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Updated: 8 min 45 sec ago

Mississippi asks US Supreme Court to solve circuit court split with 15 week abortion case

1 hour 43 min ago

CNA Staff, Oct 23, 2020 / 02:01 pm (CNA).- The Mississippi Attorney General on Thursday urged the US Supreme Court to hear a case regarding the state’s ban on most abortions from 15 weeks into pregnancy, citing a circuit split over a question raised in the suit.

Lynn Fitch submitted a brief petitioning for writ of certiorari in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization Oct. 22.

“The circuit split...continues to grow,” she wrote, over the question “whether the validity of a pre-viability law that protects women’s health, the dignity of unborn children, and the integrity of the medical profession and society should be analyzed under Casey’s ‘undue burden’ standard or Hellerstedt’s balancing of benefits and burdens.”

“This case remains an ideal vehicle to promptly resolve both that question and the first question presented—the contradictions in this Court’s decisions over use of ‘viability’ as a bright line for measuring pro-life legislation,” Fitch stated.

Fitch noted that in a recent case, a panel of the Fifth Circuit acknowledged that its decision conflicted with one reached by the Eighth Circuit, and that the Sixth Circuit has “reached the exact opposite conclusion as the Fifth Circuit panel majority.”

The circuit split arises from differences in interpretation of the Supreme Court’s June decision in June Medical Services, LLC v. Russo, which struck down Louisiana’s requirement that abortion doctors have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

In December 2019 Judge Patrick Higginbotham of the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld a district court ruling that blocked Mississippi’s 15 week abortion ban.

The law allows abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy when the mother’s life or a major bodily function is in danger, or when the unborn child has a severe abnormality and is not expected to be able to live outside the womb at full term. Exceptions are not granted for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. Physicians who knowingly violate the law can lose their state medical license.

Defending the law, Mississippi’s attorneys have argued that it has an interest in protecting the life of the unborn, as well as maternal health. They pointed to an increased risk of complications for the mother when abortion is performed further into the pregnancy. They have also made a case that unborn babies are capable of feeling pain prior to viability.

Higginbotham wrote that “In an unbroken line dating to Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court’s abortion cases have established (and affirmed, and re-affirmed) a woman’s right to choose an abortion before viability. States may regulate abortion procedures prior to viability so long as they do not impose an undue burden on the woman’s right but they may not ban abortions.”

In July, Governor Tate Reeves signed into law the Life Equality Act, banning abortion based on sex, race, or genetic abnormality.

Trump and Biden clash on immigration and coronavirus during final debate

2 hours 14 min ago

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 23, 2020 / 01:30 pm (CNA).- Immigration and the coronavirus pandemic took center stage on Thursday’s final debate between President Donald Trump and former vice president Joe Biden, while issues like abortion and religious liberty were not up for discussion, as the candidates enter the final two weeks of the presidential campaign. 

The debate, hosted by Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, featured new rules designed to improve the flow of discussion. Because of COVID-19 concerns, the candidates were spread apart and had a plexiglass barrier in between them. 

The night started off with moderator Kristen Welker of NBC questioning the two candidates about how they would lead the country through the “next stage” of the pandemic. 

Trump defended his record, saying he “closed the greatest economy in the world” to fight the disease, and noted that the excess mortality rate was “way down” compared to other countries. He also said that a vaccine is “coming” and “ready,” and will be “announced within weeks.” 

When pressed, Trump said that there was “not a guarantee” on the timeline but that he thinks there is a “good chance” a vaccine will be announced “within a matter of weeks.” 

Biden attacked the president for not encouraging mask wearing earlier in the pandemic, and said that he had “no comprehensive plan” for tackling the virus, which has caused the deaths of more than 250,000 people in the country.

“What I would do is make sure we have everyone encouraged to wear a mask, all the time. I would make sure we move in the direction of rapid testing, investing in rapid testing. I would make sure that we set up national standards as to how to open up schools and open up businesses to be safe, and give them the wherewithal and financial resources to be able to do that,” said Biden. 

Biden said that a vaccine process must be “totally transparent” in order for Americans to be willing to actually take the vaccine. He also defended calling Trump “xenophobic” when the president restricted travel from China at the beginning of the pandemic, and then added that the president “did it late.” 

The former vice president said that while he would not immediately endorse another shutdown, he had not ruled out the possibility, should a community experience a high rate of cases. 

Trump, conversely, pressed for the increased opening of schools, and stated that “we’re not going to shut down.” 

Following the discussion of coronavirus, the debate shifted to national security and foreign policy, and then onto health care reform. 

Trump was questioned about the recent claim that more than 500 children separated at the border from their families could not be reunited as their parents could not be located. 

During the approximately two months that the administration enforced its “zero tolerance” policy, which included family separation, was in effect, about 3,000 children were separated from their parents, plus an additional 1,000 children who were separated from their parents during a pilot program of the policy in 2017.

Catholic leaders, both domestic and international, have repeatedly criticized the family separation policy. 

At the end of June 2018, the court ordered that the children be reunited with their families.

The president appeared to deflect the question, saying first that “Children are brought here by coyotes and lots of bad people, cartels, and they’re brought here and it’s easy to use them to get into our country.” 

Trump said that he was “working” on a plan to reunite these children with their families, but said that this was difficult as “a lot of these kids come up without the parents” via a cartel or coyote. 

 A “coyote” is a slang term for a person paid to smuggle people into the United States. 

Biden objected to these claims, saying that “these 500 plus kids came with parents” and were separated from them at the border. He also rejected the idea that coyotes were responsible for bringing children across the border, saying that “their parents were with them.” 

Biden and Trump sparred on the topic of the now-infamous “cages” that temporarily housed children who were separated from their parents at the border. 

Trump noted that the “cages” were built during the Obama administration,during which time President Obama was referred to as the “deporter-in-chief” for the record-high number of deportations during his time in office. 

Biden countered that the policy of separating families made a “laughingstock” of the country, and said the failure to achieve immigration reform during his vice presidency was “a mistake” and that he would create a pathway to citizenship for “over 11 million undocumented people” within the first 100 days of his presidency. 

During exchanges on healthcare, Trump credited himself with “terminating” the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act, which he called “the worst part of Obamacare.” 

“Now [the ACA] is in court, because Obamacare is no good,” said Trump. “No matter how well you run it, it’s no good. What we’d like to do is terminate it.” 

The president said that if Obamacare were “terminated,” he would “come up with a brand new beautiful healthcare” policy that would continue to protect people with pre-existing conditions. 

Biden said that, if elected, he would “pass Obamacare with a public option.” He referred to this as “Bidencare.” This public option would cover people who qualify for Medicaid but “do not have the wherewithal...to get Medicaid.” 

Biden said that he would not eliminate private insurance.

Catholic leaders call for clarity on Pope Francis civil union remarks

15 hours 44 min ago

CNA Staff, Oct 23, 2020 / 12:00 am (CNA).- Bishops and prominent Catholics have responded to a new documentary in which Pope Francis is featured calling for civil recognition of same-sex unions, calling for caution and telling Catholics to await clarity from the Vatican after the remarks caused confusion.

The pope’s comments were made in “Francesco,” a documentary on the life and ministry of Pope Francis, released Wednesday. The film made global headlines, because the it contains a scene in which Pope Francis is portrayed calling for the passage of civil union laws for same-sex couples.

In the film, the pope is shown saying that “What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered.” The apparent endorsement of civil recognition of same-sex couples by the pope garnered the widespread reaction.

“Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family,” the pope also was shown to say in the video, in a section subsequently shown to be heavily edited. “They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it,” the pope said, in reference to his approach to pastoral care.

The pope has often spoken of the need for pastoral closeness and love for people who identify as LGBT, and against family members, especially parents, ostracizing or rejecting them on account of their sexual orientation. The pope has also repeatedly said that marriage exists between one man and one woman.

Some activists and media reports have suggested that Pope Francis had changed Catholic teaching by his remarks.

The context and manner in which the film was shot, compiled and edited, have raised questions about what the pope said, the context in which he said it, what it means, and what the Church teaches about civil unions and marriage.

“Pope Francis’ remarks giving qualified support to civil unions of same–sex couples are not his first as pope,” said St. Paul-Minneapolis Archbishop Bernard Hebda on Wednesday.

“While affirming Church teaching that marriage can only be between one man and one woman, he along with others who defend traditional marriage, has shown openness to civil unions as a kind of middle way that would allow persons of the same sex in long-term relationships to have legal benefits without a civil redefinition of marriage itself.”

The archbishop said that “Church teaching on marriage is clear and irreformable,” but that “the conversation must continue about the best ways to reverence the dignity of those in same–sex relationships so that they are not subject to any unjust discrimination.”

Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh said that the comments in the documentary “reflect [the pope’s] pastoral approach to persons who may be on the peripheries of society,” and “in no way signal a departure from the teaching of the Catholic Church concerning marriage or homosexuality.”

“It speaks, rather, of a pastoral approach to these issues,” Zubik said.

“In essence, Pope Francis has not promoted change in the moral or sacramental teaching of the Church. He has simply called for all people to be treated with the dignity and love which is their due by being created in God’s image and likeness and being children of the Heavenly Father.”

A 2003 document issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith expressed opposition to civil unions for same-sex couples, saying that “respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions.”

The film’s portrayal of a papal endorsement of same-sex unions did not change Church teaching, or alter the Church’s understanding of the nature of homosexual acts. But Francis’s apparent call for legal “cover” for same-sex unions would represent a shift in the prudential judgement of public policy options made by his predecessors.

Bishop Michael Olson of Fort Worth also responded to the film’s release, saying that “the Church is obliged to hand on faithfully what she has received from Christ. It is the mind of Christ that marriage is an indissoluble bond between one man and one woman. The Church preaches and acts upon this truth, regardless of the passing opinions of nations, states, or cultures.”

Noting that Pope Francis has repeatedly affirmed the Church’s unchanging position that marriage exists, and can only exist, between one man and one woman, Olson said that “comments recently recorded in the making of a documentary about Pope Francis regarding civil recognition of ‘unions’ between homosexual couples appear to have led some to the erroneous conclusion that the Church’s teaching on marriage has changed or is about to change.”
 
“It is a misunderstanding of rights to suggest or infer that legal arrangements of civil societies canconfer a status equivalent to marriage to couples who do not conform to God’s intention and design for marriage.”

Following the release of “Francesco”, some prominent Catholics highlighted their own past support for civil unions as a way of providing legal protections for couples of various kinds, without building a bridge towards civil recognition of same-sex marriage.

