PODCAST: 4,400 Notre Dame students, alumni sign letter against Biden invitation (UCNN 5.25.21)

This is the Urban Christian News podcast. Here are the top stories you need to know about today.

According to the New York Post, The University of Notre Dame held its commencement ceremony this weekend with the notable absence of one very important guest: President Biden. The Catholic News Agency reported earlier this month that Biden, the second Catholic president in American history, was invited to give remarks to new graduates but could not attend due to scheduling conflicts. Word of the invitation caused a backlash among Notre Dame students and alumni, more than 4,400 of whom signed an open letter urging university President John Jenkins not to invite the Democratic president — even though Biden made clear he wasn’t coming. The letter read, “[Biden] rejects Church teachings on abortion, marriage, sex and gender and is hostile to religious liberty. He embraces the most pro-abortion and anti-religious liberty public policy program in history. The case against honoring him is immeasurably stronger than it was against honoring President [Barack] Obama [in 2009], an action that alienated countless Catholics and brought upon Notre Dame the harsh criticism of 83 cardinals, archbishops and bishops.” The letter specifically cited Biden’s opposition to the Hyde Amendment prohibiting federal funding of abortion, a position he announced during the 2020 Democratic primary campaign. It also cited Biden’s support for Planned Parenthood, same-sex marriage, and the Equality Act.

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According to the Associated Press, An activist who has played a leading role in anti-racism demonstrations in Britain was in critical condition in a London hospital on Monday after being shot. The Taking the Initiative Party said Sasha Johnson, who played a leading role in Black Lives Matter protests last year, was shot in the head on Sunday. Police and a friend said it did not appear to be a targeted attack, though the party said Johnson had received “numerous death threats” related to her activism. The party said Johnson was “a strong, powerful voice for our people and our community.” The Metropolitan Police force said officers were called to reports of gunshots in the Peckham area of the city just before 3 a.m. on Sunday. Police said the shooting took place near a house where a party was taking place. The police statement said a 27-year-old woman was in a hospital in critical condition after being shot. It did not identify her, but said “there is nothing to suggest it was a targeted attack or that the woman had received any credible threats against her before this incident.”

According to Religion News Service, The Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago has concluded there is “no reason to suspect” the Rev. Michael Pfleger is guilty of allegations of past sexual abuse. The result of the investigation by an independent review board was announced Monday (May 24) in a letter from Cardinal Blase Cupich to the church Pfleger has led for years, the Faith Community of St. Sabina in Chicago’s Auburn Gresham neighborhood. Pfleger, 71, will return to his position as senior pastor of St. Sabina on June 5, according to the letter from the cardinal, who leads the archdiocese. The cardinal said Pfleger had agreed to take two weeks before returning to St. Sabina to prepare spiritually and emotionally, “realizing that these months have taken a great toll on him.” Pfleger temporarily stepped down from ministry in January amid allegations of sexual abuse of a minor more than 40 years ago. Three men since have accused him of sexually abusing them decades ago — allegations Pfleger and his attorneys have denied.

According to the Daily Mail, Nine U.S. states have administered at least one coronavirus vaccine dose to 70 percent of their adult populations as officials attempt to ramp up the pace of shots. Seven of the states – Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Vermont – are in the Northeast with just two states, Hawaii and New Mexico, in the west. Additionally, twenty five states and Washington, DC, have fully vaccinated at least half of residents above age 18, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show. This will help meet President Joe Biden’s goal of 70 percent of Americans receiving at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose to 70 percent of U.S. adults by July 4. State leaders have noticed that incentive programs appear to be encouraging more people to get immunized, including removing coronavirus restrictions for vaccinated individuals, such as mask-wearing, and the chance to win huge prizes of money in lotteries.

According to NBC News, The pastor of a Roman Catholic parish in Wisconsin who told his congregation to shun the Covid-19 vaccine and preached right-wing politics from the pulpit has been asked to step down by his bishop. The Rev. James Altman, of the St. James the Less Roman Catholic Church in La Crosse, made the announcement during his sermon at Sunday Mass, calling himself a victim of the “cancel culture.” Altman, whose sermon was posted on YouTube, said Bishop William Callahan of the Diocese of La Crosse asked him to resign Friday and called him “divisive and ineffective.” He said he’s engaged a canon lawyer and intends to fight the bishop’s decision, but that this could be his last sermon as pastor. The “Friends of Father James Altman” Facebook page, which has since April more than doubled in size to 1,600 members, has posts and comments expressing anger and anguish over what’s been happening with the priest, as well as bogus assertions that there is “no science behind the false religion of covidism” and baseless claims about the supposed dangers of the Covid-19 vaccines.

According to FOX 5 Atlanta, Former NBA star and Atlanta-area resident Shaquille O’Neal has been known to help out his neighbors from time to time, even spontaneously. The NBA Hall-of-Famer showed generosity Friday in the form of providing kids in Henry County with new shoes. Soles4Souls partnered with The Shaquille O’Neal Foundation and Reebok to distribute 500 new pairs of shoes to kids. Shaq visited Wesley Lakes Elementary School, a McDonough Title I school, saying he is happy to put a smile on kids’ faces at the end of the school year. “It’s all about the kids,” O’Neal said. “The two things that really hurt me this year were seeing 40 million people out of work, and I hate seeing kids who don’t have what they need.” Organizers will distribute the remaining pairs to kids in need this summer.

According to NJ.com, Chi Modu, a photographer who documented the brightest stars of the golden age of hip-hop, from the Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur to LL Cool J, Mary J. Blige, Snoop Dogg and Nas, has died. Modu was 54. The celebrated photographer’s death was announced Saturday in messages posted to his social media accounts. “Our hearts are broken,” the post read, asking for privacy for his family. “We continue the fight.” The statement did not give a cause of death. Modu was born in Nigeria and grew up in New Jersey. He was an alumnus of the Lawrenceville School in Lawrence Township and Rutgers University, where he studied economics and discovered his love for photography before pursuing photojournalism at the International Center of Photography in New York. After getting his start at New York’s Amsterdam News, Modi began photographing hip-hop artists for The Source magazine in the ‘90s. He met megastars like Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G and took now-famous photos of them before they reached icon status. “When I was doing it, hip-hop was still an outsider,” Modu told HipHopDX in 2016. “The good part about it was that we were a community of outsiders, but we were having fun while we were changing the world.”

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In closing, remember, God loves you. He always has and He always will. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” If you don’t know Jesus as your Saviour, today is a good day to get to know Him. Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died, was buried, and rose from the dead for you. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart and He will. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Thanks so much for listening and may God bless your day!

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