano hopes the new women deacons commission — set to meet in Rome for a week beginning Sept. 13 — will study what (if any) diaconal tasks are impossible for women.
Pro-life groups celebrated in Texas this week as "a historic and hopeful day" when a law that has the effect of barring most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy took effect. And while NCR political columnist Michael Sean Winters is also looking forward to the day when most abortions throughout the country will be no more, he fears that this law will be the beginning of a backlash against the pro-life movement.
The bill bars abortion after the six-week mark, when a heartbeat can usually be detected. But the child is also completely dependent on the mother at this point, as it is not yet viable outside the womb. So, legally, a prohibition against abortion after six weeks is also, necessarily, a mandate that a woman provide life-support to the child.
"I believe that a culture that truly values human dignity — and especially the dignity of women — would weigh those two competing moral claims, the child's right to life and the woman's right to bodily integrity, and come down on the side of supporting both persons, the mother and the child," Winters writes. "But this is Texas."
"Gov. Greg Abbott, who signed the bill into law in May, has spent most of his tenure and all of the summer demonstrating that the fetal heartbeats are the only heartbeats he cares about."
The Supreme Court ruled Sept. 1 against blocking a Texas law banning abortions at six weeks of pregnancy. The 5-4 vote said the challengers to the Texas law did not adequately address the "complex and novel antecedent procedural questions" in this case.
A new book on the history of the Vatican's international relations shows how Pope Francis is only following in his predecessors' footsteps in standing up to the United States.
Pope Francis' social encyclical on the environment has been the spark for a growing cadre of young adults to understand the integral connection between people and the Earth, care for creation and the harmful effects of climate change on all life. Read more at EarthBeat.
Read letters to the editor from readers responding to our reporting on Catholic bishops' conferences in southern states that have chosen not to take positions on voting restrictions.