Ryan Anderson, senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation, noted Wednesday that he and Princeton Professor Robert George had previously argued that civil unions would “neither introduce a rival ‘marriage-lite’ option, or treat same-sex unions as marriages.”

The Church previously opposed the recognition of civil unions, even those explicitly defined as distinct from marriage, because they could lead to eventual recognition of “same-sex marriage,” as they have done in countries like the U.K., and because they could have “the consequence of making it a model in present-day society,” and “also obscure basic values which belong to the common inheritance of humanity.”

Some have raised questions about the significance of the pope’s comments, given that many Western countries have already brought in laws recognizing same-sex civil unions and “same-sex marriage.” But Jesuit priest and LGBT campaigner Fr. James Martin said on Twitter that the pope’s comments are “a big deal.”

“For those who think the Pope's comments about same-sex civil unions are no big deal: Perhaps in the US or Western Europe. But in places like Poland, where some bishops are virulently anti-LGBT; or Uganda, where bishops side with laws criminalizing homosexuality, it's a big deal.”

Martin’s comments triggered a strong response from Eastern European and African Catholics, who suggested the Jesuit’s comments were a form of cultural colonialism.

“What a shame to see an American priest passing judgement on African bishops!” responded Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier of Durban. “Why is it a shame? Because [Martin] doesn’t know the context.”

“In recent years, especially in [President] Obama’s time, enormous pressure was put on African leaders to introduce all the Western ‘isms’ as a condition for receiving aid,” the cardinal said.

“Legalizing of abortion and homosexuality were the foremost,” Napier said.

Federal judge: Colorado’s anti-coronavirus rules can’t single out churches

16 hours 48 min ago

CNA Staff, Oct 22, 2020 / 10:56 pm (CNA).- A federal judge has said Colorado officials may not enforce anti-coronavirus limits against two churches, saying that the state rules lack sufficient exemptions for the free exercise of religion.

The regulations treat churches more strictly than similar gatherings, which are required to observe social distancing but not observe occupational limits as well, the judge said, adding that the rules fail to protect congregations that may wish to remove facial coverings for religious reasons.

“With each exception Colorado makes for secular institutions, the failure to make the same exemption for houses of worship becomes increasingly problematic,” U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Domenico said in his Oct. 15 order. “Colorado’s failure to offer a compelling reason why houses of worship are subject to greater restrictions than warehouses, schools, and restaurants violates the First Amendment’s guarantee of the free exercise of religion.”

The judge’s order exempts the two churches from mask requirements and occupancy limits that they believe bar their religious practice. However, they still must follow sanitation requirements, maintain social distancing, and prohibit shaking hands. The temporary injunction is in place while the case is heard in court.

“(T)he Constitution does not allow the State to tell a congregation how large it can be when comparable secular gatherings are not so limited, or to tell a congregation that its reason for wishing to remove facial coverings is less important than a restaurant’s or spa’s,” Domenico said.

The plaintiffs are two Protestant pastors and their Denver-area churches: Bob Enyart of Denver Bible Church in Wheat Ridge and Joey Rhoads of Community Baptist Church in Brighton. In August they filed a complaint against federal and state officials charging that the state health orders were vague and infringed on religious freedom.

“The lawsuit calls both the federal government and Colorado leaders into account for their violations of the right to free exercise of religion, among other abuses of power, primarily resulting from Governor Jared Polis’ COVID-19 related executive orders,” said Thomas More Society special counsel Rebecca Messall, who with co-counsel Brad Bergford represented the complainants.

The plaintiffs did not demonstrate a likelihood of success on most of their claims, but their First Amendment free exercise claim against state officials will likely succeed, the judge said. State officials may not enforce executive orders or public health orders against the plaintiffs “to the extent those orders treat houses of worship differently from comparable secular institutions.”

Officials may not enforce additional numerical occupancy requirements against the two churches, nor enforce the “requirement that congregants wear face masks at all times during worship services,” said Domenico.

The State of Colorado has filed an appeal.

“Absent some sort of bad faith, a law that is otherwise neutral and generally applicable does not suddenly become unconstitutional simply because it contains limited exceptions for certain secular activities but not religious activities,” said the motion from the office of the Colorado attorney general.

“Nothing in the state defendants’ public health orders reveals discrimination or bigotry targeted at religion,” the motion continued. “If anything, Colorado’s orders treat religious organizations more favorably than comparable organizations that are nonreligious.”

The state's motion argued that Domenico took scientific evidence out of context, the Denver Post reports.

Enyart, one of the pastors, appeared skeptical of the coronavirus response.

“It’s like ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf’,” he told CBS4 News before the judge issued the order. “If it was a true emergency, people would be inclined to ignore government orders because of government’s overreach. There’s so much evidence coming out that the lockdown is hurting people.”

Enyart, who also hosts a radio show, has sometimes been a controversial figure. He has vocally criticized and even conducted protests of other Christian groups, pro-life groups and politicians he believes to be insufficiently opposed to abortion.

According to the pastors' complaint, compliance with state rules, executive orders and public health rules violates the plaintiffs' “sincerely held religious beliefs.” The rules “substantially burden” free exercise of religion.

The rules “restrict or prevent religious speech and the expression of personal communication in how closely plaintiff pastors can be to persons in their congregations, and in how closely congregants can be to each other, to meet, pray, talk, stand, sit, walk, sing, pray, embrace, shake hands, smile or facially express their thoughts, opinions and emotions verbally and through facial expression.”

“Moreover, plaintiffs are restricted in holding baptisms, communion services, marriage ceremonies and laying of hands,” the complaint continued. It said the two churches conduct religious services and fellowship activities for congregations larger than 50 people. The capacity limits on houses of worship are “more severe” than those that apply to similar settings, it said.

“The state also allows a variety of exceptions to its facial-covering requirement where it recognizes that removing a mask is necessary to carry out a particular activity,” said the complaint.

Domenico said the court does not doubt the good faith decisions of state officials' efforts “to balance the benefits of more public interaction against the added risk that inheres in it.”

While the Constitution “doesn't kneecap a state's pandemic response,” he said, “the existence of a crisis does not mean that the inalienable rights recognized in the Constitution become unenforceable.”

Although the religious must comply with neutral, generally applicable restrictions, he said, “the First Amendment does not allow government officials, whether in the executive or judicial branch, to treat religious worship as any less critical or essential than other human endeavors. Nor does it allow the government to determine what is a necessary part of a house of worship’s religious exercise.”

Most Colorado outbreaks have taken place at workplaces, schools and businesses, not churches, Domenico said, citing state data. The largest outbreaks have been at colleges and prisons. Less than 2% of the 900 active or resolved outbreaks in Colorado have taken place at religious facilities.

Other religious groups' challenges to Colorado limits on public gatherings have not prevailed in court.

In September, U.S. District Judge Christine M. Arguello rejected the Colorado Springs-area Andrew Wommack Ministries' challenge to coronavirus limits, saying public health was at risk. Health officials said a novel coronavirus outbreak at a July Bible conference hosted by the organization led to 63 cases and one death, Colorado Public Radio said.

 

EWTN's Warsaw: 2020 election about competing visions for America

17 hours 44 min ago

CNA Staff, Oct 22, 2020 / 10:00 pm (CNA).-  

The head of the EWTN media network said ahead of Election Day that the 2020 presidential election offers, beyond a choice between individuals, a philosophical choice between different views of American life.

“One campaign has built itself on the notion that America is a great country, with much to offer. It embraces a vision that sees religious practice and belief in God as central to the country’s private and public life,” EWTN board chairman and CEO Michael Warsaw wrote in an Oct. 17 publisher’s note in the National Catholic Register.

Central to that campaign’s vision, Warsaw said, is a perception that faith is a critical aspect of America’s foundational principles.

“Under this view of America, Christians and other people of faith are seen as a large part of the solution to the challenges our country faces, just as they have been central to so many positive movements in American history — from the right-to-life movement of the past four decades to many of the great causes for justice and rights of the 19th, 20th and the 21st centuries,” Warsaw added.

“This view does not hold that everything in America is perfect, or that every founder of our country or leader who espoused this view is a saint, but it believes in the greatness of the country and the idea that the tools exist within our Constitution and system of government to fix those problems that arise without having to completely change our system of laws and government. This is the classical view of America.”

Warsaw’s essay did not directly identify political candidates, but it did draw a sharp distinction between political outlooks.

The other philosophical choice open to voters, he wrote, is a “progressive view,” which perceives that “America has much to atone for and little to be proud of.” In such a vision, religion is perceived as discriminatory, abortion is recognized as a right while religious liberty and freedom of conscience are diminished, Warsaw said.

“The redefinition of sexual values and of the family itself are central to this worldview,” he added, and while America is criticized as imperialist, “a blind eye is turned to the real imperialism of communist countries.”

“Religion must submit to politics and the state in this view. Period.”

With fewer than two weeks until Election Day, voters in many states have already begun early voting, and a record turnout of mail-in ballots is expected across the country this year, driven largely by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Both President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden have made a push for Catholic votes ahead of the election, with Trump championing his record on abortion and religious liberty, and Biden citing his own Catholic roots.

A recent EWTN News / Real Clear Polling survey found that Biden enjoys a lead among likely Catholics voters, although that lead narrows considerably in several swing states thought to be critical to the election.

U.S. Catholic bishops have largely emphasized the abortion in voting guidance ahead of the election, and have identified ending legal protection for abortion as the “preeminent priority” of Catholic political activity.

Warsaw’s essay lamented that in a progressive political standpoint, “values — and vocabulary — from yesterday are constantly supplanted by new values and new language. Their goal is not static but evolving, yet undeniably in an anti-Christian direction. Politicians that supported the Defense of Marriage Act, or the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or the Hyde Amendment a few decades ago now find these all to be repugnant. For advocates of this understanding of America, values are not unchanging, but utterly changeable depending on political expediency and cultural trends.“

“This — more than the candidates themselves — is what is on the ballot. You are casting your vote this year for a long-term vision of America, not for a person. Keep that in mind: Pray, and vote — for the future of your country.”

EWTN Global Catholic Network is the largest religious media network in the world. EWTN’s 11 global TV channels are broadcast in multiple languages 24 hours a day, seven days a week to over 300 million television households in more than 145 countries and territories.

EWTN platforms also include radio services transmitted through SIRIUS/XM, iHeart Radio, and over 500 domestic and international AM & FM radio affiliates; a worldwide shortwave radio service; one of the largest Catholic websites in the U.S.; electronic and print news services, including Catholic News Agency, The National Catholic Register newspaper, and several global news wire services; as well as EWTN Publishing, its book publishing division.

