Skip to main content

Washington D.C., Jul 23, 2019 / 04:32 pm (CNA).- Catholic organizations are installing 5,000 solar panels in a five-acre space in Washington, D.C., in what will become the largest ground array of solar panels in the city.

The project is being led by Catholic Energies, which is a nonprofit organization that is part of the Catholic Climate Covenant. Catholic Energies is working with Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington to design and create the solar panel field. Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington owns the field, which is next to a retirement home and convent.

“Catholic Energies was born as a way of providing the time, the expertise, and probably more importantly, the resources,” for creating renewable energy projects in Catholic-owned-and-operated buildings, Page Gravely, the executive vice president for client services at Catholic Energies, told CNA.

These resources are primarily financial, as energy efficiency projects are typically expensive. Catholic Energies will team up with renewable energy companies, who act as investors and work with contractors to make the projects come to life. In return, the investors receive a federal tax credit, and other financial incentives. In this project, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington will not pay anything for the solar panels.

In this project, IGS Solar is the investing company. Washington, D.C., has the highest solar tax credit in the country.

Gravely explained that Catholic Energies’ COO Dan Last kept being asked, “How do we actually put into action...Laudato Si? What can we do here at a parish or at a church?”

Initially, the group worked with LED retrofitting. LED lights are more energy-efficient than traditional incandescent light bulbs. The company shifted focus to solar after receiving numerous inquiries from potential clients about solar panels.

“I think really from the standpoint that there was familiarity with it,” said Gravely. “Folks that both could use it at home, or they just knew about solar and you know the growth in the solar market has been well-publicized, but also it was a larger impact,” he said.

Compared to an LED retrofit, solar panels are also far more visible and tangible.

“So we pivoted,” he said. The field in D.C. is Catholic Energies’ second project in the area. In June, they coordinated the installation of 440 solar panels at Immaculate Conception Church in Hampton, VA. The panels will account for the entirety of the parish’s energy usage.

The project in Washington received some concerns and pushback from those who live near the site, who were concerned about the environmental impact of the panel installation.

Gravely told CNA that these concerns were considered, and there will be 100 trees planted in the field to create a screening effect for the panels, as well as to help beautify the area. Additionally, there will be flowers planted to help rebuild the bee, bird, and butterfly populations. Catholic Energies worked with the city to ensure that stormwater runoff would not be impacted.

“There’s still gonna always be a handful of the neighbors not happy with it, but we can only do so much. And we've done a lot,” said Gravely.

The panels are scheduled to be operating by March of 2020. The energy produced by the solar panels will be returned to the D.C. power grid, and the energy credits will be enough to cover the energy cost of 12 buildings owned by Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington.

Denver, Colo., Jul 23, 2019 / 02:01 pm (CNA).- Attorneys for Denver-area cake artist Jack Phillips filed a motion Monday to dismiss a third lawsuit seeking to force him to create a cake that expresses a message contrary to his religious beliefs.

Colorado lawyer Autumn Scardina, who filed an unsuccessful complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission in 2017, is seeking $100,000 in monetary damages plus legal fees in the third lawsuit Phillips has faced in seven years.

Phillips, a Christian, is the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, a Denver suburb. He has operated his shop since 1993 and has focused his talents on artistic cakes.

“Phillips wants to peacefully live out his faith as a cake artist by serving all people while declining to express messages that violate his beliefs,” the July 22 motion to dismiss, filed by attorneys with the Alliance Defending Freedom, reads.

“After losing in court, the state [of Colorado] was content to leave Phillips alone to do just that. But Scardina won’t allow it.”

“Phillips requests that the court dismiss the complaint so that he can return to the life he had before the state and Scardina targeted him for his faith,” the motion concludes.

Phillips has said in the past that he not only has declined same-sex union cakes, but he also declines other types of cakes that go against his beliefs, including cakes for Halloween, bachelor parties, divorce, cakes with alcohol in the ingredients, and cakes with atheist messages.

Phillips in 2018 won a six year legal battle that led all the way up to the Supreme Court, whose ruling upheld Phillips’ religious freedom and freedom of expression in his declining to make a cake in 2012 that would have celebrated a same-sex union. Phillips said that particular kind of cake would violate his religious beliefs, but that he would create other kinds of cakes for the couple. Colorado law did not recognize same-sex unions as marriages at the time.

Three months after winning the Supreme Court case, Scardina, who identifies as a transgender woman, sued Phillips for his refusal to make Scardina a gender transition cake – pink on the inside and blue on the outside.

Phillips then countersued the state of Colorado, claiming that he was being persecuted for his religious beliefs. The case was dropped in March 2019 “after the discovery phase demonstrated that the state was displaying ‘anti-religious hostility’ by continuing to pursue Phillips,’” the National Review reported.