 

 

Knights of Columbus announce novena ahead of founder’s beatification

Thu, 10/22/2020 - 21:00

CNA Staff, Oct 22, 2020 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- The Knights of Columbus has launched a nine-day novena to prepare for the beatification of the organization's founder, Fr. Michael McGivney, at the end of the month.

The novena starts October 22 and continues through October 30, the eve of Fr. McGivney’s beatification.

During the novena, participants will reflect on different aspects of McGivney’s life, including his pastoral leadership, charity toward the poor, and support for family life and the domestic church.

Each day of the novena will include prayers for McGivney’s intercession and reflections on virtues to imitate. It will also include a prayer for McGivney’s canonization, which will require one more approved miracle.

“We are praying that many graces will come through the beatification of Father McGivney, that by his example of virtue we may be inspired to put our faith into action for the good of our families, parishes and communities,” said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson in a press release.

“We will also pray for a miracle that will lead to the canonization of Father McGivney.”

McGivney will be beatified October 31 at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford, Connecticut.

The priest founded the Knights of Columbus in 1882. Today it is the world’s largest Catholic fraternal service organization, with nearly two million members in more than a dozen countries. Over the past year, the Knights of Columbus have volunteered over 77 million service hours and donated $187 million in charitable funds.

Born in Waterbury, Connecticut, in 1852, McGivney played a critical role in the growth of the Church in the United States in the latter part of the 19th century. After his ordination in Baltimore in 1877, he served a largely Irish-American and immigrant community in New Haven.

Amid an anti-Catholic climate, he established the Knights to provide spiritual aid to Catholic men and financial help for families that had lost their breadwinner.

McGivney’s sainthood cause officially opened in 1997 in the Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticut. In 2008, Pope Benedict XVI declared the American-born priest a Venerable Servant of God in recognition of his life of heroic virtue.

Pope Francis approved McGivney’s first miracle in May. The miracle involved an unborn child in the United States who was healed in utero of a life-threatening condition in 2015 after his family prayed to McGivney.

Following his beatification, McGivney’s cause will require one more authenticated miracle before he can be considered for canonization.

He would not be the first member of the Knights of Columbus to be canonized. A group of six Mexican members of the organization were martyred during the Cristero War of 1926-29 and its aftermath.

The six are St. Luis Batis, St. Rodrigo Aguilar, St. Miguel de la Mora, St. Pedro de Jesús Maldonado, St. José María Robles, and St. Mateo Correa.

 

 

Planned Parenthood getting more government funding, despite defunding efforts

Thu, 10/22/2020 - 19:00

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 22, 2020 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- Recent annual reports show that federal funding to Planned Parenthood has increased, despite efforts by the Trump administration to eliminate federal funding for the abortion provider over the last four years. One healthcare funding expert told CNA that without congressional action, new avenues of federal funding for abortion providers could soon be made available by pro-choice policy makers. 

While campaigning for president, Donald Trump made a series of commitments to pro-lifers in September 2016 that included “defunding Planned Parenthood as long as they continue to perform abortions.”

Planned Parenthood is barred by law from using federal funds—largely in the form of Medicaid reimbursements for services—to cover elective abortions. However, pro-life critics of the organization claim that federal dollars still allow the abortion provider to free up other resources for abortions.

Planned Parenthood’s overall revenue has gone up in recent years, from nearly $1.3 billion in 2014-15 to more than $1.6 billion in 2017-18 and again in 2018-19, largely through increased government funding and donations from the private sector.

“Private contributions and bequests” have increased from $353.5 million in FY 2015 to its peak of $630.8 million in FY 2018, before dipping slightly to $591.3 million for FY 2019.

Federal funding of Planned Parenthood affiliates increased from the 2018 fiscal year to the 2019 fiscal year, and has gone up overall since FY 2015.

In its annual report for the 2018-19 fiscal year, Planned Parenthood said its affiliates received more than $616 million in taxpayer dollars—a 9% increase from the $563.8 million total the year before, and a 13% increase from two years before.

Planned Parenthood affiliates mainly receive taxpayer dollars from “health services reimbursements” through Medicaid and Title X programs, Melanie Israel, a research associate in the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation, told CNA, although since 2019 abortion providers have been ineligible for Title X funding. 

The Trump administration has the authority to strip some federal funding from abortion providers, Israel told CNA, and has already done so through changes to the Title X family planning program.

In 2019, the Trump administration effectively boxed out Planned Parenthood from Title X funding by updating the requirements for recipients. Under the new rule, recipients of Title X grants must not be co-located with abortion clinics and cannot refer for abortions—requirements that Planned Parenthood clinics refused to abide by.

Rather than comply with the regulations, Planned Parenthood withdrew from the program in August of 2019. Since that act occurred after the end of the fiscal year, the forfeited revenue would not necessarily be reflected in the numbers in its latest annual report.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, for his part, has said he would reinstate the Obama administration’s Title X policy, allowing clinics who refer for abortions to once again receive Title X grants.

Planned Parenthood affiliates in some states are also the beneficiaries of state funding.

For example, Planned Parenthood of Northern California reported receiving more than $26.5 million from the state’s family planning office alone, in the 2020 fiscal year. It also reported more than $14.3 million in revenues from Medicare and the state’s Medi-Cal program, and more than $1.3 million in government grants.

Planned Parenthood affiliates also received as much as $150 million in emergency PPP loans earlier this year during the onset of the coronavirus pandemic—despite congressional stipulations that were intended to bar Planned Parenthood from the loans.

To limit federal funding of Planned Parenthood, the government can approve waivers for states to effectively block abortion providers from Medicaid funding, Israel said. 

The Trump administration has allowed states to refuse Medicaid funding of Planned Parenthood, reversing a 2016 Obama administration rule that said states could not do so simply on the basis of a recipient being an abortion provider.

But Israel said that in her view, Congress also needs to use its authority to strip federal funding from abortions in other areas through a broad ban on abortion funding—something it has not done yet.

Federal funding of elective abortions through Medicaid reimbursements is prohibited by the Hyde Amendment, a policy enacted into law regularly since 1976 as an attachment to annual appropriations bills for the Department of Health and Human Services.

The amendment is not permanent law, and Democrats have signaled their intent to reverse the policy— House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently promised to not include Hyde protections in spending bills next year.

Some Congressmen have attempted to make Hyde protections more durable. Legislation authored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) in 2017 and again in 2019 would make the Hyde Amendment permanent, and extend its protections to appropriations bills for all federal agencies. It would also forbid abortions at federal facilities, and block federally-subsidized health plans under the Affordable Care Act from covering abortions.

Members of Congress have also tried passing laws to fully defund Planned Parenthood. The House in 2017 barred Medicaid reimbursements at Planned Parenthood clinics in its major health care bill, but the legislation died in the Senate. The Senate in 2018 failed to pass an amendment by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) to defund the organization.

Amid the debate of how to defund Planned Parenthood, the number of abortions performed by the organization has gone up, even as the national abortion rate has declined, Israel said.

In the 2018 fiscal year, Planned Parenthood affiliates collectively reported performing 345,672 abortions—the organization’s highest number of abortions on record, she said. 

Meanwhile, the organization’s clients for contraception, prenatal services, and cancer screenings have all declined between 2006 and 2018, as documented in a recent Heritage report.

Statues of Christ, Mary toppled outside parishes in New York, Arizona

Thu, 10/22/2020 - 18:15

CNA Staff, Oct 22, 2020 / 04:15 pm (CNA).- Several religious statues— including two of Mary and one of Christ— outside Catholic churches were damaged in overnight attacks earlier this week, the latest of numerous acts of vandalism on Catholic churches and art this year in the US.

Police in New York City are investigating a vandalism attack against a statue of Mary outside Resurrection Catholic Church in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Marine Park, which is believed to have occurred overnight Sunday.

A parishioner who approached the statue to pray Monday morning noticed the statue’s left hand was cut off, and discovered a large crack in the statue’s head, ABC7 reported.

The church does not currently have a security camera system, but told ABC7 that they plan to install one. The suspect or suspects are still at large.

The damage in New York is at least the third documented act of vandalism against a statue of Mary in the city this year.

In July, at Cathedral Prep School and Seminary in Queens, an individual approached a 100-year-old statue of Mary shortly after 3 a.m. painted the word “IDOL” down its length.

On Sept. 11 at the Shrine of Our Lady of Solace, located in Coney Island, a man climbed over a fence, pulled a statue of Mary out of the ground, and threw the statue onto the sidewalk. The base of the statue was damaged by the vandalism.

According to the NYPD, the man is facing charges of criminal mischief. The NYPD is offering a reward of $2,500 for any information about his identity.

Likely the same evening as the vandalism against the Brooklyn statue, vandals knocked down a statue of Mary and a statue of Christ outside St. Germaine Catholic Church in Prescott Valley, Arizona, about 90 miles north of Phoenix.

The assailants also destroyed a bed of flowers and support poles for recently planted trees surrounding the Christ statue.

According to the Prescott Valley PD, the estimated cost to repair or replace the statue of Mary is $1,500. The statue of Christ did not sustain any damage, the police said Oct. 20.

Prescott Valley PD is offering $300 to anyone who has information that leads to an arrest in the case, local media reported.

Numerous attacks on Catholic art and churches in the US have been documented throughout 2020— including three separate desecrations of Marian statues in the same weekend in July.

A statue of the Virgin Mary was beheaded in Gary, Indiana on the evening of July 2 or morning of July 3.

On July 11, a Florida man was arrested after he reportedly admitted to crashing a minivan into Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Ocala, Florida, and then setting it on fire while parishioners were inside.

Also on July 11, a 249-year-old California mission founded by St. Junipero Serra burned in a fire being investigated as arson.

The same day, a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary was attacked and beheaded at a parish in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Three days later, vandals beheaded a statue of Christ outside Good Shepherd Catholic Church, in Southwest Miami-Dade County, the same day that a statue of the Blessed Virgin at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Colorado Springs was tagged with red paint in an act of vandalism.

At Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Bloomingburg, New York, a monument to unborn children killed by abortion was knocked over the weekend of July 18.

In late August, vandals beheaded a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Holy Family Parish in Citrus Heights, California. A statue of the Ten Commandments, placed at the parish “in dedication to all those who have lost their life through abortion,” was grafittied with a swastika.

In September, a man went on an hours-long vandalism spree at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Tioga, Louisiana, breaking at least six windows, beating several metal doors, and breaking numerous statues around the parish grounds.

The same month, vandals toppled a statue of St. Therese outside St. Therese of the Child Jesus Catholic Parish in Midvale, Utah.

Later in September, a man was charged for smashing a 90-year-old statue of Christ inside St. Patrick Cathedral in El Paso, Texas.

Also in September, a man wielded a baseball bat on the grounds of a Catholic seminary in Texas and damaged a crucifix and several doors, but caused no harm to seminary students.

Throughout the summer, numerous depictions of St. Junipero Serra, mostly in California, have been forcibly pulled down by mobs of protestors.

A crowd of about 100 people tore down another St. Junípero Serra statue in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park the evening of June 19. Rioters pulled down a statue of St. Junipero Serra in Sacramento on July 4.

A Oct. 12 protest at Mission San Rafael Arcangel began peacefully but then turned violent, as participants defaced the Junipero Serra statue of the saint with red paint before dragging it to the ground with nylon straps and ropes.

Junipero Serra among 'inappropriate' San Francisco school names, district committee says

Thu, 10/22/2020 - 17:01

Denver Newsroom, Oct 22, 2020 / 03:01 pm (CNA).- A San Francisco public school district committee this month recommended that 44 schools with “inappropriate” names be renamed, with Junipero Serra Elementary School near the top of the list.

The district’s superintendent appointed the School Names Advisory Committee in 2018 to assess which schools, if any, ought to be renamed.

Among the committee’s recommendations for schools that ought to change their names were schools named for George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Rooselvelt, Robert Louis Stevenson, John Muir, and Francis Scott Key.

St. Junipero Serra, an 18th-century Franciscan priest and missionary, has been criticized by some activists as a symbol of colonialism and of the abuses that many Native Americans suffered after contact with Europeans. However, historians say Serra protested abuses and sought to fight colonial oppression.

Among the criteria that the committee reportedly used to asses school names were those of "anyone directly involved in the colonization of people, slave owners or participants in enslavement, perpetrators of genocide or slavery, those who exploit workers/people, those who directly oppressed or abused women, children, queer or transgender people, those connected to any human rights or environmental abuse [and] those who are known racists and/or white supremacists and/or espoused racist beliefs."

The panel has requested schools share alternate names by Dec. 18, with the school board voting on proposed new names in January or February of 2021, the Chronicle reported.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed last week criticized the advisory committee’s decision to recommend dozens of school name changes in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement to local media, the school district said the schools are “not required or mandated to participate” in the renaming process.

CNA attempted to contact the principal of Junipero Serra Elementary to ask if the school plans to submit new name recommendations to the district, but did not receive a response.

Serra’s defenders say that he was actually an advocate for native people, noting an episode of his life when he drafted a 33-point “bill of rights” for the Native Americans living in the mission settlements and walking all the way from California to Mexico City to present it to the viceroy.

While many Native peoples did suffer horrific abuse, an archaeologist told CNA earlier this year that activists tend to conflate the abuses the Natives suffered long after Serra’s death with the period when Serra was alive and building the missions.

The saint lends his name to numerous buildings, schools, streets, and parks in California. Activists have led several successful efforts in recent years to expunge Serra’s name from some of them, including at Stanford University.

In 2018, Stanford renamed Serra Mall, a major thoroughfare through campus, “Jane Stanford Way.” The Serra House building and Serra House dorm in 2019 were renamed after Carolyn Lewis Attneave and Sally Ride respectively.

There is another Junipero Serra Elementary school near San Francisco in a different school district, whose name also has come under recent scrutiny. Members of the South San Francisco Unified School District Board of Trustees proposed a change to that elementary school’s name in June. The name has so far remained as it is.

Among the schools recommended for a name change in San Francisco is Diane Feinstein Elementary, named after a longtime and current Democratic Senator.

Abortion-advocacy groups called for Feinstein to step down as ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee after the confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett, claiming that Feinstein, who is pro-choice and has publicly criticized Barrett’s Catholic faith, lent an “appearance of credibility” to proceedings that were “widely out of step with the American people.”

US hosts signing of declaration rejecting 'human right' to abortion

Thu, 10/22/2020 - 15:00

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 22, 2020 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- The United States hosted the signing ceremony of the Geneva Consensus Declaration on Thursday. The document rejects the claim that abortion is an international human right. 

“Today we put down a clear marker; no longer can UN agencies reinterpret and misinterpret agreed-upon language without accountability,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar during the ceremony Oct. 22.. 

“Without apology we affirm that governments have the soverign right to make their own laws to protect innocent life and write their regulations on abortion” Azar said. 

“In signing the declaration today, the United States is honored to stand alongside Brazil, Egypt, Hungary, Indonesia, and Uganda, the cross-regional cosponsors for the declaration,” he said. A total of 32 countries have signed onto the declaration. 

Azar called the signing the “high point” of his time leading the department, and noted that countries who have not yet signed the document can still do so. 

“The Geneva Consensus Declaration is a historic document, stating clearly where we as nations stand on women’s health, the family, honoring life, and defending national sovereignty,” said Azar, calling it “much more than a statement of beliefs.” 

“It is a critical and useful tool to defend these principles across all United Nations bodies and in every multilateral setting, using language previously agreed to by member states of those bodies,” he explained.  

The declaration was written partially in response to a “disturbing trend” in the United Nations, he said. 

“With increasing frequency, some rich nations and UN agencies beholden to them are wrongly asserting [that] abortion is a universal human right.” 

Azar said that these policies have the effect of forcing countries to implement “progressive” abortion laws or face the loss of funding or international standing. He accused some nations of having a “myopic focus on a radical agenda that is offensive to many cultures, and derails agreement on women’s health priorities.” 

The coalition of signing countries “will hold multilateral organizations accountable,” he explained, by denouncing these organizations for “promoting positions that can never gain consensus.”  

“We will unequivocally declare that there is no international right to abortion. We will proudly put women’s health first at every stage of life,” he said.  

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also spoke at the signing ceremony, calling the declaration a “deep and personal commitment to protect human dignity” and “the culmination of lots of hard work.” 

Pompeo highlighted the Trump administration’s “unprecedented defense of the unborn abroad,” and said that “the United States has defended the dignity of human life everywhere and always” over the last four years.  

“It’s historic to be here,” he said. “It’s the first time that a multilateral coalition has been built around the issue of defending life.” 

The Geneva Consensus Declaration, said Pompeo, is a “commitment to work together at the UN and in other international settings to achieve tangible results,” something he is “confident” will happen. He added that he was “truly proud” of the work being done. 

Valerie Huber, Special Representative for Global Women's Health at U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), provided background of the declaration. 

The declaration, Huber explained, was intended to be signed at the culmination of the World Health Assembly’s global women’s health summit, which was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We decided to move forward with the declaration now, because accelerating health gains for women cannot wait,” said Huber.

“Supporting the intrinsic value of the family cannot wait. Protecting life born and unborn, and the sovereignty of nations to make their own laws on this issue cannot wait.”

Senate Judiciary Committee advances Amy Coney Barrett to full Senate vote

Thu, 10/22/2020 - 10:35

Washington D.C., Oct 22, 2020 / 08:35 am (CNA).-  

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted on Thursday to advance the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, setting up a final confirmation vote by the whole Senate. Democratic members of the committee boycotted the vote and did not attend.

Barrett is a Catholic judge on the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. A mother of seven, she was formerly a law professor at the University of Notre Dame. If confirmed to the Supreme Court, she would be the sixth Catholic on the Court’s bench.

Twelve Republicans on the committee voted on Thursday to report Barrett’s nomination favorably to the entire Senate; the ten Democrats on the committee were “not present,” having informed chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) the night before that they would boycott the hearing, according to Graham.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said that a vote to confirm Barrett would take place on Oct. 26.

Committee hearings were held last week to consider Barrett’s nomination.

On Thursday, Graham noted Barrett’s faith and some “disgusting” attacks on her religious beliefs and family. Senate Democrats on the committee, however, “did not go too far” in their questions of her at last week’s hearings, Graham said.

“She embraces her faith like millions of other Americans, and there’s some things being said about her and her family that are disgusting, and I just want to complement her family for giving her the backing she needed to take on this job,” Graham said.

“And I want to thank the members on this committee for standing up against some pretty vile things,” he said.

When Barrett was considered for the Seventh Circuit court in 2017, some Democrats asked pointed questions to her about her Catholic faith and its influence on how she might rule on abortion cases. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) even told Barrett that “when you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you. And that’s of concern.”

Last week, Democrats stayed away from direct questions about Barrett’s faith, instead asking her opinions on previous Supreme Court cases including those which legalized abortion and contraception.

Barrett largely declined to give her opinions of Court rulings, offering “no hints, no previews, no forecasts” of her future decisions.

When Graham asked her if she could “set aside” Church teaching when ruling on the bench, in order to make judgments based upon her reading of the law, Barrett answered “I can.”

Jeannie Mancini, president of March for Life, praised the markup vote of Barrett’s nomination.

“Her immense respect for the law and Constitution will allow her to fairly apply the law and consider the rights of everyone who comes before her, including the unborn,” Mancini said of Barrett.

 

Los Angeles' Archbishop Gomez denies claim that he plans to vote for Biden

Wed, 10/21/2020 - 20:01

Denver Newsroom, Oct 21, 2020 / 06:01 pm (CNA).-  

Archbishop Jose Gomez has rebuked an online claim that he plans to vote for Joe Biden in the November presidential election, stating that an alleged conversation in which he disclosed his voting plans never actually took place.

“In all my years as a priest and a bishop, I have never publicly or privately endorsed a political candidate or told anyone who I might be voting for. It is disgraceful that some would use the media to spread misinformation and try to confuse and divide people,” Gomez, the president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, said in an Oct. 20 statement.

Cleanthechurch.com, a website based in California, published a blog post Tuesday evening which alleged that in February 2020, Gomez and a “wealthy ex-donor to the church” met over breakfast at the Jonathan Club in downtown Los Angeles.

The blog post claimed that Gomez told the individual that he is “voting [for] and supporting Jose [sic] Biden because he did not ‘like the way Trump talks.’”

“[T]he president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is voting for a pro-abortion, pro-gay-marriage, socialist because he “does not like the way Trump talks”…. I am sure that he is also forcing priests in the archdiocese to support Biden… So infuriating!” the blog reads.

Gomez denied the alleged conversation, and even the breakfast, ever took place.

A spokeswoman for the archdiocese told CNA on Wednesday that the archbishop had no breakfast meetings on his calendar during the month of February.

In his statement, Gomez urged Catholics to pray and reflect on the U.S. bishops’ voting guide, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility.”

Since 2007, the bishops of the United States have issued the “Faithful Citizenship” document to help Catholics decide how to cast their vote; it was most recently updated in 2019.