Scardina on June 5 of this year sued Phillips for a second time, claiming that he refused to make Scardina a birthday cake.

According to the complaint, filed with the District Court for the city and county of Denver, Scardina called Masterpiece Cakeshop to order a “birthday cake – one in a simple design that Defendants admit they would make for any other customer.”

The complaint noted that Phillips has said previously that he would be happy to make other kinds of cakes for LGBT individuals, as long as they expressed messages that did not violate his religious beliefs.

In the call, Scardina requested from Masterpiece Cakeshop a birthday cake for 6-8 people, with pink cake and blue frosting. A Masterpiece Cakeshop employee confirmed to Scardina that they could make such a cake.

“Ms. Scardina then informed Masterpiece Cakeshop that the requested design had personal significance for her because it reflects her status as a transgender female,” the complaint states.

It was at this point that Masterpiece Cakeshop told Scardina that they “did not make cakes for ‘sex changes.’” Scardina reconfirmed that it was a birthday cake, but Masterpiece Cakeshop declined to take the order and ended the call, according to the complaint.

Scardina called Masterpiece Cakeshop again, in case the previous call had been unintentionally disconnected, the complaint states. Scardina spoke to a different Masterpiece Cakeshop employee about the same order, and that employee also declined the order, saying that making such a cake would violate their religious beliefs.

“Masterpiece Cakeshop, at the direction of Phillips, refused to sell a birthday cake to Ms. Scardina because of her status as a transgender woman,” the complaint states.

The cake Scardina mentions in the new complaint is notably similar to the gender transition cake Scardina requested from Masterpiece Cakeshop in 2017, which was also requested to be made with pink cake and blue frosting.

ADF reported that Scardina had also asked Phillips to create a custom cake depicting satanic themes and images.

Denver, Colo., Jul 23, 2019 / 12:15 pm (CNA).- Catholic journalists know that discernment stories are popular because they give readers hope. And they often follow a pattern: They usually include a “God moment” in which the subject, through a dramatic circumstance, hears the word of God and finds with sparkling clarity,  the call to become a cleric or religious. They end with ordination or follow final vows.

Jacob Hubbard’s discernment story isn’t like that.

Hubbard had multiple “God moments,” and he entered seminary because of them. But in seminary Hubbard realized that ordination wasn’t his calling. In November 2018, he discerned out of seminary.

“By our baptism, we're all called to be priests, prophets, and kings,” Hubbard told CNA. “So although I won't be an ordained priest, I'll be living out my calling by being the priest of my family- the bridge between them and God, offering them Christ as much as I possibly can and relying on His Strength to do so.”

It could be easy to see Hubbard’s discernment out of seminary as a failure. In fact, many seminarians who discern out of seminary face a kind of stigma from their friends and family, and even from themselves.

But that stigma is based on a misunderstanding of seminary’s purpose, Hubbard told CNA.

As Hubbard said, “The stigma today is that when people see seminarians, they don't see them as discerning individuals, they see them as mini-priests.”

Seminary is a “house of discernment,” he said, “not a house of mini-priests,” adding that if a man leaves seminary, it’s often a positive sign of his ongoing vocational discernment.

Fr. Phillip Brown, President-Rector of St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore, agreed.

“As a seminary faculty and as a rector, when a seminarian discerns out, and we're satisfied that it was an authentic, good, discernment, we don't consider that a failure. We consider that a success,” Brown explained.

“What I say to the seminarians is that in the end, the objective here is not to become a priest, but to be what God has made you to be,” Fr. Brown said.

 

Discerning with openness to God’s call

According to Fr. James Wehner, rector of Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, only about 30% of men who originally enter seminary are ordained.

“It's not a failure,” Fr. Wehner said. “We think it's a very healthy process of discernment where he and the Church recognize that he's not called to priesthood.”

“But we want to give the guys an opportunity to discern and to form, and if they're not called, they will leave here stronger, healthier, Christian men because they were totally open to the formation experience, so it's a win-win situation.”

Even if a man leaves before ordination, Hubbard told CNA, “you can walk out a better man if you do seminary right. You could really figure out the areas you have believed lies your entire life. And then you can accept God's love there instead.”

 

The difficulties and the fruits of seminary life

There are many gifts that come with entering seminary, but they come alongside trials, Hubbard said.

When he entered Holy Trinity Seminary in Dallas, Hubbard found himself face-to-face with a slew of challenges.

A strict schedule and constant obligations kept him busy, even without the additional work a full-time student must face at the school next door, the University of Dallas.

“You need structure to build your life on, and that structure needs to include self-love, so doing things that you personally love, and then of course prayer where you receive love from God,” he said regarding structure.

The routine of seminary taught Hubbard that “it's impossible to earn God's love by your own measures. But the routine can open you up to being able to receive it more.”