“And let us pray for the grace to treat one another as brothers and sisters, with dignity and respect,” Gomez concluded.

The “ex-donor” who made the claim against Gomez plans to release an affidavit doubling down on his claims, based on an alleged audio recording of the conversation, according to John Paul Norris, one of the founders of Cleanthechurch.com.

According to Norris, the accuser, who has declined to be named publicly, had— before the alleged February conversation— been meeting with Gomez at least once a year, and was a significant donor to the archdiocese.

"Everyone in the diocese knows him very well," Norris told CNA.

Norris told CNA the accuser has an audio recording of the alleged conversation with Gomez stored on his cell phone, but has no plans to release it to the public. He said the recording includes Gomez stating that if Biden earns the Democratic nomination for president, Gomez would vote for him “because he’s Catholic.” 

In 2019, Norris was removed from the Los Angeles cathedral after confronting Gomez about Cardinal Roger Mahony and the McCarrick scandal.

Norris’ blog post this week was appended to a petition on Change.org, which Clean the Church created in 2018, calling for criminal prosecution of Mahony, who led the Los Angeles archdiocese from 1985 to 2011. Mahony has faced scrutiny for his handling of the sexual abuse crisis during his tenure as archbishop of Los Angeles, and been accused of covering up serial acts of abuse.

The petition calls on all of Los Angeles’ bishops to “act now or resign from their posts.”

Norris also told CNA his group suspects the archdiocese has cut a “deal” with vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris.

Despite a history of public anti-Catholic bias on Harris' part, Norris said he believes Gomez favors the Biden/Harris ticket because Harris appeared unwilling to prosecute Cardinal Mahony when she was district attorney in LA.

“She may be anti-Catholic faith, but she's certainly a defender of the prelates, of the clergy,” he contended.

Norris offered no evidence of a “deal” regarding Mahony, and admitted that allegations of one are likely to remain unproven.

Joe Biden, a Catholic, has in recent months doubled down on his support for legal abortion.

In July, the pro-abortion group NARAL endorsed Biden for president, just over a year after the group issued a scathing statement demanding he reverse his support for the Hyde Amendment, which bars taxpayer funding for abortions. Biden withdrew his decades-long support for the Hyde Amendment and announced in 2019 he was opposed to the policy.

This month, Biden repeated his pledge to codify a right to abortion into federal law should the Supreme Court overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

Norris said his group believes that Gomez is not strong enough in his public pro-life statements.

The archbishop has, however, written frequently in recent years about the “preeminent” importance of ending legal protection for abortion.

“Among the evils and injustices in American life in 2016, abortion and euthanasia are different and stand apart. Each is a direct, personal attack on innocent and vulnerable human life,” Gomez wrote in the foreword for a book on Catholics’ responsibilities in the public square.

“Abortion and euthanasia are ‘fundamental’ social issues because if the child in the womb has no right to be born, if the sick and the old have no right to be taken care of, then there is no solid foundation to defend anyone’s human rights, and no foundation for peace and justice in society.”

Earlier in 2020, the USCCB issued a letter, approved by the bishops, re-presenting the “Faithful Citizenship” document along with a series of short videos. In that letter, the bishops, led by Gomez, identified abortion as the “preeminent priority” for Catholic voters “because it directly attacks life itself.”

 

 

US bishops launch novena for Election Day

Wed, 10/21/2020 - 17:00

CNA Staff, Oct 21, 2020 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- The bishops of the United States are encouraging Catholics to pray a novena to help form their consciences ahead of Election Day on Nov. 3. 

“For nine consecutive days, Monday, October 26 through Tuesday, Nov. 3, participants will be encouraged to pray one Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be for the day’s intention,” says the USCCB’s webpage for the 2020 Election Novena. 

A closing prayer for elected leaders will be offered on day 10, Wednesday, November 4. 

The closing prayer asks that “the leaders elected this week be guided by the Holy Spirit as they fulfill their positions.” 

Due to the prevalence of mail-in voting this election, it is possible that the results of some elections may not be known for several days. 

The USCCB will write a new intention each day of the novena, and a signup link for email reminders is provided on the noevena’s webpage, along with graphics for social media. 

None of the daily intentions are partisan in nature, and most are reminders of various facets of Catholic teaching, including a plea for dialogue, a reminder of the importance of the dignity of human life, and a stress on the importance of religious freedom. 

The intention for Election Day reads “Today, as we approach the polls, may we understand & embrace the principles of our Faith that should guide our political engagement.” 

The USCCB, as well as individual bishops, do not endorse specific candidates for election. 

Earlier this year, the U.S. bishops’ conference re-issued its document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” which aims to assist Catholics in deciding for whom to vote. 

In a new introductory letter to the document, approved by the bishops in November 2019, reminds Catholics that they are called to “bring the richness of our faith to the public square.” 

“We draw from both faith and reason as we seek to affirm the dignity of the human person and the common good of all,” the bishops wrote, saying that “everyone living in this country is called to participate in public life and contribute to the common good.”

“Our approach to contemporary issues is first and foremost rooted in our identity as followers of Christ and as brothers and sisters to all who are made in God’s image,” said the letter. 

“For all Catholics, including those seeking public office, our participation in political parties or other groups to which we may belong should be influenced by our faith, not the other way around.”

“Pope Francis has continued to draw attention to important issues such as migration, xenophobia, racism, abortion, global conflict, and care for creation,” wrote the bishops. 

“In the United States and around the world, many challenges demand our attention. The threat of abortion remains our preeminent priority because it directly attacks life itself, because it takes place within the sanctuary of the family, and because of the number of lives destroyed,” they said.

“At the same time, we cannot dismiss or ignore other serious threats to human life and dignity such as racism, the environmental crisis, poverty and the death penalty.”

Serving life: How pro-life pregnancy centers are making a difference

Wed, 10/21/2020 - 12:00

CNA Staff, Oct 21, 2020 / 10:00 am (CNA).- A new report aims to measure the impact of pro-life pregnancy centers on women’s health care in the U.S., offering detail on the nearly 2 million women served last year.

The Charlotte Lozier Institute, the research arm of pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List, reported on Wednesday that more than 2,700 pro-life pregnancy centers around the U.S. served nearly two million people in 2019, providing nearly $270 million in services.

These centers included both brick-and-mortar establishments, but also mobile medical centers, serving both expectant mothers and post-abortive women, with the vast majority of facilities offering parental education, material assistance for mothers, and ultrasound tests.  

“Pregnancy centers exist to serve and support mothers in the courageous decision to give their children life, even under the most difficult circumstances,” Chuck Donovan, president of the Charlotte Lozier Institute, stated on Wednesday. “This report calculates the impact of their mission of love in concrete terms.”

The report calculated that pregnancy centers offered around 732,000 pregnancy tests in 2019, and more than 486,000 free ultrasounds. They also provided women nearly 1.3 million packs of diapers and more than two million baby outfits.

In addition, they offered more than 291,000 clients parenting and prenatal education, and more than 21,000 clients post-abortive support.

Pro-life pregnancy centers have come under fire from pro-abortion groups in recent years, with groups like Planned Parenthood claiming that they use deceitful tactics to get women in the door who are considering abortion and then do not offer them information on abortion as an option.

In California, the state passed a law in 2015 that required pro-life pregnancy centers to offer women information about abortion and where they could obtain one. The centers, represented by the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA), brought a lawsuit against the state and its then-attorney general Kamala Harris, who is now the Democratic vice-presidential nominee.

The Supreme Court in 2017 ruled that the state’s requirement likely violated the free speech rights of pregnancy centers, and blocked the law from going into effect while lower courts reconsidered the case.

Pro-life groups warn that women would experience a steep decline in available health care centers if they had to close clinics; they also say that federally-funded health clinics around the U.S. would not be able to replace them amid a surge in women clients.

“They provide invaluable education as well as physical, medical, emotional and financial support,” said Anne O’Connor, NIFLA’s vice president for legal affairs. “Pregnancy centers provide these services at no cost, saving communities across the nation millions in tax dollars annually.”

Alison, a woman from Portland, Maine, whose testimony is in the report, said she was a post-abortive mother who was pregnant with her second child. She reached out to a pregnancy center ABBA, and said that she “started to grow a strength inside of me that wasn’t there before. I decided I didn’t need anyone else’s approval,” and that she was “truly amazed and overwhelmed by the amount of support I was given.”

“These women worked so hard and spent so much time researching options for me that I didn’t even know existed. They were there to support and guide me when no one else was, and I’m not sure I could ever express how much that means to me,” she said.

CLI says it compiled the report by surveying pregnancy centers from around the country, but included only those affiliated with a major network—Care Net, Heartbeat International, or the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA)—or those abiding by national standards of care and competence.

To quantify the services offered, the report used cost estimates for services and wages calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for social workers, sonographers, and registered nurses.

Pro-life leaders have hailed the increase of ultrasound machines in recent years as a concrete way for mothers to see their child. Groups such as the Knights of Columbus have worked to supply pregnancy centers around the U.S. with more than 1,000 ultrasound machines—and nearly eight-in-centers surveyed by CLI offer ultrasounds.

“Thirty-five years have now passed since the introduction of life-revealing and life-changing ultrasounds into pregnancy centers, and their medicalization continues to grow and thrive,” Donovan said.

According to the report, 15% of the centers received government funding. For Planned Parenthood in its 2018-19 annual report, it reported that the nearly $617 million its affiliates received in government funding made up 37% of the overall revenue of both its national organization and affiliates.

Some centers also provide testing for sexually-transmitted diseases and infections (STD/STI).

“National health surveillance data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that the American STD epidemic continues to be a significant public health challenge,” the report stated, adding that “undiagnosed STDs cause infertility in more than 20,000 women each year.”

“Medical pregnancy centers or clinics provide STI/STD testing and treatment to women, and at some locations to men, in direct response to this public health crisis,” it stated. “At pregnancy centers where STI/STD testing and treatment are not available, referrals for screening/testing and treatment are routinely made.”

Vatican to UN: It is immoral to threaten use of nuclear weapons as deterrence

Wed, 10/21/2020 - 08:10

Rome Newsroom, Oct 21, 2020 / 06:10 am (CNA).- A Vatican official challenged the security theory of nuclear deterrence as immoral at the United Nations this week and called for “genuine progress” toward complete nuclear disarmament.

“Seeking security through arms … only makes us progressively more insecure,” Archbishop Gabriele Caccia said at the UN’s first committee general debate in New York on Oct. 19.

“The strategic doctrines of the Nuclear-Weapons-Possessing States have contributed to fomenting this climate of fear, mistrust and hostility afflicting the world today,” he said.

Caccia, the permanent observer of the Holy See to the UN, underlined that complete disarmament needed to begin “with a renunciation of defense strategies that blur the distinction between nuclear and conventional weapons.”

“If it is immoral to threaten to use nuclear weapons for purposes of deterrence, it is even worse to intend to use them as just another instrument of war, as some nuclear doctrines propose,” the archbishop said, citing Pope Francis’ 2017 speech to an international disarmament symposium.

There are currently nine countries in possession of nuclear warheads: the United States, Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom, India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea. 

Among these, the U.S., Russia, and the U.K. have been reducing their nuclear inventories, while China, Pakistan, India, and North Korea are expanding their nuclear arsenals, according to the Federation of American Scientists (FAS).

While the number of nuclear weapons in the world has decreased significantly from its peak of an estimated 70,300 in 1986, the FAS reports that there were approximately 13,410 warheads in the world as of early 2020.

The Vatican official called on all states possessing nuclear weapons to make “a No-First-Use pledge.”

He lauded the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) for providing “full recognition to the enormous humanitarian consequences that would follow from a conflict in which nuclear weapons were used.”

“As we await the day for the TPNW to enter into force, it is imperative to continue encouraging, through concerted diplomatic activity, the participation of all Nuclear-Weapon-Possessing States in negotiations to establish ceilings, if not reductions, regarding their nuclear weapons,” Caccia said.

“Genuine progress toward general and complete disarmament should free up much-needed resources ‘that could be better used to benefit the integral development of peoples and protect the natural environment,’” he said, quoting Pope Francis’ recent address to the UN General Assembly.

He continued: “As we embark on the Decade of Action for sustainable development, the Holy See urges renewed consideration the establishment of ‘a Global Fund,’ as first urged by Pope Paul VI, to assist those most impoverished peoples, drawn partially from military expenditures: a contemporary and much-need expression of ‘turning swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks,’ to which the words of Isaiah, inscribed across the street from the entrance to the United Nations, never cease to summon us.”

Her abuse story was posted to her parish Facebook - and then taken down. Why it’s back, and why that matters

Wed, 10/21/2020 - 06:00

Denver Newsroom, Oct 21, 2020 / 04:00 am (CNA).- Gina Barthel, a survivor of clergy sexual abuse, has found that telling her story is an important part of her healing journey.

When she first shared her story with CNA last year, Barthel said it made her feel “light and free and so full of hope.” 

“When the original story...went live, I was filled with joy. I mean, such joy that morning. I woke up, I high-fived Jesus in my bedroom, and I was like, ‘Jesus, we did it. We did it. We took this brave, courageous step.’”

In that story, Barthel shared that her home archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis had supported her after she was abused, and that the auxiliary, Bishop Andrew Cozzens, had been meeting with her personally on a monthly basis to make sure she was receiving the help she needed.

What Barthel did not anticipate was “the very unsettling response” of some fellow parishioners, and even relatives, who did not respond positively when she shared her story. She said some responses have been “distressing.”

In January, Barthel shared her story of abuse survival again, that time with her diocesan newspaper, The Catholic Spirit. Her pastor at the time, Fr. Peter Richards, posted the newspaper’s story to the parish Facebook page, St. Michael’s Catholic Church in St. Michael, Minnesota, in February.

But to Barthel’s dismay, the parish took the story down just hours after it had been posted, reportedly after the parish received a complaint about it.

When Barthel saw the story go up on her parish Facebook page, and then come down again, she was hurt.

“What I find very heartbreaking is the original story...and the story that appeared in The Catholic Spirit, the entire goal and focus was my overwhelming, overarching theme that I wanted people to know was that of hope. That you can be wounded in the heart of the Church and find healing in the heart of the Church,” she said.

“And here I come forward, that message somehow got totally messed up into, ‘We don't want this known in our community. We don't want this known.’”

Barthel said she was not concerned so much with whether her story was shared specifically to her parish’s website or Facebook page. But once it had been shared and quickly removed, she was hurt, and she worried about the message that decision sent to abuse survivors.

“When that Facebook post was taken down, and then all the controversy that erupted about putting it back up, it made me very sad because that's not the Church that I know and love,” Barthel said.

“The Church that I know and love teaches that one, we don't shame the victims, and two, we don't keep their stories secret and we certainly don't try to silence victims, and that's what was happening, which was very distressing for me.”

Furthermore, she added, “there are people who are watching in the shadows who haven't come forward,” whether they’re clergy abuse victims or abuse victims in general.

“They're watching. How does our faith community treat somebody who was a survivor of a heinous crime? How does our faith community treat that person? How does our faith community reverence that person? How does our faith community treat that person who was wounded and may not always act perfectly? How do we treat that person and hold that person and love that person and walk with them in the midst of pain as they're continuing their healing journey?” she said. “People are watching that from the sidelines.”

Barthel said she heard from Fr. Richards that he regretted taking the post down, and that he had plans to repost her story. But he did not get the chance to do that before he was transferred to a new parish and moved in June.

In July, Fr. Brian Park took over as pastor of the parish, and still Barthel waited months before her story was reposted.

Eventually, on October 13, her story was reposted to the parish Facebook and website, accompanied by a statement dated October 9 from Archbishop Bernard Hebda.

“Your new pastor, Father Brian Park, inherited this situation. I have asked Father Park to help fulfill Father Richard’s promise to this survivor by reposting The Catholic Spirit article on the Saint Michael Catholic Church Facebook page and website. I would like to explain to you why I believe this is important,” Hebda said.

“When a priest makes a promise to a survivor of clergy abuse, I am of the opinion that we—as clergy—should do all in our power to make sure that the promise is kept, absent a particularly compelling reason to the contrary,” he said.

“The issues presented in this situation go well beyond the immediate question of reposting and well beyond your community. The real issues are about justice, accountability, compassion and healing. This is especially true for survivors of clergy sexual abuse, but can also affect those who have experienced abuse in other contexts,” he added.

 



 

Hebda added that in recent years the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has made “significant, meaningful and potentially long-lasting progress” in its response of compassion and support to survivors of clerical abuse.

“We must not regress. It is important for all of us in any survivor’s life, especially within the Church, to hold steadfast to the principled approaches now in place,” he said.

In his statement, Hebda noted that he had spoken to Fr. Richards, who had communicated that he had been planning on reposting the article and hosting some subsequent educational events about abuse before he was transferred from the parish.

“He has indicated to me that he regrets that he did not complete the educational plan and repost the article prior to his assignment to another parish this past summer,” Hebda said.

The archbishop added that the Church has an “affirmative duty….(to) support victim/survivors on their journeys to justice and healing. The opportunity for abuse survivors to tell their stories is universally acknowledged as an essential moment in the healing process. Going public often means for them that they are no longer subject to the manipulation of the abuser. This can also be an important moment of justice.”

Stories of abuse are shared “not out of vengeance, but truthfulness,” the archbishop noted, which can be a positive healing step for a whole community and can hold past abusers accountable for their actions.

Addressing the resistance met by some within the parish to posting Barthel’s story, Hebda asked parishioners to join him in “praying for a healing of any such division. Join me also in praying for all survivors of abuse, as well as for their family members and for those who support them in their healing and pursuit of justice. May Mary, Undoer of Knots, bring her Son’s love into the difficulties of our lives.”

Jim Thorp, communications manager for St. Michael’s Catholic Church, told CNA in an email that “we pray that Gina’s story brings hope and healing to many. We continue to pray for healing for Gina and all victims and survivors of abuse, as well as their families, communities and the Church as a whole.”

Fr. Park, through Thorp, declined to comment on why he waited for Archbishop Hebda’s letter before reposting Barthel’s story.

Of the nine comments on the parish Facebook post sharing Hebda’s letter and Barthel’s story, all were positive or supportive, as of October 20.

“Bishop Hebda and the pastor have done a right and courageous act. God bless them, Gina Barthel and all the victims of clergy abuse. They must be very beloved to Jesus,” Patricia Tinajero commented.

“So grateful for the Archbishop's words and for Gina's brave witness, both bringing light to this darkness. I am hopeful that our beautiful church family and leaders continue to recognize the importance of supporting and praying for all victims of abuse,” commented Katrina A. Witschen.

Bishop Andrew Cozzens told CNA that he was glad Barthel’s story was shared with her parish community, because in every parish community are survivors of abuse, whether that is abuse from clergy or other people.

“There are victims of abuse in every parish and so we always need to be attentive to that. And it's difficult at times to raise up that reality because nobody likes to talk about it,” Cozzens said.

“But it can be really helpful to the victims of abuse if we're willing to, when it's appropriate, raise up the reality of abuse so that people who have experienced it can come to healing. So when you have a story like Gina's, where there has been some healing, that can be helpful.”

Cozzens added that he hoped any abuse victims who have been following Barthel’s story see that “the Church is committed to standing by them, even if it takes a long time to do so, even if we still have a culture change that we have to go through. We are committed to standing by survivors and we hope they understand that.”

Dr. Jim Richter is an abuse survivor and survivor advocate who became friends with Barthel last year, after reading her story.

Richter told CNA that for abuse survivors, it is often, though not always, important for them to share their stories, and their local communities often seem like the safest and most comfortable place to do that.

“If you have a community, a family community, a civic community, or a parish community, I think that's a great place to explore doing that sharing because it's oftentimes been identified or it's associated with something that is comfortable, familiar, safe and often supportive.”

He added that while he understands stories of abuse can be difficult to hear, they can also help communities remember that they have survivors in their midst and that they need to remain vigilant against potential future abuse.

“Although this is 2020, and although it is difficult for folks to sometimes recognize that a crisis isn't over as quickly as they would like it to be, the better equipped we are to hear, and in some cases to be unpleasantly reminded of what has happened. That can really inform the work that as an individual and as a parish we're going to do moving forward,” he said.

“So I don't understand...the need to bury or ignore or kind of sidestep somebody's abuse experience.”

Barthel said that while she is grateful for all the support she has received thus far on the archdiocesan level, it was also meaningful to share her story with her local community.

“My everyday life happens in the local church. And I need to have the support of the local church. All victim/survivors need the support of their local community. To feel that I was being stripped of that by some (parish) members….who have not been supportive, made that very painful.”

Ultimately, Barthel said she is grateful for the support of her archdiocese, and now her parish, in sharing her story.

“To have Archbishop Hebda's voice is so important because I think it sends the right message, the healthy and hopeful message to the Church,” she said. She said she hopes other victim/survivors continue to find hope and encouragement in her story.