 

Discerning into seminary

Hubbard said he had long considered the priesthood, with encouragement from his family, and reflected on it while journaling about his prayer life while in high school, and through retreats and mission trips.

After several invitations to visitation weekends at HTS, he attended one, and after a “God moment,” he chose to apply to the seminary, entering as a sophomore in college.

 

Discerning out of seminary

During Hubbard’s time in seminary, he worked hard to be engaged in the community and to take the opportunities presented to him.

The summer before his senior year, his pastoral assignment was as a counselor at The Pines Catholic Camp, a summer camp in East Texas. There, Hubbard worked closely with other counselors to teach and take care of children at the camp.

Hubbard told CNA that he was struck by some of the beautiful and inspiring marriages he saw the camp directors have, and the happiness he saw that came from their relationships with their wives and children.

That summer he also participated in Trinity Cor, “a two-week backpacking journey to discover your heart,” Hubbard explained. “To really find your manly heart and discover your masculinity, and it was awesome.”

“Coming back from that, I was really feeling like I had more grasp at my heart, and really had the question of discernment lodged in me from The Pines because I saw beautiful relationships there. That experience of The Pines mixed with deepening the discovery of my heart through Trinity-Core began the questioning of my discernment,” Hubbard said.

He sought out counsel about his questions, and trusting his spiritual director to keep his best interests in mind, opened up to him about everything.

One of the biggest moments for Hubbard was when his spiritual director asked Hubbard to consider marriage.

His spiritual director asked Hubbard to imagine himself, in prayer, as a priest coming home from a good day of Confessions and Mass, and then to imagine, in prayer, being married and coming home to a wife and children.

“I felt so much more deeply my heart belonged with a family,” Hubbard explained. “There's no way to really articulate it, except that I just felt myself more present, more human there. Even just painting the picture almost brought me to tears.”

Hubbard left seminary in November of his senior year.

“And I have not regretted it since,” he said. “It's been a beautiful journey. Seminary was a necessary step, and so I know that God has just continued to lead me along a path which I hope one day, He will use to help heal those hurting around me. I want to still give of myself to those around me."

 

Does “discerning out” mean failure?

Although seminary was helpful for Hubbard in his discernment both for the priesthood and for the married life, he found that a lot of people misunderstood the reasons he had left, and some saw it as a failure on his part.

“I think that a lot of people have the misconception that when you step out of seminary it's a failure of sorts. Their reactions are, ‘Oh, I'm sorry,’ or things like that. The negative stigma of discerning out needs to be eradicated so that seminarians who are torn don't have that fear that when they leave, their friends, their families, their priests back home will be disappointed.”

“The stigma holds seminarians back from being able to healthily discern. I think that's something pretty unaddressed in today's world: the very healthy and good option of discerning out. People see it as something entirely negative, and they shouldn't,” Hubbard continued.

After explaining his decision to his friends they understood and supported him, he told CNA, but the initial uncomfortable or negative feelings still felt like a stigma, or at least a misunderstanding, about what he considered to be a healthy discernment.

“And I experienced that a bit with some of my friends and family, but I also had overwhelming support, especially from my father, and so it was okay,” he said. “I definitely felt supported in my decision.”

Discerning into seminary at 18, his father told Hubbard that he “was proud of Hubbard no matter what.” At the time, Hubbard wondered why his dad didn’t seem more enthused about his entrance to seminary.

“But that consistency was something that was actually beautiful in the long run, and that's what I think parents should strive for when their kids enter seminary,” he told CNA.

“That's the exact same thing he said to me when I discerned out of seminary, and I knew that he supported me on either side and trusted my judgement, so it was incredible. It really was,” Hubbard said.

Hubbard’s father, Brad, told CNA that his first and foremost step is to pray for his children, and says that he wanted to make sure his son was happy with the formation he was receiving while in seminary.

“For me, it's just the importance of leaving the discernment to God. As a parent, I'm there to support and especially pray, and then God's will be done in regards to that.”

 

Hubbard’s Future

Last May, Hubbard graduated from the University of Dallas with a degree in philosophy, and he now plans to attend the Augustine Institute for a graduate degree in theology.

He believes he has had many blessings throughout his time in seminary and now working, and wants to have the opportunity to impact people through an occupation in ministry after he graduates.

Hubbard finds that despite the magnitude of the decision, he does not question his choice. He told CNA that his relationship with God has grown since his departure from seminary.

And in the pursuit of marriage, Hubbard has felt more confirmed in his choice.

“If everything else were to fall apart in my life, if I questioned every other piece of discernment, that is what I could hold onto and know for a fact that I made the right decision because I have so deeply encountered God's love incarnationally in a way that I could not have in seminary,” he said.