“I can only speak for my archdiocese, but at least in our archdiocese, if they do come forward, they can find the support that they need in the leadership of the church. And I think that's really important.”

‘Festival of Friendship’ seeks authentic encounter in a digital venue 

Wed, 10/21/2020 - 02:16

Denver Newsroom, Oct 21, 2020 / 12:16 am (CNA).- An annual cultural festival hosted by a Catholic group of artists and intellectuals is being held virtually this month, offering opportunities for encounter and discussion through art and creativity.

The Revolution of Tenderness - which draws its name from an exhortation of Pope Francis - is in the middle of hosting its eighth Festival of Friendship. The project brings together a myriad of people from different cultures and belief systems.

“The Festival of Friendship is an annual free cultural event that is open to the public; it features speakers and topics to do with every aspect of human ingenuity and creativity: from the arts and humanities, to sports, to science, to politics and economics, to education, to research, to any and all expressions of human culture,” said Suzanne Lewis, coordinator for Revolution of Tenderness.

“We place a special emphasis on dialogue; thus we invite speakers who belong to many different religions (or none), and we explore subjects of interest to Catholics and non-Catholics alike,” she told CNA.

The festival is modeled after the Meeting for Friendship Among Peoples, an annual cultural festival held in Italy’s coastal town of Rimini. This event, which is also free, attracts over 800,000 visitors each year. Lewis was so moved by attending the Rimini meeting that she decided to replicate the experience in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Steubenville, Ohio.

“My collaborators and I have not made any attempts to innovate on the model I first witnessed in Rimini. In fact, all our efforts to do with the festival have been motivated by a desire to imitate the meeting as faithfully as possible while providing the fewest possible ‘translations’ for an American audience,” she said.

The first festival was established in 2012 and called The Pittsburgh Encounter. The nonprofit, Revolution of Tenderness, was then established in 2017. As the nonprofit developed, the organization has been able to further other initiatives, including literary workshops, conferences, and classes.

Normally, the Festival of Friendship is carried out one autumn week in Pittsburgh. In addition to Catholics from a variety of professions, it has also hosted jazz musicians, Buddhist monks, Islamic scholars, and medical professionals. About 500 people attended last year’s event.

This year, the event is being held in online sessions every Thursday through Sunday in October. It showcases music, poetry, cinematography, lectures, panel discussions, and keynote talks.

While the online format has drawn a smaller-than-typical audience, Lewis said it has been a very positive experience.

“We decided to spread our offerings over the course of a month, and to give our audience days off to rejuvenate before tuning in for the next event of the festival,” she said, adding that they have seen “several unexpected positive side effects from moving online.”

One benefit has been the “extraordinary opportunity to engage with artists, speakers, musicians, academics, and audience members from across the country and around the world.”

“While we long for the warm, human embrace and conviviality that our past, in-person festivals have become famous for, we’ve seen signs, already, that the online, multi-week format has been able to open the door for an even larger community of friends to discover together what it means to be ‘found’ and truly embraced, despite the limits of physical separation,” she said.

This Friday, the festival will host “To Live In A Sea Of Happiness” - a samba concert that seeks to convey discovery and hope. The music, born in the poverty of Brazil, is an expression of joy and hope performed through music and dance, according to organizers. It will be performed by Ney Vasconcelos, Antonio Gomes, and Marcelo Rocha.

That same day, the festival will also host “Every Separation is a Link: Being Found Behind Bars,” a discussion on how inmates are “found” in prison. It will include discussions with professionals such as Dr. Louis Mendoza, director of the Pen Project, a program that connects maximum-security inmates to Arizona State University students; and Ron Zeilinger, the founder of Dismas Ministry, a Catholic prison ministry based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Elisabeth Kramp is the editor-in-chief of Revolution of Tenderness’ biannual journal Convivium and was one of the performers at last week’s event, “From Whence Springs a Boundless Fruitfulness.” Kramp recited poems, along with several other authors including Ewa Chrusciel and Suzanne M. Wolfe.

“This year I made a recording of myself reading in my study,” she told CNA. “In giving a reading, I hope the language I use incites listeners' imaginations. Poetry is a way of knowing, and I'm all the richer when, through poetry, I see or sense the world in new ways. That's why I write it, and that's what I hope is transferred in a reading.”

She said the author and poets were able to place their own spin on interpreting the theme, “boundless fruitfulness.” For herself, she said fruitfulness inspired questions about the fruits of labor, fruits of the Holy Spirit, and the impact of language, especially as a literary artist.

“Language conveys so much of that fruit, the way that we strive to make beauty, the way that we patiently toil for words, not necessarily for books and publication, but for the sharing of ideas,” she said.

Kramp described her experience as an artist during the pandemic. Putting together an issue of Convivium, she was able to read a variety of submissions from artists across the world, including poems submitted from Nigeria, Wales, France, and Siberia.

“How strange that a small journal could connect me to so many in a time when I very occasionally left my home,” she reflected. “And the work on the journal knits my collaborators and I together in friendship - in spite of our being far flung across the U.S. This work has been a reminder that artistic collaboration fosters friendship, even though the overt goal is to produce the work of art.”

Lewis said efforts such as the Festival of Friendship are particularly important today, given the tension and division in society.

“In a time of increasing division and polarization, when dialogue often seems impossible among opposing camps (both inside and outside the Church), we bring diverse people together to look for what is true and useful and enduring in every discipline and topic imaginable,” she said. “We want to recover the art of authentic and convivial debate, and we want to share this gift with others.”

“Many in the Church spend enormous resources and time answering questions that no one is asking,” she continued.

“We need first to develop a capacity for listening, so that we might hear the questions, articulated and unspoken, that our fellow human beings, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, wrestle with, and then we need to do the work of discovering, within the daily realities and the fabric of ordinary life, how our own priceless inheritance answers those questions in very particular and unique ways.”

 

Pro-life Democrats make the case for a 22-week abortion ban in Colorado

Tue, 10/20/2020 - 21:01

Denver, Colo., Oct 20, 2020 / 07:01 pm (CNA).- As Colorado voters consider a ballot measure to ban abortion after 22 weeks of pregnancy, pro-life Democrats have been vocal in support, stressing its mainstream appeal and the need to give care to vulnerable human beings who can survive outside of the womb.

“When people realize abortion is allowed up to birth for any reason in Colorado most are shocked. People travel from all over the U.S. and even the world to Colorado to get late-term abortions,” Kristin Vail, vice president of Democrats for Life of Colorado, told CNA Oct. 19. “I don’t think people want our state to be known for that.”

“Every human has value and deserves to live free from violence. Late-term abortions are especially horrific because at 22 weeks fetuses can feel pain and can survive outside the womb with medical support,” Vail said. “Proposition 115 will save lives from abortion.”

Proposition 115 asks voters whether to ban abortion in the state after 22 weeks of pregnancy, except in cases where a mother’s life is threatened.

A 9 News / Colorado Politics survey of 1,021 registered likely voters found 42% of respondents said they are certain to vote yes on Proposition 115, 45% said no, while 13% are uncertain.

63% of Republicans said they would vote in favor of the ban, as did 28% of Democrats and 35% of unaffiliated voters. The survey was conducted by SurveyUSA in early October. It claims a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.9%.

For Vail, it’s an issue of justice. “Abortion is just oppression and violence redistributed to someone more vulnerable,” she told CNA.

“Pre-born children are the most vulnerable and voiceless in our society and they are being killed by the thousands every day. Quality healthcare should be provided for everyone, including both mother and child. When the main objective of a procedure is to end a human life, our healthcare system has failed,” Vail said.

Dr. Tom Perille, a retired physician and president of the Democrats for Life of Colorado, also backs the ballot measure.

“Prop. 115 should pass because it appeals to the moral sensibilities of Coloradans and reflects a popular consensus when abortion restrictions are appropriate,” he told CNA. “If a baby born prematurely at 22 weeks enjoys all the rights and privileges of other Colorado citizens and is protected by state/federal law, a fetus in utero at that exact same gestational age should not be able to be legally and cruelly killed. National and state polling suggests that a majority of people believe that abortion should be restricted after fetal viability.”

“Colorado has a long history of embracing abortion rights,” Perille continued. “However, Coloradans also understand science. Most Coloradans recognize that a 22-week fetus is a fully formed, if immature, human being. They are repulsed by those who refer to this vital human being as ‘pregnancy tissue.’ Coloradans are willing to accept reasonable restrictions on abortion after fetal viability.”

Perille stressed bipartisan support for the measure, saying nearly 19,000 Democrats signed the petition to place it on the state ballot. He suggested that efforts to raise public awareness about abortion after 22 weeks and Proposition 115 could push Democratic support for the measure above 33%.

During his time collecting signatures for the petition, Perille said a number of signers identified as pro-choice but thought abortions past 22 weeks were “simply too extreme.”

“I recall one woman, in particular, who said she was pro-choice, but quickly added that she was born prematurely at 28 weeks gestation. She knew what it was like to be born premature,” he said. “She was emphatic that at 22 weeks ‘It’s a baby’.”

“Democrats have historically championed the rights of the less privileged in society, those that are dehumanized, voiceless and marginalized. The viable fetus fits this description to a T. Democrats have lost their way on this issue, but at their core, they still believe in fighting for the little guy,” said Perille.

If the ballot measure passes, doctors would face a three-year license suspension for performing or attempting to perform an abortion of an unborn child beyond 22 weeks of gestation. Women would not be charged for seeking or obtaining an illegal abortion.

In 1984 Colorado voters passed a constitutional amendment banning public funding of abortions except to prevent the death of the mother. In 1998 they passed an initiative requiring parental consent and a waiting period for minors who seek abortions.

“We have had to endure a tidal wave of misinformation from our opposition on social media and TV fueled by millions of dollars from the abortion industry - who stand to lose the most if Prop 115 passes,” said Perille, who made a medical case against late-term abortion.

“If a woman encounters a pregnancy related health issue after 22 weeks, fetal viability, she may need to have her baby urgently or emergently delivered, but there is no reason or rationale to kill the baby,” said Perille. “In fact, a late abortion for an urgent or emergent pregnancy related health issue would be considered medical malpractice. It takes 30 minutes to deliver the baby and 2-4 days to perform a late abortion procedure.”

Prenatal screening for genetic and other fetal abnormalities takes place “well before 22 weeks,” he said. While it is a “very rare situation” where fetal diagnosis is not discovered until 22 weeks into pregnancy, Perille said pre-natal hospice offers “ a compassionate, life-affirming alternative to late abortion” with better outcomes for the woman’s mental health and bereavement.

Kristen Day, president of the Democrats for Life of America, told CNA the group’s Colorado chapter has distributed 15,000 brochures to Democratic voters to make the case for Proposition 115. The chapter organized a rally and phone calls.

Day said opposition to late-term abortion is very much a majority position.

“Even Democrats oppose late-term abortion. 82% of Democrats and 77% of independents and 94% of Republicans oppose third trimester abortions,” she said. “It's a very mainstream position.”

“It makes a lot of sense, especially from a Democrat perspective. We believe in healthcare for all, and making sure that everybody has the opportunity to receive live-giving care,” Day continued. “When we’re talking about a baby who is 22 weeks and could survive outside of the womb if given appropriate health care, it makes very little sense that we would end that life.”

“We care about the babies but we also care about the mothers as well. Let’s choose both. Protect both,” she said.

Given Colorado’s role as a strongly Democratic state and its role in passing the first law to legalize abortion in 1967, Day said passage of a late-term abortion ban would be “huge.”

“A lot of people will vote for Prop 115 and also vote for Joe Biden,” she said.

Other abortion-related measures have not succeeded. The 2008 and 2010 Colorado ballots included two slightly different personhood initiatives, which tried to define a person under state law to include every human being from the moment of fertilization or “from the beginning of biological development,” respectively. The 2008 proposal won under 27% approval from voters, while the 2010 proposal received under 30% of votes.

Colorado Right to Life opposes Proposition 115 on the grounds it only regulates abortion and implicitly permits most abortions. The group is a former affiliate of National Right to Life, but broke from the national organization in 2007 over philosophical differences and the Colorado group’s criticism of a partial-birth abortion Supreme Court decision.

Backers of Proposition 115 told CNA that the overwhelming majority of pro-life voters are with them.

Some 24 U.S. states limit abortion based on gestational age.

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, a Democrat elected to office with strong support from legal abortion advocates, has argued that the ballot measure would be overruled by Supreme Court precedents like Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

“It’s hard to see this ban being upheld,” he told Colorado Public Radio. He argued it would be an undue burden on a woman to carry a child conceived in rape or incest.

Dr. Kristina Tocce, vice president and medical director of abortion provider Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, was also critical of the measure.

“Decisions around pregnancy must be made by a patient, their family, and in consultation with physicians, without political influence, because an all or nothing model of health care is not acceptable and especially not with the complexities of pregnancy,” she said.

Tocce said it is misleading to argue that fetuses are viable at 22 weeks into pregnancy. “There’s not a viability switch, that automatically gets flipped at 22 weeks or any gestational age for that matter because each pregnancy is unique and medical circumstances differ from patient to patient,” she told Colorado Public Radio, which reported 38% of babies born at 22 weeks survive after given intensive care.

The Catholic bishops of Colorado, the Catholic Medical Association, and a group of more than 130 medical professionals and scientists in Colorado have backed Proposition 115.

“Rest assured that your ‘Yes’ to Proposition 115 will have innumerable consequences for the lives of many children who, within their mother’s womb, count on you for life,” Archbishop Samuel Aquila and Bishop Jorge Rodriguez said in a Sept. 27 letter to Hispanics in the Archdiocese of Denver.

Poll: Young adults more likely than older Catholics to accept all of Church teaching

Tue, 10/20/2020 - 19:24

CNA Staff, Oct 20, 2020 / 05:24 pm (CNA).- A new survey released this week has found that 1 in 5 Catholic likely voters say they accept everything the Church teaches, with young adults being more likely than older generations to say they agree with Catholic doctrine.

RealClear Opinion Research, in partnership with EWTN News, conducted an Oct. 5-11 poll, surveying 1,490 likely voters who self-identify as Catholic. It is the fourth in a series of surveys of Catholics over the past year.

The poll asked Catholic likely voters about their religious beliefs and practices. Answers from respondents on questions such as the importance of faith in their life and their frequency of prayer are consistent with answers in previous polls in the series.

One significant shift in the data is an increase in young adult Catholics who say they believe everything the Catholic Church teaches.

Twenty-five percent of 18-34 year olds in the latest survey said they accept everything the Church teaches, compared to 21% of those ages 35-54 and 16% of those 55 and older.

A previous survey in late January and early February asked Catholic registered voters the same question. It found that 17% of young adult Catholics said they accept everything the Church teaches, with 19% of older age groups saying the same.

Overall, 88% percent of respondents said religion is important in their life, including 50% who said it was “very important.” More than 8 in 10 respondents of all ages, races, and genders agreed that religion is important to them.

Catholics who say they accept everything the Church teaches were almost twice as likely to say their faith is “very important” as those who do not accept all of Church teaching.

Almost 4 in 10 Catholics surveyed said they attended Mass at least once per week before coronavirus restrictions were put in place earlier this year.

An earlier poll by RealClear Opinion Research and EWTN News, conducted in late August, found that just over half of Catholic likely voters said that once restrictions are lifted, they plan to attend Mass more frequently than they did before the pandemic.

Half of Catholics in the latest poll said they believe in the Real Presence of the Eucharist, with just over one-third saying they believe the Eucharist is just a symbol, and the remainder saying they are unsure.

Those who attend Mass more frequently were more likely to believe in the True Presence, with almost 7 in 10 respondents who attend Mass at least weekly saying they believe the Eucharist is really the Body and Blood of Christ.

These findings on belief in the Real Presence of the Eucharist are consistent with a previous poll of Catholic registered voters by RealClear Opinion Research and EWTN News last November.

Four in five Catholic likely voters say they pray at least once per week, with more than half of respondents saying they pray daily. Regular prayer is common regardless of age, gender, and race – more than 70% of each demographic in the poll said they pray at least weekly.

Among survey respondents, 11% say they pray the rosary every day, while an additional 16% say they pray the rosary at least once per week. Thirty-one percent said they pray the rosary monthly to yearly, and 43% do so less than once per year.

Sixty percent of Catholic likely voters say they go to confession less than once per year. Ten percent say they go to confession annually, 21% say they go a few times per year, and 9% say they go at least monthly.

Catholics ages 18-34 are most likely to go to confession at least once per year, with 56% saying they do so, compared to 46% of those ages 35-43 and 26% of those 55 and older. Fifteen percent of men said they go to confession at least monthly, while 5% of women said the same.

The practices of monthly confession and praying the rosary at least once per week were significantly more common among Catholics who said they accept all of the Church’s teachings and those who attend Mass at least weekly than among those who do not accept everything the Church teaches and those who attend Mass less frequently.

NY Catholic Conference: Follow the science. Open the churches.

Tue, 10/20/2020 - 18:00

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 20, 2020 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- New York’s Catholic dioceses continue to push back on new coronavirus restrictions that have shut down more than two dozen churches in the state, despite there being no connection between churches and an outbreak of the virus. 

Dennis Poust, director of communications for the New York State Catholic Conference, told CNA Tuesday that the state’s dioceses “are not aware of any outbreaks related to a Catholic Church anywhere in the state, including in the so-called ‘hot zones,’” identified by New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo. 

Cuomo announced at the start of October that there would be new “cluster” designations of “red,” “orange,” and “yellow” for zip codes that are experiencing new cases of the coronavirus. 

For houses of worship located in the “red” zip codes, capacity is limited to 10 people, a figure which grows to a maximum of 25 for houses of worship in “orange” zip codes. Public and private schools, as well as “non-essential” businesses located in these “red” and “orange” zip codes were also forced to close due to the new restrictions. 

These new regulations mean that about two dozen churches located in the Archdiocese of New York and the Diocese of Brooklyn have been effectively forced to close for the time being. A federal judge rejected a request from the Diocese of Brooklyn for an injunction that would have allowed churches in the diocese to continue operating at 25% capacity. 

“Gov. Cuomo talks about following the science,” Poust told CNA. “We say 'amen.' We are following all Department of Health and CDC guidelines and keeping our people safe, yet he effectively closed down more than two dozen Catholic churches anyway.” 

Poust told CNA that New York’s bishops have been working hard to ensure the safety of all who attend their churches, with much success. 

“We have been partners with the administration from Day 1 of the crisis, writing to the governor and pledging our cooperation, offering the use of Catholic facilities for spillover hospital space, whatever we could do,” Poust told CNA on Tuesday. 

He noted that the bishops had dispensed the Sunday obligation and canceled Masses prior to the start of Holy Week, and that Catholic schools in New York City had closed before public schools in order to help halt the spread of the virus. 

“Fighting this pandemic is a pro-life imperative and we’ve been treating it as one from the start,’ he said. “I’ve been so proud of our parishes.” 

Catholics at every level, from bishop to lay parishioners, were involved in discussions for safe reopening, Poust told CNA, calling the efforts taken to ensure liturgies are as safe as possible, including the suspension of the distribution of the chalice at Mass, enforcing masks, and social distancing, a “stunning success.” 

But, he said, Cuomo’s recent measures did not reflect the results of this cooperation.

On October 16, the Jewish publication Hamodia shared a recording of a phone call Cuomo had with Jewish leaders. In the call, Cuomo laid blame at the closing of private schools on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, and said that it was a “fear-driven response” as “the virus scares people.” 

“I’m 100% frank and candid,” said Cuomo. “This is not a highly-nuanced, sophisticated response. This is a fear-driven response.” He said that perhaps a “smarter, more-tailored approach” to the closing of schools, houses of worship, and businesses could be developed once “the anxiety comes down” in the red zip codes. 

Poust said that by severely limiting the capacity of houses of worship, Cuomo is “sending a message that churches are not safe anywhere,” something he says “just hasn’t been shown to be true.” 

“Can a church or synagogue be a super spreader? Of course, if they aren’t masking and social distancing,” he said. “But with appropriate precautions, the risks are very low and the statistics bear that out.”

With limited exceptions, said Poust, the vast majority of schools and religious congregations have been “exceedingly safe.” 

And while Poust said that there was “much to praise” in how Cuomo has handled the coronavirus outbreak--with ”the exception of the early policy regarding nursing homes”--he thinks it is “important to enforce restrictions appropriately, namely on those who are violating the rules and causing spread.”

“The governor knows exactly which congregations have been problematic. It is a small minority that has been unwilling to follow the rules,” he said. 

Poust said that isolated incidents of rule breaking do not justify broad action against entire religious communities. 

Highlighting criticism by New York state and city officials of some Jewish congregations, he said it is not appropriate to treat the wider Jewish community - or all religious communities - with a broad brush.

“I am confident if it was a Catholic parish violating the law, the state would not have shut down every church, synagogue and mosque in the community. It would have enforced the law against the bad-actor parish,” he said.

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